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Bell - Deleuze, Realism, Antirealism

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Bell - Deleuze, Realism, Antirealism
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  Between Realism and Anti-realism:Deleuze and the Spinozist Traditionin Philosophy  Jeffrey Bell   Southeastern Louisiana University Abstract In 1967, after a talk Deleuze gave to the Society of French Philosophy,Ferdinand Alquié expressed concern during the question and answersession that perhaps Deleuze was relying too heavily upon scienceand not giving adequate attention to questions and problems thatAlquié took to be distinctively philosophical. Deleuze responded byagreeing with Alquié; moreover, he argued that his primary interestwas precisely in the metaphysics science needs rather than in thescience philosophy needs. This metaphysics, Deleuze argues, is to bedone ‘in the style of Whitehead’ rather than the style of Kant, and indeveloping this metaphysics Deleuze draws heavily on Spinoza. Thepresent essay examines this Deleuzian-Spinozist metaphysics done inthe style of Whitehead, the ‘metaphysics science needs’, drawing onthe writings of David Hume and Bruno Latour in the process. Thisdiscussion will in turn enable us to situate Deleuze’s metaphysics inrelation to contemporary debates concerning speculative realism andcorrelationism, and especially Quentin Meillassoux’s critique of thelatter. Our conclusion will be that the kind of metaphysics Deleuzepursues is neither correlationist nor straightforwardly realist, but rathercharts a course between realism and anti-realism. Keywords:  Ferdinand Alquié, Spinoza, David Hume, Bruno Latour,Quentin Meillassoux, correlationism, David Lewis Deleuze Studies  5.1 (2011): 1–17DOI: 10.3366/dls.2011.0002© Edinburgh University Presswww.eupjournals.com/dls  2 Jeffrey Bell Deleuze’s thought can be situated relative to realism and anti-realismby way of two responses he received following his talk entitled ‘Methodof Dramatization’ given to the Société Française de Philosophie on28 January 1967. The first is from Ferdinand Alquié, who expresseda concern about Deleuze’s use of examples from science and psychologyto make philosophical points: I understand that Mr. Deleuze criticizes philosophy for making the Idea aconception that is not adaptable, as he would like, to scientific, psychological,and historical problems. But I think that alongside these problems thereremain classical philosophical problems, namely problems having to dowith essence. In any event, I don’t believe, as Deleuze does, that the greatphilosophers have never posed such questions. (Alquié cited in Deleuze 2003:106) Coming from the man who was overseeing his work on Spinoza atthe time, this criticism got Deleuze’s attention. The second questionis from Alexis Philonenko, a Kant and Fichte scholar, who soughtclarification of Deleuze’s arguments concerning the relationship betweenthe representational and the subrepresentational. Philonenko comparedthese arguments to Maïmon’s, noting that the latter’s differentialelements compare to Deleuze’s subrepresentational elements, and theintegration of these differentials to the representational. For Philonenko,a consequence of this approach is scepticism, for we are left withouta criterion whereby we can discern ‘what we produce and what theobject produces... [and] what is produced logically and what is not’.‘So’, Philonenko concludes, ‘this is what I want to know: what part doesillusion (or the illusory) have in the movement of differential elements?’(Philonenko cited in Deleuze 2003: 114).Before addressing Deleuze’s response to these two questions I firstwant to show how they give rise to issues concerning realism. Wewill then be better placed to introduce Deleuze’s thought into theconstellationofdebatesthatcurrentlysurroundrealism,anti-realismandspeculative realism.Alquié’s concern with Deleuze’s talk was that the distinctiveness of philosophy was being supplanted by science. Is philosophy merely amidwife to the sciences? For Deleuze the answer is clearly no. Whenasked, for example, whether the topological model discussed in theconclusion to  A Thousand Plateaus  is ‘transposable into mathematics[and] biology’, Deleuze says ‘it is the other way around’, and to clarifythis point he adds: ‘I feel that I am Bergsonian–when Bergson saysthat modern science has not found its metaphysics, the metaphysics it  Between Realism and Anti-realism 3 needs. It is that metaphysics that interests me’ (Deleuze 2007: 41). Thismetaphysics should not, Deleuze stresses, be undertaken ‘in the styleof Kant’, but rather ‘in the style of Whitehead’ (Deleuze 2007: 41).What this involves will be discussed below, but it is important first toappreciate the fact that Deleuze is interested in the metaphysics modernscience needs, rather than the science philosophy needs.With this turn to metaphysics we also return to the choice that hascome to characterise much of post-Kantian philosophy–one can followHumean empiricism and its positivist and nominalist variants or