Rhizomatic Extreme-Right.

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In the context of the extreme right-wing politics in the contemporary age, groupuscules can be defined as numerically negligible political, frequently meta-political, but never party-political entities formed to pursue palingenetic ideological, organizational or activistic ends with an ultimate goal of overcoming the decadence of the liberal-democratic system. Though, they are fully formed and autonomous, they have small active memberships and minimal, if any public visibility or support, which is now inflating. Yet they acquire enhanced influence and significance through the ease with which they can be associated, even if only in the minds of political extremists, with other group lets which are sufficiently aligned ideologically and tactically to complement each other’s activities in their bid to institute a new type of society. As a result the groupuscule has Janus-headed characteristic of combining organizational autonomy with the ability to create informal linkages with, or reinforce the influence of other such formations. This enables groupuscules, when considered in terms of their aggregate impact on politics and society, to be seen as forming a non-hierarchical, leaderless and centreless, or rather polycentric movement with fluid boundaries and constantly changing components. This groupuscular right has the characteristics of a political and ideological subculture rather than a conventional political party movement, and is perfectly adapted to the task of perpetuating revolutionary extremism in an age of relative political stability.

The outstanding contrast between the groupuscular and party-political organization of the extreme right is that instead of being formed into a tree-like hierarchical organisms it is now rhizomatic. The use of the term was pioneered in the spirit of post-structuralist radicalism by Deleuze and Guattari to help conceptualize the social phenomena to which, metaphorically at least, the attributes of supra-personal organic life-forms can be ascribed, but which are not structured in a coherently hierarchical or systematically interconnected way which would make tree-based or dendroid metaphors appropriate. When applied to groupuscular right the concept of rhizome throws itself into relief its dynamic nature as a polycentric, leaderless movement by stressing that it does not operate like a single organism such as a tree with a tap-root, branch and canopy, and a well-defined beginning and an end. Instead, it behaves like the root-system of some species of grass or tuber, displaying multiple starts and beginnings which intertwine and connect with each other, constantly producing new shoots as others die off in an unpredictable, asymmetrical pattern of growth and decay. If a political network has a rhizomes political structure it means that it forms a cellular, capillary network with ill-defined boundaries and no formal hierarchy or internal organizational structure to give it a unified intelligence. Thanks to its rhizomic structure the groupuscular right no longer emulates a singular living organism, as the slime-mould is so mysteriously capable of doing. Nor is it to be seen as made up of countless tiny, disconnected micro-organisms. Instead, following an internal dynamic which only the most advanced life sciences can model with any clarity, the minute bursts of spontaneous creativity which produce and maintain individual groupuscules constitute nodal points in a force-field or web of radical political energy which fuels the vitality and viability of the organism as a whole. These qualities duplicate the very features of the Internet for making it impossible to shut down or wipe out the information it contains simply by knocking out any one part of it, since there is no mission control to destroy. The groupuscularity of the contemporary extreme right makes it eminently able to survive and grow even if some of the individual organizations which constitute it are banned and their websites closed down.

From Slime Mould to Rhizome

 

Rhizomatic Topology and Global Politics. A Flirtatious Relationship.

 

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Deleuze and Guattari see concepts as rhizomes, biological entities endowed with unique properties. They see concepts as spatially representable, where the representation contains principles of connection and heterogeneity: any point of a rhizome must be connected to any other. Deleuze and Guattari list the possible benefits of spatial representation of concepts, including the ability to represent complex multiplicity, the potential to free a concept from foundationalism, and the ability to show both breadth and depth. In this view, geometric interpretations move away from the insidious understanding of the world in terms of dualisms, dichotomies, and lines, to understand conceptual relations in terms of space and shapes. The ontology of concepts is thus, in their view, appropriately geometric, a multiplicity defined not by its elements, nor by a center of unification and comprehension and instead measured by its dimensionality and its heterogeneity. The conceptual multiplicity, is already composed of heterogeneous terms in symbiosis, and is continually transforming itself such that it is possible to follow, and map, not only the relationships between ideas but how they change over time. In fact, the authors claim that there are further benefits to geometric interpretations of understanding concepts which are unavailable in other frames of reference. They outline the unique contribution of geometric models to the understanding of contingent structure:

Principle of cartography and decalcomania: a rhizome is not amenable to any structural or generative model. It is a stranger to any idea of genetic axis or deep structure. A genetic axis is like an objective pivotal unity upon which successive stages are organized; deep structure is more like a base sequence that can be broken down into immediate constituents, while the unity of the product passes into another, transformational and subjective, dimension. (Deleuze and Guattari)

