Shaviro on Claremont

December 8, 2010

Nice retrospective summary of the conference FROM STEVEN SHAVIRO.

All are agreed: the conference was outstanding. However, the previous larger conference I attended (Dundee in March) was also excellent. Could it be that conferences on the whole are getting better?

I think so. What we’re seeing more of on the continental side of the fence is animated debate over philosophical disputes. There is much good to be said about the historical emphasis in continental thought, but often it would lead to a sort of unthreatening report about the views of past thinkers. There’s more of an edge to the discussions lately, and I suspect it’s because Anglophone continental thought has finally reached a period of maturity and self-confidence.

more Austin on Bradley

December 5, 2010

Michael Austin gives us a bit more information HERE about his advisor James Bradley, who was quite a wonderful presence in Claremont.

Several times in past emails, Michael has told stories about his “advisor”, but those stories all become a lot more interesting in retrospect. James Bradley would be a fantastic person to study with.

party of 14

December 5, 2010

14 of us went to dinner tonight in “The Village,” as the center of Claremont is known. Middle Eastern food.

A great way to end a great conference. Steven Shaviro was the dinner captain, heading up most of the arrangements. My conversational portion of the table included Levi, Nathan Brown, Beatrice Marovich, and also Claire and Kris who attended the conference.

The fun part about Claire and Kris is that they just graduated from St. John’s College in Annapolis in 2009 (I’m from the class of 1990 myself). Better yet, Claire and I share the same senior essay advisor: Jon Lenkowski, a former New School student of the noted phenomenologist Aron Gurwitsch. We had a lot of stories to exchange about Annapolis folks.

This may well be the last Claremont live-blog post, unless something surprisingly interesting happens here in the next 11 hours. 9 AM is when I go upstairs to make sure Levi didn’t oversleep and haul him to the Ontario airport.

post-lunch thoughts

December 5, 2010

It was a great experience, this conference. Faber has the right idea, trying to open up Claremont and not treat it as a citadel of orthodox Whiteheadianism. He had Judith Butler here for last year’s conference, and a nice assortment this time.

As is often the case with these sorts of events, further events have been plotted based on certain encounters that took place here. For instance, at least two additional OOO events are in the works for the 2011-12 academic year, and there are a few other potential events that are a bit broader in scope.

Still one more, unofficial event to go: some sort of dinner tonight with whichever participants are still lingering in Claremont. Ian’s leaving shortly, and I’m driving Levi to the Ontario Airport tomorrow morning, then start the process of getting back to Cairo.

the end

December 4, 2010

12:39. Goffey puts the hammer down. The panel is over.

12:40. Halewood thanks the organizers and the participants. Halewood agrees with me and Shaviro that denunciation is bad, and it didn’t happen at this conference thankfully.

12:41. Halewood: there will be a book based on this conference.

Time for conference participant lunch.

Bogost/Brown discussion

December 4, 2010

12:07. Goffey invites questions for this final question period of the conference.

12:08. Roland Faber enjoyed both papers. He thinks Bogost is onto something with the procedure/process distinction. Faber likes the idea of withdrawal (unexpected from someone with such a Whiteheadian background as Faber). Withdrawal is a good idea, whether or not Whitehead liked it. Faber makes a few more remarks on patterns. Isn’t an object a “secret society”? (audience laughs)

12:10. Bogost responds about patterns. Says he needs to think about it more, but already starts out with some promisign leads. Asks Brown if he has any thoughts about it.

12:12. Yes, Brown has some immediate thoughts. “Pattern” could be a rather idealist notion. People like Buckminster Fuller get too obsessed with pattern as dematerialized form.

12:13. Bogost: maybe engineering should be our model, rather than science or mathematics. This doesn’t make me bristle.

12:13. Brown: it doesn’t make me bristle either, but philosophy would have to be the thinking of engineering. What he likes best about After Finitude is the engineering of the text, the methodology of it. “If we put these thoughts together, what will we be forced to think?”

12:14. James Bono, from the audience. Whitehead retranscribes pattern into something like rhythm and vibratory patterns, wave-forms, etc.

12:15. Brown: Whitehead’s problem is, if you added process to Plato’s world of forms, what would that entail?

12:16. Bono: the rhythms and vibrations Whitehead talks about are deeply material.

12:16. Question from the floor for Bogost. I was struck by your use of the word “behavior”. Could you comment further?

12:16. Bogost: Interesting. Behavior was not meant as a technical term, but is primarily a term of convenience in the circles in which I run.

12:18. Bogost to Levi Bryant in the audience: in systems theory, does “behavior” come up often?

12:18. Levi: doesn’t remember Luhmann talking much about behavior. Asks back at Bogost: what is the status of behavior in computer programming>

12:18. Bogost: doesn’t think behavior is as deep an idea as either the first questioner or Levi are implying. Merely a term of convenience.

12:19. Brown turns to Bogost: I like your term “unit operations”.

12:19. Bogost: I stole the term from chemical engineering, just like Harman stole object-oriented from computer science.

12:20. New questioner from the audience, unhappy that Ian thinks becoming is epiphenomenal. He also wonders what Ian and/or Nathan Brown think about Peirce.

12:21. Brown goes first. He thinks Peirce’s three categories are explained in more slippery fashion than Whitehead’s clearer explanations of his key concepts. Is the Mona Lisa’s smile indexical or iconic? Arguments could be made either way. Vulgar conceptions of indexicality should be avoided (e.g., smoke/fire).

12:24. Same questioner: Nathan, wouldn’t both Peirce and Whitehead agree that every sign is both indexical and iconic?

12:25. Brown: yes, Peirce realizes that it’s far from obvious what a sign is.

12:26. Bogost on the earlier question about becoming: he’s not that interested in time. We’ve been concerned with time for too long and not concerned enough with essence. Time can be accounted for interestingly without turning flux and flow into the basis of all philosophy.

12:27. James Bradley. He liked both papers. A question for both Bogost and Brown. Wouldn’t a Whiteheadian say that they are conflating two totally different things? (Not sure I got what they were.)

12:28. Bogost: Bradley’s objection presupposes that occasion and relation are valid categories, which Bogost doesn’t accept. Some of the Whiteheadian concepts people hold dear might need to be abandoned. One of the things Bogost finds so appealing about Harman is that he worked for a long time on Heidegger, and then simply decided to leave, while taking a few valuable pieces along with him.

12:30. Brown responds to Bradley by referring to an idea from Bachelard. The technics of prehension. What is specific to technical conceptions of knowledge?

12:32. Shaviro jumps in. Often, conceptual differences between people come from the question of what problems bother people. Shaviro and Harman have different concerns. Bogost doesn’t care about the problem of time, but for Shaviro this is vital. Bergson is overrated in some ways, but Bergson’s example of sugar dissolving is the best statement ever made of the philosophical problem that concerns Shaviro most.

12:33. Bogost: isn’t it OK to have different concerns?

12:33. Shaviro: Yes.

12:34. Brown: For me the issue is if there are units and there are operations, then mustn’t the operation occur in time?

12:35. I ask Levi about his remarks about jouissance in every philosophy. Some people seem to want to denounce gullible people, and aren’t interested in any philosophy that is unable to denounce the naive.

12:35. Shaviro says it reminds him of my blog remark about how Searle went into philosophy only because he likes ripping people apart.

12:36. Professor Schneider from Drake, question for Bogost about engineering.

12:36. Bogost: Yes, philosophers don’t do enough fabrication of non-textual objects. Bogost has picked up a certain attitude from the engineers he hangs out with [Georgia Tech is a heavily engineering-based school, of course]. Bogost literally believes that philosophers ought to want to make some things, not as aesthetic or useful objects, but as philosophical objects.

12:38. Levi: one of the things he’s learned from Latour and Stengers is how philosophers treat propositional and textual objects as what is real to an excessive degree. There’s been an ongoing critique of logocentrism throughout the history of philosophy, but none of us are listening to it.

Brown will be the final speaker of this excellent conference. He’s an old acquaintance of mine (well, 4 or 5 years as a correspondent), and is in the same academic department at UC-Davis as Tim Morton of the OOO group.

11:30. Andrew Goffey introduces Brown.

11:31. Brown will speak on the photography of Nicolas Baier. The room darkens, to enhance the visibility of the Baier slides.

11:32. [Hard to describe Baier’s photos, but they are fascinatingly weird. Let me look for a webpage…]


11:35. [Hard to summarize either Baier’s photos or Brown’s commentary on them, but Brown is at his most poetic today.]

11:36. [These are weird photos. In one of them, Baier took a photo of his eyeball and then isolated it on a plain white background as if it were an isolated entity.]

11:37. Brown finds Stiegler’s rereading of Heidegger’s existential analytic (mediated through Derrida) to be important.

11:43. [More of the same. Strange photos, beautifully commented upon by Brown, but it’s hard to summarize Brown’s commentary unless you have the individual slides in front of you.]

11:48. Brown refers to Stiegler on epiphylogenesis.

11:49. [Brown briefly interrupted by annoying car alarm going off outside the exit door. It ends mercifully after only about 10-15 seconds.]

11:51. Brown returns to the story of Baier and the meteorite. Brown visited Baier and saw the meteorite, which Baier ground up into powder and turned into paint.

11:53. Whitehead and Bachelard on Descartes’ famous example of the wax.

11:53. Wilfred Sellars on the manifest and scientific images.

11:57. Bachelard: the strange bond between rationalism and empiricism in science is just as strong as the bond between pleasure and pain.

11:59. This hybrid “rationalist empiricism” is in fact the topic of Brown’s current book project, he tells us.

12:02. Brown turns to a discussion of Meillassoux, whose book he reviewed quite brilliantly in a piece to be included in The Speculative Turn.

12:03. The undertheorized problem of measure in Meillassoux’s work: how de we gain access to the ancestral?

12:05. Conclusion on Stiegler. [Rapid and technical, too hard to summarize on the fly.]

12:07. Stiegler: technics is the organon of the outside.


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