October 2006

The last week has seen me depressed, despondant, and generally exhausted. Perhaps I’ve just been drowning under too much grading lately, or perhaps this emerged from reading Dreyfus and Rabinow’s Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics. Somehow I find Foucault’s thesis that only certain things are sayable at any given point in history to be crushing, even if I find myself agreeing with many of the claims that he makes. What hope can there possibly be if we are dominated by social forces in this way? In this context, I was pleased to come across Bruno Latour’s newest, Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory, which also references John Law’s website on Actor-Network-Theory. What I find appealing in Latour’s latest work is his emphasis on the continous formation and collapse of various groups, coupled with the contentious nature of group formations in general. Here I find a far more fluid and open notion of the “social”– Latour contests the idea that the social is a substance or matter independent of those who enter into connections –that promises to resituate how certain questions are asked in social and political theory. In short, Latour presents a performative conception of the social, immanent to the activity of agents, that resonates nicely with Zizek’s observation that the symbolic sustains itself only in and through our belief in the symbolic. Hopefully I’ll have more to say about this later.

Courtesy of Infinite Thought.

A treasure trove of articles on Alain Badiou.

The universe is the flower of rhetoric.
~Jacques Lacan

The philosopher is expert in concepts and in the lack of them. He knows which of them are not viable, which are arbitrary or inconsistent, which ones do not hold up for an instant. On the other hand, he also knows which are well formed and attest to a creation, however disturbing or dangerous it may be.
~Deleuze and Guattari

[T]he following definition of philosophy can be taken as being decisive: knowledge through pure concepts. But there is no reason to oppose knowledge through concepts and the construction of concepts within possible experience on the one hand and through intuition on the other. For, according to the Nietzschean verdict, you will know nothing through concepts unless you first created them– that is, constructed them in an intuition specific to them: a field, a plane, and a ground that must not be confused with them but that shelters their seeds and the personae who cultivates them. Constructivism requires every creation to be a construction on a plane that gives it an autonomous existence.
~Deleuze and Guattari

Citing the old cliche, for me revolutions are first revolutions in thought, for it is in thought that what is and what is not is transformed. I am not sure what it is that brings one to philosophy or makes one a philosopher, or whether I am even a philosopher. I suspect that at some point in one’s life the world has to fall apart and cease to signify “naturally” as it should in a state of habit. Maybe it makes me a mystic to say something like this, but I can’t help but feeling that we have to have an encounter with chaos, a sort of pure experience of formlessness where everything that is obvious falls away and is lost, and we are no longer sure how things signify and where nothing quite makes sense. Perhaps this is why I admire Descartes and Husserl, while nonetheless disliking their conclusions. I had something like this experience growing up. I moved around a great deal throughout the country, and found myself thrown into one system of customs after another, having to rebuild myself again and again. My father enjoyed perpetually changing rules from moment to moment, such that there was very little that was stable or reliable. Our home sometimes seemed like Lewis Carroll’s ideal game. And later on I would produce this experience phenomenologically in a concerted and intentional fashion, by following the line of thought traced by Sartre in the opening pages of The Transcendence of Ego, the first chapter of Bergson’s Matter and Memory where everything is just fleeting images or impressions in movement, and late Husserl’s concept of “hyletic flux”, always “de-constructing” my body and impressions of the world to reach a sort of buzzing confusion behind the structured interpretations of the world about myself or a field of pure sensations that popped in and out of existence. You could say I would “de-relate” each impression I experienced, trying to experience my body not as a continous, organized surface, but as a series of disparate sensations unconnected to one another, and striving to do the same with my experience of objects in the world. It was a frightening time, leading to inane questions like “why do I believe the walls are white when they’re covered by shimmering shadows that are constantly changing?”, or “are objects really substantial, or are there just differentials of speed defining relations of hardness and and softness, substantiality and insubstantiality.” I would stay awake for nights, challenging my sensory-perception and cognitive-processing systems, just so that I might see how the world looked in a state of complete fatigue. It would occur to me that my assumptions about causality, three-dimensionality, the interiority of the Other, significance, and so on and so on were not given, and that other orderings of the world are possible, like Foucault’s mad taxonomy at the beginning of The Order of Things.