The word that Deleuze and Guattari use for ‘multiplicities’ can also be translated to the topological term ‘manifold.’ If we thought about their multiplicities as manifolds, there are a virtually unlimited number of things one could come to know, in geometric terms, about (and with) our object of study, abstractly speaking. Among those unlimited things we could learn are properties of groups (homological, cohomological, and homeomorphic), complex directionality (maps, morphisms, isomorphisms, and orientability), dimensionality (codimensionality, structure, embeddedness), partiality (differentiation, commutativity, simultaneity), and shifting representation (factorization, ideal classes, reciprocity). Each of these functions allows for a different, creative, and potentially critical representation of global political concepts, events, groupings, and relationships. This is how concepts are to be looked at: as manifolds. With such a dimensional understanding of concept-formation, it is possible to deal with complex interactions of like entities, and interactions of unlike entities. Critical theorists have emphasized the importance of such complexity in representation a number of times, speaking about it in terms compatible with mathematical methods if not mathematically. For example, Foucault’s declaration that: practicing criticism is a matter of making facile gestures difficult both reflects and is reflected in many critical theorists projects of revealing the complexity in (apparently simple) concepts deployed both in global politics.  This leads to a shift in the concept of danger as well, where danger is not an objective condition but “an effect of interpretation”. Critical thinking about how-possible questions reveals a complexity to the concept of the state which is often overlooked in traditional analyses, sending a wave of added complexity through other concepts as well. This work seeking complexity serves one of the major underlying functions of critical theorizing: finding invisible injustices in (modernist, linear, structuralist) givens in the operation and analysis of global politics.

In a geometric sense, this complexity could be thought about as multidimensional mapping. In theoretical geometry, the process of mapping conceptual spaces is not primarily empirical, but for the purpose of representing and reading the relationships between information, including identification, similarity, differentiation, and distance. The reason for defining topological spaces in math, the essence of the definition, is that there is no absolute scale for describing the distance or relation between certain points, yet it makes sense to say that an (infinite) sequence of points approaches some other (but again, no way to describe how quickly or from what direction one might be approaching). This seemingly weak relationship, which is defined purely ‘locally’, i.e., in a small locale around each point, is often surprisingly powerful: using only the relationship of approaching parts, one can distinguish between, say, a balloon, a sheet of paper, a circle, and a dot.

To each delineated concept, one should distinguish and associate a topological space, in a (necessarily) non-explicit yet definite manner. Whenever one has a relationship between concepts (here we think of the primary relationship as being that of constitution, but not restrictively, we ‘specify’ a function (or inclusion, or relation) between the topological spaces associated to the concepts). In these terms, a conceptual space is in essence a multidimensional space in which the dimensions represent qualities or features of that which is being represented. Such an approach can be leveraged for thinking about conceptual components, dimensionality, and structure. In these terms, dimensions can be thought of as properties or qualities, each with their own (often-multidimensional) properties or qualities. A key goal of the modeling of conceptual space being representation means that a key (mathematical and theoretical) goal of concept space mapping is

associationism, where associations between different kinds of information elements carry the main burden of representation. (Conceptual_Spaces_as_a_Framework_for_Knowledge_Representation)

To this end,

objects in conceptual space are represented by points, in each domain, that characterize their dimensional values. A concept geometry for conceptual spaces

These dimensional values can be arranged in relation to each other, as Gardenfors explains that

distances represent degrees of similarity between objects represented in space and therefore conceptual spaces are “suitable for representing different kinds of similarity relation. Concept

These similarity relationships can be explored across ideas of a concept and across contexts, but also over time, since “with the aid of a topological structure, we can speak about continuity, e.g., a continuous change” a possibility which can be found only in treating concepts as topological structures and not in linguistic descriptions or set theoretic representations.

Excessive Subjective Transversalities. Thought of the Day 33.0

In other words, object and subject, in their mutual difference and reciprocal trajectories, emerge and re-emerge together, from transformation. The everything that has already happened is emergence, registered after its fact in a subject-object relation. Where there was classically and in modernity an external opposition between object and subject, there is now a double distinction internal to the transformation. 1) After-the-fact: subject-object is to emergence as stoppage is to process. 2) In-fact: “objective” and “subjective” are inseparable, as matter of transformation to manner of transformation… (Brian Massumi Deleuze Guattari and Philosophy of Expression)

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Massumi makes the case, after Simondon and Deleuze and Guattari, for a dynamic process of subjectivity in which subject and object are other but their relation is transformative to their terms. That relation is emergence. In Felix Guattari’s last book, Chaosmosis, he outlines the production of subjectivity as transversal. He states that subjectivity is

the ensemble of conditions which render possible the emergence of individual and/or collective instances as self-referential existential Territories, adjacent, or in a delimiting relation, to an alterity that is itself subjective.

