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Monday, 16 October 2017

Hospitality: being a host, being hostage

Levinas' analysis of the face in T&I drafts several elements for deconstruction. It is in a great extent about the voice, about seeing language in its formal element as structurally dialogical and its prime function as that of enabling discourse aimed towards a public - and not description or coping with the world. The structure of language - and indeed of voice - makes explicit the asymmetry between the other, as a master, and the speaker. As a speaker, I'm in the hands of the other because language is a public device formally structured by diaphonia, by different discourses and that difference is embedded in the very structure of thematizing anything, in the very structure of the conceptual. As a consequence, it is not that I have a grip on my concepts and not even that they have a grip on me but rather that the others have a grip on me through my conceptual life. Concepts make me think, but they do so only because they make my masters present. Without a public language, as Sellars once put, there would be nothing to talk about. Levinas adds that a public language is precisely the formal structure of the presence of the others - it is made by the traces of their intervention.

This structural asymmetry that makes the use of public language a very ethically charged endeavor, can be better understood if we start out with Wittgenstein's remarks on following a rule. When we use concepts, we are hostage of the others. We are hostage of our masters. This is what Levinas calls the absolute surplus of the other. One is always hostage to the others in order to think. Denken is danken: to think is to be in the hands of somebody else who could come along and tell me that I haven't applied "+2" in the appropriate way. Someone could always place me in the situation of section 185's pupil. Each word I use in in this predicament: through them the others have a grip on my thinking. Each one of them is a host - to each one of them I'm hostage. Language is itself hospitality and thinking is therefore an exercise of being a guest - a guest of everyone else.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

An amendment to the three narratives story

I made a first amendment to what I presented last Monday about the three concomitant narratives concerning the other. Instead of three narratives, I'm thinking in terms of two poles where representation lies in the borderline. The composer that performs a representation of the world is a composition and a fragment; the monadological narrative deals in compositions or fragments and brings about (instaure) fragmented compositions that can be interrupted. Composing enables interruption - it emerges from a tension between compositions and fragments. Compositions are fragments because they are incomplete and therefore make room for further composing. Composing is perceiving, the ethical endeavor of attending to one's agenda and being interrupted by it. Perception is therefore dual, it aims at building a nexus and it attends to interruptions.

Hence, perception is the meeting point between monadology and what it inscribes, a hauntology. Monadology features the agency of each unit - autonomy - and the heteronomy that follows from being affected by the other monads' agency. Hauntology requires an interruption (heteronomy) and an autonomous decision afterwards. Monadology features spontaneity and contingency whereas hauntology features interruption and decision. Perception (and representation) happens between the two, it is a double articulation geared towards justice and placed within interiorities.


Monday, 25 September 2017

A metafísica paradoxal dos outros

Hand-out of my presentation in Anarchai today:

A metafísica paradoxal dos outros
Hilan Bensusan

Metafísica e os outros: o mundo externo, a fundamentação de alguma coisa em outra, as relações de dependência e inter-dependência, a interação, a transcendência, a heteronomia.
Existir e co-existir: aquilo que existe tem lugar entre outros que existem.
Anna Tsing e a dupla tarefa: a) oferecer uma abordagem maximamente geral da realidade com as melhores habilidades disponíveis e b) deixar espaço para outros – e outros relatos – que são parte da realidade.
Totalidade e transcendência: satisfazer a tarefa a) apenas produz uma totalidade fechada (e consistente nela mesma), satisfazer b) apenas é recusar uma abordagem englobante em nome da transcendência dos outros (e dos outros relatos).
Diaphonía e paradoxo: A diaphonía exerce uma pressão desde fora sobre a espontaneidade (a soberania) de qualquer abordagem. A tarefa paradoxal: oferecer uma abordagem maximamente geral da realidade tal que genuínos outros (e genuínas outras abordagens da realidade) sejam possíveis.
A metafísica paradoxal de Cogburn: A tarefa da metafísica é oferecer uma abordagem maximamente geral da realidade tal que a metafísica seja impossível.
Transcendência, teoria e prática: Levinas condena a totalidade alcançada pela representação como sendo de um indigno egoísmo; a representação é interrompida pelo desejo metafísico pelo absolutamente outro. Tal desejo é externo à representação que promove a totalidade. Não é a representação que transcende. A totalidade tem que ser restringida, limitada, denunciada.
Correlacionismo: A totalidade é incapaz de transcendência, estamos presos ou em uma correlação entre nosso conhecimento e o mundo ou entre nosso pensamento e o mundo. Para Meillassoux, sair da era do correlato é ser capaz de uma abordagem maximamente geral que não esteja presa à correlação.
Duas metafísicas: a) O esforço por apresentar uma representação total do mundo que o deixe exposto sem qualquer delimitação desde fora ou transcendente (metafísika) e b) O esforço por apresentar uma representação do que está fora, do que é exterior e transcende (métafísica).
A metafísica paradoxal reformulada: A tarefa da metafísika é oferecer uma abordagem maximamente geral da realidade tal que a métafísica seja impossível.
Ontologia orientada à objetos (Harman): Oferecer uma totalidade que inclua a inesgotabilidade de cada objeto, uma representação total da impossibilidade de representar o que transcende (o objeto real constitutivo de cada objeto e em permanente retirada).
A totalidade e os outros – o problema do neutro: Levinas entende a transcendência do absolutamente outro desde a primeira pessoa, desde uma assimetria que ela mesma rejeita qualquer totalidade. Harman entende o inesgotável no outro em terceira pessoa, como inesgotável de qualquer objeto (neutro). A totalidade abriga a transcendência apenas ao preço da neutralidade.
Monadologias (Leibniz, Tarde, Whitehead, Latour): As monadologias são metafísicas da multiplicidade de unidades de ação (mais ou menos claramente individuados) interdependentes que atuam uns os outros (ou sobre o domínio dos outros). Nas monadologias sempre há outros.
Monadologia e co-existência: Numa metafísica monadológica, tudo o que existe é produto de uma interação entre agentes – não há ordem alguma sem uma sociedade que a balize e a mantenha.
Husserl pede ajuda à monadologia: Para introduzir intersubjetividade em sua abordagem da fenomenologia do ego na quinta Méditation Cartesienne, Husserl introduz uma monadologia em que as unidades de ação (de intencionalidade) são alter-egos, representados como outros eus e concebidos à imagem e semelhança do que há de transcendental no meu ego.
O outro como interrupção: Do ponto de vista de primeira pessoa – um ponto de vista que se torna possível pela fenomenologia – a transcendência é neutralizada pelo alter-ego de Husserl e pelo objeto real de Harman. Levinas rejeita essa neutralização: o outro não é um alter-ego, é (parte do) que eu não sou.
Isolamento: Uma abordagem de primeira pessoa, comum a Descartes, Husserl e Levinas, parte do isolamento do ego, um isolamento que precede a transcendência.
Três isolamentos:
i. Cartesiano: “qualquer indivíduo da res cogitans ou da res extensa não requer nenhum outro indivíduo de seu tipo para existir”(Whitehead, P&R, p. 144).
ii. Levinasiano: cada existente tem uma pessoalidade e carrega uma hipóstase de sua existência (até o Deus de Spinoza é pessoal no sentido de carregar o onus de sua existência).
iii. Garciano: cada coisa é uma coisa porque está isolada, mesmo que não seja nem uma unidade e nem tenha uma identidade – seu isolamento a separa de qualquer predicado ou relação.
Monadologia e isolamento: É a partir do isolamento do existente que pode haver transcendência; numa monadologia o agente depende dos demais para ser o que é (para agir como age). Não vale o isolamento cartesiano e nem mesmo o garciano – ainda que talvez possamos entender que vale o isolamento levinasiano.
A monadologia interrompida: Como fazer para que a transcendência do outro seja parte da realidade sem que o outro seja neutralizado? Como conciliar a interdependência dos agentes em uma metafísika monadológica e a transcendência dos outros?
Tipos de outro: Para Levinas, o absolutamente outro da transcendência reside nos outros humanos. A separação de uma pessoa é garantida pela satisfação de suas carências e dá a possibilidade de uma representação soberana do mundo (que é indigna). A satisfação das carências é fornecida pelos outros não-humanos, a representação não é interrompida senão pela diaphonía.
Modos de existência: Ao invés de tipos, modos. Aquilo que existe pode existir de muitos modos. A diferença entre tipos e modos faz a diferença entre a filosofia da abstração de Platão e a de Aristóteles e a diferença entre pluralismo ontológico e pluralismo existencial em Souriau.
Uma monadologia de fragmentos? Em Being Up For Grabs e em Diáspora da Agência, uma monadologia é proposta em que cada unidade de ação existe em três modos de existência: um fragmento de uma composição alheia, uma composição ela mesma e um compositor.
Interdependência vs. transcendência: em uma monadologia, há que haver totalidade e neutralização; além disso, a passividade do fragmento e da composição não é ainda transcendência tomada por uma decisão de um existente isolado. A monadologia entende os outros sob o registro da interdependência.
Três narrativas concomitantes dos outros: Para pensar a possibilidade da transcendência e da totalidade, do absolutamente outro e da monadologia, talvez os três modos de existência tenham que estar em três narrativas concomitantes. As três narrativas do outro tornam possível três ângulos em que o ser e o outro se conectam.
1. Monadologia de composições: os outros aparecem compondo a realidade em relações de interdependência onde não há isolamento.
2. Fenomenologia dos compositores: os outros aparecem representados a partir de um ego soberano em um exercício de espontaneidade (o ego soberano pode ser uma comunidade associada a uma linguagem pública de conceitos).
3. Hauntologia dos fragmentos: os outros interrompem a representação e a composição da realidade por uma incompletude irremediável dos fragmentos que os deixam assombrados pelos outros desde o vão mesmo entre cada existente e sua existência na qual está isolado.
Metafísica paradoxal? O outro constitui a mim e aos outros e, ao mesmo tempo, é externo a mim e me transcende.
Totalidade e über-realidade: Kit Fine (“Tense and Reality”) introduz o conceito de über-realidade, o produto da conjunção de todas as realidades perspectivadas – em termos de realidades do passado e do presente mas também em termos de realidades de primeira e de terceira pessoas. Cada uma das perspectivas não oferece uma totalidade e é consistente. A conjunção de todas elas é a totalidade inconsistente – a totalidade é uma aglomeração, um entulho, um amontoado.
Contraste com OOO: Não há termo neutro e nem sequer isolamento garciano em todas as narrativas. Porém a totalidade se torna estereoscópica: vista de mais de um modo.

