Sunday, July 9, 2017

Alex Galloway on Malabou: Does Malabou's Hegelian Materialist Ontology Require the Bios of Deleuze?

Alex Galloway's blog has a nice post up titled, "Malabou's Life Resistance" (link HERE). Galloway mentions one quotation from Malabou that I found quite interesting.
"[D]on't let philosophy condescend toward technology or biology; allow materiality to be philosophical on its own terms; conceive of resistance from “the living being itself...the bio-,” not from “the philosophical concepts that tower over it.” 
This is compelling considering Malabou's Hegelian lineage, but then again - for Hegel, concepts "move," and thus a sense of activity and agency, akin to dimensions of bio and bios do indeed figure.

Commenting on her essay, Galloway writes,
Malabou is most interested in the fundamental distinction between symbol and life. Both the symbol and the symbolic have long had an important role to play in fields like semiotics and psychoanalysis, not to mention philosophy as a whole. The symbol is a concrescence of meaning. The realm of the symbolic is the realm of language, the realm of abstraction, the realm of linguistic universality. The symbol aggregates and focuses meaning, abstracting it away from particularities in favor of a more unified, formal point of focus. “Bio-” on the other hand, the realm of material life, is often characterized in terms of its lived particularity, in terms of an irreducible material condition.
With respect to the relationship between bios and materiality and concept and symbol, rather than maintain that the conceptual or symbolic "tower over" kinetic expressions of bio's materiality, perhaps we might claim materiality's movement occurs via  the becoming of bios and hence accommodate rather than reject the Hegelian-conceptual given its ability to "move" in terms of both mediums. Such movement, or "transitive conceptual relation" as I would call it, is not without its tension, however. Galloway identifies this tension as a "bias" when either side of the symbol-life or mind-body dynamic is emphasized at the expense of the other. He writes, "The philosophical bias is the bias in which the realm of mind is superior to the realm of body, or as Malabou puts it here, the symbolic superior to that of life."

Galloway continues to explain how the materiality of bios is also capable of accommodating the symbolic or conceptual in a genetic sense by way of ratio or "rationality" through logos. This genetic sense belongs to logos and is of a double nature for it is both with and without the universal. Put in Hegelian terms that Malabou would support, the universal in motion yields Concept or Notion. This double sense of both with and without universal can explain the bias either against bio's materiality from the point of view of the abstract universal, or against the abstract universal from the point of view of materiality. Obviously Malabou attempts to fuse the two and "heal" the "against" within any dialectical movement of bios. This presents a paradox, though. In healing the bias, the "against," one kills the very life one seeks to perpetuate. Is stoppage of kinetic conceptual movement wanted; or indeed is it even possible, save only for death? Or at the very least, if not for death, is a culmination in an Absolute the only true possible harmonization of, or reconciliation between, abstract universal and materiality; bios and concept? One obviously cannot turn to Hegel in any orthodox manner for an answer (for, following the suggestion of H.S. Harris, Hegel was so realist of a philosopher that even he would not be a Hegelian today), and yet Malabou's neo-Hegelianism, even with its approach of 'plasticity," seems to leave us wanting (for we are given no conclusive answer to the problem of bios within a dialectical ontology). And so other means, Galloway suggests, stand in need of utilization in order to address the problem at hand. What means exactly, one might ask? Galloway astutely points out those offered by the 20th-century philosopher Gilles Deleuze.

Before presenting how Deleuze may offer some resources to address the problem of bias, Galloway explores this bias in a number of contexts, one being Quentin Meillassoux's argument concerning ancestrality and the arche' fossil. This particular relationship in Meillassoux highlights the tension between materiality and bios, or more presciently, a materiality before bios. Meillassoux's philosophy presents how any correlation between consciousness and being, or between life and matter, is always already relative to the advent of the human being who phenomenologically initiates such distinctions. Galloway explains that,
Meillassoux superimposes correlationism into an historical era (with a beginning and an end), as if to suggest that the historical advent of modern humans entails the historical advent of phenomenology, and thus to go back “before” humanity entails the absence of correlation itself. That's not how history works....Meillassoux makes extinction part of the discussion of historical time, whether it be the absence of the human through human extinction or a condition before humanity emerged on planet Earth -- that is to say before human consciousness emerged.

Has Meillassoux managed to universalize the correlation in such a way that its bias contains an unsuspecting refusal to go beyond an always already correlated ratio - indeed one without genetic logos? (And recall, Galloway earlier in his post explains the crucial relationship between logos and ratio, which is key in discussions concerning speculative metaphysics, especially for those on the side of the fence where the likes of Meillassoux, Brassier, Laruelle, and even Grant all sit). Further, as such, is it the case that Meillassouxian materiality refuses its own dialectical agency, its own movement of the concept which is the movement from Matter to Life, and from Life to Consciousness?

Here seems to be a nod from Malabou to a moment in her Hegelian lineage that Meillassoux's metaphysical project is missing (and this is a nod only, not necessarily a successful implementation). Malabou's neo-Hegelian  materialist ontology at least points toward materiality's own genetic conditions and those conditions' capacity to engender conceptual movement of bios. By contrast, Meillassouxian metaphysics appears to be in denial of the reality of the contradiction (and this means also the reality of the negative) inherent and available in bios required not only for conceptual movement but for the sort of eventuation that brings about the contingent occurrence of Worlds. In short, we may say that it is only within bios that the sort of contingency and spontaneity, but also negativity, required for the eventuation of Worlds might be found, for only it possesses the double-sense of genetic logos that can withstand the transition from one sort of World to the next (that is, the double-sense of genetic logos is conducive to both ratio and negativity, and hence conducive to the production not only of matter, but of life and consciousness - where in Meillassxou's transcendental materialism each side cannot accommodate the other, whether matter and life or matter and consciousness). Hence with Meillassoux one has preserved the "bias" but lost a way from one World to the next, or, at least  lost a way containing any semblance between Worlds or "healed" Worlds in transitive relationship (and this seems required to attain the fourth World, that of Justice). This is especially odd considering that Meillassoux's "secret master," Hegel, constructs a metaphysics based exclusively upon that transitive relationship. Even an occurrence or "advent" of worlds, disjointed through contingent or miraculous occurrence as they may be, must be transitively related for a progression to occur.

