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Superconversations Day 19: David Xu Borgonjon responds to Adrian Lahoud, "Nomos and Cosmos"


#1

DAY 19 /// RESPONDING TO ADRIAN LAHOUD — NOMOS AND COSMOS, by DAVID XU BORGONJON

Online Apocalypto

In the final scene of Apocalypto (2006), the hero Jaguar Paw, chased closely by raiders who he’s picked off one by one over three harrowing days (and two long hours), finally catches sight of the coast. It’s a sign that he’s near his village, where his family is stranded. But as his pursuers break through the brush and emerge beside him, they are all stopped by a vision of people in iron wearing crosses on small barks.

There is an epistemological problem in depicting the end of the world, that Mel Gibson and his crew must work around. How can we surmise what it looks like? Not only will the world change its face completely, but—since we are in the world—the way in which we would apprehend that change will also be irrevocably altered. It’s not just what we see but how we see that will change. Apocalypto works around this problem by projecting backwards: a blind girl prophesies at one point that a jaguar will eat the sun, signaling the end of the world. It’s inferred that our hero, Jaguar Paw, is/will be/was the one who leads Mayan civilization to the brink of encounter. The future is modeled on the projection of the present into the past.

This game of tense-switching is common not just to the apocalypse, but to all events, especially when perceived through that special means we know as probability. Adrian Lahoud, who has worked in forensic climatology, asks in “Nomos and Cosmos” that we consider what a second colonization would look like, one that took the atmosphere rather than continents as its host. Just as in the instances of the Columbian conquest or the Scramble for Africa, the sky would have to be emptied, quantified and occupied in one single conceptual gesture.

The occasion for Lahoud’s discussion is the accusation of Lumumba Di-Aping, the Sudanese ambassador to the United Nations, and the chair of the G77, a caucus of developing nations. In 2009, he called the Copenhagen Agreement’s non-binding limit of two degrees “climate genocide”: that average temperature is predicted to entail regional increases of up to 3.5 in hot, Saharan nations like Sudan.

We know that climate change disproportionately affects low-lying and equatorial lands: yet until recently, scientific evidence had been hard to come by. It is difficult to hold actions to account since they dissipate quickly into the complexity of atmospheric flows. But higher resolution models, “a different scale of calculus,” would allow the naming and prosecution of crimes.

Would it? Years after the 2008 crisis, and no-one in the banks has been held accountable. Not even for negligence! It is difficult to disentangle guilty ingredients from the hot financial stew, but much more so without an organized political will. Without better institutions (nomos) our deepening knowledge of the world (cosmos) will continue to fall flat.

The problem of better institutions, it so happens, is linked to that of better models, since these models provide impetus and fodder. Quantitative models don’t just measure but also create phenomena: in Donald McKenzie’s words, they are engines and not cameras. A digression into the models of finance and their philosophical grounds is, I hope, useful here. Elie Ayache in Blank Swan has put forward a thorough rebuttal of not just the possibility of prediction, but possibility in general. Using the example of derivatives, he points out that the theory of how trades happen has nothing to do with the practice.

Supposedly, financial products’ prices are based on their predicted future payoff. Because markets are unpredictable, the equations used to price them have spaces where you can plug in volatility. Yet, as Ayache points out that, in practice traders take the market prices of derivatives and work out backwards what the volatility is. Prices are based on future states which they affect, creating loops that can’t be predicted in principle. He defines a market as the “surface” of all prices and only prices. Prices aren’t derived from value, but rather produce it!

Ayache’s observations are important for risk assessment in general. The difficulty of predicting even local, immediate weather is well-known. And like climate change, genocide tends to rely (at least apparently) on statistical science: weighty numbers like fifty million, six million, 1.3 million; or even ranges, like 40,000-200,000 which veer deeper into probability. “Climate genocide,” is the link between that earlier series and numbers like 2 (degrees Celsius of warming), or, say 350 (parts per million of CO2). As long as we are measuring and predicting deaths—Lahoud cites 250,000 a year excluding heat stress from malnutrition and disease—we continue to think probabilistically.

