• StreetlightX
    3.1k
    The use of apparatuses in science is well known. Microscopes, particle accelerators and bubble chambers all being familiar examples. But I want to make an argument that concepts can also function as apparatus, and that philosophy - largely in the business of concept mongering - is thus also in the business of constructing what are essentially intellectual apparatuses.

    First question: what is an apparatus? A: An apparatus is a way of intervening into nature, a way of bringing about a change, which, in turn, will tell us about the thing we are manipulating. A crucial thing to understand here is than an apparatus is not a passive, 'observing' instrument: an apparatus actively impinges upon, and is productive of, the phenomena it interacts with. An apparatus in this sense is not unlike a dam across a river: a dam harnesses pre-existing forces and redirects them, or channels them in a different way to how they would usually flow, in order to produce something (in the dam's case, power).

    Apparatuses are also commonly associated with the notion of 'capture'. This association is probably made most clear when speaking of photographic apparatus - the camera, which captures an image, does so by harnessing the light in certain ways (even a picture thus is a product of an interaction, and not a passive reception). These two elements of an apparatus - its power to capture and its power to produce something - are not at odds. Indeed, an apparatus produces by means of capture: a photo produced by the capture of light, power produced by the capture of water.

    What I want to add to this is that philosophical concepts also function by means of this double operation: concepts both capture and produce - they are apparatus. Descartes' famous Cogito, to use a well worn example, both produces a way of understanding the self, and does so by capturing an articulation between being, thinking, and doubting, placing them into a certain relation with each other. The Platonic Idea (eidos) is similarly an apparatus for producing an understanding of how things get their 'form', capturing, within its orbit, a certain relation between the multiplicity of things, and the similarities between them.

    Philosophy in this sense is a matter of the construction of intellectual apparatus: to philosophize is, among other things, to build little machines of capture that articulate a variety of elements in a certain manner. Concepts, as productive apparatuses of capture, function like stars, their (intellectual) gravity coalescing loose ideas around them to form something like little solar systems of orbiting noospheres. A fun image, I think.
  • Galuchat
    481
    I want to make an argument that concepts can also function as apparatus, and that philosophy - largely in the business of concept mongering - is thus also in the business of constructing what are essentially intellectual apparatuses.StreetlightX

    Engineering design is an intellectual apparatus which captures a project brief and existing data, and produces a building, or infrastructure.

    Whereas, concept is an intellectual apparatus which captures objects having similar attributes and logical relations to other ideas, categories, and concepts, and produces a mental model, or theory.
  • alan1000
    27
    "An apparatus is a way of intervening into nature, a way of bringing about a change,"

    I'm sorry, why do you think that? If I observe the motions of the planets around Saturn, does that influence those motions?

    Granted, in quantum mechanics, we consider that the act of observation entails interference (cp Heysenburg). But in Newtonian or Relativistic mechanics, we don't normally think this holds.
  • StreetlightX
    3.1k
    I'm sorry, why do you think that? If I observe the motions of the planets around Saturn, does that influence those motions?alan1000

    You misunderstand. Nothing about what is said implies that the observation influences the motions. The change can, and usually does, take place on the side of the apparatus itself: the delay in the travel time of light in an interferometer; the change in a magnetic field in a voltmeter. These are the kinds of changes I'm referring to.
  • leo
    30

    Yes, and I would add that an apparatus is a tool used to focus on and fixate a part of 'reality' in a certain way, so as to investigate it more closely in isolation to the rest, just like a concept.

    They both allow us to uncover some order in the change that we previously didn't see, some regularities, relationships. But using them restricts us to thinking within the part of 'reality' that they fixate, so after we use them we must not forget to zoom out so as to see the whole again.
  • apokrisis
    4.4k
    Standard semiotics. Rosen’s modelling relation in a nutshell. The concept is the the theory, the generality, and what it has to produce is the act of measurement, the particular example, the sign that the concept is true of the world about which it makes a modelling claim.
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment

Welcome to The Philosophy Forum!

Get involved in philosophical discussions about knowledge, truth, language, consciousness, science, politics, religion, logic and mathematics, art, history, and lots more. No ads, no clutter, and very little agreement — just fascinating conversations.