Turun kauppakorkeakoulun tieteenfilosofinen kerho

Tag: Book

Woodward on ”causation with a human face”: Inspirations and research voids

TSElosophers meeting 28.3.2023. Albrecht Becker, Erkki Lassila, Kari Lukka, Mia Salo, Milla Unkila, Otto Rosendahl, Veli Virmajoki

Woodward, J. (2002) What is a mechanism? A counterfactual account. Philosophy of science, 69(3), p.366-377 & Woodward, J. (2021) Causation with a human face: Normative theory and descriptive psychology, Oxford University Press, p.1-14 (Introduction).

Summary

In Woodward’s approach, the philosophy of causation should clarify notions that are confused, unclear, and ambiguous and suggest how these limitations might be addressed. In particular, Woodward defends the interventionist account of causal explanation, where causality holds between two variables if an intervention (ideal experimental manipulation) on one of the variables would change the other variable. Woodward uses the interventionist account to discuss issues such as mechanistic explanation and modularity, especially in the context of systems.

Our discussion

TSElosophers generally found these texts interesting, yet rather demanding reads. We found it useful to get an idea of the “interventionist take on causality”, emblematic of Woodward, and how he wished to avoid drowning in the metaphysical debates on what the notions of causality should stand for and instead focus on how to decipher causality in practice.

Regarding the book Chapter, just based on the Introduction of the book, we did not get a quite clear idea of how precisely the “descriptive accounts” of causality – the beliefs that people have on causal relationships – bear relevance regarding what is, for Woodward, the more essential thing, the “normative account”. The latter refers to those causal claims which can be sustained by the interventionist approach, leaning on counterfactual analysis. However, the biggest concern among a few TSElosophers is whether, and if so, the potential performativity related to any utterings of humans, be they researchers or lay persons, might play a role in the system of thinking of Woodward. It seemed as if he had not taken that into consideration at all. Given that for Woodward, in line with his “minimal realism”, the central test of causal claims is how the world works, omitting performativity actually seems like a very notable issue – since it could bring an endogenous challenge to the analysis and thereby significantly complicate carrying it out. At least, the problem of performativity might complicate the use of Woodward’s theoretical frame in social sciences.

TSElosophers found the article on mechanisms in causality somewhat easier to grasp, yet perhaps a bit less inspiring. It did not add to the credibility of the text that there seems to be a typo in equation (2) on p.367. At least one of us had a pre-understanding that explaining through mechanisms means primarily ‘fleshing out’ the contents to the ‘explanation’ as compared to making causal claims on mere naked correlations: It opens up more precisely how e.g. the correlations can be seen as part of a meaningful explanation. TSElosophers found the take of Woodward notably stricter and narrower than this general idea. This is, in particular, since his definition requires the independence of the elements (“modules”) of mechanisms. This requirement seemed to us not well suitable for humanities and social sciences. We were left wondering whether Woodward’s take is actually too binary or black and white. Maybe it even leads to an overly idealistic picture of mechanistic explanation in social sciences, thus distancing the practice in the field from philosophical analysis – something Woodward accuses many other accounts of causation of doing.

Reading these texts gave a good lesson for TSElosophers on what kind of reasoning and write-up can be found from the representatives of the current frontiers of the philosophy of causality. It strikes us how there might be notable room for integrating the recent advances in the philosophy of causality with a more genuine take on how humanities and social sciences are surrounded and how they work. This could provide a more apt philosophy of causality for social scientists and humanists!

An Inspiring Disorder of the Second-order

TSElosophers meeting 8.2.2023. Albrecht Becker, Erkki Lassila, Joonas Uotinen, Kari Lukka, Mia Salo, Milla Unkila, Otto Rosendahl, Veli Virmajoki

Von Foerster, H. & Poerksen, B. (2002). Understanding systems: Conversations on epistemology and ethics. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers. Pages 11-63.

Summary

We read the first Chapter of a book that consists of a dialogue between “a physicist and philosopher Heinz von Foerster and journalist Bernhard Poerksen (back cover)”. Von Foerster, a leading figure of systems theoretical circles in the mid-20th Century, rejects all thought stream labels in this book except being a Viennese although he is widely recognized as a radical constructivist. The book is written after his active career in 2002.

The first Chapter, Images of Reality, describes how human neural systems can only observe their environment with perturbations that are not specific. Thus, it rejects all truth claims based on correspondence between human knowledge and being. It provocatively casts doubt on all causal explanatory principles presented by scientific realism, including gravity and evolution. The Chapter emphasizes the ethicality of second-order observations such as describing descriptions and explaining explanations.

Our discussion

The book divided our sympathies. Some liked it, some were annoyed or almost angry and some remained ambiguous. Many agreed that academia needs more inspiring dialogues and attempts to defend bold positions in conversations. Many were also inspired by some of Von Foerster’s ideas and ideals at large. The minority, who were sympathetic to the text, read it as an anti-thesis rather than a synthesis; as reactive rather than refined. The majority was frustrated, not least as Von Foerster does not develop his ideas, but only keeps ‘dropping’ them; seems to lack sufficient consistency; and the dialogue format is pointless since Von Foerster dodges so many of the most relevant questions.

We presumed that Von Foerster’s background as a magician contributed to his tendency to seek to shock with his anti-thetical statements to realism, which made him appear as a more extremist thinker than warranted by his constructivism. He posited that the system constructs its world and all knowledge about it, but he also argued against solipsism and anti-realism. He seems to agree with the existence of the system’s environment, but with the impossibility of creating knowledge that corresponds with the environment. In sum, his system’s theoretical underpinnings support metaphysical but reject epistemological realism.

We considered Von Foerster’s presentation insufficient for any sociological reading due to its methodological individualism. He wanted e.g. to replace the concept of truth with trust. This might work for local interactions – while many doubted even that – but it remains unclear how this change could be applied to globally spanning communication. Would trust in scientists eventually dilute into something like trust in politicians or journalists? We concluded that the book presents a sample of ideas from Von Foerster’s active career rather than integrating into subsequent theoretical developments in radically constructivist systems theories such as social systems theory.

TSElosophers also discussed ethics. Von Foerster associated all references to the external as excuses for people to free themselves from the responsibility of their decisions. He promoted people not to trivialize themselves, but retain the unpredictability of the non-trivial machines. However, we feel the argument is more balanced when you also recognize that interaction benefits from predictability and the common use of explanatory principles. Certainly, most people should not (and could not) make their world as complex as Von Foerster has done for himself.

