Who’s Afraid of Deleuze and Guattari? An Introduction to Political Pragmatics


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I. Pragmatic

Extensive differences, such as length, area or volume, are intrinsically divisible. A volume of matter divided into two equal halves produces two volumes, each having half the extent of the original one. Intensive differences, by contrast, refer to properties such as temperature or pressure that cannot be so divided. However, the important property of intensity is not that it is indivisible, but that it is a property that cannot be divided without involving a change in kind.

Drawing on these kinds of analyses, Deleuze will assign a transcendental status to the intensive: intensity, he argues, constitutes the genetic condition of extensive space. Intensive processes are themselves in turn structured by Ideas or multiplicities. An Idea or multiplicity is really a process of progressive determination of differential elements, differential relations, and singularities.

Let us take these step-by-step. Finally, these differential relations of an individual language determine singularities or remarkable points at which the pattern of that language can shift: the Great Vowel Shift of Middle English being an example, or more prosaically, dialect pronunciation shifts. For another example—and here, in the applicability of his schema to widely divergent registers, is one of the aspects of Deleuze as metaphysician—let us try to construct the Idea of hurricanes.

These flows qua differential elements enter into relations of reciprocal determination linking changes in any one element to changes in the others; thus temperature and pressure differences will link changes in air and water currents to each other: updrafts are related to downdrafts even if the exact relations the tightness of the links, the velocity of the flows are not yet determined. Finally, at singular points in these relations singularities are determined that mark qualitative shifts in the system, such as the formation of thunderstorm cells, the eye wall, and so on.

But this is still the virtual Idea of hurricanes; real existent hurricanes will have measurable values of these variables so that we can move from the philosophical realm of sufficient reason to that of scientific causation. A hurricane is explained by its Idea, but it is caused by real wind currents driven by real temperature supplied by the sun to tropical waters. To see how Ideas are transcendental and immanent, we have to appreciate that an Idea is a concrete universal. The second case, on the contrary, defines a differential Idea in the Deleuzean sense: the different colors are no longer objects under a concept, but constitute an order of mixture in coexistence and succession within the Idea; the relation between the Idea and a given color is not one of subsumption, but one of actualization and differenciation; and the state of difference between the concept and the object is internalized in the Idea itself, so that the concept itself has become the object.

White light is still a universal, but it is a concrete universal, and not a genus or generality. Indeed, Deleuze adopts a number of neoplatonic notions to indicate the structure of Ideas, all of which are derived from the root word pli [fold]: perplication, complication, implication, explication, and replication. Similarly, the Idea of sound could be conceived of as a white noise, just as there is also a white society or a white language, which contains in its virtuality all the phonemes and relations destined to be actualized in the diverse languages and in the remarkable parts of a same language.

We can now move to discuss Chapter 5, on the individuation of concretely existing real entities as the actualization of a virtual Idea. In isolating the conditions of genesis, Deleuze sets up a tripartite ontological scheme, positing three interdependent registers: the virtual, intensive, and actual. Simply put, the actualization of the virtual proceeds by way of intensive processes.

Who's Afraid of Deleuze and Guattari?

Tying together the themes of difference, multiplicity, virtuality and intensity, at the heart of Difference and Repetition we find a theory of Ideas dialectics based neither on an essential model of identity Plato , nor a regulative model of unity Kant , nor a dialectical model of contradiction Hegel , but rather on a problematic and genetic model of difference. From these examples we can see that Ideas structure the intensive processes that give rise to the behavior patterns of systems, and their singularities mark the thresholds at which systems change behavior patterns.

In a word, the virtual Idea is the transformation matrix for material systems or bodies. For an example of such heterogeneity, let us return to hurricane formation, the Idea of which we sketched above. Here it should be intuitively clear that there is no central command, but a self-organization of multiple processes of air and water movement propelled by temperature and pressure differences.

All hurricanes form when intensive processes of wind and ocean currents reach singular points.

Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, biographie croisée by François Dosse

These singular points, however, are not unique to any one hurricane, but are virtual for each actual hurricane, just as the boiling point of water is virtual for each actual pot of tea on the stove. In other words, all hurricanes share the same virtual structure even as they are singular individuations or actualizations of that structure.

While Difference and Repetition ranges over a wide field of philosophical topics, Logic of Sense focuses on two aspects of a single issue, the structure and genesis of sense. The genius of Frege and Russell was to have discovered that the condition of truth denotation lies in the domain of sense. In order for a proposition to be true or false it must have a sense; a nonsensical proposition can be neither true nor false. Yet they betrayed this insight, Deleuze argues, because they—like Kant before them—remained content with establishing the condition of truth rather than its genesis.

