Transcendentally Realist Modality. Thought of the Day 78.1

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Let us start at the beginning first! Though the fact is not mentioned in Genesis, the first thing God said on the first day of creation was ‘Let there be necessity’. And there was necessity. And God saw necessity, that it was good. And God divided necessity from contingency. And only then did He say ‘Let there be light’. Several days later, Adam and Eve were introducing names for the animals into their language, and during a break between the fish and the birds, introduced also into their language modal auxiliary verbs, or devices that would be translated into English using modal auxiliary verbs, and rules for their use, rules according to which it can be said of some things that they ‘could’ have been otherwise, and of other things that they ‘could not’. In so doing they were merely putting labels on a distinction that was no more their creation than were the fishes of the sea or the beasts of the field or the birds of the air.

And here is the rival view. The failure of Genesis to mention any command ‘Let there be necessity’ is to be explained simply by the fact that no such command was issued. We have no reason to suppose that the language in which God speaks to the angels contains modal auxiliary verbs or any equivalent device. Sometime after the Tower of Babel some tribes found that their purposes would be better served by introducing into their language certain modal auxiliary verbs, and fixing certain rules for their use. When we say that this is necessary while that is contingent, we are applying such rules, rules that are products of human, not divine intelligence.

This theological language would have been the natural way for seventeenth or eighteenth century philosophers, who nearly all were or professed to be theists or deists, to discuss the matter. For many today, such language cannot be literally accepted, and if it is only taken metaphorically, then at least better than those who speak figuratively and frame the question as that of whether the ‘origin’ of necessity lies outside us or within us. So let us drop the theological language, and try again.

Well, here the first view: Ultimately reality as it is in itself, independently of our attempts to conceptualize and comprehend it, contains both facts about what is, and superfacts about what not only is but had to have been. Our modal usages, for instance, the distinction between the simple indicative ‘is’ and the construction ‘had to have been’, simply reflect this fundamental distinction in the world, a distinction that is and from the beginning always was there, independently of us and our concerns.

And here is the second view: We have reasons, connected with our various purposes in life, to use certain words, including ‘would’ and ‘might’, in certain ways, and thereby to make certain distinctions. The distinction between those things in the world that would have been no matter what and those that might have failed to be if only is a projection of the distinctions made in our language. Our saying there were necessities there before us is a retroactive application to the pre-human world of a way of speaking invented and created by human beings in order to solve human problems.

Well, that’s the second try. With it even if one has gotten rid of theology, unfortunately one has not gotten rid of all metaphors. The key remaining metaphor is the optical one: reflection vs projection. Perhaps the attempt should be to get rid of all metaphors, and admit that the two views are not so much philosophical theses or doctrines as ‘metaphilosophical’ attitudes or orientations: a stance that finds the ‘reflection’ metaphor congenial, and the stance that finds the ‘projection’ metaphor congenial. So, lets try a third time to describe the distinction between the two outlooks in literal terms, avoiding optics as well as theology.

To begin with, both sides grant that there is a correspondence or parallelism between two items. On the one hand, there are facts about the contrast between what is necessary and what is contingent. On the other hand, there are facts about our usage of modal auxiliary verbs such as ‘would’ and ‘might’, and these include, for instance, the fact that we have no use for questions of the form ‘Would 29 still have been a prime number if such-and- such?’ but may have use for questions of the form ‘Would 29 still have been the number of years it takes for Saturn to orbit the sun if such-and-such?’ The difference between the two sides concerns the order of explanation of the relation between the two parallel ranges of facts.

And what is meant by that? Well, both sides grant that ‘29 is necessarily prime’, for instance, is a proper thing to say, but they differ in the explanation why it is a proper thing to say. Asked why, the first side will say that ultimately it is simply because 29 is necessarily prime. That makes the proposition that 29 is necessarily prime true, and since the sentence ‘29 is necessarily prime’ expresses that proposition, it is true also, and a proper thing to say. The second side will say instead that ‘29 is necessarily prime’ is a proper thing to say because there is a rule of our language according to which it is a proper thing to say. This formulation of the difference between the two sides gets rid of metaphor, though it does put an awful lot of weight on the perhaps fragile ‘why’ and ‘because’.

Note that the adherents of the second view need not deny that 29 is necessarily prime. On the contrary, having said that the sentence ‘29 is necessarily prime’ is, per rules of our language, a proper thing to say, they will go on to say it. Nor need the adherents of the first view deny that recognition of the propriety of saying ‘29 is necessarily prime’ is enshrined in a rule of our language. The adherents of the first view need not even deny that proximately, as individuals, we learn that ‘29 is necessarily prime’ is a proper thing to say by picking up the pertinent rule in the course of learning our language. But the adherents of the first view will maintain that the rule itself is only proper because collectively, as the creators of the language, we or our remote answers have, in setting up the rule, managed to achieve correspondence with a pre-existing fact, or rather, a pre-existing superfact, the superfact that 29 is necessarily prime. The difference between the two views is, in the order of explanation.

The adherents regarding labels for the two sides, or ‘metaphilosophical’ stances, rather than inventing new ones, will simply take two of the most overworked terms in the philosophical lexicon and give them one more job to do, calling the reflection view ‘realism’ about modality, and the projection view ‘pragmatism’. That at least will be easy to remember, since ‘realism’ and ‘reflection’ begin with the same first two letters, as do ‘pragmatism’ and ‘projection’. The realist/pragmatist distinction has bearing across a range of issues and problems, and above all it has bearing on the meta-issue of which issues are significant. For the two sides will, or ought to, recognize quite different questions as the central unsolved problems in the theory of modality.

For those on the realist side, the old problem of the ultimate source of our knowledge of modality remains, even if it is granted that the proximate source lies in knowledge of linguistic conventions. For knowledge of linguistic conventions constitutes knowledge of a reality independent of us only insofar as our linguistic conventions reflect, at least to some degree, such an ultimate reality. So for the realist the problem remains of explaining how such degree of correspondence as there is between distinctions in language and distinctions in the world comes about. If the distinction in the world is something primary and independent, and not a mere projection of the distinction in language, then how the distinction in language comes to be even imperfectly aligned with the distinction in the world remains to be explained. For it cannot be said that we have faculties responsive to modal facts independent of us – not in any sense of ‘responsive’ implying that if the facts had been different, then our language would have been different, since modal facts couldn’t have been different. What then is the explanation? This is the problem of the epistemology of modality as it confronts the realist, and addressing it is or ought to be at the top of the realist agenda.

