My Review of Hallward’s Out of this World: Deleuze and the Philosophy of Creation

is available online for those with access to athens. Also included is Bradley A. Johnson’s review of Religion and Violence in a Secular World: Toward a New Political Theology (edited by Clayton Crockett. For those without access, email me and I might be able to help you get a copy of the pdf. I’m kind of nervous about the review, but proud at the same time. It’s a good thing no one ever reads these things!

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29 Responses to “My Review of Hallward’s Out of this World: Deleuze and the Philosophy of Creation…”

  1. Alex Says:

    You are publication face at the moment. This is a great review – essentially, it seems that Hallward’s reading is complicit in the very kind of semi-modernist dualisms that Deleuze tries to dissolve eg between thought and life – that both are immanent in his thought, and in some way non-hierarchical, but Hallward tries to make it not the case.

  2. Gabe Says:

    Whats your email address?

  3. Anthony Paul Smith Says:

    anthonypaul[dot]smith[at]gmail[dot]com

  4. anonymous coward Says:

    It’s a very good review. You hit the central themes of Hallward’s book in a concise way, and explain your disagreement.

    If I’m not mistaken, the real crux of the issue is how to understand ontological difference. Deleuze is not offering a two-world ontology, and Hallwell seems to think he is. (Badiou may as well.) Interestingly, it’s the same problem that a number of the recent French phenomenologists — Marion among them — have in their interpretations of Heidegger himself…

  5. Anthony Paul Smith Says:

    ‘If I’m not mistaken, the real crux of the issue is how to understand ontological difference. Deleuze is not offering a two-world ontology, and Hallwell seems to think he is. (Badiou may as well.)’

    That’s exactly right. Should have used that really. That was kind of my point with the comment ‘we need an ecology of the virtual and the actual’, but I could have been more explicit. Thanks for the comment.

  6. anonymous coward Says:

    No, you were plenty explicit. I just didn’t have the review in front of me to cite your making more or less the same point. Plus I’d been reading a critique of Marion on these lines, and so… !

  7. Dominic Fox Says:

    The impression I get from the review is that Hallward essentially believes that the world is actual: the world is everything that is presented. From this perspective, it is natural to think of the plane of immanence in which the actual and the virtual are laid out together not as the world, but as a kind of schema of worlding within which this or that world (seen as a particular constellation/population of actual existents) might come to be.

    So the self-overcoming of beings, their breaking or flowing or subtraction out of their own actuality, is then seen as a movement out of this world, out of the particular worldly configuration in which such and such a being is presented, into the nonpresentable dimension of the virtual.

    The claim I think is that the actual, the worldly and the presentable are the same thing, that they have a common ontological basis in the well-founded consistency of set-theoretic multiples. I get the impression that for Hallward, Deleuze seems to be trying to posit a non-presentable consistency between the actual and the void, a worldliness that is not the worldliness of a particular state-of-the-world, but of the world in its becoming. The problem is how this consistency is to be thought: in what manner does the plane of immanence consist?

  8. Anthony Paul Smith Says:

    I don’t know if Hallward’s position that the world is actual is as nuanced as all that. His big grip seems to be that Deleuze isn’t a materialist like Darwin and Marx. To that I say, well good! That kind of materialism doesn’t work, this pure actual material thing is just, frankly, academic ideology. But, as he doesn’t accept that, I can see how he makes his argument, I just think he is very, very wrong.

    The plane of immanence consists as a kind of third product of the actual and the virtual. A simulacrum of sorts (so it is real without being actual and virtual without being whole). At least this is how it seems to me.

  9. Dominic Fox Says:

    It’s very much a line-in-the-sand sort of thing, isn’t it – Hallward, given his commitments, more or less has to read Deleuze that way; you, given yours, more or less have to refuse that reading.

