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Metastasis and Metastability

Volume 60

Series Editor
Michael A. Peters
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA

Editorial Board
Michael Apple, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA
Miriam David, Institute of Education, London University, UK
Cushla Kapitzke, Queensland University of Technology, Australia
Simon Marginson, University of Melbourne, Australia
Mark Olssen, University of Surrey, UK
Fazal Rizvi, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA
Linda Tuahwai Smith, University of Waikato, New Zealand
Susan Robertson, University of Bristol, UK

This series maps the emergent field of educational futures. It will commission books
on the futures of education in relation to the question of globalisation and knowledge
economy. It seeks authors who can demonstrate their understanding of discourses
of the knowledge and learning economies. It aspires to build a consistent approach
to educational futures in terms of traditional methods, including scenario planning
and foresight, as well as imaginative narratives, and it will examine examples of
futures research in education, pedagogical experiments, new utopian thinking, and
educational policy futures with a strong accent on actual policies and examples.
Metastasis and Metastability
A Deleuzian Approach to Information

Kane X. Faucher
The University of Western Ontario, Canada
A C.I.P. record for this book is available from the Library of Congress.

ISBN: 978-94-6209-426-0 (paperback)

ISBN: 978-94-6209-427-7 (hardback)
ISBN: 978-94-6209-428-4 (e-book)

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Acknowledgements vii

Preface ix

1. Information-in-Itself 1

2. Simondon Information 37

3. Deleuze’s Ontology: Black Box, White Noise 55

4. States and Territories 93

5. Metastability and Metastasis 127

6. A Deleuzian Approach to Information 179

7. Deleuze Contra Cybernetics 205

Appendix I: Ex Libris: A Nomad Information Science 237

Appendix II: Informatics, Memetics, Rhizomatics 267

Conclusion 303

Bibliography 315

Index 319


The author acknowledges with much gratitude the direct and indirect support of a
several people for whom neglecting mention would be a tremendous oversight. I am
indebted to my mentors and supervisors Bela Egyed and Călin-Andrei Mihăilescu;
my friends and colleagues at Western University’s Faculty of Information and Media
Studies; my more geographically distant comrades-in-arms Marc Ouellette, Chris
Drohan, and Anthony Metivier; those Deleuzians whose work both awe and humble
me including Bruce Baugh, Ian Buchanan, Manuel De Landa, Eugene Holland, John
Marks, John Mullarkey, John Protevi, and Jakub Zdebik; the fastidious editors who
endured the issues with this manuscript in a spirit of kindness and equanimity; the
marathon book-length email discussions with writing colleague and mathematician
Jim Chaffee who never let me get away with imprecise statements; and finally, but
most importantly, my wife Julie Evans who did not begrudge me for the long hours
riding the desk.


There has been an explosion of books published on the concept of information,

differing to the degree and effectiveness that they might elect answer the ontological
question of what is information? The struggle is not only philosophical, but also
lexical and semantic, with wide disagreement over what should be included or
excluded in the definition. This is not an issue that will be settled in its entirety any
time soon, nor do we need to feel the anxious pressure to have done with the task
if it closes down meaningful exploration. I am generally suspicious of terms that
achieve definitional consensus too soon since it shutters the term and concept from
further consideration, leading in part to a crystallization that owes more to discursive
agendas than to a more significant problematic. Fixed definitions quickly become
our blind spots, that which we take for granted, and to build upon the unquestioned
assumptions of a definition can lead to unfortunate consequences in theoretical
reasoning and concrete practice. The highly energetic field of information as an
object of study proper is relatively new, and a lack of agreement in creating a fully
persuasive unified theory of information or how we ought to conduct a philosophy
of information actually places the very word information in good company with a
heritage of other terms that we have not been able to agree upon for millennia such
as Being, World, Cause, and so forth. It is in this way that information becomes
philosophically interesting rather than a rigidly inert term belonging to technical
It is under these conditions of awareness that I will not promise the reader a final
definition of information, which would only be immodest and simply “yet another”
definition among the many that are already in circulation. I am interested in the very
ontological and ontogenetic questions of information, and as a thought experiment I
hope to apply a modified Simondon-Deleuze approach to those questions. Too often,
domain-specific uses of the term information are used as a hand wave to ensure
compliance, or otherwise employed in a fashion that is so broad as to encompass far
too many disciplinary fields at the expense of providing a more operational or refined
descriptive definition. However, an insistence on providing an operational definition
might force us back into the field of mathematics. I wish to treat information in a very
special, yet careful, way where a metaphysics of information can emerge without
ontologizing the term, and without exacerbating information theorists who have
long since developed parallel ways of understanding and measuring information.
Not everyone is in agreement over Deleuze’s unique ontology, and even
among those who count themselves among the converted, there are points of
disagreement that generally concern matters of textual interpretation and their
consequences. Deleuze is not a postmodern philosopher despite how he might have
been appropriated by that camp, or otherwise how his concepts, and those of his
collaborator Félix Guattari, were smuggled into different disciplines eager to weave


Deleuzian insights into their working programs and practices. The seemingly fresh
insights and evocative cascade of neologisms emerging out of such key texts as A
Thousand Plateaus, especially once the book had been translated for an anglophone
audience, provided a wealth of concepts that were eagerly embraced by a new
generation of francophile or continentalist scholars in the humanities that were
not entirely at home in deconstruction or other more new language-based forms of
philosophy. It was during this time that the works of Deleuze was seen as a clarion
call for engaging in more multidisciplinary pursuits.
The fact that there is disagreement is a sign of robust academic health, and it may
also be argued that despite accusations of distortion or simplification issued against
those who have (mis)appropriated Deleuze’s concepts into their own disciplinary
repertoires, these occasional mergers of the disparate may be less misprision and
more an attempt to honour Deleuze’s view of generating the new. Whether this
becomes based on Deleuze’s occasional complicity with certain terms or their
compression is a matter for interpretation to decide, and for others to contest. The
history of Deleuze’s reception in the anglo-American world, and the enthusiastic
applications of his insights, would provide for an intriguing history unto itself.
There is no doubt that Deleuze’s appropriation of terms from mathematics, biology,
physics, and biology are bound to outrage scholars in those fields––and it may be the
case on occasion that Deleuze simply gets the terms wrong. This book may indicate
such points, but that is a peripheral matter compared to the main task of exploring
the prospect of a Deleuzian theory of information––if that is at all possible.
In addressing Deleuze’s ontology of the virtual-actual with its intensive circuit, it
may be more “blasphemous” or simply arrogant to make the claim that there may be
something missing in order to truly make the ontology operational in all its aspects.
However, no philosopher can be burdened with the assumption of infallibility or
absolute clarity; there are still terms used by Deleuze that are disputed partially
on account of their not having been thoroughly clarified. When Deleuze invoked
the term “intensive” to describe the movement from the virtual to actual, there was
no shortage of examples he could provide. However, reverse engineering from
examples may not always lead us to the proper precursors.
We will not say that there is a missing piece in Deleuze’s ontological continuum,
but instead call for a closer elaboration on what is meant by intensity in Deleuze,
what role it plays in the virtual-actual distinction, and attempt to give it a descriptive
operator – in this case, metastasis as it pertains to a nascent construction of
information theory. Those already familiar with Deleuze’s ontology understand that
it functions as a dynamical and realist philosophy, refusing to admit the transcendent
or essentializing aspects found in other ontological projects. In addition, the highly
rigorous nature of Deleuze’s work does not permit us to dismiss it as simply a
rhapsody enamoured with its own terminology. For our restricted purposes in this
book, it will be of utility to provide a conceptual roadmap as to the particular features
and landmarks that identify Deleuze’s domain of the virtual, and then proceed into
the territory with our primary objective of how we can re-imagine information and,


to a related degree, a library science of the future. In order that this may be done
appropriately, it will also be of some interest to pursue the issue of metastasis and
metastability as part of what we understand as information.
There is no shortage of possible contenders for creating synonyms for the process
of actualization in Deleuze’s ontology, of which it would seem that I am simply adding
another. We may name this process active force, intensive generativity, dynamical
invention, determined eruption, reticular unfolding, or even an expression of kairotic
development. However we decide to name this process of actualization, it ultimately
concerns what in classical ontology bridges the gap between Being and Nothing:
Becoming. It is, for Deleuze, not a question of asking how Being endures in time,
but to shift the emphasis to how Becoming endures in time, and perhaps to push this
question further to ask how things become, and by what processes, and furthermore
what vital (and possibly vitalist) role this occupies in understanding information in
its motley contexts from the conceptual to the material basis. What may appear to
already be an answer in Deleuze’s ontology may still be opaque to some readers, and
this we aim to render more transparent for those not already intimately familiar with
Deleuze’s ontology.
The question of how things endure or come to be is not the sole province of
ontology, but also a vital concern to cybernetics which, in its inaugural days, was
concerned with deferring entropy. That the second law of thermodynamics made
this inevitable did not prevent cybernetics from finding ways of deferral by means
of feedback mechanisms. There is, in a way, a kind of tragic heroism in such a task.
Norbert Wiener himself somewhat poetically likens the human condition as being
on a metaphorical island surrounded by entropy. Moreover, we must consider the
second-order cybernetic theories of emergentism and self-organizing (autopoeitic)
behaviour as a possible parallel in discussing how generativity of new information,
and new beings-of-becoming.
Any author that relies heavily on the works of Deleuze (and Guattari) does risk
a certain over-reliance, if not to also assume a dogmatic posture by using Deleuze
and Guattari as a theoretical shield.1 The line between critical homage and mere
emulation is a fine one. Advancing beyond Deleuze and Guattari is essential to any
project, and yet this must be done with some degree of fidelity to their texts and to
resist stopping short at the preparation of a nostrum for philosophy and information.


I hope here to advance a step further toward settling the question of information’s
ontological status without subordinating it to Being, but also without relegating
it to the transcendent or mind-dependent status of the immaterial or abstract by
respecting the possibility of information’s material autonomy. In order to do so, we
have elected to understand the specific problem through a Simondonian-Deleuzian
lens so that therefore we can understand the specific character of Becoming as a
replacement for the fixity of Being, and apply this to our exploration of information


as that which might be expressed in Deleuzian terms as part of a process rather than
a state (although in some cases information does say something “informative” about
states). We aim here to pose, and perhaps not necessarily settle, a cluster of questions
that guide our inquiry:

1. How might a Simondonian-Deleuzian metaphysics address the question of

information in its multiple connotations and contexts without resorting to a
hypostasis or essentialization of the term itself?
2. How might a Simondonian-Deleuzian metaphysics function as a possible solution
to the problems presented in library sciences with respect to categorial versus
dynamical regimes of classification?
3. Would a merger of Simondonian-Deleuzian ontology and the “mechanisms” of
metastasis/metastability provide for a new perspective with respect to information
and reality?
4. Precisely where are there points of agreement and disagreement between
the Deleuzian metaphysical project and that of cybernetics in its successive
5. How will Deleuze’s philosophy of the virtual and transcendental empiricism
elucidate new directions for an understanding of information?
Our provisional statement on the matter might be summarized in this way:
1) Difference and information are synonymous
One starting point might be the following statement:
2) Information, as the relative degree of organization, facilitates the very
differences that define the relative degree of organization in that system
However, without a full and critical exploration of both terms (difference and
information), and their relation to support this claim of synonymy, the phrase
remains largely empty. However, I assign myself the task in this volume to construct
a passage from the statement of information as relative degree of organization to:
3) Information is the relative arrangement of the assemblage where its accidents
condition the problematic of that assemblage, whereby singularities emerge as
problemata distributed upon the plane of consistency
4) Information occupies and augments diffeomorphic space, and this by the
rhizome it forms within and between matter (both formed and unformed) and
Such a passage will entail a variety of detours, false exits, feints, and some conceptual
trapdoors. It may not always be entirely clear to the reader precisely what connection
the discussion has with information, but like what Deleuze and Guattari say about
nomad science, it is the accidents and problems along the route that will set the
As a necessary housekeeping item and to better familiarize readers with the
domain of inquiry, the initial chapters are dedicated to providing a selective historical
summary of the definitional scope of information, the core concepts in Simondon’s


philosophy, Deleuze’s ontology of the virtual, transcendental empiricism, and the

philosophical context in which these are embedded. With these key concepts in hand,
I will then proceed to discuss metastasis and its role in the virtual, before bringing
to the fore the relationship between a metastatic virtual and information. Subsequent
chapters address the tension between the Deleuzian and cybernetic understandings
of the real, and from there we discuss how a Deleuzian-metastatic virtual may be a
source for rethinking information and library systems in the move from informatics
to rhizomatics. This book functions as a bridge: as a means of introducing those in
information theory and information science to the features in Deleuze relevant in
discussing information, and to attract more Deleuzians to the field of information.
It is this author’s view that a study of information should not exclude a Deleuzian
My task with this book is double: to apprise those involved in information theory
and information science of Deleuzian features that may be of some utility in rethinking
information itself, and to inform Deleuzians of the key features and consequences
of information theory. Although I will attempt some degree of diplomacy between
these two disparate domains of thought, it is unlikely that all the contradictions can
be satisfactorily resolved, and so some incompatibilities will remain as problems for
others to take up.
To avoid confusion and maintain precision of sense in the terms employed, this
text will use capitalization for the concepts of Being and Becoming when referring to
them as philosophical terms. In addition, references to information computer science
as ICS; information communication technology as ICT; and the mathematical theory
of communication as MTC.

Starting with Information

In these days of neoliberal discourse, being a “thinker of growth” has fallen into
unfortunately narrow economic definitions of the term “growth” that is largely
indexed on GDP and jobs. I say unfortunate because it is not the production of
the new (as much as the apostate defenders of neoliberalism tend to market their
nostrums of “innovation” which is geared toward technocratic understanding of the
term) but the extension of a rigid practice descended from a blend of economic
mysticism and free market libertarianism powered by a techno-regulated distortion
of cybernetics. One of the major turns in philosophy has been a preoccupation with
the production of true newness and investigating the “milieu” of a pre-individual
basis for reality (from Simondon up through Deleuze). These are revolutionary
to philosophy, overturning thousands of years of assumptions on the foundation
of what is reality, although the history of philosophy has had its “Isaiah”s such as
Heraclitus and Nietzsche among others. This has been given an added validation
from developments in physics that seem to confirm that we live in an uncertain
universe where the future is entirely open and only subject to a few constraints.
There is no doubt that a philosophical interest in instability versus stability (as well


as structures of meta-stability) are so heavily featured since they are also the concern
of everyday life: from the uncertainty of global markets to the apparent increase in
environmental crises, from the redrawing of the political landscape in terms of the
state’s relation to a direct and participatory public enabled by digital technologies
to the very emergence of synchronous digital environments themselves, from
intergenerational strife to the conflict arising between the multitude and the possible
resurrection of aristocracy in a corporate key. Crisis and change are hardly new. The
challenges we face individually and collectively are daunting, and we may feel at
the mercy of a cosmological throw of the dice that will decide our ruin or salvation.
A Heraclitean world indeed.
We add to this what has been called the “informational turn,” and by that we can
include under this banner the attention at all levels to information society, living in
an information age, using the instruments of information technology, and all the
associated concerns that arise from the social, political, economic, and global impact
this has had in both radically transforming our relation to the real as much as it
has simply extended already existing mechanisms and problems. Information and
uncertainty are very much the watchwords of our day.
We have moved away from the debates as to whether the universe is stable
or unstable, discrete or continuous, since the terms of those arguments prove an
oversimplification ill-suited to a reality indexed on complexity of relations. Even
in the territorial disputes in philosophy as to whether a philosophy of becoming
represents chaos and catastrophic uncertainty seem like anachronistic fear-mongering
when it is entirely possible that we can have both a universe of perpetual, somewhat
deregulated unfolding without insisting on first terms that fixate on the equilibrium
of Being where stability is in effect the exhaustion of potentiality. It is neither an
issue of stability or instability, but of a dynamism between the two, manifest in
micro- and macro-levels as so eloquently put forth by Prigogine and Stengers. Our
level of understanding, courtesy of paradigm-shattering developments in physics and
mathematics in the last century, is far more complex as it is refined with attention
paid to manifolds and phase-shifts, quantum mechanics and mathematical topology.
Change, difference, growth, complexity, fluidity, dynamics, and the uncertain:
these are what interest me, and they do so at a specifically philosophical level as
particular problems and areas of fecund investigation. I have chosen to approach the
questions of information and crisis from a metaphysical perspective, making only a
very open and modest attempt to build another room in an already large and impressive
edifice. Many years ago someone was surprised by a remark I had written: “no one’s
metaphysics has ever hurt anyone–at least not directly.” The statement can easily be
interpreted as a defensive means of protecting my engagement with metaphysics as
an innocuous and safe pursuit, a celibate preoccupation that concerns itself only with
abstractions. I did not mean to suggest that programs built from a misunderstanding
of metaphysics and hastily applied in revised form to political and social agendas
have not led to catastrophe, the death of millions, and the impoverishment and
destitution of many more millions. Speculation enjoys the freedom that application


does not given the concrete constraints that application demands. I still believe in the
remark today, although for different reasons. When I first wrote it during the very
preliminary steps to describing meta-state and metastasis, I was taking a defensive
posture; today, I see it as a necessary guarantee of freedom and invention.
In 2010 and 2011, I was appointed to teach a first-year course on information. It
was probably then that I truly discovered that, despite every ounce of confidence one
can summon up to convey something informative about information, its multiple
connotations present a vertiginous field that leaves one scrambling for the proverbial
punchline to the joke, “what is information?”
This book emerges as a culmination of interests and studies performed that
share a common bond even if their objectives were disparate. My preoccupation
with a concentrated study on metastasis necessarily “metastasized” in the domain
of information theory where I can say I still feel more a tourist than a citizen. My
adoration of Deleuze’s philosophy happens to be one of the possible prejudices I
should note in this “ad lectorem,” and I do not think there will come a time when my
apprenticeship to his concepts will be at an end. I should also clarify that I am not an
oncologist, a biologist, a computer scientist, nor a mathematician, and so my use of
these disciplines and the possible errors or imprecision that may arise in my use of
their terminology remain my own.
July, 2013

This is further problematized when we take Deleuze on his own versus Deleuze and Guattari. For an
excellent overview of that problem, see Levi Bryant’s book, Difference and Givenness.



‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone,’ it means
just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.’
‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many
different things.’
The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master - that’s all.’
Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass


We begin with a term that is frequently rendered in imprecise ways, that may lack
operational definition in the minds of many, and for which there is little consensus,
and each disciplinary approach constructs a definition specific to its own aims.
To say that everything rests on this question is in one sense melodramatic, but in
another sense to pinpoint a critical and perennial issue with respect to the discourses
surrounding or specifically concerning information. The nature and reality of
information is not necessarily in dispute if most can agree that there is some x
that can be said to be information, but the devil is always in the details. It is here
that definitions concerning what the term means begin to diverge, which is further
differentiated by debates on what information does, how it behaves, and where it
ought to be situated in our epistemic practices. What problematizes this inquiry
further is in attempting to settle whether we are speaking the reality that allows
for the existence of information, information as a foundation of reality, or both. In
essence, the existence of information can either be demonstrated by what it does, or
that what information does is explained by what it is.
In ordinary contexts we might have an intuitive sense of what information is,
and although there might not always be agreement, there may be consensus that
the term refers to something that actually exists, and that it has significance––
perhaps more so on account of the “informational turn” with the rise of ICTs, data
politics, and the frequent invocation of the word in popular discourse (or in the
mouths of the technoptimists and pro-digital communications policymakers who
have mastered Humpty Dumpty-speak). However, in metaphysical terms, we might
attempt to consider information according to the traditional categories as much as
that might be as much a disciplinary corset as any other. As a quality we may speak
of the properties information possesses or can cause to be the case in objects or


concepts describing their states. As a quantity, we can speak of information as a

unit of measure of an event and discuss (in philosophical parlance) whether or not
information should be understood in terms of totality, particularity, or singularity;
whether it is discrete or continuous. As a relation, we speak of information in terms
of its nature with respect to itself and other objects or concepts which may define
directionality, attraction, repulsion, etc. As a modality, we can speak of information
as something either possible or actual, and the form it takes. If information is not
the outcome of a message, not the input or output, or an element of communicative
surprise, we can already rule out information as a unit of measure of an event given
that is contained in what is called the bit. It is common to mistake information, which
drives processes, with the input of the message or its surprise value as an output, but
this is not to measure information at all – only data and uncertainty.
We cannot directly experience information as if some object that stands outside
of ourselves that we apprehend through thought. So deeply embedded is the term
in our normative, theoretical, and operational frameworks that it appears to take on
the appearance of a Kantian a priori even though this might only be a chimerical
resemblance. We may use it freely, but what we are referencing is not always clear.
If I request information from someone, it is not as if they have it embedded in the
brain and simply need to extract it any more than I can point to any container and
say, “that is information.” For, when we use the term, how often is it the case that
we are indicating its vessel, vehicle, container, or any other manner of conveyance?
However, despite how the question what is information? may be a vital question
for metaphysics today already presupposes that it exists, or that there is an agreement
on its definitional boundaries. And, should we not resolve a question of this nature
which is not at all new, but persistent, then one may ask how we might speak at all of
what concepts have been derived from it be them mutations or not. In fact, if we were
to pose this question of information in an entirely rigorous and metaphysical way,
would it not be sufficient to ask whether information is possible at all? Should we not
suspend the presupposition of information’s actuality first as a condition by which we
may develop a proper method for possibly arriving at the conclusion that information
is in fact actual? A procedure of this stripe where the actuality of something is doubted
reminds us of Kant’s remark in the Prolegomena: “But such a doubt offends the man
whose entire goods may perhaps consist in this supposed jewel; hence he who raises
the doubt must expect opposition from all sides” (Kant 1977, p. 2). It is in this way
Kant gives his measured approval of Hume’s boldness in questioning one of the vital
concepts of metaphysics itself: the presupposed relation between cause and effect.
Although Kant disagrees with Hume’s conclusions, the taking up of the question of
whether or not metaphysics is at all possible guides his own project. And, indeed,
perhaps this is the task a metaphysics of information should assign itself.
To suspend the actuality and existence of information––even temporarily––may
appear foolish, or otherwise an exercise of hyperbolic doubt. However, there is cause
for applying critical pressure in much the same way we might question the usually
given term of Being by questioning its primacy.


Yet with respect to philosophizing on information one might apply Nunberg’s

caveat (1996), echoed and expanded upon by Frohmann (2004a) that in the treatment
of information as a thing in the theoretical discourse, we may already be smuggling
in the idea of information-as-substance which may lead us to traffic in speaking of
information in terms of essence. If we treat information as a discrete theoretical
concept, do we not risk essentializing it and thus become blind to the phenomena out
of which information reveals itself in practices? Is it possible to think of information
without constructing a special conceptual space and designated term that would
function as a central principle of what properly belongs in its domain of inquiry?
If we were to choose to assign to reality an elemental unit, if one can be permitted
to speak of elements at all, it is tempting among those who tire of metaphysics
to consider information as the rightful heir to the throne previously occupied by
Being and beings. Information is as important as matter and energy. In fact, it
can be argued that the underprivileged position occupied by information in the
considerations of modern physics or in sciences in general places these discourses
at a disadvantage.1 However, where physics cannot fully explain the phenomena
of Being and Becoming to our full satisfaction, metaphysics must continue its task
of posing and reposing these questions in an effort to fix on the absolutely abstract
universal and the concretely particular. However, the immediate objection may
arise: why would we require metaphysics to step in to mind this conceptual gap
of information and not some other equally capable discipline? There are certainly
other disciplinary suitors that have taken a special interest in information ranging
from mathematics to computer science (at the formal and applied levels), and from
linguistics to other germane fields in the humanities (at the social, political, and
anthropological levels). One might then argue that to invite or allow the attentions
of metaphysical inquiry might muddy the waters with abstraction, blunting precise
definitions as offered by other formal fields of investigation. More curious still
would be the deployment of Deleuzian themes in order to carry this out given that
Deleuze had never developed a theory of information proper (apart from his work
with Guattari where information is taken in the narrow sense of communication),
and out of which his specific understanding of ideas and matter provide traces from
which may be derived or inferred a metaphysics of information that will take patient
(re)construction. In addition, following Deleuze, the starting point of metaphysics
cannot assume a stable term as its presupposition without falling into representation.
Would it therefore be problematic to speak of information in terms of metaphysical
primacy? Is it possible to speak of information in a new key that honours attention
to the pre-individual as prior to individuation in a meta-state?
We place an initial discussion of information prior to any consideration of Deleuze
as a means to set the stage for what will follow: a Deleuzian focus on information
that follows what I argue to be an operant ontology supported by a Simondonian
metastability. However, in order to do so effectively, the sequence of discussion is
important. Any attempt of constructing a philosophy of information as a foundation
upon which we can compare to a philosophy of the virtual will be essential to the


two subsequent steps: an ontological description of information in a meta-state, and

a Deleuzian approach to (and ostensible critique of) information theory. Moreover, a
philosophy of the virtual that contains a model for metastability and metastasis may
be able to do away with any necessity for a philosophy of information in its more
narrow forms.
As a term, information is itself haunted by nearly as many competing definitions
or connotations as that of Being. This strongly suggests that settling on definition
is its own special problematic, and there is ongoing active scholarship in a struggle
to either narrow or broaden the definition, and this generally for the purposes of
either constructing a stable discursive paradigm where consensus can be achieved
and maintained, or as an interdisciplinary initiative to include members of a larger
scholarly community to make use of a more flexible definitional arrangement
to advance their own research programs. The issue is far more complex than an
antagonism between definitional purists who insist on maintaining the original
integrity of the definition and those who oppose the territorial silo-ism that functions
as a means of exclusion. As a historiography of the word information attests, claims
of legitimacy with respect to disciplinary territory are problematized by the murky
origins of the word itself. Those who might insist that there exists a “pure” definition
may not fully acknowledge that the disciplinary filter by which they seek to
appropriate and clarify the term carry assumptions that are built into said disciplines.
This issue of perspective is an embedded feature in any epistemic direction one
chooses to view the term.
When taken in itself today, the term information is inarguably polysemantic (even
if, under certain contexts, information is treated as non-semantic). That there is still
dispute as to its nature, and to which discipline it properly belongs, can be traced
historically from its genesis to the present. Although the word information might
not have featured explicitly in the domain of philosophy until relatively recently,
information may have been operative in these projects and simply went by another
name. Culturally or historically, however, the term had not entered the discourse in
previous epochs (in much the same way Foucault tells us that there was no “sex”
before the 18th century). That the term is “flexible” and polysemantic is partially
on account of the rhetorical and disciplinary regimes that appropriated the term for
their projects. In the earliest days of computer research, cybernetics, philosophy
of artificial intelligence, human-machine interaction, systems theory, game theory,
library information science, information management, philosophy of computing, and
so forth, the term has suffered or enjoyed – depending on where one’s perspective
is situated with respect to information – further complexity with the emergence of
information computer science (ICS) and information communication technologies
(ICTs) that have had an undeniably revolutionary and indelible effect on all
aspects of cultural life, even if some of the claims as to how these have enabled the
sophistication of the human mind and behaviour are very much an overstatement and
part of the technological progressivist fallacy that positions information technology
as somehow value-neutral. We cannot equate technological development with human


biological or social development as such, nor are we permitted to equate information

in its original sense with technology and engineering without being forced to adopt
the purely technical sense of information that is indexed on technical assumptions and
goals. Whereas some attitudes toward information reduce it to a practical component
enclosed by broader communication theory (and thus make the leap to linguistic
theory as though communication theory is perfectly suited to understanding human
language, or that human language ought to be patterned by, or conform to, machine
language), others are more inclined to widen the sphere of information to the status
of pan-informationalism, which is to say that information functions as the essential
foundation of all existence and is thus universal. When questions arise as to the role
of information with respect to our understanding of existence, this may be ipso facto
a metaphysical question. One of the advantages of adopting some version of the pan-
informationalist viewpoint is in mounting a rejection of classical materialism that
reduces existence to the mechanistic view of matter and energy. One may wonder,
however, if the addition or primacy of information as foundational is not simply a
new form of mechanism. However we may conceive of the term information, the
struggle seems largely indexed on whether to raise it to metaphysical abstraction as a
universal, or reduce it to a useful component in existing fields of concrete application.
As well, it may not be best practice to construct a metaphysical worldview out of
the narrow constraints and concerns offered by ICTs and ICS which have their own
specifically encoded objectives and practices. Or, as Roszak (1986) so eloquently
puts it:
Unlike “faith” or “reason” or “discovery,” information is touched with a
comfortably secure, noncommittal connotation. There is neither drama nor
high purpose to it. It is bland to the core and, for that very reason, nicely
invulnerable. Information smacks of safe neutrality; it is the simple, helpful
heaping up of unassailable facts. In that innocent guise, it is the perfect starting
point for a technocratic political agenda [...] After all, what can anyone say
against information? (19)
By way of a somewhat gnomic introduction, what follows is a summary of differing
perspectives that focus on information-in-itself without the admixture of seemingly
related concepts such as information society, or the technical aspects of applied
informational and computation systems such as artificial intelligence. The insistence
here on some definitional purity should be considered largely heuristic, and a means
of bracketing the term for clarified understanding prior to an act of critique. There is
no claim here that all definitions will be represented here, nor is the goal to achieve
such definitional purity as to be left with the “purity of the desert.” In momentarily
suspending associated meanings in this polysemantic web, no claim is being made
that even the “purest” or most primary definition is somehow immune from critical
pressure. In fact, the discursive conditions under which highly mathematic or
scientific concepts emerge tend in some cases to carry the values and beliefs of their
time no matter what claims of objectivity are made. In going forward, it will prove


difficult not to engage the technical language of information theory as an outgrowth

of nonlinear and linear predictions, mathematics, electrical communication (and
its successor communication theory), and the equations that measure amounts of
information and entropy. However, the mathematical and technical language will
be kept at a bare minimum to simple explanatory concepts in deference to a wider
readership, even if at the risk of imprecision that might result from oversimplification.
I also keep in reserve Gilbert Simondon’s novel use of the term information for a
subsequent chapter as a counterpoint to this historiography of the term.
Selecting a starting point is in itself liable to dispute. To whom do we attribute the
first attempt at describing information? Arguably, information does not begin with
its explicit mention, and to insist on its explicitly named occurrence as the starting
point is to already to privilege the term as a fetishized theoretical object. I will err
on the side of the actual term’s incipience in the modern discourse; not on account
of supporting the fetishization of the term in its statistical, electrical communicative,
or mathematical senses, but to give a brief account of the term according to the
two opposing viewpoints that take information in its non-physical and materialist
We must come to understand that information proper emerges out of electrical
and statistical mechanics, but also by way of probability theory. As a theoretical
calque, we see information morph into different contexts––some of them with
higher or lower fidelity to the initial term with respect to measurability and scope of
application. In the history of the term, wending its way through the Cold War and into
the nomenclature of the so-called “information age,” we note the predominance of
many torch-bearers of the term attempting to grant to information a status not unlike
some of the cardinal principles of physics; namely, to develop a unified theory of
information that will apply in a generalized sense as well as for narrow applications,
much akin to a unified field theory.


In a non-physical appropriation of the term, information is moved up to the abstract

on par with a theory or law such as gravity. In such cases, information becomes
measurable and thus part of a demonstrable operation (such as measuring the
ratio of information to its opposite, entropy). Treated in the non-physical context,
information splits between statistic estimation and communication, both held under
the same umbrella of probability. Although there are very key differences arising
from this dualism of information and matter. How can we measure the abstract?
In formal exercises, it is possible to obtain a measure, but information in the non-
physical sense has no mass or volume or electric charge. In subsequent chapters
we will apply critical pressure to the very concepts of probability, possibility, and
potentiality. For now, it suffices to make a very brief remark that information is
a measure of probability of an event. Even here there is much controversy; for
example, the Bayesian theorem versus the frequentist camp on how to measure


information in an event depending on how we understand probability. So, the event

the sun explodes has, in physics, a probability of one, but in frequentism it has a
probability of zero (but then the probability that the sun remains and that it rises
each day is one). There is no reliable way to measure the probability of all events any
more than it is possible (or useful) to assign numbers to every subatomic particle. It
is here that a peripheral issue moves to the centre: whether events are deterministic
or “random.” If we recall Laplace’s mind experiment of knowing the position and
trajectory of all particles, if such a vast amount of data could be computed, it would
be possible (in Laplace’s experiment) to predict all future events. This, as we know,
receives a considerable challenge by Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, and others
who oppose the deterministic and mechanistic view.

R.A. Fisher

Arguably the first fully coherent definition of information is attributable to R.A.

Fisher, a statistician and geneticist who developed a theory of information (known
as Fisher information) in the 1920s. Fisher was concerned not with information
as communication but with statistical estimation with respect to experimentation
practices. Fisher information is useful in quantifying how much information is gained
or lost in making a measurement to acquire a statistic, which can for example lead
to an estimate of an underlying distribution. What is key here are sigma-algebras of
probability in events. A sigma-algebra in probability is more than just a collection
of sets closed under certain kinds of unions and intersections. It is a set of potential
events that have associated probability (their measure) and hence by performing
some kind of sample or experiment or observation that can be reduced in size which
is key to the conditional expectation given the data. Information reduces the degrees
of freedom of uncertainty (which is largely the definition Claude Shannon uses as
well); that is, fewer uncertain events (not in a cardinal number sense of fewer, but in a
proper subset sense). Fisher is concerned with the information content in a sample or
experiment, measurable as to how much uncertainty is reduced. So, given a random
variable (defined by the function’s measurability with respect to an underlying
sigma algebra on a set), a probability space is determined by an underlying set and
sigma-algebra of subsets in that set. A random variable emerges as a function of that
probability space and “pulls back” measurable sets on the image space to measurable
sets on the probability space, which is defined as “range.” A conditional expectation
of that random variable is another function that is measurable with respect to a smaller
(i.e, with fewer sets, but a subset of) sigma-algebra, which signifies more certainty
(i.e., raised information) than the original random variable since it has fewer sets
determining the uncertainty. It usually occurs in estimation after a measurement is
made. The original random variable is likely not measurable with respect to the
smaller sigma-algebra, but the conditional expectation of it is, and they have the
same averages over those sets where they are both measurable. The existence of that
conditional expectation is guaranteed by the Radon-Nikodyn theorem which tells


us when it is possible to take “derivatives” of one measure with respect to another.

Such derivatives produce what are called densities such as the function that is used
to define the density of the normal distribution on the Euclidean space as a derivative
of some measure with respect to the standard Lebesgue measure on the Euclidean
As will be shown in the following definitions of information concerning Wiener
and Shannon, none of these have anything to do with knowledge claims or semantic
meaning; they are largely mathematical concepts.

Norbert Wiener

For those who take the definition of Norbert Wiener, information, despite how it
has entered the popular vernacular with respect to information and communication
technologies, is not knowledge, truth, proposition, opinion, belief, and operates
without any need for semantic value. In this way, information is radically celibate
from the domain of knowledge, semantics, and even technology. It is to this extent
that Wiener asserted that information cannot be reduced to matter or energy; that
is, information is not material as such, and does not possess “force” in the physical
sense. Wiener “reserves” information by walling it up from any dilution with the
other two substances of physics. It is this definition that will later be contested by
those who would grant to information some sense of “energy.” Our first definition of
information according to Wiener (1961, p. 132):
Information is information, not matter or energy.
What we first note about this definition is the strong formal and ontological claim
he makes: I is I; I is not M; I is not E. This is a simple dialectical procedure upon
which this claim is based: information is defined by itself (tautology) and by what
it is not (negative determination). This carves out the special space and designation
by which we ought to conceive of information. This statement leaves us in a bit of
a quandary: if information is not matter or energy, what is it? Is it a kind of ether, a
phlogiston, a spirit-force? Not quite. Wiener does not raise information to the state
of Mind either. It is still somewhat material, a “stuff” of sorts, but is not matter (i.e.,
not physical as such). Or, more diplomatically if not still a bit mystic, information
is made material when incarnated in artefacts, objects, and entities. In this way,
information is what “haunts” matter, while depending on it, which is reminiscent
of an Aristotelian relationship of how form is manifest (and dependent upon for its
manifestation) on matter.
However, we must take especial care with this definition. Wiener considers physics
as a branch of philosophy, not technological science or a branch of engineering.
There is no material information as such as if a mechanism produces a material
component that can be named “information,” nor can information be reduced to
an energy output. In fact, the transfer of information makes use of energy, for there
is always an energy cost associated in the transfer of information from one point


in space to another.2 Information stands apart as a third type, not as a mystical

transcendent principle, but as something more akin to an operant, or a guide for
matter and energy flow. Physics, in Wiener’s view, reduces everything to matter
and energy, missing the key ingredient of information. Physics lacks the support of
including information in its understanding and thus is hindered by this deficit: “No
materialism which does not admit this can survive at the present day.”3 Wiener tells us
that information can be measured as an “amount” but under special conditions: “Just
as the amount of information in a system is a measure of its degree of organization,
so the entropy of a system is a measure of its degree of disorganization”(1961, p. 11).
In this sense, measurement of information is actually a measure of scale and relative
(dis)organization. For Wiener, the role proper to manipulating information is the
reduction of uncertainty so as to be capable of making a choice. In this way, Wiener’s
view channels Fisher’s.
What we must retain as the essential feature of Wiener’s definition is that it evades
both a classic materialist-mechanistic conception of existence as well as avoiding
falling into a phenomenology. In this way, information is virtual in the non-trivial
sense (i.e., the virtual as fully determined milieu, not in the sense of “virtual reality”
which is a corruption of what virtual means). Moreover, we ought not be in haste to
equate Wiener’s definition of information with his cybernetic program, for although
there is a tentative connection, a definition should not be confused with specific
Given Wiener’s focus on making use of information for practical purposes,
that is the affair of statistical mechanics and probability to reduce uncertainty and
noise through negentropy and feedback (although it should be noted that although
Wiener speaks at great length on probability, he neglects to use the terminology
common to mathematical statistics). A device, such as a radar-equipped anti-aircraft
weapon, requires a communicative circuit or feedback loop with its environment
in order to be effective: by responding to the presence of an enemy fighter plane,
information received from the environment attests to its current location as well as,
by measuring the past and present flight path of the fighter plane, using probabilities
to reduce the number of possibilities of where the fighter plane will appear next.
Instead of peppering the entire sky in the hopes of landing a hit, this predictive
process will reduce the viable options to fewer and increase the probability of a
successful barrage. Given the speed of fighter planes, this decision-making process
may not be best suited to human beings, and so some form of rapid and automated
device would be required to compute the probabilities. It is not enough to have
just any predictive method, but to distinguish between what are called linear and
nonlinear processes. Simply put, in a linear process for prediction we could base
our prediction on a longer history of supplied data to anticipate the movement of
the fighter plane’s flight path (F). So, for example, if the enemy fighter plane has
followed F at a constant direction and altitude, these data would be an input for the
guiding device for our anti-aircraft weapon. If F, over the last two hours (t-120 to
t-1 minutes) has been bearing at a constant x degrees at an equally constant altitude


of y metres at a constant speed of z, then the prediction output would be that F at

present time t would be identical with the change at an incremental value according
to the constant of F (x,y, and z). Once we obtained the present position of the fighter
plane, this F at t0 would be compared to the output of the prediction. Supposing
that using data that extends back to t-120 is not helpful because the fighter plane’s
movements were somewhat erratic in the first hour and only smoothed into a more
constant pattern in the last hour. We would then employ data from t-60 to t-1 to
predict t-0 (and hopefully t1 in order to train our anti-aircraft weapon on where we
anticipate the plane to be next).
One of Wiener’s more famous examples which illustrates how feedback works
would be the thermostat: a device that constantly readjusts to its environment to
ensure that the temperature in a room remains stable by increasing or decreasing heat
accordingly. Wiener denies that information is knowledge, but may acknowledge
that information may lead to becoming informed and thus add to one’s knowledge
base. However, Wiener’s purist and arguably “celibate” definition of information
cannot be conflated with knowledge any more than one can construct a normative
definition for information. These are, in short, out of bounds and information-in-
itself cannot be concerned with its possible after-effects in terms of knowledge
and ethics. An ethical aspect only emerges in Wiener’s own reflections on the
consequences of making use of cybernetics in ways that may benefit humankind
or lead to its ultimate destruction with the application of cybernetics to the field of
military weapons technology – a particularly sensitive concern for the time in the
context of the Cold War. Cybernetics is simply the unification of communication,
control, and statistical mechanics sharing a program directed to the same problems.
This synthesis, avers Wiener, avoids the limitations and biases inherent to keeping
these fields separate. Information plays a vital role in cybernetics, but his definition
allows for the existence of information without cybernetics.
Wiener opposes information to entropy. The sum total of information in a system
is the measure of its degree of organization whereas entropy is the measure of a
system’s degree of disorganization. It is here that Wiener is building on Fisher
information but his use of the term seems less clear on account of his seeming
reluctance to employ the language of mathematical probabilities.
Going beyond Wiener’s gnomic definition, is this just information in physics?
Has Wiener simply reversed the process where information was once simply the
manifestation of matter and energy? If so, can Wiener provide more than a general
definition? Is it all just manifested by matter and energy? What would be an
operational definition with complementary demonstration? These are, unfortunately,
not provided by Wiener who moves more briskly from definition to establishing the
foundation for his cybernetics. The problem remains: why did Wiener include this
definition at all since it does not advance his central aim of establishing cybernetics
as a new field of engineering?
In Human Use of Human Beings, Wiener waxes poetic on the heroic struggle
of humanity to combat the universal effects and thermodynamic inevitability of


entropy, comparing life to an island of organization staving off entropic effects from
without. It is here that Wiener tells us that messages are patterns, and that human life
is effectively a continuation of patterns guaranteed by homeostasis. Life itself is a
measure of organization (i.e., information) and the transmission of patterns to ensure
coherence. It is not the particular individual in a frozen state that is the measure of
this organization, but the iterations of the pattern over time so as to explain why
in the natural sloughing of cells organic life still retains some fidelity to a genetic
blueprint. Wiener is no doubt influenced by the early work of Mandelbrot on patterns
and parameters, especially his work on word-strings in language.
One other interesting aspect of note with respect to information transmission as
pattern in Wiener is his apparent skirmish with quantum physics. That is, he addresses
the issue of teleportation of life across large distances. The general idea of being able
to “scan” the entire informational content of a living being might be possible given
the technical power to do so, and therefore to “transmit” this information to another
location where the living being would be reconstituted using matter at that location.
However, he raises the question of the interval:
To hold an organism stable while part of it is being destroyed, with the intention
of re-creating it out of other material elsewhere, involves a lowering of
its degree of activity, which in most cases would destroy life in the tissue.
(Wiener 1954, p. 103)
In addition, while the information pattern is being transmitted, that information in
transit would have to remain unchanged to produce a reliable copy on the other end,
which would also entail reducing the interference of noise.

Claude Shannon

Claude Shannon’s mathematical theory of communication (MTC) takes a different

view of the information-entropy relationship. Information (a term perhaps owing
more to Ralph Hartley, but also owing a debt of inspiration to Markov chains) is
measured in terms of surprise, or more accurately as the degree between information
and uncertainty; so, if in a sequence between a sender and receiver that runs
ABABAB over several signal iterations, the expectation is that the next in the series
of transmissions would be A, which is not informative since it does not present a
difference in the pattern. However, if the signal received is B, C, or any other letter
we choose to assign to represent a signal-content, that is “surprising” because it is
unexpected. As N. Katherine Hayles (1999) reminds us, this signalled a sudden shift
in the approach to entropy. In the conduit between sender and receiver, surprise
manifests itself in a communication channel when noise is introduced which
effectively changes the information.
Although the distinction may be quite clear for many, a caveat is necessary here
to ensure that we are employing Shannon information correctly. That is, Shannon’s
theory was dealing with a technical definition for communication, not information.


Information “plays its part” as it does everywhere, but what Shannon proposes here
(and we must insist on Shannon alone, and not the confusion made of information
and communication which is partially attributed to Weaver’s introduction) is how
we can measure information in commmunication, and not a foundational statement
on information itself.
Shannon tasked himself with both a mathematical theory of communication
concurrently with a cryptological project, finding that work on both seemed to
converge on the common purpose of establishing a communicative framework
that would follow an engineering model. Shannon expressed some reservations
about incorporating the thermodynamic term of entropy to his theory, and likely
felt uncomfortable with how his specifically technical use of information had been
adopted in other disciplines. After the tremendous impact Shannon’s theory had
as it spread to other fields of inquiry, and the more “sociological” interpretation
of the theory’s implications as expressed in Weaver’s introduction to the theory’s
publication, Shannon himself receded from the public.
One of the distinct challenges of communication that Shannon sought to balance
was that of the opposition between accuracy and efficiency. In communicative
networks, both are vital. A more accurate signal transmitted in a channel may require
a longer signal burst and thus contain more redundancy, whereas a more efficient
signal entails a shorter burst at the risk of accuracy. The difference between accuracy
and efficiency can be expressed quantitatively.
In Shannon information, noise arises in a communication channel when the sender
is uncertain of the success of whether or not the receiver obtains the message as
sent. Noise introduced to an otherwise clear channel has a measurable effect on the
amount of information that is received by a message sent across a communication
channel. This information is measured in bits (a short-form of “binary digits” which
is based on Boolean logic where each bit represents two equally probable choices).
This should not be confused with equivocation which concerns the receiving end of
an informational message. That is, in the case when the receiver cannot differentiate
between messages. With respect to entropy, noise adds entropy to the message while
equivocation subtracts it. To grossly simplify this information flow, if we were to
reduce noise and employ some form of filter to better differentiate one message
from another, this might be a step in yielding the total amount of information in the
message as well as amount of entropy.
Shannon information does not distinguish between sense and nonsense which is
a semantic issue, nor can it since it is a measurement of informational quantity as
a signal carried as a message through a channel from a sender to receiver (both of
which need not be human). “Sense” when not taken in the physiological manner
in referring to “sense organs” or epistemologically as “perception,” is closely
aligned with “meaning,” and thus a question of semantics. We cannot conflate,
as we might in colloquial discourse, terms such as noise and nonsense as being
equivalent. It makes no “sense” to speak of semantic information with reference
to the mathematical theory of communication. To give the plainest of examples to


illustrate this point, a signal that carries the message “8jj24b89” may make no sense
to us (and so we may be likely to call it “nonsense” and “noise”), but it may not be
noise in a communication circuit just so long as 8jj24b89 was sent and received
without alteration. To take it another way, “a dog is a four-legged mammal” makes
complete sense to us, but may represent the interference of noise in a communication
circuit if the sender’s message was “a dog walked by” and the message received was
“a dog is a four-legged mammal,” suggesting that noise interfered and altered the
message. In the mathematical theory of communication, noise is measured by the
degree of fidelity of the input message compared to the received output message. In
this way the utility of Shannon information is a measure of how much information
can be transmitted through a noisy channel.
To take a simple example, consider the transmission of information from one
gene to another. In gene transfer, we can measure the degradation of information that
takes place by treating genetics as analogous to information transmitted in a channel
between sender and receiver.4 In genetic terms, information degradation might be a
function of mutation insofar as there is not a faithful replication of an initial gene
source code to the new code on account of noise. Although mutations are necessary
in a Darwinian framework for the successful continuity of species, Shannon-Weaver
information isolates “success” as a very narrow concept of successful transmission
of a message with high fidelity between sender and receiver. This, as the chapter
on memetics will explore, speaks to the concept of replicators and the fragility of
complex systems in the replication of memetic information.
Communication theory has some basis in science (although not necessary)
given that it deals with electromagnetic waves, but it has nothing to do with the
semantic content of any communication event, nor does it form the basis for a
definition of information. Even channel capacity in devices, as explored by Shannon
in communication theory, does not qualify as scientific because it deals with the
discrete probabilities in the transmission between devices – an issue for engineering
and not necessarily for science. Given the non-semantic aspect of Shannon-Weaver
information, it is possible that the same quantity of information transmitted through
a clear channel twice will have the same value, but may mean two different things
to the receiver. This is of little concern to communication theory as such, but makes
all the difference if we consider biology where the correspondence between the
mathematical theory of communication and biology does not always comfortably
align in all genetic cases.5

Klaus Krippendorff

Krippendorff, whose work in information and second-order cybernetics constructs

a bridge to social sciences and qualitative analysis through structural modeling,
defines information as “a measure of the amount of selective work a message enables
its receiver to do” (Krippendorff 1986, 13).6 Krippendorff is among a large group
of information theorists eager to apply the cybernetic principles in other domains


(we could include here many of the luminaries who attended the Macy conferences
such as Bateson, Jakobson, Mead, McCulloch, et al). In Shannon information,
once the information as a message has been sent, the only measure is how much
fidelity remains in the original signal and the received signal. At that point, the
“work” is done. However, Krippendorff attempts to make this information useful
by applying the added criterion of what the receiver will do with the message, the
capacity of that message to generate selective work. Moreover, he defines entropy
as “a measure of observational variety of actual (as opposed to logically possible)
diversity(15). In this way, Krippendorff’s second-order cybernetics view does not
deviate from Ashby’s principle where the controller or governor must possess more
variability in choices than what is observed / controlled. What may appear initially
problematic about Krippendorff’s definition of information is the use of the word
“work” (even if modified by “selective” which we can suspend for the moment,
but is simply illustrative of a choice function). Work is generally an expression of
energy. In measuring energy, we might measure the force of some object in terms of
velocity and mass (or, in Newtonian terms, force as being mass times acceleration,
but we leave the curious puzzle of how to describe heat and temperature aside). Both
information and energy share a similar property; namely, that neither are visible as
such, and we can only measure their effects expressed as changes in state. We return
now to the qualifying term “selective” work, which is part of an operational and
demonstrable process in Krippendorff’s definition of information where “work” is
clarified by the appended qualifier of “organization.” Since difference and making
distinctions are dependent upon a perceiving subject (a change in state that is not
recognized by an observer is not informative, but the informative aspect emerges
when the observer notices a change in state), Krippendorff reminds us that making a
distinction is “the minimal evidence for organizational work” (1985, p. 488).
Defined in terms of organizational work, information displays some analogy to
energy which is the classical measure of work in physics. In both cases, we must
distinguish between its potential and actual use. [...] The measure of potential
energy that is expressed relative to a level of entropy in the surroundings of
the object measured. As this level increases, potential energy erodes. Similarly
does information become powerless as the organizational work it specifies is
already performed. (Krippendorff 1985, p. 489)
Here information is more aligned with unused potential. Once the potential has been
exhausted, we are left with redundancy should the same process of organizational
work recur. The parallel to energy should be kept in mind, but this definition of
information is still not materialist. In addition, we might also note the family
resemblance to Shannon information where something technically “informative”
yields surprise, and surprise indicates the expression of unused potential. Since
energy is understood as the capacity to perform work, it is information that is
tasked with organization which can take the form of organizing from a state of
non-organized or disorganized state, maintenance of an existing organizational


state, or a complete restructuring that reorganizes that state. If we take this to be

Krippendorff’s meaning then information is granted primacy insofar as it becomes
the metric for tasks, the observer / controller delegates those tasks, and energy is
required to perform it. So, in this way, what initially appears as information-as-
physical is simply representational, a measure of “work” or potentiality as a result
of observing a state.
Krippendorff cites Maruyama’s useful tetralogy by which we can understand
information paradigms: hierarchical, isolationistic, homeostatic, and morphogenetic
(1992, p. 493). These correspond to universalism, pluralism, equilibrium in systems,
and constructivist epistemology. The hierarchical view of information renders
it unidirectional in its flow (generally from some issuing source and flowing
downward from a universal principle or authoritative source). The isolationistic
view renders information a subjective practice of individualizing or recognizing
individual differences. The homeostatic view takes information as embedded in the
constraints of context where components are said to interact within a system that
achieves stability or equilibrium. Finally, the morphogenetic view is more in line
with the objectives of second-order cybernetics which does not privilege just self-
organization (autopoeisis) but is dynamical and flexible enough to consider higher-
order contradictions and variations that can enter into synthesis and be generative of
new components (allopoeisis). It is this view that Krippendorff endorses as showing
fidelity to the processes of information as that which in-forms from within but
allows for emergence, following Varela: “Positive feedback increases organizational
variety, negative feedback achieves organizational closure, both are organization-
formative processes” (Krippendorff 1992, p. 494).
In the non-materialist view of information as put forth by Fisher, Wiener, et al.,
information is only made physical through some other means such as an energy
pattern, signal impulse, or in material form such as bits in a computer program,
a book, or encoded in DNA. All of these contain information without granting
to information a materialist basis; instead, information is communicated through
physical means of matter and energy, and may be of limited value in describing
how certain things come to be. However, there is a fundamental difference in how
information can be treated in either organic or inorganic contexts.
We might here make an exception for the formation of inorganic substances such
as crystals which may not involve information in the technical sense at all. That is,
the chemical processes that allow molecules to interact and enter into mineralization
are fully determined to some extent. Technically, if we know the initial state of all
the chemical processes involved with absolute accuracy (including heat, pressure,
force, etc.) then the outcome of that process will already be known and thus not be
informational if we take information in Shannon’s sense of surprise. If information
is involved in the formation of something such as we find in genetic formation, it is
anterior; i.e., an a priori condition where the information guides the process using
complex communication (such as switches and feedback) relying on the source code
to control reactions. In contrast, the formation of a crystal is largely chemical and is


guided not by information but on how the elements interact, which does not involve
choice. Where we obtain information from the formation of a crystal is only that
it has formed, not the formative process itself. If the atomic arrangement plays a
role in the accretion aspect of crystal formation, it is a simple template; by contrast
the information use and transmission of DNA through the cell-as-processor might
involve a much more complex process.
In this view, with respect to inorganic formation, we seem left with a return
of determinism because there is no choice function in the formation of inorganic
substances (only the probabilities given certain conditions). We are reminded here
of Laplace’s thought experiment, emerging out of his understanding of Newtonian
physics, which is a somewhat simplistic determinism based on differential equations
whereby knowing the initial conditions of position and velocity of all particles in
the universe could be computed to predict the future. However, quantum physics
and relativity have significantly altered our understanding of events. If we attribute
information to the event itself, carried by whatever means (light, gravity), then
we do have an instance of surprise. For example, if the moon exploded, assuming
the current distance between earth and moon, the event of the moon’s destruction
would not be visible to us for eight milliseconds (the time it takes for light to
travel from moon to earth), and the effect this would have on earth’s tides some
time thereafter as the information is transmitted as gravity. If there is at least some
information content in an inorganic event such as the moon exploding, and if that
information would not require a human (or any organic) observer to validate the
event as informational in terms of surprise, then this might indirectly lend support
to the idea that information is not invented or discovered, but simply manifest. That
is, in adapting Eugene Wigner’s argument for either the invention or discovery of
mathematics, if information had been invented according to the human scale and
only applied to human information, then it would not be applicable to either very
large (cosmological) or very small (subatomic) scales.


Amaterial basis for information would, then, need to resist being simply representational
to avoid being accused of a naive phenomenology where information exists as direct
evidential experience for us. In the general understanding of information as physical,
this is generally indissociable from the disciplinary framework of epistemology so
that information exists in such a way as to refer to ways that human beings come
to learn, understand, and communicate. In terms of physics, physical information
cannot rely solely on such matters, for its focus of study would only consider
thought as possibly a small fragment of concern to which physical laws might
apply. Thing-based information, in whatever manifestation it may appear, should be
able to stand as mind-independent to avoid falling into subjectivism. The question
one might pose would be if information can be repositioned as pre-individual in
order to avoid the usual idealistic connotations of information taken in the popular


context as anthropocentric. This has been resolved, in part, by the one species of
information that can truly be called mind-independent: genetics. The functionalist
approach attributes a primacy to human consciousness from which information is
a function and thus mind-dependent process. However, in accord with the Russian
school of informatics, beginning with A.D Ursul’s work in the late 1960s and 1970s,
acknowledge that information must have at least some degree of autonomy from
mind-dependent or anthropomorphic origin to describe the processes of genetics. As
Kolin (2011, p. 457) states, “all genetics, by its very nature, is a science of the origin,
storage, transfer and change of genetic information.”7
However, the accord with the Russian informatics view that is largely
attributional in nature stops short of declaring information as a materialism
despite ideological pressures placed on “Soviet science” by fierce proponents
such as Trofim Lysenko (a position later softened during Khruschev’s “thaw”).
Information may be manifest in materiality by way of its processes (be those
embedded states or flows) as enacted in matter, but information itself is “not a
physical object or process and belongs to the world of ideal reality” (Kolin 2011,
p. 456). Debates that arise as to the conceptual parameters of information tend to
reject a materialist definition.8 In denying strict materialism to information and
adopting what amounts to an information idealism, we might also adopt many of
the problems of idealism in general such as how to explain the correspondence
between ideality and reality. Kolin’s solution appears to embrace an Aristotelian
stance insofar as information, in a nod to the word’s etymological origin, is a
kind of ideal actuator that forms matter, but is also carried within it like a germ
or a trace. Matter, then, is the formal expression of information. A concept of
information that relies on informatic idealism to explain how the heterogeneous
systems of matter emerge and are regulated will no doubt lead to a dualistic view,
and appeals to a hylomorphic understanding of information.
One attempt to navigate out of this impasse has been work in systems theory,
especially among the emergentist camp. Wolfgang Hofkirchner (2011) incorporates
a dynamic approach to understanding information creation as emerging out of
self-organizing (autopoeitic) systems where there is a change in structure, state,
or behaviour of that system. Ultimately, Hofkirchner is interested in applying an
integration approach that may lead to a unified theory of information that cannot
be reduced to mechanistic or mathematical functions, and yet can establish a
concrete universal.9 Information, as that which is surprisal or novelty, is generated
in the reflective medium of the system in relation to both internal (structural) and
external (environmental) processes: information is created “if there is a surplus
of effects exceeding causes in a system. Information occurs during the process in
which the system exhibits changes in its structure, or in its state, or in its behaviour”
(Hofkirchner 2011, p. 54). So, information is, in this view, created by a system as
a product of its organizational processes.10 What Hofkirchner means by “state” is
not made entirely clear since the structure of a system, or its behaviours, can be
expressed as a state of that system.


A definition of information as knowledge still persists if only because it may

appeal to the innate desire of the human mind for conceptualizing on the basis of
objects that are tangible and thus potentially measurable. However, an objection to
information as being synonymous with knowledge arises when we consider that
there may be many sources of information in our environment that we do not take as
knowledge. The buzzing of a fly in the garden can be informative, but only if there
is an entity that chooses to perceive it as such, and even then it may be a bit of an
overstatement to call that knowledge. The fly may be technically “salient”: that is,
the fly alerts our attention to its presence by its incessant buzzing, but unless this is
used as a basis for action or increasing knowledge, this salience is simply stimulus.
We may be outside on a warm summer day and feel the heat of the sun upon the skin,
but inasmuch as this may be informative and lead to a decision (to apply sunblock
or to move into the shade, for example), there is no new information as such if we
already know that warm, sunny days involve the heat of the sun upon exposed skin,
that prolonged exposure can result in burns, that the earth orbits around the sun, that
the summer season involves more hours of daylight than the winter, and so forth. In
this case, the informative context only confirms what we know without adding to
our knowledge, and yet can still be called informational. In addition, knowledge is
generally represented by objects, such as books and documents. These are, in sum,
Following the distinction of Fritz Machlup (1983), knowledge can be considered
a fixed state of information. That is, information is a process that produces the form,
but is not in itself knowledge because it involves transitory, ephemeral processes, and
knowledge proper is thus formed information. Knowledge endures as a resource to
which one may appeal (such as in books), whereas information-as-process is simply
the means by which we can possibly arrive at knowledge. It is this word “knowledge”
to which much of philosophy is comfortable employing given the specific conceptual
familiarity of the term in its discourse.11 Information does not make its appearance
explicitly in philosophy until the latter part of the 20th century with pioneers such as
Arkady Ursul, T. Stonier, Wolfgang Hofkirchner, Rafael Capurro, Luciano Floridi et
al.12 Keeping with Machlup’s formulation, information has no material basis except
as manifest in the communicative intent of entities or agents that perform the act of
informing. Information cannot properly be called a “state” but a process whereby
signals can eventually become knowledge once that information is processed.
Although the act of informing is contingent upon situational circumstances in which
the acts occur, information retains its “verb” status as a transitive phenomenon.
Information as part of information physics, beginning with Rolf Landauer,
provides an explanation that classical physics cannot: why matter is organized in
space. What organizes the forces to allow for the physical organization of matter?
What explains changes of state? Without such a foundation the explanation for
all physical processes cannot be traced back to root causes. In quantum theory,
information can play an even stronger role in the explanation of how information
on two ends of a communication channel can be lossless; i.e., how information can


remain identical without changing states or traversing an interval of space between

sender and receiver. In Shannon information, there is always a loss and a cost in a
communication transfer, regardless of how minute. In quantum theory this problem
is possibly a matter that could be overcome.

Michael Buckland

If our environment is entirely saturated with that which can be called informational
(objects, events in the environment, and so forth), information ceases to possess
a useful definition: “If anything is, or might be, informative, then everything is,
or might well be, information. In which case calling something ‘information’ does
little or nothing to define it” (Buckland 1991, 356). Going against the traditional
views of information-as-process and information-as-knowledge, Buckland (1991)
proposes a new distinction, information-as-thing, thus providing a more material
basis for information. Yet what Buckland advocates is a more solid connection
between what is information and the information systems that can deal directly with
it. If information remains a purely formal and abstract concept outside of matter and
energy, then we could not properly say that information systems are dealing with
information since there is no direct connection that would allow an economy of
transaction between the two. There needs to be a proper state of information so that
information systems can store, retrieve, and transmit information from one device
to another. This is generally manifest in terms of data. However, this may still prove
too representational and thus not provide access to information-in-itself. Those who
would rather retain the purity of information in its precise definition will quickly
dismiss common-sense definitions of information that are too broad, employing
the term in ways that are almost strictly conflation or rely on analogy alone. Such
terms as information technologies, information society, information revolution, and
information age––as much as these are trafficked in our time––may lead to further

Luciano Floridi

Luciano Floridi is arguably on the forefront of what has been called the philosophy
of information (PI).13 Aiming to provide a new branch of philosophy upon which
both classical concerns of philosophy (such as the nature of Being) and newly
emergent domains that challenge traditional philosophical perspectives (AI and
computational theory with respect to epistemology, ethics, and linguistics) can find
some measure of interdisciplinary convergence under a neo-Kantian metatheoretical
banner: “PI, like philosophy of mathematics, is phenomenologically biased. It is
primarily concerned with the whole domain of first-order phenomena represented
by the world of information, computation, and the information society” (Floridi
2002, p. 136). The two central aims of PI is to provide critical examination of the
basic principles of information and its conceptuality with attention to dynamics


and utilization of information, and to turn to computational methods to shine a new

light on philosophical problems. In this way, PI assigns privilege to the question of
information in terms of its nature, and would operate computational methodologies
as a means of revisiting the perennial problems of philosophy, if not also identifying
new ones with a focus to how problems are fomulated. Floridi is highly optimistic
about the prospects of PI since, in his view, “PI possesses one of the most powerful
conceptual vocabularies ever devised in philosophy. This is because we can rely
on informational concepts whenever a complete understanding of some series of
events is unavailable or unnecessary for providing an explanation” (2002, p. 139).
As a “framework,” PI assumes that all problems can be reduced to “an informational
problem or explanation” (Floridi 2002, p. 140). That is, where traditional philosophy
and other disciplines might fail in understanding information phenomena, PI’s
methods which are a convergence of ICS, ICT, and other related fields may be
utilized to this end.
A key concept in Floridi’s philosophy of information is that of the infosphere: a
total, internally interacting and interactive sphere of informational systems that is, as
a whole, immaterial, but real. The infosphere is composed of informational agents
and entities (which can include individuals, programs, or large groups that engage
in information-seeking behaviour), and although the web is but one part of this
infosphere, it nevertheless has a significant effect upon it. But inasmuch as Floridi’s
neologism provides a new way of understanding information society as originally
set down by pioneers in this field such as Fritz Machlup and later expanded upon by
Daniel Bell, Tadao Umesao, and Manuel Castells among others, we must suspend
discussion of “society” to get a better grasp on what Floridi is arriving at with this
concept. In having set up an ambitious project that may read among some as more of
a foundation for technical research with only a passing familiarity to philosophical
inquiry. That is, in its rhetorical mode the philosopher ceases to be the monastic star-
gazer and more the executive wielding flowcharts.
“I have also tried to focus on philosophical problems that have an explicit and
distinctive informational nature or that can be informationally normalized without
any conceptual loss” (Floridi 2004, p. 559). A few problems arise from the outset:
first of all, how do we determine what philosophical problems contain this explicit
and distinctive informational nature? Do philosophical problems, such as the nature
of reality, meaning, truth, and so forth explicitly announce themselves or surrender
to being intrinsically “informational”? Floridi states that any philosophical question
can be reposed as an informational or computational one. To normalize philosophical
questions in this way is effectively a means of revision and territory: instead of
throwing a bridge between a narrow conception of information with philosophy, the
act of normalization forces philosophy to adapt to the critical tools of informational
and computational models of thinking. His qualifier of performing this act without
risking “conceptual loss” is an interesting one, and it is uncertain if he holds to the
view that concepts are quantities that can be added or subtracted in a communication
conduit just as noise, information and entropy are measured in Shannon-Weaver


information.14 It also leaves open the prospect that among those philosophical
questions that would suffer this “conceptual loss” in being reconfigured or filtered
through informational inquiry (however this loss is measured or decided), there
would be the possibility of some philosophical questions that cannot be reduced to
informational regimes of thought. If it cannot be reduced to informational analysis,
then must it be consigned to inutility? Floridi clarifies that the analytic function of
testing the problem is not one that asks if some problem P can be reformulated as
an informational one, but “what would it be like for P not to be an informational
problem at all” (Floridi 2004, p. 559).
Floridi separates information into three organized rubrics: information AS reality,
information ABOUT reality, and information FOR reality. This can be reformulated
in terms of viewing information as ontological (the “as” implying a claim on the
nature of reality, most likely on the basis of signals and patterns), descriptive (as
linking semantic information with an actual object or concept), and pragmatic (which
is operational in character). These roughly correspond to three disciplines: philosophy
of communication, linguistic science, and computer science. Floridi argues for a
certain degree of autonomy for his philosophy of information, but does acknowledge
the interdependence with the heritage of metaphysical terminology (2002, p. 42).
After posing the ontological question of “what is information?” Floridi moves toward
constructing a project nexus where informational analysis can usefully converge but
without risking PI becoming absorbed by an already existing disciplinary program.
Floridi’s emphasis on asserting the territorial integrity of PI may appear as a peculiar
defensiveness, and it does not proceed from his argument that already existing
tools in philosophy are insufficient to engage the concept of information. The shift
in alignment to computational and technological considerations establishes a very
specific discursive paradigm which appears at the expense of appreciating the existing
means philosophy can supply for the question of information’s ontological status.
The critical distinction emerges in the PI program with respect to what constitutes
a problem, and how it is to be utilized for the purposes of the PI program: “PI as
a philosophical discipline is defined by what a problem is (or can be reduced to
be) about, not by how a problem can be formulated” (2002, p. 45).We may recall
here Deleuze and Guattari’s warning that a poorly posed problem has little hope
of creating something new and meaningful. By not making the effort to formulate
the problem, it is difficult to move a program forward on the basis of investigating
the descriptive aspect of the problematic. How the question is posed is an essential
precondition to investigation, for bad questions can lead the researcher astray in
constructing bad solutions, or failing to understand the “solution” as the basis of a
new problem.15
Floridi employs the neologism “demiurgology” as a descriptive frame in which
PI’s goals are contained. The ambitious scope of this “demiurgology” is explained
as the “convergence of several modern threads: the death of god, the demiurgic
transformation of the I; the scientific revolution; increasing moral responsibility,
shared by humanity, towards the way reality is and could be; and the informational


turn” (2003, p. 465). As broad a terrain in philosophy this list attempts to cover, it
omits specific mention of several other chief concerns of philosophy in the 20th
century which may not be compatible at all with PI but are of vital concern to
philosophers working in the continental tradition. Nor can many of the philosophical
projects in this domain be reduced to informational analysis without suffering the
“conceptual loss” Floridi cautions elsewhere. In a curious way, Floridi seems to raise
“information” according to his more technical definition to the level of the a priori,
out of which he attempts to ground a new transcendental analytic to steer information
and computational practices in a closed loop that will nourish and galvanize PI as the
legitimate heir of metaphysical investigation.
Floridi anticipates the objection that PI is dependent on computer science by claiming
that PI encapsulates both computer science as its foundation, as well as broadening the
domain to include the application of informational analysis to any philosophical problem
in any era. This may provide PI the flexibility to adapt to changes in computation
practices such as the anticipated developments in quantum computing.
It can prove somewhat difficult to make the label of “information as physical”
stick to Floridi who does acknowledge that an information-theoretic approach to
nature, guided by some of the procedures of philosophy, might be in the offing.

Digital Ontology: The Rechnender Raum and the World as Computer

The idea of pancomputationalism and digital physics can be said to originate in

the work of Konrad Zuse. In his landmark text, Rechnender Raum (1969), Zuse
argues that the universe is computational, that it in many ways resembles a Turing
machine. The Zuse Thesis (ZT) maintains that the universe is governed entirely by
deterministic laws, and that it is discrete (digital) and not continuous. All matter
and energy, then, is secondary to a universal computer program whose algorithm
determines the manifestations of matter and energy that enter into complex, dynamic
interactions and interdependence. This idea is not to be confused with H.G. Wells’
“world brain” which is constructed by human beings to function as a global repository
of knowledge, but instead a foundationalist thesis claiming that all beings are in fact
derived from the processes of a universal computer program.
One common feature of all digital ontologies, be these of the early Zusean or the
more recent Fredkinian varieties, would be claims that the universe proceeds from
simple digital principles from which is derived all complexity. This claim might be
said to originate with John Archibald Wheeler:
It from bit symbolizes the idea that every item of the physical world has at
bottom—at a very deep bottom, in most instances—an immaterial source and
explanation; that which we call reality arises in the last analysis from the posing
of yes-no questions that are the registering of equipment evoked responses; in
short that all things physical are information-theoretic in origin and this is a
participatory universe. (Wheeler, 1990, p. 5)


Moreover, all of space-time is discrete and effectively reduced to atomic bits (in the
literal sense of the term). The antinomy arises as to whether the universe is discrete
(i.e., digital) or continuous (i.e., analog). The debate over whether the universe is
discrete or continuous has yet to be settled, with a small group of physicists encamped
on the continuity side, while the breakaway group of digital ontologists defend the
discrete model, over and against wave theory. There is a strong stain of Leibniz in
these views that treat of existence a kind of initial ordering system of monadic (in
this case digital) bits organized by a master algorithm. Such attempts are designed
to somehow “materialize” information for the purposes of making it physical rather
than the more likely scenario that information has an effect on physical systems, if
not also a powerful role to play in the generation of physical things.
In the digital ontologist approach to information we are given the “bit” as a unit
of measurement. This “bit” is to information as the atom is to matter in classical
physics. As such, the bit is assigned as a building block since it represents the
smallest amount of information possible while still calling it information. However,
we might question the insistence on this stable unity and primary term of the bit.
The bit is perfectly suited to binary thinking since, indeed, bit is a short form for
binary digit. The operation of the one and zero, yes and no, on and off is what lends
to the bit its definition. Yet, the primitive element is very little different from a stable
conception of Being. The bit already exists in extension, as a unit distributed in
space, albeit portrayed through representation. Intensities that might arise would
be, in this scenario, constructed by the relation of the bits to form a communication
message (in a literal or more figurative way). We then fall back into possibility, for
it is the burden of the bits to be composed in such a way as to guarantee diversity in
the environment. Worse, this form of diversity speaks more to combinatorics than
it does a more open-ended model. The conditions of possibility are then set by the
primitive elements of the bit, and as we have already alluded in the discussion on
information in a previous chapter, this can go too far and become the basis of a
digital ontology. Genesis and structure become reconciled quickly: genesis is the bit,
and structure is the organization of those bits by some mystic algorithm to become
a program, whether biotic or abiotic. The bit does not exist in space in the same
way matter does: it has no mass, width, length, or breadth. Yet the bit is tasked, in
a digital ontology, to explain the genesis and structure of existence if not also the
conditions of possibility. It is here that we may remark that the digital ontologist,
in an apparent zeal to make information even more primary rather than on equal
footing with matter and energy, in effect etherealizes information. It is the repetition
of the pre-socratic philosophy in choosing some primitive element to function as the
cosmological principle; instead of fire, mud, or water, we have the bit. In the most
extreme form of digital ontology, it may be able to resist hylomorphism if it assigns
to the bit the morphological function of creating and organizing matter; however,
this is to fall back into substantialism.
To invert the digital ontological viewpoint of the primary bit as the substantial
basis of existence, we might reassign to the bit the function of relation. However,


for this to be feasible the bit would have to expand its relational repertoire so that
it is not a simplistic operation of cause and effect. Even here we do not escape the
assumption that the bit somehow preexists all that it creates and conditions. The bit
is also entirely devoid of intensive qualities.
Does the bit ever differ from itself, ever constitute itself by its difference first?
Is the bit atomistic? Corpuscular? Eternal and enduring like a speck-sized Form?
We might appeal to quantitative considerations, thus granting information theory
the descriptive and explanatory power of science. In the still-halcyon days of
information theory developments, Pierce devotes a chapter to the shared features
between physics and information theory. In ideal terms, we can compute the precise
minimum limit of energy required to transmit one bit of information: 0.693 kT joules
of energy (Pierce 1980, 192-6). But that is not a bit; that is simply the measure of
energy required to transmit one. A bit = choice. More specifically, a bit is a choice
between two equally probable possibilities such as a fair coin turning up heads or
tails. We begin here to see the picture for physics materialize: the bit as choice is
carried by energy to activate matter to manifest that choice and thus provide an
answer (heads or tails). Kinetic energy associated with my hand’s movement flips
the coin in the air, and information is the result of that coin toss when it lands. There
is no magic interval. All the choices are scripted in advance in this case: one toss of
the coin reveals heads or tails, an exclusive disjunction since not both heads and tails
can result simultaneously according to the standard model of physics.
We return to our central question: can information function as a foundation for
ontology? A foundationalist approach might risk making information an a priori
form of thought applied to empirical states that we might measure in terms of a
material substance’s qualities. The foundationalist model might split between
describing a coherent density matrix of interrelated facts out of which one might
build probability schemes or define the possibilities of experience, and in explaining
the emergence of incoherent systems that are generally the product of a possibly
operant system of oscillating openness and closure of that coherent density matrix
to allow for indirectly causal spontaneity. Where information functions as the
foundation, Being is displaced to a particular state existing in a system in spacetime.
Information, as productive of the density matrix, would guarantee the integration of
different actualities that define beings in a variety of states. We might, along with
Heisenberg (1958), define “state” as “potentiality.” However, to be critical of an
information-based foundationalism, one might ask how integrating this concept of
information into that of state-potentiality gets the ontology “off the ground” so to
speak. For the foundationalist approach to have any hope of describing changing
states (beings), one might have to insist on an initial condition in information that
precipitates a change in state for beings. This would be described as the first “step”
from a stable state (information a priori). This state could not be potentiality, but
absolute actuality for if information were simply potentiality then we can speak of
some world X where information does not perform its function of precipitating a
change in state for beings, and if we cleave to information as foundational then what


else might occupy the primary position? We might, in fact, be revealing a tension
between physics and information, a chicken and egg scenario: “putting information
before physics is difficult to do, simply because information would have to obey
some rules, some axioms that would come prior to the laws of physics. It is hard to
imagine where such axioms for information would come from, if not a deeper law of
physics” (Vedral 2012, p. 221).


