ON NOT BEING ABLE TO ELIMINATE ELIMINATIVISM: A Plea for Pluralist Heuristics

Deleuze thought that we were moving towards a new configuration that would involve the release of the forces contained up to now in the human form as one particular organisation of these forces dependent on a particular state of the sciences and of our technologies. He envisaged a vast recombination of these forces due to molecular biology, brain science, and digital technologie,s such that we may no longer be be “human” in the traditional sense in the new configuration (this is from the end of Deleuze’s book FOUCAULT). His essay POSTSCRIPT ON CONTROL SOCIETIES is a sketch of the issues involved in one aspect of this transition. Bernard Stiegler tries to carry on from this, and talks about the beginning epoch of “neuro-power”. He kindly let me translate his notes for the first five of his 2012 seminar. This set of translations begins here: https://terenceblake.wordpress.com/2012/06/24/translations-of-bernard-stieglers-seminar/.

These considerations raise the spectre of « eliminativism ». I am not an eliminativist, although I find eliminativism a line worth pursuing, and thus defend it against a certain type of non-empirical objection. I know that Feyerabend once defended it, at least as early as 1958 in “An attempt at a realistic interpretation of experience”. But this essay itself is meant to be an abridged version of his 1951 thesis. Feyerabend always defended eliminativism against silly conservative objections that presupposed meaning invariance and that prohibited incommensurable leaps. So Feyerabend’s aim was to defend the intelligibility of eliminativism, and here I agree with him. His later meditations on Being would suggest however that this eliminativism cannot exhaust the meaning of Being and cannot be imposed on full-fledged traditions that interpret and experience things otherwise. I find that eliminativism sharpens the debate and produces interesting hypotheses, but so do hypotheses of the unconscious that make no reference to material inscription and indeed relativise its meaning and importance. I think the neuronal unconscious will ultimately replace the Freudian unconscious and that will be a narcissistic wound for the Freudians, and for them alone.; But I don’t see the imaginal unconscious of James Hillman give up the ghost so easily, as eliminativism, from this point of view, is just one cognitive style amongst many. That said I think it is heuristically useful to pursue the eliminativist programme as an aid to thinking and research.

In the old days people used to distinguish the context of discovery from the context of justification. Feyerabend came along and said it’s all heuristics folks. But in fact I am going too fast. What actually happened is that Feyerabend came along and said “Everything is pluralism”. He then went to von Weizsäckers seminar on Quantum Theory and said again “everything is pluralism” but von Weizsäcker showed him the way quantum mechanics arose out of concrete research. So Feyerabend concluded that “Everything is heuristics” and von Weizsäcker was not happy about that when he learned of it 12 years later. So you see even quantum theorists can have amazing ideas at the content level but balk at the heuristic implications. This is why Feyerabend looks more to Niels Bohr and Wolfgang Pauli for the heuristic attitude. So yes heuristics are ecologically sensitive and that’s the big point of all this diachronic ontology stuff that I have been writing about.

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5 commentaires pour ON NOT BEING ABLE TO ELIMINATE ELIMINATIVISM: A Plea for Pluralist Heuristics

  1. antoine dit :

    Thank you for your translations. Last year I´ve actually assisted to one séance of the seminar but in the end my internent connection wasn´t very good so I had to give up.

    J'aime

  2. noir-realism dit :

    If we were all honest we’d have to admit that we all, for the most part, use heuristic analysis everyday of our lives. We all depend on others, on certain authorities in sciences, philosophy, literary, art, economic studies, etc. to guide our decision making processes. Different individuals will use different heuristics to process the information before them based on their available schema and the framing of the information. Issues may resonate with different schemata depending on the individual and the way the issue is framed. For example, “drilling for oil” may activate schemata relating to corporate profits, environmental disasters, and exploitation of workers, while “exploring for energy” may activate schemata related to protecting the environment.

    The only thing I would add is that your emphasis on a diachronic ontology at the expense of synchronics is to be blinded to aspects of knowledge that might otherwise slip through the cracks. I do agree, and understand your need to emphasize diachronics or the developmental and processual over the static and substantive approach. One sidedness is always heinuous and to be excoriated as dogmatism pure and simple. In the long run we have to seek truth in many forms, even within the thought of philosophical approaches that temperamentally disturb our own sense of justification and normativity. It keeps us honest.

    I’m not saying that you personally are dogmatic, no, just the opposite; you seem to be open to a pluralistic vision that is inclusive rather than restrictive and dogmatic per say. Which is a good thing. Yet, in many of your posts I do see a tendency to make harsh and dogmatic generalizations about even such philosophical speculations as that of SR. Even though, I too, being a materialist and monist object to the substantive dualism that Harman proposes (after Aristotle), I seek instead to carve my relation against this speculative realism or substantive dualism by discovering its deep adherence to a conception of « split objects » as withdrawn: objects that are at once both presence and absence, sensual and real. This whole dualistic dichotomy between the sensual and the real and the quadruple multiplication within the rube goldberg machine of his Quadruple Object portrays not an ontological approach but a painterly representational abstractive process that objectifies its theories in models of reality rather than in concrete analysis of material reality.

