Principles and Facts – notes

There’s an interesting online psych project over here at Project Implicit…an interesting thing mentioned on Thought Capital’s blog post about the use of ’empirical data’ in ’evidenced-based meta-analyses’. I presume these EBMA’s are some sort of peculiar category of philosophical activity, perhaps connected to the idea of ’experimental philosophy’ which, whilst fascinating, seems to sometimes miss the point. Can evidence ever establish particular principles of thought? If not, then is it for a philosophy a question of giving up principles or of giving up evidence? Is there a dichotomy here that cannot (in principle or in fact) be resolved?

This difficulty, of what we might call the distinction between the quid facti and the quid juris is critical to any attempt to understand transcendental philosophy. There is an argument being made (James Williams, Dan Smith etc) that it is in fact principles that are crucial for Deleuze, that the quid juris has in some sense a priority derivable from an affinity of Deleuze’s method with that expressed by Leibniz ’Principle of Sufficient Reason’. Everything has to have a reason for existing, a ratio existendi, rather than simply a reason for being, ratio essendi. In fact, Smith argue, Leibniz in fact added other epistemological and metaphysical conditions in the PSR with the notions of ratio cognoscendi (a reason for how we can know the thing, the principle of indiscernibles) and a ratio fiendi (reason for becoming out of that which already is or law of continuity preventing arbitrary MacGuffin like inventions during the course of an account). The PSR aims to fulfill all that we would ask for in either of the quid moves, such that a question of fact or principle is capable of being responded to by understanding the sufficient reason for a thing.


The EBMA approach, of course, also seem to want to ask both fact and juris questions and could be understood, I would suggest, using the PSR approach that is supposedly developed by Deleuze. It contains, undoubtedly, a priority of the evidence and will be successful so long as it maintains a high awareness of the difficulty of evidence producing principles, a problem because a meta-analysis that doesn’t produce principles (laws) isn’t much of a meta-analysis. Assuming it does and that such a problem would be a kind of methodological training ground for the practicalities of an EBMA approach, the example of ’communication’ came to mind. Deleuze seems, at various points but particularly inside DR and LOS, to need something like a ’principle of communication’. Things need to flash between two series, a differential function needs to arise between differential functions, such that two flows (fa and fa’) produce a relation dx/dy. Of course, the flows or functions themselves are also at bottom relations of the differential kind too so that in effect we establish a nested series of differential relations and functions of differential relations forming a process of doubling, with first order and second order relations but never a third order since the flows are always both first order differentials for a second order function as well as second order functions of prior first order differentials. The move from one order to another is a constitutive move that seems dependent on the principle of communication. The difficulty, of course, is that such a principle brings with it all the problems of language.

Is there any way of deciding, for instance, whether the seeming importance of gesture within apes such as the chimp or bonobo reflects anything of importance about the arrival of language or communication within the human? Are we about to say we could translate the gestures of the bonobo? (Here I’m thinking of the whole Quinian background problems of translation and indeterminacy as having some interesting things to say perhaps.) That we can understand them isn’t enough it would seem for there to be communication. I can understand many things without anything being communicated. It might be that in fact we need to read the principle of communication simply as a principle of connection and I think this may well be how Williams thinks of it in his reading of Deleuze when he says that two central principles are to ’forget everything’ and ’connect with everything’ (Williams, 2003: 5). It is indeed true that something like the ’connect with everything’ principle surrounds the idea of the infinite speed of a conceptual connection. The diagram, for example, often appears as a kind of speed of connection that is at once also an undetermined connection and this may well be why people often refer to Deleuzian concepts as ’fluid’, though this might be either a term of approbation or offense depending on the readers stance. Connection, in this limitless sense, is peculiar and disturbing however and I never feel happy with it. It smacks of a kind of abstraction from the real in which connections are messy, determinate but over-determined and slow. There is in fact too much resistance in the world for me to be happy with anything smelling of infinity in any form. We should purge the infinite from our thoughts – and yet it is this infinite, perhaps, that allows the connection to be a communication.

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philosopher and filmmaker from brighton, currently teaching philosophy at the Free University of Brighton

2 Responses

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  1. Jonas
    Jonas at |

    This is more of a question, or a puzzlement, something I’d like to know what more informed people than myself think of……. It definitely pertains to the principle/fact discussion you bring up here, it seems to me.

    Basically, I wonder how Deleuze relates to the work of mathematician and meta-mathematician Gregory Chaitlin. His ideas have been picked up, at least, by Ray Brassier, the Middlesex University philosopher (there’s an article by Chaitlin in the latest Collapse journal, and Brassier has written about him in the Think Again book about Badiou), and has struck me, from the moment I read about them, as extremely relevant to Deleuze. Um, to give just the buzzwords for Chaitlins discoveries, it seems what he has found is random mathematical facts. And that there are lots of them.

    Initially, this seemed to me to support Deleuze’s ‘problematic’ approach to math, as distinguished from say Badious formal approach. But on the other hand, it seems to invalidate any principle of sufficient reason. A quote from Chaitlin expresses this succintly: “There are extreme cases where mathematical truth has no structure at all, where it’s maximally unknowable, where it’s completely accidental, where you have mathematical truths that are like coin tosses, they’re true by accident, they’re true for no reason. That’s why you can never prove whether individual bits of W are 0 or are 1, because there is no reason that individual bits are 0 or 1!”

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