DELEUZE AND CRITIQUE

On the subject of Deleuze and “critique”: despite his explicit pronouncements against the critical attitude, Deleuze in practice gave a lot of importance to critique. There is not only his critique of Freud and Lacan, but more generally his critique of the dogmatic image of thought.

This critical approach is even inscribed in his lexical choices, where there is an abundance of vocabulary with the negative prefixes of “un”, “in-“, “de-“, “a-“, “dis-” and “non-“. Key terms such as “unconscious”, “indiscernible”, “de-territorialisation”, “a-signifying”, “dis-junction”, “non-philosophical”, etc. abound in Deleuze’s texts. Thus, contrary to a popular image, Deleuze used negativity quite a lot, but he subordinated it to movement and process rather than to negation.

Further, while I love Deleuze’s thought and traversed the planet to attend his seminars, I do not think he is without fault on the question of critical discussion and dialogue. His own philosophical style is incredibly controlled, to the point of repeating over a 30 year period explications phrased in exactly the same terms. There is more than a little “micro-fascism” in his style.

Deleuze’s refusal of dialogue can be understood, but it is ultimately based on a fallacy: you cannot legitimately conclude from the non-utility of certain specific types of dialogue to the universal non-utility and non-desirability of all dialogue. This conclusion itself contains too much negativity. I think Deleuze’s ideas and the clarity of their expression could have been improved by dialogue.

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