Deconstructive Materialism: Einsteinian Revolution in Philosophy
13 November 2021
Geopoliticus Child Watching the Birth of the New Man, Salvador Dali, 1943; Image Credit: dalipaintings.com
The extraordinary event of the re-birth or ana-stasis of philosophy taking place in the journal Philosophy World Democracy has three axes, presented in the first three texts which were published after long deliberations between its authors Jean-Luc Nancy, Divya Dwivedi and Shaj Mohan. I will discuss these three axes with particular emphasis placed on the article “And the Beginning of Philosophy” by Mohan where the schematics of the difference with philosophy until Heidegger is conceived and all the formal conditions of a new beginning are revealed. My goal here is to explain the main points of this other beginning, its politics, and the urgency with which we should be embracing this opportunity. I will then show how this awakening of “the other beginning” is philosophy’s final opportunity for ana-stasis which will have to discard everything it had assumed until now—including classical logic and the recent primacy of ontology—for what Mohan has interpreted from Plato as “bastard reason”.
The extraordinary event of the re-birth or ana-stasis of philosophy taking place in the journal Philosophy World Democracy has three axes, presented in the first three texts which were published after long deliberations between its authors Jean-Luc Nancy, Divya Dwivedi and Shaj Mohan. I will discuss these three axes with particular emphasis placed on the article “And the Beginning of Philosophy” by Mohan where the schematics of the difference with philosophy until Heidegger is conceived and all the formal conditions of a new beginning are revealed. My goal here is to explain the main points of this other beginning, its politics, and the urgency with which we should be embracing this opportunity. First I will discuss the ‘poverty of philosophy’ as discussed by Nancy in his contribution, followed by the mutual implication of politics and philosophy in this stasis as per Dwivedi’s “oriental occidental difference”, (1) and will conclude with the examination of the new beginning of philosophy awakened by Mohan’s article by his “suturing” of the earliest memories of philosophy. I will then show how this awakening of “the other beginning” is philosophy’s final opportunity for ana-stasis which will have to discard everything it had assumed until now—including classical logic and the recent primacy of ontology—for what Mohan has interpreted from Plato as “bastard reason”.
The torn ends of philosophy
The title of the article by Nancy puts Heidegger’s title of “End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking” in quotes. By doing this Nancy, who once wrote that even the very talk of end of philosophy is still the territory of philosophy, has suspended Heidegger’s decision through his own text, isolating the Heideggerian stasis and thus calling for another beginning. This text, as everyone knows, is also Nancy’s final text. The journal Philosophy World Democracy was one of the final projects of Nancy and the fact that the event titled “The Other Beginning of Philosophy” is taking place in it means that, or retrospectively one assumes that, Nancy set the stage for the ana-stasis of philosophy in that journal. (2)
Nancy’s text is characterised by an unusual anger from the great philosopher and a provocation to think in another direction. Nancy speaks the truth about what passes for philosophy these days, “Such is, it must not be denied, the sad state of philosophy today (including often at school and university). It is a self-styled noble version of the reign of opinion – of which perhaps in truth there is no noble version, which is always vulgar and whose vulgarity is now mediatized.” (3) I have to unpack what Nancy is discussing here in my own way so that the points which I will bring out later can have the right context. Philosophy for the past few decades had been in stasis.
This stasis is characterised by the appropriation of philosophical spaces by what is called ‘analytical philosophy’, which has no relation to the old idea of analysis. Cognitive science and some popularised versions of scientific discourse are also claiming to take away the space given to philosophy with some arguing that all philosophical problems are problems of the brain structure and so on. But what is worse is the absence of any philosophical content in what gets published as philosophical writings by those who call themselves philosophers. When Derrida began the deconstruction of philosophy everybody had an embarrassment to be called philosopher. Instead, people called themselves “writers” and “thinkers” as it was fashionable at that time. Now, even those who have little to do with philosophy call themselves philosophers. I do not want to name any names in this context but only mention its features and causes. First, all those who can do basic arithmetic do not call themselves mathematicians and the people who write books about the findings about physics don’t call themselves physicists. As Deleuze said, to be a philosopher is first to have competence in a specific domain called philosophy (competence alone will make somebody a scholar of philosophy) and then they have to contribute a new philosophical object. Deleuze redefined this philosophical object as concept. Instead, people who chant philosophical quotes as mantra and give out pre-cooked opinions are now called philosophers. “Thinkers” and “thought” has also become similarly fashionable, and as Dwivedi writes, “ now it is ‘thinking’ which is being assumed as the title for the activities of technology corporations, ‘data science,’ and the dreams of artificial intelligence and machine-messiahs.” (4) Here I want to assert that I am not a philosopher, but instead someone who theorises with the belief that philosophy and the sciences have the ultimate living stake in the political life of mankind.