I’m developmentalist in my temperament through and through. That is, I believe that our sense of the world, body, and others is a product of aleatory developmental processes, and not something that is hard-wired or within us by nature. This is why I am fascinated by questions of individuation and why I begin with the premise that the “multiverse” or being is multiplicity without one. That’s why I like Pollack, even though I really dislike him. Oh sure, most of us develop in such a way that we live in a world populated by objects or things. But what is an object? What is a thing? We tend to think of a thing as something that is there, in itself. But don’t bodies and objects emerge in a reciprocal relation within one another, don’t they co-develop? Husserl argues that all objects have a horizon, an internal horizon and an external horizon. No one reads Husserl, he’s a terrible stylist, but he’s really worth reading. The internal horizon of an object is the relation what is present in the object to me, shares to what is absent in that object. For instance, the other side of my computer monitor that I do not now see. The external horizon is the relation that an object shares to the rest of the world, to its background, to other objects related to it.

In Principle Doctrines, Epicurus writes:

If our dread of the phenomena above us, our fear lest death concern us, and our inability to discern the limits of pains and desires were not vexations to us, we would have no need of the natural sciences. It is not possible for one to rid himself of his fears about the most important things if he does not understand the nature of the universe but dreads some of the things he has learned in the myths. Therefore, it is not possible to gain unmixed happiness without natural science. It is of no avail to prepare security against other men while things above us and beneath the earth and in the whole infinite universe in general are still dreaded. (XI-XIII)

Epicurus is here calling for a conceptual revolution, or a transformation in how we experience objects and events. That is, there is one person that sees natural events and is immediately led to the conclusion that they are dark omens from the gods. A solar eclipse occurs, an earthquake, a tsunami, a comet flies across the sky, and we are filled with dread as we contemplate these things as they are indicators that the apocalypse is about to occur, that there will be a plague, or that a city will be smitten. Sometimes I receive student papers that try to dismiss Epicurus by saying that he lived in ancient times and these things are no longer true of us today; yet when a solar eclipse occured just a few years ago, significant portions of the global population refused to leave their homes in belief that this was a dark omen. No doubt some of this has to do with the fact that Revelations prophecies that the sun will darken when the apocalypse is about to occur.

Now, there is nothing in the experience of a solar eclipse itself to suggest this conclusion, save perhaps that they are relatively infrequent. No, in order for this judgment to be made it is necessary that there already be an entire external horizon to events such as this that links these events to a field of meaning, leading us to conclude that they are dark omens from the gods. I must already “live” in a universe populated by gods, where certain unusual events are understood to be signs addressed to humans, signifying favor or disfavor. Nor is there anything in what is given itself to suggest that we should approach natural events such as eclipses in terms of cause and effect relationships. No, in order to encounter the world in this way, I must undergo a conceptual revolution. Or rather, I must, following Deleuze, transform my experience of how the given is given as given (DR, 222). That is, concepts propose relations between background and foreground, events and their horizons. Or again, as Deleuze and Guattari so sexily put it,

The plane of immanence is like a section of chaos and acts like a sieve. In fact, chaos is characterized less by the absence of determination than by the infinite speed with which they take shape and vanish… Chaos is not an inert or stationary state, nor is it a chance mixture. Chaos makes chaotic and undoes every consistency in the infinite. The problem of philosophy is to acquire a consistency without losing the infinite into which thought plunges (in this respect chaos has as much a mental as a physical existence). To give consistency without losing anything of the infinite is very different from the problem of science, which seeks to provide chaos with reference points, on condition of renouncing infinite movements and speeds and of carrying out a limitation of speed first of all… The concepts can then mark out the intensive ordinates of these infinite movements, as movements which are themselves finite which form, at infinite speed, variable contours inscribed on the plane. By making a section of chaos, the plane of immanence requires a creation of concepts. (WiP, 42)

