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Talk on ultrametaphysics

 This is the text of my seminar on ultrametaphysics on Friday here in Albuquerque.

An attempt at a history of ultrametaphysics in five chapters

Hilan Bensusan

I begin with some of the words in the title. First, ‘ultrametaphysics’, then ‘history’ and ‘chapters’.

‘Ultrametaphysics’, which I discovered that in my mouth could sound like ‘autre metaphysics’, intends to address what comes after metaphysics assuming that metaphysics is an endeavor – or an epoch, or a project, or an activity – that reaches an end, perhaps because it is consolidated, perhaps because it has reached its own limits, perhaps because it is accomplished, perhaps because it is misconceived. In this sense, other names could apply, first of all, ‘meta-metaphysics’ – that alludes to metaphysics coming after physics, the books of Aristotle that came after Physics, or the task that follows the attention to φύσις, or still what can be reached only if the nature of things is considered. ‘Meta-metaphysics’ is a suitable name; the fact that it is taken is the only obstacle to adopting it – it is taken to mean a study of metaphysics as a subject, of its features, its goals, its foundations and often its methods; it ends up being, in books like the one edited by Chalmers, Manley and Wasserman (in 2009), an epistemology of metaphysics and, in some sense at least, a metaphysics of metaphysics. I have attempted to translate then the first ‘meta’ and obtain ‘post-metaphysics’. This is the term Fabián Ludueña prefers to envisage the thought activity that is ushered in by the end of metaphysics. One could also use something like ‘trans-metaphysics’, as opposed to ‘cis-’, or ‘beyond metaphysics’ or ‘successor metaphysics’, pointing at Sandra Harding’s idea of a ‘successor science’. ‘Ultrametaphysics’ is a term coined by Catherine Malabou in her La plasticité au soir de l’écriture connected to the idea that there are different possible elaborations that are suitably placed in the day after of metaphysics, a plurality of paths for thinking at the dusk of the metaphysical proposition. I’m inclined to ‘ultrametaphysics’ because it can also imply some kind of continuity with some dimensions and aims that have appeared somehow in metaphysics itself.

History’. Malabou associates ultrametaphysics with a variety of what she calls ‘motor schemes’. In her “The end of writing”, she wonders whether “Derrida ever consider the possible caducity of the graphic model in general?”. This is an interesting question because she’s not merely criticizing (or refuting) the graphic model that is, according to her, part of grammatology which is what triggered deconstruction as a possible succession of metaphysics – what should be done to break with the ‘metaphysics of presence’, with the fixation on οὐσία. From her Hegelian point of view, she is saying that the aftermath of metaphysics has a history, not in the sense of a succession of refutations but at least in the sense of a progressive refinement of thoughts and their scopes. Further, this history is not itself a history of ideas, it responds to the needs of a time; the term ‘caducity’ suggests that Derrida’s graphic model deconstruction could be recommended for one period but not subsequently. This indicates that there is maybe a history in the wake of metaphysics.

Now, I take that the history of ultrametaphysics starts with Heidegger’s departure from onto-theological thinking in the direction of uncovering a certain history of beyng (or possibly a history of be(i/y)ng). There have been previous criticisms of metaphysics as a project, and one strand of that is still influential – namely in a skeptic or quasi-skeptic tradition that runs from Hume to Carnap through Kant, at least in some readings. These criticisms are around the feasibility of the project itself – it could be beyond the limits of what can be attained by humans or by any knower deprived of some sort of intellectuelle Anschauung, it could therefore face limitations for its completion – but not about its suitability, appropriateness, convenience or praiseworthiness. To be sure, in some circumstances – and this is part of our history – the issue of feasibility gets mixed with these other issues to suggest that metaphysics has to be abandoned or cannot go any further. For Heidegger, there is a sense in history – which is Geschichte and not only Historie in his distinction in the History of Beyng – that cannot take place within metaphysics but only outside it. In that sense, that is obfuscated by metaphysics, there is a time previous to metaphysics as much as there is one that is posterior to it. What is not clear in the very idea of a |Geschichte des Seyns is whether that posterior history has itself a history (let alone whether it can be anticipated). So, the history of ultrametaphysics is not the history of a discipline; part of it is the history of an idea, or of variations of an idea, but this is maybe not all that there is to it – if there is a genuine Geschichte des Seyn-like approach to be taken, we should be looking at how the variations of the idea somehow respond to something else.

