All 10 entries tagged Ethics
View all 61 entries tagged Ethics on Warwick Blogs | View entries tagged Ethics at Technorati | There are no images tagged Ethics on this blog
May 28, 2006
Theatre is a repetition without finality, a repetition/rehearsal (same word in French). The most effective theatre approaches the limit and retreats, taking the audience on that journey to the edge.
Centuries later, when theatre has lost its ability to go to the edge and back, Artaud sought to recover this power (in his essay on theatre and the plague):
Above all we must agree that stage acting is a delirium like the plague, and is communicable. p.18
...conditions must be found to give birth to a spectacle that can fascinate the mind. It is not just art. p.18
The plague takes dormant images, latent disorder and suddenly carries them to the point of the most extereme gestures. Theatre also takes gestures and develops them to the limit. Just like the plague, it reforges the links between what does and does not exist in material nature. p.18
For theatre can only happen the moment the inconcievable really begins, where poetry taking place on stage, nourishes and superheats created symbols. p.18
Like the plague, theatre is a crisis resolved either by death or cure. The plague is a superior disease because it is an absolute crisis after which there is nothing left except death or drastic putrification. In the same way, theatre is a disease because it is the final balance that cannot be obtained without destruction. It urges the mind to delirium which intensifies its energy. p.22
Most importantly, this theatre is a mobile plague, sweeping across the country. The movement of the travelling company from one city to another is not incidental. The programme of repetitions/rehearsal is repeated in a new setting each time, a new audience, a new set of reactions and interactions. As the reputation of the players builds and preceeds them, the audience becomes even more receptive and superheated, in expectation of becoming infected. Imagine what it must be like for the players, repeating their words and moves, and each time anticipating the differences both subtle and extreme.
Now consider street theatre, even more an addiction played out in varying circumstances. And the theatre of cruelty – the programme of repetitions melds with the stage and its agents, a single exposed body stripped bare and made mobile.
May 26, 2006
Yesterday I attended yet another excellent seminar as part of the What is Philosophy? graduate research project. Professor Rosi Braidotti set out to defend Deleuzian research from charges of ethical relativism and providing more efficient control mechanisms for the use of gobal capitalism. This was done with remarkable energy and wit. The result, I believe, was to establish convincingly that Deleuzianism can have a consistent and pragmatic ethical approach to a wide range of situations. However, this requires a rethinking of the role of addiction, [inter]dependency, risk and identities, with an emphasis on positive modes of growth and intensity – an emphasis quite contrary to the prevailing culture of compensation and the valorization of suffering.
That is very much a partial and inadequate summary. If you want to know more, I would suggest joining the What Is Philosophy? project, so that you can listen to the full podcast audio recordings of the lecture and following discussion.
As a taster, and as a record of my own contribution to the discussion, I have clipped a short section in which I respond to the claim that addictive behaviour is necessarily narcissistic. Rosi had presented the concept of addiction on two slightly contradictory ways. On the one hand, there was a discussion of Deleuze’s alcoholism (dealt with in the Logic of Sense). This behaviour was a distinctly self-absorbed testing of ‘what a body is capable of’ (Deleuze’s favourite Spinozism). Deleuze was concerned with how the alooholic repeatedly approached the limit of their addiction, the point at which it approaches incapacity or even death, and then swiftly pulls back from the edge. Such a rehearsal/repetition is only ever a reinforcement of limits. Going beyond the limit passes across a threshold (Deleuze differentiates thresholds and limits) such that the addiction is no longer possible. Such a model is, as you can imagine, not what our critics may happily accept as the basis of an ethical system!
We could, as I think Rosi attempted, redress this by arguing that life itself is about addictions, and that there are some addictions that are positive and sustainable, and others that are destructive and lead into ‘black holes’ (Deleuze and Guattari’s term). The obvious problem with this argument is that an economic system like capitalism is quite capable of creating addictions that are both locally safe in this way (for the individual) and at the same time globally destructive, or oppresive to other classes, races, nations or species. Individuals can quite obviously be manipulated, sustained or destroyed where necessary, through the production and manipulation of their addictions. Even when such behaviours seem to introduce constant novelty (fashion), that novelty is carefully controlled and limited. Consequently, the notion of safe and sustainable personal addiction fails to save us from the charge that Deleuze and Guattari simply provide more efficient mechanisms to the hands of global capitalism.
At this point I got quite excited. I have been looking at a range of addictive behaviours that are neither narcissistic nor exclusive of significant and uncontrolled creativity. These patterns of behaviour are entirely dependent upon an engagement with contsantly differing contexts (people and places). I offered the following example:
November 15, 2005
Section 10.6 of Andy Clark's book Being There is entitled with the question "Where does the mind stop and the world begin?". For philosophy this is a very significant question. For cognitive science and AI, much less so (its just a design issue). Why not just adopt the latter position? Would that be such a scandal?
Clark's answer to the question is both pragmatic and realistic, whilst promoting a proportionate, specific and sufficiently detailled investigation of real minds and environments. This is quite a contrast to the vague generalizations of some phenomenological models.
For someone with an AI/cog-sci background (that I in part share), the identification of a boundary (even a porous one) should only be significant when it could contribute to our understanding of the capabilities, limitations and developmental process of real cognitive processes. Our boundary marking conditions would have to be ones that really make a difference to the cognitive process itself. For example, one interesting boundary marking condition would be:
how replaceable or otherwise is a specific (internal or external) cognitive artefact? Could the individual agent simply swap the artefact with another similar or even totally different artefact? And to what extent would this change the character of the agent?
A related, equally important, but different question is:
how dependent is the development of an agent upon a specific artefact, such that it's abscence makes a significant difference to that agent?
This gets close to our understanding of what an agent actually is: it has a relatively consistent and pervasive character existing over time and to some extent surviving changes to the environment in which it exists. Whilst at the same time, its development and continuation is dependent upon the existence of key artefacts within that environment. It is as Clark says, closely coupled. Furthermore, the agent tends to influence the environment in which it exists so as to promote the continuation of these characteristics, so that an agent tends to be associated with an environment (reverse evolution), whilst the environment tends to promote certain characteristics in the agent and classes of agents (evolution).
This, to readers of recent dynamical systems theory (and the likes of Deleuze and Guattari), is quite an obvious model: 1) there are arangements of mechanisms that interact with and consume other mechanisms through processes of ordering, selection, managed preservation and controlled degradation; 2) these mechanisms have selective principles (the character traits) that are repetetively applied over time; 3) some of these repetitive mechanisms reproduce the conditions of their own production and reproduction; 4) and fewer still reproduce the conditions that make their own reproduction more likely, more desired by the environment in which they exist. Or in shore: they are desiring machines.
I would say that this is stating the obvious. Certainly there is a degree of convergence towards such a model in evolutionary biology. And I'm sure there will also be such a convergence in AI development. So why is it likely that philosophers will still consider it to be controversial? Why does it seem OK in biology, but radical when applied by, for example, the psychotherapist Felix Guattari, to the problem of fixing broken minds and bodies?
Thinking is selecting, is doing.
November 06, 2005
Page 215 sees both an indication of just how radical its implications might be, followed by a clause that is perhaps an attempt to avoid an engagement with a whole set of possibly esoteric philosophical issues.
Firstly, there are significant ethical implications of an argument that sees a persons mind being extended into the environment. Hurt that environment and you hurt the mind. This goes a little beyond the arguments of human rights lawyers, who could safely say that long term deprivation may affect the development and sustanance of the mind. Clark's argument clearly indicates that damaging the extended cognitive apparatus has an immediate and damaging effect on their mind.
If, for example, a human rights court assessing the actions of the regime at Guantanamo Bay were to accept that abuse of the Quran were a direct physical attack upon the minds of the inmates, then the range of crimes would be greater and more extreme.
The first point opens up a radical debate. The second is just as dramatic in closing one down. Clark makes a threefold differentiation:
He also talks about "self", and seems to be referring to the totalized singularity of the collection of factors that make a person individuated. That, I think, is closely tied to what he wold call "consciousness", but the issue is not properly explored.
