Driftwork

14/05/09

books/pdfs/texts virtual/actual

Filed under: culture, philosophy, event, difference, text — sdv @ 10:00:32 am

I was asked the rather strange question ‘the actualization of the virtual in time and space re: both books and pdfs’. But to briefly respond through twitter seems impossible and since I don’t have an email address – and using a mixture of James Williams, Christian Boundas and Deleuze. However my note is really framed by the question itself. It is necessary I think to frame the discussion of the book/pdf not as the opposition between a real object and an unreal object, and neither is it between the object that is dependent on us which we imagine exists and the real independent object of the book/pdf that exists - because this does not function within Deleuze’s line of thought. However just to be clear in a realism there simply is no difference in the objects, they are both real objects and for the purposes of this I am assuming that the texts are identical. So that there does not appear to be any space even to ask the question of: in what way would a book and pdf be different ?

Deleuze provides us with a non-realist approach to the real, to realism and produces a new metaphysics for a concept of the real. This understanding of the real produces a concept that is divided between the virtual and the actual. The concept of the real is effectively the actual/real and the virtual/real. The concept of the actual is quite close to our everyday understandings of the real, for example objects and actual things which are independent from our ways of thinking about them and our perceptions of them. Whilst the virtual is the domain of transcendental conditions for the actual, which is to say they are things that we presuppose for there to be actual things at all. The actual is simply thought of as states of affairs, bodies, things and books and pdfs in this specific case. Whilst the virtual consists of the incorporeal events, the singularities and multiplicities on an immanent plane ‘belonging to the pure past’, which rather clearly can never be present. As the real is split in this way it should begin to be clear that the virtual does not resemble the actual and yet the virtual does frequently bring about actualisation, even though the virtual is never actual.

Of course I could be misunderstanding what the question implies and the phrase could be referring to the ideas identified and documented in the book/pdf, a text – in Deleuze’s terms he identifies the ‘virtual with Ideas’ however I do not think we are dealing with Ideas here but the methods of distribution, the forms of books/pdfs. How then does ‘the actualisation of the virtual’ differ for a text made up of identical words and sentence in a book version and a pdf version ? There is no difference in the becoming derived from the text(s) the schematic must surely be the same. What differs is the technology of delivery and the relationships we can identify with the differing networks which create forms of distribution. This could go in turn into a long text on the virtual and actual and the different relations established between a text – virtually and actually. But plainly I think it is not that easy to establish a difference between a text in book form and a book in pdf form.

Unless we place the text in the shadow of actual differences, different that is from intensities and pure differences. Which allows us to approach the effect of form, how a book differs from the pdf, and perhaps even the unpleasant economics of the network and pdf distribution.

11/05/09

After the end of the world (1) Version 2

Filed under: event, difference, text, narrative, fiction — sdv @ 08:47:45 pm

1
We were five or six hours out of Brisbane, flying at around 3000 metres heading deeper into the desert. Stop, all the electrical systems went down. Silence. The slowing whine of the internal combustion engine stopped. The plane slowed until it was almost stalling. The nose pointed down, air rushing by. Glide ratio of three to one, three foot horizontal for each foot vertical. The propellers feathered and began to contra-rotate. I opened one of the windows and watched the ground approach. The minutes passed like hours. As we drew nearer to the ground we passed through a dust cloud, it ratted against the metal and plastic body of the plane, making the landscape disappear into the silence of the machine-less day. The nose pulled up at the last moment deliberately stalling the engineless plane bringing it crunching, rolling to a standstill.
“I suppose that was the end of the world”
We walked down the line towards the road we had seen on our approach. Carrying the fuel our body-machines needed in metal flasks. Leaving the machine we most loved and admired behind in the dust, but we could live without it because the machine could no longer fulfil its desire to fly. Perhaps because our bodies are machines, albeit machines of such incredible delicacy. Even so machines have much more complicated sex lives than human beings, after all they are not formed out of the trinary structures of the Oedipal machine. The machinic part does not stand between me and the desire, instead it reminds me of how inventive we grounded amphibians and mammals can be given just a little desire and a tool.
So there we are walking across the desert soon to be at the roadside having fallen from the sky but not from the thermal of desire.