The term information itself has been subject to rampant politicization, and there
is no doubt that an entire historiography of the term may prove somewhat useful
in endowing a more robust understanding of how it has been embedded in social,
epistemological, technological, economic, and cultural practices. Such a task has
been performed by a few select authors, most notably Ronald E. Day.
The term in its diffuse definitional and connotational range may in fact be an
ideological expedient upon which so many assumptions are based, and at worst
an eclectic association under the false unification of a technological dogmatism
reminiscent of scholasticism. Attempts to valorize and legitimize the word as
something associated with precision, as value-neutral, and operationally stable
do recur in the discourse of information theory, and to some very minor extent in
philosophies of information. Couching the techno-objective nature of the word in
more philosophical language is less the bitter pill for the humanist to swallow, but it
does little to obscure its ideological origin. Information may qualify as what Mikhail
Epstein calls an ideologeme, which “is nothing other than an idea that is hidden in
one word” and that in “this way it can be inserted into the listener’s consciousness
without the possibility of argumentation or objection. One cannot quarrel with a
single word” (1995, p. 107–8). In this way, several assumptions are funneled into a
single term that seems resistant to critical objection.
Although information as its own special terminological brand can be traced to
various sources such as the documentalist movement of Paul Otlet and Suzanne
Briet, we find the wellspring in Wiener’s definition which is still admittedly
vague in its conceptual genesis apart from the somewhat tautologous statement of
“information is information, not matter or energy.” Although information in all but
name had been operative in philosophy as early as Aristotle with his hylomorphic
model, later critiqued by the British empiricists, it would not be until the 1940s and
1950s that the term itself would enter into its next conceptual phase, most notably
in the understanding of information from the basis of communication theory, or in
the application and study of information as part of knowledge delivery systems such
as libraries.16 Etymological roots of the term, appearing in various classical works,
are not particularly illuminating given that use and reference differ radically in how
words emerging out of informatio appear today.
For all the enthusiasm and possible haste in hitching the loaded term of science
to information, one might question precisely how information science is a science.


Although it would prove insufficient to manage the full complexity of the question
here in an introductory chapter, it does bear some mention. If science, in the
Newtonian sense of the term, is tasked with providing an explanation on how things
work and objective predictions that can be falsified, what is being explained in
information science? How is it a science proper if it does not contain some method
for falsifiability? What has largely been sheltered under the umbrella of information
science, even if it involves technical measurement and quantitative answers,
qualifies it as theory. Science can have theories, but theories are not necessarily
science. It may not do here to insist on some imaginary purity in scientific practices
that fetishize or grossly misinterpret the ideality of its methodology of observation
and experiment, for even scientific documentation has been subject to making its
compromise with earlier epistemic practices in order to gain a credible toehold in a
hostile, ecclesiastical marketplace of ideas.
We should not work in haste to construct a generalized or unified theory of
information, even if based on science and technics which might over-privilege a
quantitative analysis at the expense of critically assessing the cultural and historical
forms in which these discourses arise out of, and perhaps seek to efface in the
interests of serving the more economic if not quasi-cybernetic demands of the
modern day. Abandoning the social, cultural, and historical heritage in which the
very term information is formed is to risk becoming blind to the discourse of power
surrounding the current uses of the term that do, in fact, carry connotative legacies
from the Cold War if not also setting up (as Ronald Day keenly expresses) the usual
futurological tropes of a utopian human future that can operate on probabilistic
computations to anticipate possible eruptions in an uncertain environment (be that
in the management of an organization or the market economy at large). When a
science of information––itself distinct if not opposed to an information science––is
tasked with a politico-economic agenda, then it loses its truly “scientific” quality and
becomes the handmaiden of social mechanisms of control. This use of information in
the economic and political context charms itself into believing its very information
control processes will prepare for all possibilities in an uncertain future. At its worse,
the invocation of information functions as a “mystic operator” alongside with the
term “economy” so that the latter makes the former its exclusive instrument, despite
the narrow and perhaps incorrect association of information with technology and
engineering. It is at this point that advances in technology or engineering (be this
social or technical) are protected by the apparent neutrality and instrumentalism of a
narrow definition of information that renders these technologies of capital immune
to critique. At the moment that information in its more technical import makes the
leap to describe, explain, or otherwise influence social processes, it risks reducing
reality to a series of probabilities and possibilities that can be met head on by the
use of sophisticated prediction devices. The (ab)use of information in this way is
an attempt to map the machine unto the masses, a reprise of a mechanistic view
of the real writ in digital format. The application of cybernetics to society could
be considered Wiener’s major error; had he stopped at the purely mathematical


and technical invention of cybernetic systems (and we leave open the question of
whether he might have been better to leave off his “return” to biology by this means),
and stopped short of creating a new humanism, he might have avoided many of the
problems that have arisen on account of (mis)application.
Arguably, just as Wiener pushed for information to jockey for placement on par
with (or above) matter and energy as the missing third primitive in physics, Tom
Stonier independently acknowledges this same lacuna in his program to develop
an information physics proper. Stonier’s argument for widening the domain of
physics to include information as an essential primitive in physics centers on the
need to explain structure and organization in systems where simply relying on
matter and energy does not supply it. For example, we can determine the mass of a
crystal, explain the process of crystallization by recourse to the energy required in
its formation, and then measure the new mass; however, matter and energy alone
cannot explain why the crystal pattern formation occurred in the precise way it did.
Without a means by which organization of matter into patterns and structures can
be explained, physics leaves the door open to theological explanations; however, in
defining information as that by which organization can be explained and measured,
even if information is an abstract quantity, this closes the gap. Stonier advances
his idea that matter, energy, and information exist as a dynamic interaction that
effectively explains reality. Entropy is simply the measurement of a change in
organization, not necessarily information’s adversary. Instead, Stonier assigns
information’s opposite as heat. As we know from basic physics, the interaction of
matter and energy can produce heat that destabilizes an organization of molecules,
such as the transition from liquid to gas. We know that at zero degrees centigrade
that water freezes, just as we know that at four degrees water molecules lose their
polarity of arrangement, and at one hundred degrees water boils as it transitions into
a gas. Stonier makes clear that we ought not to simplify the relation as information
being opposed to energy, for both can interact to organize a system. So, for example,
matter + energy without information = plasma of fundamental particles, matter
+ pure information without energy = a crystal at 0 Kelvin, information + energy
without matter = massless particles such as photons (Stonier 1990, p. 75). However,
we also know it is true that information is “slower” at colder temperatures, and the
maximum speed of information cannot exceed the ideal value c of light traveling in a
vacuum. With respect to the “mass” of information, we can measure the bits in terms
of electrons (although at present, inasmuch as we can calculate how much energy is
required to change the state of a single bit, it still takes between six and twelve atoms
to compose a bit; this is trivial since the amount of mass and energy will largely
depend on the technological means by which the bit is transmitted).
We must exercise caution not to confuse non-material with the immaterial. The
non-material is simply that which has no matter, whereas the immaterial is the non-
existence of matter, its exclusion from a certain class (such as pure energy). “Strong”
materialism maintains the primacy of matter, and that it is mind-independent,
whereas immaterialism (as put forth by Berkeley) does not deny the existence


of matter, but that all matter is mind-dependent. That is, matter is nothing more
than ideas. Floridi’s position with respect to the nature of the infosphere would be
characterized as more of a confluence of activity that is definitionally informational,
and that the collective nature of all informational activity forms a kind of Gestalt of
the infosphere. In order for there to be an infosphere proper, it would seem, there has
to be human agency involved. Subtract the human, we are left with informational
activity without a coherent frame.
In many of the definitions that include information as an essential third “stuff”
to material existence, information is “made to order” in at least two senses: 1)
information is the quasi-causal agent or operator by which systems are ordered and
organized; 2) information processing and transmission is tailored to the conditions
under which information as an abstract quantity is manifest. Still, this second
aspect of physical information cannot go so far as to say that a certain quantity of
information determines the processing and transmission of informational acts in a
system or organism, but instead sets up the conditions of possibility like a defined
set from which the transformation of an organism or system in extension can be
realized. There must be limits and constraints on the range of possibilities in this
scheme, for it is not within a frog’s probability field to suddenly transform into a
neutron star (although any of its atomic components could go into the creation of
one), nor can a stone transmit to other stones its particular crystallization process.
It would seem one common trait among many definitional attempts has been to
seek the coveted grail of a unified theory of information. When the term “information”
is invoked, the denotation tends to reference an enclosing context which in effect
amplifies its theoretical relevance, but also risks conflating the term with that which
it references. So begins an exercise of association where information becomes either
synonymous with communication (as it is in the case of communication science and
Shannon-Weaver information) or alloyed with other epistemic constructs that involve
digital technology, information behaviour, information-seeking, issues of access
and repositories of knowledge. However, in the course of deflating information as
Frohmann (2004b) does is a useful method for isolating what is otherwise shadowy
or embedded and thus occluded by the very networks it has arranged around it. To
take information-in-itself, as this chapter suggests, would be the chief means by
which information’s theoretical apparatus may be revealed, perhaps alethically.
If we take information as something physical, we can ask “where is information?”
and not be upbraided for asking foolish questions. Energy and matter exist in physical
systems, measured in terms of force and mass. One can ask the source of a particular
energy output just as one can ask after the position or speed of a material object.
When we ask after either the state or process of information, we are also asking
about information in terms of space and time.
Attempts to ontologize information have been on the rise in the last forty years.
These range widely, but one common feature to information ontologies is an attempt
to construct the universal and the component parts of a coherent ontological system.
Some attempts at ontologizing information seem to err on the side of adopting


materialistic analogies that liken information to matter by assigning to information

hard “bits” (as opposed to Shannon information where “bit” is strictly defined as a
unit of choice or uncertainty) or atomic building blocks that, when composed, form
“information” proper. Whether a rush to neologize, or a legitimate philosophical
enterprise that seeks to understand the fundamental nature of information, there have
been many more recent suitors. One in particular might be the invention of “infons”
and an infon logic proper by Jon Barwise and John Etchemendy. Just as there may
be haste among the more quantitatively inclined to construct such units (akin to
Bentham’s “hedons” that reduced pleasure to measure), these generally err on a kind
of “atomysticism” where substance and materiality meet.
In addition, the push and pull of disciplines in capturing information may
also wage dispute on the basis of whether information ought to be considered as
objective-ontological (Wiener, Stonier), relational (Shannon, Brillouin, Kolmogorov,
Hofkirchner, et al), or purely subjective and thus mind-dependent (Bar-Hillel &
Carnap, Maturana & Varela, Foerster, Floridi, Luhmann, et al). Under each of these
major groupings are further subtle gradations.
Frohmann’s (2004a) argument against ontologizing information as part of a specific
philosophy of information is derived from two sources: Geoffrey Nunberg’s emphasis
on regarding the phenomenology of information as central to understanding information
rather than treating information as its own theoretical “kind,” and Wittgenstein’s
deflation of “what is x?” statements by a focus on language-games that demonstrate
meaning-as-use (in this way, information itself cannot be decoupled from the very
practices that engage and make use of information as something that is properly
informative, and so thus places more emphasis on the pragmatic side of information).
This culminates in Bernd Frohmann’s assertion that the materiality, history, institutional
practices, and social discipline in which anything properly informative is embedded
should be central, and that a philosophy of information must be “subordinate to a
philosophy of documentation” given that informativeness is not a universal criterion
for documentation: “Many practices with documents have little, if anything, to do
with informing anyone about anything” (Frohmann 2004b, 405). Moreover, as an
objection to those such as Floridi and Capurro who insist on the urgency or importance
of establishing a philosophy of information due to the surge of digital technologies,
Frohmann reminds us that the tools necessary to evaluate documentary practices are
still extant and are still robust and critical enough to be of use in evaluating today’s
digitalization of documentation. What is of particular interest in the “documentational
turn” in placing documentation studies ahead of information consideration would be,
apart from shifting the emphasis and the narrow constraints of mathematical or scientific
conceptions of information as the primary consideration of documentation, we witness
a return to the idea of process as being embedded in the discourse of multifactorial and
multi-endpoint practices. It is in this sense that even the time scale differs: no longer a
series of points on a line, but time as continuum and multi-channeled so that different
time scales can coexist when taking documentation into consideration. By addressing
documentation in this way, it is possible to break the hermeneutic circle.


However, as subsequent chapters will attempt to make clear, there may be a

case to be made to reinvest information at a different conceptual level that might
include, but not necessarily govern as if from an axiomatic ground, what we may
call the conditions under which information manifests itself (materially, historically,
institutionally, socially, linguistically, genetically, etc.) as part of a framework of
metastability (a framework that is the given of the pre-individual) and metastasis
(the practices that unfold to individuate informational phenomena in the actual).
Where do these competing views lead us? Even from the standpoint of information
theory alone, we have at least three main, sometimes braided, branches of inquiry: the
mathematical theory of communication (MTC) of Shannon and Weaver17 concerned
with information as signal transmissions, information as semantic for linguistic
purposes as advanced by Bar-Hillel, and statistical analysis that leads to patterning
as put forward by Mandelbrot. On the more extreme end, the pan-informationalist
approach presented by the Zuse Thesis, and later refined by Edward Fredkin’s digital
metaphysics, posits a major presupposition where information becomes a governor
in the world of essences that will attempt to unify all diversity and reduce both the
properties of existence and the possibilities of experience to digital representations.
In this way experience and reality are made one under a single digital essence, and all
objects in reality have a one-to-one correspondence with that reality (except for the
pan-computer itself, which is mysteriously not subject to physical laws). Everything
that proceeds from it is rendered digital, and all possible expression of Becoming is
pre-determined by an algorithm. In addition, we are given competing definitions of
the purpose of information as that which informs, that which is informative in itself,
that which is dependent upon mind and is thus functionalist rather than attributive,
that which is either materialist or non-materialist, and so forth.
Among the non-materialist and more metaphysical camp, information resists
being objectified in knowledge or technical conveyances as something that can
be isolated outside of a formalist or mathematical exercise. It is to this end that
Wiener’s definition appears to honour those conditions, although it is unclear if he is
actually attributing to information the role of substance. The confusion of blending
Wiener’s definition of information with his cybernetic program has resulted in an
intransigent legacy of error as subsequent thinkers have carried forward the notion
that Wiener information = cybernetics. Cybernetics does not lead to the construction
of a worldview as such beyond the engineering domain, and certainly does not carry
the metaphysical freight of his definition of information. Added to the difficulties
facing cybernetics, and perhaps going some length in describing why there are
so few self-professed advocates of cybernetics, would not only be the fact that it
cannot build a convincing ontological view troubled as it is by notions of a machine-
human analogy, but even its own field lacks the consistency required of any solid
program. No sound information theory can be derived from cybernetics, and the one
way this can be demonstrated is to test whether a definition of information requires
cybernetics. So, in returning to Wiener’s “information is information, not matter
and energy,” one can quite feasibly construct or arrive at such a statement without


making cybernetics a relevant part of that formulation, nor does cybernetics add
anything to the formulation. If it is an axiom, it does not lead to a cybernetic theory.
Wiener’s definition of information is derived from thermodynamics and statistical
mechanics. However, given that Wiener’s definition can be considered more
general than those provided by Fisher (which is indexed on statistics and somewhat
of utility in describing a metric on a Riemannian manifold) or Shannon-Weaver
(which explains the process of electrical communication, but is unclear with how it
might address questions of material behaviour in physics), it is likely that Wiener is
addressing physics. If we were to test Wiener’s definition as leading to something
operational, we might ask how much information is contained in the event such as
a solar flare? Such a question aims directly at demanding a computation process
for obtaining a result. Note that the question does not ask what the probabilities are,
which might be easier to compute, but his definition does not lead us to a procedure
on how we might measure precisely how much information is contained in that
particular event. If information is supposed to be something physical, then it has to
be measurable even if we do not know the true nature of the “stuff” that causes it.
We could repose in simply measuring matter and energy of the event and claim that
information is simply made manifest in them, but we then return to the foot of our
circle in defining information as a physical thing: not being able to physicalize it in
any reliably measurable way. Even with Wiener’s bold (and possibly correct) attempt
to place information on the same footing as matter and energy, information remains
that which haunts existence and behaves in a manner sometimes eerily identical to
that of energy. If it is simply a manifestation through proxies, then we are left with
little more than its trace or representation, and so it may as well be noumenal. As
we will later see, there is a way of understanding this unseen, seemingly ethereal
thing of information without resorting to representation and retaining its real status:
it requires understanding the intensive qualities that are covered over by the terms of
extensity, such as the “qualitas” of heat.
The close constellatory framework in which information operates contains a
radial network of associated concerns including language and meaning, signs and
signification, ideas and epistemic practices, as well as technology and mediation. A
short note is owed the reader on how information in its genetic sense has migrated
into the study of memetics, initially coined by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene.
One of the challenges facing memetics where information is transferred from brain-
to-brain correspondence as “cultural information” and naturalized according to a
Darwinian framework would be in its pursuit of establishing itself as a science.
This, of course, proves difficult since there seems to be very little consensus on
what qualifies as a meme, how big or small it must be, or what kind of operation
will befit their measurement as well as providing a method by which results can
be falsified. Moreover, reducing cultural information to meme-units does seem to
suggest that experience and memory are simply mechanistic. In addition, from a
semiotic perspective there might not seem to be a clear division between a meme
and a seme, thus calling into question whether or not memetics can legitimate itself


as necessary if there already exists a procedure for measuring cultural information

as sign processes and relations.
The omission of information technologies in this discussion is intentional since
these do not address what information is and their inclusion is bound to confuse
information with a strictly computational understanding. These information
technologies are part of discourse regimes that privilege technological humanism
and a purely technical facilitation of all social relations filtered through channels
and mediated by unseen algorithms that determine the speed, flow, reach, and nature
of social communication in online contexts. The software architectures that power
the web and allow for what is loosely called the democratic flow of information
are embedded in these algorithmic processes so that in speaking of information
technology we are in effect speaking of a technical apparatus of social engineering.
Social networking sites are a prime example of algorithmic filtration, sorting,
organizing, and constraint where social relations are mediated through a highly
controlled interface of data representation: the profile is but a data bundle wrapped
in a visual icon thrust into a highly competitive environment of digital accumulation
(friends, followers, user feedback, “likes,” and so forth). This is not to say that this
book will completely ignore or selectively blind to such technological phenomena,
but that its inclusion in discussion will be highly nuanced.
When information is transmuted into a social commodity, command and
control systems of design and engineering that have quickly moved into place to
take possession of all social spaces such as economics, politics, public health, and
education, this imposes a new regime upon the social construction of reality where
(information) management and computation occupy privilege in contemporary
discourse. Now writ in terms of the information engineer and subject to data politics,
even the previous (albeit unquestioned scientistic) robustness of the definition of
information is distended and made to cover all eventualities, effectively transforming
human freedom into an algorithm that distributes potentialities within a constrained
environment made to appear vast by an appeal to variety for variety’s sake,
monotonous uniqueness, radical customization of all information-bearing gadgets,
and so forth. What has happened in this transition from information as the bit which
carries the metaphor of communication to information as social commodity and
thus social reality construction? An insertion of multiple mirrors strategically placed
in this social space, arranged in such a fashion as to give the illusion of infinite
potentiality. The individual can go anywhere and do anything, provided that said
individual select from the symbolic or literal drop-down menu.
In order that information not be arrested in the stasis of fixed point or reduced
to transmissible currency, a focus on the primacy of information’s becoming would
require a radical de-ontologizing of information itself. One way of going about
this task is to suspend from the term its associated fields of computer science and
information society. These fields, although of great interest and concern, may not
serve to discuss information-in-itself since these fields carry with them perspectives
and assumptions that may occlude access to the quiddity of information. This move


is somewhat counterintuitive to a Deleuzian approach if only because it seeks

initially to suspend information from its varied contexts as an isolatable focal point
of inquiry rather than to take it in the more Deleuzian sense of most likely being an
assemblage. And still yet another way of “de-ontologizing” information would be
by a rigorous appeal to the metaphysical assumptions that individuate information in
the first place, to which end we will later focus on Simondon’s rejection of both the
hylomorphic and substantialist models of individuation.
If we can be agreed that information is some kind of “stuff,” that it exists, the
task of the philosopher is to repurpose the terminology so as to be able to speak of
this “stuff.” As will subsequently be discussed, there is a significant difference in the
“stuff” that determines the form the “stuffing” of existence will take, and in being a
facilitator of organizing or assembling that “stuffing” on the fly, relative to the flows
of matter and energy that are available in each circumstance of an event.
Admittedly, this is all a preliminary exercise in sketching in the broadest possible
terms the concept of information and indicating a simplistic split between its
understanding as something physical and non-physical. We have always to remind
ourselves that the temptation of everyday language is not always a product of
critical understanding, and so it should come as no surprise that when information
is invoked in said everyday language, it is generally metaphorical, not technical and
not necessarily philosophical.
Perhaps the most convincing assumption of all the competing definitions of
information would be Wiener’s where it is materialist without being matter (or
energy). In fact, information as a degree of organization is essential for Wiener’s
pointing up physics for not having an organizing principle where matter and
energy alone are not enough. However, as a materialist, Wiener does not want to
assign this organizing principle to a deity or anything mystical as such. So, in this
way, Wiener tasks information with the organization of objects and systems, but
without qualifying what this “stuff” that is information actually is since it is not
composed of matter or energy. This leaves us with what can be considered possibly
a philosophical quandary: if information is not a spiritual substance, nor is it matter
nor energy, then what is it? Part of what will be considered a controversial claim
going forward would be that Wiener’s definition of information as something real
that organizes existence might in fact be echoed in the works of Simondon and
Deleuze. If Wiener’s definition is correct, then it is possible that information can
exist without matter or energy. And yet, how would we sense it? Information still
seems to require matter and energy in order to carry out its function of organizing
(information has to organize something to be technically information). Just as for
Kant we require time and space for objects to appear, and sensors (such as our sense
organs) to recognize the phenomena of objects, it may be something similar in this
case with respect to information. Information occupies a curious philosophical
place, for it seems ultimately to be indexed on demonstrating a universe without god.
As we hope to demonstrate via Simondon and Deleuze in the following chapters,
we might retire the subject-object and form-matter dialectic to move beyond the


reflective apparatus of mediation in order that we may locate information at a higher

sense without falling into naive realism. To do so effectively, it is important to tell
the story of Deleuze’s overturning of the dialectic that grounds his next move to
construct a transcendental empiricism, in addition to the insights of Gilbert Simondon
before returning to address the question of information states and metastability.

There are some very notable exceptions, one of which would be the work of Jacob D. Bekenstein who
has explored the more pronounced relationship between information, space and time. Two articles
in particular discuss the limitations of information in space and time (”Energy Cost of Information
Transfer” in Physical Review Letters, 46, 1981; “Communication in Energy” in Physical Review A,
37, 1988).
Others who also espouse the idea that information is abstract and immaterial, such as Steven Pinker,
may disagree with the idea of cost. If information can be transmitted to someone else without my
losing it in the process, then there is evidently no cost. Yet, this view may simply be conflating
information with knowledge––something Wiener does not do––and re-staging the dualism between
mind and brain.
The other solution to this problem would have unlikely meshed well with Wiener’s view, that solution
being the rejection of entropy which would permit the eternality of the universe. Nietzsche, refuting
the idea of “heat death” and subscribing to the idea of infinite time, says that if the universe were
tending toward that final state (entropy), it would have reached it an infinite long while ago, and there
could be no materialism.
There are limitations to the application of Shannon information in genetics. When meta-states are
discussed in a subsequent chapter, reference will be made to how Fisher EPI may be conditionally
more useful.
See in particular Jablonka, E. (2002). Information: Its interpretation, its inheritance, and its sharing.
Philosophy of Science, 69, 578–805; Maynard Smith, J. (2000).The concept of information in
Biology, Philosophy of Science, 67(2), 177–794; and an attempt to build a more substantive bridge
between biological information and semiosis in Queiroz, J., Emmeche, C., and Charbel Niño El-Hani
(2012). Information and semiosis in living systems: a semiotic approach. S.E.E.D. Journal (Semiotics,
Evolution, Energy, and Development (in press).
Cf. Wiener (1954): “it is not the quantity of information sent that is important for action, but rather the
quantity of information which can penetrate into a communication and storage apparatus sufficiently
to serve as a trigger for action” (p. 94). Here Wiener is discussing the role of semantic information and
the problems facing a cybernetic method of reducing meaning loss. For Wiener, it is not simply the
amount of information in a channel that is at issue, but the competencies of the receiver. His analogy
is music; i.e., that someone with an educational background in the appreciation of music will be able
to obtain more information from a piece of music than someone who does not. We may also include
what Guilbaud says:
we must realize that ‘information’ in cybernetics is not concerned with what we actually say in our
messages, but rather with what we could say. What is of interest to our theory is the choice, the
range of possible messages. So it would be strictly incorrect to speak of the quantity of information
contained in a message. We can only study how the information possessed by the recipient will
alter after he has received the message (p. 50).
Another perspective on genetics as information can be found in several authors such as Mandelbrot on
patterning, and in Marcel-Paul Schützenberger (1959, p. 59):
Schematically, a gene is like a unit of information. It has simple binary properties. When active, it
is an elementary information-theoretic unit, the cascade of gene instructions resembling the cascade
involved in specifying a recipe. Now let us return to the example of the eye. Darwinists imagine


that it requires what? A thousand or two thousand genes to assemble an eye, the specification of
the organ thus requiring one or two thousand units of information? This is absurd! Suppose that a
European firm proposes to manufacture an entirely new household appliance in a Southeast Asian
factory. And suppose that for commercial reasons, the firm does not wish to communicate to the
factory any details of the appliance’s function -- how it works, what purposes it will serve. With
only a few thousand bits of information, the factory is not going to proceed very far or very fast. A
few thousand bits of information, after all, yields only a single paragraph of text. The appliance in
question is bound to be vastly simpler than the eye; charged with its manufacture, the factory will
yet need to know the significance of the operations to which they have committed themselves in
engaging their machinery. This can be achieved only if they already have some sense of the object’s
nature before they undertake to manufacture it. A considerable body of knowledge, held in common
between the European firm and its Asian factory, is necessary before manufacturing instructions may
be executed. (From an interview with Marcel-Paul Schützenberger, Origins & Design 1996, 17:2.)
We should note that one of the enduring problems in Schützenberger’s view is that he insists that
all evolutionary processes have a “goal”, which requires some entity to set said goal. There is a streak
of Aristotelianism in his view, if not also finitism. Wiener’s definition of information was extended to
the domain of genetics, as essentially part of his agenda for command and control. His definition loses
precision since it gestures far more abstractly and does not contain the possibility for falsifiability.
His definition does, however, provide physicists the means by which to explain problems such as
See in particular the works of Wolfgang Hofkirchner, Peter Fleissner, and Rafael Capurro.
In a published email “trialogue” between Rafael Capurro, Peter Fleissner, and Wolfgang Hofkirchner,
at issue is whether there can be a unified theory of information. Capurro discusses three ways in which
information can be spoken: in terms of univocity, analogy, or equivocity. An information theory based
on univocity, then, would be the most ideal candidate (at least on the surface) for a unified theory
of information; however, it may draw uncomfortable or false equivalences across all information
processes, such as assuming that the production of a cell can be identically explained by the same
process that describes the process of sending an email. Capurro also signals the problem with relying
on analogy as requiring some recourse to an “original meaning” out of which the analogy is based,
and this could lead to an anthropomorphic understanding of information so that, for example, an
information exchange is analogized as human speech and communication. Lastly, an information
theory based on equivocity would not be a unified theory at all since no two concepts of information
depending on which discipline appropriates it would be identical.
We are deliberately leaving to one side the somewhat analogous points Hofkirchner employs with
respect to Peircean sign-production since it might prove unsatisfactory or confusing to rely on
Peircean semiotics solely at the exclusion of other semiotic theories. Although a useful heuristic in
understanding information creation, the explanation may result in a semiocentric understanding of
information. Reducing signs to signals may be to place too much emphasis on a mechanical basis
for language. it seems more or less universally accepted that messages are composed of signs (out of
which we can make the analogous leap to signals in electro-communication engineering). This has
been taken up by F.H. George’s book, Philosophical Foundations of Cybernetics, the Director of what
was then the Institute of Cybernetics at Brunel University, UK. For an account that problematizes the
semiotic relations of information with respect to representation, see Joseph E. Brenner (2011) “On
Representation in Information Theory” Information 2, 560–078.
The one very notable exception would be Nietzsche who critiqued knowledge as opposed to life.
The groundwork may be attributable to other philosophers that address the topic in all but name. One
could include here the work of Daniel Dennett, at least from an epistemological standpoint.
Floridi can be called a pioneer of a particular brand of philosophy of information as it is somewhat
administratively set out, but we also must acknowledge precursors in the field of the philosophy of
information such as Arkady Ursul et al.
Floridi does expand on the value H entropy as designating three quantities: 1. an average amount
of information contained in each symbol as transmitted by the source, 2. an average informational


deficit the receiver possesses prior to inspection of message and, 3. informational potentiality in
A discussion on the anatomy of problems and problematics as evident in the work of Deleuze will be
the focus in a subsequent chapter.
See Rafael Capurro and Birger Hjørland’s informative capsule history of the term in “The Concept
of Information”, Annual Review of Information Science and Technology 2005, 37(1), 343–311. Also
recommended as a critical counterpoint against the technical-communication view would be Ronald
Day, The Modern Invention of Information: Discourse, History, and Power. SIU Press
Weaver’s introduction to Shannon’s Mathematical Theory of Communication does expand the
applicable scope of Shannon’s findings to possible social milieus.



Perhaps the next step to take would be to reject either an information constructivism
(where information is a product of external forces that renders information an effect
of these relations) as well as information realism (where information is presented as
an objective truth about nature and thus positioned as its cause). In either of these
formulations we are given a strict binary choice between declaring information as a
prescriptive foundation or an end product of forces and relations. In more dangerous
contexts, information constructivism can lead to an ideologization of information,
and information realism may simply be a fog in which one can hide ideology.
Information constructivism may never narrow the gulf between what information
signifies and its analog in reality since, very much the issue in social constructivism,
what the information refers to is locked in a mediation process that is a sign referring
to––not reality––other signs in a simulacral network. Such dangers aside, curiously
very little attention has been paid to the idea that transduction may function as an
alternative to models of deduction and induction that currently dominate either
generalized or unified theories of information.
This chapter is an attempt to explore and expand upon Gilbert Simondon’s use of
the word information in his philosophy with a view to emphasizing its importance
in an operant ontology. As a model, Simondon information (hereafter SI) would
reject either the formulation of information based on hylomorphic or substantialist
accounts that assume a primacy of individuation prior to the operant process by which
individuation manifests itself. In the substantialist account information would be
viewed in largely Platonic terms as an abstract form or essence distributed in matter,
and largely resembles a wide range of digital ontologies; in the hylomorphic account
qua Aristotle, information would still qualify as an essence, but one that is extracted
by thought from matter. Epistemologically, it is by this thought-based elimination of
matter from what is observed that the substance of the thing is knowable because of
our access to its form. In the hylomorphic scheme it may not be difficult to determine
what role Aristotle would assign information: as truly something that in-forms matter
by granting it qualities such as shape, size, colour, and so forth. It is this assumption,
along with the Platonic idea of an abstract form, that Simondon rejects.

Gilbert Simondon: Deleuzian Precursor?

There is still a conspicuous dearth of Simondon’s works translated in English

despite his major contribution to understanding technology and individuation.
Although there have been some notable and long-standing advocates, such as Brian


Massumi, for bringing Simondon’s work to the attention of the English speaking
community, the uptake is still relatively slow, but the work is no less prescient of
the current condition of the technical world today. Simondon’s works have had
an appreciable impact, to greater or lesser degrees, among such thinkers as Gilles
Deleuze and Bernhard Stiegler. Although Simondon may wrongly be considered
within the broadly construed camp of cybernetics, Simondon distinguished himself
outside of cybernetics to confront the issue of ontology and its reliance on the
principium individuationis, arguing that individual objects are not so much defined
against other objects, but by the relations between objects in an ongoing process of
individuation. Gilles Deleuze attributes some inspiration to the works of Simondon,
but arguably the degree to which Deleuze might be indebted to Simondon’s work on
the preindividual and the process of individuation as it feeds into Deleuze’s concept
of the virtual-intensive-actual circuit might be much more. At the very least, it might
be agreed that Simondon’s influence in Deleuze’s work is felt as much as other
influences in Deleuze’s oeuvre, including Leibniz, Hume, Nietzsche, and Bergson.
It has been only more recently that the secondary literature on Deleuze has placed
more emphasis on the Simondonian influences.


Simondon asserts that one cannot begin with the already constituted individual to
explain the process or the manifestation of individuation. Simondon rejects the
principle of individuation and instead adopts the process of individuation instead.
Moreover, one cannot reverse engineer by observation of individuals some core or
primitive principle of individuation that will unify all subsequent individuations.
Instead, Simondon invites us to consider Becoming as a dimension of Being that
expresses itself in Being’s de-phasing of itself. At the level of the pre-individual,
there is only full potentiality, and it is only when individuation occurs that we
encounter Becoming as a process of de-phasing. And yet, throughout this process
of de-phasing, we are not left with the dialectical idea of progressive determinations
that exhaust an initial supply of potentiality and exhaust any remainder in the act
of synthesis; instead, potentiality is perpetual as individuation is itself perpetual,
and this is guaranteed by the pre-individual nature of metastability. The potentiality
of any temporary individuation is taken up immanently within that individuation
whereby the next individuation occurs ad infinitum.
The metastable state exists as both a supersaturated milieu akin to the virtual, and
a superposition with its actualization where Being de-phases itself in the emergence
of individuation, the resolution of the disparation that does not exhaust the potentials
of the metastable state of the preindividual. For example, a pattern (such as the way
a particular manifestation of Being as individual in a corresponding relational series
with an environment) emerges out of the initial genesis of the individual, which is
sustained by the rich potentials of the pre-individual. This presents us with a relative
organization of the actual, a kind of particular or temporary ensemble in a time


series. However, it is the virtual or the pre-individual that precipitates further and
perpetual individuation.
Effectively, Simondon’s divisions are in themselves differentiating operations.
What becomes divided is expressed as multiplicity, a point that Bergson also asserts
in Free Will.
The aspect of de-phasing transforms the point into the line. The dimensionality
of Being is akin to flow that cannot be arrested, except by abstraction, into a fixed
state or point. This ineluctable de-phasing is what guarantees individuation in the first
place. The individual (the actualization of differences or disparate elements integrated
as a heterogeneous series, the very condition of a system’s possibility) is not by itself
complete: it requires its “other half,” that being the pre-individual which possesses
the store of singularities that become distributed throughout it. However, not all
the singularities are actualized, but continue in reserve as a fund of potentialities
that allow for future individuation. The individual is always caught between being
individuated (actualized) and being further individuated (the virtual potentialities).
Individuation is the unfolding of Being from its centre via a process Simondon
calls transduction. Individuation cannot be based on identity or law of the excluded
middle since individuation is both the product and process of individuation. In
other words, Being is insofar as it exists and it is individuated and in the process of
individuating. Actualized Being cannot be reduced to simple extensive qualities, but
is instead an internally resonant field of differences, answering the problem of identity
as something that is always pregnant with inexhaustible potentiality. It is this field of
potentialities that also does not privilege the subject or the object, but retains their
pre-individual context as the source of their integration and unfolding. For Simondon,
this “field” is the milieu that exists between form and content, the affective remainder
that cannot be accounted for in the traditional form-content relation.
Simondon is refurbishing the term transduction to speak of a signification that
emerges from the process of individuation where the individual is both more and less
than its identity. The term transduction is drawn from electrical engineering where
one would find a transducer: a device that translates energy from one form into
another, generally as an electrical signal. In genetics, the process of transduction was
discovered in a 1951 experiment in salmonella recombination by Joshua Lederberg
and Norton Zinder, out of which the process was named where a gene is transferred
from one bacterium to another via a phage. From the genetic standpoint, transduction
involves the transfer of of genetic information from one cell to another without
the necessity of having the sender or receiver in immediate contiguity. Generally,
this transduction process refers to the transfer of bacterial DNA from a sender to a
receptor cell via a viral messenger. The way that Simondon elects to make use of the
term differs from its technical and biological senses. Adrian Mackenzie provides a
clear definition of the process:

For the process of transduction to occur, there must be some disparity,

discontinuity or mismatch within a domain; two different forms or potentials


whose disparity can be modulated. Transduction is a process whereby a

disparity or a difference is topologically and temporally restructured across
some interface. It mediates different organizations of energy. (2002, p. 25)
The events that occur in the process of transduction are not correlated in time to such
a degree that any individuation must rely on the past to function as a framework for
ontogenesis, for this would return us to developmental periodicity and individuation
as a principle that is fixed as precise states or snapshots of development. As Simondon
says in Incorporations, induction results in a loss of information, whereas the
dialectic requires the past to function as the framework or blueprint for the concrete
manifestation of individuation. Although the process of transduction resembles
the dialectic, time is the key difference insofar as time is both the solution and the
dimension of the systematic. There is also no information loss (as one would have to
contend with in induction) because all the original terms are carried into the genesis
of the concrete network.
By this point, it should become clear as to why Simondon is committed to the
term transduction, and why he rejects deduction and induction as incomplete, or
otherwise grounded in the assumptions of hylomorphic and substantialist models
of ontogenesis. It is his aim to overturn the traditional framework of ontology and,
in fact, to replace the term by an appeal to ontogenesis. In addition, the rejection
of substance undercuts much of any starting point for several ontologies which
require either substance and/or a principle of individuation as a foundation. In effect,
Simondon does away with “first principles” and instead focuses his approach on
understanding operations. Simondon presents us with a system of individuation,
but the system itself is constantly in a process of perpetual individuation. Although
we can phrase it here in the singular, it is best to think of individuating system in
the plural given that systems do not necessarily appear in isolation, but may share
their parts through relation of components, and can be altered in their contact or
integration with other systems. The pre-individual is synonymous with the virtual
and metastability, and individuation with actualization.
One of the inherent problems that transduction cannot address is the function
of confirmation. Inductive methods, despite their own limitations, might aim to
confirm the degree of order or disorder in a system if the goal is to measure the
amount of information or noise. Already we are trafficking in the assumptions of
a binary between order and disorder, but said assumptions would be required to
get any inductive logic off the ground. Probing information or noise content of
an event can be considered a gold standard for making some reasonable guesses
about the state of a system at any given time, and the importance of assuming that
systems can be arrested into states (even if those systems are continuous) can make
said systems more easily measurable without having to appeal to more difficult
equations where some processes remain “black-boxed.” A procedure for measure is
vital to establishing the degree of confirmation of a system or its elements pending
magnitude and case. In the context of transduction, relations are primary to what


they may instantiate in terms of individuated “things,” and by a process whereby

transduction individuates according to constant transformative iterations (onto- and
heterogenesis). Simondon’s view shares a zone of overlap with other philosophies
of becoming that are ostensibly relying on the analogy of life and living systems,
or biophilosophy, as their point of departure (Heraclitus, Lucretius, Bergson,
Whitehead, Deleuze, Grosz, De Landa et al). Transduction breaks with the modernist
tradition of privileging either deduction or induction as ways in which we can come
to understand the emergence and continuity of “things.” Although the transductive
method might not yield confirmation in a way that would be germane to an empirical
method, it will repose upon the idea of an affirmation of the concrete, and this by
appealing to a higher empiricism.


Simondon provides a veritable arsenal of synonymous terms that refer to information

without granting to information “term” status. Firstly, information is “manifest” as
the tension between two disparate realities. Specifically, information is manifest
in the signification that emerges when an operation of individuation discovers the
dimension according to which these two disparate realities may become (temporarily)
“resolved” in a system. Furthermore, Simondon tells us that information is a primer
and a demand for individuation which attends a transition from the metastable
(pre-individual) system to the stable system wherein the metastable is never fully
“exhausted” or negated. Equilibrium is only a temporary arrangement, and not a final
destination. Information, for Simondon, is not a given thing, and in his treatment
does not qualify as a term because it has no identity or unity, but plays a part as an
infusion of energy. However, information is inherent to a problematic as expressed
in the tension of phase changes in a system. Simondon also likens information to
the direction [sens] by which a system individuates itself. It is neither a priori nor a
posteriori, but a praesenti.
Given Simondon’s familiarity with the cybernetic program, as well as the
Mathematical Theory of Communication, he explicitly states that information “must
never be reduced to signals or to the supports or carriers of information in a message”
(Simondon 2009, 12). In this way, Simondon carves off a specific definitional
territory that does not align transduction with the other senses in which it is spoken
in either the technical or biological disciplines:
Signals are spatial or temporal; a signification is spatio-temporal; it has two
senses, the one through relation to a structure and the other through relation
to a functional becoming…According to this manner of seeing individuation,
a definite psychic operation would be a discovery of significations in an
ensemble of signals, the signification prolonging the initial individuation of
being, and having in its sense a relation not only to the ensemble of exterior
objects but also to the being itself. As it contributes a solution to a plurality


of signals, a signification has a bearing towards the exterior; but this exterior
is not foreign to the being as a result of individuation; because before the
individuation this being was not distinct from the ensemble of being that is
separated in the milieu and the individual. (Simondon 2007, pp. 126–27)1
For Simondon, there are at least two senses in which something can be expressed, and
this is built upon signification: as being in relation to the structure and to its becoming,
or genesis. He qualified information’s role here as being both chronological and
topological. It is out of the supersaturated state that individuation occurs. Genesis
and structure are united in the process that unfolds out of the pre-individual milieu.
The realization of a signification process is made by the mind in relation with an
ensemble of signals. The individual that emerges as a result of unfolding out of this
milieu of supersaturation via a process of transduction is recognizable in the works
of Deleuze with respect to his concept of the virtual. The supersaturated milieu
where individuation is not given, but out of which the individual is produced, is
composed of radical potentiality.2 It is not simply the components in a DNA code
that result in the eventual unfolding of individual physiological traits, but that this
code also carries potentiality.
Fundamentally, Simondon bypasses the arid debate as to whether information is
physical or non-physical. Against the view that information functions in a celibate
fashion and is thus immaterial (i.e., not dependent on matter and energy), Simondon
charts a middle course by positioning information as entangled with matter and
energy so that it is inseparable: not of them, but as an agent of change. As opposed
to the “pure” definition of information, Simondon argues that information cannot be
extracted from, or stand as primordial unit prior to, that which it informs.
Simondon’s rejection of hylomorphism where information is said to endow matter
with form is not in itself new; much of British empiricism from Bacon to Locke and
Hume also reject it as well, although as J. D. Peters remarks,
Information was readily deployed in empiricist philosophy (though it played
a less important role than other words such as impression or idea) because it
seemed to describe the mechanics of sensation: objects in the world in-form
the senses. But sensation is entirely different from “form” – the one is sensual,
the other intellectual; the one is subjective, the other objective. My sensation
of things is fleeting, elusive, and idiosyncratic. For Hume, especially, sensory
experience is a swirl of impressions cut off from any sure link to the real world
. . . In any case, the empiricist problematic was how the mind is informed by
sensations of the world. At first informed meant shaped by; later it came to mean
received reports from. As its site of action drifted from cosmos to consciousness,
the term’s sense shifted from unities (Aristotle’s forms) to units (of sensation).
Information came less and less to refer to internal ordering or formation, since
empiricism allowed for no preexisting intellectual forms outside of sensation
itself. Instead, information came to refer to the fragmentary, fluctuating,
haphazard stuff of sense. Information, like the early modern worldview more


generally, shifted from a divinely ordered cosmos to a system governed by the

motion of corpuscles. Under the tutelage of empiricism, information gradually
moved from structure to stuff, from form to substance, from intellectual order
to sensory impulses. (Peters 1988, pp. 12-13)
Simondon rejects the brute immateriality of information, claiming instead that
information is inseparable from the material medium in which it is instantiated.
Simondon’s commitment here is not to rely on an impoverished view of materialism,
but an enhanced and expanded materialism that contains within it ideality, and
this schema allows for systems to be open to constant transformation. As it is
part of transduction, information is not a preformation, but a production. There is
transmission from one individuation to the next, be it in the transmission of DNA or
in the process of crystallization, but in such a way that it is a transduction whereby
both the medium and the message must be taken together, like an entanglement,
and that the successful transmission does not lead to the creation of a completed
individuation. Information, as transduction, flows through what is temporarily
individuated, and never ceases. The relations between structures or systems do not
mean that the structures or systems themselves are pre-constituted whereby relations
are simply external phenomena that “happen” to them, but are imbricated as part of
their generative capacities. The process of individuation brings relations inside as a
major constitutive aspect of individuation. These relations, however disparate, are
like tectonic masses that communicate through resonance and collision. Information,
then, takes on the specific character of singularity whereby it is the indeterminate
that attends the process of individuation.
One possible example of how Simondon information works would be a recourse
to phyto-signalling among plants.3 A plant’s alternating periods of growth and
homeostasis might relate here to the two senses of signification Simondon speaks of;
that is, the plant in relation to its functional becoming, and the plant in relation to the
structure that it becomes as a process of its individuation (in Simondon, individuation
is the result of system operations, not that which precedes the system). The “signal
bundle” as such is part of an ensemble that contains both the plant’s self-recognition
in a prolonged individuation, but also to the system in which it is embodied. As
Simondon reminds us, being was indivisible from the system it inhabited until
individuation took place to create the very individualization of both the individual
and the milieu (Simondon 2007, pp. 126-7). A selection is made in this case, but
it is a selection that only takes into consideration conceptual difference without
acknowledging the real conditions by which something is individuated. Plants make
extensive use of signalling in their environment where communications occur at the
level of the rhizosphere, between other plants, and among insects. The generative
aspect of plants concerns a wide array of communication signalling in their niche,
and drawing from a rudimentary “memory” that guides their future growth.
According to the distinction between signals and significations, we will say
that there is an individual when there is a process of real individuation, i.e.


when significations appear: the individual is that by which and that in which
significations appear, whereas between the individuals there are only signals.
The individual is the being that appears when there is signification; reciprocally,
there is only signification when an individuated being appears or is prolonged
in a being that is being individualized; the genesis of the individual corresponds
to the resolution of a problem that could not be resolved by means of prior
givens, because they did not have a common axiomatic: the individual is the
auto-constitution of a topology of being that resolves a prior incompatibility
through the appearance of a new systematic; that which was tension and
incompatibility becomes functional structure…the individual is thus a spatio-
temporal axiomatic of being that compatibilizes previously antagonistic givens
in a system to a spatial and temporal dimension. (Simondon 2007, p. 127)

Simondon is not the only one to discuss the relationship between information and
emergence, but the question may turn on how that information is actualized in
the generation of the new. Any unfolding by which the process of individuation
occurs must draw from singularities, but this also requires an intimate relationship
between the transfer of energy in a medium-message. One could compare here with
Karpatschof’s definition of a release mechanism: “Systems having at their disposal
a store of potential energy, the system being ‘designed’ to let this energy out in
a specific way, whenever triggered by a signal fulfilling the specifications of the
release mechanism” (2000, p. 132). This is not always the case and, in fact when
we consider systems in a technical sense, the energy source is always external. If
Karpatschof is referring to potential energy as in kinetic energy that may result from
force, such as gravity, this energy is still actualized by something outside the system.
Karpatschof continues:

Information is, in fact, the causal result of existing physical components and
processes. Moreover, it is an emergent result of such physical entities. This is
revealed in the systematic definition of information. It is a relational concept
that includes the source, the signal, the release mechanism and the reaction as
its relatants. (2000, p. 132)

What he seems to say here is that somehow information is the product of both
components and processes, but it is unclear how unless he is using information
in the sense of some rational agent being informed of some condition of a system
due to some interaction of the components, and/or the internal operations of that
system (which might be black boxed, and thus would have to be inferred somehow).
In addition, it remains unclear what is meant here by a “systematic definition of
information.” If what is being referred to here is Shannon-Weaver information as the
source of this “systematic” definition, this might not hold given that information––as
part of statistics––is the result of a statistical inference where additional information
is discovered about a prior probability. It is also unclear what Karaptschof means by
“reaction” in this case given that, in Shannon-Weaver, information is the surprisal


element on the receiver’s end of a message. That aside, Karpatschof’s definition of

information is constructivist in nature, relegating it to the effect of system components
and processes that need to be modulated, regulated, and released as signal-dependent.
Although this may lead to surprise on the part of the system observer, and thus
partially align with Shannon-Weaver information. One of the problems here with
respect to energy and systems that will be taken up in a later chapter will be the
problem of energy dissipation; in Karpatschof’s view, such energy release appears
highly regulated, and this does not always turn out to be the case when we consider
the challenging ideas of turbulence.
One of the tempting analogies employed by information theorists such as John von
Neumann, also reflected in the cybernetic program, has been in comparing genetic
processes and organismic development to industrial and mechanical processes. So,
for example, DNA is likened to a blueprint wherein is stored potential information
that can be expressed once certain conditions are met, such as a body (the factory
which can manufacture the necessary components), a set of embedded rules that
guide genetic expression (a supervisor or governor), and a process for reproduction
(the body as coupling machine that facilitates the successive generation of new bodies
according to the blueprint). There are superficial parallels to be drawn between this
mechanical understanding of biological processes and the language employed by
Deleuze and Guattari with respect to what they call “abstract machines.” However,
beyond the superficial resemblance, we risk falling into error in equating Deleuze
and Guattari’s use of the concept of the abstract machine and machinic phylum
with how machine is used in the fields of technology and engineering. One of the
principal errors in an analogy between biology and theories of communication would
be in not addressing one of the essential aspects of evolutionary development: the
“correction” or fluctuation of genetic information over time. In keeping with the
blueprint-governor-factory model, there is little motive to produce actual variation
since it would be more economical from a technical information standpoint to retain
copying errors in production. Where communication theory states that fidelity to the
original message is a measure of information against entropy or noise, evolutionary
processes appear to respond more favourably to the conditions of fluctuation and
the production of differences. In Deleuzian terms, the production of the new (in
still considering DNA as an information “message”) is indissociable from the
framework of a problematic, this being a more holistic approach to understanding
both onto- and phylogenic evolution in an environment. Modulation occurs in a
milieu of local instabilities set within a broader context of metastability, involving
both myopic and presbyopic indicators. This “modulation,” which we can consider
a form of continuous, negotiated articulation via the processes of individuation
Simondon signals, transcends the cybernetic paradigm of information and control;
that is, individuation is not forced, or impinged upon, to select from an abundance of
information and to “check” this by means of negentropy except at local levels where
a decision procedure must be made (to select a mate or decide on attainable prey to
satisfy hunger).


Simondon’s rejection of the communication theory of information attacks the

oversimplification of the sender-receiver circuit where both are assumed to be
fully constituted and given individuals. What such a theory cannot account for is
the turbulent multiplicity of singularities and their distribution (whether uniform
or random), nor can such a theory do much more than affix a probability function
to the emergence of newness and noise in any channel. It is the idea, somewhat
utopian, that communication technologies will be able to bracket out all noise from
a clear channel, but the fatal leap is in assuming the same can be done outside of
communication technologies, such as in the domain of the social, political, and
biological. When Being “de-phases” itself, this provides us a glimpse into the
phase transitions that power the generation of emergent phenomena that stands
outside the rigidity of probabilistic calculation. Communication theory speaks of a
communication within a particular channel, but not of the communication between
disparate series (or channels). The constant tension afforded by innate disparation
tells a provocative story about how multiple divergences occur, how they are locally
resolved or how these become the source of complex entanglements. Simondon’s
insistence on reconfiguring informational dynamics away from the static sender-
receiver model invests information with a creative and inventive power. However,
Simondon-information is a quasi-cause insofar as it is as generative of newly
emerging phenomena as it is dependent upon the material production that arises
from these processes. In this way information takes on an immanent character. In
addition, as opposed to Wiener information, noise is not necessarily the “enemy” of
information. The adversarial relation between information and noise risks polarizing
the two in a dialectical game of constant mediation so that information may triumph
over noise in pursuit of constructing a stable order.
The problem is capture: information in the communication theory context is deeply
impacted within a regime of digital signs that obscure the very frames in which we
operate as part of an “information economy.” This digital appropriation effaces the
modernist desire for establishing the boundaries of discourse and the distribution of
social hierarchies in a capitalist field. Standardization of information, at least in terms of
processing and controlled flow, is the grail of much formalized communication theory
so that differences emerge as manageable units in a subset of limited probabilities.
It is this view that conflates the technical aspects of information-as-communication
with information itself. Simondon is very careful to make this distinction so as to
move forward with a program that can appropriate the technological aspects in social
and psychic ways. After a fashion Simondon wants to save the technical object from
its unquestioned ideologization and the over-reliance on constitutive binaries.
It would also appear that Simondon would reject the schism of treating information
as physical or non-physical since this only re-stages the arid debate on form versus
matter. There is, in Simondon, both a material element to information manifest in the
way it is expressed in the metastable milieu as pure and full potentiality as an operant
in the production of emergent phenomena, but also a non-physical element with
respect to how direction functions to mobilize the manifestations of information in


the form of heterogeneous individuation. Both the physical and non-physical aspects
of information is captured under the term immanence.
It is of some importance here to clarify between true and false potentiality. When
taken in the general, and false, way, potentiality in the everyday practices in the
“information society” assumes a stable individual sender attempting to maximize on
features lionized by capitalism such as online presence as a strategy for increasing
social capital, flexibility, the importance of perpetual skills-upgrading, and so forth.
In such a sense, potentiality is downgraded to a game of reactive force, and is more
linked in type to probability. For example, the posting of one’s curriculum vitae
in multiple places is not a game of potentiality, but a game of probability. We are
reminded of Nietzsche’s bad gambler who cannot affirm the single throw of the dice,
and instead continues to throw the dice until the desired result is achieved. In games
of false potentiality (probability), purposive action is directed to repeated attempts
to achieve a goal. Although the process may entail multiple source inputs (posting of
one’s curriculum vitae on several websites), this may be a “radial” or multi-channel
method, but it is still linear. Games of true potentiality would involve the “sender”
acknowledging that individuation continues, that the turbulence of Becoming can
result in any number of active and inventive outcomes.
No structure that exists is entirely immune to transformation. It is in this way that
structures as inheritors of the process of individuation, are constantly re-mapped by
the disparate relations and indeterminacy that constitute them. Simondon attributes the
term “allagmatic” to this phenomena. The allagmatic refers to structural conversion;
that is, the (ex)change of one structure into another. It is a part of the genesis of
objects, but anterior to their being the subject of knowledge. As Jakub Zdebik
recognizes, “the allagmatic brings into perspective the abstracted function between
two states and provides a way of theorizing the abstract matter that is constrained and
transported from one state to the next in a diagrammatic operation” (2012, p. 25).
So it is here, within the domain of the allagmatic, that we have a description of flow
from one state to the next, bridged in part due to any initial conditions of disparity
by modulation. It may be the case that to diagram is inseparable from modulation.
This may not be entirely different in operational terms to instruments that measure
discrete or continuous flows, such as making use of a filter that is able to estimate the
state of a process using recursive measurements. Simply put, a feedback filter creates
an estimate on a future state by measurements based in the present, and revises
these estimates constantly once that future state has been reached in order to project
more probable estimates.4 This would, in essence, function as a means of attaching a
hypothesis to an event, a Bayes’ theorem approach to conditional probabilities. But
yet this is not the pathway Simondon will want to lead us on, for even in the technical
domain of feedback filters we fall back upon the assumptions of already individuated
“things” that become an object for measurement in conceptually arrested systems.
At best, such filtering can only provide an approximation, and also seeks to reduce
uncertainty: the very element of the indeterminate that Simondon wants to retain as
guarantor of generative difference.



If we do not presuppose a principle by which information is individuated in advance,

and instead adopt Simondon to speak of the anterior and pre-individual with respect
to information, we would not be capable of speaking of source information in the
Fisher sense at all, but instead of initial conditions of observation, which would then
lead us back to phenomenology if we took those observations in such a way that
we assume initial conditions can somehow be bracketed off and treated as separate
phenomena. Supposing we take Simondon’s solution of inverting the usual procedure
for determining individuation through the pre-given individual and substitute here
information as the source of the individual or as an essential aspect to the process of
individuation. How do we know information? Assuming information is an essential
catalyst in the determination of individualization where information is a tablature
out of which the individual is selected on the basis of a choice between multiple
potentialities, it would seem that information does indeed occupy what is called
Form. However, what if the process of “informatization” that creates the individual
were, in a Simondon construction, reversed so that informatization is what leads to
information and thus an actual individual? This informatization would be a process
arising from the pre-informational state which has no phase as such. What is critical in
Simondon’s ontogenesis is the way in which we regard Becoming: not as an attribute
of Being, but as a dimension that seeks to partially resolve the incompatibility of
multiple potentials. The individual occurs as a result of individuation; i.e., the phase-
states of Being that occur within the dimension of Becoming. Taken in this way,
information is distinguished on the basis of the resolution of these phase-states.
The structure of information emerges from its becoming, beginning with a
“supersaturated” state that is more than simply unity or identity which only apply to
one of its phases:

[R]eality, in itself, is primitively like the supersaturated solution and even more
completely so in the preindividual regime, where it is more than unity and more
than identity, capable of expressing itself as a wave or as a particle, as matter
or energy, because every operation, and every relation within an operation, are
an individuation that divides, or dephases, the preindividual being, while at the
same time correlating extreme values and the orders of magnitude that were
primitively without mediation (Simondon 2009, p. 6).

If individuation presents us with a view that everything is perpetually incomplete,

that is constantly in a process of individuation, whither information and entropy?
In one way, the possibility that systems do not ever present absolute information
or entropy as a relative degree of organization (i.e., there is no system that does not
contain some degree of both) might attest to this perpetual nature of a spatium that is
always in process. So, it might not be sufficient at all to speak of “infogenesis,” but
instead of how information manifests itself in a structure of constant ontogenesis.
This breaks from the ontological assumption of fixed or static natures where


there is a presupposition of something completely individuated that can be easily

conceptualized and later deployed as a rigid definition.
One question upon which the placement of information in philosophy must
turn is whether it is anterior or posterior to the formation of things. We already
know Simondon’s answer, which is to say neither. Form and matter do not reveal
themselves in the act of unification, but are already existent as such. It is here that
we notice a fundamental difference between organic and inorganic Becoming. In
genetics, information is considered a priori to guide growth, whereas in inorganic
formation such as in crystals or other chemical processes, this would not involve
information in the technical sense because we could not measure any gains, nor is
there a choice function that would reduce the freedom of uncertainty (which is key to
the technical definition of information in information theory). We should, however,
remain cautious in not taking Simondon’s example of the crystal as being more than
an analogy for how ontogenesis works. There is a reticulation that occurs in the de-
phasing of Being as it converts itself to a new structure, and this by way of relations
which represent the broader reticulation involving other systems that help partially
define the Becoming or individuation of Being.
Information crystallizes as content in relational context in the patterns that
are iterated in structures, but it must “return” to the virtual in a process of
counteractualization to constantly redefine the problematic. It may be more suitable
to suggest that information-as-potential is never fully exhausted or deployed, but
it would be more accurate to state that the potential for organization, expressed as
degree, is what undergoes constant change. Any such “action” as part of a process
expresses a measure of (near) infinite potentiality, but this potentiality to act––an
affective state that unites affection and the ability to affect––is bounded by relations.
The potential of a tree to become a solar flare is carried in its pre-individual aspect
although probability would effectively rule it out. This potentiality is not actualized
because of relational conditions both internal and external to the individuating
tree; the fact that the tree in its current temporary form cannot suddenly act on its
potentiality to become a solar flare is true at this particular instant when we consider
the ensemble of signals and relations it currently “inhabits.” It is less a factor of
initial conditions that might bring this about, but of the ongoing and developing
conditions in a maelstrom history governed and characterized by contingency.
The return to a “source code” for ongoing morphological developments is not
a physical return as though the genesis of structure “dips back” into a resource
pool of potentialities in order to direct the next iteration. Instead, the potentials are
already given and become actualized through the process of transduction which
involves information as process and product (or manifestation in terms of structure).
What we may extract from SI would follow individuation-as-process: information
as the manifestation of individuating process. It is information that attends the
morphological development of objects that are “more and less than unity.” For
Simondon, information cannot be decoupled from signification as it has been in
information theory drawing from probabilistic and technical paradigms. Instead,


information is more of an ad hoc recipe for individuation based on relations. But,

since individuation is a perpetual process, information is part of a system of meta-
stability since potentiality is never exhausted and information is constantly required
to facilitate it. If we take two heterogeneous elements such as the genetic code of an
individual organism and some external environmental agent that enter into relation,
both are imbued with the potentiality of their coded signs. Coming into relation,
the individual code-signs construct a new, third code-sign (such as the wasp-orchid
hybrid). The code-signs of each are further individuated as the third code-sign
emerging as their new relation. It is not dialectical because the initial code-signs of
the heterogeneous elements are not preserved in the new “product.” That is, A and
B are not raised in an Aufhebung to A’+B contained in C, but instead that what is
generated is entirely new, based as it is on the “ensemble” of signals.
Local organisms in an ecosystem function according to myopic criteria (self-
selection and adaptation to immediate stimuli, environmental conditions, etc.),
whereas the “more than unity and identity” quality of individuation is presbyopic.
It is the superposition or convergence of the myopic and presbyopic aspects of
information in the process of individuation that allows for a “transect” signification
that involves the double articulation of beings in relation to their environment.
Complexity emerges out of this double articulation where complexity is not to be
considered solely from a communication standpoint as dense interactivity between
beings in a system of radical variety, but in terms of what Deleuze identifies as the
conditions of the problematic.
What we may conditionally define as second-order information attests to the
distribution of singularities in extensive space, generally manifested as code or
symbol (whether this involves prehension or cognition varies according to the thought
and perception that appropriates the event). This distribution is only part of the story;
we have also to consider the particular intensive qualities of this information as
signifying its role in a system-ensemble of signals and an environment. Codes and
symbols do not exist in isolation, but form part of groups. Although we can abstract
a code or symbol from its group, this is a function of thought. The individuation
that arises from an information process must take into consideration both the
space in which it occurs as well as the intensive qualities that bring information’s
manifestations in relation with others as part of a group or assemblage of codes
and symbols. These intensive qualities of information concern that which are not
divisible in extension, such as relative speed, degree of affection, and relative mass.
What this is relative to would be other manifestations of information as well as the
system or environment in which it is temporarily housed. What can be considered a
“black box” of intensive qualities is simply the occlusion of the virtual in the actual.
This “black box” scenario pertains to information in general given the difficulty
presented by discovering its nature in a similar fashion as has been done with respect
to matter. However, there are moments when information in its virtual import (first-
order information) is partially revealed if the intensities themselves do not “average”
or cancel each other out (such as, to take a simple example, an admixture of gas at


different temperatures). We come closer to the manifestation of the virtual during

moments of non-equilibrium events in a nonlinear rather than linearized situation;
or, as De Landa (2002, p. 76) puts it, “unlike the linear and equilibrium approach
to science which concentrates on the final product, or at best on the process of
actualization but always in the direction of the final product, philosophy should
move in the opposite direction.” Both Simondon and Deleuze want us to reconsider
the states of affairs that bring about or constitute the process of individuation, to
employ a method that does not presuppose the primary stable term which can only
conceal the virtual that is “embodied” in actualization.
Where is the information of an event? Information can emerge from states and
processes, but stands in a special relation to both of them. Information in cases
of measurement, be it of linear or nonlinear systems, becomes a product of said
processes. Assuming for the sake of argument we take the relative positions of the
sun and earth. As perceivers who become “informed” of an event such as a sunrise,
we know that the speed of light at constant c means that by the time the sun’s light
reaches us, it has had to travel eight light minutes at which point the information is
already “out of date” at the source, but current at the receiver’s end. If we remove
any question of perception and focus simply on physical effects, assume that the sun
explodes. That informative event as carried in a “message” by gravity would still
take time to reach and affect the earth.
It is here that information shares a conceptual contour with the Deleuzian use
of the term event. In fact, information as an engine and product of ontogenesis
by means of transduction is the scene and territory of the event; it is not a map
as if an abstraction of space and its contents, nor some object that can be reverse
engineered to a primary individuation since information is both the cause and effect
of all perpetual individuation. What is of note is the way in which information as
an operant in ontogenesis conjugates the instances by which things are actualized.
In either the Deleuzian sense of the process of the virtual-intensive-actual circuit,
or in Simondon’s understanding of information as both primer and product of
individuation, the idea of conjugation is in play.
Despite the germane resemblance to second order systems theory and the process
of autopoeisis, we are not presented with a model of self-regulation as if under rule-
bound constraints, however local, but a conjugation that expresses the relationship
between local solution and broader problematic, dramatized in its ensemble closer to
what Deleuze describes as the Idea. Ultimately, Simondon champions the ontogenetic
view of perpetual development that is continuous rather than periodic, but this is not
to say that periodicity cannot emerge in individuation.
Yet by what guarantee can we assign information as an ensemble of the facticity of
life and emergence, manifestation and actuality? The answer may be in unveiling the
futural mode of information in the metastable context, but without insisting on some
fixed purposive position or goal to be reached, which would simply be a reiteration
of the reactive premise that corrects transformations until the desired outcome is
obtained and the processes-unto-product are magically “justified” post facto.


Instead, the futurity or futural-mode of information is the horizon of the problematic.

The reticence of final solution, due to its impossibility, is held up as a sign or
marker in the mode of information’s possibility. We already speak of information
in Simondon’s sense as a direction, and it is this direction (the means by which
the sense of anything “informed” is expressed) that proceeds allagmatically; that is,
the transductive operations that furnish the directionality of all things informed and
informational as along a territory and not pre-given map. The traversing of space,
be it sociological, political, physical, chemical, geological, epistemological, etc.,
happens as events toward a horizon of sense.
Information describes (and directs) the process of differentiation and (trans)
individuation as progressive unfolding. The singularities that co-define any
multiplicity do not, as De Landa reminds us, appear all at once, but instead emerge as
recurrent sequences (or iterations) that bespeak of information-as-patterning upon a
territory, a kind of distribution of potentials where potentiality itself is not exhausted.
Every iteration is the scene of negotiation with the problematic of state-space as its
backdrop or horizon. But herein resides an aporia in Simondon’s characterization
of information: although we might agree that information is what directs certain
processes (including chemical ones such as the vulcanization of rubber, or genetic
ones that become expressed as the individuated organism), Simondon is silent on
where the energy for this direction comes from. Without that source of energy, no
processes can commence. In his view, matter is not a passive substance acted upon
by form, nor is it completely random and unguided. Matter may portray itself as
a series of transient stabilities (Beistegui 2005), but it is “the vehicle of informed
energy” (Simondon 1980, p. 66).
So far, Simondon provides us with a theory where individuation is a process that
unfolds or extrudes from the centre, but what this may lack is the “pull” aspect of
an attractor. Crystal formation is not an independent event as such, even though
the growth cycle may involve individual particles to work collaboratively for a
time before deviations take place, and the degrees of freedom may increase for
each now autonomous particle. If individuation is not assumed in advance, nor is it
attributed after the fact, Simondon will place individuation as a process that occurs
simultaneously with the state of being individuated. The process and product are
one. However, this may not be enough in itself to satisfy an explanation for how or
why this happens. In Simondon’s view, we are presented with a possible explanation
for how things become more complex, but he may have left out the broader systemic
effects that go beyond contiguous relations. More importantly, phase transitions are
partially determined by strange attractors.
Simondon elegantly presents the case for how disparities communicate, and how
relations are essential to the generative aspects of process-based individuation. He
provides us with the element of indeterminism that underlies metastable equilibrium
which guarantees the production of the new. What is lacking are the refinements
to a very necessary engine: that of difference. It is the task of Deleuze to focus
on this very critical aspect of re-conceiving difference and adding a level of detail


to Simondon’s notions of the indeterminate and the disparate. If the unfolding of

individuation is not guided by the pre-given, but is powered by the selection of
singularities that are distributed in the actual, and there is no purposive goal as such,
we are left with a field of problemata that condition the staging of problems and
resolutions. This is the milieu in which information is said to reside as invested
in materiality. What remains to be discussed, apart from a deeper examination of
Deleuze’s ontology, is precisely what is meant by this “problematic field” upon
which singularities emerge and Becoming is perpetual process and not merely a
frame populated by individuated beings.

Some of the Simondon quotations are drawn from Taylor Adkin’s faithful translation, publicly
available on Fractalontology.wordpress.com.
Although there seems to be a close resemblance here to Giorgio Agamben’s “form-of-life” insofar as
it is potentiality and mediality that guide life (in his questioning of the zoe and the bios), Agamben
does appear to make a clear distinction between this “form-of-life” and “bare life” that Simondon
does not.
See Faucher, Kane X. “Phytosemiotics Revisited: Botanical Behavior and Sign Transduction.
Semiotica: Journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies / Revue de l’Association
Internationale de Sémiotique (in press)
Kalman filtering is used expressly in navigation devices, especially in the case of determining
nonlinear transformations of probability distributions. However, the process for Kalman filtering does
not equate to the projection of estimates whatsoever.



This chapter will provide the reader of information theory with a background
on Deleuze’s ontology as a basis for understanding how a Deleuzian approach
to information might be constructed. Our starting point is partially from Wiener
information, as well as from the statement by Gregory Bateson that a unit of
information is a difference that makes the difference.1 The definitional issues
surrounding information as indicated in an earlier chapter have prepared the ground
for further exploration through a Deleuzian lens. The special ontological status of
difference being vital to Deleuze’s work, this makes the connection generative and
germane for discussion. This is a somewhat necessary detour where disentanglement
and discussion of the key concepts in Deleuze’s ontology such as the virtual-
intensive-actual circuit and transcendental empiricism will prepare the ground for
our specific inquiry into a Deleuzian approach to information, as well as setting the
stage for discussing information in its meta-state.
Deleuze never made use of the term information in either a philosophical or
technical sense which makes it difficult to reconstruct what his position might have
been beyond following the implications and consequences of his ontological view.
Although Deleuze did use the term on occasion, he might have made the error of
taking it in its metaphorical context. Deleuzian ontology will have something to
say on many of the matters pertinent to information theory, but nowhere does he
engage directly with the terminology used by information theorists in the ways in
which these are specified in that domain. He will, however, engage with terms that
are common stock such as signal, communication, and systems. As we will see,
Deleuze is committed to a view that rejects representationalism or simplistic one-to-
one correspondence.
As we perform this detour, of significance for information theory would be the way
in which Deleuze addresses several of the issues that are resonant with information
theory as well such as event, determinism, the one and the many, difference, and
probability-possibility-potentiality. How Deleuze carves up the metaphysical
landscape will present problems and consequences with respect to information.


Deleuze’s ontology is one of affirmative difference. More importantly – at least for

our purposes later on – Deleuze’s philosophy is one of descriptive (not defined)


operations where each operation “makes” the difference by possibly rejecting

probability models and embracing a robust and immanent model of unfolding
potentialities that are never exhausted, occurring on a continuous measure. It is
a means of demonstrating that the real is not solely determined by rationality or
empirical verification, but rather that determination occurs in another milieu, the
virtual, from which our conception of reality (as part of the objective illusion) in
the actual is the “beneficiary” of that process as what is virtual “unfolds” in the
actual. Immediately, Deleuze is signalling a rejection of the way we understand
the world either through the methods of deduction or induction, but this would
be a slight misprision: there is still a place for both methods, but in very limited
contexts that should not extend to all of existence. There is, in Deleuze, another
way of understanding the world, and that is by placing relation itself as primary to
the subjects and objects being related, and abiding by a foundational principle of
The focus of Deleuze’s ontology is precisely this new way of understanding
difference, and to demonstrate the role of the empirical in the concept without
lapsing into the empiricist fallacy. Being, for Deleuze, is univocal and immanent.
That is, Deleuze’s formulation of Being entails reality anterior to actuality, and
ideality without abstraction. This is the very essence of the virtual which is akin
to the noumena as closest to the phenomenal. It suffices to state for now that the
being of the sensible is outside of conceptual difference. That is, the difference of
Being is ontologically prior to the being that is different, and hence displacing the
subordinate status of difference from being a mere quality or property of Being.
This notion of the preindividual that becomes an individual through a process of
unfolding individuation as a movement from rich potentials in the virtual to the
actual where it gains “sense” was initially introduced by Gilbert Simondon.
Deleuze’s central argument as it crystallizes in his book, Difference and
Repetition, is to demonstrate that “difference can be internal, yet not conceptual”
(Deleuze 1994, p. 26). Echoing Simondon, the differences that arise in the
generation of things and systems does not necessitate an appeal to some prior
temporal state, nor a process of generalizing from particulars. In this way, Deleuze
breaks ranks from a dialectical way of understanding Being and Becoming.
However, the task of illustrating an affirmative conception of difference will entail
an overturning of the longstanding tradition of difference-as-negativity as simply
the negation of identity as if difference is a simple process of derivation through
the elimination of shared qualities as the precondition for establishing unity. Thus,
Deleuze says difference

[I]s the state in which one can speak of determination as such. The difference
‘between’ two things is only empirical, and the corresponding determinations
are only extrinsic. However, instead of something distinguished from something
else, imagine something which distinguishes itself―and yet that from which it
distinguishes itself does not distinguish itself from it. (1993, p. 28)


It is Deleuze’s “and yet” appended to this proposition which can be the most puzzling
in his formulation. The thing in question that is in itself a differentiation must not
only be intrinsically different (i.e., difference as not determined by its relation to
something that it is not), but that in its being different from itself there is no agreement.
In effect, Deleuze is asking us to imagine some thing that differentiates itself from
what it is by being or becoming something different, but from this standpoint is
only different in a particular way. It is the articulation or expression of a thing that
is the differentiation, whereas the thing itself cannot be viewed in this articulation or
expression as distinct from itself. This expression can be called sense. Sense can be
expressed, according to what we know about information, as a quasi-quality of the
organization the thing manifests at any given moment.
Concrete examples are not easy to conjure, for it is the dogmatic image of thought
that constrains our thinking to not be able to perceive or think in these terms. Deleuze
is not inventing a new form of difference, but rather displacing it from its negative,
or marginalized status as being subjugated to the concept. Therefore, as opposed to
Hegel whose ontology begins with pure Being as the antipodes to Nothing, Deleuze
begins with Difference as the foundational operator, and time as both the engine and
the immanent solution to the question of emergence and individuation. Difference,
or Becoming, functions here as the metastasis that displaces any concept of a fully
defined Being at the start, thus deferring the process of individuation, which can
only be a temporary organization.


