Then, that place, which lets worlds come and go, is none other than this very world experienced as indestinate. – Divya Dwivedi
If we bring Kant and Wittgenstein together the end of the world is not an event, for it is not an event in the world. – Shaj Mohan
Anastasis is the seizure (keeping in mind the “prehension” of Whitehead) of that which is voided by stasis – or strife between distinct orientations – into an abandoned field at the end of war as a matter which is worth salvaging in a new beginning. – Shaj Mohan and Divya Dwivedi
I could have titled this essay “A New Philosophy of Hope” because the works of Dwivedi and Mohan force us to examine the roots of our pessimisms, in the way Nietzsche would have done it for our age. But they have differences with Nietzsche. Unlike the promise of the appearance of the “over-man”, a very human possibility which is probably more radical than the “over-man”, is proposed by them as “anastasis”. Anastasis means both the overcoming of stasis as well as resurrection.
I could have also titled this essay “How to Read Non-European Philosophers: The Case of Dwivedi and Mohan” because such a text is needed urgently. However, here I would like to stay close to the intent of non-centrism in their works, and the complex transformations which philosophical thought has undergone through them, which have been marked out as epochal by some of the leading philosophers. Their writings have now appeared in several European languages including French, Italian, Hindi, Portuguese, Malayalam and Spanish. I should note that due to the postcolonial condition English is their native tongue.
Jean-Luc Nancy observes that their work is the post-metaphysical and post-deconstructive future of philosophy. Robert Bernasconi says that they are giving us wholly new instruments of thought for understanding our bewildering present epoch by being precisely “the other beginning “of philosophy dreamt of by Heidegger. Yet, one does not see very many ripples in philosophical circles about their works yet. This has two important causes, the first being the academic world’s inability to imagine non-white philosophers who are epochal, and the second being the very complexity and originality of their work and its relation to politics. Many aspects of their complexity are beyond the purview of this essay It is impossible for now to show a genealogy of their concepts and system because of the implicit and explicit references they make to different philosophers and to non-philosophical discourses where, as Robert Bernasconi noted, they have transformed these references with precision and aggression. For example, Mohan has dealt with algorithmic complexity, thermodynamics, information theory, music theory, and biology in his individual works. Dwivedi’s references include linguistics, Russian formalism, biology, and modal logic. Their other significant philosophical references and allusions are to Aristotle, Duns Scotus, Malebranche, Kant, Davidson, Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Derrida and Nancy.
My goal here is to find a streamlined account of the tremendous philosophical contributions of Dwivedi and Mohan with a view to the immediate philosophico-political milieu of 21st century and the need to apply the theoretical tools and instruments from their works in the social sciences and the arts for the overcoming of the global political stasis.
A New Theoretical Epoch
In their book on Gandhi, Mohan and Dwivedi asked a question, “Which is better? To be the last of a kind or to be the first of its own kind?” I have since wondered about this Nietzschean question because it seems that they were speaking about themselves too through this question. Let me begin by distinguishing the subjects in their milieu before attempting to answer their question, and show the concrete situation from which they write, and then later the subtle differences between the two philosophers in both style and pursuit.
In contrast to philosophical peers in ‘the west,’1 Mohan and Dwivedi are politically engaged, which they often remarked on as the necessity of doing philosophy from out of the Indian subcontinent. Many would know that they have invited dangers to themselves through their writings—which are often against Hindu nationalism, Islamophobia, Caste oppression and racism—including socio-academic ostracism and even death threats. And yet Mohan and Dwivedi on several occasions brushed off the possibility of ‘fashionable exile’. Unlike the majority of Asian academics of renown who obtained their degrees from Western universities and usually teach there—mostly in UK or USA—Dwivedi and Mohan consciously maintained educational qualifications from out of India, which was particularly damaging for Mohan as he was punished for his politics by the university system of India. A remark made by Dwivedi illuminates the meaning of this gesture — “The notion that one must go to what is called ‘the west’ to become a philosopher is itself based on a kind of parochialism, namely that there is something called ‘western’ about philosophy”. It is, then, both a philosophical and a political act to take up the practice of philosophy from the subcontinent with the accompanying dangers.
It is important to note the character of this philosophical engagement with the concrete materiality of their politics. Due to the predominance of postcolonial discourse, political discussions in the subcontinent are dominated by colonial history, where philosophy as a modern practice is seen as either irrelevant or antagonistic, as can be witnessed in the recent assassinations of philosophers in India. As Dwivedi points out,
“Philosophy is a peculiar problem in the subcontinent […] Postcolonial theory opposes itself to philosophy as a Eurocentric discourse although it is from the very history of philosophy in Europe, which is a history of self-critique, that postcolonialism obtained the tools to criticise European philosophy. Moreover, it developed these tools by divesting them of their philosophical concerns.”(Dwivedi 2017, 19)
Dwivedi and Mohan have taken a stand against postcolonial theory and their opposition can be summarized as follows. There is something like a postcolonial condition but what is called postcolonial theory is an inadequate understanding of this very condition. The deliberate obsession with colonialism is aimed at masking the centuries-old extreme social oppression of the lower caste people (who, as Mohan and Dwivedi tirelessly remind us, form 90% of India’s population) by the 10% upper caste. Dwivedi received threats for remarking on this fact and for her philosophical critiques of Hindu nationalism and postcolonial theory. In the Indian context postcolonial theory, whose practitioners are all upper caste academics predominantly based in the West, and Hindu nationalism are co-operative strategies which have the sole aim of keeping up the oppression of the lower caste people. Instead, while defending Romila Thapar who is the most important historian of ancient India, Dwivedi and Mohan said “Modernity is the confidence in humanity that the present can be the origin of new and impossible orders and, that the essential is available every moment.”
This definition is striking because it is not an obsession with the present period and its spaces through which you ‘stroll’ about, but an attitude which sees something like a Marxist materialism in humanity as its most unique power for transformations, but without any accompanying historical determinism. This appropriation of the idiom of modernity by them will be explored later through its theoretical basis, but here what I find important is to note the stance in their works that historical oppressions cannot be historically solved unless perversely one thinks of reversals as justice. Instead, it is through both the belief and also by showing the theoretical grounds for a just and equitable new beginning that politics can work through situations of historical oppressions. This theoretical stand is to be distinguished from postmodernism which is the attitude that nothing new can appear anymore but only combinations and recombinations of already existing pieces of the past as in the infamous ‘bricoleur.’ I will return to this difference with the theoretical politics of the last century in the works of Dwivedi and Mohan. There I will particularly emphasise the texts of Mohan on a new vision of alterity based on reason (or a contact with the noumenon which he called the obscure experience), as opposed to the irrational theories of ‘the other’. Similarly, in the works of Dwivedi I find a motion towards a new theory of responsibility based on what she calls indestinacy, and of the political subject which is capable of voicing itself from multiple positions in her research on the discipline of narratology.
A New Philosophical Ground
‘Where could philosophy go now after deconstruction ’was the important post-Derridean question. Most of us settle in with the feeling that philosophy is now done and dusted, and like Richard Rorty, an admirer of Derrida, once said, it should be practiced like the upkeep of a museum of ideas. I do find references to Derrida in the works of Dwivedi and Mohan, but as everyone who has either read them closely or worked with them knows there is a deeper intimacy between their thought and Jean-Luc Nancy’s. I must remind here that the most important final work left by Derrida is entirely on the philosophy of Nancy and therefore it is easy to draw up a genealogy from Heidegger, Derrida and Nancy to Dwivedi and Mohan. The intimacy of thought between Dwivedi, Mohan and Nancy is not at all about forming a new school because they evidently differ greatly in their style, argumentation and references. I want to make an outline of deconstruction as it appears relevant to their work and then come to the intimacy of thought, so that I can then come to their departure from deconstruction which nevertheless retains all the insights of Derrida.
