Deleuzian Speculative Philosophy. Thought of the Day 44.0


Deleuze’s version of speculative philosophy is the procedure of counter-effectuation or counter-actualization. In defiance of the causal laws of an actual situation, speculation experiments with the quasi-causal intensities capable of bringing about effects that have their own retro-active power. This is its political import. Leibniz already argued that all things are effects or consequences, even though they do not necessarily have a cause, since the sufficient reason of what exists always lies outside of any actual series and remains virtual. (Leibniz) With the Principle of Sufficient Reason, he thus reinvented the Stoic disjunction between the series of corporeal causes and the series of incorporeal effects. Not because he anticipated the modern bifurcation of given necessary causes (How?) and metaphysically constructed reasons (Why?), but because for him the virtuality of effects is no less real than the interaction of causes. The effect always includes its own cause, since divergent series of events (incompossible worlds) enter into relation with any particular event (in this world), while these interpenetrating series are prior to, and not limited by, actual relations of causality per se. In terms of Deleuze, cause and effect do not share the same temporality. Whereas causes relate to one another in an eternal present (Chronos), effects relate to one another in a past-future purified of the present (Aion). Taken together, these temporalities form the double structure of every event (Logic of Sense). When the night is lit up by a sudden flash of lightning, this is the effect of an intensive, metaphysical becoming that contains its own destiny, integrating a differential potentiality that is irreducible to the physical series of necessary efficient causes that nonetheless participate in it. In order for such a contingent conjugation of events to be actualized (i.e. for effects to influence causes and become individuated in a materially extended state of affairs), however, its impersonal and pre-individual presence must be trusted upon. This takes a speculative investment or amor fati that forms its precursive reason/ground. In Difference and Repetition, Deleuze refers to this will to speculate as the dark precursor which determines the path of a thunderbolt in advance but in reverse, as though intagliated by setting up a communication of difference with difference. It is therefore the differenciator of these differences or in- itself of difference. We find a paradigmatic example of this will to make a difference in William James’ The Will to Believe when he writes: We can and we may, as it were, jump with both feet off the ground into a world of which we trust the other parts to meet our jump and only so can the making of a perfected world of the pluralistic pattern ever take place. Only through our precursive trust in it can it come into being. (James) As Stengers explains, we can and do speculate each time we precursively trust in the possibility of connecting, of entering into a (partial) rapport that cannot be derived from the ground of our current, dominant premises. Or as Deleuze writes: the dark precursor is not the friend (Difference and Repetition) but rather the bad will of a traitor or enemy, since the will does not precede the presubjective cruelty of the event in its involuntariness. At the same time, however, we never jump into a vacuum. We always speculate by the milieu, since a jump in general could never be trusted: If a jump is always situated, it is because its aim is not to escape the ground in order to get access to a higher realm. The jump, connecting this ground, always this ground, with what it was alien to, has the necessity of a response. In other words, the ground must have been given the power to make itself felt as calling for new dimensions. (Stengers) Indeed, if speculative thought cannot be detached from a practical concern, Deleuze at the same time states that [t]here is no other ethic than the amor fati of philosophy. (What is Philosophy?) Speculative reasoning is thus an art of pure expression or efficacy, an art of precipitating events: an art that detects and affirms the possibility of other reasons insisting as so many virtual forces that have not yet had the chance to emerge but whose presence can be trusted upon to make a difference.

In Deleuze’s own terms, there is no such thing as pure reason, only heterogeneous processes of rationalization, of actualizing an irrational potential: There is no metaphysics, but rather a politics of being. (Deleuze) For this reason, the method of speculative philosophy is the method of dramatization. It is a method that distributes events according to a logic that conditions the order of their intelligibility. As such it belongs to what in Difference and Repetition is referred to as the proper order of reasons: differentiation-individuation-dramatisation-differenciation. A book of philosophy, Deleuze famously writes in the preface, should be in part a very particular species of detective novel, in part a kind of science fiction. On the one hand, the creation of concepts cannot be separated from a problematic milieu or stage that matters practically; on the other hand, it seeks to deterritorialize this milieu by speculating on the quasi-causal intensity of its becoming-other.

