February 05, 2006

What is Philosophy? Reading Group: Second Meeting: Notes

What is Philosophy?; Chapter 3 – ‘Conceptual Personae’

This weeks’ discussion began with a consideration of the example which opens this chapter on ‘conceptual personae’ –the ‘idiot’. Deleuze & Guattari identify two manifestations of the conceptual persona of the ‘idiot’, which they term the ‘old’ and ‘new ‘idiot’. The old ‘idiot’ is the Cartesian one (associated with Descartes Meditations) – ‘it is the Idiot who says “I” and sets up the cogito…who wants to think, and who thinks for himself, by the ‘natural light’. The new ‘idiot’ emerges when ‘Descartes goes mad in Russia’, (Dostoyevsky’s Idiot).

‘The Old idiot wanted truth, but the new idiot wants to turn the absurd into the highest power of thought – in other words, to create.’ (What is Philosophy?, p. 62)

There was a brief discussion of how appropriate Dostoyevsky’s later work was to this understanding of the new ‘idiot’. The problem of Nietzsche and Nihilism was discussed.

Post-structuralism, as expressed by the conceptual personae of the new ‘idiot’, where sense is constantly pushed to its limits, involves a constant search for the ‘outside’, and a move towards creation. The old Cartesian ‘idiot’ was driven and governed by certain epistemological imperatives and concerns, whereas the new post-Cartesian ‘idiot’ is an ‘ethical’ figure driven to uncertainty and the ‘outside’ of pre-existing sense.

What is the relation between the elaboration of conceptual personae in art (e.g. literature) and in philosophy. For Deleuze & Guattari the two can be intimately connected:

‘The plane of composition of art and the plane of immanence of philosophy can slip into each other to the degree that parts of one may be occupied by entities of the other.’ (What is Philosophy?, p. 66)

The emergence of the new ‘idiot’ in literature (specifically Russian literature) indicates a certain role for literature (evident from Deleuze’s Essays Critical and Clinical) – namely as a symptamology of conceptual personae – what a writer takes a good thinker to be, what a thinker should be doing in a certain ‘space’.

There was a discussion of the possible differences and similarities between symptamology and genealogy. Is symptamology divorced from a more historical or quasi-historical cultural critique. For Deleuze & Guattari conceptual personae are irreducible to what they term ‘psychosocial types’. They write:

‘The features of conceptual personae have relationships with the epoch or historical milieu in which they appear that only psychosocial types enable us to assess. But, conversely, the hysterical and mental movements of psychosocial types, their pathological symptoms, their relational attitudes, their existential modes, and their legal status, become susceptible to a determination purely of thinking and of thought that wrests them from both the historical state of affairs of a society and the lived experience of individuals, in order to turn them into the features of conceptual personae, or thought-events on the plane laid out by thought or under the concepts it creates. Conceptual personae and psychosocial types refer to each other and combine without ever merging.’ (What is Philosophy?, p. 70)

There was then a lengthy discussion of Leibniz and the role of concept creation in his philosophy, and their possible restriction by the type of conceptual personae he elaborates (later identified by Deleuze & Guattari as ‘the lawyer of a God’).

We discussed the crucial role of conceptual personae in disclosing what Deleuze & Guattari term ‘thought’s territories, its absolute deterritorialisations and reterritorialisations.’ (i.e. its ‘diagrammatic’ function):

‘Conceptual personae are thinkers, solely thinkers, and their personalised features are closely linked to the diagrammatic features of thought and the intensive features of concepts.’ (What is Philosophy?, p. 69)

We then worked fairly systematically through the five features of conceptual personae that Deleuze and Guattari identify.

Pathic Features (p. 70) – the aspect of the conceptual personae linked to the sensibility (pathological elements); a difference between the schizophrenic as psychosocial types and as conceptual personae responsible for laying out a plane of thought. (Links here to Nietzsche, Bergson and Foucault). The schizophrenic in the socius moves outside of ‘sense’ and is expelled, the schizophrenic as conceptual personae is analogous to the new ‘idiot’ – a ‘conceptual personae who lives intensely within the thinker and forces him to think’, pushing the ‘absurd into the highest power of thought’.

Relational Features (pp. 70–1) – akin to the Socratic notion of the ‘Friend’.

‘This is not two friends who engage in thought; rather, it is thought itself that requires the thinker to be a friend so that thought is divided up within itself and can be exercised. It is thought itself which requires this division of thought between friends.’ (What is Philosophy?, p. 69)

Dynamic Features (p. 71) – the different forms of energetics involved with a conceptual personae, akin to a new athleticism in thought. It expresses the degree to which conceptual personae move into conjunction, into a becoming with external energetic forces.

Juridical Features (p. 72) – jurisprudence vs. universal principles of law. The juridical features of the conceptual personae elaborated by Leibniz, Kant and Spinoza.

‘Should not beings be judged from within – not at all in the name of the Law or of Values or even by virtue of their conscience but by the purely immanent criteria of their existence.’ (What is Philosophy?, p. 72)

We discussed the juridical features of conceptual personae in relation to Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling.

Existential Features (pp. 72–3) – These are to be understood as the emblematic anecdotes of conceptual personae (‘a few vital anecdotes are sufficient to produce a portrait of a philosophy’):

‘These anecdotes do not refer simply to social or even psychological types of philosopher but show rather the conceptual personae who inhabit them.’ (What is Philosophy?, p. 73)

We discussed the differences between this particular understanding of the existential components of conceptual personae and the ‘intentional fallacy’.

