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DeLanda vis a vis Whitehead

by on April 11, 2013

DeLanda’s Philosophy and Simulation provides a very detailed investigation of emergence modeled as mathematic combinations so as to elucidate how counter the “‘emergentist’ philosophers” (2), one might explain emergence with reason. This book seems to trace emergence in the vein of the “chemical causality” (1) he describes in the Introduction.  His dialogue or advancement of Deleuze is apparent at times, but he seems to have completely rejected Whiteheads views of science which were so influential to Deleuze. When he speaks of mathematically or computer modeled or simulated emergence that is based on statistical combination and probability, he is speaking of a science that is primarily mathematic, the same science that Whitehead criticizes in Science and the Modern World.  DeLanda seems to have no problem committing the fallacy of “misplaced concreteness” and isolating systems as in traditional scientific experimentation and computer programming. At the same time, it would seem that process theory would have a lot to contribute to DeLanda’s more mechanistic understanding of science, however the problem of the emergence of process might be the primary problem DeLanda is trying to solve.

            DeLanda’s systematic look at the different sheets or layers of emergence added to one another does convey a complex and perhaps useful format for thinking emergence from the more simple water and temperature into storm to the more complex emergence of RNA from molecules. What seems to interest DeLanda most is that these models, though very different in the complexity of the variables and topology involved, share similar structures of singularities that are more or less indifferent to external perturbances (their symmetrical nature). I do not know exactly how Whitehead would respond to these simulated singularities, other than to insist that despite the computer simulation’s formation of the anvil and column (of the thunderstorm), that it is the height of abstraction, and that in a more concrete science the singularity would not exist statically or as a single point, but only and always in relation, so that it cannot be abstracted from the rotation of the earth or the movement of one of its component H2O molecules. Anyway, I wonder exactly how Whitehead would think these emergent indifferent singularities within the simulation. For in the end the increasing complexity of these simulations only becomes useful if they more closely approximate the concrete, or that which is specifically not simulated and which cannot be isolated. The end of a simulation is always the end of simulation.

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One Comment
  1. I agree that there might be some tendency in DeLanda to schematize in a way that Whitehead would not. Steve Shaviro has raised this issue on his blog in the past (about the book before this one). I think the key point here for DeLanda is the situation of the simulation between formal theory and laboratory experiment. Can the simulation tell us something about the real processes of the thunderstorm, specifically the mechanism-independent processes? These singularities, following Deleuze, are virtual: real but abstract. They are quasi-causal and non-deterministic in that they do not impart characteristics. As such they might operate equally in the storm and in the computer. I believe that’s the point.

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