January 11, 2006

Self–positing concepts and double articulation

Follow-up to What is Philosophy? from Philosophy

Concepts are said, by Deleuze and Guattari, to be "self-positing". This is an extraordinary and uncommon realisation.

So that which emerges, that which is realized, from a free and creative act, is also, they suggest, that which necessarily posits itself. (Darren Ambrose)

How do we understand the "freedom" of the concept? Another forumulation gives a clue: concepts are not solutions to problems, but rather constitute a problematization only made sensible through the concept – that is to say, the concept both disrupts experience, diverts it into unexpected and intense differentiations, and at the same time provides the conditions through which it may be reintegrated. For example, if a concept of "personal narrative" were to act to integrate my experiences, if it were to be a dominant force in my life, then experiences would be concieved as more or less consistent with such an organising schema. Consider the extreme in which all other possible concepts are themselves reduced to the status of problematic events to be integrated into the personal narrative. As such they become components of the concept of personal narrative, more or less well integrated.

But surely if the concept were to be genuinely self-positing or "free" then it must break its dependency upon the contingencies of the experience that feeds the discretion of its self-positing identity? The concept then becomes a condition for the possiblity of all experience. Would it be right to say that this is concept used in a properly Kantian sense? A transcendental imagination that anticipates or problematizes all possible experience?

Deleuze and Guattari seek an alternative: a double articulation in which the two dimensions are simultaneously connected with each other (although contingent) and yet freely autonomous (niether determining the other). Not the hierarchical double articulation of structuralism, but two independent and connected articulations:

  1. concepts that are mobile, abstract, and independent of any specific time or space – capable of posing their problem wherever and whenever;
  2. experiences (chaosmic incarnation, virtual enunciative nuclei) that exist despite of and in the absence of any specific concept.

The engagement and disengagement of the two articulations, their slippage, gives rise to history. On the one hand the virtual (as in real but unspecifiable) becoming (constant differentiation of difference) provides constant novelty. And on the other, the inescapable actuality (specification/speciation) of the concept, against which all stands as problematic, gives an independent constant (memory). When the concepts achieve a high degree of autonomy, and at the same time are able to connect with a wide range of experiences, then we have the concept of philosophy (and its history) described by Deleuze and Guattari in What Is Philosophy?

And finally, the inevitable question is: how do some concepts achieve a high degree of autonomy from the experiences that they problematize, whilst still being able to easily connect with a diverse range of experiences? D&G's conjecture is that they must establish some kind of plane of immanence in which the occurrence of events that can be connected to the concept are encouraged, though not determined. The ontological status of a concept is then more like that of life in general: not an over-determined causal necessity, but rather a likelihood, the definition (better: focus) of which is constantly oscillating around an equilibrium (the fuzziness with which they oppose logic). This field, out of which events are actualised for the concept with uncanny pre-sentiment or intuition, is again a virtuality (it seems real without being actual), but a virtuality of another degree.

Robert O-Toole

January 10, 2006

Philosophy, art, science

Philosophy is the wording of Becoming of the 'world'. As Becoming always creates new forms, philosophy has to fabricate new concepts in order to speak about these forms. This is the history of philosophy. Deleuze's philosophy follows the evolutions of late capitalism where Subject (Body without Organs) and Object (Organ without Body) collapse as permanences in time into spatial partialities, where the emergent Self of autopoiesis has lost its organization and breaks down into a multiplicity of micro-entities seeking for a new unity.
Science, in order to transmit its knowledge into technology, has to freeze Becoming and to develop an ideology of pure Being (static permanences, 'Ideals', 'Identities'. This ideology is always provisional (that's why it is an ideology) and science must change its paradigma, its translation of Chaos into a Kosmic Order, every generation. As science is institutionalized (much more than philosophy is) science changes by long intervals, whereas philosophy follows Becoming every second.
Art presents the concepts of philosophy and the technological precepts of science as materialized 'things' framed into some kind of 'canvas' that can be visited by spectators. As put by Heidegger, art plays with the boundaries of 'langauage', inventing new languages, codes, sentences and words, even phonetic units. As art is the work of a craftsman, it is aestheticized and becomes a 'thing of beuaty': as such it generates affects and percepts.

(Eric Rosseel)

January 02, 2006

What is Philosophy?

For Deleuze and Guattari a philosophy’s power is not only measured, as Deleuze claims in his early Spinoza book, “by the concepts it creates, or whose meaning it alters”, but also by the degree to which it is able to maintain an internalised non-philosophical plane of thought (that is, thought as a pure conceptless and immanent self-movement). The “creative” activity of the philosopher (the “friend of the concept”) involves an ongoing process of mediation with (and the inclusion of) the vitality of the non-philosophical plane of thought (or being), “the plane of pure immanence.” Indeed, conceptual “creation” as an act of the philosopher and the autonomously self-positing/immanent movement of thought (or being) are mutually implied; or, in other words, are two aspects of one and the same process. This process is obviously not just confined to the co-creative activities of the philosophical realm—a nything which is “created,” whether it be a living organism, a work of art, or indeed a “concept,” has what Deleuze and Guattari call this “autopoetic characteristic” (that is, an autonomous and immanent movement of becoming) whereby they self-posit or realize themselves. So that which emerges, that which is realized, from a free and creative act, is also, they suggest, that which also necessarily posits itself. Deleuze and Guattari clearly reconfigure philosophy as having to preserve the plane of immanence through misosophy, to maintain it through an irreducible relationship to the non-philosophical fields of both the arts and sciences. More importantly, they argue that the vital creativity associated with philosophy and its conceptual movement in some sense rests upon it being necessarily intertwined and co-implicated with the autopoiesis (the element that creatively “self-posits”) of those non-philosophical realms. In the short preface to the 1994 English translation of DR a text contemporaneous with WP Deleuze writes – “Philosophy…creates and expounds its own concepts only in relation to what it can grasp of scientific functions and artistic constructions…The scientific or artistic content of a philosophy may be very elementary, since it is not obliged to advance art or science, but it can advance itself only by forming properly philosophical concepts from a given function or construction, however elementary. Philosophy cannot be undertaken independently of science or art.” DR p. xiv

The vital task involves what Deleuze and Guattari term in What is Philosophy?, a “pedagogy of the concept”; or, in other words, how to go about “creating” new types of divergent concept, that is, concepts of difference that “move,” rather than merely forming or fabricating copies or clichés of existing ones. For Deleuze and Guattari if we are ever to begin to approach an answer to this problem it must be through analysing the non-philosophical, preserved in its difference from the philosophical (from the conceptual). Crucial to this task of the “pedagogy of the concept” is a rigorous analysis of the “conditions of creativity” associated with philosophical activity, which must necessarily make reference to the vital and sovereign activities of the non-philosophical (that is, the sciences and the arts) (each of which presents its own distinct strategies for “thinking” and “creating”).

(Darren Ambrose)

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