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Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Virtuality and the rest of the world

After months of a disturbing strike I´m back to the lecturing business and discussing the beautiful early chapters of Le Pli. Deleuze has an interesting account of the virtual that connects with the ontology of the fold that he reads in Leibniz and also with what I have been calling (in my work with Manuel on holism without priority monism) global occasionalism. An ontology of the fold is presented as an alternative to the appeal to ascriptions and instantiation: the connection between basic undefined elements and things is one of folding and refolding and not of instantiation. Interesting to compare this with the relation between eternal objects and the rest of the world in Whitehead (but I guess Whitehead is closer to the idea of instantiation). By the way, last week I went to the Metaphysics conference in Natal where I presented some remarks on how to build a process philosophy by turning Leibniz inside out. It is interesting to notice that in the movement of turning Leibniz around - in a way inspired by Whitehead - some features are preserved. I talked about the appeal to infinity, the account of multiplicity and the rejection of all forms of haecceitism to deal with singularity. But Deleuze´s account of the virtual - it it can really be appropriate for Leibniz - is another feature that would be preserved (and in fact it will be part of the process philosophy I´ve been calling global occasionalism).

Anyways, contrary to what a lot of people were led to think by direct of indirect influence of Couturat´s reading, Deleuze thinks the the difference between contingent and necessary truths in Leibniz - being the former virtual or implicit identities - has little to do with that between infinity and finitude. He rather claims that contingent truths are those that require the aid of the rest of the world. This is why they are difficult to grasp in knowledge: they require grasping the totality of the rest of the world. If God can take contingent truths as analytic it is because God can see the whole world (the many infinite series). This is why not only truths about substances (singular monads) but also those about conditionals (about gold or water) are contingent. They depend on the rest of the world and therefore they cannot be known but problematically. They contrast with necessary truths that enjoy some independence to the totality of the world. (In a sense, in Whitehead the prehensions of an actual entity depend on the rest of the world - the extensive continuum - while eternal objects are indifferent to the extensive continuum.) Of course, an argument to the effect that there are no necessary truth will hold that nothing is independent of the rest of the world.

This is very close to global occasionalism. I take non-theistic occasionalism as the thesis that all relations need mediators. A relation needs at least three things. Global occasionalism holds that the rest of the world is involved in any (external) relation between any A and B. On Deleuze´s account of the virtual, all relations are virtual identities - but only virtual. If the relations were internal, as in Leibniz, we would have a priority of the whole. But if the relations are external, there is no whole to appeal to and knowledge of the contingent truths concerning those relations would depend on knowing the rest of the world in a way that can only be done after the fact. Global occasionalism, I believe, understood as process philosophy, should also bite the bullett and claim that all truths are contingent - virtual identities. All depends on the rest of the world - nothing is established once and for all. But I´m not sure Deleuze´s account of virtuality can really be applied outside Leibniz (baroque) walls...

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