Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Laruelle’s non-philosophy vs. non-entity Speculative Realism

Google Reader (35): "As that non-entity Speculative Realism continues to be the buzzword of the day on philosophy blogs the philosophical taxonomy of a few individuals threatens to kill the reception of Laruelle in English before it has even begun. While it is true that Laruelle is a major influence on the nihilistic work of Ray Brassier, it isn’t the case that Laruelle’s and Ray’s work are of a piece. The fact that Ray was able to use the methods of non-philosophy in a way that seems, at least to me, very contrary to the aims of Laruelle himself is a testament to the model of heresy non-philosophy employs. In short, non-philosophy is worth considering, not because it is the savior of philosophy we’ve all been waiting for, not because it can become the latest fan boy craze, but because it offers us a theory of philosophy in its strengths and weaknesses and a methodology to use when attempting to construct other ways of thinking from the Real. It allows us to be bold in our thinking with a guide telling us where the traps, bind alleys, and false problems lie in the way we think itself. Laruelle’s non-philosophy is a way of thinking that allows for mutation according to knowledge of the Real as given in philosophy and other regional knowledges (science, religion, erotics, poetry, etc.). So, as I have already said, the hope in sharing these notes with the general public is to give interested readers an entry into Laruelle’s thought as directly as possible and to show that it can be both understood and used – in fact, in this case they are the same thing." Notes on François Laruelle’s Les Philosophies de la différence: Introduction critique: “Instructions for Use”
from An und für sich by Anthony Paul Smith

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hegel, Kant, and Marx repeatedly ignored information about the Muslim world

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Mullah Sadra, Simone Weil, Jacques Maritain, & Abh...":

Greetings. I am the original author of that post. Your current hyperlink is no longer active. The correct link is Thank you. Posted by Anonymous to Savitri Era Learning Forum at 9:26 PM, September 14, 2009

Tusar N Mohapatra has left a new comment on your post "Mullah Sadra, Simone Weil, Jacques Maritain, & Abh...":

[History of Islam in German: Thought From Leibniz to Nietzsche By Ian Almond

This concise overview of the perception of Islam in eight of the most important German thinkers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries allows a new and fascinating investigation of how these thinkers, within their own bodies of work, often espoused contradicting ideas about Islam and their nearest Muslim neighbors. Exploring a variety of 'neat compartmentalizations' at work in the representations of Islam, as well as distict vocabularies employed by these key intellectuals (theological, political, philological, poetic), Ian Almond parses these vocabularies to examine the importance of Islam in the very history of German thought.

Almond further demonstrates the ways in which German philosophers such as Hegel, Kant, and Marx repeatedly ignored information about the Muslim world that did not harmonize with the particular landscapes they were trying to paint – a fact which in turn makes us reflect on what it means when a society possesses 'knowledge' of a foreign culture. ; ISBN: 9780415995191 Published September 15 2009 by Routledge.] Posted by Tusar N Mohapatra to Savitri Era Learning Forum at 7:14 AM, September 15, 2009

Hume, Kant, Heidegger, & Sri Aurobindo

a critique from India via Object-Oriented Philosophy by doctorzamalek on 9/12/09

I wasn’t expecting a critique from India this soon, but here it is (just a couple of sentences and some reading advice, not a full critique):

“SR/OOO is poised dangerously to foist yet another fallacy in philosophy. A thorough reading of The Life Divine by Sri Aurobindo can redeem the situation.”

Actually, I paid a visit to the Aurobindo complex near Pondicherry a year and a half ago. (The exact name of the place escapes me at the moment.)

on speed in philosophy from Object-Oriented Philosophy by doctorzamalek

Is Kant’s Prolegomena really inferior to the First Critique? In some respects, maybe, but the Prolegomena might also be said to be a more lucid work that gets to the point more effectively. And I definitely prefer Hume’s crisp Enquiry to his boated Treatise, as even Hume himself did, and as many readers do...