And finally, ‘chapters’. They are labeled by their protagonists and they are Heidegger, Levinas, Derrida, Ludueña and Malabou (the list could be longer and different, I claim no justification for this choice other than my own attention). There is a sense in which each of the main characters in each chapter of this attempted history of ultrametaphysics is attached to at least some of the previous ones. But the plotline as the word ‘chapter’ suggests is missing – or at least only loose. More than chapters, this history would be more like a collection of short stories – short histories – that are connected to each other in different ways to form a unity. Of course, a unifying epilogue can hardly be forthcoming. Each chapter is a new beginning and this is maybe because ultrametaphysics is really an endeavor in beginnings. Heidegger has brought attention on several occasions to Abschied (farewell), which he considers on a pair with beginnings; farewell is not abandoning what can have no continuity, but precisely leaving what could be promising. If that gesture is not there, nothing can start. Commenting on how Malabou departs from Heidegger’s reading of Hegel (in Sein und Zeit), Derrida writes of a time for farewells (“A time for farewells”). Heidegger would insist that although metaphysics has no space for genuine farewells, the end of metaphysics could take a long time because even though its plotline has reached an epilogue, a new beginning depends on the capacity to prepare for a taste for farewells. Perhaps this is another plausible name for what I’m calling ultrametaphysics: a time for farewells.

Chapter 1: Heidegger

Heidegger´s complaint about metaphysics, in the various forms it took from the systematic forgetting (or dismissal, or covering up) of being to the continuous efforts to extract the intelligibility of everything, is likely to be the inaugural gesture of ultrametaphysics. (Again, ‘inaugural’ is a here problematic word not only because Heidegger might have had his predecessors but also because it is not sure whether there is a proper continuation to what has been thus inaugurated.) In order to think beyond metaphysics – to reinvent it is to take the risk of reinventing thought because the idea that thought is associated with a Machenschaft (machination) to uncover what underlies beings is widespread and hard to avoid – Heidegger looked at what made metaphysics happen, to its inception. He viewed the Pre-Platonic thinkers as outside metaphysics, in some occasions as a real alternative while in others as merely its starting point. To go beyond metaphysics – to perform a destruction or an Abbau on it – is to change the way things are dealt with. To prepare for the leap (Sprung) or the turn (Kehre), one needs to find a way outside the machination to transform the world into a device, enframed and controllable (a Ge-Stell). It is to prepare – and neither to machinate nor simply to wait – for a time when things could somehow be left to do their own things and to reveal and conceal themselves of their own accord. The Pre-Platonic time can be seen in non-metaphysical terms if we pay attention to φύσις and to ἀλήθεια and how they gradually transformed into οὐσία and ὁμοίωσις in the hands of Plato, of Aristotle (crucially by Aristotle’s reading of Plato), of the medieval translations of Aristotle and of modern supplements to the whole saga – like the subject and its representations. What was an independent process of exposing and withdrawing that deserved to be guarded becomes a described process that can be made fully explicit and the description (θέσις) can be correct or not. Heidegger’s move towards something previous to metaphysics – and his interest in telling the history of its gradual inception and its gradual completion (in Hegel and Nietzsche) – paves the way to a quest for something other, for other terms, other tonalities, other ways of going about things. Both the pre-metaphysics and the post-metaphysics (ultrametaphysics) can be easily viewed in metaphysical terms. The transformation required to go beyond metaphysics cannot be only of attention, theme or presuppositions, it has to involve all that at once and more, a departure from the thinking in terms that are guided by security, or reassurance, or control. Heidegger contemplates the idea of a history underneath that of beings that gave rise to what prompted metaphysics and that spans to something else after it after his so-called Nietzschean turn: in his reading, metaphysics is revealed as guided by the will to power. Nietzsche is the last metaphysician as much as he remains in the realm of the will to power instead of resolutely gesturing at the farewell that Heidegger wants to rehearse.

Heidegger’s way to relinquish metaphysics is not to leave it neither from the front door nor from the back door, but from its ground, from below. In his efforts just after the Nietzschean turn, he envisages a second beginning for thought that is more primordial, more initial, more archaic than the first, based on φύσις and ἀλήθεια; instead of building from them (arguably in a road that will lead to metaphysics), he proceeds in excavating to see what is underneath them. While the first beginning is a ground, the second is an abyss (Ab-Grund, as opposed to Grund). This ancestral of the being buried twice by φύσις and then by metaphysics (beyng) appears as indifferent to any metaphysical concern focused on unveiling beings. Heidegger contrasts φύσις to the more primordial non-grounding beginning of Ereignis – the event. This second beginning cannot ground anything, it commences without commandment. These successive twists (Verwindungen) ensure that each inception makes no claim over anything else – the second beginning brings forth inceptions that multiply themselves. It ushers in a collection of independent inceptions while the first beginning is one of them for metaphysics in its history from Plato to Nietzsche (and Hegel) is itself an event, an event that was prepared and that is leaving its aftertaste. The second beginning comes before any grounding. As such, it cannot appear as a product of an archaeological effort; the end of metaphysics requires not an act but a preparation, which involves both doing something without a specific aim in mind and expecting what cannot be fully conceived. It involves bringing the event to the fore and, in doing that, enabling the history of beyng to appear, not as a plot of beings and not even as an unveiling of what was hidden but as the very emergence of events that spring from something other than the scope of all machination.

The ultrametaphysics of Ereignis revolves around leaving things be what they are and attending to what surfaces – truth is not connected to either ἀλήθεια or ὁμοίωσις but to Lichtung, clearing. Heidegger understands that the truth behind truth as unveiling is a mere showing, like what happens when light arrives in a clearing in the forest. Ereignis is also an Austrag, a resolution; thought attends to questions not as preludes to answers but as the very place where a resolution can be offered. In that sense, ultrametaphysics is itself history of beyng in the sense that this is what escapes the lenses of metaphysics where there is no history beyond the developments and interactions of objects (of beings) that can, themselves, be fully exposed. Ultrametaphysics is not a discipline, an area of study, not something to be studied or researched but it is a condition, a condition of being exposed – a certain passivity. The event starts something without being either conditioned or unconditioned – both will place it in the game of grounding and being grounded that is the mark of the metaphysical – is in the hands of the farewell (in die Verwahrunrg des Abschieds). There is no beginning in the second meaning if a farewell is not looming on its horizon – the farewell is the antidote to any possible grounding. Heidegger’s word here, Verwahrung, is apt because it is translated as safekeeping or custody – a consignation – but it appeals to what is true, Wahr. Heidegger himself associates the words Wahr and Wahrheit with guarding, keeping, protecting (for example in the Bremen lectures). Truth, here, is something akin to letting things be what they are.

It should be noted that Heidegger himself arguably wrote several chapters in this history of ultrametaphysics in the sense that he had three or four conceptions of the aftermath of metaphysics – associated with different diagnoses of the fate of metaphysics. These three or four conceptions – possibly one associated with destruction in Sein und Zeit, one connected to his turn towards Nietzsche, one explicit in Unterwegs zur Sprache and one rehearsed in the seminars in Le Thor – are related to each other in different ways that I cannot explore here. In any case, ultrametaphysics starts with this gesture of repudiation of metaphysics as nihilism, as the prelude to the artificialization of the world. It also becomes clear that the relation between metaphysics and ultrametaphysics is not merely one of succession in time, the emergence of an ultrametaphysical epoch is a struggle with the inertia of metaphysics, even when or maybe precisely because, it is completed in that there is no surprise beyond the will to power. The birth of a genuine ultrametaphysical era is not a matter of course, its pangs reveal that the successor to metaphysics is not likely to be an heir of a dead ancestor.

