Tuesday, March 27, 2007

How Kant’s critiques bracket God ‘provisionally,’ making thought possible without him

Hi Adam. I like the idea of memes, but I try to avoid the term. It seems to me that Dawkin’s et al have basically discovered the idea of materialist semiotics. I think the idea is useful in allowing us to think about how a certain repetitive bit of information, whether true or false, comes to proliferate through the social sphere like a contagion. A long while back I wrote a silly post on the introduction of cane toads into Australia and their subsequent proliferation in analogy to communication, trying to get at exactly this point. I was wondering why certain communications are so successful and, in Badiou’s language, take on such a high degree of “intensity” or existence in a particular situation. I worry a bit, however, about all the comparisons to natural selection. larvalsubjects said this on March 26th, 2007 at 6:28 pm
I think I’ve gathered what you think about ideology critique and the value of divisiveness — I brought up Latour because he does exactly what you want to be doing — understanding how assemblages are constructed — though as his emphasis is on the lack of meaningful division between human and non-human ‘actors’ it is not a political analysis in the strict disciplinary sense of the term. But I think Latour argues that ontological and epistemological questions are inseparable from understanding these assemblages and how they move through the social world, especially given situations where rationalist commitments are explicitly involved — i.e. one cannot bracket these questions temporarily to neutrally observe assemblages with the underlying motive of eventually strengthening some prior set of commitments — to really pursue a thoroughgoing understanding of assemblages requires that all such commitments be submitted to the task, i.e. understanding assemblages itself involves a commitment to a neutrality that cannot be regarded as ‘merely’ methodological, which may have regrettable consequences for whatever one’s prior attachments are.
Something like how Kant’s critiques bracket God ‘provisionally,’ making thought possible without him, and inadvertently making atheism possible. This is the problem Latour has run in to, as I see it, and it seems like one you may encounter, unless you had in mind a kind of empirical and pragmatic common sense approach that would leave the structure of your own commitments unquestioned (not necessarily a bad thing, and perhaps even necessary). traxus4420 said this on March 26th, 2007 at 7:02 pm
Thanks for the comments Traxus. I’ll have to think on them more. I have very limited familiarity with Latour, having only read portions of his book on the social sciences and getting irritated with what I took to be his agnosticism in evaluating a number of claims. A further difficulty with what I’ve been articulating would relate to certain claims I’ve made about Hegel in relation to his critique of the “thing-in-itself”, where some of the claims I’m made seem to recapitulate something like a Kantian division between the phenomenal and the noumenal. Incidentally, Delanda attempts to develop a realist account of the social in and through assemblages based on Deleuze and Guattari that perhaps tries to avoid some of the concerns you’re raising in his most recent book, A New Philosophy of Society: Assemblage Theory and Social Complexity. I have not yet read it, though it’s short and sitting here on my pile of books. If anyone has I’d be interested in hearing their thoughts.
As for ideology critique, it really depends on the day you’re talking to me. I think a strong argument could be made that ideology critique is part and parcel of the emergence of certain types of movements and thus cannot be dismissed. One need only think of Voltaire’s Candide or Spinoza’s Theologico-Politico Treatise and the role that texts like this played during the Enlightenment (assuming that these can be thought of as quasi-ideology critiques).
My antipathy towards ideology critique more recently has had to do with discerning a lot of it going on in academia– film analysis, literary analysis, etc –while not seeing a lot of movement building taking place. Consequently, you get a sort of theoretical pessimism that moans about the intractability of power structures, ideology, capitalism, biopower, etc., which leads one to say “well of course, if you don’t do anything at all then nothing changes.” It’s almost as if there’s a holding fast to an all or nothing ideal where one’s political aspirations must be maintained in their pristine purity and protected against contamination by falling into material practice that always leads to unexpected results. It could, however, be that I’m not looking hard enough for the practices connected to these critiques.
At any rate, as Adam observes, I’m far from being consistent in my thoughts on these matters. It all depends on where I’m at conceptually at a particular moment. larvalsubjects said this on March 26th, 2007 at 7:45 pm

No comments:

Post a Comment