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The Womb of Cosmogony. Thought of the Day 30.0

Nowhere and by no people was speculation allowed to range beyond those manifested gods. The boundless and infinite UNITY remained with every nation a virgin forbidden soil, untrodden by man’s thought, untouched by fruitless speculation. The only reference made to it was the brief conception of its diastolic and systolic property, of its periodical expansion or dilatation, and contraction. In the Universe with all its incalculable myriads of systems and worlds disappearing and re-appearing in eternity, the anthropomorphised powers, or gods, their Souls, had to disappear from view with their bodies: — “The breath returning to the eternal bosom which exhales and inhales them,” says our Catechism. . . . In every Cosmogony, behind and higher than the creative deity, there is a superior deity, a planner, an Architect, of whom the Creator is but the executive agent. And still higher, over and around, withinand without, there is the UNKNOWABLE and the unknown, the Source and Cause of all these Emanations. – The Secret Doctrine


Many are the names in the ancient literatures which have been given to the Womb of Being from which all issues, in which all forever is, and into the spiritual and divine reaches of which all ultimately returns, whether infinitesimal entity or macrocosmic spacial unit.

The Tibetans called this ineffable mystery Tong-pa-nnid, the unfathomable Abyss of the spiritual realms. The Buddhists of the Mahayana school describe it as Sunyata or the Emptiness, simply because no human imagination can figurate to itself the incomprehensible Fullness which it is. In the Eddas of ancient Scandinavia the Boundless was called by the suggestive term Ginnungagap – a word meaning yawning or uncircumscribed void. The Hebrew Bible states that the earth was formless and void, and darkness was upon the face of Tehom, the Deep, the Abyss of Waters, and therefore the great Deep of kosmic Space. It has the identical significance of the Womb of Space as envisioned by other peoples. In the Chaldaeo-Jewish Qabbalah the same idea is conveyed by the term ‘Eyn (or Ain) Soph, without bounds. In the Babylonian accounts of Genesis, it is Mummu Tiamatu which stands for the Great Sea or Deep. The archaic Chaldaean cosmology speaks of the Abyss under the name of Ab Soo, the Father or source of knowledge, and in primitive Magianism it was Zervan Akarana — in its original meaning of Boundless Spirit instead of the later connotation of Boundless Time.

In the Chinese cosmogony, Tsi-tsai, the Self-Existent, is the Unknown Darkness, the root of the Wuliang-sheu, Boundless Age. The wu wei of Lao-tse, often mistranslated as passivity and nonaction, imbodies a similar conception. In the sacred scriptures of the Quiches of Guatemala, the Popol Vuh or “Book of the Azure Veil,” reference is made to the “void which was the immensity of the Heavens,” and to the “Great Sea of Space.” The ancient Egyptians spoke of the Endless Deep; the same idea also is imbodied in the Celi-Ced of archaic Druidism, Ced being spoken of as the “Black Virgin” — Chaos — a state of matter prior to manvantaric differentiation.

The Orphic Mysteries taught of the Thrice-Unknown Darkness or Chronos, about which nothing could be predicated except its timeless Duration. With the Gnostic schools, as for instance with Valentinus, it was Bythos, the Deep. In Greece, the school of Democritus and Epicurus postulated To Kenon, the Void; the same idea was later voiced by Leucippus and Diagoras. But the two most common terms in Greek philosophy for the Boundless were Apeiron, as used by Plato, Anaximander and Anaximenes, and Apeiria, as used by Anaxagoras and Aristotle. Both words had the significance of frontierless expansion, that which has no circumscribing bounds.