His argument clearly shows that minds are more than brains, being extended out from the brain into the environment (or perhaps coming in from the environment and parasitising the brain). But he is careful to say that there is something called consciousness that is not extended into the environment. Individual consciousness, my attentional experience, is packaged back inside the individual. It is philosophically safer to say that there is still something, some inelliminable feature of being human, that is not dissipated out into the apparatus of extended cognition.
The clause avoids some very difficult philsoophical ground, but only at the risk of begging a very big question. This clause has the following effects:
- a separate set of apparatus must be implicated in consciousness;
- this apparatus cannot be reducible to, dependent upon, and part of the environment, as being such would again make it porous and subject to an extended cognition argument.
Obviously the second of these points is hugely controversial, and heading towards the kind of mind/body separation that Clark set out to dispel. But I would say that it is essential to Clark's attempt to keep some kind of separation between subject and object (individual and world). Without some kind of absolutely non-porous subjectivity, his thesis gets increasingly radical. The supposition of an individual consciousness, for example, provides some limitation to the damage that extended cognition could do to our established legal and ethical assumptions.
How to escape from this? Phenomenology leading out from Kant has recourse to time. In fact once can see the predominately spatial way in which much of the extended cognition debate is framed. We have a bounded, territorialized layout of minds and environments. One could argue that consciousness is the experience of this layout in time. The link between "self" and "consciousness" seems to rely upon this, with time, history, evolution and its experience from a specific perspective being the individuating feature:
…the flow of reason and thoughts, and the temporal evolution of ideas and attitudes, are determined and explained by the intimate, complex, continued interplay of brain, body and world. p.217
We could investigate how the environment/mind relationship unfolds differently to an individual consciousness. A kind of "pure time", a "duration", could be the inelliminable fact of consciousness. But what are the origins and effects in the world of this pure time? It can't be an organizing super subject, because that would be subject and hence porous to the world it organizes. As you can see from the passage given above, Clark does actually acknowledge that the experience of being a singualrity in time is the result of a complex dynamical coupling.
There's another possibility. Rather than being an organizer, a Kantian transcendental rationale, perhaps it is exactly the opposite, a hesitation at the core of conscsiousness, the force that holds the folds of time open and inelliminable. A chaotic attractor at the core of being in the world?
My argument is that the "chaotic attractor" of consciousness, and its temporal incarnations, is in fact crucial to perception and cognition. It is the drive behind inquisitiveness and the dynamical engagement of minds and environment. Far from being outside of cognitive science, it will prove to be the key.
But perhaps to obtain this key we have to accept that our ethical and legal assumptions need to be re-thought?
If you are interested in this entry, then please contact me by email.
July 04, 2005
My reading of Germinal Life has reached the third chapter, with Keith's call for a temporary and critical 'suspension' of Deleuze and Guattari's attempted equation 'ethics = ethology'. This suspension opens them up to an awkward but necessary critique.
And at the same time, I have been thinking more in the style of Manuel De Landa, applying his method of 'non-linear' history to the analysis of extremist and terrorist bodies. I am considering their emergence from pre-individual singularities on the machinic phylum to individuated and efficient learning machines. This raises some interesting issues concerning naive readings of the schizoanalytic project.
Consider this: are the various armed groups in Iraq benefiting from the continued presence of the US in a way that a naive schizoanalysis would praise? There were clearly many disparate splinters formed from the explosion of the Sadam Hussein regime of hierarchies, each itself a pre-individual singularity. And in response to the crudely striated tactics of the US military, are these otherwise unconnected singularities finding common currency, points of convergence, catalysts for the creation of their own internal consistency? As with the Nazis, I would say this is likely.
It would seem that the ethology leads to an ethics in which al-Qaeda might be valorized. Clearly there is something wrong, something out-of-order with this. Perhaps it is the same imprecision and confusion of differences that leads to the problem described by Keith in Germinal Life:
the various 'becomings' that characterize 'evolution', and serve to make it nongenealogical and nonfiliative, cannot be treated as if they were all the same, so that, for example, we could move simply but far too quickly, from talking about the transversal movement of the 'C' virus that is connected to both baboon DNA and the DNA of certain domestic cats, so talking about the 'becoming-baboon in the cat', to talking about the becoming molecular-dog of a human being, as if they were of an equivalent order. p.188-189
De Landa's free use of 'abstract machines' made me nervous. But what principle can there be to guide us as to the required level of detail, of specificity?
