Modelling as Conceptual Exaptation

22 July 2023

As part of the launch of The Feral, lecture on Saturday 22 July, in Limousin, France @ 17:00.

In his account of the overcoming of epistemological obstacles, Bachelard triumphantly wrote that a remaking of the mind amounted to a ‘change in species’, implicitly acknowledging the consequences our conceptual models bear upon our relation to the inescapable alterity of subject-independent reality. In less hubristic terms, what a ‘species change’ implies is an interaction with latent capacities to remodel ourselves because we can remodel our concepts, and correspondingly, our worlds. Encountering the human as organism that impllies the inseparability between subject and its world of sense-making demands a recognition of both intrinsic and extrinsic alterity; a discerning recognition of alien intelligences shorn of the nihilism of Othering. We may here consider this activity of remodeling as a genre of conceptual exaptation. Stemming from evolutionary biology ‘exaptation’ describes a trait that evolved to serve a particular function, but is later co-opted to serve another, like the feathers on a bird once adapted for warmth, that now enable it to take flight. By committing to the hypothesis of organismic suprasubjectivity conceptual models take on such trait-like features, those impersonal traits of environmental inheritance. Rather than the sheer representation of a thought (or its critique), the project as a site for the emergence of concepts not only concerns what the content of that concept is, but the means, conditions and situations through which it is possible to recognize a concept that has, hitherto, not been (re)cognizable. The futural environments due for manifestation here, are no longer designated for projective human viewers, but embedded unspecified interpretants to localize a capacity for conceptual exaptation; and in so doing, intervene in the mediation of our sensitivity towards grammars inadapted to us.