I have written several posts on Agamben’s treatment of the Covid-19 epidemic. However, my first post on that subject was an analysis of a scientific argument seemingly based on « alternative » facts and analyses:
1) BIO-DENIALISM AND THE NOETIC SHOCK
For me the most important point is contained in the epistemological conclusion:
The noetic shock provoked by the Corona-virus crisis is similar to that administered by the geo-climatic crisis. It demands of us that we think and act in terms of statistical and systemic arguments. Otherwise, disaster ensues.
The Agamben posts can be seen as a further test of this idea:
2) PARADIGM PARALYSIS AND THE INCLUDED THIRD
Here the important point is made by borrowing the concept of the « included third » from Michel Serres:
We are suffering from a bad syzygy between the Two Cultures, [the sciences and the humanities]. The Real knows no such divide. Biological disruption (like geo-climatic disruption) relays and intensifies economic and social disruption.
3) NOO-DECONSTRUCTION AND CONCEPTUAL INVENTION
Beyond the external analysis of another’s opinions, I include myself within the diagnosis I am conducting:
I myself am in a stupor. I do not know what to think nor how to think. This new bio-deconstruction is also a noo-deconstruction. The old systems and the attitude of philosophical sufficiency cannot help us, we need a wider and more nuanced vocabulary than any one system can provide.
4) BLINDNESS AND INSIGHT: PARADIGM AS PHARMAKON
It is important to avoid attacking both Agamben the person and the totality of his thought. We are all in Agamben’s case, thinkers trying to assimilate new scientific information and modes of analysis.
Agamben’s own political paradigm is responsible for his mis-evaluating the scientific evidence. There is no infallible paradigm, not even Agamben’s. All paradigms are pharmaka, toxins and medicines combined. These articles by Agamben show him intoxicated, and blinded, by his own paradigm.
5) GRAND NARRATIVE AND THE OTHER’S REDUCTIONISM
Agamben posits a universal need for religion, he supposes that « the Church » (as if there were only one) does not satisfy that need any more, and claims that science constitutes a replacement-religion promulgating new superstitions.
6) LEAP OF LOGIC VERSUS LEAP OF FAITH
The good old time of the divide between the Two Cultures (between the sciences and the humanities) is long gone. Science without humanity (ethics) is barbarism, but humanity without science is criminal. For all his conceptual power, Agamben does not help us take the (logical) leap.
7) RE-NOETISATION BEGINS AT HOME
Agamben does not have conceptual tools appropriate to the new situation, and he seems incapable of inventing them. Whatever his « beliefs » and values, beliefs and values are not everything, he has now fully entered the (deconcepted) Trumpocene.
8) SUMMARY: THE ARGUMENT SO FAR
At each step the analysis deepens. Underneath the reaction of denialism lies the noetic shock and stupor, we do not know what to think or how to react, but some people react too quickly, unthinkingly.
Underneath the noetic shock and the hasty reaction lies the division between those who are most at home in the humanities and those who are most at home in the sciences. This scission between the two cultures is accentuated by a form of paradigm paralysis, which is the inability to expand or transform one’s conceptual heuristic by the invention of new concepts.
This conceptual paralysis is entrenched by the successes that our paradigmatic thinking has achieved up to now. We thus remain blind to the concepts and insights contributed by the other’s paradigm, which can only be, in our eyes, an old reductionism recycled to ground a new religion.
The way out of the deadlock of this way of thinking is through a logical leap taking us outside our dogmatic attachment to our privileged narratives and outside of our one-sided paradigms. We do not need to change so much our content as our very grammar of thought.
In our habitual thinking we are all de-concepted, de-noetised as our once living concepts have become automatic reactions. The leap that we need to make is not just ethical but logical.
Note – a very interesting and useful list of resources about the coronavirus epidemic can be found here: https://progressivegeographies.com/resources/geographers-sociologists-philosophers-etc-on-covid-19/