Will We Trust Institutions Again? Interality as Philosophical Diplomacy.
Some philosophies are more diplomatic than others--they are cautious, sensitive, and one might even say on guard against "overstatement." Interality, or interology is such a philosophy encouraging diplomatic approaches to metaphysis, epistemology, ethics, political philosophy, communications, and aesthetics. Interality, as philosophically media and process-oriented, emphasizes the composition of shared atmospheres, along with working out those specifications necessary to address in detail how experience unfolds according to convergent/divergent capacities and trajectories. Hence, the philosophical problems--so fundamental to the task confronting diplomats--of translation, meaning, negotiation, and settlements are central to interality. Bruno Latour's Inquiry (2013) is diplomatic and philosophically pragmatic being largely informed by the ideas of William James, Alfred North Whitehead and Isabelle Stengers. On this basis, the article contends that Latour's approach is both diplomatic and interological. Part one will present Latour's pragmatism and the pivotal role it plays in carrying out the digital humanities AIME project. The second section will explain how a philosophical commitment to diplomacy promotes a robust sense of inquiry can help to strengthen, or at least attempt to restore, trust in institutions. Thirdly, I describe how interality contributes to a wider and more engaged ontological and cultural terrain. Bringing together artists, technicians, politicians, scientists, architects, religious leaders, and others, interality operates with the kind of "software" that fosters collaborative philosophies. Latour proposes diplomacy as a minimal meta-language necessary for cultural narration, with the aim of being structurally tolerant rather than intolerant. We conclude with a brief look at the crisis of spiraling decentralization, a move "from lands to disputed territories." This continues to spur non-diplomatic backlashes that are destructive and neglectful of institutions.
Diplomatic Channels Opened Up by American Philosophy
One of the strengths of American philosophy is its wide diplomatic appeal. The pragmatic and process linage of American philosophy has engaged Asian, African, European, and Latin American thinkers and traditions in fruitful ways, compared to the widely revered analytic and continental traditions. At least that is what Bruno Latour appreciates about American philosophy--how much it is committed to experience and liberated from the metaphysical baggage that haunts the anthropology of the 'Moderns.' Indeed, Eric Voegelin's first book On the Form of the American Mind (1928) as a kind of Tocquevillian gesture, argued that European philosophy gave us variants of "closed selfhood," whereas the philosophies of Emerson, Pierce, James, Dewey and so, gave us an "open self." Drawing on the works of radical empiricists Williams James, Alfred N. Whitehead and Isabelle Stengers, Latour's AIME project seeks to galvanize faith in and accountability from institutions again. AIME may look like a philosophical enterprise but Latour insists that its aim is diplomatic. It is more than a book and functions as an online platform, calling upon the contribution of practitioners from the various modes explored in the text. The book functions more as a provisional report for future inquirers and collaborators. As we face unprecedented ecological and political crises along with psycho-social mood swings of cynicism and fear-pandering, who will answer the call and take over the reins of leadership in such foggy times? Political parties? Religious leaders? The media? From the Catholic Church to governments and high-tech firms like Google or Facebook, confidence in our institutions has eroded. Further, Latour observes our institutions are fractured by toxic socio-political attitudes (tribal), which has led them being largely viewed as dysfunctional and inept. Our times call for advancing modes of thinking that are creative, open, and diplomatic. But we cannot go at it alone, we have to find novel means to involve institutions. Latour finds a healthy and constructive orientation in American philosophy's demand for wide-ranging experience. We are continually confronted by the question, "do we live in a common world?" The tension and anxiety this has caused has emerged from the fact that it is less the case we inhabit a common reality. With the accelerated shattering of globalization or the decentralization of the globe, future cultures are confronted with the task of non-mastery and facilitating shared milieus. More of us will intersect and come in contact without any clear guidelines for what kind of boundaries or parameters will regulate our interactions. We are living in strange times in which the very ground is opening up beneath our feet. The ground is giving way to the groundless; modernity is all about the limits of resemblance and taking the secure path. Earth or Gaia is starting to fight back against the ecological destruction and ill-abuse orchestrated at the behest of "civilized" humans. The great migrations from rootedness, loyalty, and a tragic sense of seriousness are some of the central features of our epoch. Even institutions and philosophy itself must rise to the occasion and recognize that everything is on the move. We are at the threshold of having to decide which it is going to be: "modernize or ecologize." A diplomacy is needed that will unite us into inventing and committing ourselves to a shared world. The call to action can be encapsulated in the following quote:
The current battle over the climate no longer aims at the 'world domination' that commentators of the imperialist age were fond of talking about. On the contrary, it is concerned with the possibility of keeping the civilizing process open and ensuring its progress. Following the mutual discovery of cultures through long-distance commerce between the sixteenth and twentieth centuries, this process led to a provisional synthesis of global agency through trade and diplomacy. It is expected to soon develop into the positive collaboration of cultures within common institutions capable of action [...] (Sloterdijk 2018, 16, emphasis added).
