Deleuze on Whitehead & Leibniz (3)

[Third and Final installment: What did Galileo do?]

Gilles: You said something quite marvelous. I insist on the following point because it’s a kind of philosophy in connection with modern science. I refer again to Bergson’s example, because to say that Bergson made a metaphysics from duration and liquidates science, one has to be profoundly retarded [débile] to say something like that. Bergson’s idea is that modern science gives us and brings us a new conception of time, scientific time. Modern scientific time which begins in physics around the 16th century can be defined scientifically, I say again scientifically, as follows: it’s the consideration of time at any instant at all [à un instant quelconque]. Why is this modern? Because ancient science defined time as a function of privileged moments. Bergson’s idea is very simple, and very beautiful: what did Galileo do, what did Galileo do? Based on that, what did Bergson try to do? He said that ancient metaphysics was the correlate to ancient science.
Bergson tells us: what you call metaphysics, is ancient metaphysics, but to what extent? It was perfectly adapted to ancient science, and inversely ancient science was perfectly adapted to its metaphysics. Physics, metaphysics, we must retain these excellent terms. Aristotle created the physics of movement, and the metaphysics that corresponds to this physics of movement, and the physics of movement corresponds to Aristotle’s metaphysics.
Today there is a series of cretins who thought, because science had evolved, it could do without metaphysics. Bergson said that this is completely idiotic; science has, in fact, sufficiently evolved – not at all that Aristotle is ancient, that has no sense – one must, including and thanks to Aristotle, take up metaphysics again from zero. One must make metaphysics into the correlate for modern science, exactly as modern science is the correlate of a potential metaphysics that we have not yet been abet to create. What is the metaphysics that corresponds to a scientific consideration of time taken as a any instant at all? Bergson said: it’s mine. He meant that it’s a metaphysics of duration, and no longer of eternity. You notice the common theme with Whitehead. What is metaphysics for Whitehead that corresponds to modern science? It would be a metaphysics of creativity.  It will be a metaphysics of the new. Novelty. The something new. It’s marvelous what Isabelle just said. I say: is it possible to conceive of a vibration that extends into the infinity of harmonics, that is, into an infinity of sub-multiples? She answered, obviously yes; but that would not interest a physician. Notice the notion of “interest”: that would not interest a physician because the whole operation of science will be to find the average. A research would be solely interested in the average. Or in the case of acoustics, a research would be interested only in a number of finite, and close, harmonics. This is a researcher’s job. The metaphysics that correspond to this science is not a reflection on this science; it must say metaphysically what the science says scientifically, it must say with concepts what science says with functions. Metaphysics is prodigiously interested in not finding the average, and to constitute a series which, in fact, will have no physical interest, but will have considerable metaphysical interest, an infinite series without convergence constituted by vibration and the infinity of its sub-multiples, the infinity of its harmonics.
Second point, which is more complicated. It is possible, in fact, that I understood poorly Whitehead’s these, and that hurts me. First, it’s in English, not translated obviously, and you have already guess that my relationship with English was painful. But for those who know English and this interest, it’s in Concept of Nature, it’s the marvelous chapter 4. I am translating little bits for you: “The character of the event (for the moment, the event is thus an infinite, not convergent sequence [suite] without limits) can be defined by the quantitative expressions expression relations between diverse intrinsic quantities in the event itself (i.e. in the series), or between such quantities and other intrinsic quantities in other events (that is, in other vibrations). In the case of events that have considerable spatio-temporal extension, the quantitative aggregate of expressions is highly complex. If ‘e’ an event, let us call Qe the aggregate of quantitative expression defining its character, and which includes its connections with the rest of nature.” You see that ‘e’ designate the infinite vibratory series extending to the sub-multiples, and that Qe designates one of the characteristics of the series. It yields as a schema of two series “e1, e2, e3, en, n + 1”, that the vibratory series, and Qen, Qen + 1, that’s the series of characteristics? “If Q1 is a quantitative measure found in Qe1, and Q2 the homologue of Q1 which is found in Qe2, and Q3 etc. etc… then we will have a series Q1-Q2-Q3-Qn+1, etc. … Although it has no final term,” thus it has in common with the preceding vibratory series, it has in common not to have a final term, it is indeed infinite… “Although it has no final term, it converges toward a definite limit.” So my agony is: Is my commentary correct? Whitehead gives no example. I therefore need Isabelle. The essential point is this birth of the convergent series, convergent toward a limit. What do you think?
Isabelle Stengers: [inaudible]
Gilles Deleuze: That interests me a lot because I believe in a kind of relay, a metaphysical relay in science, once we’ve said that the two disciplines are very different. But that does not prevent us from having relays if there is the complementarity that I indicated following Bergson, following Whitehead, if there is this complementarity between metaphysics and science, and that this complementarity has absolutely not gone stale; it’s just that people have absolutely understood nothing, it seems to me, and we have not [rejected] that there are relays [transcription seems to be missing a word]
Question: [inaudible]
Gilles Deleuze : … The Platonic theory of the receptacle does not presuppose space-time, it’s the reverse. Space and time will be born in certain conditions. The question is very correct, but it is yet to come. The actual occasion is something that is already in space and in time. My answer addressed what is the relation between space and time and the series, the initial series for the actual occasion. There series that I have ceaselessly discussed today, that are initial to the actual occasion, you remember? These are the conditions of the actual occasion, they [the series] are first in relation to the actual occasion. In order you have these series which condition the actual occasion, the series space-time, and the actual occasion. The actual occasion is certainly in space and in time.
Isabelle Stengers: [still inaudible]
Gilles : In my opinion, no, but I do grant you that. Those are your concerns. But that’s not bad, it’s not at all a criticism. My example of light, if I invoked it, it’s a pure example that consisted of using something that cannot intervene at that moment, by right, but which has the advantage of providing an understanding of how a screen [crible] functions. In fact, I said: the action of light consists in making a filter between shadow and dark ground [sombre fond] of colors, and on the contrary, the filter I mentioned made a filter between chaos and the dark ground, period. So I was not obligated to grant myself anything, in any case, like light. Does the screen – something more important in my view – does the screen already imply mirror equivalences, that would be a big problem. It must not. If we were obliged to include quasi-mirrors, that would complicate things a lot, but I hope there is no need for a quasi-mirror.
Isabelle Stengers: When you read Whitehead to us, and you made your series of Q, Q1, Q2, Qn+1, this n+1, does that mean we continue like that to infinity, or does it just mean that we are in a space of three + dimensions?
Gilles Deleuze: The symbols Q1, Q2, Q3, etc… it’s a series of characteristics, but each one animates a convergent series. Each characteristic has a convergent series, and on the other hand, you have an open, unlimited series of characteristics.
Intervention : [inaudible]
Gilles Deleuze : Well, good… then read Plato.

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1 Response

  1. Joe Amato says:

    All very interesting, if occasionally over my head. I like the thrust toward “event.” Let’s just say that it bugs me to see Whitehead excluded from college curricula today. His Science and the Modern World really spoke to me as a returning student with a background in engineering who wanted to understand how to square science with aesthetics.

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