Glossary

Welcome to our glossary! This document will hopefully grow into a big bank of terminology from a huge variety of discussions and inquisitions. Watch this space!

Use the search bar below to find different concepts. You can search by either the concept's name, the author of the piece it appears in, the philosopher or area of study it came from, or the content of the definition itself.




  1. Abjection

    Judith Butler’s term which describes a position of being interpellated as a subject in a social context wherein one does not recognise oneself as an intelligible subject. Butler contends that this condition is one which has the power to do great psychic and social injury to the subject, but is also the space in which one can resist the injurious discourses which put them there. Find submission here.

  2. Alloplastic Strata

    Refers to strata created by humans and human societies, it is fundamentally social in nature. Also referred to as anthropomorphic strata. Find submission here.

  3. Angst

    The Danish word angest is alternately translated as “angst” or “dread.” Find submission here.

  4. Arborescent

    Resembling a tree; tree-like. Used by Deleuze and Guattari to refer to hierarchical structures and linear development. Tends to work with binary choices, such as in Aristotle. Cf. Rhizomatic. Find submission here.

  5. Asceticism

    A practice which aims to diminish the intensity of desire through leading an austere lifestyle, and by abstaining from normal pleasures of life. Find submission here.

  6. Assemblage

    Any collection of objects that come together to produce emergent effects. A machinic (think: machine-ic) assemblage is a productive assemblage, and continually creates and effectuates change. Assemblages can act upon each other and interlock, eventually creating the mechanosphere, where reality is conceived as being constantly in movement and in the process of self-creation. Find submission here.

  7. Axioms of Capital

    Axioms of Capital: The Marxist limits of capital in Deleuzoguattarian jargon. The axioms are the rules of capitalist development and exploitation, that are constantly overcome and reformulated by capital. Find submission here.

  8. Base (structure)/superstructure

    A metaphor used by Marx and Engels, and later Marxist thinkers like Althusser and Gramsci, to describe the relationship between the economic organisation of society (the base or structure) and the political, legal, and cultural ideological consciousness which arises from this organisation (superstructure). Althusser clarifies this position by arguing that the economic base is determinant in the last instance of the superstructure, though the superstructure operates relatively autonomously. Find submission here.

  9. Brahmanism

    Contested. Often understood as the religious sect of Hinduism that propagates caste, however radical anti-caste activists conflate Hinduism and Brahmanism. Brahmanism asserts the authority of the Vedas, the Manusmriti, and other ideas that support caste. If you want a definition, find the submission here.

  10. Cambrian Period

    The geologic period from 541-485.4 million years ago. Known for the rapid proliferation of complex life and the development of the types of ecological relationships (e.g. predator-prey) that continue to this day. Post-Cambrian therefore refers to the period from 485.3 million years ago to the current day. Find submission here.

  11. Carboniferous Period

    The geologic period from 358.9-298.9 million years ago. Etymologically, the name Carboniferous means ‘coal-bearing’, due to the evolution of trees, but not the bacteria and fungi that can break down their rotting corpses, leading to much of the plants of this period being concentrated into fossil fuel deposits. Find submission here.

  12. Caste (AKA Varna)

    Caste is often understood as an endogamous social/religious/political/economic group in India, organised around Hinduism’s chaturvarna. Each caste has different rules as to who they can marry, touch, which temples they can or cannot enter etc. The caste system is said to operate on an ascending scale of power and a descending scale of exploitation. Each caste has their own dharma, or way of life, rights, laws, duties etc. Caste also involves karma, where lower castes are essentially living out a sentence for the bad deeds they have done in past lives. Find submission here.

  13. Chaturvarna

    The system of four (chatur) castes (varna), ranked in a descending order from Brahmins (priests), Kshatriyas (warriors), Vaishyas (merchants) and Shudras (peasants). Find submission here.

  14. Compossible

    Able to consist within one subject or space. For the Early Modern European philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, possible worlds were composed of objects that were all compossible with one another. Find submission here.

  15. Class-consciousness

    Awareness of one’s position in relation to the prevailing productive forces wherein one recognises oneself as a member of a social class, the proletariat who must sell their labour to survive as opposed to the bourgeoisie, who own the means of production. It can operate both individually and, importantly in Marxist-Leninist theory, it must also occur on a collective basis in order for the working class to rise up and smash the state machine.

    The primary focus of Bree Booth's argument is the individual operation of class-consciousness. Find submission here.

  16. Dalit (AKA ati-shudra)

    The modern day term for the caste that is avarna, or outside of the caste system. These are the people who are at the very bottom of the caste system. Formerly known by the derogatory word ‘untouchable’. Hindu Dalits are known as Scheduled Castes.Other low-ranking disadvantaged castes are known as Other Backwards Castes (OBC). Find submission here.

  17. Despair

    From the Danish ‘fortvivlelse.’ In Kierkegaard, despair is a technical term which refers to a sickness of the spirit arising from a misconception of one’s own nature as a human self. The human self is a synthesis of opposing elements – the infinite and the finite, the temporal and eternal, freedom and necessity. In a self-actualised individual these elements exist in perfect balance. Where there is a disjunct between these elements, the individual will be in the condition of despair. Find submission here.

  18. Dialectical Materialism

    A Marxist notion which combines the philosophy of materialism with the Hegelian notion of the dialectic as a driving force of history.

    There exists debate among Marxists as to the extent to which this is teleological. Bree Booth argues that it is not. Find submission here.