In The Science of Logic, Hegel gives his definition of Pure Being that is not yet
mediated: “Pure Being is similar to itself alone…it has no differentiation either
within itself or relatively to anything external” (1969, p. 94). If we can even speak of
this Pure Being, which is altogether abstract and still bereft of content, this similarity
relies on analogy, presupposing imminent contradiction that leads to some final state.
Whereas Deleuze emphasizes relation, Hegel makes relation dependent upon There
is differentiation within Being, for this in fact grants the necessary “movement” of
Being, for according to Hegel immanent activity is necessary development (1969,
p. 39). Pure Being “is pure indeterminateness and vacuity.―Nothing can be intuited
in it, if there is any question here of intuition…In fact, Being, indeterminate
immediacy, is Nothing” (Hegel 1969, p. 94). Hegel attempts to frame the problem of
Being in its self-affirmation without negation as immobile, for it has no determinate
place or time. It is in the categories that Being can “move” through deduction and
gain its constitutive content, i.e., that Being can become. If we hasten to make
the analogy to information theory, we may take Hegel’s formulation of Being’s
determination as analogous to the determination of a communication message that
undergoes further determination of its content by the removal of uncertainty, but
also in its negotiation of the two terms information and noise. Just as the progression
of Geist assumes ever more determination, and thus self-certainty, in its path to the


Absolute, it is this same yearning for perfect order that functions as a model for
communication technologies. A reduction of noise is said to be proportionate to an
increase in certainty in much the same way that the reduction of indeterminateness
is proportionate to the fully ordered determination of Being. To extend the analogy
further, perhaps it is the nature of the bit (the binary digit) to be conceived of as the
primitive terms of Being (one, yes, presence) and Nothing (zero, no, absence).
Taken as a “structure,” Hegel’s pure concept of Being would only have value
when it is “activated” rather than quiescent, and there is a choice to be made between
two equally probable possibilities (Being or Nothing). Something has to make the
choice, and this is performed through an act of determination which we can read
as a decision. We might add that information might intervene to allow for the co-
determination of Being and Nothing that would make them distinct (a kind of in-
forming process), and thus lead to a decision procedure. Hegel’s process of activating
the concept of Being is to append an operation to its determination, and this by way of
a conceptual division: Being is separated from Nothing, and both “structures” enter
into a relation that produces a new structure. Although these concepts ultimately
reside in the abstract where space and time are not concrete considerations as of yet
in this “movement,” we are left to ponder if the processes of division and dialectic
are internally derived, or externally induced. If the former, then the very empty, pure,
and abstract structure known as Being (or Nothing) must possess something else
to kickstart the operation. If the latter, then it is some unknown “thing” or process
that impinges upon Being and Nothing in order to motivate division and dialectical
production. In addition, if the process of dialectical progression requires induction
as a process, then technically the issue of information loss becomes very important.
A provocative speculation might be the that Hegel’s dialectical process of further
determination may eventually succumb to complete information loss, and thus
complete entropy.
For Hegel, the thought of Being precedes its differentiation. He states that the
“determinateness of Determinate Being, as such, is existent determinateness, or
Quality. By virtue of its quality Something is opposed to an Other: it is variable
and finite” and “Determinate Being issues from Becoming…Becoming, which
mediated [pure Being and pure Nothing] is left behind; it has transcended itself,
and Determinate Being therefore appears as something primary and as something
from which a beginning is made” (Hegel 1969, pp. 121-2). In this “prelude” of sorts,
before Determinate Being, Hegel speaks of enhanced quality arising out of what
may be interpreted as relative orientation. He calls this “variable and finite”; i.e., an
operation takes place to activate a structure in relation to another according to which
is dependent upon relativity, but within a finite set of possibilities. As an illustrative
example, we might substitute polarities for the Being/Nothing opposition. With
respect to north and south, their position relative to one another grants them the
quality of “northness” versus “southness.” In addition, the number of possibilities
for north and south in their relation to be true is restricted to one: north can only be
north as determined by its relation to south, and vice versa.


For Hegel, Becoming is an elaboration and Aufhebung of Being and Nothing.

That is, a labour that gives detail to Being, carving it off from Nothing, effectively
negating the pure abstraction of Being and making it detailed as determinate in
space, time, and eventually property. Becoming, as such, takes time and transcends
itself. It is in this sense that time transcends itself as well, for it is the very character
or quality of time as an invisibility to make things appear or pass away while it
itself cannot come to be or pass away. There is no question here that Hegel will
still rely on the classical conception of eternal structures, but if these structures’
existence is dependent on being activated, then we are still left with what precisely
is doing the activating. Time and Becoming present the paradox of the necessary
invisibles that make determinate Being visible. But this becoming-determinate of
Being is only the appearance of a beginning whereas the true Hegelian beginning
is the abstract positing of Being and Nothing followed by their subsequent relation
through mutual determination. How can this paradoxical circle even begin?
Becoming is itself considered as an instability, and so “collapses” or is exhausted of
its potentiality at the point when two terms enter into relation. Becoming, empty of
any content, cannot ever be determined. That a thing becomes is nothing but a trace,
and Becoming is consigned to the abstract universal, or as an operation along with
addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division – all of which can be said to be
species of Becoming.
For Hegel, the difference between Determinate Being and not-Being must
begin with Thought, for it is Thought that will perform the critical operation that
distinguishes between the two in their simple unity. Determinateness and Being “must
always be carefully distinguished: only that which is posited in a concept is proper to
the contemplation which develops it, to its content” (Hegel 1969, p. 122). This role
or task falls upon Thought. Reflection must abide by the fixity of its assertion. That
is, once some A is posited in the idea, this A must be developed without adulteration
so that we may attain to the proper content. But, Hegel reminds us:
The determinateness, however, which is not yet posited in the concept is part of
our reflection, whether it regards the nature of the concept itself, or is external
comparison…It is an external reflection which holds that the whole, the unity
of Being and Nothing, is contained in the one-sided determinateness of Being;
but this reflection will actually be posited in the negation, in Something and an
Other, and so forth. (p. 122)
For Deleuze the concept of Being is not simply determined by Thought, but is
created by a process of spontaneity, a movement from the virtual to the actual.
Being is real even when it is not actualized. The inverted image of thought can only
create for Being a transcendent categorical absolute. The concept of Being is true
movement (for it is inseparable from its Becoming) and not a static conceptuality
that does not explain to us how the movement of Being is at all possible, unless we
are to remain complicit with a spatialized understanding of time. Deleuze rejects
the pre constituted framework that posits Being as requiring a series of false and


empty moves patterned on negative determinations. Instead, he posits that the

positive movement of Being will be that of affirmative difference. Deleuze argues
that Hegel begins with a false problem (Being and Nothing), and this dialectic of
Being and Nothing is, for Deleuze, typical of the movement of the dialectic insofar
as the dialectic relies on the labour of the negative to move the positive term up to
contradiction (Aufhebung).
Of course, Deleuze would be called upon to provide concrete examples of such
a singularity without equivalence, for it does not accord with Hegelian rationality.
However, Deleuze criticizes the source of this problem: our image of thought that
reactively distorts the real conditions of the world due to our loyalty to falsifying
procedures where we view the world as itself loyal to our impositions of oppositional
structures upon it. Such binary equivalences fail to see the world as it is: forces
in relation that are expressed in sense, these forces are internally related.2 Such
examples could be: the altered state of consciousness when one feels a sense of the
uncanny or untimely in a particular situation, the artist whose sense powered by
an inexpressible intuition prompts him or her to create, the event that prompts us
to articulate a state of affairs in a radically new way, or new means of articulating
a concept. At times these differences, occurring at the level of new articulation, do
not change the thing itself if we mean by change something strictly empirical. These
articulations resist being subsumed under categories.
Allowing for the non-equivalent singularity is the only means by which truly
unbounded experimentation and creativity is possible, for otherwise the Hegelian
formulation “traps” or “cages” each instance of Becoming as subordinate to a
process of negative determination, denying true difference. There is no Hegelian
phantasy of progressive perfections through ever-more complex individuations,
but rather an engine of difference that motors articulations of Being that are not
reducible to this logical and Enlightenment spectre of perfection and progress.
Complexification can still occur, but so, too, can dissolution or recombination. All
that negative determination can offer, as a sort of negative deduction, is the limitation
of things whereas a truly affirmative engine of difference produces more difference
in an infinite series of becomings―neither graded on a scale of perfection nor
imperfection, for such measure relies on an already given universal and the primacy
of contradiction. No matter how strict and explicit the laws of logic may be, there
will always be exceptions and transgressions that logic will not be able to reduce to
mere oppositions or propositions.
Conceptual, Hegelian, difference is not refined enough to detect real differences,
and so is still too baggy to act as a sufficient concept of difference. The abstract
relation of the particular to the concept in general is merely a representational
device. The particular is arrested and limited by how it is predicated by the concept.
These artificial determinations fall short of accounting for real objects insofar as the
universal concept can apply to an “infinite number of things such that no actually


existing thing can correspond to the concept’s generality; each determination is only
a logical or ‘artificial blockage’” (Hayden 1998, p. 10).
As Deleuze warns:
[T]he principle which lies behind a confusion disastrous for the entire
philosophy of difference: assigning a distinctive concept of difference is
confused with the inscription of difference within concepts in general―the
determination of the concept of difference is confused with the inscription of
difference in the identity of an undetermined concept. (1994, p. 32)
This confusion has been the source of what Deleuze qualifies as the error in much of
the history of philosophy, for it is a formula where “the subordination of difference
to opposition, to analogy, and to resemblance, all the aspects of mediation renders
difference as “no more than a predicate in the comprehension of a concept” (1994,
p. 32). This is the tragic error of representational forms of difference, for it renders
difference negatively. The production of differences is already regulated in advance
by a hierarchy that will re-present the objects of existence. Although Deleuze calls
for a concept of difference without negation, negation is still a form of difference,
“but difference seen from its underside, seen from below” (1994, p. 55). Difference
as negation subordinates difference to identity, and thus becomes “inverted” insofar
as a) representation subordinates difference to identity, b) false problems construct
fictions of difference patterned by negativity, and c) extensity and quality obscure or
explain away intensity (Deleuze 1994, p. 235).
Representation is a site of transcendental illusion. Not that representation
itself is an illusion, but a scene where this illusion is found. This illusion has four
forms: thought, sensibility, Idea, and Being. Thought is covered by an ‘image,’
this image composed of distorting postulates that corrupt thought’s operation and
genesis. Thought is distorted to the extent that the process of Hegelian negation
fails to recognize the genealogy proper to thought (as genesis, and the forces that
motivate it) and what it can do (operation). This negation is reactive insofar as
it limits what the active force of thought can do, wherein active thought always
comes to think of what it does not yet know. Thought as positive genesis must be a
fortuitous encounter with the not-yet-known. This disavowal of proper genealogy
and affirmative operation on the basis of Hegel’s Thought as a negative power of
determination renders the entire process based on the principle of identity which
is abstract and empty. For Deleuze, “the Hegelian system is a movement in words
and representations, not a movement of life or evolution” (Pearson 1997, p. 6).
And, “as long as it remains within the limits of representation, philosophy is prey
to the theoretical antinomies of consciousness” (Deleuze 1994, p. 268). Despite the
seemingly innocuous claim Hegel makes that “a truth cannot lose anything by being
written down” (Hegel 1977, p. 90), there is nothing that guarantees that it will gain
anything either by its being represented. Representation is, for Deleuze, the negation
of difference, for representation submits difference to nothing more than mere
conceptuality, the power of the negative. However, it can easily be objected that a


creation is a representation, and so Deleuze’s call for a new image of thought that
can create new ways of thinking or being, would in itself succumb to the process of
representation if grasped from the reactive perspective. If Deleuze’s complaint that
“in philosophy we’re coming back to eternal values, to the idea of the intellectual as
custodian of eternal values” (1995, p. 121) is true, then philosophy should “always
[be] a matter of inventing concepts. I’ve never been worried about going beyond
metaphysics or any death of philosophy” (1995, p. 136). Moving beyond mere
conceptuality, Deleuze gives his definition of concept: “There are no universals, only
singularities. Concepts aren’t universals but sets of singularities that each extend
into the neighborhood of one of the other singularities” (1995, p. 146). In order to
give flesh to what Deleuze has in mind in terms of the non-representational concept,
he appends two other essential features for the truly creative concept: “concepts
involve two other dimensions, percepts and affects. That’s what interests me, not
images. Percepts aren’t perceptions, they’re packets of sensations and relations that
live on independently of whoever experiences them. Affects aren’t feelings, they’re
becomings that spill over beyond whoever lives through them (thereby becoming
someone else)” (1995, p. 137).3 Since philosophers, says Deleuze, are “stylists” (and
style has its own syntax insofar as it is a syntax that is not a movement toward
the syntactic or linguistic), style “in philosophy strains toward three different poles:
concepts, or new ways of thinking; percepts, or new ways of seeing and hearing; and
affects, or new ways of feeling” (1995, pp. 164–5).
How do concepts differ from conceptuality? Deleuze states that there are no
simple concepts; concepts are conditioned by their components in combination.
Even concepts that purport to be universal do not contain every component, which is
to say that they are whole without being a universal totality. Concepts circumscribe
a world in order to explain it, and are a response to perceived problems (Deleuze
and Guattari 1994, p. 16). Moreover, although concepts appear to explain the world,
acting as foundation for knowledge claims, the concept is a response to empirical
actuality in its multiplicity, as the condition of a problem for thought (what he will
call the Idea). Concepts are not isolated, and in fact share their components which
is precisely why there can be equivalent currency in philosophical debate. That is,
we can speak of the concept of Being of different philosophers because differing
conceptions of Being share some of their key components or “building blocks.”
Neither are concepts created ex nihilo. Their components are held together as an
articulated whole, as an endoconsistency that is both heterogeneous and inseparable,
and they have an exoconsistency insofar as they share components with other concepts
(Deleuze and Guattari 1994, p. 19). Like forces, concepts are autonomous, but are
always in relation to both their constituent components and other concepts with
their constituent components. The concept functions in relation to its components,
in part, not unlike the manner of relation the will to power has with forces. This is
a suitable analogy for understanding what Deleuze and Guattari means by concept
precisely because the concept, like the will to power that does not act on matter,
is “an incorporeal, even though it is incarnated or effectuated in bodies” (Deleuze


and Guattari 1994, p. 21). Another indicator for this relation between concept and
will to power is Deleuze and Guattari’s understanding that the concept expresses
or “speaks the event, not the essence of the thing” (Deleuze and Guattari 1994,
p. 21). Concepts do not operate by reference. They are self-referential and they affirm
both themselves and the object denoted. More importantly, Deleuze’s understanding
of the concept is, beyond merely attempting to demonstrate the consistency of the
theory of forces and how it pertains to his entire project, a juxtaposition to Hegel’s
stance on conceptuality.
According to Hegel, conception (picture-thinking drawn from sensuous material)
plus Thought (understanding) creates a universal, simple image, which in turn
forms the Concept (Begriff) (Hegel 1969, pp. 29–31). Interconnected facets of the
universal in their particularity are sufficient in their totality to form the Concept
proper, for the Concept comprehends the essence of a thing and represents it as its
true thought. This thought-concept is the realization of essence (universal truth +
particular facts). Therefore, Being + essence = Idea (Concept). Thought determines
itself as a concrete real, and the Concept particularizes itself as the thought that
recovers the content in order to comprehend the unity of Being and Essence in the
concept. The Concept forms the organic union of the Universal, Particular, and
the Individual. We get to the universal by way of negation, or that is, by Thought
determination: “That which enables the Notion to advance itself is the already
mentioned negative which it possesses within itself; it is this which constitutes the
genuine dialectical moment” (Hegel 1975, p. 55). Moreover, this negative “is the
wellspring of the activity which allows progressive development” (Hegel 1975,
p. 55), this developing being is, in Hegel’s view, necessary according to immanent
activity. The immanence of the Hegelian system is the relation of whole to parts; the
categories are finite and unstable, and Thought reveals their contradictions (form-
content, universal-particular, Being-Nothing, etc.). It is in this way that the dialectic
seeks to resolve contradictions and perfect their nature into a stable, organic unity or
whole, but a whole that is the immanent unity of its parts plus the idea of its wholeness.
The operation of Thought determination is both negative and positive: “reason is
negative and dialectical because it resolves the determinations of the understanding
into nothing; it is the positive because it generates the universal and comprehends
the particular therein” (Hegel 1975, p. 28). This relation which comprehends the
part and the whole grounds the very Truth of Being: “Truth in philosophy means that
concept and external reality correspond” and “[t]ruth…is only possible as a universe
or totality of thought” (Hegel 1969, pp. 20, 30). Therefore, the Truth is the Concrete.
The concept itself is universal, not general, but explains the general and particular.
That is, ‘red’ is not a concept but a general representation. These constitutive terms
are too empirical (i.e., class, attribute, type) and so remain as mere conceptions
unless they can be determined by Thought which means to set ‘redness’ in relation
to an Other, defining it by what it is not (redness is not greenness, not blueness, etc.).
For Hegel, conception is finite and incomplete. “The fault in conception lies deeper”
(1969, p. 30). That is, what is generally taken as concept, if isolated as mere contents


and without an organizing, determinant principle to bring these terms into a unified
development, is not to gain access to the concrete actuality of these terms. It is the
understanding that “introduces relations of universal and particular, of cause and
effect, etc., and in this way supplies a necessary connection to the isolated ideas of
conception; which has left them side by side in its vague mental spaces, connected
only by a bare ‘and’” (Hegel 1969, p. 30).
Under Hegel’s treatment, conception finds itself opposed to sense, and Thought
as such overcomes this contradiction. “It might in that case seem arbitrary to
devote a special science to thought, while will, imagination, and the rest were
denied the same privilege. The selection of one faculty however might even in
this view be very well grounded on a certain authority acknowledged to belong to
thought, and on its claim to be regarded as the true nature of man in which consists
his distinction from the brutes” (Hegel 1975, p. 32). Moreover, “Nature shows us
a countless number of individual forms and phenomena. Into this variety we feel a
need of introducing unity: we compare, consequently, and try to find the universal
of each single case” (Hegel 1975, p. 34). In perhaps the most telling statement
wherein Hegel declares the primacy of thought over mere sense or conception, he
states: the universal “is neither seen nor heard, its existence is only for the mind”
(Hegel 1975, p. 34).
In Hegel’s discussion of the Vorstellung as “inferior” to the Begriff, we find that
he has a narrower sense of representation than Locke’s or Kant’s. Conception, for
Hegel, involves three principle phases of development: recollection, imagination,
and memory. Recollection is internalization of a perception by way of an image
(Bild). This image of the object in the mind separated from space and time, and
this image is not always conscious. The “I” possesses the image in a way it cannot
possess objects and intuitions. In reproductive imagination, the recollection of an
image previously intuited by consciousness does not depend on the presence of
an object but can be conjured in its absence. In the other species of imagination,
associative imagination makes associations between images and conjures up
relations that are not there in the world (and here we think of Descartes: centaurs
as the conjoined mental image of the concepts of horse and man). Images are
discrete, individual and external in relation to conceptions (Begriffe). As a final
form of imagination, phantasy is the association of a universal concept with a sign
(Zeichen). Words (as signs) are intuitions. These are arbitrary and willful. Memory
is the faculty that converts sign-intuition to a universal Vorstellung (word type,
not just ephemeral token). We no longer need intuition or image because the name
functions as an imageless conception, and it is in names that we think (Hegel 1977,
p. 277). It is this understanding of representation that Deleuze will take especial
issue with. For Deleuze, a concept involves articulation and singularity. That is,
Thought’s organization and determination is the false imposition of a universal
concept on an otherwise singular setting. When faced with two seemingly identical
instantiations, the concept cannot account for the contingency of Becoming that
produces infinite variations. For Deleuze, the universe is organized not according


to sufficient reason, but contingent reason. It seems as though the Hegelian concept
operates by this reliance on comparison and resemblance, and that it assumes that
the sufficient reason is the necessary reason. Organization does not account for
how things are related in themselves, their own forces, how they can be articulated
without recourse to an absolute exteriority.
In sum, conception is at first subjective conception, while thinking and thought
are impersonal and objective when it is internalized as concept. However, what
remains is that Thought and Conception are not clearly drawn in Hegel, which
could be the source of much misunderstanding, even for Deleuze. Hegel’s version
of conceptuality is, according to Deleuze, too negative and cannot give adequate
form to Being. In contrast to the “bagginess” of the concept that cannot account
for the subtle variations of instantiated things, Deleuze prefers “to show how
thought as such produces something interesting when it accedes to the infinite
movement that frees it from truth as supposed paradigm and reconquers an
immanent power of creation” (Deleuze and Guattari 1994, p. 140). To do this,
logic, science, and history would need to be traced back to the virtual, but “it is
this sphere of the virtual, this Thought-nature, that logic can only show…without
ever being able to grasp it in propositions or relate it to a reference. Then logic
is silent, and it is only interesting when it is silent” (Deleuze and Guattari 1994,
p. 140). Presumably, it is precisely when logic is silent, when it ceases to busy
itself with recognition, systems of reference to the Identical, representation,
and retrograde determinations, that it can truly behold immanence and infinite
movement of the virtual.
Deleuze and Guattari spell out the implications arising from the Hegelian
system, stating that “Hegel showed that the concept has nothing to do with general
or abstract idea…But he succeeded in doing this at the cost of an indeterminate
extension of philosophy that, because it reconstituted universals with its own
moments and treated the personae of its own creation as no more than ghostly
puppets, left scarcely any independent movement of the arts and sciences remaining”
(Deleuze and Guattari 1994, p. 12). It is Deleuze’s philosophy of immanence that
truly makes ontology an ethics, “because it is derived from the immanent relation of
beings to Being at the level of their existence (and hence privileges concepts such
as puissance (power of capacity) and affectivity” (Smith 2003, p. 63). This means
that beings take on a definition as having a capacity to act, to affect or be affected
by, and determined by their degree of power (intensity). One is then not limited in
action by a transcendental (moral) limit, but rather by one’s own internal power. In
addition, without a transcendent framework, the future remains open rather than
predetermined by past events.
Hegel moves from organic to orgiastic representation, “albeit by another route.
If Hegel discovers in serene representation the intoxication and restlessness of the
infinitely large,” it is still a matter of consigning difference to the limit or extreme
representation as merely a conceptual contrary (Deleuze 1994, p. 45). Despite
Hegel’s “movement” from organic to orgiastic (Bacchanalian) representation, Hegel


falls back on the organic, for he is still clutching the notion of infinite representation,
and this infinite representation

includes the Whole or ground as primary matter and the essence of subject,
absolute form or Self. Infinite representation relates at once both the essence
and the ground, and the difference between the two, to a foundation or sufficient
reason. Mediation [as the fourfold root of identity, opposition, analogy and
resemblance] itself has become the foundation. (Deleuze 1994, p. 49)

This infinite representation “is the object of a double discourse: that of properties
and that of essences…that of figures and moments or categories in the case of
Hegel” (Deleuze 1994, p. 49). More importantly, infinite representation is still tied
to the principle of identity as its presupposition, figuring in Hegel as a series of
monocentering circles:

There is indeed a dialectical circle, but this infinite circle has everywhere only a
single centre; it retains within itself all the other circles, all the other momentary
centres. The reprises or repetitions of the dialectic express only the conservation
of the whole, all the forms and all the moments, in a gigantic Memory. Infinite
representation is a memory which conserves. (Deleuze 1994, p. 53)4

It is this model of abstract memory where we also find the static metaphors of
conduits and channels, that there is a sender and receiver for that which can become
in-formed. So, although Hegel’s move from organic to orgiastic representation
(what he calls in the Phenomenology of Spirit a “Bacchanalian revel”), thereby (re)
discovers the “monstrous”, Hegel’s procedure is to demonstrate that, in the end, unity
and stability will be restored, that the monstrosity will be quelled by the eventual
sublation of all differences into an organic unity. It is by these so many Herculean
labours of the negative that the monsters of difference are arrested and subdued, or
even exterminated in the synthesis. Orgiastic representation “must be said to make
the difference, because it selects it by introducing this infinite which relates it to
the ground (either grounding by the Good which functions as a rule of the game
or principle of choice, or grounding by negativity which functions as suffering and
labour” (Deleuze 1994, p. 43). And so, “orgiastic representation has the ground as
its principle and the infinite as its element, by contrast with organic representation
which retains form as its principle and the finite as its element…[D]ifference thus
appears as the orgiastic representation of determination and no longer as its organic
representation” (Deleuze 1994, p. 43). In terms of hierarchical distribution of values
and pronouncing judgements on things, “orgiastic representation makes things
themselves so many expressions or so many propositions” (Deleuze 1994, p. 43). This
allows the concept of difference to be grounded, but as such this ground is fraught
with contradictions that will tend toward a resolved state of organic homeostasis,
this resolution already functioning as the presupposition of the contradiction in the
first place.


Resemblance is the second “illusion.” No longer just an organization of the

model-copy relation as is the order of representation, the diversity of the sensible
being is appropriated and subsumed within the process of negation. The identity of
the concept applies to resemblance and draws from it a form of specificity, i.e., an
essence is derived. Deleuze engages in a long polemical treatment of recognition
and the image of thought that is in accord with his overall view of philosophy as a
constructivism rather than reflection, and an expressionism rather than a series of
communications. Resemblance is the order of likeness. As Deleuze sees it, Hegel’s
Being is defined not only by what it is not, but its contents are arranged by a pattern
of resemblance. That is, a chair is more like a chesterfield than it is like a kiwi.
Therefore, chair and chesterfield are contained under the category of “Things That
Support My Posterior.” However, it is not enough to make comparisons by way of
likeness to determine the differences between things, nor is it enough to explain
these differences by contradiction and what they are not.
Contradiction is Thought’s tendency to determine an object by what it is not, by
locating in the world an opposite, thereby imposing a limitation to the object. The
assumption of the thetic-object as something already individuated presupposes raising
it to contradiction in order to provide this individuated thetic-object its justification
as a starting point for future determinations. Determining the object by what it is
not makes its difference conceptual and external rather than allow that object to be
internally differentiated. Contradiction, as limitation and opposition, is the motor of
negative determination, for it carves a kind of ontological contour around the object
which in turn forms the contour of another object. The essential problem of relying on
contradiction is that it does not suffice in defining the difference and singularity of an
object without its being related to other objects that it is not. Deleuze charges Hegel
with having only myopically located contradictions in order to give any object any
ontological content. Difference conceived of in this way is not affirmative difference,
and so thus relies on Thought to create these contradictions. If we did not have this
system of contradiction we would, in Hegel’s view, be lost in the rhapsody of empirical
senses that cannot be separated from mere “thises”; however, this view privileges
human rationality to an extreme by positing that it is necessary that objects or terms
enter into an extreme opposition in order to be mediated and therefore determined.
What if, Deleuze asks, Being was determined right from the start, without Thought
having to intervene? What if the sense of Being was in itself transcendental and not
transcendent? Contradiction is an artifice of thought, demonstrating more how we
reflect on things rather than a real engagement with the things themselves.
Representational conceptions of difference will characteristically move all
differences up to the point of contradiction, to which end the differences will enter
into a synthesis, or slaughter-bench whereupon the unique and affirmative character
of whatever is retained as truly different is subordinated by negation to elimination
(or, effectively the same: interiorization of difference in the concept of the Identical,
the unity of opposites held together that differ only in a conceptual way). This occurs
when a term in its singularity is defined by what it is not, when an Other is brought


in as a representation to the term as a means of mediation. However, when we push

representation to its absolute limit, when it “discovers the infinite within itself, it no
longer appears as organic representation but as orgiastic representation: it discovers
within itself the limits of the organized; tumult, restlessness and passion underneath
apparent calm. It rediscovers monstrosity” (Deleuze 1994, p. 42). Not only does this
point to inherent systemic limits (where “machines” break down), but also attests to
the generative power found in the unfolding of constant individuations that take on
the aspect of perpetual differentiation. Why is a negative conception of difference,
patterned by contradiction, such a bad thing for Deleuze? As he sees it:

according to Hegel, ‘contradiction’ poses very few problems. It serves a

quite different purpose: contradiction resolves itself and, in resolving itself,
resolves difference by relating it to a ground. Difference is the only problem.
The criticism that Hegel addresses to his predecessors is that they stopped
at a purely relative maximum without reaching the absolute maximum of
difference, namely contradiction; they stopped before reaching the infinite (as
infinitely large) of contradiction. (1994, p. 44)

Moreover, “this Hegelian infinite remains the infinitely large of theology, of the Ens
quo nihil majus” (Deleuze 1994, p. 45). This theologico-philosophical support nexus
will result in what Deleuze will deem unfortunate ethical, if not also epistemological,
consequences. Regardless of how it is formulated―infinitely large or small―the
concept of difference in this manner is still too abstract, not accounting for the
real conditions of experience in a profound way. That is, a concretely determined
condition of experience is still impeded by representational thinking that forcibly
governs and restricts the fortuitous nature of empirical content. It is to this effect that
“Hegel determines difference by the opposition of extremes or of contraries. However,
opposition remains abstract every time it is posed outside of finite oppositions: the
introduction of the infinite here entails the identity of contraries, or makes the contrary
of the Other a contrary of the Self” (Deleuze 1994, p. 44). Since Hegel treats the
essential as a genus, and employs the infinite as an operator that divides this genus as
well as suppresses division in the species (determining what empirical content can be
contained within the set), he renders the genus as itself and the species it determines,
granting the whole privilege over the part. More explicitly, Deleuze states that:

Hegelian contradiction does not deny identity or non-contradiction: on the

contrary, it consists in inscribing the double negation of non-contradiction
within the existent in such a way that identity, under that condition or on that
basis, is sufficient to think the existent as such. Those formulae according to
which ‘the object denies what it is not’, or ‘distinguishes itself from everything
that it is not’, are logical monsters (the Whole of everything which is not the
object) in the service of identity. It is said that difference is negativity, that it
extends or must extend to the point of contradiction once it is taken to the limit.
(Deleuze 1994, p. 49)


In this sense, difference (motored by identity) is the ground, but a ground that
only demonstrates the power of the identical given that the Hegelian circle is an
infinite circulation of the identical via negativity as opposed to Nietzsche’s eternal
return that is affirmative and differential. A Hegelian production of negative
difference subordinates the new to the law of identity, for “difference remains
subordinated to identity, reduced to the negative, incarcerated within similitude
and analogy”(Deleuze 1994, p. 50). This, for the Hegelian, felicitously sets up
a system of infinite representation within the closed loop of the in-itself and the
for-itself, neatly aligned under a representational schema that will not admit of
actual differences. Raising differences and disparities up to contradiction is done
with one aim in mind: resolution and cancellation, and this through a means of
As a selective test, Deleuze invites us to consider an alternate program for
assessing apparent contradictions: “every time we find ourselves confronted or bound
by a limitation or an opposition, we should ask what such a situation presupposes. It
presupposes a swarm of differences, a pluralism of free, wild or untamed differences;
a properly differential and original space and time; all of which persist alongside the
simplifications of limitation and opposition” (Deleuze 1994, p. 56). It will not seem
surprising that Deleuze’s solution will begin precisely at the level of the empirical.
That is, a critique of Hegel’s critique of sense-certainty. To Hegel’s thoroughly rigid
system of determinations of the concept, Deleuze contrasts a pluralism wherein the
multiplicity of the concept is determined by the content that in turn has no limit and
cannot be determined through negations (rather than a limited or false pluralism of
particulars held together in a unified whole, immanently expressed as negativity).
The oppositional framework that constitutes the Hegelian concept is too antagonistic
and abstract, not allowing for the empirical “messiness” of chance to introduce new
terms and species to link together in extrinsic rather than intrinsic relations. Deleuze’s
new model for oppositions is a more “inclusive type of scission” insofar as they are
“roughly cut from a delicate milieu of overlapping perspectives, of communicating
distances, divergences and disparities, of heterogeneous potentials and intensities.
Nor is it primarily a question of dissolving tensions in the identical, but rather of
distributing the disparities in a multiplicity” (Deleuze 1994, p. 50). Hegelian
contradiction presents the problem of a fundamental duplicity: “opposition…
represents in turn the second order power, where it is as though things were spread
out upon a flat surface, polarized in a single plane, and the synthesis itself took place
only in a false depth―that is, in a fictitious third dimension added to the others which
does no more than double the plane” (Deleuze 1994, p. 50).
Relying on the separation of things by negative determination is a dissatisfying
consequence for affirmative difference, for space and time “display oppositions
(and limitations) only on the surface, but they presuppose in their real depth far
more voluminous, affirmed and distributed differences which cannot be reduced to
the banality of the negative” (Deleuze 1994, p. 51). The nature of contradiction
is incomplete, for contradiction fails to go deep or far enough to assess the actual


differences―this is to say that the oppositions in the dialectic only concern superficial
or even merely nominal differences, a staged battle between abstract entities. For
Deleuze, Hegelian negativity is the inverted image of affirmative difference, a
zest on the part of the dialectician to engage in fruitless combat. The setting up of
contradiction when arranged on the flattened surface of mere conceptuality represents
a moment of the false, and thus both contradiction and difference are stripped of
their more profound qualities, contradiction being the lesser of the two in terms of
profundity and depth. In restating the case that the dialectic busies itself with simply
mere representations―taking mere words for things―Deleuze is essentially charging
the Hegelian dialectic with being a false movement in its entirety: “Hegel…creates
movement, even the movement of the infinite, but because he creates it with words
and representations it is a false movement, and nothing follows” (Deleuze 1994,
p. 52). This “movement” begins where it ends, with a presupposition of Being by the
image of thought without investigating the true movement of Being in its differential
pre-thought expression. Nor can a dialectical operation grasp the multiplicity of
sense in which Being can be expressed as a conjugation of affirmative difference.
By contrast, Deleuze offers the provocative challenge in stating that difference is the
true engine of movement, and that it guarantees the continuation of both genesis and
structure. He implicates the dialectic as having only captured the traces difference
leaves in its wake so that when Hegel speaks of the phenomenon of difference, he
is actually concerning himself strictly with its epiphenomenon. As tempting as it
might be to reduce all differences to the static forms of identity and representation,
it would be akin to consigning found artifacts to a museum where the placement of
said artifacts replete with their descriptions are taken as true and value-neutral, and
that their “differences” are simply the relation they possess with one another under
the context of the museum’s representational discourse. When we place the artifact
under the glass bell and assign it a label, we are performing an operation where we
trade off its singularity so that it will fit within a representational schema.
The Hegelian view of negative determination contains two essential features that
Deleuze critiques: the notion of judgement and of reflection. Judgement as such
possesses two cooperating functions. The first is the aspect of distribution where
concepts themselves are partitioned or segmented in a classificatory network. The
second aspect of judgement involves the hierarchization by measuring each of the
subjects against a standard that is already given. By this dual function we arrive at
the false or arbitrary construction of value.5 Distribution concerns judgement as the
partition of common sense whilst hierarchization distributes value based on “good
sense.” Deleuze asserts, “every philosophy of categories takes judgement for its
model―as we see in the case of Kant, and still even in the case of Hegel” (Deleuze
1994, p. 33). Moreover, even recourse to the field of analogy is no curative, for
analogy turns out to be “the essence of judgement, but the analogy within judgement
is the analogy of the identity of concepts. That is why we cannot expect that generic
or categorical difference, any more than specific difference, will deliver us a proper
concept of difference” (Deleuze 1994, p. 33). One way to circumvent this form of


analogy is to raise it, as Simondon does, above the presupposition of the identical
and the individuated so that analogy operates as part of the process of individuation
and differentiation.



Of all the concepts Deleuze introduced, there is perhaps none more commonly
misunderstood than that of what he terms the virtual, yet it is the key to Deleuze’s
entire ontology. It might be said that without the virtual, Deleuze’s philosophy
would be incomplete and untenable. Moreover, it is the rarefied nature of the virtual-
intensive-actual that functions as a key feature of what he proposes in the form of
transcendental empiricism.
For Deleuze, the virtual-intensive-actual is opposed to a notion of the possible-
actual binary. The virtual, composed of immanent potentiality, iterates itself (not
by repetition) in the actual as a process of unfolding, manifest in sense expression
of the thing actualized. This is not an imprint as if something pre-formed stamped
upon matter to grant it form, nor a kind of injection of formal essence into
unformed matter. In the process of this unfolding brought about by the intensive
relation between the virtual and the actual, something “comes to be” and is thus
individuated. The “sense” of what becomes only emerges as a result of the iteration,
not as a program that decides between probabilities. That a “choice” is made is not
drawn from preset possibilities that are selected at the exclusion of others. Instead,
it is the process of iteration that produces something new. Whereas engineers in
communications technology are concerned with diminishing noise and ensuring
stable loops for purposes of controlled feedback, it would appear that the virtual-
intensive-actual “loop” assigns to instability the task of generating newness, a point
that would agree with Ilya Prigogine’s view that the chaotic can produce order, and
that we might subject the second law of thermodynamics to especial scrutiny. And
yet given Deleuze’s insistence on the virtual milieu being entirely determined, one
might question if probability theory could still be of some utility in predicting what
is actualized. At the very least, if the virtual is entirely determined milieu, then the
probability that some thing or event is actualized is technically one; however, the
particularity of the emergent thing or event cannot be calculated using probabilities
if potentiality is itself infinite and inexhaustible. Yet this does not accord well with
real limitations that prescribe how things come to be. For example, if we take
the genetic code we are given a slate of potentials that can be actualized under
a variety of conditions. A dog will not give birth to a cat or an organism from a
different kingdom like a cacao tree. There are limits. However, nothing prevents the
newborn puppy from adopting some of the features of a cat in resemblance of select
features or behaviour. However, that has more to do with environmental influences
and exposure, so that a puppy might be a becoming-cat if it exists in a cat-only


environment and believes itself to be a cat. In which case, its becoming is linked to
the sense of its expression behaviourally, not genetically.
The virtual is totipotent and the actual is the pluripotent. That is, the virtual has
infinite capacity to differentiate by means of intensity, whereas the actual also has
potentiality but has limitations set by the pluripotency of other actualized things.
The world of representation, though capable of infinite variations (not difference as
such) would be classified as unipotent since although it has the ability to replicate its
content, this is only a reproduction––not a production as such.
All that we have stated above about affirmative difference and Being still requires a
more coherent framework in order to be a convincing alternative to conceptuality and
negatively determined Being. Hence, Deleuze adopts the virtual-actual distinction
as a means of demonstrating how difference is ontologically prior to conceptuality:
“The virtual is opposed not to the real but to the actual. The virtual is fully real in so
far as it is virtual” (Deleuze 1994, p. 208). What is actualized (what has become) does
not resemble that which in the differentiation generated its actualization. Virtuality
defines partial objects, or rather a part of the object: “the virtual must be defined as
strictly a part of the real object―as though the object had one part of itself in the
virtual into which it plunged as though into an objective dimension” (Deleuze 1994,
p. 209). But is this “virtual” any more real than the actual, especially if the term
“virtual” itself makes such a claim on reality counter-intuitive? Deleuze replies: “The
reality of the virtual consists of the differential elements and relations along with
the singular points which correspond to them. The reality of the virtual is structure,”
and this structure takes the form of “a double process of reciprocal determination
and complete determination [defining] that reality: far from being undetermined, the
virtual is completely determined” (Deleuze 1994, p. 209). And so the virtual is the
completely determined structure formed by differential elements, and is a complete
determination, but only of partial objects. These partial objects that are entirely
determined are said by Deleuze to be conditioned by actual relations, and in such a
way that their singularities are preserved without organizing into a hierarchy where
one partial object becomes central as opposed to others that are simply peripheral.
For something to be deterministic in the classical sense of statistics or mechanics,
starting with initial conditions we can derive the outcome of an event using partial
or ordinary differential equations (PDEs or ODEs) so that, for example, if the event
is “man trips over tree root and falls” we have the initial condition such as velocity
of the person walking, direction, and so forth, and we can calculate the outcome
if we know all of these starting conditions. The one major problem in predicting
the outcome is that there is no way of demonstrating causality other than by an
approximation, and no way of falsifying it either unless we can reproduce the initial
conditions precisely at even the most subatomic level (and this might also involve
recreating the macro or environmental conditions which would be impossible given
that no event can be replicated precisely in time). Although arguably of different
theoretical import, at first blush there seems to be agreement between how Deleuze
understands determinism, repetition, and events, with what Gibbs says about


ensemble mechanics. For Gibbs, the event is not determined at the microscopic
level, but the overall configuration of all microscopic events that are distributed at
the macroscopic level. In such cases, the distribution of microscopic events need
not be identical. Key to understanding Gibbs and information would be how we
understand the term organization, but also how we understand entropy.
Actualization as a determination functions by integration. This integration “is
by no means the inverse of differentiation but, rather, forms an original process of
differenciation. Whereas differentiation determines the virtual content of the Idea as
problem, differenciating expresses the actualization of this virtual and the constitution
of solutions” (Deleuze 1994, p. 209). But why differentiate the terms if they are two
parts of a complete determination? Why create the term of differentiation for the
virtual and differenciation for the actual? The reason is that these two “processes”
of determination cannot equally be contained under one term, for every object “is
double without it being the case that the two halves resemble one another, one being a
virtual image and the other an actual image” (Deleuze 1994, p. 209). It is precisely in
this way that difference as such differs in itself; it is not merely one conceptual term
that is defined as distinct from what it is not, but that its internal difference portrays
two distinct senses: one of differentiation and the other as differenciation, according
to the virtual and actual aspects of the object. Furthermore, even these two terms
can be split into a bipartite typology. Differentiation has two aspects: 1. Varieties of
relations; 2. Singular points emergent of the values of the varieties. Differenciation
also has two aspects: 1. qualities/species that actualize varieties; 2. number/distinct
parts actualization of singular points. For this typology, Deleuze uses the example
of genes. Genes are differential variations in relation that are incarnated in species
and organic parts as a response to a problem (the part of the ear is the solution to the
problem of sound). Deleuze says that species are differenciated at the level of their
parts, which are themselves differenciated: “Differenciation is always simultaneously
differenciation of species and parts, of qualities and extensities: determination of
qualities or determination of species, but also partition or organization” (Deleuze
1994, p. 210). Taken up as a whole, complete determination is what differentiates the
singularities which are then distributed throughout both species and parts.
The actualization of the virtual is differenciation, the solution to a problem by
integration: “Each differenciation is a local integration or a local solution which then
connects with others in the overall solution or the global integration” (Deleuze 1994,
p. 211). The organism is the solution to a problem, “but nothing within the organism,
no organ, would be differenciated without the internal milieu endowed with a general
effectivity or integrating power of regulation” (Deleuze 1994, p. 211). The forms
of contradiction, lack, resemblance, etc., are mere derivatives―not the motoring
instance―of an initial problem: the organism to be constructed. The structure of the
virtual, already completely determined is that by which things become, the creative
“zone” where differential elements enter into relation by fortuitous encounter, and
are then actualized. However, what is actualized does not bear any resemblance to
what elements initially merged in the virtual to produce it.


For Deleuze, a problem is defined as the real object of the Idea, of which there
are three moments: 1. the undetermined with regard to its object; 2. determinable
with regard to the object of experience, and; 3. determinate with regard to the
concept of the understanding. This forms a unity that is also a multiplicity. In this
scheme, it is the third moment that “makes the difference” as such. Determination
is both complete and reciprocal. That is, the complete determination of the Idea
contains the values of relation or composition of a form of the distribution of
singular points that characterize form. The reciprocal type of determination involves
differential relations and degrees of variety in the Idea which correspond to diverse
forms. Both determinability as complete and reciprocal taken together is sufficient
reason, and this speaks to the quantitability, qualitability, and potentiality. Ideas are
concrete universals where extension and comprehension go together because ideas
include variety or multiplicity, and they include singularity in all its varieties. The
distinctiveness of the Idea is the distribution of singular and regular points where
singularity is to be understood (qua Simondon) as pre-individual. Deleuze says, “the
complete determination of a problem is inseparable from the existence, the number
and distribution of the determinate points which precisely provide its conditions”
(Deleuze 1994, p. 177). Deleuze somewhat poetically describes a problem as the
algebra of pure thought, and moreoever that if “Ideas are the differentials of thought,
there is a differential calculus corresponding to each Idea, an alphabet of what it
means to think” (Deleuze 1994, p. 181).
To follow the Deleuzian line further, information is always bound up in its material
expression but not in hylomorphic (i.e., Aristotelian) terms as a cooperation of
guidance-form and material manifestation that arises from it, but as an algebra of
pure existence where differentials condition problems in a perpetual problematization
by which it proceeds. It is only when we appropriate the concept of information that
we dramatize the problem of general values. This dramatization is the production of
the problematic as “the ensemble of the problem and its conditions” (Deleuze 1994,
p. 177). If we think in terms of genetics, we know that every genetic expression
is itself a dramatization of a problem by means of an expression from which we
can draw sense. The complexification of genetic information can be seen according
to the accumulation of genetic “memory” as such (for example, the number of
chromosomes in a fern are more than that of a human being on account of how long
the fern as a species has existed and been able to compound its singular distributions
and varieties). If we view information itself as roughly analogous to the Idea, then
we come to see what role information plays in perpetual problematization. To view
information as simply a given raw state that is in itself an inert quality that in-forms
matter fails to grasp the more dynamic role information must play in the production of
heterogeneous series, the complex algebra of existence itself. This does not deny the
existence of some “tablature” (Deleuze uses the term alphabet) from which what is
potential is dramatized as if from a source input, but this is only a partial movement:
we have also to consider how the source input is itself changed by the very expression
of potentiality in the actual. In a sense, the problem is constantly reworked.


The virtual is not the possible, not a sum of all possibilities, for the possible is an
opposition to the real to which it submits its realization. The virtual “is not opposed
to the real; it possesses a full reality by itself” (Deleuze 1994, p. 211). The virtual
cannot be realized, but actualized. “It would be wrong to see only a verbal dispute
here: it is a question of existence itself. Every time we pose the question in terms of
possible and real, we are forced to conceive of existence as a brute eruption, a pure
act or leap which always occurs behind our backs and is subject to a law of all or
nothing” (Deleuze 1994, p. 211). Moreover, “[w]hat difference can there be between
the existent and non-existent if the non-existent is already possible, already included
in the concept and having all the characteristics that the concept confers upon it as a
possibility?” (Deleuze 1994, p. 211).
In Hegel’s dialectic of the possible and actual, the actual is the truth of the possible.
The question remains as to what the major difference is between Deleuze’s virtual
and Hegel’s “real” versus “empty” possible. Hegel objects to the empty possible for,
like pure Being and Nothing, something purely possible can be said to be equally
impossible: “Nothing therefore can be more meaningless than to speak of such
possibility and impossibility” (Hegel 1969, p. 203). Empty possibility lacks concrete
content whereas Hegel’s “real” possible has not only self-relation, but is a moment
in actuality. There is a mutual grounding between the actual and the possible, but it
is actuality (in the form of thinking) that includes the possible as a moment within
it, and so there is a distinction to be made between an empty possible that has no
real connection to actuality and a real possible that is plausible on the grounds of it
being truly possible. For example, it is an empty possibility to state that it is possible
that a portion of Mars is made out of cheese (for nothing in our actual experience
can remotely support this), whereas it is a real possibility that one day human beings
will walk on the face of Mars precisely because of observations in the actual that
make this possibility plausible (capability of space travel, humans walking on the
moon, etc.).
For Hegel actuality is the unity of essence and existence, the inward and the
outward, the universal and the particular. Actuality and Thought are One, which is
to say that the actual is the rational. In Hegel’s words, ideas “are not confined to
our heads merely, nor is the Idea, on the whole, so feeble as to leave the question
of its actualization or non-actualization dependent on our will” (Hegel 1969,
p. 201). Actuality is not just the sensible: “it is not the vulgar actuality of what is
immediately at hand, but the idea as actuality” (Hegel 1969, p. 202). Actuality is
firstly possibility: “Possibility is what is essential to reality, but in such a way that it
is at the same time only a possibility” (Hegel 1969, p. 202). Actuality is necessity,
the unity of Universal and Particular.
In returning to the question as to whether Deleuze’s “virtual” is merely a
reformulation or misunderstanding of Hegel’s “real” possible, it is necessary to
compare the two terms. For Hegel, the “real” possible bears a resemblance to the
actual, as a derivative or thought abstracted from the actual, whereas for Deleuze,
the virtual need not have any resemblance whatsoever to what is actualized or vice


versa. That is, in the case of genetics, the conjunction of genes that produces an
organism does not resemble the organism any more than the organism resembles the
genes; however, in this case, the genes are still the “virtual” or “partial” element of
the produced organism. Moreover, if for Hegel the real possible must resemble an
instantiation of the actual from which it proceeds, then nothing new can be created
for it would already be presupposed within actuality.6 This, according to Deleuze’s
view, does not account for something new or affirmatively different being produced.
In sum, our thinking―no matter how meticulous or well-trained it is in calculating
the probability of possibilities―cannot always foresee the production of something
novel or uncanny by this method. Because there are encounters with the not-yet-
known, all attempts to rig the outcomes of chance by recourse to actuality will not
always furnish us with something predictable. In addition, the virtual and actual
(and their interplay by means of the intensive that relates or binds them) are not to
be thought in terms of discrete phases. There is never the being-that-becomes that
breaks its tie with the virtual or pre-individual milieu, for that would presuppose
that potentiality is exhausted. Instead, nothing that comes to be out of the virtual is
ever fully incarnated as fully individuated; it is never what it is, for there is always
something else it can be. This is not strictly the potentiality boxed away inside a
particular being, but also the potentiality of its relations with other beings, manifested
in actualization as integration.
It is this discussion of the virtual-actual that truly punctuates Deleuze’s argument
against Hegel’s conceptual difference. For Hegel,
Difference can no longer be anything but the negative determined by the
concept: either the limitation imposed by possibles upon each other in order
to be realized, or the opposition of the possible to the reality of the real. The
virtual, by contrast, is the characteristic state of Ideas: it is on the basis of
its reality that existence is produced in accordance with a time and a space
immanent in the Idea. (Deleuze 1994, p. 211)
For Hegel, the “real” possible is only reflection-into-self as a moment in actuality,
whereas the virtual “designates a pure multiplicity in the Idea which radically
excludes the identical as a prior condition” (Deleuze 1994, p. 211-212). If the
possible is the image of the real, and the real resembles the possible, all that our
thought of existence can produce is a representation of Being, an analogy: “Such
is the defect of the possible: a defect which serves to condemn it as produced after
the fact, as retroactively fabricated in the image of what resembles it” (Deleuze
1994, p. 212). When the virtual is actualized, it is always through difference and not
resemblance. The differentiation of the virtual and its singularities never resembles
what is made actual; that is, singularities are not mirrored in the actualized thing
and vice versa. One must envision the fortuitous encounter of singularities that enter
into relation and the creatively generative process that cannot be reverse-engineered
from the actual. What emerges in the actual is the product of a relation. It is to
this extent that Deleuze wants to demonstrate that the true actualized concept is


created in the virtual as a merger of fortuitous forces that generate the concept.
If it is true that, for Hegel, the concept is determined by Thought, this would be
anathema to the Deleuzian virtual, for this would presuppose that the concept could
descend back into the virtual and determine its own generation. This process of
actualization is always the scene of the creative: “Actualization or differenciation
is always a genuine creation…to be actualized is to create divergent lines which
correspond to―without resembling―a virtual multiplicity” (Deleuze 1994, p. 212).
The “solution” or actualization of the virtual by differenciation does not resemble
the conditions of the problem by which the “solution” was created. If the solution
were merely a representation of the initial problem, then the difference that produced
the problem (variation of relations by fortuitous encounter) would be reducible to
similitude and identity. To conceive actualization as the merely the construction of
the real via generality is, in effect, a retrograde movement. As an example, Deleuze
invites us to consider Leibniz’s reflection on the roaring of the tide:
Either we say that the apperception of the whole noise is clear but confused
(not distinct) because the component little perceptions are themselves not
clear but obscure; or we say that the little perceptions are themselves distinct
and obscure (not clear): distinct because they grasp the differential relations
and singularities; obscure because they are not yet ‘distinguished’, not yet
differenciated. (Deleuze 1994, p. 213)
In this case, the problem is reposed not on the order of whole-parts, but on the
virtual-actual distinction. Instead of the perceptions being logically arranged as a
whole (the tide as a concert of small perceptions grasped in their totality) or part
(the singular perceptions of each drop), it is rather the actualization of each drop’s
differential relation and incarnation of those singular points of perception in the
idea. “The nature of the Idea is to be distinct and obscure. In other words, the Idea
is precisely real without being actual, differentiated without being differenciated,
and complete without being entire” (Deleuze 1994, p. 214). It is not a matter of
distinguishing the forest from the trees, but to comprehend that the forest is the
actualization of the singular points of the trees themselves in relation that produce the
idea of the forest. But a question still remains: How does actualization occur in things
themselves? Why is differenciation at once both composition and determination
of qualities, organization and determination of species? Why is differenciation
differenciated along these two complementary paths? Beneath the actual qualities
and extensities, species and parts, there are spatio-temporal dynamisms. These
are the actualizing, differenciating agencies. And so, rather than to move from
the general to the particular, “determination progresses from virtual to actual in
accordance with the primary factors of actualization” (Deleuze 1994, p. 215). That
is, the Hegelian method of determination begins from the general to determine the
particular while simultaneously giving content to the universal. If the virtual is
already full and completely determined, what remains is for it to be actualized or
expressed as things. This doubled function of differenciation ocurs in according to


the dynamism of space and time, and this dynamism dramatize the Idea, creating or
tracing “a space corresponding to the differential relations and to the singularities
to be actualized” (Deleuze 1994, p. 216). Because all objects are “dramatized” as
dynamic, we are not only given to define beings genetically, by the dynamisms that
constitute and determine their internal milieu, “but also ecologically, by the external
movements which preside over its distribution within an extensity”(Deleuze 1994,
p. 216). This extensity satisfies the relation required to map the “inside” alongside
the “outside,” the inner constitution of differential being and its differenciated
actualization. Moreover, “the dynamisms are no less temporal than spatial. They
constitute a time of actualization or differenciation no less than they outline spaces
of actualization…the times of differenciation incarnate the time of the structure, the
time of progressive determination. Such times may be called differential rhythms”
(Deleuze 1994, p. 217).
Singularities are the immanent modes of expression that give rise to the Idea,
whereas the Idea itself is an unfolding drama of forces in relation: “the role of dramas
is to specify concepts by incarnating the differential relations and singularities of
an Idea. Dramatization…acts below the sphere of concepts and the representations
subsumed by them” (Deleuze 1994, p. 218). Even the typology of different/ciation
is dramatic, for it implies a dynamism. The drama of actualization occurs in space,
time and consciousness. For our purposes, it might be of some utility to bracket out
consciousness to consider how information as a dramatization of the Idea takes place
in space and time, but Deleuze himself does not separate these out on account of the
importance of Thought in his widened epistemological perspective where the Idea
haunts bodies and their relations.
We now begin to note the crucial importance of time in any “manifestation” or
“incarnation” of the virtual in the actual, for “repetition is the power of difference
and differenciation: because it condenses the singularities, or because it accelerates
or decelerates time, or because it alters spaces. Repetition is never explained by the
form of identity in the concept, nor by the similar in representation” (Deleuze 1994,
p. 220). Perhaps the most telling feature of all that truly brings Deleuze’s theory of
the immanence operating behind and through the Idea is the temporal nature of the
concept itself where all that resides that zone of the concept, at its limit point, refers
to what is inside the kernel of the Idea, and it is this “beyond” of the concept that
allows for a new way of thinking.
Deleuze’s ontology with the movement from the embedded virtual to the
unfolded actual would be incomplete or simply unidirectional if we did not consider
that the reverse motion is also possible: counter-actualization. The virtual-intensive-
actual circuit implies a loop. This movement “back” is the violent and insurgent
birth of affirmative difference from the repressive encasement of representation and
the reconstituted universal; it is the becoming-active of forces. The universal and
abstract nature of the concept of Being is dissolved in this rupture: the conceptual
difference of Being is sloughed off in a fiery ascent of becoming-different. Without
the universal to give Being its determination, Being becomes immanent and univocal,


no longer chained by conceptuality―a being that can only be known through its
effects, its univocal expression, a being of the sensible. For Hegel, negation is
determination, the actualization of Being, but it fails to explain the real movement
of Being. Counter-actualization is the opposite of Hegelian actualization, which is
to say that the external differences of Being produced by dialectical negation are
counter-actualized and affirmative internal differences within Being emerge. A
new image of thought arises at the point that the actuality of dialectical negation is
counter-actualized and Being is grasped as a Being of the sensible rather than Being
as mere conceptuality. Hegelian negation is a becoming-reactive of thought, a will
to nothingness through its serialized determinations that beget static actualizations.
Despite the term Aufhebung and its definition of “raising up and preserving,”
dialectical determination and actualization sink and depreciate life, a kind of
Absteigen, for these are the means by which the difference of Being is rendered only
conceptual, and Being is made “heavy” with imposed contradictions through our
tendency to make Being a representation in our old image of thought. By contrast,
Deleuze’s counter-actualization is an active negation that raises actualization up to
the point of its dissolution, affirming the being of becoming. However, we could
not say that counter-actualization is an Aufhebung, for what is raised up is not
“preserved”, but submitted to a complete dissolution of all negativity in an active
nihilism performed by the two selective principles of the eternal return. It is only by
counter-actualization that we become “worthy” of the events that happen to us, for
we then grasp them in their singularity and multiplicity.


Deleuze’s empiricism is an effort to demonstrate the “concrete richness” of the

sensible, wherein what makes transcendental empiricism “transcendental” is that it
is necessary condition without providing a foundation for knowledge claims, and it is
an empiricism because it focuses on the real conditions of actual experience (Baugh
1992, p. 133). What truly demarcates this type of empiricism is its focus on real
instead of conceptual difference.7 Conceptual difference “determines the possibility
of repeatable experiences that are identical in respect of their organizational form”,
which is to say that conceptual difference determines the equivalence of different
actualizations or instantiations of the concept (Baugh 1992, p. 134). The real
difference is the being of the sensible that is outside of this conceptuality, functioning
as the ground of a truly being-different.
Why does Hegel not attribute to empiricism this transcendental aspect? The
problem with empiricism, as Hegel sees it, is that it can only deal primarily with
finite and sensory knowledge. Pure sensuous experience cannot gain access to
pure thought of Being and its determination. Empiricism cannot give an adequate
explanation of necessary causes; it can only speak of accidents and correlations. If
perception precedes conception, how is thought at all necessary or possible?: “The
Empirical School elevates the facts included under sensation, feeling and perception


into the form of general ideas, propositions, or laws…general principles (such as

force) are to have no further import or validity of their own beyond that taken from
the sense-impression, and that no connection shall be deemed legitimate except what
can be shown to exist in phenomena” and in empiricism “lies the great principle that
whatever is true must be in the actual world and present to sensation” (Hegel 1969,
p. 61). Hegel charges empiricism with taking certain metaphysical presuppositions
for granted insofar as its closet rationalism is manifest when it “employs the
metaphysical categories of matter, force, those of one, many, generality, infinity,
etc.; following the clue given by these categories it proceeds to draw conclusions,
and in so doing presupposes and applies the syllogistic form” (Hegel 1969, p. 62).
Not deviating too far from rationalist objections against the Empirical School, Hegel
echoes that their focus is on raising sense-perception to the level of form in such
a way that it fails to acknowledge the problem in making transitory and radical
particularity of the senses a foundation for truth. The empirical analysis of concrete
things attempts to separate the attributes of that thing, the result that the thing is
merely the collection of these attributes and nothing more. For Hegel, empiricism
traffics in empty “thises” that are devoid of essence, and thus removes what Hegel
constitutes the life of things: the concrete and the One. What empirical analysis
lacks is a reunion with Thought to understand the essence as well as its existence in
their unity. Empiricism posits differences in all things, “these very differences are
nothing after all but abstract attributes, i.e., thoughts. These thoughts, it is assumed,
contain the real essence of the objects; and thus once more the axiom of bygone
metaphysics reappear, that the truth of things lies in thought” (Hegel 1969, p. 63).
And so, empiricism by its very method, is brought back to what it had initially
separated from: the primacy of Thought.
However, Hegel asserts, there are two consequential errors of the empirical method:
firstly, that the multitude can never equal the universal (for a mere enumeration of
all existent things lacks the thought of their totality), and secondly, that it lacks
necessary connection (for it lacks the universal concept to unify them as a whole).
Moreover, to follow the principle of empiricism further, the act of thinking is itself
merely another accident in a manifold of undetermined singularities. That Thought
should be thus degraded to the empirical offers no unifying faculty to organize or
give necessary connection between mere existent things and their essences, and so
the only way in which things are differentiated is by attributes that initially rely on
the faculty of thought to be recognized in the first place.
Hegel includes sensible particularity as a moment in the self-articulation of the
Notion. However, although Hegel’s Notion has an empirical content, it lacks a true
sense of empirical actuality. Bruce Baugh uses the example of the same symphony
performed on two separate nights: the difference between these same performances
are not in the Notion, but rather the synthesis of form and content are the same. That
is, what is performed is formally identical but the performances in their particularity
differ. Hegel’s system cannot account for this variation. Such a variation in the
expressed content under the same concept of its form can be the result of other


subtle or subterranean variations in difference in the two performances, such as a

placement of instruments, a minute effect of reverberation in the concert hall, the
placement of the patrons, the placement of the instruments in their relation, etcetera.
“The Hegelian Idea, to the extent that it transcends its actualizations [cannot] explain
the existence of any particular actualization…but only the form the actualization
will take” (Baugh 1992, p. 134).
For Hegel, if the empirical is pure actuality (pure here and now without any
reference to the Concept) it falls outside the Notion, and so therefore has no real
content because it lacks the determinacy that conceptual thought grants it. However,
there can be, according to Deleuze, difference without thought. He argues this
by way of outlining his transcendental empiricism as an alternative to classical
empiricism, for it is precisely what lies outside the concept that is generative of
difference, that is nested virtually in the Idea. This evades the trap of conceptuality
and representation. It is only through Deleuze’s affirmative difference that we obtain
a more plausible and possibly operant description of how particular things come to
be actualized, and that any “repetition” is the multiplicity of the instantiations of the
singular concept itself. This means that several representations or instantiations of
the same concept can still be identical in terms of the concept and yet retain their
singularity without a correlation with negative determination. It is not Thought that
produces these differences, but Thought that discovers them in a post facto way, as a
product of fortuitous experience or encounter.
The relation between actualities is purely contingent. As Baugh rightly states:
“there is no necessity for a set to have n number of members, it has the number
of members that correspond to the quite fortuitous conjunction of circumstances
producing actual members of the set” (1992, p. 136). The relation between actualities
is external, i.e., non-dialectically determined. To follow Hegel’s view, the number
of sets that would make the form to qualify as the Concept proper would be a
prescriptive device.
This logic of non-conceptual difference that relies on external relations (the
contingent and particular rather than the necessary and universal) is an inversion
of abstract conceptual thinking. For, Deleuze’s transcendental empiricism asserts
that the condition of the concept is precisely given by the real conditions it abstracts
from. That is, in contrast to classical empiricism, the real conditions of experience―
instantiations of empirical actuality―are not explained by an a priori concept. The
intelligibility or inner design that may be said to exist prior to the actual instantiation
of the possible is, according to Deleuze, mapped on to the real conditions post
facto. Deleuze views the rational explanation of the real as an illusion, since this
rationalization can only truly occur only after what is to be made intelligible has
occurred. This is to say that the concept is pushed back to the origin, as the explanatory
foundation of all concrete experience. “No amount of abstraction will ever generate
the concrete” precisely because empirical actuality is not merely the difference
between concepts, but a fundamental difference between the concept and the actual
instantiation of that concept (Baugh 1992, p. 138). The error Deleuze attributes to


Hegel is exactly this: that nowhere within the concept is there an explanation of its
empirical actuality.8 The concept of Being does not in itself have any explanatory
resource to explain an actual instance of Being. The weakness becomes evident
when something unexpected and new is produced in the world, and conceptual
thought attempts to seize upon it and render it intelligible while at the same time
this concept is presented as though it preexisted the fortuitous discovery of a new
empirical actuality. That is, the concept is made to explain all empirical actuality and
anything new that occurs is patterned against an already existing concept rather than
to understand something new in its own difference. This is not to say that anything
new that is produced emerges ex nihilo, for indeed the conjunction of two or more
things may already be known in their own right to exist in Thought. What the
concept cannot explain is why particular elements or forces come together, nor can
it always predict the outcome of their conjunction. For Deleuze, the richness of the
problem field acts as conditions that are prior to the conceptual. These real causes
are not universal a priori conditions, but are themselves singular and particular. The
forces take up into them what exists at the very limit of the concept as a means
by which the Idea is dramatized. The causes that are instantiated are as aleatory
and singular as the effects they produce. The aleatory combination of forces act as
the real causes of things, these forces being coextensive with their effects, just as
the virtual can be considered intensively coextensive with the actual it determines.
These forces do not merely disappear when a being is produced, but rather owing
to perpetual becoming, these forces are constantly at play, affected and affecting.
These real experiences “empirically constituted through a chance concatenation of
forces” fall outside of thought, and are indeed productions of the unthought (Baugh
1992, p. 138). Although Thought can train itself to understand forces in terms of
their type, it cannot foresee the outcome of these forces in relation. And so therefore
the concept is not an adequate explanation for why beings persist, why they continue
to become, and why anything new is produced. Transcendental empiricism is both
a genesis and a production. It is a genesis of things without conceptual origin, as a
coextensive relation of forces as singular causes to their unforeseeable effects, and
is a production of new empirical actuality. These productions are multiplicitous, and
their plurality cannot be adequately reduced to the concept.
Deleuze’s assertion that the causes do not necessarily precipitate an “exact
match” to the actuality of things is not too distant from Hegel’s view. Both Hegel and
Deleuze want to explore concrete actuality through a historical genesis, but the main
difference will be one of logical method. That is, for Hegel, the historical genesis of
things is determined by negations that resolve themselves in the positive content of a
synthesis, and for this to hold the causes that enter into relation must be intrinsically
connected to one another. Moreover, the causal development of things functions
as its own purpose, thereby rendering these causal developments as teleological.
Deleuze, on the other hand, wants to retain development without global teleology.
Does this mean that Deleuze holds to a view of external design or teleology of the
bad infinite? If Being is, according to Deleuze, always in a state of Becoming, it can


never become something, these becomings are not moved up to contradiction, and
so therefore he avoids Hegel’s criticism of external design. Hence, Deleuze’s non-
dialectical genealogical method; rather than forcing all causal developments under
a universal telos, he endorses a kind of development or becoming that is perpetual
and contingently patterned on external relations. Rather than viewing each emergent
development of something as subordinate to a larger reason or immanent purpose,
all emergent things are viewed in a positive way that interprets them as singularities.
This is to interpret things as newly interactive conjunctions not foreseen by
conceptual thought, not merely as a new instance of an old concept. This new form
of “intuition” is sensitive to all that is outside of thought, and is the ground for new
ways of thinking, feeling, and being. For the objection to hold that Deleuze endorses
external design would require that the Being of Becoming become something, that all
Being has some at least immediate purpose, and that our rationality is the condition
of all things created. If Deleuze held the view of external design, he would have
understood determination negatively; i.e., that all things created are determined by
some rational agency toward some ends. But, as we have seen, to believe in purpose
is to rely on a representational understanding of power. To say that a grouping of
trees has as its purpose in the creation of a house is to impose a representational limit
on the singularity these trees are, subsuming their existence under some finite ends.
But Deleuze has not abandoned determination; in fact, it is a necessary ingredient
in his theory of transcendental empiricism. His major objection to Hegel in this
regard is in terms of a negative determination that tries to ground facts, that attempts
to subordinate all causal developments to a necessary teleological reasoning. For
Deleuze, it is not the labour of the negative, but the affirmation of a new empirical
actuality that understands difference as affirmative and always the product of a not-
As Deleuze says of empiricism: it “is by no means a reaction against concepts,
nor a simple appeal to a lived experience” (Deleuze 1994, p. xx). As a mysticism
and a mathematicism of concepts, empiricism is the scene of creation. The concept
is an object of an encounter. It is precisely the task of a higher empiricism to
unmoor the universal concept and the old image of thought that rests satisfied with
determining all that can be included in the concept before those encounters even
truly begin. “We believe in a world in which individuations are impersonal, and
singularities are pre-individual” (Deleuze 1994, p. xxi). If in individuation the ‘I’
is not presupposed, how can the introduction of the term “Other” form a suitable
basis for contradiction? If particularity is not presupposed of singularity, then the
introduction of the universal will equally seem insufficient to form a contradiction.
Without contradiction no development through a process of negations can occur,
What Hegel appears to perform in his critique of empiricism is the imposition of
false contraries which only serve as a means for Hegel to restate his own position
that privileges Thought and its generalities as a means of making empiricism an easy
foil. Instead of demonstrating real movement and mediation, “Hegel substitutes the
abstract relation of the particular to the concept in general for the true relation of the


singular and universal in the idea” (Deleuze 1994, p. 10). The “drama” of ideas, the
“theatre of repetition” that is the time of the virtual and actual, is buried under a thick
philosophical bed of representational concepts, thus Deleuze states that Hegel creates
a false theatre where the actual is simply the staged representation that confirms the
Concept. It is essentially Hegel’s critique of the sensuous and immediately given
in traditional empiricism that allows him to justify his own dialectical method, a
series of developmental blockages that inaugurate an elaborate latticework of fixed
generalized concepts. These concepts reflect the real, but this reflection as such is
the element of generality and representation, and it is the Thought-concept that can
only lead back to itself.
With all that we have said about affirmative difference and singularities, one
could object to Deleuze’s transcendental empiricism as merely another way of
speaking of diversity. However, transcendental empiricism is not a doctrine of
difference as diversity. Instead, transcendental empiricism lays down the conditions
for actualizing diversity. This particular construction of transcendental empiricism
as the difference that is not diversity plays itself out on two tables: the ontological
and the epistemological. As ontology, “transcendental empiricism holds that we
must provide a generative account of the concepts that we use in thought as opposed
to positions which hold that concepts can be used to explain our experience” (Bryant
2000, p. 2). Transcendental empiricism does not attempt to provide the ground
for all possible experience, but of the real conditions of experience. That is why
transcendental empiricism is not a “sliding back” to the Kantian problem of the
thing-in-itself. Transcendental empiricism allows us to think difference without a
reduction to conceptual difference. That is, to think the concept of difference and
not conceptual difference. Transcendental empiricism provides a way of thinking
about difference without conflating it with negativity, otherwise it would return to
the model of the identical. In this way, we can think of difference as a capacity to
differ from itself. If difference were to lead back to mere diversity, Hegel would
be waiting for us, saying that this difference as diversity already implies the
contradiction and negative determination that characterizes conceptual difference.
Finally, transcendental empiricism accounts for how Being, through the process of
Becoming, is individuated in the movement from the virtual to the actual. Since
the guiding principle of transcendental empiricism is affirmative difference, it is
possible to think being as a true singularity “without having recourse to hylomorphic
models of individuation that think individuals in terms of a synthesis of essences”
(Bryant 2000, p. 4).
The epistemological character of transcendental empiricism is the immanence
of difference to Thought. Knowledge is not immune to the process of Becoming.
Thought and Being are both in a state of Becoming and so new difference is
produced. Our Being and Thought are particular durations, but the being of the
sensible is how these durations form a part of, and with, other durations. To be is
to enter into other durations, and multiplicity is the different senses this produces.
Empiricism deals with the passive manifold whereas transcendental empiricism


is the being of the sensible: “Far from being the sensible itself, the being of the
sensible is that through which the given is given without itself being given to the
faculty of perception” (Bryant 2000, p. 5). Transcendental empiricism is intensive
difference while diversity is extensive difference. The Hegelian model of difference
relies on differences that exist outside of what is to be differentiated. It is the
process of negative determination that makes difference merely conceptual, and
merely diversity within the overall unity. Deleuze’s gains from phenomenology
inform this position of intensive difference, but only to a point: transcendental
empiricism is a “return to the matters themselves in order to determine their real
conditions, but unlike phenomenology this return is not the return of a subject that
would reflectively analyze the intentional structure of consciousness” (Bryant 2000,
p. 6). Intensive differences are unequal and so cannot be instances of negated
quantity. Just as forces are unequal, intensity cannot attain an equilibrium state.
Intensity is never contradiction, but rather that those forces affirm their own quality
without degrading this affirmation by making it contingent upon contradiction.
Intensity is already given in all matter, allowing objects to manifest themselves in
their most intense form of singularity. That is, in sum, that difference is bigger than
a “mere” difference between two things set into an opposition.
Deleuze also wants to point out that there is more to the sensible than accidental
instantiation, more than a collection of disorganized “thises” that require to be
placed under the care of the Concept: “the aim is not to rediscover the eternal or
the universal, but to find the conditions under which something new is produced”
(Deleuze 1987, p. vii). Transcendental empiricism is truly a logic of multiplicities,
and “multiplicity is the real element in which things happen. It’s multiplicities
that fill the field of immanence, rather as tribes fill the desert without it ceasing to
be a desert…immanence is constructivism” (Deleuze 1995, p. 146). Whereas, in
representation abstractions “explain nothing, they themselves have to be explained:
there are no such things as universals, there’s nothing transcendent, no Unity, subject
(or object), Reason; there are only processes, sometimes unifying, subjectifying,
rationalizing, but just processes all the same” (Deleuze 1995, p. 145). These
processes are themselves becomings, and these becomings “are acts which can only
be contained in a life and expressed in a style” (Deleuze 1987, p. 3). To become “is
never to imitate…The question ‘What are you becoming?’ is particularly stupid…
Becomings are not phenomena of imitation or assimilation, but of a double capture,
of non-parallel evolution, of nuptials between two reigns” (Deleuze 1987, p. 2). The
transcendent character of representation as opposed to a transcendental Being of
difference fails to account for the real conditions of experience, for when one invokes
the transcendent, this is an arrest of movement, a reliance on interpretation rather
than experimentation (Deleuze 1995, p. 146). The only way in which empiricism can
become transcendental is when it is apprehended

directly in the sensible that which can only be sensed, the very being of the
sensible: difference, potential difference and difference in intensity as the reason


behind qualitative diversity. It is in difference that movement is produced as an

‘effect’, that phenomena flash their meaning like signs. The intense world of
differences, in which we find the reason behind qualities and the being of the
sensible, is precisely the object of a superior empiricism. (Deleuze 1994, p. 57)

Black Box, White Noise: Chaosmos

One of the more interesting concepts Deleuze and Guattari introduce is the
chaosmos: that is, something that allows the independent events of chaos and
rhythm to alternate in a time series, or in parallel series involving multiple (partial)
objects. In some ways, the chaosmos is Deleuze and Guattari’s means of evading the
arid randomness versus determinism argument. On the notion of systems and their
permeability to possible entropic effects, Deleuze and Guattari felicitously advance
this idea of the chaosmos: a kind of contrapuntal relation of chaos and rhythm. They
are not oppositions, but an alternation. The term chaosmos sidesteps the apparent
antinomy of cosmos and chaos, of order and disorder.
Does this address the entropy-information binary? Would this resolve the
apparent paradox of competing views supplied by classical thermodynamics (the
universe increases in entropy over time) and the work of Ilya Prigogine (the universe
is increasing in order and complexification)? Deleuze and Guattari do not appear to
make any broad claims as to whether the universe is winding up or down, and instead
focus on how different modes of thought (art, philosophy, and science) approach
chaos and draw from it something that is generative in each of these fields. Any
limit point in the infinite must be the setting of a limit within that infinite in order to
set up the very condition of limit point. That some thoughts extend to their absolute
limit in setting up empty transcendence is but one way this occurs. However, on
the issue of entropy and information, we might appeal to the definition of chaos
that Deleuze and Guattari provide: “Chaos is defined not so much by its disorder
as by the infinite speed with which every form taking shape vanishes. It is a void
that is not a nothingness but a virtual, containing all possible particles and drawing
out all possible forms” (Deleuze and Guattar 1994, p. 118). Such a state contains
no consistency and no reference frame, and so things come to be and vanish in
the infinitesimal moment. We might think here of those supersaturated solutions
where proto-crystals form before just as quickly collapsing. Chaos in this view is
somewhat a protean plasma, a primordial soup of virtual potentialities that churn
endlessly within it at infinite speed. Another rendering would be to consider chaos
as the perpetually pre-individual, out of which are plucked the specific potentials
that unfold in the actual. In more concrete terms, we might assign a specific name
and various qualities to chaos, such as one might observe in filament formations in
plasma experiments. If we take the notion of, say, hydrogen plasma as the “genetic
seed” of the universe, we come to witness how disorder generated the order that
we know today as the formed universe. As plasma enters into vortical relations of


increasing size, their growth slows and energy is dissipated as per the usual laws of
physics. However, it is one thing to assume that this process is a steady decline from
steady state order to complete disorder, and another to take the view that instabilities
arise that create new forms of order.
We already know that Deleuze’s virtual is entirely determined in a special way
that determines partial objects (and possibly partial aspects of an event). However,
the chaosmos appears to share a resemblance to white noise which is entirely
random but obeys laws. One of the unique aspects of white noise is that it occurs
with no memory as such; that is, random processes where the events that occur in a
continuous time series have no causative predictable linearity no matter how small
the time interval between events. If it were all just a matter of white noise, then
the chaosmos would be a lopsided universe containing only randomness in its true
sense approaching zero and never reaching it. For the “rhythm” component of the
chaosmos to work, white noise might be balanced out by pink noise9 which does
have recourse to its own past if observations are made of a process running from
an infinite past. If we aggregate all of these “sharp turns” in the manifestation of
events, we can come to a semi-reliable prediction using averaging, but this requires
measurement over a very long time series––it will not do to predict an event simply
on the basis of a short observation. The interplay of both noises may be what the
chaosmos contains, and this may be of some utility in describing metastability as a
disparation between virtual and actual, white and pink noise, or rhythm and chaos.
White noise has zero correlation between events, while pink or coloured noise does.
White noise is said, due to its non-correlation between events, to possess infinite
power (which is why we could never actually construct a white noise machine since
it would draw an infinite amount of power and still be without sufficient power to
make it work). It is in this way that we might conceive of the virtual as white noise,
and the correlations that might arise between events can only be constructed post
facto by observing the actualization of things that enter into relation.
One way of illustrating uncorrelated movement in a continuum can be done
simply with a series of coin tosses: for every flip of the coin that lands heads, take
one step right, and for every tails, take one step left. In terms of white noise, each
of the tosses is considered uncorrelated and is illustrative of a random walk on a
line. Or, assume a box of x number of white balls and y number of black balls. In
selecting each ball and replacing it in the box, each choice is uncorrelated, and thus
are independent events, whereas if we did not replace the balls at each selection, we
can make use of probability to predict whether the next ball is black or white on the
basis of the balls already selected.
It may be a common assumption that randomness is anarchic, but in actuality
anything called random is bound by a few rules. Pure possibility would require god;
that is, some principle that can organize the world despite improbability. For example,
the probability that the sun will become a dog may be technically “possible,” but has
a probability of zero. Should the sun become a dog, this is not random, but instead a
highly organized state of affairs with zero probability.


