Dialogue on LOGIC OF SENSE (2): Wild Logic and Non-Standard Negation

Transcript of the second conversation between Terence Blake and Kent Palmer, on Deleuze’s LOGIC OF SENSE, Series 2. Full text here.

Excerpt

Kent Palmer 1:20:08

So maybe we could briefly just talk about this fourth question, which is, what is Deleuze’s relation to logic and the different types of alternative logics? And is he doing meta-logic? Could you explain that?

Terence Blake 1:20:23

Well, I think he is doing meta-logic from the very beginning. He’s taking a step back from logic as we know it in the 20th century, due to the work of Analytic philosophy. I mean, they took over, they went back to Boolean algebra and stuff. But the logic that we know today, that Symbolic Logic was formed in the 20th century, on the bases that Frege set up, but it was Russell and Whitehead that really started getting the canonical ideas and symbols straight.

And Deleuze is taking a step back from that sort of logic and saying well, maybe there is another sort of logic that’s possible. In Symbolic Logic, extensional logic, as we know it, there’s no room for paradox. Paradox is a problem that you have to explain away or get rid of, or create axiomatic structures so that it can’t occur any more, which you see with the paradoxes in set theory, that first Russell tried to eliminate with the theory of logical types. And when that didn’t really work you got the Zermelo-Fraenkel axioms for set theory, which don’t allow the sort of paradoxical sets to be formed within them.

And Deleuze said maybe we can take another tack, because in all the art and literature that I see around me, I see that the paradoxes are being used with pleasure and to great effect. The paradoxes are cognitive devices, for probing ordinary assumptions, and for making us, or helping us, re-conceptualize things. So maybe there would be a point in creating a different sort of logic, which would find a place for these sorts of paradoxes.

So that’s the methodological step, he’s reflecting on logic and what use it is, and what possibilities there are. And then he does a sort of descent into logic, but at another point, no longer in the logic that we know, but in a logic that he puts together from bits and pieces – Carroll, Frege, Wittgenstein and the Stoics. And sets that up as a philosophical logic, not as a mathematical logic, as a counter Logic, or alternative logic, which leaves open the question of whether a mathematical or symbolical formalization of his logic would be possible. And there has been lots of progress in logic over the whole 20th century and up to now, and lots of progress in logic that Deleuze didn’t know about, and since Logic of Sense, so it may be possible, that in fact he has created a concept that can correlate with new logical inventions, new formal inventions.

But despite the title of the book, I don’t think he has really created a full blown concept of alternative logic. It’s more intuitive concepts, and bits and pieces of different logics. And I don’t think you can say: that’s great, because you can’t create a system, Deleuze is totally anti-system, and the fact that it’s fragmentary, shows that his logic is not betraying itself. I don’t think that’s true. I think Deleuze is very systematic. And if he had been able to find a logical systematization of the ideas that he was coming up with, I think he would have been quite favourable towards it. So once again, you know more about logic and meta-logic than me. How do you think Logic of Sense stands up?

Kent Palmer 1:25:02

I think you’re right, we’ll see as we go along, but I think that he doesn’t really formulate a logic here, a deviant logic of the kind we’re talking about, that can include paradox. But he makes overtures toward it, he works on the problem here. So someone who does try to formalize the structure of Wild being is Castoriadis and his idea of the Magma, and he produces a kind of non-intuitive set of axioms that would formalize the nature of Wild being. And so I think that’s one example we can see of what that kind of logic of indistinction and indeterminism might look like.

But I think that where Deleuze has formalized this is in Anti-Oedipus with these passive syntheses of the unconscious, which are connection, disjunction and conjunction, by which he means juxtaposition. Basically logic, the basic structure of logic, has to do with AND, OR, and NOT as operations. And so, usually conjunction and disjunction are the “and” and the “or”, but Deleuze in Anti-Oedipus uses one of the terms differently. Instead of calling the ‘and’ conjunction, he calls the “and’ connection. And so the way he changes it is he says, and, and, and, and, rather than just one “and”, and the way that he changes the or of disjunction, is or, or, or, or, a series of “or”s. And so one way that he changes the logic is to have the “and”, and the “or” multiplied, repeated, then downplays the “not”.

But then he introduces this term of conjunction, and that term of conjunction is also used for a little plus sign in the complex numbers, because the complex number is made up of a real number and an imaginary number with a little plus sign between them. The addition never actually happens, it’s a juxtaposition of those two elements. And so he incorporates that. And he terms that conjunction, which really means the juxtaposition of the two things which are never combined. But if they are combined, they produce a paradox. So the way I see it is that in Anti-Oedipus this aim of creating a deviant logic that could incorporate paradox, but also as contrast with super rationality, is kind of realized there. And what we’re getting here in Logic of Sense is a whole lot of different attempts to say what that might be like, and to try to use Lewis Carroll to try to come up with a formalization of that, to the extent that he can.