Is Heidegger’s Being and Time worthy of a 700-page commentary? Sure, there’s enough going on in the book to warrant it. But it’s also possible to summarize Being and Time in 20 or so pages. I’m proud of Heidegger Explained, even though at least one reviewer seemed offended by the presumptuousness of summarizing Heidegger’s entire career in a single short book.

Husserl, Levinas, & Sri Aurobindo

supplement to the last post from Object-Oriented Philosophy by doctorzamalek

A non-negotiable point with me: anyone who thinks Husserl is not one of the greatest philosophers of recent centuries simply isn’t working hard enough. They are relying on caricatures and impressionistic diatribes. They are not doing their homework. He’s not always fun to read (though his wit is badly underrated). But if you read him with even a modicum of care, it should be evident that there is much more going on in his work than is found in the off-the-shelf caricature of Husserl that his most arrogant and facile critics delight in offering. (And here I am referring to critics within the continental community, in the broadest sense.)

Studies abroad: Levinas

Levinas is trying to develop a theory of the Ethical (which is not the same as Ethics) devoid of rationality, casuistry and legalism but built on the idea of existential right. The Other has a right that precedes my own existence. We are bound together in bonds stronger and more insidious than blood. It's a far more demanding ethical code than a personal or universal code system. It puts human rights, the asymetrical right of the Other as a necessary condition for existence. I think it has to do with Aurobindo and Advaita, he is placing the ethical drive as something to do with the Other, something to do with God, but not the God of dogmatic propositions, the mystic one of Neti Neti, Nada nada nada. Posted by Mar Dezie at 8:46 PM Studies abroad: Levinas

So I shall now try and get two readable books on Levinas, I think he will fit in with Aurobindo. Posted by Mar Dezie at 1:00 AM Saturday, September 12, 2009 So what does bring me to India

Sri Aurobindo picks up formal logic and runs with the ball. Unlike most Indian mystics who do something surreal with it. The standard problem with the law of Contradiction is that its mere tautology. If you try to use the law to say anything you can't. So in the statement if it A is true then Not A is false doesn't work if you try to make it mean if A is Black then not A is White because it might be green...

What was interesting in ploughing through Aurobindo and then reference works on Aurobindo is a quote that, God is not a sceptic Logician intent on denying the validity of all other propositions, he is pure being life giving and generous and is not diminished by the existence of contingent or finite beings rather it is his nature to create and pass on Being. Something like that. I think he may be on to something. Posted by Mar Dezie at 4:06 AM Friday, September 11, 2009 John the Just

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Ernest Haeckel is the figure to whom Western Integral theory can be traced back

Science, Culture and Integral Yoga Re: Objectivity by Lorraine Datson & Peter Galison (Book Review by Norberto Serpente)
by Tony Clifton on Sat 05 Sep 2009 03:07 PM PDT Profile Permanent Link

I cant speak to the return of Vedic wisdom or metaphysics, but the evolution of objectivity (as part of the general evolution of consciousness) is precisely the moving away from metaphysics toward epistemology, from wisdom of the spiritual to knowledge of the sensible world that has followed and determined the course of the modern era. Prior to the advent of what Datson and Galison call "mechanical objectivity" circa mid 19th century the primary epistemic virtue they declare to be "truth to nature" in which objectivity was seen to be more a "mental representation" than an actual state of physical reality (aka object minus a subject) in which what was sought after in science (what was then called natural philosophy) was an idealized -archetypal- truth of essences of phenomena rather than a quantitative inquiry into their sensible appearances.

Most variants of" truth to nature" had a metaphysical dimension. "For Enlightenment thinkers this reality did not necessarily entail a commitment to Platonic forms at the expense of the evidence of the senses. On the contrary, sharp and sustained observation was necessity prerequisite for discerning the true genera of plants and organisms . The methodological goal of "truth to nature" was that the eyes of both body and mind converge to discover a reality otherwise hidden to each alone" (Datson/Galison).

