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July 15, 2004

The Four Ontological Functions Diagram

Warning! This won't make any sense to you if you haven't read a substantial amount of work by the philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. That's why it's in the 'philosophy' category. I've posted it because for a few months now i've been trying to understand the diagram in Guattari's Chaosmosis, which is clearly an attempt to summarize his work with Deleuze such that he can use it in his work in psychiatry, education, and cultural practices. I post it as public as I know there are many D&G experts out there who might want to comment and say "you've just got it entirely wrong".

  • The whole diagram represents the connective synthesis. Present within it at all points is both the body without organs and the plane of consistency, the composer and the composed of desiring-production. (1)
  • The actual column is the always present, active disjunctive synthesis of striated space. (2)
  • The virtual column is the always presupposed, passive conjunctive synthesis of smooth space. (3)
  • The possible row is formed by organisational strategies that make the repetition of an organisation more likely, projecting the past into the future, a composing force tending towards the body without organs, towards an absolute difference. (4)
  • The real row is formed by the absolute difference between past and future states, the composed fact tending towards the plane of consistency. The possible drives this absolute difference.

Every activity involves all four ontological functions. The critical project of Deleuze and Guattari is to demonstrate that separate activities, such as art and science, have mistakenly been placed in relations of subservience to each other. This has been done by associating an activity with a single ontological function, locating it in just one sector of the matrix, whilst another activity is placed in a complementary sector. Instead, we need to recognize that each activity itself involves all four ontological functions simultaneously. Both art and science, for example, are independently operational connective syntheses, and neither is ontologically dependent upon the other. Similarly, the ‘models’ described in A Thousand Plateaus (technological, musical, mathematical, maritime, aesthetic) are all different instantiations of the connective synthesis.

Notes:

  1. The Connective Synthesis of Production. (Anti-Oedipus p.68).
  2. The Disjunctive Synthesis of Recording. (Anti-Oedipus p.75).
  3. The Conjunctive Synthesis of Consumption and Consummation. (Anti-Oedipus p.84).
  4. For Deleuze and Guattari, signification is distributed across the disjunctive synthesis (the movement to expressive dissipation) and the conjunctive synthesis (the movement to enunciative concentration): the sign does not produce fantasies, it is a production of the real and a position of desire within reality. (Anti-Oedipus p.111). Lack does not figure in this as both the possible and the real already presuppose all three syntheses: the concentration, the dissipation and the connection. The restriction of an activity to one sector of the diagram introduces lack. The positioning of a complementary activity in another sector of the diagram offers a solution to that lack, hence the relationship of subservience between the activities (e.g. art and science).