Sunday, October 28, 2007

Manuel DeLanda - Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy

My newfound enthusiasm for Manuel DeLanda's thought could take me further. I am currently reading Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy in which he certainly tests the reader's ability to string together sets of abstract mathematical and philosophical constructs! but dishes out the rewards in equal measure. I've just about mastered chapter 1, in which he lays the groundwork for what's to come.

In a refreshing break from postmodernist epistemologies ranging from the solipsistic to the "reality is basically unknowable" kind, DeLanda couches Deleuze's realist ontology in terms understandable not only to philosophers, but also to scientists. No easy task. But thanks to his efforts, I am for the first time convinced that there is some light for a realist ontology in science . It is an area that, ever since Nietzsche said: "There are no facts, only interpretations", has looked very shaky.

Having said that, it would be easy to fall into the same old dichotomy of the subject vs. the object - but it is quite tempting to see Nietzsche's contributions, rising as they did initially out of an historical exploration of culture (The Birth of Tragedy), as an enormous mirror held up to humankind while he chants into our ears: "See, this is who you really are, you have been waiting for me all this time to show you." The first psychologist indeed, as he himself noted. The limits of a a certain kind of knowledge, i.e. knowledge mediated by humans - Kant's categories go suck. Where that would clip into this realist ontology to give us closure I have no clue at present - perhaps we would have to look at both from each other's perspective first - but whereas I am sure how Nietzsche's legacy can be traced to the postmodernist temperament, it is less clear to me in the case of Deleuze. In short, I don't know him well enough yet.

It has taken someone like Deleuze to re-establish realism by giving it a philosophical foundation that does not crumble when the first, familiar shots are fired from the other camp, and here DeLanda makes its relevance understandable for me.

I look forward to more!

Some interesting articles by DeLanda are available at the Institute for New Culture Technologies, have a look here. I read through this one and highlighted some sentences using Diigo. In it he fleshes out the importance of dynamical processes (a historical process as opposed to an essence - the crux of his new materialist ontology) in relation to economic markets.

It is worth pointing out that some of the ideas following from the math, such as a stable state fluctuating around the attractor, including the notion of perturbations that knock a trajectory out of its basin of influence, are quite reminiscent of concepts in systems theory and cybernetics which I once discussed here.