This atmosphere may give a false sense of philosophical vitality, but in reality it is a sign that philosophy and philosophers are pushed back into some underworld which is not of their choosing. The causes for this state of affairs are too many to be discussed here comprehensively. The defunding of humanities and social sciences, the decline of reading culture through social media, and the popularisation of a non-technical reportage of something vaguely philosophical as philosophy are some of the simpler reasons for this state. But this is nothing serious. The serious cause lies in the crisis instituted by Heidegger and Wittgenstein in philosophy where they withdrew philosophy from the serious philosophical questions to announce the end. In Mohan’s words Heidegger “avoided many of the questions and problems which were once properly philosophical—space, plenum, matter, measure, polynomia—and were surrendered to the sciences and to what he dismissed as metaphysics.” (5) Mohan leaves Wittgenstein out of his critical discussion, but in disagreement with him I would like to stress that Wittgenstein too was a harmful influence on philosophy through both his mysticism and ordinary language philosophy.
Nancy’s text has to be seen in this context, a context he is clearly opposing, and through his recent remarks on the other possible directions for philosophy. These possibilities or the indication of the other beginning are to be found in his remarks on Dwivedi and Mohan. I have dealt with the philosophical intimacy between the three philosophers—Nancy, Dwivedi and Mohan—in another lengthy article, “Deconstructive Materialism,” (6) which should be consulted in this regard. I will also be drawing some resources from that text to explain the philosophical techniques deployed by Mohan in his crossing out of Heidegger.
The wager of Nancy
Nancy makes three arguments in his text. These arguments can be be foreseen in Nancy’s prior writings. First, philosophy has within it the possibility of ends and beginnings for those who are philosophers and he cites Hegel, Nietzsche and Marx as the philosophers aware of this possibility. The other beginning of philosophy is going to be a philosophical act created by philosophers. The second point is more like a diagnosis of philosophy as it is understood or misunderstood nowadays. Nancy is angry in this regard, “Such is, it must not be denied, the sad state of philosophy today”. He says that philosophy has become vulgar mediatised opinion making. To quote from Mohan’s text published in another context “nearly everything has come to be ‘philosophical’ — anthropological surveys, television panellists, logical exercise books, media reports of scientific findings, political writings with philosophical quotations, technological prophesies, emotive anthems of social movements.” This diagnosis should not be ignored by society but for philosophers the concern is, finally, history of philosophy and eternity where these seasonal commonplace events (philosophical chatter is not new) will get erased quickly.
The third point in Nancy’s text is very serious for philosophers. Nancy asks us to return to the earliest awakenings of philosophy in the Eastern Mediterranean region. There we find certain features which make up philosophy,
Philosophy begins with this question: what if there is no longer any order available – neither sacred, nor social, nor cosmic? The axis or soul of the philosophical answer consists in the necessity of founding an order itself. This necessity has two aspects: on the one hand, it requires us to discover this world stripped of its attributes; on the other hand, it requires us to justify the approach taken and its results. (7)
The tremendous economic and elegant style of Nancy is visible in this short excerpt. He compressed the essential features of what would become science and metaphysics in these sentences. I will unpack it here and bring it up again later in the text. The first point is that philosophy accepts no prior conditions for its beginning. For comparison, religious discourse begins with gods or god, religious community, ethnicity etc. But philosophy is this kind of a necessity to justify existence with no resource other than thought. The second point follows now from the first because if justifying existence cannot take up established arguments and discourses philosophy has to have a method free of any prior assumptions and conditions. This requires the discovery of the world without these prior conditions—this is what Locke’s quest for primary qualities and Husserl’s bracketing of the world etc are. But the more important point Nancy makes here is this, philosophy is the discourse which has to justify all that it does. For example, philosophy has to invent logic, ontology and epistemology from out of nothing and justify it. I must say for those who have some confusion about who is a philosopher that philosopher is the person who begins from out of nothing by inventing the logic and classification schema of the whole of existence by giving it reasons. This might upset some sentiments but philosophy is not a popularity contest.
When Heidegger called for “the end of philosophy” it is this activity and its history that he put into question. If metaphysics is philosophy then philosophy came to the end for him with Nietzsche. But what is metaphysics? Metaphysics is ontology. Ontology is the naming of the being of all beings by the name of a being. It is the search for an entity which underlies everything in principle and this entity’s functions should ideally explain everything. This is why ontology usually appears to be something like a theology because god is posited by theology as the underlying entity. Heidegger’s word for this situation is onto-theology. It is the impossibility of continuing this activity that Heidegger showed through his deconstruction of the history of philosophy. Moreover, Heidegger went on to say that this activity is now taken up by a technologist’s science and technologies. If we accept the meaning of philosophical activity—as all philosophers since him did—then there is no quarrel with him possible. I will even say that this new kind of proliferation of philosophers, of “meta,” and ontologies was anticipated very well by Heidegger. But when I closely discuss Mohan’s text I will show that these very assumptions of Heidegger about what constitutes metaphysics and philosophy are now challenged and discarded.
