Sunday, December 30, 2012

Laruelle on ethics and aesthetics

First, a newly translated and freely available essay, "The Concept of an Ordinary Ethics or Ethics Founded in Man" (translated by Taylor Adkins).

Second, videos of "Lectures on the Generic Orientation of Non-Standard Aesthetics," from the Weisman art museum (filmed by Cory Strand).

HT to Univocal Publishing.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Malabou on Epigenetics and Plasticity

Catherine Malabou, philosopher and author, talking about the relationship between genetics and the philosophical concept of life. In this lecture Catherine Malabou discusses the mechanization of life, Derrida's concept of the trace as bare life, epigenetics as the transformation of genetic code and the development of the brain in relationship to Michel Foucault, Girogio Agamben, Jacques Derrida, Martin Heidegger, François Jacob, Daniel Dennet and Thomas Jenuwein focusing on determinism, fragility, zoe, bios, dasein, stem cells, the passage from genotype to phenotype, interfering RNA, neural plasticity, symbolic life and biology. Public open lecture for the students and faculty of the European Graduate School EGS Media and Communication Studies department program Saas-Fee Switzerland Europe. 

Published December 24th, 2012. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Laruelle and ecology (MP3 download)

François Laruelle - The Degrowth of Philosophy: Towards a Generic Ecology  
Professor Laruelle has taught at both the University of Paris X and the Collège international de philosophie, and is a Visiting Professor at the London Graduate School, Kingston University. He is the author of over twenty books, including Les philosophies de la différence (1986), Principes de la non-philosophie (1996), Le Christ futur (2002), and, most recently, Le Concept de non-photographie and Anti-Badiou (both 2011) – all of which have either just appeared or will soon appear in English translation. A number of collections of new essays on Laruelle will also appear this year.

Over this forty year period, Laruelle has constructed one of the most demanding, methodical, and provocative intellectual practices in contemporary theory – an absolutely immanent materialism of thought. The purpose of these series of talks at the LGS will be both to cover the conceptual background to Non-Standard Philosophy and to explore its consequences for theory throughout the arts, sciences, and humanities.
 From December 10th, 2012 - London Graduate School, LGS Seminars.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Lakota wolf preserve (PHOTOS & VIDEO)

Photos HERE, video clip HERE.

Nature's Sublime review (Chapter Four)

PORTRAIT: Robert S. Corrington
In Chapter Four, "Genius, Art, and the Sublime," Robert S. Corrington continues to emphasize the god-ing aspect of involution and its role within an "aesthetic naturalism."  So far, ordinal phenomenology and ordinal psychoanalysis have informed each other as modes of query - and figures ranging from Justus Buchler, to Ralph Waldo Emerson, to Charles Sanders Peirce, to Arthur Schopenhauer, have all come into play.  In this final chapter, creativity and the psychopathology of creativity's affects upon the individual are brought into play in terms of how the individual comes into touch with natura naturans through "radiant" orders of nature, natura naturata.

Corrington begins with Schopenhauer's aesthetics, stating that only the genius, a romantic higher faculty, can wrestle with eternal Forms and capture them in an artistic expression which reveals something finally ultimate or extraordinary.  Put succinctly, "The encounter with art requires a special kind of consciousness that transcends our everyday instrumental forms of interacting with the environment."  A certain type of perception is under discussion here, one which occurs in a way that elevates subject and object at the same instant.  As Corrington explains,
The subject and the object elevate each other at the same instant.  The work of art holds forth its Platonic Forms and makes them available to the attending consciousness, which in its place turns its back on the Will and lets the Forms caress it and momentarily lift it outside of the rush of temporality and the crush of space.  The encounter with a genuine work of art, that is, one created by a genius, stops time and space however briefly, from consuming their children.  In that sense art and its assimilation is anti-entropic.  In the “timeless” time of art one is freed from the pain and suffering of the Will to Life.  And with the coming-into-presence of the Forms the basic architectonic of nature announces itself.
From here the discussion turns toward the larger question of relating the social role of art to the process of individuation.  "Does art have a quasi-religious role to play in shaping communal values or is it a potential replacement of religion?"  Art is said to "reawaken the sensual," to "desublimate" tribal longings which potentially may crush meaningful "identity bonds" within the community.  On Corrington's view, religions are "innately tribal" where art, on the other hand, "struggles toward the universal through the depth-dimension of the human process.  "Altruism easily extends to kinship and to reciprocal forms."  Art goes "beyond the interest of the tribe," beyond the god or goddess of the tribe, and toward that which is most encompassing and sustaining.