This is the subject in excess (Simondon; Deleuze), overpowering the transcendental. The subject as constituted by all the forces that simultaneously impinge upon it; are in relation to it. Similarly, Simondon characterises this subjectivity as the transindividual, which refers to

a relation to others, which is not determined by a constituted subject position, but by pre-individuated potentials only experienced as affect (Adrian Mackenzie-Transductions_ bodies and machines at speed).

Equating this proposition to technologically enabled relations exerts a strong attraction on the experience of felt presence and interaction in distributed networks. Simondon’s principle of individuation, an ontogenetic process similar to Deleuze’s morphogenetic process, is committed to the guiding principle

of the conservation of being through becoming. This conservation is effected by means of the exchanges made between structure and process… (Simondon).

Or think of this as structure and organisation, which is autopoietic process; the virtual organisation of the affective interval. These leanings best situate ideas circulating through collectives and their multiple individuations. These approaches reflect one of Bergson’s lasting contributions to philosophical practice: his anti-dialectical methodology that debunks duality and the synthesised composite for a differentiated multiplicity that is also a unified (yet heterogeneous) continuity of duration. Multiplicities replace the transcendental concept of essences.

Dissipations – Bifurcations – Synchronicities. Thought of the Day 29.0

Deleuze’s thinking expounds on Bergson’s adaptation of multiplicities in step with the catastrophe theory, chaos theory, dissipative systems theory, and quantum theory of his era. For Bergson, hybrid scientific/philosophical methodologies were not viable. He advocated tandem explorations, the two “halves” of the Absolute “to which science and metaphysics correspond” as a way to conceive the relations of parallel domains. The distinctive creative processes of these disciplines remain irreconcilable differences-in-kind, commonly manifesting in lived experience. Bergson: Science is abstract, philosophy is concrete. Deleuze and Guattari: Science thinks the function, philosophy the concept. Bergson’s Intuition is a method of division. It differentiates tendencies, forces. Division bifurcates. Bifurcations are integral to contingency and difference in systems logic.

The branching of a solution into multiple solutions as a system is varied. This bifurcating principle is also known as contingency. Bifurcations mark a point or an event at which a system divides into two alternative behaviours. Each trajectory is possible. The line of flight actually followed is often indeterminate. This is the site of a contingency, were it a positionable “thing.” It is at once a unity, a dualism and a multiplicity:

Bifurcations are the manifestation of an intrinsic differentiation between parts of the system itself and the system and its environment. […] The temporal description of such systems involves both deterministic processes (between bifurcations) and probabilistic processes (in the choice of branches). There is also a historical dimension involved […] Once we have dissipative structures we can speak of self-organisation.

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Figure: In a dynamical system, a bifurcation is a period doubling, quadrupling, etc., that accompanies the onset of chaos. It represents the sudden appearance of a qualitatively different solution for a nonlinear system as some parameter is varied. The illustration above shows bifurcations (occurring at the location of the blue lines) of the logistic map as the parameter r is varied. Bifurcations come in four basic varieties: flip bifurcation, fold bifurcation, pitchfork bifurcation, and transcritical bifurcation. 

A bifurcation, according to Prigogine and Stengers, exhibits determinacy and choice. It pertains to critical points, to singular intensities and their division into multiplicities. The scientific term, bifurcation, can be substituted for differentiation when exploring processes of thought or as Massumi explains affect:

Affect and intensity […] is akin to what is called a critical point, or bifurcation point, or singular point, in chaos theory and the theory of dissipative structures. This is the turning point at which a physical system paradoxically embodies multiple and normally mutually exclusive potentials… 

The endless bifurcating division of progressive iterations, the making of multiplicities by continually differentiating binaries, by multiplying divisions of dualities – this is the ontological method of Bergson and Deleuze after him. Bifurcations diagram multiplicities, from monisms to dualisms, from differentiation to differenciation, creatively progressing. Manuel Delanda offers this account, which describes the additional technicality of control parameters, analogous to higher-level computer technologies that enable dynamic interaction. These protocols and variable control parameters are later discussed in detail in terms of media objects in the metaphorical state space of an in situ technology:

[…] for the purpose of defining an entity to replace essences, the aspect of state space that mattered was its singularities. One singularity (or set of singularities) may undergo a symmetry-breaking transition and be converted into another one. These transitions are called bifurcations and may be studied by adding to a particular state space one or more ‘control knobs’ (technically control parameters) which determine the strength of external shocks or perturbations to which the system being modeled may be subject.

