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Friday, 7 July 2017

A note about strong correlationism and subjectalism

This is perhaps a follow-up from an old post from 2012.

Thinking about Meillassoux's alternatives, it seems like subjectalism (or what I call the metaphysics of the correlation) can only be countered once weak correlationism and nothing stronger is the point of departure. Strong correlationism, according to which we cannot even think anything beyond correlation, denies that all knowledge is finite and incapable of grasping reality in its own right because nothing beyond the finite can be thought. The thought of finitude is hostage to a weaker correlationism. Meillassoux understands subjectalism as a product of a speculative move starting from correlation itself: if I can know, think and conceptualize correlations and nothing else, there ought to be nothing but them. Our correlation becomes absolute – hence our concepts, our reasons and our knowledge is itself reaching beyond finitude. Correlation is itself absolute. Yet, Meillassoux is prepared to cluster here two different positions: one according to which there is nothing outside my correlation, it is absolute, and the other that speculatively projects my correlation on everything to say that everything is in a correlation. In the second position, the correlation is absolute, but it is not our (human) correlation that is absolute. In both cases, everything is a correlation. Meillassoux argues that such the two positions – in the subjectalist cluster – are inadequate answers to correlationism for it doesn't take into account that correlations are factual (contingent). For Meillassoux, this diagnosis is the starting point of his own speculative story according to which it is facticity itself that is absolute. Independently of his alternative, we can pause on his analysis of the facticity of correlation. To claim that the correlation is contingent is to claim either that

1. there could be no correlation or
2. there could be another correlation.

Now, if 1 is true, there ought to be something beyond any correlation that is at least thinkable (or conceivable). In that case, strong correlationism is wrong. If, on the other hand, 2 is true, we can step outside our own correlation and imagine another correlation altogether that would be equally possible. But here too strong correlationism looses its ground – and there is no reason to consider any correlation absolute. It seems like the claim that correlations are factual could only mean something if weak correlationism (and not strong correlationism) is adopted. In other words, only if the Kantian idea that something outside the correlation is thinkable.

If this is right and only on the basis of weak correlationism subjectalism in its both forms can be rejected, it would be interesting to explore the subjectalist (and speculative) scene from the point of view of a stronger correlationism. 1 and 2 above are very different. While 1 affirms that we could gain access to the world uncorrelated to our thoughts - there could be intuitions without concepts albeit as a matter of fact we are so constituted that intuitions cannot show or speak without concepts. It contains a claim, which is arguably Kantian, about the possibility of pure intuitions. The claim has been challenged by Hegel's analysis of mediation according to which there are no intuitions if there are no mediation. (Incidentally, McDowell is also convinced that intuitions present the world to us.) Now, 2 seems to point to a very different set of issues. If intuitions require being mediated, they don't require a particular mediation. One could then engage in a speculative flight where correlation itself is a point of departure. Strong correlationism will have to be proven false, but its connection between intuition and mediation would still be vindicated.



Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Silvia Benso and Levinas' Buberian hangover

The relation between Levinas and Buber is not straightforward. In an interview to François Poirié Levinas says that the asymmetry between me and the Other - for him I'm more responsible than anyone else for everything - is the big difference, or the small difference that makes a difference. What they do seem to coincide is in the impersonality of things - in fact, of the non-human in general. As Buber distinguished interlocutors in terms of whom can I have a personal relation, Levinas restricts the Other to a realm where no thing can enter. Silvia Benso - in her The face of things with which I'm quite infatuated right now - makes it very clear that Levinas things of the face of the Other not only in terms of a male face that can genuinely be unrelated to the extent as providing an interruption to the supposedly hetero-cis-sexual me, but also as something no thing could possess. He associated things with the paganism that he wants to quickly reject and that he connects with a trickery and a dangerous path. Heidegger's attempts of doing justice to the thing are not criticized, but put aside. It is curious that he wouldn't take his response-based account seriously enough when he rejects that anything could interrupt me and require a response. The restriction of the Other that can affect me slides in the risk of Butler's criticism: the human face is a concept that needs to be recognized before any encounter. Now, it seems to be that a proper Levinasian response would be to appeal to a phenomenology of the encounter with a face, but rather he concedes that the realm of things is deprived of ethics, confining his approach to what is human. Here I can't stop wondering whether this is some kind of Buberian hangover that would downgrade things in order to contrast them with the more elevated Thou that could afford to be taken personally.