The earliest conception of Chaos was that almost unthinkable condition of kosmic space or kosmic expanse, which to human minds is infinite and vacant extension of primordial Aether, a stage before the formation of manifested worlds, and out of which everything that later existed was born, including gods and men and all the celestial hosts. We see here a faithful echo of the archaic esoteric philosophy, because among the Greeks Chaos was the kosmic mother of Erebos and Nyx, Darkness and Night — two aspects of the same primordial kosmic stage. Erebos was the spiritual or active side corresponding to Brahman in Hindu philosophy, and Nyx the passive side corresponding to pradhana or mulaprakriti, both meaning root-nature. Then from Erebos and Nyx as dual were born Aether and Hemera, Spirit and Day — Spirit being here again in this succeeding stage the active side, and Day the passive aspect, the substantial or vehicular side. The idea was that just as in the Day of Brahma of Hindu cosmogony things spring into active manifested existence, so in the kosmic Day of the Greeks things spring from elemental substance into manifested light and activity, because of the indwelling urge of the kosmic Spirit.

Knowledge Within and Without: The Upanishadic Tradition (1)

All perceptible matter comes from a primary substance, or tenuity beyond conception, filling all space, the akasha or luminiferous ether, which is acted upon by the life giving Prana or creative force, calling into existence, in never-ending cycles all things and phenomena – Nikola Tesla

Teilhard de Chardin:

In the eyes of the physicist, nothing exists legitimately, at least up to now, except the without of things. The same intellectual attitude is still permissible in the bacteriologist, whose cultures (apart from substantial difficulties) are treated as laboratory reagents. But it is still more difficult in the realm of plants. It tends to become a gamble in the case of a biologist studying the behavior of insects or coelenterates. It seems merely futile with regard to the vertebrates. Finally, it breaks down completely with man, in whom the existence of a within can no longer be evaded, because it is a subject of a direct intuition and the substance of all knowledge. It is impossible to deny that, deep within ourselves, “an interior” appears at the heart of beings, as it were seen through a rent. This is enough to ensure that, in one degree or another, this “interior” should obtrude itself as existing everywhere in nature from all time. Since the stuff of the universe has an inner aspect at one point of itself, there is necessarily a double to its structure, that is to say in every region of space and time-in the same way for instance, as it is granular: co-extensive with their Without, there is a Within to things.

Both Indian thought and modern scientific thought accept a fundamental unity behind the world of variety. That basic unitary reality evolves into all that we see around us in the world. This view is a few thousand years old in India; We find it in the Samkhyan and Vedantic schools of Indian thought; and they expound it very much on the lines followed by modern thought. In his address to the Chicago Parliament of Religions in 1893, Vivekananda said:

All science is bound to come to this conclusion in the long run, Manifestation and not creation, is the word of science today, and the Hindu is only glad that what he has been cherishing in his bosom for ages is going to be taught in more forcible language, and with further light from the latest conclusions of science.

The Samkhyan school uses two terms to represent Nature or Pradhana: Prakrti denoting Nature in its unmodified state, and Vikrti denoting nature in its modified state. The Vedanta similarly speaks of Brahman as the inactive state, and Maya or Shakti as the active state of one and the same primordial non-dual reality. But the Brahman of the Vedanta is the unity of both the spiritual and the non-spiritual, the non-physical and the physical aspects of the universe.

So as the first answer to the question, ‘What is the world?’ we get this child’s answer in his growing knowledge of the discrete entities and events of the outer world and their inter-connections. The second answer is the product of scientific thought, which gives us the knowledge of the one behind the many. All the entities and events of the world are but the modifications or evolutions of one primordial basis reality, be it nature, space- time or cosmic dust.

Although modern scientific thought does not yet have a place for any spiritual reality or principle, scientists like Chardin and Julian Huxley are trying to find a proper place for the experience of the spiritual in the scientific picture of the universe. When this is achieved, the scientific picture, which is close to Vedanta already, will become closer still, and the synthesis of the knowledge of the ‘without’ and the ‘within’ of things will give us the total view of the universe. This is wisdom according to Vedanta, whereas all partial views are just pieces of knowledge or information only.