Another useful example of bifurcation with respect to research in the neurological and cognitive sciences is Francesco Varela’s theory of the emergence of microidentities and microworlds. The ready-for-action neuronal clusters that produce microindentities, from moment to moment, are what he calls bifurcating “break- downs”. These critical events in which a path or microidentity is chosen are, by implication, creative:

Deleuzo-Foucauldian Ontological Overview From the Machine to the Archive. Thought of the Day 26.0

In his book on Foucault first published in 1986, Deleuze drew a diagram in the last chapter, Foldings, that depicts in overview the Outside as abstract machine, defined by the line of the outside (1), which separates the unformed interplay of forces and resistance from the strategies and strata that filter the affects of power relations to become “the world of knowledge”.

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The central Fold of subjectification, of ‘Life’ is “hollowed out” and ignored by the forces of the outside as they are realized in the strata fulfilling the obligation of the diagram to “come to fruition in the archive.” This is dual process of integration and differentiation. The residual dust of the affective relations produced by force upon force, integrate into the strata even as they differentiate to forms of realization – visible or articulable. The ‘empty’ fissure/fold attracts and repels these moving curvilinear strategies as they differentiate and ”hop over” it. Ostensibly, the Fold of subjectification effectuates change as both continuously topological, and as discontinuously catastrophic (as in leaping over). So, the process of crystallization from informal to formal paradoxically integrates as it differentiates. Deleuze’s somewhat paradoxical description follows:

The informal relations between forces differentiate from one another by creating heterogeneous curves which pass through the neighborhood of particular features (statements) and that of the scenes which distribute them into figures of light (visibilities). And at the same time the relations between forces became integrated, precisely in the formal relations between the two, from one side to the other of differentiation. This is because the relations between forces ignored the fissure within the strata, which begins only below them. They are apt to hollow out the fissure by being actualized in the strata, but also to hop over it in both senses of the term by becoming differentiated even as they become integrated. Gilles Deleuze, Sean Hand-Foucault

So this “pineal gland” figure of the Fold is the “center of the cyclone”, where life is lived “par excellence” as a “slow Being”.

As clarifying as Deleuze’s diagram is in summarizing the layered dimensionality of the Foucauldian/Deleuzian hybrid, some modifications will be drawn off to alternatively express the realizations of the play of informal forces as this diagram takes on the particular features of a Research Creation praxis. True to the originating wax tablet diagramma, the relations are drawn and redrawn, in recognition, after Bergson’s notion of recognition as the intensive point where memory meets action of the contemporary social field that situates it. The shifts from the 19C to 20C disciplinary diagram of Foucault’s focus modulates with the late 20C society of control diagram formulated by Deleuze. The shorthand for the force field relevant to the research creation diagram of practice-led arts research today is a transdisciplinary diagram, the gamespace of just-in-time capitalism, which necessarily elicits mutations in the Foucault/Deleuze model. Generating the power-resistance relations in this outside qua gamespace are, among others, the revitalized forces of the military-academic-entertainment complex that fuel economic models such as the Creative Industries that pervade the conditions of play in artistic research. McKenzie Wark concludes his book GAMER THEORY, with prescient comments on the black hole quality of a topology of the outside qua contemporary “gamespace” from Deleuze and Guattari (ATP) and Guy Debord. “Only by going further and further into gamespace might one come out the other side of it, to realize a topology beyond the limiting forms of the game. Deleuze and Guattari: “… one can never go far enough in the direction of [topology]: you haven’t seen anything yet — an irreversible process. And when we consider what there is of a profoundly artificial nature […] we cry out, ‘More perversion! More artifice!’ — to a point where the earth becomes so artificial that the movement of [topology] creates of necessity and by itself a new earth.”

Oncontology

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In conventional oncological terms, the process of metastasis is the wild overgrowth of cells to the detriment of the body, resulting in either growths that are benign or malignant. Apoptosis (PCD) is the process by which the cell receives a signal to stop production at a previously prescribed genetic point. The process is twofold: to retain proper cell function integral to the organism, and to remove potentially harmful or lethal elements in the cell which could endanger the organism as a whole. There are only two ways by which cells perish: either by some external agent (e.g. toxic chemicals, fire, removal) or by being induced to perish (i.e. apoptosis). Firstly, apoptosis is necessary in the organism; for instance, the uterine wall sheds during menstruation; the surplus “webbed” tissue between the fingers and toes on the fetus; the fusing of bone plates when the growth period is at an end; the resorption of the tadpole tail in the development of a frog; and so on. Secondly, apoptosis is necessary for the destruction of cells injurious to the organism such as virally infected cells, cells with corrupt DNA, or damaged or cancerous cells. Apoptosis occurs in two ways: removing or blocking all positive stimulus to the cell necessary for the cell’s continuance (one can envision that apoptosis is a kind of siege-craft, cutting all supply lines to the cellular castle), and the inducement of negative signals such as increased oxidation in the cell, aberrant absorption of proteins, the release of particular molecules that bind to the receptors of the cell’s surface which activate the apoptotic process.