As for the pragmatist side, a chief argument of thinkers from Kant to Ayer and Strawson and beyond for their anti-realist stance has been precisely that if the distinction we perceive in reality is taken to be merely a projection of a distinction created by ourselves, then the epistemological problem dissolves. That seems more like a reason for hoping the Kantian or Ayerite or Strawsonian view is the right one, than for believing that it is; but in any case, even supposing the pragmatist view is the right one, and the problems of the epistemology of modality are dissolved, still the pragmatist side has an important unanswered question of its own to address. The pragmatist account, begins by saying that we have certain reasons, connected with our various purposes in life, to use certain words, including ‘would’ and ‘might’, in certain ways, and thereby to make certain distinctions. What the pragmatist owes us is an account of what these purposes are, and how the rules of our language help us to achieve them. Addressing that issue is or ought to be at the top of the pragmatists’ to-do list.

While the positivist Ayer dismisses all metaphysics, the ordinary-language philosopher Strawson distinguishes good metaphysics, which he calls ‘descriptive’, from bad metaphysics, which he calls ‘revisionary’, but which rather be called ‘transcendental’ (without intending any specifically Kantian connotations). Descriptive metaphysics aims to provide an explicit account of our ‘conceptual scheme’, of the most general categories of commonsense thought, as embodied in ordinary language. Transcendental metaphysics aims to get beyond or behind all merely human conceptual schemes and representations to ultimate reality as it is in itself, an aim that Ayer and Strawson agree is infeasible and probably unintelligible. The descriptive/transcendental divide in metaphysics is a paradigmatically ‘metaphilosophical’ issue, one about what philosophy is about. Realists about modality are paradigmatic transcendental metaphysicians. Pragmatists must in the first instance be descriptive metaphysicians, since we must to begin with understand much better than we currently do how our modal distinctions work and what work they do for us, before proposing any revisions or reforms. And so the difference between realists and pragmatists goes beyond the question of what issue should come first on the philosopher’s agenda, being as it is an issue about what philosophical agendas are about.

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Two Conceptions of Morphogenesis – World as a Dense Evolutionary Plasma of Perpetual Differentiation and Innovation. Thought of the Day 57.0

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Sanford Kwinter‘s two conceptions of morhpogenesis, of which, one is appropriate to a world capable of sustaining transcendental ontological categories, while the other is inherent in a world of perfect immanence. According to the classical, hylomorphic model, a necessarily limited number of possibilities (forms or images) are reproduced (mirrored in reality) over a substratum, in a linear time-line. The insufficiency of such a model, however, is evident in its inability to find a place for novelty. Something either is or is not possible. This model cannot account for new possibilities and it fails to confront the inevitable imperfections and degradations evident in all of its realizations. It is indeed the inevitability of corruption and imperfection inherent in classical creation that points to the second mode of morphogenesis. This mode is dependent on an understanding of the world as a ceaseless pullulation and unfolding, a dense evolutionary plasma of perpetual differentiation and innovation. In this world forms are not carried over from some transcendent realm, but instead singularities and events emerge from within a rich plasma through the continual and dynamic interaction of forces. The morphogenetic process at work in such a world is not one whereby an active subject realizes forms from a set of transcendent possibilities, but rather one in which virtualities are actualized through the constant movement inherent in the very forces that compose the world. Virtuality is understood as the free difference or singularity, not yet combined with other differences into a complex ensemble or salient form. It is of course this immanentist description of the world and its attendant mode of morphogenesis that are viable. There is no threshold beneath which classical objects, states, or relations cease to have meaning yet beyond which they are endowed with a full pedigree and privileged status. Indeed, it is the nature of real time to ensure a constant production of innovation and change in all conditions. This is evidenced precisely by the imperfections introduced in an act of realizing a form. The classical mode of morphogenesis, then, has to be understood as a false model which is imposed on what is actually a rich, perpetually transforming universe. But the sort of novelty which the enactment of the classical model produces, a novelty which from its own perspective must be construed as a defect is not a primary concern if the novelty is registered as having emerged from a complex collision of forces. Above all, it is a novelty uncontaminated by procrustean notions of subjectivity and creation.

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.

Deleuzian Grounds. Thought of the Day 42.0

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With difference or intensity instead of identity as the ultimate philosophical one could  arrive at the crux of Deleuze’s use of the Principle of Sufficient Reason in Difference and Repetition. At the beginning of the first chapter, he defines the quadruple yoke of conceptual representation identity, analogy, opposition, resemblance in correspondence with the four principle aspects of the Principle of Sufficient Reason: the form of the undetermined concept, the relation between ultimate determinable concepts, the relation between determinations within concepts, and the determined object of the concept itself. In other words, sufficient reason according to Deleuze is the very medium of representation, the element in which identity is conceptually determined. In itself, however, this medium or element remains different or unformed (albeit not formless): Difference is the state in which one can speak of determination as such, i.e. determination in its occurrent quality of a difference being made, or rather making itself in the sense of a unilateral distinction. It is with the event of difference that what appears to be a breakdown of representational reason is also a breakthrough of the rumbling ground as differential element of determination (or individuation). Deleuze illustrates this with an example borrowed from Nietzsche:

Instead of something distinguished from something else, imagine something which distinguishes itself and yet that from which it distinguishes itself, does not distinguish itself from it. Lightning, for example, distinguishes itself from the black sky but must also trail behind it . It is as if the ground rose to the surface without ceasing to be the ground.

Between the abyss of the indeterminate and the superficiality of the determined, there thus appears an intermediate element, a field potential or intensive depth, which perhaps in a way exceeds sufficient reason itself. This is a depth which Deleuze finds prefigured in Schelling’s and Schopenhauer’s differend conceptualization of the ground (Grund) as both ground (fond) and grounding (fondement). The ground attains an autonomous power that exceeds classical sufficient reason by including the grounding moment of sufficient reason for itself. Because this self-grounding ground remains groundless (sans-fond) in itself, however, Hegel famously ridiculed Schelling’s ground as the indeterminate night in which all cows are black. He opposed it to the surface of determined identities that are only negatively correlated to each other. By contrast, Deleuze interprets the self-grounding ground through Nietzsche’s eternal return of the same. Whereas the passive syntheses of habit (connective series) and memory (conjunctions of connective series) are the processes by which representational reason grounds itself in time, the eternal return (disjunctive synthesis of series) ungrounds (effonde) this ground by introducing the necessity of future becomings, i.e. of difference as ongoing differentiation. Far from being a denial of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, this threefold process of self-(un)grounding constitutes the positive, relational system that brings difference out of the night of the Identical, and with finer, more varied and more terrifying flashes of lightning than those of contradiction: progressivity.

The breakthrough of the ground in the process of ungrounding itself in sheer distinction-production of the multiple against the indistinguishable is what Deleuze calls violence or cruelty, as it determines being or nature in a necessary system of asymmetric relations of intensity by the acausal action of chance, like an ontological game in which the throw of the dice is the only rule or principle. But it is also the vigil, the insomnia of thought, since it is here that reason or thought achieves its highest power of determination. It becomes a pure creativity or virtuality in which no well-founded identity (God, World, Self) remains: [T]hought is that moment in which determination makes itself one, by virtue of maintaining a unilateral and precise relation to the indeterminate. Since it produces differential events without subjective or objective remainder, however, Deleuze argues that thought belongs to the pure and empty form of time, a time that is no longer subordinate to (cosmological, psychological, eternal) movement in space. Time qua form of transcendental synthesis is the ultimate ground of everything that is, reasons and acts. It is the formal element of multiple becoming, no longer in the sense of finite a priori conditioning, but in the sense of a transfinite a posteriori synthesizer: an empt interiority in ongoing formation and materialization. As Deleuze and Guattari define synthesizer in A Thousand Plateaus: The synthesizer, with its operation of consistency, has taken the place of the ground in a priori synthetic judgment: its synthesis is of the molecular and the cosmic, material and force, not form and matter, Grund and territory.

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Oncontology

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In conventional oncological terms, the process of metastasis is the wild overgrowth of cells to the detriment of the body, resulting in either growths that are benign or malignant. Apoptosis (PCD) is the process by which the cell receives a signal to stop production at a previously prescribed genetic point. The process is twofold: to retain proper cell function integral to the organism, and to remove potentially harmful or lethal elements in the cell which could endanger the organism as a whole. There are only two ways by which cells perish: either by some external agent (e.g. toxic chemicals, fire, removal) or by being induced to perish (i.e. apoptosis). Firstly, apoptosis is necessary in the organism; for instance, the uterine wall sheds during menstruation; the surplus “webbed” tissue between the fingers and toes on the fetus; the fusing of bone plates when the growth period is at an end; the resorption of the tadpole tail in the development of a frog; and so on. Secondly, apoptosis is necessary for the destruction of cells injurious to the organism such as virally infected cells, cells with corrupt DNA, or damaged or cancerous cells. Apoptosis occurs in two ways: removing or blocking all positive stimulus to the cell necessary for the cell’s continuance (one can envision that apoptosis is a kind of siege-craft, cutting all supply lines to the cellular castle), and the inducement of negative signals such as increased oxidation in the cell, aberrant absorption of proteins, the release of particular molecules that bind to the receptors of the cell’s surface which activate the apoptotic process.

Metastasis and apoptosis do not exhaust one another in some sort of dialectical exchange toward finality. They are not a coupling unit, but processes by which we may name desire or ontology. To assert that they cancel one another out in equilibrium is to “gorgonify” the “cacophysical” reality of Being. In the realm of biological science, there is a moment of equilibrium in the body: a certain quantity of cells will match the creation and destruction ratio to achieve a brief period of “plateau” called homeostasis, but this is hardly measurable or significant, since it may last a matter of seconds in the life of any body, the duration of this perhaps inconsequential or even impossible. This is an abstract idealization issued from the laboratories of biological science that may be able to measure such equal ratios in the simplest of organisms and assume that more complex bodies will also follow the same rule, or to simplify the results according to approximations of equilibrium. But our notion of bodies is much more extensive and intensive – we include more than just the life of an “organism”; we include everything that can be said has being. This includes books, plants, rocks, radios, and  even cities. Metastasis and apoptosis are derelict forces, two faces of desire. It is not a measure of zombifying ontology with a series of empty concepts. Immobility is effaced by perpetual be-comings, announced by the manifest process of unlimited production and unlimited expiration, both what Spinoza would call “potentia” and Nietzsche would call “will to power” as the constant mobilization of differences. Thought crudely apopticizes bodies, whereas bodies succumb to a biological apoptosis. Thought thinks it hypostasizes being, but the true process underlying being is metastasis. These processes strafe through being and it is our thought that attempts to transcendentally retrofit being through clumsy and ashen installations meant to prolong the tradition of thinking through as many ages and bodies as “humanly” possible. We know all too well the DeleuzoGuattarian de/re-territorializations, and how Pynchon’s Pirate could do as such to the cuisine attached to the banana. We know the real rhapsodic geometries (a rhapsoid?) that inhere within phylo- and ontogenetics. But, in the end, as it functions for Derrida in the domain of language-meaning to which we are all condemned to pursue like the ever-reticent horizon, the law of necessarily probable failure inheres in ontology as well, and what remains is to commit considerable study to the mechanics of this “failure”. Even the functions of symbiosis (not to be confused with equilibrium) where bacteria provides a benefit to the body does not endanger what we say here about metastasis since we are considering the metastasis-apoptosis phenomenon without demonstrating a prejudice in favour of the sustainable functions of the body, but rather isolating the principle of metastasis as descriptive of the troubling philosophical concept of becoming.

Oncontology

Moishe Postone: Capitalism, Temporality, and the Crisis of Labor. Note Quote.

Moishe Postone: Capitalism, Temporality, and the Crisis of Labor from The American Academy in Berlin on Vimeo.