Latour's reliance on pragmatism throughout his long career as a sociologist and philosopher blooms into AIME's emphasis on diplomatic prerogatives. Latour's appeal to diplomacy is an effort to extend an olive branch to a world that is fractured and only half-heartedly connected, whether in the form of digital and virtual integration or only being "together" in facing the future emergencies of Gaia. Immigration and the global refugee crisis have compelled us to reexplore the ways we think about borders and territorial sovereignty. It is not surprising to find a wave of populist, paranoid, and phobocratic reactions against the stresses of increasing earthly co-existence. Our interconnectedness through hyperimagery, including the techno- and infospheres networks, amplifies concerns that have helped usher in anti-social demeanors of loneliness and isolation. Current technologies allow us to eavesdrop on conversations, classrooms, or private accounts without being attached or detected. Along with having the capacity to cognitively trespass unsuspectedly on the lives of others through the techniques of re-presenting them. Intrusion, or possessing the power to get deeper in the interiors of things infiltrating their appearances and secrets is what comes with the permanent mobilization of modernity. To crack the code or go inside the black box, whether in the form of genetic manipulation, colonizing planets, or tracking down global hackers. Calls for diplomatic relations will only grow louder as more of us get accused of being intruders and trespassers. In the age of data, an economy of distribution supported by "sharers and users" threatens to subvert contemporary commercial authorities along with their legal orders and guidelines. The inter-symmetry and -asymmetry of new channels, portals, and networks demands an interological philosophy of diplomacy. Such a fresh conceptual apparatus constructs nuanced interpretations that account for the dynamic nature of change. Interality forges ahead drawing on Eastern and Western influences in ways similar to Whitehead's process philosophy and Latour's AIME project.
Whitehead--so it is my contention--is a unique interalogist. Interality is a process-orientated philosophy that emphasizes the relational and interdependent dynamic complexities of all that is and may be experienced. Such an orientation has been missing in the modern and postmodern Western philosophical traditions, or in what Bruno Latour names the "asymmetrical anthropology of the Moderns" (1993, 2013). When commenting about how his philosophy confronts our relationship to the whole of experience, or what theologians call God or mystics "the Ultimate," Whitehead writes: "the philosophy of organism seems to approximate more to some strains of Indian, or Chinese, thought, than to western Asiatic, or European, though. One side makes process ultimate; the other side makes fact ultimate" (1978, 7). Diverse cultural orientation is what characterizes American pragmatism and process philosophy, this is the upside or advantage that Latour finds compelling. Through the radically empirical philosophy of James and Whitehead we "can become faithful to experience again, because it sets out to follow the veins, the conduits, the expectations, of relations [...] And these relations are indeed in the world, provided that this world is finally sketched out for them--and for them all. Which presupposes that there are beings that bear these relations, but beings about which we no longer have to ask whether they exist or not in the manner of the philosophy of being-as-being" (2013, 178). For James and Whitehead, it is actual experience of the concrete that determines the abstract and not the other way around. Thinking is always a kind of thinking backwards because we have to work our way out of experience into what become our concepts and ideas. The central appeal of Whitehead's philosophy for Stengers and Latour, aside from its radical empiricism and pluralism, is its rejection of the subject/object split or what Whitehead calls the "bifurcation of nature." Modern philosophy has been dogged by this fallacy. Relations or prehensions (feelings) are interwoven in the solidarity and creative advance of the universe. Whitehead writes: "The theory of 'prehensions' embodies a protest against the 'bifurcation' of nature. It embodies even more than that: its protest is against the bifurcation of actualities" (1978, 289). What appeals to Latour's metaphysical approach is that Whitehead's cosmology denies the "primary qualities"/"secondary qualities" split and commits itself to the pluralistic ontological Principle of Relativity. Modernist and postmodernist philosophies are more in the business of explaining things away from experience than accounting for them. Or setting up determinate orders by means of grand narratives. Hence, Western philosophers stand to benefit from the rediscovery of patterns of interality. Actual entities can be used interchangeably with interalities as a quantum of explanation (Auxier and Herstein 2017). (1) In the spirit of Charles Sanders Peirce's critique of the modernist legacy of the Cartesian tradition, AIME's digital humanities is designed to replace clear and distinct ideas or theories and isolated inquiry with a "community of inquirers." Determining meaning requires context and the community of inquires provide that context for Peirce as they do with the AIME platform. But: "On the scale of the AIME process the question arises: Is diplomacy necessarily a synonym of assimilation, incorporation, or engulfment? Can one be a dialogic partner without being engulfed?" (Blake 2016, 470).
