Thursday, December 30, 2010

Incipient mentality must already exist on the level of subatomic particles

The Speculative Turn, edited by Levi Bryant, Nick Srnicek, and Graham Harman, has now been published. This volume gives the fullest account to date of (so-called) “speculative realism” in all its varieties. There are articles by the four initial speculative realists (Graham Harman, Iain Hamilton Grant, Quentin Meillassoux, and Ray Brassier), together with work by other thinkers who have influenced them (Laruelle, Latour, Stengers, Delanda, etc) essays by later contributors to speculative realist trends (Bryant, Srnicek, Reza Negarestani), brief interviews with Badiou and Zizek, and more. The volume contains my own article/critique of Harman, “The Actual Volcano: Whitehead, Harman, and the Problem of Relations,” together with Harman’s response.
The Speculative Turn can be purchased in hardcopy, or downloaded as a free pdf, here. It doesn’t seem to have made it to yet, but I am told it will be there shortly.

 It may be noted that research into biological free will and biological decision-making is not entirely unrelated to the questions about panpsychism raised by such analytic philosophers as Thomas Nagel, Galen Strawson, and Sam Coleman, and which I have discussed previously in this blog. For Strawson, the emergence of mentality from non-mentality is a serious problem, even though the emergence of life from non-life is not. He argues, therefore, that an incipient mentality must already exist on the level of subatomic particles. I suggest that it helps to make sense of this claim if we understand mentality in terms of “decision,” rather than in terms of consciousness or “qualia.” The evolution of biological decision making, and biological free will, might well depend upon, and make use of, an implicit potential of all matter. If decision were not already possible, then living things that actually do make decisions could not have come into existence. Rather than decision being a power of life, then, life would be a consequence of the potentiality of decision.

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