Friday, January 11, 2008

Against Bodies

The Logic of Sense reads like a polemic against bodies. This is clearly evident in the way Deleuze addresses one of my favorite questions: how is language possible? He asks whether bodies would be able to ground language and he answers, "When sounds fall back on (se rabattent sur) bodies and become the actions and passions of mixed bodies, they are no more than the bearers of agonized nonsense" (p. 134). Bodies are schematically or paradigmatically "down" in Deleuze's thought; the body can only be reached by descent, and depth or the depths can substitute for anything that occurs in the body or between bodies. For language to descend to the body can only mean that violence is done to it; the body has no creative power, but only the power to destroy. The idea that language is an intelligent extension of the body must be rejected by Deleuze. In his view it is the "world of incorporeal effects or surface effects which makes language possible" (p. 166). Bodies and sense, depths and surfaces are mutually exclusive. Mixing only pertains to bodies. To even think that language might have several conditions of possibility is to bring the question of language down to the level of the body where it is splintered, where it can only be noise and passionate nonsense.

So Deleuze views language as incorporeal. How exactly is he defining language? He says language is a "system of propositions" (p. 167). This is a rather arboreal view. Let's see that in a little context:

The most general operation of sense is this: it brings that which expresses it into existence; and from that point on, as pure inherence, it brings itself to exist within that which expresses it. It rests therefore with the Aion, as the milieu of surface effects or events, to trace a frontier between things and propostitions; and the Aion traces it with its entire straight line [the labyrinth of the straight line, the eternal return: it's all here]. Without it, sounds would fall back on bodies, and propositions themselves would not be "possible." Language is rendered possible by the frontier which separates it from things and from bodies (including those which speak).

(p. 166)


[T]he straight line which extends simultaneously in two directions traces the frontier between bodies and language, states of affairs and propositions. Language, or the system of propositions, would not exist without this frontier which renders it possible.

(p. 167)

Deleuze says that events make language possible. In making this argument he is greatly concerned to persuade us that the ground cannot resemble what it grounds. He says, "Language is rendered possible by that which distinguishes it. What separates sounds from bodies makes sounds into the elements of a language" (p. 186). Or, again, "What renders language possible is that which separates sounds from bodies and organizes them into propositions, freeing them for the expressive function" (p. 181). This is not a poet's sensibility, which is somewhat ironic because there is a poetic quality to some of Deleuze's thinking, about the Aion for instance. Perhaps we might leave it at that. However I will reach this one conclusion: in the wake of Deleuze (and given the sentiments of the Deleuzians) the body and each and every one of its entailments must be philosophically defended.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 9:56 AM.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

yes this is very clear, i can see myself condemning Deleuze for his Cartesian denigrating of the body and his surgical removal of language from the incoherencies of flesh - but lets do a poetic turn and reconnect the disconnected - the frontier - that dreaded frontier - he says that language could not float free without it, but the frontier is double-sided - flesh on one side (ooooo) - language on the other (aahhhhh) - and must itself be constructed (or at the least, via intimacy and proximity anyway, be conversant or contaminated (semi-saturated) by both) - and how thick might this line be (if in fact it actually exists as a third party in the way bodies and language can be said to exist - or is it simply some kind of conceptual entity linking actual entities - shades of the holy ghost!) - i digress - the frontier (if it exists) might be the place where bodies and language morph, a shapeshifting place and transforming place (like superman in the telephone box) which then makes them facets or alteregos of each other - which then makes it a divide that isn't one (except in name only)- a divide masking a deception no less - i.e. its illusion as a divide - and Deleuze almost redeems himself by saying that language could not exist without it, could not exist, in other words, without a conceptual (virtual!) divide called a frontier that would be nice to mis-spell front-ear - now that's an interesting image - an ear on the front of the face that listens, but that's where mouths are, so is it an ear that hears and talks - a two-way front-ear? yah - weird - thanks for the post - hope you don't mind me tripping off on what it triggered - cheers

January 11, 2008 12:17 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

Wonderful trip. When Deleuze talks about the frontier I think he means to think about something like infinity and its edges, so the question of whether the frontier exists is a good one. If there isn't already a place where bodies and languages morph there should be. The front ear. I love it.

January 11, 2008 1:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

reminds me of Deleuze's 'bodies without organs' stuff - rearranging body parts challenges organ-isation also - and some candidates for the body/language/morphing question - ummm - perhaps you and me, i.e. human beings - consciousness may be worth considering also

January 12, 2008 2:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Deely uses the concept of 'exaptation' to describe how lang. is poss. (along with the unique nature of relation.

"we saw above, in line with our view of lang. as (prior to exaptation) the species-specifically human Innenwelt, that the essence of lang is arguably equatable with the discovery of the relation of signification and the consequent reconstitution of experienced signs as stipulatable..."
Deely, Basics of semiotics, p73

"Exaptation is the term introduced by Gould and Vrba to designate the secondary adaptation whereby an organ or function orig developed with in evol for one purpose is then put to another use entirely...."


January 12, 2008 1:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'exaptation' - more word play, nice - is Deely drifting into cognitive psychologist territory (Lakoff and Johnson and those guys) that connect concepts and language to bodily experience through the morphing device of metaphor? (yes i can 'grasp' that idea) - getting back to whether 'frontiers' exist, a similarity to 'frontier' is 'shoreline' which poetically brings in the psychoanalytical and the divide between conscious and unconscious - the first transcendent and rational and the second body-bound and dreamy - the word play this brings up is sure-line - the front-ear is a sure-line - wooooo - more fun

January 13, 2008 12:13 AM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

If langauge is actually about a dozen things–I'll credit Hoffmeyer for the idea, since he adds the interesting twist that language historically precedes speech (which reminds me my favorite form of the question is actually "how is speech possible?")–then some of the things we mean by saying "language" may well be exaptive, and others are spandrels with no adaptive value. But this kind of talk is of course highly speculative since, in my view, the gap between humans and their closest relatives is rather large in regards to the things we mean by "language," and we have no direct means of observing our earliest hominini ancestors' semiotic capabilities. I was meaning to buy a book by Deely but ran out of funds temporarily–will have to check it out on interlibrary loan. I'm intrigued by the thesis that "the essence of lang is arguably equatable with the discovery of the relation of signification and the consequent reconstitution of experienced signs as stipulatable."

I like the image of the shoreline, anonymous, but "sureline" isn't as tasty as "front ear."

January 13, 2008 8:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a new edition of Deely's Basics which would be worth checking out.
I see that P.o.Sem is now linked with him on Amazon (US).
His new bk 'Intentionality and semiotics' might also be worth a scan...
I hope you aren't buying all these bks! But you are lucky to have uni interloan. I remember using that to the max.
I'll have to check that italian author (watzername?) Caverrero...sounds almost fascinating (smile).
Isabelle (this is not meant to be 'name dropping') quiped once: 'interesting but not fascinating.'

January 13, 2008 12:56 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

I've binged on books, so no more purchases for a while. (We get Amazon coupons for using their credit card; usually I spend them but now I'm letting my wife clear off some of the items on her wishlist.)

I found Relating Narratives less fascinating than For More than One Voice, but perhaps that's a question of subject matter.

I use interlibrary loan and think it's great especially for new to me authors, but I much prefer owning books because I like to write in them and underline and all that crap that I would never do to a book I didn't own.

January 13, 2008 5:06 PM  

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