Tag: deleuze

The inexhaustible wealth of appearance, information and specificity

December 13th, 2015 — 2:36pm


When perceiving an object, for example a chair, the statement “this is X” (this is a chair) is almost entirely uninteresting. The concept by which we identify the object is a mere word, and in a sense entirely devoid of meaning.

That concept does help us align this object with other entities in space and time. It sets expectations about what has been done and what can be done to and with it, and it links the object to social practices. But none of these things are very interesting. After all, we understand quite well what society expects from chairs.

What is more interesting is all the other statements we could make about a particular chair, that is, all the qualities, information, phenomena and experiences that do not fit the general concept of a chair. Call this the chair’s particularity. It may be unusually sturdy or rickety. It may evoke a sense of sorrow or longing for a person who used to sit on it. It may make us think about economics. Its shape may even have something spiritual about it. It may, if it is a chair in an abandoned house, be decomposing. And even this is just scratching the surface.

In all likelihood, we are able to produce an unbounded number of interesting statements about this locus that is the chair. (Recall the famous school assignment about writing a story several hundred words long about the face of a coin.) And this would hold true both when we speak freely, metaphorically and poetically, and when we restrict ourselves to testable, scientific (in the modern sense) statements. New metaphors can always be invented, new scientific equipment may always be constructed. These additional modes of relatedness to the locus provide, perhaps, the basis for new statements.

How are we to understand this fundamental overflowing, this exuberant blossoming, the profound potential wealth that we draw upon and realise when we articulate statements about an entity such as this chair? It is not part of the concept “chair”. This concept is overlaid as an afterthought in order to make the surplus of impressions manageable and graspable. We are used to economising the use of our consciousness, dispensing it only sparingly, through the shielding, buffering and deflection that concepts afford us.

For Heidegger, being is the basis of intelligibility, a carrier of meaning. Language and intelligibility exists only on the basis of primordial being. He makes it his task to inquire as to what this being is.

For Georges Bataille, all activity that involves redistribution of energy, human and otherwise, accumulates a surplus that necessarily must be released in some way.

Myths and archetypes repeat themselves throughout history and society, in constantly renewed forms which are both always the same and always made from different specific constitutent parts. They can always be repeated in a different way. The hero myth exists in every culture (see for example Jung or Campbell). Conversely, this myth in all its specific detail is always different each time it appears.

In difference and repetition, Deleuze argues that conceptual machinery is constantly at work, extracting difference from whatever the underlying basis is.

Genetic material successfully reproduces and preserves itself, and perhaps prospers, only through the continual introduction of difference and variation at an appropriate rate.

The digital world, on the other hand, denies the possibility of generating an unbounded number of statements from some entity (such as a record in a database). In fact, its essence is the possibility of perfect copying, which happens only when the information being carried is strictly circumscribed and limited.

All these concepts, it seems, have something in common – the interaction between a specific form and the possibility of an infinite number of variations of and departures from that form.

4 comments » | Philosophy

The writing style of Being and Time

January 1st, 2013 — 10:06am

Fri Intellektuell believes that Deleuze & Guattari, in their Anti-Oedipus, used perverted and sensationally irreverent language in order to intentionally make themselves a bit ridiculous. Having made themselves ridiculous thusly, they do not have to appear ridiculous in their pretention when the scope of their ambition in the book becomes clear. One doesn’t become ridiculous twice.

Heidegger’s Being and Time takes a different approach. The language is amazingly difficult most of the time. The reader is forced to desperately scrape and claw at the text in order to extract meaning. As a rule, Heidegger doesn’t reveal in advance where he is going with the text, other than quite subtly. The result is that as soon as we understand what he is doing, we also understand that he is capable of doing it. He explains the meaning of being to us, but we don’t understand quite how much that means until we have understood his explanation of being. Thus he escapes the trap of appearing pretentious: there is no initial announcement “we’re going to achieve X and Y” followed by an arduous attempt to achieve it. The achievement and the announcement are the same. He usually cannot be accused of promising more than he can deliver. The downside is that a lot of readers will simply not be able to put up with the book, giving up in frustration.

Nietzsche takes a different approach again in his works, promising heaven and earth at the outset, and then taking the reader on an aphoristic odyssey. If the reader has a sensitive stomach, Nietzsche will of course appear extremely pretentious. He doesn’t mind; he doesn’t write for those who can’t tolerate pretention.

3 comments » | Philosophy

Books: Deleuze’s Nietzsche and De Landa’s Nonlinear History

May 3rd, 2012 — 1:09pm

In 2012, so far, I’ve finished two very evocative books. One is Deleuze’s Nietzsche and Philosophy. The other is Manuel De Landa’s 1000 Years of Nonlinear History.

Deleuze’s Nietzsche is the author’s interpretation of Nietzsche’s thought. This is perhaps one of the most coherent interpretations of Nietzsche I’ve read. It succeeds in turning Nietzsche’s notoriously unsystematic philosophy into a system with something like well-defined concepts and their interrelationships at its core. The work feels simultaneously fresh and firmly grounded in Nietzsche’s own ideas. This is a book that I expect I will read again, because I’m quite certain I haven’t understood everything. For example, I don’t yet have a good feel for the difference between Deleuze’s active and reactive force  – I cannot even imagine what an active force is. Reading this work has made me suspect that I’ve thought of every force as being essentially reactive up until this point.

One caveat with this work is that it is a book with a mission; the mission is to destroy Hegelian philosophy and dialecticism. This is in line with the historical context of Nietzsche usage in France, where he was used mainly as an antidote to the dominant Hegelian thought, if I understand correctly.

I’ve previously read De Landa’s Philosophy and Simulation, a book about emergence and about corroborating philosophical theories with computer simulations. 1000 Years of Nonlinear History is an earlier, but no less interesting, work of his. It tells the simultaneous history of geology, genes and memes (in the form of languages). In order to fully appreciate this book I think I ought to gain some idea of the mathematics behind attractors and dynamic systems.  Still, there is a lot to be gained even without those insights. The parallels between the three different historical fields are interesting, and the essential point that is made is that there is nothing like progress or determinism about the forms that society, language, ideas, life or matter take today. Instead, the state of the world is a nonlinear system of interacting attractors. We are invited to view the world as rich but essentially accidental, and free of distinctions such as organic-inorganic and human-nonhuman.


1 comment » | Philosophy

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