Malkovich, Malkovich – Malkovich?!
So, now that I’ve had some sleep, a response to Levi’s points from last nite. A lot of this is housecleaning, but necessary, I think. I doubt it makes for fascinating reading, but for me and Levi at least, its important I think because you always learn when you debate like this.
So far, this debate has prodded me to produce some formulations that I want to keep. For example, “truth is always impure” and “dirty realism” I think are keepers. I also like this one: “I believe that there is no way to justify ontological or epistemological claims without using the language of value, and value always implies a politics, ethics, and aesthetics.“ And this is why I find debates like this useful. It keeps you on your toes philosophically, and forces you to think out loud in precise ways, often clarifying your own thought to yourself.
1. Meillassoux and Badiou: Yes, I was tired last night, and Levi is quite right, I said ‘finitude’ when I should have said ‘contingency,’ and in regard to Meillassoux, the difference really matters. I’m not sure though why he thinks I’m misreading Badiou. I mean, the null set is basically derived in Badiou in earlier texts from Lacan’s graphs of sexuation. In regard to Meillassoux, I do think that what I’m trying to do isn’t to reinstate correllation, but as I’ve argued in previous posts, to absolutize it, with a multiplicitous twist. Very similar to Whitehead, but with a few additions. When even quantum particles have correlation, I don’t think we’ve got any sort of correlationism that Meillassoux addresses, or can even be called ‘correlationism’ in any real sense, it stretches the term too much. But even beyond the ‘correlation’ that applies to quantum particles, there are some reasons why what I believe to be the case is a bit more than even this, but that’s a story for another time.
2. Graphs of Sexuation: Yes, I understand that Levi is using these graphs to discuss withdrawal, and I think its a really smart move. I also REALLY like Levi’s recent move of talking about objects as systems. What I find limiting, however, is insisting that these graphs be applied only ontologically, and not epistemologically. I know that Levi’s big on avoiding ‘the epistemic fallacy’, but its not a fallacy if you simply draw the line demarcating epistemology from ontology differently. And its clear that Levi and I have different views on where that distinction lies. As I said yesterday, I don’t think its possible to make any epistemological or ontological claim without supporting this by means of a value judgement, thereby implying an ethics, aesthetics, and politics. But let me refine this with a corollary: I don’t think its possible to make ethical claims without backing them up with epistemological and ontological claims. This sort of holography works such that ontology, epistemology, ethics, politics, and aesthetics each imply each other. Which isn’t to reify these terms either. But within the odd beast we call philosophy, in its current formation, I think such a point of view is a useful corrective to that in which one of these is seen as primary over the others.
3. Quantum Stuff, Heisenberg, etc.: I don’t think the smallest things are the most real, but are just as real as things like Willy Wonka. And yeah, in talking fast last nite, I did telescope Goedel, Heisenberg, Russell. They each are saying very different things. But they each also mark a point in which the discourse in question came to its own point of ‘second-order observation.’ That’s all I was getting at.
4. Perspective versus Translation, and Malkovich: I understand that Levi’s going for an ontological approach by using translation over perspective, and that his goal here is, as he says, “avoiding mentalism.” From a networkological point of view, mind and matter are, following Spinoza, two aspects of the same. And so, my sense of perspective is perhaps a bit less mentalist than it might at first appear, because really I’m using a Whiteheadian notion of this, which is very much a physical phenomenon, and one which is computed, as with relevance, not only by the matter at hand, but its overall position within the world. Perspective is thus not inside the matter, but inside and outside it, and if being polemical it wouldn’t be wholly inaccurate to say that perspective is wholly outside a matter (though I think this distorts the point being made, despite the fact that a Zizekian might choose this approach for dialectical/’pedagogical’ reasons). I agree, though, when Levi says “translation makes something new”, and my approach to these questions is quite similar to that used by Bergson in the opening chapters of Matter and Memory, and deftly deployed by Deleuze in Cinema I, when put in the language of the refraction of images in the world. For Bergson, all is images – the body is an image, so is the mind, its thoughts, objects, perceptions, etc. Talk about flatness! But this allows Bergson/Deleuze to do some pretty cool things with perspective, and very similar to what I think Levi’s getting at.
I do believe that objects manifest in relation to our perspectives on them, but I also think they (to use a Levi term) ‘withdraw.’ This is the case for Whitehead, Bergson, and Deleuze, even though they don’t emphasize these points as much as the OOO folks do, its there. And as I’ve argued pretty tirelessly, its not “reduction to the same,” because there’s excess at each and every point. This is why, for example, for Bergson/Deleuze an image produced in a perception of an object is an image, but a different image from that which percieves it, and that which created it. The modulation of images is continuous. Whitehead has various mechanisms for arguing the same (ie: nexus/societies, the light-cone, negative prehensions, etc.).
This is why I think you can say ‘everything is perspective’ in a qualified sense only, because it DOES become Malkovichism IF there isn’t within the system. But Whitehead, Bergson/Deleuze, and lil’ ole me believe that there is excess at every point. That’s why the abyss of Malkovich is thankfully avoided. But I think using Malkovichism as the way of illustrating this is pretty damn great.
5. Realism/Anti-Realism: For what its worth, I’m nowhere near as anti-realist as I might at first seem. Just because you think everything is mediated by a paradigm doesn’t mean that paradigms don’t work. Heck, Newtonian physics works great, even if Einsteinian physics can describe a wider array of stuff. Likewise, I think alchemy is great if you’re trying to say something about the inner world more than the outer. I think one can be a Kuhnian and believe in real objects. Its just we can’t know, that is, make a precise distinction, in regard to the degree to which objects are real beyond their paradigms, or are even distinct objects. This does not mean, however, that we cannot come into sync with the outside world in a wide variety of ways. Inverting the denigration of the term ‘understanding’ in many a previous discourse, coming into sync in this manner is what networkological discourse refers to, not as knowledge, but ‘understanding,’ while it reserves the term knowledge for much more reified, precise, unambigous ways of relating to the world.
5. Michael’s Response to Levi: For what its worth, there’s a fascinating back and forth between Levi and Michael over in the comments section of Michael’s reply to Levi over at Archive Fire. I think Michael is completely right on the fact that blogging is itself a privileged activity, as is having the free time to study things like philosophy in general. He also hits home on a key point, namely, that if you look at any philosophy conference, you will see mostly white males with a certain degree of economic privilege in their backgrounds. And while universities are now increasingly gender balanced, in philosophy and the sciences this is not the case.
I also think both Michael and Levi have a point in arguing that blogging has the potential to change things, and Michael is correct in saying that SR has some of the makings of a ‘public intellectual’ movement, but has only begun to realize that potential. I do think its really important that non-professional-academics are brought into the debates, and that philosophy comes to life outside the university.
I also think that Michael has isolated one of Levi’s key debating tactics – find a marginal point in someone’s argument, show how problematic it is, spend a whole reply talking about it, ignore the rest, and therefore assume or imply that this disproves the rest. Synechdoche? Check. But problematic as well. I’ve noticed this happen quite a few times.
Then again, blogging as a medium perhaps lends itself to this sort of thing. Even my post from last night, I think there are things that can easily be taken out of context, but blogging is somewhere between published work and chatting, and when chatting, that happens all the time, especially over beers.
Philosophy and beer? Proof that god loves us. Add pizza, and maybe make the beer an IPA? Divine.