According to Tocqueville, any social group, even the lower classes, could feel the pride and dignity of belonging to an identified social cast. Modern democracies tended to prevent even the privileged classes from constituting a proper esprit: ‘Aujourd’hui, on voit encore des riches, mais ils ne forment plus un corps compact et héréditaire ; ils n’ont pu adopter un esprit, y persévérer et le faire pénétrer dans tous les rangs.’[1] A recent academic translation of the former passage has replaced ‘esprit’ by the expression ‘esprit de corps’: ‘Today, wealthy individuals still exist, but they have ceased to constitute a distinct and hereditary body capable of fostering and maintaining an esprit de corps, and instilling it in people of all ranks.’[2] The first English translation (1863) used the compound ‘class spirit’, [3]  adding ‘esprit de corps’ in parentheses in another passage where again Tocqueville only used the word ‘esprit’: ‘En toutes choses la majorité fait loi ; elle établit de certaines allures auxquelles ensuite chacun se conforme ; l’ensemble de ces habitudes communes s’appelle un esprit : il y a l’esprit du barreau, l’esprit de cour.’[4] In English:

 

The will of the majority is the most general of laws, and it establishes certain habits to which everyone must then conform; the aggregate of these common habits is what is called the class spirit (esprit de corps) of each profession; thus there is the class spirit of the bar, of the court, etc.[5]

 

For Tocqueville, esprit de corps was something of a pleonasm, hence the use of the sole word esprit. Democratic individualists can hardly form an esprit; etymologically speaking, they are ‘idiots’:

 

How do people remain their own masters? By maintaining the kind of community that secures their liberty. Freedom and community are not opposing forces any more than pluribus and unum. We are free so that we can create a community life so that, in turn, we can be free. Tocqueville’s singular contribution to our understanding of idiocy and citizenship is this notion that idiots are idiotic precisely because they are indifferent to the conditions and contexts of their own freedom. They fail to grasp the interdependence of liberty and community.[6]

[1] Tocqueville, De la démocratie en Amérique, vol. II, p. 331.

[2] Tocqueville, Democracy in America, trans. by Arthur Goldhammer (New York: Library of America, 2004), p. 403.

[3] Tocqueville, Democracy in America, trans. by Henri Reeve (Cambridge: Sever and Francis, 1863), vol. I, p. 237.

[4] Tocqueville, De la démocratie en Amérique, vol II., p. 23.

[5] Tocqueville, Democracy in America, trans. by Henri Reeve, p. 237

[6] Walter C. Parker, Teaching Democracy: Unity and Diversity in Public Life (New York, NY: Teachers College Press, 2003), p. 4.

Sharing an interesting paper by Cannizzaro and Cobley (2015)

Biosemiotics, politics and Th.A. Sebeok’s move from linguistics to semiotics. In: Biosemiotic Perspectives on Language and Linguistic. Biosemiotics . Springer, pp. 207-222.

Abstract This paper will focus on the political implications for the language sciences of Sebeok’s move from linguistics to a global semiotic perspective, a move that ultimately resulted in biosemiotics. The paper will seek to make more explicit the political bearing of a biosemiotic perspective in the language sciences and the human sciences in general. In particular, it will discuss the definition of language inherent in Sebeok’s project and the fundamental re-drawing of the grounds of linguistic debate heralded by Sebeok’s embrace of the concept of modelling. Thus far, the political co-ordinates of the biosemiotic project have not really been made explicit. This paper will therefore seek to outline
1. how biosemiotics enables us to reconfigure our understanding of the role of language in culture;
2. how exaptation is central to the evolution of language and communication, rather than adaptation;
3. how communication is the key issue in biosphere, rather than language, not just because communication includes language but because the language sciences often refer to language as if it were mere “chatter”, “tropes” and “figures of speech”;
4. how biosemiotics, despite its seeming “neutrality” arising from its transdisciplinarity, is thoroughly political;
5. how the failure to see the implications of the move from linguistics to semiotics arises from the fact that biosemiotics is devoid of old style politics, which is based on representation (devoid of experience) and “construction of [everything] in discourse” (which is grounded in linguistics, not communication study).
In contrast to the post-“linguistic turn” idea that the world is “constructed in discourse”, we will argue that biosemiotics entails a reconfiguration of the polis and, in particular, offers the chance to completely reconceptualise ideology.

