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Manuel DeLanda “Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy”

DeLanda, Manuel 2011. Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy. London; New York: Bloomsbury Academic.

2. The Actualization of the Virtual in Space
Much as a thermodynamic intensive process is characterized by the productive role which differences play in the driving of fluxes, so in the enlarged sense a process is intensive if it relates difference to difference. Moreover, as the example of assembly processes based on adaptive components showed, the flexible links which these components afford one another allow not only the meshing of differences, but also endow the process with the capacity of divergent evolution, that is, the capacity to further differentiate differences. (67)

[…] in the case of singularities the existence of the virtual is manifested in those situations where intensive differences are not cancelled. (68)

As Prigogine and Nicolis put it, „without the maintenance of an appropriate distance from from equilibrium, nonlinearity cannot by itself give rise to multiple solutions. At equilibrium detailed balance introduces a further condition that restricts and even uniquely fixes” the solution. In other words, to exhibit their full complexity nonlinear systems need to be driven away from equilibrium, or what amounts to the same thing, appropriately large differences in intensity need to be maintained by external constraints and not allowed to get cancelled or be made to small. In this sense, as these authors say, „nonequilibrium reveals the potentialities hidden in the nonlinearities, potentialities that remain dormant at or near equilibrium.” (69)

A nonlinear system with multiple attractors […] continues to display its virtuality even once the system has settled into one of its alternative stable states, because the other alternatives are there all the time, coexisting with the one that happens to be actualized. (69-70)

In other words, unlike the linear and equilibrium approach to science which concentrates on the final product, or at best on the process of actualization but always in the direction of the final product, philosophy should move in the opposite direction: from qualities and extensities, to the intensive processes which produce them, and from there to the virtual. (70-71)

Deleuze, in fact, refers to the virtual continuum as a plane of consistency, using the term „consistency” in a unique sense, and in particular, in a sense having nothing to do with logical consistency, that is, with the absence of contradiction. Rather, consistency is defined sa the synthesis of heterogeneities as such. (72)

[…] none of these concepts can presuppose individuation. They need to be transformed to become fully pre-individual notions so that they can form the logical and physical basis for the genesis of individuals. (73-74)

Much as virtual differential relations must be distinguished from individuating functions, virtual singularities should be distinguished from individuated states. (74)

Deleuze: „What is an ideal event? It is a singularity – or rather a set of singularities or of singular points characterizing a mathematical curve, a physical state of affairs, a psychological and moral person. Singularities are turning points and pints of inflection; bottlenecks, knots, foyers, and centers; points of fusion, condensation and boiling; points of tears and joy, sickness and health, hope and anxiety, „sensitive points” […] [Yet, a singularity] is essentially pre-individual, non-personal, and a-conceptual. It is quite indifferent to the individual and the collective, the personal and the impersonal, the particular and the general – and to their oppositions. Singularity is neutral.” (75 – Logic of Sense, p. 52)

[…] infinite ordinal series. Unlike and infinite series of cardinal numbers (one, two, three …) an ordinal series (first, second, third …) does not presuppose the existence of fully individuated numerical quantitities. To be defined an ordinal series demands only certain asymmetrical relations between abstract elements, relations like that of being in between two other elements. In other words, it is only the order in a sequence that matters, and not the nature (numerical or otherwise) of the elements so ordered. (76)

Two metric entities, two lengths, for example, can be divided in a simple way into basic numerical units. This allows them to be exaclty compared since we can establish unambisguously the numerical identity of the two lengths. Ordinal series, on the other hand, behave more like topological spaces, where we can rigorously establish that a point is nearby another, but not by exactly how much (given that their separation may be stretched or compressed). (76)

As a relation, an ordinal distance cannot be divided, and its lack of dividibility into identical units implies that two ordinal distances can never be exactly compared although we can rigorously establish that one is greater or less than another. The difference between two distances, in other words, cannot be cancelled through numerical identity, so the results of these comparisons are always anexact yet rigorous. In short, ordinal distances are a nonmetric or non-quantitative concept. Deleuze adopts these ideas from Russell but breaks with him at a crucial point: he does not conceive of the priority which the ordinal has over the cardinal as being purely logical or conceptual, but as being ontological. In other words, Deleuze establishes a genetic relationship between serial order and its defining nonmetric distances, on one hand, and numerical quantities, on the other. An ordinal series which is dense (that is, where between any two elements there is always another one) would form a one-dimensional continuum out of which cardinal numbers would emerge through a symmetry-breaking discontinuity. (76-77)

Multiplicities should not be conceived as possessing the capacity to actively interact with one another through these series. […] Deleuze views multiplicities as incorporeal effects of corporeal causes, that is, as historical results of actual causes possessing no causal powers of their own. (77-78)

[…] the ideal events forming a virtual series must not be conceived as having numerical probabilities of occurrence associated with them; they must be arranged in series using only ordinal distances, and be distinguished from one another exclusively by the difference between the singular and the ordinary, the rare and the common, without further specification. In other words, the coupled changes in distributions which constitute an information transfer should not be conceived as changes in conditional probabilities, but simply changes in the distribution of the singular and the ordinary within a series. (79)

