Four Problems

In my forthcoming book, An Inquiry into Analytic-Continental Metaphysics: Truth, Relevance, and Reality, I begin with four classic problems in metaphysics. The book unfolds from here, drawing from analytic and continental philosophers along the way, as I develop a metaphysics of problems, inspired by the work of Gilles Deleuze, to address these classic problems in metaphysics. I post the four problems here as a point for possible discussion, and as a basis for blog posts to come.

§1 Problem of the New

What is new, truly new? If we say that some event or phenomenon, A, is truly new, then by what criterion do we make this claim? The most immediate answer appears to be that what is new is unlike anything that preceded it, or there are no phenomena or events prior to A that include or harbor A, for if they did then A would not be truly new but would be simply the explication of what was already implicitly present. The problem of the new may therefore not even be a problem. One could echo the sentiments expressed in the book of Ecclesiastes and resign oneself to the view that ‘what has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun’ (Ecclesiates 1:9 New International Version). If one does accept that there can be something that is truly novel, a reality irreducible to what has preceded it, then we have other problems that come along when one accepts this.

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What’s the Problem

Only an expert can see there’s a problem

And see the problem is half the problem

And only an expert can deal with the problem

Only an expert can deal with the problem

Laurie Anderson – “Only an Expert

Having recently read James Williams’ most recent blog post, another excellent post as usual (this one is on Deleuze’s Timed Logic), I was inspired to resurrect my own blog from neglect. This post also reminded me of Laurie Anderson. Although I was a big fan of her early work (U.S.A. Live and Big Science), I hadn’t followed her recently, and hadn’t heard her song, “Only an Expert,” until James mentioned it in his post. It is particularly relevant given the problems in the world, but more importantly given the problem of how to deal with problems, of how to identify, address, or work with problems. Laurie Anderson notes the challenge of needing experts to identify problems but also using experts as a cover to ignore problems right before us – “The person who’s part of the 60% of the U.S. population / 1.3 weeks away, 1.3 paychecks away from a shelter / In other words a person with a problem.” This is an issue I take up in two books I recently finished, and these books are also why I have not posted in a couple years or more. I’ve been putting all of my writing energies into these books. They are both on the nature of problems, drawing from Deleuze, Plato, and the existential tradition, among many other people. The first, An Inquiry into Analytic-Continental Metaphysics, develops a metaphysics of problems to tackle some central problems in metaphysics–the problem of the new, the problem of the one and many, the problem of relations, and the problem of the new. I draw indiscriminately from both analytic and continental philosophers as I develop the arguments in support of the notion of problematic Ideas. The second book, Towards a Critical Existentialism, applies the metaphysics of problems to issues in social and political thought, showing how existentialism is relevant to thinking through the nature of problems.

In the posts I’ll be working on here I’ll lay out some of the arguments from my two books by plugging them in to what I’m reading at the moment. I may also just throw out new thoughts and problems that may or may not get legs. These will be rough drafts of ideas, incipient problems, or my digressions and impressions as Eric Schliesser might say, that I note along my intellectual path. Next up will be a post on a book I’m reading recommended by John Protevi Habeus Viscus, by Alexander Weheliye. Weheliye adopts Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of assemblages and explores what he calls racializing assemblages. Along the way there are some important criticisms of Agamben and Foucault, and their argument also has resonance with the manner in which I understand the nature of problems. I’ll spend the next few posts thinking about race and problems.