The article can be accessed here.

 

 

Interesting article of intellectual history by Bernard Dionysius Geoghegan. On the relationship between linguistics, structuralism, and CIA funded cybernetics.

‘In this paper I examine the history of efforts to reform the human sciences through new media research, with a particular emphasis on the Rockefeller Foundation’s interwoven programs of support for communications research, digital media, and global science from 1930 to 1960. Through archival research and textual analysis I reconstruct how leading scholars and scientific administrators came to conceive of new media technologies as part of an impartial apparatus for transcending cultural, biological, and political difference. I recover the forgotten history of interdisciplinary and transnational programs that conjoined the research of Francophone structuralists to that of American engineers. The result is a new account of 20th century media change and research as inscribed within a project of “global technics” that substituted technological procedures for political decision making.’

Read the full paper here

 

The Creal hypothesis is ontological, even cosmological (in my book L’être et le néon), in the sense that it names the supranoumenon and identifies it with immanent infinite multiplicity in the fashion of process philosophies (Heraclitus, Bergson, Whitehead, Deleuze, etc.). But it is also a henology, since the One or unity is I believe implied by the immanent existence of the Creal. This is sort of presocratic (or neoplatonist?), although in the chapter I have written for the Dark Precursor volume I have chosen to look at the Creal from an axiomatic perspective instead of cosmological.

From the Creal point of view, all forms of life are not elaborated on the basis of scarce material, from the simple to the complex, but rather are a pruning of the original infinite richness of the creal becoming. Hypercomplexity is prime, but the attraction towards unity is coterminous. This immanent virtual cosmos of all possibles might sound somewhat Platonist, but it is rather based on the hypothesis of a dynamic infinite probability predating the real while not excluding it.

In semiotic terms, we could say that messages are uttered as a general thrust towards a form of unity against a background of infinite multiplicity. This is why I believe that communication, indeed present in all forms of life, is part of or even equivalent to the process of territorialisation, a production of sameness (the Umwelt or worldforming). Living beings produce sameness or unity because it is the very opposite of Creal, that’s the basic thing that can be enacted in the universe, a territory that is one and affirms the oneness, integrity, of its agent (or agents as this can be a collective process). 

This is why I am interested in what I called crealectics, which seems close to biosemiotics and perhaps to some elements of biolinguistics. Crealectics or the territorialisation of the Creal via a secretory biodiscourse of integrity, which I see as a secretion of sameness via a system of signifiers that, because they are meant to produce sameness (a same territory) and unity, are eventually a language or a system of signs. This can be also seen as a form of resistance against dissolution into the Creal (death as a return to pure multiplicity, a negation of integrity).

1. In order to form a territory, an Umwelt, you need, it seems, a homogeneous language. There needs to be a fluid sign circulation between different zones of the world you want to inhabit as a privileged species. Territorialising is translating the disparity of the Creal into one discourse, a text written in the same language. A metaphor perhaps would be to compare each new letter or symbol from the territorialising language with an omnivorous insect (all of the same species).

2. An excerpt of Woolf’s To the Lighthouse:

All had streamed away. . . . From her hand, ice cold, held deep in the sea, there spurted up a fountain of joy at the change, at the escape, at the adventure (that she should be alive, that she should be there). And the drops falling from this sudden and unthinking fountain of joy fell here and there on the dark, the slumberous shapes in her mind; shapes of a world not realized but turning in their darkness, catching here and there, a spark of light; Greece, Rome, Constantinople. Small as it was, and shaped something like a leaf stood on its end with the gold-sprinkled waters owing in and about it, it had, she supposed, a place in the universe—even that little island?

3. An extract from The Machinic Unconscious, Félix Guattari’s book:

The hypothesis of an abstract machinic phylum traversing language, representation, and the diverse actual and virtual levels of reality presents the incentive to corrode the linguistic edifice from the inside, to render it porous without destroying it as such. In particular, it should allow us to avoid two types of dangers: – a pure and simple falling back of linguistic machines onto social structures, like Marr’s linguistic dogmatism or certain new psycho-linguistic trends; – a structuralist or generativist formalization that separates the production of statements from collective assemblages of enunciation. In some way, it is necessary to admit that in order for discursive chains to be in touch with reality they must be disengaged from the constraints of language considered as a closed system. How do we escape from linguistic structures without losing their specificity as such?

4. How do 1, 2 and 3 start to form a same territory? Realisation of a world. Empire or island building. Machine versus animal or animal-machine. Collective versus individual territory. It is not that discursive chains need to be in touch with reality, it is about the equivalence of discursive secretions with reality.

5. This is the notion produced by the encounter of my paragraph with Woolf and Guattari: secretion. Reality as a secretion, an idea that I leave here suspended like a spider’s web until I come back to it, soon.

 

 

 

 

A very clear and fascinating text by Paulo de Jesus about the connections between enaction and biosemiotics. I am still wondering if the notion of sign is the best atom of understanding to elucidate the relationship between nature and culture. For example, a sign is isolated, while a discourse is an articulated network of signs.

This is the abstract of the paper:

Autopoietic enactivism (AE) is a relatively young but increasingly influential approach within embodied cognitive science, which aims to offer a viable alternative framework to mainstream cognitivism. Similarly, in biology, the nascent field of biosemiotics has steadily been developing an increasingly influential alternative framework to mainstream biology. Despite sharing common objectives and clear theoretical overlap, there has to date been little to no exchange between the two fields. This paper takes this under-appreciated overlap as not only a much needed call to begin building bridges between the two areas but also as an opportunity to explore how AE could benefit from biosemiotics. As a first tentative step towards this end, the paper will draw from both fields to develop a novel synthesis – biosemiotic enactivism – which aims to clarify, develop and ultimately strengthen some key AE concepts. The paper has two main goals: (i) to propose a novel conception of cognition that could contribute to the ongoing theoretical developments of AE and (ii) to introduce some concepts and ideas from biosemiotics to the enactive community in order to stimulate further debate across the two fields.

 

I am discovering the work of John Deely, quite fascinating at this early stage. As far as I can tell for the moment, one of Deely’s major ideas is expressed in the term physiosemiosis, ‘the probability that semiosis not only surrounds life but pre-existed living things, and indeed shaped the universe so as to make living things possible in the first place.’

Apparently, Deely came to the field of biosemiotics via medieval philosophy, and more specifically the doctrine of signs developed by Portuguese Dominican scholar Joao Poinsot.

“Poinsot, so far as present knowledge goes, holds the privileged position in semiotic historiography of being the earliest systematizer of the ‘doctrine of ‘signs. Not until the work of Peirce in our own day do we again encounter a ‘semiotic of comparable energy and scope. In 1632, Poinsot published, as part of his series of courses in philosophy at the University of Alcalâ, Spain, a highly original, systematically conceived Treatise on Signs (Tractatus de Signis) (1930), which fits exactly ‘Locke’s definition of semiotic proposed some 58 years later, at the close of his Essay Concerning Human Understanding (details in Deely 1982), and taken up again by Peirce.

From this point of view, Poinsot’s work provides us with the first of several “missing links” in the history- of logic and ‘philosophy after ‘Ockham (e. 1350), enabling us to trace backwards through the Iberian schools of Coimbra (notably in the work of Petrus Fonseca [1564] and the team of workers he organized, the so-called “Conimbricenses”), Salamanca (Bavez, Soto, and others), and Alcalâ, a heretofore largely untold story of developments that are exceptional in import for semiotics (Deely 1982).

