The Aesthesis of Unworlding: Against Aesthetic Inferentialism

Presented at the School for Materialist Research on 26th June 2012

Introduction

In this paper I want to explore two related claims about the ‘recalcitrance’ of the aesthetic.

The first is that aesthetic experience is composed of encounters with qualities, things, events, or processes that are not thereby conceived through the Encounter – Encounters are ‘phenomenologically dark’. Thus, while the Aesthetics of the Encounter can prompt conceptual thinking, as here, it remains open to a refractory field of forces that disturb conceptualisation and may be violently recalcitrant to it, much in the manner of Derrida’s iterable trace, Lyotard’s disruptive avant-garde sublime or Deleuze’s virtual field.

Secondly, insofar as the aesthetic exceeds rule governed practices, it has a problematic relation to the construction of shared human worlds or forms of life – ‘worldmaking’, to use Nelson Goodman’s term. It can, to be sure, ‘symbolise’ shared experiences, prompting flares of recognition across the voids between and within us. But in doing so it often expresses the very impasse in our self-understanding that fractures us – from within and without. What is shared may, then, be the very site of that disruptive impasse.

There is thus a radical opacity in the aesthetic as well an unbounded iterative or generative potentiality presupposed by the very production of worlds – both of which impede and threaten the construction of a commons.

1)   Inferentialism

Inferentialism is a theory of meaning and a philosophy of logic. It is an alternative to ‘referentialist’ conceptions of meaning (Graham 1999, 248). Referentialist accounts explain the meaning of utterances by starting with relations of reference between bits of language and bits of the world and build meanings of sentences as functions of these parts. In formal semantics this approach is called ‘model theory.’[1]

The broadest criticism levelled by inferentialism at referentialism is that that referentialism violates the manifestation requirement: the principle that meaning (whatever it is) is determined by publicly assessable rules and performances.

Word-world relations (like reference or satisfaction) fall out of word-word relations, out of use.

Inferentialism is the proposal that we unpack ‘use’ inferential role. According to Wilfrid Sellars – one of the originators of inferentialism – these roles conform to three types of rules or regularity which determine how competent speakers should move from one position in the language-game to another, enter the language game, or leave it.

In the case of assertions, transition rules correspond to materially correct inferences such as the inference that x is coloured from x is red. Language-entry rules are non-inferential causal propensities – reliable dispositions to perceive the world in inferentially articulated ways.  Finally, “language exit rules” correspond to practical commitments disposing to non-linguistic action (Sellars 1974).

The leading inferentialist thinker, Robert Brandom, agrees with other post-Wittgensteinian pragmatists that linguistic practices are governed by public norms + differential responsive dispositions (RDRD’s). However, he follows Donald Davidson in rejecting a communal (or I/We) concept of social structure in favour of an I/Thou conception (Brandom 1994, 39; Roden 2017).  If meanings are inferential roles the content attributable to expressions will dance in line with the doxastic commitments of individual speakers.

Suppose one observes a masked figure in a red costume clambering up a skyscraper. The language entry rules may entitle you to claim that Spiderman is climbing the building. However, you are unaware that Spiderman is Peter Parker. The inferential role of ‘Spiderman’ here will differ from the case of a speaker who knows that Spiderman and Peter Parker are the same.

This simple example shows that the inferential roles of expressions like “Spiderman” are not fixed communally but vary with auxiliary assumptions, sensitivities, and dispositions of individual speakers. Understanding the utterances and beliefs of others is a matter of deontic scorekeeping – that is, keeping track of the way social statuses alter as speakers update their inferential commitments.   It follows that what a belief or claim “represents” or is “about” is fixed by the status it can be ascribed from the perspective of various deontic scorekeepers (including the believer or claimant).  

Thus, the most plausible version of inferentialism implies that no symbol has a fixed role in the inferential network but one that constantly updated as claims are made, defended, and queried in the game of ‘giving and asking for reasons’. The inferentialist thus echoes the provocative conclusion of Davidson’s ‘A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs’ that ‘there is no such thing as a language, not if a language is anything like what many philosophers and linguists have supposed.’ (Davidson 2005, loc 1389).

