QUANTUM HERMENEUTICS (1): the case of Steve Fuller

Abstract: Over the past fifty years we have seen diverse attempts to incorporate insights and clues present in quantum mechanics into wider philosophical visions and modes of thought. It is not necessary to construct a formal « metaphysics of quantum physics » to belong to this quantum turn.

Contemporary philosophers such as Karen Barad, Slavoj Zizek, Gilles Deleuze (and his epigone François Laruelle) prefer a more hermeneutic and heuristic informal approach that draws on quantum physics for some very general principles that can inspire our whole image of thought to take up new directions.

Steve Fuller’s thought is an original contribution makes use of this quantum image to give us a robust notion of post-truth that is not a form of relativism but a type of realism based on testability and democratic exchange.

Full paper here: https://www.academia.edu/37894878/POST-TRUTH_QUANTUM_EPISTEMOLOGY_The_case_of_Steve_Fuller

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PSEUDO-HISTORY IS WRITTEN BY THE PSEUDO-VICTORS: Object-oriented ontology and the « absence » of critique

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Object-oriented_ontology#Criticism

No mention is made of kvond’s contributions. See for example this synthetic post. Other early critics of OOO include Leon Niemoczynski, David Golumbia, Jason Hills, Glen Fuller, Jussi Parikka, and Adrian Romero Farias. Not to mention my own substantial texts, for example:

https://www.academia.edu/5286316/Pluralist_Thoughts_on_Graham_Harmans_Monist_Idealism

Pete Wolfendale, a late-comer to the critique of OOO, is also worthy of mention:

https://terenceblake.wordpress.com/2016/03/06/being-fair-to-wolfendale/

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PLURI-REDUCTIONISM: simulating pluralism by multiple reductions

« Pluri-reductionism » designates the recent attempts in Continental Philosophy to incorporate the insights of epistemological and ontological pluralism within a more manageable post-pluralist framework. The old reductionism cannot work, today the pluralist condition has become our common lot.

This post proposes a typology of the new forms of reduction that acknowledge diversity, plurality, multiplicity, difference, but that try to provide systematic guidelines for finding one’s way in this complexity.

1) Post-pluralist reductionism: the pluralism wars concerned the erroneous attempt to identify pluralism with its anti-realist shadow – relativism.

2) Reductionism 2.0 : those who adopted this fallacious identification of pluralism and relativism but did not want to return to old style reductionism were obliged to invent new forms of reduction.

3) Mono-reductionism: the mono-reductionists tend to pay lip service to the apparent multiplicity of the world, but they reduce this plurality of appearance to a single real, that of science (Brassier), of mathematics (Meillassoux), or of intellectual intuition (Harman).

4) Bi-reductionism: François Laruelle in his scientistic non-philosophy phase is a mono-reductionist, but he later came to feel the need for at least a partial relativisation of science by religion (and vice versa).

5) Collapsing bi-reductionism: Laruelle’s bi-reductionism in his later « non-standard philosophy » phase is based on both science and religion (Christ and the Quantum), but it struggles constantly against its internal enemy, the tendency to identify the two and to regress to a scientistic mono-reductionism.

6) Tri-reductionism: Bernard Stiegler’s thought is a form of tri-reductionism based on the trinomial of individual, collective and technical determination, with primacy in the last instance given to technology.

7) Collapsing tri-reductionism: Stiegler is constantly struggling against his own internal enemy – the regression to technological determinism. His denial of his own reductionism is flawed: he is able to avoid technological mono-reductionism only by means of a system of heuristic reminders, constantly falling away from and returning to his more complex triune model.

8) Tri-reductionism bis: Slavoj Zizek’s case is more complex. His ontology, like Stiegler’s, is based on a form of tri-reductionism (Freudo-Lacanian psychoanalysis, Marxo-Hegelian dialectics, quantum physics), with primacy given to dialectics.