Terence Blake 1:28:18

Yes it seems to me that the project of the book comes out straight away in the preface, where he says “The work of Lewis Carroll has everything required to please the modern reader”. So already it is coded, there’s a difference between pleasure and something else, that comes out later. So it has “everything required to please the modern reader”, and he spells it out:

“children’s books, or rather books for little girls, splendidly bizarre and esoteric words, grids, codes and decodings; drawings and photographs, a profound psychoanalytic content; and an exemplary logical and linguistic formalism”.

So I think lots of things there are already said, but you only realize later. So, for example, he mentions “a profound psychoanalytic content”. The form is logical and linguistic, and it is the form that he’s going to develop into something else. Psychoanalysis is a content, it is only interesting insofar as it exhibits this sort of logical grammar that he’s trying to find. And then when finally he decides that it doesn’t exhibit it enough, he jettisons it, and he goes on to Anti-Oedipus.

And he goes on to say “Over and above the immediate pleasure, there is something else, a play of sense and nonsense, a chaos-cosmos”. This play of sense and nonsense, this chaos-cosmos is “over and above”. I don’t think he’s talking about the heights there. I think he’s just talking about a value that’s more important than pleasure itself. And that’s the play of sense and nonsense, the chaos-cosmos. Then he says, as if it’s the same thing, that since “the marriage of language and the unconscious has already been consummated and celebrated in so many ways, it is necessary to examine the precise nature of this union in Carroll’s work”.

So the program is the marriage or the union of language and the unconscious, perhaps of the depths. And he’s envisaging that there are many different ways to create that marriage or union. And the sort of signature of a work in the sort of tradition that he’s looking at will be the precise way that the author or the thinker realizes that marriage of language and the unconscious. So for me he’s saying that basically he’s looking for a new logic and a new logical grammar, that’s the ”exemplary logical and linguistic formalism”.

He’s looking for a new logical grammar wherever sketches or little parts of it can be found. And at the same time this logical grammar maybe you can’t state it, maybe it’s sort of like Wittgenstein’s logical grammar, which you’ve got to learn by example, case by case, and it can’t come out in a theoretical form, because automatically, the theory would distort it. But I don’t think that’s a necessary consequence of his search for logical grammar.

And one of the things that I think is lacking even when Deleuze gets to Anti-Oedipus and he develops these syntheses of the unconscious, which are logical syntheses, logical grammars or parts of regions of logical grammar, is that he never gets round to the logic of negation, that he rejects negation. He rejects negativity, he rejects the dialectic when it’s based on negativity, or contradiction. And at the same time, all over the place in his work, in his vocabulary, he’s got lots of negative suffixes:

“de” – de-territorialization, “a” – a-signifying; “im” – im-personal

He’s also got negativity in the sorts of emotions and affects that he’s willing to consider. He’s got lots of polemic and he’s got lots of de-structuration. But he never gets around to creating a concept of the sort of negation that is virtually everywhere in his work. I don’t think he ever does.

So I think it’s a work in progress that has made lots of contributions to theorizing that sort of logic, he’s made lots of contributions to a practice of reasoning or thinking according to a different sort of logic. But well, you can’t do everything. And for me, one of the lacuna of his system is the never created a new concept of negation. And then he was just satisfied with debunking the old concept of negation.

This is a point that I made years ago on Andrew Culp’s blog, that he took up from me (he even thanked me for it) and elaborated n his book DARK DELEUZE. Unfortunately, Culp does not understand that it is a logical point, and conflates it with totally unrelated considerations.

Negation is not dark. The logic of negation in Deleuze’s work has been explicated creatively, with great talent and in great detail, in Corry Shores’ brilliant and indispensable new book THE LOGIC OF GILLES DELEUZE.

Kent Palmer 1:33:42

Yeah, I think that’s right. The weakness in his reconsideration of logic is he didn’t transform negation, like he transformed the “and” by repeating it and the “or” by repeating it. And by adding in conjunction, or juxtaposition as an operator. He’s neglected negation; he’s added another operator, but he has neglected the negation operator, because it is possible to change it, because, for instance, Zizek talks about the difference between the “anti-” and the “non-”, and so they’re an obvious transformation of negation from anti to non that Zizek makes a lot of, but I don’t think Deleuze tried that, I don’t think he explained that.

Terence Blake 1:34:31

Oh, Badiou as well in “Immanence of Truths”, which still hasn’t been translated, but at a certain point, he discusses the different concepts of negation that you get in the standard accounts of negation: two-valued logic that respects the law of non contradiction, and he discusses negation in intuitionist logic and in paraconsistent logic And he says that the difference between the three logics could be laid out in terms of the different force that you give to negation – a weak negation that allows intermediate cases or third values, and a strong negation, which repels the two terms, and then a more paradoxical negation, as in paraconsistent logic.