    His aversion to the naturalist sciences founded in physics is well known. But what is strange is that instead of a mathematization of reality, he opts for a diagramiticzation of reality instead. He builds not mathematical models, but as I stated object oriented models: diagrams and figures of objects. In some ways this is a battle against mathematics rather than some new trend in realist ontotology. Against naturalist realism or as it has come down in its Analytical forms both Idealist and Materialist within what is now termed structural realism – which is a hotly debated territory with adherents to both and Idealist (Brandom and McDowel: Hegelian; Sprigge, Leslie, Rescher: Axiological, Pansychism, and Naturalist) and the many obverse Materialist physicalists too many to name. SR seems to leave out most of this Analytical and post-analytical debates; except for Bryant’s use of one structural realist, Ray Bhaskur (and his early book, superseded later on with a Dialectical Realism over a Structural Realism). It would probably take a full book to actually detail out a full argument to tease out the implications, both psychological and philosophical, for a reading of SR as it is situated not only in OOO but in its counterparts, and often antagonistic historical associations (I think of Ray Brassier’s deep and abiding animus toward all things SR). But this is neither the time nor place for such a presentation.

    Either way you have some interesting thoughts on the subject and present your personal history and involvement with this philosophical heritage.

    J'aime

  3. terenceblake dit :

    I’m glad you appreciate the concept of heuristics and its pervasiveness, but for me this is tied into the notion of diachronics, which you seem to look on slightly less favorably. Derrida remarks that in deconstructing a binary opposition one can be led proximately to privilege the underprivileged term. In my talk I was at pains to explain that it was only a question of the relative primacy of diachrony over synchrony, as one couldn’t exist without the other. I was thinking in part of Althusser’s « auto-critique » where he uses the image of bending the stick that is already bent in one direction in the other direction to get it straight. When I read this it amused me greatly as I used to maintain to the Althusserians that the famous science/ideology distinction was conjunctural (an important word for them) in its importance, in its nature, and in its necessity ie that its very existence and use was dependent on the conjuncture. They would have none of that, and so I was pleased to be partially vindicated by Althusser himself. Of course not only did I argue that this distinction was relative to the conjuncture, I maintained that Althusser had misread the conjuncture and that this was not a distinction to insist on. I still maintain that.
    Harman’s anti-scientism then is quite congenial to me, though it seems to go with an anti-naturalism that I do not approve of. So I find myself liking Harman’s anti-scientism along with Bryant’s naturalism. But that is already a bad diagram of my position as it involves giving animportance to the OOOxians that I feel that they do not deserve.that importance. Why do I talk about them if they are « not that important »? In my post on one-sided dialogue (https://terenceblake.wordpress.com/2012/11/07/a-one-sided-debate-is-not-a-monologue-charity-towardstouchy-and-edgy-intercesseurs/) I explain why I need (or needed) them to articulate my ideas, but if anyone asked me what to read in contemporary philosophy I would never advise them to read Meillassoux or Harman or Bryant. I would advise them to read Stiegler, or Laruelle, or Stengers, or Latour, or even Badiou. I would argue that Deleuze and Guattari have not been understood, and that one must read them in relation to modern neuroscience. I would advise them to read the post-jungians, as Lacan has been a regressive rallying point for 40 years now, at least.
    You give me a back-handed compliment of being pluralist in content but harsh and dogmatic in my enmity towards SR. I would like not to be « harsh and dogmatic ». I do not talk about SR, I talk about OOO because there is some proximity to my obsessions in some of their texts and pronouncements. So I do not object absolutely to their themes, and am only in partial disagreement with their theses. What I cannot stand is the smugness with which they repeat certain absolutely ridiculous arguments against their adversaries and with which they develop their most questionable claims. So there is a substantive conceptual differend compounded with an ethical and affective negative evaluation.

    J'aime

    • noir-realism dit :

      thanks for the update… no I agree we need the developmental aspect of diachronics, but would argue only that we need a synchronic reading at all; a sort of balance or interplay/interaction between the two forms of appraisal. Hopefully you understand I wasn’t denigrating your use of diachronics, nor choosing one side or the other as a hierarchical either / or dilemna in ontological speculation. For me they are both viable under the right sorts of questions; and, it is the questions that one poses that would decide the path one would follow in the form of ontological speculation one is conducting.

      And, I too, along with Althusser himself, would tend to see the youthful aspects of his structural marxist period as a little dogmatic and almost unusuable anymore. For me the only aspects of his work that are still relevant are in his later writings on the philosophy of the event and aleatory materialism as shown forth in those final years.

      And, I too, still am intrigued by OOO stance against scientism and SR’s work as seen in Brassier (who disowns the term) for his approach to materialism within a transcendental realist mode rather than a dialectical mode of let’s say Zizek, but am cautious as you are in my appraisals and their tendencies toward obfuscation.

      J'aime

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