A CLOSE READING IS NOT A CLOSED READING

In various places Deleuze expressed the desire to construct a “pop-philosophy”. Deleuze’s demanding books show that to desire to elaborate a pop-philosophy does not mean being committed to a demagogical anti-intellectual hostility to theory, concepts or erudition. A pop-philosophy in Deleuze’s terms is the same thing as pragmatic philosophy, meaning a thought that has an immediate appeal to readers who find in it something useful for their lives and thinking.

This is not an apology for unbridled freedom of opinion or narcissistic self-expression, which is something that Deleuze abhorred. A pop-philosophy must have enough analysis, argument, and conceptual backbone to make it a real contribution to philosophy, and not just a licence for opinionating or free-associating or superficially commenting on a theme.

Deleuze and Guattari propose the term “deterritorialising” to express the fact that all interpreting is re-appropriating, and that a useful reading 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 and collective closure).

So a “close” reading as a deterritorialising reading captures what I admire in many thinkers who creatively engage with the tradition. A contemporary example would be the creative practice of Bruno Latour, whose readings of James, Souriau, and Whitehead, or even of Greimas, do not respect the hermeneutical closure of the interpretive schools that have grown up around them, but take them off in surprising directions.

Deleuze and Guattari often condemn the sort of superficial commentary that we can find in many intellectual discussions, and so they call for a relation to the outside, not closure. Their slogan is “Don’t interpret, use!” Closure is the opposite of what is needed if you are writing a pluralist text, which calls for the adhesion and the collaboration of the people who encounter it: it requires democracy.

This is why Deleuze and Guattari call for a relation to the outside, against the hegemony of special groups and against un-democratic closure. To be sure, some closure is necessary to avoid chaos, pointless polemics and superficial bickering. But more generally closure is one possible result, it is not the condition of a fecund inquiry,

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One Response to A CLOSE READING IS NOT A CLOSED READING

  1. {AK}: I’m not so sure if the idea of a “pop-philosophy” gets at the essence of the holistic & transformational nature of “philosophical” activity. To treat it as a peripheral “add-on” modularity to the everyday”, in a way, reflects the kind of limitation that Philosophy questions. Again, there are “philosophies” that emerge out of the everyday, too.
    Lasch’s Culture of Narcisissm hasn’t gone away, as the driver of the very system whose surface etiquettes have now become holding patterns of polite consumption. Giving a ‘free expression’ to the core components of this driver makes it available for consideration of its workings. Besides that, is the autoaffective really so simple to determine, that one can accept current characterisations & practices of it as definitive?

    [Terence Blake]: “But more generally closure is one possible result, it is not the condition of a fecund inquiry,”

    {AK}: I like this, it’s a nice line.
    But the core issue hasn’t gone away.
    Fecundity could be both redolent of Capitalism & an ideology of unlimited growth; & of ‘liberty’ or ‘Freedom’. The proportionality of contexts which would determine these characterisations is not at all certain, indeed they usually operate simultaneously, notwithstanding any epistemological self-awareness of communal groupings, or sociopolitical representations of these contextual forces.

    Like

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