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Sunday, 9 September 2012

Desire beyond the pale (or virtuality and the extensive continuum)

The image of feuds and government contention is a good one to consider the virtual (and the contingent). Governments operate within borders, they are devices of limited scope and they make use of centrifugal and centripetal forces. Governments are unable to flee from internal rebellion as their focus are within their department - inside their feud. They have to engage in diplomacy (or external war) in order to do so. They craft alliances with outer governments whose governed areas overlap with their feuds. There is no government that is fully alien to a government area - to assemble a working machine among governed cogs, one needs virtual collaborators.

Nick Land, in Machinic Desire, presents Anti-Oedipus´ desiring machines as if they promoted an industrial revolution in process philosophy. No cosmos but a technocosmos where everything is production. The socius acts as a self-preserving machinery that reproduces instead of replicating by trying to be isolated from the forces of the virtual - of the rest of the world. Land brings up Freud´s image that a nervous system attempts to be eliminate all stimuli from outside to picture the socius with its Oedipian devices that turn the unfamiliar into family. The Oedipus operation is already an operation of alienating the virtual (in previous posts I have toyed with the idea that what is contingent is contingent to the virtual and depends on the rest of the world). The Oedipus operation turns family into a necessity by decoupling it from the rest of the world. It produces necessity by enforcing a skin - macropods, Land´s term - to keep the rest of the world out or filtered. It is a reproducing machine that keeps the world out by coding it all into the family figures. The Oedipus turns desire itself into a macropod force, turns interaction with the world into a closed circuit in a centripetal direction.

The virtual, thought in terms of the rest of the world affecting something as an assemblage of parts and therefore as the material for contingency, makes for an interesting contrast with the potential. Consider dispositional properties like solubility. Sugar is soluble in water. That means that it will dissolve provided that the rest of the world offers the good conditions. The conditions for something to be actualized are virtual (this is the central difficulty for ordinary conditional analyses of dispositions). It is a contingent matter of fact that the sugar dissolves, to talk about potentialities or dispositionals is to make something independent of the rest of the world (i.e. the solubility). Those blocks of independence - of closed circuitry - are like Ceteris Paribus Devices (as Manuel and me used to call them) or, rather, like black boxes. They have to do with laws of nature and, to use Cartwright classical phrase, their lies: they hold only in lab conditions when the virtual is isolated.

The Oedipus device is likewise. It creates potentials and necessities by isolating the external world from the family circuitry of desire. It operates by short circuiting the unconscious in a way that it reproduces its relation to the rest of the world, to the productive technocosmos. In fact, the unconscious in this way is like the extensive continuum of Whitehead (see previous posts where I compare it with the plan d´immanence). The extensive continuum is open to be prehended by any actual entity. It can be thought (unconsciously) in an indefinite variety of ways. But the Oedipus device enforces one circuitry. It reinforces a network of individuated and familiar actual entities. (This is why the sanctioned discourses on sexuality are so full of dispositionals...)


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