July 2006


I presented this paper at the recent North Texas Philosophical Association Conference, where it didn’t receive much response. Here in Texas I’m mostly surrounded by phenomenologists, hermeneuticians, and Anglo-American philosophers, so I saw this as a bit of an intervention. It’s always difficult to introduce a new philosopher to an audience who is unfamiliar with their work (they actually asked me to present on Deleuze), so I did my best. Sadly, between me and my colleague (who presented a far more brilliant paper on Badiou and Marion, he vexes me that way), we ran out of any time for discussion. The essay is long, but any comments and criticisms would be appreciated. In a nutshell, I was making an earnest plea to see truth as an activity, rather than something to be represented in an already existing situation. I was especially arguing against the discursive constructivists who so populate our academies today. Hopefully readers won’t object to the length and will find it useful, helpful, or illuminating.

Hermeneutics and Subtraction: Badiou’s Anti-Constructivist Theory
of the Event

Truth punches a hole in knowledge.
~Jacques Lacan

It is no exaggeration to claim that constructivism is the reigning philosophical consensus in our time. Whether we are speaking of Anglo-American ordinary language philosophy, hermeneutic phenomenology, structuralism, variants of postmodernism, pragmatism, communicative social theory, or sociological systems theory, all major philosophical schools of thought are united in advocating some variant of the linguistic turn. While there are indeed important differences among these divergent paths of thought, all of these positions share the thesis that language functions as a transcendental authority for what constitutes legal and illegal expressions within a particular regime of discourse. A number of important consequences follow from the constructivist orientation of thought regardless of its particular flavor. First, because thought is subordinated to language or history as the transcendental court before which it must make its appeal, it becomes impossible to explain how radical change or historical discontinuity is possible a priori insofar as discontinuity would require the introduction of something new which could not be recognized within the constraints of language. The truly new is necessarily indiscernible to the linguistic condition. Constructivists, of course, recognize that language games change and develop over time, but these changes are rendered possible by the internal organization of the regime of language in question, by drift, not by fundamental ruptures or breaks. Heidegger, for instance, understands the history of philosophy as the unfolding of a series of possibilities that are already present as possible in its origins, and not as a series of ruptures irreducible to what came before. It is perhaps this that leads him to claim that only a god can save us, as our embeddedness within a particular hermeneutic horizon renders the introduction of a truly new possibility unthinkable. Second, the constructivist orientation of thought renders it impossible to see how a universal would be possible for the simple reason that there are a plurality of different linguistic horizons and language games without any transcendental term providing the means to decide among these different regimes of language. This pluralism is reflected, in turn, in the multiculturalist ethic of tolerating differences and communicative rationality, which obviously finds itself enmeshed in aporia insofar as tolerance is unable to tolerate that difference that doesn’t tolerate difference. That is to say, it begins from the premise that only certain differences are to be tolerated. In what follows, I would like to show how Badiou’s account of the event and the truth-procedures that follows from the event provides a viable means for understanding both how something genuinely new can be introduced into a situation and how a universal, not subordinated to a hidden particularity, is possible. As I hope to show, what Badiou refers to as a “truth-procedure” opens the possibility of subtracting a term from a linguistic situation such that the differences organizing a linguistic situation become in-different. Here the universal is to be understood not as something that is already there in the situation, but as the result of an active intervention. That is, the mistake of the constructivist is to search for the universal in what is already present within the field of discourse, rather than seeing the universal as the result of a unique operation.

Before proceeding to discuss Badiou’s account of the event and truth-procedures, it’s necessary to say a bit more as to just how he understands constructivism. While there are indeed many different constructivist orientations of thought, according to Badiou the structure common to all constructivists orientations of thought lies in maintaining and demonstrating that “…through the medium of language… inclusion stays as close as possible to belonging” (EE, 288). Initially this point is obscure and unrecognizable, yet what Badiou is getting at becomes clear once we understand the set-theoretical concepts of membership and inclusion. Indeed, it would be no exaggeration to say that the distinction between membership and inclusion is absolutely crucial for all of Badiou’s thought. In set theory, an element is said to belong to a set when it enters into the composition of that set. Thus, to take a perfectly banal example, if we have a set composed of a hat, a cup of coffee, and the moon, each of these elements belongs to the set. By contrast, the concept of inclusion refers to the subsets or parts that compose a set. Returning to the banal example of the set composed of a hat, cup of coffee, and the moon, this set includes as subsets all possible combinations of the elements of the initial set (23) or subsets composed of {{hat}, {coffee}, {moon}, {hat, coffee}, {hat, moon}, {moon, coffee}, {hat, moon, coffee}, and {0}}.

Initially the difference between membership and inclusion seems remote from the concerns of the constructivist; however, a bit of reflection indicates just how useful this distinction is for characterizing the problem motivating various constructivist orientations and how the different constructivist orientations approach this problem differently. What the difference between membership and parts (inclusion) allows us to see is that the parts of a set always outnumber the elements of a set. That is, the parts of a set are always greater than the original set itself or are 2nth, where the n = the number of elements belonging to the initial set from which the parts are drawn by the power-set axiom or the axiom of subsets. What we have here is the most schematic possible representation of the problem of interpretation. Given that the subsets of any set are greater than the set itself, or that the possibilities of interpretation are always greater than what’s presented in the text, how do we determine those parts that are legally included in the initial set and those parts that were they included would constitute an illegality?

Some examples help to clarify matters here. In his famous essay “The Structural Study of Myth”, Levi-Strauss argues that anthropologists should not look for the one true and original version of a myth, but should understand all myths as variants of the same permutation structure, working to solve a logical problem. In this connection, he points out that the trickster (coyotes, ravens) in American mythology have posed serious difficulties for anthropologists as it’s not precisely clear as to why this figure so often appears in these stories. In this connection, we thus have something that is a member of a particular set (the trickster belonging to the set of American myths) and the question is that of how we are to understand the inclusion of this part. To resolve this problem, Levi-Strauss reminds the reader that, “we need only assume that two opposite terms with no intermediary always tend to be replaced by two equivalent terms which admit of a third one as a mediator” (224). According to Levi-Strauss, the presence of carrion eating animals in these myths mediates between hunting and agriculture in that the coyote is like hunters in that it eats meat, but also like agriculture in that it does not hunt its food but finds it. In short, the common appearance of the trickster in these myths is not random or by chance, but resolves a dialectical deadlock. It cannot appear in any old way, but must, according to Levi-Strauss, necessarily appear in relation to myths depicting agriculture and hunting.