Corrington at this point seems to be walking a fine line, and acknowledges that Kant, at least in his ethics (but also within the Kantian "religion within the limits of reason alone"), struggled to create a universal logical foundation for ethics that transcended religion.  But this sort of universality was grounded in human reason, rather than within the internal forces of a nature that is not noumenal (cut off from human access and relegated to an "as-if") but phenomenal - directly evident to the human through non-cognitive faculty as the human, being fully natural, is at one with these forces, indeed is, at least in part, created by them.  It is the "naturalness" of the universality in question which Corrington finds useful, not the rational per se (the "concept").  It is in the sensate notion or tendency of the concept that the aesthetic finds its home.  The reader must be careful here: indeed Corrington is drawing on Kant, but we see, again, the influence of German idealism. Interestingly, Corrington seems to be drawing on the likes of Schelling and Hegel, but also the American tradition, mostly in Peirce (who was influenced by German idealism and romanticism in the same way).  Corrington writes, and I quote at length to make the point,
I intend to show that religion surpasses itself, and thereby becomes deeply ethical, when it sublates itself into the aesthetic.  The telos, if you will, of religion is to become the liberating sphere of art and the aesthetic.  This radicalizes Kant’s project but has some of its warrant in Kant himself, as we shall see...Peirce has his own ranking of the normative disciplines and makes aesthetics foundational for ethics on the grounds that aesthetics concerns the summum bonum, that which is admirable per se.  It is given to perception in a direct way and provides the norm for all other realms of value.  The current perspective (aesthetic naturalism) follows Peirce here and places aesthetics at the foundation of the normative disciples.  
 The claim is that religion, given its ordinal complexity, is prone to tribalization, moreso than the aesthetic which is its foundation, as aesthetics is the foundation of ethics as well.  Expanding upon the Schellingean thesis that art is to crown theology, Corrington links "god-ing" with aesthetic fulfillment, to a sublime that "lives on the other side of all religious revelations with their limiting and limited tribal content."  The encounter with art and the sublime is the culminating point of any individuating process - whether personal or communal.

From this point Corrington moves forward to what exactly points toward the religio-sublime in artworks.  He develops a new concept which he calls "radiance" (claritas).  The radiance of the aesthetic lifts out of the "normal" or "ordinary" sphere of life the unity of harmonious parts which is self-standing (a Form).  This "standing-forth" of radiance and clarity calls attention in such a way that our "everyday trafficking" with objects becomes an engagement with the aesthetic object as such (identified as such, as an "artful" object, one which is radiant).  But here we must ask: why are some objects likely to bear radiance and others not?  Why do some objects "break out" from the ordinary into the extraordinary?

In Corrington's work the role of radiance was had by "sacred folds."  Here we see that it is the "radiance" of sacred folds which calls the attention of human query.  Other factors are at work as well.  In addition to radiance there must be "a gestalt of grace," a calling to a "higher order arrangement of the Forms of the work of art into a vibrating totality that is a harmony of contrasts."  And thus, "Beauty is what emerges from this rich field of struggle."  It is the beauty which "speaks to all aesthetic agents," even if there is at first puzzlement or discord over its meaning.  

The argument is that nature, in its "extra-human sense" (thus not exactly "non-human" but a "non-order" which encompasses any and all orders) permits the participation of any and all orders "within" it.  Having no exteriority, being no "whole," lacking any numerical identity (and thus not being a "One" with some definite border), what presents itself is transcendence as such.  A dynamic sublime rather than a froze and static one, an actualizing infinite rather than a cold and circumscribed infinite.  But again, this is no "supernatural" or even "religious" revelation, advent, or ecstatic experience.  The experience seems to be "without specific semiotic content."  At core is the experience of the "power" and "potency" of a meaning horizon, of an origin that seeks its own fulfillment.  The self can arrive at these outer edge horizons and experience "culminating" moments of its own existence.  Corrington summarizes that, "For Jaspers the technical term for this reality is the Encompassing.  The sublime can be called the Encompassing in this specific sense; namely, as that which can never be encompassed, but which encompasses any and all meaning horizons, both personal and communal." 

