The Incorporeal by Elizabeth Grosz

The Incorporeal by Elizabeth Grosz

Author:Elizabeth Grosz
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: PHI018000, Philosophy/Movements/Phenomenology, PHI005000, Philosophy/Ethics and Moral Philosophy
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Published: 2017-03-13T16:00:00+00:00

THE PREINDIVIDUAL

Insofar as an individual exists, there must be a process, or many, that produces it. This is Simondon’s most basic axiom—to seek out the phases by which, from initial conditions, a being comes into existence, not through an identity, a preformed path, or the imposition of a preexisting form or plan on unformed matter. Such conceptions are hylomorphic: they consider matter to be passive and unformed—indeed, they are considered fundamentally feminine since at least the time of Aristotle, if not before, and form to be a masculine, active, imposing, ordering process. I have suggested elsewhere that the dichotomization of thought through presence and absence into dualistic and mutually exclusive terms—mind and body, reason and passion, self and other—may have its origins in the transformation of sexual difference into sexual opposition (the most elementary gesture of patriarchy).6 It is the transformation of difference that Simondon addresses. Not only is the hylomorphic schema unable to explain the coming into existence of individuals, its terms, form and matter, require that their own geneses as individuals be addressed. His challenge to hylomorphism is an analysis of the coming into existence of hylomorphism itself, the ontogenesis of philosophical models that, because of their binarized structure, have lost direct contact with the preindividual forces that are used to produce and sustain the various orders of individuations.

The concept of the preindividual is Simondon’s alternative to the problem of Spinoza’s substantialism. There is being, huge, magnificent, complicated, perhaps even divine, in its order, regularity, creativity, multiplicity, and logic. But the coming into being of substance still needs to be explained. Simondon’s project is to articulate a theory of becoming that accounts for the complex geneses of the becoming of all beings and their different levels of operation through the concrete elaborations of the preindividual, a concept I believe is in fact very close to Spinoza’s understanding of substance and the divine. His notion of the preindividual is also closely linked to Nietzsche’s understanding of the universe as composed of impersonal wills to power, force fields that constitute and decompose every “thing.” Simondon adds post-Einsteinian, quantum conceptions of fields, deformations, singularities to Nietzsche’s conception of the will to power. Forces become more subtle, less easily identifiable, shifting terrains, with their points of intensity, dark spots, strange attractors, and vectors and gradients of differentiating forces.

The preindividual is described as “not one,” lacking identity, cohesion, not less than one (and not zero) but indeterminately more than one: “it is more than unity and more than identity, capable of expressing itself as a wave and a particle, as matter or energy,”7 fundamentally open to contradictions, indeed the very ground of their distinction. This is because the preindividual has no individual or collective contents (only potentials for individuation), while it provides the conditions and means by which individual and collective existence comes into being. The preindividual is the center of Simondon’s conception of being, but not a being comprised of identities, things, substances. It is the metastable order from which beings, or, rather, becomings, engender themselves.



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