Transcript of a conversation between Terence Blake and Kent Palmer on Deleuze’s LOGIC OF SENSE, Series 1:
Audio recording of the conversation: https://www.academia.edu/video/kxJ9R1 and on Mediafire:
Audio recording of the conversation: https://www.academia.edu/video/kxJ9R1 and on Mediafire: https://www.mediafire.com/file/r2w62p9q8mka0p5/DeleuzeLoS20210311conversation01_finalized.mp3/file
Excerpt (the full recording is an hour and a half):
Kent Palmer 00:00
This is Kent Palmer of the Continental Philosophy Discord server in conversation with Terence Blake on Deleuze’s Logic of Sense. Today is 3/11/2021. We are reading Logic of Sense on the Deleuze and Guattari Quarantine Collective Discord server. Having just started, we are on the first series of the book, but I thought it might be worthwhile to step back and consider the broader perspective concerning the book as a whole, and where it fits into Continental Philosophy and Deleuze’s works more generally. Not everything can be said that should be said about the books in the reading group format. I’ve already done an introductory set of comments about the book as a commentary on the preface. Now Terence and I will discuss a few questions that might set the stage for an understanding of the book as a whole and its context. So welcome, Terence.
Terence Blake 01:08
Hello Kent, thanks for inviting me for this conversation.
Kent Palmer 01:12
Yes, I’m really looking forward to it. I have prepared a series of questions and I thought what we would do is, you know, I will just ask you the questions and get your response, and then we can have a conversation about each one and see where that goes.
So the first question is what is your background in philosophy and how did you get interested in Deleuze?
Terence Blake 01:27
My basic interest in training in philosophy was fairly analytic at the beginning. So, I began with Bertrand Russell’s stuff including his mathematical logic, including Principia Mathematica, that I worked on all by myself in high school, Frege, Reichenbach, Carnap, all the Logical Positivists, and Wittgenstein. And then Quine. At the same time, I was reading lots of Spinoza, Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Freud, and Sartre.
And then when I started university, I had to sort of limit myself at first, in philosophy, to the epistemology and philosophy of science type of interest. So, I did a lot of research on Popper, and Kuhn, Lakatos and Feyerabend – that line of thought, and anything else in and around that sort of analysis. But little by little, I tried to unite my interest in Anglophone philosophy of science with my interest in what I discovered was referred to as « Continental » philosophy.
Little by little, I found that I was not finding conversational partners for talking about what I found interesting in Feyerabend, as the logical outcome of that tradition he situated himself in, and I came to think that I had a set of criteria that needed to be satisfied to make other philosophies interesting for me. I found that Feyerabend had the same problem that he was treated as crazy, or as writing literature, when in fact, he’s one of the most argumentatively organized and logical philosophers that you can imagine. It’s just he has a provocative style.
And I more or less set up a set of criteria that are sort of rules of thumb or heuristic criteria: that I wanted a philosophy that developed even further than Feyerabend’s, that would be pluralist without being relativist, so that would be in favor of pluralism and realism at the same time, that would be giving primacy to what I considered to have been subjugated in the philosophical tradition, that is to say, it would give primacy to multiplicities and becomings, that would need to have a doctrine or at least an idea, a worked out idea of Being, which is something that I found lacking in Feyerabend. This was in the in the 1970s. And there are a few other criteria that maybe we could talk about later.
At the same time I was surrounded by analytic philosophers. The only people who were interested in the sorts of problems that I was interested in were those who were interested in Continental Philosophy, especially in Althusser, Foucault, Derrida and Lacan. But I found them incredibly dogmatic. So I wanted to find a philosopher that would be a pluralist and a realist, having an idea of Being and that would be able to develop these ideas in dialogue with this Continental, more particularly French Continental, tradition.
And suddenly, I discovered Deleuze in 1979. And I taught myself French to be able to read his works, because very little of it was translated. And then I managed to get a French scholarship to come and study, attend the seminars of Deleuze and Foucault and Lyotard and Michel Serres in France. So I grabbed that opportunity. And finally, when the scholarship ran out, I had to work but I decided I wanted to stay and settle in France.
Later on, I discovered that towards the end of the 80s, I came to France in 1981, that towards the end of the 80s, Feyerabend had begun to develop an idea of Being that I found really interesting. So maybe I should’ve just stayed in Australia, and been patient and waited for to come up with his idea of Being. Maybe all my studies and experience in Paris was just a long, and avoidable, detour.
Kent Palmer 07:17
Oh, yeah, that’s very interesting. In fact it’s interesting to me, that I had a similar kind of trajectory. Because what happened to me is that I was in the United States, and I decided to go to school in England, and got accepted into the London School of Economics, and went there to go do sociology of religion, but when I got there, the whole school was basically immersed in philosophy of science, in different ways. And so slowly over time, I realized this, and changed my topic in order to align with what everyone else was doing.
But the difference between what I was doing and what they were doing was that these books on Continental Philosophy, were being translated at that time, especially Derrida. And so, I was interested in the Continental Philosophy, because I had started out interested in Oriental philosophy, but the teacher that I had also taught Husserl and Heidegger, so I had a kind of basis in Husserl and Heidegger, to then go in and try to understand these later authors like Derrida, that were just being translated at that time.
And so, I kind of dove into the Continental Philosophy, but within the context of trying to understand philosophy of sciences, which was being promulgated at that time at the London School of Economics and Imperial College. So, I did my PhD there, which I finished in 1982. And subsequently came back, you know, to America and had a career in software, and systems engineering, but I kept up my interest in philosophy throughout my career.
So I think that, for me, this is kind of like a perfect background for this discussion of Logic of Sense. Because, like I said in the little introduction to it that I wrote, part of what I did was to look at Russell’s theory of ramified, higher logical types, as a way of understanding the different kinds of Being that were being discovered in Continental Philosophy. But ramified, higher logical types kind of died in Analytic Philosophy due to Gödel’s theorem, and the fall out of that. And so I always wanted to find another book that kind of took that idea further. And when I read Logic of Sense years later, I felt like I had found that book that had gone to the next level of this consideration of the higher logical types as a way of understanding Being.
Terence Blake 10:39
I think that your trajectory is an example of Deleuze’s method in that the ramified hierarchy of types is both a technical invention as a contribution to a particular discussion on the foundations of mathematics and also, from the Deleuze’s point of view, it’s a conceptual creation. So, as you say, once the sort of discussion in philosophy of mathematics turned away from the hierarchy of types, it sort of became abandoned, although you get sort of resuscitations of it with people like Bateson in his book Steps to an Ecology of the Mind.
But from the Deleuze’s point of view, even if he’s not making a contribution to the foundations of mathematics, Russell did produce conceptual creations, that could be re-utilized in a quite different context, which is the nature of a concept for him. So that’s his method. And that’s why for him, the technical contexts can die, but the concepts don’t die. And he’s always made really effective use of that type of method be being able to borrow concepts from all sorts of different domains and contexts.