Lectures / Thinking as an Algebraic Mechanist

Universal Genitality // All the time of life itself and the secretive circulation of genuine unlikeliness.

This is the manuscript to my lecture at the New materialist methodologies. Gender, politics, the digital conference in Barcelona, Spain, from Sept. 26th. The version I put online here is expanded with two appendixes.

The original abstract was entitled “Acts of Engendering by Abstract Thought, or Reclaiming »the Mathematical« from the Celibacy Imposed on it under the Domination of its Applicability in Purely General Terms.”

Abstract

Mathematics is universal and precisely because of this, its »symbolical manifestations« are held to be neutral, sterile, and a-sexual. Indeed, there seems to be hardly any other statement which feels as non-refutable today as this one. My paper proposes a change in perspective. It will emphasize the millennia old tradition of seeing in »the Mathematical« the art of learning (with an indefinite object, hence grammatically in a non-transitive sense). With »digital materiality« consolidated in quantum-electro-dynamic circuits and their carries (semiconductors), this perspective gains new relevancy today. Conceived as an art, learning (the Mathematical) can hardly be characterized as sterile and independent of »affection« – in this sense, »learning« stands diametrically opposed to »knowing«, which is supposed to be what it is precisely because it counts as absolutely sterile and purified from all investments of an economy of desire and ideology.

My paper will discuss the political-methodological importance of being considerate and clear with regard to how we conceive the status of mathematic’s symbolical manifestations, especially as we seek to overcome the distinction between artifical (deliberate) and natural (necessary). If we regard mathematic’s symbolical manifestations as engendered by learning (rather than as the object of learning, with learning as remembering or recollection of original knowledge) they must count – in their mathematically incarnated symbolic universality – as genital, I will argue, and all things intelligible and sensible (encodable, decipherable, communicable, exchangeable) must count as artificial symbolizations which make up the very fabric of »the real« (as the realm where we register effects in space and time). What we can know, then, is not co-extensive with what we can learn: in the virtuality of what can be learnt, we can value imagination, dreaming, fantasy, discretion, distinction, taste as autonomous factors of thought’s creativity which, as in the case of literacy and artisanry, must not fall in its totality beneath the reign of scientificity.

Universal Genitality

All the time of life  itself   and the  secretive circulation of genuine unlikeliness.

„The Sun, the Ultimate Capital“ (Michel Serres, in the Parasite)

I must say that I feel somewhat uneasy myself with the title I’ve chosen – there is a certain obscenity to it, a bit like that which attaches to the Jean Nouvel builing at Diagonal Street just around the corner. But at the same time I seem to helplessly stick to this word-compound, universal genitality, discontent but without an alternative, for the time being. Because I am looking for thematizing the universal – that which is a property to all things – in a „unit-icitous“ manner that is not simply a unit or a unity, resting within itself as a Multiplicity, or outside of itself, as the Multiple. What I am looking for, rather, is a notion of unit-arity, or monas-idity, perhaps, as a name for that which is purely partitive, restlessly and indefinitely conserving wholeness   without, itself,  being so. Having said this, as a kind of précis, let me start more indirectly.

Michel Serres has recently, in his lecture Thinking and Information at the Philosophy after Nature conference in Utrecht a few weeks past, found the shockingly direct wording of „From rotating revolutions to an expanding universe“. I would like to read this here as a kind of virtual motto for New Materialist Methodologies: What Serres expresses involves a shift in perspective to materials in a manner that does not stop at taking a material dissolution of identity/difference relations as a frame of reference, or as a figuration of an apparatus, it asks us to consider the origination of physical elements and chemical bodies in their  cosmical dimensions. The universe is expanding because it has a nature, galaxies and stars, suns and planets have cycles of birth and death, in a manner that the process of this expansion can be studied  – presumed we make one assumption: a primordial activity of „that“ which comes to matter – whatever this „that“ may be. Astrophysics works with a model that is not quite theological precisely because of this „whatever“: in the Big Bang theory, the creative force, the ultimate „intelligence“, the power of cosmic discretion and distinction, is hypothetically complemented with a doubling power of accretion and compounding, with a (nucleo)synthetical faculty, if we want, and thereby this „that“, the cosmic intelligence or ultimate power or force of engenderment, can be – in simulations and in mathematical experiments – modeled in postulatory and comparatistic manners, such as to be studied logically and yet speculatively, i.e. in their respective implications. Like this, everything in todays models of how we account for the universe’s coming into being counts as discrete, very literally so. Contemporary astrophysics and astrochemistry would be unthinkable without a quantum theoretical approach.