Let us assume a string of letters where the probability of any letter appearing
next in a sequence is equal, so that the letter Q has as much probability of appearing
after the letter K as does Z, D, R, or any other letter. We might be tempted to call
that random and thus disorganized, but in fact there are at least two rules that
illustrate an organization of this particular system: 1. That all letters have an equal
probability of occurring is a rule, and; 2. That it is letters and not numbers, oranges,
nor supernovae that will appear, which is another rule. So, even in randomness at
maximum distribution we encounter rules that organize the system.
Returning to Wiener’s definition that information is what organizes, we are
still left with the nagging question as it still haunts biology and physics, if there
is an organizational principle, and if it is not god, then what is it? Wiener will put
information in the place of a god or demiurge. However, this information-as-god
is one of lesser “power” insofar as anything that is possible a god can will into
existence, whereas information might reject what is improbable as a rule since that
would run counter to probability - if information can only occur in systems where
probability dominates. The exception would be Spinoza’s god where there is at least
one rule: it is impossible that god can uncreate himself for that would require a will
to do so, god has no will, and to grant god will is to state that god is incomplete that
he would have to will something, and this contradicts the idea of god’s completion
and perfection. Spinoza’s god can only act, but act in such a way where there is no
agency of choice, no decision, for that would be will. With respect to the organization
of existence, Spinoza’s god - without choice - creates a “ploppable” universe in one
way, and one way only (similar to Leibniz’ pre-established harmony). This universe,
wherein Spinoza’s god is manifest in all things and as all things combined (including
infinite substances of which we only know two: mind and matter), effectively runs
itself like a program so that nature continues “naturing” itself (natura naturata), and
differences become subject to the permutations and reconfigurations of matter and
energy. Spinoza’s panentheism, which appears almost deistic, could be considered
the closest philosophical position to digital ontologies that simply substitute god for
a universal algorithm that is programmed to operate according to the bit function
of yes/no, but is limited in what the algorithm can do. These constraints on what
the algorithm can do might be on account of pre-programmed probability, but this
is uncertain. It is more likely the case that the consequence of embracing digital
ontologies of the Zuse Thesis variety do lend themselves to a kind of Laplace-style
determinism of all events, governed by processes that are black boxed.
Deleuze’s ontology allows for the elasticity of functions without resorting to
the fascicularity of form, or that which arrests the process of Becoming as ossified
conceptual sedimentation. The question arises as to how Deleuze understands the
nearly circuit feedback relationship between implication, perplication, complication,
and explication (Deleuze 1994, 280-1). These are not necessarily isolatable forms
of understanding or analogies of experience: they are moments and perspectives of
the virtual-actual distinction. The success of functions occurs in implication where
intensive differences that envelop singularities solve the problems presented by


perplication, which we might assume the role of “problem-identifier” or “problem-

builder.” The “stage” upon which all this occurs is named complication, which
dramatizes the problem, and explication is what develops between heterogeneous
series. However, if a system exists as simulacrum, then there is no resolution to
perplication beyond providing local or micro-solutions; it must endure even if local
micro-solutions to problems are a response to arising complications. For as long as
we deal in partial objects without an appeal to some transcendent source of correction
that would presuppose unity or smuggle Platonism into this ontology, complication
is never satisfied, and perplication is never exhausted. For every problem generates
other problems in a dynamic system, and every solution is simply one of several,
which also creates new problems in relation to other systems. The frog’s tongue is
a solution to the problem of the fly’s speed and agility, but it is also the problem of
the fly developing new solutions to evade the frog’s tongue. Even symbiotic systems
present problems outside the symbiotic circuit. Solutions and problems are relative
to the problematic experienced by the particular organism.
Deleuze asks us to see the beauty of various systems (particularly philosophical
ones). But once the aesthetics cease to have a beguiling effect, once our suspense
of disbelief cannot be sustained, we are then left with the choice of abandoning,
attacking, or renovating the system. All systems grant privilege to some entity
or group, be this in explicit or implicit ways. Systems may be organized around
a single perspective or a grouping of perspectives that index problems toward
their actualization as solutions (or responses). Here one might invoke the relevant
Nietzschean question: For whom is the system’s problems and solutions organized?
Other questions with respect to perplication arise: although it is fairly simple to
understand how the frog’s tongue answers the problem of the evasive fly, what of the
very relationship of the virtual and actual? If taken in a meta-theory direction, does
the virtual-actual distinction produce the problem of reality as resolved in the solution
of the real? The short answer might be yes; however, this must be understood in a
way that “reality” as such is not essentialized without violating the very conditions
by which the “product” (reality) is constituted, and that as a constituted something, it
is only the determination of something partial, subject to transformation and aleatory
events. For Deleuze, reality is not an empty frame to be filled with determined
particular “thises.” Reality itself has no definition or value except as a multiplicity
that can overcome the binary of whole-part. The total of all things that can be said to
become, and each particular thing that becomes, are coeval.
A preliminary Deleuzian approach to information can now be entertained by
extending his ontological view to encompass information and making what he calls
the “Idea” take on the character of information as quasi-organizational principle.
The unfolding of the Idea as actualization provides us with the sense in which that
Idea is expressed. If we take the Idea or information as problematic, then the source
information with its rich potentials in the virtual are partially actualized without
ever becoming exhausted, and the “solution” is in effect a new problem allowing us
to return to the source repeatedly. What is properly informative in communication


theory, such as surprise, is this actualization of source information by an unfolding

that grants an event sense. From the standpoint of information sans communication
theory, Deleuze furnishes us with a different way of understanding that information
is both a blueprint, and one articulation of its infinite potential designs.
In defining a system state, this is both spatially and temporally bounded, but as
abstract coordinates. That is, a state as the nexus of a problem and a solution provides
for a response circuit between the time of the problem posed as well as the space in
which the problem is identified. The same is said of the solution where it occurs in
time and space relative to the problem thus posed. Yet, the problem-solution nexus is
a single movement, akin to the Nietzschean idea a simultaneous act of destruction as
creation, or the single dice-throw that contains all probabilities. An ontology of the
operant defines a spontaneous operation that may inhibit or encourage reticulation
of beings, and information (in at least one provisional sense) is thus the continuous
reticulation of problems that gain sense in the actual, falling back into the virtual,
and unfolding in another reticulation. It is not that we appropriate information for the
purposes of constructing arbitrary order and organization, nor is it that information
appropriates are world’s “giddiness” to impose order, structure, and organization.
Instead, information is as much a part of emergent structures as it is also the
transformative blueprint where said blueprint is written upon different time scales
which thus allow for multiple structures to coexist.
The virtual is a black box filled with white noise, but it is this specific type of noise
that is infinitely generative (even if it is governed by rules as much as it imposes a
rule set on the process of unfolding). We may, in fact, come to question whether or
not there is any fundamental difference between information and noise, or if this
may be a semantically based false binary. Noise may “disorganize” a system, but it
also introduces something new to that system that permits a constant reorganization
- if not a reterritorialization that begets new relations that form and break according
to a pattern of singularities where what differs repeats, and what repeats must differ.

I agree with Aaron Sloman’s (2011) corrective argument against the longstanding myth that Bateson
defined information in general as a difference that makes a difference when in fact Bateson is applying
this to a unit or bit of information. In taking an informational bit or unit, this radically changes the
definition attributed to Bateson in much the same way that a coin may be a unit of currency, but does
not imply a general theory or definition about currency in general. Sloman’s explanation can be found
at the University of Birmingham’s School of Computer Science: http://www.cs.bham.ac.uk/research/
And, of forces, it is not the variety Hegel discusses in his chapter on “Force and The Understanding”
in the Phenomenology insofar as the forces under consideration there are still merely conceptual; that
is, the relation of forces are already opposed (Nature and Law) whereas the type of relation between
forces that Deleuze utilizes retain their singularity and are governed by the will to power. However, a
more concrete example of a singularity is still required if we are even to begin considering Deleuze’s
alternative as viable.
Deleuze distinguishes between two types of becoming: sensory and conceptual. The first type of
becoming is the ceaseless act of becoming-other, while conceptual becoming “eludes” what it is as


difference “grasped in an absolute form.” The distinction is precisely between concepts of sensations
and sensations of concepts. Concepts are the embodiments of expression, these expressions acting
as the empirical condition of the concept, and so it is for this reason that Deleuze is interested in the
shared theoretical terrain between philosophy and art.
Also, see Patrick Hayden, Multiplicity and Becoming: The Pluralist Empiricism of Gilles Deleuze
14–45. Hayden summarizes Deleuze’s account of representation between Leibniz (the infinitely
small) and Hegel (the infinitely large). Both of these conceptions of difference fail for the already
mentioned reason that they confuse difference in itself as the inscription of difference within the
identity of the concept in general.
Deleuze will not abandon the notion of hierarchization but will retain a sense of hierarchy as an ethical
consequence of his metaphysical privileging of affirmative difference. “There is a hierarchy which
measures beings according to their limits, and according to their degree of proximity or distance from
a principle. But there is also a hierarchy which considers things and beings from the point of view of
power: it is not a question of considering absolute degrees of power, but only of knowing whether a
being eventually ‘leaps over’ or transcends its limits in going to the limit of what it can do, whatever
its degree [of power].” Hierarchy is not a means of measuring things in terms of good/bad or right/
wrong, but on the basis of noble/base and dominating/dominated. Hierarchy concerns forces, and
does not begin with Thought and its means of distributing value. Recalling what was stated in chapter
two, genealogy concerns the art of going to the origin of values in order to interpret them, and it is the
problem of Thought that evaluation of values occurs when the values it purports to study are already
given and in play so that any evaluation of values is already marked by established values (Deleuze
1994, p. 33).
Cf. Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, §12. In his famous analogy of the acorn and the oak, Hegel
defines his view of actualization of the dialectic as an immanent program, or Concept, which replaces
Aristotelian entelechy. The acorn is a potential oak tree, and the fully-grown oak is the actuality of the
potential of the acorn. It can be said that the acorn represents the potential to become an oak tree, and
that the oak tree is the unity of the acorn and the efficient causes that developed the acorn into the oak
tree. This acorn possesses the entire structure of the oak tree, but only implicitly.
Space only permits me to give a brief gloss on transcendental empiricism here. Two very masterful
studies have been written on the substance and consequences of Deleuze’s transcendental empiricism:
Levi R. Bryant’s Difference and Givenness, and Patrick Hayden’s Multiplicity and Becoming.
Recall for Kant the problem of how a particular intuition is subsumed under a particular concept.
Kant’s solution is his schemata. Ideas, for Deleuze, are problems and function as his schemata.
We will use pink noise rather than coloured noise to indicate a process that has run forever, i.e., an
infinite past



If information is the relative degree of organization in a system, then a change in

state may also be a change in that relative degree. A highly organized state, such as
a block of ice, might be said to have high information degree, whereas a puddle of
water might be said to have lesser degree. However, when we consider a simplified
understanding of frequency of interaction under the heading of relations, we find that
the puddle of water has more interactivity than a block of ice if we are considering
a shorter time scale.
A “state” of information might be described as not the quantity of the “thing” that
we might name information, but an average in much the same way entropy is not
a “thing,” but a description that can be measured (all entropy is average entropy).
From an ontological perspective, one may choose to pursue the problematic of
information in terms of the states in which information comes to manifest itself or
operate across a variety of cases, but not to conflate state and operation. This, in
sum, may split perspective in understanding information as either process or product.
We may have come to believe, as a product of neoliberalization which naturalizes
instrumentality, technology as neutral and objective tool (or weapon), and fetishizes
such terms as economy and information (now hybridized) that information is a solid
state affair rather than a dynamic one. This, of course, against the neoliberal logic
that lionizes absolute flexibility and mobility. We leave aside the peripheral question
of how economy and information have become raised to a level of scholasticism or
mysticism in the contemporary context to consider the differing states of information.
These states need not be considered “end states” or even in the more colloquial
context of “end user” which may simply re-instrumentalize information as such.
Any state in which information can find itself may in turn be either the starting point
of a subsequent process, or may already be a process with respect to a different time
scale. However, as I will argue, the event that information speaks to is not a series of
stop-starts, of segmentation, but a continuous oscillation that may be measured as an
average, but an average that in itself contains the disparities within any assemblage
or system in a kind of resonance field that changes over time.
The term state is liable to confusion or imprecision if it is not properly clarified. In
a continuous system, a state is understood as a point in space through which passes
a solution to a differential equation. When we take linear systems specifically, state
space theory tells us that a linear ordinary differential equation, or ODE, describes
the inner workings of an input. Systems theories in general address how states work,
and pending on whether or not the system has infinite dimensionality or is simply


finite, this determines if we are speaking of minimal state spaces or if an infinite

dimension of states entails the use of partial differential equations. In mathematics,
there are no meta-states since all states are “built-in” functions, many of them “black
box” functions.
Technically, a state is the particular condition of a thing at a specific point in time.
For example, if measuring the movement of a pendulum to discover its current state,
this is a function of understanding a starting position, acceleration, and velocity due
to gravity. So, as the pendulum swings, and if we could arrest time, we could know
the specific state of the pendulum as a measure of relative global position, angle,
molecular makeup, density, etc., whereas a measure for acceleration and velocity
would have to be derived from the measure of distance and the time interval between
an initial state and the current frozen state. However, given that the values are
continuous in time, measurement can also be continuous, as in the case of deriving
an average of discrete measurements for the purposes of corrective feedback in a
system. if we opt for modelling such a system as discrete, i.e., to measure the first,
second, third, etc., points in time, then we would not rely on differential equations,
but instead a difference equation which proves much more difficult to model since
we could not rely on calculus. In essence, the difference between the two systems
with respect to the measurement of states is evidenced in the difference between
analog (continuous) and digital (discrete).
When we speak of information states, we are both speaking of information phase
space transitions and a multiplicity of territories. In fact, even if there are a finite
number of systems, the states they can enter into are infinite if each point in phase
space is its own dimension. The tactile world, even reduced to the flattened screen,
is a territory if not also a potential phase transition where information conducts
a transaction between its own guidance of individuation, and its own effect as
information individuated, almost as though information begets itself. However, to
think of this in strictly causal terms would be to oversimplify the relationship since
it involves more of a superposition of the cause and effect being both causal genesis
and emergent effect. However, in our inescapable humanness, it may be impossible
to fully grasp the shifting terrain of information-as-state and information-as-territory
since one engages time, while the other space in ways that involve a gliding across
and through firmly present (homeo-) stasis to ek-stasis, and finally meta-stasis. This
last “state” is the closest to entropy or difference, and engulfs pure stasis as simply
an arresting of flux, an arbitrary cut in a continuum. It cannot, however, capture ek-
stasis without making a mystic leap. However, only after some further elaboration
on the figure of entropy can we effectively draw any comparison between metastasis
and entropy, if there is any relation at all. What we will arrive at once the historical
dust settles in this chapter is a pathway to defining the operation of metastasis
in metastability in information, and this within the reference frame of white and
coloured noise.
Given that a state occurs in a space along other states, let us assume some idealized
space of all states S. Since all we can observe are states (changes within them, or


symmetries / differences between them), is there a way to observe the space in which
all states occur? The quick answer is no, but this is not to say that such a space
could not, or does not, exist. What of blocs of states within a system where there is
observable (or non-observable) interaction? We can, for the sake of simplicity, call
this a micro-territory, and assign the term territory to the interchangeability of states
between systems as a full territory, given that we would be dealing with relations that
condition changes of state, if not also a shifting or modification of systems.


One of the principle tasks assigned to information is the explanation of events

by whatever method will reduce uncertainty. So, for example, an environmental
researcher may wish to understand something about the success of the invasive
large African land snail in Florida. To do so, said researcher would investigate the
current existing conditions that have allowed the favourable spread of the species,
in what numbers, and what impact it may have on humans and other organisms in
the environment. One of the first questions would be how did the land snail get
here? followed by the more significant question, what were the conditions of the
environment at the time that allowed its spread, and may continue to allow its spread?
In this case, the researcher is attempting to locate information that will explain the
event. The first question takes an accepted state of affairs (the land snail has been
observed in a particular space where it has not been observed before, and hence is
surprising). The second question delves into a more inclusive causative framework
that takes into account multifactorial processes that produce the conditions by which
it is now an established fact that the African land snail has made a home for itself in
Florida. In the time before any human migration to the new world, the probability of
an African land snail residing in what is now Florida would be zero, for it is highly
improbable that it would have been spontaneously generated in its categorically
similar genetic iteration from the existing species of native snails, just as it would be
probability zero that the regions in what is now Africa would have merged with that
of what is now Florida during a time when a) the particular snail had evolved and
was prolific, and b) the landmasses were not connected. However, with the rise of
global human migration, facilitated with ever more expediency due to international
travel routes by sea and air, the probability of an invasive species being introduced
to a remote territory begins to inch toward a probability of one.
Deleuze places considerable emphasis on the nature of the event as part of his
philosophical project. It is in the event that his touchstones of difference instead
of identity, and Becoming instead of Being, are made concrete. The event, for
Deleuze, carries a very specific meaning that deviates from simply the state of things
in any occurrence, but is instead something immanent to what is expressed, and a
synthesis of the forces that enter into relation. The signification that takes place is
expressed by the relations themselves that give rise to the surface event that we
observe and measure. The event is something operating beneath the surface event, a


subterranean aspect of the virtual that conditions the transformation of incorporeal

matters. The event, in this formulation, precedes the very things themselves so that
we cannot speak of a thing’s predicates (Deleuze uses the example, drawn from
Stoicism, of the infinitive form of the tree is green as “the tree greens”). However,
Deleuze is careful to not simply invert the unity of the thing and the event so that
we are speaking of an event conditioning the thing, but instead speaks of events as a
“milieu,” which is to say that events - like Nietzcshe’s forces as expressed in the will
to power - have no beginning or end as such, but are continuous oscillations between
rhythm and chaos (chaosmos). The event “drives through” actualized things in their
relations to facilitate their becoming, but this becoming cannot be arrested by fixed
and determined states as though the event and Becoming are segmented. As it is
continuous (without beginning or end), always a “milieu” where the convergence of
forces manifest themselves, it is only Thought that chooses to arrest the continuity
of the event to make it observable and measurable, but this act risks assuming the
fixed identity of a thing in a particular state so that it can be evaluated on the basis
of the surface effects (predicates) attributed to that thing or class of things. From
there, it is only a matter of constructing generalities that can be fitted into categories
so that these take on a hierarchical privilege (”all trees of this class will be green”).
Events open the way for new force relations without prescribing them. The virtual
potentialities unfold in this actualization process, and so the event is akin to a
theatrical stage upon which this unfolding plays out.
Generally, when people reference “seeking information” to explain an event,
this is in reference to identifying the causal conditions by which a particular event
occurred, its significance according to what is of interest or value to the individual
in this case, and possibly working towards correcting the situation (if the event is
construed negatively), sustaining, or even enhancing the conditions that give rise
to such an event. To make an “informed decision” in such cases is to acquire all
the pertinent data for the purposes of making that decision, leaving out superfluous
(non-causal) states of affairs, and focusing on those that do have a direct causal
connection to the event. However, if we cannot connect to the event in the sense that
Deleuze articulates, are we simply making assumptions based on surface effects?
There is no doubt that such an act present a practical or pragmatic benefit, but it
may fall short of understanding the dynamics of the event itself. From the practical
standpoint, there may in fact be no information whatsoever - and, so, in order to
grapple with information at the level of the event, it may be necessary to grasp the
event in philosophical terms. We could, for example, adopt John Durham Peters’
standpoint that information is knowledge with the human body taken out (Peters,
1988). However, this still merges the conditions of information with the conditions
of epistemology. If we were to take it a step further, we might adopt Howard
Resnikoff’s (1989) view that information is the remainder once we strip all material
aspects of our physical reality, a point possibly shared in common with Wiener’s
celibate definition of information.


We ought to differentiate, at least provisionally, between state and system.

Systems can indeed be considered in terms of their particular state, but systems
theory is focused on processes whereas more technical domains such as engineering
require the sectioning of time into discrete intervals or bundles for the purposes of
measurement and the construction of feedback mechanisms. When we speak of a
state generally, we are referring to that discrete moment that is measured in terms of
location, direction, density, mass etc., but this as an arresting of a continual process
that will only measure change between two or more points. It is less the state (Being)
that evolves, but the process (Becoming) according to phase transitions and waves.
To take Being as the starting point, or the conclusive element of a process is to
subordinate the process to a derivation that can only function as a representation.
To take that representation, which is a freezing of time itself to acquire an object for
study, as the actual thing itself would be like mistaking the photograph of the Hagia
Sophia as the actual structure itself. Any freezing of continuous processes into states
speaks to what stage some thing is at a discrete step, and we do not deny its utility for
the purposes of modelling certain kinds of feedback systems such as in the design of
jet piloting programs where it is the program that performs the corrective feedback
processes on behalf of the pilot given that the latter could not perform these rapidly
enough under certain conditions. Such a program is a representation of the existing
mechanism that performs the function and does not rely on differential equations
whatsoever. By contrast, systems theory, when not being employed for engineering
purposes to produce controlled feedback, relies on differential equations which are
the processes. Deleuze and Guattari speak of the wasp tracing the orchid, which
can be understood as an example of a differential equation that is also process, but
so, too, could we understand the GPS satellite orbiting the planet as a tracing, both
of which rely on differential equations. An on-board receiver for the GPS satellite
might have to process multiple channels at once to make multiple measurements of
an incoming signal; for the engineer, the observation of the GPS system requires the
use of sensors that can “arrest time” in order to measure the communicative efficacy
using snapshots at certain intervals. However, these measurements superimpose a
discrete temporal order on an analog and continuous one that is governed, in part,
by relativity. Whether these processes are laminar or turbulent, they do not assume
that space and time can be fixed, whereas states are largely dependent on a fixed
junction of space and time in order to perform measurement in most cases. In terms
of measuring patterns and sequences, information theory relies on probabilities of
sequences beginning with the current sequence, and measuring this against prior
sequences. The idea of sequence implies causal relation from one point to the
next. This process is complicated further when we consider multi-factorial causal
inputs, and the relative degree of participation of each cause in the organization or
determination of a particular state. To derive a less adulterated measure that might be
reliable generally involves controls to minimize on too many multi-factorial causes.
This, however, cannot be guaranteed fully any more than one can faithfully recreate


the conditions of any event. The fidelity of such signals are still subject to noise in
the channel, and so even the slightest difference will result in the creation of a new
event, not a repetition of an already created event.
States can raise processes to contradiction by inverting the continuous and
differential into the discrete interval and the representational. Before delving into
the primacy of processes over states when considering information, a necessary
detour into the history of understanding states contrary to the Platonic conception of
fixed and determinate states will be necessary as a framing feature. In place of state
we will speak of process, and in place of “maps” we will speak of territories and
diagrams. Moreover, against the dichotomy of the one (structure, or global “state”
that may be assumed by information theory) and the many (the particular or local
“state” preferred by entropy theory), Deleuze and Guattari’s idea of multiplicity
may serve to describe in philosophical terms the disparity that exists between the
two “states” as an effort to speak of metastability, thus preserving the dynamism so
crucial to Deleuze and Guattari’s project.
We should make a first encounter with the concept of assemblage1 as it
is constructed by Deleuze and Guattari, a term that shares some definitional
commonality with the Greek word hexis, meaning “arrangement.” To understand
the state of some thing, a set or group of things, including their properties, it is
important to consider the term assemblage with especial care. In short, assemblage
= state, but also process. As a complex arrangement of heterogeneous components
made productive (possibly toward a problem), these form a kind of diagram of
the new, an allagmatic design. An assemblage corresponds in its emergence with
the function that it carries out, and may in fact be informational. Deleuze and
Guattari move beyond hexis to employ a strategic dynamism where forces (that
can only be intuited, never captured in objective description) precipitate processes
of Becoming by the arrangement of heterogeneous bodies in an assemblage. The
active component Deleuze and Guattari wish to assign to the traditional and static
form of hexis is precisely in recognizing that an arrangement is always an event,
and that states are processes that occur in terms of intervals, as an “in-between”
where we might discover the ceaseless interactive oscillation between chaos and
rhythm (chaosmos). What is an assemblage? An assemblage selects singularities
from the ideal flow of matter-movement. They are twice-determined: first from the
virtual and its full potentiality, and second from the relations that constitute them.
The ontogenetic aspect of assemblages dictates how the internal singularities link
together as an expression, or allow a singularity to pass into another assemblage. The
phylogenetic aspect concerns the external aspect of relations between assemblages.
These multiply linked assemblages can form a series, just as its internal singularities
can form a series (we move here beyond orders of magnitude when we speak of
series). However, are assemblages simply synonymous with systems? Not quite,
for assemblages may contain multiple systems and signal networks just as an
assemblage may contain an overlap of components from different systems to form
a kind of “partial system.” The language of systems belongs to the hylomorphic


schema where form and content have no unformed matters, and where individuation
functions as a starting principle and not a developmental, perpetual process. Since
assemblages require some kind of selection or choice function, it is less a question
of who or what is doing the selecting (Nietzsche would say that it is the eternal
return that selects), but for whom or what is it selected? However, we must first take
into consideration the ideal line of matter-movement on its own merits, beginning
here with the first “bend” of “bowing” of such a line in the work of Heraclitus. It is
here that we will first encounter the arguably pre-Manichean stance where there is
a process of (de)selection guaranteed by a principle of perpetual strife.


Philosophies of change and continuity are generally attended by the critical stance
that such views can lead to logical impasses or profligate ideas (or, worse, to abjection
and aberration even if they may describe the process by which singularities may be
distributed as opposed to numerical probabilities based on assumed representational
identities). Both change and continuity can be “redeemed” if they point the way
to a central tenet of ensuring permanence (i.e., restoration of a principle of unity
and identity), a “divine Logos” under which the most mutable of phenomena will
give ground. Fixity, perdurance, and permanence are seductive conceptions in the
philosopher’s repertoire, and many a theory of flux and difference find themselves
readily sacrificed in the service of the intellectually calming concept of fixed and
determined states. Even Aristotle’s discussion of generation succumbs to being
collared by static principles, and Hegel’s dialectical movement is a series of blocky
starts and stops that seem to confirm in advance and in metaphysical form Herbert
Spencer’s view that this move to complete form (anti-entropy) will result in the
“establishment of the greatest perfection and the most complete happiness.” Still,
what is being generated out of a modeling procedure that freezes time is an answer
to a local problem at the expense of understanding global operations.
Among the raft of intact fragments bequeathed to history by Heraclitus, we are
privy to a philosophy in conflict concerned with conflict. Certainly, as his work has
been handed down to us through the caricatures and embellishments of Diogenes
Laertius, Aetius, Clement, Polybius et al, or deduced according to hearsay by
subsequent Greek thinkers, or oversimplified in capsule histories of philosophy,
Heraclitus (arguably alongside Empedocles) was the forerunner of a philosophy
of perpetual struggle and ceaseless interactivity which would later be adopted and
modified by the Stoics. It is arguable that he is the first metaphysician on the grounds
that he grasped the fundamental question: what is change? But, unlike Hegel, these
struggles did not necessarily begin with a view to purposive finality, nor was there
any guarantee that the enduring struggle would end neatly and cleanly by way of a
happy synthesis. In fact, Heraclitus eschews this idea that struggles will cease when
he disputes Homer: “Homer was wrong in saying, ‘Would that strife might perish
from amongst gods and men.’ For if that were to occur, then all things would cease


to exist” (Heraclitus, qtd. in Wheelwright 1959, p. 112, Fr. 27).2 For Heraclitus,
what is called “permanence” in his philosophy is what would be echoed later in
Deleuze as variable speed or intensity––in sum: relative and apparent permanence.
Yet, Heraclitus will not simply accept the premise that the universe is governed by
random or chaotic changes, but that these changes are largely imperceptible, and
that change itself is rationally organized according to the logos. This fragment, like
many attributed to Heraclitus, carries with it enough ambiguity to court a multitude
of interpretations. For example, there is nothing in this fragment alone that denies
the law of entropy, for he sets up a conditional argument: if strife between gods
and men ends, then all things will cease to exist.” The “gods” may be substituted
with Nature or some other force, but there is an interesting claim here that when
strife ends involving humans, not just humans perish, but everything. If we keep to
the essential core of strife as such, then this makes for a more inclusive claim on
existence in general. By removing the two identified combatants––gods and men ––
we are left with a claim that strife is necessary for the continuing existence of things.
Strife, then, is more than just the sufficient reason of Being, but may function as its
condition. There must be a conflict of opposites to ensure the continuation of Being,
and this strife may be one attribute of Becoming. Nested in the claim Heraclitus
makes in this more generalized form, the generation of any and all beings would
depend on some previous opposition. Assuming that what enters into opposition
could be said to also have being, then there must be a previous opposition to
generate those beings as well, and so forth into an infinite regress of conflict and
generation. Thus, Heraclitus’ claim on strife as the generative motor of existence
leaves open and unresolved where Being “begins.” Despite the interpretive latitude
of Heraclitus’ notion of strife, or polemos, two central yet opposing views emerge:
that the strife is either symmetrical over a long period of time (that there is particular
strife that favours one force over another reaches equilibrium when we consider the
totality of time and all conflicts) or that strife is fundamentally and perpetually
asymmetrical which will guarantee the perpetuation of the universe for all time. It
remains clear that if strife ceases, this resolution culminates in the cessation of all
existence. Heraclitus does not seem to provide us with any definitive closure as to
whether he believes this is an inevitability, or if it underscores a commitment to
infinite flux.
Heraclitus’ doctrine of change is not opposed to unity. In fact, unity of paired
opposites is what constitute the very conditions of change. Heraclitus charges
Hesiod for not understanding that night and day are a unity, not two independent
things, for they are simply two different appearances of time. The innate conflict of
opposites points to their fundamental unity. For example, the opposing forces found
in a bow are said to be in a state of equilibrium if the tensility of the bow remains
the same, but if the string snaps then the bow’s force has won out over the string.
The fact that we do not always perceive the sign of such tensions gives weight to his
famous statement that “nature likes to hide”; in this case, nature conceals from view
the innate force tensions in matter. From a strictly information context, we may note


how the philosophical dualism of mind versus matter is played out here. Frieden
and Soffer (1995) give us a hypothetical game between an intelligent observer who
makes “smart” measurements versus a “demon” meant to represent nature. Both
“players” are attempting to obtain the maximum information state (in their example,
they are illustrating a case for Fisher extreme physical information, or EPI). As both
“players’ are attempting to gain the advantage in this zero-sum, symmetrical game,
the “demon” is attempting to withhold as much information as possible, and thus
increasing disorder qua entropy. It is Frieden and Soffer’s claim that Fisher EPI will
get beyond the impasse of whether physics gives rise to information or vice versa
by demonstrating that there is reciprocity between the two. This view conflicts with
Wiener’s view that information is not dependent on matter and energy given that
there is some degree of co-dependency.
In other fragments, Heraclitus does assign some fixity or permanence to the
logos, and despite those fragments presenting us with an apparent contradiction, they
actually confirm his view insofar as his own thoughts on flux were themselves in
flux, showing a high degree of fidelity to his notion of perpetual change. Conversely,
however, this assertion comes with its host of problems: 1. Logically, his thoughts
on permanence could also be considered in the light of permanence; 2. He may have
invalidated his view of flux by violating his previously established method, therefore
committing an error incommensurate with his method. The first problem could be
answered by extending the definition of permanence so that flux = permanence, and
so therefore the perpetual change of the universe is in itself a metastable state. The
second problem is not so easily managed given the incomplete number of fragments
we have at our disposal, and the intentionally ambiguousness of his phrasings.
In the end, when we consider the conflicting views of change and permanence in
Heraclitus, we are forced to ask the unanswerable question of which Heraclitus? If,
as he states, “Nature likes to hide”3, so, too, does the answer to this question from
recorded history. But, taken for what it is, the one problem that inheres in Heraclitus
that seems to jeopardize a more inclusive view of change and difference is the way
in which he conceives of strife: as a contest between opposites. A belief in opposites
is prima facie a belief in the idea of the identical, and Heraclitus would likely have
no issue with siding with a philosophy that guarantees identity to particular objects
in the physis. Prior to entering into a binary relationship, there must be two self-
identical qualities which will have their definition bestowed upon them by negation.
It is important to discern whether Heraclitus meant αντίθετος or διαφορετικός.4 The
Delphic nature of pre-Socratic fragments––and especially those of Heraclitus––
presents a distinct challenge for interpretation.
One of Heraclitus’ most important opposition metaphors to convey difference is
that of the bow. “The bow’s name is ‘life,’ but its job is death” (Heraclitus, qtd. in
Wheelright, 1959, p. 115, Fr. 48). Both Robinson (1987) and Wheelwright indicate
the pun on the word “bow” in relation to “life” (Bios). We are given to remind
ourselves that Heraclitus’ preferred writing style was not meter, but the aphorism,
and his way of understanding the world was not through mathematics, but language.


Hence, there is a great deal of limber wordplay in the fragments, and his emphasis
on language is of a piece with his commitment to our coming to terms with the
logos by properly reading its signs. There is scholarly accord that this fragment
suggests the intertwining or entangled relationship of life and death, that the “bow,”
used in the hunt to kill an animal, also provides for the livelihood of the hunter.
The difference between “bow” and “life” is accentual. As Robinson comments, “it
is left to us to puzzle out whether he wishes to stress the contrast between name
(life) and function (death), or the essential connection between life and death, or
both of these” (1987, p. 115). Life and death are considered opposites, but are also
similarly connected under the idea of the two possible states for every organic being
(and we might extend this to the existence and corruption of inorganic beings). We
are left here with the notion of a reality that is named in contrast to a function. As
Derrida states, “A discourse on life/death must occupy a certain space between logos
and gramme, analogy and program” (Derrida 1985, p. 4). Residing between work
(function) and life (name) is what Derrida calls a dynamis because it “is neither
active nor passive, neither outside nor inside” (Derrida, 1985, p. 5). Derrida goes
on to state that, “What one calls life - the thing or object of biology and biography
- does not stand face to face with something that would be its opposable ob-ject”
(Derrida 1985, p. 6). In this reading, Derrida may be attempting to trace yet another
of his examples of the quizzical “undecidable” that problematizes binaries, but he
may also be unintentionally courting a view of apparent equilibrium. That some
physis is held in a neither/nor state might be equivalent to saying that it is in the
milieu of equilibrial tension. The Heraclitean bow becomes an undecidable, both
a symbol and tool of life and death. Function here is not inherent to what is being
named, but something that exists in a relationship to the state-arrangement [hexis] of
a particular body.5 To return to Heraclitus’ life/death opposition, we find the motif
of the ever-enduring strife between the two––between life and death, name and
function––repeated when he states, “Sea-water is very pure and very foul water - for
fish drinkable and life-sustaining, for people undrinkable and lethal” (Fr. 61 qtd. in
Robinson 1987, p. 41). Robinson places doubt on the view that Heraclitus is merely
making a comparison between the preferences of humans and animals since it is
not demonstrable. The notion of the pharmakon inheres in this formulation, and as
will be discussed below, the blood that is good for the Hydra of Lerna is fatal for
Heracles. But what Heraclitus may actually be courting here is a dynamic ontology
where strife is indexed on that which is focused on static fixity (regulated functions)
against fluxus. The perduring aspect of Being is seemingly at war with a desire for
rest. As Gass’ character opines in his tome, The Tunnel, “Being is basically made
of heartless hunks and soulless flabs; it is inert, resists flow, dislikes disturbance,
distrusts goals; in fact, it is fat as a Buddha, sluggish, still as statues, and as pitilessly
bronze” (Gass 1995, p. 75). What Heraclitus puts forth in the place of static Being,
is a kind of aere perennius––that of (eternal) change. Whether that comes about
due to internal processes or by external excitation is to replay the traditional binary
of inside/outside. In a truly integrated dynamic system, Being would be as equally


internally excitable as it is externally (the same could be said of systems as well).

Yet, if there is a process that unites the internal/external distinction, it can be said to
rely on dissolving the binary and claiming that even the “internal” constitution of
Being is itself a component of all external relations, and that the temporary arrest of
Being into an articulated form only indicates a permeable kind of membrane (either
by the assignation of thought upon particular beings, or as a zone of slower speeds
and intensity).
It is Heraclitus’ dedication to the logos that guarantees that these conflicts that
arise from change are of some rational pattern. It leads us temptingly to consider that
Heraclitus’ logos is synonymous with a definition of information as the degree of
organization in a system, but this may prove too hasty given that he calls the universe
kosmos (order) and that the opposite of information––entropy––would be necessary
to guarantee the harmony that arises out of the eternal conflict. But where does the
universe begin? Heraclitus does not present us with a cosmogony as such, but tells
us that the universe always was, and that it was not created by gods or men. Unlike
the other Greek cosmogonists, he selects fire as the foundational principle of the
universe rather than air or water. If he means this literally or abstractly is debatable.
If literally, Charles H. Kahn points out that “the choice of fire as a substitute for air
can scarcely have been motivated by the desire for a more adequate physical theory:
nothing is literally derived from fire in the way that winds, clouds and water may
be derived from air” (Kahn 1979, p. 23). At issue here is Fragment 30: “This world,
which is the same for all, no one of gods or men has made; but it was ever, is now
and ever shall be an ever-living fire, with measures kindling and measures going
out.”6 What we can infer from this fragment would be the following: 1. There is no
beginning or origin to the universe, and therefore the past is infinite; 2. The universe
is composed of fire; 3. The processes of fire arising and fire going out is eternal, and
therefore time has an infinite future. It is this fragment that will inspire Nietzsche’s
own view that if time is infinite, and absolute equilibrium possible, then it would
necessarily already happened.
Fragment 30 militates against both the view that the universe has been wound
up, or that it will one day wind down, and thus in one stroke Heraclitus would reject
the existence of a First Mover (or Big Bang) and the second law of thermodynamics
(at least in terms of the universe losing its tensility or decaying unto inertia and
nothingness). And yet he cleaves to the notion of a lawful and organized kosmos, and
this through eternal conflict which is in itself a harmony and a unity. It is here that
we might tweak the definition of information to correspond with Heraclitus’ view
by stating that information and entropy are simply opposing forces, largely unseen,
where no force dominates forever where nothing is fully organized or disorganized.
This may attest to our own experience insofar as the attempt to install order and
organization in our systems (think here of a messy closet) will eventually succumb to
entropy for a variety of reasons before we set about attempting to restore order once
again. In Heraclitus’ view, then, neither information nor entropy will ever become
the victor in this conflict. If we pressed further in this Heraclitean view, the paired


opposites of information (degree of order) and entropy (degree of disorder) would be

a unity, for there would be no distinct difference between a system being organized,
and it becoming disorganized any more than there is a difference in going away or
coming back by the same road. This may potentially point to a possible ordinality
with respect to the relationship between information and entropy
At this point, we begin to see the philosophical roadmap emerging. Heraclitus
will give Anaximander’s apeiron a principle (fire). Nietzsche will take from
Heraclitus the idea of an everlasting time and focus on the notion of forces as being
in eternal, generative conflict. Deleuze will augment Heraclitus (and Anaximander)
by removing the monism of Heraclitus and insisting on multiplicity, if not also
finessing the apeiron as the virtual, as well as raising the oppositional nature of order
and chaos into the generative concept of the chaosmos.
There is no doubt that Heraclitus’ quasi-cosmogony is bound by his ethical
views. The logos functions as a steering mechanism, and human beings ought to a)
understand the signs that volley from change and fiery tensions; and, b) conflict is
natural, necessary, and a sign of harmony.
If one were to assign a proper symbol to Heraclitus’ undecidable binary of life
and death, the bow would be a likely offering. If we consider the bow on a purely
instrumental level, the rudimentary mechanics of its function would be allied to
the idea of strife as evidenced by the tension of elasticity; the higher the tension
in the elastic portion of the bow, the more strain on the bowed rod, the higher the
potential for propulsion of an arrow. We might relate this to physics by referencing
the observable state where if we roll a ball on a Coulomb field, the smaller the
aiming error, the wider the scattering angle according to Coulomb repulsion. Of
course, if the bow is drawn too tautly, the bow will break. This can be understood in
at least two senses. Firstly, if the bow represents the harmony of strife itself between
two opposing forces, then the maximum potential yield for action becomes manifest
unless the strife is too great and the bow of the binary ruptures. Secondly, the bow’s
breaking could suggest that an overly diligent attempt at grounding absolute fixity
and structure in the domain of Being will lead to rupture. Despite the attraction of the
second interpretation for advocates of difference, this is at odds with the historical
Heraclitus who was, in word and deed, an aristocrat who, in several of his other
fragments, lauds a highly structured and organized society. What we may retain
from his bow analogy is that there is a limit point where the potential symmetry
provided by strife results in collapse. Despite Heraclitus’ championing of flux, he
repeatedly denounces social discord and hybris as his bête noire. However, no matter
where he places his personal preferences, it may not matter given the metaphysical
position he espouses, and so true to his notion of strife is the struggle between his
ought and his philosophical is. But the bow is also musical, as in Fr. 51: “They do
not understand how, while differing from it, it is in agreement with itself. There
is a back-turning connection, like that of a bow or lyre” (Qtd in Robinson 1987,
p. 37). In this formulation, it is not so much an emphasis on binary opposition,
but rather this eternally folding or “turning back” of the world that accounts for an


interconnectedness of opposites. This is compared to the bow as musical (the bow

used with a lyre) where high and low tones are in perfect oppositional agreement to
produce attunement.7 However, this “turning back” may not suggest anything more
than a reflective consideration of the matter, that all strife is symmetrical over a long
period of time, that it achieves a harmonious union when we tally up “both sides”
of all opposing forces. In this way, taking all of time into consideration, there is
universal balance and thus symmetry. At the local level in shorter duration of time,
there is imbalance, but at the global-universal level over all time, there is balance.
In this way, it becomes difficult to distance Heraclitus from having prepared a
very early version of dialectical processes. Yet, at the same time, he stops short of
announcing the unified, synthesized end of all time beyond tantalizing us with his
claim that the resolution of all strife is identical with the end of the universe itself.
We will claim here that Heraclitus is an anti-analyst, a philosopher that performs
cata-lysis. Etymologically, ana-lysis means ‘to undo,’ ‘loosen into parts,’ and
‘resolve’ (Greek: ‘back’ [ανά] + ‘loosen’ [λυση]). The “lysis” is also tied to de-
composition. The prefix of “cata” means “down.” Chemically, the term “catalyst”
denotes the consumption of one or more chemicals that aids in a reaction and, like the
verb’s function in language, is not found in the final outcome. Fire can be considered
a variety of catalyst, and it is Heraclitus’ prime matter (fire) that both symbolizes
his ontological commitment to a “causa fluxus” and literally is that from which all
emerges and resolves into. Fire, in Heraclitean terms, is the genesis, principle, and
product of all things, its voraciousness, speed, and guarantee of perpetual change.
For Heraclitus, there is no external term or reference that makes a “third” to any
contest, no Platonic Form above or Aristotelian substrate-substance below that can
either truly explain or tame this nuanced position on the incendiary genesis-telos of
Heraclitus’ “bow” of existence from which leaps the eternal fire in volleys of
creation and destruction carries with it the metaphors of musicality and the cyclical
simultaneity of life/death. The bow, as a kind of temporal parabola that designates
the continuity of change, is itself the product of a fiery forge that has no strictly
rational basis, all Reason’s attempts to posit meaning becomes a kind of metexein
of fire; Reason sifts through the ashes to determine the meaning of this fire, or
keeps watch over those things that could possibly be fire hazards in the domain of
Being. What is critically at stake in this efflux of Heraclitean fire is hastily settled in
Aristotle’s definitions of principle and cause. However, this fiery efflux that acts as
the condition of all existence is resurrected under a new metaphor: that of light and
emanation in Neoplatonism which is later bridled by Albertus Magnus who insists
on an articulated difference between causare and fluere. In sum, what flows (the
fluent) is secondary to what influences (cause). Flowing “is not univocal causation,
since univocal causes sometimes cause their effects in another, in a subject, whereas
a source pours forth a simple form, without transmuting anything into a subject
for that form” (Bonin 2001, p. 15).8 Carefully, and sometimes not so carefully,
sidestepping heresy, Albertus Magnus is committed to the idea that what emanates


is one and singular, and what flows from it may eventually come to be diverse but is
still somewhat “one.” That is, Albert Magnus attributes oneness to God, and follows
Plotinus’ view that one cannot give what one does not have, and so therefore since
God is singular, it would follow that what flows or pours from God is also singular,
albeit less in degree of perfection. Being, under Albertus’ treatment, carries the
perfection of God by way of emanation, but is “confused”. This, however, sets up
an antinomy for it would also be reasonable to assume that a multiplicity could also
be the cause of diversity. However Being is sliced up according to the homophily
of attributes under substance, Becoming itself is left burning ambiguously outside
of ousia. Emanationism does not carry us out of the paradox between the One and
the Many, and it can be said that Being’s true nature is fundamentally and inherently
obscured by what turns out to be an antinomy. The “efflux” that “causes” Being, by
whatever name is assigned to explain it, remains – à la Kant – ignotum per ignotius.
But it is also this antinomy that is Being which opens up the horizon of Becoming
as perhaps the only anodyne. It is the antinomy that is of concern that will turn
us toward the inquiry into the matter of information and entropy’s place in that
Becoming. In fleeing dialectical considerations that are in many ways cleaner and
more convenient, if not an abstract form of approximation, this may be fairly accused
of many of the charges made against the speculative aspects of “high theory.” In the
words of Wlad Godzich, “theory is oriented more toward the study of antinomies
rather than the dialectic: in a dialectic the terms in opposition are distributed along
an axis that is always already hierarchically oriented so that the outcome of the
opposition is decided as soon as the opposition is identified” (1994, p. 23).
The oppositions in Heraclitus’ philosophy do not permanently resolve by way of
final negation, for it is rather that the constant strife [polemos] which motors existence
is also expressed in his philosophical program. For Heraclitus, it is a measure of the
unseen connections that are the strongest, whereas what is far too visible only leads
to a lack of profound understanding which masks Nature’s “truth”. However, even
this “truth” succumbs to its own vicious and constant reformations, and perhaps
the only derivative truth that Heraclitus gives us is that Nature is equivalent with
struggle. It is the tension of the bow that gives and takes life simultaneously, like a
critique that strives to create even as it destroys.


In the world of antiquity, the figure of Heracles in myth was regarded as a potent
figure of strength, virility, and courage who rid the world of monsters. The son of a
god and a human – Zeus and Alcmene – he was destined to prove his heroism through
a series of labours as a means of seeking absolution after Hera had driven him mad
and he killed his own children. Narratively, the bow or arc of this narrative begins
with tragedy and ends with same, as opposed to some of the Shakespearean forms
where tragedies generally become comedies in the end (or vice versa). Heracles’
labours present us, as does most Greek mythology, with a complex allegory. Heracles


is compelled to demonstrate some degree of mastery over water, to impose a relative

degree of order that aligns with his instrumentalist view, but it does not fully conceal
his hydrophobia.
Some materials express hydrophobic tendencies, which is to say that they have
low water solubility. When water comes in contact with the surface of hydrophobic
matter, the water molecules rigidify into a kind of protective cage as a result of being
excluded from permeating or adhering to the hydrophobic surface. Hydrophobes,
such as oil or lipids, do not mix with water molecules. In fact, the water molecule
will rearrange itself to accommodate the hydrophobe, but in so doing the water
molecules break their bonds and reform them to trap the hydrophobe in a clathrate
structure. If two hydrophobes in a solution come into close proximity, the degree of
entropy will increase because the clathrate structure will “tear,” allowing the two
hydrophobes to become contiguous, and the clathrate structure will form around the
two now contiguous hydrophobes.
Heracles’ labours are performed partially as a means of expiating his sins: the
madness that resulted in his committing of infanticide, and the curious bowed logic
of being both a mortal and a deity. In so doing, he appoints himself the task of
agent of the natural law. This law is one of harmony, equilibrium, and some degree
of predictability. The presence of monsters and their propensity for multiplication
violates that order. Heracles must go about destroying all the aberrations of the
land. It is unnatural for a Hydra to exist, and to thus violate the order of nature by
a potentially infinite replication of itself, which is only manifest if attacked. It is
equally unnatural for Antaeus to violate the laws by resisting his own usurpation.
So in a dance, Heracles performs against Antaeus in a physical demonstration that
Socrates performs against the sophists by words: he lifts them up and shows them
that they have no ground. Heracles suspends Antaeus, but this is not the sort of
suspense that affirms becoming: it rather asserts the degree of suspense that affirms
the ground and utilizes Antaeus as a titling mechanism, a warning beacon, an object
lesson, an example of Heracles’ tyranny—much in the way that Roman crucifixion,
the French Revolution’s tumbrel, or public hangings exemplify and reiterate the
dominance of the state through a direct act of making the enemy groundless and
Of course, in the Antaeus example, one may think of ground synonymously with
context, so that the reason Joyce’s Ulysses resists the crude and invasive analytical
instruments of reduction is because it is somehow “displaced” or metastasized from
its artificial original frame of the novel. The text is the knot, the bondage of discord
that the literary interpreter must untie, resolve, stretch out into one articulate string.
To compose, to lay it out dead upon the coroner’s cold slab for meticulous forensic
analysis. It is not dissimilar to Heracles’ “adventure” in bondage to the Lydian queen
Omphale; indeed, the omphalos and the anticipation of the untying, the resulting
laceration leaving the scar.9 But what better way of abolishing difference than to
disentangle the knot, and then bury it so that it will not activate memory? Heracles’
history with women––the Omphale episode being only one example among many,


one of maternal significance—is not very informed by fairness, and this masculine
complicity follows in his treatment of the feminine Hydra. Conceptually, in the
Deleuze and Guattari parlance, the Hydra qualifies as a body without organs in the
sense that it is full, a blank surface of potentiality, and because it lacks the requisite
organ-connectors. The Hydra does not differentiate the spaces and creatures around
it, nor does it differentiate within itself; it is a full body without organs, and as
such it belongs to the realm of anti-production. Its acts of “production” only occur
when a desiring-machine (such as Heracles) attempts “to break into the body without
organs, and the body without organs repels [him], since it experiences [him] as an
over-all persecution apparatus” (Deleuze and Guattari 1983, p. 8). Desire is encoded
upon the surface of the Hydra, but not internalized as its essence lest it not be a body
without organs, but instead another desiring-machine that is embroiled in constant
However, the principle that explains the monster is obscured, or otherwise does
not conform to the natural order desired by Heracles and the cosmos. The monster
is witnessed as a deviation, as a deviation that increases the degree of entropy in this
natural order of gods and men. The Hydra is multiplying noise, and an amplification
of the degree of entropy in the ordered system, and thus is a threat. Taking each of the
Herculean10 labours under consideration, we come to understand how the principles
of difference, of “subjectivity,” and arbitrariness are laid to rest in the ground. They
are demonstrated (de-monster-ated) as false, while the hero, Heracles—who sets
down the proper cosmic pattern of Good, Truth, and Justice through interpretation—
is heralded as the champion who conquers over these aberrations. But of all the
labours, the battle with the Hydra—indicating yet again the cunning of Heracles in
conjunction with his courageous might––is the scene where we will set down the
longest pause. What is a Hydra? We cannot dissociate the notion of water that the
Hydra comes from both literally and by convention of its name.
Water plays a privileged role in the ordinance of all life. It both sustains life
through the replenishing of vital personal stores of fluid for plants and animals and
it dissipates natural structures through erosion, tidal forces, monsoons, and floods.
In ancient China, the emperor who could control the flow of the Yangtze River—
essentially taming the seemingly untamable—was on high with the divine.11 The
formula for water itself is the scene of this birth/death cycle, where hydrogen--the
first element––is by far the most simple and abundant yet most potentially powerful
of the elements: the sun’s largest chemical constituent is hydrogen. Oxygen is both
needed for life and at the same time burns objects, i.e., through oxidation over time.
So, both hydrogen and oxygen possess the ability to create and destroy, engendering
a kind of Heraclitean polemos: the life and death principles associated with hydrogen
and oxygen form yet another of Heraclitus’ bows.
Water is a pernicious substance: though it obeys physical laws, it can subvert our
attempts to ultimately control it. We may build dams, but the water will merely find
another path: its flow cannot be ultimately cauterized or channeled. We may pour
it in a glass, but eventually it evaporates away. We may keep it frozen and in place,


but it merely waits until heat is applied to become fluid again. It commonly carries
sediments and deposits them, an important feature for geologists to plot the past
movements of large bodies of water, to describe phenomena like the Grand Canyon
or stalactites. Though these are effective means of recording the tracings of water,
water is also very adept at erasing its own traces or replacing old ones with newer
ones. Our attempts to organize water into order inevitably succumb to a slackening
of the degree of order in the systems we put in place. There is more order to the
glacier than the turbulent torrent of a river.
A-liquid entities attempt to divert flows or stop them entirely. Though land masses
act as containers for bodies of water, there is an underground water table. When I
insert a finger into a moving stream, the water finds alternate paths around my finger,
seemingly folding against it and moving away. It is perhaps no different if I were to
attempt to isolate some meaning in a text: alternate interpretations result from my
interruption of the flow. And much akin to the Heraclitean statement of not being
able to step in the same river twice, my acts of interpretation can never be accurately
repeated: I, too, am flowing, altering my experience as the flow of life causes me
to be diverted in a multitude of ways. So it is not the Lacanian points de capiton
tying down the upholstery of text to produce meaning, for there is no way of tying
down the flow of water permanently. Though one may freeze a particular section,
this will only yield what the text looked like at one particular time. But even this is
folly, for the text is, in a sense, living and moving. Moreover, one’s involvement of
investment in the text is not a matter of cold and sterile analysis. The connection here
may be made between text and the Being-of-Becoming, a continuum of differences
that cannot be reconciled into a stable and fixed system for the purposes of deriving a
singular Truth. Although we are speaking here of the multivalency of interpretation,
the same here may be said of events: they are simply not repeatable in physics.
Events, systems, orders (in their varying degrees and durations), and states are all
If water may function as a suitable analogy for text and becoming, can it also hold
itself true for language itself? Water does not repeat itself, only the laws that govern
its movement. One cannot reproduce an identical quantity of water or the exact
arrangement of molecules in a glass. Could desire (as desire without an object, or a
question without solution that thereby moves rather than be placed “on ice” in the
form of a solution) also be analogous to water? What of the “lunar influence” upon
water? Invoking a Deleuzian model, we can associate water with assemblages that
cut through strata, forming contours and lines, picking up and depositing sediments
from these strata to create new assemblages con solidare. Language and desire—
perhaps not to be taken as exclusively different––have fluidity about them; their
objects are moved and are moving. There is desire in language, and this in turn is
moved by the operations of its own rather oblique laws. These flows have their own
tension owing primarily to the constituents of its property. Just as water is indifferent
to an allegiance with anything it so carries in terms of sediment, so too is the faculty
of language where words are merely sedimentary to the differential articulations


and expressions belonging to the acts of speaking and writing. And so, too, is the
turbulence and perpetual shift of becomings that underwrite all manifestations and
transformations of Being.
Heracles’ relation to water is problematic in many parts of his story. One very
innocuous example might be in Hera’s act of sending a sea creature, the crab Cancer,
who nips at Heracles’ heel.12 Heracles’ response is brute and quick: he issues a
mighty kick that sends the crab hurtling to its death. Heracles’ adventures with water
continue when he is requested to clean out a stable of staggering unkemptness. Here
Heracles is presented with a problem of maximum disorder, and tasked with restoring
order. Instead of taking on the task in any conventional sense, Heracles exhibits
his prowess over water by diverting two rivers that effectively clean out the entire
stable.13 This indicates that Heracles has learned how to master the flow of water, to
make it do his bidding. But it is not that the water is mystically under his power, but
that he has a basic understanding of how he can manipulate the natural laws of water
to achieve the desired outcome, in using some degree of disorder against disorder to
produce the opposite. Heracles learns how to make the disordered and the monstrous
useful. At the completion of the twelve labours, Heracles must do battle against
the river god Achelous for possession of the lovely Deianira. Achelous, a fluid and
protean creature, can alter his own shape at will, but loses at the moment when he
consolidates his form into that of a bull, whereby Heracles rips off the horn, the
river’s phallus. Achelous loses at the point that he goes against his own fluid nature
to assume the nature of the ordered solid.
But we must return to one of Heracles labours; more specifically to the forensic
details of his encounter with the Hydra. Heracles must satisfy Eurystheus, the jealous
cousin and King of Tiryns. Not only does Heracles order Iolaus to use the firebrand
to put an end to the bifurcation of the Hydra’s heads (the act performed by Iolaus
which Eurystheus claims invalidates Heracles’ completion of that labour, justifying
the addition of two more to the initially agreed ten), but he also realizes the potential
properties of the Hydra—which he can use in future adventures. By dipping arrows
in Hydra’s poisonous blood, he is armed for a future entanglement with the beast
Geryon. The very familiar passages on the polyvalent aspect of the pharmakon in
Derrida’s Disseminations carry particular relevance. Why is the Hydra’s blood,
a poison on its own, used as a kind of cure? The Hydra is a poisonous beast of
difference, but when the blood is applied by Heracles against Geryon, it functions
as a cure to rid the land of a dangerous beast. This poisonous tincture is also applied
against the lusty centaur Nessos who attempted to rape Deianira (Heracles’ last wife),
but the centaur is resistant to the poisonous effects (a question we leave suspended,
but provocative enough to fuel inquiry; perhaps the centaur—itself an aberration,
a playful “monster” could not be harmed by that which is consanguineous).14
Again the poison plays a role in the final dispatching of Heracles, when Deianira
unwittingly uses it as a love salve applied to the inside of Heracles’ tunic to prevent
his infidelities. The blood of the corrupt genealogy acts as a pharmakon against the
monsters and the hero himself. It is by the trickery of Nessos the centaur (an event


in itself ironic due to the fact that Heracles would be defeated by both a “monster”
and one of his own weapons), that the gall is applied to the tunic. The gall burns
Heracles’ flesh and it bonds with his skin, so that as he removes the tunic his skin
is ripped off with it. Heracles: flayed like an animal, just as he had skinned the
Nemean lion. Why this ironic twist of fate? What had Heracles done to warrant
this? Perhaps it was his punishment for using the Hydra’s blood at all, in a narrative
punishment for making something instrumental out of something belonging to an
aberration. Quite possibly the aberrant defect of the Hydra itself, its corruption of
the natural order, meant that any of its parts or fluids that would be used would also
be “flawed,” and thus unreliable and leading to the ruin of the hero. It may have
also been a narrative balance in acknowledging the fact that Heracles himself is an
aberration due to his inhuman strength and demi-god genealogy, and so must be—
like the beasts he dispatches—restored to order. The death of Heracles may be called
a “thirteenth labour” wherein he de-monster-ates himself. He is already a monster in
that he is of mixed natures: one half divine, the other mortal––a demi-god. It is this
same idea of the bowed opposites that forms this pharmakonic narrative, placing in
an undecidable reserve the idea of whether to attribute heroism or monstrousity to
To comprehend the dynamics of this mythological drama, it is useful to incorporate
the associations that develop and are produced when we consider Heracles’ arsenal.
The outstanding fact of possessing an arsenal is in league with being played out on
the surface of polemos. When one possesses an arsenal, one is anticipating conflict.
There is an investment in weapons to complement this arsenal as an attempt to rig
the outcomes of chance. By having an arsenal, Heracles effectively is attempting
to increase his statistical chances at success in battle. He may even tie together the
procurement of effective weapons in the arsenal to his anticipated outcomes: respect,
glory redounded unto him, the destruction of all aberrations, and so forth. After his
defeat of the Hydra, Heracles prepares a sheaf of arrows tipped with the poisonous
Hydra blood. The sheaf is a gathering together of elements into a bundle that he will
utilize in his future “speech acts” against other beasts. His arsenal consists of this
gathering together of the instruments of the pharmakon: Heracles will use poison
to cure the land. We see here that Heracles is the agent of a narrative apoptosis,
attempting to trace the figure of law upon the land through the destruction of
monstrous differences (to which, as we said, even he must succumb), yet we also see
here that Heracles’ apoptotic function must rely in partial measure upon the product
of metastasis––the Hydra itself.
What is the motivation to kill the Hydra? Heracles must gain control over
difference; rig the outcome, so as to ensure that his destiny is fulfilled. By controlling
difference through its annihilation, Heracles can gain mastery over his own fate. The
moral: abolish difference in favour of a linear model that is safe from the sporadic
and fluid. Abolish chance and adhere to strict Necessity, and if the reliable logical
rules do not apply in thwarting the monsters, use their own corrupt logic against
them. By imputing to the beasts actions of tyranny and bloodshed against the


human world, this merely adds flavour to the allegory, thereby justifying the death
of said creatures and sanctioning Heracles as a hero rather than a misguided and
intrinsically violent being on a long and labourious quest to prove his manhood and
seek absolution for his own crimes. Control or violence against water is illusory at
best: it provides temporary comfort and satisfaction to those who need to feel a sense
of mastery (as indeed all forms of actualization are temporary “haltings” of virtual
potentialities). Dedicated to embarking on a long quest to prove singular meaning,
to achieve the phallic Truth, Heracles undergoes these labours of interpretation, each
one an instance of their cunning in abolishing difference by using some trick against
But does Heracles ever initiate communication with the Hydra, or does some
prejudice or linguistic barrier prohibit the diplomatic course of action? It is reported
that the Hydra’s breath is poisonous and deadly,15 and so this property would attach
to any speech acts it would perform. As if moving beyond Anaximenes’ cosmogony
that all is air, or pneuma, we might here modify Heraclitus’ fragment on the bow
where the pneuma’s name is life (breath, or breath of life) and its function with
respect to the Hydra is death. Poison-speech, subversive speech, the rhetoric of
difference: is it more likely that this allegory does not refer to an actually literal
deadliness of speech, but is rather a figurative anomaly inherent in what the Hydra
says, for its presence is denoted by the only speech act attributed to it: issuing fatal
breath. From sirens to sophistry, the dangers of speech are well communicated as
a leitmotif, speech itself just as much of a pharmakon as writing, as Derrida has
frequently argued. Despite the communicative disorder between Heracles and the
Hydra, the fact that the Hydra performs any speech act at all reifies its terrifying
presence. Such a robust and self-styled noble figure following a destiny, how is it
that Heracles is incapable of communication with what he perceives as a beast that,
for him, violates a limited conception of natural order? One body, one head, one
speech, one act: that is the way it ought to be; Heracles is incensed at the violation
of this natural order, the lack of accord in the Hydra’s ontology and Heracles’ deeply
ingrained ethics.
If by dialogue we consider that the sword speaks on his behalf, and that Heracles
(acting as logos) speaks for the father, then this is the form of communicative
discourse that transpires. But why this act and no other? There can be no alternative
to de-monster-ation in this case, according to the demands placed upon the logos. The
Hydra must be punctuated: arrested and clarified. But it is Heracles, the cosmically
ordained officer of the law on a case devised by a jealous employer, who believes
arresting the culprit will also clarify it. As clarification fails, the only alternative is
to match one irony against another: Reason’s inability to act reasonably in the face
of the unreasonable, and the Hydra’s own complex set of ironies. Heracles acts with
sword as judge and executioner: that is the only way to clarify the creature: through
its destruction, its de-monster-ation. The sentence is pronounced in the name of the
father who is the law, for Heracles works under His power: “before being reined in
and tamed by the kosmos [the father as law-giver] and order of truth, logos is a wild


creature, an ambiguous animality” (Derrida 1981, p. 116). Heracles, acting-logos,

is useless without being set to task, without being sent as a curative of perceived
diseases in whatever forms they take. In the absence of the father, Heracles reverts to
the animalistic. The Hydra is indeed a creature of ambiguous animality, but it turns
out that Heracles is as well in this standoff, but of a different variety: his actions
are sanctioned by the animality of alleged Truth. Heracles-as-logos must have
something to do, some purpose and foreseeable end to justify his existence, or else
lapse entirely into a crude animal state of living merely from moment to moment.
Heracles violates the sanctity of the dead by making the dead useful. By dipping
the arrows and anointing them with the poison, he transforms the Hydra’s purpose—
itself an indication of difference, for it appears to violate the treatment of the dead.
But Heracles finds himself justified because it was only a beast, unworthy of the
noble treatment afforded the deceased.16 By rendering the corpse useful, he performs
a crude operation of reduction that places the Hydra under the category of utility
(but the Hydra was not useful alive, other than to unwittingly serve the destiny of
Heracles the slayer of beasts). It is the scene of Heracles the demonstrator (a self-
styled de-monster-ator) who transports the Hydra into the tight confines of double
utility (blood-weapon and body-destiny). If Heracles were not so intent on his
destiny through these rather arbitrary labours as given him by the jealous cousin,
would he undertake different labours? It appears that Heracles fulfills the role of an
assassin-for-hire whose expected payment is the respect destiny will afford him and
the full pardon for his sins, an ancient world crusader. The killing of the Hydra is
little more than an exercise, a proof of his powers, and perhaps an extraneous act. He
has transformed the Hydra into a doubly articulated utility (as a means of adding to
his hero status and as the use of the Hydra’s blood), and Heracles is no stranger to
allowing the existence of monsters as long as they can be translated into something
useful for his own desiring ends—for even at a young age, Heracles learned how to
utilize weapons under the tutelage of the centaur, Chiron.
The actual constitution of the Hydra of Lerna is deserving of some discussion.
According to the accounts of Diodorus, Simonides, Apollodorus, and Hyginus—
who disagree as to the exact number of heads the Hydra possessed—all the heads
were human in appearance, but the central head was eviternal.17 This eviternality
presents us with a problem insofar as it is a deferment of its completion toward
a disclosure of truth, for it is not framed by a mortal end: it possesses an origin,
but no telos. In the traditional account, Heracles lopped off the heads while an
associate, Iolaus, applied a burning iron to cauterize the wounds. Due to Iolaus’
assistance,18 Eurystheus discounted the labour, which would appear to raise the issue
of singularity and the act: is the action of the hero only recognized if it is done
without cooperation? Perhaps on the whole, this act of assistance weakens a claim
of Heracles being the One, the individual hero, thereby constituting confusion as
to whom honour and reverence is to be granted. A “polyheroism” would violate an
existent order that seeks to invest all reverence in the singular individual who can be
shown to be self-sustaining, the icon of “he who works alone.” More importantly,


if Heracles is the embodiment of the father’s speech, the logos, then it is absolutely
necessary that he be singular; a second figure would disrupt the genealogical validity
of the actor, and would raise the possibility of a dissenting or oblique interpretation
to take place. Iolaus is not genealogically connected to Zeus in the salient and direct
manner that Heracles is. Just who is the direct messenger of the father?––this question
would run if this non-labour labour was admitted as credible. Polyheroism is far too
ambiguous, leading perhaps to an argument as to who the real hero actually is. To be
distinguished is to be singular, and Iolaus’ assistance diminishes the accomplishment
of Heracles. In addition, for there to be more than one “hero” as the two figures
confront the Hydra would be an affirmation that only the logic of “more than one”—
not the one—can be victorious against the creature that violates the order of positive
singularity. Heracles’ brute act of applying the sword clearly fails to destroy the
Hydra, thus once more violating what was otherwise expected: that mortal things
will perish under the fatal blow of the sword.
The name of the Hydra is imposed or grafted upon it at the scene of a violent
encounter. This name is synonymous with monstrosity, and is the attempt to cancel
its singularity while containing it within the metaphysical category by way of a
scission, a cut—but a scission that is deliberately planned in the spirit of a logic of
pure exclusion. The hybrid creature must be made other, a shadow component, a
non-creature. Heracles’ signing of the name of the Hydra is an attempt to halt the
Hydra’s natural process of becoming. Heracles bears the name of the Father which
he uses to (counter)sign the Other. Hydra is the “read” name while the written mark
or sign of monster is written upon it insofar as there is an ontological claim, a copula
that unites Hydra with monster.
The eviternal head was buried under a large boulder to lament for all time. The
justification of the Hydra’s murder was owing to its natural propensity to pollute the
land and sea with its foulness.19 Although the intent of Heracles’ act was not in the
service of alleviating this condition, but to promote his own destiny; otherwise, could
it be said that Heracles would actually care about Lerna?20 More importantly, does
the existence of the eviternal head suggest that Heracles was impotent in annihilating
difference entirely? Perhaps, or perhaps it was almost divinely necessary that there
be a witness (although if this were true, why is Iolaus not suitable to bear witness?).
Heracles could not destroy difference, but he certainly could bury it, conceal it
from view. The presence of the Hydra would subsequently only be felt through
the misapplication of its vitae, used, as we mentioned above, as a pharmakon.21
Heracles the assassin also becomes a kind of doctor of the land, ridding it of the
outgrowths that threaten against the homogeneity of the law, treating the Hydra as a
mere apraxia; that is, refusing to recognize the identity of the Hydra in and of itself,
but only seeing its use—a theme which returns to us the idea that the monster’s
only true purpose in analysis is to give a privileged account of the normal. It is
this use of the vitae that literally gives Heracles the gall to defeat other beasts. The
quizzical figure of Iolaus, using his own cunning, delivers on the militaristic dictate
of Heracles: the beast must be destroyed, or at least suppressed if its destruction is


not possible. And so the suppression of the difference the Hydra engenders is all
that can truly be accomplished. The daughter of Echidna and Typhon must be put
in her place, so to speak, by the male bravado of the conquering hero who acts as
if his labours are not somehow driven by self-interest. We cannot forget that the
Hydra is a feminine creature, and that he “who would restrain her [woman] restrains
the wind and grasps oil with his right hand” (Proverbs 27:16). This is yet another
classical manifestation of the formula that renders woman the untruth of truth.22 It
is also a recurring motif that powers Barbara Creed’s monstrous feminine, still a
reliable gendered trope in modern day narratives from the monstrous hive-queen in
the Alien movie franchise to the loud public outcry when it is a woman rather than
a man responsible for murdering a child. And so Heracles performs and plays out
this reversal of the castration scene against the feminine transgressor. Does Heracles
object to the fact that he cannot force the beast to create connective syntheses with
the world and be supplicant to the phallagocentric law? To allay the feelings of
his own castration anxiety, Heracles transforms the Hydra from a monster to a pet,
thereby completing the cycle of de-monster-ation. His suppression of the Hydra, and
the feminine, makes the monster sensible to analytic reason and thereby cancels its
title (but a title that was imposed from an outside to begin with).
Heracles most definitely has severe issues with women. Was it not Hera who,
objecting to the infidelity of Zeus and the love-child produced, sent two snakes to
murder Heracles as an infant?23 Was it not Hera who drove Heracles mad, causing
him to murder his own wife and children, and then having to atone by going to
the oracle of Delphi to obtain his “mission plans” for his redemption? Will not
Heracles associate the Hydra as the combined embodiment of Hera and the two
serpents? Heracles has very serious step-mother issues which he projects unto the
world. But even his name is attributed to this murderous step-mother, for Heracles
means winning glory through Hera, rendering Hera the unwitting causal agent of his
glory. But these labours are necessary for him to win his own name, to remove the
signature of Hera entirely from it. Adding to this, we could append his problematic
relationship with Queen Omphale, and the many challenges with infidelity that
eventually and indirectly resulted in his own death.
The Hydra’s response to attack is to fractalize itself, to bifurcate through self-
similarity. The sword, as effective tool of producing negation, attempts to cancel
the Hydra (before replication, the production of the Hydra is in and of itself alone
constituted) with the curious result that absence is made impossible, that order is
not restored. In fact, the sword of the hero only exacerbates the enigma, and each
swing of the sword only results in productive division. The hero must seek other
alternatives seeing as coexistence has already been ruled out by an overdetermining
logic that renders cohabitation impossible. Rather, an inventive form of violence
must be deployed against the Hydra. Heracles faces the same problem as played out
countlessly in the history of humankind: how to reverse a state of disorder that defies
an ordered system. The two same options apply: destroy the disorder, or conceal it––
be this apparent disorder a “monster” or a messy closet. But it is here that Heracles


is assuming, under logos, a single, ordered, logical system. Or, rather, it is an ethical
question for Heracles that he has answered in advance that the system ought to be
ordered. However, system and state are two different things, and in assuming only
one system is correct, and that all states must be uniformly governed by that system’s
rules is folly, for every system has some degree of entropy that cannot be reduced
to zero. Heracles appears to embrace the pure information dream of a completely
ordered system where the relative degree of organization is absolute. Heracles, in
his combat with the Hydra, opts for both destruction and concealment: destruction
insofar as he de-monster-ates the Hydra through conversion (making it useful), and
concealment through the burying of its head. However, in this hasty burial, what
is really being concealed in this event is the brute truth of Heracles’ own living
violation of the kosmos.
Heracles, as the son, is yet another figure in myth that must play the role of the
logos. This does not prevent his animality, however, for “logos is a zoon. An animal
that is born, grows, belongs to the phusis” (Derrida 1991, p. 79). Heracles cannot
escape his animality, an animality he shares with the Hydra, but he can reconcile his
complements of lack (respect, perfection, uncorrupted genealogy with the divine)
through an act that is in the service to the attainment of glorious ends and love
from the Father. Heracles feels the deep wound or cut, another scission, from the
Father. He seeks to rejoin the Father’s household, the precinct of divine law. He
eventually returns, but it is at the expense of his animal body. He is restored to order
and placed in the ranks of the dead hero once his death is a sealed event. The body is
burned on a great pyre, a testament to the hero, so that nothing of this animal body
remains. This also removes any evidence that he was a “man” in the conventional,
animal sense. Heracles is salvaged from animality twice: the first instance by
electing to take on the task of upholding the Law, and the second instance when he
finally surrenders his mortal body to the flames. If this were not the case, without
submitting to the dictates of the kosmos and the order of truth, Heracles (as acting-
logos) would have remained a wild beast (Derrida 1991, p. 116). Oddly enough, the
Hydra also succumbs to this ordering by the kosmos that parcels out its existence as
an ontological impossibility—the distinction between the two on this scheme being
that the Hydra did not elect to be rendered “intelligible” to the order of truth.
A supplementary irony inherent in the Hydra concerns logos itself. If logos is to
have an effect, there must be some degree of fear that keeps others under its power
(Derrida 1991, p. 120). If logos can provide a salve for the fear of death, then it can
ensure the loyalty of the “laity.” However, the Hydra--itself eviternal—has no need
of logos, is not frightened by the pronouncements made in its name, and does not
need to lose its life to replicate its eidos. The Platonic notion of anamnesis requires
that if the eidos is to be replicated in a body, the former body must already have
passed on. However, the Hydra can conceptually replicate its eidos without dying.
This replication cannot take place without the antagonism the Hydra (as mythos)
shares with logos—a bizarre symbiosis of its being’s determination. Only when the
logos is somehow provoked to attack (as Necessity dictates it must), can the eidos


of the Hydra be actualized in fractalization, as manifested by its bifurcating heads.