Chapter 2. Levinas

Levinas is often read, to a great extent with good reasons, in contraposition with Heidegger. He has, for example, cherished the word ‘metaphysics’ in some of his writings – notably in Totalité et Infini – and opposed the word ‘ontology’. He understands metaphysics as springing from a desire for the other whereas ontology is the name of a general malaise he finds in Western philosophy, that of ontologism which is the assumption that there is nothing beyond being, which ultimately assumes that to think is to do violence to the Other in the name of the same. There are important points of convergence, though, beyond their phenomenological common starting point and their urge to go beyond Husserl’s attention to intentionality. A salient convergence is that Levinas also understands that there is something deeply wrong with the tradition that goes from Aristotle to Nietzsche (and Hegel) – extensive perhaps to Heidegger. That tradition – mostly ontologist, and this is why he would count Plato out – has been concerned with extending the sameness of being to achieve some sort of total outlook where each point can be seen from nowhere and there is a symmetry between any two points that would make me an alter-ego, the other of the other. This quest for impersonal, unsituated totality – that Franz Rosenzweig, who to a large extent inspired Levinas, found in the whole history of philosophy from Jonia to Jena – is an artifact ready for any violence towards the Other. This is simultaneous the result of an unabashed crave for freedom and an unbound thirst for knowledge. Levinas’ analysis of skepticism suggests that that skeptics could be seen as somehow out of the bad path of being guided by sameness while making clear that often they don’t because they refrain from knowledge not as a decision in the name of the Other, in the name of the infinite responsibility that precedes any freedom, but because they find some sort of impossibility on their way. They limit their freedom, but only because of the (technical) limits to attain knowledge. They merely abandon the ontologist boat to the extent that the project of complete sameness is not feasible.

Levinas urges combat against ontology – the ontologist reduction of the Other to the same – through an attention to the responsibility that guides my metaphysical desire for the Other. For him, metaphysics comes from this desire and has been misled by the ontologist drives that prevail in the long predominating tradition – this is a reason why ultrametaphysics is a suitable name, it fits the case of Levinas’ project which in a sense aims at continuing metaphysics while somehow pruning its rotten branches. To be sure, this continuity is not easy to see as Levinas is clear that the thought of responsibility – and sanctity, as he describes his thinking as focused on the possibility of sanctity – provokes an interruption in the flow of freedom and he pursuit of knowledge in the name of justice towards the Other. Thought – and action – is seen as ultimately hostage to the Other, who has imprinted in me the means to find my way around. What replaces ontology is perhaps ethics but in a very special sense where no deontology is possible and the orientation towards the Other leads to an unattainable infinity – which makes ethics impossible, and yet enables sanctity. Further, what follows from ontology is a situated outlook where asymmetry and diachrony are ubiquitous; my concerns with the Other result from an appeal and are unrelated to any reciprocation as it is criminal to expect the Other to abstain from her freedom to satisfy any of my needs. Asymmetry means that the Other is always between me and a morsel of bread – but I don’t stand between anyone and their food. Diachrony means that I can attend the Other too late, and in any case, I cannot hear the Other merely in what is said even though what is said is the place where I can find the traces of the Other – the face which is the word together with the gaze that expresses an ultimate vulnerability associated to my responsibility and therefore to the limits both to freedom and knowledge.

