All 4 entries tagged Helper Concept

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April 28, 2006

Discussion Primer: why naive Christians and philosophers no longer talk to each other

Having noticed how many blog entries seem to ask and seek to answer questions of theology, and the almost total lack of response from philosophers, I thought it might be interesting to ask why there is such a disjunction.

The modes of operation are completely different. Naive Christians are asking completely different questions to philosophers:

Naive Christian:

If I assert X to be "true", what solutions does it provide to the problems of life and death? Which implies the question: if I assert X to be untrue, what things of value (beliefs, institutions, justifications, hopes) might I lose? How might life become less liveable?

Philosopher (from day 1 of an undergraduate philosophy degree you are trained to think in this way):

If I assert X to be true, what forms of justification (types of evidence, types of argument) do I necessarily assert as valid? What are the implications of asserting the validity of those forms of justification? What other truths could be asserted using those forms of justification? What kind of madness and contradiction might that lead to?

Cleverer Christian (oi Kant):

Must I assert X as a necessary condition for the possibility of knowledge (and hence for subjects, collections of subjects, societies, moralities). Is it OK then for me to claim that everyone else can employ the same kinds of justification without resulting in madness and contradiction?

Very clever Christian (has to live in a world dominated by scientific progress):

The truth of my assertions regarding God and morality, as well as the implications of the methods that I use to justify those assertions, are subject to empirical investigation, and can be modified as a result of the investigation. There is progress in spiritual matters as there is in scientific matters.

Transcendental Empiricist or Pragmatist (a kind of post–theological philosopher – my position, with thanks to Nietzsche):

A liveable attitude towards the world requires a complex mixture of beliefs (conceptual components). Some are disposable "helper concepts", used and reused without any siginificant implication ("creativity", "conjecture"), often merely to assist in freeing us from other tired concepts. Other concepts are more critical to the current context (technologies, ecologies), but permanently disposable if circumstances prove them to be no longer useful. The trick is to ensure that we don't think that helper concepts are more than just that (e.g. creativity being confused with divine provinence). But at the same time, we should always have good reliable helper concepts to assist us in assessing and disposing of broken contextual concepts, and therefore being able to cope with real time.

Which one are you? What of Islam?

July 11, 2005

Research Notes: Singularity/continuum, a multiplicitous event

Follow-up to Overman, creativity and beyond transcendental recognition from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

The second chapter of Germinal Life contains some brief commentary on Badiou`s critique of the concept of event in Deleuze and Guattari. I've not succeeded in reading Badiou yet, but can understand the need for a clarification, as the concept of 'singularity', Deleuze and Guattari's event, can be misleading.

Keith writes that for Badiou:

the event does not come into being from the world, whether ideally or materially, but from not being attached to it. The event is an 'interruption' that is always separate from the world. Instead of a world defined by 'creative continuity` there is the 'founding break'.

I had, at one point, a confused concept of singularity that privileged the 'interruption' or 'coupure' (Foucault's cut/break). It worked like this:

  1. The break has an irreversibility. In fact it is the irreversible – about as real as real time can be.
  2. A break can be repaired, but only with the addition of something to the closed system of that which is repaired.
  3. The loss of the originary state is therefore irreversible.
  4. But the break also originates the new individuation, which may be the synthesis of the broken and the repaired.
  5. It then acts as the singular fact of the event of that individuation.

In this model, the break is the singularity around which an individual is oriented. It is the missing, the irrecoverable, the inaccessible that prevents the individual from becoming other. We can then say that the individual is a response to the break, its activity copes with the break, with its history, its singular specificity. That coping is its function, its telos. And its tendency to either simulation or creation, simulacra or originary form, defines its authenticity. The break is the singular first and final cause.

But as Keith states, this:

fails to understand the work being done with Deleuze's conception of the event, namely that, it seeks to provide an account of how rupture and discontinuity are explicable and possible.

This is the very meaning of "schizoanalysis": looking into the specific conditions for each schizm or discontinuity, and considering how those conditions form a continuum with that which is broken, carrying it across the break.