Metastasis and apoptosis do not exhaust one another in some sort of dialectical exchange toward finality. They are not a coupling unit, but processes by which we may name desire or ontology. To assert that they cancel one another out in equilibrium is to “gorgonify” the “cacophysical” reality of Being. In the realm of biological science, there is a moment of equilibrium in the body: a certain quantity of cells will match the creation and destruction ratio to achieve a brief period of “plateau” called homeostasis, but this is hardly measurable or significant, since it may last a matter of seconds in the life of any body, the duration of this perhaps inconsequential or even impossible. This is an abstract idealization issued from the laboratories of biological science that may be able to measure such equal ratios in the simplest of organisms and assume that more complex bodies will also follow the same rule, or to simplify the results according to approximations of equilibrium. But our notion of bodies is much more extensive and intensive – we include more than just the life of an “organism”; we include everything that can be said has being. This includes books, plants, rocks, radios, and  even cities. Metastasis and apoptosis are derelict forces, two faces of desire. It is not a measure of zombifying ontology with a series of empty concepts. Immobility is effaced by perpetual be-comings, announced by the manifest process of unlimited production and unlimited expiration, both what Spinoza would call “potentia” and Nietzsche would call “will to power” as the constant mobilization of differences. Thought crudely apopticizes bodies, whereas bodies succumb to a biological apoptosis. Thought thinks it hypostasizes being, but the true process underlying being is metastasis. These processes strafe through being and it is our thought that attempts to transcendentally retrofit being through clumsy and ashen installations meant to prolong the tradition of thinking through as many ages and bodies as “humanly” possible. We know all too well the DeleuzoGuattarian de/re-territorializations, and how Pynchon’s Pirate could do as such to the cuisine attached to the banana. We know the real rhapsodic geometries (a rhapsoid?) that inhere within phylo- and ontogenetics. But, in the end, as it functions for Derrida in the domain of language-meaning to which we are all condemned to pursue like the ever-reticent horizon, the law of necessarily probable failure inheres in ontology as well, and what remains is to commit considerable study to the mechanics of this “failure”. Even the functions of symbiosis (not to be confused with equilibrium) where bacteria provides a benefit to the body does not endanger what we say here about metastasis since we are considering the metastasis-apoptosis phenomenon without demonstrating a prejudice in favour of the sustainable functions of the body, but rather isolating the principle of metastasis as descriptive of the troubling philosophical concept of becoming.

Oncontology

Negri’s Dismissive Approach to Re-engaging Growing Ideological Opposition to Capitalism. Note Quote.

The Pyramid of Capitalism

Negri’s politics are shaped by the defeat of the movement of the 1960s and 1970s. His borrowed economic theory was shaped by the triumphalism following the restructuring of US capitalism in the 1980s and the collapse of the Stalinist regimes. Having created a Marxism gutted of its central emphasis on the working class, he filled this empty shell with the poststructuralist philosophy developed by a generation of disappointed post-1968 French intellectuals.

Atilio Boron argues that Hardt and Negri’s increasing reliance on poststructuralist philosophers flows from a shared backdrop of trying to come to terms with working class defeat and capitalist hubris. Faced with a system that appears, for the time being, unbeatable:…a series of theoretical and practical consequences emerge that…are neatly reflected in the postmodern agenda. On the one hand, an almost obsessive interest in the examination of the social forms that grow in the margins or in the interstices of the system; on the other hand, the search for those social forces that at least for now could commit some sort of transgression against the system, or could promote some type of limited and ephemeral subversion against it.

This concern with subversion and transgression is indeed characteristic of many of the autonomist movements with which Negri is associated. But for Negri, with the rise of post-industrial production and the multitude, the potential for postmodern subversion has spread across the whole social terrain, and across the globe. One might expect Hardt and Negri to explain what such a confrontation would look like. However, what we instead get is a retreat into philosophy and descriptions of the multitude that the authors themselves admit are merely ‘poetic’.

Hardt and Negri also borrow from the poststructuralists, especially Deleuze and Guattari, an eclectic form of expression known as ‘assemblage’.

