Gilles Deleuze: Philosopher for September
My plan for each month of every year is to study the thoughts of one philosopher or, alternatively, to dwell on one existential controversy.
For September, I’m reading Deleuze.
‘Gilles Deleuze (January 18, 1925–November 4, 1995) was one of the most influential and prolific French philosophers of the second half of the twentieth century.“
He develops a metaphysics “in which the concept of multiplicity replaces that of substance, event replaces essence and virtuality replaces possibility.”
“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 (1972) and A Thousand Plateaus (1980). Their final collaboration was What is Philosophy? (1991).’ (Stanford)
A few morsels to whet your appetite.
What is Philosophy?
“A concept is a brick. It can be used to build a courthouse of reason. Or it can be thrown through the window.”
Philosophy creates concepts for a reason.
First, it’s creative work. “The philosopher creates, he doesn't reflect.”
“A creator is someone who creates their own impossibilities, and thereby creates possibilities.”
“Bring something incomprehensible into the world!”
And secondly, philosophy is to solve problems.
“Something in the world forces us to think. This something is an object not of recognition but of a fundamental encounter.”
“Underneath all reason lies delirium and drift.”
Dealing with existential problems requires the virtue of courage and recognition that everything is mobile, unstable movement.
“Courage consists, however, in agreeing to flee rather than live tranquilly and hypocritically in false refuges.
Values, morals, homelands, religions, and these private certitudes that our vanity and our complacency bestow generously on us, have many deceptive sojourns as the world arranges for those who think they are standing straight and at ease, among stable things.”
Life and Self
“The self is only a threshold, a door, a becoming between two multiplicities.”
Life is an experiment.
Life is always moving along, a changing process. There’s no permanence in life or a permanent self.
“But since each of us, like anyone else, is already various people, it gets rather crowded.”
“The shame of being a man - is there any better reason to write?”
“Forming grammatically correct sentences is for the normal individual the prerequisite for any submission to social laws. No one is supposed to be ignorant of grammaticality; those who are belong in special institutions. The unity of language is fundamentally political.”
“I saw myself as taking an author from behind and giving him a child that would be his own offspring, yet monstrous.”
“What one says comes from the depths of one’s ignorance; the depths of one’s own underdevelopment….they’re an attempt to jolt, set in motion, something inside me, to treat writing as a flow, not a code.”
“…you see the book as a little non-signifying machine, and the only question is ‘Does it work, and how does it work?’ How does it work for you? If it doesn’t work, if nothing comes through, you try another book.”
“A tyrant institutionalises stupidity, but he is the first servant of his own system and the first to be installed within it.”
“You never walk alone. Even the devil is the lord of flies.”
“Why do men fight for their servitude as stubbornly as though it were their salvation?”
“There’s no democratic state that’s not compromised to the very core by its part in generating human misery.”
“It is always from the depths of its impotence that each power center draws its power, hence their extreme maliciousness, and vanity.”
Art and Culture
“I have no admiration for culture. I have no reserve knowledge, no provisional knowledge. And everything that I learn, I learn for a particular task, and once it's done, I immediately forget it, so that if ten years later, I have to get involved with something close to or directly within the same subject, I would have to start again from zero, with some few exceptions.”
“Christianity taught us to see the eye of the lord looking down upon us. Such forms of knowledge project an image of reality, at the expense of reality itself. They talk figures and icons and signs, but fail to perceive forces and flows. They bind us to other realities and especially the reality of power as it subjugates us. Their function is to tame, and the result is the fabrication of docile and obedient subjects.”
Recommended “Negotiations 1972 - 1990”, an introductory collection of Deleuze’s essays: