Discognition: A lecture by Steven Shaviro
Friday, 24 May 2013, 2-4 pm, Ardmore House, Belfield, UCD
Cognitivist and representationalist theories of mind continually find themselves confronted with elements that they can neither subsume nor exclude, but can only regard as supplemental. I argue that these supplemental elements are in fact the primordial forms of sentience, and that they are preconditions for — without being thereby reducible to — any sort of cognition or representation whatsoever. Organisms are affective before they are cognitive, because they are systems for accumulating and dissipating energy, before they are systems for processing information.
Where cognitive science and philosophy of mind have tended to assume that affect serves cognition, we should rather see cognition as a belated and occasional consequence of a more basic affectivity. There are important philosophical precedents for this line of argument. For Kant, aesthetic judgments arise from singular intuitions for which there is no adequate concept. For Whitehead, primordial “feeling” takes the form of “a ‘valuation up’ or a ‘valuation down’” that precedes, and determines, any sort of cognition or conceptualization. For Wittgenstein, while inner sensation “is not a something,” it is also “not a nothing either.” All these approaches point to a primordial form of sentience that is nonintentional, noncorrelational, and anoetic; and that is best described, in a positive sense, as autistic, affective, and aesthetic.
Steven Shaviro is the DeRoy Professor of English at Wayne State University. He is the author of The Cinematic Body (1993), Doom Patrols: A Theoretical Fiction About Postmodernism (1997), Connected, Or, What It Means To Live in the Network Society (2003), Without Criteria: Kant, Whitehead, Deleuze, and Aesthetics (2009), and Post-Cinematic Affect (2010). His work in progress involves studies of speculative realism, of post-continuity styles in contemporary cinema, of music videos, and of recent science fiction and horror fiction. He blogs at The Pinocchio Theory