The usual simplified understanding of deconstruction as the revelation of the stasis hidden behind every concept as the suppressed binary oppositions—such as dark/light, concept/experience, truth/fiction—will not be helpful. Derrida’s project was in fact more systematic. To explain it in the terms Dwivedi and Mohan forward, deconstruction showed that no system can be completed, or completely described, using the very components with which the system was made. Such attempts will always lead to the stasis or blockage of the system. I must note, therefore, that deconstruction is not stasis, but rather a theoretical exploration that reveals the privileging of one component of the system over all the others so that stasis is held off. Whenever philosophical systems, theoretical apparatuses, and political projects try to describe their systematicity by privileging one of the components that will show us contradictions and will result in stasis. Mohan and Dwivedi often illustrate stasis from the example of political systems for which they had drawn on Mogen Herman Hansen’s interpretation of Greek polis:
“Stasis could be a group which sought control, a state of inaction caused by the strife, or civil war where no laws could obtain. According to Hansen, ‘The word stasis actually means “stance”; but it underwent shifts of meaning as follows: (1) stance, (2) standpoint, (3) group of people with the same standpoint, (4) in the plural: two or more groups with opposing standpoints, (5) the split between groups, and (6) civil war.’ That is, stasis is the criticalization of the polis when what was earlier its component laws come to seek the position of comprehending laws and this competition of claimants bring the circulation of the laws to an arrest.” (Mohan and Dwivedi, Gandhi and Philosophy, 216)
As is evident, stasis will appear one way or another if one or more components of the system gain privilege over the others. Dwivedi and Mohan show that what they call comprehending law is the level at which all the components of a system are interpreted in their mutual relationships, and that comprehending law cannot be stated or expressed in terms of one or more componential laws. They show that we can and should express the working of the comprehending laws but simultaneously be guarded against its reduction to a componential law.
Let me use another example here of the collapsing system of higher education. The university system has several components including students, the patrons, professors, contract teachers, administrators, funders, placements. The university is not its students or patrons or the fund raisers. Rather, the universities have been connected since their recent inception to various external factors—national values, language politics, ideologies of other kinds, employability of students, market value of education—which try to control its functioning. Mohan and Dwivedi have recently called these external factors the “exogeneous variables of education” and shown that today the “old exogenous variables of education [have been] exchanged for something else; for example, national integration was exchanged for technological integration, citizenship values for employable values. These processes of integration were continuous with other world-wide standards and protocols which were being introduced, without any democratic consultation.” If the analysis does not show which components are endogenous and which ones exogenous then the comprehending law which brings these two levels of components into relation and articulation will remain invisible and we will be confined to nostalgic protest for a previous state of one component. For example, we will strive to reinstate the Humboldtian model which was ethnocentric and elitist.
The politics of protest according to Mohan is based on one or the other componential laws. All those who desire change have to confront this harsh but necessary reality that no one has had the courage to name. As Mohan explains: “The romance of resistance lies in the social illusion it provides with the noise of action, which is never political action, nor transformative participation. Instead, resistance often lets political systems reach the limits of its built-intendencies to the point of death while regulating their decay.” A real transformation in politics is possible only when the comprehending law is in our attention so that a systemic change can be carefully prepared. This is the meaning of revolution, which is at the level right above that of both material relations and ideological relations, that Dwivedi and Mohan have shown in their joint and individual writings. The other name for such a revolution is anastasis, the coming over of stasis. Hence my claim that there is no explicit overcoming of Derrida as an adversary in their works but rather a development of the implications of deconstruction towards a new freedom for philosophy which was unknown and uninteresting to Derrida. Today, according to Mohan, this comprehending law for politics is not with nation states or in the union of states, but it now sits at the level of the whole world, which is why he has written lately on a “democracy of the world”. It is succinctly explained in a recent interview:
“stasis is when several groups in a political arrangement strive to be the “hegemons” and as a result the very arrangement gets criticalised. We can see this battle right now—between America, China, technological corporations, ethno-nationalists, postcolonial nationalists—which is making our present stasis. In principle a world democracy will be the gathering of all the people of the world, without exception, in such a way that it comes over the present stasis. And for that reason, it must leave the “hegemons” behind. We can call it anastasis, for now. Without this anastasis we will soon experience the winter of absolute zero.”
A New Theory of Faculties for a Different Analytics
Readers might wonder why I have not mentioned the usual components of deconstructive operations—sign, signifier, text, intertexuality, trace. As noted by Bernasconi, Dwivedi and Mohan are close readers of texts and bring out startling insights from the works of other thinkers. But they have given us a new analytic which is capable of moving between text, discourse, machines, events and concrete materiality. This was made possible by implicitly conceiving a materialism, out of a very new ground, as the theory of changeables and changes which is achieved through a new interpretation of the classical pair of analogy and homology, a concrete theory of functions, and a quasi-transcendental concept of polynomia as that power in all things to receive new legislations which changes our usual understanding of law as something fixed from outside.2 It will be particularly important to examine the works of Dwivedi on literature to see how poetic function of Roman Jakobson and others have been transformed by her without the reliance on theories of signifiers. The thought of literature which appears from out of a level separated from history, signifier, and reality is what has helped Dwivedi discover the homological powers of literary works and therefore the political involvement of literature in historic events such as May 68. They also depart from our usual understanding of matter as the passive receptacle of inscriptions or as the mystical excess of concepts, and instead hold “matter as that which is capable of forms.” (Mohan and Dwivedi 2019, 206)
In classical discourse analogy was used to bring to light the simple correlation of factors between two different things as in when I speak of the wings of both bats and eagles, or the analogy between the wings of airplanes and birds. But analogy, Dwivedi and Mohan say is the generic power in us to see several possibilities including proportion as in “A is to B as C is to D”; the similarity between functions such as the wing of the bat and the wings of birds; and also the power to abstract a function away from a particular situation to create the conditions to distribute this very function across many situations, which is how technology has abstracted the flight function from nature to make airplanes. Analogy is observed in textual practices, mathematics, and in nature and technology. We transfer knowledge and insights from one domain to another through the faculty of analogy, which is the very basis of “theory” itself as a set of tools applicable on a wide range of situations.3 As they say,
“with the inventiveness of man, tools appeared as those arrangements of matter and thought which determined actions performed with the tools as functions – trees are cut by the axe function into wood – and the tools analogously determined organs as those parts of body which performed specific functions. Since their invention it is evident that man’s self-conception is mediated by machines, even though the systems under which machines are conceived undergo revolutionary changes.” (Mohan and Dwivedi 2019,56)
But theory in their case is not about moving the insights from one discipline to another one without precautions because they are very alert to the differences between different domains, with something like Lyotard’s “differend” accompanying their caution. I mentioned Lyotard to caution that what is fashionably misused as Lyotard’s “differend” and Deleuze’s “difference” as some kind of pure abstract difference which applies to and explains everything is not to be found in our philosophers. They show that each difference is particularly constituted within a material and logico-functional arrangement and all the perceived differences are either within systems or between systems. There is no difference which does not carry the traces of what it differs from, which is Derrida’s insight. They have thus explained the classical problem of the relation between similarity, sameness, and difference
“similitude as a feeling arises only when the imagination moves between the unequal. Similarity implies difference in so far as this difference does not exceed a certain limit and reach the dissimilar. However, we do not, hence, say that similarity is a species of difference since in the similar the logical category of the same too is at work … Rather, the similar is found when two objects are distinct in most respects except one, that is when two distinct objects appear to share in the same.” (Mohan and Dwivedi 2019, 51-52)
To give an example from their works the relations between the state and capital is not any generic kind of difference that is conserved or remains the same throughout history. Instead of one generic difference there are shifts in the componential laws and the laws which comprehend these components from epoch to epoch. This is what has allowed them to analyze and illuminate many confounding phenomena by thinking about the present as a chrysalis of the future, or as the womb of the unknown.
