La Mettrie’s Man-Machine

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Philosophers’ theories regarding the human soul? Basically there are just two of them: the first and older of the two is materialism; the second is spiritualism.

The metaphysicians who implied that matter might well have the power to think didn’t disgrace themselves as thinkers. Why not? Because they had the advantage (for in this case it is one) of expressing themselves badly. To ask whether unaided matter can think is like asking whether unaided matter can indicate the time. It’s clear already that we aren’t going to hit the rock on which Locke had the bad luck to come to grief in his speculations about whether there could be thinking matter.

The Leibnizians with their ‘monads’ have constructed an unintelligible hypothesis. Rather than materialising the soul, they spiritualised matter. How can we define a being like the so-called ‘monad’ whose nature is absolutely unknown to us?

Descartes and all the Cartesians – among whom Malebranche’s followers have long been included – went wrong in the same way, namely by dogmatising about something of which they knew nothing. They admitted two distinct substances in man, as if they had seen and counted them!

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Gothic: Once Again Atheistic Materialism and Hedonistic Flirtations. Drunken Risibility.

 

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The machinery of the Gothic, traditionally relegated to both a formulaic and a sensational aesthetic, gradually evolved into a recyclable set of images, motifs and narrative devices that surpass temporal, spatial and generic categories. From the moment of its appearance the Gothic has been obsessed with presenting itself as an imitation.

Recent literary theory has extensively probed into the power of the Gothic to evade temporal and generic limits and into the aesthetic, narratological and ideological implications this involves. Officially granting the Gothic the elasticity it has always entailed has resulted in a reconfiguration of its spectrum both synchronically – by acknowledging its influence on numerous postmodern fictions – and diachronically – by rescripting, in hindsight, the history of its canon so as to allow space for ambiguous presences.

Both transgressive and hybrid in form and content, the Gothic has been accepted as a malleable genre, flexible enough to create more freely, in Borgesian fashion, its own precursors. The genre flouted what are considered the basic principles of good prose writing: adherence to verisimilitude and avoidance of both narrative diversions and moralising – all of which are, of course, made to be deliberately upset. Many merely cite the epigrammatic power of the essay’s most renowned phrase, that the rise of the Gothic “was the inevitable result of the revolutionary shocks which all of Europe has suffered”.

The eighteenth-century French materialist philosophy purported the displacement of metaphysical investigations into the meaning of life by materialist explorations. Julien Offray de La Mettrie, a French physician and philosopher, the earliest of materialist writers of the Enlightenment, published the materialist manifesto L’ Homme machine (Man a Machine), that did away with the transcendentalism of the soul, banished all supernatural agencies by claiming that mind is as mechanical as matter and equated humans with machines. In his words: “The human body is a machine that winds up its own springs: it is a living image of the perpetual motion”. French materialist thought resulted in the publication of the great 28-volume Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des méttrie par une société de gens de lettres by Denis Diderot and Jean Le Rond d’ Alembert, and which was grounded on purely materialist principles, against all kinds of metaphysical thinking. Diderot’s atheist materialism set the tone of the Encyclopédie, which, for both editors, was the ideal vehicle […] for reshaping French high culture and attitudes, as well as the perfect instrument with which to insinuate their radical Weltanschauung surreptitiously, using devious procedures, into the main arteries of French Society, embedding their revolutionary philosophic manifesto in a vast compilation ostensibly designed to provide plain information and basic orientation but in fact subtly challenging and transforming attitudes in every respect. While materialist thinkers ultimately disowned La Mettrie because he ran counter to their systematic moral, political and social naturalism, someone like Sade remained deeply influenced and inspired for his indebtedness to La Mettrie’s atheism and hedonism, particularly to the perception of virtue and vice as relative notions − the result of socialisation and at odds with nature.

 

Meillassoux’s Principle of Unreason Towards an Intuition of the Absolute In-itself. Note Quote.

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The principle of reason such as it appears in philosophy is a principle of contingent reason: not only how philosophical reason concerns difference instead of identity, we but also why the Principle of Sufficient Reason can no longer be understood in terms of absolute necessity. In other words, Deleuze disconnects the Principle of Sufficient Reason from the ontotheological tradition no less than from its Heideggerian deconstruction. What remains then of Meillassoux’s criticism in After finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contigency that Deleuze no less than Hegel hypostatizes or absolutizes the correlation between thinking and being and thus brings back a vitalist version of speculative idealism through the back door?

At stake in Meillassoux’s criticism of the Principle of Sufficient Reason is a double problem: the conditions of possibility of thinking and knowing an absolute and subsequently the conditions of possibility of rational ideology critique. The first problem is primarily epistemological: how can philosophy justify scientific knowledge claims about a reality that is anterior to our relation to it and that is hence not given in the transcendental object of possible experience (the arche-fossil )? This is a problem for all post-Kantian epistemologies that hold that we can only ever know the correlate of being and thought. Instead of confronting this weak correlationist position head on, however, Meillassoux seeks a solution in the even stronger correlationist position that denies not only the knowability of the in itself, but also its very thinkability or imaginability. Simplified: if strong correlationists such as Heidegger or Wittgenstein insist on the historicity or facticity (non-necessity) of the correlation of reason and ground in order to demonstrate the impossibility of thought’s self-absolutization, then the very force of their argument, if it is not to contradict itself, implies more than they are willing to accept: the necessity of the contingency of the transcendental structure of the for itself. As a consequence, correlationism is incapable of demonstrating itself to be necessary. This is what Meillassoux calls the principle of factiality or the principle of unreason. It says that it is possible to think of two things that exist independently of thought’s relation to it: contingency as such and the principle of non-contradiction. The principle of unreason thus enables the intellectual intuition of something that is absolutely in itself, namely the absolute impossibility of a necessary being. And this in turn implies the real possibility of the completely random and unpredictable transformation of all things from one moment to the next. Logically speaking, the absolute is thus a hyperchaos or something akin to Time in which nothing is impossible, except it be necessary beings or necessary temporal experiences such as the laws of physics.

There is, moreover, nothing mysterious about this chaos. Contingency, and Meillassoux consistently refers to this as Hume’s discovery, is a purely logical and rational necessity, since without the principle of non-contradiction not even the principle of factiality would be absolute. It is thus a rational necessity that puts the Principle of Sufficient Reason out of action, since it would be irrational to claim that it is a real necessity as everything that is is devoid of any reason to be as it is. This leads Meillassoux to the surprising conclusion that [t]he Principle of Sufficient Reason is thus another name for the irrational… The refusal of the Principle of Sufficient Reason is not the refusal of reason, but the discovery of the power of chaos harboured by its fundamental principle (non-contradiction). (Meillassoux 2007: 61) The principle of factiality thus legitimates or founds the rationalist requirement that reality be perfectly amenable to conceptual comprehension at the same time that it opens up [a] world emancipated from the Principle of Sufficient Reason (Meillassoux) but founded only on that of non-contradiction.

This emancipation brings us to the practical problem Meillassoux tries to solve, namely the possibility of ideology critique. Correlationism is essentially a discourse on the limits of thought for which the deabsolutization of the Principle of Sufficient Reason marks reason’s discovery of its own essential inability to uncover an absolute. Thus if the Galilean-Copernican revolution of modern science meant the paradoxical unveiling of thought’s capacity to think what there is regardless of whether thought exists or not, then Kant’s correlationist version of the Copernican revolution was in fact a Ptolemaic counterrevolution. Since Kant and even more since Heidegger, philosophy has been adverse precisely to the speculative import of modern science as a formal, mathematical knowledge of nature. Its unintended consequence is therefore that questions of ultimate reasons have been dislocated from the domain of metaphysics into that of non-rational, fideist discourse. Philosophy has thus made the contemporary end of metaphysics complicit with the religious belief in the Principle of Sufficient Reason beyond its very thinkability. Whence Meillassoux’s counter-intuitive conclusion that the refusal of the Principle of Sufficient Reason furnishes the minimal condition for every critique of ideology, insofar as ideology cannot be identified with just any variety of deceptive representation, but is rather any form of pseudo-rationality whose aim is to establish that what exists as a matter of fact exists necessarily. In this way a speculative critique pushes skeptical rationalism’s relinquishment of the Principle of Sufficient Reason to the point where it affirms that there is nothing beneath or beyond the manifest gratuitousness of the given nothing, but the limitless and lawless power of its destruction, emergence, or persistence. Such an absolutizing even though no longer absolutist approach would be the minimal condition for every critique of ideology: to reject dogmatic metaphysics means to reject all real necessity, and a fortiori to reject the Principle of Sufficient Reason, as well as the ontological argument.

On the one hand, Deleuze’s criticism of Heidegger bears many similarities to that of Meillassoux when he redefines the Principle of Sufficient Reason in terms of contingent reason or with Nietzsche and Mallarmé: nothing rather than something such that whatever exists is a fiat in itself. His Principle of Sufficient Reason is the plastic, anarchic and nomadic principle of a superior or transcendental empiricism that teaches us a strange reason, that of the multiple, chaos and difference. On the other hand, however, the fact that Deleuze still speaks of reason should make us wary. For whereas Deleuze seeks to reunite chaotic being with systematic thought, Meillassoux revives the classical opposition between empiricism and rationalism precisely in order to attack the pre-Kantian, absolute validity of the Principle of Sufficient Reason. His argument implies a return to a non-correlationist version of Kantianism insofar as it relies on the gap between being and thought and thus upon a logic of representation that renders Deleuze’s Principle of Sufficient Reason unrecognizable, either through a concept of time, or through materialism.

“The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct”: Sokal-Like Hoax Returns to Test Academic Left’s Moral (Architecture + Orthodox Gender Studies) and Cripples It.

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Destructive, unsustainable hegemonically male approaches to pressing environmental policy and action are the predictable results of a raping of nature by a male-dominated mindset. This mindset is best captured by recognizing the role of [sic] the conceptual penis holds over masculine psychology. When it is applied to our natural environment, especially virgin environments that can be cheaply despoiled for their material resources and left dilapidated and diminished when our patriarchal approaches to economic gain have stolen their inherent worth, the extrapolation of the rape culture inherent in the conceptual penis becomes clear…….Toxic hypermasculinity derives its significance directly from the conceptual penis and applies itself to supporting neocapitalist materialism, which is a fundamental driver of climate change, especially in the rampant use of carbon-emitting fossil fuel technologies and careless domination of virgin natural environments. We need not delve deeply into criticisms of dialectic objectivism, or their relationships with masculine tropes like the conceptual penis to make effective criticism of (exclusionary) dialectic objectivism. All perspectives matter.

The androcentric scientific and meta-scientific evidence that the penis is the male reproductive organ is considered overwhelming and largely uncontroversial.”

That’s how we began. We used this preposterous sentence to open a “paper” consisting of 3,000 words of utter nonsense posing as academic scholarship. Then a peer-reviewed academic journal in the social sciences accepted and published it.

This paper should never have been published. Titled, “The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct,” our paper “argues” that “The penis vis-à-vis maleness is an incoherent construct. We argue that the conceptual penis is better understood not as an anatomical organ but as a gender-performative, highly fluid social construct.” As if to prove philosopher David Hume’s claim that there is a deep gap between what is and what ought to be, our should-never-have-been-published paper was published in the open-access (meaning that articles are freely accessible and not behind a paywall), peer-reviewed journal Cogent Social Sciences.

Assuming the pen names “Jamie Lindsay” and “Peter Boyle,” and writing for the fictitious “Southeast Independent Social Research Group,” we wrote an absurd paper loosely composed in the style of post-structuralist discursive gender theory. The paper was ridiculous by intention, essentially arguing that penises shouldn’t be thought of as male genital organs but as damaging social constructions. We made no attempt to find out what “post-structuralist discursive gender theory” actually means. We assumed that if we were merely clear in our moral implications that maleness is intrinsically bad and that the penis is somehow at the root of it, we could get the paper published in a respectable journal.

