miércoles, 5 de septiembre de 2012

Response to Levi Bryant: On Methodology and Dispositions

On Methodology and Dispositions

   Levi has recently made some preliminary comments about my article-review, published recently in the new issue of the journal Speculations. I thought I would use his response as an opportunity to say a few things left pending after writing the review, as well as to respond to some of Levi’s salient worries about the first half of the paper.

I – Behind Doors
Before tackling the philosophical issues, and considering that Levi begins his post with some rather generous comments, I thought I should reiterate my general opinion on Bryant’s work, and his temperament as a philosopher. Levi’s work has been a perpetual source of inspiration for us, aspiring philosophers, for many reasons. I think his appetite for learning from new sources, his intoxicating passion for philosophy, and his willingness to reinvent his positions time and time again, are all examples of philosophical virtue. His blog has been a constant reference point, sometimes crystallizing better than most secondary literature on the subject, the views of some notoriously obscure figures from the Continental tradition. He has a virtue for demystifying the impenetrable nature of philosophy, making it approachable and fascinating. It is no wonder that his work has become a source of inspiration for many outside the academia, and his sometimes fastidious insistence in that philosophy should always listen to what occurs outside of its academic ivory walls, is invaluable advice.

    As someone who has been deeply influenced by Badiou, as Levi notes in his post, I find such an attitude in tune with what I take to be a necessary part of any truly contemporary disposition in philosophy: it can only recover its synoptic ambition by being attentive to the procedures that condition it, and which occur independently of it. For all of these reasons, Levi has been, and continues to be, a mandatory interlocutor and someone for whom I feel much warmth and admiration. So hopefully, we can continue having a philosophical conversation without vitiating our mutual respect and affection. With that said, I want to address some of the philosophical issues raised by Levi, in response to my review-piece.

II -  On  Philosophical Methodology

    It is no secret by now that Levi expresses much hostility to philosophical schools which emphasize the need and importance of epistemology, at least as the latter has been understood by the post-Kantian analytic tradition, and more recently, by some of those who try to integrate concerns proper to this tradition with questions and ideas proper to the Continental tradition. In his book, Levi targets what he labels ‘epistemological realisms’, which emphasizes the idea that realism ought to begin by an examination of the conditions under which we can say that thought gains traction on being, rather than by an examination of being itself.

     But Levi also targets all forms of anti-realism that result from an exacerbation of critique, such as has been emblematic of many Continental figures during the 20th Century, some of which are among Levi’s own intellectual heroes.

    This brings me to my first point: I think that Levi often construes epistemology as complicit with forms of anti-realism, or at the very least, that it collides with the prospect of giving a realist philosophy by way of ontological premises. But it should be always remembered that the anti-realisms that are in the process of being examined also include the positions of philosophers who thought they were restituting the priority of ontology in some form or other.

    Of course, Levi himself is well aware that the term ontology acquires a somewhat different meaning in the work of someone like Heidegger, where it becomes more a radicalization of the question of access rather than a positive metaphysical program. And I think that while Levi subscribes himself to the critiques advanced by such Continental figures against epistemology proper, he thinks that the preponderance of the question of access remains complicit with anti-realist thought. Nevertheless, epistemological realism remains the main point of contrast to his own ontological realism

   Levi expresses that he is somewhat amenable to my points about realist epistemology, and even that these might end up nurturing his thought in unforeseen ways. For this I am humbled, and grateful. Nevertheless, I should say that my concern in the review was not so much to defend a version of epistemological realism, but simply to say that epistemology as a whole is not susceptible to some of the objections that Levi proposes. In the book, Levi criticizes the priority of epistemology mainly by referencing the work of Roy Bhaskar, and against classical empiricist accounts which relativize knowledge to the givenness of perceptual or sensory data. My rejoinders to this part of Levi’s strategy were simply to indicate both that Bhaskar’s arguments for ontological realism are questionable when motivating realism, and that there exist a multiplicity of epistemological accounts that do not seem sensitive to the criticisms Levi levels against classical empiricist epistemology.

   Levi expresses himself somewhat strongly with respect to what he takes to be accusations of irrationalism that function more like a Stalinist bullying, and emphasizes that we just have different questions in mind, and different concerns. He ends his piece in a somewhat effusive declaration, which I quote:

Daniel takes this claim as the claim I think everything is up to individual, subjective, human whim. Indeed, the claim that everything is up to individual whim is a claim that Daniel often attributes to me. I’m surprised by this and wonder if Daniel has read Koyre, Lakatos, and Kuhn. All I’m pointing out when I say such a thing is that certain research projects are incommensurable with one another. I’m surprised that Daniel, who has read and been influenced by Badiou so deeply, has difficulty seeing this point. Daniel seems to miss the point that the Galilean who has resolved to try to see if nature can be mathematized, cannot respond to questions within the Aristotlean-Ptolemaic context.”

 Indeed, one of the lessons I have learned from Badiou is that philosophy should be sensitive to paradigm shifts (to use Kuhn’s phrase), that it should develop a dialectics of change, and that it must include a theory of novelty and creation. But I do not believe that the reasons for why I insist on epistemology are explained because I am still operating within an Aristotelian framework, while Levi in a post-Galilean one. To understand this, I should perhaps say a few words about my own philosophical history, which might resonate with some of the affective declarations Levi makes.

      I started my studies in a Continental-oriented department in Peru, where philosophy was mostly aligned with the social sciences rather than with the ‘scientific’ vision proper to analytic schools, and where figures like Heidegger, the late Wittgenstein, Foucault, and Habermas were most influential. I remember at one point my good friend and excellent philosopher Erich Luna (who runs the blog Vacio) came to me with an article on Plato by Gail Fine, from Cornell. Fine was my first explicit encounter with contemporary analytic philosophy, and at the time I couldn’t but feel that I had been indoctrinated all along. As Levi emphasizes, one of the deficiencies of the Continental tradition is that it breeds generation after generation of historians of philosophy more than philosophers as such. They tend to nod patronizingly towards any form of critical engagement with the canonical figures, and prefer a more reverential approach geared towards hermeneutic precision rather than to argumentative polemics. But Fine was doing something else: she was actively discussing the cogency of the philosophical theses in Plato, and doing so in an extraordinarily rigorous manner, while preserving stylistic clarity, freeing itself of some of the bombast in the Continental rhetoric.

  Little did I know, I would end up transferring to Cornell, and studying under Fine as my advisor. During my years there, I became quickly astonished and intimidated by the methodological scrutiny of the analytic tradition, and Cornell’s heavily analytic-oriented department. I found myself out of my depth in most conversations, and I strived to learn from this tradition its formal tools for the making and defusing of arguments. And yet, I couldn’t help but feel that something was off. I couldn’t see why this linguistified philosophy wasn’t subject to the kind of criticisms that Heidegger leveled, and which detected unsaid ontological assumptions underneath every attempt at an epistemology. After reading Rorty, I became somewhat convinced that although the rigor and clarity of the school was of invaluable support when entering the trenches, the tradition was fundamentally misguided, and that it continued, somewhat obliviously, to dwell in the shadow of Kant, whereas Continental philosophy had moved far beyond it, and waltzed merrily into post-Modernity. The result? I ended up writing a thesis on Husserl and Heidegger, at Cornell.

   I returned to Peru fairly confident in my Heideggerean proclivities, which I found were fundamentally correct even in the wake of figures that were critical of Heidegger: Derrida, Foucault, Gadamer, Habermas, Lyotard, etc. It was not until I read Zizek and encountered Lacan that my confidence in the Heideggerean project was first shaken. And it was not until I read Badiou’s Being and Event that my thinking underwent a full blown ‘paradigm shift’. What was most striking in Badiou is that he began his treatise by making a significant concession to the analytic tradition, understandably in avowing the valence of formal thinking. But Badiou did something else too; he summoned from the dead specters that Continental philosophers had purportedly buried for good: words like ‘truth’, and ‘universality’, and the methodological valence of argument and proof, without the obscurity of style that characterized the tradition. The most important lesson I learned from Badiou was that philosophy could and ought to reinvent its central concepts in accordance with the procedures of its time, that no word was a ‘bad’ word in philosophy, that no view was forbidden in principle, and that one couldn’t bury corpses for good without the possibility of their return. Like Putnam emphasized apropos science, history brings us to retake theses that we had thought to have discarded in the course of progress: the idea that the universe had a beginning being a prime example.