Aristotle selects a section of chaos when he names four arche, the material, formal, efficient, and final cause. Would we have thought to examine the buzzing confusion of the world, the chaos of the world, without this section of chaos being brought into relief? And on the basis of this selection, Aristotle was able to discover something new: the monster, or that being that violates the relationship between formal and final causes for natural beings. Later Darwin would turn the monster into a way of overturning formal and final causes. Freud takes a selection from chaos when he affirms, following Leibniz, that everything has a reason, at applies this to the parapraxes or the slip of the tongue. By virtue of the concept of parapraxes, I am now able to discern a horizon of meaning and desire in the bungled action and symptom. And this concept itself will generate its own conditions of falsification and growth, later generating the concept of death drive to account for those symptoms that do not resolve themselves through interpretation. With thinkers like Ranciere, Mouffe, Laclau, Balibar, Badiou, and Zizek, we now have a concept of the political, of the political as that which cannot simply be equated with dynamics of power. Yet another cut in chaos, allowing us to discern what was not discerned before. And so it goes. With each slice of chaos a new object is produced, and with each new object produced a new receptivity or intuition occurs. Would I have been able to read Raymond Roussel, were it not for the invention of the concept of the signifier? Is it possible to discern the existence of a new people if we do not first invent the concept of that people? Were there any nomads before Deleuze and Guattari first said “nomad”? Were there any militants prior to Badiou naming militants? Perhaps they have not arrived yet, but the very naming of them makes them yet to come.

A concept always posits a world, bodies, subjects, and new objects, attaching each of these to a unique horizon that autopoietically generates its own knowledge on the basis of the distinctions drawn. And if I find myself so hostile to those who declare the end of theory today, then this is because I see those who make this declaration calling for concepts to be replaced by commonplaces, by a form of thought that doesn’t allow itself to undergo the torsions and destitutions that occur through the production of concepts, but instead affirm the bits of “common sense” that float around in discourse like so many truisms. The objects that we discern in their specific sense, the experiences that we have, the actions of which we are capable, the depth of our love… All of these things shall be a function of the concepts that possess and animate us. And here we must speak of possession in the full Catholic sense of the term, in the sense of The Exorcist, for it is not we who forge concepts, but rather we who are forged by our concepts.

In a previous post (Virtual Ideas– Problems and Multiplicities) I suggested that Deleuze’s account of problematic ideas or the virtual shares far more in common with Plato’s conception of the forms or Ideas (eidos) than the empiricist conception of ideas as mental entities. The point here was not to claim that for Deleuze Ideas are forms after the fashion of Plato, but to underline that Ideas must not be conceived as mental entities, but as an ontological category presiding over the actualization of entities. Although Deleuze will later give up his language of “Ideas”, this concept will nonetheless persist under the title of “multiplicity” until the end of his work. However, with that said, it becomes necessary to distinguish Deleuze’s account of Ideas from Ideas of the Platonic variety and explain what philosophical or ontological work they’re doing.

In book six of The Republic, Plato remarks,

Let me remind you of the distinction we drew earlier and have often drawn on other occasions, between the multiplicity of things that we call good or beautiful or whatever it may be and, on the other hand, Goodness itself or Beauty itself and so on. Corresponding to each of these sets of many things, we postulate a single Form or real essence, as we call it… Further, the many things, we say, can be seen, but are not objects of rational thought; whereas the Forms are objects of thought, but invisible. (507a-c)

Plato’s motivation for positing the existence of Forms or Ideas is clear enough: On the one hand, the world that we see about us consists of objects that are constantly changing. Things come to be and pass away. If the criteria for rationality and truth lies in identity, then this entails that physical objects cannot be the objects of truth as they are unable to meet this criteria. On the other hand, to know is not to know this particular object, but the pattern or structure that underlies that object. Suppose that there were a form for gravity. I do not know what gravity is when I know that this or that object falls, but rather have a knowledge of gravity when I know the law governing all instances of gravity. From the standpoint of ordinary perceptual experience, phenomena such as a falling feather, a shooting cannonball, the manner in which I stay tied to the ground, and the movement of the planets all might appear highly unrelated to one another. After all, what could the graceful descent of a feather or a leaf have to do with the movement of the planets, and doesn’t the flight of an airplane or bird violate the principle of gravity? It is only when I move beyond the appearances that I am able to discern the common essence shared by all of these phenomena. The first step in any science is a step back from appearances and perception. Plato is making a similar claim with regard to phenomena such as justice. To know justice is to know that pattern or form common to all instances of justice. Like gravity, there might be examples of justice that seem to share nothing in common with other instances of justice. It is only when I know the form, that I am able to discern these relationships.

