Friday, September 5, 2008

Moving to Wordpress

Hi All,

I have decided to move to wordpress. Thanks for all the comments here at blogspot. Struggleswithphilosophy can now be found here.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Social constructivism video lectures

For those of you interested in International Relations Theory, which I am, Danial Nexon has posted some introduction lectures on his Blog, here.

These video lectures are introducing the main features and beliefs of social constructivism, which are worth watching. I'm in the process of composing a critique of social constructivism and proposing International Relations Theory moves onto Complexity Theory. I use DeLanda's Assemblage Theory to construct my argument and will post draft editions of the paper on the blog. 

Sunday, August 24, 2008

More Deleuze books online

Fark Yaralari has put up an impressive list of Gilles Deleuze books and secondary literature on Deleuze that is available to download. There is also books from Kant, Lacan, Gadamer, and many others.

I would advise downloading them while you can. The website is here.

thanks to Continental Philosophy for bringing this to my attention.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A Thousand Plateaus Online

Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari's A Thousand Plateaus is available to download as a pdf file from here.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Some Quick definitions of Deleuzoguattarian Concepts

Here are some brief definitions of Deleuzoguattarian concepts I have composed. I have attempted to write them for two reasons. Firstly, to attempt to produce simplified definitions for my benefit. Secondly, to introduce user-friendly definitions for people that are unfamiliar with Deleuze and Guattari. The definitions are written in a style that should correlate these concepts to complexity theory.
Any suggestions/corrections are welcome:-
Radical Constructivism – the term radical constructivism does not come from Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guatttari. It is a term I have borrowed from Deleuzian academic Hanjo Berressem (University of Cologne) that denotes a departure from social constructivism. The term should also not be confused with Ernesto LacLau and Chantal Mouffe's project of radical constructivism, whose project is still limited to discourse and deconstruction analysis. 
 Overall, radical constructivism argues that social constructivism has not gone far enough in its constructivist project. The problem of social constructivism is it has only focused on how humans or language construct the world. The result is social constructivism is anthropocentric (i.e. human oriented). Radical constructivism argues for an expanded programme of thought in order to concentrate on how the world is literally constructed. It is this commitment of radical constructivism that ensures its non-anthropocentric credentials. The aim of radical constructivism is to remove dualisms that act as boundaries and separations of life (e.g. Culture/Nature, Subject/Object, Mind/Body). Overall, radical constructivism is an attempt to escape what Frederic Jameson calls the ‘prison-house of language’ and humanism. Such approaches are ‘human, all too human’ (Nietzsche) and not true to the earth.

Body without Organs (BwO) – A field, or a multitude, of intensive processes. These intensive processes cause the metamorphose of the Earth. BwOs, for example, are found in cultural, geological, and biological environments. Weather systems provide an ‘easy’ example of a BwO functioning in the world. These weather systems are bands of various intensities that behave differently in different intensities (e.g. different air pressure). The idea of the BwO demonstrates the importance of intensive processes in the production and transformation of the world. Deleuze and Guattari argue that zero intensity in a process is a non-productive process.

Becoming – Represents the nonlinear directional movement of the world, encapsulating the dynamical characteristic of life and avoiding a linear or teleological interpretation.

– an emergent property generated from a machinic becoming. These assemblages are composed of various heterogeneous components. If these assemblages are described as stratified they are hierarchical assemblages, and if these assemblages are described as meshworks they are non-hierarchical assemblages. These two types of assemblage, one stratified and the other rhizomatic, should be considered as ideal indicators of assemblage. In concrete (i.e. real) assemblages the vast majority are composed of hierarchical and non-hierarchical components. The concept of assemblage is also constructed to avoid an approach that relies on essentialism or totalities and (should) ensure a bottom-up analysis.

Abstract Machine
– In the becoming of life Deleuze and Guattari aim to explain the immanent morphogenetic capabilities of the flows of matter and energy.
‘Ideally’ there is only one (mega) abstract machine. This abstract machine would be pure-matter and not physical or semiotic and not connected to anyone single entity (i.e. assemblage). However, the single ‘mega’ abstract machine risks becoming a totalising explanation if various different abstract machines do not emerge and are explained. It is for this reason that abstracts machine can be said to emerge at particular dates and construct new realities.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Deleuze Camp

I am travelling to the Deleuze Camp 2 (PDF) at Cardiff University for next week, so the blog will pretty quiet.

I will leave you with a quote from Deleuze and Guattari's "What is Philosophy?"

Human Rights are axioms. They can co-exist on the market with many other axioms,
notably those concerning security or property, which are unaware of or suspend
them even more than they contradict them: "the impure mixture or the impure side
by side," said Nietzsche. Who but the police and armed forces that co-exist with
democracies can control and manage poverty and the deterritorialization-reterritorialization of
shanty towns? What social democracy has not given the order to fire when the
poor come out of their territory or ghetto? Rights save neither men nor a
philosophy that is reterritorialized on the democratic State. Human
rights will not make us bless capitalism. A great deal of innocence or cunning
is needed by a philosophy of communication that claims to restore the society of
"consensus" to
moralize nations, States, and the market. Humans rights say nothing about the
immanent modes of existence of people provided with rights. (1992, p107)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Ray Brassier's Doctoral Thesis 'Alien Theory'

I am a little behind the pace, but here is a link to Ray Brassier's Doctoral Thesis 'Alien Theory: The Decline of Materialism in the Name of Matter.' Hopefully, it can serve as helpful introduction in the 'new' school of speculative realism and the concept of nonphilosophy.

This is the synopsis for the dissertation:

The thesis tries to define and explain the rudiments of a ‘non-philosophical’
or ‘non-decisional’ theory of materialism on the basis of a theoretical
framework provided by the ‘non-philosophy’ of Fran├žois Laruelle. Neither
anti-philosophical nor anti-materialist in character, non-materialism tries to
construct a rigorously transcendental theory of matter by using certain instances
of philosophical materialism as its source material.
The materialist decision to identify the real with matter is seen to retain a
structural isomorphy with the phenomenological decision to identify the real
with the phenomenon. Both decisions are shown to operate on the basis of a
methodological idealism:- materialism on account of its confusion of matter and
concept; phenomenology by virtue of its confusion of phenomenon and logos.
By dissolving the respectively ‘materiological’ and ‘phenomenological’
amphibolies which are the result of the failure to effect a rigorously
transcendental separation between matter and concept on the one hand, and
between phenomenon and logos on the other, non-materialist theory proposes to
mobilise the non-hybrid or non-decisional concepts of a ‘matter-withoutconcept’
and of a ‘phenomenon-without-logos’ in order to effect a unified but
non-unitary theory of phenomenology and materialism. The result is a
materialisation of thinking that operates according to matter’s foreclosure to
decision. That is to say, a transcendental theory of the phenomenon, licensing
limitless phenomenological plasticity, unconstrained by the apparatus of eidetic
intuition or any horizon of apophantic disclosure;- but one which is
simultaneously a transcendental theory of matter, uncontaminated by the bounds
of empirical perception and free of all phenomenological circumscription.

Monday, July 21, 2008

transforming 'academic' resources?

