Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Mas la Vida Tiene Abismos Insondables

In A Palindrome: Conscious Living Creatures as Instruments of Nature; Nature as an Instrument of Conscious Living Creatures (I'll be referencing the page numbers in the pdf), Mario Crocco gives us a lot to chew on: cosmology, natural science, eschatology, life and death. Here I'll limit myself to exploring the problem of cadacualtez (lit. "each-oneness") that he raises, a problem I've hastily touched on in relation to Bains' The Primacy of Semiosis.

The story of cadacualtez, like the story of its cousin uniquess, is the story of a cover-up. I demanded of Adriana Caverero (For More than One Voice) that she demonstrate an ability to think uniqueness, because I didn't want to assume that the scotamization of uniqueness has been due to a history of bad philosophy rather than a simple situation of there not being much to say about uniqueness. Without being too cavalier I'd like to put the same challenge to Crocco's discussion of cadacualtez. As it happens, there are a few things that can be said about it. Furthermore, attention to its scotomization may be useful in clarifying how not to think about it, a point that I could have made about Caverero's critique of logocentrism had I been completely fair.

Let's start with some simple definitions. "Cadacualtez," Crocco explains, is "the intrinsic unbarterability, unrepeatability, incommunicability and singularity of every existential being" that "manifests as the ontic determination, in nature, of every event of a finite observer's finding herself experiencing in a circumstance rather than, instead, in another" (p. 98). "Natural science," he continues, "finds psychisms that neither self-posit to exist nor self-circumstance to eclose. As their circumstancing is a constitutive contingency for finite observers, its unbarterability makes such event one and the same, even if iterated observationally over the years–one never being shifted or teleported to other bodily circumstances. As a matter of observation, each real observer in nature cannot derive its own place from the physical regularities forming its other empirical findings; less, to account for why the availabilities compounding his or her mental world do not become available to another person" (ibidem). Crocco insists on "the unbarterability of circumstancing" (p. 97), which suggests to me, perhaps wrongly, that cadacualtez is a matter of circumstances, and that as finite existentialities we find ourselves thrown into a circumstancing, which is to say, into a cadacualtic reality. Another way of putting this might be that we are thrown into whoness, a cadacualtically constituted psychophysical unity that cannot be reduced to simply having a brain, for "the cerebral organ only determines some sensory contents of her or his experience, but does not determine–nor could it do this–who will appear circumstanced to use it" (p. 98).

What would it mean to depict ontic constitution in cadacualtic terms rather than fungible terms ( p. 96)? The concepts of individuality, self, ipseity, identity are inadequate to describe cadacualtez, and have contributed to its philosophical ecclipse, or cultural ecclipse, as Crocco would have it, an ecclipse that has befuddled the conceptual understanding of mind-body relations (p. 95). In one sense, cadacualtez isn't conceptual at all, "because the logic of concepts asserts that being one is identical to being not another, the cultural ecclipse of cadacualtez was reinforced" (p. 99). If we question this logic, will it be possible to think cadacualtez? To do so, we must not confuse mental contents or the structure of mental contents with the reality of minds' cadacualtez. Cadacualtez is "a unique affair of existence that does not belong within any realm of essences." It is unlawful, or rather, in a manner of speaking, its logos is unique. The coming into actuality of each and every existentiality establishes a new logos, separate from the domain of essences (p. 114).

Crocco points to a temporal asymmetry of cadacualtic descriptions:

Cadacualtez is postdictable but never predictable. If one's survey goes back from the existence of a particular existentiality, say that of Jane Doe, to her previous nonexistence, the former is already established as a part of the query. In contrast, when the survey is conceptualized in the opposite sense, one comes from the nonexistence therein–say, in a not yet fecondated ovule–of circumstancing relationships with any cadacualtic existentiality (namely, not from the nonexistence of circumstancing relationships with Jane Doe but the nonexistence of circumstancing relationships with any existentiality by then future) to the existence of Jane Doe's particular reality, not another. In this fashion, in one avenue of the survey (the latter, or causal sequence) this non-alterity differs from identity, but merges with it in the other, sequence-reversing avenue. The epistemological time asymmetry that in this way comes to affect the issue cloaks, habitually, the important distinction between one's being one because of one's history, namely the fact that the sequence of constitutive events makes one's instanceable features, and one's being not another because of a different source. In this regard cadacualtez is a converse of ipseity, the latter determining one to be oneself and the former making one's being not another.

(p. 98)

I want to return to now to the question of what it means to be thrown into cadacualtez, or to be thrown into a cadacualtic finite existentiality. How does this condition relate to the condition of embodiment? Crocco argues that in nature we find "cadacualtic semovient observers whose existence is unassailable by the formation, transformation, and obliteration of the bodily circumstances that became theirs" (p. 112). What then is the relationship between semovience and bodily circumstance? When we talk about embodiment, do we mean semovience or do we mean what the phenomenologists would call the body as object? A clarification is in order, as it has been my habit to think of semovience as the awareness of the ability to move one's body, and this is not quite what the Argentian existential neurobiologists, of whom Crocco is a leading figure, have in mind. Mariela Szirko, in Effects of Relativistic Motion in the Brain and their Biological Relevance, nicely summarizes what the Argentinian existential neurobiologists mean by semovience:

The other two kinds of availabilities [besides the varieties of mental contents], namely the inherent abilities (sensing and moving), are not acquired mental contents, but constitutional or primary abilities of every mind. One is gnoseological apprehension or knowledgeability: the ability to experience or have knowledge of one’s own constitutive reality or ontic consistency, even if only of one’s causal changes, and thus of differentiating the demarcations acquired by one’s existentiality through causal efficiency whether of the outer circumstances or of the mind. The other is semovience, the inherent or primary ability of every mind found in nature (i.e., every circumstanced psyche or existential finitude compounding in a personal organism) to start new causal series and not merely continuing causal sequences that are transmitted from elsewhere.

