Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Brassier and speculative idealism: the vital negative (MP3 download)

HT noir realism for originally posting this HERE, the text and citation are his.  I think this is important because it further clarifies the new directions that Ray's thought seems to be taking (the quote is older - from 2010 - but it is a fairly strong statement that isn't mentioned much).

I find these directions extremely congenial, actually.  Alot of this matches up with the hints that Brassier provided in the After Nature interview, where he stated that his work now converges and overlaps with the work of Iain Hamilton Grant. To be fair to Ray, he is remarking about the appropriate role reason and concepts play in speculative philosophy, where Hegel may be a model (a complete transcript of the talk can be found HERE).

Despite this emphasis on reason, much emphasis is also placed on "the vital negative" - that "absolute intensity" which produces and powers intensive matter in-itself.  The trick is to understand how thought, conceptual rationality, is infused within this matter as a form of its self-representation in a way that "necessitates transformation at the level of practical existence."  
…I consider myself an idealist, opposed to a materialist, as I insist on the need to preserve the relative autonomy of thinking, and the cogency and the consistency of thinking, and of conceptual rationality, precisely in order to be able to adjudicate the relationship between thinking and reality, between theory and practice, and also it’s an enabling condition for practice. In other words, if you try to fuse thought into material reality indiscriminately, I think that leads to an impotent short-circuit. So I would insist on defending the representational structures that are simply attacked… it’s a caricature of representation that’s being attacked, it’s a straw man. Representation here, and theoretical representation in particular, is a straw man.
I want to defend the imperatives of conceptualization, and even a kind of dialectics, as although I agree with what Nick says about the way in which death is a marker for real identity of matter itself, the point is that you should never confuse the symbolic marker for the thing in itself. You need a much more careful and subtle articulation of those terms–actually, between zero, one, and two–to explain the autonomy of thought and rationality and of thinking. Not to put too fine a point on it, so that you can maintain and generate a locus of rational agency. In other words, keep a space of subjectivation open that provides a prism for practical incision, a point of insertion. And that has to be done, and I think this involves re-examining the legacy of Hegel, and of Hegelianism. In other words, to maintain a kind of conceptual rationality that necessitates transformation at the level of practical existence. It requires a lot of theoretical work to do this. I would insist on the need to preserve the autonomy of rationality as something that allows you to intervene, to cut, in the continuity.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Simondon's "transindividual" and a nonreductive relationalism

This is on my reading list for some research that I am doing on the metaphysics of individuation, but in the meantime "The Genesis of the Individual" and "On the Mode of the Existence of Technical Objects" will suffice.

Also linking Shaviro's recent post on this book, to come back to later.

a characterization of naturalism

From time to time I read Alexander Pruss's blog, although admittedly he is from a completely different tradition than the one that I work within (he is basically an analytic theist or "analytic philosopher of religion").  But this is not to take away from some fairly good content that I find on his site.

In a recent post Alexander defines naturalism as a view stating,
that objectively speaking in itself there is nothing numinous: Nothing holy or sacred, but only the good or right; nothing sinful or unholy, but only the morally wrong; nothing uncanny or eldritch, but only the unusual or the scary; nothing aweful, but only the impressive; nothing mysterious, but only the puzzling or the strange; nothing fascinating, but only the attractive; nothing sublime, but only the beautiful.
I find this problematic on a number of fronts, but mostly because I tend to think that his analytic orientation has cut him off from those naturalisms which do admit the numinous: the holy or sacred, understood simply as the deeply natural and sublime.

In reading Corrington's new manuscript for example I am now certain more than ever that the "supernatural" within nature is what we may simply call the deeply natural.

Often times it is supposed that a naturalist cannot have a sense for sublimity and depth, the "more" or excess without remainder of experience.  This is not to say that, in principle, absolute knowledge of this remainder isn't possible. 