9) Double Tri-reductionism: Each of the conditions within Zizek’s triple reduction is itself internally reduced. Psychic and social individuation are reduced to Lacanian psychoanalysis and Hegelian dialectics, and science (as ontologically relevant) is reduced to quantum physics. Pluralist psychoanalysis (Jung, Hillman) is excluded, deconstructed dialectics is re-inscribed within Hegelian negativity, and other relevant sciences, such as biology (as Adrian Johnston points out) are neglected.

10) Collapsing Double Tri-reductionism: Zizek struggles constantly against his own internal enemy, the tendency to identify Lacan, dialectics, and quantum and to regress to a dialectics based mono-reductionism, i.e. to idealism.

For more details see: https://terenceblake.wordpress.com/2018/03/11/post-pluralist-reductionism/

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POST-TRUTH QUANTUM EPISTEMOLOGY: the case of Steve Fuller

(1) There is no default narrative flow

Over the past fifty years we have seen diverse attempts to incorporate insights and clues present in quantum mechanics into wider philosophical visions and modes of thought. It is not necessary to construct a formal « metaphysics of quantum physics » to belong to this quantum turn.

Contemporary thinkers such as Karen Barad, Slavoj Zizek, or Gilles Deleuze and his epigone François Laruelle prefer a more hermeneutic and heuristic informal approach that draws on quantum physics for some very general principles that need not be limited to physics but that can inspire our whole image of thought to take up new directions.

(NB: despite protestations to the contrary by his followers, Laruelle’s enterprise is clearly a metaphysics on any reasonable non-question-begging sense of the word).

For an interesting overview of a quantum approach to political possibility one can see a very useful article by Steve Fuller: The Posthuman and The Transhuman as Alternative Mappings of the Space of Political Possibility.

Unlike the phantasmagorical elucubrations of François Laruelle and his disciples Fuller’s style is always clear and concise, and his theoretical premises are much closer to Deleuze or to Zizek’s quantum thought.

Fuller is the author of a major work on the philosophical trajectory of Thomas Kuhn: THOMAS KUHN A PHILOSOPHICAL HISTORY FOR OUR TIME (2000), and of a very interesting comparison of Kuhn’s and Popper’s ways of thought: KUHN vs POPPER The struggle for the soul of science (2003). In much of his subsequent work he has been able to use this opposition between Popperian and Kuhnian thought to elucidate many theoretical problems that at first sight have little to do with the original debate between Kuhn and Popper.

In the article cited Fuller retains from quantum physics the idea of a virtual possibility space and its determinate actualisation:

« it envisages reality as a possibility space, in which the the actual world consists in the collapsing of this space into moments, which provide portals to understanding what is possible in both the past and the future ».

He associates Popper’s idea of permanent revolution in the sciences with the notion of probability space, and Kuhn’s normal science punctuated by revolutionary periods with actualised states and their transformations. In a Deleuzian gesture, Fuller distinguishes « contrasting approaches to time »:

In Kuhn’s linear thought, which Fuller associates with « chronos« :

« genealogical succession drives the narrative flow, with revolutions providing temporary ruptures which are quickly repaired to resume the flow »

In contrast Fuller associates Popper’s risk-taking in any and every possible direction with « kairos« , where

« there are recurrent figures who constitute the narrative but no default narrative flow, as the world order is potentially created anew from moment to moment ».

This distinction between chronos and kairos as images of time active in many domains and on many levels of thought is convergent with Deleuze’s treatment of the contrast between Chronos and Aion (Deleuze also uses the concept of kairos to characterise Aion), in particular as it is developed in LOGIC OF SENSE).

Fuller’s short text ranges over quantum physics and metaphysics, causality and free will, epistemology, Newton, Einstein, Orwell, Marxism, Revisionism, self-fulfilling prophecies, the difference between the Old and the New Testament, metaphysical perpetualism and the idea of regular elections.

He then goes on to extend the distinction between the chronic and kairotic approach to the difference between trans-humanism and post-humanism (kairotic) and the more traditional human-centred approaches (chronic), in whose narratives the default subject is Homo Sapiens.

We can retain from this excursion that someone who is unafraid to cross disciplinary boundaries can usefully illuminate and renew our vision of quite different domains and that the « quantum turn » in philosophy is not some new discovery but was already at work in far older disputes concerning the nature of science and of human life in general.