“Perspective relativism” – thought-provoking arguments and confusions

TSElosophers meeting 8.4.2022. Participants: Erkki Lassila, Kari Lukka, Otto Rosendahl and Mia Salo

Antti Hautamäki (2019) Näkökulmarelativismi [Perspective relativism](SoPhi).

Summary

In this book, which appears only in Finnish, Antti Hautamäki introduces the notion of “perspective relativism” (our translation of the Finnish term “näkökulmarelativismi”). It is presented as a middle-of-the-road approach to the philosophy of science, positioned by Hautamäki between the extreme forms of realism and relativism. The key ideas of his perspective relativism include:

• There is no perspective-independent way to look at the world.

• It is helpful to distinguish between the subject, the object, and the aspect – from which the last-mentioned captures the distinctive feature of perspective relativism

• Perspectives are subjective, but they can be objectified.

• The same objects can be looked at from different perspectives.

• There is no absolute, privileged, or universal perspective.

• Perspectives can be further developed, revised, and swapped.

• Perspectives can be compared through various criteria.

In the book, Hautamäki argues for the validity of perspective relativism in numerous ways, using several examples. He goes through the typical themes for this type of treatise like relationships of perspective relativism to rationality, truth claims, justification of knowledge claims, ontology, and philosophy of science at large. In all of these analyses, Hautamäki seeks to make a distance, on the one hand, to (scientific) realism and, on the other hand, to (extreme forms of) relativism. Central to his argumentation, allowing him to keep a distance from extreme forms of relativism, is his idea of “core rationality”: To be taken seriously, any argumentation has to fulfill certain minimum conditions, such as the principle of deduction (the logic of implication) and the principle of consistency (for instance, we cannot accept and deny the same thing looked at from a certain perspective).

Our discussion

TSElosophers generally supported the contents of the notion that Hautamäki was propagating in his book. We not only found it intuitively appealing and helpful, but many of us also perceived it in certain ways familiar. One of the TSElosophers found Hautamäki’s position similar to the idea of combining moderate realism with moderate social constructionism, which this member had adopted some 15 years ago as the platform for his scholarly work. We also found the book topical, especially from the viewpoint of the famous ‘science wars’ between realists and social constructionists. Hautamäki’s notion sits well with the general idea of Niiniluoto and Saarinen (1986) that in the heated debates between various ’isms’ we tend to overlook how many similarities there are across various approaches.

While we liked the general idea, we struggled with some of the distinctions through which Hautamäki tried to make room for his notion. In particular, we felt Hautamäki was exercising a losing battle in his numerous attempts to make the distance to realism, which he at times calls by that name, while at times calling it ‘scientific realism’. The problem is that it is, in fact, rather hard to draw the demarcation line between most of the ideas of scientific realism and Hautamäki’s perspective relativism. For instance, when we take into consideration the three-level ontology of Popper, the notion of theory-ladenness of observations, Kuhn’s paradigms and, overall, the formulations like those of Niiniluoto (1999) for scientific realism (which he calls “critical scientific realism”), it is nearly impossible to see any genuine differences any longer.

To be blunt, Hautamäki’s perspective relativism can be argued to be fundamentally similar to scientific realism, only peppered with certain accentuations nodding towards relativism. It is a pity Hautamäki is so confusing regarding these distinctions up to the point that he can be claimed to fabricate a strawman of (scientific) realism to develop his claims of uniqueness. It would have been far easier for the reader to digest had he chosen naïve realism (e.g. logical positivism) as his ‘enemy’ at the realism end: All of his distinctions would work against that position. However, perhaps he did not opt for that strategy since the schools of thought linked to naïve realism are these days viewed as dead as they go. Hence, making distinctions to them would not have been very effective.

Conclusion

We found Hautamäki’s notion of perspective relativism as a valid notion content-wise, which however is far less innovative than the author claims it to be. It is, after all, a notion under the umbrella of scientific realism, only stressing the constructionist (or relativist) aspects of that stream of thought. The book is worth reading especially if one wishes to go comprehensively through the philosophical position of one’s own in a self-critical manner. Bold, even wild claims are often helpful as ‘test-balls’ in such exercises.

How forests think?

TSElosophers meeting 12.3.2021. Erkki Lassila, Kari Lukka, Maija-Riitta Ollila, Morgan Shaw, Otto Rosendahl.

Kohn, Eduardo (2013) How forests think: Toward an anthropology beyond the human. University of California Press, Berkeley.

Summary

In How Forests Think, Eduardo Kohn explores the question of how to create an analytical framework for anthropology that can include both humans and nonhumans. Kohn’s investigation is based in his long-term fieldwork in Ávila, a village of Quichua-speaking Runa people in Ecuador’s Upper Amazon. Kohn brings his readings of the semiotic theories of pragmatist philosopher Charles Peirce, the application of Peirce’s work to biology by Terrence Deacon, and a number of other theoretical reference points into conversation with his observations from Ávila. A central contention of the book is that “seeing, representing, and perhaps knowing, even thinking, are not exclusively human affairs” (Kohn 2013, 16). The TSElosophers read the book’s Introduction and first chapter, “The Open Whole”, which examine what it would mean for anthropology to take this claim seriously. This section also opens a number of questions about what doing so might tell us about how to live as humans in a world inhabited by many other kinds of living beings.   

Our Discussion

Kohn problematizes a conventional view of anthropology, arguing for the development of an “anthropology beyond the human” based on the assumption that there is more continuity between anthropos and other forms of life that has been recognized in the past. Kohn argues that by focusing exclusively on the processes of meaning-making that are unique to human language, the human sciences have so far overlooked the many ways in which all life is produced through the creation and use of signs (i.e. semiosis). “Provincializing” linguistic representation based on the type of signs that are used by humans alone would treat language as a very special human case of what Kohn holds to be a vastly more widespread phenomenon. Thus, this book invites us to entertain the possibility that other living beings, through their own ways of making sense of and representing their surroundings and relations, also think. This suggests we need to pay attention to the specific ways in which even, for instance, forests think alongside us, but not exactly like us.

Recurring questions surrounded Kohn’s elaboration of an extensive and idiosyncratic theoretical framework, which often felt cumbersome. Was all of it really necessary, and if so, where did this perceived need come from? Is it primarily relevant to a readership that is not familiar with ongoing paradigmatic debates within anthropology? The extended treatment of Pierce’s semiotics and conception of realism was helpful to those of us who were completely unfamiliar with his work, but Kohn’s strategy of interweaving it with his ethnographic material was not always successful, leaving many key points ambiguous. However, to be fair, since we read only a portion of the text, it is possible that the ideas opened up in these early sections are dealt with more fully in the remainder of the book.

