Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Being-in-Question

Deleuze says:


Being is also non-being, but non-being is not the being of the negative; rather it is the being of the problematic, the being of problem and question. Difference is not the negative; on the contrary, non-being is Difference: heteron, not enantion. For this reason non-being should rather be written (non)-being or, better still, ?-being.


(Difference and Repetition, p. 64, emphasis Deleuze's)


Deleuze himself opts for "(non)-being" instead of "?-being" right through to his conclusions. This is precisely ironic ("Irony consists in treating things and beings as so many responses to hidden questions, so many cases for problems yet to be resolved," p. 63), pointedly so given that Deleuze faults Heidegger for encouraging misunderstandings by his treatment of nothingness (p. 66).


Deleuze's reading of Heidegger deserves special notice. He says, "Ontological Difference corresponds to questioning. It is the being of questions, which become problems, marking out the determinant fields of existence" (p.65). I hadn't quite thought of ontological difference that way, though it does have the ring of the familiar. This leads me to ask some questions of my own.


One set of questions concerns the nature of Deleuze's discourse on difference. I wonder whether, ironically, Deleuze isn't pursuing an idealism. This idealism would have to be understood as radically divergent from Plato's idealism, which Deleuze seeks to overturn. Deleuze says that "the difficulty facing everything is to become its own simulacrum, to attain the status of a sign in the coherence of the eternal return" (p. 67). For Deleuze, simulacra are not less real than the things themselves, so to speak; rather, they point to "the lived reality of a sub-representative domain" (p.69). Ideas are not grounding in Deleuze's thinking. However, the question of how we relate to the real involves a semiotics that covers much the same ground as an idealism by passing through a terrain of consciousness for whom things are real or, more fundamentally, for whom things are so many problems and questions. The ground that isn't covered is the domain of representation. The question for me is, if we allow for Deleuze's overturning of representation, are we still left with something like a world of ideas, or a world of ideation?


This brings me to another set of questions concerning the horizon of questioning, which may also be thought of as the horizon of difficulty. Who or what occupies this horizon? Deleuze thinks that the cogito is a stupidity. He says:


The subject of the Cartesian Cogito does not think: it only has the possibility of thinking, and remains stupid at the heart of that possibility. It lacks the form of the determinable: not a specificity, not a specific form informing a matter, not a memory informing a present, but the pure and empty form of time. It is the empty form of time which introduces and constitutes Difference in thought, on the basis of which it thinks, in the form of the difference between the indeterminate and determination. It is this form of thought which distributes throughout itself an I fractured by the abstract line, a passive self produced by a groundlessness that it contemplates. It is this which engenders thought within thought, for thought thinks only by means of difference, around this point of ungrounding.


(p. 276)


There is room in Deleuze's philosophy for a (fractured) subject who thinks, indeed a demand for it, while more primordially there is repetition and difference, a being-in-question and its conduct. Is it possible to ask in Deleuze's philosophy who this being-in-qeustion really is? Does (non)-being here stand for the guy behind the guy behind the guy? And is this the reason why Deleuze prefers to say "(non)-being" instead of "?-being"?.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 11:09 AM.

8 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You might really appreciate Lawlor's book on continental philosophy with regard to the special role that questions and problems play in contemporary debates. Lawlor is a brilliant scholar and an original thinker in his own right, whose work is deeply influenced by the phenomenological tradition (his study of Husserl and Derrida is outstanding), and who has increasingly come to appreciate Deleuze. ~Sinthome

February 07, 2007 9:23 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

I have easy access to his Thinking Through French Philosophy: The Being of the Question so I'll definitely check that out. I think I might be interested in his study of Bergson as well as Derrida and Husserl. Thanks for the recommendation, Sinthome.

February 08, 2007 8:58 AM  
Blogger Clark Goble said...

