HARMAN/SWEDENBORG: Zizek is right

In Graham Harman’s OOO real objects are invisible, inaudible, intangible, unimaginable, unknowable and indescribable. There is no method of access to them or way of studying them, no sensible intuition, so Harman relies on his own intellectual intuition. OOO is a dead-end, and Zizek is right to compare it to Swedenborgian metaphysics.

Zizek’s critique of OOO is general enough to include both Levi Bryant’s and Graham Harman’s versions:

https://terenceblake.wordpress.com/2016/06/17/zizek-and-object-oriented-ontology-a-non-scientistic-critique/

https://terenceblake.wordpress.com/2016/10/24/reading-disparities-4-non-standard-ontology-and-its-standard-shadow/

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PLURALIST METAPHYSICAL RESEARCH PROGRAMMES: Feyerabend, Deleuze, Laruelle, Zizek, Serres, Stiegler, Badiou, Latour

My long-term philosophical project is the critical analysis of the differing pluralist French Continental philosophies, those of Deleuze, Laruelle, Zizek, Serres, Stiegler, Badiou and Latour, as competing alternative metaphysical research programmes (in the sense proposed by Karl Popper).

I describe, analyse and evaluate these diverse metaphysical research programmes in terms of a loose partially overlapping set of criteria:

openness, pluralism, testability, realism, diachronicity, apophaticism, and democracy.

These criteria were originally derived from Paul Feyerabend’s later philosophy (as outlined in the articles collected in CONQUEST OF ABUNDANCE). They give us useful descriptive and evaluative categories for dealing with contemporary French pluralism.

Feyerabend is often associated with a destructive criticism leading to an anarchism that flouts every rule and a relativism that treats all opinions as equal. This negative stereotype is based on ignorance and rumour rather than on any real engagement with his texts.

Feyerabend’s work from beginning to end turns around problems of pluralism, ontology and realism, culminating in the outlines of a sophisticated form of pluralist realism. The still largely unknown ontological turn taken by Feyerabend’s work in the last decade of his life was based on eight strands of argument: ontological difference and pluralism (ineffable Being as distinct from the multiple manifest realities), realism, testability, cosmological criticism, the historical approach, the quantum analogy (complementarity), and the primacy of democracy. See: Feyerabend’s Cosmological Pluralism

My past advisors on this project were Alan Chalmers, Jean-Toussaint Desanti, and Jean-François Lyotard. I learned much from attending the seminars of Michel Serres, Gilles Deleuze, Michel Foucault and Kenneth White. More recently I have profited from exchanges with Charles Spinosa, Bernard Stiegler and Bruno Latour.

A useful first approach to my project: IS ONTOLOGY MAKING US STUPID? (2012):

IS ONTOLOGY MAKING US STUPID?

My most recent publication (2016), evaluating Bruno Latour’s AN INQUIRY INTO MODES OF EXISTENCE from this perspective:

De-briefing Aime Project

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PETER GREENAWAY’S THE FALLS: from powers of the false to lines of flight

In this article I consider Peter Greenaway’s film THE FALLS as an extended Deleuzian meditation on modes of reception of an Event.

I argue that

(1) the film deterritorialises the documentary form  with the falsifying narration of responses to an unseeable and unsayable event (called the «Vast Unknown Event»)

(2) its content amounts to a catalogue of these diverse responses in terms of the loss of previous fixed identity and the entry into becoming (the film enumerates various modalities and degrees of becoming bird)

(3) its subtended subjectivity is that of the line of flight empowered by the becoming (exemplified in the film by Erhaus Falluper)

(4) its vision is ethological: a typology of the degree of affinity between the becomings and the line of flight, ranging from conforming to a model (becoming-bird) to inventing a new possibility of life (bird-becoming).

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L’ONTOLOGIE ABSTRACTIVE DE GRAHAM HARMAN

Texte intégral de mon article publié dans un numéro spécial de la revue PHILOSOPHIQUE consacré à l’œuvre de Mehdi Belhaj Kacem:

MBK GH

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ON NOT TAKING LATOUR LITERALLY

I think this distinction between seriously and literally has more general import, and I am glad Bruno Latour reprises it here. In his recent semi-autobiographical piece “Life among Conceptual Characters” Latour describes his method as involving the repeated reciprocal passage from actants (concepts) to actors (characters) and back, citing Nietzsche’s THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA as inspiration.

