Saturday, 20 November 2010

(re)visitings - molecular proximity and ethics

here are three extracts from Jane Bennett's The Enchantment of Modern Life: Attachments, Crossings and Ethics

these are the words of nanoscientist B.C. Crandall:

In watery solutions such as those found in the interior of most plants and animals, the general jostling caused by thermal excitation bumps protein sized molecules into each other from all angles very rapidly. This bumbling, stumbling dance allows molecules to explore all possible "mating" configurations with the other molecules in their local environment. By variously constraining and controlling such wild interactions, biological systems generate the event we call life. And it is exactly this mechanism of molecular self-assembly that may lead to the construction of complex structures designed by human engineers. (86)

Crandall and Epicurus together call to mind the Deleuzian claim that if one is to become otherwise than one is, one must place oneself in "molecular proximity" to alien bodies. One might, for example, try to explore one's nonhuman animality by experimenting with dogginess. Recall that for Deleuze and Guattari, becoming a dog is not merely a matter of imitation, but rather of making "your organism enter into composition with something else in such a way that the particles emitted  from the aggregate thus composed will be canine as a function of the relation of movement and rest, or of molecular proximity, into which they enter. "(86)

So what kind of ethical project emerges from a (meta)physical imaginary of animate matter, as distilled from the writings of Epicurus, Lucretius, nanotechnology and Deleuze?....
As Stephen White notes, an ontological imaginary does not "determine categorically" a specific set of ethical judgements but rather "helps engender certain dispositions toward an ethical-political life that alter the affective and cognitive direction one takes on specific issues" (87)

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