Perhaps a more readily familiar example is to be found in Derrida’s reading of Nietzsche in Spurs, where he raises the question of how a footnote saying “I have forgotten my umbrella” is to be included in Nietzsche’s text. Here Derrida is exploring the limits of our ability to determine the rule governing the relationship between membership and inclusion and thus approaches claims Badiou will make about the nature of an event, but is nonetheless preceding on the premise that for anything that appears in a situation or is an element belonging to a situation there must be a constructable rule for how it is included in that situation. In a very different context, early Wittgestein, advocating logical atomism, might approach Plato’s Republic by seeking to determine whether each statement obeys the rules of first order logic. Here logicity becomes the principle of inclusion or of sanctioned and unsanctioned combinations of parts. By contrast, someone who advocates hermeneutics might seek to determine how the names of the characters, the settings in which the dialogues occur, and the various myths refer to Greek language, history, and culture and contribute to the overall meaning of the text, thereby arguing, contrary to the Wittgensteinian, that these parts are included in the text. Similarly, a psychoanalyst might proceed on the premise that there is a rule governing dreams, slips of the tongue, symptoms, and bungled actions, such that they are included in the set composing a person’s life and not just random accidents or misfirings. Of course, here it is a question of the subject’s singular relationship to language and not categorization as in the case of the DSM-IV.

Although the principles governing these various forms of constructivism are very different from one another, the basic problem is the same: what constitutes legal and illegal inclusion, what constitutes a legitimate combination of parts and an illegitimate combination of parts? We can thus see what Badiou has in mind in claiming that the constructivist orientation of thought attempts to establish the maximal proximity between membership and inclusion. The question of constructivism is that of how the excess of parts over elements, or subsets over the initial set can be managed without falling into an uncontrollable chaos; or, as Badiou puts it, “It is this bond, this proximity that language builds between presentation (membership/elements) and representation (parts/inclusion), which ground the conviction that the state does not exceed the situation by too much, or that it remains commensurable” (EE, 288). From this point of view, the battle cry of the constructivist is that there is no unconstructable part, or that there is no part of a situation that is not named and which does not have a rule governing the manner in which it is included. Badiou refers to this regime of rules that governs the relationship between membership and inclusion variously as language, knowledge, and the encyclopedia, and rigorously distinguishes it from truth. As Badiou describes it, “…the ‘encyclopedia’ [is] the general system of predicative knowledge internal to a situation: i.e., what everyone knows about politics, sexual difference, culture, art, technology, etc.” (TW, 146). This function of the encyclopedia can be seen, perhaps, most clearly when it doesn’t clearly function as in Derrida’s reading of Nietzsche where even a random comment demands a rule defining how it is to be included in the body of Nietzsche’s texts. In this regard, constructivism ultimately comes to legislate over existence and police language. As Badiou puts it,

What the constructivist vision of being and presentation hunts out is the ‘indeterminate’, unnameable part, the conceptless link. The ambiguity of its relation to the state is thus quite remarkable. On the one hand, in restricting the statist metastructure’s count-as-one to nameable parts, it seems to reduce its power; yet, on the other hand, it specifies its police and increases its authority by the connection that it establishes between mastery of the included one-multiple and mastery of language. What has to be understood here is that for this orientation in thought, a grouping of presented multiples which is indiscernible in terms of an immanent relation does not exist. From this point of view, the state legislates on existence. What it loses on the side of excess it gains on the side of the ‘right over being’. (EE, 288)

By the “state” Badiou is here referring to the subsets that belong to any set. By “metastructure” Badiou is referring to that mechanism or organization presiding over legal and illegal combinations among parts such as kinship structures defining sanctioned and unsanctioned mates. These would consist of the rules governing a language along with the names belonging to a language. If the language of a situation presides here over existence, then this is because it does not recognize any element that is indiscernible to the rules governing that language or the nominations belonging to that language, as can be readily seen in Leibniz’s ideal of a complete language. Perhaps the most extreme example of this would be Lacan’s example of the two identical doors named “Ladies” and Gentleman” in his article “The Instance of the Letter in the Unconscious”, where it is not the object that introduces the difference into the language (as the doors are identical), but the signifier that introduces the difference into existence.

Badiou is far from dismissing constructivism, nor does he believe that it is possible to refute this position. As Badiou puts it,

From the Greek sophists to the Anglo-Saxon logical empiricists (even to Foucault), this is what has invariably made out of it the critical– or anti-philosophical –philosophy par excellence. To refute the doctrine that a part of the situation solely exists if it is constructed on the basis of properties and terms which are discernible in the language, would it not be necessary to indicate an absolute undifferentiated, anonymous, indeterminate part? But how could such a part be indicated, if not by constructing this very indication? (EE, 288-289)

Consequently, from within the constructivist orientation it is impossible to think something genuinely new for the simple reason that this would require the introduction of a non-constructed element into the situation. But from the constructivist point of view, if an element can be discerned in the situation, then it is already nameable by the language of that situation and is thus not genuinely new at all, but already constructed.

Similarly, from the constructivist point of view it is impossible to conceive a genuine universal for the simple reason that there are a plurality of different regimes of language and no transcendental decision procedures that would allow one of these languages to legislate over another. From this standpoint, any proposed universal is already a disguised particularity. Thus, for example, critics of international human rights agendas often criticize these positions not because they are for the maltreatment of human beings, but because universal human rights are implicitly based on the particularism of first world countries and those who control the means of production. In a related vein, the purported universalism of the Cartesian cogito is often criticized for being based on the implicit particularism of masculine sexuality, thereby failing to take into account the unique relation women are said to entertain to their bodies.

In light of the foregoing, it thus becomes clear that our questions pertaining to the possibility of genuine change and a genuine universal must meet two requirements: First, if genuine change is to be possible, then it is necessary for it to be possible that an element appear that is indiscernible to the transcendental regime governing the situation. Second, if genuine universality is to be possible, then it is necessary to show that a difference is possible that is indifferent to the differences that compose the transcendental regime governing the situation. That is, a genuine universal must be indifferent to the predicative differences that preside over legal inclusion. As such, something genuinely new and universal would have to be subtracted from the constraints governing the structure of the situation. As we shall see, the new and the universal are not unconnected for Badiou, and the true, to which both of these terms are connected, is, as Lacan said, that which punches a hole in knowledge or which departs from the doxa of the encyclopedia.