   Having laid this out, the work of Meillassoux and Brassier further radicalized this sentiment. Both at an stylistic and philosophical level,  Brassier insisted on demolishing the sociological barrier that separated concerns proper to analytics and to Continentals, by demystifying the caricatures that each projected about the other. Just like Heidegger and Gadamer offered a ridiculous shadow of the analytic tradition as preoccupied with logic and language games only, Carnap and Searle did nothing but reinforce the suspicions of Continentals that analytics didn’t know how to read. From the beginning of his doctoral thesis, Brassier called into question the very patronizing of knowledge in the name of ontology that had been emblematic in 20th Century philosophy, both in phenomenology and in vitalism, characteristically. 

 In the end, my diagnosis is that the affective antipathy that Bryant senses apropos epistemologists can be balanced out by reminding ourselves of some of the attitudes in Continental philosophers. Philosophical mediocrity begins when one thinks to be beyond learning, and one's opinions to be beyond revision. Just like the Continentals thought that to be concerned with issues of formal logic and proofs was myopic, analytics were seduced by the idea of progress and often patronized history and tradition. 

    But I believe in progress, and I think that just like Badiou and Sellars were perspicuous enough to realize there was much to be learned from the opposite tradition, we are now in an even better position to realize how this is so. I think that Bryant’s amenities to art, psychoanalysis, and media theory are resonant with concerns classically characteristic of the Continental tradition. But I think that the analytic tradition has done much work in the formal and natural sciences, to which it always remained close, and that we must learn from both. Recently, I criticized both Badiou for eliding epistemology and Brandom for eliding ontology. And I don’t think we have to choose between the two.

    More recently, Brassier’s work on Sellars persuaded me to revisit the work of analytic epistemology, under a more mature, fresh light. And the result was expected. The idea I had formed myself of the analytic tradition was indeed a caricature, and soon I realized that the interests that drove philosophers like Badiou were not incompatible with those of someone like Sellars, but congruent and indeed although in disagreement, potentially reinforcing. It showed me that, far from precluding the possibility of ontology in the name of epistemology, the analytic tradition, less encumbered by anti-realism, had actively pursued manifold metaphysical programs. 

    This brings me to my second crucial point: Levi writes as if I was interested in the question of truth, and of knowledge, at the expense of ontology. I think this is a brutally unfair caracterization, and one that forces one to choose between two things which in my mind are complementary.  The relevant quote is the following one:

Daniel is obsessed with the question of how a human being knows what he says (it’s always a “he”) about the world is true. I find this question to be rather uninteresting as I think it contributes little to any real practice; scientific, artistic, personal, political, or otherwise. I see it as the question of a hall monitor. By contrast, I’m interested in making some small contribution to shifting the issues we discuss. I’d like to see theorization of how mercury from rain fall affects fish populations and enters human populations. I’d like to see discussion of why people aren’t buying hybrid or electric cars, and what this has to do with availability and semiotics. I want to talk about how sanitation technologies affect the economic and cultural development of a people. I’m interested in how mantis shrimps or bees experience the world. If I make claims about how they do, I’m fine with providing reasons for why I think this is true and how we might come to know this about bees, but I take umbrage at the suggestion that I’m just basing these claims on wild speculation and haven’t engaged in any research or inquiry that might justify these conclusions. I think knowing a bit about bees might go a bit further in addressing real issues such as their disappearance in the States than abstract epistemological questions about how we know in general. I’m not interested in legislating what “true reality” is, but in shifting discussion from an obsessive focus on how we know, on how our minds relate to the world, to a discussion of how things, including humans, interact with one another. Assertions made within this framework are not a mere “subjective whim”, as Daniel suggests. He’s welcome to question claims and ask for reasons. It could turn out that various accounts are mistaken. Be specific. Critique the account. That’s how accounts become better. Don’t, however, throw sand in the engine of inquiry. Daniel, I’m sure you miss this, but the basic point is that we’re tired of discussing your issue. We want to ask other questions and attend to other issues. That doesn’t mean we’re unwilling to provide reasons.”

     I cannot agree with Levi on these points, I’m afraid. First, my argument was not to claim that Levi did not provide reasons for his claims. The entirety of the first part of my review goes over Bryant’s arguments against epistemological realism, and for ontological realism. What I aimed to show was that his arguments do not do justice to the real work done by epistemologists today, and that the solutions he proposes to the critical problem about the connection between thought and reality remain pending and unresolved. It is no mystery that Levi wants to propose a concept of knowledge that amplifies the traditional scope on representational accuracy in favor of an account that takes practice and production as pivotal. But what my review intended to show is that the idea that concern with representation elided concern with practice was misguided. Indeed, one just has to read the work of someone like Tyler Burge to realize how proximate his questions go in hand with the practicing activity of perceptual psychologsts, for instance. My fundamental argument is that in spite of his arguments for ontological realism, the problem of representation remains, that the account he offers does not resolve it, and that furthermore his own account must tacitly accept representation, even if it doesn't explain it.

Levi questions the utility of these investigations, but such concerns can be answered without problems on a case by case basis: in asking about how our perceptual  faculties work and those of animals, for instance, taking Burge's project as an example, we explore the extent to which we share facultative capacities with other living beings, assisting us in understanding better the relation between primitive functional capacities and higher cognitive functions. These relations are fundamental in understanding both how we act and react to our environments, as well as how other animals do so in relation to their environments. We learn which kinds of operations we carry out according to which kinds of process, and we develop formal resources to comprehend the intricacies involved, allowing us to understand ourselves and the natural world better.

    Burge, Fodor and Carey, for instance, construe a concept of representation that includes conditions for veridicality and objective representing that precedes strict linguistic representation, and which expands our traditionally anthropocentric conceptions of how we access the structure and features of reality. These are not questions fundamentally about sentences or propositions; they are questions about the kind of things natural scientists are concerned with on a daily basis. Use of propositional logic is no more instrumental in this regard than the use of sentences to express our views about things: just because we write sentences to express a given claim, one couldn't make the suggestion that we are bound to remain in talk about talk, or become enclosed in an anthropocentric prison. And the same goes for using propositions to express the formal structure of thoughts, sentences, states of affairs, and whatever else.

    But Levi oscillates between saying that he has resolved the methodological questions indicated above by way of Bhaskar, and saying that he is not interested in these questions altogether. It is the latter which I find objectionable as philosophical practice: just like a person cannot call themselves an ontic structural realist and claim at the same time to be disinterested with the queston about the distinction between mathematical form and content (like Harman notes), the question about how our thoughts about things are distinct from the things we think of is a necessary critical filter to all forms of dogmatic metaphysics, and cannot be obviated by any claims to realism in ontology.

Put differently: there is a distinction between the question about WHAT are our ontological theses, and the question about WHY we should advocate an ontology with such theses. The latter is not itself an ontological question, but is set to explain the grounds under which we ought to endorse an ontological program over another. Without understanding the semantic proprieties of words such as 'being', or 'real', our discussions are bound to be too fuzzy to be of any use, or too lax to be appropriately answered. And such a propadeutic, methodological investigation, is the condition so that our metaphysics won’t be arbitrary or dogmatic. 

But if before we say what out metaphysics is we must say on what grounds metaphysical theses are adjudicated, dissuaded or encouraged, then we must accept that metaphysics is not first philosophy. This part of the critical legacy remains, I think, and leads one to ask: what status does such a propadeutic discourse have, if not epistemological? If one has no such account, then one’s metaphysics become precisely dogmatic. I think that Levi attempts to have such an account, but also wants to say he is ultimately not willing to engross himself in this issue.

    Levi formulates his propadeutic methodological enquiry by appears to Bhaskar, and the  first part of the review expresses why in my estimation: a) his argument does not succeed in motivating realism, b) it does not succeed in motivating an ontology of objects, c) it does not succeed in establishing the priority of ontology over epistemology. As a result, my contention was not that Levi was being irrational because he gave no reasons, but that a) the reasons he provided were not satisfactory, and that b) he seemed to relapse into pragmatic considerations when claiming that he could dismiss further argument, and let the epistemology police bitterly scold him from a distance.  But if the latter criteria for dismissal are what drives his obviation of epistemology, then Levi has surrendered his ontological program to a kind of subjective whim, to pragmatic considerations of the sort caracteristic proper to instrumentalist approaches, nevermind the talk about bees and Jupiter.

    The important point is that Levi’s motivations for his onticological program were problematic, and that without such resolution the program’s feasibility was suspect. When Levi emphasizes that he is just ‘not interested’ in the same kind of questions that I am interested in, I think he touches precisely on the point of concern.

