All 19 entries tagged Deleuze And Philosophy

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July 27, 2005

Research Notes: Method of transversality and the method of intuition

Follow-up to Research Notes: Multiplicity, co–involution, Being abstract but not generalized from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

And for my next trick: i'll be looking more deeply at the relationship between the methods of Bergson and of Deleuze and Guattari.

Firstly, transversality is the key feature of Deleuze and Guattari's method. I need to define this more precisely, and show how it differs from other methods (dialectical, hermeneutic, phenomenological);

Secondly, i'll write an effective explanation of Bergson's method.

Thirdly, the difference between the method of transversality and the method of intuition (KAP deals with this well in Germinal Life).


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June 21, 2005

The ethical character of Bergson's method of intuition

De Landa's A Thousand Years of Non-linear History left me with a sense that Deleuze and Guattari have the most effective and exciting practical approach to creating active and dynamical models of the world. But that book is one of examples underpinned with a few key concepts. It aims to show how far those concepts can be taken. I suspect that it intentionally leaves unsatisfied philosophical challeneges. A niche that Keith Ansell Pearson's Germinal Life: The Difference and Repetition of Deleuze fills more than adequately. Here's my thoughts on reading the first chapter.

The 'ethical' character of this method of philosophy resides, therefore, in the cultivation of a 'sympathetic communication' that it seeks to establish between the human and the rest of living matter. Ansell Pearson, Germinal Life, 1999, p.33

Keith's emphasis on the 'ethical' dimension of Bergson's method of intuition is very significant (and he notes, few others have made this link). The significance for me follows from the idea that the ethical dimension requires a consideration of something beyond any singular act or entity (as the sufficient reason of the act), but which does not assume any kind of totality or finality. I'm not usually interested in talk of Being (with a capital 'B'), although it is often more effective than counting sheep. But there is something in this angle on it that has made me take it much more seriously. And that something is in the negative ethical implications of thinking becoming without Being.

The argument seems to demonstrate how a concept of Being is an essential precursor to an encounter with duration, the key concept invented by Bergson. These encounters with duration connect us with the temporal problematics that (it is claimed) drives all activity and differentiation: real time or the asymmetrical synthesis of the sensible – that is, the sufficient reason behind the richness of the world.

Importantly, the encounter with duration is not singular and purely metaphysical, to be done in one philosophical-historic-eschatological event (it's not Hegel). Rather it is a pedagogical method that must be re-applied, with the aim of leading us away from conceptual confusions ('badly analyzed composites'), along lines that differentiate but at the same time follow virtual tendencies, to an understanding and acceptance of specific differences in kind – for example, to apprehend historical singularities (as De Landa does so brilliantly).

Even more importantly, we should recognize the active nature of this method. It takes us away from a passive relation between a subject and an object. It is an act of perception, intelligence and consciousness, but one that is always an active operation on and in the world. Keith provides a great sample on this from Bergson:

to percieve consists in condensing enourmous periods of an infinitely diluted existence into a few more differentiated moments of an intenser life, and in this summing up a very long history. To percieve means to immobilize Matter and Memory p.208 cited in _Ansell Pearson, Germinal Life, 1999, p.34

The method of intuition is therefore both a means of leading us to a comprehension of differences in kind and at the same time through its immanence to the world in which it perceives, actively creates new differences in kind. It is a method that places thought absolutely in the world. We should always remember that the return of thought and philosophy [in]to the world is really what Deleuzianisms (or neo-Bergsonisms) are about

But this then raises the big question: why philosophy? – why this tendency towards conceptual activity and the apprehension of differences in kind? – wht this method of intuition? The answer to this varies slightly but importantly between Bergson and Deleuze (but the principle is the same). Philosophy is the perception of nature, or nature’s own perception (later Deleuze will see perception as a property existing beyond the human). Differentiation is never a simple or ontologically foundational act, but rather is already complex. How the world differs from itself is not reducible to a mechanism or dialectic. In each case the actual mode of its differentiation is that which is indeterminate in its differentiation (the radical difference). If it were otherwise, nature would never differ from itself. There could be no asymmetry, no drive to overcome and reconnect, no real time, no elan vital, no life. The indeterminacy introduced by this radical difference is essential:

The crucial element that Bergson wishes to grant to life is not a mysterious force but rather a principle of 'indetermination'. It is this indetermination, and with it the capacity for novel adaption, that he sees as being 'engrafted' onto the necessity of physical forces, so as making possible a 'creative', as opposed to a purely mechanistic or deterministic, evolution. ibid p.48

But at this point we risk losing any connecting principle between the differentiations. Does radical difference leave us with an absolute becoming? In what sense is there anything to differentiate from? The world has lost itself, cannot perceive itself, is inert and lifeless. In Bergson’s terms, the elan vital is gone. Saving us from this undifferentiated becoming, we have the ‘ethical’ turn. It is an ethics that seeks to posit some principle of reconnection beyond the differentiation. Some exchange and interlocking between the differences. Some expression that carries content across between the two differentiated worlds. A principle assumed in both sides (but not itself outside of the world) that acts as a virtuality in which the differentiation is played out: a Being that they assume.

The important point to realise is that it is on the virtual plane that unification is to be sought. The 'whole' is 'pure virtuality'. Moreover, differentiation is only an actualization to the extent that it preseupposes a unity, which is the primordial virtual totality that differentiates itself according to lines of divergence but which still subsists in its unity and totality in each line. ibid p.67

For me this is where Being gets interesting: being virtual. For a virtuality always has a technics, the coding and decoding mechanisms of intelligence. As Keith indicates, a technology is the solution to indeterminacy, a virtuality that operates in parallel to real time. At this point technology, ethics, philosophy and metaphysics conjoin. And most importantly for me, creativity is shown to be underpinned with technology.

The next question is this: to what extent is this virtuality contained within and maintainable by an organism, an internally differentiating germ? And to what extent is it always reliant upon a third term, an externally constituted and relatively autonomus viral plane cutting transversally across? Both are true to an extent in different specific situations. Here Deleuze discovers an ethology of such types of differentiation: abstract machines. From an ethics to an ethology.

And I will coninue reading Germinal Life.


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June 01, 2005

Deleuze's abuse of the history of philosophy

With regards to his books on key conceptual personae such as Leibniz, Deleuze was not an archaeologist in the style of Foucault. There is no careful uncovering of strata. It is more like excavating with a JCB. But that doesn't matter, the creation of good concepts is more important.

The important thing is to create concepts with 'precision'. Not many achieve that aim, especially in this field. Papers on Deleuze tend to the extremes of either grand impressionism on the one hand, and vacuous taxonomic pedantry on the other. Perhaps that could be said of much that passes as philosophy. So when writing on Deleuze, it is important to understand exactly what is meant when he calls for precision in philosophy and in writing about the history of philosophy.

The precision of a concept is defined by its wealth of connections, by the work that it does in relation to the plane external to the concept, the plane in which it is constituted. Deleuze befriends the conceptual personae of Leibniz, Spinoza and others primarily with the aim of stealing their concepts into a plane that is different to those in which they were born. Faithful authenticity is never really the aim. The precision to which Deleuze aspires is not that of the authentic reading, of the recreation of long dead philosophical problems and their concepts. If it were, then perhaps all of those books about the history of philosophy would simply act as a long drawn out answer to the question "what is a concept?". In fact when he does finally address that question he couldn't be more flippant with his reading of Descartes.

Deleuze knew from that start that reconstituting concepts on a plane that no longer exists and no longer does any work only results in vacuity. Even the most authentic reading lacks precision. He was not an archaeologist in the style of Foucault, there is no careful uncovering of strata. This is more like excavating tombs with a JCB. Seeking and reanimating concepts that have been aborted by the history of philosophy is what he does best. But his Leibniz and Spinoza are Frankensteins. Picture this: Leibniz with an arm amputated from Thom, a leg stitched on from Cache, Koch's curve for a back, and Klee's hands. What a monster. Are we supposed to laugh at it? Or be terrified?


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March 22, 2005

Kant's Creative Philosophy

Follow-up to What Is Philosophy? from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

…and similarly, the title of Deleuze's book on Kant's Critical Philosophy is ironic. Kant didn't really do the critical thing, looking to complete a philosophical tradition by re-examining and correcting its grounding. Deleuze is interested in the way in which Kant invents entirely new ways of thinking, entirely different concepts – is in fact one of the most creative of philosophers.

What is philosophy? – cognitive development, thought experiments, apparatus of extended cognition

Psychology diagrams the internal, mental and neuro-chemical constraints that limit how we think. Sociology diagrams the external, social constraints that limit how we think. Philosophy is different, it seeks new ways to think that go beyond those constraints. It looks for these by experimenting with and inventing the materials of our extended cognitive apparatus: the technology of thought (for example, new ways of writing that enable new concepts to be thought). In this way, as for Nietzsche, the thought experiment (the activity at the heart of philosophy) is not simply a matter of applying a familiar technology of thought to a familar set of concepts, combining them in a new way. Rather, it sets out to invent new concepts through the development and application of a new technology of thought. What kind of experiment is carried out by a child (or other learner) to move to a new way of thinking (not just a new concept)? A new technology of thought must be adopted. Cognitive development is in this way, driven by Nietzschean thought experiments.

A model of constraints only ever maps out an algorithm, programme or expression that repeats itself. It can only account for the emergence of that algorithm from another greater algorithm that contains entirely the conditions of its production. As such, disciplines other than philosophy are not able to account for or make possible creativity in thought. Or at least they cannot do so unless they become philosophical (speculative, experimental). Philosophy is the practice of speculation, experiment, risk. It goes beyond constraints.

March 04, 2005

What Is Philosophy?

Follow-up to Ontology as recognized Being, or creativity as an old friend from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

Bearing in mind what Deleuze says about philosophy not being about the recognition of Being (in Difference and Repetition), perhaps we should consider the title of the book What Is Philosophy? to be deliberately ironic.

Are they then saying that philosophy is not some essential expression of the human intellect, of some higher faculty, but rather is a useful 'helper concept'?

Ontology as recognized Being, or creativity as an old friend

Follow-up to Difference and Repetition, Nietzsche and the creative turn from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

…and a tension exists in the work of Deleuze between:

  1. the move from an ontologically foundational Being to a recurrently disruptive but still at the same time foundational and ontological difference and repetition;
  2. the requirement that on each application of that ontology (in science, in painting, in cinema, in psychotherapy…) it is renewed and rephrased differently, but again drawing on its conceptual power.

But of course as Deleuze moves the focus away from recognizing what Is to the question of 'how can we create?' that is not a problem. If a helper concept of creativity or difference works to make thought more creative, less repressive, then use it. If not, abandon it.

And that also makes sense of Deleuze and Guattari's notion of the philosopher as conceptual personae or friend of the concept – a friend recognizes and relies upon a friend, but its not a relationship of absolute foundational dependency. Rather, there is rivalry, competition, and sometimes abandonment.

Difference and Repetition, Nietzsche and the creative turn

Follow-up to Freeing the concept of creativity from the concept of possession from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

The answer, for Deleuze at least, is yes. Or rather, the concept of the new or difference (in its composite with repetition), is one of these 'helper concepts' – Nietzsche's best friend, saving him from the interminable closed cycle of Cartesian recognition or Kantian good-sense.

The Image of Thought chapter in Difference and Repetition states it quite plainly. The really big question for philosophy is not how recognition (clear, distinct, true or otherwise) is possible - that's trivial. Rather it is the question of how we break out of the everyday, the familiar. It is the question of how difference is possible. But not in some abstract sense, but genuinely how we go beyond the algorithms of our constitution. So it is the case that Deleuze is not Kantian (or as Keith Robinson has said, perhaps he is re-activating a pre-Kantianism). He was out to engineer a creative turn rather than fixing the critical turn.

In Difference and Repetition, as in Logic of Sense, we see Deleuze dealing with the metaphysical question of how creativity, difference, is metaphysically possible: what is its ontology? In this domain the question concerns the possibility of time itself.