But, we may say that nature's astonishing character is most profoundly found in its power of transformation and the orders of magnitude that it possesses.  This is a realist view about nature, not about the human response to nature.  Thus "ecstasy" is a metaphysical characterization of the world, it is not being religiously transfixed somehow.  Nature itself is "ecstatic" in the original sense of the word - it possesses an "outside"or "beyond" the world which is already "within" it, whether this "beyond" is a temporal structure of reality, or whether this "beyond" is a potential or power for ontogenesis found within all things or before all things; these ideas can be interpreted in a number of ways.  Yet it is this ecstatic form of naturalism which emphasizes being aware of one's finitude, but also being able to transcend that finitude: in studying the natural world, in metaphysical theology, in science, but also in ecology, environmental studies, aesthetics, and so on.  It is the world - nature - which is ecstatic, and that is what the naturalist marvels over.  I believe that this is what Schelling had in mind for example when he crowned his own theology of nature with aesthetics.

In a way, speculation, then, as a philosophical procedure and task, is itself "ecstatic."  For far too long as philosophers we were told that our relationship to reality, nature, was conditioned and finite (correlationism, Kantian philosophy).  The "great outdoors" was barred from us.  But for Jaspers, for example, "ecstasy," transformation, was possible through metaphysical philosophy.  For me, and following Jaspers to some degree, transcendence first means: crossing that boundary which first encloses the human.  That is what I mean by ecstatic transcendence.  In all cases it means stepping outside of and going beyond that correlation which immediately encloses us.  This is at once theological and speculative (idealism), but it is at once also fully realist and materialist, insofar as those sustaining and generative conditions - the "beyond" the immediately human and its correlate - is part of reality and not "just" the thought of reality.

Perhaps the ultimate "beyond" in this form of transcendence would be to transcend to a beyond being itself, nonbeing.  This mystical enlightenment would be a union with that which is not only nonhuman, but not being in in its absolute form: not being or a that which is not yet.

Perhaps this is why for someone like Aristotle, speculative philosophy and theology, insofar as first principles and conditions are concerned, were taken to be one.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Latour and natural religion

Facing Gaia: A new inquiry into Natural Religion

Facing Gaia. A New Inquiry into Natural Religion


Lecture Series Presented by Bruno Latour 

Feb. 18-23, 2013 - University of Edinburgh

There could be no better theme for a lecture series on natural religion than that of Gaia, this puzzling figure that has emerged recently in public discourse from Earth science as well as from many activist and spiritual movements. The problem is that the expression of ”natural religion” is somewhat of a pleonasm, since Western definitions of nature borrow so much from theology. The set of lectures attempts to decipher the face of Gaia in order to redistribute the notions that have been packed too tightly into the composite notion of ”natural religion”.

1. Once Out of Nature

The set of questions around the two words “natural religion” implies that only the second word is a coded and thus a disputed category, the first one being taken for granted and uncoded. But if it can be shown that the very notion of nature is a theological construct, we might be able to shift the problem somewhat: the question becomes not to save or resurrect “natural religion”, but to dispose of it by offering at last a ”secular” version of nature and of the natural sciences.

2. A Question of Agency

Once nature and the natural sciences are fully ”secularized”, it becomes possible to revisit also the category of the supernatural. Then, a different landscape opens which can be navigated through an attention to agencies and their composition. Such a freedom of movement allows the use of the rich anthropological literature to compare the ways different “collectives” manage to assemble and totalize different sets of agencies.

3. Gaia’s Puzzling Features

In spite of its reputation, Gaia is not half science and half religion. It offers a much more enigmatic set of features that redistribute agencies in all possible ways (as does this most enigmatic term “anthropocene”). Thus, it is far from clear what it means to “face Gaia”. It might require us to envisage it very differently from the various divinities of the past (including those derived from nature).

4. How Many Globes Can be Held on an Angel’s Fingertip?

The paradox of what is called “globalization” is that there is no “global globe” to hold the multitude of concerns that have to be assembled to replace the “politics of nature” of former periods. What are the instruments —always local and partial— that are sensitive enough to Gaia’s components for the limited technical and emotional apparatus of assembled humans?

