Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Caputo on Deleuze Reading Group: Post 5 of 7

Finishing Ch. III "The Image of Thought" (pp. 129-168) and moving on to Ch. IV "Ideas and the Synthesis of Difference" (pp. 169-222). Then Deleuze's Pure Immanence (Hume).  Audio lecture here.  

lonesome and contemplative morning

Monday, June 27, 2011

What is Nature?

"Life is a creative response to creative nature."

Check out Hoffmeyer's book Signs of Meaning in the Universe and Floyd Merrell's words from his article in Cosmos and History.

What is Life?

Cosmos and History Vol. 4, No. 1-2 (2008): What is Life? Free online peer-reviewed issue dealing with the topic of life and its definition.  Good stuff.

to have done with life (conference audio)

Vitalism and Antivitalism in Contemporary Philosophy: Zagreb, June 17-19, 2011
feat. Brassier & Malabou.  Full audio here

Thanks to Adrian / IMMANENCE for alerting me to the fact that the audio links were posted online.  Excerpts from the conference Introduction, below.


The being of “life” is a metaphysical problem because unless “life” is metaphysical it has no being: it is reducible to the material distribution of organizations and functions that  neither warrant nor support a general, encompassing concept. Every vitalist knows this, and that is why, for example, it at least makes sense to think that something like the Deleuzian concept of A LIFE may be the sine qua non of any coherent thinking of life. But, on the other hand, if “life” is purely metaphysical it has no being. Life is a physical problem because it is instantiated in material bodies whose properties and capacities differ from those of non-living bodies: even if, in certain instances, it turns out to be surprisingly difficult to specify just how this is the case.

The term “emergence” is the surest index of the doubly physical and metaphysical scope of this problem. The emergence of life, we say, and what we seem to mean by this is that we do not know exactly how—at exactly what point and in exactly what way—life came into being, though we do seem to know a great deal about its properties—including, supposedly, that it exists. The problem of “emergence” is that a modality of being came to be which was not before, and the difficulty is that tracking the physical causes of such an event leads to irresolvable aporia. And these aporia are too easily dissembled through reference to “complex, self-organizing processes,” as if we can at once account for and evade the radicality of the event we are trying to think by placing it within the same category as the formation of snowflakes, traffic patterns, or the activities of termite colonies. In its typical usage (the work of Stuart Kaufman, for example), the concept of “emergence” is a crypto-metaphysical concept pretending to offer physical explanations, at once allowing and accounting for gaps in the latter through reference to “complexity.”

The problem for biology, then, is that it is constantly on the cusp of either reduction to physical chemistry or ideological capture by metaphysics. The concept of “life” tends to get lost between explanations of biological organisms referring either to molecular interactions or to an irreducible systemic wholeness. And because it gets lost, it is prone to over-extension as the je ne sais quoi which accounts for the substance of the biological precisely through its indetermination.

Should we have done with life? If we deploy this concept as a means of pretending we know what we mean when we do not, then we probably should. And this is perhaps the dominant para-philosophical use of this concept today, as it is deployed by actor-network theory spin-offs and vitalist Spinozisms extolling the so-called “life of things.” As, for example, in the “vital materialism” of Jane Bennett.

But we cannot have done with life because it will not have done with us—until it does. In the meantime, it is a properly philosophical problem insofar as the self-evidence of its existence gives way onto the obscurity of its concept. The ethical and existential questions that it poses: “what is the good life?” or “what is it to live” are at the core of both ancient and modern philosophy. But there is a scission between these questions and the scientific and ontological question: “what is life?”

Within that scission, the life we do not know what it means to live demands to be thought.

To accede to this demand is to acknowledge that we do not know what death is. We do not know what extinction means. We do not know how affect, how feeling, how sensation came into the world. We do not what what sort of being it is that thinks or decides. We do not know what labors or suffers or revolts.


Read the full conference introduction

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Body of Sublime Knowledge: The Aesthetic Phenomenology of Arthur Schopenhauer

Luchte, James. "The Body of Sublime Knowledge: The Aesthetic Phenomenology of Arthur Schopenhauer" Heythrop Journal, Volume 50, Number 2 (Spring, 2009): 228-42.  Link to the article on the author's webpage.

Caputo on Deleuze Reading Group: Post 5 of 7

Finishing Ch. III "The Image of Thought" (pp. 129-168) and moving on to Ch. IV "Ideas and the Synthesis of Difference" (pp. 169-222). Then Deleuze's Pure Immanence (Hume).  Audio lecture here.  

