DELEUZE, DOGS, AND SCHIZOS

An interesting article citing memorabilia from François Dosses book “Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari: Intersecting Lives”: http://critical-theory.com/deleuze-guattari-biography/

I see no negative material. Unless being afraid of psychotics and their unpredictable dramatic behaviour is contemptible. I myself teach English in a technical college and I like the students. However, some friends ask me “how can you stand those guys?” Are they nasty people because they ask a perfectly reasonable question given the sometimes turbulent behaviour of such students? (Admittedly very mild when compared to psychotics). I think not. To each his preferences and commitments. Being in an establishment, as Guattari was, where one had to be constantly ready to drop everything to deal with dangerous behaviour is not everyone’s vocation.

Nor does this anecdote reflect unfavorably on Deleuze’s general attitude to “schizos”. I went to Deleuze’s seminar from 1980 to 1986, and sometimes it was interrupted by some very strange interventions. I was always impressed by how calm and courteous Deleuze was, and how he usually managed to make the exchange relevant to the subject at hand.

On the subject of Deleuze’s negative remarks about “dogs”: Deleuze thinks in terms of the behaviour of assemblages, not of individual elements such as dogs per se. I think the “human-dog” assemblage can sometimes have some negative instantiations. For example I do tai chi in a public park in Nice. Some dog owners think nothing of walking between the ranks of those doing the log tai chi Form together and letting the dog bark and yap next to someone who is concentrating on the movements, and this on a space where dogs are forbidden. This is the sort of behaviour that Deleuze condemns, and quite justly.

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7 Responses to DELEUZE, DOGS, AND SCHIZOS

  1. I remember watching Deleuze talking about dogs – and not liking them (and cats too!) – because they ‘rub’ – he doesn’t like the rubbing animals. Haraway has critiqued his view on domesticated dogs – namely his ‘wolf’ glamorisation in A Thousand Plateaus – have you read her ‘Companion Species’ – endorsed by Latour, etc.?

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  2. terenceblake says:

    I read her critique of Deleuze, but I don’t think she saw that it was only some assemblages that Deleuze was criticising. Deleuze does not think in terms of essences, but assemblages. So one should not take his statements absolutely.

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  3. prsmith5 says:

    The fear of unpredictable behavior becomes problematic when viewed in the light of the non-dialectical dialectic between capture and escape. While, perhaps, it is overstated, a liberatory project that places positive valence on the escape from the Oedipal family drama and uses the “schizo” and the “nomad” as exemplars finds itself in a performative contradiction when we suggest that such exemplars are only tolerable within established institutions (Oedipal or otherwise). Perhaps the example is a bit petty–as charges of contradiction often are–but it does contextualize Deleuze’s later evocation of the emergency brake when it comes to all out deterritorialization. The notion of non-dog zones, or the human-dog assemblage having negative instantiations, I merely see one family drama exchanged for another. Connecting this to Eilif’s invocation of Donna Haraway’s critique of the preference for the wild over the domesticated, I find it hard to imagine that Haraway missed that we are dealing with assemblages, as she advocates the same in her notion of interspecies becoming: I constantly become who I am in relation to the plurality of an ecosystem, as the members of the ecosystem do in relation to myself. Her critique pertains to the manner in which Deleuze and Guattari criticize certain assemblages seemingly based upon a mere preference (anywhere but here or anything but this), particularly the elderly woman and the domesticated canine. Woman-poodle may be aesthetically displeasing, but it is still a productive relation. In this case, Haraway reads Deleuze’s abandonment of essences against Deleuze himself, whereby he fails to abandon all the way down.

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  4. terenceblake says:

    In the anecdote there is no mention of “fear” nor even of “unpredictable” behaviour, but of a capacity to stand having the responsibility for people capable of such dangerous acts requiring immediate intervention and thus the abandoning of whatever one was doing. Nomadism is not chaos, nor does it mean being submitted to the the pathological manifestations of those in whom the schizo-process has been interrupted. Deleuze has adequately theorised the difference between sympathy and (Christian) charity in DIALOGUES. He remarks that sympathy may sometimes take the form of deciding that one wants nothing to do with a certain person. La Borde was a very special assemblage and being part of it was very important for Guattari’s individuation. That does not make it the model of individuation for everyone else. Deleuze does not judge the assemblage, he does not advise Guattari or Aptekman to get away, he expresses astonishment and by implication a pragmatic evaluation: being a member of such an assemblage would decompose his own laboriously constructed relations. This is an ethological observation: he is not the same sort of animal as Guattari. To countereffectuate the event, to extract the becoming from the model, to attain the process behind the result, requires a subtle balance between physical incarnation and spiritual sublimation; Perhaps it was Guattari who was in the biggest performative contradiction as he needed physical proximity to the literal schizo to get in contact with his own schizo process. The literal schizo is no guarantee against forming Oedipal (or other) subjugated relations, just as the literal voyage is no guarantee either. The dose of literal acting out necessary to one’s becoming is a pragmatic question, to be decided according to each case and not according to rules.

