Wilfrid Sellars famously argued that we find ourselves simultaneously presented with the scientific and manifestimages and that the primary aim of philosophy is to reconcile the competing conceptions of ourselves and our place in the world they offer. I first argue that Sellars’ own attempts at such a reconciliation must be judged a failure. I then go on to point out that Sellars has invited us to join him in idealizing and constructing the manifest and (...)scientificimages by conflating a number of importantly distinct contrasts between heterogeneous forms of representation we employ and to argue that we are better off declining this invitation. Recognizing the important differences between these contrasts does not simply obviate the problems of integrating, connecting, and reconciling the various sorts of representations we have of various parts of the world and our own place within it, but it reveals as misguided the notion that there is just a single, fundamental problem of such reconciliation to be solved. It also suggests a potentially far more promising starting point for trying to satisfy the fundamental ambition Sellars attributes to philosophical inquiry itself. (shrink)
Sellars (1963) distinguished in Empiricism and Philosophy of Mind between ordinary discourse, which expressed his “manifest image”, and scientific discourse, which articulated his “scientific image” of man-in-the-world in a way that is both central and problematic to the rest of his philosophy. Our contention is that the problematic feature of the distinction results from Sellars theory of inner episodes as theoretical entities. On the other hand, as Sellars attempted to account for our noninferential knowledge of such states, (...) particularly in correspondence with Castañeda, discussed by Lehrer and Stern (2000), he is lead to account of representation of such states that incorporates the states into what Lehrer has called exemplar representation (2004, 2011a) and Ismael reflexive self-description (2007). What is common to the three accounts, with some differences, is that such states may be function reflexively in selfrepresentation. Our argument is that the elaboration of this account, suggested in Sellars, shows how the discourse of the manifest image can be transformed into the discourse of the scientific image as self-representations of scientific entities. (shrink)
Most discussion of Sellars’ deployment of the distinct images of “man-in-the-world” in "Philosophy and the Scientific Image of Man" focus entirely on the manifest and the scientificimages. But the original image is important as well. In this essay I explore the importance of the original image to the Sellarsian project of naturalizing epistemology, connecting Sellars’ insights regarding this image to recent work in cognitive development.
In this paper I argue that the clash of the Sellars’ two images is particularly acute in the case of time. In Time and the World Order Sellars seems embarked on a quest to locate manifest time in Minkowski spacetime. I suggest that he should have argued for the replacement of manifest time with the local, path-dependent time of the “scientific image”, just as he suggests that manifest objects must be replaced by their scientific (...) counterparts. (shrink)
Fifty years ago the philosopher Wilfred Sellars identified two images of “man”, which he called respectively the “manifest image” and the “scientific image”; and he considered whether and how these two images could be reconciled. In this paper, I will very briefly look at the distinction drawn by Sellars and at his suggestions for reconciliation of these images. I will suggest that a broad distinction as suggested by Sellars can indeed usefully be drawn, but that (...) the distinction can be more helpfully characterised than it was by Sellars. I will argue that there are more ways of reconciling the two images than those proposed by Sellars. And I will elaborate on what I think are the most promising lines along which the reconciliation could take place. (shrink)
6.Â Â Â Â Â The Images as philosophical miscreants 6.1Â Â Â Â Â Â What is this thing called the Manifest Image? 6.2Â Â Â Â Â Â And what of that thing called the Scientific Image? 6.3Â Â Â Â Â Â The dialectic that engenders the dichotomy 7.Â Â Â Â Â The very idea of images..
After a brief biography of Jaap van Brakel we set out his appropriation and use of the distinction between the manifest image and the scientific image of the world. In a certain sense van Brakel gives priority to the manifest image as the ultimate source of meaning in chemical discourses. He does not take sides in the debate about nominal and real essences, twin earths and so, but presents a compromise. As an active practitioner of the chemical (...) arts he emphasises the indispensability of models as a main tool for chemical thinking. We then turn to van Brakel’s interest in forging an intercultural point of view in which philosophy of chemistry plays an important part. (shrink)
Sellars claims completeness for both the “manifest” and the “scientificimages” in a way that tempts one to assume that they are independent of each other, while, in fact, they must share at least one common element: the language of individual and community intentions. I argue that this significantly muddies the waters concerning his claim of ontological primacy for the scientific image, though not in favor of the ontological primacy of the manifest image. The lesson (...) I draw is that we need to reassess the aims of ontology. (shrink)
Minu eesmärgiks antud artiklis on pakkuda üht vaadet filosoofia olemuse, eesmärgi ja rolli kohta kaasaja maailmas. Artikli esimeses osas kirjeldan lühidalt nelja tänapäeva filosoofiat oluliselt mõjutanud filosoofiakontseptsiooni: ideaalkeele traditsiooni filosoofiamõistmist, tavakeele filosoofia arusaamu, Wittgensteini terapeutilis-deflatsionalistlikku kontseptsiooni ning kaasaegse filosoofilise naturalismi metafilosoofiat. Teises osas visandan Wilfrid Sellarsist inspireerituna filosoofiamõistmise, mis võimaldab meil näha kõiki eelnevalt käsitletud filosoofiakontseptsioone täitmas ühe ja sama projekti erinevaid osi ning mõista keskset osa kaasaja filosoofiast. My main aim in this paper is to provide a certain sort (...) of answer to the question 'What is philosophy?'. In the first part I will give a short overview of the central ideas of the four most dominant conceptions of philosophy of the 20th century: the ones supported by philosophers belonging to the ideal and the ordinary language traditions, the one suggested by later Wittgenstein, and the one championed by modern-day methodological naturalists. In the second part I will build on Wilfrid Sellars's ideas and sketch a conception of philosophy which amalgamates the four conceptions into one and sees philosophy as an intellectual activity that aims at constructing a comprehensive, true and practical worldview by, first, constructing both the manifest and the scientificimages of man and world and, second, fitting them together. (shrink)
In this paper, I defend the view that there are many scientificimages that have a serious epistemic role in science but this role is not adequately accounted for by the going view of representation and its attendant theoretical commitments. The relevant view of representation is Laura Perini’s account of representation for scientificimages. I draw on Adina Roskies’ work on scientificimages as well as work on models in science to support my conclusion.
Digital imaging has provided scientists with new opportunities to acquire and manipulate data using techniques that were difficult or impossible to employ in the past. Because digital images are easier to manipulate than film images, new problems have emerged. One growing concern in the scientific community is that digital images are not being handled with sufficient care. The problem is twofold: (1) the very small, yet troubling, number of intentional falsifications that have been identified, and (2) (...) the more common unintentional, inappropriate manipulation of images for publication. Journals and professional societies have begun to address the issue with specific digital imaging guidelines. Unfortunately, the guidelines provided often do not come with instructions to explain their importance. Thus they deal with what should or should not be done, but not the associated ‘why’ that is required for understanding the rules. This article proposes 12 guidelines for scientific digital image manipulation and discusses the technical reasons behind these guidelines. These guidelines can be incorporated into lab meetings and graduate student training in order to provoke discussion and begin to bring an end to the culture of data beautification. (shrink)
The philosophical tradition of phenomenology, with its focus on human bodily perception, can be used to explore the ways scientific instrumentation shapes a user’s experience. Building on Don Ihde’s account of technological embodiment, I develop a framework of concepts for articulating the experience of image interpretation in science. These concepts can be of practical value to the analysis of scientific debates over image interpretation for the ways they draw out the relationships between the image-making processes and the rival (...)scientific explanations of image content. As a guiding example, I explore a contemporary debate over images of the surface of Mars which reveal a landmass that resembles river delta formations on Earth, and which thus has important implications for the history of Martian climate and water flow. The phenomenological framework I develop can be used to help evaluate the different interpretations on offer for these images, and to analyze the roles in this discussion played by spacecraft equipped with cameras and laser and thermal imaging devices. (shrink)
Most readers of Sellars' philosophy learn about a Manifest-Scientific Image distinction, and because apparently nothing significant hinges on what at first sight seems just a neologistic labeling of a familiar distinction, it is henceforth wrongly associated with a pre-systematic commonsense/scientific framework distinction. The Manifest Image is not identical to the commonsense framework; nor is the Scientific Image identical to the scientific framework. In this paper I will concern myself only with arguing that the (...) class='Hi'>Manifest Image is not identical to the commonsense framework. (shrink)
Wilfrid Sellars (1963) described his Manifest Image and Scientific Image as (roughly) idealizations of our common sense and scientific views of the world, including our own special role in the world as humans. If, as Sellars suggested, there is an irreconcilable conflict between these images, it may not be possible to reconcile science with common sense. The Scientific Image, as we have inherited it, has a strong reductionist element that seems to imply that things are (...) not really as they appear to common sense. Although some amount of discrepancy between common sense and science is not a problem, since we know from experience that we may be mistaken about nearly any given thing, a systematic clash between science and common sense presents problems for the acceptance of one, the other, or both views. (shrink)
Almost fifty years ago Wilfrid Sellars described two competing ways of imagining the world, the Manifest Image and the Scientific Image. The Manifest Image is an idealization of common sense aided by critical philosophy, whereas the Scientific Image is the product of our best science. The methodologies of the two images are very different: the Manifest Image deals with experience and looks only at relations among bits of experience and analysis of experience into the (...) relations that must lie behind it, whereas the Scientific Image is grounded in explanations of experience, typically causal explanations. This need not be a problem if the two images are compatible. Sellars argued, however, that the Manifest Image implies continuity, but the best science of the time told us (or appeared to tell us) that the world is made up of discrete subatomic particles and discrete transitions between quantum states, making the two incompatible. Although Sellars noted that future science might show that the world is continuous, he did not follow this up. Science in the last fifty years has given much more evidence for continuity in the world from complexity studies and Quantum Mechanics, so perhaps the two images can be reconciled after all. (shrink)
As data-intensive and computational science become increasingly established as the dominant mode of conducting scientific research, visualisations of data and of the outcomes of science become increasingly prominent in mediating knowledge in the scientific arena. This position piece advocates that more attention should be paid to the epistemological role of visualisations beyond their being a cognitive aid to understanding, but as playing a crucial role in the formation of evidence for scientific claims. The new generation of computational (...) and informational visualisations and imaging techniques challenges the philosophy of science to re-think its position on three key distinctions: the qualitative/quantitative distinction, the subjective/objective distinction, and the causal/non-causal distinction. (shrink)
Amidst the progress being made in the various (sub-)disciplines of the behavioural and brain sciences a somewhat neglected subject is the problem of how everything fits into one world and, derivatively, how the relation between different levels of discourse should be understood and to what extent different levels, domains, approaches, or disciplines are autonomous or dependent. In this paper I critically review the most recent proposals to specify the nature of interdiscourse relations, focusing on the concept of supervenience. Ideally supervenience (...) is a relation between different discourses which has all the advantages of reduction, but without its disadvantages. I apply the more abstract considerations to two concrete cases: schizophrenia and colour. Usually an interlevel or interdiscourse relation is seen as asymmetrical: the overlaying discourse depends on the underlying discourse (and not vice versa), where the out- or un-spoken assumption is that the ultimate underlying discourse is physical. Instead I argue that scientific categories referred to in interdiscourse relations are, ultimately, dependent on common sense categories and common sense normative criteria. It is the manifest categories and common sense ideas about what is reasonable and what is right that determine the relevant categorisations at the deeper, underlying levels. I suggest that the implications of this are not merely methodological or epistemological. (shrink)
Images from the nanoworld are not at all disorienting or bewildering, as one might expect from contemplating the strange and surprising features that arise where classical physics comes to an end and quantum effects begin to appear. Instead, we see the traces of explorers in a world that appears to be infinitely malleable. The paper shows that the capability to visualize processes and phenomena at the nanoscale is a matter not only of research technologies and the advancement of observational (...) techniques, but also a matter of developing a visual setting that exhibits knowledge and practice, surprise and control. The surface is such a stage and so is the landscape: they invite us to become immersed and move around like someone who goes for a walk. In order to appreciate this pictorial, as well as discursive, setting we turn to “strollology” as a method of reconstructing the world that is experienced in the manner of walking. With the notion of imagescape this method is applied to the modes of partaking in the nanoworld and its specific features. Rather than articulate theoretical or metaphysical presuppositions these nanoscapes serve to validate the very idea of nanotechnology. (shrink)
Amidst the progress being made in the various (sub-)disciplines of the behavioural and brain sciences a somewhat neglected subject is the problem of how everything fits into one world and, derivatively, how the relation between different levels of discourse should be understood and to what extent different levels, domains, approaches, or disciplines are autonomous or dependent. In this paper I critically review the most recent proposals to specify the nature of interdiscourse relations, focusing on the concept of supervenience. Ideally supervenience (...) is a relation between different discourses which has all the advantages of reduction, but without its disadvantages. I apply the more abstract considerations to two concrete cases: schizophrenia and colour. Usually an interlevel or interdiscourse relation is seen as asymmetrical: the overlaying discourse depends on the underlying discourse (and not vice versa), where the out- or un-spoken assumption is that the ultimate underlying discourse is physical. Instead I argue that scientific categories referred to in interdiscourse relations are, ultimately, dependent on common sense categories and common sense normative criteria. It is the manifest categories and common sense ideas about what is reasonable and what is right that determine the relevant categorisations at the deeper, underlying levels. I suggest that the implications of this are not merely methodological or epistemological. (shrink)
This is an outstanding anthology. It contains extended reflections on Russell’s idea that our notion of causation is a relic of stone-age metaphysics, which fails to fit contemporary physics and thus deserves elimination (‘On the Notion of Cause’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 13, 1913, pp. 1–26). It will be of interest to anyone interested in causation or the physical image of the world, and to anyone interested in reconciling the manifest and scientificimages.