They show that in the present situation of political arrangements, institutions, and systems, the differences that will be made with the future can be traced, though never absolutely to the point of historical determinism. Dwivedi and Mohan rarely engage with the more commonly discussed problem of the relation between the initial state of a particular system and its future states, which is a problem noted for the first time by Arthur Eddington and made popular by works of Prigogine and Stengers. Instead, their interest is in the relation between one political arrangement and a wholly new one, or one system and something new that is un-interpretable by it. That is, instead of computationalising future as something predictable, which is what the problem of state transitions is, their new philosophical system approaches it as the as yet unknown and unpredictable, or in Derridean terms they are concerned with the “to come”, but without mystifying it or messianising it. Dwivedi has therefore made a strong case against “destiny” dismissing it as misleading way of understanding the world and our existence, and she shows that
“the proportionally articulated components, which enjoin things into a world, linger only in wait of coming disproportions. They gain new components of relative speeds and their new articulations. Only a while separates their stance from their in-destinacy. They compose a more or less temporary arrangement, a world, which is soon vacated for another arrangement, another world. Then, that place, which lets worlds come and go, is none other than this very world experienced as indestinate.”
The new arrangements always come over and reign over the existing systems, and then put in place a very difference of epoch, which is what our historic sense really amounts to. But as they say the ranges and the traces of future are available in the present provided we have the right kind of analytic tools, or faculties, to detect them. I am stressing this point because Mohan in his works on technology has shown that in recent times philosophy and the humanities have surrendered the function of prediction of future phenomena and their creation to technology corporations as though it were a crime to predict, and through the recent rejection of reason. In a 2011 article called “The New Secret” Mohan had delivered this caution nearly seven years before humanities scholars began to discuss privacy and secrecy in the context of information technology, and four years before “surveillance capitalism” belatedly became the shorthand. Mohan had pointed out that
“it can be said that we are lived in the reign or principium of ‘big data’ as the conjuncture of three realities: information, probabilistic reasoning and the evacuation of the domains of reason, including the private. Is there anything left for philosophy if reason, in any of its manifestations, is disallowed? If the zones of reasoning are evacuated, would it be a transgression were one to still philosophize?”(Mohan and Mohammed 2015, 242; Mohan and Mohammed 2011)
Humanities and philosophy have since taken up a stance of rejection of political responsibilities, and have preferred meditation on absolute chance and a theologisation of the unexpected. Later, through Mohan, I will show that “difference in itself” is an absurd notion.
Individual difference and the creation of a particular differences from case to case are shown through the combination of the faculties of analogy and homology. The same way they have brought back the less discussed classical concept of homology, which to be fair is important in Aristotle and the early writings of Heidegger, and given it new powers. Biologists use homology to note that some organ in one animal and some other organ in another animal have a common origin in an ancestor.4 In biology the fact of homology has been observed at a genetic level where it is called deep homology. Homology is indicative of a material origin of things for Dwivedi and Mohan, that is, one thing is made out of another thing, whether in nature or in human ingenuities, which is why homology is both caution and the guarantor of accuracy of theory. If theorists are not attentive to homology they will see revolution in the wrong places which is an acute problem of many theories of the proletariat. As Dwivedi said in an interview,
Let me be provocative here: to conceive a worker properly in this time is to think of workers abandoned by work […] This is a radically new scenario for left politics because the machine cannot be called a proletariat as it does not have progenies in any sense, and a man without work is not a man who has broken his chains.
In biology the tail bone of humans is homologous to the tails of other mammals. As another example today everyone knows that ovaries and testicles are homologous, that is they have the same origin. At the level of human activities I can break a chair and use it as a club, and therefore the chair has in it the homological power for being a club. But this is less significant, because it does not make sense for me to regularly turn every chair into clubs because I cannot integrate all the broken chairs into the regularity of my life. If I take a familiar example of the militarization of police what is seen in this phenomenon are two different operations. On the one hand policemen have the basic training and legal protection to take up militaristic weapons and then act on citizens as if they were potential enemy combatants. At the same time when I see a heavily armed police force on the streets I draw the analogy from the military to see that something has now changed about the police. The question of this situation too is this: Can human beings today have a system of regularities where the military and the police are one and the same thing in a consistent way? If it is possible to integrate militarized police with other regularities consistently then it shows that there is a new comprehending law that is emerging. Therefore, analogy by itself is not useful to understand the similarities and the differences between phenomena.
Let me now put analogy and homology, as interpreted by Dwivedi and Mohan against Foucault’s theorization of the panopticon, which was overstretched to the point of caricature in recent years. In the original example by Foucault, the panopticon is the central tower inside large disciplinary structures like prisons and hospitals. From out of this tower someone can watch all the people potentially at all times without the people themselves being sure if they are being watched or not. But it is incorrect to transport this theory to the present surveillance techo-capitalistic situation because the analogical transfer will miss the most important differences.
Panopticon is a clever technology to control the present behaviours of people housed in disciplinary settings because there can be immediate punitive steps taken against those who do not behave according to measure. But the continuous surveillance of today does not come with immediate punitive force and it is not meant to do such a thing unless one is living in a dictatorship. Instead, surveillance capitalism promotes deviant behaviours, licentiousness, self-harm and it encourages people to transmit their everyday life to the point of even rewarding them, because its goal is to predict future behavior. Between panopticon and surveillance capital the analogy can be stretched to say that the many are being observed by a few, but that hardly explains anything relevant for political action right now. Instead, it is the homology, or the material structures, which make this surveillance capital possible, and the homologies of the tendencies or habits of people in today’s society that show where these processes are taking us.
The homologies of today’s surveillance capital are in the voyeuristic culture which began with the tabloids before the internet, restrictions placed on encryption and privacy in 20th century for telephones, the exhibitionism promoted by the early era of free videos on the internet with sex tapes, and monetization of shame and humiliation on the social media. Mohan has addressed the technicalities involving surveillance capital and its future in some technical writings, and their urgent conclusion in 2015 was that big data is creating “a new division in political ordering, between those who can compute big data and those who cannot. The role of those-who-cannot compute big is to generate data – or the designation in the information-metaphysics for the ‘masses’ is to turn their lives and practices into massive data that can be computed such that their state changes are predictable.”( Mohan and Mohammed 2015, 251) While most observers are still emphasizing the aspect of control (up to which point Deleuze’s “Postscript on Societies of Control” was still useful), they are missing the most vital aspect of the information metaphysics of our time which is that people are being made predictable by creating technologies and living conditions to install a new functional isolation of humanity as such according to Mohan. Once we recognize this it will change the way we will seek to organize our politics with regard to the contemporary epoch of technology.
The Law and Functions
Analogy as I have shown is the power to transport an abstracted power, or a factor of similarity from one domain to another domain, and it is very helpful for developing our perceptions in a new domain. The danger of over-extending analogy is that everything will appear to be the same thing or the same kind of thing, and this is the problem with concepts like bio-power and “state of exception” which seem to be present wherever one looks, and this gives humanity a feeling of helplessness through something like “power is everywhere”. Mohan and Dwivedi avert this danger and remove the prevalent feeling of helplessness by combining analogy with homology through a clever interpretation of functions. Homology is the power to see the possibilities existing in some material arrangement or the other to become something new; in their words, “homology gives us the knowledge of the origins of things and hence the constructability secreted in things.” (Mohan and Dwivedi 2019, 78) At the same time, using the logic of homology, that from out of which something came to be can be investigated in order to understand the past. But understanding the power of these distinct faculties will need the new thinking of functions in Dwivedi and Mohan, which is how a new approach is realised.
