Friday, March 30, 2012

Intensive Science continued

As he said earlier, he uses the science of dynamic systems. From this he explores how undifferentiated, intensive capacities give rise to differentiated, extensive forms. As but one example he uses embryogenesis. When an extensive form is completed we get an idea similar to Bryant's withdrawal. He says:

"But the basic idea is that is that once a process of individuation is completed, the intensive factors that defined this process disappear or become hidden underneath the extensive and qualitative properties of the final product" (59).

Here's more on the virtual, similar to the withdrawn. (Bryant discusses the differences between the concepts in TDOO, particularly chapter 3.*)

"An individual may be characterized by a fixed number definite properties (extensive and qualitative) and yet possess an indefinite number of capacities to affect and be affected by other individuals.... Deleuze, in fact, always gives a two-fold definition of the virtual (and the intensive), using both singularities (unactualized tendencies) and and what he calls affects (unactualized capacities to affect and be affected)" (62).

* For example: "Another way of understanding the concept of virtual singularities or attractors is in terms of Spinoza's concept of affect....[which] links the concept of affect to the capacities of an object.... These affects consist of both an entity's 'receptivity' to other entities and the various capacities an entity has to act" (3.4).

More from TDOO on DeLanda:

"The attractors of a substance....are the generative mechanisms within an object that preside over the events or qualities of which the object is capable. However, while serving as the condition of these events or qualities, these attractors are not themselves qualitative or events. As DeLanda puts it, 'attractors are never actualized, since no point of a trajectory [of an object] ever reaches the attractor itself.' As such, the attractors or singularities inhabiting the endo-structure of an object are radically withdrawn. They are that which serves as the condition for the actual dimension of an object, for the local manifestations of an object, but are never themselves found on the actual side of an object" (3.3).

On 69 DeLanda uses a familiar image, with a twist. Extensive structures are at the bottom, intensive in the middle and the continuous and undifferentiated virtual at the top. However he notes this should not be considered a hierarchical relation. His preferred image is as follows: "A better image here would be a nested set of spaces, with the cascade acting to unfold spaces which are embedded into one another." I'm picturing more the venn diagrams I've used before, since embeddedness in not complete subsumption of one into the other hierarchically but rather in shared spaces, still maintaining their own space(s) apart from such relations.

Also recall TDOO: "This is a variation of Cantor's Paradox. Cantor's paradox demonstrates that there can be no greatest cardinal number precisely because the power set of any cardinal number will necessarily be larger than the cardinal number itself. In a stunning inversion of the ancient thesis that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, the power set axiom reveals, to the contrary, that the parts are always greater than the whole" (6.2).

And recall Latour's whole being smaller than the parts.

In TDOO Bryant criticizes Deleuze's virtual, which "seems to consist of a single continuum, such that there is only one virtual, one substance, that is then partitioned into apparently distinct entities" (3.2). Whereas DeLanda's reconstruction of Deleuze in ISVP says: "This virtual continuum cannot be conceived as a single, homogenous space, but rather as a heterogeneous space made out of a population of multiplicities, each with a topological space of its own" (69).

And as I've been suggesting, even given the above, "we need a way of meshing these together into a heterogeneous whole" (69). A whole that is of a different kind though, as we've observed. He discusses how so in the pages following.

I like this from Polydoxy, quoting Deleuze:

"A multiplicity certainly contains points of unification, centers of totalization, points of subjectivation, but these are factors that can prevent its growth and stop its lines. These factors are in the multiplicity they belong to, not the reverse" (2).

Which reminds me of this post in the polydoxy thread, quoting Faber:

"Deleuze deeply honored Whitehead, and precisely because of the...appreciation of the unconquerable wildness of openended becoming over against any systematic derivation of multiplicity from hierarchical unity.... In a rhizomatic world of infinite differentiations and interrelations, 'unity' always appears as finite unification of multiple relations. Nothing is fixed; nothing is perfect; nothing is for ever. The metaphor of the rhizome frees our mind from 'false unifications' that defy multiplicity and, as a political category, empowers resistance against 'oppressive unifications' of hierarchies."

