Archive for the ‘Deleuze’ Category

“When I become death” according to Levinas

July 3, 2007

Emmanuel Levinas’ La Mort et Le Temps (English translation in God, Death and Time) opens with a reading of Heidegger´s Sein und Zeit, a reading that evolves around the themes of the carnival, the essence of time, the nature of death, the type of questions to which answers are not the right answer, and finally – literature as a masking process (rather than a revealing one).

[But maybe I’m wrong. It could well be that Levinas says nothing of the above themes, and that it is my own philosophical delusions, the consequences of my posts here on Foucault, Lyotard, Barthes, Deleuze, and Burroughs.]

Emmanuel Levinas

The Carnival.

The carnival represents the absolute assimilation of a human being with the role assigned to him/her by the system. Yet by this assimilation the human being ceases to be a human being, for being a human is to continuously question “Being”, i.e. to be a critical being towards Being, constantly reassessing the possibilities of an always changing existence. This is when Levinas uses the term ek-sistence – existing from the outside (and it is also where the two reasons of the first Emmanuel – K. – are fully present).

The critical spectator stands behind the curtain, looking inside the theater, considering her options on stage. This cannot be done while on stage, while wearing the mask of the carnival.

And yet. “Behind the curtain there is nothing to see… nor beneath it”, says Deleuze, following Foucault. The critical being is therefore not to be imagined out of stage; s/he is not to be imagined as a passive spectator. Rather, the critical being is assimilated into the system’s role, while continuously challenging that role. Indeed, says Deleuze, behind the curtain there is nothing to see, “but it was all the more important each time to describe the curtain”. So we are in the carnival, but we don’t play wholeheartedly. We’re aware of the play, and we improvise whenever we see fit.

The Question.

The question of being is a question to which answers are not the right answer, the first trait of Being, being the mark of that Question. Barthes maintains that those questions of Being can only live within Literature, but he also maintains that Literature is a carnivalesque mask. The only way to cope with these contradictions is to follow Foucault’s advise: “We have to move beyond the outside-inside alternative; we have to be at the frontiers. Criticism indeed consists of analyzing and reflecting upon limits.” (What is Enlightenment).

Cain: marked by the Question of Abel’s death – a bookmark on Cain’s Time axis.


Time, explains Levinas, is the Other. The infinite time is the antipode of the finite human, the Other remaining necessarily out of our reach. Time, therefore, represents all possible Otherness.

Time is the Other. What a strange sentence. The Rhizome of the nomadic others is a Rhizome of Time Capsules.

Ich und Du.

The Other, through his facial movements conveys a message to the spectator, who is consequently responsible for processing the message, and of providing an answer. We can therefore say that Communication creates responsibility which, in turn, creates individuality: “I” is responsible for this and that person, because there are communication links between us.

We’ll see next that communication is a mask; like literature it does not reveal [things from behind the curtain], but rather conceals [the true essence of being]. Facial movements are answers. But Being is being a Question.

What does the nomadic Rhizome mask? What does Time mask? Is Time the Curtain?

As for Death.

When I become death

As for Death – death needs time for what it kills to grow in. Death needs the Other, just like “I” needs it. But why does Death need Time?

Think of Death as a bookmark, engraving a point on our time axis. This point, says Levinas, opens a gate to a communication-free world – the end of exchanging answers. Finally, we, the dead, can realize our human potential of being a pure question. The cover story of our life, the Literature told by our face, by our facial movements is finally completed. The End.

When we become death, death is the seed from which we grow – the seed of the pure Question.

Rhizome [D&G]

May 17, 2007

Rhizome [D&G]

The Rhizome is a contemporary concept: it is the scale-free architecture of the Internet; it is the topology of what we consume and of how we come to consume it: peer-to-peer; mashup of components; an information river that has no starting point; the entangled graph of the Blogosphere.

Although the Rhizome is an architecture aimed for human beings, it can easily absorb other types of creatures, such as machines, allowing for the creation of a virtual chaosmic sphere having men, machines, and men-machines as the nodes of its graph. For Guattari, man has always reflected this capability of absorbing other forms of life, being sometimes an animal, sometimes a machine.

Questions to which answers are not the right answer

April 7, 2007

In an interview titled “Les Choses signifient-elles quelque chose?” (1962) Barthes gave, en passant, an interesting definition of literature as the art of presenting questions, not answers, nor solutions.

These literary questions, says Barthes, are powerful, disturbing and long-lasting. More importantly, it is only literature that can ask this kind of long-lasting questions. Kafka and Balzac, adds Barthes, have become canonic because they have left us with such long-lasting and disturbing questions.

Rephrasing Barthes: Literature produces and presents questions to which answers are not the right answer.


We’re habituated to input-output production lines: question-in, answer-out; problem-in, solution-out. But some questions and some problems are simply different. So what is the “right answer” to those long-lasting literary questions? How should we refer to them?

Probably, living the question, in each and every Time Capsule, is what we should do?

I think that these informal observations can be used to clarify the way a group of French philosophers, such as Lyotard, Foucault, Deleuze and, of course, Barthes, understand the relation between literature and philosophy. After all, what has been described so far is commonly perceived as the realm of Philosophy, and yet Barthes ignores Philosophy altogether, charging Literature with the burden of asking those questions, insisting that it is the only place where such questions can (be asked? live? survive?).

My feeling is that western philosophers have never considered philosophy as the art of presenting long-lasting questions. Rather they have used questions as a pretext, an excuse, a platform for their… answers, for their irrefutable ontological or epistemological solutions, constructs and architectures.

In fact, it is western philosophers who have tried, along centuries, to kill, eradicate and annihilate those disturbing questions. Too often they have resurrected some murdered questions but only to try and kill those poor bastards once more. The dead body of metaphysics is an example. So the Problem of Philosophy, if by philosophy we mean those long-lasting questions, is that Philosophy refuses to die!

Lyotard et al. think that indeed some questions must die – but that their execution should be carried out by Science, not Philosophy. Other questions, on the other hand, must live – that was the role of Philosophy – to give birth and a living place for this kind of questions – but Philosophy has fallen from grace.

Long-lasting questions live now only in Literature.

(and see also Lyotard: against input-output philosophy)

The Metaphor of the Hidden Interlocutor

March 30, 2007

I’m always very happy with ecko4inc’s comments, as they form a very special continuation of a dialogue. By “very special” I mean that they cannot be seen as a common feedback in which the interlocutor feeds back her reactions or her anti-thesis or her bifurcated, parallel thesis (as it is too often the case) into the fireplace of the dialogue; rather ecko’s comments should be seen as a genre, having probably the margins of philosophy as its lieu of happening.

[ The margins of philosophy

Following my thoughts on the word “minor” – that word used by Kant to signify an immature human being not using his reason; that word used by Poe and {jump through hyperspace} Foucault to signify the only possible, or valuable, spatio-temporal frame of reference; that word practiced by Deleuze in his way of teaching the different philosophies, the different philosophers – I got an official feedback to the above minor associations by a Philosophy professor [Philosophy with a capital P], who laconically said that Derrida made a career out of analyzing footnotes (This Professor doesn’t like Derrida in particular and post-modernism in general, because, he says, they don’t offer any hope. Indeed, Deleuze and many others maintained that “there’s nothing behind the curtain”, if hope is to be associated with the discovery of a hidden reality. Surprisingly, this Professor, who dismisses Derrida for he brings no hope, happened to devote his entire life to Leibniz, being the first official “Leibniz Professor”. What puzzles me here is my intuitive association between “there’s nothing behind the curtain” and the Monadology – I don’t remember anything substantial behind the Monad’s curtain…)


So ecko4inc is not feeding back; ecko feeds on, feeds further. He joins the flow of thoughts, expressed in the post’s words and images, and uses them as ad-hoc rafts, on top of which he jumps and flows-on in that great {collective [but private (but collective)]} stream of consciousness, showing where else those ideas could have streamed, are streaming. I become a hidden interlocutor for ecko, my stream of consciousness finds itself included in his stream of consciousness in a most natural way, an echo for ecko, an echo for inclusion.

The only real thing is the interaction among people; all the rest is an illusion. Any monad includes and relates to all other monads – and this inclusion and that interaction is the only real thing in a monad’s life.