2)   Worldmaking, Irrealism and Forms of Life

From this brief account of inferentialist semantics, one might wonder how this might inform an aesthetics that must engage in non-linguistic media and non-verbal representation. Here, the work of Nelson Goodman seems to have provided a handy translation scheme.

Goodman’s aesthetics falls out of a typology of symbol systems which accommodates non-linguistic symbols such as musical notation, figurative or abstract painting, cinematic images, sculpture, or dance (Allessandro 2017).

For example, Western musical notation exhibits the necessary features of notational systems: they are syntactically disjoint (no character stands for more than one symbol), finitely differentiated (it is possible to determine what symbol a character belongs to) and semantically differentiated (where two characters differ in meaning, it is possible to determine that [Goodman 1976, 41]).[2]

By contrast, paintings and non-digital images are ‘syntactically dense’ – every change in hue or shape constitutes a different character – and syntactically ‘replete’ insofar as there are multiple features (shape, hue, colour, brightness) constitutive of character differentiation (Kulvicki 2006, Ch1).

For Goodman all these forms of symbolization – linguistic or non-linguistic – are ‘ways of worldmaking.’ More accurately, they are ways of generating distinct versions of associated worlds (Goodman 1980, 212).

Symbols literally makes worlds because they are the vehicles of concepts and our concepts fix how entities are counted, identified, and distinguished.

For the metaphysical realist, there is only one right way in which symbols should hook up to the world (the Lord’s interpretation function). But Goodman’s irrealism holds that every world version or conceptual scheme carves up reality differently.

Interpretation functions, then, can only be conceived with subscripts relativizing them to the symbol systems that compose different world versions. [3]

I will illustrate this idea with an example from work on the metaphysics of sound (Roden 2010). There are different metaphysical worlds of sound: proximal theories, which identify sounds with qualia or sense data of auditory experience; medial theories, which treat sounds as the transmission of acoustic energy; and located theories that treat sounds as events in ‘sounding’ objects. So, depending on which of these theories one holds, one will locate sounds, either in the head or mind, in the media through which compression waves travel, or in sounding objects and assemblages. Each sonic ontology, then, implies a different interpretation function from the parts of speech denoting sounds to the sounds themselves.

If Goodman is right, there is no uniquely right way of achieving this mapping, although each world version will have to be coherent, consistent, and explanatorily useful. For example, proximal theories account for the qualitative aspects of sounds directly and easily but are less easy to reconcile with spatial intuitions about sounds. Located theories do justice to our intuitions about sounds being outside the head but they have more difficulty accounting for auditory qualities that do not reduce smoothly to physical properties of resonating objects, such as pitch or timbre.

The location and sorting of sounds appears, however counter-intuitively, to be a discourse dependent property of the world. If the realist insists that there must be some right way of parsing the sound world, Goodman’s irrealist will answer that any such candidate for a true world will be just another way of locating and sorting sounds. 

Reza Negarestani (2021) has proposed that such worlds are correlated with the forms of life of creatures whose social practices constitute these symbolic schemes. Given the inferentialist claim that meaning supervenes on social practices, this qualification seems quite natural.

If all world versions are actual forms of life, this account imposes a ‘manifestation condition’ on speculative thinking. Even an account of an imaginary world must draw on extant symbols in some way. We cannot invent an empty world, without being prepared to say how our concepts slice it up. For example, speculative approaches, like mine on posthumanism, which theorize agency in a manner unbounded by any conception of how that agent’s subjectivity or thought is manifested are precipitately rejected (50 – see below).

In what follows, I want to show that there are reasons for thinking that this generalized account of the symbolic construction of life worlds cannot adequately comprehend cases where we encounter an event or entity that is unworlded – characterized by its non-belonging to any given world.