Now to consider such primary activity is not merely to say that the Universe unfolds in time and has a History – this was already the crucial insight of the 18th century. We might perhaps say that what we call Enlightenment began with the universe being accounted for by Newton in terms of mathematical dynamics: Solar Systems have thereby turned   from an object that needs no longer be accounted for in metaphysical terms   into one that may be addressed in terms of their nature, their birth and death. Immanuel Kant has digested this cosmological revolution in a manner that translates Physics as a generalized Historicity. In  his 1755 text Universal Natural History and Theory of the Heavens, or an Essay on the Constitution and the Mechanical Origin of the Entire Structure of the Universe Based on Newtonian Principles he accounts for the same situation that Pierre Simon Laplace’s Celestial Mechanics will boldly formulate a little while later: Historicity understood in cosmological terms, after Newton, comes to be seen as equivalent to the paradoxical idea of a Deterministic Chaos or a Cosmic Order in the state of its dissolution.

Now Kant’s thinking, as the philosopher of Enlightenment, circulated around the implications of this   for philosophy’s role in supplying Politics and the organization of Power with Criteria and Measures: Politics is hardly thinkable in a philosophical or even scientific sense without the idea of (re)instituting a cosmological order in the world. Hence the emphasis on cosmopolitics in Kant. All promises related to the pursuit of wisdom, like the abstinence from violent forms of governing or hopes for justice and peace, Kant was well aware, have been dependent upon this since the inception of philosophy and science. In their common origin, philosophy and science have been capable of challenging theocratic empires and their respective regimes by means of appellation to a Universality or Timelessness   that is distributed among all things: the universal is that which is a property of all things, in distinction to particular qualities which some things or families of things   might own. Now, if the Universe is not anymore the (metaphysical, theocratic) Principle of nature, and if at the moment of its Origin, and hence in its purest state, the Universe reveals itself as lacking order while nevertheless following its natural paths in temporal and spatial extension, then, Kant – who doubtlessly loved to think –  asked himself, how can this unfolding of the Universe’s Nature   be moralized such that it can still provide for the promises that make the pursuit of wisdom valuable for societies at large – despite the evident social distinctions it introduces among those who do know and thereby are empowered, and those who don’t?   How can a linear direction of time be assumed in fact, while in principle one must always consider the reversibility of all that can be observed to happen? Laplace put this cosmological post-Newtonian revolution in his famous words:

„We may regard the present state of the universe as the effect of its past and the cause of its future.“ (Essai philosophique sur les probabilités, 1814).

What Michel Serres’ emphasis on a need to go from rotating revolutions to an expanding universe accentuates, as I understand it, is that everything depends, for our difficult relation to modernity today, namely its capitalist economy and anthropocentric world view, on how we can make sense of a Universe that is  not the principle of Nature  with which   in our intellectual insights   we can hope to form an alliance. The Universe as Nature is nature in its dis-solved state of degree zero. It is nature in its neutrality.  Newtonian gravitation-relying Physics challenges us, so they believed in the 18th century,   to postulate an equivalence between  what counts as universal and what can be stated in general terms. The proposed solutions was to mechanize intellection, and thus to put it into a proportional analogy to Celestial Mechanics  without having to determine in advance the telos of such progress. But this, Serres’ point maintains, no longer appears adequate today. Initially, the mechanization of intellection has undoubtfully amplified and transposed the cosmological revolution to the cosmopolitical realm, but today, Serres maintains, we must consider that the Universe is not only rotating around an axis of time, but it is, in addition to moving through time also expanding in space.