I extended Levinas’ ultrametaphysics beyond the limits of the human Other in Indexicalism. The instance of taking the Other – and exteriority – seriously contrasts with the urge to provide a suitable description of everything that is found. This attitude – ontologist, ontological – is a reduction of deixis like others, beyond, outside or exterior to a substantive account that would work no matter the standpoint. Substantives, instead of indexicals, oriented the efforts of the tradition that is to be exorcized – call it metaphysics-cum-ontology. This is to be replaced by a recommended ultrametaphysics of responsibility that I labeled ‘metaphysics of the others’ which embraced paradox in the sense of insisting that deixis are everywhere – and therefore forming some sort of totality that I intended to portray. It is paradoxical to do it because the outside imposes limits to any totality – it is as if we had to posit a totality of outsides. I understood this paradoxical ultrametaphysics as simultaneously a critique of metaphysics according to which no attempt at a complete outlook can pass muster. The constituents of the ultrametaphysical portrayal – the Other, exteriority, the Great Outdoors – provide bounds to an all-encompassing image. This points to an important feature of ultrametaphysics: it assumes, one way or another, an incompleteness that is presumably systematically missing in the metaphysical enterprise. Here Kant – and his correlationist inheritance according to Quentin Meillassoux – can be invoked to introduce an insufficiency to any effort at accomplishing a complete foray into how things are. That we are limited to our correlation with things can then be assumed to be a feature of how things are – and this is what Meillassoux’s complaint concerning a lot of the philosophy from the last two centuries, from Hegel to Deleuze. A Levinassian ultrametaphysics escapes this complaint by taking exteriority to genuinely affect thought and being: there is an outside, a Great Outdoors, throughout. Incompleteness cannot be turned into completeness; if we refuse to locate the former somewhere in a view from nowhere – among humans, or among living things – we pave the road to paradox. Levinas’ lesson here is that we cannot fully purge the impact of proximity – here the similarities, and differences, between his ‘proximité’ associated with recurrence on the one side and Heidegger’s ‘Nähe’ that contrasts with Ge-Stell is likely to be a key to understand what is at stake in at least some of the ultrametaphysical proposals. In any case, because of proximity, situatedness cannot be exorcized; and a crucial feature of proximity is that it is an-archaic: there is no way to calculate (or machinate) the emergence of proximity, if there were, a symmetrical view from nowhere would be also possible (and incompleteness ultimately exorcized).

On the issue of paradox, it is interesting to consider the underlying logic of ultrametaphysics, and not only in the case of Levinas, as a deviant logic. I cannot say much about it here, but it is clear that what is at work at least in most of these ultrametaphysical proposals is no classical logic – and likely no Tarskian logic (those whose consequence relation is reflexive, transitive and monotonic).

There is much to be explored here – it makes sense to assume that the logic that would enable a departure from metaphysics is not one that presided over its developments. The open question is whether these ultrametaphysical logics could be recognized as such.

Chapter 3. Derrida

Derrida marks the introduction of structuralism into the realm of ultrametaphysics. The analysis of signification in terms of differences is extended from signifiers to content itself, enabling a deconstruction of full presence and therefore of experience, substratum, matter, intention and other metaphysical notions. Deconstruction is an heir of Heidegger’s Destruktion in that it challenges the onto-theological as an effort to consolidate ούσιαι underneath the concealing and revealing of things. The metaphysics of presence assumes that there is a full-blown present in which things are fully what they are. It is then associated with the logocentrism that Derrida finds in Western philosophy from Plato to Austin – including, to a large extent, also the structuralists and Heidegger, both pivotal for Derrida’s project. The primacy of speech over text comes together with the privilege of presence over the crafts of iteration – there is an underlying arche-text that through its iterations promotes the impression of full presence available. Derrida takes Kant’s criticism of metaphysics as a step in the direction of deflating presence and yet insufficient because the subject and her experience continue to be taken as fully present. What is required is to pose the ultratranscendental question concerning what makes presence possible; as the transcendental ushers in, for Kant, a renewed model for metaphysics, one could say that deconstruction is a model for ultrametaphysics launched by the ultratranscendental question. No extracted intelligibility can be preserved in text because consignation entails orphanhood – as Derrida shows in his reading of the Phaedrus that involves the betrayal, or parricide, of Socrates performed by Plato when he writes. The text is read in multiple and novel ways because additional things always surround it. Further, the full present that is not preserved is nothing but an effect of a series of iterations. The deconstruction of the present entails an anachronism that cannot stop short of what is ultimately undeconstructible: a certain waiting associated with storing anything – including understanding – that Derrida calls messianicity (without messianism) and justice which guides deconstruction but that cannot be itself deconstructed as it is itself already anachronic.