This already damning characterization of our hoax understates our paper’s lack of fitness for academic publication by orders of magnitude. We didn’t try to make the paper coherent; instead, we stuffed it full of jargon (like “discursive” and “isomorphism”), nonsense (like arguing that hypermasculine men are both inside and outside of certain discourses at the same time), red-flag phrases (like “pre-post-patriarchal society”), lewd references to slang terms for the penis, insulting phrasing regarding men (including referring to some men who choose not to have children as being “unable to coerce a mate”), and allusions to rape (we stated that “manspreading,” a complaint levied against men for sitting with their legs spread wide, is “akin to raping the empty space around him”). After completing the paper, we read it carefully to ensure it didn’t say anything meaningful, and as neither one of us could determine what it is actually about, we deemed it a success.

Why did Boghossian and Lindsay do this?

Sokal exposed an infatuation with academic puffery that characterizes the entire project of academic postmodernism. Our aim was smaller yet more pointed. We intended to test the hypothesis that flattery of the academic Left’s moral architecture in general, and of the moral orthodoxy in gender studies in particular, is the overwhelming determiner of publication in an academic journal in the field. That is, we sought to demonstrate that a desire for a certain moral view of the world to be validated could overcome the critical assessment required for legitimate scholarship. Particularly, we suspected that gender studies is crippled academically by an overriding almost-religious belief that maleness is the root of all evil. On the evidence, our suspicion was justified.

In the words of Graham Harman,

We kind of deserve it. There is still far too much empty jargon of this sort in the humanities and social sciences fields. Quite aside from whether or not you find the jargon off-putting, it leads to very bad writing, and when writing sounds bad it’s a much more serious sign of bad thinking than most people realize. (Nietzsche was on to this a long time ago, when he said that the only way to improve you writing is to improve your thoughts. Methodologically, I find the converse to be true as well. It is through trying to make your thoughts more readable that you make them better thoughts.) And again, I was one of the few people in the environs of continental philosophy who deeply enjoyed the original Sokal hoax. Until we stop writing (and thinking) like this, we will be repeatedly targeted by such hoaxes, and they will continue to sneak through. We ought to be embarrassed by this, and ought to ask ourselves some tough questions about our disciplinary norms, rather than pretending to be outraged at the “unethical behavior” of the hoax authors.

Endless turf war….

The authors worry that gender studies folk will believe that, “…men do often suffer from machismo braggadocio, and that there is an isomorphism between these concepts via some personal toxic hypermasculine conception of their penises.” But I don’t really see why a gender studies academic wouldn’t believe this… This is NOT a case of cognitive dissonance.

As much as the authors like to pretend like they have “no idea” what they are talking about, they clearly do. They are taking existing gender study ideas and just turning up the volume and adding more jargon. As if this proves a point against the field.

The author’s biases are on their sleeve. Their arguments are about as effective as a Men’s Rights Activist on Reddit. By using a backhanded approach in an attempt to give a coup de grace to gender studies academaniacs, all they’ve done is blow $625 and “exposed” the already well known issue of pay-to-play. If they wanted to make an actual case against the “feminazis” writ large, I suggest they “man” up and actually make a real argument rather than show a bunch of fancy words can fool some people. Ah!, but far from being a meta-analytical multiplier of defense, quantum homeomorphism slithers through the conceptual penis!

Badiou’s Diagrammatic Claim of Democratic Materialism Cuts Grothendieck’s Topos. Note Quote.

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Let us focus on the more abstract, elementary definition of a topos and discuss materiality in the categorical context. The materiality of being can, indeed, be defined in a way that makes no material reference to the category of Sets itself.

The stakes between being and materiality are thus reverted. From this point of view, a Grothendieck-topos is not one of sheaves over sets but, instead, it is a topos which is not defined based on a specific geometric morphism E → Sets – a materialization – but rather a one for which such a materialization exists only when the topos itself is already intervened by an explicitly given topos similar to Sets. Therefore, there is no need to start with set-theoretic structures like sieves or Badiou’s ‘generic’ filters.

Strong Postulate, Categorical Version: For a given materialization the situation E is faithful to the atomic situation of truth (Setsγ∗(Ω)op) if the materialization morphism itself is bounded and thus logical.

In particular, this alternative definition suggests that materiality itself is not inevitably a logical question. Therefore, for this definition to make sense, let us look at the question of materiality from a more abstract point of view: what are topoi or ‘places’ of reason that are not necessarily material or where the question of materiality differs from that defined against the ‘Platonic’ world of Sets? Can we deploy the question of materiality without making any reference – direct or sheaf-theoretic – to the question of what the objects ‘consist of’, that is, can we think about materiality without crossing Kant’s categorical limit of the object? Elementary theory suggests that we can.

Elementary Topos:  An elementary topos E is a category which

  1. has finite limits, or equivalently E has so called pull-backs and a terminal object 1,
  2. is Cartesian closed, which means that for each object X there is an exponential functor (−)X : E → E which is right adjoint to the functor (−) × X, and finally
  3. axiom of truth E retains an object called the subobject classifier Ω, which is equipped with an arrow 1 →true Ω such that for each monomorphism σ : Y ֒→ X in E, there is a unique classifying map φσ : X → Ω making σ : Y ֒→ X a pull-back of φσ along the arrow true.

Grothendieck-topos: In respect to this categorical definition, a Grothendieck-topos is a topos with the following conditions satisfies:

(1) E has all set-indexed coproducts, and they are disjoint and universal,

(2) equivalence relations in E have universal co-equalisers,

(3) every equivalence relation in E is effective, and every epimorphism in E is a coequaliser,

(4) E has ‘small hom-sets’, i.e. for any two objects X, Y , the morphisms of E from X to Y are parametrized by a set, and finally

(5) E has a set of generators (not necessarily monic in respect to 1 as in the case of locales).

