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Thursday, 28 February 2013

Alliances and non-human knowledge

Finishing my lectures in epistemology and the final section on non-human knowledge. After stuff on capture and modulation (cf post below from last weekend on white blindness) in the context of process philosophy, we discussed the idea that knowledge is always an (explicit or implicit alliance) involving the knowers and the known. The known is not therefore a passive element that is merely captured or inspected but rather something that takes part in the process by acting in order to form a society (in Tardean sense) of knowledge that assembles a network. This assembling is what took place between Pasteur and the medicine and the science of his time and with the microbes in Latour's description. To present a theory is to present a network with strong and weak links - vulnerable to different tests of force. Knowledge is an assembling (an alliance) that has proven to be reliable (the J factor, in a rough JTB account of knowledge) that helps bringing about (or sponsoring) something so that it makes something be the case (the T factor). Instead of beliefs, we would have alliances as non-representational items that aggregates knower and known for as much as it resists tests of force. The J factor here would make the account externalist in the sense that it is enough for the actants to build on reliable connections.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

The plurality of logics in UNILOG

Unilog is taking place in Rio in early April. We (Alexandre Costa-Leite and me) hope to make an official début there of our much rehearsed galaxy theory. The abstract of our presentation there gives an idea of what we are after in the paper (currently submitted to Logica Uniersalis):

The availability of multiple logics, although not a novelty, carries on provoking different kinds of puzzlement. From the point of view of those endeavoring to describe and understand parts of the world, it is a pressing issue to understand how different logics coexist – and eventually how to choose between them. For metaphysicians, who often deal in necessity and make frequent use of modal reasoning, the appeal to a logic is also the appeal to a standard to decide what is possible – typically in terms of which worlds are possible (see D. Lewis’ On the plurality of worlds). The use of a single, fixed logic as a standard of possibility is clearly unsatisfactory as it biases all results. Clearly, what is impossible in classical logic is not necessarily so in paraconsistent or intuitionistic logics. Up till now, the use of classical logic as if it were there only logic available was defended on the basis of its entrenchment: in the absence of any reason to pick any other logic, classical logic is best retained once it is deemed sufficiently useful and intuitive in the past. Such a response, nevertheless, has been challenged by the development of tools for a universal logic.

Universal logic engages with multiple logics simultaneously either by comparing them or by combining them. It made it possible to look at the plurality of logics not in order to choose one among them but rather to study relations between them. By considering the space of all logics, universal logic provides a general framework where features and capacities of a logic can be made evident. We have recently sketched a tool for universal logic called galaxy theory. Based on some developments in Kripke’s semantics for modal logic, galaxy theory defines a logic (or rather, a relation of consequence) as a class of possible worlds. Such a class, called galaxy, is itself an element in a topology of galaxies. Typically, modal elements in a logic add to each corresponding galaxy some relations of access, but this can be taken not to affect the underlying galaxy. The emerging image is one where the plurality of logics can be studied as the plurality of galaxies.

In this work we present the framework of galaxies and apply it to the debate about realism concerning different logics – and related issues revolving around dialetheism. We consider galaxy theory together with some concepts developed by Kit Fine (mainly in papers collected in “Modality and Tense”), such as the notion of a inconsistent über-reality that brings together elements in a plurality. We then propose a realism about the different logics that is, at the same time, combined to a form of dialetheism. Galaxy theory paves the way to investigate such issues because it takes each galaxy as a point in a topology. A side aim of this work, nevertheless important, is to show how fruitful the framework of galaxies can be.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Signals without modulations are blind

Wikipedia has: "modulation is the process of varying one or more properties of a high-frequency periodic waveform, called the carrier signal, with a modulating signal which typically contains information to be transmitted."

