Reticulations: Jean-Luc Nancy and the Networks of the Political (Electronic Mediations)

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Author: Philip Armstrong. What is being charted here is a process whereby our engagements with the world, mediated by technical systems, form both the structures of social life and the cerebral and neural networks that make us both individually and collectively what we are. What Stiegler is uncovering and elaborating is essentially a processual dynamic which describes the interaction of neuroplasticity with social structures and technological systems, an interaction that forms the core of our ability to think and reason, that is to say, the core of our noetic life.

His gambit is that such a reflexive philosophical turn towards the very conditions of philosophical thought and noesis more generally will allow for an overcoming of the contemporary wasting or flattening of reason and for the emergence of another, more critical, and plural logic. Although, like Laruelle, Stiegler refuses or rejects traditional philosophical naturalism which he sees as constitutively allied to the technocratic rationality of the Anthropocene via cognitivism and its avatars , the term can once again be seen to have a certain purchase or pertinence when applied to his thinking.

Dans la disruption can be said to imply a naturalization of human thought insofar as it orientates itself around the charting of this processual continuity between the biological and the noetic, their reciprocal mediation via the technical or the organological, and their overall insertion into the libidinal ecology of the Anthropocene. Catherine Malabou is best known for her thinking of plasticity such as it emerged in the late s and early s from post-deconstructive readings of Hegel and Heidegger, and much of the critical reception of her work has focused on this core aspect of her philosophy.

For Malabou the exposure of any and all material forms to a future or futurity that is without identity results in their primordial and irreducible mutability or what she has termed plasticity. In this way Malabou, like Nancy, transposes the Derridean thinking of differance back into an ontological register, albeit, once again, a register which still operates outside any logic of self-identical presence.

In particular, the interaction of biochemical mechanisms and environmental influences play a key role in epigenetic processes. By situating brain plasticity explicitly within a wider processual and epigenetic horizon, Malabou arguably avoids the charge of neuro-centrism.

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It is worth noting that the major ethical and, by extension, political conclusion that Malabou draws from her arguments relates, as it did in her earlier book on the brain, to existential freedom. What plasticity signifies is that there is no order of existence, either biological or technological, that is securely pre- determined, pre- destined, or fully calculable on the basis of a pre-existing substance, essence, programme, or code genetic or cybernetic.

At the same time Malabou elaborates a wider vision of thought and consciousness which places it in a continuity albeit a complex one with biological life, and in this she can be aligned not only with Stiegler but also with the wider ecological and cosmological perspectives of Nancy and Laruelle.


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As was indicated at the outset, the naturalistic turn articulated in the recent work of Laruelle, Nancy, Stiegler, and Malabou places them in a relation of both proximity and distance with developments in cognitive criticism. That such forms can also be accused of a structural normativity or homogenization once again aligns Malabou with Stiegler and his critique of the rationality characteristic of the Anthropocene.

Humans live in a cognitive ecology.

He is able to refer to a range of cognitive theories in order to elaborate a set of conceptual tools for the understanding of what literature is and does as well as for a thinking of what literary criticism is and should do. The accusation levelled at a cognitively inflected criticism that it is reductionist and restrictively normative is not one that can be fairly levelled at Cave. He notes that relevance theory vigorously counters the view that language is exclusively a code consisting of fixed conventions.

It is of course partly coded, but the coded elements are only a springboard for the limitless possibilities of nuanced expression that may be realized as speaker and interlocutor mutually exploit their respective mental resources and potential imaginings. So whilst the cognitive approach proposed in Thinking with Literature is far from being reductive or reductionist it can perhaps still be said to be normative insofar as it draws upon cognitive theories whose empiricist presuppositions allow the status and availability of empirical truth to be taken for granted.

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Cave draws upon these cognitive theories and their scientifically grounded authority and articulates them together with a well-established literary-critical pragmatics or practice that will be henceforth supplied with a new theoretical vocabulary. Yet he arguably does so in such a way as to restore, albeit in a more pluralist fashion, traditional literary-critical norms; norms which will find their authority in a renewed cognitive empiricism.

While not detracting from the huge achievement and extraordinary scholarship of Thinking with Literature , I want to suggest that the post-deconstructive approaches elaborated here — naturalistic after a fashion and engaged with the sciences as they also are — would not allow for such an unproblematic restoration of critical norms and values. All these approaches are opposed to the established philosophical naturalism which cognitive criticism presupposes. Nor does it mean that there is no room for a renewed and innovative thinking of truth, that is, of relations to, or determinations by, the real.

It does mean, however, that these instances need to be thought outside of traditional empirical frameworks and in the context of new and different negotiations between philosophical or theoretical discourse and the sciences.

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So, for instance, one might cite the work of the biologist Holk Cruse who has argued that our neural processes construct internal world models and that what we experience subjectively is the content of our internal world models rather than direct empirical sense information.

Neuroscientific theory, in this instance at least, keeps us firmly within a variant of a neural-constructivist horizon in relation to experience: we may have broken out of the prison house of language therefore, but only thereby to have escaped into some kind of naturalized, biological, or neural-cognitive a priori. This, arguably, is a framework that can be seen to permeate or even dominate the contemporary ordering or structuring of knowledge. Most prominent among these would be the emergence over the last decade or so of biosemiotics.

Biological agents always relate to their own internal and external environments through bio-chemical signalling and extended biosemiotic processes in ways that may be irreducible to any strictly empiricist epistemology. In this context, human technologies, language, symbolization, and inter textuality can understood as an, albeit highly complex, extension of biosemiotic signalling processes.


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This opens up the possibility of positing or thinking something like a biosemiological inter textuality in which the physical processes of life and the symbolic dimensions of human technology, thought, language, and culture are understood as continuous and as continuously interacting with each other. In such a post-deconstructive context there would be no possibility of a return to stable and grounded instances of subjectivity or intentionality understood as self-identical sites and sources of meaning, nor to an unproblematic mimetic referentiality understood as a guarantor of purely empirical truth values.

Yet biosemiotic processes are nothing if not referential and, as Favereau suggests, bridge subject-dependent and subject-independent experience. Retirement issues, plans and lifestyles. Retirement issues, plans and lifestyles series. Retirement on the line age, work, and value in an American factory. Retirement planning. Retirement planning Retirement planning and employee benefits planning.

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