However, the quest to discover a hidden reality or truth entailed that models were carefully selected and anomalies were smoothed out in order to produce idealized images. Selecting, perfecting, idealizing the goal was to tame natures variability. "It was a science about the underlying rules rather than the exceptions or excesses of nature. They were depictions of the idea of the observation not the observation itself. Naturalist and painter alike sought the invariable general form incorporating the beautiful and the true" (Datson/Galison).

This was the scientific methodology of Goethe who described the quest for pure phenomena which could be discerned only in a sequence of observations never in an isolated instance "To depict it the human mind must fix the empirically variable exclude the accidental, eliminate the impure, unravel the tangled, discover the unknown" (Datson/Galison). Goethe's approach to uncovering the ur-phenomena or archetypal forms underlying natures sensible reality is characteristic of the "truth to nature" approach to science.

The transition from "truth to nature" science to "mechanical objectivity" can be seen in the works of people like von Humboldt, Helmholtz, Huxley, Bernard who took up the terminology of Kant's critical philosophy and the meaning he assigned to subjective and objective and who began to covert empirical observations urging metaphysical restraint. Yet the goals of these scientist still sought a reality organized around idealized notions of unity and truth that undergirded reality in which it was not so much objective reality but the minds apprehension of reality that was prioritized. Huxley for example, attributed the progress of modern science to an "exclusive concentration on verifiable hypothesis regarded not as ideal truth, the real entities of an unintelligible world, behind phenomena, but as a "symbolic language" by the which nature can be interpreted in terms of apprehension by our intellect" (Datson/Galison).

This transformation of objective knowledge was also associated with transformation of the self, in which the subject was transformed from disconnected sensations organized around a continuous thread of consciousness, to one in which the subject was organized around a central will. According to Datson and Galison:

"The Enlightenment self was imagined as a pastiche and conglomerate. It was a pastiche of sensations and the traces of memory they left, combined by principles of association and held together by a continuous thread of consciousness. It was a conglomerate of faculties, chief of which were reason, memory and imagination. ..

"It was a self constantly menaced by fragmentation -so much so that 18th century philosophers notably Hume wondered whether having a coherent self might not be illusionary. Hume mused personal identity may be but a bundle or collection of different perceptions, which succeed each other with an inconceivable rapidity and are in perpetual flux and motion" (Datson/Galison) .

This all began to change after Kant and the evolution of his idea of a unified willful self. By the time of the positivism of Ernst Mach, August Comte one of the main concerns of the method of scientific observation was to purge the individual will from the scientist in order to achieve a state of objectivity. Facilitated in part by new technologies such as photography there was an epistemic shift away from subjective idealism to objective realism.

The difference can be seen between "truth to nature" and "mechanical objectivity" is reflected in the following instance ""when in 1890 Eduard Jaeger chose to devote forty to fifty hours of painstaking effort to each of the images of his atlas of the eye he was self-consciously plumping for a particular type of meticulous representation. He dismissed flights of genus in scientific representation as ephemeral. Only the suppression of all subjectivity - even individual brilliance- could produce an objective image that endured. A century earlier Goethe had, with firm conviction and care insisted on the insight and synthetic judgment required to detect the idea of observation . Both Goethe and Jaegar took considerable pains to uphold the highest standards of epistemic virtue, even if both these standards entailed entirely different. (Datson/Galison)"

The clash of these difference of epistemic virtues between the metaphysical associations of "truth to nature" and quantitative sensible reality of "mechanical objectivity" is no where as apparent as in the controversy involving Ernest Haeckel -who I argue in other places is the figure to whom Western Integral theory can be traced back [...]

Returning to the metaphysical claims of Vedic wisdom, whether it renters into science is open to speculation, perhaps one day the Vedic path to knowledge will be reintegrated into science in much the same manner as the subjective elements of intuition are reentering science as the most recent epistemic virtue that Galison and Datson call "trained judgement".

