The Main Event, Research Time, 08/01/2018

Popping back through my notes on Gilles Deleuze, writing some pretty foundational ontology.

When Deleuze was an old, dying man, he often talked about the ideas that he explored throughout his career. He was a tough man to tie down, mainly because he refused a lot of the typical branding exercises the standards of academia required.

Consider the power of images that inspire us to become more,
better, than what we now are. Images that spark a creative movement,
which put us in touch with our potential, with our lives not as we
might live them in the humdrum moments, but as event.
Before any hypothetical academics get in an offended huff about my referring to their research programs as including anything as crass as branding, let me say this – I don’t care. Academics have to brand themselves – they promote their research interests and specialties, promote their teaching records and focuses.

Yet it’s all too often a little too constricting. Most researchers who keep their heads down in their specialties for decades find themselves facing some sneers when they move on to other topics to write on. Sometimes, they fall on their faces, and deserve the sneers. Other times, less so.

Although a lot of academics don’t like to encourage people to write with the changeability of someone like Deleuze, the weird thing is that his changeability made for a good branding decision. He was never considered to be someone who had no right to write what he did. You could love him or hate him, but the world was open for him.

But Deleuze would say, in all the changes that animate his decades of work, that the primary problem for him was the nature of the event. It’s a tough term in postmodernish philosophy, since there’s a lot of writing that meditates on the nature of the event without actually saying or thinking anything constructive or illuminating at all.

Let’s have a go at following along one illumination Deleuze works into What Is Philosophy?. The book is all about concepts, but what is a concept? Concepts are diagrams of material processes – the complex relationships among components of multifaceted processes.

Think about what we can be, instead of what we are. That's the start
of a process that, if you want to be provocative, you can call
liberation. Liberation from what, though? That's a very reasonable
question, as there's no need to leap from one potential to another
without paying heed to what you might leave in your wake. We
should never think of freedom as liberation from responsibilities.
We need our responsibilities to each other to hold human society
When we think about these relationships in scientific terms – in relation to direct reference to actual processes – we can call them engineering diagrams of a sort. But understood abstractly from any real-world instance, it’s a concept. When we think philosophically, we understand a concept as a state of affairs in the world, but entire in potential.

There are events and there’s the event. Regular old events are simply the ongoing movements of those processes – states of affairs continuing and changing. But the event of any such process is its potential for development. Such potential is just as material as any other component – bodies, motions, relationships.

The event, in Deleuze’s sense, is all that any particular state of affairs can be – or can become, which in this context amounts to the same thing.* It’s the full range of a process’ motion, existence, changeability. All that a process can do, all that it can become.

* Being is sometimes becoming.

Action and becoming amount to the same thing too, in this context. What a particular process becomes along any given duration is a small slice of all that it can be. Most processes don’t come near approaching anywhere close to becoming all that it has the potential for.

But that’s fine. What matters for practical philosophy is understanding the potential. That’s the core concept at the centre of how I’m analyzing politics in the extended research for this manuscript Utopias – what are the potentials for human communities, provided we actually all act according to our greatest potentials.

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