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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.