Kohn periodically critiques other approaches he situates within the Posthumanities, particularly the work of Bruno Latour and Jane Bennett. He particularly charges that Latour mistakenly brings the human and nonhuman together using an “analytic of mixture” that elides meaningful differences between language and things (Kohn 2013, 56). Unfortunately, this line of argumentation is not further developed, remaining too vague to consider more thoroughly. What we can be confident in that Kohn aligns himself with some of the aims, but not the means of these other thinkers, while making the case that his own perspective is a viable alternative.

Our discussion pulled on the numerous loose threads left dangling in a tantalizing way from Kohn’s text. How does the concept of consciousness fit into his framework? Is self-awareness just a rare and exceptional aspect of becoming a self? Is Kohn completely rejecting the agency of inanimate matter even as he tries to more firmly ground it for living things? Should thinking be stretched beyond cognition in this way, or would another verb have avoided unnecessary confusion? Those TSElosophers hungry for answers will look to what insights the next chapters of How Forests Think hold. 

Overall, the TSElosphers found this book to be difficult but intriguing reading. Those of us who were enthusiastic about it focused on its potential to inform efforts to rethink human environmental ethics in the Anthropocene. However, we also questioned whether the particular approach Kohn takes creates the most fertile ground for new ideas in this area. In particular, the question was raised whether the book’s worry is only a worry about an allegedly too narrow window of analysis of anthropology – it is already well-known in many other fields of science, not least biology, that all living creatures communicate with their environment, yet not with human language. A strength of this work, however, is the way it got us talking about the possibility of seeing our human relations to the wider world in a new and surprising way.

Revelations on human kindness

TSElosophers meeting 23.9.2020. Toni Ahlqvist, Mohamed Farhoud, Elina Järvinen, Kai Kimppa, Erkki Lassila, Kari Lukka, Maija-Riitta Ollila, Ekaterina Panina, Otto Rosendahl, Morgan Shaw, Milla Wirén.

Rutger Bregman: Humankind – A hopeful history

Summary

Humankind is a world-explaining opus aimed at wide audiences in the style of Neil Diamond or Yuval Harari. While Bregman draws from research, the book is not academic, but unashamedly popular, with the mission of making one point. In addition to making his point, Bregman also discusses its implication and concludes by an easily digestible list of suggestions for all readers to consume at a glance.

The key point of the book is that while we’ve (as a humanity) learned to view us humans through the “veneer theory” proposing that underneath a thin veneer of civilization we’re all selfish savages, the very contrary is true. Fundamentally the homo sapiens is a kind creature that has accomplished all its collective efforts through the collaboration enabling power of that kindness.

To prove his point, Bregman showcases some of the most notable examples used to argue for the underlying savagery of the human, takes them apart, and shows how completely different outcomes would be at least equally possible. In discussing the implications of his key point, he draws from the power of performativity – claiming that should we consider each other as trustworthy and kind, we would be able to create a society where trustworthiness and kindness reign.

Our discussion

To begin with the main point of the book, the inherent nature of human, the tselosophers represented three standing points, however none of them subscribing to the veneer theory view. First, part of us represented the choir to which Bregman preached: yes, humans are good and when in doubt, should first and foremost be treated as such – even when in some contexts positivity and kindness are viewed as naivete. Secondly, some of us pointed out that good and bad are constructed and highly context specific: none of us are ever either-or, but depending on the combination of setting, actions and underlying traits, either better or worse outcomes follow. Thirdly, there was also the view that humans are good but sinful, meaning that regardless of our aims to strive for goodness, we are fundamentally imperfect.

In terms of the technicalities of the book, the tselosophers agreed that Bregman developed his argument through sampling certain cases, not building a logically or statistically iron-clad theoretical argument. Some of us liked and accepted the bigger picture that emerged as a result of this eclectic and case-bound effort, whereas some of us had difficulties in swallowing a) the eclecticism resulting in superficiality instead of depth, b) the lack of solid theorizing sometimes visible in circular logic, or c) the seemingly thin understanding of some of the building blocks (like the writings of Hobbes, Rousseau or Dawkins) arguing that while the effort is laudable, can such a bigger picture be trusted where the connected dots are not rightly positioned (understood)?

One of the themes at the forefront in our discussions was the problem of micro-macro, also discussed as the problem of “us vs them”, or the problem of aggregation. As we’re all in agreement that there are notable societal level problems afoot, to what extent is it possible to try to fix them through attempting to change the individual? While certain problems can be solved with kindness extended to the “us” near me, can the scope of “us” be extended to encompass such a number of both human and non-human actors and entities as to actually nudge things towards a better constellation?

As a spin-off of the micro-macro theme, the previous tselosophers’ discussion around the concept of psychopolitics (in the book of that name by Han) was brought to the fore: in rolling down the responsibility of kindness on the shoulders of the individual, are we ultimately just contributing to the trend of internalizing the social governance mechanisms? Can kindness become the type of a “superficial goodness” that the individuals internalize and the ones in power harness to continue suppressing the individual into a mere source of revenues upholding the capitalist power structures? (See also tselosophers’ discussions on Zuboff.)

However, this line of thought was clearly not the one on Bregman’s mind: we detected nuances of anarcho-syndicalism in his writing. To us it seemed that Bregman tackled any macro level problems through proposing less structure, less organizing, more grass roots democracy and power to the little people. We tselosophers were somewhat doubtful whether the macro level problems can be solved only through erasing all structures, and chatted about the ‘iron law of oligarchy’ – as there are more people (and non-people) on the planet that can be accommodated in any setting of compassion-based us, some structures are (unfortunately) needed, and as long as there are structures, there are hierarchies, and as long as there are hierarchies, there are those with more power than others, and as long as some have power, they do not want to give it up.

Nevertheless, the book awoke several individually valuable insights: first of all, the power of performativity coupled with the power of us as teachers and researchers. In our teaching, do we continue to channel such old theories which are built on the assumption of humans as inherently lazy and self-advantage seeking? If we continue to do so, are we just passing along ‘truths’ or actually contributing to upholding a world where such individuals reign? The taking apart of the famous Stanford experiment, or the findings of Milgram raised thoughts about how important it is for us researchers to strive for ethical research, to ensure the validity of whatever we offer for the building blocks of the next knowledge creation efforts – and to be self-reflective of our own basic assumptions that bleed into the findings we thus offer.

Additionally, a note and concern about the role of psychology was raised: it seems that currently many of the theories in several fields governing our societal operations are grounded on the findings from psychology without questioning the validity of such findings. Maybe it would be the time to both question the role of psychology and be more critical about its findings, especially when aggregated into the principles governing society level structures, such as economics.