*Apologies for the lack of philosophical content in this post. My present thoughts have been directed towards the production and dissemination of 'academic' knowledge

Correctly, or incorrectly, websites, or more accurately, online databases, such as Wikipedia are regarded as nonacademic resources. To reference Wikipedia in an essay, dissertation, or article is to commit a sin. It would be far wiser to stick to referencing peer reviewed articles. To a certain degree I find this view, or situation, problematic. Instead of academics wishing Wikipedia did not exist, could not a greater effort be made to raise the standard of entries and discussion? I would never suggest that Wikipedia should replace academic articles, but I would suggest that there should be a greater effort on the part of academics to embrace and transform Wikipedia. I put forward these reasons:

Students, while they might not reference it in their work, do use Wikipedia as a reference site. It serves a ‘first stop’ site of reference for many topics or philosophers. This is a crucial point of learning. It is therefore important that the introduction is informative and of a high and accessible standard.

Academic journals, while (usually) of a high standard, have a limited readership. They are rarely read outside academic circles and often have a subscription fee. In contrast, Wikipedia is free access, has a larger readership, and offers an opportunity for academics to communicate outside academia.

The non-peer review problem of Wikipedia can be overcome. For example, if some academic, or academics, are writing an entry for a philosopher they could communicate this with other academics. These academics could read, review, and ‘correct’ the entry. It would also offer an opportunity for non-academics to ‘peer-review’ the entry.

Wikipedia, unlike journal articles, is a hypertext and allows the opportunity for non-linear reading. Cross references to other topics can be added to the article, which can help to demonstrate the interconnections the topic brings to the forefront. For example, an entry discussing ‘developmental theory’ could establish a hyperlink to ‘dependency theory.’

These are only a few suggestions and arguments for adopting a stance towards ‘embracing’ Wikipedia. Ideally, the position that Wikipedia is a non-academic resource could become a non-argument. Electronic writing and the arrival of digital media have transformed the world and this means academic writing requires a certain degree of transformation. Books and Journals are never to be completely replaced, but these are products of print culture and the gutenberg press. Arguable, there requires the growth of more websites like the Standford Encycloepedia of Philosophy. Instead of writing an article why not composev a podcast to download? As new mediums emerge there requires more experimentation, the removal of ingrained, and historically constituted, prejudices towards the ‘correct’ method of producing knowledge. A pragmatic attitude that realises the historical contingencies of the present would be more beneficial.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Video of Rick Roderick

I found this video of Rick Roderick. In it he discusses how he got interested in philosophy and in particular Critical Theory.

The ‘Fashionable’ Thinker and Returning to the ‘Unfashionable’ Thinker (Part 1)...

Philosophy, like most other social things, is susceptible to trends and fads. A philosopher, or a philosophy, emerges onto the scene capturing the attention of various scholars, publishers, and academic disciplines. During this period we have the ‘fashionable’ thinker. Literature is produced on understanding, acclaiming, defending, dismissing, and critiquing the ‘fashionable’ thinker. Predictably, philosophy moves on and finds another ‘fashionable’ thinker and the last ‘fashionable’ thinker is less of an influence in the press machine and our thoughts. This discarding and removal of the popularity suggests, or at least implies, that we have learnt, critiqued, and understood the entire corpus the thinker had to offer (or the philosopher has been proved wrong). In other words, in order to move on to the next fashionable, the last ‘fashionable’ thinker s laid to rest (the gift of death?). Of course, the work and thoughts of the thinker is never truly dead and it would be more accurate to propose it has a zombie existence as the living dead.

When a fashionable thinker becomes unfashionable, does this provide an opportunity to return to their work, focusing on what they have offered away from the limelight and gaze of fashion? The problem of the limelight of fashion is people rush to accept, defend, dismiss, adore, hate, (mis)understand, love, and critique the fashionable thinker. In short, a pressure is forced upon members of the philosophy community to have a view, or stance, directed towards the fashionable thinker. It is almost not acceptable to not have a view on them. We cannot remain silent on them. (Maybe remaining silent on them could provide a form of resistance against the fashion markets of philosophy?). During this fashion fad (forced) views are produced and a lot of misunderstanding and ill-informed opinions are disseminated. Critiques and dismissals of the fashionable thinker come across as reactionary, failing to have engaged (in-depth) with the work. This stance is the stance where people know they do not like the thinker, but cannot really explain (in depth) why they do not like the thinker. Followers and defenders of the fashionable thinker are also too quick to adore and defend. Their work misses out on the warnings and carefully argued points made from the fashionable thinker. These followers tend to produce a dogmatic type of thought that is never present in the philosopher themselves (e.g. Marxists become worse than Marx).

Monday, July 7, 2008

Speculative Realism New Blog

News of a new blog in the blogosphere that focuses on the (newish) episteme of "Speculative Realism". This looks a welcome introduction and promises to provide invaluable material and discussion for the growing interest in this school of thought. Something i admit to being behind the pulse.

The blog is called "Speculative Heresy"

Friday, July 4, 2008

Intensive learning over Extensive learning

Throughout my time being taught at university the courses I have participated in privilege extensive teaching methods over intensive methods. The idea of extensive teaching is the approach of covering a lot of topics and material during a semester or two. This means there is courses like – Globalisation, Introduction to International Relations Theory, Terrorism, Global Politics and Culture, Political Theory…Without a doubt these courses are invaluable and help to ‘introduce’ a lot of topics about the subject. However, and this is a major problem, these type of courses lack the ability, and capability, for intensive teaching and studying. Issues and topics are merely ‘touched’ upon before the next topic has to be introduced. I cannot remember being offered a course like the ones run by David Harvey and Herbert Dreyfus. Both these lecturers take one book (Harvey = Marx's Capital & Dreyfus = Heidegger's Being and Time) and only address this book in the course. The advantage is the students get to experience an intensive method of learning that will enable to engage at the depth required for these classic and demanding texts. I often laugh when I look back at some of my course handouts and the reading lists they have attached to them. The list often contains books that would themselves require a course to fully appreciate their purpose and method. (I remember seeing Michel Foucault’s Archaeology of Knowledge listed as secondary reading for a first year course on Introducing Global Politics!) I tend to think that students could learn a lot more about the world if they fully read and understood one (master) text than having to skim into a multitude of articles and books that address, for example, the topic of ‘Globalisation.’ Of course, the problem would be the politics of selecting this text.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

David Harvey's Lectures on Karl Marx's Capital

thanks to Larval subjects for bringing attention to these video lectures from David Harvey on Karl Marx's Capital, which can be watched here.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Complexity in International Relations Theory

Nick, at Accursed Share, has posted an interesting and relevant post about issues relating to the structure/agency problem in International Relations Theory.

I am in agreement about the need to consider multiple interacting systems in International Relations theory. There still seems to be a desire to simplify actual events, and the complexity of them, into all-encompassing theories that accounts for the change before it happens (e.g. the eternal wisdom of neo-realism). A lot of the approaches still fail to cope with the issue of emergence and lack the capacity to identify system-generating processes. They seem to always assume that the system is already there (Waltz and Wendt) ! However, historical approaches like world systems theory do acknowledge the importance of historical analysis, but lack, i feel, a non-linear understanding of History (althought this is emerging in world systems theory).

