Live-blogging: Reading Stengers’ “Thinking With Whitehead: A Free and Wild Creation of Concepts”
Liveblog – I’m gonna keep updating this with my thoughts as I read through the text. A fun experiment!
To start: Just got my copy of Stenger’s Whitehead book from Amazon. Firstly, it’s massive, and has a nifty, short but nice looking intro by Latour. But in thumbing through the book, it seems like a real wonder, and I’m so psyched to start to plow through this.
Starting the The Concept of Nature, the first work of the later (post-Principia) Whitehead, Stengers weaves her text in and around citations from Whitehead right in the text differentiated by italics. The result is something more like the commentaries and exegeses of medieval scribes. Each chapter tackles a concept as Whitehead starts to develop it in the early pre-Process and Reality works, and she tracks how each comes to maturation, all in reference to the project of overcoming what Stengers, following Whitehead, calls “the bifurcation within nature.”Stengers creates a texture of sentences and commentary, explaining the implication of one statement in reference of what came before it, reweaving Whitehead’s works into an organized tapestry in which the real design begins to emerge. We see Whitehead’s thinking, because Stengers shows us the mutations, we think with them both (as Latour says in the intro), we see and feel the motion of the thought.
And unlike the rather staid prose of Cosmopolitics, the sections I’ve skimmed here seem exhortatory, shimmering, as if Stengers were the prophet of the prophet to come, and his name is Whitehead. I’m really, really excited to dig into this thing in depth, but my first impression is that this book is gonna be an amazing, and maybe even ‘an event.’ Very, very exciting!
– Just finished the Latour intro and most of the first chapter by Stengers. There’s some great stuff in here by Stengers about what it means to speculate, about philosophical production of concepts in a Deleuzian sense. Latour in the intro says Whitehead’s goal was to find an alternative to ‘philosophical modernism’, and both he and Stengers think this means sidestepping Kant, without reverting to pre-critical thought, but going beyond Kant by overcoming the ‘bifurcation of nature.’
– Just finished Stengers’ intro, which started to drag a little at the end. It does have a condensed version of her notion of experimental science as a practice with the lab as an ‘experimental apparatus’ (and it’s important to remember that the word ‘experiment’ in French is both ‘experiment’ and ‘experience’ in English, much more open-ended). She spend a lot of time discussing Whitehead’s relation to the term ‘adventure’, but without ever citing Whitehead, which is kinda annoying, and at odds with the rest of the text. She also gives reasons for her mode of writing on Whitehead. A bit wordy, I’m excited to start the body of the text.