The best known recent (!) critique of the metaphors we use in our thought is probably Rorty‘s Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, after which we are rightly wary of the implications of our various figures of speech. This has been a big part of what Ricoeur calls the hermeneutics of suspicion, all the the various structuralists and post-structuralists and the we-haven’t-even-heard-of-structuralism-so-don’t-you-dare-lump-us-in-with-those-guys-ists. We know that style in philosophy is never neutral, that what we say is influenced by how we say it. There was a hope that some other metaphors might set the tone for a departure from old ways of saying and thus give us new ways of thinking.
The rhizomes of Deleuze and Guattari are one example, but they are a part of the landscape or thoughtscape, rather than being the philosophical environment itself. So then, the notion of plateaus as found in the same work that gives us the rhizome, A Thousand Plateaus, should surely give us this alternative we seek. Is this actually so? I do not believe it is, for a plateau is as flat and 2-dimentional as any standard metaphors of ontology we can think of. Simply cutting up our space, and stacking, we do not have a philosophical enviornment that is greatly different. It is not a genuine alternative, one that gives any great sense of new possibilities of thought. Rather we are offered a kind of “false multiplicity”, with a nod to Badiou who rightly accuses Deleuze of a “Platonism with a different accentuation”. Simply stacking the same 2-dimensional thoughtscape might have significance as a stopgap, but ultimately it is sterile.
But I don’t want to bury Deleuze, but to praise him. If we move beyond the restriction of the plateau, and recognize that it may have applications elsewhere (perhaps as the “fitness landscapes” which Stewart Brand thinks we should appreciate as an Important Big Idea), then we can use elements from the rhizome to move us towards another view of our philosophical thoughtscape. The rhizome suggests points of access and entry which are non-hierarchical, but the potential of this is compromised when combined with the stacking plateau. If we take the shape of the rhizome, and disembody it, making it immaterial, and purely as representative of multi-directional vectors, we come closer to a metaphor via which thought might thrive. It is the approach to a thoughtscape which truly approaches appreciating all that is entailed in the possibility of the 3rd-dimension. I mentioned the notion of a Heidegger for cyborgs in a previous post, and while being tongue-in-cheek to an extent, I do believe there is something truly valuable about expanding our thought beyond our everyday, functional assumptions, to give us the possibility of what existence could be if we did not think of our physical limits as boundaries beyond which there is nothing, but rather as provocations for us to make a leap. I consider this attempt to reconstitute our thoughtscape to be a part of this undertaking.