Timothy Brennan writes in his Italian Ideology:

It expresses itself as a gathering of substantively incompatible positions. In Empire’s assemblage, the juxtaposition of figures whose political views are mutually hostile to one another…is presented as the supersession of earlier divisions in pursuit of a more supple and inclusive combination.

So, in Empire, philosophers such as Michel Foucault or Baruch Spinoza and revolutionaries such as Rosa Luxemburg rub shoulders with Bill Gates, former US labour secretary Robert Reich and St Francis of Assissi. This form of expression evolved as a rejection of attempts at a ‘grand narrative’ such as Marxism that could hope to explain and help transform the world, or of an agency such as the working class that could carry through such a transformation. For Hardt and Negri this method mirrors the multitude that they describe—a series of heterogeneous, isolated subjects, coming together to fleetingly act in common. Indeed they have gone so far as to say that the struggles of the multitude have become ‘incommunicable’ and lack a ‘common enemy’.

Their assertion would be contested by most of those who have attended the great international gatherings and protests of the anti-capitalist movement since Seattle. Here opposition to neo-liberalism and war have become common themes. The world working class may have been traumatised by the impact of neo-liberalism and the defeat of the movements of the 1960s and 1970s. But, rather than celebrating the much-exaggerated demise of the working class, the challenge today is to re-engage the growing ideological opposition to capitalism with the potential power that workers still hold. Negri is dismissive of such a project, but offersanothing substantial in its place.

His faux pas—over neo-liberalism, the EU constitution and the war in Iraq—stem from his failure to come to terms with either the defeats of the past or the nature of contemporary capitalism. Almost every assertion in his recent writings vanishes into thin air once subjected to even a cursory empirical examination. As for strategy, Multitude ends:

We can already recognise that today time is split between a present that is already dead and a future that is already living – and that yawning abyss between them is becoming enormous. In time, an event will thrust us like an arrow into that living future. This will be the real political act of love.

With an upsurge of the Techno-Commercial Right in the world, multinationals and Commodity Trading firms and HFTs and states wreaking havoc, and global warming (believe it or not!) threatening our very survival as a species, waiting for an act of political love to save us sounds like bad advice.

Manifold(s) of Deleuzean/De Landian Intensity(ies): The Liquid Flowing Chaos of Complexity

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The potential for emergence is pregnant with that which emerges from it, even if as pure potential, lest emergence would be just a gobbledygook of abstraction and obscurity. Some aspects of emergence harness more potential or even more intensity in emergence. What would intensity mean here? Emergence in its most abstract form is described by differentiation, which is the perseverance of differing by extending itself into the world. Thus intensity or potentiality would be proportional to intensity/quality, and degree/quantity of differentiation. The obvious question is the origin of this differentiation. This comes through what has already been actualized, thus putting forth a twist. The twist is in potential being not just abstract, but also relative. Abstract, because potential can come to mean anything other than what it has a potential for, and relative, since, it is dependent upon intertwining within which it can unfold. So, even if intensity for the potential of emergence is proportional to differentiation, an added dimension of meta-differentiation is introduced that not only deals with the intensity of the potential emergence it actualizes, but also in turn the potential, which, its actualization gives rise to. This complexification of emergence is termed complexity.

Complexity is that by which emergence intertwines itself with intensity, thus laden with potentiality itself. This, in a way, could mean that complexity is a sort of meta-emergence, in that, it contains potential for the emergence of greater intensity of emergence. This implies that complexity and emergence require each other’s presence to co-exist and co-evolve. If emergence is, by which, complexity manifests itself in actuality in the world, then complexity is, by which, emergence surfaces as potential through intertwining. Where would Deleuze and Guattari fit in here? This is crucial, since complexity for the said thinkers is different from the way it has been analyzed above. And let us note where the difference rests. To have to better cope with the ideas of Deleuze and Guattari, it is mandated to invite Manuel De Landa with his intense reading of the thinkers in question. The point is proved in these words of John Protevi,

According to Manuel DeLanda, in the late 60s, Gilles Deleuze began to formulate some of the philosophical significance of what is now sometimes referred to as “chaos/complexity theory,” the study of “open” matter/energy systems which move from simple to complex patterning and from complex to simple patterning. Though not a term used by contemporary scientists in everyday work (“non-linear dynamics” is preferred), it can be a useful term for a collection of studies of phenomena whose complexity is such that Laplacean determinism no longer holds beyond a limited time and space scale. Thus the formula of chaos/complexity might be “short-term predictability, long-term unpredictability.