I suspect that most of these cases form instances Tim Button calls ‘The Behind the Schemes’ argument against conceptual relativism (Button 2013, Ch18). Bluntly, any general account which states that worlds are cut like pieces of world-dough by our world-versions must exclude the cutting and the ‘primal dough’ from any of the worlds so cut, for, as Button points out the dough must transcend any particular conceptual scheme for the very idea of a conceptual scheme to be cogent (See Davidson 1984, 192).

We thus demur from the ‘cooky cutter’ metaphor of the concept. There are worlds only if there is worldmaking, but worldmaking cannot belong to any world; a fatal ellipsis that, we will see, allows the chthonic reversal of humanism in avant-garde art.

3)   The Iterable

I want to begin with a special case of the argument for the claim that worldmaking must be conceived outside worlds which concerns the ontological preconditions of world versions and their symbol systems, as opposed to worlds. In the next section, I will generalise this to cases where aesthetic creations enact the making and unmaking of worlds.

The simple argument for the unworlded can be derived from Derrida’s iterability arguments – developed originally via his reading of J L Austin in ‘Signature Event Context’ and Limited Inc.

  • Symbols are repeatable marks not one-off objects or events (A symbol that could not be repeated across multiple contexts couldn’t have a meaning.)[4]

But what constitutes the repeatability of the symbol? Clearly, it is not just its shape. As Goodman reminds us, having the same shape or sound ‘is neither necessary nor sufficient for two marks to belong to the same letter’ (Goodman 1976, 137-8).[5]

According to Goodman, marks are replicas of one another if their physical differences are not ‘correlated with a difference in appropriate use’ (Goodman 1973, p. 263).’ It certainly seems more plausible to the systems of rules governing the use of words, notations or other symbols within languages or world versions that constitutes syntactic or semantic identity and difference. For example, for the inferentialist the rules fixing the meaning of a sentence are its Introduction rules – the grounds for its assertion – and the Elimination rules governing its inferential consequences.

If this were the case, however, it would imply semantic essentialism. The I and E rules fixing the meaning of the sentence type ‘Snow is white’ would be such that any token failing to instantiate those rules would token a different sentence type (Roden 2004).

This won’t do, for as we have seen, the most plausible version of inferentialism requires that I/E rules can alter dynamically with the auxiliary beliefs or pragmatic actions of individual speakers. Thus semantic (and syntactic) essentialism is precluded by inferentialism.[6]

So we come to the second assumption of the iterability argument:

  • A mark would not be repeatable within a finite scheme (e.g. language, interpretation, notation, world-version etc.) if it were not repeatable outside of it (e.g. re-used, joked, quoted). In the case of inferentialist accounts, a symbol could not function in the dance of inferential roles if its identity were fixed by any of these.
  • So symbols must be repeatable outside of any finite scheme.

What Derrida refers to, then, as the iterability of the mark does not depend on a relationship between tokens and abstract types constituted by finite rules or systems.[7] Iterability is unbounded. As Shekar Pradhan, this implies that no account of the meaning of a sign ‘can connect with all the possible uses of a sign’ (Pradhan 1986: 72).

Iterability is not scheme-relative but real repetition since, as a condition for any kind of functional classification or semantics, it operate transversally or scheme-independently. Each mark is at once immanent – shaped in the world-versions in which it occurs – while retaining the power to effloresce into other world versions (See Roden 2004). This capacity to be co-opted into new, uses – uses sometimes antithetical to an given anterior scheme – can’t be determined by the anterior rules since they either correspond to different standards of appropriate use or constitute tangled exceptions to them (See, for example, my discussion of the faltering logic of inclusion in Gary Shipley’s Warewolff! in Section 5, below).

For this reason, I have argued that marks are best viewed as repeatable particulars. Each context of use somewhat informs the mark’s signifying effects but no context (e.g., language-game) constitutes its essence. The metaphysics of iterability thus imposes a structural limit on the constitutive efficacy of any subject or subject-like scheme (Roden 2004, 204).

