martes, 25 de mayo de 2010

Alien Theory - Chapter III: Deleuze and Guattari's Absolute Hyletics - Part II


There are two terminological equivalential chains in D&G’s thought:

1) Zones of continuous variation – fuzzy sets of distributed nomadic elements: rhizome, plateau, Concept.

2) Surface of nomadic distribution – field for machinic consistency or plane of immanence; body without organs
These two depend on:
3) The distributing principle of ‘machinic synthesis’ - the syntactical operator which functions to determine the machinic heterogenesis assembling intensive multiplicities, that is to say, regulating the distribution of the fuzzy sets qua zones of continuous variation in the immanent field of nomadic distribution. The terms in this chain are: conjunctive synthesis, aparallel evolution, double becoming, abstract line, nomos.
Whereas the extensive manifold remains representational and quantifiable, intensive multiplicities are non-denumerable. These non-denumerable multiplicities index intensity and are: the unequal-in-itself’ or ‘The Disparate’. Becoming substantive as a rhizome, it a flattened multiplicity becomes autonomous and incommensurable to molar unity. It has n-1 dimensions and is in a state of perpetual heterogenesis in continuous variation through the work of the operator ‘and’ of conjunctive synthesis. So this ‘and’ functions as the distributing principle which propagates the flat multiplicity of n-1 dimensions which is in constant variation, i.e. is non denumerable: “What characterises the non-denumerable is neither the set nor its elements; rather, it is the connection, the ‘and’ produced between elements, between sets, and which belongs to neither, which eludes them or constitutes a line of flight” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988, p.470). These are virtual continuums of intensive variation; whereas actual determinations (measure of extensity) are governed by the enumeration of punctual constants or tracing the relation among them. The rhizomatic abstract line of becoming conjoins variables of different nature or heterogeneous initiating constant variation, or the flux of ceaseless becoming. Let’s distinguish, grosso modo, the two systems of structuring in D&G’s thought
1) Structures of arborescence – Fixed identity and difference, sedentary, constant relations between variables and variable relations between constants, finite, extensional.
2) Rhizome – Continuous variation, infinite differences, heterogeneous variables, intensively differentiating.
In this sense ‘and’ is less a conjunction than the atypical expression of all the possible conjunctions it places in continuous variation. The tensor therefore is not reducible either to a constant or a variable but assures the variation of the variable by subtracting in each instance the value of the constant (n-1)” (Ibid, Pg. 99)
This means that machinic conjunction entails a perpetually infinitely disjunctive process, in which the value of the constant across a series of elements is subtracted, triggering constant variation. This entails that the continuum of intensive variation forms a ‘rhizome line’ crossing two points and constitutes a block of becoming, which is nevertheless irreducible to the relations between those two points and their sedentary (extensive) configuration. As a result, this ‘deterritorializing’ function of machinic heterogenesis creates nomadic zones of intensive continuity rather than fixed zones of sedentary relations of identity and difference. The tensor ‘And’ initiates this perpetual nomadic transformation, in which a change of dimensions changes the nature of the multiplicity. This releases the machinic phylum of intensive matter comprised of pre-personal singularities, in perpetual flux. The ‘tensor’ is thus one of the names for the dynamic ‘materiality’ of the Earth or anorganic life, and shows how D&G ontologize matter by making it co-extensive with the philosophical Concept.

Here Brassier reinstates his case against the underlying materiology in D&G’s work: the enveloping of unobjectifiable immanence of the non-ontological separation between matter itself and matter as-such in the unobjectifiable transcendence of the ontological disjunction between intensivity and extensivity. This is made concrete in the reversible asymmetry between the phenomeno-logos of representational extensity and the materio-logos of machinic intensity on the plane of immanence through the tensor '(A)nd which sets in motion the flux of nomadic distribution, in constant self-sublation of its finite movements(not unlike the Hegelian plot). The Concept’s auto-construction assembles the chaos of intensive matter through the tensor’s perpetual heterogenesis or dyadic reversibility of plane/fold: thinking constructs the Real rather than represents it. Concepts are transient states of hyle-in-flux: chaoids or plateaus articulating lines of continuous variation. They are purely virtual events, ideal and yet not abstract, real and yet not actual, incorporeal and yet not immaterial (AT: Ph. 79).

But what, then, is the relation between plane of immanence and the philosophically posited Concept, and the interminable series of events that it constitutes in and as hyletic unfolding? The plane is not just the finite fold, the explication or moment of a representational fiction, but the Ideal Repetition of the One-plane: the absolute horizon for all events, which is inhabited without becoming thereby divisible or discontinuous. Concepts on the other hand are surfaces or volumes of finite movements at infinite speeds- the plane enfolds the manifold of Concepts making up a variable curvature as the singular ‘Rhizosphere’ of ‘pure variation’ or infinite machinic consistency. So the tensor ‘And’ must also be an index of the disjunctive synthesis of virtual intensity/ actual intensity over the plane of immanence, where the plane itself repeats itself in every fold: it is at once ‘a’ plane and ‘the plane’, a One-All. It is simultaneously the tensor of conjunctive synthesis of intensive becoming and the singular event in the continuous syntax of continuum/cut:
“The hyletic continuum of impersonal individuations and pre-individual singularities constitutes itself through the machinic syntax of continuum/cut (continuum/coupure) -disjunctive synthesis- by in-different/ciating an
immanence which is always already different/ciated; an immanence which is always a composite of virtual intensity and actual extensity; so that this infinite continuum repeats itself in every finite cut as the absolute differing of the Disparate or Unequal-in-itself.” ( Pg, 80)

The crucial observation provided by Brassier here concerns how the singular cut (finite fold; Rhizome) becomes a means for the repetition of the Ideal continuum (infinite plane; Rhizosphere). This marks the coincidence of the production of concrete becomings and the One-All event which generates itself in the perpetual heterogenesis, as self-objectivating causa sui; immanent-to-itself as Ideal form. We can sketch the series of associations set forth by Brassier and in D&G’s thought in the diagram below:

So the hyletic continuum involves an immanence that is designed for the Concept to construct itself nomadically as it is transcendentally sublating itself in a constant process of different/ciation. Because the cut is only ever an instance which triggers the next stage of the process, the entire dialectic between cut/continuum, virtual/actual, Concept/plane is guaranteed by the tensor ‘And’ as pure form of the transcendental operator of machinic construction. This constitutes the plane’s hybrid empirico-transcendental structure, through the reversibility of actual extensity and virtual intensity of disjunctive synthesis, as a self-positing structure dynamically set to work by the tensor which simultaneously renders it commensurate with the philosophical Concept in every finite configuration, where the latter comes to represent the infinite continuum for another cut, i.e. fully ontologised in the hybrid of unobjectifiable immanence and unobjectifiable transcendence:

“The plane of immanence remains Ideal because it operates according to a logic of absolute self-relation: immanence is no longer attributive as immanence ‘to’ a transcendent universal, but only at the cost of

