A Blog by Virgilio Rivas

Monadology, Hybridity, and Comimmunology

On Power and Monadic Assemblage, Part II

What is unique in our contemporary age is that we have been used to living hybrid lives than were possible in the previous centuries, which also indicate on a much broader spectrum that large systems (presumably the source and perpetrators of alienation) are also able to penetrate our interior lives with perfect immediacy, that is to say, with less structural frictions and the contradictions they have to leap over before they could force themselves to break in. Surprisingly, this truth about systems require of us to take advantage of their hybridity. There has never been a perfect time to take advantage of this phenomenon precisely because hybridity is a weakness; it shows the vulnerability of the system even if it tries to gloss it over by speed (the acceleration of capital in today’s dispensation), and especially if it does that, assuming that the agency detects the silver lining. If there is anything more urgent to seize upon in forging a united front against the sources of alienation wherever we find them operating it is precisely this hybridity. Yet this also presupposes that any agency is a hybrid on the basic assumption that there is nothing outside the system.

That is where we can precisely locate the weakness of the system—if there is no outside to the system then the system must be utterly alone. It thrives on forcing the locks of our interior sanctuaries, mostly, the two immediate sanctuaries of the self, the family sphere and the ego sphere which qualify as substances in the sense that they require motion, externality and individuation. In contrast, the system lacks substance. It cannot live outside of itself (therefore has to pretend that it is moving relative to something outside itself) in contrast to agencies which can deceive themselves (better if it is done self-reflexively) that there is an ‘outside’ to look out for, to flee into, or an outside as providing a sense of stability whose taken-for-granted/ness constitutes its realism for them—reality as an independent dimension. (If self-deception is therefore done consciously then realism becomes the surplus of self-extension that one allows to move oneself in order to further individuate oneself in terms of creating more surpluses, more, presumably adaptable and controllable, real existences). Although Spinoza does not say something about existing in different modes simultaneously, which will correspond here to different adaptable existences, the fact that for him modes are fleeting or ‘nonessential’[1] encourages us to appropriate the modes in terms of their manageable appropriation by self-individuations.

Although Spinoza would not approve of our appropriation of his metaphysics, what can warrant a creative reconstruction of Spinoza’s teachings on substance is that if for him it is the essence of the substance to exist (in modes and attributes) then an external individuation (either fleeting or decidedly permanent) is required. In all these instances, substance requires motion. Still, we have not explained where the system comes from and what is going on in itself that makes it want to acquire substance by means of appropriating existence from agencies. Keep in mind that a system is also a hybrid, but a powerful one.

Systems have the best tendency to block the enhancement of the freedom of agency, or what in Spinoza would mean a sad power that tends to block the enhancement of power itself by dampening it and therefore dragging it towards its lowest potentiality. One can notice here that a system emerges from a certain encounter with power in terms of the encounter between and among passions which activate or dampen the intrinsic potency of power to enhance existence. (The reader may wonder where passions come from. Let us take passions as the first elements of the whole of nature as Spinoza described. Spinoza identified God with natura naturans which he described as “self-existing beings.”[2] In science, they may refer to energies, forces, etc., which have all perceptible characteristics of affectivity that we mentioned above. We are thus using the layman’s term passion to refer to the more technical language utilized in non-philosophical disciplines). A system emerges either as active or reactive. But since it is the nature of system to relate to freedom in the sense that it has to minimize its full autonomy, for a system to emerge it has to cut up something from freedom, then any system is inherently negative. And the moment it takes something it cut up from freedom as its own a system becomes a living and obviously large hybrid. What we are actually seeing here is the making of a real cyborg—any system is. (Hobbes called it the Leviathan). Counter-acting the social necessity of this cyborg—necessity in the sense that it has become a social contract—is the organic hybrid that is us who, as we mentioned above, have self-organizing capacities that can also translate into self-deceptive mechanisms, preferably reflexive.

This capacity for self-deception teeters between empowerment and dispossession, an oscillation that can prove fatal to lower life forms such as mosquitoes which cannot recognize the gap, the fissure, or the void that traverses the space between two attractors (sleep and awake), but a fluctuation that may prove life-enabling, without eliminating the precarity that attends to it, for human life forms. (In the case of mosquitoes, the oscillation between sleep and waking pattern can become permanent, involving a manipulation of the nervous system, which can leave an organism under this spell permanently awake until it dies).[3]

While lower monadic life forms (in the sense we will briefly discuss later) have the capacity for affects which help them survive, higher life forms have capabilities to rationalize the loop of time in the oscillation of subjective states, giving them better advantage for survival. While hybridity means dwelling between two (even more) subjective states the advantage of rationality in higher intelligent life forms (a product of evolutionary progress) keeps hybridity away from a state of permanent suspension or oscillation. Hybridity is an energy that can be used up; in other words, for higher intelligent life forms it can become an object of appropriation. The advantage of rationality, of course, owes a great deal to the affective potency of the neural networks of the brain—an organ that is by any standard a self-organizing system which also relates to other self-organizing systems, other organs and membrane networks found in the human body.

Unsurprisingly, the over-all affective networks generate a human body with no central executive organ. As Spinoza once remarked, “No one knows what a body can do.”[4] In process philosophy, this refers to the phenomenon of emergence—that life emerges after life after life with no governing principle. It just happens and it happens for the most part without us knowing the principles that govern the process itself. It takes care of itself. Take note that ‘principle’ can also refer to a creator, so process philosophy of this kind is also in principle resistant to the personification of creation theory. Going back to rationality, we can argue thus far that rationality is a result of an aleatory encounter—of bodies with other bodies, which in the course of the evolution of humanity has provided human civilization with an interior mechanism against the threat of large hybrid assemblages (the cyborgs we referred to earlier). For better or for worse, rationality, in all its essence a hybrid and a product of aleatory encounters, therefore its genealogy is sealed from appropriation of design, has given humanity leverage against total cyborg invasion. (Rationality, however, should not be treated as the nerve center of hybrid life. Rather, it is an efficient result of monadic affectation of different body networks forming into a powerful material assemblage. Rationality is therefore the result of the inherent drive of bodies to pursue connections that will give them better advantages for survival. If rationality no longer serves this end, bodies know what to do). Meanwhile, what we mean humanity here is what Kierkegaard had profoundly intuited: the actual subjectivity of human freedom.[5]

Here arises the comimmunology approach (or a common immunizing strategy in the face of entropy) proposed by Peter Sloterdijk.[6] In principle, hybrid agencies are much more vulnerable compared to systems, hence, the need for a ‘common immunizing’ strategy which becomes all the more pressing at a time when physical entropy implicates every living species in the planet. In contrast, hybrid approaches to change (those determined by a systematic appropriation of autonomy and potentiality of agencies for self-organization by large hybrid conglomerates) have greatly contributed to the confused modality of modern existence, leaving agent’s lives vulnerable to the different fluctuations of time. This kind of vulnerability is typical of monadic existence. Still, we cannot eliminate the fact that even as windowless (which also constitutes vulnerability) monads touch each other. And here is the importance of studying the analytic of hybridity. The sense of touch is crucial here for it generates a community of affects. Ants for instance are practically blind and yet they can build a self-sufficient colony solely by relying on the sense of touch, on affects and other relevant sensory mechanisms. In principle, ants are monads capable of immunizing themselves (collectively) against the threat of the outside world (that they cannot see!) relative to their capacity to sense danger, but also sources of negating entropy such as food which enhances their affective power to build and nourish a life-world.