Due to constraints of time I will have to move quickly through the features of Badiou’s conception of the event and the truth-procedures that follow from the emergence of an event. The first requirement for the emergence of something new is that something must appear in the situation that cannot be classified according to the encyclopedic determinants defining inclusion or legal arrangements within the situation. It is the appearance of such an element, an element that belongs to itself, that Badiou calls an event. It is of crucial importance in understanding Badiou that such a presentation can never be demonstrated to have taken place, but can only be declared to have taken place. Generally we can detect the appearance of such a self-belonging element in the language surrounding this element: it is always described in negative terms, as being somehow deficient or excessive. This “too much” or “too little” could be thought as a trace of the manner in which this element evades the determinations of the encyclopedia or the knowledge-structure that governs the situation. Like Nietzsche’s remark that he has forgotten his umbrella, one can find no clear rule in the encyclopedia of the situation for determining whether the statement is included or not.

From the standpoint of the situation, the inclusion of this self-belonging element is, strictly speaking, undecidable, and therefore falls outside of what counts as knowledge in the situation. There is no rule for deciding whether it is veridical or non-veridical, meaningful or meaningless. One of Badiou’s favorite and clearer examples pertains to illegal immigration:

…are those workers who do not have proper papers but who are working here, in France (or the United Kingdom, or the United States…) part of this country? Do they belong here? Yes, probably, since they live and work here. No, since they don’t have the necessary papers to show that they are French (or British, or American), or living here legally. The expression ‘illegal immigrant’ designates the uncertainty of valence, or the non-valence of valence: it designates people who are living here, but don’t really belong here, and hence people who can be thrown out of the country, people who can be exposed to the non-valence of the valence of the presence here as workers. (TW, 147)

What we have here is not yet an event, but rather a part of the situation (the French situation) that evades the determinants of the situation or that can’t clearly be counted as being included or not included. Such an element is undecidable.

The event occurs when this element announces itself as belonging to the situation, as in the case of illegal immigrant workers occupying the church of St. Bernard in Paris and declaring their existence, or the recent immigrant protests in the United States (TW, 147). What we have here is an anonymous element– anonymous because it evades all the determinants of the encyclopedia necessary for establishing inclusion in the situation –standing up and declaring itself as belonging. In short, something appears in such events that is indiscernible from the standpoint of the predicates or categories governing the structure of inclusion in the situation. Indeed, from the standpoint of the encyclopedia of the situation or the state, events like the occupation of St. Bernard or the protests in Los Angeles often appear as so much meaningless chaos, testifying once again to the sense in which they appear as excess or deficiency. It will be objected that certainly we know what an illegal immigrant is, certainly the illegal immigrant occupies a category within the situation. However, this misses the point insofar as the illegal immigrant is precisely that person with respect to whom we are unable to decide whether they are to be included or whether they are not to be included. In other words, they indicate the infinite excess of parts over membership with regard to the encyclopedia of the situation and thus evade the knowledge that governs the situation.

It is in relation to this undecidability and indiscernibility– in relation to that which is subtracted from the situation –that we begin to approach the question of how something new can be introduced into the situation. The common assumption belonging to constructivist orientations of thought is that we must look to what is already there in the situation, what is given in the encyclopedia of the situation, to determine whether something new is possible and whether universality is possible. As we have already seen, however, the rule of constructivism is that any statement produced within a situation must be constructable according to the law or encyclopedia governing that situation. In relation to the undecidable event, claims Badiou, we must make a pure decision without authorization or rule from the encyclopedia that 1) the event took place and was not simply chaos, and 2) that the element to which the event pertains belongs to the situation. Badiou refers to this as an “evental statement”. One decides to include that which is not included. “The evental statement is implied by the event’s appearing-disappearing and declares that an undecidable has been decided or that what was without valence now has a valence” (TW, 148). In the instance of illegal immigration, the evental statement declares that “those who live here are from here.” Something new has been introduced into the situation, but how does it change the situation or introduce the universal into the situation?

In the wake of an evental statement Badiou contends that a truth-procedure and a subject of truth appears. It is important to here emphasize that for Badiou truth is not a representation, adequation between word and object, or play of revealing-concealing, but rather an activity that progressively transforms the structure of the situation through its intervention, progressively creating a subset of the situation or new configuration of parts that did not exist before. The declaration that an event has taken place and that elements that were formerly included without belonging are now counted as belonging, has implications for the structure of the entirety of the situation. As Badiou puts it, an event has an implicative structure of an if/then form. The difference between knowledge and truth with regard to the event could be characterized as follows: where knowledge evaluates the potential event in terms of whether it can be subsumed under one or more of the predicative determinants of the encyclopedia, a truth-procedure evaluates the predicates composing the encyclopedia in terms of the declared event. The question of a truth-procedure is that of how the situation must be transformed in light of the evental declaration.

It is in relation to the truth-procedure that progressively transform the elements of a situation that the dimension of the universal appears. Initially the choice of illegal immigration might appear poor insofar as we are inclined to think of the illegal immigrant as a particular identity within the situation. That is, the decision to include the illegal immigrant might appear as yet another instance of identity politics and of a particular group fighting for specific rights. However, this is to forget that the illegal immigrant is anonymous, without predicate, the very absence of predicates when viewed from the standpoint of the encyclopedic determinants of the situation. In short, the illegal immigrant, when counted as belonging to the situation, indicates the excess of inclusion over all predicative determination and thereby renders predicative determinations “in-different” as a principle of counting and membership. As Badiou puts this in his study of Paul’s universalism in Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalism, “The One [of an evental declaration] is that which inscribes no difference in the subjects to which it addresses itself. The One is only insofar as it is for all: such is the maxim of universality when it has its root in the event” (SP, 76). Needless to say, it is not Paul’s theology that interests Badiou (who describes himself as a militant atheist and the only contemporary philosopher to think through the consequences of the death of God), but rather Paul’s truth-procedure as described in the epistles. What interests Badiou in Paul, is the manner in which the difference between Jew and Gentile becomes in-different in Paul’s truth-procedure, allowing Jew and Gentile to be counted alike, regardless of custom or cultural difference. It is not that Paul is against custom or cultural difference– he says that if one is Jew then get circumcised and if one is Gentile then don’t –but rather that these differences have become irrelevant.