Unfortunately, Plato is unable to explain what individual entities contribute to being, if, indeed, they contribute anything at all. For Plato the true beings and objects of knowledge are the forms, not objects or entities in the world. The aim of philosophy, argues Plato, is to turn away to the world of the forms altogether, to purify our souls, so that we might re-unite with the forms themselves, as appearances or physical objects are not the true objects of our desire, but lures for our desire. For instance, in The Symposium Plato will argue that what I desire in the beloved is not the beloved himself, but rather the form of beauty itself. The beloved awakens me to the form of beauty, but if I am wise I will recognize that what I desire is this form, not the person. For Plato there is thus a strong separation between forms and objects. Objects participate in forms, but forms exist independently of objects. Even if all human beings ceased to exist in the world of appearances, the form “Humanity itself” would continue to exist and what is most important would not have been lost (as the form of humanity was the true reality anyway).

In addition to this peculiar separation between form and reality, the doctrine of the forms seems to lead to paradox as well. Plato examines this paradox, which appears to be an early version of Russell’s paradox, in the Parmenides, and it’s been suggested that he later abandons the theory of the forms altogether (for instance, the forms do not appear in Plato’s late work The Laws). A form is basically defined as those features that is common to a set of entities of a particular type. In an argument popularly known as the “third man argument“, we can posit for the set of all entities characterized as “human”, there corresponds a form defined as the “Human itself”. Now, once we posit the existence of this form we can ask whether this form has the characteristic of being human or not. If we answer yes, then we must say that there is an additional form known as “Human-2” that would be the form corresponding to the set of all entities that are humans and the form of that set. But now we need to ask whether the form “Human-2” has the characteristic of being human. If we say yes, we must posit a third form entitled “Human-3”, and so on. That is, the doctrine of the forms seems to lead us into an infinite regress. By contrast, if we say that the form of “human” doesn’t have the characteristic of being human, then it is difficult to see how it relates to the set of entities characterized as human, and the explanatory power of the doctrine of the forms collapses.

There are thus three questions on the table: 1) How is it possible to overcome the transcendence of the forms, which renders the value of all objects null and void (this Platonic heritage will culminate in Kant who argues that “being is not a real predicate”), 2) what do individuals contribute to being, and 3) how is it possible to overcome the third man argument? Deleuze’s strategy is to treat objects as symptoms and Ideas not as essences or forms guaranteeing the identity of objects, but rather as generative matrices or problems presiding over the actualization of objects. Regarding the first point, Deleuze will say, in Nietzsche and Philosophy, that:

We will never find the sense of something (of a human, a biological or even a physical phenomenon) if we do not know the force which appropriates the thing, which exploits it, which takes possession of it or is expressed in it. A phenomenon is not an appearance or even an apparition but a sign, a symptom which finds its meaning in an existing force. The whole of philosophy is a symptomology, and a semeiology. (3)

All individuals that exist are, for Deleuze, symptoms. Symptoms of what? Of the forces that take possession of them. But what are these forces? These forces are what Deleuze will refer to in Difference and Repetition as “Ideas”, “Multiplicities”, “Problems”, or differentials. As Deleuze will write in Nietzsche and Philosophy,

Forces in relation reflect a simultaneous double genesis: the reciprocal genesis of their difference in quantity and the absolute genesis of their respective qualities. The will to power is thus added to force, but as the differential and genetic element, as the internal element of production. It is in no way anthropomorphic. More precisely, it is added to force as the internal principle of the determination of its quality in a relation (x + dx) and as the internal principle of the quantitative determination of this relation itself (dy/dx). (51)

