Beever, J., Cisney, V. (2013) All Things in Mind. Panpsychist Elements in Spinoza, Deleuze, And...

ORIGINAL PAPER  All Things in Mind: Panpsychist Elements in Spinoza, Deleuze, and Peirce Jonath an Beever  & Vernon Cisney Received: 19 September 2012 /Accepted: 7 December 2012 /Published online: 1 March 2013 # Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013 Abstract  Benedict de Spinoza, C.S. Peirce, and Gilles Deleuze delineate a trajectory through the history of ideas in the dialogue about the potentials and limitations of  panpsychis m, the view that world is fundamentally made up of  mind . As a parallel trajec tor y to the pan psychi sm debate in contempor ary philosop hy of mind and cognitive psychology, this approach can inform and enrich the discussion of the role and scope of mind in the natural world. The philosophies of mind developed by Deleuze and Peirce are Spinozistic in their natural monism but move beyond Spinoza to explain mind as a part of the natural world in  semiotic  terms. Keywords  Peirce . Deleuze  . Spinoza . Panspychism . Mind Contemporary scientific research related to the question of mindedness in the 20th and 21st centuries, from animal behavior and ecological science to neurology and syn the tic bio log y , has, to its credit, de nie d even the bes t eff ort s to ontol ogi cal ly distinguish the human mind from the rest of the living world for the following reason: it see ms imposs ibl e to scientifically explai n how two radica lly distinct kinds of things, mind and matter, can interact. The denial of this very basic and deep-seated dual-view of the world is a project with implications for the origin of mind: if  mindedness is not the result of some fundamental differentiation of the human from the non-human, then we must find a way, accessible, reasonable, and coherent, to describe the scope and nature of mind. In the 20th and 21st centuries, a second approach developed in response to the scientific difficulties with ontological dualism. Biosemiotics (2013) 6:351   365 DOI 10.1007/s12304-013-9167-7 Special Issue  Origins of Mind edited by Liz Stillwaggon Swan and Andrew M. Winters J. Beever (*) Department of Philosophy, Purdue University, 100 N. University St., West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA e-mail: [email protected] V. Cisney Department of Philosophy, Gettysburg College, Campus Box 404, 300 N. Washington St., Gettysburg, PA 17325, USA e-mail: [email protected]

Transcript of Beever, J., Cisney, V. (2013) All Things in Mind. Panpsychist Elements in Spinoza, Deleuze, And...


    All Things in Mind: Panpsychist Elements in Spinoza,Deleuze, and Peirce

    Jonathan Beever & Vernon Cisney

    Received: 19 September 2012 /Accepted: 7 December 2012 /Published online: 1 March 2013# Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

    Abstract Benedict de Spinoza, C.S. Peirce, and Gilles Deleuze delineate a trajectorythrough the history of ideas in the dialogue about the potentials and limitations ofpanpsychism, the view that world is fundamentally made up of mind. As a paralleltrajectory to the panpsychism debate in contemporary philosophy of mind andcognitive psychology, this approach can inform and enrich the discussion of the roleand scope of mind in the natural world. The philosophies of mind developed byDeleuze and Peirce are Spinozistic in their natural monism but move beyond Spinozato explain mind as a part of the natural world in semiotic terms.

    Keywords Peirce . Deleuze . Spinoza . Panspychism .Mind

    Contemporary scientific research related to the question of mindedness in the 20thand 21st centuries, from animal behavior and ecological science to neurology andsynthetic biology, has, to its credit, denied even the best efforts to ontologicallydistinguish the human mind from the rest of the living world for the following reason:it seems impossible to scientifically explain how two radically distinct kinds ofthings, mind and matter, can interact. The denial of this very basic and deep-seateddual-view of the world is a project with implications for the origin of mind: ifmindedness is not the result of some fundamental differentiation of the human fromthe non-human, then we must find a way, accessible, reasonable, and coherent, todescribe the scope and nature of mind. In the 20th and 21st centuries, a secondapproach developed in response to the scientific difficulties with ontological dualism.

    Biosemiotics (2013) 6:351365DOI 10.1007/s12304-013-9167-7

    Special Issue Origins of Mind edited by Liz Stillwaggon Swan and Andrew M. Winters

    J. Beever (*)Department of Philosophy, Purdue University, 100 N. University St., West Lafayette, IN 47907, USAe-mail: [email protected]

    V. CisneyDepartment of Philosophy, Gettysburg College, Campus Box 404, 300 N. Washington St., Gettysburg,PA 17325, USAe-mail: [email protected]

  • Instead of positing two types of things, this second approach, often called physical-ism, reduces one to the other. We cannot see a mind, weigh a mind, evaluate a mind,in accordance with anything even remotely resembling the predictability and repeat-ability of the scientific method; only matter fits the bill for these criteria. But there isclearly something to which the term mind refers. Thus we are left asking how such anunnecessary illusion arose from inert matter and became causally efficacious. And tothis question we have, to date, no satisfying scientific reply.

    So if the dualistic route is forbidden to the scientifically-oriented and thereductivist route is incomplete and leaves aspects of mental life inexplicable, wemust open a new way to understanding both what mind is and what sorts of thingshave it. We claim that the best path available is to consider mind as a property of allthings in the natural world. Readers might very well balk at this claim, detecting theindications of a position known as panpsychism, the ancient and seemingly mysticalposition that minds are in and through everything that exists. On such a view,everything from human beings and nonhuman animals down to things like rocksand thermostats have minds. But, rest assured, the picture we shall paint is not sostrange as it may at first pass appear. Indeed, of late there has been a resurgence ofpanpsychism in contemporary analytic philosophy of mind.1 Our approach differsmethodologically in significant ways from these; but the basic idea, the mindednessof all things, is fundamentally similar. To paint our picture, we will draw from thetheories of mind of three perhaps unlikely partners: rationalist Benedict de Spinoza,French post-structuralist Gilles Deleuze, and American semiotician and grandfatherof pragmatism Charles Sanders Peirce. But before making clear the synergy betweenthese three thinkers, we need to clarify what we mean when we use concepts likebrain, mind, and consciousness. How are these concepts interrelated? By whatimmanent and scientific criteria are they differentiated?

    Brains, Minds, & Consciousness

    Both the reductivist and the dualist support a powerful intuition: there is somethingspecial about human beings that sets them apart from other living things, andsomething special about living things that sets them apart from inert objects. Mindsand consciousness are central to this intuition, despite their insufficiently explainedstatus and origins. Thus, most of the attempts to delineate the nature of and bound-aries between brains, minds, and consciousness have been focused upwards. Theybegin by assuming that consciousness is unique and special, then on the basis of thatassumption, ask: where did it come from, when, and why?

    Despite this contemporary prevalence of upward-oriented study, there has been arecent reemergence of downward-directed focus. This focus worries not so muchabout the emergence of higher-order consciousness but instead about the depth oflower-level mind. David Chalmers calls this direction panprotopsychism, or thephenomenal form of monism (2003 131), and argues that it promises a deeplyintegrated and elegant view of nature (Chalmers 2003 133). However, as he goes onto note, research along these lines is still in its youth. No-one has yet developed any

    1 For example, see Coleman 2012; Strawson 2006; Griffin 1998; Chalmers 1996, and McGinn 1991.

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  • sort of detailed theory in this class, and it is not yet clear whether such a theory can bedeveloped. But at the same time, there appear to be no strong reasons to reject theview. monism is likely to provide fertile grounds for further investigation, and itmay ultimately provide the best integration of the physical and the phenomenalwithin the natural world (ibid.).ibid. The downward directedness of this form ofmonism focuses our attention not on human uniqueness but on similarity between allnatural things. As such, it is more likely to accurately represent our best scientificunderstanding of the natural world, whichitself focuses on ecology or the interrelat-edness ofof the natural world. From Leibniz and Spinoza to Berkeley andSchopenhauer, the history of philosophical approaches to mind included numerous(although perhaps unpopular) panpsychist approaches. For the purposes of this paper,let us be clear about what we mean by mind: the ability to express, communicate, andinterpret, signs. This ability, we hold, extends to all physical beings. In what remainshere, we will try to historically orient and supplement this burgeoning body of workby focusing on the downward-directed approaches of Peirce and Deleuze that areboth beginning to gain traction as theories explaining mindedness along familiarSpinozistic lines.

    Spinoza and Lifes Striving

    We find ourselves in a foreign land when we step onto the soil of Spinoza, a system ofthought wherein god-intoxication is but a hairs breadth from full-blown atheism,where ethics has nothing to do with morality, and thought has little to do withconsciousness. It is perhaps his idiosyncratic nature, his status as an oddity in thetradition, that pushes many a philosopher to pay serious attention only to the first twoparts, the ontological bits of his Ethics titled, in order, Of God, and, Of the Mind.Philosophy anthologies often leave Spinoza out entirely, or include only the aspectsthat speak directly to the ontological issues of the early Modern period.2 Spinozas isa discussion not of external limitation, but of internal expansion, or in his own terms,the conatus, the striving of each thing to persevere. This striving, and the successthereof, is synonymous with the virtuous: The more each one strives, and is able, toseek his own advantage, that is, to preserve his being, the more he is endowed withvirtue; conversely, insofar as each one neglects his own advantage, that is, neglectsto preserve his being, he lacks power (de Spinoza 1994 210).

    Mind and Body: A Story of Parallelism

    It is this view of life that prioritizes the body for Spinoza. In its conatus the humanbody, itself a composite of extended bodies, by necessity comes into contact with ahost of other bodies, in various ways, for various reasons, under various circum-stances, to various endssome to its benefit, and some to its detriment. He writes,

    2 Steven Cahns canonical anthology, Classics of Western Philosophy, (Cahn 1997), now in its SeventhEdition, contains only parts I and II of The Ethics. In fairness to Cahn, however, any anthology is, by itsnature, selective, and these two parts take up more space than that allotted to either Descartes or Leibniz.