It follows that the following statement by Goodman on repetition must be false if things resembling world-versions are to be possible:

Repetition as well as identification is relative to organization. A world may be unmanageably heterogeneous or unbearably monotonous according to how events are sorted into kinds (Goodman 1978, 9).

So, Derrida’s realist account of repetition provides an instance of the Behind-The-Schemes Argument: Repetition does not depend solely on how the world is sorted into kinds by symbol use. It cannot if symbol use or normativity is to be possible in the first place. There must, then, be transversal events; boundary crossings undecidable from within a given scheme for Goodman’s epistemology to work.

A condition of there being worlds is that social abstraction lacks the constitutive efficacy – e.g., in sorting events into kinds – that Goodman attributes to it.

There must be an undecidable if anything is to get decided.

4)   Frames and Dissociations

If there is an aesthetics of undecidable events, it must be possible to ‘experience’ an event as non-scheme relative, as unrecognized. But how, or in what sense, can such elusive events be experienced?

In a recent paper for e-Flux Jean-Pierre Caron makes extremely fruitful use of the idea of ‘Constitutive Dissociations’ developed in by the avant-garde theorist, musician and artist, Henry Flynt. He weds it to the inferentialist aesthetics of worldmaking – understood as the ‘conceptual revision’ of normative practices constitutive of artistic genres.

Flynt defines Constitutive Dissociations (C/D’s) in the context of the work of the avant-garde conceptual or generative art works developed by Duchamp and Cage, La Monte Young and Flynt himself.

A C/D occurs when an artist produces a work that alters the protocols governing a particular genre of art. For example, Cage’s 4’ 33” retains temporal boundaries of a Western art-music performance but introduces silence where there would normally be intentionally produced sound. Duchamp’s ready-made altered the protocol whereby exhibited works had to be the result of the artist’s technical skill, by selecting common industrial artifacts for exhibition. La Monte Young’s text scores from his Compositions 1960 includes instructions to performers that don’t directly specify any conventional musical action at all such as Composition #2 which gives performers this instruction:

Build a fire in front of the audience. Preferably, use wood although other combustibles may be used as necessary for starting the fire or controlling the kind of smoke. The fire may be of any size, but it should not be the kind which is associated with another object, such as a candle or a cigarette lighter. The lights may be turned out.

After the fire is burning, the builder(s) may sit by and watch it for the duration of the composition; however, he (they) should not sit between the fire and the audience in order that its members will be able to see and enjoy the fire.

The performance may be of any duration.

In the event that the performance is broadcast, the microphone may be brought up close to the fire.[8]

Some C/D’s seem to utilize the ‘standard properties’ of the artwork in a particular aesthetic category, often by deploying those frames but absenting ‘variable’ aesthetic properties that would normally characterize the performance or work (Walton 1977).

Others heighten the audience’s reflection on the work by minimizing the variable properties or by making formerly standard properties variable – e.g., multiplying frames to produce vertiginous de-framings (as in Art & Language’s Incidents in a Museum) or Daniel Buren’s site-specific interventions.

The effect of these incidents, as Caron makes clear, is to Unmake Worlds, as he writes:

If we understand the ontological status of an artwork as the result of specific forms of doing that are always conceptually laden, then constitutive dissociations are a means of world-unmaking that dissolve the connections believed to be essential for certain practices, potentially yielding unheard of practices. The unmaking of worlds offers an occasion for the rewiring of the inferential links that form an anterior practice into a (still undetermined) posterior one (Caron 2021).

In line with the principle of ‘constitutive inefficacy’ introduced in the last section, I want to demur (slightly) from Caron’s ontology while affirming his account of the upstream effects of C/D’s.

I think the problem with this diagnosis lies with its implication that art is woven wholly in the realm of the spirit, out of ‘specific forms of doing’.

