The Architecture of Philosophy

Let's begin with the assumption that there are forms. Not Forms, in the Platonic sense, but forms, shapes. I want to assert this: the world is shaped. Shapes abound, visibly and invisibly.

Occasionally, a shape loses its form, dissolves, melts, becomes another shape.

And, of course, shapes are not fixed. They move, morph, shift. But they're still shapes as distinct from amorphic....what? What would there be if not shapes?

I suppose this becomes a whole lot weirder when I say that ideas and concepts enjoy shape, as well. So does affect. How?

Well, first, affect. This is easy. Have you ever walked in a room and said, "Eeesh! It feels weird in here." And then you walk somewhere else, perhaps in the same space, and you say, "Ah, it's better over here." That mood, that affect, has a spatial limit. It has a shape.

Its shape is more complex than that. After all, a mood — an affect — has a consistency and rhythm. A mood can be dense or meshed or pleated.

Now what about ideas and concepts? How can we say they have a shape? Well, we do say things like, "That's a big idea" and "It's a little thought." In what sense do we say such things?

A big idea tends to cover more territory; it accounts for more things. A small idea tends to be local — it's about your hometown, not about the whole country or world or humanity. So ideas have a jurisdiction and hence some geometric components.

And, like an affect, an idea has a consistency and rhythm. It has an architecture, as it puts different things together in a certain relationship. In What is Philosophy?, Deleuze and Guattari map Descartes cogito: there's an I, a doubting, a thinking, a being that exist in a very particular relationship (Nietzsche, Derrida, Deleuze would each create a different architecture of these elements).

A philosophy, I proffer, is not an explanation of the world and its whys. Philosophy is an assembling of elements, of shapes, into a new architecture.

Like an architect building a space, once a philosopher builds one component, other elements are limited, necessitated, prescribed. A room here that has this or that door, these are those windows, this or that plumbing means the next room must "fit" somehow. This is true of a philosophy, as well. Once Nietzsche says all is will to power, certain things become necessary, they follow.

This is what I've always enjoyed about writing longer essays and books: the construction of ideas and affects. To write a philosophy is to shape ideas and moods into a particular play of relationships.

I want to say, then, that if we agree that the world is shaped — there are shapes — then making sense of this world becomes a subset of architecture.


Circumstantial Propriety and Complexity

Circumstantial Propriety and Complexity from Daniel Coffeen on Vimeo.

Consider these two scenarios:

1. A parent tells his teen: "No drinking. And be home by midnight."

2. Another parents tells his teen: "Be safe tonight. And be home by a reasonable hour."

#1 offers a steadfast rule that is external to circumstance.

#2 offers a principle that is of circumstance.

Of course, this circumstance of #2 includes things that seem to exceed the now per se — previous experience, cultural norms, household norms, etc. But these are part of the circumstance, constitutive of the now.

It demands a complex negotiation of a breadth of factors. And it is by no means necessarily "more free." In fact, there are all sorts of insidious forces at work.

I mean only to point out the possibility of an emergent ethics.


On Circumstantial Propriety

Circumstantial Propriety from Daniel Coffeen on Vimeo.

There is a right thing to do — or, rather, there are appropriate things to be done — but this propriety is immanent to a circumstance. It emerges from amongst all the bodies and parties — people, weather, food, etc — that constitute the always already networked circumstance.

Propriety, then, is not outside the situation but of the situation.

This is the logic — and an odd logic at that — of rhetoric.


On Happiness, Joy, and Bliss

Untitled from Daniel Coffeen on Vimeo.

Happiness is contingent — you're happy because something happened.

Joy is not — joy is the exuberance of this life.

Bliss is transcendent, a wallowing in the infinite. Where bliss takes leave of this world, joy remains utterly of this world.

On Deleuze, Form, and Generosity



Bound Infinity


A limit is at once infinite and stipulated: it goes like this.