Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Notes on Forms, Intelligibility, and Philosophy


Philosophy itself seems now to be the primary object of my thinking. Is this particularly universal or does it indicate just another particularity? The problem is that every universality can just as easily be portrayed as a particularity unless it is sufficiently formalized, i.e. put on a terrain where the question on longer applies. But is formalization even a viable strategy? What does it allow us to do? What conceptual work does it accomplish?

At the very least it allows us to sidestep certain worries or disciplinary restrictions associated with the so-called paradoxico-critical mode of thought. It can respond with its own internal intelligibility, its making-intelligible of its own principle of intelligibility. One cannot say, to a sufficiently formalized philosophy, that it cannot think what it does indeed think—the allegation of senselessness, of nonsense, cannot apply to a system that has no sense by design, that does not even operate in terms of sense, but in terms of intelligibility and possibility, in other words of thought itself.

Perhaps a more general problem is this: What is conceptual work and how do we measure it (even if it is not simply quantitative)?


Philosophy sometimes only treats of “modes of thought” explicitly when it attempts to critique them—but how can one critique a mode of thinking? It is there, it exists, it is intelligible. In critiquing all dualisms, or the dualist mode of thinking, for example, what is philosophy doing? It must critique dualisms only in their particularity, if it is not to remain hopelessly abstract, something for which it often critiques other competing philosophies. It must be specific. Critiques of modes of thinking must proceed through application. All else is against intelligibility itself.


So what is a system/regime of intelligibility? What is a “form of life”? I think that these are related but not the same thing—Livingston's comparison of Wittgenstein and Badiou (of which I have not yet read very much at this point) intuitively promises to confirm this. A form of life cannot be simply and straightforwardly some sort of formal or logical system. I do believe, however, that forms of life can be formalized—but what does this capture? What is its use? What does it leave out?

Perhaps the biggest question, then, one that may even precede the question of intelligibility, is the question of form—what is it and what is its status with regard to the non-formal? Or is asking this question already a step back? Back from what?

If form is exception (whether it be just one type or the essence of all exception), why study it? What is its point? Need it be justified from a naive standpoint of reality? Perhaps—and isn't it obvious?--there are several (or even an infinite number of) “levels” of exception. Exception is a process, after all. But this determinacy obviously teaches us something about that from which it is excepted. At the same time, there is in all cases an infinite exception, which replaces the old regime of substantialist metaphysics.

This provides us our two modes:
1. Specificity: form of life?
2. Singularity: intelligibility?

And even singularities always exist in the plural? Yes, they must. Different regimes of intelligilibity. And they must be extracted from the specific.

But how is one to except something to infinity? How to makes this great leap of thought?