Sunday, October 30, 2011

Caputo on Meillassoux Reading Group - Post 4

Continuing on with AF after a week's break, this time picking up with Chapter 3: The Principle of Factiality. Audio lecture is HERE.

In addition to the shorter excerpt of a translated interview below, I am posting another Meillassoux interview in its entirety, in full (in English) HERE.  This one is from Urbanomic.

translation of Meillassoux’s ‘Contingence et Absolutisation de l’Un’ (posted for reading group)

Again, another document for our reading group - to correspond with AF's Chapter 3: The Principle of Factiality.

Translation of Meillassoux’s "Contingence et Absolutisationde l’Un" (excerpt)
(credit hyper tiling)

interview with Meillassoux (posted for reading group)

Interview with Meillassoux

There's an interesting new movement in French philosophy termed “speculative realism” which attempts to recover a chastened confidence in reason. There's an interview with one of its leading proponents, Quentin Meillassoux, over at Idée@Jour. Since, however, it's in French, here's a translation:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

cfp Schelling Society of North America

The SSNA is open to anyone who conducts research on Schelling and Schellingian philosophy in the English language. The SSNA mission is to (1) further research in English, both historical and systematic, on Schelling and related figures (eg., Boehme, Oetinger, Baader, Fichte, Novalis, Hölderlin, Schubert, early Hegel, Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, Oken, Fechner, Coleridge, Bradley, Peirce); (2) organize a stand-alone Schelling conference every other year at a North American University, with proceedings published online, and the best papers published every four years with an academic press; (3) gather data concerning current graduate research in English on Schelling; (4) coordinate translation projects of Schelling into English.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

do animals grieve?

"Do animals grieve?" is the title of THIS NPR article.  In critical animal studies, the concept of "deanthropocentrism" seems only to be guilty of elevating nonhuman animals' importance to an equal level with that of the human.  Here the "nonhuman" includes nonhuman animals who communicate their own perspectives in ways semiotically and prehensively grasped by the human, thus establishing communication of their own inner experiences of value (presumably this is communicated by other agents as well).  The experience communicated by nonhumans includes grief, according to the NPR article.

The standard charge against deanthropocentrism is to simply call it a nihilism in that it seeks to depreciate humans and will humanity's eradication in favor of what is nonhuman
.  In other words, those who question the idea of deanthropocentrism (as that concept is found in critical animal studies for example) say that deanthropocentrists really think that humans, and what they value, are nothing special.  Following a slippery slope, then, humans are just "objects" and thus human goals, purposes, and the meanings that human beings have in the end are disposable, like most objects or "random" things of the universe are.

The best response to this is to state that deanthropocentrism means to embrace the full reality (that is, both the what and the way) of *all* things in and of the world, the human included.  That is, there is an ontological parity in the value of items if the universe as such (a univocal realism of value, as I understand it).  No one thing can be discounted and disposed of prima facie, and everything in the world, ecologically speaking, has at least some value.

By stating that humans are "things" among other "things" in the universe one commits a reality check - one is identifying humans as inhabiting the same plane as other nonhuman agents and the human being ontologically is decentered from the center of the cosmos - from its former reigning place of anthropocentric dominance.  This has the potential to produce a more enriched relational network of agents each getting their value due.  Each agent, each actor as it were, has its own center and its own place of unique importance within a relational network of agents and values.

I don't see deanthropocentrizing the human as a "leveling" out or as a "bringing down" of the human being to the level of  let's say mere things, but rather as the opposite: bringing all things up to the level of ontological agents with at least some level of minimal value and importance.  Again, this is what I take to be a realism about univocal value concerning all of the world.  Rocks or pens may *matter less* in context, but fundamentally, the fact that anything is, rather than is not, means that "is" has a value in and of itself when it comes to what has been posited in the world. 

Following Whitehead, Buchler, and Hartshorne on this point, all agents of the world equally inhabit the ecology of reality. And inhabiting an ecology of reality means to possess an inner experience and possible communication of that experience. But agent and relation - being and communicating - will always be on equal footing: for as much as agency withdraws and flees inward agency is nevertheless related to the process of its own undetermined or as of yet to be determined possible-future nature. That is, agents are able to express "outward" natures that are not yet determined. With this possible communicative expression comes the autonomy of creativity, and, balancing the withdrawal of an agent, one gets outward. abundant expression.

