depth, disorder, dream, language, Plato, space, story, surface, theory, time



Between science’s eternal youth, forever sprouting green shoots, and the crumbling timelessness of art’s old age, there may yet emerge a new, a third kind of time, a crossing between the unique and universal which could bestow a new measure. 

The dream is young, the awakening ancient. 

Between the transformation and the formula, in the middle of the two shores of language, a glittering goal which shifts along with us, a nearly-invisible position which threatens to forever slip between the stories and theories into the depths. 

Between itself and itself, the earth is always the story — the only one we can remember or tell, that is, the one we are — this dream, and this awakening.

On the surface, the two series don’t align, cracks burst throughout the volume. A map of hidden tensions is revealed. The lines don’t originate from a central point. They swerve and intersect madly, though they may sometimes seem parallel. 

It is only in the depths, where mixtures reign, that all is equilibrium — a transcendental immanence. All impossibilities are nullified by a smooth consistency of oscillation, a balance without ratio. All formulas, and none. 

Perfect peace, though it may sometimes seem chaotic. 

And between the surface and the depth, an interval, the third space: the profound Being of depth crossed with the mad beings of the surface — a plague or a prophecy? 

Even now, I still do not know. 

The law of bifurcation rules the depths of the sea, of the skies, and of time. Everything is reversible. It is a lesson found in the most ancient books, the law of the parasite, whose tiny silver thread always manages to cross the borderline. 

The least can become the greatest: everything can become nothing, and nothing — everything. 

Thus, upon the surface, reversibility gives way to the irreversible. The law of anarchy, of entropy, rules the surface — a kind of royal madness which sets about organizing chaos, even creating complexity to maximize disorder. Time itself expresses this blistering of the surface, the irreversibility of creation. 

Finally, there could be no formal law for the space in between, spoken of even less than the depths and repressed by the surface-depth system — another wisp of Plato’s ghost. Yet it would be that ratio whose reason was precisely pure love, or humility — the meaning, and perhaps the very reality of humanity.

code, decode, encode, flusser, gaze, image, metacode, photography, significance, surface, textuality

Notes on Vilém Flusser’s Philosophy of Photography: Chapter 1, the Image

Goraczka, Tomasz Setowski

Images are significant surfaces. This means that images signify, as well as make comprehensible as an abstraction, “something ‘out there’.” Images are reduced from “four dimensions of space and time” to “two surface dimensions.” (8)

Imagination is this specific ability to abstract surfaces out of space and time and to project them back into space and time. Imagination is the precondition for producing and decoding images. “The ability to encode phenomena into two-dimensional symbols and to read these symbols.” (8)

The significance of images is on the surface. A single glance remains superficial and doesn’t reconstruct the abstracted dimensions. One has to “allow one’s gaze to wander over the surface feeling the way as one goes” in order to enhance and deepen the significance. The path the gaze follows is “complex” and formed by the “structure of the image” and the “observer’s intentions.” (8) This is called ‘scanning’ and reveals the significance of the image. Therefore, it is a kind of synthesis between the intention manifested in the image and the intention belonging to the observer.

Images are not ‘denotative’ (unambiguous) complexes of symbols (like numbers, for example) but ‘connotative’ (ambiguous) complexes of symbols. Images provide space for interpretation. The space reconstructed by scanning is the space of mutual significance. The gaze produces specific relations between elements of the image. Scanning is thus a kind of eternal return: the gaze “can return to an element of the image it has already seen, and ‘before’ can come ‘after: the time reconstructed by scanning is an eternal recurrence of the same process.” (9)
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Aion, Chronos, Deleuze, dialectics, Logic of Sense, surface, virtual

Logic of Sense: Series 2 on the Paradox of Surface Effects: Dialectics as the Art of Conjugation

In series 2 on the paradox of surface effects, Deleuze happens to mention dialectics as “the art of conjugation” (8). Before diving into the implications of this statement, we should note that for Deleuze, the pure event can be conceived of as an infinitive independent of any temporal, modal, vocal or personal grammatical determinations—and so in essence, this type of pure event can be conceived of properly as a pre-individual singularity that escapes the logical ordering of worlds (214). This insistence on the link between the infinitive and the event can be traced throughout the book and culminates in series 30 on the phantasm; however, we can understand how and for what purpose Deleuze chooses to designate a role for dialectics (note, not the dialectic) in his philosophy. All that is required is a more concrete definition of dialectics as Deleuze gives it and an unpacking of what the art of conjugation entails for an understanding of the way in which events come to be expressed in propositions and the way that these events are themselves related in propositions (8).

