State / Process

State                               -                      Process
Outcome                        -                      Process
Goal                               -                      Journey
Newtonian                     -                      Einsteinian
Transcendent                 -                      Immanent
State                               -                      Process
Solid                              -                      Liquid
Particle                           -                      Wave
Being                              -                      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'