This distinction is very interesting for my ongoing analysis of Latour’s AIME project, as I take AIME seriously (as pluralism) but not literally (neither as empirically founded nor even foundable).

In AIME’s terms taking “literally” means in terms of the mode of existence DOUBLE CLICK (DC), or information without transformation. The opposite to literal in Latour’s system is double: metamorphic (MET) inside the modes and being-as-other,  the comprehension of being underwriting the modes. There is no single equivalent to “seriously”. It could mean “felicitously”, that is as appropriate to the relevant mode of existence, in this case politics (POL).

The meaning of the sentence when read in in terms of AIME’s categories would be that the press took Trump in a mono-modal way as a simple object of information (DC) or of factual reporting (REF) but not as a serious political player POL) and not as symbolising a collective individuation (psychogenesis), vision or mood (MET).

The statement above was retweeted by Latour. It is very interesting when viewed in terms of his own categories, and flattering for Trump’s supporters.

It means that the “supporters” on this analysis are not the literal-minded Trumpians who endorse his aims, attitudes and utterances, but those who consider Trump as a symbol of all that is not right in the political process, Trump himself included. That is to say that in this case we have a “crossing” between MET and POL trying to modify or to disrupt POL. Unfortunately this intervention from MET into POL becomes literalised and distorted by its inclusion into POL, whether it wants to or not.

Note: this sort of crossing of modes is not as well thought out as the distinction of the modes.

Prior to the vote this enthusiasm for a de-literalised Trump, for a symbolic Trump, could be assigned many meanings. But the voting process itself has literalised this symbolic engagement. A literal president has been elected. This points up a defect in Latour’s explication of POL. Latour’s AIME explains politics as belonging to a different truth-regime than referential speech (REF), thus dangerously opening the door to legitimating trumpery of all sorts.

Further, Latour’s analysis of all the modes, including POL, systematically privileges and empowers experts rather than participants. Strangely, Latour’s analysis of politics (POL) doesn’t cover voting. Latour’s tweet seems to reply to the question: what is the mode of existence of democratic voting? by saying that it is MET or in other words that it concerns the beings of metamorphosis rather than the beings of politics. The problem is that the vote inaugurates a new sub-regime of political enunciation (POL) at the same time that it installs a new literal president in office.

I think that Latour should take this occasion to reflect on what his AIME project taken as a metamorphic symbol in fact symbolises. A second question would be: what is the effect of AIME when it is taken literally (DC)? How does it intervene empirically in different modes? Does AIME too have a fundamentalist aspect or following?

A third question would be on the conflict between diplomacy and democracy within AIME. Hillary Clinton was selected in terms of the diplomatic negotiations within her party and its allies. But she was not democratically elected by the people. Is the vote, including the people who abstained, a metamorphic (non-literal) comment, a referential one, or a political one? What does this result show about AIME’s privileging of diplomatic forms of negotiation over democratic dialogue?

My worry is that even Latour has a literalised understanding of his own AIME project that sometimes dominates. I am not attacking the system, which I have repeatedly said is a “game-changer” in the field of Continental Philosophy and beyond, I am just doing my job as a philosopher, unpacking presuppositions and gaps in Latour’s statements, tracing his own literalism.

I have de-literalised Latour’s project from the beginning, which is one reason why I do not automatically endorse everything he says. I am not an official AIME member or follower, but a pluralist fellow-traveler. AIME itself is a battleground between metamorphism and literalism.

The “dichotomy” I am commenting is not mine, but one endorsed by Latour: seriously vs literally. My argument is pluralist. Latour’s AIME should have led him to see more modes of existence at work, and to see the terms of this dichotomy differently. In this post I have been talking about REF, MET, POL, DC and being as other.

Plus there is the reflexive argument that Latour himself falls under the same dichotomy when he is not being careful.

Practitioners of Latour’s methods have no “authority” on a conceptual question (and vice versa). That would be empiricism 1.0 or literalism. The whole question is the difference between “empiricism 1.0” (taking literally) and “empiricism 2.0” (taking seriously).