We can thus see the manner in which an evental declaration and the truth-procedure that follows upon it, punches a hole in knowledge by indiscerning the differences that otherwise compose the situation from the standpoint of knowledge and opening the possibility of an open-ended universality that can never be completed. As Badiou puts it,

What can measure up to the universality of an address? Not legality, in any case. The law is always predicative, particular, and partial. Paul is perfectly aware of the law’s unfailingly “statist” character. By “statist” I mean that which enumerates, names, and controls the parts of a situation. If a truth is to surge forth eventually, it must be nondenumerable, impredicable, uncontrollable. This is precisely what Paul calls grace: that which occurs without being couched in any predicate, that which is translegal, that which happens to everyone without assignable reason. (SP 76-77)

The universal is necessarily infinite and open because there is no assignable predicate that could finally define membership within the set progressively unfolded through the truth-procedure. It is that which traverses all differences composing a situation, rather than that which instates a particular difference. Through the unfolding of the evental declaration the situation is progressively transformed in light of this infinite openness, in much the same way that Galileo, the declarer of another truth-event, declared an unlimited investigation of nature in terms of mathematics that continues to this day. Here the difference between the celestial spheres and the earth or corrupt corporeal world became in-different from the standpoint of physics.

Similarly, Badiou contends that the real rupture of Greek thought is not to be found in the poem or the play of revealing-concealing (which can be found in Asian and Indian thought as well), but in the matheme or the subordination of thought to the mathematical condition already Parmenides apagogic reasoning (EE, 10). The transformation of a situation is not to be found in the predicates governing membership in the situation, but in and through an active intervention in the situation that indiscerns the differences of the situation, punching a hole in the encyclopedia governing the situation, and producing a truth that is not, but which will have been through this activism on behalf of the event. In a manner reminiscent of Kierkegaard’s leap of faith, this intervention is based on an ultimately groundless decision, without warrant by the encyclopedia, on the order of a wager, in which the subject faithfully re-evaluates the elements of the situation in fidelity to the evental declaration. It is through this militant commitment, that situations are progressively transformed in science, art, love, and politics.

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UPDATE: Since being written, this post has gotten a lot of attention and traffic. After subsequent reflection, I have concluded that while Hallward’s book is well worth reading and is a carefully researched and well written study of Deleuze’s thought, the conclusions that he reaches are arrived at as a result of ignoring Deleuze’s account of individuation as developed in texts such as chapter 4 and 5 of Difference and Repetition, and as late as The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque. The virtual cannot be detached from the actual in the manner suggested by Hallward. If Deleuze often emphasizes the dimension of the virtual over the actual, then this is because the process of actualization– as developed in chapters 4 and 5 of Difference and Repetition –tends to cancel difference in extensity. A focus on the virtual is thus designed to return to these missed potentialities and reactivate them so that new individuations might become possible. I develop these claims more thoroughly in subsequent posts on Deleuze.

***

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been deeply impressed, if not envious, of Hallward’s study of Deleuze. This has to be the most careful and comprehensive discussion of Deleuze I’ve yet encountered anywhere. However, Hallward does present a substantial critique of Deleuze. In light of my previous post about repeating the Enlightenment, it might be worthwhile to explore this critique as to indicate why I am inclined to believe that Deleuze and Guattari are a dead end.

Succinctly summing up his account of Deleuze’s ontology, Hallward writes,

As we have repeatedly seen, the second corollary of Deleuze’s disqualification of actuality concerns the paralysis of the subject or actor. Since what powers Deleuze’s cosmology is the immediate differentiation of creation through the infinite proliferation of virtual creatings, the creatures that actualise these creatings are confined to a derivative if not limiting role. A creature’s own interests, actions or decisions are of minimal or preliminary significance at best: the renewal of creation always requires the paralysis and dissolution of the creature per se. The notion of a constrained or situated freedom, the notion that a subject’s own decisions might have genuine consequences– the whole notion, in short of strategy— is thoroughly foreign to Deleuze’s conception of thought. Deleuze obliges us, in other words, to make an absolute distinction between what a subject does or decides and what is done or decided through the subject. By rendering this distinction absolute he abandons the category of the subject altogether. (OTW, 162)

The fundamental distinction that governs Deleuze’s thought, argues Hallward, is the distinction between the creature (the organism, the actualized being) and the vital creating. The creature always marks a reactive limit to the creating, so the aim is to “counter-actualize” our being, so as to return to the eternal and unlimited virtual creatings that belong to the One-All or Whole, that are always non-relational, and that are unlimited in their differential being. For instance, following The Logic of Sense, we are not to think the wound in terms of the set of causes and circumstances that brought it about, but rather as radically subtracted from this dimension of actualization and as something that preceded us such that we only came to actualize it. The virtual creating of the wound as event is to be subtracted from the psychological, physical, and social context around which the wound comes-to-be.

Hallward gives an excellent example of what Deleuze has in mind, drawing on Deleuze’s reading of Dicken’s late novel Our Mutual Friend.

The unloved character Riderhood, who makes his living fishing corpses out of the Thames, himself almost drowns in that same river when his boat is run down by a steamer. Some onlookers then carry him, half-dead, up to Miss Abbey’s pub, and a doctor is called on to revive him. ‘No one’, Dickens writes, ‘has the least regard for the man; with them all, he has been an object of avoidance, suspicion, and aversion.’ Nevertheless, the spectacle of this struggle between life and death solicits a response deeper than empathy:

The spark of life within him is curiously separable from himself now, and they have a deep interest in it, probably because it IS life, and they are living and must die […]. Neither Riderhood in this world, nor Riderhood in the other, could draw tears from them; but a striving human soul between the two can do it easily. He is struggling to come back. Now, he is almost here, now he is far away again. And yet– like us all, when we swoon –like us all, every day of our lives when we wake– he is instinctively unwilling to be restored to the consciousness of this existence, and would be left dormant, if he could.

Life and medicine soon win the day, and the patient recovers. But ‘as he grows warm, the doctor and the four men cool. The spark of life was deeply interesting while it was in abeyance, but now that it has got established in Mr. Riderhood, there appears to be a general desire that circumstances had admitted of its being developed in anybody else, rather than that gentleman.’