Click the image to make a jump

Foucault’s Fault

March 27, 2007

I had a conversation recently with a sociology professor who doesn’t like Foucault. “Clearly”, claimed the professor, “Foucault was reusing Weber’s theories, to name just one evident theft, never mentioning Weber as a source, pretending to be original”.

This is a well-known accusation against Foucault: “C’est un simulateur qui ne peut s’appuyer sur aucun texte sacré, et qui ne cite guère les grands philosophes”, is among a long list of “Against Foucault” with which Deleuze opens his book “Foucault”.

Michel Foucault

Forget Foucault; let’s deal with the underlying question: does an Author have the right to keep his sources private?

Journalists, who see themselves obliged to reveal and tell the truth, fight for their right to keep their sources private. And philosophers – can they reveal the truth without disclosing their sources?

Since the Author is Dead (or rather, has been dead since the very beginning (or rather, has existed only as a fiction, as a function)), then why bother quoting at all? No one is the Author of an idea.

What about using known concepts – is that as good as quoting? In “Qu’est-ce que la philosophie?” Deleuze & Guattari describe philosophy as the art of creating concepts (“la philosophie est l’art de former, d’inventer, de fabriquer des concepts”), and that a philosopher is recognized by the concepts she has created. Indeed, philosophical concepts are easily exchangeable with the philosophers who coined them: Idea, Cogito, Monad, Noumenon, Dasein, and Rhizome easily resurrect their dead authors.

But don’t get confused by this romantic description of the philosophical work: if someone is recognized as a philosopher only by the new concepts that he has introduced into the philosophical discourse [D&G], and if new and original are nothing but an illusion [Barthes], then philosophy is not the art of creating concepts but rather the art of rebranding preexisting concepts. The philosopher doesn’t have much choice but to refurbish and rebrand old concepts and present them as original ones.

This is a tough situation: if you don’t quote you are accused of plagiarism and of the hubris of being original; if you quote (explicitly – by referring to philosophers; implicitly – by reusing known concepts) you’re accused of not being original, hence – not a philosopher. The game is, therefore, to quote all along your thesis until that point where you bring up your own rebranded (yet necessarily preexisting) concept – that which you present and pretend to be your own.

Foucault, probably, refused to play this political Homo Academicus game. After all, it is not the concept that matters, but rather how it is told, to whom, and when. Nevertheless, Foucault acknowledged the rules of the game by tagging his work Fiction. He embraced the position of an outsider, accepting being labeled as a non-philosopher, non-historian, non-sociologist. A Fiction writer is free from disclosing his sources; moreover, he is free to refer to any known figure while asserting a clear disconnect between the signifier and the signified, between the Kant in his story and the Kant we all know.


March 14, 2007


Burroughs’ Death needs Time

March 8, 2007

William S. Burroughs

“Death needs Time for what it kills to grow in”, William S. Burroughs, Dead City Radio, Ah Pook.

I’ve been thinking for a while now about this phrase “death needs time for what it kills to grow in” trying to figure it out. Interpretation-wise, this is a dangerous game, as Burroughs is known for using cut & paste techniques, trying to destroy any rational thought. And yet, from a modern perspective, the potential randomness behind the order of the words shouldn’t and even must not persuade us in the futility of giving it a sense. After all, that’s exactly what life is – random events to which we try to give some meaning.


There are several possible viewpoints about Time: Time as a continuity and unity; Time as a collection of independent Time Capsules, a label aggregating all those capsules together.

Time as a continuity and unity allows for better Control – there’s time to order things in Space. It may also lead to either an indifferent position in the spirit of what has been will be again, or to a satisfied one, in the spirit of the problem is solved; there’s nothing more that can be done.

Time as a fragment of Time, as an endless recursive fractal, is what I read in Foucault’s Modernism, which prefers seeing Time in its particularity, in its decomposition. A Time Capsule: just born, already dead.

The Time Capsule

What’s inside the Time Capsule?

Everything, I suppose. I’m thinking of any Time Capsule as a cosmic Monad where the fight takes place, where a human tries to redefine… Space. Modernism tries to redefine Space within a single, ephemeral, insignificant, derisory Time Capsule. And Space is us. And so Deleuze can righteously call Foucault “the historian of the present”, for there’s an Entire Life inside the Time Capsule.

