04 February 2007

Schizophrenic Vacillations-- Larval Subjects IS Moving... For the Moment

Well at the risk of making myself look even more mad, at the recommendation of Kenneth Rufo, Glen, and N.Pepperell, I'm going to give wordpress a go and see how it works out. For the next week or so I'll be over here. In days to come I'll be adding links to the blogroll and whatnot. So far the platform looks very nice and easy to navigate, so we'll see. Let me know what you think of the new layout. Now if I can only figure out how to use my webtracking service. I'm using the free service so it doesn't give me much access to the template. Any help would be appreciated.


UPDATE: Larval Subjects is Not Moving at this Moment

Alright, I'm in full flake out mode. However, after playing with Typepad all afternoon, I've concluded that blogger is still the lesser or two evils. Although the layout is nice over at Typepad, you have a very low degree of freedom when it comes to formatting. It seems to me that they've purposefully designed things in such a way that you have to pay for more expensive accounts to get this freedom. Thus, for instance, if I wished to keep my blogroll up to date, I would either a) have to rewrite the whole damn thing anytime I wish to add someone new (as their $8.95 program doesn't let you directly insert new names but only order them according to the date they were written), or b) pay for the $14.95 account that allows you to muck about in templates and codes. Well clearly these little limitations are designed just to get you to up your account and pay more, which is a load of crap considering I have the ability to change these things directly here. So for the moment, despite difficulties that keep cropping up with comments, Larval Subjects will remain exactly where it is. Next time I'll be a bit more circumspect when playing around with another platform... Determining in advance whether I feel it does the job. In the meantime, my apologies to anyone who changed links on my account.

I'm going to go growl and gnash my teeth now.


Operational Closure and the Reception of Events

One of the central axioms of sociological systems theory is the thesis that systems process events according to their own internal organization. As Luhmann puts it in his magnificent work Social Systems,

The environment receives its unity through the system and only in relation to the system. It is delimited by open horizons, not by boundaries that can be crossed; thus it is not itself a system. It is different for every system, because every system excludes only itself from its environment. Accordingly, the environment has no self-reflection or capacity to act. Attribution to the environment (external attribution) is a strategy of systems. But this does not mean that the environment depends on the system or that the system can comman its environment as it pleases. Instead, the complexity of the system and of the environment-- to which we will later return --excludes any totalizing form of dependence in either directions. (17)

For Luhmann, the fundamental distinction in sociological systems theory is the distinction between system and environment. Systems constitute themselves by distinguishing themselves from an environment. However, the key point is that, to put it in Hegelian terms, the relationship between system and environment is not an "external positing" where the environment is one thing and the system is another thing, but rather the unity of the environment is itself constituted by the system, such that the relation between system and environment is a self-referential relation constituted by the system itself. Any occurance taking place that the system attributes as coming from the environment but which doesn't fit the frame of this distinction is simply coded as noise or chaos.

It is for this reason that systems are characterized by "operational closure", such that events are processed according to the organization of the system in such a way that what an event is is always-already predelineated by the organization of the system. As Luhmann writes a bit further on,

Information occurs whenever a selective event (of an external or internal kind) works selectively within the system, namely, can select the system's states. This presupposes a capacity for being oriented to (simultaneous or successive) differences that appear to be bound to a self-referential operational mode of the system. "A 'bit' of information," as Bateson says, "is definable as a difference which makes a difference." This means that the difference as such begins to work if and insofar as it can be treated as information in self-referential systems.

Therein lies an immense extension of possible causalities and a discplacement of the structural problematics under their control. the extension goes in two directions. On the one hand, given the capacity to process information, things that are not present can also have an effect; mistakes, null values, and disappointments acquire causality insofar as they can be grasped via the schema of a difference. On the other, not just events but facts, structures, and continuities stimulate causalities insofar as they can be experienced as differences. Remaining unchanged can thus become a cause of change. Structural causality makes self-determination possible. Systems can store up possibilities of affecting themselves and, with the help of schemata that employ differences, can retrieve these at need. It should be noted, however, that structure does not operate as such, on the basis of a force dwelling within it. It merely enters into the experience of difference, which makes information possible, without necessarily determination what will take place there. Thus a system creates its own past as its own causal basis, which enables it to gain distances from the causal pressure of the environment without already determining through internal causality what will occur in confrontations with external events...

As a result of all this, the operational mode of self-referential systems changes into forms of causality that to a large extent reliably prevent it from being steered from outside. All the effects that one wishes to acheive ab extra either in the system or with it assume that the system can perceive impulses from without as information-- which is to say, as the experience of difference --and can in this way bring about an effect. Such systems, which procure causality for themselves, can no longer be "causally explained" (except in the reductive schema of an observer), not because their complexity is impenetrable, but on logical grounds. (40-41)

In short, systems do not function according to linear relations of cause and effect such as the transfer of motion that takes place in one billiard ball hitting another, but rather function according to a system specific causality that governs how events "impinging" on the system are received. What counts as information for a system, will depend on codes and programs belonging to the system. Elsewhere, in his beautiful and very accessible work, The Reality of the Mass Media, Luhmann explains that these codes are binary distinctions that determine how events are to be sorted as information. Programs then define how information is to be put to use by the system in question. Thus, for instance, the legal system perhaps organizes all events into information according to the code of legal/illegal, whereas the news media system processes all events according to the code information/non-information, and so on.

