JUNG WAS AN ATHEIST (5): metaphysical vs psychological

My argument so far is confirmed by a letter Jung wrote on the subject of religious knowledge in June 1957, just two years before his BBC interview of 1959. This letter confirms my analysis of Jung’s atheism in terms of his Kantian critique of metaphysical assumptions and posits, and of his treatment of transcendence as that which goes beyond consciousness.

In particular Jung’s remark

« My human limitation does not permit me to assert that I know God, hence I cannot but regard all assertions about God as relative because subjectively conditioned »

gives essential context to his famous « I know » in the BBC interview only 2 years later. The letter makes clear Jung’s epistemological position about metaphysical knowledge: it is impossible. The BBC declaration concerns his experience.

My argument is that Jung is metaphysically atheist, but psychologically gnostic. People tend to omit the qualifying adverb and so to hypostatize Jung’s statements.

Jung , in the letter to Bernhard Lang, says that no one can lay claim to possession of a special organ of perception nor to any transcendent knowledge that would be unavailable to others. He clearly states that he cannot assert that he knows God.

This seems to leave Jung in the position of agnosticism, but an agnostic position in which the metaphysical is neither experientially accessible nor theoretically denotable is indistinguishable from atheism. The metaphysical posit drops out as irrelevant.

We cannot escape this conclusion by claiming that while the noetic Jung, as expressed in his books and letters, is an atheist the empirical Jung, as judged by how he actually lived his life, was a believer.

How does a post-metaphysical psychological realist live his life? He lives it by acting and writing as Jung did, with great openness to experience and with great firmness in rejecting metaphysical claims.

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JUNG WAS AN ATHEIST (4): oeuvre vs cult

If one goes with the makeshift distinction proposed in the previous post in this series between the noetic Jung and the empirical Jung, it is not in order to diminish his achievement.

If we seek the noetic Jung it is there in his books and correspondence, and we are faced with the problem of the interpretation of his oeuvre.

If on the other hand we are looking for the empirical Jung, we are confronted as well with the problem of the hagiography surrounding the various biographical recollections, testimony, and studies that are available.

A dissenting, and controversial, glimpse of the empirical Jung is provided by Richard Noll in his two books THE JUNG CULT and THE ARYAN CHRIST: THE SECRET LIFE OF CARL JUNG.

If there is a cult around Jung, and one only has to dip one’s nose into the Jungian literature to see that there is, then it needs to be denounced and deconstructed.

The hegemonic understanding of Jung up to now has been spiritualist and metaphysical, and those who broke from that view were obliged to propose new ideas and new ways of thought within the Jungian universe, they were creative, as Jung demanded that we be.

I am thinking here of post-Jungian thinkers and analysts such as James Hillman and Wolfgang Giegerich, who have proposed new and fruitful interpretations, visions and perspectives.

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JUNG WAS AN ATHEIST (3): « I know » and absolute knowledge as self-failure

On the question of Jung’s belief or non-belief in God, believers like to quote ecstatically or triumphantly his famous statement in his 1959 interview for the BBC: « I don’t believe I know »

However Jung does not continue the sentence any further, he does not say what he « knows ». He cannot mean that he « knows » ontologically that God exists as he spent his whole life saying that he accepts the Kantian critique of reason and thus that we cannot « know » a metaphysical entity.

If Jung were an agnostic he would have said « I don’t know », i.e. I don’t know metaphysically, I suspend my judgment. What he in fact said was « I know », i.e. I know psychologically (and the whole question of metaphysical existence drops out).

It seems more in line with the whole system of his thought to say that Jung was an atheist, but not in the naive sense of Freud (and Richard Dawkins) but in the dialectically sophisticated sense of Slavoj Zizek.

For a more general principle in Zizek’s thought we may cite his Hegelian concept of « Absolute Knowledge » as acknowledging the failure of ontology and of ontological knowledge. For Zizek absolute knowledge coincides with its acceptance of its own failure to know metaphysically.