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  • The human body, to be preserved, requires a great many other bodies, by which it is,as it were, continually regenerated (de Spinoza 1994 128). Whenever I encounter abody that is agreeable to my nature, Spinoza says, it strengthens or empowers me (deSpinoza 1994 214), and likewise, when I encounter a body contrary to my nature, itcan tend toward my own decomposition. Thus, central for Spinoza is the emphasis onadequate understanding of the things with which I am in contact, for the purpose ofincreasing my bodys capacity for action. Yet, despite this emphasis on understandingand despite the traditional categorization of Spinozas being firmly in the camp of theso-called Continental Rationalists of the 17th century, this understanding is a farcry from the self-certitude of the Cartesian cogito, the self-contained guarantor ofclear and distinct perception. As stated just above, the body, in a sense, takes centerstage for Spinoza. The second part of the Ethics, the full title of which is, Of theNature and Origin of the Mind, begins, curiously enough, with a definition of body.Deleuze likes to cite Spinozas claim, For indeed, no one has yet determined whatthe body can do (de Spinoza 1994 155). We err grossly, however, if we assumethat Spinozas intention here is to merely invert a traditional hierarchy, instituting thebody as the dominator of the mind instead of dominated by it. Rather, it is toestablish the body as a model (Deleuze 2001 17). Spinoza invokes us to think thenature of thought itself in much larger terms than those to which we are accustomed.We love to talk of instances of consciousness and willing, and yet, the vast majorityof the bodys operations are entirely unknown to us. To speak of the mind working inparallel with the body itself is to point to a broader sense of thinking.

    But the parallelismmeans muchmore than this for Spinoza. The two, body and mind,extension and thought, are, if you will, two sides of the same coin. This conclusion is theresult of Spinozas ontology. As God is absolutely infinite, and hence, indivisible forSpinoza, it follows that his attributes, infinite in number, must characterize and consti-tute his essence in such a way as not to introduce any sort of plurality into it. Forinstance, if we say that John is generous and intelligent, we are characterizing John interms that, in a sense, divide John from himself. Johns intelligence is not the same asJohns generosity; they are two separate, or at least separable, aspects of his character.This is perfectly acceptable for our purposes because neither John nor his attributes areconsidered to be infinite or eternal. God, however, is absolutely infinite, meaning that hisnature cannot be divided. If thought and extension are attributes of God, therefore (deSpinoza 1994 117), then they are not really distinct, only conceptually distinct: whatever can be perceived by an infinite intellect as constituting an essence of substancepertains to one substance only, and consequently that the thinking substance and theextended substance are one and the same substance, which is now comprehended underthis attribute, now under that (de Spinoza 1994 119). Spinozas concept of God, theultimate cause, is no longer transcendent, and thus no longer transitive, but immanent, orfirmly grounded in the natural world. Understanding the causal principle in this wayresults in a parallelism that is in fact a perfect overlapping of the two apparently distinctorders. Rather than running side by side with one another, mind and body run in andthrough each other.

    Moreover, for Spinoza, this parallelism entails that neither domain can command theother, at any time whatsoever. It is, rather, one order of causality, looked at from twoperspectives. The body cannot determine the mind to thinking, and the mind cannotdetermine the body to motion, to rest, or to anything else (if there is anything else)

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  • (de Spinoza 1994 155). We find ourselves reluctant to accept this principle simplybecause it seems so apparent to us that, as a famous example illustrates, I will to raise myarm, and my arm raises. Mymind, it seems so empirically obvious to claim, governs mybody. But willing, as Spinoza writes elsewhere, is simply a mode of thought, a certainexpression of thinking, and hence, it is itself caused, with a naturalized understanding ofGod being the cause of all things (de Spinoza 1994 100). We believe the will to be theultimate origin of any given chain of causation, only because we recognize itit is at thepoint of the willing that we become conscious of it, but we are totally oblivious to thechain of causation that led to the willing itself. As Deleuze says, The fact is thatconsciousness is by nature a locus of an illusion. Its nature is such that it registers effects,but it knows nothing of causes (Deleuze 2001, 19). We would go one step further andclaim that because consciousnessconsciousness recognizes effects, it therefore ascribescausality, and it ascribes it to itself. Much of the time when we dream, for example, ourbody and mind lie in inactive repose, cut off from the world outside. But this is primarilybecause the world outside in no way impinges upon our experience. When it does,however, in the form of a violent shot, a car backfiring outside our window, a loved onegently prodding us awake, the sensation of falling out of the bed, etc., what happens?Wesuspend the experience momentarily within the dream, and subsequently interpret thesensation or affect in such a way as to ascribe causation for it. In effect we refuse torecognize the sensation as such until we can ascribe causation to it. The sensation, offalling, for instance, becomes incorporated into the dream and reinterpreted as an effectof the agents will to, say, jump from a tree. Spinoza and Deleuzewill agree that the sameis true of the waking life. By the time consciousness recognizes a given decision, thedecision has already been made. For example, our beloved says to us, Why are youin a bad mood? to which we initially reply, Im not in a bad mood. Furtherdiscussion, however, reveals that your beloved has noted behaviors out of keepingwith your typical mannerisms. Perhaps you did not eat much at dinner, did notlaugh at the joke she made, did not feel like watching your favorite televisionprogram, etc. Upon gathering the evidence, we often still refuse to admit thedourness of our mood, unless and until we can ascribe a causal chain that resultsin our mentally causing our mood to sour. We say, I think perhaps when you saidsuch and such to me earlier, my feelings were hurt. Suddenly, what was merely asensation, only vaguely perceived on our part, recognized only by the observa-tions of another, has now become a willed result of a reaction to a commentpreviously made by our beloved. For Spinoza, body and mind do not interact.Mind is not an effect of the body, nor are the bodily movements mere effects ofmental causation. They are, rather, two ways of saying the same thing.

