Monday, July 4, 2011

Cosmological Postmodernism

This article seems like it might be a bridge to some recent threads and posts, including the “quantum” theme. It's by Sam Mickey called “Cosmological postmodernism in Whitehead, Deleuze and Derrida” (Process Studies, 37.2, Fall-Winter 2008, 24-44). He notes some similarities between the referenced authors through four concepts: event, creativity, rhizome and chaosmos. Here are some relevant excerpts:


According to Keller, a common factor in process thinking and postmodernism in general is the rejection of the modern conception of a world of self-identical substances in favor of a conception of a world characterized as "an open universe of mutually constitutive relations," that is, "a fluid nexus of mutually constitutive events".... The organism is situated in the world and receptive to all other occasions expressed throughout the entire antecedent universe. Whitehead uses the term "event" to designate "a nexus of actual occasions, interrelated in some determinate fashion in one extensive quantum" (27).

Deleuze considers how... an event is the extension of a part to become a whole that includes all other parts in an infinite series....a philosophy of events is a philosophy of mutually immanent occasions-nomadic monads whose windows open into one another. As a process of becoming that prehends the antecedent universe, the nomad "is always already in the past and yet to come" (28).

Derrida invents a concept of event...[which] implies that self-contained things are abstractions that are ultimately situated in vibrant waves of the creative process.... The surprising occurrence of an event is something for which no anticipation, expectation, or "horizon of waiting" is available, because this surprise is precisely an e-vent, a coming-out of that which is wholly other and completely novel in relation to any program, order, or expectation (29 – 30).


The concept of creativity...made it possible for Whitehead to revise the traditional dichotomy between the act of creating and the created entity. Creativity is not opposed to the creature: "there are not two actual entities, the creativity and the creature. There is only one entity which is the self-creating creature" (31).

A creative or productive difference is a central theme throughout Deleuze's works.... This concept of difference is not to be understood in terms of a dichotomy between identity and contrariness.... This ...does not mean that precedence is given to contrariness as opposed to sameness. Identity (essence, model) and difference (appearance, copy) only seem mutually exclusive if difference revolves around identity. If identity revolves around difference, then primacy is given neither to sameness nor to contrariness, but to the productive power that makes possible any identical or differential relations (31-2).

Like Whitehead's creativity [Derrida's] differance is "a constitutive, productive, and originary causality" which....does not produce occasions within a fixed spatiotemporal framework; rather the spatial and temporal actuality of occasions is generated by the principle.... Thus, spatiotemporal relations are internal to events and are not imposed on them. That is, different modes of spacing and timing emerge from the contexts of different events, or in Whitehead's terms, relations of measurement are themselves derivative from societies of actual occasions.... Differance cannot be reduced to the ontological categories that it makes possible. This implies functions as an originating "trace" or "archi-trace" that creates an opening for the emergence of ontological categories (32-3).

Whitehead mentions that creativity has no actuality of its own. Creativity... is through creation and creatures, that is, through the "accidental embodiments" of creativity apart from which creativity "is devoid of actuality" (33).


The rhizome is a system that "connects any point with any other points"....'A rhizome has no beginning or end; it is always in the middle, between things, interbeing, intermezzo"....the concept of the rhizome implies that roots and rhizomes are intimately intertwined....what seem to be mutually exclusive opposites for arborescent thinking seem mutually implicative for rhizomatic thinking (36).


Insofar as the concept of chaosmos functions as a sort of middle term that opens a place between the order of a self-identical cosmos and the differences of chaotic becoming, this concept can be likened to the concept of khora which is mentioned in Plato's Timaeus.In this dialogue, khora spoken of as a third thing that constiturts a generative place...wherein interrelations of being/becoming or identity/difference can come together. As Bracken notices, both Whitehead and Derrida take up the concept of khora, slightly changing the concept to be less like a matrix that passively receives events and more like a field of mutual immanence or interrelation that actively opens a place for novelty.... with Whitehead, the concept of the receptacle implies that all events take place in a chaosmos in the sense of a network of mutual immanence, that is, a "community of locus" that provides a receptive place for occasions to become internally interconnected with one another (41).

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