Moishe Postone’s work establishes a crucial distinction between the critique of capitalism from the standpoint of labour and the critique of labor in capitalism.The former implies a transhistorical account of work, while the latter situates labor as a consistent category – capable of “social synthesis” – within the capitalist mode of production. But, does this distinction require us to abandon any form of ontological account of labour? As Postone would say,

It depends what you mean by an ontological account of labour. It does force us to abandon the idea that transhistorically there is an on-going development of humanity which is effected by labour, that human interaction with nature as mediated by labour is a continuous process which is led to continuous change. And that labour is in that sense a central historical category. That position is closer actually to Adam Smith than it is to Marx. I think that the centrality of labour to something called historical development can be posited only for capitalism and not for any other form of human social life. On the other hand, I think one can retain the idea that humanity’s interaction with nature is a process of self-constitution.

One of the most important contributions of Time, Labour and Social Domination is a novel theory of impersonal domination in capitalist society. To him “traditional Marxism” is a criticism of capitalism from the standpoint of labor. Postone’s Marxism, by contrast, is a critique of labor in capitalism. Since Marx’s theory refers to capitalism, not society in general, labor cannot be a transhistorical category. Instead, it must be understood as an integrated part of capitalism. This means that labor cannot provide a standpoint from which to criticize capitalism, and neither can the proletariat: “the working class is integral to capitalism, rather than the embodiment of its negation”. The struggle, then, should not be a struggle of labor against capital, as traditional Marxists thought, but a struggle against labor seen as an integral part of the valorization of capital.  This conclusion has implications for Postone’s understanding of domination in capitalism. Rather than being a matter of class relations, it takes the form of domination by impersonal and quasi-objective mechanisms such as fetishism, in the construction of which labor is deeply implicated. The benefit of this reinterpretation, according to Postone, is that it shows the usefulness of Marx’s theory not only in a criticism of liberal nineteenth-century capitalism but also in a criticism of contemporary welfare-state capitalism or Soviet-style state-capitalism. The latter forms of capitalism are just as capitalist as the former since they all build on the valorization of capital built on labor. Abolishing private ownership or rearranging the distribution of goods is not enough to escape capitalism. Postone both builds on and criticizes the approaches of Lukács and the Frankfurt School. There is much in his book that shows his affinities especially to the latter – such as the criticism of welfare state capitalism or the stress on fetishism – but he nevertheless criticizes these earlier thinkers for being bound to a transhistorical conception of labor. Lukács in particular is singled out for heavy criticism since he saw the proletariat as the Subject of history, as capable of grasping totality and hence offering the standpoint of critique. Engaging with the Hegelian legacy, or should I quip lunacy in Lukács, Postone arrives at one of his most important and provocative arguments. “Marx suggests that a historical Subject in the Hegelian sense does indeed exist in capitalism, yet he does not identify it with… the proletariat”. Instead it is capital that is portrayed as a Hegelian Geist – as a subject and self-moving substance, following its own immanent historical logic. Hegelian dialectics, then, is specific to capitalism and is not a tool for grasping history in general. Thus, to Marx, the “totality” was not the whole in general, and certainly not a standpoint which he affirmed. Instead, he identified totality with the capitalist system and made it the object of his critique: “the historical negation of capitalism would not involve the realization, but the abolition, of the totality”, Postone argues. The working class cannot lead history towards this negation. In fact, it is only by breaking with the logic consitutive of this totality, in which the working class forms part, that a different, post-capitalist society can be born.

The abolition of the totality would, then, allow for the possible constitution of very different, non-totalizing, forms of the political coordination and regulation of society.

In a question asked about if the capitalist form of domination not better defined as the appearance of truly abstract relations as if they were concrete, personal relations? Furthermore, does this inversion, or at least the recognition of the crucial role of abstraction in capitalism, render a definition of class struggle untenable, or are we rather in need of a concept of class that takes this distance from the concrete into consideration? Postone says,

I am not sure that I would fully agree with the attempted reformulation. First of all, with regard to the quote “relations between people appearing as relations between things” what is left out of this version of what Marx said is that he adds that relations among people appear as they are, as social relations between things and thingly relations between people. Marx only explicitly elaborated the notion of fetishism with the fetishism of commodity. All three volumes of Capital, are [our change] in many respects, however, a study on fetishism even when he doesn’t use that word. And fetishism means that because of the peculiar, double character of the structuring social forms of capitalism, social relations disappears from view. What we get are thingly relations: we also get abstractions. However, one dimension of the fetish is, as you put it, that abstract relations appear concrete.They appear in the form of the concrete. So, for example, the process of creating surplus value appears to be a material process, the labour process. It appears to be material-technical, rather than moulded by social forms. And yet there are also abstract dimensions and regularities that don’t appear in the form of the concrete. I am emphasising this is because certain reactionary forms of thought only view capitalism in terms of those abstract regularities and refuse to see that the concrete itself is moulded by, and is really drenched with, the abstract. I think a lot of forms of populism and anti-Semitism can be characterised that way. Now I am not sure that this appropriation of the categories of Marx’s critique of political economy renders a definition of class struggle untenable, but it does indicate that class struggle occurs within and is moulded by the structuring social forms.This position rejects the ontological centrality or the primacy of class struggle, as that which is truly social and real behind the veil of capitalist forms. Class struggle rather is moulded by the capitalist relations expressed by the categories of value, commodity, surplus value, and capital.

Postone’s approach only seems far-fetched if we continue to equate capitalism with the economy. Not if we think of it as a form of life. For example, after Darwin wrote, natural processes, such as adaptation or sexual selection, came to be seen as operating within history. This gave us the naturalist novel of Zola or Norris. “Nature” was seen to structure history (the Rougon-Marcquet saga, the strike in Germinal etc.) as well compel individuals from within. For Postone, it is not “natural” Darwinian processes that do this but an historic process, capitalism. Another example of the same idea is Max Weber’s “spirit of capitalism.” Weber can be read, and wanted to be read, as saying that there are forces outside capitalism on which capitalism depends, such as religious ethics. However, Postone is suggesting that such “spiritual” Weberian forces as asceticism, compulsivity and hypocrisy (Weber’s famous triad) are internal to capitalism, structuring its motion. But, there are ambivalences to his theory, and especially ones concerning science and technology. Postone rejects the view, associated with traditional Marxism, that sees industrial production as a neutral, purely technical process that could be salvaged from capitalism and carried on in similar form in socialism. To criticize capitalism, he argues that we also need to criticize industrial production, or at least the form it has assumed in capitalism. The problem is that he simultaneously argues – based primarily on a famous passage in Grundrisse – that science and technology creates the preconditions for an overcoming of capitalism, since they enable human beings to create unprecedented “material wealth” in a way that relies less and less on human labor. Since in capitalism “value” can only be created by labor, capitalism increasingly comes to be characterized by a contradiction between the processes generating “wealth” and “value”. Unlike “value”, Postone appears to think that “wealth” is a category that it is fine to apply transhistorically. “Wealth” existed in precapitalist societies and must also be imagined as something that can exist in post-capitalist, socialist societies. What happens with capitalism is that the creation of “wealth” can only take place through the production of “value”, i.e. through the exploitation of labor and valorization of capital. However, by showing that “wealth” can be produced in abundance without relying on labor, science and technology open up possibilities of overcoming capitalism. Here Postone portrays science and technology, not as irremediably implicated in capitalism, but as potentially liberating forces that point beyond capitalism. That is of course fine, but the question then becomes how to distinguish the good and bad moments of science and technology. Postone calls for a transformation of not only of “relations of production” but also of the “mode of production”, but without giving us much in the way of explaining how much or how radically the latter needs to be changed.