I am a participant in the AIME project in that I publicised it, blogged on the book from the beginning, made contributions to the site, contributed an article to the final catalogue, attended the final Assembly and was the interpreter for Clive Hamilton at that Assembly, and nevertheless was never a literal follower. So my participation belongs to Latour’s de-literalised empiricism 2.0. The problem is that Latour slides from one empiricism to the other, seemingly without noticing it (some of the time) or for rhetorical advantage.

Note: I am using “rhetorical” here ad hominem to suggest that Latour sometimes does not respect his own conceptual field.

My idea is that AIME’s fifteen categories gives us a rich instrument of analysis for all sorts of things, including the recent election, but that more modes than two must be taken into account. This post is meant as a follow-up to my reaction to what I think of as a form of “Latour-bashing” that I often see on facebook not only from supporters of OOO, SR and Laruelle, but also of Badiou and Zizek, and as a defence of Latour’s pluralist style of thinking, see: https://terenceblake.wordpress.com/2016/09/25/bruno-latour-irony-and-imagism/. So despite the critical surface at the beginning of my intervention I am here reprising the project (in my own way).

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BADIOU’S IMMANENCE OF TRUTHS: arguments 2012-2017

1) Alain Badiou, Argument Seminar 2012-2013:

“In BEING AND EVENT, published in 1988, I proposed a new theory (at least I think it is…) concerning the triplet of being, the subject and truth. It was a matter of showing that, under the condition of a chance (the event), and in a determinate situation, a creative process could be deployed, a process that is both infinite and of universal value, and that we had good reasons to call a truth. I further showed that the being of a truth is not different from that which constitutes the being of the situation where this truth arises, namely a multiplicity of multiplicities, whose possible thought is always mathematical in type (this is the equation : mathematics = ontology). There is thus no dualism, a truth is constructed of the same stuff as the place where it is progressively created. Lastly, I defined what a subject is — different from the individual in that it is always the subject of a truth — as the local differential point of a process of truth.

As can be seen, my concern at that time was to guarantee the possibility of a thought of the being of truths on the basis of the particularity of situations, without having to accord to truths, and thus to the possible universality of thought, an irreducible type of being. The assemblage: multiplicities, event, subject, allowed me, thanks to the appropriate mathematics drawn from the work of Paul Cohen, to establish that a truth is universal because its being is generic, which means: as little marked as possible by the particularities of its situation. I could rationally affirm that a truth is, in a given particular world, an immanent exception.

This year I would like to return to this notion of immanence, and by a sort of reversal of perspective to examine not only what a truth is from the point of view of the world where it arises, but what the world becomes when it it is perceived and thought from the point of view of the truth. Or: not to justify that a mundane order can tolerate an exception, but to examine what happens to this order when it is worked on by an exception. The question can also be stated very simply : in what way can a truth change the perception of “its”world, or even the figure of being of this world?  And what, in this supposed transformation, is the function of the subject?

We shall see that to get to this thought (capital today, when what dominates are the conjoined motifs of the invariable world, of the non-existence of truths, and of the impotence of the subject), we will have to destroy the even more dominant thesis of the obligatory  finitude of existential or cognitive experiences. The affirmation that the finite, strictly speaking, does not exist, and that the dogma of “human finitude” is an imposture, is the beginning of all liberation”.

2) Alain Badiou, Argument Seminar 2013-2014:

“Last year we established these main points:

  1. That “immanence of truths” means both that truths are not transcendent, being constructions internal to determinate worlds; and that it is important, to reply to the only important philosophical question, namely “what is it to live?”, to experience what a determinate world can be when examined from the perspective of a truth, in immanence to a truth, whether it be political, amorous, scientific or artistic.
  2. Thus the formal reply to the question “what is it to live?” is that it is important to participate in a Subject immanent to the process of a truth, a process itself immanent to a determinate world.
  3. The true life is thus to be immanent to an immanence, and this is precisely why it encounters a certain form of eternity, not outside time, but on the contrary by an extremely profound excavation of time: “We experience that we are eternal” (Spinoza).
  4. We have seen that the principal obstacle encountered on this path, the nucleus of the repressive practices that constrain us to be ignorant of the replies to the question “what is it to live?”, is the multiform ideology of the finitude of life. Which is natural, as every process of truth is virtually infinite.
  5. We have thus explored the labyrinth of the different forms taken by the couple finite/infinite, making use of, in order to do this, mathematical rudiments and poetic breakthroughs.

