Thursday, March 7, 2013

Theses on Materialism and Ontology, the intro text for SAIC's thesis publication

I. Materialism as a whole is a question of the present. This is meant in two senses that are intimately related. On the one hand we may ask, “what does it mean to be in the present?” This is a question of time. On the other hand we are confronted in experience with that which is present to us. This, conversely, is a question of space. From the traditional Kantian perspective time is the internal quantitative limit of the subject. Change is the substantive quality of time, in the sense that the subject can account for time only through an internal register of change. It follows that we are nothing more than a formal series of changes predicated by the I, or ego, a multitude immanent to the I in the form of memory. Space, on the other hand, is the ideal external limit. It is a given multitude; given in the sense that the external is made present for us. These presumptions have determined our common sense perspective on space and time for much of modernity. The two concepts represent formal epistemological limits through which experience coheres as a whole. Nonetheless, it begs the question, are time and space necessarily bifurcated and independent?

II. The history of materialism occurs in two great moments: first as empiricism and second as physics. Through empiricism, reality is no longer imagined as the relationship between substantive matter and immaterial Idea. As such time and space are the loci of aesthetic sense. Time is the serial presentation of space in the present. Under these conditions of thought, it is no longer sensible to demarcate the two categories. We do not experience the present as that which has occurred already, as the tip of a given multitude, projecting into an ideal future—a future that is the past plus its potential. Nor is space an independent general limit of a multitude of objects. Instead the past and future converge in a concrete now-time. With physics the sensory-aesthetic character of spacetime was proven to coincide with scientific models. Time becomes a dimension of space, by which the behavior of time modulates with the scale of space. Depending on the velocity of an object and its relative position to the observer the effect of time transforms. We are now faced with a complex revolution in thought, “what is the character of this now-time?”

III. In general, philosophical reason has been supplemented by science. This is unsurprising given both the explanatory power of its propositions and total integration of its objective realization as technology. The resultant ideological perspective is scientism, which defines the belief that there is no useful way of thinking outside of science. It is important to realize that a meaningful method of materialism is not the same as scientism. At bottom a rigorous empiricism treats any given fact as a tendency of the present, which is open to change and revision. In this way science and scientism are at odds. The history of philosophy contains a latent tradition of materialism, that remains unrealized. Specifically in the work of three philosophers, Spinoza, Whitehead and Deleuze, we find a description of spacetime in ontological, rather than epistemological terms. What is evident in their work is that it is unnecessary to treat the limits of scientific knowledge as analogous to the limits of actuality. More radically, it is unnecessary to equate human knowledge with truth. The image of reality as a totality of facts is supplanted by reality as a field of problems.

IV. It is essential that philosophy take up the problematic character of the present. As Deleuze describes, we are not faced with a representative totality of facts, but rather a multiplicity of sense, stated as a problem. Thus the breaks between scientific fact are not the limit of thought, but instead the spacetime of thought, in itself. For Spinoza the real is simultaneously a universal whole and an infinitely modular set of parts. Any proposition should be read through this lens. That which is present to us is both an image and a concrete organization of matter. Our problems have a degree of reference to an organization of matter, and a potential sensibility as an image. For instance we may describe a problem of military violence. The problem both references an actual state of affairs and an image of its potential characteristics. The image of reality then has a probabilistic relation to the state of matter. Where a problem articulated in the present may create an image that appears impossible given the present organization of matter, in time it may actualize itself over and against the possibility of the present. Only when thought is taken up as a means to create the impossible out of its own image can we begin to face reality. Materialism is a way to both initiate and master the crisis of our present, of our now-time. But we must act decisively, for our participation in reality is dependent upon our being as matter, a problem as of yet unforeclosed, yet imaginable as such.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Thesis excerpt on "Propositional Triangularity"

"It is essential that philosophy overcome that which has benighted it. The common critique of language, one which centers the relativist theoretical system, is focused upon two objects that are often conflated: identity and representation. In truth, identity and representation have a triangular relationship with the proposition, each determined by their presentness. In materialism it is always paramount that we return to the present and in doing so get back to the matter of a given state of affairs. A proposition refers to an identity, and this identity occurs as an event with more or less accurate fidelity to the proposition. This relationship inheres whatever the syntax or grammar of the statement; it is the concrete context of 'truth-value' in the logical sense. The representation also relates to the proposition in this elliptical way, it is an image with no relationship to the concrete context of the proposition. An image as representation has value only in its potential to be imagined. Thus the proposition relates with its representation with a degree of sensibility. What is most often mistaken in the critique of language is the relation between representation and identity. For the materialist identity is immanently differential, in the sense that an identity is simply the metastable value of a series of identities transforming over time. As such the representation as a potential has a probabilistic character in relation to the identity. A representation that lacks sense at one time may be actualized in the future through a transformation of identity. For instance in early science it was proposed that we inhabited an Earth centered universe. Innumerable complex mathematical explanations were produced to describe the movement of celestial bodies, these formed a field of representational images with a probable degree of actualization. As the truth of this observation degraded, new propositions generated new representations (with varying degrees of sensibility in relation to the proposition). Eventually the sensibility will give way to new representations as former images degrade into non-sense or actualize as objective sensual events. This is what is meant when Deleuze differentiates between the virtual and the actual; matter exists as a singular state of affairs which occur as an event, and have a concrete existence in the present. The representation has a probability of actualization, which relates it with actuality over time, disallowing the representation to ever be a representation in the conventional idealist sense of the word. Language as such always carries with it a substantive relation to the world. It is not the world itself, and like any other means of relating, is constitutive of the peculiar embeddedness of humans in reality. It is counter productive for the materialist to treat language in a privileged way, as all characteristics of reality must be simultaneously differentiated by analysis but also synthesized into the whole."

While this excerpt focuses upon language, this analysis may easily extend to the entirety of human objective relations. Human activity operates upon an imaging and a contextual evaluation; the act constitutes its meaning over time through the future relation between the act in itself, and its relation to the imagining of the act's effect and value. The virtual and actual are the relation between the probable actualization of the imaginary and invisible with the concrete complex of objective sense, which determine future complexes of objects and relay with  the sensibility of the image. Obviously there is a third element, which is signification; but this cannot be addressed until I evaluate history, symbol and the internal-external character of the object. Which I will post soon.