The answer from Deleuze and Guattari, and which I think Keith is about to give in the next section, is that understanding each deterritorialization's relationship to its own specific Body without Organs, and its passage into the possible constitution of an abstract machine, is the way to understand the appropriateness of that abstract machine to the specific case.
If you have something interesting to contribute to this, please contact me
June 21, 2005
De Landa's A Thousand Years of Non-linear History left me with a sense that Deleuze and Guattari have the most effective and exciting practical approach to creating active and dynamical models of the world. But that book is one of examples underpinned with a few key concepts. It aims to show how far those concepts can be taken. I suspect that it intentionally leaves unsatisfied philosophical challeneges. A niche that Keith Ansell Pearson's Germinal Life: The Difference and Repetition of Deleuze fills more than adequately. Here's my thoughts on reading the first chapter.
The 'ethical' character of this method of philosophy resides, therefore, in the cultivation of a 'sympathetic communication' that it seeks to establish between the human and the rest of living matter. Ansell Pearson, Germinal Life, 1999, p.33
Keith's emphasis on the 'ethical' dimension of Bergson's method of intuition is very significant (and he notes, few others have made this link). The significance for me follows from the idea that the ethical dimension requires a consideration of something beyond any singular act or entity (as the sufficient reason of the act), but which does not assume any kind of totality or finality. I'm not usually interested in talk of Being (with a capital 'B'), although it is often more effective than counting sheep. But there is something in this angle on it that has made me take it much more seriously. And that something is in the negative ethical implications of thinking becoming without Being.
The argument seems to demonstrate how a concept of Being is an essential precursor to an encounter with duration, the key concept invented by Bergson. These encounters with duration connect us with the temporal problematics that (it is claimed) drives all activity and differentiation: real time or the asymmetrical synthesis of the sensible – that is, the sufficient reason behind the richness of the world.
Importantly, the encounter with duration is not singular and purely metaphysical, to be done in one philosophical-historic-eschatological event (it's not Hegel). Rather it is a pedagogical method that must be re-applied, with the aim of leading us away from conceptual confusions ('badly analyzed composites'), along lines that differentiate but at the same time follow virtual tendencies, to an understanding and acceptance of specific differences in kind – for example, to apprehend historical singularities (as De Landa does so brilliantly).
Even more importantly, we should recognize the active nature of this method. It takes us away from a passive relation between a subject and an object. It is an act of perception, intelligence and consciousness, but one that is always an active operation on and in the world. Keith provides a great sample on this from Bergson:
to percieve consists in condensing enourmous periods of an infinitely diluted existence into a few more differentiated moments of an intenser life, and in this summing up a very long history. To percieve means to immobilize Matter and Memory p.208 cited in _Ansell Pearson, Germinal Life, 1999, p.34
The method of intuition is therefore both a means of leading us to a comprehension of differences in kind and at the same time through its immanence to the world in which it perceives, actively creates new differences in kind. It is a method that places thought absolutely in the world. We should always remember that the return of thought and philosophy [in]to the world is really what Deleuzianisms (or neo-Bergsonisms) are about
But this then raises the big question: why philosophy? – why this tendency towards conceptual activity and the apprehension of differences in kind? – wht this method of intuition? The answer to this varies slightly but importantly between Bergson and Deleuze (but the principle is the same). Philosophy is the perception of nature, or nature’s own perception (later Deleuze will see perception as a property existing beyond the human). Differentiation is never a simple or ontologically foundational act, but rather is already complex. How the world differs from itself is not reducible to a mechanism or dialectic. In each case the actual mode of its differentiation is that which is indeterminate in its differentiation (the radical difference). If it were otherwise, nature would never differ from itself. There could be no asymmetry, no drive to overcome and reconnect, no real time, no elan vital, no life. The indeterminacy introduced by this radical difference is essential:
The crucial element that Bergson wishes to grant to life is not a mysterious force but rather a principle of 'indetermination'. It is this indetermination, and with it the capacity for novel adaption, that he sees as being 'engrafted' onto the necessity of physical forces, so as making possible a 'creative', as opposed to a purely mechanistic or deterministic, evolution. ibid p.48
But at this point we risk losing any connecting principle between the differentiations. Does radical difference leave us with an absolute becoming? In what sense is there anything to differentiate from? The world has lost itself, cannot perceive itself, is inert and lifeless. In Bergson’s terms, the elan vital is gone. Saving us from this undifferentiated becoming, we have the ‘ethical’ turn. It is an ethics that seeks to posit some principle of reconnection beyond the differentiation. Some exchange and interlocking between the differences. Some expression that carries content across between the two differentiated worlds. A principle assumed in both sides (but not itself outside of the world) that acts as a virtuality in which the differentiation is played out: a Being that they assume.