Nancy’s provocation is this. If we accept the Heideggerian plan for philosophy is there a way other than something like a project of thinking which is not philosophy?
In fact, Nancy had already answered this question in his foreword to Dwivedi and Mohan’s “On Theological Anti-politics”. There Nancy said precisely that the possibility for a philosophy beyond what is understood to be metaphysics is present in the works of Dwivedi and Mohan. I quote him, “this book comes to our attention and contributes to orient us, if I may say so, toward a thought, and even a world, neither humanist nor reduced to suffering in the name of Truth. In the terms of this work: neither metaphysics nor hypophysics.” (8) So, “the other beginning of philosophy” was already initiated by the three philosophers before its announcement in Philosophy World Democracy. The character of that system which is not metaphysical was examined at length by me earlier in another long essay and I named its unity by inventing the term “Deconstructive materialism.” (9) I will explain it in a different way in the sections below.
Dwivedi’s discovery of a difference prior to ontological difference
Divya Dwivedi’s text, “Nancy’s Wager”, begins from the above questions. Dwivedi provides her interpretation of Nancy’s points here, and that interpretation opens the viscera of the political stakes in philosophy and philosophical stakes in politics. Nancy makes the linkage between the Heideggerian conception of philosophy and, colonialism and capitalism central to his critique. He argues that the meaning of “the west” is implicated in philosophy and this is leading to the techno-capitalistic destruction of the world, “We must therefore not ignore the fact that we cannot dissociate the West from this insatiable desire for self-realization, which is precisely what is suffocating the world.” (10)
Dwivedi does something additional in her text though, by formally linking Heidegger’s philosophy and what has come to be the complex of politics constituted by the components of “Eurocentrism”, Post-colonialism, Decolonial politics, and the developing Asiatic aggression. Dwivedi shows that Heidegger’s concept of philosophy and its history are both based in another suppressed difference which she calls the “oriental-occidental difference”. The ontological difference of Heidegger is as Dwivedi calls it “the privation of Being” or the existential impossibility for being to be found coincidental with any entity in particular. So, this difference is not breachable in principle which makes it the source that generates history of philosophy. For Heidegger philosophy is occidental and it begins and unfolds with the Greeks. History of philosophy, for him, is the history of the occident. Dwivedi draws the necessary conclusion that the Heideggerian ontico-ontological difference can be occidental only if the distinction between occident and orient was already available and operating as the condition of ontological difference. By showing this, Dwivedi poses the shocking question of how oriental-occidental difference could precede and shape ontological difference and what is its history?
The occident that is metaphysics is propelled through the sustenance of a privation of Being, which is articulated as ontological difference. But this means that for Heidegger , the privation of Being that gives the West is possible only after establishing “the West” as a fact, which as we all know, is a very recently invented fact.
What is shocking here is that the history of being and its Greek origin have been posited only after retroactively ascribing an “occidental” essence and destiny to Ancient Greece, and thus inventing the racialized identity called “West”. It also included an “eastomania” which was the product of some disenchanted Romantics who created disciplines like orientalism, Indology and so on, from where they tried to excavate the ‘glories’ of the ‘west’ which were allegedly robbed off by modernity. Dwivedi shows that the great architecture of philosophy developed by Heidegger, from out of what was started off by Hegel, has another engine (in the technical sense of the word as per Dwivedi and Mohan (11)) behind it. Dwivedi calls the engine behind ontological difference the “oriental-occidental difference” for which ontological difference functions. In other words, the primary concern of Heidegger’s enterprise is to make a clearly delineated zone called “the west”, for which the rest of the technicalities of metaphysics are serving.
