---- by Alberto Toscano
  This term receives two main treatments in the work of Deleuze (and Guattari), one intra-philosophical, the other non-philosophical. In the first acceptation, chaos designates the type of virtual totality that the philosophy of difference opposes to the foundational and self-referential totalities proposed by the philosophies of representation, and by the dialectic in particular. In polemical juxtaposition to those systems of thought for which what lies beyond the powers of representation is undetermined or null, this Deleuzian chaos, in which all intensive differences are contained - 'complicated' but not 'explicated' - is equivalent to the ontologically productive affirmation of the divergence of series; it is what envelops and distributes, without identifying them, the heterogeneities that make up the world. In other words, this chaos is formless, but it is not undifferentiated. Deleuze thus opposes this Joycean and Nietzschean chaosmos, in which the eternal return selects simulacra for their divergence, to the chaos that Plato attributes to the sophist, which is a privative chaos of nonparticipation. Moreover, he considers such a chaosmos as the principal antidote to the trinity that sustains all philosophies of representation and transcendence: world, God and subject (man). In A Thousand Plateaus however, having moved away from the structuralist-inspired terminology of series (which chaos was seen to affirm), Deleuze and Guattari provide a critique of both chaosmos and eternal return as an insufficient bulwark against a (negative) return of the One and of representation, juxtaposing them with the concepts of rhizome and plane of immanence.
  When chaos makes its reappearance in What is Philosophy?, it is as the shared correlate of the three dimensions of thought (or of the brain), also designated as 'chaoids': science, art and philosophy. In this context, chaos is not defined simply by how it contains (or complicates) differences, but by its infinite speed, such that the particles, forms and entities that populate it emerge only to disappear immediately, leaving behind no consistency, reference or any determinate consequences. Chaos is thus defined not by its disorder but by its fugacity. It is then the task of philosophy, through the drawing of planes of immanence, the invention of conceptual personae and the composition of concepts, to give consistency to chaos whilst retaining its speed and productivity. Chaos is thus both the intimate threat and the source of philosophical creation, which is understood as the imposition onto the virtual of its own type of consistency, a consistency other than those provided by functions or percepts, for example.
  Philosophy can thus be recast in terms of an ethics of chaos, a particular way of living with chaos - and against the sterile clichés of opinion (doxa) - by creating conceptual forms capable of sustaining the infinite speed of chaos whilst not succumbing to the stupidity, thoughtlessness or folly of the indeterminate. Philosophical creation is thus poised between, on the one hand, the subjection of the plane of immanence to some variety of transcendence that would guarantee its uniqueness and, on the other, the surging up of a chaos that would dissolve any consistency, any durable difference or structure.
  Chaos and opinion thus provide the two sources of inconsistency for thought, the one determined by an excess of speed, the other by a surfeit of redundancy. Though chaos is a vital resource for thought, it is also clear that philosophy's struggle is always on two fronts, inasmuch as it is the inconsistency or idiocy of a chaotic thought that often grounds the recourse to the safety and identity of opinions. In Deleuze's later work with Guattari it is essential to the definition of philosophical practice and its demarcation from and interference with the other chaoids that chaos not be considered simply synonymous with ontological univocity, but that it instead be accorded a sui generis status as the non-philosophical dimension demanded by philosophical thought.
   § Plato
   § thought

The Deleuze dictionary. . 2010.


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