Here, potentiality is seen as creative for philosophy within materialism. An expansion on the notion of unity through assemblages of multiple singularities is on the cards, that facilitate the dislodging of anthropocentric view points, since such views are at best limited, with over-insistence on the rationale of world as a stable and solid structure. The solidity of structures is to be rethought in terms that open vistas for potential creation. The only way out to accomplish this is in terms of liquid structures that are always vulnerable to chaos and disorder considered a sine qua non for this creative potential to emerge. In this liquidity, De Landa witnesses the power to self-organize and further, the ability to form an ethics of sorts, one untouched by human static control, and which allows an existence at the edge of creative, flowing chaos. Such a position is tangible in history as a confluence of infinite variations, a rationale that doesn’t exist when processes are dynamic, thus wanting history to be rooted in materialism of a revived form. Such a history is one of flowing articulations not determined by linear and static constructions, but by infinite bifurcations, of the liquid unfolding, thus exposing a collective identity from a myriad of points and perspectives. This is complexity for Deleuze and Guattari, which enables a re-look at material systems through their powers of immanent autopoiesis or self-organization.

Sadie Plant: Note Quote

Truly a provocation:
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Sadie Plant from “Coming Across the Future
“Humanity tends towards the organized body, the body with organ, the male member. the modern human is dressed in blue, as far from the red-blooded feminine as it is possible to be, gendered and sexed in a world still solidified in the mold of brotherhood and patrilineal inheritance. the female body is already diseased, on the way to the limits of life, while the phallus functions as the badge of membership, or belonging – to one’s self, society, species.”
Such a thesis no doubt leaves out any sort of dismemberment, and harks back to the patrilineality, even if for Deleuze and Guattari, this phallic power is nothing more than an imaginary point, forceful enough to take under its dictates the constitution of arborescence.

Connectionism versus Representational Theory of Mind

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Although there are some promises shown by the representational theory of mind (functionalism) with its insistence of rationalistic tendencies, there are objections that aim to derail this theory. Since the language of thought (representational theory of mind) believes in the existence of folk psychology, opponents of folk psychology dismiss this approach. As was discussed in the first chapter, folk psychology is not a very successful guide to explain the workings of the mind. Since representational theory explains how mental states are responsible for causing behaviors, it believes in folk psychology, and therefore the most acrimonious criticisms for this approach come from the eliminative materialist camp. For the eliminative materialist, there is a one to one mapping between psychological states and neurophysiological states in the brain thus expositing the idea that mental behavior is better explained as compared to when neurophysiology attempts to do the same, since the vistas for doing so are quantifiably and qualifiably more. Behaviorism with its insistence on the absence of linkages between mental states and effects of behavior would be another objection. Importantly, even Searle refuses to be a part of representational theory, with his biological naturalism (as discussed in the second chapter) which is majorly non-representational and investing faith in the causal efficacy of mental states. Another objection is the homunculi regression, according to which there is an infinite regression of explanation about how sentences get their meanings. For Searle, even if this is true, it is only partly true, since it is only at the bottom-level homunculi where manipulation of symbols take place, after which there is aporetic situation. Daniel Dennett on the other hand talks about a “no-need-for-interpretation” at this bottom level, since at this level simplicity crops up. Searle is a monist, but divides intentional states into low-level brain activity and high-level mental activity. So it is these lower-level, nonrepresentational neurophysiological processes that have causal powers in intention and behavior, rather than some higher-level mental representation. Yet another form of challenge comes from within the camp of representational theory of mind itself, which is suggestive of scientific-cognitive research as showing the amount of intelligent action as generated by complex interactions involving neural, bodily and environmental factors. This threat to representational theory(1) is prosaically worded by Wheeler and Clark , when they say,

These are hard times for the notion of internal representation. Increasingly, theorists are questioning the explanatory value of the appeal to internal representation in the search for a scientific understanding of the mind and of intelligent action. What is in dispute is not, of course, the status of certain intelligent agents as representers of their worlds…What is in doubt is not our status as representers, but the presence within us of identifiable and scientifically well-individuated vehicles of representational content. Recent work in neuroscience(2), robotics, philosophy, and development psychology suggests, by way of contrast, that a great deal of (what we intuitively regard as) intelligent action maybe grounded not in the regimented activity of inner content-bearing vehicles, but in complex interactions involving neural, bodily, and environmental factors and forces.