And Badiou says that when you’re thinking about politics you need all three sorts of negation. There’s a difference between seeking for consensus, seeking for negotiation, and seeking for war, for example, and there are different aspects or phases of negation. And the same applies to love: he gives a quite amusing description of a conjugal quarrel, where you can start up with something which is on the way to being negotiated, and it can blow up and lead to the rupture of the couple or can be brought back from “either you do this or else” to a third solution or a more intuitionist solution.

So regardless of that anecdotal approach, Badiou does explicitly theorize the role of negation within the truth procedures that he wants to discuss. And this is something that Deleuze didn’t do. Deleuze didn’t consider different senses and the different enunciative forces that could be given to negation.

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ON THE PREFACE TO LOGIC OF SENSE (2): negation and transformative re-conceptualisation

LOGIC BY OTHER MEANS

Already in the preface to LOGIC OF SENSE Deleuze is situating his investigation in the element of logic, but of a logic that can be formalised by other means than that of mathematical logic. He does not exclude the formalisations of Symbolic Logic but his affair is elsewhere. It consists in following the relative autonomy of different contemporary practices of thinking (literature, science, politics, mathematics, art, psychoanalysis, philosophy) in order to make explicit the new logic immanent to these practices.

Thus in order to create a book and an intellectual project of manageable proportions Deleuze initially limits his logical investigation to literary formalisations such as those of Lewis Carroll and to conceptual formalisms such as those he finds in Stoicism. Deleuze never gets round to a consideration of the conceptual revolution inaugurated by the creation of non-classical logics, and this is a weak point in his logical project, and in his system more generally, leaving it open to charges of vagueness, ambiguity, irrationality, mere « poetry », or incomprehensibility.

NEGATION UNTRANSFORMED

Despite all his conceptual formalism, key aspects of Deleuze’s logic remain unacknowledged or under-developed, insisting in his text without being elevated to formal existence. In particular Deleuze has not created a concept of negation adequate to the radical negativity that is clearly perceptible in his conceptual practice, and omni-present in his texts.

Deleuze’s method is one of deconstruction-transformation. He will examine existing categories that are caught within metaphysical structures that function as obstacles to thought (such as rigid binary oppositions), deconstruct the system of oppositions governing it by elevating one of the marginal terms to the status of privileged term (deconstructive phase), then proceed to incorporate the « lower » term inside a new problematic where not only its status but its content and meaning are radically revised (transformative phase).

PARADOX OF INFINITE IDENTITY: logic of contradiction

The transformed term can either keep its old name or be given a new one. It is interesting to note the first example of this method as it unfolds in the first series of LOGIC OF SENSE. The concept of becoming is elevated from its inferior status within the Platonist problematic and given a new sense as embodying the « infinite identity…of future and past, of the day before and the day after, of more and less, of too much and not enough, of active and passive, and of cause and effect ». Because Deleuze refuses the Hegelian model, as he imagines it, of synthesis he does not choose to call his revised concept the identity of opposites (which is clearly what it is) but rather « infinite identity ». Rather than calling this infinite identity a contradiction Deleuze prefers to call it a « paradox ».

This act of renaming is motivated by Deleuze’s practice of transformative re-conceptualisation. It has the disadvantage in this context of obfuscating the role of negativity and negation within Deleuze’s system.

THE PLAY OF INTUITION AND FORMALISATION

Deleuze’s own logic is implicit in his explicitations of the logic of sense that he encounters in the novels of Lewis Carroll and in the semiotics of the Ancient Stoics. This is in accord with his paradox of infinite regress of sense:

« I never say the sense of what I am saying. But on the other hand I can always take the sense of what I am saying as the object of another proposition, whose sense in turn I cannot say » (page 31, translation modified).

Thus Deleuze can say, make explicit, the logic of sense of Carroll and the Stoics, but he cannot at the same time make explicit his own logic – which remains immanent in his analyses, present in intuitive form, awaiting future explicitation, which never fully comes. Necessarily, viewed in comparison with the explicit formalisations of Symbolic Logic Deleuze’s logic to come remains intuitive. The « intuitive » presentation of logic in Deleuze’s work means the creation of concepts to make explicit, philosophically explicit, the non-standard content that he finds in the diverse works he considers.

However, it is Deleuze’s argument that non-mathematical intuition, whether artistic, literary or philosophical, contains its own formalisation. A further implication would be that Symbolic Logic contains its own sense, and that it is a separate task to formulate that sense, one in which philosophy can participate.

SENSE IS THE PRINCIPLE OF VARIANCE

One can readily see that the logic of sense is also a logic of creation. By freeing the sense that is imprisoned within the proposition, inside its stabilised significations, one allows it to express itself in quite different propositions, with different or even incommensurable significations. So, beginning the book with the example of Alice’s becoming, and then extracting the paradoxical concept of becoming in general, is no arbitrary starting point nor indifferent example. Sense is a principle of variance at work inside, always ready to undermine and to transform the stability that is the principle of signification.