Then there is the problem of dialectics. As mentioned, Postone confines Geist and totality to capitalism. This claim has some antecedents in earlier critical theory. Adorno, for instance, claims that the role of Spirit in capitalism is taken by “value”: “The objective and ultimately absolute Hegelian spirit [is] the Marxist law of value that comes into force without men being conscious of it” (Adorno). The posture of taking up arms against “totality” itself is of course also familiar from older critical theory. Adorno, however, never confined dialectics in toto to capitalism. Although Postone does allow for some forms of dialectical interaction (e.g. people changing their own nature reflexively through acting on nature or the reciprocal constitution of social practice and social structure), he argues that such interaction only becomes “directionally dynamic” in capitalism. In other words, dialectics in the sense of a historical logic or necessity only exists in capitalism. This raises the question of how capitalism can be overcome. If there is no Geist but capital, then dialectics cannot point the way out of capitalism. Liberation can only mean liberating oneself from dialectics, by creating a world in which it is no longer dominant.

The indication of the historicity of the object, the essential social forms of capitalism, implies the historicity of the critical consciousness that grasps it; the historical overcoming of capitalism would also entail the negation of its dialectical critique.

However, sometimes Postone himself seems to grasp the relation between capitalism and its outside dialectically, as when he uses the term “determinate negation” for the movement whereby capitalism is transcended. But if the overcoming of capitalism is a determinate negation, doesn’t that require the premise of a totality transcending the capitalist system, as Lukács thought?  Sometimes Postone writes as if the totality of capitalism were driven towards its own abolition by its inner contradictions. However, apart from the discussion of technology and wealth referred to above, it is hard to see that he specifies anywhere what kind of contraditions might bring about this self-abolition.

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.

Indian Thought and Language: a raw recipe imported in the east

In his Philosophy of History, Hegel mistakenly believed that

“Hindoo principles” are polar in character. Because of their polarity which vacillates between “pure self-renouncing ideality, and that (phenomenal) variety which goes to the opposite extreme of sensuousness, it is evident that nothing but abstract thought and imagination can be developed”. However, from these mistaken beliefs, he rightly concluded that grammar in Indian thought “has advanced to a high degree of consistent regularity”. He was so impressed by the developments that he concluded that the development in grammar “has been so far cultivated that no language can be regarded as more fully developed than the Sanscrit”.

This is enlightening to the extent of what even Fred Dallmayr in his opus on Hegel titled aptly “G. W. F. Hegel: Modernity and Political Thought” would be most happy to corroborate. This is precisely what I would call ‘Philosophy in the times of errors’ (pun intended for Hegel and his arrogance).

About the nature of language, I quote in full the paragraph:

“Language is intimately related with our life like the warp and weft in a cloth. Our concepts determine the way we look at our world. Any aberration in our understanding of language affects our cognition. Despite the cardinal importance of language, the questions like “What is the nature of language?” “What is the role of semantics and syntax of language? ” What is the relationship between language, thought and reality?” How do we understand language—do we understand it by understanding each of the words in a sentence, or is the sentence a carrier of meaning?” “How does the listener understand the speaker?” are the questions which have been an enigma.”

Philosopher Christopher Gauker created quite a ruckus with his influential yet, critically attacked book called “Words without Meaning” and I quote a small review of it from the MIT press (which published the book):

“According to the received view of linguistic communication, the primary function of language is to enable speakers to reveal the propositional contents of their thoughts to hearers. Speakers are able to do this because they share with their hearers an understanding of the meanings of words. Christopher Gauker rejects this conception of language, arguing that it rests on an untenable conception of mental representation and yields a wrong account of the norms of discourse.

Gauker’s alternative starts with the observation that conversations have goals and that the best way to achieve the goal of a conversation depends on the circumstances under which the conversation takes place. These goals and circumstances determine a context of utterance quite apart from the attitudes of the interlocutors. The fundamental norms of discourse are formulated in terms of the conditions under which sentences are assertible in such contexts.

Words without Meaning contains original solutions to a wide array of outstanding problems in the philosophy of language, including the logic of quantification, the logic of conditionals, the semantic paradoxes, the nature of presupposition and implicature, and the nature and attribution of beliefs.”

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This is indeed a new way of looking up at the nature of language and the real question is if anyone in the Indian tradition comes really close to doing this, i.e. a conflation of what Gauker says with that of the tradition. Another thing that I discovered thanks to a  friend of mine is a book by Richard King on Indian Philosophy. He quotes about Bhartṛhari/भर्तृहरि thus:

Bhartṛhari/भर्तृहरि, like his Lacanian and Derridean counterparts rejects the view that one can know anythin outside of language.There is an eternal connection between knowledge and language which cannot be broken”

If this identity between knowledge and the word were to disappear, knowledge would cease to be knowledge. (Bhartṛhari/भर्तृहरि himself)

Thus he equates Śabda and Jñāna as they become or come identical in nature.

Language could indeed be looked as a function that may take the arguments as getting passed on to it that need not specifically base itself upon communication as an end, but could somehow serve as communication as a means. I would somehow call this as the syndrome of language (or maybe even a deficit of language, to take the cue from the ‘phenomenological deficit’), as in whatsoever way it is looked upon, i.e. transcendental realization or an immanent force (‘play’ would be better suited here) ‘in-itself’ for the sake of establishment, the possibilization of keeping out communication cannot be ruled out. Language would still be communico-centric for all that.

But another way of looking at realizing (by not establishing or introducing) relations between two relata, and by this if it could indeed be thought of is, if we somehow attribute language to ‘Objects’ and therefore even call the untenability of interactions between any entities as based on a relation that is linguistic in ways we might not comprehend.

No wonder, why I am getting drawn into the seriousness of objects as a way of realizing their interactions, their language and this all, away from the mandates we (anthropocentrism) have hitherto set upon them.

Why I insist on the objects having a language of their own and that too divorced from the realm of humans is maybe the impact of Whitehead on reading the tool-analysis of Heidegger. It must be noted that Whitehead never shied of embracing inanimate reality, of never using words like ‘thought’, ’emotions/feelings’ for the inner life of the inanimate entities. If these things, in their hermeneutical exegesis get attributed to the inanimate entities, there can be no doubt of these ‘Objects’ possessing language, as I said that is far away from the human interference. This could indeed be a way of looking at language in the sense of transcendentalizing possibility, this time, maybe, through the immanent look……

Schelling, Iain Hamilton Grant and Differential Nature(s) 1.0

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Schelling has often been at the receiving end for his idiosyncrasies or the frequent jumps that he undertook providing a lack of synthetic conflation and therefore missing on a philosophical system. He has most importantly been confined to near total oblivion in the English-speaking fraternity of philosophers and has had to face rebarbative charges against him. Although, there are some sympathetic voices emanating from the continental tradition in trying to revive his importance, like Slavoj Zizek, who has extensively fused the German with Lacanian psychoanalysis, citing Marx’s critique of speculative idealism as derived from Schellingian formulations of post-Hegelian universe of finitude-contingency-temporality. Zizek even goes a step ahead by crediting Schelling over Heidegger as the progenitor of ‘Artificial Earth’. But, it is Grant’s ‘Philosophies of Nature After Schelling’, which takes up the issue of graduating Schelling to escape the accoutrements of Kantian and Fichtean narrow transcendentalism.

Schelling gave a new twist to understanding nature by going past the Kantian nature as subject to necessary laws, as for Kant, nature enjoyed a formal sense. Kant overlooks the phenomenological deficit by arguing for subject’s access to forms of intuition and categories to bear upon what it perceives. Schelling discovers the problematic by raising the issue of subject’s spontaneity to judge in terms of categories. This dynamism of ‘becoming’ is what incites Grant to look into the materialist vitalism in Schelling’s understanding of nature. Grant frees Schelling from the grips of narrow minded inertness and mechanicality in nature that Kant and Fichte had presented nature with. This idea is the Deleuzean influence on Grant. Kant himself pondered over this dilemma, but somehow couldn’t come to terms with subject taking a leap from its determinism in crafting episteme. For, if nature was formal in its adherence to necessary laws, then splitting this boundedness to nature from subject’s autonomous or self-determining cognitivity would arrest the leap from determinism. In a way, Kant falls into the pit that he tries to negotiate, but comes out in conceding to nature the generation of self-determining organisms that possibilizes disinterested aesthetic pleasure in his third critique.  It didn’t take Schelling any Herculean effort to underline the central problems with this position of Kant, but it has taken a path of deliberate neglect of Schelling’s discovery of nature as more subject than object in modern readings of the philosopher.

Grant affirms the cardinality of Schelling’s naturephilosophie as the core, rather than just a phase as against Heidegger’s proclamation of Schelling’s discovery of nature as a fleeting episode, despite Heidegger paying fullest respects to Schelling for his profoundest grasp of spirit because of his commencing from the philosophy of nature. In a remarkable tour de force, Grant takes the accusation of Eschenmayer’s against Schelling head on and helps resurface the identity between nature and history. This identity is derived from Schelling’s insistence on freedom arising from nature, as the latter’s final and most potentiating act, the idea that constantly irritated Eschenmayer. Nature is history also helped Schelling cut the umbilical cord between evolution and teleology, in that he could fix his impressions on Carl Friedrich Kielmeyer’s signaling of a new epoch in natural history, thus getting over with transcendental philosophy’s obsession with fixed forms. That the inertness of nature was already on the way of getting dislodged, was proved by Kielmeyer’s influence on the earliest programme of the German comparative Biology, by which Schelling had himself been mightily influenced. As Kielmeyer had noted in his writings,

“I myself would like to derive all variation in the material of inert nature from a striving for heterogenesis, analogous to that in the organism, in the soul of nature.”

Schelling and Kielmeyer were fellow travelers in the sense that both recognized the fundamental delusion of the Kantian possibility of using a piori principles in deducing external nature. Grant makes a very affirmative intervention in here, when he elevates Deleuzean admonition to the fact that only contemporary French philosophy offers a scathing attack on the modern philosophy since its inception by Descartes holding the verdict of ‘nature not existing for itself’. This whole notion of becoming over being is wrought about by seemingly imperceptibly small and infinitely many changes. Or as Schelling maintains:

“Nature admittedly makes no leap; but it seems to me that this principle is much misunderstood if we try to bring into a single class of things which nature has not only separated, but has itself opposed to one another. That principle says no more than this, that nothing which comes to be in nature comes to be by a leap; all becoming occurs in a continuous sequence.”

This continuous sequential becoming is what has made Schelling to look at forces more potently rather than at phenomena as the measure of the differentials between the things that are separated by nature, but only as factors pertaining to becoming. This is a direct supplement to Kielmeyerian account of natural history, converting the principles underlying transcendental philosophy from the phenomenal and the somatic nature to making the somatic into the phenomenal products of a priori dynamics,  without making the phenomenal somatic coextensive with nature as such.  Products as such, for Schelling were discontinuities in nature and therefore not in the real sense speculative, as this was based on the principle of an Idea of nature as against nature and as ‘materiality is not yet corporeality’.

 

Is Philosophy Revenant?

