A Note on Particle Physics and the Image of Thought

Physicists constantly struggle to explain the void that exists between the phenomena that we see. First, there was gravity, and the impact of gravity’s discovery on philosophy was huge. (It is no coincidence that Newton’s discoveries are parallel with Kant’s.)

Most recently, we saw the discovery of the Higgs boson, helping to explain why particles have mass. I won’t pretend to be familiar with the particulars, but it was clear even to the layman that the Standard Model of physics did not account for everything. Until that moment, we seemed to exist within a void, but that void could not be absolute, otherwise it would surely collapse in on itself. And so we developed theories like dark matter and the like, to potentially explain why nothingness nonetheless has a mass. 

Perhaps it is useful to think of Deleuze and Guattari’s plane of immanence in a similar way. It is not enough to say “I think therefore I am”, because we are yet to fully understand how thought is manifest and how our vast array of (often conflicting) conceptions of the world around us are able to coexist without reality collapsing in on itself. The plane of immanence becomes a kind of apperceptive field; perhaps similar to what Kant called “transcendental apperception”: our present understanding of “the pure, original, unchangeable consciousness that is the necessary condition of experience and the ultimate foundation of the unity of experience.” 

However, even this scientific analogy is a limit on thought. In many ways, it is putting the cart before the horse, as we are all too prone to do. How can we think of thought in a way that isn’t limited by what we presently know? 

Notes on the BwO

To feel like a body without organs is surely easier than being a body with organs? It is just harder to articulate, because language is a regime of thought attached to the organ of the mouth and we still struggle to vocalise that which we are unconscious of — or should that be “disembodied from”? After all, who walks around with a consciousness of their lungs, heart, brain as they actually are? “I think therefore I am” takes the body for granted. 

When we exercise, and find our body in a state of revolt, to understand that our heart is pounding to deliver blood and our lungs are straining to deliver oxygen, may make us feel better about corporeal experience but to understand the body as a machine is nonetheless to imagine a different kind of apparatus to the one we lug around with us. An organ(is)ed body is a utilitarian body — so, what is a BwO? What is a body beyond the heart and lungs? To finish a race and think about how the machine-that-we-are has managed to complete it says nothing of why we were impelled to run in the first place. To have sex is an even more complicated example. The desires that drive the body into action remain elusive. We are long past the point of believing we have sex only to reproduce, but that hardly clarifies matters. It is through the BwO that we can begin to uncover the reasons as to why. A body without organs is, at the same time, a body beyond organs; beyond the regimented biological understanding of what a body can do. Plenty that we do is bio-illogical. The BwO reaches out to that which is beyond the logic of sense. 

Slough off your organs — what are you left with? What is the body that lies beneath, this surface, this substance and limit? Certainly not a concept, we’re told, but rather a reality that is always with us. The BwO is always in reach, we can always invert ourselves and slip towards it, down past the strata, gaining speed before impact. Be careful though, this is a dangerous place, this surface upon which organs embed and strata erect and events slide across. You can find schizophrenias and catatonias, masochisms and cancers and fascisms.

BwO as raw possibility — not all possibilities are good possibilities. Tear down your strata too quickly and you end up like Burroughs on a bad day, shuddering, wondering when your ass will stop stealing your voice. Keep your strata in reach, climb up if you need a rest, sleep a while and in the morning step back down onto your BwO. Be intrepid, but don’t be stupid.