Massumi, Brian. Concrete is as Concrete Doesn’t [Sensation]

From Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation (Durham: Duke University Press, 2002)

Moments to remember:

  • sensation also presents a directly disjunctive self-coinciding …It is always doubled by the feeling of having a feeling. It is self-referential … The doubling of sensation does not assume a subjective splitting, and does not of itself constitute a distancing. It is an immediate self-complication (15).
  • think of [sensation] as a resonation, or interference pattern … But the resonation is not on the walls. It is in the emptiness between them. It fills the emptiness with its complex patterning [which is] immediately its own event (15).
  • Resonation can be seen as converting distance, or extension, into intensity. It is a qualitative transformation of distance into an immediacy of self-relation (15).
  • The intensity is experience. The emptiness or in-betweenness filled by experience is the incorporeal dimension of the body referred to earlier. The conversion of surface distance into intensity is also the conversion of the materiality of the body into an event … an emergence of a subject: an incipient subjectivity. Call it a self-. The hyphen is retained as a reminder that “self” is not a substantive but rather a relation (16).
  • Leibniz goes on to say that although the perception of perception is without characters, it does carry a “distinguishing sense of bodily direction” … That could only be tendency, pure tendency … Tendency is futureness: pure futurity. So there is a futurity that is contemporary with the past’s contemporaneousness with the present (16).
  •  Linear time, like position-gridded space, would be emergent qualities of the event of the world’s self-relating (16).
  • Spinoza defined the body in terms of “relations of movement and rest” … He was referring to a body capacity to enter into relations of movement and rest. This capacity he spoke of as a power (or potential) to affect or be affected … “Relation between movement and rest” is another way of saying “transition.” For Spinoza, the body was one with its transitions (16-17).
  • Each transition is accompanied by a variation in capacity: a change in which powers to affect and be affected are addressable by a next event, and how readily addressable they are – or to what degree they are present as futurities. That “degree” is a bodily intensity, and its present futurity a tendency … that takes us right back to the beginning: in what sense the body coincides with its own transitions, and its transitioning with its potential (17).
  • the variation in intensity is felt. This brings us back to where we just were, at self-relation: the feeling of transition by nature stretches between phases of a continuing movement. The sensed aspect of intensity doubles the affect understood as pure capacity: we are back at self-multiplication (17).
  • If incorporeal materialism is an empiricism it is a “radical” one, summed up the formula: the felt reality of relation (17).
  • The vast majority of the world’s sensations are certainly nonconscious (17).
  • A radical empiricism, if it is to be a thorough thinking of relation, must find ways of directly, affectively joining the infra-empirical to the super-empirical. “Actualization” does this (18).
  • The writing tries not only to accept the risk of sprouting deviant, but to invite it. Take joy in your digressions. Because that is where the unexpected arises … If you know where you will end up when you begin, nothing has happened in the meantime (20).
  • The result is not so much the negation of system as a setting of systems into motion. The desired result is a systematic openness: an open system (20).
  • You end up with many buds. Incipient systems. Leave them that way. You have made a system-like composition prolonging the active power of the example. You have left your readers with a very special gift: a headache. By which I mean a problem: what in the world to do with it all. That’s their problem. That’s where their experimentation begins. Then the openness of the system will spread. If they have found what they have read compelling. Creative contagion (20).
  •  A concept is defined less by its semantic content than by the regularities of connection that have been established between it and other concepts: its rhythm of arrival and departure in the flow of thought and language; when and how it tends to relay into a next concept. When you uproot a concept from its network of systemic connections with other concepts you still have its connectibility (22) .
  • The extent to which the virtual is exhausted by “potential,” or how far into the virtual an energeticism can go, is a last problem worth mentioning. For only “an insensible body is a truly continuous body”: there’s the rub … the unity is purely virtual. For the virtual to fully achieve itself, it must recede from being apace with its becoming (23).


  • i am back to the idea of generating conceptual fascia … adēlon … it feels so closely entangled with massumi’s discussion of movement, transitions, sensation, resonation …
  • the ideas of movement/process/tragectories/intensities also calls to mind a moment in Thoreau’s Walden. “at a certain hour and minute these bolts will be shot toward particular points of the compass … The air is full of invisible bolts” (97). his discussion was more about fate [Atropos] and the railroad’s effect on the concept of time in concord, but invisible bolts … relative to “simple conceptual displacement: body – (movement / sensation) – change” (1).

To consume:

  • GW Leibniz, “Paris Notes,” Monadology
  • William James, Essays in Radical Empiricism
  • chaos theory
  • Henri Bergson, Matter and Memory
  • Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, Spinoza: Practical Philosophy, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia
  • Baruch Spinoza, The Ethics
  • Giorgio Agamben, The Coming Community
  • Giordano Bruno, De la magie

One thought on “Massumi, Brian. Concrete is as Concrete Doesn’t [Sensation]

  1. Pingback: Barthes, Roland. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. [Part I] | {kin}aesthetic composure

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