Prices aren’t the only numbers that produce the world rather than deriving from it. Take predicting weather or forecasting deaths. What if these numbers are not produced by underlying systems, like wars, pollution and laws, but actively set in such a way that they loop back into them?

Instead of shifting between two degrees of resolution at Lahoud suggests, how might we elaborate another kind of model? To what extent can we call a climate the surface of all temperatures and only temperatures? To what extent have climate negotiations already restructured the atmosphere as such a market?

David Xu Borgonjon is a Beijing and New York-based administrator and the managing editor of SCREEN.
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#2

Hey David, interesting essay - though I wonder about the slippage between methods of quantification and the distinct domains in which they are applied. For instance, it seems to me that pricing as the sole indicator of value has been heavily criticized by heterodox economists, though they are not in ascendancy right now and lack the political clout to institute new models there. Secondly, while I doubt climate scientists see temperature rise as the sole indicator of climate change, the fact that it can be quantified and used to signal a warning shouldn’t be seen as negative, but rather that the science is able to produce a measure with the models it does have. Climate science IS a field engaged with complex models, and though there are still many things we do not know and the models are still developing, it is a fairly mature field with some reliable conclusions. It seems as though what you are questioning is how this one indicator in particular becomes a part of a political and economic calculation which frames what kind of action is taken. Despite this, even this simple indicator is not being heeded in those domains, as I believe we’re already on course for the two degree mark now whatever we do, and it is now looking more like a four degree rise. I think the problem here is less this particular measure, but the way in which it may or may not be exploited by a political and economic system whose own models and institutions are inadequate to complexity science.

“Those on both sides of the climate policy debate sometimes present the situation as if it is a choice between mitigation trying to prevent future damage and adaptation accepting that damage is done, and changing the structure of human civilization to respond. It seems to me that the lesson to be drawn here is that all these questions (which strategy is best? Should we mitigate or adapt?) are as misguided as the question ‘which climate model is best?’ We should, rather, take our cue from the practice of climate scientists themselves, encouraging innovation generally across many different levels of spatio-temporal resolution.”-- Jon Lawhead, https://www.academia.edu/1819893/Model_Pluralism_in_Climate_Science_Practical_Implications


#3

David, I really like your response to Adrian Lahoud. The demands you rise about a higher quality institutionality are very poignant and relevant today.

I was editing a video of Marshal McLuhan’s speech for the 1967 TV show Our World, the first satellite program intended to reach a global audience. In the video, McLuhan states: " Nearly everybody who looks ahead as its were, is in effect looking at the rear-view mirror, and if people try to prophesize about today’s show, they will be steadfastly looking in the rear-view mirror."

Our construction of the past, then, immediately becomes our expectation about the future. The big problem at hand of course, is: Without a proper respect and institutionalized knowledge for the study of the past, we always wind up dreaming and craving the proverbial pastoral pastures of yore, without actually realizing that those are in effect non-existent, and constructed to market us a future (this can be clearly seen in the promises of Wholefoods, the bespoke movement, slow food, etc) when in reality, the life quality today of the average citizen is positively superior than most noblemen of the past. Thus, marketing has demonstrated that the past is merely a prevarication of what we want the future to be like.

Can institutions save us from this? That remains a bigger question: Which institutions? Financed by who? What mission statement, That of truth perhaps? Which truth? Pertinent to this, the Colombian government started an instutution for that purpose during their (ongoing and unfruitful) peace negotiations with the FARC guerrillas http://www.centrodememoriahistorica.gov.co/ The centre for historical memory

This is their mission statement as translated from spanish:
Contributing to the integral reparation and right to truth of the victims of the armed conflict and society at large, while still retaining the State’s duty to memory in the occasion of the violence occurring during the Colombian armed conflict, searching for a horizon of peace, democracy and reconcilation


#5

@joshuajnet The problem with your proposition is twofold:

1- there is no account in your understanding of science about how scientist’s legitimate work can be protected against corruption by political (economic) interests. I think most scientists understand this to be an escalating challenge.

