All 15 entries tagged What Is Philosophy

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January 11, 2006

Research Notes: Self positing concepts

Writing about 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):

  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.

This entry is also posted on the Centre for Research in Philosophy and Literature What Is Philosophy? project blog.


November 08, 2005

Research Notes: what is a concept? and the role of attention

Am considering the "what is a concept?" chapter of Deleuze and Guattari's What Is Philosophy? in the light of real teaching experience and the AHRB project Attention and the Knowledge Bases of Expertise (Luntley and Ainley).

Here's an initial concept map:


March 04, 2005

What Is Philosophy?

Follow-up to Ontology as recognized Being, or creativity as an old friend from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

Bearing in mind what Deleuze says about philosophy not being about the recognition of Being (in Difference and Repetition), perhaps we should consider the title of the book What Is Philosophy? to be deliberately ironic.

Are they then saying that philosophy is not some essential expression of the human intellect, of some higher faculty, but rather is a useful 'helper concept'?


February 08, 2005

Methodology – what is a concept? what is philosophy?

What difference does the concept make? What becomes inevitable when the concept is available? And further, what becomes inevitable when the concept is used? (which is not the same question). A concept is not understood by its potential to exist or not, but rather by what it makes inevitable, what it determines. The choices are components in the concept, but the scope of those choices is already determined as the intension of the concept.

In considering a concept, consider the life of the concept – its sustainability. Can the concept stand on its own, permanently? Or does it inevitably carry the seeds of its own destruction, its own subjugation to a higher concept, of which it is only a component? For example, the way in which a badly analyzed concept of 'free speech' results in a babble of opinion. If what the concept of 'free speech' makes inevitable is a meaningless babble, then it is actually just a component in the 'higher' concept, meaningless babble.

The extension of a concept – its portability. This makes a concept more than just a raw event. What is the limit of a concept's extension? – the point at which it becomes a component? No, it is the point at which it fails to engage at all, and leaves a void into which a search for a new concept becomes necessary?

The 'over' of Nietzsche's 'overman' does not indicate that man as a concept becomes subservient to a new order, for example a component in the National Socialist program. Rather it indicates the point at which the extension of the concept of man is reached, and at which point it no longer engages. A new concept must be found.

The tasks of philosophy:

  1. finding the concept, going beyond the components to the absolute field that holds them together, the sustainable concept;
  2. testing the extension of the concept;
  3. forming new concepts when the extension of a concept is surpassed.

And when we pass through the void, are there special concepts that help us to generate new concepts? Is the concept of creativity one of those concepts?


January 20, 2005

Zone of indiscernibility between philosophy, art and science

Follow-up to Opinion from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

In What Is Philosophy? Deleuze and Guattari seem to argue for a strong division between philosophy, art and science. This could be a reaction to criticism of their earlier collaborations. But do they only go so far as to say that the different disciplines (machinic phyla) have different aims and different methods, whilst still maintaining that they do pass through chaosmosis together, sharing zones of indiscernibility? That would be more in keeping with their earlier work. And what is the nature of this transversality? Just opinion? Or are there more sophisticated (viral, germinal) mechanisms at work?

Opinion

Follow-up to Free expression – a misconception from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

Opinion, against philosophy.

The three disciplines advance by crises or shocks in different ways, and in each case it is their sucession that makes it possible to speak of "progress." It as if the struggle against chaos does not take place without an affinity with the enemy, because another struggle develops and takes on more importance - the struggle against opinion, which claims to protect us from chaos itself. WiP p.203

Opinion: a negative term used by Deleuze and Guattari in What Is Philosophy?

Opinion does refer to a specific machinic phylum, but one that invades and parasitises those of art, science and philosophy. The three disciplines, each with their own machinic phyla (creative engine), pass through chaos (change) in their own ways. This relation to chaos defines each discipline. But opinion offers a quick and easy solution to each, a stereotypical creativity – perhaps implying a departure from the appropriate form of creativity, and more contentiously, freedom of expression (see previous entry).

Perhaps it does this by making too immediate and ill-considered a transversal move between phyla: for example, conceptual art. In philosophy it appears as transcendence. In art as the figurative or symbolic. Sophistry.

