Monday, January 01, 2007

The Matter of Truth, the Matter of Matter: Which Matters More? Part XI

In order to make clear that my machinery of mapping fires on all cylinders, I need to elaborate in more detail just what kind of space these maps are mapping.

It will not be a surprise to learn that this space is not a uniform, homogeneous, or absolutist kind of space: it is not a relative space, either.

It is a differential space, and it is mapped using differential geometr(ies).

Just what is a differential space, and to just what extent is it necessary to understand differential geometry in order to understand what is happening in this kind of space?

I want to begin exploring the nature of this kind of space and geometry by looking at a passage from William James’s “A Pluralistic Universe” which may say everything about differential space and geometry I need to say, and which I find particularly striking and beautiful in its (apparent) simplicity:

" But first of all I must parenthetically ask you to distinguish the notion of the absolute carefully from that of another object with which it is liable to become heedlessly entangled. That other object is the ‘God’ of common people in their religion, and the creator-God of orthodox christian theology. Only thoroughgoing monists or pantheists believe in the absolute. The God of our popular Christianity is but one member of a pluralistic system. He and we stand outside of each other, just as the devil, the saints, and the angels stand outside of both of us. I can hardly conceive of anything more different from the absolute than the God, say, of David or of Isaiah. That God is an essentially finite being in the cosmos, not with the cosmos in him, and indeed he has a very local habitation there, and very one-sided local and personal attachments. If it should prove probable that the absolute does not exist, it will not follow in the slightest degree that a God like that of David, Isaiah, or Jesus may not exist, or may not be the most important existence in the universe for us to acknowledge. I pray you, then, not to confound the two ideas as you listen to the criticisms I shall have to proffer. I hold to the finite God, for reasons which I shall touch on in the seventh of these lectures; but I hold that his rival and competitor – I feel almost tempted to say his enemy—the absolute, is not only forced on us by logic,but that it is an improbable hypothesis.”

“…not with the cosmos in him, and indeed he has a very local habitation there…” This amounts, I think, to a differential theology, which activates concepts of space(s) which are differential.

Thinking falters in absolutist space:

“ When John Mill said that the notion of God’s omnipotence must be given up, if God is to be kept as a religious object, he was surely accurately right; yet so prevalent is the lazy monism that idly haunts the region of God’s name, that so simple and truthful a saying was generally treated as a paradox: God, it was said, could not be finite. I believe that the only God worthy of the name must be finite, and I shall return to this point in a later lecture. […] Observe that all the irrationalities and puzzles which the absolute gives rise to, and from which the finite God remains free, are due to the fact that the absolute has nothing, absolutely nothing, outside of itself.” - James, page 65, IBID

I want to relate all of this to multiplicity, by quoting very briefly and somewhat haphazardly, these thoughts from Deleuze:

“ But we must note that in general a dualism has at least three meanings: it involves a real dualism marking an irreducible difference between two substances, as in Descartes, or between two faculties, as in Kant; or it involves a provisional stage that subsequently becomes a monism, as in Spinoza or Bergson; or else it involves a preliminary distribution operating at the heart of a pluralism. Foucault represents this last case. For if the visible and the articulable elements enter into a duel, it is to the extent that their respective forms, as forms of exteriority,dispersion or dissemination, make up two types of ‘multiplicity’, neither of which can be reduced to a unity: statements exist only in a discursive multiplicity, and visibilities in a non-discursive multiplicity. And these two multiplicities of relations between forces, a multiplicity of diffusion which no longer splits into two and is free of any dualizable form.

Discipline and Punish continually demonstrates that dualisms are molar or massive effects occurring within ‘multiplicities’. And the dualism of force, the ability to affect and be affected, is merely the index in each one of the multiplicity of forces, the multiple being of force. Syberberg once said that dividing something into two is an attempt to distribute a multiplicity which cannot be represented by a single form. But this distribution can only distinguish multiplicities from multiplicities. This is the whole of Foucault’s philosophy, which is a pragmatics of the multiple.” - from Foucault, by Deleuze, the chapter “ Strategies or the Non-stratified: the Thought of the Outside (Power)”, pages 83 and 84.


Blogger Dr. Spinoza said...

I applaud Deleuze's attempt here to hold onto both "statements" (discursive multiplicities) and "visibilities" (non-discursive multiplicities). But I have three worries.

The first worry is that this language privileges the visual modality at the expense of other perceptual modalities (touch, smell) -- modalities which are far more intimate, and which threaten to implode the distance between the embodied subject and the perceptual object. Here Deleuze inherits Merleau-Ponty's error in treating vision as paradigmatic of perception as such. The denigration of the non-visual senses begins with Aristotle, and it seems to be uncritically continued here.

The second worry is that the body becomes correlated here, as in Merleau-Ponty, with non-discursivity in general, and I worry that this threatens to close off the possibility of how the body itself inhabits a region of significance or of sense.

The third worry is that Deleuze here presents us with two different systems -- the system of statements and the system of visibilities -- without allowing for a third term that intervenes between them.

In Kant, the third term that stands between sensible intuition and categorial understanding is imagination. There's some very interesting recent work, both among "Continental" philosophers and among anglophone researchers, on the structure of imagination and metaphor.

Deleuze has often struck me as having contempt for metaphor, and preferring concepts over metaphors wherever possible. (This leads to a fascinating version of Nietzsche which is nevertheless not Nietzsche.) But the contempt for metaphor and for imagination prevents him from being able to see the place for a third term between perception and conceptualization.

