Thursday, June 01, 2006

Theory,Practice,Praxis, and Concept Creation

"That's exactly what I'm seeking from "pragmatism" -- and there are hints of it here and there in James and Dewey (I haven't read Peirce yet) -- a pluralist and fallibilistic approach to both theory and practice." - Dr. Spinoza

Does anyone here see an interesting resolution of theory and practice, not necessarily in what has been called praxis ( or even "praxiological",I'm not too sure,) but in what I am calling concept creation?

We're on two different tracks of thought in the blog right now, Dr. Spinoza, and I'm comfortable with that ( if you are,) but I'm feeling a bit insecure because of the lack of communication and feedback between us.

The desire for a "fallibilistic" approach -( interesting word, that,) - I feel that is met in a particular and particularly satisfying way by the concept of concept creation.

We wouldn't say that a painting or a poem or a piece of music was either fallible or infallible.

We wouldn't want to apply to any artistic effort whatever epistemological framework it is that these words reference.

Mort: " That painting is very fallible!"
Snerd: " No, it's infallible!"

This sort of thing would be ridiculous, ( and I doubt that it happens very often.)

What I am looking for, and I believe we really need, is a kind of philosophical practice where there is to all intents and purposes nothing but what is comparable to artistic production.

That this philosophical practice would so resemble artistic production would not mean that philosophy would reduce to art, or become indistinguishable from it.

What it would do, I think, is to make philosophical practice much more distinguishable from religious practice.

Let what the priests and popes do be spoken of in terms of the fallibilistic or infallibilistic.
Let our theory and practice, combined in the form of concept creation, enrich and enliven the life world in the way of art, music, and poetry.

We may have a new image of thought which will facilitate this; we may have as yet left its potentiality virtually untapped.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Yusef,

Thank you so much for urging us on, at the same time as you seem to be engaged in the M&A business.

You are seeking a merger of theory and praxis, of art and philosophy, through the method of concept construction which will finally acquire them all.

Let me quote a few sensuous (and yes, that’s exactly what they are!) quotes from D&G’s “What Is Philosophy?” (1994) which you are familiar with:

You will know nothing through concepts unless you have first created them – that is, constructed them in an intuition specific to them: a field, a plane, and a ground that must not be confused with them but that shelters their seeds and the personae who cultivate them.” (p. 7)

It is remarkable how Deleuze is already incorporating the concepts of art (intuition – and Bergson!) and the organic through the gardening metaphors (seeds and cultivating).

Concepts are like multiple waves, rising and falling, but the plane of immanence is the single wave that rolls them up and unrolls them. The plane envelops infinite movements that pass back and forth through it, but concepts are the infinite speeds of finite movements that, in each case, pass only through their own components. (p. 36)

Through this metaphor of fluidity and flow Deleuze is not only trying to describe the dialectics of concepts and immanence but also the non-fixation of both.

The plane is like a desert that concepts populate without dividing up. The only regions of the plane are concepts themselves, but the plane is all that holds them together (p. 36)

In his quest for pedagogical metaphors Deleuze again returns to Nature, to the idea of wholeness, moisture and growth, the not-dividing, the inclusion.

What I’m trying to reach here is that we should MOVE BEYOND THE CONCEPT OF CONCEPT CREATION.

Deleuze’s (and Nietzsche’s) concept of concept creation is a TRAP. The real concept is the creation. The becoming. The continuous construction. The immanence.

In other words, Yusef, I think our problem is one of demarcation – between theory and praxis, art and philosophy, Deleuze and us, finality and constructivism.

Think about it. I look forward to your inspiration.

All the best,

Orla Schantz

6:12 PM  
Anonymous john c. halasz said...


I would readily agree that "fallibilism" could readily amount to lip-service for self-reassurance, as well as, a complacent/defensive demarcation of rational from irrational by recourse to merely methodological criteria, rather than any genuine assumption of responsibility for risk and failure. But equally I don't understand how "concept creation" could avoid such risk, or evade any criteria of judgment, or constitute an "enrichment" without any appeal to "responsibility". Works of art, after all, for all that they are acategorial and even if one rejects a subjectivistic/aestheticistic conception of them, do solicit judgment by their very proffering of their mode of being, however different the mode and criteria of judgment might be from epistemic ones, and can be said to fail or "succeed". (E.g. "That's schlock". "That's astonishing". "That's not art.") There would be little point to them, if they did not already take account of that possibility in their production, indeed, if they did not produce themselves through and as such critical judgment. For all their distance and strangeness, they still solicit a (collective) form of life.

