Monthly Archives: October 2009

Correlationism and the Political

I really don’t get this political debate. I thought I did, but I guess I don’t. Either you are a realist or you aren’t, you can’t have it both ways. If you claim that there is anything that correlates with Being then you are a correlationist and an anti-realist. Of course, I disagree with certain people being implicated in Meillassoux’ formulation of correlationism because I disagree with his binary of Being/Non-Being, meaning I think “process” philosophers (Schelling and Schopenhauer for example) allow us to break with correlationism as well as the metaphysics of presence. This means that when Schelling says Freedom/Spirit or when Schopenhauer says Will, they are not correlationists because those are simply other names for Being (or rather, Becoming). They exist whether or not there are humans or thinking because their systems allow for unconscious entities (which is why so many Schellingians became scientists and why he was himself concerned with the natural sciences).

This is not the case for the political however. “Politics” is not another name for Being; politics are dependent on human beings. Certainly without humans there would be complex relations among entities, certain organisms would form politic-like organizations. We could say then that politics “image” other systems of relations, in the same way that Schelling speaks of “imaging freedom.” What he means is not that one is real and the other a copy, but that one is conscious and the other not, meaning one is reflexive. Politics are relations become conscious. Human beings, unlike ants or bees or wolves, are able to consider and change their grounding systems, able to weigh and decide the differences between varying systems and enact these decisions.

Nick has asked the questions: “(1) Are two galaxies colliding in the vast emptiness of space, political? (2) If yes, how?”

I think the answer is obviously no. Galaxies are unable to reflect on their relations, actions, etc, and are therefore not political. My decisions regarding my own systems of relations are political however insofar as they are conscious decisions. Certainly there is nothing inherently political about the fact that my body requires sleep (all animals do), but where I choose to sleep could be a political decision, as could a number of other factors involving this simple process. In this same way, a tree is not inherently political until I make it so.

We could perhaps question whether or not this means that speculation is in itself a political activity. This seems to be the main argument thrusts upon those of us who deny the ontological is political. Again, I follow the thinkers of the unconscious here and maintain that an unbiased view of things is possible. It follows that this view is not only not correlationist, but is devoid of politics until I inject them into it or thrust them upon it.

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The Eternal And Necessary Bond Between Politics and Ontology: Some Notes On The Nature Of Artifice

I wanted to write something on ontology and politics since it’s been going around. I haven’t had a chance to read the posts by Ben and Reid regarding this issue, so this may be painfully out of date and for that I apologize. I always worry when a hot topic goes around and I know that both Ben and Reid have commented on the issue that I will simply be repeating them. This comes largely as notes on Nina’s original post and Nick’s follow-up. It is not meant to be conclusive, but simply a statement of belief regarding the relationship of ontology and the political.

I can understand the theory that brought these ideas forth, I have even made similar arguments against someone in my department (a post-Marxist who draws on Deleuze and Negri and insists that ontology is inherently political). What I am concerned about is more of an epiphenomena of such a critique. I accept Nick’s claim that Being (and it’s study) should not be hindered by one’s politics; monarchists have just as much access to reality as Marxists. I do however worry about what such a sharp divide does for ontology.

One of the things I very much dislike about Badiou is that for him philosophy is very much reactionary. It is always the result of someone working within one of the conditions and then applying such advances, discoveries, or beliefs to philosophy. It strikes me that this is what is at root of both Nina’s and Nick’s writings on the relation of politics and ontology. It seems very much like a Reese’s problem, as if the history of thought said: “you got your politics in my ontology,” “you got your ontology in my politics,” and now we are looking to separate the two. I don’t think ontology is inherently political, reality is not conservative or liberal or capitalist or communist, it is what it is. That being said, I don’t think the division can be stated so strongly. Politics are a part of reality, as part of humanity they are an emergent property of the real, that is, Nature. There is nothing artificial about politics. One of the points of Nina’s original post was that there is a necessary split between politics and ontology, even if it is entirely artificial. There is no such thing as artificiality. All is Nature. As such, we must consider politics as entirely natural. I am very much an Aristotelian in this way (or perhaps a pre-modern or anti-modern), we should look to Nature in order to understand our own political struggles. This is exactly why I have proposed a loose outline of survivalism, a form of ethics and politics that takes the health and well-being of systems as its goal.