After discussing the five identified features of conceptual personae we proceeded to briefly examine the notion of ‘taste’ introduced by Deleuze & Guattari:

‘The creation of concepts calls for a taste that modulates it. The free creation of determined concepts needs a taste for the undetermined concepts. Taste is this power, this being-potential of the concept: it is certainly not for ‘rational or reasonable’ reasons that a particular concept is created or a particular component chosen.’ (What is Philosophy?, p. 78)

The implicit allusions to Kant’s Third Critique were noted – e.g. the free accord of the cognitive faculties of imagination and understanding, and the singular nature of the aesthetic judgement for Kant. For Kant an indeterminate judgement of taste is not based on a concept, but a ‘feeling’.

We discussed the problem of doxa and urdoxa. The horror of philosophy as doxography, and the difference between philosophy and science, (particularly the relation between concepts, solutions and problems), indicated in the following passage at the conclusion of the third chapter:

‘The concept is indeed a solution, but the problem to which it corresponds lies in its intensional conditions of consistency and not, as in science, in the conditions of reference of extensional propositions. If the concept is a solution, the conditions of the philosophical problem are found on the plane of immanence presupposed by the concept, and the unknowns of the problem are found in the conceptual personae that it calls up. A concept like knowledge has meaning only in relation to an image of thought to which it refers and to a conceptual personae that it needs; a different image and a different persona that it needs; a different image and a different persona call for other concepts. A solution has no meaning independently of a problem to be determined in its conditions and unknowns; but these conditions and unknowns have no meaning independently of solutions determinable as concepts.’ (What is Philosophy?, pp. 80–1)

We concluded by identifying the ongoing post-structuralist problem of philosophy, an ethical problem identified at the end of the chapter:

‘Philosophy thus lives in a permanent crisis. The plane takes effect through shocks, concepts proceed in bursts, and personae by spasms. The relationship among the three instances is problematic by nature.’ (What is Philosphy?, p. 82)

Philosophy is always caught up in a becoming-doxographic, and concepts in a becoming-skeletal. Here nothing positive is done within philosophy. Philosophers and their history and their concepts are brandished like weapons to prevent ongoing philosophical invention and thought.

February 02, 2006

Autopoiesis, stasis and the praxis of the eternal return

This is a really interesting contribution Farshad. My comment is only indirectly relevant. Maybe you can provide a helping hand. In any account of the socius as an abstract machine don't we also need to be able to provide an explanation – maybe this isn't the best word – of how this machine promotes stasis, uniformity, rigidity, segmentarity, molar lines etc… as part of its very auto-poietic activity? And for all the talk of concomitant deterritorializations how are we to account for what Deleuze himself acknowledges as the move from disciplinarian societies to societies of control? Despite new possibilities for a becoming-molecular the patent asymmetry within the geopolitical arena vis-à-vis the State apparatus (writ large) leads ultimately to the elision of any form of substantive resistance. Maybe I'm being fatalist. I pledge ignorance for the moment but I'm sure that someone can provide a helpful suggestion somewhere. But isn't this the ultimate consequence of Deleuze and Guattari's Spinozistic analysis of capitalism? By contrast, Nietzsche's emphasis upon incorporation throughout his oeuvre suggests our fateful (amor fati?) entanglement with reactive forces not their circumvention via selection for the production of difference. So even if he does argue for the insipidity of Christ he nevertheless must affirm him. This is stated more or less unequivocally in 'The Anti-Christ'. The eternal return for Nietzsche isn't as it is for Deleuze a centrifugal existential precept, expelling all reactivity in its wake – it doesn’t finally emerge as comical. The tragic dimension of Nietzsche's thought is never lost despite the generation of an affirmative praxis. Deleuze's conception of the eternal return becomes superfluous for the wrong reasons – it undermines itself – for Nietzsche it becomes superfluous because it's incorporated – it becomes second nature to the over-man.

January 30, 2006

Podcast– Aislinn O'Donnell

The podcast of Aislinn O'Donnell's seminar from last Thursday entitled 'Shame and the Possibilities of Life' is now available at:


The question of autopoiesis

Isn’t autopoiesis a matter of perspective or rather interpretation: a matter of distance?

Deleuze and Guattari would not necessarily disagree, for there must be some manner whereby new concepts can be created, or must be created. Autopoiesis can be considered an illusion in the same manner that the ‘same’ in Nietzsche’s eternal return can be considered a problematic by which difference can be incorporated and reproduced.

A society can be considered self-positing when considered as an organism; as can the body for it to be a body; as can the polyp when we assume it is one entity: this is nothing new. We create circularities through our understanding: however these circles cannot be closed, for in closing them we lose any new discovery of modes of being and understanding, and in some manner we lose understanding and slip into the senseless as such or perhaps scientifically closed comprehension without distance. Thus ought we replace scientific comprehension (an impossibility) with existential apprehension (impossible possibility: leaps that are perpetually grounded)?
Is distance crucial to problematisation as well as the production of unification and the autopoetic i.e. un-problematisation and solution: dissolution of the problem, its complete disappearance so it may once again reappear as having always been present? Must we ever deepen the problem so as to maintain movement, just as a tree has to grow deeper and stronger roots so as to grow higher?

The notion of a self-positing system or auto-organised entity is problematic insofar as we are in danger of, on the one hand, assuming the cause is within the being as such and on the other purely in our cognitive faculties: it explains nothing once it becomes an unproblematic concept, a given. One could easily arrest thought with a simple notion of autopoiesis insofar as the question of an outside could necessitate or lead us into positing a transcendent we can never reach.

However, perhaps if we are to refer to Nietzsche’s notion of a reality of pure appearance conceived as Schein (GS BK1 A54)—reality continued through the dance (‘masters of the ceremony of existence’ and ‘continuation of the dream’), a relation of forces and combinations (‘dance of spirits’)—one may come to the realisation that an autopoietic entity or concept is so only insofar as we form a dance around an invisible axis which is forgotten in the creation of an articulated movement that is seemingly self-referential. Movement condemned to movement creating distances and apprehensions which at once give the sense of a momentary insight or unification, that can only continue in duration once it is in the same moment differentiated from itself.