Transcendence and paradoxical totalities

Levinas' endeavor in Totalité et Infini is to consider the first-person encounter with the absolute Other, not as a representation (or of fruition) but as an exercise of transcendence. His exercise in transcendence inaugurates a métaphysics where the ethical demand plays a crucial role. However, transcendence itself is not thematized and, as a consequence, does not compose a totality. Levinas aims to avoid totality for a plurality of reasons (to be examined …). As a consequence, there can be no maximally general account of how things are. In fact, Levinas rejects the possibility of a maximally general and consistent account of how things are such that transcendence is possible. There can be no consistent account of any other as the other is not a neutralized alter-ego – another me that turns me into something impersonal - but precisely what I am not. No consistent account is possible because a consistent account would turn the other into something immanent and void it of any transcendence. Consistency is a road towards turning the other into an object of ontological knowledge. Levinas understands that nothing but a negative account can be given of the other; no maximally general account of everything is therefore possible. There is no totality, no metaphysiks for reasons akin to those of Heidegger when attempting to move away from the totalizing Ge-Stell (in the Bremen lectures). In a sense, Levinas replies to Kant is that a transcendence is possible but no general (consistent) account of it can be provided. (In that sense, he remains in the era of the correlate and is perhaps a weak correlationist.)

Speculative realism – specially in the cases of Meillassoux's speculative move towards facticity and of Harman's speculative move from the experience of withdrawal to real objects – attempts to remedy this predicament by introducing speculation to enable one to move from the experience of transcendence to a general account of how things are such that transcendence is possible. This is perhaps the gist of the movement – an attempt to go beyond the limits of the study of transcendence provided by Levinas (and the limits of Heidegger's proposal of a turn (Kehre) away from metaphysiks in a sense that would also entail no totality).

Jon Cogburn has diagnosed that the metaphysical endeavor that results from these speculative efforts are paradoxical. He understands that to move beyond correlationism – and not only to forget it – is to take into consideration arguments such as those of Kant (and Berkeley, Fichte, Russell) according to which transcendending the correlation is impossible and, as a consequence, no totality cannot be reached. The issue is that if a totality includes transcendence, it will not transcend as totality will therefore be taken as being itself inside the correlation. No transcendence can reach a totality beyond the correlation because, according to these arguments, we cannot leave the correlation. Such is the predicament of Levinas: transcendence cannot be encompassed in a (consistent) totality.

Cogburn then introduces the idea of a paradoxico-metaphysics by saying that

“[…] the task of metaphysics is to give a maximally general account of what reality is like such that metaphysics is impossible. If the project sounds paradoxical, that is because it is. But if reality is paradoxical, such is our fate” Garcian Meditations, 8-9.

The paradox emerges from the two uses of the word metaphysics in the italicized sentence. One can in fact believe the word is being used in different meanings. In fact, we can try to rewrite the sentence as:

the task of metaphysiks is to give a maximally general account of what reality is like such that métaphysics is impossible.

However, this only shows how totality encompasses transcendence – and métaphysics cannot be irrelevant to metaphysiks. If transcendence is impossible, a maximally general account cannot be given once it would be at most an immanent maximally general account. In other words, it will be confined to the correlation and not maximal enough – not reaching totality. This is the paradox in totality. A paradoxico-metaphysics would respond to it by saying that it is only when totality is thought as devoid of paradox that we generate the stalemate. One way to do paradocico-metaphysics is to allow for totality itself to involve transcendence and, as a consequence, as being paradoxical. To posit an inconsistent totality is to enable transcendence neither to collapse in immanence (metaphysiks) or to entail no totality (métaphysics).

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Object-oriented vacuous actuality

Harman's Immaterialism sets out to contrast his object-oriented approach to social and historical explanation to what is loosely labeled "new materialism" and to actor-network theory in particular. After a quick presentation of his ontology of objects stressing the speculative move from objects of human knowledge endowed with a withdrawn element that eludes every sensorial contact to an image of everything as objects enjoying a secret in-itself dimension and a quicker presentation of the adversaries of the object-oriented approach, Harman illustrates the strengths of finding objects behind events with a historical narrative of the Dutch VOC. Following a provocation from Leibniz, for whom it would be outrageous to treat the Dutch East India Company as a real substance, Harman sets out to present the history of the company as the history of an object - that supposedly would explain more than accounts that rather undermine it in terms of its components (fleets, trips, employees etc.) or overmining it in terms of events (expeditions, conquests, alliances etc.).

The narrative is persuasive in showing how middle-sized objects like the VOC have to be taken as real protagonists capable of symbioses where a different objects are brought to alliances that involve not only its sensual qualities but also the real, withdrawn and elusive element behind the perceptually available. In a symbiosis, an objects bets in another. This is is fairly illustrated. However Harman is less convincing when it comes precisely to show how his approach fares better than Latour's ANT (Action-Network Theory) when it comes to explain features of the history of VOC. To be sure, it is not enough to say that we need to postulate individuated entities like the VOC - Latour would have networks of actants that are individual enough when they pass successive tests of resistance. Latour's individuals, nevertheless, are always up for grabs, always at the mercy of tests of resistance - and they have nothing concealed but only their successive display of actions. Still, networks that can be broken up into actants at any moment, are individuated enough. There is one important point that distinguish Harman's objects from Latour's networks: potentiality. Harman is adamant in saying that the VOC is to be understood as an object with dispositions - for instance, conquered the Spice Island in potentia even before its attack on Macassar in 1656. It is clear that capacities and abilities could be part of what a real object is and the link between real objects and real qualities is indeed conceived by Harman to be composed by those features, by those "causal powers". But ANT postulates no such thing as potentialities. In "Irréductions", around 1.5.1 Latour analyses potentialities in terms of the engagement of several other individuals and not in terms of an internal feature. He writes (in 1.5.1): "With potency injustice also begins, because apart from a happy few - princes, principles, origins, bankers, and directors other entelechies, that is, all the remainder, become details, consequences, applications, followers, servants, agents - in short, the rank and file.". Now, it is precisely the engagements of these other individuals that would explain, for instance, how the Spice Islands were in the hands of the VOC since the early 1620s: a network of actants composed by local alliances, more powerful fleets and Macassar residents that would make the conquest of Macassar less than a priority. It is unclear what precisely an object-oriented approach could offer that is better than the positing of networks together with an account of how the name "VOC" related to different networks in different times yet retaining enough of the network to go through several tests of resistance. Not only ANT would need no appeal to internal potentialities, but it would explicitly dismiss them.

