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explores the ways that mathematics functions as the organizing mechanism the three chaoids (philosophy, science, and art) as presented in What is Philosophy? by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. I postulate that philosophy can be correlated with “nomadic” science, with problematics, and thus creates planes of immanence out of chaos, while science correlates with “royal” science, axiomatics, and creates planes of reference. Art begins with axiomatics, then covers it with problematics, creating a new dimensional space: the plane of composition. Further, I propose that phenomenal reality is created out of the incessant shuttle of translation between the three planes by the mind/brain, either through a top-down or a bottom-up approach. Neither approach is reciprocal, since the starting point modifies what and were the end point will be. The three chaoids are equivalent, but not reducible one to another. This paper will focus less on the specific characteristics of the three chaoids as it will inquire into the connective links between them, illuminating that which separates the chaoids into distinct parts and at the same time allows them to
interact with one another in the arena of thought. The mechanism by which the chaoids move and create order out of chaos is mathematics, not solely in its common use on manipulating numbers, but also in its linguistic function. The primary tension in What is Philosophy? is between philosophy and science, between concept and function. The difference between the two can be found as the difference between the two types of mathematics as explained by Daniel W. Smith: . . .the ontology of mathematics is not reducible to axiomatics, but must be understood much more broadly in terms of the complex tension between axiomatics and what he [Deleuze] calls “problematics.” Deleuze assimilates axiomatics to “major” or “royal” science, . . . which constantly attempts to effect a reduction or repression of the problematic pole of mathematics, itself wedded to a “minor” or “nomadic” conception of science. (412) Thus, what Deleuze and Guattari refer to as “science” is not so much science as used in common parlance, but rather “royal” science, axiomatics or theorematics, which offsets a philosophy which corresponds with the “nomadic” science, problematics. The two poles of mathematics can never be reconciled, since they approach chaos from utterly opposite ways. Axiomatics, or science, “relinquishes the infinite, infinite speed, in order to gain a reference able to actualize the virtual” (Deleuze and Guattari 118, italics in original). Problematics, or philosophy, on the other hand, retains the
infinite and “gives consistency to the virtual through concepts” (ibid). Smith concurs, saying: “In the ‘minor’ geometry of problematics, figures are inseparable from their inherent variations, affections, and events; the aim of ‘major’ theorematics, by contrast, is ‘to uproot variables from their state of continuous variation in order to extract from them fixed points and constant relations’” (416). Problematics deals in change, while science desires to slow change down so that points of reference may be calculated. Since the two approaches have different methods and goals with regard to chaos, to change, they can never parallel each other, though they are capable of intersecting, interacting, and influencing each other. The interaction between problematics and axiomatics is enacted upon the field of mathematic logic, what Simon Duffy terms “the logic of the calculus of problems” (565). It is not calculus as such, nor even mathematical problems per se, which are at stake here, but rather the interactions within calculus which can be imposed upon the interaction of the chaoids in What is Philosophy?. Duffy continues to say that this logic “is not simply characteristic of the relative difference between Royal and nomadic science . . . It is rather characteristic of the very logic of the generation of each mathematical problematic itself” (ibid). While it is clear that there are inherent differences between philosophy and science, between problematics and axiomatics, it is not their differences with which this calculus is primarily concerned. It focuses, instead, with the creation of the actual out of the
virtual, and on the inevitable reversion of the actual to the virtual. It is concerned, in short, with creation from chaos. A brief explanation of chaos as conceptualized by Deleuze and Guattari here is useful, since the nature of chaos can by no means be assumed. In What is Philosophy? they state: Chaos is defined not so much by its disorder as by the infinite speed with which every form taking shape in it vanishes. It is a void that is not a nothingness but a virtual, containing all possible particles and drawing out all possible forms, which spring up only to disappear immediately, without consistency or reference, without consequence. Chaos is an infinite speed of birth and disappearance. (118, italics in original) Hence, what characterizes chaos is infinite speed and infinite possibility, pure change. According to Deleuze and Guattari, “chaos has three daughters, depending on the plane that cuts through it: these are the Chaoids – art, science, and philosophy – as forms of thought or creation” (208, italics in original). The chaoids, for all that they provide us with ordered reality, are not easily controlled: “Philosophy, science, and art want us to tear open the firmament and plunge into the chaos” (202). Mathematics is what keeps the chaoids from dissolving our thoughts in the chaos of reality, by placing a system of checks and balances upon their operations and by providing them a mechanism with which to move from chaos to order.