continent. 1.3 (2011): 171-179. Since 2007 there has been a great deal of interest in speculative realism, launched in the spring of that year at a well-attended workshop in London. It was always a loose arrangement of people who shared few explicit doctrines and no intellectual heroes except the horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, an improbable patron saint for a school of metaphysics. Lovecraft serves as a sort of mascot for the “speculative” part of speculative realism, since his grotesque semi-Euclidean monsters (...) symbolize the rejection of everyday common sense to which speculative realism aspires. The “realism” part of speculative realism was aimed not at idealism, which few people openly defend today, but at what Quentin Meillassoux calls “correlationism”: the view that philosophy cannot speak of human or world in isolation, but only of a primal correlation or rapport between the two.1 The goal of the speculative realists was to bring the things-in-themselves back into discussion, though there was ferocious disagreement amongst us as to how these things could be talked about: whether the things themselves remained inaccessible to direct access as in Kantian and Heideggerian philosophy, or whether they could be the object of direct mathematical insight as for Alain Badiou and his circle. This diversity of opinion led to an early break-up for the speculative realist movement, which quickly broke into numerous splinter groups bearing little resemblance to one another. In an earlier essay published in this journal,2 I discussed Meillassoux’s “speculative materialism”; a more detailed account can now be found in my recently published book on his philosophy.3 In this essay I will discuss the “object-oriented” branch of speculative realism, with which I have a more direct personal involvement as one of its founders. One of the primary differences between speculative materialism and object-oriented ontology (OOO) concerns the point just mentioned. Both schools are united in their resistance to the banal claims of continental philosophy to stand “beyond” the realism/anti-realism dispute (Husserl and Heidegger, unfortunately, must take the blame for such assertions). Yet there remains a question as to what extent reality can be known . Are the things-in-themselves directly accessible to humans or not? Simply put, the answer of speculative materialism is yes, while the answer of object-oriented ontology is no. The question can be restated as follows. We might summarize the philosophical position of Kant by saying that he makes two basic claims: 1. Human knowledge is finite, since the things-in-themselves can be thought but never known. 2. The human-world relation (mediated by space, time, and the categories) is philosophically privileged over every other sort of relation; philosophy is primarily about human access to the world, or at least must take this access as its starting point. Object-oriented philosophy agrees with the first Kantian point and disagrees with the second, while for speculative materialism it is precisely the reverse. For object-oriented philosophy, the things-in-themselves remain forever beyond our grasp, but not because of a specifically human failure to reach them. Instead, relations in general fail to gasp their relata, and in this sense the ghostly things-in-themselves haunt inanimate causal relations no less than the human-world relation, which no longer stands at the center of philosophy. For speculative materialism it is exactly the opposite. Here, humans remain at the center of philosophy, though their knowledge is no longer finite. Humans are capable of the absolute; any qualities that can be mathematized are primary qualities that can be known absolutely, with no dark residue lying behind them. And since this “absolute” exists even when we sleep or die, speculative materialism often claims to be a form of realism rather than a transcendental idealism. The present essay is confined to the internal challenges of the object-oriented approach, the one I prefer myself. 1. Objects In the beginning, philosophy was an anti -object-oriented enterprise. Normal human experience seems to confront a world broken into units: natural objects such as flowers, stars, and wild animals, artificial objects ranging from pirate ships to copper mines, and both the natural and artificial kinds ranging widely in size from tiny to gigantic. Despite our constant experience of objects in daily life, philosophy began in the pre-Socratic era as an effort to find a more basic reality lying beneath all these entities. For various pre-Socratics the world was made of immortal elements such as water or air, of four elements in combination mixed by love and hate, of atoms swerving in the void, or of a formless apeiron rumbling beneath all tangible things. No matter which of these is chosen as the foundation of the world, the familiar individual entities of the cosmos are not treated as fundamental. In this way all the flowers, stars, wild animals, pirate ships, and copper mines, not to mention the objects of religion and flat-out superstition, are undermined . They are treated as composite things built of something more fundamental; in the pre-Socratic period, it was simply a question of deciding what was the most fundamental element. Nor is this attitude confined to ancient pre-Socratic times, since we find the same thing even now: in the crude present-day materialism that holds objects to be nothing more than conglomerates of molecules, atoms, quarks and electrons, or strings; in philosophies of the so-called “pre-individual,” which treats the world as a semi-articulate lump arbitrarily carved into pieces by the human intellect; and in even more recent philosophies that treat the world as a mathematical structure that breaks into isolated “real patterns” only at different levels of observational scale.4 Let’s use the term “undermining” for those theories which think that objects are too shallow to be the truth. Here, the real action supposedly unfolds at a deeper layer than individual things, whether that of tiny elemental pieces or of a semi-liquid, holistic quasi-lump. But for those who wish to denigrate objects as the basic theme of philosophy, there is another way to do it. Rather than undermining objects by dissolving them downward into some component element, we can dissolve them upward or “overmine” them, to coin a new English term. Rather than viewing objects as too shallow to be the truth, we can treat them as too falsely deep to be the truth. This happens whenever a philosophy tells us that an object is nothing more than how it appears to the observer; or an arbitrary bundling of immediately perceived qualities; or when it tells us that there are only “events,” not underlying substances; or that objects are real only insofar as they perceive or affect other things. In all these cases, objects are treated as a useless hypothesis, a false depth lying beneath the immediate givens of consciousness or the concrete events of the world. As I have written elsewhere, it is also possible to combine overmining and undermining in a single philosophy. This happens most often in scientific materialism, which undermines when it finds tinier components from which our everyday objects are built, but overmines when it thinks these tiny pieces are nothing over and above their mathematizable properties. In short, a large part of present-day philosophy is devoted to contempt for individual objects, which it denounces as the gullible fantasies of common sense– or “folk psychology,” as it is arrogantly phrased by a number of scientistic hacks. The main counter-tradition to undermining and overmining is, of course, the Aristotelian tradition. Here individual entities are treated as the primary substance, which both undermining and overmining philosophies enjoy mocking as “mid-sized physical objects.” But it seems to me that the Aristotelian tradition is closer to the truth than the other two. Admittedly, there are numerous features of traditional substance that we might not wish to accept. Consider the philosophy of Leibniz, for instance. While Leibniz distinguishes between substance and aggregate, we do not have to agree with him that a mushroom is a substance but an army is not. While Leibniz holds that every substance is eternal, we can follow Aristotle’s brave decision and recognize destructible substances such as plants, insects, and humans, which he was the first in Ancient Greece to do. Nor is it necessary to agree with Leibniz that substances have no windows and do not affect one another directly (though in fact I do agree with Leibniz on this point, if not with the others). Anyhow, we can see that Aristotle, the Scholastics, and Leibniz, with their primary substances and substantial forms, make up an early object-oriented school surrounded on both sides by legions of underminers and overminers who reject individual entities as the basic stuff of the world. But I myself came to that tradition indirectly, through a less obvious but more contemporary tradition of object-oriented thought: phenomenology. Here I mean both Husserl and Heidegger, each of them making a different innovation in the philosophy of objects. We should speak briefly about these two different but deeply related currents. Like Brentano before him, Husserl is concerned with the sphere of intentionality, or “immanent objectivity.” Suspending all theories about an extra-phenomenal outside world, Husserl analyzes the phenomena as they appear to us, with attention to the subtlest contours of our dealings with phenomena such as blackbirds or mailboxes. There can be no question that Husserl is an idealist to the core—even in the Logical Investigations— for him it makes no sense to say that there could be realities not observable in principle by consciousness. Nonetheless, Husserl often feels like a realist. The atmosphere of his writings is one in which individual things seem opaque and resistant, not entirely exhausted by their appearance in the mind. By contrast, one rarely or never has this sense when reading someone like Hegel, at least not when it comes to individual entities. Despite the scholarly precision of his thinking, Husserl often seems puzzled by the many facets of concrete individual things, rather than merely overmining them and reducing them to their appearance in consciousness. This paradox must be considered briefly. Like Brentano, Husserl is focused on intentionality, which means: on objects lying before the mind. All perception, judgment, love, and hate is perception, judgment, love, or hate of some object . This object is never a concealed thing-in-itself lying beyond access, but purely immanent: intentionality means immanent objectivity. But in one of the most important passages of the Logical Investigations , Husserl takes a distance from Brentano when determining exactly what this means. Whereas Brentano views intentionality as a matter of “experienced contents,” for Husserl intentionality consists of “object-giving acts.” The difference may sound dry and technical, but I would call it Husserl’s most important contribution to philosophy. To say that our encounter with an apple consists of “experienced contents” is to say that we experience hundreds or thousands of qualities on a democratic plane, all of them pressed together into a single thing called an apple. The exact shape of the apple, its temperature in the hand, its degree of hardness, the exact profile it displays in this very moment, its precise momentary sweetness—all these are equally qualities of the apple as an experienced content. Husserl views the situation differently. For Husserl, the experience of an apple is an object-giving act quite apart from the list of qualities it now seems to possess. We can toss the apple in the air, view it from numerous angles, observe it in various degrees of sunlight, describe it in moods of euphoria and in crippling depression, but for us it remains the same apple in all these cases. To use Husserl’s famous technical term, there are countless “adumbrations” ( Abschattungen ) of the apple. The apple itself is not obtained by adding up all the different surfaces and profiles it can display; rather, the apple is there from the start as an enduring unit that exhibits numerous different facets at different times. Against all the empiricist theories, Husserl establishes a permanent rift between intentional objects and the various intentional qualities they might have at any given time. In the realm of conscious experience, objects are not “bundles of qualities,” but units lying deeper than any display of surface qualities. In short, there is a permanent tension in the sphere of intentional experience between objects and their qualities. It seems to me that this is why Husserl feels like a realist: for him, intentional objects are not just bundles of qualities lying before the mind, but places of fracture where an object grinds up against its own qualities, displaying different qualities at different times even while remaining distinct from them. As far as I am aware, this is also something completely new in the history of philosophy. It is true that Husserl cuts off the real world, collapsing everything into an immanent phenomenal sphere. But precisely in so doing, he is able to discover a previously unknown drama within the intentional sphere, which is broken up into objects with constantly shifting faces. Instead of calling them intentional objects, I prefer to call them “sensual” objects for at least two reasons. For one thing, the phrase “intentional objects” is dry and technical, unpleasant to repeat as frequently as it needs to be when we discuss such topics. But more importantly, the word “intentional” is used ambiguously; many philosophers use it to refer to the object lying outside the mental sphere, a distant object at which our thoughts “point.” But that is not what Brentano and Husserl mean when they speak of intentionality, and thus the phrase “intentional object” often leads to confusion. For this reason, we can speak instead of a permanent tension between sensual objects and sensual qualities, or between an apple that remains the same apple from one moment to the next, and the wildly fluctuating kaleidoscope of its surface features. Here we can see how the strife between object and quality unfolds in the purely sensual arena described by phenomenology. And this brings us to Heidegger. If Husserl turns philosophy into a description of how things appear in consciousness, we know that for Heidegger our primary mode of dealing with things is not through their appearing to consciousness. The place where Heidegger breaks with Husserl is the famous tool-analysis published in Being and Time , but first presented to his Freiburg students eight years earlier, in 1919. A brief summary will be enough for our purposes here. What is key for Heidegger is that insofar as something is present to consciousness, it is merely present-at-hand ( vorhanden ). But what is present to our minds in this way is only a tiny proportion of the entities with which we are involved. The air we breathe, the floor on which we stand, the heart, kidneys, and lungs that function within us, all tend not to be present insofar as they are doing their work. As every reader of Heidegger knows, it is usually broken equipment that comes to conscious attention. Equipment in its seamless functioning is ready-to-hand rather than present-at-hand, zuhanden rather than vorhanden . A few additional points need to be made. In the first place, the tool-analysis is not limited to a specific kind of entity called “tools” in the narrow sense, which would include hammers, drills, cars, guns, and computers, while excluding family, friends, house pets, and God. Instead, every entity has both sides: ready-to-hand and present-at-hand. This is not because we “use” our family and friends in the same way that we exploit hammers and drills, but because our friends no less than our tools are deeper than any possible access we might have to them. The hammer-in-itself is not the same as our perception of it at any given moment. But the same holds for people, and just as much for the cryptic, concealed God who communicates only by signs. In the second place, we need to avoid the frequent reading of the tool-analysis as equivalent to a distinction between praxis and theory, as if Heidegger were merely telling us that all perception of hammers and theories about hammers were grounded in a pre-theoretical use of them. The problem with this interpretation is clear enough: for if tools are always deeper than our perceptions or theories of them, they are also deeper than our use of them. To sit in a chair is no closer a relation to the chair than thinking about it is; in both cases, the chair itself retains an unexhausted surplus deeper than our relation with it. It is not a difference between theory and praxis, but a difference between the things themselves and our relations with them. But there is one more step to the argument, one that Heidegger never considered. The failure of both theory and praxis to exhaust the things of the world is not some tragic mental feature of humans and a few smart animals. Instead, it is a limitation of relationality in general. Objects withdraw from each other in the case of inanimate causation no less than in the human use of tools. Rain striking a tin roof does not make intimate contact with the reality of the tin any more than the monkeys on the roof or the impoverished resident of the tin-roofed shack are able to do. Let it simply be added that the withdrawal of objects from one another in causal relations turns causality into a serious philosophical problem. For if objects cannot touch directly, then how do they influence one another at all? There must be some third term, some medium through which they interact. Causation must be indirect or vicarious rather than direct and immediate. The final point to be made is that Heidegger’s withdrawn, sub-phenomenal world of tool-beings must be made up of individual things. This apparently runs counter to the spirit of Being and Time , where all tools seem to melt together into a single system: “there is no such thing as ‘an’ equipment,”5 as Heidegger puts it. This even seems true in his later writings on “the thing,” where the concealed portion of individual entities is called “earth,” and the earth is generally treated as a monolithic lump rather than a set of fully articulated individuals.6 It might seem as though the subterranean world of being were a rumbling, unified chunk broken into pieces only by human consciousness, a conclusion drawn by Emmanuel Levinas during his ardently Heideggerian phase in the 1940’s.7 But this is impossible. Hammers break in different ways from drills, which break in different ways from hearts, kidneys, and lungs. The shocks and surprises generated by failing equipment are not random. The world is not a single lump broken into pieces by consciousness, but consists of individual pieces from the start. To summarize, we can definitely say that for Heidegger there is a real sub-phenomenal world in a way that is not true for Husserl. By pushing Heidegger a bit beyond what he wanted to say, we can also conclude that this real world is made up of individual objects that are withdrawn from all theoretical, practical, and even causal access. And furthermore, each of these real objects must have specific real qualities. For as Leibniz observed,8 even the simple unified monads must have diverse qualities: otherwise they would be interchangeable, with hammers equally able to function as drills, kidneys, dolphins, or monkeys depending on the whim of the observer. But this is ridiculous. When considering Husserl, we found that the sensual realm was broken into both objects and qualities. By pushing Heidegger’s tool-analysis just slightly, we find an analogous distinction between real objects and their real qualities. We thus have a world made of four terms: real objects, real qualities, sensual objects, sensual qualities. I have often made the case that this is what Heidegger was aiming at with his mysterious theory of das Geviert (“the fourfold”) and will not repeat that case here. What is more important is that we now have a model to play with that points to a number of puzzles and to possible gaps in our understanding, much like any scientific model. Let’s draw a few more conclusions from this idea before getting into some of the trickier questions it raises. 