Deleuze’s Transcendental Empiricism: “There is no ontology of Deleuze”

cosmic-decayThis is an excerpt from my forthcoming essay in parallax that provides a Deleuzian theory of the State by way of cinema, cultural studies, and rhetorical theory.

At stake for me is a method that proceeds by way of the “powers of the false” outlined in Deleuze’s Cinema 2. I find Deleuze’s transcendental empiricism to be fundamentally methodological, as it offers an analytic for distinguishing between those who use Deleuzian concepts (which must ‘maintain consistency’ even in transportation) and those who simply appropriate insights of his thought (e.g. the target of the essays, the sociologists of the Governmentality School, who are effectively postpositivists).

My defense of the false is methodological. Methodologically, I disagree with those scholars within Governmentality Studies who argue for a shallow definition of the state, which they justify through ‘brute’ empiricism. For these scholars, governmentality is strictly ‘an empirical mapping of governmental rationalities and techniques’ to ‘turn away from grand theory, the state, globalization, reflexive individualization, and the like’.[1] The type of empiricism they invoke is associated with social scientific research methods that use sample surveys, number crunching, and the statistical subject. Even as they are critical of the governmental techniques that result from similar methods, Governmentality Studies participates in a larger disciplinary project within sociology that relies on a particular configuration of realism, empiricism, and scientificity.[2]

Deleuze himself uses a reworked version of philosophical empiricism whereby ‘empiricism is a philosophy of the imagination and not a philosophy of the senses’.[3] Demonstrating the importance of the imagination, Deleuze readily draws on the literary works of Anglo-American writers to demonstrate the principles of his empiricism.[4] In his strictly philosophical work, it appears as the paradoxical formulation of a ‘transcendental empiricism’ as a philosophical alternative to Kant’s transcendental idealism, in which Deleuze separates the transcendental field from its empirical givenness to bypass the personal, individuated world of the subject.[5] Continue reading “Deleuze’s Transcendental Empiricism: “There is no ontology of Deleuze””


Representing Abolition: A Critique of Communisation


Highlights from Ray Brassier’s quite substantial critique of “communization”:

Endnotes “argue (rightly, in my view) that there can be no exit from the capital relation because it constitutes us: ‘What we are is, at the deepest level, constituted by this relation, and it is a rupture with the reproduction of what we are that will necessarily form the horizon of our struggles.’11 Thus there can be no secession from the capital relation, only its abolition. Communisation is the name for this abolition-in-process.” Continue reading “Representing Abolition: A Critique of Communisation”

Bergson’s Critique of Crude Materialism


All questions concerning the mode of the survival of the past will dismiss from the outset any psychological theory trying to locate recollections within the cerebral matter of the brain.To say, with Bergson, that the brain is a mere “central telephonic switchboard” transmitting movements is also “to say [that] it is in vain to attribute to the cerebral substance the property of engendering representations” (ibid.). In fact the final conclusions of Matter and Memory run as follows:“Questions relating to subject and object, to their distinction and their union, must be put in terms of time rather than of space” (ibid., 74/71, emphasis in original). As Frédéric Worms insightfully points out, we are here witnessing a crucial reversal of the relationship between the body and memory.Whereas from a practical point of view, the body is occupying the foreground in the theory of perception, it gets relegated to the background in the theory of memory. Similarly, while memory remains secondary from a practical point of view, it returns as primary with the reintroduction of time, which is to say, of becoming.Worms writes,“At bottom, the stakes are the following: the body, whose existence had been posed as an absolute in the first chapter, now depends on memory for its conservation in time!”26 This is the key to the Virtual informing the Bergsonian unconscious.

Valentine Moulard-Leonard, Transcendental Experience and the Thought of the Virtual, 31


State Chart (chapter 3)

  Pole 1 Pole 2
Mythic Figure Magician-King Jurist-Priest
Operation Conquest Contract
(method) (bond) (pact)
Medieval Technique Discipline Confession
(substance / operation) (body / force) (self / reflection)
Modern Organ Police Publicity
(means / effect) (order / splendor & happiness) (reason / right & will)
Science Policy Public
(scientific task / connaissance) (prevention / statistics) (legitimacy / consensus)
Discipline Political Economy Public Opinion
(method) (axiomatics) (deliberation)
Mid-Century Political Form State Socialism Liberal Capitalism
Biopower The Spectacle


Leading By Example, or, the power of a good example

Brian Massumi suggests in the introduction to his 2002 book “Parables For The Virtual” that the most Bergsonian form of argumentation follows from an “exemplary method,” by which he means supporting an argument through an example. There are three major arguments, which, while not stated explicitly, forms the subterranean structure by which Massumi makes his case for the example: singularity, detail, and connectability.

Continue reading “Leading By Example, or, the power of a good example”


What is the reasoning, perceptive, ‘singing’ monad that is only in the passions, affection, and perceptions that it expresses?

Claire Colebrook suggests it’s a queer passive vitalism. Consider this:

In concrete terms, we might begin by thinking of gender. Active vitalism, at least in the form that Deleuze and Guattari trace back to Kant, regards all concepts and categories as originally imposed by the subject upon an otherwise meaningless life. Active vitalism might regard gender as one of the ways in which life or the social ‘constructs’ categories that differentiate an otherwise general or undifferentiated humanity: so the criticism of stereotypes (as clichés or rigid forms imposed upon life) would lead to an overthrow of rigid categories in favour of what we really are (as unique individuals) or would expose that there are no such things as individuals, only effects of gender as it is represented. Genders and kinds are known in the vague and general opposition between male and female, distinctions that are imposed upon life and that need to be reactivated by being traced back to their social and familial origins. By contrast, for Deleuze and Guattari’s passive vitalism genders, kinds and stereotypes are not categories imposed upon life that might be overcome or criticised in the name of a universal and self aware humanity; instead, it is life as a multiple and differentiating field of powers that expresses itself in various manners. Continue reading “Forms-of-Life”