This piece is in no way trying to endorse the polemical happenings in philosophy on the continent and across the channel and the Atlantic in the English speaking countries. The tradition of analytic philosophy and continental philosophy are indeed compossible and also in a way in a state of cold war. But one thing that is running like a common thread in the minds of many of the philosophers is the proclamation of the ‘End of Philosophy’. I want to shy from giving recognition to the eschatology that philosophy is facing and hence try to show that the death of philosophy is in no way in sight as it would mean the tragic abandonment of reflection and meaning, which keeps me in doubt if at all we would want to suffer such a loss. Indeed we do face a spate of intellectual terrorism and often badly defined and badly done philosophy, but then our valiant attempt, to echo Oliver Wendell Holmes, ‘to churn void and make cheese’ isn’t here to stay.

We have heard that physics is nearing its end. Physicists are trying to set up a system of equations which are together called the Grand Unified Theories (GUT) that would enable to answer all the possible phenomena in the Universe. Although this claim has been made for a long time, the end as such is in no way in sight. Similarly starting with the initial years of the last century, philosophical problems or systems are either being given the confident death knell or they have been branching off to explore new fields. This in a nutshell definitely lends legitimacy to what Ernst Gellner said in his Words and Things: “a cleric who loses his faith abandons his calling, but a philosopher who loses his redefines his subject.” But on the other hand there have been constant questions asked about the purposefulness nature of doing philosophy in the first place. The only philosophy one might engage in after all that has happened would no longer make any pretense of being in control of the absolute. Indeed, it would have to forbid itself to think the absolute, lest it betray the thought. And yet it must not allow anything to be taken away from the emphatic concept of the truth. This contradiction which was closely followed in the earlier days of the Frankfurt School critical theory tradition defined the precise element of the purpose of doing philosophy.

It is definitely not the case of growing contempt towards philosophy, but a sense of decadence in doing it. This despondency in no way should be linked with the building up of contempt. Bertrand Russell in his ‘Unpopular Essays’ thinks that if contempt for philosophy is developed to the point, at which it becomes systematic, then it becomes a philosophy.

My intention in this talk is to side with what EM Forster once said: “Death destroys a man; the idea of death saves him.” In this particular saying, I wish to substitute man with philosophy. It is precisely this thought or the idea that philosophy is dead, that the entire studies in philosophy are continuing in the process of ongoing history.

One must remember the fact that when the Greeks spoke of the end of philosophy, they had telos in mind as the end and not like today’s usage wherein the end depicts the cessation or the terminal end of doing philosophy. Philosophy from the days it began had one companion always following it and that was sophistry. That clearly does not mean that we need to read the history of philosophy along with a history of anti-philosophy.

Before going any further, I would like to quote from Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling:

“Heraclitus the obscure said, ‘One cannot pass twice through the same stream’. Heraclitus the obscure had a disciple who did not stop with that, he went further and added, One cannot do it even once’. Poor Heraclitus, to have such a disciple! By this amendment the thesis of Heraclitus was so improved that it became an Eleatic thesis which denies movement, and yet the disciple decided only to be a disciple of Heraclitus… and to go further-not back to the position Heraclitus had abandoned.” 

In the universities where new courses in psychology, anthropology, applicative sciences and business sciences are being set up rapidly, philosophy departments are seeing a major decrease in enrollment. Even funds at the disposal of philosophy studies are getting reduced. This could very well mean that philosophy is at an end. This phenomenon is precisely what Heidegger calls the growing impact of specialists in the sense of being more scientific and less democratic control on the various aspects of associate life. This particular train of thought could very well be linked with Plato’s philosopher kings not getting manifested. Heidegger here expresses concern with the emergence of power vested in an uncontrolled manner that he condemns as being very deceitful and dangerous with the ever-increasing inevitability of ‘striking at the heart of the state’. This power according to Heidegger is democratic in format. Many contemporary philosophers are trying to label this scenario in a psychiatric metaphoric manner by terming it as schizophrenic.

The end could be thought of in two manners: the first being Philosophy coming full circle, and hence an aporia is reached and to do philosophy, one starts from where one originally began. This notion is Hegelian. The other is the doctrine of ‘Quietism’, which indicates the clarification of language such that the philosophical problems are not solved but dissolved, the Wittgensteinian notion. He says in the Philosophical Investigations that we are seeking complete clarity in that philosophy is given peace and hence is no more tormented by the questions that bring itself into it (PI, #133). If this is achieved, it is possible to will a stoppage to doing philosophy. But that is not all. There is Deleuze with his proclamation of the end of the verticality of ideas and replaced by the horizontality of ideas, the rhizomatic. I’ll be concentrating on Deleuze’s treatment at the hands of Badiou.

On the continent, it was Nietzsche, who is responsible for killing God. He never achieved any success in consummating philosophy, in setting it any impossible task, but then showed the futility in the very act of doing philosophy. His non-acceptance of traditional pillars of the ideas of classical age indeed persuaded the non-analytical philosophers to accept thinking as the systematic distortion of reality and Heidegger further cemented his notions. If the philosophers on the continent subscribe to this stand, it is indeed trying to correlate with the Hegelian notion of ‘coming full circle’ and thus getting stuck in nostalgia. Heidegger’s notion of ‘metaphysics’ is precisely the idea that being is order,  objectively given for once and all. If being is decidedly given once and for all, history is arrested and finds itself in a closed circuit thus ruling out any possibility of openness.  Heidegger cites in his lecture on the end of philosophy, the overturning of metaphysics at the hands of Marx. Metaphysics is still a talk of some philosophers either as a continuation of the classical thought or by analytical tradition in which it is taken to connote rigidified ‘regional ontologies’ deprived of the historicity that one traces in the Kantian and Husserlian transcendental as the condition for the possibility of any philosophy or science. Heideggerian notion of metaphysics in contemporary philosophy is largely rejected.

As I promised earlier, my focus is on the philosophical thought of Deleuze. To take his treatment at the hand of French philosopher, Badiou is my primary interest here. His contribution could lead us into a created framework wherein we could be led out of the labyrinth of this badly defined continental philosophy. This might not be any space of hope as it could also play itself on the flip side. There are occasions where his doxa that are traces or rather traits of the Heideggerian or Deleuzian doxa are compelling him to fall prey to; thus cutting off a truer confrontation with the radicality of his work that he starts off with.

