Suspicion on Consciousness as an Immanent Derivative

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The category of the subject (like that of the object) has no place in an immanent world. There can be no transcendent, subjective essence. What, then, is the ontological status of a body and its attendant instance of consciousness? In what would it exist? Sanford Kwinter (conjuncted here) here offers:

It would exist precisely in the ever-shifting pattern of mixtures or composites: both internal ones – the body as a site marked and traversed by forces that converge upon it in continuous variation; and external ones – the capacity of any individuated substance to combine and recombine with other bodies or elements (ensembles), both influencing their actions and undergoing influence by them. The ‘subject’ … is but a synthetic unit falling at the midpoint or interface of two more fundamental systems of articulation: the first composed of the fluctuating microscopic relations and mixtures of which the subject is made up, the second of the macro-blocs of relations or ensembles into which it enters. The image produced at the interface of these two systems – that which replaces, yet is too often mistaken for, subjective essence – may in turn have its own individuality characterized with a certain rigor. For each mixture at this level introduces into the bloc a certain number of defining capacities that determine both what the ‘subject’ is capable of bringing to pass outside of itself and what it is capable of receiving (undergoing) in terms of effects.

This description is sufficient to explain the immanent nature of the subjective bloc as something entirely embedded in and conditioned by its surroundings. What it does not offer – and what is not offered in any detail in the entirety of the work – is an in-depth account of what, exactly, these “defining capacities” are. To be sure, it would be unfair to demand a complete description of these capacities. Kwinter himself has elsewhere referred to the states of the nervous system as “magically complex”. Regardless of the specificity with which these capacities can presently be defined, we must nonetheless agree that it is at this interface, as he calls it, at this location where so many systems are densely overlaid, that consciousness is produced. We may be convinced that this consciousness, this apparent internal space of thought, is derived entirely from immanent conditions and can only be granted the ontological status of an effect, but this effect still manages to produce certain difficulties when attempting to define modes of behavior appropriate to an immanent world.

There is a palpable suspicion of the role of consciousness throughout Kwinter’s work, at least insofar as it is equated with some kind of internal, subjective space. (In one text he optimistically awaits the day when this space will “be left utterly in shreds.”) The basis of this suspicion is multiple and obvious. Among the capacities of consciousness is the ability to attribute to itself the (false) image of a stable and transcendent essence. The workings of consciousness are precisely what allow the subjective bloc to orient itself in a sequence of time, separating itself from an absolute experience of the moment. It is within consciousness that limiting and arbitrary moral categories seem to most stubbornly lodge themselves. (To be sure this is the location of all critical thought.) And, above all, consciousness may serve as the repository for conditioned behaviors which believe themselves to be free of external determination. Consciousness, in short, contains within itself an enormous number of limiting factors which would retard the production of novelty. Insofar as it appears to possess the capacity for self-determination, this capacity would seem most productively applied by turning on itself – that is, precisely by making the choice not to make conscious decisions and instead to permit oneself to be seized by extra-subjective forces.

Deleuzian Speculative Philosophy. Thought of the Day 44.0

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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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