Doctrinally, Poinsot’s work achieves a new, entirely experiential point of departure for the enterprise of philosophy, and reconciles in so doing the seemingly opposed orders of nature and ‘culture. Poinsot begins his Treatise on Signs by drawing attention to a central feature of ‘semiosis that must, in his opinion, be a first concern of semioticians to safeguard and give adequate account of, namely, the fact that, in our experience, signs bring together natural and social phenomena. The sign, he points out (Book 1, Question I: 646b26-45), is something neither preclusively natural nor preclusively social, but both inclusively, for while all signs as such acquire their signification and actually exist only within some living being’s experience, nonetheless, within that very experience, the connection between signs and what they signify sometimes seemsto have roots outside our experience of their connection (the case of “natural” signs), and other times seems to have no reality other than the one derived from the experience itself of social interaction (the case of customary and stipulated signs). Thus the first task of the semiotician, in Poinsot’s judgment, is to secure a standpoint superior to the division of being into what exists independently of our ‘cognition (ens reale ‘mind-independent being’) and what exists dependently upon cognition (ens rationis mind-dependent being’). For Poinsot, semiotic must take its stand, in the felicitous description by Sebeok, squarely “at the intersection of nature and culture.” This simple description of semiotic’s initial task already amounts to a revolution within the perspective of natural philosophy or “physics” traditional in Poinsot’s day. For the sole concern of that tradition was to uncover and explicate the structure of ens reale, which they thought to have achieved, after “Aristotle, with the division of mind independent being into substances, or natural units of independent existence, with their accidents, or various properties and characteristics. Thus, the division of being into the Aristotelian categories of substance and the various types of accident was generally thought to be the permanent achievement of ontology in the Latin age.

Poinsot’s approach to semiotic entirely undercuts this categorial scheme, going beneath it and beginning with an analysis of experience prior to the possibility of the working out of any such scheme. He establishes a fundamental ontology in just that sense which Heidegger calls for in our own time, namely, an “ontology” that accounts for the categorial interconnections and lays bare the ground of the prior possibility of truth as a “correspondence” between thought and being. Poinsot finds this fundamental ontology in our experience of the ways in which things appear to be relative. Poinsot observed (following in this Aquinas [c. 1266: q. 28] and Cajetan [1507] before him) that, as a mode of reality, relation is unique in that its essence (esse ad aliud ‘being between’) is separate from its cause or ground of existence (esse in alio ‘the character or feature upon which a relation is founded’), which is not the case for any other mode of reality. Poinsot sees in this the ultimate reason for the possibility of semiosis: relation in what is proper to it, namely, suprasubjectivity or intersubjectivity (esse ad), is indifferent to realization now in nature, now in thought, now in both. Relation in this sense, precisely as indifferent to the opposition of what depends upon and what is independent of cognition, Poinsot calls relatio secundum esse ‘relation according to the way it has being’ or ‘ontological relation’ (see Deely 1982).

By contrast, things that are related exist subjectively as something in their own right, not just between other things sustaining them in a derivative way. And yet, if we seek to explain why they are as they are or how they might be altered from their present state, we find it necessary to refer to what the individuals in question themselves are not. Thus, even the individual entities and “natural units” of experience existing in their own right – even substances in Aristotle’s scheme, the most absolute of the subjective entities – are seen to be relative when it comes to the question of how they come to be or of how they are to be accounted for. Relativity in this sense, precisely as infecting the whole scheme of categories of cognition-independent existents, Poinsot termed relatio secundum dici ‘relation according to the way being must be expressed in discourse’, or (synonymously) relatio transcendentalis ‘transcendental relation’.

With this division of being, then, into transcendental and ontological relation, Poinsot has two simple “categories” that are exhaustive and exclusive, but whose terms are entirely matters of direct experience (unlike Aristotle’s division of being into substance and accident, which was also exhaustive and exclusive, but directly experienced only on the side of certain accidents: comprehensive discussion in Powell [Freely chosen reality] 1982), and whose relevance to the doctrine of signs is immediate. For all authors agree, and indeed experience makes quite unmistakable, that every sign as such is a relative being (something making known another than itself), and since, by the prior terms of the analysis of relative being, we know that there are only two irreducible types of relativity, it remains only to apply that analysis to our experience of semiosis in order to determine in what precisely a sign consists (the formalis ratio signi, as Poinsot puts it), that is to say, what is it that constitues a sign in its proper being?The answer to this question is ontological relation, an answer which enables Poinsot to resolve a number of aporia that have plagued accounts of signifying from ancient times down to the present, and which turn out to be decisive for °epistemology and philosophical thought generally.”

From: John Deely – Poinsot, John – in: Encyclopedic dictionary of semiotics – General Editor, Thomas A. Sebeok; Editorial Board, Paul Bouissac … [et al.] – Berlin, New York, Mouton de Gruyter, 1986.

DRAFT of forthcoming chapter in The Dark Precursor,

Orpheus Institute, Leuven University Press (2017)

 

On the Concept of Creal: The Politico-Ethical Horizon of a Creative Absolute

Luis de Miranda

University of Edinburgh

 

Process philosophies tend to emphasise the value of continuous creation as the core of their discourse. For Bergson, Whitehead, Deleuze, and others the real is ultimately a creative becoming. Critics have argued that there is an irreducible element of (almost religious) belief in this re-evaluation of immanent creation. While I don’t think belief is necessarily a sign of philosophical and existential weakness, in this paper I will examine the possibility for the concept of universal creation to be a political and ethical axiom, the result of a global social contract rather than of a new spirituality. I argue here that the only way to fight against potentially totalitarian absolutes is to replace them with a virtual absolute that cannot territorialise without deterritorialising at the same time: the Creal hypothesis.

 

Back to the (anti-)absolute

How can communities of passion avoid the internal or external menace of totalitarianism? By signing a global social contract in the name of pure and absolute creation.

Such a contract could be the manifestation of an ethico-political agreement, the consensual idea that an absolutised supra-axiom, carefully chosen, should supersede values pertaining to specific and agonistic groups of power. I propose, with the help of Deleuze, Guattari, and Lacan, that such a contractual universal should be a concept of immanent creation (“the Creal”), the only absolute that, logically, would constantly self-destroy and return to life again. This epistemic and existential Creal-strategy is meant to efficiently prevent the over-territorialisation of hegemonic positions, thus providing a stronger bulwark than the laissez-faire of capitalistic pseudo-relativism. A non-anthropocentric creational axiom could nurture a constitutional desire for the kind of radical novelty that is a source of political and existential experimentation and openness.

“Concept[s] must be created” (Deleuze and Guattari 1994, 5): I have taken to calling such a politico-ethical value Creal. I propose to call the horizon of its social implementation Krealpolitik. This absolutist strategy can be understood as the positing of an open common ground compatible with epistemic, social, and existential pluralism, now that the general devaluation of integrity and the schizoid-paranoid form of individualism produced by capital-humanism have failed to counter the totalitarianisms of globalisation: the formula “laissez-faire, laissez-passer” mostly liberates markets.

 

Enter Creal

The French novel Paridaiza (de Miranda 2008a) described a totalitarian digital duplication of our planet. A small group of rebels slowly subverted the hedonistic-fascist system in which millions of players were more or less willingly imprisoned. The liberators implanted a virus within the codes of the immersive world in the form of a disruptive signifier. Five combined letters functioned as the grain of sand in the gears: “Créel,” a French portmanteau neologism for créé-réel, “created-real”—hence “Creal” in English.

            In an essay on Deleuze (de Miranda 2008b), now republished in English (de Miranda 2013), the concept of “Creal” qualified a non-anthropocentric multi-universal of the kind proposed by modern process ontologies: “Creal” is analogous to what Deleuze (1994, 117, 120) called “disparateness” or “second-degree difference,” what Deleuze and Guattari (1994, 208) called “chaosmos” or “plane of immanence,” what Bergson ([1911] 2007) called “duration,” “creative evolution,” or “life,” and what Whitehead ([1929] 1976, 21) called “creativity process,” adding that “creativity is the universal of universals characterizing the ultimate matter of fact.” The Creal—that is, the Real as a “chaosmic” creative stream—does not seem to be teleological: it is likely to explode in all real and virtual directions, without preference or a spiritually predefined goal.

            The Creal might be the implicit dark matter of artists and poets. To artists, pure creation is certainly a valid absolute, even if we were trained in the last century to be suspicious of absolutes. Some would add that the less we tried to control reality, the more creal we would become, as proposed for example by the surrealists, chief among them Breton, who thought surreality was “a sort of absolute reality” (Alquié 1965, 149). This reactivates one of the oldest philosophical questions: destiny or agency? It is often forgotten that Deleuze and Guattari themselves, supposedly the champions of anti-voluntarism, did not advocate laissez-faire nor submission to chaos: “We require a little order to protect us from chaos . . . We only ask that our ideas are linked together according to a minimum of constant rules” (Deleuze and Guattari 1994, 202). Accordingly, the Creal should act as a minimal “umbrella” against the rain of chaos, such that it would remain chaos-friendly, as Gene Kelly in Singin’ In the Rain, the man “deprived of consciousness” but pointing to the opposite extreme: infinite consciousness (Deleuze 1989, 61).

 

Totemic “chaosmos”

Most process philosophers are cosmologists. Every cosmology possesses its dark precursor, a prime entity, a universal—or multiversal—principle. “We call this dark precursor, this difference in itself or difference in the second degree which relates heterogeneous systems and even completely disparate things, the disparate” (Deleuze 1994, 120). If it were the central absolute of an innocent cosmology, the Creal would be such a disparation, a becoming of impressions, compositions, and decompositions, a constant suggestion of “multiplicities of n dimensions” (Deleuze and Guatarri 1987, 212). Difference is not only a movement; it is a feeling, proceeding from a glide of vibrations, our metamorphic state by default. Pure immanence is a pluriversal, not heading anywhere in particular: it is “disparating.” The verb disparatar, in Portuguese, means playing nonsense, going in all directions like a facetious child, machining manifestations of play: “We call this state of infinitely doubled difference which resonates to infinity disparity. Disparity—in other words, difference or intensity (difference of intensity)—is the sufficient reason of all phenomena, the condition of that which appears” (Deleuze 1994, 222).

            However, such non-mathematical cosmologies, easily disparaged in our scientific times, can be seen at best as acts of playful faith or artistic ritournelles. To be a cosmologist might not be enough to participate in chaosmo-politics. Moreover, positing a source of things could be interpreted as a fetishisation of the past: why do we need sources and ontological origins? Thus, what I propose here as Krealpolitik aims to keep cosmology in the background for a moment, in order to define the Creal as an axiomatic universal, rather than insist on affirming its ontological truth. Not unlike Kant’s regulative principle (Critique of Pure Reason A673/B701, Kant 1998, 607) politically and ethically, what matters, what makes (a) difference (Deleuze 1994) is to consider the Creal, pure creation, as if it were a true absolute, and keep such a virtuality in view. It is a matter of performative discourse.

            Lacan ([1986] 1997) has shown how any discourse, any web of belief, revolves around a more or less invisible void absolute signifier, the effect of which is produced by the structure of discourse itself, as a ghost in the machine (this is analysed in detail in de Miranda 2007). To be sustainable, a structure, an order, a discourse, a tribe, need to rely on a totemic value or set of values sometimes virtualised by the chain of signifiers, sometimes expressed in god-like—or ghost-like—concepts. The universal or set of universals around which such-and-such social reality is constructed maintains the cohesion of the ensemble by playing the role of a slippery axis mundi, a master signifier (Lacan 1991, 56). It can function as an “essentially contested concept” (Gallie 1956), but it serves nevertheless the process of sense-making and world-making. Human discourses tend to crystallise around an explicit or implicit set of persistent values that allows for their web of belief to catch a maximum of flies. Such “essential concepts,” when supported by a signifier, are often paired with a pseudo-opposite signifier that entertains an illusion of openness or debate: God (atheism), Capital (communism), Competition (emulation), Beauty (decadence), Science (faith), or more recently the “master algorithm” (Domingos 2015) and its pseudo-opposite, the mysterious human factor. For example, the absolute psychological value of capitalism is, following Lacan, jouissance (de Miranda 2007), and social control would be its pseudo-opposite value.

            If the revolutionary and poietic “people to come” (Deleuze and Guattari 1994, 218) do not nurture such a meta-absolute, then conservative groups ensembles might extend the dominion of their own absolute by overcoding unprotected pseudo-relativist territories saturated by envy and competition for jouissance as perversion of desire. Absolutised values are combat concepts, the spirit of social bodies, and each group spirit, each “esprit de corps,” is a “war machine,” even if war is not its main purpose (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 366).