In the end, the argument of the book is that "the sublime is a reality in itself rather than a mere subjective state that befalls human consciousness."  Religion, being tribal, must give way toward the aesthetic, or an aesthetic "religion" whose universality derives not from finite human reason but from an Absolute outside, an encompassing of which the human is merely a part.  It is not that this encompassing is God.  Though the involution of the potencies of the encompassing, through their shock to that which is finite, may feel religious, it is better to say that this is an "artful" or aesthetic experience, not one of a specific tribal divinity.

I see this book as an important step in the Corringtonian naturalism that has been in development for well over three decades.  At this juncture Corrington has taken the "ecstatic" character of his naturalism and firmly implanted it within the domain of aesthetics, rather than religion.  But this is not to say that theology no longer has a place for him.  Instead, art is the crowning achievement of his theology.  It is the domain of a universality common to all beings, one that extends beyond the pretenses of human reason and seeks to point toward those conditions of origin which sustain and encompass the living and the dead, the material and the spiritual.  I think that those who read Corrington will find this book informative and enjoyable, specifically because it takes those themes found in his previous books (ordinal phenomenology, psychoanalysis, but also "sacred folds," the Encompassing, art, the idea of community, and so on) and elaborates upon them in such a way that one can practically transform the role of art as it stands with respect to religion and the community.

From this point forward I think that "Corrington 3" will be creating even more original theses within the domains of aesthetics and theology in ways that further conjoin his previous interests in semiotics and psychoanalysis, phenomenology and pragmatism, and American and continental philosophy.  It would be interesting to see Corrington appropriate contemporary "speculative" philosophers in the continental tradition especially, those who do use aesthetics as a prominent arena of research within their own work, considering that Corrington himself is emblematic of contemporary speculative philosophy within the tradition of philosophical naturalism - a naturalism that now has crowned itself with aesthetics.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Nature's Sublime review (Chapter Two and Chapter Three)

PORTRAIT: Robert S. Corrington
Chapter Two, "Communal Vistas" is a discussion about trans-individual forms of the selving process or "individuation."  A major component of this chapter is the use of sign and symbol within communities.  Here semiotics makes its major appearance in the book, as does the ordinal phenomenological description of semiotic structures.  Ordinal psychoanalysis then discloses the forms of pathology present within the semiosis of community.  Normative analyses of "positive forms of semiosis" are reserved for the last chapter.

After Corrington presents some of the basics of semiotics and describes that discipline's relationship to the notion of "community" (done with plenty of Peirce in mind), the question is raised as to whether an Absolute sign "container/creator" is needed in order to explain the "actual infinite of semiosis that envelopes the finite sign user."  Corrington's novel approach suggests that "no," the self-linkage of signs is able to account for the actual/actualizing infinitude of semiosic process.  The key is that signs tend to function with a simple kind of isomorphism, "likeness drawn to likeness."  At points in Corrington's discussion about the self-linking nature of signs, based on isomorphic tendencies and relationships, I am reminded of Bergson but also Garbiel Tarde who had similar views about fundamental modes of communication (and symbolic exchange) between living beings, where beings tend to mimic each other with positive likenesses.  The totality of signings is said to be no sort of exteriority and thus cannot be said to be a "whole."  Rather, semiosic activity is always an actualizing, making a semiotic space for itself against a present horizon of meaning intelligibility.  In this way Corrington avoids deifying of the semiosic universe as a "closed" living entity.  He is not a panpsychist but states clearly that nature is the semiosic activitiy of natura naturans, a realm which is in itself devoid of self-reflective mind yet capable of producing semiotic sign-structures, natura naturata.

The relationship between Corrington's "aesthetic naturalism" and theology is complex.  While there is no "God" per se, or at the least "God" is one order among innumerable others (where this particular order for Corrington does not possess distinct ontological integrity - though is no more or less real than any other order - as it is in my own "speculative naturalism"), he does answer to the question of why his view is still relevant for theism, even if through the power of art.  The question becomes - as we are promised to have it answered in the last chapter - can art replace religion?  Indeed this is a radical question, but one that was familiar to those sources that Corrington is returning to, namely the German romantics or a philosophy of the sublime more generally.