    In every utterance we must evaluate it’s pragmatic valences, and Deleuze indicates that the valences of ethics and politics, and of humour, are essential to understanding the “meaning” of the utterance. Seen as an ethical question “How can you stand those schizos?” would seem to be a question about the addressee’s, Aptekman’s, individuation. What makes positive the composition of his relations with those of that type of schizo (the type that can set fire to the chapel and then go hide in the woods, putting at risk not just lives and property, but the continued legal existence of the clinic). As an ethical exclamation it expresses, as we have seen above, Deleuze’s own incapacity or unwillingness to compose with that sort of assemblage and his capacity to relate to schizo processes without literal involvement with clinical schizophrenics. As a humorous remark, it acqires all its power of provocation from the context of collaborating on ANTI-OEDIPUS in which it was proferred. The anecdote was recounted by Aptekman, who does not seem to have been a philosophically reliable observer or narrator. Perhaps Deleuze wanted to provoke a new awareness in Aptekman that he was caught in some sort of mimetic relation with Guattari or literal relation with schzos. As Aptekman tells the story, Deleuze paled (power of being affected) and Guattari leaps into action (power of affecting) whereas Aptekman “froze”. Perhaps Deleuze was calling attention to both an insensitivity and a passivity as components in his particular capacity to “stand” schizos.

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  5. prsmith5 says:

    “The dose of literal acting out necessary to one’s becoming is a pragmatic question, to be decided according to each case and not according to rules.”

    I don’t really see a disagreement here Terence, and this seems to be the spirit in which Haraway approaches D and G on companion-species, i.e., situating the question pragmatically, and suggesting that the relation itself might change the agents involved. On the meta-level (where Deleuze articulates his methodological commitments) it seems obvious that Deleuze is committed to shifting and pragmatic notions of politics. However, Haraway wants to challenge a dogmatic Deleuzianism that holds steadfast to his particular observations and makes a rule of them, thereby cutting the legs off an overarching method (however flexible). If we view the preference for the wolf (that bears little resemblance to an ethology of any particular wolf or wolf packs) in context, perhaps they are employing humor (as opposed to ethics or politics as it would relate to that particular ‘old lady’ and that particular dog). Although, I still see Haraway’s critique as targeting the political consequences of maintaining a fidelity to the wild and disavowing anything resembling sublimation. I see this sort of fidelity in the return to accelerationism: let’s think Deleuze beyond Deleuze in order to bypass his hesitant blockages. Perhaps I am just a curmudgeon, but I don’t see a recognition of humor in the accelerationist embrace of escape. Whatever provocation might be found in the Marx-Bataille-Deleuze lineage (to be overly simple) is re-coded into a political program (of course situated in a certain analysis of the present).

    Thanks for the follow up. Being uninitiated, I was unaware of the sympathy and charity distinction. I am still a little confused as to the manner in which you are employing the notion of plural valences. Particularly, whether the valence of a statement changes as we (writers and/or readers in dialogue) move from ethics to humor, or whether the statement contains all valences at once.

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  6. terenceblake says:

    I think Deleuze uses sublimation as a way of maintaining fidelity to the wild, but not necessarily to the literal physical wild. Sublimation in that sense is everywhere in Deleuze, de-literalising the models to extract the event, the process, the becoming.

    I have nothing to say about “accelerationism”, and what you say about its literalising and methodising of Deleuze does not encourage me to look into it.

    I am basing myself in part on Deleuze and Guattari’s KAFKA, so the utterance as singularity has both ethical (they say political, but in a very general sense of political) and humorous dimensions at the same time. Humour is equated with joy. This is at the end of chapter 4 in a long footnote. “It’s the same thing: the politics of the utterance and the joy of desire” (my translation).

    As you can see in the succeeding posts I think the question of Deleuze’s attitude to dogs is more complex than Haraway’s critique suggests.

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