Notes on the process of naming in-between Antonio Negri and Quentin Meillassoux
by Joseph Noonan-Ganley
A subjective activity passes through the real, regardless of the level of colonization of the real by capital.1
Antonio Negri uses the function of a concept to understand the production of knowledge and being. A concept fundamentally constitutes a space in thought, in being. A concept’s functionality is the turmoil of invention and production of a schema. The integration of a concept into knowledge is problematic though as the interpretation of a concept can be varied. A concept can to be hard to locate, it eludes occupying a symbolic space. Negri motivates the productive, generative and experimental nature of a concept in his use of the name. A name’s destination is always in language. A name is a sign which has an event which constitutes the site of its relation. So when many events have some-thing in common a name can be given to this collection, multiple or set. The name proposes the constitution of a common space, irreducible to any one manifestation in particular but subject to the taking place of the event in being. The name constitutes its own space irreducible to its referent, but simultaneous to its becoming:
Whatever thing I name exists […] the name calls the thing into existence […] the name and the thing are here.2
Negri explains the necessarily contingent character of how identity is constructed: it is through the formalisation of the adequate relation between name and thing, knowledge and the real, subject and predicate. A contingency based upon the names occurence as a proper basis or support for identity, its simultaneous appearance with an event in being.
Negri goes on to explain how this folding in on each other of the name and the thing is what situates identity, but that this cannot be a fixed support for the construction of a temporality. It has to be appropriate to the relations wherein the space-time-identity of the coming together situates the temporality of the identity. If this ‘coming together’ were to become static or solidified the two spaces would collapse into the one place. This place would be the short circuit of the production of singularity and being in a repetition. For as he explains ‘there is no same place in space. If there were, every place in space would have to be subtracted from the activity of time’. This coming together of name and event which are mutually affirmed in the moment of their formation is the basis for Negri’s use of the ancient Greek word kairòs:
In the classical conception of time, kairòs is the instant, that is to say, the quality of the time of the instant, the moment of rupture and opening of temporality. It is the present, but a singular and open present. Singular in the decision it expresses with regard to the void it opens upon. Kairòs is the modality of time through which being opens itself, attracted by the void at the limit of time, and it thus decides to fill that void.3
The name for Negri has a capability of deconstructing what is, in the act of its machinic proposal of the revoloution of space. This is an infinte process which through experience is the proper crystallisation of difference. A name appears through its affirmation in being whilst constituting a distinct and singular mark. The name is inscribed into a symbolic space, which situates the ground for radical difference. As even through the subjects integration with the name their difference from it and from that of other subjects integration with it is always maintained. This happens in the subjects revelation as a producer, capable of an unknowable power. This constant potential of production is what Negri calls the immeasurable. He uses the process of crystallisation in being to explicate kairòs:
Knowing (an episteme and a logic that are within the materialist field) is kairòs: the event of knowing, of naming, or rather knowing as singularity, interweaving of logical innovation and ontological creation – kairòs is the classical image of the act of releasing the arrow; here in postmodernity, it is the absoloutley singular ontological occasion of naming being in the face of the void, anticipating and constructing on the edge of time.4
By kairòs, we mean the powerful irruption of time in the relation between difference and creativity. The kairòs is the instant of creation, the moment potential (puissance) spreads on the edge of being, that is, the capacity to invent within the framework of the postmodern.5
Here kairòs is imagined by the ‘arrow of time’ which anticipates being to come and therefore functions as a displacement of knowledge. It displaces the construction of knowledge with a new direction decided in the moment soley via the assesment of the event.
The method and materiality of a naming process is central to Quentin Meillassoux’s book After Finitude through his concept of the arche-fossil. This is material which has ancestral significations; it is material which indicates existence of a reality before life on earth. Meillassoux uses the dates of the origin of the universe, the accretion of the earth, the origin of life on earth and the origin of humankind as examples of the arche-fossil. He explains the essentially constructed and contingent nature of such material: the meaning or sense of the arche-fossil is in the dating of it. The date verified by a scientific community affirms its consistency. For Meillassoux’s example the scientific processes of dating and of mathematics are what locate the arche-fossil in this world and even what unite the world with a this-ness. He states that this is the primary validation of a presentness or a givenness of a particular world. It is this intersubjective affirmation of an object which holds the fabric of a world together. This contingent relation is what also constructs a temporality:
That thought is in a position to think manifestations emergence in being, as well as a being or time anterior to manifestation;
that the fossil-matter is the givenness in the present of a being that is anterior to givenness; that is to say, that an arche-fossil manifests an entity’s anteriority vis-à-vis manifestation […] being is not anterior to givenness, it gives itself as anterior to givenness […] for givenness is primary and time itself is only meaningful insofar as it is always-already presupposed in humanity’s relation to the world.6
Meillassoux emphasises that it is thought of thought or being constituted qua being which solidifies into an object (the arche-fossil), which in turn produces a co-ordinate for a temporality rather than any representation of a manifestation or presentation of being. For with the arche-fossil its referent does not exist outside thought. It is the intersubjective construction by thought in being of the arche-fossil which locates it here in this time.
We have to carry out a retrojection of the past on the basis of the present […] it is not ancestrality which precedes givenness, but that which is given in the present which retrojects a seemingly ancestral past. To understand the fossil, it is necessary to proceed from the present to the past, following a logical order, rather than from the past to the present, following a chronological order.7
Thought’s ability to construct a name (or date) which is not condemned to images of past (including ones of the future) is proof of the virtue of a materialism which can construct a contingent world, one not evacuated through its integration into the processes of democratisation which define today’s modes of production, but one which indissolubly sustains the fabric and method of its becoming, not through its persistence but through its existence. A name should not presuppose a colonisation of space but the emergence of space. For when Giorgio Agamben re-inscribes the essential messianic qualities of kairòs into Paul’s legacy he illuminates the necessary prophetic and propositional nature of the name.8
8 – Agamben, Giorgio, The Time That Remains: A Commentary on the Letter to the Romans, 2005, Stanford University Press, California, Translated by Patricia Dailey.
6/7 – pp. 1-27, Meillassoux, Quentin, After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency, 2008, Continuum, London, Translated by Ray Brassier.
1/5 – pp.94-97, Negri, Antonio, The Porcelain Workshop: For a New Grammar of Politics, 2008, Semiotext(e), Los Angeles, Translated by Noura Wedell.
2/3/4 – pp.139-180, Negri, Antonio, Time For Revolution, 2003, Continuum, New York, Translated by Matteo Mandarini.