Chapter Three is called "God-ing and Involution."  Involution refers to the way in which there is "a movement seeming to come into the world from elsewhere.  Something is entering into a state of affairs that was bereft of that content or force before the ingression." The content of the ingression is "larger than human, divine, or religious."  Put differently a few sentences later, it is explained that involution is of "a true sacred power that opens out the evolutionary matrix to an opening and a clearing that creates a space for a different kind of adaptation for the organism...[having] to do with the possibilities of meaning for the attending organism."  Involution is experienced as a radical break from antecedent and present experience in all of its evolutionary modes.  In my judgment, there are moments of Corrington's exposition of involution that sound similar to my own theory of "ecstatic transcendence" as presented in Charles Sanders Peirce and a Religious Metaphysics of Nature.  In other words, a fully naturalized form of transcendence is presented in such a way that forms of life - not just the human - are capable of being presented a contrast between finite and infinite: a more ecological understanding of what transcendence means.  In this way involution is part of the way deity enters into and modifies evolution.  Deity cannot be construed as a personality or a figure of monotheistic tradition.  Rather, it is a process that has no teleological plan or cosmic mind of its own.  As a process Corrington suggests the term "god-ing" to capture the complex power afforded by the involuting process as well as the infinitizing nature of its actualization.  As Corrington writes, "The energy of involution, experienced as a form of god-ing that intersects with my selving process, helps provide me with a brief free space of non-instrumental semiosis in which I can open up novel prospects for more complex adaptations to my various environments, social and natural."

God-ing represents a unique turn for C3.  Before, in "ecstatic naturalism," Spirit had the role of healing and smoothing over the dark and taciturn edges of a nature gone wild - one that is utterly indifferent to human needs and concerns.  This was Corrington's concept of "natural grace."  Here, we are told that Spirit may be too idealistic to function within an aesthetic naturalist perspective.  God-ing is "the divine Somewhat."  Nature's canvas portrays all images and colors, dark and light alike, painful and joyous.  There is no "supernatural" mind aware of a conscious plan to offer telic redemption.  Thus God-ing is "not that of some kind of higher mind or some super being that is conscious of itself, entering into the sphere of finitude in order to launch a specific plan for the ‘redemption’ of the world.  Rather, it is like a pulsation or microburst of pure expanding energy that cracks encrusted semiotic shells and clears a space for the rapid unfolding of novel semiosis."  The key idea here, as Corrington sees it, is to understand how this pulsation "publishes itself" and can be understood within the orders and complexes of nature natured.  In this Schopenhauer's Will and Emerson's aesthetic vision of nature both connect to the romantic fecund sphere of the beautiful and the sublime.  At this point, Corrington believes that aesthetic language transcends religious language.  The deity (god-ing) that we wish to express (understand) must be reshaped within the whole of nature.  Citing Emerson,    

Nothing is quite beautiful alone: nothing but is beautiful in the whole.  A single object is only so far beautiful as it suggests this universal grace.  The poet, the painter, the sculptor, the musician, the architect, seek each to concentrate this radiance of the world on one point, and each in his several work to satisfy the love of beauty which stimulates him to produce.  Thus is Art, a nature passed through the alembic of man.  Thus in art, does nature work through the will of a man filled with the beauty of her first works.  (Emerson 1836: 18-19)  

How does involution, then, relate to this aesthetic appropriation of god-ing?  In a rather poignant passage, Corrington writes that, 
Involution works through beauty to cloth the selving process with the richest possible textures, tones, motions, and shapes of nature.  But nature need not be reshaped by the human process in order to manifest and be beautiful.  The interactions between self and nature add another layer to the beautiful if only by intensifying what is already there.  And there is restlessness in our semiotic systems as they too struggle to embody and manifest the beautiful in their robust forms of signification—especially in the actual infinite qua actualizing infinite.  
Chapter Four, "Genius, Art, and the Sublime" captures these themes and expands upon them.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Nature's Sublime review (Introduction and Chapter One)