The most familiar use of functions in philosophy in recent decades had been derived from Foucault’s interviews and writings where he used it in multiple ways to say that something is usually done in such and such a manner. But Mohan and Dwivedi have now given the concept of function a whole new range which they produced out of mathematics, biology, computation, anthropology, and mechanism. But as is the case with them these are components and therefore their theory of function cannot be reduced to any one of these terms, which is the alertness the reader should have at all times. The reader will encounter a deeply familiar reference in their works. For example, in the case of functions a mathematically oriented reader may find the mathematical concept of function to be prominent, and if one assumes that it is just that, then all the other insights, including those from ethnology, will be missed. As mentioned earlier, stasis as the evil coming out of the interpretation of a system of components solely in terms of, and prioritizing, just one component is rigorously avoided by Mohan and Dwivedi. Therefore, the many senses of concepts including function, homology, law, body, soul and so on are at work which makes a precise genealogical investigation difficult and futile but at the same time there is a dynamic and evolving historical conceptual atmosphere. (Mohan and Dwivedi 2019, 213) Situating Dwivedi and Mohan in relation to only one particular strand, such as Heideggerian or phenomenological, is complicated by their eclectic yet precise references and their conversion of the concepts taken from several fields. But there is another caution I wish the reader to have. Sometimes Dwivedi and Mohan can make the reader chase ghosts with good humour. I had the experience of chasing after a painter Benjamin Breeg after reading this section from Gandhi and Philosophy: “Criticalization is in the hands of all who can type ‘go away’, ‘make it disappear’, and ‘it hurts my feelings’ to such an extent that arts and artists could disappear suddenly like the English painter Benjamin Breeg” (Mohan and Dwivedi 2019, 213). Later I realized that there is no such painter but only an internet hoax about a painter who disappeared, which is used here to remark on a doubled disappearance.5
Function in mathematical terms is written as equations of the form y = f (x) which translates as y is a function of x. In this case y is dependent on the value taken by x. Dwivedi and Mohan take this meaning and relate it to material systems as it operates in physics. In Newtonian physics the gravitational force produced by a body is a function of its mass, it is therefore correct to also say that gravitational force increases in proportion to mass. They also bring the biological examples with which the relation between analogy and homology on the one hand and, the law on the other hand will become very clear. The function of sight is performed by single aperture eyes in humans, but in nature there are different kinds of organs to sense light, including compound eyes. The two kinds of eyes perform the same function, and if this factor alone is noted then analogy will mislead the enquiry. That way the enquiry will miss out on all the important differences in functions such as the superiority of image resolution with single aperture eyes and the faster movement detection with the compound eyes. I will take up a non-biological example before getting to the law. The philosophers mention production functions which means that in order to produce a particular commodity there are factors of production required to be put together in the correct ratio.6 The familiar production function demonstrates the relation between labour and capital in giving any product, although Dwivedi and Mohan often mention “technological production function” which emphasizes how particular factors of production are organised in a relationship of production as specified by the technical procedure.
All these sources of the concept of function in the writings of Mohan and Dwivedi lead to the important insight that function is a relationship of materiality. Matter in their thought is something which is able to change and vary in new ways through “explosions … by homologies”, that is, through the birth of new forms in relations with other materials (Mohan and Dwivedi 2019, 206).7 This is a radically new definition of matter as explosive. The explosive conception of matter contrasts with both Hegel and Marx. The concepts of dialectical materialism is possible by functionally isolating the very concept of matter itself.8
When Dwivedi and Mohan write about functions, the matter can be either a physical object like a lump of clay, a political situation like a protest movement, or something very abstract like a mathematical idea. They show that the hand itself is home to many kinds of functions including grasping, flicking, pushing and so on.9 The grasping function requires that the hand follows a set of rules and then a different set of rules when it performs the function of playing a piano where the rules are both musical and also mechanical. The argument is that the same component or object can perform different functions and each of these functions follow their own rules and laws. That possibility of many functions residing in the same object is the homological power of that object and “it is the way we learn of the kinds and degrees of articulations available in things” (Mohan and Dwivedi 2019, 9).As an aside, I must note that this tactical step, among others, has allowed them to break both with the posture of absolute separation between the “visible” and the “sayable” (or “words” and “things”), and with any kind of textual idealism where everything gets reduced to text or signifiers. That is, the letter “y” can take up the function of representing a phoneme in “you”, and at the same time it can also take up the role of an independent variable in a mathematical equation. A word like “Lord” can take on many functions depending on the rules of its uses including theological and juridical.
This is an opportune moment to further discuss the difference between analogy and homology in terms of functions. Analogy is the faculty for detecting the same function being performed by very different material arrangements. For example, a warrior can alert his army about the advancing enemy by using smoke signals or encrypted transmission over electromagnetic waves. The two are analogous because they perform the function of “alerting” but as an “alert” smoke signals cannot communicate more than “imminent danger” whereas communication systems using electromagnetic waves can transmit with the precision the number, the speed, the locations, and of course much more of enemy combatants.
The import of their observation is that “Analogy gives us the knowledge of the freedom of functions” (Mohan and Dwivedi 2019, 78). On the other hand, homology is about the same thing being able to house multiple functions. If I take up electromagnetic waves through the faculty of homological powers then they are home to many instrumentations including radio telescopes and tools like microwave ovens.10 This power of homology implies something very tactically essential for politics: “Homology leads us into two distinct fates – the homeliness of things as we gather that out of which a thing is converted into a new thing, and the same time the unhomely in so far as it leads us to the knowledge of construction of as yet unknown realities” (Mohan and Dwivedi 2019, 79). The homological power to enable autocracy is always present in the legal system and the courts, for example, but given certain conditions of regularity, to which I will now turn.
As I said above, a function restricts the actions possible for a thing, or with the help of a thing, or upon a thing. This is what Mohan and Dwivedi have called functional isolation, for example, when “the function of seeing governs the eye alone and nothing else; conversely the eye performs the function of seeing and nothing else” (Mohan and Dwivedi 2019, 63). When something capable of many functions gets functionally isolated, this has immense significance for politics because it means that one kind of action has to give way to some other kind of action, and they both cannot co-exist. It is “an articulation that is perfectly determined according to a law and nothing else” (Mohan and Dwivedi 2019, 64). These restrictions can be based on rules as Dwivedi and Mohan show through the example of football games in which case the rules of the game are created and observed by the legal body of FIFA. When something follows rules, it is sure to exhibit regular behaviours, patterns, or simply regularity.11 This is why all football games are the variants of the same football game for somebody new to it, but the variations are infinite as appreciated by the regular football fan.
Dwivedi and Mohan show in Gandhi and Philosophy that these regularities around us are made up of functional isolations which are coordinated and comprehended by a deeper level of law and that these many regularities are working almost together in a system. They discuss traffic flows, school timings, protests, wars, computer networks and so on. But not for once do they argue that there is something like a harmonious agreement between all the functions and regularities based on some transcendent ideal. Instead, they assert that if one looks closely at things then everything is voluptuous and effervescent waiting for the chance to become irregular and then take on new regularities. This possibility in things is called polynomia which is the power in things to take on more than one law, and “Polynomia refers to a specific power of the mind; the mind can legislate different regularities in the same object” (Mohan and Dwivedi 2019, 77). Hence, they give the example of a football team is a group of people organized (or functionally isolated) according to the laws of the game, an army is organized according to the rules of combat, and activists practicing civil disobedience follow the rules of “non-violence”. The freedom of their system from transcendent ideals is based on their understanding that “where polynomia reigns functional isolates are impossible … The experience of functionally free organs leaves man with a sense of abandonment – a being bereft of a determinate sense, condemned to polynomia. Polynomia is the meaning of the Un-homeliness of man” (Mohan and Dwivedi 2019, 63).
