I'm thinking Sloterdijk's work on "spherology" might make for an interesting interface with OOO ( <-- haha, look at those spheres!).


Here's an interview with him where he reviews his Spheres trilogy.


Bettina Funcke: Until the publication of your trilogy, the image of the sphere was hardly present in contemporary theoretical discourse. I'm wondering how you came across this metaphor, which has gained such importance for your thinking in recent years. Which authors or texts do you refer to?

Peter Sloterdijk: A given culture never possesses a complete vocabulary for itself. The current language games only ever emphasize select topics and leave other phenomena unaddressed. This applies as well to the vocabulary of theory in the late twentieth century. In past decades, one could speak elaborately and with great nuance about everything that had to do with the temporal structure of the modern world. Tons of books on the historicization, futurization, and processing of everything were published�most of which are completely unreadable today. By contrast, it was still comparatively difficult ten years ago to comment sensibly on the spatialization of existence in the modern world; a thick haze still covered the theory landscape. Until recently, there was a voluntary spatial blindness�because to the extent that temporal problems were seen as progressive and cool, the questions of space were thought to be old-fashioned and conservative, a matter for old men and shabby imperialists. Even the fascinating, novel chapters on space in Deleuze and Guattari's Thousand Plateaus couldn't change the situation, since they arrived too early for the chronophilic, or time-worshipping, zeitgeist of those days. The same goes for programmatic propositions in late Foucault�according to whom we again enter an age of space�which in their time were still unable to usher in a transition.

My Spheres trilogy obviously belongs to a widespread reversal among philosophical and cultural-theoretical discourses that has taken place in the strongholds of contemporary reflection over the course of the past decade. As I began in 1990, while a fellow at Bard College, in New York, I had only a vague premonition of this topological turn within cultural theory. Only now, after the completion of the trilogy, do I see more clearly how my work is connected with that of numerous colleagues around the world, such as Homi Bhabha, Arjun Appadurai, and Edward S. Casey. Even Ilya Kabakov's installation art and the work of architects like Frei Otto, Grimshaw and Partners, or Rem Koolhaas, belong to the circle of theoretical relations. At the time, I wanted to work with the figures of the circle and arrow in order to offer my students in Vienna and New York, who were mainly young artists, an introduction to philosophical thinking. I thought that graphic figures would be useful in that context.

I was also fascinated by a chalkboard drawing Martin Heidegger made around 1960, in a seminar in Switzerland, in order to help psychiatrists better understand his ontological theses. As far as I know, this is the only time that Heidegger made use of visual means to illustrate logical facts; he otherwise rejected such antiphilosophical aids. In the drawing, one can see five arrows, each of which is rushing toward a single semicircular horizon�a magnificently abstract symbolization of the term Dasein as the state of being cast in the direction of an always-receding world horizon (unfortunately, it's not known how the psychiatrists reacted to it). But I still recall how my antenna began to buzz back then, and during the following years a veritable archaeology of spatial thought emerged from this impulse. The main focus may have been Eurocentric, but there was a constant consideration of non-European cultures, in particular India and China. Incidentally, I also owe something to Gaston Bachelard's Poetics of Space, although later I quite stubbornly departed from his promptings.

BF: But in your work the term sphere plays such a crucial role, whereas in the other new discourses of space one encounters terms like place, dwelling, territory, local, global, and other words ending with the suffix �scape.

PS: There are different reasons for this, partly linguistic and partly factual. Particularly crucial here is that below the thin layer of modern language games, in which the word sphere plays only a marginal role, lies a very powerful old layer�one could call it the two-thousand-year domain of old-European "sphere thinking." As modern intellectuals, we have simply forgotten that in the era between Plato and Leibniz almost everything to be said about God and the world was expressed in terms of a spherology. Think about the magical basic principle of medieval theosophy, which says, God is a sphere whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere. One could almost claim that the individualism of the modern era signifies an unconscious realization of this dogma. Even German semantics plays a role in my choice of terms, since between Goethe and Heidegger the word sphere is employed as an approximate synonym for the circle of life or world of meaning�and of course this already goes a ways toward accommodating my search for a language appropriate to animated, interpersonal, or surreal space.

BF: The subtitles of the three volumes of Spheres�Bubbles, Globes, and Foam�are similarly unusual, as if they were created in a linguistic realm that seems closer to everyday speech.

