9.04.2018

Why a machine? Why any concept, for that matter? (podcast)



Often, when I get excited about an idea — Nietzsche's amor fati, Kierkegaard's knight of faith, Deleuze's fold, and now Guattari's machine — I am often met with a certain confusion by those around me. Their instinct is that whatever I'm saying is "academic" and hence of no real interest.

Believe me, I understand such a reaction. But I believe it's an instinct that's been bred by a certain ideology that makes new, strange sounding ideas suspect. The fact is we deploy concepts all the time in how we make sense of the world, of ourselves, our relationships. Ego, the unconscious, freedom, evolution, religion are all concepts that we just take for granted as true things. But they're concepts that were created and perpetually recast — except when we just assume they're true and so never question them.

Concepts are art but, like, really pervasive art in that they inflect everything we see. Sure, seeing a Van Gogh might have you re-seeing the viscosity of the atmosphere. But a concept like the ego has you rethinking yourself and the motivations of everyone all the time.

Concepts aren't true or not true. They can work in that they can explain. They can jibe with you. They may not jibe or explain but they can be beautiful, odd, exhilarating. Long before Maturana's "autopoisesis" began to work for me, it sure exhilarated me!

But why machines in particular? Well, I think it's a concept that radically recasts the very possibility of change in the social or personal or environmental. But there's something else about machines: it's a concept or figure that refuses any sure, natural, or true ground. Everything from atoms and fleas to me and my son to the experiences of love and confusion to airplanes, solar systems, and cosmic undulations are constitutive of ever-shifting machinic flows and distributions. And so, as a rhetorician, I take pleasure in having all my paradigms be up for grabs. It's, once again, exhilarating.  I take pleasure in having all my paradigms be up for grabs. It's, once again, exhilarating.


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