So the two points that need to be made is that where a phenomenology of the body might point to a possible unity of gnoseological apprehension and semovience, a merger of I think and I can, the Argentinian existential neurobiologists see two distinct features of existentialities. Thus even though Crocco might appear to share with phenomenology a sense of the apodicticity of semovience, he has already made the move to what Barbaras calls cosmobiology, and he is fundamentally concened with the relationship between existence and causality.

Crocco's vision, it must be noted, extends beyond that of a natural scientist, as his cosmobiology is concerned with what natural science cannot explain as much as with what it can. He says, "Death is a biological fact, personal existence is not" (p. 111), and, if I'm understanding him correctly, he suggests that semovience has no relation to the death of the body. "I see nothing," he says, "preventing postmortal finite existentialities in a bodyless condition from keeping themselves semoviently operating" (p. 112). In sum, it appears Crocco is asking us to believe in ghosts, or, more precisely, to not rule out the possibility of ghosts. This is a problem for me. Does cadacualtez have a ghostly aspect, an implication of the absolute freedom of personal existence? (This would be another reason for me to question the absoluteness of existential freedom.)

I want to draw attention to the condition of plurality that cadacualtez as "not being another" indexes. If we should not think "as if empsycheable bodies and embody-able minds lacked any intrinsic bond referring them one to another individually" (p. 95), how then should we think of cadacualtez in terms of an intrinsic bond referring minds to one another? Crocco says that minds are "cadacualtic and plural, as well as not point-like but innerly extensive and dififferntiable sinks and sources of causal action" (p. 100). And he advises, "In your imagining that you are the unoriginated portion of reality, you should imagine that you are ontically constituted as a plurality of cadacualtic persons" (p. 106). The "unoriginated portion of reality" is another way of thinking God, a way of imagining the whole of the cosmos from an omniscient point of view. Is the plurality of cadacualtic existentialities only imaginable from this omniscient point of view, or is it an evident aspect of the ontic constitution of existence? What is the relationship between causal sequences, whether transeunt or initiated by a semovience, and plurality, i.e., is plurality a fact of personal existence because it is cosmic?

If cadacualtez is thinkable we will have to work around a certain "logic of concepts" that would equate being one with not being another. On what basis, then, will we think the conditions of possibility of plurality? Another unexplored issue also then arises, the incommunicability of cadacualtez. Is cadacualtez incommunicable? Or do we follow Cavarero in finding the voice as a communication of whoness, an immediate entry into the uniqueness of others?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 1:24 PM.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


August 14, 2007 11:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Busy and literally v. stormy wk!
A few comments on your interesting comments:

"it has been my habit to think of semovience as the awareness of the ability to move one's body, and this is not quite what the Argentian existential neurobiologists, of whom Crocco is a leading figure, have in mind."

For the AGNT semovience is not the awareness of the ability to move one's body. Semovience is an availability of all psyches - but on its own has no relationship to a particular body. As you note, referring to Szirko, it may simply entail 'gnoseological apprehension'.

Most neurobiology, incl.the AGNT does not believe in 'ghosts.'

However, postmortal existentialities, as effective agents would lack any preferred portion of nature (a partic. brain) to convey their causal initiatives.
The AGNT would claim to do 'neurobiology' rather than existential neurobiology'. Recognizing the existence of psyches in nature would not make neurobiologists 'existential'.

The question with the mule is not is it alive but is it empsyched (yes). The line is btwn the mindful and mindless rather than btwn the living and not living....I think (smile).

August 18, 2007 1:16 AM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

RE: ghosts. I'm sure I was being hasty then. I'll have to read it again.

Existential is a label I've used because they recognize finite existentialities or even cadacualtez. This distinguishes them in my mind from others who recognize psyches but conceptualize psyches on different terms. I realize they are not doing existentialism in the sense of phenomenological ontology, so I admit it's not a very good label.

Mules. If Professor Kolb replies to my email I will share with her your idea. The astrobiologists are also interested in such things as viruses, so I'm not sure your distinction will satisfy them. I find it interesting though, even if I can't fully agree. People who don't reproduce are not lifeless. They have life functions unrelated to mind.

August 18, 2007 7:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sure there is a short discussion of Aristotle and the definition of the living in Palindrome. The issue being that it was useful but too general...

The example of the mule is a classic one - it occurs in Maturana and Varera's "the tree of knowledge".

"For Aristotle, in view of his mentioned purpose, it was uninteresting to detect if within the series of organisms animated by a vegetative-sensitive soul the individuals of some species included an existentiality cir-cumstanced to sense and move its body. (Crocco, Palindrome).

August 18, 2007 3:31 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

The astrobiologists might find a definition of life like Aristotle's to be useful, though it is not without problems.

And then there is the whole business of the machine phylum, relevant to those looking at abiogenesis.

As I've been looking at "life" in the phenomenological tradition, Mario's thinking is particularly relevant. I don't know how it can be reconciled with other views.

August 18, 2007 5:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

haven't read your latest blogs but I thought you might be interested in the work of Giorgio Abamben. E.g. 'Homo Sacer' and other works of his....you can get an idea on Wikepedia
I'm not that familiar with his work altho I quote him in the concl. to PoSemiosis. Would be interested to see what you think of him.

August 19, 2007 3:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

woops. that should be Agamben...

August 19, 2007 3:30 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

I've ordered Homo Sacer from the library. It'll be a few weeks before I can comment on it.

August 19, 2007 4:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm, recommending Agamben makes me want to read more of him - but it won't be in my public library...

I did enjoy 'Potentialities'.

This is a good link:

August 20, 2007 2:35 AM  

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