The most important thing to retain from this exemplary episode, I think, is the crucial difference between the spark (virtual ‘creating’) and the person (actual ‘creature’) it animates… He is individuated by what he does and has done, by his origins and background, by the personality he has come to acquire, by the relations he sustains with other people, and so on. Such is the creature dimension. The spark of life, however, substists on a quite different plane. The spark is perfectly unique, perfectly singular –it is this spark, and no other –yet fully ‘separable’ from the object it sustains. This is the point that interests Deleuze:

No one has desscribed what a life is better than Charles Dickens […]. Between [Riderhood’s] life and his death, there is a moment that is only that of a life playing with death. The life of the individual gives way to an impersonal and yet singular life that releases a pure event freed from the accidents of internal and external life, that is, from the subjectivity and objectivity of what happens: a ‘Homo tantum’ with whom everyone emphathises and who attains a sort of beatitude. It is […] a life of pure immanence, neutral, beyond good and evil, for it was only the subject that incarnated it in the midsts of things that made it good or bad. The life of such individuality fades away in favour of the singular life immanent to a man who no longer has a name, though he can be mistaken for no other.

(OTW, 24-5)

I quote this passage at length because it illustrates, so well, Deleuze’s logic of the distinction between the creating and the creature, and what Deleuze is aiming at with counter-actualization. Hallward is able to trace this logic, with considerable detail and sophistication, from Deleuze’s earliest work all the way through his collaborative work with Guattari (“Immanence: A Life…” is Deleuze’s final published essay). What Deleuze ultimately aims at is this virtual dimension of a life that so captures the attention of the onlookers. This life is not the life of the organism, of a structure or system with a history, and which interacts with the world, but of the body-without-organs, that is free of all organistic constraints characterizing actuality, and which is essentially impersonal and anonymous, while remaining a singular expression of the One-All. For Deleuze, this is the dimension of true difference, authentic creativity, and genuine vital becoming. The actual is but a surface-effect, as Deleuze argues in detail in The Logic of Sense.

Now, what’s worth noticing in this incident depicted in Dicken’s novel, is that nothing changes with regard to Riderhood’s situation. The level of actuality characterizing the world or situation in which Riderhood appears (in Badiou’s sense) remains essentially the same. We are told that Riderhood occupies a certain position with regard to the other citizens. He is distrusted and disliked. For a brief moment, when approaching death, Riderhood becomes anonymous and impersonal life and this position disappears. But what the other characters identify with is not Riderhood, but the impersonal life that his actualized organism embodies. When Riderhood escapes death, the representational social structure returns in exactly the same form that it had before.

The point, then, is that impersonal singularities of the sort described by Deleuze do not transform the structure of a situation. Indeed, the situation continues exactly as it did before. In my responses to Yusef from the Enlightenment Underground, I argued that the thought of Deleuze and Guattari is essentially that of the slave. No doubt such a claim must sound strange from the standpoint of standard receptions of Deleuze and Guattari’s thought. However, these passages make clear just why this is the case. In the Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel argues that the freedom of the Stoic is essentially a negative or vain freedom, in that it is freedom in thought alone, not in action (cf. “Freedom of self-consciousness: Stoicism, Scepticism, and Unhappy Consciousness”). As Epictetus argues, we are free to determine what we think, desire, and feel so long as we recognize that which is within our control and that which is not within our control. For Epictetus, of course, very little is in our control so the aim is to transform consciousness rather than the world. We must accept the world the way it is and go about changing how we experience this world by transforming the nature of our judgments, rather than transforming the world itself. Deleuze’s ontology and ethics is thus, essentially, the spiritual vision of the mystical wise-man calling for withdrawal from the world of fractured appearances, much like Plotinus calls us to escape from the multiplicity of appearances so as to discern the One. If Hallward’s reading of Deleuze’s ontology is accurate, then this is essentially what Deleuze and Guattari are offering us with their account of counter-actualization and lines of flight. Turn away, they say, from the predicates characterizing a situation and instead pursue vital life. This is something that can be practiced by slave, freeman, woman, minority, worker, denizen of Guantanimo Bay being tortured, etc. And significantly, it is something that does not transform the structure of the actualized situation, though it certainly might allow us to stoically endure the situations in which we find ourselves actualized.

It is not surprising that Deleuze would be led to this position, influenced as he is by Spinoza. However, if the point of philosophy, as Marx said, is to change the world, then it is clear that we cannot ignore actuality in this way. As Hallward puts it,

Deleuze writes a philosophy of (virtual) difference without (actual) others. He intuits a purely internal or self-differing difference, a difference that excludes any constitutive mediation between the differed. Such a philosophy precludes a distinctively relational conception of politics as a matter of course. The politics of the future are likely to depend less on virtual mobility than on more resilant forms of cohesion, on more principled forms of commitment, on more integrated forms of coordination, on more resistant forms of defense. Rather than align ourselves with the nomadic war machine, our first task should be to develop appropriate ways of responding to the newly aggressive techniques of invasion, penetration and occupation which serve to police the embattled margins of empire. (OTW, 162-3)


Deleuze and Guattari go a long way towards redeeming philosophy and rescuing it from postmodern skepticism and the claim that all is discursive constructions, yet, at the present moment in my thinking and understanding of their work, I do not think they go far enough. If we genuinely seek change, then actuality cannot be ignored in this way. My tendency has been to think Deleuze as a thinker of complex, emergent systems. Such systems, of course, pertain to the actual, not the virtual as understood by Deleuze. They are bodies with organs and in environment from which they differentiate themselves. They are emergent, but not from virtual singularities, but complex causal relationships. Hallward’s reading makes clear just why this is a significant misreading (something that could already be symptomatically sensed in DeLanda’s Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy, as it’s never clear there what the virtual contributes or adds to the already fine accounts of phenomena he gives in terms of systems). As Hallward remarks,

There is no more an interactive relation between this virtual or composing power and its actual or composed result than there is between a given set of genes and the organism that incarnates them. Along the lines of this last analogy, it might be worth briefly cementing this point with one final illustration, the case of biological evolution. As Deleuze and Guattari understand it, biological evolution proceeds neither through the relations of struggle, competition or support that may exist between actual organisms, nor through the dialectical interaction between actual organisms and their actual environment. As opposed to an ‘orthodox Darwinism with its focus on discrete units of selection’, they maintain that ‘evolution takes place from the virtual to actuals. Evolution is actualisation, actualisation is creation’. As Mark Hansen has recently demonstrated in convincing detail [Hansen, ‘Becoming as Creative Involution? Contextualizing Deleuze and Guattari’s Biophilosophy’, Postmodern Culture 11:1 (September 2000)], because they dismiss the actual ‘organism as a molar form that negatively limits life’, Deleuze and Guattari’s approach to biological individuation remains profoundly ‘alien to the conceptual terrain of current biology and complexity theory’. Rather than recent versions of complexity theory of post-Darwinian biology, the real models for Deleuzian individuation are again the theophanic philosophies of Spinoza and Leibniz. Spinoza’s account couldn’t be simpler. A human being, like any finite being, ‘has no power of its own except insofar as it is part of a whole […]. We are a part of the power of God’ (Expressionism and Philosophy, 91-2). (OTW, 52-3)


For me this is the most damning aspect of Hallward’s critique. Here it becomes clear just why it is so fundamentally necessary to banish the imaginary (in the Lacanian sense) fantasy of the Whole or Totality from philosophy altogether, for wherever there is a whole the individual becomes powerless and a mere fractal iteration of the All. The question, for me, thus becomes that of what’s worth preserving in Deleuze? What was it that so captivated me about Difference and Repetition and The Logic of Sense when I first began studying them so many years ago? And what was I reading into these masterpieces of ontology that was already my own?