The connection between Derrida to Levinas is possibly still more complex than that of the latter to Heidegger. It also involved more proximity. As it is perhaps constant in the history of ultrametaphysics rehearsed in these chapters, the passage from one step to the next is so bumpy that it is not clear whether the movement is either forward or backward. There is a sense in which Derrida’s deconstruction is a reworking of some of Levinas’ major themes – the Other, justice, violence, the trace. The reworking seems often to be nevertheless a transformation beyond recognition. In several points of his text, Derrida seems closer to Heidegger and, indeed, the idea that there is an underlying resolution to presence that can open a new continent for thought could suggest that deconstruction is something like an instance of the second beginning. There are however salient differences, I’ll mention two. First, deconstruction is a non-ending activity that builds on the anachronic character of the undeconstructibles. It is closer to justice than to truth as Lichtung even though it also lingers in resolution as it draws on undecidabilities. Derrida is here closer to Levinas who tends to place justice as an issue underneath the quest for any truth. In this sense, Derrida suspects Heidegger himself ends up committed to a (perhaps ultrametaphysical) version of the metaphysics of presence. Ereignis, to offer what is maybe an oversimplified example, is fully there, short or long, it is not ultimately aus der Fuge – not undecidable. Second, Derrida is less interested in beginnings – first or second. Instead, he focuses on what comes next, on what will change the past: a chain of supplements that would be prosthetic in the sense of something capable to fix current lacks while creating others. The supplement – and the announced but not delivered logic associated with it, certainly a deviant one – produces insufficiencies in the past, even in the beginning capable to provide grounds or to dispel them. The supplement is a figure of messianicity as an undeconstructible: we wait for it, but its effect is undecidable.

A deconstructive ultrametaphysics proposes a departure from the logocentric efforts to capture the presence of something. The metaphysical effort depends on a mistaken conception of a primacy of speech over writing – and arche-writing. In that sense, it is not a suitable effort; further, it is a misled one as there is no possible way to preserve any understanding, any intelligibility, without the gesture of consignation that will precisely send the presence of the present to an anachronism. Writing is disseminating; what is kept is there only as a trace, as a specter. It is as if Plato’s text, especially around the arguments concerning writing in the Phaedrus, there was a key to dismantling logocentric Platonism (to be clear, it is not sure that what would then remain is not a different kind of Platonism). If metaphysics attempted to provide extraction of intelligibility, it attempted the impossible; the project is to be abandoned not because of concerns with beyng, Ereignis or the Other – or the Great Outdoors – but rather because it is misconceived. What comes after metaphysics points in the direction of an alternative image of thinking where presence is taken as an elusive effect. The work of ultrametaphysics is to disentangle presences that will not cease emerging. What structuralism contributed to the venture was to provide a way to illuminate the differential structure behind signification that makes metaphysics not only the name of an epoch or an event (in the history of beyng) but also the persistent tonality where the present appears to suppress both the past and the future.

