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Thursday, 30 June 2016

The diaspora of epistemic properties

Been thinking in terms of the spread of epistemic properties in the world. Monadologies, typically, assume that all monads, unities of agency, are capable to perceive and often to know. The presence of such properties - that could be less than full-blown knowledge but still epistemically loaded - is a feature of the world. A metaphysics of epistemology, if we can call it this way. So, the issue is whether thermometers, sunflowers, red billiard balls or ticks genuinely know or genuinely have some epistemic properties.

The issue, as I see it, has to be dealt in connection with that of where to find doxastic properties and aletic properties. Epistemic properties are, I claim, independent of doxastic properties. I don´t find very relevant (or very interesting) to claim that thermometers cannot know anything because they don´t have beliefs. Beliefs are good support for epistemic properties, but they are not necessary. There could be non-dosxastic supports, I suppose - if epistemic properties cannot be present if there are no beliefs, we miss the point of the discussion of whether sunflowers genuinely enjoy epistemic properties. On the other hand, epistemic properties require aletic properties - as knowledge requires truth. But epistemic properties are not only aletic properties. To claim that a sunflower knows where the sun is is to say that it has more than a correct opinion about it - epistemic properties are to be more invaluable than mere truth. The issue concerning the size of the diaspora of epistemic properties is not about the diaspora of truth-detectors. There are truth-detectors everywhere as I take to be trivial that sunflowers often detect truths. Aletic properties are very spread. But truth-detectors could be prey of epistemic luck.

Now, another issue concerning epistemic properties, is that their dispersion in the world could be associated to what I could call "counter-epistemic properties". These have to do not with what X can capture (know, perceive, remember) but with what X shows (displays, makes available, presents to perception or knowledge). I think of this issue in terms of considering a knower as a voyeur, but in the more general case, a voyeur who sees something that can decide what is to be shown (and when, and for how long). The knower is a voyeur like a client in a peep-show. If it is so, what one shows - as opposed to what one is - is a different, counter-epistemic property. And here again, a distinction similar to that between epistemic and aletic properties can be drawn. To show something by chance is to be prey of some sort of luck that we can call counter-epistemic luck. For instance, it is arguable that a mouse that briefly venture into open space in her way somewhere else shows herself for by chance. She can be viewed, but it is different than what the bird-watchers look for when they go with their binoculars to see the early fauna: those birds systematically show themselves up at these time. To see the mice is to detect some truths, but what is shown is not part of a counter-epistemic property, it is maybe a mere case of counter-aletic property. To show, as much as to know, requires something like what fixes the Dedalus statues to the floor.

A face and a proper name

In my classes of contemporary philosophy (where I covered Kripke a while ago and Levinas and Derrida these last few weeks) I have been feeling close again to my somehow old book of 2008 (Excesses and Exceptions). There I make an unusual connection between Levinas and Kripke. In order to consider the issue of singularity and singular thought, I engage the Other of Levinas as bearer of an appeal againtst being turned into a concept and Kripke´s account of proper names that eludes description. It is not fair to have a semantics of reference that imposes on Socrates to be a philosopher (in all possible worlds). The proper name, like the face, breaks the articulated totality of my descriptions and introduces an element that is alien to the concepts that I own (and master). The passivity in both cases is crucial - my use of a proper name inculcates responsibility on me for something I´m not fully aware, just as the decision imposed on me by the Other´s face. Also, in both cases there is an element of justice to the other that contrasts with my freedom and therefore with my thinking in my own terms.

Both thoughts - that of the Other´s face and that of the irreducible proper name - depart somehow from the Anerkennung tradition. In fact, one could fear that both thoughts would get too close from the Given. Kripke´s take, to be sure, exorcises the Given from the start as there is no epistemology relevant to reference (no acquaintance of any thing of the sort). A proper name refers independently of what else I think or know - and, at the same time, I need to be prepared in order to fully refer to someone through a proper name. To be prepared, in this case, involves to be included in a set of conceptual practices within a language. Something similar can be said about Levinas´s Other. I need to be prepared, in terms of conceptual practices, to recognize a face, and given that, a face imposes a decision on me no matter what I know or think. This is the role of the infinity in the face: it contrasts with every point in a totality. If this is so, there is no genuine cognitive act in being stricken by a face - to use a variation of Wettstein´s motto for the revolution championed by Kripke, "ethical contact without cognitive contact". No matter what, I have to decide. (The book, Excesses and Exceptions, purports to present an account of singularity where it is presented to us passively even though a preparation could be required - a kind of response-dependence account of being in touch with something singular.) In both cases, something singular has to contrast with a ready totality - it has to be something like a vanishing point.

