Métaphysique d’un bord de mer

Métaphysique d’un bord de mer, Paris, Editions du Cerf, 2016

Comment s’est inventé le bord de mer ? Avec quelles figures historiques, quels rituels sociaux, quelle littérature ? Quel est le sens de cette construction ? Et comment la décrire ? Car les concepts usuels de la métaphysique sont essentiellement terrestres et sont inadéquats pour traduire le mouvant, le fluctuant, le sans sol. Il faut les y faire jouer à contre-emploi ou les détourner pour les rattacher à ce milieu particulier qu’est la plage. Aussi le bord de mer semble appeler une autre métaphysique, qui reste à élaborer. Un livre polyphonique, construit par fragments, où chacun peut entrer comme il veut, à la saison de son choix, en fonction de son humeur ou de ses goûts, comme on peut passer un week-end à la mer en hiver, ou y rester tout un mois l’été.

S’entrecroisent des récits, des scènes de plage, des souvenirs d’enfance ou le portrait de personnages singuliers, avec l’analyse de textes littéraires et des réflexions proprement philosophiques sur les concepts et le statut de la métaphysique.
Ces fragments s’organisent en une chronique retraçant une année au bord de la mer. Une histoire des bords de mer, ou comment un territoire du vide est devenu un petit paradis. Une autre manière de faire de la philosophie.

Entretien à propos de ce livre

Entretien à propos de ce livre

 

 

 

 

Imagine the Earth without humans !

Copie de IMG_0128 (2)

Performing Arts Forum, Ste Erme, 05/03/2016

 

 

Can we (and if so how) imagine the Earth without humans ?

 

Imagine, in a literal sense, produce an image, a sort of picture, a description: a desolate beach, gray sand, threatening waves, inhabited  by monsters like in H. G. Wells, The Time Machine. But then there is a human, the time traveler. A usual argument would say that we can’t imagine the Earth without humans because by so doing we would reintroduce something human on the Earth. This is still true in various versions of speculative realism. Neither in Q. Meillassoux’ nor in G. Harman’s perspectives, can we imagine the Earth without humans. For G. Harman, we can only proceed by “allusions”. A description like H. G. Wells only concerns apparent objects which are defined by the relations between us and real objects: the Earth that we can describe, picture, is always humanized and must be distinguished from the realm of real objects which we can not properly speaking describe. For Q. Meillassoux, all we can do is prove that the universe is mathematical and hope that our science will finally come close to the true mathematics of the universe. A description like Wells’ is flawed for two reasons: not only it implies secondary qualities which only make sense when referred human perception but, as we will see, it also implies a kind of time paradox.

 

In a nutshell, a description like Wells’ seem to bear many features that refer to humans (colors, waves, sunset), so how could it give a picture of an Earth without humans?

 

My aim, in this discussion, is to convince you that this way of formulating the problem is wrong. I will argue that it relies on several implicit assumptions. One of them is a principle of co-presence which denies any temporal difference between “given” and “givenness”. Another one is the model of the “thing”, which refers to a certain form of life which is not exclusive (non human life does not necessarily cut up things out of the continuum of perception, Bergson) and which, even from a human point of view, is inadequate on a desolate beach (how many things do you see? Almost none. The sea, the sand, are not things but elements in Bachelard’s and Merleau-Ponty’ sense).  

I claim it is perfectly possible to imagine the Earth without humans. In fact, we do it all the time. One should give a speculative function to fictions such as Wells’. But this requires both to reformulate the opposition between correlationism and speculation, and to discuss again the distinction between appearance and reality.

 

Part I. On Q. Meillassoux, After finitude

Both Q. Meillassoux’ attack on “correlationism” (on the topic of ancestral statements) and his own way out of correlationism (by reference to our possible annihilation) rely on a “presentism” according to which “the given cannot be anterior [nor posterior] to the givenness”. Bergson’s theory of memory offers a counterexample to this principle. I argue that there is no reason to accept this principle of co-presence between the given and the givenness and that, in particular, considering fiction as a form of givenness enables one to introduce a temporal difference between given and givenness. This in turn undermine Q. Meillassoux’ opposition between correlationism and the speculative perspective.   

It is then possible to outline a theory of fictions giving a speculative function to fictions while remaining inside correlationism.

 

Part II. Metaphysics of the seaside

I will start with various descriptions of the sea-side by an XVIIIe century geographer, Claude Masse. In a sort of thought experiment, I will then try to imagine the life of a being indigenous to this landscape: a husserlian subjectivity, if you wish, who instead of waking up on the Earth, with various things that (s)he can touch, would only know waves of water and waves of sand: what kind of body would (s)he feel to have, what kind of space and time would (s)he live in?

My point is that our usual metaphysics, the examples we take as philosophers (touching a thing instead of feeling the wind on our skin, walking instead of swimming) is related to a certain environment. The sea-side as described by Masse would call for a completely different metaphysics.  

 

Part III. On G. Harman and T. Morton’s theory of objects and hyper-objects.

In a way, T. Morton has introduced the notion of hyperobjects to qualify beings such as the sea, climate change, nuclear waste) which cannot be considered as objects properly speaking. I will compare Morton’s hyper-objects with Merleau-Ponty’s elements. They have many aspects in common. Both admit that the  object of perception bears a kind of surplus but, for T. Morton, as for the OOO, this surplus distinguishes the real object from its phenomena, whereas, for Merleau-Ponty, it is the phenomenal object which bears an indefinite surplus.

The question is: which of them, hyper-objects or elements, will enable us to imagine the Earth without humans?

   

 

 

Bio

Je suis né en 1971 à Tunis. Elève de l’ENS, rue d’Ulm, de 1991 à 1996, j’ai suivi un cursus parallèle en mathématiques et en philosophie. Après une thèse de philosophie, soutenue en 1999, j’ai été nommé chargé de recherche au CNRS, où je suis resté de 2001 à 2011. Depuis novembre 2011, je suis professeur au département de philosophie à l’université Paris 8 Vincennes-Saint-Denis. Je suis également co-éditeur de la revue SubStance.

Mon travail concerne les relations entre l’Imaginaire et la Raison. Comment l’imaginaire, et l’imaginaire le plus bizarre, joue-t-il à l’intérieur de ce qui relève, ou devrait relever, de la raison ?

Dans une perspective critique, j’ai étudié les archives de plusieurs savants (Kurt Gödel, Emil Post, Norbert Wiener), travaillé aussi sur certaines expériences de neurosciences, pour montrer comment des images, des images fantastiques, peuvent orienter ces recherches scientifiques. A l’inverse, j’ai cherché, dans des oeuvres littéraires ou artistiques, comment intervenaient des éléments scientifiques et se nouait alors une autre relation, extra-scientifique, entre Imaginaire et Raison

Dans une perspective spéculative, j’ai essayé moi-même de jouer sur l’imaginaire et, au moyen de la fiction, de développer une métaphysique originale.