State / Process

State                               -                      Process
Goal                               -                      Journey
Static                             -                      Dynamic
Past                                -                      Future
Newtonian                     -                      Einsteinian
Transcendent                 -                      Immanent
Solid                              -                      Liquid
Particle                           -                      Wave
Being                              -                      Becoming

The Being view contends that we have a nature that is in some sense static and unchanging across time, be it the lifespan of the individual or of the species.

The Becoming view reveals Being as a fiction, as something to be chased but never attained. Human nature is essentially changeable, and adaptability is its keynote. Life is defined by this endless chase - by endless becoming.

The traditionalist view acknowledges Becoming but situates it within Being. We have a distinct and unchanging essence from which we can stray to a degree. All options are open, but our nature tethers us, and our fate is already written.

The traditionalist view asserts that we already possess Being (a centre, a predetermined form) and the challenge is to act in alignment with it, which involves renouncing multiple possibilities in favour of limited actualities. In this sense the traditionalist view is inherently anti-romantic, the latter insisting that the individual has no Being, or determined centre. The romantic edict is to renounce nothing and be everything, in a tragic-heroic effort to fill the hole at the centre.

Traditional man does not chase Being because he already has Being within him, as his root. It is where he starts from, and as such is not something to be pursued or captured. This gives him a security and self-possession that is missing in modern (romantic) man. Traditional man knows who he is and seeks to be true to himself at all times, which is another way of saying that he seeks to conserve and affirm his predetermined form.

With the death of God the transcendent realm became inaccessible and so all meaning was confined within the mundane realm, within the world of Becoming. 

Outcome Orientation

From kindergarten on, the focus of schooling is usually on goals rather than on the process by which they are achieved. This single-minded pursuit of one outcome or another, from tying shoelaces to getting into Harvard, makes it difficult to have a mindful attitude about life.

When children start a new activity with an outcome orientation, questions of "Can I?" or "What if I can't do it?" are likely to predominate, creating an anxious preoccupation with success or failure rather than drawing on the child's natural, exuberant desire to explore. Instead of enjoying the colour of the crayon, the designs on the paper, and a variety of possible shapes along the way, the child sets about writing a "correct" letter A.

Process Orientation

In contrast, a process orientation asks "How do I do it?" instead of "Can I do it?" and this directs attention toward defining the steps that are necessary on the way. This orientation can be characterized in terms of the guiding principle that there are no failures, only ineffective solutions.

The style of education that concentrates on outcomes generally also presents facts unconditionally. This approach encourages mindlessness. If something is presented as an accepted truth, alternative ways of thinking do not even come up for consideration.

Such a single-minded way of viewing the world can generalize to virtually everything we do. By teaching absolutes we pass our culture from one generation to the next. It brings stability. But ... the cost may be high.

[Ellen Langer]
Mindfulness, p.33, 34, 35

[...] goals energize and direct people's activities in organized ways [and] serve to engage the activities of those who adopt them.

These views implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) convey the sense that goals give meaning to people's lives. 

Each of these notions emphasizes the fact that understanding a person means understanding the person's goals. Indeed, it's often implicit in these theories that the self is made partly of the person's goals and the organization among them [...]

[C.S. Carver & M.F. Scheier]
On the Self-Regulation of Behavior, p. 65

Being and becoming, according to Nietzsche, are not at all related as we commonly suppose.

“Becoming,” he write, “must be explained without recourse to final intentions … Becoming does not aim at a final state, does not flow into ‘being’.” 

One of his many criticisms of philosophers […] is that they have turned away from what changes and concentrated instead on what is: “But since nothing is, all that was left to the philosophers as their ‘world’ was the imaginary.”

[Alexander Nehamas]
Nietzsche: Life as Literature, p. 170


These becomings animate the possibilities of life, constantly moving through what we know to be real or true and running beyond the limits, boundaries and constraints that make those realities and truths what they seem to be.

Becoming explodes the ideas about what we are and what we can be beyond the categories that seem to contain us: beyond the boundaries separating human being from animal, man from woman, child from adult, micro from macro, and even perceptible and understandable from imperceptible and incomprehensible.

Becoming moves beyond our need to know (the truth, what is real, what makes us human); beyond our determination to control (life, nature, the universe); and beyond our desire to consume or possess (pleasure, beauty, goodness, innocence).

So becoming offers a radical conception of what a life does.

Positive ontology

Deleuze's work is often applauded for the "positive ontology" it pursues [...] Deleuze is concerned with unfettering possibility to experiment with what a life can do and where a life might go. 

In other words, Delueze affirms the possibilities of becoming something else, beyond the avenues, relations, values and meanings that seem to be laid out for us by our biological make-up, our evolutionary heritages, our historical/political/familial allegiances, and the social and cultural structures of civilized living.

