Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Cezanne: Apples

Is there a vividness prior to a vivo? The question arises from Gilles Deleuze's discussion of vividness in the conclusion to Empricism and Subjectivity We could put it another way: is there a vividness prior to the constitution of any entity that would be able to say vivo, that is, prior to any ego? Students of Deleuze's theory of subjectification might respond that clearly vividness is prior to the ego; however, in Empiricism and Subjectivity Deleuze introduces an idea of a self that is not a subject. He says that "we are not only a subject, we are something else as well; we are also a self, which is always a slave to its origin" (pp. 128-129). I think he means here to regard the fancy as an origin of the self. He says, "An entire polemic between the subject and the fancy is thus carried out inside the self, or rather inside the subject itself. An entire polemic is carried out between the principles of human nature and the vividness of the imagination" (p. 128). Deleuze insists that vividness is not a product of the principles of association or the passions. Perhaps then vividness then come first. He says, "Vividness, in fact, is not the product of principles; impressions of sensations are the product of principles; impressions of sensations are the origin of the mind and the property of the fancy. As soon as relations are established, these impressions tend to communicate their vividness to all ideas tied to them" (ibidem). Vividness itself, however, is "a characteristic of impressions, it is the property and the fact of fancy–its irreducible and immediate datum, to the extent that it is the origin of the mind" (ibidem). I say perhaps, then, because it's not absolutely clear to me whether impressions of sensation are the origin of the mind, whether the fancy is the origin of the mind, or whether vividness is the origin of the mind. The latter seems unlikely, but it suggests a creative way to imagine the problem of an empirical logic of practice, which concerns me lately.

"The principles," Deleuze says, "establish relations between ideas, and these relations are also, in the case of impressions, the rules for the communication of their vividness. It is still necessary, however, that vividness conforms without exception to these rules" (p. 129). Do we therefore never encounter vividness in the raw, a vividness free from conformity to rules? Or is it only the communication of vividness that is regulated? Do poetic expressions of vividness– understanding "poetic" in a praxiological sense of poiesis–adhere to rules?

Deleuze says that "the activity of the mind is grounded, in the case of the passions as well as in the case of knowledge, in the fancy" (p. 130). He deliberately says "the activity of the mind" rather than the mind itself, for he means for philosophy to be a theory of doing rather than a theory of what there is. "We should not ask what principles are, but rather what they do. They are not entities; they are functions. They are defined by their effects. These effects amount to this: the principles constitute, within the given, a subject who invents and believes" (pp. 132-133). He adds, "What we do has principles; and being can only be grasped as the object of a synthetic relation with the very principles of what we do" (p. 133). A Deleuzean praxiology must then be seen as a first philosophy, yet I see two limitations here that can be questioned: the slavishness to principles, and the commitment to "theory," i.e., the attempt to ground being. I'm not totally uncomfortable with grounding, however; sometimes it's a useful way of working through philosophical problems. What kind of grounding then is the quality of vividness? What kind of grounding does it have?

We have tried to show how the two aspects of the subject are actually one and the same: the subject is the product of the principles within the mind, but is is also the mind that transcends itself. The mind becomes subject by means of its principles, so that the subject is at once constituted by the principles and grounded in the fancy. How so? In itself, the mind is not subject: it is a given collection of impressions and separate ideas. Impressions are defined by their vividness, and ideas, as reproductions of impressions. This means that, in itself, the mind has two fundamental characteristics: resonance and vividness. Recall the metaphor that likens the mind to a percussion instrument. When does it become subject? It become subject when its vividness is mobilized in such a way that the part characterized by vividness (impression) communicates it to another part (idea), and also, when all the parts taken together resonate in the act of producing something new.

(p. 132, Deleuze's emphases)

I think the onus is on the Deleuzeans to establish that vividus is conceptually prior to vivere (and I think Michel Henry's vivo would have to establish its priority to vivere as well, if that's his intent), but I won't discount the inventiveness of a philosophy that prioritizes vividness.

posted by Fido the Yak at 6:36 AM.


Anonymous Yusef said...

"Is there a vividness prior to a vivo?"

You've succeeded in giving me a baffling series of problems here, Fido ( and this isn't a criticism ) but I won't worry about that. I want to go ahead and give you a gut response to the above question - I think this form of question is contrary to the spirit of Deleuze's inquiry in general. By forming your question in this way, it seems to me you're asking about origins and primacy - which I think of as a nineteenth century-style question which just doesn't seem all-important to Deleuze and his 20th C contemporaries as it did to 19th C predecessors.

My opinion is that Deleuze would work through this problem by recourse to his concepts of reciprocal presupposition and double articulation. One of the things that happens is that the question of an essence or what is essential is displaced and the question of "how" opens up and can get asked.

September 19, 2007 3:53 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

You may have a point. I'll certainly keep it mind when I tackle The Logic of Sense. If he says something like the foundation doesn't resemble the founded I'll give it some serious thought.

In Empiricism and Subjectivity Deleuze talks of "principles" and "origin" and I take him at his word. Of course he is greatly interested in the how, the "polemics," if you will, of the things he problematizes. In general I'm not sure if giving the presupposition of Mind a reciprocal presupposition avoids the problem of having chosen to make a presupposition of Mind in the first place. But I will give it some thought. Thanks for keeping me honest, Yusef.

September 19, 2007 5:10 PM  

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