    I think the claim that “actualist” materialism is “academic ideology” is an interesting one; obviously it carries some polemical weight, but it would count for even more if you could explicitly show how the commitments installed by that ideology fit together, how they function ideologically. The killer move, in other words, would be to analyse Hallward’s reading as an ideological product, contextualize it in an ideological critique and then show what that ideology works to displace or obscure (it just might be something like “religion”…)

  10. marcegoodman Says:

    Others may be pleased to learn that this entire issue of Angelaki is available as an online sample. Just click on the link marked *online sample* just above the table of the contents on this page:

    http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/title~db=all~content=g779533830~tab=toc

    (You will need to register for this access.)

  11. Adam Says:

    Anyone want to place bets on how my commitments will cause me to read Deleuze when I get around to it?

  12. Thomas Bridges Says:

    Adam, I would have bet you had already read him. I guess I lose up front.

  13. Brad Johnson Says:

    Wow. I just skimmed the journal in its entirety, and my immediate reaction is that it has a “everything PLUS the kitchen sink” sort of feel to it.

    I do not agree w/ all of it, but I was pleasantly surprised by the essay on Warhol. This is really the direction I think this conversation of theology/ontology and politics needs to go more often. Full disclosure: it is not without coincidence that mine is an aesthetic theological perspective. At some point, I will actually get a portion of that perspective fully published. In the meantime, of course, my review was sublime in its banality.

  14. Anthony Paul Smith Says:

    Adam,

    You already have shown how’d you read him! That article in the online journal was your reading of his political work.

  15. larvalsubjects Says:

    I don’t know if Hallward’s position that the world is actual is as nuanced as all that. His big grip seems to be that Deleuze isn’t a materialist like Darwin and Marx. To that I say, well good! That kind of materialism doesn’t work, this pure actual material thing is just, frankly, academic ideology. But, as he doesn’t accept that, I can see how he makes his argument, I just think he is very, very wrong.

    This strikes me as an odd thing to say, as I don’t recall Hallward discussing Darwin (correct me if I’m wrong) nor does his work elsewhere suggest a strong commitment to traditional Marxism (although I could be mistaken as I haven’t read everything Hallward has written). Moreover, Deleuze himself grapples deeply with Darwin and post-Darwinistic thinkers in a variety of places (especially A Thousand Plateus, and Difference and Repetition). I’m not suggesting that he accepts Darwin in a straightforward and complete fashion, but Darwin is certainly not a bad guy in Deleuze’s thought. I think your right in claiming that Hallward mischaracterizes Deleuze’s position in treating the virtual and the actual as two ontologically separate domains. Hallward’s gripe seems to be with the way in which he conceives Deleuzian immanence as impersonal, barring collective assemblages that he believes are necessary for political movements. If memory serves, he places special emphasis on a passage from “Immanence: A Life…” where Deleuze discusses a Dicken’s story about a homeless man close to death, formerly scorned by the community yet strangely adored as he flickers in and out of life, thereby alluding to a pure, non-organic, impersonal, deterritorialized life.

    I think Hallward is unfair here and ignores a good deal surrounding Deleuze’s discussions of collectivities and deterritorializations, and what Deleuze refers to as pure life. A good rejoinder would be to draw attention to the “Postulates of Linguistics” plateau of A Thousand Plateaus, where Deleuze and Guattari outline collective enunciations, assemblages, and the nature of language as indirect discourse (always issuing from a collective that precedes us), and how similar theses are developed in Kafka: Towards A Minor Literature. The assemblages described in these contexts are anything but “otherworldly” in the sense Hallward wishes to ascribe to Deleuze. It also seems that accusations of “vitalism” have become an all purpose critique of Deleuze (I’m never quite clear what those who advance these critiques are suggesting), despite the fact that Deleuze and Guattari develop a critique of both vitalism and mechanism in Anti-Oedipus. So it goes, I suppose.

    At any rate, both Hallward’s book Badiou: A Subject to Truth and Out of this World strike me as preparatory works for a broader philosophical project Hallward is working on which he refers to as Relational Reality:

    http://www.mdx.ac.uk/www/crmep/staff/PeterHallward.htm

    As Hallward describes it:

    this is a longer term project which will draw on the resources of the dialectical tradition to reformulate relational or ‘transindividual’ conceptions of the subject, of commitment, and of conflict.

