Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Matter of Truth, the Matter of Matter: Which Matters More? Part VIII

In the last post, I quoted Nelson Goodman ( from Ways of Worldmaking):

“As intimated by William James’s equivocal title ‘A Pluralistic Universe,’ the issue between monism and pluralism tends to evaporate under analysis. If there is but one world, it embraces a multiplicity of contrasting aspects; if there are many worlds, the collection of them all is one. The one world may be taken as many, or the many worlds taken as one; whether one or many depends on the way of taking.”

If it turns out that the issue between monism and pluralism tends to evaporate under analysis, then it will be “game over” for what I wish to accomplish by geological smashmouth-- by creating a mapping of forces in order to examine certain break-flows present in a field [SxIyNzThome(0,1,0)], and to determine how to tap into productive fecundities which become released when these break-flows are pushed around by yet other flows which I think can be mobilized.

First of all, I don’t think that “monism” and “pluralism” are names for different ideologies.

“Monisms” and “pluralisms” are both multiplicities. ( Please note that in establishing this commonality between monism(s) and pluralism(s) I am not making any movement in the direction of evaporating the issues between them. I am not saying anything in any way resembling the idea that, “If there is but one world, it embraces a multiplicity of contrasting aspects; if there are many worlds, the collection of them all is one. The one world may be taken as many, or the many worlds taken as one; whether one or many depends on the way of taking.” This remains a disastrous way of looking at this, I think.)

Monism(s) and pluralism(s) are very different types of multiplicity. They organize to create very different kinds of becomings. They interact with each other in ways that I don’t think we’ve had the conceptual apparatus to appreciate or contemplate very effectively so far, (but I am very ignorant of much of the available conceptual apparatus ( apparati?) and I welcome contributions to my reading lists.)

I have said that “monism” and “pluralism” are not naming ideologies. What they are naming are matters, and what I am trying to propound is a materialism. The problem is that it takes a long time to get to the point where I really am being a materialist, where saying that this is a materialism is anything but an empty gesture. I will get there, though.

In the last post, I quoted William James in what I thought Nelson Goodman might have been thinking about when he referenced William James, above.

James said ( in A Pluralistic Universe):

“Let me make a few comments, here, on the curious antipathies which these partialities arouse. They are sovereignly unjust, for all the parties are human beings with the same essential interests, and no one of them is the wholly perverse demon which another often imagines him to be. Both are loyal to the world that bears them; neither wishes to spoil it; neither wishes to regard it as an insane incoherence; both want to keep it as a universe of some kind; and their differences are all secondary to this deep agreement. They may be only propensities to emphasize differently. [Etc]”

I can understand why Nelson Goodman would offer this, and other statements James makes, in order to defend his reading of James that “the issue between monism and pluralism tends to evaporate under analysis.” The issue between monism and pluralism would evaporate if there were some sort of basic underlying agreement upon what is essential between subjective parties who simply have propensities to emphasize differently.

I love William James, and I bet that if I had been an American of his social status and class, and basic faith in the future, I would have wanted to make this claim: “all the parties are human beings with the same essential interests.” Unfortunately, I am an American of another time, status, and class, and I have no faith whatsoever in this idea that all parties have the same essential interests – the parties are transected and sliced and diced and practically vivisected by differing forces, material forces, which push them into vicious opposition, and the opposition doesn’t go away no matter what anyone ‘thinks.’ (Whatever ones’ subjective positionings, no matter how beautiful, compassionate, inclusive, tolerant, or well-intentioned.)

This little bit from James is actually one of his rare lapses into monistic thinking, I claim. I claim that his thrusts away from defining any “same essential interests” for humanity could hardly be more courageous and thorough-going, and I hate to see him characterized by his rare lapse.

I want to use Nelson Goodman-- I even want to use his terminology. I want to make it clear, however, that the largest purpose I want him to serve is to show HOW NOT TO DO IT.

Nelson Goodman is a fly-bottle baiter, if I ever saw one.

William James is a fly-bottle breaker, if I ever saw one.

9 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

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10:42 PM  
Blogger Dr. Spinoza said...

I'm now on pg. 72 of the James. You're setting up a reading of Goodman as making the same error as Bradley, aren't you?

Now, figuring out what exactly that error is -- that's the tricky part.

10:53 PM  
Anonymous Yusef said...

In the sense that I am setting up monism, idealism, and absolutism in some sort of close relationship or association, and then making Goodman's position being a monism, in spite of any appearance to the contrary, I guess that I am placing Goodman near Bradley.


I am struggling here, Dr. Spinoza, because my real project is not to through around a bunch of isms, and then show which ism attaches to which ism-ee, or ism-er... and give myself little frissons of evil joy when I attach one of the bad isms to some ism-er I don't like.

That's not my real project. It's what I'm doing, I guess, but it isn't my real project.

2:03 AM  
Blogger Dr. Spinoza said...

Oh, I know that, Yusef. I was using the "isms" as a shorthand for how Goodman domesticates James' radicalism, while at the same time appearing to endorse it.

12:14 PM  
Anonymous Yusef said...

Yes, I answered hastily and entirely missed your question.

Would you help me by explaining why you cited "Bradley's mistake" from among James's discussion of the idealists?

Meanwhile, I will look back over it myself to see how James specifically treats Bradley.

Thank you for participating here.

12:53 PM  
Blogger Dr. Spinoza said...

I mentioned Bradley because I'd just finished reading that section.

Bradley's mistake, according to James, is to think that since everything is related to everything else, everything must be some aspect of a single "super-thing" -- which must be a mind of some sort.

Like Bradley, Goodman assumes that everything that exists must be part of some sort of super-object -- what is missing in Bradley, and in Goodman too (apparently), is the moment of excess.

Todd May, in a very nice book on Deleuze, writes:

"An ontology of difference is a challenge. To recognize that there is more than we have been taught, that what is presented to us is only the beginning of what there is, puts before us the greater task of our living. We have not finished with living; we are never finished with living. However we live, there is always more. We do not know of what a body is capable, nor how it can live. The alternatives of contentment (I have arrived) and hopelessness (There is nowhere to go) are two sides of the same misguided thought: that what is presented to us is what there is. There is more, always more."

I do find that sense of "always something more" in James -- it's everywhere -- and also in Dewey's Experience and Nature. So there's certainly room for bringing pragmatism and an ontology of difference into conversation here.

(Interestingly, this picks up on a theme in the classical pragmatists that's missing in the "analytic neo-pragmatists" such as Rorty and Putnam -- that is, taking ontolgy seriously.)

2:56 PM  
Anonymous Yusef said...

It's very strange, isn't it, that absolutism is an impoverishment,( it seems strange because you might think that the thought of the absolute would be absolute fulfillment,) and yet this idea of "always something more", which might seem like the epitomy of unfulfilled yearning, is a way of enrichment.

6:07 PM  
Blogger Dr. Spinoza said...

Yes!!! I think we need to work on elaborating that inversion or "transvaluation" in the system of desires!

9:51 PM  
Blogger Dr. Spinoza said...

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9:51 PM  

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