Chapter 4. Ludueña

Ludueña draws as heavily on some notions and gestures of ultrametaphysician Derrida as on Plato, a Plato that resists a metaphysical interpretation – detached, in particular, from Aristotle’s reading. He aims at a thorough rehabilitation of specters – that was already of major importance for Derrida, in particular in his last 10 to 15 years. Ludueña’s reading of the metaphysical project diagnoses it as an era of exorcism where specters were either replaced by spirit or eliminated by an idea of immortality as eternal, post-mortem life. He understands that anti-spectrologist tradition in Western thought as coinciding with the Christian attempt to place resurrection with an improved body at the center of common life. If there is a way to expect the full presence of the dead ones now promoted to something closer to the eternal present, specters are out of the picture. Spirits are the specters cleaned of their lack of οὐσία that make them homeless, always haunting the homes and the bodies of others. The metaphysics to be succeeded by a spectrology privileged full presences throughout; everything was accounted for in terms other than those of conjurations, ghosts, phantasmagoria, revenants and possessions. Instead, he proposes a spectrology that brings all these things back, both to an ultrametaphysical politics – communities cannot act or be understood without the spectral insistence of the dead through institutions, legacies and archives – and to ultrametaphysics itself (his term is post-metaphysics). The issue with the tradition from which spectrology attempts to departure is that it ultimately dealt with the appropriate issues – immortality, the outside, the nature of thought and mind, the insufficiency of matter – but went astray precisely by the drive towards full-presence, the drive to exorcise specters. Ludueña then recognizes, to a great extent, a commonality of topics between ultrametaphysics and its ancestor. Ultrametaphysics is a different way to do the same thing – a way that would welcome instead of discard specters.

Further, Ludueña elaborates on his spectrology under the close influence of Platonism. His ultrametaphysical Platonism is what he calls disjunctology. This is the study of a structural disjunction between the incomplete presences on the one side – the bodies, including the brain – and the para-ontological realm of specters that would correspond to the world of intelligibles. Ludueña maintains that ideas can be conceived not as full presences – spiritual items, immaterial ούσιαι – but as specters that haunt the sensible because it is intrinsically dehiscent (a word that is equally important for Derrida and Levinas). The sensible is not under the control of an independent intelligible but rather the latter is spectral and is not fully present either in itself or in the former. There is an incompleteness to the sensible that goes along with the incompleteness of the sensible. It is, perhaps, as if the vertical line often ascribed to Plato where the intelligible world stands on top of the sensible had a ninety-degree rotation and is now a horizontal line where both stand side by side, both incomplete and incapable to complete each other reciprocally. This is the structural disjunction: no specter can fix dehiscence and therefore no specter can find a home and become a purely spiritual substance. Further, specters themselves cannot subsist on their own, they are there for hauntings and conjurations from the sensible. The insufficiency that informs disjunction appears as some sort of ultrametaphysical principle. Dual incompleteness makes the full extraction of intelligibility of the sensible impossible – the project of metaphysics is, again, the result of a mistake. It is a philosophical and theological mistake that crucially misunderstands the nature of immortality. What metaphysics intended to attain can only be achieved in ultrametaphysical terms – that is, by spectrological adventure.

Ludueña goes further, especially in the fifth and last volume of his La Comunidad de los Espectros, to predict the friction between what he calls ‘the posthumous post-humans’ – who believe in the Christian and trans-humanist credo that the body will be overcome by an artificial body first through religion and then through the artificialization of intelligence – and the very new ones, as he calls them, who would rather profess the heretic ultrametaphysics of disjunctology. This is a battle that will take centuries, he claims. This is because the artificialization of the world is deeply entrenched in the Christian faith in the full overcoming of the body. In Ludueña, interestingly, the friction between metaphysics and ultrametaphysics becomes a debate around the legacy of Plato.

