Blow Your Mind Rhys Williams
BA 3rd year Thesis 15 February 2007
Abreviated book titles.
Beyond Good and Evil A Thousand Plateaus What is Philosophy Nietzsche and Philosophy Difference and Repetition Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy Organs Without Bodies The Embodied Mind
BG&E ATP WP N&P D&P IS&VP OWB EM
Cover Illustration: Cross section of a rhizome tuber.
Blow Your Mind
In what way do ‘things’ (which we generally recognize as external), overlap with the formation of concepts and purely cognitive (and seemingly internalized) ideas? Where do the ‘two worlds’ of the mental and the physical meet, if indeed they are separate at all? I intend this investigation to ascertain what may constitute the mind’s territory. Where creation of ‘internal’ concepts and ‘external’ objects lie in relation to a constantly changing ‘space’, which we call our mind. During this essay I intend to argue that the external world is as much part of one’s mind as other components, such as a biological cluster of neurons (I intend to do this whilst maintaining a ‘material reality’ for the external world, avoiding any sort of solipsism). That the external environment in which our bodies reside has equal status to an inner ‘cognitive’ environment will become a fundamental point of my argument. Indeed, that mind does not exist exclusively within an concretely defined interior or exterior space (although many of the components that are part of it can be located in this way); but rather as the result of the complex relationship of systems, in flux within space and time. I think it is important to make clear that I am not trying to construct an entire concept of mind and define the individuals that inhabit it, but rather produce a space and advance a model to support such a concept. It will not be the sketching out of the boundaries of the mind, but rather a description of the qualities of an area of distribution. Having produced this territory I then intend to highlight the power of human creation; art, language, technological objects, and all reordering within it. I will suggest that they hold information that feeds a mental flux, in much the same way as an internal cognitive function may be tied to some deep synapse; When I talk of “things” in this essay, it isn’t in any sort of vacuous or blasè way, but rather taken as a complex entity. My use tries to cover those which are considered definable actual entities; surfaces or forms, systems of interconnected singularities. Entities that we consider to be recognizable from others, as well as from their surroundings. To some extent there is precedent in the use of this rather light terminology from Žižek’s book encountering Gilles Deleuze, “Organs Without Bodies” (2003).
and each lie within a territory of mind that is not breeched by a skull-wall. The positing of objects in the external environment is to place things with power ‘in mind’ on a shared platform. Indeed if the concept is created, that which is made in the environment is conception; that made material from our ideas. The ‘affects’ of things produced within the domain of the phenomenological world can flow past the original creator, and become the foundations for new concepts, ideas, feelings, and actions in anyone whom encounters it. As sentient beings it is important to recognize the qualities of that which we produce, as it is part of the mind’s territory. A series of distributed nodes, over which we must consider ourselves held accountable; even if it is for the sake of our own conscience, and the palatability of the world that we inhabit. Because of the nature of my goals (to describe the mind as being a system whose constituents are varied and many), I wish this essay to engage the reader in an unexpected way. I want it not only to describe the concepts and ideas that have condensed into this text, but also to function as a model, a mental map of the thing that it describes; a set of nodes hanging tensely together. Each unitized point separate from one another on one level, and yet sharing information over a relatively smooth space from the other. In order for the essay to work in this way it may be fragile. The relationships between the thought figures illustrated will be pushed to their limits, hopefully without the entire essay collapsing into a indefinable babble, with no useful message conveyed whatsoever. My main sources will be from a range of overlapping, meeting, and separating subjects, as any ‘one’ approaches anything, from a multitude of directions. Friedrich Nietzsche’s writings have been both my stepping-stone When referring to information during this essay I am referring to a complex multi-tiered concept which is as tied to modern physics (quantum physics stipulates that the base building blocks for all of the universe is more likely to be pure information rather than any sort of fundamental materiality), as it is to theories of the computational power of the brain (or even a rock); as well as its more common usage, such as the information gleaned from reading a book, the affects it posses over you, the images it is able to produce in one’s imagination. 3 “Subject and object give a poor approximation of thought. Thinking is neither a line drawn between subject and object nor a revolving of one around the other. Rather, thinking takes place in relationship of territory and the earth” (Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, What is Philosophy, 1994, p85).
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into modern continental philosophy, and the lofty, towering mountaintops from which much modern continental philosophy has flowed. The adoption of some of his primary ontological apparatuses, namely the ‘Will to Power’, and the concept of all ‘bodies’ as being composed of constituent forces in ‘mutual relationships of tension’, has influenced both my rationale and view of the world. These apparatuses have led me into a web of philosophers, theorists and thinkers, primarily Gilles Deleuze, Manuel DeLanda, Slavoj Žižek, Henri Bergson, Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela; along new forking paths of inter linked inquiry. Into this mêlée there is also physics, neuroscience, literature, maths, the Arts, and a passing knowledge of community, institution, organization, travel, and the according qualities attributed to these experiences. The essay as such will be akin to walking a tightrope. On one side is the fate of being overbearingly concrete, set and unable to function as an adaptive system. On the other, chaos, each new figure pulling in its own way, tearing the essay apart, no longer a conversing system, but an imagined monster indefinable from the darkness around it. Instead of this being a ‘Deleuzien’ essay, or indeed a ‘Nietzschien’ one, I hope to move through these influences sideways, allowing this essay to be a surface composed of informed decisions driven by a much larger and underlying web of information; akin to the meniscus produced by surface tension, which rests upon the top of a body of water. The Mind as Rhizome - Two of Deleuze’s primary ontological apparatuses are the models of composite intensive and extensive structures, and the rhizome (which are discussed in terms of a scientific justification expanded by DeLanda in ‘Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy’). These models will be very useful when trying to ascertain how it is that the mind I have made the decision to not state Deleuze’s intellectual partner F. Guattari as a primary resource at this point. Although he wrote along side Deleuze it is my opinion that the majority of the philosophical concepts used in this essay had already been developed before their partnership. I believe their to be evidence to this in Deleuze’s earlier books, in which the primary concepts that I’m to use are already prevalent.
