materialism + philosophy
- ---- by Kenneth SurinFor Deleuze and Guattari, traditional philosophy has always functioned on the basis of codes that have effectively turned it into a bureaucracy of the consciousness. Traditional philosophy has never been able to abandon its origins in the codifications of the despotic imperial State. The task of philosophy now is to controvert this traditional philosophy in a way that can be revolutionary only if the new or next philosophy seeks to 'transmit something that does not and will not allow itself to be codified'. This 'transmission' will eschew the drama of interiority that traditional philosophy had perforce to invest in as a condition of being what it is, and will instead involve the creation of concepts that can register and delineate the transmission of forces to bodies, that is, it will be a physics of thought, the thinking of a pure exteriority, in the manner of Deleuze's two great precursors, Baruch Spinoza and Friedrich Nietzsche, and as such will be irreducibly materialist. For Deleuze and Guattari, philosophy that has left behind the codifications of the State will be about bodies and forces, and the concepts designed to bring these to thought. It will therefore have an essential relation to nonphilosophy as well, since it will be rooted in percepts and affects.This materialism that is philosophy will bring something to life, it will extricate life from the places where it has been trapped, and it will create lines of flight from these stases. The creation of these lines of flight constitutes events and, as events, they are quite distant from the abstractions that constitute the staple diet of traditional philosophy. Deleuze is emphatic that abstractions explain nothing, but rather are themselves in need of explanation. So the new philosophy that will experiment with the real, will eschew such abstractions as universals, unities, subjects, objects, multiples, and put in their place the processes that culminate in the production of the abstractions in question. So in place of universals we have processes of universalisation; in place of subjects and objects we have subjectification and objectification; in place of unities we have unification; in place of the multiple we have multiplication; and so on. These processes take place on the plane of immanence, since experimentation can only take place immanently. In the end a concept is only a singularity ('a child', 'a thinker', 'a musician'), and philosophy is the task of arranging these into assemblages that constitute multiplicities. Deleuze once said that each plateau of A Thousand Plateaus was an example of such an assemblage. Philosophy is not so much a form of reﬂection as a kind of constructionism instituted on the plane of immanence.At the same time, philosophy is not just a kind of physicalism, insisting on the substantiality of Being, that is set entirely apart from noology, which as an immaterialism insists on the primacy of thought, and in particular the image of thought. For Deleuze, the image of thought is a kind of prephilosophy, and thus is inextricably bound up with philosophy. The image of thought operates on the plane of immanence, and constitutes a prephilosophical presupposition that philosophy has to satisfy. The image of thought, even if it is an immaterialism, is not antithetical to a strict materialism. The plane of immanence reveals the 'unthought' in thought, and its absolute incompatibility with materialism only comes about when philosophers forget that thought and the constitution of matter have the fundamental ontological character of events, and instead identify 'matter' with Body, and 'thought' with Mind, in this way saddling themselves with an impasse that cannot be resolved because Mind and Body are said to possess mutually incompatible properties ('inert' vs 'active', 'material' vs 'spiritual', and so forth). The ontology of events, by contrast, allows the material and immaterial to be interrelated and integrated in a ceaseless dynamism. Thus, the event of 'a house being built' requires many material things to be given functions (windows let in light, doors protect privacy, stairs enable access, and so on), and these functions in turn involve (immaterial) concepts (unless one has the concept of stairs being able to provide access in this rather than that way, a ladder, lift or hoist could serve just effectively as stairs in enabling access to an upper ﬂoor). So concepts are returned to material things via functions, and things are integrated with concepts via functions, while functions are immaterial but can only be embodied in things even as they can only be expressed in concepts. All the time a radical immanence is preserved. For Deleuze the materialism of philosophy is compromised only when the immaterial is harnessed to the transcendent: without resort to the transcendent, immaterialism and materialism can be kept on the same plane - immanence - and made to interact productively.
The Deleuze dictionary. Revised Edition Edited by Adrian Parr . 2010.
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