abstract machine, assemblage, becoming, code, cosmos, diagram, God, intensity, language, molecular, segmentarity, semiotics, sign, subject, truth



“Regimes of signs are not based on language, and language alone does not constitute an abstract machine, whether structural or generative. The opposite is the case. It is language that is based on regimes of signs, and regimes of signs on abstract machines, diagrammatic functions and machinic assemblages that go beyond any system of semiology, linguistics or not. There is no universal propositional logic, nor is there grammaticality in itself, any more than there is signifiance for itself. “Behind” statements and semioticizations there are only machines, assemblages and movements of deterritorialization that cut across the stratification of the various systems and elude both the coordinates of language and of existence…

A Thousand Plateaus 148

The world is segmented, stratified, breaking or already broken-up: what happened, what is happening? What crosses over, releasing free, untamed intensities as it travels along the intermediary zones? What is it which is just now passing through — beyond, behind, between — these lines? How do these lines — and always bundles of lines, fibres — work? A question of codes, partitions, signal-sign networks: are these lines of forced motion (interpretation) or rather lines of free variation (experimentation)? “The mixed semiotic of signifiance and subjectification has an exceptional need to be protected from any intrusion from the outside.” (ATP 179) A single expressive substance precludes the development of nomadic machines — truth, God, the Earth, are not “allowed” to have an outside! Do we think we understand this “allowed”? What happened? But already in order to translate we must achieve an expressive unification, yet this by no means guarantees that the language we thus arrive at conveys a message: “You will never know what just happened, or you will always know what is going to happen…” (ATP 193)

All becoming are molecular — not objects or forms easily recognized from science, habit or experiences — and in this sense “unknowable,” at least from the outside. Are human beings the same way? Is there no relation of resemblance between the woman and becoming-woman, the child and becoming-child? “All we are saying is that these in-dissociable aspects of becoming-woman must first be understood as a function of something else: not imitating or assuming the female form, but emitting particles that enter the relation of movement and rest, or the zone of proximity, of a micro-femininity, in other words, that produce in us a molecular woman…” (ATP 275) The question is not about representing a woman, producing an accurate imitation of a particular molecular multiplicity — but of making something that has to do with that multiplicity enter into composition with the speeds of the image. In becoming we discover our own proximity to the molecular: “That is the essential point for us: you become-animal only if, by whatever means or elements, you emit corpuscles that enter the relation of movement and rest of the animal particles, or what amounts to the same thing, that enter the zone of proximity of the animal molecule.” (275)

Can we “make” the world a becoming? Only if we reduce ourselves to “one or several” abstract lines can we find our own proximities, our own zones of indiscernibility; that is, our own passageway to a becoming-everywhere, a becoming-everybody: “The Cosmos as an abstract machine, and each world as an assemblage effectuating it.” (ATP 280) Eliminate everything exceeding this moment; but don’t forget to include within the moment everything which it includes in its turn. We ourselves slip into the moment, which slips transparently into the impersonal, the indiscernible. “One is then like grass: one has made the world, everybody/everything, into a becoming, because one has made a necessarily communicating world, because one has suppressed in oneself everything that prevents us from slipping between things and growing in the midst of things… Saturate, eliminate, put everything in.” (ATP 280)

formula, lacan, Poe, psychoanalysis, Purloined Letter, repetition, signifier, structuralism, subject

Lacan and the Formula of the “Purloined Letter”


Now, it seems more and more clear to us that this subject who speaks is beyond the ego…It’s also the question…to what extent does the symbolic relation, the relation of language, retain its value beyond the subject, in as much as it may be characterized as centred in an ego –by an ego, for an alter-ego? –Jacques Lacan, “Odd or even? Beyond intersubjectivity,”The Seminar of Jacques Lacan: Book II p. 175, 177.

In his second seminar, before introducing his thoughts on Poe’s “Purloined Letter,” Jacques Lacan raises the question of the “relation of signification to the living man” (186). In general, Lacan sees this story as revolving around problems of signification, meaning, received opinion and truth. What seems to animate Lacan in this early seminar is the fact that Poe’s story places intersubjectivity at its core, highlighting the dynamics at work in the different subjective positions that are oriented in the symmetrical series of the story. When Lacan tells us that “The subject adopts a mirror position, enabling him to guess the behavior of his adversary,” he is both simultaneously referring to the game of odds and even and to a later interpretation that sees the Minister taking the position of the Queen and becoming-femininized. How does this displacement of series take place? By hiding the letter in plain sight as the Queen does at the beginning of the story, the Minister foils the police (linked to the position of the State and the King) while at the same time repeating the Queen’s very actions: so one of the key questions is to reconstruct how the signifier performs this work in the series and what this means for Lacan’s conceptualization of signifying chains as a whole.