    Badiou: A Subject to Truth develops a critique of Badiou’s ontology for failing to have a robust theory of relation. As Hallward would have it (I’m not agreeing with this judgment), Deleuze develops a robust ontology of relation, but doesn’t have a well developed theory of agency and conflict in local social settings. There is something to Hallward’s critique here. When, for instance, Deleuze and Guattari describe the various instances of “becoming-animal” in Kafka as political (the cockroaches, the singing mice, the ape that becomes a professor, etc), opening on to a pure field of intensities that are not metaphors nor resemblances, it’s 1) difficult to see what is political about such becomings vis a vis existing social structures, and 2) how these becomings involve collective agencies. If one is committed to the thesis that transformation of the social field requires collective commitment, then these discussions will, prima facia, look inadequate and perhaps irrelevant. I say “prima facia” as a closer analysis might reveal that there is indeed a good deal going on in these concepts and discussions that do refer to collective organizations and commitments (or perhaps, that collective organization and commitment is the wrong set of issues to focus on). It would thus seem (and I’m only speculating), that Hallward is trying to navigate a third position between these two ontologies and has used these two books to map the relative strengths and weaknesses of these ontologies. I am not sure what Hallward is referring to as the “dialectical tradition” (Hegel? Classical Marxism, Deleuze’s account of the dialectic of problems in chapter 4 of Difference and Repetition?), but it seems to me that the “transindividual” is already well mapped in Deleuze and Guattari (transversality is one of Guattari’s key concepts, and is the lynchpin of their critique of Oedipus where the family structure is shown to be preceded by all sorts of historical social relations). At any rate, none of this sounds like a call for a vulgar materialism such as we find in some facile versions of Darwinism or classical Marxism.

    I don’t offer any of this as a criticism of your review (which I haven’t been able to read yet as I don’t have access to the journal from home and have been on vacation, but which I’m looking forward to reading). It’s only to suggest that perhaps there’s more going on in Hallward’s engagement than immediately meets the eye, and that this project is perhaps worthy of a great deal of interest.

  16. Anthony Paul Smith Says:

    Levi,

    Hallward says, in the preface and the conclusion, that Deleuze is not a materialist in the tradition of Marx and Darwin. You’ll find a reference in the review when you read it. He’s not saying that Deleuze doesn’t engage with them, but that his engagement is of a particularly non-materialist way.

    I don’t really have anything to say to the rest of your comment. Deleuze did call his work vitalistic, but of course taking into account his critique of vitalism one can’t simply ascribe to him a kind of naive traditional vitalism. I find that when most people scream ‘vitalist’ or talk about ‘vitalistic zombies’ they’re just being lazy. Still, this stuff doesn’t get jobs in philosophy departments, thats for sure.

  17. larvalsubjects Says:

    I agree fully about the laziness of the people screaming “vitalist”. I don’t think I’ve ever come across Deleuze referring to himself as a vitalist in anything I’ve read by him, but then I’ve never been on the lookout for vitalist references in his work either. I tend to find the word “vitalism” somewhat toxic in debate (others dismiss you a priori when evoking it), so I think it’s best to avoid it altogether. I’m not saying this to be contentious or combative. If you have a number of references to places where Deleuze refers to himself as a vitalist I’d be interested in seeing them.

    Thanks for pointing out the passage in the introduction. I hadn’t noticed it. I think the passage gets to the core of the issue:

    If (after Marx and Darwin) materialism involves acceptance of the fact that actual or worldly processes inflect the course of both natural and human history, then Deleuze may not be a materialist thinker either. As Deleuze present it, the destiny of thought will not be fundamentally affected by the mediation of society, history, or the world; although Deleuze equates being with the activity of creation, he orients his activity towards a contemplative and material abstraction. (7)

    I can accept the first part of Hallward’s thesis that worldly processes inflect the course of natural and human history. I can’t accept the way in which he treats “worldly” and “actual” as synonyms. How is Hallward able to think about the ontological status of potentiality? In my view, the virtual is designed precisely to account for potentials. I think Hallward’s second sentence just severely distorts and misrepresents Deleuze’s position on society, history, and the world (for a number of the reasons I outlined in my original post). It’s amazing to me that someone could read Deleuze’s account of individuation or all of Deleuze and Guattari’s references to ecology and ethography and ethnography, and say such a thing.

