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Sunday, 31 March 2013

Rhythm Oriented Ontology in Guilford

On the 11th of April, in the afternoon, I'll be in Guilford presenting Rhythm-Oriented Ontology for the first time. A world-première. Everyone is welcome. The conference is Performance Philosophy and I guess the context couldn't be more appropriate.

The text, as it is now, is here:

Beats and being
Towards a rhythm-oriented ontology
Hilan Bensusan

Tic. Right now. Tac. Something irrupts. At this moment. Something takes place. Something occupies the place. Something takes over the place. The place where things happen. The land of what happens. Something arises there. Something is brought about: a tic. Something unfolds. The tic. It unfolds for those who are in the place – in the land where things happen. From the point of view of those who are not in such a place, it doesn’t unfold. It carries on well folded. One has to be in this place to see what is taking place. What is this land? Etienne Souriau had a name for it – one of his efforts to convey the idea of a surexistence, nothing above any existence, nothing shinier, nothing more sublime than any mode of existence, but where they all modes of existence meet. His name would be: carrefour existentiel. That is, a crossroad. The existential crossroad: something had to cross those roads in order to exist (in whatever form, mode, spice, texture that existence takes up). Only for those existing, for those in the carrefour, there is a difference between what could have happen and what ticked. Between what is virtual – and would take place only if all the other things that take place make room for it – and what is actual. The carrefour is a borderline. A fine line. Tiny. A tic. The line crossed by what steps into existence. Into the place of what exists. To be is to meet whatever else is. Existence is some sort of meeting. The crossroad is a meeting place. The carrefour. To exist is to go beyond the pale. It is set by a line only seen by whatever has crossed the line. If you’re not in place, nothing takes place. Nothing ever ticks if you’re not either before the tic or before the tac, after the tic or after the tac. There is no event, no happening, no arrival for those who are not in the platform.

An event has to precede the tic, tic and then go on and tac. Nothing ever happens in McTaggart’s B-series. Time doesn’t stand without a now. Now. Now. The A-series is what makes things happen because it sets the stage for the indexical, the positional, the dispositional. Position. Disposition. A disposition can only manifest by making something take place. If nothing is coming – like in a B-series, a handless clock – dispositions become irrelevant, they’re all unmanifested. Finkish. Something that could happen but its time will never come – because without an A-series, time never comes. The A-series introduces tense into dates. It sets something moving because it produces a Doppler effect among what happens. [Something crosses the stage, the mechanical mouse.] I keep going and the sunset looms ahead, comes close, lies behind me. The beach stays put and the seagull arrives, lands and flies. Its landing was tics away – but the beach was ticking, it was there sitting in the carrefour. How could it have happened that having been once so far in advance they were now as much behind us? The carrefour is like the A-series: it is for those who are taking place. An A-series seen from outside is a B-series. It’s only from the point of view of something inside that something else takes place.

A tic changes everything – in which tic are you? In which tac? The A-series introduces tense. McTaggart despaired of the reality of time because time makes things less absolute, less coherent or less neutral. One has to be in a tac in particular, things look different in different tics, and it does matter after which tac you are. In which tic, in which tac? Tense. Tension. Extensive. Intensive. Tense. In order to come to the carrefour of existences, something has to be in a present that becomes past after being in the future. It has to happen. Events carry whatever is carried through the fine line towards the carrefour. There is a tectonics under the carrefour. Things that urge to take place. Things that are about to take place. Things that could take place if only something else triggers. Potentialities. Dispositions. This is the lesson Deleuze draws from Leibniz in his Le Pli: a predicate is an event. In Leibniz, it is the instructions for an event: to be Adam in this world is to sin – among other things. Predicates are dispositional in this sense: they carry an event that passes. Predicates host events – apple is ripe so it has gone through a process of growth, sky is bright so I know the sun has risen, clock is working so it has been manufactured. If it is so, even predicates that seem categorical such as solidity or extension host tics and tacs. In fact, tics and tacs are themselves carriers of events – the tic that has passed, the tac that is about to pass. Now, if this is so, if predicates are events, and if events pass only through an (indexical) A-series of past, present and future, predicates are always indexical. They are de re. Perry has famously insinuated that indexicality is all spread albeit implicit. Predicates, rather than pointing at properties, are pointing at relations brought about by events. They involve an unfolding. Something is solid because something happened to that effect. Predicates condensate events. Green. Presented as green. Grue. Presented as grue. Green and grue carry different unfoldings. Different things are about to happen – or fail to happen. To predicate is to talk about events. What connects to a tic past, what projects to a tac to come. Encapsulated rhythms.

To take place, anything has to meet whatever else is taking place. Something takes place today. The farmer came to feed the chicken. The sun rose. The water boiled. What would unfold next? In order for anything to happen next, a tic has to happen next. That is, something has to happen next. I can doubt the sun to rise tomorrow but only if I don’t doubt that there is something to tic and usher in tomorrow. Deleuze calls the past repetition – repetition but also rehearsal -, the present the repeater and the future the repeated. The calendar. The rhythm of the stars. They will tic. In order for something to come to the carrefour, at least something else has to come to the carrefour. Something has to be repeated – to lie out the future – in order for something else to be expected, or not expected. To conceive of the future is to conceive of a tic – to conceive of something that will repeat. Blanchot writes, in the Écriture du Désastre: Nous sommes au bord du désastre sans que nous puissions le situer dans l'avenir. (We are at the brink of a disaster but we cannot place it in the future.) The unpredictable is not placed in the future. The next tic. When will it come? Something has to tic the tic. Something has to clock the clock. The carrefour is always populated. Out of nothing, nothing takes place. But I’ll be back to nothingness. And I’ll be back to silence. Something has to pave the way for whatever else will happen. There should be future for the future tic to tic. There is no ur-clock that would prepare a future for every tic and every tac. Because such an independent ur-clock would have no tense – no present, no now for anything, no A-series. Those ur-tics would have nothing to pass through. To exist, in a carrefour, is to co-exist.

A tic is brought about. Leibniz was firmly stepping in rhythmic territories. He put together the idea of predicate as event and the idea of co-possibility. Things exist in a world. They exist if they co-exist. Yet, he thought things had to be prepared to come to a world. He imagined something like a scored concerto. A score. Still, he opened the way for thinking the world in terms of rhythms. The irruption of things in a carrefour of existences has an acoustic element to it. The noise of things happening. To come about. A beat. Sonic. A sonic ontology. An ontology of noise and beats instead of images and landscapes. A rhythm-oriented ontology. Rhythm is intense: it infects. Rhythm impregnates other rhythms. A ROO is not about distinctness, it is a social ontology – social in the sense of Tarde: in the sense of things that act collectively by following what is around them. By depending on what is around. When sociality is high, each thing repeat the things they find around them – like molecules or colonies of bacteria. Like cellular automata. In the general case, different things repeat each other, but the repetition is what Deleuze has called dressed repetition. Not naked. Something is entrained by the beats heard but entrainment is mediated by one’s folds. I move my leg to the music, but to the limit of the my muscles, of the articulation of my bones, of my folds. Entrainment. Drifted repetition. The flower parodies the sun, the insect parodies the flower, the eyes parody the wings. Recapitulation. Folds copy folds. Beats copy beats. In their own rhythm. Delanda talks about intensive time – time capable to contaminate. Spreading rhythms takes place in inorganic phenomena as well as in animal life, for instance in menstrual cycles of humans. One woman on the pill entrains the period of a bunch around her. Entrainment. If intensity is the capacity to infect what is around, rhythms carry a rate of intensity. Beat. Being. Entrainment is dressed repetition: sensitive to embodiment. All rhythm is modulated by embodiment – by the folds, by how can I bend my feet to tap. I tap my foot to the rhythm I capture, to the rhythm to which my folds can be entrained. But by doing that I come up with another rhythm, a rhythm that also entrains around it. The rhythm of things taking place is itself entrained by whatever else is in the carrefour of existences. Being is about beating. Beating is about composing something with whatever else is happening. Because events are what take place, they come with a pulse, and because of that they are entrainable. Coming to the Carrefour is coming to a society of existents where each thing responds with its folds to the others. Everything modulates everything else. Capture. A society of antennas. Some beats are not heard, they stay in silence, like the beats of my tapping that differ from yours when we seem entrained. These beats – in silence – are like Whitehead’s extensive continuum, they are there but not heard, not yet captured, they are perceived in a daze, the daze of silence. White blindness. White deafness: silence.

