Deleuze, Leibniz, Whitehead

Referring back to the interrupted note about Pinsel and Deleuze and the fold a while ago we conclude that the Deleuzian fold is a somehow fuzzy concept, but that is usual business when Deleuze comes up with concepts. Deleuze´s concepts are open-ended and inexhaustive, non-exclusive and intensive, a kind of virtuality, since his philosophy is a metaphysics and cosmology of transformation, evolution and potentialities. Some (like Rancière) fail to appreciate this since Deleuze´s concepts (and his whole philosophy) is linked to a semi-private imaginary that may be alien to some, notably those inclined to more analytic philosophy. Deleuze is a synthetic philosopher and a primarily associative thinker. Despite that Deleuze´s concepts/philosophy are, of course, clear-cut and precise and well-defined, respectively they are purely analytic concepts when viewed from the perspective of the phase space (not the quasi-static metaphysics related to analytic philosophy). – The concept of the fold was first introduced by Deleuze in his book about Foucault (1986) with reference to Foucault´s philosophical investigations of how subjectivity is constituted by power (outside forces) and his final ruminations about how autonomous existence would be possible. In contrast to Foucault´s somehow staunchly hermetic perspective Deleuze refers to the fold as how the „outside“ constitutes an „inside“ but may include autonomy, potentiality and variation („differentiatedness“ in itself). In his subsequent book about Leibniz and the Baroque (1988) he refers to the fold as a monad although it becomes a much more dynamic concept and rather the constituent of a monad. The fold is a relationship upon itself, both static and dynamic, in flux and self-preserving and it is constituted via prehensions, pre-individual singularities, events. It is transsubjective. Folding means making something implicit, via unfolding it becomes explicit. The fold is a „point of view“ upon existence and its „subjectivity“ does not primarily refer to idiosyncracy but objective vagueness and variety of the world. Once again, Deleuze tries to think and illustrate the univocity of being and how the One relates to the Many and how both are interrelated.

Such was also the undertaking of Leibniz, indeed. Leibniz refers to monads, single, atomised beings as the final substance of the world beyond which there are no emanations of existence i.e. no „truth“ beyond their ontological scope. The „dark fond“ (i.e. both potentiality and lack of consciousness) is inherent in the monads themselves, and is their own primal ground upon which they may actualise themselves. Monads are embedded in a universal interrelationship of cause and effect, with God being the primal (and final) cause and each monad being a „mirror of the world“. There is a kind of hierarchy among monads with only humans capable of apperceptions (as elevated upon mere perceptions) and soul. The higher the monad the clearer and more comprehensive are the apperceptions and the awareness of being a „mirror of the world“ and the more elevated is the soul. Despite offering a relatively static paradigm Leibniz emphasises that monads contain entelechies and are subject to change. The highest goal of life is to gain the highest awareness possible of the „harmony of the world“ and being as a divine monarchy. Alongside this trajectory the monad does not progress to rational vision of the „thing in itself“ yet breaks through the material hyle and becomes maximally competent (as it, as we may say, becomes the „suject/monad in itself“). Leibniz´ Monadology and related writings are, by the way, cool the way they are sharp and precise, anti-logorrhoea and without word vomit. That is not of necessary occurence in philosophy.

In his major work Process and Reality Whitehead occasionally mentions Leibniz though not extensively. Yet the parallels to Leibniz and his monadology are striking, so much as that Deleuze bluntly refers to Whitehead as a „diadoche“ of Leibniz. Whitehead takes „actual entities“ as the true substance of the world, they resemble monads but are inherently more dynamic. They´re embedded in a universal process of becoming (not merely „cause and effect“) under which they finally constitute themselves as monads. Whitehead refers to intensity of perception as the highest value: the more intense the perception the more qualities the perceived as well as the perceiver accumulate. Whitehead´s ontology does not refer to a specific beginning or a specific end of the world process and embraces a higher notion of chance and the merely processural as a value in itself: creativity as the ontological principle upon which the world unfolds. In his notion God is the primal ground of all possibilities and potentialities and via processural reality God actualises himself (which puts Whitehead´s philosophy in an apparent relationship to pantheism respectively panpsychism though it is not the same since Whitehead´s God is rather to be understood as an ontological substrate as well as a reflection which relates to the univocity of being and the harmonious interrelatedness of a heterogenous world). Embedded in processural reality actual entitites, like monads, are a reflection of the whole world and nothing that has ever happened ever gets lost. However, no actual entity, and not God himself can have a divine universal perspective on being since it progressively unfolds and actualises itself, constituting actual entities and constituting God. Whitehead is aware that there truly is negativity and destructiveness in the world but sees them as a necessary emanation or by-product of creativity. The quality of the world is rather aesthetic and probably should be seen as an artwork by God, through which God, however, preserves the actual entities and the process of the world. The ethical implications seem to indicate the need for a filigrane percpetion and understanding of the manifoldness of the world and an awe for the creative process. Despite being acknowledged as one of the most eminent metaphysicists of the 20th century Whitehead is not very well known, and they say Process and Reality is terribly opaque. However, I cannot sense that, it is quite accessible. The thing may rather be that we do not really know what to do with a metaphysics that abstract (or so I guess), respectively Whitehead´s metaphysics and its apparent implications partially relate to both Western and Eastern mindsets (as they are about the progressively competent individual (Western) in a harmonious whole (Eastern) which is not transcendent (Western) but immanent (Eastern)) and we don´t know how to think them together, but we may learn to do so in the future.

The debated philosophies are about how to understand heterogenousness and oneness, epistemology and ontology, the subject-object dichotomy, relentless creativity and harmony, the relationship between man, world and God. Leibniz presents are relatively static, quasi-feudalistic world with harmony the supreme good, Whitehead modernises and cracks the monad up into the progressive and democratic, Deleuze comes up with the postmodern fold and transgresses the monad/monadology into nomad/nomadology. Whitehead emphasises that philosophical undertaking and approach cannot be absolute but is limited by our contemporarian understanding or the eternal limitations of the human mind and has to operate with concepts which may be both to abstract and too precise to fully comprehend realities. Nevertheless one has to do something philosophical to make us understand the (current) situation. It is apparent how these three metaphysical approaches are grounded in the supreme, gentle and creative human mind, somehow becoming its own theophany. Despite it is also my own intuition I doubt whether a monad is a mirror of the all, or whether things are preserved. Maybe chance and vagueness are inherent qualities the world (enabling „creativity“?) and being is not univocal. Of course metaphysics has to aware of what physics does reveal. I am quite curious about whether we live in a holographic universe, how the quantum realm relates to the macrorealm, how the different macrorealms relate to each other and how emergent phenomena can be explained. – Via Deleuze´s immersive writing metaphysics becomes a sexy and colourful thing. Leibniz makes me think of an elevated silver sphere which is stabilised in its own harmony, floating a little bit above me. Whitehead´s metaphysics makes me think of a giant web of little golden balls with flashy golden beams connecting between them. But reflecting about them all the vision of gazing into the metaphysical structure of the world now becomes one of quadratic zones, honeycomb-like, that fall into an indefinite ground of which you don´t see much and, presumably, does not carrying much to see. To save the vision and elevate it to a new level, respectively open it up into another dimension I think it is indicated to ram a white spear perpendicularly into the structure. This should give Deleuze, Leibniz and Whitehead a pause. An event has happened, a koan. After that I think all the four of us will silently smile at each other and nod in consent.

Deleuze on Whitehead & Leibniz