Friday, 24 June 2016

The personal is political

In the context of trying to briefly describe the nearness of Derrida and Levinas in my contemporary philosophy course and having in mind especially Derrida's "En ce moment même dans cet ouvrage me voici", I was drawing a distinction between interruption - an element of the articulation of a text, of its texture, of its engineering - and intettuption - an element of the personal that intrudes the text, as if an author or an addressee is suddenly made explicit. In the latter, the personal element in a text is brought up through the trace of the Other, the person who wrote "cet ouvrage" is made explicit not by a signature, but by an break. This is reminiscent of the Celan distinction (in Gespräch im Gebirg) between the language of the it, of the this on the one hand and that of me and you (thou). To intettupt is to address a second person - and therefore to be addressed by her.

My doctoral student Gabriela Lafetá, who succeeded in her Viva last Wednesday, discusses in her thesis Badleh's book (De Derrida a Levinas, la dette et l'envoi) where he seems to hold that deconstruction is a political and not an ethical gesture. In "En ce moment même dans cet ouvrage me voici", Derrida makes clear the personal character of the deconstructive interruption (an intettuption, in my terms). I was wondering that this personal character - this intettuption - is political. It doesn't make it less responsive to justice - and in a sense to the ethical - but it is where the personal is political, in the appeal brought in by a responsible reading, that is, the reading that finds authorship through the text. To be sure, because the personal is political, it brings to politics an element of the non-negotiable - it brings the impossible into the realm of politics, makes it personal.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Ontoscopies

I've decided I want to pursue the idea of a monadology of fragments sketched in BUG as one of the three ontoscopies of contingency presented in the book. In the book I'm finishing about monadologies (called "The diaspora of agency"), there will be a section on fragments that will show how a monadology could sort out some of the problems that Levinas sees in Husserl's version (his monadology in the last Cartesian Meditation) while retaining the central features of the monads. The idea will be that the monad will be conceived as a unity of response - or a unity of decision - and in that sense will gain agency only by being appealed by the other, by an other that is seen as its composer - and as such entirely different from itself. The idea began to be rehearsed here.

In order to do so, I'm examining again my notion of ontoscopy. As I wrote in a recent post, the ontology doubts can be seen as the flip side of a monadology of fragments. I wrote we can use the two sides of Sextus' epoché as an inspiration: having appearances and suspending judgments, the former would pair with fragments and the latter with doubts. Now I was wondering that there are (at least) three points of view (ontoscopies) that we can see contingency in world:

1) from the point of view of the agents,

2)from the point of view of the results of the agents's actions and

3)from a transversal point of view where agents are taken by actions and actions by other agents.

We can see these three points of view as what if behind respectively composers, compositions and fragments. Also, contingency is seen as transcendent if we favor 2 but not if we favor 1 and 3. However, my point is that if we take 1, we head towards a monadology of fragments, if we take 2, towards and ontology of doubts and if we take three towards a rhythm-oriented metaphysics. In other words, ontoscopies are genuine points of view on things - and these three points of view on contingency are such that one looks at agency, one looks at their outcome, and the other is transversal.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Continental bullying

What makes me angriest and saddest about this coup in Brazil is not the outrageous hypocritical acts of those who took power and pretend everything is fine, neither is it that incredibly corporate-oriented and ungenerous policies are being implemented in order to destroy the social inclusion measures that took place in the last 12 years or so. What makes me more upset and depressed (and I suspect I'm not the only one) is rather the bullying. To be bullied involves to be humiliated by someone making clear that your sovereignty is limited, that you cannot do what you want - "we're watching you". The corporate right-wing who is taking power in this coup is certainly composed by cynical bullies, for sure. I feel I've been looked down as if someone was saying: your capacity to act is a concession, it is after all up to us.

The worst thing about being bullied is that you often don't know where the bullying comes from at first glance. It is often later that you realize that the attack came from somewhere else, different from where you thought, different from the faces that where staring at you. The bullies in this coup are continental; this makes the bullying more painful. They are the same agents behind Honduras 2009, Paraguay 2012, the attempted coup in Ecuador in 2010, the multiple attempts of coup in Venezuela and the ones who would do something about Argentina if Macri had lost last year. I don't know whether the bullies are the Koch brothers network (a huge one fine-tuned by the flux of capital) or the American government with the concourse of their Koch brothers - capital doesn't have a motherland, for sure, but motherlands have capital! We did, however, see Obama spend a 26th of March in Buenos Aires this year. We don't see the face of the bullies, but we feel the bullying - we know they are bullying the continent and since 2002 in Venezuela they sort of gave up military coups for subtler, softer but no less interventionist strategies. Bullying makes you feel overlooked, this is what makes it intrusive and suffocating.