Induction itself is a form of entrainment. We can only think about the whereabouts of the sun tomorrow if we have a sense of rhythm - enough of a sense of rhythm to be sure when tomorrow is. The next tic. The future makes sense only if there is a clock, a cycle or an expected rhythm we're tied to: the repeated. Habit-making is entrainment and production of further cycles. To learn to follow a rule (say, +2) is to be entrained by a rhythm. To incorporate in the concert of rhythms of one’s body another rhythm. To learn a public language: to be entrained using all the resources one has. The resources are private: my folds, my curves, the rhythm of my metabolism, the rhythm of my breathing, the rhythm of my tongue. Language is public, accent is private. To learn to follow a rule cannot be done if we cannot associate the rhythm to be learned to others that are already available to us. This is entraining. There should be something in the pupil that prepares him to the learning – and I guess this has to do with the cycles the pupil already harbors. The 996-998-1000-1004 pupil of section 185 of Wittgenstein’s Investigations captures the wrong rhythm – the rhythm is not entrained to the satisfaction of the tutor. Nothing else can be done but to repeat the entrainment having in mind that the pupil's receptors could be resistant to some rhythm. Concept-acquisition, and rule-following, is a way to explore important features of the rhythm of the world (of the many real patterns to be explored by different devices of capture). Folds and rhythms. Associated to differences. There are patterns that can be fully incorporated in the existing rhythms and the patterns that cannot be introduced to the combination of rhythms without getting dissolved into something else. This is why the pupil says 1004 after 1000. Resilient. His rhythms cannot incorporate +2 as we understand it. Folds and existing rhythms are devices of modulation. Modulation is sensitivity to some rhythms, not to all – nothing is sensitive to silence, to white deafness, to the extended continuum. Capture without modulation is blind. Embodiment. One’s body provides what can be captured because a body is a modulation. It is a musical instrument. A drum. A metronome. The rhythm of what can take place.

A rhythm-oriented ontology is an ontology of pulses and folds. Space and time are traces of the beats of the events. Not an ontology of objects or properties but an ontology of folds in space and time: differentials that appear when they are requested. One never knows what a body can do – what it can dance, to what it can be entrained. A different rhythm uncovers unsuspected folds, unsuspected capacities to bend. These differentials, pulses and folds, go on indefinitely. A fold is made of folds. The silence between two beats is measured by beats that cannot be heard. Silence has the daze of the extensive continuum. Rhythms are made of rhythms that live in each beat. Rhythms carry further rhythms and there is no end to rhythm. Between each tic and a tac there are tics and tacs – the clock of the stars have a tic filled with loads of tics of the clock of the insect. This is the very nature of chronos – the present time. The present time for my body contains instants of my digestion, of my metabolism, of the migrating populations that I host, of the dynamics of my fluids. Rhythms. Rhythm is fluid. The even is a flow. Flows of flows. Every beat is made out of rhythm. The distinction between a beat and a full rhythm is in a question of capture. Capture itself has a rhythm. The beats that make a beat are in the ears of the beholder – the one that can capture it. The carrefour is heard – better, it is about capture. Capture is about rhythm.

Differences in capture: modulation. Modulation is embodiment. The rhythms that can be captured by entrainment are the rhythms that fit in the folds – one needs to have a finger available to tap on a table. I cannot tap it, it’s too fast. I cannot dance to the rhythm of millennia passing. In a rhythm-oriented ontology, compositions are produced by entrainment. Each thing filters the rhythm around it – in fact, it composes by modulating. In a world of rhythms and capture, there is a general version of Kant’s formula that intuitions without concepts are blind: signals without modulations are blind. Modulation is about hearing: without it, the white deafness of too much noise that cannot be heard. Folds modulate. They enable the capturing device to be sensible to some beats. Modulation is about producing a matrix of differences and indifferences and a capacity to repeat without much interference - the naked repetition under which there is always a dressed repetition. Modulation through embodiment enables us to distinguish the joints of things. They are, so to speak, more evident than unities, individuation, wholes or parts. We see the joints – and only some of them. In a rhythm-oriented ontology, the borders are prior to the countries. Countries are hostages to their borders. The tic precedes the second, the minute, the hour, the day. ROO has an injunction to whatever exist: tic to the tics you hear, tac to the tacs you hear. With the folds you find. Everything appears to the others as a metronome. A carrefour. But metronomes that could go astray. They are not immune to the rhythms – they are commune to them (munis, munis, says Esposito: to do a service). Metronomes that affect each other. Heterochrony. When a fold comes up in the carrefour, it is in the open – open to be entrained by whatever else beats there. Contingency. A fold is always up for grabs. My folds relies on the folds of the surface of the floor, all floor rely on the tectonics of the ground but each fold makes a difference. Reduction and irreduction is a matter of folds – to reduce (or to refuse to reduce) something to something else is to fold it up (or not) in a specific way. To make something out of something else one folds around. I rely on the rhythms of my breathing, my metabolism, my locomotion just as the sunflower relies on the rhythm of the sun. Myself, an individual objects only to the extent as it couples the different rhythms. A coupling: a concerto. Or rather, a jam session that hasn’t yet reach its end.

Its end. Some last tics and tacs. Rhythm is connected to flows. Flows that speed up, flows that keep their pace. The flow of events. Accelerations. Now, what about nothingness? The negative is a rhythm. A complete other rhythm but also the absence of tic that precedes the tac. Surely, nothingness cannot be noticed if there is no clock. If there is no metronome. Nothing precedes the metronome. Nothing sets the stage for the carrefour before the roads start crossing. There is no carrefour before the carrefour – the rest is silence.



Friday, 22 March 2013

Folds for rhythms

Hume's attack on necessary connections is strongly dependent on his attachment to what he was ready to posit as information provided by the senses alone. In particular, his idea that the distinction of all things is evident - we see things, but we don't see the hidden links between them (forces, causes, power). McDowell, for example, pointed out (in "Functionalism and anomalous monism") that Humean causality is hostage to the dualism of scheme and content - why distinctness would be pure content while connectedness would depend on a scheme (built by our second creation)? Still, one could put aside for a while the troubles with the Given and try to appreciate the intuition behind Hume's idea that distinctness is self-evident from our sense experience. Surely, one has also to bear in mind that substances (particulars that remain the same over time) and substrata (particular that remains the same over trans-world travels) should not be self-evident from our sense experience. What is then left, I take, is that we perceive in a convincing way that folds (and joints, and articulations and borders) is what is captured by senses independently of any modulation. In fact, folds perceived leave us in a white blindness of too many differences - blindness of the id quo, that is, blindness of what is to be seen in what is seen. What is an individual and what is a process of individuation are not themselves evident as much as the joints that are used for individuation are - folds (joints, borders) have to be available for individuation. What is not available is what is an individual, what is a part of an individual, what is an yet unexploited fold. I guess this is also what is behind Quine's points on radical translation - Gavagai as a term doesn't have a straightforwardly graspable reference if only our senses are available. Also, this is why Latour (in Irréductions) has that only tests of resistance can tell actants from networks. Mereology comes later - what is immediately available are folds.