For Whitehead's organic cosmology all metaphysical knowledge is speculative, and thereby, hypothetical--it is knowledge that can be overturned, revised, reconsidered, and it is never meant to be taken as a final word. "The chief philosophical error," Whitehead writes in the introduction of Process and Reality, "is overstatement" (1978, 7). Both Whitehead and Peirce pursue efforts to be diplomatic in their philosophical approaches. It has been famously remembered that Whitehead made the assertion that "Western philosophy can be summarized as a series of footnotes to Plato." His reading of Plato's philosophy is unique compared with conventional interpretations in the secondary literature. To see and respect the limits of one's understanding sets in motion a recipe for responsible knowing, which alludes to the Socratic way of life rooted in internal polylogues and self-examination. Relational philosophy is diplomatic, but rejects the neutral observer or disembodied ego as a fiction, or what Whitehead calls "vacuous actualities." It was the Belgian philosopher Isabelle Stengers who introduced Latour to Whitehead's works. Stengers' philosophy in its own right takes up a diplomatic prerogative in her notion of cosmopolitics. Her main proposal for philosophy is to produce "lures for feelings" (Whitehead's term) that "provoke thoughts and questions" because "in the real world it is more important that a proposition be interesting than true" (1978, 259). As a process philosopher, Whitehead commits himself to a kind of peace-making one rarely finds in our hostile psychosocial climate, which prefers to cultivate knowledge through disciplinary confinement. For example, Process and Reality is concerned with mining all of the insights, according to Whitehead, that modern philosophy from Descartes to Hume got right and how they may be amended (1978, xi). This runs counter to most of the popular readings associated with the philosophy of organism, who are more concerned with finding a system in Whitehead's thought that isn't there.
Plato is a main hinge to understand the bridge between Westerner's emphasis on substance and the various Asiatic process-oriented schools of thought. Whitehead is an exemplary thinker who brings together diplomacy and interality through his own unique process philosophy. In the chapter on "Philosophic Method" in Adventures of Ideas he writes:
Undoubtedly, philosophy is dominated by its past literature to a greater extent than any other science. And rightly so. But the claim that it has acquired a set of technical terms sufficient for its purposes, and exhaustive of its meanings, is entirely unfounded. Indeed, its literature is so vast, and the variations of its schools of thought so large, that there is a considerable variation in the usages of these terms among logicians (1967, 229).