This state of being bullied is what explains the general perplexity or depression in the country now. The general message, of course, is: "it doesn't matter what you do, you're not a real agent, the south of this continent carries on being overlooked, to be sure with a lot of help in the ground, but the overall direction on which you go is not up to you". So, people once again conform to the old slogan: either you comply or, you will comply later, or silenced, or unheard, or exiled, or dead. But of course too, some of us are brave.

PS: The text above appeared also copied from here in philpercs. What I would add is that the best thing I read about colonialism in the last month or so was Nick Land's "Kant, capital and the prohibition of incest"(compiled as the first essay in Fanged Noumena).

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Accented concepts: the distorted Anerkennung

Three poles is likely to be better than two - at least they acknowledge that there are more characters in the knowledge plot than just the craving subject and the resilient and yet indifferent object. A third pole alleviates the tension providing a mediation - or perhaps the materials for a correlation. A third pole gives us a chance to know something at least a bit external while not being fully out there - if the object is not reached, at least we're not confined to one pole. Yet, this is what seems to me to be important, three poles are still not enough.

Davidson's efforts are the best presentation of a third pole: the intersubjective one that ensures that knowledge comes in three interconnected (correlated) varieties: knowledge of the external world, knowledge of one's own mental life and knowledge of the mental life of the others. Neither the first nor the second - and this is why strict Cartesianism is rejected - can be achieved without the third. Of course, the third needs the first and the second too because interpreting is an exercise in ascribing sanctioned truths to others. The triangle is very illuminating because none of the three poles is the mediating pole - as it is maybe in Kant. None can be taken in isolation from the other two - just like in a correlation, the links go in both direction. So, for instance, my self-knowledge is a route for me to improve my deployment of the conceptual capacities the others share and the external world I share with them is a route for me to reach my understanding of both the concepts around me and my own states. Also, intersubjectivity - us, and our conceptual norms ("we met the norms and they are us", would add Brandom - is the mediating route to reach the external world. That is, through practices associated to concepts I engage through thinking with the world.

Trouble is that contrary to what Davidson wished and expected, intersubjectivity fragments. He was adamant (and based on good arguments) that there could be no more than one conceptual scheme. Granted. Yet, he himself in "A nice derrangement" concludes (again with good arguments) that there is no such thing called language, at least something like language that we can be introduced to or acquire en bloc. It is a Wittgensteinian point and it is, I believe, his most Wittgensteinian writing. However, if we read further into what he was on about there, we could say that there is no intersubjective sets of conceptual practices that we can be introduced to or acquire, not even gradually. Practices do have commonalities but it is likely that they are understood through mechanisms like formulating something like "passing theories" with all the resources one has in store. Conceptual practices could be common to groups of humans, but only given a plethora of circumstances and favorable forces. In fact, it seems like this commonality had to be reached (has to be sponsored) in every instance. We engage in all sorts of different conceptual practices in different Lebensformen and in different surroundings. Why would these practices be confined in one single pole dedicated to our shared concept-monger condition? Further, it is not clear that some practices are not derivative from alliances some of us craft with units of agency that are not conceptual. Our mingling with the world requires alliances and agreements that are often done without conceptual niceties. I suspect these practices, among the many others that we share in the course of life, shape our use of concepts in a relevant way. If this is so, we have non-public accents in public (conceptual) languages. Also, we then have many poles, many mediations. Intuitions without them are blind, but then again everything can provide mediation. To mediate is to distort, sure, but it is also to provide new vistas. Whitehead would say: don't fear mediation, just make sure it is enabling you to see enough. (Meillassoux would add: of course, and he, Whitehead, would be sure that there is nothing else to be seen but mediators - just correlations, as the furniture of the universe. But then again, Whitehead would just insist that reality doesn't have to be understood as for ever bifurcated from experience.)

Saturday, 4 June 2016

The hull

Finding some interesting material in this old paper. Except I tend now to think that parts of the hull (of this Neurath ship) are too expensive to fix and some biases too costly to revise. I think costs matter: maybe every bias is a soft bias - not hard-wired - but costs have to do with importance. And it matters.