2. The Fourfold and Vicarious Causation At first the model seems to consist of four terms linked by just two tensions. Within the confines of experience, there is a strife between sensual objects and their shifting sensual qualities, precisely as described by Husserl. Even if I sit motionless before a bowl of pears and apples, these objects vary in profile depending on the angle and distance at which I sit, and vary in color depending on the increase or decrease of afternoon shadow in the room, or the lamplight and candles in which they are viewed after nightfall; their imagined tastiness alters as my mood and appetite alter. This is true all the more if I actively stand and maneuver through the room to view them from dramatically different vantage points, and they vary all the more for living species of different size and capacity, whether it be fruit flies or even monkeys. But within certain limits, these shifting features and contours and possibilities of objects do not turn them into different objects. If we consider that they are merely caricatures, exaggerated versions of real pears and apples, then we allude to a dark subterranean underworld of beings that no perception and no relation can ever touch. This underworld, too, is made of objects, but objects that exceed any attempt to grasp them. Since we deduce that they must be individuals rather than a single inarticulate or semi-articulate lump (for otherwise, hammers and pears would not be able to surprise us in specifically hammer-fashion and pear-manner), these real objects must have qualities as well. But for the very same reason, there cannot be a total disconnection between these two realms. The real must be able to affect the sensual, to surge up into the visual realm when tools break or by other means. There must be various crossovers between these two kingdoms—some relation between real objects and sensual qualities, and also between sensual objects and real qualities. When speaking of Husserl, we have so far referred only to a strife found only within the sensual realm. A sensual object has countless adumbrations, countless sensual qualities, depending on the manner in which it is observed. But Husserl already knows that there is more going on than this. A pear, apple, or hammer not only bathes in a shifting flux of qualities that portray it according to different adumbrations. There are also truly important qualities that these objects must have in order to remain what they are for us. Through the method of eidetic variation, we strip away the noise and confetti of the accidental profiles of a thing, and move toward some sense of what the thing really needs in order to be what it is in the sensual realm. True, Husserl thinks we can determine what these important properties are through a kind of direct intellectual or essential intuition, but we need not follow him on this point. Instead, we need only agree that there is a distinction between the wild masquerade of a thing’s surface appearance and the deeper, enduring apple-qualities that the apple must retain for as long as we acknowledge it to be this very apple. In this way we are led to see that the sensual object crosses into the underworld through its possession of real qualities as well. They are real because they withdraw from direct access no less than efficient hammers or unnoticed lungs and kidneys do. In short, Husserl’s intentional objects, which we can rename “sensual objects” for the reasons mentioned earlier, are a remarkable crossroads where both sensual and real qualities belong to the same sensual object, as if the same planet had both visible and concealed moons. We now have a third tension in our model, and the kingdoms of real and sensual are now linked by a strange sort of bridge, crossing between shadow and light: a rigorous scientific phenomenology generating the sort of strange communicational infrastructure between real and unreal that might be found in a fairy tale. We should also ask about another unusual crossing, the one between real objects and sensual qualities. And here we are in luck, since Heidegger’s tool-analysis already points the way. When the hammer shatters in our hand or the floor collapses beneath our feet, we experience a kind of shock. These tool-beings no longer function invisibly or simply withdraw unnoticed into shadow. Instead, numerous features of the hammer now erupt explicitly into view. But contrary to some readings of Heidegger, the hammer-object itself never does so. The real hammer remains just as distant as ever before, even when it is “broken.” Yet we are able to get a strange indirect sense of it anyway: our minds do not encounter it directly, but allude to it, or see the hammer without seeing it. The sensual qualities of the hammer no longer just swirl around the phenomenal hammer in the mind, but seem to be enslaved to a dark and hidden object that forever eludes our grasp despite its apparently obtrusive malfunction. And here we have the fourth tension in the model, one between real objects and sensual qualities. There is no need here for a detailed discussion of Heidegger’s fourfold, which is analogous but not identical to the quadruple structure presented here. Although I have argued elsewhere that his earth, sky, gods, and mortals have some analogy to the fourfold of real objects, real qualities, sensual objects, and sensual qualities—and have argued further that Heidegger was on the scent of this model as early as 1919—what is really of interest are the four just-described tensions between the four poles, which he notices but never names. He speaks of the interrelations between the four solely in poetic terms as mirrors, dances, weddings, and songs. But we are now in a position to give them more familiar names. Few topics are of greater philosophical interest than time and space. Daydreaming children dig for paradoxes here, as do Nobel Prize winners and the criminally insane. But one common assumption among all these groups seems to be that time and space are peerless queens, or special dimensions of the cosmos devoid of any rivals. Kant sequesters them in the Transcendental Aesthetic, on a different footing from the categories of the understanding. But the polarized model of objects and qualities allows us to integrate time and space into a wider theory in which they are just two dimensions of the world among others. According to the object-oriented model only the present exists: only objects with their qualities, locked into whatever their duels of the moment might be. In that sense, time seems to be illusory, though not for the usual reason that time is just a fourth spatial dimension always already present from the start. Instead, time does not exist simply because only the present ever exists. Nonetheless, time as a lived experience cannot be denied. We do not encounter a static frame of reality, but seem to feel a passage of time. It is not a pure chaos shifting wildly from one second to the next, since there is change within apparent endurance. Sensual objects endure despite swirling oscillations in their surface adumbrations, and this is precisely what is meant by the experience of time . Time can be defined as the tension between sensual objects and their sensual qualities. Turning to space, one thing we know is that space cannot be located entirely within the sensual realm. John Locke noted that our experience of space is in some way an illusion. Everything in experience itself is flat and equidistant, as seen from the fact that babies reach with equal confidence for nearby toys, distant doorways, and the moon. Space is not directly accessible to our senses, but inferred, and this skill must be acquired at a specific point in child development. Despite what Leibniz claims, space is not the realm of relation, but of both relation and non-relation. There would be no space if everything were pressed directly up against us. Space means that there is something at a distance from us, or withheld from us. But this is precisely what Heidegger gives us in the tool-analysis. The hammer seems to be an entirely domestic creature of our experience, until it breaks, and then we recognize that there is a hammer-thing at some distance from us, not entirely a creature of our experience. Space can be defined as the tension between real objects and sensual qualities. Perhaps it is now clear where we are going. Two tensions still remain, and though they are less often the topic of romantic speculation than are time and space, they belong on the same footing in the model and hence deserve to be mentioned in the same breath. In Husserl we found a third tension between sensual objects and their real qualities. Better yet, he already names it for us: eidos . Eidos is the tension between a sensual object in experience and the withdrawn pivotal features that we can only hint at rather than confronting directly. And finally, we should not forget the fourth tension, the only one that has nothing to do with sensual experience at all: the tension between real objects and real qualities, which we can simply deduce and never experience at all. For this unity and duality in the heart of real things, the traditional name is essence , and there is no problem with using it here. Essence is the tension between a real thing and its real qualities. Once the terms are defined in this way, the world can be viewed as the composite drama of time, space, essence, and eidos, so that the object-oriented model of the world is further enriched. And in fact, there are more than just these four. We also need to consider the relations between real and sensual objects, and between real and sensual qualities, as well as the relations between each of the four poles and another of its own kind. That yields ten terms rather than four, but there is no point developing the other six here. For those who are interested, they are classified in my book The Quadruple Object .9 For now we can leave open the question as to whether the coincidence of this number ten with that of Aristotle’s ten categories is significant or not. Before moving to the conclusion, we can add three more interrelated ideas to the mix. It was clear from the start that if real objects withdraw from one another, they cannot affect one another directly. Between real objects, only indirect or vicarious causation is possible. There must be an intermediary between any two real objects, and two points are evident here. First, this intermediary cannot itself be a real object, or there would simply be an endless process in which the intermediary would need further intermediaries between itself and the other objects, with the result that nothing would ever succeed in touching anything else. In fact, this is the very criticism I made in Prince of Networks of the model of indirect causation offered by Latour in Pandora’s Hope , in which actors can touch only by means of an intermediate actor, but since all actors are of the exact same type for Latour, none of them is truly capable of linking with anything else. Second, the intermediary must be capable of making direct contact with both of the other terms. Now, there is only one place where that can happen, and that is the interior of an object. This idea also comes from Husserl, though he never draws the needed radical conclusions from it. Namely, Husserl points out the paradox that intentionality is both one and two. On the one hand, in intentionality there is I myself and then there is the pine tree, not fusing together into a single lump, since the very fact that I am perceiving it proves otherwise. But on the other hand, the intentional relation between me and the pine tree must certainly be one, since we are joined together in the perception rather than being painfully and eternally separated. Given that perceptions are generally held to occur inside the mind, the easy conclusion would be that I and the sensual pine tree meet inside the mind. Husserl implies this point, and it is stated quite openly in the altogether different (and completely overrated) system of the neurophilosopher Thomas Metzinger. The problem with this notion is that I myself cannot be simultaneously the whole of the relation and merely half of it. The sensual object and I cannot meet inside of me. Instead, our encounter occurs on the interior of the relation between me and the real tree (which must be indirect, but there is no need to complicate things here). When the tree and I somehow form a link, we become a new object; every relation forms a new real object. This idea will be resisted for the simple reason that we normally think of “objects” as solid physical things that hold together firmly, whereas something like the relation between me and the tree seems much too flimsy and transient. But remember, the definition of a real object is simply a unified thing with specific qualities that withdraws from any attempt to grasp it. The relation between me and the tree certainly meets these criteria: the intentional relation must be one, or it could not occur; it must have specific qualities, or it would be interchangeable with any other relation; and it withdraws from any attempt to grasp it, since I can never exhaustively grasp my own relation with the tree, and a fortiori the tree can never do so. So, what we have is the contact between me and the sensual tree on the interior of the relation between me and the real one. The same could be true in reverse, assuming the tree can perceive me in some fashion, but this would be a different and parallel relation in which the real tree encountered a sensual caricature of me. This may sound like a mere panpsychist amusement as long as a tree is one of the two terms. But consider a relation between two people, and the insight suddenly becomes much more threatening. A relation between friends or lovers then splits into two simultaneous but asymmetrical relations in which each person deals with the other as if with a ghost. In any case, we should add that this contact between a real object and a sensual one, on the interior of a third object, is precisely the sort of direct contact we are looking for. For contrary to some readings of Husserl, intentional objects never “hide.” If I see an apple from one specific angle, the apple is not “hidden” behind that current profile such that we would have to run hysterically through all possible angles, distances, and lighting conditions in order to add up all the profiles to amass one apple. Instead, the apple is there from the start, from the mere fact that I recognize it, and is simply covered over with fleeting qualities like cheap jewelry or encrustations of brine. Finally, we need to reject the idea that all objects must be in relation with other objects at any given time. Although all objects are made up of relations between component objects, it is not necessarily the case that all objects enter into larger components in turn. While it may be the case that there is an infinite regress of entities downward into the depths of the world, it is not the case that there is an infinite progress upward. There may be countless real entities that exist (since their components have already formed them) which have not yet managed to have an effect on anything else in the world. These can be called sleeping objects, or dormant objects. They exist, but currently affect nothing. Perhaps there are millions of entities that remain in this state forever, passing through the world with the purely unlucky fate of never affecting or being affected by anything else at all. 3. Some Paradoxes But right now I would like to consider the reverse case, that there may be things that do have an effect on other things but without being real. There is a relevant term here that has reversed its meaning over time: “flat ontology.” When the phrase “flat ontology” was used by Roy Bhaskar in the early 1970’s in his book on the realist theory of science, it was a polemical term. Namely, he used it to refer to theories that flatten the world into its accessibility to human observers; it was a dismissive phrase aimed at positivism, not a flattering description of realism. The meaning of the phrase was reversed in 2006 by Bhaskar’s admirer Manuel DeLanda. For DeLanda, “flat ontology” simply means that all entities must be treated alike. That it to say, it is an anti -reductionist term, such that armies, cities, and herds of cattle might be just as real as steel girders and atoms of potassium. “Flat” has now reversed its meaning: rather than referring to a world without levels in which everything inhabits the realm of human consciousness, it means instead a world in which all levels are on the same playing field. There can be no better example of a perfectly flat ontology than the early philosophy of Bruno Latour. At that point in Latour’s career, all human and inhuman things, all chunks of physical matter and people and cartoon characters, are equally actors . What makes all things actors, despite the vast differences between them, is that they have an effect on other things. As Latour puts it as recently as 1999 in Pandora’s Hope , to be real means “to modify, transform, perturb, or create” something else. Reality is defined not by what it is, but by what it does. Not everything is equally strong , since the Chinese government affects more things than does a stick figure drawn in the notebook of a Chinese schoolboy, but everything is equally real , since even that stick figure has some faint emotional resonance in the boy’s mind and is therefore not just an empty hole of non-being, while the mighty effect of the Chinese government on its citizens is different only in degree from the stick figure, even if that degree of difference is huge. Reality for the early Latour means having an effect on other things. And just as for Aristotle all humans are equally humans and all trees equally trees, for the early Latour all actors are equally actors. But I just finished claiming that there are objects called dormant objects that affect nothing, not now and perhaps not ever, depending on how things unfold. The question I want to address briefly as this essay comes to a conclusion is whether the reverse is also true: are there things that have an effect despite not being real? And here is where I have been in disagreement with another philosopher friend, Levi Bryant of the Larval Subjects blog.10 For Bryant, anything that has an effect of any sort is real, and given that Chinese stick figures, Popeye, and the monsters of H.P. Lovecraft all have some greater or lesser effect on someone’s moods or the sales of some cinema or bookstore, all are real as well. This apparent reality of all fictional characters has led some to accuse Bryant of defending an absurdly inflationary universe, in which all actual and possible things are real. For Bryant and the early Latour, then, reality and efficacy are interchangeable terms. And given that lots of different things can have an effect, this seems to balloon the scope of reality to an absurd degree. What I want