To put the above in language that Bonnie (and Tom) use, there is indeed an asymmetric relation between unity and multiplicity, with the latter being ground instead of the other way around. And of course multiplicty isn't just one side of a one-many pole, as that sort of framing only comes from the formal, hierarchical thinking inherent to unifiers. As stated previously, multiplicity (aka khora or differance to me) is the (an)hierarchic ground within which oppositions take form. Or put in DeLanda's terms above, multiplicity is the undifferentiated (withdrawn) virtual from which oppositions arise in the differentiated actual. And the virtual is embodied, immanent, without essence. I know, a tough, acerbic pill to swallow for a holist. Perhaps take Alanis Morissette's advice and swallow it down? If so you just might, as she says, learn.

Ah, this one deals with previous speculations about evolution and complexity:

"Neoteny illustrates that novelty need not be the effect of terminal addition of new features, but on the contrary, that is can be the result of a loss of certain old features.... To Deleuze this highly significant because it eliminates the idea that evolutionary processes possess an inherent drive towards an increase in complexity." *

* At this point in the Scribd document the page numbers have been cut off from the bottom so identification is problematic. I'm guessing around p. 98.

This one is interesting, about 10 pages from the end of chapter 3:

“This virtual form of time, involving the idea of absolute simultaneity, would seem to violate the laws of relativity. In relativistic physics two events cease to be simultaneous the moment they become separated in space, the dislocation in time becoming all the more evident the larger the separating distance....[but] in virtual space there are no metric distances, only ordinal distances that join rather than separate events.... Unlike a transcendent heaven inhabited by pure beings without becoming (unchanging essences or laws with a permanent identity) the virtual needs to be populated exclusively by pure becomings without being. Unlike actual becomings which have at most an intensive form of temporality (bundles of sequential processes occurring in parallel) a pure becoming must be characterized by a parallelism without any trace of sequentiality, or even directionality. Deleuze finds inspiration for this conception of time in phase transitions, or more exactly, in the critical events defining unactualized transitions. When seen as a pure becoming, a critical point of of temperature of 0 degrees C, for example, marks neither a melting nor a freezing of water, both of which are actual becomings...occurring as the critical threshold is crossed in a definite direction. A pure becoming, on the other hand, would involve both directions at once, a melting-freezing event which never actually occurs, but is 'always forthcoming and already past.'”

Oh, this gets curiouser in the following paragraph:

"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."


  1. Just started reading Intensive Science. I was immediately struck by the similarity of the approach to that of Deacon's Incomplete Nature. Deacon is also concerned with the problem of classes or essences, and like DeLeuze, turns to morphogenesis, or what he calls morphodynamics, which also involves differences, or what he calls contragrade processes.

    Will have to read much more to judge further, but it seems that there is a lot of common ground here. I can't recall if Deacon cites DeLeuze, and the version of his book I have access to doesn't seem to let me search.

    More on this later.

  2. Ouch, the scribd is missing some pages, I will have to see if I can get a better copy. I will buy it if I can get it on kindle.

    To summarize this debate, I think we can group the way various theorists understand horizontal and vertical relationships into four classes:

    1) There are only vertical levels, there are no horizontal connections. I’m not sure anyone espouses this view, but as DeLanda says about naive realism, it’s important to stake it out if only to show that other approaches convincingly refute it. I guess Aristotle’s Great Chain of Being would come about as close as anything, in that horizontal relationships are not considered part of the chain, though Aristotle certainly recognized the existence of such relationships.

    2) There are both vertical levels and horizontal connections, but they are more or less independent of each other. I think this is a fair characterization of Wilber’s view. Maybe if he were pushed on this point he would modify it, but as far as I recall, there is nothing in his work discussing how the two might be related.

    3) Horizontal interactions are essential to creating vertical levels. This is my view, and it may be the view of DeLeuze, DeLanda, Latour, etc. There are passages in their writings that seem to endorse this notion. I would like to think they do, and that the most serious questions revolve around the nature of how the one creates the other. But...

    4) There are only horizontal interactions. All three of the above also seem to say this at points. I commented on this earlier wrt LaTour. In one of the DeLanda links, he implies this when saying, “animals are no better than rocks”. Some scientists also echo this view. Stephen Jay Gould’s view of evolution as a bush rather than a tree is a statement of it. I remember coming across a textbook on evolution in which the author said in all seriousness that humans were no more evolved than or superior to bats. This is where I think Wilber is very strong, pointing out the contradiction in making statements like this. If we are in no sense higher or better than bats, let alone rocks, then that very statement, which only a member of the human species could make, has no more value than some other statement, including its opposite.


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