Sunday, September 8, 2013

why is a dna molecule (politically) more worth it than a molecule of phosphorus?


i'm almost done with levi r. bryant democracy of objects, which i'll review in the days ahead. after reading bryant, i've been thinking about objects politics. are wholes better forms than parts? is a RNA molecule in the same bill of rights as bucksminsterfullerene (C60)?

i don't think so (for sure aristotle, a hero for bryant and this writer, would vote against democracy in favor of an aristocracy of objects).

i'd like to start with this paragraph (DO, p. 52), where bryant he addresses possible objections to his argument. (i expected to find real objections).
A second line of argument holds that it is impossible to intelligently think a world without men because, in the very act of thinking such a world, we are picturing ourselves present to this world. 
this is misleading. of course we can (intelligently) think of a world without humans! 

take this formula:

Σ(Fi − miai) ⋅δri= 0

the lagrange/d'alembert's principle (my picking an 18th century scientist is deliberate, the apex of rationalism, i.e., correlationism?). now, each letter here symbolizes what bryant, following philosopher of science roy bhaskar calls "intransitive objects".

F is the total force,
mi is the mass, (locke, a correlationist in bryant's book, would agree that "mass" is independent of correlations. he would have call it "primary", i.e., independent-of-sense-experience).
ai is the acceleration, 
δri is the displacement of the particle (particle is a "body", not a thought one). obviously, it cannot be thought by necessity, the formula dispenses an interrelation between physical parameters

particles are part of a bigger system, i.e., the universe. from his entrance in the encyclopedie:
It is undeniable that all the bodies of which this universe is made up form a single system, whose parts are interdependent and whose interrelations derive from the harmony of the whole.1
d'alembert would agree with bhaskar's idea (stressed by bryant in this argument) of "open systems," as long as by open we understand not observed yet.
(...) the universe is only a vast ocean on whose surface we perceive a few more or less large islands whose connexion with the continent is hidden from us.2
if there is more science to be discovered, it's because there is more to know of science. i.e., more future experiments to be performed, more (better) theories to be proposed, more (stronger) relations between theories (i.e., evolution now vs. evolution in 1900). 3

this is not what bryant necessarily has in mind. by "open" he means "... those where the powers of objects are either not acting or are disguised or hidden by virtue of the intervention of other causes." (DO, p. 48).

i have a problem with this characterization. let's take it bit by bit:

"powers of objects are either not acting." a power has to always act. power is acting. a non-acting power is acting! by presenting the object as not acting, we liberate the object from the constraint of possible (thought?)
The thesis here is that every picture of the world includes ourselves in the picture. However Quentin Mellissoux has convincingly argued such a line of argument leads to a conclusion that the thought of our own death is unintelligible or that we are necessarily immortal.  For if it is true that we cannot think the world without thinking our presence to the world, then it follows that even the thought of our own death requires the presence of our thinking, thereby undermining the possibility of dying.
wait. thinking a world without me in it is logically & causally possible. i.e., a sunset view next to the slimy ocean around the cambrian era, an endless swarming mass of arthropoda mat along the coastline. true, it's a thought, my thought. but so what? my thought refers to a fact (regardless of whether "cambrian" and "arthropoda" could be named differently, i.e., our conceptual scheme to refer to it).

thinking my death (or after-death) is precisely decartes' move in his sixth meditation, i.e., conceiving a mind independently of the body. in the end, our bodies are as "res extensa." descartes would laugh at the idea that from the fact that the thought of our death requires the presence of our thinking, thinking it undermines the possibility of dying. the reason is that "dying" for descartes 
(...) [T]he difference between the body of a living man and that of a dead man is just like the difference between, on the one hand, a machine or other automaton (that is, a self-moving machine) when it is wound-up... and, on the other hand, the same watch or machine when it is broken.4
normally, when i die my brain stops functioning and my thoughts --sort of-- cease ("sort of" because i could in principle survive my death, just as descartes envisioned, but for different reasons, say, the future possibility of uploading my thoughts onto a supercomputer). so much for bryant questionable conclusion. 

the motions of a particle or of a rigid body may be either "free" or "constrained"; that is, it may be at liberty to move in any manner in obedience to the applied forces or torques, or there may be present material barriers which limit its linear motion to a certain path or surface, or its rotation to a certain axis. this is the world of physics, a sort of non-correlationist world. 

imagine this scenario. since anything i will ever experiment is a correlation. how can we get to the objects of science of not by observation? and who says that my eye observing (nervous bits of data) and my mental states (neural macroactivity) are not in a sense object-independent?

coming back to dna and politics. i propose @@:

¨¨dna molecule contains phosphorus as part of its skeleton.
¨¨dna molecule is functionally more complex (as emergence) than phosphorus taken as a part.
¨¨dna is politically more worth it than P15.

i think @@ makes sense from our (human) point of view. but even going down to non-human stuf.5 dna is structurally more complex than phosphorous.

c'mon: is a planet on the same political footing as cosmic dust? a neuron at a par with a mind?

when it comes to objects, i'm more in favor of a meritocracy, but more of this would have to come later.

(to be continued)
1Jean d'Alembert, Ronald Grimsley, Clarendon Press, Oxford 1963 (p. 223). 2 idem, (p. 224). 3 my use of "better" may prove problematic for many a reader who may prefer a less intensional description of science's development. i understand that "is there development in science?" is a loaded question. 4 R. S. Woolhous, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz: The Concept of Substance in Seventeenth-Century Metaphysics p. 159. 5 basically, this is my tentative picture: 1- of course there is a human-independent world it's presented and described by physics! and it works better than any philosopher's ontology, 2- human ontologies are important, educated constructions, 3- not all objects can be treated the same way because of @@@. 4- "correlationism" is inescapable.

go on constructing ontologies!


Malagodi said...

"I asked Fat Nancy for something to eat.
She said 'Get it off the shelf'.
As great as you are, man,
You'll never be greater than yourself."
~Bob Dylan

"Identity is perspective, and
perspectives are as numerous as grains of sand on the Ganges, a holy river of shit." ~me

A psychotherapist once asked me if I believed in life after death. I said to him,annoyed, "Doctor, if I drop dead in this chair, you'll call an ambulance, they'll haul away my corpse and the next patient will come and sit in this very spot wit their own set of troubles. This proves unequivocally that there is life after death and your question is a profoundly stupid one."

"why is a dna molecule (politically) more worth it than a molecule of phosphorus?" Depends on who's in the polis making up the politic. If the polis (city) is women being attacked by phosphorus bombs, which has more 'worth', DNA or phosphorus? If the polis is men in Washington or Damascus designing the attack, which has more 'worth', DNA or phosphorus? Depends on the perspective. Who are you?

atRifF said...

oh malagodi, you dna/intruder!