There is a growing sense of skepticism against representational theory, and from within the camp as well, though not all that hostile as the above quote specified. Speculations are rife that this may be due to embracing the continental tradition of phenomenology and Gibsonian psychology, which could partly indicate a move away from the strictures of rule-based approach. This critique from within the camp of internal representation would come in very handy in approaching connectionism and in prioritizing its utility, as a substitute to representation. What is of crucial importance here is the notion of continuous reciprocal causation, which involves multiple simultaneous interactions alongside complex dynamical feedback loops, thus facilitating a causal contribution of each component in the system as determining and determined by the causal contributions of large number of other components on the one hand, and the potentiality of these contributions to change in a radical manner temporally. When the complexity of the causal interactions shoots up, it automatically signals the difficulty level of representation’s explanatory prowess that simultaneously rises. But the real threat to the representational theory comes from connectionism, which despite in agreement with some of the premisses of representational theory, deviate greatly when it comes to creating machines that could be said to think. With neural networks and weights attached to them, a learning algorithm makes it possible to undergo modifications within the network over time. Although, Fodor defends his language of thought, or the representation theory in general against connectionism by claiming that the neural network is just a realization of the computational theory of mind that necessarily employs symbol manipulation. He does this through his use of cognitive architecture. Campers in connectionism however, deny connectionism as a mere implementation of representational theory, in addition to claiming that the laws of nature do not have systematicity as resting on representation, and most importantly deny the thesis of Fodor that essentially cognition is a function that uses representational input and output in favor of eliminative connectionism. Much of the current debate between the two camps revolves around connectionst’s denial of connectionism as a mere implementation of representational theory based on cognitive architecture, which is truism in the case of classicist model. The response from connectionist side is to build a representational system, that agrees with mental representations as constituting the direct objects of propositional attitudes and in possession of combinatorial syntax and semantics, with the domain of mental processes as causally sensitive to the syntactic/formal structure of representations as defined by these combinatorial syntax, thus relying upon a non-concatenative realization of syntactic/structural complexity of representations, in turn yielding a non-classical system.

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(1) As an aside, on the threat of representational theory, I see a lot of parallel here between the threat to internal representation and Object Oriented Ontology (L. Bryant flavor), where objects are treated as black boxes, and hence objects are withdrawn, implying that no one, including us would claim any direct access to the inner world, thereby shutting the inner world from any kind of representation. Although paradoxically sounding, it is because of withdrawal that knowledge of objects becomes thoroughly relational. When we know an object, we do not know it per se, but through a relation, thus knowledge shifts from the register of representation to that of performance, meeting its fellow travelers in Deleuze and Guattari, who defend a performative ontology of the world ala Andrew Pickering, by claiming that more than what a language represents, what a language does is interesting.

(2) Not a part of the quotation, but a brief on the recent work in neurons, which are prone to throwing up surprises. Neurons are getting complicated, but the basic functional concept is still synapses as transmitting electrical signals to the dendrites and the cell body (input), whereas the axons carry signals away (output). What is surprising is the finding by the scientists at the Northwestern University, that axons can act as input agents too. There is another way of saying this: axons talk with one another. Before sending signals in reverse, axons carry out their own neural computations without the aide from the cell body or dendrites. Now this is in contrast to a typical neuronal communication where an axon of one neuron is in contact with another neuron’s cell body or dendrite, and not its axon. The computations in axons are slower to a degree of 103 as compared with the computations in dendrites, potentially creating a means for neurons to compute fast things in dendrites, and slow ones in axons. Nelson Spruston, senior author of the paper (“Slow Integration Leads to Persistent Action Potential Firing in Distal Axons of Coupled Interneurons”) and professor of neurobiology and physiology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, says,

“We have discovered a number of things fundamental to how neurons work that are contrary to the information you find in neuroscience textbooks. Signals can travel from the end of the axon toward the cell body, when it typically is the other way around. We were amazed to see this.”

He and his colleagues first discovered individual nerve cells can fire off signals even in the absence of electrical stimulations in the cell body or dendrites. It’s not always stimulus in, immediate action potential out. (Action potentials are the fundamental electrical signaling elements used by neurons; they are very brief changes in the membrane voltage of the neuron). Similar to our working memory when we memorize a telephone number for later use, the nerve cell can store and integrate stimuli over a long period of time, from tens of seconds to minutes. (That’s a very long time for neurons). Then, when the neuron reaches a threshold, it fires off a long series of signals, or action potentials, even in the absence of stimuli. The researchers call this persistent firing, and it all seems to be happening in the axon. Spruston further says,

“The axons are talking to each other, but it’s a complete mystery as to how it works. The next big question is: how widespread is this behavior? Is this an oddity or does in happen in lots of neurons? We don’t think it’s rare, so it’s important for us to understand under what conditions it occurs and how this happens.”