Perhaps the gist of the difference is precisely in the withdrawn element in objects that ANT cannot contemplate: Harman's real objects elude any contact with other objects. Real objects are dangerously close to what Whitehead labeled 'vacuous actuality' - precisely what brings his position close to that of Hegelians as them too reject vacuous actualities such as things-in-themselves. Vacuous actualities affect nothing. I guess there are two different ways to view the withdrawn element in something. Consider Levinas conception that the absolute other is elusive to representation and ultimately to the exercise of my spontaneity. Here, the absolute other is withdrawn and yet capable of affecting me - of hurting my otherwise unlimited freedom and sovereignty. Levinas wants to make sure that the absolute other is not unnoticed - or rather, that it is not unnoticeable while it can be systematically unnoticed. It affects by resisting. The same can perhaps be said about the Kantian noumena: it is the resistance of the thing in the objects; it brings about the transcendental distinction. The other way of thinking about the withdrawn element is that it has no effect whatsoever: they are present and yet inert, not affecting anything. In this case, they are vacuous actualities. But if real objects are vacuous actualities, it is no surprise that they can make no (explanatory) difference in the explanation of the VOC. They would at most make an object-oriented account hostage to the explanations provided by an ANT history.


Monday, 4 September 2017

Perhaps a phenomenology + a monadology + a hauntology

Getting acquainted with Salanskis reading of Levinas and thinking of how, in perception, there are always traces of the still others in perceiving the others (language brings in the images of the masters when we look at anything but also every mediation is a trace in perception - think of the notion of importance in Whitehead's Modes of Thought, for instance) I've been elaborating on the account of three modes of existence I gave on Being Up For Grabs. There, each unit (which was a monad) was at the same time a composition, a fragment and a composer. There they relate to the others in a monadology. But this strikes me now as only part of the story. There is a monadology but on top of it and at the same time there is a phenomenology and a hauntology associated to the interiority of each unit. The paradoxico-metaphysics of these units is the (incoherent) juxtaposition of these three arrangements of units in each of their mode of existence. In each mode they enjoy a connection with the others, but a metaphysics of the others includes these three modes and the three arrangements. An ontology of the whole picture that provides a global view of all of them form an inconsistent totality.

Husserl himself felt like he needed a monadology to complement his phenomenology in the fifth meditation. Levinas provides an account of how the freedom of one's spontaneity needs to be hurt by the traces of the others - of how phenomenology should rather be juxtaposed with a hauntology where freedom is (morally) tainted. Further, Levinas himself makes room for a (monadological) dependence on what cannot contest one's freedom but could resist it. He embraces a bifurcation concerning what is my nourishment (nourriture) and what is the other that interrupts and is not something I depend on. Hence, for Levinas, I can go phenomenological concerning what is monadologically associated with me but I also find the absolute other whose hauntology can only command an ethical independent dependency. If we drop the bifurcation, we hint towards the co-existence of two modes of existence: I need nourishment for my chez-moi, but the absolute other can come from anywhere. To be fair, as far as the encounter is concerned, the image of a paradoxico-metaphysics of the others composed by arrangements of modes through a phenomenology plus a monadology plus a hauntology makes perhaps as much violence as the bifurcation. The difference is that it leaves a ground (hauntology) just for the traces of absolute others that are met.

Hence, in Being Up For Grabs I have proposed a monadology of fragments where each subjectivity exists at the same time in three modes. The three modes account for their being up for grabs because they are composed by others, they are fragments in other compositions and because they compose with what is provided by others. The three modes are constitutive of what there is. Now I want to explore these three modes further both as modes of existence of subjectivity and as modes of being up for grabs. It is apparent how these three modes relate to each other: they are incoherent, their blending together lies in paradox. Yet, each unit is at the same time
1) fractured and interrupted by all others – they being up for grabs makes them available like hosts for every other that can interfere in their interior life,
2) dependent on the others – they cannot be maintained or keep their defining relations to other units unless they are helped by all the other units (the monadological meta-stability),
3) sovereign to make use of all others found in the way (la indigne liberté) – their interiority is related to what they find around themselves with their freedom to engage with the others at their will.
It follows three arrangements: a hauntology (1), a monadology (2) and a phenomenology (3).

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Totality and object-oriented ontology

In his interesting "Levinas' triple critique of Heidegger", Harman presents Levinas as a critic of Heidegger in three respects: one to do with ethics (or rather the ethics of ethics, as Critchley would put), one to do with separation and one to do with substance. He points out, quite correctly in my view, that Levinas' original attempt was to provide a metaphysics devoid of any commitment to totality; totality, Harman writes, is his "strategic enemy". In Totality and Infinity (T&I) he exorcises totality thoroughly by proposing a metaphysics in the first person where one's selfishness and its interruptions form the basis of the narrative. Hence, the egoism of incorporating the others by the same in order to survive and the interruption placed by the other from outside through a metaphysical desire present in ethical demands as much as in the public language imposed on my selfish freedom or spontaneity. At the same time, Harman objects that the metaphysical project of Levinas restricts the interrupting other (the absolute other) to the human others that reveal my spontaneity as unworthy and make sure my freedom is invested as responsibility. Harman's objection could motivate an object-oriented metaphysics: every object affects every other through metaphysical desires (as much as through needs) and, as a consequence, there is transcendence not only in the human other. There is infinity - what Levinas contrasts with totality and associates with separation - in every object. Because separation is warranted, such an object-oriented metaphysics wouldn't be committed to totality (to an existence indifferent to existents). In fact, Harman plays separation against totality while discussing the friction Levinas imposes on Heidegger.

Now, to exorcise totality is not an univocal endeavor. There is a sense in which totality contrasts with separation and, more precisely, with exteriority. Levinas insists that exteriority requires interiority - interiority, he writes, is the holiday of totality. In that sense, an object-oriented metaphysics would avoid totality by entrusting each object with a withdrawn element (say, the Real Object of Harman). This element, conceived by Heidegger in connection to his reading of the Ding in Heidegger's Einblick as something that reveals and conceals itself of its own accord as an episode of zuhanden, would take care of the infinity in the interiority of the other that Levinas points out in a contexts very different of that of episodes of zuhanden (Levinas understands that only thematization, and not the coupling of things when tools are used, reveals the bite of the other, through word). In that sense, an object-oriented metaphysics could expand Levinas' metaphysics beyond the confines of the human other. But Levinas wants to exorcise totality in other senses. We can understand totality in Levinas at least in these four possible senses:
(1) The opposite of interiority (separation, exteriority)
(2) The commitment to a third-personal view, a sideways-on view in an expression of McDowell
(3) The use of the first person as an example, the other viewed as an alter-ego and my own experience as the basis for a speculative flight
(4) The commitment to neutral, impersonal terms
He is clear about senses 2, 3 and 4, as much as 1 in the opening pages of T&I. In 2A6 ("Le moi de la jouissance n'est ni biologique ni sociologique") he criticizes an impersonal view of the relation between me and the other. He wants to avoid any description in neutral, third-personal terms of my relation with the other which is thoroughly personal and cannot be described in a lateral way (from a sideways-on point of view) unless one is committed to viewing both me and the other as examples and the other as an alter ego. Levinas doesn't want any speculative flight from my own first-personal experience: this would amount to projecting myself and my relation with the other beyond my personal terms and therefore would entail a commitment to totality - and to understanding the other as an alter-ego.

It seems that an object-oriented metaphysics, as something other than a metaphysics made in the first person, would be committed to totality in the 2, 3 and 4 senses. The withdrawal of the other, for Levinas, is not the withdrawal of an object in general - which is neutral. I don't withdraw in the same way as the other does to me. An object that withdraws is a neutral structure speculatively achieved by expanding my first person experience. In his terms, such an object-oriented metaphysics is an ontology in the sense that it collapses the other into the same and turns my experience with the other into a concept (the concept of object among objects).

What interest me in all this is the metaphysical commitment to totality. Yesterday, in the Anarchai's group reading of Jean Wahl we were discussing a tradition in metaphysics (certainly a very 20th century one) that would start out by avoiding totality. This spreads from Levinas' insistence in a first personal metaphysics to Deleuze's n-1 account of multiplicity through Jankélevich's presque rien and je ne sais quoi and Derrida's deconstruction (and to what Heidegger proposes, for example, in the Kehre in the last lecture of the Einblick. We thought that maybe Jean Wahl could be placed as one of the origins for such a (20th century) tendency. It is interesting to understand the ontological turn (and the speculative turn) as a break with that avoidance of totality. It is, perhaps, a consequence of abandoning what Malabou once called "a culture of aporia".


Thursday, 24 August 2017

Levinas and immediacy

I'll write a bit about my class on the last sections of chapter 1 of Totalité et Infini (T&I) this morning. Specially about the section "e) Language et attention" in "Vérité et justice".

The issue of mediation. To be sure, when one claims that there is a mediation between A and B (call it C), one is still under the obligation of determining whether there is a mediation between A and C. This can lead to an infinite regress. Or to an arbitrary stop. Often one argues against the immediacy of our contact with the world but not against the immediacy of our contact with conceptual norms or a linguistic practices. Brandom once wrote that "we met the norms and they were us". That is, there is no mediation between us and the concepts - even when concepts are crucial to mediate our access to intuitions (and are what can provide content to them).

