PS: Surrogat(IV)e Autonomy, November 3rd-8th 2016

That is said to express a thing in which there are relations which correspond to the relations of the thing expressed... Hence it is clearly not necessary for that which expresses to be similar to the thing expressed, if only a certain analogy is maintained between the relations.’ - Leibniz, ‘What is an Idea?’

‘The great proximity between the ‘scientific’ metaphor and the ‘philosophical’ metaphor gives rise to the thought that each of the fields expresses two different, yet capable of being articulated, modes of intervention of allusive stratagems’ - Châtelet, ‘Interlacing the singularity, the diagram and the metaphor’

Year two. Where are we? Given that the empirical is still stubborn, it might be time to employ an allusive stratagem to dodge such truculence, and so we encounter the idea of surrogat(iv)e autonomy. Warning: this is a provisional chimera. The first notion is that of ‘surrogate’ or ‘surrogative’ reasoning (the conflation is already telling). In the literature (Barwise & Shimojima, Swoyer), this refers to the use of external supports in reasoning, or, generally, letting one thing stand (however partially) for another. This encompasses many phenomena, from the use of scale models, to projective geometry, to the fact that we use pens to write things (yes, that’s a genuine example). The notion has older roots, in Leibniz’s conception of ‘expression’: “the model of a machine expresses the machine itself, the projective delineation on a plane expresses a solid, speech expresses thoughts and truth”, and on.

One could ask whether such diverse cases can be subsumed under a structural concept. To point to one obvious (potential) division, is the process whereby one, say, uses a model of an airplane to model a real case of flight strictly analogous to the one whereby we use numbers to reason about measurements? Beyond, that is, the fact that both are, in the loosest of senses, processes of analogy? We touch then upon the problem of modelization, wherein we have to reason not only about the, so to speak, ‘problem at hand’, but recursively about the nature of the very tools we use to approach that problem. Such conceptual acrobatics can be both stymying and productive: it is no accident that surrogate reasoning is sometimes called ‘constraint projection’, and we hope to tackle both the positive and negative valences of the latter formulation. So there’s some thoughts on this broad sense of ‘surrogacy’, we’ll see where that goes.

The second head of our chimera turns to face us: that of ‘autonomy’ as such, particularly with regards to the formal. Insofar as the impasses of formalization concern the dialectic of sufficiency and inadequacy with regards to the material formalized, we could say that the problem of ‘the autonomy of forms’ is the necessary double of the previous year’s considerations on ‘the stubbornness of the empirical’. But our question is not simply limited to the formal taken as an index of the mathematical, logical or symbolic. Rather, we wish to open up consideration of the purchase of a critical concept of autonomy with regards to forms and practices in an expanded sense: aesthetic, political, artistic, philosophical.

So, as a first point of purchase, beyond looking at the tension between formalization and the content formalized, we seek means of addressing how the ‘life’ of the concept, or the behaviour of the abstract, points to the non-intentional activity of the formal. As a second, we are asking whether autonomy is even possible, in what senses it might be, and, indeed - another question lurking in the background - autonomy from what? Might these two investigations have something to say to each other? And could ‘surrogacy’ be a useful notion in making this bridge?

With regards to our plan for this stew, the weekend will be, as before, a combination of talks, readings and discussion. Moving into the second year of doing this, we would like to focus on PS as a research platform, inviting active collaboration from all participants, new or returning. As such, this time we will experiment with providing some more - non-mandatory - readings in advance to focus the discussion. Alongside these will be two invited speakers, Elie Ayache & Anne-Françoise Schmid, who will feed into all of this. For Ayache, the very notion of writing, particularly understood as the writing of price, is an imperfect capture of the contingent behaviour of the market, a market divorced from the structure of possibility. For Schmid, a generic epistemology that cuts across fields as diverse as design, philosophy, and science, accounts for the generation of an object of inquiry that has no one-to-one correspondence in the world, but is the manifestation of a research program. Both then articulate complex epistemologies and ontologies that open onto the contingent and the generic, and in doing so place an emphasis on models, be they as self-generating structures or tools of partial bridging and construction.


Thursday (the 3rd) will be the arrival day, departure on Tuesday (the 8th) morning.
Staying up to 4 nights: €20 per night; staying more than 4 nights: €18 per night. €12 for membership
Food we will collectively organize on site, and from past experience has come to around €10 per day. Email PAF ( with the dates you’d like to attend.
Anyone who would like to stay longer is, of course, welcome to do so.
We invite all to come and participate in whatever this triggered for you. See you in November. Amazing.