            Here the reader could ask, what would then be the pseudo-opposite of the Creal? Answer: the One. Elsewhere I have shown in detail how for Deleuze the line of multiplicity (of flight) and the molar line of unity are two asymptotical horizons from which reality proceeds as a third line, a crack-up, a zigzag (de Miranda 2013). A crealectician is never totally creal, and never totally one. Crealectics is a zigzag in between the actual and the virtual, on the crest line. Reality is the offspring of the mutual and complicated admiration between the Creal and the One (a cosmological relationship I have described in more detail in de Miranda 2012). Krealpolitik proposes the psychological practice of admiration to replace capitalist envy.

 

Krealpolitik

If we agree that plural and choral forms of intelligence and world-forming agency are desirable, we might wonder how to harness “esprit de corps” in order to “sow the seeds of, or even engender, the people to come” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 345).

Chantal Mouffe said: “While we desire an end to conflict, if we want people to be free we must always allow for the possibility that conflict may appear and to provide an arena where differences can be confronted” (Mouffe in Mouffe, Laclau, and Castle 1998). Agonistic pluralism (Mouffe 2013) is the idea that a constant war of absolutes can be politically and democratically virtuous and fecund provided we let no absolute prevail, by institutionalising confrontational argumentation, pluralism, and collective dissent. Yet this still presupposes that a global community of communities possesses a meta-universal: in this case, even if it remains more or less unthought in her theory, Mouffe’s ontological absolute is the very concept of conflict or struggle. It remains a negative absolute.

Most process cosmologies tend to defend an agonal or agonistic conception of creation, at the risk of inoculating an essentialised notion of eternal struggle in their ontology. Henri Bergson (1920, 31) spoke of cosmic creation as an emotive machine that produced worlds and gods via a constant combat of spirit against matter; for him, the equivalent of the Creal was an “immense inflorescence of unforeseeable novelty,” and the Real was the solidified and somewhat zombified side of life. As we have mentioned, Deleuze and Guattari (1987) spoke in various places of “esprit de corps” as the spirit of seditious plural bodies, a ghost in a “war machine” that constantly decoded state imperialism, but this supposes a somewhat military vision of social life as war. What if we replaced the still reactive and anthropocentric absolute of agony and combat with a more affirmative and posthuman Krealpolitik vision?

            Let’s assume that each organised group will tend to conquer as much symbolic and social territory as possible, by the virtue of conatus and esprit de corps. We could even assume for the sake of prudence that each community, even the most “innocent” one, tends to be a micro-fascist monopoly. The institutionalisation of agonism that is proposed to prevent totalitarianism raises the question of the superstructural institution itself. To avoid the naturalisation of war, I would propose that all communities agree on a positive absolute, a pure and constant creation of the real and of the unreal: the Creal as an affirmative and generous politico-ethical value that constantly self-destroys and constantly re-emerges again, as does any desire-without-object (de Miranda 2007).

            To become a Creal-citizen, a chaosmopolite, is to co-create a plurality of worlds. It is not enough to say that the Creal is the concept of if, the imaginary of possibility, the desire for alternatives, or the idea of infinite probability. It needs to be the core value of a global social contract. Will this global contract become a new form of secular religion? Perhaps, but in this case religion would derive from politics and ethics, rather than the contrary.

            If we are to equate pluralism and monism (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 20), we ought to institute—by global social contract—a new form of postnational citizenship based on an agreement concerning the superabundance of pure creation as being our affirmative and consensual absolute value, a sort of political and rational—but non-reductionist—religion. If we train ourselves to believe that the world is not lack and void, ontological misery, but deep prosperity, this would be one step out of the discourse of crisis and austerity that is used to undermine and eradicate the creative, poetic, and intellectual classes in favour of a depressed guilty global precariat. The poietic classes are the global refugees we forget to care about because capitalism trains the public opinion against them out of ressentiment and envy. Capitalism produces self-hatred, renunciation, and culpability among the creative, poetic, and intellectual classes because the latter are compassionate and tend to confuse, morally, the luxury and richness of their perception of life with a socially privileged existence. Krealpolitik proposes instead a triumphant reappropriation of the meaning of superabundance and non-materialistic luxury.

 

Crealism and anthrobotics

Humans are “rope[s] over an abyss” (Nietzsche 1961, 43), bridges between Creal and One. Our contemporary equivocal position in the middle of a chaotic universal, on one side, and a unifying horizon, on the other, is our ethical chance: by identifying neither with the multiplicity of the Creal nor with any unified world, we could perhaps avoid falling into the anthropocentric ontologies of a reified globalised world. Nothing is the Creal because, by logical necessity, the Creal flows everywhere. All tends to become at the same time one and many, and the reality thus produced is a development of realities and discourses, following a crealectical materialism. The paradox of realism is that these lines of in-betweenness appear solid, as for example in blood veins, or neural networks. But what if such networks are intensities, or differences of intensities?

            Protocols and institutions can be a social manifestation of the attraction of One. Art, philosophy, and poetry can be a social manifestation of the strange attraction of the multiple. Or vice versa. We can play the world-forming game as long as we don’t identify with our protocols. It is not only that humans are particularly gifted in developing new tools and techniques: we might in fact have always been social machines, on the one hand working unceasingly towards social automation, functionalism, the organisation and codification of the real, on the other hand engaging in more unstructured, aimless dispersions, recreation, and developing chaosmic and emotional aspirations (Deleuze and Guattari [1977] 1983; de Miranda 2010). We code and decode our protocols under the dual influence of the Creal and the clamour of unity. We are semi-automatic agents in collective hybrid systems made of flesh and algorithms, with a fluctuating zone of embodiment. The Creal-citizen knows that he or she is an “anthrobot” (de Miranda, Ramamoorthy, and Rovatsos 2016), a poietic social machine. Human societies are organic, poetic, and artificial, and at every moment, we are products and producers, partly creators and partly created, partly automata and partly agents capable of adaptability, self-actuation, and sense-making (Di Paolo 2009).

            If a collective is an axiomatic, intrinsically normative system, we can infer that a Krealpolitik would satisfy the requisites of a healthy system when the choral intelligence generated by the global social contract favours respectful and harmonious collaborations between and within socio-technical assemblages, human and non-human. Harmony however should not become an obsession (the pseudo-opposite of War): machinic breakdowns are perhaps necessary to allow for renewal rather than rigidity.

 

Conclusion: a prolegomenon

This chapter was a short prolegomenon to further research on the concept of Creal, with many aspects left to unfold. Its main intuition can be summed up as follows: humans tend to act according to absolutised imperatives, whether they are conscious of them or not. War, conflict, and struggle seem to be dominant universal values of modernity. I have proposed that we should globally agree on a common and less agonistic ultimate value, the Creal.

 

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I would like to recommend an interesting chapter written by Morten Tønnessen, entitled Umwelt and language, in Biosemiotic Perspectives on Language and Linguistics.

He speaks of language as a perception system developed in interaction with non-human entities (for him mostly animal, but why not include plants, the wind, etc.). He cites biologist Maturana for his idea of language as a verb: languaging as a dynamic modelling of the environment (Maturana, H. (1970). Biology of cognition (Biological Computer Laboratory [BCL] research report 9.0). Urbana: University of Illinois).

He distinguishes three types of Umwelt:

The core Umwelt: Automated acts of perception, Automated mental acts.

The mediated Umwelt: Wilful acts of perception, Wilful mental acts.

The conceptual Umwelt: Habitual acts of perception, Habitual mental acts.

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He quotes David Abram‘s Spell of the sensuous:

“If language is not a purely mental phenomenon”, writes Abram, “but a sensuous, bodily activity born of carnal reciprocity and participation, then our discourse has surely been influenced by many gestures, sounds, and rhythms besides those of our single species” – including birds. What is remarkable with regard to the evolution of language is that of the genes that have been identified as relevant for language abilities, “virtually all […] are present also in animals. All known genes of language, in other words, are genes of the primary modelling system that we have inherited from our animal ancestors”. This is consistent with the view, shared by Chomsky and Sebeok, that language evolved as an exaptation, i.e. that the function of language has changed from one (e.g., cognitive modelling) to another (e.g., communication).

I feel what is pertinent in the article, among other ideas, is the categorisation of the ‘conceptual unwelt’ as habitual. This might seem counter-intuitive to those who believe that the faculty to will is cognitively superior — or evolutionarily posterior — to the capacity to form and re-create habits, but I think what Tønnessen is doing here is alluding to the concept of social habitus developped among others by Bourdieu.