There is in this a radical affirmation of the sort of possibilities for becoming that we cannot think of in logical or moralistic terms: becomings that can only be felt or sensed or conjured, that require us to take risks and experiment in ways that affirm the vitality, the energies and the creative animations of existence.


We might be tempted to think of becoming in terms of where or who we were when we started and where or who we are when we end up. But becoming is not about origins, progressions and ends; rather it is about lines and intensities [...]

Deleuze and Guattari have described the movement of becoming as "rhizomatic", a term that refers to underground root growth, the rampant, dense propagation of roots that characterizes such plants as mint or crabgrass.

Each rhizomatic root may take off in its own singular direction and make its own connections with other roots, with worms, insects, rocks or whatever, forming a dynamic composition of "interkingdoms [and] unnatural participations" that has no prescribed form or end.


Deleuze's philosophy is often called a philosophy of immanence because it is concerned with what a life can do, what a body can do when we think in terms of becomings, multiplicities, lines and intensities rather than essential forms, predetermined subjects, structured functions or transcendent values.

[...] a plane of immanence has no structure and does not produce predetermined forms or subjects; instead, there are "relations of movement and rest, speed and slowness ... molecules and particles of all kinds".

[Patty Sotirin]
Gilles Deleuze: Key Concepts, p.99, 100-1, 103, 108-9

Aversion to the possibility that wholes might act on their parts betrays both the continuing and uncritical acceptance of philosophy's refusal to countenance self-cause as well as the prevalent philosophical tendency toward reification: an ontological bias that favors concrete things over processes and relations, substances over properties. 

It is true, of course, that wholes do not act on their components forcefully; but neither are wholes other than or external to the components that make them up. And to claim that they do not causally affect their components at all begs the question by assuming that all cause must be billiard ball-like to be causally efficacious at all.

[Alicia Juarrero]
Dynamics in Action, p.129

As Saussure memorably puts it, we have to think of a system of differences without positive terms.
The differences come before what they differentiate - language forms a network in which what we thought were the elements are like the holes in the net.

If Saussure is right, then the whole notion of the sign begins to crumble.

What we thought we needed was a signified to complete the sign, what we got was a bunch of interrelated signifiers that seemed to do the trick just fine, though we always might add new signifiers […] 

So I say, let’s just ditch the whole business of the signified, and try to complete the linguistic turn - or turn it a little further - by saying that it all starts, not with the supposedly whole sign, but with the signifier. And what we were always temped to call ‘meaning,’ or signified, just emerges a bit like a ghost or a spectre from the interrelation of signifiers among themselves. 

[Geoffrey Bennington]
‘Geoffrey Bennington on Derrida and Deconstruction (Modern Critical Theory Lecture Series)’

To Derrida, a sign is the play of identity and difference; half of the sign is always "not there", and another half "not that" (We define everything negatively, a chair is 'not' a table, 'not' five-legged, one-legged, 'not' animate, 'not' of flesh).  

The sign never leads to the extra-linguistic thing, it leads to another sign, one substituting the other playfully inside the structure of language. We do not feel the presence of a thing through a sign, but through the absence of other presences, we guess what it is. 

To Derrida, trace and not "being-there", difference and not-identity, create meaning inside language. 

‘Trace (deconstruction)’, Wikipedia

'Idealised future state'

Systems thinking [...] defines an ideal future state and tries to close the gap, and of course it never gets there. 

Complexity says what matters is accurately describing the present out of the things in the present you can change, where you can monitor the effect of the change, and effectively move to a safe-to-fail experimental management of the present, to evolve forwards to a future state which is more sustainable and more resilient.

[...] managing the evolutionary potential of the present rather than constantly failing to achieve an idealised future state which might not be the best place to get to anyway.

[Dave Snowden]

According to Deutsch, current theories of physics based on quantum mechanics do not adequately explain why some transformations between states of being are possible and some are not. 

For example, a drop of dye can dissolve in water but thermodynamics shows that the reverse transformation, of the dye clumping back together, is effectively impossible. We do not know at a quantum level why this should be so.

Constructor theory provides an explanatory framework built on the transformations themselves, rather than the components.

'Constructor theory'

This is not the place for a detailed examination of these theories, but attention must at least be called to certain features closely connected with the subject of this book. The first is their 'evolutionism', which remains unbroken and is carried to an extreme, for all reality is placed exclusively within 'becoming', involving the formal denial of all immutable principle, and consequently of all metaphysics; hence their 'fleeting’ and inconsistent quality, which really affords, in contrast with the rationalist and materialist ‘solidification', something like a prefiguration of the dissolution of all things in the final chaos. 