10/05/09

After the end of the world (1)

Filed under: event, difference, text, narrative, fiction — sdv @ 07:26:51 pm

We were five or six hours out of Brisbane, flying at around 3000 metres heading deeper into the desert. Stop, all the electrical systems went down. Silence. The slowing whine of the internal combustion engine stopped. The plane slowed until it was almost stalling. The nose pointed down, air rushing by. Glide ratio of three to one, three foot horizontal for each foot vertical. The propellers feathered and began to contra-rotate. I opened one of the windows and watched the ground approach. The minutes passed like hours. As we drew nearer to the ground we passed through a dust cloud, it ratted against the metal and plastic body of the plane, making the landscape disappear into the silence of the machine-less day. The nose pulled up at the last moment deliberately stalling the engineless plane bringing it crunching, rolling to a standstill.
“I suppose that was the end of the world”
We walked down the line towards the road we had seen on our approach. Carrying the fuel our body-machines needed in metal flasks. Leaving the machine we most loved and admired behind in the dust, but we could live without it, mostly because our bodies are machines, albeit of incredible delicacy. Of course machines have more complicated sex lives than human beings, but the machinic part of a machine does not stand between me and the desire, it just reminds of how inventive we grounded amphibians and mammals can be given a little desire and a tool. Fallan from the sky but never from the thermal of desire.
We left it walking into the desert.

07/05/09

bacteria and lonsome george

Filed under: philosophy, difference, text, narrative — sdv @ 09:02:43 pm

we should perhaps ask more seriously why would anyone think that bacteria are not equal to the human. But lets take a look at this by removing the human and instead asking why would anyone think that a bacteria is not equal to a mouse. Now we know that all life on earth is dependent on bacteria. Whereas only predators such as humans and cats would miss mice. So what does equal mean in these circumstances? How can human cultures maintain the concept that a bacteria is less than a mouse ? Further we intuitively know that a society which can imagine a person with eyes is superior to a person without eyes has a severe problem.

To imagine that human beings are not equal to bacteria is as terrible as to think that it was acceptable to kill all of “lonesome George’s” other species members. This exemplary example of the human driven mass extinction event is a good example of the issue. Human cultures desire inequality to justify their ludicrous belief that members of the species have greater value than bacteria or a mouse. In a universe that is 14Bn ++ years old this looking increasingly juvenile and any philosophy or science that maintains that humans are “special” is incapable of working with the size and scale of the universe.

An ontology must surely be flat enough to address this…

04/05/09

stratum

Filed under: philosophy, event, difference, text — sdv @ 10:52:14 am

To begin with, a stratum does indeed have a unity of composition, which is what allows it to be called a stratum: molecular materials, substantial elements, and formal relations or traits. Materials are not the same as the unformed matter of the plane of consistency; they are already stratified, and come from “substrata.” But of course substrata should not be thought of only as substrata: in particular, their organization is no less complex than, nor is it inferior to, that of the strata; we should be on our guard against any kind of ridiculous cosmic evolutionism. The materials furnished by a substratum are no doubt simpler than the compounds of a stratum, but their level of organization in the substratum is no lower than that of the stratum itself. The difference between materials and substantial elements is one of organization; there is a change in organization, not an augmentation. The materials furnished by the substratum constitute an exterior milieu for the elements and compounds of the stratum under consideration, but they are not exterior to the stratum. The elements and compounds constitute an interior of the stratum, just as the materials constitute an exterior of the stratum; both belong to the stratum, the latter because they are materials that have been furnished to the stratum and selected for it, the former because they are formed from the materials. Once again, this exterior and interior are relative; they exist only through their exchanges and therefore only by virtue of the stratum responsible for the relation between them. For example, on a crystalline stratum, the amorphous milieu, or medium, is exterior to the seed before the crystal has formed; the crystal forms by interiorizing and incorporating masses of amorphous material. Conversely, the interiority of the seed of the crystal must move out to the system’s exterior, where the amorphous medium can crystallize (the aptitude to switch over to the other form of organization). To the point that the seed itself comes from the outside. In short, both exterior and interior are interior to the stratum….