Unlike the a priori grasp of essences in human thought postulated by those who believe in such entitities, there would be an empiricism of the virtual. The concepts of virtual multiplicity, quasi-causal operator and the plane of consistency would be, in this sense, concrete empirico-ideal notions, not abstract categories. (80)

In the vicinity of the bifurcation the capacity to transmit information is maximized. (81)

3. The Actualization of the Virtual in Time
The term „reversibility of time” has nothing to do with the idea of time flowing backwards, that is, with a flow of time going from the future towards the past. Rather it refers to the fact that if we took a certain process, seen as a series of events, and reversed their sequential order, the relevant properties of the process would not change. (98)

The Deleuzian ontology I have described in these pages is […] one characterizing a universe of becoming without being. Or more exactly, a universe where individual beings do exist but only as the outcome of becomings, that is, of irreversible processes of individuation. (99)

The term „extensive” may be applied to a flow of time already divided into instants of a given extension or duration, instants which may be counted using any device capable of performing regular sequences of oscillations. (99)

Thinking about the temporality involved in individuation processes as embodying the parallel operation of many different sequential processes throws new light on the question of the emergence of novelty. If embryological processes followed a strictly sequential order, that is, if a unique linear sequence of events defined the production of an organism, then any novel structures would be constrained to be added at the end of the sequence (in a process called „terminal addition”). On the contrary, if embryonic development occurs in parallel, if bundles of relatively independent processes occur simultaneously, then new designs may arise from disengaging bundles, or more precisely, from altering the duration of one process relative to another, or the relative timing of the start or end of a process. This evolutionary design strategy is known as heterochrony, of which the most extensively studied case is the process called „neoteny”. (111-112)

Neoteny illustrates that novelty need not be the effect of terminal addition of new features, but on the contrary, that it can be the result of a loss of certain old features. (112)

To Deleuze this aspect of individuation processes (an aspect which must be added to population thinking to complete the Darwinian revolution) is highly significant because it eliminates the idea that evolutionary processes possess an inherent drive towards an increase in complexity, an idea which reintroduces teleology into Darwinism. (112)

[…] whereas embryogenesis is a procss through which a yet unformed individual becomes what it is, acquiring a well-defined inside (the intrinsic properties defining its being), symbiosis represents a process through which a fully formed being may cease to be what it is to become something else, in association with something heterogeneous on the outside. (116)

[…] the successive determination of sub-spaces to which Deleuze refers is simply the progressive unfolding of multiplicities through a series of symmetry-breaking events. The form of temporality involved in this unfolding, however, should be conceived in a very different way from that in which actual bifurcation events occur. The latter involve a temporal sequence of events and stable states, the sequence of phase transitions which yields the series of stable flow patterns conduction-convection-turbulence, for example. Moreover, as each bifurcation occurs, only one of the several alternatives available to the system is actualized. […] In a virtual unfolding, on the other hand, the symmetry-breaking events not only fully coexist with one another (as opposed to follow each other), but in addition, each broken symmetry produces all the alternatives simultaneously, regardless of whether they are physically stable or not. (119-120)

The temporality of the virtual should not be compared to that of the processes governed by the laws of relativity, but to the temporality of the laws themselves. (120)

[…] a pure becoming would imply a temporality which always sidesteps the present, since to exist in the present is to be, no longer to become. This temporality must be conceived as an ordinal continuum unfolding into past and future, a time where nothing ever occurs but where everything is endlessly becoming in both unlimited directions at once, always „already happened” (in the past direction) and always „about to happen” (in the future direction). And unlike actual time which is asymmetric relative to the direction of relative pasts and futures, a pure becoming would imply a temporality which is perfectly symmetric in this respect, the direction of the arrow of time emerging as a broken symmetry only as the virtual is actualized. (121-122)

In epistemological terms to extract an ideal event from an actually occurring one is, basically, to define what is problematic about it, to grasp what about the event objectively stands in need of explanation. This involves discerning in the actual event what is relevant and irrelevant for its explanation, what is important and what is not. That is, it onvolves correctly grasping the objective distribution of the singular and the ordinary defining a well-posed problem. To give consistency to these well-posed problems, in turn, means to endow them with a certain autonomy from their particular solutions, to show that problems do not disappear behind actualized individuals. (129-130)

4. Virtuality and the Laws of Physics
Part of what made possible the replacement of causes by laws was a view of causality as an inherently linear relation, such that, given a particular cause, the same effect was bound to be reproduced. (149)

In a typical nonlinear state space, subdivided by multiple attractors and their basins of attraction, the structure of the space of possibilities depends not on some extrinsically defined relation (specifying what is an inessential change) but on the distribution of singularities itself. (160)