Deleuze’s book LOGIC OF SENSE does indeed fulfil the promise of its title in that it moves and develops entirely within the element of logic, of a conceptual logic appropriate to philosophy. One is entitled to reply Okay, but how does this « new » logic compare with the standard logic that we are familiar with? Deleuze clarifies his answer from the very beginning, his logic is non-Aristotelian, it does not respect the law of non-contradiction:

« We present here series of paradoxes which form the theory of sense. It is easy to explain why this theory is inseparable from paradoxes: sense is a non-existent entity » (xi, translation modified).

PARADOXICAL CONSTITUTION AND CONSTITUTIVE PARADOX

In other words, paradoxes are not encountered, formulated, examined, and then resolved or eliminated. Deleuze’s logic is not about paradoxes, it is formed of, constituted by paradoxes. This logic does not aim at the elimination of paradoxes, but at giving them new life and force, and at extending scope.

Deleuze’s rendering paradox ineliminable by including it in the enunciative form of the theory, rather than treating it as an undesirable content of enunciation to be eliminated is in contrast to the whole tradition of Aristotelian logic and its successors, whose over-riding imperative is to eliminate paradoxes, to prevent the very possibility of their formation. In this spirit, Deleuze praises the Stoics’ logic as « closely linked to the paradoxical constitution of a theory of sense » (xi, emphasis mine).

SENSE OF DELEUZE’S LOGIC (OF SENSE): the logic to come

As we begin to get clear on the sense of Deleuze’s logic we come to see its incompleteness. He has created the concepts necessary to a logic of sense, but necessarily he has not created the concepts adequate to explicating the logic of that logic.

This further step is to be taken up by Deleuze’s readers in their task of creative explicitation.

My own analyses on this point are convergent with the important and interesting new book by Corry Shores THE LOGIC OF GILLES DELEUZE.

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ON THE PREFACE TO LOGIC OF SENSE (1): intuitive logic and its figurations

THE TITLE: NON-STANDARD LOGIC AND PARADOXICAL SENSE

Deleuze as a philosopher is interested in the new and in the creation of concepts. So we can know from the title of LOGIC OF SENSE that in this book Deleuze will be proposing a new concept of logic, or a new philosophical logic, and a new concept of sense. The logic will be a non-standard logic suspending or relativising some or all of the rules of classical logic, and sense will be developed outside the familiar philosophical and logical schemas. Both logic and concept will be paradox-based: sense is a paradoxical « non-existent » entity, requiring a paradoxical logic

THE CONTENTS: A VIRTUAL SEMINAR

LOGIC OF SENSE is composed of thirty-four chapters, or « series of paradoxes » (and five appendices). These chapters correspond to roughly the number of classes in a weekly seminar over an academic year, and so the book expresses an « ideal seminar » (to cite Badiou’s term for the succession of chapters in his THEORY OF THE SUBJECT), irrespective of whether the chapters were delivered as actual lessons or not.

METHOD: CONCEPTUAL DRAMATISATION AND CREATIVE REPETITION

Deleuze’s method in LOGIC OF SENSE is that of dramatisation, the telling of dramatised stories in which conceptual characters (here called « figures ») are involved in logical and topological, rather than historical or personalistic, dramas: 

« Thus to each series there correspond figures which are not only historical, but topological and logical as well ».

The « points » (or singularities) in one figure’s series refer to (literally « send back to », a back and forth movement, including future reference, is meant) the points in another figure’s series, repeating not the content but the logical and topological form, leaping over the merely chronological distances:

« As on a pure surface, certain points of one figure in a series refer to the points of another figure ».

THE PREFACE’S TITLE: UNTIMELY LEAPS

The Preface is titled « From Lewis Carroll to the Stoics », and it contains the first iteration of this back and forth movement, which becomes even more explicit in Series 01 « the paradoxes of pure becoming ». The move involves a leap back to Lewis Carroll. Given his interest in the new, this means that Deleuze considers that Carroll has introduced a new logical and conceptual formalism that he is going to make explicit.

Deleuze then leaps from Lewis Carroll to the Stoics, by way of Plato, Socrates, and the Pre-socratics. The Stoics provide us with the philosophical means to formalise what is implicitly at stake in Carroll’s novels. Historically separated, the Stoics and Carroll are logically and topologically related in virtue of the theory and practice of the paradoxes of sense. They « resonate » with each other across the temporal gap, their relation is « untimely » in Deleuze’s sense.

FOR AND AGAINST HEIDEGGER: INCIPIENCE IS INSISTENCE

For Heidegger The Germans are the « metaphysical people » as were the Ancient Greeks before them. He leaps back to Holderlin and the Pre-Socratics, whereas Deleuze is less concerned with a grand narrative of decline. He leaps back to Lewis Carroll for « the first great account…of the paradoxes of sense », that is first great inventory of these paradoxes. He then proceeds to the second leap, this time within the history of philosophy, to the Stoics, for having been the first to propose « the paradoxical constitution of a theory of sense ». The Stoics provide the explicitating theory of what is at work in Carroll’s literary practice.

