Response: Patricia Pisters’ Sign of Time/Neuroimage


It was a great pleasure to welcome Professor Patricia Pisters, here is the response to Professor Patricia Pisters’ workshop on Neuro-Image and Deleuze’ third synthesis of time, 15 October 2013 at Leuphana Universität

  1. The Question of Sign

Lets start with the title of the chapter “Sign of Time”. If time gives us a sign, what kind of sign it is? One such as a road sign that gives us direction? What kind of meaning does this sign give us? The conceptualisation of the sign of time immediately gives a materiality of time, as a sign, as an indication. In the first investigation of Logische Untersuchungen, Husserl gave us a distinction between indication or sign and expression.

For Husserl, a sign doesn’t have meaning. The road sign has significance for us, but it doesn’t necessarily have meaning. Husserl is trying to distinguish himself from Hume’s association of ideas. Hume’s association for Husserl is too passive since the synthesis of sense data is based on a unifying mechanism which Hume himself felt unable to explain. Expression, on the other hand, is for Husserl all about meaning, so he says ‘expressions function meaningfully even in isolated mental life, where they no longer serve to indicate anything.’ In the signification of signs, association according to Hume is based on three relations: causality, contiguity and resemblance. The subject is passive to the signification, so that it doesn’t even involve any intentional investigation.Husserl’s approach is nevertheless situated as a response to Hume’s metaphysics, also even in the early Husserl, he disagrees with dominant mathematicians like von Helmhotz and Kronecker, because for them cardinal numbers are mere signs and arithmetic is a game with ‘meaningless’ signs.

This distinguishes the first synthesis of time of Deleuze, and a second synthesis of time, while Deleuze chose Bergson instead of Husserl, this also set up a difference between phenomenological approach to time and that of Bergson’s. This was already mentioned in Husserl’s 1905 lecture – edited by Martin Heidegger under the title Vorlesungen zur Phänomenologie des inneren Zeitbewusstseins (Lectures on Inner-Time Consciousness), that his investigation is different from Bergson’s, time of consciousness vis-a-vis consciousness of time. Husserl set out a new system of describing time namely primary retention (impression), secondary retention (memory) and protention (future), and we know that Bernard Stiegler developed his notion of the tertiary retention from there. The two different approaches to human cognition gives us different interpretation of materiality of time. And here I would like to propose two other materialities of time in order to engage with Deleuze’s three synthesis of time: firstly the materiality of mental image; secondly the material support of time as such.

  1. The Question of Image

In his 1939 essay Die Zeit des Weltbildes, Heidegger wrote “the fundamental event of the modern age is the conquest of the world as picture. The word ‘picture’ (Bild) now means the structured image (Gebild) that is the creature of man’s producing which represents and sets before”.

Heidegger proposes the crisis of european science or european culture, in which the world is conceived as a picture under contemplation. A picture represented in the mind, becomes the intuition of understanding the world: how it can be developed, exploited. Heidegger discovers a new configuration of Husserl’s categorial institution [Kategoriale Anschauungen], which consists chapter 6 of the Zweiter Abschnitt of second volume of Logische Untersuchungen. In this change of the settings, we can probably identify the plasticity of the mind in related to the episteme of categories. 75 years after the appearance of the essay, we could find that the new image is formed, a new intuition of the world image is present in our everyday life, normalized and legitimized by the image of networks, or to speak with Patricia Pisters, the neuro-image. Analysing Michael Clayton (2007), Patricia Pisters wrote “Arthur Edens, delirious and intelligent, caught up in the vortex of the contemporary urban cityscape full of networked electronic and digital screens—screens that are themselves always already connected to assem- blages of power, capital, and transnational movements of peoples, goods, and information—is a typical character in a new type of cinema belong- ing to twenty-first-century globalized screen culture that I want to explore in this book and that I will describe as “the neuro-image.”

If we speak here with Deleuze, we are already at the age of rhizome, instead of trees, of rigid representation, of ruthless ontologies, we are the believers of chaos theory, of folds. Deleuze’s thoughts of the becoming of the world is our contemporaries, that doesn’t simply mean a success of a philosophical speculation, but also a stake of being the new paradigm of the world image. This new image is projected in all interpretations, also the condition and the actualisation of the brain as a cinema of multiple sources, multiple screens. If we try to tackle Heidegger’s question again, how are we going to imply the politics of this neuro-image, that becomes the general intuition of the world? To what extent is this new image going to tell us about living, acting, existence?

  1. The Question of Mnenotechnics

The thirdly materiality concerns the question of support if we follow Derrida here. If we follow Deleuze’s three synthesis again. Firstly the synthesis of time as habitude, formed by being the same or resemblance; secondly the synthesis of time as mnénosyne, as passive becoming of the pure passed; the third synthesis of time as eternal recurrence. In these three synthesis of time, we can identify that Deleuze moves from Hume to Bergson and then to Nietzsche, from the passivity of the first synthesis to the second synthesis which can be both active and passive, and finally to the third that concerns autonomy. In this conception of autonomy, there is no origin or source, no coherence, but only consistence, a consistences produced by the resemblance of differences.

I would propose firstly that these three synthesis demand different mnénotechnics a) one of gesture – as described by André Leroi-Gourhan; b) exteriorized memory that gives us the second active synthesis of time, or traces according to Jacque Derrida, or tertiary retention according to Bernard Stiegler; c)the networked memory that traverse all personal and institutional level such as Alain Resnais described in Toute la Memoire du Monde, which is  fundamentally related to the digital. I recall here in an interview with Alain Resnais, when being asked if the cinema is dead, alive or going to be reborn, Resnais says the cinema will continue like a flow, a river, a metaphor such as the flux of consciousness. Instead Pisters suggested a rebirth of cinema as she stated by the end of the chapter The Sign of Time: “The third synthesis of time relates explicitly to the cosmic. With the neuro-image cinema has perhaps died, indeed, but only to return in a new way in the digital age.” The future cease to be the future, but the past retained in mneotechnics, as we have already briefly mentioned yesterday about big data, metadada.

Secondly I will suggest that the three synthesis of time are not separated, instead they always overlaps and creating circuits and cycle of each other. Gilbert Simondon has addressed this question systematically in his lecture Imagination et Invention, where perception, memory-image (where he picked up Bergson), symbol constitutes cycles of invention. This circuits constitutes both a field of individuation of the biopsychic life in Deleuze’ own words, as well as a force of the will that traverse the limitations imposed by the need of coherence and causalities. Within the new technological condition, we are witnessing the amplification process of the circuits of synthesis of time. But this third synthesis in which the future is aways happening now, and the presence and the past becomes two dimensions of the future, is succumbed to the materiality of the phenomenons and practices. The third synthesis of time joins the first synthesis of time and becomes a habitude, which as we said before the Husserlian concept of sign, and then Heidegger’s critique of the Weltbild. This new intuition serves as the filters and gives us the second synthesis of time with a new shape. That is to say, the autonomy promised by the third synthesis is no more than an illusion, since it is supported conceptually and materially by the network technologies, at the same time submits itself to the automation of technological apparatus – another passive synthesis par excellence.

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