to suggest here is that just as not all real things have an effect (at least not in any given moment), not all effective things are real. Unlike Bryant and the early Latour, this puts me automatically in the good graces of Ockham’s Razor, given that I can multiply merely sensual objects as much as I please and let them have as many effects as possible without ever saying that they are “real,” that they have autonomous existence outside their presence in the experience of some other entity. Stated differently, I do not advocate a purely flat ontology. Certainly I would agree with Bryant and DeLanda that there are real entities at all levels of scale; I am completely in accord with their anti-reductionist platform. But I do not agree further with Bryant that just because something in the mind is having an effect on me, that it is therefore real. At first this might seem to place me in the same camp as what might be called the epistemological wing of speculative realism. For such people it is ridiculous to think that entities such as Popeye are real, and equally ridiculous to believe in many other things experienced by everyday common sense. Their goal is to destroy what they call the “manifest image” in favor of the true scientific image of things. Epistemology here means a way to debunk gullible Christians, alchemists, and Latourians, and make the world safe for science. In their darkly clouded eyes, while Bryant wants to say that all images are real, they want to insist that some are real and some are false. However, I have nothing to do with this position, for the simple reason that I think all images are false . And this is what makes my position more in keeping with Ockham’s Razor, since it is only this position that never confuses the sensual with the real, while the epistemological wing of speculative realism grants reality to countless objects that are really nothing more than images, even if we agree to call them “scientific” ones. For me nothing sensual is ever real, no matter how many effects it might have. Here is another way to put it. We can talk about the sensual trees, chairs, cartoon characters, and hallucinated unicorns that might populate human experience. The question is sometimes asked how we know which of these sensual objects correspond to things in the real world and which do not; “criteria” are then demanded for sorting the wheat from the chaff, so that we might praise our images of quarks as truly corresponding to something real while ridiculing or exterminating our manifest folk images of Popeye and unicorns. Yet the problem must be reframed. None of our images “correspond” to anything at all; none of them bear any isomorphic resemblance to the real objects that withdraw into darkness. All are fictions. Or to put it in Latourian terms, all are translations . We can see this by considering that no matter how excellent our scientific concept of a tree may be, this concept is not itself a tree : the concept of the tree may grow every summer just as a tree does, but it neither sheds leaves nor bears fruit. Whenever I raise this complaint, it is objected that it is a “straw man,” since no one really believes that a real tree and its image are the same thing. In response I say that of course no says this, because it is too ridiculous to maintain for an instant. Nonetheless, this ridiculous doctrine is directly entailed by the theory that the image of Popeye does not correspond to anything but the image of a tree does correspond. All they might be able to add is that while the image of a tree is simply a form or structure, the real tree is that same form or structure stamped in physical matter. But this would give us nothing but a dubious traditional metaphysics of form and matter, its banality barely concealed by the table-pounding aggressions of hack scientism. The truth, I believe, is that no sensual objects “correspond” to real ones, just as no translations of Shakespeare into French or Dutch “correspond” to the English text. Not all translations are equal– there are better and worse translations of Shakespeare, just as there are better and worse meals with which to catch the flavor of certain wines, and better and worse ways (in Latour’s best example) to refine crude oil into gasoline for your car’s tank, which by no means implies that the gasoline is a “copy” of the crude oil. This is not relativism, but rather the most hardcore possible realism . It is not relativism, because there really are better and worse translations; it is hardcore realism because it takes real objects so seriously that it holds them to be irreplaceable by any conceptual model—no model of a banana or apple, however detailed, can step into the world and become a banana or apple. In short, I join Bryant wholeheartedly in rejecting this cop’s-fantasy epistemological project of distinguishing between bad commonsense images and good scientific ones, which would reduce the greatness of philosophy to a series of small-time drug busts. But that said, what about Bryant’s further claim that fictions are real? As I see it, the problem needs to be reframed. Granted that all real objects can be converted into translations, the question is this: when can translations retroactively affect the real? It cannot be denied that this happens regularly. Our sensual experience of a room may displease us, and this leads us to rearrange the furniture, thereby causing shifts among real objects. The insufficient sweetness of strawberries may lead to genetic work that alters those very strawberries. A fictional character can provoke genuine suicides, as famously happened with Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther . Some loose political ideas in the heads of a dozen Egyptian protestors might turn into a real Constitution that affects millions of people for generations. Even an object with as flimsy a claim to reality as Popeye or unicorns can have retroactive effects on the real by making huge contributions to the toy and video game industries. From considering the eidos in Husserl’s phenomenology, the strange fact emerged that sensual objects always have real qualities. Simply by dreaming up any random monster, we have not automatically generated a real object, but we have generated real qualities. Why real qualities? Because even though no unicorn or dragon is automatically real just because it is in my mind and affects my moods, it does automatically have real qualities . We can never say exactly what the crucial features are of the fictions in my mind that make up the eidos of any one of them; those features are withdrawn from direct access and exceed any possible analysis or interpretation of them. And that is what makes them real, even though they belong to an unreal thing—a mere sensual object. The question is under what conditions the real qualities of an unreal thing can be split up and rearranged into real objects, so that in this way the fictional objects of our mind can cross the bridge toward the real. As I have said, it happens all the time, and at other times it fails. It is merely the way in which it happens or fails to happen that remains a puzzle. NOTES 1 Quentin Meillassoux, After Finitude: Essay on the Necessity of Contingency , trans. R. Brassier. (London: Continuum, 2008.) 2 Graham Harman, “ Meillassoux’s Virtual Future ,” continent. , 1.2 (2011), pp. 78-91. 3 Graham Harman, Quentin Meillassoux: Philosophy in the Making . (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2011.) 4 See also Graham Harman, “I Am Also of the Opinion That Materialism Must Be Destroyed,” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space , Vol. 28, No. 5, 2010. Pages 772-790. 5 Martin Heidegger, Being and Time , trans. J. Macquarrie & E. Robinson. (New York: Harper & Row, 1962.) Page 97. 6 See Martin Heidegger, “Einblick in das was ist,” in Bremer und Freiburger Vorträge . (Frankfurt: Vittorio Klostermann, 1994.) 7 Emmanuel Levinas, Existence and Existents , trans. A. Lingis. (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1988.) 8 G.W. Leibniz, “Monadology.” In Philosophical Essays , trans. R. Ariew & D. Garber. (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1989.) 9 Graham Harman, The Quadruple Object . (Winchester, UK: Zero Books, 2011.) 10 See for example the following post at Bryant’s popular Larval Subjects blog. (shrink)
Recent work in neurophilosophy has either made reference to the work of John Dewey or independently developed positions similar to it. I review these developments in order first to show that Dewey was indeed doing neurophilosophy well before the Churchlands and others, thereby preceding many other mid-twentieth century European philosophers’ views on cognition to whom many present day philosophers refer (e.g., Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty). I also show that Dewey’s work provides useful tools for evading or overcoming many issues in contemporary neurophilosophy (...) and philosophy of mind. In this introductory review, I distinguish between three waves among neurophilosophers that revolve around the import of evolution and the degree of brain-centrism. Throughout, I emphasize and elaborate upon Dewey’s dynamic view of mind and consciousness. I conclude by introducing the consciousness-as-cooking metaphor as an alternative to both the consciousness-as-digestion and consciousness-as-dancing metaphors. Neurophilosophical pragmatism—or neuropragmatism—recognizes the import of evolutionary and cognitive neurobiology for developing a science of mind and consciousness. However, as the cooking metaphor illustrates, a science of mind and consciousness cannot rely on the brain alone—just as explaining cooking entails more than understanding the gut—and therefore must establish continuity with cultural activities and their respective fields of inquiry. Neuropragmatism advances a new and promising perspective on how to reconcile the scientific and manifestimages of humanity as well as how to reconstruct the relationship between science and the humanities. (shrink)
Many scientific discoveries have depended on external diagrams or visualizations. Many scientists also report to use an internal mental representation or mental imagery to help them solve problems and reason. How do scientists connect these internal and external representations? We examined working scientists as they worked on external scientific visualizations. We coded the number and type of spatial transformations (mental operations that scientists used on internal or external representations or images) and found that there were a very (...) large number of comparisons, either between different visualizations or between a visualization and the scientists’ internal mental representation. We found that when scientists compared visualization to visualization, the comparisons were based primarily on features. However, when scientists compared a visualization to their mental representation, they were attempting to align the two representations. We suggest that this alignment process is how scientists connect internal and external representations. (shrink)
This paper critically assesses the model of evaluation of scientific research for democratic societies defended by Philip Kitcher. The “significant truth” approach proposes a viable alternative to two classic images of science: that of the “critics”, who believe that science always serves the interests of the powerful and that of the “faithful”, who argue that the pursuit of scientific knowledge is always valuable and necessary. However, the democratic justification of Kitcher’s proposal is not compatible with the ethical (...) problems generated by the international biomedical research in developing countries. To overcome this problem, I revise the national democratic framing of the significant truth approach in light of the theory of justice of John Rawls. (shrink)
Husserl’s extensive analyses of image consciousness (Bildbewusstsein) and of the imagination (Phantasie) offer insightful and detailed structural explications. However, despite this careful work, Husserl’s discussions fail to overcome the need to rely on a most problematic concept: mental images. The epistemological conundrums triggered by the conceptual framework of mental images are well known—we have only to remember the questions regarding knowledge acquisition that plagued British empiricism. Beyond these problems, however, a plethora of important questions arise from claiming that (...) mental images are structural moments of imaging and imagining. Any attempt to clarify the structure and conditions for the possibility of aesthetic experience must first provide an unambiguous account of pictorial depiction—a task unattainable through the mental images discourse. Similarly, exposing the import of the imagination for theoretical scientific inquiries (be they positive or eidetic) requires an initial explication of the structure of this consciousness; this explication, however, must address our ability to imagine non-spatially determined objects—something the conceptual framework of mental images utterly fails to accomplish. In this paper I argue against Husserl’s reliance on mental images in his phenomenological analyses of imaging and imagining and propose an alternative structural account for both. This account is free of this reliance and able to steer clear of its insidious implications for epistemology, aesthetics, and methodological reflections. By closely following the development of Husserl’s account I suggest alternative descriptions while building on Husserl’s important work. (shrink)
In the early 1990s François Laruelle wrote an essay on James Turrell, the American artist known for his use of light and space. 1 While it briefly mentions Turrell's Roden Crater and is cognizant of his other work, the essay focuses on a series of twenty aquatint etchings made by Turrell called First Light (1989-1990). Designed to stand alone as prints, First Light nevertheless acts as a kind of backward glance revisiting and meditating on earlier corner light projections made by (...) Turrell in the late 1960s, in particular works like Afrum-Pronto (1967). For the exhibition of First Light at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1990, “the aquatints [were] arranged in groups based on the white shape that hovers in the dense black field of each print. In the installation, with light projected onto the images, the shapes appear to glow and float; viewed in sequence, they seem to move. The effect, from print to print, is tracelike and mesmerizing.” 2 “I am dealing with no object,” Turrell said in a lecture a few years after producing First Light . “I am dealing with no image, because I want to avoid associative, symbolic thought... I am dealing with no focus or particular place to look. With no object, no image and no focus, what are you looking at?” 3 Indeed the object of First Light is perception itself, as Turrell was the first to admit. No object, no image, no focus—no wonder Laruelle was drawn to First Light . It represents the very core principles of the non-standard method. For Laruelle, Turrell's art work poses a basic problem. “Light makes manifest,” he acknowledges. “But what will manifest the light?” 4 Systems of representation reveal aspects of the world to perceiving subjects; this is how light makes manifest. But is it possible to see light in itself, not in relation to a perceived object? Is it possible to manifest the rigorously immanent genericness of light itself? Laruelle's essay on Turrell makes two essential claims, one about perception and the other about light. Regarding the former, Laruelle asserts that we must think perception not think about perception. Regarding the latter, Laruelle wishes to discover the non-orientable nature of light. As he admits, there is a light of orientation, a philosophical light. But there is also a light that does not seek to orient perception along a particular set of lines. It is this second kind of orientation that Laruelle seeks and that he sees evident in the work of Turrell. (Taking advantage of a play on words, Laruelle sometimes labels this kind of non-standard orientation “occidental” to differentiate it from what he sees as the endless orientalism of philosophy.) Laruelle explores these two essential claims by way of three different themes stemming from Turrell's work: discovery, experimentation, and identity. Just as Deleuze did in his book on Francis Bacon, Laruelle assumes from the outset that Turrell and his art are performing theoretical work as such. Laruelle's is not a theoretical interpretation of a non-theoretical art work; the work itself is enacting the non-standard method. Turrell “has discovered a new aesthetic (and theoretical) object: light as such, the being-light of light.” 5 Thus in Laruelle's view, Turrell himself discovered a non-phenomenological solution to the problem of light. In an attempt to describe what he means by discovery, Laruelle draws attention to the subtle differences in meaning embedded in Turrell's title. “Turrell's title 'First Light' is ambiguous and can be interpreted in two ways. In the weakest sense it means just what it means, first light , the first among many, its own relative position in a continuous order in which it is included. In the strong sense it means light first , all the light given at once, without residual or supplement, without division or 'plays-of-light.'” 6 This second sense, the strong sense, is most appealing to Laruelle, for it indicates the identity of light as a kind of first givenness, light as raw discovery or invention without supplement. Part of Laruelle's aim is to move away from the conventional way in which light appears in philosophical discourse, for example in phenomenology, which tends to think of light through a process of withdrawing and revealing. Laruelle's light is thus not white but black, absolutely black. “The black immanence of this light [...] lets it escape from all phenomenology stemming from the greco-philosophical type.” 7 In order to describe the radical nature of Turrell's non-standard art, Laruelle poses a hypothetical scenario: Imagine a photographer tired of using light to fix his "subject" or whatever other objects were before him. Imagine that this photographer was crazy enough to want to fix the light as light . If so, this would not be the light from distant stars, but a light without stars, without source no matter how distant or hidden, a light inaccessible to the camera. Should the photographer abandon his technique and find another? Or should he generalize his technique across the various forms of the darkroom, the white cube, and the camera obscura in order to proliferate the angles, the frames, the perspectives, the openings and shutters used to capture (or perhaps to seduce) the light itself? Would he not be making, in essence, the kind of work that Turrell makes? 8 Turrell's light is a light that doesn't come from the stars. Laruelle gives it an unusual label; he calls it a photic materiality. Being both non-cosmic and non-ontological, Turrell's light does not orient the viewer. Instead, according to Laruelle, Turrell's light performs experiments on perception and retrains it according to alternative logics. This mode of experimentation produces what he calls an aesthetic generalization of perception in order to unilateralize the conventional prohibitions placed on perception by philosophy. Instead of philosophy or photography setting the agenda, “light acts instead...like a drive that has its own 'subjectivity,' or like an a priori force.” 