Then there was the system of the strata. On the intensive continuum, the strata fashion forms and form matters into substances. In combined emissions, they make the distinction between expressions and contents, units of expression and units of content, for example, signs and particles. In conjunctions they separate flows, assigning them relative movements and diverse territorialities, relative deterritorializations and complementary reterritorializations. Thus the strata set up everywhere double articulations animated by movements: forms and substances of content and forms and substances of expression constituting segmentary multiplicities with relations that are determinable in every case. Such are the strata. Each stratum is a double articulation of content and expression, both of which are really distinct and in a state of reciprocal presupposition. Content and expression intermingle, and it is two-headed machinic assemblages that place their segments in relation. What varies from stratum to stratum is the nature of the real distinction between content and expression, the nature of the substances as formed matters, and the nature of the relative movements. We may make a summary distinction between three major types of real distinction: the real-formal distinction between orders of magnitude, with the establishment of a resonance of expression (induction); the realreal distinction between different subjects, with the establishment of a linearity of expression (transduction); and the real-essential distinction between different attributes or categories, with the establishment of a superlinearity of expression (translation).. Each stratum serves as the substratum for another stratum. Each stratum has a unity of composition defined by its milieu, substantial elements,and formal traits (Ecumenon). (A Thousand Plateaus, 72)

Grosz, Bergson, Evolution (for E)

Filed under: philosophy, difference, animal — sdv @ 10:51:47 am

I have some difficulty writing a note on Elizabeth Grosz’s understanding of Bergson. The issue lies in my uncertainty about whether my reading of Bergson’s Creative Evolution isn’t simply to radically different to allow for such a note to make sense. Nor will I go through the way she represents such things as matter, perception, the relations to/with Nietzsche or even duration and past/present… I’m trying after all to convince Eric to read the text not re-write…

The key statement might be thought of as being: “The sciences, especially physics and chemistry, have been remarkably successful in enhancing our access to and control over (the actual) the first of these terms but, as Bergson argues, have been spectacularly unsuccessful in penetrating the mysteries of biological or psychical life or understanding its nonenumerable elements and their integration..” Her argument is built on the difference that this statement maintains.

Grosz understands Bergson very much as a metaphysician, a philosopher. Her interest lies along the lines of Bergson’s interest in the “…natural articulations of life’s evolutionary movement, the particular , historically specific ways in which life divides and complexifies itself according to the different ways that living beings experience the events that provoke and stimulate their existence and profusion…” It is in terms of instinct, intellect and intuition that Bergson states are the resources which life develops “from its own chemical and morphological processes” from which life invents collective and inheritable responses to these events. For Grosz Bergson “proposes a new way of understanding philosophy as the supplement of that which other knowledges cannot know” which marks philosophy as having an affinity with both the arts and sciences but which through its “elaboration of concepts” (shades of Deleuze and Gauttari) elaborates it’s own knowledge, which with Bergson placed firmly as an elucidation of the continuity of time.

Bergson produces a conception of duration as a qualitative difference in kind and explores the differences between the present and the past. The theory of time he produces does not have the past as the overriding factor but rather that tendencies of becoming mark the present and also the future. It is worth noting that Grosz presents Bergson’s interest in Darwin as an interest in the ontological roots of the evolutionary project and not as an ethical or evaluative project. Bergson presents evolution as a process of development, change and which demonstrates the irreversibility of time, (hence the irreversibility of evolution) the future is based on the past but it “inevitably surpasses it” involving innovation, emergence and the creation of the new and the unforeseen, “becoming” in short, but which takes into account life’s conceptual and epistemological limits. Grosz primarily understands Bergson through his metaphysics which contains a discernment of differences in nature, differences in kind which are immeasurable and cannot be thought of in mathematical terms. The other type of difference being the quantitative differences, differences of degree which are measurable and require a third term to mark the difference between entities or events, typically numerical measurement. Differences in kind however are heterogeneous, they lack clear boundaries and are not comparable. In nature the difference between animals is always a difference in kind as the differences between entities cannot be measured. Any attempt to do so fails because of the necessary introduction of a third measuring term. (Such a measuring term will always fail because of its historicism, it’s lack of becoming). What is presented is differences in degree between categories of subject (humans and non-humans) and qualitative differences which marks differences-to-come, becoming rather than differences that exist in the past or present. (pause)