The important point to realise is that it is on the virtual plane that unification is to be sought. The 'whole' is 'pure virtuality'. Moreover, differentiation is only an actualization to the extent that it preseupposes a unity, which is the primordial virtual totality that differentiates itself according to lines of divergence but which still subsists in its unity and totality in each line. ibid p.67
For me this is where Being gets interesting: being virtual. For a virtuality always has a technics, the coding and decoding mechanisms of intelligence. As Keith indicates, a technology is the solution to indeterminacy, a virtuality that operates in parallel to real time. At this point technology, ethics, philosophy and metaphysics conjoin. And most importantly for me, creativity is shown to be underpinned with technology.
The next question is this: to what extent is this virtuality contained within and maintainable by an organism, an internally differentiating germ? And to what extent is it always reliant upon a third term, an externally constituted and relatively autonomus viral plane cutting transversally across? Both are true to an extent in different specific situations. Here Deleuze discovers an ethology of such types of differentiation: abstract machines. From an ethics to an ethology.
And I will coninue reading Germinal Life.
If you have something interesting to contribute to this, please contact me
November 06, 2004
Habit! Of course the important concept in understanding Deleuze and Guattari's ethics (derived from Spinoza). Habit and habitat. The quote continues…
The English nomadize over the old Greek earth, broken up, fractalized, and extended to the universe…
…a concept is acquired by pitching one's tent, by inhabiting it, by contracting a habit. In the trinity Founding-Building-Inhabiting, the French build and the Germans lay foundations, but the English inhabit. For them a tent is all that is needed. They develop an extraordinary conception of habit: habits are taken on by contemplating and by contracting that which is contemplated. Habit is creative....We are all contemplations, and therefore habits. I is a habit. Wherever there are habits there are concepts, and habits are developed and given up on the plane of immanence of radical experience: they are "conventions". That is why English philosophy is a free and wild creation of concepts.
Habit, a creative nomadic dwelling with the concept.
Contemplation is the positing of a virtual field of incompossibles. Actuality is a path through that virtuality. A habit is the repetition of an actuality, a path through the virtual.
We do not lack communication. On the contrary, we have too much of it. We lack creation. We lack resistance to the present. (What Is Philosophy? p.108)
Ecstasy of communication = that which promises absolute deterritorialization, but in fact delivers only immediate reterritorialization on the concept of communication (pure exchage) itself. Deleuze and Guattari's criticism of Habermas and idea of founding an ethics on communicative action.
Instead they argue that the creation of concepts only occurrs when communication breaks down within a pre-constituted milieu. The impoprtance of the Greek sense of philosophical rivalry is precisely that. Friends who can misunderstand, or who have to forge a new concept to achieve an understanding, who necessarily have to philosophize because of their relative difference. The new concept makes an irreversible difference, an absolute deterritorialization, but the friends-rivals must move towards it in their own way. This act of mutual but differentiated moving-towards, this relative deterritorialization, also acts to define the rivals to each other more clearly. They understand the work that each must do to achieve the agreement on the new concept. It is in the work of that relative deterritorialization on the creation that Deleuze and Guattari find an ethic of friendship-rivalry.