Similarly, concepts can not simply be "created" without considering their place and position within a form of life and how they solicit possibilities and recognitions within it. And that is not reducible to any merely theoretical practice, epistemic, conceptual, or otherwise. Rather concepts and meanings belong-together in a complex with relations to experiences, relationships, practices and activities, cognitions, and needs that comprise a given form of life, which is collective and precedes any formation of theories. At any rate, prior to any concept "creation", there must be concept acquisition,- (when a child acquires a concept does s/he "create" it?),- and concept application and extention, (without which concepts are of little avail, if not meaningless, but with which implies some collective norm or recognition of just how the concept applies), and any transformation of concepts must react against and interact with that "prior" setting. If, e.g., natural scientists encounter an accumulation of untoward empirical evidence that their theoretical concepts can not explain, then perhaps the formation of a new conceptual framework or theory would resolve the conflict and and "create" and "reveal" a new understanding of (that aspect of) the world. But even the flash of an Einstein not only grew out of a prior problematic, but required further acceptance by other scientists and subsequent empirical confirmations. And, in turn, if such innovations transform an understanding of the world, that reacts against and is released into the complex of relations comprising a form of life. The "deepest" point here is that it is and must be a matter of a collective process and any notion of concept "creation" must answer to the question of its acceptances, its applications, and just what the "subject" of such concept creation would be. But if concept creation, as an alteration of how "we" would view some aspect of the world were merely a subjective practice or that of a small group or sect, then the (question-begging) likeliest risk would be its failure to achieve any (projected?) effect. (In fact, this is a point that might well be brought in criticism of established "knowledges", not that they would be ineffective, but rather they depend for their reference on the constriction of their reference-group).

Now, let me explain that I understand the notion of "praxis" from without the Marxian conception of labor/revolutionary praxis, which tends toward the conflation of praxis with techne, in a quasi-Aristotelian sense, as those modes of action, activity and speech that maintain and enhance the relations that comprise a human community, as oriented toward the shared potential(s) of good lives in common. (Mind you, I don't mean to imply that the epithet "good" is a settled term and not subject to terrible contestations). That is a conception that is separate from the construction of any theory and that traverses the complex of related items comprising any form of life. But I want to explain the weighting of the term "praxiological" and why I draw short of accepting pragmatism, (whether in an epistemological sense or otherwise). In brief, I find "pragmatism" not too "unprincipled",- (I could care less),- but too willful. The complex of related items comprising a form of life must have some settled, if shifting, balance, such that they are not merely "justified", validated, or sustained by the practices and actions which form components of it. Rather there must be some basic acceptance of a form of life, which is "prior" to any criticism or validation of it. There is a fatality to the distinctness and separateness of selves and others that must be acknowledged to have a form of life in the first place. Now it may well be that our practices are not sustaining, that our acts are self-stultifying, that our relationships and experiences are alienated, that our meanings and concepts are incommunicative and unattuned, that our cognitions do not extend as far as our need and, indeed, defend against them. But that just is the paradox of praxis: that any transformative, critical impulse toward our form of life depends on a "prior" acceptance of it. It may well be that any critical, transformative praxis within a form of life, (or in relations between differing forms of life), requires "concept creation" and perhaps the projective construction of theories therefrom. But that is not a matter of concept creation forming an "autonomous" theoretical practice. Rather concepts, (which are related to other concepts and their concommitants within a form of life, which is what enables referential predication), should perhaps be judged in terms of the worldly spaces that they "create" for recognitions and acknowledgements between participants in a form of life.

1:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Yusef,

It IS about always creating, about always thinking anew.

That's Deleuze's gift to us.

I'm reading his "Negotiations 1972-1990" (1990) and was struck (again) by the poetry of his definitions.

It is the image of thinking which guides the creation of concepts. It takes the form of a scream, whereas concepts are like a song or a melody.

YES! The music of ideas. What could be more beautiful?

Orla Schantz

PS: Let me recommend another blog:

6:04 PM  
Blogger Dr. Spinoza said...

I'm very pleased at the various different conversations going on here. I like the conversation about "concept creation." Though I also think that Halasz's somewhat "pragmatist" point is well-taken -- that there needs to be some sort of conceptual acquisition as well, that there's a pre-existing relation of concepts that characterize a particular form of life. It's a "ratchet effect," if you will, between acquistion and creation. (The cognitive scientist Michael Tomasello develops this thought in his The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition. He refers to Wittgenstein and the pragmatists thoroughout, even while talking about chimp-child comparative studies.) Exploring that metaphor more fully might allow a deeper synthesis of Dewey (or Wittgenstein) and Deleuze (and Foucault).

In academic, analytic philosophy there's a lot of concern with what concepts are and how they work. Some philosophers are downright skeptical of the very notion. In What is Philosophy?, Deleuze and Guattari credit Adorno with a "nonpropositional form of the concept" (p. 99). I find this striking and odd. Analytic philosophy takes its bearings from Frege and Russell, for whom the proposition is paramount.

Here Deleuze and Guattari underscore a way of "de-scientizing" philosophy -- of doing philosophy in a way which is not simply a branch of science and of mathematics (including logic). So in that respect Deleuze and Guattari are "Continental" rather than "analytic" philosophers. On the other hand, Deleuze has taken a strong interest in the implications of natural science (physics, chemistry, and biology) for ontology. Although the ontological difference has a role in Difference and Repetition, Being is not conceptually isolated from beings, as it is in Being and Time. This sheds some light on how one thinks through the implications of pure immanence.

3:12 PM  
Anonymous Yusef said...

Thanks for the blog recommendation, Orla. Looks fantastic.

4:51 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home