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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.


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

No agency
(or no relevant agency)
Agency without agents
Inter-dependent agents
Independent agents
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.

The agent and the Other

Today I was talking to Jon Cogburn about perception and the metaphysics of what is perceived and it became a bit clearer what is at stake in an agent-based metaphysics (of perception) in contrast to an Other-oriented metaphysics. In perception, an agent-oriented approach will attempt to understand what is perceived as an agent and as such as an alter-ego, filled with the agency and the autonomy I allegedly entertain. As such, the perceived can resist my attempts to understand it and it is viewed only to the amount it shows (or to the amount a negotiation between agents can achieve). In contrast, an Other-oriented approach has no assumption about the perceived other that it offers something and that it demands justice. The perceived tears totality apart. Here there is no model of the perceived: the Other is not an agent, not saddled with autonomy, not capable to resist. The Other is something other that demands justice for whatever is in offer. An impossible justice, as there are many others on offer. Still, a justice.

To say that the perception doesn't have a content is to say that it doesn't matter? This is where the metaphysical question comes in: it is made of offerings, of a plea for justice. To make justice to experience is to avoid saying it has a definite content (of any kind, conceptual, conceptualizable or whatever) while not saying it demands no response, or that it is isolated (or isolatable) from any articulation. In other words, experience has an impact on us as an interruption, as an offering – it is in fact this impact itself. (Maybe something akin to Quinean “something wrong in the kingdom of Denmark”, an impact on a web of beliefs; but in fact an offering or an interruption is not compulsory in itself as the other comes like an offer. When there is a setting for an experimentum crucis, and a result is being awaited, we can say that the doors are open. A recalcitrant experimental result is often left outside in the cold if it was not being expected, awaited, ready to be accepted. Here, however, the Other is constrained to give an already shaped answer, normally yes or no.) It is an impact in the sense of a knock on the door.

I thought this has to do with post-parricide ontology: the five genres of Plato:
1. rest,
4.the same and
5. the other.
They are connected and intersect. Nothingness can be understood in terms of the other but being is in an intersecting pentagon with all the other four poles (that could inspire respectively 1. variations of necessitarianism or of a world with no agency or no immanent agency, 2. dynamism or a world full of agencies, 3. ontologism or the idea that agency in hypostasis form agents, 4. the idea of every being as an alter-ego independent and 5. the idea that the Other plagues and dazzles all being). In any case, the Other is what introduces alteration into being, rest and movement. It works as an offer, it is not bare being.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Buber's Saul

Reading an interview answer of Levinas about Buber where he talks about asymmetry as the main feature that distinguishes him from Buber. He comments on a text by Buber about Samuel, Agag, Saul and the Amalekites. Buber stresses that he always thought Samuel must have understood God's message wrongly - the order could not have been to wipe out the Amalekites in punishment and what God was asking from Saul was something else than murdering every one in a town as punishment. The bible (Samuel 15) has that Saul went down to the town and destroyed the weak and useless but kept what was good and also took the king Agag as a prize. Buber prefers to believe God would never ask anyone to do that - to complete their deliverance from evil by doing further evil. Levinas claims that Buber was clearly not thinking of Auschwitz. In fact, he seems right as far as the biblical text is concerned - Saul regrets his sin of disobedience and Samuel states to Agag, before killing him, that he deserves not to be spared and that nothing from that town could be taken for holocaust. It seems like punishment was prescribed. But Buber has an important point here: the idea that God cannot really order punishment. This is not to say that one cannot punish, we punish for many different reasons, but that cannot be a divine (i.e. perfect, morally commendable or right) commandment. I take Buber's insight to be that God's intelligence, wisdom or justice would go beyond what that deals in punishment.

Kant's silencing of the Other

In Kant the other is only considered in terms of her autonomy, as sharing something with me. Kant's ethics is perhaps the origin of the idea of an alter-ego - the other me who is the subject of his ethics. Further, perhaps it is the very starting point of a general idea of ego, an ego that can be generalized like in the categorical imperative: don't do to other what I don't want done to me – and not don't do to others what they don't want to be done to them. Hence, it is moral to tell the truth to the murderer and enable him to kill because enabling someone to so something is an empirical consideration alien to moral issues. In other words, it is up to the murderer to be a moral agent. I should threat all the others in the same manner – the other is universal, they are universal mes. They are never other – I don't deal with the murderer as an other, not even as a murderer for that matter, but only as an autonomous moral agent like me.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

The Other is not a way out - it is an impossible necessity or just a source of ethical noise

I have been having a very interesting discussion with Julio Cabrera, my metaphilosophical guru, from Brasilia about negativity in ethics. He has been putting forward for years now a negative ethics that is presented in several books including one hopefully forthcoming soon in English. He understands negative ethics as an ethics based on the assumption that life itself has no value. He argues that among other things, his ethics entails antinatalism: procreation, as assassination, is ethically bad. This is the centre of my present discussion with him which has taken the form of three texts I concocted and four replies he sent back. (Some of my texts are in previous posts in this blog). I received his last reply more than a week ago and I'm still uncertain about what is going to be my next move. I'm just wondering now about one feature present in his last text that can be more than a detail.