Or am I wrong? Maybe it’s not Life inside the Time Capsule, but rather…


See my previous post on the death of Baudrillard, where I quote Deleuze from his lecture on Leibniz and the nature of the Monad (I’m rephrasing [remixing] everything):

To be born is to start dying.
To live is to be dying.
To die is to complete living.
And so to die is to complete to be dying.


Birth=to start dying;
Life=to be dying;
Death=to finish being dying.

Our mission here, in this Space, is to die.

But, wait! Beware! all this happens inside a single Time Capsule. Don’t get depressed – you’ll be restarting the whole process of dying in just about a moment.

Death needs Time for what it kills to grow in. Death grows inside the Time Capsule. The Time Capsule is the container of Life. Death grows in Life.

Jean Baudrillard Just Completed the Act of Living

March 6, 2007

Via Jahsonic I have learned about the death of Jean Baudrillard. It was a strange sensation, watching the image of this man, knowing that now indeed the image communicates absence, an absolute void. RIP.

Jean Baudrillard

I thought what could be said more, and remembered a short Deleuzean reference to “La Mort”, or Death as it is called.

(free style English trans. follows)

“Ce que vous appelez mourir, c’est achever de vivre, et ce que vous appelez naître c’est commencer à mourir, comme aussi ce que vous appelez vivre, c’est mourir en vivant. Vous n’attendez pas la mort, mais vous l’accompagnez perpétuellement”.


“What you call to die is completing the act of living, and what you call to be born is to start dying, just as what you call to live is to die while living. You don’t wait for death to come; rather you are its perpetual companion”.

(Taken from Deleuze’s lecture La Taverne [on Leibniz])

Distribute in Space; Order in Time

February 5, 2007

The more I dwell into the Foucault/Deleuze worlds the more they get interconnected, interlaced. There’s love in the way one prepares the terrain for the other; one realtes to and interprets the other.

In “Postscripts on the Societies of Control” (1990) Deleuze starts with Foucault’s description of “enclosures” – those closed places (closed=mapped=borders) created by the western society since the 18th century. Family-School-Army-Factory-Grave (with bifurcations into Hospitals, Prisons etc.).

They move you from one enclosure to another, telling you: “You are no longer in your family”; “You are no longer in school”; “You are no longer in the Army”; and finally – “You are no longer”.


Deleuze’s Office View

To distribute in Space; to order in Time

“Foucault has brilliantly analyzed the ideal project of these environments of enclosure, particularly visible within the factory: to concentrate; to distribute in space; to order in time; to compose a productive force within the dimension of space-time whose effect will be greater than the sum of its component forces.”

In his “Image-Movement”, Deleuze refers to Bergson’s idea of image – the image as [real] matter. Anything is image, including ourselves. And film-making starts by arranging images on a Plan. This is the distribution in Space. Next comes Image-Temps – the ordering in Time.
Remember – we are images (images are not representation of something). This is the door knob turned, afterwards, by Jean Baudrillard.

Gilles Deleuze – La durée: A Multimedia Poem

February 3, 2007

Sometimes there’s an inexplicable match between a state-of-mind and a sensory input.
This is what happened to me while listening to this fragment by Gilles Deleuze about the Duration – La durée (Click the player to listen).



What happened is that I processed the whole piece as a potential DJ Spooky track: a musical intro; Deleuze’s voice full with fluctuations, insistence, repetitions; a chaotic background noise; and finally phrases that can be cut from the entire piece and still survive – this entire Spooky complex placed me in a different emotional state.

The Deleuze piece is in French, I hope, though, that non-French speakers can enjoy it too. You can listen to the following piece several times, and each time get something else out of it. What I heard was a poem, much like the following:

Gilles Deleuze – La durée

La durée c’est ce qui se
La durée c’est une
défection . La durée c’est,
tomber en poussierrrrrrrrrrr.
Oui, oui.
C’est Flaubert. C’est Flaubert.
Et. Et.
Si ça dure, ça se décompose.
Ce n’est pas du tout Bergsonien.



“Un jour, peut-être, le siècle sera Deleuzien”, Michel Foucault