PS: The term metaphor that you used earlier makes me hesitate a bit because, in my opinion, words like sphere or globe are not metaphors but rather thought-images or, even better, thought-figures. After all, they first came out of geometry and had, beginning with Greek antiquity, a clear morphological sense, which turned into a cosmological sense after Plato. It is different with the titles of the first and third volumes, Bubbles and Foam. Here we are truly concerned with metaphors, at least on an initial reading. With Bubbles I tried to describe the dyadic space of resonance between people as we find it in symbiotic relations�mother and child, Philemon and Baucis, psychoanalyst and analysand, mystics and God, etc. By contrast, in addition to its metaphorical meaning, foam�I use it instead of the completely exhausted term society�has of course also a literal sense. From a physical perspective, it describes multichamber systems consisting of spaces formed by gas pressure and surface tensions, which restrict and deform one another according to fairly strict geometric laws. It seemed to me that modern urban systems could be easily understood with analogy to these exact, technical foam analyses. Spheres III emerged out of this intuition. One finds in this hybrid book a great deal of commentary on the transformation of sociology into a general theory of "air conditioning." Foam: That is, modern people live in "connected isolations," as the US architectural group Morphosis put it thirty years ago. In social foam there is no "communication"�this is also one of the words facing an apocalypse�but instead only inter-autistic and mimetic relations.

BF: While reading the books, it occurred to me that there are three different, successive points of orientation or even methods in each respective volume. Could one describe the first volume as esoteric, the second as exoteric, and the third as a Zeitdiagnostik, a diagnosis of the present moment?

PS: This question affects me in a very personal way because it's connected with a disturbingly deep diagnosis. It is true that the three volumes of Spheres don't follow one other in a singular trajectory; each has its own direction and its own climate. One could even wonder whether they really derive from the same author. The question is of course sophistical, since I know definitively that I wrote all three myself. However, this doesn't prove that I was always the same person in the seven years it took to write them. What guarantees that multiple personality disorder, an invention of postmodern doctors, doesn't simply represent the transition of modern literary criticism into the clinic, by which the disappearance of the author returns as the disintegration of the everyday personality?

As you know, I've always allowed myself as much freedom as possible in leaving the question open as to whether I'm a philosopher or a writer, but now you're forcing me into a corner. Since I ultimately speak as a philosopher and cannot envelop myself in artistic silence, I'll thus have to admit it: You're right. The beginning of the trilogy has an esoteric aspect, assuming that we understand the expression correctly. With its nearly seven hundred pages, Bubbles provides an excessive theory of pairs, a theory based on a fundamental irony. While everyday thought is firmly convinced it knows everything about pairs�namely, that they are the result of adding one plus one (biographically speaking, this means the effect of an "encounter")�I undertake the experiment to demonstrate to what extent the "being-a-pair" [Paar-Sein] precedes all encounters. In my pair analysis, the number two, or the dyad, appears as the absolute figure, the pure bipolar form. Accordingly, it always takes precedence over the two single units of which it seems to be "put together." This can be most easily demonstrated in the relationship between mother and child�or, even better, between fetus and placenta. With this we enter the terrain of a radicalized philosophical psychology that departs from the general faith in the priority of individuality. The truly esoteric is not found in the books on sale at the airport bookstore; it is depth psychology, which reminds us of pre-individual, pre-subjective, pre-egoistical conditions. This brings me very close to Lacan, who spoke occasionally of the "democratic esotericism" of psychoanalysis. And you can see what zones we enter in my book's relatively scandalous chapters on "negative gynecology" and prenatal existence in the womb�I completely understand why some readers have perceived this as macabre.

The second volume develops the public and political consequences of these basic assumptions; in this sense, it could be described as the exoteric component of the project. It examines the notion that older cultures have imagined the world primarily as a spirit-infused circle. I tried to show in Globes how the geometricization of the cosmos was first carried out by the Greeks; after that I reconstructed the geometricization of God under the neo-Platonic philosophers, which gave me the feeling of reopening one of the most exciting chapters in the history of ideas. Out of all this resulted, as if by itself, a philosophical history of globalization: First the universe was globalized with the help of geometry, then the earth was globalized with the help of capital.

Finally, in the third volume of Spheres, I have thematized the modern world in terms of a theory of spatial multiplicities. I begin with the idea that the world is not structured monospherically and all-communicatively, as the classical holists thought, but rather polyspherically and interidiotically. At the center of this volume is an immunological theory of architecture, because I maintain that houses are built immune systems. I thus provide on the one hand an interpretation of modern habitat, and on the other a new view of the mass container. But when I highlight the apartment and the sports stadium as the most important architectural innovations of the modern, it isn't out of art- or cultural-historical interest. Instead my aim is to give a new account of the history of atmospheres, and in my view, the apartment and the sports stadium are important primarily as atmospheric installations. They play a central role in the development of abundance, which defines the open secret of the modern. The praise of luxury with which the book ends is, in my opinion, the decisive act in terms of diagnosing the present.

BF: Especially in the third volume, you develop nothing less than a new, up-to-date terminology of critical theory by which you historically contextualize and delimit terms from the Frankfurt School. A far-reaching critique of the contemporary reception of critical theory's inheritance runs through the book. In particular, you criticize what you view as the misleading interpretation of this tradition by the American academy, leading you to rehearse the conceptual history and historical situating of terms such as revolution and society. Can you summarize what this critique consists of and why you think that an entirely new vocabulary needs to be invented?