This differentiation can be conceived as both belonging to the entity and also to the perspective through which the entity is apprehended. This apprehension necessitates a leap or an interruption: a problem we must muster the energy to continue and once more unify or incorporate. But distance itself re-introduces the problematic in the same moment that it is able to gloss it and precipitate as self-posited concept concealing the problematic. To self posit we must perhaps also deterritorialize ourselves and in this moment re-tie the loss of a ground into a new realisation or insight: a new grounding that un-grounds itself. This can be compared to dissonance whereby noise can become resolved and structured so as to become music, a closed melody built on the condition of unheard noise: the disappearance of noise. But to leave ourselves with one resolved note or tone, tends to senselessness (like the Pythagorean music of the spheres). So we must restructure and recompose the chaos through a Chaosmotic activity whereby we re-discover dissonance so as to make new resolutions possible. Does autopoiesis move against autopoiesis in order to become self-positing? i.e. does self-organisation de-structure itself necessarily in order for organisation to appear at all? Is chaos hinted at by the production, through some lived apprehension, of autopoetic entities?

January 28, 2006

Research Group Meeting: Aislinn O’ Donnell (UCD) – ‘Shame and the Possibilities of Life’

‘Human rights say nothing about the immanent modes of existence of people provided with rights. Nor is it only in extreme situations described by Primo Levi that we experience the shame of being human. We also experience it in insignificant conditions, before the propagation of these modes of existence and thought-for-the-market, and before the values, ideals and opinions of our time. The ignominy of the possibilities of life that we are offered appears from within. We do not feel ourselves outside our time but continue to undergo shameful compromises with it. The feeling of shame is one of philosophy's most powerful motifs. We are not responsible for the victims but responsible before them.’ (D&G, What is Philosophy?, p. 108)

Aislinn O’ Donnell’s fascinating paper considered the question of “shame” in Deleuze & Guattari’s work, evident from the above quotation taken from the ‘Geophilosophy’ chapter of What is Philosophy?, specifically the ‘shame of being human’. Throughout the paper she was concerned with considering whether their particular conception of shame (as a visceral affect) can assist us in understanding their conception of otherness. Aislinn argued that such a specific consideration of ‘shame’ was undertaken within a much broader concern with Deleuze & Guattari’s resistance to capitalism and the question of why we should respond to the suffering human other.
Thus, the purpose of her paper was to try and think the shame of being human and to reflect on its relation (or non-relation) to Deleuze & Guattari’s concept of the ‘other person’, to their rejection of cliché and their resistance to capitalism.

The paper began by providing a brief overview of some of the ways the notion of ‘shame’ has been thought within the history of philosophy, including Spinoza, Kant, Scheler, Arendt, Nussbaum & Tomkins. This was followed by an outline of Deleuze’s concept of the other person in The Logic of Sense and in Deleuze & Guattari’s What is Philosophy?. Aislinn managed to suggest some fascinating relations between the ideas contained within these texts and those found within Emmanuel Levinas’s philosophy. Her account of Levinas’ Ethics of alterity drew upon certain illuminating formulations of Levinas within the work of the Latin American philosopher Enrique Dussel. She then moved to addressing the specific question of the treatment of ‘shame’ in Deleuze & Guattari’s What is Philosophy?, and asking what a ‘shame of being human’ involves and why becoming-revolutionary is an appropriate response to such ‘shame’. She suggested that whilst the first chapters of What is Philosophy? contain a notion of the ‘other person’ as a type of example to elucidate their understanding of the ‘concept’, there is a wider instructive purpose. These chapters, she argued, have strong Bergsonian and Spinozist overtones, specifically in relation to their understanding of planes of immanence in terms of thought-being and in their initial descriptions of the plane of immanence which strongly resembles Bergson’s analytic description of experience as pure perception in Matter and Memory. For Bergson, pure perception is a field of survey of absolute pure consciousness prior to any subject-object. Rather than taking up Bergson’s pragmatic account of the way in which the indetermination of the brain creates a zone of possible action that filters perception, Deleuze & Guattari use the idea of the ‘Other person’ (an a priori ‘Other’) that restructures the perceptual field in order to give an account of the co-genesis of subject and object, self and other. This ‘Other’ is not an individuated or concrete other, but is solely understood as an expression of a ‘possible world’. The other person interrupts us and restructures our field of perception.

Deleuze & Guattari’s problem is not the solipsistic one of the problem of other selves; selves are emergent, relational and interbound. Their problem concerns modes of existence, and Aislinn argued that this was the reason why ‘shame’ is so interesting as it offers a visceral ought, (a visceral affect) bound up with our beliefs, desires, and values, but also indicating an immanent vocation of humans – to strive to create possibilities for life and thought, in particular amongst those complex being with whom we identify. With Deleuze & Guattari’s work there is an awareness of how the singularity of the Other person is annihilated in different ways – through clichés, through capitalism, through the death camps, through consumerist society – that precipitates ‘shame’. The final part of her paper considered the question of shame in relation to resisting these features of contemporary life and thought.