However, the absence of Vedic Wisdom from scientific thinking through the course of the past centuries is indicative of one path that the evolution of human consciousness has taken. Perhaps -even though it may seem to contradict Vedic wisdom- as Sri Aurobindo says this advance of scientific reasoning is essential in order to forge a greater harmony. Whether Vedic knowing is superior or inferior to scientific knowledge is therefore as I see it irrelevant to the question of the truth of structure of reality that we know today. Anyone who takes seriously the idea of evolution of consciousness who dismisses or diminishes objectivity does so at the own peril, for it is one of the unique ways of knowing the world that nature's yoga through its evolution of consciousness continues to reveal to us Reply

by Tony Clifton on Sun 06 Sep 2009 10:05 AM PDT Profile Permanent Link

The very idea of any "absolute" including an "absolute objectivity" is itself always based on prior assumptions What the authors of this book wish to demonstrate is that very fact, and its inevitable consequence namely that an "absolute objectivity" -given the evolving nature of epistemic virtues- is for us, symbolic beings that we are; an impossibility. Reply

by Tony Clifton on Sun 06 Sep 2009 10:30 PM PDT Profile Permanent Link

In this instance it is enough for the unmanifest world we treat as relevant to be that one that generates the social field from which we derive the assumptions we make about the world and to understand the structuring nomos that provides us with an epistemology or frame of reference to construct those conventions we accept as real, distinguishing in them their historicity and evolution so we can better come to understand the epistemic virtues and constraints of our present moment. [...]

Well its not so much that, then it is the fact that any aprori programs or cosmic plans are shot through with a structuring nomos that requires critical inquiry into to determine the validity and relativity of the truth claims they make and comprehend the unconscious assumptions derived from them, be they the materialist assertions of science or the metaphysical assertions of the Vedas. Reply

Friday, September 11, 2009

Deleuze was thinking about relations, complex systems, becoming, emergence, etc.

larvalsubjects Says: Sunday, September 6, 2009 at 10:10 am
Hill nails my concerns.

What worries me is this strong focus on philosophies to what I take to be the detriment of philosophy. Now, like Derrida, I am not denying that in engaging with philosophies in this way Laruelle is doing “something more” than simply analyzing philosophies. But I still find this focus on philosophies to be problematic from an institutional perspective. It seems to me to risk more of the same sort of cloistered philosophical practice that we’ve seen in Continental philosophy for the last forty years where we endlessly talk about the texts of the tradition that preceded us as if there were nothing more to philosophy. The impression I’ve gotten from my readings of Laruelle is that he all too easily appeals to a number of bad habits among Continental thinkers.

But again, I could be mistaken. I think what Laruelle needs is, above all, a good apostle or advocate. Nate from “What in the Hell” suggested something along these lines over at Larval Subjects. I’d like to know what Laruelle can do. I’d like to know what one can do with Laruelle. I’d like to know how Laruelle assists me in theory building. And I’d like to know the specifics of the theory that he’s building or developing. That’s all.

When I first started reading Deleuze it was a painful experience. I’d throw Difference and Repetition and The Logic of Sense across the room in fits of frustration and irritation. I finally began to get a foothold in his thought with What is Philosophy?. The hook that got me in that book was the idea of philosophy not as a representation of the world, but as a construction and creation of concepts. Deleuze’s philosophy told you that you could do something with it. In addition to that, it was evident to me early on that Deleuze was doing metaphysics and that he was thinking about relations, complex systems, becoming, emergence, etc. These were all things I wished to understand or think about more, so I dealt with the pain of reading Deleuze and trudged on.

The case was similar with Lacan. I first started with Ecrits. Big mistake. It struck me as a bunch of nonsense and I put it down for a long time. However, a year or so later I happened to pick up Zizek’s Sublime Object of Ideology and Fink’s Lacanian Subject. Zizek showed me what could be done with Lacan and how Lacan could help me both to understand all sorts of things about the social and political world and other persons, but also how Lacan could help me to understand all sorts of trends in French Continental theory. So given that hook, I trudged through Lacan and gradually began to make sense of his work. This has been my problem with Laruelle so far: I haven’t found an answer to the “what is it for?” “what does it do?” questions. Without that telos it’s difficult to see how the concepts are organized and what they’re doing.