(2) There is no default subject of history

The preceding methodological and meta-ontological considerations lead us to a renewed vision of history in terms of chronos vs kairos. Humanism is, as Fuller indicates, chronos-based, whereas post- and trans-humanism are kairos-based. This means that humanism’s linear successive view of history as a human-centric narrative flow requires a unitary characterisation of the human to maintain coherence and plausibility. The more abstract the criterion of demarcation of the human the better, and a favoured candidate is that of language or logos.

Deconstruction has made it its mission to cast as much doubt as possible on such logo-centrism, but without being able to agree on a positive counter-proposal. This problem of deconstruction results from its abstraction and its tendency towards de-literalisation, both of which amount to a « de-cosmosisation » (to coin an ugly word). It is useless to fight logocentrism on its own, unworlded terrain.

As Steve Fuller points out Renaissance humanism was already trans- and post- humanist, because it countenanced a « cosmic conception of humanity » in which intelligent beings on other planets could be considered human even if their bodies differed radically from ours. Classical humanism, Fuller argues, is Aristotelian in its geocentric grounding of the human in the polis and the family.

According to Fuller Renaissance humanism was already in the process of overcoming the restrictions inherent in the overly grounded category of « human » by returning to a more Platonic vision of the human as characterised by its noetic force, whatever its corporal or material instantiation. This vision allows for a cosmic conception of humanity as a form of intelligence that could be found elsewhere in the cosmos.

Fuller’s analysis is convergent with Bernard Stiegler’s position. Stiegler seeks a median view between Aristotelianism and Platonism with his insistence that there is no noesis without exo-somatisation, which corresponds to Fuller’s notion of the « superorganic » as extensions and/or enhancements of the human, including both social and technological assemblages.

(3): From empirical probability to noetic possibility

An interesting aspect of Fuller’s explication of the difference between the quantum and the classical approach, between kairos and chronos, is that he does not posit an absolute opposition but a polarity that allows for intermediate cases. Thus Kuhn’s innovation was to include within the linear progression of science « quantum » phases of revolution that lead to a bifurcation into a new paradigm.

Another intermediate case is perpetualism that refers to God’s power of bifurcation:

« the choice that God always has to continue or alter the universe from moment to moment »

Fuller finds traces of this view in the idea of self-governance (and the maintenance or the rupture of the social contract) and the democratic principle of regular elections

Given this gradation, Fuller analyses what happens to the concept of possibility as we become less classical and more quantum in many domains:

« I have suggested … that underlying the West’s transition from Aristotle’s grounded view of the human to Plato’s more cosmic vision was a redefnition of the meaning of “possible,” from something empirically probable to something logically conceivable »

The grounded classical view is past-oriented and determinist whereas the quantum view is cosmic, future-oriented, and indeterminist. This quantum sense of the possible, that Fuller attributes to Duns Scotus, leads to the sense of an open universe.

« [It] opened up an alternative lineage for humanity, one that was much more open-ended and encompassing than Aristotle had circumscribed because it traced our descent directly from the divine logos rather than its various materializations »

This means that there is a division in the concept of God, and in the Christian idea that we are made in God’s image. Classical Christians see the world as eternally preordained and unchangeable, determined under  God’s ordinance. Quantum Christians consider that God’s vision of the world is that of a space of possibilities, and that God’s power is not past-based pre-ordination but future-oriented bifurcation:

« The revived Platonic sense of the possible involves imagining that the actual world is literally the realization of something that could have been otherwise—and may be otherwise, given the fullness of time ».

Fuller likes to make provocative statements about Christianity being responsible for the rise of modern science, but it is clear that in his own terms this refers to Christianity’s vision of the quantum God of possibility space and bifurcation. As noetic beings we live in the intermediate space where we can participate in the power of bifurcation, but only intermittently (as Stiegler reminds us).