Firstly, just as not all events are behaviours and not all behaviours are actions, so not all actions exemplify practices. At a first approximation, a practice must be publicly scrutable.  An action exemplifies a practice only if there is some procedure for deciding what type it is. C/D’s are clearly designed to obviate all such procedures.

Secondly, an artist’s creative act is an efficient cause of C/D’s but actions cause many other kinds of things than actions. It does not follow that C/D’s are actions.[9]

As Flynt puts it, a C/D comes about because its instigator substitutes an inscrutable protocol for a standard one. We can grant that the Instigator intends to generate an inscrutable event. But an inscrutable event cannot be an action unless there are actions such that there are no procedures for interpreting them.

Flynt raises an analogous problem with respect to his piece Work Such that No One Knows What is Going On (WSTNOKWGO). It exists, has effects in virtue of appearing in a concert program together with the programmer’s ‘guess’ as to what it is and how to perform it. This has the structure of a semantic paradox, since however one guesses what WSTNOKWGO is and how to perform it, one has failed to produce anything answering its description.[10]

Such ‘incidents’ appear to violate what Donald Davidson refers to as the ‘Observability Assumption’ for intentional agency, which states that ‘an observer can under favourable circumstances tell what beliefs, desires, and intentions an agent has’ (Davidson 2001b: 99)

In other words, if x is an agent, x must be interpretable given ideal conditions.

Should we infer from this that an event is only an action if interpretable under some set of ideal conditions?

Assuming, for now, that there are no ideal conditions for interpreting a C/D such as WSTNOKWGO, this question presents the inferentialist aesthetician with a dilemma. Either C/D’s are not actions, or it is possible for facts distinguishing actions to be evidence-transcendent.

The latter option implies the possibility of alien acts, uninterpretable by any human or sapient being – sundering our concept of action from any extant world-version or rules of use. This would violate the manifestation requirement that forms one of the original motivations for inferentialism: namely, that meaning is exhaustively determined by use (Dummett 1973).

Ironically, this would licence speculative metaphysical claims about alien or posthuman agents which would be pragmatically inaccessible to us – to humans – and thus beyond the space of reasons. I take it neither Caron nor Negarestani wants to go there.  

For my part, I have no reason to ‘eliminate’ this disjunction by inferring one or other disjunct.

Firstly, this very conundrum demonstrates that the C/D’s are limit encounters where discursive procedures disrupt discourse and produce events that are, to quote Deleuze, objects ‘not of recognition but of a fundamental encounter’ (Deleuze 1994, 139). Events that, since they cannot be recognized, can only be felt or ‘sensed’.

This might seem a grim or ironic turn, given that C/D’s are supposedly conceptual artworks. But conceptual art, was never about making concepts, so much as creatively abusing them to achieve nonconceptual effects. There is a sensation – aesthesis – associated with the Encounter that affects us in ways we cannot assign to stereotypical forms of feeling. There is a phenomenology, but it is a dark phenomenology, offering few (if any) explicit cues regarding what is felt (Roden 2013).  

Interestingly, I think this puts C/D’s on a continuum with the most ‘embodied’, least regularized forms of aesthetic practice, such as music or dance improvisation – and perhaps suggests why conceptual artists such as Flynt and Young were also heavily involved in jazz. Improvisations are also composed of affects rather than stereotypic emotions – even when these make up an incipient, embodied sociality (Roden 2019, 521). Such affects encounter systems whose complexity exceeds our explicit powers of conceptualization, prediction or working memory -bodies, environments and technological systems – through the affordances they manifest for improvising bodies. Similarly, one may speculate that we encounter C/D’s through their affordances, the possibilities for action they yield or, more obviously, frustrate.

Action is required for the aesthetic encounter, even if what is encountered thereby is not an act.    

Secondly, pace Caron, I think there is no rational teleology whereby this sundering of anterior practices need knit together into a posterior one. C/D’s discursively produce encounters ‘outside’ of discourse, having no immediate intent beyond the unmaking of worlds.