Philosophers, in Whitehead's description, are lovers of the whole, who don poly-semiotic eyewear tinted with heteronomous meanings, interpreting events poly-thematically. Language, religion, science, law, and other modes of culture serve as embassies of signs and symbols that the philosophical diplomat trades in. Cross-cultural meanings that reach across divides, so to speak, should not be literal but faithful--in the sense of Xenia, or hospitality/generosity. Translations that are literal ultimately become offensive. It is all too easy for them to be received as poor attempts to mimic and are easily taken as mocking. Latour avoids the razor-thin cuts of "Straight Talk" literalness, which he identifies as philosophy's "speech impediment"--respecting "neither the requirements of knowledge nor those of persistence, nor, finally, the interlocutory situation in which it was engaged, since it put an end to discussion without an attributable test" (Latour 2013, 144). Lived experience in all of its complexities and messiness should be the test that guides one's philosophical convictions, and this does not mean we all will or must speak the same languages. There are basic conditions that inform every inquiry and Latour is adamant that all parties be willing to stick with the inquiry, despite the uncertainties and risks involved. Neville, interpreting Whitehead's logic, claims that comparability as a measure for theoretical soundness can be derived from a harmony that is felt in its intrinsic and perspectival importance. This notion of comparison will be fleshed out further below. Feelings in this sense are Whitehead's prehensions or relational algebra of actual entities. Comparable experiences or felt relations have to be registered from the outside-in and inside-out. The "sensitive appreciation of the values in each entity", as Neville calls it, seeks to account for competing modalities of complexity and simplicity conveyed in the harmony achieved. Such hard-won harmonies have a diplomatic-like appeal through the construction of comparative and commensurate categories they establish, which can act as a lure for future community of inquirers. Interality fosters the kind of practice of philosophy we would recognize as an embassy open to asylum seekers (Constantinou 1996, 108). One may not have his or her papers, like speaking in the Straight Talk of analytic philosophy or practicing Habermasian communicative rationality, but the enrichments of life's experiences will do. Nothing more than experience, as James and Whitehead teach, and nothing less--come as you are! Therefore, interalities speak to the proposals brought before us through symbolic meaning. Meaning, broadly construed, entails networks of relations and trajectories that cannot be fully understood from the standpoint of facticity. But networks have their own fragilities that philosophical diplomats have to consider. Indeed, it is in every vulgar notion conceived about pragmatism as merely raw utilitarianism or opportunism. But we are seeking more than instrumentality, which is short-sighted and quite possibly why pragmatists can be said to prefer diplomats over scientist-philosophers. The former "appear once again in front of other peoples with a new peace offering. Diplomats are used to these kinds of redefinitions, they always know how to rephrase their requirements, this is why they are cleverer than scientist-philosophers. But they run the risk, or course, of being unscrupulous traitors" (Latour 2007, 20).
Meaning is of wider importance and significance than knowledge--they are not the same! We have to be willing to listen or trust without knowing. Therefore, an important heuristic tool for diplomacy is metaphor. Metaphor is employed as a useful path to establish access and knowledge to remote and foreign worlds of experience. Historically, tribes and cultures were more asymmetrical and isolated but modernity is all about the stresses of co-existence. All the parties involved in a negotiation can together make a common symbolic world through the power of metaphors. Since we cannot get at these phenomena directly or explicitly we construct imaginative analogies to overcome or minimize the gaps across cultural meanings and significance. As in the case of cooperation and compromise between parties' interests, there has to be an equitable or fair weight granted to each of the symbolic functions. No singular nexus of cultural institutions, whether religious, scientific, political, economic, etc. should monopolize the psycho-social attitudes and discourse. We have to account for all of the "interpretive keys" for all the various modes, each with its own tonalities and structure. The goal is to "negotiate encounters and confusions of ontologies in the plural" (Maniglier 2014, 40). Hence, Latour's sociological advancement of actor network-theory recognizes the situatedness of knowledge, including the methods we commonly employ to evaluate itself. Diplomatic philosophy rids itself of insistence on formalism, along with its tenets of "Straight Talk," which Latour warns is a more effective device for cutting off discussion than opening it up. We have no evidence that foil for supreme veridiction or "indisputable facts" can be achieved or is even desirable. One of the central aims of AIME is to "restore natural language to its expressive capacities" (2013, 123-148). Interality seeks to "listen" to these unheard languages--in Stenger's sense of cosmopolitics, it is about relearning to pay attention. As Zhang notes, with its commitment to "interonomy" or non-authoritative discourse, "interological inquiry situates itself in a tactical, sophistic position" (2017, 4). Discourse across networks and organizations too often suffers from the kinds of "speech impediments" which are non-diplomatic and bring institutions to a screeching halt. People who are easily sucked into analytic philosophy take problems to be something like puzzles, or being tied-down by semantic undertakings that have negligible bearing on more pressing existential concerns. A philosopher like Martin Heidegger would want to push further and inquire into the more fundamental question: "what is your project or work?" Latour calls this prerogative one of Straight Talk, which casts itself as a neutral language with a meta-structural ontology that can be largely context-less. Under such conditions, either ontological or analytic necessity governs all of the conditions for formal validity and even determines the way we interpret the concreteness of actual experience. To project or overlay an ironclad certainty over the uniqueness and messiness of our experience may be a helpful heuristic that generates a secure and less-risker world--or should we say unrealistic world. Latour asks, is it possible "They could maintain from one paragraph to the next a path that would pass from necessity to necessity, through simple DISPLACEMENT, without ever jumping through any operation of TRANSLATION?" (Latour 2013, 125). An open and radically empirical effort to achieve genuine translated communication would propose the elaboration of "diplomatic representations" that account for how entities and cultures articulate experiences in their own ways.
