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Noir Realism

For many of my LJ fans and SR followers I've moved to my new site on WordPress: Noir Realism where I'm exploring the shadowy realms of New Materialisms in art, politics, philosophy, and love! I'll keep this site up for at least another year, but have decided that WordPress has less problems with spam and other issues that have caused LJ to become more of a chore and part-time job to keep up with all the spam issues.

                 Thanks for the great times... I'll continue to participate in many of the communities that I've grown close too!

                                     - S.C. Hickman

Levi Bryant recently argued against the notion that "relata do not precede relations" as Karen Barad (1) in her work affirms. For her there is a distinct "ontological priority of phenomena over objects (Barad : 315)". 1 For her an atom is not a separate object but rather an "inseparable part of the phenomenon". In her understanding of scientific analysis it is the quantum entanglement between the "object" and the "agencies of observation," that the key to any adequate ontological theory can be found. As she states it:

"If one focuses on abstract individual entities the result is an utter mystery, we cannot account for the seemingly impossible behavior of the atoms. It's not that the experimenter changes a past that had already been present or that atoms fall in line with a new future simply by erasing information. The point is that the past was never simply there to begin with and the future is not simply what will unfold; the "past" and the "future" are iteratively reworked and enfolded through the iterative practices of spacetimemattering-includ-ing the which-slit detection and the subsequent erasure of which-slit information-all are one phenomenon. There is no spooky-action-at-a-distance coordination between individual particles separated in space or individual events separated in time. Space and time are phenomenal, that is, they are intra-actively produced in the making of phenomena; neither space nor time exist as determinate givens outside of phenomena (Barad : 315)".

As she argues "the paradox arises out of the mistaken assumption that there are individually determinate entities from the outset; this assumption, which is the basis for classical physics, is precisely what is being called into question here (Barad : 316)". Barad further explicates on this statement, saying:

"...entities are not separately determinate individuals but rather inseparable parts of a single phenomenon. In particular, there are no preexisting-individually-determinate-entities-with-determinate-spatial-positions-communicating-instantaneously-at-some-remove-from-one-another outside of a phenomenon that determinately resolves the boundaries and properties of the entangled components in a way that gives meaning to the notion of individual. Indeed, "individual" is ontologically and semantically indeterminate in the absence of an apparatus that resolves the inherent indeterminacy in a way that makes this notion intelligible (Barad : 316)".

For her there are no real objects in Harman's or Bryant's sense of that term, instead all we have are the singularity of phenomenon. What is really going on is a battle between Object-Oriented Philosophy and a different type of metaphysics. OOO argues for intrinsic or endo/internal relations within objects (i.e., that there are real objects and these objects have relations between the real and sensual aspects of its own being). For Barad there are only exo/external exstrinsic relations of one type of object: the phenomenon. For her there are no real objects that precede the boundaries of quantum entanglement.

Aristotle assumes that there is a plurality of individual things (substances) that are characterized by intrinsic properties (forms) each. David Lewis, an analytical philosopher, provided the thesis of Humean supervenience: at the basic level of the world, there are only local qualities in the sense of intrinsic properties instantiated by space-time points or point-sized particles or field sources at space-time points. Space-time points can qualify as individual things in the above mentioned sense. Everything there is in a world like ours supervenes on the distribution of basic intrinsic properties over all space–time points. Whether really everything supervenes on that distribution is not relevant to the present paper. What is important here is the claim that, except for spatio-temporal relations, all the relations between the things at the basic level supervene on their intrinsic properties.

Against this Barad finds in modern quantum physics a theory that can be taken to suggest replacing a metaphysics of intrinsic properties with a metaphysics of relations. It seems to some philsophers that relations require relata, that is, things which stand in the relations, and that these things have to be something in themselves, that is, must have intrinsic properties over and above the relations in which they stand. However, a metaphysics of relations according to Barad merely has to reject the second part of this claim: one can maintain that relations require relata, that is, things which stand in the relations, but that these things do not have any intrinsic properties that underlie the relations in which they stand. In other words for her there are no real objects hiding under the surface texture of phenomena: phenomena are the end-all of any metaphysics based on physics.

At the heart of her agential realist project is the questioning of quantum entanglements in terms of the specifics of relational ontology:  "...the fact is that these apparatuses of bodily production are intra-acting with and mutually constituting one another; that is, what is at issue is the primacy of relations over relata and the intra-active emergence of "cause" and "effect" as enacted by the agential practices that cut things together and apart. (Barad : 388-389)".

We can thus set out an account of quantum entanglement in this way:

1) Quantum entanglement shows that there are non-supervenient relations among physical
systems over and above the spatio-temporal relations (strongly non-supervenient relations
in contrast to weakly non-supervenient relations).
2) The non-supervenient relations of entanglement among the parts of a quantum whole
amount to the whole having intrinsic properties that do not supervene on intrinsic
properties of the parts.
3) These properties of the whole come to non-separability in the following sense: the parts
have some of the properties that belong to the family of properties which make something
a quantum system not separately, but only in this way: there are properties of the whole
which indicate the manner in which the parts are related with each other with respect to
some of the properties that make something a quantum system. (Wiki : Quantum entanglement)


Karen Barad's theories seem similar to those presented by James Ladyman in his advocation of a metaphysical or ontic structural realism, namely the view that structure is what is real and that there are no intrinsic properties underlying structure. 2 As Ladyman (1998) envisions it “structural realism amounts to the claim that theories tell us not about the objects and properties of which the world is made, but directly about structure and relations” (422), suggesting that there is no need to admit objects in metaphysics (Ibid.). The structural realism of French and Ladyman rejects not only the claim that things have to be something in themselves, that is, must have intrinsic properties over and above the relations in which they stand, but also the claim that relations require relata, that is, things which stand in the relations (31-56). 3

Yet, against, Ladyman's structural realism, Barad's agential realism takes a much more modest approach to avoid the gap between epistemology and metaphysics: affirming instead that we can in principle know all there is at the basic level of the world; for what there is at the basic level of the world are relations of quantum entanglement. As she states it causality is an "entangled affair: it is a matter of cutting things together and apart (within and as part of phenomena). It is not about momentum transfer among individual events or beings. The future is not the end point of a set of branching chain reactions; it is a cascade experiment (Barad : 394)".

I think the problem now is to work through the issues she presents in a methodical manner without dismissing her conclusions out of hand as some have. That scientific practice informs her philosophical vision is an aspect that I find enabling. I think that philosophy should at least begin to take into account the many scientific endeavors that inform our views about reality and its manifestations within philosophical practice without being subservient to those practices in themselves. Philosophy is the practice of wisdom not science, so for the philosopher we should recognize scientifc knowledge for what it is but not confuse it with our ontological theories. Neither science nor ontology should be reduced to each others theoretical categories, but should inform each others respective approaches to what we mean by "reality". Do objects precede relations (OOO), or do they as Barad (agential realism) affirms only arise out of quantum entanglement? This is the question that ontology will need to answer for itself in its struggles with its own relations, be they internal or external, intrinsic or extrinsic to the matter at hand.  


1. Karen Barad. Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning.
2. Ladyman, J. (1998). What is structural realism? Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Science, 29, 409-424.
3. French, S. and Ladyman, J. (2003). Remodelling structural realism: Quantum physics and the metaphysics of
structure. Synthese, 136, 31-56.

"In whatever way the self is taken, it will prove to be appearance. It cannot, if finite, maintain itself against external relations. For these will enter into its essence and so ruin its independence..."
      - F.H. Bradley, Appearance and Reality





Against all those philosophies of finitude based on Kant's Copernican Revolution F. H. Bradley maintained that the self is never independent of its object, no gap is given; that, in fact, it is itself a part of experience and as such the facts that it pretends are given are in themselves mere appearance, "appearance and error" (103). 1 What this implies is not that the grounds for experience are eliminated, rather it affirms against Kant that the finitude of the self as the necessary condition of experience is no longer adequate.

As one of the foremost British Idealist's Bradley maintained that the Absolute must be free of contradictions. For him what is real is harmonious, only appearance is full of contradictions. Bradley maintained a form of pansychism that affirms that the Absolute is sentinent. His basic argument is a task in which one must try to eliminate all perception and feeling from the object of experience then try to describe what is left. He tells us after such an experiment is conducted that what we are left with is "unmeaning" (Ibid. : 127-128). So to strip experience of feeling and perception is to produce not meaning but the nihilism at the heart of things. But against such nihilism Bradley maintained that every object has two sides: first, that there is a "that", an existent; and, second, the "what", the existent's content, the predicate. As commentators Dunham, Grant, and Watson in Idealism: The History of a Philosophy tells us:

"The ideas we form of an existent depend necessarily on our ideas of its "what", which must be torn loose from its "that"; without such a such a process thought would be able to make no distinction at all. The predicates are a dissection of reality and could never possibly show the full reality of the predicated existent. This is because true reality must be free from all relations  and thus there can be no true plurality in the unity of the Absolute, as such, we can never know the truth of any existent without knowing the entirety of the Absolute, a simple impossibility for finite consciousness." (Idealism : 170-171) 2 

The realm of appearance is the product of finite sentience, and for Bradley all appearance is related to finite sentience. Reality: - the Absolute totality of Nature, is for Bradley, independent of all relation: it is the sum of all relations. The whole point of this being that one never has access to the fullness of an object, one can never describe the object in its completeness. This is where his notion of the felt background, immediate experience, as compared to finite experience is marked out as the distinction between the Absolute and its local manifestation in experience.

The problem for Bradley is that his metaphysics fails to provide an explanatory mechanism for or justification of his conclusions for the simple reason that he believed we could never have full knowledge of the Absolute. As he states it our knowledge of the Absolute must remain "miserably incomplete". Yet, this leads to a moral quagmire as well. For Bradley believed that the Absolute is neither moral nor immoral, that it leads neither to a foundation for ethics nor its demise; it is beyond such ascriptions. Bradley affirmed that it is a "moral duty to be non-moral". What this means according to our previous commentators is that for Bradley "Ethics must listen to Metaphysics before it proscribes its morality (Idealism : 174)". As these commentators explicate it:

"While it is possible that Bradley's arguments may have frightening consequences for the ethicist, it cannot be for this reason alone that we choose to reject his arguments, nor can it furnish the ground for its refutation (Idealism : 174)." 

Such ideas would lead later detractors of Bradley's metaphysical presumptions to maintain that such a grounding in metaphysics is delusional for the simple reason that we "cannot reach behind the fact of our own finite existence, so that an "ethics of finitude" must precede and determine our metaphysics (Ibid.: 174)". For others such as Alistair MacIntyre or Alain Badiou ethics mut be grounded in Nature or Being. Still others such as Platonic philosopher John Leslie maintain that ethics must transform the good into an ontological category, thereby ascribing evil to non-existence. Whatever one may think of Bradley's notions in Appearance and Reality it has provided a fruitful program for investigating alternative ethical dimensions within any viable metaphysics. As his commentators affirm this is one of the "important bequests" that Idealism still offers to current philosophical speculations. 

  1. F.H. BRADLEY (LL.D. GLASGOW). Appearance and Reality : a Metaphysical essay (1916)
  2. Jeremy Dunham, Iain Hamilton Grant, Sean Watson. Idealism: The History of a Philosophy. Mcgill Queens Univ Pr (April 5, 2011)

The Imperative


Wisps of fire bubble up,
a windless spectacle of reds
and greens, bursts of force;
faces emerging out of the darkness
(an imperative that holds me in terror:
idol and fetish, images commanding me
with their overpowering presence), 
luring me out of my stupor, entranced
I follow the flow of lights
driven by an unknown task:
where secret things live 
to manipulate or enslave;
yet, also share their wealth
as wanderers of that devastation
of ancient suns and silent novas; 
and, then, one spark descends, 
a mask both comic and full of sadness,
contorted and twisted by life's powers:
a refraction of all things distinct:
frog, eagle, sphinx, wolf, zebra, whale.

      - S.C. Hickman (2012) 





The Meaning of Objects

"Philosophy never reverts to its old position after the shock of a great philosopher."

      - Whitehead, Alfred North, Process and Reality


Tonight I want to go back over an early essay by Graham Harman, Phenomenology and the Theory of Equipment (1997). In this essay he discusses the analysis of equipment within Martin Heidegger's Being and Time. It's in this work that Heidegger, according to Harman - offers his central contribution to philosophy: the critique of presence-at-hand. It's in this essay that we get a sense of Harman's conception of the centrality of objects as withdrawn from all relation; and yet, fully deployed in the universe. In describing the reality of a tool Harman tells us that a tool is most itself when it "recedes into a reliable background of machinery." 1 But it is in the next sentence that I find a fascinating conclusion: "tools do not occur in isolation. Their meaning is determined by their definitive roll in a referential contexture, their distinct position in this reality (ibid)." 

Now lets tease the truth out of this statement. Tools or objects do not occur in isolation. Harman uses a notion of levels of reality he takes over from Alphonso Lingis in which beings, he says, "collide with one another in a field, in a series of levels that connect them with one another. These objects can never be fully deployed in a any single level, since their nature is never to manifest themselves entirely in any interaction at all. But insofar as entities interact at all, they share a common language of charm or brute force by which they are able to pursue or annihilate one another. The language they share is, in each case, a level of the world” (GM, p.70)." 2 This seems to complexify the issue, yet if we read this closely we understand that objects are never fully vested in their own actions, that in fact they never completely exist in any single level of reality but roam between levels and that it is in these wandering between levels that they open themselves to other objects for good or ill. Harman uses the term 'referential contexture' as well as 'field' to describe the the point of reference within which an objects meaning emerges. Now a contexture is a fact or manner of being woven or linked together to form a connected whole, which supports the notion that an object's mode of action is through this referential linkage to other objects among the multifarious levels of the differing realms of reality. That the meaning of an object as it is, as it's mode of being, is in reference to its distinct position within this fabric of reality.

The other thing to notice in his second observation is that objects communicate with each other through a "common language of charm or brute force by which they are able to pursue or annihilate each other." (GM: ibid). This is not the Platonic realm of forms and light, but the dark realm of eros and thanatos of Freud. Yet, even this is not quite exact, for as Harman has repeated in many phrases, one cannot reduce one set of ideas to another, something is always lost in translation. What is interesting is that this is not a dead and static realm of substance, this is not your Aristotelian or Spinozistic lump of static entities, no Harman's world of objects is dynamic and full of force and action. As he continues in his essay saying: "Some part of the physical tool may stay in view, but its action necessarily withdraws into a totality that cannot become visible in principle. The tool is the execution of a reality or effect that necessarily retreats behind the presence of any surface (SR: ibid)." The physical aspect of the object is phenomenal, but their is an inner life, a place of darkness within the object wherein its action withdraws, an interior that is a totality. This idea that an object is the execution or effect of a reality that cannot become visible in itself almost seems to hint at a sort of machinic life, an unconscious realm of drives and emotive forces churning away. But as he affirms this is not a nihilistic realm of forces, this is a positive realm of existence in which a reality "has emerged into the world to set up shop (SR: ibid)."

Each and every object has its place in the "system of significance" that shapes the universe. Objects are performative and affective, they relate and act in the world. The visible world itself is the stage upon which objects perform, the visible world "is the world of the "as", a tangible and volatile surface derived from a more primary dimension of being(SR: ibid)." The surface textures of phenomenal existence, the sensual life of our planet and the universe of dancing stars derives its life from a deeper "dimension of being". This is not to be seen as a return to a substantive reduction to a monistic lump below the sensuous face of reality. What Harman says of Heidegger equally applies to his own view: ".. the key to Heidegger’s being is not its absolute concealment, but its absolute reality, its definitive action(SR: ibid)." Absolute reality is in action, the realm of being in movement, productive and producing.

He tells us that when Heidegger attacked his former teacher Husserl telling us that “The being of the phenomenon is never raised as a question.”, Harman affirms this as a full blown critique of representation in the sense that Husserl had not gone far enough in his understanding of just what Being's being concealed in the phenomena is. Yet, Husserl did see phenomenon as an event, as an action or movement, an energia. For Husserl as for Whitehead and others the event was seen in this question: "An account is needed of how is it that our experience appears to stream through time." 2 What kind of causality is involved? For Harman it is Vicarious Causation, and in a post he explains this in detail: click here. The gist of his argument is as follows:

"Real objects can never touch, because by nature they must withdraw from each other but sensual objects always touch real ones, because they exist only insofar as they are confronted by a real object (real objects are never real “for” something else, but sensual objects are only real “for” something else) hence, the way that two real objects interact is through the mediation of the sensual realm."

He goes on to say that his "approach differs from occasionalism because I don’t try to lay it all on God as “a whizbang, superpowerful, grand poobah powerhouse that can surmount any distance or separation”. ... My approach differs from Hume’s and Kant’s, because while it is true that “in the secularized versions of occasionalism in Hume and Kant, mind is capable of acting as the third relating to the separate because mind is not relating objects but something strictly immanent to mind, namely sensations,” in my model it is a matter not of relations between sensations, but between real objects that happen to be using sensual media as their means of indirect contact." The idea of the "medium is the message" (McLuhan) fits well here, and I think Harman being a reader of McLuhan marshalls this idea to his own pragmatic use. The idea that a real object makes contact with other objects through indirect use of its sensual appendages as medium to carry forward its message also tends to move toward such researchers as Niklas Lumann as well. Lumann separates the human from the realm of communication. Luhmann's counter-intuitive system says the human never communicates directly, only communication does. So communication is a medium that we use indirectly to carry our message into the social sphere. So objects use the sensual realm as such a device to relate to other objects through the sensual medium. What we see in the phenomenal realms is the sensual messages from the hinterlands of the real, the sensual interfaces of accidental properties reveal the hidden world of something darker and more alive than we ever imagined. A realm of forces and desires below the surface of all bright things harbors a distinct presence that is forever surging and retreating, commanding and enslaving, tasking itself and other things with the imperatives of its hidden existence. All we ever see of its life is the mathematical and poetic revelations of its hidden being as it reveals itself within the phenomenal surface textures of this universe of physical being. Yet, this is not some dark god nor is it some vitalistic force, no it is something that is at the heart of all objects that are fully deployed and manifest within the only ever expanding system we know: the universe. And, like all things, it comes, it goes; it lives, it dies: for nothing that is lives forever.


1. Harman, Graham (2010-11-26). Towards Speculative Realism: Essays.
2. Guerrilla Metaphysics (GM) Open Court, 2005
3. Husserl, Edmund. 1960 [1931]. Cartesian Meditations: An Introduction to Phenomenology. Trans. Dorion Cairns. The Hague: Nijhoff.

Whitehead: further reflections...

Yes, Whitehead affirms a relationism, but it is of the atomic variety. Against Zeno’s paradox Whitehead tells us there is no continuity of becoming; rather, there is a “becoming of continuity(PR: 35)”. The actual occasions are the atoms of reality. Existence is process and actual occasions are the atoms of this process, each having no significant temporal endurance. They emerge or concresce over a short period of time, which is what he terms the ‘duration’ of the actual occasion. The moment they concretize, they perish: existence is a “perpetual perishing(PR: 60).” I want go into the details of how this process is finalized as “satisfaction”. But this passage of actual occasions from one concrescent temporal moment to another is what composes the apparent persistance of things; their “becoming of continuity”. The appearnce of the concrete thing is actually an abstraction from a process that defines many actual occasions.

The idea of prehension is the discovery of Whitehead’s use of ‘potenial form’(i.e., whatever appears to be a persistant entity is in fact a chain, or “society,” of actual occasions, one following and prehending another). It is the forms (Plato) that pass from one occasion to the next(i.e., not substance, but the overall organization of the entity is passed on from one moment to another as form). Each entity for Whitehead is created anew in each moment, and it is this self-organized form that insures this “self-causation”. Whitehead’s account of how pure potentia is manifested as actuality would take me a little too far afield of this discussion, but only to state that actual occasions are the means for the constitution of concrete particulars, not the concrete particulars themselves. Whitehead’s eternal objects are never actual, yet it is through actual occasions that their potential is realized. This is why for Whitehead actual occasions are the only “reality”. Whitehead’s idealism is a realism of the Idea as pure potential:

“But by the principle of relativity there can only be one non-derivative actuality, unbounded by its prehensions of an actual world. Such a primordial superject of creativity achieves, in its unity of satisfaction, the complete conceptual valuation of all eternal objects. This is the ultimate, basic adjustment of the togetherness of eternal objects on which creative order depends. It is the conceptual adjustment of all appetites in the form of aversions and adversions. It constitutes the meaning of relevance(PR: 32).”

Yes, Whitehead affirms a relationism, but it is of the atomic variety. Against Zeno’s paradox Whitehead tells us there is no continuity of becoming; rather, there is a “becoming of continuity(PR: 35)”. The actual occasions are the atoms of reality. Existence is process and actual occasions are the atoms of this process, each having no significant temporal endurance. They emerge or concresce over a short period of time, which is what he terms the ‘duration’ of the actual occasion. The moment they concretize, they perish: existence is a “perpetual perishing(PR: 60).” I want go into the details of how this process is finalized as “satisfaction”. But this passage of actual occasions from one concrescent temporal moment to another is what composes the apparent persistance of things; their “becoming of continuity”. The appearnce of the concrete thing is actually an abstraction from a process that defines many actual occasions.

The idea of prehension is the discovery of Whitehead’s use of ‘potenial form’(i.e., whatever appears to be a persistant entity is in fact a chain, or “society,” of actual occasions, one following and prehending another. It is the forms (Plato) that pass from one occasion to the next(i.e., not substance, but the overall oranization of the entity is passed on from one moment to another as form). Each entinty for Whitehead is created anew in each moment, and it is this self-organized form that insures this “self-causation”. Whitehead’s account of how pure potentia is manifested as actuality would take me a little to far afield of this discussion, but only to state that actual occasions are the means for the constitution of concrete particulars, not the concrete particulars themselves. Whitehead’s eternal objects are never actual, yet it is through actual occasions that their potential is realized. This is why for Whitehead actual occasions are the only “reality”. Whitehead’s idealism is a realism of the Idea as pure potential:

“But by the principle of relativity there can only be one non-derivative actuality, unbounded by its prehensions of an actual world. Such a primordial superject of creativity achieves, in its unity of satisfaction, the complete conceptual valuation of all eternal objects. This is the ultimate, basic adjustment of the togetherness of eternal objects on which creative order depends. It is the conceptual adjustment of all appetites in the form of aversions and adversions. It constitutes the meaning of relevance(PR: 32).”

Whitehead, Alfred North (2010-05-11). Process and Reality (Gifford Lectures Delivered in the University of Edinburgh During the Session 1927-28). Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Whitehead: Prehensions and Events

Over at Larval Subjects, Levi, makes an interesting statement about Whitehead which for me at least a little confusing. (Read his post: here) He makes a bold assertion about Whitehead that I think completely misses the mark:

"The situation is far worse in the case of Whitehead’s ontology, where it is said that every entity in the universe shares a perfectly definite “prehension” (relation) to every other entity in the universe and that each entity is but a bundle of the way in which it prehends other entities. Whitehead says that he wants to think the conditions under which novelty are possible, but it is difficult to see how there could every be any novelty in his ontology for the very simple and basic reason that there can never be any new encounters for entities. Why can’t there be any new encounters between entities? There can be no new encounters between entities because entities are already related to all other entities that exist in the universe. Where an entity is already related to all other entities that exist, there can be no question of a new encounter."

I have a problem with this literalizing of Whitehead’s notion of ‘prehension’ in this sentence: “The situation is far worse in the case of Whitehead’s ontology, where it is said that every entity in the universe shares a perfectly definite “prehension” (relation) to every other entity in the universe and that each entity is but a bundle of the way in which it prehends other entities.” Obviously this leaves out the fullness of Whitehead’s use of the four notions that underpin his ontology: actual entities, prehension, nexus, and the ontological principle. Of which it is ‘nexus’ (togetherness), not prehension that involves relations in the sense you attribute to prehensions. As summed up in this statement:“

Actual entities involve each other by reason of their prehensions of each other. There are thus real individual facts of the togetherness of actual entities, which are real, individual, and particular, in the same sense in which actual entities and the prehensions are real, individual, and particular. Any such particular fact of togetherness among actual entities is called a ‘nexus’ (plural form is written ‘nexūs’). The ultimate facts of immediate actual experience are actual entities, prehensions, and nexūs. All else is, for our experience, derivative abstraction(p. 20).”

I think you have to take into account the complex of those two notions, prehension and nexus, without which one or the other as an explanatory principle means nothing. It is nexus that is descriptive of the relations (togetherness) among objects, while prehension is a mode of internal analysis. So in this sense Whitehead would almost agree with your internal/external distinction, he would just define it as prehension/nexus with the caveat that he is describing an abstraction not an ontological fact.

Being an Idealist and a monist he affirmed the Platonic distinction of form and fact, as he states the case: “…philosophy is explanatory of abstraction, and not of concreteness. It is by reason of their instinctive grasp of this ultimate truth that, in spite of much association with arbitrary fancifulness and atavistic mysticism, types of Platonic philosophy retain their abiding appeal; they seek the forms in the facts. Each fact is more than its forms, and each form ‘participates’ throughout the world of facts. The definiteness of fact is due to its forms; but the individual fact is a creature, and creativity is the ultimate behind all forms, inexplicable by forms, and conditioned by its creatures(p. 20).” The engine of creation is creativity, the power of creation, energia, force. That every fact is a creature, and that every creature is potentially a creative agent in the world is the one unique aspect of Whitehead's philosophical freedom. Without this engine of creativity at the heart of all creatures there would never be any potential for change in the world. It is this creativity that aligns freedom and the event within all actual occasions.

To continue… As for how change is possible. Whitehead defines his notion of the ‘event’: “Thus the actual world is built up of actual occasions; and by the ontological principle whatever things there are in any sense of ‘existence,’ are derived by abstraction from actual occasions. I shall use the term ‘event’ in the more general sense of a nexus of actual occasions, inter-related in some determinate fashion in one extensive quantum. An actual occasion is the limiting type of an event with only one member. … The fundamental meaning of the notion of ‘change’ is ‘the difference between actual occasions comprised in some determinate event.’(73)”. He explicates this use of event: “An event is a nexus of actual occasions inter-related in some determinate fashion in some extensive quantum: it is either a nexus in its formal completeness, or it is an objectified nexus. One actual occasion is a limiting type of event. The most general sense of the meaning of change is ‘the differences between actual occasions in one event.’ For example, a molecule is a historic route of actual occasions; and such a route is an ‘event.’ Now the motion of the molecule is nothing else than the differences between the successive occasions of its life-history in respect to the extensive quanta from which they arise; and the changes in the molecule are the consequential differences in the actual occasions(80-81).”

As you can see his ideas on change are based on the notion of the event, which includes difference in its abstract argument for how change comes about through the temporal differentiation of actual occasions in the event or fact.

Whitehead, Alfred North (2010-05-11). Process and Reality (Gifford Lectures Delivered in the University of Edinburgh During the Session 1927-28)


Congratulations, Graham! May you and your new wife enjoy your honeymoon! He looks very happy: here!








Mark Fisher of Captial Realism fame has a new post on Nick Land and Accellerationism. But unlike Land with his dive into the dark mesh of Deluzian shizopulse, Fisher's conclusions are quite sobering, telling us that capitalism "...has abandoned the future because it can’t deliver it. Nevertheless, the contemporary left’s tendencies towards Canutism, its rhetoric of resistance and obstruction, collude with capital’s anti/meta-narrative that it is the only story left standing. Time to leave behind the logics of failed revolts, and to think ahead again." Continue reading his post: here!







A working outline of my future book...

A working outline of my future book:


Speculative Realism

Introduction: A Short History of a Misnomer

Part One: Toward a Theory of Objects
1. The Pre-Socratics: A Short history of Being
2. Plato and Aristotle: Form and Substance
3. Pre-critical Metaphysics: Scholastics, Rationalists, and Empiricists

(Interlude: The Enlightenment: Kant and the Epistemological Turn)

Part Two: Being and Event 
4. The Continental Tradition: Husserl, Heidegger, Lacan
5. The Analytic Divide: Neo-Kantians, Logic, Pragmatism
6. Signs of the Time: Badiou, Latour, Laruelle  

Part Three: The Speculative Turn
7. Speculative Materialism: Meillassoux, Zizek, Brassier
8. Neo-Idealism: Whitehead, Deleuze, Grant
9. Object-Oriented Philosophies: Harman, Bryant, Bogost, Morton

Postlude: Society, Change, and the Politics of the Event


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S.C. Hickman

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