Ethically, the comprehensibility, the knowing or totalizing of each agent's own distinct value forever eludes us - it can never be fully represented to anything other (although, as I argue elsewhere, I think aesthetic feeling and empathy are crucial here).  Stating that agents can be fully known, that their inner essence can be grasped indubitably, or that the interior life of a thing can be totalized - that on the other hand is nihilism, for it is the value reduction of what something supposedly is-as-finished rather than the letting-it-remain-open given what it can be.

If this is true, the care and ontological concern that we would formerly have taken to apply only to the human must now in some sense apply to all of nature, to all things with respect to their value.  Hence a truly ecological ethic which honors all perspectives or centers of things, each center dropping infinitely into an abyss of value-experience, importance, and perspective. 

How, then, does this view relate to ethics, to nonhuman animals? 

Enter the article linked above ("Do Animals Grieve?")   I think that being decentered means that realizing that animals, too, are objects of importance, similar agents, beings who have an important interior life. It seems to me that an animal's own nonhuman form of aesthetic communication (and for me this is both semiotic and phenomenological, to be prehended fundamentally as *feeling*) should count just as much as any other persistent semiotic communicative agent in the universe.  In other words, in matters of context, animals, then, should count equally to humans for ontological reasons above all else.  Their manners of communication should be taken into consideration when caring for the environment understood as ecological reality, for objects-felt-as-subjects, each being a unique and distinctive center point of feeling possessing worth and value of its own.  

Here empathy is crucial in regarding the manners of communication in question, a "Jamesian speculative exploration of a nonhuman consciousness" in regarding what manners of interior being are possible (James' 'On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings' speaks copiously to this)When it comes to thinking about whether animals are capable of grieving, given all of the above, I could only conclude that yes, it is possible - and ontologically so.  It certainly seems to be the case, not because human beings anthropomorphilcally project that emotion, but rather after an ontological anthrodecentering one finds that all agents of the universe have some value and are capable of - each in their own unique way - communicating that value as well any challenges to it, including empathy and loss, and grief over loss.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Caputo on Meillassoux Reading Group: Post 3

We are finishing Chapt 2: Metaphysics, Speculation, Fideism with the final bit of lecture posted as an audio file HERE.  Caputo teases the question of God and then discusses Meillassoux on Leibniz, Kant, and Descartes.

"The authentic tradition of immanence resides in the Platonic divine, and in the gods of Spinoza and Hegel, not in the 'philosophical atheism' of Heidegger."

Quentin Meillassoux - The Divine Inexistence

"The God neither speaks nor conceals..."

Such a beautiful post, I have to copy it in its entirety here.  I am in agreement with the author's sentiments.  

I am re-posting this because a childhood  friend of mine - that is, a friend for well over 15 years I should add - died of pancreatic cancer two years ago.  I am still dealing with that, and I still visit his grave.  Frequently.  

With my own health issues I often think about the fragility of life, being reminded often by the bouts of pain that I deal with every day, the pain which has gotten worse and hasn't allowed me to sleep for about three months now.

In any case, here is the post in full below.

(credit: Speculum Criticus Traditionis) . . .

A friend writes me concerning the funeral of a friend:

The day after she died somebody close to her dreamed that she flew off with iridescent dragonfly wings (I got the email about this dream the day after her death). Yesterday at the funeral (under a big tent outdoors), one enormous, singular dragonfly flew around, and perched above the podium for the entire event.
It is hard to know "what to do" with stories like this, and this very incapacity is why they are invaluable. Not because they demonstrate irrefutably the bankruptcy of "the materialist world view;" and not because they show how desperately we narrativize and pattern-seek to gain a shadow of 'meaning' at any cost. Rather, because their experiential force is such that we cannot dismiss them, and yet they just won't slip easily into any preordained category. If we seize on them as "evidence" of something, we slip into superstition. But if we blow them off, we do violence to ourselves. (Many are indeed prepared to bite the bullet and do this, but the cost of this is the chemical gelding of their souls. What they see as tough-mindedness I see as the intellect on steroids--and courting analogous side-effects). The only rational and human (I will even say "faithful") stance is one that sees in them as what Heraclitus said: "The God whose oracle is at Delphi neither speaks nor conceals, but gives a sign." This sign is not glossable (if it were, it would be "speaking"). It points us beyond this world, but not at the world's expense.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

life after people

(PHOTO: image of Venus' surface)
To the left is an image of the surface of Venus taken by a Soviet spacecraft.  The blog side effects has an interesting post about Mars.  No human has ever stepped foot on Mars or Venus, yet we "know" something of the unknown.  Through images, through instruments - we capture places remote in space and time.  The Life After People series is also fantastic with respect to this idea - that of bearing witness to the unrepresented, the unknown, the unthought.  

