The Obstacle and The Way

I was going to write on something else, what I have to say about Gabriel Tarde and Guy Debord, and to get the recaps on the ADDA 2 conference done, sooner than later, but then I got some bad news. Well, not really bad news. I didn’t mind, really. Happens. It actually led me to read something that I wanted to comment on, so I’ll do that here.

So, as a backstory (a very long one, so feel free to skip ahead, to the marker I’ve set up later on … search for MARKER), I sent a manuscript to a journal, something like over a year ago. It went through four revisions, three months apart on average. Late last year, the reviewers were happy with it, giving me feedback on minor things, to make just a bit tighter. Woohoo! That was all fine, well and good, and I agreed with them. Job well done, eh? Not so fast! Hold on, sonny boy!

For reasons unknown, I can only guess, the editors weren’t happy with my work. They wanted major changes, despite the reviewers being fine with the text, you know, pending certain changes, brushing up things, here and there, the usual. Now, of course, I had the luxury to choose between making major changes or making major changes, whatever they wanted, so I made major changes, the best I could, juggling with the content, taking out some content, to make room for the further additions. It took about five months to get more feedback, which revolved around being concerned about the complexity of the theory. Despite, probably, doing disservice to the text, I made it slightly lighter, swapping certain tougher concepts with lighter ones, just so that it would hopefully be more accessible to the reader. Some days ago I got this unnecessarily apologetic email about how, despite all the efforts that went into this, the editors decided to reject it. Apparently the theory was still too heavy for the reader. I took that to be the issue.

There also this other issue. Well, supposedly anyway. I mean this wasn’t an issue when the reviewers were just fine with the manuscript months ago, so it’s super cool that you, the editors, bring this up for a reason for rejection in the end. That only makes sense. Anyway, the issue was that they thought that my findings didn’t match the concern about arts and crafts in the Finnish education system. Right. I mean, this manuscript has to do with visual multimodality, about the modes of writing and image, with emphasis on students and teachers. It’s pretty obvious that the findings pertain to arts and crafts. I mean I even specifically contrast the use of the two modes in arts track classrooms and non-arts track classrooms. The actual … now? I also reflect on this in relation to ‘Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design’ by Gunther Kress and Theo van Leeuwen where the use of writing and images is explicitly addressed, on page 16 (2006 second edition), the page I explicitly refer to, against the common sloppy academic practice of just referring to an article or, better yet, a whole book, because, you know, unlike others, I like to be as transparent as possible about these things. I also included information from prior research, which is, unfortunately, very hard to find, because there’s hardly any arts and crafts related educational research that deals with the Finnish educational system. That’s what the studies that I found actually point out. I pointed that out in response to the reviewer who wanted me to look into prior research on this. Anyway, that should also make it obvious how this is about arts and crafts in the Finnish educational system. I mean what else could it be about?

For me, this a matter of focus, what it is that I want to accomplish, what questions do I ask. There’s no right questions nor wrong questions to ask. Henri Bergson (58) explains the matter of questions and answers, how positing the questions more or less gives you the answer, in ‘The Creative Mind:

“[I]t is a question of finding the problem and consequently of positing it, even more than of solving it. For a speculative problem is solved as soon as it is properly stated.”

In other words, the answer to your question is conditioned by that question, the solution to your problem is conditioned by that problem. So, once you properly posit a problem or come up with a question, you can only find what you seek, inasmuch as you do of course, not something else. So, when I ask the question of what educational discourses are manifested a landscape, I can only answer x, y and/or z educational discourses are manifested in the landscape, or none, if none are manifested. See, the answer is built into the question! If I were to answer that question by stating that x, y and/or z health and safety discourses are manifested in the landscape, then I’d answering the wrong question, an interesting question in its own right but the wrong question nonetheless.

What I just explained is what I tell my students when they struggle with research, when they wonder what it is they should look into and how they should state that in the form of research questions. I just tell them what Bergson states in ‘The Creative Mind’, to make note of how you invent the question or the problem, which you then seek to address. The addressing part does require effort, sure, but as long as you put in the effort, you can’t … it up, because it’s your invention, your question you answer, your problem that you solve, and the answer or the solution is always, always conditioned by the question or the problem. As Bergson (58) points out, this is not like when you were at school, when you had a book with questions that you answered by filling in the missing bits and then you checked if your answer was correct and corrected it if it wasn’t.

For me, this other issue was just a non-issue. The actual issue had to do with theory. As it was pointed out to me in a conversation after I read the rejection message, either the theory doesn’t work, which I doubt, considering how I’ve applied the same framework twice already and got good feedback on it, or the readers just don’t understand the theory, or, well, can’t be bothered to do any additional reading that might help them understand it. This is apparent (note how I keep using this word, how something is apparent, how something appears to be) in the feedback where the reviewers and editors fail to grasp what apparition is. I realize that it is uncommon to approach things via apparition, you don’t even need to read what I’ve read because you only need to look the word in a dictionary.

So, let me educate you, for a moment. This has to do with appearance and apparition. The former has to do with the description, what something looks like (to put this in ocularcentrist terms), whereas the latter has to do with how something came to being, what are its conditions and possibilities to exist, as experienced by us. That’s a massive difference and changes the game completely. You might not believe me, so let’s look it up in a dictionary, in this case the Oxford English Dictionary (OED, s.v. “apparition”, n.):

“The action of appearing or becoming visible.”

Whereas appearance is (OED, s.v. “appearance”, n.):

“The action or state of appearing or seeming to be (to eyes or mind); semblance; looking like. to all appearance: so far as appears to anyone.”


“The state or form in which a person or thing appears; apparent form, look, aspect.”


“The general aspect of circumstances or events; the ‘look’ of things.”

So, as I just summarized, apparition has to do with becoming, how something comes to appear, the way it does, inasmuch as it does. Appearance, in turn, has to do with how whatever has come to being looks (to put this in ocularcentrist terms). For many, the problem is that this nuance between the two is generally not grasped well and the words tend to be used interchangeably, as the dictionary definitions do point out. I’m not a member of the language police, so I won’t go saying that it’s wrong use them interchangeably. What I am saying is that I’m using them in senses that are distinct from one another. Why? Well, this can be explained in multiple ways but let’s look up the definition of discourse that I tend to rely on (for this very reason, mind you). Right, Michel Foucault (49) defines discourse in ‘The Archaeology of Knowledge’:

“[P]ractices that systematically form the objects of which they speak.”

Pay attention to how he isn’t saying that discourses are practices that refer to the objects of which we speak. What he is saying is that the objects of which we speak are formed by practices. Note also how these practices are systematic. Perhaps that’s a pleonasm, to call practices systematic, considering how, at least for me, a practice is always something that is established, shared, communal, done multiple times, habitually, if you will, you know, systematically. Then again, explicitly indicating that it’s systematic puts emphasis on it, as opposed to being just whimsical (which it is not).

To make more sense of this, as I attempted in one of the manuscript versions, we can explain this the way Immanuel Kant (A249-A250) explains it in ‘Critique of Pure Reason’, when he distinguishes between phenomena and noumena. The former has to do with apparition, how things come to appear to us as sensible (as seen if we continue to explain this in ocularcentrist terms), inasmuch as they do, of course, whereas the latter has to do with the things in themselves, the way they actually are. Now, this does not mean that the things we are sensing (or looking at) do not have appearance. They do. However, the point with Kant is that we can’t get to the bottom of things. What we have instead are representations of the things. This means that we cannot access reality directly. This also means that when we examine something, whatever it might be, we can never really know if it is the way it is, maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, hence the problem. Note how for Kant it can be intuited that there are these real things, things in themselves, but we just can’t get to them, so we are left to dabble with the world through representations, through appearances, the way the things look to us (to explain this in ocularcentrist terms again).

I’ve explained this before, but I’ll do it again here, where it is relevant again. Gilles Deleuze elaborates this particularly lucidly in a transcript of his lecture on Kant titled ‘Synthesis and Time’, dated March 14, 1978. He first explains how things were before Kant:

“Previously philosophers spoke of phenomenon to distinguish what? Very broadly we can say that phenomenon was something like appearance. An appearance. The sensible, the a posteriori, what was given in experience had the status of phenomenon or appearance, and the sensible appearance was opposed to the intelligible essence.”

In other words, before Kant, what we had was phenomena and noumena, but they were understood as appearance and essence. Deleuze continues:

“The intelligible essence was also the thing such as it is in itself, it was the thing in itself, the thing itself or the thing as thought; the thing as thought, as phenomenon, is a Greek word which precisely designates the appearance or something we don’t know yet, the thing as thought in Greek was the noumenon, which means the ‘thought’.”

I could not explain this better. So, again, back in the day, phenomena had to do with the sensible appearance, whereas the noumena had to do with the thing in itself, the thought, the idea. This is basic Platonism, as Deleuze goes on to point out:

“I can thus say that the whole of classical philosophy from Plato onwards seemed to develop itself within the frame of a duality between sensible appearances and intelligible essences.”

Deleuze adds that what we get from this is a duality in which the phenomena are thus whatever me might call subjective whereas the noumena are whatever we might call objective. Simply put, you are living a lie and reality is only reachable in thought, or so to speak. Again, basic Platonism. In his words:

“A fundamental defect, namely: appearance is in the end the thing such as it appears to me by virtue of my subjective constitution which deforms it.”

This is not, however, the way Kant explains the duality of phenomena and noumena. I’ll let Deleuze explain this:

“[T]he phenomenon will no longer at all be appearance.”


“[T]he phenomenon is no longer defined as appearance but as apparition.”

The consequences are massive, which may be why my dear readers probably struggle with apparition whenever I use it. In Deleuze’s words:

“The difference is enormous because when I say the word apparition I am no longer saying appearance at all, I am no longer at all opposing it to essence. The apparition is what appears in so far as it appears. Full stop. I don’t ask myself if there is something behind, I don’t ask myself if it is false or not false.”

Why do I not ask myself if it is true or false? Well, because, for Kant, you can’t get to the noumena, to the things-in-themselves, the ideas, because you can only think of them. What do we do instead? Do we opt to wail in agony over the futility of dealing with reality? No. Deleuze states that we need to redefine what is that we can do:

“[W]hat can we say about the fact of appearing?”

In contrast to dealing with appearance (which is pointless, mind you, because what you want to do instead is to engage in thought, according to Plato anyway), we do something completely different. Deleuze puts it concisely:

“The apparition is very different, it’s something that refers to the conditions of what appears.”

To get to the point, Deleuze states that:

“We will seek the conditions of [the] apparition [of the phenomenon].”

To better explain this, before Kant, the Platonist deals with a disjunction of appearance/essence. Following Kant, we deal with a conjunction of apparition/conditions of apparition. So, in short, when we engage with phenomena, things, objects, whatever they might be, we do not attempt to get to the bottom of things, to explain how things really are as noumena. Instead, we simply focus on the phenomena, the things, the objects, whatever they might be. We ask what are the conditions of the apparition of these phenomena, these things, these objects, whatever it is that we are dealing with.

As I’ve been reading a bit this and that lately, it appeared to me that the way Deleuze explains Kant actually makes me think of what Sextus Empiricus has to say about the Pyrrhonian Skeptic way of dealing with phenomena and noumena, understood as appearances and what is thought or judged (7), in book I of his ‘Outlines of Pyrrhonism’. He (15) states that:

“[W]hen we question whether the underlying object is such as it appears, we grant the fact that it appears, and our doubt does not concern the appearance itself but the account given of that appearance, – and that is a different thing from questioning the appearance itself.”

And (17):

“[N]o one, I suppose, disputes that the underlying object has this or that appearance; the point in dispute is whether the object is in reality such as it appears to be.”

He (15) provides an example:

“[H]oney appears to us to be sweet (and this we grant, for we perceive sweetness through the senses), but whether it is also sweet in its essence is for us a matter of doubt, since this is not an appearance but a judgement regarding the appearance.”

Okay, I wouldn’t say that the way Sextus Empiricus puts this is exactly the same as the way Kant puts it, but they do seem to agree that things are to be addressed on the basis of what appears to be. To be honest, I reckon I have a tendency of expressing things this way, that something appears to be the case, that it is apparent that … or that it is evident that … or that it seems … because I don’t claim to know how things really are. Of course, it could well be that the way things appear is the way they are, but can we know for sure? I don’t think so. Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t. I don’t know and I’m not particularly troubled by that either, so it would appear to be the case that I find myself in agreement with Kant and Sextus Empiricus on this matter.

Also, what I like about both of the formulations is that even though they change the game, what’s what, what it is that one is trying to achieve, there is no doubt involved that things don’t have this or that appearance, that, for example, honey doesn’t taste sweet or that the walls of the room I’m writing this don’t look white. I reckon honey does taste sweet and these walls look white.

To get back to Kant, I reckon his formulation is very handy in this regard but I don’t really follow Kant, nor Sextus Empiricus. The problem with the Kantian reformulation, as great as it is, is that it retains the dualism between things and things in themselves. So, a phenomenon, a thing, an object, let’s say a beer bottle, appears to me as it does, but there is this real beer bottle (or whatever it actually is noumenally), this idea of it. As Deleuze goes on to explain, the subject does not constitute whatever it is that appears to the subject, only the conditions of apparition. So, to give you the full version of the previous quoted bit from Deleuze:

“We will seek the conditions of [the] apparition [of the phenomenon], and in fact the conditions of its apparition are, the categories on one hand and on the other space and time.”

Without going into details, in Kant’s (A369, B129) formulation, the categories, as well as space and time, are tied to the subject. In other words, to investigate the conditions of apparition, we turn inward to the subject. This is sort of fine, in terms of the conditions, but what bothers me is that the duality between things and things in themselves is retained in the background. This bothers me because it’s still like saying that things or objects are the way the are, in some ideal world, with the improvement in the thought process that indicates that we can’t really know the things or the objects the way they really are because we can’t access that ideal world.

This part that still bothers me is explained in Plato’s ‘Parmenides’, where (the characters of) Socrates and Parmenides ponder whether something mundane like hair, mud and filth (dirt) have their own ideas or are ideas limited to something grand like abstract ideas of justice, beauty, goodness and humanity, or elements like fire and water. Parmenides ask these questions, to which Socrates hesitantly answers (9):

“‘No, Parmenides; visible things like these are, as I believe, only what they appear to be: though I am sometimes disposed to imagine that there is nothing without an idea; but I repress any such notion, from a fear of falling into an abyss of nonsense.’”

To paraphrase this, (the character of) Socrates is torn between thinking that everything has an idea, even the mundane things, which then sounds ludicrous to him after giving it a bit of thought, and that only some abstracts have ideas, that is to say that only certain ideas count as ideas, not all sensible entities that one may encounter. Now, if you ask me, it does sound hilarious to assert that hair, mud and dirt have their own ideas, in the sense that they are essences, things in themselves, distinct from one another, in some otherworldly realm that is the true reality because that means that the true reality has this finite yet crazy long list of things. What bothers me about this is that this makes creativity impossible. If that beer bottle is just a mere manifestation of an idea, as is this table, this keyboard, this screen, this floor, this room, then everything is preconfigured. We never invent anything. Now there are, of course, many takes on this, what Plato really thinks as counting as having its own idea, and perhaps he doesn’t think that way, but, then again, for example in ‘Republic’ he does seem to think that mundane things like beds and tables have their own ideas. If they have their own ideas, surely everything else has as well and that’s a nightmare, if you ask me.

To get out of this nightmare, we land on Kant, who, sort of, fixes the issue, but not really. It’s sort of more like sidestepping the issue, bracketing it, eliminating it from consideration, at least for the time being, rather than actually fixing it. Now, to be fair, I’m not saying that Plato is wrong. I think he is, but I have to leave it open that he might be right. I just don’t buy it that he is. The same goes with Kant. I mean damn, I think that’s already quite an improvement in the formulation. I don’t mind it that he leaves it open like that, to be possibly reconsidered later on whenever he manages to do that (which he didn’t, of course, as there is this finiteness to human life). I think you should approach others in good faith, acknowledging that there may have been limitations to what they could achieve.

If you are confused with all this, it’s probably because it can be quite confusing, at least initially. Also, to be fair, we are actually dealing with, pardon the expression, some heavy shit, stuff that has bothered our brightest minds even well before Plato, so if you’ve never really had to challenge your own ways of thinking about things, this can be quite the headache and so your brain will probably tell you not to keep doing it. That is to be expected, really.

So, for Kant the subject is central, albeit not all there is. In short, Kant’s approach is known as transcendental idealism which involves a transcendental subject to which the conditions of apparition are tied to, including space and time, as already noted. We are also still dealing with distinct things, first and foremost. When we compare these things, these identities, the difference is between these things. In other words, the key issue here is that difference is subsidiary to identity. As already explained, the problem here is that everything is just given, to begin with, even mud, hair and dirt, and we just try to make sense of them as they appear to us the way they do, inasmuch as they do, because while we can’t know them for sure, we can intuit that that’s the case, that there are these things in themselves.

Now, what if, what if we do something wild like flip Plato on his head? What if we start from difference, give it primacy, and think it gives rise to identity, as just what happens to be, at any given moment? What we get from that is transcendental empiricism, which you can read more of in Deleuze’s ‘Difference and Repetition’. What’s the difference between the two, between transcendental idealism and transcendental empiricism? Well, if it isn’t something you figured out already, on your own, the key difference, relevant to the discussion at hand, is that the conditions of apparition are no longer simply tied to the subject. What’s outside, or so to speak, is now the key thing here. The starting place is no longer you, the thinking subject. That also means that you are a product of this world, the product of differentiation, just like everyone and everything else. You are still you, don’t get me wrong. You still have your identity. It’s just that your identity is not who you think you are, it’s just immanently who you are, what you’ve become.

This applies to everything, for example the headphones on my table or the tomatoes that I’m eating, right now. They are the way they are, until they are no more, like the tomato that I just digested. The headphones are still headphones but not the same headphones that I bought years ago as they’ve endured a lot of wear and tear. We can, of course, speak of them as the same headphones, but, strictly speaking, they are not, or, rather, they are always in the process of becoming, thus being exactly what they are, as they are, ever so slightly different at all times, until, one day, they are no longer recognized as headphones. This already hints where I’m going with this.

With something like the tomatoes or, better yet, apples, this change is much easier to recognize. Apples are a great example because when you bite a chunk out of an apple, it appears to be an apple that is just missing a piece. It’s like 78 percent of the apple that it used to be, but still an apple. However, give it a rest, leave it on your table for about an hour and you’ll notice that this is not as simple as first having an apple and then having an apple minus a part of the apple. You should be able to notice how the apple has started cave in on itself, as if self-destructing, because oxygen is now penetrating the insides of the apple and causing it to go brown.

Now imagine attempting to explain the same thing with the apple to me, that the apple has either one idea, coupled with the idea of a part of an apple, or a part of thing, or that there’s like 22 percent idea of an apple, coupled with 78 percent idea of an apple (or the like, feel free to change the terms and/or percentages). Now think of the same thing with my worn headphones. Are there ideas that correspond to the minutely different versions of my headphones? The point here is that you end up having to argue that everything has a corresponding transcendent idea, no matter how minute or inconsequential, to the point that it seems like nonsense, which is what troubles Socrates in Plato’s ‘Parmenides’ (9). How about them apples, eh?

None of this really changes things physically, that happens on its own, with or without you, but it radically changes the way you think about things or objects. The obvious major upside here is that we longer deal with some transcendent, otherworldly list of ideas to which everything that exists conforms to. What does this have to do with apparition? Well, for Deleuze and/or Félix Guattari, the things that we deal with are always assembled or machinic, in the sense that things are drawn together, inasmuch as they are, of course, and operate as machines, having their cogs and wheels, within other machines that operate within other machines and in relation to other machines. The human body works this way. Your body is not just this one homogeneous entity, like molded foam or something.

Part of this is also linguistic or semiotic. Comedian Sean Lock made an astute observation about the inner workings of language when he wondered out loud “At what point does a leaflet become a pamphlet?” We could carry on with that, to wonder when it turns into a booklet? Or, to wonder when that turns into a book? What separates a bottle from a vase? The glass? There’s little trouble involved in identifying them by appearance, just by the way they look. Again, no one is doubting their appearance. But what is interesting, at least to me, is not that a bottle appears to look like, you know, a bottle, and vase appears to look like, you know, a vase, even though nothing prevents you from using them interchangeably, if that’s what you are into, but the conditions that make us treat them the way we do, as bottles or as vases, as leaflets, as pamphlets, as booklets or as books. We can, of course, fall back on Plato on this and state that all these things are the way they are and we recognize them as such as they are representations of certain ideas, but, for some reason I’m not buying into that.

So, this leads us back to Foucault’s definition of discourse (skip back quite a bit), how it has to do with not how we just sense things or objects as this or that and then call them this or that, but how we come to form them through practice. It’s worth emphasizing that while it’s thus certainly creative (as there’s no pre-existing otherwordly list of items for us to refer) it’s also systematic. In other words, the way we form objects or things is not whimsical. There has to be some tacit agreement. I can call a bottle a vase but it doesn’t make it a vase, even though I can certainly make use of a bottle as a vase. In borderline cases that might actually be fine, but that leads us to the question of what are the conditions of the bottle appearing to me and/or you as a vase? See! See! This is what I’m after with apparition.

Now, I would argue that it’s not just the glass, but yes, it has to do with the glass (or plastic, but who uses plastic vases?). There’s something about the form of the glass, the way it is shaped and how we’ve come to agree on what to call a vase and not a bottle. Of course, it’s not actually we, me and you (the reader), who’ve come to an agreement on this. That has happened way before and something tells me that people didn’t actually have some formal meeting about it, nor keep a record about it. As a side note, this is the point Deleuze and Guattari make about being in the middle of things. Anyway, at times some language police bureau attempts to provide us with words that we should use for this and/or that, only to fail miserably as people just ignore them and use some supposedly god-awful word instead. It’s like how I think of all rice pasties as Karelian pasties regardless of what it says on the labeling. We could say the same thing about how some authority, piece of legislation or government decree attempts to define the shape of something, how something should look or the like, only to have people complete ignore it.

Right, to further complicate this, to assess the conditions that make something appear as it does, inasmuch as it does, we may have to assess those conditions, what makes them appear to us the way they do, inasmuch as they do. So, what makes something made out of glass to appear to us a vase and not a bottle thus also requires us to assess what it is that makes glass appear to us the way it does so that we recognize it as such. Do I still need to explain what apparition is about?

To be fair to the editors, I reckon I could have done a better job at explaining things. Granted. I think things could always be better, at least in retrospect. That said, explaining complex things isn’t simple and simplifying something complex tends to be rather counterproductive. A typical article is something like, what, 7000 to 8000 words, give or take, all inclusive. Now, to address something complex like apparition may involve quite a bit of elaboration, unless I can take it for granted that people know what I’m on about, which I tend to doubt, considering the feedback I tend to get on theory.

In this essay, so far, I’ve explained that one concept for about six pages (single spaced), which is some 4000 words. Of course there’s a bit of froth in that, considering that my essays aren’t exactly the tightest pieces of writing. Nonetheless, I don’t think I manage to do justice to the complexity of the issue in six pages, no matter how tight I make it. Now, let’s assume that I manage to do that in 4000 words. Okay, that means that I’m left with 3000 to 4000 words to explain everything else, including the introduction and conclusion which typically just repeat bits discussed elsewhere in an article. In addition, because articles are typically all inclusive, the list of references is considered part of the word count. Well guess what! Guess whose first article has a list of references that is nine pages long (single spaced) or roughly 3000 words! So, looking at this from that angle, if the typical article is 7000 to 8000 words, I’m left with 4000 to 5000 words to explain everything. What was it that I was supposed to do again, research, have some actual analysis and findings? I’m all for that, 100 percent, otherwise I’m just recycling what others have written in the past, at best synthesizing some ideas. Then again, that should not come at the expense of the conceptual framework, otherwise I’m just spewing out some random findings about something random or taking it for granted that everyone knows what the deal is, which I doubt. On top of this, as I attempt to balance these things, to express everything as concisely as possible while being as elaborate and lucid as possible, I get feedback that requires me to further explain things, to unpack some of the concepts more or the like. The thing is that that’s not helpful, at all, considering that I’m left to make the choice as to what to take out to make room for the necessary changes. That means that later on I might run into being told that I must further elaborate on what I took out in the last round of edits, once again not being told what should go instead.

It’s also worth pointing out, reminding you, that this correspondence usually takes months. Simply put, that means that when you take something out and add something else in its place, you must wait for months for some anonymous person to tell you that they’d actually like you to better explain what you took out months ago. I’m actually quite amused when I get a rejection where it’s stated that it’s regrettable that despite the months of efforts that went into the manuscript, it has not resulted in publication. I’m always like, what months of effort? Yours or mine? I most certainly don’t work for months on one manuscript. I mean it’s more like a week, at best. The edits take like a day or two, certainly less than a week, regardless of how major changes are required. Of course it depends how you define a month, a week or a day, what goes into it.

When I write, I’m like a whirlwind. I’m just super productive. I get things done. I just do. I could say something like I take pride in that, but I don’t. Pride is just something that gets in the way of things. It makes you complacent. When I write, I guess it just comes to me. It’s probably because, one way or another, I’m always in the zone, making observations, thinking, kind of like writing, but to myself, so when I actually write, it’s more like I’m just pouring on to a page what I’ve already formulated.

To keep this anecdotal, I just went for a run. It took me like an hour. Good pace, good workout. Uphill, downhill, no hill. Anyway, at the same time I listened to a philosophy podcast, which introduced me to certain ideas, not necessarily something that I’ll use, but it broadened my horizons. Sometimes I learn about a new concept or my mind wanders into make some connection that I hadn’t made before. My point is that I stay ahead because I never stop moving. I don’t work by having set hours. My days make no sense to most people. I’m always up to something, always in the middle of things.

I guess it’s a bit like playing pool or snooker. I constantly think ahead so when I’m about to make a move, I’m already prepared for what comes after that move and when it comes time to make the following move, I’ve already occupied myself with what comes after that. So yeah, I never stop moving. I’m more like just changing the course, the direction, swerving, which means that it’s only likely that I’m way ahead of those who wish to rein me in.

So yeah, I’m always puzzled by the time the process takes. Sure you could say that reading and giving feedback is different, that it takes more time than writing. Nah, no it doesn’t. For example, when I give feedback to my students on their theses, or grade them, I have to read something like 40 to 60 pages, give or take (it used to be between 60 to 80 pages). That takes me a day, something like six hours to be precise, depending on how familiar I am with what the text deals with (I might have to check a couple of extra things). Boom, done, easy! Next! It’s also very productive for me because I get exposed to their work. It allows me to gain more insight on this and/or that, which may come handy later on in some unforeseen context. I don’t look down upon them, thinking that they are mere student works, like that one …er who, on another occasion, went there when commenting my work. I’ll have none of that I’m better than thou crap.

If it was up to me (which it certainly isn’t), I’d take a (figuratively) massive hammer to the inner workings of the academic world. This model where equals acts as judges to others just has to go. It also makes no sense that the correspondence takes forever. I’ve had people respond to my letters abroad, with letters from abroad, much quicker than how people manage this, on a computer, accessible basically anywhere, anytime, these days. Connecting the two, equals acting as judges and the lack of correspondence, there needs to be actual dialogue. It’s not dialogue when you get feedback like change this, this and this, no matter how it is presented, because what’s implied is that if you don’t make the changes, you won’t get published. In other words, the feedback is just one way. Sure, you could attempt to challenge the reviewers and/or the editors, but in practice that’s not an option. I guess you could be bold and brave about it, challenge them, duel them, but the problem is that it’s not a fair fight. It might appear that the odds are in your favor. However, regardless of the outcome, regardless of how convincing you are with your arguments, the other side doesn’t have to concede defeat because they are in a position of authority. You could also point out that it’s all based on supposed authority, not actual authority. They could not point to anyone who could back that claim. God? Yeah, what was it that Deleuze and Guattari say about priests? Anyway, the point is that they could accept the challenge, to see who’s who, but of course they won’t. To be fair, when you have that position of authority which allows you to deny a challenge without looking bad, of course you are going to make use of that. I mean, duh! It only makes sense. It is well within their best interest.

Right, my take is that, in the end (albeit, as I’ve pointed out, nothing ever ends … because we are always in the middle; where is the beginning, where is the end anyway?) the editors just couldn’t understand what I went on about, inasmuch as I did, of course (as I am limited by the word count constraints which means that something that I’d like to include is always missing, no matter what). My work is based on certain presuppositions, certain prephilosophical intuitions that form an image of thought or a plane of immanence which is radically different from the dominant image of thought that the vast majority of people subscribe to. Actually most people don’t even think that they subscribe to any image of thought. For most people everything just is, the way it is. There is no construction for them. I challenge this notion and I’m very open about being opposed to the dominant image of thought, which is also known as Platonism. I damn sure pointed this out in the manuscript, you could not miss it, assuming you read it and understood the point, of course. Anyway, long story short, I’m as anti-Platonist as it gets.

So, what’s the problem then? Well, I’ve explained this in the past, a number of times probably, but I’ll do it again because, apparently, people aren’t getting it. Deleuze and Guattari address this issue in ‘What Is Philosophy?’. As this is a broader issue, not only pertaining to philosophy, I’ll do changes to their text. These will be [marked] accordingly. They (28) elaborate the issue:

“Every [academic] runs away when he or she hears someone say, ‘Let’s discuss this.’ Discussions are fine for roundtable talks[.] … The best one can say about discussions is that they take things no farther[.]”

Exactly! The issue is not that there is no discussion but that there is no actual discussion, no genuine dialogue. No one ever wants to discuss these issues with me. As I pointed out, it’s not actual dialogue to get comments from reviewers because it’s never a level playing field. It’s not an actual discussion because it only works one way. Deleuze and Guattari (28) actually continue, adding this is because:

“… since the participants never talk about the same thing.”

I agree and I’m well aware of this issue. That’s why I try to be explicit about my position and explain what comes with it. However, it’s nearly pointless if the others don’t get it or, more problematically, won’t get it. So, what I’m after is that when you read what I write, here, or in an actual publication, try to step into my shoes, to see the world the way I do, to see whether what I’ve expressed makes sense in its own light. For example, I don’t see eye to eye with people who do phenomenology, but I assess their work and what they’ve accomplished with it in terms of phenomenology. Simply put, I try to understand the work on its own terms. If I were to point to some flaws in it, I wouldn’t just state that this and/or that doesn’t work, unless it fails to function within its own logic. What I’d do instead is to point out that phenomenology has this and/or that shortcomings and hence I don’t subscribe to it as an image of thought. See, that doesn’t mean that the work is bad, unworthy of publishing or the like. I’m also willing to acknowledge that I might be in the wrong when I subscribe to a certain image thought and others may well be in the right when they subscribe to something else. I don’t think their image of thought holds that well but I grant it that it might be just me who is wrong. Anyway, Deleuze and Guattari (27) make note of this very issue:

“Is there one plane that is better than all the others, or problems that dominate all others?”

In other words, how do we know which plane or image of thought is correct one then? Well, simply put, we don’t, at least not for sure. That’s actually beside the point, to wonder whether someone like “Descartes was right or wrong” as “Cartesian concepts can only be assessed as a function of their problems and their plane”, as they (27) point out and exemplify. If you think that there is something familiar about this, it’s because I’ve already sort of covered this issue in this essay. Feel free to go back to the points made by Bergson and you should notice that posing them problem is at the heart of the issue, not whether something is true or false, right or wrong. In their words (27):

“Planes must be constructed and problems posed, just as concepts must be created.”

As a side note, before I continue with this, they (27) add that people who engage with this type of stuff, in their case philosophers, just “have too much to do to know whether [their plane] is the best, or even to bother with this question.” So, to get back on track here, if we can’t know what is correct, nor should we even bother to ask such a pointless question according to Bergson and Deleuze and Guattari, what should we do? For Deleuze and Guattari (27) issue is timely, quite literally so:

“What is the philosophical form of the problems of a particular time? If one concept is ‘better’ than an earlier one, it is because it makes us aware of new variations and unknown resonances, it carries out unforeseen cuttings-out, it brings forth an Even that surveys [survole] us.”

To paraphrase this, as the matter is about intuitions and posing a problem, one is always attempting to trace or come up with a problem and to solve it, to make sense of it. In short, different times, different problems, different solutions. That’s why they (27) state that:

“[I]f earlier concepts were able to prepare a concept but not constitute it, it is because their problem was still trapped within other problems, and their plane did not yet possess its indispensable curvature or movements. And concepts can only be replaced by others if there are new problems and another plane relative to which [something] loses all meaning, the beginning loses all necessity, and the presuppositions lose all difference – or take on others.”

So, to use their (28) examples, if I find Plato, Descartes or Kant out of touch with the times, it is because they are, at least for me (wait a moment, I’ll get to this). Were they out of touch with the times back in the day when they were around? Probably not. But can you still be Platonist, Cartesian or Kantian, or Husserlian (feel free to think of just about anyone) for that matter? According to Deleuze and Guattari (28) you sure can:

“If one can still be a Platonist, Cartesian, or Kantian today, it is because one is justified in thinking that their concepts can be reactivated in our problems and inspire those concepts that need to be created.”

In other words, you sure still can, inasmuch as you can justify it to yourself that their problematics still make sense and help us to grapple with contemporary problems, the problems we face today. As they point out, they might not be of direct use, as such, because, well, they dealt with the problems that bothered them in their time, but they might still be of use if they function as sources of inspiration, if what they did back in the day can be extended or worked into something that is relevant to our current problems. In other words, they can certainly function as points of departure for something new, something wildly different, yet applicable to the problems that are relevant, here and now. Of course, each of these, and others, come with their own baggage, their starting points and the concepts that they created to address certain problems that they encountered during their time, so they might not work that well as points of departure, considering how times have changed and keep changing. That’s, of course, not to say that they can’t function as points of departure. It all depends and it’s up to you to figure if they do or if they don’t.

To get back to the issue of how we deal with the views of others, Deleuze and Guattari (28) are rather pessimistic about the issue, as I already pointed out. It should be evident that they are just fine with just about whatever, inasmuch as it can help us with posing contemporary problems and solving them. In some cases that means going against some of the notable figures, not because one takes issue with them, but because the way they pose certain problems and fix them lead to the problems we face today. Anyway, I’d say they are the exception in this regard. I reckon it’s hard to find people who assess the works of others in good faith, on their own terms, as based on how they pose a problem and how they work to solve it. I think reading others in bad faith is very common, not because people don’t have the time to change planes (they do), but they just don’t want to do otherwise (as they just don’t want to spend their time on something that might undermine them and their achievements because it’s sort of counterproductive for them, undesirable if you will). In their (28) words:

“[W]hen [academics] criticize each other it is on the basis of problems and on a plane that is different from theirs and that melt down the old concepts in the way a cannon can be melted down to make new weapons.”

As I pointed out already, many people act in bad faith. Okay, fair enough, they might not be aware that there are different planes or images of thought, but that’s kind of the issue, why Deleuze is so, so against transcendence, aka Platonism, in any and all of its forms. The problem there is not that you don’t appreciate the Platonic plane, in its own right, with regard to the problems the Greeks dealt with back then (you should be able to grasp this by reading something like Plato’s ‘Parmenides’), but how it comes to function in a way that seeks to eradicate all other ways of thinking, you know, like how priests seek to make sure that heresy won’t crop up. I like how Deleuze and Guattari (28) condense the issue:

“[The criticism] never takes place on the same plane.”

Indeed. This is how I feel when someone criticizes my work. I’m like … so … what you are really saying is that my work sucks (another way of saying that I suck) because I’m not on the ‘right’ plane and don’t ask the ‘right’ questions, the ‘right’ plane being that person’s plane and the ‘right’ questions being the questions that person considers important, as seen important from that person’s plane. This is what puzzles me. Why is it that I’m supposed to ask the questions of someone else, to find solutions to problems posed by someone else, when it is me who is asking the questions, posing the problems and finding solutions to them? Would it not make more sense for others to do the that, on their own? Who is writing here? Me or you? If you want to contribute, why don’t you holla at me? Maybe we could come up with something completely new and interesting! Who knows!

While it might seem to be the case, Deleuze and Guattari (28) note that it’s not fruitless to engage with the works of others, including those who reside on a different plane:

“To criticize is only to establish that a concept vanishes when it is thrust into a new milieu, losing some of its components, or acquiring others that transform it.”

So, when you address the work of someone else who resides on a different plane, that is to say who subscribes to a different image of thought, it is inevitable that the concept is not going to work the way it does on the different plane if you bring it to your plane and assess it on your plane. That’s because the configurations are different. It’s as simple as that. To be positive, that doesn’t meant that borrowing concepts from other planes doesn’t work. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. It depends. For them (28) the problem is rather that:

“But those who criticize without creating, those who are content to defend the vanished concept without being able to it the forces it needs to return to life, are the plague of [academics].”

This is exactly why I don’t like feedback where someone points out that something doesn’t make sense, that it doesn’t work or should be explained better because what the person is really saying is that when the person assesses the work, the concepts used by the person being assessed, that assessing person hasn’t bothered to offer the person being assessed anything of value. If they were up to the task, willing to chip in, to engage in actual dialogue, they’d make note of how they come to this from a different plane and how they’d put it is in this or that way, which would make it more comprehensible to people outside the plane of the person being assessed or the like. That’d be totally fine, just like Deleuze and Guattari point out. That’d be productive. Alas, that’s not how it usually is because people are happy to criticize without creating. They are happy to assert their status over others from their plane. Why? Well, I’ll let Deleuze and Guattari (28-29) explain:

“All these debaters and communicators are inspired by ressentiment. They speak only of themselves when they set empty generalizations against one another.”

In other words, it’s not about what’s what, what’s relevant to the problems posed and solved by others, but about the people involved. This is why I pointed out that I object to critics who act like they are the writers, not the writer who is actually the writer. It’s only apt here, because I referred to (the character of) Socrates earlier on, that Deleuze and Guattari (29) liken these people to him because, if you read how Plato portrays him, he is like opposite of someone who wants to engage in genuine dialogue, like, you know, a friend might. This is because (the character of) Socrates doesn’t give a hoot about the conversation, nor the other people involved. He just wants to assert that he is right. The other people function as conceptual foils for him. They are just there to validate him. That’s why Deleuze and Guattari (29) point out that Socrates completely fails to understand what friendship is by rendering a dialogue into a mere monologue:

“[Socrates] turned the friend into the friend of the single concept, and the concept into the pitiless monologue that eliminates the rivals one by one.”

Yeah, so, as I pointed out, he is just making a point, engaging in a supposed dialogue where the other person basically just nods as it makes no difference whether the other person is saying this or that, agreeing or disagreeing, having something to say or not. Socrates just keeps on talking.

Now, I reckon this is not all a bad thing. This is because there is no guarantee that a dialogue among friends (as the Greeks would have it) will lead to anything. Friends may well be too nice to you, just agree with you and not challenge you. In other words, friends might not make the greatest of interlocutors when it comes to coming up with something new. Now, this does depend on what kind of friends one has and how the relationship is defined, so there’s nothing inherent to friendship that prevents creation. Someone unfamiliar might be better in this regard because they don’t have that existing connection, that desire to stay friends with you that might dissuade them from challenging your views.

That all said, I reckon the problem with (the character of) Socrates is that he has already made up his mind about something. He is just using it to prop up his own beliefs and to show it is he who is in the right. The discussion is thus just a charade. He isn’t interested in what someone else has to say nor changing his mind during a conversation. He is just reasoning his way to his own beliefs.

It’s only apt to point out that ancient Greek for a belief or an opinion is doxa (δόξα). It’s actually also about a common belief or a popular opinion (OED, s.v. “doxa”, n.):

“Opinion or belief; spec. the body of established or unquestioned attitudes or beliefs held generally within a particular society, community, group, etc.”

It is also said that it comes from “the stem of δοκεῖν to seem, to seem good, to think, suppose, imagine”. It’s worth emphasizing that it should not be confused with orthodoxy, which is the right or correct belief or opinion held by a certain group, such a religious group. The thing with doxa is that it is unquestioned, taken for granted, whereas with orthodoxy there is this emphasis of actively upholding it as right or correct. The problem with someone like (the character of) Socrates is that he is not attacking the doxa, challenging it, but actually upholding it or replacing it with another doxa, as Deleuze and Guattari (144-145) go on to point out. They (146) express this particularly well:

“This is clear to see in certain competitions: you must express your opinion, but you ‘win’ (you have spoken the truth) if you say the same as the majority of those participating in the competition.”

This is one of those things that I like to poke fun at when I’m handed a questionnaire or a survey. I’m amused by the expectation to provide correct answers, so, in the past, I’ve asked the person handing out the questionnaire or the survey whether the person wants me to express the truth, to answer correctly, to give answers what the person wants to hear, or whether the person wants to read what I have to say. Anyway, the point here is that you get something out of it, namely popularity, if you express what people want to read. That’s doxa for you. They (146) continue:

“The essence of opinion is will to majority and already speaks in the name of a majority.”

So, when I’m told that what I do, what I think, what I write, isn’t correct or, to be more polite, that it doesn’t make sense, that it doesn’t compute, or so to say, what is meant by it is that it doesn’t conform to the opinion of the majority. It’s against consensus, which is generally understood as (OED, s.v. “consensus”, n.):

“Agreement in opinion; the collective unanimous opinion of a number of persons.”

The problem with consensus is that it doesn’t exist. Pierre Bourdieu (149) explains this particularly well in his aptly titled talk ‘Public Opinion Does Not Exist’, as included ‘Sociology in Question’:

“[There is an assumption] that everyone assumes that there is a consensus on what the problems are, in other words that there is agreement on the questions that are worth asking.”

This is particularly relevant to this essay because it connects back to Bergson’s formulation of what it is to ask a question and answer it, what it is to pose a problem and solve it. I keep running into this issue, being told that I need to do this and/or that, to ask these and/or those questions because people in the relevant field are (supposedly) in agreement about what the problems are and what questions are worth asking. That’s doxa for you. I don’t win, that is to say I don’t get published, because I don’t express the beliefs of the majority. This is evident, for example, when I get negative feedback on the quantification of the social, along the lines of this isn’t what people do these days, we do ethnography (or the like) instead (typically without defining what is meant by ethnography or what is that one supposed to do). For me, this it is not an issue because I pose the problems and ask the questions and the tools that I use are apt for solving those problems and answering those questions. The way I see it is that you pose certain problems and ask certain questions and use certain tools to solve those problems and answer those questions. That’s fine by me. It only becomes an issue when it is asserted that these are the problems that one must focus, these are the questions that must be asked and these are the tools that you must use to solve these problems and answer these questions. So, in a nutshell, as Bergson puts it, we pose problems and seek solutions to those problems, we ask questions and seek answers to those questions. It’s as simple as that. If I do things the way I do, it’s because I need to do them the way I do in order to answer the questions that I have asked, to solve the problems I have posed. Sure I could do things in other ways but then I would be posing different problems and asking different questions.

What makes doxa particularly problematic is exactly the assumption that there is a consensus, that things just are the way they are. At least with orthodoxy it is evident that there is an assertion of how things are and it is held to be the correct or right opinion or belief. In other words, it is easier to challenge orthodoxy because by asserting that something is correct or right entails that something else, what it is not, is not correct or right. So, in a way, doxa is like orthodoxy which hides in plain sight, as explained by Deleuze and Guattari (146):

“It gives to the recognition of truth an extension and criteria that are naturally those of an ‘orthodoxy’: a true opinion will be the one that coincides with that of the group to which one belongs by expressing it.”

This leads us back to the prephilosophical intuitions, presuppositions, planes or images of thought. To use the examples often discussed by Deleuze and Guattari, I’m fine with notions like orthodoxy or despotism because they show their true colors. It is asserted in those that they are in the right. Of course, I don’t agree with that, that they are. I mean obviously not. The people involved just have the audacity to openly claim to be right, by the will or grace of God, or something equally absurd. What is presupposed, their authority to be in the right, is not hidden. The only thing you need to do is challenge this presupposition to make that foundation crumble. Sure it may take a lot of challenging, a lot of cracks in that foundation for it to crumble, and therefore a lot of blood, sweat and tears will be involved, but at least there’s an opening. Just chisel away. The problem with doxa is that the presupposition is hidden. It’s as if there was no presupposition, no foundation, which makes it insidious. It allows those with hidden presuppositions to win because the conditions for winning are what is presupposed. The game is rigged. That’s why (the character of) Socrates always wins. It’s all scripted, it’s all scripted by Plato.

I think I’ve covered the backstory to this long enough (here’s the MARKER for you to jump to), so it’s time to get to the point. I recently ran into a commentary written by Crispin Thurlow. He addresses an issue that I’ve been going on and on, and on and on, and will probably keep going on and on, and on and on, in his commentary titled ‘Semiotic creativities in and with space: binaries and boundaries, beware!’

In summary, he makes note of how the articles he is commenting on (all part of a special issue that the commentary is also part of) do little to address the relevant concepts, namely space and landscape. In his (99) words:

“[T]he papers in this special issue tend to treat people’s creative semiotic actions as taking place in space, as opposed to thinking of space as an distinctive resource for creative semiotic action in its own right.”

He (99) then broadens this issue and address the research tradition known as linguistic landscape studies in general:

“The understandable inclination (or tradition) in linguistic landscapes has always been to look at the emplacement of language, centring words as the primary analytic focus and thereby elevating language as the key semiotic resource.”

I agree. I think this is the hallmark of linguistic landscape studies. It’s also something that I think is just fine. I think it is important to focus on language that is manifested in writing all around us. Of course, we might add here that we should not ignore images here either, but that’s beside the point here. Anyway, he (99) continues:

“We are less good at (or interested in) attending to the way space itself – and in its own terms – is deployed as a powerful, creative semiotic resource.”

Again, I agree. I think this also characterizes linguistic studies fairly accurately. It is also a fair depiction of the studies. There are some who explicitly address this issue, Thurlow himself included, but they are part of a clear minority whose concerns about this are rarely acknowledged, possibly due to a lack of interest, or desire, as pointed out by Thurlow (99) here. No one certainly gives a hoot about what I have to say, judging by the responses I get to my manuscripts. Anyway, to be productive, not merely critical of others, he (99) elaborates the issue:

“Space is not merely con-text, it is text. Space is not passive backdrop to language, but an active semiotic-cum-material resource which is also actively (not necessarily mindfully) taken up and deployed.”

He (99) then lists the issues he takes with the studies included in the special issue. As I’m sure you can read them by yourself, one by one, study by study, I’ll only summarize the main points. It’s not that space isn’t mentioned, that spatiality isn’t a concern, but it isn’t investigated. Space, spatiality and spatialization are just these words that are mentioned, likely because they have a lot of purchase these days. In other words, they have buzz value, much like any other trendy word or concept that one has to throw in to attract funding. He (100) is concerned with the apparent lack of conceptual clarity because:

“[W]e do a disservice to linguistic-semiotic landscapes and to the nature and extent of people’s creative engagements in/with space if we fail to consider spatiality properly, addressing the way people consciously or unconsciously use space as a powerful meaning-making resource. At the risk of sounding repetitive, spaces are not simply where communication takes place, space is communication.”

To which I’d add that as no communication is neutral, neither is space. As language is social, as it is politics, at least the way I understand it through Deleuze and Guattari, as well as through Speech Act Theory, space is social, space is politics. Now, to be fair, as Thurlow (100) points out, these issues pertaining to spatiality are not something people in linguistics are familiar with and, perhaps, they are hard to include in journals that focus on language or languages. However, as he (100) also points out, I think that it’s intellectually dishonest and indeed does a disservice to everyone to opt to ignore the issue as beyond the boundaries of linguistics. Thurlow (102) also addresses the word landscape, how it is used:

“By the same token, landscapes ought not to be treated as places per se, but rather ways of seeing and, indeed, ways of engaging in/with space, both in scholarly or conceptual terms but also in everyday life[.]”

Once again, I agree. This is something that is missing from most linguistic landscape studies. While I can’t claim that I have read every linguistic landscape study, I reckon this is an issue that severely undermines the vast majority of linguistic landscape studies. There’s typically absolutely nothing about landscape in most linguistic landscape studies, except the word. It’s painfully accurate how Maurice Ronai (137-139) made note of this issue over four decades ago in his 1976 article ‘Paysages’, how many studies (in geography) that claim to be about landscape have nothing to do with landscape. The problem with this becomes apparent if we expand on the concise summary of landscape as a way of seeing or way of engaging with the world provided by Thurlow (100).

To keep this short (as this blog turned into an essay repository is dedicated for the assessment of landscape and it’s connection discourse, and vice versa, so feel free to browse away), by ignoring the importance of landscape, and just publishing new studies that have nothing to do with landscape, that is to say beyond the use of the word landscape, the researchers risk ending up creating more and more landscape representations that reinforce the dominant social categories and thus also risk giving these representations legitimacy. This is the exact opposite of what geographic landscape scholars have advocated for, already decades ago. For them, as well as for me, we need to be critical of what we do and what we engage in, so that we don’t end up creating representations that end up being authoritative, taken for granted models for engaging with the world. So, the researchers should be aware how landscape is doxic, so that the prevailing doxa doesn’t end up reinforced or replaced by another doxa. As argued by Ronai (153), it’s easy for the researchers to fall into this trap because the more research they do, the more recognition they get. In other words, the more snapshots the researchers provide of the world and tell how things are, without hesitation, without a critical stance to the endeavor that is, the more complacent and complicit the researchers become in (re)producing the existing order of things and legitimating it through their positions of authority. As Ronai (153) also points out, this may seem quite trivial, some nonsense about a concept, as it likely seems to most people, but that’s exactly the kind of attitude that obscures how landscape functions.

To wrap things up, I was surprised to read that Thurlow brought up this issue and, well, pointed out it as a shortcoming in his commentary on the articles that are part of the special issue. It was about time someone with actual credibility (unlike me) actually brought this up. I can’t say I’m pleasantly surprised because I think this issue has persisted far too long and probably will keep persisting, despite his critical comments which, to me, echo Henri Lefebvre’s critical comments of understanding space as a container, as a mere given, and Richard Hartshorne’s critical comments of understanding landscape as a mere synonym for a delimited area of land. Something tells me that people are unwilling to change their ways because that would involve going beyond the limits of one’s discipline and that sounds a lot like hard work. It’s way easier to just ignore the issue and sideline those who do otherwise. If enough people do otherwise, others will have to do that as well and, well, that leads to hard work and challenging oneself, which is, in itself, hard work and involves plenty of moments of discomfort, so, for them, it is the best course of action to sideline those who do otherwise.

Deleuze and Guattari (214) make note of this issue, how one has the tendency to ignore things even when they have already changed, in the hopes of that the things just go away eventually. That is, of course, just fooling oneself. It’s just that one wishes that what once was would come back because having to get with the times would be quite chaotic. It’s just way easier to hold on to what was. The older one is, the more weary one tends to gets of change. In their (214) words:

“Old age is this very weariness: then, there is either a fall into mental chaos outside the plane … or a falling-back on ready-made opinions, on cliches that reveal that [one] … no longer has anything to say.”

To avoid the ageism here, I would add here that it’s not only about one’s age, albeit I can see how that plays a role when it comes to growing weary, but about how set one is, how satisfied one is with one’s place in the world, hence the earlier remark about complacency. If the world passes by, or so to speak, one either has to get with it, to move, to change, which is not only hard work, especially for the weary, but also forces one to recognize that the past is gone and so might be your previous accomplishments. Deleuze and Guattari (214) aren’t exactly kind in their characterizations of people who opt to live in the past:

“[T]hose weary old ones … pursue slow-moving opinions and engage in stagnant discussions by speaking all alone, within their hollowed head, like a distant memory of their old concepts to which they remain attached so as not to fall back completely into the chaos.”

What was it called in ‘A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia’? Refrain? They’d rather just refrain! Oh, what a fitting end for this essay!


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