So I mentioned yesterday that I was going to use the third entry in Mapping Thought to talk about virtual multiplicities. That’s a deep cut technical term in Gilles Deleuze’s philosophy, and it’s really not worth the time getting into the meaning of the words themselves.
If you decide to explore Deleuze’s work, you’ll come to understand what that term is all about. It might take you a long time, because it’s dense with the acquired learning of many different research and writing projects over the years.
It helped that I was already super-into his work, so I had no problem playing ‘gotta-catch-em-all’ with the Gilles Deleuze / Félix Guattari collected works.
Here’s what the term amounts to in more straightforward language. It’s the central concept in the ontology of becoming that Deleuze develops, free of any reactionary thinking trying to negate ontologies of being.
Here’s some actual straightforward language to explain that not-at-all straightforward language. Western philosophy, as well as a lot of popular Western thinking after the philosophical ideas burbled through to regular folks, privileges permanence and the eternal. We fear change. Change being inevitable means that death is inevitable, and that’s damn scary.
But reality changes – everything changes. Everything collapses and everything comes to be. Impermanence and mortality is something we have to accept because it is the nature of reality.
A lot of the time, when a thinker wants to build a system that accepts and understands change as the fundamental nature of reality, they’re too reactive. All of their terms and concepts aren’t real ideas about becoming – they just take the ideas of being-centred, permanence-focussed philosophical systems and turn them upside down and inside out. It’s not a genuine philosophy of becoming – it’s a negative image of a philosophy of being.
What are the components of a genuine philosophy of becoming? Here’s how Paul Patton lays them out, and I rather like his thinking on this.
You can use the basic relationship of differentials to describe, in very basic form, those material relationships that compose our world – dx/dy. A change in one causes, and is the cause of a change in the other. This holds among all relations at once, how they’re all connected together.
2) The world is fundamentally a matter of processes. Even objects we perceive and interact with as solid, permanent bodies are unfolding processes.
3) Understand possibility as potential. A process, in its moment of genesis, doesn’t somehow contain all that it can become. But a feature of its unique identity is that it can change in relationship with all the changes that it interacts with, within particular limits.
Every process has limits of its possible changes, but doesn’t contain each of those possibilities in its first moment. The past is memory, not the present. The present is movement.
4) All relationships create new assemblages and processes, even if other relationships, assemblages, and processes are destroyed in the process.
5) Just as everything is constituted through relationships, our identities – at the fundamental level of the existence of all processes and bodies themselves – are entirely relational.