There is also the problem of organismic approaches to the state, which is most prominent in Alexander Wendt's recent work, which tries to propose a quantum hypothesis of consciousness. While it is all very interesting Wendt seems to be appealing to an essential and totalising (human) condition to propose his theory of the state as a person. His example of how a state functions is connected to the idea of a beehive composed of homogeneous units (i.e. individuals). The problem I feel with Wendt’s approach is his model of the stats is based on what DeLanda refers to as a ‘relations of Interiority’, which is a result of arguing the state is a superorganism (like a beehive). I tend to think Wendt needs to consider the state more from a ‘relations of exteriority’ approach, which could account for heterogeneous components (i.e. assemblages) interacting with one another. For example, lobbying power in some states is a crucial factor for understanding the actualisations that occur in Global politics. One only needs to consider the lobbying power in encouraging the U.S. to not sign the Koyota protocol. However, this is not to claim that the U.S. (as a state) is a homogeneous person in favour of rejecting the protocol. There are plenty of assemblages that are present (and also emergent) in the U.S that lobby and protest in favour of environmental policies. This means the state is more like Deleuze's idea of the wasp and orchid interacting (heterogeneous components) than a beehive (homogeneous organic beings).

I would also propose that anthropocentricism is a problem in the discipline of International Relations. This seems to be a difficult topic because it would appear that humanity is the cause of International Relations (IR). However, could IR, in an attempt to learn from the natural sciences (particularly complexity theory) think, for example, about the significance of such things as weather systems producing events in international politics? The example of the recent cyclone in Burma would illustrate that humanity is not the ‘centre’ of global politics.

Monday, June 9, 2008

An Either/Or Question?

I was watching a Manuel DeLanda lecture online and he put forward a question which he argues sets you on a philosophical path that you cannot come back from . In the terminology of Badiou we can describe the question as a truth event from which we then produce knowledge from a fidelity to that event.

the question is:

'Do you think that Eskimos has 27 different words for snow because

a) they label snow differently 27 times

b) they interact with snow differently

I am still to decide if DeLanda is putting forward a Zizekian 'forced choice' or a question that one should answer and stay committed to that position for producing knowledge.

I would be interested to know what side of the fence you are sitting on?

Friday, June 6, 2008

New Blog Pole - Idealism

After the recent success of the last blog pole, which asked you for your favourite 19th century philosopher, there is another pole uploaded for the next month and a half.

This time I have decided to go over to the 'other/enemies' side. Struggleswithphilosophy's will leave its normal materialism behind and dedicate a pole to the idealists. The pole asks you for your favourite idealist philosopher.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Massumi New Journal - Inflexions

There is a new journal started by Brian Massumi called inflexions. Here is the description of it from their website:
"Inflexions is an open-access journal for research-creation sponsored by the Sense Lab. It publishes articles, short texts of various genres including poetry and ficto-theory, images, sound, and other multimedia content. We invite writing and/or other forms of expression actively exploring such issues as: (inter/trans/non) disciplinarity; the emergence of new modes of collaboration; micropolitics and the life and death of institutions; creativity, subjectivity and collectivity in cultural production; the ethics of aesthetics; the aesthetic as ethics. The goal is to promote experimental practices combining research and creation in such a way as to foster symbiotic links between philosophical inquiry, technological innovation, artistic production, and social and political engagement. Of continuing concern will be how these efforts may renew and recast relations between the concrete and the abstract, perception and conception, the body and technology. We hope the journal will become a tool for thinkers, builders, artists, informal groupings, and institutions to develop a mutually sustaining and enriching dialogue around these issues."

I have had a look at some of the first articles and the contents are worth a read and of high quality. From what I can tell the journal is free to access.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A return to V for Vendetta

I have decided to return to my analysis of the film V for Vendetta. A topic i have previously discussed here, here, and briefly here. There has also been an excellent discussion about the film at Steve Shaviro's blog here and another one at I Cite here.

This post considers the active and reactive forces in the film and puts forward a (short) argument for a revolutionary Overman that affirms life.


In Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s Empire (2000) a passage, dedicated to Friedrich Nietzsche, discusses the need for new barbarians, ‘We need a force capable of not only organising the destructive capabilities of the multitude, but also of constituting through the desire of multitude an alternative’ (Hardt and Negri, 2000: p214). In order to construct the alternative Hardt and Negri claim there is a necessarily violent and barbaric passage. This passage is termed positive barbarism (2000: p214-215). After reading the passage I thought about the film V for Vendetta, a film that depicts a (barbaric) revolution removing the powers of fascism. In an interpretation of the film the paper proposes that positive barbarism requires a (Nieztschean) revolutionary Overman, which is represented in the character V. I argue it is the Overman’s role to overcome those forces that repress themselves and the masses. The paper relies upon Gilles Deleuze’s distinction between active and reactive forces in Nietzsche and Philosophy, which provides the possibility for an ethical evaluation of life. The importance of Deleuze’s Nieztschean ‘ethical’ vision of the world is the ethical task for the revolutionary Overman becomes to overcome the reactive forces that deny and negate life. I analyse the reactive forces that repress the masses in V for Vendetta and discuss how V overcomes them through a project of self-creation.

Active and Reactive Forces

According to Nietzsche, in Genealogy of Morals, our contemporary morality has emerged from the triumph of a slave morality (1996). Slave morality has triumph over the noble morality. While the latter is active and affirmative the former is reactive and negative. Nietzsche argues the triumph of slave moral, which promotes pity, denial, and humility, represents a transvaluation of morals that has replaced noble moraity. The significance of slave morality’s triumph is it’s creation of the idea of evil. Before slave morality prevailed, noble morality functioned under concepts of good and bad, defining ‘good’ as life affirming capacities and ‘bad’ as simply lacking life affirming capacities. However, in slave morality there is now the concept of evil, which seeks to inhibit those activities that represent evil. An example is institutional Christianity, which seeks to inhibit homosexuality as it views this as an evil activity. A mode of affirming life is given identity only to be denied and rejected.
The importance of Nietzsche’s genealogy of (western) morality is it provides Gilles Deleuze the opportunity to differentiate between active forces and reactive forces. For Deleuze active forces and reactive forces value life from different perspectives. Generally the former view life as affirmation and inspire creativity, while the latter view life negatively and limit the powers of life, ‘active forces are creative, because they seek to exercise themselves, to make whatever can be made of themselves…reactive forces operate by cutting active forces off from their own power’ (May, 2006: 66). One of the key components of reactive forces is ressentiment. According to Nietzsche ressentiment ‘says to no to an ‘outside’, to an ‘other’, to a non-self’: and this is no creative act’ (Nietzsche, 1996: 22). Ressentiment, which is a component of slave morality, constructs the enemy as evil, which serve to define their group as the good: ‘imagine the ‘enemy’ as conceived by the man of ressentiment. This is the very place where his deed, his creation is to be found – he has conceived the ‘evil enemy’, the ‘evil man.’ Moreover, he has conceived him as a fundamental concept, from which he now derives another as an after-image and counterpart, the ‘good-man’ – himself! (Nietzsche, 1996: 25). Life, or certain forces of life, is judged evil, resented for their existence, which permits for a differentiation between good and evil,

Good and evil are new values, but how strangely these values are created…they are not created by acting but by holding life back from acting, not by affirming, but by beginning from a denial. This is why they are called uncreated, divine, transcendent, superior to life. But think of what these values hide, of their mode of creation. They hide an extraordinary hatred, a hatred for life, a hatred for all that is active and affirmation in life (Deleuze, 2005: 114).