What is repeated is the concept of growth that is virtually infinite, a property the
Hydra shares with certain plant forms and, of course, the virtual properties of water’s
movement. All Heracles has done is to divert the Hydra to the ground, where water
eventually flows.
The metastasis of the Hydra is present in the sense that it is deprived of a true
categorical stability in ontology. It mutates into something other when it is seized
upon by the desiring-machine that is Heracles, thus functioning in reactive self-
displacement. But before this conflict, without the presence of a prescribed nomos
and logos, it gathers in itself a tight and ever-increasing reserve that eventually
breaks out in an ecstatic mutation. Heracles’ attack triggers the Hydra’s self-
protective reaction, while at the same time reiterating the law that denies the Hydra
a full existence in the logos. Does it rebel by multiplying itself, its action essentially
ironic in that Heracles’ attempt to negate the monster merely produces more of
its presence? Is it a serial repetition that goes against the banal prominence of the
singular sign (the code of Zeus, the laws of the polis, or the more metaphysical idea
of one essence for one existence)?
The Hydra is forced by the point of the sword to reproduce itself self-symmetrically,
a task of multiplication it would not undertake if left alone. It is the denomination
of transgressor that forces this self-symmetrical iteration. With infinite potential
replication, the Hydra carries its initial number of heads to an nth power. The heads
replay themselves at every juncture of violence that is in itself a response to the
transgressive element of the hero. However, there is something ironic about the
Hydra: attempts to destroy it only cause it to multiply its life.24 This repetition as
irony subverts the given laws of the natural order that attempt to determine it.
It is here that we take notice of a very specific kind of encoding that changes the
Hydra’s (re)iteration into one of (re)inscription, and this partially due to being put
à coup de poignard: the necessary function of self-symmetrical iteration and the
manifestation of the Hydra’s first order irony. The homophony of coup, indicated
by Stefano Agosti and set into lyrical motion in Derrida’s Spurs: Nietzsche’s Styles
are well known.25 But what kind of coup fits here, is suitable to/for the de-monster-
ated Hydra? We’ve already discussed above the pharmakon nature of Heracles’
curative attack, his coup de force under the command of destiny, law, manhood, and
the absent father, not to mention the use of blood as poison against other alleged
transgressors. The coup requires an instrument; in this case, Heracles’ poignard (in
the government coup, we can ally the instrument with the abstract instruments of
rebellion). Heracles must overthrow the monster (made so because its existence was
not sanctioned by God the father) in the name of the succeeding order that is to
replace it.26 The sword is, besides the extension of the arm or the phallus of the father,
that which is to inscribe order upon apparent disorder the Hydra is made to represent
(and only analysis itself is capable of forcing differential beasts into submitting to
crude representation). The point or sword is the stylus of this inscription: a bloody
pen that inscribes the order upon the Hydra, and is later a re-inscription upon other


monsters: “the pen, when you have followed it to the end, will have turned into
a knife” (Derrida 1991, p. 302. Or, as Derrida states elsewhere, “style…uses its
spur (éperon) as a means of protection against the terrifying, blinding, mortal threat
(of that) which presents itself, which obstinately thrusts itself into view” (1979,
p. 39). There is an assumption at play here in this allegorical model that there is
only one sword wielded by the only one suited to carry it, a sword of Truth that
will lay “untruth” to rest and bring about unity, and it will do so according to logos
in a way that can be described as being done stylistically (and, in fact, style can be
considered a prescriptive device, a kind of Platonic conception where all copies must
pay tribute to the Form). However, the sword is proven impotent, flaccid, producing
the ineffective and ironic outcome of multiplication rather than “to cut down.” But
one cannot cut water without dispersion resulting. A veil must be thrown over water,
a covering, a burial (ceremonious or otherwise), even, perhaps, a stone. But what
prevents the eviternal head from flowing, from disseminating itself underneath the
cover of order, to emerge and interrupt elsewhere? The law is enforced and inscribed
à coup de poignard, but it is proven to be an impotent combative gesture, a rattling
of the sabre. If not for the interruption of a second style introduced by the cunning
of Iolaus (the firebrand) and the availability of a veil, a funereal shroud (the stone),
the coup would have been a total failure. Instead, a temporary victory is attained,
a deferral of the final struggle. The stone of the law not only acts as a cautionary
marker, but also designates the triumph of order over disorder. The stone of the law
also doubles as tomb, a grave marker designating what lies beneath. It is the writing
of the Hydra’s existence as a monster, and writing out of the Hydra’s singularity as
other. And, as we know with such acts of writing and law, “writing…assures the
law’s permanence and identity with the vigilance of the guardian” (Derrida 1991,
p. 116). What is troubling about this operation where Heracles attempts to disclose
his aletheia at the expense of petrifying the Hydra under the lethe of the Law, is that
it indicates the presence of that which, according to the natural order that the stone
represents, cannot exist according to the Law. Not only can the Hydra no longer be
alive, but also it could never have existed. The inscription would read: here lies that
which does not and cannot exist. Such a present absence rings absurdly. The paradox
of the buried object gains a new meaning: something that is both present and absent.
The zoographical monument becomes nothing but an empty part of a mythological
bestiary. As a cautionary monument, it also states that such creatures of difference
are not permitted to live lest they suffer the same ignoble negation. Moreover,
Heracles effectively—in signing, sealing, and perhaps even delivering the Hydra
(like a letter) unto nullity—sells it to sophistry. Are not the sophists in the Platonic
dialogues presented as multi-headed, multi-tongued, all originating from the same
“beast”? Do they not, like the Hydra, speak poisons into the air that Socrates takes
upon himself to cure?
Heracles signs with the coup as a strategic and tactical restoration to order,
remedying the “diseased speech” of the Hydra by writing upon the monster the
code of law which will determine the Hydra as monster. The remainder of this


operation—of the Herculean labours—is the genesis of the “pure” and legitimated
bestiary. The Hydra is pre-declined membership to the canon, the bestiary, the Ark
(or arche) of animal-value. Under the tyrannical and prejudiced sign of Zeus, to
which Heracles acts as a hit man, the Hydra is driven from the internal economy
of beasts and rendered an exile. But before this pivotal exile that brings elation to
the law-abiding and the gods, the Hydra is defiled by a kind of castration by fire,
cauterized by the firebrand that functions as the royal seal of Zeus. It is the imprint
of a dead signature upon that which lives and moves, an attempt to render static or
non-existent with the use of signing. Heracles signs the Hydra from his position as
the upholder of the nomos, yet the Hydra countersigns Heracles with its blood. It is a
contract signed in blood. The countersigning of the Hydra (as a signature event that
occurs in the “absence” of the Hydra) effectively excoriates Heracles, exposing him
for the monster and animal he truly is.
The sign affixed to the Hydra slides off, for it is not rendered non-existent, just
buried in a tomb. The act of signing deterritorialized the space in which the Hydra
was not a monster, and Heracles reterritorialized upon this space with Zeus’ signature
that declared that the Hydra was indeed a monster to be de-monster-ated. The Hydra
is de- and re-contextualized by the sign of divine graffiti. The Hydra is declared an
aberrant impossibility, and suddenly the entire matter is drawn to a close.
It suffices us to leave the matter open, unlike the grave, to declare that the Herculean
labours are logic-intensive exercises that allegorically reflect the interests of the
Greek logos. A prolonged interest in this encounter with this allegorical treatment
of metonymy is further inflamed by the fact that this encounter also represents one
of Heracles’ non-labour labours (recalling Eusytheus’ claim of discounting it). What
grants Eusytheus the ability to make such pronouncements? What, according to him,
is a labour? If we take labour to be a stage in the realization of self-consciousness
as we find in Hegel, and according to that formulation, would not Heracles’ act
still be sufficient in declaring a legitimate labour, owing to the fact that he does
affirm his own being by employing his problem solving ability (and merely directs
Iolaus, who is now rendered the slave in this dialectic)? Certainly, but Eusytheus is
the true director of the acts, for it is his stamp of legitimacy that will arbitrate as to
Heracles’ worthiness as a hero, even though Heracles hails to a higher law, that of
Zeus. Opening this inquiry up to labour and legitimacy appears to be at the heart
of the Herculean matter, for it is crucial to trace the line of descent that authorizes
Heracles’ acts and places them in the category of heroism.
The scission takes place, continues to take place. The coup as coupure. A de-cision
has been made from on high, from Zeus, and Heracles is the agent to deliver the cut,
to act as the surgeon who will remove the malignancy, even though the Hydra—when
left alone—seems to be a benign entity. Heracles begins with a cut, brandishing the
sword to sever a head. Only the head of his God and Father is allowed to remain
attached to the body of the Law. If scission marks the text’s interruption, Heracles’
de-cision to dispatch the Hydra is a violent insertion of the law within alterity. The
aberrant speech acts of the Hydra must be castrated by an authentic phallus that is


legitimated by a higher law. The firebrand, the sword, the arrow: all are reduced to
their polite form of the pen, but the pen is equally vicious in its scission properties,
for not only does it divide parts into categories under the law it attempts to inscribe
into immutable presence, but it marks (or defaces) the virgin surface of difference.
It commits an act of graffiti upon the Hydra, de- and reterritorializing it, de- and
recontextualizing it over and against its non-present nature. In more than one sense,
the Hydra does not “make the cut.”
The writing, or “defacing,” upon the Hydra asserts at least three laws: 1. The
Hydra is exterior and inferior to the Law, and belongs to the order of simulacra;
2. The Hydra is harmful and infects the land/people (a link in the law that connects
culture to land, ostensibly territory) which threatens the ordinance of Law; 3. If we
must admit of the Hydra’s existence, it is only to affirm the unity of “proper” Being
through an Other that is not “proper” under the Law (Derrida 1991, p. 111).
The Hydra is a supplement, for the trace of its “signs” are never abolished because
its eviternal presence will always (re)in-cite to memory. As a supplement, it “is not,
is not a being (on). It is nevertheless not a simple non-being (me on), either. Its
slidings slip it out of that simple alternative presence/absence. That is the danger”
(Derrida 1991, p. 109). The Hydra thwarts the Herculean dialectics of a disjunctive
“or” to the supplementarity of the conjunctive “and.” To each of Heracles’ thrusts to
lop off Hydra heads with the “or” of de-cision (de + caedere), the Hydra responds
with an “and…and…and…”
The implications of the Hydra is simply a restating of the affirmation of a language
of difference, of a resistance to the lexicalization and structural rules that attempt to
keep language rigidified in order (what Derrida would call “monstrous texts” or
what others have dubbed “hydrapoetics”27 It is important here that we (re)cite the
effects of the Hydra’s blood. The Heracles-Hydra myth is heavily saturated with
potent scenes that concern blood, tissue, poison, and deception. For this discussion,
we will require the use of the pharmakon. The pharmakon, indicating the pharmacy,
signals out for us the theatrical component of this myth, for as theatre, “it involves
forces, space, law, kinship, the human, the divine, death, play, festivity” (Derrida
1991, p. 142). And, since we are dealing with a fundamental transgression (Being
versus Other whose metaphysical presupposition cannot be sustained due to all the
counter- or differing evidence we have hitherto provided), we understand that this
transgression cannot be appropriated or understood by logic, but “only within the
graphics of the supplement or of the pharmakon” (Derrida 1991, p. 153).
The Hydra has, at this point, been “defeated,” though its revenge has yet to be
enacted by another agent, that of Nessos. Nessos “commissions” Dianeira through
deception to “paint” the inside of Heracles’ tunic. She willingly does this under the
guarantee that the poison she is offered is actually a love salve to ensure Heracles’
fidelity, which implies yet another animalistic faculty in Heracles: that of his
insatiable lust. She trusts the centaur and applies the “salve” to the tunic. Pharmakon
also extends its definition to paint. What occurs here is that a blood-painting is being
applied to the inside of a garment. This painting, if it is a means of representing the


Heracles-Hydra conflict, despite Dianeira’s intentions (love, possession, ensuring

investment), is an instance of the pharmakon. More importantly, Heracles, in an
unwitting symbolic moment, internalizes a re-memoration of the event, (re)citing the
Hydra’s existence. There is a delicate irony here insofar as Heracles had laboured to
drive the Hydra out (from the land and the Law), and yet he is now internalizing the
poison of the absent creature buried in a tomb. This poison, this salve, both, is the
pharmakon, and it “always penetrates like a liquid; it is absorbed, drunk, introduced
into the inside” (Derrida 1991, p. 152). How is Heracles to reconcile this distinction
of inside/outside that he has laboured so vigilantly to maintain, yet has turned back
against him and shown this distinction to be illusory? Heracles responds with a
deadly allergic reaction: the blood of the Hydra fuses to his skin and causes him
to tear off his flesh in the ensuing agony. Whereas he had applied the pharmakon
of the Hydra’s blood against perceived monsters, the ultimate result is his own
excoriation. The poison of his own writing (inscribing upon the surface of the Hydra
that it is a monster) has returned to him and subjected him to the same retributive
logic: Heracles is not “natural.” His link to the divinities, his superhuman strength,
cannot be contained by the logic he acts as guardian to uphold. The Hydra’s blood as
pharmakon performs yet another operation: the re-inscription of “monster” upon his
flesh as the blood seeps into his body. As a poison, the blood-salve kills his physical
body, but as a remedy it restores him to order: he dies and returns to the heavens. No
undecidable must remain for this myth, so his body is burned to purify it of poison,
and his soul is released (purifying the psyche by destroying the soma and detaching
it from the phusis). The pharmakon acts as “the combat zone between philosophy
and its other,” and so the Hydra was the infinite reserve, the pharmacy, the boundless
fund of the pharmakon, and “no ‘logic,’ no ‘dialectic,’ can consume its reserve even
though each must endlessly draw on it and seek reassurance through it” (Derrida
1991, p.138-9). Heracles depended too heavily on the other that was the Hydra, and
the debt is repaid in an act of retributive justice. Heracles’ “logic” is not too dissimilar
from Maurice Barrès, insofar as to “realize itself as a Self, the Self must work on
itself, from itself, and actively and even violently defend itself against the world of
others. The Self is thus always struggling against all exterior elements, especially
all nonselves.”28 Though Heracles struggled valiantly to determine himself a Self at
the expense of rendering the Hydra a non-self, or Other, it turns out that Heracles’
selfhood is thrown into jeopardy once the logic of exclusion returns to haunt him.
The Hydra is force while Heracles is power—the distinction being that force
arrives from the virtual and dissipates itself through a method of perturbing actuality,
whereas power seeks to actualize (render inert through homogeny) the active force
to serve some molar end. Power is the translation of force into the regime of utility.
The Hydra is bound up with forces, and Heracles attempts to impinge upon the
multiplicity of forces the Hydra presents by claiming the singular “meaning” which
he will make correspond to it.
Despite Heracles’ incredible physical prowess (which is perhaps meant to signal
out his genealogical link to divinity and crudely express his power as upholder of


the Law), the category that he inhabits possesses much more power. It is the same
with a judge whose power to sentence people from innocent citizen to guilty criminal
expresses a power that exceeds the physical power of the body that pronounces
judgements. The judge is an expression of the law, and the law is a power that
invests certain individuals with the ability to act as its agent. Heracles is under the
categorical formation of the “hero,” but it is the hero as (re)presented in theatrical
terms. This is to say that Heracles is yet another repetition of “hero-ness,” for “the
hero repeats precisely because he is separated from an essential, infinite knowledge.
This knowledge is in him, it is immersed in him and acts in him, but acts like
something hidden, like a blocked representation” (Deleuze 1994, p. 15). So long as
Heracles houses the cargo of this infinite knowledge, he can never access it until the
theatrical presentation is at an end. He must enact his destiny under the auspices of
a kuria doxa that he cannot yet articulate (but he will have a provisional “solution”
or statement once the labours are completed, and a full disclosure once he ascends in
death to the gallery of the gods). The tragic circumstance for the hero in this theatrical
event is his not fully comprehending his destiny and purpose, and hence this lack of
comprehension leads him through xenophobia (fear of the Other), barbarous violence
(the slaying of several “monsters” or “Others”), and eventually his own death. What
is at stake here is Heracles’ inability to comprehend his own role: he assumes his
individuation too quickly, and as events unfold it is revealed that the disparities that
inhabit him (neither fully divine nor mortal, his animality versus his heroism, etc.)
are unfolded yet again as an individuating agent. Despite his upholding of the Law,
he––and everything and everyone in his world––were beings-of-becoming. The Law
is filled with exceptions that fail to be reconciled within the domain of the logos itself.
The Hydra has been unfairly conscripted into Heracles’ theatrical articulation of
personal destiny and the reactive-molar concept of Law. The Hydra is made into a
Hegelian Other, a negative, conscripted here into Heracles’ Law of the Same, reduced
to a weak conceptual difference (the static rather than dynamic). It is here that the
Hydra is reduced further into the obvious and mundane articulations of its extrinsic
and empirical differences. It is not the irony (as dynamic difference) which prompts
Heracles’ attack, but a banal physical difference between Nature and Monster. It is
only in the unfolding of this event, this unprovoked assault, that Heracles comes to
discover the intrinsic differences, the irony of the Hydra, and so must react against
this irony. Heracles replays the archaic understanding of true or pure difference as
being essentially evil, sinful, accursed, and edified by error. Rather than the Hydra
possessing a nature of its own not mediated through a dialectic of Nature positively
defined by the dogmatic metaphysical assumptions, it is suddenly cast in this
theatrical production as the inversion of what is Good or True. Since it is essentially
different, it must—as the embodiment of difference—”leave its cave and cease to be
a monster” (Deleuze 1994, p. 29) or else it will be attacked where it lives, forced into
the “light of Reason” and wither under Truth.
This operation of “flushing out the monster” from the domain of true difference
entails a four-pronged movement wherein the Aristotelian formulation comes into


play: Identity must be established at all costs. There cannot be an existent thing
without an essential nature or corresponding concept, for it would be an impossible.
With recourse to Analogy, we may come to identify the creature by what it may
correspond to in terms of the concepts that already exist in the understanding.
Opposition allows us to determine what the creature is by what it is not, or what it
is in direct opposition to among those things we already know. Finally, resemblance
allows us to pick out component parts of the creature that correspond to those things
whose parts we already understand; for instance, Descartes points out in the first
meditation that even when painters invent bizarre creatures, their component parts
will be a mixture of parts that directly resemble those parts that exist in the world.
These four “strategies” are designed to subordinate difference within Reason. Does
this imply that the Hydra is an intransigent misologist? No, it is rather indifferent to
the determinations that Reason imposes upon it. It is perhaps the error of Heracles
to mistake the Hydra’s indifference as something vicious—or, being less charitable
to the Hydra, its ignorance of the Law. Heracles is the polemicist of the Law, and
the Hydra is forced to defend itself as the polemicist of the anarchic. In following
Heraclitus, we may take the figures of Heracles and the Hydra as combative
opponents of the polemos.
Heracles as polemic. Heracles gathers the elements of the monstrous (the Nemean
lion skin, the blood of the Hydra), and indeed bundles the poison-tipped arrows in a
sheaf for warlike use at some future time. Heracles utilizes the “logic” of the monster
against the monster. His polemic is intentionally violent and in service to gaining
mastery of the land for his own glory. Not unlike more modern nationalist movements,
Heracles attempts to define himself through both the land and by justification of a
transcendent figure. It is a polemics of reduction and reactivity, for it seeks to annihilate
its target, the subject of its invective. Acting under the authority of law, it is a master
pundit that desires to close off or cauterize the metonymy of discourse. Multiplication
of life and discourse threatens its desire to inaugurate the singular and dominant law
that must be immutable enough to be inscribed upon stone for all the ages to come.
Heracles arrogantly acts as the Hydra’s composer—literally, he composes it, lays it out
as dead. Through his polemic, he directs the monster into the category of monsterhood,
or otherness without selfhood. His method of polemic is the dialectic (philia) which is
in direct contrast to the process the Hydra as other engenders: the eristic.29
Hydra polemic. In contrast to the Herculean polemic, the Hydra polemic has a
reserve, an infinite potentiality to multiply discourse through its many mouths. It
is capable of acting in dissonant concert to produce multiple, active polemics that
actually promote more discourse rather than the prohibitive function of declaring
a law. The Hydra polemic is embodied by the concept creator, the artist, the
philosopher, and all those who produce polemics as a means of daring creativity…
and perhaps to spur others into resisting or improving upon the existent form. In
contrast to the cauterizing function of Herculean polemic, Hydra polemic performs
a disruption and naturally multiplies itself when it is attacked. As eristic, it is the
opposite of philia, and engenders discord.


The term “assemblage” might be misleading for English readers, for it is translated from the
French, agencement, which carries a somewhat more nuanced connotation. An assemblage is not
a random collection of items. Instead, we might understand assemblage as meaning “arrangement”
or “orientation.” The different here is not mere semantics, but portrays that there is some degree
of choice and agency in the putting together of items or qualities that make up what is called an
This is one of the sources from which Nietzsche is able to draw from to contest the idea that history
will tend toward equilibrium since he paraphrases by stating that if the universe had as its purpose
to achieve equilibrium, it would have already happened. However, Nietzsche’s declaration may have
difficulty unless one holds to the view of infinite time.
It is in Fragment 39 where Heraclitus states that nature likes to hide, which he pairs off with the notion
that a non-apparent connection is stronger than an apparent one. “Because being, physis, consists in
appearing in an offering of appearance and views, it stands, essentially and hence necessarily and
permanently, in the possibility of an appearance which precisely covers over and conceals what the
essent in truth, i.e., unconcealment, is.” See Heidegger, Introduction to Metaphysics p. 88 (cf. his
contrasting of Heraclitus and Parmenides in same text).
Opposite or different. Semantically, this would not prove difficult to distinguish: an opposite is
difference, whereas difference need not mean something that is opposite. Opposition is a species of
difference, a type among many. Left and right are opposites, and so are therefore different, whereas
dog and flower are different without being opposites. It is unlikely that Heraclitus would confuse the
two. In fact, his doctrine of unity would not grant “difference” per se to paired opposites, but only in
their perspectives. Heraclitus provides a few examples of this when he speaks of writing straight and
crooked, both of which may be considered opposites, but are unified in the act of writing. He also tells
us that the road to somewhere may be opposite to the way back home, but that it is the same road.
Here we may recall what Wittgenstein says of function: “The reason why a function cannot be its own
argument is that the sign for a function already contains the prototype of its argument, and it cannot
contain itself.” Ludwig Wittgenstein. Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus Section 3.333, p. 17.
The original fragment reads: “κόσμον τόνδε, τὸν αὐτὸν ἁπάντων, οὔτε τις θεῶν οὐτε ἀνθρώπων
ἐποίησεν, ἀλλ’ ἦν ἀεὶ καὶ ἔστιν καὶ ἔσται πῦρ ἀείζωον, ἁπτόμενον μέτρα καὶ ἀποσβεννύμενον μέτρα””
Cf. Aristotle, Eudemian Ethics H1.1235a25
Although, it is useful to invoke what Deleuze says of the virtual as being counter to the emanationist
position (albeit not indexed as a critique of emanationism except by proxy): “Every time we pose the
question in terms of possible and real, we are forced to conceive of existence as a brute eruption, a
pure act or leap which always occurs behind our backs and is subject to the law of All or Nothing” in
Difference and Repetition p. 208.
For a discussion on the omphalos, see Jacques Derrida, Resistances of Psychoanalysis 11: “When
forever exceeds the analysis of the dream is indeed a knot that cannot be untied, a thread that, even if
it is cut, like an umbilical cord, nevertheless remains forever knotted, right on the body, at the place of
the navel. The scar is a knot against which analysis can do nothing.”
I am opting here to use the Greek “Heracles” (or “Herakles”) for the proper nickname, and the Roman
“Herculean” for the adjective form for easier identification since “Heraclesean” is not as universally
A more recent example in modern China would be Li Peng’s costly “Three Gorges River Project”
which saw the largest dam ever built. The estimated cost had been around ten billion dollars U.S.,
not to mention the nightmarish cost of relocating entire villages that were flooded once the dam
was completed. Li Peng is also known for other methods of controlling natural difference through
his mobilization of the People’s Liberation Army into Tiananmen Square during the 1989 student
As reported in Hyginus Astronomica 2.23.
This is an example of a labour that Eusytheus judges to be invalid since Heracles was offered money
to perform this duty, thereby discharging a duty not in league with heroism.
See Strabo 8.3.19 and Hyginus Fabulae 34.


Its speech consists of a terrible hissing (Aeneid 6.287).
Closely paralleling the issue of burial in Sophocles’ Antigone.
Jorge Luis Borges. The Book of Imaginary Beings 129. Also see especially Simonides’ Frag. 569
(from Servius on Virgil’s Aeneid), Apollodorus 2.157-158 and 2.77-80, and Diodorus Siculus 4.11.5;
yet according to Pausanias (2.37.4) the Hydra had only one head in accordance with the general
constitution of water snakes (from which the Hydra obtains its name). Rather, Pausanias reflects that
the multiple heads of the Hydra was merely a form of epic hyperbole, and that the Hydra differed from
other water snakes only in terms of its size and fatal breath.
Theogony 313–318. The name Iolaus means “war-like” and is synonymous with polemos.
The type of foulness may in itself be the mere dissemination of differences that violate the logical
order. Heracles, in his almost priestly capacity, must arrange for the death of the “heretic” beast that
blasphemes against the ordinances of Zeus.
The Hydra acts as another benchmark in Greek lore, for Jason must slay a Hydra to obtain the Golden
Fleece. It is unclear just how many Hydras are present, but this lack of accord would suggest the
presence of more than one. Moreover, the Biblical narrative also has a Hydra-type beast in Revelations:
the multi-headed dragon with its many crowns. The Biblical Hydra is masculinized whereas the Greek
Hydra is female (Revelation 12:2).
It is indeed called a drug in Diodorus Siculus (4.38.1) that is applied to destroy Geryon (Stesichorus
Geryoneis Frag. 515 and Argonautica 4.1390f)
See Jacques Derrida, Spurs : Nietzsche’s Styles 101-11.
One could interpret the confrontation with the Hydra as the decisive re-engagement against Hera
given the serpent motif being repeated.
It is said to thrive on being wounded as reported in Ovid, Metamorphoses 9.69-74.
Cf. Jacques Derrida, Spurs: Nietzsche’s Styles: introduction by Stefano Agosti 2-25; 109ff.
In Hyginus Fabulae 30, it is Minerva who orders the destruction of the Hydra. It is intriguing that
Minerva, or Athena, being the goddess of wisdom, would call for the destruction of the Hydra as if to
confirm that the monster is an offence to what Minerva embodies.
This is a concept that we do not have the luxury to delve into here, but does speak to the current
discussions on hypertext and ergodic language. See particularly the works of George P. Landow and
Espen J. Aarseth.
In David Carroll. French Literary Fascism: Nationalism, Anti-Semitism, and the Ideology of Culture
p. 23. The text from which Carroll paraphrases this is in the argument of Maurice Barrès’ “Examen
des Trois Romans Idéologiques.”
Eris is the Greek divinity of discord. Several other analogues may seem to substitute for the split
between eristos and philia such as Dionysus and Apollo, active and reactive forces (Nietzsche), or
heterology and “Reason” (Bataille).



What is possibly missing in assigning some ontological context to information is some

form of meta-state, or metastability, by which to describe and explain information in
its more ordinary contexts and to leverage the term as one that may be called upon by
philosophy as a concept to describe these “transient” and temporary “states.” Having
covered the essential concepts in the works of Deleuze and Simondon, we are in a
position to consider metastability in fine, as well as introducing the operant concept
of metastasis. Metastability concerns the condition of the overall state of the virtual
and actual, whereas metastasis is the function of generating newness in particular
systems via the mechanism of displacement and deviation.
The metastable milieu is characterized as having pre-individuality as its default
position, but is the field in which local information exists. This “protean” aspect of
the metastable milieu is the initiation point for all shifts in phase-space. Metastability
is what guarantees the givenness of the world in its multiple states alternating
between local or micro-stability and instability brought about through the catharsis
of relations that are entered into by content and expression. Contained within the
metastable milieu are the metabolic and catabolic faces of individuation, and the
interdynamics of the two. This metastability can be characterized as the infinite
potentiality that can never be exhausted, that which is embedded––like code––in all
manifestations in actuality that are selectively unfolded pending in what relational
assemblage any emergent thing stands. It is this that allows for the transductive
unity of the pre-individual and the process of individuation. Information’s role is
to facilitate the black box functions of the virtual and its infinite potentiality to do
the work of actualization. This affords a degree of dynamic stability overall due to
the selective function of information that selects which potentiality is unfolded, but
in a way that it is a response to the existing relations that exist on the horizon of
the problematic. That is, information does not play a prescriptive role as much as it
occupies the intensive milieu that carries out the process of actualization partly in
response to assemblages that have already been actualized, bringing into relation
the disparity or tensions of different components that are individuated on this field
of immanence. The other aspect of dynamic stability would be the necessity of
generating newness, and an infinite potentiality affords the creation of the new to
increase system complexification over time through an openness to transformation
within and across systems. What must occupy these processes is the combination of
disparate elements out of which emerges a continuous operation, but in such a way
that those disparate elements maintain their differences independently so as not to
enter into a synthesis of mutual cancellation.


The issue of dynamic stability has been the preoccupation of several

mathematicians and engineers, but perhaps none more notable than Clerk Maxwell
whose foundational paper, On Governors, albeit short on useful applications, does
make a distinction between governors and moderators. A true governor would
be entirely automated in mechanism and not result in disequilibrium. It is this
foundational aspiration in mechanics that plays an inspirational role in Wiener’s
cybernetics. In our frame of reference here, we might opt to shift the more static roles
of governors and moderators to that of regulators and conjugators, thus bringing to
the fore the dynamic tension of disparate forces of the reactive and active / creative.
The first “type,” regulator, is fixed on the imposition of mapping and enforcing
the nomos by local operations that ensure harmonious functioning of the system.
The other “type,” conjugator, does make use of the regulator’s rule-book, but as a
means of constructing new relations and liaisons that are heterogeneous pairings
that answer local problems. Such “conjugators” (which need not be of any rational
agency), do not draw from the past, but are affected by the futural mode of the
unanticipated encounter. A conjugation brings together those disparate elements, but
also splits and displaces them to form new assemblages.
Information is immanent to the world in which it facilitates actualization. The
meta-state is not a fixed “state of affairs” but a principle of perpetual state-space
displacements that facilitate new organizational forms that distribute singularities,
not simply discrete variables. Every new “state” achieved (if we were to freeze
time into a discrete observable point) is ready soil to receive the seed of the next
metastasizing event. The similarity here between information and energy or force as
a causal agent in iteration and transformation can be noted here. We might here say
that Deleuze’s virtual is information in this more plastic sense, yet fully determined,
for it allows for the difference that makes the difference––that absolute necessary
precondition by which anything can be said to be. The intensity that transmits
across the virtual to the actual can be called informational in this sense: a constant
reorganization of the real, precipitated in part by the abstract machine. Organization
is a process of selection, but not in the crude sense of “survival of the fittest” or
any appropriation of Darwinism that would function as a poor analogy when put
under critical pressure. Instead, organization as selection occurs on the plane of
immanence, and its actualized form appears to us on the plane of composition
whereupon continuous operations take place.
The same processes that bring about an emergence of coherence by means of
information may be the same that create local instabilities in systems. Inasmuch
as patterning is generally taken as reiteration or repetition of a particular aspect or
formation, a pattern need not be so: it can be simply an iteration powered by, say,
an elegant equation that permits transformation over time. In this way we can speak
of the general character of Becoming as pathway, or direction [sens]. A swarm of
bees, a school of fish, the falling of leaves, the formation of a snowflake, the gradual
evolution of a species of organism, the expansion of the universe––all these can be
said to be patterns, some of them Brownian, and their coherence possibly based


on a mechanism of selection; i.e., an inherent choice function. Without resorting

to transcendent Platonic or religious ideas of a model or author, information-as-
patterning will instead take the view that there is a complex process taking place
within a milieu that governs the formation or dissipation of information structures.
This can be said to involve multi-channel interactivity. That is, the “bit” and its
interaction with the external environment, with other “bits”, and its own internal
logic. In this way we avoid siding with either instrumentalism or determinism with
respect to our treatment of information’s becoming. It is, instead, the tension between
internal logic of the bit, coextensive with other bits, and the logic of the milieu
in which such phenomena occur that govern information patterning. These “bits”
should not be considered in terms of the fully individuated prior to their relation, for
it is only in their relations that these “bits” in the non-technical sense of “stuff” gain
in signification, and this by means of their relationship to a broader problematic in
Of the three generally accepted dimensions of information (syntactical, semantic,
and pragmatic), in Simondon information the pragmatic is already implied as part of
what we can provisionally isolate as two orders of information. The syntactical aspect
of information is the sense or direction in which the information is expressed, which
cannot be distinguished from the problematic (or perplication) in which it appears.
This would be the first order of information closest to Simondon’s view. Second
order information would involve the semantic aspect, which involves the grasping
of the sense in which the individuated problematic is expressed as a signification.
Caught now in a regime of representation, these significations are sorted according
to Thought that interprets phenomena and creates an epistemological division
between individual and environment. The syntactic dimension of information, even
at the second order, does not vanish, but functions to propel further individuation
as a guarantee of further significations and thus further interpretative acts. It is at
the second order of information that we find the pragmatic dimension, but also the
enduring effects of both the metastability of the pre-individual, and the carry-through
effects of metastasis, figuratively speaking.1
To take the syntactic at its most restricted and impoverished definition would
risk falling back into the domain of Shannon-Weaver information given that their
definition is resolutely celibate in excluding semantic considerations. The syntactical
framework they use is one indexed on a highly technical-scientific perspective. Our
argument here is to preserve some of the semantic aspects of information as part of
seeking a “higher” sense in which information plays a part in the individuation of
Metastability guarantees the conditions of all actualization through asymmetrical
and disequilibrium processes that participate in the production of the new out of the
disparate tension between realities. A meta-state is also its own kind of metastability
that energizes what we can call “first order information” to manifest itself in the
ontogenesis of what can be called “second-order information” which is further
manifest by way of symbols. First-order information is not form as if to smuggle a


stable transcendent category that will explain the causal genesis of matter. First order
information, which is the recipe for individuation following Simondon’s definition,
is “anterior” to the individuated, but also immanent to what is individuated,
providing it a series of basic, flexible rules that respond to a problematic in a stable
system. Given that all individuation is a transindividuation that never ceases, this
underscores the view that such operations that occur at the level of the individuated
are continuously in motion.
First order information properly emerges from the virtual, while second-order
information is situated as an expression of first-order information in the actual. We
should not mistake this as a one-to-one correspondence as though the individuated
elements were decided in advance by a master design belonging to first order
information, but instead that the terms of individuation are the product of Becoming.
This leads to a constant process of encounters that re-individuate heterogeneous
elements to form new assemblages (which are themselves a process of individuation
emerging out of the encounter, and so also dependent upon information that is
“carried” in this process from the encounter to the emergence of the new assemblage).
It is impossible to think of first and second order information functioning
independently given that they form an ensemble. Any attempt to isolate the syntactical
from the semantic, or the “how” and “what” of expression is to revisit a domain of
pure abstraction. If we are to pursue the idea of information at its highest sense, then
posing the “how” and “what” questions are in effect to ask the very same question,
for we come to know what some individuated thing is by how it is expressed in the
context of the larger problematic. We come to know how the individuated thing
comes to be as part of what it is with respect to the inferior aspect of itself as well as
what is superior to it.


The Internet is not information in the properly philosophical or physical sense.

Information is to be found in the migration patterns of its users (logged by cookies
and shaped by algorithms), and in the digital marks left by users on its vast map. It
is not so much the content of those marks that is information, but when and where
they are placed relative to all other marks in particular systems. Still, the problem
of data bloat presents itself as one of the major challenges for web providers as well
as users who are trying to seek information in its more conventional sense (i.e.,
knowledge). It is the scene of what Baudrillard calls the promiscuity of networks,
and one that produces excrescence, traffics in the transparency and obscenity of
data, and that succumbs to metastasis. Systems governed by structural feedback
excesses only multiply data waste, leaving them “obese” or constipated in not being
able to deliver what is wanted, only what is needed according to the principles
of speed, convenience, and production that occurs “just in time” and on demand.
However, Baudrillard understands metastasis entirely in the negative, as part of the
fatal strategy of catastrophe that is constantly deferring its conclusion. At its root,


metastasis involves displacement, and this on its own is neither good nor bad. There
are plenty of examples where it is applied in negative ways.
It should be noted that there are at least two definitions of metastasis, one of
which applies to biology in terms of the spread of cancerous cells to non-adjacent
organs in the body, and the other a more historical definition pertaining to a tactic in
rhetoric identified by Quintilian whereby there is a rapid shift from one topic to the
next. This rapid movement from one topic to the next is captured by the etymology
of the term as displacement.
One clear, and arguably regrettable, example of metastasis would be the capitalist
logic of outsourcing where local labour pools are displaced by foreign workers.
Compensated at a rate lower than what would be paid to a local labour force with
comparable skills, businesses are then able to extract more surplus value from labour
in general which then increases profits. The neoliberal logic that defends these
practices argues that by depressing the labour costs, this will result in more value,
and thus more jobs can be produced locally as the businesses reinvest that surplus
into expansion. However, there is no guarantee that this sequence of events actually
takes place, for it is equally possible that a business treats a cheaper labour force as
its new baseline for operations, and uses its profit to secure more cheap labour or
increase executive performance pay, just as it is possible that said businesses will
simply reinvest profit into reserve funds or increased dividends for its stockholders.
In addition, the prospect of more self-service options and other cost-containment
strategies effectively displaces labour in a continued dequalification of said labour
to perform largely functionary roles.
Another negative example might be the displacement of populations, human
or non-human, as a direct result of building development that encroaches upon an
already existing arrangement. We might think here of China’s Three Rivers Gorges
project where entire villages were displaced, or simply the many examples where
developers disrupt and displace natural habitats.
There are also the tragic effects of cancer on the body where metastasis occurs
in the tissues which hastens death. Although we will make use of metastasis in its
conceptual form as part of the analogy of information as difference, I do not intend
to trivialize what cancer represents.
From a linguistic standpoint, we might consider that verbs are actuators of
displacement. Verbs only leave traces in their flight of infinite potentiality, altering
nouns without being altered themselves. If there is one verb that has primacy over all
others, a transcendental verb, it would be Becoming (said here as the verb “to become”
rather than the noun of a becoming), since all verbs cause nouns to become something
other, a changing of their state. A verb is the first-order linguistic example of metastasis
insofar as a metastasis, as well, functions in the same way. Metastasis (manifest in
its biological way as cancer) affects a body, but itself has no body, is non-isolatable
other than by its traces and effects, like a ghost that leaves footprints. Like time, we
can only measure its passing, its effects and affects. We try to pin verbs on nouns to
explain their motion and transformation of states, but the verb itself is unthinkable


without being affixed to a noun save for something purely conceptual. The verb is the
scene of external relations, of the essential relations that function as the condition of
all existence––the relatio essendi rather than a ratio congnoscendi. There is in verbs
something ecstatic–– literally so if we consider the proper etymology of ekstasis as
something that changes the condition of something from its initial state of stasis. The
ecstatic performs or does the work of metastasis, but it does not admit of a duality
between verb and noun; metastasis equally applies to both. The verb presents itself
as something perpetually inchoate, never taking a form, but operating to alter forms.
Verbs are event-expressions of Becoming and metastasis. They unsettle the stability
of nouns, displacing their fixed definitions or locations, tussling their attributes,
appending or modifying them pending the variety and intensity of the effect. As
Deleuze writes, “When representation discovers the infinite within itself, it no longer
appears as organic representation but as orgiastic representation: it discovers within
itself the limits of the organized; tumult, restlessness and passion beneath apparent
calm. It rediscovers monstrosity” (Deleuze 1994, p. 42). So, beneath the still and calm
waters of the noun as representation of beings, there lurks in its depths the infinite
potentiality of the verb. The ordered curios of Being, organized according to their
categories––philosophical and lexical––are not immune to the transformative power
of verbs that will make these things other, defying any stable appeal to categorical
representations. Verbs emerge from the code of language; they are indispensable to
the continuance of nouns, like time is to space, and yet they move about freely and
nomadically. Verbs are the metastasis in grammar; Becoming is the verb of beings.
In conventional oncological terms, the process of metastasis is the wild
overgrowth of cells to the detriment of the body, resulting in either growths that are
benign or malignant. Apoptosis, or pre-programmed cell death (PCD), is the process
by which the cell receives a signal to stop production at a previously prescribed
genetic point, or as a response to a sudden change to the normal operation of a cell.
The process is twofold: to retain proper cell function integral to the organism, and to
remove potentially harmful or lethal elements in the cell which could endanger the
organism as a whole. There are only two ways by which cells perish: either by some
external agent (toxic chemicals, fire, removal) or by being induced to perish, i.e.,
apoptosis. Firstly, apoptosis is necessary in the organism; for instance, the uterine
wall shedding during menstruation, the surplus “webbed” tissue between the fingers
and toes on the foetus, the fusing of bone plates when the growth period is at an
end, the reabsorption of the tadpole tail in the development of a frog, and so on.
Secondly, apoptosis is necessary for the destruction of cells injurious to the organism
such as virally infected cells, cells with corrupt DNA damage, and cancerous cells.
Apoptosis occurs in two ways: removing or blocking all positive stimulus to the
cell necessary for the cell’s continuance (one can envision that apoptosis is a kind
of siege-craft, cutting all supply lines to the cellular castle), and the inducement
of negative signals such as increased oxidation in the cell, aberrant absorption of
proteins, the release of particular molecules that bind to the receptors of the cell’s
surface which activate the apoptotic process.


Cancer possesses the unique ability to block the apoptotic signal, and the ability to
transfer vicious RNA to other cells to do the same. With the apoptotic signal blocked,
the cell begins to replicate its material and produce those RNA to “persuade” other
cells to follow suit by way of a biological communication network.
Both Hippocrates and Galen identified the humours as being the source of cancer
in the body, antedating subsequent etiological theories ranging from lymph, blastema,
chronic irritation, and parasitism. Galen’s text, De tumoribus prater naturam, devotes
a single page on cancer specifically (22.5-6), while mostly dedicating the majority
of his text to the issue of inflammations as part of his humoural theory that acted as
a medical bridge between the antique and modern view of cancer. Galen describes
cancer as the state by which the body enters into para physin from kata physin,
i.e., from a state of being in natural accord with nature to that of being at odds with
nature. He describes cancer as ek diaphthoras meizones hypotrapheíses―a secret,
destructive nurturing, and says that cancer (karkinos) involves the crab-like (hence
the name cancer) spreading of veins from the site of a tumour (onkoi, which means
mass or heap), thereby causing the perpetuation of a malignant state (kakoethes).
This, says Galen, is caused by the production of cool, black bile which occurs in
two types of intensity: 1. daknodes: a strong, biting bile that attacks the body, and 2.
metriotera: a weaker bile that does not cause ulceration. However, we should keep in
mind that Galen did not distinguish between malignant and benign tumours (viewing
all onkoi as essentially malignant given that they cause the body to go against its
accord with nature) but instead distinguishing between two qualities of bile.
One of the earliest attempts to study and describe metastasis in the modern medical
context was conducted by Stephen Paget (1889), advancing his famous “seed and
soil” hypothesis. After having examined over 900 autopsy records, especially among
women who had died of breast cancer, Paget arrived at the hypothesis that there
was some degree of affinity between particular types of tumour cells and particular
organs, thus suggesting a probability or tendency between the cell (seed) and the
organ (soil) as possessing a communicative correspondence. In some ways, we
can analogize this relation as an information channel, and the metastatic process as
representing a “signal” in that channel. What is of some note about Paget’s findings
would be how these have endured in oncology; despite the rise of genetic sciences
and a quantum leap in sophisticated medical technology and techniques, these have
somewhat confirmed Paget’s hypothesis. Yet, at the same time, I do not want to
suggest that there is some degree of determinism or even probabilism in the use of
metastasis here; what I wish to retain is that metastastic correspondence that occurs
in non-adjacent space has its partial direction or sense on the basis of the capacity to
affect and be affected.
The development of metastasis is not a random process, but is contingent upon a
series of sequential steps which, although some involve stochastic phenomena, that
must be present for said metastasis to develop. The natural defenses of the body to
be hostile to invasion and metastasis presents a significant challenge for the success
of metastasis: “The utter inefficiency of the metastatic process implies that healthy


tissues display a marked hostility toward invading tumour cells [...] To achieve
metastasis, cancer cells must therefore evade or co-opt multiple rules and barriers
that were refined over hundreds of millions of years of organismal evolution” (Gupta
and Massagué, 2006). Should metastatic colonizers survive apoptosis, hypoxia, cell
deformation as a result of invasion, or any of the other microenvironmental events
that may kill the cell, colonization can occur, and most likely in the niche organ that
has the best affinity to allow said colonization.
Without delving too deeply into the particulars of oncological discourse, what
we may draw from past and current research into metastasis is both the idea of
affinity-correspondence, that metastasis is not random, and the odds of success for
metastatic events to occur are perplexingly low despite the frequency of cancer in
human populations.
Attempts to describe metastasis in philosophy are uncommon, yet Franz von
Baader describes the state of ecstasy (as opposed to enstasy) as a displacement, a
definition he extends as well to metastasis:
This philosophy of the subject endures (and which is only the consequence of
a metastasis, a transfer or displacement equating to the same principle which
can work approximately upon the object in co-operation, akin to how they
co-operate in their mutual subordination), as this philosophy takes this for that
primitive friendly contrast (the Action and Reaction) of the eternal life.2
The theosophic force in Baader’s work, influenced as it is by Boehme and Paracelsus,
should be held in suspension in order to explore the nuanced meaning he attributes
to metastasis. In true form with theosophy, Baader rejects the notion so espoused in
philosophical systems that creation phenomena can be speculatively deduced from
a godhead if only because God will always elude human understanding. What is of
note in theosophical writings is the commonality of the three main tenets; namely,
that the souls of humans are immortal with an underlying guarantee that growth has
no limit, the life-giving principle of growth exists with or without human beings,
and that each person is the law-giver of their own life. Putting aside the idea of the
immortality of the soul, what we may retain is this life principle wherein all growth is
perpetually sustainable and without limitation. According to Baader, and seemingly
following Spinoza but with less determinism, all creation is a free act of God’s love
and, ostensibly, is conditiones sine quibus non. Baader’s god is the only “thing” that
is immune to what he calls metastasis or displacement since that would be to align
God with Versetzung; namely, to make God manifest himself temporally, thereby
placing him in time and enstatic. Placing God at the mystical summit of all symbolic
referentiality may be a convenient way of signing off on the deeper problem of
ecstasis-metastasis via an appeal to faith. Ecstasis dislodges the anagoge from the
constraints of a temporal order, consecrating a kind of “beyond” through the exile of
temporal succession and spatial coordination, both of which are “bracketed away”
from a zone of pure becoming. No longer are space and time indifferent attributes
that condition Being in the anagogical mode, but it is through this ecstasis, resulting


in the catharsis that is the actualization of differentiation, that Being is released from
its fixity.
The role of metastasis in the process of individuation, guaranteed by and
supporting metastability, allows for the divergent process of creating the new.
We might liken metastasis here as an operation that emerges out of the infinite
potentialities harboured in all individuations, displacing some elements or the entire
ensemble to form innovative assemblages. Yet, at the same time, the function tasked
to metastasis is not to mediate between disparate series, but to enhance their tensions
that can be modulated by information-signification.
Metastasis is entirely operational without mediation and does not “resist” in order
to be sublated, but is instead always an accelerant of creative displacements. This
acceleration is what aids in the genesis of the structure of emergent things, and it
can be of any speed. These speeds are relative to themselves and to nothing outside
that can be said to be mediated between infinite speed or inertia. Absolute speed
is the accurate mirror of all objects in terms of their structure. Speed is another
term for Becoming, but it is undirected becoming, which is to say that it is not by
developmental phases, nor does it appeal to some final design where a function
becomes a prescription for what something must become. The becoming is its
own absolute, but this absolute is an envelope of a more secret depth from which
material repetition as an effect is recognized. Becoming is the structural continuity
of metastasis that de-phases Being, while becomings are the manifestations of its
speed, reflected as objects. Being is not stasis, but always a beyond––a metastasis,
or a manifestation thereof.
Deleuze and Guattari speak of cancer in A Thousand Plateaus in their broader
campaign of demonstrating how real planes of immanence can be created, thereby
implicating the entire Western metaphysical tradition from Plato to Hegel that their
versions of immanence were always immanent to something transcendent. The
possibility of an ontological failure, or a failure in the conceptual milieu at the very
least is captured here: “Cancerous tissue: each instant, each second, a cell becomes
cancerous, mad, proliferates and loses its configuration, takes over everything;
the organism must resubmit it to its rule or restratify it…How can we fabricate a
BwO [Body without Organs] for ourselves without its being the cancerous BwO
of a fascist inside us?” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, p. 163). Deleuze is concerned
about hasty and careless stratification by the cancerous. In Nietzschean terms, the
“cancerous” element can very well slide into the camp retinue of reactive forces
that limit the potential of bodies insofar as their capacity to act and be affected
diminish by the ravages of a reactive element. In its active import (metastasis as
productive and affirmative difference), cancer is a variable intensity, a type of
multiplicity, and not a dialectical struggle between body and disease, following its
distinct lines of flight among others in a tangled bundle of multiplicities, a thread
in a vortex or knot-whorl. Cancer lines among body lines, body-part lines, etc.,
which are not decomposable to isolated units lest they change their nature (Deleuze
and Guattari 1987, p. 32). Cancer rearticulates the cell via complementary de- and


re-territorializing. By blocking the apoptotic signal that would otherwise call the cell
into the stratified order of the organism, cancer-radicals isolate the cell and allow it
to continue or increase its intensity at various rates and speeds. However, this is still
a relative rather than absolute de- and re-territorialization. The tension of whether or
not Deleuze and Guattari leave open the possibility of a kind of anarchic fascism or
totalitarianism-of-multiplicity (as paradoxical as this sounds) cannot be considered
here. There is, in at least one interpretation of their statement of the cancerous as
carrying a pejorative, absolutizing or totalizing effect, but when we strip down the
connotations of cancer and its destructive and tragic effects on life, we also find that
the process of metastasis is also technically generative in new formations.
Metastasis is a “becoming mad” of a state, and we here venture to make the
claim that the substratum of reality - in fact, its very guarantee - is generated by an
initial “becoming mad.” What this means is that Being, in its becoming, undergoes
hothouse differentiation. It is our thought of Being, static and inherited from a long
tradition that assumes coherence in the principle of identity belonging to the regime
of representation, that no longer applies. Metastasis is its herald, and Becoming
its manifest process so that Being is always the Being-of-Becoming, a flux and a
territory that is tan mares fustes. Becoming happens by non-propitious changes, and
it is only thought that cleaves to the idea that rational order and progressive movement
will prevail, a faith in the process of both understanding and reason. However, the
antecedent cause does not always connect harmoniously to an anticipated effect
that is underwritten by logic, reason, or experiential habit alone. Such cause-effect
relations are not, outside the mode of apodeictic thinking on cause and effect qua
concept, foolproof models by which predictions on that which becomes will always
come to manifest itself beyond practical approximations. Causal network chains
that guide information, or are guided by information, is to fall back on models of
induction or deduction. Or, more precisely, when the effect of a material repetition
is taken as the cause, this does not permit the discovery of intensive qualities that
become actualized.
We see the operation of metastasis in the rhizome as well. In the words of Deleuze
and Guattari: “To be rhizomorphous is to produce stems and filaments that seem
to be roots, or better yet connect with them by penetrating the trunk, but put them
to strange new uses” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, p. 15). Transitions, becomings,
shiftings, cuttings, displacements and growths (both inward and outward; the
“mesostrata” from which growths appear to move in and out from is merely a
threshold or intensity) aligns with Simondon’s argument that such de-phasings
emerge from the centre, or the milieu. Why assign the rhizome a metastasis quality if
not to indicate a certain quantity of reality which operates on a fold between growing
and pruning, metastasis and apoptosis? This is the folding of two complementary
fields, de- and reterritorialization. This metastatic property cannot (or should not)
be understood negatively; that is, in the presupposition of some primary purity of a
healthy organism beset by a disease. There is no primal body of Being, Being-as-
health - we invoke the terminology of cancer as a diagram so that we may come to


understand that bodies and beings are only possible according to that fully determining
instance of metastasis that undergirds all formations, development, becomings, and
dissolutions. Within the virtual “egg” metastasis is not only the method of division,
but the principle of making multiplicities so that, as Nietzsche says of the division of
protoplasm, ½ plus ½ does not equal 1, but rather 2 (or more). To divide something
into halves presupposes a unity separated into equalizable components that mutually
and negatively determine the other by recourse to a “first unity” (this is half-x and
so depends on x as a whole to receive its determination, etc.). If x is cut in half,
let us view this as an affirmative creation, a creation that creates two separate and
unique singularities rather than by the privation of being incomplete unless rejoined.
Perhaps only poor dramatists believe in the myth of status quo ante, that something
divided will not go “wild” in producing new growths and relations to other features
in its new conceptual neighbourhood. There is nothing in the alleged unity of parts
now divided that governs over these parts, except according to weak conceptuality,
for even that alleged unity is a carving-off or singular articulation of some other
“higher” unity. Gogol’s story, “The Nose,” illustrates that a part taken from the whole
can live its own life, can establish its connections independently without recourse to
the “original” body from which it grew. The problem is that the question of bodies
is poorly posed, and too often the whole-part relation has its deeper prejudice in the
pleasure and pain in either reunification or separation, masquerading as succession
or genealogical descent (as if such a tracing will make this causation more than
just another interpretation). There is no separation - there is articulation, expression
of singularity and new relations that are externally conditioned. The Deleuzian
articulation makes for an affirmative creation of the new, makes determination
itself an affirmative instance of the virtual. Articulation is effectuation, or counter-
So far, we can only speak of metastasis abstractly since it is partially hidden
process insofar as we are only privy to its displacing effects. Here we must refuse
siding too strongly with the empirical or rational argument, for when we consider the
problematic origin of Being itself, we may tend to impose a duplication of Thought
on the matter that does not - and cannot - take under more robust consideration the
vital importance of relations in the individuation of beings according to the register
of Becoming. Meaning always comes late, which is to say that it is a derivative of
how we choose to select or deselect the scope of these external relations in order to
construct a viable story. However, before one could regard this view as championing
materialism as an empirical and mind-independent origin to Being, it may be more
useful to state that the very idea of origin is itself incommensurate with anything
but Thought itself, a fiction that is back-dated or a reverse deduction from perceived
present conditions to get at the thing called origin. Sensitivity to initial conditions
becomes a desperate pursuit of those initial conditions by which the conditions
of some particular thing or event can be explained, thus “solving” the problem.
This tendency to seek out origins by setting initial conditions is too commonly the
source for wanting to apply them everywhere, to make of existence a tree with its


fundamental root explains the genesis of all the branches in time. Hence, incipience
seems to be a more diplomatic word, for it does not speak of origin beyond how it
is the origin for a particular understanding; i.e., an individual’s introduction, via
experience, of Being.
If we discard unity and opt for multiplicity instead (which can function as its own
unity or, as Deleuze says, a unity of multiplicity), then the idea of origin is even
more of a problem since instead we would have to speak of multiple origins, perhaps
simultaneously and proceeding according to a concatenation of heterogeneous series
that may occasionally converge and diverge (although this idea of procession as a
means of convergence and deviation is not built into the premise of multiple origins
here––all we can say is that there could be multiple origins and develop this further
to speculate how this will proceed to bring about present and future conditions). If
we treat origin or origins as substance, or the scene of substance, then we are faced
with a larger problem, for a definition of substance furnished by Spinoza would tell
us that a substance of a particular nature must be singular if is to retain its identity as
infinite. If these multiple origins share the same nature, then the substance may be
bounded by another of its nature, and so therefore be finite. However, if we admit to
multiple origins of differing substances, then we may circumvent the problem of their
infinity. However, a Spinozist might be able to argue that even if multiplicity could
be proven as being at the scene of origin(s), it may merely be expression of modes,
which are infinite, and express the substance in an infinite number of ways. This
view would yet again place difference in a subordinate position, making it emerge as
mere variation from a single-source, a unity that functions as the progenitor.
With multiplicity having been assigned the role previously occupied by substance
there is still a lingering ambiguity. On the one hand we possess an idea of the virtual
as fully determined, and on the other a process of interactive differentiation. However,
these processes are not in conflict since what is determined is the differenciation of
differences themselves. When we consider interaction and integration as manifestation
of differentiation, it should be noted that the virtual is the macroscopic guarantor
of all differences, a completely determined and ordered world-within-a-world that
frequently subverts the actual and any tendencies toward equilibrium. It is the non-
equilibrium of the virtual that is itself order, whereas the local or micro-systems of
equilibrium demonstrates where the laws of a dynamic actually veer into discord.
This asymmetry that engenders intensive differences does not stand opposed to the
dream of a harmonious cosmos where symmetry reigns, but this asymmetry by which
the tensions are brought into relation and thus subverts symmetry.
From another side, what is called multiple series of becomings may also be
understood as taking into consideration merely the origin of particular beings
or things, all of it underwritten by the concept of Becoming and partaking in the
unity that is called Being in general. This, again, however, resurrects the binary
of the whole and the part, placing the particular and singular as a derivative of the
whole which may only be the prejudice of Thought that assumes eternal forms and
variations therefrom.


In order that we can position metastasis as the real operation of the Being-of-
becoming entails that what is produced is not some mere exhaustion of potentiality
into a limited frame of what is called the real. Relying on categorical considerations
to grant the possible conditions of experience is to form a far too broad enclosure
around what is manifested as Becoming. For metastasis to be a “condition,” it must
be equal (neither smaller nor larger) to what it aims to condition, and this is done if
metastasis as the condition of Becoming renders Becoming as different to itself so
that every manifestation of Becoming is never tied to a resemblance to what came
before or negatively determined by what it is not. In this way, metastasis displaces
any momentary individuation from its past, and displaces identity of the individuated
so that the tension remains by which anything can be said to differ from itself.
Metastasis emerges as an operation out of pre-individuation, and because its
“effect” on the actual is asymmetrical and non-adjacent distribution of singularities,
it creates or facilitates the production of the new in unforeseen pockets of the actual.
In addition, metastasis akin to its biological analogue, constructs new relations by
setting the conditions for reality’s “neo-vasculature.” The meta-state of first-order
information in the virtual allows for the intensive metastasis to appear as an immanent
feature in its actualization as second-order information. Metastasis can be defined
as the communicative interaction between the series of the metastable and semi- or
fully stable system state. This process of metastasis can occur in non-adjacent ways,
and is a part of information processes. Metastasis does not exhaust the rich potentials
in the supersaturated, virtual pre-individual state, but instead functions as a dynamic
dephasing of Being into em-phasing actualized processes. When these processes are
arrested into states by consciousness, we are moving from the em-phasing of such
processes into an emphasizing, both terms alluding to the same etymological root of
“to show.” Once objects have been “emphasized” for consciousness, that becomes
the domain of representation.
Communication, or relation, is always a contagion of sorts. It is not reciprocal
––the actua muta that Kant identifies in his metaphysical foundation of dynamics––
if by reciprocity we mean equal exchange. When we think of Nietzsche’s active-
reactive forces, it is a chiasm of imbalances, a see-saw of debts and credits that is
not just on a one-to-one ratio. Two (or more) things can enter into a relation and
become a pack or a bloc of becoming: this, in Deleuzian parlance, is an assemblage.
A contagion, as communicating relation of a type, can take over an entire body,
be that body physical, chemical, social, or geographical. Contagion takes hold and
makes difference. Given that systems – be these systems within a larger system, or
an enclosing system (or framing system) – rely on generation and corruption of their
components as well as entering into relations as co-shaping processes of emergence,
a metastasis of affect is produced at the very point at which chronic imbalances “go
mad” within the system. Setting aside any instrumentality that would over-code this
process or seize upon it to render it “useful,” the metastasis of affect in systems
generates the new, creates what is properly “informative,” and has the unique effect
of producing partial and temporary stability in meta-systems which is ironically


guaranteed by local instabilities. The sum of these local instabilities not only points to
a global stability, but this stability is no longer indexed on mimicry, resemblance, or
repetition; stability as such is the arrival of the new. This novelty, which underwrites
what can properly be called informative in a maximum degree of salience, is also
the guarantee of meta-system continuance. Patterns of coordinated micro-systems
entering into relation do so not out of signal correspondence, but through tensions
and permeations, de- and reterritorializations. Stability is not equilibrium, but a play
of forces that actualize local solutions to problems, and thus set the stage for the
solution as being a problem for another assemblage.
Metastasis as a function of immanent information shares its definitional zone with
Deleuze’s notion of the dark precursor – that progenitor imbued with the capacity to
facilitate force relations. As Deleuze says, “every system contains its dark precursor
which ensures the communication of peripheral series” (Deleuze 1994, p. 119). This
dark precursor facilitates the differentiation into series (which can be externally
heterogeneous to one another as homogeneous series, or vice versa), always itself
in concealment. The dark precursor functions yet we can only observe its effects.
It operates unseen, unidentifiable, and yet its effects are everywhere, like a sound
wave – but even this is poor analogy, for with the aid of instruments one can measure
vibration or depict sound by figural representation. This resistance to, or impossibility
of, being identified is captured in Deleuze’s statement that “if we refrain from
attributing to the differenciator an identity that it cannot and does not have, then the
difference will be small or large according to its possibilities of fractionation – that
is, according to the displacements and disguise of the differenciator” (Deleuze 1994,
p. 147). This differenciator brings the disparate and heterogeneous series together,
not to make an equivalence, but to differenciate. Questions of magnitude concern
here only matters of intensity, not on the order of large or small difference, which
would only bring us back to evaluating differences on the basis of resemblance:
“resemblance is always exterior and difference, whether small or large, forms the
kernel of the system” (Deleuze 1994, p. 147). It is in this way that the organization
of any system cannot be dissociated from its intensity as generative function for the
system’s actualization.
Metastasis, as an operation involving information as its function, is a cause that is
both part of and external to emergence. It is tasked with carrying out the distribution
of singularities in a system, prepared in advance by information which selects the
potentials according to the demands of the problematic field and the determined
virtual. Metastasis’ functionality emerges by way of a force that precipitates attraction
and repulsion of differences. To state that there is only one cause to every effect is too
simple. Instead, a multiplicity of causes allows for a multiplicity of effects. Ironically,
as Prigogine and Stengers demonstrate, the only way of guaranteeing the existence of
any order in the universe must be on the basis of pluralism and the irreversibility of
time where instabilities function as a symmetry-breaker. It is in this way that the very
nature of causation must always be a multiplicity. In the articulation of any system
(informational, social, economic, biological), articulation involves determination,


and determination must logically have a causal basis. However, the antecedent in
emergence is a multiplicity if we consider that systemic changes (as embodied in both
information systems and information environments) are dynamic and multi-causal.
But, inasmuch as metastasis takes on the appearance of being a determinate
operation, it is itself indeterminate, a dark precursor, that summons the absolute
limit whereby displacement conjures a depth that speaks to the disparate and
heterogeneous that plays out on the periphery. It is only at the depths that distances are
negated between non-adjacent phenomena, where the causal factors are brought into
contiguous relation. In constant displacement, even of itself and any stable identity,
and in perpetual disguise as an intensive feature that brings the disparate differences
together into relation, metastasis differenciates. There is no sense in speaking of an
information signal that travels across a distance, already self-identical and opposed
to entropy as the negating agent (negentropy). To begin with a determinate identity
of such a thing as information, something to which its degrees in relation to the
system it measures can decrease as entropy increases, is to assume the movement
from one point to the next in space, or one state to the next in time, as a series of
segments where there is a cost, an equal exchange between information and entropy.
Information in the technical sense remains static and reproduces itself as a constant
from moment to moment, defined by a measure that determines the relative degree
of organization of a system––itself also self-identical and differing from its own past
by variation and not internal resonance and difference. Information as the function
that assigns the operation of metastasis is what defies measure, speaks of the greater
and smaller, and remains both an active component of perpetual displacement and
disguise. Perhaps only reflection discovers in the effects what it may take as a cause,
but this is an inverted image; there is no compromise or stable equilibrium that
exists between order and disorder, for all is tension, decentering, displacement,
disguise, and excess. It is not the case that information covers over a system, defines
it, negates entropy. Instead, it is that disparate tension that generates something truly
informative, the relation of information and its own difference (not an opposite) that
emerges from the system as a flash or a thunderbolt, to use Deleuze’s characterization.
What is it that causes this flash? For Deleuze, it is the dark precursor. That I am
electing here to give it a name is not to be taken to mean that I assign it a stable
identity since, “if we refrain from attributing to the differenciator an identity that it
cannot and does not have, then the difference will be small or large according to its
possibilities of fractionation––that is, according to the displacements and disguises
of the differenciator” (Deleuze 1994, p. 120). What this displacement does with
respect to a system is break its alliance to the past and to resemblance; the system
and its components differ in themselves and differs from the future that shapes
it. The sign or signal that flashes due to the operation of metastasis goes beyond
the ground state of Being (this ground state being an idealization that only exists
conceptually), and the manifestation of metastasis is the emissive aspect as a result
of the external relations by which it is partially conditioned. These partial conditions
attest to particular articulations which are perspectival and multiple.


One of the enduring difficulties in philosophy is in grounding truly operational

terms rather than base ourselves on a terminology that is perpetually in semantic
drift. There are no “primitives” in philosophical discourse as there are in physics
(everything is only matter and energy, to which is added information if we consider
Norbert Wiener), and each utterance of words such as Being, World, Mind and so
forth have a sinuous resemblance as we move from one philosophical system to
the next. As much as we may like to repose upon the idea that there is a standard
“currency” in philosophical language, this is perhaps little more than a fiction, or
at the most may demonstrate the limits of ordinary language that is fundamentally
incapable of offering a truly operational definition. We may agree on a general idea
of what is Being. We may tie the linguistic manifestation of these terms to logical
principles or herd them under categorical considerations which attempt to outline the
conditions of their possibility. However, we may disagree on the particulars, what
the term should include or exclude, and finally how even a stable definition may lead
to inoperability. This same problem will adhere to this attempt to define metastasis
under the conditions of this metaphysical interpretation. Fixing on its quiddity
according to logical, categorical or lexical considerations will not necessarily lead
us to understand how metastasis works, or for whom this may be of relevance. We
will not undertake to resolve the perennial problem of philosophical discourse and
the lack of agreement on terminology if it is indeed a series of scant resemblances,
each nuanced by particular interpretations, or the prolongation of an erroneous
amusement. It is one thing to develop a conceptual scheme, and quite another matter
to state with certainty that it applies to reality. This gap between the possible and the
real cannot formally be closed, and it may serve to abandon the split between the two
and consider a different formulation where immanence of a process to the production
of the new signals a rethinking of the question of Being. The formal link that cannot
be drawn between concept and reality could be partially due to a fundamental lack
of operational terms. However, we will not prematurely insist on this split between
conceptuality and reality as if these are binary and isolated instances.
However, to insist on operational definitions also proves problematic since, by
definition, an operational definition must be subject to some degree of verifiability,
this functioning as possibly a premature discursive closure that will exclude other
considerations. One way out of this impasse is to insist on metastasis and information
as being operant; that is, something that may exist to enhance or limit a process, but
which does not submit to direct causation. It is here that the white noise that populates
the black box of the virtual can speak to events emerging in a field of uncorrelated
events, or as only partially correlated whilst leaving potentiality inexhaustible. The
process of counter-actualization is, in its way, a means of putting the black ball
back into a box of black and white balls, withdrawing another (actualization) and
replacing it (counter-actualization).
Metastasis can be called both a process and operation immanent to the formation
of all beings in various degrees or rates of intensity. This avoids making metastasis
simply another form of transcendence on account of being an immanent component


of all acts of becoming. Metastasis is process insofar as it entails a series of events

that lead to a particular end, i.e., the becoming-of-something that will further become,
perhaps in relation to a post-material plenum of attractors. Metastasis is an operation
because it expresses the relation between more than one “variable existent” upon
which the value of that existent will depend or be further expressed. Operational
metastasis entirely depends upon the forging of relations, and these are manifest
by way of processes. All beings are mutable composites populated by singularities,
and only have meaning as such when they are put in relation. We need not take this
to mean that the relation has to be between, say, one object and another, but should
include the relations that exist between object and environment, and the internal
relations (intensities) that constitute the object as being a specific and temporary
solution to an environmental problem. This definition of metastasis as process
and operation pushes relativism to its absolute limit so that all that remains is an
expression of Being conditional upon its relations with itself and other beings. Any
such expression or enunciation that takes the form of Being is, actually, a masking
of the virtual forces that produce it.
If we look at Kuhn’s model for paradigmatic shifts in the discourse of science, we
find that every paradigm change is the scene of crisis until all rival notions of that
discourse battle it out and a new paradigm emerges. Likewise, Hegel’s dialectical
process is merciless towards new syntheses produced by the steps of self-affirmation
and subsequent negation and the negation of that negation. Metastasis could not be
simplified to either of these models without violating the rule of its process, though
it bears some occasional relation or resemblance to these views which are more
circumstantial than actual; however, metastasis does not proceed so smoothly or
by means of a fundamental identity of opposites entering into a relation to declare
a victor and a loser. It is far too easy to view metastasis as a hypostasis of Being,
a sort of transcendent regulatory system. We must understand that Becoming is
not a simple, singular process that merely charges or imbues energy to an existent
and causes a transformation from an x to a y, but that it concerns the concert of
transformations that occur on account of any existent’s relations to other becoming
existents, and that it is more of a surge or an unceasing tide of becoming-other.
Becoming works continuously upon that continuum of change (what we can call
in Deleuzian terms a plane of consistency which contains unequal gradients rather
than being a homogeneous milieu), and not necessarily in linear fashion. Considered
in this way, Becoming is nearly impossible for basic mathematics to chart unless it
attempts to isolate a particular existent and follow its progression on a point by point
basis, reducing all other existents that affect change in a particular thing as merely
empty variables for computation.3 The variable existents, instead, are absolutely
full––that is, they are not substitutable. They are, in themselves, complete even
though the process of their transformation is perpetually incomplete, assuming
infinite time. If the entire structure of existence as a series of local and global
becomings is to be understood computationally with a view to predicable outcomes,
it simply cannot be done without recourse to all existents, and even then this might


entail being able to create a “snapshot” of time which would not be particularly
useful since it would not take into account the wide differential in the overlapping
yet unique cycles and scales of time peculiar to various objects and events. There
are too many unknown variables to create the equation for Becoming itself viable
for precise measurement or predictive purposes.4 As a multiplicity of causes and
effects in a turbulent and seemingly stochastic development of existents that are
perpetually force and flux, metastasis can be understood as a transcendental process,
but not transcendent; despite its role in ensuring that Becoming is the givenness of
the given, the “condition” of all givenness of beings, it is actively engaged in the
empirical without merely duplicating it.
There is no “iron schemata” by which we can precisely measure, predict, or
analyze the duration of all that comes to be and passes away with all its ruptures, gaps,
discontinuities, and irregularities. Events are singularities, incorporeal becomings
that cannot be subsumed under a discursive model (explicit or shadowy) that will
confine said becomings to a mere speciation, or phenomenal after-effect. Becoming
can be understood as being of varying degrees of thresholds for transformation and
differentiation, but this is not necessarily linear, for it can turn out that the becoming
of some object occurs by some addition that retains what it was while also being
something more (or less). These magnitudes of becoming are intensive rather than
extensive because they are not quantitatively measurable. For Kant, this intensive
magnitude involves sensation, and it will be with Deleuze that sense will enter
into a new relationship in the history of philosophy that is not merely secondary
to Reason. The derogation of sense from “proper” philosophical consideration is
perhaps little more than a discursive practice of habit. However, the incidence of
all irregularities, discontinuities, and singularities present a deep problem to stable,
analytic discourse. These are non-resolution issues because they cannot be made
to conform to a stable worldview unless we commit to a closed system view, and
they effectively nullify any reliable method for consistent prediction in cause and
effect. When Hume said that we are largely ignorant of the connection between
cause and effect, the problem still stands since even assuming a closed system of
interactions we cannot be privy to all processes without stopping time. We can, by
habit of thought brought about through perception of phenomena or by repeatable
experiment come to an approximation of what will result on the basis of probability,
but it still does not explain how things truly came to be in general, and how to
account for the uncanny––that sudden irregularity that baffles us and is written off
to being a freak occurrence, tucked away in an error margin. A method that cannot
account for all developments is incomplete, and certainly a method that is fixed to its
view despite the ability to perceive things differently according to the multitudinous
ways in which Being/Becoming can be expressed and articulated will not deliver
a fully satisfactory answer. But, then again, perhaps no method will, and so must
acknowledge its limitations. Where science, common sense, or a particular system
of philosophy will not suffice to explain an irregularity, some will take flight to god,
whereas others will try to rethink the matter and come up with a better explanatory


model. If the latter, an unseen error may still take place in the devising of a new
system insofar as it may assume on faith or without thorough investigation some
of the same categorical assumptions that resulted in the failure or incompleteness
of a previous system. The history of philosophy is itself a long history of feigned or
reticent renewals: razing philosophy itself to the ground but not cutting deep enough,
not evaluating the assumed categories with any courageous depth. In fact, few are the
philosophies that can dispense with the whole ground––including that foundation of
the Greeks upon which the weight of philosophy still heavily rests. Meanwhile, the
history of philosophy is perpetually nuancing its terminology, altering its discursive
currency so that even the term Being is of different hue under different philosophical
treatments. Heidegger’s quest to go back to the unsullied, pure, and original definition
of Being was an ambitious and noble effort that is still perhaps unmatched to this day;
however, one wonders what would have happened had he not stopped there, if he had
decided to truly begin philosophy from scratch. The abuse, recrimination, or ridicule
for making that one’s task would be a formidable deterrent, for it could be seen as
arrogant. The problem in being complicit with terminology, beyond the changes in
semantics, could be said to have been isolated by Maimon who argued that deriving
the conditions from reasoning had yet to tackle the central problem of forming a
suitable genesis of Being. Nietzsche attempted to overthrow much of the history of
philosophy by developing the one method––genealogical critique––that would do
this, yet he knew all too well the responsibility that the task commands: if one sets
out with hammer to destroy, one must build something new (and perhaps better)
in its place. If we follow the metaphor of philosophy being a multi-generational
project that builds a little bit on what preceded it, then the one individual who would
take to destroying all that work would be expected to replace it with something that
would match or rival it. This metaphor relies on a belief in progressive development,
that somehow as knowledge increases, philosophy becomes somehow better.5 It is
perhaps gratifying for the philosopher to believe this, that somehow the enlarging
of the sphere of knowledge will bring us closer to truth. However, it is not the
case that an increase of knowledge brings us any closer to truth as though truth
were a destination and knowledge a certain number of miles traversed toward an
anticipated destination. The dangerous thought is always carried forward with every
addition to the philosophical canon: as soon as the assumptions and categories of
philosophical knowledge are questioned, those assumptions cease to be self-evident.
Even thought itself succumbs to displacement––at times unsolicited, and at others a
movement to the “hyperborean” domain of thinking. Nor will we be able to entirely
avoid structure and structural considerations. Rather than champion the somewhat
anarchic view that vilifies structure, instead I will venture to say that this process of
metastasis––this emissary of becoming––is fully structured. Multiplicity does not
borrow structural aspects, but generates them in itself by means of assembling (or
by assemblage) the external relations that makes transcendental empiricism both
transcendental and empirical. When I speak of structure, I do not mean a centralized
structure, but a fluidly dynamic structure. It is an open system composed of several


occasionally closed systems, and the entire structure has its meaning in this vast
ballet of oscillating micro-stabilities and micro-instabilities, each of them a kind of
Anywhere there is a division - be this division a cleavage of objects or imposed by
thought according to categories, there is always the “real possibility” for metastasis
to occur. Where the “cut” is made, or a rupture occurs from within, metastasis may
operate on a new surface––physically and abstractly––to produce new meanings
and different articulations. Metastasis generally upsets staid categorization and
emphasizes the workings of perpetual becoming as the motor by which all things
are expressed, developed, and come to be. Coming to be need not entail the actual
genesis of a particular object, which must always be partial, but can be the incipience
of a Being, conceptually or physically by means of a modification on an existing
entity that alters its meaning “structure.” The code of the structure is always being
rewritten either from within or without. Structure is what is drawn from the chaosmos
and given a particular shape, although that shape is not eternal. Metastasis generates a
map upon the terrain of the chaosmos whereas apoptosis only sees chaos everywhere
and traces its brusque contour upon it to magically divide reason from unreason. In
the view of metastasis, the only eternal principle is that of Becoming, and so the
world is also always “in process.” Any initial conditions are already a displacement,
and individuation presents us with a process of displacement to the limit. To say that
this process leads to a particular end, that there is some purposive gesture or telos
or design imposes a strict limit to how things become, assuming a causal chain of
intentions and consequences far beyond the immediacy of a solution’s generation to
a very particular problem.