9 Turrell's experimental mandate, therefore, is to allow both the artist and the viewer to test perception, not to probe the limits of perception, not to mimic the way in which perception is normalized by philosophy, not to think about perception, but to think according to perception. In this sense the artist and the viewer are strictly identical , allowing for an auto-testing of perception. It is not that one party—be it artist, viewer, or critic—is in a privileged position to arbitrate Turrell's aesthetic experiment. Instead, all parties are identical. This brings us to the final theme in the essay, identity. The key question for Laruelle is how to see light itself, light's identity . For Laruelle the only way to answer the question is to break the vicious cycle of worldly self-manifestation. “There is a paradox at the heart of aesthetic sentiment,” Laruelle remarks. “The paradox is the following: on the one hand light remains to a certain degree in itself. It does not lose its identity in an object [...] but on the other hand, light 'radiates.'” 10 There is no solution to the paradox, of course, since it belongs to the basic generative paradox fueling of all philosophy. Nevertheless the paradox provides Laruelle with raw material for non-standard intervention. Simply unilateralize the paradox and put both light and its radiation into immanent superposition. Such a move defangs the transcendental tendencies added to light by philosophy and reveals a purely immanent light. Give the unusual and somewhat counter-intuitive nature of the non-standard universe, Laruelle is forced to speak in circumlocutions: light is a radiation-without-rays, or light is a reflecting-without-reflection. This might sound like jargon, yet Laruelle's “without” structures are necessary in order to designate the superimposition or unilateralization of the rivenness of the world. They aim to show “light discovered in its radical identity.” 11 Yet even with this brief gloss of Laruelle's Turrell essay, Laruelle's aesthetics remains elusive. So I want to expand the discussion of light by looking at Laruelle's writings on photography. By the end I hope to show that Laruelle is essentially a thinker of utopia , and that the best way to understand Laruelle's aesthetics, and indeed his larger non-standard method, is as a theory of utopia . Laruelle's two books on photography, The Concept of Non-Photography and Photo-Fiction: A Non-Standard Aesthetics , include material written over a span of two decades. 12 Intended as companion pieces, the books pose a number of questions. What is seen in a photo? What is light? What is the photographic stance? And, perhaps most enigmatic of all, what does Laruelle mean by fiction? “Aesthetics was always a case of tracing art within philosophy, and likewise of art understood as a lesser form of philosophy.” 13 For Laruelle aesthetics involves a convoluted interaction between art that asks to be contemplated and contemplation that seeks its art. Art and philosophy co-constitute each other in terms of lack, for each completes the other: “without art, philosophy lacks sensitivity and without philosophy, art lacks thought.” 14 This kind of mutual distinction is part and parcel of the philosophical process. Art and philosophy are separated and reunited , then policed as conjoined but distinct. A strange logic indeed, yet for Laruelle the logic is evident in everything from Plato's Republic to Deleuze and Guattari's What is Philosophy? Photography is “a knowledge that doubles the World,” he writes in the first book. 15 As an aesthetic process, photography is philosophical in that it instantiates a decision to correlate a world with an image taken of the world. When photography doubles the world, it acts philosophically on and through the world. Laruelle does not discuss light much in The Concept of Non-Photography . But light appears in the second book, Photo-Fiction , particularly in the context of philosophical enlightenment and the flash of the photographic apparatus. Laruelle uses two terms, éclair and flash , to mark the subtle variations in different kinds of light. Laruelle associates éclair more with the tradition of Greek philosophy. “The flash [ éclair ] of Logos,” he remarks, “is the Greek model of thought.” 16 While he uses flash more commonly when discussing the physical apparatus of the photographic camera. Although it would be hasty to assume that Laruelle poses the two terms in normative opposition— éclair bad and flash good—for by the end he specifies that both kinds of light are philosophical, and that both need to be non-standardized. As in his other writings, Laruelle accomplishes this by subjecting photography to the non-standard method. He proposes a Principle of Aesthetic Sufficiency and shows how art and aesthetics have traditionally been allied with philosophy. Likewise he describes a Principle of Photographic Sufficiency, indicating how photography is sufficient to accommodate all possible images, at least in principle. In an echo of how deconstructivists spoke of philosophy in terms of logocentrism, Laruelle labels photography's sufficiency a photo-centrism , and discusses how philosophy conceives of thought itself as a kind of photographic transcendental. The process of non-standardization goes by several names and is defined in different ways. In recent writings Laruelle has begun to speak of the non-standard method in terms of fiction . Fiction means performance, invention, creativity, artifice, construction; for example, thought is fictive because it fabricates. (Although Laruelle always specifies that such fabrication only happens in an immanent and real sense). Fiction might seem like a strange word choice for an anti-correlationist, yet Laruelle avoids the vicious circle of correlationism by devising a type of fiction that is non-expressive and non-representational. Laruelle's fiction is purely immanent to itself. It is not a fictionalized version of something else, nor does it try to fabricate a fictitious world or narrative based on real or fantastical events. “Non-standard aesthetics is creative and inventive on its own terms and in its own way. Non-standard aesthetics is a fiction-philosophy [ philo-fiction ], a philosophico-artistic genre that tries to produce works using only pure and abstract thought. It does not create concepts in parallel to works of art—like that Spinozist Deleuze proposed, even though Deleuze himself was very close to embarking on a non-standard aesthetics.” 17 To subject philosophy to the non-standard method is to create a fiction philosophy. Likewise to subject photography to the same method produces a similar result. “The fiction-photo [ photo-fiction ] is a sort of generic extension or generalization of the 'simple' photo, the material photo.” 18 As he said previously in The Concept of Non-Photography, “the task of a rigorous thought is rather to found—at least in principle—an abstract theory of photography—but radically abstract, absolutely non-worldly and non-perceptual.” 19 This begins to reveal the way in which Laruelle's views on photography synchronize with his interest in utopia. Photography is not oriented toward a world, nor is it a question of perception. Rather, by remaining within itself, photography indicates a non-world of pure auto-impression. Bored by the peculiarities of particular photographic images, Laruelle fixates instead on the simple receptiveness to light generic to all photography. Yet receptiveness does not mean representability or indexicality. That would revert photography back to philosophy. Instead Laruelle radicalizes photic receptiveness as such, focusing on the non-standard or immanent nature of the photographic image. Rather than a return to phenomenology's notion of being in the world, Laruelle proposes what he calls being-in-photo. By this he means the photo that remains radically immanent to itself. Such a photograph produces a kind of objectivity without representation, a radical objectivity, an “objectivity so radical that it is perhaps no longer an alienation; so horizontal that it loses all intentionality; this thought so blind that it sees perfectly clearly in itself; this semblance so extended that it is no longer an imitation, a tracing, an emanation, a ‘representation’ of what is photographed.” 20 But it is not simply the photograph that is recast as non-standard immanence. So too the photographer, the philosopher who thinks photographically about the world. Laruelle elaborates this aspect through what he calls the photographer's stance [ posture ]: “Stance”—this word means: to be rooted in oneself, to be held within one’s own immanence, to be at one’s station rather than in a position relative to the “motif.” If there is a photographic thinking, it is first and foremost of the order of a test of one’s naive self rather than of the decision, of auto-impression rather than of expression, of the self-inherence of the body rather than of being-in-the-World. A thinking that is rooted in rather than upon a corporeal base. 21 Here is further demonstration of Laruelle's theory of utopia as immanence. He inverts the conventional wisdom on utopia as a non-place apart from this world. Laruelle's utopia is a non-world, yet it is a non-world that is entirely rooted in the present. Laruelle's non-world is, in fact, entirely real. Revealing his gnostic tendencies, Laruelle's non-standard real is rooted in matter, even if the standard world already lays claim to that same space. The non-standard method simply asserts the real in parallel with the world. In Laruelle the aesthetic stance is the same as the utopian stance. In the most prosaic sense, non-philosophy describes a kind of non-place where conventional rules seem not to apply. To the layman, the non-philosopher appears to use complex hypotheses and counter-intuitive principles in order to journey to the shores of another universe. Yet that doesn't quite capture it. As Laruelle says, insufficiency is absolutely crucial to utopia: “We are not saying one has to live according to a well-formed utopia... Our solution lies within an insufficient or negative utopia.” 22 The point is not to construct bigger and better castles in the sky, transcendental and sufficient for all. Rather, utopia is always finite, generic, immanent, and real. But non-philosophy is utopian in a more rigorous sense as well, for the structure of the human stance itself is the structure of utopia. Utopia forms a unilateral duality with human imagination; our thinking is not correlated with the world but is a direct clone of the real. This begins to resemble a kind of science fiction, a fiction philosophy in which the human stance is rethought in terms of rigorous scientific axioms. It makes sense, then, that Laruelle would call himself a science fiction philosopher, someone who thinks according to utopia. 23 “There are no great utopian texts after the widespread introduction of computers,” Fredric Jameson remarked recently, “the last being Ernest Callenbach’s Ecotopia of 1975, where computers are not yet in service.” 24 Today, instead of utopian texts, we have the free-market deliria of cyberpunk, which assumes that capitalism is itself a kind of utopia of difference and variety. I think this failure of imagination on the left can be attributed to the assumption that computers are enough to “take care” of totalization: that the well-nigh infinite complexities of production on a global scale, which the mind can scarcely accommodate, are mysteriously...resolvable inside the computer’s black box and thus no longer need to be dealt with conceptually or representationally. 25 The end of the utopian text thus signals for Jameson an end to representation. Or at the very least it indicates that representation—as complicated or flawed as it might be under otherwise normal conditions—has been interrupted and outsourced to another domain entirely. Laruelle's work confirms a particular kind of historical periodization: if indeed utopia perished as narrative or world or image, it was reborn as method. Such is the key to Laruelle's utopianism. For him utopia is a technique, not a story or a world. Utopia is simply the refusal to participate in the Philosophical Decision, a refusal to create worlds. Counterintuitively, then, Laruelle's refusal to create alternative worlds is what makes him a utopian thinker, for his non-standard world is really a non-world, just as utopia is defined as “non-place.” To refuse the philosophical decision is to refuse the world, and thus to discover the non-standard universe is to discover the non-place of utopia. NOTES François Laruelle, “A Light Odyssey: La découverte de la lumière comme problème théorique et esthétique” (Poitiers: le Confort Moderne, 1991), 1, this and other unattributed translations are my own. I thank Miguel Abreu for bringing this essay to my attention. “First Light: Twenty Etchings by James Turrell,” Museum of Modern Art (New York), July 1990. Quoted in Amanda Boetzkes, The Ethics of Earth Art (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010), 119. Laruelle, “A Light Odyssey,” 1. Ibid. Ibid., 6. Ibid., 8. On the topic of phenomenological revealing, Laruelle also notes that “when a subject is in a 'Turrellean'mode, its affect does not allow for a light that would be hidden and/or unveiled” (9). The key issue for Laruelle is that philosophy prohibits any kind of direct thought in light, in favor of reflections on light. “Light is the medium most favored by philosophy, and so philosophy—by way of ontology and phenomenology—must be understood as love of light more than light itself, just as philosophy is love of wisdom more than wisdom itself” (5). Ibid., 10. Ibid., 14. Ibid., 20. To be clear, Laruelle uses the term identity to mean something very particular, immanent sameness. His use of the term should not be confused with the way identity is used in discourses on identity politics or postmodern subject formation, particularly since these discourses typically use identity as a way to examine difference not sameness. Ibid., 5. François Laruelle, The Concept of Non-Photography / Le concept de nonphotographie , trans. Robin Mackay (Falmouth, UK and New York: Urbanomic and Sequence, 2011), and François Laruelle, Photo-Fiction, a Non Standard Aesthetics / Photo-fiction, une esthétique nonstandard , trans. Drew Burk (Minneapolis: Univocal, 2012). Laruelle, Photo-Fiction, 4 , translation modified. Ibid. Laruelle, The Concept of Non-Photography , 11. Laruelle, Photo-Fiction , 37. Ibid., 6, translation modified. Ibid., 55, translation modified. Given that photography indexes and orients itself reflexively in relation to a world Laruelle is intent on labeling all of photography, and indeed philosophy, as characteristically modern, modernist even. “Photography is the Modernist art par excellence,” he remarks. But fiction-photography is different, “fiction-photography [ photo-fiction ] is precisely the passage from an exemplarily modern aesthetics to a contemporary and inventive aesthetics that conjugates the arts and unfolds them” (ibid., 3839, translation modified). Thus by way of generic extension or generalization, fiction-photography avoids modernism's penchant for both meta reflection and narcissistic autonomy, encapsulated in that old chestnut “art for art's sake.” In this way, Laruelle might be characterized not so much as modern or anti-modern but as “alter-modern,” for he asserts a non-reflexive autonomous real that is not contrary to the modern but exists along side it. Laruelle, The Concept of Non-Photography , 8. 20. Ibid., 94. Ibid., 12. François Laruelle, Struggle and Utopia at the End Times of Philosophy , trans. Drew S. Burk and Anthony Paul Smith (Minneapolis: Univocal, 2012), 12. See for example Laruelle, Struggle and Utopia at the End Times of Philosophy , 4, where he is explicit about the connection between nonphilosophy and the utopia narratives common in science fiction. Fredric Jameson, “In Soviet Arcadia,” New Left Review 75 (May–June 2012): 119-127, p. 125. Ibid. (shrink)
continent. 2.2 (2012): 155–158 Michel Serres. Biogea . Trans. Randolph Burks. Minneapolis: Univocal Publishing. 2012. 200 pp. | ISBN 9781937561086 | $22.95 Conveying to potential readers the significance of a book puts me at risk of glad handing. It’s not in my interest to laud the undeserving, especially on the pages of this journal. This is not a sales pitch, but rather an affirmation of a necessary work on very troubled terms: human, earth, nature, and the problematic world we made. (...) It is this world that aspirates the silence (so to speak), and therefore the subject which, along with the development of the “made world” exports the excess augmentation of the cosmically missing, this silence of the natural, et cetera. Had we learned from Locke that lesson of “labor,” to consume what we need… but perhaps we need more than what matters? Serres’ Biogea has several functions on this manner, if it is indeed a book to be consumed. First, readers searching for novelistic entertainment have a place to dwell. Biogea deserves a place in your back pocket; biographical generosity and poetic fluidity should satisfy most textual fetishes. For lay philosophers who want to refresh their acumen, Biogea deserves a place on the book shelf, one already reads a sorely needed postmodern tune-up here. Serres’ style is clearly French; he leaves few cheese crumbs on his words, rather preciseness and breathing in the work give way to a sweeping manner that breaks the narrative line of sight. A circular narrative and anachronistic fragmentation of terms allows an abyssal atmosphere to swell, if only to pump into the book the externality of its broader text. Biogea aspires to a higher standard and the book, at times, is thinking this negentropic problem too. Univocal, the publisher, has crafted a book appropriate for the hands to hold and the translations are an achievement of an otherwise difficult writer to translate. Terms are the conditions of a broader text. It is important to note that Serres’ content is as much a thinking of terminal ports. There is a regard for the transportation technology of the written word. For me, this is the mark of genius, a craftiness that tells of a book device that I may trust. Serres is an accomplished thinker and a necessary voice to check the putative trendiness of anti-postmodernist and market-driven theory of endless cultural liquidation. Offering interventions on subjectivity as an open system we are given a chance to affirm the human, not merely to discard it, but to engage its poetic image emotion, the calibratory silent sense of the analogic world; the terms on which we base our efforts. 1 The human is the center of its own negation, constantly mediating it. Something deeper at stake appears in the work then, and it is quite obvious from the onset. Certainly, a book is an intensification of possible text and those who brought this actual book into existence have captured a rarity in regards to the subject matter and artistic accomplishment. I mentioned terms as conditions, so let us understand Biogea as bio-yea, a yes to bios . An affirmation of living and accepting presence for all of its defiance of images, words, and things temporal. Therefore Serres’ existence and its existants plays parts; out of linearity and still like a porous bone pumping blood it manufactures into the fleshy life it becomes. Starting from a man named silence chaos emerges, or the man “Old Taciturn” takes up a journey anticipating a great flood. In other words, a development akin to the one in Genesis. In dealing with this ancestral occupation, fusing Genesis with contemporary philosophical terms, Serres initiates this anachronistic fragmentation under the forming subjectivity of his own autobiography. This mutation in the open system is precisely one of Serres’ terms. There an abyss is at work, stated, but also measured by heels on the ground—the abyss dispatching earthen tensions, that which plays our tunes, that which we abide by and recognize in volcanoes, rivers, oceans, earthquakes and weaponry in the battles of the world. Set in later stages of the book, such tensions are harnessed through scientific principles in an attempt to unify the terms of natural force if only to terminate the world. Thus the elevation of the earth into the world is clearly set forth. Here already, and few pages in, a resonance is set forth under appellations such as the river Garonne, a subjectivity as much as it is inhuman, the river is the inhuman that makes us human. I get the sense that Serres is taking up a challenge issued by Wallace Stevens; namely, that the great poems of heaven and hell have been written, but that only the poem of the earth has resisted composition. 