Sunday, January 31, 2010


Continuing concept

5. Presentation
A conceptual persona models how the concept thinks the problem plane. It remains to add to this instruction the manner of this modelling, its aesthetic premises. A text with a relevant instruction is the following:
The history of philosophy is comparable to the art of the portrait. It is not a matter of "making lifelike," that is, of repeating what a philosopher said but rather of producing resemblance by separating out both the plane of immanence he instituted and the new concepts he created. These are mental, noetic, and machinic portraits. Although they are usually created with philosophical tools, they can also be produced aesthetically. Thus Tinguely recently presented some monumental machinic portraits of philosophers, working with powerful, linked or alternating, infinite movements that can be folded over or spread out, with sounds, lightning flashes, substances of being, and images of thought according to complex curved planes (What is Philosophy? 55-6).
D&G immediately criticize some of Tinguely's designs, but their opposition to "resemblance" or "representation" throughout the argument, with references to Cezanne, Klee, or Francis Bacon as relays, reinforce the instruction: do for concept what modernist vanguard arts did for painting. With this theme D&G identify the Analogy of our CATTt (modernist art practice).

Tinguely Video.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Conceptual Persona

Continuing concept

4. Conceptual Persona
The first two components of concept set up the core program of philosophical practice: to take a stand on the transcendental problem, by answering the question, "what is the relationship of thinking to world?" The genre of concept construction includes a third feature: a persona that dramatizes in a vital anecdote how the proposed thought mediates the relation of a person to the environment. Instruction: personify the thought proposed by the concept in an appropriate character type or role, enacting the attitude and orientation of the thought.

The examples of conceptual personae provided by D&G in several different books, include Socrates, Diogenes, and Empedocles. The anecdote(s) reported in each case allegorize or figuratively enact a mode of reasoning.
Socrates: allegory of the cave. The way of the heavens. Conversion = movement through the inference procedures: abduction, deduction, induction.
Diogenes: lived in a barrel on the public square, performed all his intimate functions in full view of the citizens. The way of the surface. Perversion = dramatize the metaphor in the idea.
Empedocles: threw himself into Mt. Etna, but his (bronze?) sandel floating to the surface betrayed his action. The way of the depths. Subversion = transgression and destruction of forms (madness).

The vital anecdote illustrates the particular way the concept is oriented on the plane of immanence, its peculiar movement or path. The etymology of verse or vert + prefix indicates the possibilities, as observed in the descriptors con-version, per-version, sub-version.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Plane of Immanence - 2

Continuing concept

3. Plane of Immanence: Part Two
Our project has its own agenda, for which D&G supply the Theory (CATTt). We are less interested in philosophy as a discipline, and more in learning what sort of theoretical thinking is appropriate for the apparatus of Electracy, relative to digital technologies. This electrate thought must serve an Internet public sphere, to support deliberative reason (civic decision making) at the speed of light. Hence we supplement the problem given by D&G with our own: a public policy issue.

The context of WIP? clarifies the reason why event is required for thought in the plane of immanence, since the dimension we need to capture in our concept is the state of affairs named chaos or complexity in science. The old "causality" is called into question by the new account of nature, and our concept is relative to contemporary science, just as was cogito in its epoch. The forces of self-organizing systems, strange attractors, thresholds and emergent behaviors operate in the plane of immanence. For our Target, we select a public policy issue that concerns or attracts us, (a disaster in Blanchot's terms), and adopt it as a site by means of which to observe what is happening on the problem plane: turbulence interrupting order.

The CATTt heuristic directs us to put these different elements of our materials into conversation (intertext). The immediate instruction for this component of concept, is to document the opinions, presuppositions, cliches, majority discourse at work within our policy issue: how does Commerce (commodity form) frame what is happening? The italics for this phrase are a reminder that in D&G's vocabulary event is extracted from what happens.

Plane of Immanence - 1

Continuing the components of concept:

2. Plane of Immanence: Part One
D&G replace subject thinking through a plane of transcendence, with event thinking with a plane of immanence. This plane is selected by our intervention, by our creative activity, when we notice what is happening framed as problem. The problem D&G select, specific to the discipline and history of philosophy, is that the construction of concepts has been taken over by Commerce. The commodity form has already displaced philosophy as the source for defining what constitutes the good life, happiness, satisfaction, well-being. In terms of the CATTt, D&G identify Commercial discourse as Contrast.

In the conclusion of WIP? D&G explain a role for the fourth epoch of philosophy, the epoch of Creativity, philosophy in the present (after the epochs of Contemplation, Pedagogy, and Communication): articulate a minor thinking, against opinion, cliche, doxa (majority opinion), presupposition, preconceptions. This strategy of locating minority within majority discourse indicates how to include Contrast as part of problem. Our project further specifies problem in our Target, discussed in Plane of Immanence, Part Two.

Concept: Event

The primary purpose of Part One of the blog is to develop a poetics or recipe for the construction of a "concept," as defined by D&G. We are not yet introducing our own concept, but creating a set of instructions for how to compose one, to be acted upon in Part Two. The formula for a concept includes the following components.

1. Concept
The "concept" slot in the template assigns a name to the concept (eg. Descartes' "cogito"). Our Theory calls for a stand (attitude towards thought) that replaces all subject/object orientations towards thinking. D&G name their replacement for the subject stand "event." We need to design a thought form that thinks from the position of "event," rather than from the position of subject. Event thinks in and through me. It is a collective dimension of thinking. "Event" is not the name of the concept we are constructing, but a description of the slot that any concept constructed according to their specifications must address.

D&G are proposing a thought adequate to the il y a, or es gibt, it rains -- phrases philosophers have used to characterize thought as reception (I don't speak language; language speaks me).