The idea of artworks as pure ‘unworldings’ in this sense, might seem paradoxical given that the constitutive efficacy of worlds has been downgraded in the course of this argument.[11]

Maybe, a world-version is better thought of as Lyotard characterizes a culture in The Inhuman, as a passingly coherent ‘nebula of habits’, recipes, rules of thumb, reliable cliches, strategies, norms and expectations (Lyotard 1991); tactics for surfing the affordances of the real. As such they may also produce or compose the real – as when a group of rock musicians chain together a song from riffs they have practiced together for days in their rehearsal room.[12]

5)   Transcendental Suicide

In the case of C/D’s social powers which formerly rendered reality tractable, render it intractable. We no longer know how to go on.  Perhaps, like Flynt or Young, we no longer want to know. Or, if we go on it is by converting their power into what I term ‘biomorphs’.

A biomorph is not a body but an intense aesthetic schematization of the potentialities of bodies. Bellmer’s dolls, Ballard’s Crash fetishism, Stelarc’s suspensions implying mutations without ecologies, versions without worlds, living-dead subtractions without forms of life or ecologies.

Works in the genre of concept horror – such as Gary Shipley’s Warewollf! or my own Snuff Memories – exhibit what happens when the biomorphic machine becomes equal to its iterated death. Shipley’s masterpiece is, as I’ve written elsewhere, about the horrors perpetrated on the concept:

I ask, somewhat rhetorically, of this passage from the section ‘Nice Gumbo’: If K is “sweet gangrene” what is it to be “in” celibacy. What is it for “sweet gangrene,” in turn, to be in glass? (Roden 2020).

This is grammar lacerated and singularized, a twisted and idiomatic monad locked and suffering in the span of a sentence (Roden 2020).

Snuff Memories, ostensibly a fantasy about a time war fought by the vicious ‘moral powers’ of the universe, is also about what it is like for a body to cease to enact a world and thus to embrace its iterated extinction.

This passage comes from an early section entitled ‘Meshes of the Afternoon’. ‘Meshes’ introduces the figure of Nessa Map, a hyper-rational anti- rationalist with an auto-asphyxia kink. In some ways she resembles Flynt, trained as a mathematician, yet driven to use the protocols of reason against reason:

But even to this author the ‘she’ of this passage is unclear.

It might be figure played by Maya Deren in the classic experimental film from which the section takes its title, replicating differential circuits and dream rituals.

Or, there is no consistent subject here and thus no world for it to inhabit.

Maybe ‘Deren’ names a routine that dissociates from her figure, freeing itself through the sorcery of asphyxia and ritual scarring.

And what remains of her is another biomorph – ‘a lesion in her thigh. An art of love’ – offered to the ‘second person’, a woman known as ‘the Cabalist’ (later reborn in multitudes, later a sexless canine under a wounded star) committed to the death of worlds, to poisoning God, or the next worst thing to God.

This is strongly suggested later in this passage, when the narrator – a time travelling hermaphrodite– tells of the biomorph’s eventual fate:

There is nothing left of the person here beyond its abject iteration. The body and its world are ceded to transversals that elude the frames of flesh or of any finite work. What remains, then, is a tissue of events we register in deliquescent narratives, just as the C/D interrupts our aesthetic world without initially yielding a more consistent one.

If inferentialist semantics suggests any kind of model for aesthetics, then, it cannot be an idealism that cuts or weaves distinct worlds or life-forms, but something necessarily fractured and almost evacuated of a subject that could come to apperceive these events – and it requires a fundamental encounter with a reality that is perceived in terms of its intractability.   

References:

Bénard, R., 2012. ‘Le Cinéma comme expérience du monde sensible: Sombre de Philippe Grandrieux’. Ekphrasis. Images, Cinema, Theory, Media, 7(1), pp.27-33.

Brassier, Ray. 2014. “Prometheanism and its Critics.” In #Accelerate: The Accelerationist Reader. Edited by R. Mackay and A. Avenessian, 467–488. Falmouth: Urbanomic.

