certainty, disorder, history, intensity, number, rigor, rupture, system, value

Differently

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This creature Life, beyond all evaluations, remains an uninterpretable difference — a kind of difference which is primary with respect to a differential identity, a difference which directly induces individuation, and thereby also seduces us to imitation, to the law of identity, and the shackles of representation. Difference for itself becomes the enemy and not a single word is possible on the value of life; how can we interpret this chaosmogenetic reality, arrive at by subtraction this very truth which endlessly ruptures with the signifying systems we use to interpret the world to another? It seems to verge on a kind of heresy, a prediction of apocalypse with respect to philosophy as such: can a mathematization, an axiomatization of the real take place?

The enormous suffering which has gone into everything beautiful is a misery which not only fails to become sensible in the light of Being, but which forcibly undermines the notion that all descends from pure forms (existence from Idea; God as pure and liberating Force of truth) rather than through the violent admixture and interpenetration of wildly heterogeneous forces and bodies (existence from cruelty; God as the tortuously circular Process of differentiation.) A metaphysics from the absolute will to tragedy is an anti-moral, materialist, atheist metaphysic: the singular vision of the real in which our decisions could be dangerous (need I mention also the only one in which knowledge necessarily involves suffering and self-deception?)

Thinking is precisely this adventure which connects its desires not to an identical reality or a primary nullity, but precisely to the an-identical, the differentiality of existence. Not a kind of compromise between two poles of the idea but a war with the arbitrary division of the idea into isolated components, the body of Life into organs without bodies. “We have to learn to think differently — in order at last, perhaps very late on, to attain even more: to feel differently.” Nietzsche (Daybreak, II.103)

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channel, communication, flux, idea, knowledge, machine, network, system

Infrastructure

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The essence of a channel is to transmit, to disseminate, to yield a flux. The problem of knowledge is correlative to constructing an adequate channel for the reception of an idea, the “proper medium” for a thoughts’ proliferation. Expressed in this way the “idea” is only an ideal problem, which in reality takes on an unsettling and radical complexity. The pure and implacable universality of the idea gives way to the realization of the innumerable fissures and leaks comprising the real — and quite organic — larval origin of thought. 

A kind of thought which, to be sure, still does not issue from myself, and which is neither memory nor imagination, but is rather a thought which breaks through, which traverses me. Hence the universal is always shot through with contingency, a pure implacability which rests precisely upon history, upon the conquering, the decimation of nomad flows indecently refusing to conform. The drive to systematically master desire, for a generalized and radical constructivism, the subtle and uncanny “inner” dynamism of our age, is bent upon a wholesale transformation of the fundamental essence of humanity. 

The breakdown of this machine, this doom upon the universal, is perhaps capable of reproducing itself virally — even as a snapshot of an image of thought in the very process of decomposing (and in relation to which all philosophical gestures seem but supplications, and — so much more rarely — vindications.)

A new medium always is, it must be, painstaking crafted: for once forged, a channel exists only the precondition of a flow, and even upon the continuity of the flux. 

I want to think the concrete peculiarity, the absolute singularity of any channel as such. The continuous flow of water through the machinery of a dam, of a pipe; the unending drift of signals across our always-on global information networks. 

The channel faces every military risk imaginable: takeover, subversion, blockade. But it also faces every theoretical risk imaginable: hyper-specialization, perversion, madness.

Yet the truth is that a channel is only and always a meta-channel, an assemblage, a channeling machine blending very different channels together, and which itself forms a channel in relation to even greater such channels. Whether of water, cement, metal pipe, twisted cable or realized in the very trembling of air molecules, the channel compels us to turn towards what remains, what is not swept away by the flows. 

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automation, control, cybernetics, derrida, history, human, machine, metaphysics, nonhuman, system

Systems of Control: Derrida and Machines

(notes for an abstract)

If the theory of cybernetics is by itself to oust all metaphysical concepts — including the concepts of soul, of life, of value, of choice, of memory — which until recently served to separate the machine from man, it must conserve the notion of writing, trace, written mark, or grapheme, until its own historico-metaphysical character is also exposed.

[…[E]ven before being determined as human… or nonhuman, the gramme — or the grapheme — would thus name the element. An element without simplicity. An element, whether it is understood as the medium or irreducible atom, of the arche-synthesis in general, of what one must forbid oneself to define within the system of oppositions in metaphysics, of what consequently one should not even call experience in general, that is to say the origin of meaning in general.]

(Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology 9)

Norbert Weiner introduced the neologism ‘cybernetics’ — in connection with the ancient Greek root meaning ‘governance’ — to denote a new science of systems of control. Cybernetics studies real complex systems and their automatic management, but it is also a rigorous science of energetics and pure information. The most essential expression of cybernetics itself and its own working ontology can perhaps be traced to Von Neumann, who conceived of a swarm of networked machines which could also function together as a kind of generic factory, and so would be able to reproduce all of its own component elements (and hence itself.) In this image we perhaps witness a glimpse of an “adult” cybernetics — the closure of metaphysics, the end of writing, the convergence of biology and cybernetics — a “transubstantiation” of flesh into the virtual.