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Caputo on Meillassoux Reading Group: Post 2

We have moved on to reading After Finitude, Chapter 2: Metaphysics, Speculation, Fideism.  Note as well the correlation between that chapter title and Meillassoux's article in the most recent issue of PLI.  Reading pack is still available for download (see previous post below).  Listen to the second half of Caputo's lecture in this audio file, HERE.

Monday, October 10, 2011

back to Pennsylvania

(Cherry Valley, autumn 2004 - PHOTO: After Nature)
Autumn is my favorite season, followed by winter.  October is my favorite month, followed by November.  I enjoy especially Halloween and Thanksgiving, as well as the colors of the leaves as they change.  Following autumn I enjoy the winter months of December and January.  Believe it or not, I do enjoy the snow!  Of course the holidays are nice as well.

These reflections begin because I am fortunate to have a few days off for fall break, where I'll be able to go back to Pennsylvania.  I'll be visiting Cherry Valley (where I grew up); visit my parents; and finally, the ultimate fall Poconos adventure: the Sciota Corn Maze.  This is now a yearly ritual for me: getting lost for hours in that darn maze.  It is a challenge, but alot of fun.  I also plan to enjoy the mountains as well as take alot of photos of the changing leaves (my favorite part of the Poconos during this season). 

Journeying back to the Poconos is always very romantic - and to add to my visit, I have the iPhone loaded up with '80s synthwave & early '90s college radio alternative: the Cure, Neds Atomic Dustbin, the Candy Skins, Posies, Pixies, Blur, James, Springhouse, Morrissey, and so on.  I can also recommend some newer music (note "newer" means probably at least a decade old): Third Eye Blind, Sun Kil Moon, Red House Painters, Chapterhouse, and Ride.  As well, I'd probably throw in some WXPN2 (Philly local indy, modern, and alternative - with lots of '80s alternative thrown in).  I think my favorite autumn band from these lists has to be, the Cure. 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

hiking today

article on Whitehead and music

"A Whiteheadian Aesthetic and a Musical Paradigm" 

by Richard Elfyn Jones 

A Whiteheadian Aesthetic and a Musical Paradigm" attempts to explore the influence of Alfred North Whitehead’s process philosophy in the context of a fragment of music by J.S.Bach. The paper then proceeds, at a more abstract metaphysical level, to relate the aesthetic and artistic implications of the musical analysis to ultimate considerations, involving God.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Wisconsin mountain lion sightings

The Northwoods is more remote than I thought.  Traveling to Wassau and surrounding area, and then further north, I was quickly immersed in vast - and I mean *vast* expanses of wilderness.  What immediately struck me was how heavily forested the area happens to be after a good bit of it (mostly near Lake Superior, but also where I was) had been logged out during the late 1800s.  

During the turn of the century after the loggers had left, Woodrow Wilson granted that much of the land be turned into state forests and parks and restored (Wilson was also instrumental in conservation efforts with Maine state parks as well).  Now, 100 some years later, the forests have grown back in full force.  Save for hunting camps, a wilderness bar & grill, I was astonished to drive through hours of small mountains, wooded areas, and swamps.  I was pleased to see white spruce, red cedar, balsam fir, black ash, maple, oak, and birch.  It was a strange combination of Maine and Pennsylvania - but with smaller hills and lower "mountains" (more like very, very steep hills that stretch upwards for miles before descending again).  Hopefully my photo in the post below communicates the nature of these huge hills that seem to stretch endlessly.

Another surprising thing I encountered was the warnings about wolves.  Supposedly some of the access roads go pretty far back into the forest, and if one isn't armed, or if one is alone, you would question your intelligence to venture into the wilderness of the Northwoods.  As well, recently there have been more and more mountain lion sightings.  These are not escaped pets.  They are wild animals looking for food.  Again I was quickly reminded that we often "sugar coat" the great face of nature, when in fact, it is quite indifferent to the human.