Boghossian, P., 2003. Blind reasoning. In Aristotelian Society supplementary volume (Vol. 77, No. 1, pp. 225-248). Oxford, UK and Boston, USA: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Brandom, R. 1994. Making it Explicit: Reasoning, representing, and discursive commitment. Harvard university press

Button, T., 2013. The Limits of Realism. Oxford University Press.

Caron, J-P. 2021. “On Constitutive Dissociations as a Means of World-Unmaking: Henry Flynt and Generative Aesthetics Redefined”, e-flux.

Davidson, D. 1984. Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Davidson, D., 2005. Truth, language, and history (Vol. 5). Oxford University Press.

Deleuze, G., and Guattari, F., 1988. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Athlone.

Derrida, J. 1979. Speech and Phenomena: And Other Essays on Husserl’s Theory of Signs, David Allison (trans). Evanston Ill.: Northwestern University Press.

Derrida, J. 1984. Margins of Philosophy, Alan Bass (trans). University of Chicago Press.

Derrida, J. 1988. Limited Inc, Samuel Weber (trans). Evanston Ill.: Northwestern University Press.

Derrida, Jacques. 1998. Of Grammatology, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (trans). London: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Flynt, Henry 2012. ‘La Monte Young in New York,’ in Sound and Light: La Monte Young and  Marian Zazeela, ed. William Duckworth and Richard Fleming. Bucknell University Press.

Giovannelli, Alessandro. 2017. ‘Goodman’s Aesthetics’, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2017 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2017/entries/goodman-aesthetics

Goodman, Nelson (1973). The Structure of Appearance (Dordrecht: D Reidel).

Goodman, N. 1976, Languages of Art: An Approach to a Theory of Symbols , 2nd edition, Indianapolis: Hackett.

Goodman, N. 1978. Ways of Worldmaking. Indianapolis: Hackett.

Goodman, N., 1980. ‘On starmaking’. Synthese, pp.211-215.

Graham, P.J. 1999. ‘Brandom on singular terms’. Philosophical Studies: An International Journal for Philosophy in the Analytic Tradition, 93(3), pp.247-264.

Kulvicki, J.P. 2006. On Images: Their Structure and Content. Oxford: OUP.

Lyotard, J-F. 1991. The Inhuman: Reflections on Time. Cambridge: Polity.

Negarestani, R., 2018. Intelligence and Spirit. Urbanomic/Sequence Press.

Negarestani, R. 2021. ‘The Human Re-cognized, the Life-form Re-Made’. Zones (Parasol 5), pp. 45-55.  https://centreforexperimentalontology.com/2021/02/16/zones-parasol-5-now-available-in-download

Pradhan, Shekar (1986). ‘Minimalist Semantics: Davidson and Derrida on Meaning, Use and Convention’, Diacritics, 16 (1), pp. 66–77.

Roden, D., 2004. ‘Radical quotation and real repetition’. Ratio, 17(2), pp.191-206.

Roden, D., 2010. ‘Sonic art and the nature of sonic events’. Review of Philosophy and Psychology, 1(1), pp.141-156.

Roden, D., 2013. ‘Nature’s Dark Domain: An Argument for a Naturalised Phenomenology’. Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplements, 72, pp.169-188.

Roden, David. 2014. Posthuman Life: Philosophy at the Edge of the Human. London: Routledge.

Roden, David. 2017. ‘On Reason and Spectral Machines’: Robert Brandom and Bounded Posthumanism, in Rosi Braidotti Rick Dolphijn (eds) Philosophy After Nature. London – New York: Rowman & Littlefield International: pp. 99-119.

Roden, D., 2019. Promethean and Posthuman Freedom: Brassier on Improvisation and Time. Performance Philosophy4(2), pp.510-527.

Roden, D. 2020 “Posthumanism: Critical, Speculative, Biomorphic,” in The Bloomsbury Handbook of Posthumanism, ed. Mads Thomsen and Jacob Wamburg. London: Bloomsbury, 2020, 81-94.

