Archive for October 10th, 2010
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Deleuze is a key figure in postmodern French philosophy. Considering himself an empiricist and a vitalist, his body of work, which rests upon concepts such as multiplicity, constructivism, difference and desire, stands at a substantial remove from the main traditions of 20th century Continental thought. His thought locates him as an influential figure in present-day considerations of society, creativity and subjectivity. Notably, within his metaphysics he favored a Spinozian concept of a plane of immanence with everything a mode of one substance, and thus on the same level of existence. He argued, then, that there is no good and evil, but rather only relationships which are beneficial or harmful to the particular individuals. This ethics influences his approach to society and politics, especially as he was so politically active in struggles for rights and freedoms. Later in his career he wrote some of the more infamous texts of the period, in particular, Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus. These texts are collaborative works with the radical psychoanalyst Félix Guattari, and they exhibit Deleuze’s social and political commitment.
Gilles Deleuze was one of the most influential and prolific French philosophers of the second half of the twentieth century. Deleuze conceived of philosophy as the production of concepts, and he characterized himself as a “pure metaphysician.” In his magnum opus Difference and Repetition, he tries to develop a metaphysics adequate to contemporary mathematics and science—a metaphysics in which the concept of multiplicity replaces that of substance, event replaces essence and virtuality replaces possibility. Deleuze was also well-known for a number of important monographs he published in the history of philosophy (on Hume, Nietzsche, Kant, Bergson, Spinoza, Foucault, and Leibniz), as well as for his writings on the various arts, which include a two- volume study of the cinema, books on Proust and Sacher-Masoch, a monograph on the painter Francis Bacon, and a collection of essays on literature. Deleuze considered these latter works as pure philosophy, and not criticism, since he sought to create the concepts that correspond to the artistic practices of painters, filmmakers, and writers. In 1968, he met Félix Guattari, a political activist and radical psychoanalyst, with whom he wrote several works, among them the two-volume Capitalism and Schizophrenia, comprised of Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus. Their final collaboration was What is Philosophy?.
Deleuze is noteworthy for his rejection of the Heideggerian notion of the “end of metaphysics,” as well as the extent of his non-philosophical references (inter alia, differential calculus, thermodynamics, geology, molecular biology, population genetics, ethology, embryology, anthropology, psychoanalysis, economics, linguistics, and even esoteric thought); his colleague Jean-François Lyotard spoke of him as a “library of Babel.” Although it remains to be seen whether the 20th century will be “Deleuzean,” as his friend Michel Foucault once quipped, Deleuze’s work has already enjoyed a considerable influence both inside and outside the contemporary academy; along with a growing influence in philosophy, Deleuze’s work is approvingly cited by, and his concepts put to use by, researchers in architecture, urban studies, geography, film studies, musicology, anthropology, gender studies, literary studies and other fields.
Theorists have devoted more interest to questions of “the virtual” recently. This is due, in part, to growing familiarity with the scientific concepts necessary to its interrogation, as well as the philosophical writings of Gilles Deleuze and those of philosophers he has resurrected, such as Spinoza and Bergson. But this interest is also the result of growing dissatisfaction with current theoretical approaches that rely on “top-down” methods unable to effectively account for the emergence or mutation of systems. Manuel DeLanda, for instance, has referred in his writing to oversimplifications that attribute causes to posited systems such as “late capitalism” without describing the causal interaction of their parts, which would change in different contexts. In his introduction to Parables for the Virtual, Brian Massumi argues that cultural theory’s over-reliance on ideological accounts of subject-formation and coding has resulted in “gridlock,” as the processes that produce subjects disappear in critiques that position bodies on a grid of oppositions (male-female, gay-straight, etc.). In one of his more exceptional examples, Massumi argues that Ronald Reagan’s success as the “Great Communicator” was not due to his mastery of image-based politics to hypnotize an unwitting public. The opposite was the case. Reagan’s halting speech and jerky movements were the source of his power, the infinite interruptions in his delivery so many moments of indeterminacy or virtual potential that were later made determinate by specific receiving apparatuses, such as families and churches. In short, interactions among non-ideological parts produced ideological power. Critiques that consider only the ends of ideology are unable to examine the very processes that create constraining subject-formations in the first place.
I shall discuss, in the first section, the manner in which Gilles Deleuze reads Nietzsche‘s reversal of the tradition; more particularly, I will analyze Deleuze’s understanding of will to power as the non-identifiable differential element. In the second section I shall trace the consequences of this reading by placing Nietzsche and Deleuzes writings in the context of the concept of a double-bind. This concept, as developed by Gregory Bateson, was to have a profound influence on Deleuze and Guattari’s work. More importantly, however, this theme can already be seen in the work of Nietzsche, for in Nietzsche one finds a critique which does not depend upon the logic of either/or, but instead resists this logic. In resisting this logic, this critique affirms the both/and that eludes the logic of either/or, and hence eludes the double bind which presupposes it. In the final section I shall compare my reading of Deleuze’s Nietzschean critique with the work of Jacques Derrida and Phillippe Lacoue-Labarthe. This should show that whereas Derrida and Lacoue-Labarthe leave largely unanswered the question of how interpretive critique ought to pro- ceed, we will see that Deleuze and Guattari are very specific and straightforward in answering this question. In short, they set forth a protocol that calls for a critique that affirms and orders the “chaos in oneself’ in a way that prevents this chaos from dying.
In a recent post to Dave’s Educational Blog, Dave Cormier made a number of comments about MOOCs (massively open online courses) in general, #PLENK2010 in particular, and personal learning networks/environments. Most of what he had to say was, as usual, quite insightful and very much in line with the way I tend to think about these issues, but he expressed a rather forceful caveat about the phrase personal learning environment (PLE). In short, he does not like its potential emphasis on the personal, or individual learner distinct from the group.
Positioned as the introduction to the second volume of Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Rhizome principally constructs a model (a new map) for apprehending the constitution and reception of a book. As Deleuze writes, “the book is not an image of the world. It forms a rhizome with the world, there is an aparallel evolution of the book and the world” (11). This model, framed metaphorically around rhizomorphism, also extends itself within the text to the study of linguistics and politics.
The title to this paper is an obvious play on words. “The map is not the territory” is a common expression that indicates the limits of representation. It suggests that we can never fully represent or capture the world. Borges imagines a map that is a 1:1 representation of the territory it is supposed to represent. Of course, if we broaden our conception of a map, we can imagine maps that are much larger than the territory: “maps” of subatomic reactions, the genome, and so forth. These map defines the boundaries, internal interactions, and identity of the territory in question. Maps, at least those common in the modern age, start with abstractions, and fit the “territory” into a numerical or conceptual grid. To suggest that the map is not the territory is to recognize that the territory is more than the abstractions of the map.