Importantly, and a point addressed later in the paper, the morality of good and evil produced from slave morality can actually function to repress life instead of ‘freeing’ us.
According to Paul Patton the differentiation between active and reactive forces provides the possibility for an ethical evaluation:

Nietzsche terminology the reversal of values means the active in place of the reactive (strictly speaking it is the reversal of a reversal, since the reactive began by taking place of the active). But transmutation of values, or transvaluation, means affirmation instead of negation – negation transformed into a power of affirmation, the supreme Dionysian metamorphosis (Patton, 2000: 66)

If a transvaluation of values is to occur then the focus has to be on the removal the reactive force(s) that negate life. In people, communities, historical periods…there are combinations of active and reactive forces and we are compose of forces that go to the limit of what we can do and forces that seek to limit what we can become (May, 2006: p67). The task is to identify the historical contingent reactive forces that are limit life through a negation. Ressentiment is one type of reactive force that negates life through imposing an image of evil. It is the presence of ressentiment that I will now analyse in V for Vendetta.

Ressentiment in V for Vendetta

Overall, the reactive forces in V for Vendetta limit the active forces through creating an enemy. The enemy are given the identity of immigrates, homosexuals, and Muslims. These active forces are now a group identity that represent the ‘threats’ and the ‘enemy’ of the UK, and it is these (active) forces that are resented. Muslims, immigrates, and homosexuals are now the ‘other’ that the population of the UK must not become. It is these forces, which are now identities, that are the outside and non-self of the UK. Commander Prothero’s, on his television show fuelled on ressentiment, clearly defines the UK identity through negation:

Prothero to audience: ‘immigrants, Muslims, homosexuals, terrorists! Disease ridden degenerates, they had to go!’

These are the ‘evil enemies’ that Britain resents, which in turn makes Britain ‘good.’ Prothero’s rant is illustrative of reactive forces fuelled on ressentiment. Affirmation of difference and the opportunity to become is denied and negated through constructing an image of evil. Homosexuality, for example, is denied as an (active) force of becoming. It has now become an identity associated to the non-self of the United Kingdom.
Flashbacks in V for Vendetta inform the viewer that the ‘evil’ enemy were removed from the public during the period termed reformation. State apparatus forces, in scenes reminiscent to Nazi Germany, capture and confine the ‘evil’ non-self of the population. The masses become segmented into a gregarious binary division of either/or that judges and limits what the population came began. We learn of the character Rose’s life leading up and during her confinement at Lanmark Disciplinary Centre. Rose’s story is of young girl becoming lesbian women and we learn of her experiences and encounters. On the whole, her homosexuality is an active force of affirmation that is part of her self-creation. She fails no shame or does not deny her homosexuality. However, even before the period of reformation there are forms of micro-ressentiment that attempt to limit her affirmative homosexuality. At school the teacher informs Valerie that homosexuality is a phase she will grow out of, while her parents’ ressentiment is more intense and results in them denying Valerie as their daughter. These flashback scenes are correct to acknowledge the presence of mirco forms of ressentiment, representing an already present ‘micro-fascism’ that is latter organised into a powerful macro-fascism of state apparatus.
Ressentiment’s negative formation of good and evil creates a perverse situation where a parasitic relationship is constructed. Evil, or at least the threat of evil, always has to be present for there to be good. The good becomes an organism whose life is dependent on the energy provided from there being an evil. In V for Vendetta the state owned media represent the parasitic relationship. The news constantly runs stories about the evil non-self, Prothero rants about the ‘degenerate others’, and entertainment shows, such as Storm Saxon, contain images of terrorist Muslims. Fear, entertainment, and tranny are used to remind the population that they are ‘God fearing Englishment’ (Prothero). The parasitic relationship of ressentiment limits what the masses can become. Their identity can only be affirmed from firstly denying themselves that what represents the non-self. It is negation before affirmation. Arguably some of the characters feel this repression and limiting on becoming more than others. Deitrich (Stephen Fry) is an example of the repression. While he is a popular television host Deitrich’s denies his homosexual desires and even host young attractive women at his home. Crucially, it is not only the state apparatus that coerce his denial but also an internalisation of authority, or what Nietzsche would call bad consciousness. Nietzsche defines bad consciousness as when ‘all instincts that do not discharge themselves outwardly turn inward – that is what I call the internalisation of man…that is the origin of the “bad conscience”’ (Nietzsche, 1996: 65). Deitrich internalises the identity of the masses that is constructed on ressentiment of the non-self to discipline his body and enforce restraint. The internalisation of the identity for Deitrich and extends the power of ressentiment. In a revealing line Deitrich states, ‘when you wear a mask for so long, you forget the person behind it.’ Detrich does perform an act of resistance (which causes him his life) on his the television show in a sketch of High Chancellor Sutler as the ‘terrorist’ V.

The emergent Overman? The complex emergence of the overman

Any paper, or political project, that advocates the Overman is required to be careful of not providing a model for the Superman. The Superman is the nightmare fascist overcoming of mankind that was evident in Nazi Germany. It was not so much an overcoming of mankind but the replacement of one image of man with another more reactive image of man. The Aryan race became the superman image for Nazi fascism. This (crude) interpretation of Nietzsche Overman fail to realise the task is not to replace one image of man with another, but actually destruction the image of man to realise those affirmative forces. V for Vendetta provides a crude interpretation of the Overman as Superman. The ‘superman’ identity of white-hetrosexual-christian-british becomes the ‘superior’ homogeneous identity for the masses. In this situation the difference of the ‘multitude’ becomes repressed through identity. The fascistic interpretation of the Overman as superman, both in V for Vendetta and Nazi Germany, forgets that the main lesson of the Overman is that man must be overcome. All images of what man is are replaced and destroyed with affirmative projects of self-creation. It is for this reason that Nieztsche argues the Overman is a ‘higher type.’ The Overman is merely a ‘higher type’ because their existence is beyond ressentiment and reactive forces. They accept the responsibility of life without God or higher values (Spinks, 2003: 116). The Overman does not view man as an identity they view man as an immanent process. Creation precedes identity as ‘the very concept of “human” is reactive insofar as it posits an unchanging identity with which our values ought to accord.’ (Spinks, 2003: 116). If a (fixed) identity of man is rejected then we need to consider how the Overman emerges from life. Following Nietzsche’s advice to stay turn to the earth I believe it is important to understand that the Overman is an emergent property produced from interactions and encounters in life.
The term emergent property comes from complexity theory and argues that interaction between (at least) two ‘things’ can result in the emergence of a new property. A simple example is the interaction of hydrogen and oxygen to produce the quality water (H20). The importance of the interaction demonstrates the necessity relations of exteriority to exist for new properties to emerge into life. In an attempt to stay true to the earth it also avoids an argument of appealing to superterresterial factors.[1] The character V can demonstrate that Overmen, which resist and destruct reactive forces, do not come from the supperterresterial but actually emerge from life.
V’s emergence into an Overman is a product of his interactions. It would be a mistake to view his self-creation as a project of solitude detached from life. Throughout the film there are important interactions that create V as an Overman and a lot of these interactions are a result of the reactive forces. Firstly, because V is in Larkhill Disciplinary Institution we know that he is a victim of the binary segmentation of the non-self and self of the British identity. It is in the disciplinary institution that another two important interactions occur. As mentioned above the disciplinary institution uses those confined as trail subjects to create a cure for the virus released into the ‘free’ population. It is from this experimentation that a cure is produced and V gains his ‘super’ human strength. I would argue that this interaction is only important for the comic style of the film, which follows in the tradition of superhero’s gaining their strength from some unfortunate experience (e.g. Spiderman, X-Men, Incredible Hulk…). We therefore do not need to accept an argument that the Overman requires superhuman strength. More important for V’s emergence as an Overman is his interaction with Valerie at Larkhill. Valerie is located in the next cell and until her death she sends V bibliographical notes of her life written on toilet roll. It is possible to argue that Valerie is herself an Overman, and in her notes to V she disperses the virtues of her self-creation. Her homosexuality is fiercely unapologetic and without bad conscious. In one of her letters describing her last girlfriend Valerie writes, ‘for three years I had roses, these where the happiest years of my life, and I apologise to no one.’ There is a joyous and affirmation politics to Valerie’s active life, which illustrates a movement beyond good and evil and towards good and bad. It is her love (which is true to the earth) that empowers her. Valerie does not question if her homosexuality is morally good or evil, but rather explores what is good and life affirming for her. Arguable it is these active forces that promote a life and politics of affirmation that are crucial for V’s metamorphosis into an Overman. It is these notes that he later declares frees him of the hate and contempt that fuelled his body.