Consequently then the impact of this on an understanding of the evolutionary process is that “difference is neither oppositional nor complementary, differences are understood as occupying different conceptual landscapes, qualitatively different, and thus incapable of being specified in advance or compared to one another…” Grosz uses the simplest and supposedly least difficult versions of this – sexual difference and racial difference which she adopts as politically radical terms. {do i need to add that this collapses at the moment you view the differences through the third term of the politics she introduces… such a politics is not necessarily radical in it’s simplest terms let me merely say Thatcher, Rice and Powell.} However where she does not introduce the third term and maintains that such differences – sexual difference, racial difference and species difference – and states that “ difference cannot be understood productively except in terms of internal (qualitative) difference” for they are not comparable as two or more known and measured categories or groups. Then the becoming is the critical concept as in - what a species can become cannot be known. This becoming is presented The present is the actuality that is “engendered by the virtual past…” so that the future is that dimension which obviously does not have any actuality either, the future, that which is yet-to-come is also virtual. A virtuality which is not contained by the past and which is the openness of becoming that enables the divergence from what currently exists.

The neo-Darwinist positions (obviously containing the work of Weismann/Dawkins/Dennett) present ontogeny as the combined result of genetic mutation and natural selection, a mechanical process that could in theory at least, be predicted. And which in it’s determinism can be seen to have direction, functionality and works within known and knowable constraints, and which theoretically can be predicted and further can theoretically completely dispense with the biological if another post-genetic reproductive mechanism could be found, whether it is biological or mechanical. Grosz presents Bergson as opposing this reductive account by arguing “… that if evolutionary change is broken down into units, parts or elements what is fundamentally changing about evolution, its mobility and dynamism is lost…” Grosz returns to her difference with the neo-Darwinists(represented in the main by Dennett) through the direct representing of Bergson as critiquing the algorithmic nature of neo-Darwinist accounts through Bergson’s understanding of evolution as being continuous. What is being engaged in by Bergson is a refusal of the reduction of life to states, to the genetic because it implies that temporal processes which are always continuous and are not understandable in terms of discreet determinable states, temporal processes are ignored. Bergson says of Weismann “…. from this point of view, life is like a current passing from germ to germ through the medium of a developed organism. It is as if the organism were only an excrescence, a bud caused to sprout by the former germ endeavoring to to continue itself in the new germ…” (Grosz usefully discusses Bergsons detailed discussion of evolutionary convergence) The key point which Grosz emphasizes is that change is not random, for most if not all random variation is harmful to the organism rather than productive for it. Only changes which can be adequately absorbed by the organism to facilitate its functioning constitute evolutionary development and only those that constitute a productive enhancement of the body can be considered as successful variations – this proposition is increasingly being supported by genetic evidence. An change must be assimilated into the already existing and be coherent with it if it is function as an improvement. The accumulation of random characteristics does not contribute to the organism unless characteristics are capable of being integrated into the functioning of the organism as a whole. Hence the necessity of refusing reductive scientific accounts of being (genetics etc) as a means of constructing social and political perspectives.

Enough I think – this has become so long that it’s probably unreadable (sigh)… if i was constructing this as a Lyotardian differend (which I really should have) rather than extracting interesting moments from Grosz’s text The Nick of Time I would have more successfully drawn out the differend between a conservative reductive account of evolution as proposed by Dennett and Dawkins (which fundamentally must end with the depressing inevitability of mass extinction and extermination camps) – and a more radical account based on becoming and difference and unpredictable futures. There is a wonderful moment in an early Brin novel where scientists have altered the genetic structures of Dolphins and Chimpanzees and remade them as ‘tool using sapients’ - there really is nothing reductive about the delightful thought of extrapolating that instead of the Pig-organ-producing-machine being discarded as an unnecessary technological medical blind alley supplanted by stem cell research, George the pig will be able to discuss why Spinoza’s ethics is just humanist rubbish… lovely…

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