2 On this level we cannot avoid the killing factor of silence, given that our cognition blocks its pure, radical obliteration. Thus a silence of attunement to the earth is in a novel dialectic of the rithmic and rhythm. A technological world, a triumph of termination is set forth. If a text imposes its will given the reader who authorizes it, it is made to convey or convect a presupposition to a reader or its inhabitant(s). Text is therefore both, in-content, contenting, contentedness, and in reading it, a way to navigate self-destruction (dis-content). Here then would one note that the “inhuman” reveals itself, “an aperiodic rhythm of lovers and beloved…the sea as our friend…but as our enemy…maternal vivifying sea.” The sea is an open book, or vaginal birth canal, where the engagement of text comes forth: “…woman sea, open vulva.” One sees like the sea, but only after it, when the uninhabitable truth of inhabiting it switches the polarity of the sailors soul: “I was seeing like the sea” (9-11). In other words, we are invited to embrace the nonsense of the visible. At this point I am taken to Jean-François Lyotard’s work The Inhuman , specifically the first entry on negentropy that would be congruent with Serres’ thematic. 3 The human being exports, deports, or transplants its relation through text, through the system— and this is its sense or relation to silence, to music. Unaware of Serres’ proximity to this work, the concept of gender interrelation as regards a solar catastrophe runs clear. It would be, on this basis, that Serres references his peers, the other texts that, as mentioned above, are discarded in philosophy today. For students of philosophy what we have here is perhaps a gift, a needed project. If silence and death are at work, there is a political valence to deal with, and here, much like the domain of the text and the dominion of the reader, we confront the world of natural, fluid violence. The anti-postmodernist critique is in part based on a weak idea that the loss of ideology, of a world vision, motivates the “correlationist” project. 4 Serres seems to offer another way to view this when he notes that whereas persons “sometimes kill,” it is clearly “the collective” that “always kills” (17). What is the collective today, if not an organizing function we never see yet acts in its favor in the name of truth? One feels a sense of enigma here, if only to link to what Stevens remarked of communism as a “grubby faith,” providing this applies for capitalism as well, namely any ideology of progress overly interested in absolutes. Here we get the sense that the inhuman, silence, this type of killing, always killing, could not be matched by human-made, political dynamos. Or that if it comes to an equilibrium, a catastrophe is never too far from us to read with our heels. We are left to note that the forces of nature presuppose and permeate political systems, the more these systems obtain force, the more the system takes upon itself the proper name of nature that motivates its dissemination, albeit falsely. This note, that in an age of ecocide and technological captivity (sustainability and transparency) political regimes won’t grow our soul-learning ears any larger than our tongues, stands clear to us. The promise of technological desubjectification is here pushed aside. Regarding politics, Serres illustrates this fact: Where did this corpse come from? Who was it? Who killed it? I don’t know. I won’t try to find out. I refuse to get vengeance for it. And I only see Garonne. For our victims, today, are the rivers, too. Their waters have irrigated my life, enchanted my thought, invigorated my body; I’ve known them to be threatening, untamable, as dangerous as the sea when it rages. Yes, murderous. They decided to control their courses; dams, sometimes senseless, destroying sites and valleys, reduced entire populations to servile displacements; programs for the irrigation of thirsty farmland, often beneficial of course, completed their drying up.(22) Serres enters into his idea concerning the captivity of language from the natural into a world system: For thousands of years, we have been licking things with our tongues, covering and daubing them so as to appropriate things for ourselves. If language boils down to a convention, this convention took place between the speakers without consulting the thing named, become as a result the property of those who covered it in this way with their drawn or voiced productions. Malfeasance analyzes these acts of appropriation. Thus every inert object, every living thing as well, sleeps under the covers of signs, a little in the way that, today, a thousand posters shouting messages and ugly riots of color drown, with their filthy flood, the landscapes, or better, exclude them from perception because the meaning, almost nil, of this false language and these base images forms an irresistible source of attraction to our neurons and eyes. This appropriation covers the world’s beauty with ugliness. (38-39) Technological concealment coming to bear, we begin to get a sense of another commentary on the condition of sensing, driving home the necessity of a text dealing with such subject matter to be what its terms insist. Thus toward new openings: The new opening. As low beneath our feet as you like, the Biogea opens us to another space, high enough for us to be able to acquire a wisdom there, that of redeveloping this same place differently from our fathers, this place that’s still politically cut up by old hatreds, beneath the flood of tears and blood that we call history. Without this soft place, spiritually very old, but newly conceived in this way, without the juridical construction of a common good, opposed to our filthy ownership, I don’t see how our planet, hard, will survive. Hardness that depends on a softness, material belonging that depends on this temporary rented location (51). Serres enters into a summit on the content and the structure of his work. Archimedes is brought in with the concept of three volcanoes. Meaning fire, but as well earth, water, air. For it was Archimedes’ war machines that sought to lift the earth, thus bringing in the question of principles of science: “can a principle be invented while controlling its consequences?” (66-7). May the earth be put in a sentence, terminated by terminology, appellations, gone wild? By means of these element-dominating laws, this old physicist began to tear nature away from the ancient myths; by a strange return, today we’re plunging our successes back into the anxieties and terrors from which that ancient physics was born. Yes, our new history of science and technology is plunging, today, as though in a loop, into the fundamental human myths from which Empedocles’ first laws came. A major progression and a regression on the nether side of the origins. Consequently, the contemporary time requires that we try to return to that unity in which the principles of hate and love are at the same time human, living, inert and global. We will never attain a deontology of our knowledge and actions without thinking the subjective, the objective, the collective, and the cognitive all together simultaneously. Here, hate and love are the result of these four components.(71) Working then on the concept of fire-starting mirrors to the atomic annihilation of the Second War, Serres works into the subjectivity in question on the matter of rhythm—say rithmic— precisely at that point: Knowledge is changing today. The all-political is dying; the monarchy of the sciences said to be hard is coming to a close. The science of the things of the world will have to communicate just as much as the things of the world do, which do it much better than humans do, who don’t always want to do it. Let’s celebrate two changes this morning. The first one strikes a new blow to our narcissism. No, knowledge and the world don’t resemble our analytical enjoyments of refined cutting up, of endless debates and of exclusions full of hate. They, on the contrary, form a bloc and a sum, alliance and alloys. Uniting the fields of knowledge among themselves the way the things are connected among themselves, the second newness puts into place sets united by interlacing, webs and simplexes that combine with the things of the world, themselves combined, the combined knowledge that understands them.(130-1) Biogea closes on its opening flood thematic, approaching the initial telos of Genesis. Here the trees are brought into a position with atmosphere, the opaque abyssal reservoir, the tomb of the sun, sea in the polarity of the earthen heaven and hell. The poem of the earth then is silent but deadly, indeed, as funny as that phrase is, mainly a tomb gas. The meaning of the living and the non-meaning of things converge in the muteness of the world; this meaning and non-meaning plunge there and come out, the ultimate eddy. Mundus patet: through a fissure, through an opening, a fault, a cleft come noises, calls as small as these apertures. I’m listening, attentive, I’m translating, I’m advancing in the scaled-down meaning and science. Mundus patet: should the world open greatly, it will launch me into its silence. The totality remains silent. Knowledge expanded in elation. White origin of meaning, fountain of joy. (198) Final Remarks One test of a review is the long term trajectory the referee thinks the book will have. I see Serres’ text lending greatly into the vision of Biogea . In fact, in the vision of the novel inquiries of Stephen Jay Gould’s work there is something to be thought on the level of the individual and the species; namely, that humanity and its uniqueness is in its deferral, its thinking and naming, a thinking surrounded by silence that filters into everything, that pulls us through the world, the kinetic pulse we recognize, and all of that we cleave away in the base philosophical maxim of difference itself. Unique individuals are spatial creatures: we dwell, and we ought to get good at it. Yet this is an imaginative space that, if you are crazy enough to believe it, de-term-ine the conditions of its own terms. That is why we are not merely creating spaces on the acceleration of time, or so this ignoramus thinks, to accidentally transcend. Imagination already has this insatiable silence that we drink up and fail to manifest. Space is timeless. The imagination itself, shared by humans for themselves, their objects, and the species as a whole, is a non-defined space of relation; a whole human trajectory as part of nature, and part of worlds that are the other side of thinking nature, the consequence of it, at least our attempt to do so. Our survival is based on our deliberation, our caution, our natural deconstructive sense toward this silence that is already part of the song, sung, singing of this century without end. Good books will let us inhabit this space and recognize a form of life. Serres’ text moves toward dwelling, as noted, in masterful and accessible ways. The pitched battles are the falling replays of anemic and dead politics. As soon as we realize there is humanity, we may be able to enjoy the end of it, our inhuman capability of listening to silence. NOTES 1. See Michel Serres. The Parasite . Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 2007. 2. Wallace Stevens, “Imagination as Value” [ca. 1945], in Collected Poetry and Prose . New York: The Library of America. 1997. 724-39. 3. Jean-François Lyotard. The Inhuman: Reflections on Time . Trans. Geoffrey Bennington & Rachel Bowlby. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. 1992. 4. See the introduction: Quentin Melliassoux. After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency . Trans. Ray Brassier. New York: Continuum. 2008. EDITOR'S NOTE: This review was updated on August 8, 2012. Substantial edits include block quotes from the book under review as well as the inclusion of comments from the author. (shrink)
continent. 1.3 (2011): 187-194. 1. St. Reagan and the Return of the Storyteller The 2004 Republican National Convention was a significant event concerning language and aesthetics in contemporary politics. The Reagan myth appeared as a stellar aura of sentimentality that churned a cultic swoon. Among the polity this spectacular mystery passed a glow upon the shoulders of gleeful followers. Engulfing George W. Bush’s body, the Reagan aura of the protector, the prophet, the historian, and narrator of American destiny oft portrayed (...) as a humble man who simply transmits “content,” bequeathed upon the sitting president his missionary staff to guard that “shining city on a hill.” This proverbial key to New Jerusalem follows Reagan’s own mythical thinking about the sacred role of the United States. After all the organism-city was under attack by “terrorism.” The “real America” had to be preserved from suitcase nukes and radical Islam, what was needed, in fact, was the wise counsel of Reagan-Bush to survive not only as a nation, but as a world. When Bush ceremoniously accepted his spectral host his image was woven into Reagan’s, the ultimate sovereign who rode off into the screen on a white stallion. This journey scene manifested after two key elements of memorial montage: the late leader’s image preceded by a surging fighter plane that merged into the image of a priest calming his flock at what appeared to be Reagan’s own funeral service. With Reagan returning from heaven through media he assured the converted any crisis facing American providence was only a point of passage. Having returned a short time after ascension his “final journey to the West”1 was an aura every conservative leader need embody and project. Reagan’s channelers, the conservative faithful, amplified the aura of father Exceptionalism. This novelistic perpetuity endowed the faithful with an ability to overcome not only history and its seismic interruptions (given its attempt to claim the impossibility of nature), but as much the finitude of mortality. Contemporary crises of origin has breached a certain threshold of experience through broadcast media. This phenomenon is provisionally linked to authenticity and language, similarly articulated by Christopher Fynsk concerning the “way” one takes “in the saying of language.” The way is complicated by the “fact” of language itself, and the fact of language may indeed be our devices that transmit political messages.2 Thus how we engage what appears or inflects as an essence in the experience of media persists in relation to our own speaking or saying. The first barrier is a thinking of or with devices we inhabit daily. It is easy to call this a type of agency, yet to target the device in hand obscures the question of the apparatus itself and its relation to language. Far more ephemeral than the Reagan myth per se something surpassed a key threshold related to that question. The “funerary moment” as Jacques Derrida conceived of it examples, perhaps, the distinction Fynsk makes between Hegel and Heidegger on the fact of language in consideration of the way of its saying essence, it also links to a moment of terror and war as capitalism enters into its late phase. As Fynsk sets out in the introduction to Language and Relation, one must “attend to an implication of approach and object that is no less intricate than (though fundamentally different from) the one purposed by Hegel.”3 Method denotes the problematic of the death in language and the way it relates to political discourse, or, as we propound, the way death is turned against subjectivity.4 Derrida’s observation of Hegelian semiotics perhaps underscores this matter of the “fact” of language, that is, if we are concerned with recovering discourse from pure aesthetic manipulation, as a type of death-speaking in media devices is a language that is factual: Hegel knew that this proper and animated body of the signifier was also a tomb. The association s?ma/s?ma is also at work in this semiology, which is in no way surprising. The tomb is the life of the body as the sign of death, the body as the other of the soul, the other of the animate psyche, of the living breath. But the tomb also shelters, maintains in reserve, capitalizes on life by marking that life continues elsewhere the family crypt: oik?sis. It consecrates the disappearance of life by attesting to the perseverance of life. Thus the tomb also shelters life from death. It warns the soul of possible death, warns (of) death of the soul, turns away (from) death. This double warning function belongs to the funerary moment. The body of the sign thus becomes the monument in which the soul will be enclosed, preserved, maintained, kept in maintenance, present, signified. At the heart of this monument the soul keeps itself alive, but it needs the monument only to the extent that it is exposed—to death—in its living relation to its own body. It was indeed necessary for death to be at work [... ]5 Reagan became an incorruptible saint by a death at work, a mythical force indelibly printed through the incumbent Bush and his bio-formative constituency. Limited not to a particular ideological identity the embodiment of American providence and its sacral mission is at stake in this transferral of aura. Sure to spring from his or her mouth are the wise maxims and proverbs, that in a sense of scale, Bush attained the attributes of Benjamin’s storyteller as a Reaganesque narrator: speaking wise counsel from beyond the pale of broadcasting lumens. The device in hand is yet a mere distinction to Benjamin’s concept of the novel and its crystallized narrator whereby a solitary reader (hence viewer of broadcast politics) reunited with their own death-speaking capacity. The distinction between the novel and the device occurs in the withdraw from reading a novel and return to the realities of life. Our devices today are increasingly attached to our mode of encountering and cracking phenomenon once demarcated by the actual pages and limited by distances that gave readers a chance to see a report for what it was. Reagan’s ubiquitous Americana, telegraphed through folk speak crafted by his minders, is constantly recycled by neophytes. The likes of Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, and Christine O’Donnell present to the American public newer developments of a candidate with special attributes of a storyteller narrator. These acolyte test models attempt to perfect what appears as a neo-romantic element of American cult. Even Barack Obama in his misguided attempt at Burkean consensus invokes Reagan.6 Given the lack of substance in conservative candidates today, the ultra synthetic reality surrounding political leaders denotes a crisis in authentic discourse. This demands a deeper mediation on the nature of essence, that is, where essence vanishes into the impossibility of nature and further, whether or not we can even think this distinction without committing an incredible fault of curiosity, that is, running the risk of participating in a fully synthetic political discourse. Our naive animality, if not our “bare life” holds the ability to distinguish