A Deleuzian Lung:

A Contribution to Sheffield’s Deleuze Reading Group

It is evidently no joke when we say the future century of thought is going to be Deleuzian. Being serious the evidently time has already begun to actualize this foresight. Out of all the rather brilliant French thinkers Deleuze’s popularity can be seen in several aspects of his extraordinary oeuvre; in his unique creativity; and that is why we need to continue reading him because we are also in pursuit of fresh concepts and their apparati (apparatus/a group of instruments working together). I am compelled to write this because sadly I can not join this reading group in person hopefully I will be there in the future but for a year or so longer I need to remain in Asia. So, I thought I would appear in writing; in writing a text to supplement these initial re-readings with more perspectives.

A ‘Deleuzian Lung’ comes from one’s remembrance of the horrible suffering Gille Deleuze endured in the final years of his life. Smoking obviously didn’t help but after his lung was removed pain increased and even more suffering entered his life. It is one of the more overlooked qualities of philosophers: as people practicing the activity of philosophy their lives often become unintentional odes to their own thinking. Deleuze is exemplar of this in that his own personal health battle is the hidden narrative of his public success in breathing new life into philosophy that had become too streamlined and over dependent on lineage and established narratives. Looking back at Deleuze I see someone who experienced the evil hollowing out capitalism performs and sought to offer alternatives. Today, I want to suggest a metaphor for reading Deleuze one with a current of clarity considering the Covid virus.

A ‘Deleuzian lung’ is no different to the medical technology of an ‘Iron Lung’ a device designed to allow a patient to continue breathing when their organs have failed them. It’s a deeply troubling image but as a starting point it allows an affirmation of the immanent purity and undeniable necessity of seriously engaging with the Deleuzian tomb/corpus. That is what he did within his thinking and in many ways I think concept-creation allows artists and lovers of wisdom to breath anew. Goodness knows we need to constantly remind ourselves to breath and indeed thinking purely negatively this inability for many to breath has been experienced as a bi-product of production and industry. Even without directly referencing the philosophical writings we can clearly see a positive value in taking time to ponder the simple act of breathing.

The organ called the Lung allows for a complex and miraculous process to take place. The act of ‘taking a breath’ carries forth imagery of pausing, time consolidation, an autonomy, and a freedom or freeing up. This object in our chest also serves as a starting point because its physiology mirrors how the academy often interprets Deleuze. As a successful inversion of Platonism. What exactly is meant by this? Well, if you picture the human lung it possesses a branch like structure (bronchia, , etc). A kind of inverted tree or simply roots… whereas a certain tradition interpreted Platonism by way of a tree, a tree of life, of wisdom, and of emanation from the One or toward the One. In contrast to Plato who started with universals (external forms) Deleuze sought them in immanence (internal forms). How did Deleuze arrive at this view?

Taking inspiration from the ancient stoics and Baruch Spinoza. Here are two contributors that can be a good starting point. For those interested in the importance of Spinoza Deleuze commited an entire book to him, ‘[Deleuze] claims that there are two different books existing simultaneously in the Ethics: one book of proofs, definitions, propositions, and the other, hidden and minor variation existing in the scholia.’{2} Before Deleuze started writing his own extremely rich work he was an interpreter of both Spinoza and Nietzsche and it is the close readings of these two thinkers that characterizes Deleuze as the preeminent thinker of difference; a difference that resides behind the one enabled and defined by otherness. Yet, from Spinoza Deleuze inherited conflicting concepts (passion or desire) and (immanence). From Nietzsche sheer unrelenting creativity the kind that enables a fresher keener sense of repetition.   

‘Difference then can be no more than a predicate in the comprehension of a concept. Aristotle constantly reminds us of this predicative character of specific difference, but he is forced to lend it strange powers such as that of attributing as much as that of being attributed, or of altering the genus as much as of modifying its quality. All of the ways in which specific difference seems to satisfy the requirements of a distinctive concept (purity, interiority, productivity, transportivity … ) are thus shown to be illusory, even contradictory, on the basis of this fundamental confusion.’  