[1] I define superterresterial factors as transcendent ideas appealing to superior forces beyond those found in life (e.g. a transcendent God)


Gilles Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, trans by Hugh Tomlinson (London: Continuum, 2004)

Gilles Deleuze, Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza, trans by Martin Joughin (New York: Zone Books, 1992)

Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (London: Harvard University Press, 2000)

Todd May, Gilles Deleuze: An Introduction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006)

Paul Patton, Deleuze and the Political (London: Routledge, 2000)

Lee Spinks, Friedrich Nietzsche (London: Routledge, 2003)

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morals, translated by Douglas Smith (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996)

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Portable Nietzsche, ed and trans by Walter Kaufmann (London: Penguin, 1954)

Saturday, May 3, 2008

thoughts on writing

Larval Subjects wrote an interesting blog entry about style and writing, which has inspired these two aphorisms on the topic of writing.

1) If we perceive that a mode of writing is superior to another form of writing then we have become reactive. In short the judgement removes, or limits, the virtual power of writing as a becoming. For Nietzsche reactive forces negate life, saying no to life, and creating an evil. Modes of writing that are perceived to be abhorrent, difficult, or sub-standard are judged as evil, only to become resented. One only needs to think about how the writing of Baudrillard and Derrida (and others) is resented. For example, if I feel writing ought to communicate then writing that does not communicate is resented. The resentment can even emerge into bad conscious. The writer can internalise guilt if they feel their writing is not written in the correct mode. The effect of judging modes of writing is we stratify writing. Writing becomes a hierarchical phenomenon that is classified into standards. If writing is to function as a becoming that affirms life then experimentation should be favoured. If we give strong preference to a certain mode of writing then we negate life through imposing reactive forces.

2) A demand for communication inhibits writing. When we require communication from writing we are not empowering writing, we are actually negating the virtual power of writing. It is similar to demanding an artist only produce fine art portraits. Communication is only one style and aspect of writing and in some situations communication is not desired.

A rant about (contemporary) academia

*Update: it seems like i am not the only person ranting about academia.

Larval subject has ranted about bureaucracy and I Cite has critiqued academic's 'jet set' lifestlye.

Just a list of things I do not like about the world of academia:

Amount of bureaucracy
Discussion and communication fuelled on resentment
Liberal image and conservative materiality
Prestige given to journals
Ranking of Universities
RAE judgement

Feel free to add to the list. I am sure I have missed out a few things.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Thoughts on Simulacrum

[*Sorry about the missing references for this post]

Arguably, simulacra have been misunderstood, in philosophical terms, since Plato. For Plato the production of simulacrum represents the move away from the real and into unreality. Overall, Plato regards simulacrum as merely pretenders of the real that appear as (bad) copies of the real. For example, if I photograph a chair and then paint a picture from that photograph, in a Platonic world, I am continually moving away from the real and into unreality. The Platonic world can therefore provide a hierarchical ordering of reality and realness. Firstly there are the Platonic ideas. These Platonic ideas are the essences of an object that are never realised in the actual world. Secondly, there are the copies that are closest to the essence of the Platonic ideas. For example, a ‘real’ wooden chair is the closest the actual world can come to the Platonic idea of a chair. Thirdly, there are the copies of the copies, which are the simulacrum. For example, a poet who writes about a chair in their poem is producing a simulacrum in the Platonic world. The poet is further away from the Platonic idea of a chair than the carpenter who constructs the chair. This understanding of simulacrum still persists in contemporary academic literature, and is found in the work of Frederic Jameson and Jean Baudrillard. Even if both contemporary scholars agree that simulacrum are dominant in today’s world they both define simulacrum as moving away from the real. This is evident in Jameson’s example of photorealism to define simulacrum and Baudrillard’s argument that we have lost the real and entered into a virtual world of simulation and hyperreality.
In contrast to the Platonic trend of defining simulacrum as the move away from the real, Deleuze argues simulacrum is the (continual) production of the real. On the whole, Deleuzian simulacrum is defined through the task of reversing Platonism, which aims to remove the idea that there are Platonic ideas. The problem of Platonic ideas is it represents an essentialist perspective that generates a privileged and narrow idea of the real. As Deleuze writes ‘the motive of theory of Ideas must be sought in a will to select and to choose. It is a question of “making a difference” of distinguishing the “thing” itself from its images, the orginal from the copy, the model from the simulacrum.’[1] In other words, I should recognise that the chair I sit on is more ‘real’ than the chair I read about in the poem. Against this Platonic world Deleuze argues there is no essential real that serves as the Archimedean point to define everything else. For Deleuze there is only the continual, and creative, production of the real, which is summed up in the maxim ‘everything is production.’[2] This means a chair in a poem or painting is no less real than the chair I use to sit on. Instead, each chair affirms its difference and realness through its presence, which has been generated from a necessity and contingency. Steven Shaviro explains this ‘implosion’ of the real and the simulacrum in terms of the various cartoons and comics of Batman:

Batman is a simulacrum. There is no Platonic Idea of Batman, no model that all the all iterations of Batman would conform to more of less, and in relation to which they could hierarchically according to degree of their resemblance. There is no best of all possible Batmans, no iteration which can be judged more perfect than the rest. Rather, the disparity between the different iterations of Batman, their distance from one another, is itself the only common measure between them. Each Batman arises independently, as a unique “solution” to a common disparity or problem…In the absence of any Platonic criterion, or any Leibnizian God, there is only the disjunctive synthesis which affirms each iteration, one at a time, in its divergence from the rest. This means that any particular Batman is entirely contingent, although the synthesis itself, with its affirmation of all these multiple iterations, responds to a necessity.[3]

Overall, Shaviro is expressing the important point that one Batman cannot be privileged as the real Batman that the rest copy. Instead each Batman is created as a result of necessity and contingency. In Deleuzian terminology it is a disjunctive synthesis that produces each Batman simulacrum. The notion of a disjunctive synthesis is used to account for how the heterogeneous flows of life generate a self, which in this case is the self of Batman. In other words, a disjunctive synthesis is required to produce a simulacrum, and this disjunctive synthesis is entirely contingent and necessary.