In a linear causal chain, effects do not react back on their causes, that is, in these chains causal influence is not reciprocal. […] small causes always produce small effects. In other words, without feedback the intensity of the effect will tend to be proportional to that of the cause, while in the presence of reciprocal interaction causal influence may be reduced or increased. (168)

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Manuel DeLanda “Deleuze, Materialism and Politics”

December 12, 2011 Leave a comment

DeLanda, Manuel 2008. Deleuze, Materialism and Politics. – Buchanan, Ian; Thoburn, Nicholas (eds). Deleuze and Politics. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press: 160-177

Even the systematic keeping of records, a practice that involves writing and could therefore be considered discursive, is indeed non-discursive: it makes use of a logistical form of writing – keeping track of dosages and visits in hospitals, of daily behaviour and performance in schools and barracks, of the content of warehouses and raw materials used in factories  – a type of writing that may serve as data for those who develop a discourse but that does not lend itself to endless hermeneutic rounds as real discourses do. (161)

To put it in a nutshell: while pairing a certain category of crime, like stealing, with a certain category of punishment, like cutting off a thief’s hand, is clearly a discursive practice, the actual act of mutilation is equally clearly a non-discursive one. The reduction of the non-discursive, to think of mutilation as a ‘deconstruction of the body’ as one clueless academic once remarked to me, is a symptom of a deep political conservatism hidden under radical chic. (162)

In his work with Félix Guattari, for example, he gave us the concept of a process of double articulation through which geological, biological and even social strata are formed. The first articulation concerns the materiality of a stratum: the selection of the raw materials out of which it will be synthesised (such as carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen and sulphur for biological strata) as well as the process of giving populations of these selected materials some statistical ordering. The second articulation concerns the expressivity of a stratum. (162) This second articulation is therefore the one that consolidates the ephemeral form created by the first articulation and that produces the final material entity defined by a set of qualities expressing its identity. (163)

What really matters is not to confuse the two articula-tions with the distinction between form and substance, since both operate through form and substance: the first selects only some materials, out of a wider set of possibilities, and gives them a statistical form; the second gives these loosely ordered materials a more stable form and produces a new, larger-scale (molar) material entity. (163)

In other words, the linguistisation of world-views that took place in the twentieth century after the so-called ‘linguistic turn’, forming the basis for the rejection of materialism and the spread of conservative idealism, can be explained within the theory of double articu-lation as a result of the unique status of this specialised line of expression. Thus explained, the power of language can be accepted while the con-ceptual obstacle represented by its illegitimate extension circumvented. (165)

Relativising the micro–macro distinction to specific scales removes the conceptual mistake of thinking there are only two levels of scale operat-ing in social processes. Unfortunately, Deleuze himself tends to fall into this trap, moving too fast to the macro-level with concepts like ‘the socius’ or ‘the social field’. My solution to this problem is to systemati-cally exclude entities like ‘society as a whole’ from the theory: the largest entities, territorial entities like kingdoms, empires and nation-states, should be considered to be every bit as singular and unique as local com-munities and organisations. (166)

In general, what needs to be excluded from a materialist social ontology are vague, reified general terms like ‘society’ (or ‘the market’, ‘the state’, etc.). Only hacceities (individual singularities) operating at different spatio-temporal scales should be legitimate entities in this ontology (DeLanda 2006). (166-167)

Authority has two aspects: legitimacy and enforcement. Foucault focuses on the latter in an effort to go beyond the problematic of legitimacy. But however important it was for his work to stress enforcement practices, practices of legitimisation must also be taken into account. Roughly, it is practices of enforcement – including not only visibilities, that is, surveillance, but also the keeping of biographical records and the disciplining of bodies – that constitute the first articulation, while practices of legit-imisation perform the second articulation. (168)

More importantly, every time a command is given within an authority structure of any type the very fact that people obey it without question expresses, in a behavioural way, the legitimacy of that authority. For the same reason, any act of disobedience expresses a challenge to that authority even if it’s carried out in silence. It is for that reason that such acts must be punished, that is that the authorities must make an expressive example of the disobedient person. On the other hand, the punishment itself – ranging from torture to physical exercise, as when a soldier is punished by forcing him to do a hundred push ups – is part of the first articulation, that is it is an enforcement practice. (170)

In particular, understanding the double historical source of legitimacy and enforce-ment in the rational-legal form, jurists and soldiers, is crucial for any political undertaking that attempts to bring real change. But above all, what is crucial for politics is to situate the analysis at the right level of scale. That is, we should avoid the mistake of thinking that we have discovered the essence of ‘disciplinary society’ when all we have achieved is figuring out how certain practices of enforcement propagated through a population of organisations in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. (171)

Unfortunately much of the left today, particularly within humanities departments in universities, has become prey to this double danger: abandoning materialism while at the same time politi-cally targeting reified generalities (Power, Resistance, Capital, Labour). A new left may yet emerge from these ashes but only if it recovers its footing in a mind-independent reality and if it focuses its efforts at the right social scale. This is where philosophers can one day make a difference. (177)