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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).

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