4) Post-truth is meta-truth

The attempt to take seriously the quantum image of thought and to assume its pluralist consequences raises the spectre of relativism and of our so-called post-truth condition. I say « so-called », because discussions of this phenomenon are often unilluminating  and/or unconvincing due to the absence of rigorous analysis and of clear definitions.

Steve Fuller’s recent work contains just such a rigorous analysis and search for clear definitions. His new book POST-TRUTH Knowledge as a Power Game provides us with a useful synthesis and further working out of many of his ideas on this subject.

Commenting on the OED definition of « post-truth » Steve Fuller remarks: « This definition is clearly pejorative. Indeed, it is a post-truth definition of ‘post-truth’. ». Fuller’s wager is that a non-pejorative concept of « post-truth » can be found.

Fuller further argues that such a non-pejorative conception has been at work sometimes implicitly sometimes explicitly for a very long time, since the origins of philosophy in the struggle over truth between Sophists and Socrates.

Bernard Stiegler argues that we may be entering a « post-truth » episteme (« Trumpocene »), but his argument remains stuck in the pejorative sense of « post-truth ». However, nothing in the notion precludes starting from an open definition of the post-truth episteme and then distinguishing positive and negative tendencies.

Following Machiavelli and Pareto, Fuller distinguishes between tradition and institution-oriented lions and innovation and freelance-oriented foxes. In his analysis both are post truth, only in different ways. Echoing Feyerabend he calls them respectively « inductive » and « counter-inductive ».

These two epistemological types are not mutually exclusive in practice. Both foxy and leonine tendencies can be found in varying proportions in a single individual. However, Bruno Latour is more of a lion, having declared in favour of « strengthening » institutions and Steve Fuller more of a fox in his anti-expert turn and in his defence of « protscience ».

This is in line with more general differences between the two thinkers, both theoretical (as we have seen) and practical. For example, Bruno Latour is in favour of the principle of precaution, whereas Steve Fuller is a proponent of the proactionary principle, and could be styled (may he forgive me this word) an epistemological accelerationist.

For Steve Fuller the lions (consensus, method) emphasise their difference with the foxes (dissensus, non-method as multiple methods), whereas the foxes prefer to highlight their fundamental proximity underneath the lion’s publicity and propaganda to the contrary.

This difference over distance (or not) between the two positions ties into a more general disciplinary methodological trait: lions tend to be demarcationists and specialists, foxes are interdisciplinary and transversal. Once the lions have entrenched their disciplinary matrix the foxes are marginalised. They are defined as losers by the only game in town. The best way they can survive, and perhaps one day prevail, is by becoming « meta- » and showing up the cognitive tradition for what it is, a game, and by seeking to transform the rules.

5) Post-truth, realism, and quantum thought

In my research (as can be found on my blog AGENT SWARM and on my academia.edu page: https://independent.academia.edu/TerenceBlake) I have been analysing the work of contemporary Continental philosophers working in the domain of epistemological and ontological pluralism (Laruelle,  Latour, Zizek, Badiou, Stiegler) as articulating competing « metaphysical research programmes ». I employ this expression in Popper’s sense of general conceptual frameworks combining both speculative and empirically testable elements.

These pluralist metaphyisical research programmes can be analysed, compared, and put into dialogue in terms of an open set of heuristic criteria: degree and nature of pluralism, historicity, non-foundationalism, anti-essentialism, realism, apophaticism, testability. By means of this formal comparison we can better evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each programme, and make positive suggestions as to its improvement.

Steve Fuller’s research programme as it has emerged over a period of thirty years of published work, is an important contribution to that philosophical constellation, and allows for a richer critical discussion of shared and contested theses and concepts. In particular, his discussion of the concept of post-truth is an extremely useful contribution to the contemporary concern over the spread of the relativist idea that all thoughts are equal.

An interesting and important consequence of Steve Fuller’s critique of the one-sidedness of the pejorative definition of « post-truth » is that it must not be confused with relativism. Post-truth is not post-real, and one can have an epistemology that is both post-truth and realist.

A second theme of my research that has emerged in my discussion of Laruelle and Zizek (and also of Latour and Feyerabend) is the possible elaboration of a « quantum » image of thought, in terms of an underlying vision that is separable to some extent from physics and transferable elsewhere (transversality). There is an extended discussion of quantum physics and modal power in his new book POST-TRUTH Knowledge as a Power Game.

This quantum vision must be kept in mind when we discuss Steve Fuller’s defence of the hypothesis of « intelligent design » (or ID), as quantum indeterminism and the ontological incompleteness of the past re-qualify what can be meant by « design ». Similarly we should be wary of conventional notions of intelligence when extrapolated onto the cosmological scale. Intelligent design is not necessarily intelligible design and by becoming more « God-like » we may well be becoming more unknown and unintelligible to ourselves than less.

6) Brexit and Apophatic Theology

Pluralism at its simplest involves comparing rival hypotheses in order to give increased understanding (and I would argue increased content) to each hypothesis.The goal is not just increased understanding but also intellectual exchange and open-ended dialogue (a rarity today).

Steve Fuller’s new book POST-TRUTH Knowledge as a Power Game provides us with an excellent instrument for breaking up the monolithic authoritative voice assumed by rival research programmes such as Bruno Latour’s AIME project, and his own project contains many interesting ideas and useful suggestions in its own right. We need to put forth and discuss multiple hypotheses.

In Fuller’s Augustinian terms our speculative power is part of our nature as imago dei (in the image of God), our fall into authoritarian enforcement stems from peccatum originis (Original Sin), that needs to be constantly corrected. (cf. Steve Fuller, Foreword, THEISTIC EVOLUTION (Moreland et al., Crossroads, 2017).

In this foreword, Fuller highlights the empirical aspect of his thought, tying it to his anti-authoritarian sensibility:

« Moreover, public opinion surveys consistently show that people are pro-science as a mode of inquiry but anti-science as a mode of authority »

This citation expresses very clearly one of the key themes of POST-TRUTH Knowledge as a Power Game and it encapsulates the difference between SteveFuller’s project and Bruno Latour’s AIME. Latour’s modes of existence are modes of inquiry. The problem is that they are also modes of authority, and he gives primacy in the modes and in his own inquiry to the authority of experts.

This pervasive authoritarianism explains why Bruno Latour’s « Inquiry » into modes of existence does not take into account the opinions of laypersons but only that of experts.

A bold imaginative leap in this regard is taken in Chapter One of Fuller’s  POST-TRUTH Knowledge as a Power Game with conjoining of the controversy over intelligent design and the Brexit debate. Given the strong anti-authoritarian aspect of the popular rejection of expert opinion and advice, Fuller’s social epistemology gets a closer grip on the forces at play than Bruno Latour’s AIME.

We must be wary of simply attributing a position to Fuller that we think we understand (e.g. ID equals fundamentalism) on the basis of Fuller’s attempt to give a fair discussion of competing alternatives. Fuller’s discussion is indirect and meta-, not directly partisan, although he has also made known his own views and suggestions.

Fuller’s own version of « intelligent design » is cosmological: suggesting that the universe is structured such as to be potentially intelligible to human understanding either as it is or, more likely, as it will become. It has logically nothing to do with the origins of life or of humanity, and is quite compatible with the orthodox neo-Darwinian account, although it does not require it or ratify it.

Fuller’s view is based on a principle of intelligibility. It is quite close to, but not identical to, Einstein’s « The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility ». My worry here is that Fuller sometimes gives specific content to this « mystery ». However Fuller’s view is far more nuanced than most people realise. His difference with Latour’s AIME project is that Latour creates a separate mode of existence (REL – the mode of existence of religious beings) to protect this mystery from criticism. Fuller, while acknowledging the mystery, treats his own specifications as empirical hypotheses.

7) Postscript: deconstruction and the anti-expert turn

I read Steve Fuller’s book in parallel with Bruno Latour’s abortive (and now-abandoned by him) post-truth AIME project as articulateded in his post-critical ontological treatise AN INQUIRY INTO MODES OF EXISTENCE. I call AIME an abandoned project because there is no real philosophical follow up and re-articulation of its ideas. Latour seems to have used it as a long-winded legitimation for his « political » interventions. The book is a conceptual mess, and his AIME site is an even bigger hyper-textual mess.

