We spent some time last meeting talking about Goffey’s position where he divided modern and contemporary cultural theory between a kind of ‘alienation for experience’ (everyone from Agamben to benjamin) vs experience as the precondition for an emergent subject (Whitehead) and therefore impossible to be alientated from…
I have been reading an issue of SubStance from 2007 (Issue 112 (Volume 36, Number 1, 2007Special Issue: Italian Post-Workerist Thought) and especially a great article by Bifo on technology and indeterminacy originally written in 1998. He draws attention to work by both Virno and Baudrillard that also goes against this notion of contemporary technological and work experience as ‘alienating’ because it is precisely the function of post=Fordist capital to incorporate ‘work’ into the circuit of tecnology, communication, life etc. And this is does via networks and circuits…I think this gives us some potential insights for how we might deploy Whitehead’s ‘experience’ likewise in terms of circuits – prehensions o fprehensions – and hence its potential relevance to contemporary experience. Just a rather unformed thought!
The title of one outstanding philosophic treatise in the English language, belonging to the generation now passing [in 1938] is ‘Space, Time, and Deity’. By this phrase, Samuel Alexander places before us the problem which haunts the serious thought of mankind. ‘Time’ refers to the transitions of process, ‘Space’ refers to the static necessity of each form of interwoven existence, and ‘Deity’ expresses the lure of the ideal which is the potentiality beyond immediate fact.
I’ve been clicking around to find more about Samuel Alexander, the process philosopher and metaphysician who was a contemporary of Whitehead. Internet Archive (where the search function is unresponsive at the moment) seems to have almost all of his texts for download, including Space, Time and Deity and Spinoza and Time. According to Wikipedia, he was born in 1859 at 436 George St, Sydney (as far as I can work out this is the corner of Market and George Streets where the Meyer department store is now).
There is an interesting piece by Dorothy Emmet about his relation with and influence on Whitehead here. The piece turns around this claim by Alexander:
But though Whitehead disregards Leibniz and proclaims his affinity to Spinoza, he is, as you say, much more of a Leibnizian. And I believe I am much more of a Spinozist. And so there is a side to me which has to be either lost by obstinacy or saved by surrender to Whitehead (or of course the other way about).
I’m a novice when it comes to Leibniz and Whitehead, but I did notice that both the Goffey and Portanova essays quote a passage from Deleuze where he is pains to distinguish the two thinkers: Leibniz’s monad is closed while for Whitehead prehension is an opening. Portanova goes on to write ‘the multiple, pluralistic nature of the occasion as being itself composed of many prehensions and, on its turn, as converging into a collaborative nexus of prehensions, is what allows the creative emergence of the new’‘.
Interestingly, the ‘emergence of the new’ seems one of the main cleavages between Whitehead and Alexander. The difference seems to revolve about the ‘eternal object’. The Emmet essay explains in this way:
For the later Whitehead, the physical pole is an actual entity’s “prehension” of other actual entities in its world, one is tempted to say, its response to stimuli from them, except that in Whitehead’s “prehensions,” the initiative is on the part of the prehending actual entity, which takes account of, rather than reacts to, others in its world … The mental or conceptual pole for Whitehead is the prehension of an eternal object — that is to say, some new possibility which is in some sense already presented in a schematic form. The notion of “eternal objects” has no analogue in Alexander; Alexander’s inner aspect is a matter of the actual temporal aspect of something as going on into a further phase. It is essentially an immanent nisus, not an apprehension of an eternal object beyond itself.
There is perhaps an echo of James’s ‘continuous experience’ is this going on into a further phase that has no eternal object. In any case, Emmet then goes on to quote a letter from R.G. Collingwood that lauds Alexander and describes Whitehead’s world as being ‘all in process’ but without ‘evolution and history’. The implication is that Whitehead must introduce the ‘eternal object’ to vouchsafe any claim for the emergence of the new, creative attainment, etc.
I guess it would be easy to see any need to build the new up on the old as implying some sort of teleology (although the paradoxes of such a position are abundant in Nietzsche’s essay on abuses of history). I do wonder though about history in Whitehead and the role of the eternal object with respect to creative emergence. Emmet quotes a 1930 essay by Everett Hall called ‘Of What Use are Whitehead’s Eternal Objects?’ (hall-whiteheads-eternal-objects) which argues that eternal objects are aspects of occasions and have no real status of their own. Hall tries to get a Whitehead without God.
Anyway, ramblings …
I guess I’m wondering if Alexander’s Spinozan God might be read in Negri’s way as immanent and atheist. There would be a whole series of other questions here, such as the mutiplicity Negri squeezes out of Spinoza as opposed to that Deleuze squeezes from Leibniz. Things that Nick Thoburn has written about.
Or pehaps it’s just something about George Street?
Just a follow-up really to the discussion we had at the end of the last meeting we had when we were discussing the Lapoujade article. We were talking about the idea he puts forward on James being a kind of philosopher/commentor on capitalism – not from the pov of the entrepreneur but form the pov of the hobo/nomad/itinerant worker. I remember Brett commenting that he wasn’t convinced and that I was trying to suggest that this relates to the Deleuze and Guattari articulation of providing both a ‘description’ of capitalism and a kind of line of flight away from it (ie its other potentialities). I found the Lapoujade reading of James interesting because he seems to pick this up in James’ conception of networks – both of a coming ‘network society’ as a form of late capitalist organisation (the interconnectivity of entrepreneurs, the network as a form of social and corporate organisation etc) and of the ways in which James’ “mosaicism’ (I made that up) might also speak to another kind of network – a subnetwork - whose labour-movement sustains capitalism’s more privileged networks.
