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kvond

As Energy Is to Matter: Massumi on Indeterminancy

Massumi troubling on how to characterize the body such that it is dynamic enough, and roots itself in Deleuze’s concrete abstract:

The charge of indeterminancy is inseparable from it. It strictly coincides with it, to the extent that the body is in passage or in process (to the extent that it is dynamic and alive). But the charge itself is not corporeal…Real, material, but incorporeal. Inseparable, coincident, but disjunct…

One way of starting to get a grasp of the real-material-but-incorporeal is to say that it is to the body, as a positioned thing, as energy is to matter. Energy and matter are mutually convertable modes of the same reality. This would make the incorporeal thing a phase-shift of the body in the usual sense, but not one that comes after it it in time. It would be a conversion or an unfolding of the body contemporary to its every move.

Parables of the Virtual, 5

This is the thing. There is a preoccupation with the body, per se, which wants to take IT as the locus of something vital and non-reductive. This reads as a mythologization of the social entity “a person”. If we adequately re-describe bodies abstractly and powerfully enough, and locate enough metaphysical/ontological powers within a “body”, then we trace out a storyboard of how each and every “person” (who is only a  concrete actualization of the “plan” of bodies in general), can erupt with differences that are meaningful. Because this mythology involves the trappings of binary logics, the border of the body has to be taken as a logical toggle-point. The struggle of origin, located in this mythological, person-redeeming way, compression cosmological arguments into what is otherwise given freedom under the much wider nomenclature of “the flesh”. The abstract floats under the flesh, like a magnetic carbomb, waiting to unfurl its political (sensory) change. The localization of “body” frustrates me. It carries too much baggage.

Also note Massumi’s analogy of matter to energy. Matter is a kind of colder calcification of freer floating intensity or fluidity. Solid to its liquid. But what is strikingly missing (at least at this point) is “information” the third term. I’ve talked about the metaphysical value of Information before: Information, Spinoza’s “Idea” and The Structure of the Universe. What does information as the third term to Massumi’s incorporeal-concrete do? It opens out every body across its boundaries, transversely. We do not get the doublet of the actual and its ghost beneath it, and the attendant mythology of personhood. Instead the body itself tears across its sinews and bone, into a different matrix. Instead of locating a Same/Difference autonomy of “movement” and its animation cell analogy (where does difference come from? as quaesta), the infinities within a body strain against the infinities outside it. The “phase-shift” decenters every object not just from itself (boring), but from every other existence. A change in information elsewhere touches the informational state of this body. Massumi’s vortex seems to be missing an axis of imaging, at least at this point. Too much internalization of change, too much Hegel thrown forward:

This self-disjunctive coinciding sinks an ontological difference into the heart of the body.

It is precisely this sinking into, like an anchor’s line into the aeons of coral reef, that is a needless or occluding mythology of the self.

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6 responses to “As Energy Is to Matter: Massumi on Indeterminancy

  1. glen December 16, 2009 at 11:32 pm

    Difference as a correspondence of identity (recognition) is a product of differenciation in Deleuze’s work. Difference-in-itself. What you are describing as a phase space kind of correlates, but with an unknowable complex through which the passage of differenciation passes.

    Affect is Massumi’s third term. It will be interesting to see what you make of this considering your background with Spinoza.

    The way Foucault decribed incorporeal materialism in his inaugural college de france lacture is congruent with his use to describe the event in Theatricum Philosophicum. In the lecture it is a space of possibility immanent to a configuration of power relations for uttering ‘truth’ through statements. I bring it up because information also seems to exist in this space of incorporeal materialism for you, but you are making it nonhuman-centric.

    • kvond December 16, 2009 at 11:45 pm

      Yes, Identity (recognition) simply is too binary a concept for my search for terms.

      I too am wondering how I will appreciate Massumi’s affect, which surely he filters through Deleuze (Deleuze is often liberal with what he does with Spinoza’a affect). One must recall that for Spinoza, Substance utlimately has no “affect”, though things paradoxically do. From this early point I can’t see how affect works as a third term since it seems that Massumi is going to place it qualitatively on the side of “movement” or change, denying it proper third term power. I will wait and see though.

      Right now the missing “information” is what forces (or allows) Massumi to privilege change over semiosis, when by my lights they should be co-incident.

      I’m glad to have your thoughts on Foucault and the event. The “event” troubles me some in the general sense, probably because the term has been poisoned by Badiou. But it also localizes change in a fashion, which is less helpful. Largely much of this metaphysics is meant to be a metaphysics of the “resister”. You are right though, mine is a materialist(ic) non-human centric topography, which also refuses “object” prooccupation as well as its supposed philosophical counterpart, process prioritization. Informational change is the semoisis of the degree of change in on a vector of power, and would seem to be the proper locus of “affect”.

      I will certainly wait and see what Massumi is doing. I suspect that there will be lasting tensions throughout the book for me, but as well, lasting attractions. Read my comments as improvisario.

