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.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cyberspace and Postmodern Democracy

An important thesis of Habermas's text was what he saw as the degeneration of a rationally based mode of public deliberation into a consumerist society dominated by a mass media that was itself compromised by its relationship with the State. His critics, in turn, have argued that such a transformation was not in fact a degeneration but a marker of a more egalitarian and democratic public culture. This conference seeks to re-examine the contours of this debate in the light of the significant transformations in digital technology and human communication that have taken place over the last few decades.  

Forum on Contemporary Theory, Baroda in collaboration with Department of English and Cultural Studies, Panjab University, Chandigarh
Theme: The Virtual Transformation of the Public Sphere
15-18 December 2010 Venue: Hotel Parkview, Chandigarh, India
Thursday, 16th December Venue: Banquet Hall (Upper)
10.00 – 11.30 am Inauguration Chair: Prof. Bhupinder Brar
10.00 – 10.10 am     Welcome by Prof. Rana Nayar, Head, Department of English, Panjab University
10.10 – 10.20 am     Welcome by Prof. Prafulla C. Kar, Convener, Forum on Contemporary Theory, Baroda
10.20 – 10.35 am     Thematic Introduction by Dr. Gaurav Desai, Convener of the Conference
10.35 – 10.40 am     Remarks by Prof. Lewis R. Gordon, on the Special Issue of the Journal of Contemporary Thought, “Degrees of Statelessness”
10.40 – 10.45 am                 Release of the Special Issue by Prof. Nicholas D. Mirzoeff
10.45 – 10.55 am     Remarks by Prof. William D. Pederson, Editor of the Volume, Abraham Lincoln without Borders
10.55 – 11.00 am     Release of the Volume by Prof. R. C. Sobti, Vice-Chancellor, Panjab University, Chandigarh
11.00 – 11.05 am     Remarks by Prof. Akeel Bilgrami, the Editor of the Volume Democratic Culture: Philosophical and Historical Essays
11.05 – 11.10 am      Release of the Volume by Prof. Javeed Alam, Chairperson, Indian Council of Social Science Research, New Delhi
11.10 – 11.20 am      Inaugural Speech by the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. R. C. Sobti
11.20 – 11.25 am                  Address by the Chair, Prof. Bhupinder Brar
11.25 – 11.30 am      Vote of Thanks by Dr. Surbhi Goel, Department of English, Panjab University, Chandigarh 
11.45–1.00 pm First Session Venue: Banquet Hall (Upper) Keynote Address Chair: Gaurav Desai
Speaker: Nicholas D. Mirzoeff, Professor in the Department of Media and Communication Studies, New York University, USA
Topic: “Global Visualities in Crisis”
Second Session 2.00 –3.30 pm Venue: Banquet Hall (Lower)
A1: Theorizing the Public Sphere Chair: Jasbir Jain
a)     Meera Chakravorty, “The Virtual Transformation of the Public Sphere and Its Dynamics”
b)     Nishat Kazi,  “Internet and the Dynamics of Public Sphere”
c)      Surhita Basu, “News and Public Sphere: Discourse is Power”
B1: Political AgencyVirtual and Real1
Chair: Pushpinder Syal Venue: Conference Room 
a)     Anup Shekhar Chakraborty, “Identity and the Virtual Spaces among the Zo Hnahthlak: The Emergent Zo Cyber Politics”
b)     Esha Mahadevan, “Internet as Public Sphere – The Emergence of New Forms of Politics”
c)      Hiba Aleem, “Virtual Activism, Real Repercussions: An Analysis of How Facebook Impacts the Public Sphere in Light of Some Recent Campaigns”
d)     Padam Nepal, “Virtualization of the Politics of Recognition: Mapping the Physical-Virtual Complementarity in Lepchas’ Struggle for Recognition as PTG in Darjeeling Hills (West Bengal) and Sikkim, India
C1: Democracy, New Media and the Public Sphere Chair: Harpreet Pruthi Venue: Board Room
a)     K.M. Johnson, “Cyberspace and Postmodern Democracy: A Critique of the Habermasian Notion of the Public Sphere”
b)     Garima Kalita, “Attested Freedom: Public Sphere of Media Democracy”
c)      Timothy Allen Jackson, “Cybernecology: Liberation Aesthetics in the Public Sphere”
Third Session 3.30 –5.00 pm
A2: Historicizing the Public Sphere Chair: Parul Dave Mukherji Venue: Conference Room
a)     Mary Bachaspatimayum, “Technological Advancement and Its Influence on the Public Sphere”
b)     N. Nagaraju, “New Communities and ‘Their’ Public Sphere”
c)      Anju Dhadda Misra, “Noosphere in Cyborg: The Virtual and the Virtuous”
d)     Ashes Kumar Nayak, “Media Literacy: Strengthening the Public Sphere”
B2:      Political Agency­ Virtual and Real 2 Chair:  Meera Chakravorty Venue: Banquet Hall (Lower)
a)     James Winchester, “Global Justice, Institutional Change and the Public Sphere in the Age of the Internet”
b)     Arturo Brahms & William Pederson, “Media Transformations from Lincoln to Obama”
c)      Mandakini Jha, “New Media’s Use and Misuse of Lincoln as a Democratic Symbol in Asia
C2:       Representations 1 Chair: Sunita Manian Venue: Board Room
a)     Jasbir Jain, “Mediations between Collective Voices and Future Time: Politics and Media Representation”
b)     Jaspal K. Singh, “Images of Sikh “Tortured Bodies” and the Construction of Sikh Solidarity and Identity within the Indian Nation-state and the Diaspora”
c)      Divya Joshi, “Culture of Confession in The Bachchans: From Autobiography to Blogging”
Fourth Session (Plenary)  5.15 – 7.00 pm Venue: Banquet Hall (Upper)
Re-Reading William Godwin Chair: R. Radhakrishnan
Speaker:        a) Tilottama Rajan, Canada Research Chair and Distinguished University Professor at the University of Western Ontario
Topic: “Mediating the Novel: Speculations and Discipline in Godwin’s St. Leon
Speaker:        b) Gour K. Das, Former Professor of English, University of Delhi and Vice Chancellor, Utkal University, Bhubaneswar
Topic:             “Culture of Anarchy: On the Shaping of Contemporary Media and Literary Cultures”