To conclude, we saw the value of these types of popular books as they can help seed beneficial discussions also among such people who do not spend their time perusing the (sometimes obscure, but) profound and nigh flawlessly argued academic texts. Some of us also felt that the importance of this book emerged from the very personal level feelings we had after reading the book: to some of us, the book read as a beacon of hope, regardless of its shortcomings as a watertight bundle of theoretical and logical argumentation. Such feelings of hope are welcome, also to us researchers.

Dystopia or reality?

TSElosophers meeting 18 November 2019. Toni Ahlqvist, Elina Järvinen, Kari Lukka, Otto Rosendahl, Morgan Shaw, Ekaterina Panina, Milla Wirén

Psychopolitics – Neoliberalism and New Technologies of Power (2017), Buyng-Chul Han

Summary

The overarching theme of “psychopolitics” in Han’s book pivots around the changes in the nature of power geared towards upholding the neoliberal regime of capitalism: the new (primarily digital) technologies have transformed the traditionally disciplinary power of ‘should’ into an internalized and thus invisible soft power of ‘can’. This builds on a few trajectories, each of which Han touches in its own fragment: people are made to believe that they are ‘projects’ that need constant improvement; the access to behavioral data granted by omnipresent digital technologies enables manipulating people psychologically in ways that benefit neoliberal capitalism; this manipulation plays on emotions, exploits the embedded faith in the need of self-improvement, and draws from the urge of being ‘Liked’ in sharing one’s life in the gamified realm of digital social life, to name just a few of the trajectories. The label “psychopolitics” builds on the Foucauldian notion of biopolitics, with Han making the argument that compared to the times of Foucault, contemporary technologies do not stop at controlling the physical aspects of human life, but are insidious to the point of penetrating the realm of the psyche as well.

The book has more width than its relatively few pages would at a first glance suggest. As a result, Han seems to be content with throwing out numerous ideas, and tracing the contours of some connections, without digging deeply into any of the resulting openings or bothering with the waterproofing of the underlying building blocks which he utilizes in making propositions. The book’s resulting shape divided the TSElosophers, leading to one of the most polarized discussions in the history of our little group. Some of us appreciated the ideas and connections that were offered without missing more solid underpinnings, whereas others doubted whether any substantial ideas or connections could be put together from such flimsy building blocks.

From the viewpoint of the proponents of the book, this emerging picture of our current society is realistic: digitalization is a mighty tool for neoliberal powers that have reaped the benefits of capitalism in its diverse, ever-evolving forms throughout the ages, especially as it becomes a means of disguising manipulative and exploitative power in the invisibility cloak of ‘freedom’. This controlling mechanism of ‘freedom’ differs from genuine freedom, because it is built on an embedded, but externally imposed, imperative of making people believe and want something they then are given license to ‘freely’ pursue. This reading of Han understands capitalism as a systemic feature of most modern societies of today, as a part of which most of us simply are and act – both rich and poor – most often not really paying much attention to this fact at all. The way out, as suggested by Han, is to draw from the power of what he calls “idiotism”, namely the ability to not conform to the environmental expectations even at the risk of looking like the ‘god’s fool’ or ‘king’s jester’ – stupid from the viewpoint of the flock – which would allow one agency that can function ‘outside-of-the-box’. These thoughts resonated with the ones of us liking the book, especially as they crystallized some of the notions they have themselves been recently working with.

Opponents of Han’s approach among the group criticized the thinness of Psychopolitics as a work of scholarship, challenged its seeming negation of individual and collective agency, and questioned whether Han’s suggested “idiotism” abnegates social responsibility and possibilities for cooperation in ways that just echo individualist tendencies of neoliberalism rather than confront them.

Despite briefly raising points that explicitly reference Marx, Hegel, Kant, Foucault and Deleuze, Han’s treatment of these thinkers’ ideas often seems cursory, and in some instances suggests questionable readings of important points. At the same time, unacknowledged traces of Critical Theory haunt some aspects of the book’s discussion of freedom, ultimately leaving its conceptual role rather ambiguous. What Han ends up assembling, therefore, came across to some of the TSElosophers as a precarious stack of often underdeveloped and ill-fitting pieces. While sometimes interesting in themselves, for them they fail to cohere into a solid foundation for taking prior philosophical work in a new direction.

However, Han is far more successful in the depiction of a frightening dystopia in which the forces of capitalism oversee an omnipresent and yet imperceptible psychological influence operation that harnesses populations to its (unfortunately largely unarticulated) ends. Under the regime Han describes, digital confession and zealous work on the self as a project lures all of capitalism’s congregants to ‘freely’ align themselves with its subliminally implanted agenda. The extensive catalog of superlatives Han employs (“utter”, “total”, “complete”) conjures this effort not as a development still in progress but as an unassailable finished edifice and thus a perfect exercise of power. However, questions linger: who is actively writing the software behind this apparatus, and what are they aiming to accomplish with it? While Han’s ‘collective psychogram’ may be an emergent and impersonal phenomenon, the building and maintenance of the systems of surveillance, inducement, and monetization that operationalize it – in the view of the opponents of the book – cannot be as disembodied and without strategic purpose as he would have them appear. Capitalism is, in the end, the work of capitalists no matter how quiet, frictionless, and automatic the systems they create to carry out this effort out may become.

This begs the question (which worry also united the proponents and opponents of the book), then, Is ‘psychopolitics’ a ‘politics’ at all? Can there be a politics that seems to assume the total negation of most forms of individual and collective agency? Is Han to be taken literally in his assertions that the conditions of psychological influence he describes makes any form of opposition, whether understood as class struggle or political resistance, completely impossible? Some in this group hold that this trap is less inescapable than Han makes out.

Han himself suggests one opportunity for escape: the embrace of “idiotism”. To be an idiot has historically been to be both holy and afflicted, enduring a sanctified suffering at the margins of society. An idiot is someone from whom almost any form of behavior is tolerated, and from whom next to nothing is expected or required. They are therefore ‘sub-optimal’, even superfluous, to the orderly workings of economic and political systems. When induced to ‘Like’, Han seems to suggest that an ‘idiot’ can, like Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener, evade the issue by simply stating “I would prefer not to,” becoming a puzzle that the wielders of Big Data will be entirely uninterested in solving.

But where does that leave us, especially as an ‘us’ that is more than a collection of self-optimizing ‘I’s? Is becoming irritants to the silent and effortless processes of capitalism, eventually banned from its hyper-efficient workings, but left free to make our cryptic pronouncements at the margins where we seek to preserve or rehabilitate our souls, really the best we can hope for? This is a question we hope the TSElosophers will return to in future discussions.

Imagining realities beyond progress

TSElosophers meeting 7.6.2019. Joonas Uotinen, Kari Lukka, Milla Wirén, Otto Rosendahl

Tsing, A. (2012). The Mushroom at the End of the World. On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins. Chapter 1: Arts of Noticing (s. 17-26).

Summary

The book tells an atypical story about commercial mushroom trade. Typically, economically-oriented stories focus on the modernity’s requirement of progress. Modernity perceives everything as resources for economic growth and humans as “different from the rest of the world, because we look forward (p. 21)”. Consequently, the ones unable to compete economically and secure their future tend to be categorized as less valuable. For example, the boom of Oregon lumber trade in early 20th Century was followed by the closures and relocations of lumber mills in late 20th Century. The progress that reached Oregon’s forests eventually moved to more efficient sites.

However, the author emphasizes that this was not the end of commercial activities in Oregon forests. The forests re-grew and became home to commercial mushroom picking, which connected to the strong East Asian demand for matsutake mushrooms. Commercial mushroom picking demonstrates supply chain practices of collaborative survival. It is a trade practiced mainly by “drop-outs”, but the tales of collaborative survival are not exceptional. For example, the author posits that similar supply chains developed in Greece after the recent financial crisis. Also, the intensifying environmental crisis is likely lead to more supply chains that rely on collaborative survival.

The reader is invited to feed their imagination by describing the hidden realities beyond progress. The stories of “drop-outs” are generally told only in relation to progress, e.g. the lay-outs in Oregon lumber mills were widely publicized. However, there is a stark difference in the supply chain structures between stable communities of healthy wage workers and open-ended gatherings of vulnerable foragers, including war veterans, refugees and undocumented immigrants.

The phenomena of collaborative survival is approached with an assemblage approach. Assemblage refers to an open-ended gathering that circumvents “sometimes fixed and bounded connotations of ecological ‘community’ (p.22).” The author emphasizes that her idea of assemblage is polyphonic, which refers to pre-harmonic music building on the intertwinement of the independent melody lines: each melody has stand-alone beauty. (In contrast, in post-polyphonic music the sounding whole has inherent hierarchies: there is the primary melody line, supported by the harmonic elements.) Hence, polyphonic assemblages revolve around circular and seasonal rhythms created by multiple actors that represent multiple species. Although polyphonic assemblages do not assume linearity of time or teleology of progress, improvement happens when emergent qualities transform gatherings into happenings with long-term impact.

Our discussion

Inspired by the article, TSElosophers discussed about overcoming some excesses of modernism. Firstly, we want to clarify that modern mindset is hardly the worst option as modern capitalism has supplanted totalitarian and unfair societal orders. However, this issue is complex since modern capitalism can also become combined with totalitarianism. Secondly, modernity’s requirement on progress promotes action based on external goals – e.g. career, money, appearances – rather than the intrinsic good in the activity, such as serving a greater ethical purpose. However, we see possibilities for learning intrinsically purposeful collaboration even in modern society. For example, people mastering horseback riding find out the inadequacy of giving the correct signals on the right direction and speed. Instead, one needs to create a connection with the other; to become aware of the horse’s mood and its needs.

Finally, the modernity’s demand for growth remains unsustainable. Increasing consumption neutralizes the effect of efficiency-increasing technological innovations. Also, the ignorance of other ways of living cause trouble for tribal cultures. For example, Ecuador’s government recently decided to drill oil in the ancient lands of the Waorani tribe (a decision later foiled by a court ruling). Instead of myopic approach on economic growth, we could emphasize ethical, spiritual, social, environmental or other forms of growth. Tribal cultures that are governed relatively fairly and sustainably, and the supply chains with collaborative survival, can inspire us in the pursuit for more holistic forms of growth.

Radical critique of our modernist way of life inspired by animism

TSElosophers meeting 5.12.2018. Jonathan Mumford, Joonas Uotinen, Kari Lukka, Otto Rosendahl

Beyond Nature and Culture (preface, chapters 6 and 8), Philippe Descola 2013

Professor Philippe Descola, an anthropologist, motivates his book “Beyond Nature and Culture” (2013) with no less than saving the scientific field of anthropology. He is worried that of among the “modes of identification” – referring to the ways we essentially conceptualize ourselves – what he calls “naturalism” dominates the scene, both unnecessarily and with some highly problematic consequences. Drawing on anthropological findings and his own reasoning, he suggests a two-by-two matrix with four modes of identification. The dimensions of the matrix deal with whether living things (plants, animals and humans) practice continuity or discontinuity regarding their spiritual or physical self.

Physical continuity refers to thinking where the various forms of living things are physically connected by their evolution, exemplified by Darwinism. Discontinuity in this regard can be exemplified by creationism, typical of Christian religion. Spiritual continuity again refers to thinking according to which the various forms of living things are spiritually connected – while they look physically different, they all represent some common spirit of life. Discontinuity in this regard means thinking where different forms of living have a hierarchy. This can be exemplified by the nowadays typical take in the Western societies where us humans are staged as the ‘kings and rulers’ of the universe: As they are viewed (by us humans!) as mentally much more developed than other living creatures (animals and plants), we kind of self-evidently should gain this special position.

From Descola’s book, TSElosophers focused on reading and discussing just two cells of the matrix: Naturalism (physical continuity combined with spiritual discontinuity) and animism (spiritual continuity combined with physical discontinuity). Descola argues that only one mode of identification, naturalism, is needed to understand the majority of practices in our modernist Western-based societies. Physical continuity is strongly manifested in our wide-spread acknowledgement that humans have developed from other species through evolution. On the other hand, the same modernism also encourages us to perceive all other living things (animals and plants) as separated and (at least implicitly) inferior to us – consider the wide acceptance and consumption of industrialized meat products.

Animism that has been encountered in many anthropological studies among indigenous cultures is a logical counterpoint of naturalism as it combines spiritual continuity with physical discontinuity. In animist thought, just like humans, also animals and plants form communities. For example, animistic cultures have beliefs about peccaries making beer from maize and “jaguars [that] take their prey home for their wives to cook” (Descola 2013, 132). Also, the boundaries between human, animal and plant communities are limited by different physical constitutions, e.g. peccaries form human communities with other peccaries and jaguars form human communities with other jaguars. While animals, plants and humans are spiritually connected, only in special circumstances, such as dreams, they can visit their different physical domains. As for humans, for instance, only shamans have the capability to transcend the physical boundary and visit animal and plant communities.

Naturalism and animism produce different answers of the importance of humans. Naturalism emphasizes the superior intelligence and self-reflective capabilities of humans, which also imply a demand for a greater sense of responsibility from them – most often towards other human individuals. Pragmatic approaches to extend ethics beyond humanism focus on expanding the category of humans towards human-like beneficiaries. The reference point for ethics is hence always the humans. For Example, Peter Singer’s extensionist ethics considers all creatures that feel pleasure and pain as inherently valuable, while others can be treated just as objects of our observation or consumption. Any form of ethics in naturalism-dominated cultures is limited by the need to draw a boundary that spiritually severs a human individual from the majority of existence. In contrast, according to animism, all different physical forms of living are to be dealt in essentially equal terms, due to the spiritual union of all living things. Therefore, animism imbues, for instance, to humans with a desire to create intricate relations with a wide-range of communities: humans, animals and plants.

Descola’s analysis is intended to shake the dominance of naturalism in our culture. It makes us profoundly understand how the Western modernist practice of life, staging humans into the ‘superior position’, has led us to see the rest of the world as just objects serving our desires – essentially just potential resources for our production and consumption. Having read Descola, we became increasingly worried by the strongly expansionist drive in naturalism. Our key concern with naturalism is the deeply institutionalized and therefore taken-for-granted competition and consumption of resources, where the expansionist drive is out-reaching our planetary limits. For us, the key ideas of animism, where all living things should be treated with appreciation, all being our ‘brothers and sisters or cousins’ in their spirit offers a fundamentally different and at least thought-provoking approach to our practices of living. Such way of thought would immediately question the ethical grounding of our expansionist way of life, being based on the belief of ever-increasing growth of production and consumption, which is effectively just using the other living things as we please as resources at our disposal. Spiritual continuity in animism perceives its kin as successfully expanded into the world without any requirement of competition, conquest or status.

Where animism is prepared to see the beneficiary in everyone, naturalism is geared towards seeing a resource in everyone. In our culture, aren’t we too often tempted to sanctify our consumption and politics with the belief that the economic expansion and technological advances will eventually lead to the salvation – or at the very least prevent its fall into damnation? Many of us live in this uncertainty-limiting vision, which may however soon prove to be only utopia. Change in our fundamental, paradigmatic thinking models, is never easy. Descola, however, notes that some eco-centric ethical theories already include holistic, i.e. not artificially bounded, well-being/viability considerations. Theoretically we may contend that human societies can form commitments to eco-centric ethics, which animistic (and totemistic) societies have demonstrated for us. The implication is that despite our genetic heritage, our societal values are not hard-coded to naturalism and may be over-ridden by the efforts of skilled, determined and patient programmers (yet with a risk of for better or for worse). However, the awareness of and interest in eco-centric ethical frameworks remain so far quite marginal. We would like to suggest that wise re-institutions of practices that are aligned with spiritual continuity could eventually lead to more mainstream commitment to the formation of eco-centrical ethical dispositions. An example of these marginal practices within the modern culture may be seen from our earlier blog post (ethical ascetic practices; Munro 2014)

On a final note, we are not sure why Descola motivated his research with the aim of saving anthropology. Descola referred to a wide range of anthropological research, which indicates that there are not any serious crises in their credibility. Possibly Descola’s theoretical efforts are pre-emptive: They certainly help to align anthropology better with post-humanistic philosophies. In summary, we believe that anthropological insights have potential to inspire us and develop our imagination in the development and adoption of practices regarding our society’s most pressing misgivings, such as our on-going contradiction between ecology and expansion.

When paying ones’ debt is wrong

TSElosophers meeting 13.11. 2018. Ekaterina Panina, Joonas Uotinen,  Kari Lukka, Milla Wiren, Otto Rosendahl

Debt – The First 5000 Years (chapter 2), David Graeber 2011

QUICK SUMMARY:

The central theme of the book (chapter) we read this time relates to the two stories about how money came about. The more prevalent story tells us that first there was barter, then money and finally debt, whereas Graeber insists that the reverse order is historically more accurate. This led to the following themes discussed at length and depth in the meeting:

  • What is the key point the author wishes to make with the book? We deduced that his main statement is that paying ones’ debt is not always the most moral choice, as there can be circumstances where this commonsensical notion actually causes more harm than good.
  • How can the boundaries between when it is, and when it isn’t “right” to pay debts be drawn?
  • The benefits of debt: debt as an investment implies a faith in a better future.
  • The necessity of this faith in the future – do we need the sentiment of going forward, towards “more”, or is this linear notion of time one root cause of the environmental problems we are facing (considering the finite nature of our planet)?

DISCUSSION:

In the book, concerned about the power of debt to cause inhuman, immoral consequences to debtors (including examples of daughters being sent to prostitution, or people dying in thousands in developing countries as IMF and other creditors have demanded their debts to be repaid) Graeber asks whether it really is so that debts always need to be paid back?

To this end, he trails the historical development of credit. In chapter 2, he reviews the history of money and debt told today in economics’ textbooks. This story goes that first there was barter; then currency or money was developed to ease the economic exchange of stuff; and, later on, credit developed. By juxtaposing the story with anthropological evidence, he concludes that the now common narrative in economics is wrong. Actually, the opposite is true: the order would actually be that credit developed first, and from it, money. Barter in turn has never been a wider-scale social practice.

He claims that only by introduction of money and interest rates did credit become decoupled from considerations of the needs and situations of all involved: what started out as a simple trust-based I-owe-you that helped people to rely on each other in circumstances where someone had a surplus at anothers’ time of need and vice versa, became an industry in itself. The focus shifted to numbers that do not heed the real life circumstances: when trust between the debtor and debtee was removed and interest rates introduced, debt took on a life of its own. He argues that our confusion of debt as a moral duty is just that – a confusion, and that not all debts need necessarily to be paid back.

On the way, he also argues that it was the economics’ story of development of money, and credit that allowed markets and monetary credit to be artificially disentangled from other social institutions and phenomena. This is because the story makes the development of currency and ensuing monetary credit seem like natural, good solutions to practical problems involved in barter, that all of humanity would have done earlier. This would have entailed the understanding that these institutions are natural, somehow, they need to be maintained by police force and law, and that they can be detached from considerations of other aspects of life and morality. This would, in turn, make these institutions further inhumane supporting the idea that debts need to be paid back unconditionally.

The chapter and the book elicited discussion on several tangential topics. We discussed that credit seems to have positive aspects to it. We considered that Graeber did not give a balanced handling to the issue of debt. He concentrated on the immorality in debt relationships,  although monetary debt may also lead to beneficial outcomes. For example, it (1) enables transition of wealth from where it is in excess to where it is scarce; and (2) it enables people to initiate projects that would otherwise be beyond their reach financially. However, Thomas Piketty’s finding in his book “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” (2014) that returns on capital grow faster than returns on labor seems to pose the question that is the function (1) illusionary?

We hypothesized that the transition from a cyclic experience of time to a linear time likely relates to the appearance of monetized, interest-growing credit. There was controversy over what came first: the need to enhance future or monetized, interest-growing credit. It might also be that before monetized credit people got from neighbors what they needed as a kind of a gift and when their neighbors were in need they would reciprocally give what the neighbors needed – and only with the appearance of monetized credit would also the idea of enhancing future, and of linear, progressive time, appear. However, never mind the order, the notions of linear time and the “better” tomorrow seem to be linked.

Graeber’s book inspired us to discuss the relation between markets and well-being. From the anthropological evidence and discussion on alternative distribution and production mechanisms, arose the topic of what are the limits of markets to yield well-being. As Graeber observes, more intimate, familial, “warm” relationships between people do involve exchange of services and goods; but not through money.
Indeed, an effort to “balance the accounts” in such a case so that no
“imbalance” anymore exists between “credits” and “debits” be they monetary or not, seems to be a violation of such a relationship, a sign of a will to terminate such a relationship. He gives an example of a father who asked his son to pay back all the costs associated with the son’s upbringing resulting in the son, after paying the debt back, never to contact the father again. Anthropologically, barter, where one seeks to maximize one’s own benefit without regard to the other, seems to only happen between people who are neutral, possibly hostile towards each other. It, then, seems that salable commodities can never replace such relationships and introduction of money to such exchange violates and destroys such relationships that likely are crucial for human well-being. This notion sheds a different light to for example
contemporary attempts to commodify well-being into salable services: by replacing social relationships with money, also the main component of value in such services, namely the exact social relationships, disappear.

We also discussed ecological sustainability and its relation to interest-growing credit. Is endless growth necessary? Why, when we
see that the human impact on some of the boundaries of our planet are already threatening our existence? But if we lose the faith in the always better tomorrow in aligning collective action to pursue that better tomorrow, how can we replace that as an enabler of collective action? We need to find alternative coordination mechanisms for our societies.

All in all, while the book appeared somewhat confusing and possibly one-sided, it seems to raise worthy issues. After all, as the other side of the debate is amply occupied, this voice of dissent is welcome. We
liked how Graeber exposed the often hidden assumption by which our institutions of private ownership, markets, and interest-growing credit would be the natural consequence of human development towards better, and questions that assumption: there are many other ways of organizing societies and the merits of each may need reassessment. Also, we enjoyed the questioning of the moral supremacy of paying
ones’ debt as it indeed seems that there are cases when paying back the debt is not the “right” thing to do, no matter how counter-intuitive that for a contemporary member of the current socio-economic system may seem.

Pragmatism, once more

TSElosophers meeting 20.9. Kari Lukka, Jonathan Van Mumford, Ekaterina Panina, Otto Rosendahl, Joonas Uotinen, Milla Wirén

In his book “Pragmatism and Organization Studies”, Philippe Lorino (2018) introduces Peircean pragmatism as a position against mainstream representationalism in organizational studies. Representationalism assumes the semiotics of signifier/signified as a dyad, which leads to representation/reality dichotomy. In contrast, Peirce’s semiotics introduces situational perspectives as “interpretants” that dilute the accuracy of any signifiers to “a representamen” (a specimen among others). To put it differently, pragmatism relegates representations to a situational resource among other resources, whereas representationalism claims that “representation determines action; it is the source of action” (Lorino 2018, 33). Lorino credibly uses the early pragmatist concepts to challenge representationalism. However, many other process philosophies have already highlighted challenges to representationalism – also based on other streams of the philosophy of science – in mainstream organizational studies. For example, pragmatism can be viewed generally as aligned with the practice turn in social ontology (Friedrichs & Kratochwil 2009, 713) and the developments in process philosophy (Rescher 1996) are already somewhat reflected in organizational studies, e.g. in strategy-as-a-practice (Vaara and Whittington 2012). One of the issues discussed in this context was the flattening of history by Lorino – as he was at the same time drawing from the “old” pragmatists and the subsequent developments seeded by them, some of the insights that may have been revolutionary (and expressed as such by Lorino) do not seem quite as foreign to the contemporary reader familiar with the subsequent developments as Lorino emphasizes.

Lorino’s (2018) book sparked a lively discussion whether correspondence theory of truth is relevant or irrelevant for pragmatism. Pragmatists emphasize consensus theory on knowledge, but it seems that correspondence theory within the framework of consensus is not necessarily excluded. For Peirce, the main force that creates order and stability in the universal process comes from relational ‘attraction’ (Ormerod 2006), which is difficult to define narrowly. For example, a strong consensus of knowledge is achieved by the imminent destruction of the Earth by an asteroid in Trier’s film Melancholia (see Ch1, Zizek 2014). In Melancholia, the everyday attraction towards vitality changed to the overbearing attraction to heavenly bodies and horror. The consensus became formed without any credible claims to socially constructing of some other kind of reality; there was a strong convergence towards a singular understanding of reality in the context shown us by Trier – and the convergence of views in such a situation may well be in line with representatiolist correspondence.

We also discussed the Peircean “thirdness” in regards to the correspondence theory of the truth. The significant semiotic contribution of Peirce was to highlight the third element relevant in a concept: whereas de Saussure broke the concept into two components of the signifier (the word tree) and the signified (the thing growing from the ground, referred to with the word), Peirce introduced the importance of the interpretant (the one doing the referring to the tree, nuanced by the understanding of the tree by the utterer). In our discussions we pondered that in pragmatism, the correspondence does not necessarily flow in between the signified and the signifier, but is instead located in between the interpretant and the signified – for the one interpreting the growing thing as something that can be referred to as a tree, the uttering corresponds with the contextually created notion of truth. The example found in Lorino’s text about a group of piqueniquers highlights this: in viewing a flat stone it is referred to as a table. In the context of having outdoors lunch the interpretation of stone as a table is true, even though without the context a flat stone does not correspond with the general meaning of the word table.

Regarding scholarly research, Peircean pragmatists are bound to recognize the attraction of correspondence theory. In particular, it has (arguably to remarkable extent) produced beneficial results in (natural) sciences. Lorino (2018, 264) sums up the union of Peircean pragmatism with correspondence as follows: “Science would rather appear as an attempt to formulate beliefs […] in the effectiveness of action – for example, does the management of nuclear safety really avoid major accidents (and this “really” means something here)?” As pragmatists see the employment of the correspondence of theory of truth having less application options than realists, pragmatists focus on the development of useful beliefs instead of bare facts. Although this formulation seems to gnaw the foundation of a scientific worldview, it could be also understood positively: pragmatism potentially extends the scope of science. The scientific foundation of facts as ‘well-justified true beliefs’ are not completely taken away, but rather they are complemented with the consideration that facts are produced in a range of different situations and perspectives. Fact claims are also employed in relatively sinister occurrences, e.g. for manipulation and for adopting superiority.

In sum, “humans do not have doors and windows open to the world: they are in the world; they even are the world (Lorino 2018, 40).” We discussed along the lines of this pragmatist proclamation, especially concerning the human capabilities for connecting with their world. Anthropological studies from non-western cultures illustrate that humans have great potential for a thorough connectedness (Descola 2013). Unfortunately, the connectedness in western culture is often visible only in material terms (Descola 2013): We generally believe that humans have become a relatively advanced instantiation of animal evolution. Spiritual connectedness, however, would mean further avoidance to dichotomize man and nature. Regrettably the attraction towards one dichotomy allies itself often with others, e.g. reality/representation, human/natural and beneficiary/resource and representations on reality are typically used to exploit natural resources for human beneficiaries. These dichotomies come with implicit justifications of human beneficiaries’ superiority. With these dichotomies, it becomes practical and natural to neglect non-human beneficiaries, as well as those humans considered merely as “resources”. TSElosophers support scientific practices that emphasize developing everyone’s sensitivity and respect for their world in a holistic sense. Pragmatism offers one potential starting point in this regard, but also it would need widening of scope to be more helpful in the development of beliefs that would genuinely take into consideration the huge social and ecological challenges of our time and the near future.

Improving, or just escaping, the capitalistic machine

TSElosophers meeting on 11.06.2018, Otto Rosendahl, Kari Lukka, Joel Hietanen

”Deleuze, G., & Guattari, F. (1983). Anti-oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P. Chapters 1 (The Desiring-machines) and 4 (Introduction to Schizoanalysis).”

“Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia” (Deleuze & Guattari 1977) is a book that needs to be understood in its historical context. Lyotard, Baudrillard and Irigaray had just published books that strongly challenged scientifically rationalistic foundations. Guattari was a creative psychologist, who felt that psychoanalytical tradition of that time was too constraining. Deleuze was the philosopher who wrote down and refined Guattari’s abstractions. Their co-operation produced one of the most complex scholarly best-sellers of all times.

The book starts with building a distinctive and peculiar non-humanistic ontology in order to criticize psychoanalytical practices of their time. A paradigmatic role is given to the unconscious production of “desiring-machines” – a notion that lies at the heart of the book. All desiring-machines are a fleeting part of the universal schizophrenic flow, which they occasionally arrest with neurosis and perversions. Neuroses refer to holding on to one form and perversions to creating a multitude of forms, for example DNA reproduction or DNA mutations.

D&G present capitalism as a (phenomenological) social machine that feeds the desiring-machines and continuously increases their schizophrenic, neurotic and perverse productions. Capitalism differs from territorial and despotic machines, because it runs with an abstract code, i.e. money, which compels increasing desire-production as its requirements develop more flexibly. For example, capitalism provides ample opportunities for thrilling, enjoyable or comforting schizophrenic escapes with experiential consumption, impulsive shopping and social media. Especially social media provides easy and gratifying targets for both neurotic interventions and perverse interpretations, often against the public displays of schizophrenic production. Consider the public outrage that resulted from a Facebook picture of a 12-year old American girl standing victoriously beside a giraffe she had hunted down.

D&G’s method is aimed against preconscious interests of social machines, which repress desiring-machines to celibacy. Celibate joys and sorrows are very real, but neurotically determined by success in producing intensifying quantities in alignment with the social code. An uncommon celibate alternative for quantity production is schizoid thinking: artificial balancing of joys and sorrows (authors suggest Kant as an example). However, D&G’s ontology highlight that even abandoning the “miraculating” social machine does not lead to a discovery of a true miracle machines. Rather, it leads to the production of intensifying abstractions and feelings. Many pitfalls for production disorders wait there as well, such as paranoiac, borderline and histrionic. The last is exemplified by Nietzsche who thought “everything is part of I”, in contrast to D&G’s ontology that posits conscious subject as an insignificant by-product of desiring-machines.

One of the beginning statements that “desiring-machines work only when they break down, and by continually breaking down” (p. 8) slowly starts to make sense. The book is refreshingly outspoken by assigning us all with varying level of mental disorders (whether one is successful or unsuccessful in the production of quantities) and thereby succeeds in alleviating the (phenomenological) external neurotic pressures. For example, Freud’s psychoanalysis was commonly used in the 70’s as a celibacy-inducing mechanism that narrated all problems with childhood and the aim of the treatments were to get people back to producing intensifying quantities. In contrast, Guattari encouraged his patients – a word he detested – to play different games, which let them some detachment from preconscious interests, and attach to and be guided by their unconscious desire-production.

We discussed whether D&G are for or against capitalism. They outline that capitalism compellingly moves towards cosmic death (note: our interpretation to “body without objects”) with intensification of abstract quantities. However, they elaborate few details how to avoid it. Perhaps human consciousness may/should strive, although its ability to do so is strongly questioned, to steer production from the deleterious effects of producing intensive quantities towards well-selected production of intensifying feelings and abstractions. Perhaps consciousness is not able to do better than listen music on the deck chairs of Titanic, because the ice berg cannot be avoided. Accelerationists even argue that why try to turn the ship instead of colliding to ice berg directly.

We concluded that the early parts of the book are more descriptive, but that it gains more normative overtones for the schizophrenic escape with the presentation of their method: schizoanalysis. However, later Deleuze and Guattari clarified that they do not want to speak about schizoanalysis in order not to promote schizophrenic escapes. Hopefully, the combination of desiring machine production could help to create and upkeep influential virtuous abstractions – that are sometimes aligned with and sometimes against the prevailing social machine. For example, the clairvoyance brought by a schizophrenic escape, the neurosis that demands the righteous hero to continue and the perversion that saves the day.

Ps. Just to give a clue of the writing style, here is a relatively clearly written excerpt: “A schizophrenic out for a walk is a better model than a neurotic lying on the analyst’s couch. […] He [the schizophrenic] does not live nature as nature, but as a process of production. There is no such thing as either man or nature now, only a process that produces the one within the other and couples the machines together. Producing-machines, desiring-machines everywhere, schizophrenic machines, all of species life: the self and the non-self, outside and inside, no longer have any meaning whatsoever (p.6).”

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