In my previous text I propose a different kind of negative ethics, one based on interruption. Being interrupted means not to value one's being over the Other, over what comes my way to interrupt my endeavors (my agency, my purpose, my aims, my outlook on things). I reckon this includes also one's ethical outlook. This is why interruption is a form of negation. Cabrera agrees. But he thinks there is no ethics in interruption conceived as such. The other, he claims, is not a way out. This is where we reach a strange aporia: ethics vs the other. In his view, no other could interrupt ethically (my) ethical behavior for that would deviate me from ethics; in my view, if I'm not prepared to be interrupted in my ethical outlook, I'm being attached to myself and my ethical outlook is no more than an exercise in self-celebration with no ethical content at all. One could argue that two (radically different) forms of negation are such that they cannot translate one in another - but would that be the case for negative ethics? If so, there is no two (or more) negative ethics because each sees the other as unethical. Plus, on my view, an attachment to one's ethical outlook at any cost is an exercise in affirmation - my ethical life is intrinsically worth living. And, presumably, Cabrera would have my interruption approach to be too lenient on procreation to be a truly negative ethics. So there is no plurality of negative ethics - they eat themselves up both from the point of view of negation and from the point of view of their ethical character.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Perception as hospitality

In a lot of the discussion concerning the content of perceptual experience and the alternatives to what Sellars diagnosed as a myth of the Given, including in positions that try to avoid the myth while intending to claim that there is a content to what the senses deliver (and not only a causal connection with thought, like in Davidson), there is a tacit and important assumption: that the senses grasp in a flash. That is, perception is not a process bounded together with acts of understanding and movements of intentionality but rather the capture (and eventually the co-ordination) of a state of affairs - such as 'x is red'. McDowell's struggles to determine what is the nature of what the senses deliver - conceptualized content in the form of propositions or intuitions that require conceptual abilities - still fail to escape from the flash predicament. He assumes perception is separable in principle from the workings of the understanding - and response-dependence is set apart from any sort of ongoing interaction between the perceiver's capacities and what the perceived item offers. Receptivity is taken to be an instant and not a process. I guess receptivity would be best understood if considered in terms of the more complex and often greatly tortuous process of hospitality.

Last Friday I had a great conversation with Eli while walking with Vrim across the campus of the LSU and drinking chai at its outskirts. He asked me about McDowell, Travis and the Given. I recalled that Levinas (in Autrement qu'être) claims that the Other cannot be simply a consequence of my freedom (of my spontaneity) neither can she be an imposition (an exercise of exculpation). It's interesting that the Sellarsian debate use words associated with offering, demanding and welcoming: given (as in for-given), exculpations, excuses, responses.
Levinas' observation seems to indicate that the Other in perception what is to be received - maybe given but neither imposed nor constructed. What is perceived acts as demanding reception; hospitality is not a flash like a door being opened. A given is not an imposition and not a construction - it is perhaps like a demand. We have explored the idea that perception is like reading - and always an ethical act oriented by a quest of justice. If it is so, it would be attempting to do justice to the (singular) item being perceived. Perception is like reaching some sort of agreement with something singular - an agreement that responds to what is perceived and therefore involves responsibility. Response is itself perhaps best understood in the context of a conversation with the Other, what is perceived is part of a process that is longer than a flash (x is red) and involves what the perceiver takes as important and how the perceived challenges this by demanding something that can fail to fit the perceiver's expectations. As I wrote last year, maybe intuitions speak only in the context of a conversation.

To be present in perception is not to be represented, but to interrupt understanding (sometimes just to corroborate it). Perception sometimes fail because there is not the right effort to make justice to the singularity being perceived. Perception, like hospitality, requires what Derrida calls "a chez soi"- a framework of concepts, a co-ordination of facts where the perceived item can be received. The idea that there is an animation in what is perceived follows from Whitehead's ontology of organism: what is perceived is itself equally an actual entity. However, in a given episode of perception, for Whitehead, the perceived item is only passively present (even though it can perceive by itself in other episodes of perception). If perception is more like a conversation, subjective forms are always part of an ongoing dialogue. What the hospitality model affords is the idea that the animation of what is perceived is something with which we engage in a personal process when we perceive - and a process that is a non-ending quest for justice. Faced like this, perception is always responding to justice more than to truth.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Interruption in agency

The challenge of correlationism can be put like this: how can the other reach me (so to break in an established correlation that seems to be what makes thought and knowledge possible). The challenge is indeed often put this way. It can however be understood in terms of agency: how can the other act through me (make me think or know, for instance, what is not already prefigured in me). The issue of the Great Outdoors can therefore be thought in terms of a general co-existence with the other - how can the other be not only interdependent but also external to me?

Last week, in Jon Cogburn's classes about McDowell's changing views on the deliverances of the senses from Mind and World to "Avoiding the Myth of the Given" through his discussions with Travis, we were trying to understand what exactly was at stake in the talk about exculpations (and excuses as opposed to justifications). McDowell refers in a footnote to a discussion with Zvi Cohen around someone being exculpated from being in a banished place because she was deposited there by a tornado. He writes: "Her arriving there is completely removed from the domain of what she is responsible for; [...] there is a basis for mitigating any sanctions." The given understood as an exculpation provides a response to the world (to the other shown in experience) that is only in accordance with the other is, but is from the other, to draw on the Kantian distinction between acting from duty and acting in accordance with duty (see my post last year about it). If one is only exculpated by her senses, one is in a position of epistemic luck - like, say, the character in Meno that rightly guesses the way to Larissa without having anything but a correct opinion. In other words, the problem with the given is that it affords no knowledge because it affords no (genuine) response - I can entertain the (true) content that "x is red" if this is imposed on me by the functioning of my senses but if perception is not response, it cannot affect me as an agent. The vocabulary that Kant chose to talk about empirical thinking (that of spontaneity and receptivity) reveals that he had agency in mind - in fact, the Kantian approach is to consider knowledge in terms of norms and normative necessity. In a broader sense, he introduced the idea of responsibility into the claims concerning empirical knowledge. It is clearly an issue of how to deal with the other through experience. But then the bite of correlationism was waiting in the corner: yes, knowledge requires genuine agency, but does that mean that it involves interdependence and prevents genuine externality? The trouble is that my agency seems to be exclusively mine (and our agency exclusively ours). In other words, it is easy when agency is brought in to feel as if we're engaging in an episode of frictionless spin in the void.