[1] Gilles Deleuze, The Logic of Sense (Continuum: London, 2004) p291
[2] Giles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus (Continuum: London, 2004) p4
[3] Steven Shaviro, God or the Body without Organs (, accessed 12th March 2008) p17

Books on ontology?

Hi there,

I was wondering if anyone could recommend books that focus on the subject of ontology? Especially any books that review the move to consider existance without essense and the transcendence of language. In other words, the move away from the linguistic turn.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Recommended Audio Lectures

I found these audio lectures of Herbert Dreyfus. The lectures are from his course on Heidegger's Being and Time. I can highly recommend them as they have even convinced me to give Being and Time another go. Lets hope I have more luck understanding it this time.

The lectures can be downloaded from

Monday, April 7, 2008

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Difference and Repetition- Reading Notes (Part 1)

In preparation for the Deleuze camp, at Cardiff University (4th-8th August 2008), I thought I had better get reading, in more depth, some Gilles Deleuze.

The book I have decided to start with is Difference and Repetition. Sorry about the lack of critical thoughts. At present I am more concerned with understanding the book. Any thoughts, corrections, and critiques are welcome.

These reading notes are from p1-5 ‘introduction’. I am using the 2004 Continuum edition that is translated by Paul Patton.

Deleuze begins by stating that ‘repetition is not generality’ and the two need distinguished. In defining generality Deleuze claims it has two major orders, ‘the qualitative order of resemblances and quantitative order of equivalences’ (p1). It figures from this definition that repetition needs to avoid resemblances and equivalences. In generality I have the ability to express a point of view that can substitute or exchange a term. For example, I can use any human, as a particular, to express the generality that man is mortal. It is here, I believe, that generality, for Deleuze, is in the paradigm of the general and the particular. This means a generality will state a ‘fact’ about a particularity, and this particularity will have that generality.
To define repetition Deleuze writes ‘repetition is a necessary and justified conduct only in relation to that which cannot be replaced’ (p1). It is here I figure that Deleuze is aiming to remove repetition from the idea of the general and the particular, as Deleuze claims repetition ‘concerns non-exchangeable and non-substitutable singularities’ (p1). At this point Deleuze does not provide a substantial definition of a singularity, but does provide empirical examples. One of these examples is how we cannot exchange or substitute twins with one another. This means, I think, that Deleuze wants repetition to be connected with something unique and singular, ‘as Peguy says, it is not Federation Day which commemorates or represents the fall of Bastille, but the fall of the Bastille which celebrates and repeats in advance all the Federation Day’ (p2). In other words, the fall of the Bastille was a unique and singular event, and not in the order of generality. It is from here Deleuze provides his differentiation between Generality and Repetition:

‘Generality, as generality of the particular….
Repetition as universal of the singular’ (p2)

After the definitions of generality and repetition Deleuze then proceeds to associate generality with the orders of the laws, and consider the phenomenon of scientific experimentation. In this section Deleuze is careful to argue that we do not fall into the trap of connecting repetition with (natural) law. For Deleuze there requires a recognition that scientific experiments are conducted in a ‘closed environment in which phenomenon are defined in terms of a small number of chosen factors’ (p3). However, natural, or real, phenomenon occur in a open or ‘free state’ where ‘everything reacts on everything else’ (p3). In sum, we may state that scientific experiments have the ‘luxury’ of setting the conditions of the experiment. I think the point of this section is scientific experiments cannot, for Deleuze, provide the idea of repetition as unique and singular. The only repetition these experiments find is the general laws of nature, which once again brings us back to the scenario of the general and the particular. This unacceptance of the repetition of the natural can help to explain the move of repetition from the natural sphere to the moral sphere.
For Deleuze repetition in the moral sphere dreams of finding a law, or laws, that is sanctified and makes reiteration possible. Some moralists, according to Deleuze, create the ‘Good’ by aiming for a repetition that is not a ‘law of nature but a law of duty’ (p4). In other words, ‘we’ create principles, such as, for example, do not kill, that can (and ought) to be repeated as a duty. These principles are formed in the mind (i.e. idealism). Deleuze finds this an unacceptable definition of repetition as it still leaves us within the realms of generality, and, if we remember, repetition is not generality. The reason repeating principles is a generality is it is acquiring a habit. Or more accurately, the habit of acquiring habits. In addition, this form of repetition bring us back to resemblance and equivalence, the two concepts Deleuze does not want to associate with his definition of repetition. It is resemblance as we conform to a model and equivalence because we have the same elements of action once the habit is acquired (p5).

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Google and Attractors (Part 3)

If we are to believe Claire Colebrook, who claims, in Understanding Deleuze, we are in post-linguistic era, we need to develop theories and approaches that are not language dependent. This means we cannot use discourse analysis or propose a model for communicative action. I do not claim that these approaches are not helpful or should be abandoned. Instead the problem of these approaches is that language is always assumed to be present. In other words, language becomes the transcendent principle and according to Deleuze and Guattari we need to think immanently instead of transcendently. Where can we then turn? In this post I would like to suggest complexity theory can help us out the language impasse. To achieve this I will concentrate, once again, on Google’s search engine. A topic I have discussed previously here and here. In this post I will argue that the language we enter into the search engine functions as a chaotic attractor.
In simple terms an attractor helps to explain the behaviour of a (real) system. For example, if there is a bowl and we put a marble in the bowl, then the point at where the marble rests is referred to as the attractor. However, this example could suggest that attractors are deterministic, in the sense that the outcome is always the same, or that attractors are singular, in the sense that there is only one attractor in a system. Both of these claims are untrue and we need to be careful of proposing determinism. Another example can demonstrate that attractors are not deterministic and multiple. Imagine a game of football/soccer. In the game there are two goalposts situated at each end that act as attractors. As Brian Massumi writes: ‘The field is polarized by two attractors: the goals. All movement in the game will take place between the poles and will tend toward one or the other. They are the physical limits.’[1] Importantly, the goals do not decide the result of the game, but they do determine the movements and variations within the game. The goalposts, as attractors, literally feed into the game.
So how then is this relevant for understanding how Google functions as a search engine when we enter keywords? From a language perspective we could suggest that we are creating what Sassure would term a linguistic sign. This would argue that the keywords entered into Google are the signifier and what is returned from Google is the signified. Both of them together compose the linguistic sign. However, this is exactly the type of thinking we are trying to avoid. There are two clear problems with this type of thinking. The first, as I have mentioned above, is the failure to represent a post-linguistic mode of thinking. To think in terms of linguistic signs means language is a necessary component. The main issue I have with this problem is that language is not always a component of life. In other words, things occur without language (e.g. geological stratification). The second problem Sassure's linguistic sign does not inform us how Google functions as a machine. This is the advantage of replacing the linguistic sign with the idea that the keywords are attractors. Attractors have the benefit of helping to provide an explanation for when a system reaches a stable point. If we return to the football example, we can see how the goals explain how the game settles after 90minutes. Of course, the goals, as attractors, do not fully explain the result of a game. There are other relations of exteriority that require recognition: players, ball, referee, rules…However, the attractors in a system are not there to offer a full explanation, and instead the focus of the analysis should concentrate on how the attractors affect the behaviour of a (dynamic) system. In the case of the keywords entered into Google these influence the behaviour of the sorting machine and explain the emergence of a settled state. In this system the settled state is the website created after a search is executed (i.e. the return page). The point is each time we enter keywords into we are providing the sorting machine with an attractor. The attractor enters into the system of Google, which can be thought of as the algorithm(s) Google use to download, index, and rank online documents. On the whole, maybe it would be more accurate to realise we are not entering a signifier into Google, but actually entering an attractor. In addition, attractors, in a nonlinear world, continually influence the behaviour and movements of systems throughout the world.