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Concept of concept

We are inventing a concept. Our formula is derived from Deleuze and Guattari (D&G), especially from What Is Philosophy?, adopted as our guide, but not only from them. WIP? provides the Theory for our CATTt generator, meaning that our final poetics will emerge through the intertextual matrix of our source texts. For now, we want to know about D&G's concept (of concept). An additional caveat is that our framing is not the same as theirs. They believe that the concept as practiced in philosophy still has a role to play in contemporary civilization, and we would agree. However, our project is framed within the larger purpose of inventing electracy. Our concept is not confined to the professional or disciplinary parameters of philosophy. Rather, we want to create a means for theoretical thinking native to the Internet. The historical record (the grammatological analogy) shows that each innovation in forms and practices of thought preserved some parts of the previous mode, abandoned some parts, and added some new elements. Our electrate concept, in this spirit, will not simply reproduce D&G's proposal, but will revise it with our purpose in mind, looking for those aspects of their poetics that lend themselves to digital imaging, while deemphasizing other aspects that are relative to the literate apparatus. We have much to learn from them, but we have our own project.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The "Athens" of Electracy

Electracy dates from the turn into the nineteenth century, the epoch of revolutions (industrial, bourgeois, representational, technological). The arts & letters strategy for orienting ourselves to our own epoch is by analogy with the invention of literacy in classical Greece. The term “apparatus” in this context (derived and expanded from media studies) is used to notice that the invention is a matrix including institution formation and identity behavior (individual and collective). A relevant point of the analogy is that in Athens Plato et al created a new institution (the Academy), which opened a new zone, within which they invented the devices enabling “pure thought.” This new kind of thought was different from the oral apparatus (religion, ritual, spirit, tribe). It has been dubbed “natural history” retroactively, and eventually became hegemonic, or at least fully independent, in the seventeenth century, the inception of “science” in the modern sense. “Science” as a worldview, however, became possible within the literate apparatus. The related identity inventions are “selfhood” as experience and behavior, and the democratic state.

Our present moment is the heir of these two apparati, providing two axes guiding (in unstable syncretism) our collective deliberations: right/wrong (oral); true/false (literate). Electracy does not eliminate or replace these two historical forces, but supplements them with a third dimension. The invention of this third dimension occurs primarily in 19th-c Paris. Paris is the Athens of electracy. The template from Athens maps the recurrence of apparatus creation. A good account of this event is Pierre Bourdieu, The Rules of Art: Genesis and Structure of the Literary Field. A new zone opens within hegemonic (bourgeois) culture, known as “bohemia.” The aesthetic is the relevant human capacity to be augmented in the prosthesis (the apparatus), and pure art is the means.

Bourdieu identifies Baudelaire and Flaubert as the inventors (his term) of this stance and formal operation, with Manet as their equivalent in painting. The vanguard revolution more generally subsequently develops and institutionalizes this innovation. The philosophical account of this gambit is familiar, beginning with Kant’s promotion of aesthetic judgment (taste) to equal status with pure and practical reason. The third dimension added to the axes orienting deliberation is that ofpleasure/pain (Spinoza’s joy/sadness). The responsibility of this dimension (distinct from oral salvation or literate science) is well-being (thriving). The implications for politics and ethics are substantial: what happens when pleasure/pain has equal (?) voice relative to right/wrong and true/false? To put it another way, what happens when well-being has an army?

For better or worse, this new dimension was quickly colonized by capitalism, institutionalized as entertainment, with the definition of “satisfaction” inherited from philosophy (the purpose of life as “happiness”) appropriated by the commodity form. Such is our present moment, with all dimensions of the electrate matrix still in flux, becoming whatever (autopoietically, without telos), still open to invention (but with strong tendencies already hegemonic). The caveat is that these developments include mutation of identity. As Kuhn said about scientific revolutions: the new paradigm does not solve the old problems but makes them irrelevant. Apparatus framing revises Kuhn: the old problems remain relevant, but relative to their apparatus. Our present condition then is tricameral, undergoing continuing negotiations.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Becoming Emblem

Rarely can the birthdate of a genre be established so precisely, and its father so clearly identified, than in the case of the emblem. Notwithstanding all its lookalike proto-manifestations, on 9 December 1522 the academic lawyer Andrea Alciato wrote to Francesco Calvo, a printer, announcing the invention of a new species of literary composition: 'During this Saturnalia, I have composed a little book of epigrams, to which I have given the title Emblemata.' Alciato saw these 'emblems' as recreative and entertaining: a relief and respite from serious academic work during the holiday period. He also hoped that these elegant trifles might entertain his intimate circle of erudite, humanist friends. The festive, saturnalian provenance of these compositions is not to be underestimated and was to exert an enormous influence on the tone and substance of the emblem tradition as a whole. Alciato seems to have had no intention to publish these works. In all probability, this may well have more than a little to do with their festive provenance, their Rabelaisian, even Fescennine, mirth. Private jests uttered in a Bacchanalian setting rarely translate well when reproduced in the sober light of print. Such intimate mysterieis are not intended for publication.

John Manning, The Emblem.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Every discourse on method in the Western tradition manifests an implicit generator, a poetics, whose operating features are remembered in the acronym CATTt: Contrast/ Analogy/ Theory/ Target/ tale. The assigned readings for the seminar cover each one of the slots:
C = Marchand on American advertising (commodity form).
A = Evans (Ed.) on modernist arts (appropriation device).
T = Deleuze & Guattari, natural history of concept.
T = Virno on a way to address public policy questions (as joke).
t = Dean, a guide to stand-up comedy (how to compose a routine).

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Gargantua & Pantagruel

By Fran├žois Rabelais, Burton Raffel

One marker, landmark, reference point: Rabelais.