2- even if political interest does not get to distort or corrupt the findings, it can manage to provide wrongheaded political and ecumenic solutions based on legitimate findings. How can for example climate scientists ensure that the society is not being reoriented towards wrong solutions based on their sound findings?

I have some suggestions, but let you speak first.


#6

@DADABASE I think the first part of your critique is leveling in the direction which Robert Brandom indicates in his paper on Genealogy and the Hermeneutics of Magnanimity – that “systematic distortions” in the causal history of beliefs unmask any attempt to locate the better reason. He identifies the reciprocal relationship between the authority of the claimant in respect of some community and the responsibility of the individual for that claim - that is, he essentially points up the normative aspects of a discourse, such as science, in where the rational binding qualities of norms and the institutional determination of the specific discursive practice and its contents can be judged based on its explicit claims, and their relation to evidence. http://www.pitt.edu/~brandom/downloads/RGHM%20%2012-11-21%20a.docx

In response to the second point you raise , I am not sure it is the job of scientists, necessarily, to operate on the political level. Certainly, I think there is an institutional need for those who can navigate between both spaces, but in so far as the practice of science is not politics, I’m not sure we should lay the blame for a failure of our political operators at the feet of scientists for the failure to properly capture their imagination. That seems akin (to me) of blaming the poor for not having hardy enough bootstraps.


#7

I never said this was only the scientists responsibility but i wont go as far as completely exonerating them from any political role. what have we learned from Hiroshima and holocaust anyways?


#8

@DADABASE, I hope we can avoid going Godwin here, but yes, I would agree that we all have a responsibilities as ethical beings and communities. However, the transition from ethical and political norms which inform a methodology that produces knowledge are not the same as the transition from that knowledge to new ethical and political norms. In respect of the first part of this proposition, the data derived from Nazi experiments is considered unreliable precisely because of the brutal and inhumane conditions from which it derived. In respect of the second, knowledge of the atom bomb does not necessarily lead to deployment of the atom bomb. To do so was ultimately a political decision. Do scientists bear no responsibility then, for Hiroshima? I think that is a much thornier ethical dilemma.

Science often produces knowledge which proposes challenges for ethics and politics. The recent innovations in gene sequencing with CRISPR, for example, suggests a host of dilemmas once applied in practice, especially as it becomes imbricated with our system of uneven development. Yet, this technology has great possibilities in the treatment of disease and preventative care, even before one considers its potential extension to remaking the human organism. This is precisely where we need, as David indicates, and Manuel quoted, updated institutions that mediate between the implications of our expanding knowledge and those who would deploy it for political purposes.

But, I am still curious as to the suggestions you were intending to make above.


#9

That is exactly the moment the role of the authority of an institution, it’s epistemological and its pedagogic aspect can render alternative ways of engaging the scientist with questions of different realms. Paying attention to the history of those institutions in charge of producing ethics and sciences one doesn’t find anything but the dominance of Latin academies. segregating and separating roles, genres and categories, this has been going faster than ever since industrial revolution, one drowning himself in one field while being totally away from influences of the other realms of science. The exceptions to this, while helping us throughout the past decades, when going back to their academic roles again they hit the tall walls of Latin academies, those that one can’t see the nominalism of divisions. But bringing the institutional structure from Latin to Greek, or Madrasah (Salon of Baghdad for example) won’t be necessarily too unrealistic. Who pays for that? within that system trojan horses of the curios mind can subvert with the camouflage of submission.


#10

just thought I need to add, that the nomos for Latin academy is the one mirroring the states’, while greek one never gives up adding auto to nomos. How does that work? well we should try it out in larger scales, but not within an already Latin system, alternatives are available from Mughal academies, Baghdad Madrasas, and Greek formats.


#11

@joshuajnet You know I agree with your proposition but somewhere down the line the building of these institutions needs to not only be theorized but actualized. This work cannot be deferred to some imaginary other agent and imaginary other times and spaces. For this plan to actually work, we need equal number of people involved in the building of these institutions as those who make art or practice philosophy. As we know these numbers are not even near parity. So I dont think ideally i disagree with you and other new rationalists who are proposing this program. The problem remains developing sound plans (which will inevitably involve taking risks) for their actualization.


#12

Excellent response, David.

As you pointed out, we’re in an existential crisis in which, essentially, speculative computational modeling, in a more concrete sense than ever before, is creating the world around us (though with amplifying effects we cannot completely understand or predict). In a more imaginative sense, your points demonstrate the power of discourse to shape both expectations and behaviors that, in broadcasting a message of progress, actually advance reactive past-oriented measures that presume catastrophe.

The conversation on climate change has noticeably begun to shift from “if” to “how (pervasive, irreversible, bad, etc).” In our discussion as well, there is, rightly, a presumption of (future) catastrophe. To reach our current goal of a 2 degree C cap in global temperatures, we’d have to behave in ways almost comically contrary to our current values. For example - as Bill McKibbin points out, we’d have to persuade private companies and nations that control the world’s existing oil reserves to leave over $20 trillion of estimated energy assets in the ground.

And while I won’t begin to disentangle the web of global economic interdependence, is it not so unimaginable that some countries will find economic gains from climate change? Take lands with permafrost - will they not be eager to defend a future in which formerly untractable land becomes farmable? Especially as formerly robust producers experience scorching temperatures and decreased yields?

To what extent can we call a climate the surface of all temperatures and only temperatures?

I think it can’t be overstated how important it is that we practice broader definitions of climate so that we may come closer to responsibly tempering this inevitable failure in human health protections, economic growth, and international security - to speak nothing of the radical realignment of how we understand and practice value today.

What degree of failure is acceptable (and what degree is inevitable) is another question. How will we hold ourselves accountable? What is the role of institutions, and what shape will they take?


#13

@DADABASE Perhaps you see the re-rehearsal of these peculiarly postmodern arguments as an inoculation then?

I do think scientists can play a political role, but then what they are doing is not primarily science, but the translation of science for the domain of politics. The task functions differently, and I think its important to make that distinction, least we shift back into these debates of identifying the alienating effects of scientific discourse on the human with the ills of modern society.

In so far as the concrete constructive task is concerned - yes this has been insufficiently addressed. I know many of us are seeking to redress this in various capacities, but I’m not sure you can rush the long-game just because there are so many urgent issues now. As Nick and Alex have argued in relation to the Mont Pelerin Society model, there is the necessity of laying the groundwork and overcoming old “common-sense” notions which have become embedded in our discourse, and finding the levers when they become available. As you yourself have pointed up on many occasions, there are pernicious and destructive habits of thought amongst the left which impede any sense of planning. That doesn’t mean we cant tackle both ill-formed attitudes and plan at the same time, but I think we are still in the process of redrawing the map which the left has relied upon for so long.


#14

I agree with you about how my concern in regards to building institutions have been insufficiently addressed. However I don’t think pointing to the crucial task of actualizing a new rationalist action plan in research & development of new institutions impedes or rushes the long-game. In fact we proudly consider what we are doing at the New Centre nothing short of addressing this very task; putting new rationalist and accelerationist theories to practice and in doing so contribute to the further development of both new theories and practices.


#15

Years after the 2008 crisis, and no-one in the banks has been held accountable. Not even for negligence! It is difficult to disentangle guilty ingredients from the hot financial stew, but much more so without an organized political will. Without better institutions (nomos) our deepening knowledge of the world (cosmos) will continue to fall flat. The problem of better institutions, it so happens, is linked to that of better models, since these models provide impetus and fodder. Quantitative models don’t just measure but also create phenomena: in Donald McKenzie’s words, they are engines and not cameras. A digression into the models of finance and their philosophical grounds is, I hope, useful here. Elie Ayache in Blank Swan has put forward a thorough rebuttal of not just the possibility of prediction, but possibility in general. Using the example of derivatives, he points out that the theory of how trades happen has nothing to do with the practice.