may be composed through the relationship between brain, body and world. In producing the space that I believe to support ones mind, I will attempt to give a brief explanation of these complex concepts and their relationship to one another. It is important to keep in mind that Deleuze’s ontology is a virtual one. It is an ontology of pure concepts. The space in which he operates has to be understood as a purely philosophical plain of thought. This space, in which he posits his work, is part of the complex space that I believe to be the mind. It exists along side a range of other definable spaces which we experience (and create in the same action), the social space, the mathematical space, the architectural space, the space of a book, and so forth. These indefinite spaces converge, and are born from, the global domain in which we live and experience. In order to produce a well rounded argument I will advance a range of overlapping models, ranging from the highly abstract, to everyday experienced actualized spaces.
Fig. 1 - ‘The Lighthouse at Honfleur’ by Georges Seurat, and a photo of a TV screen showing the Tour de France.
Although this essay will make use of Deleuzien concepts, amongst others, its primary objective is not to expand a range of understanding of Deleuze and his motives. Rather it is an attempted liberation of these concepts upon a new surface. It should also be noted that Deleuze’s concepts are usually formed within the sphere of a virtual continuum whilst this essay attempts to use them in an actualized context. See Henri Lefebvre – The Production of Space, 1991. I’m going to use the term ‘global space’ from time to time to signify the space from which we analyse or describe all other spaces. ‘Global space’ as such is the infinitely dimensional domain that supports all other descriptions of space.
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What is a surface? or, Why we are one to the power of n. One’s mind has no set shape, it is not some ‘gross bodily organ’ that one can pour into a beaker and measure (otherwise would we not study it, pickled in jars?). Nor is it a ruling ‘ghost’ that controls our material workings from an unobservable plain; a second stage that we cannot record, or measure. Rather it is a complex, knotted, vast network; a field of forces, or information passing over a series of surfaces. It arises from the complex, relationships of brain, body, and environment; which in turn are composed of highly organized and co-evolved surfaces. Within this field of information, different figures and objects can be distinguished and individuated, set apart and studied - language, consciousness, environment, perceptions, etc. As such, the mind at any one time is an intensive consistency composed of active systems, force against force, a combination of surfaces and their interactions. For Nietzsche the interaction of forces constituted a body. To him, sets of forces held in relationships of mutual tension corresponded to their quantities and qualities. Increasingly complex entanglements produce increasingly complex bodies. ‘our body is only a social structure composed of many souls.’ (Friedich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, p49). Deleuze in turn steps into a Nietszschien model by adopting the idea that complex interactions build up towards systems with their own definable As Descartes would have us believe; a dualist philosophy, in which the mental is wholly separate from the physical. The philosopher Manuel DeLanda gives us a definition of extensive and intensive differentiation in “comparing the relation between topological and metric spaces to that between intensive and extensive properties: the latter are divisible in a simple way, like lengths or volumes are, while the former, … are continuous and relatively indivisible”, he then goes on to describe the division of intensive space as similar to a “cascade of symmetry-breaking events… occurring at critical values of intensity” (DeLanda, IS&VP, 2005, p56.)
What is a surface?
properties. Each ‘soul’ as such is a surface (be it gross or abstract) comprising a dense series of individuals, be they biological, cognitive, political, etc. A surface gains its quality by there being a level of communication between the composing elements; whilst its comprising elements lose their distinct uniqness by becoming networked under the auspices of an umbrella organization of sorts. In a surface, if one element is to be effected by an external source, then it will communicate its relative change through affecting its neighbours in turn. When one is able to get different elements to communicate this property can be witnessed in scientific models that breach the border between the actualized and the abstract.10 The idea that one is able to describe space as systems of conferring individuals is carried forth to Deleuze’s seminal work A Thousand Plateaus. 11 In this book, Deleuze asserts that the universe is composed of an infinite number of interlocked plateaus. Actualized plateaus could be the strata of the earth, o-zone, and space, but equally could be composed of less obviously material things, such as crisscrossing scientific theories, the ‘conscious’ and ‘unconscious’, differing styles of writing, etc. These plateaus can be considered to be systems of communicating individuals. They have reached a tipping point, at which they go through a state change that meshes them, and makes them discernible as a tangible system. In order to further understand how it is that a number of ‘surfaces’ can constitute a space such as the mind, it is useful to look at DeLanda’s example of the mathematician Bernhard Riemann’s inquiries into the subject of “manifold” space (the mathematics of n-dimensional spaces, which are composites of surfaces with their own properties, operating within the context of a space).12 This useful model will remain relatively abstract to most people, and as such I will 10 See ‘Engaging Photons in Light Conversation’, 11 January, 2007, New Scientist. This article describes an experimental procedure in which it is possible to make a ‘quantum surface’ from photons alone. 11 It may be interesting to think about the definition of a plateau as well as its connotations. Not only is a plateau something that has reached a relatively steady state after a period of change – it has achieved a state in which it is a palpable area, not a disparate set of unconnected random, highly energized parts; but also it can imply both a surface and a space. 12 DeLanda, M. (2002) IS&VP, see chapter 1 ‘The Mathematics of the Virtual’.
