March 03, 2009

What I want to avoid is some mystical hypothesis that the whole is more than the sum of its parts

larvalsubjects Says: March 3, 2009 at 2:05 am Hi Anondynelite,
Perhaps you could say a bit as to why you don’t see Deleuze as a realist.

I suppose the first reason I read Deleuze as a realist has to do with the logic of his account of individuation and actualization. Where the anti-realist or correlationist argues that objects conform to mind such that we cannot know objects as they are in-themselves, thereby restricting our relationship to the epistemological, Deleuze’s claims about individuation or actualization are ontological in character. From his very early works all the way to his final published work, Deleuze is very careful to emphasize that the transcendental field is not immanent to consciousness or, for that matter, anything, but is rather immanent to itself. Moreover, he compares the transcendental field to Spinoza’s immanent being or substance. The transcendental field is thus not something that belongs to a subject, rather, as Deleuze repeatedly emphasizes, rather subjects and objects are individuated out of the transcendental field (and not, under my reading, necessarily together).

Second, Deleuze constantly give examples from ontological domains outside of the subject: physical multiplicities, biological multiplicities, etc. In my reading, Deleuze is not making claims about these beings for mind but in themselves. This reading is further supported by Simondon from whom he draws heavily, where individuation is a question of beings themselves, not for us. Consequently, in my view Deleuze is unique among the thinkers of ‘68 in being the only genuine realist or the only philosopher that doesn’t shackle beings to a transcendental subject, language, the social, etc.

larvalsubjects Says: March 3, 2009 at 2:58 am Kvond,
I agree with you vis a vis Whitehead’s terminology. You might, however, find Science and the Modern World avoids this problem (Process and Reality is a mess, though rewarding and highly suggestive if you can stomach its language).

With respect to my hesitations in treating Green as an object, my intuitions are two-fold. First, my hunch is that in order for something to count as an object it must be capable of independent existence. I’m willing to hold that a cell is an independent object despite existing in a body because a cell can at least potentially exist independently of the other cells to which it is related. Properties like green just don’t strike me as having this sort of nature. In Spinoza’s language they strike me as affections of substances rather than as substances in their own right. In response to this one might argue by arguing that

“sure, instantiations of Green only exist as predicates of substances, but Green is not itself an affection, but an individual existing in its own right as an eternal and enduring object.”

Here the question for me becomes what ontological advantage lies in granting Green substantial existence in this way? The ontological disadvantages are, I think, pretty clear. We get all of the problems of participation that haunted Plato’s metaphysics. The advantage is that it allows us to account for why reality has a particular structure in all instantiations of this universal (here my realism about universals would tend more in the direction of mathematical relationships rather than things like Green).

However, if there is a way of avoiding the affirmation of these strange ontological entities, I would prefer that route being taken rather than asserting this sort of Platonic realism about universals. Again, I have not decided where I shake down on this issue. I do not like constructivist theories of mathematics as my hunch or intuition is that there is something real, mind independent, and ontologically deep about mathematics. I find it remarkable that the world seems to have the same mathematical structure in many instances that we are able to discover through thought alone. This leads me to believe that there is something about being and objects that is itself mathematical. Does this sense lead me to Platonism where mathematical entities are concerned, though?

larvalsubjects Says: March 3, 2009 at 4:15 am Nick,
it seems then that the issue comes down (and this has been mentioned in a number of places on the blogosphere) to emergence. What is it? Does it exist? Is it ontological or merely a remnant of our particular epistemological perspective?

No disagreement here. I’d like to be able to claim both that emergence is ontologically real and that unique patterns of order irreducible to their lower levels result in this emergence. What I want to avoid is some mystical hypothesis that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Bhaskar has some good things to say about this relationship. I’ll try to dig them up this week if I get some spare time as I think they are highly relevant to this discussion and avoid falling into this trap.

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