The deconstruction of academic postures of certainty and authority began well before its purported philosophical origins, as Derrida, Deleuze, Lyotard, Foucault and Feyerabend emphasised when discussing the origins of their work. The democratisation of this anti-institutional « deconstruction in the real » leads to what Steve Fuller calls the « anti-expert turn ». This is a slightly misleading term, as Fuller is describing and commenting on the turn against according immediate and absolute authority to experts, not the rejection of experts per se.

Paul Feyerabend is an interesting precursor of this anti- cognitive authoritarian turn, as can be seen in his article « Experts in a Free Society« .

Bruno Latour’s AIME project is a reaction against this turn, beginning his book by an appeal to « trust in the institution of science ». From the very beginning I criticised the AIME project as élitist, taking Kuhnian normal science as a model to be generalised to multiple « modes of existence ». I argued that experts reigned supreme in this model and that there was no place for the protest of the lay people. I cited Steve Fuller’s notion of « protscience » and argued that it should be generalised to all of Bruno Latour’s modes. In particular I remarked that the word « protest » was almost entirely absent from the AIME book. We know that Latour gives short shrift to « critique », but the price paid is that of diminished testability.

Interestingly Bruno Latour did not respond directly to my criticism of his project as too Kuhnian, but proceeded to feature the term « protest » on his website as if it had always been a key word (as remarked above, « protest » does not feature in the book). However, in Latour’s acceptation of the word it did not refer to the protest of lay people but to the « protestation of experience », an abstraction observed and legitimated by « experts ».

A significant sign of this cognitive authoritarian undertone is to be found in Latour’s views on the religious mode of existence, where the « protestation of experience » is to be mediated by the religious experts, priests and pastors, not by the faithful.

This rhetorical strategy of neutralising potential criticism by turning a deaf ear and then surreptitiously incorporating a watered down version into one’s own system of thought is itself a post-truth manoeuvre, one that tries to remain undetected.

Further, by separating truth from reference and multiplying the modes of veridiction Latour gives the impression of side-stepping the « post-truth » condition in Steve Fuller’s sense at the very moment that he both confirms it and tries to contain it, by drastically reducing not just testability but dialogue. In contrast, Steve Fuller gives us a notion of post-truth that is not a form of relativism but a type of realism based on testability and democratic exchange.

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LARUELLE’S « LAW »: jargon is inversely proportional to citation

François Laruelle is the inventor of a current of thought called by him « non-philosophy ». As it is easy to see that this thought is, contrary to Laruelle’s own claims, still philosophy, he later came to call his thought « non-standard » philosophy.

The title of the major work of Laruelle’s non-philosophy phase is PRINCIPLES OF NON-PHILOSOPHY. However, the term « principles » is unfortunate in that it suggests a form of overview or meta-perspective (which is quite appropriate as Laruelle affected to produce a « science of philosophy »), so the title of the major work of his non-standard philosophy phase is simply NON-STANDARD PHILOSOPHY (and not « principles of non-standard philosophy »).

Laruelle sees the human situation, harassed by the vicious circles of philosophy, as « hell ». He cites René Daumal’s aphorism “the human being is a superposition of vicious circles », and he gives a quantum acceptation to the term “superposition ».

Laruelle argues in favour of a « quantum » understanding of phenomena. However, he admits that quantum phenomena in themselves are not necessarily and automatically positive.

What is positive for Laruelle is the quantum itself, quantum thought, even when it is applied to negative phenomena, as it can show us a way out of hell.