This year we will continue this investigation by situating ourselves this time no longer on the side of the obstacles and repressions, but on the side of immanence itself. We will try to find on what resources the human animal draws to discover in himself not only the capacity whose existence the dogma of finitude denies – the capacity to go beyond the limits of the world, or again the capacity to possibilise the impossible –, but also the power to live the world, not according to the laws of the world, but according to the laws which should be those of the world once we examine it from the perspective of the immanence of an immanent truth. In other words : to live the world, not as the individual that one is, but as the Subject that one can become”.

3) Alain Badiou, Argument Seminar 2014-2015:

In the seminars of the last two years we have established the following points:

  1. The dominant ideology in the contemporary world, that of globalised imperial capitalism, reposes on the consensual acceptance of finitude. In this world the unsurpassable norm of the Subject is in effect satisfaction and its inevitable correlate: the competition to obtain this satisfaction.
  2. To oppose this ideology evidently does not amount to establishing oneself in the infinite as if it were a separate spiritual fatherland. That was, and still is, the strategy of religious spiritualism. Rather it is a matter of dividing the principal concept in play, namely that of finite reality.
  3. I propose that this division contrast two types of finite, and so of finitude, that which corresponds to the waste product, and that which corresponds to the work (oeuvre) We shall say that the finitude of the constrained consumer, the finitude of the democratic Westerner, corresponds to the passive circulation of waste, otherwise called “merchandise”, a circulation ruled by the inaccessible and unnamed infinite of Capital as such. We shall say that the finitude of the free man, egalitarian finitude, the finitude of Socrates, or of communism, corresponds to an active interruption of the circulation by the effect of a work. This interruption always takes the form of a demonstration, which ties it to science, of an action, which ties it to politics, of a passion, which ties it to love, or of a contemplation, which ties it to art.

It will be question this year of entering into the detail of the disciplined, creative, and living operations which allow us to stay as much as possible in the logic of the work, and to conquer, for the subject so engaged, the possibility of at last having the experience of true life and, as a consequence, of happiness”.

4) Alain Badiou, Argument Seminar 2015-2017:

“This seminar will deal with the creative relation between the finite and the infinite, in the four registers where truths exist: science, art, politics, and love. This is why it will combine conceptual explanations and examples directly drawn, for example, from certain curious mathematical results, from some typical productions of contemporary art, notably the theatre, from the political situations of the moment, and from the historical state of the relation between the sexes.

Last year, we principally dealt with the operative modalities of finitude, as the dominant ideology: the different means which convince us that to live always amounts to passively settling down in the inevitable character of finitude. In other words, everything which persuades us that to live is to accept being the finite waste product of the infinity of constraints. During the year 2015-2016, we are going to get to the affirmative side, which shows that the finite as oeuvre always results from an access to two distinct infinities, whose crossing and friction engender, precisely, the universal dimension of a finite fragment. We will do this in two steps: first the critical examination of the most profound formalism of the thought of the finite, that is the theory of constructible sets. Then a first passage through the registers of the work (the “oeuvre”), from the angle of the immanence which constitutes them, namely the dialectic of truths which interlaces two infinites and their finite result : the sciences, politics, the arts and loves”.

(My translation).

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BADIOU, THE ONE, THE INFINITE: eight theses

In the introduction to his seminar L’INFINI: ARISTOTE, SPINOZA, HEGEL (1984-1985) Badiou lists eight fundamental theses concerning the concepts of the One and the Infinite. Three are contained in BEING AND EVENT (1988) :

“1. The One is not, being is given only in the form of the multiple.

2. A situation, thought as multiple, is in general infinite.

3. Every truth, considered in its being-multiple, is infinite”.

Five more have been added in his subsequent works, Logics of Worlds (2006) and The Immanence of Truths (forthcoming 2017):

“4. Every world is a multiple measured by an inaccessible infinite cardinal.

5. In every world, there is one and only one element which is the inexistent of this world.

6. The finite does not exist. It results from the combined action of two infinites of different types.

 7. Under the action of the infinity of truth, every finite production is divided into the work and the waste product.
8. Finitude is the essence of all oppression, and its overcoming supposes an infinite that is new to the regard of those who structure the world considered”.
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