In response to my post on resonance and my other post on assemblages and emergent organizations, ktismatics writes,

For Prigogine emergent order is still deterministic, isn’t it? Though structures emerge that are qualitatively different from their precursors, the process by which the transformation occurs is repeatable and can be described mathematically.

As ktismatics points out, for Prigogine chaos is really shorthand for “deterministic chaos”. The idea is that apparently random behavior nonetheless is governed by a principle of some sort. However, Prigogine also seems to suggest that emergent orders are genuinely creative or that they bring something new into being. The organization has a structure or a lawfulness to it, but it is a local organization. This is one of the more interesting aspects of Stengers and Prigogine’s work. As they put it,

The dialogue between man and nature was accurately perceived by the founders of modern science as a basic step towards the intelligibility of nature. But their ambitions went even farther. Galileo, and those who came after him, conceived of science as being capable of discovering global truths about nature. Nature not only could be written in a mathematical language that can be deciphered by experimentation, but there would actually exist only one such language [my emphasis]. Following this basic conviction, the world is seen as homogenous, and local experimentation can reveal global truth. The simplest phenomena studied by science can thus be interpreted as the key to understanding nature as a whole; the complexity of the latter is only apparent, and its diversity can be explained in terms of the universal truth embodied, in Galileo’s case, in the mathematical laws of nature. (Order Out of Chaos, 44)

This would be one understanding of the philosophical conception of logos. The thesis here would be that every local manifestation is an instantiation of a global logos, such that one and the same logos applies to the apparent or manifest diversity of appearances. As such, the investigation of the case (the local) discloses the global logos, such that all diverse appearances are homeomorphic to one another or are variations of the same. Thus, for example, one and the same set of principles applies to the falling apple and the movement of planets and galaxies. I have tried to argue against this position in a variety of contexts, arguing that a whole or a global logos does not exist (here, here, here, here, and here).

Read on

In short, there is no global organization, but rather local and emergent logoi. None of this, of course, is to suggest something absurd like there is no gravity. Logoi exist at different levels of scale and temporality, converging and diverging from one another in a variety of ways. In this connection, N.Pepperell has suggested the metaphor of waves to think about these sorts of issues. If we think about rain drops in a pond, the waves these drops produce converge and diverge with one another producing additional patterns. If I happen to be walking along the shore of the pond as it is raining and throw a large rock in the water, large concentric wave patterns are generated throughout the pond while the rain drops themselves continue to produce waves within these concentric circles. The planet earth can be thought as a wave, as a system, but other systems emerge within this system within their own unique organization. Organizations supervene on one another while nonetheless retaining their singularity and internal logos. Gravity can be thought as a wave that spreads throughout our particular universe such that other systems populating the universe supervene on this wave. However, we are told that if the universe had cooled differently after the big bang, the gravitational laws could have been different and we can suppose that there are other universes that obey very different principles. The point is that local logoi need not indicate global truths. There is creativity at work here, rather than the simple instantiation of a global truth that can then be extrapolated to all other situations.

Ktismatics goes on to say,

I presume, though, that Prigogine would say that these two discourses determined each other. He’s moving beyond linear determination into co-determination — something like force fields, or perhaps the interactions of multiple vectors. So too a vector of desire as it inscribes itself on a surface: what actually gets inscribed is codetermined by properties of the desire and of the surface, as well as by the angles of intersection. Something like that?