The superposition of vicious circles posited by René Daumal delimits a closed space, that Laruelle calls “hell »:

“the human struggles in these circles of hell and strives to free himself » (PHILOSOPHIE NON-STANDARD, 9, my translation)

Since for Laruelle philosophy is one of the forms of « hell » (perhaps the form of hell) his text, insofar as it is philosophical, is hell. The macrocosmic struggle that humans deliver in the world against the superposition of vicious circles can be found also within the microcosm of the philosophical text

Thus Laruelle is led to ask the question:

« What is hell on the scale of this text? » (PNS, 9)

Laruelle interprets hell in his text as subjectively a form of harassment, for example the exasperation that one feels at the lack of citations in his analyses and arguments, or the frustration one experiences at the overabundance of highly abstract and insufficiently defined vocabulary.

More deeply (one is tempted to say more « quantumly« ), according to Laruelle, the very opposite is the case: a text is objectively harassing if it contains an overabundance of citations and a corresponding lack of idiosyncratic, « highly complex » (PNS, 9) conceptual vocabulary.

In a long paragraph on the third page of Laruelle’s first introduction (« Introduction 1 », as there are two introductions) to NON-STANDARD PHILOSOPHY, Laruelle attempts to reply to repeated criticisms of his style as overly abstract and lacking in citations:

« The more theoretical and terminological means are mobilised, the less citation is possible, feasible and useful. Hyper-information and hyper-communication make it useless, and in any case impracticable and irrelevant. Nonetheless, this systematic absence of citations, which we make our rule, preferring objects to citations, is perceived as solipsistic and annoying, and deserves an argument » (9).

Laruelle admits that the lack of citations in his texts is often perceived as solipsistic and annoying, but he thinks he has good arguments in favour of his methodological « rule » of omitting citations.

« Over and above the fact that citation is an academic technique for staging and exhibiting knowledge, that it serves to ensure recognition and a research position, that this stockpiling [of citations] occupies space potentially precious for invention, it represents the share of waste and of unbridled consumption that is the price sometimes paid for « weak » academic research » (9).

This set of arguments inspires the following set of responses:

1) Firstly, this paragraph argues for an interesting hypothesis, that « complex vocabulary » is inversely proportional to number of citation. The more abstract theoretical terms the less citations, and vice versa. This seems an implausible assumption taken as a general law.

2) As so often is the case in Laruelle there is an illegitimate passage from is to ought: Given Laruelle’s law of inverse proportionality, privileging complex vocabulary over citation is good.

3) There is also a weasel clause, i.e. that even if you can’t see the citations, if they are not visible in the text, they are still there implicitly, invisibly. An extensive philosophical culture or an efficient internet search (« hyper-information and hyper-communication » are enough to reveal or restore them.

4) To legitimate the law of inverse proportions and its corollary of invisible citation Laruelle resorts to a depreciative description of citational culture as exemplifying a careerist academic strategy and a disconnection from objects.

5) « Complex vocabulary » is question-beggingly posited as on the side of invention, and bibliographical citation assigned to the side of consumption. This may be true in some cases, but not in all. Obscurantist jargon is sometimes a case of consumption and of careerist academic strategy. Citations can be a sign of close, but inventive, reading.

6) Laruelle in effect places the claim to intellectual authority (part of what he calls « sufficiency ») on the side of citations, and the practice of free invention and democratic exchange on the side of lexical complexity.

7) As Laruelle constantly claims scientificity (and thus testability) for his non-philosophy we are entitled to put these claims to a concrete test.

8) The case of Laruelle’s ANTI-BADIOU is very interesting from this point of view. The ratio of lexical complexity to citation is quite high. According to Laruelle’s hypothesis his book has all the chances of being inventive, non-consumption-oriented, and close to its object.

9) Contrary to Laruelle’s hypothesis and arguments, his ANTI-BADIOU is not inventive, but repeats, less clearly and more long-windedly, criticisms made thirty years before, including Badiou’s own self-criticism: https://terenceblake.wordpress.com/2018/10/12/laruelles-time-lag-anti-badiou-in-context/

10) Nor is Laruelle’s ANTI-BADIOU close to its object, neither as it was in BEING AND EVENT (30 years ago), nor as it is now: https://terenceblake.wordpress.com/2016/10/12/clearing-the-ground-2/

11) Laruelle’s non-philosophy is a form of virtue epistemology, as we can glimpse in this extract. For him the supreme philosophical vice is « sufficiency ». Laruelle is constantly claiming to be virtuous.

