“The Materialist Phenomenology of the Concept”

28 May 2007 at 5:10 pm 2 comments

I just returned from a trip to Gainesville, FL, where my sons just graduated from high school, a trip which always requires, whenever possible, a stop at Goering’s Bookstore, where this time I bought Eric Alliez’s The Signature of the World: What is Deleuze and Guattari’s Philosophy?  The translator’s preface invokes “the passage to a materialist phenomenology of the concept” (xx), which made me think of my own “concept” (if we can call it that) of energonomics.  Now it’s likely or probable that I’m yanking this out of a very specific context—not to mention my need to study up on the philosophical tradition of phenomenology—but when I read this phrase it makes me think of my goal of discovering the material basis of thought, the energy-flow through the mind-brain and how this makes thought possible.   

Since returning from the Imaging Place conference in Gainesville in February 2007, I have been thinking about thinking, wondering “what is thought?”  I came to this after trying to ask the question of how a 3-D space like Second Life can change the way we think, insofar as the movement through space is a kind of thinking both for aborigines (think about the “storylines” of Bruce Chatwin’s Songlines) and for Greeks (moving through the 3-D space of a memory palace as a way of making an argument).  One of the anecdotes Greg Ulmer offered in his keynote speech told of his inability to use a doorknob to move from one space to another, and this made me think of Lakoff and Johnson’s “metaphorical concepts” and how the abstractions of thought are based on conceptual metaphors developed from being a physical body moving through a three-dimensional space.  When I think hard enough about all of this, I continue to come back to the question of what thinking is (which might be different than asking “what is thought?”) and this needs to be answered to some extent before we can think about how moving through physical space and interacting with objects in that space becomes the foundation of abstract thought. 

It’s easy to think that a question like “What is thought?” is too simple, but I am reminded of a quote from somewhere saying that an artist (or in this case, a philosopher) is “the great simplifier,”  as well as another quote:  “A thing is simple or complex depending upon how much attention is paid to it.”  So when I read the following at the end of the preface to the Alliez book, I was re-affirmed:

But what is perhaps most significant about Alliez’s operation… is the absolute centrality he accords to the question of *thought*, which he places at the very heart of Deleuze and Guattari’s recasting of materialism for the twenty-first century as a materialism of the concept.  For *What is Philosophy?* clearly shows that it is impossible to answer the question without also expanding it to “What is Thought?”. . . (xxiii)

It’s a lot to think about….

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Entry filed under: books, Deleuze, energonomics, metaphorical concepts, philosophy, Second Life.

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