Roden, D. 2021. Snuff Memories. Schism [2] Press.

Sellars, W. 1974. Meaning as Functional Classification (A Perspective on the Relation of Syntax to Semantics). Synthese, (3/4). 417.

Shipley, Gary J. 2017. Warewolff! London: Hexus Press.

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[1] Model theory takes for granted a formal relation of reference (or satisfaction) by which word-world relations are established. This leads to a number of problems, according to its critics. For example, Paul Boghossian objects that model theorist takes certain patterns of inference like Modus Ponens (MP) to be valid because they are truth preserving. But, as Boghossian points out, many truth preserving inferences are not obviously justifying in the way that MP is meant to be (Boghossian 2003, 227). The model theoretic approach understands the semantics of formal languages in terms of interpretation function I that map primitive symbols like names of predicates onto the domain D of the model. Names refer to individuals. Predicates or open formulae like ‘…is a cat’ refer to the objects in D that satisfy the predicate. Logical operators like ‘&’ or ‘not’ are understood as truth functions mapping the truth values ‘T’ or ‘F’ (at least in two-value logic) into truth values. Quantifiers like ‘∀x’ then can be understood in terms of the satisfaction of the open formulae composing them, etc. The ‘truth’ of closed formula, built up by the recursive syntax of the language, with no free variables is the just the limit of satisfaction – satisfaction by all sequences of the models.

[2] Natural languages are finitely and semantically differentiated but not disjoint since there are orthographically identical types that instance different syntactic and semantic types (‘bat’, ‘bank’)).

[3] ‘Since the fact that there are many different world-versions is hardly debatable, and the question how many if any worlds-in themselves there are is virtually empty, in what non-trivial sense are there, as Cassirer and like-minded pluralists insist, many Worlds? Just this, I think: that many different world-versions are of independent interest and importance, without any requirement or presumption of reducibility to a single base’ (Goodman 1978, 4)

[4] Its occurrence, for example, have no systematic import because it would have no systematic role in behaviour. Even in syntactically replete non-linguistic systems like painting, there must be sufficient recurrence for a style to emerge, say. So, the repeatability qualifies as a minimal ‘infrastructure’ for languages, notations and non-linguistic symbols of any kind.

[5] This point obviously applies to homonyms within or between languages (See Roden 2004).

[6] It must be possible for words and sentences to alter semantic value, even syntactic value, since whether a symbol constitutes sentence may depend on whether it is semantically evaluable and this status may be discursively open in some contexts (Trafford 2016, 107).

[7] Even where these are cast in terms of nominalist ontologies such as Sellar’s account of functional classification (Sellars 1974).

[8] Or Composition #4:

Announce to the audience that the lights will be turned off for the duration of the composition (it may be any length) and tell them when the composition will begin and end.

Turn off all the lights for the announced duration.

When the lights are turned back on, the announcer may tell the audience that their activities have been the composition, although this is not at all necessary.

[9] Performative C/D’s are partially composed of actions, but they are also composed of nonhuman materials too: sounds, fires, silences, ramifying parerga in a gallery system, etc. The inscription of this protocol in matter that tokens no type, that evades scrutability, is essential here.

[10] As Flynt writes: ‘But if there were a “game” so inscrutable that nobody knew anything about it, then how would the game be established as palpable?’. 

[11] World versions do not – for example – fix standards for similarity and difference, since if they did, there could be no worlds at all.

[12] In special cases, they become essential to the functioning of an institution such as the art gallery or the concert and acquire normativity, or something like it. We obey them because we expect others to and, reflexively, to correct our behaviour if we do something surprising. But these just come down to complex expectations which, as Ray Brassier puts it, allows us to do ‘something with time’ even as time ‘does something with us’ (2014, 469).

One thought on “The Aesthesis of Unworlding: Against Aesthetic Inferentialism

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