Friday, March 09, 2007

Deleuze is an incredibly challenging philosopher. He’s also very poetic in his style

larvalsubjects // Mar 1st 2007 at 9:48 pm Is this an accurate representation of Deleuze and Guattari though? Look at the figures they choose as models and study according to their methodology: Proust, Kafka, Bacon, Melville, Cezanne, etc. Or look at his elaborate analysis of cinema in the two cinema books. Robert, do these figures strike you as being characterized by fluxes of relations devoid of content? My gripe with the “Deleuzians” is that they seem to take a few slogans and words from Deleuze’s work without reading that work: Rhizome, Deteritorialization, Nomad, Crowned Anarchy, etc. Thus you get purely empty and superficial productions that lack any inventiveness and are already highly normative in character, i.e., “you gotta be ‘fluxy’”.
With all due respect to FiD here, I find his characterization of transcendental empiricism unrecognizable. I don’t see where D&G describe transcendental empiricism as “deterritorialization”. Deterritorialization is something that happens in the world. One part of a code gets drawn up into something else. If you want to know what transcendental empiricism is, you have to consult Difference and Repetition and carefully work through Deleuze’s account of problems, structure, differential relations, and singularities as conditions for real experience, rather than possible (abstract) experience. That is, all transcendental empiricism is, is the thesis that everything in the world is a solution to a particular problem, and that one gives the sufficient reason of a thing by unfolding the problem to which it responds. This opens a whole domain of quite nuanced and interesting analysis that is a far cry from the pap we see among the anarcho-desiring machines in the world of theory and art. I entirely sympathize with FiD’s criticisms of a certain fad that passes as theory these days, but perhaps he could avoid attributing these views to Deleuze and Guattari themselves and take a look at what the authors themselves actually say through engaging in the sorts of close textual analysis he’s often so good at.
larvalsubjects // Mar 2nd 2007 at 12:26 am Ken, my take is basically that it’s institutional. D&G filtered into America through the literature and cultural studies departments. My hunch is that the appropriations of their work have not been informed by the philosophical background of that work because your average lit person doesn’t have a strong background in Plato, Aristotle, Duns Scotus, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Kant, Maimon, Hegel, Nietzsche, Bergson, Husserl, Sartre, Simondon, and Heidegger. I’m not suggesting that there aren’t exceptions to this rule, but as a general principle lit folk are faced with an impossible task where their training is concerned: They must acquaint themselves with a wide body of literature and theory. To be fully adequate to what’s expected in lit departments you’d have to have four or five PhD’s– Literature, Philosophy, Linguistics, Sociology, Psychoanalysis, and so on. In my view, Deleuze is an incredibly challenging philosopher and not just for stylistic reasons, but because he draws heavily on the history of philosophy in a rich, nuanced, and informed way. He’s also very poetic in his style.
Now I agree, there is something in these texts that invites these sorts of interpretations. I bet we could do a statistical study of the secondary literature on Deleuze out there and we would find that a few passages from various works are cited again and again. For instance, you would find citations of the crowned anarchy passage from the chapter on difference, the chapter on difference as bundles and networks on pages 50-51, a couple of famous quotes from the Rhizome essay, here and there a striking description of the schizo. The problem is that without the philosophical background, you get a thoroughly facile picture of Deleuze where “Being Deleuzian” means imitating Antonin Artaud or something to that effect. In addition to this, I think the sociological reasons you hint at are relevant here as well. For instance, the established “common sense” of the academy that Deleuze is a “postmodern thinker” and that postmodernism means x, etc. I just feel that there’s overwhelming textual evidence to support the thesis that there’s a very different Deleuze who is, from my perspective as a philosopher, far more interesting.

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