Adam Kotsko Says: Monday, September 7, 2009 at 8:58 am

What you are saying is critical of philosophy, at least certain practices of philosophy. Some of them have gone in unproductive directions, and you don’t want to follow them. Some have done things you want to emulate in your own way. Figuring out what you want to do as a philosopher requires you to do that. Therefore, it seems to me that your discourse, too, is about philosophy. And that insofar as Laruelle is trying to figure out a way to get past certain recurring impasses in philosophy, you have something in common, even if his particular method of doing so doesn’t convince you.

Numbers are symbols of the mortal

Mediation and memory in the theory of money via The Memory Bank by keith on 9/10/09 According to Spengler, the West had exhausted the historical impulse given by its modern version of economic life (featuring money and machines) and a new phase, based on politics, national religion and war, was about to take over. This was not a bad prediction, but Spengler’s interest for us lies in how he conceived of the relationship between money and other universals.

Following Goethe, Spengler made a contrast between history (becoming) and nature (what has become). The counterpart of longing, of the desire to move forward that is becoming, is the dread of having become, of finality or death; and this pair together drive cultural creativity.

‘Life, perpetually fulfilling itself as an element of becoming, is what we call ‘the present’, and it possesses that mysterious property of ‘direction’, which men have tried to rationalize by means of the enigmatic word ‘time’.’

On the one hand, there is measurement of time as duration; but the idea of history as becoming, as irreversible direction, is particular to the West. Number belongs to nature as the chief sign of completed demarcation, of all things that have become themselves.

‘Mathematical number contains in its very essence the notion of a mechanical demarcation, number being in that respect akin to word, which…fences off world-impressions.’

Spengler identifies a break between classical antiquity and the modern West. For the Greeks, number is magnitude, the essence of all things perceptible to the senses. Mathematics for them was thus concerned with measurement in the here and now, visible and tangible. ‘Numbers are symbols of the mortal’. All this changed with Descartes whose new number-idea was function – a world of relations between points in abstract space. Whereas the Greeks sought perfection within the concrete limits of nature and society as they experienced them, now a passionate Faustian tendency towards the infinite took hold, married to abstract mathematical forms that increasingly freed themselves from concrete reality in order better to control that reality. The new mathematics was thus immaterial, resting on abstract analysis, dissociated from magnitude and transferred to a transcendental relational world, a process culminating in ‘victory over the popular and sensuous number-feeling in us all’.

‘The nexus of magnitudes is proportion, that of relations is function…All proportion assumes the constancy, all transformation the variability of the constituents…Every construction affirms, and every operation denies appearances, in that one works out what is optically given and the other dissolves it….The classical mathematic of small things deals with the concrete individual instance and produces a once-for-all construction, while the mathematic of the infinite handles whole classes of formal possibilities, groups of functions, operations, equations, curves…There has been growing up the idea of a general morphology of mathematical operations.’

Western mathematics is ‘the copy and the purest expression of the idea of the Faustian soul’. This leap from a geometry of the concretely real to a world of pure relations was mediated by the algebra of the ‘Magian’ Arabs (and, we may add, by the Indian discovery of the number zero).

Spengler returns to this theme when considering ‘the form-world of economic life’. Economics is British, materialistic and has no room in it for a notion of the national soul. There has been a shift, parallel to that in mathematics, from thinking in terms of goods to thinking in terms of money.

A form of limit-defining is abstracted from the visible objects of economics just as mathematical thought abstracts something from the mechanistically conceived environment. Abstract money corresponds exactly to abstract number. Both are entirely inorganic. The economic picture is reduced exclusively to quantities, whereas the important point about ‘goods’ has been their quality.

