Brian Leiter called attention yesterday to this excerpt from Gary Gutting's recent NYT Stone* column, the topic of Eric Schliesser's post last week. I would just like to nuance the reference to Deleuze included in this excerpt.
Two preliminary points before the discussion, below the break. First, Gutting is correct in what he says about the critical aspect of Deleuze; I just want to add a brief note as to the positive aspect. Second, of course neither Gutting nor myself can be too detailed in a blog post, and Gutting's Thinking the Impossible (Oxford, 2011) does come closer to discussing the positive aspect of Deleuze's project.**
Leiter's excerpt of Gutting reads:
These differences concern their conceptions of experience and of reason as standards of evaluation. Typically, analytic philosophy appeals to experience understood as common-sense intuitions (as well as their developments and transformations by science) and to reason understood as the standard rules of logical inference. A number of continental approaches claim to access a privileged domain of experience that penetrates beneath the veneer of common sense and science experience. For example, phenomenologists, such as Husserl, the early Heidegger, Sartre and Merleau-Ponty try to describe the concretely lived experience from which common-sense/scientific experience is a pale and distorted abstraction, like the mathematical frequencies that optics substitutes for the colors we perceive in the world. