File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_2001/bhaskar.0104, message 5

Date: Fri, 6 Apr 2001 12:53:16 +0100
Subject: Re: BHA: negativity wins

<color><param>0100,0100,0100</param>I have been away from the list for some time and am struggling to 
catch up with the enormous number of (very interesting) postings - 
especially those on absence/absenting.

I have just read a quote from Foucault which, to my surprise, 
seemed to fit very well.

It is his later view on the nature of critique:

<paraindent><param>left</param><flushboth><italic><FontFamily><param>TIMES</param><bigger>"The point, in brief, is to transform the critique 
conducted in the form of necessary limitation into a 
practical critique that takes the form of a possible 
transgression ... critique will be genealogical in the 
sense that it will not deduce from the form of what we 
are what is impossible for us to do and to know; but it 
will separate out, from the contingency that has made 
us what we are, the possibility of no longer being, 
doing, or thinking what we are, do, or think. ...</italic>{ ADDIN ENRef <italic>}"</paraindent></flushboth>

<paraindent><param>left</param><flushboth>Politics, Philosophy, Culture </italic>Routledge, London, 1988, 
p. 46<italic></paraindent></flushboth>

<paraindent><param>left</param><flushboth></italic>The latter sentence especially sounds just like "absenting 


</color><FontFamily><param>Arial</param><smaller>Date sent:      	Thu, 01 Mar 2001 01:50:26 -0500


From:           	lynne engelskirchen <<>

Subject:        	Re: BHA: negativity wins

Send reply to:



> Mervyn,


> I think much of the confusion generated around what you see as monovalence

> stems from the drift presented in the following quote from your post copied

> below:


> >>Nobody is asking you to grant the *positive* existence of de-onts - they

> >>are *negative* existences. Positive existences are 'onts'. You are being

> >>asked to grant the *reality* of both, to see that being is bi- or poly-

> >>valent, not mono-valent.

> >>

> >>The arguments for the reality of negative existents are set out I think

> >>pretty clearly in the section of DPF we have been discussing. 

> >


> Nobody challenges that absence is part of reality and significantly so.

> But when "existence" becomes "existent," then one thinks of something like

> a mechanism, a thing, a noun which takes a verb to complete it.  That's

> where the willing listener hesitates.  The points you make to establish the

> "reality of negative existents," I think don't help:


> 1.  "First, we can refer to them -- they can be referentially detached."  


> We can refer to fictions.  A sign must be a material thing, but its

> referent need not be either real or existent or material.  Reference no

> more establishes absence as an "existent" than my ability to think of the

> prime minister with a banana growing out of his ear establishes the reality

> of the banana growing.  We know my belief is not real because of the laws

> of biology.  As you yourself say in a recent post refering to the sock

> absent from the Eiffel tower, referential detachment establishes the

> existence of the act of reference, not the existence of the referent.


> 2.	"There could be no human agency without absence."


> This establishes that any Real mechanism is a unity of positive and

> negative existence.  It does not establish the existence of negative

> "existents."


> 3.	"[T]he identification of positive existents depends on human agency,

> which always involves absenting an existing state of affairs 'be it only a

> state of existential doubt'."


> "Absenting existential doubt" is not what we usually mean when we talk of

> human agency.  My insight that X is not an act.  Agency is better

> understood as the actual causal transformation of the world.   The insight

> is not an act, but giving expression to it is.


> Actually, "absenting an absence," in the way it has been used in these

> recent posts, conflates the mental with the causal.  (It is ironic that

> when the conflation of the Real with the Actual takes on the significance

> of original sin, the conflation of the mental with the causal, also an

> ontological distinction, is not only seen as not at all troubling, but is

> insisted upon.)  While it is true that every causal transformation can be

> spoken of as absenting an absence, not every absenting of an absence can be

> spoken of as causal.  My stopping just now [PAUSE] to think of J.S. Bach is

> not causal.  But I had to absent an absence from my mind in order to think

> as I did.


> 4.  "In a motor car. . . "


> Mine is in the shop just now.  When I pick it up I will not ask whether the

> onts were moving properly in the deonts.


> 5.  "A purely positive world could not move, change."  I have never

> understood this argument.  It is just as much a *logical* possibility that

> there could have been a purely positive world where everything moved and

> changed because it was exquisitely choreographed by the Grand Ballet Master

> in the Sky as it is to assume the corresponding *logical* possibility that

> there could have been just nothing.



> Howard




> At 09:00 PM 2/25/01 +0000, you wrote:

> >Dear Ruth,

> >

> >>I still don't understand why I have to grant the positive existence of

> >>entities called "de-onts."  Would someone be willing (hopefully one last

> >>time) to explain this to me in very plain language? 

> >

> >One more try then.

> >

> >Nobody is asking you to grant the *positive* existence of de-onts - they

> >are *negative* existences. Positive existences are 'onts'. You are being

> >asked to grant the *reality* of both, to see that being is bi- or poly-

> >valent, not mono-valent.

> >

> >The arguments for the reality of negative existents are set out I think

> >pretty clearly in the section of DPF we have been discussing. 

> >

> >First, we can refer to them - they can be referentially detached (eg

> >Pierre's absence from the caf), which is the argument for ontology in

> >general, positive as well as negative (so if this is rejected, CR as a

> >whole must be - if ontology is not revindicated, CR is nothing.).

> >Pierre's absence cannot be rephrased in purely positive terms because

> >his presence somewhere else does not mean the same as his absence from

> >the caf, any more than your own presence in Canada means the same as

> >your absence from the room I'm sitting in. 

> >

> >Second, there could be no human agency without absence, for absence is

> >transcendentally necessary for human agency to occur - in acting we

> >absent an existing state of affairs, bringing about a state of affairs

> >that would not otherwise have obtained; ie we change the world. Before I

> >acted to write this email the screen in front of me was blank, now that

> >state of affairs has been absented, and it is full of visible onts and

> >de-onts, figures and ground. 

> >

> >Third, if there were no de-onts, we could not even identify onts - the

> >identification of positive existents depends on human agency, which

> >always involves absenting an existing state of affairs 'be it only a

> >state of existential doubt'.

> >

> >Fourth, all causality and change involves absenting existing states of

> >affairs. In a motor car engine, e.g., raw materials have been

> >transformatively negated (changed) to produce a different structure with

> >emergent powers - and one which further must have not just onts (e.g.

> >pistons) but de-onts (e.g. the space within which the pistons move) to

> >function. (But of course a piston is not just an ont, like everything

> >else it is comprised of onts and deonts.)

> >

> >Fifth, a purely positive world could not move, change; but the world

> >does change, and gaps, voids, absences are transcendentally necessary

> >for it to do so.

> >

> >These are the arguments for the the reality of de-onts (negative

> >existences) and the necessity for a central category of absence or

> >negation. You don't 'HAVE to' accept them or anything else, but if you

> >want to discuss Bhaskar's position you do need to address them instead

> >of simply asserting that Bhaskar seems to be just redescribing, playing

> >with words etc.

> >

> >>On p. 3, Bhaskar defines dialectical processes as ones in which change

> >>occurs, through opposition of some kind.  By p. 43, he asserts that the

> >>"essence" of such processes is the "absenting of absence."  Again this just

> >>seems like a re-description. 

> >

> >At pp41-43 Bhaskar runs through the ways in which the category of

> >negativity or absence is vital to dialectics. First, absenting is change

> >or processuality. Second, absenting absences construed as constraints is

> >fundamental to the dialectics of freedom. Third, dialectical arguments

> >depend upon absenting mistakes. Fourth, the category of absence is

> >critical to 1M-4D links. - Then he says what you cite, that dialectics

> >'just is, in its essence, the process of _absenting constraints_.' This

> >is fully compatible with any of the above positions and with what you

> >cite on p. 3: 'opposition of some kind' is precisely a constraint. 

> >

> >It is important to bear in mind that in order to grasp polyvalent

> >reality Bhaskar deploys a diffracted dialectic - 'a new, genuinely

> >multi-dimensional and dynamic logic' (DPF 63) heralded by Marx - and

> >that both at the level of dialectical argument and process in general,

> >nothing is fixed, everything moves. In all this, presence and absence

> >are dynamically interrelated to each other. A graphic if trivial

> >illustration: as I said, you are (physically) absent from my study.

> >However, the effects of your transformatively negational agency are

> >present in the form of your email, in whose textuality onts and de-onts

> >are systematically interrelated; and as a result of past e-exchanges

> >with you I necessarily carry around in my head a theoretical

> >constructuration of your personality and patterns of thought which, as a

> >negative presence, certainly causally influences my reponse to your

> >questions (I'm not saying I've got it right!)

> >

> >> Even though the term "absence" gets *used* a lot from this perspective,

> >>it still seems to me that if everything that happens is the result of an

> >>absence having been absented, a prior (positive) event is always implied.

> >>And isn't the prior existence of an "ont," capable of effecting said

> >>absenting of absence, also implied?  Or can de-onts [i.e., "things,"

> >>fictional or non-fictional, that do not exist (see pp. 40-41 for close

> >>discussion of this)] also engage in the absenting of absences? 

> >

> >Your 'everything' statement here is not accurate. All change is

> >absenting, not of absences but of existing states of affairs. Absenting

> >absences ie constraints is specific to dialectical argument, the

> >dialectic of (desire to) freedom, etc, but not necessarily to all

> >processes as such (except to the extent that the opposing forces within

> >contradiction are seen as constraints on each other).

> >

> >When an existing state of affairs is absented, both onts and de-onts are

> >involved, for (from the above arguments) being is bivalent, not

> >monovalent. So 'the prior existence of an ont', is of course involved -

> >but not just an ont: onts and de-onts exist in *relation* to each other.

> >

> >If you don't accept this, please indicate one existent that would

> >qualify for being accepted as purely positive, a pure ont, ie which does

> >not contain any gaps, voids, absences etc. If you name an 'elementary

> >particle' it always seems to be comprised of yet others in relation, and

> >of course it is itself in relation to others. 'Entity relationism' is

> >the coinclusive concept DPF invokes; 'connectivity' is the related

> >watchword of others. Are the 'quantum seas of potentia' (powers or

> >possibility) which seem be rock bottom reality for contemporary quantum

> >physics (see Doug's article in the last Alethia), purely positive? In at

> >least one important sense they are profoundly negative, i.e. their vast

> >possibility has not been (anything like fully) realized. 

> >

> >>Bhaskar used to say that entities (by which

> >>I'm pretty sure he used to mean what he now calls "onts"), or powerful

> >>particulars, effect change through the exercise of powers that they have in

> >>virtue of their structure 

> >

> >As I have just suggested, there is no entity which is purely ontic and

> >not also de-ontic. This would also apply to 'powerful particulars',

> >whatever they are (could you please give me RTS chapter and verse on

> >them, as they are not registered with me as a leading CR concept and I

> >can't find them in the index?)

> >

> >Hope this helps,

> >

> >Mervyn

> >



>      --- from list ---

Dr. John Mingers, Professor of OR and Systems
Warwick Business School, Warwick University, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK
phone: +2476 522475   fax: +2476 524539

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