Virtual


One common criticism of Deleuze and DeLanda is that their ontolog(ies) suffer from what might be called “virtualism”. It’s important that some might not consider this a failing and that there is, I believe, a way of interpreting these thinkers so that this problem largely disappears. Roughly, virtualism would consist in treating the virtual as the domain of the “really real” and reducing the actual to mere “epiphenomena” that have but an epiphenomenal “being”. In the language of Roy Bhaskar’s ontology, the virtual can roughly be equated with the domain of “generative mechanisms”, while the actual would consist of events take place as a result of these generative mechanisms. Virtualism would thus treat these generative mechanisms as what are properly real, while the actual events engendered by these generative mechanisms would have a subordinate and lesser status.

The problem with this sort of virtualism is that it fails to observe a particular property of groups known as “closure” as described by mathematical group theory. Roughly, closure is the property of a group such that for a group G, all operations carried out on elements of G— say a, b –are also in G. Thus, for example, if group B consists of the numbers 1 and 2, the conjunction of 1 and 2– 3 –is also a member of the group. This point can be illustrated for material systems with respect to fire. A flame requires all sorts of generative mechanisms involving chemical and atomic reactions that are conditions of fire at the level of the “virtual” with respect to the flame as an actuality or event. However, it does not follow from this that the flame is itself an epiphenomenon or lacking in reality. The flame has all sorts of powers, capacities, are “able-to’s” that cannot be found at the level of the generative mechanisms themselves. Put otherwise, a flame is itself a generative mechanism with respect to other relations.

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brainvatIn email today an old friend of mine asks,

Currently I’m having a bit of a spat with other graphic designers over in another pocket of the Internet. My question is: can design be understood to have an ontology, can there be an ‘ontology of design’? Does this make philosophical sense?

I’m wondering if the assemblage that is my discourse, field, discipline, community, etc. can be understood as a thing? I like the notion of tracing it through all of those lenses and coming to a networked definition. A flat ontology perhaps? Does this make sense?

Hopefully he won’t object to me posting his question here as I think it’s an extremely interesting question that goes straight to the heart of what I’ve been working on with regard to cultural and social theory. Within the framework of my onticology, the criteria by which something is real lies in making a difference. As I put it with my ontic principle, “there is no difference that does not make a difference”. Thus, to be real is to make a difference. More recently I have described the ontic principle as a deflationary move. I’ve stolen the idea of “deflationary moves” from my buddy Nate over at the terrific blog What in the Hell. Nate praises Badiou for the deflationary move of placing ontology in the domain of mathematics. Where philosophy has been obsessed with the question “what is being?” or “what is the meaning of being?”, “Badiou’s” ontology is deflationary in the sense that it says “this question has already been answered and if you would like to know that answer go study mathematics.” As a consequence, Badiou is able to set aside the question of being, dethrone it from center stage, and instead focus philosophy on the question of truth. Deflating the ontological question allows the object of philosophical inquiry to be shifted elsewhere.

Unlike Badiou (and Heidegger), I do not think the central question of philosophy has been “what is being?” or “what is the meaning of being?” Rather, following Zubiri, I think the central question of philosophy is “what is reality?” However, like Badiou, I try to effect a deflationary move with respect to the question of reality. Since roughly the 17th century, philosophy has been obsessed with the question of how we might come to know reality. As such, reality has been treated as a transcendent beyond that must be reached, and which is to be distinguished from something else that is not reality. What this thing that is other than reality, I do not know. It seems to be mind, culture, language, power, and a host of other things relating to the human. The problem is that situated in these terms the question of how we can know reality is hopeless. Why? Because one of the central lines of thought we inherit from the 17th century is the thesis that we only have access to our representations. Well, if we only have access to our representations then we can only ever scan our representations to find the marks of reality, but since these marks are themselves representations we have no criteria for determining whether they are marks or simulacra: Descartes with his mind in a vat.

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_sculpture-center-1Reid, over at Planomenology, has written a lengthy and thought provoking critique of the object-oriented metaphysics I’ve been developing in my recent posts (here, here, and here). I am deeply flattered by the thoughtfulness and time that Reid has put into this. Reid’s remarks are a critique in the best sense of the word, undertaken in a spirit of comradery that both strives to see the project succeed, pointing out perceived weakness, and developing his own positions. Reid begins by remarking that,

First of all, while I have some sympathy for the urge to simply forget about correlationsim and pounce on the things themselves, I worry that this may be hasty and somewhat reckless. We can raise here a whole set of problems. Firstly, can we simply forget about Kant, who so famously demonstrated our consignment to the phenomenal world of access, and exlcusion from the in-itself? Secondly, who is to say that ‘object’ is an appropriate way of speaking about the in-itself? Are not objects the specific way things show up for us? If we subtract ourselves from the equation, what reason do we have to believe that objects will remain as objects?

