an international and interdisciplinary journal of postmodern cultural sound, text and image
Volume 18, Summer 2021, ISSN 1552-5112
Come-Hither for a Deleuzian Psychology?
…while philosophers cannot, and should not, pretend to do the work of social scientists for them,
they can greatly contribute to the job of ontological clarification.
This paper will discuss how critically-informed psychologists might reinvent ‘mainstream’ Psychology by drawing upon various thinkers whose work centres around “the philosophical tradition of process thinking” (Brown, 2018, p. 51). One way to consider the possibility of such a merger (or re-emergence), is to revisit Deleuze and Guattari’s (1994), What is Philosophy?. In this opus, they describe the subject matter of Science, Art and Philosophy, respectively. For them, scientists handle knowledge, artists are concerned with the creation of affects and percepts, and philosophers are tasked with the invention of concepts (Deleuze & Guattari, 1994). However, Brown (2012) rightly notes that the social sciences are omitted from this triangular schema. As a result, there is no “complementary ‘plane of social science’” (Brown, 2012, p. 107). Despite the validity of this point, here, the phrase, ‘social science,’ is deployed in a rather one-size-fits all manner – and thereby neglects any significant differences between and within these disciplines. Thus, this article seeks to address with greater specificity how Psychology, rather than social science in general, might relate to Deleuze and Guattari’s (1994) triad.
To plug the lacunae opened up by the abovementioned oversights, let us first of all turn to Manuel DeLanda’s ambitiously titled, ‘A New Philosophy of Society: Assemblage Theory and Social Complexity’, which describes how various social scientific theories can be safely rearticulated by his Assemblage Theory (AT). Mixing philosophy and (natural) science, DeLanda (2006) argues that for such co-option to occur, the social scientific theory in question must follow AT’s golden rule of focusing exclusively upon “relations of exteriority” (p. 10). In this tome, he places a select number of social scientific theories (note, chiefly taken from sociology) within his framework. DeLanda (2006) suggests that such a move would ontologically enlighten the social sciences, thereby improving their questionable (from his perspective) epistemological foundations. This assertion has led Brown and Stenner (2009) to observe how DeLanda appears to position himself as the self-appointed philosopher-in-charge of the social sciences. However, the purpose of this article is not to discuss the pros and cons of AT, but to discuss various ways to redefine Psychology as a specialist subject. This requires a re-think as to its chosen object of analysis. In fact, this paper fully condones DeLanda’s emphasis upon exteriority, and posits that in rejecting references to any form of psychic interiority (Freud’s (2011) “depth-psychology” (p. 18), psychologists could radically re-configure their subject matter and, in turn, their practices.
DeLanda’s (2006) work thereby provides a useful starting point for the discussions covered herein. Thus, the main focus of this paper is therefore to explore how Psychology, by determining its own specialist objects of analysis, can construct its own ‘plane,’ or more plainly: point of view. By entertaining this possibility, this essay emphatically rejects any attempts to turn Psychology into an inferior form of either philosophy or (natural) science, on the grounds of its markedly different subject matter. Nevertheless, this is not to rule out how psychology, as an independent subject, could be enriched by drawing upon philosophical and (natural) scientific insights. After all, this would constitute “thought as heterogenesis” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1994, p. 199).
From the outset, then, one must bear in mind that psychological phenomena are in no way equivalent to that of philosophy, art or (natural) science. As Brown (2012) asserts, social scientific objects “are in every sense ‘overdetermined.’ They are complex admixtures of cultural, political and moral ferment, bereft of any clear ontological surety, and unmoored form any definite epistemological framework” (p. 104). As a result, one cannot simply dismiss “the political nature” (Brown, 2012, p. 104) of Psychology, in order for it to fit snuggly with the scientistic criteria of other distinct, but sometimes related, subjects. In fact, when it comes to re-designing Psychology, one observes an impasse between, on the one hand, wanting to theorise subjectivity and, on the other, trying to remain ‘objective’ at all costs. As Guattari (2000) lucidly puts it, thus: “It is as though a scientistic superego demands that psychic entities are reified and insists that they are only understood by means of extrinsic coordinates” (p. 36).