12) The accusation of the vices of academic careerism and consumption-oriented production levelled at his philosophical compeers comes from a tenured professor who has published 27 books over 42 years.

13) Therefore, either Laruelle is not virtuous according to his own criteria or there is something inadequate about his criteria and about the hypotheses and arguments that he advances to found them.

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LE GAMBIT DU RENARD: fantasy corrélationniste ou sf mathématique?

Certains lecteurs arguent que ce roman ne mérite pas le titre de science fiction, puisque le principe de base de son univers est que les lois de la physique peuvent être modifiées par un système « calendaire ». Ceci semble relever plutôt du genre fantastique et de ses systèmes de magie, où l’esprit peut plier la matière et les lois de la physique à sa propre volonté.

Le haut calendrier impérial est basé sur la programmation de la vie quotidienne et des croyances des sujets de l’empire en termes d’unités de mesure du temps et de cérémonies obligatoires, impliquant la torture rituelle de boucs émissaires ou la remémoration des tortures infligées. Il s’agit de marquer et de fêter des points de repère importants dans la psyché collective pour permettre la création et la maintenance de la réalité consensuelle des « machineries de l’empire », et pour la production des effets « exotiques » tels que les voyages  à des vitesses supraluminiques.

Je pense qu’une interprétation SF du roman est possible, si on accepte de considérer que les mathématiques sont une science. Les calendriers différents seraient basés sur des systèmes d’axiomes qui permettent l’accès à des effets physiques qui sont générés dans et par l’interaction des observateurs avec le monde observé, plutôt d’être produits de toutes pièces par un esprit tout-puissant.

Malheureusement, Yoon Ha Lee a choisi de tirer le roman de cette infra-structure de sf-mathématique en direction d’une imagerie fantastique. Il aurait pu écrire un roman exigeant comme Anatèm ou Neverness (autres romans de sf-mathématique), mais il a choisi de recouvrir ce soubassement mathématique avec les tropes simplistes du combat entre le Bien et le Mal mené avec les moyens d’une techno-magie.

L’apparence « exigeante » du roman vient plutôt du fait qu’on démarre in medias res, avec des termes et des technologies qui ne sont expliqués que bien après. Notamment, il faut attendre le troisième tome pour apprendre la nature des vaisseaux FTL. Yoon Ha Lee aurait pu incorporer cette explication dans ce premier livre, sans problème. On pourrait supposer qu’il s’est laissé entraîné par l’imagerie poétique, et qu’il a inventé l’explication après coup.

Même si les deux suites sont moins impressionnantes que ce premier tome, la trilogie est une œuvre majeure de la sf contemporaine, grâce à cette ouverture époustouflante, et grâce à l’attachement à son monde et à ses personnages qu’elle crée.

Pour plus d’information on peut voir ce compte rendu très utile:

Le gambit du renard – Yoon Ha Lee

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ACTOR SHADES OF RED: On Kim Stanley Robinson’s RED MOON

Kim Stanley Robinson’s latest novel, RED MOON, is constructed around a thoroughly Latourian ontology, as substrate for a global revolution.

It is pervaded by a reflection on networks, on their incompleteness, and on their non-totalisable functioning by dis-functioning.

Near the end of the book, the fast developing AI ponders in Latourian terms on whether and how to intervene:

« An oracle answers questions. A genie obeys commands to the best of its abilities, and makes suggestions. An agent acts in the world. An AI can act only within electrical systems. Electrical systems control many aspects of the infrastructure. The Internet is a permeable speech space. The infrastructure is permeable. Every actor is part of an actor network. Allies are needed for effective action. » (383).

Another concern of the book is political revolution, repeatedly formulated as « dynastic succession », seen as a radical event that goes beyond the mere struggle between multiple competing factions.

Unlike some recent commentators, Robinson sees no opposition between networks and event, but views the very non-totalisability of networks (including those of espionage, of policing, and of political control) as a pre-condition for the possibility of radical events.

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