I did not happen to bring up series 30 on accident, for what Deleuze makes explicit is that psychoanalysis and dialectics, fundamentally at least, share a strong affinity (notice Deleuze chiding Freud for taking a ‘Hegelian’ position on the contradictory nature of primitive words) (213). This is because psychoanalysis takes phantasms as the (im)material for its science of events. Similarly, Deleuze links the incorporeal effects or “dialectical attributes” to the events that populate the surface (5). In fact, Deleuze will even say “The Stoics discovered surface effects. Simulacra cease to be subterranean rebels and make the most of their effects (that is, what might be called ‘phantasms,’ independently of the Stoic terminology)” (8). It is here that Deleuze first equates the event with being beyond the passive/active opposition, being both and neither at once (8).

If dialectics is “the science of incorporeal events as they are expressed in propositions, and of the connections between events as they are expressed in relation between propositions,” then one might well question whether or not Deleuze fully bypasses this sort of static conception of events (8). In fact, I want to hypothesize that Deleuze brings up dialectics at the start as a one-sided approach to the phenomenon of language formation along a frontier. What will become important to Deleuze is not simply how the infinitive-event is conjugated in a world, but instead how infinitive-events can be said to be a-cosmic and singular. This singularity can be tricky if we choose to see events circulating in a univocal Event that is transcendent to the world and its logic. If we choose to see the ideality of the pure event as transcendent, we fall into the easy trap that Badiou is guilty of—namely, that of condemning the concept of the virtual as that which introduces transcendence into an otherwise untainted, univocal system of immanence.

But this does not answer the obvious question—what does the virtual mean and how does it correlate with Deleuze’s concept of dialectics? If we can roughly divide the terms actual/virtual with the two movements of time Chronos/Aion, then we may be able to make some progress (or make things more confusing). As I understand it, Chronos is the time of the pure, full present, the past and the future being subsumed and contracted or folded into one layer. But Aion works exactly opposite: instead, future and past are infinitely subdivided and the present is what is empty—in this sense, the present is not, or it can be considered a void point. If we can imagine that the world partakes of both times at once, we belie the fundamental point—events that are temporalized have actual consequences on the world of Chronos. Instead of being just past or just about to come—as Deleuze understands the time of Aion and the pure event—actualized events come to share in the consequences of world formation and logical development. But this leaves the obvious question of the virtuality of the event: what about an event that isn’t actualized? We can say that the event did not take place because of a lack of force or because of a sufficient intensity for a zone was not activated. In other words, events have potentials that must be tapped into and unleashed for a proportionate actualization. In some sense, the event requires certain conditions and the relative critical energy in order for the chaos of the virtual to be actualized in the production of reality. It is, then, the duty of dialectics to be able to formulate specific conditions that augment the conjugation of pure events from the virtuality of Aion to the actuality of Chronos.

Deleuze, intuition, kant, representation, set theory, soul, surface, transcendental object

Kant, the Antinomies, and the Soul as Rebel Element

Kant’s working through of a set of functions of representation that support the interaction between the subject and object-as-appearance is dizzying to say the least. Beginning with the concepts of intuition and sensibility, Kant elaborates his distinctions between the a priori and a posteriori by linking them with their analogues: intellectual intuition and empirical sensation. Since Kant ends with intellectual intuition (B72), it is better to start with a more primary opposition.

What is essential to understand is that intuition is immediate, and thus a priori. Because of their immediacy, intuitions are pre-logical and pre-relational, which means that they exist before ever being thought by the subject. In fact, intuition only arises because of a gift, the gift of the object. Without this gift, intuition cannot function, or, better yet, if the object were never given, there would be no possibility of the (self)-consciousness of the function of intuition at all.

The gift of the object is a force that affects the subject’s sensibility, which means that our capacity for receiving the gift is defined by a particular mode which only renders representations of the object, and not the thing-in-itself. Since the thing-in-itself, a.k.a. the transcendental object cannot be known to us, it lies outside of the domain of sensibility. Only God has an intuition of this Thing and only by dint of the fact that God’s knowledge is not in the inferior mode of human thought, that which perpetuates the persistence of a relational and spatio-temporal structure. God is not in space or time, and therefore his knowledge cannot be limited to thought but must be reserved for pure intuition (taking for granted God’s existence, of course). The point is that mortal beings of thought have to think these intuitions through the understanding which then forms concepts (A19).