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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

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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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abstract machine, assemblage, autopoeisis, becoming, being, change, communication, complexity, differentiation, Disparation, formalization, French Translation, individuation, information, materiality, metastability, model, modularity, morphogenesis, morphology, ontogenesis, ontology, philosophy of science, production, self-actualization, Simondon, singularities, structure, system, technology, Untranslated Theory

Translation: Simondon, Completion of Section I, Chapter 1, The Individual and Its Physico-Biological Genesis

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In the first place, singularities-events correspond to heterogeneous series which are organized into a system which is neither stable nor unstable, but rather ‘metastable,’ endowed with a potential energy wherein the differences between series are distributed. (Potential energy is the energy of the pure event, whereas forms of actualization correspond to the realization of the event). In the second place, singularities posses a process of auto-unification, always mobile and displaced to the extent that a paradoxical element traverses the series and makes them resonate, enveloping the corresponding singular points in a single aleatory point and all the emissions, all dice throws, in a single cast. In the third place, singularities or potentials haunt the surface. Everything happens at the surface in a crystal which develops only on the edges. Undoubtedly, an organism is not developed in the same manner. An organism does not cease to contract in an interior space and to expand in an exterior space–to assimilate and to externalize. But membranes are no less important, for they carry potentials and regenerate polarities. They place internal and external spaces into contact without regard to distance. The internal and external, depth and height, have biological value only through this topological surface of contact. Thus, even biologically, it is necessary to understand that ‘the deepest is the skin.’ The skin has as its disposal a vital and properly superficial potential energy. And just as events do not occupy the surface but rather frequent it, superficial energy is not localized at the surface, but is rather bound to its formation. Gilbert Simondon has expressed this very well: the living lives at the limit of itself, on its limit… The characteristic polarity of life is at the level of the membrane; it is here that life exists in an essential manner, as an aspect of a dynamic topology which itself maintains the metastability by which it exists… The entire content of internal space is topologically in contact with the content of external space at the limits of the living; there is, in fact, no distance in topology; the entire mass of living matter contained in the internal space is actively present to the external world at the limit of the living… To belong to interiority does not mean only to ‘be inside,’ but to be on the ‘in-side’ of the limit… At the level of the polarized membrane, internal past and external future face one another. [Gilles Deleuze, Logic of Sense. Trans. Mark Lester with Charles Stivale. New York: Columbia, 1990. p. 103-104.]

Gilbert Simondon, L’individu et sa genese physico-biologique (Paris: P.U.F., 1964), pp. 260-264. This entire book, it seems to us, has special importance, since it p Continue reading

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abstract machine, biology, cybernetics, form, information, model, ontology, structure, system, theory

Machinic Autopoesis

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Process

In Mechanism and Biological Explanation [Maturana 1970], Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela argue that machines and biological forms are very closely related — so closely, in fact, that biologists can reasonably claim living systems are machines. This is not meant merely as a pedagogical metaphor, but rather as a rigorous analogy, which emphasizes important symmetries, and even better, expresses concisely specific experimental and theoretical aims. In what sense, then, are living systems machines?

A machine is defined by a group of abstract operations, satisfying certain specific conditions. An abstract machine is this system of inter-relations which is itself independent of the actual components which ‘realize’ the machine. A fishing boat can be made from many kinds of wood, sailed on many bodies of water, used to store many species of fish; a game of tag can be played with an arbitrary number of arbitrary people in any suitable space. What matters is not the specificity of a given component but the specificity of its relationships. We can define living systems as specific groups of components and their inter-relations, according to both abstract structure and specific functionalities. But insofar as we are only considering their structure, living beings are isomorphic to collections of finite groups of abstract machines: biology considers micro- and macro-structure, whereas systems theory studies inter- and intra-relations.
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chaos, complexity, Cosmogony, Cosmology, Distribution, Eternal Return, French Translation, kant, Laplace, michel serres, Nietzsche, philosophy of science, system, Untranslated Theory

Translation: Michel Serres and the Eternal Return

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The following is Michel Serres’s essay “Eternal Return” in Hermes IV: Distribution. Paris: Les Editions de Minuit, 1977. pp. 115-124. Original translation by Taylor Adkins on 10/10/07

Philosophers glorify Nietzsche for having suddenly rejoined the Greeks through their fulgurating intuition of the Eternal Return. Either from an ignorance of ethics or incomprehension of the general figure that this thesis takes in his philosophy, I reduce this to a vision of the world. Vision with the meaning of sight, and world with the sense of the world. All simply.

If time is considered in geometrical figures by optical interceptions and a mechanism of movements, the Eternal Return is cosmological. In that case, the solar system (and it only) has been calculated by Laplace. Celestial Mechanics and the Exposition of the System of the World established rigorously, for the first time, the mechanical invariability of the large axes for the planetary orbits. The stars turn forever. This eternal return reduces the world to the exclusion of the universe, and reduces mechanism to the exclusion of other sciences. Neither the Greeks nor the classical age ever obtained this demonstration. Conversely, the time that we consider is reversible.

If the time that one endorses is that of a formation, of bodies as spheres, and with which one tries to surpass mechanical reversibility, then, if there is return, it is cosmogonic. However, cosmogony enters science little by little around the middle of the 18th century, with Thomas Wright and Buffon. If Laplace has erased the latter in the seventh note of the Exposition, the former has inspired Kant. Natural History and the Theory of the Sky marks the appearance of the Eternal Return in scientific cosmogony.

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