This also relates to the debate between Klee and Kandinsky concerning the relationship between forms in painting and music.

But opinion is a machinic phylum in itself – is it a phylum of the viral? Of the retrovirus? – as I said in Deleuze and Philosophy.


November 27, 2004

The engineering in science, the experimentation in philosophy and art

Writing about an entry you don't have permission to view

"Experimental method does sometimes manipulate things" – no, it always manipulates things. Tell me of an experiment that doesn't involve the manipulation of a variable and the recording of the effect of that manipulation. Even in the case of experiments that seek to be purely the observation of 'natural events', those events are manipulated such that variables may be isolated and their relationships, as events occur, quantified. So every form of experiment is engineered, constructed, manufactured. And for every experiment, there is possibly an alternative configuration, a different engineering solution.

"Some of the most famous experiments in modern physics are gedankenexperiment – thought experiments – that don't actually require any prodding of stuff at all." – it depends on what you think that stuff is. A thought experiment considers a possible world in which variable A is somehow related to variable B. Some mechanism is posited that explains how the variables interact. Again the whole thing is engineered, this time as a simulated set of variables and functives. However, those simulated objects must still be constituted as mathematical, computational or conceptual objects so that they may be manipulated. For the thought experiment to have any 'scientific validity' that engineering must hold up to scrutiny, must work, in the same way as any engineered structure must work.

And here's the final twist: are physical experiments and scientific thought experiments different in kind, or only by degree? In the former case, a model is applied to the physical world in order to see if something is missing or inaccurate. The model predicts what will happen. Even when we are just seeking to gather empirical data, we apply a model, assuming that the things that we are measuring are the things that we think them to be and not some figment of our imagination (consider if the sense data that we are tracking turns out not to belong to the object that we assume it to be part of, and in fact is just there by coincidence). In the case of thought experiments, we are again looking to see if the relationships that we posit can be seen to necessarily result in the effect that we posit as the result of the interactions – or is there something missing from our model? Perhaps the only difference between scientific thought experiments, which I am calling simulations, and physical experiments, is that the former deals with a restricted and less complex environment.

Notice the shift of terminology there, from talking of scientific thought experiments to referring to them as simulations. At the moment i'm reading the section of What Is Philosophy? (Deleuze and Guattari) that deals with the difference between science and philosophy. Science we are told is concerned with functions and variable. Philosophy is the realm of concepts, which are quite different. I'm still working on this, but it seems that the key difference is that functions and variables represent reversibles, and concepts are irreversible. Anyhow, D&G seem to reserve the term 'thought experiment' for a mode of experimentation that works with concepts, and is therefore the domain of philosophy. This implies that they see a commonality between experimentation in science (be it physical or simulated) and experimentation in philosophy (with concepts):

To be sure, there is as much experimentation in the form of thought experiment in philosophy as there is in science, and being close to chaos, the experience can be overwhelming in both. What is Philosophy?, Deleuze and Guattari 1994, p. 127

The different modes of experimentation are defined by their relationship with chaos. In the case of philosophy, the aim is to pass through chaos such that an impossible world is actualised, a formerly inconcievable state is reached. In the case of science, experimentation posits a set of possible states that can be interchanged for each other through the operation of a function along variables. The model opens itself to chaos through its application, and on the discovery of missing elements, assimilates them back into the model as further possibilities, as further variables. In this way science progresses, whereas philosophy differentiates.

But in reality science and philosophy are mixed. Scientific models can suddenly breakdown upon their engagement with chaos. And creation (or differentiation, its pseudonymn in D&G) then occurs:

But there is also as much creation in science as there is in philosophy or the arts. ibid p.127

The tendency of science, it could be said, is to sometimes creatively fictionalise the sense of progression by reinventing its model in a new but familiar form. Philosophy, of course, also suffers from this delusion, and must itself be more prepared to abandon the concept of progress. Art, the third of the trinity of disciplines, suffers from a related delusion, in this case the idea that it proceeds without experimentation, simply through a sensus communis of good taste experienced as genius:

There is no creation without experiment. ibid p.127

November 14, 2004

Potential

A state of affairs or "derivative" function depends on such a relation: an operation of depontentialization has been carried out that makes possible the comparison of distinct powers starting from which a thing or a body may well develop. WiP p.122

Depontialization introduces a sufficient degree of redundancy, such that small intensive variations do not result in large qualitiative modifications.

a state of affairs does not actualize a chaotic virtual without taking from it a potential that is distributed in the system of coordinates. WiP p.122

By "state of affairs" Deleuze and Guattari are refering to the functive or complex assemblage of variables, the slowing down of matter.