‘Shame of being human’, Aislinn suggested, is not premised upon an identification with the other but a commitment to the singularisation of life. The ‘shame of being human’ operates within Deleuze & Guattari's work as a critical principle – it operates as an immanent evaluation and appraisal of a mode of existence, of complicity in suffering and of the diminishment of life’s immanent possibility for creation without appeal to a fixed ideal for humanity. Drawing at times from Arendt, Aislinn considered the question of ‘shame’ as a critical affect in Deleuze & Guattrai, and the troubling question of why we increasingly don’t feel shame:

‘Utopia does not split off from infinite movement: etymologically it stands for absolute deterritorialisation but always at the critical point at which it is connected with the present milieu, and especially with the forces stifled by this milieu.’ (D&G, What is Philosophy?, p. 108)

Aislinn argues that perception is, as Bergson showed, far from innocent – we choose not to see, we choose to be blind. It is in this respect that shame can be the catalyst to precipitate change as it makes us sensible to dimensions of a situation and ourselves that previously were ignored or accepted, as it can disrupt the narcissistic, habitual and self-absorbed tendencies of selves. Shame is a critical and disruptive affect. Shame is not simply a subjective disposition or experience but registers the intolerable nature of a mode of existence and as such can become both critical and creative. Shame has the capacity to be positive and productive – it creates sensitivity to the richness of the present, to the forgotten histories, excluded others, silenced voices, unrealised worlds as well as to the real potentials of a situation. It ruptures the complacency of our own experience and draws to light the limits of our sensibility. Disparateness and rupture operate on both ontological and experiential registers as rendering a given situation or mode of existence meta-stable and generating real potentials that require the invention of other modes of existence that effect a qualitative transformation of existence. The pre-individual dimensions of the human reveal our singularity, but the possibility for cultivating processes of singularisation of life are foreclosed by cliché, banality, and intolerable modes of existence.

The visceral experience of shame is not one of sublime failure and a sense of our supersensible vocation, but a sense of the diminishment of life, a failure of our sensibility, a failure to respond and to cultivate different kinds of relations, to question ourselves and our complicity in the compromises of our time. Shame as ‘critical affect’. Singularisation is not atomisation but the capacity to weave and create different possibilities and expressions of life. This is, Aislinn concluded, the restoration of immanence.

There followed a lively and engaged discussion which pursued many of the provocations for thought initiated within this excellent paper.

A full audio podcast of Aislinn’s paper together with the subsequent group discussion will be posted on the Project website within the next few days.

Isabelle Stengers' Essay on What is Philosophy?

Paul Bains writes:

'Isabelle Stengers has kindly allowed me to upload a recent essay on Deleuze which I am sure you will find highly relevant to these discussions. It is written in English and is uncorrected.
Best wishes, Paul Bains'

This essay can be found in the members area of the 'What is Philosophy?' website and can be downloaded from there as an MSWord Document


Many thanks to Isabelle Stengers and Paul Bains for this.

Autopoiesis and Deleuze

The autopoiesis theory of Maturana and Varela can surely be linked tp D&G's philosophy. Structural plasticity can be seen as the creation of differences.

Varela worked in Paris from 1980 until his death in 2003, I think. I have found no indications that Varela was knwon to Deleuze nor vice versa.

I have elaborated the implications of the biology and epistemology of autopoiesis for psychology as a science. It appeared in booklet. I can send it to you. It dates from 1986.

For a psychology of nomadisation based on D&G, see my website:
and click 'English', then 'available texts'.

January 27, 2006

Deleuze: The Passage from Noise to Voice

My concern with What is Philosophy? is basically related to one of the certain ways by way of which Deleuze and Guattari formulate their concept of “plane of immanence” soon after they offer their concept of a concept. Therefore, right at the start, it will be necessary to mention that Deleuze and Guattari think of the concepts as events: the creation of concepts in Deleuze and Guattari does not take the form of rigid, fixed concepts. Rather, it is an act of transformations, or “becomings” so that a concept never remains as it is. Their text therefore demands a reading based on construction and destruction at the same time such that a concept as such never comes into being. However, this complexity, thought with respect to the question of mimesis in the philosophy of Deleuze (and Guattari) casts several problems as the philosophers deploy the relationship between concepts, the plane of immanence, the image of thought and a strange “sieve.” In order to explain my point clearly I shall introduce some quotations taken from successive pages in What is Philosophy?:

“Concepts are absolute surfaces or volumes, formless and fragmentary, whereas the plane is formless, unlimited absolute, neither surface nor volume but always fractal.”1

“The plane of immanence is not a concept that is or can be thought but rather the image of thought, the image thought gives itself of what itmeans to think, to make use of thought, to find one’s bearings in thought.”2

“If philosophy begins with the creation of concepts, then the plane of immanence must be regarded as prephilosophical.”3

“The concept is the beginning of philosophy, but the plane is its instituting. The plane is clearly not a program, design, end or means: it is a plane of immanence that constitutes the absolute ground of philosophy, its earth, its deterritorialisation, the foundation on which it creates its concepts.”4

“The plane of immanence is like a section of chaos and acts like a sieve.”5

“In short, the first philosophers are those who institute a plane of immamnence like a sieve stretched over the chaos.”6

As we all know that Deleuze wrote an appendix about simulacra at the end of The Logic of Sense where he privileges simulacra over mimesis with the intention of reversing Platonism.
“So "to reverse Platonism" means to make the simulacra rise and affirm their rights among icons and copies. The problem no longer has to do with the distinction Essence-Appearance or Model-Copy. This distinction operates completely within the world of representation. (...) The simulacrum is not a degraded copy. It harbors a positive power which denies the original and the copy, the model and the reproduction. At least two divergent series are internalised in the simulacrum – neither can be assigned as the original, neither as the copy. (...) There is no possible hierarchy, no second, no third (...) Simulation is the phantasm itself, that is, the effect of the functioning of the simulacrum as machinery – a Dionysian machine.”7

However, the unfoldment of the description of the plane of immanence in What is Philosophy? as a sieve which cuts across a certain section of chaos casts several conflicts with regard to this privileging for the figure of the sieve goes to showing that mimesis, or a model-copy relationship is still what determines the relationship between the plane of immanence and the chaos.

