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September 2021

Too-blue: Colour-patch for an expanded empiricism

Journal/Book: Cult Stud. 2000; 14: 11 New Fetter Lane, London EC4P 4Ee, England. Routledge. 177-226.

Abstract: This essay is in part a response to the rhetoric of the 'two cultures' revived by the 'science wars' conducted in recent years through the mass media against humanities disciplines, especially 'post-modern' art, cultural studies, and non-analytic philosophy. The essay focuses in greatest detail on the relation between science and philosophy, arguing that they are in fact complementary activities effectively partaking of the same reality. Although knowledge practices in the humanities draw from their partaking radically different orders of result from those of science (and from each other), they have claim to an effective connection to a shared reality. Humanities disciplines, and even 'informal' or 'traditional' knowledge practices, can be argued to be realist, empirical enterprises generating modes of validity specific to their manner of result - provided that the definition of empirical reality is generously broadened. An 'expanded' empiricism is a 'radical' empiricism in William James's sense of taking relations to be as real and as fundamentally given to experience as discrete objects or sense-data. Recognizing the reality of relation nudges empiricism in the direction of process philosophy. The essay reviews concepts of cause and discovery, nature and culture, affect and virtuality, truth and constructedness, taking the experience of colour as a prime example. It combines elements of James's radical empiricism with Whitehead's process philosophy with the poststructuralism of Deleuze and Guattari with chaos and complexity theory. The resulting perspective converges with Isabelle Stengers' vision of a non-judgemental political ecology of knowledge. An expansive ethics of relationality, of mutual differential belonging, is the natural correlate of an expanded culture of empiricism.

Note: Article Massumi B, SUNY Albany, Dept English, Albany,NY 12222 USA

Keyword(s): colour; affect; virtuality; chaos; empiricism; poststructuralism; postmodernism; nature; STOCHASTIC RESONANCE

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