I believe this is defensible because there is a rhythm for perception. Senses are tuned somehow by their swing, their ability to be entrained by what they capture. Repetition: to capture is to be entrained. So our senses prey on folds and joints as they prey on pulses of a rhythm, this is why they perceive those things. Modulations (via conceptual acquisition, for instance, see Signals without modulations are blind
in this blog) make use of folds that are engraved like in a Bildung that enables the capturing device to distinguish the differences that make a difference. A modulation is the production of a model of repetition - a naked repetition - which acts like a ceteris paribus device where other rhythms are no longer captured. Modulation is really about producing a matrix of differences and indifferences and a capacity to repeat without much interference - the naked repetition under which there is always a dressed repetition. The appeal to folds as given would be more or less like saying that we always start out with differences, with borders, with joints - but not necessarily with all joints that there are, as we might need problems to be able to inspect them (as Deleuze insists that without problems no infinitesimal in particular can be seen). We see the folds (and pulses, and joints) because we cling to rhythms - the rest comes from them.

Friday, 15 March 2013

More on necessity as immunity

Being thinking about necessity and immunity and trying to organize ideas around substances, substrata and relations. The idea of necessary connections is part of the idea that something subsist unaffected by whatever else takes place. Something is necessary if it is independent of all the others. It is the thus and so comes what may. The virtual, in contrast, as Deleuze understands it in in Difference et Répétition and up to Le Pli, is something that depends on the whole world to become actual. The necessary is independent from anything else, somehow protected from anything else – it is immune. It is not open to whatever else exists.

Immunity can be understood to have four different kinds:

With respect to things they can be:

1. The immunity of something over its qualities. This is the immunity that makes a substratum capable of keeping its identity in different worlds. A particular is the same no matter the different (universal) qualities attributed to it. A substractum is preserved from the changes in qualities – from modal changes. Gregor Samsa would carry on being the particular it is if it were turned into a roach. This type of immunity is the one Kripke points at when he connects a necessity with the act of naming – the name-giving act directed to a particular.

2. The immunity of something over its changes in time. This is related not to modal change but rather to temporal change. This is the immunity that makes a substance capable of keeping its identity in different times. A substance underlies its changes. Leibniz’s monads contrast with Whitehead’s actual entity in that the former are immune to whatever happens to them over time while the latter are relative to a time. Leibniz’s monads are substances without substractum because what makes them resist to change in time is related to a single world, they are individuated by the infinite qualities that they had, have and will have over time. Substances are postulated to be immune, they subsist comes what may.

With respect to relations they can be:

3. The immunity of relations between things. Here is no longer about a single thing (and its substratum or substance) but rather about relations. This is the immunity that makes a relation indifferent to the possible world in which it is – indifferent to whatever else exists or relates to it. Causal relations are often thought to be like this – if the white ball causes the red one to move, this will happen in all possible worlds, no matter what other relations are also in place. Logical relations are even moe often thought to be independent of the world around them. Relation like that would be immune to whatever else is relating around – the relation stands on its own.

4. The immunity of relations between things over time. If the previous kind was about resilience of the relation in different possible worlds, this one is about its subsistence over time. Immune relations of this kind are not built and not destroyed – they are eternal. They could be dependent on a possible world (like Leibniz’s monads or Lewis’ individuals) but not relative to a time where they were instituted and not affected by other relations in the world where they belong.

Monday, 11 March 2013

To be immune to the rhythms

Our (Alexandre Costa-Leite and me) first paper on galaxy theory has been accepted in Logica Universalis. I've been thinking of the idea of up for grabs in connection not to non-necessity but rather to infection, contagion or repetition - that is in terms of lack of immunity to the concrete surroundings. In different galaxies (different classes of possible world), different swings are immune to entrainement by other rhythms - different galaxies would have different matrixes of necessity and immunity and therefore would have different things up for grabs.

Immunity is not quite the same as necessity - but it has something to do with having an essence that makes sure that something is not taken astray by what is around it. The issue about the nature of necessary connections relate to the issue of having immunity (and community, to use Esposito opposition). Being up for grabs is also to be in a community, to be open to the other rhythms as opposed to being hostage of an essence, of an enduring nature that makes something dispensed from doing service to the rest (im-munis). To be immune is to be outside the scope of alliances, to be out of the plane where those alliances are crafted (the surexistence). I believe this is a better vocabulary than that of essences. Immune things are not in the commerce of services, don't have a-mmuni-tion because it is closed in itself, doesn't defend and doesn't attack.


Friday, 8 March 2013

Jabès' anancestors and a Pirkei Ieladim

I'm enjoying Jabès writings in the Little Book of Subversion Out of Suspicion and in the opening volume of the Livre des Questions. He builds a mosaic of words and images, topics and atmospheres that seem to set thought going in many directions. There is a tonality of skirting around things so that all sorts of meetings are possible - and maybe none is really in the roadmap: thought lives of what it meets, it dies in solitude, he writes. Soon after this bit a dialogue: what is the book about, asks the master, and the writer: I don't know. The book does. The knowledge of the book is what is taken seriously - an agency of the words, that can inspire, rebel, conflate, manipulate, open the way. This agency and this autonomy is also what moves Blanchot's books and, I suppose, carries weight towards Derrida's praise of the écriture.

One of Jabès artifices is to present the sayings of a Rebs. Rebs are folkloric sages, and sages carry authority in their names and folly in their peculiar ways of saying things. Their wisdom is in creating a form for their wisdom. But Jabès endeavor is anarcheological: the names of the Rebs appear as they appear to those who have a first contact with them, say, through the Pirkei Avot: the names of Hillel and Shamai and Akiva and Elisha Ben Avuya are slowly associated with their sayings and deeds and therefore have a doctrine unveiled, an oral doctrine, which is part of what the book somehow knows. Jabès is then proposing another set of Rebs with their doctrines and their orality. Characters of thought, but not characters being reported, but rather characters being unveiled from the requirements of the book itself. He writes a kind of Pirkei Ieladim - the wisdom of a Kinderland, the wisdom not of the ancestors, but of the anancestors. I believe this is a way to invoke thought: to be open to the wisdom which not inherited, to the books that are yet to be written, to the readerships that are to come.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Infinitisms in representation and in difference

This week I finished my course on Deleuze's D&R. We closed the reading with the contrast between representation and repetition - and how the privilege of the latter ushers in an ontology of the concrete. This contrasts with Leibniz' manoeuvre to make indiscernibility the ultimate criterion for identity in concreta - which amounts to taking concrete items in the same vein as abstract ones. Dressed repetitions (répétition vetue) is taken to be prior to naked ones (répétition nue). Representation bears on a repetition that exorcises deviation because it is not based on a genuine succession but on a masked simultaneity: that is, there is no diversity of media between the repetans and the repetanda. Naked repetition - that supports representation - doesn't really happen in concrete media; among concreta, where representation is secondary, repetition is always dressed because it wears the clothes of all sorts of other events that take place among concrete things. There is always a plurality of series in concreta and nothing makes sure that there is a convergence of all towards something. Dressed repetition takes place in a plane of immanence where contact and contagion rule. Abstraction comes after: naked repetition is subordinate to concrete repetition - repetition is ubiquitous among concreta, but it is primarily dressed.

In fact, Deleuze appeals to concrete, dressed repetition to place difference in an infinitist context. After criticizing the infinitist thoughts of Hegel and Leibniz because they appeal to the infinite to tame difference and make representation prevail, he presents the eternal return as his own version of infinitism. Repetition goes back to infinite because difference resides there and being is not in the maximal common factor between the repeated instances but rather in the difference that appears in the gaps of the repeated series. Repetition brings about what there is because it brings about difference - but only among concrete. In Leibniz, all repetition is naked (because everything is treated as representations). In Deleuze, difference is being because it resides in concreta and it is alien to representation. Infinitism here is tied to the univocity of being - as opposed to the analogical thinking connected to the naked repetition. Difference is infinite because of eternal return - infinite repetition brings about all chains and varieties of beings.