Levi answers my concerns over incorporeal/corporeal objects in his new essay…. quite interesting, indeed! I’ll have more to say on this later. I’m still not convinced, being a materialist of the new school materialisms I still affirm what I want to call a two-aspect theory of entities much in the same way that some Kantian scholars support a two-aspect theory of the noumenon/phenonmenon divide (see Henry E. Allison: Transcendental Idealism). As Allison and others situate it, there is no dualism, no two different entities, one called noumenon and the other phenomenon; instead, there is only one entity with two aspects or faces. Allison in an anti-idealist reading of Kant proposes a two-aspect epistemolgical based understanding of transcendental idealism in which the transcendental distinction between appearances and things-in-themselves (phenomenon/noumenon) be understood as holding between two ways of considering things rather than as two ontologically distinct sets of entities. The only thing I would argue against Kant is instead of a normative epistemological account I would opt for a transcendental realism and an ontological account of this two-aspect theory. This paradox is at the heart of Karen Barad’s treatment of intra-action and entanglement theory as I’ll investigate below.
One of the things I see in Levi’s distinction between incorporeal/corporeal is that in doing this he is buying into a dualistic scheme to support this thesis, and for many of us this will not offer a solution within a materialist framework. Levi supports a substantive view of reality, incorporating the whole schematic relationism of a substance based approach to objects. I still am not convinced, although I admire it as an architectonic system that aligns well with putting all the pieces into place as a systemactic effort to negotiate the actualities that we know and see, yet I wonder how it would explain such disturbing truths as the wave/particle distribution effect? As a monist I see quantum theory as supporting two-aspect theory of a single energic flow of energy/matter. Relativity theory supports a two aspect theory of energy/matter as two aspects of the same underlying reality. Instead of a dualism, there is a monism with two faces…
Karen Barad recently described this wave/particle paradox as the problem of the “very nature of nature: “light seemed to behave like a wave, but under different experimental circumstances, light seemed to behave like a particle. Given these results, what can we conclude about the nature of light-is it a particle or a wave? Remarkably, it turns out that similar results are found for matter: under one set of circumstances, electrons behave like particles, and under another they behave like waves. Hence what lies at the heart of the paradox is the very nature of nature” (KB 29).
Diffraction experiments are at the heart of the “wave versus particle” debates about the nature of light and matter. Indeed, the so-called two-slit experiment (which uses a diffraction grating with only two slits) has become emblematic of the mysteries of quantum physics. The Nobel laureate physicist Richard Feynman once said of the two-slit experiment that it is “a phenomenon which is impossible, absolutely impossible, to explain in any classical way, and which has in it the heart of quantum mechanics. (KB 72-73)
As she states it recent studies of diffraction (interference) phenomena have provided insights about the nature of the entanglement of quantum states, and have enabled physicists to test metaphysical ideas in the lab. So while it is true that diffraction apparatuses measure the effects of difference, even more profoundly they highlight, exhibit, and make evident the entangled structure of the changing and contingent ontology of the world, including the ontology of knowing. In fact, diffraction not only brings the reality of entanglements to light, it is itself an entangled phenomenon. (KB 73)
To deal with such phenomenon she offers a diffraction mode of analysis in which diffraction phenomena will be an object of investigation and at other times it will serve as an apparatus of investigation; it cannot serve both purposes simultaneously since they are mutually exclusive; nonetheless, as our understanding of the phenomenon is refined we can enfold these insights into further refinements and tunings of our instruments to sharpen our investigations (KB 73).
As she summarizes her thesis:
“What I am interested in doing is building diffraction apparatuses in order to study the entangled effects differences make. One of the main purposes will be to explore the nature of entanglements and also the nature of this task of exploration. What is entailed in the investigation of entanglements? How can one study them? Is there any way to study them without getting caught up in them? What can one say about them? Are there any limits to what can be said? My purpose is not to make general statements as if there were something universal to be said about all entanglements, nor to encourage analogical extrapolation from my examples to others, nor to reassert the authority of physics. On the contrary, I hope my exploration will make clear that entanglements are highly specific configurations and it is very hard work building apparatuses to study them, in part because they change with each intra-action. In fact it is not so much that they change from one moment to the next or from one place to another, but that space, time, and matter do not exist prior to the intra-actions that reconstitute entanglements. Hence, it is possible for entangled relationalities to make connections between entities that do not appear to be proximate in space and time. The point is that the specificity of entanglements is everything. The apparatuses must be tuned to the particularities of the entanglements at hand. The key question in each case is this: how to responsibly explore entanglements and the differences they make. My hope is that this exploration will provide some insights that will be helpful in the study of other entanglements” (KB 73-74).
I agree that the ‘specificity of entaglements is everything’. If it is true that space, time, and matter do not exist prior to the intra-actions that reconstitute entanglements, then Her agential realism offer us one path among others toward an understanding that is both monistic and two-aspect in its promotion of the processes at the core of entaglements. I like that she is exploring the notion of difference as situated within this complex of ideas: how to responsibly explore entanglements and the differences they make. Her theory is underpinned by the notion of intra-action and change. The idea of bringing the “contingent ontology of the world, including the ontology of knowing” into close proximity in theory and praxis is long overdue. More on this later…
1. Karen Barad. Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning.