Deleuze, The Logic of Sense
Some quotes from the book and comments.
“It is only by breaking open the circle, as in the case of the Möbius strip, by unfolding and untwisting it, that the dimension of sense appears for itself, in its irreducibility, and also in its genetic power as it animates an a priori internal model of the proposition.”
Some important themes here: The irreducibility of sense, the connection with closure and involution, topology and animation. There is a sense of the meta-juxtaposition of self-similarity that is at the heart of the universality and specificity of sense.
“It is surprising to find that Carroll’s entire logical work* is directly about signification, implications, and conclusions, and only indirectly about sense – precisely, through the paradoxes which signification does not resolve, or indeed which it creates. On the contrary, the fantastic work is immediately concerned with sense and attaches the power of the paradox to it. This corresponds to the two states of sense, de facto and de jure, a posteriori and a priori, one by which the circle of the proposition is indirectly inferred, the other by which it is made to appear for itself, by unfolding the circle along the length of the border between propositions and things.”
*Lewis Carroll was the pseudonym of Charles Dodgson, who also published mathematical literature under that name.
The multisense model has been to try to simplify this cleaving and reconciling. By identifying private time as the direct form of sensemaking and public space as the indirect form, the orthogonality between the two is also their union. I appreciate his pointing out of the two sides of Lewis Carroll, and how they speak to direct and indirect sense.
Quoting from Carroll:
He thought he saw an Elephant
That practiced on a fife:
He looked again, and found it was
A letter from his wife.
“At length I realize,” he said,
“The bitterness of Life!”
He thought he saw a Buffalo
Upon the chimney-piece:
He looked again, and found it was
His Sister’s Husband’s Niece.
“Unless you leave this house,” he said,
“I’ll send for the Police!”
He thought he saw a Kangaroo
That worked a coffee-mill:
He looked again, and found it was
“Were I to swallow this,” he said,
“I should be very ill!”
He thought he saw a Coach-and-Four
That stood beside his bed:
He looked again, and found it was
A Bear without a Head.
“Poor thing,” he said, “poor silly thing!
It’s waiting to be fed!”
He thought he saw a Garden-Door
That opened with a key:
He looked again, and found it was
A Double Rule of Three:
“And all its mystery,” he said,
“Is clear as day to me!”
He thought he saw an Argument
That proved he was the Pope:
He looked again, and found it was
A Bar of Mottled Soap.
“A fact so dread,” he faintly said,
“Extinguishes all hope!”
– Lewis Carroll, The Mad Gardener’s Song
The poem is discussed early on, with its rhythmic juxtaposition of buoyant fantasy and grim realism, or perhaps mania and depression. The analysis offered brings out deeper duality between concrete entities in the world and spoken words…how the abstraction of words contains and deflates the broad absurdity of imagination. Words silence the child’s inner world with the adulteration of logic. Direct sense is overpowered by circumspection of logical, indirect sense through time and experience.
“The duality in the proposition is not between two sorts of names, names of stasis and names of becoming, names of substances or qualities and names of events; rather, it is between two dimensions of the proposition, that is, between denotation and expression, or between the denotation of things and the expression of sense. It is like the two sides of a mirror, only what is on one side has no resemblance to what is on the other.”
That last line is perhaps the most critical point of the multisense realism approach. I have referred to it as anomalous symmetry. A dual aspect monism where the sense of public space is a reflection of the sense of private time, but in a completely different – really orthogonal way.
“The philosopher Avicenna distinguished three states of essence: universal in relation to the intellect which thinks it in general; and singular in relation to the particular things in which it is embodied. But neither of these two states is essence itself. An animal is nothing other than an animal (“animal non est nisi animal tantum”) being indifferent to the universal and to the singular, to the particular and to the general. The first state of essence is essence signified by the proposition, in the order of the concept and of conceptual implications. The second state of essence is essence as designated by the proposition in the particular things in which it is involved. But the third state of essence is essence as sense, essence as expressed – always in this dryness (animal tantum) and this splendid neutrality. It is indifferent to the universal and to the singular, to the general and to the particular, to the personal and the collective; it is also indifferent to affirmation and negation, etc. In short, it is indifferent to all opposites. This is so because all of these opposites are but modes of the proposition considered in its relations of denotation and signification, and not the traits of the sense which it expresses. Is it, then, the status of the pure event, or of the fatum which accompanies it, to surmount all the oppositions in this way? Neither private nor public, neither collective nor individual…, it is more terrible and powerful in this neutrality, to the extent that is all of these things at once.”