5. War of the Worlds: Humans Against Earthlings

In the absence of any Providence to settle matters of concern — and thus of nature, its barely disguised substitute — no peaceful resolution of Gaian conflicts can be expected. The recognition of a state of war and the designation of enmity is indispensable if a state of diplomacy is later to be reached. Under the pressure of so many apocalyptic injunctions, what is a Gaian political theology?

6. St. Christopher you’re not Strong Enough to Carry the World!

Although the resources of “paganism”, New Age cults, renewed themes of Christian incarnation, and process theology offer rich mythological insights, it is not clear whether they are at the scale and sensitivity needed to face Gaia. A search for collective rituals should begin with works of art and experiments able to explore in sufficient detail the scientific and political composition of the common world.

(HT knowledge ecology - link HERE - for a similar post to the one that I am repeating here.)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Dewey paper from Barnes Foundation and IU Honors talk (download)

Link HERE.  The paper provides a process "neo-classical" reading of Dewey's aesthetics using Plato.  The paper is largely non-technical as it was intended for a lay audience. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

darklife: negation, nothingness, and the will-to-life in Schopenhauer

Continuing on with the theme of Schopenhauer for today, I never realized that Schopenhauer was so adored by dark vitalists, transcendental nihilists, etc. etc.

Schopenhauer makes a fine alternative if one doesn't find Bergson's vitalism to taste. The question boils down to whether there is a role for "negativity" in Bergson (perhaps even as an attitude, pessimism) or whether positive creative-addition debars that automatically.

Can there ever be real loss in a universe which preserves all in the objective immortality of the past?  This Bergsonian/Whiteheadian view of a cumulative durational succession would be contrasted with Schopenhauer's belief that, "Time is that by virtue of which everything becomes nothingness in our hands and loses all real value."

"Darklife: Negation, Nothingness, and the Will-to-Life in Schopenhauer," by Eugene Thacker, Parrhesia 12 (2011):  12-27. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Call for Papers: Futures of Schelling Conference - Western University, Canada

Second Meeting of the North American Schelling Society.  HT Ben Woodard from naught thought blog.  Here is the cfp.  I am definitely submitting to this!

Futures of Schelling: The Second Conference of the North American Schelling Society

Western University London, ON Canada – August 29- September 1, 2013

With the recent resurgence of interest in Schelling he is no longer just a “vanishing mediator” (in Žižek’s phrase) between Idealism and Heideggerian or postHeideggerian thought. Schelling is being read in interesting ways both within this tradition and outside it. The North American Schelling Society’s second annual conference seeks to address the broad theme of the futures that Schelling opens up, in his own work, in the work of contemporaries or predecessors that he helps us to reconceptualize, and in the way his work informs or can inform subsequent and future philosophical, theoretical, and interdisciplinary work. Possible topics might include:
  • How Schelling helps us rethink the work of contemporaries (such as Hegel) or predecessors (such as Boehme)
  • Schelling and subsequents theorists and philosophers who have taken up his work (such as Habermas, Žižek, Heidegger, Nancy)
  • Schelling’s impact on and significance for the style of philosophical thinking and writing
  • Schelling as a returning and retreating origin for disciplines other than philosophy (e.g. psychoanalysis, aesthetics, anthropology)
  • Trends in Schelling scholarship
  • The significance of the analytic utilization of Hegel (by Brandom, McDowell etc.) for Schelling scholarship
  • Schelling’s relation to emerging technologies
  • How Schelling can help us think about the environmental crisis
  • Schelling and the sciences
Good papers that are simply on Schelling are, of course, also welcome. Please send either 1000 word abstracts or completed papers of 3000-5000 words to Tilottama Rajan (trajan@uwo.ca) AND Sean McGrath (sjoseph.mcgrath@gmail.com) by February 1st 2013.

Submissions will be blind-vetted, so please remove all identifying information from the actual paper or abstract.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

what I'm reading

To the end of completing a new article that I've been sketching in rough outline, I've been reading two philosophers again and again: Plato and Bergson.  To this perhaps unlikely combination I would add another strange bedfellow: Arthur Schopenhauer.

I've just finished up a large chunk of research concerning the implicit normative nature of the dynamic-sensible conditions which are responsible for animating "affective" judgments - especially the sort of judgments involved within the domain of ethics.  My goal is to articulate how those judgments relate to ethical (and perhaps even political) Ideas - a physics of the Idea within the domain of ethical theory, really. 

To my mind, Plato and Bergson are a much, much better combination than, say, Aristotle and Leibniz or Lucretius and Spinoza if one is looking to explore the metaphysical foundations of ethics and affectivity, as those combinations (necessarily, it appears) seem to lead one to either a vast competitive powers pluralism or a reactionary ethical materialism of self-serving "dog eat dog" monads.  (N.B.  I must say, however, that Hartshorne's ethical treatment of Leibnizian monads in Whiteheadian vein - that is, as societies of occasions guided by a dominant monarchical monad, is something that I look favorably upon due to my metaphysical commitment to panpsychism and panentheism.  For more information on that see the section "Social Process," HERE.)   

Still, in my research I seemed to be missing one piece of the puzzle that Bergson was pointing to when it comes to discerning the objective "sources" for morality - sources that cannot be reduced to or found within centers of specifically human consciousness.  Enter one Arthur Schopenhauer. 

I first must say that Schopenhauer made his way into my purview most recently when I was writing about Deleuze and aesthetics (the article that I just published for AJTP).  We also read plenty of Schopenhauer this semester as part of a reading group that we just finished up, "Philosophers of the Unconscious: Schelling and Schopenhauer."  And Schopenhauer's aesthetics is just something that I am generally interested in.  So perhaps it was just a matter of time before I turned my attention to his ethics.

I'll leave this endorsement open for the reader: go read Schopenhauer's book on ethics, The Two Fundamental Problems of EthicsThe point is that even though Schopenhauer would seem to endorse a competitive powers ontology where an infinite number of centers of willing strive to live at the expense of other living things, that is hardly the case.  Rather, Schopenhauer explains how, given such a competition, acts of compassion are possible.  Enter a theory of affectivity, in addition an ethical-aesthetic theory conducive to the sort of ethics of openness and compassion purported by Henri Bergson. 

To boot, Schopenhauer's ethics of affectivity knits well with animal ethics; that is, of explaining how genuine acts of compassion are possible among all living beings, not just the human, and so we are urged toward an openness of affectivity and relation "beyond" the human, to human and nonhuman alike.

"Transcendence" thus first means: crossing that limit which encloses the human being.

Monday, November 5, 2012

mathematics, vitalism, genesis

Mathematics, Vitalism, Genesis

This paper examines Deleuze's critical relation to the vitalist tradition by looking at the ways in which he uses differential calculus as a philosophical rather than mathematical concept. This has direct implications not only for the ways in which we approach art philosophically, but also for the ways in which we think about art's relation to time.

Claire Colebrook (Penn State University)

probing the idea of nature

I came across this today, not knowing that the essay was online: Justus Buchler's rather famous essay, "Probing the Idea of Nature."  The essay is found as an appendix essay in Metaphysics of Natural Complexes.

Buchler's metaphysical approach anticipates many contemporary categorical determinations of natural items in the universe given his own dual concepts of "natural complex" and "order."  Additionally, his concepts of "ordinality" and "ontological parity" both answer to the empty husked nature of anti-theological sensu stricto material ontologies that hide within what I call "stone age naturalism" - an antiquated form of naturalism which touts being "flat," despite requiring "depth" in order to explain the fleeing inner life of what is naturally complex (thus a motion toward a secret interior - transcendence - the deep "supernatural" interior of innumerable orders and complexes among innumerable continua, broken by innumerable discreta).  

As I interpret ordinal ontology, it seems that depth signals the locus production-point of a complex, of a "perspective" (Buchler would not read panpsychism into his complexes and orders). The production-point of a complex is each complex's own aesthetic and semiotic but also mathematizable interior (being individuated as an order which is always naturally complex), a space of possible communicative expression, each complex its own interior point of self-expression and zone of "being-related" - whether to its own future-temporal self or to other complexes - by virtue of possessing an infinitesimal infinitizing power - the generative source for any complex's meaning-activity whether fleeing or persisting, relating or individuating, constituting or being constituted.  