Together the five conditions can be taken as an alternative definition of a Grothendieck-topos. We should still demonstrate that Badiou’s world of T-sets is actually the category of sheaves Shvs (T, J) and that it will, consequentially, hold up to those conditions of a topos listed above. To shift to the categorical setting, one first needs to define a relation between objects. These relations, the so called ‘natural transformations’ we encountered in relation Yoneda lemma, should satisfy conditions Badiou regards as ‘complex arrangements’.

Relation: A relation from the object (A, Idα) to the object (B,Idβ) is a map ρ : A → B such that

Eβ ρ(a) = Eα a and ρ(a / p) = ρ(a) / p.

It is a rather easy consequence of these two pre-suppositions that it respects the order relation ≤ one retains Idα (a, b) ≤ Idβ (ρ(a), ρ(b)) and that if a‡b are two compatible elements, then also ρ(a)‡ρ(b). Thus such a relation itself is compatible with the underlying T-structures.

Given these definitions, regardless of Badiou’s confusion about the structure of the ‘power-object’, it is safe to assume that Badiou has demonstrated that there is at least a category of T-Sets if not yet a topos. Its objects are defined as T-sets situated in the ‘world m’ together with their respective equalization functions Idα. It is obviously Badiou’s ‘diagrammatic’ aim to demonstrate that this category is a topos and, ultimately, to reduce any ‘diagrammatic’ claim of ‘democratic materialism’ to the constituted, non-diagrammatic objects such as T-sets. That is, by showing that the particular set of objects is a categorical makes him assume that every category should take a similar form: a classical mistake of reasoning referred to as affirming the consequent.

Badiou’s Materiality as Incorporeal Ontology. Note Quote.

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Badiou criticises the proper form of intuition associated with multiplicities such as space and time. However, his own ’intuitions’ are constrained by set theory. His intuition is therefore as ‘transitory’ as is the ontology in terms of which it is expressed. Following this constrained line of reasoning, however, let me now discuss how Badiou encounters the question of ‘atoms’ and materiality: in terms of the so called ‘atomic’ T-sets.

If topos theory designates the subobject-classifier Ω relationally, the external, set-theoretic T-form reduces the classificatory question again into the incorporeal framework. There is a set-theoretical, explicit order-structure (T,<) contra the more abstract relation 1 → Ω pertinent to categorical topos theory. Atoms then appear in terms of this operator <: the ‘transcendental grading’ that provides the ‘unity through which all the manifold given in an intuition is united in a concept of the object’.

Formally, in terms of an external Heyting algebra this comes down to an entity (A,Id) where A is a set and Id : A → T is a function satisfying specific conditions.

Equaliser: First, there is an ‘equaliser’ to which Badiou refers as the ‘identity’ Id : A × A → T satisfies two conditions:

1) symmetry: Id(x, y) = Id(y, x) and
2) transitivity: Id(x, y) ∧ Id(y, z) ≤ Id(x, z).

They guarantee that the resulting ‘quasi-object’ is objective in the sense of being distinguished from the gaze of the ‘subject’: ‘the differences in degree of appearance are not prescribed by the exteriority of the gaze’.

This analogous ‘identity’-function actually relates to the structural equalization-procedure as appears in category theory. Identities can be structurally understood as equivalence-relations. Given two arrows X ⇒ Y , an equaliser (which always exists in a topos, given the existence of the subobject classifier Ω) is an object Z → X such that both induced maps Z → Y are the same. Given a topos-theoretic object X and U, pairs of elements of X over U can be compared or ‘equivalized’ by a morphism XU × XUeq ΩU structurally ‘internalising’ the synthetic notion of ‘equality’ between two U-elements. Now it is possible to formulate the cumbersome notion of the ‘atom of appearing’.

An atom is a function a : A → T defined on a T -set (A, Id) so that
(A1) a(x) ∧ Id(x, y) ≤ a(y) and
(A2) a(x) ∧ a(y) ≤ Id(x, y).
As expressed in Badiou’s own vocabulary, an atom can be defined as an ‘object-component which, intuitively, has at most one element in the following sense: if there is an element of A about which it can be said that it belongs absolutely to the component, then there is only one. This means that every other element that belongs to the component absolutely is identical, within appearing, to the first’. These two properties in the definition of an atom is highly motivated by the theory of T-sets (or Ω-sets in the standard terminology of topological logic). A map A → T satisfying the first inequality is usually thought as a ‘subobject’ of A, or formally a T-subset of A. The idea is that, given a T-subset B ⊂ A, we can consider the function
IdB(x) := a(x) = Σ{Id(x,y) | y ∈ B}
and it is easy to verify that the first condition is satisfied. In the opposite direction, for a map a satisfying the first condition, the subset
B = {x | a(x) = Ex := Id(x, x)}
is clearly a T-subset of A.
The second condition states that the subobject a : A → T is a singleton. This concept stems from the topos-theoretic internalization of the singleton-function {·} : a → {a} which determines a particular class of T-subsets of A that correspond to the atomic T-subsets. For example, in the case of an ordinary set S and an element s ∈ S the singleton {s} ⊂ S is a particular, atomic type of subset of S.
The question of ‘elements’ incorporated by an object can thus be expressed externally in Badiou’s local theory but ‘internally’ in any elementary topos. For the same reason, there are two ways for an element to be ‘atomic’: in the first sense an ‘element depends solely on the pure (mathematical) thinking of the multiple’, whereas the second sense relates it ‘to its transcendental indexing’. In topos theory, the distinction is slightly more cumbersome. Badiou still requires a further definition in order to state the ‘postulate of materialism’.
An atom a : A → T is real if if there exists an element x ∈ T so that a(y) = Id(x,y) ∀ y ∈ A.
This definition gives rise to the postulate inherent to Badiou’s understanding of ‘democratic materialism’.
Postulate of Materialism: In a T-set (A,Id), every atom of appearance is real.
What the postulate designates is that there really needs to exist s ∈ A for every suitable subset that structurally (read categorically) appears to serve same relations as the singleton {s}. In other words, what ‘appears’ materially, according to the postulate, has to ‘be’ in the set-theoretic, incorporeal sense of ‘ontology’. Topos theoretically this formulation relates to the so called axiom of support generators (SG), which states that the terminal object 1 of the underlying topos is a generator. This means that the so called global elements, elements of the form 1 → X, are enough to determine any particular object X.
Thus, it is this specific condition (support generators) that is assumed by Badiou’s notion of the ‘unity’ or ‘constitution’ of ‘objects’. In particular this makes him cross the line – the one that Kant drew when he asked Quid juris? or ’Haven’t you crossed the limit?’ as Badiou translates.
But even without assuming the postulate itself, that is, when considering a weaker category of T-sets not required to fulfill the postulate of atomism, the category of quasi-T -sets has a functor taking any quasi-T-set A into the corresponding quasi-T-set of singletons SA by x → {x}, where SA ⊂ PA and PA is the quasi-T-set of all quasi-T-subsets, that is, all maps T → A satisfying the first one of the two conditions of an atom designated by Badiou. It can then be shown that, in fact, SA itself is a sheaf whose all atoms are ‘real’ and which then is a proper T-set satisfying the ‘postulate of materialism’. In fact, the category of T-Sets is equivalent to the category of T-sheaves Shvs(T, J). In the language of T-sets, the ‘postulate of materialism’ thus comes down to designating an equality between A and its completed set of singletons SA.