In both cases, Deleuze and Heidegger, the leap back in to the past is in favour of a futural thought, of a logic that it yet to come to full articulation. It is a paradoxical leap that can be expressed in the formula « back to the future ».

HUMOUR, BECOMINGS, AND EVENTS

Deleuze is ready to follow his paradoxical logic of events and becomings on a pure surface wherever it takes him., in view of explicating the play of sense and non-sense, a chaos-cosmos ». To each fine-tuned and orderly cosmos there corresponds its own deviant and disorderly « chaos », its particular « shadow » cosmos,

For Deleuze the superiority of Anglo-American literature over French literature lies in its espousal of  becomings, just as English humour, in particular as expressed in children’s tales and nonsense, is the art of events, and the Stoics save us from the exclusivity of the pre-Socratic depths and the Platonic heights by means of their logic of the surface.

In other words, « incipience » and « futurality » are not to be found in a great Heideggerian leap back to the origins, but in a series of untimely leaps into the ever-co-present counter-traditions that insist within our history.

INTUITIVE FORMALISM

In the preface, Deleuze praises Carroll’s « logical and linguistic formalism » and endorses its exemplarity. As in the case of Carroll’s novels, Deleuze’s creative repetition of Carroll and the Stoics does not give us a fully explicit formalisation of the logic immanent to their works. In his LOGIC OF SENSE Deleuze provides us with a philosophical « making it explicit » (in Robert Brandom’s sense) of a mostly implicit, immanent logical formalism. Deleuze too is constantly giving logical and linguistic indications in his texts, and we can see his implicit conceptual formalism at work throughout his oeuvre.

IMAGINATIVE LOGIC: IMAGES AND ENCOUNTERS

Deleuze in accordance with his method of dramatisation seeks first a literary presentation of the themes that he considers important for his contemporary context and problem situation. Surrounded by new perspectives in ethnology, linguistics, psychoanalysis, literature, painting, cinema, militancy Deleuze makes an intemporal, « untimely », leap back to Lewis Carroll, where he finds

« the first great mise en scène [dramatisation] of the paradoxes of sense ».

By appealing to Lewis Carroll’s novels Deleuze is implicitly telling us that the logic he is seeking to make explicit is both an imaginative logic and a logic of the image. LOGIC OF SENSE prefigures not only the imaginal style of ANTI-OEDIPUS but also the image-encounters of his two CINEMA books. For Deleuze philosophy is not about finding illustrations and applications of its theses and ideas from other domains, but about « encounters » – and it must be kept clearly in mind that these encounters are noetic.

NOETIC ENCOUNTERS AND NON-STANDARD LOGIC

The philosopher is embarked on an experimental creation of concepts. An essential part of this conceptual (but also affective and perceptual) experimentation is the creation of a problematic field within which noetic encounters are possible and deploy their sense. Deleuze encounters Carroll’s literary experimentation as a series of (non-)logical investigations of the paradoxes of sense, and so seeks a way of approaching these paradoxes through the means appropriate to philosophy.

Note: I use the word « (non-)logical » to indicate both the continuity (logical) and the difference (non-logical) of Deleuze’s new logic with traditional logic, on the analogy of non-Euclidean geometry.

Deleuze ties his investigation to a new, i.e. non-standard logic that he finds in at work in Carroll and theorised in the Stoics. He does not expound this logic in the form of an explicit logical or mathematical formalism, but chooses to tell a story, to express his new logic in intuitive form, as a « logical and psychoanalytical novel ».

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Dialogue on LOGIC OF SENSE (1): A Love of Paradox and Strange Loops

Transcript of a conversation between Terence Blake and Kent Palmer on Deleuze’s LOGIC OF SENSE, Series 1:

https://www.academia.edu/45560838/Conversation_on_Deleuzes_Logic_of_Sense_Series_01

Audio recording of the conversation: https://www.academia.edu/video/kxJ9R1 and on Mediafire:

Audio recording of the conversation: https://www.academia.edu/video/kxJ9R1 and on Mediafire: https://www.mediafire.com/file/r2w62p9q8mka0p5/DeleuzeLoS20210311conversation01_finalized.mp3/file

Excerpt (the full recording is an hour and a half):

Kent Palmer 00:00

This is Kent Palmer of the Continental Philosophy Discord server in conversation with Terence Blake on Deleuze’s Logic of Sense. Today is 3/11/2021. We are reading Logic of Sense on the Deleuze and Guattari Quarantine Collective Discord server. Having just started, we are on the first series of the book, but I thought it might be worthwhile to step back and consider the broader perspective concerning the book as a whole, and where it fits into Continental Philosophy and Deleuze’s works more generally. Not everything can be said that should be said about the books in the reading group format. I’ve already done an introductory set of comments about the book as a commentary on the preface. Now Terence and I will discuss a few questions that might set the stage for an understanding of the book as a whole and its context. So welcome, Terence.

