---- by John Protevi
  An 'organism' in the way that Deleuze and Guattari intend it is a centralised, hierarchised, self-directed body. It is akin to the 'judgement of God' (He who provides the model of such self-sufficiency); it is also a molarised and stratified life form. The organism is an emergent effect of organising organs in a particular way, a 'One' added to the multiplicity of organs in a 'supplementary dimension' (D&G 1987: 21, 265). Also important to note is that an organ is a 'desiring-machine', that is, an emitter and breaker of flows, of which part is siphoned off to flow in the economy of the body. Organs are a body's way of negotiating with the exterior milieu, appropriating and regulating a bit of matter-energy flow.
  The organism is the unifying emergent effect of interlocking homeostatic mechanisms that quickly compensate for any non-average fluctuations below certain thresholds to return a body to its 'normal' condition (as measured by species-wide norms; hence Deleuze and Guattari's sense of 'molar'). The organism as unifying emergent effect is a stratum on the Body without Organs (BwO), it is hence a construction, a certain selection from the virtual multiplicity of what a body can be, and therefore a constraint imposed on the BwO: 'The BwO howls: "They've made me an organism! They've wrongfully folded me! They've stolen my body!"' (D&G 1987: 159).
  While all actual or intensive bodies are 'ordered', that is, contain some probability structure to the passage of flows among their organs (only the virtual BwO, at 'intensity = 0', has removed all patterning among its organs), the organism is 'organised', that is, its habitual connections are centralised and hierarchical. The organs of an organism are patterned by 'exclusive disjunctions', that is, series of virtual singularities actualised in such a way as to preclude the actualisation of other, alternative, patterns; in complexity theory terms, an organism is locked into a basin of attraction, or stereotyped set of such basins. As such a fixed habitual pattern locked onto normal functioning as determined by species-wide average values, the organism deadens the creativity of life; it is 'that which life sets against itself in order to limit itself ' (D&G 1987: 503). Like all stratification, however, the organism has a certain value: 'staying stratified - organized, signified, subjected - is not the worst that can happen' (D&G 1987: 161), although this utility is primarily as a resting point for further experimentation.
  Constructing an organism out of a body (centralising or molarising the body) is one of the three principle strata separating humans from the plane of consistency (along with signifiance and subjectivity). As a stratum, we can use the terminology of form substance and contentexpression with regard to organisms, though we must remember that on the organic stratum, content and expression must be specified at many different scales: genes and proteins, cells, tissues, organs, systems, organism, reproductive community, species, biosphere. At the level of genes and proteins the substance of content consists of amino acids. Meanwhile, the form of content or coding of these acids can be understood as amino acid sequences or proteins. Expression, as we recall, is the putting of content to work, so the form of expression at this scale is composed of nucleotide base sequences that specify amino acids, while the substance of expression, the emergent functional unit, is the gene, which determines protein shape and function. It is important to note that in this treatment we are overlooking the DNA/RNA relation, the dependence of genes on cellular metabolism, and the role of genes in intervening in the self-organising processes of morphogenesis. Skipping over several scales (cell, tissue and organ) for simplicity's sake, we arrive at the level of organic systems (for example the nervous, endocrine and digestive systems), where the substance of content is composed of organs and the form of content is coding or regulation of flows within the body and between the body and the outside. The form of expression at this level is homeostatic regulation (overcoding of the regulation of flows provided by organs), while the substance of expression is the organism, conceived as a process binding the functions of a body into a whole through coordination of multiple systems of homeostatic regulation.
  Contemporary treatment of Deleuze's biophilosophy begins with Keith Ansell Pearson's Germinal Life. Other treatments include Manuel DeLanda, A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History and Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy. While DeLanda interprets Deleuze and complexity theory side by side, Mark Hansen sees Deleuze and Guattari's biophilosophy as incompatible with complexity theory. For Hansen, Deleuze and Guattari's devalorisation of the organism, while resonating with the 'molecular revolution' in twentieth-century biology, is in marked contrast to the treatment of the organism as irreducible in the autopoietic theory of Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela, as well as the valorisation of species as 'natural kinds' found in the complexity theory biology of Stuart Kauffman and Brian Goodwin.
   § molar
   § virtual / virtuality

The Deleuze dictionary. . 2010.

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