May 2007


BOOK III, PROP. XL. He, who conceives himself to be hated by another, and believes that he has given him no cause for hatred, will hate that other in return.

Note.–He who thinks that he has given just cause for hatred will (III. xxx. and note) be affected with shame; but this case (III. xxv.) rarely happens. This reciprocation of hatred may also arise from the hatred, which follows an endeavour to injure the object of our hate (III. xxxix.). He therefore who conceives that he is hated by another will conceive his enemy as the cause of some evil or pain; thus he will be affected with pain or fear, accompanied by the idea of his enemy as cause; in other words, he will be affected with hatred towards his enemy, as I said above.

Corollary I.–He who conceives, that one whom he loves hates him, will be a prey to conflicting hatred and love. For, in so far as he conceives that he is an object of hatred, he is determined to hate his enemy in return. But, by the hypothesis, he nevertheless loves him: wherefore he will be a prey to conflicting hatred and love.

Corollary II.–If a man conceives that one, whom he has hitherto regarded without emotion, has done him any injury from motives of hatred, he will forthwith seek to repay the injury in kind.

Note.–The endeavour to injure one whom we hate is called Anger; the endeavour to repay in kind injury done to ourselves is called Revenge.

BOOK III, PROP. XXXIX. He who hates anyone will endeavour to do him an injury, unless he fears that a greater injury will thereby accrue to himself; on the other hand, he who loves anyone will, by the same law, seek to benefit him.

Note.–By good I here mean every kind of pleasure, and all that conduces thereto, especially that which satisfies our longings, whatsoever they may be. By evil, I mean every, kind of pain, especially that which frustrates our longings. For I have shown (III. ix. note) that we in no case desire a thing because we deem it good, but, contrariwise, we deem a thing good because we desire it: consequently we deem evil that which we shrink from; everyone, therefore, according to his particular emotions, judges or estimates what is good, what is bad, what is better, what is worse, lastly, what is best, and what is worst. Thus a miser thinks that abundance of money is the best, and want of money the worst; an ambitious man desires nothing so much as glory, and fears nothing so much as shame. To an envious man nothing is more delightful than another’s misfortune, and nothing more painful than another’s success. So every man, according to his emotions, judges a thing to be good or bad, useful or useless. The emotion, which induces a man to turn from that which he wishes, or to wish for that which he turns from, is called timidity, which may accordingly be defined as the fear whereby a man is induced to avoid an evil which he regards as future by encountering a lesser evil (III. xxviii.). But if the evil which he fears be shame, timidity becomes bashfulness. Lastly, if the desire to avoid a future evil be checked by the fear of another evil, so that the man knows not which to choose, fear becomes consternation, especially if both the evils feared be very great.

This review has been floating about for a while but some might not have read it. I confess that the configuration of Whitehead, Latour (to whom Melanie introduced me), Stengers and Deleuze in one article is almost too much for me to bear. If you were to add Badiou, Zizek, and Lacan I would have a breakdown borne of pure jouissance. At some point it looks like I’ll have to read this book. Reading Badiou in French is one thing, but I confess that I’m a bit intimidated by Stenger’s prose. Does anyone know if there’s a translation in the works?

UPDATE: Keith Tilford has drawn my attention to a paper by Stengers on Whitehead here. There are a number of other interesting papers at this site as well.

BOOK III, PROP. XXXVIII. If a man has begun to hate an object of his love, so that love is thoroughly destroyed, he will, causes being equal, regard it with more hatred than if he had never loved it, and his hatred will be in proportion to the strength of his former love.

