Tag Archives: open

Bacteria and Natural Agency

The latest issue of the Journal of the American Philosophical Association has an article about agency and cognition in bacteria, “Natural Agency: The Case of Bacterial Cognition,” by Fermín C. Fulda. It’s part of a steady stream of research across the humanities and sciences indicating that nonhuman life forms are smarter than most modern philosophers had thought. It’s often billed as a surprise. Even bacteria have cognition! HERE is another piece with an overview of some bacterial cognition research. Fulda’s article is very critical of the looseness with which words like cognition, intelligence, and agency get lumped together, so he adds some philosophical clarity and distinction to those terms, specifically as they apply to research regarding the patterned behavior of bacteria.

Proposing an “ecological conception of agency,” Fulda argues for a move from a Cartesian to neo-Aristotelian perspective. Focusing on different kinds of agency (Aristotle) and not primarily on cognition (Descartes) allows for a broad, fluid boundary between human and nonhuman life instead of the rigid binary of Cartesian mind and matter. Of course, many philosophers make similar arguments for a spectrum of agency. Hans Jonas, Alfred North Whitehead, and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin are good twentieth-century examples, but those aren’t exactly the thinkers who dominate discussions in the American Philosophical Association. It’s significant that Fulda is making this argument in an APA context. Is mainstream philosophy becoming less anthropocentric? Maybe. Continue reading

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Adoration, Anniversary

My first post on this blog went up one year ago today.  It had something to do with thinking after postmodernism and postsecularism.  Today, that’s still what my practice of thinking is after.  Today, I’m in the middle of Jean-Luc Nancy’s second installment in his deconstruction of Christianity, Adoration.  It follows an opening of Christianity, exposing its various theisms to the open sense of the world, and sheltering its exposure without replacing it with another “-ism” (including atheism, humanism, rationalism, irrationalism, etc.).  It warms my heart, opens my body…   

Adoration is addressed to what exceeds address.  Or rather: it is addressed without seeking to reach, without any intention at all.  It can accept to not even be addressed: to be unable to aim, or designate, or recognize the outside to which it is dispatched.  It can even be unable to identify it as an outside, since it takes place here, nowhere else, but here in the open.  Nothing but an open mouth, or perhaps an eye, an ear: nothing but an open body.  Bodies are adoration in all their openings. (20) 

There is not even “atheism”; “atheist” is not enough!  It is the positing of the principle that must be emptied.  It is not enough to say that God takes leave, withdraws, or is incommensurable.  It is even less a question of placing another principle on his throne–Mankind, Reason, Society.  It is instead a question of coming to grips with this: the world rests on nothing–and this is its keenest sense. […] Let there be no more place for God–and in this way, let an opening, which we can disucss elsewhere whether to call “divine,” open. (32-33)

Salut!