In Logic of Sense , Deleuze attacks this problem, first developing the paradoxes that result from the structure of sense and then sketching a theory of its genesis. He does this using resources from analytic philosophy and the Stoics in the course of a reading of Lewis Carroll—a typically innovative, if not quirky, set of Deleuzean references.

In the first part of the book, Deleuze analyzes the structure of sense.

He begins by identifying three types of relation within propositions:. Propositions, in other words, can be related either to the objects to which they refer, or to the subjects who utter them, or to other propositions. But each of these relations, in turn, can be taken to be primary. Logical designation, in other words, cannot fulfill its putative role as foundation, since it presupposes an irreducible denotation.

The theory of the proposition is thus caught in a circle, with each condition in turn being conditioned by what it supposedly conditions. Sense, then, would be a fourth dimension of propositions, for which Deleuze reserves the term expression. Deleuze suggests that it was the Stoics who first discovered the dimension of sense when they distinguished between corporeal mixtures and incorporeal events. Sense thus has a complex status. On the other hand, it is attributed to states of affairs or things, but it cannot be confused or identified with state of affairs, nor with a quality or relation of these states.

It turns one side toward things, and another side toward propositions. But it cannot be confused with the proposition which expressed it any more than with the state of affairs or the quality which the proposition denotes. The first is the paradox of regress, or indefinite proliferation: I can never state the sense of what I am saying, but I can take the sense of what I am saying as the object of another proposition, whose sense in turn I cannot state, ad infinitum. This first paradox points both to the impotence of the speaker my inability to state the sense of what I am saying and to the highest power of language its infinite capability to speak about words.

The second paradox is that of sterile reiteration or doubling: one can avoid the infinite regress by extracting sense as the mere double of a proposition, but at the price of catapulting us into a third paradox of neutrality or sterility—sense is necessarily neutral with regard to the various modes of the proposition: quality affirmation, negation , quantity all, some, none , relation, and modality possibility, reality, necessity. Thus extracted from the proposition, Deleuze argues that sense has the status of a pure ideational event , irreducible to propositions and their three dimensions: 1 the states of affairs the propositions denote; 2 the experiences or mental activities beliefs, desires, images, representations of persons who express themselves in the proposition; and 3 universals or general concepts.

But how can sense be said to engender the other dimension of the proposition? In the second half of Logic of Sense , Deleuze analyzes what he calls the dynamic genesis of language, drawing in part from texts in developmental psychology and psychoanalysis. Deleuze distinguishes three stages in the dynamic genesis, which at the same time constitute three dimensions of language: 1 the primary order is the noise produced in the depths of the body; 2 the secondary organization constitutes the surface of sense and non-sense ; and 3 the tertiary arrangement [ ordonnance ] is found in fully-formed propositions, with their functions of denotation, manifestation, and signification.


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The first stage of the dynamic genesis of sense, the primary order of language, is found in the newborn infant. Deleuze draws from a tradition of developmental psychology whose insights are expressed in the vivid image of Daniel N. Long before the infant can understand words and sentences, it grasps language as something that pre-exists itself, as something always-already there, like a Voice on high.

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But for the child the Voice has the dimensions of language without having its condition. Adults have the same experience when they hear a foreign language being spoken. For the infant to accede to the tertiary arrangement of language denotation, manifestation, signification , it must pass through its secondary organization, which is the production of the surface dimension of sense. How does this construction take place? From the flow of the Voice, the child will extract differential elements of various orders phonemes, morphemes, semantemes and begin to synthesize them into diverse series.

At this point, Deleuze isolates three series or syntheses: connective, conjunctive, and disjunctive. We can clearly see that the constructions of this secondary organization of sense are not yet the fully formed units of the tertiary arrangement of language on high, but they are no longer merely the bodily noises of the primary order. Before the child has any understanding of linguistic units, it undertakes a vast apprenticeship in their formative elements. Moreover, since sense lies at the frontier of words and things—it is expressed in propositions and attributed to states of affairs, but it cannot be confused with either propositions or states of affairs—it engenders both the determinate dimensions of the proposition denotation, manifestation, signification as well as its objective correlates the denoted, the manifested, and the signified.

The domain of sense is necessarily subject to a fundamental fragility, capable of toppling over into nonsense: the ground gives way to a groundlessness, a sans-fond. The reason for this is clear. Sense is never a principle or an origin; rather, it is an effect, it is produced, and it is produced out of elements that do not, in themselves, have a sense.