This, he maintains, is amplified and transposed into the political in the following surprising  manner (please bear with me, as this might sound rather absurd in first thought):

„Well, ladies and gentlemen“ he concludes his lecture entitled Les Nouvelles Téchnologies, Revolution Cognitive et Culturelle (2010), with what he calls „a catastrophic word“. New technologies, he maintains, „have condemned us to become intelligent.“  Why?   because our heads, the  subjective residuum of the faculties of intellection, have been objectified. This is how he puts it. We can hold our heads in our hands like St.Denis of Paris did, after his decapitation by the Romans. Rather than being defeated, so the story goes to which Serres reverts here, St.Denis miraculously lived on   and carried his head in his hands – an act which is supposed to have scared the Roman conquerors so much that they left Paris at once, without conquering the city and annexing it to their empire. It is in this spirit that Serres can exclaim with excitement: „But yes! We are condemned to become inventive!“ From now on, he maintains, „the faculties are there, you’ve lost them, they are there in front of you, and all the knowledge, all the imagination, all the rational functions are there in front of you“. They have become things of the world, to be computed   and to be computed with. Sitting in front of your computers, as he puts it provocatively, „you have St. Denis’ head at your disposition“.

So what does St.Denis carry on his neck, in Serres’ account? And what is supposed to replace our faculties of reasoning? Serres answer: on our necks remain transparent and incandescent lights. We are condemned to be intelligent. Anticipating a little my argument that is to follow, we must learn, in addition to thinking critically, to think considerately , literally meaning  „to observe the stars, marked by deliberation, prudent, showing consideration for others“.

For Serres, the light of intelligence is as natural and as universal as the light of the suns. He is responding with this to contemporary cosmology, that teaches us   that the sun can no longer count as the one  indirect source of reflective insight, via the never entirely pure, always a little obscure forms   given to us in inexact outlines in the shadow play that can be observed; rather, the sun must count as that which gives birth to the elements in a communicative and physical sense. In today’s science of the cosmos, it is still the Laplacean/Kantian formulation of the nature of stars and suns in nebula of cosmic dust – nuclei of atoms pulverized in the mills of spinning cosmic time – that aggregate and eventually, when a particular mixture happens to have gathered, acquire an incandescent light that begins to shine as the nuclei synthesize, acquire atomic weight, and accrete dust and thereby grow in mass, or in other words, solidify. This is how nebula of cosmic dust give birth to suns, whose activity of nucleosynthesis radiates from the center and gives birth to planets,  thereby engendering all the physical and chemical elements from stellar dynamics out of the Universes’ Nature that unfolds from local abundances of elements and isotopic signatures, as the astrochemists call it, distributed within each galaxy. But in addition to the 18th century view, we now learn to read this cosmic origination as a process of communication across historicities rather than as history: stellar bodies all emit, receive, store, and exchange radiant energy – in Serres philosophy, radiant energy is the „content“ of information, circulating in how all things physical   speak. This what he develops in Le Grand Récit, and in Nouvelles du Monde. Unfortunately, I cannot extend on this here.

What Serres proposes is to think about the human in cosmological terms, rather than in anthropological ones, whether humanist or posthumanist. We have to take serious that intelligence is likened to the suns. This is more than a poetic dramatization. What is at stake for Serres is to break with the Enlightenment tradition that grounds knowledge and science in anthropology rather than in cosmology. We must recall, perhaps,  what is at stake with the invention of anthropology in Enlightenment philosophy. Kant responded to the apparently irreconcilable traditions of rationalism and empiricism by discrediting cosmology from falling outside of the domain of thought that can be critical. All knowledge must root in a logics of the, as was then maintained,  specifically human mark of distinction: the capacity to reason critically. Knowledge that is suitable for organizing political power can no longer be derived from a logics of the cosmos, Kant maintained. With this view, he introduced a particular abstraction from the fierce competition between the two dominant schools, empiricism and rationalism. Empiricism has the principle problem that it is backed into corners by novel phenomena like (in the 18th century) temperature and energy, phenomena of which it is not known how to account for, and hence   phenomena that challenge established frameworks involving ideas of matter and motion, causality and reason.   Like this, the problem of empiricism is that it is always threatened to turn dogmatic, because it must maintain that certain ideas, those which condition general, objective reason,   are innate to all cognizing actors. Rationalism on the other hand    tends to speculatively credit, and take into account of their explanations,   postulates of the possibility of novel phenomena – and this even if they lack experimental demonstration and its objective intuitiveness, like Leibniz’ fictitious numbers, the infinitesimals, or likewise, negative integers, infinite series, or imaginary units. The problem of rationalism is that it de facto proliferates cosmological views that might not be commensurable and integrable within a common horizon. While empiricism threatens the political promise of objective knowledge by dogmatism, rationalism threatens this promise by the principle insufficiency of reason to legitimize particular accounts of reality   in indisputable manners.    Now, what again   is   this promise of objective knowledge? Nothing less than the state-able and organize-able self-governance of people as equal individuals and citizens   of a political state that is directed towards maximizing common wealth   before sustaining the prospering of individual merchandise and property. A political state where every citizen subjects to constitutional rights and duties, with the aim of de-naturalizing tradition-based class distinctions as the necessary constitution for societies. The dilemma is this: Rationalism embraces speculation and an intellectual purity of reason – but produces inflation in the realm of knowledge value; empiricism  on the other hand embraces an innate common nature to reason – but produces stagnation in the economy of knowledge production. As a mediating instance between the two, Kant figured, we need to grant a Critique of pure reason   a superior and  governing role in the affirmative pursuit of scientific knowledge by pure reason. This pursuit, then, ought to continue speculating about the cosmos, yet the postulates it produces must be considered as political postulates: the pursuit of knowledge is decoupled from a pursuit of true insight and salvation with regard to a beyond-of-this-world, and instead it is aligned towards the capitalist production of comfort in the here-and-now.

Let us recapitulate: for Enlightenment philosophy, it was crucial to turn the study of the cosmos into an object of science, and hence, to treat it in terms of physics, while the insights gained thereby are aligned to elucidate a general notion of human nature, as the constitution of secular politics.

Thus, anthropology,  as initiated by Kant,  marks the beginning of a long story of arbitrarily limiting the open and infinite vastness of mathematics. Mathematics used to be the art of learning – this is still rendered in the terms’ legacy   as you can track it in etymological compendiums. What is at stake for Serres   is to undo this gesture of subjecting mathematics to a supposedly general human nature as the source of legitimacy of how we inhabit the earth, its nature and its climate. To Serres, the sun is the ultimate capital (Parasite, p. xx) and each of us carries one of those on our necks. But it is not what gives us dignity. We would be mistaken, Serres maintains, if we would see testified in this   that human intellect has finally become divine. Quite contrary to that he maintains:

„Philosophy loves light and has turned it into the model of excellent knowledge, especially the splash of daytime sunshine. Sparkling with truth, light is supposed to chase away the darkness of obscurantism. That is an absurd and rather counter-intuitive idea, as we all know that any candle, as weakly as it may shine, immediately pushes back the shadow of the night, while no one has ever seen darkness overcome any source of light. This ideology is terrifying, because if we turn the day into the champion of knowledge, we are left with only one unique and totalitarian truth, as hard and unsubtle as the sun at high noon, the star that astrophysics has eventually confined to the minor rank of the yellow dwarf. I say no to this tyranny, no to the yellow dwarfs.“

Yellow Dwarf is an expression in astrophysics which refers to a classificatory norm   regarding the extension and quantity of brightness of stars – it covers stars during what we could call an „adult life“, after they have accreted their mass and settled within the galactical gravitational balance, and yet before they will, eventually and slowly expand   only to fall apart and disintegrate into cosmic dust.  If   on our necks we have ultimate capitals,  radiating suns that have at least the potential of brilliancy,   we will do good in avoiding to rely   on pure intuition, for  unless we somehow involve abstractive thought   to break and disperse the radiant symmetry of these rays, there is nothing in such intuition  but blinding rays. We can avoid this fixation on pure intuition, Serres suggests,  by focusing on the planets as our counsellors. For planets are those stellar bodies that have never themselves shined radiantly. He continues:

“Thus the day makes us believe in the unicity of truth. In fact, thinking is much less like the day than like the night where every star shines like a diamond, where every galaxy flows like of river of pearls, where every planet, like a mirror, reflects the light it receives. Thus authentic knowledge overflows with results and intuitions; it sets up multiple reference points grouped into constellations with forms that are as disparate as those of scholarly disciplines. Thus knowledge finds temporary truths whose luxuriously colored sparkle flickers and changes with the duration of the Great Story. The only lights that do not tremble  emanate from planets without an original brilliance and that, as I said, behave like mirrors. Magnificent, but modest enough to be reduced to the punctual […] great in size but wavering in doubt and questioning, those truth-stars stand out against the enormous black background of non-knowledge, that is empty without limitations   or full of yet unexplored galaxies: things still to be understood and to be grasped.“

For Michel Serres,

„The gap between day and night spells the difference between cruel ideology and just knowledge that is right, evident, multiple, precise and ever evolving. Shimmering with the brightness of billions of glorious, colorful, and modest suns, the night with its countless truths   resembles the high cave and its shining gems. In that space thinking flickers, too, as soft as the milk of its pearls and the brilliance of its diamonds. More beautiful than the day, peaceful by all means, the star-studded, pensive and soft night is a better model of knowledge than the sun-struck, cruel, exclusive, eye-hurting,  ideologically-prone and opinion ridden light of day.“

Now we can appreciate more meaningfully what is at stake for Serres, when he insists that in philosophy today, we must go on „from rotational revolution to an expanding Universe“. He begins his so entitled paragraph as follows:

„To the Platonic ideology of a single sun-struck truth, Immanuel Kant added an image of such a high degree of narcissism, that it should have worried the wise. Brightly positioned on those days at the center of the world, the sun became, in his philosophy, the very subject of knowledge: the Sun-Ego (roi-soleil), in a word. One can barely resist the impulse to burst out laughing at the sight of such a paranoid scheme whose lack of modesty ends up putting each one of us on the throne of a king. Let’s say no to the dwarf who believes himself to be the tyrant of knowledge. This self-revolving world, that may have once been revolutionary, now seems all too narrow-. A laughable scheme it is too, as astrophysics introduced us to a trillion galaxies, blue supergiants, black holes and other singularities in great numbers, inhabiting a universe, deprived of a center or endowed with multiple centers, decorated with precious gems, as Verne would have it. Visible only at times and at night. To account for Kant,  in my view,   those suns, in their own way, know and see.“

We associate the cosmos with an order, an orderly arrangement, as the Greek origin of the term suggests. This is why the cosmos has been the frame of reference not only for priests and theologists, but also for politics and for architecture. Now we have to learn, contemporary astrophysics and astrochemistry tell us, that   in the cosmos, nothing is solid.  Finally philosophy can attend to it again! Stars and planets are born out of a gaseous, interstellar clouds – clouds of cosmic dust,  as the astro-scientists call it.  It is the absence of solidity – or pure obscurity, to put it drastically! – that  keeps  all that  is  (the Universe)  smoothly together, in the double-articulation of distributed circularities and attractions (electromagnetism). Hence, as I would like to conclude my paper, in the past one hundred years, roughly, we may have lost our faculties of reasoning to a computable objectivity, But this loss is a gain: what has been emerging almost without noticing it, is the intellectual capacity for developing new kinds of abilities – that we could call  virtual cosmo-compound-abilities. In the scale of radiant activity, we must account for a vibrantly restless  kind of activity that is active without actually moving – i.e. without extending in space and in time. Such activity is inherent to „matter“ itself, and we learn to understand that matter is not the object of motion   but it actually provides the substrate for change.  And now I come back to this somewhat embarrassing word-compound, universal genitality.

If we must assume a vibrant nuclear activity that engenders the chemical elements, a primordial and undecided activity  we might perhaps say that it consists in the compoundedness of emitting, receiving, storing, and exchanging  radiant activity – activity that does not properly exist in any in-itself-manner,  it only manifests in  propagation. So considered, electromagnetic rays can be imagined to „secret“  an arcane celestial bodily fluid –   electrical current –  and its  eventual   manifestations in  physical forms of  energy and matter, Nothing that is universal, then, is solid. It is unlikely in a genuine sense, and circular in form. It’s character is partitive, discrete and  secretive. It is an unlikely compound that is set apart in abstract, encrypted form –  invariant and arcane. It comprehends within itself, and allows to circulate transformatively,  the secret that bears a kind of   reciprocation   which has all the time of life itself.  