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try to extend these ideas by presenting an everyday example that illustrates the same general properties. Riemann managed to produce mathematical functions that describe the nature of a space as a composite composed of layers of surfaces operating as a system in a vacuum, cut off from any other information. This was a big break and advancement from earlier attempts to describe the nature of spaces. Up until which all spaces had to be the extrapolated description of another space to which they were conceptually attached. By describing the space to be a completely closed system (only relating to the relationships of the surfaces that comprise it), allowed for its form to give rise to its essential properties. This description, of a number of different surfaces adding up to become a ‘manifold’ space (with its own properties), became one of the fundamental aspects of a Deleuzien multiplicity. “Multiplicity must not designate a combination of the many and the one, but rather an organization belonging to the many as such, which has no need of unity in order to form a system” (Deleuze & Guattari, D&R, p182). I propose, that we are to approach the concept of mind as realised through the complex interaction of manifold surfaces.13 The question now is, how are we able to move from these highly abstract mathematical and virtual philosophical formulations towards a tangible system that operates within the context of our everyday experience? In order to reach this objective, it would be a positive step to establish a model of a biological system that shows similar properties to these abstract concepts. For instance, the properties presented here are readily recognizable if one takes skin as an example. This surface can be taken as a manifold space composed of a number of individual cells, each with 13 See the Reith Lectures (2003) - evidence from clinical triles of people with phantom limb syndrome seem to suggest that their is a form of topological mapping of the body on surfaces in the brain. It could also be argued that the surfaces of the body are co-eveolved surfaces mirroiring the properties of the territory in which we have developed. In this scenario each surface and their development become ‘mutually embedded systems’ (Thompson & Varela, The Embodied Mind, 2001.)
What is a surface?
qualities that relate to themselves. However at the special scale at which we normally (consciously) encounter our skin, as a ‘singular’ surface (composed of these individual cells), its properties appear to be quite different from those exhibited by the elements that compose it. Rather the properties of this ‘singular’ surface are the result of the relationship of the cells encountering one another and their mediated qualities. In this sense, skin is an organized system, that is not easily reducible to its components. What I mean by this is that although the space in which skin exists can be easily broken down, the properties of the smaller extensive space of the cell are not ‘comparable to skin but smaller in scale’; they are in fact radically different. The same principle applies at both higher and lower spacio-scales; the cell can in turn be broken down further, into its cell wall, mitochondria, nucleus, etc., whilst skin can be seen to be part of a larger composite, ourselves, and ourselves in turn part of the human race. Seemingly every space is both a composite of other surfaces, and the sub-surface to other spaces (which are the sub-surfaces of even greater manifold spaces). This is not only true of biological entities but of all surfaces, be they cosmological, inorganic, mathematical, geological, political, etc., gross, or abstract; they are parts forming a complex whole. Nothing is purely extensive. Along with the parameters of the space in which it is located (as described by extensive metrication), the length of a table for instance; there also lie properties which can only be described as intensive; colour, temperature, duration, etc. These properties although measured are not themselves unitized or easily devisable. Rather the intensive is shared. The combination of the elements composing the system form a mediated set of properties which bridge them and draw them together. They mesh from the singular and un-reconciled parts, becoming a system that has a number of mediated properties. The properties are shared across the surface, whilst being relatively separate (in that the properties are distinguishable) from any one of the elements that compose it at a smaller scale. In defining the mind as the product of a complex and relatively intangible (in that it’s not concrete) system arising from the relationships between extensive, palpable structures, the brain, one’s eyes, the earth, etc., may sit uneasily to
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those of us whom the official doctrine has been the primary explanation for lived experience (in which there is a distinct difference between ‘physical stuff’, and ‘mental stuff’). But hopefully over the course of the essay we will break down these concrete borders.
fig. 2 - Bergsons Memory.