In the context of “polynomia” I should remind the reader that law too is invoked in their works in its multiple meanings and contexts. But very different from the fashion of invoking the multiple meanings of a word and etymology to define its ur-meaning or orginary meaning which began with Heidegger, is the way Dwivedi and Mohan retain a dynamic relation between many meanings of the law. As a result, law itself has polynomia which is defined for a particular occasion purely on the basis of that occasion’s functional isolation. The many meanings and references to the law, or the very polynomia of law are taken from the resources of mathematics, logic, physics (with reference to Richard Feynman), games, computation, jurisprudence, poetry, and metaphysics.
After this point the reader may rightly wonder if there is some kind of connection with transcendental philosophy from Duns Scotus to Kant and onwards. This will be a much-needed investigation because I suspect that hidden beneath these novel theoretical moves is a new approach to transcendental philosophy, although without subject and object, which are as we have seen, constituted and de-constituted by a dynamic system of concepts. Dwivedi has already drawn a breakthrough consequence of how functional isolation works and what it reveals about those points of language where the most indolent social and political conventions are harboured. She shows that the first person plural pronoun “we” which has been taken to correspond to or evince social substance and explained in terms of merged minds, pre-reflective plural self, and we-experience, is in fact only the index of the missing subject of enunciation, that is, there is never a speaker corresponding to the “we” to which it could refer. It therefore has a greater degree of polynomia than I or you, and between I and we there is only an analogy, not an extension of subjectivity:
“The transitivity of “we” permits homological activations of the nonexistence of its referent by composing narratives where the apparent communality fragments or erodes. This very homology is, of course, responsible for new solidarities to be formed, including declarations of independence since it denies that “we” is a communal substance to which members would be immanent. In this sense, politics as coming together to fight for freedom is not the same as forming communal bonds or merged minds.”(Dwivedi 2020c, 17)
Literature is the space where the homological powers of non-existence reign, and in which this polynomial freedom from functional isolation is activated (I will soon get to what Dwivedi and Mohan mean by polynomia). It allows politics to articulate collectivities that need not have any substantial basis in given social groupings, ethnocentrisims, and in communications and therefore new regularities can be conceived. This imagination opens the path to greater and newer freedoms.
Polynomia in itself is not a value, which has been analysed by Emily Apter in the context of memes, where she cites Mohan to argue that memes are disruptive, “They illustrate particularly well Shaj Mohan’s observation that memes are ‘explosive in their circulation, creating no regularity other than their own circulation.’ He argues further that “because there is no comprehending law for memes (an effect of their polynomia, their power to receive many laws), they disrupt, but without the insurrection of something new.”(Apter 2019)12
Regularity, Nature, and Hypophysics
There is much more going on with the concept of regularity that pertains to mathematics, algorithms, computational thought, and principle of reason than I can discuss here. Instead let me focus on politics and regularity because Dwivedi and Mohan have used it in their more popular philosophical writings on politics. They show that in certain tribal contexts, with particular reference to the writings of Pierre Clastres, and in Fascist developments polynomia in societies are arrested. These situations in the latter case can be detected from a distance when one observed that homologies are being suppressed so that nothing new is allowed to develop out of pre-existing social arrangements and here the best example is the identification of society itself with one function such as the preservation of the race, language, or its identification with the leader. This is not only because of the oppressive structures of domination that block polynomial explosions, but very importantly due also to structures of thought for which Dwivedi and Mohan have given two indispensable diagnostics tools which too confirms the Nietzschean character of their thinking.
The first is hypophysics, as a counterpart to Nietzsche’s use of metaphysics as Platonism as a diagnostic tool, a concept whose range of explanation we are only beginning to discover. They define hypophysics as the way of thinking that attributes of intrinsic moral value to nature and sees everything as either maintaining its natural, that is, a fixed or pre-given state in which case it is good, or else deviating from nature in which case it is evil. “For hypophysics, value is nature. Now we can begin to understand what this statement – nature is value – means; value corresponds to the determination of being as nature and evaluation concerns the scale of deviation from nature” (Mohan and Dwivedi 2019, 15). Mohan and Dwivedi have shown how all kinds of racisms and racializing practices make their claims based on nature, and caste is the worst racism. Thus, much of the political problems of Nazism, racism and caste are the result not of metaphysical thought but of hypophysical thought, which also explains the apparent separation in philosophers like Kant or Heidegger between their metaphysical contributions and their race theories, that is, the one is not collapsible into the other nor is the latter a discardable layer above the former. But rather in such moments we see how a thinker fully commits himself or herself to a hypophysical step in order to ground racism. This is why one of the profound insights we can draw from the recognition of hypophysics is how risky any ethical, political or philosophical claim made on the basis of nature or around a concept of nature is. This will be urgently important in the time ahead since the very serious problem of environmental disaster is too often obfuscated by alluring mystifications of nature, gaia, planetarity and so on. Indeed, we have yet to think nature adequately, as they say “nature is hardly natural” and people make essentializing claims for nature whereas even biologists practice a more philosophical humility.
The second concept that will become indispensable to critical thinking is calypsology, which is also partly playful in its formulation. Hypophysical orientation to “nature” gives room to claims that ends and means are and should be identical since the natural good has already been designated. From this perspective there is evil in the freedom to invent new ends or means according to new desires and needs, ad in the practice of converting an end into the means for a different end in imaginative ways without fidelity to the past or to “nature.” Calypsology is the logic that sealsthe means-ends relation on the basis of either a transcendent ideal or a hypophysical ideal, and in either case it is meant to dictate ways of living to society, and instituting ritualistic repetition of the prescribed means-ends relation. “Calypsology could be the science of the concealment of a thing such that it is not open for other contenders; such a discipline would be confined to the immurement of its object away even from itself” (Mohan and Dwivedi 2019, 128). Their remark on concealment becomes immediately clear now that the creative and explosive power of polynomia and functional isolation has been presented.
Mohan and Dwivedi have named this logic, which affects both politics and thought, with reference to Calypso in the Greek myths since she cast a spell on the adventurer Odysseus such that he was immured on her island and forgot that he could have other ends beyond the island and could invent different means towards them. Thinkers who prescribe the identity of means and ends too cast a calypsological spell on our reason and imagination, and hope to lock it in islands of thought and praxis, where the analogous transfer of insights are banished such that the past is forcibly interpreted as a solid temple like structure to be worshipped or a structure to be demolished. Several insights follow from this conception of the limitation of evaluation as Dwivedi and Mohan have written that such conception is the basis of “violence” as the melting of force into value, situations point to the development of a ceremonial society.13 Ceremonial are societies which repeat themselves according to strict rules year after year. “Ceremonies have a certain morbidity – as events that are not open to debate. … Any deviation would be disrespectful to the original event which the ceremony commemorates.” Fascist and other ceremonial societies are brittle as they can be broken by sudden interruptions and the entry of new objects. In contrast is literature, what they called the aggression of the writer: “The measure of the writer is the terror she inspires in the ceremonial orders of power.”
But this is not the only meaning of regularity. They show that all societies are composed of regularities which are comprehended by a higher form of regularity. When I drive around the city I follow traffic rules which is the way the flow of traffic gets its rhythm. The vehicle that I drive has to have breaks and other safety requirements to regularize with the traffic flow. The rhythm of the flow is connected to the regularization of working hours in a society. Dwivedi and Mohan call the little regularities which are formed by various functional isolations as given by their individual componential laws. The break power of a car is a function of mechanical laws and technological innovations which is how the car gets its regular functioning. All the parts of the car are integrated into a system. But the car itself is a component in the flow of traffic and office hours. Therefore, individual componential laws describe the motor car, the traffic control, offices and factories, political institutions and so on, respectively.