I was rehearsing the other day, in my attempts to lecture on non-human epistemology, the idea that the Kantian friction and requisite collaboration between receptivity and spontaneity (or the many variations thereafter, like Sellars' conception of the given being insufficient for an empirical report or McDowell's thesis that empirical data without concepts are at most exculpations and intuitions without concepts are mute) could be generalized beyond the usual domain of the relation between experience and concepts. In fact, one needs a pattern of importance - or a matrix of differences and indifferences - in order to be capable to come up with an empirical report - or an empirical judgement. Reliability as such requires a pattern of importance. Mammals are important for ticks, turbulence around the clock is unimportant for the time counting machine. Importance is what is acquired when we acquire concepts. That shades of color don't matter for the color vocabulary, that most curves are unimportant to draw distinctions between letters of an alphabet, that size is irrelevant for a geometrical figure etc. Some differences are important, others are to be taken as non-salient. In a more general format, signals without a pattern of importance are lost in a white blindness. Too many differences possible and not enough indifference. An antenna without modulation just captures too much - and, therefore, too little. It fails to capture the differences that make difference. It fails to capture information. Just like mere receptivity without a pattern of importance guiding it - receptivity has to be guided, guided by a problem, a quest, a spontaneous interrogation to pose. McDowell's positions would have that there is an amount of (past) activity required for passivity, acquired spontaneity makes receptivity capable of capturing information.

Capture can be seen in terms of rhythms. It is the body (the folds) of a capturing device that tunes in a rhythm. My eyes don't capture the rhythm of the planets, or the rhythm of the molecules - an all-capturing device is an intelligible intellect in the sense of the third Critique. There is no rhythm to be captured there. Hegel was right when he criticized Kant's idea that intuitions without concepts could be not blind for another intellect - that they are blind only for us. Hegel's point is that of a Subjectalist or that of a Metaphysician of Subjectivity in Meillassoux's terms and indeed akin to that of a process philosopher like Deleuze who would take that there is nothing to be captured without modulation. In other worlds, without correlation as an activity, there is no receptivity of an absolute as a passivity. Antennas are spontaneous: they seek signals, and they end up finding them. Antennas receive because they look out for signals, they look out for what concerns them. Importance, in that sense, because it connects receptivity with embodiment (in a matrix of differences and indifferences) could be the ultimate home for correlations - it makes the scheme of no absolute without spontaneity inevitable and correlation itself absolute. The persuasive line in favor of that is that there is no possible grasping of any rhythm without a pattern of importance.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Concepts in the space of problems

Deleuze's ontology of problems, object-disoriented as it is, is an approach to process. Any thing came out of a problem and problems came out of repetitions. Rhythms bring about problems and it is in coping with them that things come about. It seems possible, in fact, to understand prehensions and the extensive continuum in subjective forms - and the overall image Whitehead presents - in terms of an ontology of problems. Also concepts can be understood as problems posed to detection machines (like our senses). We could take Sellars' criticism of the Given as a criticism of solutions that are not brought about by problems. To sense sense contents is not yet to know how to answer to a problem (or to apply reliably a concept) - one needs rather to find out how to use one's detecting devices to make empirical reports. Those reports cannot be made before we are inculcated with concepts - that is, inculcated with problems related to what ought to be salient in our experience. Experience without problems is like intuition without concepts: without concepts (and problems) humanity would not know what to do with the differentials of experience. In that sense, experience is transcendental. It provides us with the differentials when we pose the problems. Experience can be a tribunal but its verdicts are specific, there is no verdict ready somewhere (somebody sees but I don't yet) waiting to be accessed before the question is posed.

Differentials, on the other hand, are everywhere and can be explored by all sorts of problems. One could have problems without concepts and solve them by an appeal to differentials. Ticks have a matrix of differences and indifferences because they have problems. To solve their problem is to envisage a strategy of differentiating, say, mammals and non-mammals and then actualizing such a virtual solution in a way that relate first to a horse, and then to a cow, and then to a dog. The repeated solutions - actualizations - bring about differences and further problems. A form of life (like that of a conceptual life a Bildung inaugurates in us) is stable if its problems are solved by the same differentials that were previously available. Such is the like of a population in a closed niche: no need to further exploit the differentials that are virtually there. No need to experiment. All problems are already prefigured in the matrix of differences and indifferences. (Such could be our life fully immersed in the Lawrence's umbrella of our conceptual inheritance.)

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Problems and processes

Deleuze found in differential equations a key to conceive of difference independently of syncategorematic operation of negativity. I think we can understand his trouble with negativity - and therefore contradiction (and, to some extent, contrariety) by considering Blanchot's insistence that denying something is already bringing what is denied to the fore. Negation - and any syncategorematic operation - preserves content (for instance, preserves the constituting propositions). Difference has to operate in a more internal level, in a somehow genetic level - it's got to do with genes and chromosomes or with clinamens that Deleuze (in D&R) takes to be not merely a deviation of the orbit of an atom, but rather what gives rise to the orbit and the movement of the atom. Difference is a drift from something produced not by an external intervention but rather by a modulation - it deals in continuities. Hence, differential calculus instead of propositional logic. Then the issue arrises as to what is the ontological status of those folds, those small differends, those tiny contituents - the infinitesimals or, rather, the differentials.

Deleuze doesn't want to merely incorporate infinitesimals to ontology - or to mathematics, in the manner of Robinson's non-standard analysis. Or, rather, he won't be prepared to do it before his 1988 book on Leibniz. In any case, he doesn't want to merely assume an infinitist ontology as that would mean, as it somehow does in Leibniz, envisaging a landscape of differentials that would be the ultimate identities - difference would be redeemed at the infinitesimal level. He rather wants to start out with difference - and not with differential (differential entities). This is where the problematic is brought up. Those differentials exist within the scope of problems - they are brought to the fore whenever a further difference is required. It is not that we could spot all the differentials if we had enough capacity of capture - like determinations that are there but we sometimes cannot see. The differentials are brought up (instaurés) by the problems. Those infinitesimals are built in the process, there is no archaic repository of differences from which we elaborate concepts and develop organisms built with matrixes of differences and indifferences. Differences are themselves sponsored by processes. Deleuze understands these processes in terms of his dialectics of the problematic - problems bring up differences, differentials. Here again, clausure and capture could seem sometimes very close: it is a matter of whether there is a world before the monads or rather the monads constitute the world. Capture is clausure inside-out. Problems are instances where not only a matrix of differences and indifferences is built but where differentials themselves are brought about. The various physical, biological, social processes produce and sustain differences as actants navigate in the space of problems. (Compare this process philosophy of problems with Latour's one of tests of force.)

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

The biopolitics of human microbiota

Thinking about the politics of cure. Ecology is a battleground between the politics of human self-sacrifice and the politics of human self-enhancement. The latter intends to create varieties of population technologies where plants, bacteria, fungi are put to work for the benefit of human life and ultimately of post-human life. A privileged corner of this battleground is the scope of medicine. The scope of cure - in terms of the battle of germs, the battle in the wilderness of human microbiota. A starting point could be Guattari's model of three ecologies: quite literally, the ecology of subjectivity is populated by all sorts of entelechias, the fauna and flora of human moods, of the animal spirits that live around the chemical environment of human fluids where they find and construct their niches. It is a fight with many speeds, included the speed of some sort of subjective ataraxia - what I once called the pulsion for pause (in a video called "Dexistence"). The biochemistry of ataraxia is far from being known, it is an affair in demography. Likewise, the ecology of the socius is a complex interaction of germs transmitted and entrained forms of life where repetitions in the social circles create rhythms within the internal microbiota. The three ecologies knit a plot for biopolitics. They are also the ecology of desire and belief: to desire or believe something is to find something that agrees with one's folds. To agree with one's fold is also to agree with one's microbiota, to find a place in an ecological environment.

The ecology of the microbiota opens the way for a great deal of human enhancement and human capture into Nick Land's PODS, politically oriented defensive systems. The transition between the age of discipline and the age of control is the transition between the media and the farmacopeia - or, rather, the fusion of media and farmacopedia. The dangerous idea behind the ecology of human microbiota is that to make someone believe something is a biochemical enterprise. The idea that body-interference seeks cure presupposes that there is a state where the system can be left alone (well, more or less to care about its own cycles). The idea helps paving the way for all kinds of chemical interventions. But eventually these interventions in the name of cure will become explicit. People will just seek their own overcoming, seek to become more of somethingThis biopolitics is another era in the development of the catastrophe of control but it also opens up new, post-human, elements of resistance. PODS could always be infected by hacking viruses, the microbiota is alive in the general sense that there are ways for it to be up for grabs.