“To sum up briefly... we have distinguished three processes, pure memory, memory-image and perception, of which none of them in fact, occurs apart from the others. Perception is never a mere contact of the mind with the object present; it is impregnated with memory-images which complete it as they interpret it. The memory image, in its turn, partakes of the “pure memory,” which it begins to materialize, and of the perception in which it tends to embody itself: regarded from the latter point of view, it might be defined as a nascent perception. Lastly, pure memory, though independent in theory, manifests itself as a rule only in the coloured and living image which reveals it. Symbolizing these three terms by the consecutive segments AB, BC, CD, of the same straight line AD, we may say that our thought describes this line in a single movement, which goes from A to D, and that is impossible to say precisely where one of the terms ends and another begins (Bergson, Matter & Memory, 1991, pp. 132,133)
Always Being in Between Always Being in Between
Skin, consciousness, a book, pure memory, a concept, the formulations of a mathematical equation - these things are surfaces because they represent an area populated by a pattern of individual entities which communicate; in turn forming a new system which links them. What becomes interesting as such is not the individual but rather the combination. New forms crystallize, thoughts arise, we undertake new actions, and all have wide reaching consequences. The question that seems most important now is if one is comprised of these interlocked plateaus operating at different scales, how do they communicate? How do new forms arise, whilst others break down? How is it that a uniform global space, is able to give rise to the many complex and vastly different spaces which we seem to experience? The philosopher and theorist Žižek gives a brief description of the nature of these mediated properties and the affects that constitute their being established in his book ‘Organs Without Bodies’. “What makes me ‘unique’ is neither my genetic formula nor the way my dispositions were developed due to the influence of the environment but the unique self-relationship emerging out of the interaction between the two”, (Žižek, 2003, p118) or as DeLanda explains, “An individual organism will typically exhibit a variety of capabilities to form assemblages with other individuals, organic or inorganic. A good example is the assemblage which a walking animal forms with a piece of solid ground (which supplies it with a surface to walk) and with a gravitational field (which endows it with a given weight). Although the capacity to form an assemblage depends in part on the emergent properties of the interacting individuals (animal, ground, field) it is never the less not reducible to them. We may have exhaustive knowledge about an individual’s properties and yet, not having observed it in
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interaction with other individuals, know nothing about its capacities”. (DeLanda, IS&VP, 2005, p72.) In these models it is through the combined properties of pre-existing active forms (nature and nurture; animal, ground, and gravitational field) coming to interact with one another that produces the necessary influence to attribute the qualities of new surfaces, structures and systems (in these cases a ‘unique human’, and an ‘assemblage’). Each are the product of a mediated set of ‘affects’, but are not entirely reducible to them. It is the interaction between active structures that is the driving force for the production of new systems and spaces. The unique interaction between the original developed spaces, becomes a separate and unique productive event that traverses the space smoothly, setting up its new boundaries linked to the developing properties of the space. The new surfaces in turn, like its predecessors that gave rise to it, reorder infinitely across the set, along contacting (and contracting) surfaces. It is the convergence between the intensive properties of the surfaces that acts as the stimulation for production. In this way change ripples over the entwined sets of surfaces, changing their properties, alignment, and overall structure. This introduces a capacity for change that is infinite and constant. Examples of this are apparent in the development of all forms, systems, and spaces, as well as the emerging properties associated with them. In fact it is believed by many physicists that the four primary forces that we consider to exist, namely gravitational, electromagnetic, weak and strong interactions, did not exist in the early ‘days’ after the big bang. These intensive forces only became differentiated as the universe cooled and expanded. This in turn led to the formation of the things that we associate with the universe - planets, stars, nebulae, galaxies, the earth, and the sub-surfaces that constitute them. What seems to have happened, is that gradually, through the mediated affects of different arising forms, new figures have been produced and individuated, and what was once a single uniform surface, a melting pot of un-differentiated space, has gone through a series of state changes in which new forms crystallize, because of the affects of the things which precede it.
Always Being in Between
When Deleuze talks of the ‘body without organs’, he is referring to a
body populated by the intensive properties of surfaces, systems, and spaces in relationships that give rise to change and individuation. Each lies in relation to others, passing information smoothly across the set, in a state of constant flux. This ‘body without organs’, or the ‘non-objectifiable brain’ is not defined or limited by extensive structures, but rather intensive properties are shared across the set, one surface passes into the other, and the puppet become indistinguishable from the puppeteer. The flow of information across the series, as well as the way in which each surface comes to react with the ‘individuals’ (as mediated affects) within its neighbourhood, meshes these definable multiplicities, whilst producing new tangible structures through its interactions. Contractions pass along interlaced series of multiplicities, and the function or effect of these vibrations can be shared along a variety of extensive objects. In fact could we not say that our actions are the mediated response of our cognition, the environment in which we find our self, and the properties of our body? In light of this, what is of most interest is that the concrete surfaces of the biological structures that make up our body, and the world in which it is in situ, become active, mobile, and malleable. What was once described by its extensive size and position (and the way these limits placed it within a single and obvious bordered space), becomes ill defined as its influence over its neighbours becomes apparent. Its appreciable corporeality arises only because of the elements that form it having reached a plateau on their paths of incessant fluctuation. By this point it should become apparent that the mind is not a single substance, but rather the complex operations that arise from the relationships of many active structures and systems. The influence of each system is wide ranging and ramified, and as such any study of the mind should account for the different and diverse ways its processes manifests itself into tangible systems at points along its structure. In light of this, studying the mind from one direction is evidently a weak principle, be it electronic mapping of the brain, chemical analysis of secretions, a linguistic, phenomenological, or neurological approach, on its own should be avoided; rather the gaps and overlaps between these
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studies should be regarded as of immense interest. The mind as such is formed through the relationships of structures, systems, and spaces, each with their own properties. Any study of the mind should involve the study of already existing structures, their properties, and the capacity of these relationships. Each should have its relationship considered within the wider field of research. 14
fig. 3 - Bentham’s Panopticon.