  2. glen December 17, 2009 at 8:33 am

    Badiou’s event! I guess you’ve probably seen the essay by Badiou that compares his concept of the event to Deleuze’s?

    http://www.parrhesiajournal.org/parrhesia02/parrhesia02_badiou2.pdf

    Hmm, ok, so I am getting an idea of where you are coming from, in terms of your concerns regarding the event. The event does localise process, but only in the ‘extension’ (as spatio-temporalisation) immanent to itself. In the Fold Deleuze described it as a grid that is always placed over chaos. This is only the simplest way to describe the event-process relation, because he then goes on to discuss the ‘baroque house’ as a metaphor for trying to indicate the way in which the virtual-singularities (what I think from what you have described here and in your other post on information, could be related to your approach if information is thought of as structured according to the relevant set of virtual singularities actualised as extension through ontological processes of organisation) and actual-extension fold back and forth into each other. So even if the event refers to an immanent localisation, this is only in an instant, as a non-extensive moment of time, without having the quality of duration (duree). As soon as duration enters the picture, so to speak, as process, there is a far more complicated baroque architecture to events and process.

    Badiou describes this (in essay linked above) as the concept of the event’s “original ambiguity”:

    “[The event] effectively contains a dimension of structure (interruption as such, the appearance of a supernumerary term) and a dimension of the history of life (the concentration of becoming, being as coming-to-self, promise).”

    Of course, he has already lost me here, as this is far too Heideggarian an appreciation of the event (being as being-on-the-way), I am not sure if he fully comprehends that the virtual and actual are subjacent to each other. For example, the boiling point of water (as a virtual singularity, is actualised in any number of relations between bodies; the boiling point is a pure relation between relations of pressure, chemistry, thermodynamics) has no ontological parity with water or steam. Or perhaps more abstractly, and therefore more concretely, the ‘boiling point’ itself can be actualised across any number of chemicals/minerals, water is just one. ‘To boil’ is an event that is not determined by the coming-into-being of steam or any other gas as it is produced from its relevant liquid form. Any interruption is apparent in this case because the rate of evaporation increases so drastically it enters into the threshold (affects) of human perception. Water is always evaporating (or condensing, freezing or melting).

    One confusion I definitely have is regarding what you mean by third term, and in relation to what other terms. Perhaps I was too hasty to suggest affect as Massumi’s third term. I guess it depends on the relation between affect and affection. Affect pertaining to bodies and affection describing the relation of one body affecting another. Have you written about the concept of the third term on you blog or are you using the concept in a specific way you could explain?

    I am really appreciating your way of reading Massumi. I think it is very productive.

    • kvond December 17, 2009 at 10:53 am

      Glen: “In the Fold Deleuze described it as a grid that is always placed over chaos. This is only the simplest way to describe the event-process relation, because he then goes on to discuss the ‘baroque house’ as a metaphor for trying to indicate the way in which the virtual-singularities (what I think from what you have described here and in your other post on information, could be related to your approach if information is thought of as structured according to the relevant set of virtual singularities actualised as extension through ontological processes of organisation) and actual-extension fold back and forth into each other.”

      Kvond: There is an over-riding metaphor of emergence here, in Deleuze, and then also one of a Hegelian folding back. The two conflate to some degree, and I have trouble with both. The first is a kind of soil bed (of process) with concretization of what comes out, the second is that of an implied reflexivity. Instead, and this is what is vital in Spinoza, is that it is not just that what is actual comes out-of what is potential, but that the potential IS actualization itself, and that actualized power is a non-reflexive affirmation, a kind of aesthetic distribution, which provisionally I position along the edge-of-chaos. The “event” as a localization is simply too caught up in the Same/Different binarization concerning itself with a localized boundary (again, projected onto or into a mythologized personhood as a locus of power or resistence), and it is also too “epiphenomenal” (if I can borrow the term) to an imagined bed of process-first-ism. If the body is to be granted full power, its positionality (as Massumi conceives it) cannot be a secondary measure, and it cannot be a microscale Hegelianism as well (a difference with itself).

      glen: “So even if the event refers to an immanent localisation, this is only in an instant, as a non-extensive moment of time, without having the quality of duration (duree). As soon as duration enters the picture, so to speak, as process, there is a far more complicated baroque architecture to events and process.”

      Kvond: It is precisely this, the “as soon as duration enters the process” that I toil against. The process itself (in Spinoza Natura naturans) is the edge-of-chaos tidal shift of durative oscilation. At least that is where I am heading. Think of Plotinus’s image of a light sphere heading out from a radiational center, wherein the edge of the light going out as it diminishes marks out the degrees of being of any of its actualizations. The light where it is, is entirely Real and is fully Being, but its distribution expresses degrees of power. Within actualization, the path to intensification and activity is not within a binary of self and difference (that game), but across-self so to speak. An affirmation in a line. There is a lot of Deleuze that is in support of this as well, his whole line of flight and melodic conceptualization, his mapping and not representing, etc (most of it accomplished through the Guattari assemblage). It is his preoccupation with boundary-ism binaries that I find unhelpful. I’ll wait and see how Massumi proceeds. I know that he does invoke phase space complexity and the whatnot. So there may be much of importance to build on.

      glen: “One confusion I definitely have is regarding what you mean by third term, and in relation to what other terms. Perhaps I was too hasty to suggest affect as Massumi’s third term. I guess it depends on the relation between affect and affection. Affect pertaining to bodies and affection describing the relation of one body affecting another. Have you written about the concept of the third term on you blog or are you using the concept in a specific way you could explain?”