PS: The reason a new vocabulary is necessary in the cultural sciences can be explained in seven simple words: because the old one is basically useless. And why? Because all previous natural languages, including theoretical discourse, were developed for a world of weight and solid substances. They are thus incapable of expressing the experiences of a world of lightness and relations. Consequently they are not suited to articulate the basic experiences of the modern and the postmodern, which construct a world based on mobilization and the easing of burdens. This already allows me to explain why, in my view, the critical theory of the Frankfurt School is outdated and must be replaced by a completely different discourse: Because of their Marxist heritage, critical theorists succumb to the realistic temptation of interpreting the light as appearance and the heavy as essence. Therefore they practice criticism in the old style in that they "expose" the lightness of appearance in the name of the heaviness of the real. In reality, I think that it is through the occurrence of abundance in the modern that the heavy has turned into appearance�and the "essential" now dwells in lightness, in the air, in the atmosphere. As soon as this is understood, the conditions of "criticism" change dramatically. Marx argued that all criticism begins with the critique of religion; I would say instead that all criticism begins with the critique of gravity. In addition, we can recognize that European "critical theory" did not survive the trip across the Atlantic unscathed. The authentic critical theory "at home" was, above all, a kind of secret theology: It treated the failures of creation (aka society) and criticized reality in the (unnamed) name of the infinite. This approach was so cleverly encoded that American sociologists and literary critics could argue unchallenged that they were reading a plea for a multicultural society.

BF: Your use of images, idiosyncratic for books of philosophy, recalls contemporaries in the German-speaking realm such as Alexander Kluge, Klaus Theweleit, and to a certain extent W.G. Sebald. The images are used not as illustrations but as parallel narratives. Could one also consider Walter Benjamin's Arcades Project as a historical model that likewise includes an extensive image section? The question of your reference to The Arcades Project suggests itself because this book also presents a widely diverse examination of spaces and atmospheres that have marked the contemporary moment. Is it fair to say that, in a way, your examinations of the stadium and the apartment house of the twentieth century are continuing Benjamin's studies of the emerging modern era's spatial conception and the arcades?

PS: The inclusion of images in the flow of the text is my answer to the transformation of spatial consciousness in modern theory. Considered in terms of media history, I no longer write my philosophical prose on the page of a book but on a monitor page�that is, virtually, in hypertext space. The monitor space is a close relation of the modern exhibition space, a kind of electronic white cube. When you work there, it is logical that you imagine a second and third text "next to" the verbal text, and this is exactly what authors who work with visual parallel-narratives are doing.

The reference to Walter Benjamin is absolutely necessary in this context, and I'm pleased that you've brought up his name. However, I must admit that my relationship to Benjamin is not simple. On the one hand, his Arcades Project is utterly exemplary for today's cultural theory because it already anticipates almost everything that was to become important later�the passion for the archive; the "micrological" examination of the detail; media theory; discourse analysis; and the search for a sovereign viewpoint from which one can grasp the capitalistic totality. On the other hand, I'm convinced that Benjamin's work reaches a dead end and that he failed as a theorist. In my forthcoming book, Im Weltinnenraum des Kapitals: FY�r eine philosophische Theorie der Globalisierung (Inside the Internal Space of World Capital: For a Philosophical Theory of Globalization, 2005), you'll find a critique of Benjaminism that leads to a pretty devastating result. I accuse Benjamin of not really understanding, and thus only halfheartedly following, his own superb ideas around the creation of new interiors through capitalism. Even worse for me is the fact that he placed the historically outdated architectural type of the arcade at the center of this analysis, although already by his time it couldn't be ignored that the capitalistic interior had long since moved beyond the arcade stage. Sports stadiums, convention centers, large hotels, and resorts would have been far more worthy of Benjamin's attention. The whole idea of wanting to write an "ur-history of the nineteenth century" rests on a misconception. Thus I suggest examining the capitalistic interiors on their own relevant terms, which leads, consequently, to a theory of foam. What we need today is an "air-conditioning project" for large social entities or a generalized "greenhouse project." I think that in Spheres III one can already partly recognize what the beginnings of such a post-Benjaminian treatment of the pluralized spatial creations of the modern and postmodern might look like.

BF: Another post-Benjaminian book is Negri and Hardt's Empire. In the third volume of Spheres, you criticize these authors' approach, which rests on the term multitude. To what extent, in your opinion, is their investigation a failed effort?