14 Varela begins to develop this idea in his book The Embodied Mind, and his study paper titled ‘Colour Vision of Birds’ (Varela, Palacio,& Goldsmith, 1993). In both he approaches the topic at hand from varied angles. In the embodied mind he argues a dialectical approach between the competing areas of the cognitive sciences, western phenomenology, and its relationship to some of the ideas presented in Buddhist Philosophy. Whilst in his paper on colour sight in birds proposes that researchers should consider the relationship between different tracts of investigation, and the unique relationships of their insight.
The Panopticon - Foucault sets out immediately to describe the prison as the manifold space. It is the space in which architecture, state will, Nietzschien genealogy of morals, and bad conscience all become surfaces, interleaved, knitted together, directly influencing one anothers production. It is a space so permeated by these surfaces that they become tangible, and they can hardly be seperated from one another (Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, Foucault).
Rhizomal Information Pathways Rhizomal Information Pathways
“Puppet strings as a rhizome or multiplicity, are tied not to the supposed will of an artist or puppeteer but to a multiplicity of nerve fibres, which form another puppet in other dimensions connected to the first: ‘Call the strings or rods that move the puppet the weave… the actors nerve fibres in turn form a weave. And they fall through the grey matter, the grid, into the undifferentiated.’” (Deleuze & Guattari, ATP, 2001 p8.) The rhizome as a philosophical concept is one of Deleuze and Guattari’s most important creations. It is a complex model concerned with passages and changes of information; an intensive (smooth) system, draped over an extensive (striated) space, which is much like our mind model. They use the potato plant as well as couch grass and weeds as metaphors for the function of these adaptive and mutable systems; as such it will be valuable to consider the nature, or descriptions of these biological systems. A rhizome has no primary trunk, or essential ‘one’; as such it can’t be cut at a point and die. It is a complex entangled mass of pathways, offshoots, and ruptures to the power of n. Any one of these offshoots can be cut or shattered without causing the destruction of the whole. It is a composite system composed of many; any part of it is always in the middle. One cannot say, “here is the beginning, and here is the end!” Each tubule can sprout at any point, flow back, rejoin, produce tubules and tubers of its own, or be shattered and reform under new conditions, with a new form. Each section flows into the next, in such a way that the borders become indistinct.16 It is a series of surfaces combined into the recognizable ‘singular’ biological space, over which information (in this case, food, water, waste, and energy) passes and is changed, like vibrations passing over a number of surfaces, only to acquire a frequency in keeping with the density of the surface composition. A rhizome as such can be described as having a set of properties related to its composition, and structure; but not the same as the complied properties of the individual elements that compose it. 16 “The rhizome itself assumes very diverse forms, from ramified surface extension in all directions, to concentration into bulbs and tubers” (Deleuze & Guattari, ATP)
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Having given this biological metaphor for the virtual philosophical model of a rhizome, I now wish to explain how this can become the model for an actualized system working within the context of one’s mind. To this extent I will return to DeLanda for an example of a theory that will help actualize the concepts with which we have been dealing. As a model he tries to give an example from communication theory that describes the conditions under which an information channel is set up. “The technical aspects of this task may be specified using concepts from abstract communication theory. In communication theory, the actual occurrence of an event is said to provide information in proportion to the probabilities of the event’s occurrence: a rare event is said to provide more information on being actualized than a common one. These events each with their own probability of occurrence, may be arranged in a series. When two separate series of events are placed in communication, in such a way that a change in probabilities in one series affects the probability distribution of the other, we have an information channel. A telegraph, with its coupled series of events (electrical events defining letters in Morse code at both the sending and receiving ends of the transmition line), is an example of an information channel.” (DeLanda, ISVP, 2002, p84.) In this model when the sending surface is knocked out of a probable, or neutral state, in this case a telegraph wire being given a “sudden jolt” of electricity, the receiving end is also thrown out of position. 17 Any two or more surfaces that are affected by one another, and are placed in series, can become an information channel. The most obvious and concrete biological example would 17 We receive sudden jolts that beat like arteries. We constantly loose our ideas. That is why we want to hang on to fixed opinion so much. We ask only that our ideas are linked together according to a minimum of constant rules. All that the association of ideas has ever meant is providing us with these protective rules- resemblance, contiguity, causality- which enable us to put some order into ideas, preventing our “fantasy” (delirium, madness) from crossing the universe in an instant, producing winged horses and dragons breathing fire” ( Deleuze & Guattari, WIP, 1994, p201.)