Comprehending law is the level at which these componential laws are interpreted, and it is at this level that the components find more or less regular interrelationships with the other components with some degree of consistency. As they say, “polynomia ensures the modification of bodies for new regularities which resist and break through the established functional isolations, and functional isolations which set into the rhythms of new regularities resist the dreams of polynomia” (Mohan and Dwivedi 2019, 174). What is shown is that all systems, whether social or physical, are dreaming. Everything dreams of new functions, functional isolations, polynomial, and at the extreme end another comprehending law. This imagination is startling in that politics is a collective work of imagination where together, but without distinct awareness for the individual subjects, all societies dream of what they could become, and in fact are working every moment towards a point of a new revolutionary conversion. Further, Dwivedi points to the way freedom and responsibility become inseparable in this conception of politics. Imagination is the transitivity of freedom according to her, resulting in the production of regularities, which is why it is a materialist approach. It is grounded in indestinacy, in other words, the denial that there is any destiny pre-programmed by transcendent origins and ends. As a consequence, freedom is not simply said of our imagination and its exorbitant analogies and polynomia, but also of matter which is explosive with its hidden homologies. Hence, Dwivedi asserts that
“The prophets of destiny have privileged a ‘proper’ or authentic state of human interaction… The expectation in this hypophysical way of thinking is that the world should remain the stable matter to which our will can give a form once and for all, make it sustainable, devoid of surprises. What is more, this thinking does not even permit any new or surprising desires to take hold of us. … However, in-destinacy does not mean totally un-mouldable or something which is wholly free and precarious or un-stabilisable in principle…. Rather, to mould implies that the matter of the world is itself free in such a way that it takes the forms given to it…. At the same time the world is free to take another mould in our revolutions…. And the world is also free to take a mould to our surprise, such as viral mutations, asteroids and volcanic ashes.”(Dwivedi 2020a)
At this point I would like to revisit the point about deconstructive materialism. As I said earlier the philosophical system that I have sketched out here is not deconstructible because it incorporates the philosophical insights of deconstruction within it and therefore overcomes one of the significant difficulties with regard to deconstruction that it could not produce anything new. In other words, the way deconstruction became popular was as a kind of theoretical operation on the past, such as old texts and old problems. For these and other reasons philosophers have certainly alluded to the works of Mohan and Dwivedi as having instantiated the “other beginning” of philosophy as promised by Heidegger in Contributions to Philosophy. My point is not the relation they have with Heidegger but that the level difference between componential laws which can be stated satisfactorily in each case using the logic of functional isolation, analogy, homology etc., and the level of comprehending law, which cannot be stated in terms of the components, can be examined and theorized only from out of a post-deconstructive stance. Dwivedi and Mohan show that there at least two species of fates waiting for every kind of systems which are “criticalisation” and “stasis”, and I can attend only to stasis for now. They say that stasis is the result of the components trying to be the comprehending law, or the interpretation of the comprehending law in terms of components. The overcoming of stasis is anastasis, which clearly implies that there will be a new comprehending which will totally transform the components, componential laws, and their relations.
The usual approach to history is to think of history as either the realization of an originary power or destiny, or as the approach towards an ideal or a transcendent end. Such approaches have been made redundant through deconstruction and critical politics, and yet they persist as Mohan has shown through the example of Giorgio Agamben very recently. Humanity still derives some ideals, not out of abstract thinking, but from misplaced nostalgia for lost idylls. Mohan showed that in Agamben’s case this idyll was a European town flush with colonial riches and the bonded labour of the poor where churches decide the regularities of lives. So, this a posteriori is used to derive an a priori to judge and evaluate history. Mohan called it idyllic a priori.14 Although the philosophers have not claimed it explicitly, here, what I see is a new thinking of history in their works which is neither based on dialectic, transcendent ends, nor on the basis of some pre-fixed originary power such as natural destiny. Instead, with special attention to the events called May 68, Dwivedi points to the imagination as that which connects the past and the future through the powers of analogy and homology: “the imagination lies in the ideas as well as the hands, as it were. It is transitive, that is, it creates new objectivities. The power to make new things is such that our very inventions convert us into new powers with reconstituted limits. But simultaneously, it also reveals the human power of imagination as such, the memory of which is embedded in every act of override whereby analogy isolates the function from one object – say, motion and navigation – and frees it for the re-materialization in a different one.” (Dwivedi 2020b)
History is what happens between stasis and anastasis. Almost all the possibilities of anastasis can be observed in the system in stasis through the tools of homology, analogy, functional isolation, polynomia and so on. The Leninist vanguard was all about the opportunistic capture of a system already in stasis which of course was under the enforcement of a comprehending law that failed to comprehend all the components of the system. This is why the rigidity of the arrangement made the majority in it suffer some of the worst horrors known to man, and then eventually crumble to create an order which is even worse.
Then, which is the better direction for anastasis? I can answer this question only cursorily: anastasis is that overcoming of stasis which takes up all the components of the system in stasis. Anastasis brings these old components in new componential relations, with newly introduced elements, and gives to everything previously unknown ranges and freedom. The new regularities and their interrelationship have the maximum tolerance for each other. In a language that is absent in the work of the philosophers I would like to say that anastasis brings an epoch of suffering to end, while the new epoch, due to the logic of functional isolation will carry its own sufferings, however it will also produce greater freedoms and possibilities. Therefore, there is a theory of history as the overcoming of suffering and creation of freedom here, and in this sense Dwivedi and Mohan boldly continue the broken project European Enlightenment, which was detected in their work by some of the Indian ethnocentric critics. But one more time I would like to raise a caution that this theory of history is not the ‘disclosure of something absolute’ or spirit or dialectics of any kind.
There is a final point without which this sketch will not be bootstrapped, which is a hint of their joint and individual moves in deep metaphysics, ontology and a radically different approach to philosophy. This is needed to situate the theoretical inventions and their conceptual strands properly to conclude this reflection. It is possible to work with the conceptual outlines that I have sketched so far in a purely pragmatic way. But to see their real import and the sources of the insights from which these concepts spring I have to at least mention a few, appropriately called, post-metaphysical movements. Here I will be making some remarks and inferences from the public lecture courses of Mohan, the manuscripts I have been privy to, and some of the published works.
In 2018 I was the moderator of a discussion which took place between Mohan and Barbara Cassin who is a member of the Académie Français, frequent collaborator of Alain Badiou, philologist, and psychoanalyst.15 The discussion was solely on one of the difficult questions of metaphysics which is “voice”. The topic of “voice” became important again after Heidegger and Deleuze who argued for the position of univocity of all metaphysics. During the discussions, in which there were deeply affectionate differences expressed between the thinkers who are also old friends, I also noticed that Mohan had a large fully bound manuscript from out of which he made notes for the lecture, which was then titled “Voice and the Disappearances of the Past” and when asked about its publication Mohan said “it’s too soon”. I pressed on “for whom”. He said “good question”. Since then I have been able to read this and another manuscript on “Entropy and Metaphysics”. I will not directly refer to these texts here because many of their insights are present in abridged form in the recent texts. Mohan and Dwivedi, for those who know them, are secretive and careful about their work and Mohan publishes frugally where if one observes closely a Darwinian strategy can be seen, by which I refer not to evolutionary theory but to the publication strategy of the scientist. That is, as in a great game of chess moves are made here and there and pieces are placed across the board without the bootstrapping theoretical stroke, which is how Darwin came finally to his “On the Origin of Species”.