In order to concentrate on probable reasons for this conflict, or the upsurging question of mimesis, I offer that we should read carefully some certain sections in Deleuze’s The Logic of Sense where he writes about a certain “passage from noise to voice.”

I would like to state immediately that my concern for this sieve emanates from my interest in “noise” in philosophy, and, therefore, a concern for a certain type of reading Nietzsche together with Deleuze: Nietzsche as the philosopher who introduced noise into philosophy not only with his work but also with his life. As some of us might know, the whip cracks, it produces “noise,” and this is the most unbearable noise for Schopenhauer 8. On the other hand, when Nietzsche hears the cracking of the whip in Turin, he collapses and he never comes back “I am stupid because I’m dead, I’m dead because I’m stupid.”9 That’s what he says now and then in his moments of vocality. The reason why he produced this mumble, and the place, the locality, from which it emanated and assumed a vocal form will always remain a secret for us. The only thing we have about this passage, or, perhaps, about this passage from sanity to madness, but also from madness to vocality, is his work.

As Ecce Homo bears witness to, the question of locality most uncannily visited Nietzsche, informing various passages from one thing to another. Moreover, in one of the fragments in Will to Power, Nietzsche also wrote about locality and action at a distance.10

Yet, first and foremost, what is a passage? How and when and why does one pass from one thing to another? How does a passage become what it is? How does one become what one is? Is all the thought about passages nothing but a thought about a certain passage which cannot be theorised unless one reappropriates the mimetic? Do we talk about passages in order to undermine a certain aporia, to shield ourselves before an impossibility? Having mentioned locality, do all the passages point to the workings of a force, some action at a distance, which, in its inaccessibility, both problematizes the thought on passages, and also at the same time is the condition of all passages? Can it be the spirit of gravity, as Nietzsche put it in Zarathustra, that forces one to find the bottom in an abyss? The metaphysics of the abyss, according to which even an abyss is localizable.

By appropriating a style, if a style can be appropriated, I would like to allude to various interpretations of Nietzsche, by way of another fragment from Gay Science:

“Not to be dead and yet no longer alive? (…) It seems as if the noise here has led me into fantasies. All great noise leads us to move happiness into some quiet distant. When a man stands in the midst of his own noise, in the midst of his own surf of plans and projects then he is apt also to see quiet, magical beings gliding past him and to long for their happiness and seclusion: women. He almost thinks that his better self dwells there among the women, and that in these quiet regions even the loudest surf turns into deathly quiet, and life itself into a dream about life. Yet! Yet! Noble enthusiast, even on the most beautiful sailboat there is a lot of noise, and unfortunately much small and petty noise. The magic and the most powerful effect of women is, in philosophical language, action at a distance, actio in distans; but this requires first of all and above all – distance.”11

Why noise, why women and why action at a distance?

One can perhaps produce a response to these questions by reconsidering some passages in Deleuze, one of the most rigorous interpreters of Nietzsche. Therefore, let’s have a look at a certain passage, a moment of specularisation in The Logic of Sense, which assumes the form of a “passage from noise to voice” in “The Twenty-Seventh Series of Orality.”

Let’s contextualise first. Up to now in The Logic of Sense, Deleuze has told us the relationship between the series, the resonance between them, the constitution of events, actualisation and counter-actualisation of the events, the disjunctive synthesis, and its affirmation, etc., and now the question is how to theorise the person (if it is not going to be an “individual”) with respect to his theory of the event. “The Twenty-Fifth Series” is thus called “Univocity,” and univocity in Deleuze helps to give freedom to all the compossible worlds so that the “individual” would reorganise his/her relationship not only with this world, but with all the compossible ones. Therefore, it is purely a question of form, that is, how to transcend the question of the form, known as the “individual.”12 Such a transcendence, if it is possible, requires in the first place, as we know it from Difference and Repetition, radicalising the “image of thought” so that there will no more be a form on which the constitution of the individual as such is based. In other words, what is known as individual will now be constituted on the basis of simulacra – not on the basis of mimesis – and thus the individual will be freed from being shaped by any predetermined model. On the other hand, if such a project means to open up the individual to multiplicities it will also have to deal with the question of ontology because even if Deleuze explains it with positing pre-individual singularities, they will nevertheless require, an appearance, a moment of being, or, rather, a passage from absence to presence, (or from non-being to being, if you like). Therefore, Deleuze writes:

“Philosophy merges with ontology, but ontology merges with the univocity of Being. (…) The univocity of Being does not mean that there is one and the same Being; on the contrary, beings are multiple and different, they are always produced by a disjunctive synthesis, and they themselves are disjointed and divergent, membra disjuncta. The univocity of Being signifies that Being is Voice that it is said, and that it is said in one and the same “sense” of everything about which it is said. It occurs, therefore, as a unique event for everything that happens to the most diverse things, Eventum tantum for all events, the ultimate form of all the forms which remain disjointed in it, but which bring about the resonance and the ramification of their disjunction.”13

In The Logic of Sense we are somehow familiar with the concept of “resonance,” because whenever Deleuze writes about the relationship between the series, he always refers to it, and resonance is explained only in the “Thirty-Fourth Series,” as follows: “Let us call the resonance “intrinsic beginning.””14 Although, Deleuze gives resonance such a function, that is, a function which almost verges on ontology in an obscure fashion, it is still difficult to see why ontology should be explained by accounting for a Voice. However, it remains a difficulty only until when one thinks of resonance, its being an “intrinsic beginning” in relationship to Voice, and, basically, with respect to the question of “voice” in the univocity of Being. In other words, if univocity signifies an event, an event of all events, it also points to a concern for genesis, where resonance can be rethought as an “intrinsic beginning,” a generic force, which makes genesis itself possible by triggering a passage between “that which comes before voice” and voice. Yes, that’s true, if one explains Being by Voice – which is not something specular but audible – one can, to a certain extent, overcome the difficulties that will be posed by an attempt at answering the question of ontology in a specular scheme: sound, as almost all the nineteenth century theory of music bears witness to is that rare art which does not imitate. Even so, this does not prevent this discourse from being populated by questions such as: if the coming-into-being of resonance, and its necessity is explained by Deleuze as an “intrinsic beginning,” (though its genesis can never be traced), doesn’t such a beginning also require a passage from “that which comes before voice” to voice (no matter if one defines it also as “neutral,” or “extra-Being”15 )? Can one be saved from a specular scheme, and from ontology, even when one is dealing with the problem of Being or unity not in a specular but an “aural” scheme?