For Deleuze and Guattari (1994) - and by implication only - the subject matter of Psychology cannot be ‘concepts,’ ‘blocs of sensation’, or ‘functives.’ So, how are Psychology’s objects of study to be conceived? Brown (2012) suggests that due to their invariable instability, one could refer to social scientific objects as “‘implicatives’” (p. 117). Intriguingly, Bateson (1979) called ideas, as well as their examples, “‘no-things’” (p. 11). But what would constitute the ‘no-things’ of Psychology? Some apt examples would include; mental distress (Tucker & Goodings, 2014); autism (Brown, 2012); types of attention (Hayles, 2017); obsessive-compulsive disorder (Wise, 2000); and voice-hearing (Blackman, 2010) (to list but a selection). Thus, in order to contemplate how psychologists might go about generating theories as to the constitution of these ‘implicatives’ or ‘no-things,’ perhaps they might cherry-pick from other disciplines, which address the same or similar themes. Indeed, when writing about cinema, Deleuze (2006) utilized this same approach: “It was not a matter of applying philosophy to cinema. I just went straight from philosophy to cinema and back again, from cinema to philosophy” (p. 283). Following this logic, Psychology might benefit from such to-and-fro collaborations with other specialisms. In fact, such a move, would avoid the pitfalls of trying to “either integrate or oppose” (Brown, 2012, p. 118) other disciplines, whilst maintaining Psychology’s singularity in relation to its own empirical endeavours.
For Nichterlein (2018), this task demands that critically-minded psychologists start to think in “a different way to that in which we have been trained” (p. 8). Hence, the primary objective of this essay is to consider how paradigms taken from process philosophies could be used to inform and update psychological theory and practice, and move it away from its current emphasis on the inward-looking - and backward-looking (remember psychoanalysis) - Cartesian subject with its neatly split mind and body. Such a perspective is particularly problematic because it unquestionably (and lazily) assumes that this individual is a pre-given, thinking ‘entity.’ As such, Psychology misses the overall process which leads to the formation of that individual, which is something which Gilbert Simondon (1992) refers to as “the problem of individuation” (p. 297). Following this criticism, this essay condones Nichterlein’s (2018) forward-looking suggestion that, in order to overcome this (continual) error, Psychology should change its “unit of analysis”, by scrutinising “the workings of an assemblage” from which “the subject – as a subject – emerges” (pp. 9-10). Here, ‘assemblage’ roughly refers to the process of arranging a body (affect) in one way of another (Deleuze & Guattari, 2013). Thus, by looking at relations (bodies, or affects) and how they might influence one another so as to produce our (ongoing) experiences (Deleuze & Guattari, 2013), we might avoid the tacit epistemologically-based assumption that underlines Psychology’s present-day thinking: that “all matters are rational decisions made by individual persons in isolation from one another” (DeLanda, 2006, p. 3).
But before I turn to the theories of affect which might help alter this unhelpful Cartesian grounding, it is firstly necessary to offer a brief overview of process philosophy itself, in order to understand how it could be used to inform and change contemporary theory and practice within Psychology. Indeed, the theoretical background of Blackman, Massumi, and Serres’ work can be traced back to the ‘process philosophies’ of William James, Alfred North Whitehead (especially), Henri Bergson, and Charles Sanders Peirce, amongst others. Undoubtedly, this particular philosophical tradition has a variegated history; typically backdated to Heraclitus’ metaphysical assertion that the world is the product of “volatile flux” (Rescher, 2000, p. 5). Today, the phrase, “process philosophy,” is often used as “a catchphrase for the doctrines of Alfred North Whitehead and his followers” (Rescher, 2000, p. 3).
In fact, in Process and Reality, Whitehead (1978) outlines precisely how his own philosophy follows Spinoza in replacing morphological “‘substance-quality’” descriptions with accounts “of dynamic process” (p. 7). In addition, this metaphysics rejects “subject-predicate forms of thought,” contending that nothing can be said to exist outside of the ever-fluctuating, external relations between “actual entities” and “other actual entities” (Whitehead, 1978, p. 7). Here, “‘actual entities’” or “actual occasions” are not things, but rather, events (Whitehead, 1978, p. 18). In sum, all of these aforementioned process philosophers sought to forge new theories of experience at odds with both “Cartesian dualism and scientific materialism” (McHenry, 1995, p. 2). It is for this precise reason, that a processual approach might provide the ontological framework for new psychological paradigms informed by an altogether different type of materialism: one that shifts Psychology’s attention away from its current emphasis upon thinking subjects, and toward bodies and minds which are produced in and through our ongoing experiences.
