The concept of emergence – which I define as the (diachronic) construction of functional structures in complex systems that achieve a (synchronic) focus of systematic behaviour as they constrain the behaviour of individual components – plays a crucial role in debates in philosophical reflection on science as a whole (the question of reductionism) as well as in the fields of biology (the status of the organism), social science (the practical subject), and cognitive science (the cognitive subject). In this essay I examine how the philosophy of Deleuze and that of Deleuze and Guattari can help us see some of the most important implications of the debate on the status of the organism, as well as prepare the ground for a discussion of the practical and cognitive subject.
All of what follows depends on accepting the strong case put forth in DeLanda that Deleuze’s project in Difference and Repetition and The Logic of Sense – continued in the collaborative works of DG – establishes the ontology of a world able to yield the results forthcoming in complexity theory. In terms I will explain further below, complexity theory models material systems using the techniques of nonlinear dynamics, which, by means of showing the topological features of manifolds (the distribution of ‘singularities’) affecting a series of trajectories in a phase space, reveals the patterns (shown by ‘attractors’ in the models), thresholds (‘bifurcators’ in the models), and the necessary intensity of triggers (events that move systems to a threshold activating a pattern) of these systems. By showing the spontaneous appearance of indicators of patterns and thresholds in the models of the behaviour of complex systems, complexity theory enables us to think material systems in terms of their powers of immanent self-organization.