      Kvond: The invocation of the “third term” is not a Hegelian third, but in immediate reference to the article on Spinoza and information. Massumi uses energy and matter to analogize his process and position, and I suggest that Stonier’s third structural component of the universe is helpful to expand what Massumi is analogizing: https://kvond.wordpress.com/2009/09/27/information-spinozas-idea-and-the-structure-of-the-universe/

      But the “third term” also has deep Neoplatonic roots going back to Augustine’s borrowing of Plotinus to defeat the problems of manichaeist dualism. In plain fact, much of philosophy is still in the grips of manichaeist dualism, inevitable dualism of spirit and body brought on by Descartes and German Idealism. Placing “spirit” in the abstract and underbed of Process, and “matter” in the concretization of position (as a lesser term), does not solve the essential dualism. What solves it, and has solved it since the beginning, is a degree-of-being conception. This was the case with Augustine, and has been so ever since. This is coupled with a semiosis of being (Augustine is credited with being the first semotician by some): Related thoughts: https://kvond.wordpress.com/2009/02/04/the-problem-with-spinozas-panpsychism/. This semiosis though is oriented through a trinity of principles in Augustine: posse, nosse, amare. Power, to Know, to love. What is quite important is to see how the third of these is inseparable from the first two, and that solving the problem of the duality of body and spirit requires all three (and the semiosis of a degree of being conception). I discuss the three terms in their Campanellian expression of the Three Primalities here: https://kvond.wordpress.com/2009/01/05/campanellas-three-primalities-potentia-sapientia-amor/ , where they have become power, sense, and love. In Spinoza power has become the power to extend, to know has become the knowing of idea, and to love the distributions of conatus (cutting across the two attributes). But these are toticipations (in Campanella, and not reflexive relations. The third term that often slips out is, as Massumi identifies, is affect, sense itself, feeling. (Campanella turns “to know” into “to sense” rightfully.) But this is at the cost of collapsing sense into process (I am guessing), and surrending “to be” to a secondary emergence of position (freeze-framing). Instead all three have to be considered in my opinion. And “to love” is the informational distribution along an aesthetic line in relation to the edge-of-chaos. It though is intimately braided to “to know” and “to be”. They are worked together in a way in which no term drops out or becomes the primary source of the other, ideally so. At least that is what I think. This long history of a trinity of terms (and hell, there might be a fourth or fifth, that’s okay too, but not a dyad which has deep trenches to fall into) has painted the solution to binarism. The “third term” prevents the heirarchism, as well as the preoccupation with projected personhood.

      This no doubt has been a huge digression, but I thought I might as well get the greater context out there.

      glen: “I am really appreciating your way of reading Massumi. I think it is very productive.”

      Kvond: Thanks for the good words. I’m trying to come to this with a kind of innocence. I have a lot of reasons to want to agree with Massumi. I like the way he thinks and expresses himself, I have affinities with Deleuze, and certainly as Spinozist the priortization of affect is of the utmost concern. It might be that in that he builds his reading of affect on a binarization of difference it won’t be of so much use to me, but it seems a text well worth engaging.

  3. Mark Crosby December 17, 2009 at 8:34 am

    This dialog is great. Keep it up. Right now I’m rooting for Theatricum Philosophicum (and the time to reread it ; )

    KVOND, your “third term” seems almost eliminativist in its focus on informational power vectors of control. This is very Churchlandish, where all cognition is considered some resolution (totalization ?) of competing vectors of ‘neural’ anticipation. For some time I’ve speculated (too shallowy, I’m afraid) about a coequal, threefold ontology of resisters, capacitors and conductors (which may be why I still have doubts about a single ‘substance’ ; )

    BTW, on a scale of blog diminishment how would you rate the COLLAPSE of ELIMINATIVE CULINARISM?

    • kvond December 17, 2009 at 11:02 am

      MC,

      I’ve never really thought alot about Churchland. Its possible. But my project is wholly metaphysical, and information is about distribution and power-to-be, act. If indeed the argument is that neural structures of anticipation are expressions of this, sure. As a panpsychist though I would see this distribution across all levels of being, so to speak. I like your three-fold ontology of registers. Perhaps it might fit within my appeal to Neoplatonic three-fold, degree-of-being resolution of manichaeism. I don’t know enough to say.

      As for Eliminative Culinarism, yeah, I have no idea what is going on there. That is a pretty big diminishment. I hope that is not where I am heading.

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