Akin to interality, Whitehead seeks to describe the "how, where, and when" of actual entities, in their concrescence or "growing together", not as a continuity of becoming, but as a "becoming of continuity" (1978, 35). The distinction between continuity and becoming is crucial for Whitehead's cosmology. Change, especially the "creative advance" demands to be explained. "Why something rather than nothing?" is not the preeminent ontological question for an interaologist. It is more fundamental to follow the "inter-expressive" specifications actualized in the trajectories or "historical routes" of actual occasions. The way that actual entities utter themselves is the governing principle of analysis under interality. While discussing the difference between "sense and sign" Latour writes: "Let us recall that radical EMPIRICISM, the version that inspired William James and that this entire inquiry aspires to extend in a more systematic way, reconnects the thread of experience by attaching PREPOSITIONS to what follows them, to what they merely announce, utter, dispatch" (2013, 236). Latour's Inquiry (218), too, following Whitehead's methodology of extensive abstraction, shifts the focus from "'What is the being or the identity of X or Y?' into a 'How are we to address beings or alterities, the alterations X or Y?'." To trace the continuities and discontinuities--in a word, the trajectories and plurality of interpretive keys of actual entities along their historical routes is the task of a relevant philosophy of culture and science. But along the way we must avoid what Latour calls "category mistakes" (2) that his theory of prepositions draws our attention to these reasoning miscues. At the heart of AIME philosophical mission lies the ethos of American pragmatism and the radical empiricism of James and Whitehead. This means to treat all accounts and testimony delicately, without prejudice or shortsightedness. Latour asks: "In how many ways can one truly say something about something else?" [...] And here it is not enough to be right, to believe we are right. Anyone who claims to be speaking well about something to someone had better start quaking in his boots, because he is very likely to end up crushing one mode with another unless he also notes with extreme care to avoid shocking his interlocutors, the relation that the various interpretive keys maintain with one another. The goal, of course, is always, as Whitehead insisted, above all, not to shock COMMON SENSE" (59). When Peter Zhang writes "In a nutshell, interality ([phrase omitted]) as an orientation is an East Asian predisposition and a Western rediscovery," (3) we can credit Whitehead for being a lead captain in this adventure of rediscovery. He steers us away from denying this mainstay of Asiatic common sense.
Philosophers struggle to engage diplomatic agendas and often subscribe to predeterminate parameters of discourse or structural intolerances. But philosophy benefits from a plurality of literatures and languages because the human condition and the world are complex or ill. The verb to afford is found in the dictionary, the noun affordance is not. I have made it up. I mean by it something that refers to both the environment and the animal in a way that no existing term does. It implies the complementarity of the animal and the environment" (1979, 127).