Rhizomal Information Pathways
have to be the nervous system and the neural pathways within the brain. But as we already know, a surface can affect other surfaces without such developed information transfer systems. In fact the passages of information through the body from the earth are highly ramified. The points of affects and sights of effect being diverse in type and magnitude. The mind is never going to be as simple as the description of currents passing through wires; could such an explanation really satisfy the quality of our experiences? What becomes important in this case is the ‘resonance’ of the surfaces become entrained.18 “The plant contemplates by contracting the elements from which it originates - light, carbon, and the salts... It is as if flowers smell themselves by smelling what composes them, first attempts of vision or of a sense of smell, before being perceived or even smelled by an agent with a nervous system and a brain. Of course, plants and rocks do not possess a nervous system. But, if nerve connections and cerebral intergrations presuppose a brain-force as faculty of feeling coexistent with the issues, it is reasonable to suppose [that] ... [c]hemical affinities and physical causalities themselves refer to primary forces capable of preserving their long chains by contracting their elements and by making them resonate: no causality is intelligible without this subjective instance.” (Deleuze & Guattari, WIP, 1994, pp 212,213.) As increasingly complex interlinked surfaces and longer and longer information channels are formed, the quality of the thing upon which these channels rests becomes more complex. What does life do after all? The simplest life could sense things millimetres away through chemical gradients, this is the region in which it lived and experienced. But with the evolution of increased senses, our territory of mind has expanded along pathways miles long, and with the invention of technology many millions of light-years, towards the beginning 18 See Varela and the Embodied mind in which experiments concerning perceptual simultaneity are discussed. The example states that there is a rhythm of activity which runs through different regions of the brain at differing tempos. In the study case the dominant rhythm for the visual cortex is examined, and through experiments with tempos of flashing lights, the perception of the signal is manipulated. (F.Varela & E. Thompson, EM, 1993, p73.)
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of the universe, and down to the nano scales. This idea is essential to our understanding of a topological mind region, which includes the external world as a fundamental constituent that reverberates right through the mind (reordering as it goes). Many of the sending points of the long complex and entwined chains (information channels), which constitute our mind start outside the body.19 Over the horizon the earth does not drop away into nothingness and void, it exists although not experienced. Past our consciousness, we do not drop off into a vacuous nothing, there is another side to us that feels apart from the conscious. Apart from the brain and body there are tugs and pulls, electrons, and reactions, struggles, dominant, and dominated, a proto-cognizance. It is true that ‘the brain is the junction’, but that is not to say that it is also everything within the horizon. “My soul is a hidden orchestra… All I hear is the music” Fernando Pessoa It is important to remember that much of the flow of information, the passage of change, growth, movement, happens out of sight. This idea is essential to our conception of mind. Nietzsche’s advanced the idea of the “synthetic concept I,” in which only part of that which wills is evident to the conscious mind. “[A]s the side which obeys know the sensation of constraint, compulsion, pressure, resistance, motion which usually begin immediately after the act of the will; inasmuch as, on the one hand, we are in the habit of disregarding and deceiving ourselves over this duality by means of the synthetic concept “I”; so a whole chain of erroneous conclusions and consequences of false evaluations of the will itself has become attached to the will as such- so that he who wills believes wholeheartedly that willing suffices for action.” ( Nietzsche, BGE, p13.)
19 See footnote 13.
Rhizomal Information Pathways
Just as this has concept become widely accepted in the western world, it is my belief that whilst consciousness is a part of the mind, it is a sort of rhizomal surfacing, or breaking through of what could be called ‘micro-perceptions’, but also micro-sensations, micro-memories, micro-contemplations, cognizance, and an external protocognizance20. These are passages of information and sights of affects that can be attributed to external systems. We only become aware of the vast shifting complex flows of information at certain points, often seemingly dislocated from one another because of the subterranean (or preconscious) nature of the passage of information, imposed by our own interlaced horizons21. When imagining the biological model of the rhizome it is interesting to remember that much of it is subterranean, only parts of it are visible from the surface. Seemingly singular disparate structures, stalks and such like, are in fact ruptures connected to a main network. The mind at any one moment is that which is revealed to it, that which comes to fall within a series of interweaving horizons, not only of the senses, but perceptions, memory, ideas, structures, contemplations etc., and the sublayers that compose or combine to form these identifiable unities. The mind is the function of these interlaced, interacting plains of forces, of which much passes out of sight, only to change and be changed before rupturing forth again, manifesting in a distinguishable thought, or creation. The information held within the beakers, of ideas, events, and objects, then pass along the rhizomal structure again, changing both in itself and the overall structure and nature of the rhizome. A rhizome as such is an interweaved, interconnected flow of information, it passes along routes, flows, surfaces, only to be broken at one point and start again along 20 ‘Not every organism has a brain, and not all life is organic, but everywhere there are forces that constitute microbrains, or an inorganic life of things.’ (Deleuze and Guattari, WIP, 2004, p213). 21 The concept of interlaced horizons is also brought from modern physics, stemming from Einstein’s general theory of relativity. The nature of his discovery (or formulation), states that all information or atoms have a horizon imposed by their location and speed, there is a certain amount of information that will never be able to reach that thing, even if the information is travelling at the speed of light. It sets up it’s own horizon, and that which falls past the horizon, it will never encounter or experience, this in turn ads a slight ordering, in that any one cannot be subject to all of chaos but only rather a portion, not only decided by speed and size but also its nature.
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different lines. It can flow back and join up with itself, or completely change tac, reverse, it is complex, with no superior â€˜oneâ€™ part. fig.4 - Actualized Rhizomes. Language is a beat that we align to, a frequency that orders our thoughts upon it. We begin to differentiate and replicate the hum of the frequency that we hear around us from the moment we are born. It passes through from the creator, throbbing through the air, little tugs and pulls, which stem back and forth like the puppeteers strings, it passes along a rhizomal structure, through a series of state changes, before it re-orders our thoughts upon it entirely. We think within the framework of our language before spouting it forth again, it self replicates through the contraction of vibrations, it sets up vibrations, on the infinite surfaces of the rhizome, which causes the grid to align to it. We talk to ourselves. We write in order to retain ideas, remind us of memories. It passes seemingly across and through surfaces, changing them and itself, past our temporality and space, it encaptures ideas within itâ€™s serial code. It escapes the need for the human, it traverses our time in the printed book, it jumps from one to the next taking with it flows of information, we are linked by this creation, all of us, on a series of grids which are intertwined and over which information runs, past any one person. Through any number of mutations, language to language, sight to sight, in and out of our memory. It has developed separate from any one person, it is an organic and mutable thing, that largely changes free of any one persons decision, but rather through a vast complex and dynamic series of interlaced systems, of which we are fractional components. One finds it difficult to separate the thought word and the read one, the printed and the spoken, it flows almost seamlessly, once in a while becoming manifest in tangible structures. It is vast rhizome, parts of which flow through us right now. We are much more biologically networked than most people assume, through language and social structures, to DNA and mirror neurons.22 22 Mirror neurons are a very interesting point in hand. In clinical studies chimps were found to have neurons in the brain that would fire when watching a another chimp enacting a task. When these measurements were viewed along side those taken of the chimp that was performing the task it was found that exactly the same neurons were firing in both chimps. Essentially what had been discovered was an inbuilt biological sympatique; in which the experienced space of the viewer and the performer becomes entwined.
Consequences: The Epistrata
The Epistrata23 – what it means to be able to produce, and what it means to live in a construction. “When he saw the Roman amphitheatre in Verona, he said to himself: if people with different minds are all pressed together in such a place, they will be unified in one mind” . (Goethe – Travels in Italy) “At times our feet become wheels, our arms jet wings. The culture is mobile, but then again there are many, many people who aren’t moving much at all. Information moves to them. This is one of the strange situations which I have observed, motion becomes relative after a while. What is moving, us or our surroundings? (Doug Aitken, Phaidon, p18.) Because of the consequences, and repercussions of my argument, I think it is only appropriate to formulate a range of pertinent questions - openings, and ruptures, which arise and push forth from the model that I have tried to construct. Although the minds objects may have extensive co-ordinates, the mind as such does not; it is a range of interleaved spaces composed of intensive properties in flux. From these intensive systems it is possible to divide it down into components, to fold the structure until one gets to an extensive structure such as a biological cluster or an external object, but these fuzzy structures are ready to blur back into the intensive structure of mind. Consciousness as such can be differentiated as an intensive component of mind, and is shared over a range of systems and extensive objects. This work isn’t the product of a concrete environment, it is not merely a space to which we react but do not interact. We are sentient beings, and one of the main faculties of our consciousness is the ability to reorder the world. Until recently the inorganic world, the atmosphere, and the organic forms that inhabit 23 This term is borrowed from ‘WIP’, it which is used to signify an area of change.
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this space have co-evolved, and have been dependent on one an others affects to produce their own form, properties, and composition. We now are the main conditioning agent, the main protagonist of affects, of which we are at least partly conscious. We live in a conception of the world which is under the power of radical forces of change, in which humans are the mutagenic agents. The environment is constantly reprocessed and reconstituted, the imagery of our own consciousness is made material in the world. The mind can be attributed to the overall and mediated affects of long organized information channels abridging developed surfaces; be they grossly material or relatively abstract, internal or external. A model in which a change on one surface can produce a change on any number of other surfaces; Proliferating networks of information channels, being constituted through surfaces possessing the power to affect others, able to produce new forms, new manifold spaces, with their own mediated properties and affects. The mind isn’t only embodied, it’s earthed. Technology, Media, Art, Philosophy, Science, Language, they all work towards a reconstitution, they are all areas of mutation. New information channels are constructed, reorder ripples over diverse surfaces. The ramified surfaces go through ever cyclic changes, and are re-constituted endlessly. But as I have tried to point out, these changes don’t stop at our skin, even before the advancement of abridged technologies upon the brain, the affects of our produced spaces have been felt, affects which in turn re-order. Indeed the most important thing that I’ve attempted to highlight, is that we are an ‘inbetween’, we are the effect of affects, of a mitigated set of forces held in mutual tension. Creation changes the rhythm, the milieus, and the flow of information. Changes their points of reference, re-orders through ‘sudden jolts’ of recognizable change. The world is saturated with change. Everything begins to feel like shifting sands. Are we able to rest upon our laurels, to allow the tradition of “common sense” to find our way within the world?24 Do we need to maintain an ongoing awareness of the forms which we create, and the affects they pose? 24 “Indeed groundlessness is revealed in cognition as common sense, that is in knowing how to negotiate a world that is notfixed and pregiven but is continually shaped by the types of action in which we engage” (Varela, EM, 2001, p.144.)