Terence Blake 01:08

Hello Kent, thanks for inviting me for this conversation.

Kent Palmer 01:12

Yes, I’m really looking forward to it. I have prepared a series of questions and I thought what we would do is, you know, I will just ask you the questions and get your response, and then we can have a conversation about each one and see where that goes.

So the first question is what is your background in philosophy and how did you get interested in Deleuze?

Terence Blake 01:27

My basic interest in training in philosophy was fairly analytic at the beginning. So, I began with Bertrand Russell’s stuff including his mathematical logic, including Principia Mathematica, that I worked on all by myself in high school, Frege, Reichenbach, Carnap, all the Logical Positivists, and Wittgenstein. And then Quine. At the same time, I was reading lots of Spinoza, Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Freud, and Sartre.

And then when I started university, I had to sort of limit myself at first, in philosophy, to the epistemology and philosophy of science type of interest. So, I did a lot of research on Popper, and Kuhn, Lakatos and Feyerabend – that line of thought, and anything else in and around that sort of analysis. But little by little, I tried to unite my interest in Anglophone philosophy of science with my interest in what I discovered was referred to as « Continental » philosophy.

Little by little, I found that I was not finding conversational partners for talking about what I found interesting in Feyerabend, as the logical outcome of that tradition he situated himself in, and I came to think that I had a set of criteria that needed to be satisfied to make other philosophies interesting for me. I found that Feyerabend had the same problem that he was treated as crazy, or as writing literature, when in fact, he’s one of the most argumentatively organized and logical philosophers that you can imagine. It’s just he has a provocative style.

And I more or less set up a set of criteria that are sort of rules of thumb or heuristic criteria: that I wanted a philosophy that developed even further than Feyerabend’s, that would be pluralist without being relativist, so that would be in favor of pluralism and realism at the same time, that would be giving primacy to what I considered to have been subjugated in the philosophical tradition, that is to say, it would give primacy to multiplicities and becomings, that would need to have a doctrine or at least an idea, a worked out idea of Being, which is something that I found lacking in Feyerabend. This was in the in the 1970s. And there are a few other criteria that maybe we could talk about later.

At the same time I was surrounded by analytic philosophers. The only people who were interested in the sorts of problems that I was interested in were those who were interested in Continental Philosophy, especially in Althusser, Foucault, Derrida and Lacan. But I found them incredibly dogmatic. So I wanted to find a philosopher that would be a pluralist and a realist, having an idea of Being and that would be able to develop these ideas in dialogue with this Continental, more particularly French Continental, tradition.

And suddenly, I discovered Deleuze in 1979. And I taught myself French to be able to read his works, because very little of it was translated. And then I managed to get a French scholarship to come and study, attend the seminars of Deleuze and Foucault and Lyotard and Michel Serres in France. So I grabbed that opportunity. And finally, when the scholarship ran out, I had to work but I decided I wanted to stay and settle in France.

Later on, I discovered that towards the end of the 80s, I came to France in 1981, that towards the end of the 80s, Feyerabend had begun to develop an idea of Being that I found really interesting. So maybe I should’ve just stayed in Australia, and been patient and waited for to come up with his idea of Being. Maybe all my studies and experience in Paris was just a long, and avoidable, detour.

Kent Palmer 07:17

Oh, yeah, that’s very interesting. In fact it’s interesting to me, that I had a similar kind of trajectory. Because what happened to me is that I was in the United States, and I decided to go to school in England, and got accepted into the London School of Economics, and went there to go do sociology of religion, but when I got there, the whole school was basically immersed in philosophy of science, in different ways. And so slowly over time, I realized this, and changed my topic in order to align with what everyone else was doing.

But the difference between what I was doing and what they were doing was that these books on Continental Philosophy, were being translated at that time, especially Derrida. And so, I was interested in the Continental Philosophy, because I had started out interested in Oriental philosophy, but the teacher that I had also taught Husserl and Heidegger, so I had a kind of basis in Husserl and Heidegger, to then go in and try to understand these later authors like Derrida, that were just being translated at that time.

And so, I kind of dove into the Continental Philosophy, but within the context of trying to understand philosophy of sciences, which was being promulgated at that time at the London School of Economics and Imperial College. So, I did my PhD there, which I finished in 1982. And subsequently came back, you know, to America and had a career in software, and systems engineering, but I kept up my interest in philosophy throughout my career.