My idea of interruption is that we can break out of this spell if we pay enough attention to what is involved in a response. To respond is to act but also it is to be affected up to an extent where I'm not only guided by myself (or by ourselves). I take the agent to enjoy some solitude with respect to her own agency - what Levinas attempts to show with his phenomenology of laziness. This is where interruption could take place: the other can genuinely act through me because there is always a gap between me and my agency (me and my being, the existant and her existence). This is the consequence of the hypostasis: I carry my being, my agency, but there's a me isolated from that. This is what could be shown by a phenomenology of interruption: when my agenda and my convictions are challenged by another agent that does not take possession of my capacity to act but rather require me to respond (and therefore to act).

In my recent controversy with Cabrera about anti-natalism and negative ethics, I have argued that there is a negative ethics (an ethics that doesn't ascribe any special value to life) according to which one's being is interrupted by others and what follows is an episode of responsibility where a decision is imposed - one could either change path or ignore what is asked by the other. If one changes one's path, there is an interruption-based negation of one's agenda (and one's conception). Cabrera argues that the other can be heard and requires a response only if she is acting ethically according to my own standards (and there are no other standards I can use here). He agrees that an interruption is a form of negation (to be contrasted with his emphasis on abstention that yields his negative ethics that condemns both killing and procreating advocating abstention as a way to affirm the valuelessness of life) but disagrees that there could be a (negative) ethics based on interruption. He thinks that if the other asks something immoral (that I help murdering or that I help procreating), that interruption is not to be considered on moral grounds. That is, an ethics defined in terms of attending to the other is not ethical enough - at least a provision concerning the morality (on my standards) of what is demanded has to be added. This is an interesting case: I would like to argue that if this provision is added, one is again confined within one's own agenda and conception - one is confined in one's ethical outlook. To be sure, not all demands can be accepted - this is what Derrida calls the infinite responsibility. However, there is no prior way to determine which demand of the other will interrupt my path and make me open the door for if there were, my agenda and conception would be other-proof and therefore I would be confined to my own uninterrupted agency - which could be interdependent and interrelated with everything else but involves no friction with an other. (This is why a metaphysics of subjectivity in Meillassoux's terms cannot step out of the correlation.)

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

The end of the universal

Read this piece about big data and the company that helped Trump to get elected by directing each of his messages directly to those who wanted to hear them. Dude in the company declares at some point in the text that "My children will certainly never, ever understand this concept of mass communication." That is, communication is turning local, maybe personal, but clearly not universal. It's not about what everyone thinks, it is rather about what a group believes that is a matter of information. Information ceases to be universal because the medium is the message: there is no universal information if there is no universal communication. We inform some about the beliefs of some. There is no mass information, there is no mass communication. As a consequence, there is little room for independent standards - and little room for belief-independent standards. This explains why now the right can freely talk about preferences and even prejudices: there is nothing that can rule how should one maintain one's beliefs. Prejudices are not racist or sexist, they would say, they're just ways to form one's belief that is as valid as any other. The only universality left is that of prevailing (universally). The new thing around is a new right for the post-mass media time: local like corporate America from the inside, uncommitted to universal justice in speech as in act as Moldbug's neo-cameralism and preference-based instead of truth-oriented in order never to be racist or sexist because there is no universally acceptable opinion - there is just one's side. So, no more state that defends a general interest; better to have a corporation that defends its shareholders and experience no limit in their sovereignty. Alongside with than a post-truth era, this is a post-universality era where no one responds to anything beyond one's beliefs.

The emerging image reminds me of Hitlerism as portrayed by Levinas in his prophetic and clarifying essay on it published in 1934. He holds that Hitlerism is a break with the idea that we can examine our thoughts and beliefs and rethink our acts to defend the idea that we are slave to soil and body and ought to be loyal to them. The appeal to the body and the soil - what one is - is crucial: it is not a matter of one's history, it is a matter of being bound. Levinas then goes on to talk about universality in this context and he claims that the only universality left is the one of conquering, of exercising explicit colonial power. That is, the universality of prevailing.

The left has decided to bet a lot on universality (justice, the appropriate stance, universal rights) instead of just defending a different group - for instance, being based on a Pasolinian love of the working class. The working class itself was presented as being somehow universal. The universal was the realm of debate and the arena of the political fight. Not any longer. The right has forsaken it. Next move is to go on explicitly about prevailing. Now, universality was a way to respond to the others. Maybe not the best one. However without it, one does no more than hold on to un-repented, un-enlightened self-interest. The other could be responded on a particular basis but the universal was a way to make it be heard. Without it, the battle between the sameness of me and the interruption of the other is unveiled in its crudest form and made explicit.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Interruption, diffraction

A major issue being developed in my book on interruptions and co-existence is to determine whether the other as such – as what I am not – can be fully made justice in the framework of monadologies. Levinas has critiqued the monadological way out found by Husserl in his fifth Cartesian Meditations because it commits itself to the idea of an alter-ego, of another ego. If we unpack this critique to find the inability of an alter-ego to genuinely interrupt – the inability to do no more than be part of the ordinary course of actions of an agent – we envisage a problem for monadologies that could seem to be remedied by approaches like Whitehead's but not completely. Whitehead understands his actual entities to be oriented towards self-satisfaction given their specific creative capacities and their sense of purpose.1 He can accommodate the other by means of a becoming-other, but not in terms of an interruption. I suspect this poses a general problem for monadological approaches to agency and to process in general. Monadologies seem to be short of a proper process philosophy of co-existence if the others cannot be genuine elements in the constitution of the agenda of the agent. The issue is related to that of the tension between two positions, the monadological and the one where agency floats independently of agents: there is a pressure for process to go beyond the border of a constituted agent, and the Other provides that through a personal interruption. I have been pursuing two hypotheses to accommodate genuine interruption. First, conceiving a neo-monadology that escapes from the predicament Levinas diagnosed in Husserl – I have attempted at that in both Being Up For Grabs and The diaspora of agency. It is not clear, however, whether monadologies have resources to do that – and to deal appropriately with genuine interruptions. Second, put forward an alternative process philosophy that is not affiliated with position 3 – that will be a non-monadological approach to interruption, one where agency is constitutively capable of hospitality. Such an alternative could be based on the impact demands of the other and responses from the agent shape process and therefore provide different novel inputs to the world. This alternative process philosophy, to be clear, is neither of the two positions (classical monadology and agency without agents). Arguably, it is in a different position. To determine which of the two hypotheses are more adequate is an endeavor to think metaphysically about the others – the others of all kinds – and their capacity to affect agency, alter processes and dwell in what is contingent. The project is intended therefore to provide a general framework where the other is not only something that couples with the agent while satisfying the needs present in the agent's agenda, but also capable to interrupt, diffract, alter the course or reshape that agenda. This will be a general framework for co-existence with consequences, for example, in the philosophy of perception where what is at stake is to respond to others of different kinds. In fact, the issue here impacts the various debates concerning projection of one's agenda on the one hand and imposition of something else from outside on the other. Interruption is an account of impact – an account of how something external can affect a subjectivity (and not only destroy it).

Monday, 30 January 2017

Conflicting hospitalities, infinite responsibility and the colonial stance

Few months back when I started getting hooked on the idea of hospitality and the project of an infinite hospitality as a stance against that of glorifying what one is (and being in general), I also into thinking about colonization. I was under the spell of a Nick Land's piece where he addresses the issue of the philosophy of colonization that emerged from Kant's take on the outer world and the very idea of a transcendental distinction. Colonization is the opposite of hospitality: it is the imposition of self instead of the opening of spaces in oneself for interruption. To be sure, the opposite of colonization is multiple because the demands for hospitality are infinite - in fact, it is always a cosmic struggle that one between hospitality (the broken self) and colonization (the expanding self). The choice for hospitality is a negative stance: a stance where no affirmation is made, no gesture of affirmation takes place. It is the negativity of availability. To be sure, the amount of availability that a being can afford is limited - as room for hospitality is always limited because one needs space to host. One cannot be pure hospitability - as nothingness is prey of being in an entanglement that began to surface in Plato's parricide. Hospitality is a necessary impossibility but also the room for conflict - different stances (nations, households, persons, parts of a person) get different demands and respond different to appeals of hospitality. The necessary impossibility is what makes it a denial, a negation: yes, the Mexicas were open to Cortez. They got destroyed, but they were open - and hospitable That is explored in my macehuales (anarcheological) fable in Being Up For Grabs.

The conflicting hospitalities are very much in evidence today with Trump's immigration polices and the resistance that has followed(federal state vs sanctuary cities, government vs universities, national institutions vs international bodies funded by nations, etc). It is not a matter of scale of hospitality - it a matter of different instances, different kinds of "chez soi", to use Derrida's phrase, that can host. Hospitality, as colonialism, starts out with a home (or a self, or a being). One moves towards affirming it and expanding it, making it go further; the other is based on letting it break, not on resigning, but on availability - on the other. Hospitality to the other opens a negative ethic, neither one of refusing to be nor one of refusing to perpetuate being, but one where negation is openness, negation is availability. The negativity is the negativity of the interruption. It is not a refusal or an elimination, it is a fracture - the negation provided by contingency.

Anti-natalism and interruption

I copy below part of the recent discussion I'm having with Julio Cabrera on anti-natalism and the ethics of procreation. I'll be saying a bit more on what I thought today about my own branch of negative ethics in the next post. The idea, however, is that one should give opportunities for ethical acts (or maybe for genuinely novel ethical acts). This could lead to self or general annihilation, but it is lead by a love of something else more than what happens to be. Being is not the guide - goodness is. So, the Mexicas opened their doors to Cortez. That was hospitable and self-annihilating - and different both from abdicating being (suicide where no ethical act can ever follow) and from non-procreation (where the possibility of further ethical acts is abolished).

