Monday, July 27, 2009

Other than philosophy and philosophical texts to determine what needs to be thought

Short-Circuits from Larval Subjects by larvalsubjects

What is needed is an ontology that straddles, as Paul Ennis puts it, both nature and culture; but this is accomplished not through treating the natural as a social construction, but rather through treating the cultural as a dimension of the real. If the necessity of this move is needed, simply listen to the sorts of problems eco-theorists, media theorists, technology theorists, feminists, artificial intelligence designers, neurologists, and so on are working with. Note the manner in which they all take meaning, texts, discourses, etc., seriously while also constantly grumbling over the inadequacy of these human centered approaches for their own work.

The chorus of conflicting charges from within philosophy strikes me as a sign that object-oriented ontology is hitting a nerve, while the enthusiasm for object-oriented thought among ecologists, critical animal theorists, artists, media and technology theorists, feminists, queer theorists, AI folk and so on suggests to me that a useful set of tools are being developed that help to navigate the way out of what initially appears to be a dead end. As always, look to those that are working on something other than philosophy and philosophical texts to determine what needs to be thought.

How Did Caesar Cross the Rubicon?
from Larval Subjects by larvalsubjects: No doubt I’ve exacerbated the problem because I’ve developed a somewhat abstract vocabulary with mysterious expressions like “there are no differences that do not make a difference”, “there is no transportation without translation”, and “nothing is either reducible or irreducible to anything else”, all situated in terms like “objectiles”, “actors”, “exo-relations”, “endo-relations”, “attractors”, “phase spaces”, “endo-consistency”, and so on. Faced with this infantry of terms and expressions, it’s difficult to determine what I might be getting at. A good deal of this has been my fault as I seldom give very elaborate examples to develop my claims. Hopefully I can rectify some of this today through the question “how did Caesar cross the Rubicon?” [...]

In other words, such an account gives us only a very small portion of what is going on. Moreover, it does not capture the manner in which the horses and soldiers must be fed, the soldiers must maintain their equipment, and so on and so forth. Finally horses, equipment, soldiers, officers, carts, swords, armor, supply lines, and so on are not simply docile bodies that jump to action like a television changes channel when a button is pushed. No. No body is ever a perfectly formed content, but rather there is always an element of friction whenever putting-in-form takes place. It takes quite a bit of work to hold a multiplicity together, as anyone who has ever done administrative work knows all too well.

We might also ask how it is possible for the simple act of crossing the Rubicon to become an event. Presumably Caesar’s army had crossed many rivers, but very few of these crossings were incorporeal transformations in the sense that crossing the Rubicon was an incorporeal transformation. Here, again, we might fall back on discursivity, examining Roman law, its oppositions, its structures, and how these come to be intertwined with a geography, rendering an event in the sense of an incorporeal transformation to become possible. Again, this analysis wouldn’t be mistaken either.

Finally, we have the engineering problem. How does a legion with its supply lines get across the river? Was there a reason the army chose this particular site rather than another? Did the weather conditions on January 10th play a role? What role did the mountainous territory play? In the event of crossing the Rubicon, a whole swarm of differences play a role in the production of the event. We get everything from the biological bodies of the soldiers and horses, the weather conditions, the fitness of the supply lines, the relationship between the foot and a stirrup, the geography of the shores, signs, legal systems, the circulation of orders from Caesar to his officers to the troops, and so on. While some of these differences play a larger role than others, we cannot say that one of these differences makes the event the event that it was. Rather, when we open our blackbox we have to look at how these differences related together, conspired together, to produce the particular event that took place.

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