Of Paraconsistent Times in a/the Nonmodern World

(excerpt from paper presentation in forthcoming conference)

When Quentin Meillassoux (2008) proposed the theory of ‘radical contingency’ in contrast to the ontological spectrum of the ‘necessity of being’ whose ‘telling symptom,’ as Brassier (2007) notes, ‘is the preoccupation with difference’ prevalent in continental philosophy, he may not be aware that his unique treatment of contingency, as opposed to classical negation logic, already if not partially resonates with the multiperspectival continuum of paraconsistent beings as they were treated in indigenous epistemologies. The latter’s embeddedness in the multispecies framework of accounting for objects, things, and signs manifests a logic of beings’ situatedness in a network of partial and emergent ontologies, even magical beings (to the extent that they are entangled in a multinatured system that any claim to ‘positive being or identity’ is always already ‘subtracted’ from a plenitude of negations, probabilities, and relationalities (Viveiros de Castro, 2015). From the standpoint of indigeneity, what is deemed premodern by epistemic standards is ontological at its core in the sense that it cannot be subordinated to the sociocentrism of the Western colonial mindset (Latour, 1993), which explains the disjunctive modularity of time according to which life is lived in segmental if not virtually real terms of kinship with other bodily natures or first constructed as a social category.

Latour echoes a similar position in a radical gesture of remanding the epistemic power of social ontology imposed by the West through force of dogma and warfare to the same ‘horrible mishmash of things, objects, and signs’ (p. 38) – apparently, the irredeemable limitation of premodern knowledge – that coloniality accused indigenous ethos and culture. The moderns, as Latour argues, are altogether helpless in ‘following the ridiculous constraints of their past’, such that they too are forced to ‘remix’ temporal scales’ unknown until now’. By recasting the modern separability of society and culture (as Latour proposed of anthropology in the nonmodern key), a double bind results in the negotiated symmetry of two opposed timeframes – a shared spectrum of nonmodernity operating in the paraconsistency of opposing temporal domains. From a Latourian standpoint, both have never left the past. Humans have never left the nonmodern world.

As a decolonising strategy, however, this sensitivity to the disjunctive modularity of time-reckoning renders the pedagogical itinerary of translation, praxeology and understanding of the ecstatic framework of multispecies flourishing more complicated as ever amid the presence of what Latour designates as ‘quasi-objects’ in the nonmodern world. Due to the machinic acceleration characteristic of present-day worldly existence, compounded by the global networks that feed on the expediency to consume, a complex assortment of epistemic consumerism has increasingly defined the status of objects and things filtered by circuits of production and reproducibility. While this, in turn, exacts a heavy toll on multispecies life on the planet, with the combined forces of the epistemic totalisation of time systems in the name of a single human imprint on climate change and the gastronomic justification of surviving on depleting resources, global consumerism recalls a distinct type of pharmacology that one finds in the premodern – what Viveiros de Castro termed the cannibalism of the ‘constitutive uncertainty concerning the predicates of any being’ (2015, p. 175). I am not referring to the bodily aspect of cannibalism (though this partially resonates with today’s consumerism in light of the pretext for the aggressive colonization of multispecies life). Rather, echoing Latour’s homage to Deleuze, a repetition of the past that ‘has never disappeared’ (Latour, 1993, p. 75), a reprise that has ‘nothing temporal about it’ (p. 72). Cannibalism is ‘spiritually’ restored in terms of the pathology of pushing everything to be human, a world of immanent humanity, ‘which is also (and for the same reasons) the world of the immanence of the enemy’ (Viveiros de Castro, p. 176). But, assuming humans have never wholly entered the modern world, would the necessity of this disjunctive immanence require the actual temporalization of the world to come – the world of modernity? What would that world be in terms of how we can imagine its time?

Nonetheless, if there are only contingent beings, as Meillassoux would argue, the compossibility of the modern world also requires the necessity of paraconsistent modernity – a necessary contradiction in time where it is of equal condition that a resolution remains outside the ambit of positivity, if at all, magical, or cannibal, or the Deleuzian inflexion point of the refrain, the virtual. The point being – it is necessary that this world remains emptied of substance so that it remains indifferent to speech and, already, to the thought that the ‘reprise’ makes up for a missing sense. In short, how do we teach disjunctive times that are inevitably confined in expression, primarily by resorting to metaphors whose operability lies in the ‘invisible transformation of a word into another word,’ a kind of ‘verbo endo-cannibalism’ (Viveiros de Castro, p. 300)? Unless metaphors are considered ‘quasi-objects’ in the sense that they have ‘hesitant trajectories’ (Latour, 1993, p. 108), either natural or social, they are owned by specific indexing of speech-time perceived in the light of their substitution with a master story. This is why some indigenous communities forbid the use of metaphors; instead, they must be ‘folded back into their larger thoughts until [they become] a memory’ (p. 300). Here memory signifies the internal plasticity of retention to the future (or tertiary retention [Stigler, 2020]), but whose determinability is, however, not as innocent as it appears (devoid of an actual agency).

In this paper, I would like to propose a three-pronged approach in line with the modularity of time-consciousness of the premodern that racks up an intersectional spectrum of natural history, consciousness, and social intelligence (Winkelman, 2002). To this end, the paraconsistent speculum of worlds manifests itself in terms of a) the challenge to classical negation logic (Plumwood, 1993; Priest,  2005); b) the semio-physical realisms that generate quasi-objects with their ‘hesitant trajectories’ (Latour, 1993) now threatened of being overwhelmed by the anthropogenic singularization of a fragile totality called nature through the de-multispeciesfication of worlds, and c) the reprising of the past in the name of the present that has never recovered from it.

This past renders the positivity of the ‘now’ (according to its predominant Western model of time) indeterminate and incomplete and thus refractive to the universalist rational identity frame. The latter is where nonmodernity’s paraconsistency can be proved promising as a decolonising practice.




Brassier, R (2007). ‘The Enigma of Realism: on Quentin Meillassoux’s After Finitude’. In R. Mackay (ed.), Collapse II (pp. 15-54). Oxford: Urbanomic.

Latour, B. (1993). We Have Never Been Modern. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Meillassoux, Q. (2008). After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency. London: Continuum.

Plumwood, V. (1993). Feminism and the Mastery of Nature. London and New York: Routledge.

Priest, G. (2005). Towards Non-Being: the Logic and Metaphysics of Intentionality. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Stiegler, B. (2020b). Nanjing lectures: 2016-2019. Open Humanities Press. http://openhumanitiespress.org/books/titles/nanjing-lectures/.

Viveiros de Castro, E. (2015). The Relative Nature: Essays on Indigenous Conceptual Worlds. Chicago: Hau Books.

Winkelman, M. (2002). Shamanism and Cognitive Evolution. Cambridge Archeological Journal 12 (1), pp. 71-101.


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