Of Lobsters and Strata
"Every stratum operates this way: by grasping in its pincers [double articulation] a maximum number of intensities or intensive particles over which it spreads its forms and substances."- Deleuze and Guattari, “ A Thousand Plateaus: capitalism and schizophrenia,” translated by Brian Massumi
“Hey Gillie-boy, that you?” asked the cyberboy.
“Man, you need to use some sunscreen. Either that, or stay out of the sun altogether,” the cyberboy remarked, rather concerned by the lobster-red sunburn which had not only baked Gillie-boys skin a bright red, but had turned it into a shell-hard carapace.
“No, this isn’t me. It’s God. Can’t you tell the difference?”
Gillie-boy was easily irritated by the cyberboy’s comments. He considered cyberboy’s stupidity to be a form of maliciousness. As Gillie-boy had once remarked, “ The inability to understand our work – this stupidity – is motivated by malice. They could understand us if they wanted to…” ( Cyberboy has paraphrased. Sorry. Couldn’t find the actual quotation.)
“You mean that’s God over there thinking he’s Gilles Deleuze?” Cyberboy tried to riposte. Indeed, for some time now, the cyberboy’s devotion to Deleuze had resembled the devotion cyberboy once thought appropriate to the Lord almighty. It was becoming increasingly clear, though, that this was his personal problem, not due to any demand or seduction placed upon him by Gillie-boy, and certainly not the problem of any particular swelling of Gillie-boy’s ego.
“ You know Gillie-boy,” cyberboy began to remark, ( cyberboy overuses the phrase “ you know” in face-to-face communication, too,) “ I understand quite well what it means to grasp something in pincers, and I can also quite easily see how the grasping in pincers would be called a “double articulation.” However, I’ve never really felt good about my understanding of double articulation as you use it. What really happens is that I think of double articulation as I think of binarisms, or false oppositions. I think of this use of “double articulation” of yours as being directly connected to your meditations on the workings of identity and opposition, and yet I’ve always sensed that you mean to add something more to those meditations with this new terminology.”
Gillie-boy doesn’t reply. Cyberboy guessed that it was because once Gillie-boy has decided that someone is malicious, he cuts them off.
Cyberboy went on, “Now I understand that the references to intensities and intensive particles are references to ‘differences’. If this is correct, you are saying that the double articulations are the way that the strata subsume ‘differences’ into identities or homogeneities or ossifications or whatever you want to call them. Substances and forms are in themselves oppositions in your way of thinking of them… aren’t they? But what you are doing is, rather than ‘refuting’ or ‘rebutting’ the concepts of substance and form, showing how they work – how they operate – what they do. This, Gillie-boy, I admire a great, great deal.”
“We don’t like form, do we Gillie-boy?” Cyberboy didn’t want to like form if Gillie-boy didn’t. He was checking.
“But substance? We have a problem with substance? I didn’t think we did?” Cyberboy was speaking as if he sensed a betrayal. “ This is the sort of switch in use, or confusion, that worries me, Gilles. Do I really understand you?”
Gillie-boy replied, “‘Substance -what is in itself and is conceived through itself, i.e., that whose concept does not require the concept of another thing, from which it must be ‘formed’ ( quoting Spinoza, Ethics, I, def. 3). By adding to the classic definition “what is conceived through itself,” Spinoza rules out the possibility of a plurality of substances having the same attribute; indeed these substances would then have something in common through which they could be comprehended by one another. This is why the first eight propositions of the Ethics are devoted to showing that there are not several substances per attribute: a numerical distinction is never a real distinction. That there is only one substance per attribute already suffices to confer unicity, self-causality, infinity, and necessary existence on each qualified substance. But this multiplicity of substances with different attributes should be understood in a purely qualitative way: a qualitative multiplicity or a formal-real distinction, to which the term ‘several’ applies inadequately. In this sense, the first eight propositions are not hypothetical but preserve their truth throughout the ‘Ethics.’” – from Gilles Deleuze, “ Spinoza: Practical Philosophy, translated by Robert Hurley.
“Ah, I get it. Hedging your philosophical bets! You think you’re red and uncomfortable now, Gillie-boy, well watch this!”
And with that, the cyberboy plunked Gillie-boy alive (or was it God? Cyberboy in spite of all his attempts at iconoclasm was still confused,) into the pot of boiling salt water he’d prepared.
After eating Gillie-boy along with a nice bottle of Chianti, cyberboy began to reflect on matters.
He realized that Gillie-boy’s comments in A Thousand Plateaus were much richer than he had known before. Cyberboy’s weaker understanding prior to his encounter with Gilles was in his understanding of “subsumption.” There is something like a subsumption being described in the Thousand Plateau quotation, but it is a matter more of a contrast of logic and clear thinking between Spinoza’s univocity thinking and thinking where there are a plurality of substances having the same attribute which could then be comprehended by one another, or through one another. Also, cyberboy had been confused because indeed “substance” has two different meanings in Deleuze’s writings. Sometimes Deleuze is using “substance” in Spinoza’s way where “substance” is what is in itself and is conceived through itself; and other times, he is using “substance” in the more truncated way as “what is in itself,” and for this other way Deleuze is trying to show alternatives.