becoming this self-positing, self-presupposing hybrid of the transcendental and the transcendent -which is to say, of unobjectifiable immanence and unobjectifiable transcendence- , so that every continuous multiplicity, every
molecular becoming is simultaneously virtual and actual, molecular and molar, smooth and striated, dividing itself interminably between these two states, passing from one to the other in a continuous circuit. As a result, Deleuze & Guattari’s infinite hyletic continuum is perpetually obliged to re-affirm itself as transcendental, as unobjectifiably immanent, by means of its own Ideal repetition, its own unobjectifiable transcendence. It is causa sui: Ideal and self-positing.” (Pg. 81)
Hyletic Idealism
Finally, what lays behind Laruelle’s characterization of D&G’s machinic constructivism as absolute hylectic idealism. We can summarize these results, along Brassier:
a) Co-dependence/Reversibility of the process of a continuous cut: every empirical instance transcends itself towards the infinite continuity of the plane of consistency through indifferent/ciation.
b) So all Real divisions or finite cut is a means for its own sublation, every cut represents a continuum for another.
c) Every real division becomes a means for the indivision of an Ideal continuity which reaffirms itself: the plane of immanence as Eventum Tantum.
d) Repetition is the Idea which perpetually takes over the data of representation through the cut of Difference assuring its reaffirmation as the merely (empirical) instance in the Infinite flux of Becoming in the plane (ideal).
e) Therefore between the empirical actual ontic cut and the ideal virtual ontological continuum there is an indiscernibility, since they are contiguous in the Ideal circuitous exchange of the virtual/actual through the machinic tensor of disjunctive synthesis which is synonymous to the Plane as such.
f) Because the distinction between empirical/transcendental is suspended from D&G’s thought, and thus made indiscernible from within, one cannot distinguish the plane of consistency form its assemblages, rendering them ontologically equivalent.
g) But this precludes the possibility of a radically discontinuous immanence non-ontologizable or re-inscribed within the ideal continuity of machinic phylum; an Identity of matter independent of the Idea and outside the Concept according to the foreclosure of immanence void of the a-subjective, purely transcendence form of immanence-to-itself.
h) The Concept is posed (empirically, as a fold in the plane’s extensive configurations as explicating or indifferentciating) and pre-supposed (as the fold’s intensive envelopment which indifferenciated it). It’s a hybrid of given and givenness, only that it’s immanence-to-itself, rather than a hypostasized intentional consciousness against its noetic correlate, not ekstatico-horizonally disclosed as being-in-the-world.
i) Unobjectifiable immanence is reduced to unobjectifiable transcendence of matter’s as hyletic flux, the enveloping of representational actual extensity by machinic virtual intensity and the explication of intensity by extensity in disjunctive synthesis, through Ideal Repetition in ensured by the ‘And’ as tensor of nomadic distribution. This renders Concept and matter conterminous.
j) This gives a purely reversible form of Representation: reality of Concept ßà Concept of reality.
Transcendental Materialism vs. Empirical Realism
For the former the latter becomes naïvely pre-philosophical in accordance to representational common sense and phenomenological doxa. This is so because the phylum’s infinite continuum sublates the sedentary empirical actuality and representational extensity, setting it in continuous movement and self-sublation. Re-integrated into the Ideal intensive continuum. This effectively butchers ‘empirical data’:
“[N]ot only are they devoid of reality; they are above all necessarily conceived of as deficient or degraded, as a reification or ‘actualisation’ of becoming. Their reality is an illusion, an appearance, a deficiency of their auto-position in and through the strip [i.e. the Möbius strip or plane of consistency-RB]. That which is ‘auto’-posited (just as one says ‘suicided’), and posited by that which is more powerful than it, the möbian form of all autoposition, is thus not posited in itself or by itself and is obliged to sever all continuity with its empirical ‘double’ or ‘indication’, or reckon it as a mere appearance. Such is the most general presupposition of all absolute idealism, and perhaps of all philosophy; an idealism which in this instance constitutes an equally absolute realism (‘real without being actual; ideal without being abstract’): ‘experience’ is in general, and from the very outset, reckoned as devoid of all reality” (Laruelle, 1995a, p.76)
One may wonder why exactly Laruelle seems to think the virtual re-integration of the empirical entails subtracting it of any reality, and making of it an ‘illusion’, especially given their indiscernibility in D&G’s framework. If anything, empirical reality does not seem void of reality, but merely one sided, utterly blind to the heterogenesis through which intensive matter sublates its own actualizations. But this certainly doesn’t render them ‘illusory’ or ‘unreal’ in any intuitive sense. But as Brassier points out, the point is not to make apologies for representation or phenomenology, but to radicalize the anti-phenomenological move by stripping matter of its coincident reciprocity with the Idea through the philosophical Concept, thus assuring its autonomy and Identity. However, it seems hard to image the protection of empirical reality outside the shackles of representation or phenomenology, which leads us into Laruelle’s revised concept of reality and experience. This must also, it should be noted, somehow not only reconfigure these terms theoretically, but also safeguard the autonomy of ‘empirical data’ such as it has been threatened by D&G’s constructivist variant of materiology, which reduces it into a reified remainder. Laruelle provides thus definition of empirical data: “By ‘empirical data’ I understand that which is posited by philosophical decision and by its sufficiency in order to affect the latter, in other words, that which is in the philosophical decision by means of which it is also interpreted” (Laruelle, 1988g, p.102).
For Laruelle, every philosophical Decision conforms an empirico-transcendental Dyad, or hybrid structure of condition and conditioned. This structure posits a priori the presupposition of the empirical as given which it requires for its auto-position and auto-affection. The transcendental condition is given a priori insofar as it posits the empirical conditioned as presupposed or given. So the empirical presupposition is retroactively seen as posited a priori through the self-sufficient transcendental operation (like the actual being the result of a process of explication, which presupposes empirical extensity as enveloped in the plane of immanence, and suspends its empirical autonomy). This allows one to subsequently reduce the empirical given to the productive conditions concomitant to the positing of the philosophical Concept. In this sense, Deleuze and Guattari always presuppose Decision will have occurred: the empirical is always already transcendentally mediated as product of actualization, and a mere moment in the dynamic reversible circuit of the machinic phylum. Philosophy exerts its idealist plot over the Real in self-pressuposing the structure of decision by always making the empirical given as an a priori presupposition for the mediation of the conditioning transcendental Decision.