He points to the widespread confusion between pieces of money, the value-token, and money as a category of thought. In fact, tangible property has been replaced by fortune, a purely numerical quantum of money that is mobile and undefined. The middle-man elevates mediation between producer and consumer to the level of monopoly and ultimately primacy. ‘He who commands this mode of thinking is the master of money’. The result, citing G. B. Shaw, is that money and life ‘…are inseparable: money is the counter that enables life to be distributed socially: it is life…Every idea, to be actualized, has to be put into terms of money’.

The Apollonian idea of money as magnitude (which is classical) and the Faustian conception of money as function are opposites. ‘Classical man saw the world surrounding him as a sum of bodies; money is also a body’ (talents, coins). With the rise of double-entry book-keeping, economic function became not even the ledger entry, but the act of writing it. When a businessman signs a piece of paper to mobilize remote forces, this gesture stands in an abstract relationship to the power of labor, machinery etc. which only takes the form of money numbers in a retrospective accountancy process. In this way, western economic life was progressively emancipated from the notion of magnitude. Modern money is the result of creative thinking, mentally devised as an instrument of Faustian life. Thinking in money generates money. It turns the world into subjects and objects, consisting of a few executives and the many who follow them. Each individual is either a part of the money force or just a mass.

‘And so they created the idea of the machine as a small cosmos obeying the will of man alone.’

Spengler concludes with a prophecy that the world of money and machine-industry will be overthrown by ‘blood’ as the dominant life-principle; and at this point we leave him. But his framework contains much of value for an analysis of the conscious and unconscious influence of money on our actions today.

Spengler points to the important relationship of money to time, specifically as a promise to pay in future. This obligation, as is well-known, is of uncertain value. It therefore requires belief for the promise to work; and this may take the form of faith, trust or confidence. The degree of our emotional attachment to a belief is inversely related to the empirical evidence for holding it, strong in the case of ‘blind faith’, weak for ‘open-eyed confidence’, with ‘trust’ somewhere in between. Money therefore always exists in time as something apparently certain, yet deeply uncertain. It appears in society temporally both as ‘work’, a tangible principle of scarcity (magnitude), and as a principle of virtual increase, ‘interest’ (function). The payment of money, like words and numbers, fixes the transience of life and lends it a certain finality. But, in the historical form of modern capitalism, money also makes a break with the object-world and becomes the aspiration to infinite growth. The power of money to mobilize resources at distance is commanded by only a few — once the ‘captains of industry’, now in the age of finance ‘masters of the universe’ — while the masses experience money mainly as the immediate consequences of an anonymous force organizing their lives.

Spengler’s argument that magnitude was replaced by function in Western history would serve our purposes better if conceived of as an ongoing dialectical relationship. In this context, we must also acknowledge the machine revolution of the last two centuries, the latest stage of which involves perhaps the most dramatic transformation of money to date, its digital separation from material existence (from atoms to bits) as a virtual artefact of the internet. Paper presented at the workshop ‘On either side of the economic science of money’, Université de Paris X, Nanterre, 18-19th September 2009 2:21 PM

I clearly want to have my cake (object) and eat (relate) to it too

Pagan Metaphysics
Pagan Metaphysics is written by Paul Reid-Bowen, a lecturer in Philosophy and the Study of Religions at Bath Spa University (UK). His research and teaching interests encompass metaphysics, existentialism, feminist and ecological philosophy, and a number of new religious movements (notably feminist and nature religions). 09:47 About Me
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(title unknown) via enowning by enowning on 9/3/09 Simon Critchely explains Meillassoux.

For the English-speaking reader, the force of Meillassoux's polemic against correlationism requires some explanation... But what exactly is the problem with correlationism? Well, it is twofold. First, by denying thought any rational access to primary qualities or things in themselves, correlationism allows that space to be filled by any number of irrational discourses, such as religion. In a powerful critique of the theological turn in French phenomenology, for example in the work of Jean-Luc Marion, Meillassoux shows how the flip side of correlationism is fideism, that is, the rather vague discourse on the numinous that one finds in many followers of Heidegger, but also - it should be added - in Wittgenstein's curious remarks about the mystical towards the end of the Tractatus. Such is what Meillassoux calls "the religionizing of reason".