Terms and Definitions

Assemblages are not particular members of a general category but unique and singular individuals, every actual assemblage is an individual singularity, defined by its properties, its tendencies, and its capacities at each point in time. An assemblage is always the product of a historical process. It is not guaranteed by the existence of a necessary set of properties constituting an unchanging essence. We can create an experimental space of an entire population of assemblages each possessing a slightly different unique immanent identity depending on the settings of the parameters. This population itself is also its own assemblage.

To the extent that a population is marked by homogeneity, it is territorialized. The more coded or territorialized individual assemblages are, the more they will tend to resemble one another. This is at the bottom of our tendency to develop categories and then to reify that category. Heterogeneity is achieved through a process of deterritorialization, which is what Deleuze would see as a process of removing the blockages of flows associated with political interventions based on principlism. Assemblages are overcoded when their range of properties are rigidly limited, decoded when these properties develop in a rhizomatic fashion in a more complete interaction between assemblage of individual modes and the assemblages of their environment.

Chaotic systems. Complex systems of objects and processes that are inherently unpredictable at the individual level. Chaotic behavior leads to the rapid growth of inaccuracy. Examples include weeds, germs, and people. John Clerk Maxwell described such phenomena as being cases where the “physical axiom” that from like antecedents flow like consequences is violated.

Correlation coefficient. A concept used in statistical said to measure the strength of a relationship between two variables. For example the correlation coefficient of the effects of ramps on the behavior of balls on these ramps is close to 100%, or a coefficient of 1.0. The coefficient between a sociological variable and a specific form of leisure behavior very seldom exceeds 0.35. At this value only 5-10% of the differences in leisure activities between people can be explained by sociological variables. Similarly, personality studies range from 0.1 to 0.3 while other sociological studies have shown the coefficient between body mass index and wealth to be as high as 0.56.

Causal relationships. A causal law purports to describe a regular and invariant connection between types or events or states. Well founded causal laws are often thought to be necessary to explanation of these relationships. Deterministic causal laws state exceptionless connections between events. Probabilistic causal laws yield only a probability value for causal relationships. The fact that certain associations could be coincidental and not governed by causal law is one way causal claims can run aground. For example, day invariably follows night, but do we claim that day causes night?

Constant Conjunction, or Constant Concomitance. Originally a term used in Philosophy to address the problem of associating proof of causality from the appearance of correlation. We might mistake the constant conjunction of two variables as evidence of a scientific law, unless we can provide exhaustive proof of a direct causal relationship between the variables.

Governmentality. A concept from Michel Foucault used to describe the techniques and strategies by which a society is rendered governable by producing the citizen best suited to fulfill those government’s policies. The notion of governmentality refers to societies where power is de-centered and its members play an active role in their own self-government.  This is a change from hierarchical or sovereign power of the Middle Ages. A particular form of governmentality is characterized by a certain form of knowledge. In the case of neoliberal governmentality the knowledge produced allows the construction of auto-regulated or auto-correcting selves. The Father recommends The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality, ed. Burchell.

Metaethics. Philosophical analysis of the general nature of moral concepts, judgements and arguments. It is not concerned with any particular normative ethics, such as utilitarianism or deontological ethics. Metaethics counts within its domain a broad range of questions and puzzles, including: Is morality more a matter of taste than truth? Are moral standards culturally relative? Are there moral facts? If there are moral facts, what is their origin? How is it that they set an appropriate standard for our behavior? And how do we learn about the moral facts, if there are any? The range of issues, puzzles and questions that fall within metaethics’ purview are consistently abstract. They reflect the fact that metaethics involves an attempt to step back from particular substantive debates within morality to ask about the views, assumptions, and commitments that are shared by those who engage in the debate. By and large, the metaethical issues that emerge as a result of this process of stepping back can be addressed without taking a particular stand on substantive moral issues that started the process. In fact, metaethics has seemed to many to offer a crucial neutral background against which competing moral views need to be seen if they are to be assessed properly.

Moral Realism.  Moral realists are those who think that things should be taken at face value—moral claims do purport to report facts and are true if they get the facts right. Some accounts of moral realism see it as involving additional commitments, say to the independence of the moral facts from human thought and practice, or to those facts being objective in some specified way.

Moral Objectivism. Moral objectivism maintains that moral judgments are ordinarily true or false in an absolute or universal sense, that some of them are true, and that people sometimes are justified in accepting true moral judgments (and rejecting false ones) on the basis of evidence available to any reasonable and well-informed person.

Observational Study. A procedure used when it is impractical or unethical to completely control or manipulate confounding factors such as a person’s religious preference.

Normative ethics. Theories of what is good and bad, right and wrong.

Nomothetic. A study concerned with the discovery of scientific laws repeatable events and processes, as opposed to idiographic studies which are concerned with what is particular and non-recurrent. in sociology, nomothetic explanations are probabilistic and usually incomplete. The idiographic model focuses on a complete, in-depth understanding of a single case.

Perdure. Material objects extend through space by having different spatial parts in different places. But how do they persist through time? According to some philosophers, things have temporal parts as well as spatial parts. In this sense they perdure rather than endure. Therefore the subject is continually changing. Perdurantism is usually presented as the antipode to endurantism, the view that an individual is wholly present at every moment of its existence.

Quasi-experiments. Experiments in which we don’t have complete control over any single variable. These are more rightly called observational studies or natural experiments. For example in a sociological quasi-experiment we can not really change an individuals religious preference to see the effect on the data. While we can select other participants from the sample population with the desired value of the variable, these other participants are never exactly alike.

Ressentiment. An assignment of blame for one’s frustration. Nietzsche associated ressentiment with anarchists, socialists and communists, who make ‘society’ to blame for their misery. The sense of weakness or inferiority which attacks the perceived source of one’s frustration. This value system is then used as a means of justifying one’s own weaknesses by identifying the source of envy as objectively inferior, serving as a defense mechanism that prevents the resentful individual from addressing and overcoming their insecurities and flaws. The ego creates an enemy in order to insulate itself from culpability. For example, the feminist Ann Curthoys suggests that feminism has taken on a tinge of ressentiment and victimology.

Singularity. A solitary instance; The quality or fact of being one in number or kind; Individual character or property; individuality; distinctiveness.

Territorialize. The use of images or other effects to gather series into an assemblage. For example, the use of the threat of a foreign war to strengthen the assemblage of a nation as a collective social territory. Such a strategy can be used to quiet internal criticism of a standing government or defuse internal attempts to shift power. Or as Shakespeare said “Busy giddy minds with foreign quarrels.”

Utilitarianism. A moral theory which holds that the rightness of an action depends entirely on the value of its consequences. For example, it is common in wartime to accept the sacrifice of some troops to gain a larger strategic advantage for the larger army. In contrast another moral theory, deontological ethics, holds that any morally regardable entity, such as a human being or perhaps even an animal, can not be offered up for the sake of the greater good.

Some definitions are shamelessly plagiarized from common sources such as The Penguin Dictionary of Philosophy (PDP), the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP), The Shorter Rutledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SREP), or even Wikipedia (WP) when a more accessible definition is wanted. In all cases, I have avoided the scholarly style of complete citations, hoping my sources will forgive me.

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