Similar questions flare up in the “Twenty-Sixth Series of Language,” for here all the questions which have been actually gravitating towards the possibility of such a passage find an origin which they have been pointing to. In other words, if the discussions on sense and nonsense, paradoxical entity, and the event, up to the discussion on univocity of being were concerned with the relationship between the word and the thing, or the duality of eating/speaking, and its displacement into the proposition, that is, into the duality of denotation and expression, it was because they have all been pointing to this passage that would make possible a rigorous discussion on “language,” which would also constitute an origin for “individual,” and “psyche” in the rest of The Logic of Sense. Therefore, Deleuze opens this series with a conviction that “events make language possible,”16 and he immediately adds:

“But making possible does not mean causing to begin. (…) To render language possible thus signifies assuring that sounds are not confused with the sonorous qualities of things, with the sound effects of bodies, or with their actions and passions. What renders language possible is that which separates sounds from bodies and organizes them into propositions, freeing them for the expressive function. It is always a mouth which speaks, but the sound is no longer the noise of a body which eats – a pure orality – in order to become the manifestation of a subject expressing itself. (…)And in truth, without the event all of this would be only noise – and an indistinct noise.”17

And, in the next series, “Twenty-Seventh Series of Orality,” he also adds:

“We constantly relive in our dreams the passage from noise to voice.”18

So, obviously, for Deleuze, there is such a moment of absolute separation, a passage, between sounds and sonorous elements (noise), made possible by the events. And events, not only make possible the language, but also the subject. From now on, a decision which was there, and suspending – probably due to the impossibility of saying something and its sense at the same time, but conversely due to the possibility of saying it, given the impossibility of escaping from representation – since the beginning of The Logic of Sense is thus given an “appearance,” making possible also the history of the psyche, which Deleuze reconstructs by reading his own theory of the sense and the event into psychoanalysis, basically into the works of Melanie Klein, and Jacques Lacan.

Let’s stop here, and think about what might probably have led to such a passage in Deleuze. Not because it is thinkable, or localizable with an exact clarity of thought but at least, this can be shown without making appear what cannot appear, considering the “distance” we referred to in Nietzsche in the beginning.

This is the “Twenty-Fourth Series,” and the series is about the “communication of the events.” Here, we find Deleuze celebrating Leibniz as the “first theoretician of the event,” for it was him who saw for the first time that “ ‘compossible’ and ‘incompossible’ cannot be reduced to the identical and contradictory, which govern only the possible and the impossible.”19 If compossibility is defined, on a pre-individual level, by the convergence of the series, the incompossibility is defined by the divergence of the series. Yet Leibniz made use of these definitions only to the extent that the compossible worlds, being incompossible with the best possible of all the worlds (our world), should therefore diverge from it. Hence, “He made a negative use of divergence of disjunction – one of exclusion.”20 So, Deleuze’s critique of Leibniz is directed to the negative use of divergence by Leibniz, and therefore he is concerned with a Nietzschean affirmation of divergences where the God, being dead, does not chose anymore the best possible world. Deleuze asks: “But what does it mean to make divergence and disjunction the objects of affirmation?”21 Of course, it means the irreducibility of the difference to the same and identical:

“We are no longer faced with an identity of contraries, which would still be inseparable as such from a movement of the negative and of exclusion. We are rather faced with a positive distance of different elements: no longer to identify two contraries with the same, but to affirm their distance as that which relates one to the other insofar as they are “different.” The idea of a positive distance (and not as an annulled or overcome distance) appears to us essential, since it permits the measuring of contraries through their finite difference instead of equating difference with a measureless contrariety, and contrariety with an identity which is itself infinite. It is not difference which must “go as far as” contradiction, as Hegel thought in his desire to accommodate the negative; it is the contradiction which must reveal the nature of its difference as it follows the distance corresponding to it. The idea of positive distance belongs to topology and to the surface.”22

The positive distance, therefore, is finite, but its finitude, instead of foregrounding a contradiction which can be overcome by means of a dialectical synthesis (for which measure gains importance insofar as the distance can be overcome so that the contradiction can be resolved) puts forward distance as distance where the difference between two things is preserved, and, made open to topological determination, so that it can appear and be measured. And, hence, Deleuze’s illustration of the matter with Nietzsche’s perspectivism, or his capacity to reverse the perspectives: health in sickness and sickness in health, where the two states are not seen as contraries in a dialectical scheme, but as a means of preserving distance as distance, as a measurable distance between two states, not only in order to observe their convergence but also their divergence, and thus affirm their difference. So, having a perspective and a capacity to reverse it is a matter of the irreducibility of the two different divergent elements as a result of which one gains a point of view, in Leibnizean fashion, not from the point of view of oneself, but from the point of views of things themselves. All this, of course, with one radical difference from Leibniz where one observes only the affirmation of those that converge whereas in Nietzsche “the point of view is opened onto a divergence which it affirms (…) Each term becomes the means of going all the way to the end of another, by following the entire distance. Nietzsche’s perspective – his perspectivism – is a much more profound art than Leibniz’s point of view, for divergence is no longer a principle of exclusion, an disjunction no longer a means of separation. Incompossibility is now a means of communication.”23 And also, one should add, opening the point of view onto divergence erases the discontinuity between the possible and the incompossible, and therefore a maximum continuity is maintained not only between things in the most possible world but between all the worlds be it possible and/or incompossible.

