3 Introduction: Deleuze's World
4 What I offer here is not a direct interpretation of Deleuze texts but a reconstruction of his philosophy, using entirely different theoretical resources and lines of argument. The point of this reconstruction is not just to make his ideas seem legitimate to my intended audience, but also to show that his conclusions do not depend on his particular choice of resources, or the particular lines of argument he uses, but that they are robust to changes in theoretical assumptions and strategies.
I must qualify this statement, however, because what I attempt here is far from a comprehensive reconstruction of all of Deleuze’s philosophical ideas. Instead, I focus on a particular yet fundamental aspect of his work: his ontology.
A Philosophers ontology is the set of entities he or she assumes to exist in reality, the types of entities he or she is committed to assert actually exist.
Although in the history of philosophy there are a great variety of ontological commitments, we can very roughly classify these into three main groups.
For some philosophers reality has no existence independently from the human mind that receives it, so their ontology consists mainly of mental entities, whether these are thought as transcendent objects or, on the contrary, as linguistic representations or social conventions.
Other philosophers grant to the objects of everyday experience a mind-independent existence, but remain unconvinced that theoretical entities, whether unobservable relations such as physical causes, or unobservable entities such as electrons, possess such an ontological autonomy.
Finally, there are philosophers who grant reality full autonomy from the human mind, disregarding the difference between the observable and the unobservable, and the anthropocentrism this distinction implies. These philosophers are said to have a realist ontology.
Deleuze is such a realist philosopher, a fact that by itself should distinguish him from most post-modern philosophies which remain basically non-realist.
Realist philosophers, on the other hand, need not agree about the contents of this mind-independent reality. In particular, Deleuze rejects several of the entities taken for granted in ordinary forms of realism.
To take the most obvious example, in some realist approaches the world is thought to be composed of fully formed objects whose identity is guaranteed by their possession of an essence, a core set of properties that defines what these objects are.
Deleuze is not a realist about essences, or any other transcendent entity, so in his philosophy something else is needed to explain what gives objects their identity and what preserves this identity through time.
Briefly, this something else is dynamical processes. Some of these processes are material and energetic, some are not, but even the latter remain immanent to the world of matter and energy.
Thus, Deleuze’s process ontology breaks with the essentialism that characterises naive realism and, simultaneously, removes one of the main objections which non-realists make against the postulation of an autonomous reality. The extent to which he deprives non-realists from this easy way out depends, on the other hand, on the details of his account of how the entities that populate reality are produced without the need for anything transcendent. For this reason I will not be concerned in this reconstruction with the textual source of Deleuze’s ideas, nor that his style of argumentation or his use of language. In short, I will not be concerned with Deleuze’s works only with Deleuze’s world.
Chapter 1 introduces the formal ideas needed to think about the abstract (or rather virtual) structure of dynamical processes. I draw on the same mathematical resources as Deleuze (differential geometry, group theory) but, unlike him, I do not assume the reader is already familiar with these fields. Chapter 1 is written as an alternative to his own presentation of subject, guiding the reader step-by-step through the different mathematical ideas involved (manifolds, transformation groups, vector fields) and giving examples of the application of these abstract ideas to the task of modelling concrete physical processes.
Chapters 2 and 3 deal with the production of the different entities that populate Deleuze's world. The basic theme is that, but within a realist perspective, one does not get rid of essences until one replaces them with something else.
This is a burden which affects only the realist philosopher given that
the non-realist can simply declare essences mental entities or reduce them to social conventions.
6 One way to think about essentialism is as a theory of the genesis of form, that is, a theory of morphogenesis, in which physical entities are viewed as more or less faithful realisations of ideal forms. The details of the process of realisation are typically never given. Essences are thought to act as models, eternally maintaining their identity, while particular entities are conceived as mere copies of the models, resembling them with a higher or lower degree of perfection.
Boe: genesis of form - vgl. questions of "form" in Systemstheory Luhmann, Fuchs - Deontologisation - Difference
Deleuze replaces the false genesis implied by these pre-existing forms which remain the same for all time, with a theory of morphogenesis based on the notion of the different.
