Frames /sing


Ontological Privilege: Massumi on the Priority of Change

Massumi here reshuffles his cards in the stacked deck, so that the aces will fall into his hand.

Indeterminancy and determination, change and freeze-framing, go together. They are inseparable and always coincide while remaining disjunctive in their modes of reality. To say that passage and indeterminancy “come first” or “are primary” is more a statement of ontological priority than the assertion of a time sequence. They have ontological privilege in the sense that they constitute the field of the emergence, while positionings are what emerge. The trick is to express the priority in a way that respects the inseparability and contemporaneousness of the disjunct dimensions: their ontogenetic difference.

Parables of the Virtual, 8

I want to approach this field/emergence logic of priority from a Spinozist point of view (surprise). We at first see some strong general homology. The “field” of change and process is Natura Naturans (nature naturing) and the emergent positionality is Natura Naturata (nature having been natured), and there is even the rough correspondence to the diminishment of the importance of the modes that some readings have imposed on Spinoza (all the way to Hegel’s accusation of an acosmism). This is significant, and something I always want to stress when people try to impose an Idealist (18th century German) interpretation on Spinoza. The modes are the very means by which Substance exists and acts (E3p6dem). They are not secondary, or less real. What is key about this is the prescription of human action implied in any diminishment of “positionality”, the sense that positioning or framing comes after (in any sequitor fashion) the processes themselves. Instead, all our degrees of power, being, pleasure, perfection changes are real and coincident changes in semiosis. This is to say, following Spinoza’s treatment of the affects, our changes in capacity are changes in the idea we have of ourselves in the context of the world itself, but not reflective changes in idea. We do not look at ourselves in a mirror (of consciousness or any other), and then make adjustments in idea. Rather, our concrete “position” is itself a positional change. This goes down into a radical sense of what (self) affirmation is, a non-reflective (relatively) autonomous embrace which includes that which cross-currents our own being, propelling us out to mutualities.

Massumi at this point, in his counter to positional, linguistic philosophies I think is very well placed. But there is a difference I believe between our ratio-imaginary mappings (including mathematics) of semiotic differences, and informational semiotic change involved in process of becoming that Massumi is trying to prioritize. The “field” is not just processes of becoming that underlies a surface of concretizations or condensations, but must be semiotic (that is to say, informational) itself. What he calls “freeze-frames” are both imaginary, but also real, let us say, edge-of-chaos determinations. Which are strictly speaking determinations without being opposed to (linear) indeterminancy.

Another way of stating this is, perhaps: There is no “disjuction”.


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