The text:
O nada ao alcance de ninguém
O outro e a resposta em Julio Cabrera

a) O não-ser, Meinong e o outrinho
Julio Cabrera considera a procriação imoral. Ela tem um caráter muito especial de imoralidade imune à qualquer outra consideração (por exemplo acerca dos que co-existem e co-atuam ao lado de quem age) porque envolve dar existência a um outro. Trata-se de uma proibição moral que não é apenas prima facie – como não é apenas prima facie o heterocídio, o ato de dar inexistência à um outro – porque envolve uma responsabilidade com um outro que é imune à qualquer resposta que podemos dar aos demais (outros). Não é assim com o suicídio já que ele não envolve crucialmente um outro, mas a si mesmo. Na procriação (como no heterocídio) há um outro que deve ser o único a ser levado em consideração; ele escreve:

“[...]o principal “outro” na situação de procriação é o nascituro, de maneira que a ética negativa, em sua vertente antinatalista, é maximamente responsável por esse outro fundamental que é o objeto manipulado num nascimento. […] Haveria uma cegueira para a alteridade em sua negatividade”. Absolutamente não! Claro que há uma preocupação enorme com a alteridade desse pequeno outro (desse “outrinho” ou “outrinha”) que está sendo manipulado (de diversas maneiras). Os "outros" que estão interessados no nascimento de alguém talvez estejam envolvidos na manipulação, e não teríamos por que tentar sermos responsáveis com eles nesse caso.

Há assim uma dispensa especial, se eu entendo bem, nos casos de procriação (ou de heterocídio) de procurar responder aos outros que co-existem com quem age. Nesses casos, há uma resposta que se sobrepõe a qualquer outra – uma resposta mais devida, mais premente, mais inevitável, menos ambígua e mais moral. Mais que isso, responder a qualquer outro outro nesses casos é imoral e só pode ser motivado por considerações psicológicas, sociológicas, antropológicas, de alguma maneira extra-morais. Quando uma heterogênese – uma passagem de um outro à existência – está em questão, responder a qualquer outro que não seja o outro que ainda não existe é imoral. Diante de um não-existente, os co-existentes devem moralmente serem silenciados já que não há mais outro outro para se considerar senão aquele aquele que pode vir a existir.

Esta posição de Cabrera, se bem entendo, está bem ancorada em uma premissa importante da ética negativa: aquilo que existe não tem valor maior (ou menor) do que aquilo que não existe. Ou seja, os não-existentes não são menos valiosos do que os existentes – a diferença entre um existente e um não-existente não carrega valor moral (os inexistentes não são, por exemplo, menos perfeitos ou menos preciosos). Existentes e não-existentes não se distinguem em importância ou valor e nem sequer são tais que os não-existentes requerem existentes. Não há qualquer privilégio dos existentes sobre os não-existentes e, assim sendo, pode haver casos em que nada de atual pode sobrepujar a consideração que merece um não-existente; as premissas ontológicas (e me-ontológicas) da ética negativa asseguram que pode haver casos em que o outrinho que não existe torna irrelevante qualquer outro outro que passa a não precisar (eticamente) ser respondido. O tema da resposta a algum outro, como Cabrera admite quando considera a co-existência como “uma das sujeiras da existência” para aqueles que optaram por insistir, é central para entender a ética quando a existência se hipostasia em substantivo (um existente). Assim, a condenação da manipulação em geral diz respeito a um outro que não pode eticamente estar à mercê dos meus interesses por melhores que eles me pareçam. Cabrera advoga que há casos que requerem concentração em um único outro (no caso da procriação, o outrinho que está sendo manipulado). É este único outro que demanda, que requer uma resposta – é diante dele que somos responsáveis; e nesses casos de vida ou morte em que são instaurados pela possibilidade de procriação, é um outrinho não-existente o único diante do qual somos responsáveis. A ideia é que podemos responder igualmente a existentes e a não-existentes, já que a hipóstase da existência não cria privilégio ético e portanto não nos obriga a responder sempre aos existentes. Nesse sentido, a ética negativa e seu apelo a um não-existente outrinho como único outro nos casos de procriação tem sabor meinonguiano: aquilo que não existe também pode ser considerado (e merecer resposta), desde que possamos descrevê-lo – ou desde que seja um não-existente que instaura uma situação ética (como no caso da procriação).