So I think that, for me, this is kind of like a perfect background for this discussion of Logic of Sense. Because, like I said in the little introduction to it that I wrote, part of what I did was to look at Russell’s theory of ramified, higher logical types, as a way of understanding the different kinds of Being that were being discovered in Continental Philosophy. But ramified, higher logical types kind of died in Analytic Philosophy due to Gödel’s theorem, and the fall out of that. And so I always wanted to find another book that kind of took that idea further. And when I read Logic of Sense years later, I felt like I had found that book that had gone to the next level of this consideration of the higher logical types as a way of understanding Being.

Terence Blake 10:39

I think that your trajectory is an example of Deleuze’s method in that the ramified hierarchy of types is both a technical invention as a contribution to a particular discussion on the foundations of mathematics and also, from the Deleuze’s point of view, it’s a conceptual creation. So, as you say, once the sort of discussion in philosophy of mathematics turned away from the hierarchy of types, it sort of became abandoned, although you get sort of resuscitations of it with people like Bateson in his book Steps to an Ecology of the Mind.

But from the Deleuze’s point of view, even if he’s not making a contribution to the foundations of mathematics, Russell did produce conceptual creations, that could be re-utilized in a quite different context, which is the nature of a concept for him. So that’s his method. And that’s why for him, the technical contexts can die, but the concepts don’t die. And he’s always made really effective use of that type of method be being able to borrow concepts from all sorts of different domains and contexts.

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FOUCAULT AND NON-PHILOSOPHY: permeable boundaries

« To the extent that, in spite of everything, I was an academic, a professor of philosophy, what remained of traditional philosophical discourse disturbed me in the work I had done on madness. There is a lingering Hegelianism there. To exhibit objects as derisory as police reports, internment procedures, and the cries of the mad is not enough to exit from philosophy. For me Nietzsche, Bataille, Blanchot and Klossowski were ways of exiting from philosophy.

In the violence of Bataille, in the sort of insidious and disturbing softness of Blanchot, in Klossowski’s spirals, there was something that began with philosophy, put it into play and into question, then left it, and returned again…Something like the theory of breaths in Klossowski is connected by God knows how many threads to the entirety of Western philosophy. And then, through the staging, the formulation, the way in which all that functions in Le Baphomet, exits philosophy altogether.

These comings and goings around the very membrane of philosophy finally rendered permeable—and thus finally derisory—the frontier between philosophy and non-philosophy » (FOUCAULT LIVE, p 153, translation modified by me).

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NON-PATREON: de-counter-actualising the non(-Laruelle) event

I have no Patreon account but I have published a contribution to the non-market of ideas:

PLURALISING LARUELLE : Non-Laruellean non-philosophy and many visions-in-ones (Agent Swarm Digital Philosophy Book 1)

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NOETIC ESTRANGEMENT: on some commonalities between science fiction and philosophy

I once argued (in a blog post published in 2014) that Science Fiction as a genre is based on a pluralist logic of noetic deterritorialisation, allowing one to privilege the themes of alterity, non-identity, difference, divergence, plurality, intensity, and becoming.

A good example of this can be found in Gene Wolfe’s tetralogy THE BOOK OF THE NEW SUN, which I discussed in two posts.

In one post I concentrate on the incipit to the first volume of the tetralogy: GENE WOLFE AND NOETIC ESTRANGEMENT: the incipit to The Shadow of the Torturer | Xeno Swarm (wordpress.com).

In the second post I discuss the work in more general terms: GENE WOLFE AGAINST RELATIVISM: ontology, indeterminacy, pluralism, and tradition | Xeno Swarm (wordpress.com).

This noetic deterritorialisation characteristic of sf as a genre leads to a relative prevalence of a logic of alterity, which Jean-Clet Martin , referring to A.E. van Vogt’s null-A cycle, analyses in terms of a non-Aristotelianism that rejects the principle of identity.

Dissolving mainstream, or »major », literature’s dominant narcissistic and territorialised forms, Science Fiction deflates the monistic sphere of identity and of the finite in favour of the pluralistic foam of intensities and infinities.

This pluralist logic can be found also in many thinkers working within the tradition of Continental Philosophy, and many of their ideas resonate with science fictional themes. This makes sense in terms of the drive of key Continental philosophers to think outside identities in whatever form.

Perhaps this can lead occasionally to a distorted reading of SF texts, or even to cherry-picking the themes and concepts that confirm one’s prior orientation, but this is rather the exception, and the commonalities between the two genres are the primary concern and influence

Indeed, I think it is a good methodological principle in reading Continental Philosophy when confronted with « high » concepts to seek SF examples and explorations.

For example, I was re-reading Heidegger’s INTRODUCTION TO METAPHYSICS (as one does) and I was struck by the SF resonances in his use of the words « inception » and « foundation ».

In the film of the same name « inception » is presented as a seemingly impossible task, but perhaps only exceedingly rare. The danger of inception is that it may produce a pathology, a disconnection from the real and entrapment in a phantasm. Heidegger talks of « inception » in the ancient Greek invention of philosophy and of its pathological side, the oblivion of Being as such.

