- ---- by John MarksDeleuze's work is undoubtedly materialist in orientation, but this materialism must be considered in the light of the vitalism and empiricism that also characterises this work. Deleuze draws inspiration for his materialism from a variety of sources, but Baruch Spinoza, Friedrich Nietzsche, Henri Bergson and Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz are all extremely important in this respect. Spinoza and Nietzsche challenge the devaluation of the body in favour of consciousness, and in this way propose a materialist reading of thought. They show that thought should no longer be constrained by the consciousness we have of it. Bergson and Leibniz - Deleuze is also inﬂuenced by challenge to the matter-form model put forward by Gilbert Simondon - inﬂuence Deleuze in the way he develops a challenge to the hylomorphic model: the metaphysical doctrine that distinguishes between matter and form. In contrast to this, Deleuze claims that matter is in continuous variation, so that we should not think in terms of forms as moulds, but rather in terms of modulations that produce singularities. In A Thousand Plateaus, Deleuze and Guattari talk of destratified and deterritorialised 'mattermovement' and 'matter-energy'. Following Spinoza, they challenge the hierarchy of form and matter by conceiving of an immanent 'plane of consistency' on which everything is laid out. The elements of this plane are distinguishable only in terms of movement and velocity. Deleuze and Guattari also talk of the plane being populated by inifinite 'bits' of impalpable and anonymous matter that enter into varying connections. Deleuze's later work on Leibniz develops this theme, again emphasising that matter is not organised as a series of solid and discrete forms, but rather infinitely folded.In order to grasp the originality of Deleuze's materialism it is necessary to understand what he means when he uses the terms 'machine' and 'machinic'. In his book on Michel Foucault, he speculates on the possibilities for new human forms opened up by the combination of the forces of carbon and silicon. However, this statement should not necessarily be read in terms of the human body being supplemented or altered by means of material prostheses. The sort of machine that Deleuze conceives of is an abstract phenomenon that does not depend entirely upon physical and mechanical modifications of matter. The machine is instead a function of what might be thought of as the 'vital' principle of this plane of consistency, which is that of making new connections, and in this way constructing what Deleuze calls 'machines'. Nor should Deleuze's machinic materialism be seen as a form of cybernetics, according to which the organic and the mechanical share a common informational language. The fact that cinema and painting are capable of acting directly upon the nervous system means that they function as analogical languages rather than digital codes. In common with the sort of materialism favoured by cybernetics and theories of artificial intelligence, Deleuze rejects the notion that there is brain behind the brain: an organising consciousness that harnesses and directs the power of the brain. He conceives of the human brain as merely one cerebral crystallisation amongst others: a cerebral fold in matter. Deleuze's particular formulation of materialism depends upon the counterintuitive Bergsonian notion that matter is already 'image': before it is perceived it is 'luminous' in itself; the brain is itself an image. However, he also eschews the reductive molecular materialism upon which artificial intelligence is based. According to such a reductive materialism, all processes and realities can be explained by reducing them down to the most basic components - atoms and molecules - from which they are constructed. Again, the fact that he insists that painting and film can act directly upon the nervous system to create new neural pathways indicates that he is not a reductive materialist.Ultimately, Deleuze is unwilling to reduce all matter to a single stratum of syntax. Computer technology may well transform the world of the future, but it will not be by means of the development of a computational language that is common to the brain and the computer. It will instead be the result of computers expanding the possibilities for thought in new and perhaps unpredictable ways. In this manner, the brain and the computer will take part in the construction of an abstract machine. In his work on cinema, Deleuze develops the notion of the brain as a fold of the outside or a 'screen'. He considers, for example, Michelangelo Antonioni's films to be an exploration of the way in which the brain is connected to the world, and the necessity of exploring the potential of these connections. Antonioni draws a contrast between the worn-out body, weighed down by the past and modern neuroses, and a 'creative' brain, striving to create connections with the new world around it, and experiencing the potential amplification of its powers by 'artificial' brains. For Deleuze, thinking takes place when the brain as a stratum comes into contact with other strata. In summary, Deleuze thinks in terms of an expressive and intensive materialism as opposed to a reductive and extensive materialism.Connectives
The Deleuze dictionary. Revised Edition Edited by Adrian Parr . 2010.