In Process and Reality Whitehead writes:

…we always have to consider two meanings of potentiality: (a) the ‘general’ potentiality, which is the bundle of possibilities, mutually consistent or alternative, provided by the multiplicity of eternal objects, and (b) the ‘real’ potentiality, which is conditioned by the data provided by the actual world. General potentiality is absolute, and real potentiality is relative to some actual entity, taken as a standpoint where the actual world is defined. It must be remembered that the phrase ‘actual world’ is like ‘yesterday’ and ‘tomorrow,’ in that it alters its meaning according to standpoint. The actual world must always mean the community of all actual entities… (65)

My thought process is murky today, so I just wanted to throw out a few points in response to this passage as placeholders for future thought. It seems to me that Whitehead’s distinction between general potentiality and actual potentiality is useful in articulating what Deleuze sort of ontological work Deleuze’s category of the virtual is trying to do. Suppose we take a canonical example of potentiality from the Aristotlean tradition: the acorn. It is said that the acorn has the potential to become an oak tree. However, this would be an example of general potentiality. When we think of the acorn in this way, we are thinking of the acorn abstractly, divorced from its environment or the way in which it is related to other entities. The question remains: will the acorn become an oak tree? We have no idea. We only know that the acorn has the potential to become an oak tree. I am still unclear as to what Whitehead has in mind by “eternal objects”, so hopefully I am not distorting his conception of general potentiality too much.

There are conditions under which the acorn has the potential to become an oak tree and conditions under which the acorn does not have the potential to become an oak tree. These conditions do not belong to the internal constitution of the acorn, but rather are defined by the relations the acorn entertains to its environment: soil conditions, mineral conditions, light conditions, heat conditions, water conditions, air conditions, etc. Whitehead would say that the acorn must “prehend these other actual entities so as to concress into an oak tree.” That is, it must integrate the world about it so as to creatively actualize itself as an oak tree. This process is creative in that it will be a novel event each time it takes place. As Leibniz famously observed, no two leaves are exactly alike. The reason for this is that each leave, each oak tree, integrates the “data” of its environment in its own unique way. In this connection, Whitehead is quick to emphasize that real potentiality is closely connected to place and time (he develops an elaborate and original account of space and time that I cannot develop at this moment):

Actual entities atomize the extensive continuum [the real potentials of the world]. This continuum is merely the potentiality for division; an actual entity effects this division. The objectification of the contemporary world merely expresses mutual perspectives which any such subdivision will bring into real effectiveness. These are the primary governing data for any actual entity; they express how all actual entities are in solidarity in one world. With the becoming of any actual entity what was previously potential in the space-time continuum is now the primary real phase in something actual. For each process of concrescence a regional standpoint in the world defining a limited potentiality for objectifications, has been adopted.

The acorn does not possess the potential to become an oak tree on the moon. Nor does the acorn have the potential to become an oak tree in the Sahara desert. If these conditions are not met, then the acorn is not actualized and no processes of individuation take place. These latter conditions thus constitute real potentiality. This, incidentally, would be the problem with political theories such as we find in figures like Rawls. They only speak of general potentiality and therefore give no account of whether or not such egalitarian ideals have the potential to be realized in really existing situations. As such, they remain entirely abstract. We can ask the question of why such theories became thinkable at such and such a time and what potentialities of their own they produce, but there can be no honest question of these theories dealing with concrete situations. Such are the philosophies of the armchair. These potentials always have their somewhere and their somewhen. These potentials are, moreover, limited depending on the conditions governing the situation. As such, they function as the sufficient reason for the actualized occasion, or the reason for the actuality’s being.

Real potentiality would thus consist of the real potentials population a situation at a given point in time. It is for this reason that Whitehead is quick to emphasize that the term “actual world” is an indexical like yesterday or tomorrow. It is an indexical in the sense that its content perpetually changes. Similarly, relations among actual entities are perpetually changing, thus leading to transformations in the real potential of situations. With the actualization of virtual potentials, new potentials are produced that are, in turn, opportunities for further actualizations. All of this comes very close to what I’m trying to get at when speaking of “constellations“. A constellation refers to the real conditions encountered within a situation, and is committed to the thesis that thought must proceed from these conditions rather than from universalizing abstractions that ignore the actual world.