Uma das minhas teses centrais em meu livro contra o pensamento atado às descrições (Excessos e Exceções) é que qualquer referência aos não existentes (“o homem gordo possível atrás da porta” ou “o homem careca possível atrás da porta”, para lembrar dos exemplos de Quine) tem que obedecer ao cânone descritivista. Não há uma abordagem milliana para não-existentes, os nomes daquilo que não existe não podem ser designadores rígidos kripkeanos (ou demonstrativos kaplanianos). Dito de outro modo, enquanto Cabrera pode precisa ser “o filósofo negativo de Córdoba que escreveu El lógico y la bestia” para ser Cabrera, J. von Kabra não pode senão satisfazer as descrições oferecidas sobre ele em Porque te amo não nascerás – qualquer não-existente que não satisfaça essas descrições não será J. von Kabra. (Kripke oferece uma abordagem da referência ao fictício baseada em um fingimento, porém o problema central de que termos que designam não-existentes tem sua referência galgada no uso atributivo permanece.) Não há um mundo possível (kripkeano) em que Sócrates, o personagem de Platão, não seja um filósofo maiêutico – ainda que o Sócrates existente poderia muito bem nunca ter se dedicado à filosofia e apenas à navegação. Personagens não podem ser identificados senão por meio de uma descrição. Não-existentes, aqueles que hipostasiam a não-existência (o não-ser, o nada), dependem de uma descrição para serem encontrados – e, em alguma medida, para serem o que são. Penso que isso ocorre porque não há co-não-existência. Os não-existentes não carregam também a carga do compartilhamento – a sujeira, nos termos de Cabrera, é própria da existência; o nada (e os não-existentes) são limpos. Os não-existentes não encontram outros não-existentes; eles são aquilo que são como as mônadas de Leibniz, independente dos encontros que ocorrem no tempo presente. Os não-existentes não convivem, não coincidem, não se esbarram – a fronteira entre o ser e o nada tenha ela que forma tiver imuniza os não-existentes de todo trato imprevisto com qualquer entidade (existente ou não). Dito de outra forma, o não-existente não é um objeto da experiência, mas um personagem conceptual no sentido que ele está inteiramente tutelado por uma descrição e jamais à mercê das vicissitudes do que co-existe, já que não existe. Quando respondemos a um não-existente, não respondemos a um encontro ético, a uma experiência ética ou a uma situação ética – apenas respondemos a uma construção, à uma descrição, a objeto da razão (ou da ficção).

É certo que Cabrera pode conceber o outrinho, o único outro que importa nos casos de procriação, como sendo virtual, ou potencial, e, ainda assim real. Este passo o afastaria do caráter negativo da ontologia de sua ética em favor de uma ontologia plana entre os existentes de diferentes modos. Se ele, contudo, considera o outrinho um não-existente que pode vir a existir mas que moralmente não deve fazê-lo, ele está privilegiando o outro fora da experiência, imune a qualquer encontro, definido por uma descrição em detrimento dos demais outros que sim podem escapar de suas descrições e que zanzam pela sujeira da co-existência. Mas ele pode não se importar com isso, afinal a distinção entre experiência e razão (ou entre encontro e ficção) pode ser tomada como mais uma das muitas faces da distinção entre o ser que vale mais e o nada que vale menos e assim é algo a ser exorcizado. Se a distinção deve ser borrada, a procriação pode ser comparada ao heterocídio mesmo que o outro do heterocídio envolva um existente. O problema com os não-existentes, que só podem ser encontrados através de descrições, não desaparece facilmente: o outrinho da procriação é em um sentido importante incapaz de alterar o mesmo. Ou seja, não há uma situação futura ou um mundo possível em que o outrinho possa deixar de satisfazer aquilo que eu penso dele: “aquele que pode ou não nascer”. O outro, enquanto outro, hipostasia a alteridade, que é uma alteração com respeito ao mesmo. O outrinho, que é o único que deve ser respondido nos casos de procriação, é um personagem conceptual da narrativa da ética negativa. O outrinho é um outro em geral, ou ainda um esquema de existente (que satisfaz a uma descrição). A consequência disso é que não há resposta ao outro nos casos de procriação: os outros são imunizados por um outrinho conceptual e, como consequência, respondemos apenas a nós mesmos – o que quer dizer que não respondemos e apenas fazemos o que julgamos correto. (Haveria um sentido em que se poderia entender eticamente um diagnóstico de Wittgenstein na seção 158 das Investigações: se o que é correto é o que nos parece correto, não há correção. Um tal entendimento faria um deslocamento ruidoso no que Wittgenstein pretendia com essa observação; o deslocamento poderia ser entendido como uma rejeição de uma ética privada que, em meus termos, implica a ideia de que a ética requer co-existência precisamente porque requer resposta.) Mais uma vez Cabrera pode responder que, ao aderir ao procedimento de exorcizar qualquer maior valorização do existente em contraste com o não-existente, a diferença entre aqueles que eu encontro (e que são existentes) e aqueles que eu não posso encontrar é imaterial – não há diferença entre aquilo que eu penso e aquilo que eu encontro. Porém o problema com o não-existente ainda permanece; porque o não-existente não co-existe, há um sentido em que ele não é um outro. Dito de outra forma, pelo menos nos casos de procriação, a ética negativa não pode dizer que exercita uma resposta aos outros – ela parece ser guiada por princípios, pelos mesmos princípios, independentemente de qualquer alteração que qualquer outro possa promover. Talvez a ética negativa (nesses casos) não possa ser posta em termos de resposta ao outro já que privilegia um único outro cuja alteridade em relação às premissas da ética negativa é suspeita.

