Announcing the GCAS Deleuze Series for 2015-2016 (Free and Open to the Public).

Title:  “Deleuze as Practical Philosophy”

Directed by Dr. Keith W. Faulkner

Keith W Faulkner has studied Deleuze for over twenty years. He translated (2001) the two essays Deleuze wrote in 1945. After doing his PhD on Deleuze’s philosophy of time at the University of Warwick, he published Deleuze and the Three Syntheses of Time (2006) and The Force of Time: An Introduction to Deleuze though Proust (2008), which have been translated into Korean. He is currently working on a book on Deleuze’s practical philosophy.

Schedule: The first one will be on Sunday, October 25th at 6pm eastern time

“Practical Philosophy” is the subtitle of one of Deleuze’s books on Spinoza. But what is practical philosophy? It has traditionally been used to designate certain disciplines of political and moral philosophy, but Deleuze seems to use it in a very different sense in his book, which calls on us to practice human ethology. Can this approach be applied to Deleuze’s philosophy as a whole? Dr. Faulkner argues that it can be. Starting from what Deleuze calls the “test of existence” in Spinoza, Faulkner will draw out the consequences of diminishing the faculties of representation (memory and imagination) in favor of an immanent comprehension of the Event. This lecture series is designed for those who wish to see behind the jargon and to really get at what Deleuze is saying. In that vein, Faulkner will present Deleuze’s philosophy as a series of six tasks.

Task one: Eliminate the trace / Philosophical idea: Stoic logic and the theory of signs

This task requires us to diminish consciousness, which is merely a reaction of traces of other bodies left on our body, in favor of signs, which are what the Stoics called “Lekta” or utterances. For example, the proposition, “If it is mortal, it was born and it will die,” does not get its truth from our memory of our own birth or our imagination of our own death (which are impossible), but from what Deleuze calls the “eternal truth of the event.” By way of signs, we can avoid the appeal to these subjective faculties.

Task two: Becoming anomalous / Philosophical idea: Leibniz and vice-diction  

This task requires us to transform our notions of becoming from mere “change” in existence to indeterminacy in essence. Unlike Hegel, for whom determination is from contradiction, Leibniz invents the notion of the incompossible, in which incompatible events do not contradict each other. For example, Adam who sins and Adam who resists temptation, Deleuze writes, are contained in the same essence as an inclusive disjunction. Therefore, the task of becoming anomalous requires us to seek out these singular indeterminacies in which becoming occur.

Task three: Dematerialize the event / Philosophical idea: Proust and the essence of art    

This task requires us to disassociate signs from the objects that seem to emit them. This is Marcel Proust’s apprenticeship in signs: he goes from the most embodied sensuous and worldly signs to the most dematerialized signs in art. This task is about destroying the most abstract method of thought, the association of ideas, which built in the imagination, and about creating, in its place, a thought without image. There is a passage in Proust’s novel in which he describes seeing the world through the lenses of Renoir, which is an involuntary act of giving style to the face of the world. Deleuze argues that this act is not an association of ideas, but a “percept” or an eternal viewpoint beyond our mortal faculties, which gives us some feeling of some part of us being eternal.

Task four: Becoming active / Philosophical idea: Spinoza and eternal truths

This task requires us to think of the action apart from its consequences, as if it were a capacity shared by similarly constructed organisms. For example, Nero’s beating of his mother and an ironsmith’s beating of steel both involve the event of “beating,” yet the first decomposes relations while the second composes them. “Becoming active” means considering the act in its infinitive mood. By adopting that viewpoint, we become aware of our capacities to act even when our abilities are limited by the state of affairs. Spinoza depicts this viewpoint as an active joy in which our essence affects itself.

Task five: Embody the event / Philosophical idea: Spinoza-Scotus and individuation

This task requires us to adopt a metaphysical as opposed to an epistemological view of individuation. This means that a body is not the visible outline of a thing known by its qualities reconstructed in the imagination. Rather it is the relations of speed and slowness deep within bodies themselves. “A body can be anything,” Deleuze writes, such as a body of sounds that makes up a sonata. As a result, the haecceity of the sonata is not the perceived sounds of a single performance, but of an indefinite string of performances. This result is startling. A body is not spatiotemporally located. The body is an essence; an essence is a body. A “body” in this sense, does not have a beginning or an end. It may subsume parts in existence from time to time, but it is fundamentally a non-existing mode.

Task six: Purify mixtures / Philosophical idea: Stoics, Spinoza, conatus, and death

This task requires us to purge ourselves of our extended body in favor of a body without organs. The Stoics thought of bodies in terms of a tenor (hexis) that contracts a body inward. Plato subordinated bodies to unchanging images, which divides bodies into separate qualities. The task of purifying mixtures, therefore, is to take away the Platonic mode of thinking and to substitute a comparison of powers by which we understand bodies in their depths, not by their appearances, but by their affects. For example, Deleuze writes of Seneca’s tragedies that they present cannibalistic mixtures from the viewpoint of a limited present, and that we must grasp those presents within the greater present (Chronos) of the whole. This task is fundamentally an exercise in extending the presence of bodies.

In conclusion, the ultimate point of all these tasks is to diminish the role of memory and imagination in philosophy, as per Spinoza’s test of existence, so that we can increase the part of us that is timeless and thereby suppress the fear of death, which, after all, is the final purpose of the “practice of philosophy.”