Some of Dwivedi’s arguments will take a new tone in Mohan’s text as I will show later and I would say that philosophy under the influence of geopolitics should be allowed to have its own “euthanasia”. Two crucial lessons have to be taken from her text. Firstly, we must discard the historical schema according to which “end of philosophy” had been thought so far and the task of finding something other than “philosophy” or West had been adopted. This is because, as Dwivedi argues,
If philosophy has to be saved, including through the “philosophical meaning” of the “end” of philosophy, then it must first save itself from racialization, discarding these orientations and occidentations, lest it risk becoming a “white theory.” (12)
Roberto Esposito has echoed this caution and invited the reader to explore the new contemporary paths that are opening in other directions:
Should the Western tradition lean outwards, to the point of merging with other traditions, or seek within itself the strength for a radical revision of its own assumptions? And again, should it deactivate its own operative power, as Heidegger and Nancy believe, or direct it in a different direction? Without even touching on an argument that would take us far away, the paths that are open to contemporary philosophy are different. (13)
Secondly, Dwivedi gives a stark reminder that “beginning” should not be confused with or understood according to the logic of “origins.” That is what gives us confidence about a new beginning of philosophy which will be free of Heideggerian traps of “origin.” One possibility for doing so has been indicated by the position taken by Sergio Benvenuto in this debate. He says that “philosophy will always rise from its own ashes, like the Phoenix.” (14)
Mohan’s Discovery of the Other Beginning through the Obscure Experience
Through the sections on Nancy and Dwivedi above the reader has by now gotten a good sense of the conditions which are in preparation for the other beginning. I also pointed out earlier that Nancy had announced the birth of the other beginning in his foreword to the book by Dwivedi and Mohan—“neither hypophysics nor metaphysics”—that they give another orientation to philosophy and politics. But it is in Mohan’s text, “And the Beginning of Philosophy”, that we find the logic, which is both logical and historico-logical, for the other beginning. The other beginning is here already, for both philosophy and humanity, but it is not easy.
First, a remark on the title of his essay, “And the Beginning of Philosophy”, which is obviously a distancing from Heidegger and also an audacious play with him. Heidegger’s original essay ended with “… and the Task of Thinking”. So what the reader has to understand is this: Mohan’s complete title will be something like “The End of Philosophy (as we used to understand it) and the Beginning of Philosophy (according to a new explosive understanding)”. Now that the mystery of the title is out of the way I will discuss the main points which are essential for the reader to live with for many days to fully grasp their import.
Mohan’s creation of a new condition for philosophy follows from two separate moves. First, is the argument Mohan began with texts published more recently and it is called “the obscure experience”. The other is the new kind of philosophical faculties created by him and Dwivedi which come together into a system which is not deconstructible, but presupposes deconstruction. I have dealt with both these moves previously in detail. Here I will offer a sketch of both.
The obscure experience names something most fundamental and intimate of all humanity. We are able to anticipate what somebody is going to say or a chemical reaction or the weather conditions more or less accurately. In arithmetic this kind of anticipation is a surety or certainty. Depending on the formal system, the character of anticipation can also change. Mohan uses different resources to discuss the character of this kind of anticipation. In a text called “On the Relation Between the Obscure, the Cryptic and the Public” he developed the structure of anticipation using Kant. There, he called man “the obscure animal” which is capable of working under any plan, because man has no pre-determined plan; man is the animal with faculties to anticipate nearly anything. Last year Nancy and Mohan published together under the title “Our Mysterious Being” (which probably refers to their philosophical friendship) where Mohan used ecological conditions to show the obscure experience, and in the essay “The Noise of All Things” (15) Mohan used Robert Rosen’s mathematical theory of “anticipatory systems” to argue the same point. The basic point is this, everything in the world is anticipatable through reason. The quality of anticipation and the results may vary to some extent depending on the kind of anticipatory method and the situation at hand. When I sit here and anticipate a storm hearing the sound of the wind outside either it can be a heavy rain or a storm. Sometimes human (and animal) reaction is surprise or disappointment when what is anticipated doesn’t materialise. Sometimes when the anticipated event happens as we hoped for in front of us it gives satisfaction.
The “obscure experience” is a primary or the founding intuition of philosophy which starts with this fact that everything is anticipatable except one thing. As Mohan writes, “However, there is something outside anticipation—the persistence of the world—which we embrace with the absolute certainty that its disappearance with us in it is never a concern, although we know that “a world” of a “someone” will withdraw, including our own. In each step of anticipations and disappointments we are surprised by this disorienting certitude. If we bring Kant and Wittgenstein together the end of the world is not an event, for it is not an event in the world.” (16) What Mohan is showing is an entirely different argument from that of Heidegger about death, which was that my death is not an event in my life. From Mohan’s perspective, the Heideggerian thought of death is not ethical. About death Mohan said in “The Eternity of Jean-Luc Nancy” recently, “We are afraid of our own death, not because of the non-event character of it for ourselves, but only due to the terror of the suffering in which it can leave others.” That is, for Mohan, our own death is a concern only because it can be a cause for suffering to others in relation us—ethics.
