What Is Philosophy?
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What Is Philosophy?

Gilles Deleuze, FĂ©lix Guattari, Hugh Tomlinson, Graham Burchell III

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eBook - ePub

What Is Philosophy?

Gilles Deleuze, FĂ©lix Guattari, Hugh Tomlinson, Graham Burchell III

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Called by many France's foremost philosopher, Gilles Deleuze is one of the leading thinkers in the Western World. His acclaimed works and celebrated collaborations with FĂ©lix Guattari have established him as a seminal figure in the fields of literary criticism and philosophy. The long-awaited publication of What Is Philosophy? in English marks the culmination of Deleuze's career.

Deleuze and Guattari differentiate between philosophy, science, and the arts, seeing as means of confronting chaos, and challenge the common view that philosophy is an extension of logic. The authors also discuss the similarities and distinctions between creative and philosophical writing. Fresh anecdotes from the history of philosophy illuminate the book, along with engaging discussions of composers, painters, writers, and architects.

A milestone in Deleuze's collaboration with Guattari, What Is Philosophy? brings a new perspective to Deleuze's studies of cinema, painting, and music, while setting a brilliant capstone upon his work.

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Part One
1. What Is a Concept?
There are no simple concepts; Every concept has components and is defined by them. It therefore has a combination [chiffre*]. It is a multiplicity, although not every multiplicity is conceptual. There is no concept with only one component. Even the first concept, the one with which a philosophy “begins,” has several components, because it is not obvious that philosophy must have a beginning, and if it does determine one, it must combine it with a point of view or a ground [une raison]. Not only do Descartes, Hegel, and Feuerbach not begin with the same concept, they do not have the same concept of beginning. Every concept is at least double or triple, etc. Neither is there a concept possessing every component, since this would be chaos pure and simple. Even so-called universals as ultimate concepts must escape the chaos by circumscribing a universe that explains them (contemplation, reflection, communication). Every concept has an irregular contour defined by the sum of its components, which is why, from Plato to Bergson, we find the idea of the concept being a matter of articulation, of cutting and cross-cutting. The concept is a whole because it totalizes its components, but it is a fragmentary whole. Only on this condition can it escape the mental chaos constantly threatening it, stalking it, trying to reabsorb it.
On what conditions is a concept first, not absolutely but in relation to another? For example, is another person [autrui] necessarily second in relation to a self? If so, it is to the extent that its concept is that of an other—a subject that presents itself as an object—which is special in relation to the self: they are two components. In fact, if the other person is identified with a special object, it is now only the other subject as it appears to me; and if we identify it with another subject, it is me who is the other person as I appear to that subject. All concepts are connected to problems without which they would have no meaning and which can themselves only be isolated or understood as their solution emerges. We are dealing here with a problem concerning the plurality of subjects, their relationship, and their reciprocal presentation. Of course, everything changes if we think that we discover another problem: what is the nature of the other person’s position that the other subject comes to “occupy” only when it appears to me as a special object, and that I in turn come to occupy as special object when I appear to the other subject? From this point of view the other person is not anyone—neither subject nor object. There are several subjects because there is the other person, not the reverse. The other person thus requires an a priori concept from which the special object, the other subject, and the self must all derive, not the other way around. The order has changed, as has the nature of the concepts and the problems to which they are supposed to respond. We put to one side the question of the difference between scientific and philosophical problems. However, even in philosophy, concepts are only created as a function of problems which are thought to be badly understood or badly posed (pedagogy of the concept).
Let us proceed in a summary fashion: we will consider a field of experience taken as a real world no longer in relation to a self but to a simple “there is.” There is, at some moment, a calm and restful world. Suddenly a frightened face looms up that looks at something out of the field. The other person appears here as neither subject nor object but as something that is very different: a possible world, the possibility of a frightening world. This possible world is not real, or not yet, but it exists nonetheless: it is an expressed that exists only in its expression—the face, or an equivalent of the face. To begin with, the other person is this existence of a possible world. And this possible world also has a specific reality in itself, as possible: when the expressing speaks and says, “I am frightened,” even if its words are untruthful, this is enough for a reality to be given to the possible as such. This is the only meaning of the “I” as linguistic index. But it is not indispensable: China is a possible world, but it takes on a reality as soon as Chinese is spoken or China is spoken about within a given field of experience. This is very different from the situation in which China is realized by becoming the field of experience itself. Here, then, is a concept of the other that presupposes no more than the determination of a sensory world as condition. On this condition the other appears as the expression of a possible. The other is a possible world as it exists in a face that expresses it and takes shape in a language that gives it a reality. In this sense it is a concept with three inseparable components: possible world, existing face, and real language or speech.
Obviously, every concept has a history. This concept of the other person goes back to Leibniz, to his possible worlds and to the monad as expression of the world. But it is not the same problem, because in Leibniz possibles do not exist in the real world. It is also found in the modal logic of propositions. But these do not confer on possible worlds the reality that corresponds to their truth conditions (even when Wittgenstein envisages propositions of fear or pain, he does not see them as modalities that can be expressed in a position of the other person because he leaves the other person oscillating between another subject and a special object). Possible worlds have a long history.1 In short, we say that every concept always has a history, even though this history zigzags, though it passes, if need be, through other problems or onto different planes. In any concept there are usually bits or components that come from other concepts, which corresponded to other problems and presupposed other planes. This is inevitable because each concept carries out a new cutting-out, takes on new contours, and must be reactivated or recut.
On the other hand, a concept also has a becoming that involves its relationship with concepts situated on the same plane. Here concepts link up with each other, support one another, coordinate their contours, articulate their respective problems, and belong to the same philosophy, even if they have different histories. In fact, having a finite number of components, every concept will branch off toward other concepts that are differently composed but that constitute other regions of the same plane, answer to problems that can be connected to each other, and participate in a co-creation. A concept requires not only a problem through which it recasts or replaces earlier concepts but a junction of problems where it combines with other coexisting concepts. The concept of the Other Person as expression of a possible world in a perceptual field leads us to consider the components of this field for itself in a new way. No longer being either subject of the field or object in the field, the other person will become the condition under which not only subject and object are redistributed but also figure and ground, margins and center, moving object and reference point, transitive and substantial, length and depth. The Other Person is always perceived as an other, but in its concept it is the condition of all perception, for others as for ourselves. It is the condition for our passing from one world to another. The Other Person makes the world go by, and the “I” now designates only a past world (“I was peaceful”). For example, the Other Person is enough to make any length a possible depth in space, and vice versa, so that if this concept did not function in the perceptual field, transitions and inversions would become incomprehensible, and we would always run up against things, the possible having disappeared. Or at least, philosophically, it would be necessary to find another reason for not running up against them. It is in this way that, on a determinable plane, we go from one concept to another by a kind of bridge. The creation of a concept of the Other Person with these components will entail the creation of a new concept of perceptual space, with other components to be determined (not running up against things, or not too much, will be part of these components).
We started with a fairly complex example. How could we do otherwise, because there is no simple concept? Readers may start from whatever example they like. We believe that they will reach the same conclusion about the nature of the concept or the concept of concept. First, every concept relates back to other concepts, not only in its history but in its becoming or its present connections. Every concept has components that may, in turn, be grasped as concepts (so that the Other Person has the face among its components, but the Face will itself be considered as a concept with its own components). Concepts, therefore, extend to infinity and, being created, are never created from nothing. Second, what is distinctive about the concept is that it renders components inseparable within itself. Components, or what defines the consistency of the concept, its endoconsistency, are distinct, heterogeneous, and yet not separable. The point is that each partially overlaps, has a zone of neighborhood [zone de voisinage*], or a threshold of indiscernibility, with another one. For example, in the concept of the other person, the possible world does not exist outside the face that expresses it, although it is distinguished from it as expressed and expression; and the face in turn is the vicinity of the words for which it is already the megaphone. Components remain distinct, but something passes from one to the other, something that is undecidable between them. There is an area ab that belongs to both a and b, where a and b “become” indiscernible. These zones, thresholds, or becomings, this inseparability, define the internal consistency of the concept. But the concept also has an exoconsistency with other concepts, when their respective creation implies the construction of a bridge on the same plane. Zones and bridges are the joints of the concept.
Third, each concept will therefore be considered as the point of coincidence, condensation, or accumulation of its own components. The conceptual point constantly traverses its components, rising and falling within them. In this sense, each component is an intensive feature, an intensive ordinate [ordonnĂ©e intensive*], which must be understood not as general or particular but as a pure and simple singularity—“a” possible world, “a” face, “some” words—that is particularized or generalized depending upon whether it is given variable values or a constant function. But, unlike the position in science, there is neither constant nor variable in the concept, and we no more pick out a variable species for a constant genus than we do a constant species for variable individuals. In the concept there are only ordinate relationships, not relationships of comprehension or extension, and the concept’s components are neither constants nor variables but pure and simple variations ordered according to their neighborhood. They are processual, modular. The concept of a bird is found not in its genus or species but in the composition of its postures, colors, and songs: something indiscernible that is not so much synesthetic as syneidetic. A concept is a heterogenesis—that is to say, an ordering of its components by zones of neighborhood. It is ordinal, an intension present in all the features that make it up. The concept is in a state of survey [survol†] in relation to its components, endlessly traversing them according to an order without distance. It is immediately co-present to all its components or variations, at no distance from them, passing back and forth through them: it is a refrain, an opus with its number (chiffre).
The concept is an incorporeal, even though it is incarnated or effectuated in bodies. But, in fact, it is not mixed up with the state of affairs in which it is effectuated. It does not have spatiotemporal coordinates, only intensive ordinates. It has no energy, only intensities; it is anenergetic (energy is not intensity but rather the way in which the latter is deployed and nullified in an extensive state of affairs). The concept speaks the event, not the essence or the thing—pure Event, a hecceity, an entity: the event of the Other or of the face (when, in turn, the face is taken as concept). It is like the bird as event. The concept is defined by the inseparability of a finite number of heterogeneous components traversed by a point of absolute survey at infinite speed. Concepts are “absolute surfaces or volumes,” forms whose only object is the inseparability of distinct variations.2 The “survey” [survol] is the state of the concept or its specific infinity, although the infinities may be larger or smaller according to the number of components, thresholds and bridges. In this sense the concept is act of thought, it is thought operating at infinite (although greater or lesser) speed.
The concept is therefore both absolute and relative: it is relative to its own components, to other concepts, to the plane on which it is defined, and to the problems it is supposed to resolve; but it is absolute through the condensation it carries out, the site it occupies on the plane, and the conditions it assigns to the problem. As whole it is absolute, but insofar as it is fragmentary it is relative. It is infinite through its survey or its speed but finite through its movement that traces the contour of its components. Philosophers are always recasting and even changing their concepts: sometimes the development of a point of detail that produces a new condensation, that adds or withdraws components, is enough. Philosophers sometimes exhibit a forgetfulness that almost makes them ill. According to Jaspers, Nietzsche, “corrected his ideas himself in order to create new ones without explicitly admitting it; when his health deteriorated he forgot the conclusions he had arrived at earlier.” Or, as Leibniz said, “I thought I had reached port; but 
 I seemed to be cast back again into the open sea.”3 What remains absolute, however, is the way in which the created concept is posited in itself and with others. The relativity and absoluteness of the concept are like its pedagogy and its ontology, its creation and its self-positing, its ideality and its reality—the concept is real without being actual, ideal without being abstract. The concept is defined by its consistency, its endoconsistency and exoconsistency, but it has no reference: it is self-referential; it posits itself and its object at the same time as it is created. Constructivism unites the relative and the absolute.
Finally, the concept is not discursive, and philosophy is not a discursive formation, because it does not link propositions together. Confusing concept and proposition produces a belief in the existence of scientific concepts and a view of the proposition as a genuine “intension” (what the sentence expresses). Consequently, the philosophical concept usually appears only as a proposition deprived of sense. This confusion reigns in logic and explains its infantile idea of philosophy. Concepts are measured against a “philosophical” grammar that replaces them with propositions extracted from the sentences in which they appear. We are constantly trapped between alternative propositions and do not see that the concept has already passed into the excluded middle. The concept is not a proposition at all; it is not propositional, and the proposition is never an intension. Propositions are defined by their reference, which concerns not the Event but rather a relationship with a state of affairs or body and with the conditions of this relationship. Far from constituting an intension, these conditions are entirely extensional. They imply operations by which abscissas or successive linearizations are formed that force intensive ordinates into spatiotemporal and energetic coordinates, by which the sets so determined are made to correspond to each other. These successions and correspondences define discursiveness in extensive systems. The independence of variables in propositions is opposed to the inseparability of variations in the concept. Concepts, which have only consistency or intensive ordinates outside of any coordinates, freely enter into relationships of nondiscursive resonance—either because the components of one become concepts with other heterogeneous components or because there is no difference of scale between them at any level. Concepts are centers of vibrations, each in itself and every one in relation to all the others. This is why they all resonate rather than cohere or correspond with each other. There is no reason why concepts should cohere. As fragmentary totalities, concepts are not even the pieces of a puzzle, for their irregular contours do not correspond to each other. They do form a wall, but it is a dry-stone wall, and everything holds together only along diverging lines. Even bridges from one concept to another are still junctions, or detours, which do not define any discursive whole. They are movable bridges. From this point of view, philosophy can be seen as being in a perpetual state of digression or digressiveness.
The major differences between the philosophical enunciation of fragmentary concepts and the scientific enunciation of partial propositions follow from this digression. From an initial point of view, all enunciation is positional. But enunciation remains external to the proposition because the latter’s object is a state of affairs as referent, and the references that constitute truth values as its conditions (even if, for their part, these conditions are internal to the object). On the other hand, positional enunciation is strictly immanent to the concept because the latter’s sole object is the inseparability of the components that constitute its consistency and through which it passes back and forth. As for the other aspect, creative or signed enunciation, it is clear that scientific propositions and their correlates are just as signed or created as philosophical concepts: we speak of Pythagoras’s theorem, Cartesian coordinates, Hamiltonian number, and Lagrangian function just as we speak of the Platonic Idea or Descartes’s cogito and the like. But however much the use of proper names clarifies and confirms the historical nature of their link to these enunciations, these proper names are masks for other becomings and serve only as pseudonyms for more secret singular entities. In the case of propositions, proper names designate extrinsic partial observers that are scientifically definable in relation to a particular axis of reference; whereas for concepts, proper names are intrinsic conceptual personae who haunt a particular plane of consistency. It is not only proper names that are used very differently in philosophies, sciences, and arts but also syntactical elements, and especially prepositions and the conjunctions, “now,” “therefore.” Philosophy proceeds by sentences, but it is not always propositions that are extracted from sentences in general. At present we are relying only on a very general hypothesis: from sentences or their equivalent, philosophy extracts concepts (which must not be confused with general or abstract ideas), whereas science extracts prospects (propositions that must not be confused with judgments), and art extracts percepts and affects (which must not be confused with perceptions or feelings). In each case language is tested and used in incomparable ways—but in ways that do not define the differ...

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