As Lacan reminds us, the letter itself is a character. At the same time, it is the presence-absence that allows the series to be composed as such (around which the King, Queen, Minister and Dupin revolve). The letter is the mighty signifier that constitutes the chain; as Lacan writes in his seminar in the Ecrits: “If what Freud discovered, and rediscovers ever more abruptly, has a meaning, it is that the signifier’s displacement determines subjects’ acts, destiny, refusals, blindnesses, success, and fate…” (21). The letter constitutes the signifying chains that come to dominate the signified symbolic universes that structure and tie the story’s characters together. If the signifier has priority over the signified (20) this is due to the fact that Lacan believes that the signifier is what represents the subject for another signifier. The subject oscillates between two signifying chains, S1 and S2 (which relate to the two series in Poe’s story). These chains come to symbolically structure the intersubjective relations among subjects (by definition) because the same master signifier (the letter) dominates both chains. In other words, the force of Lacan’s quote above resides in what he identifies as the formula behind Poe’s story.

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attention, barrier, deconstruction, lacan, language, metaphor, signifier, structure, subject, Thought, unconscious

For Lacan


The question of vigilance is important. It is as if a demon plays a game with your attention [lit. “watchfulness.”]


To identify a “subject” is not only difficult, but truly impossible: we always only ‘nominate’ in the last instance one of its barriers; or rather, we indicate only what is barred, but we do so by signifying the barrier.

How can we understand this barrier — this imaginary line of symbolic exchange? In what sense does it have an “articulable” structure?

We may risk the following thesis. There are two poles or dissymmetrical operations to metaphor, not quite internal and external, but rather ‘intimate’ or ‘extimate,’ characterizing the relationship of the barrier to what is ‘barred’ (from speech, consciousness, etc.)

For example, we can speak of a line of variation (instead of the ‘actual’ — intimate — varieties of matter); but we can also we speak of multiple figures or forms (instead of the ‘virtual’ — extimate — force of pure multiplicity.)

Thus ‘figurate speech’ is that which thinks by tying together the two figurative series, itinerantly circulating between the extimate and intimate poles of metaphor. The “subject” comprehends and expresses his reality metaphorically; the subject is a metaphor.
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aristocracy, Christianity, evaluation, evil, good, human, judgment, life, morality, nobility, origin of language, power, psychoanalysis, question, reality, subject, the future, utility, value

Evaluating Value

Under what conditions did men invent for themselves these value judgments good and evil? And what inherent value do they have? Have they hindered or fostered human well-being up to now? Are they a sign of some emergency, of impoverishment, of an atrophying life?

Or is it the other way around—do they indicate fullness, power, a will for living, courage, confidence, the future?

Friedrich Nietzsche, Preface to the Genealogy of Morals

Why is this work a genealogy of morals? Nietzsche does not ask for the origins of good and evil as essences. Nor even does he ask for the conditions of possibility for good and evil as judgments. In fact, he proposes a third and entirely more subtle question, concerning the “conditions” under which these value judgments (“good” and “evil”) were first invented — he presumes that they were invented by human beings — and perhaps owing to this assumption, he immediately turns to question the inherent value of these value judgments themselves. To be precise, he asks what inherent value they possess — whether, for instance, they have so far hindered or fostered human beings.

We already grasp here in rough outline a critique of the metaphysics of morality — what we may perhaps call an extrusion of the irrational “core” or “substrate” of moral valuations — which seeks to question the value of morality itself. To put it briefly, this “question mark so black” asks about the worth of the “unegoistic,” the value of the pity-instinct — in short, it questions the value of ascetic values. The problem of pity is not an isolated question mark, but in fact demands a critique of moral values whose first object is to question the very value of these values. In other words, we need “a knowledge of the conditions and circumstance out of which these values grew, under which they have developed and changed” — the kind of knowledge which not only has not been available until now, but has not even been wished for.

The value of moral values has been taken as given, self-evident, beyond dispute — i.e., that “good” men are more valuable than “evil” men — but Nietzsche asks us to pause before common sense, and consider the possibility that the opposite were true: “What if in the ‘good’ there lay a symptom of regression, something like a danger, a seduction, a poison, a narcotic, something which makes the present live at the cost of the future?”

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affectivity, allagmatic, becoming, Disparation, emotivity, ensemble, form, hylemorphism, individualization, individuation, information, metastability, milieu, model, modularity, ontogenesis, potential, preindividual, signal, signification, Simondon, subject, system, Transduction, transindividual

A Short List of Gilbert Simondon’s Vocabulary


1. Affectivity -This term designates a relation between an individualized being and the pre-individual milieu; it is thus heterogeneous to individualized reality. This is why Simondon claims that affectivity, more than perception, indicates a spirituality that is greater than the individualized being (the Sublime) because perception is merely the functions of the structures interior to this being (L’Individuation psychique et collective, p. 108–hereafter cited as IPC). Simondon writes that affectivity is the ground of emotion, as perception is the ground of action (107).