one canfollow Kantian critique and its idealist and rationalist variants, but, it isgenerally assumed, one cannot follow both simultaneously. Philonenko’squestion regarding illusion comes from the Kantian perspective. Kantidentifies as a transcendental illusion the process whereby one extendsthe concepts of the pure understanding to form judgements regardingthings that are beyond the limits of possible experience (e.g., theexistence of God, the claim that the world must have a beginning in time,etc.). The point of Kant’s critical project is to determine the limit thatmarks the line between legitimate and illusory claims to know what isreal and what is not. But even with this project in hand, Kant admits thatthe transcendental illusion ‘does not cease even after it has been detectedand its invalidity clearly revealed by transcendental criticism’ (Kant2003: 299); the mind naturally and inevitably slips into illusion. OnPhilonenko’s reading of Maïmon, moreover, we cannot even be certainabout the line we draw between legitimate and illusory judgements, sinceit is uncertain whether the integration of differentials from which ourjudgements arise is the product of our own making or a real consequenceof a real object. Similarly, from the empiricist perspective, when we areled through the association of ideas and habit to impute causality andnecessity to objective relationships, or to infer a substantial self thataccompanies our thoughts and perceptions, and Hume too would leaveus with no way to differentiate between reality and illusion other thanin terms of the strength and vivacity of our beliefs themselves, which iscertainly no guarantee. As Deleuze says of Hume, ‘From the point of view of philosophy, the mind is no longer anything but delirium andmadness. There is no complete system, synthesis, or cosmology that isnot imaginary’ (Deleuze 2001: 83). 1 Deleuze’s response to Philonenko’squestion may thus seem surprising, but it is unambiguous–for him thereis no place for illusion with respect to the subrepresentational field;this field is ‘perfectly determinable’, as Deleuze puts it, and ‘the illusiononly comes afterward, from the direction of constituted extension andthe qualities that fill out these extensions’ (Deleuze 2003: 115). For  4 Jeffrey Bell Deleuze, therefore, the real is to be associated with the processes thatconstitute the givenness of objects rather than with the constituted,identifiable objects and categories themselves. It is for this reason thatDeleuze identifies the style of metaphysics he is interested in withWhitehead instead of Kant; rather than base an understanding of realityupon identifiable categories and forms of judgement, Deleuze arguesthat our scientific, representational understanding of reality presupposessubrepresentational processes that are not to be confused or identifiedwith whatever is identifiable as a result of these processes.In the choice between Kant and Hume, therefore, Deleuze’s preferenceseems clear–Hume. But where does this leave Deleuze relative torealism, and to metaphysics in particular? At first sight it might appearthat Deleuze should be placed solidly within the anti-realist camp. Afterall, if what can be said of reality may in the end be illusory, and if Deleuze, much like Hume, is willing to say that ‘there is no completesystem, synthesis, or cosmology that is not imaginary’, then it wouldseem to be difficult to place him in the realist camp. But is he thereforean anti-realist?To answer this question I will sketch out the difference betweenrealism and anti-realism by way of Quentin Meillassoux’s critique of correlationism, which, as Meillassoux himself puts it, is ultimatelya radical critique of any ‘contemporary opponent of any realism’(Meillassoux 2007: 408). Put briefly, correlationism holds that wecannot know reality as it is in-itself but only as it is for-us, as acorrelate of consciousness, language, culture, conceptual scheme, etc.Meillassoux notes that Fichte’s  Principles of Scientific Knowledge  is the‘chef d’oeuvre of such a correlationism’ in that it shows how any attemptto posit a reality as independent of any positing is still a reality that isposited as such (Meillassoux 2007: 408). Correlationism, however, isnot committed to a subject-object dualism but more importantly rejectsany attempt to hypostatise a reality that would be autonomous andindependent. This is why Meillassoux will understand correlationismnot as ‘an anti-realism but [as] an anti-absolutism’, for it is invoked‘to curb every hypostatization, every substantialization of an object of knowledge which would turn the latter into a being existing in and of itself’ (Meillassoux 2010: 11). Whether these autonomous beings areIdeas or objects, correlationism, for our purposes, is anti-realist in thatit holds that any reality in-itself is always from the start an in-itself correlated with something else.Let us turn now to more traditional understandings of anti-realism,deriving from the analytic tradition. The term itself was first used by
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