With regards to my last post Jeremy at Struggles Forever has provided an important reminder:

[T]he conception of Nature as a container, in my opinion, conveys the wrong message. Containers delimit and define boundaries. They serve as a ground for the things that occupy them. My fear – perhaps unjustified – is that defining Nature as the new container for everything (as opposed to the dualistic containers of Nature/Culture) – no matter how open and undefined that container is depicted – will lead to an interest in defining the boundaries of the container. Nature becomes the new standard by which we measure everything. Again, this is not what Michael and Levi intend, but without a great deal of conceptual work to reconfigure the notion of Nature (as well as the idea of a container), there is a very real risk of misinterpretation in talking about Nature as a container. I prefer, instead, to think of existence as a continuous process of composition where beings come together in complex ways to build relations, form new beings, and construct new ways of existing. In this conception (and I believe that Michael and Levi share it), there are no containers, no boundaries, and no grounds except those which are constructed – always historical, always contingent, and never totalizing.

Jeremy is correct to assume I share his rejection of the ‘container view’ of Nature. ‘Nature’ does not contain processes, flows and entities. Particular entities, systems, relations and flows comprise, generate and emerge as Nature. My point here is only that even at the most general level of reference I do not want to suggest that we use the concept of Nature to indicate entities are contained within it. Perhaps a better way to integrate talk about about the immanent emergence of reality with a poetics of nature, then, would be to assert that everything is of Nature. In this sense ‘Nature’ is conceived as an immanent plane or matrix. Individuated entities are not understood to be contained within Nature but always already compose and partake in it. Much like an individual wave or eddy is also always part of the ocean or river. The universe is a generative system composed of emergent fields, assemblages, elements and forces, and only ever gives birth to other open systems. And we don’t know enough about cosmological limits, or if boundary thinking is even generally appropriate to thinking about the nature of space-time, and there is certainly no indication that space-time does anything other than endogenously evolve and afford (rather than contain) novel developments. Of course, a lot more can be said about properties and tendencies of Nature but that is not within the scope of the present post.

The key organizing principle here is emergence: the process of emanating space-time generation. Nature in this universalizing sense is synonymous with Being, or perhaps ‘matter/energy’. There is no one thing that is Nature or Being or matter, but rather all things exist as beings, or are natural and material-energetic. Each of these terms act as generalizing semantic operators that in turn (at least with regards to Nature and matter) evoke a series of associations to actually existing particulates. So what I am trying to suggest is that may (or may not) be a poetics of Nature that can be usefully appropriated and developed as a means to provoke and stimulate certain strains of social imagination useful to the project of cultivating more sense-able and cognitively sophisticated (note:; for me cognition includes emotion and intellection) and attuned embodied subjectivities. Again, I think all these nuances must be foregrounded, so I thank my friend Jeremy for the opportunity to do that.

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Robert Brandom (born 1950) is an American philosopher who teaches at the University of Pittsburgh. He works primarily in philosophy of language, philosophy of mind and philosophical logic, and his work manifests both systematic and historical interests in these topics. He earned his B.A. from Yale University and his Ph.D. from Princeton University, under Richard Rorty and David Kellogg Lewis. Brandom is broadly considered to be part of the American pragmatist tradition in philosophy.

Brandom’s work is heavily influenced by that of Wilfrid Sellars, Richard Rorty, Michael Dummett and his Pittsburgh colleague John McDowell. He also draws heavily on the works of Immanuel Kant, G. W. F. Hegel, Gottlob Frege, and Ludwig Wittgenstein.

He is best known for his investigations of linguistic meanings, or semantics. He advocates the view that the meaning of an expression is fixed by how it is used in inferences (see inferential role semantics). This project is developed at length in his influential 1994 book, Making It Explicit, and more briefly in Articulating Reasons: An Introduction to Inferentialism (2000).


Robert Brandom, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, University of Pittsburgh, argues that genealogies (Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Foucault) present the revenge of naturalism on rationalism. Hegel teaches us how to replace the genealogical hermeneutics of suspicion with a hermeneutics of magnanimity that allows us to see naturalism and rationalism as complementing rather than competing with one another.

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