Apoptosis is the agent of violent equalization and homeostasis, a mercenary

operation akin to Heracles’ labours to expunge monstrous excesses from the land.
Apoptosis can be considered a form of imposed systematization and structuration
that projects limitations under which a tally of finite outcomes can occur in any
given milieu (be this milieu social, geopolitical, etc). Limitation breaches, or
transgressions, signal a kind of pre-programmed cell death (PCD) response inducing
the transgressing element to die. This occurs usually at the expense of the whole
milieu-unit through a quick response nutritive blockage; in the case of, say, militant
combatants, one alternative in dealing with such elements is to cut all supply lines
to prevent basic means of survival, access to assets and rearmament (this siege-
craft element is precisely the means by which apoptosis functions in the destruction
of an aberrant cell). This may also occur through reactive intervention policies on
the part of concerned groups that make explicit use of regulation and control tools.
Metastasis is a form of crisis to which responses can vary in degrees of intensity.
PCD is by far the most extreme form of response, using siege methods, resource
isolation, and punitive quarantine. PCD is also a preventative system insofar as it


exists as an emergency response system to any contingent transgressions that may

arise that cause limitation breaches in the proper ordering and regulating of any
mechanism. The operative mechanism of apoptosis is to subjugate the contingent
under the totalizing feature of necessity, thus exiling the contingent, destroying it, or
subordinating it to a matrix of predictability and probability.
A commitment to the apoptotic view is also the reactive belief in entropy. Apoptosis
seeks to defer entropy to ensure the harmonious integration of all components so that the
system may continue to function in a highly regulated, conservative state. By restricting
affirmative difference and subjecting this to a series of binary negations, by closing off
discourse by imposing limits and silences, by blocking the nutrients that would support
and sustain multiple alternatives that threaten the regime of order, it is the elected tyrant
of thought that speaks in edicts and unilateral announcements - not engage in debate
that might endanger its reactive legitimacy. And yet apoptosis is already configured
as a “seed” function in information. as a potentiality for any system. The disparation
between metastasis and apoptosis provides for this zone of tension that results in the
creation of local stabilities and instabilities that supports metastability overall. In this
way, we can speak of two registers of Becoming: one that is apoptotic, and the other
metastatic. We can consider apoptosis and metastasis according to what Deleuze and
Guattari call double articulation. There is, in all things and their relations, aspects
of both “operations” which serve to loosen or rigidify codes. Metastasis multiplies
formations via displacements, while apoptosis attempts to formalize or stratify them
within strata-wholes. However, there is an apoptosis characterized by affirmation as
there is a metastasis characterized by negation. In this sense, double articulation may be
said to be itself doubled. Articulation is, in effect, organization. There may be multiple
inputs on how things are articulated, and this organization might better be expressed as
assemblage. Strata are “acts of capture...They act by coding and territorialization upon
the earth” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, p. 40). Apoptosis in the negative sense is the
agent of capture, organizing the “cellularity” of organisms by policing its formations
so that nothing “malignant” endangers the organisms as a whole. Apoptosis in the
affirmative sense is best articulated in Nietzsche’s eternal return: the principle by
which reactive forces nullify their own participation by not willing their own return
(i.e., the eternal return as deselection). Since apoptosis “orders” cells to die by creating
the conditions for their death (blocking the signals for growth, nutritive blockage), it
is an inherent feature or code of the cell, much in the same way that reactive forces do
not will their return as types.
Metastasis as affirmative operation is the production of multiplicities by way
of a complementary re- and deterritorialization of the cell. The boundaries of the
cell (be it physical or the inhering code) are “forgotten,” sloughed off, and instead
the cell follows a new growth trajectory, going to the limit of its power, a new
articulation, a new “aberrant” path which may cut a transversal line across the strata
of the organism. Metastasis in the negative sense is the overproduction of rigidifying
codes, the becoming-fascist of production (alluding here to the warning Deleuze and
Guattari furnish us about cancerous tissue).


For every operation of apoptosis there is a complementary operation of metastasis,

and this relation has a binary aspect without being resolved in a zero-sum game of
equilibrating their forces. For every affirmative (active) apoptosis (A+), there is a
counterforce of negative or reactive metastasis (M-). Conversely, for every reactive
apoptosis (A-), there is a counterforce of active metastasis (M+). These forces, it
should be maintained, are never equivalent in their quantity, but always remain in a
tense relation, a gap or disparity that results in the manifestation of differences.
If forms imply codes, functions imply the processes of codes without those codes
being visible. Codes themselves are hidden from view. A social code, for instance,
is only highlighted when there is a specific problem with the product or network, an
undesirable outcome, or otherwise sought out to perform a modification by adjusting
the interlocking components for the purposes of regulatory control, efficiency, and
improved feedback mechanism. If the product is believed flawless or efficient, the
impetus to study its encoding is not pressing unless if there is a desire for duplication
elsewhere. In that instance, the idea appears to us as “pure” and undiluted, its codes
hidden from us but assumed to be in good placement and proportion to produce
the harmony that is required for the continued functioning of the system. However,
such a relationship is markedly facile since an investigation into codes would then
only be justifiable under two instances: to repair or improve. What is lacking is
the more interesting posing of a problem: in forms, functions, codes and processes,
we can pose the problem differently and not be blinded by apparent operational
successes, for what may systemically function “well” for some may be deleterious to
others. However, more importantly, to block investigation into codes is to send up a
smokescreen of faith: that one should not tinker or engage in a genealogical inquiry
into the functioning of a code, but instead take it on faith that it is working well.
Moreover, inquiry into these matrices of codes allows us to sink deeper into their
value, and the origin of those values, and how they attempt to determine structures
in a given way.
The relative successes of codes and coding must engage with structuralist excess.
The overcoding of any given milieu eventually leads to the over-rigidification or
over-structural positioning of any given subject (positioning in Stuart Hall’s usage
of the term). The rigor mortis of the overcoded subject can only release itself by a
quantification of its simplification - that is, it must slough off the formal baggage
of Form and Substance, State (over-)Structure and State-subject, Content and
Expression, etc., by means of a principle of rigor vita. The structure as whole or
divided into pieces of differing magnitudes and intensities by minor local variations
only furnishes more diversity within that structure. Surplus structure is what gives
ground to a freer variation apart from some master matrix, thereby resisting the
movement from one pre-established form to another. We can always fall back into
structures through lapses of attention, coding holes, or by social and state pressures,
but this is to exist within useful fictions on the fringe rather than to engage with the
engine which precedes and goes beyond all structuration, i.e., decodings, nomadic
variations, and the social drift within structural surplus. A nuance in structure is


not bad or aberrant mimesis, but a new encoding which produces a new type. One
can cast bread upon the waters of chance or one can galvanize the already-given,
erecting structural fortifications and forging discourse-armaments to defend the
selected divisions, dioceses, carved terrains, tyrannical machines, etc. But the latter
is the fascistic urge toward a will to invent and erect a silent empire that governs
totally by an internal regulatory mechanism. Totalizing structures aim for such
universalization, and, in essence, desire to be an automated perpetuum mobile since
an eternally self-regulating structured discourse provides the maximum return on
investment of an invention (since, in totalizing structure, there are no surprises––
only minor variations on a universal theme). Structure in this sense is capture. If one
succeeds at absolute deterritorialization and escapes to land upon the planomenon
rather than the ecumenon, one avoids that other fate: to fall back within the strata
and produce “new” drop-down menu items within a frame of restricted choice that
masquerades as freedom.


Metastasis and apoptosis do not exhaust one another in some sort of dialectical
exchange toward finality. To assert that they cancel one another out in equilibrium
is to assume a kind of entropic narrative that conditions Becoming. In the realm of
biological science, there is a moment of equilibrium in the body: a certain quantity
of cells will match the creation and destruction ratio to achieve a brief period of
“plateau” called homeostasis, but this is hardly measurable or significant, since it
may last a matter of seconds in the life of any body, the duration of this perhaps
inconsequential or even impossible. This is an abstract idealization in biology that
may be able to measure such equal ratios in the simplest of organisms and assume
that more complex bodies will also follow the same rule, or to simplify the results
according to approximations of equilibrium. Metastasis and apoptosis are fugitive
forces, two faces of desire as affirmative and negative. It is not a means of ossifying
ontology with a series of empty concepts. Immobility is effaced by perpetual be-
comings, announced by the manifest process of unlimited production and unlimited
expiration, both what Spinoza would call “potentia” and Nietzsche would call “will
to power” as the constant mobilization of differences. Thought crudely “apopticizes”
its understanding of bodies (organic and inorganic), whereas bodies succumb to an
alternation between metastasis and apoptosis as a whole and in its parts. Metastasis
facilitates the construction of a matrix of production, even if this production can
destroy a body (there are plenty of productions that destroy: the manufacture of
weaponry, a painting that “destroys” a hitherto conception of art’s limits, a selection
of a word in a novel that radically annihilates all other word choices), but this type of
production is linked more to desire as not referenced to an external agency. Therefore
this is an affirmative and generative desire rather than one patterned on, or motored
by, dialectical negation. To speak of a “referent” in a theory of referentiality (in
language, desire, or cancer) is to cover the real process with an overcoding, a fantasy,


a rigged narrative that denies the potential of this “referent”―we should, instead,
speak of a “deferent” such that ultimate meaning always succumbs to slippage, and
that the body to which a cancer refers is little more than the zone or milieu of intense,
metastatic excitation, emerging out of the side communications that reside on any
system’s margin. In this way, we discover the conditions of asignifying rupture,
allowing for a new circuit of rootless signs that are constantly remobilized according
to how their relations can constitute new assemblages.
The difference that metastasis presents is what undergirds difference as the
givenness of the given. As Deleuze says, difference “is not phenomenon but the
noumenon closest to phenomenon” (Deleuze 1994, p. 222). Under traditional
philosophical treatment, difference was subordinated to the identical, the form, and
as a derivation therefrom, inciting the problem of the simulacrum as that copy of
a copy that is in itself difference, but is not in the familial lineage of the Form-
Copy relation. The metastasis of something is not a derivative process, but is instead
assumed to be if one takes the view that there is an ideal state of Being or body
that is corrupted by a sudden surge of uncanny growth that works against code by
co-opting the surplus value of code. However, metastasis is always already there,
an adventitious operation of immanence, perhaps imperceptible and so therefore
seemingly dormant; it is already built into the code of Being, and so the apparent
tension between regulative order and its opposite is the signal by which metastasis
fully articulates itself to us as process, harboured between essence and appearance.
What we generally register is the after-effect of metastasis, the phenomena
associated with it, but metastasis is the noumenon closest to the phenomenon that
we measure, and so therefore we assign it the term “para-attendant process” or a
“para-phenomenon.” Para-phenomena are noumenal, but have such close contiguity
with phenomena that they may be mistaken for the latter. This view protects against
an incommunicable binary between phenomena and noumena, and resists a dualism
between what something is and what it is becoming since the two are one and the
same. In one way, this idea conforms to that of quantum superposition that something
both is and is not, that it exists yet is also in a state of becoming.
A true “system” is capable of making a distinction where it recognizes its own
operations in such a way that it also, by the same movement, recognizes operations
that do not belong to it. In another way of understanding it, we may appeal
conditionally to magmas or groupoids where for any set M there is an operation
matched to it. So, with respect to the operations (grounded in, say, the virtual), let
us assign two that accord with the Nietzschean forces of active and reactive, naming
them here metastasis and apoptosis. Now, metastasis is a generative function nested
within a system that properly belongs to it as much as does apoptosis. Metastasis
erupts by taking advantage of a deviation or a minor “flaw” in structural integrity
(in fact, it exploits, or is conditioned in its operation by, individuating factors that
extends the disparity between at least two complementary if not heterogeneous
series). Apoptosis, on the other hand, plays the role or operation of corrective
feedback and sets limit points, cancels difference, and inserts conceptual intervals.


It is a secondary response to metastasis: entirely reactive. Apoptosis has a function

of limiting the system by means of its reactive operation. In other words, metastasis
“rolls out” whereas apoptosis “rolls back.” Both metastasis and apoptosis are in
a constant push-pull game of feedback correction; whereas apoptosis attempts to
limit the operation of metastasis, metastasis corrects the rigidifying overreaction
of apoptosis, but does so with a view of intensifying difference regardless of the
apparent danger to the stability of any system. Equilibrium and homeostasis do not
result from this clash of operations for one “force” is always of a higher quality
of quantity than another, and this is in perpetual shift. Metastasis’ operation is a
voracious and generative appropriation reminiscent of a maximalist principle.
This maximalism “embraces heterogeneity and allows for complex systems of
juxtapositions and collisions, in which all outside influences are viewed as potential
raw material” (Jaffe 1995). Apoptosis, on the other hand, aims for constraint, leaning
toward a minimalism where form can be imposed upon unchecked generativity. It is
this form that reinscribes production as a history of production in order to construct
the false fiction of a causal series as if form itself was the engine that precipitated
the form created by apoptotic imposition. This is the domain of rationalist or the
literary critic to assume the order of events is reversed, that a reactive effect is the
cause, and that the actual is grasping toward the virtual set as its limit point and
degraded to mere possibility. This is precisely the mechanism that attempts to reduce
the vital maximalism of John Barth’s Giles Goat Boy (which, none too ironically,
already anticipates constraint by sabotaging it in advance) or Thomas Pynchon’s
Gravity’s Rainbow. Every maximalist encounter with apoptosis is a conflict, but it is
metastasis that emerges from the virtual as a fugitive, inserted within the partiality
of the object ready for deployment. Apoptosis, although anticipated in the structure
of the virtual as another role dramatized by its very idea, remains dormant until it
is actualized, drawing to itself the means of division, false distinction, the tyranny
of resemblance, the sickness of thought. “Every phenomenon refers to an inequality
by which it is conditioned. Every diversity and every change refers to a difference
which is its sufficient reason. Everything which happens and everything which
appears is correlated with orders of differences” (Deleuze 1994, p. 222). It is in
this sense that we may posit metastasis as that initial inequality of communicative
disparity from which all phenomena are based, those orders of differences emerging
from the tension inherent to metastatic becoming. Phenomena function as a kind of
stub, a reference mechanism that points us back to some sort of precursor. Under
Deleuze’s treatment, phenomena are composite heterogeneous series, composed of
sub-phenomena that function in unison (not harmony) to form a signal, bounded
by intensities that are themselves infinitely differential––what Deleuze calls
“disparity.” If it were not for disparity, phenomena itself would not appear. The
salience of phenomena, therefore, is contingent upon the emergence and detection
of differences that allow for phenomena to be distinct. Differences are not cancelled
to produce the sense of a thing or to identify a phenomenon. In the place of this
disparity, we offer the clarifying feature of metastasis to convey a more robust


principle of this disparity, these intense differences that condition phenomena. This
disparity is not entropic, and so will not lead to full static determination that reduces
differences any more than difference itself can be uniformly distributed as variety.
The tension of qualities––for example between metastatic generation and apoptotic
curtailment––work in opposing directions, but are not of the same quantity of power
that would result in mutual cancellation of energy. For change and becoming to
remain eternally viable, there must not be true inertia; the catalyst of forces cannot
be entirely used up or lead to a stable and inert state. Local inertia, such as objects
at rest, are potentially prone to reactivation by means of their encounters with
other objects, and so cannot be said to be truly inert forever. Locally inert objects
are still externally related to other objects and the vicissitudes of their changing
environment, and so cannot be said to be eternally at peace. With but one change in
the configuration of objects in a field or the change in environment, the object may
be brought back into flux once more––something perhaps suggests that the operation
of metastasis governing individual objects or phenomena at large is still operative
to allow for such changes of state through displacements at a large or micro level.
The phenomena expresses itself in a grand catharsis: either of growth, destruction,
displacement, or metamorphosis. Becoming is the dramatization of all Being, and
inseparable from it.
A Being ruled by the process of metastasis can be called, in Patočka’s sense,
demonic, which means that it operates by secrecy and outside any consideration for
responsibility. The “metastasized” Being succumbs to an anabasis, a conversion that
recodes a body against the dominant regime of signs and their attendant functions. It
is akin to a retrogressive movement from a responsibility-based religion back to the
pagan, the demonic secret, the bacchanalian revel. It is not so much an abdication of
responsibility as such, but rather a Nietzschean ethical turn where nihilism reaches its
conclusion and a revelation takes place that all the tables of morality are seen as they
are: arbitrary mechanisms that merely serve a regulatory function for domination.
Just as the Overman frees itself from the fetters of regulatory moral law in order to
fashion new moral laws, a Being-of-metastasis rejects the regulatory code in order to
re-encode the “body” differently and according to its own differentiation. Metastasis
attends the dissemination process immediately following the single cell’s moment of
anabasis: a complete conversion from the hitherto regime of regulatory code. New
regulations, determined by the internal differentiation process of the metastatic, take
precedence and eventually “overflow” signification―signs replicate beyond the
ability to contain them in the usually stable balance between signifier and signified.
What is taken as copying infidelities or errors in code are actually the working out of
surplus value of code in a process of differentiation.
The demonic circumvents the rhetoric of responsibility through complete
affirmation of act, and with a refusal to engage in regulatory mechanisms pre-
programmed for the purposes of enforcing obedience and arresting affirmative
difference. It is in this way that the demonic―or metastatic Being―also rejects
dialectical modes of differentiation. This re-encoding can easily be viewed as


something reactive or reactionary – and, if we were to situate metastasis as just

another species of phenomena, this would be true. However, functioning behind
the phenomena is a rigorous principle of metastasis that precedes the regulative
flow of code that assumes equilibrium or hierarchization. Metastasis seems to react
against the status quo when in fact the status quo is a reaction against metastasis
and Becoming in general. This reversal of expectation has much to do with the
prejudices of Thought that has taken the general and universal as its model for how
Being is, and that all of Being’s becoming-manifestations must be marshalled under
a taxonomy of genera. The imposition or assumption of a base state or unity of
Being from which all phenomena are derived is a radicalization of the real, if not a
distorted image of it. Dialectical processes of Thought that undertake to examine and
apportion the proper place to Being has proven to institutionalize a dominant mode
of thinking on the very question of Being, subjugating the role Becoming is to play.
Metastasis communicates with apoptosis, even if this communication is seen
on the one side as an opposition. Metastasis coexists with the “cellular” reticulum
of (dialectically-arranged) Being, forming a horizon or relative-globality in
relation to the absolute-locality of striated space. Where there is relation, there is
some form of communication and all communication entails risk. However, the
dynamism of this risk requires some exploration. What is being risked? For whom
(the impersonal “who”) is that which is being risked actually risked? Metastasis
does not pledge its allegiance to responsibility, but is not risk associated with some
form of responsibility? One of the claims Bataille attempts to put forth is that there
can be risk without responsibility, even if that risk appears as though it at the very
least is the responsibility of affirming that life has no telos. It is the “responsibility”
of the one to make the realization that what stands behind the veil of utility and
meaning is a gaping abyss into which one is thrown in a state of ecstatic laughter.
This dissolution of self through an acute désoeuvrement attracts the corroboratory
belief in a kind of “mystic nihilism” of which Sartre imputes to Bataille―a claim
mitigated by Derrida as being somewhat hasty and incomplete. But it is this risk
that underwrites every external relation that allows for the manifestation of Being’s
becoming. The risk of failure or success will depend on how we choose to view the
result of any relation, but this is merely a change in phenomenal circumstances that
result in a differentiation taking place. From the standpoint of the transcendental,
there is no such “risk”, but necessity: whatever enters into relation will be changed
in some manner or another.
As metastasis communicates, the relation between speech and action are
contiguous if not synonymous, which is to say that there are no intermediaries.
Without a regulatory system that governs between what must live and what must die
to balance the books, apportioning space and designation to things in their “proper
places,” metastasis expands beyond the striated frontiers set down by regulative
code. Metastasis gives its Nietzschean No! to apoptosis.
If metastasis is one of the primary operations of Becoming, and if all creation is
ostensibly also a critique, what is its more puissant relation with Nietzsche’s active/


reactive force couplet? At every scene of a catastrophe, something always turns

up, something new is anastrophically discovered. Even in Heideggerian parlance,
any possibility is a covering over another, and so the un-covering (usually by a
violent razing) is the scene of both a building up and a taking down. Critique, in
the Nietzschean sense of creation, reveals the catabolic nature of any preexisting
state of affairs or stagnant field of ideas. What rises up with phoenix-like power
is the active from the reactive, the anaclysm (not cataclysm) of Thought and of
Being. And just as for Deleuze there cannot be a reterritorialization without a
complementary deterritorialization (taken as one single movement with two effects,
somewhat reminiscent of cytokinesis in a cell), it is the same with the nature of
critique and becoming. Recoding is always also a decoding of what the new code
replaces––if not a replacement of all the elements in that code, at least the formal
arrangement of its prior structure, and the displacement of the physical code and the
displacement of functions. Codes occur in chain-like structures, and have bonds that
are linguistically, socially, politically, and geographically formed. Their individual
units, which cannot exist without being already installed in a chain of bonds, could
be called codemes. Codemes must exist in a system of interrelated and exo-related
reference, and this is guaranteed by the chain structure. The letter “a” can be isolated
from the remainder of the alphabet, but it still ostensibly refers to it, or else may refer
to another signifying order of code chains such as geometry, aesthetics, phonetics,
etc. But this is not to say that the letter “a” does not affirm its own difference or is
bereft of its own meaning. For example, a protein peptide chain is called as such
because it is composed of smaller units of bonded amino acids, but these bonds can
make an infinite number of chains. An amino acid, un-bonded, can exist per se, but
its tendency is to bond. It is the same at the molecular level, especially among atoms
that do not have their electron shells filled and so have a tendency to fill those shells
through bonding in the environment.
However, perhaps if considered with more precision, the “magic” of de/re-
coding actually possesses a “codeme” exchange of particulate code-elements that
are co-transferred or donated. A site that is decoded must first possess a capacity for
affective formation, and the act of decoding-as-recoding must exceed the resistance-
factor of said site.6 If the de/re-coding occurs relatively quickly, then the de/re-
coding capacity for overcoming resistance will be proportionately higher in that case
than in another instance where the exchange of codemes is slower due to a narrower
relationship between the capacities of affect and affectation. Also, changes in either
the resistance-factor in site “x” and the agent of de/re-coding “a” may also affect the
rate of transformation.
Decoding, taken on its own, relies upon a capacity for negation or translocation of
existing codemes in site “x” that is higher than the resistance-factor of the site. But
to take decoding on its own, as a kind of in vitro phenomenon, is impossible, since
decoding is synonymous with recoding. To decode is to perform a substitution of
codemes through addition, rearrangement, or displacement. Removal by substitution,
for example, automatically alters the code chain, thereby reinscribing it in terms of


its expression and function. A geneticist can knock out a gene from a particular twist
of helices, effectively decoding the former code chain, but such an action recodes the
chain insofar as new bonds develop, and the overall genetic character of the organism
is also made to alter in accordance with the change (the recoding) of a particular
code chain. The annulment or displacement of one code chain is simultaneously
the genesis of a new one. We discover this in the deconstructive program in relation
to text insofar as the insertion, reinterpreting, appending or substitutive effects of
deconstruction upon a “stable” text results in the creation of a new text, another layer
or register that re(en)-codes the “original” text.
In the same way that decoding cannot exist in isolation beyond being an abstract
idea, recoding follows the same order. To re-code would mean that there was once
a code chain that pre-existed the act of re-coding. Simply put, one cannot recode
if there is not a code chain in place within which the recoding can occur. Codemes
from either the already coded chain or the agent of de/re-coding have the possibility
of trading off. For example, if we consider the way in which a street gang can recode
the relationship to urban geographical space, we find that the gang can borrow certain
codemes from the code chain of “property rights.” In this way, a gang can be said
to feel a property entitlement to the area they have re-inscribed and defend without
a) owning any property in the formerly encoded traditional sense as guaranteed
by a nation’s system of law (the code frame), b) defense and territorial expansion
inherent within the existing code chain is borrowed (appointing gang members to
substitute for the role of police, territorial expansion hitched on a code chain of
inter-gang conquests rather than urban sprawl, etc), and; c) a sense of community
and belonging due to a consensus in values and goals. In the case of the gang, the
code chains are reinscribed, but are in many ways borrowed codemes from the code
chain they have de/re-coded.
When it comes to de/re-coding, there is never a final equivalence between code-
chains. The act of de/re-coding depends on an anaclysm, a degree of metastasis
and apoptosis. It is the proportional difference between de/re-coding and the site
or object to be de/re-coded that determines the capacity to be affected, and to what
Code frames contain a complex series of interrelated code chains. This provides
the expressible “structure” of code chains taken as a larger unity. Code frames
are a means of increasing order and resisting de/re-coding by aligning the code
chains into rigid signifying patterns. However, code frames are no more immune to
transformation and de/re-coding than is the genetic structure of a body to cancer due
to internal or external influences. Code frames are idealized unities to protect against
the potential for de/re-coding. Despite the arrangement of code chains to best protect
against alteration, it is akin to building a dam with poor grade materials. The bigger
the frame, the more resistant it may be to alteration, but the code chains it consists of
are individually less resistant, and at times it only takes one proverbial “weak link”
in a chain to spur a widespread, metastatic de/re-coding event. Within a code frame,
there can be structural anomalies that may help or hinder its overall integrity, areas


where there is “bunching”, overlayering, and, conversely, stress, resource scarcity,

and atrophy. Code frames may over-respond to the threat of invasion by arranging
tighter and more numerous code chains that, by their strong resonance, may produce
“code bulges”. These bulges may be constructed at the risk of shifting code chain
resources from other zones, making those zones deficient, more permeable, and
susceptible to a potential de/re-coding event. For example, if too much resource
investment is given the philosophy of linguistic reference, and more practitioners
are allocated to promote and defend such a theory against anticipated objections on
the front-end, then that may mean less defensibility if the same code frame of that
philosophy were questioned on the validity of semantic rules in general on the back
Bulges are not the only concern when it comes to code frames. Firstly, code
frames demarcate their zones rigidly and so do not communicate as easily with
neighbouring frames. Code frames, tightly bound up with code chains, do not have
very permeable membranes. Secondly, they don’t alter or transition easily on their
own given the fact that the energy required to do so would also mean a considerable
alteration in either the arrangement of code chains or a change in the individual
codemes themselves. Lastly, despite their apoptotic quality of resisting de/re-coding
event threats, some code chains are arranged in what can be called hollow code
bubbles. Code bubbles have the appearance of impenetrability, but a major portion
of the code chains are stitched together as a surface, and if that surface breaks, it
reveals a vulnerable space wherein a de/re-coding event could more easily take
place and cause more rapid alteration. Code flips and reversals also take place, but
these still operate predominantly under the management of the pre-installed code,
pushing forth with a tepid irony that merely negates what has been anticipated in the
staus quo ante of codes. PCD, for example, performs a reversal by negation in this
fashion and, incidentally, a rather mundane variety of ironic response. Codes reside
in a domain that can properly be examined by recourse to topology since it is upon
surfaces (manifesting depths, but somewhat prismatically where the virtual which is
fully determined is a light caught within it and actualization is but the diffraction of
light into a spectrum that represent the variegation of interpretations).
A topology is composed of a set of necessary elements in order to determine a zone.
A zone itself is unthinkable without at least one of each of the following: an interior,
a closure, a frontier, a relative interior, and a neighbourhood. Norms and filters
function as regulatory instantiations of any topological continuum. The propinquity
of features in a zone will vary according to what elements are expressed, and these
expressions are contingent upon how each of the local-operators in particular places
interact. However, the character of these local operations in code can be regulated
by means of imposed boundary conditions which assert differential equations in
order to obtain particular solutions. On the other hand, multivariate response of
codes (enchained or not) can express random variables as interdependent. But what
is of interest in a topology, especially that of an ontological variety, is the potential
metastatic tendency toward homotopia, which is the deformation of one curvature or


function into another––a sort of co-opting of the genetic conditions of Being in such
a way that it alters not just its secondary qualities, but its very constitution.
A prime example borrowed from mathematics is that of the fractal. For example,
the famed “dragon curve fractile” proceeds by what is called “iterations,” and has the
slowest yet highest complexity in growth rates. Local vectors in a fractal “iterate”
or express its slightest deviation, whereas the entire fractal is more like a vector,
tangentially spread. The tensor aspect of the fractal is what causes it to become bowed,
to curve itself away from a linear horizon. To mirror this fractal (in considering two
local-operators) would be to form an asymptotic deviation from an originating cusp
(we will assume here a common meeting point of relation), otherwise known as
a cissoid function. These fractals operate by means of compound growth in any
code chain or matrix, and any contragredient aspect that alters this matrix by means
of local-operations in a fractal describe the transposition or displacement of the
expressed character of that fractal’s curve in relation to any linear horizon. A cissoid
in the code that expresses Being need not be binary asymptotes, but depending on
the invisible tensor aspect between fractal operators, the deviations could in one case
be tangential to the other in a different degree than the other which would be strictly
tangential to the horizon line. As well, the “originating” cusp (what we may call
the birthing point of a two potential vectors in relation) can be effaced if there is a
shift caused by the tangential degree of one or more fractals. If fractal A, originating
at cusp x has an iterability greater than that of fractal B, there is a possibility that
its inherent force of progression could break or shift from its originating point.
However, on the other hand, two fractals in cissoid motion, even if both operated
at different tangents, could have their cusps anchored in place. What we may retain
from this, given an explanation of topology and fractalization, is that metastasis may
be expressed as a homotopic deviation with a differential +1; compound growth
would entail Being (B) and differential (d) in this way: B(1+d/100)n. This equation
roughly parallels that of the fractal. What we do not rush to explain is the source
of the tangential line, why the asymptote occurs, or any such principle that would
act as an explanation for why Being deviates. The fractal is an operative analogical
model for describing the process of metastasis, but even with this appeal to a more
mathematical and geographical structure, this is still to be marooned in a zone where
we are forced to constantly interpret effects. But there is a space described by a
meeting point that is one part mathematics and another part mysticism––but here we
must exercise a critical and delicate balance that neither take privileged position in
understanding metastasis.


The exilic figure of simulacrum – neither Form nor Copy, it has no direct or indirect
relation to Truth. It is, in the words of Baudrillard, the end of all referentiality, all
history, and the triumph of delirium: “The transpolitical is also this: the passage
from growth to excrescence, from finality to hypertely, from organic equilibria


to cancerous metastases. It is the locus of catastrophe, and no longer of crisis”

(Baudrillard 1999, p. 163). Baudrillard claims that the transition from the era of the
political to that of the transpolitical is a movement from anomie to anomaly. It is that
“malefic curvature” of normalization that bows the horizon of meaning, rendering it
a series of “aberrations without consequence” (Baudrillard 1999, p. 164) - what we
can call the “monstrous.” Unlike the heroism of the Herculean age or the hackery of
Hollywood, these monsters - stripped of any reliable configuration within a binary
- are not put to death by the traditional categories of the True or the Good. This era
of anomaly “operates in an aleatory and statistical field, a field of variations and
modulations now oblivious to that margin or transgression characteristic of the field
of law...a field so normalized that abnormality no longer has a place in it, even in the
form of madness or subversion” (Baudrillard 1999, p. 164). The non-consumable
“surplus” of the dialectic Bataille indexes his project on is a portrait of this anomaly,
the metastatic that lives beyond at the point of subjectivity’s dissolution. It is the
movement away from enstasy, the movement into the ecstasy of non-savoir.
The hypertelic, far from being (re)absorbed into a synthesis of the subject-object
relation, far from being thrust into a diminutive cyclorama of utility, is a reservoir
of “useless” remainders - the orphans and exiles of dialectical processes that can
be considered (from Reason’s point of view) as unfortunate excreta. The hypertelic
appears to begin in the fixed categories of Reason but outpaces these by being
extended ecstatically and metastatically (one and the same process if we consider
Baader’s definition). The “useless” prosthesis that juts out from the body of thought
is an undecidable “object.” The hypertelic is a violation of binary law that would
seek to fix it in a kind of enstatic order. Instead of the intelligible, we are left with
delirium; instead of the defined lineage between form and copy, we are left with
the simulacrum; and instead of the propositional or symbolic orders of denotation
and connotation, we can only seemingly approach the hypertelic by means of Stoic
sense where the tree does not have greenness as an attribute: the tree is greening. The
transitive is contained within the action.
Baudrillard largely views the hypertely of existence and the impossibility of
meaning as negative. And, indeed, the examples he cites do portray a negative
aspect of what he deems metastatic, using cancer as an analogy to demonstrate the
postmodern impasse even if it does seem to belie a commitment to structuralism.
If we consider that this problem of Being’s becoming concerns that of where to
begin, and where to ground it, such a quest will gain no purchase unless we take
Deleuze at his word:
Sufficient reason or the ground is strangely bent: on one hand, it leans towards
what it grounds, towards the forms of representation; on the other hand, it turns
and plunges into a groundlessness beyond the ground which resists all forms
and cannot be represented. (Deleuze 1994, p. 275)
It is this parabolic bow of Heraclitus, this tangential vector that describes both
the circle and the breaking of the circle, that symbolizes the entire relationship


between the substance of Being and that groundless “quiddity” that operates below,
through, and beyond it. The time of metastasis is the eternal return––not the cyclical
temporality, the circular return to the Begriff, but the tangent. The leaping volleys
of Heraclitus’ fire are the groundless ground that shapes the conflagration of Being,
the flux Reason arrests into determinable substances. The fire, metastasis, displaces
all ground, bending the horizon of meaning tangentially (away into what cannot be
represented), and is also that Deleuzian virtual where it is the truly givenness of the
given; complete determination as eternal displacement, eternal growth, abrogation of
all codes. Being is, in its true “form,” and not anchored in Heidegger’s discussion of
the ecstactic. Dasein slips, becomes abject, always never-itself even when it is not-
itself (such would be the repose of objectivity whereas abjectivity is the step beyond).
Being is transitive and so placing it gruffly within allegory, or metaphor is to commit
a grievous metaphysical solecism. Dasein, as such, bends away from itself just as the
“ground” upon which it resides also bends away tangentially from itself, a perpetual
inverse fractalization where what is sought is forever bending away, underneath, the
noun-ness of itself a continuous elision. That which endures in a ground or foundation,
no matter how cracked or buried, may cause peremptory reflexes.
The immanent nature of metastasis facilitates the enclosing of apoptosis as one
of its possible modes. Reactive nihilism belongs to apoptosis and is designated not
by the absence of Being, but as an initial reactive event settling into absolute inertia.
Inertia exists as a degree of speed in metastasis, and so therefore metastasis and
apoptosis are not equalizable terms; rather, apoptosis is a phase, subset (or mode)
of metastasis attempting to de-differentiate Being through absolute localization and
categorization. Apoptosis exists in a kind of eidetic situation when rationally-based
divisions take place to extract from phenomena what is required to substantiate that
division. This does not bring us to some noumenal thought, but instead a second
order phenomenon of thinking.
To place metastasis as the “origin” of things, the generative function of all
existence under the immanent guidance of information, ought to be understood in
a very specific case; namely, that which Gadamer calls incipience [Anfänglichsen]:
“Being incipient refers to something that is not yet determined in this or that sense,
not yet determined in the direction of this or that end, and not yet determined
appropriate for this or that representation (Gadamer 2000, p. 17). Curiously enough,
this definition of incipience corresponds with the challenge Bergson presents us with
in thinking of becoming and motion, free of the prejudice of thought which imposes
artificial stability upon the instability of matter. This way of thinking “incipiently”
is akin, according to Gadamer’s sentimentally-tinged analogy, to the way in which
a young person engages the thought of existence sans ingrained intellectual habits,
as “a movement that is open at first and not yet fixed” (Gadamer 2000, p. 18). Yet
there is no end to this incipience, for just when something is individuated as part of
an assemblage, such a thing will succumb to a new round of individuation, and thus
form part of a new assemblage. The incipient stage is the perpetual stage, and this is
furnished in part by the inexhaustible plenum of potentiality embedded in the virtual.


Metastasis functions immanently in Being as an apparent affect, a kind of

anabolic motor that excites the “components” of a system to go beyond the system’s
own regulative parameters, eschew its own limitations, become turbulent with
differentiation, and thereby resist the externally imposed forces and obstacles upon
it. Metastasis, rendered in this way, is a depersonalized version of the will to power.
Being does not choose to enter into a mode of metastasis, but instead metastasis
chooses Being as the conduit for a future expression, a new way of developing its
sense. Metastasis gives of itself to anything at anytime without warning, agency, or
rational sequence––but it does so unlike Ponge’s characterization of electricity as
being a kind of prostitute (see Ponge, Lyres). Metastasis gives, but it simultaneously
commands and directs the generative, formative, and perpetual differentiation of
Being. If this is the case, one could ask what use could a process like metastasis be
if it cannot be predicted or even measured? Reason itself may not be able to make
much use of it, especially if there are designs to (re)create a regulatory mechanism
or neatly contained system that will yield results on the basis of predictability or
probability. One objection might be that we are essentially throwing all ontological
considerations under the banner of mere possibility. Another potential charge would
be that we are dangerously close to mysticism.
To the first anticipated objection we may argue in defense of metastasis with
no appeal to possibility as such. At its very beginning, Being’s beyond-ness is its
givenness. There is no reason to seek or push Being into a beyond when it already
begins as a Becoming, as Being-beyond-itself (an ecstatic dimension to Being).
However, we ought to make clear that this beyond-ness is not a transcendence it
can attain as part of a teleological program or among its possibilities of being-in-
the-world. If this beyond-ness is given as transcendental, it is through an appeal to
transcendental empiricism; metastasis as the primacy affect that fully modulates the
Being-of-Becoming. The guarantee of the function emerges first out of the black box
of the virtual where arises functions, and these functions are given their direction
[sens] by information. The “residual” part of the object that remains undetermined
becomes determined by external relations when that object becomes actualized.
What must be retained here is that the virtual is not possible, for this would place it
in opposition with the real. Instead, we can speak of Being’s potentia, but in such
a way that, in so far as it is fully determined in the virtual milieu, every one of its
potentialities are embryonically part of Being.
To the second anticipated objection that this courts mysticism we may not provide
the most satisfying answer. There is indeed a type of ecstasis, a level of excitement that
brings Being beyond itself, but this beyond-ness is already given. However, here we
must insist on a type of ecstasis that is not indexed on that of Plotinus, St John of the
Cross, Meister Eckhart, or any kind of ecstasis that deals almost predominantly with
a change of state in thought. The type of ecstasis relevant here is one that involves
all Being. A “metastatic” view of metaphysics is not a reiteration of gnosticism
since it does not a) reject the physical world in favour of viewing human as divinely
incarcerated in bodies, and b) appeals to no supreme principle or godhead. Metastasis


may appear essentialist to some degree, but is anti-essentialist on the grounds that it
accords privilege to relations and an empiricism of a higher type. Moreover, nor can we
assign information the role of supreme principle since it, too, still operates according
to laws, such as not being able to exceed the speed of light. It is only information as
it emerges as the modulating function from the virtual that still shares its fuller bond
with infinite potentiality. Given that both information and metastasis are immanent to
the actual, and are caught in a dynamic open loop with the actual and the virtual via
intensity, it is not prescriptive of the actual any more than it is prescriptive of the virtual.
The hierarchy of representation that allows for apparent repetition, facilitates
constraint of choice by placing limits on what can(not) become or what properly
belongs to a species in accordance to a list of properties, can be considered a matrix
or superstructure of generality. This matrix reduces its components to their intrinsic
and extrinsic commonalities (how the thing compares to or resembles itself, and
how it resembles or compares against others, as a precondition for belonging to a
set or class that can be held under formal names). Similarity, then, is to be adjacent
in a representational series. True and affirmative difference resists (in the case of
counteractualization) or ignores limits and constraints of this nature. Difference
is a non-adjacent distribution of affects brought about through a becoming-desire
manifested as a transformational vector or line of flight. Like the process of biological
metastasis, its “desire” (fully determined in its virtual “stem”) is to colonize non-
adjacent space and form a neo-vasculature that differs from the vascular regime of
the body but without becoming another molarity. That is, the neo-vasculature is a
monstrous eruption, but does not produce as though in opposition to the body as
such. Neo-vasculature is a molecular result of Becoming.
Restriction of choice, if it becomes embedded to such an extent that it no
longer requires an active program to sustain beyond the function of learning-as-
memorization, leads to constriction of choice and difference. For example, a closed
and dogmatic Weltanschaaung no longer provides alternative options outside its
regulatory frame. Instead, selection occurs within this dominant regulatory frame or
system. This constraint affords a degree of stability within that system. So, too, does
a bipolar world of two competing ideologies as experienced during the Cold War.
However, in the constrained choice between capitalism and communism, flight from
one to the other is only the flight from one molarity to another (in fact, Deleuze and
Guattari will go so far as to declare ideology as molar). Both ideologies are part of
the same metaphysical view, the same system of dialectical negation: each is defined
by what the other is not. If capitalism and communism in their infancy were defined
differently, this was on account of their not having entered into an oppositional status.
Over time, the development or refinement (i.e., regulatory processes that dogmatized
the ideological positions) was a co-determination: as capitalism determined itself
and its content by rejecting from its qualities those belonging to other ideological
strains (fascism, tribalism, etc.), it gained its identity which was largely negatively
determined. So, too, did communism under Stalin. Where in the geopolitical game
was there an instance of micropolitics? The then-called Third World––neither fully


capitalist nor communist, was entirely other, and the bitter struggle between the two
ideologies was dramatized in the only open political space in which they could wield
influence, and hence the use of proxies (Vietnam, Cambodia, Afghanistan).


In the simplest of terms, entropy is defined as the relative degree of disorder in a

system, generally signalling the unavailability of thermal energy in a system required
to perform work. It is a truism in classical physics that when entropy increases,
available energy decreases. What this means in simpler terms is that the degree
of order in a system is less capable of converting thermal energy into mechanical
energy. One may note that Wiener carves his own definition of information by
posing entropy’s opposite, and yet we might question if the relative degree of (dis)
order that is said to define information and entropy is not the scene of an antinomy.
It is more likely that, for those who subscribe to the definition of relative degree of
(dis)order, information is movement or tendency in one direction on a continuum,
while entropy is movement in the opposite direction. This leaves open the question
if there can be such a thing as a total and absolute degree of information as there
would be for entropy: is it possible for a system to be in a state of complete order just
as the second law of thermodynamics contends that there can be absolute disorder?
We might be tempted to tentatively suggest that information, at its most absolute
degree, would mean that the entire system would be in perfect equilibrium because
all the components of the system would be able to convert all thermal energy
into work with no remainder, but continue to do so perpetually. However, such a
system, as something that might only exist in abstraction, might signal the end of
anything generatively new since having no energy remainder would not permit any
changes to the system that may disrupt the delicate balance of maintaining an order-
to-work correspondence. In this sense, absolute entropy and absolute information
share this in common: the end of difference, and that it is possible that entropy and
information do not reside on a continuum, but instead as a circle where both come
to mean the same thing with respect to the possibility of differentiation. Recalling
that maximum entropy in a system would mean that there would be no available
energy to convert into mechanical energy necessary for any production, this also
means that there would be no choice, and no difference. On the other hand, absolute
zero entropy would mean that the order is unchangeable. For example, if our system
was a box composed of 100 tossed coins, no matter how many times I withdrew a
coin, it would always appear in the same sequence, and so if that sequence were
alternating between a coin that is heads followed by tails, I could return to the box
an infinite number of times and this would not change. From a Shannon-Weaver
perspective, there is no surprise element in this act, and thus we might say that it
is not informational.I will beg off providing the complex mathematics involved in
understanding entropy, although integral to a fuller understanding of how the term
is employed, including Bernoulli shifts, Sinai’s entropy, Kolmogorov’s K-property,


and Pinsker’s conjecture that positive entropy is the product of the transformation
of zero entropy in addition to automorphism. Despite how the level of activity and
attention mathematics pays to understanding entropy, the intention here is to ground
the concept of entropy on more metaphysical considerations.7
The story of how entropy became central to the question of information can be said
to begin in earnest with the thought experiment of James Clerk Maxwell in 1871 as
an effort to assess the second law of thermodynamics, but gains in critical mass once
we enter into the official age of communication theory where there is a dedicated
impulse to control for and negate entropy using technical means. Although it is
tempting to address the capture of the thermodynamic paradigm by communication
theory and computer science, this does not constitute a full disclosure as a simple
channeling of thermodynamics. The origin of concern with entropy coincided with
the rise of industrialization and a prevailing belief in corrective mechanism that
became loosely applied to issues of employment (the Benthamites), division of
labour (Babbage), the efficiency of production from the technical solutions of the
steam engine to the railways, if not also the optimization of labour power (Taylorism
and Fordism), and even in those domains where mechanistic correction against
perceived dissolution and entropy was seen as necessary, such as in the domain
of moral-biological Darwinism (Galton’s eugenics movement), or in economics
especially in the works of David Ricardo who advocated for a proper adjustment
of the ratio of imports to exports to postpone the economy’s inevitable fall into
homeostasis (and thus entropy). In many of these cases, some corrective measure is
introduced to assist in the navigation and correction of a system’s natural tendency to
entropy by organizing them around certain system-preserving or system-enhancing
Information loss can be characterized as a conditional change in entropy.
Information loss occurs empirically; that is, in the mathematical theory of
communication, one can measure information loss in a channel. So, for example,
if we want to know how much information I we can obtain by observing event E,
ideally the amount of information we can obtain will be equal to the amount of
uncertainty we have prior to the observation.
We know something about the physical world qua physics by means of
measurement. Yet it is not a simple matter of using a finely calibrated instrument
to measure heat, motion, or mass. Both quantum physics and systems theory, for
example, have long held that the very act of measurement has an effect on what is
being measured. In a system, the observer does have some “measurable” effect on
the system being observed. We know from the classical theory of thermodynamics
that the universe moves from the heterogeneous state to the homogeneous, and
that over time the balance of the universe moves from a maximum potentiality to a
maximum of entropy.
Taking Wiener’s definition of information as a starting point, we may conclude
that entropy is either an existing “thing” and so merely the opposite of information,
or that it is simply the absence of information. If the latter, then we may be committed


to view information as the only positive term, and that its negation does not grant
existence to entropy as such, but merely the absence of information as the degree
of organization in a system. There are no “entropic” forces as such any more than
information can be called a force. There may be an impulse that causes a system
to organize, just as there may be a countering force that throws the system into
disorganization. From the statistical standpoint, what we are measuring is an amount
of information in the event, and using probabilities to measure growth of a particular
state of affairs (either informational or entropic). Wiener states that information, as
a quantity, differs from entropy by its algebraic sign and a possible numeric factor
(Wiener 1954, p. 116).
The compelling argument for entropy and the second law of thermodynamics
might be on the order of probabilities: it is more probable that a system will eventually
succumb to catabolic factors that will lead it to a state of disorder and degeneration
than a system will be reconstituted according to the state it once enjoyed. In the
event of the formation of the precise arrangement of what we call Mount Everest
has a probability zero of repeating, but its degeneration is probability one. It is more
probable that a system will succumb to energy dissipation and eventual collapse of
structure than it will enter into a state of being highly ordered and structured––and,
even if it does enter into this state, such a state is temporary at best before there is an
increase in entropy. Such a situation gives rise in some minds to a kind of universal
pessimism, best captured by Yeats’ poem, “The Second Coming”:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

If the universe were a pattern of sequences with absolute predictability of sequences,

then the information theorists might tell us that this is not informational because
there is no surprise. However, as Rudolf Arnheim (1971) tells us, regularity is a
necessary feature of structure. However, one of the issues that arises here with
respect to entropy in a system is that we are speaking of a particular, i.e., closed
system. Mount Everest, a unique snowflake, a system of government: these are
temporary assemblages that inevitably succumb to catabolism, but this is different
from stating that all mountains, all snowflakes, all governmental systems would be
improbable in the future. The “economy” of information and entropy theory makes
observations based on closed systems and particular sequences that arise from the
initial conditions of an event, and to consider the macro-scale of all systems that share
similar characteristics as leading toward entropy may be true, but at different rates
of energy dissipation. If we wanted to know the after-effects of any event from the
basis of probabilities alone, initial conditions are an effective starting point, but it is


only in theories of chaos and turbulence where we will learn something more robust
about said systems, and how they may actually enter into states of complexification
and far-from-equilbrium.
And yet the second law of thermodynamics has no choice but to make a universal
presupposition on the basis of system observations. This leaves it open to critique.
It is here that Deleuze, in Difference and Repetition, swoops in, calling entropy
a “transcendental illusion” (Deleuze 1994, p. 229). This illusion, says Deleuze,
concerns how the intensity associated with entropy is in effect “implicated” in that
intensity by means of an explication that is simply assumed. Entropy of difference is
explicated in extensity, moving steadily towards its negation in a universe of entropy
defined by redundancy. This, for Deleuze, denies the transcendental condition that
keeps difference active in the molecularization of becoming that endures in time,
and instead draws a downward trend-line where mere variety is eventually cancelled
out by heat death. Just as other terms in scientific discourse, such as “gene” or
“energy” rely on some figure of representation, Deleuze will tell us that what these
terms designate are intensive qualities that are “disguised,” and only explicated in
extensity post facto. What is missing is the intensive differences of an affirmative
nature that can be understood as appropriating the sense of the very terms that are
used in the discourse. At issue here is how Deleuze understands the scientific concept
of entropy, and how it is but one side of the story.
For Deleuze, a relative degree of (dis)order might be better expressed simply as
intensity of a system (either in the organization of that system via the instigating
function information for individuation and the conversion of energy into work, or
in the disorganization as manifest by entropy), and yet Deleuze would most likely
reject information and entropy as merely readymade “qualities” pertaining to system
states as though they can be mapped out solely in extensity. For Simondon, it is the
disparity of heterogeneous states entering into relation, and not the information-
entropy opposition, that guides the process of individuation.
The succession of “states” in systems to maximizing entropy (not to its absolute
maximum) can actually be generative of new formations within those systems. This
is hardly a new argument, but it does conform to the general idea that not all noise
in a channel, or increased entropy in any given system, will mean ruin.8 Entropic
effects displace order and effectively cause deviations in sequencing of events that
are productive of both macro- and micro-level differentiation. Again, maximizing
entropy is not to be confused with chaos, for entropy itself is governed by rules. It is
for this reason that the concept of chaosmos is particularly germane to understanding
the interdynamic effects of entropy and noise in systems as the alternation of the
chaotic and the rhythmic as conducive to aleatory processes.
Deleuze rejects the classical entropy argument on account of its reductive view
that the universe would tend eventually to the equilibrium that amounts to “heat
death.” This, to Deleuze, does not account for the further complexification of
existence, especially seen in biodiversity and the new assemblages that are taken
up in nature.9 Deleuze’s view has gained credibility largely independently of his


work, especially in the ideas of autopoeisis in new systems theory, and in physics.
Most recently, A.D. Wissner-Fross and C.E. Freer have put forth the view that the
maximization of entropy has more than just a correlative effect on the anthropic
selection criteria where certain human behaviours such as tool use and social
cooperation spontaneously emerge out of simple systems. Wissner-Fross and Freer
do not mean to suggest that entropy is a force since entropy is understood as the
measure of relative degree of disorder. So, if entropy is not a force, what is maximum
entropy? This refers to the states in any given system where said states all share the
same probabilistic uncertainty; i.e., the states in their configuration in the system are
at their maximum uncertainty. Uncertainty and instability are not to be confused,
for a system can be stable but the means by which we can reasonably predict the
next state may be unknown to us. So, if we return to our box of 100 coins example,
maximum entropy distribution would result in an equal number of coins (assuming
equal probability of heads and tails) that have turned up heads and tails. From the
perspective of the entire system, it is technically stable, but the configuration might
prove highly uncertain. Imagine opening this box to record the coins and their
orientation of heads or tails to determine their particular configuration. If we were
told that half the coins in the box were heads, and the other half tails, this still does
not tell us the precise configuration since the permutations (computed at log base 2
to indicate the two choices of heads or tails) would be P(100,2) = 100! / (100 - 2)!
= 9900. Although highly unlikely, the configuration in a series could be the first 50
coins as registering heads, while the remaining at 50; or, it might be an alternating
series so that each heads coin is followed by a tails coin. In this example, the only
way of determining the precise configuration is to open the box and examine their
particular configuration.
What is perhaps missing in this focus on configuration would be the relations
that exist between components in the system that speak to particular (micro)states.
Although these relations cannot be computed using probability theory given how
relation addresses the subjective conditions of abstract force in the Deleuzian
philosophy, configuration alone is only one component of what can be called an
assemblage. What is of interest to Deleuze and Guattari would be how systems
exhibit generative differentiation, and how certain “states” become emergent via
new relations that are articulated as both a particular configuration (as two or more
heterogeneous series in relation are oriented toward a problem), and how said
configurations in rhizomic fashion resist signifying regimes that would arrest them
according to static principles of identity and repetition. When there is apparent
imposition of a particularly rigid configuration, this represents what Deleuze and
Guattari will call the molarity in a system.
Molarity fixes flows and captures processes of Becoming in as near a homeostatic
way as possible. Ruptures and lines of flight are always possible at some point in
the history of any molarity when a tension from within the system, or prompted in
part from without, might lead to a cathartic change in the system and free it from
the enclosure of the molar semi-homeostasis. For molarity to preserve its state


and regulate all differentiation so that it proceeds by a steps or stages allowable

by said system, the reduction of uncertainty so as to anticipate changes within the
system require to close that system rather than to leave it exposed to interactive and
integrating factors that might upset the semi-homeostatic balance. In any system, be
it in relation to itself as part of interiority, or in communication with points outside
itself in terms of exteriority, the threat of entropy is introduced when every point is
connected with every other point with no distinction in the value of those connections
(the entropy arising from interiority) or from diffusion where the introduction of
constant newness due to a system’s extreme permeability leads to loss of systemic
boundary (the entropy arising from exteriority). Vulnerability from over-connection
within, or being engulfed from without. Molarity must eventually succumb to rupture
and lead to molecularity, but even the nomadic line of flight must once again become
fixed. As Deleuze and Guattari tell us, this oscillation between movement and the
arrest of movement will always remain, and here we might suspect Deleuze and
Guattari of falling into a curiously cyclical structuralism. All molarities are already
a prehension of their molecularity, of the cathartic discharge of the line of flight, just
as these are the prehension of another molarity. This alternation of the chaosmos is
the dramatization of forces in their relation, never reaching equilibrium and, in fact,
making far from equilibrium states the theatre of difference.
Wherein lies entropy in this lived system? It would appear that Deleuze and
Guattari provide us with a new way of understanding entropy not as the opposite of
information and thus dissipative and destructive, but as a constructive conjunction
arising out of the lapses in the communication series between systems. Entropy
is unintentionally “made useful” as part of the creative contour that permits the
deviation of a system to construct new assemblages, taking up and mobilizing
surplus code that exists on the margins of any system. Entropy, in this view, does
not tend toward homogeneity or sameness, nor does it result in heat death; instead,
entropy is the taking up of the “negative” remainder, the superfluous or radically
different “part” and assembled in a new relation on the plane of composition.
Entropy production increases as a precondition to the creation of new systems,
what Laszlo (1987) calls a “third state” that is neither equilibrium nor near-
equilibrium where a system enters into crisis or a critical point resulting in near-
chaotic disruption before falling back into a new state of dynamic (meta)stability.
This is also echoed in Prigogine and Stengers when they speak of how far-from-
equilibrium states are generative of complexity. And what is a metastability but
a temporary concrescence of all systems and their states, each an ice floe in
alternating patterns of melting and freezing? If entropy is the complete closure
of any available energy for conversion, Deleuze’s commitment to the idea that
potentialities are never exhausted appears to militate against the possibility of
absolute entropy, if not a rejection of the second law of thermodynamics entirely.
Recalling that the virtual unfolds in the actual by way of intensity where said
intensity does not exhaust all potentiality, what is this intensity but an abstract
energy, and what is this potentiality but unused energy?


By the process of becoming, difference unfolds in, from, and through dynamic
systems. The structure of autopoeisis allows for this creative unfolding in that
novelty is introduced to the system or organism particularly in such a way that it
still preserves a “stock” of information (as organizational degree, not data) in this
transition. The source of this novelty is interactively based; that is, new information
emerges out of the folds that demarcate system boundaries, the tension that arises
from contact and communication between, for example, different species (which can
be a change of population state where allospeciation of a population is transformed by
the introduction or invasion of a new species). Information must be present as degree
of organization even beyond systems, but in the inter-systems that develop when
systems enter into relations. These quasi-systems are composed of coextensive to
the systems that are linked by them. A system is composed of conceptual personae as
much as they may be composed of concepts, and the relative permeability of systems
governs how they affect or may be affected by other systems and their components.
We may talk of how information is manifest in these system-assemblages as degree
of organization, but that is half the story: what of the relative degree of organization
between systems, in the disparity between a system and its components or other
subsystems that emerge on account of differenciation? How does this organization
also augment any system’s orientation to other systems? Affectation is both inbound
and outbound, neither one privileged, but they may differ in terms of affective force
so that a system in a state of metastasis might have a higher or lower degree of affect,
or could in turn be more prone to be affected. The same can be said of apoptosis as
a function that seeks to arrest movement and flows, to prematurely close the system
off and render it as impermeable as possible.
Autopoeisis allows for the new assemblage or system to reorganize according to
new external inputs that affect the internal systemic organization. This process can
be considered either reactive or a form of feedback at its most dramatic (at which
point it can be difficult when dealing with biotic systems to minimize uncertainty
given the complexity of biological and environmental arrangement). In social
systems, this may be called “learning.” In the introduction of species or a new mode
of thought, a revision takes place that can either be incorporated or adapted to the
existing systemic apparatus, or otherwise result in a volcanic paradigmatic change.
Moreover, pending the degree of information effect on a system, this process can be
incremental in changing by measured steps, or gradual where changes in the system
are only perceptible when observing a long time series. Regardless of whether
the changes are leaps or flows, they unfold diachronically (and thus changes are
preserved as “memory” or “history” broadly construed) but their effects are best
observed in the context of the larger assemblages these inhabit in the synchronous
environment. This synchronic flow “mechanism” allows for horizontal flow and drift
that can span different contemporaneous systems, facilitating integration processes
(Goonatilake 1991, 127).
I characterize Deleuze and Guattari’s understanding of flow as being quasi-ergodic.
That is, their conception of flow (and line of flight) is not entirely compatible with


the mathematic concept of ergodicity, but that does not mean that flows are entirely
random; there are still rules that govern flows, but they are not situated in substance
or form. Leaving aside the highly generalized rules such as gravity that does govern
material processes, the rules that govern flows are informational in nature, but also
given some degree of purposiveness due to the specific relations matter finds itself in
at any given time. The quasi-cause, or subterranean aspect, is in itself information’s
role in the unfolding of potentialities, and this is considered semi-ergodic because
certain processes may fall outside of statistical representation.
The important question here is in what relation does complexification stand in
terms of a universal metastasy whereby the indeterminate and constant displacements
manifested by the creation of new assemblages continue in their process of
divergence and bifurcation? Would this process of increasing complexification
require an infinite supply of energy? As Helmholtz states, energy is not created, but
transforms. Energy remains constant according to the law of conservation, and its
potentiality is triggered by some event that makes it radiant or kinetic energy. In this
way, energy and matter conforms in part to Leibniz’ notion of plenitude; namely, that
everything that could be has already been created and exists as a possibility. Leibniz
will assign authorial agency to God, whereas physicists will attribute this to the
Big Bang wherein all matter and energy begins. In both cases, however, there is no
possibility for more energy to be created and so can only manifest itself differently
through transformations. These conversions of energy destroy one difference by
creating a new difference. What can be produced are new networks of relations,
and this being constituted by re-coordination of components. In this way, energy
and matter in any of its connected manifestations is simply a combinatorial process.
One of the enduring problems with entropy would be that if we were able to
obtain a measurement of all potential energy in the universe, we would be able to
predict the full size of the universe via the law of entropy since this would entail
a computation of taking all potential energy against the point at which it takes to
achieve maximum dispersion to achieve entropy. A state of far-from--equilibrium
is necessary for the coherence of matter, to create order, and an equilibrium state
finds the laws of dynamics in chaos (Prigogine and Stengers 1984, p. 278). In such
an ordered universe governed by the law of entropy and the irreversibility of time
we may come to believe that the idea of Becoming is done away with, sequestered
to mere reconfigurations and variation until said point that energy is exhausted and
entropy undoes all order. However, this is not the case: “Physics and metaphysics
are indeed coming together today in a conception of the world in which process,
becoming, is taken as a primary constituent of physical existence” (Prigogine and
Stengers 1984, p. 303). The virtual involves time, but a time that is irreversible,
arising from broken time symmetry where entropy takes on the role of the eternal
return selecting and deselecting what can “return.” There is no dialectical synthesis
in this progression since what is deselected is not somehow preserved in the final
result, but a single choice made from a point in time where a bifurcation exists. In
Nietzschean terms, time cannot be dissociated from the dice-throw, and it is the


affirmation of what chance presents that marks the way time works as an arrow of
constant selection. This arrow or series of selections does not follow a predictable
trajectory, an arc where the results of chance can be predicted in advance. Instead,
we are left only with statistical causality, the game of probabilities. Time is linear
in one sense, but its path cannot be determined, and this “line” is composed of a
multiple temporal parallelism where all beings in time flow at different relative
speeds and intensities.
If metastasis is on the increase, so, too, is the maximum threshold for apoptosis
to react to metastasis as a reactive draw-down of metastatic force. If the universe
is indeed increasing in complexity and differentiation, it would be sufficient to
speculate that overall energy is “generated” as a result of interactions, and thus also
in higher demand. This idea of increasing energy – something that Bergson posits as
a possibility – does not hold against the prevailing view of physics that the universe
is actually expanding, yet it is only the distance between existing matter that is
increasing. Matter, under the prevailing view, is actually dispersing and becoming
more isolated, thereby it would be reasonable to assume that overall energy is
decreasing toward an equilibrium state and eventually to complete entropy. If the
gulf between objects is so vast, their potential to act or be acted upon decreases in
proportion to the increase of space. Proponents of the Big Bang theory assign the
highest energy state of our universe at the moment of its genesis. However, there are
others such as Prigogine and Stengers who will not cover the entire universe with
the second law of thermodynamics. “The models considered by classical physics
seem to us to occur only in limiting situations such as we can create artificially by
putting matter into a box and then waiting till it reaches equilibrium” (Prigogine and
Stengers 1984, p. 9). Indeed, as the challenge against the notion of equilibrium of the
universe continues to gain pace with some physicists, we also find an overturning of
the basic assumptions that a) all the physical processes of matter are time-reversible,
and b) that the universal law of entropy bases itself on a belief of a repetitive nature
of matter that is now being challenged by the newfound rhythms found in molecular
behaviour that find their coherence in a far-from-equilibrium state. Prigogine and
Stengers are quick to point out that these processes that form new varieties of order
are already the norm at the biological level.
If we assume the opposite of what classical physics gives us, that there is a
steady increase rather than decrease of energy over time, we find the emergence of
“structured instabilities” which means a state of stability is reached that is composed
of micro-instabilities. When energy exceeds this partial or localized equilibrium,
decay of the structure begins and instability is then found at the global level composed
of micro-stabilities. Equilibrium works best, as do all the laws of thermodynamics,
in closed systems. A mundane example may serve to illustrate this point. A crowd
on a busy street may seem from a distance to be a system of instability with each
of its component people eddying through in different directions and all at different
purposes; however, viewed at a more individual level we find that each has an ordered
purpose of moving along their particular points of A to B – wherever A and B are for


each person. We also find, at street level, that there are patterns of motion determined
by the structure of the urban environment, and that people on an east-west street
are generally moving in either east or west directions. Taken as a whole, the entire
crowd appears chaotic, but it is actually a highly rarefied order of emergent patterns
of behaviour. Suppose we double the number of people. Suddenly the rhythm of
crowd motion changes to accommodate the influx of persons – perhaps now they
take alternate routes to avoid collisions, or begin walking along the curb. As more
people are added, each person has to make ever more calculations as to his or her
movement within that crowd, but all of this is done in relation to the movement of
others. Eventually, with so many people exceeding unimpeded movement, we find
new rhythms emerge – perhaps crowd eddies form, or there is a sudden jetty of
people taking the opportunity to jaywalk between the vehicle traffic. New patterns
and rhythms form that appear, on the whole, unstable, yet micro-stabilities in each of
these patterns portraying a higher degree of complexity within this system.
In the universe, supposing that energy is finite and merely redistributed among
finite matter, metastasis will better be explained as a concentration of chance and the
active differenciation of differences afforded by the virtual. As such, metastasis is the
process by which instabilities are concentrated and multiplied, an act of becoming
that pushes a system into maximum disequlibrium and thus the maximum order.


The confusion that has arisen from conflating Shannon’s mathematical theory of
communication with information generally ignores the fact that Shannon provided us
with a procedure to measure information in a communication circuit, not a definition
of information. Shannon’s theory offers a way of measuring the success or failure
of a message transmission in a communication circuit without concern for semantic
content, and one that has arguably been of a high degree of utility in information
technologies. During the heyday of cybernetics - not to say that the study and
application of cybernetics is at an end, which surely it is not - attempts were made
to apply what has now been broadened as information theory to other domains and
disciplines. It should therefore not surprise us that the seed of understanding genetic
and biological processes through an information theory lens would be inevitable.
In one such study by Gatenby and Frieden, The authors qualify bound information
in genetics as a kind of database or repository that is expressed or transmitted from
one generation to the next. They qualify free information as being contained in
proteins etc., and as a translation of the subsets found in bound information and their
interactions (Gatenby and Frieden 2002, p. 3676). Furthermore, the authors claim
that the bound information can be calculated using Shannon information, but they do
acknowledge the limitation that Shannon information will not prove entirely adequate
in understanding carcinogenesis on account of two phenomena: “because there is
redundancy in the genome because of codon degeneracy, Shannon’s information will
systematically overestimate the actual information content of a genetic segment” and


the constraint that Shannon information is not indexed on measuring the quality of
information, only its quantity (Gatenby and Frieden 2002, p. 3676). Ultimately, the
authors, acknowledging the limitations and simplifications that might arise from the
use of mathematical theory in an application to a biological phenomenon, attribute
the phenotypic properties of carcinogenesis are in effect emergentist in nature and
largely dependent on nonlinear interactions that are temporally dependent on an
intra- and extra-cellular scale. They aver that the active information content of a cell
is a “time-dependent summation of translated intracellular and acquired extracellular
information. This information state controls the morphology and function of that cell
as well as its interaction with the external environment” (Gatenby and Frieden 2002,
p. 3675). In their formulation, information plays a governing role in both the cell’s
morphology and how it will interact in its cellular environment. Cancer’s uniqueness
is indicated as having no single genotype present in all cancer cells, and therefore
there is “no well-defined correspondence between the genetic mutations present
in cancer populations and the cellular characteristics of the malignant phenotype”
(Gatenby and Frieden 2002, p. 3675).
Measuring information degradation as a result of metastases does indicate
a kind of entropic effect in biological systems. Carcinogenesis is, in its way,
illustrative of this increase of entropy and loss of information over time if we peg
high degree of organization as synonymous with the integrity and functioning of
a system. As metastasis expresses itself in the cellular arrangement of the body,
there is an increasing level of cell dedifferentiation. So, if we attribute a certain
informative content to each cell as part of bound information, metastases changes
the information in such a way that it optimizes the growth advantage at the expense
of particular genotypic cell functions (such as the behaviour of a skin or bone cell).
From the standpoint of information theory, the cellular proliferation in metastasis
becomes more difficult for observers to predict what will happen next beyond
the somewhat unhelpful choice of there being a change in growth (either it will
increase, decrease, or remain unchanged), or cellular behaviour commensurate
with cell dedifferentiation. Information theory can only go so far to predict the
mutation rate when there is significant information loss on account of malignant
If we apply Shannon information to tumorigenesis, we can measure the degree to
which a random variable is uniformly random as a means of distinguishing between
signals. In adopting Fisher information, this “measures the degree to which a required
parameter... may be known” (Gatenby and Frieden 2002, p. 3679), in this case the
parameter being time. Fisher’s extreme physical information method (EPI) allows
us to measure the flow of information from a source (J) to data information (I).
This flow is carried by some “messenger” (i.e., particles such as proteins or protons
etc.). The measure of J represents bound information which functions as source.
The total information can be characterized as the source (J) plus data information
(I) plus time (which designates change) and extracellular information in the case of
biology that can be equated with the “free field” that modify the flow from J to I by


imposing some externally originating information, usually carried by energy or the

introduction of foreign matter.
To embrace information theory from the Shannon perspective is also to embrace
its limitations. There is no doubt that the applicable use of information theory to
predict mutation rates and spread of cancerous cells in the process of metastasis
will provide very close approximations, but in the main what is being applied is a
communication theory, not information as such. More recent studies have pointed
to one of the success markers for cancer proliferation - again, on the basis of
communication theory - due to copying errors in the production of new cancer cells
that make it difficult for apoptosis or any other biological mechanism to detect or
destroy the emergence of a cancerous cell.
If we are to lift information from the sender-receiver binary, we firstly
cannot assume the staticity of either a given sender or receiver as being already-
individuated. Secondly, we cannot commit to a view that places information in
already individuated state. Instead, information is synonymous with the intensive
milieu that individuates. Information does not flow down linear channels, but is
instead entirely radial, operating at various speeds and intensities. It has the capacity
to be an affect as well as to be affected, for it is the curious aspect of the intensive
milieu that functions as the junction between the virtual and actual, between the
preindividual and the individuated. It is only the intensive milieu, as well as the
bidrectional flow of the actual and virtual, that we resist hypostasizing the virtual
and thus falling back into substantialism.
If we take as given that information is what facilitates the “making of difference,”
how can this be done if the very “agent” or operator does not contain difference
within itself? Information does not stand to create a difference negatively; i.e., it
is not the principle of individuation that assigns some particular being according
to properties that are measured as distinct from what properties it does not have
any more than to say that “red” is the negation of all other colours in the spectrum.
When we take the Hegelian view, we are not defining Being by what it is; we are
defining our own conceptual filters. Since information effectively facilitates as a
working blueprint the degree of organization any system or assemblage may express
at any given time, our use of the word “affect” should not be taken as something like
force, any more than we can say entropy has a force. Forces in relation may result
in a higher or lower degree of organization in any system or subsystem, and it is
there that information or entropy “appears.” Recalling the role Simondon assigns to
information as part of a process of signification, what is being signified is relative
degrees of organization that individuate that system.
And yet we may not wish to side with Simondon entirely. His philosophy hinges
on a continuous and immanent series of de-phasings by which individuation occurs,
but there is nothing in the continuous that announces the ruptures, cracks, and fissures
in designs and patterns. In sum, Simondon’s operation of individuation, regardless
how novel in challenging classical ontologies, is too smooth.10 It is with Deleuze
that we can speak of the cracks in structure, the river that overflows its banks to


expand its territory, the fortuitous emergence of new relations that result from the
cutting across the plane of composition. How else can we explain metastasis as the
emergence of production in non-adjecent sections of any system or structure if we
do not possess a principle by which such ruptures occur and there is a break in the
phasing of individuation? A forced choice between the continuous and the discrete
is just another binary. Just as there are local continuities and series, there are local
discrete cuts that bring about the new line of flight, the surprise trajectory that comes
through forming a new relation. The very operation of Becoming is still constrained
in Simondon, not linear but with radial motions from where he situtates the starting
point of Being’s unfolding / individuation: its centre. It is this same analogy that he
draws from the case of the crystal forming in the supersaturated fluid. From absolute
density to full diffusion in an infinite unfolding and individuation, but one that is
marked as a continuum. Although this is highly generative, it still cannot account for
the production of the new and the uncanny in non-adjacent space, or “spooky action
at a distance.”
In terms of plotting speed and intensity, informational communication travels as
the signal-wave, thought as the line of flight. Information assumes the character
afforded it by the milieu, dramatized by the protean if not chaotic sea upon which it
traverses. To superimpose the grid upon the sea is to plot coordinates, to construct
striated space where the line is subordinated as a movement between axial points.
Information sends out an abstract pulse in the form of a signal, its orientation on the
grid-work of the x and y that localizes it. The line traced between points identifies the
sender and receiver (which need not be human). In its meta-state, information is only
movement without origin or ending point, an absolute intensity in infinite extension.
Information management is concerned with how to arrest these flows, to capture
information within a web or grid in order to tame it, to make it useful. Segment
the line, define the signal machines that will create a circuit. Still, no matter how
refined and sophisticated the signal relay can be, no matter how discrete space and
time is rendered to facilitate an exchange of information approaching the impossible
point of lossless exchange, discrete segmentation can only approximate the milieu of
that “stubborn legacy of the continuum.” And upon that metaphorical sea, no matter
how striated and segmented, there is no absolute immunity from entropic “effects”
that erupt like whorls and eddies upon the surface plane upon which information
navigates, or the surprise emergence of entropic “effects” that manifest as undertow
that bends or folds the spatium.
The seemingly most sensible question to ask is where does information begin?
and this must be qualified with an understanding of information as pure flow prior
to the machines that arrest these flows and render them useful upon a superimposed
striated space. Should the same hold true for information as to matter that it can be
neither created nor destroyed, this does not satisfy the question of information’s
incipience, its incipient state. This problem of beginnings is just as much a problem
for philosophy as it is for physics or theology. A question of origin leads to the
speculation of an author or some other causal agent that initiates the state of


information incipience. It may be much more aligned with Deleuzian thought to say
that information is what is articulated between form and expression, as a facilitating
relation. Information articulates relation, and the resulting (possibly temporary)
organization is its expression, and the generic quality of that organization can be
said to be its sense.
Systems occasionally fall in and out of observable stability punctuated by
quasi-periodic states, and this is likely due to both conditions that are internal
and external to those systems. There can be, for example, nonlinear feedback and
perturbations in a system that results in occasional far-from-equilibrium states.
Relations between components of a system, or between systems themselves that
form a larger system (these may simply be contiguous or near-contiguous systems
that do not possess much observable interactivity) constitute the external relations
that may alter the stability and order of any system. Considering two asymmetric
systems in contiguity, assuming they are not absolutely closed to one another (i.e.,
not monadic), any interactivity of relations between the two systems may actually
facilitate trans-systemic “forces” of strange attractors and/or crossover effects. The
disparity between two systems can be considered in terms of the disparity of two
heterogeneous series, but what is key here is how the relations are configured at any
given time. The abstract space in which these relations occur may be finite, but the
relations themselves may be infinite in their complexity. We might conceptualize
this by thinking of fractals, and that the abstract space of relation contains the self-
similar complexification at an infinite micro-scale.
One may begin to see how many of the conceptual insights of Deleuze and
Guattari appear to be germane to the trends in theory and practice, even if there are
as many infidelities to their terms as there are good pairings. The idea of holistic and
dynamic systems approaches owe something to their concept of the rhizome when
said approaches are not hierarchically configured and leading back to a transcendent
absolute. Moreover, the idea of relative intensity and speed in understanding relations
allows for understanding systems as not predictable per se, but as oscillating, wave-
like, between modes of expression where said speeds and intensities in the relational
networks can be both rapid or “creeping.” What Deleuze and Guattari seem to point
to in their work also appears to confirm the idea of increasing complexification.
Creeping or rapid complexification is conditioned by Becoming, which in turn is
based on the simultaneous encoding and unfolding of relations.
It is therefore possible to speak of two mobile trends of information: one can be
considered the fractal mode where increasing complexity within the finite abstract
space in systems (and in their asymmetric relations) increases in density over time,
and the dissipation mode which may explain shifts in the weighting of relative
degrees of order both within and at the limits of every system. This mode allows
us to consider how displacements occur, and to realize that any relative degree of
order within a system must be multivalued; i.e., there is a relative degree of order
of the entire system, but also micro-(in)stabilities of differing degrees. Considering,
for example, a local population in the molar concept of a city, we may note how


subregions begin to differ on account of population migrations and the shifting uses
of urban territory. What was once pristine, natural wooded land becomes effectively
displaced by the increasing complexification patterns used by developers in plotting
a suburban neighbourhood. We might also notice the shifting of populations and land
use when an urban area becomes gradually deindustrialized, as has happened to once
major manufacturing centres such as Detroit, which might increase poverty, crime,
and the collapse of basic infrastructure that may have multiple knock-on effects. In
both cases, what we see is a constant shifting of the relative degree of information
in the subsystems that populate a system, if not also in the system’s relations with
macro-systems. In our more concrete example of a city, there are multiple systems
that overlap and integrate their functioning components, sometimes resulting in
conflict: the ecosystem edged out by the capitalist development system (and from
this inevitably comes the creation of a new microsystem: scavenger animals like
rats or raccoons that thrive on garbage), gang territory systems, the homeless, the
artistic communities, the gated communities, the arterial network of traffic, and so
on. Although we might rest content with Deleuze’s redefinition of systems as being
signals, they are also territories.
Metastasis resides as a fold or limit between equilibrium and disequilibrium
within a diffeomorphic field of metastability. As such, it is an active process aligned
with information without recourse to probabilism. The difference here between
an apoptotic and a metastatic view of information concerns the aspect of quality
(extensive versus intensive), state (static versus dynamic), measure over sense,
explication over interpretation, as well as privileging equality and symmetry of the
effect rather than the inequality and asymmetry of the cause. From the apoptotic
view, freedom and information is a function of restriction as selection, whereas the
metastatic view of information makes freedom contingent upon a transcendental
condition of difference where disjunction and conjunction feature prominently in
the formation of an assemblage that is affirmed in the single act of chance instead
of probability.

