Gilles Deleuze (book review) Todd May

An Introduction


170914: well now i have to reread those deleuze books i could not follow. because: this is fascinating. this even interests me in reading more nietzsche, as may contends deleuze operates a sort of holy trinity of thinkers: spinoza, bergson, nietzsche. or as they are foci of his radical new ontology(ies)- immanence, duration, affirmation... which leads not necessarily to 'truth' but through 'difference', to concepts that are remarkable, interesting, and important...


i must suggest this is definitely a good place to embark on unguided, unread, deleuze. it helps to have read entire histories of continental philosophers. and be prepared for everything to be up for reassessment...


the key abstract at the beginning of this work, is the question which occupies dz throughout his entire career: 'how might one live?' this is not a question that often comes to conscious mind, as we are so busy, so involved, in our daily projects, there is no time for introspection, or so we tell ourselves. if we are to ask this question, we are likely to confront this question in however many possibilities, and see how it has changed from the original greek project, to the modern formulation, in recognition that dz proclaims as, quoting spinoza: 'we do not know what a body is capable of'. for the ancient certainty of cosmological order reflected in human life, is transformed by the rise of individualism or subjectivity, and we are no longer seen to be necessarily following dictates of order, enforced values, of some god or sovereign. may refers to how this question is approached differently in the styles of philosophy known as analytic and known as continental, with the contention all of the latter must deal in some way with nietzsche's 'death of god'. there is the historical sense of this, the work of foucault in delineating structures of society, of discipline, in systems, in instituting, in finally resulting in the state. there is the linguistic sense of derrida, in which representational accuracy is known as truth, but representation is itself a question, for what you say, what you begin with, is perhaps not best conceived in static being but dynamic becoming- i love this stuff, this argument that it is in the very nature of language to think of 'representation' when the structuralists must confront the world that is the 'excess' and not the 'sign', but always already beyond our terms, our language..


once again it is an introductory work on a particular philosopher that is a favourite, though it only gives a sketch of dz, an idea of where he is going, and in this we begin with a philosopher whose entire metaphysics demonstrates immanence. and this immanence accounts for all that is, as described metaphorically by the folding and unfolding of an origami form, a swan perhaps, which has no dualism, no transcendence, no loss or gain of given style, yet it becomes the sculpture when handled correctly. this immanence is spinoza. as dz sees it, as dz mentions it, this is the first 'ontology of difference', this is against the 'transcendence' which western philosophy has long associated with god, previously and then integrated, with platonic 'forms', but this intends two substances, one which we sense in this world and one that is above, beyond, that determines, or founds metaphysics of all our thoughts, of sense or concepts. this is in what way 'immanence' is more elegant, more simple, even if it seems against the entire history of our attempts to connect the two substance ideas, whether we call it 'participation’ or 'manifestation'- there is instead one, one monad, a kind of being that is neither simply ideal or simply material. this is spinoza...


bergson, his concept of 'duration', is one i have read of in several books as it appeals to the artist, the 'idealist', the sensualist in me. duration is what makes spinoza's immanence work: time, not as a series of points, infinitely divisible, a linear form that tracks 'history' but not the ecstatic unity of time, before, after- as much as directions of a compass offer north, south, east, west, rather than before, beside, behind- time is not simply the passage of these homogeneous empty moments, time as heterogenous change of each unity, each tension, each spectrum, each duration. not just time as offered in clock or calendar, but time as lived. usually, in philosophy and life we think of those successive numbers, and a second is always the second on a clock face, such is the 'spatialized' conception of time. st augustine might have proclaimed time as a mystery beyond his thoughts to explain, but this is necessary to investigate, if we want to understand how immanence can change, how 'multiplicity', how 'quality', describe time rather than space. how the 'immanence' 'expresses' itself through 'duration'...


nietzsche, his eternal return, is the focus of dz and his concept of difference, in which it is 'return is the being which is affirmed in becoming'- it recalls n's challenge to the person, if her life was to recur without changes, could she say 'yes'? could she celebrate endlessly, and this is the 'affirmation' dz finds in nz. too often in traditional philosophy there is attention given only to being, where n emphasizes becoming, where the time of past, present, future, is entwined- this is nz’s contribution to this 'interesting, remarkable, important' ontology of dz...


i feel an unreasoned impatience with myself, as i enjoy this work greatly- i am reading it again- but would like to feel i can tell just how interesting are the problems of dz. the point is not to ask questions with the assurance of already knowing the answer, imparting 'knowledge' in its limited practical formula, the way we learn at school from the youngest child to university graduates- the point is to ask questions to spur 'thinking'. thought is the act of philosophizing, but dz never accepts a dialectical, argumentative, model as prevails in some styles of philosophy. he is interested in answering 'how we should live' on an alert, questioning, problem-offering level, and in this disregards those rules of logic to such an extent some insist he is not a philosopher at all. i would say that he is more. more than captured in our history or our language, forever to be thought of, forever to be questioning, no this is not remotely analytic... investigation of ontology is not a problem to be solved but an ambiguity to live...


this review has been only the first two chapters of the book, if you are not intrigued by now, i have failed to fully express the great pleasure here- though much of it may be his thought and not the book, and perhaps you should try this other, easier, introduction to dz.: [book:Deleuze|342866]


as this is only the first third of the book, and being only the second work on d that i think to understand- i could mention the titles of next chapters: 3- thought, science, and language 4- the politics of difference 5- lives. and all this review has not yet mentioned one of his conceptual tools: planes, as in planes of immanence... difference? yes, it shows up everywhere. i do not know what professional philosophers, especially those of analytic style chasing something called 'truth' think of dz: all i know is that i find it engaging, fascinating, and of course remarkable, interesting, and important...

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