Now, it’s worth pausing here for a moment and noting that the sign of difference– dy/dx –derives from differential calculus (a point that will be confirmed explicitly in Difference and Repetition). This is incredibly significant with regard to Plato. As I observed above, Plato argues that the world of physical objects is irrational and unthinkable because it is constantly changing and therefore fails to obey the law of identity required for something to be thinkable. However, with the emergence of calculus, everything changes, for what we have in differential calculus is the mathamatics of instantaneous rates of change of quantities with respect to other quantities. This, I think, is one of the most significant contributions of Deleuze’s account of the virtual. Where historically it has been impossible to think change, with the invention of calculus, change now becomes thinkable. On the basis of this move, it is no longer necessary to posit an identity transcendent to the ever changing object (a substance underlying changing predicates such as we find in Descartes’ famous wax example from the second meditation, or Kant’s first analogy in The Critique of Pure Reason), but rather the continuous differing of the object from itself becomes thinkable as a unity of difference. Elsewhere, in his book on Leibniz, Deleuze will refer to the object as “objectile”, which is a sort of portmanteau word combining “object” and “projectile”, inviting us to think the individual not as a substance that underlies change, but as an unfolding event tracing a trajectory through the world. The object is now thought as identical to its becoming. All objects become events or happenings.

Nor need we presuppose a prior identity to beings at all, but it now becomes possible to see them as emerging from difference itself and of being differentiated as a result of a process of integrating a solution to the differentials of which they are a symptom. This allows us to be done with the concept of models which objects are understood to more or less approximate, once and for all. For instance, in Aristotle all objects are measured against how closely they actualize their formal-final cause, such that he must formulate the category of “monster” to cover those entities that seem to approximate no formal-natural cause (such as deformed animals). In Deleuze, by contrast, these entities are a solution to a particular differential field. It is in this regard that Deleuze refers to objects as solutions to a problem.

However, as Deleuze is careful to point out in Difference and Repetition, problems are neither negative, nor do they disappear with their solutions. For every object that we encounter we are invited to ask “what problem is this object a symptom of? or what set of genetic conditions generate an object in this way?” In this regard, individuals are to be thought as inhabiting a differential field to which they share no resemblance, of which they are the integration and solution. In this way, Deleuze is able to claim that his ontology captures the singularity of existence itself, of this thing here, now, in this place. Existence is a real predicate and is always a unique creation within being. Deleuze provides a beautiful example of this in Difference and Repetition. Early in the text, Deleuze remarks that,

Learning takes place not in the relation between a representation and an action (reproduction of the Same) but in the relation between a sign and a response (encounter with the Other). Signs involve heterogeneity in at least three ways: first, in the object which bears or emits them, and is necessarily on a different level, as though there were two orders of size or disparate realities between which the sign flashes; secondly, in themselves, since a sign envelops another ‘object’ within the limits of the object which bears it, and incarnates a natural or spiritual power (an Idea); finally, in the response they elicit, since the movement of the response does not ‘resemble’ that of the sign. The movement of a swimmer does not resemble that of the wave, in particular, the movemens of the swuimming instructor which we reproduce on the sand bear no relation to the movements of the wave, which we learn to deal with only by grasping the former in the practice as signs. That is why it is so difficult to say how someone learns: there is an innate or acquired practical familiarity with signs, which means that there is something amorous– but also something fatal –about all education. (22-23)

By sign, Deleuze appears to be referring to the systems-theoretical concept of irritation, whereas by “signal” he appears to be referring to the concept of information whereby an irritation is transformed into information for a particular system. Expanding on this idea much later, Deleuze goes on to say,

In fact, the Idea is not the element of knowledge but that of an infinite ‘learning’, which is of a different nature of knowledge. For learning evolves entirely in the comprehension of problems as such, in the apprehension and condensation of singularities and in the composition of ideal events and bodies. Learning to swim or learning a foreign language means composing the singular points of one’s own body or one’s own language with those of another shape or element, which tears us apart but also propels us into a hitherto unknown and unheard-of world of problems. (192)