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Genesis and Evaluation of Political Philosophy of Thomas Hobbes. Part 2.

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Hobbes recognizes the nature of the ideal of an exact philosophical morality,which is paradoxical and makes it the backbone of his political philosophy. In his moral philosophy also, the antithesis between the virtue and pseudo-virtue forms a constituent part. He also teaches that true virtue and pseudo-virtue differ only in their reason. Like Plato, he also recognizes only political virtues. Hobbes also distrusts rhetoric, in a way, which recalls Plato.

A pleader commonly thinks he ought to say all he can for the benefit of his client, and therefore has need of a faculty to wrest the sense of words from their true meaning, and the faculty of rhetoric to seduce the jury, and sometimes the judge also, and many other arts which I neither have, nor intend to study.

Basing his reason on Platonic approach, he thought that the difference between the analysis of ordinary values and of passions given in Aristotle’s rhetoric on the one hand, and the theory of ethics on the other, not nearly great enough. While in Aristotle’s view the common passionate valuations have a peculiar consistency and universality, Hobbes, by reason of his radical criticism of opinion as such, cannot but deny them this dignity. 

What Hobbes’ political philosophy owes to Platonism is the antithesis between truth and appearance, the fitting and the great, between reason and passion. From the very outset, Hobbes’ conviction was the antithesis between vanity and fear and for him, it was of fundamental importance for morals. But in the beginning, Hobbes understood this antithesis as an antithesis within the domain of the passions. But when he turned to Plato, he began to conceive this antithesis between vanity and fear as the antithesis between passion and reason. However, resolutely Hobbes demands a completely passionless, purely rational political philosophy, he desires, as it were, in the same breath, that the norm to be set by reason should be in accord with the passions. Respect for applicability determines the seeking after the norm from the outset. With this, Hobbes does not merely tacitly adopt Aristotle’s criticism of Plato’s political philosophy but he goes much beyond Aristotle.

Primary reason for Hobbes’ opposition to Plato, is the motive for turning to Euclid as to the ‘resolutive-compositive’ method. In this method, the given object of investigation is first analysed, traced back to its reasons, and then by completely lucid deduction the object is again reconstituted. The axioms, which Hobbes gains by going back from the existing State to its reasons, and from there he deduces the form of the right State; are according to him, the man’s natural selfishness and the fear of death. Hobbes’ political philosophy differs from Plato in that, in the latter, exactness means the undistorted reliability of the standards, while in the former, exactness means unconditional applicability, under all circumstances. Hobbes took the ‘resolutive-compositive’ method over from Galileo. He believes that by this method he can achieve for political philosophy what Galileo achieved for physics. But the adequacy for physics does not guarantee its adequacy for political philosophy. For while the subject for physics is the natural body, the subject of political philosophy is an artificial body, i.e. a whole that has to be made by men from natural wholes. Thus the concern of political philosophy is not so much knowledge of the artificial body as the production of that body. Political philosophy analyses the existing State into its elements only in order that by a better synthesis of those elements the right State may be produced. Political philosophy thus becomes a technique for the regulation of the State. Its task is to alter the unstable balance of the existing State to the stable balance of the right State. The introduction of Galileo’s method into political philosophy from the outset renounces all discussions of the fundamental political problems, i.e. the elimination of the fundamental question as to the aim of the State.

Hobbes doesn’t question the necessity of political philosophy, i.e. he doesn’t ask first, ‘What is virtue?’ and ‘Can it be taught?’ and ‘What is the aim of the State?’, because for him, these questions are answered by tradition, or by common opinion. The aim of the State is for him as a matter of course peace, i.e. peace at any price. The underlying presupposition is that violent death is the first and greatest and supreme evil. After finding this presupposition as a principle when he analysed the existing State, he proceeds to deduce from it the right State; opposed to Plato, whose consideration of the genesis of the State seems superficially akin, but has the character of reflection, of deliberate questioning of what is good and fitting. Convinced of the absolutely typical character of the mathematical method, according to which one proceeds from axioms to self-evident truths/conclusions, Hobbes fails to realize that in the ‘beginning’, in the ‘evident’ presuppositions whether of mathematics or of politics, the task of ‘dialectic’ is hidden. Hobbes considers it superfluous, even dangerous, to take as one’s point of departure what men say about justice and so forth: ‘the names of virtues and vices…can never be true grounds of any ratiocination’. The application of the ‘resolutive-compositive’ method to political philosophy is of doubtful value as it prevented Hobbes from asking the questions as to the standard. He begins his political philosophy with the question as to the nature of the man in the sense of that which falls to all men before education. If the procedure of deducing the right State is to be significant, the principles themselves contain the answer to the question as to the right State, as to the standard. Hobbes characterizes the two principles viz., limitless self-love on the one hand and that of violent death on the other as he principles of the wrong and the principles of the right. But this characterization does not arise from the analysis, for the analysis can only show the principles of the existing State, and cannot, therefore, teach anything about the rightness and wrongness of those principles, and, on the other hand, this characterization is the presupposition of the synthesis, which as a synthesis of the right State cannot arise until it has been established what is the right. This qualification, which follows the analysis and precedes the synthesis, is certainly into the frame of the ‘resolutive-compositive’ method; but it is not to be understood from this method, either in general or even in particular. The justification of the standard, which is the fundamental part of the political philosophy, is hidden by the ‘resolutive-compositive’ method and even made unrecognizable.

