The Twilight of Becoming (and Process)
One of the rhetorical disadvantages to philosophies of process, or dispositions, or becoming (or however else you want to couch them) is that there’s a fuzziness that there doesn’t seem to be an urge to clarify. Part of this is the fact that these philosophies are non-common sensical and are therefore ontologically fuzzy – one cannot pick up a flow of time, or becoming itself like one can grasp an object. This twilight of becoming has led to several connections between process philosophy and other forms – for instance discussions of phenomenology and in particular sensibility are common since experience or affect is an easy way to attempt to quantify or at least make process registrable in an intensive (if not extensive) sense. I think for similar reasons the theological connections are unsurprising.
Furthermore, for quite a few theorists, it’s comfortable to reside in the middle ground or way station of materialism because it allows one to work with vitalism, dynamism, becoming etc without any attempt at explaining formalization, persistence, or any other occurrence which seems at odds with process, flow, power, and so on.
And it is here that Meillassoux is interesting. Meillassoux’s philosophy has more in common with Grant and Brassier than with OOO/OOP. What many critiques of process and advocates leave out is the question of modality. What Meillassoux does in fact assert modality (at least in the form of non-contradiction) over becoming as a purely positive or self perpetuating form of becoming. As Iain Grant’s recent work (such as the response to Harman in The Speculative Turn) has shown is that there is no reason to think that powers, or dispositions, or processes undermine actuality in fact, this explain actuality as they explain generation, decay, change, and so forth. As Meillassoux makes clear his hyper-chaos is becoming beyond becoming in so far that it is a becoming that isn’t always becoming – it is not merely an indefinite engine of swerves, fluxes, flows, rivers, and so on and so forth. It’s a modality of modalities – namely that things could be otherwise.
It’s along these lines that I have never quite been able to make sense of Harman’s (and other OOO/OOP folks) dismissive use of so called lava lampy materialism or by calling philosophies of process lump ontologies (see p 160 of Harman’s Prince of Networks). Similarly, when Harman refers to Grant as a philosopher of the One (http://doctorzamalek2.wordpress.com/2011/02/19/on-grants-response-in-the-speculative-turn/) that would seem equivalent to calling Laruelle a philosopher of the One or calling Meillassoux a philosopher of possibility. In other words, the critique seems to be there must be some underlying substance with forces and powers but I cannot see why this must be the case. In many ways it seems to be an obsobfuscation of the difference between the metaphysical and the non-metaphysical – why if metaphysically there are not individual things why can’t there be individual things at the physical level without needing a human mind to carve them up. This is also why Meillassoux can have hyper-chaos and science, it is why there can be breaks in flows as was already discussed at length here against the throwing of the lava lamps. And, as I’ve stated before, this seems to be what Jane Bennett is hoping to work on in future projects. DeLanda also has a relevant piece here.
That being said, there is quite a bit of work to done. Too many thinkers who work with becoming or process are okay with operating in the twilight of becoming this allows for becoming to be utilized as an escape hatch in argumentation. The need for some degree of formalization is needed and it is appeals to thinkers such as Peirce which make this desire evident. This is also apparent in Reza’s scientific universalism and its connection to Peirce. Again, part of this is the role of metaphysics and non-metaphysical philosophy. Once one starts talking about vitalism, for instance, I believe this is the realm of the affective, the existential, the phenomenological and so on. I think if thinkers of process and becoming want to relate this to processes and powers and becomings, there needs to a rigorous account of the breaks, the actualizations, the triads or whatever it may be, that show the work of becoming without a human agent making the call, without the human carving out the individuated bits of the world.
Update: Leon of After Nature responds here.
Filed under: Deleuze, Harman, Iain Hamilton Grant, Meillassoux, nature, ontology, Schelling, Speculative Realism | 16 Comments
Tags: becoming, flux, peirce, process philosophy, reza negarestani