  18. Adam Says:

    I screamed “vitalist” in that essay, lazily.

  19. Anthony Paul Smith Says:

    Levi,

    It’s in Negotiations where he says, ‘Everything I’ve written is vitalistic, or at least I hope so (143).’ His books on Bergson, Nietzsche, and Foucault are pretty explicitly dealing with vitalistic thought. I’m not real interested in arguing about it though. I had assumed this was accepted by most people.

    I agree about Hallward and the actual/worldly thing. If materialism is ever going to be better than the crude materialism of Darwin and Marx it needs something like a vitalist challenge. Stengers has an interesting article in Radical Philosophy that makes this point.

  20. larvalsubjects Says:

    Thanks for the reference, Anthony. I came across another passage in What is Philosophy? referencing vitalism, after my last post. I couldn’t find any reference to vitalism in the indexes of Difference and Repetition, The Logic of Sense, or A Thousand Plateaus. In What is Philosophy? Deleuze writes:

    Vitalism has always had two possible interpretations: that of an Idea that acts, but is not– that acts therefore only from the point of view of an external cerebral knowledge (from Kant to Claude Bernard); or that of a force that is but does not act– that is therefore a pure internal Awareness (from Leibniz to Ruyer). If the second interpretation seems to us to be imperative it is because the contraction that preserves is always in a state of detachment in relation to action or even to movement and appears as a pure contemplation without knowledge. This can be seen even in the cerebral domain par excellence of apprenticeship or the formation of habits: although everything seems to take place by active connections and progressive integrations, from one test to another, the tests or cases, the occurrences, must, as Hume showed, be contracted in a contemplating ‘imagination’ while remaining distinct in relation to actions and to knowledge. Even when on is a rat, it is through contemplation that one ‘contracts’ a habit. It is still necessary to discover, beneath the noise of actions, those internal creative sensations or those silent contemplations that bear witness to a brain. (213)

    Deleuze makes a similar observation twenty years earlier in Difference and Repetition:

    Passive synthesis is of the latter kind: it constitutes our habit of living, our expectation that ‘it’ will continue, that one of the two elements will appear after the other, thereby assuring the perpetuation of our case. When we say that habit is a contraction we are speaking not an instantaneous action which combines with another to form an element of repetition, but rather of the fusion of that repetition in the contemplating mind. A soul must be attributed to the heart, to the muscles, nerves and cells, but a contemplative soul whose entire function is to contract a habit… We are contemplations, we are imaginations, we are generalities, claims and satisfactions. (74)

    And

    Actualisation takes place in three series: space, time and also consciousness. Every spatio-temporal dynamism is accompanied by the emergence of an elementary consciousness which itself traces directions, doubles movements and migrations, and is born on the threshold of the condensed signularities of the body or object whose consciousness it is. It is not enough to say that consciousness is consciousness of something: it is the double of something, and everything is consciousness because it possesses a double, even if it is far off and very foreign. (220)

    Much later, in Cinema I, Deleuze will make this statement even more forcefully, arguing that consciousness is something. If the passage from What is Philosophy? can be taken as a guide, it would appear that for Deleuze a position is vitalistic if it asserts the necessity of passive contemplation. I got in a discussion some time back with a friend about the passage from page 220 in Difference and Repetition on consciousness and the double, trying to figure out why Deleuze holds that this additional element of contemplation is necessary (if you disagree that this is what Deleuze is referring to by “vitalism” please clarify). In the instances where he references these passive contemplations, Awareness, and consciousness, they seem to come out of nowhere, without argumentation, or a discussion as to what philosophical and ontological work they’re doing. Do you have a story as to why this element is crucial to his ontology, what problem they solve, or what philosophical work they’re doing?

