Tag Archives: Aristotle

On Vicarious Head-Scratching

I’ve been seeing a lot on Harman and capitalism and his model of causation as “nonsense” and whatnot and thought I’d try my hand at an explanation. For one, I don’t see why Harman’s model of causation is so hard to grasp but maybe its because I have a different background than most of those involved in the theory-corner of the blogosphere. I also want to stress that I’m not an object-oriented philosopher. I have serious misgivings about OOP which will be evident from my paper for Speculations. In fact, my paper will be on the subject of change and causality. That doesn’t mean however that I don’t think highly of the theory or that Harman should be insulted or attacked. Disagreements happen, we’re all adults here.

There are essentially two modes to understanding Vicarious Causation. The first is Aristotelian, the second is Kantian. It should be noted that both of these give us different versions of Occasionalism, that is, a mediated model of causality. I think the main problem people have with Harman’s theory is that they approach it strictly from the perspective of Heidegger’s tool-analysis, which while foundational for Harman’s thought has been overshadowed by a newer model of OOP over the past year. I think this this clear from lectures he’s given recently where the tool-analysis is explained but not foundational. He’s found new, better ways to ground the theory which makes it much more historically relevant and probably much easier to grasp by those without the Heideggerian or even phenomenological baggage.

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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 I haven’t had a chance to read the posts by Ben and Reid regarding this issue, so this may be painfully out of date and for that I apologize.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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Update / Reading Aristotle

Sorry I haven’t been around much. I’m working all summer as an editorial assistant, and the past little while has been swamped with work since our deadline has moved from the end of the year to the end of August. I should have the next little while free though before I start work on the next set of essays.

Besides that, I have a few essays I’d like to finish this summer. One is on the Ur-Event in Badiou (building off of the paper I mentioned before on Badiou and Rousseau), one is on Zizek and vampires (continuing my interest in the relation of Zizek to vitalism as seen in his readings of Lacan’s lamella), and the third is another on Badiou that I’m not ready to talk about yet (which I’m not sure I’ll really have time for until next year, but I want to get it started). Oh, I have this piece on Graham and OOP too, which I need to clean up a bit before I do anything with it. I’m looking to publish it somewhere, but I haven’t really decided where yet. Plus, you know, that thesis I’m writing. As for that, the summer is really just for all the background reading I need to do, while the writing proper won’t really start until this fall, although I do have a couple of essays and a couple of seminars given that are to make their way into the current thesis.

In other news, a friend of mine was just accepted to his first choice in PhD program. He’s worried though because this is a Jesuit school, and his background in Thomism and Scholasticism is a little shaky, I guess. He’s asked me to be part of a reading group this summer to whip him into shape since I have more of a background in Medieval philosophy that most of the people at MUN (before coming here and re-focusing my attention on continental philosophy, my plan had actually been to follow up the other half of my thesis, that is, focusing on Medieval philosophy and mysticism as part of a degree in Theology; I’ll be editing my thesis on Heidegger and Meister Eckhart early this fall for publication, since it will be published in an open, online journal that I will be editing, I plan on sharing it with you all as soon as I can).

We’re starting with Aristotle’s Metaphysics, then likely moving on to the De Anima, and then we’ll see what Aquinas we can cover with the rest of the summer. First meeting of this reading group is tonight. There’s only four of us in the group, three students (one Hegelian and one Cartesian, plus me) and one prof who was literally just hired on after being a session prof this past year, whose specialization is neo-Platonism, I think focusing on Augustine (but I could be wrong on this). Should be good.

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