PS: Let's first talk about Negri and Hardt's success: They have managed to give the current desire for radicality a novum organum, an accomplishment that deserves admiration. At the same time, I suspect that the secret behind the book's great success can be ascribed to its thinly veiled religious tones. At first one doesn't easily recognize the good old-left radicalism when Saint Francis takes the stage next to Marx and Deleuze. But this new alliance with the saints is instructive for the position of left radicalism in the post-Marxist situation. Whoever wants to practice fundamental opposition today needs allies who are not entirely of this world. In order to grasp the awkward situation of left radicalism, one should recall Leon Festinger's theory of cognitive dissonance. According to Festinger, ideologies that no longer match circumstances are reinterpreted by their believers until they appear to match them again�with the unavoidable result that theories become increasingly bizarre. Gershom Scholem clarified something similar in relation to the fate of Jewish prophetism. The gist of what he says is this: When prophetism fails, apocalypticism emerges; when apocalypticism fails, gnosis emerges. An analogous escalation can be observed in the political opposition movements since 1789: When the bourgeois revolution fails or is insufficient, left radicalism emerges; when left radicalism fails or is insufficient, the mystique of protest emerges. It seems to me that Negri has arrived at exactly this point. His "multitude" calls forth a community of angry saints in which the fire of pure opposition burns�yet it no longer offers a revolutionary project, instead testifying by its mere existence to a world counter to universal capitalism. Thus one cannot simply say that Negri's framework failed�it has already incorporated his failure. Perhaps it would be more accurate to claim that the political revolutionary has become transformed into a spiritual teacher. This is the price to be paid by anyone who seriously tries to develop a language of the left beyond resentment.


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I'm just beginning this book, but already I must say the prologue to it is a thing of beauty. And relevant to our reflections in the forum. The whole prologue is a meditation on a mosaic from Torre Annunziata, which depicts a group of Greek philosophers on the outskirts of town, circled around and contemplating a sphere. I can't do justice to Sloterdijk's poetic reflections in a short summary, but in essence what he wants to demonstrate is the tremendous impact of the dawning of our understanding of being in spheric terms -- the superabundant orb of being, for which there is no outside, in which we are all caught up in inescapable intimacy. Sloterdijk traces our modern phase of globalization (and the emergence of worldcentric morality) back to the advent -- the pentecost, he says -- of this insight. It is an all-shaping insight which demands optimism, enthusiasm, from anyone who grasps its import; our participation in the supercompleteness of being, in the fullness of the divine orb, renders each of us a local occasion of its grace, a child or bodying-forth of the One, and serious thought after this point is analysis lit by praise, a critical euphoria, an exact(ing) optimism. This is, of course, ontology as onto-theology. Sloterdijk, in his third book in this series, will chart a path beyond both onto-theology and the post/modern 'critical' turn that followed it (in which the default philosophical position is critique, and the only fact to be celebrated is our incompleteness and deficiency), but I appreciate here his pausing to meditate on the individual- and world-transformative event of the dawning of spheric being (the contemplative, aesthetic, and affective tones of which we can still find and experience, in living form, in traditions such as Dzogchen, Mahamudra, Shaivism, etc).

Here is the mosaic:


B, as a momentary take-away, here, sweet thoughts and mosaic fineness.

Balder said:

I'm just beginning this book, but already I must say the prologue to it is a thing of beauty. And relevant to our reflections in the forum. The whole prologue is a meditation on a mosaic from Torre Annunziata, which depicts a group of Greek philosophers on the outskirts of town, circled around and contemplating a sphere. I can't do justice to Sloterdijk's poetic reflections in a short summary, but in essence what he wants to demonstrate is the tremendous impact of the dawning of our understanding of being in spheric terms -- the superabundant orb of being, for which there is no outside, in which we are all caught up in inescapable intimacy. Sloterdijk traces our modern phase of globalization (and the emergence of worldcentric morality) back to the advent -- the pentecost, he says -- of this insight. It is an all-shaping insight which demands optimism, enthusiasm, from anyone who grasps its import; our participation in the supercompleteness of being, in the fullness of the divine orb, renders each of us a local occasion of its grace, a child or bodying-forth of the One, and serious thought after this point is analysis lit by praise, a critical euphoria, an exact(ing) optimism. This is, of course, ontology as onto-theology. Sloterdijk, in his third book in this series, will chart a path beyond both onto-theology and the post/modern 'critical' turn that followed it (in which the default philosophical position is critique, and the only fact to be celebrated is our incompleteness and deficiency), but I appreciate here his pausing to meditate on the individual- and world-transformative event of the dawning of spheric being (the contemplative, aesthetic, and affective tones of which we can still find and experience, in living form, in traditions such as Dzogchen, Mahamudra, Shaivism, etc).

Here is the mosaic:



I've just been skimming through this thread for the first time. I am intrigued by your ideas on enclosure and disenclosure in relation to autopoiesis.  I don't have access to your paper that you reference - can you say more about this process?  This seems to relate to some ideas I've been exploring for my paper in relation to PatternDynamics. 

