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The term virtual is a concept applied in many fields with somewhat differing connotations, and also, differing denotations. In philosophy, it can be described as "that which is not real" but may display the salient qualities of the real.

Numerous philosophers have advanced conceptions of the virtual.

Prominent among these in contemporary philosophy has been Gilles Deleuze, who uses the term virtual to refer to an aspect of reality that is not material, but which is nonetheless real. An example of this would be the meaning, or sense, of a proposition, which is not a material aspect of that proposition (whether it be written or spoken) but is nonetheless an attribute of that proposition. Deleuze's concept of the virtual has two aspects: first, we could say that the virtual is a kind of surface effect produced by the actual causal interactions which occur at the material level. When one uses a computer, an image is projected on the monitor screen which depends upon physical interactions going on at the level of hardware. The window is nowhere in actuality, but is nonetheless real and can be interacted with. This example actually leads to the other aspect of the virtual which Deleuze insists upon, which is its generative nature. The virtual is here conceived as a kind of potentiality that becomes fulfilled in the actual. It is still not material, but it is real. Perhaps an example would be becoming inspired by the meaning of a text. The difficulty of how these two aspects of Deleuze's notion of the virtual hang together forms the crux of Slavoj Žižek's Organs without Bodies, in which Žižek claims that Deleuze backs away from this problem by forming a partnership with Félix Guattari. In Bergsonism, Deleuze writes that virtually means "in principle." So, the virtual is not what something is as a matter of fact, but what it is in principle. It must be admitted that this definition is not overly helpful in arriving at a rigorous definition of the term, but it is an important reference in thinking about the way that Deleuze relates to the philosophical tradition. "Virtual" is not opposed to "real" but opposed to "actual," whereas "real" is opposed to "possible." This definition, which is almost indistinguishable from potential, originates in medieval Scholastics and the pseudo-Latin "virtualis".

Recently this conception of the virtual has been challenged and another core meaning has been elicited by (Denis Berthier, "Meditations on the real and the virtual" — in French), based on uses in science (virtual image), technology (virtual world), and etymology (derivation from virtue — Latin virtus[1]). At the same ontological level as "possible," "real," or "potential," "virtual" is defined as that which is not real, but displays the full qualities of the real — in a plainly actual (i.e., not potential) — way. The prototypical case is a reflection in a mirror: it is already there, whether or not one can see it; it is not waiting for any kind of actualization. This definition allows one to understand that real effects may be issued from a virtual object, so that our perception of it and our whole relation to it, are fully real, even if it is not. It explains that virtual reality may be used to cure phobias — which remains contradictory in any conception for which the virtual is a kind of potential.

References

Bibliography

  • Gilles Deleuze, The Actual and the Virtual, in: Dialogues, Second Edition, trans. Eliot Ross Albert, Columbia UP, 2002
  • Christine Buci-Glucksmann, La folie du voir: Une esthétique du virtuel, Galilée, 2002
  • Brian Massumi, Parables for the Virtual. Movement, Affect, Sensation, Duke UP, 2002
  • Origins of Virtualism: An Interview with Frank Popper conducted by Joseph Nechvatal", CAA Art Journal, Spring 2004, pp. 62–77
  • Frank Popper, From Technological to Virtual Art, Leonardo Books, MIT Press, 2007
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Numerous philosophers have advanced conceptions of the virtual.

Prominent among these in continental philosophy has been Gilles Deleuze, who uses the term virtual to refer to an aspect of reality that is abstract, but which is nonetheless real. An example of this would be the meaning, or sense, of a proposition, which is not a material aspect of that proposition (whether it be written or spoken) but is nonetheless an attribute of that proposition.[citation needed] Deleuze's concept of the virtual has two aspects: first, we could say that the virtual is a kind of surface effect produced by the actual causal interactions which occur at the material level.[citation needed] When one uses a computer, an image is projected on the monitor screen which depends upon physical interactions going on at the level of hardware. The window is nowhere in actuality, but is nonetheless real and can be interacted with. This example actually leads to the other aspect of the virtual which Deleuze insists upon, which is its generative nature. The virtual is here conceived as a kind of potentiality that becomes fulfilled in the actual. It is still not material, but it is real. The difficulty of how these two aspects of Deleuze's notion of the virtual hang together forms the crux of Slavoj Žižek's argument in his Organs without Bodies, in which he claims that Deleuze backs away from this problem by forming a partnership with Félix Guattari.[citation needed] Deleuze argues that Henri Bergson developed "the notion of the virtual to its highest degree" and that he based his entire philosophy on it.[1] In Bergsonism, Deleuze writes that "virtual" is not opposed to "real" but opposed to "actual," whereas "real" is opposed to "possible."[2] This definition, which is almost indistinguishable from potential, originates in medieval Scholastics and the pseudo-Latin "virtualis". Deleuze identifies the virtual, considered as a continuous multiplicity, with Bergson's "duration": "it is the virtual insofar as it is actualized, in the course of being actualized, it is inseparable from the movement of its actualization."[3]

Recently this conception of the virtual has been challenged and another core meaning has been elicited by (Denis Berthier, "Meditations on the real and the virtual" — in French), based on uses in science (virtual image), technology (virtual world), and etymology (derivation from virtue — Latin virtus[4]). At the same ontological level as "possible," "real," or "potential," "virtual" is defined as that which is not real, but displays the full qualities of the real — in a plainly actual (i.e., not potential) — way. The prototypical case is a reflection in a mirror: it is already there, whether or not one can see it; it is not waiting for any kind of actualization. This definition allows one to understand that real effects may be issued from a virtual object, so that our perception of it and our whole relation to it, are fully real, even if it is not. This explains how virtual reality is able to be used to cure phobias.

References

  1. ^ Deleuze (1966, 43).
  2. ^ Deleuze (1966, 96-98).
  3. ^ Deleuze (1966, 42-43, 81) and Deleuze (2002a, 44).
  4. ^ http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=virtual

Sources

  • Deleuze, Gilles. 1966. Bergsonism. Trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam. NY: Zone, 1991. ISBN 0942299078.
  • ---. 2002a. Desert Islands and Other Texts 1953-1974. Trans. David Lapoujade. Ed. Michael Taormina. Semiotext(e) Foreign Agents ser. Los Angeles and New York: Semiotext(e), 2004. ISBN 1584350180.
  • ---. 2002b. "The Actual and the Virtual." In Dialogues II. Rev. ed. Trans. Eliot Ross Albert. New York and Chichester: Columbia UP. 148-152. ISBN 0826490778.
  • Christine Buci-Glucksmann, La folie du voir: Une esthétique du virtuel, Galilée, 2002
  • Massumi, Brian. 2002. Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation. Post-Contemporary Interventions ser. Durham and London: Duke UP. ISBN 0822328976.
  • Origins of Virtualism: An Interview with Frank Popper conducted by Joseph Nechvatal", CAA Art Journal, Spring 2004, pp. 62–77
  • Frank Popper, From Technological to Virtual Art, Leonardo Books, MIT Press, 2007

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