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Transcendence or Immanence: Cake-and-eat-it-too-ism

 

Unwrapping Christmas Gifts

This is my last post on “The Autonomy of Affect” and I expect to go onto the rest of the book. Near the end Massumi makes a fantastic point about the somewhat false problem of transcendence vs. immanence, something that he also perceptively links to our spatializaton of concepts, and to his own prescription that we must make paradoxes that work for us:

…all this makes it difficult to speak of either transcendence or immanence. No matter what one does, they tend to flip over onto each other, in a kind of spontaneous Deleuzian combustion.  It makes little difference if the field of existence (being plus potential; the actual in its relation with the virtual) is thought of as an infinite interiority or a parallelism of mutual exteriorities. You get burned either way. Spinoza had it both ways: an indivisible substance divided into parallel attributes. To the extent that the terms transcendence and immanence connote spatial relations – and they inevitably do – they are inadequate to the task. A philosophical sleight of hand like Spinoza’s is always necessary. The trick is to get comfortable with productive paradox.

 Parables for the Virtual, 38

Of course I am drawn to he appeal to Spinoza. It seems that when I trace out Massumi’s proposed Spinozism I get the best sense of his metholodological twisting, and perhaps the best sense of where he goes wrong for me. I think he really hits upon a core issue with the spatialization of terms, something he wishes to alleviate through a confessed counter-spell of temporalization, as one can see in the footnote to the passage above:

* [from the footnote] The “productive paradoxical” procedure…will be to inflect the notion with timelike concepts of process and self-reference (the immanent understood not as an immanence to something, but of the belonging of a process to its own potential to vary) while retaining a connotation of spacelikeness (the immanence of process as a “space” proper to change as such).

I see a few problems with this time vs. space paradoxical sizzoring. The first is that it assumes a fundamental binary which would operate necessarily towards a proposed truth. Yes, I think that these are complimentary views, but they tend to collapse themselves into Spacialization = objects and Temporalization = processes. We are then in a resultant and to me sterile struggle between objects and processes, imagining that some sort of synthesis is what would compose the answer. None of this cuts to the root of the spatialization itself, which is opticality, in my opinion. Yes, spatial displays should be temporalized, but processes cannot become our new objects. What do I mean to say? I am at the cusp of something important. Massumi’s space vs time procedure leads to all sorts of binarization and dichotomy playing (which itself is largely an optical phenomena, “negation” in all its varieties). For instance where he picks up Spinoza he is loosely saying that the two Attributes offer a transcendent model, presumably wherein “idea” transcends “extension”, something to be juxtaposed, suitably and paradoxically, to the immanent model of monist Substance. This matches his own treatment of the virtual as both the source from which actualization occurs, and the to some degree transcendent key to actualization feedback and reflection. He tries to accomplish this miniature Hegelianism at the local level of a largely objectological abstraction. So where does he get it all wrong?

For me the problem is with the transcendent end of the dichotomy, as he exemplifies from Spinoza. There is an aspect of idea priority in Spinoza, but he works hard to undercut it in his very framework. The reason for this is that his ontology is not simply one great monument to Truth, but also a prescription for everyday freedom. It is never that idea escapes extension, nor even that its brings extension higher. Idea realizes its immanent condition (and this is accomplished in a fully affective manner), and as such realizes its impriority over extension. What does this mean. The ideas we have are only or foundationally ideas of our own body being in particular states. My idea of anything in the world is essentially an idea of “me” in a non-reflexive fashion. There is no sizzoring between immanence and transcendence, rather there is collapse into immanent core, and a weaving of causal wholeness from out of that core. This is Spinoza’s object vs process resolution. One’s object state is perspectival, and is already shot through ACROSS its borders, invaded, and opened-out-under, not through some idealist and metaphysical powers of difference itself, but because difference is simply the horizon line of being under creation. One positions oneself at that shore with a kind of aesthetic orchestration or dispersal, but it is really neither object nor process (in any contrastive sense).

Key to this is Spinoza’s General Definition of the Affects diagnosis of the Mind. The thoughts by which we orient ourselves and largely construct our causal relation to the world are degrees of power change in our ontological status in the world, direct affirmations of our body with onto-pleasure lean, and (I would say) positionings on the objective-affective scale of dissonance to triviality. The spatialization that leads Massumi into an object vs process resolution, itself must be reread on a degree-of-being diagnostic. In fact Massumi’s Deleuzian dichotomization, his proposed dialectic however qualified, shows that he did not absorb fully the Plotinean resolution to the long standing problem of Dualism, he did not see, as Augustine did, how Plotinus’ vectorial Being dis-solves Manicheanism. Turning the virtual into Spirit simply places the locus of dualism within a new box, making the actual the new Body. Massumi is definitely on the right track looking to affect as the proper place were dualisms of this sort are (re)solved, where Body gets its say, so to speak, but until this spatialization is diagnosed within degree-of-being perception, our self-diagnoses and prescriptions retain too much of the opticality which begins it all. Difference, per se, enters into the ideological funhouse mirror of duplication, and the Civil “person” becomes an inordinate locus for subjective acts of freedom, and all-too-human centered action for concern, losing the technological (and species) interindices of our mutually created world.

Instead, Spinoza meant his two Attributes to be read against an infinity, the unbound expression of Substance, and not as a two-step ladder to transcendence, (or even a transcendence/immanence dyad). They mark out the specific topography of our own becoming active, a cartological means of perfectly ourselves in a variety of techniques for Joy. Massumi is quite correct that our spatialization of them leads to confusions of a kind, but his notion of will-ful paradox perhaps missing the infinitude towards which they are directed. They are star-mappings for those a-toss at sea, something that a dense gravity crush of paradox may not help in. They are not mean as paradoxical relations, but perhaps the bending of flat map upon the sphere of action, the recognition that it is not paradoxical that parallel lines do meet. The interiority of our process is the discovery of an “interior” (out there), something we regularly do, but also, the tracings of the moving line between interiority and exteriority, how it creates a special shore, one which falls across our boundaries.

2/n: The ESSENTIAL binary of all Philosophical Discussion

I want to repeat a comment I added over at Naught Thought on the subject of what makes Dark Vitalism “dark”. I think Complete Lies was doubtfully querying about what the adjective adds. Its fair to ask.

It occurs to me to add that I have heard it said that if there is any TRUE binary, it is the binary of Being/Not-Being on the one hand, and Polyvocality on the other: perhaps symbolized as 2/n. In otherwords, the very idea that there are two (some fundamental two whatever their name), and that there are the many (all of which are to be investigated). In my mind what makes Vitalism Dark would be the decided attempt to position one’s vitalism on the “dark” side of this binary, within polyocality. Here, “dark” is not only representively dark, as in dark vs. light (with all the cultural powers and pitfalls of being on the lesser half), but also dark as in, non-binarious in its explanations.

I believe I found this thought when reading the excellent (really excellent) Volatile Bodies by Elizabeth Grosz, though certainly the idea of it is plentiful.

What is interesting about this essential binary which places binarization itself on one half, and multiplicity expression on the other is that it makes something of a good short hand for measuring out other positions. It seems to drive a hard line through most of Idealist thought which privileges and focuses itself upon the “2″ as a producer of the “n”, while what Deleuze calls the Distaff tradition focuses on the “n” as underpinning any illusion or clarity of the “2″. And one might even say that a taxonomy of 2 vs. n elements might be made of any fundamental onto-epistemic assumptions of a prospective philosophical position. How invested is it in the “2″ (and its multiplications)?  How are 2-elements handled, what place are they given? We can see as well how the 2 directs itself away from the physical world and a naturalized account of the world, and towards the traditional philosophical transcendent preoccupation, while the “n” seems to both engage in a kind of material poeticism, but one amenable to the sciences, maths and sociology (which describes structures of the n quite well).

The Spinoza Equation

Also of note of such an essential dichtomy for me is that it shows something of the uniqueness of Spinoza’s position, as he threw off the reportedly first and dominant “2″ in modern philosophy, Descartes Mind/Body. He preserved it in an interesting way, as part of a conceptual dualism which itself was part of an infinity of attribute expressions, making a philosophy that might be signified as (1)/2*/n. His (1)/2*/n allows for investigation and embrace of the “n” (modal, concrete expression), but does so within a unity and really an affective unity (a strength of his philosophy which directs any pragmatic project of freedom towards n itself), though in aymptotic fashion.

It seems to me that any “dark” vitalism, or dark panpsychism (which is an even more compelling term), is one that embraces the “n” half of the binary in some very strong conceptual and really dynamic sort of way. Its one that reads the n as the very material of the theory. And part of the shrugging off the primacy of the “2″ is realizing the non-ontological status of the negation.

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