The Upanishads deal with this ‘within’ of things. Theirs in fact, is the most outstanding contribution on this subject in the human cultural legacy. They term this aspect of reality of things pratyak chaitanya or pratyak atman or pratyak tattva; and they contain the fascinating account of the stages by which the human mind rose from crude beginnings to clear, wholly spiritual heights in the realization of this reality.

How does the world look when we view it from the outside? We seek an answer from the physical sciences. How does it look when we view from the inside? We seek an answer from the non-physical sciences, including the science of religion. And philosophy, as understood in the Upanishadic tradition, is the synthesis of these two answers: Brahmavidyā is Sarvavidyāpratishthā, as the Mundaka Upanishad puts it.

क्षेत्रक्षेत्रज्ञयोर्ज्ञानं यत्तज्ज्ञानम् मतं मम

kṣetrakṣetrajñayorjñānaṃ yattajjñānam mataṃ mama

“The unified knowledge of the ‘without’ and the ‘within’ of things is true knowledge according to Me, as Krishna says in the Gita” (Bhagavad-Gita chapter 13, 2nd Shloka).

From this total viewpoint there is neither inside nor outside; they are relative concepts depending upon some sort of a reference point, e.g.the body; as such, they move within the framework of relativity. Reality knows neither ‘inside’ nor ‘outside’; it is ever full. But these relative concepts are helpful in our approach to the understanding of the total reality.

Thus we find that our knowledge of the manifold of experience the idam, also involves something else, namely, the unity behind the manifold. This unity behind the manifold, which is not perceptible to the senses, is indicated by the term adah meaning ‘that’, indicating something far away, unlike the ‘this’ of the sense experience. ‘This’ is the correlative of ‘that’; ‘this’ is the changeable aspect of reality; ‘that’ is its unchangeable aspect. If ‘this’ refers to something given in sense experience, ‘that’ refers to something transcendental, beyond the experience of the senses. To say ‘this’ therefore also implies at the same time something that is beyond ‘this’. This is an effect as such, it is visible and palpable; and behind it lies the cause, the invisible and the impalpable. Adah, ‘that’, represents the invisible behind the visible, the transcendental behind the empirical, a something that is beyond time and space. In religion this something is called ‘God’. In philosophy it is called tat or adah, That, Brahman, the ultimate Reality, the cause, the ground, and the goal of the universe.

So this verse first tells us that beyond and behind the manifested universe is the reality of Brahman, which is the fullness of pure Being; it then tells us about this world of becoming which, being nothing but Brahman, is also the ‘Full’. From the view of total Reality, it is all ‘fullness’ everywhere, in space-time as well as beyond space-time. Then the verse adds:

पूर्णस्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवाशिष्यते

pūrṇasya pūrṇamādāya pūrṇamevāśiṣyate

‘From the Fullness of Brahman has come the fullness of the universe, leaving alone Fullness as the remainder.’

What, then, is the point of view or level from which the sentiments of this verse proceed? It is that of the total Reality, the Absolute and the Infinite, in which as we have read earlier, the ‘within’ and the ‘without’ of things merge. The Upanishads call it as ocean of Sachchidānanda, the unity of absolute existence, absolute awareness, and absolute bliss. Itself beyond all distinctions of time and space, it yet manifests itself through all such distinctions. To the purified vision of the Upanishadic sages, this whole universe appeared as the fullness of Being, which was, which is, which shall ever be. In the Bhagavad-Gita (VII. 26) Krshna says:

वेदाहं समतीतानि वर्तमानानि चार्जुन ।
भविष्याणि च भूतानि मां तु वेद न कश्चन ॥

vedāhaṃ samatītāni vartamānāni cārjuna |
bhaviṣyāṇi ca bhūtāni māṃ tu veda na kaścana ||

‘I, O Arjuna, know the beings that are of the past, that are of the present, and that are to come in future; but Me no one knows.’

That fullness of the true Me, says Krshna, is beyond all these limited categories, such as space and time, cause and effect, and substance and attribute.