One of the key implications of this understanding of operational closure is that information cannot be transferred from one system to another. As Luhman puts it in The Reality of the Mass Media,

If, in addition, one starts out from the theory of operationally closed systems of information processing, the generation of information processing, the generation of information and the processing of information must be going on within the same system boundaries, and both differences to which Bateson's definition is geared must be distinctions in the same system. Accordingly, there are no information transfers from system to system. Having said that, systems can generate items of information which circulate between their subsystems. So one must always name the system reference upon which any use of the concept of information is based. (19)

The reason for this is immediately clear: If there are no transfers of information from system to system, then this is because information is only information for a specific system by virtue of the distinctions employed by that system. Insofar as different systems employ different distinctions to sort information, it follows that the event sorted according to the operative distinctions produces different information in both cases. It is for this reason that systems are not susceptible to "steering" from the outside, as the manner in which the system receives these events will be governed by the distinctions employed by that system. In this regard, Luhmann has a number of very pessimistic things to say about Marxist ambitions to steer the social system through either the economic or social system.

It seems to me that all of this is highly revelant in the context of Badiou's theory of the event. Very briefly, for Badiou an event is an occurance that fits none of the predicative categories governing what he calls a situation. In the lexicon or encyclopedia of the situation, there simply is no name for the event. Put in Luhmann-speak, an event is that which evades the binary codes governing how events are to be transformed into information. According to Badiou we can never demonstrate that an event has truly taken place precisely because there are no categories in the situation for counting the occurance. Consequently, the event is little more than chaos or noise. For Badiou, a subject is that agent that emerges in the wake of the event that resolves to count the event as belonging to the situation and to re-evaluate all elements of the situation in light of the implications this event has for the structure of the situation. There is thus a distinction, for Badiou, between subjects and individuals. Prior to nominating and becoming agents of an event, all of us are individuals. However, in being siezed by an event I become a subject by bearing active fidelity to the event, sustaining it through this fidelity, and seeking to transform the situation in light of the event.

In light of Luhmann, two serious concerns arise in relation to this theory of the event: First, if all systems process events in terms of system specific distinctions or codes, how is it possible for individuals to be open to events at all? Individuals are either their own systems or are iterations of the broader systems to which they belong through interpellation (Althusser's ISO's). It would seem that an individual must already be prepared to receive an event in order to be capable of discerning an event as an event rather than as mere noise or chaos. Consequently we can ask, "what are the conditions for the possibility of being receptive to an event in Badiou's sense of the word?" Second, is Badiou, perhaps, overly optimistic about the transformative possibilities of events? If subsystems of a system-- society --process events according to their own codes, there is a serious question as to how these subsystems could be open to the re-interpretations undertaken by the subject of an event. I don't have answers to these questions and am not offering these observations as a way of demolishing Badiou. Rather, these are questions posed for further work and thought.

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Larval Subjects Has Moved!

Recent complaints about difficulties posting, frustration with certain formatting issues and constant breakdowns of this blog have compelled me to relocate to Typepad. Hopefully this platform will prove superior to blogger, though I'm already encountering minor irritations. For instance, I can't figure out how to get directly into the template, and apparently there's no way to re-arrange links in my blogroll to assure that they're in alphabetical order without having to re-enter all the blog links. Hopefully I'll figure this out in time. I will, of course, leave this site up for their archives.

At any rate, here's my new home. I hope you find it hospitable.

02 February 2007

Put It to a Vote!

Unfortunately I'm just not very witty like many of you out there in the blogosphere, so I thought some of you might assist me with the title of my book. When I told my students the title they all exclaimed "wow, long title". So what do you think:

The Transcendental Empiricism: Between Aesthetics and Representation


Difference and Givenness: Deleuze's Transcendental Empiricism and Ontology of Immanence

I'm partial to the latter as I like "and" titles, but who knows. Additionally, I wonder if anyone would like to help me in proofing the manuscript once the galleys come in. The plan is for the book to go into production by April, so things are going to be extremely hectic during the next few months. Being the poor bloke that I am, I can't offer money, but I can offer acknowledgement.