Buchler wrote his dissertation on C. S. Peirce, "Charles Peirce's Empiricism," and he was a philosophical sparring partner of Whitehead, Dewey, and Hartshorne.

Here are some relevant pieces about Buchler, if one is interested.  All are written by Robert S. Corrington (as found on his own website) whose philosophy is inspired by Buchler's metaphysics, as by others as well.
  1. "An Appraisal and Critique of Alfred North Whitehead's Process and Reality--corrected edition (1929 & 1978) and Justus Buchler's Metaphysics of Natural Complexes--second, expanded edition (1966 & 1990)," (Published by author, 2009). [download]
  2. "Horizons and Contours: Toward an Ordinal Phenomenology," Metaphilosophy, Vol. 22, No. 3, 1991, pp. 179-189. [download abstract]
  3. "Conversation Between Justus Buchler and Robert S. Corrington," The Journal of Speculative Philosophy: New Series, Vol. 3, No. 4, 1989, pp. 261-274.  
  4. "Justus Buchler's Ordinal Metaphysics and the Eclipse of Foundationalism," International Philosophical Quarterly, vol. 25, No. 3, September 1985, pp. 289-98. Winner of Greenlee Prize . [download]

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Call for Papers: "From Aesthetica to Aesthetic Theory" (German Aesthetic Theory Since 1700) - Emory University Graduate Philosophy Conference

By now I'm sure most know about the upcoming Villanova and Duquesne Graduate Philosophy conferences (cfp's HERE and HERE respectively), as those links have been posted on several blogs already. 

Here is one by Emory which hasn't made the rounds so I'll post it.  It certainly looks interesting (short link HERE):

Call for Papers:

From Aesthetica to Aesthetic Theory:

German Aesthetic Theory Since 1700

Keynote Speaker: Rachel Zuckert, Northwestern University
Emory University (Atlanta, GA)
April 26-27, 2013

“Artificial aesthetics, or the science of the beautiful… dissolves, as far as it is able to do so, precisely that which was habitual, that which was beautiful nature, and, as it were,destroys it in the same moment. It is precisely that beautiful confusion–which, if it is not the mother, is at least the inseparable companion of all pleasure–that artificial aesthetics dissolves and seeks to illuminate with distinct ideas: truth takes the place of beauty.” – J.G. Herder, Critical Forests: Fourth Grove

18th century German philosopher Alexander Baumgarten is credited with coining the term aesthetics as deserving of its own philosophic study. In the centuries following Baumgarten aesthetics remained an inextricable part of German intellectual history. Aesthetics and the philosophy of art can be traced through the work of Herder, Kant, Schiller, Hegel, Schelling, Heidegger, Adorno, Gadamer, and Sloterdijk, to mention only a few. This conference seeks to address the importance and impact of the German aesthetic tradition, from its inception in the 18th Century to the present. Some questions we hope to address are: Does aesthetics offer a special case for study of subjectivity and intersubjectivity? How does the aesthetic experience and art influence our interactions with and within the world? Can works of art (and aesthetics, more broadly) affect, and even institute, ethical and political communities? What role, if any, does universality play in standards of taste? What is the significance of the emergence of the German aesthetic tradition in response to the Enlightenment? We would also welcome all submissions addressing the relation of aesthetics and nature in the German aesthetic tradition, including but not limited to: beauty and the sublime, expressivism, the relation of the body to the work of art and nature, the relation of the German aesthetic tradition to other traditions, and the relation of aesthetics to other areas of philosophy.

Papers from all philosophical perspectives are encouraged. Submissions should be sent as .docx, or .doc, and should not exceed 15 double-spaced pages. Personal information should be sent in the body of the email and should not appear on the paper itself. Email submissions to Osman Nemli at: onemli@emory.edu