Nietzsche's distinction between the creation of new values and the recognition of established values should not be understood in a historically relative manner… In fact it concerns a difference which is both formal and in kind. Difference and Repetition p.136

But it takes an involvement with Guattari to give Deleuze a chance to answer the really useful problem of creativity. Guattari the psychotherapist involved on a daily basis with dislodging people from the viscious circle. This engagement combines with Deleuze's fascination with painting and with cinema to establish, following on from the ontology of difference and repetitiion, a practical approach to creativity.

February 15, 2005

Concepts as powers

Follow-up to Some questions concerning creativity from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

The concept of 'I', that of the cogito, works as a concept through its application to a range of components, through the inseperability of those components from the concept. Thinking is concieved as belonging to an I or otherwise, as a posession of an I. Similarly, being, which only achieves certitude through being thought, must therefore be the property of an I that thinks. In a Cartesian world, 'thinking' without the I loses its sense, is hardly an activity at all, is a free-floating component, with no definite concept. Clearly it is still an 'activity', or at the very least some kind of event. But they are vague and empty concepts, place-holders that absorb differences.

In this way we can see that being a concept means having a power over a set of components, of raising issue with them. The power of 'I' is to ask the question of possesion, in fact and by right, of everything. Leading directly to the transcendental I as the concept is developed.

Schizoanalysis as philosophical imagination, as philosophical method

Follow-up to The double agenda of this thesis: a method and an application from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

Schizoanalysis as a method brought together a psychotherapist (Guattari) and a philosopher (Deleuze). Guattari was concerned with the provision of philosophical concepts to patients in an attempt to give them room to manouvre, the chance of escape, freeing them up from patterns of addiction and inescapable habits. Deleuze moved in the opposite direction, from his studies in the history of philosophy, seeking to re-personalise, situate, and re-animate philosophical concepts, restoring their vitality and application, reconnecting them with their generation in a powerful philosophical imagination, with 'conceptual personae', and hence making the emergence of new concepts a real possibility for us.

The method that resulted, schizoanalysis, tends towards the production of concepts, philosophical creativity and experimentation. The elements of this being:

  • the creation and pedagogy of the concept, its creation and re-creation, its journey (deterritorialization and reterritorialization) in time and space, localized in and transported between people, places, societies, texts and other abstract machines;
  • the result of what could be called a 'philosophical imagination';
  • an imagination that acts to 'free-up' abstract machines, not simply by offering a novel set of possible-worlds, but more radically by offering new sense to what it means to be possible and impossible, to be a world;
  • an imagination capable of taking us beyond the permutations of our operational ontology;
  • doing so in response to and to enable changes in the material of thought and the apparatus of reality, for example at the extremes of physics, or the social production of the human;
  • freeing up and enabling new directions in science and art otherwise locked-in to the currently operational ontology;
  • providing a special class of concepts that can be relied upon to help carry us through these changes, concepts such as 'art', 'science', 'imagination', 'schizoanalysis', and perhaps also 'creativity';
  • whilst guarding against concepts that appear to have this power, but which in fact are empty, meaningless, black-hole concepts that merely absorb energies that drive towards such freeing-up, that act on every such desire with indifference – transcendent.

February 08, 2005

Methodology – what is a concept? what is philosophy?

What difference does the concept make? What becomes inevitable when the concept is available? And further, what becomes inevitable when the concept is used? (which is not the same question). A concept is not understood by its potential to exist or not, but rather by what it makes inevitable, what it determines. The choices are components in the concept, but the scope of those choices is already determined as the intension of the concept.

In considering a concept, consider the life of the concept – its sustainability. Can the concept stand on its own, permanently? Or does it inevitably carry the seeds of its own destruction, its own subjugation to a higher concept, of which it is only a component? For example, the way in which a badly analyzed concept of 'free speech' results in a babble of opinion. If what the concept of 'free speech' makes inevitable is a meaningless babble, then it is actually just a component in the 'higher' concept, meaningless babble.