Zionism as the Ulyssification of Abraham

Been discussing with Aharon about the images of Ulysses and Abraham that Levinas presents in "The Trace of the Other". The Abrahamic promised land is a land-to-come (as a Nietzschean Kinderland), nothing like an Ithaca, a return to the past, but a projection to the future. Of course the idea of a promised land appeals to a past promise and Aharon remarks that promises are always tied to the past. But there is no Ithaca in the Abrahamic story, it is about leaving, evading, going somewhere else - a bit like the Deleuzian portrayal of the Anglo-American voyage as opposed to that where a point of departure and return is set once and for all. There is a one-way-ness about Abraham, to the point where memories of the land left have to be exorcized as some sort of immemorable, as Silvia Benso puts in the opening pages of her beautiful The face of Things (SUNY Press, 2000). Just like Moses, perhaps again searching for a Kinderland, the land of departure has to be forgotten and provides no guide, no attraction force - origins are to be betrayed. Abraham, in a sense, is the anarchaic version of Ulysses as there is no Odyssey in his endeavors, the promised land, however understood, is something to come, a destination to be fulfilled and not the attraction of the past in the future.

It then seems like Zionism is the Ulyssification of the Abrahamic legend. The promised land becomes a Motherland (or rather a Grandfather-land); no longer a voyage of evasion but one of return. The association of the promised land with a geography is precisely the European rendition of the Abrahamic story - especially when the nations started having their Ulysses, their ones to bring something back. Zionism then sounds deeply European in the sense of purging of Abraham - of the one way travelers - among nationals with a (Ulysses-like) passport. The promised land is not a geographical land, and if it is it should be far more like Patagonia, Uganda or Antarctica. The transformation of it in the land of the past was probably brewed in Europe for millennia, but the final element was given by the suitable-for-Europeans solution for the (European) Jewish problem through Zionism

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Severino's strong permanentism


Severino's neo-parmenidism is a stronger form of what Williamson called permanentism: everything exists permanently. In Severino's stronger version, not only actual entities are permanent but relations, qualities, events and states of affairs are never created and never perish. Any transformation is the turn of something into nothingness or the reverse - at least of a state in the space of qualities and relations. He holds that time never interferes with being - just with appearance. Selective permanentism makes room for turning something into nothing in order for transformation to take place. Severino's anti-nihilism understands every existing thing as permanently existing - apart from what appears. Further, in his later system, he understands that appearances are themselves necessary. In any case, his strong permanentism seems to entail a form of necessitism that could be formulated as follows: if x exists, x exists necessarily permanently. The dispute between necessitism and contingentism (or around permanentism in general) could be adapted to that stronger scenario if we quantify over any existent. There is no contingency and therefore no alteration. Everything remains what it is, if it is. It could be presented in different forms - exposed in different forms - but it is permanently archived. These different forms of presentations are such that each is itself permanently archived, and presented in different forms of presentation.


