“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Monday, June 27, 2011

To Have Done with Life

Nathan Brown's conference in Zagreb has a good opener about emergence, same way of thinking as myself:

The term “emergence” is the surest index of the doubly physical and metaphysical scope of this problem. The emergence of life, we say, and what we seem to mean by this is that we do not know exactly how—at exactly what point and in exactly what way—life came into being, though we do seem to know a great deal about its properties—including, supposedly, that it exists. The problem of “emergence” is that a modality of being came to be which was not before, and the difficulty is that tracking the physical causes of such an event leads to irresolvable aporia. And these aporia are too easily dissembled through reference to “complex, self-organizing processes,” as if we can at once account for and evade the radicality of the event we are trying to think by placing it within the same category as the formation of snowflakes, traffic patterns, or the activities of termite colonies. In its typical usage (the work of Stuart Kaufman, for example), the concept of “emergence” is a crypto-metaphysical concept pretending to offer physical explanations, at once allowing and accounting for gaps in the latter through reference to “complexity.”
Elsewhere in the intro are some things I don't agree with. I don't agree with the idea that to think life metaphysically is to overmine entities into nonexistence, because I simply don't hold that this is what metaphysics necessarily does: sure, a certain metaphysics. Bit of a generalization there. I also don't agree that to undermine life to material “structures” and “functions” is to be outside of metaphysics: it is to choose a certain kind of metaphysics, again not mine. This one isn't a generalization but a question begging interpretation pretending not to be.

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