There is a profound theory of pedagogy or learning to be found throughout all of Deleuze’s work, that he sets in opposition to the tradition of epistemology or knowledge. I wish American legislators would take this theory of learning into account in designing curriculum in the United States, as it’s clear that they take learning to be “memorization of the same”. All knowledge, for Deleuze, is a solution to a particular problematic or differential field. The problem, multiplicity, Idea, or “differentiation”, in this example consists in the differential relations among singular points between the body and the waves. It is this that Deleuze refers to as the “virtual”. It will be observed that these are literally “no-thing”. Nor do the singular points of the waves or the
body resemble the actualized, differenCiated activity of swimming. Finally, there is nothing negative in this “problem” that disappears once the problem is “solved”, but rather the problem persists each time the person swims as the positive genetic condition of these movements. Solving is an ongoing and endless activity, such that the problem never disappears once and for all (Deleuze draws profound inspiration from Kant’s account of “regulative ideas” in formulating this positive conception of problems). My grandfather, for instance, has a very peculiar walk. If I did not adopt Deleuze’s theory of actualization or individualization, then I might seek to examine his body to see what is wrong with him physiologically after he’s dead, just as a neuropsychologist seeks to look at the brain or genetics of a person alone to understand something like depression, ignoring ecological considerations. However, being aware that my grandfather spent a good deal of his life at sea, I discover that his form of movement is a solution to the virtual differential field defined by the relation of the singular points pertaining to the body and the rocking of a ship from waves. His movement solves this problem and allows him to stand upright as he walks to and fro on the deck of his ships, while I am cast about left and right and sometimes fall down when I walk about on these ships. Similarly, in the case of swimming, one’s style of swimming (the actualized individual) will differ depending on the field or environment in which one learns how to swim. The individual style that integrates the relation of the body to the flows of the water in a swimming pool will be different from the individual style of a California surfer who has to deal with heavy ocean currents and crashing waves. Deleuze is thus able to show how Ideas are the genetic conditions of certain actualized individuals and how the actualized individual is the only possible actualization of this particular problematic field. In short, we dispense with all models saying how an individual should do things, and instead look at the problematic field to which an actualization responds. The individual is no longer secondary or something to be gotten beyond. Nor, finally, is Deleuze’s account of actualization restricted to cognition. Just as the particular movements I employ in swimming refer back to a problematic field or Idea to which they are a solution, the rock outside, the clouds, the trees, the earth, are all integrations of a set of differentials that “solve” a problem that persists. Insofar as each solution generates further differential relations, it follows that there are always new problems to be solved and integrated, and thus new actualizations. We must integrate even our own actualizations. All of this brings about significant transformations in how we study the world, pose ethical questions, pose political questions, and understand the relationship between aesthetics and ontology.

I had hoped to give a more precise account of differentiation and how it differs from differencitation, but hopefully this is a good start.

Caput Mortuum has a very nice post on Chantel Mouffe’s latest, On the Political. This post is of particular interest as it focuses on Mouffe’s critique of Negri and Hardt (which strikes me as hitting the heart of the matter, pardon the pun). The post ends with the ten million dollar question:

But I come away wondering how this democratic version can escape the capitalist model. There may well be other enlightenments, other histories beyond the rise of capitalism, other concepts of human rights that may or may not be in the service of specific geopolitical or economic interests, but am I reductive in wanting some more specific examples here? Mouffe says, “It is not in our power to eliminate conflicts and escape our human condition, but it is in our power to create the practices, discourses and institutions that would allow those conflicts to take an agonistic form.” But what are those practices? Why is this appeal to agonistic pluralism any less a utopian dream?

Returning to my earlier post, “I See Dead People“, is there a way of viewing these micro-struggles as obsessional activities designed to avoid confronting the real of our situation: capital?