    Even more interestingly, for our purposes, the complexity and sophistication of themind, for Spinoza, is directly correlated with the complexity and sophistication of thebody: The human mind is capable of perceiving a great many things, and is the morecapable, the more its body can be disposed in a great many ways (de Spinoza 1994128). This capability of being disposed in more and varied ways is Spinozasunderstanding of ones power. Thus, the more greatly complex the body, the greaterthe bodys capacity for action is, the greater the minds capacity for thinking will be.Conversely, the less complex the body is, the less complex the minds capacity forthought will be. This is not, however, because the body or states of the body are thecauses of our thoughts but rather because they are two ways of understanding the

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  • same singular substance. From this, finally, it follows: wherever there is body, there isthought. Thought inhabits even the minutest levels of extension.

    Thought resides wherever body does, neither in command of the other norreducible to the other. This solution, for Spinoza, is the only way to reconcile theconflicting demands of the rational and the empirical. Empirically, though there is anapparent parallelism between the two domains, thought is not physical or material,and matter is not thought. Rationally, however, two ontologically distinct sorts ofthings cannot interact. Spinoza therefore articulates an ontology of the purity of thepower of Nature itself, where Nature expresses itself in an infinity of ways, the onlytwo of which we recognize are thought and extension. Thought and extension, forSpinoza, are the same thing understood in two different ways.

    Gilles Deleuze, Univocity, and the Adoption of Spinoza

    Deleuze, though he holds Spinoza in very high regard (by his estimation among anelite class of heterodox philosophers), will nevertheless think of the body/thoughtproblem in somewhat different terms. Spinoza hangs onto one subtle but importantdeficiency, according to Deleuze: he persists in attempting to think of substance asdistinct from its modes. The modes are Nature expressing itself, and this itself iscomprehensible on its own, apart from its modes. For Spinoza, only God is, and themodes only are as expressions of that infinite substance. Deleuze writes, Spinozassubstance appears independent of the modes, while the modes are dependent onsubstance, but as though on something other than themselves. Substance must itselfbe said of the modes and only of the modes (Deleuze 1994, 40). Without thisconversion/inversion, we retain some semblance of transcendent Identity, thatwhich remains the same despite the apparent flux of the world. The shift thatDeleuze seeks is a shift of the identity-difference model, putting difference atthe fundamental level: substance said only of modes; identity only of thedifferent; being only of becoming. All of being is reconceived by Deleuze asa multiplicity of more and less complex constitutions, relations, and interpreta-tions of signs, themselves conceived as contractions of time constituting therelative life of each thing that is, for as long as it is.

    With this stroke, an interesting consequence follows. For Spinoza, we recall,neither domain, thought, nor extension can command the other at any time in anyway. This follows from the fact that, for Spinoza, any attribute is conceived throughitself alone (de Spinoza 1994 90). Thought is one way of considering the essence ofGod, and extension is the other. But each, conceived alone, causally relates modesonly to other modes considered under the very same attribute. In other words,singular thoughts, which are modes of the attribute of thought itself, are conceivedwithin the causal nexus of thought alone, and extended beings, which are modes ofthe attribute of extension itself, are conceived within the causal nexus of extensionalone. Or, as Spinoza says, The modes of each attribute have God for their causeonly insofar as he is considered under the attribute of which they are modes, and notinsofar as he is considered under any other attribute (de Spinoza 1994 118). Thoughtand extension are, if the reader will excuse the usage, co-extensive, The order andconnection of ideas is the same as the order and connection of things (de Spinoza

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  • 1994 119), but the two cannot relate to each other. When we take Deleuzes lead,however, utterly reducing the idea of substance to its modes, we are left with merelymodes of the physical and modes of the mental, both of which fully are, each relatedto the other, neither of which is any more real than the other, neither of which standsin a position of authority over the other.

    The Power of Contraction

    In the Introduction to Difference and Repetition, Deleuze writes, Our problem con-cerns the essence of repetition. It is a question of knowing why repetition cannot beexplained by the form of identity in concepts or representations; in what sense it demandsa superior positive principle (Deleuze 1994, 19). To say that something repeats meansthat the same thing appears again, as in the pattern, AAA etc. Thus, on thesurface, repetition appears to accord with the principle of identity. Each subsequent A,after all, is identical to each one that preceded it. Yet, the problem enters in with the use ofthe word, again. The again is what constitutes the repetition as a repetition. After all, theessence of the thing in question is a re-petition, which can only occur, by way of theintroduction of difference into the series; better, the series itself can only be constituted asa series by way of the pulsation and contraction of difference within it. Thus, the problemof repetition is the problem of difference. Does not the paradox of repetition lie in the factthat one can speak of repetition only by virtue of the change or difference that it introducesinto the mind which contemplates it? (Deleuze 1994, 70).

    Repetition, thereforetemporal, physio-biological, elemental, etc.entails forDeleuze the presence of mind or contemplation. He starts with an example fromHume: consider a repetition of the sort AB, AB, A Each particular case of the ABconjunction is independent of the others. Each can only arise after the previous onehas completely disappeared. Nothing in particular has changed in the AB conjunc-tion; there is nothing more repetitive in the AB itself. But when A appears, weexpect B with a force corresponding to the qualitative impression of all the contractedABs (Deleuze 1994, 70). The faculty that grounds this conjunction, Hume calls theimagination; but Deleuzes imagination does not accord with the traditional model ofthe imagination. It is understood not as a pictorial, mental screen, but rather as thepower of contraction itself. Habituation is not a memory in the sense of a willedrepresentation; it is a relation of element to element, constituting for Deleuze the verysynthesis and contraction of time. Deleuze, rejecting the traditional puncti-linearmodel of time, conceives time as the past reaching through the present into the future,each drawing the other to itself. The present is, for Deleuze, nothing more than thecontraction of past and future: The past and the future do not designate instantsdistinct from a supposed present instant, but rather, the dimensions of the presentitself in so far as it is a contraction of instants (Deleuze 1994, 71). Time is arepetition of the instant, and the essence of this repetition is contraction. He callsthis contraction of the imagination a passive synthesis, happening in the mind, but notcarried out by the mind. On the basis of this passive synthesis, the structure of past-future (retention-anticipation) contracted in the present, arise the active syntheses ofmemory and understanding. The dimensions of the present cease to be merelyimmediate, and the contraction assumes an active role, reconstituting the retained

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  • contraction in a represented past, and predicting the future, (as in the above ABexample, with a force proportional to the frequency of the remembered contraction).

    Deleuze turns this analysis from the upward direction (more complex notions ofsensation and reason) to the downward. Contraction is a function of mind, butfundamental to and enabling the contractions that we perceive are the contractionsthat we are: We are made of contracted water, earth, light and airnot merely priorto the recognition or representation of these, but prior to their being sensed (Deleuze1994, 73). The heart pumps blood which the kidneys filter, the stomach digests, theliver filters toxins, the nervous system communicates signals from the brain through-out the entirety of the body, the arteries distribute blood to every single cell of theorganism, the lungs respire, the body takes in food and drink, distributes nourishment,and eliminates wastesand all of this happens by a well-orchestrated system ofcontractions, reactions, retentions, interpretations, expectations, and predictions,some at the cellular level, some communicated within the organs themselves, somebetween the constituted arrangement of the organs which make up the organism, andsome between the organism and its environment. The time of the organism is theliving present of its contractions: Every organism, in its receptive and perceptualelements, but also in its viscera, is a sum of contractions, of retentions and expecta-tions (Deleuze 1994, 73). Deleuze defines each of these contractions and pulsationsas signs, which are interpreted, deployed, and redistributed throughout the organism.In this sense, wherever there is a contraction, there is mind; further, wherever there isa centralized system of contractions, there is mind: A soul must be attributed to theheart, to the muscles, nerves and cells, but a contemplative soul whose entire functionis to contract a habit (Deleuze 1994, 74). It may seem odd to refer to somethingpassive as habituated, where typically we characterize habits as those things that wedo, on a frequent basis, sometimes against our so-called will: biting our nails,grinding our teeth, smoking cigarettes, etc. According to Deleuze, however, thesehabituated patterns of action would not be possible were it not for the more basiccontraction of contemplation (or mind). Put otherwise, these habits are patterns ofbehavior, but more fundamental than the behavior is the structural element of thepattern itself, the pattern of forming patterns. These particular contracted behaviorsare predicated upon more fundamental structures of contraction. The habits them-selves are arbitrary; the one habit that is not arbitrary is the habit of forming habits, thefundamental structure of contemplation-contraction at the heart of all things. We havereached, therefore, a strange hypothesismind is in all things, from the most complexorganic things, down to the barest, elemental, mineral levels: This is no mystical orbarbarous hypothesis. On the contrary, habit here manifests its full generality: itconcerns not only the sensory-motor habits that we have (psychologically), but also,before these, the primary habits that we are; the thousands of passive syntheses of whichwe are organically composed. It is simultaneously through contraction that we arehabits, but through contemplation that we contract (Deleuze 1994, 74).

    Deleuze thus expands for us the picture of mind thoroughly begun by Spinoza.Mind is in and through all of the physical, though not in such a way as to restrict therelation to one of parallelism, where each causal order is traced back to an ultimatecausal principle only when conceived under its specific attribute: thought to thought,and extension to extension. Rather, at all levels of matter, there is mind, and mind isthe triadic structure of contraction-interpretation-reaction, the ability to express,

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  • interpret, and communicate signs, that forms the basis of all associations, at all levelsof complexity.