Potential implies an actualisation not passing through chaos, but rather bounded and determinate in outcome such that the variable object remains qualitatively same through intensive variation. The variation remains reversible. It is subject to probability.


November 13, 2004

Actual

…the unhistorical vapour that has nothing to do with the eternal, the becoming without which nothing would come about in history but that does not merge with history? WiP? p. 112

The actual is the trajectory through chaos, the virtual, and out again. Not present as a loci, and lost in the determination of the loci. The intensive cartography, rising and falling.

…distinuished from every present: the Intensive or Untimely, not an instant but a becoming. Again, is this not what Foucault called the Actual? ...The Actual is not what we are but, rather, what we become, what we are in the process of becoming - that is to say, the Other, our becoming-other. WiP p.112

Present being the loci. The actual is always already somewhere else.

An actual pathway (becoming) is a form. In virtuality all possible (in relation to the past) forms are considered. A form is as much its relation/consideration of other forms, of incompossible and compossible.

Eq. Nietzsche: inactual, untimely, – What is Philosophy? p 111–112


Virtual

Chaos is defined as:

a virtual, containing all possible particles and drawing out all possible forms WiP p.118

…indicating that a virtuality contains an incompossible set of forms (actualities).

Chaos as the most virtual of virtualities?


Chaos

Chaos is defined not so much by its disorder as by the infinite speed with which every form taking shape in it vanishes. It is a void that is not a nothingness but a virtual, containing all possible particles and drawing out all possible forms, which spring up only to disappear immediately, without consistency or reference, without consequence. Chaos is an infinite speed of birth and disappearance. WiP p.118

Chaos is a stage in the passage of the actual through the virtual to determine the present. Chaos is present, more or less, in every becoming.

Without consequence.

Chaos unlocking sensation in the artistic process


November 09, 2004

Philosophy

philosophy was something Greek although brought by immigrants. The birth of philosophy required an encounter between the Greek milieu and the plane of immanance of thought. It required the conjunction of two very different movements of deterritorialization, the relative and the absolute, the first already at work in immanence. Absolute deterritorialization on the plane of thought had to be aligned or directly connected with the relative deterritorialization of Greek society. Deleuze, What Is Philosophy?, p.93
Chaos is an infinte speed of birth and disappearance. Now philosophy wants to know how to retain infinite speeds while gaining consistency, by giving the virtual a consistency specific to it. What is Philosophy? p.118

…conceptual experimentation without limit but with a principle of consistency, direction, becoming something.

The philosophical sieve, as plane of immanance that cuts through chaos, selects infinite movements of thought and is filled with concepts formed like consistent particles going as fast as thought. What is Philosophy? p.118

November 06, 2004

Habit

Follow-up to Deleuze and Guattari on the (relative) superiority of English Imperialism from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

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.


The ethics of rivalry, friendship and the creation of concepts in Ancient Greece

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.


October 31, 2004

What Is Creativity?

Writing about web page http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/elearning/aboutus/robert/projects/creativity/

Over the last few days I have been working on the proposal for my PhD application. My aim is to come up with something that gives me sufficient scope for:

– an explication of the Deleuze and Guattari's method (explicitly stated in What Is Philosophy?);

– an investigation of the role of technology and technological change in that method (relating to Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus);

– an application of that method to a concept that is both of historical significance and currently of increasing power, especially in cultural/educational policy;

– a further development of the work of Deleuze and Guattari and that concept in application to current technological, social and political conditions, and specifically to learning/academic technology.

The concept that I have chosen to investigate is that of creativity. Interestingly, throughout their work on aesthetics, ethics, psychotherapeautic practice, and philosophy, Deleuze and Guattari seem to imply a concept of creativity as a positive force, but very rarely mention it by name. This may have been because they were wary of using a concept that may itself perform the function of a transcendent figure, and hence is best avoided.

The proposal is being developed in this web site