Occasionally I’ve been questioned as to why I’m concerned about the emergence of Christian Nationalism in the United States. The most idiotic remark, in this vein, was the observation that fundamentalism is only growing in the United States and the Middle East, while religious belief everywhere else has been on decline, so I really shouldn’t worry about these things (this came from one of my European friends here on Larval Subjects). Well gee, thanks, this does me a lot of good if I live everywhere else, but I don’t see how it does me much good living here. Perhaps the person who made this comment would like to find me a nice teaching position in Europe so I wouldn’t have to worry about these things. Padraig from the brilliant subject-barred ($), who hails from Ireland I might add (apparently word of this small college has travelled far and wide), has been kind enough to track down a number of links on Patrick Henry College that are cause for concern.

No, what makes Patrick Henry unique is the increasingly close – critics say alarmingly close – links this recently established, right-wing Christian college has with the Bush administration and the Republican establishment as a whole. This spring, of the almost 100 interns working in the White House, seven are from Patrick Henry. Another intern works for the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign, while another works for President George Bush’s senior political adviser, Karl Rove. Yet another works for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad. Over the past four years, 22 conservative members of Congress have employed one or more Patrick Henry interns. Janet Ashcroft, the wife of Bush’s Bible-thumping Attorney General, is one of the college’s trustees.

These are astonishing, eye-popping numbers. Now I have no axe to grind with Christians. I earned my doctorate from a Jesuit institution. I would argue late into the evening with evangelical and Catholic friends about the finer points of scripture and the teachings of Jesus. My mother is a devout Catholic and my father a Southern Baptist. They decided to split the difference and raised me Episcopal. I even enjoy a good high Catholic service. I’ve always thought atheism consisted in the freedom to be done with religion, to no longer even talk about religion, not in the activity of sitting around trying to persuade others of the folly of their religious views. Yet when I do find myself talking about religion it’s usually defending religion, much to my dismay and confusion, not attacking it. My friend Jeff, in graduate school, who was home schooled and Baptist, would sometime tell me that I should be a minister due to how I talked about scripture. I suspect he did this to irritate me, but such is the nature of transference with regard to those whom we love. We become what we think they want us to be. Jeff also became a bit of an atheist.

But these groups are a different breed altogether, and it’s worthwhile to know what it is that they believe as they are currently being groomed for extremely powerful positions that will not only have a tremendous impact on domestic policy in the United States, but on U.S. foreign policy is well. Do we really want people leading the United States who believe the apocalypse is immanent (thereby undermining any need to change environmental policies that effect the rest of the world) and who believe these events will unfold in a conflict between the Middle East and the United States (thereby encouraging “statesmen” to promote conflict with foreign countries rather than avoiding it)? The articles can be found here and here and here and here and here. Thanks for the hard work Padraig!

At the broadest level, interactivism involves a commitment to a strict naturalism. By naturalism is meant (roughly) a regulative assumption that reality is integrated; that there is no isolatable and independent grounds of reality, such as would be the case of the world were made of Cartesian substances; that there is no ultimate barrier to further questioning and potential understanding, such as would be the case if the world were made of Empedoclean earth, air, fire, and water. In such a case, for example, (as well as for the Cartesian version of a substance metaphysics) it would not make sense to ask Where does earth come from? or Why is water stable? Such basic substances are the limits of understanding. The grounds for naturalism are at least two-fold: 1) the history of science seems to show that there are no such barriers to further understanding– we now have naturalic understandings of, for example, fire, heat, life, magnetism, and so on –and 2) the assumption of any such barriers at this point would itself be without warrant and a pointless obstruction to investigation.

Closely related to this naturalism is a process metaphysics: the fundamental nature of the world is organizations of processes. Again, there are several grounds for this:

  1. the history of science involves a progressive replacement of substance models with process models– e.g., phlogiston with combustion, caloric with thermal heat, vital fluid with self maintaining and self reproducing organizations of processes, and so on–
  2. Our best science tells us that there are no particles, only processes of quantum fields,

Read them here.

Interactivism: A Manifest, Process and Emergence, and The Social Ontology of Persons look particularly interesting.

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