Laruelle seeks to preserve the relative autonomy of the empirical by turning the empirical into an occasional cause or support for non-materialism, their ‘material support’ to extract Real a prioris, which reduce Decision to an empirical instance to be used to extract Real a prioris: the empirical data that have their ideal but heteronomous existence as posited in and through Decision, have their real or relatively autonomous existence –their unrepresentable condition of reality, as well as their unphenomenologisable condition of experience- in the immanence of the Real as radically unobjectifiable last-instance.” (AT: Pg 88)

These conditions would determine-in-the-last-instance Decision’s self-positing transcendence by discovering the Real condition for Ideal objectivation. Instead of its hybridization wherein it becomes relative to transcendental operations, the non-philosophical coup makes Decision relative the Real as given-without-givenness and posited without-position: radical immanence, one which is radically non-ontologizeable and thius spared from the Idealist thetic shackles of Decision. The reduction of Decision to an empirical material autonomously disjoined to all mediatory transcendence makes of the already given split of radical immanence and objectivating transcendence already given in itself, and resistant to all idealist circumscriptions in the purely formal doublet of position/presupposition which forms all empirico-transcendental hybrids:
“Moreover, if the empirical presents itself, it presents itself in terms of nothing more substantial than an entirely contingent occasion or support for thinking. It is purged of all representational and phenomenological concretion, of all factical overdetermination, the better to be retained as an empty invariant, a purely formal structure of position and pre-supposition now amenable to a potentially limitless variety of structural reconfigurations.” (Pg. 90)
In this way, the anti-phenomenological thrust sought for by Deleuze and Guattari may be freed of their utter dependence on the empirical realm of representation it wishes to render inoperative, instead making it co-constitutive for machinic construction. Brassier enters into some final further details on this, which basically reiterate the basic argumentative strategy showing how instances of intensive Chaos need the Concept’s counter-chaotic movements to piece together the self-sublating field of the intensive flux of becoming in the plane of immanence. This is so-thought to lay outside phenomenological arrest since thought and conceptuality lay already outside; all individuation is uniformly a sedentary momentous passage in the continuum which is in perpetual flux. This movement would have to render its infinite speed always external to the triad of signification , subjectivation and organization. But machinic thought is not really outside this triad, but inbetween, operating through the tensor a circuitous exchange between the inside representational realm of extensities and the virtual intensive world, between striated and smooth surfaces. So this presumed ‘Outside’ is in fact always a hybrid of outside-inside, or stratified extensity and nomadic intensity. Finally, the deterratorializing function of intensive phylum must always remain relative to a reterritorialization of extensive representation. This finally occludes the autonomy of an immanence resistant to all objectivation, i.e. resistant to all forms of Decisional hybrids:
“the hyletic continuum’s infinite movement encompasses at once the continuous variation of nomadic distribution; and the deceleration, the arresting of movement in stratified representation. infinite speed and absolute movement remain relative to the slow speeds and relative movements captured by stratic synthesis. Thus, the transcendental hybridisation through which the continuum is constituted means that the ‘absolute’ movements of the plane maintain a constitutive reference to the relative movements of subjectification, signification and organization: as with Henry, the absolute remains relative to that from which it absolves itself. As a result, the absolute Outside continues to remain liminal, occupying the borderline between the signifying and the asignifying, between the subjectified and the impersonal, precisely on account of its unconditional, self-positing continuity.” (Ibid)
In virtue of overcoming the Decisional mill, Laruelle will introduce the unilateral duality between:
a) Radically autonomous immanence.
b) Relatively autonomous empirical instance (Decision’s hybrid of immanence-transcendence).
The latter will serve as the occasional cause for the former to determine it as cause-in-the-last-instance, or ‘Real cause’. This split will allow for the disjunction of Idea and matter without instituting an ontological dualism, nor attempting to overcome this dualism in the self-positing Idea. As we have seen, the latter option ends up dissolving the autonomy of the Real and Idealizing matter, as in the hyletic continuum self-positing self-presupposing Idea.

domingo, 23 de mayo de 2010

Bryant and the Continental/Analytic Divide

In response to Bryant's post on Larval Subjects in the Continental/analytic divide, I just have a few things to say:

The Analytic/Continental distinction still regulates very real differences inside the classrooms and philosophical views. I recall during my early experience in Peru's 'Continental driven' philosophy department the utter disregard for what was happening in anglo-saxon, analytic philosophy. Victor Krebs, for example, once told me he thinks analytic philosophers seemed 'masturbatory' to him. Later at Cornell, I encountered many graduate students and professors who were preemptively dismissive of a number of ‘Continental’ authors, attacking them on the usual grounds of attesting against clarity, and other things. Searle once told me in conversation that Dreyfus had been ‘ruined by Heidegger’ and that he thought Heidegger was ‘terrible’. Of course, irrespective of what one thinks of his exchange with Derrida, dismissals of this sort seem to be founded more on general antipathy and premature verdict than on insistent reflection. The fact that many philosophers, like Derrida and Heidegger, are only taught in Comparative Literature (or French/German Studies) departments, and not in philosophy, goes to show how strongly some feel the need to differentiate their activity from the stock of authors within the ‘Continental’ tradition.