This brings us to the fundamental difference between thinking and pure intuition. As opposed to God, the subject can only experience intuition through thought. Concepts arise which form the structure of our apprehension of intuition. Because it is thought, intuition is not pure, which fundamentally means that it is mediated. If intuition for Kant is immediate, the representations that arise from the force of the object affecting the subject have to relate to the fact that there is no presentation of intuition, merely thoughts that form representational concepts through the understanding. Thus, all of our perceptions are a posteriori in the sense that they are mediated by the understanding.

This is what accounts for Kant’s introduction of the term appearance at the beginning of the Transcendental Aesthetic. If intuitions of objects are representations, a posteriori and empirical, then the subject always encounters “undetermined objects,” in the sense that objects are never things-in-themselves, they only merely appear in the world as phenomena (A20).

But we should ask: why is appearance the only mode for an object to affect a subject? Or, why is the object always mediated in relation to the subject? This of course leads Kant to stipulate the a priori existence of space and time. Objects, insofar as they are given to subjects, are always structured by these two forms. These two forms divide the subject into two senses: the inner and outer sense. Space refers to outer sense because of our perception of objects. Time refers to inner sense insofar as it allows the ‘I’ to synthesize the diverse and changing, sometimes contradictory states or predicates that inhere in the subject, one after another. Time and space are forms for Kant because they order the “manifold of appearance” and force relations to occur (B34, A20).

This is crucial because at first I didn’t really understand how important Kant’s definition of space and time really are. They are not grounds, nor are they containers; they do not inhere in beings or objects; they are not originary. They do not generate beings, but instead they are essential as the milieu in which beings and bodies necessarily relate. Space and time are both unitary and infinite. It is for precisely this reason that they are not generative, because they represent perfectly what the paradox of the abnormal set means. I will quote a passage from Kant in order to make this clear:

Space is represented as an infinite given multitude. Now every concept must be thought as a representation which is contained in an infinite number of different possible representations (as their common character), and which therefore contains these under itself; but no concept, as such, can be thought as containing an infinite number of representations within itself. It is in this latter way, however, that space is thought; for all the parts of space coexist ad infinitum. Consequently, the original representation of space is an a priori intuition, not a concept (B40).

The abnormal set is a set which all sets belong to and which includes itself. This paradox was nicely formulated by Russell in the 20th century, but for our purposes the existence of the abnormal set—designated by Space and Time respectively—corresponds to Kant’s antinomies of the Soul, God, and the Universe. I have taken the term abnormal set from the way in which Deleuze describes it in Logic of Sense, and I want to expand on it by linking its complementary term with Kant’s antinomy of the soul.

The term rebel element refers to an element that “forms part of a set whose existence it presupposes and belongs to two sub-sets which it determines” (Deleuze 75). In closing, and in curiosity, I want to try to link the antinomy of the Soul (as I vaguely understand it) with the concept of the rebel element. Kant might say that the soul is precisely not a concept, cannot be sensed, and thus cannot yield itself as an object to empirical intuition. It can only be axiomatically assumed a priori. However, if the soul is the rebel element, then it means that it forms part of a set (Man) whose two sub-sets (life, death) are determined by the fact that the soul belongs to both of those planes. The antinomy from this point of view is precisely the fact that man’s life and death are significantly determined whether or not we posit the existence of the soul. But man does not equal the soul, and so as a subset, it can be presupposed to not exist without destroying the subject per se. What happens is that the soul still continues to have an effect on the set and sub-sets precisely to the extent that the soul is not done away with magically and successfully repressed, but instead it returns in the form of its negation. Thus, (soulless) man enters a completely different dialectical relationship with life and death. The rebel element thus has a way of creating a (dis)order or an alternative order by forcing a revaluation of the terms to which it relates. It is not simply that the presence or absence of a permanent or temporary soul undeniably changes the individual’s relationship with life and death; more importantly, this has to be understood as a process that is singular for each individual. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the soul is understood as an idol (an object of heights)—Monotheism—as a simulacrum (object of depths)—Buddhism—as an image (object of partial corporeal surfaces)—Foucault’s “the soul is the prison of the body”—and as a phantasm (soul as pure surface effects of the event of libidinal intensities).