concepts


concepts
  ---- by Cliff Stagoll
  Deleuze understands philosophy as being the art of inventing or creating concepts, or putting concepts to work in new ways. He does not consider it to be very useful or productive, however, when it creates and uses concepts in the manner that he thinks has typified much of western philosophy to date. Too often, Deleuze argues, philosophy has used real experience merely as a source for extracting or deducing abstract conceptual means for categorising phenomena. It has tended then to employ these same concepts either to determine or express the essence of phenomena, or else to order and rank them in terms of the concept. An example is Plato's concept of Forms, the absolute and changeless objects and standards of knowledge against which all human knowledge is but an inferior copy. Such a concept does not help us appreciate or contribute to the richness of lived experience, Deleuze argues, but only to order, label and measure individuals relative to an abstract norm. It is true, he argues, that concepts help us in our everyday lives to organise and represent our thoughts to others, making communication and opinion-formation simpler; but Deleuze insists such simplicity detracts from the variety and uniqueness evident in our experiences of the world.
  For Deleuze and Guattari, concepts ought to be means by which we move beyond what we experience so that we can think of new possibilities. Rather than bringing things together under a concept, he is interested in relating variables according to new concepts so as to create productive connections. Concepts ought to express states of affairs in terms of the contingent circumstances and dynamics that lead to and follow from them, so that each concept is related to particular variables that change or 'mutate' it. A concept is created or thought anew in relation to every particular event, insight, experience or problem, thereby incorporating a notion of the contingency of the circumstances of each event. On such a view, concepts cannot be thought apart from the circumstances of their production, and so cannot be hypothetical or conceived a priori.
  Deleuze's theory of concepts is part of a potent criticism of much philosophy to date. He is arguing that any philosophy failing to respect the particularity of consciousness in favour of broad conceptual sketches is subject to metaphysical illusion. The application of abstract concepts merely gathers together discrete particulars despite their differences, and privileges concepts over what is supposed to be explained. For example, one might understand things as instances of Being or usefulness, thereby presupposing an ontological or epistemological privilege for the concept of 'Being' or 'utility' that is not evident in immediate experience. By bearing in mind that the concept at work relates just to this being or this useful thing, here and now, such illusions are avoided.
  In Deleuze's work, concepts become the means by which we move beyond experience so as to be able to think anew. Rather than 'standing apart' from experience, a concept is defined just by the unity that it expresses amongst heterogeneous elements. In other words, concepts must be creative or active rather than merely representative, descriptive or simplifying. For this reason, in his work on David Hume, Deleuze goes to some lengths to show how causation is a truly creative concept by explaining how it brings us to expect and anticipate outcomes before they occur, and even outcomes that we don't observe at all. In such cases, anticipatory creation is so powerful that it becomes a normal part of life, and causation is a concept that represents the creation of other concepts without the requirement for sense perceptions to ground them.
  Moving from a reiterative history of philosophy to the practice of philosophy means engaging with inherited concepts in new ways. This means for Deleuze that philosophers ought to engage in new lines of thinking and new connections between particular ideas, arguments and fields of specialisation. Only then does philosophy take on a positive power to transform our ways of thinking. In his own work, Deleuze reappropriates numerous concepts inherited from the great philosophers of the past in terms of new problems, uses, terms and theories. Henri Bergson's concepts of duration and intuition, Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz's monad, Hume's associationism, and numerous concepts from literature, film, criticism, science and even mathematics are reworked and put to work in new and creative ways. The apparent inconsistency of their meanings and uses is a sign of Deleuze's refusal to give any concept a single purpose or referent. By cutting routinely across disciplinary boundaries, Deleuze abides by his proposal that conceptcreation be an 'open ended' exercise, such that philosophy creates concepts that are as accessible and useful to artists and scientists as to philosophers.
  Connectives
   § duration
   § Hume, David
   § Plato

The Deleuze dictionary. . 2010.

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