- arborescent schema
- ---- by Cliff StagollThe arboreal schema is one of Deleuze's many potent and prominent biological and organic images. His criticism, and his use of the schema, is scattered across his corpus, at various times targeting approaches to philosophy, psychiatry, literature, science, theoretical criticism and even everyday living. The notion of an arborescent or tree-like schema is Deleuze's counterpoint to his model of the rhizome, which he uses to challenge tendencies in thinking and to suggest ways of rehabilitating 'thought' as a creative and dynamic enterprise.Deleuze's model of the tree-like structure appears to be quite simple. Typically, at its top, is some immutable concept given prominence either by transcendental theorising works on epistemology and ontology, he identifies Plato's Forms, the models of the subject espoused by René Descartes and Immanuel Kant, as well as the 'Absolute Spirit' of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel as examples. All other concepts or particulars are organised vertically under this concept in a tree/trunk/root arrangement. The ordering is strictly hierarchical, from superior to subordinate, or transcendent to particular, such that the individual or particular element is conceived as less important, powerful, productive, creative or interesting than the transcendent. The subordinate elements, once so arranged, are unable to 'move' horizontally in such a way as to establish creative and productive interrelationships with other concepts, particulars or models. Rather, their position is final, according to an organising principle implied or determined by the superior concept.Furthermore, the tree is a self-contained totality or closed system that is equal just to the sum of its parts. Relations between elements of the system are interior to and inherent within the model. They are stable or even essential in so far as, first, the superior concept is the all-powerful defining force that dictates the position or meaning of all else in the system and, second, the tendency is to think of the system either as complete in itself or else unconnected to other systems in any meaningful way. The tree is 'fixed to the spot' and static. Any remaining movement is minimal and internal to the system rather than exploratory or connective. Because the creative potential of disorder and inter-connectivity is precluded, the potential inherent in conceptualising and thinking in this manner is very limited.Deleuze's model calls to mind the porphyrian tree, a device used by the philosopher Porphyry to show how reality and our concepts are ordered and how logical categorisation proceeds. The concept of 'Substance' can be placed at the top of the tree, and dichotomous branching at each level obtained by adding a specific difference such that, at the lowest level, some individual can be identified as a sub-set of 'Substance'. This version of the arboreal model also highlights something of its complexity and ontological importance for Deleuze. The difference evident between particulars is subsumed by the similarity that defines them in terms of superior concepts in general and the transcendent concept (Substance) in particular. Rather than deriving concepts from individual particulars (or interactions between them), an abstract concept is used to organise individuals and determine their meaning relative just to the organisational hierarchy. Difference has to be added back to each element in order to define it as a particular, rather than having individual elements serve as the starting point for conceptualisation. In contrast, Deleuze holds that lived experience comprises particularity and uniqueness in each moment, experience and individual, the inherent differences of which ought always to be acknowledged. By positing the concept over the particular, thinking of the arboreal kind abstracts from lived experience in its very structure. For Deleuze, thinking in such a way stiﬂes creativity, leaves superior concepts relatively immune to criticism and tends to close one's mind to the dynamism, particularity and change that is evident in lived experience. Not only is such thinking necessarily abstract, it also serves to protect the status quo and relieve dominant concepts and positions from productive critique.Connectives§ rhizome
The Deleuze dictionary. Revised Edition Edited by Adrian Parr . 2010.