Werner Gitt, in Am Anfang war die Information (1997), adds statistics and apobetics (from the Greek
apobeinon, meaning “purpose”) to the “natural hierarchy” of information. Gitt’s information theory
merges his creationist views with a teleological and hierarchical understanding. See also Gitt (1989).
“Information: the Third Fundamental Quantity” in Siemens Review 56.6. Apobetics at present remains
a misty concept where simply “purpose” would suffice given how closely it resembles a classical
definition of information as informatio.
My translation. I opt here for “displacement” of usurpierten rather than usurpation not only for
propositional clarity, but to retain Baader’s specific meaning of metastasis’ action. There is, in
metastasis, a usurpation in both the classical and medical understanding of the term, but Baader
clearly intends here to speak of dis-placement given his strong fidelity to concrete actus rather than
speculative deductions in his theosophy. The original text is as follows:
Diese philosophie der Materie beherrscht (und welche nur die Folge einer Metastasis, einer
Versetzung oder usurpierten Gleichsetzung derselben Principien sine kann, die in dieser


Gleichsetzung gegen einander wirken, gleichwie sie in ihrer Unterordnung zusammenwirken),

indem diese Philosophie diesen friendlichen fur jenen primitiven freundlichen Gegensatz (der
Action und Reaction) des ewigen Lebens nimmt.
By “basic mathematics” we mean the popular conception and prevailing view held by those who
are not engaged in the focused pursuit of study in mathematics. Basic mathematics is the everyday
functions of arithmetic. In its more specialized form, mathematics is ideally suited for describing
non-linear processes. The difference between basic mathematics or arithmetic and actual mathematics
is that the former is merely computational while the latter is purely conceptual, computation being
used only in those few cases to render a concept operational. But even this is extremely rare in pure
mathematics, for computation to fit a mathematical model is more the work of physicists. See Walter
Rudin’s Principles of Mathematical Analysis. This, however, does not render mathematics entirely
immune from the charge of being, in many ways, a haunted Platonism.
We might also invoke here Deleuze’s term of the anexact or rigorous of the process of actualization.
Quantum physics is perhaps the closest to measuring or comprehending the precise placement of
objects in a field, but in a way that shows fidelity to their relational distribution.
Again we are speaking of the computational aspect of mathematics; i.e., arithmetic and basic
algebra. Pure mathematics is not in the habit of manufacturing equations since what it does make are
“things” that have no equational existence. Pure mathematics is well suited to the consideration of
the infinite and the uncountable well beyond the demands of a physical world. A continuum finds its
home in mathematics rather than physics since the latter more commonly insists on a finite universe.
Continuum is an uncountable infinity and cannot be derived from the axioms of set theory despite the
efforts of Georg Cantor who claimed that the infinite cardinal number would be two to the aleph null.
Another way to conceive of this multi-generational project would be to consider the movement
as serial, and although the preceding engagements might find their traces or reference points in a
contemporary or future philosophical project, the project itself will be defined by its own internal,
differential tensions built upon and by the “conceptual toolkit” bequeathed to the philosopher.
The use of re- and de-coding should not be confused with Stuart Hall’s particular usage of the terms
given that codes in the particular case that I am using them here extend beyond meaning.
Readers with an interest in entropy who are more mathematically inclined should consult Anatole
Katok’s “Fifty Years of Entropy in Dynamics” in Journal of Modern Dynamics, 1, 545–596, 2007;
Meir Smorodinsky’s “Information, Entropy, and Bernoulli Systems” in Development of Mathematics,
1950–2000; and, Rudolf Carnap’s logical approach in Two Essays on Entropy.
For two versions of noise between the destructive and the self-organizing, see Henri Atlan’s work on
organization and the function of noise.
See Keith Ansell Pearson, “Deleuze Outside / Outside Deleuze” in Deleuze and Philosophy: The
Difference Engineer, p. 11.
Del Lucchese presents a plausible account on why Deleuze was somewhat measured in his own praise
of Simondon’s philosophy. See Filippo del Lucchese (2009). “Monstrous Individuations: Deleuze,
Simondon, and Relational Ontology. Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies. 20.2-3,
pp. 179–993.



It would be a mistake to say that Deleuze would be intent on formalizing a theory

of information, but would be more likely to move toward a problematic. Any
movement toward theorizing that eventually ossifies into a full theory is to encounter
blockages, to hit the proverbial wall. It is only in discovering the becoming-mad of
objects, to embrace the accidents that condition and resolve problems on a field of
problemata, are we capable of discovering the abstract machine that diagrams the
problems themselves. We can make the assertion immediately that not only does
Deleuze not have a theory of information, but that (given his outlook and preferred
method) he would eschew the development of such. Yet, before leaping to this
conclusion, it is of some importance to take what Deleuze (and Guattari) say about
information explicitly.
Deleuze would reject the technical definition of information as not telling the
whole story, but only the story in a prescribed frame. He might also reject Dretske’s
semantic naturalism that is far too reductive in boiling every communicative instance
to the bit. At best, systems and models that make use of information theory, or that
posit an informationally stable cosmos, are effectively only partial descriptions, and
are helpless in the face of open-ended becomings.
Ultimately, there are some essential steps required to construct a Deleuzian
approach to information. Firstly, the very term must be “de-technicalized” from
communication theory regimes. Secondly, information should not emerge from,
or lead to, any axiomatization that may arrest the character of free flows and the
distribution of singularities on a plane of composition. Thirdly, information must
resist being essentialized which would thus create the conditions of a transcendence
rather than a model of immanence.
In attempting to carve a Deleuzian approach to information, there are some
contentious issues that makes such a program difficult to reconcile with his
philosophy. Firstly, and most generally, a lack of unified consensus on the very
word information. As readers of this book may have already realized, I have mostly
sided on building from (if not on occasion contradicting) Wiener’s non-physical
definition of information given how closely it may resemble a metaphysical view
that would possibly be the most germane with respect to Deleuzian concepts.
Secondly, despite noble efforts that may be simply derivative in some cases, there
is an incredible span between information theory and information science that can
prove incredibly difficult to bridge. Lastly, and perhaps what threatens to upend any
attempt at constructing a Deleuzian philosophy of information, would be how both
information theory and information science assume a certain fixity in the principle


of identity by which there may be a smuggled Platonism in formalizing information,

its transferability as units of measure, or a belief in stable organizational systems
and schemes by which all else is made to conform. It may turn out that Deleuze’s
somewhat radical privileging of difference and the aleatory nature of existence as
assemblages governed by abstract machines proves antithetical to the very strictures
of information. The extended exegesis of Deleuze’s ontology of difference amply
demonstrates how the views of information might stand opposed to this ontological
view. However, there may be possible points of agreement in the respective details
that would permit us to think information differently, and possibly “workable” under
a Deleuzian lens. It might require a suspense of disbelief, or a complete overturning
of Platonism to bring this about.


David Wiggins uses the word “dummy sortal” for any term that does not designate
a specific or genuine object because the term lacks defined identity. Now, when we
consider information as a particular class of noun (as countable or non-countable),
would this term actually be considered a dummy sortal? The debate on dummy sortals
is staged between realism and essentialism, with those such as Wiggins advocating
the view that proper identification when using terms should have a continuity of
reference to the specific thing it is classed under, and the realist objection that the
very criteria by which things are individuated may in fact be arbitrary or (in reference
to Putnam’s work) suffer issues of consistent application, if not also assuming in
advance determined individuals or substance. In point of fact, dummy sortals cannot
be natural kinds, and so terms such as “thing,” “object”, “body”, “being”––and we
can include here “information”––are not natural kinds.
We already can anticipate the Deleuzian objection to the proper versus dummy
sortal problem when it comes to proper differentiation. Recalling that, for Deleuze
(as well as for Simondon):
a) There is no principle of individuation by which any thing or object is
individuated in advance of the relations it forms as a means of its unfolding.
b) There may be duration, but there is no continuity of events such that any event
can be said to be a repetition on the order of the identical.
The sortal essentialist would object that we are talking about two different things:
the conception of what constitutes the thing (such as things that belong to properly
defined nouns that can be termed as specifically belonging to classes such as dogs
and cats, and the question of repeatability over time in a non-cognitive context. For
example, if we are told to take an umbrella because it is raining outside, it might be
absurd to say object P that was at time t named “umbrella” no longer exists because
one of its spokes rusted since last said object was used, and thus the umbrella is now
something different, and therefore not an umbrella. When we regard objects, our
tendency is to class them in groups under specific concepts, so “umbrella” refers
continuously to “that object-class (or token object that corresponds to mental token)


O that has been designed for handheld use in protecting us from rain,” and further
that particular object P, of which belongs to object-class O is referring to the very
same object regardless of any changes in its state over time so long as the particular
object P retains its recognizable shape, function, and basic material qualities that
designate it as part of object-class O. The identity of the umbrella is maintained in
its continuity and reference to the fact that its form and matter endure in both space
and in time.
Unlike Quine and Strawson, Wiggins says that dummy sortals are concepts and
not predicates or universals. One cannot derive from the word “thing” a principle or
criterion of identity. What this may amount to is that such words, or dummy sortals,
lack determination. What problematizes submitting information to a sortalist view is
in deciding which of the several competing definitions of information would apply
“Information is only a strict minimum necessary for the emission, transmission,
and observation of orders as commands” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, p. 76). This
definition is opposed to the way in which Deleuze and Guattari understand language
as a transmission of words that are order-words, the giving of orders to life, of a
circuit of saying to doing: “It is in this sense that language is the transmission of the
word as order-word, not the communication of a sign as information” (Deleuze and
Guattari 1987, p. 77). The order-words are statements that “say” what they perform,
such as questions and promises. Theirs is a relation of redundancy, say Deleuze
and Guattari, of act and statement. They conclude with the assertion that language
“is neither informational nor communicational. It is not the communication of
information but something quite different: the transmission of order-words” (Deleuze
and Guattari 1987, p. 79). This, so far, agrees with Shannon-Weaver information
insofar as information has nothing to do with the semantics of a message, and thus
the relationship to “language” is only by relation to a shared “alphabet” which need
not have any linguistic nature at all (such as binary digits); just so long as there is
a common alphabetic stock between sender and receiver can there be any measure
of fidelity between the sender’s message and its reception on the other end of the
communication circuit. This fidelity is measured according to two identities, their
difference calculated. This will not accord with Deleuze’s notion of difference since it
labours in the negative; i.e., makes difference subordinate to two identities by means
of resemblance or analogy. But we should note here how Deleuze and Guattari define
information as a strict minimum, its function to emit, transmit, or observe orders that
command. Nested in this definition is the assumption of cybernetic protocols where
information is what directs and gives orders.
Deleuze and Guattari will, however, mark out a deviant trajectory with respect to
information, noise, and redundancy. Referring to information science, Deleuze and
Guattari states that it “posits in principle an ideal state of maximum information and
makes redundancy merely a limitative condition serving to decrease this theoretical
maximum in order to prevent it from being drowned out by noise” (Deleuze
and Guattari 1987, p. 79). Deleuze and Guattari claim that both information and
communication are subordinate to redundancy, which is the order-word.


If information is the “strict minimum” required to transmit an order, this economic

setup is particularly interesting insofar as it appears that Deleuze and Guattari see
information transmission on par with the law of conservation of energy. As we
might suspect, information is a form of signification, but of the sort that does not
necessarily rely on anything semantic (such as the meaning of the command “stop”).
The instructions of binary digits in a particular sequence, organized as a program,
would instruct a machine to follow a set of commands. It is a truism in information
science that the “grail” is to transfer information bits in the most economical way
without risking information loss. Bits are measurable and even have mass. So, in this
way, Deleuze and Guattari are not telling us anything new about information that
is not already canonical in information science. Although it appears that Deleuze
and Guattari are targeting information directly, their purpose is more indexed on
undermining certain assumptions in linguistics by positing a different and more
abstract language machine, inspired by their reading of Hjemslev. This might be
considered unfortunate or disappointing for readers who desire to hear what Deleuze
and Guattari might have to say more specifically about information. For that, it
must be inferred from what they say about diagrams, systems, and processes of
individuation and differentiation. On one hand, it appears as though Deleuze and
Guattari want to separate information and communication (in terms of language), and
on the other to preserve the idea of information as being subordinate to redundancy.
This relationship of information and redundancy is regrettably not further pursued
directly, and so it remains unclear if there is a special relationship being developed
that would challenge information science.


If it is true that information is technically the relative degree of organization

in any system, could we speak of relative degrees of the Being-of-Becoming?
Is it not the case that multiplicity itself speaks to these ever shifting relations
of degree where organization takes on the form of the assemblage or ensemble,
temporarily arranged before being reorganized into something else? In this
way, information in this sense will present us with a very close approximation
to what Deleuze means by event, assemblage, and even his take on systems.
In information science, we are already presented with the binary of order and
disorder, and that relations between the two, expressed as degree and measurable,
is to constitute those relations by means of what they are not. Every relative
degree of organization refers to a degree of disorganization. More importantly, in
such a formulation, any organization is sublimated into the representation given
the designating term of information.
Deleuze is not the first to make an attempt to describe how things come to be,
and certainly not the first to make the claim that coming to be is the very process
that conditions existence, not a self-stable concept of individuation or Being from
which we must assign attributes and predicates. In information science, information


itself as a concept does not “come to be,” but is already given, and that the degree of
organization is the domain of what has become, or a measure of the state of a system.
The key to understanding a Deleuzian approach to information can only be
constructed by recourse to his argument on the virtual-intensive-actual circuit
(opposed to the virtual-possible and actual-real formulation of Western metaphysics),
but also in the processes of how the assemblage is formed, where the actual is simply
the unfolding process of potentiality, and this partially conditions both internal
and external elements that produce an affect that relates the two things that come
together in an encounter. In this way, information can be said to be part of this
process of unfolding, the creation of the assemblage, regardless of how aleatory it
strikes us in terms of what we would anticipate to be the result of an encounter. A
new “system” is formed according to the newfound relations that arise from these
affects. It is not a choice between one system or another, but the invention of a new
one, systemically organized by the process of unfolding that we can call information,
for it is this unfolding of potentiality (itself never exhausted) that represents what we
come to view in the actualization: the relative degree of organization in the newly
created system.
Again, there is no necessity to include communication since this unduly becomes
conflated with information, forcing us to speak of signals and channels. For although
signals and channels can have an effect on systems, or constitute particular systems,
these are not properly informational. Information, instead, arrives before any signal
is transmitted, for it is the selected potential that initially organizes the content of
that message to be transmitted as signal. Moreover, the signal’s reception, with or
without noise being in the channel, is not isolated: it, too, has relation to context
both internal (in terms of rules for decoding that signal) and external (the presence or
absence of noise, the human or machinic receiver’s capacity to interpret, and in what
relation that interpretation stands). Where communication might be said to play a
role in information would be analogously: an unfolding of potentiality in the process
of actualization is the “communication” that exists in the virtual-intensive-actual
circuit, and possibly in the relations that produce affects from encounters.
If, as Deleuze states, things come to be or pass away in the virtual at infinite
speeds, then these assemblages are a form of organization and disorganization. If
information is the relative degree of organization, then what this amounts to is that
there is some process in the virtual that violates a fundamental law in physics: that
something can move at a speed beyond that of light. If information “emerges” or
plays a role in the organizing of these virtual assemblages, then information itself
can move at speeds beyond that of light, and thus may not be dependent upon matter
or energy. The idea of “infinite speeds” is not entirely clear in this respect.
However, what if we come to understand information differently, as that which
does not pertain to degrees or levels? Would this not, in effect, assign to information
the role of differenciator, as that dark precursor that is difference-in-itself which
is disguised in every series, and is always a displacement of itself in those series?
Information in this sense is the pre-individual actuator or quasi-cause that allows


for the individuation of matter (be this recorded as a regime of signs, a person’s
identity, an object, etc.). It is a dark precursor on account of being real, like a shadow,
but abstract, and yet at the same time intimately connected to matter. It is to the
credit of Deleuze’s transcendental empiricism that materiality can be raised from
its impoverished condition as dependent upon form to exist in an independent if not
governing (or organizing) role in the construction of form. Formed matters are in
actuality matters that converge into form. This is the lesson of inverted Platonism. To
explain what matter leads to form we can appeal to Deleuze and Guattari’s famous
wasp and orchid example. The relationship between the wasp that pollinates the
orchid and the orchid that relies on the wasp is not a symbiotic or interactive one
since symbiosis would still preserve the individuality of wasp and orchid. Instead,
they are partial objects that merge to form a bloc of becoming, a third “thing”
that is the form of their union that does not preserve their individual identity. So
in this process of the formation of the new wasp-orchid “hybrid” (although even
this term is imprecise when in fact the combination produces something entirely
new not inherent to either wasp or orchid), what role does information play? We
escape the conduit metaphor of communication as employed by Shannon-Weaver
information in being able to differentiate wasp-orchid from wasp and orchid as being
heterogeneous. There is no eternal wasp-form and orchid-form any more than there
is an eternal wasp-orchid form; wasp, orchid, wasp-orchid, fly-petal, and so forth
are productions of difference that also lead to new codes. A particular wasp is only
related to other wasps according to taxonomy or shared properties that are secondary
to a form-first perspective.
Information in the classical sense is a transcendent term. For the plane of
transcendence, there is the invisible structure that gives rise to the development of
forms, and a “secret signifier” that provides givenness to the contents or subjects that
are in-formed along an linear axis of teleology. It is a regime of states and moments,
each of them measurable as intervals between points on an arrow that leads to the
fruition of an initial design or plan. This plane, as Deleuze and Guattari characterize
it, begins with the assumption of a unity, a hidden principle that exercises itself
as a function in the formation of subjects. Opposed to this, Deleuze and Guattari
speak of the plane of consistency or composition; it is consistent precisely because
it is univocal and contains no contradiction, nor does it lead regressively back to a
principle that reifies form, nor does it have a “supplementary” aspect of a hidden
principle; it is a composition precisely on the grounds that it is an assemblage, but
an assemblage in a very special way. Unformed, nonsubjectified elements “arrive”
in terms of their relations of speed and slowness, as events. Whereas in the plane
of transcendence we are given forms (ideas) and formations (subjects that are
individuated by these ideas), the plane of immanence dissolves forms and releases
their speeds and intensities. What Deleuze and Guattari want us to think of is not
a regime of states but of processes liable to assembling, dispersing, and without
predictable direction. It is for this reason they put emphasis on processes such as
epidemics and contagions. What exists between these unformed elements are


relative speeds, and between the nonsubjectified powers are affects. The plane itself,
like Simondon ontogenesis, “is necessarily given at the same time as that to which it
gives rise” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, p. 268).
It can be tempting to become caught up in the vertiginous language of Deleuze
and Guattari who appear to speak to a romanticizing of the anarchistic and chaotic.
However, their view is not necessarily a valorization of chaos (which they never
operationally define as such), but an acknowledgement of yet another integral
component of the chaosmos, an alternation between chaos and rhythm. Rather
than chaos, Deleuze and Guattari speak of “unformed matters,” and these play a
grounding role in their understanding of the form-content relation, partially inspired
by Simondon’s rejection of hylomorphism.
For Deleuze and Guattari, there is a distinction between unformed and formed
matter. The former constitutes the plane of consistency, and is unorganized, a kind
of anarchic plasma. It also contains something different from formed matter, which
would be what they call “materials” that emerge from the substrata. Formed matter,
on the other hand, is a double articulation of content and expression. Content is
generally molecular in nature and possesses two “points of view”: substance, which
is the selection of matter into order, and expression, which is both the organization
of a specific form and the substances (compounds that have both form and content of
expression). Intensive qualities manifest as expression are like a bolt through matter.
Expression takes on a distinctly molar quality. Expression has as much substance as
content, and content has as much form as expression. The question seems left open
as to how or what regulates the shift from unformed to formed matter. A selection or
choice function does take place, but it does not necessarily depend on an observer
or agent to perform it since that would be to fall back on the assumption of a self-
stable unity in the form of an agent or entity that endows matter with form, whereas
form emerges only through a process of unfolding. Deleuze and Guattari speak of
the ideal flow or line of matter-energy (materiality), and what we can glean from
this construction is that it can only be followed, that it is both event (change of
state) and affect (intensive qualities). The “infogenetic” line must take both the
ontogenetic and phylogenetic lines between assemblages into account. The flow is a
plasma of potentiality that invades all matter, but there is a selection of the particular
potentials that will individuate matter according to the double articulation of content
and expression. Phylogenetic lines link assemblages and concern externally linked
events that are determined or constituted by the concrete relations that form in the
actual. Ontogenetic lines are linkages within an assemblage and are determined or
constituted by the potentialities in the virtual. The selection takes place on the plane
of consistency which is pure, non-organized flow. Assemblages emerge when the
singularities in that flow are taken up or deducted from that flow. Again, we are
left to speculate as to what or who makes this selection so as to divide unformed
matters as a distribution of singularities in an assemblage according to intensive
qualities and relations. Yet this is a false problem given that the very nature of the
composition that emerges as a result of processes is not decided in advance: blocs


of affect, packs, bands, and any ensemble or assemblage form spontaneously from a
complex of local conditions and unfolding events. Assemblages resemble systems,
but this is an imprecision: an assemblage may contain multiple systems across
multiple ages, or may contain only partial components of several systems, or once
again may only contain a subsection or partial system. Systems in general may be
too rigid a designator, assuming a complicity with the traditional understanding of
form and content, observer and observed.
If one were to assign a role for information in this ontological schema, it is possible
to align it with the understanding of an initial selection process of singularities
from the ideal flow of matter-energy, yet also in the immanent process of relations
that are constituted phylogenetically, and the internal resonance of the assemblage
constituted ontogenetically. Information assists in the defining of the interior,
exterior, and the associated milieu, while metastasis explains the deviant line, the
kind of displacement that attends to all materiality to permit the generative aspects
of differenciation. Information may be considered here as that which facilitates––
not necessarily governs as though a retread of formalism––selection, connection,
composition, and division. Information connects the process moving from the dark
precursor to the strange attractor, covering over both, and it is the individuation
that is caught in the “milieu” as such. The degrees of organization are in constant
flux, caught up in an intensive re- and deterritorialization where every centre has a
becoming-periphery, and a complementary periphery has a becoming-centre. Given
that “only something deterritorialized is capable of reproducing itself” (Deleuze and
Guattari 1987, p. 60), and only the accessible surface or limit reproduces, it is this
pushing and pulling toward centre and periphery that is signalled by transductions
“that account for the amplification of the resonance between the molecular and
the molar independently of order and magnitude” as well as “the possibility of a
proliferation and even interlacing of forms, independently of codes (surplus values
of code or phenomena of transcoding or aparallel evolution” (Deleuze and Guattari
1987, p. 60).
It may be true, in a vulgarization of Bateson’s definition that “information makes
the difference,” but in the Simondon-Deleuze formulation, it not only makes the
difference but is difference––or, rather, information is differential selection within
the milieu in which the thing is constituted as resonance between content and
expression, always in a composition of assemblages. Between the virtual and actual
(the former “contained” in the latter and perpetually unfolding without exhaustion as
a “trace” and a “dark precursor”), information is “at work.” Information is at work in
the disparation between heterogeneous series, in the milieu of intensive multiplicities
manifest as assemblages. Systems are arrested placeholders or manipulable figures for
diagrams, and events are the scene of a drama where energy and matter flows freely.
Information attends the process of assemblage, or agencement, as a multiplicity of
choice. Every “yes” and “no” that is answered as components enter into relation are
contingent and temporary, that temporariness differing according to different time
scales. However, that is not the end of the process, for just because component parts


form a stone does not mean that the stone’s relationship to itself or to other “formed”
matters is static. Deleuze understands that nothing exists in complete isolation, that
every object has relations with other objects, space, time, and can be part of multiple
assemblages. The objects in relation can converge to form an assemblage, or
diverge into forming new assemblages. If information in a cybernetic sense is about
commanding and controlling (thus setting up the power relation of domination and
dominated), information in a non-theoretical (i.e., problematic) sense is to compose.
The “yes’ and the “no” so critical to bit-based reductionism is always contingent, not
pre-planned, and certainly not a case of reality following ever shrinking numbers of
pathways in an operation designed to produce one single result. It is not the human
agent whose “yes” or “no” is somehow given, but the higher empiricism where the
“yes” and the “no” is said, and always a matter of contingent reason.
This additional component of information in the Simondon-Deleuze sense grants
some degree of metaphysical certainty against macro-scale entropy. It is entirely
possible that local or closed systems can succumb to entropy. Deleuze might call
this capture or blockage. The theorematic is guided by the established axioms: this
is what gives rise to theory, but also gives rise to inertia. Axiomatization throws up
walls of transcendence, insists on fixed essences that are incontrovertible. Ludwig
von Mises speaks in the language of axioms as a support for his economic theory,
claiming that his singular axiom of “human action” cannot be questioned even if
the axiom does not lead to a well-developed theorem. His axiom directs that human
action is always purposive, that thought is formal, that materialism is wrong. To the
opponents of his axiom, von Mises defends his territory by attacking those opponents.
Admittedly, von Mises is a poor example of the reactive man who conceals his
fear of the aleatory in the formalism of an axiom. In its logical form, the axiom
takes truths to be self-evident (as in the US Declaration of Independence, “We take
these truths to be self-evident”). Von Mises’ “praxeology,” in taking human action
as rational, asserts and assumes an unverifiable (and unfalsifiable) behaviouristic
axiom. To take human behaviour as one’s a priori position might in itself be dubious,
but to link this apodictic statement as empirically meaningful may not stand the
test of falsifiability. This is, of course, not a concern for the Austrian Economic
school that appears to reject the scientific method, preferring to––at least within
the strict letter of von Mises’ Human Action (1949)––take human rationality as an
axiom that is irrefutable without using rationality to refute it, which only confirms
it. This allows von Mises’ own blend of neo-Kantianism and classical liberalism to
buttress his view of market economics by means of this axiom where the “proof”
is simply in the belief that human beings, who make “economic calculations” on
the basis of achieving contentment in a world of scarce resources, ought to indulge
their own entrepreneurial pursuits with a minimum of government interference.
Setting aside the obvious objections as to what constitutes rational, how it is linked
to purposive action as such, how this differs from non-human animals (such as
chimps, cats, etc., that appear to use directed action in much the same way von
Mises attributes to humans minus the degree of complexity), what we are presented


with is an axiom that lends support to the “theory” that humans are a rational swarm
of individualists where such individual pursuit will––in a nod to, and perversion
of, Adam Smith—benefit the global hive. The strategy is similar to Hegel’s system
where to object to it is to confirm his dialectical method. Von Mises cannot leave
his notion of human rationality at the level of the proposition, but must raise it to
the level of the irrefutable axiom; otherwise, a proposition that states all humans act
with rational purpose that would lead to such a conclusion would be to commit the
fallacy of petitio principii.1 Even if one could extend some charitable interpretation
to von Mises’ axiom of human rationality, it is not necessarily the case that “rational”
individuals operating collectively will produce rational results, as frequent boom
and bust cycles of the economy attests. A welter of literature extending from this
has led to such construction as rational choice theory (RCT) that is said to guide
individuals as part of larger mobilizations. Undercutting the idea of the rational
individual making economic calculations would be the rise of public relations and
the shift in consumption patterns in the economic domain from a needs- to desires-
based model, and it is to the notorious credit of Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays,
who understood that targeting advertising to channel the irrational drives of the
masses in their purchasing decisions actually maximizes profit, and “solves” the
problem of unpredictable irrational behaviour among the masses, somewhat akin to
the Roman panem et circenses model of providing spectacle by which those drives
can be satisfied.2
For Deleuze and Guattari, axiomatization seeks to establish universal equivalency
between terms. Nowhere is this more apparent than in how capitalism relies on
axiomatization to draw equivalencies between labour, production, and time in terms of
value. Proceeding by a method of generalized deterritorialization, labour is detached
from the determinate relations and conditions, and reterritorialized according to
the largely arbitrary axiomatic of capitalism. But, as Eugene Holland points out,
“capitalist axiomatization is essentially a meaningless calculus: capitalism offers no
stable code valid for the market it ceaselessly revolutionizes and expands; the belief
in any general meaning under these conditions is paranoid” (Holland 1998, p. 67).
Could the same be said for the attempt to axiomatize information? The vocabulary
of the information-theoretic has been fitted to statistics already, especially in
terms of Bayesian theory. An axiom effectively is the minimum required to enable
theorematic viability within the framework of those axioms. The axioms thus permit
all that is provable within a theorematic system by constraint. As theories depend
on their axioms that cannot be questioned without breaking faith with a system, in
some cases axioms become either dogmatic in allowing for a blind faith in what can
be conceptually or empirically derived from them, or they become black boxes to
which we can peer no further since beneath or behind the axiom is nothing.
If one axiomatizes information, one is in effect essentializing information.
Even if information proceeds by derivation from an axiom, there is still the echo
of essence that will haunt it. To take a more polemical view, information theory
broadly construed might be an instance of attempting to deterritorialize the very


term, appropriate it by assigning properties, subjecting it to the rule of measure, thus

reterritorializing it along the axes of communication, control, and mathematics. It is,
in this way, the reproduction of the image of an actuarial system of risk management
through probabilities, the image of the communications engineer seeking to perfect
the one-to-one correspondence between sender and receiver, and the image of the
social control manager whose alchemy is in transmuting the flows of social behaviour
into the striated channels of the algorithm.
Whether information represents a limit or a generative multiplicity very much
depends on what definition of information is adopted. If we take information as
being aligned with conservation, then this presents a limitation to what a body
can do, restricting potentiality and relying on representationalism. If we take
information in the Simondon sense specifically as that which is both product and
process of individuation in the flow of transduction, then we are presented with
a model of information that can lead to generative outcomes that show fidelity to
the aspect of the virtual. It is not the case that information is decided in advance
(substantialism) where any manifestation is simply a representative copy, nor that
it is an ethereal essence that attends to the formation of things guided by the four
causes (hylomorphism). If information is any kind of “thing,” it exists as part of the
flows that carry it, in the ways in which it assists in the temporary articulation of
groups and assemblages, and in the signal flashes between heterogeneous series.
However, if we take information as its own special theoretical object (or, more
properly, a concept invested with properties and bearded by propositions that lend
it theoretical definition), we are speaking of information as a representation, albeit
of a highly sophisticated kind. When information becomes melted into contiguous
theories of communication, alloyed with considerations of speed and fidelity, we
compound the representationalist picture. No matter how complex the conceptual
map by which we choose to represent information in motley contexts, the map is
not the territory. Beginning with Nunberg’s claim that information was magically
granted the status of a substance, the trail leads us to Ronald E. Day’s critique
of how this has led to the conduit metaphors so prevalent in digital information
science. We have moved three steps: from information as substance, to stating that
information is something quantifiable as a measure in communication, to its ultimate
deterritorialization as something that can be both measured or commoditized, and
yet exists like a modern day phlogiston.


How can digital ontology explain operants that describe a process of Becoming?
Given that both Simondon and Deleuze effectively abide by an operant ontology
where processes––we suspend the qualifier informational for the time being––are
immanent, the static or discrete connection between cause and effect is ruptured,
and the effect is in no way precisely representational of the causative agent or factor.
Operant ontologies attempt to explain the spontaneous, but in such a fashion that


they do not dismiss the possibility of pattern formations that are embedded in series,
tracing a line between cause and effect that is observable and measurable when we
take operant in the restricted sense. By contrast, an operative ontology proceeds
by guiding functions, and an operational ontology is one that valorizes constant
measure as a means of verifying or falsifying a result.
The core argument of digital ontology can be framed that reality itself is either
digital (discrete) or analog (continuous), a “Boolean” dichotomy that Floridi (2009)
rejects, with a nod to Kant, as simply a way of discussing a mode of Being’s
presentation. Instead, Floridi sets the question aside as a non-starter to advance
informational structural realism, or ISR. Given that the questions also hinge on
the knowability of reality, ISR advances a minimal ontological commitment (the
existence of mind-independent reality composed of structural objects) from an
informational standpoint. This, in turn, acknowledges the limits of our knowledge,
and what is knowable. Digital metaphysics is not a new idea: even before Leibniz’
idea of the monad, we have Anaxagorus’ view that the entire universe is mind, or
nous, which is a rational structure of an orderly universe that proceeds by way of the
working out of memory and processing.
Digital ontology relies heavily on a monistic view of the world in terms of
materiality. There is a strong link between digital ontology and the ideas of Leibniz
where monads function as automata following a kind of finite algorithmic program
(its rule-set the pre-established harmony, or otherwise a simple initial condition I
from which all subsequent processes follow, as in the case of an algorithm). Making
information-theoretic the basis of existence and the universe, advocates for digital
ontology generally point to cellular automata as proof that everything in existence
operates according to a digital process. Surperficially, we might credit digital
ontology for avoiding the arid and non-starter process of relying on dualisms (and,
as Deleuze once remarked in a 1973 seminar, even Hegel’s synthesis of differences
is a kind of false monism). Yet, we might gently indicate that digital ontology still
traffics in dualism, falling back on a reformed mereological essentialism with respect
to its component parts (the universal computer program as the hypokeimenon (the
formal rule substrata) and the automata as the khora (container) that is activated by
the program that is effectively a two-state and two-value system. For the program to
run effectively, the parts have to cohere somehow and not deviate from their central
programming. It is monist from one side; that is, the yes/no or 0 and 1 that guides
each choice in a broad range of possible choices is taken as being part of a program
that distributes that choice. Choice becomes always one; that is, whether my cat
chooses to sleep in his basket now is a decision that yields up a yes or no, but it is still
a choice function. Also, the monism emerges in my thought of my cat, indiscernible
for the digital ontologist from a constellation of neurons acting in concert to produce
for me the image of my cat, connected to memory, which is thus a representation
that is extended by analogy to how memory functions in a computer. Yet, it is one
thing to say that there are yes/no decisions made on the basis of restricted choice,
and quite another to state that the entire universe is an elaborate series of multiple


chess games played at n-dimensions. Wherein lies epiphenomena that arise from a
choice function? For the digital ontologist, this is irrelevant if such phenomena are
not causally linked. It does not matter how complex the computational program
happens to be, how dynamic and flexible it might be at a universal level to allow for
an illusion of freer choice: everything must be causally and logically linked for there
to be continuity in the programming. What cannot be computed? Infinite variability
and divisions of intensive qualities. For digital ontology to work, it must settle
on a finite world, or a world conditioned by finite variables in its programming.
This is not to be confused with the kind of periodic doubling of a series, which
is one form of the potentially infinite (subdivision or divergent multiplication of
snowflake patterns). There are certain “variables” or “predicates” in the universe
that do not lend themselves to division, such as the intensive qualities of heat––one
cannot “divide” temperature, and the “choice” a program is restricted to making
would be in either increasing, decreasing, or keeping the temperature unchanged. If
information is in fact the relative degree of organization of a system, what would be
a “half-organized” system? Is there an ideal frame of organization that is considered
full and perfect? The digital ontologist would likely claim that the entire universe is
fully organized in such a way that the programming allows for movement, and that
any “disorderly” events are not the fault of the universal computational program,
but is simply the perception of a human being who does not find the program result
personally advantageous. There is no chaos or randomness in the clean, discrete-
bound, program of the universe.
There is also the assumption that if the universe is a computational program
(leaving aside the dispute if there is some Universal Programmer, or if the program
is emergent and self-creating), is there the possibility of a programming error that
might result in universal collapse? In the initial design elements of the universal
computational program, all permutations and combinations might have to be factored
in advance to prevent system collapse, in which case said computational program
seems highly deterministic, no matter how many computing “micro-machines” exist
in the universe.
For digital ontology to be viable, it must also assert that nature has some discrete
limit or finitude lest infinite complexification lead us to a problem of infinite
regression. For example, the form a snowflake takes in an infinite and continuous
complexification scenario would mean that it must isomorphically contain that form
in ever decreasing size scales. Mandelbrot’s fractals present us with a mathematical
model of ideality and the concrete at the same time, but only if we distinguish
between the ever diminishing scale of the same reiterating patterns ideally unto
infinity as a pure mathematical object, or if the pattern due to physical laws must
eventually stop because there are no particles small enough to form it. For digital
metaphysics and ontology, there can be no infinites or infinitesimals.
All of this proceeds by way of encoding. There is some rule-set or program
governed by small bits of code to run simple programs in nature. Fidelity can be
measured on how successful the encoding has been in the intended results being


achieved. A population or combination of parallel-running programs gives rise to,

say, the development of a tadpole. On an environmental scale, mini-programs are
running to facilitate the emergence of the fly, the lily pad, the temperature of the
water, all contingent factors. Bundled together, all these mini-programs operate
synergistically to form the assemblage we might call a marsh. Changes to the
marshy environment occur on both micro and macro scales, and the bigger the scale
the more immediate the change in state. A massive drought (itself a meteorological
program) will change or end the mini-programs of the marsh; a bacterial invasion
from an exogenous source may have an impact on the mini-programs of the marsh
environment resulting in extinction of a species, followed by a disruption of the
mini-programs that give rise to other biotic systems that depend on that species.
However, despite the apparent elegance and orderliness of this causal system, the
very nature of encoding is not complemented by a decoding. The frog’s motility
lends itself to more deterritorialization and effective decoding than the lily pad
given that the frog’s transit throughout the marsh allows for more adventitious
encounters that may cause a change in the relations between frog and marsh.
Encoding does not lend itself to continual flows, but is structured and determined
process that brings about a particular state of affairs, and the more precise the
encoding, the more it arrests flows and fluctuation by restricting the number of
variables within its programming. Decoding, on the other hand, results in machinic
breakdown and allows for material flows. Both encoding and decoding entail a
degree of unfolding and should not be viewed as opposites, for it is possible that
the decoding of one population is complementary to the encoding of another. For
example, the decoding of the relation between an insect population and its climate
can result in the insects migrating to a new territory where its presence encodes the
newly inhabited territory.
Digital metaphysics is opposed to flows given that it must assume that the
universe is a program that runs a simulation based on the smallest possible unit
of spacetime. Fredkin states that finite nature “would mean that our world is an
informational process––there must be bits that represent things and processes that
make the bits do what we perceive of as the laws of physics. This is true because
the concept of computational universality guarantees that if what is at the bottom is
finite, then it can be exactly modeled by any universal machine. Finite nature does
not just hint that the informational aspects of physics are important, it insists that the
informational aspects are all there is to physics at the most microscopic level” (1991,
p. 258). Despite the fact that anything emerging out of a computational universe
would confirm the claim that the universe is computational, this is a very large
assumption that takes the discrete, not the differential, into account. For Fredkin,
physics is what runs on the universal computer, thus making the laws of physics
dependent upon a prior or foundational informational process. However, the fact
that many systems can be modeled digitally is not sufficient proof to claim that the
universe is, in fact, digital. Fredkin also insists that the actual universal computer’s
memory (which would have to be fairly substantial to run the universe) is not part of


the universe itself, but exists somehow outside of it. Physics, in this way, emerges
from a universal computation on an engine that is not subject to the laws of physics.
Fredkin’s digital physics model “carries atomism to the extreme” insofar as
all of space, time, and state are considered discrete (Fredkin 2003, p. 195). These
informational processes (configurations of bits + rules) govern state changes in
discrete steps in time. As for the bits themselves, they are all identical save for their
qualifier of being either +1 or -1 (a two-state system). Unlike bits in a computer, the
bits of digital physics share the properties of atoms in that they cannot be created,
changed, or destroyed. Fredkin states that the digital physics model might not permit
of the emergence of a truly random event given that it could not emerge out of
universal computation, and his speculation that there may be a law of conservation
of information whereby there is no such thing as information loss. Digital (meta)
physics relies on the entire universe as being run by a universal computational
process, and for that to be viable all information must be digitally representable.
All changes in information state has to be preceded by a digital process that brings
about those changes. One may then question if this pan-computationalism smuggles
determinism (or god) through the back door; if the universe is the running of a giant
program, then it would be possible to determine the future states of any system (or all
systems) if one were to gain access to the programming itself, or if it were possible to
develop digital mechanics models that replicate a portion of the program in the hopes
of reverse engineering it and thus providing a chance of working out the entirety of
the universal program. Any theory of finitism does leave itself open to the possibility
of determinism. Although Fredkin acknowledges the classical or Newtonian premise
that all laws of physics are reversible, he claims that the digital physics is more than
just a simplistic Newtonian clockwork determinism as it “allows for an analytic
methodology that can compute the probabilities of sufficiently microscopic events”
(Fredkin 2003, p. 202). With respect to finite irreversible systems (such as the
smashing of an egg), this is easily computed as something reversible by using a
counter and assuming the value of a system S is a conserved quantity (i.e., is a
self-identical variable throughout all of time). Any information “lost” in one system
is simply added to a neighbouring volume of spacetime. Since all changes in the
universe from the micro- to macroscopic level (the latter presumably the ensemble of
many microscopic mini-programs) can only be precipitated by a digital information
process, we can conclude that digital physics is deterministic even if calculating
all the variables is thus far still relegated to the domain of a Laplacean thought
experiment. The one way Fredkin is able to sidestep prediction is in his view that,
given the economy and conservation aspects of the universal computational process,
the future is being “decided” at the maximum speed of the processor, which happens
to be at a rate commensurate with the emergence of phenomena in the universe––
there is no way to calculate any faster than the universal computer is currently
Ultimately, to make digital and discrete units the entire basis of the universe
requires a considerable amount of buy-in and a bit of suspense of disbelief,


especially among those in the domain of physics, mathematics, and philosophy who
are committed to the idea of a continuum. The position of information in digital
ontologies and metaphysics is essentialized and atomized: information, reduced to
the configuration of bits, is part of a program on an engine that exists in ideality. We
see here the fundamental dualism present in such a view, for the correspondence
between this ideal engine and the results of the program in reality are in effect
Platonic in nature, and there is no clear connection between the two, no universal
pineal gland to explain how a universal computer program can exist without being
subject to the rules of the universe. Given the placement of information in this view,
it precedes and guarantees the laws of physics and thus is essentially prior to matter
and energy. And yet, we can only come to understand information through (digital)
What digital metaphysics maintains is a somewhat Platonic computationalism
by which the world is the simulation that is the working out of a universal program.
Such a view opens up to a series of commitments to a Weltanschauung whereby a
universal program presupposes a purpose to the universe, and that the substance of
truth is to be found not in the program’s simulation, but in the processor and memory
of this universal computer that exists outside of the universe and its laws. In this
way, the supersensible realm is an entirely mechanistic one. Alternatively, one could
view the relation of program to the simulation in terms of Aristotelianism, and that
the universal computer program is effectively in a hylomorphic relationship with the
simulation, both combined to form what is the real. To understand reality, then, it is
in the unity of two halves: the processor/memory of the universal computer and the
simulation that expresses it in the program’s operations. In either case, the digital
metaphysician must side with either substantialism or hylomorphism, which is also
to inherit the problems of either. There may be a temptation to endorse the digital
view, partially on account of the great technological leaps that are accompanied by
a new series of glittering terms that lionize technological progress and its prospects
for revolutionary change. We find the idea of reality as simulation, run by a program,
in popular culture albeit in simplified form, such as in the movie franchise, The
Matrix. The one particular advantage of digital physics is that there is no need for a
soul to explain the human being when all thoughts and feelings are simply the pre-
programmed working out of universal computation, yet it does not do away with
god insofar as the questions arise as to who or what writes the executable program
by which the universe runs. Also, Fredkin amply demonstrates how his digital
physics works in several measurable cases in physics, and although there is still
some contention with respect to claims made on the side of quantum physics, digital
mechanics has some traction in explaining physical phenomena. However, it is an
arguably large leap of faith to demonstrate the viability of digital physics in several
cases, and then to claim that the entire universe is governed by digital processes
according to a universal computer that is exempt from physical laws.
In the chapter on Deleuze’s ontology, we have already discussed how relying on
representationalism as the full explanation of reality is insufficient or incomplete,


part of that regime of the image of thought that sees things from their “petty
underside.” Opposed to the digital view of a highly granulated universe, Deleuze
argues for smooth flows that are interrupted, or otherwise arranged in less a fashion
of the granular but of the gradient. It is not the case that components of spacetime
are not arrested or segmented, but that is an operation performed by thought and its
alliance to representation, not necessarily the way the universe actually works.
The relative degree of organization in any system or assemblage can be
understood in terms of their relative degree of homogeneous and heterogeneous
elements. Elements here should not be understood in the classic formulation of
matter as impermeable and inert “stuff” that passively awaits force, but instead
we extend this to include any differential component in a system. A glass of water
at a stable temperature is more than just the relatively homogeneous distribution
of water molecules: there are polarities, surface tension, pockets of minimal heat
difference, and so forth that do not make it entirely homogeneous. Contained within
this example might be the seed of Deleuze’s strongest counterargument against
digital ontology. If we move from one water molecule to another for a period of
time, we note the same arrangement of H2O a certain number of times. This leads us
to believe that the next molecule we encounter, according to the laws of probability,
will be H2O. Is there something intrinsic in this causal chain that guarantees this
to be the case? The answer is, according to Deleuze and his reading of Hume, no.
The idea of intrinsic patterns as a means of generalizing what will come next is the
product of what Deleuze will call passive synthesis. Digital ontologists might argue
that there is an initial simple pattern (or algorithm) laid down that guarantees that the
causal series not only exists necessarily, but that the linkages are secured in time by
both code in a deterministic fashion, according to discrete time steps in local space
(such as one would find in the process of a cell). The alternative to a deterministic
digital ontology would be one that adopts probability theory instead. In this sense,
probability becomes almost magically connected to a thing or series as a property:
Some X has probability 1 of changing its state if conditions a, b, and c are met. Such
probabilities can be based on either a past series of events, or in parallel cases (so,
for example, there is probability 1 that I will one day die based on my being human
and that other humans have died). Probability is even more closely connected as a
property of events, and is thus always dependent on time, generally on a one-to-
one correspondence. The beguiling aspect of probabilism is how it easily covers
over intensive qualities of difference and reduces events to the zero-sum game of
either/or. Relations between objects are understood as relations in time in the form
of causation, partially contingent on environmental phenomena that may alter the
probability result.
Still, the debate centers on a false problem: is reality discrete or continuous?
Syntactically, the statement holds, but semantically it may not. The first problem is in
the predicates themselves being applied to the term “reality.”3 It is not necessarily the
case that digital metaphysics and digital ontology is wrong, but it is not correct as far
as we know beyond how reality is presented to us, for it is easily the case that reality


is continuous and represents itself as discrete (as in the examples we can draw from
the physics of matter) or vice versa. It is to the credit of the Deleuzian philosophy
of Becoming that reality is not treated as a stable, already-individuated noun that is
determined by its properties such as in being discrete or continuous, but instead as
something that perpetually unfolds, marked by whatever assemblages populates the
plane of composition. When reality is constructed according to statements such as
“reality is x,” the statement is a command bound up in an epistemological problem
of perception and measurement, apportioning to reality what constitutes it according
to Reason. When we add information as a measure of reality that is posed on the
order of the question of discrete or continuous, information-theoretic will maintain
that information must proceed by discrete steps, thus providing support to a digital
ontological view of reality. Yet, is there a way of setting aside this question in the
first place and finding for information a question that moves away from constructing
a representational view of reality? Deleuze and Guattari’s answer to this would be
the chaosmos wherein is contained both discrete and continuous flows. It is not a
question of “reality is x” where a decision must be made to understand the very
substance of the real from which properties and qualities are derived; instead, it
is a question of relation whereby both the discrete and continuous are caught in
an entanglement beneath which lie the intensive qualities that motor multiple
conceptions of the real.
A third option arises that can set aside the digital/analog debate. Whether the
debate on the origin of biotic systems emerging out of the prebiotic soup take on
the digital-first paradigm whereby a repository of information is what governs the
emergence of life itself (thus, possibly reducing biology to chemistry), or if we
take the analog model, both these views are problematic insofar as both position
information as passive rather than active. Sara Imari Walker and Paul C.W.
Davies, outlining the issues that problematize holding to either view, advance their
hypothesis of the algorithmic rather than the digital or analog as the explanation for
not only how chemical complexity can bring about biotic systems, but how they
can endure over time. The advantage of such a view is that information can play an
active instructional role in the long term evolvability and programming of living
organisms. Yet, regardless of the model we adopt, there is still a strong emphasis
on understanding the emergence of organisms according to causal mechanisms by
which some form of information is processed and actualized. Moreover, even an
algorithmic model will still commit us to measuring effects rather than grasping the
transcendental conditions of difference that allow for emergent self-organization and
a process of individuation.


On one end of the movement in phase space is the prompting or impulse motion of
initial conditions: the dark precursor that does not simply vanish in the movement
in phase space transitions from point to point, or dimension to dimension. The dark


precursor is “taken up” inside every change of state to guide further unfolding, almost
as though every successive individuation has recourse to a vast and inexhaustible
reservoir or potentials from which it may draw, but only if the relations permit their
actualization. On the other end is the strange attractor that completes this transition
and sets the fluid relations between points. Whereas the dark precursor of the
virtual––information––is the first push in phase space, the strange attractor is what
then allows for this transition to speed up or slow down, enter into relations, and
form temporary assemblages. There is in the “strange attractor” a kind of strange
pre-destiny of objects and things, but in a way where full determination has already
been configured in the virtual, and the strange attractor is the pro-jection in phase
space for the actualization that takes place. This is the push and pull of information.
And yet, this is to take an isolated system, for the initial conditions of one state may
be the strange attractor of a previous series of states. Every point in phase space is
articulated twice: once as the internal dark precursor that attends and guides the
point on a continuous flow, and once as the external strange attractor that allows
for deviations, twists, shifting of orientation, and the relative degree of momentum.
The strange attractor stands as the futurity in the present, that present the event
of metastable actualization governed by pre-individuals that enter into relation to
temporarily bind into an organization (or, form-taking). The dark precursor is the
infinite arsenal of inexhaustible potentiality, and so when the dark precursor and
strange attractor meet at the fold of the present, we are left with the result of a
process instead of a product. If we keep in mind that Simondon expands materiality
to contain within it both conceptuality and ideality, the metastable milieu allows for
an openness of form to de- and re-form in different ways, and thus lending to any
form and organization the plasticity of constant transformation.
By adopting the insights of both Simondon and Deleuze, we are not advocating
a view of randomness, but one of understanding the complexity of our world,
and the hidden structures that grant it order in an oscillating frame of dynamic
interconnectivity. Any push or pull of information as it is affected by the dark
precursor and the strange attractor is an iteration of the real, a fractalization of
existence manifest in iterating patterns that only partially repeat. The view that
systems can be measured according to relative degree of order or disorder may in
fact prove too simplistic in understanding the real complexities that take place in
phase space. The chaosmos is highly structured and dynamic, and the trajectories
are as infinite as points in phase space that travel them, as there are dimensions to
express them.
Work in turbulence and fluid dynamics seems to suggest, after Landauer, that a
change in speed corresponds with a change in complexity, so that the higher the speed
(say, for example, the rate of flow in a pipe where it moves from laminar or smooth
to turbulent), the higher the complexity. When Deleuze speaks of infinite speeds,
this would strongly suggest infinite complexity. However, “infinite complexity”
may not make much practical sense any more than an infinite speed would, for there
are theoretical limit points in physics that no experiment can pass beyond. If we


suspend the qualifier of infinite and settle at speeds approaching that of light, then
we would be forced to admit that there is a limit to complexity.
States exist in the actual, and incorporeal events in the virtual. Their dynamism
appears informational, and so it is information that takes on the role of the univocal
across the dark precursor and the strange attractor, the latter not as some movement
toward equilibrium, but the other half by which movement itself is possible as there
is both push from the infinite movements of the diagrammatic features or elements,
and the pull of the concept as intensive ordinates. All becomings, for Deleuze, are
molecular, whereas the function of information as an organizational feature might
be said to be molar. It is here that Deleuze may take issue with the role played by
information in the progression from unformed matter into the relative line between
form and content.
This formulation removes any designation of information as substance, and this
may keep true in one sense Wiener’s definition of information not being matter or
energy (the two other substances of physics). Given that information as science
operates on a plane of reference, this is precisely what guides its practitioners
to approach chaos and arrest it in finite intervals for measuring states of affairs.
Concepts and prospects are set aside in favour of functions and propositions, but it is
the Deleuzian philosophy that questions if such reduction to functions excludes the
concept of immanence and overturns the infinite speeds of becoming and vanishing
that occur in the chaos of unformed matters in the virtual. Do such functions
obscure those intensive qualities, relying instead on codes made to extend to the
actualized domain as useful? Do these “codes” that are made to extend over all states
of affairs and things to view events as fixed and programmatic rather than fluid
and diagrammatic? Information-theoretic cannot speak to that which resides in the
virtual that eludes actualization, for the language of information theory is caught up
in a world where there is only the actual and the probable; the signal and the channel;
noise, entropy, and information derived from the shadow of axioms that determine
how space and time are to be occupied in order to be counted. In this way, information
theory might approach the chaotic by insisting on limits, constants, and constraints
in a field that is entirely gridded by coordinates, and governed by variables, where
future states of affairs are based on present measurement as a deterministic calculus,
or rely on statistical methods (what Deleuze and Guattari refer to as a calculus of
probabilities). Whether information is viewed deterministically, thus rejecting free
will, or it is conceived of as composed of variables for probabilism, both are guided
by a zeal for unifying theory even if such unification may not be possible without
sacrificing an entire aspect of the real that science still seeks to explore in chaos in
order to tame it with functions.
Inasmuch as the very concept of information cannot stand alone as having a single
component, as being somehow celibate or isolated from a zone or neighbourhood of
other concepts, even in the conflation or reduction of information to communication,
we may find the core of information theory’s unavoidable reliance on the very idea of
communication as the means by which the information is conducted. Communication


does not in itself require any particular material substrate, for any might do just so
long as there is some material basis by which communication can flow (from brain
to brain, as in memetics; from computer to computer; across distances short and
vast using any means from smoke signals to cell phone calls; in the short or long
time intervals where a delivered message is received by an unintended recipient as
in the case of a wrong email address or a message in a bottle floating for decades
upon the sea). The alliance with communication also commits information theory to
what makes communication possible: movement and time. There is no possibility of
measuring information without time and motion. There is no abstract communication
that can be arrested in time without no longer being anything more than an orphaned
component in the form of an isolated message or a frozen signal. Without recourse
to the initial purpose of a sender’s signal (human or not), which can only be drawn
upon in the past once the message is “in motion,” an isolated message content is not
communication until it takes up the past time of intention and the directionality of
that message as it is transmitted to a receiver. The frozen signal is nothing more than
a sign that cannot be interpreted, for even the interpretation of signs requires time.
As information in its technical definition is made dependent upon communication,
it is stretched right across two points: the sender and the receiver, and it is in the
perilous journey between these two points where deviations can occur, information
can be “lost,” and information itself becomes the measure of what remains in this
passage between these two points. This narrow idea of communication is part of the
regime of representation: it is the ambassador sent by the head of state to represent
the interests of the nation to another nation. It is the communication of an opinion, a
fact, a very human way of constraining by thought the very idea of flows. The flow
is appropriated by thought to contain only a certain number of variables, opinions,
and ideas, at the exclusion of all others. Although these channels attempt to exclude
the external invasions of noise and nonsense, little is said of the noise that arises in
the infinite internal movements as the signal and its message passes from sender to
receiver. It is a mistake to take only the technological example that has developed
ways to convey information in as lossless a state as possible in the transfer of bits, for
information-as-communication in the non-technological sense cannot be so thusly
controlled. If there is a communication between two points, perhaps it would be the
Deleuzian option to displace the two points so that the origin is in the virtual and
the dark precursor, and the “endpoint” is the strange attractor. In this passage, it is
one toward the limit, but a limit that cannot be traversed. Moreover, this is but one
communication in a channel, but what of parallel and aparallel messages within
a single channel, or in many channels, some of which become tangled, become
transformed by the internal properties of infinite potentiality to deviate on a new
line of flight?
In keeping attached to the fetishism surrounding technology in the form of
ICTs, information theory’s main currency is communication itself which presents
a means of economic selection and distribution, and also the means by which said
communication can be reproduced efficiently. This is not something information


would dispute or find objectionable, for the idea of selection is what “makes
the difference,” and can be traced back to Leibniz. Far from being an abstract
machine, information theory abides by a Platonic model where it is form rather
than itinerant functions, an appeal to substance (in this case of an informational
variety) rather than matter, instrumentalism (by use of technology and functions,
and sometimes algorithms), and a semiotization of its processes connected to the
socius (a body of technology couples with the human masses where the former,
quasi-deterministically, inscribes the latter) rather than a diagrammatic unfolding.
The power of information theory’s communication technology does not seek to
conquer the frontier or expand beyond its limits, but instead relies on the same
mechanisms as capitalism in endocolonization whereby the bits are inscriptions to
be modulated in real time (tweaking of code through constant feedback processes).
In fact, information-powered communication technologies proceed by series of
redundant fidelity, under an immense administrative apparatus, and so produces
a regime of imitation, not invention; inscription, not involution. This it can freely
achieve in much the same way that matter itself has been subject to reductionism be
it the subatomic particle, the genetic nucleotide polymorphism, and now the bit––all
of which are seen as manipulable building blocks. It is here that the false image
of vitalism (technology imbued with real-time “life force” as something constantly
evolving in its environment) and mechanism (technology as reducible to bits of code)
merge to efface the sign regimes of the natural and artificial. Information, coupled
with technological conveyance, extends its interior territories of the limit (minimum
delivery length, maximum message content) upon its surface and reproduces these
as a deterritorialization of all that is outside of it. It is more than simply Thorstein
Veblen’s assertion that technological change precipitates in a somewhat determinist
fashion institutional change; it changes bodies by deterritorializing an older mode of
communication with its values.
For Deleuze (and Guattari), it is not a question of a particular apparatus that
conveys or contains information, for those are assemblages whose content depends
on whatever historical problems the content encounters or chooses to resolve.
Instead, for Deleuze and Guattari, the question hinges on how the very abstract
machine that we can call information is made to encounter its outside and thus allow
for assemblages to break down. The abstract machine, itself immanent, causes the
assemblage to form. In the very limited sense of information as that which in-forms,
we might consider the abstract machine a kind of informing mechanism, but this
would be to take a conception of the abstract machine that is Platonist.
This brings us to the question as to whether there is there an “outside” to
information. From the perspective of information theory, any outside is noise,
uncertainty, entropy. Deleuze speaks of resistance in terms of vacuoles as part of
micropolitical resistance (Deleuze 1995, p. 175), and this may prove challenging
to apply in the case of information. These vacuoles do not exist as such outside
of, say, information regimes and their technologies, but operate within it, breaking
communication chains, rerouting flows along new vectors. A movement toward


stabilization is but one of the two tensions in the assemblage, whereas the other seeks
instability. If information’s glorious ideal is to reduce (or, impossibly, completely
negate) uncertainty, the role of vacuoles would be to multiply the uncertainty and
move steadily toward the creation of new assemblages. It is this uncertainty that is
attractive to the adoption of vacuoles that shut down communication, even if this act
produces its own brand of certainty (“this chain leading to a set of probabilities in
a defined range of variables are certain not to be produced”), the breaking down of
communication chains does bring with it a great deal of uncertainty. This uncertainty
is not to be confused with perpetual crisis, which is generally manufactured at the level
of the broader forces of economics, but chance. Yet, the objection is that uncertainty
does not lead to a selection. This is plainly seen in the everyday when we might be
asked to schedule an outdoor event well beyond the ability of a weather forecast to
predict. We also face such moments when presented with too much choice where
this may overwhelm our decision. Generally, human beings will make a decision on
the basis of what they already know about the situation to be decided upon. Avoiding
or reducing uncertainty can facilitate a decision, but when the selections are being
made prior to the human subject’s freedom to decide, this may set up problematic
instances. However, when information theory speaks of selection, it is purely on
the basis of selecting the right information in a message, if the message has been
reliably delivered. Intentional conjunction of information content only happens in
the process of the message’s construction, whereas radical disjunction deselects the
noise at the receiver’s end. That is, a particular information is selected at the strict
exclusion of any other content.
“Within” information theory, vacuoles would be considered a threat to the ideal of
fidelity of message content in a channel. Given that vacuoles are self-contained, and
have the propensity to produce new relations or destroy old ones, they exist “outside”
of a communication circuit with the possibility of destroying, sabotaging, or rerouting
said communication circuit. Whether it is an act of creation or destruction, akin to
Nietzsche’s notion of critique and creation as being simultaneous acts, the intended
message is imperilled by the existence of such vacuoles. What is communicated can
always metastasize, and the linearity of a message can be displaced.
In this preliminary construction of a Deleuzian approach to information, this
entails certain commitments: the overturning of unity and identity in favour of
transduction, effacing the chaos and cosmos dichotomy with the concept of the
chaosmos, a rejection of entropy and probabilism in favour of differentiation and
infinite potentiality governed by chance. The question of information in physics and
systems concerns how much energy is required to transmit a message source while
not increasing noise and thus increasing error. The first law of thermodynamics deals
with the conservation of energy, and so what is the minimum energy required to
convert the bit at the site of the message source of a system to tell us the state
in which that system is in? We keep in mind here that there are physical limits
governed here by the laws of matter and energy. The energy cannot be infinite, and
the system cannot be a perpetual motion machine without violating the first two laws


of thermodynamics. Yet, this is precisely what Deleuze seems to want to overturn.

For Deleuze, infinite potentiality is actualized in units of finite energy, and this is
determined by the very relations of the things themselves. An increase in noise at
higher frequencies is, for Deleuze, one of the conditions of producing difference,
not increasing entropy. If systems are but signals in the Deleuzian philosophy, does
this characterize the virtual as the message source, and the intensive circuit the
transmitter? It is here that Deleuze’s view radically diverges from the physicists.
Information is transduced from the virtual to the actual, and a conversion takes
place whereby singularities are abstracted from a flow of potentialities to form an
assemblage. Since assemblages cut across systems in the conventional sense of the
word (or are contained within them), there appears to be two types of system at play:
the first being the system that resides in the transcendental empiricist milieu at the
higher sense of virtual-intensive-actual circuit that modulates flows, and the system
at the level of the actual which is a representation for thought. A virtual system that
encompasses the chaosmos, and an actualized system assumed by thought as its
components are frozen in conceptuality, ready for measurement.
It is important to frame what Deleuze means when he claims that systems are
beautiful, almost as though he is advocating for passive agreement with philosophical
systems. In Deleuze’s collaboration with Guattari in What is Philosophy?, they
outline what they mean by philosophical system as being a bundle or ensemble of
concepts that have some degree of internal resonance. In this way, a philosophical
system is a system of thought, not to be confused with systems theory proper. The
critic may point to Deleuze and Guattari’s notion that everything is machinic as
proof that “system” applies as well to mechanical systems, but this disregards the
nuance they grant the machinic as effacing the distinction between the natural and
artificial. A system of thought may emerge, and respond to, material, mechanical,
and biotic systems, but they function differently.
In sum, Deleuze charts a pathway that diverges from that of technical science, and
this would apply in term to how he might treat information. The opposing directions
are, to anticipate the schism dear to Deleuze and Guattari elsewhere, a royal versus
nomad science. Information as transmission is transformed in the Deleuzian context
to information as an articulation whereby singularities are distributed. Information
storage is now simply segmentation or blockage of flow. Information processing
is now unfolding of individuation as floating upon inexhaustible potentiality, not
the encoding aspects of computation restricted by statistical rules of probability.
Transmission of information, as an articulation, is synonymous with transduction; it
is no longer simply the matter of a sender and receiver operating in a single channel.
An entirely new relationship arises in this understanding whereby noise, signal, and
even meaning become reconfigured according to a metaphysics whereby difference
and Becoming are primary.
Information makes the very difference it also becomes: as distribution agent
and incarnated in materiality as both message and medium. No longer a dialectical
distribution of possibilities that brick up any path for alternative formations, a


Deleuzian approach embraces a dynamic of distributions where what is being

distributed conditions problems, allows for radical divergence and displacement,
and ultimately places information at the forefront of how we can generate the new,
affirming the very being of the problematic. While a more constrained and technical
form of information seeks to reduce noise and amplify only the most “salient” signals
in a channel, it is the Deleuzian philosophy that moves in the opposite direction:
to multiply signals, amplify noise, shift away from variables to singularities,
acknowledge intensive qualities and not extensive quantities, and only then will the
resonant relations between things emerge. It is then that the intensive qualities can be
grasped, and it is information in the non-technical sense that opens the way without
closing the gap presented by problemata.
From what has already been discussed with respect to Deleuze, what I propose
is that instead of continuing the emphasis on information whereby it is actualized
in false terms in concrete networks or communication regimes that only stratify
and rigidify what is meant by information and its applications, we move toward
an information theory that seeks to intensify the relational aspects of information
beyond the conduit metaphors while at the same time recognizing the ideality nested
in the broader materiality that is information. In so doing, such a move liberates
information from its probabilist cage and opens the way to viewing information as
playing an important role in how the mobilization of potentialities can create the
conditions for the unanticipated encounters that express the intensive features of the
Reconfiguring the role of information would involve wresting away the hubris
of command and control technologies and inverting the theoretical approach to
information whereby a kind of vitalist production emerges through becomings,
individuations, and spontaneous self-organizations. It is not the case that Deleuze
wants to advocate for anarchic systems, but he does acknowledge the instability of
the very technologies that harness information. And yet it is these instabilities that
can make said technologies and the systems and organizations in which they are
embodied interesting if not generative of new productions. The triad of information,
matter, and energy is a relation built on tension every bit as much as they are
interlocking “components.” Is it possible, then, to speak of an antecedent unformed
information? Most likely not, but if there is a role to be played by information in the
movement from the unformed matter to the relative lines of content and expression
that are infused by an energy that grants them sense, then it is possible here to speak
of information’s role as an agent of creative involution of systems and organizations.4

It might also be argued that no axiom can capture the complexity and variability of human behaviour.
Von Mises, in his rejection of scientific method, makes the leap from axiom to application. It should
be noted that mathematical axioms need not have any application to be rigorous and self-standing. For
example, Peano’s axioms were exceptionally abstract. The Austrian school militantly objects to what is
pejoratively called “scientism.” One possible test for von Mises’ axiom and what derives from it would


be the “prisoner’s dilemma.” Another way of questioning von Mises’ axiom is by taking stock in how
Deleuze and Guattari understand emergence, the consequences of which John Protevi (2006) says:
We can thereby dissolve the false dichotomy between social holism (oriented to homeostatic stability)
and methodological individualism (which denies ontological emergence), as well as evade the
antinomies of the structure / agency debate, by showing that agency, when conceived as creativity in
changing the patterns and thresholds of social systems, can only appear in far-from-equilibrium crisis
situations. (p. 39).
Although space does not permit a closer examination here, there is an abundance of literature the
interested reader may consult in the problem of mass behaviour and its control. See Gustave Le Bon’s
La psychologie des foules; Elias Canetti’s expressively masterful, Crowds and Power; the Lukacsian-
inflected understanding of spectacles and control as alienation perfected in Guy Debord’s Society of
the Spectacle.
For a more detailed discussion on this antinomy, see the chapter on Nomad Information Science.
Arguably, one of the foremost scholars on the application of Deleuzian insights to organization
theories would be Thorkild Thanem.




In Norbert Wiener’s introduction to Cybernetics, he tells us, “If I were to choose a

patron saint for cybernetics out of the history of science, I should have to choose
Leibniz” (Wiener 1965, p. 12). Wiener’s homage to Leibniz with respect to a
program that may have been a precursor to cybernetics is not unfounded; given
Leibniz’ independently invented calculus, interest in developing a calculating device
(the “Step Reckoner”), and his advocacy for binary systems, we find here the nativity
of a mechanization of mathematical process by which mechanical calculation can
facilitate decision-making. From the technological standpoint, this has surely borne
fruit: today’s computing technologies can process virtually millions of calculations
per second. Wiener praises Leibniz as one of the first philosophers of mechanical, or
at least mechanized, reason.1 Despite this, Wiener cannot be counted among the camp
of mechanicism any more than he could be called a vitalist. Wiener appears to accept
the emergence of the unforeseen, and in acknowledging this has devised a means
via cybernetics to regulate something more predictable using negentropy. It is here
that he will part ways with Leibniz, for it is the philosophy of the latter that holds to
the notion of the pre-established harmony of the monads, the kind of wind-up clock
by which all future contingencies will be fairly managed, if not predicted. Wiener
takes a slightly more fatalist view that we are “shipwrecked passengers on a doomed
planet” (1954, p. 40), and he uses the metaphor of island to describe our world as a
fragment of locally decreasing entropy in a universe becoming more entropic. That
is, even if Wiener can be persuaded to accept Leibniz’ view that the universe is
“wound up” according to the pre-established harmony, Wiener would quickly point
out that thermodynamics points to the fact that the universe is now “winding down,”
for despite his somewhat upbeat belief that we will endure for some while yet, even
he acknowledges that in this cosmological game, entropy eventually wins. Wiener
makes the claim that his own intellectual project is concerned with much of what
occupied Leibniz, especially with respect to computational language and automation
(Wiener 1954, p. 19). Parenthetically, it should be noted that Wiener is not simply a
booster for automation of all human labour practices, nor does he pledge blind faith
in human progress; he fully acknowledges that such implementation of automation
should be in accord with human needs, and that the idea of indefinite “progress” is
wrongheaded given that the earth’s finite resources will eventually cause human
civilization to face difficult choices in the management of those resources.