Chapter 5. Malabou

One way to approach Malabou’s ultrametaphysical emphasis on plasticity is to consider the relationship between genetics and epigenetics. While the genetic code is enabling, its decodification depends on circumstances beyond anything that can be likened to a text – epigenetics include that environment that canalizes different genotypes towards a similar phenotype and plasticity that makes the same genotype give rise to different phenotypes. Plasticity is not an enabling condition, it is everywhere, both in what is conditioned and in what conditions. “Plasticity”, she writes in “The end of writing”, “designates the double aptitude of being able both to receive a form (clay is plastic) and to give form (as in the plastic arts or plastic surgery)”. She then intends to rehabilitate the notion of plastic, which appears in the text of Hegel, by rescuing the notion of form to an ultrametaphysical context. She maintains that form, which has been much involved with the metaphysics of presence, is also waiting for its decompression or its liberation. There is an underlying working of form, through plasticity, that is dissociated from the couplings between οὐσία and form that had taken place in the (internal) history of metaphysics. It is form itself, and transformation (she appeals to Heidegger’s Wandlung) that makes iteration possible and therefore has presence not as its presupposition but as its effect. In order for iteration to take place, a trace has to be modifiable – the reappearance of ‘A’ in 𝓐, 𝐀, or even 𝔸, for example, presupposes that the trace comes with plasticity. After all, she claims, there is always something other than writing in writing – and this is not only the effect of writing.

For Malabou, metaphysics is a subclass of what is the broader intent of ultrametaphysics. But for ultrametaphysics to broaden the scope in such a way, it has to reinterpret the materials metaphysics has worked on. What she does to Hegel can be compared with what Ludueña does to Plato – the differences notwithstanding, both projects involve rescuing a metaphysical canon and reading them in ultrametaphysical lights. In that sense, there is a continuity between moments in metaphysics and after it. If Ludueña’s picture counts Plato off and before the metaphysical endeavor, Malabou leaves Hegel out of the picture of a metaphysics of presence which is in turn characterized by a blindness to what is plastic. It is plasticity that ought to be rehabilitated by ultrametaphysics, or rather, by the contemporary demands on ultrametaphysics – coming primarily by the urge for a renewed evolutionary synthesis informed by epigenetics and by the neuroscience of accidents. Ultrametaphysics has a history – and much in a Hegelian vein. In that sense, like deconstruction, it is itself non-ending.

The notion of a motor scheme, that Malabou works out from remarks by Michel Serres, tries to bring together the imaginary and the historical. The succession of different motor schemes provides a continuity of metaphysics and ultrametaphysics – the work of the negative, to be understood in terms of the plasticity that is in the negative itself under the current motor scheme, acquires new readings but doesn’t disappear when metaphysics fades. Malabou takes ultrametaphysics to look into what needs to be in place around for metaphysical thinking to thrive; its history reveals what is implicit not only in metaphysics but also in previous attempts to look into what constructs and deconstructs it. The passage from the graphic model to the plastic model, as Malabou pictures it, illustrates how motor schemes not only replace but also refine each other. With Malabou, ultrametaphysics acquires a history, it is not constituted of competing or complementary approaches but rather by a development. If metaphysics has itself a history, its end means a broadening of the scope of this history – someone could say, having Heidegger’s terms in mind, that it is as if the departure of metaphysics is the inclusion of beyng in a history of beings - and ideas. (One could compare this with the idea of the inclusion of the climate or Gaia in history.) For Heidegger, however, the two occurrences of ‘history’ above would translate different things as Geschichte is not a (historical) development of Historie. In any case, we can perhaps see in the line through our five chapters a progressive integration of ultrametaphysics at least in the gestures, notions and procedures of metaphysics – while arguably not in its aims. If this is the case, ultrametaphysics is turning out to be more like a metamorphosis of metaphysics than its funeral.

Small Coda: an-archaeology and addition

A perhaps more partisan name for ultrametaphysics is an-archaeology. More than partisan, one that would suit my own projects in the area. To be sure, most of the protagonists of these chapters can be read as thinking an-arché as the ungrounded, the ungoverned or the unguided. I’d nonetheless distinguish the study of an-arché from ultrametaphysics because there are (seemingly) non-ultrametaphysical approaches to the an-arché – I think of Deleuze’s study of repetition and perhaps the Epicurist take on clinamina, among others. My project of looking at addition as a way to think through the outside combines an-archaeology and ultrametaphysics. I leave this just as an indication of my own placement in this narrative.


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