Again, I’m not familiar enough with Harman to know how he would respond, but I am a bit confused by Levi’s willingness to embrace objects as the form of the in-itself. This confusion stems from the high regard I have for his fantastic book on Deleuze, which, among other things, critiques any approach to the given that takes it as it is, rather than accounting for the genesis of that given. It seems to me that, from this position, we should arrive not at an object oriented philosophy any more than a subject oriented philosophy, but rather, at a genesis oriented philosophy, aiming to account for the givenness of the in-itself as objectal and accessible or inaccessible.

esoI am not in a position to fully respond to Reid’s critique at this moment– and really the entire post is worthwhile for those interested in these topics –but I will make a couple of preliminary remarks. First, at some point I will have to respond to the Kantian challenge in a more elaborate fashion. As I have argued elsewhere, I think the entire category of the in-itself and the inaccessibility of the in-itself is premised on a false problem. On the one hand, as I understand it, the problematic of the in-itself arises from treating the real being of the in-itself as unrelated or independent of any relation, such that entrance into any relation is a departure from the real being of that object, corrupting it and rendering it inaccessible. For example, in coming to relate to mind, in Kant, the object is transformed into phenomena or appearance that is no longer the object itself. I think this whole notion is mistaken. As I argued a long while back in my post “Existent(s)– Hegel’s Critique of the In-Itself”, this property of relation is not unique to the subject-object, mind-object, relation but rather is common to all relations among objects. That is, insofar as all relations among objects involve translation (Latour’s Principle), it follows that this is an ontological matter not a phenomenological matter. Now the verdict is still out for me as to whether objects are infinitely withdrawn from everything else and “vacuum packed”, as in the case of Graham’s metaphysics, but I do think this point is enough to demolish the Kantian epistemological framework and return us to the domain of metaphysics. My book Difference and Givenness, of course, was written not to redeem Kant but with the hope of accomplishing the ruin of Kant and opening the way for a shift from the epistemic and skeptical pre-occupations that define our period to the speculative and metaphysical. Sadly I had not yet encountered thinkers like Graham or Meillassoux when writing that book and therefore lacked the vocabulary to make this point more explicitly.

For some reason Graham’s vacuum packed objects make me very nervous, almost as if they’re black holes that contribute nothing beyond a sort of anchor beyond all relations. Here I must be missing something, but it seems as if these infinitely withdrawn objects must lack any structure. But that can’t possibly be right either as an interpretation of his position or ontologically. At some point I’ll have to respond to Graham’s own critique of relational models of objects.

I should emphasize here that in evoking Hegel I am not adopting or endorsing his system. It is a specific moment within his system that interests me and that moment alone. Moreover, I think I take this moment in a very different direction than Hegel himself takes it, putting it to very different work. In other words, my evocations of Hegel should be understood as a moment of theft or shoplifting, where I take a very fine argument and direct it to other ends. Similarly, Descartes engages in an act of theft with respect to Augustine and the cogito without reproducing Augustine’s metaphysics.

On the other hand, I think Roy Bhaskar’s transcendental realism as developed in A Realist Theory of Science provides the resources for moving from the domain of epistemology to ontology. First, Bhaskar argues that the treatment of being according to the requirements of knowledge, or the reduction of being to knowledge of being, constitutes a fallacy that he refers to as the “epistemic fallacy”. This fallacy is rife throughout both Anglo-American and Continental philosophy, and is visible in social constructivisms that reduce being to discourses about being, forms of phenomenology that reduce being to sense-bestowing intuition or only allow us to talk of being in terms of being-given or donated, and, of course, Kantianism. Consequently, second, Bhaskar argues that our scientific practice can only be rendered intelligible by positing the reality or mind-independence of the objects investigated by science. This argument holds, I think, for many other domains beyond science. As a consequence, third, Bhaskar, in a line of thought exceedingly close to Meillassoux’s argument from the arche-fossil, argues that ontologically we must be able to envision a world independent of humans or where humans do not exist. Incidentally, the point is not that humans do not, according to the Ontic Principle, make a difference. Humans are beings too and as such they contribute a difference. Rather, by the Ontological Principle, the point is far more modest: humans do not make the only or most important difference. Somewhere or other, if memory serves me correctly, Whitehead remarks that philosophies do not fail by dint of being false but by virtue of hyperbole. That is, they raise one principle to the principle of everything, effectively erasing the rest. Kant gets something right but then shackles all of being to mind.

