Making a Few Connections

June 28, 2007

I’ve been reading Minksy’s latest book, The Emotion Machine, and he provides some interesting insights into how the mind works. One idea he has involves a “Critic-Selector” model, in which he suggests that we have a kind of “negative expertise” (i.e. a way of learning from our mistakes). The Critics are those who learn to recognize a kind of potential mistake before it happens. His thesis in the book is that “much of our human resourcefulness comes from our ability to switch among different Ways to Think” (83), and he suggests that the many and various emotional states of the brain are some of the very “Ways to Think” that we switch among in order to solve the problems of life. When he speaks of problem-solving as a way of briefly switching most of your Critics off (a.k.a. “brainstorming”) and then turning them on again to examine the options, I thought of Edward de Bono’s “Six Hats” method of creative thinking.

After my reading this morning, it occurred to me that my idea regarding new modes of thinking beyond the conceptual, modes which would capture the changes in thinking that the electronic apparatus are bringing about (the receptual, the exceptual, the deceptual, the inceptual) can connect to this work of de Bono and Minsky. Much of what Ulmer’s work focuses on is how to think creatively: his CATT(t) method, for example, and his book on Heuretics: The Logic of Invention.


Following Flow: Intuition in Action

June 16, 2007

I discovered another clue to the Deleuzoguattarian conception of thought. After reading about Simondon in Deleuze’s Desert Islands, I looked him up in the index to A Thousand Plateaus and went to the “Treatise on Nomadology” where I read the following:

We always get back to this definition: the machinic phylum is materiality, natural or artificial, and both simultaneously; it is matter in movement, in flux, in variation . . . . We will therefore define the artisan as one who is determined in such a way as to follow a flow of matter, a machinic phylum. The artisan is the itinerant, the ambulant. To follow the flow of matter is to itinerate, to ambulate. It is intuition in action. (409)

This makes so much more sense after reading Manuel DeLanda’s books (Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy and A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History) and Todd May’s Deleuze: An Introduction. Here’s a passage from A Thousand Years:

In a very real sense, reality is a single matter-energy undergoing phase transitions of various kinds, with each new layer of accumulated “stuff” simply enriching the reservoir of nonlinear dynamics and nonlinear combinatorics available for the generation of novel structures and processes. Rocks and winds, germs and words, are all different manifestations of this dynamic material reality, or, in other words, they all represent the different ways in which this single matter-energy expresses itself. (21)

This illuminates a passage in A Thousand Plateaus that follows the one quoted above, which discusses metal and metallurgy:

In short, what metal and metallurgy bring to light is a life proper to matter, a vital state of matter as such, a material vitalism that doubtless exists everywhere but is ordinarily hidden or covered, rendered unrecognizable. . . Metallurgy is the consciousness or thought of the matter-flow, and metal the correlate of this consciousness. (411)

I haven’t given much thought to this last sentence, but I tried to “follow the flow” as I wrote the “diapath” below, earlier today. I guess, in a sense, I tried to make my thought (especially the point of view of the Fox, which represents this ethos) metallic….

I did see a potential connection to my philosophy of mixtures: the melting and flowing of metal is similar to a lava flow. . .


What is Thought? A Post-Socratic Diapath

June 16, 2007

[Dialogos –> Diapathos; Dialogue –> Diapath]

The Lazy Dog: I must get organized. My thoughts keep swirling around one central question: “What is Thought?” It’s like a funnel, sucking my mental energy into a vortex. I have no control. Yet I never make any progress. I am stuck at that one location, that one point, as if a young child waiting to go forth into the world (first day of school, perhaps) and is afraid to do so. How can I think these thoughts about thought? I am not qualified. I have no credentials. I haven’t read the entire oeuvre of Western philosophy and all commentary on each major thinker. Who will listen to what I have to say? I will waste my time. I am wasting my time, for I can’t think of anything else.

The Quick Brown Fox: You spin and spin but you haven’t gone through. Dive in. You are swept up in the swept, the spinning. You are not traveling with it. Come with me through the vortex, to a new dimension of thought, to whatever is beyond the here of now.

The Lazy Dog: No, no. I must get organized. There is no time for wandering in multidimensional phase spaces. (Not to mention there’s a deadline.) This requires a particular kind of thinking, to think about thought in a systematic way. It requires analysis, a breaking down into this and that, and then a spreading out, an anatomizing of thought, an atomizing of thought. Ah yes, that will be my most erudite title: “An Atomy of Thought.” A resurrection of an ancient genre, a return to a classical age. Fox, I have no time for your non-sense. I have real work to do. My intention is to develop this genre within a contemporary context, accounting for all current thought in psychology, cognitive science, conceptual integration theory, the electrate apparatus.

[the QBF branches off of the Lazy Dog’s dialogue: he has multiple responses as it unfolds… below is a link from “non-sense.”]