Would it be fair to say that autopoiesis can lead to the creation of generative enclosures, which could be considered equivalent to Kosmic Habits or Dynamic Patterns, or Spheres/Bubbles?  

And that these dynamic patterns, or generative enclosures, or bubbles then at some point break apart into a disenclosure, or void, where this void is a field of potential for yet another venturing forth with a pulse of energy?

Balder said:

I was asked recently by Sean Esbjorn-Hargens to share some of my thoughts on Integral, OOO, and Sloterdijk's sphereology with one of his colleagues (who is a Deleuzian and Integralist, apparently, interested also in translineage spirituality, among other things).  Here's an excerpt from my letter, which summarizes some of my current thinking on this topic.

My work on the interface of Integral Theory, OOO, and Sloterdijk's sphereology is still in the exploratory phase, so I do not have a piece of writing I'm ready to share with anyone yet, but I'm happy to talk with you about some of my ideas in this area, current streams of inquiry, etc.  I'm not sure what your familiarity with either OOO or Sloterdijk is, and I don't want to bore you with unnecessary introductory remarks if you are already familiar with them, so I'll just start making a few cursory remarks about the basic strands of my project and will be happy to discuss things in more detail in subsequent emails if you would like. 

I became interested in Sloterdijk's work on sphereology after noticing the resonance between his ideas (in an essay I came across online) and several concepts I explored in my most recent paper (attached).  Through recent reflections on OOO's expanded conception of "object" in the context of my ongoing interest in integral enactive theory, autopoiesis and autopoietic closure, etc, I started thinking about holons or objects in enactive terms as "generative (en)closures."  (As a brief background aside, OOO argues that all objects contain an irreducible, withdrawn substance, variously conceived by different OOO philosophers.  From my conceptual stance as an Integral postmetaphysical theorist, I am not entirely comfortable with some aspects of this new substance-thinking and feel fairly certain that the "withdrawal" of objects OOO philosophers seek can be found in autopoietic closure itself, without having to posit any fixed or hidden substance beyond this).  But back to the notion of "generative (en)closures":  as you will see in the attached paper, I attempt to (begin to) think this concept in relation to several perspectives, namely holonic, autopoietic-enactive, phenomenological, and ontological (the latter, especially, in relation to Jean-Luc Nancy's notion of being singular plural or Latour's principle of irreduction).  I believe Nancy's being singular plural, realized in an integral holonic model or a theory of objects, is quite consonant with, or can give support to, Sean's concept of the "multiple object."  From an OOO perspective, the concept of multiple object, if interpreted primarily or exclusively in a perspectivist or correlationist fashion (which might equate the being of objects with their perspectival manifestations), might be seen to veer too far in the direction of an object-undermining, non-realist idealism, but this can be mitigated (I will argue in a paper I'm working on now) by following something like OOO's and/or Bhaskar's transcendental realism (which identifies the "reality" of an object as the irreducibility of any object to any particular perspectival manifestation or set or sum of perspectival manifestations of the object.)  Levi Bryant's work is particularly helpful in this regard, integrating as it does the work of Bhaskar, Niklas Luhmann, Deleuze, Lacan, and others.

To relate this to Sloterdijk: as I was thinking about and developing the above ideas, I came across Sloterdijk's Spheres trilogy.  I have only read the first book so far, as the other two have yet to be translated into English, so for the latter two, I am at this point relying on various published summaries and discussions of these works.  Sloterdijk's work, like OOO philosopher Graham Harman's, is a post-Heideggerian philosophy.  In Sloterdijk's case, he attempts to develop a philosophy of Space to complement Heidegger's prior focus on Time.  Reading Sloterdijk's work, particularly in his book, Bubbles, I found a natural affinity between some of the concepts I was developing in relation to generative (en)closure and disenclosure (briefly discussed in my attached paper) and Sloterdijk's sphereological model of dyadic bubbles, mythic-metaphysical globes or monospheres, and (post)postmodern multiplistic, multi-focal foams.  Sloterdijk proposes the latter as the most suitable topology for our age.  As with Nancy (or others), Sloterdijk argues for a kind of plurisingularity: here, seeing intimacy and relationality at the heart of any sphere formation, with any agency understood as always already agency-in-communion.  Sloterdijk's spheres are sorts of generative (en)closures, being both enacted products and generative topologies.  Sloterdijk proposes "sphere" as a fundamental philosophical concept, "with topological, anthropological, immunological and semiotic aspects" (as Rouanet summarizes his work).  With the help of Integral theory's categories of thought, I would like to extend sphereological thinking to other domains as well, and am exploring how the concepts of "sphere" and "holon" (and perhaps also the OOO-ian "object") can complement and inform one other.

As an example, Sloterdijk describes multiple topoi or enacted sphereological spaces, related to various embodied actions or interfaces:  the chirotop, or the topos enacted by performances-in-the-world of the human hand; the phonotop, or the topos enacted by vocal performances; the uterotop, empathic spheres that start with and progressively expand from maternal care; the alethotop, or lineages as guardians and enactors of particular knowledge forms; etc.  Each of these topoi are generative (en)closures of sorts, to use my terminology, which can easily be related (in my opinion) to, and also supplemented by, an Integral Methodological Pluralist model, so I am in the midst of working that out.  I also see a consonance between some of his descriptions and the enactive-phenomenological work of David Michael Levin, who meditates in turn (in his various books) on the phenomenological, spiritual, and political-sociological spaces brought forth by performances of the body, vision, hearing, voice, gesture, etc.  So, this is something else I intend to develop and bring forth in one of several papers in the works.

In broad overview, then, Sloterdijk describes a progressive-developmental history of human culture and psyche as the enaction of different types of sphereological spaces, and provides an (Integral postmetaphysically useful) account of the development and inevitable collapse of the metaphysical monosphere and the emergence of a more Deleuzian or Integral pluralistic topology; and philosophically, I believe he introduces concepts which can enrich Integral enactive and holonic theories.  I find these ideas useful for extending and further fleshing out my thoughts on translineage practice, for instance, but also for extending Integral thinking as a whole.  So, that's the general thrust of my present work.

Ambo, thank you for listening, and for "tuning in" to the feeling-space of my post.

David, yes, your understanding is correct -- and I agree it would be fruitful to connect this to Tim's pattern dynamics (I look forward to reading your paper).  I'd almost want to put it more strongly -- that autopoiesis is the creation (and maintenance) of a generative (en)closure -- but I think it's also likely possible to create them allopoietically.  I'm attaching below a copy of the paper that I reference in the letter you quoted.


Many thanks Balder for the attachment! Yes, perhaps I need to make a distinction by employing the "allopoietic" term as well.  Here's an excerpt of what I wrote the other day, before reading about sphereologoy or (en)closure/dis-enclosure. All caps indicate a Pattern identified by PD. I'm open to any comments/critiques.  I reference Prigogine, where it seems to me "dissipative structure" combines both (en)closure and dis-enclosure into one term that includes them both?

"...With the POWER made available by the energy flow, a system is able to CREATIVELY interact with and adapt to surrounding circumstances called AUTOPOIESIS: both to maintain its unique system of order and complexity (dancing with the constant tendency toward equilibrium, or entropy), and, when there is sufficient POWER, to participate in creative GROWTH and development.  Systems can be thought of as “dissipative structures” (Prigogine, ) which indicates a constant POLARITY of ongoing dissipation (entropy) at the same time as the ongoing creative building of new structure, in the eternal dance of EXPANSION/CONTRACTION, CONCENTRATION/DIFFUSION, ORDER/CHAOS.  

The process of AUTOPOIESIS produces one of the following outcomes: a) a creative variant on an existing PATTERN, b) a creative experiment that is so unique and particular that it is successful but never repeated, c) a creative experiment that is unsuccessful, or d) a creative experiment that is successful and can be replicated – a laying down of the first new groove of a new PATTERN.

“The role of Pattern is to provide successful templates of systemic design” (PD Level II Workbook).  Winton has commented that Patterns are restrictions on form, and that it is within restrictions that order is created.

Being that all things are in relationship, Winton explains that the creation of Patterns is about the dynamics of how elements connect and order and complexify through a flow of energy. Autopoiesis is “the capacity to exist and create and flourish and maintain forms into certain patterns of existence that are repeated, curiously driven by the energetic winding up.” (Winton, Source lecture).

“The cosmological story has gotten to the point where we have Energy which is the Resource, which drives all Transformations of complexification that increase Power (work rate) and the ability to hold a niche and evolve into new niches, and then the Autopoetic process – we’re showing different aspects of how Source functions to make Patterned Order, or “things” in the universe system.” (Winton, Source lecture).

At the same time as all of the winding up of complexity and Patterned Order, it is to be remembered that a quantity of energy is being dissipated in each step of every process, all being carried back to Source. Every Pulse has a downslope that follows after the upslope; every expansion is followed by a contraction; a dispersion after every concentration; chaos with every building of order. All Patterns simplify even as they complexify – “in the end, everything is simple,” as Jean Gebser noted in his last days, and as George Harrison sang, “All things must pass.” And so Patterns eventually de-complexify back into the VOID, where the CYCLE can begin anew.  

The VOID is “the field of potential from which the Patterns of order emerge.” (Winton, Source lecture). And so we see that Patterns emerge not solely from the creative power of the system alone, but really are co-created by the field of potential in which the system resides in relationship to Source."

David, thanks for sharing this excerpt; it reminds me of what I already know, but have not heeded yet: that I will likely benefit from a deeper exploration of Winton's PD!  Yes, I agree, Prigogine's "dissipative structure" does include (and coordinate) both (en)closure and dis-enclosure in a single concept -- and autopoietic and complex systems models are both views I had in mind when discussing generative (en)closures.  (Autopoietic systems being simultaneously open and closed.) In the paper I uploaded for you, I also referenced Gendlin's (more phenomenologically framed) body-constituting process, but in further work I will make more formal attempts to relate this to Sloterdijk's spherology and Winton's PD.  It looks like the ideas you are developing will be informative, too, so I look forward to reading your paper when it is done, and maybe talking further together about this.

Thanks Balder.  Yes, I read the last section of your paper, and I also found the Magic Circles, Generative Enclosures and Kosmic Foam thread, and the youtube video presentation you gave.  Very good, I enjoyed it a lot, and I hope you eventually have a part 2.

My wife has a copy of Gendlin's book "Focusing." Does this book cover the territory you're speaking of? It looks promising.

Hi David and Bruce - I just watched the presentation again and got more from it. Yes, our, I'll emphacize my, phenomena can be easily felt/imagined/reported as a bubble of our subjective experience. I like the visual of transitionary moments of rupture, maybe before one perceives, reinhabits, reconjures, reacknowledges another generative enclosure.

I like the overlapping of spheres image that corresponds with the always dyadic description and the being-as-singular-plural, though visually the two dimensions of the recently mentioned Venn diagrams of which we are so familiar has one advantage - we don't imagine that when two bubbles meet or collide everything ruptures totally and disperses in fully disorienting ways.

Much good/fun play of metaphor in this bubble, egg, generative enclosure introduction.

DavidM58 said:

Thanks Balder.  Yes, I read the last section of your paper, and I also found the Magic Circles, Generative Enclosures and Kosmic Foam thread, and the youtube video presentation you gave.  Very good, I enjoyed it a lot, and I hope you eventually have a part 2.

My wife has a copy of Gendlin's book "Focusing." Does this book cover the territory you're speaking of? It looks promising.


Given that Sloterdijk is bringing emphasis to space, as opposed to time, and given your concept of disenclosure, I'm wondering if he discusses the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics in this context.

A thought occurred to me in the middle of the night recently.  Odum's concept of the Maximum Power Principle ("the mechanism that drives all modern economies to become sophisticated machines for processing mass and energy") as a proposed 4th Law of Thermodynamics (as discussed in Winton's 2013 paper), was initially introduced with the interesting title of "Time's Speed Regulator" (Odum and Pinkerton, 1955). Odum and Pinkerton were referring to the fact that maximum power was obtained by systems not at the slowest, most efficient speed, nor at the fastest, least efficient speed, but somewhere roughly in the middle: "The Optimum Efficiency for Maximum Power Output in Physical and Biological Systems." 

My thought was that the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics could use a similar descriptive phrase, such as "Space's Girth Regulator."

The size of bubbles (stock market or otherwise) should not and cannot grow infinitely, so they need to be regulated by the 2nd Law, a mechanism that Stanley Salthe (2010) refers to as the Maximum Entropy Production Principle.

One of the things I'm attempting to do is bring balance to the polarity between these two laws. The tendency is to choose to emphasize one over the other, but there could be much gained by simply seeing them as a polarity that needs to be brought into balance.

Even your wording of generative (en)closure and disenclosure seems to imply that enclosure is generative and disenclosure is degenerative. That is clearly not the case however, as you write in your paper:

Dis-enclosure is the marker of the generativity of death in the evolutionary unfolding of our being-together. The gifts of death are many, as Michael Dowd (2009) reminds us: it not only seeds and clears the way for new form, as in the kenosis of a supernova; it is generatively enfolded into the very form(s) we take—in the daily dis/enclosure of cells which is our living. (Alderman, 2012)

I would like to emphasize this aspect, that (en)closure can be both generative and degenerative, and dis-enclosure also can be both generative and degenerative.  I believe they are always both, but to different degrees. For example, in my comment earlier in the thread I mentioned Winton's comment that any Patterns (enclosures) that are formed are in a very real sense restrictions on form; this is a form of contraction; and by the same token, any dis-enclosure, or popping of bubbles represents an expansion or a release, opening up to a wider range of possibility.

Hi, David, I'm not recalling much discussion (yet) in Sloterdijk of the 2nd Law; I will get out his "Globes" book to take a peek ahead.  But I think he would certainly agree with your notion of (the need for) the "Space Girth Regulator," arguing as he does that imperial monospheres have tended to collapse once they expand beyond a manageable size.

I agree, also, that the pairing of generative (en)closure and disenclosure (unintentionally) can give the impression that disenclosure is degenerative ... which is not the case.  In my discussion with LP above, I proposed the term, degenerative (en)closure to clarify that (en)closure in this context is not always intended to indicate something generative; and the same would go for disenclosure -- it could be either, or both at once.

Cool to find this comment from 2012, relating Expansion/Contraction to Sloterdijk's spherology, which had already occurred to me.  It turns out my ITC paper has taken an unexpected turn to focus on this Pattern, and seeing this comment feels like a re-enforcement.

My biggest inspiration on Expansion/Contraction is probably Shinzen Young's teachings on Impermanence from his Science of Enlightenment series.  Here's a link (Dropbox) to an 8 minute excerpt on "The Effortless Flow of Nature." He provides an interesting metaphor with alka-seltzer tablets - the hard tablets represent our congealed selves, but when put in water the vibratory movement continues to loosen more and more of the congealed self, and the "bubbles" represent letting go of resistance to the effortless flow of nature.

Dial said:

Yes, I like the idea of conceiving of spherological formation via expansion and contraction -- which is reminiscent, to me, not only of Zen teachings, but also of the Time-Space-Knowledge teachings of Tarthang Tulku.  Which is perhaps appropriate, as Sloterdijk's work is essentially a meditation on "space" intended to complement and extend Heidegger's meditations on "time."

That sounds interesting. Do you think that the Time-Space-Knowledge teachings are such that one can find them directly in everyday lived experience?

The idea that I had been playing with in my paper (that inspired me to begin investigating Sloterdijk's work) was the polar notion of enclosure/disenclosure, the former related to the formation and embodiment of autopoietic systems or holons (individual and social, following the work of Varela, Gendlin, and others), the latter related to kenosis, the self-emptying or auto-deconstruction of holons (here, taking a cue from Nancy's work).  Sloterdijk's "bubble" metaphor is apt, since we all expect bubbles eventually to pop.

Yes, this is what I had in mind with expansion and contraction - expansion the creative production of difference/newness/objects, contraction the dissolution of the same. Although, I'm not sure it's quite that simple when experienced more closely. My experience with meditation on expansion/contraction is that each always already contains the other: contraction within expansion, expansion within contraction. Which is to say, the break-down of one form is at one and the same moment the birth into another - there is a constant flow. Originally, I experienced the relationship as some sort of becoming yin/yang. While that is not inaccurate, my mind is beginning to see/intuit the relationship, somewhat differently, as one that curves back upon itself. I cannot see this too clearly and my non-existent grasp of the physics/mathematics of curved space time is not up to trying to model it by those means. Perhaps it will make itself more apparent in time.

Concerning the irregular "foam" metaphor, one thing I think of is Harman's suggestion that, while objects might be bottomless, they are not necessarily contained in an infinite array of larger objects - that there may be an upper "limit" at any given time, such that we can image a kind of a bottomless sea of objects with an irregular upper-level surface.  I'm not sure I buy this, but I think it's worth exploring.  I'm also thinking of Harman's and Bryant's suggestion that any relation between objects can also be considered an object.  I'm wondering if Sloterdijk's spheres or bubbles might be a useful way of visualizing and/or languaging this.

My speculative notion is that all is immanent - one flat ontology - and the expansion and contraction of what is happens according to reality curving back upon itself as already suggested. The model is one of different densities contained within one one materia, surely? The dissolution is a falling away of forms in 'degradation', then on into less dense forms of energy. Expansion, in its turn is the birthing of forms out of these less dense forms of energy. And there is also the becoming aspect of the universe to factor in – its ‘teleology’. Is the ‘final’ state of this model a perfectly balanced sphere in form? – one that is both in constant productive play and perfect still poise? Of course, that is always already the case, and the movement is to ever fuller manifestation. I know this sort of talk is rather old school Integral in Post Metaphysical circles, and out of favor, but it works for me to see the world as always already formed at more subtle levels of existence and that form becoming ever more expressed. Embodiment, after all, is in both time and space. And the pulse of expansion/contraction is producing an ever fuller world.

The limit of science of course, is the limit of its tools to experience (aka 'measure’) and hence model the less dense forms of energy existing. Coming back to Harman for a moment, he has suggested that metaphor rules – even in science. One might say, then, that the limits of science are contained in the limits of its metaphors. And the limits of its metaphors bound to the limits of its means to explore reality. Whereas Eckhart, Dogen  -and you and I – actually have a more sophisticated method of experience and measurement at our disposal. Well, perhaps not at our ‘disposal’, but there to be cultivated, to the degree we are able/desire.

Physics speak of the curvature of space and time; I wonder, can Sloterdijk's model of the sphere and bubbles be worked into a physical model which curves back upon itself? What commonalities are there between the physics of foam and the physics of time and space as found in contemporary physics? I would be surprised if Sloterdijk doesn't discuss this at some point.


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What paths lie ahead for religion and spirituality in the 21st Century? How might the insights of modernity and post-modernity impact and inform humanity's ancient wisdom traditions? How are we to enact, together, new spiritual visions – independently, or within our respective traditions – that can respond adequately to the challenges of our times?

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