    What’s the article by Stenger’s you’re referring to? I don’t think her work on the creative nature of matter with Prigogine can be discounted in this connection (Darwin and Marx seem to adopt the view of classical dynamics where you just have atoms bumping into one another and where there is no arrow of time), but I don’t take it that the complexity theorists and advocates of non-linear dynamics are referring to vitalism, but to the self-organization of matter in conditions far from equilibrium where matter becomes sensitive to other factors that would normally not impact it, such as slight fluctuations in gravity, etc. On the other hand, I haven’t yet been fortunate enough to read her work on Whitehead, so there might indeed be a strong vitalistic element there that I’m unaware of (assuming Whitehead can be characterized as a vitalist).

    I’m not arguing, just trying to get clear and get a sense of what you’re referring to by “vitalism”. Perhaps the word and position are worth preserving, but this requires good philosophical arguments in defense of it (especially given the tremendous achievements in contemporary biological science that increasingly seem like they can dispense with reference to something like a vital force), and careful explanation of what philosophical problem the vital is responding to.

  21. Adam Says:

    LS, So you’re saying that for vitalism to be a serious philosophical position, it has to be a serious philosophical position?

  22. Anthony Paul Smith Says:

    Always the policeman, never the criminal.

    ‘but I don’t take it that the complexity theorists and advocates of non-linear dynamics are referring to vitalism, but to the self-organization of matter in conditions far from equilibrium where matter becomes sensitive to other factors that would normally not impact it, such as slight fluctuations in gravity, etc.’

    Actually, I think this is rife with vitalistic notions. Self-organization, non-linear, sensitivity. These are not mechanistic notions, or at least lack the coherence mechanists think they hold. You see similar things in ecosystem science. Why is it that we have all the science (i.e. mechanisms) down for dealing with invasive species, and yet in the actual ecosystem they still can’t control them? One is tempted to see a kind of passive materiality, or spirit, at work here. This is all the elan vital meant for Bergson (and, if Deleuze is a vitalist, he is a Bergsonian one – here I invoke the authority of Alliez and Ansell-Pearson). It named an ignorance, rather than the hubris of mechanists who simply eliminate reality that doesn’t accord with their abstractions. You hint at it with your passive contemplation quotes and Brassier also locates this as his vitalism (and he also thinks it makes Deleuze a pan-psychist).

    Vitalism, for me, doesn’t solve any problems. It brings attention to problems. That’s why it is worth preserving in an age of biopolitics. Life is a problem. Self-organization is a problem. Emergence is a problem. Mechanism, though it does rule the day, has not been as nearly victorious as you suggest at the end of your comment. It has simply assured us with rhetoric. The nihilists (i.e. Brassier) can at least awaken us from that dogmatic slumber, but I think thinking vitalistically opens up possibilities of thinking past both nihilism and dogmatism.

    I can’t tell if you are being patronizing and hostile. Really the Deleuze I read is very different from yours, obviously. Perhaps this is why you feel the need to challenge it, since I’m far less interested in the rationalist Deleuze or the Deleuze defended against his defenders. I like the weird Deleuze much more, though it doesn’t look like that Deleuze will get me a job.

  23. larvalsubjects Says:

    I can’t tell if you are being patronizing and hostile.

    Neither, I’m trying to get a fix on your position and what you have in mind by vitalism. Not everything is a fight. Reading your recent three part series on religion it is clear that you use the term religion very differently than I use the term religion. A good deal of needless conflict could have been averted had this been clarified at the outset. Similarly, you use the term vitalism in a different way than I use the word vitalism. I can’t know this if I don’t ask you what you mean by it, but can only project my own meaning on to the term (just as you end up projecting meaning onto my rejection of the term without giving me the courtesy of first figuring out what I’m reject), thereby leading to a situation where we’re comically arguing with one another when in fact we basically agree at a conceptual level (see below).