I take the issue of thematization (and not that of what is a theme) to be central in this sections of T&I. Levinas has Heidegger's zuhanden in mind when he insists that only through thematization - and not through what is ready-to-hand - we can reach truth (and reality). There is no such thing as a non-thematized connection with the world where things present themselves and withdraw of their own accord. His image of what is ready-to-hand is that of unconstrained and uninvested spontaneity - thoroughly morally unworthy and therefore thoroughly a product of my own unconstrained gesture of domination. It is through thematization that truth can emerge, and it is through it that my freedom is unmasked in an exercise of criticism (i.e. of diaphonia). Thematization, on its turn, requires the others. They have introduced themes (and content) into my mental life. In fact, they are present implicitly in my view of reality when it is a view, therefore something that has been thematized. Levinas says that the faces of whoever thought us about everything we access are implicitly present (never fully present as the Other is infinite) in our thinking about the world. The others are there, in my image of the world. I see my parents, colleagues and other companions implicitly in my view (in my thinking) about a book, a table or a landscape. Language covers the others - they leave traces on it. Just like for Sellars, without a language we wouldn't have anything to say. Language introduces the others and therefore thematization. The image is indeed very close to that of Wittgenstein on private language. The public language is where a constrained force is present so that content can emerge - without it, what is correct is what seems correct to me, and therefore there is nothing but an unconstrained exercise of spontaneity.

In other words, Levinas clearly is not buying into any form of empiricism where access to things are immediate. What is ready-to-hand is not accessible at all. Yet, just like with Wittgenstein, we still can ask whether my access to the Other is immediate. There's much to say about this. But there is a suspicion that there could be a problem with public language: how do I recognize the Other as an instance capable to thematize my world (and contest my spontaneity)? Is this recognition immediate?

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Linhas de Animismo Futuro available


Just out!

Levinas' infinitism

Today in my course on Levinas we were discussing his thesis, in "Vérité et Justice" (T&I), that criticism should lead not to the thesis that spontaneity is incompetent for knowledge but that it is unworthy because unfair to the Other. Doubt - as criticism should precede theory as much as metaphysics should precede ontology - is a moral concern. Although since Sextus the movement of doubting is described in terms of other voices, diaphonia, the insufficiency of reasons shown in cases of underdetermination etc, the idea that the trouble that epokhé creates was technical and not ethical prevailed. Levinas provides an ethical interpretation of criticism: one suspends judgement because of the Other, because the Other sets limits on my freedom and on my spontaneity - justice invests on my freedom, makes it worthy.

Now, Levinas holds that the Other is infinity. And that infinity is not anything theoretical but something related to moral transcendence through the Other. Infinity is perhaps never thought in terms of actual infinity - an actual infinity is put at service of totality just like what Deleuze describes Hegel and Leibniz doing in the first chapter of D&R. In other words, infinity is thought by Levinas in opposition to totality. There is no infinity leading to a totality (or to an absorption of all difference). He takes criticism to be an instance where the Other and a different world is revealed - and therefore an infinity is revealed. The alternative to that ethical reading of the epistemology of spontaneity (and of epistemology in general) that condemns freedom is to find criticism as pointing always as something technical that requires spontaneity to be somehow supplemented in the epistemological endeavor but never challenged. He believes that the technical fix - psychological or otherwise - would be found always wanting. And then he writes that this path would yield an infinite regress. Interestingly, the "infinite" in this diagnosis of infinite regress is not the one that is non-theoretical (but moral) as he advocates. Still, this is precisely the point: the infinite regress points at the theoretically (technically) incompleteness of any solution that could make theory immune to criticism. Only an infinitist solution is possible: acknowledging the Other, denouncing spontaneity. (This is the infinite regress that provides an epistemological solution - a moral one.)

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

"Amanhontem": the self-collapsing Goodmanian predicate

The argument against Humean critique of induction based on the factual or empirical (and therefore inductive) character of expressions like "tomorrow" or other expressions of the future. To doubt that the sun will rise tomorrow is intelligible only if "tomorrow" is understood and therefore if some inductions are accepted in order do doubt others. Specific doubts concerning the future cannot be formulated. Today in my epistemology course I was exploring the analogy between Hume and Goodman and therefore between the new and the old riddle of induction. Goodman's predicates are always defined in terms of temporal predicates - "green if observed *before tomorrow* and blue otherwise". To simplify, we can formulate all these non-standard predicates - grue, emerose, nexists (something that exists if observed before a given time and doesn't afterwards) - in terms of "tomorrow". Now, we can concoct the predicate 'tomorterday': something that is tomorrow if observed up to a point and yesterday if observed afterwards. A day is tomorterday if it is tomorrow with respect to yesterday (and any day before that) but tomorrow with respect to today. Tomorterday follows any day before today but precedes today. The formulation of all Goodmanian non-standard predicates (including 'tomorterday') could also be formulated in terms of tomorterday so the very formulation of the riddle is prey of itself and therefore already has to be making use of an entrenchment.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

The Interrupted Nexus, the first few lines

In the current form, The Interrupted Nexus, a book I'm writing, starts like this:

There are two ways of thinking about the others (the other human, the other than human, the unexpected other). The first derives from thoughts about co-existence. The second conceive of them as transcending. In both cases, if the others are taken as a metaphysical ultimate, truth is not a matter of contemplating an already existing and self-standing order but rather follows from the very presence of others. It becomes a product of pluralism (of diaphonia, of dissent) and not something that which transparency is tainted by it. The approach to truth favored by the first is hinted by Bruno Latour when he writes:

Une phrase ne tient pas parce qu'elle est vraie; c'est parce qu'elle tient qu'on la dit vraie. Elle tient à quoi? Mais, justement, à beaucoup de choses. Pourquoi?Mais parce qu’elle a été accroché à plus solide qu’elle. Personne ne peut maintenant l’embraler sans défaire le reste à quoi ele tient (Irreductions, 2.4.8)

The approach favored by second, in its turn, is present when Emmanuel Levinas writes:

La societé ne découle pas de la contemplation du vrai, la relation avec autrui notre maître rend possible la verité. La vérité se rattache ainsi au rapport social qui est justice. La justice consiste à reconnaitre en autrui mon maître. (T&I 68)

Monday, 14 August 2017

The ontology and the metaphysics of agency

Been thinking of a different, Levinasian way to present our five-fold alternatives concerning agency. The original one is something like this:
1. Ontology without agency (La Mettrie, Meillassoux, perhaps Spinoza)
2. Agency without agents (Simondon, Karen Barad, perhaps Deleuze)
3. Monadologies, agents are interdependent (Leibniz, Latour, Tarde, Whitehead)
4. Independent agents (Harman, perhaps Garcia)
5. Agents without ontology (Levinas, Benso, perhaps Celan)

See, for instance, these talks.

Here, 1 is opposed to 5, 2 to 4 and 3 stands in the middle under the pressure of both its sides.

I thought it can also be presented thus:
1. Ontology without metaphysics - without anything personal
2. Metaphysics based on an ontology of agency where nothing is personal but there is some agency around
3. Monadologies: a compromise between ontology and metaphysics
4. Ontology based on a metaphysics of units of agency
5. Metaphysics without ontology - everything is personal


L'intériorité est le congé de la totalité

Tomorrow I'm lecturing on some of the initial ingredients deployed by Levinas in the argument of Totality and Infinity. He believes Descartes provided two important contributions to the project of a non-ontologist metaphysics as sketched in Plato's Sophist by the Stranger. (The project of having the Other paired with Being - and Same, Rest, Motion - and not as a derivative of what there is.) First, Descartes brought about the notion of infinity that is a concept that is beyond itself and therefore beyond the thought of a totality - an infinity that, I believe, cannot be reduced to actual infinity. Second, Descartes brought about the notion of interiority and therefore the possibility of a time that is different from that of history in its objectivity. Interiority is what makes separation - between me and the Other - possible and therefore what makes pluralism possible. Further, it is the interruption in totality. The notion of interiority contrasts indeed with history and therefore with historical accounts of things that promote an idolatry of facts. The contrast is Levinas' version of a fallacy of misplaced concreteness: there is no account of a totality because there is transcendence and transcendence springs from interiority. His use of Descartes and his notion of interiority surely puts him close to monadologies. To be sure, monadologies tend to be impersonal and to emphasize symmetry and reversibility - but they start out with the reality of the interior, of the subjective and make room for pluralism through the reality of a subjective perspective. Interestingly, in "L'athéisme et la volonté" (1B), he criticizes Leibniz because his monads are not distinct due to their interiority but rather due to their predicates and further because monads form a totality in the head of God. The two misgivings, however, seem to be based on features exclusive to Leibniz's monadology. Concerning the latter, if action in the actual world is not determined in a previous time, there could be no room for a totality. As for the former, if predicates are an expression of interiority, as in Whitehead, what distinguished different units of action would be their interiority. Still my question persists: is it possible to conceive of a Levinasian monadology?

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.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

My last talk of the series in the LSU

The interruption: hospitality and the metaphysics of the others - Last Friday.



Ground and heteronomy: In a metaphysics of agents (like 3), autonomy is spread everywhere and anomy is a product of the plurality itself. How is heteronomy possible?
Phenomenology meets monadology: The interfaces between phenomenology and monadology: Husserl-Leibniz, Levinas-Whitehead.
The common cartesian heritage: the sphere of subjectivity as explanans, the rejection of substrata, the extended notion of experience (beyond sense experience), the centrality of perception.
Three solitudes:
1. Aristotelian solitude: a first substance (hypokeimenon, ousia prote) requires nothing but itself to exist, it is alone with is substratum.
2. Cartesian solitude: “any individual of the res cogitans or the res extensa does not require any other individual of these kinds to exist” (Whitehead, P&R, p. 144).
3. Levinasian solitude: an individual cannot rely on any other to be what it is, it is alone with its substantive (alone in its hypostasis).
It is a Levinasian solitude that keeps agent separated even in a monadological scenario (where there is a solidarity of all actualities).
Intersubjectivity and interdependence: Husserl feels the need for a monadology to avoid the risk of a “pure egology” where any other would be no more than the product of the intentional activity of a transcendental ego. He posits a monadology as an antidote to the solipsist tendency of a phenomenological analysis. Instead of sliding into metaphysics, he inaugurates the phenomenology of the ego before the other.
The alter-ego: Husserl conceives of the other as an alter-ego, a modification of myself, pre-figured by myself. It is an association in experience prompted by my intentional acts detecting an analog, and transfering what is inside me (the source of intentional acts) to what is inside the other.
A monadology of alter-egos: In Husserl's monadology, there is a private subjectivity of the self prior to any (known or unknown) connection with anything else. It's Hussel's primordial sphere that contrasts with the monadological thesis that the others are intrinsically connected to any self. (Whitehead's solidarity of all actualities)
Levinas' phenomenology of alterity: Levinas thinks that Husserl wants to be out of an egology through an egological path – the other is not a projection of the ego but what the ego is not. Phenomenology of alterity should pave the way for an ethics and not for an ontology. (Against the enterprise of turning the other into same.)
The gap: Levinas diagnoses a gap between the action of the agent and the agent that has to be present to act. The connection between them is a product of the hypostasis and is the first of all external relations. Levinas explores this through his phenomenology of laziness and tiredness. It is in this gap that action can be interrupted by the other while keeping the agent in place.
La tension : l'absence de substrat veut dire : il n'y a pas de substrat pour identifier la monade, seulement les prédicats, mais les prédicats ne sont pas ce que fait l'action, on a besoin d'un sujet, séparé mais identifié seulement par ses prédicats.
Four phenomenology-monadology tensions:
1. The other out of the present time: In Leibniz other monads are perceived through their very constitution forged in a prior time. For Levinas, time is made of the relation between of a subject and alterity. The other is fully exterior as solitude is part of the structure of any existent. The other is without the existent. (Primordial sphere?)
2. The alter-ego: The other is perceived as a variation of the self and therefore understood with one's own resources. Levinas understands that the other cannot be modeled before reception, before the encounter – always exterior to one's existence.
3. The agenda: The other is perceived through the agenda of the agent – through one's predications and in a subjective form - understood only from my viewpoint (Shaviro: The other prompting self-enjoyment and the other prompting concern.)
4. The ready-made monad: The Leibnizian monad is pre-determined in all its changes. The Whiteheadian actual entity is aimed at self-fulfillment and never changes path – just becomes something else.
Is there a way to bring together Levinas' phenomenology of alterity and (neo-)monadological thinking? Both neo-monadologies and Levinas intend to make room for external relations. But exteriority is conceived in different ways: prehension vs interruption (self-enjoyment vs concern), alliance—making vs responsibility, solidarity vs solitude.
Two avenues of convergence:
1. Both make process philosophies possible: reality is constituted by an interaction with others, by a plurality of determinations. Neo-monadologies explain the world in terms agents. A phenomenology of alterity explains the world in terms of responsibilities. They provoke responses after a demand is placed in the gap between agent and action. Responsibility is infinite while action is finite. (Derrida: reality is constituted by undecidable decisions.)
2. There could be a monadology of hospitality (instead of solidarity). Hospitality requires an inner space that can host the other (the solitude, the gap). Because there is an (externally constituted) inner space, these monads would be more open than the neo-monadological ones. Within the framework of (possible) hospitality, monads can be interrupted and then decide to take responsibility. The presence of a decision could make it seem that monads are free to chose heteronomy, but the phenomenology of the gap makes it clear that a decision itself is forced by a demand – the interruption by the other. It is also important to distinguish between substrata and substantives (the result of the hypostasis) – that is, between Aristotelian and Levinasian solitudes. Levinasian solitude is not what makes the agent particular, but what makes the agent an agent.
A monadology of fragments: Monads exist in two simultaneous modes: they are fragments to be part of compositions, they are already compositions and they are composers. Do these monads have enough Levinasian solitude to be genuinely interrupted by others?

Monday, 1 May 2017

Capitalism and reaction

Since I read Silvia Federici's claim that capitalism is rather reactionary (and not a progressive step) is her Calliban and the Witch great book the claim haunts me. First of all it contains the most straightforward antidote against accelerationism; there is no point in furthering capitalism or outcapitalizing it for it is a source of reaction and not of progress. Accelerationists have always relied on the idea that looking at ways of life that preceded capitalism is the reactionary move for it is like setting the clock backwards. Noys and others have criticized accelerationism for this single track metaphysics of historical change. But if we add to this critique Federici's claim we get a quite interesting picture: looking back is not looking at other forms of power that capitalism displaced and deterritorialized, but it is to look at the other forms of resistance and fight that capitalism silenced. In other words, it is looking at what could have happened if the old forms of power were dissolved in a different way. It is not enough to dissolve oppressive structures like traditional communities or religious hierarchies, they have to be dissolved in an advantageous way, in a way that promotes justice. At this point the accelerationist would cite Marx and Deleuze & Guattari to support the claim that much has been gained by getting rid of structures of a feudal mode of production and a despotic territorial machine. The Federician would then reply that the fight was under way and capitalism just pre-empted the more interesting results to come through. The non-accelerationist is forced to look into the fabric of the social that capitalism disrupts - is it just traditionalism or are there seeds of something else?

It is a complicated discussion and Federici faces it by historical considerations starting with the mass murder of the witches. When you look at what happened since the 60s of last century, maybe there is also a case for the Federici claim. Civil rights movement, Stonewall, the second wave of feminism, students protests, psychodelia and alternative life were all instrumental to displace some traditionalist forms of power. They did deterritorialize. They were to a great extent incorporated in capitalism by creating new markets and by informing libertarians. It is clear that through this incorporation they lost most of their biting force - they become no longer about different modes of life, of desire, of pleasure and of sharing the sensible but rather about inclusion. They became extremists, to use the vocabulary Pasolini crafted towards the end of his life. They fought for inclusion so that the previously discarded became individuals (capable to create families and to buy their living with a working force). Today I felt like saying: it's here, it's before us, in front of us the reactionary character of capitalism, it's happening again and again everywhere: replace unions with pension funds, replace the struggle for income with the increase in credit, replace the efforts to build sustaining communities by the demand for different forms of family. It's all there before us: an engine of reaction.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Universal metaphysics - the Priest-Garcia-Cogburn approach

Alexandre Costa-Leite and I have been postulating a universal metaphysics that go hand in hand in the path open by universal logic. Such metaphysics doesn't stop anywhere short of the logically impossible for it is not tied to a logical system in particular. Rather, it considers all the different logics in order to take modal (and post-modal) notions such as necessity, causation and ground as indexed to a particular galaxy (a set of possible world corresponding to a logic). To be clear, universal metaphysics can take several forms; let's consider four:
a) It can take the form of a refusal of the great picture, and so there are no metaphysical conclusions that could encompass all galaxies at once. One could have metaphysical claims about each galaxy, but only in a contrastive manner and so the each-all inference would not hold - having metaphysical claims about each galaxy entails nothing concerning all the galaxies.
b) It can take the form of assuming one specific logic - say, the classical one - and consider that there are relevant arguments, maybe based on entrenchment, that would make this logic better than any other and the one to be preferred for a non-neutral but yet absolute and coherent set of metaphysical claims.
c) It can assume that metaphysical claims can be made about all galaxies and pay the price of contradiction - universal metaphysics would be incoherent, paradoxical; in this view, something consistent could be said about each specific galaxy, but nothing consistent could be said about all galaxies but still something paraconsistent could be said about all galaxies and we assume that contradictions don't undermine determinations.
d) It can simply deny the possibility of any metaphysics and derive an anti-metaphysical argument from the plurality of galaxies along the following lines: once logic is crucial for any metaphysical claim (because, for instance, one needs the space of possible worlds defined) and once there are many logics, then there is no ground for any metaphysical claim whatsoever. Universal metaphysics then become no metaphysics.