Immaterial Bodies That Matter
The act of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.
To address this task, I would like to begin by discussing Lisa Blackman’s (2012) book, Immaterial Bodies: Affect, Embodiment, Mediation. Here, Blackman (2012) proposes that, rather than removing ‘the subject’ from the picture, we could employ a genealogical approach so as to reconceptualize subjectivities (or experiences) as both multiple and open. This promising standpoint, posits that “nineteenth century models of personhood” offer “a more subliminal subject,” one that is “not assumed to be informationally closed to the environment” (Blackman, 2012, p. 23). In support, Blackman (2012) draws upon insights from the ‘Subliminal Psychology’ movement of the late nineteenth century, which encompasses theories by James, Sidis, and others. In this view, affective transmission – how bodies connect with one another - necessarily requires a mediating open ‘psyche,’ not simply a body with an autonomic nervous system. (This is Brian Massumi’s (2002) materialist position, which will be discussed in the next sub-section).
In order to theorise the psychological mechanisms involved in this abovementioned process, Blackman (2010) offers the concept of ‘threshold phenomena’, which encompasses hypnotic suggestion and telepathy, respectively. In this usage, ‘suggestion’ refers to “a diverse range of actions registered and transmitted between bodies that cross the divide between the somatic and the psychological” (Blackman, 2012, p. 52). This (re-)introduction of mimetic phenomena is utilized so as to invite “leaps, gaps, tensions, ruptures and conflicts to conceptions of change and transformation” (Blackman, 2012, p. 189). For Blackman (2012), a newfound emphasis on affectivity within Psychology represents an opportunity to “develop models of the psychic, psychological and subjectivity which extend our conceptions of mind, brain, body, and world across space and time” (p. 191). Consequently, this perspective calls for a much greater consideration of “‘immateriality’” - that is, “the body’s potential for psychic or psychological attunement” (Blackman, 2012, p. xxv). Promisingly, Blackman’s (2012) writing draws Psychology’s attention to material/immaterial and human/nonhuman bodies. Indeed, throughout this book the inevitable entanglements of minds and bodies are highlighted in such a way as to set psychologists the task of theorising exactly how “brain-body-world couplings” (Blackman, 2012, p. 24) function – as processes – which become attuned over extended periods of time. In turn, empirical attention must subsequently turn toward “suggestive topologies in ways which challenge the separation between affect and cognition” (Blackman, 2012, p. 123). Here, the theoretical priority is to avoid, at all costs, a reduction of mind to body, in favour of an emphasis on their inevitable entanglements.
The promise of this position for the reinvention of Psychology rests upon its call to “attend to the fact that we can be both one yet many, depending on the different milieux that produce the possibility of experience” (Blackman, 2012, p. xxiv). Blackman’s (2012) processual approach to minds and bodies is entirely consistent with all other ecologically-informed approaches to the mind, whereby this phenomenon is seen as being “everywhere – in the sense that we cannot extract it from the myriad processes through which it is continuously enacted – and nowhere in particular, because it is not a ‘thing’ that has a simple location in some place or other” (Brown, 2018, p. 51). Overall, Blackman’s (2012) calling to take note of “experiences and practices which challenge the foundational model of autonomous subjectivity at the heart of the psychological sciences” (p. 24), puts her thinking in line with other recent attempts to negotiate a new raison d’être for Psychology (Brown, 2012; Nichterlein & Morss, 2017; Nichterlein, 2018).
Although an emphasis on the inseparability of affect and cognition is to be condoned, Blackman’s (2012) theorisations regarding subjectivity do retain some form of “psychological subject” (p. 74). At this point, I wish to argue that this insistence upon keeping any form of ‘subject’ (implicitly a human one) – albeit in an idealized, historical guise – can, and should, be rendered a problematic and unnecessary move. There are two main reasons for this objection. Firstly, it reifies something which simply does not exist. As Nietzsche (2006) emphatically stated: “there is no ‘being’ behind the deed, its effect and what becomes of it; ‘the doer’ is invented as an afterthought” (p. 26). As such, Blackman’s (2012) perspective arguably replaces the split Cartesian subject (of Psychology) with a unified, and yet, idealized version of the same illusion. Secondly, this subject-based affective paradigm counters recent attempts by psychologists, such as Brown (2012), who suggest that we might attend to assemblages (bodies, or multiplicities) as a means through which Psychology could (finally) usurp “the royal place of the subject” (p. 106). If this markedly contrasting position were to be adopted, psychological research would need to focus upon the ‘becomings’ of nonhuman and human assemblages (Deleuze & Guattari, 2013) which relate to its specialist areas of concern (such as those listed previously). Such a move might give rise to a non-anthropocentric and immanent psychology; one which displays “an increased awareness of the material grounding of psychological operations” (Brown, 2018, p. 55). Such a radically materialist approach is, however, completely at odds with Blackman’s (2012) model of affectivity because within that paradigm, ultimately it is the mind, and not the body, that is the executor.
Individuations without subjects
Passage precedes construction.
Insightfully, Blackman (2012) contends that theorists of affect, particularly so-called Deleuzo-Spinozists (such as Brian Massumi), are too concerned with corporeality, and are thereby far too willing to separate bodily affects from cognitions. Consequently, these theorists fail to offer any detailed account of the psychological mechanisms which underlie subjectivity. In fact, Blackman (2012) suggests that what is problematic about such conceptualisations of affectivity is that, whereas the body is conceived of as entirely dynamic, the mind is depicted as the passive by-product of underlying physiological processes. With this cogent point in mind, let us now turn to Massumi’s (2002) contrasting onto-relational paradigm in order to see to what extent Blackman (2012) is correct with this critique of ontological materialism. In turn, I shall discuss the ramifications of these criticisms when one is considering the deployment of such a perspective within Psychology.
Like Blackman (2012), Brian Massumi’s (2002) theory position draws much of its inspiration from various process philosophies. Most significantly, much of its inspiration emanates from materialist thinkers such as Spinoza and Deleuze, respectively. Indeed, Massumi (2002) stays true to their key tenet by rooting one’s ontology in bodily affects. Crucially, this is done without recourse to a pre-existent psychological subject (contra Blackman (2012)). Thus, this emergent - or virtual - philosophy could be used to direct Psychology’s empirical eye - first and foremost - towards bodily forces, but without actually jettisoning a consideration of psychological processes. But, unlike Blackman’s (2012) approach, Massumi (2002) is insistent that affects and ideas must be treated as corresponding to different dimensions. Thus, he argues that it is “only when the idea of the affection is doubled by an idea of the idea of the affection that it attains the level of conscious reflection” (Massumi, 2002, p. 31). In essence, what Massumi (2002) postulates is that non-conscious, impersonal affects precede conscious personalized emotions and thoughts in a virtual, never-ending ontological feedback loop.
Let us now consider Blackman’s (2012) previously mentioned criticism, which argues that this approach disregards psychological processes. To recap: for Blackman (2012) these Deleuzo-Spinozist paradigms replace the mind with a “lively nervous system or bodily materiality that is viewed as dynamic, responsive and autonomous from intentionality and cognition” (p. 22). Indeed, this adroit criticism becomes apparent in Massumi’s (2002) description of cognition as an epiphenomenon: an “autonomic tendency” (p. 32). And by stressing how a specific region of the physical body is the continual source of all subsequent relations with the world, it is easy to see why Blackman (2012) effectively accuses Massumi (2002) of having a propensity for biological reductionism. However, despite this objection, Massumi’s (2002) virtual philosophy does fully account for the production of psychological phenomena, in that it describes how the body “infolds contexts, … volitions and cognitions that are nothing if not situated” (p. 30). In fact, Massumi’s (2002) Spinozism, conceives of affections as “reverberations” (p. 37). Evidently, then, there is no omission of either ‘the psyche’ or intentionality: only the elimination of a ‘subject’ with a mind inside its body. Indeed, throughout his work Massumi (2002) follows other contemporary theorists, like John Protevi (2011), in maintaining “that cognition is fundamentally biological” (p. 29). This article fully concurs with this position, and contends that if Psychology were to embrace a radically materialist ontological framework, in the vein of Massumi’s (2002) approach, it would have the wherewithal to begin to theorise “subjectless individuations” (Deleuze, 1995, p. 116).
And as Deleuze (1995) insists: “There’s no subject, but a production of subjectivity: subjectivity has to be produced, when its time arrives, precisely because there is no subject” (pp. 113-114).
Consequently, any attempts by psychologists to retain any type of universalist ‘subject’ – of history, of language, etc, etc. - are to be deemed, not only uncritical, but also profoundly colonizing: “Transcendence: a specifically European disease” (Deleuze & Guattari, 2013, p. 19). So, if one wishes that Psychology studies affects (bodies), ‘the subject’ must be seen for what it is: “a habit, nothing but a habit in a field of immanence, the habit of saying I” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1994, p. 48). What does, nevertheless, (come to) exist is an affective body which is at “one with its transitions” (Massumi, 2002, p. 15). These ‘transitions’ necessarily include its cognitions, which significantly, must also be seen as affects, albeit immaterial ones (Deleuze & Guattari, 2013). Taking this logic further, Blackman’s (2012) insistence upon keeping a (human) subject – albeit in an idealised, historical guise – can be rendered problematic in Massumi’s (2002) approach, which, I contend does not mistake ‘the subject’ for the mind. In essence, what Massumi’s (2002) Deleuzo-Spinozist paradigm does offer Psychology is a means of retaining its concern with ‘the psyche’ – in spite of Blackman’s (2012) noted concern. Massumi’s (2002) radically alternative paradigm might thereby afford Psychology a chance to (finally) recognise that it is the individual body qua assemblage (Deleuze & Guattari, 2013) which is produced - and not its ‘subject.’
This last point has important implications for Psychology as both a subject specialism and as an applied practice. For instance, therapeutic settings can subsequently be used to help provide the conditions of possibility for the creation of new subjectivities (experiences) by drawing all parties’ attention to bodies (affects) of all kinds, and their power [puissance] (Deleuze & Guattari, 2013). Historically, what has made this task particularly problematic is concepts such as ‘the subject’ and ‘subjectivities’ are often used synonymously by both psychologists and philosophers alike. To help avoid this continual and mistaken interchangeable usage, one might turn to Guattari’s (2000) distinction between ‘the individual’ and ‘components of subjectification.’ This latter concept is couched in terms of ‘vectors,’ which are akin to nodes which “do not necessarily pass through the individual,” and might include “human groups, socio-economic ensembles, data-processing machines, etc.” (p. 36). Hence, Guattari (2000) looks at how the individual - understood as an assemblage - is produced in and amongst these heterogeneous, partial, and entirely context-bound ‘components.’
This greater conceptual clarity is deemed highly informative in the context of this discussion, in that it offers a possible rapprochement between Blackman’s (2012) critical psychology and Massumi’s (2002) affect theory. Henceforth, the mind might be dramatically re-conceptualised as arising from within and between assemblages of nonhuman and human bodies (Deleuze & Guattari, 2013). In fact, what Massumi (2002) and Blackman (2012) do have in common, is that they view the mind as a process. If such a conceptualisation were to be adopted within a new process-based psychological paradigm, researchers and practitioners could begin to conceive of life (human and nonhuman) in terms of situated ‘becomings’; that is, as part of “an ongoing dynamic process of response, interaction, adjustment, orientation and – most importantly – sense” (Colebrook, 2011, p. 20).
Coming to our senses: dancing with Serres
Consciousness belongs to those singular moments when the body is tangential to itself.
Critical to any proposed reinvention of Psychology along the aforementioned lines, is the realization that both Massumi (2002) and Blackman’s (2012) respective approaches trouble any clear-cut distinction between the ‘inside’ and the ‘outside’ of the body. In fact, within such process-oriented frameworks the mind, body, and its environment are best understood as intrinsically related due to the fact they these assemblages are always found alongside one another (Guattari, 2000). This nuanced conceptualization, which flatly refutes Psychology’s ardent Cartesian dualism, is also evidenced by Michel Serres’ (2016), The Five Senses. Here, this philosopher professes a Lacanian perspective as to the genesis of subjectivity in stating that “Klein bottles are a model of identity” (p. 22). For Serres (2016), a body has neither an inside nor an outside: only a mingling mediated by the skin, which “intervenes in the things of the world and brings about their mingling” (p. 97). In this view, the body and soul are “inextricably” blended on the surface of the skin, where they refuse to congeal into “a separate subject and object,” even when “two mingled bodies” touch (Serres, 2016, pp. 25-26). In fact, it is events like this which are the be-all and end-all of existence: “We only ever experience mixtures, we encounter only meetings” (Serres, 2016, p. 28). Notably, this contention runs completely at odds with Psychology’s separation of mind and body, and as such, can counter this disciplines’ seemingly inexorable mind-body dualism. Indeed, for Serres (2016), such a neat Cartesian split is not only an impossibility, but a travesty.
So, like Blackman (2012) and Massumi (2002), Serres advocates a processual view of the body and soul/mind, in emphasizing “movement rather than stable forms of fleshy matter” (Tucker & Goodings, 2014, p. 58). Further, he enthusiastically asserts that: “a body is not born until it has danced” (Serres, 2016, p. 323). Within this purview, bodies “shimmer like watered silk” (Serres, 2016, p. 25). The implication of this Bergson-esque insight is that because a body is nothing but movement, the mind is invariably also taken along ‘for the ride.’ By way of illustration, Serres (2016) describes how caressing a localized area of one’s own body produces the self: “I touch one of my lips with my middle finger. Consciousness resides in this contact” (p. 22). The point being that any attempts to separate mind and body from each other, or their embeddedness is, not only an impossibility, but is also a futile endeavour. Like Blackman (2012), Serres’ (2016) thinking also involves recourse to bodily attunement(s). As such, both of these perspectives’ emphasis on entangled, or intermingled, mind-body relations might inform the makings of the novel process-based Psychology advocated by this article.
Further uses for Serres’ (1982) thinking within Psychology are revealed in his book, The Parasite. Here, he observes how, in the modern world, sensory, embodied experiences have become obfuscated to the extent that existence itself has is now geared toward language-based practices and the acquisition of information, and nothing else: “They are all, nowadays, so exhausted, so saturated, so hagridden with discourse, language, writing” (Serres, 1982, p. 40). Intriguingly, for Serres (1982), parasites (used here in a non-pejorative sense) are “more or less” the cornerstone of “our environment” (p. 10). And for him, ‘noise’ is the “ultimate parasite” (Serres, 1982, p. 4) between any two systems. A feature of every single relation (and space); ‘noise’ is everywhere and nowhere, and as such, is “both a vector and a parasite” (Serres, 1995, p. 58). Here, what counts as ‘noise’ is said to be entirely dependent upon “the position of the observer” (Brown & Stenner, 2009, p. 48). This is because in order for a signal to be sent from one system to another, “noise must be excluded, which means that this exclusion of noise is essential to the system in the sense that it is constitutive of it” (Brown & Stenner, 2009, p. 48). Ergo, one can conclude that: “Relation is non-relation” (Serres, 1982, p. 79). In Serrian philosophy, all change (note the influence of process philosophy here) is thereby said to occur at “the boundary between two-systems that is made permeable by the noise-signal interruption” (Brown & Stenner, 2009, p. 49).
The ramifications of integrating Serrian philosophy within any new process-based approaches to psychological phenomena are, I contend, (at least) threefold. Firstly, because the mind and the body emerge through contact with the skin’s surfaces it is these “events and singularities” (Serres, 2016, p. 60) that Psychology should pay much closer attention to. So instead of conducting ‘traditional’ empirical work which examines how, as a hypothetical instance, social media affects one’s thinking (in a seemingly straightforward causal way); one might enquire as to how screen fatigue might tire out one’s body, sap one’s psychic energy, and alter one’s relationship to the contexts in which one is uniquely situated. As a result of this integrated approach, psychologists might follow Serres’ lead and chart the trajectories of these “sensory bodies” (Tucker & Goodings, 2014, p. 56) across the different times and spaces of our lives.
Secondly, Serres’ emphasis on the haptic nature of existence, might spark psychological research into the continual foldings of body into mind (and vice versa), in such a way as to draw one’s attention to the former’s “hemiplegic” (Connor, 2005, p. 155) orientation. Thus, bodies, and in theory, minds, are conceived as pliable, and as such, always open to change. In this way, Serres’ (2016) thinking ties in neatly with both Blackman (2012) and Massumi’s (2002) own perspectives, regardless of whether one places mind before body, or the reverse. This is because what is ultimately being emphasized within Serres’ (2016) philosophy is the co-occurrence, and therefore inseparability, of the soul and the body.
Lastly, Serres’ (1982) idiosyncratic and dark take as to the nature of our ecologies might encourage psychologists to create sensory maps which chart the emergence of localized parasites as they emerge so as to shape the world around us. Most promising in this respect, Serres’ (1982) work could act as a catalyst for critically-informed psychological research into those experiences which are induced by one’s everyday relations with other types of sensory, or sensing, bodies – human and nonhuman (animals, technologies, etc.). As a consequence, Psychology could begin to focus on “the creation and development of unprecedented formations of subjectivity that have never been seen and never felt” (Guattari, 1995, p. 91). Such a task would firstly demand that researchers scrutinize the noise-signal relations as they occur within particular multiplicities, and give priority “to, the background, to the sea of nothingness from which form emerges” (Clayton, 2012, p. 34). Hopefully, Psychology can use Serrian philosophy to begin to pay closer attention to the genesis of these aforementioned systems, and in the process make an invaluable contribution toward a wider theoretical and practical project which entails the development of “a new process-based vocabulary for the way we conceptualize our senses” (Tucker & Goodings, 2014, p. 61). Here, one might quip that Psychology as a discipline needs to become less predictable in its desire to predict, because this only reifies, its imaginary, and yet given, Cartesian ‘subject.’ Following the logic espoused across the entirety of this essay, to avoid this mistake, Psychology as a subject specialism must jettison its ‘traditional’ concerns with subjects, objects, and spaces and cede priority to “time and change” which are the “definitively central and salient metaphysical issues” (Rescher, 2000, p. 3). As a result, this Psychology would become concerned with “‘actio’ or ‘forming processes’” (Stenner, 2017, p. 223) (following Alfred Schütz’s influence). Put emphatically, this paper has argued that it will only be through the creation of a process-oriented Psychology that pivots on the premise that experience is produced by ‘actual entities’ (Whitehead, 1978), ‘becomings’ (Deleuze & Guattari, 2013), or more plainly, events, that this discipline can start to offer a better account of the increasing complexities of life within this ever-changing modern world.
This paper has argued that if Psychology can take inspiration from Blackman (2012), Massumi (2002), and Serres’ (2016) concerns with different kinds of corporeal and incorporeal bodies, it would be more able to provide an integrative, non-reductive understanding of the inextricable relations which exist between our bodies and minds. However, any attempt to retain either the primacy or the existence of the ‘thinking’ subject within this new model would be regarded as a conceptual error, given that such a position would reify and re-affirm something which does not exist. Instead, it was suggested that critically-minded psychologists could utilize insights taken from these process philosophies so as to map ecologically-situated bodies (affects) of all kinds (Deleuze & Guattari, 2013). Indeed, this article proposed that if Psychology used insights taken from these onto-relational process philosophies, it might produce a radically alternative means to describe those immanent external relations which produce our ongoing experiences of life - without having to give recourse to the fictious transcendent human ‘subject.’ If such wholesale changes were to occur, this essay predicted that this discipline would become much more capable of explicating how today’s rapidly fluctuating multi-sensory environments affect our ongoing experiences of both self and other.
an international and interdisciplinary journal of postmodern cultural sound, text and image
Volume 18, Summer 2021, ISSN 1552-5112
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