    The Significance of Peirce

    C.S. Peirce, likewise an advocate of a Spinozistic approach to mind, fills out thisstory with a richly complex semiotic theory of mind, signs, and interpretation, helpingus more clearly understand the sign as a relation of contraction in Deleuze and as thefoundation of a theory of mind. Peirce,3 semiotician and grandfather of Americanpragmatism,4 develops a novel foundation for a broad account of mindedness. Hisaccount of mind is grounded in two fundamental presuppositions. First, that what weknow as matter is merely mind restricted, limited, or hidebound as Peirce called it,with habit (Peirce 1960c 6.158) and, second, that semiosis or the interpretation ofrelationships between signs is central to understanding what mind is. Peirces earlytwentieth-century approach has continuously gained recognition and traction inintellectual communities since its reinvigoration mid-century and makes up one pieceof the reemergence of downward approaches to understanding mind.

    Mind Hidebound with Habit

    Rather than understand mind as somehow apart from or transcendent to the naturalworld, Peirce placed mind in the world through his theory of signs. To this view thatthe world was made up of mind Peirce added another element. Peirce called thiselement the law of mind, or the tendency of mind to take up habits driven by theprocesses of natural evolution. Through it the world moves toward law, regularity,and symmetry. At any time, however, an element of pure chance survives and willremain until the world becomes an absolutely perfect, rational, and symmetricalsystem, in which mind is at last crystallized in the infinitely distant future (Peirce1960c CP 6.33). However odd this sounds, Peirce believed it followed from anentirely scientific understanding of the nature of the world and the laws at work init. This theory, Peirce wrote, is that the evolution of the world is hyperbolic, thatis, proceeds from one state of things in the infinite past, to a different state of things inthe infinite future. The state of things in the infinite past is chaos, tohu bohu, thenothingness of which consists in the total absence of regularity. The state of things inthe infinite future is death, the nothingness of which consists in the complete triumphof law and absence of all spontaneity (Peirce 1958b CP 8.317). This image of the

    3 Peirce has only recently begun to gain recognition for his wide range of intellectual accomplishments.Philosopher Thomas Sebeok, for one, asked: Who is the most original and most versatile intellect that theAmericas have so far produced? The answer Charles S. Peirce is uncontested, because any second would beso far behind as not to be worth nominating. Mathematician, astronomer, chemist, geodesist, surveyor,cartographer, metrologist, spectroscopist, engineer, inventor; psychologist, philologist, lexicographer, historianof science, mathematical economist, lifelong student of medicine; book reviewer, dramatist, actor, short storywriter; phenomenologist, semiotician, logician, rhetorician, metaphysician (Sebeok 1981 17).4 Although Peirce came to call his own version pragmaticism, a term ugly enough to be safe fromkidnappers (Peirce 1960c CP 5.414).

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  • world is quite striking: the continual and natural evolution toward a natural fixed endwhere spontaneity ends and law triumphs. Death is nothing, for Peirce, apart from thecessation of the motion of mind its complete bindedness as matter by habit.5 Indeed,we might think of Peirces brand of idealism as purporting a continuity between thematerial and the mental. Carl Hausman has argued that matter is what is fixed asinveterate habit mind as lively matter, even if the law of mind is more basic(Hausman 1993 148). Similarly, M.T. Keeton noted: [S]upposing a continuitybetween matter and mind, [Peirce] holds that matter is mind hidebound with habits,but still having life since it retains some diversification (Keeton 1952 317). C.F.Delany has explained this continuity in yet another way:: The physical world isstructurally of a piece with the mental, since mechanical laws are limit cases ofmental laws.consciousness is not tied to a radically different kind of entity from thephysical but really is just the inner aspect of some complex physical systems(Delany 1993 153). Peirce called this theory of continuity synechism and proposedit as the best understanding of his doctrine, against materialism, dualism, or eventraditional idealism.

    Peirces efforts were to explain the evolutionary, probabilistic world in the clearestscientifically-responsible terms. He put his law of mind in line with physical laws.The law of mind only makes a given feeling more likely to arise. It thus resemblesthe non-conservative forces of physicswhich are due to statistical uniformities inthe chance encounters of trillions of molecules (Peirce 1960c CP 6.24). Peirceelsewhere notes that the effects of this law of mind are observable in the naturalworld, just like the effects of physical laws. But where we look for these effects isparticular to the law that guides them. Hence I was led to the hypothesis that thelaws of the universe have been formed under a universal tendency of all things towardgeneralization and habit-taking (Peirce 1958a CP 7.515). So Peirce sought tonavigate a path between the Scylla of other-worldly explanation and the Charybdisof brute deterministic mechanism by positing a third option: an entirely naturalscientifically-verifiable theory of the ubiquity of mind. If we are apt to assume thetenuousness of such cosmological speculation it is our task to bring it in line withthe canons of scientific reasoning (Delany 1993 155). Peirces methodology,grounded in an account of signs, works toward this goal.

    The Semiotic Nature of Mind and Consciousness

    Signs, most basically defined as some thing that stands for something else, werecentral to Peirces philosophical system. Peircean semiotics understands semiosis asformed by three interrelated dimensions: (1) The object, whatever it is that the signpoints to, whether an ideal meaning or a thing in the world; (2) the representamen, theform which the sign takes; and (3), the interpretant, or the sense made of the sign byan interpreter (Chandler 2007 29). When, for instance, I write the words oak tree, Iam offering you a representamen of some object. You provide the interpretant by

    5 Peirce reiterates this point as part of his explanation of synechism (CP 7.573). Billy Crystals character inThe Princess Bride popularized the idea when he noted that the Man in Black was only mostly dead,having not yet been bound by the total cessation of mind due, of course, to true love.