In Mohan’s work it is an even more foundational non-event that is being taken up. We have no means of knowing the stability or the persistence of the world itself. But we just live and think with the assumption that the world itself will not vanish in this instant because there is nothing that is given to us to anticipate such an event. The persistence of the world thereby sits outside the orders of anticipation. (17) It is for this reason that Mohan says that the end of the world is not an event in the world. He says that this feeling is the most commonplace. I never found another expression of this argument anywhere else. So I am assuming that Mohan is saying here that it is most common and most intimate for those who are willing to proceed with reason along these lines. He is suggesting that we subconsciously have this awareness of the obscure experience. What makes all our intellectual awe and wonder does not make us a captive of the “obscure” but an Usain Bolt after the obscure experience. The next step in the other beginning of philosophy follows from this foundational experience and in this regard I cannot help but note that this was Heidegger’s own dream of the right kind of philosophy; a philosophy which takes its beginning from a radical and deep experience or intuition of humanity. I also caution the reader that Mohan’s argument is more complex, deriving from a particular interpretation of reason. (18)
The next part of the argument takes the obscure experience to the ancient milieu, a move reminiscent of Heidegger because if Heidegger has to be defeated it should be in his territory. But it is not exactly a return to where it all began because as Dwivedi and Mohan both show in their respective articles, this origin of Heidegger is a geopolitical fiction and in reality this origin is not Greece, and it is too scattered. Mohan says that in ancient philosophy the concern was not for unity, truth and being, or at least these were secondary to something primal and primary. He takes the example of Aristotle (19) to show that the primary concern of ancient philosophy is the stability or the durability of the world. Will the world continue to remain like this with the things in the world coming and going? That is, a kind of early intuition of the obscure experience, even if it is not expressed explicitly, is the main question before ancient thought. Mohan shows that the centre of Aristotle’s system is his discussion of eternity in the Metaphysics as a technique to avoid the obscure experience, “The book Λ is where why things must have unity is discussed. Here, the question is of the world as that which sustains itself, it is presented as an assumed fact, which is the most difficult thought.” (20)
The unity of things or the substance problem is secondary to the obscure experience. Mohan has been developing these texts of the other beginning (from out of the unpublished book manuscript) for a long time through his remarkable suturing (borrowing a term from Badiou) of philosophical texts, without rejecting them. Mohan shows that being and identity are made central to solve the obscure experience by suppressing it. If things come and go, or are born and die, in the world, it is not a matter of bother for us because the world as a total system is holding together with some unknown guarantee (21) that it will always exist. The transitory type of unity of objects comes from something else which is sure to remain forever. It is against the backdrop of that kind of a special thing with a special temporality that ordinary things of the world have a mimicked identity and unity. A realm of eternity protects the world itself from disappearance. The special thing on which such eternity is anchored is god who is eternal and necessary in itself so that nothing can remove it—“an outer boundary which protects the things of the world from passing into nothing through the dynamics of change.” (22) This is also what Mohan shows in another text as the meaning of god being the only necessity, everything else being contingent, and these two steps setting up the basis for theology—“It is a theological principle that God is necessary and everything else is contingent without exception.” (23) Following from that placement of a self necessitating eternal object, god, the experience of the world is protected from the obscure experience because the Aristotlean god makes the world itself eternal where things get generated and are destroyed. The constancy of the world is protected by the eternity of god through whom world also has the character of eternity.
So, Mohan shows us that the primary concerns of philosophy such as identity, being, truth, classical logic are all the effect of the suppression of the fundamental philosophical experience, the obscure experience—“The unity of all things, then, refers to the unity of the self [god] which does not require another for this unity.” (24) Mohan’s article shows that by holding on to the obscure experience philosophy and the sciences will be able to re-think radically their main concepts and problems such as space, time, motion, change, matter, life etc. By rejecting the classical logical rules we can also get on the other hand an explosive materialism. I will come to that next.