PORTRAIT: Robert S. Corrington
Corrington's Introduction to Nature's Sublime: An Essay in Aesthetic Naturalism begins by stating, "some methods are better than others for particular tasks and that a judicious choice at the outset of philosophic exploration and query can make the difference between a fecund and powerful portrayal of nature and a sterile and truncated caricature of the world and its innumerable orders."  Four dimensions are at stake: the human process; the nature of human communities; the powers of religion; and the nature and power of art.  Corrington lays out a four-fold methodological "prism" in the sense that nature is to be explored in a methodical manner which "reveals" rather than "claims" the positive and general metaphysical characteristics of a reality.  This reality can be refracted via a number of specified natural orders.

In the positive of metaphysical truth (thus following the great speculative philosophers but also the systematicists, e.g. Hegel, Leibniz, Hartshorne), what is revealed within an advent of truth is indeed a claim, but the claim of natura naturans and not (merely) human doxa.  Indeed, nothing short of a metaphysical demonstration through a thoroughly naturalist metaphysics is the goal of the method chosen here. Yet, if epistemology is made secondary to metaphysics by virtue of method alone, then what of "the human process"?  How are we to approach a method of query that may import human, all too human, contrivances upon a subject matter whose categories and principles define the very correlation of the human to it?  In classical form: what of a transcendental methodology that may used within a realist metaphysics designed to traverse (but also account for) the natural in its most generic and pervasive scope?  Thus we are met with the problem of correlationism in its classical form, and Corrington provides a brilliant response.

Corrington writes, "the term “metaphysics” refers to the study and articulation of the most pervasive traits of the one nature that there is.   For Dewey metaphysics is the study of the “generic traits of existence,” while for Buchler it is the exploration of “whatever is in whatever way it is.”  And for aesthetic naturalism metaphysics is the analysis of the potencies of nature naturing and of the innumerable orders of nature natured (or “creation” in a monotheism).  Ordinal phenomenology replaces both the hermeneutic and transcendental kind.  Ordinal phenomenology, for Corrington, uses pyschoanalysis as its conceptual medium within metaphysical philosophy.  As nature (and the human process) are both fully natural and semiotic, the method struggles to "describe the generic traits of nature with as much openness to the 'way' and 'how' of nature..."  The mixture of ordinal phenomenology and psychosemiotics (semiotic psychoanalysis) is ordinal psychoanalysis.  Corrington writes, "Ordinal psychoanalysis will struggle to illuminate the rhythms of the unconscious as they directly impinge on the shaping and unfolding of meanings in the intra-psychic and inter-psychic spheres.  One of the most striking aspects of this dual approach will be the phenomenology of the unconscious of nature and of the human unconscious that is rooted in nature’s unconscious." 

The methodological move here is important enough to warrant being called out as the high point of the Introduction  In it phenomenological "description" is repitched as a sort of abductive argument rather than being taken to mean some form of human reportage of appearances, the traditional definition of phenomenology.  The goal is to convert phenomenological descriptions as seen an sich into natural modes and orders.  Following Peirce (and the importance of "musement" in Peirce), abduction is thus a strategic transcendental move.  Nature's "how," its "unfolding way" of orders is presented in terms of "traits" rather than "essences."  Trait language, as well shall see, proves to be metaphysically more inclusive if phenomenology is used from within an ordinal perspective.  From Corrington's methodological standpoint, there is no such thing as the trait of traits or the order of orders.  There is no "nature" - no "it" to refer to.  Rather, we have a nature that is whatever is, in whatever mode it is.  Anything that can be in any way contributes to one's analysis.   

Chapter One is titled, "Selving."  Beginning with the orders of nature Corrington focuses first on the process of individuation as it is found within the human order.  Doing so pulls psychoanalysis and semiotic analysis closer together within the ordinal perspective.  Individuation of psychical life reflects individuation on the level of "externalizations of semiotic life."   As Corrington puts it, "Ordinal psychoanalysis is that branch of psychosemiotics that focuses most directly on the pathology and healthy aspects of selving per se."  Fundamental to this process of individuation is "will," a concept understood in usage by Schopenhauer.