When one considers this discussion on distance with respect to the actio in distans we quoted from Nietzsche in the beginning, all is fine, except one thing that we skipped when we were reading Deleuze’s comment on distance. In the same paragraph, after celebrating Nietzsche’s perspectivism on health and illness, Deleuze also comments on what happens to this perspectivism after Nietzsche goes mad:

“Conversely, Nietzsche does not lose his health when he is sick, but when he can no longer affirm the distance, when he is no longer able, by means of his health, to establish sickness as a point of view on health (then, as the Stoic say, the role is over, the play has ended).”24

Let us remember what Nietzsche was saying: "Not to be dead and yet no longer alive."

I would like to claim at this point that the question of distance in Nietzsche can invite two different approaches:
1)one should keep one’s distance from noise so that the scene becomes specular and therefore is opened to specularisation, and/or theorisation;
2) one should consider the distance from noise not because of a concern for the specular but because “to be standing in the midst of one’s own noise” brings along such a distancing for, one, being neither dead nor alive, is both in the midst of it and also, the impossibility of experiencing it as such, interrupts both any attempt of speculating about, and also an absolute identification with, it.

Not to be dead and yet no longer alive?
Can this be the legacy for us?

Can it be a matter of not knowing anymore whether one is sick or healthy rather than having a perspective? Can it be a matter of de-sonance where one can no longer measure sickness and health unless one has a sieve?

(But doesn’t one appropriate the actio in distans when one posits a passage from “noise to voice”?)


1. Deleuze and Guattari, What is Philosophy?. Trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchill. London: Verso, 1994, p. 36

2. What is Philosophy?, p. 37.

3. What is Philosophy?, p. 40.

4. What is Philosophy?, p. 41.

5. What is Philosophy?, p. 42.

6. What is Philosophy?, p. 43.

7. Deleuze, G., The Logic of Sense. Ed. Constantin Boundas. Trans. Mark Lester with Charles Stivale. London: Continuum, 2003, pp. 262–3.

8. See, Schopenhauer, "On Din and Noise." Parerga and Parlipomena. 2 vols. Trans. E.F.J. Payne. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1974; reprint 2000, Vol. II, 642–43; and, also my “Noise on Noise,” forthcoming in Sub-stance.

9. Nietzsche quoted by Avital Ronell, in “Hitting the Streets,” Finitude’s Score, Univ. of Nebraska Press, Lincoln & London, 1994, p. 81.

10. “Time-Atom Theory,” F. Nietzsche, Nachgelassene Fragmente, Early 1873: (tr. Carol Diethe (with modifications by Keith Ansell Pearson) from Kritische Studienausgabe, Band 7, Berlin and New York, 1988, Pli 9 (2000) 2. )

11. Nietzsche, F., The Gay Science, Vintage Books, New York: 1974, Fragment 60, pp. 123–4.

12. “The problem is therefore one of knowing how the individual would be able to transcend his form and his syntactical link with world …”, The Logic of Sense, p. 178.

13. The Logic of Sense, p. 179.

14. The Logic of Sense, p. 239.

15. The Logic of Sense, p. 180.

16. The Logic of Sense, p. 181.

17. The Logic of Sense, pp. 181–2.

18. The Logic of Sense, p. 194.

19. The Logic of Sense, p. 171.

20. The Logic of Sense, p. 172.

21. The Logic of Sense, p. 172.

22. The Logic of Sense, p. 172–3.

23. The Logic of Sense, p. 174.

24. The Logic of Sense, p. 173.

January 21, 2006

What is Philosophy? Reading Group: First Meeting: Notes

What is Philosophy?; Introduction, Chapters 1 & 2

Taking its lead from the opening remarks in the Introduction to Deleuze & Guattari’s book, the Group began by addressing the question of ‘What is Philosophy? itself. The significance of separating the act of questioning from ‘doing’ philosophy or from a certain received way of ‘doing’ philosophy was debated. The necessity of taking a non-philosophical perspective on the question of ‘what is philosophy?’ According to Deleuze & Guattari the question itself is rarely asked since it is always in danger of being subsumed by the desire to ‘do’ philosophy. The difference between ‘why’ one chooses to do philosophy is to be differentiated from the question of ‘what is philosophy’ and ‘how’ one is to go about ‘doing’ philosophy.

The sense of philosophy as being differentiated from scientific thinking was discussed at length. Is science a unified field of activity united by the adherence to the principle of falsification? Does philosophy not adhere to this unified principle in the same fashion? The separation of scientific thinking and philosophical thinking as occurring with Francis Bacon.

The separation of the question ‘what is philosophy’ from the tradition of ‘doing’ philosophy. The problem of overcoming the tradition (as one overcomes an Oedipus complex) in order to reach a point of sobriety where the question can be asked. ‘Doing’ philosophy would always seem to presuppose an adherence to a certain way of ‘doing’ philosophy inherited from tradition. The necessity to liberate oneself from such a tradition. The degree to which the question ‘What is Philosophy?’ can be understood as an ‘ethical’ question.

