Reading WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? (4): dramatised prototypes and the high degree

In WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? Deleuze and Guattari desire to « speak concretely ». As we have argued, a book of philosophy can be read by means of the hypothesis that it is proposing criteria by which to judge not only its interlocutors, but also its own conceptual creation.

We may take the concept of « speaking concretely » both as one of the tasks of the book and as one of its criteria, and ask to what extent does the book satisfy this criterion.

The book begins with a composite concept (late, old age, the hour to speak concretely) serving to specify more concretely the circumstances for posing the question « What is philosophy? »

The rest of the lengthy first paragraph further specifies and dramatises the title-question, proposing two different scenarios for posing it, or two prototypical cases, exhibiting both the high degree of satisfying the concept and the low degree, its opposing prototype. As we have seen concepts are concrete universals – they are dramatised prototypes rather than structural archetypes. A useful rule of thumb, part of the implicit methodology of the book, is wherever possible one should pass from abstract universals to dramatised prototypes.

The high degree is exemplified by the scenario of one asking the question concretely and directly, at the height of old age, « seized » by it, « soberly », with a « sovereign freedom » and a « pure necessity ». In contrast, the low degree is illustrated by the younger, more abstract approach to asking the question, whose element is « domination » rather than freedom.

This coincidence of opposites (seizure and sobriety, freedom and necessity) does not lead to a neutral state but rather to a state of high intensity, signalled also by the markers of a high degree (« sovereign », « pure ») of the sub-concepts deployed.

The existence of these sub-concepts is enough to show that the slogan « philosophy is the creation of concepts » is incomplete and potentially misleading. For Deleuze and Guattari philosophy is also conceptual analysis (and synthesis).

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7 commentaires pour Reading WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? (4): dramatised prototypes and the high degree

  1. landzek dit :

    I sent your book out today.


  2. landzek dit :

    Have you read Harman’s Tool Being?


  3. dmf dit :

    certainly misleading if one takes it as all they did or even what Deleuze was likely striving for, incisive if one takes it as what they did that remains useful for tasks beyond the forms/formulas of seminars.
    case in point here MBM valiantly tries to revive Deleuze on Intensity against a variety of heterodox attempts at instrumentalization/concretization and yet it all falls apart in the Q&A…

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  4. Ethan NOPE dit :

    Seems so much of close reading is attempting a tautology of the concepts found in /whatever/ one happens to be reading and then testing back against that reading, which can be an interesting process, but I imagine that, with the plentitude of mixed metaphors Deleuze tends to employ, that that testing would be difficult at best—all of which to say: it seems you have undertaken quite the task, one which is definitely fun to observe through your posts.

    I remember reading in one of your posts something about creative reading, wherein you engage with a degree of freedom with others concepts, deriving novel thought therefrom; is this your process with close reading as well, or is the express purpose more towards merely understanding the author?

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    • terenceblake dit :

      These are very interesting questions. Tautology is necessary, as Deleuze and Guattari affirm that concepts are self-positing and self-referential. Testability is my meta-criterion in reading, as I consider that the text is constantly setting up criteria, so that one can seek to assess whether it actually satisfies its own criteria and also assess the value of these criteria themselves. These questions (What are the criteria? Are they satisfied? What’s so great about these particular criteria?) help to read closely but also permit more degrees of freedom than an « empiricist » idea of close reading. If we read the text as a heuristic process then we can invent new thought in close relation to it, playing off concepts against criteria and vice versa, as part of what Deleuze and Guattari call an « athleticism » of the concept.

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