A fundamental confusion? Excellent! Above we have an initial point one that Deleuze hones in on with his first master work Difference and Repetition. I think we can say that Deleuze attempted to offer an account of Spinoza’s all encompassing oneness and deterministic naturalism but without the need to see the problem of universals resolved by settling for a perspective that shows what we know to be a perpetual mimesis of a hidden form. Deleuze paused this Platonic fidelity and instead showed us how to understand the immediacy and urgency experienced in the momentary portrayals of the Form under different circumstances.

Being circumstantial in this way there are readings I would like to point out that I personally have found very rich. The first is from non other than Jaques Derrida and there are two sources I wish to share. The first is a great book that simultaneously provides descriptive accounts of what Deleuze & Derrida actually thought but also takes their thinking and manages to move it even further: ‘Between Deleuze & Derrida’ edited by Paul Patton and John Protevi {3}. At the beginning of Derrida’s lectures on Heidegger his words could well be describing the non-dialectical processes Deleuze’s thinking attempted to nurture. Next to this I read a blog post that details Deleuze’s importance to the visual arts; and ‘hats off’ to Greg Gerke for writing this{4}. Before Derrida’s unintentional paraphrase of Deleuze let me list some angles with which to think with Deleuze: his use of math (calculus) and Quantum physics, augmented memory or even memory-less-ness. By this I mean we can read Deleuze using the idea of augmentation: how his concepts augmented philosophy and offer up a useful continuity regarding how to understand (BwO & Rhizomes). Viewing concepts as augmentations?

‘that ontological extension of a refutation that is usually understood as a discursive and logical operation (refutation is properly speaking a discourse, a dispute), that extension is dictated by a logic and a philosophy of the Idea or the concept in which Heidegger himself sees a moment in the history of ontology, the last moment, the moment of blossoming and of “summation” but which still   remains a dissimulation of being beneath beings … but, as a last moment belonging to that tradition, recomprehending it, summing it up, but not taking that step beyond it – i.e., just as much back from it…’{5}             

After such a rich list of Deleuzian contributions let’s return to the concept of Deleuze’s lung: the absent one and the one a body needed to eject. Perhaps the concept we are collectively seeking is this process of ‘breathing into’ what does it entail when we exercise creative energy? Do you choose to perceive these actions as engendering the immediate difference of Deleuze or the difference perceived as derived from Formal truths; only mirrored on representative surfaces. Both choices have their merits, shortcomings, and space for new conceptualization. There is one line of questioning which seems to me to be an obvious one to pursue because it is not too general or specific and is applicable to various research interests and particular challenges we face today. This path for inquiry asks the following question: Deleuze’s political thinking documented ‘societies of control’ can we perceive processes of relinquishment; and if so can these processes be made to manifest socially? Is breathing as a metaphor able to move us closer to a less common practice of relinquishment?     

Reference Materials:

[I] Delueze, G. (1994), ‘Difference and Repetition’, Columbia University Press, New York.

  (1990), ‘The Logic of Sense’, The Athlone Press, London 

  (1994), ‘What is Philosophy?’ Columbia University Press, New York,  Chichester, West Sussex.

  (2001), ‘Pure Immanence: Essays on Life’, Urzone Inc.,NY    

[II] Originally Deleuze, G. (2001), ‘Spinoza: A Practical Philosophy’,City lights, San Francisco. Read on Grattan, S. (2007-21), ‘Spinoza as Imperative’, Meditations: Journal of the Marxist Literacy Group, Volume 25, No. 2: Marx or Spinoza. (Spinoza Now Dimitris Vardoulakis, ed. Minneapolis: Univesrity of Minnesota Press, 2011, 384 pp.)

[III] Patton, P. Protevi. J. (2003), ‘Between Deleuze & Derrida’, Continuum, Bloomsbury.                 

[IV] Gerke, G. (August 27, 2021), ‘The Road Not Taken?’ Read on www.berfrois.com. (30/08/2021) [https://www.berfrois.com/2021/08/greg-gerke-on-gilles-deleuze/]     

[V] Derrida, J. (2016), ‘Heidegger: The Question of Being & History, University of Chicago Press, Chicago & London. Session 1, pp6.

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