Guest Edited by Chantelle Gray (van Heerden) and Aragorn Eloff
The mind-body problem – which refers broadly to how we understand the nature of consciousness and related aspects such as subjectivity and intentionality – has been a paradigmatic issue in philosophy since its inception. Laid claim to by many ‘representatives of the mind’ – as Isabelle Stengers calls them (2010: 88) – consciousness has been the study of psychology, the neurosciences, the cognitive sciences, psychedelics research, artificial intelligence, religion and philosophy, with the result that there is no one overriding theory. Materialists, for example, hold that ‘there is nothing “in” the brain other than physical-chemical processes; physical chemistry defines states and “explains” the behaviour of a system based on those states’ (Stengers 2010: 89); metaphysicians invoke what has been called a ‘ghost in the machine’; new materialists argue for entanglement (Barad 2007), emphasising the need ‘to acknowledge the embodiment of the brain and the embrainment of the body’ (Braidotti 2017: 33); while others yet cling fastidiously to notions of free will, agency and purpose.
Drawing on the cognitive sciences – an interdisciplinary field of study spanning linguistics, philosophy, psychology, anthropology, the neurosciences and artificial intelligence – John Protevi (2010) argues for a Deleuzian approach to 4E-A cognition, according to which the mind is Embodied (experiential), Embedded (contextual), Enacted (emergent), Extended (beyond the boundaries of cognitive structures and individual organisms) and Affective (responsive). As he observes, we need to:
“go below the subject to automatic, subpersonal, embodied cognitive and affective mechanisms. Many of these analyses, especially in studies of (socially) embedded and (technologically) extended cognition, also go alongside the subject to the immediately surrounding social and technical milieu or assemblage (this passage to the assemblage is what we will call transverse emergence)”. (Protevi 2009:4)
Jeffrey Bell (2006) too considers the mind-body problem from a Deleuzoguattarian perspective, emphasising Deleuze’s break with thinking merely the extensive with reference to the following passage in Logic of Sense:
“A consciousness is nothing without a synthesis of unification, but there is no synthesis of unification of consciousness without the form of the I, or the point of view of the Self. What is neither individual nor personal are, on the contrary, emissions of singularities insofar as they occur on an unconscious surface and possess a mobile, immanent principle of auto-unification through a nomadic distribution, radically distinct from fixed and sedentary distributions and conditions of the syntheses of consciousness”. (LS 102)
That is, Deleuze posits the virtual or pre-individual field as coextensive with the actual so that he can pursue an ‘immanent principle of auto-unification’ to account for the genetic element of real experience. Similarly to Protevi, Bell explores work in complex systems theory, behavioural development and cognitive neuroscience to argue for a Deleuzian materialist approach to consciousness, suggesting, for example, that instead of viewing the brain as a simple linear input-output device, ‘with the resulting problem of relating this device to the actions of a body in the world’ (Bell 2006:206), we’d be better off with a Dynamic Systems Theory approach that views cognition as an ongoing process of individuation involving complex sets of iterative feedback loops and closely coupled physical systems.
Revolutionary as this conception might be, does it stand up to new advances in the neuro- and cognitive sciences? Can the philosophy of Deleuze and Guattari help us think through new developments in artificial intelligence and the problems posed by what has been termed ‘algorithmic reason’ and governmentality? How did Guattari, who was, after all, a psychoanalyst, deeply invested in the workings of the mind and the processes of subjectivation, grapple with the mind-body problem?
Accordingly, we invite both empirical and theoretical contributions that think about consciousness from a Deleuzoguattarian perspective, encouraging especially contributions that focus on Guattari’s work.
Topics can include but are not limited to:
- The content of consciousness and its epistemological expressions
- The distribution of consciousness; that is, its relatedness to subjectivity
- Mind, meaning-making and knowledge
- Consciousness and expression
- 4E-A cognition
- Emergentism and embrainment
- Intention and agency
- Phenomenological features and differential philosophy
- The structure of consciousness (is it a figure-ground structure?)
- Cognitive capacity and related questions such as ethics and aesthetics
- Artificial intelligence, algorithmic reason and modes of thought
- Zen, meditation
- Language and cognition
Send the full text (20,000 – 50,000 characters, spaces included) to firstname.lastname@example.org before January 15, 2022.
Languages accepted: French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and English.
Barad, Karen (2007), Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning, Durham and London: Duke University Press.
Bell, Jeffrey A. (2006), Philosophy at the Edge of Chaos: Gilles Deleuze and the Philosophy of Difference, Toronto and London: University of Toronto Press.
Braidotti, Rosi (2017), ‘Four Theses on Posthuman Feminism’, in Richard Grusin (ed.), Anthropocene Feminism, Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, pp. 21–4.
Deleuze, Gilles (1990), The Logic of Sense, trans Mark Lester with Charles Stivale, ed. Constantin V. Boundas, New York: Columbia University Press.
Protevi, John (2009), Political Affect, Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press.
Protevi, John (2010), ‘Adding Deleuze to the Mix’, Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 9:417–436, DOI 10.1007/s11097-010-9171-1.
Stengers, Isabelle (2010), Cosmopolitics I, trans. Robert Bononno, Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press.