It is not then that politics have infected metaphysics, ontology is not in itself political. What is the political though? I think it can be defined as essentially “the development and maintenance of systems of things and relations.” At it’s most basic politics are a complex system of relations. Ontology as I understand it, the study of Nature (the only realm of existents), is also relational. It would follow then that the study of one will necessarily involve the understanding of the other. We must be clear however that I grant no sacredness to the political the way Nick seems to, politics are the logical extension of a thing able to act on those systems which generated it, just as ontology and ethics are studies which develop from specific things in reality (complex animal organisms), so too is the political able to act on on its own ground. This is consequential of the outgrowth of consciousness in Nature: organisms can now act rather than simply react. In this sense I grant politics to all relational organisms, or rather, all organisms able to act on their own systems of relations. This means, again, that politics are not sacred. I see nothing special in human politics except that we are more partial to them because we are implicated in their development and decisions. I’m sure if the politics of bees had an impact on me I would be much more concerned with their network of workers and queens, but as it stands the system of human relations are just another system. Certainly I would not stand for political decisions that I see as unethical or unjust, but that does not make such systems holy, only of more concern for my wellbeing. To repeat, I see Nature as inherently relational, and I see the political to be nothing more than a complex system of relations. It follows then than we should, following Aristotle and many others, attempt to understand the political through an understanding of Nature-itself.

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Bacterial Adaptability

Illustrated Bacteria

Courtesy of Boing Boing, check out these illustrations of bacterial adaptability.

While the colors and shading are artistic additions, the image templates are actual colonies of tens of billions of these microorganisms. The colony structures form as adaptive responses to laboratory-imposed stresses that mimic hostile environments faced in nature. They illustrate the coping strategies that bacteria have learned to employ, strategies that involve cooperation through communication. These selfsame strategies are used by the bacteria in their struggle to defeat our best antibiotics.

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Ants eat from inside out

Disgustingly awesome video of a swarm of ants taking on a crab. I hope I never experience what’s it’s like to be eaten from the inside out.

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Dreams of the Paranoic: Late Night Thoughts on Jung

When I started reading C.G. Jung in my undergrad as part of a reading course on late medieval and early Renaissance alchemy, I started keeping a dream journal. This turned into a blog on my dreams that I updated constantly. I was immediately taken by Jung, beginning with his Memories, Dreams, Reflections, up through reading through a large number of his Collected Works. It seemed to me then that psychoanalysis was the contemporary iteration of Augustine’s Confessions, that I was continuing this long tradition of studying the self that began in Ancient Greece and was continued by the mapping of my dreamscapes. I’m perhaps not as fond of Jung as I was years ago when I eagerly devoured his writings; there’s a certain naive quality that permeates his writing, which in a less cynical mood I could easily call an innocence and count as a positive attribute.

The reason I bring this up is that I haven’t been sleeping well lately. This started of course when my grandmother passed away and has continued since then. I’ve had issues with sleep since childhood, beginning with long periods of insomnia. The latest problem began as one of feeling rested. I would sleep a healthy amount and still feel exhausted upon waking. I’ve tried simply sleeping more, same result. Then the problem turned into one of waking up in the night, first once, then several times. Last night this escalated to frequent paranoid nightmares: feelings of being watched, being followed, waking up and feeling like someone is in the hallway. Anyway, when I began my dream journal years ago, it helped with nightmares, so I’m thinking of starting one again. I still haven’t decided if it will be a paper or online journal, and if online, if it will be private or public, and if public if it will be anonymous or not.

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The Botany of Desire

I’ve written about Michael Pollan before; I think his work “from the plant’s perspective” could (and should) be a great resource for both Object-Oriented Philosophy as well as Neo-Vitalism. Now my favourite of his books, The Botany of Desire, has been made into a documentary for PBS and it looks really good. Here’s a preview:

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This malign influence from the future

LHC

There’s a great article in the New York Times on the Large Hadron Collider, and the possibility that it is sabotaging itself from the future. A sample:

A pair of otherwise distinguished physicists have suggested that the hypothesized Higgs boson, which physicists hope to produce with the collider, might be so abhorrent to nature that its creation would ripple backward through time and stop the collider before it could make one, like a time traveler who goes back in time to kill his grandfather.

Where we’re going we don’t need grandfathers.

Something else of interest to those of us interested in Meillassoux and speculative materialism is this:

Another of Dr. Nielsen’s projects is an effort to show how the universe as we know it, with all its apparent regularity, could arise from pure randomness, a subject he calls “random dynamics.”

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