This is a start, I think. Minimally we seem to require the co-existence of two series that come to interact with one another– the past series continuing to persist in the present. Thoburn makes a point that converges with this nicely in his Deleuze, Marx, and Politics. Discussing Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of “social machines”, Thoburn asks why we shouldn’t treat this as a metaphor based on technological machines. Thoburn’s strategy is to argue that technological machines are, in fact, social machines. In this connection, he draws on the example of the steam engine. Steam engines pre-existed the industrial revolution, yet were never used for industrial tools prior to this, but instead for children’s toys (in Rome). Thoburn’s point seems to be that some mutation had to take place within the social machine for the steam engines to begin to resonate as industrial machines. I suppose the question I’m trying to ask in this connection is that of the attractors governing resonance. This, incidentally, undermines criticisms of technology studies in cultural studies to the effect that they fall prey to technological determinism. The relationship between technology and a social milieu is far more complicated, involving all sorts of feedback relations between technology and cultural formations. A technology can only begin to resonate in a particular way as a function of a particular social machine, yet as it begins to resonate in that way the social machine is deterritorialized by the technological machines in unanticipated ways creating a cascade of effects, a wave, that can eventually lead to a catastrophe point or a bifurcation point where a new system emerges from the initial system. This, for instance, seems to be what took place with Prigogine and Stengers’ example of the clock in Medieval Europe. The technological machine of the clock might have resonated as it did as a result of the Medieval social machines pertaining to orderly life and incorporeal conceptual machines pertaining to God as the origin of the logos of the world, however the clock metaphor and practices that emerged surrounding the clock (how it organized life assigning time positions– “be there at four!” –and allowed for measure of phenomena) took on a formative function and life of its own, creating a divergence from the theological discourse to a secular discourse where Laplace could eventually say, when asked by Napolean about the place of God in his physics, “I have no need of that hypothesis” (clearly the story is far more complicated than this). Nonetheless, it is always difficult to determine exactly what will resonate (chances are we can only begin to develop hypotheses after the resonance has taken place, after the fact). There is always something aleatory about these incorporeal events.

One of the more interesting features of these resonance relations, as Ibitsu points out in his comment to my original post, is that they aren’t defined by a linear causality between preceding event and the following event. I take it, anyway, that this is what s/he’s referring to by the trace. Rather than time as a series of nows, each following the other, we instead need to think time as a series of superimposed plateaus such as Freud describes in Civilization and Its Discontents when describing the unconscious. There Freud writes,

…let us, by a flight of imagination, suppose that Rome is not a human habitation but a psychical entity with a similarly long and copus past– an entity, that is to say, in which nothing that has once come into existence will have passed away and all earlier phases of development continue to exist alongside the latest one. [my emphasis] This would mean that in Rome the palaces of the Caesars and the Septizonium of Septimius Severus would still be rising to their old height on the Palatine and that the castle of S. Angelo would still be carrying on its battlements the beautiful statues which graced it until the siege by the Goths, and so on. But more than this. In the place occupied by the Palazzo Caffarelli would once more stand– without the Palazzo having to be removed –the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus; and this is not only in its latest shape, as the Romans of the Empire saw it, but also in its earliest one, when it still showed Etruscan forms and was ornamented with terra-cotta antefixes. Where the Coliseum now stands we could at the same time admire Nero’s vanished Golden House. On the Piazza of the Pantheon we should find not only the Pantheon of to-day, as it was bequeathed to us by Hadrian, but, on the same site, the original edifice erected by Agrippa; indeed, the same piece of ground would be supporting the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva and the ancient templ over which it was built. And the observer would perhaps only have to change the direction of his glance or his position in order to call up the one view or the other.

There is clearly no point in spinning our phantasy any further, for it leads to things that are unimaginable and even absurd. If we want to represent historical sequence in spatial terms we can only do it by juxtaposition in space: the same space cannot have two different contents. [my emphasis] Our attempt seems to be an idle game. It has only one justification. It shows us how far we are from mastering the characteristics of mental life by representing them in pictorial terms.

Freud, of course, softens his thesis and is willing to concede that elements of the past can be destroyed but that we should nonetheless treat the hypothesis of the indestructability of the past as a heuristic device so as not to conclude, a priori, that an act of forgetting is the result of destruction in the brain rather than repression. This issue aside, we can see that the topology of psychic-systems is incredibly complicated and impossible to represent visually. All things being equal, there would be a whole host of physical systems that have these unique temporal properties (basically any system that is sensitive to its initial conditions or which “remembers” its past).

Bergson and Deleuze will develop this conception of time to great effect, no longer treating it as simply a thesis about psychic-systems, but as an ontological feature of being. For Deleuze the past is not in anything, but rather is an ontological horizon of being itself. The reason they are led to such a position can be discerned in phenomena like resonance. According to this position (I am not denying that other positions might be possible) we cannot explain how a resonance relation takes place without positing the contemporaneity of the past with the present. The question then becomes that of what attractors preside over the actualization of some region of this pure past. How is it that some portions come to “spike up” from a field of temporal indistinction, whereas others lay inert like a foggy and undifferentiated haze or cloud?

Advertisements