what was given away to the device that understands more and more of our bodily movement. Since we are accustomed to thinking by way of self-reflection the experience of discovery has always lent itself to the destructive and “secret” mores of an ideology of progress. If I participate, no matter what, things might change. This is a matter limited to technological agency but not fully that: language has entered an eidetic blender. Therefore beyond this tendency to call Reagan acolytes religious lunatics we have entered a time of political eschatology. These candidates and the sophisticated elements of their campaigns gamble on our increasingly faltering capacity to grasp our own capacity for language. How are we to think the appearances of these figures in order to gain access to the displacement of a synthesis of reason, the crafting of thinking we have apparently left behind? The content of Reagan and Obama’s speeches are stabilizations of a death-lost polity. This phenomenon is analogous to the emergencies of a stock market. The nature of machine-driven trading demands a more emotive check on tensing outcomes. The practice of language is in doubt because the usurpation of discursively built community, that is, communities have adopted the logic of information as the basis for their meaning: broken, without brevity and lack of context. The media device is an interesting object. Its capacity to subjectify or structure perception depends on our lingering from actual reality in the same way the novel and the newspaper did. We cannot however limit our thinking to the object. Appearances are linked to the fact of language. If engagement with forming language continues by way of device habitation, pragmatic legislation which is the synthetic material for rule of law will face continual destruction. Law takes its place in the body. The body marks the limit of freedom by moving to the limits prescribed by law. A perpetual image crystallizing a general condition in the American polity suggests the reflections of salvation, a blindness of vanity or the narcissistic awe of our devices and networks allows essence to meet this law beyond our perceptual capacity of reflection. The law is no longer engaged by the body in formal thinking, it is engaged by whatever imagination may be, arguably the furthest extent of a thinking, human body. Imagination would become the essence of a new law. Neo-romantic vision quests for the real America become the blinding element of political identity dominated by the aesthetics of an obscure authenticity. What is the authenticating body then, for whom? The American polity has hit an ideological bottom. Wandering in portable magic mirrors listening to every revelation spouting about produces a result that pushes once calculative governance by argument into endless oblivion, hence the craft of reason aimlessly drifting into a multi-polar voidance without any legible consensus. The question “how do we think of the multiple?” is perhaps phrased more effectively as “how do we avoid what appears as reasonable discourse?” 2. Shock Values: Masses in a Post-Electro-Mechanical Age We think we are part of political movements every time we stroke our screens. Therefore when Reagan reappeared from death he was Benjamin’s storyteller, he was a saint and now incorruptibly true—this is the experience of devices and the claim of their ability to channel appearances of facts. This glazed upon Obama, who, no matter how brilliant, proves unable to stabilize the destruction of civic spatialization whereby law appears and may be thought about. Political strategists will continue to manipulate this factoring of language whether known to them or not. And the world beat essence of Obama once hailed as messiah can no longer keep up with the national quest for origin. “Birthers,” in fact, are a nonpartisan phenomenon that lends to our theorization. Birthers’ desire for authentic origin by way of mythical delusion indicates the power of appearances and a lack of perceptual literacy. Conversely Obama did precipitate a potential cure for the inadequacies of death care through devices that reach beyond “Hope.” Casual observance of “conservative” right ideologies congealing in contemporary America demonstrates a growing reactionary position against government and administration. The Obama campaign, following all the progressive elements of political identification and subjectification is no exception, no one can win without using technologies of an increasingly sophisticated apparatus of voter identification. This is differentiated by Obama’s pragmatic style of governance, the executive versus the messianic candidate. By the administration’s own admission their information was “ineffectively” communicated.7 The arguments as to the real appropriation of Reagan’s good governance, whatever the case may be, are appropriated today by a radical right that rejects any America whereby its modern institutions survive, and that is the real fall-out in Washington today. The bios that gives force to symbolic power is now oriented toward the thought of these bodies, not the bodies themselves. They have a whole new issue to enforce upon America: governance is no longer acceptable in any civic manifestation where organizing physical bodies was its primary task. These bodies are already in place. Governance would begin in our own blinding vanity as the submission to essence driven by a factored language. That is why following the wise counsel of contemporary politicians has less and less to do with how well one knows their leader or their half-baked conspiracies. Today more and more people do not clearly understand what these leaders really say or mean. Regardless of bravado, language contrasts to a general sense of reality these leaders exude once in office. Yet by 2012 it is not a gamble of prophecy to say this general rupture in political messaging will not be corrected and perfected. Everyone knows revolutionary leaders are insane, yet to be insane is generally a mode by which one has little way of confronting its suppositionary notions. We live in a time of demented and hallucinogenic language inherited from the post-war America of the 1950s, yet that phenomenon has begun to transpire into nothingness and along with it any revolutionary possibility. Would the new emergence of far right leaders really qualify for a whole group of insane revolutionary leaders appearing in such prolific numbers? This question rests upon the disappearance and emergence of something like an iconographic scaffold whereby our ability to read depends on our aesthetic health, that is, grasping the death in speaking, which would be the ineffable fact of language itself. Our “conservative” leaders of the day, are not yet full lunatics, they believe what they say and what they say is authenticated by invoking the storyteller of Reagan who holds the mantle as the most malleable blazon in American political lexicography. This diction or literacy-shaping is buttressed by nearly countless amounts of data crunching and micro-targeting, the goal, as it has been since the formal introduction of social and information sciences in the early 20th century, is to find a way into the subjectification processes of human bios.8 Walter Lippmann, a pioneer on journalistic ethics and social sciences defines the goal of seeing images forming in people’s head in uncomfortably similar terms: The pictures inside the heads of these human beings, the pictures of themselves, of others, of their needs, purposes and relationship, are their public opinions [. W]e shall inquire first into some of the reasons why the picture inside often misleads men in their dealings with the world outside. We shall consider first the chief factors which limit their access to the facts. They are the artificial censorships, the limitations of social contact, the comparatively meager time available in each day for paying attention to public affairs, the distortion arising because events have to be compressed into very short messages, the difficulty of making a small vocabulary express a complicated world, and finally the fear of facing those facts which would seem to threaten the established routine of men’s lives.”9 Hallucinogenic experience inherited something from the percussive shocks that shattered the body. Benjamin’s shattered human, as he thought it in “The Storyteller,” was one undergoing a decline in valuable experience. Lippmann’s cynical attitude stands in contradistinction to any progressive goal of educating and informing everyone by the merits of information and newspapers. Benjamin’s stance was quite similar to that. Despite the percussive assault of modern life and its loosing of biological sanctity, human-beings retained an ability to redress progressive obliteration. Benjamin therefore sought an “-ability” to think creatively against a desubjectification presaging the ascension of total war fascism. Would this form of desubjectification fully manifest today depends upon whether or not we are able to observe appearances proximate to death, or to authenticate the end of our personal world. The crises of finitude for the subject are linked to Benjamin’s analysis of a final review. A dying body allowed a necessary life-affirming transmission critical to human society.10 This is a society we conserve less and less of today. How do we engage technological claims on bios, and the use of our imaginations by political regimes exploiting those “plugged-in” to the system? Benjamin’s general prognosis aligns with this in a rather interesting way. The incessant wiring of the world digs into the destructive currents of our unknowable nature whereby our capacity to grasp our finite existence has few ethical stabilizations. In Benjamin’s thought one could attempt to strike against this type of historical determination. This observation was linked to the electro-mechanical experience of the human body. Today it takes place at an aesthetic level and requires a new articulation whereby a new praxis lacks a consistent engagement. How do we un-subjectify with “smart” technologies and conserve the dignity and nature of our own language? How do we smash them without destroying our own bodies and imaginations?11 If we follow a type of linguistically driven empiricism language is the last place whereby a sensible conversation takes place. In fact I think this is the enigma by which Obama will secure reelection. It is based upon means of a synthetic authentication through accessing a human based temporality we are quickly losing touch with. This will not secure whatever governance is already taking position, the new governance may be confronted by what Benjamin called “spectrum analysis."12 This mnemonic shift would drive death from language and throw it about the mediated world. It would, in effect, have to be supposed before imagined. Is this best addressed by whatever we are calling post-human? Is it merely an excrescence of writing that demands a more efficacious recovery? Would mourning for authentic language finally been overcome or does this post-human merely obscure it? Only a new art and poetry could emerge as a way to articulate it.13 3. Legibility in the Age of Sustained Beings: Thoughts on a Post-Human Militancy Today it seems language is completely packaged on a level of thought-utterance. Recovering the dignity and nature of authentic speaking, or dare I say “organic” voice, is a move toward smashing historical determination. From the inside-out language seems ripped apart from being; conversely, from the outside-in death is inhaled through endless objects of commoditized life. Aisle after aisle of produced thinking we ceaselessly inhabit a neo-bourgeois ideology of moderation. Profane thinkers of the day have yet to turn to novel tactics that are sustaining fronts of resistance. How does one address something that we cannot even see? Paradoxically this ends in the destruction of the body if the aim of any determinative machine would truly want anything at all. But what it really hints at is the reflection of a real body more available than we think. If Benjaminian shock served as a positioning agent for the “sustainability” regime we have now entered, would we not benefit from seriously engaging a project of aesthetic rebellion? If we inherited shock from the long-term incubation with the technology of writing we should have access to its claim on imagination. That would need to be tempered by the fact that writing has begun a type of disappearance. In the sense of its general “legibility” the essence of writing could be what powers the affect of canonized authenticity.14 If the ancient human today dissolves in the wake of the shock and awe by a disappearing writing, its own natural propellant (voice and the mystery of nature) would obtain an appearance. Would this new phenomenon have already begun a decline? Discourse for constructing communities would be one recovered through media that attempts to fully claim synthetic reason from thought. Discourse is therefore not directly from bodies in a sense of transmission, which would handle any effective construction of synthetic reason or moderation, i.e. Burkean calculation or post-Humean passion. Though clearly an issue of the posthumous it is in this death-notion that we surrender to our leaders appearing in devices. Whatever resembles of our own dead-death it is obscured by vanity. Vanity obscures scintillas of truth in media devices via storytellers by the essence of death itself. No matter what political or ideological identity, language is the device and perhaps the apparatuses of media in general. Powered by the force of death, our death, everyone’s dead-death, language is no longer a footnote for philosophical pause: it powers what appears now as political inanity. Imagination is in some sense legible, somewhere, somehow. Does object-philosophy promise to solve this problem through dejected curiosities, or veiled desubjectification? Thinking the claim on imagination would be the only way to confront the lunatics attempting to destroy public and civic governance. Yet this is a problem of immanence or waiting. God is a crisis of imagination incredibly difficult to conceive in the self-conceptualization we have today. It would depend upon those entrepreneurs savvy enough to create a type of space to accommodate radical language in an already fully exhibited human body. The affirmative and immediate truth we ignore today, or simply cannot stabilize any further for examination, enters a paradoxical crux.15 This seems confirmation enough to open a debate about the aesthetics of object philosophy as a proper place for the remnants of capitalist thought, if we are still thinking on terms of commodities. Dead-death is ripping imagination from the body and reselling it in what is called “wise counsel” from the likes of a used-car politician. I would like to take this question in this direction, because though this has never been the expressed goal of commodification, it is the result of late capitalism. Any new image of language presents a substantiation or claim on our “post-human” future and what type of politics it would produce. Does it appear in the ironic phrase of “Hope,” is it something intimate about our conditions with media? Are we in some sense entering a vast hopelessness but at the same time challenged not to fall victim to narratives of salvation? The human’s lingering ideal of having a “post” in society finds a possible irony as a type of Loughnerian grammar (the invisibility of constructing reason)16 and is linked to this pervasive loss or mourning. Indeed we may have fewer positions in society today. Conversely is not having a “post” the militant imperative of liberal democratic thought and its utopian undercurrents? What we have is equality through opposition and war. What was an inner contradiction in the promise of a welfare state was actually a warfare status of privileging groups or individuals in a larger manifestation or correcting apparatus of natural laws. By abusing “diversity” what was concealed are the nefarious elements of economic sciences and the invisible mastery of divisiveness, one that appears internally, as we see in contemporary politics, the most unnatural nature. This human position in liberal democracy is utterly collapsing. Authentic exchanges, friendship, and mutual care for creative destruction and construction are not nourished long on denatured excrement. Our post in contemporary society is thus messianic. The recycling of thinking has an end in itself, an end we must overcome. Our uncanny boot camp of psychosis, if never set down, will always obscure the locus of creative acts, that is, where reason or craft enters into the actual by way of reflection. That we all have a “Call of Duty” means the placement of the game controller in the hands of a biped: a direction that ends in the point-of-view. And the space between them presents an opportunity to move this orienting post. As for the word “orient,” the preverbal East is the last place the West appears as Western. Who or what is godlike has today a point of view that projects a world. What replaces orientation is the capacity to observe this schematic. First, one could destabilize the ordering of imagination itself by way of the individual imagination. This is our first “profanity.”17 Second, the imagination and the created world are thus voyages into the logic of an image and not the radical productivity of imagination alone. Their integration, or transmogrifying capacity, lends to our need to learn to read what is writing today in our imaginative bodies, that is, to read experience and navigate the punctual claim, its eidetic variations of our own movement in the world. To stop this novel illiteracy of sense from falling into a politician’s image of counsel one would have to recognize that any game console is not a true voyage without deference for reading “outside the box.” Here, object philosophies may offer thoughts on grammar. As it relates to its interiority, it, the post-human, must consider both until it is once again human. This is the only conservative position left in the world of thought. This would describe our musing about a post-ing, positing, or depositing—the punctual orientation of biology. For imagination available to each biological life is an imaginative “access” to their post or point in the world. This posting is what their real point of view could become as the perishing of this point of view, as an interior window to being. Every human has, in the military anyway, a “post.” And the post of Sarah Palin, among other inane creatures, is a twisted language, which has no regard for poetic care. The suppositions we operate on still concern on the imperatives of an “informed citizenry,” that is, their entire index of thoughts and thinking as a public property. The idealistic requisite for voting in a representative democracy is precisely what I mean by electro-mechanical profanity now relegated to a wet dream in the anti-humid reality of a computer. We are wise therefore to rethink the famous and certainly defunct “Canons of Journalism.” The modernist scientific answer of stabilizing information was to have its site in the bodies of thinking human beings. That is, the object of information and the newspaper itself were the plane by which one could reason effectively if they would just learn how to read them correctly. We have long since entered that phase, a time of readers and writers that we now no longer understand as separate positions. Benjamin observed that the vanity and egoistic desire of readers to be writers is often abused by editors. This is in no case diminished today, that is, “users” have constant reflection in the devices in hand and hackers find themselves committing the errorism of a Flusserian “functionary.” Perspective, that is, a point of view, is the habitation of the object of the paper by imagination, this is only sped up by way of the user comments. More precisely a migration of thinking-bios into information. The newspaper is now a motherboard, everybody reads them and no body understands it, the goal is to standardize the movement of bios. Science, in particular what is called “social science” does not determine democracy as we opined earlier. This cynical attitude toward participatory democracy is a cornerstone of a more accurate and forgotten conservative skepticism of “liberalism.” Thus liberalism fosters the correct conditions of warfare in order to gain access to imagination, and if democracy (the want of grammar) demands discursive freedom, we are far from that today. Conservatives today are merely liberal radicals who intentionally or not use information science to further manipulate every biotic form bleeding being into a corrective system of illegible grammar, that is the way to stabilize the orthodoxy of their followers, return the uncared death of language into the image of their regime. What is the point-of-viewing humans like that? The point-of-view, or the point-of-viewing has in some sense left us with a type of novel mourning. What is post-human is thus still human, a matter of access to positions of every moment of legible and illegible verbiage (referring here to Fynsk’s thinking of essence and language). We have to determine an increase in legibility that fits a criteria of dignity and privation. One can stop speeding-up to outsmart the calculative and programmatic nature of civil machinery and thus find ways to ethically engage ordering. Timing is thus the answer to impossible speed, at least in boxing. This imperative emerges in political want today, as in America and across the world the hard rightward migration toward national origins is based on the loss of a relationship to language and thus aims at destroying what it believes are results of a “big government.” The speed that has desubjectified the hobbits and ancient Vikings of a Tea Partying America are equally astounding, yet they too will undergo a perishing of becoming. The masticatory capacity of necrotic capitalism today is a type of political mourning for a reasonable discourse obscured in essence. But the answer is not by incarnating politicians as storytellers, or creating fictive worlds whereby our narrators emerge in actual certainty versus a general schematic of reality, these are things we merely attend to as objects and essences. 