What is justified in this way is indeed not a standard, an obligation; but a right, a claim. According to Hobbes, the basis of politics is not the ‘law of nature’, but the ‘right of nature’. This right is the minimum claim, which as such is fundamentally just, and the origin of any other just claim; more exactly, it is unconditionally just because it can be answered for in face of all men in all circumstances. A claim of this kind is only the claim to defend life and limb. Its opposite is the maximum claim, which is fundamentally unjust, for it cannot be answered for in face of any other man. The maximum claim, the claim man makes by nature, i.e. as long as he is not educated by ‘unforeseen mischances’, is the claim to triumph over all other men. This ‘natural’ claim is checked by fear of violent death and becomes man’s rational minimum claim, and thus ‘right of nature’ comes into being, or atleast comes to light. That is to say, the ‘right of nature’ is the first juridical or moral fact, which arises if one, starts from man’s nature i.e. from man’s natural appetite. The ‘law of nature’ belongs to a much later stage of the progress from human nature to the State: ‘natural right’ is dealt with in the first chapter of De Cive, ‘natural law’ in the second and third chapters.

The ‘law of nature’ owes all its dignity simply to the circumstances that it is the necessary consequence of the ‘right of nature’. We may ask the question as to what is the peculiarity of modern political thought in relation to the classical political thought?  While modern thought starts from the rights of the individual, and conceives the State as existing to secure the conditions of his development, Greek thought starts from the right of the State. Modern and classical political philosophy are fundamentally distinguished in that modern political philosophy takes ‘right’ as the starting point, whereas classical political philosophy has ‘law’ as its starting point.

Hobbes marked an epoch not only by subordinating law to right. He was at the same time ‘the first writer to grasp the full importance of the idea of sovereignty…he must take the credit of being the first to see that the idea of sovereignty lies at the very root of the whole theory of the State; and the first to realize the necessity of fixing precisely where it lies, and what are its functions and its limits’. By this also Hobbes stands in contrast to classical political philosophy: ‘Amongst the most notable omissions of Greek philosophy is the absence of any clear attempt to define the nature of sovereignty, to determine its seat, or settle the ultimate sanction on which it rests’. In classical times, the question, ‘who or what shall rule?’ has the antiquity answer running, ‘the law’. Philosophers who could not acquiesce in the Divine origin of the law justify this answer in the following way: the rational should rule over the irrational (the old over the young, the man over the woman, the master over the slave) and therefore law over men. Granting that there are men who by force of reason are undoubtedly superior to others, would those others submit to them merely on this ground, and obey them? Would they recognize their superiority? But doubt does not stop at that. It is denied that any considerable difference in reasonableness exists between men. Because reason is essentially impotent, it is not enough to reply that reason is the origin and the seat of sovereignty. Thus it becomes fundamentally questionable, which of the men who are equal and alike is to rule over the others, and under which conditions and within which limits, they have a claim to rule. Because all men a re equally reasonable, the reason of one or more individuals must arbitrarily be made the standard reason as an artificial substitute for the lacking natural superiority of the reason. Because reason is impotent, the rational ‘law of nature’ also loses its dignity. In its place we have the ‘right of nature’ which is, indeed, according to reason but dictated not by reason but by the fear of death. The break with rationalism is thus the decisive presupposition for the concept of sovereignty as well as for the supplanting of ‘law’ by ‘right’.

Hobbes in his writings conceives sovereign power not as reason but as will. Hobbes expressly turns against the view still predominant in his age that the holder of the sovereign power is in the same relation to the State as the head to the whole man. The holder of the sovereign power is not the ‘head’, that is, the capacity to deliberate and plan, but the ‘soul’, that is, the capacity to command, in the State. The explicit break with rationalism is thus the reason for the antithesis of modern political thought to classical and is characterized thusly: ‘the Greeks believed in the need of education to tune and harmonize social opinions to the spirit and tone of a fixed and fundamental law. The modern belief is the need of a representation to adjust and harmonize a fluid and changing and subordinate law to the movement of a sovereign public opinion or ‘general will’.