Badiou talks of the reinvention of the categories of truth and subject against Nietzschean critique, eventuality, politics vis-a-vis ontology born again and the treatment of European nihilism and capitalism. He takes the cases of Heidegger and Deleuze in explicating these issues. In his treatment of Heidegger in the Manifesto and of Deleuze in the Clamor for Being, he has caricatured Heidegger’s opinion supporting crypto-teleology of the ‘end of philosophy’, while opening up the thought of Deleuze for a conceptual confrontation. Badiou’s system echoes Deleuze’s philosophical injunctions in that he never believed metaphysics to die a natural death but insisted it’s stifling at the hands of sophistry, philosophical thought as immanently multiple and without taking any recourse to nostalgia as far as explaining phenomenon like Nihilism.

For philosophy to be revenant, Badiou advocates a concept called ‘Platonism of the multiple’. According to Badiou, the first responsible cause of the death is borrowed from Lacan’s concept of Suture. That philosophy sutures (binds) itself with the non-philosophical conditions i.e. the destiny and the praxis of philosophy is sutured with these conditions. His four conditions are politics, science, art and love. For instance, political suture: Marxism, that is philosophy binding itself to a particular political programme. It is extremely essential if philosophy has to travel historically, these sutures are to be retained. The problem of the end of philosophy arises in the case of ‘double suture’ when a belief in the complicity of the ‘metaphysics of subjectivity’ and technological determined totalitarianism is maintained. Such complicitous natures urge philosophy to abandon its consistency and thus compel a cadence of a kind. This is in a nutshell is the jettisoning of independent procedures philosophy is used to take to.

Badiou demands that philosophy thinks of the discontinuity in the productions of evental subjects as holes in the fabric of knowledge thus undermining living philosophical traditions and reinventing Subject and Truth. Both these reinvented categories are thought of as ‘event’ emerging out of the void (inconsistency) of any situation. His fidelity to the event as rare, the subject as finite fragment of the post-event objectless truth and truth as the event of the void of the situation has adverse ramifications. In his study on Deleuze, the only way of reinventing these categories is through the reinvention of meontology that is the equating of Being with Multiple-Composition of the world through set theory. This is his Platonism of the Multiple. Badiou not only denies the phenomenological subject, but also the continuity of Being thus rejecting the notion of philosophical temporality. To that even Deleuze was anti-phenomenological in his approach, as he would take the experience to its utmost consequences and then de-suturing the subject/object distinction to make it impersonal.

Badiou took the approach to the Set Theory only to discern his denial of the concept of experience and primacy of language. If truth has to be given a rebirth as objectless, the problem of indiscernible must be dealt with. He takes the help of the set-theoretical approach to de-suture being and language. He defines truth as the singular and extra-linguistic production of the multiplicity within one of the four conditions viz, politics, science, art and love of philosophy. If truth is looked at like a supplement rather than any recourse to the transcendence, then there is this inconsistency of the void in the form of an indiscernible (not nameable, but capable of conceptualization), and then are we not dealing with the truth of the situations as such rather than the truth of this situation? What singularity can we attach to this inconsistency? Are truths only to be differentiated on the basis of decisive intervention of meaning? Badiou’s taking to meontology fails in its defence of the singularity of the event. So it seems clear here that the very destination of Deleuze’s thought is the One, and that the profusion of cases does not attest to their irreducible singularity and that alleged philosophy of the event is already there.

As for the treatment meted by Badiou on the topicality of Eternal Return, the opposition is Nietzsche contra Mallarme and is regarded on the basis of chance and accountable to the topology of the fold. Badiou opposes any conceptual probabilism that would allow Events to be tendentially captured by the entropy of the Same. Univocity must approve of divergence. However, Badiou is not too articulating in his distinction between the actual and the virtual with regard to the Bergson’s duration. In Deleuze’s treatment of entropy (D&R), the thought is for both the efficacy of the statistical reduction of events to identity and the inability of this position to account for its own genesis and for genesis itself, a sort of a double bind. What is questionable though is the very transformation of entropy to simulacrum. The philosophical ‘plane of immanence’ and the scientific ‘plane of reference’ are in a sort of unproblematic opposition and this antagonism precisely is the continuity for the philosophical endeavour.

Both Badiou and Deleuze share an utter disdain for ‘End of Philosophy’ and Badiou especially feels a deep scorn for spreading the ‘Empire of Opinion’ as in one conference, he said that ‘The Freedom of Opinion is the Enemy of Philosophy’.

Gerald Bruns mentions in his end of philosophy essays that philosophy is to be located at the level of the singular and irreplaceable rather than at the level of the universal and the necessary. He talks about this openness precisely in the sense of alterity in that this openness finds a way of substitutability of the sovereignty of the subject. Bruns believes that philosophy can recapture ‘an intimacy with the world’ of the kind Levinas talked about of the relation of proximity. This means that our relation with the world is not just confined to purely a theoretical one, but that of practical relation with those situated within an ongoing history. Now with the primacy placed on the practical, ethics can be given a privileged position in establishing a dialogue between philosophy and literature. This thesis aims at subverting the inherited conception of philosophy as the foundation of knowledge by elevating the singular over the universal and event over the law.

I do agree to a complete detour being taken on the continent in the very practice of doing philosophy and that was the reason why I had commented on Badiou being the protector. Postmodernism sounded the death knell for the classical way of thinking of philosophy in terms of grand narratives. Micro or localized narratives are the more sensibly thought of in answering the changing world scenario. Even by the time, post-modernism could actually sink in by dethroning the ideas related to modernism, talks of ‘Performatism’ started to surface. This concept signifies the sign, subject to come together in ways for creating the aesthetic experience of transcendency…locating it in a place where meaning is constructed. Performatism is looked at as ‘New Faith’. Together these new epochal ideas have come to be known as ‘New Sincerity’ and are the talk in the west of a loose connection between cultural studies and philosophy post 9/11.

Thus is to concur that philosophy as revenant is indeed what we are witnessing today as the break from the ideas of the classical ages gone by is getting more and more subscriptions. All is not lost, if we pay heed to deconstruction techniques in the sense that the end is deferred and yet to come. We need to get the old methodology back from its marginalized occupied space to the center. This may just be a lot of demand but then it is the most viable way to encounter this apocalypse.

If philosophy is to be realized, it has to be eliminated – Marx…..