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  • finding that those words mean something to you: indeed in this case, they mean oaktree, your concept of an oak tree, or a specific oak tree in the natural world. Theinterpretant, in addition to being one part of a triadic sign structure, is also itself athree-pronged triadic structure: signs go all the way down, so to speak. Thus Peirceargues famously, We think only in signs (Peirce 1960a CP 2.302) and Nothing is asign unless it is interpreted as a sign (Peirce 1960a CP 2.308). We might infer fromthese two premises that indeed any thoughts or mental representations we have areinterpretants: the ways we are in the world are fundamentally semiotic. Thinking,then, is sign development, or a process of sign interpretation, and the entire process iscalled semeiosis (which Peirce sometimes spells semiosis)6 (Hausman 1993 58).Mind, for Peirce, is fundamentally tied to the triadic sign relationships.

    On Peirces account, there is continuity between consciousness and mind. Asshown above, conscious mind is grounded in what Peirce calls Firstness or rawfeeling (Peirce 1958a CP 7.364). By a Feeling, I mean an instance of the kind ofconsciousness which involved no thought, analysis, comparison or any processwhatsoever, nor consists in whole or in part of any act by which one stretch ofconsciousness is distinguished from another (Peirce 1960a 1.306). Thus, the basicmental unit is a feeling, i.e., sensation, thought, or volition (Meyer 46). Firstness, theraw or barest component of phenomenal consciousness, is sufficient for mind. Butmind is not conscious mind. Indeed, there is a continuum given by the law of mindbetween mind bound by habit and mind undetermined in its ends. This continuum isbest understood in the context of Peirces triadic semiotic structure.

    To connect our earlier discussion of the nature of mind with Peirces semioticanalysis, representamen are Firsts. Without the addition of the interpretant, the sensegiven to the sign, these representamen are raw representative qualities. As the formthat a sign can take, a representamen is potential in the sense that it is contingent oninterpretation. Objects, as objects of experience, are taken to be seconds. Interpretantsare thirds; that is, they are the relations taken up by interpreters who give meaning tothe representations of objects. For Peirce, the process of semiosis is driven by theconstant and perpetual interplay between these three. Theoretically, this process ofsemiosis is unlimited, with each interpretant becoming a representamen toanother interpretant ad infinitum. Given the law of mind, however, Peirceasserted a stop-block: habit will, in almost every case, cause us to assign finalmeaning to some representamen, stopping the process. At the end of thespectrum of mind that is least bound by habit, the interpretant moves freely,driving the process of semiosis. At the other end, the interpretant is entirelyinhibited by habit, unable to act or be acted upon.

    Hence the scope of the interpretant, of thirdness, is tied to the process of semiotics,or semiosis. Consciousness emerges from a continuum of mind (Hausman 1993 64).Nathan Houser expressed this interpretation through a particularly vivid simile:consciousness as a wave through a sea of mind.7

    6 While all thoughts are signs, it is not the case that all signs are thoughts. Thought-signs demandinterpretation via a triadic rather than merely dyadic process.7 Peirce works out his own metaphor: consciousness as a bottomless lake in which all our experiences aresuspended at various depths (Peirce 1958a CP 7.547). He also describes various levels of consciousness interms of animal life (Peirce 1958b CP 7.585).

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  • The crest of the wave would be the most vivid consciousness (wide-awakeawareness), but whatever was moved would be brought into, though perhaps at thegreatest depths, that consciousness. It is clear from this metaphor that the wave ofconsciousness is distinct from the mind through which it moves, and it is doubtfulthat we would say that the wave possesses the mind. At most, consciousness wouldseem to be something like an operation on, or a concerted movement of, the sea ofmind. So, perhaps, we must consider giving up the notion that we have distinctminds (Houser 1983 342-343).

    Houser finds support for this image in Peirces own writing. It is not thought,Peirce writes, but relations, the object or substance of thought, that is in the mindConsciousness may mean any one of the three categories. But if it is to mean Thoughtit is more without us than within. It is we that are in it, rather than it in any of us(Peirce 1958b 8.254-257). Mind is relations specifically semiotic relations and,given the triadic nature of the sign process, these relations go all the way down. Webegin to see that Peirces account of mind and consciousness includes a widelyinclusive scope. Higher-order consciousness is a special case of consciousness whichitself is a special case of mind, the fundamental nature of all things (see Fig. 1).Conscious being has yet to be bound up by the processes of habituation necessitatedby the law of mind, whereas minded being (nonliving material objects) is static,bound, and set by such processes. Consciousness, and mind/matter are thus on acontinuum: not two distinct natures but different in degree and not in type.

    Peirce set up an idealist project that he hoped would be verifiable, testable, andscientific as opposed to those that had been perpetually mired in notions oftranscendence. For Peirce, mind goes all the way down and is differentiated alongthe way by the natural processes directed by the law of mind: the gradual andcontinual habituation of semiosis. The theory of signs at the root of Peirces concep-tion of mind helps us to better understand Deleuzes own conception of minds triadic

    Fig. 1 Consciousness as a spe-cial case of mind

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  • structure. The monism of Peirce establishes that mind is the fundamental substancemaking up the natural world. For Peirce, Spinoza, and Deleuze, mind is in all things,from people to pyrite.