In this way, Deleuze and Guattari run counter to phenomenology and its bracketing-out. In schizoanalysis, as for Nietzsche, everything is implicated in the event. Nothing can be bracketed out, only moved in and out of focus (or folded and un-folded). They say: look at chaos, death and by implication life, right in the eyes, get to know each individual chaos, each death and each life on its own terms…

…to look into the break is in fact to look towards a horizon in which detail disappears into confusion, into chaos. It is to look into a Body without Organs, through which one may deterritorialize by relative degrees, moving around to gain further clarity and to provoke a response, to feel its unique texture and possibilities.

This is not to deny irreversibility or real time. Or indeed that individual A may never become individual B because in doing so individual B is destroyed (which amounts to saying that there is no possible world in which A = B, the difference being absolute). Rather, we can say that there are different kinds of irreversibility. Each exchange with the Body without Organs, the horizon, is itself a different recipe of irreversibility. There are as many such recipes as there are events. In some cases they tend towards entropy. In other cases they provoke outbursts of creativity. Even the individual that seeks never to enter into the exchange, that seeks isolation in the safety of its refrain and turns chaos away with large blocks of redundancy, in fact engages in a brutal interchange with the Body without Organs and provokes a response. In all cases, whether convoluted or relatively direct, the interchange between individual and Body without Organs operates an eventual non-linear effect throughout, resulting in complex but irreversible involutions specific to each unique assemblage. Singular and multiplicitous continua of disappearance.

Importantly, we shouldn't deny the possibility of the kind of 'foundational break' described above as a confused concept of singularity. Rather, consider that such behaviour may occur in certain types of system, such as those in which large blocks of redundancy create highly isolated individuals. This is not however typical, merely one specific type of event. It is interesting to speculate about why philosophy, and so many other aspects of modern Capitalism should raise such a rare case to the level of a universal. We seem obsessed with apocalyptic events, with foundational breaks.

In what sense is the notion that philosophical concepts perform an absolute deterritorialization (D&G What is Philosophy?) also an expression of this fascination with destruction?

And in what sense does the statement "we never deterritorialize alone" (D&G ATP) – provide a model for passing into the BwO with concepts and artworks (monuments) as catalysts and helpers?


If you have something interesting to contribute to this, please contact me

March 04, 2005

Difference and Repetition, Nietzsche and the creative turn

Follow-up to Freeing the concept of creativity from the concept of possession from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

The answer, for Deleuze at least, is yes. Or rather, the concept of the new or difference (in its composite with repetition), is one of these 'helper concepts' – Nietzsche's best friend, saving him from the interminable closed cycle of Cartesian recognition or Kantian good-sense.

The Image of Thought chapter in Difference and Repetition states it quite plainly. The really big question for philosophy is not how recognition (clear, distinct, true or otherwise) is possible - that's trivial. Rather it is the question of how we break out of the everyday, the familiar. It is the question of how difference is possible. But not in some abstract sense, but genuinely how we go beyond the algorithms of our constitution. So it is the case that Deleuze is not Kantian (or as Keith Robinson has said, perhaps he is re-activating a pre-Kantianism). He was out to engineer a creative turn rather than fixing the critical turn.

In Difference and Repetition, as in Logic of Sense, we see Deleuze dealing with the metaphysical question of how creativity, difference, is metaphysically possible: what is its ontology? In this domain the question concerns the possibility of time itself.

Nietzsche's distinction between the creation of new values and the recognition of established values should not be understood in a historically relative manner… In fact it concerns a difference which is both formal and in kind. Difference and Repetition p.136

But it takes an involvement with Guattari to give Deleuze a chance to answer the really useful problem of creativity. Guattari the psychotherapist involved on a daily basis with dislodging people from the viscious circle. This engagement combines with Deleuze's fascination with painting and with cinema to establish, following on from the ontology of difference and repetitiion, a practical approach to creativity.

February 08, 2005

The role of the concept of creativity in creating concepts

Follow-up to Methodology – what is a concept? what is philosophy? from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

  1. What happens to concepts when they pass the extent of their engagement? If the concept doesn't become figural, perhaps the components in some way operate independently of the concept, and start to find new connections and new components not mediated by the concept? The concept becomes…
  2. Is a 'minor literature' the activity of a set of components from a concept operating beyond its extent?
  3. Is creativity a concept necessary for a set of activities that generates new concepts out of the collapse of old concepts? – drawing together a range of eccentric and risky techniques.