Monday, 14 October 2013

Modes: abstract/concrete

This is at risk of becoming an extremely prolific blogging day by my very low standards.  Terence writes more; this is the first sentence:
Traditions are polarised by Latour into abstract modes and concrete domains.
How abstract are the modes?  Or, in what way are they abstract?  They are produced qua philosophical objects by a process of abstraction, for sure.  They are essences abstracted from a more complex and chaotic milieux.  But they are not abstract like, say, Whitehead's eternal objects.  If Latour is right then the modes are instantiated in every event of their kind.  If they cease to be instantiated then they must surely disappear from existence.  They have to spread like viruses; to stop spreading is to go extinct.  If they are real then they cannot exist in any 'elsewhere' like eternal objects.  That sounds an awful lot like concreteness to me.

Consulting my trusty etymology dictionary I find that the root of abstract is the Latin abstractus meaning "drawn away."  In this sense the modes are the opposite to 'abstract' - they draw towards, draw together.  The modes themselves seem to be, in principle, utterly concrete; the drawing away comes when we divert them from their trajectories to be poked and prodded by our conceptual interrogations.  They are concrete beings that, like any being, can be abstracted by reference.  We shouldn't mistake their abstracted state for what they are (if we accept that the referential chains are valid).

Anyway, that's enough thinking for one day.

7 comments:

  1. On modes as abstractions, I was agreeing with you: "REL is not the idealisation of religious practice, it is one part of it - a part raised up and honoured by its identification. The mereological judgement extracts and abstracts this one component and raises it to the level of essence...If we take this approach to the modes then things open up and are pluralised again. If we ignore the continual, nagging suggestion that these modes have been rigorously derived from experience of the way things are and simply accept that they are derived from particular, narrow portions of experience that have been abstracted, translated and submitted for debate and scrutiny then, personally, I find little more to object to on this issue" (cited from your last post).

    I was also establishing a relation to a philosophical context, which as usual for me is Feyerabendo-Deleuzian: http://terenceblake.wordpress.com/2013/10/11/latours-enunciative-ontology-and-the-conservatism-of-values-a-deleuzian-rejoinder/

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  2. http://syntheticzero.net/2013/10/15/evolved-to-conform-tadeusz-zawidzki-on-mindshaping/

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  3. @terence.

    Sorry, I wasn't trying to imply a disagreement, it just provoked me to think that there are things that we abstract so as to know them and then there are things that exist *as* abstractions - i.e. Plato's Ideas, Whitehead's Eternal Objects, etc. Latour modes, if we believe him, must be the former. They are abstract representations, for sure, but the things they re-present must, by their nature, be concrete.

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  4. @Anon.

    Interesting stuff, thanks for the link!

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  5. sure, if you get a chance to listen to it would be interested in your take, would welcome any and all comments @ Syn_Z
    -dmf

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  6. also on the question of representation wouldn't it be better to frame these matters via a kind of Wittgensteinain grammar of families of resemblances?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Family_resemblance
    -dmf

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  7. @dmf

    Good shout on Wittgenstein. It's been several years since I looked at his family resemblance idea (I'll have to revisit it) but it's a good one. An excellent complement to network or assemblage-type theories.

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