Why not think of the universal as  pure genitality ?

Appendix I

What were there to be gained from thinking the universal as pure genitality?

It is the promise of a notion of cosmic substrateness whose minimal units are circuitious, and that would render a notion of „identity“ viable which has the peculiar make-up of a double articulation (in terms of Hjelmslev’s „algebra that is at work immanently to language“ cf, my manuscript „The reciprocal double-articulation of »sustainability« and »environmentality« or The mode of »insisting existence« proper to the circular“ as well as “The body of the cipher or the form of actualization (an atomist view on computational entities that are generic in their kind).

Let me sketch a few lines of thought that such a notion of cosmic substrateness and circuitious minimal units would render accessible for problematization:

(1) gaining a physical magnitude that corresponds to the power of abstraction at work a universal and hence locally singular – because heterogenous – substrateness

(2) opening up a quantitative manner in which we can learn to articulate the identity of a multiplicity that is native to an outside of temporal and spatial extension.

(3) Universal identities are partitive rather than distributive. The cuts that demarcate its apparent outline remain transparent and immaterial from any other stance than an involved one.

(4) Being partitative, universal identities are collectivizing in terms that are neither inclusive nor exclusive, rather in terms that are appropriate.

(5) The identity of a multiplicity cannot be revealed in the sense of laid bare and presented. It does not render itself intuitable unless it is intimately and in an involved manner „appropriated“, In other words, it renders itself intuitable only once that which contemplates its identity enfamiliarizes itself with it.

(6) Universal identity is not given. It’s identity secrets from the Universe being desired and cared for. Like this, it is as abundant and reproductive as the elements and isotopes in a galaxy are. 

(7) Universal identity is, literally, an abundant principle of kindness. It is in this sense that it is neither sexed nor gendered, despite its creativity. It is genital – the manifest expression of restless exuberance.

Appendix II

Let us look at two strong contemporary positions that decide against a re-entry of cosmology (e.g by evoking as I suggest here, a cosmical notion of „substrateness“ that can neither be positivized nor negated, only encrypted and „presented“ in manners that are formally explicit, yet essentially arcane) into their frameworks, and that instead propose particular manners of coming to terms with an adapted notion of objectivity, subjectivity and agency by „altering“ the established frameworks of anthropology.  –  Bruno Latour and Karen Barad both suggest to speak in a generalized manner of agents in order to overcome having to revert to the object/subject, and the associated nature/culture distinction. But they do so in different manners. This distinction has yielded, Latour argues in We have never been modern (1993), „the invasion of immanence and the proliferation of transcendences“ – and thereby, it has de facto produced increasingly totalitarian „conditions“, conditions which must be marked in order to estrange the term, for it evokes a „conditions“ as an element of reason, ground or cause that is at one and the same time rational and self-referential. In other words, both nominator and denominator of such an element of reason are one and the same. To break such unfortunate totalitarian conditions open, Latour seeks to introduce an altered notion of transcendence – „one which lacks an opposite term“, as he specifies. A transcendence that needs to be rational, and for this we must read: flexible, capable of factoring in and hence continuing different series of sequential steps, without participating in an overall framework of analogy or proportion. Like this, Latour seeks a notion of transcendence that sustains for the intellect to develop its rationality while at the same time abstaining from having to make decisions. He finds such a notion of transcendence that has no opposite, and hence is what it is without a counter force that could corrupt it, in „delegation“. For him, delegation is to replace decision, by adding to the invaded immanence a notion of transcendence of which he claims that it is creative or productive while lacking to participate in cycles, and their circulating economy of consumption and generation. In this sense we can say that Latour’s perspective is a post-dialectical, and also post-discursive one. When a decision seems inevitable, for real and manifest reasons, we ought to invent, according to him, new things which we can send as delegates to the site of decision, such that actually making the decision is deferred and suspended, by the thing which disturbs the compoundedness or the „weight“ of the site that is aggregated such that it seems to enforce a decision. Latour’s world of generalized agents, the discrete components of what he calls quasi-objects – „Quasi“ denotating that these objects are simultaneously, if regarded from another side, always also quasi-subjects – so this world is one where science answers problems in terms of enrichment and saturation rather than subtraction and exposition. To delegate instead of deciding, this is the envisaged political activism of his world that he dubbs pre-modern, and that he imagines to be governed by a parliament of things.