[1] Brian Massumi, Parables For the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation (London: Duke University Press, 2002) p72

Friday, March 21, 2008

Good and Evil versus Good and Bad

According to Deleuze, in Nietzsche and Philosophy, Nietzsche holds an important distinction between active and reactive forces. One of the defining characteristics of reactive forces is they create a distinction between good and evil. In other words, they create a hierarchy. An example of reactive forces is what Nietzsche terms resentment, and is associated with 'slave morality'. The problem with resentiment, as a reactive force, is it says No to life, it is a negation instead of affirmation. We can think of the command 'Thou Shalt Not' as a illustration of reactive forces. The problem of resentment, according to Nietzsche, is we are unable to admire (or even love!) our enemies:

'How much respect has a noble person for his enemies! and such respect is already a bridge of love. After all, he demand his enemy for himself, as his distinction; he can stand no enemy but one in whom to be honored. Conversely, imagine "the enemy" as conceived by a man of resentment - and here is precisely is his deed, his creation: he has conceived "the evil enemy", "the evil one" - and indeed as the fundamental concept from which he then derives, as an after image and counterinstance, a "good one" - himself.' (The Portable Nietzsche, p452)

In other words, resentment, as a reactive force, generates an evil (the other), which produces a good (us). It is hard not to realise that resentment is (omi)present in today's world. Is the war on terror not a war fueled on resentment? We have the axis of evil as the other, and the "good one" as the 'civilised' west (or even the 'coalition of the willing'!)

The problem with resentment is it not only causes a group to resent others as evil, it also acts to repress those who resent. As Deleuze and Guattari would say it is 'desiring our own repression.' An example from a film can illustrate the process of desiring our repression through resentment.

In V for Vendetta a fascist government gets (democratically) voted into the UK government. On the whole, the fascist government gains power through an emergence of resentment of the other, which is viewed as evil. Once the fascist party is in power the removal of the other from the UK occurs. Anyone who is not white and heterosexual is removed from the UK. Through removing the other the British people repress themselves. Instead of affirming life they negate life through creating a majoritarian identity. The majoritarian identity functions as an inhibitor on what people can become. This is the important (ethical) point to realise. That resentment, as a reactive force, represses those who resent.

Monday, March 17, 2008

deleuze's ethics

I am in the process of trying to construct an idea of Deleuzian ethics. So far it seems we can find Deleuze's ethics from his understanding of Spinoza, his reading of Nietzsche's eternal return, and Nietzsche's division between active and reactive forces.

here is a quote from Deleuze's 'Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza':

'For according to Spinoza, Good has no more sense than Evil: in Nature there is neither Good nor Evil...But because there is no Good or Evil, this does not mean all distinctions vanish. There is no Good or Evil in Nature, but there are good and bad things for each existing mode...As Nietzsche put it, "beyond good and least this does not mean 'beyond good and bad'"...The distinction between good things and bad provides the basis for a real ethical difference, which we must substitute for a false moral opposition.' (p253-254)

As DeLanda would say, we need an ethics of assemblage, which should move beyond abstractions and into real experiences/differences. this is thinking ethically.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Any (more) philosophy Blogs?

I was just wondering if there was any (good) philosophy blogs you could recommend that are absent from my Blog role.

I have tried checking through Technorati, but most of the returns are not really worth a reading.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

New Blog Pole

Hi All,

Struggles with Philosophy has a new blog pole running. This time it is asking for your favourite 19th Century Philosopher. The choices are:

Friedrich Nietzsche;
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel;
Soren Kierkegaard;
Gottlob Frege;
John Stuart Mill;
Karl Marx.

the voting box is on the top right of the website.

Let me know if I have missed out any of your favourites.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Nice Interconnected Quotes

'Always Historicize' Frederic Jameson

"Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people." Karl Marx

"God is Dead" Friedrich Nietzsche

"Marx got it wrong! Opium is the opium of the people. we have now become materialists" Rick Roderick

New philosophy blog

News of a new blog from John Protevi:

'In other news, I’ve got a newish group blog I’m trying to promote called “Meta-Philosophy: Reflections on the Practices and Institutions of Philosophy.”

As the title indicates, we’d like to provide a forum for discussion of issues relative to philosophy in the world and in the university. Here is the URL:

Friday, February 22, 2008

DeLanda and Protevi Discussion

I came across this excellent discussion between Manuel DeLanda and John Protevi, which is called Deleuzian Interrogations (PDF file).

It is interesting how Protevi argues the philosophy division should not be drawn between "continental vs analytic", but instead "realist vs anti-realist". So who are the non-realists? DeLanda, when speaking about literary criticism and cultural studies departments, lists the non-realists as social constructivists, idealists, and postmodern semiotics. Now this is interesting, as throughout DeLanda's writings, and presentations for the European Graduate School, he firmly claims Deleuze is a realist. In Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy DeLanda writes:

"When confronted with Deleuze's orginal texts this audience (i.e. analytical philosophers) is bound to be puzzled, and may even be repelled by the superficial similarity of these texts with books belonging to what has come to be known as the "post-modern" tradition. Although as I argue in these pages Deleuze has nothing in common with that tradition" (p3)

DeLanda latter goes onto claim:

There are philosophers who grant reality full autonomy from the human mind, disregarding the difference between the observable and the unobservable, and the anthropocentricism this distinction implies. These philosophers are said to have a realist ontology. Deleuze is such a realist philosopher, a fact that by itself should distinguish him from most post-modern philosophers which remain basically non-realist (p4)

Now, with the idea/argument Deleuze is not a post-modern philosopher I completely agree. If anything, his books are aimed moving 'us' through the post-modern impasse. However, throughout DeLanda's books there is usually kind references to Michel Foucault. The question is where does this leave Michel Foucault on the realist/anti-realist divide?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Stratification (Part 2)

A follow up to a previous post:

'Philosophy needs a nonphilosophy that comprehends it' (What is Philosophy? Delueze and Guattari, p218)

For Deleuze and Guattari there ‘occurs upon earth a very important, inevitable phenomenon that is beneficial in many respects and unfortunate in many others: Stratification.’[1] Stratification, a machinic process, produces hierarchies. These hierarchies are not abstract, but materially present. The example of geological stratification demonstrates stratification is not an abstract phenomenon, but something that continual occurs in everyday life. This led me to think about search engines, and in particular Google’s PageRank.

At one point in the 1990s the whole of the Internet could be contained within a single mainframe of a computer. Once this was no longer possible a critical threshold was passed, and a problem was encountered. The problem was how to find websites on the WWW? This was how the phrase ‘surfing the Internet’ came about, ‘using the Internet used to be (and in some cases still is) like looking for a needle in a haystack, and basically what one did in order to find something was ‘surf’ from one site to another until one found it.’[2] Print culture also attempted to combat the problem of finding ‘stuff’ on the WWW. Books, Magazines, and Newspapers would print lists of ‘useful’ websites. Then along came search engines. These search engines allow browser to input keywords, and then return websites relational to these keywords. However, the returning of these websites is a stratification process. For example, Google use a software programme called PageRank, made by Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. In simple terms, PageRank uses the vast link structure of the WWW to judge the importance of an individual’s page’s value. It is here I want to remember Delezue and Guattari’s argument that stratification is a process of double articulation. The idea of double articulation is there is (at least) two distinct, yet interconnected, process of stratification. The first process is the gathering of ‘things/materials’. Google do this each day as their vast machinic assemblage downloads the Internet everyday. The second process is the ordering of these ‘things/materials’ into hierarchies. Google do this every time a search is entered into The websites are returned in ranked ‘layers’ after the search is performed. In real terms PageRank judges the websites, and reinforces Deleuze and Guattari’s strange, and important, claim hierarchies/strata are judgements of (an immanent) God.
Is this stratification beneficial of unfortunate? I have my own views, and do not want to impose them. Instead, I suggest you go to, enter a search, and think about how the websites are ranked? What is first? What is lower ranked? What is excluded?

[1] Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus p45
[2] Ian Buchanan, “Deleuze and the Internet” Australian Humanities Review Issue 43 2007

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Life Returns to the Accursed Share

Good news. After a period of inactivity life has (re)emerged on the accursed share blog. the quality of content has always been high, and this is no different from the last couple of posts. Time permitting, I hope to reply to them in more detail than the comments I have left.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Philosophical Frontiers Journal

The Journal Philosophical Frontiers is now available online.

It can be reached here.

from waht I can make out it is free to access.

Towards Media Studies 2.0?

An excellent account of media studies, and an argument for media studies 2.o. can be read here.

[...]MEDIA STUDIES 2.0Responding to his critics in his 1968 Playboy interview, McLuhan acerbically commented, ‘for all their lamentations, the revolution has already taken place’. Whether his critics ever later grasped that is a moot point but everyone in media studies today faces an equivalent challenge: something is happening and the only important question is do you know what it is?I began to notice it when I thought about my son’s media world compared to my own at his age. The only difference between the world I grew up in and my parents was that I had two more TV channels and my better-off friends had colour TV. Within the decade the same friends would have a VCR too, though we had to wait till the late 1980s until prices fell for it to be anything other than a luxury. This was a world of separate and more limited forms: the telephone (that you didn’t own) was screwed to the wall and couldn’t take photographs; you couldn’t get the radio on your television; films didn’t have special features, games or Easter eggs and no-one tried to hack into your television to steal your money or identity. Between my childhood media world and my son’s there is a chasm[...]

Friday, February 15, 2008

How are you Stratified?

'Perhaps rocks hold some of the keys to understanding sedimentary humanity, and all their mixtures' (A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History, Manuel DeLanda, 1997: p70)
Sorting machines are all around us. These sorting machines function to stratify life through taking a multiplicity of heterogeneous ‘things’ and ordering them into stratified layers. These stratified layers act as hierarchies, because the sorting machines organised the heterogeneous ‘things’ into ranking layers. Sorting machines are present in both natural and cultural environments. To demonstrate that sorting machines are both human and non-human I will describe a natural sorting machine, and then consider human sorting machines. However, as nature and humans live in flat ontology, which means they co-exist, the separation of humans and nature is an ideal separation that no longer exists. The separation is merely used to imply that sorting machines are not only a dynamic of human habits.
An example of a natural sorting machine, which could occur without human presence, is the process of geological stratification. In geology, the process of stratification means rocky materials are layered into strata, which are stacked on top of each other. The problem is these strata are not pre-formed, as ‘pebbles do not come in standard sizes and shapes, some kind of sorting mechanism must be involved here, some specific device to take a multiplicity of pebbles of heterogeneous qualities and distribute them into a more or less uniform layers’ (DeLanda p59-60). This means geological strata literally have to be constructed, and this construction requires (at least) two distinct operations. The first operation is the gathering of the rocky materials. According to DeLanda, rivers, which gather the rocky materials that (eventually) form the strata, act as verifiable hydraulic computers. Rivers transport the rocky materials from their point of origin to the bottom of the oceans, where the materials accumulate. In the river the rocky materials are sorted as various pebbles reacts differently in the water transporting them, as the various grain sizes, and intensity of the river, will determine the rate of transportation for the rocky material. The second operation of geological stratification is the collection of the loose pebbles into a large-scale entity, known as sedimentary rock. In this operation there is cementing of the components into a new emergent property, which now has properties of its own. Substances in the water, such as silica or hematite, penetrate the sediment, and, eventual, cause stratification, which produces strata. (See A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History, DeLanda, p59-61).

In A Thousand Plateaus Deleuze and Guattari make the strange, and important, claim that strata are judgements of God (ATP p45). This claim is plausible because stratification is the formation of hierarchies in the world by sorting machines. These social machines form strata, gathering different heterogeneous components, and processing them into a rank and/or order. These ranks and orders are the judgements of God. The question is therefore how do these judgements function in everyday social life? Two practical examples can illustrate the continual of judgements of ‘God’ as life is stratified by sorting machines. The first example is codification of educational (undergraduate) degrees. On the whole, the University system stratifies the educational experience into a hierarchical ranking system. This allows universities to award different levels of degrees (e.g. First Class: Second Class; Third Class). Therefore, the students proceed through the ‘university machine’ so they can become stratified. It is expected that this stratification will reflect their ‘academic knowledge’ and further their potential employability. The second example of Stratification is how Tesco use information gathered from consumers using their clubcards. This information flows into the Tesco organisation, and allows them to classification their consumers. Consumers can be classified, for example, as value customers, which means they predominantly purchase Tesco Value products, or classified as finest customers, which means they predominantly purchase Tesco Finest products. The consumers of Tesco, through using their clubcard, are transformed in larger-scale entities, which Tesco create and use for management of their business. In both Universities, and Tesco, there is judgement of ‘God’, which means a form of hierarchal stratification is occurring. It is therefore important to understand how various sorting machines are forming strata in life, both in the human and natural sciences.