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Gilles Deleuze and His View of Reality- Leanne

The following blog post contains some of the most pretentious sounding sentences I have ever had the need to type. A thesaurus may have helped in terms of brevity, but it sounds much fancier this way so I intend to keep it as so.

Gilles Deleuze’s owed his contributions to philosophy to his teachers and to various figures who inspired him, including Jean-Paul Sartre. Deleuze agregated in philosophy in 1948 and taught at various French post-secondary establishments until he took up a position at the Sorbonne in ’57. He suffered throughout his life with a debilitating pulmonary condition that grew in severity as his death loomed closer. Though he had a lung removed, the disease spread and he was forced to undergo a tracheotomy and he lost his power of speech. In the last few years of his life, even writing by hand were considered Herculean tasks and in 1995 he committed suicide by throwing himself from his apartment window. His autobiography shares that when once asked to talk about his life, he said “Academics’ lives are seldom interresting.”

His works can be separated into two groups: his monographs interpreting the work of other philosophers, and various philosophical works organized by concept.

One of his main projects was (I accredit the following large words to the internet, where from I stole them) essentially a ‘systematic inversion of the traditional metaphysical relationship between identity and difference’. (Basically, he disagrees to a certain level.) Wikipedia nicely sums up the traditional view: “Traditionally, difference is seen as derivative from identity: e.g., to say that “X is different from Y” assumes some X and Y with at least relatively stable identities.”

Deleuze claimed that identities are effects of difference, and that identities are neither logically nor metaphysically prior to difference, “Given that there exist differences of nature between things of the same genus.” Essentially, no two things are ever the same and the categories with which we identify them derive from differences. His argument stated that apparent identities such as “x” are made up of infinite differences, where “x” = the difference between “y” and “z”, and “y” = the difference between “a” and “b” and so on. Deleuze claimed that to honestly confront the concept of reality, we must grasp beings precisely how they are, and the concepts of identity (categories, resemblances, forms, etc) fail to attain what he has entitled “difference in itself.” He once said that “If philosophy has a positive and direct relation to things, it is only insofar as philosophy claims to grasp the thing itself, according to what it is, in its difference from everything it is not, in other words, in its internal difference.”

Many of his other beliefs in the realm of metaphysics ran parallel to those of Immanuel Kant. 

“What do you know about me, given that I believe in secrecy? … If I stick where I am, if I don’t travel around, like anyone else I make my inner journeys that I can only measure by my emotions, and express very obliquely and circuitously in what I write. … Arguments from one’s own privileged experience are bad and reactionary arguments.”

-Gilles Deleuze



5 thoughts on “Gilles Deleuze and His View of Reality- Leanne

  1. I find it intriguing that you attended so much to Deleuze’s physiological status throughout his lifespan. I wonder, as we consider the role of whole self (as in mind, body, soul–if you believe in such elements), how much the state of the body impacts the state of the psyche. The mind is in fact nested within broader context(s) e.g., psycho-social, socio-cultural, historical, etc. I would suggest that body is also one of those contexts, if not the most dominant one. Our bodies, in sickness and in health, impacts our mind’s work in profound and directive ways. What say you?

    Posted by GNA | October 25, 2012, 6:19 am
  2. I totally agree, I think that people who are forced to question and realise their own mortality because of their health are in some ways more likely to pursue topics like philosophy. I’m excited to read more into Mr Deleuze to see what he has to say on subjects other than metaphysics.

    Posted by Leanne | October 25, 2012, 5:42 pm
    • This reminds me a little of the Cornell West video from earlier in the semester where he describes philosophy (at one point) as “learning how to die.” This matter of existence is close to the heart of many an existentialist, whose main goals surround the idea of living ‘authentically’ in the face of this one simple truth: we all are mortal, fragile beings. I think those of us who have been reminded of this fact, either personally or through vicarious experience, have a natural tendency toward the metaphysical: what does it mean to be alive? What does it mean to be living the ‘right’ kind of life?

      Posted by Bryan | October 25, 2012, 9:51 pm
    • Would you say that their motivation behind pursuing philosophy isn’t so much as to learn more, but in the face of death find a way to evade it? Because, man’s greatest mission in life, probably is to seek to live forever, and perhaps it is in the moment of need when faced with your own imminent demise, that you turn to something that isn’t quite scientific, but profound enough that it might contain the answer?

      Posted by riczhang | October 26, 2012, 2:03 am
  3. Could you clarify something for me? Would Deluze view ‘truth’ as something that is relitive or absolute? Are his points (or ideas or whatever) x, y and z fixed in space and we can therefore derive an absolute meaning from the differences in their ‘positions’ or are x, y and z constantly moving around and changing as x according to y and z and z changes according to how a changes and a iteslf is related to the difference between p and x?
    What do you personally think?

    Posted by nichoman321 | October 25, 2012, 6:17 pm

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