Monthly Archives: June 2017

ideal of thought

“The instant responds to an ideal of thought. Whether it is Newton’s time, affirming absolute simultaneity, or Einstein’s time, which makes it relative to the observer, what physicists take as the starting point of their reasoning, a moving object, or a dynamical system, or an event, each time in an instant, corresponds to a demand for exactness that does not belong to the concept of nature because it does not correspond to any experience. The same holds true for the point, corresponding to the definition of an exact position in space, and Whitehead will show that its construction is very much more complex than that of the instant, since it presupposes the ideal of an instantaneous space. 

  This is obviously not a matter of denunciation: the ideal of exactness to which the instant and the point respond conditions the specific risks of physics, but the condition must not be confused with what is required by every process of knowledge, including this specialized knowledge.”

(Isabelle Stengers, Thinking with Whitehead, p. 53)

what the “mind” is to be responsible for

“If the “mind” is to be responsible for something, it is in terms of selection and simplification, not of addition, that this responsibility must be defined, and if “what we know instinctively” is to be confirmed, selection and simplification—in short, abstraction—must not define “knowledge,” but always such-and-such a way of knowing, which may be modified if we choose to try to explore how to pay due attention to what we are dealing with.” (Isabelle Stengers, Thinking with Whitehead, p. 48)

avoiding a twofold danger 

“Whitehead has thus succeeded in avoiding a twofold danger: he has taken away from the mind its responsibility for the “here” and the “now” of all experience without referring this explanation to biology, that is, without subjecting the concrete fact of passage to specialized knowledge. What seems to extend from nature to the mind has been referred to the register that no one can claim to appropriate: the event.” (Isabelle Stengers, Thinking with Whitehead, p. 66)

denial of vulnerability 

“For instance, to certain defenders of the military rationale for the destruction of targeted groups or populations, we might say, “you act as if you yourself were not vulnerable to the kind of destruction you cause.” Or to defenders of certain forms of neoliberal economics, “you act as if you yourself could never belong to a population whose work and life are precarious, who can suddenly be deprived of basic rights or access to housing or health care, or who lives with anxiety about how and whether work will ever arrive.” In this way, then, we assume that those who seek to expose others to a vulnerable position—or to install them there—as well as those who seek to posit and maintain a position of invulnerability for themselves all seek to deny a vulnerability by virtue of which they are obstinately, if not unbearably, bound to the others they seek to subjugate.” (Judith Butler, Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly, pp. 146-147)