Sense, in other words, has a determinate relation with nonsense. Deleuze, however, distinguishes between two very different types of nonsense.

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But there is a second type of nonsense, which is more profound than the surface nonsense found in Lewis Carroll. This is the terrifying nonsense of the primary order, which found expression in the writings of Antonin Artaud. Sense is what prevents the sonorous language from being confused with the physical body noise.


  • Who's Afraid of Deleuze and Guattari??
  • Gilles Deleuze!
  • Table of contents.
  • Table of contents.
  • Following his work in the philosophy of difference, Deleuze meets Guattari in the aftermath of May Days of general strikes and standoffs with the police led the French President Charles de Gaulle to call a general election. The government response to May changed French academic life in two ways. First, institutionally, by the creation of Paris VIII Vincennes where Deleuze taught; and second, in the direction of the philosophy of difference, which became explicitly political post It became, in fact, a politics of philosophy dedicated to exposing the historical force relations producing identity in all its ontological and epistemological forms.

    In other words, the philosophy of difference now set out to show how the unified objects of the world, the unified subjects who know and hence control them, the unified bodies of knowledge that codify this knowledge, and the unified institution of philosophy that polices the whole affair, are products of historical, political forces in combat with other forces.

    In purely philosophical terms, the works with Guattari naturalize the still-Kantian framework of Difference and Repetition. By the time of Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus Deleuze and Guattari explicitly thematize that the syntheses they investigate are fully material syntheses, syntheses of nature in geological as well as biological, social, and psychological registers Welchman Reading Anti-Oedipus can indeed be shocking experience. It breathes, it heats, it eats. A fourth element is the gleeful coarseness of the polemics. Desiring-production is thus not anthropocentric; it is the very heart of the world.

    Desiring-production is autonomous, self-constituting, and creative: it is the natura naturans of Spinoza or the will-to-power of Nietzsche. In pursuing its ambitions, Anti-Oedipus has the virtues and the faults of the tour de force : unimagined connections between disparate elements are made possible, but at the cost of a somewhat strained conceptual scheme.

    The schizophrenic, as a clinical entity, is the result of the interruption or the blocking of the process of desiring-production, its having been taken out of nature and society and restricted to the body of an individual where it spins in the void rather than make the connections that constitute reality. In Lacan, the real is produced as an illusory and retrojected remainder to a signifying system; for Deleuze and Guattari, the Real is reality itself in its process of self-making.

    In studying the schizophrenic process, Deleuze and Guattari posit that in both the natural and social registers desiring-production is composed of three syntheses, the connective, disjunctive, and conjunctive; the syntheses perform three functions: production, recording, and enjoyment. We can associate production with the physiological, recording with the semiotic, and enjoyment with the psychological registers.

    The syntheses have no underlying subject; they just are the immanent process of desiring-production. Positing a subject behind the syntheses would be a transcendent use of the syntheses. Here we see another reference to the Kantian principle of immanence. Empires overcode these tribal meaning codes, tracing production back to the despot, the divine father of his people. Capitalism is the radical decoding and deterritorialization of the material flows that previous social machines had zealously coded on the earth or the body of the despot. Thus capitalism sets loose an enormous productive charge—connect those flows!

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    Who’s Afraid of Deleuze and Guattari? An Introduction to Political Pragmatics Who’s Afraid of Deleuze and Guattari? An Introduction to Political Pragmatics
    Who’s Afraid of Deleuze and Guattari? An Introduction to Political Pragmatics Who’s Afraid of Deleuze and Guattari? An Introduction to Political Pragmatics
    Who’s Afraid of Deleuze and Guattari? An Introduction to Political Pragmatics Who’s Afraid of Deleuze and Guattari? An Introduction to Political Pragmatics
    Who’s Afraid of Deleuze and Guattari? An Introduction to Political Pragmatics Who’s Afraid of Deleuze and Guattari? An Introduction to Political Pragmatics
    Who’s Afraid of Deleuze and Guattari? An Introduction to Political Pragmatics Who’s Afraid of Deleuze and Guattari? An Introduction to Political Pragmatics
    Who’s Afraid of Deleuze and Guattari? An Introduction to Political Pragmatics Who’s Afraid of Deleuze and Guattari? An Introduction to Political Pragmatics
    Who’s Afraid of Deleuze and Guattari? An Introduction to Political Pragmatics Who’s Afraid of Deleuze and Guattari? An Introduction to Political Pragmatics

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