Now, there is an important sense in which Latours view must be considered radically modern – despite his apparent counter statements. The one aspect of modernity he wants to hold on to is that knowledge must be rooted an anthropology. For him, enlightenment has never had „the anthropology it deserves“ – such an anthropology would be a symmetrical anthropology, not a general anthropology. Like this, his view is radically modern in that the distinction between modern and pre-modern societies is supposed to no longer bite. How so?  (Cf the lecture above, before turning to Michel Serres). Just to repeat the core of these points of consideration in this appendix: for Enlightenment philosophy, it was crucial to turn the study of the cosmos into an object of science, and hence, to treat it in terms of physics, while the insights gained thereby are aligned to elucidate a general notion of human nature.  It is this latter aspect to which Latour remains faithful.

It seems to be at this point that Karen Barad’s perspective parts from the Latourian one. She too relies upon a central role of „agents“, as „the ones which act or conduct“, but her agents are to be addressed not in terms of a newly conceived anthropology as the modern alternative to threats of scientistic spiritualism that Kant exposed to inhere in cosmology (symmetrical for Latour rather than hierarchical, as for Kantian thinkers), but in the terms of what we can perhaps call a semi-cosmic manner of address: materialist. Barad is sensitive to the same potentially totalitarian situation as Latour when she suggests that her „agents“, the ones that act, cannot be conceived of as individuals but rather must be comprehended as individuating ones, ones that can never be whole, because they are, essentially, becoming. She too is sensitive to the power of cutting, as in decision, but her suggestion is not to abstain from cutting but attending to delegation, as Latour suggests, but to reflect differently about this agency of cutting. While Latour affirms the idea of a cosmopolitical bubble of infintesimal inclusion that smacks of a certain essentialism, Barad insists on the prizing force of exclusion: „Those that are excluded matter“ she insists – and only by taking this into account, again and again, can the totality of an invaded immanence that threatens to collapse culture into nature or nature into culture be kept vivid and open, indefinite, metabolizing and mediating its „exteriority within“ (135), a materiality, in short, that continues to matter. While Latour trusts the politics of boundaries by making things, aggregating gatherings, the true agents of his World-Parliament, Barad trusts the nature of boundaries and thereby holds on to the Universe as a mattering factor in a manner that does not conflate the Universe with the realm of Cosmopolitics, and the universal with the general. Instead, she affirms an activation of the relation of the universal to the particular, by grounding her ontology of agential realism in a quantum physical notion of materiality – rather then, as Latour does, operating with the logics of sets and focusing on individuation within the context of an inclusivist inflation of an essentiality that claims to be generic. But like Latour, she also abstains from rooting the quantizing operations, the mediator between science and politics, in a logics of which she would claim to be cosmic. To her, the agents of these operations cannot be decoupled from the apparatuses within which they individuate. Barad suggests to focus on these agents only in terms of a generalized agentiality, as a state of dissolution or collectivity of which she insists that it precedes states of individuality – this, to her, is the importance of materialism: „matter is agentive and intra-active“ she maintains and thereby evokes a notion of matter that changes the language game of particularity: the particle itself is active, alert, dispositioned, rather than passive and receptive for predications that are universal. Her materiality is not cosmological but quantum-physical, and this, to her, means that we must keep the universal out of our accounts of nature, whose patterns are to be articulated in the materialist discourse which states scientific realism. „We have to meet the universe halfway“, she maintains, such that we can „move toward what may come to be in ways that are accountable for our part in the world’s differential becoming.“ (353). Barad’s agential realism is anchored in a discursive ethics of responsibility that positions each person halfway between the Universe and a you.

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