We then got into the discussion about the problems on deterritorialisation-reterritorialisation and the ongoing problems of infusing ‘hopeful’ scenarios into deterritorialisation. This made me go back to A Thousand Plateaus as I think this infusion is actually always present in other people’s readings rather than in D&G themselves. I don’t think there’s a straight mapping of deterritorialisation as ‘good’ in them – especially when one considers that deterritorialisation is performed by ‘abstract machines’ but, equally, abstract machines can be overcodings/reterritorialisations such as, for example, faciality, capitalism, militarisation. Abstract machines have no content – they are diagrammatic (p. 141 of the Athlone Press edition). But later they talk about the tendency of an abstract machine to stratify as well (144).
I am thinking that these complications may help to open up some more discussion about the issues of the terminus and Whitehead’s ‘creative attainment’ that is mentioned by Goffey via these questions of diagrammatic tendency. Maybe we need to read some stuff on the diagrammatic…
This group is rather niftily names AAAARG! A short post on theory/practice is kind of interesting for us, especially the Zizek talks about the need for theory, precisely because we don’t really know what’s going on. AAAARG seems to capture the zeitgeist, don’t you think?
This has come up the last couple of meetings. So here are some links for those interested.
Basic Definitions of Apperception from, weirdly enough, a medical dictionary (I say weirdly because it gives a good, short definition from Kant).
This, from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, is also pretty good. It tells us that the most relevant section on transcendental apperception is “blindingly difficult”, which is why we’re better reading this than Kant (with apologies to strict philosophers!).
This is very useful lecture by G. J. Mattey.
On “=x”, perhaps this might help a bit, or this is also helpful, from which I quote “This threefold synthesis introduces a “unity of rule” to representational content. The already-mentioned rules are provided by the pure forms of intuition and the pure concepts of the understanding. The concept of this unity of rule can be expressed by the “transcendental object = X,” where ‘X’ is a general object, or the kind of object our cognitive faculties are capable of representing as an object of experience. Essentially, all it means to be a transcendental object is to be the grounds for the possibility of objects in general. Thus, to be an object of experience that thing must accord with the grounds set by the transcendental object.”.
So that solves that problem …
(to be clear, I’m not yet proposing these as definite readings … just posting out of interest, because everyone has so much time to read .. )
Lone found what I think is this great article by David Lapoujade on William James, Deleuze (Kant and everyone else) and experience, which you could almost say links up with Karatani, especially, towards the end, with the associationism (let’s just say new political forms/in this case precisely not forms … ). I’ll probably set it for the readings for next time, but if not, here it is anyway. Makes me realise once again how much comes out of William James.
If you read it, it is a perhaps a little confusing for the first few pages … I needed to read them twice. However, it all makes sense in the end.
Here, finally, is Adrian Mackenzie’s rather excellent article on wifi, networks and radical empiricism, from the amazingly wonderful Fibreculture Journal .
We promised we would blog an entry re our meeting last Friday. We read a section or three of Kojin Karatani’s Transcritique. And we read a wee bit of Marx and Kant’s strange “Dreams of Visionary”. It’s probably true to say that we didn’t get very far but that, somewhat paradoxically, it was all very worthwhile. We did stick pretty close to the texts, although there was a bit of a breakout when we wondered about the possibilities of associationism as a form of collaboration. We talked quite a bit about the LETS example, which Brett wondered about (in terms of whether it really worked or not in any interesting way). At first we were wondering about “experience” in this context, and once again we were trying to get to the bottom of Kant, especially the “transcendent apperception x” as discussed by Karatani. We probably thought there was a value in transcritique itself, in its combination of the transcendental method and transversality. We discussed credit as a religious structure, especially in its posing of the trans temporally …the question of experience was either in between all this, as “trans” or perhaps both in a “parallax”.
At the end we decided to read William James and related next time. At the end my main concern, personally, was about the interesting possibilities of associationism in a contemporary context. Karatani tried to form his own movement along these lines around 2000 but I’m not sure it worked terribly well. Nice try though!
Incidentally, Zizek’s recent book The Parallax View seems to come out of Karatani’s work, which Zizek likes and promotes. And this book is Zizek’s best for ages.
Here’s an interesting recent article I turned up … relevant to experience. Although I have to confess I’ve only skimmed, I’m naively impressed by anything that follows that great eighties convention of having the notes longer than the actual piece.
Anyway, perhaps it can spark some conversation here.
Still trying to gather readings for next meeting … I’ve had to go to document delivery since the Kant I was trying to turn up is not easy to find.
We had some discussion about Guattari’s diagrams in the last meeting and Brett mentioned a piece Charles Stivale had written about this…which was? I do know of this interview Stivale did with Guattari, which I think is really good for unfolding some of the complexities that come up in Chaosmosis. In particular, there’s a section on ‘speculative cartography’ where he talks about what he is trying to do with diagrams. Interestingly enough, Stivale translates ‘incorporeal’ as ‘a-corporeal’…I’m not sure if I would agree with that translation as it seems to relegate the incorporeal to something outside of or beyond the sensate and I think it is diagramatically connected to the sensate. It’s that element of experience that is in experience reaching beyond its immediacy to something molar, collective and virtual/potential…the potential of experience to become more than it is, more than ‘given’…