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Martin E. Rosenberg: The Role of Metaphor (or Tropes more generally) in Trans-disciplinary Inquiry

Updated: Jun 19, 2023

The Role of Metaphor (or Tropes more generally) in Trans-disciplinary Inquiry:

From the “Taint” of Representation to “Shocks to Thought”

Martin E. Rosenberg

Private Session

Saturday, June 24th

10 am Pacific Time

Public Session:

Saturday, July 1

10 am Pacific Time

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The purpose of this talk is to investigate how a paradox in Gilles Deleuze's attitude towards metaphor (or tropes generally speaking) might play a significant role in resolving a problem understanding the productive, perhaps even subversive role of tropes in the “forging” of trans-disciplinary “alliances” across science, philosophy and the arts. This paradox has yet to be unpacked properly. In the English “Preface” to Difference and Repetition (1994), Deleuze argues vigorously for such “forgings.” Yet, Deleuze is famous for denying the efficacy of metaphor, and for condemning analogy specifically for its taint by identity and transcendence (or Being), a condemnation which implicates as well the genus/species formations which lie at the heart of disciplinarity itself.

What I propose to do here is to re-view the problematic “operational closure” of disciplinary formations through the lense of Gilles Deleuze's critique of analogy, representation, and the trap of genus/species formations in his masterwork Différence et repetition (1968). I will then read that same text to rehabilitate a paradigm of tropical performance which will answer Deleuze's call to forge “mobile relations” or what the cognitive scientists Maturana and Varela would call emerging “consensual domains” across rigid disciplinary boundaries, while at the same time avoiding the error of analogy that Deleuze links to an ontology of Being which undergirds genus/species formations, and which, in turn, re-inscribes that Being.

This talk builds on earlier work which emerged from 1. my critique of the role of science metaphors from thermodynamics in Freud and Deleuze and Guattari; 2, my examination of the naïve or ironic cultural work of the metaphor “chess” across disciplinary boundaries in my hypermedia project Chess RHIZOME; 3. my deployment of Bruno Latour and Peter Galison's notion of the "agency" of tools, in enabling trans-disciplinary “Trading Zones” as an approach to understanding the cultural work of tropes; and 4. my examination of Arakawa and Gins’ concept “terminological junctions” in their manifestos, in terms of Deleuze’s “shocks to thought.”

I first examine how Deleuze critiques the motive to deploy the tropical dimension of language to establish identity-relationships among concepts in disparate fields of inquiry. Then, I wish to replace this motive with one which deploys tropes and their extensions in models and diagrams transversally, to subvert the arboreal formation of disciplines, and to establish contingent, emergent alliances, for the specific purpose of generating events that are understood in terms of what Deleuze calls "shocks to thought." These events reveal intensive processes, indicating qualitative changes in the nature of knowledge-formation that reverberate cosmo-politically (from Isabelle Stengers) across all disciplines--processes of morphogenetic knowledge-formation that (as Francicso Varela, Evan Thompson, and Eleanor Rosch demonstrate) can account for the emergence of historically significant innovations such as the hybrid discipline of cognitive science. I will discuss tropes derived from reversible and irreversible time, chess, entropy, bifurcation/individuation, and singularity, to unveil errors, and then model their recuperation.

Private Session

Saturday, June 24th

10 am Pacific Time

The Private session will be held to raise issues and answer questions about

these three papers on metaphor, science, and transdisciplinarity:

1. "Dynamic and Thermodynamic Tropes of the Subject in Freud and Deleuze and Guattari," in _Postmodern Culture_ from 1993. I only have a typescript for this since the journal is behind a paywall. If I can get a properly web-formatted copy, I will send it to you (PMC was perhaps the first quality online academic journal, now managed by Project Muse at Johns Hopkins).

2. "Chess RHIZOME and Phase Space: Mapping Metaphor Theory Onto Hypertext Theory" from _Intertexts_ from 1999. This is a theoretical article about my hypermedia project _Chess RHIZOME_ which explored the cultural work of the metaphor of chess across all disciplinary boundaries.

3. "Constructing Autopoeisis: The Architectural Body in Light of Contemporary Cognitive Science." _Interfaces_ 2003. This explores the ways in which metaphors of cognitive science get deployed by others, and contains an explicit critique of the school of Lakoff, Johnson and Turner.

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