For [Bergson] therefore there are two sorts of religion, one 'static’ and the other ‘dynamic’, alternatively and somewhat oddly called by him ‘closed religion' and 'open religion'; the first is social in its nature and the second psychological; and naturally his preference is for the second, which he regards as the superior form of religion - we say ‘naturally’ because it is very evident that it could not be otherwise in a 'philosophy of becoming’ such as his, since from that point of view whatever does not change does not correspond to anything real, and even prevents man from grasping the real such as it is imagined to be. 

But someone will say that a philosophy of this kind, since it admits of no ‘eternal truths’, must logically refuse all value not only to metaphysics but also to religion; and that is exactly what happens, for religion in the true sense of the word is just what Bergson calls ‘static religion', in which he chooses to see nothing but a wholly imaginary ‘story-telling'; as for his ‘dynamic religion', the truth is that it is not religion at all.

His so-called ‘dynamic religion' in fact contains none of the characteristic elements that go to make up the definition of religion: there are no dogmas, since they are immutable or, as Bergson says, 'fixed'; no more, of course, are there any rites, for the same reason and because of their social character, dogmas and rites necessarily being left to 'static religion'; and as for morality, Bergson starts setting it aside as something quite outside religion as he understands it. 

[René Guénon] 
The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times, p. 221-2

We have seen that the obscurity already inherent in existentialism is exacerbated in Heidegger by his view of man as an entity that does not include being within itself (or behind it, as its root), but rather before it, as if being were something to be pursued and captured.

Being is conceived here as the totality of possibilities, with regard to which one is to blame, or, taking the other meaning of Schuld, in debt. The existentialists never explain why this is the case, or why one should feel this destiny of seizing a pandemic totality at all costs.

We can explain it with reference to what I have already said: that it is all symptomatic of someone who suffers the unfolding or activity of the transcendent as a coercive force, with no feeling of freedom. It is as though the possibilities necessarily excluded from a finite being (finitude being negation) were projected onto goals and situations deployed in time; as though man had being before him, running ahead of him [...] in a process that can never lead to a real possession, in a "horizontally ecstatic” succession (ecstasy here in the literal meaning of exit from a stasis) that constitutes "authentic temporality."

This is how Heidegger presents things; no other meaning is permitted for man’s being, as long as he is alive, because he always suffers from nontotality.

Dasein, the I, which is nothing in itself, pursues being that is outside and before it, and this runs through time, in the same dependent relationship as the thirsty man seeking water - with the difference that it is inconceivable that he will ever reach Being, when he does not already possess it […]

[…] to the human type that interests us […] becoming and existing in time are substantially transformed in their structure and significance. The dark downward pull, the neediness, compulsion, and unquiet tension are destroyed, and existence takes on a character of acting and living decisively, arising from an existing principle that is detached and free with regard to itself and its determined action.

This happens naturally when the accent falls away from the I, or is transferred to the transcendent dimension - to Being.

Someone has spoken of a “frenetic desire to live, to live at any price, which is not the result of the rhythm of life within us, but of the rhythm of death.” This is one of the principal traits of our time. One would not be rash in saying that this is the ultimate meaning of Heidegger’s existentialism, when thought through to its foundations, that is, of existentialism that admits no religious opening.

[Julius Evola]
Ride the Tiger, p. 95-6

Since Faraday's time, particle physics has steadily moved away from [the] static model. Forces and fields are now the main players in the game and mass is interchangeable with energy.

Particles are defined in terms of their capacities for action, which naturally vary with the contexts in which they are placed.

There is genuine interaction between them. But this scientific development was delayed for a long time by the imaginative grip of the static model - by the belief that impact was indeed the only possible source of movement, the only force that reason could recognise.

We are free now from the metaphysics which seemed to go with the old physics, from the notion that only the unchanging is real. We don't any longer need to posit static units as the terminus to explanation, treating all explanations as provisional until they reach it.

Change, in fact, is not unreal, it is a fundamental aspect of reality. Parmenides thought that changeable, interacting things were unreal because he thought change could not be understood. But this idea flows from a special notion of what it means to understand something.

Certainly there are some forms of understanding which abstract from time and change, notably in mathematics. And this timelessness does give these explanations a specially satisfying kind of completeness. But for other problems, such as when we want to understand fire or explosions, time and change are part of the subject-matter. And there are other situations again, notably ones involving living organisms, where whole sets of interconnected changes are going on at the same time.

Yet we do gain some understanding of these matters. Thermodynamics and climatology and biology are not just a string of lies and delusions. Their explanations are in a way less complete, less final than those of mathematics, but this is because, being less abstract, they do so much more work.

[Mary Midgley]
Science and Poetry, p.85, 87

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