b) Os outros da metafísica e a metafísica dos outros
N'O sofista, Platão, ao tematizar o não-ser e como ele tem que de alguma maneira ser para ser outro, inaugura um pensamento da alteração: ele contrapõe, em perpendicular ao ser e ao não-ser, o mesmo e o outro. É o estrangeiro que pensa o não-ser – o nada é associado a um sotaque, a um estranhamento em relação aos existentes habituais (ou nativos, ou locais). O outro está permeado de mesmo como o mesmo está permeado de outro: este permear se expressa no sotaque, a mesma língua falada de um modo estranho, as mesmas palavras com fonemas alienígenas. O outrinho dos casos de heterogênese na ética negativa é o único outro – e é um outro sem sotaque, sem estranhamento, sem estrangeiridade. Se ele é uma personagem conceptual, é parte da paisagem de contemplada pela ética negativa: é um nada que não é ninguém; ou seja, não é senão o mesmo outro em todos os casos de procriação – um outro em geral. Um outro em geral não interrompe (não coloca uma questão que requer uma resposta, não faz uma demanda imprevista). A interrupção é uma categoria do que eu chamo de metafísica dos outros; nos termos do Excessos e Exceções, a metafísica dos outros com um lugar para a interrupção é uma ontologia sem cabimento tornada em metafísica – ela procura fazer caber aquilo que não tem cabimento sem dar-lhe um cabimento ou, como Anna Tsing uma vez recomendou, apresentar um relato do mundo com a melhor das capacidades disponíveis deixando espaço para outros relatos que não se tornem subservientes. A metafísica dos outros é, em um sentido importante, uma empreitada ética: trata-se de considerar o mundo a partir do ponto de vista da co-existência. E a co-existência pode começar com uma teoria da co-existência, mas ela se transforma rapidamente em um co-existencial, em uma categoria da co-existência. De um ponto de vista da metafísica dos outros, os outros não são pensados em geral, eles são pensados como interlocutores da metafísica – aquilo a que a metafísica responde em um encontro, em uma fricção de relatos, em uma interlocução. Trata-se dos outros como aqueles que requerem respostas, e trata-se de respostas como aquilo que requer outros para demandá-las: as respostas são a continuidade da interlocução, e não o seu ponto final. A resposta não é, assim, uma solução (não é a solução final), mas é antes um adiamento, um deslocamento ou uma insistência. (Vale comparar aqui esta perspectiva com a que Cabrera recomenda em sua lógica negativa: os argumentos não são o fim (encerramento) mas parte dos fins (propósitos) da interlocução. Que “nenhum dos cinco mil sentidos está livre de mal-entendidos” como escreveu Leminski – e eis de volta o tema do sotaque – é o ponto de partida, já que pensar é da matriz da alteração que é aquela do mesmo e do outro, que é onde aparece o não-ser do parricídio).

Posso dizer que enquanto eu privilegio a resposta aos outros não-antecipados, a ética negativa prefere considerar um outro em geral que não demanda nada de específico, mas faz uma demanda geral pela não-existência. Essa diferença faz uma grande diferença entre os casos de procriação e os casos de heterocídio já que não se mata o outro em geral. (É certo que não se procria o outro em geral, mas na consideração da ética negativa, aparece sempre e apenas o outrinho que já não intervêm senão com a descrição associada aos casos de procriação.) Do ponto de vista da ética negativa, no entanto, qualquer consideração específica acerca dos outros existentes em casos de procriação é não-ética (é psicológica, sociológica ou antropológica de acordo com as caracterizações que Cabrera oferece). Ou seja, não apenas a ética não se coloca em termos de resposta mas responder é não-ético. A razão parece ser a seguinte: deve-se, moralmente, desconsiderar os co-existentes no caso em que eles são imorais de acordo com minhas convicções e que meu curso de ação é movido por aquilo que eu tomo como moralmente adequado. E aqui parece que estamos próximos de uma metafísica do mesmo, onde tudo pode ser respondido de uma vez por todas, considerando esquemas gerais nos quais todo existente e não-existente devem caber. Em contraste, a ética que se desprende de uma metafísica dos outros não imuniza nenhum outro – nem nos casos de procriação e nem nos casos de heterocídio. Imunizar os outros – exorcizar a co-existência – é dar um passo em direção ao mesmo. E talvez o eixo da ética (daquela que se conecta a uma metafísica dos outros) seja antes esse entre o mesmo e o outro e não aquele entre o existente e o não-existente.

Mas, Cabrera poderia dizer, não podemos compactuar com a imoralidade. E, no entanto, é precisamente isso que torna a moral premente e difícil: ela convive na imoralidade, ela é cercada de inabilitações e ela é também uma resposta às impossibilidades. O diagnóstico que faz a ética negativa é precisamente esse: somos jogados na imoralidade por decidirmos seguir existindo e é dessa imoralidade (do usurpador) que se apresenta nossa situação moral. A moralidade em um ambiente moral é fácil; mais que isso, ela não é mais do que a aplicação de um conjunto de regras morais, formais ou materiais. Em um contexto de imoralidades que leve em conta o contexto, a moral não é sobre responder da melhor maneira possível (e não é sobre salvar sua pele ou sua persona moral, já que isso se faz apenas quando o contexto de imoralidades não é levado em conta). A moral se torna uma questão de metafísica (dos outros) quando ela não pode ser guiada por um procedimento algorítmico independente dos outros que constituem a co-existência. Quando a consequência de nossas ações é a sobrevivência (a usurpação), já não podemos mais alcançar a redenção ética, e é depois da redenção ética que a ética começa a ter lugar. Se a ética está na resposta, ela está na reação de um mesmo a um outro – ela está na resposta ao não-usual, ao sem cabimento, ao estranho. Uma ética da resposta é uma ética do outro – que se instaura porque há mais do que o mesmo (a moral do mesmo está sempre já antecipada e pode ser absoluta, estéril e tautológica para usar os termos que Whitehead queria exorcizar de sua metafísica). Segue-se que há um dilema moral sem solução final e com demanda de resposta em alguns casos, por exemplo, em que podemos ser sinceros apenas se somos desleais e vice-versa; mas também em alguns casos, por exemplo, em que o outro nos pede algo em conflito com o que pede um outro outro. Já agora tenho a impressão de que temos pontos de partida (morais) muito diferentes: Cabrera parte da falta de valor do que existe (e co-existe) e eu quero partir do sobrevalor do outro sobre o mesmo, mesmo quando o outro está em um contexto de imoralidades. Porém há um elemento comum: o ser ele mesmo não é um valor; é justamente porque o existente precisa sair de si que a ética, o avesso da mera satisfação, envolve o nada. A existência é um peso – e alguns dos seus kilos são de imoralidade – e não um valor. Este elemento comum gera a metafísica dos outros, já que a co-existência é do que é feita a existência e seu peso. Este elemento comum também gera a doutrina da ética negativa acerca da procriação: não ter parte na imposição do peso da existência à ninguém. No segundo caso, contudo, há uma redenção do peso da existência no ato moral ilibado que imuniza os outros se eles são imorais. Meu ponto de partida é que é da imoralidade irredimível que a ética emerge; ou seja, daquilo que os outros demandam, mesmo que eles sejam imorais já que eles carregam de outra forma o peso de hipostasiar a existência. Se pensamos assim não estamos impondo o peso da co-existência com a imoralidade aos novos existentes pois aceitar a co-existência não é o mesmo que deixá-la como ela está – agir moralmente é promover justiça, mesmo que em situações irremediavelmente injustas. Que alguém esteja na co-existência e responda a ela é o que pode ensejar uma alteração; o não-existente, por outro lado, não apenas não demanda como um outro como também não responde.