The view of classical rationalism, that only reason justifies dominion, found its most radical expression in Plato’s saying that the only necessary and adequate condition for the weal of a State is that the philosophers should be Kings and Kings philosophers. This amounts to stating that the setting up of a perfect commonwealth depends exclusively on ‘internal policy’ and not at all on foreign policy. From here on, Plato’s theory of justice can be summed up thus: there is no happiness for men without justice; justice means attending to one’s own business, bringing oneself into the right disposition with regard to the transcendent unchanging norm, to which the soul is akin, and not meddling into other people’s affairs; and justice in the State is not different from justice in the individual, except that the State is self-sufficient and can thus practice justice; attending to its own business; incomparably more perfectly than can the individual who is not self-sufficient. The citizens of the perfect State, for this very reason to foreigners, happen to be either allies to be esteemed or foes to be feared. Let us take Plato’s example; if the essence of the thing is to be preferred to its external conditions, to the self-realization and self-assertion of that thing against its external conditions, then, for instance, the right constitution of the body, its health, is to be preferred to its return to its health, to its recovery after its loss of health. By this example, Plato makes clear that the good statesman carries out his legislation with an eye to peace, which is to the good internal constitution of the State, and not with an eye to war, that is, to the assertion of the State against external conditions. Hobbes differs from Plato and asserts that the recovery of health is to be preferred to the undisturbed possession of health. While for Plato and to an extent for Aristotle, and in accordance with the primary interest they attach to home policy, the question of the number of inhabitants of the perfect State, that is, the limits set to the State by its inner necessity, is of decisive importance; Hobbes brushes this question aside in these words: ‘The Multitude sufficient to confide in for our security, is not determined by any certain number, but by comparison by the enemy we feare…’ The primacy of foreign policy is not specifically taught by Hobbes, but it is an integral part of all of modern political philosophy. Immanuel Kant in one of his works has a phrase, which runs like: ‘The problem of establishing a perfect civil constitution is dependent on the problem of a lawful external relation between the States and cannot be solved independently of the solution of the latter problem’.

The antithesis between Platonic and Hobbesian political philosophy, reduced to principle, is that the former orientates itself by speech and the latter from the outset refuses to do so. This refusal originally arises from what may be called natural valuations. While Plato goes back to the truth hidden in the natural valuations and thereof seeks to teach nothing new and unheard of, but to recall what is known to all but not understood, Hobbes, rejecting the natural valuations in principle, goes beyond, goes forward to a new a priori political philosophy, which is of the future and freely projected. Measured by Aristotle’s classical explanation of morals, Platonic moral philosophy is as paradoxical as Hobbes’. But whereas the paradoxical nature of Platonic moral philosophy is as irreversible as the  ‘cave’ existence of men bound to the body, Hobbes’ moral philosophy is destined sooner or later to change from paradox to an accepted form of public opinion. The paradoxical nature of Hobbes’ moral philosophy is the paradox of the surprisingly new, unheard of venture. Whereas Plato retraces natural morals and the orientation provided by them to their origin, Hobbes must attempt in sovereignty, and without this orientation, to discover the principles of morals. Hobbes travels the path, which leads to formal ethics and finally to relativist skepticism. The enormous extension of the claims made on political science leads at least to a denial of the very idea of political science and to the replacement of political science by sociology. Plato does not question the virtue character of courage, to which speech bears witness but simply opposes the over-estimation of courage, which underlies the popular opinion. Hobbes, because he renounced all orientation by speech, goes so far to deny the virtue character of courage. And just as disdain of speech finally leads to relativist skepticism, the negation of courage leads to the controversial position of courage, which becomes more and more acute on the way from Rousseau by Hegel to Nietzsche and is completed by the reabsorption of wisdom by courage, in the view that the ideal is not the object of wisdom, but the hazardous venture of the will.

Relinquishing orientation by speech does not mean that Hobbes ‘forgets’ the question of standards, but that he poses this question only as an afterthought, and, therefore, inadequately. Whereas Plato distinguishes between two kinds of reasons, the good and the necessary, Hobbes recognizes only one kind, the necessary. Since as a result of this he is obliged to take into account the inevitable difference between the good and the necessary within the necessary itself, the question of the standard, of the good, becomes for him the question of what is par excellence necessary, and he discovers the retreat from death as the necessary par excellence. For Hobbes, the denial of natural standards was irrefutably evident on the basis of his materialist metaphysics. Thus this metaphysics is the implicit pre-supposition even of his turning to Euclid, provided that the acceptance of the ‘mathematical’ method presupposes the negation of absolute standards. For the question arises; why did Hobbes decide in favour of materialism? On the ground of what primary conviction was materialism so vividly evident for him? The answer can be based on rough indications i.e. Hobbes’ turn to natural science is to be explained by his interest not so much in nature as in man, in self knowledge of man as he really is, i.e. by the interest that characterized him even in his humanist period. His scientific explanation of sense perception is characterized by the fact that it interprets perception of the higher senses by the sense of touch; and the preference for the sense of touch, which this presupposes is already implied in Hobbes’ original view of fundamental significance of the antithesis between vanity and fear. If Hobbes’ natural science is dependent on his ‘humanist’, that is moral, interests and convictions, on the other hand a particular conception of nature is the implicit basis of his views on moral and political philosophy. It is certain that the conception of nature, which is the presupposition of his political philosophy and the conception of nature, which he explains in his scientific writings, has a kinship and which in principle are to be kept separate. It is for these reasons that his scientific investigations could exert a powerful influence on the evolution of his political philosophy. He could not have maintained his thesis that death is the greatest and supreme evil but for the conviction vouched for by his natural science that the soul is not immortal. His criticism of aristocratic virtue and his denial of any gradation in mankind gains certainty only through his conception of nature, according to which there is no order, that is, no gradation in nature. From this standpoint we can understand the difference between Hobbes’ conception of Pride and the traditional conception. ‘Pride’ in the traditional sense means rebellion against the gradation of beings; it presupposes, therefore, the existence and the obligatory character of that gradation. Hobbes’ conception of ‘Pride’, on the other hand, presupposes the denial of natural gradation; this conception is, indeed, nothing other than a means of ‘explaining’, i.e. of denying that gradation: the allegedly natural gradation concerning the faculties of the mind proceeds from a ‘a vain concept of ones own wisdom, which almost all men think they have in a greater degree, than the Vulgar’. The idea of civilization achieves its telling effect solely by reason of the presupposition that the civilization of human nature can go on boundlessly, because what tradition in agreement with common sense had understood as given and immutable human nature is for the main part a mere ‘natural limit’, which may be over passed. Very little is innate in man; most of what is alleged to come to him from the nature is acquired and therefore mutable, as conditions change; the most important peculiarities of man; speech, reason, sociality are not gifts of nature, but the work of his will. This example creates a duality in his political philosophy. The idea of civilization presupposes that man, by virtue of his intelligence, can place himself outside nature, can rebel against nature. The antithesis of nature and human will is hidden by the monist (materialist-deterministic) metaphysic, which Hobbes found himself forced to adopt simply because he saw no other possibility of escaping the ‘Kingdom of darkness’. This signifies that the moral basis of his political philosophy becomes more and more disguised, the farther the evolution of his natural science progresses. In other words, with the progressive evolution of his natural sciences, vanity, which must of necessity be treated from the moral standpoint, is more and more replaced by the striving for power, which is neutral and therefore more amenable to scientific interpretation. But Hobbes took great care not to follow this path as he thought that consistent naturalism would ruin his political philosophy. To compare Spinoza with Hobbes, Spinoza was more naturalistic than Hobbes. Spinoza relinquished the distinction between ‘might’ and ‘right’ and taught the natural right of all passions. Hobbes, on the other hand, by virtue of the basis of his political philosophy asserted the natural right only of the fear of death. On the other hand, if we consider Montesquieu, who carried the naturalistic analysis of the passions to its logical conclusion, came forward with the result that the State of nature cannot be the war of all against all this clearly exemplifies that if inconsistent naturalism is compatible with Hobbes’ political philosophy, the consistent naturalism, which Hobbes displays in his scientific writings cannot be the foundation of his political philosophy. This foundation must be another conception of nature, which although being related to naturalism is by no means identical to it.