Is man alone without another measure other than what he gives himself is the pertinent metaphysical question today. Humanity today is living through the mourning phase of the death of god, but this is also the theatre, for the same reason, of nihilism. Mohan has in fact intensified this metaphysical question through certain deconstructive arguments against Heidegger. I will mention one of them. Heidegger’s philosophical system is built around the ontico-ontological difference which is the difference between Being and beings. Being for him meant the being of all beings. Mohan showed that for a difference to be logically admissible it needs three terms which are: the differentiable, the two terms which are differentiated, and the particular form of difference which can make this division happen. This logic has a history from Aristotle to present day mathematics. Mohan showed that there is no such differentiable in Heidegger’s ontological difference, which makes Heidegger’s thought an unthinkable exercise in training intuitions at best. In Mohan’s words,
The task of fixing norms belonged to metaphysics until the last century. Metaphysics fixed these norms by taking “being” as the fundamental differentiable. In differentiable “programming languages” we find the difference between “assembly languages” and “compiled languages”. The differentiated are not predicable of the differentiable; that is, we never say that “function is linear equation.” In metaphysics these operations created a series of differences such as that between Idea and things, God and creatures, and so on. Of these pairs the first term is the higher being which then grounds the norms for man. Heidegger would produce a remarkable new division, that between being and beings, which is without a differentiable, and would call it ontico-ontolgical difference. This strange difference—if it makes sense, it is not understood—brought metaphysics to a point of suspension.16
There are several ways in which Mohan has addressed the question of the position of humanity in the cosmic scheme and pointed to a kind of alterity which is neither the irrational other nor a theological suppositum. I can mention one of his published moves here which falls clearly in the tradition of the great arguments in philosophy including the ontological argument of Avicenna, Pascal’s wager, and Nietzsche’s eternal return of the same.17 The argument is something like this. Anticipation is the power to calculate within reason the future state from out of a present state which is the basis for all reasonal expectations and other such regularities discovered through science. Anticipation can meet with both success and disappointment. As Mohan writes,
When several elements are involved in the constitution of a phenomenon our anticipations are likely to meet with disappointment or surprise; for example, a concert may be cancelled due to an earthquake. The moments, and the relation between the moments, which we can account for through reason can fall within the experience of anticipation; that is, everything in the world.
All these anticipations are events within the world given by reason and experienced through the drive of reason. But Mohan argues that neither the very persistence of the world nor its disappearance is something we can ever anticipate. All the experiences of anticipation are driven by reason within an absolute certainty that the world with all the material elements including our thoughts will not disappear. Without this absolute certainty, which humanity embraces without any conditions, no venture of thinking happens nor can the adventures of reason be understood.
However, there is something outside anticipation—the persistence of the world—which we embrace with the absolute certainty that its disappearance with us in it is never a concern, although we know that “a world” of a “someone” will withdraw, including our own. In each step of anticipations and disappointments we are surprised by this disorienting certitude. If we bring Kant and Wittgenstein together the end of the world is not an event, for it is not an event in the world.
But Mohan asserts that this permanent experience of non-event is not mystical, but a purely rational experience of alterity which is even commonplace. I must caution that Mohan himself has not used the term “alterity” which I am reading into his text to point to a quasi-ontological move made by him. The reader can focus on another direction of this quasi-ontological move if an expression that appears from time to time in his work which is Kantian, “duratio noumenon”, which means time in itself. For Kant reality was split into what we can know through our faculties which is called phenomena and what we cannot know because of the limits of the faculties which noumena or the thing in itself. But Mohan argues that there is a way in which reason is in contact with the other of reason which can be experienced by everyone.18 For him, the “obscure experience” is the ground of egalitarianism given by the principle that reason is something shared by all, “each one of us, without knowing the whence and whither of it, share the obscure because we can share words, cultures, love, cautions and tragedies”.19
At this point it is safe to express a fact that arguably the various works of Mohan and Dwivedi fall squarely within what is called “continental philosophy”, but with many of the formalistic features of analytic philosophy. For instance, what Dwivedi calls “modals of lost responsibilities” takes inputs from modal logic, temporal logic as well as Heidegger’s meditations on time. It does a number of things simultaneously, it expresses the recognition that the situation could have been otherwise and draws attention to the commissions and ommissions that allowed it to happen. The recognition of omission, in particular, implicates all of us collectively in caring for each other beyond the conventional social ties, and to utter the “should not have” publicly is much less the assumption of a moral high ground, rather it is the promise and resolve we give to each other so that easily foreseeable and preventable sufferings do not engulf large numbers of human beings. Even further, this promise is transitive for Dwivedi, that is, it is not a gesture or an ethical stance, rather it is the launch of concrete inventions and actions in accordance with the possibilities of polynomia and functional isolation, that will strive to fulfil the promise. It is a good moment to note the difference between the philosophers which is that apart from the differences in their references Dwivedi follows a formalist metaphysical discourse which carefully moves about the quasi-ontological problematics she creates out of logic, narration, and linguistic concepts. Mohan’s writings touch on the problems which are risky and obscure, including the outer limits of truth, noumenon, and a kind of alterity or exteriority. What Dwivedi calls “indestinacy” and what Mohan calls “the obscure experience” have a relation through what they together referred to as “the community of the forsaken”, but there might be a deeper difference as well.
It is not my case that their work is a meditation or a commentary of “continental philosophy”, and that it is not is obvious even to the casual reader. But I am pointing to something deeper, that the problems and the questions raised by their works show a careful and strategic investment in the “continental” tradition, from which they have successfully abstracted the formal elements and have left behind the ethnocentric thematics including Christianity, religion, language centrism, and the highly political history of philosophy.20 It is on this point that the intimacy of thought with Jean-Luc Nancy, which is not at first evident due to the extreme differences of style and thematics, can be observed. This intimacy is of the three philosophers having stake in the same territory of thought, a territory which has been abandoned by many philosophers belonging to postmodernism, the obscure territory from which the deep problems of metaphysics appear, which is unforgiving for those who do not have the appropriate intuitions for it. This is the zone from out of which Nietzsche’s eternal return, Heidegger’s event, Nancy’s existence, Dwivedi’s indestinacy, and Mohan’s obscure experience come. This assertion of the terrains of philosophy for philosophy is the counterpart of the intimacy of thought with Nancy, which is a shared aggression of thought, which I feel is necessary as a sheltering today.
Before the concluding remarks there is an important point to make here that the philosophers are not in any way opposed to the sciences but neither do they commit to something like “scientism” which is the practice of taking some simple rules and themes from the sciences to make socio-political theories. This fact became evident in their interventions during the coronavirus debates. I want to bring it up here because philosophy, without most people noticing it, has tremendous trickle-down effects in history. From the time a philosophy gets adopted as theory and then enters news media and then social media memes a lot of time passes. The postmodernist strand of theory and philosophy created suspicions and gross misunderstandings about the sciences through two different approaches which were combined in their effects. On the one hand sciences were trivialized through the uses of simple analogies, including Deleuze’s uses of concepts like black hole, and also misunderstanding of scientific practices which created suspicion about sciences in general of which Foucault is also guilty. Famously Foucault argued for the equivalence between different kinds of treatments of diseases. Today, the people across the world refusing to wear masks and practice social distancing, fearing vaccinations, denying stem cell research and so on are the victims of the trickle down of postmodernist theory. With Dwivedi and Mohan an extremely cautious and careful engagement with both the sciences and technologies can be seen.
I think that their position with regard to science can be understood through a principle that the sciences and technologies are valuable enterprises but their integral effects on societies and politics are to be evaluated on the basis of the consistent and sustainable regularities they can produce as components of the whole society, which is a matter purely of the comprehending law. That is, science and technology as one amongst the components cannot claim to be the comprehending law of the whole political system, and the relation between the comprehending law and the componential laws is a matter for philosophy even now. This claim for a place for philosophy on the table which decides politics today is a new arrogance which I believe is necessary for the very survival of the species. In this regard there are some statements from Mohan which can be shocking to most academics in the humanities and social sciences who are content to isolate their attention to the past such as colonial archives or the fantasies of a return to an era before technological revolutions on the basis of various idyllic a prioris
The eventual arrival of nano-machines (atomic scale engineering is already a reality that will course through our circulatory system such that our immune systems are completely externalized will complete our new speciation. We are also a species which drew a circulatory system upon the earth. When “we” began to wander the earth, nearly 50,000 years ago, we had already begun the processes of interconnecting regions of the earth, which resulted in silk roads and the Internet.