    Conclusions and Inter-Relations

    In the preceding and against David Chalmers claim that no one has yet developedany sort of detailed theory of the downward-directed sort of analysis of mind, wehave attempted to map out an overlooked trajectory in the development of thepanpsychist lineage. From Spinoza through Deleuze and Peirce, panpsychism isdescribed in fundamentally natural8 and fundamentally semiotic terms. Each of thethree thinkers offers to this puzzle a unique piece. Spinoza offers an affirmativeontology of pure immanence, which, while in no wise denying the reality of eithermind or matter, denies any radical ontological distinction between the two. Theessence of Nature is manifested in an ever-changing multiplicity of various localizedexpressions of powermodes, minds, bodies, lives, organisms, etc.aligning withothers for mutual benefit. Mind and body both are, for Spinoza, but they are only asattributes of the one and only substance, which remains the self-identical, definablebeneath its modes, thus retaining some semblance of the transcendent. It is for thisreason that the modes of each of the attributes, thought and extension, are conceivedonly under their own respective attributesput otherwise, thought cannot interactwith the material; they are merely two ways of saying the same thing, or two sides ofthe same coin.

    With Deleuze, Spinozas Nature-God is reconsideredconceived only in themodes in which it appears. Though it retains its Spinozistic affirmative splendor,the whole of nature, for Deleuze, is only in its manifestations. There is no Nature assuch, only the modes under which it expresses itself. Being, for Deleuze, is said onlyof becoming. This radical reduction, coupled with the empirical observation thatmind is, and matter is, entails that the modes of the mental must be able to, in someway, interact with the modes of the material. This interaction takes place by way ofwhat Deleuze calls contemplation, which is the pulsation-contraction, or the expres-sion and interpretation of signs, at the heart of all things, constituting their very being.Repetition in its very essence, of time and of all levels of nature (which amounts tothe same), requires the presence of mind, according to Deleuze. For Deleuze andPeirce both, mind is this ongoing and universal semiotic process of contraction,interpretation, and reaction that occurs at all levels of the natural world. This isneither a mysticism, nor is it a subjectivism. With or without humans, the universeexpresses and interprets itself meaningfully. The spider interprets the sign of the fly inits web and reacts; the blade of grass interprets the sign of the concrete laid downupon it and breaks through it; the lava interprets the signs of the mineral deposits inthe volcano it streams down, and selects a path. This interpretation is an offering

    8 For example, Steven Nadler notes, What we find in Spinoza, in fact, are some very suggestive remarksfor a particular kind of project, one that represents a naturalistic account of consciousness that is precociousin so far as it points the way to just the kind of empirical, scientific inquiry into consciousness thatcharacterizes contemporary neuroscience and (some) recent philosophy of mind (Nadler 2008 586).

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  • Deleuze makes to the Peircean biosemiotician: rather than conclude that mind, asinterpretation and semiosis, has life as its boundary, perhaps Peirces theory of mindallows for existence as the boundary of mind. As he notes, Perhaps it is irony to saythat everything is contemplation, even rocks and woods, animals and men, evenActaeon and the stag, Narcissus and the flower, even our actions and our needs. Butirony in turn is still a contemplation, nothing but a contemplation (Deleuze 1994,75). Furthermore, rather than starting from the mystery and obscurity of consciousqualitative experience, this approach centers the nature of the world on mind andseeks to explain the existence of physical objects of experience.

    For all three philosophers, the common sense intuition that there is an order tocomplexity in the natural world is best described through a view not of material orderbut levels of potentiality. There is continuity between objects in the natural worldbased on their relative abilities to, in Spinozistic terms, persevere or, inPeircean/Deleuzean terms, signify. Rocks and hurricanes have very limited abilities,squid somewhat more, cats still more, and human beings rather impressive ones. But,all the same, the doings, embracings, and resistings are all expressions of the samething; namely a conatus to persevere in being (Carriero 2011 81). Far from beingobscure or incomprehensible, this trajectory within panpsychism can inform thecurrent debate, bringing semiotic analyses to bear on the nature and scope of mindin important ways. It avoids both the ontologically thorny problem of dualist inter-action and the dogmatic assertion (itself a scientistically religious claim) that every-thing must be physical. This approach maintains a scientific attitude toward ourexperiences and the nature of the world as its core methodology by making availablea study of the continuum of mind in the natural world through and beyond contem-porary biosemiotics. Further, it directs us to consider the implications of a view of theworld in which human beings are not different by type but only by degree. The ethicaland ecological ramifications of this shift cannot be overstated.


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    All Things in Mind: Panpsychist Elements in Spinoza, Deleuze, and PeirceAbstractBrains, Minds, & ConsciousnessSpinoza and Lifes StrivingMind and Body: A Story of ParallelismGilles Deleuze, Univocity, and the Adoption of SpinozaThe Power of ContractionThe Significance of PeirceMind Hidebound with HabitThe Semiotic Nature of Mind and ConsciousnessConclusions and Inter-RelationsReferences