For philosophy to begin from another beginning philosophical enquiry and methods should start with the obscure experience. The implication of this is that the classical form of logic is not helpful from there onwards. Mohan’s position is that identity is taken up by philosophy from the shadow of god, and the rest of logic depends totally on identity. I must now quote here at length to bring my next steps in this explanation,
“The laws of thought can be represented as law of identity p = p; law of non-contradiction Not (p and not p); and law of excluded middle P or not P. Of these laws it is identity which is the constant between the two prominent formalisms of the laws of thought—intuitionist mathematics (its mathematicians are rare) which works without the third law and para-consistency without the second law. It is to be seen whether there is a general theory of logic of which the familiar logics are special cases. The law of identity guided the investigation into the foundations of mathematics. The procedures of Gödel, which simulated a computer, which did not exist then, lead to computers and also computational thinking, and that remains the height of the achievement of the logic of identity which we found was derived from the metaphysical closure of the obscure experience.” (25)
The question before philosophy now is about the logic which is not based on identity and a theory of faculties free of the burdens of identity and substance style of thinking. It is present in the book Gandhi and Philosophy by Dwivedi and Mohan, and I have dealt with it on two previous occasions. For that reason I will mention only one aspect of it. As per Dwivedi and Mohan identity comes through what is called “functional isolation”. A cup has the identity of something to take coffee in it, but it is also possible to put a plant in it, or to throw it as a projectile. There is no underlying substantial function to anything, instead one function is exchanged for another function. The ability in ‘things’ (it does not mean the classical identical entity anymore) to receive several regularities or functional isolations is called polynomia. Polynomia itself is related to a re-interpretation of homology and analogy, but I am pressed for length to elaborate further. In the cup example I mentioned there, the law of projectiles, horticulture, and social custom give the cup regularity or different functional isolations, Identity is the effect of functional isolation like the several identities which appeared in the cup example. Mohan and Dwivedi show that functional isolation in itself is not evil, but even necessary. What is evil is to fix an identity on the basis of functional isolations which are shifting constantly through polynomia. For this reason the logic based on identity, classical logic, is not capable of apprehending reality. Logic based on identity gives us at best a functionally isolated slice of a world. The little human beings, the incomplete, deficient creature “blessed” by a “deficient suite of instincts” not fully fit for survival unlike other organisms according to Arnold Gehlen, (26) becomes something else for Dwivedi and Mohan because it is a creature capable of metamorphosing into “polynomial beings” having the inventive powers to be transformed into something else when acted upon by other laws of regularities. In another article I said that, for these reasons, Mohan and Dwivedi should be seen as the inheritors of Nietzsche. In their work, without the political and racial contaminations, Nietzsche’s logic of history and philosophy are abstracted out into a new theory of faculties.
Mohan makes a philosophical, political and aesthetic point based on this fact of polynomia through a poetic use of the word “lust” throughout his article. Love is related to identity or to a particular functional isolation. But lust is a scattering or an explosion. Benvenuto gives further clarity on this by explaining that “It is the edifying use of philosophy, which many of us abhor because it removes the spring of philosophical lust (as Mohan calls it), which is anything but edifying.” (27) Mohan takes the family of words related to lust—lust, listless, wanderlust—to make the point that Heidegger’s metaphysics was opposed to this lust which comes from out of a thinking opposed to identity based thinking. Heidegger calls the experience of angst as listlessness, which means without lust of course. For Heidegger angst is experienced when things disclose their polynomia (lust), or when things come off their functional isolations. This is also misunderstood as the experience of nothingness by Heidegger. But Mohan points out that polynomia, the capability to receive many functional isolations, is the basis of reality. Instead of a listless relation to reality we should adopt a lustful relation which politically suggests a world of unending mixtures and experimentations. The choices made in politics about which functional isolations to accept can have long term repercussions, especially the surrender of our power of lust. This insight is very close to Marx (28) and for that reason earlier I had characterised the system of Dwivedi and Mohan as an explosive kind of materialism, precisely Deconstructive materialism. This term of my coinage can also explain why there is no rejection of any philosophical works of the past in Mohan’s suturing act in philosophy. He approaches them as already deconstructed, but now these works of the past are re-deployable under a new theory of faculties. The varying meanings of Ana-stasis between Nancy, Dwivedi, and Mohan is precisely this, the raising up of the philosophical material of the past in wasting away in stasis through a new logic.
The event of deconstructive materialism of Dwivedi and Mohan should be now compared to what Kant called his Copernican revolution. Copernican revolution turned around the perspective of earthly humans of a world revolving around the earth. It established the difficult fact that earth is just another planet revolving around the sun. Copernican revolution explained both the illusion of the sun rising in the east and the real movement of the planets. Kant did the same in philosophy by displacing man from the centre and instead showed a pre-agreement between man and nature as the basis for all experiences. This pre-agreement can be examined only through reason because Kant’s thesis is that it is rational.
I find clearly that what has happened now in philosophy through Mohan’s text is an Einsteinean revolution. (29) The politico-philosophical stakes of the Einsteinean revolution are present in Dwivedi’s article. Mohan on the other hand lists a tradition of sorts through which this revolution has come—Nietzsche, Husserl, Wittgenstein, Derrida, Nancy, Stiegler. These relations between philosophers is for specialists. But my main point in this regard is just this: Einstein radically altered the fixity of space and time, and brought everything into a dynamical relation and that has been now initiated in philosophy by this other beginning of philosophy happening in Philosophy World Democracy. Before Einstein space and time were something like inert containers which were not affected by other changes in nature. Matter and energy were popularly thought of as different stuffs. Einsteinean revolution forced humanity to see the world as more complex with everything including space-time in dynamical relations, but all such relations obeying a complex rational order. As is well known the invariant in Einstein’s world is the speed of light. With the other beginning, a thorough decentering of all the classical concepts including the centre of classical logic, identity, is underway. Every identity is a functional isolation in dynamic relation to other functions. But opposed to Einstein’s eternity of the world Mohan’s obscure experience suspends any temporal predication for the world as such.
The family of the other beginning of philosophy
Now I am going to discuss my final point which is what I see as the relation the other beginning has to deconstruction. Mohan already shows his leanings in this matter with assertion of his philosophical family—Derrida, Nancy, Stiegler. (30) I will take up an example from Stiegler here.
Derrida’s deconstruction suspended the use of metaphysically loaded—in our context functionally isolated terms—words by showing their dependency on their other in the systems in which these terms appear such as pharmakon which means both poison and cure in Plato. But Stiegler took up these terms from their suspended state and started using them as per the conditions in which terms like pharmakon get to have their functional isolations; in the example of pharmakon the functional isolation as poison or as cure has some conditions. In this way Stiegler was practicing a deconstructive materialism. That is, what I called deconstructive materialism in Mohan and Dwivedi’s works is a new way of using concepts which were previously metaphysical with a full awareness of deconstruction. This is why Mohan argues in his article that there are already resources in the deconstructive archive but not in early Derrida because “The earlier works of deconstruction by Derrida remained strictly within classical logic while revealing the limits of texts well determined in the classical sense”. That is, deconstruction in the early stages depended on classical logic because it showed something like a paradox in systems. But even there a hint of a way of overcoming classical logic is present according to Mohan, “at these limits one could already glimpse the other philosophy, for differance is neither word nor concept.” Thereby Mohan is saying that Derrida suggests through early deconstruction a “something” which is not logically identical to itself. This interpretation also liberates deconstruction and its rich history from the trivial interpretations as a kind of stasis which made people ask “ok, so now what?” Here I am suggesting the as yet unpredictable consequences of ‘the other beginning’ of philosophy.
I will now argue that the other beginning initiated by Nancy, Dwivedi, and Mohan should be given a description under deconstructive materialism. A name is important for a collective project which will require a large number of researchers, activists and philosophers to come together because the tasks are so complex. The other beginning of philosophy has to reassess the way history of philosophy was constructed for which Dwivedi gives a philosophical schema. It calls for a new kind of deconstruction which is not based on identity but on polynomia with conditions under which functional isolations are given. I believe conditions are political following from Marx, since Heidegger’s ‘phenomenology of death’ loses all meaning when death sneaks everywhere in the form of a lack of meal, nutrition and drinking water. The little five-year old Dalit girl in Agra Sonia Kumari did not get a single grain of food for 15 days before she died of hunger. When we who live in the subcontinent philosophise, we cannot remain silent on the relationship between poverty and philosophy. Sciences are also to be reassessed especially when sciences are being absorbed by computational thought (I believe Maël Montévil is already undertaking an other beginning for the science philosophy relation), which as Mohan pointed out is the biggest ‘achievement’ of classical logic based on identity. These tasks are not easy but they are the most exciting intellectual and political adventure before us. I will say this lust is more than hope.
1. Divya Dwivedi, “Nancy’s Wager”, Philosophy World Democracy, July 2021, https://www.philosophy-world-democracy.org/other-beginning/nancys-wager
2. I have other reasons for saying so which will become clear later on in this text.
3. Jean-Luc Nancy, ‘“End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking’”, Philosophy World Democracy, July 2021 https://www.philosophy-world-democracy.org/other-beginning/the-end-of-philosophy To see the coordination of the three philosophers I quote Mohan’s previously published text in the same journal, “Since Heidegger declared the end of philosophy, nearly everything has come to be ‘philosophical’ — anthropological surveys, television panellists, logical exercise books, media reports of scientific findings, political writings with philosophical quotations, technological prophesies, emotive anthems of social movements. One doesn’t speak of the journalistic report of the findings from CERN as a physical theory nor did those who reported Perelman’s discoveries become mathematicians. Now, if philosophy is a card which must be equally distributed and carried by all as a right and then why should it not be a duty too?”, Shaj Mohan, “The Noise of All Things”, Philosophy World Democracy, June 2021, https://www.philosophy-world-democracy.org/other-beginning/and-the-beginning-of-philosophy. I must add here that this text was presented as a public lecture with myself in attendance and a part of it formed a public discussion between Mohan and Barbara Cassin which I moderated in 2018.
4. Dwivedi, “Nancy’s Wager”.
5. Shaj Mohan, “And the Beginning of Philosophy”, Philosophy World Democracy, July 2021, https://www.philosophy-world-democracy.org/other-beginning/and-the-beginning-of-philosophy.