This interview has been lurking about for a while, but some occasional readers of this blog (are there any?) might not have come across it. It gives an excellent overview of Badiou’s project and just what he has in mind in equating ontology with mathematics and seeking to formulate a new account of truth in relation to events. Well worth the read.

Jodi Dean over at I Cite has recently posted on the growing threat of rightwing Christian Nationalism in the United States. Given phenomena such as this, it seems incumbant to me that we effect some sort of repetition of the Enlightenment. As Deleuze argues, repetition is never a repetition of the same, but is a repetition that transforms the very nature of the thing repeated in the act of repeating it. To repeat the Enlightenment is not to rotely repeat the thought of Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Hume, and Kant, but to creatively apprehend that thought within the field of the present. Deleuze repeats Spinoza, Leibniz, and Hume, but there is little that resembles these thinkers in the work of Deleuze. Badiou repeats Plato and Lucretius, but there is little that resembles these thinkers in this repetition.

The repetition of Enlightenment in our time poses special problems that can be fleshed out by looking at Kant’s discussion of Enlightenment in his essay “An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?” There Kant writes that, “Enlightenment is the human being’s emergence from his self-incurred minority. Minority is inability to make use of one’s own understanding without direction from another. This minority is self-incurred when its cause lies not in lack of understanding but in lack of resolution and courage to use it without direction from another. Sapere aude! [“dare to be wise”]. Have courage to make use of your own understanding! is the motto of enlightenment… It is so comfortable to be a minor! If I have a book that understands for me, a spiritual advisor who has a conscience for me, a doctor who decides upon a regimen for me, and so forth, I need not trouble myself at all. I need not think, if only I can pay; others will readily undertake the irksome business for me” (Kant, Practical Philosophy, 17).

The difficulty in relating to rightwing Christian nationalists is precisely the manner in which their relation to the world is minoritarian by being unquestioningly organized around a text. A book understands for them. One can accept the wisdom of this book or not, but you cannot reason with it. As a result, all discourse becomes citational and bound to authority. And how can one disagree with the authority of God?

However, this problem is not restricted to Christian nationalism. As Lacan puts it, “How is one to return, if not on the basis of a peculiar discourse, to a prediscursive reality? That is the dream– the dream behind every conception of knowledge. But it is also what must be considered mythical. There is no such thing as a prediscursive reality. Every reality is founded and defined by a discourse” (Seminar 20, 32). Kant’s conception of Enlightenment requires that there be an autonomous subject– if only implicitly or potentially –capable of thought, and that that subject be capable of thinking independent of authority, whether that authority be dear leader, the priest, the police, one’s parents, or a text. But if there is no pre-discursive reality, then it would seem that all thought is necessarily citational, such that we are forever unable to detach ourselves from the authority of language as a determinant of thought. Moreover, if the subject itself is a discursive construction as is argued by Foucault, Bourdieu, Butler, and Althusser with his account of interpellation, then the subject itself is a citation which can only iterate discourse in much the same way that a fractal iterates a particular pattern. If the subject itself is conceived as an effect of discourse, how is enlightenment possible? Kant conceives our status as minorities self-incurred, which is to say a result of laziness. However, the thought of figures such as Lacan, Foucault, Luhmann, Butler, Bourdieu, Levi-Strauss, and Lacan suggests otherwise in that we, as subjects, are conceived as effects of the signifier, power, etc., such that our very being is citational. Here, perhaps, Lacan would be at an advantage as the subject is not simply conceived as a product of discourse such that its discursive nature exhausts its being, but as an effect of discourse that isn’t identical to discourse itself. The Lacanian subject is a hole in being, a void whose effects can only be traced, and not discourse itself. From the standpoint of contemporary thought, the question of separation becomes especially important, as overcoming one’s self-incurred minoritarian status requires an act of separation from the field of the Other. Badiou, for instance, with his account of truth and the subject can be thought as addressing the question of how such a separation possible. How is it possible to subtract a truth from the encyclopaedic determinants of a situation (Wittgensteinian language games, Bourdieu’s habitus, Foucault’s epistemes and power-structures, Levi-Straussian structures of thought, etc)?

In part, the goal of enlightenment remains very much the same as that articulated by Lucretius prior to the Enlightenment and carried out by Spinoza in the Theological-Political Treatise. In De Rerum Natura, Lucretius writes, “Whilst humankind throughout all the lands lay miserably crushed before all eyes beneath superstition– who would show her head before along region skies, glowering on mortals with her hideous face –A greek it was who first opposing dared raise mortal eyes that terror withstand, whom nor the fame of Gods nor lightning’s stroke nor threatening thunder of the ominous sky abashed; but rather chafed to angry zest his dauntless heart to be the first to rend the crossbars at the gates of nature old. And thus his will and hardy wisdom won; and forward thus he fared afar, beyond the flaming ramparts of the world, until he wandered the unmeasurable All. Whence he is to us, a conqueror, reports what things can rise to being, what cannot, and by what law to each its scope prescribed, its boundary stone that clings so deep in Time. Wherefore superstition is now under foot, and us his victory now exalts to heaven” (Lucretius, De Rerum Natura, Book 1, paragraph 2).