As to questions of genesis, I would argue that genesis is a necessary ingredient of any object-oriented metaphysics that affirms the univocity of being. However, while genesis is a necessary component to the thinking of beings or objects, it would be a mistake to suppose that metaphysics can live on genesis alone. There is a vast difference between the declaration that “all beings are the result of their genesis” and the declaration that “all beings are there genesis”. The latter formulation reduces entities to their genesis, granting entity itself nothing in its own right, while the former thesis grants autonomy to entities in their own right while also acknowledging that they come-to-be. Here I think is one of the major shortcomings of Deleuze’s, and by extension DeLanda’s, brilliant ontologies. Genesis becomes the name of the real without objects being nothing but effects that themselves contribute nothing in turn. This accounts for the constant reading of Deleuze’s virtual as something other than the actual. In other words, Deleuze and DeLanda appear to violate the Principle of Irreduction. My strategy, by contrast, is to affirm that there are nothing but actualities and that when we speak of the relation between the virtual and the actual we are not referring to something other than the actual, but rather other actualities, such as genes, as they relate to a different actuality.

What I am trying to target with all of this is those various reductivist forms of thought, whether the social constructivisms or variants of materialism, that then make it impossible to determine how change is possible. In one way or another I think these metaphysics presuppose models where one form of being is privileged as the only being that makes a difference– say the symbolic or the signifier –and all other beings are mere vehicles or bearers of the effects of this form of being. The result of this form of thought is that we’re led to the conclusion that only an Event, Act, or Void can save us as change can only occur where there’s a point of absolute non-mediation. The Principle of Reality, which states that “the degree of power or reality embodied in a being are a ratio of the extensiveness of the differences the entity produces”, coupled with Latour’s Principle which states that “there is no transportation without translation”, tells a very different story. It now becomes possible to target key nodes in a constellation upon which a number of other relations depend. Indeed, following from Latour’s Principle we could also evoke another principle, the Principle of Change, which would state that,

There is no relation that does not produce a change.

This would be the case insofar as there can be no transformation without translation. Thus, for example, an entity also changes the signifier when it becomes a bearer of the signifier. It produces a difference within the signifier. The question then would no longer be how change is possible, but 1) how do stable constellations emerge, and 2) what nodes should be targeted within a specific constellation to produce change throughout the constellation.

In my last post I introduced the Ontic Principle as the ground upon which any object-oriented philosophy must be based. On the one hand, the Ontic Principle states that “there is no difference that does not make a difference.” On the other hand, in Latour’s formulation, it states “there is no transportation without translation.” The ontic, of course, is the domain of entities or beings, as opposed to the ontological which deals with being qua being or what can be said of being independent of any reference to specific objects (here I strongly suspect that ontology has very little of interest to say, but more on that later). Consequently, if the Ontic Principle states that there is no difference that does not make a difference, then this entails that being a being or entity consists in producing a difference.

Entity is power and act: The power to produce difference and activity, the actuality, of making difference. I suspect that there are two further principles lurking behind this first formulation: The Principle of Reality and the Principle of Actuality. The Principle of Reality would state something along the following lines:

The degree of power or reality embodied in a being are a ratio of the extensiveness of the differences the entity produces.

In other words, the more real an entity is the more difference that entity produces. Clearly this principle is indebted to Latour’s understanding of the reality of an entity in terms of the extensiveness of its relations, Badiou’s most recent work on worlds, entities, and intensities with respect to appearing, and Deleuze-Spinoza’s understanding of entity as power. Reality and power would thus be co-extensive and defined in terms of act, as I gropingly tried to outline in a previous post.