And we should remember that this ethic emerged to serve diplomacy, international relations, a rhizomatic maritime people engaged with complex engagement with the East: the Greek people.
September 15, 2004
…negative freedom is the result of manufactured social prejudices where, through social institutions, such as education and language, we become enslaved by 'order-words' that identify for us ready-made problems which we are forced to solve. This is not 'life', and it is not the way life itself has 'creatively' evolved. Therefore, true freedom, which can only be a positive freedom, lies in the power to decide through hesitation and indeterminacy and to constitute problems themselves.
Ansell Pearson, Germinal Life, Routledge 1999, p.23
This 'experimental and ethical pedagogy' (ibid, p.14) employs the Bergsonian method of intuition, which involves a reflection on the difference manifest in creative thought. When one realises that a currently held concept simply could not have existed nor could have been analytically deduced at a previous time in a previous state, one gets a sense of time as pure difference, despatialized. That feeling is creative, and the philosophical method that draws people into this reflection is Bergson's intuition. Only once the reliance on ready-made problems is abandoned can creativity occur.
The word 'implication' has a special meaning in this. Imagine reality as a large sheet of fabric. The fabric is folded to present you with one aspect, which you may grasp at. The fold (French – pli) is an aspect. You struggle to hold onto that fold, and find that you can only do so by holding onto other folds that follow on to it. As you try to grasp other folds, to unfold the folds, to follow the im-pli-cations, your actions on the further folds cause the first fold to be pulled and distorted in your grip. Out of this feedback loop the specific problem of this set of folds emerges. At some point you are able to stabilise the folds in relation to each other, and have a solution.
When you grasp the fact that a new problem has emerged, that the positing of the problem is beyond your control, and that you must evolve in relation to the problem in a way that was previously both unthinkable and impossible, you have intuition in Bergson's sense. Intuition is a reflection on learning, a creative learning.
And that's why Deleuze makes such a big issue out of the role of fabric in baroque art (le Pli, Leibniz and the Baroque), the role of the curtain in the paintings of Bacon (Logic of Sensation), and the relationship between canvas, paint and brush-stroke.
June 25, 2004
Last weekend Emma and I bought a Fundació Miró print of Pintura. This is to go in our bedroom at the new house in Kenilworth. Looking at it reminded me of something that I wrote just after visiting the Fundació, an interesting coincidence of reading a book on Miro and Guattari's Chaosmosis. I've rescued the text from my old MT blog and repeated it below…
Andre Breton on Miro's Constellations: "They belong together and differ from one another like the aromatic or cyclic series of elements in chemistry. If one considers them both in their development and as a whole, each of them assumes necessity and value like a constituent in a mathematical series. And finally, they give the word 'series' that special meaning by their uninterupted and exemplary sequence." Miro by Janis Mink, Taschen 2000.
Felix Guattari on the Production of Subjectivity: "In this conception of analysis, time is not something to be endured; it is activated, oriented, the object of qualitative change…A singualrity, a rupture of sense, a cut, a fragmentation, the detachment of a semiotic content – in a dadaist or surrealist manner – can originate mutant nuclei of subjectivation. Just as chemistry has to purify complex mixtures to extract atomic and homogeneous molecular matter, thus creating an infinite scale of chemical entities that have no prior existence, the same is true in the 'extraction' and 'seperation' of aesthetic subjectivities or partial objects…that make an immense complexification of subjectivity possibile – harmonies, polyphonies, counterpoints, rhythms and existential orchestrations, until know unheard and unknown." Chaosmosis (page 19)
Miro described how he would evolve the elements of his works from partial objects viewed while staring at the ceiling above his bed. He worked these partial objects into existential orchestrations relative to each other, generating a "necessity" (in the Kantian sense) to their being produced. Guattari takes the Bergsonian interpretation of Kant in seeing subjectivity as enduring or being subject to necessities (refrains or exemplary sequences). But like Miro he knows that these necessities are not given, they are produced through knowable mechanisms (time is activated) – and if they can be known, then they can be chosen, so he has the possibility of an ethico–aesthetic paradigm.