The Will is most importantly found operating within: within our own bodies, within our own psyches.  However, the Will does not just operate within the human, it operates and moves all things:

Not only in those phenomena that are quite like his own, in human beings and animals, will he acknowledge the same will as their innermost essence, but further reflection will lead him to recognize as well the force that drives and vegetates in plants, even the force by which crystals form, that turns the magnet toward the North Pole, that produces a shock when two heterogeneous metals are brought into contact…. It is that which is innermost, the core of every individual thing and likewise of the whole: it makes its appearance in every blindly effectual natural force; it also makes its appearance in the reflectively considered actions of human beings. (Schopenhauer 1819: 148)

Shriven by this Will, the self is "bi-sected" in process.  Using Heidegger's fundamental "ontological difference," Corrington asserts a natural difference between nature naturing and nature natured.  The Will is the closest analogue one has to nature naturing.  The Will found within this "difference" is a fissuring that opens out within the self, differentiating conscious life from the unconscious.  However, there is no greater teleology involved here with the creation of consciousness, no higher and higher telic consciousness emerges from nature naturing "willing" - propelling and pulling, fissuring and individuating.  If one were pressed, so says Corrington, nature's "Will" would be largely unconscious and indifferent to human needs.  Without this primordial structure, on the other hand, nature would not "be."  In essence, this is what distinguishes Corrington from most other process thinkers.  Nature is not to be "sugar coated."  Individuation casts the self as a foundling, where its conditions of origin are indifferent to what is created.  In terms of an ordinal metaphysics, one can only remain indifferent in return to such an origin.  Without a telic whence and whither, the "multi-forms" of semiosis come and go, weaving this way and that, ultimately "back" into the origin from where the self was individuated.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Corrington's new book: Nature's Sublime: an Essay in Aesthetic Naturalism (Preface)

PORTRAIT: Robert S. Corrington
Robert S. Corrington's tenth book, Nature's Sublime: An Essay in Aesthetic Naturalism, marks a major shift in Corringtonian thought to a third phase now being referred to as "Corrington 3" or C3 for short.  Immediately one notices the hallmark of C3: aesthetic naturalism, as that term is found in the book's subtitle - "An Essay in Aesthetic Naturalism."  Is this new Corringtonian naturalism still ecstatic, however?  What are the new features of this new Corrington?  What remains the same?

In a way, Corrington is returning to his roots in aesthetics as informed by two major influences: German romanticism and idealism (through Schopenhauer and to some degree Kant) and "psychosemiotics" (psychoanalysis understood through the lens of semiotic theory).  Phenomenology and Justus Buchler's ordinal metaphysics are both not forgotten either, as they are combined in a new method which Corrington calls "empathic" ordinal phenomenology.

In another way, though, Corrington 3 is new territory.  The regions of self, community, religion, and nature - themes predominant in books such as The Community of Interpreters or Nature & Spirit: An Essay in Ecstatic Naturalism - books of "Corrington 1" - are present.   But each of these themes are radically recast with a new aesthetics in mind.  The aesthetics that Corrington is interpreting here is one which takes the sublime as its key motif.  The sublime, we are told, reveals what is most essential about natura naturans ("nature naturing") and its relationship to "the human process," a Buchlerian term designating a "self" understood as creative agent - an agent requiring ordinal treatment for its ecological and aesthetic dimension defies "traditional" phenomenological analysis.  The split between nature naturing and nature natured is taken up with the sublime in mind, and how the human being relates psychoanalytically, semiotically, to the sublime, is a major theme of the book.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

wolf preserve across the river

We are going to Lakota Wolf Preserve in Columbia, New Jersey.  I wasn't aware of this little gem, but my sister had mentioned it on Thanksgiving Day and we found these reviews of the place, so it definitely seems worth checking out.  Afterall, we're less than 10 minutes away across the river on the Pennsylvania side.

On the preserve's website there is a nice photo gallery and it seems like you can get some good snapshots.  I'll post to my Picasa whatever good shots I happen to get. 

Also worth noting are some upcoming events at Pocono Environmental Education Center.  We are going to go on the "Hibernation Hike."  Some of their other activities looks interesting as well.

Winter is upon us here in the Poconos!  It certainly is beautiful, and while grim and cold, it is still one of my favorite seasons.  In fact, that grimness and coldness is part of the Pocono winter's natural beauty.