4. The Negative Kingdom of Sound Being It was the cultic and exhibitive dialectic that Benjamin thought in consideration of fascism and technology that excavated language, removing its production of wisdom for the finite subject into the device and returning it as something promising actual, infinite capacity. The weigh station remains the human body yet a body that has lost it capacity to handle the radical being concealed in language itself due to the technologization of metaphysical thought. If ana-logism or analog life characterized the annihilative expression of “world war” via media and its acceleration into images, what was underwritten was the capacity of seeing.18 Shock via media has left the body in a missionary-messianic position that indicates this lack of seeing as the site of almost every political utterance guided by the synthetic narrators of false histories. Iterated earlier, the ideological imperative of sustainability solidifies what appears as the imperatives of smart technology: a novel ground of human imagination and the mastery of the ineffable capacity we are no longer able to tacitly handle. Therefore Reagan’s post-humous appearances designate the ethics of optical thought as an ethics most inhumane. Reflected in the rise of Obama, the 2004 Republican Presidential Convention was only one site that is not fully consequential of what has since emerged as disquieting behavior exampled by “conservative” politicians and media despots. The emergence of cultic lunacy is built upon the incredible exploitation of language and being. We cannot fully account for these figures who seemingly occupy the fringes of imaginative thought through an inversion of bodily force into a nearly immaculate conception of the signification of wise counsel, that is, they emerge as our modern version of an effective storyteller capable of facilitating what was lost from real conversation, community and the essentiality of creative embellishments (not unlike the author Leskov for whom Benjamin afforded some finding of counsel even if the orator was merely a page). There is a bit of countermovement that may have an optimistic tenor. Our own recovery of being forces the question of how we recognize a return to being. If we have lost our collective vision it may be that we have only realized sight has nothing to do with appearances. This first theoretical step would address the ethical need erupting in not only our continuous digital migration, but the colonization of language by media and its claim on being. If our time is not engaged toward the preservation of biological thinking supposing the incredibly elusive element of human experience, it is at the same time an indifference oriented toward the utter destruction of human systems whereby a chaotic outcome would express a negative fecundity unseen, but one we conversely have some type of access to. Would this shift first appear in imagination itself or merely as another testing? Have we truly divorced ourselves from language by the pent up desire to escape the fact of finitude that has only resulted in near-death testimonies and theosophical doctrines? NOTES 1 Quoted from Ronald Reagan’s memorial as broadcasted by FoxNews 2 I refer in general to Christopher Fynsk’s inaugural questions concerning the “linguistic turn.” See Fynsk, Language and Relation. 3 Fynsk notes that verb status of essence relates to the “way-making that occurs properly in the speaking of language,” whereby discerning essence and language might lead, via Heidegger to an experience with language: “...namely, the relation of essence and language as it involves the human engagement of speaking its essence.” See Fynsk, Language and Relation , 76-7. 4 I have begun a theory of such a recovery, See Groves, “Ultima Multis: The Raising of Deathcare.” 5 See Derrida, “The Pit and the Pyramid,” 82-3. 6 Sam Tanenhaus has observed that Obama is most likely a consensus conservative in the Burkean sense of calculation. See Tanenhaus, The Death of Conservatism . 7 See Beam, “Speech Therapy.” 8 I refer here to Walter Lippmann’s Public Opinion , published in 1922, whereby the goal was to see the pictures in people’s heads. 9 Lippmann, Public Opinion , 30. 10 In “The Storyteller,” Benjamin assigns this to anyone, including the “wretch,” where after death was swept from view presaging the asylum mentality of the disciplinary society. 11 In fact one may begin the conversation of imagination as body forming rather than bodies forming imagination. 12 Benjamin’s concept of material theology as he articulates it in the “Paralipomena to ‘On the Concept of History’.” 13 I reject the narratives of non-anthropocentric thinking. Any thinking is only human thinking even if by proxy. 14 Benjamin’s notebook N from The Arcades Project as well as “On the Concept of History,” attempt to find ways in which historical continuity may be disrupted, either by colliding with this historical penitentiary or by the realization of our suspension in its directional domination of perception. 15 I refer to Judith Balso’s most current work on poetry and ontology whereby an astounding concept of subjectivity introduces a novel conceptualization of history. See Balso, Mandelstam, Stalin, Hölderlin, Heidegger . 16 See Sharrock, “Explained.” 17 I refer expressly to Giorgio Agamben’s concept of returning to the public by way of profanity from what was sacred. Yet returning to the public also contributes to the contemporary culture of exhibition and therefore has nothing to do with private dignity. See What is an Apparatus ? 18 Literary scholar Laurence Rickels identifies this as “not-see,” hence “Nazi.” See: Rickels, Nazi Psychoanalysis. (shrink)
This paper proposes a new approach for analysing daily activities in a laboratory. The case study presented is an analysis of shop-talk around a microscope. In addition to the classical approaches, such as ethnomethodology and anthropology of science, I argue that a microsemiotic approach could be useful to better understand what is at stake. The semiotic approach I shall use here was proposed by a group of Belgian semioticians: Groupe μ. This semiotic approach leads to a constructivist point of view: (...) the meaning of a visual representation is progressively constructed and is very context-dependent. This semiotic approach is fruitful because it allows a very precise analysis of shop-talk recorded data, and gives a better account of the materiality of visual representations. (shrink)
There seem to be some very good reasons for a philosopher of science to be a deductivist about scientific reasoning. Deductivism is apparently connected with a demand for clarity and definiteness in the reconstruction of scientists' reasonings. And some philosophers even think that deductivism is the way around the problem of induction. But the deductivist image is challenged by cases of actual scientific reasoning, in which hard-to-state and thus discursively ill-defined elements of thought nonetheless significantly condition what practitioners (...) accept as cogent argument. And arguably, these problem cases abound. For example, even geometry--for most of its history--was such a problem case, despite its exactness and rigor. It took a tremendous effort on the part of Hilbert and others, to make geometry fit the deductivist image. Looking to the empirical sciences, the problems seem worse. Even the most exact and rigorous of empirical sciences--mechanics--is still the kind of problem case which geometry once was. In order for the deductivist image to fit mechanics, Hilbert's sixth problem (for mechanics) would need to be solved. This is a difficult, and perhaps ultimately impossible task, in which the success so far achieved is very limited. I shall explore some consequences of this for realism as well as for deductivism. Through discussing links between non-monotonicity, skills, meaning, globality in cognition, models, scientific understanding, and the ideal of rational unification, I argue that deductivists can defend their image of scientific reasoning only by trivializing it, and that for the adequate illumination of science, insights from anti-deductivism are needed as much as those which come from deductivism. (shrink)
The paper defends a neo-Lockean view of secondary qualities, in particular color, according to which the being of a given color amounts to having the disposition to produce in normal viewers under normal circumstances the response of seeing an objective manifest simple color. It also defends the view that the naïve color-concept, the simple color concept, so to speak, is a fully objective property. The defense of this view is carried against its nearest cousin , the view proposed and (...) defended by Philip Pettit and Frank Jackson, according to which the naive color concept is response dependent, whereas color itself is fully objective. It is argued that the neo-Lockean alternative better captures the phenomenology of color, and better predicts or accounts for the dramatic character of the historical scientific discoveries (of Newton and his followers). Against metaphysical response dependence, the paper proposes a brief positive argument from the unity of color properties, and a criticism of Jackson’s counter-argument against metaphysical response-dependence from the naïve intuitions about causal properties of color. (shrink)
Just before the Scientific Revolution, there was a "Mathematical Revolution", heavily based on geometrical and machine diagrams. The "faculty of imagination" (now called scientific visualization) was developed to allow 3D understanding of planetary motion, human anatomy and the workings of machines. 1543 saw the publication of the heavily geometrical work of Copernicus and Vesalius, as well as the first Italian translation of Euclid.
It is argued that, contrary to prevailing opinion, Bas van Fraassen nowhere uses the argument from underdetermination in his argument for constructive empiricism. It is explained that van Fraassen’s use of the notion of empirical equivalence in The Scientific Image has been widely misunderstood. A reconstruction of the main arguments for constructive empiricism is offered, showing how the passages that have been taken to be part of an appeal to the argument from underdetermination should actually be interpreted.
I defend a pragmatist reinterpretation of Sellars’s famous manifest-scientific distinction. I claim that in order to do justice to this important distinction we must first recognize, despite what philosophers—including, arguably, Sellars—often make of it, that the distinction does not draw an epistemological or metaphysical boundary between different kinds of objects and events, but a pragmatic boundary between different ways in which we interact with objects and events. Put differently, I argue that the manifest-scientific distinction, in my (...) view, can be best understood, not as a metaphysical distinction between apparent and real objects and events, or an epistemological distinction between perceptible and imperceptible objects and events, but rather as a distinction, which is not necessarily rigid over time, between distinct ways in which we collectively deal, in practice, with objects and events. (shrink)
Taking the visual appeal of the ‘bell curve’ as an example, this paper discusses in how far the availability of quantitative approaches (here: statistics) that comes along with representational standards immediately affects qualitative concepts of scientific reasoning (here: normality). Within the realm of this paper I shall focus on the relationship between normality, as defined by scientific enterprise, and normativity, that result out of the very processes of standardisation itself. Two hypotheses are guiding this analysis: (1) normality, as (...) it is defined by the natural and the life sciences, must be regarded as an ontological, but epistemological important fiction and (2) standardised, canonical visualisations (such as the ‘bell curve’) impact on scientific thinking and reasoning to a significant degree. I restrict my analysis to the epistemological function of scientific representations of data: This means identifying key strategies of producing graphs and images in scientific practice. As a starting point, it is crucial to evaluate to what degree graphs and images could be seen as guiding scientific reasoning itself, for instance in attributing to them a certain epistemological function within a given field of research. (shrink)
Van Fraassen (The scientific image, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1980) claims that successful theories exist today because successful theories survive and unsuccessful ones die. Wray (Erkenntnis 67:81–89, 2007; Erkenntnis 72:365–377, 2010) appeals to Stanford’s new pessimistic induction (Exceeding our grasp: science, history, and the problem of unconceived alternatives, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2006), arguing that van Fraassen’s selectionist explanation is better than the realist explanation that successful theories exist because they are approximately true. I argue that if the pessimistic (...) induction is correct, then the evolutionary explanation is neither true nor empirically adequate, and that realism is better than selectionism because realism explains more phenomena in science than selectionism. (shrink)
Problems concerning scientists’ uses of representations have received quite a bit of attention recently. The focus has been on how such representations get their contents and on just what those contents are. Less attention has been paid to what makes certain kinds of scientific representations different from one another and thus well suited to this or that epistemic end. This article considers the latter question with particular focus on the distinction between images and graphs on the one hand (...) and descriptions and related representations on the other. *Received January 2008; revised September 2009. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH 03755; e‐mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. (shrink)
I begin with a representative example of a contemporary scientific activity, observations using the Hubble Space Telescope, and ask what approaches within the cognitive sciences seem most fruitful as aids in developing an overall account of this sort of scientific activity. After presenting the Hubble Space Telescope System and a recent result, I consider applying a standard computational paradigm to this system. I find difficulties in identifying an appropriate cognitive agent and in making a suitable place for the (...) instrumentation that constitutes such a large part of the whole system. I next consider applying the notion of distributed cognition as developed by Hutchins (1995), and then return to the question whether The Hubble System, understood as a distributed cognitive system, should be regarded as a computational system. I find a large computational component, but also an important part, the Hubble Telescope itself, that seems better characterized as a dynamic system than as a computational system. Moreover, the group of scientists interpreting the images produced by the system seem best thought of as a human/cultural system along the lines advocated by those developing a cognitive (Lakoff, 1987) or usage-based (Tomasello, 2003) approach to language acquisition and language use. I argue next that, while cognition may be theorized as distributed among both humans and instruments, there is no need to introduce into cognitive science a notion of distributed knowledge beyond simple collective knowledge. Even less is there any need to introduce notions of distributed mind or distributed consciousness. The result is that the agency involved in distributed cognitive systems remains simply human agency as ordinarily conceived. I conclude that distributed cognitive systems like The Hubble System are hybrid systems composed partly of dynamic physical systems, partly of computational systems, and partly of human cultural systems. (shrink)
The collaborative ‹Big Science’ approach prevalent in physics during the mid- and late-20th century is becoming more common in the life sciences. Often computationally mediated, these collaborations challenge researchers’ trust practices. Focusing on the visualisations that are often at the heart of this form of scientific practice, the paper proposes that the aesthetic aspects of these visualisations are themselves a way of securing trust. Kant’s account of aesthetic judgements in the Third Critique is drawn upon in order to show (...) that the image-building capability of imagination, and the sensus communis, both of which are integral parts of aesthetic experience, play an important role in building and sustaining community in these forms of science. Kant’s theory shows that the aesthetic appeal of scientific visualisations is not isolated from two other dimensions of the visualisations: the cognitive-epistemic, aesthetic-stylistic and interpersonal dimensions, and that in virtue of these inter-relationships, visualisations contribute to building up the intersubjectively shared framework of agreement which is basic for trust. (shrink)