Deleuze & Guattari’s relation to Spinoza, Kant and Hegel was discussed. Why, if Kant is considered to be an enemy of philosophy, is Hegel considered to be a ‘traitor’? What has Hegel betrayed? One answer might be the degree to which Hegel is committed to bringing philosophy into a rigorous and thorough relation to the non-philosophical fields of art and science. Given that Deleuze & Guattari argue for the absolute necessity for philosophy to preserve these fields in their non-philosophical specificity, Hegel is perceived to have performed a reduction of them to philosophy. His philosophical analysis of the work of art, for example, culminates in the philosophical subordination of the sensory specificity of the work of art. The sensory specificity of the work of art is understood as the inadequate expression of the Concept rather than as an independent, autonomous and differentiated way of thought:

‘Hegel powerfully defined the concept by the Figures of its creation and the Moments of its self-positing. The figures become parts of the concept because they constitute the aspect through which the concept is created by and in consciousness, through successive minds, whereas the Moments form the other aspect according to which the concept posits itself and unites minds in the absolute of the Self. In this way Hegel showed that the concept has nothing whatever to do with a general or abstract idea, any more than with an uncreated Wisdom that does not depend on philosophy itself. But he succeeded in doing this at the cost of an indeterminate extension of philosophy that, because it reconstituted universals with its own moments and treated the personae of its own creation as no more than ghostly puppets, left scarcely any independent movement of the arts and sciences remaining.’ (pp. 11–12)

The question of the Infinite speed of the Concept.

‘The concept is defined by the inseparability of a finite number of heterogeneous components traversed by a point of absolute survey at infinite speeds…It is infinite through its survey or its speed but finite through its movement that traces the contour of its components.’ (p. 21)

Comparisons between this understanding of the infinity of thought in Deleuze & Guattari and in Spinoza’s Ethics were discussed.

Thought ‘demands’ the infinite. The infinite signifies a realm that cannot ever be territorialized but functions as the deterritorialising principle par excellence.

What constitutes the ‘plane of immanence’?

The territorialising of the ‘plane of immanence’ by concepts. The degree to which concepts enter into a ‘becoming’ when they enter onto a ‘new plane’. The creation of new relations between ‘concepts’. The relation between ‘Smooth Space’ and 'Stratified Space’ in A Thousand Plateaus.

The question of the ‘autopoesis’ of the concept was discussed. The Concept of the Concept – the plane of immanence. Is ‘autopoesis’ consonant with the notion of the ‘Rhizome’. Are ‘autopoetic’ systems closed or open. It was suggested that autopoetic systems, whilst closed in the sense of being autonomously self-organising and self-developing, remain radically open and able to enter into relations with ‘Others’.

The question of what is meant by the notion of ‘concept creation’? Is it more akin to a type of creative excavation of historical concepts, reformulating them and placing them (in the theatre of philosophy) in new relations, new connections, new juxtapositions.

The question of the Concept of the Other as discussed in What is Philosophy?

‘On what condition is a concept first, not absolutely but in relation to another? For example, is another person (autrui) necessarily second in relation to a self?’ (p. 16)

It was discussed that the account of the Other person here, as another ‘possible world’, introduces a certain understanding of a difference in kind between concepts rather than mere differences of degree.

‘The other person appears here as neither subject nor object but as something that is very different: a possible world…This possible world is not real, or not yet, but it exists nonetheless: it is an expressed that exists only in its expression – the face, or the equivalent of the face.’ (p. 17)

The history of the concept of the Other was discussed, from Leibniz to Levinas.

The Machinic portrait of Kant was discussed. What is its significance? The role of ‘diagrams’ in Deleuze & Guattari’s work?

The discussion concluded by looking at some remarks on pages 58–59 regarding the ‘infinite becoming of philosophy’.

‘It is an infinite becoming of philosophy that crosscuts its history without being confused with it. The life of philosophers. And what is most external to their work, conforms to the ordinary laws of succession; but their proper names coexist and shine either as luminous points that take us through the components of a concept once more or as the cardinal points of a stratum or layer that continually come back to us, like dead stars whose light is brighter than ever. Philosophy is becoming, not history; it is coexistence of planes, not the succession of systems.’ (p. 59)

Discussion of the transhistorical nature of creative becoming in philosophy, science and art. A topic that is discussed later in the ‘Geo-philosophy’ chapter of What is Philosophy? Can there be development in philosophy in the same sense that there can be in science? The genealogy of philosophy, art and science.

January 11, 2006

dialectic of experiences and concepts

Follow-up to Self–positing concepts and double articulation from Philosophy

it is the dialectic of experiences and concepts that has itself to be conceptualized in some way. can it be conceptualized? i think it cannot be conceptualized in 'mind'. concepts cannot conceive itself as concepts of concepts. the synthesis of the dialectic cannot be one of the contradicting elements. i propose the dialectic is realized in action: the encounter of subject and object, where experiences (chaosmos) and concepts 'explose' and 'implose' in a way that the One and the Many become something our mind fails to grasp. the unspeakale, the unwordable. in action experience and concept are inscribed in the body of reality. they are not 'forgotten' even if this memory is described and painted outside what we call human memory.

i have tried to describe this encounter in an essay on the antropogenesis, the transformation of apes into men, the emergence of mind (through visualization (all our words concenring mind refers to vision, in nearly all indogerman languages: e.g. 'wit' and 'wisdom' means 'that wat is seen' as in latin videre, Greek 'idea' Gothic 'withan' and old-indian 'weit'. this essay is unfortunately in Dutch, I will translate it in English in March, when I have finished: it is some 100 pages). it concerns the dialectic of 'nature' versus 'culture' which is the same dialectic.

so positing the dialectic is only the first step. 'now philosophers have to change the world'. most happily, this is done (but most of the times we do not see it, as we are afraid of the future). in this sense, there is a division of labour between philosophy, science and art. in the socialist revolution of the turn of the century around 1900, all three were brought together. this work has to be overdone.

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