In Gandhi and Philosophy Dwivedi and Mohan discussed the externalization of biological functions to techniques. It is to be noted that without humanity finding the means to externalize functions from digestion to memory the species survival would have been impossible. Therefore, the small-minded nostalgia for some externalized functional isolations such as writing by hand to oppose computer networks is merely the work of idyllic a priori. Avoidance of the sciences and technologies, according to Mohan and Dwivedi, is creating a world order which is beginning to comprehend nation states and other institutions as if they are its components. The precise nature of the danger is this,
It is the same aversion from the obscure experience that turns us towards technological exuberance where a new god is being founded—the hyper-machines that will make machines which humans can neither build nor comprehend. It will be these machines that will then give ends to man. Bio-politics and other theories are rendering us immobile and resigned like animals who are caught in the headlights, but of our own rushing technical exuberance.21
The post-metaphysical ground indicated in the previous section is highly helpful to understand the political import of the works of Dwivedi and Mohan. There are a few threads which are part of nearly all their political writings which includes the rejection of all “centrisms”, attention to the appearance of a global order controlled by technology which is just one of the components of the world, the need for a democracy of the world, and a deliberately hesitant thought of revolution only because philosophers should not dictate the terms to politics. The present was the matter of all the theoretical tools which came from 20th century. The powerful and alarming insight from Mohan and Dwivedi is that today all wars are already being fought in future. We are unknowingly pawns fighting the wars of some others without being aware of it at all but we suffer the effects of these wars of the future no matter the location of the reader. But in Dwivedi and Mohan’s works a courage is found to take on the battles of the future after Nietzsche and Marx. As I said earlier, the attention to politics as the war of the future, or the war over the future, is at once combined in their works with the deep territories of hard-earned intuitions of metaphysics. The two are not separate from one another in the works of Dwivedi and Mohan which is evident in a couplet scattered across their writings. 1) Philosophy is the creation of freedom, and 2) Politics is the fight for freedom. The two are distinct and therefore cannot do without one another. It is clear that they have brought together the two thoughts which were in opposition between Marx and Hegel.
The freedom created by philosophy in their take on metaphysics is a whole new possibility for politics. Humanity is not without any orientation even if there are no more transcendent ends left to access for giving a form for its plans and projects. It is still possible to create theoretical schemes and boldly invent futures for which people themselves can be responsible at the end of deconstruction if the rigour of the difference between comprehending law and componential laws are observed. This aspect was noted by Jean-Luc Nancy about Gandhi and Philosophy, “this book comes to our attention and contributes to orient us, if I may say so, toward a thought, and even a world, neither humanist nor reduced to suffering in the name of Truth.” I do not wish to speculate on the world which is possible out of their thought because of the care with which Dwivedi and Mohan have avoided any of the gestures of philosopher kings in all their writings, and its place the reader will find a fond pleading of thought.
What I see in the philosophers in their individual pursuits and combined writings is the real inheritors of Nietzsche’s promises, and not exactly of his schemas of politics, art and philosophy. There is a thought of body as something which is capable of revolutions through functional isolations, homological and analogical inventions. A thought which is rational alterity which makes humanity not so isolated in “the obscure experience”. The concern with health which is free of sin, morals, and controls but sees health as the power to come over stasis, “Ana-stasis is the power to come over stasis, and, in this sense, anastasis is health.” With an affirmative voice in philosophy Dwivedi and Mohan confront nihilism head on. They have said that humanity has to understand that we are the forsaken, forsaken of any transcendent ends. The indestinacy of mankind is its most intimate power as Dwivedi writes. At the very same time Mohan shows that humanity has a shared absolute relation to the very limit of thought beyond which an absolute and yet obscure “certitude” can be experienced. They together have constructed the theoretical tools to think from this new ground, the other beginning of metaphysics, to show that the over-man which comes over itself perpetually, which is anastasis, is the real possibility and future of man: “Anastasis is the obscure beginning which would gather the occidental and the oriental in order to make of them a chrysalis and set off the imagos born with their own spans and skies” (Mohan and Dwivedi 2019, 217).
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Confareveux, Josef. 2018. “Hindu nationalism and why ‘being a philosopher in India can get you killed’”. Mediapart May 27 https://www.mediapart.fr/en/journal/international/270518/hindu-nationalism-and-why-being-philosopher-india-can-get-you-killed
Dwivedi, Divya. 2017. “The Postcolonial Death Mask”, Revue des femmes philosophes, 4-5.
Dwivedi, Divya. 2020. “A flight Indestinate.” European Journal of Psychoanalysis, http://www.journal-psychoanalysis.eu/a-flight-indestinate-divya-dwivedi/
Dwivedi, Divya. 2020a. “Indestinacy and the Modals of Lost responsibilities” (address delivered in The Aleph, festival of National Autonomous University of Mexico, May 2020). Reflexiones Marginales (August).
Dwivedi, Divya. 2020b. “May 1968 and Other Dates in the Memories of Imagination.” Interventions DOI: 10.1080/1369801X.2020.1816856
Dwivedi, Divya. 2020c. “The Transitivity of “We” and Narrative Legions.” Style 54.1.
Dwivedi, Divya. 2020d. Interview to Iranian Labour News Agency (May) https://www.ilna.news/Section-world-8/907722-the-proletariat-are-all-those-who-are-denied-the-collective-faculty-of-imagination-divya-dwivedi-tells-ilna
Dwivedi, Divya and Shaj Mohan. 2016. “The Pathology of a Ceremonial Society.” The Wire (April 21) https://thewire.in/politics/the-pathology-of-a-ceremonial-society.
Dwivedi, Divya and Shaj Mohan. 2019. “The Hoax of the Cave.” The Wire (May 21) https://thewire.in/politics/narendra-modi-cave-meditation
Dwivedi, Divya and Shaj Mohan. 2020. “The community of the forsaken: A response to Agamben and Nancy.” European Journal of Psychoanalysis (March 8) https://www.journal-psychoanalysis.eu/coronavirus-and-philosophers.
Gurmani, Auwn. 2020. “The Winter of Absolute Zero”: Interview with Shaj Mohan. Naked Punch (May 19) http://www.nakedpunch.com/articles/327
Mohan, Shaj and Anish Mohammed. 2011. “The New Secret.” Economic and Political Weekly 46.13.
Mohan, Shaj and Anish Mohammed. 2015. “Principle of Sufficient Reason 2.0: On Information Metaphysics.” In Public Sphere from Outside the West, ed. Dwivedi et al. London: Bloomsbury.
Mohan, Shaj and Divya Dwivedi. 2019. Gandhi and Philosophy: On Theological Anti-Politics, London: Bloomsbury Academic.
Mohan, Shaj and Divya Dwivedi. 2019a. “Romila Thapar: The Modern Among Historians.” The Wire, (Sept 1) https://thewire.in/history/romila-thapar-jnu-indian-history
Mohan, Shaj and Divya Dwivedi. 2020. “The Endogenous Ends of Education – For Aron Swartz”, EJP, (May 25), http://www.journal-psychoanalysis.eu/the-endogenous-ends-of-education-for-aaron-swartz/
Mohan, Shaj and Jean-Luc Nancy. 2020. “Our Mysterious Being.” (April 13) https://thephilosophicalsalon.com/our-mysterious-being/
Mohan, Shaj. 2015. “On the Relation Between the Obscure, the Cryptic and the Public”, in The Public Sphere From Outside the West, ed. Dwivedi et al. London: Bloomsbury.
Mohan, Shaj. 2020. “Beyond Resistance: What India Needs Now Is A Revolution”, World Crunch (March 11), https://worldcrunch.com/opinion-analysis/beyond-resistance-what-india-needs-now-is-a-revolution
Mohan, Shaj. 2020a. “What Carries Us On”, in position politics, http://positionspolitics.org/shaj-mohan-what-carries-us-on/
Reghu Janardhanan, Former Editor of Department of Encyclopedia, Kerala