He conceives difference not negatively, as lack of resemblance, but positively or productively, as that which drives a dynamical process.
The best examples are intensive differences, the differences in temperature, pressure, speech, chemical concentration, which are key to the scientific explanation of the genesis of the form of inorganic crystals, or other forms of organic plants and animals.
Chapter 2 is concerned with the spatial aspects of this intensive genesis while chapter 3 deals with its temporal aspects.
After reconstructing Deleuze’s ontology I move on in chapter 4 to give a brief account of his epistemology.
For any realist philosopher these two areas must be, in fact, intimately related. This may be most clearly seen in the case of naive realism, where truth is conceived as a relation of correspondence between, on one hand, a series of facts about the classes of entities populating reality and, on the other, a series of sentences expressing those facts.
If one assumes that a class of entities is defined by the essence which its members share in common, it becomes relatively simple to conclude that these classes are basically given, and that they exhaust all there is to know about the world.
The ontological assumption that the world is basically closed, that entirely novel classes of entities cannot emerge spontaneously, may now be coupled with the epistemological one, and the correspondence between true sentences and real facts can be made absolute.
It is unclear to what extent any realist philosopher actually subscribes to this extremely naive new, but it is clear that the reconstruction of Deleuze’s realism must reject each one of these assumptions and replace them with different ones.
While in the first three chapters I attempt to eliminate the false assumption of a closed world, in chapter 4 I try to replace not only the idea of simple correspondence but, beyond that, to devalue the very idea of truth.
7 In other words, I will argue that even if one accepts that there are true sentences expressing real facts, it can still be maintained that most of these factual sentences are trivial. The role of the thinker is not so much to utter truths or establish facts, but to distinguish among the large population through facts those that are important and relevant from those that are not.
Importance and relevance, not truth, are the key concepts of Deleuze’s epistemology, the task of realism being to ground these concepts preventing them from being reduced to subjective evaluations or social conventions.
This point can be made clearer if we contrast Deleuze’s position not with the linguistic version of correspondence clearly but with a mathematical one. In this case a relation of correspondence is postulated to exist between the states of physical object and the solutions to mathematical models capturing the essence of that object. By contrast, Deleuze stresses the role of correctly process problems, rather than their true solutions, the problem being well posted if it captures an objective distribution of the important and the unimportant, or more mathematically, of the singular and the ordinary.
Chapter 4 explores this problematic epistemology and compares it with the more familiar axiomatic or theorematic the swish predominates in the physical sciences. To anticipate the main conclusion of the chapter, while in an axiomatic epistemology one stresses the role of general laws, in a problematic one laws as such disappear but without sacrificing the objectivity of physical knowledge, and objectivity now captured by distributions of the singular and the ordinary. If such a conclusion can indeed be made plausible, it follows that despite the fact that I reconstruct demos to cater to an audience of scientists and analytical philosophers of science, nothing is yielded to the orthodox positions held by these two groups of thinkers. On the contrary, both physical science and analytical philosophy emerge transformed from this encounter with Deleuze, the former retaining its objectivity about losing the laws it holds so dear, the latter maintaining its rigour and clarity about losing its exclusive focus on facts and solutions.
And more importantly, the world itself emerges transformed: the very idea that there can be a set of two sentences which give us the facts once and for all, an idea presupposing a closed and finished world, gives way to an open world full of diverging processes yielding novel and unexpected entities, the kind of world that would not sit still long enough for us to take a snapshot of it and present it as the final truth.
8 To conclude this introduction I must say a few words concerning that other all the swish my reconstruction may seem to overlook: Deleuzian philosophers, as well as thinkers and artists of different kinds who are interested in the philosophy of Deleuze. First of all, there is much more to Deleuze’s books than just an ontology of processes and an epistemology are problems. He made contributions to such diverse subjects as the nature of cinema, painting and literature, and he held various Pacific views on the nature and Genesis of subjectivity and language. For better or for worse, these are subjects that have captured the attention of most readers of Deleuze, so it will come as a surprise that I will have nothing to say about them. Nevertheless, if I manage to reconstruct Deleuze’s world we will be in a better position to understand what quote cinema, language or subjectivity be in that world.