Extended to human colonies, the affective lesson of ant colonies can help us realize and accept the fact that our knowledge of things is bounded, contingent, and that the only immediate knowledge we have is that of our own bodies which serve as a natural buffer against danger and entropy. Bodies are natural buffers against entropy which reveal its immediacy in affects which help rationality to express danger in an intelligible format. We can also say at this point that it is how rationality expresses its own immediacy to itself, practically with no body substance of its own. That is how it survives—by expressing its own rather inadequate affective power in terms of concepts, principles or intelligible signs which can reproduce in form the affectivity of bodies (which it lacks) in terms of the network of signifiers, signs, referents, etc. (in the sense that each word, for instance, is structurally related to other words, each word is co-constituting others, generally constituting a grammar, a syntax, etc.; in other words, language duplicates the affective networks of bodies in the actual world).

Extended to social structures, such as an academic institution, the affective power of monadic (affective) existence, what the sociologist Gabriel Tarde also describes as the tendency of monads to assemble,[7] can also refer to the self-organizing capacity of the human institution, that it has the capacity to survive even with limited resources, that a monadic existence is by the power of affects a nomad. Under present circumstances, a nomad is a hybrid agent.

What is rather the most crucial appropriation we can make here is that the threat to agencies (by cyborgs and large hybrid systems, such as corporations, state, etc.) has extended to the planetary, to a broader ecological scene. There is a certain thermodynamic principle or entropy involved here.

If entropy is a threat to ecology and ecology is impinging on the way we relate to the world, and if this also affects the way we envision the future, then a whole new but really familiar cyborg, what a Nobel Laureate describes as Gaia, is winning its war.[8] And if the central target of this entropic push of the geological, solar or cosmic economy that precedes the emergence of the human, is ‘the human’ itself, granting it is ‘central’ by the standard of creation, then rightly so ‘the human’ is losing the war, all the more when ‘the human’ continues to embrace a pre-entropic if not naïve resistance to the actual threat of chaos, disequilibrium, the sure fate of any closed system like the planet. The human that was charged of dominion of the planet in the old days was given custody of a different geological order. That order is no longer the same—it has become something entirely new which also indicates that a new approach has to be conceived, no longer of dominion, or conquest, or fundamentalism and naivety, but perhaps, of intelligent accommodation, rational acceptance or collective releasement to what is to come with the proviso that before it comes we have already immunized ourselves (as a human community that values and actualizes the terms of realizable justice) within the span of delayed entropy, what Saint Paul once described as the katechon, someone or something that will delay the second coming.[9] Energy wise, the second coming will be a spent energy of the universe coming down on us which will economize everything into a state of aneconomy where a new economy can be produced.

James Lovelock, an important climate scientist and a Nobel Prize awardee, introduced the term Gaia to refer to the self-healing process of Nature that can spell doom to our species. If Nature has a self-healing process, Lovelock argues that it can only proceed from Nature leaving its parts, the assemblages of life that it has created. In simple terms Nature will heal itself by abandoning us in terms of depletion of energy supply that sustains our species. The supply will deplete as Nature will use it up to give birth to a new geological era that may or may no longer include us. Part of the process will therefore depend on how we relate to this self-healing process. Unlike in previous aeons there are humans witnessing this event.

[1] See Edwin Curley, “Introduction,” in Spinoza Reader. Benedict Spinoza. Ethics and Other Works, ed. and trans. Edwin Curley (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1994), xxii.

[2]Ibid., xvii.

[3] See Manuel Delanda, Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy (London: Continuum, 2002), 92.

[4] This refers to Spinoza’s famous Proposition 2, Scholium, Part III of his Ethics.

[5] Søren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript to the Philosophical Crumbs, ed. and trans. Alastair Hannay (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 288.

[6] See Peter Sloterdijk, “Living Hot, Thinking Coldly: An Interview with Peter Sloterdijk by Eric Alliez,” in Cultural Politics, Vol. #, Issue 3 [2007]: 316).

[7] Gabriel Tarde, Monadology and Sociology, ed. and trans. Theo Lorenc (Melbourne; re.press, 2012) 34.

[8] See James Lovelock, Gaia. A New Look at Life on Earth (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2000).

[9] See Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political, trans. George Schwab (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1976).

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