  19. Devonian Period

    The geologic period from 419.2-358.9 million years ago. Notable for the adaptive radiation of both plant and animal life onto dry land. Find submission here.

  20. Epistemological Nihilism

    A form of philosophical scepticism which holds that knowledge either does not exist or is unattainable for human beings. Find submission here.

  21. Existential Nihilism

    A philosophical theory that life has no intrinsic meaning or value, and thus humanity and individuals have no ultimate purpose. Find submission here.

  22. Existentialism

    A loose collection of philosophical projects which centre around common themes of dread, anxiety, the absence of rational understanding and the absurdity of existence. Broadly speaking, existentialism can be opposed to essentialism, the position that people (and things) have an essential purpose or telos which makes them what they are. Find submission here.

  23. Flow

    In the Deleuzoguatrarian context, a flow is the movement of anything from a concrete case like water, to more abstract concepts like information, capital or desire. Machines act upon flows, convert them into other flows and direct them towards and connect them with other machinic assemblages. Find submission here.

  24. Hinduism

    Contested. Usually understood as the religion continuing from the Indus Valley civilisation. Associated with the Vedas. If you want a definition, find the submission here.

  25. Historical Materialism

    The Marxist conception of history: Changes in productive forces in society lead to contradictions in the mode of production and social upheaval, giving way to a new mode of production. Marx took pains to emphasise that this conception is non-fatalistic in nature. Find submission here.

  26. Idealism

    The position that the world is fundamentally composed of immaterial forces.
    For example, the Hegelian Idea. Hegel was a proponent of transcendental idealism, the belief that the world is to be equated with objective thought. Marx rejected this notion on the grounds that Hegel had inverted the true order of things. Find submission here.

  27. Ideology

    In common sense usage, a conceptual scheme or a system of beliefs that provide a foundation for action.

    Bree Booth draws upon a specific Althusserian conception of ideology as “the imaginary relation of ...individuals to the real relations in which they live.” Find submission here.

  28. Interpellation

    An Althusserian term which describes the mechanism by which a human subject is constructed by unconscious and pre-determined ideological structures. In being interpellated as a member of a social group, the subject is able to recognise themselves as a subject who partakes in ideology (i.e. who has ideas of their own). In common english, the term means ‘to give an identity to.’ Find submission here.

  29. Jati

    An individual’s subcaste within the larger chaturvarna categories. Around 4000 subcastes in India exist. Jatis complicate the chaturvarna hierarchy, as the roles and social/political/economic rankings of jatis vary across regions. Find submission here.

  30. Leap of Faith

    From the Danish ‘troens spring’, most accurately translated as leap into faith. It refers to a state in which a person is faced with a choice that cannot be justified rationally and he therefore has to leap into it. The leap into faith is circular insofar as it is itself justified by faith which arises from the contradictions between the ethical and religious modes of life. Find submission here.

  31. Manusmriti

    A text compiled after the Vedas (creation date contested), this is the main text that is cited which extensively outlines the hierarchy and roles within the caste system. Evidence shows that the Manusmriti was compiled by Brahmins. Find submission here.

  32. Materialism

    The philosophical view that the world is entirely composed of matter as opposed to incorporeal things like ideas. See also: physicalism. Find submission here.

  33. Mycorrhizal Fungi

    A collection of species of fungi that enter into symbiotic relationships with the roots of trees. They can allow for the absorption of certain nutrients and minerals, and for communication and resource transfer between different trees. Find submission here.

  34. Nihilism

    The philosophical position of believing in nothing, the rejection of all moral principles and the idea that life can have a meaning. Nihilism is to be distinguished from existentialism in that existentialists believe that meaning is possible, but is self-created and is not inherent within us. Find submission here.

  35. Phanerozoic

    The geologic eon ranging from 541 millions years ago (the beginning of the Cambrian period) to the present day. The Pre-Cambrian supereon refers to all eons prior to the Phanerozoic, which are characterized by the formation of the Earth and the development of simple life. In contrast, the Phanerozoic has witnessed the radiation of this simple life into increasingly complex life and ecosystems. Find submission here.

  36. Purushu sukta hymn

    A hymn within the Rg Veda (1200 - 900 BCE), said to be the genesis of the practice of caste. The hymn outlines how the Brahman is born from the head of Purusa, the Ksatriya from the arm, the Vaisya from the thigh, and the Sudra from the feet. Find submission here.

  37. Rhizomatic

    A botanical model developed by Deleuze and Guattari for becoming and multiplicity. The rhizome rejects all points of origin, and instead presents reality as a collection of heterogeneous relations. Cf. Arborescent. Find submission here.

  38. Strata/Stratification

    Strata act as centres that structure and territorialize reality through the process of stratification. Strata structure material flows at a less organised level than their own. They are non-homogenous, and are instead composed of epistrata, which act as plural and variable layers outside of a stratified section. Parastrata mediate the spaces in between different strata. Find submission here.

  39. The Vedas

    The Vedas are religious texts produced between 1500 BCE - 500 BCE by the Indus Valley civilisation. The Vedas are considered to be shrutis: texts that are eternal and authorless, with unquestionable truths. Texts created in the post-Vedic period are said to be smritis, that which has an author and may change across time. Find submission here.

  40. Young Hegelians

    A trend in German philosophy which occurred in the 1830s and 1840s. The political project of the group was to justify the bourgeois reform of the German state on Idealist grounds. Key proponents include Max Stirner and Ludwig von Feuerbach. (Marx and Engels broke with the Young Hegelians in the mid-1840s, critiquing the trend in The German Ideology). Find submission here.