Tuesday, April 24, 2012

On Immanence and Nature

A quick thought on my recent posts.

When I write of of the cosmos placing tendencies on any particular thing or event, one should realize that this is all immanent to nature. It is strictly incorrect to write that there is something (absolutely) outside a thing that forces it to be anything in particular. Instead, I insist that relations are real; any claim about a relation is also a claim about either existence or its possibility (either the possible or potential structure of existence), which always implies something existential in any actual case. Is it really so odd to insist that the cue ball in a game of billiards exerts force on the eight-ball, which implies that they are already related? One should grant that they are related spatially (i.e., referring to the connectivity of entities and not discrete units of separation, which is how people conventionally conceive "space"). In short, nature is always immanent to itself.

There has been some rumbling in the blogosphere of late about positions such as mine implying that there is something external to existence of reality (transcendent) that forces something upon nature. That misconceives the position entirely and, for instance, neglects all the important qualifiers, as I give above, that sometimes I will articulate something as a binary for ease of communication and not strict accuracy.

So, "where is form?" is a silly question from my view. "Form" just describes the pattern to which any particular event/existence is tending towards. In fact, "form" is a futural notion--it is explicitly tensed because I have been describing a modal view of reality. When "form" is past, we are just describing history and not what is to be. Why the distinction? Because there's no logical necessity (or existential necessity if the phrase makes sense) that any particular event must adhere to its form. "Form" is at best a real distinction is should not be reified, which is precisely what someone who refers to the discussion of form as "hylomorphism" is doing. Reification, fallacy of simple location, neglect of the modal view of reality being presented, etc.

In the view here-presented, the ontology could be described as "flat," yet since neither possibility nor habit (form) are existential per se, the "flatness" only registers with regards to existence or force, which is the only mode of reality that can be properly referred to as spatial. Why all this talk of modes? Ah, that is another talk and goes back to scholastic realism and the reality of chance.

3 comments:

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  2. On World-flesh

    Great post Jason. The truth is there is nothing in this post that I disagree strongly with.

    It is true that no-thing is other than natural. This is what I refer to when I write of world-flesh: the immanent plane of self-sufficient consistency and emergent complexity. The cosmic womb or matrix. Everything is derivative and yet freedom exists as depth, distance and emergence. World-flesh is the One plane of active sensuality and consequence of/from which all things come to exist.

    Relations are indeed real – and identical to structure of possibility which obtains in the folds between the contingent flows and assemblies of matter-energy (world-flesh).

    You write:

    “Is it really so odd to insist that the cue ball in a game of billiards exerts force on the eight-ball, which implies that they are already related? One should grant that they are related spatially (i.e., referring to the connectivity of entities and not discrete units of separation, which is how people conventionally conceive "space"). In short, nature is always immanent to itself.”

    This is a very important point. I use the term vulnerability to describe the causal efficacy of materials among each other. At base we are made of the same stuff and that is why we have access to each other. Yet, as Levi notes, not all entities have access to each other due to their different consistencies and subtlety. Everything is related in the sense that everything is birthed from the same crucible of elemental structureality. We are kin with rocks and stars and iphones and parrots and bacteria. And we share a wild, precarious and open cosmic wilderness with humans and nonhumans alike. This is the genius insight of neo-materialism.

    As for reification of form, again, I couldn’t agree more. But just know that when I respond to the talk of “eternal forms” and “universal forms” I do so from a place that rejects the Platonic notion of ideas which transcend the particular. Forms are patterns that matter-energy takes when assembled under particular conditions, and NEVER to be taken as realities in their own right external to their particular occasions. There is structure in the world and that structure affords what is possible in its differentiality.

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  3. I have responded by making another post, because I make a new distinction that I don't think I've explicitly written: the ontic vs. the ontological.

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