So while I can agree with Deleuze's point that there are relations of force among perceptions on the one hand, and among conceptual judgments on the other, there are nevertheless sites at which these forces become temporarily coupled to one another -- these are the sites at which poetry and metaphor take place.

2:23 PM  
Anonymous Yusef said...

If it turns out that I am using scientific, cartographic, and topological vocabulary to create imagery and metaphor, I will experience self-contempt. It's a worst case outcome: that all this is for is to create a metaphoric screen upon which to project sick fantasy, monstrous stupidity, obsessional delusion.

I don't have anything against metaphor per se, and I don't think Deleuze did, either. I do have something against certain uses of metaphor, though. Using concepts I am trying to use: mapping as a trendy metaphor, for example, strikes me as deplorable.

9:47 PM  
Anonymous Yusef said...

"The third worry is that Deleuze here presents us with two different systems -- the system of statements and the system of visibilities -- without allowing for a third term that intervenes between them."

This reminds me of the encounter I had with Orla earlier in this thread. I had said something to the effect of " there is nothing in between," and Orla had replied something to the effect, " Of course there is something in between - everything is between."

I've had a guilty conscience about this ever since. I agree with Orla, and yet I proceed with writing and commenting as if I do not.

The point I want to make now is that it is the feature of monism that it be structured by oppositions where it is difficult or impossible while thinking within the monism to think anyway but in terms of these oppositions, as if "there is nothing between" the terms of the opposition-- and it is precisely the import of Deleuze's work to show how to think " in between", because everything is in between.

(I want to note here also that the oppositions structuring thought and making the thinking of the in between difficult or impossible are not "differences". They are the extreme of the same, of sameness. They are a feature of normalization, homogenization, of absolutist thinking.)

As long as I go on talking about mapping and concept creation without actually mapping and concept creating, my discussion is a failure. This is another point Orla has frequently raised. I am proceeding as if " there is nothing in between." It is really horrible to me if I am actually making it appear that for Deleuze also, "there is no term which intervenes." I have to believe that I will be able to clear this up later if I do succeed in presenting maps and concepts here.

11:49 AM  
Blogger Dr. Spinoza said...

I find something powerful in your first remark, but I'm also skeptical in some respects. The move made here raises a distinction between "scientific, cartographic, and topological vocabulary" and "sick fantasy, monstrous stupidity, obsessional delusion." Like you, I think that everything that we're trying to do here requires that we're able to distinguish between theory and phantasy. Joel Whitebook, a psychoanalyst and philosopher, once noted that if we're not able to make this distinction, then the analyst's diagnosis are epistemically indistinguishable from the analysand's fantasies.

On the other hand, the distinction between theory and fantasy cannot be made too stark, either, lest our capacitiy for objective thought appear mysterious and out-of-place in the natural world.

I don't see how one can make this distinction -- between theory and fantasy -- without bringing on board "traditional" concepts such as truth, justification, and objectivity. Even though Foucault (among others) has taught us to be much more circumspect and much more careful in how exactly the lines get drawn.

But I've also become much more reticent about Deleuze and Foucault in the past few months, particular about Deleuze, because I don't see where a Deleuzean epistemology is going to allow for truth, justification, objectivity, reference, rationality, and so forth. I worry that these crucial notions end up getting tossed out along with "the dogmatic image of thought."

Perhaps I myself have succumbed to the dogmatic image of thought. I don't know.

I should add that I'm increasingly skeptical about the success of Nietzsche's positive project, because it seems to me that he deprives himself of the conceptual resources needed to distinguish between theory and fantasy, and that he at times not only acknowledges this deprivation but also celebrates it.

On your second point: it seems to me that the right stance for an ontology of multiplicity to take here is that there is always some "third thing" between any two things. As there are infinitely many rational numbers between any two rational numbers, or as there are infinitely many irrational numbers between any two rational numbers. Hence the transfinites, etc. (This is where Badiou appeals to set theory in constructing an ontology. Unfortunately, the conversation between Badiou and Russell has yet to occur.)

Where I'd be willing to side with Deleuze against Merleau-Ponty -- if there even is a real distinction between them on this point -- is where I'd want to say that there's a continuum of perceptions between perceptions (now I sound like Leibniz?) and a continuum of thoughts between thoughts -- and a continuum between perceptions and thoughts.

1:36 PM  
Anonymous Yusef said...

"I don't see how one can make this distinction -- between theory and fantasy -- without bringing on board "traditional" concepts such as truth, justification, and objectivity. Even though Foucault (among others) has taught us to be much more circumspect and much more careful in how exactly the lines get drawn."

I want to explicitly show how this distinction is made without bringing on board "traditional" concepts such as truth, justification, and objectivity. If I fail at this, I hope you do not hesitate to point that out,( and don't hesitate to point out difficulties, either.)

Very simply - too simply, really- the solution revolves around the concepts of multiplicities and the mapping of forces.

Part of what I have to do is show that 'multiplicity' is not a part of our traditional conceptual lexicon, and that without its availability, we CAN DO NOTHING but bring on board the traditional concepts in the traditional way, and this bringing on board of the traditional concepts in the traditional way at this point in time is thoughtless.

A pragmatics of the multiple. I think it could also be called a mechanics of the multiple.

I utilize this, Dr. Spinoza: Non opposita sed diversa -- "Not opposed but different"... I make this a methodological principle of the utmost importance, I make this into a mechanics of the multiple. Instead of thinking of theory and fantasy as two hard lines, opposed ( at what angle, it doesn't matter,) I show each of them as swarms, in complex topos(s)

7:01 AM  

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