Discussing his early fascination with Schopenhauer’s metaphysical concept of the Will, Jung tells us:

« I was puzzled that Schopenhauer should ever have been satisfied with such an inadequate answer. Because of this I was impelled to study him more thoroughly, and I became increasingly impressed by his relation to Kant. I therefore began reading the works of this philosopher, above all his Critique of Pure Reason., which put me to some hard thinking. My efforts were rewarded, for I discovered the fundamental flaw, so I thought, in Schopenhauer’s system. He had committed the deadly sin of hypostatizing a metaphysical assertion, and of endowing a mere noumenon, a Ding an sich, with special qualities. I got this from Kant’s theory of knowledge, and it afforded me an even greater illumination, if that were possible » (MEMORIES, DREAMS, AND REFLECTIONS, 70).

All through his life Jung rejects « hypostatizing a metaphysical assertion ». So his « I know » does not mean what people usually take it to mean.

Note: in these posts I am always talking about the noetic Jung immanent to his books, and to his system, not the empirical Jung. The noetic Jung is the Jung that we extrapolate from the conceptual and imagistic structure of his books. The empirical Jung is the one people met and talked to. We know far more about the noetic Jung as we have his many writings to consult.

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THE KAFKA DELUSION: transdisciplinary tweet bridges the two cultures gap

The dumbing down of culture in the education system and in social media is fortunately only one trend among many others. The disquieting acceptance of scientific experts pontificating on subjects outside their domain of competence is today counterbalanced by the increasing readiness of the lay public to debunk the arrogance and laziness of media-promoted experts and intellectuals presume that their mastery in one narrow field can be carried over without any further work into totally unrelated fields. The sad case of Stephen Hawking proclaiming the worthlessness of contemporary philosophy without any knowledge of its major works is just one particularly notorious example of scientistic conceit.

The triumph of democracy of thought over encroachment by supposedly pan-noetic pundits is to be celebrated and encouraged. However, sometimes it can lead its digital constituencies to a certain blindness that sees no value in a real intellectual’s boundary-traversing genius. This cognitive bias leads them to see unfamiliar insights as exhibiting a blindness that can only be attributed to their own statistical certainty that « this is yet another case of that ». Unfounded induction replaces sound investigation and solid research is mocked and noetic democracy is replaced by mob rule.

People have been unjustly ridiculing a tweet by Richard Dawkins about Kafka’s short story THE METAMORPHOSIS. I shall argue that the tweet in question contains in concise form a theory of modernist literature that does honour to its author.

Dawkins, to say the least, has done his research. He takes off from Roland Barthes’ concept of a form of literature, la littérature blanche, that belongs to no determinate genre and whose style cannot be classified in terms of such dualisms as literal/metaphorical, high culture/low culture, intellectual experimentation/popular recreation. Unlike Barthes and other French intellectuals Dawkins has a real talent for popularisation in the noble sense of taking abstruse theories and abstract concepts and explaining them in terms that the layman endowed with common sense would have no difficulty understanding.

We are privileged here to see how a mind used to inventive ground-breaking research can see even popularisation as an opportunity to push its creative skills to the limit. In order to create a bridge between the so-called « two cultures » (the sciences and the humanities) Dawkins had to proceed pedagogically. He chose a well-known but mysterious tale by a famous but enigmatic modernist writer, THE METAMORPHOSIS by Franz Kafka.

Simply translating Barthes’ highbrow expression, la littérature blanche, into English would have given the rather infelicitous expression « blank literature ». Dawkins had the genius to see that another image (naked literature) would work better in English. He had the further inspiration to associate this still slightly puzzling expression, with the familiar fairy tale THE EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES. These insights allowed him to characterise Kafka’s tale as a form of literature that is realist, without appearing so. This literary realism without the habitual garbs of literature is the first trait of THE METAMORPHOSIS considered as blank literature that Dawkins gets us to see.

The next step was to consider the appearance and to « peel off » the stereotypes that could hinder our understanding of the naked writing of modernist realism. Richard Dawkins had to deconstruct the appearance of the text, without appearing to indulge in deconstruction.

To accomplish this, Dawkins considered the question of genre, and quickly got us to see, by way of Socratic interrogation that a problem was posed by the hypothesis that the text was a form of naked realism that nevertheless recounts seemingly impossible, or at least currently unexplainable, events. Dawkins gets us to see by clever questioning that the tale cannot be considered to be science fiction (nor, by implication, fantasy, but a single tweet cannot contain Dawkins’ full thought) nor allegory (appealing to a familiar example, ANIMAL FARM). So he provokes us to discover, as if by our own thought, a second trait of blank literature, it belongs to no determinate genre.