2. Allagmatic – The Greek word allagma can mean change or vicissitude, but it can also mean that which can be given or taken in exchange, which more genuinely captures the idea of energy exchange in Simondon’s usage.

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badiou, being and event, fidelity, subject, unassignability

Being and Event: Meditation 23 on Fidelity

I call fidelity the set of procedures which discern, within a situation, those multiples whose existence depends upon the introduction into circulation (under the supernumerary name conferred by an intervention) of an evental multiple. In sum, a fidelity is the apparatus which separates out, within the set of presented multiples, those which depend upon an event. To be faithful is to gather together and distinguish the becoming legal of a chance

The word ‘fidelity’ refers directly to the amorous relationship, but I would rather say that it is the amorous relationship which refers, at the most sensitive point of individual experience, to the dialectic of being and event, the dialectic whose temporal ordination is proposed by fidelity…How, from the standpoint of the event-love, can one separate out, under the law of time, what organizes—beyond its simple occurrence—the world of love? (EE 232)

The explication of one of the truly fascinating concepts in Being and Event occurs in Meditation 23. Fidelity, as we shall see, leads also to the introduction of the subject—something that occurs last in this work, after all the order of reasons that serve as a foundation for Badiou’s set theory edifice. Though Badiou is quick to point out the resonance of fidelity to the amorous condition of philosophy, one should also point out the resonance of fidelity with notions of faithfulness and allegiance, like an oath sworn to a lord. In the short space that I have, I will set out to explicate the two dimensions of fidelity as a concept and its relationship to the subject.

Before we begin, I would like to arouse some intrigue into Badiou’s innovative theory of the subject. In Meditation 35, Badiou says that “the subject is chance” (396), and so we should juxtapose this to another quote that ends the first paragraph of Meditation 23: “To be faithful is to gather together and distinguish the becoming legal of a chance” (232). Having convoked these two statements together, what is fascinating is the fact that, from the point of view of the situation, the event is not counted as such—it is up to the subject to wager on its inclusion and to follow out the implications of this wager, implications that, in the current state of affairs, can only be described as that which will have taken place in the situation. This inclusion of the event entails the becoming legal of the logic of the event as chance, but it also indicates that the subject (retroactively?) becomes legal. Therefore, we must conclude that the subject is initially illegal.

Before flattering ourselves about this connection, we should define fidelity. It would be simple to introduce fidelity as the process that separates multiples in the situation in accordance to their (non)-connection to the event. More helpful for our topic, though, would be to point out some delimitations. First, fidelity is not linked to a “general faithful disposition;” instead, it relies on an event and so is always particular (233). Second, fidelity is not a multiple—strictly speaking, it is not. A fidelity acts as a different count, one not necessarily opposed to the state’s count, but one that enquires into the situation and marks the multiples that depend on the event. Therefore, as Badiou makes explicit more than once, fidelity is a concept related to the state. Third, when a faithful procedure is successful and it marks multiples as depending on the event, these multiples consequently are included in the situation. The fidelity is thus triply bound in its structure: it is defined by its situation, the event to which it corresponds, and the rule of connection that binds multiples as depending on the event.

However, we must remember that onto-mathematicians like Badiou wager that the being of situations is infinite. This assumption about the infinity of situations forces us to consider fidelity in its dual temporal aspect: it is “both the one-finite of an effective representation, and the infinity of a virtual presentation” (236). This means that fidelity’s goal—to count-as-one multiples marked by their dependence on the event and thus to present these marked multiples as a one—is never coextensive with the situation. The faithful count always lags behind the infinity of presentation: fidelity is a process that forever perpetuates its consistency by a further need to enquire into the connectivity of multiples to the event—the still-more of the faithful.

Before concluding our analysis of fidelity, we have to radically assert the deinstitutionalization of fidelity in order to truly capture its innovative essence. Opposed to a statist or spontaneist fidelity (the event only belongs to those who intervene) and a dogmatic fidelity (all multiples depend on the event), Badiou proposes the concept of a generic fidelity, that “which is unassignable to a defined function of the state…[and] from the standpoint of the state, [results in] a particularly nonsensical part” (237). This is because a generic fidelity allows the organization of another legitimacy of inclusions within the situation (238). For a fidelity to be generic it must be removed from the proximity of the state, the further the better. This argument makes Badiou assert a radical hypothesis: what if there is no relation between the two aspects of fidelity, namely the intervention and the operator of connection? This would mean that the operator acts as a second event in itself. Provocatively, the more it appears as a second event because of its subtraction from the proximity of the state, the more real the fidelity is for Badiou.