Tuesday, April 16, 2013

More on DeLanda

Some posts pulled from the complexity and pomo thread:

Quoting ISVP: "Besides the avoidance of essentialist thinking, Deleuze's speculation about virtuality is guided by the closely related constraint of avoiding typological thinking, that style of thought in which individuation is achieved through the creation of classifications and of formal criteria for membership in those classifications. Although some classifications are essentialist, that is, use transcendent essences as the criterion for membership in a class, this is not always the case. For example, unlike Platonic essences which are transcendent entities, Aristotle's 'natural states,' those states toward which an individual tends, and which would be achieved if there were not interfering forces, are not transcendent but immanent to those individuals. But while Aristotelian philosophy is indeed non-essentialist, it is still completely typological, that is, concerned with defining the criteria which group individuals into species, and species into genera" (41).

"Species are individuals, not kinds...[and] does not represent a higher ontological category than the individual organisms that compose it.... The relations of individual species to individual organisms is one of whole to parts, much as the relation between an organism and the individual cells that compose it. Moreover, the relation of parts to whole is causal; the whole emerges from the causal interactions between the component parts.... While an ontology based on relations between general types and particular instances is hierarchical, each level representing a different ontological category (organism, species, genera), an approach in terms of interacting parts and emerging wholes leads to a flat ontology, one made exclusively of unique, singular individuals, differing in spatio-temporal scale but not in ontological status" (46-7).

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.... Tthese 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).

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.

Deleuze ...play[s] a big role in a number of the essays in Polydoxy.

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 in ISVP 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 aspect...is 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."

It seems that DeLanda's presentation "A new ontology for the social sciences" was later included in Intensive Science, in some cases verbatim.

While he accepts that we must “construct an ontology around the basic notion of emergent property, that is, a property of a whole that is more than the sum of its parts, hence irreducible to those parts,” this is not an hierarchical mereological relation. This ontology must eliminate both Platonic essences as well as Aristotelian general categories or abstract classes. There is of course legitimate uses for general categories but the problem comes from their reification. His “flat” ontology therefore doesn't replace the nature of emergent wholes (a kind of hierarchy), just the emergent's claims to an essence and/or reified abstract class, which in both cases subsume the parts in its hegemonic inclusion. Flat in this case means both the constituent elements and the emergent entities retain their individual autonomy instead of one being completely subsumed or “integrated” by the other.

As an example he uses a species, which is neither an essence nor a general class, since “there simply isn't any core set of properties, any essence, which all the organisms which compose a species must have in common.” The difference then between viewing this mereology hierarchically is that it assumes an unchangeable “idea” underlying observed phenomenon, the abstract category within which they must fit nice and tidy. If the mereology is flat then each individual part is never subsumed within an abstract category, since its higher whole is also an individual and they “share” spaces on interaction.

Also see DeLanda's chapter 23 in The Speculative Turn, "Emergence, causality and realism." I like this quote, similar to the relation between multiplicity and unity:

"The terms ‘linear’ and ‘nonlinear’ are not a dichotomy. Rather than being a unique opposite, nonlinear patterns represent a variety of possibilities of which the linear case is but a limiting case" (383).

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