At the same time, such is the compression of his writing, Dawkins considers the style of the tale, in the sense of its use of language. He makes us see that it is neither literal (as in SF) nor figurative (as in allegory). He gets us to understand that it is pure writing vibrating back and forth between sense and nonsense, creating an abundance of possible meaning by its very blankness, now seen as a synergy of void and excess. Thus he allows us to come to the insight of a third and fourth trait of blank literature, its indeterminacy of sense allied to a non-standard use of language, neither literal nor figurative, but neutral.

Dawkins is aware that he may be pushing his readers (the readers of his tweets, whom we may call his « tweaders ») too far without signposts to guide them. He knows that he has to convince them of the value of a type of literature whose multiple levels of meaning are not obvious at first sight, that requires us to think. He does this by means of a joke, « I don’t get it », implying that we need to work at understanding the tale, perhaps even re-read it several times, discuss it with others, read some other works, etc. If even such a great mind as Dawkins’ doesn’t get Kafka’s tale straight away, we say to ourselves, it is normal that readers such as we must struggle to understand it. This is Dawkins’ way of sugar-coating the bitter pill that reading a literary text requires hard work and much thought – thus conveying the fifth trait of blank literature, its very indeterminacy is a feature, not a flaw, it is deliberate, it makes us think.

The final remark on Freudian and feminist interpretations is a simple corollary of this fifth trait (of indeterminacy and multiple meanings) and need not be commented on.

This is my long-winded attempt to unpack what Dawkins’ was able to express in such concise form to his followers, many of whom are still mired in the rudimentary scientism that does not even allow them to properly understand the science side of the great divide, and leaves them totally uncomprehending of the literature side. Such clarity and courage must be saluted.

Appendix – Richard Dawkins’ magic Kafka tweet:

Kafka’s Metamorphosis is called a major work of literature. Why? If it’s SF it’s bad SF. If, like Animal Farm, it’s an allegory, an allegory of what? Scholarly answers range from pretentious Freudian to far-fetched feminist. I don’t get it. Where are the Emperor’s clothes?https://twitter.com/RichardDawkins/status/1401239365678997506

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TENET AND THE DELEUZE/ZIZEK PARALLAX (1): expanded logics and temporal figurations

I was powerfully impressed by TENET as philosophical figuration and wrote a first review soon after seeing it, on the basis of the Deleuze/Zizek parallax that I have been developing on this blog. Kent Palmer responded to my review, trying to spell out the details of the film in a more extended set of terms.

We do not agree on some of the details, but our two reviews can be seen as complementary, constituting a Blake/Palmer parallax around the film TENET taken as an anamorphic object of thought. Kent Palmer’s style of thought is more architectonic, whereas mine is more heuristic.

To restate our points of agreement (1-4), before going further (5- ):

1) TENET lends itself to philosophical interpretation as it dramatises, gives figural form to, an ongoing contemporary meta-paradigmatic change in the images of time, thought and logic, and a meta-ontological change in the images of Being.

2) The Zizek/Deleuze parallax is a fruitful heuristic device for the investigation of the figurative, philosophical and cultural documents that participate in that meta-paradigmatic change, seen as meta-noetic (a change in the way of thinking) and meta-ontological (a change in the vision of Being).

3) An important part of this meta-noetic and meta-ontological change is logical, requiring the apprenticeship of non-standard modes of thought, widening of our thought-images to include modal, temporal, intuitionist, and para-consistent logics as « ordinary » procedures of thinking and living.

4) Both styles (architectonic and heuristic) are necessary, constituting a useful meta-parallax for exploring the widest (and wildest) field of thought and also for opening and following multiple passages between different conceptual domains.

5) TENET is a story of individuation in the Nietzschean-Jungian sense of becoming who one is. The main character (whom we may call « Prot ») is nameless (and clueless) until he gains enough knowledge and experience to name himself the « Protagonist ».

6) Given the ignorance, subterfuge, and uncertainty that preside over all stages of the plot this self-identification as the Protagonist can only be a hypothesis. Prot learns to live in a world in which identity is unstable, conjectural.

7) The non-standard logic of time figured in the film is well described by the topological logic of non-orientable surfaces that Zizek that Zizek expounds in SEX AND THE FAILED ABSOLUTE. Kent and I disagree one some of the details, but we agree that the equivalents of the Moebius Strip, the cross-cap, and the Klein Bottle can be found in TENET, thus obliging Prot, the proto-Protagonist to think time differently.

Note: Kent Palmer has a different set of equivalences for the unorientable surfaces.

8) The equivalent of this temporal and topological logic in terms of formal logic is in Deleuze’s immanent use of the three syntheses. For me, the immanent connective synthesis is expressed by the moebius strip of the forward and backward timelines of the objects and characters.

9) The disjunctive synthesis is the set of doubles and alternatives such that we never know for certain who is who in relation to the unorientable timelines (Max/Neil, Ives/Sir Michael Cosby, Prot/Protagonist), we have only conjectures.

10) The conjunctive synthesis is effectuated by Prot when he realises he is the Protagonist, he is behind the recruitment, training, and briefing (always incomplete) of all the other characters, and also of their « retirement » when necessary. Neil realising that he must go back in time to his death to open the gate is also a case of the conjunctive synthesis, but it is based on a transcendent use of the disjunctive synthesis, as he thinks this is his « fate ».

Note: Kent Palmer has a different set of equivalences for the three syntheses.

11) For me the film recounts Prot’s initiation into and apprenticeship of Wild Being in Deleuze’s sense of (extra-)Being:

concepts are the things themselves, but things in a free and wild state, outside all the « anthropological predicates » (DIFFERENCE AND REPETITION xx-xxi, translation modified by me).

Wild Being is an expanded de-anthropologized version of Being, a form of meta-Being.

12) This is where my interpretation differs most from Kent’s. I see no need for Hyper-Being except as a term for the contracted state of Wild Being embodied in singularities such as the turnstiles (where the hyper-twist occurs). Nor do I see any need for the other types of Being that he posits.

In this piece I have concentrated on the points of agreement between our two reviews, while indicating the points of disagreement as well. I prefer to see these two points of view as not giving rise to polemic and debate focused on deciding who is right but as occasions for « free and wild » exchange, in an ongoing « divergent dialogue ».

Anyone interested in Continental Philosophy who has not yet dived into the rich and varied set of writings assembled on Kent Palmer’s academia.edu page have been missing out on a unique experience of conceptual expansion.

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LOGIC OF SENSE AND DIVERGENT DIALOGUE: the architectonic/heuristic parallax

My review of Christopher Nolan’s TENET is in part the result of my ongoing engagement with Zizek’s SEX AND THE FAILED ABSOLUTE and in part a homage to the concepts and perspective of Bernard Stiegler, but its underlying logic comes from my reading of Deleuze:

Christopher Nolan’s TENET: Absolute Knowledge as living with temporal paradox | AGENT SWARM (wordpress.com)

Kent Palmer responded to my review here:

(PDF) Philosophical Interpretation of the Film Tenet | Kent Palmer – Academia.edu

I see our two reviews as complementary. Kent Palmer’s style of thought is more architectonic, whereas my is more heuristic, but we agree that:

1) TENET lends itself to philosophical interpretation as it dramatises an ongoing contemporary meta-paradigmatic change in the images of thought and a meta-ontological change in the images of Being.

2) The Zizek-Deleuze parallax is a very fruitful heuristic device for investigation the philosophical and cultural documents that participate in that change.

3) An important part of this meta-noetic and meta-ontological change is logical, the widening of our thought-images to include modal, temporal, intuitionist, and paraconsistent logics as « ordinary » procedures of thinking and living.

4) Both of these styles (architectonic and heuristic) are useful for exploring the widest field of thought and for opening and following passages between different conceptual domains.

These shared considerations underlie our engagement in the Deleuze and Guattari Quarantine Collective @DandGqc initiative and our own ongoing series of dialogues on Deleuze’s LOGIC OF SENSE.

We have each written a preface to our meta-dialogue on LOGIC OF SENSE.

My preface can be found here:

LOGIC BY OTHER MEANS: On the Preface to LOGIC OF SENSE | AGENT SWARM (wordpress.com)

and Kent Palmer’s preface is available here:

(PDF) Logic of Sense Commentary: Preface | Kent Palmer – Academia.edu

The first steps in our conversation, setting it up as paradox-based and transversal in method, can be found here:

Dialogue on LOGIC OF SENSE (1): A Love of Paradox and Strange Loops | AGENT SWARM (wordpress.com)

A further step involves the broadening and pluralising of logic that is at work in Deleuze’s LOGIC OF SENSE:

Dialogue on LOGIC OF SENSE (2): Wild Logic and Non-Standard Negation | AGENT SWARM (wordpress.com)

Next there is the consideration of sense as the principle of variance in Deleuze’s Fregean dualisation of sense and reference:

Dialogue on LOGIC OF SENSE (3): (Un)folding the Möbius Strip | AGENT SWARM (wordpress.com)

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The Role of the Roll of the Dice in Logic of Sense: why does Deleuze call it the « Ideal » Game »?

Why does Deleuze speak of the dice throw as the « Ideal » game in Series 10 of LOGIC OF SENSE, given that he has done so much in the text up to that point to deconstruct and to « invert » Platonism? Is not the term « ideal » so compromised by its associations not only with the Platonic Idea but also with a transcendent and unattainable point of reference?

I think that Deleuze’s use of the word « ideal » should be understood not as deriving it from « idea » but rather as a backward formation from « ideality » (as a way of designating a possibly non-platonic replacement concept for « idea »). From « idea » (platonic) we get « ideality » (non-platonic, Husserlian) by contrast, and then « ideal » by retro-derivation.

I think that the problem arises from Deleuze’s at first sight inconsistent usage, because he is careful elsewhere in LOGIC OF SENSE to distinguish two terms: « idéal » and « idéel ». However, the translation confuses things. In French « ideal » as derived from « Idea » is written « idéal », and as derived from idealities is written « idéel ».

The translator has several possible solutions for avoiding the ugly neologism « ideel » in English.

For example, in Series 02 bottom page 7 he translates « idéel » as « ideational », and the relation with « ideal » is lost.

The same thing happens on page 8 « Becoming unlimited (I think it would be more accurate to translate this as « unlimited becoming »). comes to be the ideational (i.e. « idéel ») and incorporal event ». The same thing again in series 03, page 19 « ideational (« idéelle ») material or stratum ».

The turning point comes on page 20 where Deleuze identifies « the ideational (‘idéel’) objective unity » explicitly as Husserl’s « noema », and both with surface effects. So « idéel » ( « ideational » in English) means noetic.

If we bear in mind that Deleuze in series 02 declares that the surface effects « form the entire Idea » and that they represent « all possible ideality…stripped of its causal and spiritual efficacy », then he can now be more relaxed in his terminology, talking about idealities (series 09 & 10), and using « ideal » and « ideational » mostly interchangeably, under the proviso that neither of these terms means « mental » or « spiritual » any more.

A further question is: why does Deleuze talk all through Series 11 of the dice throw as the « ideal » game when his principle examples (tennis, croquet, the « caucus-race » in ALICE IN WONDERLAND, the Queen’s croquet match played with flamingoes as mallets and hedgehogs as balls, Borges’s « Babylonian lottery », Mallarmé’s Book) do not involve any dice at all.

One answer is to note that the repeated translation of « coup » as « throw » obscures the project of this chapter, which is to give a general theory of games, both the « known » games that we are familiar with and the unknown « ideal » game that is their quintessential generic form.

« Coup » in French can mean throw, but also « move », as in moves of whatever type in a game of whatever type. To conserve the desired generality of the analysis it would be better to translate it as « move », especially as Deleuze makes use of another term « lancer », to cast, when he wants to specifically talk about a dice-throw.

Another confusion comes from the sense of « ideal » which can mean to the highest (and perhaps unattainable) degree or to the most quintessential degree. The ideal game, as we have seen, means the noetic game, that which synthesises the most essential aspects of the diverse noematic and empirical games.

It should be noted that the whole chapter is an extended commentary on one of Mallarmé’s most famous poems, which is only mentioned at the end, A THROW OF THE DICE WILL NEVER ABOLISH CHANCE. This literary subtext will escape many readers as the only mention of this poem (page 67, 3 lines from the end) is obscured by the fact that the title is given in its truncated form by Deleuze, and the translation omits the capital letters, so the reader only sees « the dice-throw« , and may not even realise that it is a title.

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DE-QUANTIFYING HYPERMODERNITY: From Algorithmic Re-Set to Noetic Hyper-Set

Do we really need a new term such as « hypermodernity » to serve as journalistic slogan for the ennui of a society whose lexical narcissism serves to hide that it is just an nth neo-remix, more of the same?

Michael Aaron Kamins, philosopher-poet and author of two collections of poetry dealing with our contemporaneity, ABSENCES (2014) and CLOUDS (2020), is of the opinion that this vocable can serve to name our epoch with no name, an epoch that prefers to name itself indirectly, in terms of letters denoting its component generations (Gen X, Y, and Z).

In a highly compressed overview of his thought, Kamins diagnoses a certain toxicity behind the current confusion of names and movements, as the toxic cloud of CO2 enveloping the planet is relayed and reinforced by toxic digitisation.

The Great Reset is a propaganda mirage covering over the fact that our world is already in a constant movement of disruptive re-set as we tend towards integral digitisation in the Cloud of (Ideological) unknowing.

The current threat is one of destructive integration within an Algorithm capable of reverting the time of life into an anti-entropic parody of creativity that disrupts and destroys everything, including the Earth we live on. Earth itself has become an alien planet surrounded by a toxic cloud of physical and digital poison, and we need to re-terraform it.

For Kamins the liberatory potential of post-modernism was instantly annihilated by its cynical literalisation. The Absolute was freed at last from its metaphysical containers, but this short-lived freedom was annulled by its collapse into concrete reality. A reified absolute, as Kamins’ analysis shows drives us into absolute dependence and absolute addiction.

There is no way to put the Absolute back in a box, not even in the giant box of Terra Calculata. Kamins proposes to move from Re-set to Hyper-set, from digital and biochemical toxicities to noetic vaporicities.

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François Laruelle used to be a controversial figure in Continental Philosophy circles, but now all controversy has ceased. There is a circle of believers, and they refuse all dialogue with the non-credulous, they reject all critical input. The overall style is euphoric eudoxa, a celebration of the master’s ideas as « performations » and of the meta-infallibility they grant.


A first reaction to reading Laruelle is often a feeling of discomfort: his obscurantist style, high abstraction, undefined or poorly defined terms, undecipherable syntax, the low visibility (or non-existence) of arguments, simplistic caricatures of rivals and adversaries. Laruelleans close their eyes to these defects, and celebrate the performative adequation of his style to its subject matter.


After reading Laruelle we feel even more disoriented than before, frustrated in our search for an orientation. The actual orientations that we can extract from his texts seem wrong-headed, hyper-incomplete, unverifiable or easily falsified. Does Laruelle know where he is going? More to the point, do his readers know where he is going?


We are led to ask does Laruelle even know what he is talking about? Obscurantism as a device for estranging us from our ordinary views and habits is one thing, the recourse to a systematic obscurantism that can only be mimicked but never illuminated is another. The only result to be observed in his followers is being at home in the euphoric jargon of performativity.


These questions and reservations are pertinent to Laruelle’s metaphysical research programme as he has always maintained that his non-philosophy is a science. His scientism combined with his obscurantism severely limit the testability of his assertions, revealed to be not scientific but « science-ish ».


We can only endorse Laruelle’s (never-successful) attempt to distinguish his own position from scientism, and reject the ever-present obscurantist miasma of his science-ish-ism. We conclude that science is not Laruelle’s object, nor even his method. Science is Laruelle’s shadow.

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Deleuze as a philosopher is interested in the new and in the creation of concepts. In LOGIC OF SENSE Deleuze proposes both a new concept of logic and a new concept of sense.

This new concept of logic develops a non-standard logic that suspends or relativises some or perhaps all of the rules of classical logic. From the beginning the law of non-contradiction is set aside in the « paradox of infinite identity » of before and after.

The concept of sense, in turn, is developed outside of the familiar philosophical and logical schemas. Both logic and concept are paradox-based: sense is a paradoxical non-existent entity, requiring a paradoxical logic.

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

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

Full text here.

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