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01 February 2007

At the Request of Noah-- Book Abstract and Table of Contents

The Transcendental Empiricism of Gilles Deleuze: Between Representation


In this book I seek to unfold the significance and implications of Deleuze’s Transcendental Empiricism. Where many interpretations of Deleuze’s metaphysics treat his transcendental empiricism as a variant of sense-data empiricism based on the primacy of the given, I instead argue that Deleuze’s position is a hyper-rationalism that seeks to determine the conditions under which the given is produced or the conditions of real experience. Consequently, Deleuze’s transcendental empiricism represents a substantial departure from classical empiricism in that it does not treat the given as epistemically primitive, but instead seeks to determine how it is produced. Thus, the empiricist dimension is to be situated in terms of how the given is produced and what conditions allow for the production of the given. It is for this reason that Deleuze philosophy remains a transcendental.

If Deleuze’s position is better conceived as a hyper-rationalism, then this is because he discovers intelligibility in the given itself. For Deleuze the sufficient reason of the given is to be found in the differentials of being that preside over the genesis of the given. Since these differentials are intelligible, rational structures governed by rule-like processes, Deleuze is able to collapse the oppositions between the sensible and the intelligible and passivity and activity that has governed the manner in which metaphysical problems have unfolded throughout the history of philosophy.

In this way Deleuze is also able to collapse the implicit distinction between finitude and infinitude, and show how the finite differs only in degree, not kind, from the infinite. If this distinction collapses, then this is because the ability to create objects (givens) through thinking them is no longer understood as belonging solely to divine, infinite beings such as God, but is a property shared in degree by finite creatures as well. As such, Deleuze’s thought marks a heroic attempt to depart from the reigning philosophical alternatives of phenomenology, logical analysis, pragmatism, post-modernism and post-structuralism, all of which evolved as responses to Kant, by undermining the central premises of finitude and the passive receptivity of intuition upon which they are based.






1.1 Two Critical Problems of Transcendental Empiricism 23

1.2 Difference, Diversity and Empiricism 32

1.3 External Difference and Transcendental Philosophy 37

1.4 Between Conditioning and Genesis 41

1.5 Between Chaos and Individuation: The Forced Vel of 48

Representational Philosophy

1.6 Variations of Difference: The Topological Essences of Intuition 58


2.1 Internal Difference 67

2.2 Bergsonian Intuition 70

2.3 Internal Difference and the Intensive Multiplicity of Duration 73

2.4 Intensive and Extensive Multiplicities 78

2.5 Conditions of Real Experience 81

2.6 Topological Essences and Singular Styles of Being 85



3.1 Deleuze Contra Bergson 97

3.2 The Image of Thought 105


4.1 Imperceptible Encounters 120

4.2 The Sentiendum, or That Which Can Only Be Sensed 123

4.3 Deleuzian Faculties and the Joints of Being 126

4.4 Signs of the Transcendental 128


5.1 The Ontological Structure of Problems and the Encounter 133

5.2 Ontological Memory: The Being of the Past 135

5.3 Memory and the Passage of the Present 140

5.4 The Virtual Causality of Structure 145

5.5 The First Paradox of Memory: Contemporaneity 147

5.6 The Second Paradox of Memory: Coexistence 151

5.7 The Third Paradox of Memory: The Pre-Existence of the Past 156

5.8 The Fourth Paradox of Memory: The Co-Existence of the Past 157

with Itself

5.9 Freedom and Destiny 162

5.9.1 The Force of Memory 170


6.1 The Explication of Problems 175

6.2 The Moral Image of Thought 181

6.3 The Being of Thought: Essence 186

6.4 Difference: The Transcendental Condition of the Diverse Given 190

6.5 Essence and the Metaphysical Structure of Point of View 196

6.6 Problems and the Dialectical Illusions of Being 203

6.7 Kant and the Being of Problems 206

6.8 The Insistence of Problems 212

6.9 Structural Essences 218



7.1 The Threat of Dogmatic Schwärmerei 227

7.2 The Kantian Split Subject 231

7.3 Towards a Third Copernican Revolution 235

7.4 Time Out of Joint 239

7.5 The Becoming-Identical of the Different: The Event of Time 245

and the Subject of Difference

7.6 Beyond the Subject: Deleuze’s Hyper-Critical Turn 251

7.7 The Limits of Recognition 254

7.8 The Genetic Conditions of Experience: The Three Moments of 256


7.9 Chance and Necessity: The Eternal Return 262

7.9.1 Beyond Individuation and Chaos: The Singular 267

7.9.2. The Transcendental Field and Deleuze’s Speculative Turn 270

7.9.3 Individuation and the Being of Singularity 277



8.1 Three Problems Pertaining to the Process of Actualization 286

8.2 Indi-Different/ciation and the Genesis of Extensities 286

8.3 The Principle of Sufficient Reason: Indi-Different/ciation 290

8.4 The Static Time of Actualization 298

8.5 The Time of Sufficient Reason 300

8.6 The Spatialization of Intensive Time 302

8.7 The Intensive Factors of Actualization 303

8.8 Implication and Explication 307

8.9 Depth and Extensity 312

8.9.1 Depth and the Image of Thought 314

8.9.2 The Genesis of Individuals and Persons 315

8.9.3 The Moral Ground of the Image of Thought 323



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