All 3 entries tagged Leibniz
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April 03, 2006
Upon the water-cleansed and fragrant ledge I undressed my soiled body, and stepped into the little basin, to taste at last a freshness of loving air and water against my tired skin. It was deliciously cool. I lay there quietly, letting the clear, dark red water run over me in a ribbly stream, and rub the travel-dirt away. While I was so happy, a grey-bearded, ragged man, with a hewn face of great power and weariness, came slowly along the path till opposite the spring; and there he let himself down with a sigh upon my clothes spread out over a rock beside the path, for the sun-heat to chase out their thronging vermin.
He heard me and leaned forward, peering with rheumy eyes at this white thing splashing in the hollow beyond the veil of sun-mist. After a long stare he seemed content, and closed his eyes, groaning, 'The love is from God; and of God; and towards God'.
In the cruel matter of fact world of the desert it would be hard to believe in a loving God, one that deliberately arranges the world for the benefit of humans. This desert wanderer had himself been blinded, rendering his staring looks fitting of someone with a more transcendent imaginary. Lawrence had just experienced the erosion of vision himself, with Sherif Aid suddenly losing his sight to the burning sun.
But here, in an abundant pool of otherwise rare water, it seems possible. The contrast between desert asceticism and the bathing pool, between the pain of driving sand and the pleasure of cool water, between thirst and immediate satisfaction, mirrors that between the desert and its necessities and the town and its free-will. The spring at Shallala sits within a sublime geological architecture. Lawrence's choice of words allies the great Wadi Rumm with the city or citadel:
The hills on the right grew taller and sharper, a fair counterpart of the other side which straightened itself to one massive rampart of redness. They drew together until only two miles divided them: and then, towering gradually till their parallel parapets must have been a thousand feet above us, ran forward for an avenue of miles. p.351
Lawrence, an archaeologist with expertise on fortifications, draws the inevitable analogies. The walls are said to be:
built sectionally, in rags like gigantic buildings, along two sides of their street.
The crags were capped in nests of domes, less hotly red than the body of the hill; rather grey and shallow. They gave the finishing semblance of Byzantine architecture.
Wadi Rumm is a citadel, an overwhelming and enveloping cave bigger than man but making sense of man. It is said that the:
The Arab armies would have been lost in the length and breadth of it, and within the walls a squadron of aeroplanes could have wheeled in formation. Our little caravan grew self-conscious, and fell dead quiet, afraid and ashamed to flaunt its smallness in the presence of the stupendous hills.
Wadi Rumm is Lawrence's sublime. Perhaps it is the closest that he gets to Oedipus?
Landscapes, in childhood's dream, were so vast and silent. We looked backward through our memory for the prototype up which all men had walked between such walls toward such an open square as that in front where this road seemed to end. Later, when we were often riding inland, my mind used to turn me from the direct road, to clear my senses by a night in Rumm and by the ride down its dawn-lit valley towards the shining plains, or up its valley in the sunset towards that glowing square which my timid anticipation never let me reach. I would say, 'Shall I ride on this time, beyond the Khazail, and know it all?' But in truth I liked Rumm too much.
But for Lawrence the city, its sublime, and the shame that it makes possible (the invasion of the citadel at Deraa), are not necessary. Ideas, sweeping out of the desert, may go in one of two directions: the Hellenism of the city (and its Christianity) or the surrender to fate, fact and an impersonal God of desert ascetiicisms. The words of the ragged man at Wadi Rumm had reminded Lawrence of this, and of his ambiguous position between the two (whilst relaxing in the spring, removing the desert dust and returning to the city): 'The love is from God; and of God; and towards God'.
His low-spoken words were caught by some trick distinctly in my water pool. They stopped me suddenly. I had believed Semites unable to use love as a link between themselves and God, indeed, unable to conceive such a relation except with the intellectuality of Spinoza, who loved so rationally and sexlessly, and transcendently that he did not seek, or rather had not permitted, a return. p.356
…expressing the monotheism of open spaces, the pass-through-infinity of pantheism and its everyday usefulness of an all-pervading, household God. p.357
Christianity had seemed to me the first creed to proclaim love in this upper world, from which the desert and the Semite (from Moses to Zeno) had shut it out: and Christianity was a hybrid, except in its first root not essentially Semitic.
This is followed by an exposition of the differing origins of the religions, and their routes out into the world. An academic exposition, but one written by someone at the border of these two great Ideational generators.
Spinoza and desert asceticism, Leibniz and urban excess? Just a thought.
June 01, 2005
With regards to his books on key conceptual personae such as Leibniz, Deleuze was not an archaeologist in the style of Foucault. There is no careful uncovering of strata. It is more like excavating with a JCB. But that doesn't matter, the creation of good concepts is more important.
The important thing is to create concepts with 'precision'. Not many achieve that aim, especially in this field. Papers on Deleuze tend to the extremes of either grand impressionism on the one hand, and vacuous taxonomic pedantry on the other. Perhaps that could be said of much that passes as philosophy. So when writing on Deleuze, it is important to understand exactly what is meant when he calls for precision in philosophy and in writing about the history of philosophy.
