January 02, 2006

What is Philosophy?

For Deleuze and Guattari a philosophy’s power is not only measured, as Deleuze claims in his early Spinoza book, “by the concepts it creates, or whose meaning it alters”, but also by the degree to which it is able to maintain an internalised non-philosophical plane of thought (that is, thought as a pure conceptless and immanent self-movement). The “creative” activity of the philosopher (the “friend of the concept”) involves an ongoing process of mediation with (and the inclusion of) the vitality of the non-philosophical plane of thought (or being), “the plane of pure immanence.” Indeed, conceptual “creation” as an act of the philosopher and the autonomously self-positing/immanent movement of thought (or being) are mutually implied; or, in other words, are two aspects of one and the same process. This process is obviously not just confined to the co-creative activities of the philosophical realm—a nything which is “created,” whether it be a living organism, a work of art, or indeed a “concept,” has what Deleuze and Guattari call this “autopoetic characteristic” (that is, an autonomous and immanent movement of becoming) whereby they self-posit or realize themselves. So that which emerges, that which is realized, from a free and creative act, is also, they suggest, that which also necessarily posits itself. Deleuze and Guattari clearly reconfigure philosophy as having to preserve the plane of immanence through misosophy, to maintain it through an irreducible relationship to the non-philosophical fields of both the arts and sciences. More importantly, they argue that the vital creativity associated with philosophy and its conceptual movement in some sense rests upon it being necessarily intertwined and co-implicated with the autopoiesis (the element that creatively “self-posits”) of those non-philosophical realms. In the short preface to the 1994 English translation of DR a text contemporaneous with WP Deleuze writes – “Philosophy…creates and expounds its own concepts only in relation to what it can grasp of scientific functions and artistic constructions…The scientific or artistic content of a philosophy may be very elementary, since it is not obliged to advance art or science, but it can advance itself only by forming properly philosophical concepts from a given function or construction, however elementary. Philosophy cannot be undertaken independently of science or art.” DR p. xiv

The vital task involves what Deleuze and Guattari term in What is Philosophy?, a “pedagogy of the concept”; or, in other words, how to go about “creating” new types of divergent concept, that is, concepts of difference that “move,” rather than merely forming or fabricating copies or clichés of existing ones. For Deleuze and Guattari if we are ever to begin to approach an answer to this problem it must be through analysing the non-philosophical, preserved in its difference from the philosophical (from the conceptual). Crucial to this task of the “pedagogy of the concept” is a rigorous analysis of the “conditions of creativity” associated with philosophical activity, which must necessarily make reference to the vital and sovereign activities of the non-philosophical (that is, the sciences and the arts) (each of which presents its own distinct strategies for “thinking” and “creating”).

(Darren Ambrose)

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