6. Reghu Janardhanan, “The Deconstructive Materialism of Dwivedi and Mohan: A New Philosophy of Freedom”, Episteme 4 (February 2021), https://positionspolitics.org/the-deconstructive-materialism-of-dwivedi-and-mohan-a-new-philosophy-of-freedom/.
7. Nancy, “The End of Philosophy”.
8. Jean-Luc Nancy, Foreword to Gandhi and Philosophy: On Theological Anti-politics, Bloomsbury Academic, 2019, p. ix.
9. Janardhanan, “The Deconstructive Materialism of Dwivedi and Mohan.”
10. Nancy, “The End of Philosophy”.
11. See Mohan and Dwivedi, Gandhi and Philosophy.
12. Dwivedi, “Nancy’s Wager.”
13. Roberto Esposito, “What is Philsophy: Tribute to Jean-Luc Nancy” in Philosophy World Democracy, September 2021, https://www.philosophy-world-democracy.org/other-beginning/what-is-philosophy.
14. Sergio Benvenuto, “The Eternal End of Philosophy”, Philosophy World Democracy, August 2021, https://www.philosophy-world-democracy.org/other-beginning/the-eternal-end-of-philosophy.
15. Jean-Luc Nancy and Shaj Mohan, “Our Mysterious Being”, Philosophical Salon, April 2020, https://thephilosophicalsalon.com/our-mysterious-being/,Shaj Mohan, “The Noise of All Things”, Philosophy World Democracy, June 2021, https://www.philosophy-world-democracy.org/the-noise-of-all-things.
16. Shaj Mohan, “What Carries Us On” in Coronavirus, Psychoanalysis, and Philosophy: Conversations on Pandemics, Politics, and Society, London: Routledge, 2021, p. 45.
17. Jerome Lèbre in his paraphrase of Mohan’s article puts it as “it is to live as a mortal in a world both fragile and durable - to remain in "the obscure experience of the unpredictable insistence of the world" (Shaj Mohan)”. See Jérôme Lèbre, “Pourquoi pas”, Philosophy World Democracy, August 2021, https://www.philosophy-world-democracy.org/other-beginning/pourquoi-pas (I have used Google machine translation to access this article).
18. See this interview with Mohan for an accessible introduction to his interpretation of reason, “But there is nothing outside of philosophy”, Interview with Shaj Mohan by Rachel Adams, from the special issue on the works of Dwivedi and Mohan, Episteme 4 (February 2021) https://positionspolitics.org/conversation-between-shaj-mohan-and-rachel-adams/.
19. Mohan suggests other references. I am privy to a book length manuscript by Mohan which I consulted and referred to in a previous work where through a range of references and close engagements with ancient texts what he argues here through Aristotle is established. I feel that its urgent publication to be necessary for the other beginning of philosophy.
20. Mohan, “And the Beginning of Philosophy.”
21. The absence of any such type of guarantee is laid bare by the obscure experience.
22. Mohan, “And the Beginning of Philosophy.”
23. Mohan, “And the Beginning of Philosophy.”
24. Mohan, “And the Beginning of Philosophy.” The eternity of the world and the eternity of god as making one single system was not convenient for religion because there is a creator god in religion who makes the world from out of nothing. Mohan in his tribute to Nancy addressed this problem again through an interpretation of Aquinas.
25. Mohan, “And the Beginning of Philosophy.”
26. Arnold Gehlen, Man: His Nature and Place in the World, New York: Columbia University Press, 1988.
27. Benvenuto, “The Eternal End of Philosophy.”
28. This distance from Marx in Mohan’s work gives me some trouble. I know Mohan to be an astute reader of Marx, but mostly because of the decay in Marxist politics in India he keeps silent. But it is important for him to show his relation to Marx for politics.
29. Mohan made a very deeply touching reference to Einstein in his tribute to his old friend Nancy, ‘In 1955, when Einstein learnt of the death of his dearest friend Michele Besso he wrote to the Besso family, condensing in his words the entirety of his scientific corpus. He wrote that his friend Besso will always be, for “the separation between past, present and future has only the importance of an admittedly tenacious illusion.” All times exist together, not in the order of simultaneity, but in eternity. But Einstein could not express the sense of his eternity.’ Shaj Mohan, “The Eternity of Jean-Luc Nancy”, Philosophy World Democracy, https://www.philosophy-world-democracy.org/grace/the-eternity-of-jean-luc-nancy
30. Mohan said about Stiegler that his references and the research communities he built are part of the other beginning, “Bernard Stiegler, who wrote passionately, absorbing the resources of the classical tradition, was also creating another tradition through the proliferation of references without care for regionalities and nationalities.” Mohan, J“And the Beginning of Philosophy.”