    Actually, I think this is rife with vitalistic notions. Self-organization, non-linear, sensitivity.

    This is basically my conception of Deleuze’s ontology and pretty much the focus of all the philosophical work that I do… It just never occurred to me to refer to these things as vitalistic notions. I associate vitalism with the view that the functions of living organisms are due to a vital force different than that of psychophysical processes. Work done by figures such as Prigogine seem to suggest that we need not evoke any such principle or elan to account for things such as nonlinearity, self-organization, autopoiesis, sensitivity to initial conditions, and so on. I like your point that this term named an ignorance and would agree, though I tend to think that mechanism already went out the window with the emergence of thermodynamics.

    Really the Deleuze I read is very different from yours, obviously. Perhaps this is why you feel the need to challenge it, since I’m far less interested in the rationalist Deleuze or the Deleuze defended against his defenders. I like the weird Deleuze much more, though it doesn’t look like that Deleuze will get me a job.

    From what you’ve said in this post, it sounds to me that you’re very interested in the rationalist Deleuze. I use the term “rationalism” to refer to pattern, order, organization, and more specifically emergent local orders such as we find in a self-regulating biological organism where each part produces the other parts in ongoing processes. I do not use it to refer to a priori deductive reasoning from universal principles. In part, the decision to talk about Deleuze in these terms had to do with the situation of Deleuzian scholarship at the time I wrote the book (nearly seven years ago now). At that time, the work of K.A. Pearson and DeLanda had not yet appeared, and you there was a tendency to focus on the first passive synthesis of memory from Difference and Repetition or habitus, and the connective synthesis of desiring-machines in Anti-Oedipus. Deleuze was portrayed as being nearly identical to Hume’s empiricism, so we were basically getting an epistemological version of Deleuze. All the things Deleuze had to say about things like emergence, systems, actualization, multiplicities, self-organization, ecology, etc., were almost entirely ignored (i.e., all the things that attracted me to Deleuze). This trend was typified especially by Bruce Baugh’s influential essays on Deleuze’s transcendental empiricism. I tried to develop a picture of Deleuze that focused on issues of emergent order, self-organization, ongoing self-production, in contrast to this picture and it was this that I was referring to as “hyper-rationalism”. I don’t think it would be necessary to use this term polemically in the same way today.

  24. Alex Says:

    I know very little of Deleuze, but reading the sheer conceptual invention, absurd plays-on-words, and Artaudian games played in his co-authored work, I don’t understand precisely where the “rationalist” Deleuze fits in, at all.

    Maybe someone can lay it out rather flat for me, but I’ve always read his co-authored stuff as frankly unsystematisable and non-rationalist.

    As for Brassier, I think it supports Anthony’s point (in defending Deleuze’s vitalism) that he sees him as an example of materialism which does not become materialistic enough and needs to unthink it with a Laurellian non-philosophical re-reading.

  25. Alex Says:

    Oh an Larval, I think you have missed Anthony’s point a bit, because as he says, if Deleuze is a vitalist, he is a Bergsonian one, and hence his vitalism is not that there is some weird “spirit” going on beyond materiality but rather:

    This is all the elan vital meant for Bergson (and, if Deleuze is a vitalist, he is a Bergsonian one – here I invoke the authority of Alliez and Ansell-Pearson). It named an ignorance, rather than the hubris of mechanists who simply eliminate reality that doesn’t accord with their abstractions.

    In short, nature is always excessive and goes beyond any structures we can form for it. Even those of “complexity” etc.

  26. larvalsubjects Says:

    I know very little of Deleuze, but reading the sheer conceptual invention, absurd plays-on-words, and Artaudian games played in his co-authored work, I don’t understand precisely where the “rationalist” Deleuze fits in, at all.

    I can’t develop all of this here. In part it has to do with Deleuze’s engagement with Leibniz, Spinoza, and the relatively obscure post-Kantian German philosophy Solomon Maimon. More importantly, the issue revolves around Deleuze’s engagement with differential calculus from one end of his work to the other. Differentials (dy/dx) make up the field of the virtual and what Deleuze refers to as “multiplicities” and preside over actualization.