c) A ética é sempre do dia seguinte
Se tivermos direito a este ponto de vista que imuniza qualquer consideração acerca da co-existência e se pauta apenas por um único outrinho determinado por uma descrição e se aceitarmos a imoralidade da procriação em geral, quem procria comete uma imoralidade em qualquer caso já que o vício aqui não é apenas prima facie mas independente de qualquer circunstância. Ainda assim, os casos de procriação têm um dia seguinte. E em um dia seguinte há demandas e respostas, há ética; há ética no assassino preso, no manipulador declarado, no mentiroso condenado. O dia seguinte muda um tanto as coisas porque o outrinho passa a ser um existente, e assim se evade das descrições que eram tudo o que o caracterizavam. Uma pergunta que parece importar é como agir com o outrinho uma vez que ele é fruto de uma imoralidade (todos os existentes somos). É certo que não se trata aqui de salvar a persona ética do procriador, uma vez que há um outr(inh)o a ser respondido. Dito de outra forma, o cenário é outro quando se consumou a heterogênese que a abstenção da procriação pretende evitar. Não podemos mais tratar portanto de colocar o outrinho em um véu de imunidade e não responder a ele – ele já é um outro existente. De fato, uma vez que o desenrolar de uma heterogênese – ética ou não – começa, as demandas da ética retomam seu lugar. A interlocução de demandas e respostas é sem fim (sem encerramento) uma vez que o peso da existência é também o peso da moralidade mesclado no peso da imoralidade. Procriadores que não respondem ao outrinho agora existente e são imunes a ele parecem portanto agindo imoralmente do ponto de vista da ética dos outros (a ética da resposta que se conecta com a metafísica dos outros) quando de qualquer ponto de vista (negativo) sobre a ética.

Isso nos remeteria ao tema da heterossexualidade, já que é nela que repousa o ato imoral da procriação. (Notando que o aborto não é uma opção na ética negativa de Cabrera já que se aproxima do heterocídio. De fato, é justamente o outrinho antes da procriação, entendido como o completo não-existente, que interessa à ética negativa – e é talvez justamente por ele ser um completo não-existente que não se trata de uma ética da resposta aos outros.) É na prática heterossexual – e no intercurso – que paira a imoralidade da procriação. Cabrera recomenda então ou a) a castidade, ou b) a moderação sóbria, ou c) tomar todas as precauções para “evitar a gravidez; inclusive manter relações apenas com mulheres que estão deveras convictas de não quererem procriar (existem muitas). Como Cabrera escreve, apenas a) pode ser quase que completamente segura em evitar a procriação. Seja como for, essa postura confere ao intercurso heterossexual um caráter bastante sui generis de ser o lócus mesmo da conexão entre o nada e a imoralidade. Parece um gesto crucial que traz em si a maior das temeridades e que portanto é o mais precário elo entre a imoralidade do ser e o refúgio do nada. De minha parte – deixando de lado as suspeitas acerca da instância que imuniza as demandas dos outros em favor de um não-existente – penso que a heterogênese tem muitas camadas e é um processo denso de moralidades (em um contexto, como os demais, de imoralidade). Em todo caso, são muitos os cúmplices das práticas heterossexuais; e considerá-las imorais, outra vez, não pode implicar em não se engajar em tais práticas para salvar sua persona moral. A recomendação mais adequada, portanto, seria d) combater as tais práticas heterossexuais onde quer que elas apareçam, na minha vida pessoal ou em qualquer outra instância. Esta seria a postura coerente com uma atenção ao outrinho que, como vimos, é um outro-em-geral, um não-existente. Porém aqui também aparece a sombra do dia seguinte: o que fazer com quem resiste a esta luta? O que fazer com os heterosedutores de toda natureza e, é claro, também com aqueles que se engajam voluntariamente em promover empreendimentos de heterogênese? Uma resposta é, de novo, imunizarmo-nos contra eles e prosseguir na cruzada. Minha resposta é, de novo, oferecer uma resposta a eles – e uma resposta, que não é uma solução final pré-fabricada, é uma invenção.