"The Beautiful Necessity": Emerson and the Stoic Tradition

Just got the new issue of American Journal of Theology & Philosophy , and there is a fantastic article titled "The Beautiful Necessity": Emerson and the Stoic Tradition" by James Woelfel.  It got me thinking about two things that my father always used to tell us, at the dinner table no less (and of course we were always bemused to hear these points of fact): He would say, first: we're born to be screwed (and so to this situation you should just shrug your shoulders and say, "Oh, ok.") and second: Always hope for the best, but expect the worst.  In Emerson's more positive language: we don't make the universe, it - at least in a large part - makes us.  Nature usually gets the last vote, and usually has ways of reminding you of that fact, whether horrid or beautiful.
I think that my father's way of just talking about life, the universe, God, all things space and time, science, cosmology - this is what got me interested in philosophy, especially as my sister and I would sit and listen to him while we sat at the dinner table (we were quite young during all of this.  It must have had an effect: My sister has more of an eccentric personality than I do, but she is also quite the deep thinker).  In any case, my father's wry outlook is something that I smile at until this day.  I think he has more in common with the Stoics than he realizes.

 Is my father a pessimist?  A Stoic of sorts?  Or in some strange way is he trying to save us all from a let-down?  Case in point - see the below video.  And I also ask: which is the more *honest* Stoicism: a wildly optimistic Emerson?  Or the humorously pessimistic Schopenhauer?  

Jim Thorpe, PA (video and links)

Normally when I visit the Pocono Mountains I tend to focus on Delaware Water Gap, and hike the portion of the Appalachian Trails there, as well as make my way through Martins Creek. Or I focus on hiking in Cherry Valley, which is where I grew up.

This weekend it was a visit to Jim Thorpe, PA. It was fantastic. Here are some links if you are looking to visit Jim Thorpe: I would recommend the Town & Country guided tour, Lehigh Gorge State Park (and if you can make it, Hickory Run boulder field), and any biking that you can do along the rail-trail. Food wise: Molly Maguires Pub is a must.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

this looks interesting

Exploration of Alfred North Whitehead’s influence on Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s ontology of nature.

"This is the first book-length account of how Maurice Merleau-Ponty used certain texts by Alfred North Whitehead to develop an ontology based on nature, and how he could have used other Whitehead texts that he did not know in order to complete his last ontology. This account is enriched by several of Merleau-Ponty’s unpublished writings not previously available in English, by the first detailed treatment of certain works by F. W. J. Schelling in the course of showing how they exerted a substantial influence on both Merleau-Ponty and Whitehead, and by the first extensive discussion of Merleau-Ponty’s interest in the Stoics’s notion of the twofold logos - the logos endiathetos and the logos proforikos. This book provides a thorough exploration of the consonance between these two philosophers in their mutual desire to overcome various bifurcations of nature, and of nature from spirit, that haunted philosophy and science since the seventeenth century." - SUNY Press (June 2011)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Caputo on Deleuze Reading Group: Post 4 of 7

Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, Ch. III "The Image of Thought" (pp. 129-168).  Audio lecture here.  

Of special note is that in this lecture Caputo on several occasion decides to mention Whitehead relative to Deleuze: a good thing, in my opinion.  He also qualifies process metaphysics, explaining its merits for those who wish metaphysics would just die already.  Also: several mentions of Claremont being the "process capital" of the world (though see my review of Stengers' Whitehead book for the general consensus on that, the future of process thought and who specifically will inherit the mantle is certainly up in the air right now). 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Appreciating the God who is not-yet (Part III)

To create and destroy even becoming ...

Over the past few days I've been re-reading some essays by Quentin Meillassoux. I have come to the conclusion that his divine inexistence reminds me of the God who-is-yet-to-come posed by Continentalists John Caputo and Richard Kearney, and to some degree by William Desmond.  In addition, Meillassoux's God has some process features - features which are also found in German idealism.  I'll explain each of these connections, in no particular order.

In terms of the radical contingency behind Meillassoux's God, I am first struck by how it reminds me in some very qualified but important respects of Whitehead's and Hartshorne's process God.  I say this because while Meillassoux's God in total does not exist but someday *may*, it is his Hyperchaotic ground which seems to encompass many of the aspects of the di-polar process God's contingent or virtual pole as a sort of transcendental condition.  And while there certainly is a difference in how power is conceived (Meillassoux's version is an unbridled power and utterly absolute, independent; the process philosopher's power is relative and non-coercive), it is the ontological scheme of how that power forms a sort of transcendental ground which makes me think of process thought.  This transcendental ground (the Hyper-chaos, and also the virtual) is also quite similar to what some of the German idealists were up to, especially Schelling with the "unruly ground" and the divine "Potenzen" (this even despite Meillassoux posing being and becoming against each other in correlationism: Schelling and Hegel are important influences for him as he has already admitted in interviews).  Add emphasis on the process by which the virtual real spontaneously creates, and again you get more Whiteheadianism through the concepts of creativity and novelty - all from a required pole of contingency. And so Meillassoux and process thought seem to fit together, but so far only on one hobbling leg of contingency.

One must keep in mind the places in Meillassoux's philosophy where the actual pole seems to take on crucial speculative functions: the arche-fossil, for example.  This is readily provided by the actuality of the "great outdoors" and the individuated reals which communicate their mathematizable properties (thus the object-oriented moments of his philosophy and thus the other side of Whiteheadianism, the actual pole).  These objects do not require the human, but nevertheless lure speculating inquirers toward them.  One may also consider the arche-fossil, ancestrality, as the "objective immortality of the past."  Science and empirical thought are the guiding lights to consider these "preserved" actual occasions.  Here reason and mathematics offer their own services in discerning the speculative real, in other words Whiteheadian methods of access (it would be interesting to see if there is anything like prehension at work in Meillassoux given his recent interest in semiotics).  And so here we have the other leg of di-polarity: the actual. 

What reinforces these two pieces of Meillassouxian process thought?  Answer: the virtual God.  Meillassoux is thus close enough to a process theologian who seems to be emphasizing the virtual or contingent pole (where the actual pole would be ancestrality, the objective immortality of the past), more than likely unbeknownst to him.  Why?  The divine inexistence and the role of power (and time), the nature and importance of a necessary contingent ground (which equals a sort of divine or ultimate freedom), the place of empirical thought vis-a-vis the divine in its ancestral tomb, and the hope for justice through the coming of a virtual God - a being to be freed from its virtual prison. 

Finally, if the Meillassouxian hyper-chaos can destroy even becoming, in *its* own power, then I ask how much more process philosophy can you get than in this particular quote, regarding the real possible as ground ...  [I have Peircean Firstness, the "can-be" possible, in mind here].
This hyper-chaotic time is able to create and destroy even becoming, producing without reason fixity or movement, repetition or creation. That’s why I think that ultimately the matter of philosophy is not being or becoming, representation or reality, but a very special possibility, which is not a formal possible, but a real and dense possible, which I call the “peut-être”- the ‘may-be’.   
- Q. Meillassoux (Time without Becoming)

It thus seems that Meillassoux and process philosophy fit together quite nicely.   Panpsychism ("subjectialism") is quite a different story, however.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Appreciating the God who is not-yet (Part II)

Q. What are the paths for metaphysics in 2010?

A. ... First of all, returning to the surface of those metaphysics either forgotten or neglected for a long time in France, when, that is, they represent alternatives to the grand classical systems of Aristotle, Descartes or Hegel: a metaphysics no longer of substance, of the subject, or of the closed system, but of the Open (Bergson), of the event (Whitehead), of singularity-in-becoming (Simondon), of possession (Tarde), of the work to be created [l'oeuvre à faire] (Souriau). Many more undertakings which demonstrate that metaphysics [“la” métaphysique] is not reducible to a determined collection of concepts which, once disqualified, take with them the whole of speculative thought.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Caputo on Deleuze Reading Group: Post 3a of 7

Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, Ch. II "Repetition for Itself" (pp. 70-128) & Pure Immanence, Ch. III (Nietzsche).  Second half of audio lecture here.  

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

process ontology in Schelling and Whitehead

With Caputo's discussion of Deleuzian contractions in mind (from this week's audio lecture), the blog footnotes to plato discusses the role of tension in the rotary motion of Schelling's die Potenzen.  Check out the post Process Ontology in Schelling and Whitehead

Monday, June 6, 2011

Caputo on Deleuze Reading Group: Post 3 of 7

Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, Ch. II "Repetition for Itself" (pp. 70-128) & Pure Immanence, Ch. III (Nietzsche).  First half of the audio lecture here

After Caputo discusses the creation of laws and the multiple contractions that constitute actualities, the class breaks, and as the students exit one student in particular remarks, "This reminds me alot about Peirce" and the discussion fades off into the background.  Interesting - would have loved to hear what Caputo thinks about that.  If only had that Peirce grad seminar been allowed to go through last term with less than seven students I think I would have been discussing Whitehead, Deleuze, and Peirce as my new triad (whereas before I used Heidegger, Schelling, and Peirce).

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Caputo on Deleuze Reading Group: Post 2a of 7

The second half of Caputo's audio lecture on Ch. I "Difference in Itself."  This lecture in particular is my favorite so far, and touches on Deleuze's process orientation (and I am convinced now more than ever that Whitehead and Deleuze are in no way a "false combination"), Deleuze's connection to Aristotle, Duns Scotus, Leibniz, Hegel, Spinoza, and ultimately to Plato and Nietzsche.  I think Caputo is abit off on equaling pantheism with panentheism, but overall this lecture is very, very good. Just the best so far.

Spending abit of time digesting the first chapter before moving on to Ch. II "Repetition it Itself."