I have updated my reply to Charles Spinosa’s last article:
I have been trying to translate, as you say, your descriptions and insights into the language of Deleuze and Guattari in an attempt to get the two worlds involved to interfere with and hopefully transform and enrich each other. Deleuze used to say that both Anglophone and French philosophers are equally engaged in conceptual creation but that whereas the French philosopher signposted these creations by inventing new words and expressions to designate them, whereas quite often the Anglophone philosopher would gloss over the conceptual innovation by expressing himself in as ordinary-seeming a language as possible. So sometimes I « translate » a plain English text into French or at least into French concepts to get a feel for what I find interesting about the text, its links to other things I read and think about, possibly understated themes that I can bring out and highlight, perhaps even one-sided or even incomplete formulations and problematics. It’s a form of « bilingual thinking » or even « bi-world thinking », if you will, as my identity has been nearly but not quite « torn asunder » due to my migration from Australia to France and to my engagement with philosophy in both French and English. So what I am doing here is not very different from what you yourself describe as an important part of your philosophic practice:
“extending, deepening, and transforming ways of making things intelligible by drawing on alternative ways of making things intelligible and doing so in the name of attention to phenomena”
If I can extend, deepen, and transform my own rather deleuzian understanding by translating your own accounts of phenomena you have attended to, I am glad and feel I have done useful philosophical work at least on myself. By doing so I am continuing my process of individuation in public and so contributing material, at least in principle for use by others in their own process of individuation. Deleuze (him, again!) affirms that individuation proceeds by “double-becoming”. He gives the example of the wasp and the orchid. From a structural point of view there seems to be only mimesis
“one could say that the orchid imitates the wasp, reproducing its image in a signifying manner”
but Deleuze maintains that there is another level where
“something else is at work: no longer imitation … but a picking up of code … a true becoming, a becoming-wasp of the orchid and a becoming-orchid of the wasp.”
(Note on translation: usually the expression “capture de code” that I am rendering as “picking up of code” is translated as “capture of code”. There are good reasons for this. But one of the senses of “capture” is receiving or picking up, or tuning in to, a radio frequency. More familiarly, “tu captes?” means “do you understand?”, “do you get it?” When I read something I like I try to get it, and so become other.)
Each becomes in part the other by picking up and assimilating aspects of the other, and in the process transforming both those aspects and themselves. This is what I do, I pick up many things but I do not leave them unchanged. This is why I am not a card-carrying Deleuze scholar, and have never been recognised as such – despite having been passionately involved with his work for more than thirty years, despite having migrated half-way round the world, having changed my relation to the unconscious (Jungian analysis), to my body (yoga and tai-chi), to the cinema, to reading, writing, and thinking and to life itself – all thanks to the becomings inspired by my reading of Deleuze. Deleuze (and some others) is everywhere in my life whether I quote him or not.
Your experience of flowing from moment to moment from one world to another is one I have often had, and not just in conversation. For instance, I experience the same phenomenon when I am reading you. I find your writing both very rich and quite thought-provoking as I feel very close to many of your ideas but also uneasy about some of its presuppositions and what seem to me to be limitations. So while I found myself in agreement with what you said about multiple worlds and multiple identities, I thought that you had left unstated the obvious implication that this multiplicity of identities applied to you as well. Here I was merely making explicit what was implicit in what you wrote, but I felt it was worth my saying as it complicates the picture in an interesting way. I am glad that in your reply you make things even more explicit by saying « I prefer to interpret each of us as a family of identities. »
In your text you managed to tie together in a very fruitful way various domains of your life that are affected by this apprehension of multiple identities: not just your managerial practices and your friendship practices, but also your way of doing philosophy. This is something I miss in Bert and Sean’s book. I feel that somehow all the examples that they give are not just empirical cases but aspects of a typology of possiblities of life, instances of what Deleuze calls conceptual characters or intercessors, virtual entities that allow us to think and live and that in a loose way of speaking we may be said to « contain ». Deleuze and Guattari give a sort of justification of this loose language in the passage I cite about each of them being a crowd. They consider the objection that they have kept their names and reply:
« it is pleasant to talk like everybody and to say the sun is rising, when everyone knows that it is just a manner of speaking. »
This pretty banal remark is however only half of their reply. They go on to say:
« Not to arrive at the point where one no longer says I, but at the point where it no longer matters whether one says I or not. »
Oddly, this is what I find at fault in Gary Wills’ critiques. For me ATS is full of conceptual characters, and he seems to be blind to this. He only sees hasty and, in his view, erroneous historical sketches and probably cannot understand why Bert and Sean don’t just fold up shop and retreat off into the horizon.
Another aspect of this account of multiple identities that I felt was left implicit in your text is a different view of the pathologies that are associated with multiple identities. Bert and Sean seem to believe that all bad comes from the ego. This assumption vitiates, in my opinion, some of their analyses of the ODYSSEY and also of MOBY-DICK, in particular their account of Ahab. However I was impressed from the beginning by your keeping clearly in view this « pathological » or shadow aspect of the gods:
« Homer’s gods were … attuners who would bring Homeric Greeks into exactly the right mood to cope so brilliantly with a situation that their actions seemed to reach beyond human capacity. (The gods can do just the opposite, as Athena, for instance, guides Hector to make a mistake beyond his capacity.) »
This is a recognition that I find lacking in ATS. So I felt I should highlight the implication that the pathological aspect of life need not come always and only from the ego (a unifying fiction), but from the upsurge of worlds where, for example, the person who is our friend is also a predator or a traitor. This in turn led me to talk about the need for « wariness », not just as a defensive strategy (to avoid getting hurt), but as a (pluralist) virtue. This seemed to be necessary as well because I have accused Bert and Sean (and maybe even you a little) of practicing « normative phenomenology ». So I find that some of the moods that they describe, such as wonder and gratitude, are also treated as virtues. I merely wished to add wariness to that list. (This too is banal, as Lyotard for example talks about prudence, phronesis, as containing an aspect of wariness, as you never know if the person you encounter is, or can serve as, the epiphany of a god, that can punish you if you indulge in the hubris of imposing your will on the situation). You do take into account this shadow side in the description of your experience but foregrounding it helps me get at what I feel to be a one-sided emphasis on the luminous in ATS, as if all shadow came from the ego.