Much agreed, better institutions require a reorientation to the entire logic of prediction (hegemonic in one of the central social science disciplines I was trained in), but that shouldn’t mean a curtailing of planning or strategy, but rather a reinvention of both in the form of responsive / experimental planning, which is not at all the fatalism of prediction, but the contingency of active affirmation, both disrupting current conditions of possibility and creating the space for new ones.


#16

I’m particularly impressed by Jason’s signaling of the vital “reorientation of the entire logic of prediction,” especially with regards to the example Lahoud focuses on: climate models, and the notorious difficulty that scientists have predicting climatological behavior and mapping causality and effect. One of the things that is remarkable about Xu Borgonjon and Lahoud’s writing is the idea of how the epidemic effects of the Columbian Exchange are at one level problems of witnessing or documentation.

One of the fascinating situations is how the nomos of the Capitalocene is being challenged by anomic critique (See The Anomie of The Earth), and how what is becoming most effective–with mixed results–is the popular documentation of climatical disaster; not the scientific implorations. Local droughts, floods, and other events are working much faster than the scientific community to articulate plans and express concern in an anomic fashion, as institutional nomology is caught in its network of fractious debates and global corruption of the science by capital.
Latour argues this point in his recent essay “Agency in The Time of the Anthropocene”:

There is no distant place anymore. And along
with distance, objectivity is gone as well, or at least an older notion of
objectivity that was unable to take into account the active subject of
history. No wonder that climatosceptics are denying the reliability of all
those “facts” that they now put in scare quotes. In a way they are right,
not because all those disciplines are not producing any objects able to
resist objections (that’s where objectivity really comes from), but because
the very notion of objectivity has been totally subverted by the presence
of humans in the phenomena to be described—and in the politics of
tackling them

The aforementioned quote for me, is an inversion of Ayache’s rebuttal of possibility, as it is precisely the practice that does away with the success of better models. In other words, model as engines meet the engines of the social and navigate according to a series of qualitative and quantitative conditions that, in my estimation tend to favor the social. Thus “planning” isn’t really ever a question of modeling, but a question of will, just as climate denial is not a question of logic but a question of affect, will, desire, class, racism, etc. If, as Badiou puts it, philosophy always lags behind politics, which signals the utter supremacy of material conditions to planning. So too, from time to time, science as ‘legitimacy’ encounters its institutional monster.

So, better models in the relatively tightly controlled derivatives market might be different from the quantitative model of processes that can literally change upon arrival–take Amazonian deforestation as the East African sands sweep across the ocean to arrive at a fallow field–but they both share a certain debility to practice and materiality.

And these specific moments where the material and social challenge planning’s phenomena–no matter how well modeled quantitatively or how powerful the phenomena they instantiate be. Plans then find themselves impeded by the bulwark of social practice or minimally by the presence of agent affirmations (social and political will) and active affirmations (stochastic situations of climate, human-nonhuman interactions, bad planning, underdeveloped modeling.) (BTW, i’m stealing Jason’s term here for my own nefarious uses :wink: )

So instead of new cognitivisms or rationalist planning, perhaps we might turn to new materialism–an older form to be sure–which, through its emphasis on the expansion of scientific knowledges and a sense of the agential in the world, allows for both responsive reaction and experimental planning.

“The frontier of calculation can be extremely violent, eradicating preexisting values and distinctions—this tension was always at the heart of decolonization struggles. But it is also a vital part of building communities of shared inquiry, especially scientific ones.”

If we are to take Lahoud seriously here, the frontier of calculation must be articulated as a social process from the start, and not exclusively through the binary of scientific legitimacy versus political will–as Lahoud and David point out, neither really work that way.


#17

Regarding Manuel Correa’s point I would like to offer some notes on the matter:
The question of institutions remains unclear pending a formal analysis that allows us to model the occurring relations appropriately. For this I propose class analysis.
I will propose that institutions are a property of a bourgeois state, so that in the absence of one they cannot operate. In the partial collapse of the State that Colombia suffered, institutions were coopted and infiltrated widely by a paramilitary and parapolitical network directly coordinated by a sociologically distinct group of paisa colonists whose activity was tied to the expansion of agricultural border for massive homogeneous activities (extracting, monoculture, and farming) which displaced the native inhabitants of the territories they occupied.
This created a rift with the traditional bourgeoisie, in Bogotá, with interests in international credibility that were being undermined by the excesses of their rural counterparts.
The Colombian State was always at a partial collapse, never a failed State, but never a proper one either.
What the traditional bourgeoisie is trying to do by prosecuting the political allies of the paramilitaries, is precisely to support these bourgeois institutions-in-becoming that were once almost completely lost to the paramilitaries.
One of the problems with the historical commission is that, since society cannot unite itself symbolically, neither can the Commission.
One example of this is the criticism of León Valencia that the Commission failed to identify responsibility for the conflict when in fact it arrived at several contradicting versions of responsibility that reflected the class positions of its members.
For people who believe the Colombian state was always a proper state, a representation of the concentrated will of the people, rebellion, and thus political crimes were never possible, because rebellion was inscribed in democracy itself through the act of changing governments.
For people who believe there was never a state but a paraState, rebellion was, at least at some point, justified.


#18

Its not really clear to me how new materialism provides a better capacity for “responsive reaction and experimental planning” – I think the term can be fairly vague and depends somewhat on which particular thinkers that you are referencing, but from my understanding, is generally situated around a new focus on metaphysics, and in particular a neo-vitalist metaphysics, which highlights the agency of non-human actors or things. Vitalism has a fairly dodgy philosophical and scientific pedigree, in that it tends to lend some mysterious force to objects which escapes any attempts to describe, measure, or circumscribe it, and as such becomes a mystification of the powers of noumenal. When presented with this position, it seems impossible to develop the actual practice of science, which is concerned with explicating the mysteries of nature, or to propose any kind of rational action in response to contingencies which may arise from whatever hidden intent lurks behind the ‘agency’ of objects. Furthermore, rendering the ‘affective dispositions’ of vacuum cleaners, fire, climate, social institutions, and whatever else one wishes to identify as an object, to an equivalent flat plane ignores the the complex and hierarchical emergence of causal properties and different structures and how they interact, leaving one without orientation. It is also questionable what a politics would look like in this situation, since the various objects of the world might be getting along just fine without your human perspective - perhaps the climate actually really likes being several degrees warmer, despite how it might affect your existence. (http://sites.williams.edu/cthorne/articles/to-the-political-ontologists/)

As to models - they tend to be localizable, with upward and lower bounds, describing the limits of the phenomena to which they are oriented, and bracketing the world in some particular way. We carve nature up this way, not from some anthropocentric demiurge to perform analytic violence, but because it is computational necessity (& I mean cognitively computational, as well) to restrict what it is we are measuring if we are to take its measure. It allows us to produce knowledge about the region which we are studying, but it also means that models are limited in some respect. So yes, models can not predict every potential contingency, especially as they reach their limit, but without them we lack a means of navigating the world, which an affective relationship cannot replace. Affects are the product of some process, not a guide as to what we ought do based upon what we know. All the positive or negative feeling in the world cannot replace an understanding of what processes might produce based upon our best models.

Lastly, the division between science and politics is not a simple binary, but is a division of function. What it is that science does, and what it is that politics does are simply not the same thing. To confuse one for the other is just to mistake how different practices operate on the world.


#19

@carlosamador + @joshuajnet hate to agree with joshua but the this is how existing new materialism(s) look like to me, a lot of scientific planning indeed :):


#20

Hi Joshua, I appreciate your rejoinder, but I think I can address some things in it and some of your objections, which I sense are born partially from my lack of clarity in the response and from a sense of a bit well-earned prejudice against the vitalist. This notwithstanding, I’m pretty certain that you’re working from a limited reading of materialism new or otherwise, and a type of mistaken reading of the claims of neo-materialist ontology–I would rarely assert that you can arrive at politics from any depiction of ontology.

In point of fact, I’m precisely with Thorne inasmuch as the weakness of a politics based on ontology is the sense that selection, privileging, and prioritization as acts of a politics simply don’t follow from a materialism. At worst, vitalism begs the question of the political because it purports that everything is political in its vitality but there is no politics. and as Thorne puts it:

No merely human arrangement—no parliament, no international treaty, no tax policy—could dislodge it from its primacy. It will no longer make sense to describe yourself as a partisan of fire, since you cannot be said to defend something that was never in danger, and you cannot be said to promote something that is everywhere already present. Your ontology, in other words, has already precluded the possibility that fire is a choice or that it is available only in certain political frameworks. This is the fate of all political ontologies: The philosophy of all-being ends up canceling the politics to which it is only superficially attached. The –ology swallows its adjective.

Thorne is correct on this point, but this point and the thrust of his essay is how the commitment to a particular politics emerges from ontology. And I agree that there are problems with this. This is the old “ought from an is” problem, and it’s something that New Materialism certainly has to contend with, but the assumption of vitalism is simply not my concern.

Unfortunately, your reading of new materialism limits itself to the presumption that all new materialisms are vitalist, and this is not simply the case. What materialism commits itself to is the idea that models are in some sense limited by phenomena, as you suggest, and that any bracketing is of course, a necessity, but that often that model limits the reading of the complex and hierarchical phenomena–models are first order flatteners in ways no flat ontology can actually match.
I’d suggest reading Pheng Cheah’s article on Non-Dialectical Materialism and Benjamin Noys’ critique of vitalism.

In point of fact, your misreading of my position is far more of a commitment to a flattening of the ontological than mine is. I simply believe that materialism requires a combination of ideation, modeling, and rigorous commitment to the material realm–which like it or not, in specific ways has agency. Or else have we forgotten your very point on the Earth’s climate desires.

It seems you’d like to assert an affirmative politics, when what I argued for was a step away from purely assertive politics into a more rigorous, anti-rationalist notion of materialism that nonetheless takes the political capacity to undo materialist analysis very seriously.

I simply answered without protecting science from the political, which is something science is really fucking piss poor at doing for itself. (See climate denialism, eugenics, etc.)

Now About Affect

Let’s take Newton’s own reservations about gravity were based not on an actually material observation, but rather his commitment to the fact that bodies acting upon each other at distance in a vacuum was an “Absurdity”–an affective disposition that, in point of fact, flattened the materially observable world and theoretically possible world until Einstein.
Thus, the material was misread by a model supported by an affective relationship.

Is modeling thrown away? No, but “positive feeling” definitely trumped understanding of processes emergent from a model. It seems then, that as Feyerabend, Galison, and others have discussed, we’re wise to not dismiss the affective in science too glibly.

Brief Thoughts to Conclude

Even if vitalism were really at all relevant for science–as opposed to being a philosophical trope of the Real intended for specific claims-- can we say, in every case that “science and politics” is a division of function? It seems to me that we still have not answered Feyerabend’s or Haraway’s claims that scientific and other cognition are intensely social phenomena in many cases. And to return briefly to vitalism and materialism, let’s take Elie Ayache’s own writing on the failure of probability models in the market as a “material place of an exchange,” speaks to the need to attend to matter where it literally exhausts its models is to attend to models.
Is not then, the very nature of the material, at times, to disrupt the model–as you suggest? I could give a rat’s ass about vitalism, but cause, effect, complexity, stochastic moments, or the ‘agency’ of the material is very interesting to me.

A better read would have been to attend the constant struggle between models and their limits, as I suggest, rather than to bemoan a vision of ontology or modeling that simply isn’t present in the text. It might have been also been more forceful to look at the fact that there is no exclusive scientific realm when it comes to planning.


#21

New Rationalism tends to remind me of it’s most notable success, namely artificial intelligence:

http://barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/woody.allen_.robot_.sleepers.jpg