It is evident that change occurs in the world, but the question of how something new appears in the world is an ancient philosophical question that remains relevant today. What is of particular interest are those changes that can be said to be discontinuous with what came before – the contingent appearance of unexpected novelty – it is these changes that philosophy calls “events.”
My research considers the nature of evental change in living beings. Through a philosophical examination of the phenomenon of genetic mutation and its ontological possibility I develop two related ideas: (1) the possibility of a molecular genetic event, and (2) the possibility of a new material form of subjectivity. At once profoundly stable and open to change, the contingent event is at the heart of the genome. Rather than requiring a transcendental explanation for the event, I support the axiomatic argument for its material immanence. The gap between the being and appearing of mutation is the indeterminate and haunting figure of the void.
So where does this take us? The significance of this work rests variously in the new connections it makes between molecular genetics and continental philosophy; the conception of a molecular subjectivity and the potential for it to serve as a fulcrum between inorganic and organic beings. The possibility of evental mutation allows me to make the case for a molecular subject that, in Alain Badiou’s terms, “holds to the consequences” of the event.
As we approach the second decade of the 21st century, we face serious challenges in terms of climate change and its impact on the natural and built environments; increasing social and economic inequalities; and the growing social and economic burden of chronic disease in an ageing population. One thing is clear, changes are required if we are to equitably and sustainably improve collective well-being. But determining what these changes are, and how they may be brought about, remains opaque. For this reason, in conjunction with my continued research and its capacity to further philosophical discourse concerning socio-political transformation, I maintain a synergetic goal to develop interdisciplinary dialogue and research collaborations with other scholars in areas of shared interest.
The confluence of ideas from disparate domains is far more than simply breadth of knowledge: it conditions the possibility for the emergence of new modes of thought and innovation with the potential to improve the equity, and the sustainability, of our approaches to the global challenges we face today.
The Distant Past
What we can do with a molecular subject? My aim is to develop the trajectory of thought toward the distant past; a past before humans, and a past before the emergence of life itself. This marks a new threshold and territory of philosophical thought, and the possibility for further support of a conception of ethics that extends beyond the human to all living beings and, perhaps, all inorganic matter.
While mutation has long been recognized as a contributing factor to evolutionary change, my work seeks to subtly shift our understanding towards its fundamental ontological possibility. More than just a participant in incremental change over time, evental mutation introduces an immediate and radical change in the local molecular situation. By zooming in to the realm of the molecular world and considering the algorithmic models of molecular interaction and functional plasticity as microcosm of our larger sociopolitical and economic situations, we may discover interesting new possibilities for alternate understandings of human agency and ethical social intervention and regulation.