I used to understand these alternatives in terms akin to those presented by Kit Fine in his "Tense and Reality". There he primarily considers the relation between perspectives and reality as it appears in the problem of time in McTaggart. Fine considers four possibilities: the denial of the existence of time (which would be akin to alternative d), the denial that reality is absolute to claim that it is scattered, dependent on perspectives and encompassing no totality, what he calls perspectivism (akin to a), the denial that reality is neutral by assuming a presentist approach to tense according to which only what is now the case exists (akin to b) and the denial that reality is coherent and the assumption of what he calls fragmentalism where there are fragments of consistent reality that add up to a non-consitent über-reality (this is akin to c). The adoption of a universal metaphysics of the type c would involve the paradoxical conclusion that there are inconsitencies - or contradictions - in the world. Here, of course, one can just bite the bullet and say that we find contradictions because there they are.

Jon Cogburn, based on the work of Priest and Livingston, have developed the idea of a paradoxo-metaphysics. He presents it in his well-crafted Garcian Meditations with respect to the metaphysics espoused by Tristan Garcia. The general idea can be introduced considering a metaphysics that would entail that metaphysics is impossible - the task of metaphysics then could be constructed as that of giving a maximally general account of what reality is like such that metaphysics is impossible. The consequence could be to drop the ladder after climbing through it. But one could refuse such a move and this is indeed the gesture Priest does with respect to paradoxes such as Russell's: he embraces the paradoxical situation that a Russell set is both a member and not a member of the universe of sets. He then posits contradictions in the world (dialetheas). This is a first case of paradoxico-metaphysics. Cogburn goes on to show how this works in Garcia's metaphysics: Garcia embraces an allism, in Lewis terms, according to which everything is – it is sufficient to be determined, or to have a property, to be something. Now, the world most surely has properties and is determined, but it is not distinctively something. As Garcia holds that a contradictory determination is still a bona fide determination (a white and non-white surface is still determined because it cannot be a only-white surface, say), Cogburn feels inclined to ascribe him with a version of paradoxico-metaphysics. And he contrasts this position with that of Marcus Gabriel who denies the existence of the world - acting as if an alternative akin to a would be a best bet. Garcia, he argues, would rather go for a full-blooded paradoxical position akin to fragmentalism and to c.

Now, paradoxico-metaphysics opens a horizon for universal metaphysics. Cogburn puts it in terms of Priest's analysis of Russell's paradox according to which the main steps are Existence (or Being), Transcendence and Closure. The acceptance of the three premisses would entail a contradiction and, if the contradiction (i.e. the paradox) is welcomed, would entail a position akin to fragmentalism or c. Those are the full-blown paradoxico-metaphysical doctrines. Further, if Existence is denied to avoid the paradox, one is back to a position like a; one can also deny Transcendence to avoid contradiction and then argue for a position like b or deny Closure to also avoid contradiction and end up close to d. So it seems like Fine's categories more or less map into Priest's. And further his option for fragmentalism also goes in the direction of paradoxico-metaphysics.

But a number of questions concerning universal metaphysics remain. The most pressing ones relate to the way one is to go about, say, paradoxico-metaphysics. How should one count, relate or otherwise individuate contradictions? The common way to proceed is the same as in universal logic: to use a classical meta-logic. Could paradoxico-metaphysics provide an alternative to classical metametaphysics?

Thursday, 27 April 2017

The conscripted Other

Discussing Heidegger's Einblick in das was ist I considered monadologies - are they symptoms of the age of danger thinking through co-existence? I had in mind the kind of thinging thing that the Other is. Ge-Stell requires the conscription of the Other, the neutralization of the Other into a Gegen-stand, ie. a transformation of the Other in an exteriority exposed in principle, part of a world that can be in view as unveiled, as unguarded, as incapable of concealment. Now, there is a sense in which monadologies are attempts to bring in co-existence, the Other, into the picture challenging the idea of a world that can be in view. Having Being Up For Grabs in mind, I would say that also an ontology of doubts that addresses insufficient reason and a rhythm-oriented ontology that stresses the transduction lines between those seen and those that behold attempt to build metaphysics of the non-conscripted, away from the predicaments of the age of danger as they introduce what is up for grabs, what is offered as such to metaphysics. Monadologies, in particular, endeavor to bring the Other as a capacity to alter the world, the Other becomes capable of othering (the other othering is maybe a case of the thing thinging). However the world in view featured by Ge-Stell in the age of danger is in most monadologies rather multiplied than dissolved as the Other becomes at least one of the three:
a) away from the present time (that happens in Leibniz where the interaction with any other pre-exists the time of perception and action);
b) an image of the ready for conscription in the form of "I unveil the other because she is similar to me" and therefore faced ontologically as the reduction of the other to a same – the alter-ego, the other of the same (this happens in Husserl's monadology, but arguably also in Tarde's and Whitehead's) or
c) the other-for-me, the other in the agent's agenda and therefore ready for my perusal (this I suspect happens in Whitehead's and in Latour's monadologies).

Einblick in das was ist: Heidegger and the world in view

Today I presented here at the LSU my reading of the Einblick, guided by my attempt to build a (non-ontologist) metaphysics of the other and by my interest in perception - in the ethics of perception and in perceiving as a concern with what nears and shows. Below is the handout I distributed. I organized the presentation around several key oppositions in the text that interest me, most involving Ge-Stell and the idea of objects ready to be conscripted.

Handout

Nähe/Ge-Stell: The setting apart of all distances brings no nearness: nearness is not short distance. Nähe is not about distance, it's about a presence that is not forced, it's about not placing something in a map, but approach it where it makes itself present. In contrast, Ge-Stell is a self-gathered collection of positionings that works like a device that produces objects exposed, mapped, available, in standing reserve. The issue is about placing, presentating and presencing. Nearing is the essence of nearness – approaching.

Thing/object: The object is what is exposed, what stands against a viewpoint that makes it visible. The thing, in contrast, does its own thing, it approaches and reveals itself at its own accord: the thing things (Nähe). When Plato thinks of the jug as an idea appearing to the producer, he is not engaging with the thing but positioning its appearance. What makes a jug be a jug is the empty that it holds, what makes the jug jug, the thing thing. A jug holds and awaits to offer. The empty prefigures the gift: holding and outpouring. When its essences atrophies, pouring becomes just pouring in and out. In the gift of the pour, earth and skies, divinities and mortals abide, “they belong together”, the Geviert. A thing is what gathers – brings together what is scattered. This gathering is not a gathering of positions in a point (it's no topography). Rather, it is engaging with what is gathered from nearness – a gathering to bring together different forces or urges, an articulation, a negotiation (business). The thing concernfully approaches, its presencing is not a position in a topography. The thing things: gathering is always an act; thing is the meeting place and not the abbreviation for its relations and its positions. The essence of nearness – approaching (with concern). A thing offers itself, an object is exposed, presented (that is, made present), given. Ge-Stell transforms things in objects; it makes them presence as what is ordered to be present. (Kant's things in themselves are objects that are not objects for anyone, they are already understood as being there, as composing a landscape that can be viewed – even if no possible experience can attain them.)

Guarding/exposing: Things don't come through machinations of the humans, but they also don't come without the vigilance of the mortals (humans). Things need vigilance for they are gatherings, offerings, approaches and they reveal and conceal.Vigilance is not unconcealing, it is not making things present. Vigilance requires commemorative thinking, it also requires letting things concealed. Care/security, Invigilating/spying. Perception: to exercise nearness (to engage) or to take in what is revealed (to expose). We place, set things in a position and therefore we make possible their requisitioning; positioning, exposing what is available. Ge-Stell is a conscription (die Gestellung): place what is available in standing reserve. Tending the fields as being watchful of what the discretion of the growing forces in the crops contrasts with farming the land. Ge-Stell replaces gathering with conscription – an order that is orderable. Ge-Stell is the essence of technology (science is an application of the essence of technology). Ge-Stell doesn't guard the thing as thing. Ge-Stell let things unguarded, away from their truth – not protected (un-veiled). Wahrnis-Wahrheit: Das Ge-Stell läßt in seinem Stellen das Ding ohne die Hut — ohne die Wahr seines Dingwesens. Things are in greater and greater neglect – to guard is not to expose.