Other examples abound: Scott Soames’ rather ridiculous attack on ‘idealist philosophies’ on the wake of logical analysis in Moore and Russell (see how eagerly he celebrates the formal reconstruction of the idealist plot for ontological monism as unveiling its fallacious character). Williamson has stated he thinks Continental philosophy does not resist sensible interlocution. And to use a classic example: Carnap’s own mockery of some de-contextualized expressions from Heidegger cannot but affect the very philosophical process. By the same token, in spite of all these barrier-breaking attempts and talk in the ‘Continental’ side of the fence, they are still largely alienated from the activity of Analytic philosophers: Ray Brassier may bring Churchland and Quine into the pot, just as Rorty brought Heidegger and Hegel, but we just don’t see a Badiou bringing over Lewis, Williamson, Halpern, and most of contemporary analytic philosophy into these debates; any more than Williamson or Lewis bring Deleuze or Heidegger. Nobody who thinks Badiou or Derrida is of extreme importance seems to be paying much attention to problems about vagueness, which have stirred the epistemological herds and philosophy of language in the last few years. And those concerned with vagueness seem unaffected by Heidegger's suggestion that science doesn't think, or by Badiou's separation of onto-theologically invested constructivism and a philosophy geared towards the 'generic thinking' which transforms truth into a process initiated by subjective intervention and a split with knowledge. The divisions are then obviously reflected on 'general grounds': Badiou attacks analytic philosophy as advancing a contemporary form of sophistry; ideologically knit to democratic materialism. Chomsky claims Lacan is a self-aware charlatan. Ronell thinks the ‘analytic’ obsession with ‘clarity’ is symptomatic of a certain ‘technocratic’ arrest on thought, following Heidegger's split between thought/philosophy, or truth/knowledge, aletheia/techne, etc. Gail Fine or Gregory Vlastos do not read or care about Heidegger’s take on Plato. And Badiou doesn’t seem to think anything they might say could affect his decision to translate The Republic as a treatise ‘On Communism’.

In a certain sense, I think it is thus a little too safe to say this divide is ‘merely academic’. Clearly the perception of value that devolves in the avowal of journals over articles, and the emphasis on specialization or intellectual-history, can be fleshed out in terms of philosophical views. Thus Quinean physicalism can construct the prospect of specialized philosophy growing in tandem with the sciences as a virtue. This probably is coupled to scientific realism and a hypostatized connection between truth and natural-scientific discursivity in particular. A philosopher that insists on the irreducibility of philosophy to any single one in a given multiplicity of truths at a epochal moment in time might be inclined to think the task of philosophy is indeed to ‘think it’s time’, or the composibility of these procedures, like Badiou or Bryant do. And this of course will lay an emphasis on the capacity of philosophical discourse to be comprehensive rather than esoteric or specialized, on composition rather than argumentation, and so on. This is not as innocent a split as to be reduced to being a merely ‘institutional’ concern; it predates on the core of radically distinct, asymmetrical philosophically rooted positions. As Zizek has said in the past, the attempt to speak about the divide from a neutral position invariably ends up speaking from one side in an ideological manner; the great dismissive attitudes both traditions hold against each other rest on strong generalizations: Badiou’s charicaturization of analytic philosophy as practicing some brand of ‘logical analysis’ following the Vienna School of logical positivism is one example of gross generalization leading to avoiding a real dialog. The same can be said about Soames and his attempt to shut Hegel down in virtue of a measly argument sketched out in a page, of course.

If all philosophical material were on equal grounds, we would see a much more intermixed equation.
I can also speak for the Latin American situation, as being strongly dismissive of the analytic texts, given the predominant practice of phenomenology and hermeneutics. So the situation is certainly philosophically invested. I am particularly intrigued to see Object-Oriented Ontology tackle the premises behind the metaphysics of Chalmers or Lewis just as those of Badiou or Deleuze. Or at least to risk a confrontation with the current work being done in that tradition.