Therefore, the foundation of Hobbes’ political philosophy, which is the moral attitude to which it owes its existence, is objectively prior to the mathematical scientific founding and presentation of that philosophy. The mathematical method and the materialistic metaphysics each in their own way contributed to disguise the original motivation to undermine Hobbes’ political philosophy. Hence, Leviathan is by no means an adequate source for an understanding of Hobbes’ moral and political philosophy, although the presuppositions and conclusions dealing with moral attitude are clearly manifest in the Leviathan.

Emergentic Philosophy or Defining Complexity

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If the potential of emergence is not pregnant with what emerges from it, then emergence becomes just a gobbledygook (generally unintelligible) of abstraction and obscurity. What is this differentiation all about? The origin of differentiation is to be located in what has already been actualized. Thus, potential is not only abstract, but relative. Abstract, since, potential could come to mean a host of other things than that what it is meant for, and relative, since it is dependent on intertwinings within which it could unfold. Potentiality is creative for philosophy, through an expansive notion of unity through assemblages of multiple singularities helping dislodge anthropocentric worldviews that insist on rationale of the world as a solid and stable structure. A way out is to think in terms of liquid structures, where power to self-organize and untouched by any human static control allows for an existence at the edge of creative and flowing chaos. Such a position is tangible in history as a confluence of infinite variations, and rooted in materialism of a revived form. Emergence is a diachronic construction of functional structures in complex systems attaining a synchronic coherence of systemic behavior during the process of arresting the individual component’s behavior, so very crucial in ramifications for addressing burning questions in the philosophy of science, especially the ones concerning reductionism. Complexity investigates emergent properties, certain regularities of behavior that somehow transcend the ingredients that make them up. Complexity argues against reductionism, against reducing the whole to the parts. And in doing so, it transforms scientific understanding of far-from-equilibrium structures of irreversible times and of non-Euclidean spaces.

Nihilism

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Brassier starts his philosophical journey by undertaking the contrast between the ‘manifest’ and the ‘scientific’ images of reality. This way, he accomplishes to undermine the reality of subjective experiences through his own brand of realism that finds its culmination in the overt skeptical view he possesses towards phenomenology. He asserts the upholding of the enlightenment legacy at all costs and admonishes the thinking creatures to pursue the enlightenment legacy right through to its ends. In a slightly apocalyptic tone to begin with, he sets his aim right when he talks about the defunct subject of philosophy and then claims “…philosophy is neither a medium of affirmation nor a source of justification, but rather the organon of extinction.” Continental philosophy has always held Materialism and Realism as hostile to each other, but for Brassier, ‘material’ only denotes a blockade thus indicating a point where thought fails. His book, ‘Nihil Unbound‘ is therefore an attempt to accolade the return to matter without assuming a pre-established harmony between the conceptual apparatus and the world. Nihilism for Brassier has nothing to do with the limitations of reason in apprehending the meaning of existence in the world nor a crisis ridden subjectivity. Nihilism is:

the unavoidable corollary of the realist conviction that there is a mind-independent reality, which despite the presumptions of human narcissism, is indifferent to our existence and oblivious to the ‘values’ and ‘meanings’ which we would drape over it in order to make it more hospitable.

Brassier asks of philosophers not to try to mend ways to suture the discordance between men and nature, either by positing the meaningfulness or purposefulness of life, as for him, nature isn’t particularly benevolent. Brassier opens the first part of the book by focusing on the disjunction between reality and thought, nature and reason and strongly contends the view of thought being transcendentally separate from nature.

As briefly mentioned above, the genesis of Brassier’s philosophy is from contrasting the ‘manifest’ and the ‘scientific’ images. The former being the conception of man as created by himself and the latter being the image of man as getting created by the ‘complex physical system’ in the words of Wilfred Sellars. Both these thinkers agree on the dominance of ‘manifest’ image controlling the way philosophy is done today, albeit in varying degrees as practiced on the continent and in the Anglo-speaking countries. The shared thinking although spanning 4 decades, does not mitigate the profound hostility they both connect with philosophers as against the ‘scientific’ image that is held culpable for robbing a person his self-intentionality. This is the point of departure for Brassier with regards to Sellars as the latter holds the primacy of the ‘manifest’ image, while unable to legitimize the ‘scientific’ image as a substantive derivation from ‘manifest’ image. Brassier is against this reductionism of the ‘Philosophical’ with regard to the ‘Scientific’. This position of anti-reductionism culled with the disjunction-ing of reason and nature is his primary import.