It is not that I believe all philosophers should do the same thing, or that everyone should ask the same questions. But from this it is another thing to say that there are no questions that philosophers ought to answer, or be accountable for. Certain things must be done in order for us to be doing philosophy rather than something else. The question of whether we can sidestep the critical quandary about the connection between thought and reality by way of ontology, or whether epistemology can be motivated before ontology, are open questions. Indeed, towards the end of the first part, I acknowledge Levi’s virtuous considerations about this knot, and offer some arguments in the way which I won't repeat.

In any case, the problem about the connection between thought and reality is at the heart of any philosophy that claims allegiance to post-critical realism, and against dogmatic metaphysics. My idea, developed elsewhere, is that the epistemological corollary to ontology is necessary in order to proscribe the authority of subjective attitudes as admissible in philosophical argumentation. One can be as disinterested in epistemology as anyone else, but this this not mean that the cogency of one’s project remains without an answer to these questions. To say these questions are quixotic concerns of a pre-Galilean spirit seems to me a convenient scapegoat.

   Again, this is not to say that Levi does not offer arguments for his claims. It is to say that if the arguments he offers are inadequate in establishing what he intends them to establish, then not being interested in addressing these shortcomings surrenders one’s account to volitive grounds. It is not that I am not interested in ontology, or that I think epistemology is the telos of philosophical activity. It is simply that to acknowledge the separation and connection between thought and reality remains a necessity, and my arguments insisted in that these are not problems that Levi can sidestep. 

I refuse to accept that epistemology is ‘my issue’ simply because someone is tired to discuss it. I don’t believe philosophical legitimacy can be subjected to one’s interests, precisely because I believe philosophy must be synoptic. It is those who think they can afford to ask one set of questions at the expense of methodological clarity that end up making careers out of how many grains of sand make a heap, or whether Gadamer’s reading of Heidegger is good. One of the lessons I take from Heidegger, is that the beginnings are the most difficult, and that methodology is required. Finally, this does not mean that Levi’s ontological theses are false simply because they lack a proper methodological footing. Nor does it mean that they won’t help certain people do certain things, perhaps admirable ones. That’s all fine.

       But it does mean that without proper grounding, these theses are still not obviously yielding the kind of realism that he considers as a goal. Levi’s Spinozism seeks to inspire creative practices, and assist our negotiation with a material world in multiple forms. Yet it is important to remember that the desire to serve the interests of our kind, however noble, will only motivate philosophical positions at the expense of other considerations if one ascribes to philosophy primarily an instrumental status. Needless to say, as an aspiring realist and materialist, I think Levi should contend this possibility. The question is whether he is in a position to.

As Badiou mentions in his latest presentation from the EGS, I think we cannot begin from anthropologically configured considerations about practice, politics, creation, and whatnot. We need a new logic, in the primitive sense in which the latter entails the articulation of the conditions for what is thinkable. In this respect, I find that the projects of people like Badiou (thinking of a generic form of novelty) and Brandom (thinking of the articulation between semantics and pragmatics) can mutually reinforce each other, and therefore that ontology and epistemology can be reconciled in making a truly contemporary philosophy, beyond classical sociological dividing lines, and without stale strawmans thrown in each other’s way.

      To close up, I think that Levi has been negatively impressed by epistemologists to the point where his skepticism against the discipline is total. My only rejoinder to his remarks on affect would be to say that in patronizingly dismissing the work that drives many without having a solid grip on the field’s present state, it is he that seems to emulate Stalinist tactics: maligning thinkers for their thwarted temperaments, accusing them of endorsing positions they effectively don’t, and misconstruing their claims so as to effectively dismiss anything that might appear, even coarsely, as a challenge to one’s position. I know Levi is far better than this, so I don’t think we need to reduce the best of us to the worst representatives of each tradition. Lest, that is, if we want to return idiocy with idiocy, like the analytic lab rat who thinks Continental con artists do nothing but eloquent sophistry, or the pious Continental that thinks looking to the past suffices to skeptically dismiss or warn against novelties in the present. The real obscurantism comes in facile dismissals, in unwarranted disavowals, and in overconfidence in one’s assumptions about the other.

With that said, I think that Levi’s project is one that is just beginning, and that in the company of great thinkers, it will only continue to grow and nurture itself. Finally, we are all in this together, and if Levi can learn a single thing from my sincere attempts to find out what works and doesn’t in his incipient project, then I may have returned a fraction of the wealth he’s given me.


Appendix - Added Friday, September 7th

Levi made a further response, to which I thought I would attach the following:

I think the claim that epistemological concerns are anthropocentric because they ask about relations between humans and the world is a bit like saying that questions about bees are beecentric because they ask about bees. In other words, it tautologically follows that in asking the question about the relation between humans and the world we are, well, asking a question or set of questions about humans. But epistemology is a bit broader that this. And I think anthropocentrism should entail something a bit stronger: namely, not only that a set of questions take place which are about humans or the relations between humans to other things. Rather, anthropocentrism entails that in asking these questions, these thinkers preclude or de-prioritize other considerations.

   I think that here it is important to distinguish methodological priority and general priority: to say that certain questions must be resolved before others does not mean that the former questions are more important than the ones which can only be answered on condition that the former have been. Epistemological priority, if it obtains, should be understood in the logical sense in which it conditions how we understand and adjudicate metaphysical theses, not in the sense that it favors or precludes metaphysical theses.

I think Levi is right in that much epistemology has been anthropocentric in that it construed its concept of representation on the basis of typical human faculties, and often using the linguistic capacity of humans as determining all forms of knowledge. But epistemology need not follow this route. Epistemology need not restrain itself to asking about language, or it need not suppose that only humans know. A good example is Burge's critique of what he calls 'individual representationalism', which he accuses of over-intellectualizing objective representing, in a way that precludes us from understanding how we share representational cognitive functions with other, non-sapient animals. Similarly, epistemology need not preclude connections between practice and discourse, like Sellars and Brandom propose in articulating semantics with pragmatics.

In this regard, I think epistemology is not so different than other scientific fields of investigation. From cosmology to biology and physics, our first theses are encumbered by assumptions, overdeterminations, etc. Epistemology has also had such faults, and one of the virtues of contemporary epistemology is its proximity to advances in cognitive science, in perceptual psychology, in neurophysiology, in ethology, etc. Epistemology today in fact is not constrained to asking questions about how we represent the world, even if the question about our relation to the world conditions this understanding, as the paradigmatic examples of Fodor or Burge show. In any case, epistemology does not in general preclude ontology, but conditions it, while allows us to distinguish between levels of priority by distinguishing ontological from logical priority.

This is a point that I think Sellars does well to emphasize: even though there is an ontological dependency of the logical on the causal (sentient and sapient creatures couldn't exist without the proper evolutionary conditions obtaining), there is an epistemological dependency of the causal on the logical (without the capacity to have beliefs, make claims and so on, we don't have theories). Burge and others suggest that, although knowledge in this strict sense depends on sapience, there are pre-linguistic forms of objective representation which we share with non-sapient creatures, and which they set out to investigate. In other words, human knowledge does not exhaust the question of knowledge, indeed of representation.

Finally, I would just say that in no way an exploration of the conditions under which we, as knowers, represent or know the world forecloses metaphysical investigation of the sort Levi wants to do. Just like asking about bees might become necessary at a certain stage of our argument without making our entire philosophy beecentric, we can acknowledge the question of our access to the world has a necessity and methodological priority with respect to other questions, without for this reason accepting that there aren't other questions, perhaps ultimately more interesting to us, to be answered.

In short, I don't think epistemology either: a) constrains us to ask questions about human knowledge, even if this is constitutive of its investigation, b) that it doesn't foreclose other kinds of investigation, including ontological investigation.  My concerns are that by eliding the epistemological component in philosophical thinking, we run into methodological quarrels of the sort I have been exploring, and that ultimately render suspect the status of our ontological claims.

   Now, ontological propositions can get off the ground without such footing, but at the price of rendering our metaphysics dogmatic, in the sense that it does not answer as to why we ought to endorse a given metaphysics, or it relies on instrumental considerations as the ultimate court. I think that these two ways are much more deserving of the label 'anthropocentrism', because they subordinate ontological theses to pragmatic concerns about our activities, our creative elan, our search for political emancipation, etc. But I think we can, and should, be concerned with exploring the world in ways that exceed considerations of the human. While scientists can carry an exploration suspending all kinds of questions, and have instrumental efficacity work on the background of no fixed ontological position, the distinctiveness of philosophy is that it, to use Badiou's phrase, begins with the beginning.

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