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Wednesday, 12 April 2017

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,
2.movement,
3.being,
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.

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