and involved in immense undertakings. This is why Latour implores us to the task of diplomacy because "values, if they are not to disappear, have to be diplomatically negotiated. A practical RELATIONALISM that seeks, in a protocol of relationship-building and benchmarking, to avoid the ravages of RELATIVISM--that absolutism of a single point of view" (2013, 481). A philosophy that cannot speak of relations falls into an obscure relativism, an us vs. them mentality. It not only becomes combative and complacent, but destructive of discourses. This method perpetuates an echo chambers approach to surveying and evaluating experience in all of its interrelatedness. The inquiry should be about the trajectories and different "interpretive keys" of relations in the way that Einstein's relativistic theories presuppose a larger ontological principle. Whitehead's principle of relativity--that everything is related to everything potentially--holds that time and space themselves can only be understood as contingent features of the cosmos. Whitehead's principle of relativity--that every item in its universe is involved in each concrescence" (1978, 22) observes that every actual occasion, without exception, is related to every other, even if the relationship is merely negligible (1978, 22). Relations between actual occasions are graded in accordance with levels of intensities of relatedness or relevance. Einstein's special and general theories of relativity are scientific applications of a much larger assumption--an ontological one--that any entity is, at least in principle, relatable to every other entity. The physicist's discussion of relativity is a "narrow" application and limited as only a physical theory of a more encompassing principle. Whitehead is notorious for giving keen philosophical and diplomatic advice: "seek simplicity, and distrust it" (1986, 163).
Nothing of the space-time continuum will be ultimately deciphered without a radically empirical account of the relationality such explanations presuppose. It may sound like a subtle difference, but Whitehead argued that it is in the little details and differences that actually makes all the difference! It is beyond the scope of this essay, but I would like to explore in future research the relationship between intensity, relevance, and antifragility. There seems to be a strong sense of robustness and stealth rightly attributed to the experientially intense. Whitehead's account of intensity is extremely rich and informative. It speaks to the "zest" or freshness of life in its "stubbornness of fact" and "creative advance." Novelties in the form of possible and potential relations have immense importance, given how they contribute the (re)-vitalizations of actual entities. Whitehead rejects dogmatic metaphysics that claims a necessary superiority of actuality over possibility. Non-actual relations have efficacy in the universe just as much as actual ones. There are no justifications that ground one's logical and ontological necessary conditions, such as space and time. Whitehead is a radical empiricist and open to the what experience can tell us about the world and how it is constituted. Openness to the environments of concrete experiences stipulates that we proceed as if all metaphysical principles and operators are contingent. The space-time continuum is a poor substitute for what Whitehead calls the "extensive continuum." Physicists and scientists have presupposed both time and space to be permanent features of the universe. What is more, they calculate as if their forms of measurement and results are absolute or apply to the universe as such, which is an extremely bold assumption to say the least. But if we apply Whitehead's criteria of "coherence, logically rigorous, and applicable" we have to concede that our standards are governed by the geometric societies, and not vice versa. It is more accurate and intellectually honest to conclude that scientific results speak to the phenomena of the observable universe, and we have to include the limitations of such frameworks in the published findings.
One will encounter a diplomatic crusade in the works of Whitehead, who calls other peoples and nations "Godsends" in the second to last chapter of Science and the Modern World. Diplomacy? Was this not what Socrates had in mind when he declared philosophy is midwifery? Have we not already been besieged by the "war of spectacles"? Could it be that saving ourselves is a matter of resisting the temptation to believe in modern monsters, such as the Economy/Market, Media, or Globalization? If we take Western modern and postmodern thinkers engaged in the semantics of combative and aggressive epistemologies being overly concerned with waging victories or providing the right or correct account, then interality has stepped out of the breach. Constructing and deconstructing logics of domination is of little interest for interalogists, like James, Whitehead, Stengers and Latour. Rather his or her focus lies in the "cultural contact zones between East and West where all of the action is" (Zhang 2016). This "critical zone" of cultural exchange and philosophical encounters presents fertile "land" to establish the embassies and consulates for the maintenance of vibrant institutions.
Interality as Middle Ground of the Open Work
My first encounter with interality came at the First Annual International Symposium of Interality hosted at Grand Valley State University, in July of 2017. It featured an eclectic mix of scholars, business/community leaders, designers, and media specialists on a wide-range of philosophical questions. Many times, I was unsure whether this was the conference I signed up to attend. The experience was as unique as the philosophical orientation itself! An embassy of thinkers assembled in the hopes of fostering new dialogues, focused on facilitating unheard connections. It was in that spirit which Stengers calls "relearning the art of paying attention." Philosophers as diverse as Heidegger, Kristeva, Whitehead, Deleuze, Flusser, Vico, among others were brought to bear on the complexity of interalities in the digital epoch. It had an AIME project feel and many of the participants, familiar with Latour's works, felt a similar connection. A unique mixture of European and non-Euro philosophical perspectives and interests was assembled, in the hopes of addressing concerns about philosophy being currently complacent and culturally irrelevant. There was a warmness and solidarity experienced at this conference that one normally seeks to find in the very institutions we must or choose to be loyal and devoted to.