Many of the diagrams employed here (supreme ultimate diagrams) feature sense ‘surmounting’ essence and existence. This echoes Deleuze noting here the supremacy of sense in its detachment from the oppositions which are generated within it.
p. 35 “…he writes about the addition of impossible propositions to the possible (signification) and the real (denotation). I conceive of absurdity and the far East end of a continuum of sense rather than a category. An absurd proposition makes sense on some levels or parts but presents an abstract disjunction or mutually exclusive juxtaposition. It is a type of nonsense that refers to itself, and therefore makes a kind of negative sense, as opposed to nonsense as noise lacking signal.”
In my view, propositions can be more or less absurd, more plausible, and even more or less concretely real. The so called primary and secondary attributes of Locke suggest a hierarchy of realism which is intuitive. Qualities that can be measured reliably using inanimate objects as instruments are seen to be primary aspects of realism. Secondary are colors, flavors, etc which vary from person to person and culture to culture. They are subjective but still object-facing. It is interesting that he too refers to sense as a continuum with an Eastern end.
p. 53 The distinction is not between two sorts of events, it is between the event, which is ideal by nature, and its spatio-temporal realization in a state of affairs. The distinction is between event and accident. Events are ideational singularities which communicate in one and the same Event. They have therefore an eternal truth, and their time is never the present which realizes them and makes them exist. Rather it is the unlimited Aion, the Infinitive in which they subsist and insist. Events are the only idealities. To reverse Platonism is first and foremost to remove essences and to substitute events in their place, as jets of singularities.
p.60 For only thought finds it possible to affirm all chance and to make chance into an object of affirmation.
Interesting commentary which can be seen to relate directly to the multisense diagram depicting Sense on the top edge opposing chance or “?” on the bottom. In a way, it is the role of thought to assign the degree of chance affirmation – it is the eye of mandatory intentionality in the hurricane of semi-intentional potentiality. Thought is the capacity to interpret chance, ie to consciously foreground pattern as significant.
p.61 …what is this time which need not be infinite but only “infinitely subdivisible”? We have seen that past, present, and future were not at all three parts of a single temporality, but that they rather formed two readings of time, each one of which is complete and excludes the other: on one hand, the always limited present, which measures the action of bodies as causes and the state of their mixtures in depth (Chronos); on the other, the essentially unlimited past and future, which gather incorporeal events, at the surface, as effects (Aion).
Great stuff. If I understand the terminology correctly, Chronos can be identified with spacetime and Aion as timespace or dreamtime. Aion is the native, direct modality of experience which is interior and metaphorical. Chronos is the involution of Aion, the orthogonal cross-section of the totality as public literal exterior. Chronos is the perpetually fleeting snapshot that cuts through the mechanical interactions of bodies within bodies (inertial frames within frames) as a generic ‘now’. By contrast, the Aion is the uncut flow of multiplexed influences seeking manifestation. The two interact as coherence-decoherence in Chronos spacetime and decoherence-recoherence through Aion dreamtime.
P. 64. Carroll would say that they are the multiplication table and the dinner table. The Aion is precisely the border of the two, the straight line which separates them; but it is also the plain surface which connects them, an impenetrable window or glass.
This gets very esoteric, but my model differs here from Deleuze in that I see two opposite kinds of borders on opposite ends of Aion – one, is the pedestrian fold between, as he says, the multiplication table and the dinner table (figurative vs literal sense of table) and the other I call the profound edge, where the twist between literal and figurative vanishes ‘behind our backs’ as unconscious or trance-like numinous states of unity. This is the eidetic transformation, where hypnotic re-orientation can take place. Here we find the simulacra nature of consciousness, the unrealism of reality is exposed nakedly while we are otherwise occupied. Aion and Chronos are the profound edge and the pedestrian fold, the back door and front door to narrative (temporal) realism.
In Chronos, ambiguity is shunted off into errors of perception and measurement, so that infinite regress is drowned in decoherence. In Aion, paradox is reconciled through unconsciousness – the level upon which paradox is encountered is ultimately evanescent into greater and lesser levels. The dreamer falls asleep or wakes up, ending the dream. The scientist or philosopher cannot end the dream, and must distract the inquiry with argumentation and formalism.
p. 72 It is thus pleasing that there resounds today that sense is never a principle or an origin, but that it is produced. It is not something to discover, to restore, and to re-employ; it is something to produce by a new machinery. It belongs to no height or depth, but rather to a surface effect, being inseparable from the surface which is its proper dimension. It is not that sense lacks depth or height, but rather that height and depths lack surface, that they lack sense, or have it only by virtue of an “effect” which presupposes sense.
Here I disagree. I think that sense here is considered in too narrow of a ‘sense’ in this passage, limited as sensation or cognition at the point of contact. While sensation does indeed transpire at the surface, it is the translucence of sense which lends the significance of the depths beneath it. I can agree that sense is something to produce by a new machinery, but that every part of the machinery is also a sense experience on another layer/scope/frame. It is not the machinery level which produces sense, it is the level from which the machine’s use is initiated which which recovers new sense for itself, not only as a product but as an extension or revelation of the self through the objects of the machinery. New experience opens a window into new worlds of potential experience, and new doors of actual experience by the self. Surface and depth define each other. It is the sense of their contrast which acts as an originating principle. How could it be otherwise? What is sense other than the capacity to appreciate the contrast fully?
What Deleuze may have overlooked is that depth is nothing but an accumulation of surface effects. Indeed, there is nothing else besides sense that could be said to be responsible for the manifestation of the unsensed. The connection that he has not yet made is that what is surface to us is depth to another frame of reference, and vice versa. Marine organisms make sense in liquid, but it is the lighter fluid of air which poses a boundary for their world. Cells within bodies presumably exist in a universe of haptic (tactile perception of shapes) phenomenology. Surface, under multisense realism, is in the eye of the beholder, a naive realism apportioned out by scale ratios and perceptual entropy summation. Sense does not occur at the surface, sense juxtaposes itself as a surface/depth, as space manifold/unfolding time.
p. 81 Sense is always an effect produced in the series by the instance which traverses them. This is why sense, such as it is gathered over the line of the Aion, has two sides which correspond to the dissymmetrical sides of the paradoxical element: one tending toward the series determined as signifying, the other tending toward the series determined as signified.
Nice assimilation between sensation and semiosis. The idea of sense being activated or defining itself through the consequence of a breaching event. Negative mechanism. Dark current. The implicate order becomes explicit under conditions of interruption. The category does not exist until something insists upon defining itself against the schema. Sense as immunomorphic system.
P.87 Body-sieve, fragmented body, and dissociated body – these are the three primary dimensions of the schizophrenic body…In this collapse of the surface, the entire world loses its meaning.
I don’t entirely agree. While in a sense the surface of realism fails, I would not say that the world loses its meaning. Rather the world is transparent to any and every possible meaning. I suspect that here Deleuze is taking the often noted word-salad quality of schizophrenic communication too literally. In my opinion, such expression is as much a compulsive syntactic self-stimulation – in rhyme and repetition, as it is revealing of genuine attempts to make coherent sense. It is the depth which collapses into the surface, nakedly exposed without regard to the competing depths represented by social convention.
This commentary on schizophrenic sense strikes me also as stereotyped and idealized. I would imagine that actual diagnosed cases of schizophrenia vary in their linguistic manifestations to some degree. This chapter seems to isolate schizophrenia itself as a single author whose work stands in a particular contradistinction to common sense uses of language.
There may be something that Deleuze is pointing out by idealizing schizophrenic sense which is important. The dichotomy between Carroll’s use of satire to play with sense and the schizophrenic transgressions against sense. He frequently notes the malicious, even violent themes in schizophrenic expression in contrast to the carefully crafted ‘nonsense’ of the Alice stories.
The entire section “Fourteenth Series of Double Causality” seems especially opaque to me. He seems to be voicing vague dissatisfaction with Husserl and Kant but not really offering much in the way of a coherent view of causality. He seems to be struggling with a desire to appease physics while retaining an ambivalent substance dualism “The events of a liquid surface refer to the inter-molecular modifications as their real cause, but also to the variations of a surface tension on which they depend as their (ideational or “fictive” quasi-cause”. He talks about a “double causality, referring on one hand to mixtures of bodies which are its cause and, on the other, to other events which are its quasi-cause”, while maintaining that the corporeal cause is linked through surface dynamics to the incorporeal quasi-cause.
My impression is that Deleuze has a shortsighted view of sense here, eloquently (if obliquely) tuned into many nuances of sense, but still viewing human sense essentially as a monolith. In light of so much recent evidence of sensemaking in other species and in microorganisms, it would seem that there is no reason to presume that what seems like quasi-cause on one level would not be experienced as corporeal cause on another. Not double causality, but multiple intercausality.
Once the incorporeal/ideational is freed from the expectation of pseudosubstantiation, it can be understood as the temporal-private basis from which spatial-public extension is propagated (through sense). The ideational is not incorporeal, rather the corporeal is the orthogonal condensation of subjectivity. Both are physically and concretely real, each being the anomalous reflection of the other. The idea of in incorporeality arises from the reliance of objectification as the primary basis for modeling mistakenly turned on the act of modeling itself, failing to meet its own contrived expectations and subordinating its own efficacy as ‘quasi’ or fictive. When we have the idea to stomp on an anthill, the consequences for thousands of ants are not ‘quasi’ or fictive.
In his Fifteenth Series of Singularities, Deleuze makes a case for phenomenology as a function of surfaces. “the surface is the locus of sense“. He quotes Gilbert Simondon, “To belong to interiority does not mean only to ‘be inside,’ but to be on the ‘in-side’ of the limit…”
I agree that the surface defines the active region of sense, as the functional sense of sense can be described as input/output, the point of contact between sensory singularities (monads/selves/nuclei/bodies) would necessarily be on the periphery or skin. From a more objective point of view, we might say that it is not sense that happens on the surface, but rather surfaceness though which sense presents its most self-reflective presentations.
There is no reason to imagine that the depths of bodies are any less sensitive on their own inertial frame, and it is perfectly reasonable to expect that our aggregate sense of ourselves as human beings would include mainly a skin-deep precipitate of the totality of the experience of our sub-selves. Without any eruptive emergencies from within, the backgrounding of bodily depths in our waking consciousness as complex organisms is unsurprising. There is nothing else other than sense which could theoretically define the depths or connect them sensibly to the peripheries. It is all sense, but not all our sense. The distinction here is not between sense and nonsense but realism and unrealism. The sense which is most real to us is that which has the greatest proximity to our personal, collective, and morphological inertial frame. That which is most distal to our perceptual inertial frame is presented to us as unreal.
In Sixteenth Series of the Static Ontological Genesis, he sketches out a rather convoluted seeming schema of the interrelation of monads, persons, and worlds which I think lacks clarity. The multisense view of selves as temporal privacies casting a spatial public shadow on many levels seems to me a simpler and readily verifiable model.
That’s almost halfway. Time for a break but I plan to come back to this soon.
We have this idea, these days, that there is a real world outside of us which exists. It exists not because we experience it, but because it’s ‘just there’. The simple existence it has is thought to be absolutely real, but absolutely meaningless and unconscious. It is almost unanimously assumed that there was nobody home in the universe at all before living organisms were born on Earth (or maybe other life-friendly planets).
We also have the idea that there is an unreal world inside of us. We feel a sandwich in our hand, but really it is a vast collection of microscopic molecules and living cells, suspended in an even more vast expanse of emptiness. We see a sky above, but really it is a paper thin layer of gas clinging to the planet. Our sun, just another point of light in the oblivion of astronomical emptiness.
In this view, our perception is thought to mediate, to represent a real world that we can’t understand into an unreal experience that we can understand. The psyche is a transformer, turning meaningless reality into meaningful illusion.
Of course, this presents a bit of a problem when confronted with the fact that when we act on our illusions in the world, sometimes we know what we are doing. Sometimes we actually seem to know more than the illusion is showing us, and we are able to make changes in the real world, using only our illusion to guide us. How might that work exactly?
To my mind, the most plausible way that it can work is if the real world is not entirely meaningless and the illusions of our representations are not entirely illusion.
The overlap between the two, is, what I would call sense. The overlap between the two I would call realism. That internal sense which agrees consistently with external conditions, and those external conditions which feel consistent with our internal expectations.
Where they don’t overlap, we get sense but not realism. Theory for the sake of theory. Empirical data which cannot be interpreted in way that we can conceive of (like a particle-wave or dark energy). These make sense in either a subjectively meaningful way or an objectively useful way, but not both.
The more I think about this worldview of an unconscious universe that is hogging all of the reality, and conscious illusion that is hogging all of the meaning, the more absurd it seems and the more it reminds me of the distribution of wealth, technology, and happiness in the world (hint: The happiness isn’t concentrated at the top with the money and tech). What an appropriately perverse worldview during such a perversely unbalanced phase of the Earth’s anthropological experiment.
If we can crack the door an inch and see that sense may not have been born anew with blue-green algae a billion years ago, but has been here all along. In the celestial blooms of nebula and the rattling molecular chains. Events. Happening everywhere. Peaceful places, violent times. Everywhere. Not just in our heads. Not an incomprehensible rock hard nothingness tagged and bagged inexplicably by nerve cells for an audience of one who is really a none.
Without that pre-biotic sense, you have 12.7 billion years of mathematical potentials, accumulating and discharging force in silent obscurity. Invisible and without any association with any human image you might have. A universe without a memory, without a here and now. A universe which, at it’s microcosmic level, cannot tell the difference between something and nothing, as it has no feeling, no awareness to know what those things might be.
Imagine instead a world that is as meaningful as you are, and a life as real and persistent in the cosmos as a galaxy. After all, it is only consciousness that makes a galaxy seem large and slow. Without the sense of perspective and scale, all 12.7 billion years before life goes by as an instant or an eternity. There was nobody there to tell the difference. We are here now to tell the difference, and that is what is real for us. That is the only reality that means anything to us. It makes sense and it’s how we make sense. Adding skeptical inquiry to our naive realism only gives us more of what we had before. If our senses are an illusion, then our judgements about our senses only amplify the illusion. If, on the other hand, we can make sense of the world, then we have only begun to scratch the surface of how such a thing is possible.