The Principle of Actuality, by contrast, would be formulated roughly as follows:

Entities only are insofar as they are act-ual

ba1fa211-d1e8-d704-796509f20de29fae_1In other words, there is no entity where there is no act-uality. Here the hyphen must be observed to underline the essence of entity as act. To be act-ual is not to be still and complete, but rather to be in act. If it is true that there is no difference that does not make a difference and that entity is difference, then it follows as a consequence that there can be no being that is not act-ual. Consequently, I banish any entity that does not act or produce a difference. A purely possible or potential entity is, under this model, no entity at all. I also set aside the vexed question of the Deleuzian virtual. As I understand it, the Deleuzian virtual refers not to some mysterious extra-actual form of being but rather refers to relations among actualities. The virtual is not something other than the actual, but refers to relations of acting between actualities. In this respect, the Deleuzian virtual would be a variation of Whitehead’s Ontological Principle which states that the reason for any entity is to be found in another actual entity or in that entity itself. For example, genes are purely virtual in relation to my body but are entirely actual at any point in time for themselves. Nonetheless, this raises a number of questions about causality and potency that I am not yet prepared to tackle.

london-after-people-jj-001It is of crucial importance to note one point. Clearly the Ontic Principle is a variation of Bateson’s famous definition of information:

Information is that difference that makes a difference.

This connection might give the impression that the Ontic Principle is epistemological, pertaining to autopoiesis, systems theory, or some similar theory of operational closure where systems constitute their own elements. Certainly I have written often about autopoiesis and systems theory on this blog. However, it is important to note that the Ontic Principle is strictly ontological in nature. To properly envision the scope of the Ontic Principle we must imagine, after the fashion of Roy Bhaskar (without necessarily sharing his ontology) a world without humans, or, after the fashion of Quentin Meillassoux, a world without thought. This is not because entities independent of the human are the real differences that make a difference– certainly humans fulfill the Ontic Principle and the Principle of Act-uality –but rather because this thought experiment allows us to think ontologically and in terms of beings entirely independent, where the question is not one of whether or not we register a difference but whether a differences is produced in and among entities regardless of whether humans are there to register them. Such is the ruin of Parmenides and his equation of being and thought.

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My frustrations from earlier today have led me to think once again of Serres’ discussion of noise in his lyrical work of philosophy, Genesis. There Serres writes:

There, precisely, is the origin. Noise and nausea, noise and the nautical, noise and the navy belong to the same family. We musn’t be surprised. We never hear what we call background noise so well as we do at the seaside. That placid or vehement uproar seems established there for all eternity. In the strict horizontal of it all, stable, unstable cascades are endlessly trading. Space is assailed, as a whole, by the murmur; we are utterly taken over by this same murmuring. This restlessness is within hearing, just shy of definite signals, just shy of silence. The silence of the sea is mere appearance. Background noise may well be the ground of our being. It may be that our being is not at rest, it may be that it is not in motion, it may be that our being is disturbed. The background noise never ceases; it is limitless, continuous, unending, unchanging. It has itself no background, no contradictory. How much noise must be made to silence noise? And what terrible fury puts fury in order? Noise cannot be a phenomenon; every phenomenon is separated from it, a silhouette on a backdrop, like a beacon against the fog, as every message, every cry, every call, every signal must be separated from the hubbub that occupies silence, in order to be, to be perceived, to be known, to be exchanged. (13)

Noise cannot be a phenomenon. Rather, noise is inimical to all phenomenon, an anteriority out of which phenomenality itself emerges like a ghostly ship suddenly manifesting itself out of a dense fog on a dark night. Some of us will remember the haunting image of Carol-Anne before the television in Poltergeist, intoning “they’re here!” in response to voices that only she can hear. The white noise of the television that lulled so many of us to sleep in bygone ages prior to the onset of twenty-four hour television, produces an experience of the uncanny, causes the hair to raise on the back of our neck, by confronting us with the thought of an order impacting our life from within a flat chaos. Bateson will say that “information is the difference that makes a difference.” Noise is the great white indifference. Thus Deleuze will write,

Indifference has two aspects: the undifferenciated abyss, the black nothingness, the indeterminate animal in which everything is dissolved– but also the white nothingness, the once more calm surface upon which float unconnected determinations like scattered members: a head without a neck, an arm without a shoulder, eyes without a brows. The indeterminate is completely indifferent, but such floating determinations are no less indifferent, but such floating determinations are no less indifferent to each other… Difference is the state in which one can speak of determination as such. The difference ‘between’ two things is only empirical, and the corresponding determinations are only extrinsic. However, instead of something distinguished from something else, imagine something which distinguishes itself– and yet that from which it distinguishes itself does not distinguish itself from it. Lightning, for example, distinguishes itself from the black sky but must also trail it behind, as though it were distinguishing itself from that which does not distinguish itself from it. It is as if the ground rose to the surface, without ceasing to be the ground… Difference is this state in which determination takes the form of unilateral distinction. We must therefore say that difference is made, or makes itself, as in the expression ‘make the difference’. (Difference and Repetition, 28)

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Some will recall the puerile film Contact, where hidden within the extraterrestrial radio transmission there is a secret code filled with thousands of pages of blueprints for the design of some device. The question is that of how a difference is made. Or rather, it is a question of how something ceases to be noise, chaos, and suddenly becomes salient. For those who remember the film, Contact is particularly nice in this regard; for when the sound signatures are projected onto a visual space, we get a multi-dimension picture where certain differences rise forth from the ground as distinct.