Past decades witness an increasing interest in the concept of supervenience, which has traditionally been used as a relation between sets of properties. A set A of properties (called ‘supervenient properties’) is said to supervene on another set B (called ‘subveinent properties’), just in case if B-properties are indistinguishable, then so are A-properties; in other words, agreement in respect of B-properties implies agreement in respect of A-properties. In slogan form, “there cannot be an A-different without a B-difference”. The core idea of supervenience is that fixing subvenient properties fixes its supervenient ones; or equivalently, subvenient properties determine supervenient properties.

The notion of supervenience dates back at least to G. E. Moore’s classical work, where he described some certain dependency relationship between moral and non-moral properties. However, Moore did not use the term ‘supervenience’ explicitly; it was R. M. Hare that introduced the term into the philosophical literature, to characterize a relationship between moral properties and natural properties. Hare stated

First, let us take that characteristic of ‘good’ which has been called its supervenience. Suppose that we say ‘St. Francis was a good man’. It is logically impossible to say this and to maintain at the same time that there might have been another man placed in precisely the same circumstances as St. Francis, and who behaved in them in exactly the same way, but who differed from St. Francis in this respect only, that he was not a good man.

Thanks to Donald Davidson, the term ‘supervenience’ was first introduced into contemporary philosophy of mind, which opened up a new research direction in this area and other branches of philosophy. Donald Davidson used psychophysical supervenience to defend a position of anomalous monism that although the mental supervenes on the physical, the former cannot be reduced to the latter, as he said:

Although the position I describe denies there are psychophysical laws, it is consistent with the view that mental characteristics are in some sense dependent, or supervenient, on physical characteristics. Such supervenience might be taken to mean that there cannot be two events alike in all physical respects but differing in some mental respect, or that an object cannot alter in some mental respect without altering in some physical respect. Dependence or supervenience of this kind does not entail reducibility through law or definition.

It is alleged that every major figure in the history of western philosophy has been at least implicitly committed to some supervenience thesis. For example, Leibniz used the Latin word ‘supervenire’, to state the thesis that relations are supervenient on properties; G. E. Moore stated that “one of the most important facts about qualitative difference · · · [is that] two things cannot differ in quality without differing in intrinsic nature”; David Lewis used a thesis of Humean supervenience to express that the whole truth about a world like ours supervenes on the spatiotemporal distribution of local qualities.

The notion of supervenience is ubiquitous in our daily life. For instance, the aesthetic properties of a work of art supervene on its physical properties, the price of a commodity supervenes on its supply and demand, effects supervene on causes, and the mental supervenes on the physical. According to the chart of levels of existence, atoms supervene on elementary particles, molecules supervene on atoms, cells supervene on molecules, and so on.


Moreover, a number of interesting doctrines and problems can be formulated in terms of supervenience. A paradigmatic example is physicalism, which may be construed as a thesis that “everything supervenes on the physical”. Mereology may be explained as mereological supervenience, i.e., the whole supervenes on its parts. Determinism can be roughly construed as a thesis that everything to the future supervenes on the present, and perhaps past, facts. All of the distinction between internalism and externalism can be characterized by means of supervenience theses. Mind-body problem may be rephrased as to whether the psychophysical supervenience thesis holds, i.e., are psychological properties supervenient upon physical properties?

There are so many distinct formulations for this concept, e.g., individual supervenience, local supervenience, global supervenience, weak supervenience, strong supervenience, similarity-based supervenience, regional supervenience, local-local supervenience and strong-local-local supervenience, multiple domain supervenience, that David Lewis thought of it as an ‘unlovely proliferation’. No matter how different the formulations are, they all conform to the aforementioned core idea of supervenience – that is, fixing the subvenient properties fixes the supervenient properties.

Supervenience has many applications, among which a central use is so-called ‘argument by a false implied supervenience thesis’. It is well known that the reduction of A to B implies the supervenience of A on B; in short, reduction implies supervenience. Thus for one to argue against a reduction thesis, it suffices to falsify the corresponding supervenience thesis. Other applications include characterizing the distinctions between Internalism and Externalism, characterizing physicalism, characterizing haecceitism, and so on.