The extension of a concept – its portability. This makes a concept more than just a raw event. What is the limit of a concept's extension? – the point at which it becomes a component? No, it is the point at which it fails to engage at all, and leaves a void into which a search for a new concept becomes necessary?

The 'over' of Nietzsche's 'overman' does not indicate that man as a concept becomes subservient to a new order, for example a component in the National Socialist program. Rather it indicates the point at which the extension of the concept of man is reached, and at which point it no longer engages. A new concept must be found.

The tasks of philosophy:

  1. finding the concept, going beyond the components to the absolute field that holds them together, the sustainable concept;
  2. testing the extension of the concept;
  3. forming new concepts when the extension of a concept is surpassed.

And when we pass through the void, are there special concepts that help us to generate new concepts? Is the concept of creativity one of those concepts?

January 20, 2005

Zone of indiscernibility between philosophy, art and science

Follow-up to Opinion from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

In What Is Philosophy? Deleuze and Guattari seem to argue for a strong division between philosophy, art and science. This could be a reaction to criticism of their earlier collaborations. But do they only go so far as to say that the different disciplines (machinic phyla) have different aims and different methods, whilst still maintaining that they do pass through chaosmosis together, sharing zones of indiscernibility? That would be more in keeping with their earlier work. And what is the nature of this transversality? Just opinion? Or are there more sophisticated (viral, germinal) mechanisms at work?


Follow-up to Free expression – a misconception from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

Opinion, against philosophy.

The three disciplines advance by crises or shocks in different ways, and in each case it is their sucession that makes it possible to speak of "progress." It as if the struggle against chaos does not take place without an affinity with the enemy, because another struggle develops and takes on more importance - the struggle against opinion, which claims to protect us from chaos itself. WiP p.203

Opinion: a negative term used by Deleuze and Guattari in What Is Philosophy?

Opinion does refer to a specific machinic phylum, but one that invades and parasitises those of art, science and philosophy. The three disciplines, each with their own machinic phyla (creative engine), pass through chaos (change) in their own ways. This relation to chaos defines each discipline. But opinion offers a quick and easy solution to each, a stereotypical creativity – perhaps implying a departure from the appropriate form of creativity, and more contentiously, freedom of expression (see previous entry).

Perhaps it does this by making too immediate and ill-considered a transversal move between phyla: for example, conceptual art. In philosophy it appears as transcendence. In art as the figurative or symbolic. Sophistry.

This also relates to the debate between Klee and Kandinsky concerning the relationship between forms in painting and music.

But opinion is a machinic phylum in itself – is it a phylum of the viral? Of the retrovirus? – as I said in Deleuze and Philosophy.

November 06, 2004


Follow-up to Deleuze and Guattari on the (relative) superiority of English Imperialism from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

Habit! Of course the important concept in understanding Deleuze and Guattari's ethics (derived from Spinoza). Habit and habitat. The quote continues…

The English nomadize over the old Greek earth, broken up, fractalized, and extended to the universe…
…a concept is acquired by pitching one's tent, by inhabiting it, by contracting a habit. In the trinity Founding-Building-Inhabiting, the French build and the Germans lay foundations, but the English inhabit. For them a tent is all that is needed. They develop an extraordinary conception of habit: habits are taken on by contemplating and by contracting that which is contemplated. Habit is creative....We are all contemplations, and therefore habits. I is a habit. Wherever there are habits there are concepts, and habits are developed and given up on the plane of immanence of radical experience: they are "conventions". That is why English philosophy is a free and wild creation of concepts.

Habit, a creative nomadic dwelling with the concept.

Contemplation is the positing of a virtual field of incompossibles. Actuality is a path through that virtuality. A habit is the repetition of an actuality, a path through the virtual.


Does it have to have a word or phrase associated with it? Or is it enough just to have some identifier that indicates its presence?

It must make a deifinite difference when used, not necessarily always precisely the same difference. But that difference must make a different eventuality occur or at least be possible whenever it is deployed (Leibniz?).

Like a tool, its cutting edge changes slowly, but how we handle it can be altered radically.