World/Ge-Stell: In the unguarding of the thing, there takes place the refusal of the world: there is no world of things that refer to the Geviert of God/Sky/Earth/Mortals but only a reservoir of what is available in standing reserve. World guards the being of being. But it is proper of the world to refuse itself as a world – it is not offered as a world, as a guardian of being. It guards but leaving it unguarded – concealed, not exposed. World and Ge-Stell are the same, but the same is never equivalent. World and Ge-Stell are set against one another. World that worlds contrasts with the world in view, the latter is a step towards the disclosure and unveiling which is proper of Ge-Stell. The essence of Ge-Stell is danger; danger that is associated with pursuit (Nach-stellen, fara, gefahr). Pursuit requires things that can be found, the world ready to be viewed, perception as disclosure. Things are placed in a landscape in view, the Great Outdoors that rest unguarded.

Alethea/the world in view: World withdraws in concealment. There ought to be lethe for alethea, alethea doesn't displace lethe, but rather welcomes it for without lethe alethea cannot guard. Unconcealment is about presencing – alethea relies on concealment (physis kriptestai philei). So, lethe is the essential source and essential provenance of every way of being. Ge-Stell ousts being from its truth.

Physis/thesis: There is thesis to physis – physis is bringing-here-forth, it is the opening of something closed from itself: that is to say, letting something presence of its own accord. Showing. Thesis arrange a presence in a position, this is what humans do to the presencing of physis. Then a stone presenced by physis is arregimented into a staircase and its steps by thesis. Here we see how thesis disguises itself trying to present things as if they presence in the thesis way, and not in the physis way. As if they were in view, exposed, out there always. Physis gives unconcealment to human representation and place it at their disposal. An offer – this is representable, not yet represented. When things are represented, they become placed to be viewed, no longer offerings but in standing reserve for the sensorial devices to grasp. Ge-Stell is a dispensation of being (Seinsgeschickes) where to be is to be placed, to be set, to be a position in a (thethic) topology. The world becomes a landscape of points, and being exposed and never interrupted.

Mortal/Ge-Stell: The thing gathers and is offered to the human who exercises an essence (a thing that things) while Ge-Stell places objects in front of the human. The human is conscripted by Ge-Stell. “The human has offered himself for the carrying out of this conscripting. He stands in line to take over such requisitioning and to complete it. The human is thereby an employee of requisitioning.”(22, AM). Requisitioning assaults the destiny of the human as it does with gods: a theology based on atomic physics would makes gods orderable. The essence of the human is not decided by humans in their own terms and Ge-Stell sneaks through it. It is not up to the human to fight it, but the human can pave the way or precipitate the turn towards a different dispensation of beyng. The human can collaborate in the turn (not predictable because it involves another Seinsgeschickes) by replacing exposing by guarding, by being tuned to concealment through forgetting. Forgetting is guarding. The salvation lies in guarding, in the world worlding for the world is the forgetful guard of things. Ge-Stell disguises the thing and also the unthinging of things, like forgetting forgets the very act of forgetting. It presents things as if the world is itself always in view, ready to be seen, spotted. It is necessary to let being escape from this pursuit, we need to forget how we let it escape. The sudden salvation from danger comes in protecting forgetfulness.

Glancing/the world in view: Forgetfulness is close to seeing things in a glance – a glance leaves the concealed unilluminated. It is like the light of the Pasolini's firefly. The Blick is an Einblick. The insight is an insight, not a permanent light as not even God could have insights about the world without essencing in the worlding of the world that involves concealment (compare with Wittgenstein's “not even God could know anything mathematical without doing mathematics” PU 352, RFM; mathematical objects are not placed in a position where they are in view by someone, attaining them requires some sort of careful approach that understands that under a different angle they will disappear from one's view, they will be concealed) A world in view (a world of objects, maybe in themselves) is a world that can be viewed by someone else, by God. Glancing is engaging in the thinging of things, in their approaching, in their showing, as opposed to a contemplation of a landscape where objects are set.

Friday, 21 April 2017

A grand hypothesis

Reading Heidegger's Bremen lectures with an eye on the possible blind spots of the compelling contrast between nearness and positionality (Nähe and Ge-Stell). It occurs to me a grand hypothesis concerning the metaphysics of the other: the epoch of Ge-Stell, the epoch where being is pursued and therefore is in danger started with forgetting the specific strand of parricide that Plato's Strangers promotes and favors in the Sophist. His picture is one where five categories ground at the same plane and are intertwined: rest, change, being, same and other. Not-being comes from the friction between being and other. It is not nihilism in the Severino sense itself, but a branch of nihilism that forgot the role of the Stranger in the parricide – the Stranger creates a new kind of opposition, different from that of Parmenides, the opposition that is not an object standing against but a thing that, while approaching concernfully, interrupts. Interruption is not a negation in the sense of nothingness, but it is the opposite of being. This epoch makes us see the others as disclosing themselves to us, as objects of disclosure. Being becomes being viewed (or being spied) and no longer interrupted by the other that requires a response. The offer becomes no more than something at my disposal, nothing that commits me or appeals to me. The move towards this epoch in the history of being is an economic move, in the sense of a general economy: one is never even with the other when perception takes place. The other appears as a given in the sense that there is an ingratitude required. The epoch of persecution is also an epoch of ingratitude.

Sophist 258: “We have shown what form of being non-being is, for we have shown that the nature of the other is, and is distributed over all things in their relation to one another, and whatever part of another that is contrasted with being, this is precisely what we have ventured to call non-being” and right below: “[…] and that being, and difference or other, traverse all things and mutually interpenetrate, so that the other partakes of being, and by reasons of this participation is, and yet is not that of which it partakes, but other, and being other than being, it is clearly a necessity that non-being should be”. This is prepared through from 253. The parricide promoted by Plato is not that of flooding being with non-being but rather to understand non-being as a consequence of a friction between being and the other – the other being primary to non-being and at the same level as being. Plato's stranger-led metaphysics has ontology in a pair with dynamics, statics, alterology and the study of sameness as its constitutive parts. The other, and not non-being, is at the basis. The image of the parricide is that of a being flooded with other, broken, fragmented and with cracks. Negation comes from these cracks, and not the other way round. An ontologist rebuttal (to use the term of Levinas) based on an ontologist forgetting of the terms of the Stranger's parricide would rather have that everything sprouts from being and therefore ontology is prior – and metaphysics becomes a coherent, absolute, neutral discourse with no blemishes and no rifts. Ontologist metaphysics is smooth, is frictionless, is like a landscape to be portrayed.

NB: Heidegger, S&Z 7C: “Because phenomenon, as understood phenomenologically, are never anything but what goes to make up Being, while Being is in every case the Being of some entity, we must first bring forward the entities themselves if it is our aim that Being should be laid bare […] phenomenology is the science of the Being of entities – ontology”. This is an ontologist conception of phenomenon (and of phenomenology).

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

My first two talks in the LSU

The metaphysics of what is up for grabs 

Hand Out


Is there a metaphysical picture of the accident, the casual, the contingent? Metaphysics is often constructed as about necessities – necessary connections, necessary principles, necessary properties.
*Does a metaphysics of contingency make it necessary?

Metaphysics and contingency – the friction:
1. (Aristotle) Metaphysics aims at finding necessities (necessary relations) in what is concrete. Metaphysical knowledge is knowledge of the necessary (and the permanent).
2. (Heraclitus/Plato/Hume) There are (or could be) no necessary connections (and maybe no necessary properties) in what is concrete. If it is so, metaphysics cannot focus on the concrete.
A conclusion: (Kant) Metaphysics should look for necessary connections (and necessary properties) somewhere else (for example in transcendental norms, or in semantical rules).
Another conclusion: Metaphysics should carry on looking at the concrete and abandon the focus on necessary connections.
Problem: Can the non-necessary be known (or assessed, or understood).
Scheme of an answer: maybe contingency is accessed through its contrast with necessity; maybe only if everything is equally contingent nothing can be known.

The metaphysics of contingency: the Meillassoux approach
Contingency transcends the concrete, it is its very principle.
The principle of facticity is necessary.
The concrete cannot make anything contingent or non-contingent: it has no power or agency to change the facticity of all things (not even God, as a possible being acting on the concrete could).
There is no immanent alteration that can change how things are; contingency is decided outside the concrete – like Platonic necessity.

The metaphysics of contingency: the BUG (Being Up for Grabs) approach
Contingency is immanent, not determined once and for all.
It is related to the other, to the possibility of the other (another agent affecting what's taking place, another course of events, another interfering pattern).
Contingency follows from the possible (immanent) alteration of all things – things being up for grabs.
Still there are necessary things among the concrete:
Symbebeka prota ton onton – an Aristotelian approach. Contingency as the plural of necessities.

Two senses of contingency:
Contingency (as opposed to necessary) – Leibniz's determination without necessity
Contingency (as opposed to determinate) – Meillassoux's facticity as opposed to determination
In Being up for grabs: contingency and indetermination.

Two contingentisms:
Kristie Miller's contingentism: some metaphysical theses are not necessary.
Tim Williamson's contingentism: necessitism (the thesis that everything is necessarily something) is false.
BUG is not committed to any of these two thesis (but its project relates to both).

Three modes of alteration – three ontoscopies:
1. A monadology of fragments:
Leibniz: a doctrine of deterministic contingency.
The general basic features of monadologies:
0. No ultimate entity is like any other;
1. The ontological principle: no entities, no reason;
2. Flat ontology;
3. Everything perceives (esse est percipi AND percipere);
4. No substrata;
5. No vacuous actuality;
Other features: priority nihilism, contingentism, anti-haecceitism…
A monadology of fragments: actual entities exist in three modes of existence, fragments, compositions, composers.

2. An ontology of doubts
Insufficient reason: the principle of indeterminacy vs the principle of facticity.
How to know an indetermination? By doubt?
Ontologies of doubt – doubts require determination.
Pyrrhonism vs Sextus: how to suspend the judgment about determinations

3. Rhythm-oriented ontology
Repetition and the eyes of the beholder.
Contagion and the influence of an event on its neighborhood.
Event-ontology: Carol Cleland's change of a state in a determinable property.
Events as beats: time and timing.

Coda: possible worlds in different galaxies associated to many logical systems.

Being up for grabs and alteration: the co-existence of rhythms, the insufficiency of reason, the plurality of agents. Contingency is a consequence of plurality – it is the outcome of the inevitability of pluralism brought about by genuine otherness. (An attempt at a metaphysics of contingency that doesn't make it collapse into necessity.)

Agency, co-existence and the future of monadology

Hand Out


The ground and the other: from the indetermination (or underdetermination or anomy) to self-determination (or autonomy, or spontaneity, or sovereignty) to ask a question that could be phrased as: how is it like to be a ground (or one's own ground).

Grounding as agency: a ground is a genuine agency – a command and a commencement. An agency-oriented metaphysics is one where agency plays an important role among what exists. It addresses issues concerning the co-existence of agencies (or their plurality).

Agency and intentionality: I take intentionality to be neither necessary nor sufficient for agency. Rather, agency is the understood as providing a determination while not fully subject to another (hetero-)determination (or not fully grounded grounding).

Metaphysics and social sciences: If there is a single agency, an agency-oriented metaphysics draws from the vicinities of theology but if there are more than one agency, it draws inspiration from the social science: how do agencies relate, how they associate, how they dispute territories. In both cases, why-questions are often translated into who-questions.

Agency: the five positions

1
No agency
(or no relevant agency)
2
Agency without agents
3.
Inter-dependent agents
4
Independent agents
5
Nothing but agents
(agents as others)

The (human) social science of agency (the anthropology of agency):
1. There is no agency among humans: everything is determined neurologically or psychologically (or by Gods) or rather the human is a domain of indeterminacies where chaos reigns. Humans are either random beings or programmed robots.
2. There is agency among humans but no (human) agent: agency is not to be found in human individuals but rather in the forces, powers and disciplines that shape them. Foucault: the individual is the product of power. Examples of (social, human) agencies: class, race, gender pressures or the strengths of capital (or the economy).
3. There are agents but they are constitutively interdependent: agents cannot be individuated or identified without an appeal to the (human) social collectives and, ultimately, to other individuals on which they depend.
4. There are independent agents: there is no society prior to individuals, every social connection is created and maintained through independent agents that exercise their identity in a social milieu. Social institutions are to be understood in (methodological) individualist terms.
5. There is no anthropology and no room for any (human) social science: the agents are others who cannot be modeled, explained or predicted. The other agents are, nevertheless, an important source of agency. The presence of other agents provide (at least a degree of) heterodetermination.

The five positions: from anthropology to ontology
1. No agency or no agency in the world (agency is transcendent). Everything is contingent or anomic, Heraclitus; the source of anomy is transcendent (Meillassoux), the ground of everything is transcendent (Plato).
2. Individual agents are grounded on individualizing agencies. Simondon's processes of individuation, Karen Barad's intra-actions and agential realism, a reading of Deleuze's double articulation.
3. Agents are interdependent. Monadologies.
4. Agents are already individualized and independent. Object-oriented ontologies like Harman's, where objects are understood as having a substratum independent of their relations and qualities.
5. Agents without ontology. An agents is an other that can, as an agent, affect me. Yet, each individual agent cannot be less than a ground in themselves. Derrida's infinite responsibility read as an extension of Levinas' claim that I am the locus of response.

The five positions: the pressures on 3


The pressure of 1 is that of an anonymous or non-existent ground – a grounder-poor metaphysics. The pressure of 5 is that of the other as other – the upheavals of metaphysics in an agent-rich environment. The pressure of 2 is that of agencies over the individuation of individual agents. The pressure of 4 is that of the independence and self-contained character of an agent.

The idea of a monadology (3): basic and derivative features

These features are extracted from Leibniz's monadology and shared with (at least several) neo-monadologies (those of Gabriel Tarde, of Bruno Latour and of Alfred Whitehead).
B-0. Monads are ultimate and distinct: They are units of action and ultimate reality while each is distinct from all the others.
B-1. Principle of monadological ontology: Nothing comes to existence or remains in it without the concourse of monads.
B-2. Flat ontology: While there are important distinctions between the different types of monads, there is no over-arching ontological hierarchy among them.
B-3. No substrata: The indiscernibles are identical. A monad is what it is due to its qualities and relations (and in function of its states and the events it takes part).
B-4. All monads perceive: All unit of action is also a unit of perception. Perception is a guide to the interaction between the monads.
B-5. No vacuous actualities: Nothing exists without affecting other existing things and being affected by them.
D-1. Compossibility: No monad is necessary or possible in themselves. Modal notions are relative to what else is in place.
D-2. Contingentism: Not necessarily everything is something. In terms of possible worlds, monads are worldly beings that exist in no other possible worlds.
D-3. Priority nihilism: Neither the whole is ontologically prior to its parts nor the parts are ontologically prior to the whole.
D-4 Immaterialism: Monads are like governments that have respective jurisdictions and pure matter (if conceivable) can only be in one or more jurisdictions.

Five monadologies:
1. A monadology for design (Late Leibniz): Designing the world is designing different and infinitely many agents that are substances (persist in time) but have no substrata. Each monad has a territory associated to it – a jurisdiction – and are related to all the other through its interiority that is composed by a perspective on the external world. Monads are tied by compossibility links and yet a world cannot be made but by delegating events and states to units of agency.
2. A monadology of association (Tarde): Monads are substances that exist while they bring a difference to the society and the society of societies they associate. Monads are units of infinitesimal difference. Units of agency are the sole responsible for any animation in the world and are taken to be pure spirits of different natures. But they do associate contingently to other monads and something emerges from these (heterogeneous or homogeneous) societies of agents.
3. A monadology of actual entities (Whitehead): Actual entities are not substances and are in a constant becoming of other actual entities – yet, they are ultimate realities that enjoy a solidarity between themselves (a co-dependence). They compose what there is by their acts of experiencing (perceiving, prehending) which has, as one of its modes, that of efficient causation.
4. A monadology of networks (Latour 1984): Monads (or actants) can only be distinguished from networks in the context of tests of force – where the strength of unity for resistance is challenged. The monads are the ultimate non-substantial actualities but they cannot be counted independently of their associations – nothing is in itself reducible or irreducible to anything else .
5. A monadology of fragments (BUG): Monads exist in three different modes, as fragments, as composers, as compositions. They don't have substrata but in two of these modes (as fragments and as compositions) they are inert and they subsist if their composition is altered. Each monad is a fragment for composition and a composes by perceiving according to its perspective.

Different monadologies: Leibniz vs process neo-monadologies
Where lies the difference? Deleuze: closure vs capture; pre-established vs post-established harmony; design vs chance.
Leibniz's three times: Leibniz understands the co-existence between his monads as shaped by three distinct times:
1) The time of contemplation: The different infinite possible worlds are presented to God. It is the time of the architecture of the Palas palace, where each room is a possible world. To be sure, the first time took no time at all, as God requires no time to accomplish mathematical operations (concerning compossibility) and involves only analytical truths.
2) The time of choice: Then, God dealt not in necessities, but freely and wisely chose between the different possible worlds that had been contemplated. The choice was global and every element in the each world (including the prayers) somehow contributed to the overall (contingent) choice of a possible world once and for all.
3) The present time: The determined history of actions is made actual as the chosen world is put to run. The compossibility between monads (and events, states, qualities and relations) and the choice of a set of them has been already made.
Process neo-monadologies: the three times collapse into the present time.

Time and agency: If there is no time prior to present time interactions, everything takes place at the same time – and every monad's time interacts with each other. In this dense present time, the others are effective constituents of the action of each agent: each agent act by affecting the others and overall time is always a result of a plurality of agencies.