Gilles Deleuze from A to Z →
Gilles Deleuze from A to Z
Gilles Deleuze, Claire Parnet and Pierre-Andre Boutang
Translated by Charles J. Stivale
Although Gilles Deleuze never wanted a film to be made about him, he agreed to Claire Parnet’s proposal to film a series of conversations in which each letter of the alphabet would evoke a word: From A (as in Animal) to Z (as in Zigzag). These DVDs, elegantly transtlated and subtitled in English, make these conversations available for English-speaking audiences for the first time.
In dialogue with Parnet (a journalist and former student of Deleuze), the philosopher exhibited the modest and thrilling transparency that his seminal works (such as Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus) reveal. The sessions were taped when Deleuze was already terminally ill; he and Parnet agreed that the film would not be shown publicly until after his death. The awareness of mortalityfloats through the dialogues, making them not just intellectually stimulating but also emotionally engaging. Because Parnet knew Deleuze so well, she was able to draw him out—as no one else had—to what might be the 1001st plateau: a place of brilliance, rigor, and charm.
In “A as in Animal,” for example, Deleuze vents his hatred of pets: “A bark,” he declares, “really seems to me the stupidest cry.” Instead, he praises the tick: “… in a nature teeming with life, [the tick] extracts three things”: light, smell, and touch. This, he claims, in a sense is philosophy. “And that is your life’s dream?” Parnet wryly asks. “That’s what constitutes a world,” he replies.
"Essences, perhaps, have imprisoned themselves, have enveloped themselves in these souls they individualize. They exist only in such captivity, but they are not to be separated from the “unknown country” in which they envelop themselves inside us. They are our “hostages”: they die if we die, but if they are eternal, we are immortal in some fashion. They therefore make death less likely…"
Gilles Deleuze, Proust and Signs: The Complete Text, trans. Richard Howard (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000) 44.
Deleuze on “Foucault’s major achievement”
This is Foucault’s major achievement: the conversion of phenomenology into epistemology. For seeing and speaking means knowing [savoir], but we do not see what we speak about, nor do we speak about what we see; and when we see a pipe we shall always say (in one way or another): ‘this is not a pipe’, as though intentionality denied itself, and collapsed into itself. Everything is knowledge, and this is the first reason why there is no ‘savage experience’: there is nothing beneath or prior to knowledge. But knowledge is irreducibly double, since it involves speaking and seeing, language and light, which is the reason why there is no intentionality.
But it is here that everything begins, because for its part phenomenology, in order to cast off the psychologism and naturalism that continued to burden it, itself surpassed intentionality as the relation between consciousness and its object (being [l’étant or Seiende]). And in Heidegger, and then in Merleau-Ponty, the surpassing of intentionality tended towards Being [l’Etre or Sein], the fold of Being. From intentionality to the fold, from being to Being, from phenomenology to ontology. Heidegger’s disciples taught us to what extent ontology was inseparable from the fold, since Being was precisely the fold which it made with being; and that the unfolding of Being, as the inaugural gesture of the Greeks, was not the opposite of the fold but the fold itself, the pivotal point of the Open, the unity of the unveiling-veiling. It was still less obvious in what way this folding of Being, the fold of Being and being, replaced intentionality, if only to found it. It was Merleau-Ponty who showed us how a radical, ‘vertical’ visibility was folded into a Self-seeing, and from that point on made possible the horizontal relation between a seeing and a seen.
An Outside, more distant than any exterior, is ‘twisted’, ‘folded’ and ‘doubled’ by an Inside that is deeper than any interior, and alone creates the possibility of the derived relation between the interior and the exterior. It is even this twisting which defines ‘Flesh’, beyond the body proper and its objects. In brief, the intentionality of being is surpassed by the fold of Being, Being as fold (Sartre, on the other hand, remained at the level of intentionality, because he was content to make ‘holes’ in being, without reaching the fold of Being). Intentionality is still generated in a Euclidean space that prevents it from understanding itself, and must be surpassed by another, ‘topological’, space which establishes contact between the Outside and the Inside, the most distant, the most deep.
Gilles Deleuze, Foucault, trans. Seán Hand (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988), 109-10.
Deleuze on Islands
Geographers say there are two kinds of islands. This is valuable information for the imagination because it confirms what the imagination already knew. Nor is it the only case where science makes mythology more concrete, and mythology makes science more vivid. Continental islands are accidental, derived islands. They are separated from a continent, born of disarticulation, erosion, fracture; they survive the absorption of what once contained them. Oceanic islands are originary, essential islands. Some are formed from coral reefs and display a genuine organism. Others emerge from underwater eruptions, bringing to the light of day a movement from the lowest depths. Some rise slowly; some disappear and then return, leaving us no time to annex them. These two kinds of islands, continental and originary, reveal a profound opposition between ocean and land. Continental islands serve as a reminder that the sea is on top of the earth, taking advantage of the slightest sagging in the highest structures; oceanic islands, that the earth is still there, under the sea, gathering its strength to punch through to the surface. We can assume that these elements are in constant strife, displaying a repulsion for one another. In this we find nothing to reassure us. Also, that an island is deserted must appear philosophically normal to us. Humans cannot live, nor live in security, unless they assume that the active struggle between earth and water is over, or at least contained. People like to call these two elements mother and father, assigning them gender roles according to the whim of their fancy. They must somehow persuade themselves that a struggle of this kind does not exist, or that it has somehow ended. In one way or another, the very existence of islands is the negation of this point of view, of this effort, this conviction. That England is populated will always come as a surprise; humans can live on an island only by forgetting what an island represents. Islands are either from before or for after humankind.
But everything that geography has told us about the two kinds of islands, the imagination knew already on its own and in another way. The elan that draws humans toward islands extends the double movement that produces islands in themselves. Dreaming of islands—whether with joy or in fear, it doesn’t matter—is dreaming of pulling away, of being already separate, far from any continent, of being lost and alone—or it is dreaming of starting from scratch, recreating, beginning anew. Some islands drifted away from the continent, but the island is also that toward which one drifts; other islands originated in the ocean, but the island is also the origin, radical and absolute. Certainly, separating and creating are not mutually exclusive: one has to hold one’s own when one is separated, and had better be separate to create anew; nevertheless, one of the two tendencies always predominates. In this way, the movement of the imagination of islands takes up the movement of their production, but they don’t have the same objective. It is the same movement, but a different goal. It is no longer the island that is separated from the continent, it is humans who find themselves separated from the world when on an island. It is no longer the island that is created from the bowels of the earth through the liquid depths, it is humans who create the world anew from the island and on the waters. Humans thus take up for themselves both movements of the island and are able to do so on an island that, precisely, lacks one kind of movement: humans can drift toward an island that is nonetheless originary, and they can create on an island that has merely drifted away. On closer inspection, we find here a new reason for every island to be and remain in theory deserted.