To overcome humanity’s fear produced by superstition through a secularization of infinity (Badiou, “wandering the unmeasurable All”) and reporting what can and cannot rise to being today remains one of the central goals. Worries about superstition might today sound remote, as few today are seized by terror when confronted with lunar eclipses or comets in the sky (though Pat Robertson’s declaration that Katrina was punishment by God for homosexuality and the “sinful lifestyle” of those in New Orleans ought to give us pause). Yet superstition remains no less today in the form of ideology, new age spiritualities, and religion, rendering the task of overcoming superstition no less urgent than it has ever been. How to break with remains the question. This requires choice and exclusion, a choice and exclusion that “endless play” and “boundless conceptual creation” cannot respond to. How to break with doxa when reality has come to be understood as an effect of the signifier is the problem.

I’ve been in the midsts of a bit of an intellectual nervous breakdown for the last couple of weeks (okay, I’m being melodramatic, kinda), wondering where, if anywhere, I stand with respect to any particular philosophical issue. This is why I’ve been writing little here. In a nutshell, I’ve been a little ball of anxiety, curled up in agony, void of thought, bemoaning my lack of commitments and the manner in which I experience myself as whatever I happen to be reading at the time, and feeling as if I’m a sham or a mere semblance (of course, this isn’t so bad from a psychoanalytic perspective). Okay, and this isn’t simply about philosophical commitments, but also has to do with reading Koyre’s From Closed World to Infinite Universe before bed and thinking entirely too much about what it means to be in an infinite universe without center, fixity, or orienation. At any rate, I’ve wanted nothing to do with the world or others, and have largely felt a darkening or complete depletion of desire altogether. This, of course, is bad form for a Lacanian as I’m essentially trying to see myself seeing myself, or find some rudiment of ontological consistency or substantiality, when, after all, the Lacanian subject is a “hole in being”. Old habits die hard, I suppose. On the one hand, I find myself deeply schizophrenic as to what I do. My work ranges across psychoanalysis, sociology, linguistics, semiotics, political theory, and so on. What is specifically philosophical in all of this? Are not these things abdications of philosophy? On the other hand, I find myself wondering what philosophy could possibly be today. Is philosophy possible today? Or is the age of philosophy over? Of course, of course. I’m aware that there are those who call themselves philosophers and that there are texts published under the title of philosophy. But with the possible exceptions of Deleuze and Badiou, there seems to be a qualitative difference between what is called philosophy today and the great systems of the past.

The real question, I think, is how it is possible to practice in philosophy, to engage in philosophy, in the wake of the linguistic turn? One might respond by saying “simple, we simply do philosophy of language or articulate the plurality of different language games.” Yet this is simply to abdicate everything to the “sophists”, or to engage in philosophy as yet another variant of sociology or linguistics. Lacan expresses the problem perfectly: “How is one to return, if not on the basis of a peculiar discourse, to a prediscursive reality? That is the dream– the dream behind every conception of knowledge. But it is also what must be considered mythical. There’s no such thing as a prediscursive reality. Every reality is founded and defined by a discourse” (Seminar 20, 32). The dream of a prediscursive reality can be seen in Aristotle’s discussion of language in Peri Hermeneuia, Plato’s conception of reminiscence, Descartes’ cogito, Hume’s impressions and notion of experience, Husserl’s phenomenological reduction, and Deleuze’s intuition. The list could be multiplied. As Lacan had already argued in Seminar 17, philosophy is characterized as the discourse of the master:

S1…..S2
–……–
$……..a

That is, philosophical discourse represses the manner in which the subject is divided from itself by falling under the signifier. The Husserlian subject, for instance, is a subject that maintains a transparent relation to its intentions. Where language intervenes, however, thought can never be master of itself in this way. It is always subject to the play and absence implicated in the signifier, in such a way that thought is never able to found itself (hence the reason the Lacanian subject is a void or a “want-to-be”).

However, while Lacan (and many others) might have demolished the possibility of philosophy where philosophy is conceived as a relation to a prediscursive reality sans play of the signifier, we might wonder whether he hasn’t opened up another possibility. Lacan is not simply another discursive constructivist like Lyotard, Derrida, or Wittgenstein. Everything here spins on the Lacanian account of the real. As Lacan puts it, “…it is with… stupidities [i.e., nonsense] that we do analysis, and that we enter into the new subject– that of the unconscious. It is precisely to the extent that the guy is willing not to think anymore that we will perhaps learn a little bit more about it, that we will draw certain consequences from his words –words that cannot be taken back, for that is the rule of the game. From that emerges a speaking that does not always go so far as to be able to ‘ex-sist’ with respect to the words spoken. That is because of what gets included in those words as a consequence thereof. That is the the acid-test by which, in analyzing anyone, no matter how stupid, a certain real may be reached” (22). While arguing that there is no prediscursive reality, Lacan also argues that language is “not-all” or “not-whole” or that there is a way of inscribing an extimate real that is nonetheless outside of discourse. This, then, would provide one alternative to conceiving philosophy; an alternative that Badiou might be thought as exploring under the title of the “event” (and perhaps Zizek as well, if he’d just quit interpreting everything).

On the other hand, Lacan argues that mathematics is the writing of the real. Here, I think, there are real possibilities. In discussing the nature of science, Lacan emphasizes that science departs from the signified (and therefore endless interpretation and language games) altogether. Scientific discourse is unity in that, “…due to its very institution [it]… gives us the followwing, that the signifier is posited only insofar as it has no relation to the signified”. In writing the pure letter, for instance “a” or “S1”, mathematical discourse departs from the signified altogether and explores pure structure, relations, or topologies. Once again, Lacan anticipates Badiou’s gesture with regard to mathematics as being identical to ontology. Mathematics is able to write the real of being through the institution of the letter that is divorced from any signified (objects, experiences, etc). Here we might encounter a genuine possibility for escaping the mythology of philosophy predicated on the yearning for wholeness in the Imaginary… Or, perhaps, I might at least be able to escape some of my anxiety.

When I first heard about Peter Hallward’s new book on Deleuze I found myself dissapointed. The blurb on the back of the book gives some indication as to why: “Gilles Deleuze was one of the most original and influential French philosophers of the last century. This book aims to make sense of his fundamental project in the clearest possible terms, by engaging with the central idea that informs virtually all his work: his equation of being and creativity. It explores the various ways in which, in order to affirm an unlimited creative power, Deleuze proceeds to dissolve whatever might restrict or mediate its expression, including the organisms, objects, representations, identities, and relations that this power generates along the way. Rather than a theorist of material complexity or relational difference, Out of this World argues that Deleuze is better read as a spiritual or extra-worldly philosopher. His philosophy leaves little room for processes of social or historical transformation, and still less for political relations of conflict or solidarity. Michel Foucaul famously suggested that the twentieth century would be known as ‘Deleuzian’; this sympathetic but uncompromising new critique suggests that our Deleuzian century may soon be coming to a close.”

As I first read this book description for Out of This World, I found myself wondering why anyone would write such a reactionary book, especially someone who’s done such good work in the past. However, now that I am about halfway through the book, I have to confess that this is one of the most sensitive and brilliant readings of Deleuze I’ve yet encountered. This is one of the few texts where I feel that I’ve genuinely learned something about Deleuze’s thought, rather than being hit with a series of definitions (that I often find remote from what I actually find in Deleuze’s writings) and personal “monsterous becomings” that I frankly find tedious and repetitive. In the past I’ve tended to read Deleuze as a thinker of processes and complexity. What initially attracted me to Deleuze’s thought was his account of actualization, which promised to explain how we pass from systems and structures to individuated entities that appear separated from one another. For instance, given the distinction between speech and language in structural linguistics, how do we pass from the purely differential realm of language characterized by nonsense, to the world of speech? Or, in the physical world, how does this entity here, say a soap bubble, actualize itself in the field of relations in which it’s embedded? That is, for me, Deleuze offered the possibility of an ontology proper to structuralism, and an account of the conditions under which it might be possible to transform and change structures. Put otherwise, Deleuze struck me as theorizing a dynamic structuralism or systems theory that would be capable of bridging the nature/culture divide, and avoiding the atemporality common to structuralist thought.

Hallward compelling makes the case that Deleuze is not a thinker of complex systems, but of unlimited becoming anterior to the actualized entity. Put differently, all of Deleuze’s thought can be read as a theophany (such as we find in Eriugena), organized around the opposition between the creating (the virtual) and the created (the actual) such that the actual is understood as standing in the way of further creatings (for instance, the opposition between the organism as actualized and the body-without-organs as a field of potentialities). Deleuze staunchly chooses in favor of the virtual over the actual, seeing the actual as contributing nothing in and of itself (not even as a feedback mechanism). That is, the actualized entity is itself an inhibition of these creative becomings. In addition to being an incredibly informed and sensitive study of both Deleuze’s independent work and his work with Guattari, this book strikes me as “workmanly”, in the sense that Hallward is not simply presenting a scholarly study or an attack on Deleuze, but is clearing the way for his own future project which will somehow navigate between the work of Deleuze and the work of Badiou. Hints of this can be found at his website, http://www.mdx.ac.uk/www/crmep/staff/PeterHallward.htm, where he describes a long term project he’s been working on entitled Relational Reality. Given the outstanding work he’s done so far on Deleuze and Badiou, I eagerly anticipate this work.

It is interesting to note that there is scarcely a well developed concept of energy throughout the entire history of philosophy. To be sure, the concept of will and force as developed by Schopenhauer and Nietzsche points in the direction of a philosophical conception of energy. Similarly, we find the rudiments of a concept of energy in Deleuze’s account of intensity, but the idea of energy has generally remained in the background of philosophical thought. This is tremendously curious given how important energy and energy-related concepts are throughout life and the world. For instance, could it be that philosophy has little to say about work (beyond Levinas and Marx), due to an absence of any well developed discourse on energy in philosophy? Moreover, what poorly posed problems emerge as a result of a failure to conceptualize energy? For instance, in criticizing the traditional opposition between pure form and brute matter, Simondon instead argues that “putting into form” or morphogenesis is the result of an operation common to form and matter in a system where the energetic condition is essential in animating the potentialities of a system to actualize itself in a particular way. Thus, for example, in the movement from clay to a brick, the molecules of the brick are made to relate to one another in a particular way as a result of the energetic conditions of heat and force. So long as we do not take these energetic factors immanent in matter into account, we see the actualization of the formed brick as the imposition of a pure form from the outside and not an immanent potentiality of the brick.

These issues might sound remote from the concerns of social theory, but do we not find individuated social forms being thought in a similar abstract way in the opposition between structure and the inhabitants of the structure? Here stucture is thought as a form the actualized inhabitants of the structure in the same way Plato thought form as preceding individuals; yet what if structure, as Bourdieu argues, is instead a product of a set of material properties?

Despite the fact that philosophy has made tremendous strides in overcoming the primacy of the representational subject in the last hundred years, it seems to me that a good deal of theory continues to think under this paradigm. In the opening lines of the Metaphysics, Aristotle writes that, “All men by nature desire to know. An indication of this is the delight we take in our senses; for even apart from their usefulness they are loved for themselves; and above all others the sense of sight. For not only with a view to action, but even when we are not going to do anything, we prefer seeing (one might say) to everything else. The reason is that this, most of all the senses, makes us know and brings to light many differences between things.” There’s a sense in which a theorist is a disembodied eye. While I certainly agree with Aristotle’s thesis that vision brings to light many differences among things, the relevant question is whether it brings to light the right or relevant differences.

Aristotle was very clear about the importance of leisure for thought, but following Bourdieu, we might wonder whether leisure doesn’t bring its own set of distortions. In seeing I take everything in “at a glance”, encountering the thing in its actualized form. In vision I am disengaged and separate from the object that I view, passively contemplating it rather than working on it. As a result, I do not have the phenomenological experiences of exertion and fatigue that occur in engaging with the world (energetic concepts). Is there a fatigue (again an energetics) of vision? Vision tends to encounter entities in static and frozen poses (and prefers them this way), rather than as undergoing change, variation, and movement. How many conceptual distortions emerge as a result of the theorists stance of passivity and passive onlooker, rather than as engaged subject in the world? Is there a way in which the concept of energy is so absent in the history of philosophy precisely because philosophers have, by and large, tended to be disengaged from active participation in the world, and because energy is not the sort of thing that can be readily brought before a phenomenological gaze or made present to consciousness? I do not, for instance, see a change in temperature, but only the morphological results or products of that change (boiling water, steam, ice, etc). If I place my emphasis on that which can be brought before intuition, I am then left with a huge mystery as to why or how qualities emerge and new structural relations are engendered. At the level of social structures, I am left with the impression that it is impossible to change structures as all of the elements depend on one another in a system of reciprocal relations and imply one another, all the while ignoring the way social structures undergo radical systematic change when energetic conditions are transformed in times of war, famine, sudden prosperity and invention, etc. Such problems emerge as a result of discerning structures atemporally and abstractly from the outside, rather than as immanent processes continuously producing themselves and requiring certain energetic conditions to maintain themselves.

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