The precision of a concept is defined by its wealth of connections, by the work that it does in relation to the plane external to the concept, the plane in which it is constituted. Deleuze befriends the conceptual personae of Leibniz, Spinoza and others primarily with the aim of stealing their concepts into a plane that is different to those in which they were born. Faithful authenticity is never really the aim. The precision to which Deleuze aspires is not that of the authentic reading, of the recreation of long dead philosophical problems and their concepts. If it were, then perhaps all of those books about the history of philosophy would simply act as a long drawn out answer to the question "what is a concept?". In fact when he does finally address that question he couldn't be more flippant with his reading of Descartes.
Deleuze knew from that start that reconstituting concepts on a plane that no longer exists and no longer does any work only results in vacuity. Even the most authentic reading lacks precision. He was not an archaeologist in the style of Foucault, there is no careful uncovering of strata. This is more like excavating tombs with a JCB. Seeking and reanimating concepts that have been aborted by the history of philosophy is what he does best. But his Leibniz and Spinoza are Frankensteins. Picture this: Leibniz with an arm amputated from Thom, a leg stitched on from Cache, Koch's curve for a back, and Klee's hands. What a monster. Are we supposed to laugh at it? Or be terrified?
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March 12, 2005
Faced with white noise, a void, extreme intensity or excessive speed of modulation, a refrain offers some relief. It is an expression, but one that operates in a tightly closed loop. In the case of a typical human refrain, a song, the singer sings the refrain back to themself. Its content is the human organic form, deterritorialized into the simple, familiar and predictable form of the song. It may continue at great length with little effect on either the singer or the song, until exhaustion sends them to sleep. It is in this way a closing-down, a retreat into simplicity and predictability, away from the world (into the baroque house, for which the harmony and melody of the song build the impenetrable facade): an expression yes, but only just. Almost zero.
The refrain is a desperate defence, a second-level immune response to the failure of the visual imagination. A defence against the penetrating incursion of the sonorous plane, passing through the blockade of the visual imagination. To understand this, first consider how that sonorous plane penetrates and defeats visual defences, how it passes through the image (Bacon's screaming pope).
The defensive imagination
The image, which can be re-presented instantly and switched at will, provides an effective and impenetrable barrier to the exterior, as with the portrait, the image of the ascending head, or the church steeple in Kafka. Deleuze and Guattari argue that these images act not as simple memories, reactivating the past, but rather as means for handling the encounter with uncertainty or the future, finding strength in a certain relation to at least ine object that may be assimilated (the end of the desire):
…it acts as a childhood block, and not as a childhood memory, strengthening desire instead of cramping it, displacing it in time, deterritorializing it, proliferating its connections, linking it to other intensities.
The image acts as a block in both senses: a block as an element or screen that can be placed upon a new territory and onto which connections can be territorialized or projected, carrying away desire into a concentratory dispositif; a block to the chaotic and disruptive effects of that proliferation of connections, a delay, a spacing-out. Its power as such lies in four aspects:
- the speed with which the image can be conjured, with all of its points present almost imediately – how all that is needed is a few suggestive points, lines and colours;
- how it is constantly rescanned and reconfirmed in perception;
- how an image can appear solid and enclosing, blocking out and constituting an exterior;
- how the image creates an expansive but delimited territory of co-ordinates, in which expression or a procedure of desire (deterritorialization and reterritorialization) may play (the baroque house).
The scream cuts across and penetrates the image
In Kafka, Deleuze and Guattari say of the image (portrait or figuration):
But that's not important. What's important is the light music, or, more precisely, the pure and intense sound emanating from the steeple and the castle tower: "a bell began to ring merilly up there, a bell that for at least a second made his heart palpitate for its tone was menacing, too, as if it threatened him with the fulfillment of his vague desire. This great bell soon died away, however, and its place was taken by a feeble, monotonous little twinkle." Kafka D&G p.4
Whereas the image acts to concentrate, focus and strengthen the desire within a delimited space, sound is said to interfere with order, connecting with 'vague' or minor expressions that are not oriented towards the reconstitution of the territory of the image. Unlike vision, sound leaks through spatial structures, resonates throughout the body, and concentrates into the ears. Its passage through the meat and chambers of the bodily organs overrides their functions: the stomach now is equivalent to a double bass in terms of resonation – suddenly the voice, the location of human sound, is displaced by a more animal sonic body (think whales):
It's curios how the intrusion of sound often occurs in Kafka…Music always seems caught up in an indivisible becoming-child or becoming-animal, a sonorous block that opposes the visual memory. Kafka D&G p.4–5
The cinema is the place for experiencing this effect. (It is the baroque house of The Fold.) The cinema is constructed as a radical interplay of the sonorous and visual planes. Visual imagination is territorialized upon the screen or perceptual block, both cutting out the exterior, offering a concentration of light and colour, whilst spatializing and slowing down (into the narrative of the film, which is spatial not temporal). But at the same time, sound penetrates the body in deep surround-sound rumbles and piercing dolby screams.
Of course any sensible movie director knows not to leave the audience immersed for too long at the point of this schizophrenic collision of visual and audio fields. As the scream fades away into the night, a more familiar pattern of notes rises from low down in the auditorium, as if from the galloping hooves that carry us safely from the scene of brutality. Sing the refrain back to the world, which doesn't expect it, doesn't ask for it. But the refrain sure makes us feel more easy sleeping at night. Sing yourself to sleep.