WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? (1): the event of the question

Benjamin Hagen quotes and comments on the beginning lines of Deleuze and Guattari’s WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? I would like to prolong his comments, but first I will need to re-translate the opening lines:

Peut-être ne peut-on poser la question Qu’est-ce que la philosophie ? que tard, quand vient la vieillesse, et l’heure de parler concrètement.

“Perhaps one can pose the question What is philosophy? only late, when old age, and thetime to speak concretely, comes”.

In French the book begins with “Perhaps”, a remarkable beginning for a book of philosophy, in the element of doubt and conjecture, rather than of dogma and mastery. Such a question is posed by the Idiot, who does not act in the situation according to the habitual sensori-motor schemas, but whose attention is concentrated on a question deeper than the situation, concerning the event hidden within the situation and not its current actualisation. The pronoun is “one”, the “fourth person of the singular”, the pronoun is that associated with the impersonal event. The question takes us out of the confines of chronological time or Chronos into the time of the event, Aion. So the “old age” in question is not a chronologically situated stage of life, but a type of event, an intensive moment when the stereotypes are removed and the abstractions abandonned in favour of speaking concretely (another event, signalled in French by the infinitive).

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3 Responses to WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? (1): the event of the question

  1. Reblogged this on Sketching a Present and commented:
    In complete agreement with Terence Blake over at Agent Swarm here. I’m thankful for his re-translation of D&G’s opening sentence. I wonder if the phrase “que tard” (“only late” rather than “late in life”) and the importance of intensity rather than chronology might resonate with Edward Said’s writings on lateness and late style? Said is clear that lateness came come upon an artist of any age, after all. Said might not jive with D&G otherwise, but I think there’s something here.


    • terenceblake says:

      I could not say for Said, but I have always thought of the pluralist post-Jungian analyst James Hillman who has analysed the interplay of puer and senex, at any age. The puer is tied to rapidity and certainty, ascension, very often superficial and literal-minded, the senex is tied to slowness and doubt, descending, very often deep and metaphorical.


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