In many respects, this is the core of education. Andrew Cutrofello expresses this point nicely when speaking of Bachelard’s theory of science in Continental Philosophy: A Contemporary Introduction:

Just as Bachelard is more amenable than Heidegger to the reconcilability of the claims of science and poetry, so he denies that there is as great a gap between intuition and intellect as Bergson supposed there to be. Intuitions have to be educated by the intellect, that is, by the very specific accomplicments whose philosophical significance Bergson thought had to be assessed from the perspective of a naive or ‘pure’ intuition. For Bachelard, the very capacity to inuit has a history, one that is dialectically informed by developments in science… (58)

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Perception is not simply a given or a gestalt, but something that must be developed and cultivated. My friend Carl tells me of his visit to Egypt, and how people drive and walk in the city of Cairo. For him there seems to be no order. Cars zoom about willy-nilly. People walk into oncoming traffic. Yet strangely it all seems to work out well. There is an order amidst this noise of which he is unaware. I have had a similar experience in the Indian-Pakistani part of Chicago, on Devon Avenue. Everything there presents itself as a buzzing confusion for the agent that does not have a “know-how” of this place. In developing a knowledge of psychoanalysis, we do not simply gain new facts, but we cultivate perceptions. Certain items in a person’s speech become salient where before they were merely noise that we filtered out. So too in the case of the physicist, the chemist, the engineer. There is a process of phenomenalization, a breaching of a realm of being, where before there was only noise.

There is thus an anxiety that accompanies all education. In learning– rather than knowing –one confronts the undifferentiated void, where saliencies do not reside. In teaching we bring our students before this noise, confronting them with a field of phenomenality where, as of yet, there are no phenomena for them. Some of us recoil from the passions this anxiety releases, celebrating rote memorization as a way of relieving the anxiety. Here no new field of phenomenality appears. Everything remains at the level of the familiar, doxa. All of us, regardless, must handle this anxiety, administering it in doses, guiding our students through the indeterminate so that the phenomenon might appear, by grace, on the other side. It is a dance that can easily go astray, leading the student to recoil in horror in much the same way that Plato describes in the allegory of the cave, where the escaped prisoner is painfully blinded with each subsequent step he takes. Somehow it is necessary to manage that blinding so that it doesn’t lead to flight. Yet holographically, a phenomenon gradually comes to stand forth from this buzzing confusion… Something becomes distinct and a grammar begins to appear. It might be a grammar of wood (in carving), of sound (in music), of the unconscious, of chemical relations. Where before there was indifference, now there is difference. Yet how is it that something begins to stand out from the white noise on the television screen? Where does the difference that makes a difference come from? Is it possible to think that which precedes the given, that gives the given, and that is anterior to phenomenality? Or must that which is anterior to the phenomenality of the phenomenon– the es gibt –be doomed to be an unthinkable abyss? More to the point, what would a pedagogy that takes this abyss into account and which guides the student to the discovery of singularities within the undifferentiated look like?

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In What is Philosophy?, Deleuze and Guattari write,

…[P]hilosophers have very little time for discussion. Every philosopher runs away when he or she hears someone say, ‘Let’s discuss this.’ Discussions are fine for roundtable talks, but philosophy throws its numbered dice on another table. The best one can say about discussions is that they take things no farther, since the participants never talk about the same thing. Of what concern is it to philosophy that someone has such a view, and thinks this or that, if the problems at stake are not stated? And when they are stated, it is no longer a matter of discussing but rather one of creating concepts for the undiscussible problem posed. Communication always comes too early or too late, and when it comes to creating, conversation is always superfluous. Sometimes philosophy is turned into the idea of a perpetual discussion, as ‘communicative rationality,’ or as ‘universal democratic conversation.’ Nothing is less exact, and when philosophers criticize each other it is on the basis of problems and on a plane that is different from theirs and that melt down the old concepts in the way a cannon can be melted down to make new weapons. It never takes place on the same plane. To criticize is only to establish that a concept vanishes when it is thrust into a new milieu, losing some of its components, or acquiring others that transform it. But those who criticize without creating, those who are content to defend the vanished concept without being able to give it the forces it needs to return to life, are the plague of philosophy. All of these debaters and communicators are inspired by ressentiment (Deleuze’s emphasis). They speak only of themselves when they set empty generalizations against one another. Philosophy has a horror of discussions. (28-29)

