Deleuze effectuated a pluralist rupture with his own previous thought in his collaboration with Guattari, in the light of which he saw his ealier philosophy as insufficiently pluralist. According to Deleuze he had been confined up til then to saying the multiple instead of doing or making the multiple. Badiou’s critique is a watered down and distorted version of Deleuze’s own auto-critique.

Most of Badiou’s critique applies not to Deleuze himself, but rather to a Deleuzian doxa, a “Deleuzist” misunderstanding of Deleuze. However, Badiou is on to something concerning the pre-Guattari Deleuze, even if he is unable to recognise or accept the transformation in his thought that Deleuze effectuated thanks to his encounter Guattari. At least Badiou can see that there was something that had to be transformed.

Deleuze’s fundamental problem is most certainly not to liberate the multiple but to submit thinking to a renewed concept of the One…We can therefore first state that one must carefully identify a metaphysics of the One in the work of Deleuze (Badiou, DELEUZE, 11).

Alain Badiou’s DELEUZE, THE CLAMOR OF BEING was published in French in 1997. He isolates what he calls a “metaphysics of the One” in Deleuze’s work, without referencing, and seemingly  being unaware of, François Laruelle’s related critique of the philosophies of difference, begun in 1981 in his THE PRINCIPLE OF MINORITY. Laruelle advances a similar critique to that elaborated by Badiou, diagnosing a monist residue, a continued adhesion to a metaphysics of the One, as being the source of Deleuze’s failure to break through Representation.

Laruelle’s solution is to produce a new concept of the One that is not bound by Badiou’s opposition between “liberating the multiple” outside metaphysics or “submitting to a renewed concept of the One” inside metaphysics. His solution is to propose and explore the consequences of  a renewed concept of the One that is not metaphysical, with the explicit goal of liberating the multiple. In the preface to THE PRINCIPLE OF MINORITY Laruelle declares that this is the driving intellectual and emotional force behind his concept of “the One without unity”.

One should re-read Deleuze’s “Letter to a Severe Critic” (1973) not only as a defence against criticism, but also from the point of view of its being an auto-critique, that his previous concepts were sedimenting into an academic doxa, and as conceding too much to the domain of representation. It is important to note that after DIFFERENCE AND REPETITION and LOGIC OF SENSE Deleuze let drop the problematic of difference, to turn to a theory and practice of free multiplicities.

Laruelle’s non-metaphysical concept of the “One without unity” is a far more adequate description of Deleuze’s position than Badiou’s reading of it as embodying a metaphysics of the One as opposed to a problematic of non-unitary multiplicities. Deleuze’s LETTER TO A SEVERE CRITIC (1973) contains a very useful description of the impasse that a representational philosophy of difference leads to, and of the need to break with the mere representation of multiplicity in favour of a performative enunciation and enactment of free multiplicities.

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  1. JH says:

    Does Badiou talk of Guattari?


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