Strong Reading = Deterritorialising Reading

In a previous post about possible theological residues in ALL THINGS SHINING I argued that certain terms employed (such as « gift », « gratitude », « authority ») must be understood as being profferred « under erasure », to neutralise their potentially onto-theological connotations. I regretted the elusive ambiguity with which these terms were being used by D&K and made my contribution to an eventual clarification.

As to the expression “under erasure”, I use it as a shorthand device to indicate the difference between employing a word in an immanent usage (with no onto-theological signification or function) and employing that same word in a transcendent usage (in an attempt to speak outside language games). A device to a similar purpose could be that of the substitution of one word for another. For example, given the possible “transcendent” usage of the word “truth” I sometimes replace it with “ideology”, and it puts the passages where Heidegger talks about cases of « truth » establishing itself in a different light if we think of it as listing cases of ideology establishing itself (for example in « On the Origin of the Work of Art » where Heidegger lists five such cases:

“One essential way in which truth establishes itself in the beings it has opened up is truth setting itself into work [the artwork]. Another way in which truth occurs is the act that founds a political state. Still another way in which truth comes to shine forth is the nearness of that which is not simply a being, but the being that is most of all. Still another way in which truth grounds itself is the essential sacrifice. Still another way in which truth becomes is the thinker’s questioning, which, as the thinking of being names being in its question-worthiness.”

Of course, the word “ideology” itself has possible transcendent connotations and I recommend its use only provisionally, as a thought experiment. Zizek defines ideology in terms of a gathering of practices, so I am not being particularly “strong” here.
This engagement towards immanence, which I think D&K share, may occasionally deform my comprehension of remarks such as those by Charles Spinosa here, and if so I am sorry and will amend. For me “extra-human authority” is an ambiguous expression, but it is quite compatible with an immanent interpretation, although as I have indicated I am not comfortable with the personnological connotation of “authority” – there remains a whiff of God’s commanding in this word. As one may have noticed, I have made no suggestion as to a more acceptable word to replace it. Deleuze, in a similar context, talks of an impersonal “power”, but this is almost as unsatisfactory. Of course, the problem here is at least in part an artefact of the translation into English. Deleuze has devoted many pages to the reworking and creative explicating of the notion of power as “puissance” (power as capacity), and to distinguishing it from that of “pouvoir” (power as constraint exercised over another). I am not aware that Sean or Bert or Spinosa have done a similar job on “authority” (and its use as integral to the ATS project calls out for explication), but if they have I will gladly read and meditate whatever references they can suggest. On the other hand, the expression “authority beyond the human” seems more fraught because “beyond” has not just a spatial connotation (including of course conceptual space) but also a qualitative one, so stuck next to the already dubious “authority” it reactivates my suspicions of onto-theological slippage.
The comparison with Deleuze is interesting as I often think of Deleuze and Parnet’s DIALOGUES II ( in relation to ATS, and of Deleuze’s oft expressed desire to construct a pop-philosophy – which I think expresses part of D&K’s ambition for ATS (please forgive the abbreviation D&K, but I like the analogy with Deleuze and Guattari, often abridged to D&G). As Sean’s and Charles’ interventions show, pop-philosophy does not mean a demagogical anti-intellectual hostility to theory or concepts or erudition. Pop-philosophy has an immediate appeal to readers who find something useful for their lives (and thinking, as your fifth case of truth establishing itself recalls, is essential to the human form of life); but it must also have enough conceptual backbone to make it reaally a contribution to philosophy and not just opinionating or free-associating on a theme. Their indications of the conceptual underpinnings of ATS and of their own interventions are welcome reminders that they are just spouting opinions off the top of their head, but articulating clearly and creatively a long path of philosophical investigations.

Another example of a strong reading is Stanley Cavell’s reading of Wittgenstein in THIS NEW YET UNNAPPROACHABLE AMERICA, which “allegorises”, as he calls it, the letter of W’s descriptions. Cavell does not just free associate, he relies on the fact that W read and admired Spengler to re-vision his examples of language-games through Spenglerian glasses. This lets us see that the examples of the builders and of the grocery-shopper are not just devices to dissolve the assumptions of russellian- or tractarian-type approaches to language. They are also dealing with contemporary issues of the impoverishment of language, the simplification of desire, the regression to more primitive subjectivities, the lack of imagination or freedom. These themes are present everywhere in W but it requires the passage by a strong reading to get us to see it.
Deleuze and Guattari would refuse the word “allegorise” for its connotation of the dichotomy of appearance vs reality in a context where we are trying to get away from the sometimes misleading implications it can convey. They propose “deterritorialise” to express the fact that re-appropriating involves suspending the implicit limitations that a given context can place on words and expressions that are capable of resonating on many different levels and in many different contexts. This is not a case of giving words arbitrarily just any meaning, but of freeing them from their stereotypic acceptions in the discourse of the One (including the One of academic scholarship). So “strong” reading as deterritorialising reading captures what I admire in many thinkers who creatively engage with the tradition.
This, I think, is what Sean and Bert are doing in ATS: deterritorialising Heidegger’s analyses and concepts to apply them in new ways to new contexts. It takes mastery to deterritorialise in this way, and not caprice. This is why I like their book and their project, even though I think it does not go far enough as yet. There is their lack of clarity about possible “theological” (in the philosophical sense!) readings that can be given. Here I can only agree with Spinosa when he says “Like others, I am waiting for Sean to say more” on this subject. The other concern is that D&K avoid any reference to power-relations, except very indirectly in their talk of « marginal » practices – which cannot be just a statistical notion of minorities neutrally juxtaposed to a majority, but implies some notion of dominance and resistance. Here too “I am waiting”.

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7 commentaires pour Strong Reading = Deterritorialising Reading

  1. dmf dit :

    I wish that ATS was as you strongly mis-read it here a work of a « minor » literature (as Charlie Winquist, after D&G, tried to recast theology, a kind of precursor to « weak » philo/theo) but they make too many Author-itative appeals to Major/canonical works of literature, and have a similar reliance on the Good being beautiful/shiny in terms of evoking public responses to Quality in sports and such to ignore, ignoring all of the social/political factors at work in such affairs/events. I like the gist of Cavell on Witt but his work is too wrapped up in psychoanalysis and for me too caught up in the golden age of film, too much about him (tho I liked much of his autobio and would recommend it for aspiring academics). I think that the pop book that you are describing is actually Ethics without Philosophy: Wittgenstein and the Moral Life. By James C. Edwards and the sequel The Plain Sense of things.Or maybe those are still too teacherly and we need a new truly pop book yet, but surely not another volume of ATS.


  2. dmf dit :

    hi, have you read this fellow Raymond Ruyer and if so what do you make of him? thanks


  3. terenceblake dit :

    Sorry, I can’t tell you anything useful. I read him about 30 years ago because Deleuze and Guattari refer to him for his philosophy of forms and morphogenesis. There is some good stuff in Ronald Bogue’s DELEUZE ON MUSIC PAINTING AND THE ARTS. Here:


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