Saturday, January 12, 2008

There is a poetic quality to some of Deleuze's thinking

Against Bodies from Fido the Yak by Fido the Yak
The Logic of Sense reads like a polemic against bodies. This is clearly evident in the way Deleuze addresses one of my favorite questions: how is language possible? He asks whether bodies would be able to ground language and he answers,

"When sounds fall back on (se rabattent sur) bodies and become the actions and passions of mixed bodies, they are no more than the bearers of agonized nonsense" (p. 134).

Bodies are schematically or paradigmatically "down" in Deleuze's thought; the body can only be reached by descent, and depth or the depths can substitute for anything that occurs in the body or between bodies. For language to descend to the body can only mean that violence is done to it; the body has no creative power, but only the power to destroy. The idea that language is an intelligent extension of the body must be rejected by Deleuze. In his view it is the
"world of incorporeal effects or surface effects which makes language possible" (p. 166).
Bodies and sense, depths and surfaces are mutually exclusive. Mixing only pertains to bodies. To even think that language might have several conditions of possibility is to bring the question of language down to the level of the body where it is splintered, where it can only be noise and passionate nonsense.
So Deleuze views language as incorporeal. How exactly is he defining language? He says language is a "system of propositions" (p. 167). This is a rather arboreal view. Let's see that in a little context:

The most general operation of sense is this: it brings that which expresses it into existence; and from that point on, as pure inherence, it brings itself to exist within that which expresses it. It rests therefore with the Aion, as the milieu of surface effects or events, to trace a frontier between things and propostitions; and the Aion traces it with its entire straight line [the labyrinth of the straight line, the eternal return: it's all here]. Without it, sounds would fall back on bodies, and propositions themselves would not be "possible." Language is rendered possible by the frontier which separates it from things and from bodies (including those which speak). (p. 166)


[T]he straight line which extends simultaneously in two directions traces the frontier between bodies and language, states of affairs and propositions. Language, or the system of propositions, would not exist without this frontier which renders it possible. (p. 167)

Deleuze says that events make language possible. In making this argument he is greatly concerned to persuade us that the ground cannot resemble what it grounds. He says,
"Language is rendered possible by that which distinguishes it. What separates sounds from bodies makes sounds into the elements of a language" (p. 186).
Or, again,
"What renders language possible is that which separates sounds from bodies and organizes them into propositions, freeing them for the expressive function" (p. 181).
This is not a poet's sensibility, which is somewhat ironic because there is a poetic quality to some of Deleuze's thinking, about the Aion for instance. Perhaps we might leave it at that. However I will reach this one conclusion: in the wake of Deleuze (and given the sentiments of the Deleuzians) the body and each and every one of its entailments must be philosophically defended.

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