What might we learn of such a hinted unity within Malabou's Hegelian materialist ontology? And how might we attempt to see through that potential unity?

Turning back to Deleuze as one who may offer resources to address the bias against life, perhaps we might say that that unity could be found in the "one life" of immanence whose own bios contains the drive of negativity and ontological contradiction called for from within the Hegelian project. For it is indeed Deleuze's plane of immanence that in being multiplicity nevertheless maintains ontological difference within itself. But, is Deleuze's project also capable of generating "transitive conceptual relation" and opening genetic sense by way of ratio through logos? Does Deleuzian genetic sense belong to logos in such a way that its double nature is both with and without the universal, and hence capable of "healing" the bias?

Galloway astutely points out the following:
Is Malabou a Deleuzean now without realizing it? Can we expect a new turn by Malabou in the future, a fully Deleuzean turn? She vocalized a call. And the one thinker already answering her plea is that very anti-Hegelian she so strictly resists, the one who professed many years ago of “one life only,” the one who has spoken of the unity of biological and political resistance, the one who so thoroughly refuses the philosophical bias against life: no other than Gilles Deleuze.
With that in mind, I should mention that, perhaps, a reconciliation between Hegel and Deleuze is certainly possible and that in my reasoned judgment speculative metaphysics today certainly might benefit from working through such a union. What that might mean precisely however, is very much up in the air.

For more on the notion of reconcillation between Hegel and Deleuze see HERE and HERE. For Malabou's take on Meillassoux, with an MP3 audio file, see HERE. My criticisms of Meillassoux's failure to adequately appropriate the power of the negative in Hegel as well as sufficiently position the universal vis-a-vis necessity as the sole principle of the Absolute is forthcoming.

Finally, while not of a connection between Hegel and Deleuze, the link between abstract universal and materiality, bios and consciousness to concept and sensible intuition, one Iain Hamilton Grant has the below to say regarding Fichte and Deleuze. Indeed, the "volcano" of German Idealism is something Meillassoux has mentioned as a quite powerful resource (see forthcoming "quote of the day" from him within a few days). And so, while initially a "quote of the day" post HERE at After Nature, allow me to copy Iain Hamilton Grant's thoughts regarding Fichte and Deleuze below.


From After Nature blog "Quote of the Day", 2017 June 17

"The most profound attempt to articulate linguistic sovereignty over a non-linguistic cosmos is Fichte's. It is profound because in his quest to do so he eliminates a priori any question of a cosmos which is not fundamentally logically constituted, by which I mean constituted from the position of the constitutor – from the Ich that posits. This is not as it were an absolute Ich, this is just an Ich that posits….All that he is ultimately interested in is that constitutive position as subjectivity, but linguistically or logically, in order to articulate whatever cosmos can be articulated at the cost of the elimination or reduction, as far as possible, of the actual cosmos. I thought that this was ingenious actually, and I spent some time working through how Fichte does this, and its basically the Ich and the nicht Ich, these two are inseparable and are always in some sort of tension; but the tension can always be reduced to near zero by means of the Ich's fundamental colonization of the space of the nicht Ich. So, all that is required is that wherever I come across something that shocks me, I simply insist that it was mine all along. And that's essentially the linguistic paradigm. There is no difference between that and a metaphysics as it were that shuts its gates where language apparently has limits; although where language has limits is a bizarre question to ask insofar as presumably, as far as it is asked, it is linguistically constituted as a constitution of the cosmos. 
Now, that same Fichtean moment, I think you find it in Deleuze. You find it expressly in Deleuze's relationship to Plato. There's an extraordinary series of passages in Difference and Repetition where he says the time to overcome Platonism has come, but the question of what Platonism is has elided us save only for a few caveats that Plato is not a Platonist – there were no Platonists after Plato. But the question is what is Deleuze doing with Plato? And we find this out in Logic of Sense where he situates Plato as the materialist wise enough to invert the order of the normative with respect to the ontological….So what Deleuze is, is a Fichtean. You can back this up I think by looking at the reception of German idealism in France. France has been dominated by Fichte, there is a constant influence of Fichte there. So Deleuze is a Fichtean, that is my thesis…. 
The real reason why I argue this is because in Difference and Repetition you'll find Deleuze saying the present inquiry must accommodate all the categories of nature and freedom. But why are there two sets of categories, why the split? Where are there a set of categories for nature and the other for freedom? And in what does Deleuze's materialism consist if he acknowledges this pre-categorial split as it were, between nature and freedom?…Here you have precisely the recipe for the categories of nature without the need for Fichte at all. [But] Deleuze celebrates the tradition of German idealism for their discussion of the auto-positing concept [of the categories]. So I don't think it's too much of a reach actually to see the dominance of the ontological as being the precursor to the dominance of the ontological over the normative." 
- Iain Hamilton Grant
"It is to the degree that he goes beyond the aporias of the subject and the object that Johanne Fichte, in his philosophy, presents the transcendental field as a life, no longer dependent on a Being or submitted to an Act – it is an absolute immediate consciousness whose very activity no longer refers to a being but is ceaselessly posited in a life…. A life is the immanence of immanence, Absolute immanence…." 
- Gilles Deleuze "Immanence: A Life"