Tuesday, June 11, 2013


I try to read sympathetically. I try to be open-minded with philosophy books. I also try to read books that are outside my usual field, because I hang onto an old-fashioned idea that philosophers ought to be engaged in philosophy rather than scholarship, and this calls on me to read outside my narrow academic field. So, I read some deconstruction, I read some critical theory, I read some contemporary philosophy based on the rejection of phenomenology. I have never been able to go anywhere with anything coming out of Gilles Deleuze, and what I'm reading now gives me some clues as to why.

Let me say, though, that as far as I understand it, the basic ideas in Deleuze's thought are attractive: we shouldn't be tied down to reified concepts and ossified theories; flux, change, and surface are more interesting than philosophy has traditionally held; notions like "the transcendental subject" are sometimes dangerous fictions. But I am not sure who, beyond a number of brick-intellected academic hacks, sincerely, resolutely, and constantly commits the fallacy of misplaced concreteness this critique implies. I have always taken it that when Husserl, for example, writes about the transcendental Ego, he's writing an account of consciousness, and not writing something that is literally the final word explaining the basic metaphysical being in the world. (I read Husserl this way for the simple reason that he tells you to.)

I would like, in 63% seriousness, to write a paper called "Deleuzians Should Shut The Fuck Up."

Erin Manning goes head first into Deleuze in Always More Than One. For this perspective, transcendental Being as “depth”=totalitarianism=fascism; this position is ascribed to no one in particular, except that, by omission, it appears to be anyone holding a position that does not follow the surface=transcendental field=a life (always italicized). This a life is not a particular life, but the immanence in any event, that is purely surface, does not have relation, is not human, and has no meaning. It is ineffable, an always-more-than that itself has no characteristics, and as soon as it is treated as inaugurating anything — a stable being, a stable meaning, the human, history, memory — it has lost it’s surface-ness. Meaning, the human, and particularization are all forms of fascistic thinking, it appears. What thought can do is to skate on this surface, but as soon as thought becomes transitive, as soon as it is intentional, as soon as it has some direction (some sens—pardon my French), it’s no longer thought but the metaphysics of Being, i.e., fascism.

This is precisely why Deleuzians should shut the fuck up. Thought that skates on the surface can’t say anything about the surface without gouging it. The ineffable is ineffable, so stop effing it!

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