Lawlor's book is quite good. He does a nice job of distinguishing where Derrida is going from Deleuze (although not being a Deleuze guy I'm probably not really that able to judge - but I like his stuff on Derrida and Riceour)

I really need to make an other go of Deleuze one of these days. I've tried a few times to get into Difference and Repetition but for various reasons never made it terribly far.

February 08, 2007 11:25 AM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

It sounds like I should also take a crack at The Problem of Genesis which has gathered some dust.

I'd recommend Difference and Repetition at this point though it's stylistically heavy.

February 08, 2007 2:17 PM  
Blogger nedric said...

Great post, and thanks for the consice presentation of some difficult aspects of Deleuze as well as some stimulating questions. I had not (yet) read R&D, but it has just moved much higher on my "to read soon" list.

February 11, 2007 10:18 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

Thanks for the complimentary remarks, Nedric. I worry about veering into incoherence, so I'm glad to hear that this post communicated something to you.

February 12, 2007 9:29 AM  
Blogger razorsmile said...

I think the problem of whether falls back into idealism is indeed a live and useful issue, though I would immediately argue that I think there are resources to show that this is something he's aware of and tries to explicitly defeat. the issue of whether deleuze succeeds in his arguments is the answer to whether he falls into idealism - if he succeeds, then he doesn't.

the following passages, for example, suggest the explicit engagement with the issue. In the analysis of the first two syntheses of time (habit and the pure past) the key notion is that a passive synthesis underlies both. a passive synthesis, however, prompts the question of whether we can 'save the pure past for ourselves' (DR 107: continuum edition). If the passive synthesis implies a sub-representative domain then how can we grasp it - we have no resources it would seem, if we have no representative resources. This is countered by the 'involuntary memory' of reminiscence which derives from Proust. The implication is that the pure past is made available for an encounter, not of recognition or representation but of experience.

Next I would look to the passage (DR 145) in which deleuze asks about the 'most important difficulty'. If difference really relate difference to difference in an intensive system then is some 'minimum of resemblance' not implied? He asks whether or not we'll be 'condemned to rediscover a privileged point' (ie: a subject) that will establish resemblance. It is the notion of the 'dark precursor' that specifically tries to address this issue. This 'dark precursor' is the realm of the Idea, no longer understood as an ideal Idea but now as a problem, which at one point is illustrated by the example of the eye being a problem of binding light, of a passive synthesis. He then argues that "there is no doubt that there is an identity belonging to the precursor, and a resemblance between the series which it causes to communicate. This 'there is', however, remains perfectly indeterminate." (DR 146) The identity is not, then, one which belongs to an 'idealism' - at least not an idealism of the subject or wone that in any real sense is still an 'idealism', since it would now be entirely prior to any 'idea' that a subject could have or that could be represented or made determinate...

Interesting discussion on the blog, btw, I'll drop by again...

February 16, 2007 4:13 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

Hi, razorsmile. I don't have anything like a conviction that Deleuze is an idealist, and I wouldn't side with a school of criticism that regarded him as an inadvertent idealist and therefore a failure. I'm simply not sure whether Deleuze's critique of representation leaves ideation intact. Since Deleuze strikes me as a very playful thinker, I am cautious about drawing conclusions from his critique, because it seems possible to me that he is playing with idealism in a big way. I'm still in the middle of "The Image of Thought" so I haven't yet formed any opinion on what he says in that chapter. I haven't been reading to confirm or deny the thesis that Deleuze is an idealist. On page 145, the sentence I have underlined is "The Logos breaks up into hieroglyphics, each one of which speaks the transcendent language of a faculty." I see that it's going to take some thought to absorb what Deleuze means by his doctrine of the faculties, and I don't know whether I'm going to be able to agree with him about the involuntary, but I follow along because he is fleshing out the meaning of difference and repetition and I see this as an interesting problem even if I'm unsure what I myself would make of it. So you see the kind of haphazard and selfish way I'm approaching this, and in that respect I am really a terrible reader of Deleuze.

February 17, 2007 10:35 AM  

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