Anthropocentric Metaphysics

Posted on January 21, 2009 in Uncategorized

I just came across an article which came out in the academic journal Political Theory from 2005 which I somehow missed. I suppose because of my own theoretical bias (e.g. they reference Agamben and Derrida, etc) I find it one of the most interesting approaches to ‘liminal studies.’ Certainly there are not many such articles on the UFO phenomena in academic journals to begin with so it should stand out. The article is entitled ‘Sovereignty and UFOs’ and is available here.
There is also a response to a critique of the article here. The comments section is interesting to peruse since it seems to indicate the same problems of the almost-unavoidable idea of surmounting ‘anthropocentricity‘ — which is the very thing the authors are trying to point out: how do you know that you don’t know something? Mostly it would seem that ignorance is much like the old joke of the man looking under the street light for a lost item, not because that is where the item was lost but because the light is better there. An ‘epistemic failure,’ as they put it, of the reigning paradigm of all human studies — that is, the ‘human’ — puts govenance mechanisms in a troubling situation. It’s certain seems easy to see that such state sovereignty regarding such has been at work in the ‘modern’ for quite a while. It is almost as if certain anti-bodies are formed to work against not only many liminal states, but also the human populations which carry the ‘infection’ of what the sovereign state sees as the irrational and the superstitious. And since a culde-sac of knowledge exists on both sides (albeit in different directions), it gives mis-recognition of both sides.

This obviously not an easy thing to perceive. Philosophically, perhaps it could be said that the phenomenological tradition (especially deconstruction) is an attempt to ‘dust’ all sorts of linimal portals at the threshold of the human and to at least illume those limits. The crossing of those portals is another thing altogether. Often times charges of verging on, or passing over into the ‘inhuman’ result from those investigations.

Interesting then that so called ‘speculative materialism’ is putting forth another philosophical strand which attempts to dance into some of these issues. (The most fabulous, in all senses of the word, is the recent book by Reza Negarestani: Cyclonopedia:Complicity with anonymous Materials, speculation and philosophy…lots of speculation… And also the journal COLLAPSE from Britain..see also After Finitude by Quentin Meillassoux and many new blog sites devoted to the general area).

A couple of short quotes from the article:

“Because the contemporary capacity to command political loyalty and resources depends upon it, the assumption of anthropocentrism must be unquestioned if modern rule is to be sustained as a political project.”


“This does not mean that UFOs are in fact humanly unknowable,
but they might be, and in that respect they haunt modern sovereignty with
the possibility of epistemic failure.”

Ufologists often talk about a coming date (always coming) when secret files will be released etc. This certainly doesn’t deal with such conspiratorial issues but the article is very successful in pointing to a skandalon, perhaps indemic to human cognition which might stand in the way of any real recognition of the phenomena.

I’m also reminded of The Black Swan by Nassim Taleb and the place of ignorance and chance in forming most aspects of the world. I’ve found that there is even a new term for the study of ignorance: agnotology. More data does not necessarily mean we know more; in fact it may give a complacency about what we (think) we know.

On another website, I seemingly misleadingly said that the Black Swan lends itself to the proposition that anything can happen at any time…perhaps not quite so radical as that but it would seem to verge toward the same sort of ignorance of events and both their probability and improbability….and as Wendt and Duvall put it, a threat to anthropocentric integrity — rather a threatening failure of systems how we know things.

“I push one step beyond this philosophical-logical question into an empirical reality, and one that
has obsessed me since childhood. What we call here a Black Swan (and capitalize it) is an event with
the following three attributes.

first, it is an outlier, as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations, because nothing in the past
can convincingly point to its possibility.

Second, it carries an extreme impact. third, in spite of its outlier status, human nature makes us concoct explanations for its occurrence after the fact, making it explainable and predictable.

third, in spite of its outlier status, human nature makes us concoct explanations for its occurrence after the fact, making it explainable and predictable. “

Many find it better to just keep looking under the street light…afterall it’s almost impossible to see anyplace else.
And besides way too much trouble to even attempt.