This is why Deleuze and Guattari specifically give the term “chaoids” to philosophy, science, and art, because the three desire chaos, are born of chaos, and yet they enter chaos to bring back order, manipulate the fabric of potential to create the actual: “They are the three planes, the rafts on which the brain plunges into and confronts chaos” (ibid 210). All three chaoids derive meaning and order from chaos in different ways, as mandated by the mathematic system which models them. It is the virtual which the chaoids seek to express: by keeping infinite speed in the form of absolute survey to give the virtual consistency, by actualizing the virtual through limiting the infinite, or by manipulating the limits of the actual to extract the sensations of the virtual – philosophy, science, and art. When confronting chaos, the virtual which the chaoids seek to act upon is called the event. The event holds within it both a problem and a solution, and as all possibilities are contained within chaos, so too is the multiplicity of events drawn from chaotic possibility. As Bent Sorensen says: “The problem appears as a real multiplicity by being produced as a problematic; the problem becomes an event” (125-126). Thus, what first approaches and captures the event is philosophy as problematics. Deleuze and Guattari concur, saying: “It is a concept that apprehends the event, its becoming, its inseparable variations” (158, italics in original). The concept, a purely philosophical tool, first grasps the problem that is the event within chaos, and with the problem it must grasp the solution, since the two are twinned. Sorenson continues to say that “at the same time as the solution is
inscribed in the actual event of the problem, the relevant problem to which it ‘is a solution,’ must be counteractualized into its virtual phase, in a perpetual state of becoming, that is, becoming actualized” (126, italics in original). The problem as event is always already virtual, and any solution to the problem, be it in the form of concept, function, or aesthetic construction, necessarily presupposes the actualized problem and re-inscribes the problem in the virtual. This is why events are always “becoming” and never “are.” An event cannot be actualized without retaining recourse to the infinite, the virtual. Even in the actualization of an event through states of affairs, the function in science, the event maintains a virtuality which eludes capture by functions. As Deleuze and Guattari put it: “No doubt, the event is not only made up from inseparable variations, it is itself inseparable from the state of affairs, bodies, and lived reality in which it is actualized or brought about. But we can also say the converse: the state of affairs is no more separable from the event that nonetheless goes beyond its actualization in every respect” (159). Philosophy may “speak the event,” but science actualizes the event through states of affairs, and both are necessary for the event to be drawn from chaos (ibid 21). In its need to actualize the event, however, science is actually attempting to destroy the event, to sever it from its connection to the infinite, to grasp it whole and thus make it “be.” Science cannot apprehend becomings.
Here we must turn again to mathematics to see how philosophy and science interact to effectuate the event. Smith argues that: . . . mathematics is replete with events, to which he [Deleuze] grants full ontological status, even if their status is ungrounded and problematic; multiplicities in the Deleuzian sense are themselves constituted by events. In turn, axiomatics, by its very nature, necessarily selects against and eliminates events in its effort to introduce “rigor” into mathematics and to establish its foundations. (413) We can see how philosophy, operating as problematics, can apprehend the event, while axiomatic science struggles with the event. Problematics grasps the event, the problem, and creates a solution. In creating a solution, however, the problem is thrown back into virtuality, into chaos, and a new event arises to fuel philosophy’s movement. Axiomatics, on the other hand, attempts to wrest the event whole from chaos, to embody it within a state of affairs, to reign it in with functions, and in so doing to remove from the event that which makes it the event – the virtual problem in the first place. Axiomatics is primarily concerned with solutions, and problematics primarily with the problems, though both encounter the event whole. Smith goes on to say that “problematics and axiomatics (minor and major science) together constitute a single ontological field of interaction, with the latter perpetually effecting a repression – or more accurately, an
arithmetic conversion – of the former” (414). The phenomenal reality of an event necessitates both branches of mathematics, both philosophy and science, since without embodiment the event cannot appear. But it is also here that mathematics transcends mere numerical manipulation and enters the linguistic register. It is the translation of the event from problematics to axiomatics and back again which allows our apprehension of the event. Deleuze and Guattari concur, saying: “The task of philosophy when it creates concepts, entities, is always to extract an event from things and beings . . . space, time, matter, thought, the possible as events” (33). Axiomatics embodies the event in “things and beings,” and philosophy in turn disembodies the event and places it back within the virtual. It is the translation, the constant shuttle between science and philosophy, which creates change, movement. The path between embodiment and the virtual does not remain the same coming up as it is going down. Here enters the difference between differential and integral calculus within the logic of the differential calculus of problems. Simon Duffy explains the mathematic difference as follows: “The differential calculus consists of two branches which are inverse operations: differential calculus, which is concerned with calculating derivatives, or, in Leibnizian terms, differential relations or quotients; and integral calculus, which is concerned with integration, or the calculation of the infinite sum of the differentials in the form of series” (566). The differential calculus thus contains two approaches: differential calculus, or axiomatics, and integral
calculus, or problematics. Though both are contained within the calculus, the difference is crucial – it is the difference between a top-down or a bottom-up approach, and the starting point determines the outcome. Placing the difference between integration and differentiation back into the context of What is Philosophy?, we see how the paths between the virtual and the actual alter their shape depending on the approach, and how science and philosophy modify each other: Science passes from chaotic virtuality to the states of affairs and bodies that actualize it. However, it is inspired less by the concern for unification in an ordered actual system than by a desire not to distance itself too much from chaos, to seek out potentials in order to seize and carry off a part of that which haunts it, the secret of the chaos behind it, the pressure of the virtual. Now, if we go back up in the opposite direction, from states of affairs to the virtual, the line is not the same because it is not the same virtual (we can go down it as well without it merging with the previous line). The virtual is no longer the chaotic virtual but rather virtuality that has become consistent, that has become an entity formed on a plane of immanence that sections the chaos. This is what we call the event, or the part that eludes its own actualization in everything that happens. (155-156, italics in original).
The path of science is the path of differential calculus, of embodying the virtual in states of affairs, of incessantly calculating derivatives in order to impose reason on chaos. To move back from this place, from embodiment back to the virtual, from science to philosophy, however, takes us back not to the original chaotic virtuality from which science calculated the differential, but rather to a new virtuality, a virtuality ordered by integral calculus. The creation of the differential comes at the price of creating the integral. The path is never the same twice – chaotic virtuality is lost in the mathematical operation as translation. We must not forget, however, that even in the actualization of the virtual through functions and bodies, there is always a part of the virtual which resists embodiment. The event cannot be separated from its virtuality, from its continual becomings. As Smith points out, “in the calculus, the differential is by nature problematic, it constitutes ‘the internal character of the problem as such,’ which is precisely why it must disappear in the result or solution. On the other hand, . . . the differential provides him [Deleuze] with a mathematical symbolism of the problematic form of pure change” (426, italics in original). Even though the differential functions in science as a way to embody the virtual, the form of the differential itself speaks to the virtual which cannot be contained by it. The form of the differential, or, to slip into the linguistic register, the sign of the differential, is problematic, and as such points to the virtual, to the event which it cannot through its function apprehend.
The differential is the sign of the virtual, which is how Deleuze and Guattari can say that “science is paradigmatic, whereas philosophy is syntagmatic” (124, italics in original). Science looks to the meaning, the solution within the differential, and so misses the event, the becoming, which is immanent to the sign of the differential and which is acted upon by philosophy. As Smith argues, “one might say that while ‘progress’ can be made at the level of theorematics and axiomatics, all ‘becoming’ occurs at the level of problematics” (424). Science can certainly lay claim to progress, insofar as progress consists of creating solutions to more and more problems. The problems themselves, however, their becomings, cannot be truly addressed by science. It is the arena of problematics, of philosophy, which is capable of dealing with events in their virtuality, in their constant flux. Science and philosophy clearly operate in different ways. They both, however, operate upon the same thing: both delve into chaos to create order through mathematics. But as Deleuze and Guattari say, “when an object – a geometrical space, for example – is scientifically constructed by functions, its philosophical concept, which is by no means given in the function, must still be discovered” (117, italics mine). The operations of a scientific function cannot lead us to the philosophical concept which is operating in dialogue with the function. The very fact that such a function exists, however, its very form, points to a problematic behind its construction. This is why Smith suggests that “axiomatics is a foundational but secondary enterprise in
mathematics, dependent for its very existence on problematics” (422). Although this line of reasoning is persuasive, we must nonetheless remember that the event, the problem, cannot remain only a virtuality, but must be embodied in states of affairs. Moving from science to philosophy suggests that the philosophical concept appears prior to the scientific function, but moving in the opposite direction suggests that the concept is merely derived from the function. Deleuze and Guattari explain this tangle, claiming that “nonphilosophy is found where the plane [of immanence] confronts chaos. Philosophy needs a nonphilosophy that comprehends it; it needs a nonphilosophical comprehension just as art needs nonart and science needs nonscience” (218, italics in original). Each chaoid requires the existence of the other two in order to function: “The three planes, along with their elements, are irreducible” (ibid 216). The three inform each other, though none can work in parallel with another. Each chaoid is equal to the others; none can appear first or work better, since the three are equally dependent on each other and equally distinct from each other. The need of one chaoid for another refers us back to the necessity of translation posited earlier. Smith acknowledges this need, stating that “what is crucial in the interaction between the two poles [axiomatics and problematics] are thus the processes of translation that take place between them” (423). The translation between the chaoids occurs in the brain, at the level of thought: “The brain is the junction – not the unity – of the three planes” (Deleuze and Guattari 208, italics in original). It is crucial to
recognize that the chaoids are never unified, not even when translated and communicated within thought. Rather, they intersect, relate, and inform each other within the space of thought, within the brain. As Sorensen claims: “Thinking itself is a practice that is able to produce the plane of immanence, just as science and art are . . . The infinite movement of thought makes it capable of traversing vast distances and multiple flows in a single flash, and as a practice thinking draws a plane that maps these distances and these flows” (127). Although the planes which philosophy, science, and art draw are different, all three planes are used by thought to cut the chaos and create order. Thus far my discussion has been mostly limited to the interaction between science and philosophy, between axiomatics and problematics. The third chaoid, art, has been intentionally placed to one side, because while the mathematical interaction between science and philosophy is relatively clear, the inclusion of art carries with it the potential to muddy the waters. Smith, however, provides us with a rather oblique point of entry for art: “Even in mathematics, the movement from a problem to its solutions constitutes a process of actualization; though formally distinct, there is no ontological separation between these two instances” (432). We have already seen how philosophy and science deal with the problem event and its solution(s). Art enters the scene between philosophy and science, in the “process of actualization.” Since all three chaoids must confront chaos to bring order, and since all three are by nature distinct, each has its own
method for dealing with the virtual and the actual. Philosophy creates a plane of immanence, science creates a plane of reference, and art creates a plane of composition. This is how Deleuze and Guattari define art: “Composition, composition is the sole definition of art. Composition is aesthetic, and what is not composed is not a work of art” (191). Art draws from axiomatics and problematics, but is not either – it is the composition of elements from the two poles. Art as composition must be distinguished from the kind of composition which science creates. Art is not the construction of functions or equations, though it may borrow from or be built upon just such an axiomatic foundation. Deleuze and Guattari claim emphatically that “technical composition, the work of the material that often calls on science . . . is not to be confused with aesthetic composition, which is the work of sensation. Only the latter fully deserves the name composition, and a work of art is never produced by or for the sake of technique” (191-192, italics in original). Composition includes technique, but is never simply reducible to technique. Art also borrows from philosophy, in that it interacts with a becoming, with an event. Deleuze and Guattari explain the difference between conceptual becoming and aesthetic becoming by saying that “there are sensations of concepts and concepts of sensations. It is not the same becoming. Sensory becoming is the action by which something or someone is ceaselessly becoming-other (while continuing to be what they are) . . .
whereas conceptual becoming is the action by which the common event itself eludes what is” (177). For the concept, the event escapes actualization, even escapes itself. For art, on the other hand, the event is constantly composed in such a way that it becomes other, that is, it is composed so that it presents itself and presents an other, simultaneously. Art deals with the event as self and other, as two contrasts welded into one sensation, and as such, it uses both axiomatics and problematics in its composition. This use of both branches of mathematics is directly addressed by Deleuze and Guattari: “Abstract art, and then conceptual art, directly pose the question that haunts all painting – that of its relation to the concept and the function” (183). Although art is neither a concept nor a function, both are necessary starting points for art to be realized. The primary role of art is to withdraw sensation from chaos, and though art may use axiomatics or problematics as a starting point, it goes beyond the capabilities of either branch of mathematics alone. This is clear when Deleuze and Guattari say: “Art enjoys a semblance of transcendence that is expressed not in a thing to be represented but in the paradigmatic character of projection and in the ‘symbolic’ character of perspective” (193). Art borrows from the paradigmatic nature of science and the syntagmatic nature of philosophy to compose something which is greater than the sum of its parts, to give sensation to the event. Just as the event needs philosophy
to give it meaning and science to give it form, so too does it need art to give it sensation. Also like philosophy and science, art must go through a series of translations to produce sensation. Deleuze and Guattari explain this aesthetic translation process, saying: On this plane of composition, as on ‘an abstract vectorial space,’ geometrical figures are laid out – cone, prism, dihedron, simple plane – which are no more than cosmic forces capable of merging, being transformed, confronting each other, and alternating . . . The planes must now be taken apart in order to relate them to their intervals rather than to one another and in order to create new affects. (187) The interaction between problematics and axiomatics, the form and meaning of mathematical shapes and functions, is dismantled by art, rearranged, and translated into an aesthetic form. Not only is art translating science and philosophy, it is translating itself, changing the form and meaning of a cube into the form and meaning of say, a room, which itself takes on the form and meaning of something else within the context of the artwork. Art, then, operates under the same guidelines as both science and philosophy. It is still modeled upon mathematics, even if secondhand. If art is to be found in mathematics pure, however, Smith may provide an avenue: “Transfinites and infinitesimals are two types of infinite number, which characterize degrees of infinity in different fashions” (422). Transfinites and
infinitesimals are always becoming-others: they are both infinite and notinfinite. To a person untrained in mathematics, they can even provide sensation, if only the sensation of vertigo. The relationship between art and infinity is as unique to art as the respective relationships between philosophy and science are to infinity. Deleuze and Guattari explain the respective relationships by stating that “philosophy wants to save the infinite by giving it consistency . . . Science, on the other hand, relinquishes the infinite in order to gain reference” (197). Art, in its turn, “wants to create the finite that restores the infinite” (ibid). Each chaoid acts upon infinity, upon virtuality, upon chaos, to shape something orderly. Philosophy clings to the infinite, science creates the finite, and art moves through both to create something finite which captures an infinity: “Even if the material lasts for only a few seconds it will give sensation the power to exist and be preserved in itself in the eternity that coexists with this short duration” (ibid 166, italics in original). There is a degree of infinity inherent in every piece of art, even in a short series of musical notes. For the space of the duration of the composed material, the sensation extracted from chaos exists infinitely. Creating the infinite within the finite is the work of art. Creation drawn from the infinity of chaos is what characterizes thought across all three planes of philosophy, science, and art. Deleuze and Guattari sum the relationship between the three chaoids, saying:
The three thoughts intersect and intertwine but without synthesis or identification. With its concepts, philosophy brings forth events. Art erects monuments with its sensations. Science constructs states of affairs with its functions. A rich tissue of correspondences can be established between the planes. But the network has its culminating points, where sensation itself becomes sensation of concept or function, where the concept becomes concept of function or of sensation, and where the function becomes function of sensation or concept. (198-199) The threads which hold the three planes together are the threads of mathematics, of mathematics as problematics, as axiomatics, as infinite numbers. The suture points where the chaoids intersect one another are the points where form, meaning, and sensation come together in the mathematical narrative of the mind. Equivalent, but separate, philosophy, science, and art move us though chaos and into ordered, phenomenal, reality.
Works Cited Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari. What is Philosophy?. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994. Print. Duffy, Simon. “The Role of Mathematics in Deleuze’s Critical Engagement with Hegel.” International Journal of Philosophical Studies 17.4 (2009): 563-582. Print. Smith, Daniel W. “ Mathematics and the Theory of Multiplicities: Badiou and Deleuze Revisited.” The Southern Journal of Philosophy 41 (2003): 411-449. Print.
Sorensen, Bent Meier. “Immaculate Defecation: Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari in Organization Theory.” The Sociological Review 53 (2005): 120-133. Print.