How are we to take institutions seriously and think about ways to push back against the phobocratic closures sweeping across the Western socio-political landscape, dismantling the post-World War II global architectures? Between the extreme fundamentalisms of globalists and nationalists, there is a third way or middle ground that is involved in meaning-making for the sake of constructing shared identities and values. Here stands the diplomat's challenges us to consider the nuances of multi-local identities and non-local rituals and practices. The middle ground occupies a loosened relationship between selves and places--the two are not intertwined in a necessary rootedness, but we encounter worlds that manifest "places without selves and selves without places." Transitional reality of the means or "middle ground" is the most telling and constructive domain of experience for the metaphysics of interality, just as it is for diplomatic envoys. It is where all of the action takes place, so to speak. Independence and individuality have their place and are to be respected with hospitality, but it should never come at the costs of the possibilities offered through interdependence and cooperation. Interality is about the inter-ness of experience. Valuing the novel intricacies of reality, in all its crevices and deposits is another way of avoiding the modern Fallacy of Bifurcation and subject/object dichotomy. Strange mixtures constitute the careers of actual entities through non-social and social nexus and relational networks. But our trust in institutions has grown suspicious and fowl. Aside from being "too big to be accountable", institutions have largely--under the auspices of capitalism--adopted marketing and advertising strategies that are manipulative and aimed at unsuspecting surveillance rather than providing services for the benefits of consumers. The public has sniffed out that a counter-agency of click-bait, algorithms, and other deceptive practices is the new game in town. A mask-less evil genius, whom Latour calls "Double Click", is tracking and monitoring our emotional states, reactionary tendencies, and other psycho-statistical indicators.
Metaxic balance or "middle ground" is an apt metaphor capturing what kind of terrain our ethical, political, and scientific projects of knowledge will need to navigate. "While epistemology always unfolds onto a solid ground, diplomacy, on the other hand, has to get by on a moving one" (2016, 405). In order to gain traction and actually go anywhere, we have to be willing to reset our instruments and measurements. Interality represents to me a philosophical language most equipped to meet the demands of wide and varied cultural terrains. If one takes seriously the "blind spots" of Eastern and Western traditions and seeks to see how they may be brought in dialogue with each other through a fusion of ideas and rituals, then interality is a strong position to fulfill this task: it is hermeneutically open-ended, diplomatic in nature, and committed to an Adventurous aim of Truth, Beauty, Art, and Peace. Adventure, Art, Beauty, Truth, and Peace are the five cultural aims or satisfactions Whitehead deduces as relevant to any civilization. As the world grows more complex and integrated, each one of us are compelled to approach every day as if we were migrants in which all land of the globe has become "disputed territories." The landscape is undergoing dizzying renovations, as Latour (2016, 247) explains:
The vast dispositif of cartography, survey, land rights, property laws, and perspective is being slowly replaced by another set of signposts and guiding trails. It becomes impossible to place territories side by side. They overlay, overlap, and dispute one another; new visualization tools and mapping principles are called for. Everything happened as though we had moved from a geopolitical map surveyed from above, to a great many trails through disputed territories.