Heidegger also speaks of « foundation » as the pathological covering over of Being that is perpetrated by metaphysics and of the need to go outside metaphysics and foundations in favour of another type of thinking, that he still calls « philosophy » at this stage of his intellectual development.

This idea of « foundation » along with Heidegger’s descriptions of history and science led me to envision Asimov’s Foundation trilogy in a new light. The first foundation is based on the science of psycho-history and its laws, but the so-called « Second Foundation » is not a foundation at all.

The Second Foundation (SF) is implemented by a group of people whose interventions are based on a knowledge of the ordinary course as predicted by psycho-history and of an ability to deal with the extra-ordinary. This provides us with a good analogue of the philosophers in Heidegger’s sense.

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FROM DE-CONCEPTING THE DIALOGUE TO DE-DIALOGUING THE (DE-CONCEPTED) CONCEPT

I had a strange experience today where some grumpy little micro-blogger reacted to my tweeting a link to the preceding post on my blog with this phrase: « tabloidisation of blog posting… »

This is how the grump functions on twitter, proliferating acerbic little comments on just about anything and everything, or so it may seem.

Usually he leaves me alone, especially since a few years ago he made a fool of himself by actually discussing the content of my tweets, unusual for him, and actually admitting that he hadn’t understood what I was talking about and putting the blame on me.

Today I was censured acerbically and pithily for my linking on Twitter to a blog post that I had elaborated little by little also on Twitter in dialogue with some interlocutors who belong to very different conceptual milieux and with whom I have little contact, except perhaps for an interest in a contemporary attempt to understand Deleuze and to situate his ideas in relation to the problem-situations of today.

In Badiou’s terms we, the interlocutors, engaged in a divergent dialogue, each with their own conceptual heuristics. Even the most cursory conceptual (non-grumpy) attention to the dialogic context would have revealed that the few sentences exchanged between us were in effect the tip of some very different conceptual icebergs, vaster than the grump can take in with his twitter eyesight.

I myself am grateful to my interlocutors and thank them for enabling me to pursue my analysis further.

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MUST WE BURN ANTI-OEDIPUS? on conceptual mutation

The conclusion of the preceding post is that Deleuze and Guattari’s « desiring-machines » are neither desiring nor machines, but noetic assemblages.

I came to this idea of desiring machines as noetic assemblages from trying to reconcile Deleuze’s Capitalism and Schizophrenia phase with his Cinema books. The ontology of machines in ANTI-OEDIPUS is replaced by an ontology of images, and the focus moves from the nomadic subject to the spiritual automaton.

The risk of conflation of enunciative acts and machinic processes is ultimately removed in WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? by the distinction between the referential (machinic) plane and the conceptual (enunciative) plane.

Deleuze and Guattari end up in WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? with their notion of « absolute self-survey », but I reject this term, there is no survey! If we accept Zizek’s reworking of Hegel, then this « absolute self-survey » is what corresponds in Deleuze and Guattari’s system in WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? to Hegel’s Absolute Knowledge.

Of course, the Zizekian reading of Hegel is in fact an unacknowledged Deleuzian (and Lyotardian) reading, so we are going in circles here.

ANTI-OEDIPUS is by no means to be abandoned but neither is it to be immobilised or statufied.

Must we burn ANTI-OEDIPUS? Yes, of course, but only if we understand by burning the calcination in the alchemical fire of transmutation.

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ENUNCIATIVE APPENDIX TO READING ANTI-OEDIPUS: from desiring machine to spiritual automaton

New questions, readings, formulations, and commentaries from contemporary readers of recent Continental Philosophy can be very interesting, and quite useful to refresh our understanding of familiar texts, not the least because they can help us not to read them too concretely or literally.

I for one still remain very influenced by ANTI-OEDIPUS but I think its key terms need to be deconstructed, which is something that Deleuze and Guattari themselves did over the next twenty years after the publication of their first collaboration.

For example, one could argue that the focus on « desire » cedes too much to the Lacano-Freudian doxa. So « desire » needs to be de-emphasized (but not abandoned) in favour of noesis (spirit/psyche/soul).

Similarly, the concept of « machine » functions more as a reminder for the necessity of the pragmatic interpretation of every concept. This concept of « machine » fuses both object-level and meta-level considerations in a way that can block us into a corner.

The concepts that become increasingly emphasised (spirit, intensities, assemblages and multiplicities) are much more flexible than the notions of desire and machine and less liable to give rise to a one-sided metaphysical mis-reading.

In the later works « assemblage » becomes the key term, and it is presented as double-sided: collective assemblage of enunciation and machinic assemblage of desire. The role of enunciation becomes more prominent than in ANTI-OEDIPUS, and this relative primacy of enunciation corrects the one-sided impression of a primacy of the machinic.

If we follow the thread of « desire » as a name for noesis and its enunciative potential, we can recognise that the future avatar of « desiring-machine » is « spiritual automaton ».

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