Consequences: The Epistrata
In a world in which unprecedented levels of information exchange
happen, at amazing distances, speeds, and magnitudes. In which organizations operate with the mediated qualities of their constituents (the human members, the infrastructure, etc.), and at the same time are able to manipulate surfaces down to the atom, nano, and quantum scales, as well as formulating increasingly abstract forms. It is my opinion these two sides, the material world, and a world composed of sets of abstract spaces are becoming ever closer, and all the more entangled. Essentially (to the normal range of human experience) the real is becoming more and more abstract, whilst the abstract is becoming increasingly realized. But I hope I have shown it is not only the spaces constituted by the actualized and abstract that are fuzzy edged. Rather all experienced and constructed spaces become interleaved within the manifold space of the mind. One then has to wonder what this all means to us, if it is that we consider our minds to be of importance in today’s ‘globalized’ environment? Philosophy can enable us to produce a model, a concept, to understand this state of affairs, but where does that leave us? Unlike science, western philosophy has remained largely within the domain of the theoretical and meta-physical. This is true even of those subjects that suggest a premise of having actualized actions, or that position themselves in an area that one would assume a concern with our environment; namely phenomenology, aesthetics and ethics. Western philosophy has hitherto worked within the space of linguistic problems, logic, dialectical arguments, theory, and intellectual analysis – the domain of abstract thought. It is true that this philosophical space of inquiry and speculation arises from a global space. Or indeed the global space of which I speak gives way to this intellectual plateau, a surface composed of western philosophical thought; just as it gives way to all spaces, be they composed of social relationships, political systems, biological bodies, thought and so on. These spaces, their production, and their affects over one another are ever present; they are “mutually embedded systems”.25 Each can be found within the complete ∞ - manifold, global space. A space with the capacity for all structures, systems, and surfaces that have existed, do exist and 25
Thompson and Varlela, EM, 2001.
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may exist in the future. If we take there to be this global space, in which all other spaces are embedded, and each experienced space converge upon the mind; then should the goal of philosophy be to take a highly pragmatic path, informing and influencing not only the intellectual space which it itself creates, but rather all these spaces to which we are networked and interfaced. How can philosophy justify itself? Admittedly such questions are far too big for any one person to answer, possibly even too big for Nietzsche’s ‘superman’. However they are probably more pertinent now than ever before; and by most predictions they will become even more so in the decades to come. Maybe there are paths towards a concerned practice, that shows the rigour and consistency needed, in the realms of Eastern Philosophy as Varela suggests; or maybe we should follow the example of thinkers like Lefebvre, and try to produce a pragmatic philosophy based on today’s theories. Whichever path we take in the future we should always keep in mind that, “We know nothing of a body until we know what it can do, what its affects are, how they can or cannot enter into a composition with other affects, with the affects of another body, either to destroy that body or to be destroyed by it, either to exchange actions and passions with it or to join with it in composing a more powerful body”. (Deleuze and Guattari, ATP, 2001, p257.)
Consequences: The Epistrata
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Beyond Good and Evil – Friedrich Nietzsche, Penguin Books Ltd; New Impression edition, A Thousand Plateaus – Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Continuum International Publishing Group (2001), ISBN – 10: 0826460992. What Is Philosophy – Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Verso Books (1994), ISBN – 10: 0860916863. Nietzsche and Philosophy – Gilles Deleuze, Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd.; New Edition (2006), ISBN – 10: 0826490751. Difference and Repetition – Gilles Deleuze, Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd.; New Edition (2004), ISBN – 10: 0826477151. Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy – Manuel DeLanda, Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd.; New Edition (2005) ISBN – 10: 0826479327. Organs Without Bodies: Deleuze and Consequences- Slajov Zizek, Routledge (2003), ISBN – 10: 0415969212. Matter and Memory – Henri Bergson, Zone Books, U.S.; New edition (1991), ISBN – 10: 0942299051. Mind Energy – Henri Bergson, Published 1919. The Production of Space – Henri Lefebvre, Blackwell Publishers (1991), ISBN – 10: 0631181776. The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience - Francisco J Varela and Evan Thompson, The MIT Press; New edition (1993),
ISBN – 10: 0262720213. Color Vision of Birds – Francisco J Varela, Adrian G. Palacios, and Timothy H. Goldsmith, http://users.mis.net/~pthrush/lighting/cvb.html, from the book – “Vision, brain, and behaviour in birds”, MIT Press (1993). Autopoiesis and Cognition : The Realization of the Living – Humberto R. Maturana and Francisco J. Varela, Kluwer Academic Publishers (1979), ISBN – 10: 9027710163. Autopoiesis, Dissipitative Structures and Spontaneous Social Orders – Milan Zeleny (Editor), Westview Publishers (1980), ISBN – 10: 0865310531. The Concept of Mind - Gilbert Ryle Penguin Books (1990), ISBN 10: 0140124829 Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison - Michel Foucault Doug Aitken Phaidon ISBN - 10:0714839892 BBC Radio 4 Reith Lectures 2003 “The Emerging Mind” – Vilayanur S. Ramachandran, www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/reith2003/ New Scientist. 11 January, 2007, ‘Engaging Photons in Light Conversation’
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fig.5 - A digital film still as the code breaks down and the surface, a shot taken from a car of some shop fronts, breaks down.