Sunday, 11 June 2017

The Wahl effect

Been attentive to the effect of Wahl style empiricism grounded on genuine multiplicity and separation on both a Levinasian and a Deleuzian metaphysics. (It is again my old suspicion that there is much to be explored in the intersection of those projects.) In both cases, clearly the issue of grounding has to be thought in terms that undermine both the ideas of autonomy (or agency) and heteronomy (or surrender of agency); the very idea of freedom-cum-responsibility is dissolved. Autonomy always has its bright moment - the moment of escape, of response, of breaking out. This is the traveling out, no Ithaca to return to, the D. H Lawrence kind of trip Deleuze praises - the act of evading (or of incomplete becoming). Autonomy in this sense is what provides the opening or the vulnerability that makes one transcend, be affected, be contaminated. Deleuze understands this in sort of Tardean terms: other societies present in the space between two social links whenever a social link is not strong enough to abolish an open space. Levinas understands this bright moment of autonomy in terms of the moment for a response which is clearly and paradoxically the moment of an opening to a heterodetermination. Levinas says that freedom leads to responsibility and therefore away from freedom (De l'existence à l'existant, 115). That is to say, autonomy is an open door to heteronomy. This is the bright moment: it ushers in heterodetermination. The dull moment of autonomy is what often follows from the effort to keep the opening of autonomy open. That is, when it becomes a project, a governing option: I decided I will follow this course of action no matter what; by doing that, I'm already, in Levinasian terminology, blocking any interference, any interruption, any demand for a response. In Deleuzian terms, it is when autonomy becomes a ruling body, and creates a fascism of the self. Then it becomes an heteronomy, it becomes a governing body that one is faithful to no matter what. Autonomy leads to heteronomy both in its bright and in its dull moment. This suggests that heteronomy itself has its bright and it dull moments.

I was dragged into a discussion about sexual orientation as an option. To be sure, if it were and option, a whole bunch of consequences would unfold and some of us will feel liberated from what they perceive as bodily (social, genetic, whatever) chains. But what would it mean for sexual orientation to be an option? Especially if we add to the picture the scenario where sexual preferences are more or less fixed and one cannot change them at one's leisure even if it was established by choice to begin with. How would that scenario look like? It would involve more autonomy. We wouldn't be demanded by desire and wouldn't have to respond to it, but rather we would be immune to the seduction of rest of the world, to be open to the cosmos by the very structure of desire. The lack of autonomy is the lack of immunity and the lack of immunity is what makes interruption possible. Without interruption one would just be on one own following a determination - like a Leibnizian monad following what was set when this world was chosen among infinite others or like a self-sufficient autodetermination that follows from the sexual option already chosen. To follow one's chosen sexual orientation would then look like following an order - to close the door, and to give up the bright moment of autonomy.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Linhas de animismo futuro, the cover

Which one should we choose?







The paradoxico-metaphysics of the other - a teaser

Working with Jon Cogburn on a paradoxico-metaphysics of the other. This is just a teaser from the text just after defining metaphysiks as the project Heidegger criticizes and métaphysics as the project Levinas wants to embrace (to relinquish all forms of ontologism):

The central metaphilosophical question concerns the relation between métaphysics and metaphysiks? It is about how totality and transcendence relate. How can a project attending to totality and another attending to transcendence be put together? Or are they just incompatible? As metaphysicians we must at least try to make sense of a picture of reality that somehow juxtaposes both. We must thus unpack the following formula:
metaphysics = metaphysiks + métaphysique
In fact, the metaphysics that we believe has to underlie our reflections on receptivity as hospitality combines both. It attempts to provide a picture that discloses being and provides a view that is more than a momentary glance while doing justice to the transcendence brought about by the other. It is what we could call a metaphysics of the other. In other words, the dispensation of being that Heidegger sees as the one in the age of danger – and that privileges exposition as opposed to glancing and forgetting – becomes quite different when ontologism is dropped. To juxtapose the two projects – through an understanding of '+' in the formula that won't be completed before next chapter – is to focus on transcendence without a restriction to glancing particulars. What matters for the metaphysics of the other in the concern about exposing reality is that no universal is renounced in favor of an accommodation of particulars. Yet, no particular is left aside in the name of an enclosing universality. The tension expressed in the formula above is itself not far from the tension in receptivity between making justice to particular knocking the door – the particular that triggers perception – and the maintenance of an enclosing image of reality inside. To give up transcendence, and the particular outdoors, is to have a picture of an enclosing totality spinning in the void and ultimately a view of reality that can be fully captured to a point where nothing can come from outside and demand a genuine response. To give up an encompassing picture is to be resigned with passing particulars or recoiled in a systematic suspension of judgment that spells an indifference to the stranger. To add both projects, in contrast, is to maintain a picture of reality in general while making room for a transcendence such as a doorstep with a stranger.