Although it may prove a far too easy reflex to simply find cybernetics - and its
founder, Norbert Wiener - in contempt, it is important to realize that Wiener was
very well intentioned in his project, and that he opposed such things as information
secrecy and the use of atomic weapons. Nor should we be quick to dismiss cybernetics
as an antiquated discipline, even if the haste in which it might have been adopted
by other disciplines resulted in some unfortunate applications. It may, in fact,
prove inadequate in a single chapter, or even in several volumes, to declare all of
cybernetics a dismal intellectual failure since some of its insights are still very much
worthy of continued consideration. Cybernetics, in many cases, has proven to be a
useful application in the domains of digital technologies, engineering, and wherever
feedback is relied upon to ensure the continued operation of a closed system. But
therein lies the problem: the number of closed systems in the universe is negligibly
small. The utility of cybernetics is confined to very local and specific contexts, and
in a universe of increasing complexity, cybernetics will not necessarily save us. Nor
should we impugn cybernetics with the charge that it does not make universal claims
on reality, for that was never its stated goal. Wiener knew there were some problems
better left to other disciplines, such as physics, to investigate. That it can apply to
the human context seems to be sufficient for Wiener. Cybernetics does not drive
toward the ultimate truth or solution, but is geared toward narrowing the field of
approximations for better technical results by minimizing on entropy––but never
being able to produce a system that would be at an entropy of zero, for that would
be a contradiction of the second law of thermodynamics. The best we can hope for
is to minimize error, noise, and entropy in systems using negentropy and feedback.
This, in turn, will allow for better technical efficiency, speed, and communication.
Deleuze’s measured praise for Leibniz centers on how things themselves are
points of view, and how the incompossible and compossible of an event is not simply
a binary of possible and impossible (Deleuze 1990, pp. 171–2). Where Deleuze
disagrees with Leibniz would be on account of how Leibniz wielded his theory
of incompossibility that speaks of multiple compossible events as an exclusive
disjunction rather than a generative divergence of events. The Leibnizian god as the
divine machina ratiocinatrix selects the best of all possible worlds at the exclusion
of all others. Deleuze praises Leibniz as one of the first philosophers of the event.2
With respect to Leibniz’ famous example of the tides, Deleuze draws from this the
lesson of the multiplicity that does not resolve itself in unity. That is, the multiple
droplets of the sea that combine to make the sound of the tide, and its collective
effect on the constant redistribution of sand grains, are in perpetual recombination
where each individual droplet is already determined in the sense of its declination to
combine with other droplets, and it is in this temporary quasi-unity or ensemble that
the tide is individuated as a whole.
Leibniz’s metaphysical view separates existence between matter and monads
which are folded into one another in highly complex ways. These folds, as they
are unfolded, may be the source of “new” information. These unfoldings could be
equated with the production of theorems out of elemental axioms, each unfolding


a “step” in the working out of a process. Information would be the result of every
unfolding, emerging for us as the actualization of potentials. Yet, Deleuze will
only follow Leibniz so far, and will not take that step beyond to embrace Leibniz’
Both Wiener and Deleuze apparently derive their admiration for Leibniz on
the issue of how existence is organized, even if their respective stances on what
conclusions they draw from this differ. Leibniz is the shared starting point between
Wiener and Deleuze from which we can discuss the role of cybernetic systems and
the role of chance. In staging a confrontation between Deleuze and cybernetics,
it is fitting that the figure of Leibniz should loom so significantly. Both Deleuze
and Wiener draw from Leibniz elements that advance their own projects. Beyond
the bon mots Deleuze offers on communication and control throughout his oeuvre,
there seems very little evidence of Deleuze taking on cybernetics directly. As we
will proceed to demonstrate, just as Deleuze’s work could indirectly critique other
philosophical systems in all but name, much of Deleuze’s critique of cybernetics
may be implied by an assessment of his philosophical views that are, by and large,
incompatible with cybernetic views on time, becoming, communication, and
noise. If we were pressed to select one Deleuzian text that could be called the most
convincing attack against cybernetic reason, there may be no better choice than that
of The Logic of Sense; however, Deleuze will also find a capable ally in Nietzsche.


The very term cybernetics, emerging from the Greek word for “steersman,” is
vitally concerned with notions of control and, quite specifically, automatic control.
There are three main types: feedback, feedforward, and open loop. Without a proper
grounding in what is meant by feedback and feedforward, the idea of control as used
in cybernetics remains opaque. Feedback is a predictive mechanism insofar as it can
predict an error that is corrected by data and then “fed back” into the control loop for
further correction. The process of correction itself can occur in two distinct ways.
In a feedback loop, data is used to correct the initial prediction made from that data
in order to cause a change in the external environment. A feedforward process does
not rely on feedback since the response is known in advance and the correction is
made once the error is determined, this error not “fed back” into the control loop.
Open loop control does not rely on feedback in any way: an input is amplified and
delivered as output without returning to the system. This output is the end point of a
signal, and this output cannot return to zero until input has already returned to zero.
An example of an open loop system might be an audio amplifier.
The vital importance of feedback regulation assisted by cybernetic machines
capable of rapidly processing data from the environment in order to make decisions
was taken up (in some cases as a distortion of cybernetic first principles) in the
domains of economic and political activity. One of the earliest official state
applications took place in Khruschev’s 1961 five-year plan when previous pejorative


attitudes against cybernetics as an imperialist pseudo-science were reversed.3 Since

then, cybernetic principles have been adopted piecemeal in constructing a techno-
regulatory market trading mechanism as part of cyber(netic) capitalism. “Mastering”
communicative feedback has become an essentially machine-aided human project
at many levels of government and the private sector, from economic policies to
significant changes in managerial structures and organizational behaviour. Much of
cybernetic capitalism is built upon one of the core concerns of cybernetics: that
nature, left to its own devices, would invite entropy. However, despite the clean and
machinic appearance of rapid international trading mechanisms, the global markets
are still largely dominated by a weak feedforward system of human speculation.
If cybernetics were more vigorously applied to markets, there would be controls
in place to prevent the sudden shocks to the stock market. The nonlinear feedback
processes of the market make this a challenge for cybernetic applications, although
cybernetics claims to have some workable solutions.
Cybernetics relies on mechanical regulation whereas previous attempts to regulate
social, biological and economic phenomena have frequently resulted in disastrous
consequences due to being based on false principles, such as eugenics. Of course, one
of the earliest attempts to leverage data to “correct” social and economic ills can be
found in the followers of Jeremy Bentham who undertook a wide-ranging study into
England’s employment situation, which arguably due to the “cooking” of the data,
resulted in far worse conditions for England’s labourers. Such regulatory schemes
and their faults are not necessarily the fault of data or feedback, but the human
agendas that pilot them. If there is one spanner in the works for automated regulatory
frameworks or cybernetic application, it would be the human being: perhaps the most
challenging and unpredictable variable to factor for in any probability calculation.
This is not to say that there have not been attempts to predict and control human
beings, and the methods vary. When we consider the rise of the social sciences, there
was concerted interest in the study of crowds––most notably the work of Gustave
Le Bon’s Les psychologie des foules that issued a somewhat pessimistic view of
crowds as largely mobs that can be temporarily seized and steered by a charismatic
populist to commit acts they might not otherwise commit individually. That very
point is addressed in a much more expansive form by Elias Canetti who likens open
crowds to a raging fire, the purpose of the crowd being simply to grow. Attempts
at crowd control also vary from the ancient world to the modern day, involving
the panem et circenses of the Romans with their Colosseum and gladiatorial
entertainments, right up to churches, movie theatres, and sports stadia that can
be somewhat cynically characterized as crowd containers. The enigma of how to
control the mass population took the form of various urbanization techniques for
stemming human traffic, closing the commons, introducing anti-loitering laws, and
elements of urban design that would either make crowd-gathering difficult or easy
to contain for capture. It would not be until the development of psychoanalysis by
Freud that the root cause of the mass mind would be traced to the irrational drives of
the id. Freud’s nephew, the entrepreneurial Edward Bernays, saw in Freud’s theory


the key to channeling these irrational drives into something useful, and thus assisted
in the shift in American attitudes toward consumption as being based on need to
one of desire. The enhancements upon marketing practices involved psychological
manipulation of the consumer using a variety of techniques that largely proved
successful, the proof of which was a steady increase in profit. However, psychology
alone would not prove sufficient to keep the growth rate of consumption up, and
so an understanding of how to predict consumer behaviour was necessary so as to
“guide” the consumer to purchase more goods and services that were associated with
his or her existing purchase patterns. With the rise of computing, this became a much
easier task. Tracking of Internet user and point-of-purchase consumer behaviour
would facilitate massive scale data collection which, in turn, could be aggregated,
analyzed, and be fed back out as an algorithm to facilitate targeted advertising. By
plotting the purchasing decisions of a consumer associated with that consumer’s
political, religious, and social beliefs, not to mention their income, familial situation,
whether the consumer was short or overweight, what TV channels they viewed,
level of education, and so forth, these variables could produce a map of probabilities
that would increase the chances of successful advertising, possibly in the form of
receiving special coupons for products these consumers would be most likely to
buy. In a relatively recent event, a man was incensed that his young teenage daughter
was being sent an advertisement for baby products when he was certain his daughter
was not even sexually active. As it turned out, his own purchasing behaviour at
the store in question indicated a variety of common trends that demonstrated the
likelihood that his daughter was pregnant as compared to other fathers who had
made similar purchases. In this sense, the store successfully predicted the daughter’s
pregnancy before either the father or daughter knew. The sophistication of the data
collection techniques, aided by a powerful algorithm in a computer program, is
largely cybernetic inasmuch that a useful prediction was produced that would steer
future purchasing decisions.
In addition, control has been distilled in disciplinary measures as ensconced in
institutions of confinement and under the clinical labeling of science, as amply
explored by Michel Foucault. The shift from the authority to the “democratization”
of knowledge has otherwise obscured the real shift from disciplinary societies to
control societies whereby automated control mechanisms function to prescribe
human behaviour. This shift is one of major concern to Deleuze whose short piece,
“Postscript on Control Societies” appears somewhat prescient of the current data
regimes of control where codes function to determine access or restriction to
information, and individuals are no longer in a binary with the crowd or masses, but
are now aligned along the new polarity of “dividuals” and “data” (Deleuze 1995,
p. 180). Deleuze envisions a profusion of electronic tagging and the use of networks
as a means of complete social domination, one which he signals his hope that new
forms of resistance will develop to replace older forms of resistance (such as trade
unions) that are equipped only to wage that resistance under the discipline society


One of the strongest proponents of the cybernetic view would be W. Ross Ashby.
In an attempt to clarify some of the more unclear language of Wiener with respect
to what cybernetics is, and its relationship to science, Ashby is somewhat militant
in securing for cybernetics its autonomy. For Ashby, cybernetics does not in any
way depend on being derived from any of the sciences, and its main goal is not to
pose ontological questions at all, but instead to ask the pragmatic question of what
it can do. Cybernetics asks after the conditions of possibility for the behaviour of
all machines. “The most fundamental concept in cybernetics is that of ‘difference’,
either that two things are recognizably different or that one thing has changed
with time” (Ashby 1963, p. 9). Ashby qualifies that difference occurs in either
continuous or discrete situations, but he discards continuous change in favour of
measuring discrete changes as being of utility for cybernetic consideration. Changes
in continuous situations can, says Ashby, be built out of discrete measurement and
that this is preferable since the discrete consideration has “absolute freedom from
subtlety and vagueness, for every one of their properties is unambiguously either
present or absent”(Ashby 1963, p. 28). This view is defended from the perspective
that observation of any system occurs at discrete points, and that continuity is
simply the work of the imagination. It is here that Ashby errs on the side of utility
rather than actuality. To state that humans and machines are only able to perceive
discrete points without access to continuous intervals does not consign continuous
processes to irrelevance. Perhaps, within the scope of cybernetic application, this
may be the case, but then we are dealing with an abstraction of reality regardless
of how useful this abstraction might be for servomechanisms and decision-making
procedures based on finite differences corralled in bounded sets. It is in this way
that cybernetics in Ashby’s sense gives short shrift to the concept of continuity and
duration, concerned as it is with acquiring advantage from severe or slight constraint
as a method of communication and control, and so cybernetics is in some sense a
valorization of what Bergson criticized as cinematographic perception of existence.
However, it is not Ashby’s goal to make philosophical statements on the nature of
reality; only to find a method by which to “correct” it.
Wiener does not state any explicit restrictions for where or how cybernetics is
to be applied. In fact, he makes extensive use of biological analogies to ground his
explanation of servomechanisms. He draws from examples of ataxia––a condition
where a person’s motor control is compromised––to discuss how feedback functions
in the human body so that when we reach for an object, we do not over- or under-
reach it. It was more during the Macy Conferences that several scholars from assorted
disciplines demonstrated an eagerness to apply cybernetic method to linguistics,
psychology, anthropology, and neuroscience––among other fields of inquiry. There
was a feeling of energetic enthusiasm with respect to the prospects of what cybernetic
application could achieve in the better understanding, communication, and control
related to other disciplines.
In all of this, cybernetics is dealing with data as part of its feedback mechanism
for increasing the probability of a successful event in the future (or in avoiding


unwanted events). Cybernetics does not deal directly with information, but it can be
said that the higher the relative degree of organization in a system, the less erratic or
unpredictable its variables, which thus makes prediction more useful. In some ways,
if statistics can tell us the probability of some event occurring, then cybernetics is
the applied science of how to intervene to increase or decrease the probability of
that event. Whereas statistics presents a passive report on what is likely to occur,
cybernetics is an attempt to play an active role in steering the likelihood of an event.
Cybernetics agrees with a probabilistic universe; that is, the emergence of
structures are selected according to the probability factor that they can or might
emerge given the circumstantial initial conditions. This probabilism resists the strong
position of determinism, and in fact seems to side with a weak determinism insofar
as cybernetics will admit of probabilities being near-actualities in highly controlled
and closed systems. The probable selects from a restricted number of choices so that,
for example, in an alphabet of A to Z, there is an operation that assists in selecting
the appropriate letters that might be communicated as data through a communication
channel. This selection, whether endemic to a regulatory system that is operated by a
human or machine, ensures some degree of continuity and defers inevitable entropy.
One ought to remark on precisely in what way cybernetics understand the
term “information,” or in what standing it has in its method. If we adopt Wiener’s
definition, cybernetics already presupposes a privileged if not transcendent status of
information to such an extent that becoming is subordinated to a result of selection
between probabilities. Although cybernetics may be said to concern itself with
relations in such a way that information is viewed as facilitating choice reduction
where systems and environments can co-regulate through negative feedback, the
privileged role information plays in first-order cybernetics is one that suspiciously
appears to essentialize it, but in actual fact it is a very specific technical term that is
commonly confused with communication. Information is radically dematerialized
as it is not “locked” into matter, nor dependent upon the vicissitudes of energy
(although the relation between the organization of a system and the conversion of
thermal energy to mechanical energy does involve information). Information cannot
be extracted as a substance from matter, only a measure of its relative degree of
organization. A message is not information; it is encoded with information as a
signal delivers it through a channel. The recipient of the message must then decode
the message and obtain the relevant information. But even here information qua
information resists valuation. Information cannot be reduced to semantic meaning
without abdicating its formal quality, which (in cybernetic terms) is simply not
information. What guarantees the continuity of information is patterning. A pattern
is not necessarily opposed to randomness, for as later modifications and discoveries
in cybernetics can attest, randomness or mutations guarantee the emergence of new
structures that are significantly different rather than predictable. All cybernetics
can truly offer is a series of probabilities, not precise predictions. That being said,
if information was simply an attribute of matter or ideas, then the continuity of
information as an ordering principle could be jeopardized by the dissolution of


matter or the distortion of ideas. Instead, information is bumped to a higher level,

one that is by appearance formal and transcendent.
Perhaps it is the case that work in ICT and ICS have taken the term information
for granted as though invented or discovered by the rise in digital technologies. Even
when gestures are made to discuss the role of information prior to computing (most
commonly the reference to the printing press as a rudimentary mechanism for the
standardization of alphabets, more rapid knowledge production and dissemination;
references to Leibniz’ precursor to the modern calculator; Babbage’s blueprints for
a differential engine), these are lodged in anthropocentric perspectives that make
information effectively technology-dependent. Technology becomes, then, the
precondition for the existence of information. It would make as much sense to say
that atoms only existed subsequent to the sense-extending technologies that permitted
their visibility and measurement. In a sense, this may be culturally true. Setting aside
prior notions of the atomic particle as put forward by Leucippus and Democritus,
and from which the modern idea of the atom has borrowed the terminology, there
was no way that atoms in the modern context would have appeared in the discourse
prior to their verification through the instruments of discovery. However, just as it
would be erroneous to state that atoms did not exist materially in the universe prior
to human discovery, the same may be said of information if we are to retain the
definition of information as something essential to physics.
Cybernetics, believing as it does in a state of finalism that cannot be averted
and only deferred, may be considered partially nihilistic, a will to nothingness.
As well, it could be considered a highly reactive doctrine that sets about limiting
what active force can do, restricting choice – even if this preserves the system.
A true will to power would embrace chance, affirming even the possibility of a
system’s destruction should it succumb to a “becoming-mad.” This is the lesson of
cybernetics: to conserve energy, to reject chance in order to embrace adaptation,
to react to circumstances while abdicating material singularity. Wiener has already
anticipated right from the start the telos of the universe, a kind of “heat death” where
thermodynamics is made the operative analogy for information and communication.
When Wiener had developed weapons systems, these were not chance-engines;
they were machines that functioned according to a regime of probabilities, a
reaction circuit with an environment that supplies the machine information for
choice computation. In the insistence upon pattern, predictions approximate the
next iteration in the environment and the machine reacts accordingly. This is
highly practical in shooting down enemy aircraft, but perhaps of less utility when
considering guerrilla warfare or the vicissitudes of the stock market given that both
are powered by “machines” that introduce new operations, and new functions.
Cybernetics has a curious way of holding off reality in favour of digital symbolism,
thus its relation to materiality in general is at a safe remove. Although the paradigm
of communication and control has, in the words of those like Ashby, provided useful
“steersmanship,” hides the real behind a veil of digital representations designed to
take command of life itself.


It would seem for cybernetics to function as a model for ontological prediction

among an array of equally probable instances to come to a decision, that it must
base itself on a record of the actual and the actuarial. Only then is risk or chance
calculable for a proper choice function to take place, and this splits between the
short- and long-term spans of time. For example, calculating what the value of stock
price x will be worth in 100 years through extrapolation is bound to multiply or
amplify any small deviation of error made on the basis of calculating on a short-
term observation. As Wiener says, “For a good statistic of society, we need long
runs under essentially constant conditions, just as for a good resolution of light we
need a lens with a large aperture” (Wiener 1948, p. 25). In cybernetics, information
is contingent upon the restriction of choice; that is, the reduction if not elimination
of uncertainty. Uncertainty represents the presence of entropy, measured in Shannon
entropy as bits.4 If, for example, we throw a six-sided dice, the level of uncertainty
or entropy is high since we have a one in six chance of predicting the outcome
assuming a fair dice.5 Multiple throws increases the probability of obtaining the
desired result.
One way by which Deleuze’s philosophy can be perceived as a rejection of
cybernetic thinking might involve a detour into his interpretation of Nietzsche’s
concepts of active/reactive forces, the affirmation of chance, the eternal return, and
the will to power. This bundle of associated concepts, under Deleuze’s treatment,
aim to establish a privileged position for affirmative difference that is not simply
derivative of the fixity of identity. The concept of unity does not displace or subjugate
a commitment to understanding a world as fundamentally one of multiplicity. In
a Deleuzian ontology, noise and entropy are generative in that they decouple or
subvert dialectical organization. Freed from regimes of restricted choice, that
which becomes is liberated from patterns, and articulates its qualities through an
affirmation of chance which makes radical deviation a source of internal difference
(the process of counter-actualization). By breaking off and starting, or joining, a new
series, intensity and speed determine the flow and direction of becoming. At this
point, statistical probabilities cease to be reliable as such.
However, one form of regulation taken out of human hands but not placed into a
deity’s could be found in Nietzsche’s doctrine of the eternal return. For Nietzsche, the
regulatory and reactive forces advance entropy as part of a program to homogenize
life and render it inert by separating active forces from what they can creatively
do. The doctrine of the eternal return is as equally an esoteric as it is a commonly
misunderstood doctrine. The eternal return has two main aspects: 1. as ontological
doctrine, it affirms Becoming and the return of that which becomes and, 2. as ethical
doctrine, it deselects reactive forces that cannot bear their return. The eternal return
does not involve regulation as an explanatory concept that describes the coming-to-
be of some particular thing since the eternal return affirms the whole of Becoming,
and that which returns are not specific beings since those are simply symptoms of
Becoming. One is not granted knowledge per se since knowledge in a fixed state is
in denial of life, but instead one is exposed to a process. It is the will to power that


creatively destroys all limits and restrictions only to continue perpetually in this
process. One can consider the eternal return a feedback mechanism par excellence,
on the cosmological scale, but not the sort of mechanism that eliminates or reduces
chance in order to make a decision (for Nietzsche, the decision procedure is somewhat
tyrannically fixed on either affirming or denying the eternal return). However, it
will be necessary to engage some of the particular concepts Nietzsche uses, and
note how these concepts function as tools in Deleuze’s philosophy, for it is more
the Heraclitean-Nietzschean line in Deleuze that sets the philosophical challenge
against cybernetics. The sequence presented here may seem odd to the reader given
that the aim is to construct a Deleuzian critique of cybernetics at several removes: to
leverage Deleuze’s Nietzsche as a critique of Hegel, which in turn becomes applied
to cybernetics. We already must acknowledge a number of contentious difficulties
here: 1. Is Deleuze’s reading of Nietzsche opportunistic and selective to the purpose
of supporting Deleuze’s views?; 2. Is the portrayal of Hegel’s system accurate, or is
it relying too heavily on the Nietzschean polemical eclat?; 3. Is it too much of a leap
to associate Hegelianism to cybernetics? For the sake of argument, I will assume
with some complicity that Deleuze’s reading of Nietzsche is fair, that Nietzsche’s
critique of Hegel (and how it is presented by Deleuze) is valid, and that it is possible
to connect some aspects of Hegelianism with cybernetics.
Is cybernetics fundamentally Hegelian? The short answer to that question is no,
yet this does not mean there are not some similarities, nor that Deleuze’s criticism of
the dialectic do not also apply in modified form to the principles of cybernetics. We
know that cybernetics is concerned with systems, and with the state of those systems,
influenced in time by the relations of their subsystems. The individual components
of these systems may differ, but just so long as their processes as governed by the
system are the same, to cybernetics they may be considered effectively identical.
Cybernetics does not concern itself with innate differences in materiality unless this
somehow has an effect on the functioning and organization of a system. Hegel, too,
is also concerned with relations rather than, say, the attributes of a system, thus
committing him to reject Aristotle’s view that all objects should be defined in part
by the attributes they possess. This view is first and foremost in Hegel’s Logic where
it is not the empty and undetermined concepts of Being and Nothing that define
either, but their relation which produces a third term that gives determination to
both: Becoming. Cybernetics does not require the philosophical edifice of assuming
that all processes will result in the revelation of Absolute Spirit, that the purpose
of existence is revealed once all the possibilities are used up and all contradictions
resolved, as opposed to the Hegelian dialectic that assumes such a process will occur
with no remainder. Cybernetics will hold to the view that there is some substantialist
aspect that guides the transition in a system to move from one state to another.
This substance is non-material and is given the term, information. Information is
a “transmission” or a “storage.” That is, change is manifest as the relation in time
(measured as changes in state) between subsystems, and if the state does not change,
then information can be considered static and thus “stored.” In a feedback circuit,


information flows as the one system’s state influences a second system’s state, which
then in turn influences the initial system.
Hegel’s philosophical program seems to suggest that similar feedback processes
based on relations are what ensure a change in a system state. In this case, Hegel’s
chosen “system” is human history itself as it stumbles by incremental steps or phases
of dialectical progression toward revealed theology and the Absolute where Geist
comes to fully recognize itself. Hegel’s dialectical logic is a conceptual system that
refines through feedback, thus giving more determinate content to the major concepts
such as Being. In the unity of contradictions, Hegel also appears to magically resolve
the whole-part problem. In a similar fashion, cybernetics performs this magic as well
by defining its limits: given that cybernetics is concerned with the interactivity of
systems and their subsystems, there is a line that cybernetics will not cross, which is
to reduce beyond subsystems. That is the domain of the messy empirical materiality
where differences and heterogeneity reign supreme. However, given cybernetics’
reliance on mathematics to understand system-related phenomena, it need not venture
into those turbulent territories. In sum, we might say that Hegelianism is cybernetics
without the math, and cybernetics is Hegelianism without god. The march of Geist
toward the Absolute is, in many ways, a determinism, whereas cybernetics stops
short of determinism unless a particular system has only one choice in a change of
state. Instead, cybernetics makes use of statistical mechanics and probability––and
probability deals almost exclusively upon the table of chance. Enter Nietzsche.


In France’s intellectual climate, just as existentialism’s star was beginning to fade

there emerged a Nietzschean revival, popularized in part by figures such as Georges
Bataille and Pierre Klossowski, among others. Moving from the second wave of
Hegelian interpretation as a ground shift from the Logic to the Phenomenology of
Spirit, there was a seeming appetite to revisit Nietzsche in a way not prejudiced by
previous write-offs by those who unfairly accused Nietzsche of harbouring proto-
Nazi sentiments, these interpretations based solely on decontextualized writings
compiled by Nietzsche’s anti-Semitic sister.6 Deleuze’s own method of “taking the
philosopher from behind” in order to generate more than just an exegesis of the
history of philosophy had already resulted in his rather svelte volume on Hume in
1953, and while holding a position at Centre National de Recherche Scientifique,
completed his volume on Nietzsche which was quickly followed by his work on
Kant––a perhaps logical progression given how Deleuze positions Nietzsche
as fundamentally critiquing Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. It is with Nietzsche
and Philosophy that Deleuze first develops in more detail his own pivotal view of
Being’s univocity; that is, every sense in which Being is expressed is said in the
same voice, a claim that has led others to critique this view as retread of monism.
The positioning of Nietzsche as a support for the burgeoning anarchic and leftist
movements that would culminate in the fervour of Paris’ May 1968 are traces within


this text, and one that has also left Deleuze open to the criticism that he ideologizes
Nietzsche whose own political views seem to some as more aligned with the brand
of individualist conservatism. It is not the purpose here to weigh in on this matter,
if Deleuze is distorting Nietzsche, but in how Deleuze selects from the Nietzschean
oeuvre the concepts he requires to kickstart his own metaphysical paradigm.
What is force? “All force is appropriation, domination, exploitation of a quantity
of reality” (Deleuze 1983, p. 3). Force is what gives Being its expression, its
individuation, its sense. By defining its sense, we can determine its value according
to a typology of active and reactive in relative composition. In terms of the movement
of forces in Being in its perpetual state of becoming, an interpretation of forces allows
us to assess what forces appropriate Being (Being’s affinity) at any given time, for
in Heraclitean fashion, “the history of a thing, in general, is the succession of forces
which struggle for possession” (Deleuze 1983, p. 3). Forces, in the Nietzschean
rather than physics sense, cannot be empirically measured, and they do not rely
on quantifiable measure in terms of number; that is, forces are determined by their
quality in relation and their quantity of reality: relations and chunks. Moreover, an
interpretation of forces is not merely an enumeration or catalogue of properties that
would only be a presupposition of static quiddity, but is the study of the senses with
which an object expresses itself. Even when in consideration of a seemingly static
object or phenomenon, sense is mutable and variable depending on which forces
appropriate it at any given time. This plastic principle asserts that Being can change
senses depending on the relation of forces within it, and is not static but rather
pluralist: a philosophy of perspectivism: “Pluralism is the properly philosophical
way of thinking, the one invented by philosophy; the only guarantor of freedom in
the concrete spirit, the only principle of a violent atheism” (Deleuze 1983, p. 4).
Sense, in this formulation, appears to speak to the degrees of freedom in any system,
for without any degrees of freedom, we must fall back upon a rigid determinism.
Sense depends on the forces that appropriate the event, object, word or thought.
Each object possesses a multiplicity of senses depending on the relation of forces,
and how this object is articulated at any given time. Moreover, if objects are always
in a state of becoming, it follows that their sense must also reflect this perpetual
transition by being a multiplicity. Without the pluralist interpretation of objects as
sense-expressions of force, how could there be any true becoming at all?
Forces are either active or reactive. Forces can be considered in terms of quantity
and quality, but in a radically different way than traditional metaphysics articulates
the matter: “Forces have quantity, but they also have the quality which corresponds
to their difference in quantity: the qualities of force are called ‘active’ and ‘reactive’”
but the problem that emerges is that of how to measure or interpret forces.” (Deleuze
1983, p. 42). Following from this relation of quality and quantity, quantity “itself
is therefore inseparable from difference in quantity. Difference in quantity is the
essence of force and of the relation of force to force. To dream of two equal forces,
even if they are said to be of opposite senses, is a coarse and approximate dream,
a statistical dream in which the living is submerged but which chemistry dispels”


(Deleuze 1983, p. 43). Differences in quantity are irreducible to equalization, and

quality is that which in quantity cannot be reduced to equality: “Difference in quantity
is therefore, in one sense, the irreducible element of quantity and in another sense the
element which is irreducible to quantity itself. Quality is nothing but difference in
quantity and corresponds to it each time forces enter into relation” (Deleuze 1983,
p. 44). It is by affirming chance that we also affirm the relations of all forces, and this
is done in the thought of the eternal return.
The relation of forces requires some principle to express their relation in objects,
and that principle is the will to power, conceived either negatively or affirmatively.
Since, in Deleuze’s view, forces are always in (unequal) relation to one another, and
the will to power is the differential element that makes their genealogy possible,
the will to power manifests itself in forces as a capacity to be affected. Forces are
affected by other forces, be they inferior or superior: “This capacity is not an abstract
possibility, it is necessarily fulfilled and actualized at each moment by the other
forces to which a given force relates” (Deleuze 1983, p. 62). Relations might also
always be considered distributions insofar as what is being distributed in every act
of relation are singularities across a field of individuation. We should not conceive
of force, or even any actualized Being, as something static or pre-given, but as part
of an operative process of further individuation.
The will to power is determined and determining insofar as it is the genesis of
forces and its quality is determined by the relation of these forces, thereby rendering
both the will to power and forces as coextensive. That is to say, the will to power
is the motoring instance of these forces set into relation, but also the change in its
quality depends on the relation of forces and how they appropriate a thing to grant it
sense or direction. Although the will to power as a motor is what brings these forces
into relation, it is the subsequent relation of these forces that alter the operations used
by this motor to “compute” potentiality and multiplicity. If reactive forces triumph
in the body, appropriating it and subtracts from its active force the power of going
to the limit, then the will to power in that instance is a will to nothingness (will
to power in the negative sense). If, on the contrary, active forces appropriate the
thing and the thing goes to the limit of its powers (depending on how “sensitive”
it is to being affected, its capacity), then it is a manifestation of the will to power
in the affirmative rather than negative sense. This capacity for being affected is not
passive, for these affects are internally constituted by the relation of forces within a
body. The will to power “manifests itself as the sensibility of force; the differential
element of forces manifests itself as their differential sensibility,” and all sensibility
“is only a becoming of forces…The will to power manifests itself, in the first place,
as the sensibility of forces and, in the second place, as the becoming sensible of
forces” (Deleuze 1983, p. 63).
Already we are able to discern a major opposition between cybernetics and the
Deleuzian (via an interpretation of Nietzsche) way of thinking. Nietzsche’s largely
somatic understanding of forces privileges sense over Reason in a radical inversion
of Kant whereby Reason (as an image of thought) is embodied in sense, not the other


way around. It is, under Deleuze’s treatment, Nietzsche’s vitalism that commits
to the idea that the regulatory framework begins with sense, not its appropriation
by Reason that seeks to tame, in a reactive way, the flows, energies, and forces of
life. The cybernetic project takes the view that life––and the senses that partially
condition it––are programmable and thus regulable by control mechanisms.


If existence is conditioned by being perpetually generative, productive, creative, and

dramatic, then we are playing a game of chance since this is a full embrace of surprise
and contingency. It is not the chance known to probability, or in the restriction of
choices that lead to the narrow definition of information as communicational conduit
where selection is based on selecting from two equally probable messages, but a
chance of the truly unknown where the decision is made on the basis of the horizon
of the problematic. This aspect of chance emerging out of the virtual is only obscured
by extensities or qualities that would otherwise come to define a thing or a moment,
but in reality are spontaneous accelerations that emerge from the drama of the crack,
the flash, the moment at which the decision is made to affirm or deny.
In Deleuze’s view, Being is not a rigged outcome of qualitative negative
determination, but rather that its own becoming affirms chance. Chance and necessity
both entail risk, and both form moments in this game, or drama, of existence: “The
game has two moments which are those of the dicethrow—the dice that is thrown
and the dice that falls back” (Deleuze 1983, p. 25). This takes place on two tables:
earth and sky: “these two tables are not two worlds. They are the two hours of a
single world, the two moments of a single world, midnight and midday, the hour
when the dice are thrown, the hour when the dice fall back” (Deleuze 1983, p. 25).
This dicethrow affirms becoming and the being of becoming. The principle of the
dicethrow is the affirmation of chance, i.e., Becoming, and necessity (affirming the
outcome of Becoming). Some instances of chance produce unsavoury results, just
as some instances of Becoming may prove disastrous (relative to the question, for
whom is it disastrous?), but the trick is to affirm chance right from the beginning,
not hedge bets and rig outcomes by throwing the dice until a desired outcome is
produced. The rigging of chance is the domain of Thought insofar that the way
in which we think Being has a desired outcome in mind according to particular
transcendent ideals of Truth and Good. When Being is determined by all that it is
not, moved up to contradiction, we are rigging the outcome of chance becoming
and not affirming what Being can become. Instead, by creating the fiction of
opposition, the game of chance is muted by a projected and desired outcome,
and the determination of Being begins its linear descent toward such outcome
(in Hegel’s case, the actualization of the self-identical in the concept). To affirm
chance is to affirm the fortuitous nature of existence, not the “facts” of Thought’s
programmed development of Being, a mere conceptuality of Being rather than an
openly immanent Being of becoming.


The importance of this discussion of chance is precisely a keystone in how Deleuze

wants us to understand Being: its constitution as being grounded on fortuitous
encounter that does not rely on conscious Thought, that the very expression of Being
is dependent upon the quality of the will that expresses forces in relation. There
is no reliable way to predict what Being will become precisely because it never
becomes something: it is always in a state of becoming without cease. This is why,
according to Deleuze, we can only interpret the actualized symptoms of the Being of
becoming, understanding only the sense Being expresses in its constant fluctuation.
The necessity that results from the chance of the dicethrow is not preprogrammed
destiny, but the combination produced by chance. Since chance is to be understood as
a multiplicity, and this multiplicity is a unity, then “there is only a single combination
of chance as such, a single way of combining all the parts of chance, a way which
is like the unity of multiplicity, that is to say number or necessity” (Deleuze 1983,
p. 26). Worse yet is to begin at the table of chance with an end in mind, a desired
outcome, a desire to, say, declare a victory in proving through rigged encounters the
triumph of an absolute spirit. The necessity is precisely not knowing what Being will
come to be, but to affirm that it is always becoming. There is in this formulation of
chance a kind of inherent fatalism, or what Nietzsche calls amor fati, but it is only
the one who affirms chance who can be said to “love” the fate and necessity of the
This game of chance and necessity is the true sense and power of Becoming, the
true unity of multiplicity—the necessity of the outcome and the multiple senses this
dicethrow can express. And so:
for the couple causality-finality, probability-finality, for the opposition and
the synthesis of these terms, for the web of these terms, Nietzsche substitutes
the Dionysian correlation of chance-necessity, the Dionysian couple chance-
destiny. Not a probability distributed over several throws but all chance at
once; not a final, desired, willed combination, but the fatal combination, fatal
and loved, amor fati; not the return of a combination by the number of throws,
but the repetition of a dicethrow by the nature of the fatally obtained number.
(Deleuze 1983, p. 27)
This new conception of chance and necessity readies us to the particular use Deleuze
makes of Nietzsche’s eternal return. To think the eternal return is to think differently
the combined two moments of the dicethrow: affirmation of necessity as the result of
the dicethrow, and the return of the dicethrow itself. That is to say, what has become
as a result of chance is not a final state; it becomes again, always in a process of
becoming. Not only must what has become affirm what it has become in accordance
to the necessity of the outcome, but it once again plays at the game of chance and
becomes something else. With dice back in hand, Becoming returns and happens
all over again. What will the Being of Becoming become next? Only the next cast
of the dice knows. It is the stochastic nature of becoming and the cycle of return of
the eternal return that combine to produce true differences, and thereby constitute


Being as a Being of Becoming rather than a static Being of the self-identical. Chance
and necessity are not oppositions, and neither are chaos and cycle: they are both
moments of the dicethrow. Like Thought and Being, they are coextensive within
their multiplicity.
The concept of Becoming furnishes us with an ancient problem: how can the
present pass? “The passing moment could never pass if it were not already past
and yet to come—at the same time as being present. If the present did not pass of
its own accord, if it had to wait for a new present in order to become past, the past
in general would never be constituted in time, and this particular present would
not pass” (Deleuze 1983, p. 48). The eternal return is the answer to the problem of
passage. The eternal return is not the return of the same, but of the different: “It is
not being that returns but rather the returning itself that constitutes being insofar as
it is affirmed of becoming and of that which passes. It is not some one thing which
returns but rather returning itself is the one thing which is affirmed of diversity
and multiplicity” (Deleuze 1983, p. 48). That is to say, it is not the individuated
entity that returns, like some kind of repeating reincarnation, but difference itself
that returns.
Becoming-active, in Deleuze’s reading of Nietzsche, is what returns because
active force is what is selected according to a double affirmation: an affirmation of
the will and the activity of force. What performs this selection is the eternal return,
and the eternal return grants the will a practical rule: “whatever you will, will it in
such a way that you also will its eternal return”; “It is the thought of the eternal
return that selects. It makes willing something whole. The thought of the eternal
return culminates from willing everything which falls outside the eternal return, it
makes willing a creation, it brings about the equation ‘willing = creation’” (Deleuze
1983, pp. 68–9). The only way that this willing creation can happen is if there is
a critique of all known values, a transvaluation, a retirement of the old image of
thought. It is through this critique that the base values are expelled and only the noble
ones are retained and are permitted to return. It may seem that this principle is only
masquerading as an ought, but in fact this is exactly the scene where the necessary
principle of eternal return as cosmological and physical principle, and eternal return
as ethical and selective thought merge, denoting the passage or mixture of the ought
and is: the reason why it is unwise to attempt a separation between ontology and
ethics in the work of Nietzsche. If there is a separation between ontology and ethics,
it is merely a fold, the crease of the eternal return that straddles both milieus. In
a sense, Deleuze is calling for a more transcendental ethics, a valuation that goes
beyond Thought, which is precisely why ontology is an ethics and vice versa.
The second ethical selection performed by the eternal return is the production of
a becoming-active. That is, reactive forces do not return, but are culled by an active
negation. This active negation is a power of affirmation insofar as it affirms the joy
of destruction. Whereas the first selection is the thought of the eternal return that
wills all that is outside this thought (the not-yet known), the second selection is that
of selective being, “for the eternal return is being and being is selection. (Selection =


hierarchy)” (Deleuze 1983, p. 71). Transvaluation is the first ethical stage of counter-
actualization. It is the reversal of values, a point where negation is transformed into
an affirmative power (the active destruction of the incomplete nihilism by way of
its completion). What remains, says Deleuze, is to analyze the relationships between
negation and affirmation in the will to power, and the will to power’s relationship
to the eternal return. “The eternal return is the being of becoming. But becoming
is double: becoming-active and becoming-reactive, becoming-active of reactive
forces and becoming-reactive of active forces. But only becoming-active has being”
(Deleuze 1983, p. 71). The problem is this: how can the becoming-reactive not have
being? By the principles of the will to power and the eternal return, it is not difficult
to regard the contradiction a being of becoming-reactive would present. Deleuze
The eternal return would become contradictory if it were the return of reactive
forces. The eternal return teaches us that becoming-reactive has no being…
the being of becoming cannot be fully affirmed without also affirming the
existence of becoming-active. The eternal return thus has a double aspect: it
is the universal being of becoming, but the universal being of becoming ought
to belong to a single becoming. Only becoming-active has a being which is
the being of the whole of becoming. Returning is everything but everything is
affirmed in a single moment. (Deleuze 1983, p. 72)
The passivity of Being is the quality of reactive forces that adapt to the limitations
imposed upon it outside the body. It is in this way that Being, if negatively
determined by absolute exteriority, is a passive body insofar as it reacts to all that it
is not. And, since the dialectic depends on this form of negative determination from
outside causes (Being’s relation to Nothing, Determined Being in relation to the
undetermined, etc.), the dialectic is a reactive instrument of passivity and negativity.
The will to power in the dialectic is negative quality, and the forces that inhere
within it are those of the triumphant reactive sense.
First-order cybernetics labours under the negative and views the world according
to a dialectical framework of the observer and the observed, the active and the
passive, and the sender and receiver. It is this binarism that is taken up into the
cybernetic program and “synthesized” by means of the message and the feedback
circuit. Command and control occur in conduits or channels, and information is
opposed to entropy in the designation of mechanisms designed to reduce entropy:
negentropy. Cybernetics is thusly highly reactive insofar as its main mode of
operation is adaptation to surprise and restriction of choice. This is highly emblematic
of Stafford Beer’s work in cybernetic management which was partially designed as a
performative way of managing the unexpected.
The will to power is grievously misunderstood when it is thought of as a striving
toward some particular end since this does not honour the restive, perpetual, and
impulsive nature of power. By “making the will a will to power in the sense of
a ‘desire to dominate’, philosophers see this desire as infinite; making power an


object of representation they see the unreal character of a thing represented in this
way. Willing is made to will something, an object, and the contradiction arises when
what is willed cannot be achieved, or that when the objective is completed, the will
reposes in the fatigue of completion. This is the reason why the dialectical will
becomes tired: it believes to have achieved its objective, that there is nothing more
left to will, and so languishes in the false power of having achieved this objective.
However, this character of the will presents us with only the representation of
power, a mere appearance of power. When the will is conceived as wanting power
rather than feeling power, the will is cheapened: objectifying power in this way
renders it representational, a mere appearance. So, the will to power is an entirely
new conception of the will: rather than abiding by established values, it creates new
values; rather than being set upon by contradiction, it is willing that liberates us
from limitation; rather than the suffering of the will that brings us to recognize if
we fall short of what objects we desire, willing is joy—and precisely joy because
willing has no limit, and is allied with joy. This joy is that of true and total critique:
the transmutation of the negative and the joyful destruction of all known values:
“Critique is destruction as joy, the aggression of the creator. The creator of values
cannot be distinguished from a critic: a critic of established values, reactive values
and baseness” (Deleuze 1983, p. 87).
The dialectical will always wills something, and what it wills is always tempered
by limitation that leads to what Deleuze alleges is the false unity of subject and
object by way of an internalization of this limit. When the dialectical will seizes
upon the question of Being, the character of its willing produces a limitation,
some form of contradiction in the world, in order to say what Being is not, and
so therefore to incorporate this negativity as a means of defining the identity of
Being. It is for this reason that “the concept of the Overman is directed against the
dialectical conception of man, and transvaluation is directed against the dialectic
of appropriation or the suppression of alienation” (Deleuze 1983, p. 8). What is
this dialectic of appropriation? What is being appropriated, and by what process
of negativity is this appropriation occurring? The dialectical will is the will of the
thinking subject that appropriates its reality by determining Being through thought.
However, what the dialectical will appropriates is not the forces that express Being,
its expression of sense, but rather what Deleuze will dub mere symptoms. When
the dialectical will appropriates a symptom, it thinks its work to be completed, that
the Being to be appropriated is finally determined, negating all alienating instances
that separate Thought and Being. But the theory of forces does not submit to the
dialectical enterprise, for there is no synthesis, but an affirmation of difference. The
will to control or regulate is synonymous with a will to vanquish opposing force, not
affirm difference. Differences are to be either contained or internalized for regulatory
purposes within the unity of purpose the determines the cybernetic system. True
affirmation of difference is to affirm the overrun or excess of choice, and cybernetics
is committed to the restriction of choice and the control of all elements to prevent the
unexpected from occurring.


Although the nature of forces is that they are either dominating or dominated, the
dominating force is not negatively determined by another force that is dominated,
for the dominating force has the character of domination prior and subsequent to
its relation with a dominated force. What the relation between dominating and
dominated force provides is the object of affirmation: a dominating force, when in
relation to a force that obeys, recognizes its own dominating power as an object of
affirmation and difference. The quality of forces is retention of singularity even when
put into relation: “Inferior forces do not, by obeying, cease to be forces distinct from
those which command. Obeying is a quality of force as such and relates to power just
as much as commanding does” (Deleuze 1983, p. 40). That is, in contrast to negative
determination, the initial term that enters into a dialectical relation does not lose its
status of being unique. The quality Deleuze advocates is one of differentiation where
no third term of synthesis is produced as a result. Forces that obey and command
retain their qualities of obedience and command, but are affected nonetheless by
their relation. That is, the only way an active force can change its quality is if reactive
forces divide it from its power, from what it can do. If forces were to resolve into a
unity, an equilibrium, there would be no reason to speak of forces other than a causal
factor with a teleological end to the body as a resolved tension, a kind of inert and
indifferent ataraxia. This is the key component in the internal differentiation of the
object; composed of forces that retain their qualities, it is their tension that produces
the object. Without this tension, there would be no body––a familiar claim among
adherents of Heraclitus’ notion of polemos. If forces are resolved into a unity, the
meaning of the body, and equally Being, becomes an abstraction rather than the
pure expression that it is. There is perhaps no better telling statement that points up
cybernetics, most likely unintentionally, than when Deleuze says: “Inferior forces
are defined as reactive; they lose nothing of their force, of their quantity of force,
they exercise it by securing mechanical means and final ends, by fulfilling the
conditions of life and the functions and tasks of conversation, adaptation and utility”
(Deleuze 1983, p. 40).
Contrary to a conception of the will as that which wants concrete goals at the
expense of an Other, the will to power only wants to affirm its own difference, to
enjoy its being different: “In its essential relation with the ‘other’ a will makes its
difference an object of affirmation” (Deleuze 1983, p. 9). The pluralism of sense,
the unbounded will, culminates to form an entirely new conception of reality.
Affirmation has its own new consequence for thinking: the thought of the new,
a creative and active thought that is embraced at the moment of affirmation. The
affirmative only wants to affirm itself. In contrast, it is the labour of the dialectic that
seeks to install these fictions of contradictions everywhere in order to substantiate
the necessity of the negative, and from this it distributes its hierarchy of negative
values that deny life. However, a theory of forces also has its own version of
hierarchy, but it is of a positive and differential character: “The empirical feeling
of difference, in short hierarchy, is the essential motor of the concept, deeper and
more effective than all thought about contradiction” (Deleuze 1983, p. 40). The


“dialectical will” is too weak to sustain a truly internal concept of difference,

and so it seeks to annul differences, to banish or assimilate them by the labour of
the negative. The dialectical will “is an exhausted force which does not have the
strength to affirm its difference, a force which no longer acts but rather reacts to the
forces which dominate it—only such a force brings to the foreground the negative
element in its relation to the other. Such a force denies all that it is not and makes
this negation its own essence and the principle of its existence” (Deleuze 1983,
p. 40). It is by this method of absolute exteriority that true difference is consigned to
the realm of error, of naïve consciousness, as not conforming to the image of thought
that seeks to extract negative determinations from the real. It is a heavy reliance on
contradiction as the principle motor for determining the meaning of existence that
forms the core of slave morality: “the abstract thought of contradiction then prevails
over the concrete feeling of positive difference, reaction over action, revenge and
ressentiment take the place of aggression” (Deleuze 1983, p. 10).
It may be a stretch to compare the cybernetic goal to that of what Nietzsche
denounces as slave morality. Yet, there are some areas of curious resemblance. The
cyberneticist cleaves to the fatalist belief that no matter how ingenious a control
mechanism to modulate feedback, and thus reduce entropy, entropy will one day
win. The fear of affirmative difference and chance that cannot be reduced by
probabilism and prediction is no better illustrated than when cybernetics attempts
to employ its principles in the domain of sociology and mass human behaviour.
Cybernetics overall has a curious if not tentative relationship with materiality. In a
world of turbulence and flux, in the inability to exert full mastery and control over
heterogeneous human populations, it is entropy and unpredictability that function
as the cybernetician’s tragic figures. Life, says the Slave, is innately tragic, and it
is up to Thought or mechanism to ease suffering, to make life whole by a process
of negative determination. Everywhere the Slave is beguiled by contradictions that
necessitate resolution in order to assuage this feeling of suffering. It is the fault of
existence that these contradictions exist, and it is the task of Thought to resolve
these contradictions to attain an end to suffering, to attain stable unity and regulatory
control between its Thought and its determined Being. To do this, the Slave must
accuse life, sentence it as guilty, and then go about reforming it—under the reactive
demands of Thought itself. However, the Slave can only see the negative effects of
existence, contradictions everywhere, and not the forces that undergird life itself.
The Slave lacks the affirmative power of the will to see in existence anything more
than contradiction and opposition as the source of suffering.
This dialectical representation of tragedy models itself upon the formulaic process
of justifying life by accusing it, by thrusting Being on its way of despair, uprooted
from its “animal primitivity,” through constant individuations and alienation,
finding opposition everywhere, and finally resolving and reconciling itself with
a universal will and therefore unifying its essence and existence. Faced with this
“false” conception of the tragic, the true essence of the tragic is pluralist affirmation
for it makes everything an object of affirmation. The new alternative to defining life


through limitation, contradiction and opposition, i.e., negatively, entails that we must
find “for each thing in turn, the special means by which it is affirmed, by which it
ceases to be negative…The tragic is not to be found in this anguish or disgust, nor in
a nostalgia for lost unity. The tragic is only to be found in multiplicity, in the diversity
of affirmation as such” (Deleuze 1983, p. 17). Tragedy is an aesthetic phenomenon
of joy, “not a medical phrase or a moral solution to pain, fear or pity” (Deleuze 1983,
p. 17). This sets the stage for the dramatization of types for a genealogist to study,
and it is Thought itself that enacts this drama.
Dramatization is the concrete material manifestation of will in objects. It is
not a particular person or group of persons that can be attributed as the “who”,
but dramatic personae, dramatic roles played by persons. Dramatic personae and
conceptual personae are masks, but we are the masks and the “actors” are the will
and the forces that motor our becoming. Given the influence here of Simondon, it
is already understood that individuation is a perpetual process that never completes,
and so there is no sense in this view to assume that anything becomes something
when that process of becoming is perduring. The will adopts the mask in accordance
to the quality of forces. It is an odd premise, for this is to state that forces inhabit
the body and give life to the conscious “I” that speaks and thinks that it is the scene
of action. Not only does this presume that the thinking subject is empty and static
without forces that allow for its movement, but this temporal present in which the
thinking subject resides is equally hollow, a mask for an infinite past and infinite
future. As articulated by W. Ross Ashby, cybernetics begins with the idea of an aware
conscious “I” that observes––even if the observation turns out to be a perceptual
error. Without this foundation of assuming a conscious “I” that observes, cybernetics
is placed on an unsure footing.
It is in this dramatized world—be it either negative or affirmative—that two ideas
of Being compete: dialectical Being that is defined through contradictions and the
internalized limit, and Deleuze’s Being that is determined from a more transcendental
milieu of sense, by way of the virtual-actual distinction. Hegel’s Being is of the order
of negative determinations, and Deleuze’s Being is the basis of a pluralist empiricist
joy and affirmation of a difference that cannot be reduced to a unity. Within the
principles of cybernetics and its emphasis on ensuring some degree of system
integrity on this island surrounded by entropy, here we may note the means by which
life is accused in order to be justified, existence placed under a universalizing power,
and a unity to give this existence meaning––even if cybernetics does not make any
explicit claims to the broader meaning of existence.
In terms of chance and affirmation, Deleuze sees that it is the dialectical
perspective that insists on playing with loaded dice, that projects the outcome right
from the beginning. If to know how to affirm chance is to know how to play, the
bad player “counts on several throws of the dice, on a great number of throws. In
this way he makes use of causality and probability to produce a combination that
he sees as desirable” (Deleuze 1983, pp. 26–7). The desired result becomes an end,
irrespective of chance—indeed denying the truly affirmative nature of chance itself.


“To abolish chance by holding it in the grip of causality and finality, to anticipate
a result instead of affirming necessity—these are all the operations of a bad player.
They have their root in reason, but what is the root of reason? The spirit of revenge”
(Deleuze 1983, p. 27). Finality sullies life, presupposing that the aleatory character
of life can be roughly dismissed and culled by imposing the necessity of false unity:
“That the universe has no purpose, that it has no end to hope for any more than
it has causes to be known—this is the certainty necessary to play well” (Deleuze
1983, p. 27). Recourse to necessary dialectical reason is to reconstitute abstract
universals, fostering an inverted image of thought that regards Being from below,
and so therefore not to truly apprehend the concrete conditions of Being. Of course,
it ought to be noted that Deleuze’s own version of Being (-of Becoming) that puts
difference in a position of primacy has been charged by critics such as Alain Badiou
and Todd May, of smuggling monism through the back door and not dealing with
material existence on its own terms.7
The second selection of the eternal return presents a new consequence for the
dialectic. For example, Hegelian actualization is the muting or suspension of true
difference, the ontological claim that Being can only be made whole as identity
with the concept, but counter-actualization (the active nihilism that makes the move
from the actual to the virtual) is the process by which certain modes of Being that
cannot affirm difference and its eternal return are removed by a process of (de)
selection. This selection is not performed by a thinking subject, but rather occurs in
a transcendental field—the logic of negation negates itself, and only the affirmative
differences return. In later works, at the possible peril of conflation, Deleuze
employs the analogy of genetics to illustrate his point: genes are selected prior to
the formation and actualization of a body, and as much as two bodies can select
one another for the purposes of reproducing a degree of sameness in another body,
the true selective test occurs in the a-subjective milieu of genes in relation in a
spontaneous evolution that involves the necessity of chance for the transmission of
genetic traits. What is produced is not sameness or identity, but difference that is not
necessarily subsumable under the thesis-antithesis of the “parents.” And although
one may attempt to predict the outcome of two genetic entities as to their product
when placed in relation, one can only produce probability and not absolute certainty.
Affirmation of the necessity of these aleatory outcomes means that, contrary
to the dialectical procedure of determining the whole through development and
negations, Being is already fully expressed and immanent. Moreover, the thought of
Being is not Being as such for it is merely a reflection or representation of Being. To
attribute being to a representation is to make an ontological claim on representation
and not on Being. Deleuze and Nietzsche do not require what they perceive to be
the theatrical performance of serialized determinations attempting to reach the
harmonious endpoint, but rather wish to affirm a full Being and wholeness right
from the start. Hegel’s Being shows signs of being proximate to the ontological truth
of Being, but his process of the dialectic sullies its fullness, makes it heavy with
ressentiment, and denounces sense as naïve consciousness. However, it is this very


move from sense to consciousness that ushers Being down to the depths from active
affirmation to reactive negativity. Deleuze implies that if Hegel had invested more
importance to sense, he may have discovered forces to be interpreted and values
to be evaluated, bringing him closer to the truly immanent character of Being that
affirms its difference, that being of the sensible, the being of becoming.
According to Deleuze, Hegel’s conceptuality is a dogmatic image of thought, and
that such methods of negative determination in thought cannot produce new ways
of thinking. In a new image of thought, Deleuze states that it is necessary to rethink
the body. For Deleuze, consciousness is nothing more than a symptom of forces
expressed. Instead of the Hegelian ontological model that posits a stable conscious
self that wends its way through a series of negative determinations to gain a more
sophisticated understanding of itself at the very end of its journey, very little attention
is paid to the body and the forces that inhabit this body. An equal charge may lay
at the feet of cybernetics that, in recalling W. Ross Ashby’s claim, cybernetics must
posit a conscious subject at the very start. This consciousness is mapped on a world
of superior values, using these values as a model or litmus to determine its own
perfection or realization in the world. For cybernetics, these superior values are only
partially hitched to science (cybernetics is generally assumed to be a science apart
from the rest of the sciences, but does borrow some of its normative assumptions
from systems theory and statistics). But consciousness “is never self-consciousness,
but the consciousness of an ego in relation to a self which is not itself conscious…
This is the servility of consciousness; it merely testifies to the ‘formation of a
superior body’” (Deleuze 1983, p. 39). This body need not be simply the physical
or corporeal variety, but can include a body of law, a body of literature, science,
etc. Deleuze states that a body is not the medium of forces waging a pitched battle
for supremacy in the body as if the body was the third term in a synthesis, rather
“all reality is already quantity of force. There are nothing but quantities of force
in mutual ‘relations of tension’” (Deleuze 1983, p. 40). A body is a non-numerical
quantity of forces in relative degrees of tension, of affinity. “What defines a body is
this relation between dominant and dominated forces. Every relationship of forces
constitutes a body—whether it is chemical, biological, social or political. Any two
forces being unequal, constitute a body as soon as they enter into a relationship”
(Deleuze 1983, p. 40). It is the tension, not an equalization, that make a body. In a
sense, the “unity” of the body is dialectical without opposition, and without a third
term. The dialectic, in relying on opposition, “is unaware of the real element from
which forces, their qualities and their relations derive” and so can only traffic in
symptoms that it takes for constitutive causes (Deleuze 1983, p. 157). In Deleuze’s
view, opposition is merely abstract thought’s imposition upon how things really
are, but there are more subtle and differential elements than the dialectic can assess
with its method of negative determination. We will not locate the aleatory as such
in consciousness as such, which functions to abstract and generalize existence, but
chance resides in bodies. Bodies exist as pure potentiality, a lesson that Nietzsche
propagates in asking what a body can do. A body’s potentiality is governed by the


theory of forces, their unequal relations where inequality is the scene of generative
Active and reactive forces are the differential element of a body, and these
forces that enter into relation possess a quantity, but also a quality that corresponds
to their difference in quantity. This constitutes their “hierarchy.” The problem
with consciousness is that it “sees the organism from its own point of view and
understands it in its own way; that is to say, reactively” (Deleuze 1983, p. 41). It is
in this sense that “the organism is always seen from the petty side, from the side of
its reactions” (Deleuze 1983, p. 41). Consciousness cannot apprehend active forces,
for the domain of active forces is the pre-conscious or the unthought. Even reactive
forces present a problem for consciousness insofar as “reactions cannot be grasped or
scientifically understood as forces if they are not related to superior forces—forces
of another type. The reactive is a primordial quality of force but one which can only
be interpreted as such in relation to and on the basis of the active” (Deleuze 1983, p.
42). Instead of being able to interpret the quality of reactive forces, consciousness
only sees reactions via a model of causation. The Hegelian method of privileging
Thought cannot account for an explanation of active forces and their quality for,
by nature, they escape consciousness…Consciousness merely expresses the
relation of certain reactive forces to the active forces which dominate them.
Consciousness is essentially reactive; this is why we do not know what a body
can do, or what activity is capable of. (Deleuze 1983, p. 41)
Active forces are preconscious, and it is for this reason that Hegel’s method
of negative determinations by way of Thought can gain no purchase on the real
conditions of Being, for Thought lapses into the tacit belief in the supremacy of
consciousness to determine the quality of Being. If Thought is the apparatus that
motors these negative determinations, which will does this Thought serve? Could we
not question the validity of Thought and all of its subsequent determinations? Is there
a new way of thinking of Being that does not rely upon this image of thought that
has hitherto dominated ontology? A new image of Thought will not be possible if we
continue to privilege the primacy of Thought at the expense of Being, a Thought that
will act as governor of Being’s quiddity, assigning categorical attributes (Aristotle)
or prescribing the precise relations (Hegel). The theory of forces demonstrates
the rupture in the false dominating power of Thought, and this is witnessed in the
underlying forces in Being.
Nietzsche’s genealogical question functions as a critique insofar as he asks
who “man” or “Spirit” is, and for whom these concepts refer. For Nietzsche (and
Deleuze), these concepts simply mask the interplay of forces that constitute them,
generally in the service of those who lay authoritative claim to the superior values:
Church and State, which leverage these concepts as a means of strengthening their
(representation of) power. For Nietzsche, only a new image of thought––one that
embraces chance, affirms difference, and asks what a body can do––can resist the
ossification and abstraction of the real that is mired in mere representationalism.


Total critique is that of the object, whereas former attempts at critique always
mistakenly began with the subject, the thinking consciousness as its foundation from
which all “facts” of the moral or ontological order pertain to and issue from. This
is the “great error” of philosophy: presupposition of thought as the correct measure
of all things, and thought is particularly at its weakest when it deals in the currency
of the moral; that is, thought as of yet does not know how to evaluate and interpret
the forces and their relation. Therefore, the blindness of thought to the forces that
undergird Being is the creation of an inverted image of thought. Thought, when it
fails to interpret forces, cannot think, feel or perceive anything new or differently in
accordance with the differential becoming that constitutes every Being of Becoming:
In Nietzsche, principles are never transcendental; it is these very principles
which are replaced by genealogy. Only the will to power as genetic and
genealogical principle, as legislative principle, is capable of realizing internal
critique. Only the will to power makes a transmutation possible. (Deleuze
1983, p. 91)
New ways of feeling, thinking, and evaluating—the properties of the Nietzschean
Overman—cannot appeal to the “facts” already established by Thought and its
valuations, but must rather establish a new and concrete practice. In contrast,
Deleuze views the Hegelian dialectic as an inverted image of this will to power,
and that all the dialectic can do is to skim the surface of interpretation and never get
beyond mere symptoms (Deleuze 1983, p. 157).
Recognition is the problem central to the identity of Being. “In Hegel, consciousness
wants to be recognized by another and represented as self-consciousness” (Deleuze
1983, p. 80). This comparative strategy of consciousnesses illustrates the power
relation as a representation, and this does not permit that a consciousness can
internally differentiate itself without the need of an Other to recognize it as such.
Dialectics poses as tragedy, and indeed has all the familiar elements or components
of the formulaic tragedy. Deleuze states that “the whole dialectic operates and
moves in the element of fiction. How could its solution not be fictitious when
its problems themselves are?” (Deleuze 1983, p. 158). In the Phenomenology of
Spirit, Spirit leaves its “naïve” setting in the purely empirical state of Nature and
wends its torturous way of despair, through a series of conflicts and contradictions
where it discovers more about itself as it discovers what it is not, until finally it
reaches its zenith in its own full self-realization of the Idea. In sum, the hero of
humble beginnings sets out into the world, articulates himself through struggles,
gains recognition for his exploits, but is always alienated from himself until the
very end when he returns “home.” It is the predictable story of Heracles who must
conquer over adversity, set the world to rights by abolishing all the different beasts
of the land, to perform the highly negative twelve labours to gain recognition from
a jealous cousin, and to finally be accepted into the pantheon of the gods as a hero.
But the price of this service is his own death: the hero only becomes as such when
he dies; Hegelian Being only truly becomes Being when becoming stops and Being


itself is unmoving in some full present as identical to itself. Being becomes mere
conception, a product of negativity, which is to say that Being is no longer aligned
with life—it is merely its denial.
From the standpoint of reactive ethics, life is culpable for our suffering, for it
has endowed us with self-consciousness. We are alienated from Nature, forever
denied the Edenic existence of simplicity and pleasure. It is life that has doomed
us to this situation, life that confuses our perceptions, throws us into error, and it is
only reason—reason as originating from, and justified by, a transcendent force of
some divine or unified will—that will resolve our alienation and justify existence.
Existence is made a crime, an excess, for it is unjust in that we are made to suffer,
and it justifies atonement insofar as this suffering is necessarily sanctified by a divine
will or unified order. It was the creation of a supersensible world that made existence
that much more unbearable, and life guilty for seemingly resisting reason’s desire to
create stable unity. Even Hegel’s attempt to make Spirit the absolute reality behind
this dualism of Nature and Reason is, in Deleuze’s view, an implicit accusation of
life, for even in this operation Hegel wants to integrate the allegedly irrational into
his perfect system. It is this myth of the perfect and complete system that limits
the will, creating for history a telos. It is the assumption that existence requires
perfection and completion, and the way to achieve this is through Thought.
It is only through an interpretation of forces that acknowledges that they are
inseparable, move beyond facts or representations, that we avoid splitting the
will and thus creating two reflecting parts: the fiction of a conscious subject
that neutrally acts or does not act on objects that are manipulated and controlled
in this domination of life. Life itself is consigned to the passive state of being
manipulated, or otherwise accused when it does not obey the commands of the
neutral subject. Yet we know that the subject is anything but neutral, appealing as
it does to transcendent values. When information is posited as the kind of grail of
perfected nature, this rendering of information aligns it with the superior values
of the transcendent where information-theoretic rules are what define what is
possible. Disorganization and entropy––as innate in nature as is organization and
information––is made the enemy. Yet we fail to have an honest grasp of life if
we do not acknowledge that the forces that underpin the relative degrees of (dis)
organization are inseparable, and are in the main entirely generative of the new.
The Nietzschean task here would be to interpret the relative degrees, understanding
that it is their inequality that defines existence––not the neurotic urge to stamp
out all entropy and disorganization, to accuse life of being “messy.” Already there
is in the information-theoretic a kind of pre-installed judgement: organization by
means of the technical apparatuses that “reveal” information and make it useful for
us is aligned with what is good. Anything that increases noise by admission into
a channel, anything that increases entropy, is maligned as useless and negative.
In communication theory, the judgement is put into practice, seeking to negate
entropy, reduce noise. There must be something identical in the intention of the
sender that will be interpreted by the receiver.


Practically speaking, when dealing with technology, it is perhaps a favourable

desire to reduce noise and stave off entropy. Again, the genealogical question arises
here in discerning for whom is such a desire worthy? The answer is clearly for us,
yet it is one thing to construct machines that can reduce noise and ensure some
degree of reliable function, and quite another to map this onto life in its entirety,
reterritorializing life according to the same demands we apply to our technological
instruments. Just as problematic is to seek in nature examples that confirm the values
we seek to justify, to point to cellular automata or neuronal networks to vindicate the
human all too human value of regulative order triumphant. Just as there are numerous
examples of discrete operations in life, there are as many counterexamples, and the
genealogist is tasked with interpreting the tensions and affinities of such relations
without setting up a dialectical procedure by which one is recognized over the other,
and in refraining from making a judgement as to which is good and which is bad.
A new image of thought furnishes us with a total and positive critique. A total and
positive critique allows for the creation of new concepts, for in the active negation of
all established values, the stage is clear for new ways of thinking, feeling, perceiving
and being. It is reactive values and the dogmatic image of thought that hinder
creativity, that perform a reactive strategy of separating from active forces what
they can do, will and create—which, of course, is to say that action, willing, and
creating are synonymous aspects. Concepts judged based on utility are at the heart
of ressentiment, an ignorance of the genealogy of forces. Utility, to whatever ends
that may be, including the formation of a stable unity at the end of history, is to rely
on abstract relations in order to make such gains. Utility and finality are united in
this aspect:
the taste for replacing real relations between forces by an abstract relation which
is supposed to express them all, as a measure, seems to be an integral part of
science and also of philosophy. In this respect Hegel’s objective spirit is no
more valid than the no less ‘objective’ concept of utility. (Deleuze 1983, p. 74)
To circumvent reliance upon the passivity of concepts and to study action rather
than sully it with abstract relations entails a threefold method: symptomatology
(interpretation of phenomena as symptoms of forces being expressed), typology
(interpretation of forces as qualities, either active or reactive), and genealogy
(evaluation of forces and their relation to the will to power, the values of nobility
and baseness as their criteria).
Instrumental to any Deleuzian critique of cybernetics might be what he says on
the philosophical question of the one and the many, the whole and the part. It is here
that Deleuze criticizes both mechanism and finalism. Although cybernetics does
distance itself from falling into either, there are still some potent aspects that are
suggestive of the fact that first-order cybernetics has yet to contend with the question
of the whole and the part in a more sustained manner.
Deleuze opposes the reduction of difference to the question of the One and the
Many, for that opposition only tends toward the equalization of existence into a


stable unity. The problem with mechanism (tending toward equality) and finalism
(tending toward equilibrium) is that these modes of thought only view existence on
the side of reactions. The thermodynamic law is one example where all differences
are reduced to a harmonized “sum” and all differences are cancelled out.
“The mechanist idea affirms the eternal return but only by assuming that
differences in quantity balance or cancel each other out between initial and final
states of a reversible system. The final state is identical to the initial state which
is itself assumed to be undifferentiated in relation to intermediate states. [...]
The thermodynamic idea denies the eternal return but only because it discovers
that differences in quantity only cancel each other out in the final state of the
system…In this way identity is posited in the final undifferentiated state and
opposed to the differentiation of the initial state.” (Deleuze 1983, p. 46)
Being’s quantity of reality dwindles along with its difference to being a matter of
mere numerical order, and so Being loses all its power of self-differentiation in this
“zero-sum game.” This bespeaks of a presupposed telos to the process of becoming
right at the moment of absolute equalization and harmonized unity, for “we fail
to understand the eternal return if we make it a consequence of an application of
identity…The eternal return is not the permanence of the same, the equilibrium state
or the resting place of the identical. It is not the ‘same’ or the ‘one’ which comes back
to the eternal return but return is itself the one which ought to belong to diversity and
to that which differs.” (Deleuze 1983, p. 46)


Leveling a critique of cybernetics making explicit use of Deleuze’s Nietzsche

and Philosophy cannot be considered in any way a complete one. At best, it is a
provisional critique aimed at the precursors of cybernetics, especially the privileging
of the primacy of consciousness, dialectical progression, mechanism, and finalism.
Moreover, cybernetics has not remained static since Norbert Wiener first introduced
the term in 1948; there have been increasing degrees of order in the domain of
cybernetics, encompassing the phenomena of self-organizing (autopoetic) systems
as advanced by Maturana and Varela, some aspects of which seem to share a zone
of overlap with Deleuze’s later themes in his collaboration with Guattari. For
cybernetics, events are tied to changes of state distributed in time across systems (or,
rather, that a change in state marks a discrete step in time). Events in this context
are taken as whole and contained, even if the discrete microtemporal aspects appear
to us like a continuous process. The major incompatibility between Deleuze and
cybernetics is, in fact, the issue of how each view time. For Deleuze, events are
caesura: they are assemblages formed from the “shreds” of events. As discussed
in the chapter on states and territories, Chronos and Aion stand in a particular
orientation, a complementary temporality where the infinite potentiality of the
present gives way to the relations that are grounded in the future.


A secondary, but equally important consideration in the construction of a Deleuzian

critique of cybernetics deals with the idea of control. Deleuze’s warning remarks in
his “Postscript on Control Societies” gestures at a critique of cybernetics applied in
the social, economic, and political spheres without explicitly naming cybernetics.
“The digital language of control is made up of codes indicating whether access
to some information should be allowed or denied” (Deleuze 1995, p. 180). The
“information” Deleuze cites here is not Simondon-information, but unfortunately
the conventional definition of information found in the common vernacular. What
Deleuze may not recognize here is that the ‘digital’ milieu is one of disparity: a reality
of algorithmic control on one hand that attempts to capture and manipulate in terms
of marketing and sociopolitical steering, and a radical form of excorporation or active
resistance using the very digital codes to circumvent the politics of digital control. It
may be considered a conspicuous absence that in Deleuze’s emphasis in discussing
the subsequent transition from the disciplinary society to a society of control, he
neglects to address the root of control principles as valorized by cybernetics. Mark
Poster does criticize Deleuze’s somewhat gnomic stand for being too linear, if not a
flattened version of this transition. Moreover, disciplinary practices in society have
not simply been replaced, but instead remain as part of the larger societal program
that has supplemented these practices with reactive control strategies that are largely
technologically regulated. It is the combination of these practices that, despite their
apparent contradiction, function collaboratively in the digital and analog landscape of
today. In support of the idea that strategies of control are not in themselves enough,
Tiziana Terranova reminds us that, “the attempt to control the scene of communication
by sheer power, by seizing control and monopolizing the infosphere, might backfire
because information managers do not sufficiently take into account the nonlinear
powers of feedback or retroaction” (Terranova 2004, p. 25).
As cybernetics is committed to bringing order to systems using feedback, this can
be considered a micronized and technical method (when it is applied to particular
machines, which is thus an application of engineering) of an ancient pursuit of
negating chaos. Nietzsche’s solution is to “keep” the chaos, if by that we mean the
perpetual imbalance. This is part of the engine of selection attached to the concept
of the eternal return as the difference that always returns. As Guilbaud remarks in
What is Cybernetics?,
Repetitive routine, observed in nature as eternal recurrence or uniform circular
movement, seemed to some Greek philosophers to be the very essence of an
ordered and intelligible universe or cosmos; it was the most categorical negation
of chaos. But the opposite of chaos is not necessarily periodic repetition: the
possible forms of the cosmos are innumerable, or at least not yet enumerated.
Thus repetitive routine can show itself on the one hand as ‘habit,’ and on the
other hand as ‘memory’–the presence of the past. (Guilbaud 1959)
Deleuze’s view of time does not pit chaos against order, but sees a chaosmos in
time built according to three temporal registers: habit in Hume’s terms (passive


synthesis), memory in Bergson’s terms (duration), and Nietzsche’s eternal return.

Prior to Deleuze’s understanding of the virtual and transcendental empiricism,
realism suffered a critical impasse: how can we insist on the real without falling
back on epistemological claims on reality to rescue ourselves from embracing naive
realism? How do we dig beneath experience itself to make conditional claims on the
real without abdicating realism? To consider mind-independent things like electrons
or galaxies without making essences of them may not be far enough to escape
naive realism. To make a stronger case, Deleuze and Guattari equate realism with
materialism, but not in a crude or dialectical sense of the term. In addition, to ensure
that nothing “escapes” from this realist-materialism to colonize a new transcendence
of essences, this materialism must also include, and apply to, information and
energy. For our purposes, a “materialist information” is required, and one we will
have occasion to explore once we have prepared the ground.
John Mullarkey (1997) rejects the hasty attempts to throw a bridge between
Deleuzian materialism and cybernetics. Such attempts have conflate terms like
assemblages with information flows, equating the Internet with Deleuze’s idea of
smooth space (in fact, the Web is arguably a highly regimented, striated space governed
by the big corporate players like Google, Yahoo, and MSN), and the discussion
surrounding cyborgs as a felicitous merger of the organic and the mechanical. The
cybernetic program, as envisaged by Wiener, is essentially reductionist (Mullarkey
1997, p. 441). In fact, the Web might be considered a transcendent order given that
connections and relations are still indexed on identities, as networks encompass
“dividuals” as mere nodes8, and that the prospect of multiple anonymity of message
source or screen nonymity only masks the underlying fixity of identity––this may
be especially seen in the construction of a digital profile on a social network when
inputting details according to prompts that already restrict choice. Moreover, the
way in which online fora and social networks generally function only a