The Quick Brown Fox: Oh but Dog, there is a logic to nonsense. A higher logic some would say :the logic of chaos, a theory of complexity, a recognition that all is in flux, nothing is stable, there are only flows, flows of matter (which are flows of energy, for the Einstein showed that each is a manifestation of the other, wed by speeds and slownesses), bloodflows to the parts of the mindbrain bridged by a concept, the flow of our conversation from me to you, from smooth to striated, from rhizome to tree :fractal half-dimensional web of unfolding potential :spider dropping from the leaf and falling free, web trailing from behind :banyan branch dropping down, seeking for an earth :

The Quick Brown Fox: [the following branches off from deadline]. How can there be a deadline? There are only lifelines. There is only life. Even the rocks are alive :have you ever seen a lava flow? have you ever seen a mud slide? Dog, you’re too lazy to even open your eyes and pay attention to what is happening around you! You only attend to that which you can control, that which will fit your little simplistic equations. You’re scared of nonlinear equations, or, rather, you have no way of conceiving of them :this is the limitation of your view of the concept, residue of literate thought. You must go beyond the concept to capture these new modes of thinking. Here’s a (partial?) list:

–the recept
–the decept
–the incept
–the except

So the questions you should be trying to answer are these: How to be, not conceptual, but receptual? How to be deceptual? Inceptual? Exceptual? How to create recepts, decepts, incepts, excepts? If you want to think with Deleuze, you have to think beyond Deleuze. He spoke of philosophy as the creation of concepts. You must speak of philosophy as the creation of recepts/decepts/incepts/ excepts.

The Lazy Dog: Your talk is all jumbled. How is anybody supposed to follow you? It’s all really a bit much. You’re interrupting me once again. Now, to get down to it. Let’s see. Okay. First of all an explication of terms: I will use “mindbrain” to indicate the origin or source of thoughts in order to acknowledge the current recognition of the problems that a Cartesian split (of mind from brain) poses for a current philosophy of mind. This term will be a way of acknowledging the embodied nature of thought, how it emerges from our “wetware,” from a brain and its experience of being in a body immersed in a three-space (three spatial dimensions). This recognition is in line with all of the current thinking about : David Dennett, Antonio Damasio, Josephy LeDoux. These thinkers point to the central role that emotion plays in reason, and therefore to misconceptions regarding the ….

The Quick Brown Fox: Umm, Dog?

The Lazy Dog: Yes, Fox? Yes?

The Quick Brown Fox: Preeeee-cisely.


On the Careful Creation of Concepts

June 14, 2007

Read a short essay by Deleuze in his Deserted Islands called “Faces and Surfaces” today. It’s an interview/conversation with artist Stefan Czerkinsky, who asks Deleuze, “What precautions should be taken when producing a concept?” Deleuze replies,

You put your blinker on, and check in your rearview mirror to make sure another
concept isn’t coming up behind you; once you’ve taken these precautions, you
produce the concept. (282)

This sentence is footnoted, and the note says,

Concepts are not in your head; they are things, peoples, zones, regions,
thresholds, gradients, temperatures, speeds, etc. (312)

This note reminds me of their essentially anti-metaphorical stance.


Competing Theories of Cognitive Science

June 13, 2007

I was digging on my desk last night and found a couple of folders with essays waiting to be discovered. The first included the 2003 Afterward to Lakoff and Johnson’s reprint of Metaphors We Live By, which puts this early groundbreaking work into the context of research done since its first publication. The second was an essay by Martin E. Rosenberg called “Constructing Autopoiesis: The Architectural Body in Light of Contemporary Cognitive Science,” which is a pretty severe critique of the Lakoff-Johnson-Turner paradigm in cognitive science, what he calls “the top-down model” (vs. the “bottom-up” model of Maturana and Varela as well as Deleuze and Guattari):

“I sensed that the notion of embodiment from Lakoff and Johnson was in fact incompatible with that of Varela and Deleuze” (174). . . “What makes Turner’s polemic so astonishing is its seeming ignorance of a trend in cognitive science, represented by the work of Maturana and Varela, called the emergent or enactive paradigm” (176).

For Rosenberg, L&J; aren’t doing what they say they are doing: “Lakoff believes that he has created an emergent-properties account for metaphor-making” (173) but what he/they have done is to impose a top-down paradigm by positing “space as a structuring principle for the representation of concepts” (177). Rosenberg questions the extent to which the systems of meaning that they identify actually emerge from bodily experience. In other words, L&J; aren’t radically embodied enough…

Now the funny thing is that Rosenberg himself ends up using a key conceptual metaphor of spatiality as he sets up his critique:

“However, it is the grounds that we are most interested in, and we can approach those grounds from another direction by examining their claims for an ‘experientialism’ that explodes the distinction between objectivism and subjectivism as fundamental epistemological stances” (177, my emphasis).

This is what happens to me when I read L&J; on the conceptual metaphors (like “More is Up” or “Change is Motion”): we’re trapped in language as a reflection of our bodily experience, and it’s hard not to recognize the truth of what they say. Still, I think Rosenberg has a powerful point to make, and this points to my Imaging Places presentation when I ask how different topological conceptions of space can in-form a change in the way we think with conceptual metaphors of space.


Beyond the Concept

June 11, 2007

Ulmer’s post to Invent-L today [subject line “the idea of chora at Key West (thinking)”] was a kind of choral meditation on a visit he made with some family members to Key West. He writes at one point,

The plane of immanence. Life, Deleuze says simply. Conatus (striving prior to any subject or identity). Outside. That is, without concept (not thinkable, or only duly noted, within literacy).

At this point I thought that what electracy needs is the equivalent of the concept for literacy. Then a handful of words came to mind: recept, decept, incept, and except. And these are all possibilities.

–The decept, for example, could refer to “deceptive” uses of language which wouldn’t be considered deceptive because there is no literate, Platonic notion of Capital-T Truth to achieve and avoid: simulation, play/acting, prosopopeia, the dissoi-logoi of the sophists, “how to lie with maps/statistics” and Ulmer’s assignment to write with fallacies rather than avoiding them… One who is deceived in the passive is one who is in error (to err = to wander).

–the recept or “to receive” (vs. conceive): “to take in, to admit to a receptacle or containing space; to allow to enter or penetrate” (from OED); other meanings involve “to take in by the mouth swallow” (think Applied Grammatology and Derrida’s deconstruction of “seeing is understanding” conceptual metaphor to allow for the chemical senses: not “I see” but “I smell”!) and “to take into the mind.” One of the examples was from Romanes 1888 book on Mental Evolution, which I promptly ordered from Amazon. He also wrote Mental Evolution in Animals with the Darwin himself….]

–the incept: again from OED–to begin/commence, to take in, as an organism or cell. To inceive (vs. conceive)

–the except: would probably be the opposite of incept: to let loose, express, eject… To “exceive”

These could be dubbed “the ceptions.”  No percept because Deleuze and Guattari address this in What is Philosophy?

These, then, would be variant methods or, rather, manifestations of electrate reasoning in the same way that a concept is a manifestation of literate reasoning. (Note to self: consider Lakoff and Johnson’s “conceptual metaphors” in light of the grammatological apparatus.)


Deleuze on Thinking

June 11, 2007

I pulled Gilles Deleuze: Key Concepts off of my shelf and read through Tom Conley’s essay on “Folds and Folding,” since I read through Deleuze’s book on The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque a number of years ago and also met Tom while teaching at Hamline in Minnesota. This is some of the clearest writing I’ve read by him (his The Self-Made Map I found tough-going). In it, he speaks of thinking (how is it that, once I turn my attention to this topic, suddenly it shows up everywhere?!). He starts with early conceptions of the fold in Deleuze’s book on Foucault and writes, in the section titled “Foldings, or the Inside of Thought (Subjectivation),” about the larger issues of sexuality in the emergence of subjectivity:

Every human being thinks as a result of an ongoing process of living in the world and by gaining consciousness and agency through a constant give and take of perception, affect and cognition. (Key Concepts 171).

According to Conley, “There is opened a dramatic reflection on the character of thinking, which belongs as much to Deleuze as to Foucault. . . . In terms of subjectivation, thinking means ‘folding, doubling the outside with its co-extensive inside’. A topology is created by which inner and outer spaces are in contact with each other” (174).

Perhaps my invocation of moebius strips and klein bottles during the Imaging Place conference wasn’t so far off the mark!

Conley continues:

When we “think” we cross all kinds of thresholds and strata and follow a fissure in order to reach what, he says, Melville calls a “central room” wherein, we fear, no one will be and where “the soul of men might reveal an immense and terrifying void.” Thinking is figured as a moving line; it is indeed “Melville’s line” with its two free ends… a line moving at a growing molecular speed, a “whiplash of a crazed charioteer,” which leads… ultimately to a central room where there is no longer any need to fear its emptiness because the self (a fold) is found inside. “Here we become masters of our speeds, more or less commanding our molecules and singularities, in this zone of subjectivation in the embarkation of the inside and the outside” (174).

Conley continues to tie Deleuze’s work to thinking when he introduces The Fold:

When he [Deleuze] remarks that it is incumbent upon the self to “draw singularities from a space of the inside”, and that thinking–what makes possible the agency of the self–is tantamount to doubling the outside with a coextensive inside, Deleuze suggests that the upper room [of the “Baroque House”] and its folded furnishings become the imaginary space where subjectivation can be realized. The Baroque room, a space in which thinking takes place, is the site where new folds and folding (the forces and products of thinking) can be felt and harmonized” (176, my emphases).

So perhaps my question about “what is thought?” wasn’t so whacky after all. After reading how much Deleuze seems to consider the question, it makes me feel very philospher-like to have asked it in the first place….