‘Pluralism = Monism’ – Prof. Jeffrey Bell (SELU)

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RHUL Centre for Continental Philosophy research seminar – 18 November 2022 Online. Bell on a Rethinking of Foucault and Putnam.

RHUL Centre for Continental Philosophy research seminar
‘Pluralism = Monism: The PSR and the History of Modern Philosophy; or Towards a Rethinking of Foucault and Putnam.’
Prof. Jeffrey Bell (SELU)
Friday, November 18th from 2.00-3.30 (GMT).

Abstract: In this essay I will begin to explore the “oddity” Heidegger claims we would encounter were we actually to consider how long it took for the Principle of Sufficient Reason (hereafter, PSR) to become explicitly formulated. Although implicitly at work in both Plato and Aristotle, it took some 2300 years until the PSR came to be explicitly formulated by Leibniz. In his formulation of the PSR, Leibniz claims that it simply recognizes that “there can be found no fact that is true or existent, or any true proposition, without there being a sufficient reason for its being so and not otherwise.” The oddity Heidegger encounters, I will argue, is that the PSR itself cannot be given a determinate, sufficient reason for being true, or for being so and not otherwise. To elaborate upon this claim I will use Kant’s understanding of transcendental ideas to develop the notion, from Deleuze, of problematic Ideas. Problematic Ideas, as we shall see, are both the condition for the determinate itself, and a condition that is not to be confused with the determinate, and they are the condition for the regress of conditions that begins once one sets out to provide the determinate condition for the determinately given.

With these arguments in place, I will turn to the work of Michel Foucault and Hillary Putnam to clarify the relationship between the PSR as a principle that calls for an explanation or grounding and the problematic Ideas that are the condition for the determinately given, a given that is then capable of providing the explanation and grounding one seeks. By turning to the work of both Foucault and Putnam, we will see how they have each sought to explain and ground the possibility of a stable semantics and pragmatics of meaning. In their efforts to do this, alongside their efforts to avoid difficulties that come with the PSR, Foucault and Putnam ultimately come to rely upon a form of metaphysics that charts a path between metaphysical monism and pluralism. The metaphysics that emerges in both Foucault’s and Putnam’s projects can be seen to resonate with Deleuze’s understanding of multiplicities, where a multiplicity is understood to be a substance that is neither a determinate one or unity nor a multiple of such determinate unities; or, this is a metaphysics that attains, as Deleuze and Guattari put it in A Thousand Plateaus, “the magic formula we all seek—Pluralism = Monism” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987 [1980]: 20). What these discussions will show is that a metaphysics of multiplicities provides us with a way to rethink the history of modern philosophy, especially the history of analytic and continental philosophy, and it allows us to do so despite the “oddity” that comes with the explicit formulation of the PSR.

The seminar will be online (via MS Teams) – if you would like to attend, please email Henry Somers-Hall ([email protected]).

You can find more information about the Centre, as well as details of the other talks this term here: https://www.royalholloway.ac.uk/research-and-teaching/departments-and-schools/philosophy/research/centre-for-continental-philosophy/

If you asked to be put on the mailing list for the CCP, but haven’t received an email about this session directly from Henry Somers-Hall, please do get in contact, and he’ll make sure you’re on the list going forward.