    As for the vitalism issue and Bergson, that’s what I was trying to get clear on: 1) what does Anthony mean when he evokes vitalism, and 2) what does he understand Bergson to mean when he speaks of elan vital. I’m sure that Anthony is aware that the first thing that is evoked in the minds of those hearing the word “vitalism” is “the presence of some weird ‘spirit’ going on beyond materiality.” This is why I’m resistant to the use of the term altogether, though I have no problems with the concepts behind Anthony’s use of the term.

    The thesis that nature being excessive is a commonplace of much biological and complexity science. The basic mechanist thesis is that effects are always proportionate to causes, such that you can only get as much out of an interaction as you put into an interaction. By contrast, one form of non-linearity is those situations where you get effects far in excess of their causes, where a sort of qualitative transformation takes place in a system… The proverbial straw that broke the camels back. During the early 70s a mathematics was even developed to describe these events: catastrophe theory. Deleuze and Guattari make a number of references to the work of Rene Thom who tried to think about these things.

  27. larvalsubjects Says:

    Alex just one further point. You made reference to the wordplay and Artaud above. Lacan is very similar in this respect. I think the engagement with Artaud should be situated in terms of structuralist linguistics and its impact on French philosophy. Deleuze first begins his engagement with Artaud in his early work The Logic of Sense. In Difference and Repetition he also makes a number of references to Raymond Roussel, whose novels are playful in a similar fashion. During this period Deleuze was still in the grips of structuralism, where language was understood as a structure of differential relations among phonemes: b/p /b/at, /p/at, /c/at. The thesis of The Logic of Sense is that sense arises from nonsense, or this level of structure that has no inherent sense but does have an infinity of combinatorial possibilities (Foucault’s book on Roussel, Death and the Labrynth, is a fascinating read in this connection, as Foucault shows how Roussel constructed his absurdist and nonsensical literature on the basis of a few linguistic rules, a veritable novel writing machine). Nonsense, however, does not mean without structure or order. This was the great contribution of phonology. Authors such as Joyce, Roussel, and Artaud enacted this dimension of language with their writing style. Lacan attempted to draw attention to these formal and sonorous elements of language through his puns, neologisms, plays on words, etc., in his lectures, thereby teaching analysts to pay attention to the material dimension of language and its underlying pattern or structure, rather than its content.

    By the time of Anti-Oedipus, Deleuze and Guattari begin developing a critique of structuralist linguistics for a variety of fairly sound reasons (late Lacan moves in a similar direction). However, this does not mean that they reject order or pattern, they just begin to locate it elsewhere. At this point it seems that the engagement with Artaud is redirected. Where before Artaud was of interest as he seemed to discover language as a structure multiplicity (the pure phonemic system), now Artaud is thought as someone exploring language at the boundary of becoming, where new sense is emerging and where language is departing from its territorialized form. In remarking on all this I’m just trying to say that Deleuze’s “playfulness” isn’t a rejection of all structure, pattern, and order but an attempt to indicate a deeper level of organization and order.

  28. Alex Says:

    I think that, this is the reason Anthony has attempted to coin the term invariant vitalism (on this very site) to describe his position. I don’t want to speak for him, but I think it is to do with the kind of image of thought that is created when you consider vitalism in this mode.

    Also, I can’t help but read the whole Dickens commentary – the famous Life bit – as an affirmation of some kind of vitalism. Naive, perhaps. After all, Deleuze seems to me to be a consistent attempt to hold apparently contradictory hypotheses in tension – as Mallarkey’s book Post-Continental Philosophy excessively points out.

  29. Anthony Paul Smith Says:

    Levi,

    What you mean by rationalism is different from other people trying to turn Deleuze into a purely rationalist thinker. I don’t feel the need to define my terms as of yet. I’m working with intuitions and senses rather than startified things. One of the great things about history is that it shows us that there has never been one vitalism.


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