It seems to me that all of this resonates very closely with Deleuze’s concept of the virtual and the concerns that motivate this ontological category. Discussing the virtual in Difference and Repetition, Deleuze writes,

We opposed the virtual and the real: although it could not have been more precise before now, this terminology must be corrected. The virtual is opposed not to the real but to the actual. The virtual is fully real in so far as it is virtual. Exactly what Proust said of states of resonance must be said of the virtual: ‘Real without being actual, ideal without being abstract’; and symbolic without being fictional. Indeed, the virtual must be defined as strictly a part of the real object– as though the object had one part of itself in the virtual into which it plunged as though into an objective dimension… The reality of the virtual consists of the differential elements along with singular points which correspond to them. The reality of the virtual is structure. We must avoid giving the elements and relations which form a structure an actuality which they do not have, and withdrawing from them a reality which they have. We have seen that a double process of reciprocal determination and complete determination defined that reality: far from being undetermined, the virtual is completely determined. When it is claimed that works of art are immersed in a virtuality, what is being invoked is not some confused determination but the completely determined structure formed by its genetic differential elements, its ‘virtual’ or ‘embryonic’ elements. (DR, 208-209)

Deleuze’s account of structure requires an extended commentary that I cannot provide at the moment, as it diverges markedly from “structuralist” conceptions of structure, allowing for dynamism, development, and evolution. What Deleuze is striving to think with the virtual is the concreteness of a situation and the differential relations that an entity entertains with its milieu in undergoing development. What, then, are these “genetic differential elements”, these “embryonic elements”, if not the real potentials that haunt a situation? The question then becomes one of how these real potentials might be awoken.

BOOK III, PROP. XXXVII. Desire arising through pain or pleasure, hatred or love, is greater in proportion as the emotion is greater.

BOOK III, PROP. XXXVI. He who remembers a thing, in which he has once taken delight, desires to possess it under the same circumstances as when he first took delight therein.

Corollary.–A lover will, therefore, feel pain if one of the aforesaid attendant circumstances be missing.

Note.–This pain, in so far as it has reference to the absence of the object of love, is called Regret.

One of the central claims of Whitehead’s thought is that “actual occasions” (his name for “entity”) are the ultimate reasons or grounds of all explanations. “…[A]ctual entities are the only reasons; so that to search for a reason is to search for one or more actual entities” (PR, 24). Alongside of Process and Reality I’ve been reading The Metaphysics of Experience: A Companion to Whitehead’s Process and Reality by Elizabeth Kraus. I recommend this study highly for anyone interested in Whitehead. If others have references to other secondaries I’d be interested in hearing about them as well. I believe some of these remarks are relevant to a discussion of holism and reductivism unfolding over at the Weblog, and especially Dominic Fox’s comments, with which I disagree as they are stated. At one point she gives an outstanding gloss on Whitehead’s conception of philosophy and what it means to give an account, so I’ll just post it here in full, with a few comments at the end, as I have nothing to add to it. I apologize for the lack of commentary on the passages that follow. Occasionally I come across something I find striking and really can do little more than point and grunt like the apes dancing about the obelisk in 2001.

In Modes of Thought Whitehead describes the task of philosophy as ‘the understanding of the interfusion of modes of existence’ (MT, 97). But what does it mean to understand? If the world is taken in its classical sense, any grasp of what Whitehead purports to do in PR and of the way in which he views his speculative scheme as an interpretation of reality is vitiated at the outset. In its Aristotlean meaning, to understand anything is to know it in its causes: to grasp principally its form and purpose. Knowledge, thus interpreted, is a moving away from the thing in its concrete singularity, which qua individual is unintelligible, toward a grasp of the universals which it embodies. To know an object is to be able to place it in its appropriate category, having delimited its genus and differentia. When based on this notion of understanding, philosophy is viwed as purely abstract, a priori, apodictic, and deductive science, whose certainty and purity are a function of its remotion from the concrete.

Whitehead totally repudiates this conception of the philosophical enterprise and the notion of understanding from which it springs. he is a Platonist with respect to knowledge, realizing that it is not theoretical understanding but rather the ability to rule well. If it entails a departure from the concrete, that departure is justified only in virtue of a subsequent return. Even the departure itself takes a different form from that evidenced in the traditional notion of abstract, in which the individuating notes of an object are left aside in the endeavor to seize its universal essentiality. For Whitehead, the movement of abstraction is indeed toward higher generalities, but in the move the individuality of the starting point is not analyzed away. In his view, a fact is understood when it can be placed in a wider systematic context which gives an account of its interconnections with other facts (my bold). The tecnique of analysis presumes that facts are isolated, self-contained units whose character can be revealed by the systematic dissection, and it thereby loses itself in barren abstractions. The true activity of understanding consists in a voyage to abstraction which is in fact a voyage to the more fully concrete: to the system in which the fact is enmeshed. The system as conceptualized may be more abstract than the fact itself in that it is more general, but the real systematic context is more concrete, and its elaboration yields more about the existential relations of the fact.

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About a year ago I was contacted by a well known men’s magazine such as GQ asking to interview me about my views on addiction. This deeply perplexed me as I haven’t published on addiction, nor have I worked heavily with addicts in my clinical practice. As it turns out, the journalist had contacted me because of this and dozens of other webpages similar to this that have proliferated throughout the net over the years.

Criticism

Levi Bryant has criticized the term and concept of addiction as counterproductive in psychotherapy as it defines a patient’s identity and makes it harder to become a non-addict. “The signifier ‘addict’ doesn’t simply describe what I am, but initiates a way of relating to myself that informs how I relate to others.”

A stronger form or criticism comes from Thomas Szasz, who denies that addiction is a psychiatric problem. In many of his works, he argues that addiction is a choice, and that a drug addict is one who simply prefers a socially taboo substance rather than, say, a low risk lifestyle. In ‘Our Right to Drugs’, Szasz cites the biography of Malcolm X to corroborate his economic views towards addiction: Malcolm claimed that quitting cigarettes was harder than shaking his heroin addiction. Szasz postulates that humans always have a choice, and it is foolish to call someone an ‘addict’ just because they prefer a drug induced euphoria to a more popular and socially welcome lifestyle.

A similar conclusion to that of Thomas Szasz may also be reached through very different reasoning. This is the somewhat extreme, yet tenable, view that humans do not have free will. From this perspective, being ‘addicted’ to a substance is no different from being ‘addicted’ to a job that you work everyday. Without the assumption of free will, every human action is the result of the naturally occurring reactions of particle matter in the physical brain, and so there is no longer room for the concept of ‘addiction’, since, in this view, choice is an illusion of the human experience.

How, you might ask, did I come to be ranked alongside the illustrious Thomas Szasz and to be credited with a cogent criticism of contemporary treatments of addiction? All of this came from this post on the Lacan list on yahoogroups back in 2003, coupled with my article The Absent Third and Social Sciences and Apres Coup. I referred the journalist to Rik Loose, who is a Lacanian analyst that’s actually worked with addicts and published on these matters. It’s a brave new world.

BOOK III, PROP. XXXV. If anyone conceives, that an object of his love joins itself to another with closer bonds of friendship than he himself has attained to, he will be affected with hatred towards the loved object and with envy towards his rival.

Note.–This hatred towards an object of love joined with envy is called Jealousy, which accordingly is nothing else but a wavering of the disposition arising from combined love and hatred, accompanied by the idea of some rival who is envied. Further, this hatred towards the object of love will be greater, in proportion to the pleasure which the jealous man had been wont to derive from the reciprocated love of the said object; and also in proportion to the feelings he had previously entertained towards his rival. If he had hated him, he will forthwith hate the object of his love, because he conceives it is pleasurably affected by one whom he himself hates: and also because he is compelled to associate the image of his loved one with the image of him whom he hates. This condition generally comes into play in the case of love for a woman: for he who thinks, that a woman whom he loves prostitutes herself to another, will feel pain, not only, because his own desire is restrained, but also because, being compelled to associate the image of her he loves with the parts of shame and the excreta of another, he therefore shrinks from her.

We must add, that a jealous man is not greeted by his beloved with the same joyful countenance as before, and this also gives him pain as a lover, as I will now show.

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