We are witnessing a globalist form of reactionary politics, driven by ethnocentric dogmatic exceptionalisms. "Just at the moment when it becomes necessary to fathom the multiplicity of intertwining and overlapping territories, there now resonates the old nostalgic call for falling back on the lands of the (imaginary) past. How difficult it is to de-modernize oneself. To stop demonizing the thick, heavy, earthly, mundane soil on which we have to grow. To stop being nostalgic about the promised land as well as about the archaic ground left behind for good" (Latour 2016, 247). We are witnessing how much this nostalgia leads to the crippling of institutions in the name of populism or nationalism. Philosophy, under the AIME project, serves as an open work that seeks the middle ground to rebuild institutions that we can have trust in again. No savior nor any other mysterious short-cut will serve as an adequate substitute. Interality knows this wisdom and holds fast to the project of resetting institutions, in Latour's sense. We cannot invent the wheel all over again, but can work toward a re-start in hopes of building and cultivating a much-needed connection of social trust. In the loneliness and isolation that social media and hyperreality perpetuate, we take the virtues of connectedness for granted but we can no longer afford to do so as Gaia approaches. The new climate regime must confront an earth that will not allow us to go on living in the throes of "connected isolation", as if we were somehow free from the burdens of institutions. Getting involved and taking responsibility is what the democratic way of life is all about. As much as Latour may be labeled a destroyer of truth, he is much more of a peacemaker with what one may say (without being dismissive) sounds idealistic: "this is the riskiest requirement, to propose a different formulation of the link between practice and theory that would make it possible to close the gap between them and to redesign institutions that could harbor all the values to which the Moderns hold, without crushing any one of them to the benefit of another" (2013, 65).
There is a diplomatic ethos and openness prescribed by interality that can harvest middle grounds. No absolutes are paid reverence, such as found in Being or non-Being in the classical metaphysical sense, nor subject/object, theory/practice dualisms. Whitehead does speculative cosmology without "metaphysical finalities", and without being a deconstructionist, who speaks a kind of Derridean universal sophism. Modernist and postmodernist grand narratives struggle to build bridges and instead tear them down. Deconstructionism follows this itinerary to its empty conclusions and deadend paths. Deconstructionists engage in a kind of "perverse treasure hunt" whose bounty disappears as soon as we reach out to clutch it. Dogmatic metaphysical finalities are like this and, as Whitehead observes, only lead to quarrels and discord (1978, 180-183). Further, neither deconstruction nor "metaphysical finalities" will contribute much to redesigning cooperative infrastructures for institutions. It may look like we are not relying on institutions anymore--with the turn to open source apps and companies that network us like Uber, Tinder, and Netflix, but I contend we are. Open works are the preferred medium of communication and meaning in such a ubiquitous cultural climate. And even if we are successful in shifting the operating costs to other actors, we still have to build institutional trust for the digital age. It is well known that institutional models were not constructed with the digital age of the internet in mind. That is what makes the AIME project so worthwhile--it seeks to incorporate the best of both worlds. We are back to Leibnizian relations all over again. As a digital platform for the humanities its aim is to cultivate those virtues we would expect institutions to provide and secure. Attention to institutions will become especially important for philosophers in the twenty-first century. The relevance of philosophy appears at a stand-still or in limbo. Professional philosophers face an uncertain future as academic institutions change and begin to devalue the role of philosophers as "life coaches" in a society bent on soundbites and quick fixes. We are witnessing a unique time of philosophy without borders, free to roam about. The arbitrary divides between analytic and continental philosophy, or Eastern and Western, for example, are rightly being challenged in a transcultural ethnoscape of disputed territories. Interality is more than equipped to help us regain our footing and engage strangers with a diplomatic mood, motivated by seeking to enrich our philosophical sensitivities and understandings.
The author thanks Stephen Rowe, Randall E. Auxier, John Shook, Richard Polt, and Ian Moore for offering helpful advice and criticism.
Myron Moses Jackson
Besl Chair of Ethics/Religion and Society
Department of Philosophy
3800 Victory Parkway
Cincinnati OH, 45207
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Myron Moses Jackson, Xavier University, USA
(1) The Quantum of Explanation argues that we should read "Whitehead's actual entity as a universal synecdochal key to any whole that can be hypothesized intelligibly. In short, the necessity in explanation has to do with precisely which possibilities do 'force themselves' upon our imaginations."
(2) For examples of "category mistakes" see, Gilbert Ryle, The Concept of Mind (1949).
(3) Peter Zhang, "Interality and Us," Canadian Journal of Communication, vol. 41 (2016), 379-382.
(4) James Gibson defines affordances as "The affordances of the environment are what it offers the animal, what it provides or furnishes, either for good
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|Author:||Jackson, Myron Moses|
|Publication:||China Media Research|
|Date:||Oct 1, 2019|
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