Deleuze and Guattari must have been thinking of exchanges like this one with the lawyer Daniel, when writing the passage above. It is too much to even refer to such events as exchanges because nothing is exchanged. Those who participate appear to be talking to one another and to be talking about the same things, but are in fact talking about entirely different things. If this is the case, then it is because meaning is not in words, but is always the result of the relations a word shares with those other signifiers that are not present.

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    In Which I Suspect a Larval Thesis

~I do not seek, I find. (Jacques Lacan channeling Picasso in an indirect discourse).

~The ‘bricoleur’ is adept at performing a large number of diverse tasks; but, unlike the the engineer, he does not subordinate each of them to the availability of raw materials and tools conceived and procured for the purpose of the project. His universe of instruments is closed and the rules of his game are always to make do with ‘whatever is at hand’, that is to say with a set of tools and materials which is always finite and is also heterogeneous because what it contains bears no relation to the current project, or indeed to any particular project, but is the contingent result of all the occasions there have been to renew or enrich the stock or to maintain it with the remains of previous constructions or destructions. The set of the ‘bricoleur’s means cannot therefore be defined in terms of a project (which would presuppose besides, that, as in the case of the engineer, there were, at least in theory, as many sets of tools and materials or ‘instrumental sets’, as there are different kinds of projects). It is to be defined only by its potential use, or putting this another way and in the language of the ‘bricoleur’ himself, because the elements are collected or retained on the principle that ‘they may always come in handy’. Such elements are specialized up to a point, sufficiently for the ‘bricoleur’ not to need the equipment and knowledge of all trades and professions, but not enough for each of them to have only one definite and determine use. They each represent a set of actual and possible relations; they are ‘operators’ but they can be used for any operations of the same type. (The Savage Mind, 17-18).

I suspect that there is an entire materialistic philosophy contained in these remarks, alluding to the emergence of constellations. I wouldn’t be the first. I shall proceed as a bricoleur, collecting what is ready to hand, without any particular project in mind. Perhaps one will emerge after the fact, apres coup, as a whole arising from the parts and existing alongside the set of parts which cannot themselves form a whole.

    In Which I Discuss Some Things So as to Avoid Getting to the Point

In Difference and Repetition Deleuze writes,

The Idea [multiplicity] is defined as a structure. A structure or an Idea is a ‘complex theme’, an internal multiplicity– in other words, a system of multiple, non-localisable connections between differential elements which is incarnated in real relations and actual terms. In this sense, we see no difficulty in reconciling genesis and structure. Following Lautman and Vuillemin’s work on mathematics, ‘structuralism’ seems to us the only means by which a genetic method can achieve its ambitions. It is sufficient to understand that the genesis takes place in time not between on actual term, however small, and another actual term, but between the virtual and its actualisation– in other words, it goes from the structure to its incarnation, from the conditions of a problem to the cases of solution, from the differential elements and their ideal connections to actual terms and diverse real relations which constitute at each moment the actual of time. This is a genesis without dynamism, evolving necessarily in the element of a supra-historicity, a static genesis which may be understood as the correlate of the notion of passive synthesis, and which in turn illuminates that notion. (183)

In many respects it was this very passage that first attracted me to Deleuze years ago. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that we accept Saussure conception of language or Levi-Strauss’ conception of cultural. (I am not accepting either, but trying to pose or outline the contours of a particular problem that emerge whenever we talk about systems and structures). For Saussure language is defined as a system, as a set of differential relations between phonemes. A phoneme is not an individual sound, but is rather an opposition: thus, for instance, we have b/p/c. Much to my sister’s delight, my three year old nephew recently discovered Saussurean linguistics. “Mommy,” he said, giggling wildly, “isn’t it funny that if you use b instead of g you can turn ‘boat’ into ‘goat’ and if you use c instead of g you can turn ‘goat’ into ‘coat’?!?” My nephew, the bright young boy he is, had discovered the principle of differentiality. In The Logic of Sense, Deleuze will argue that sense arises from nonsense. It would appear that my nephew is very Deleuzian in the sense that he has discovered that nonsense or the meaningless oppositions among sounds can produce effects of sense. A simple substitution of sound can produce a different meaning.

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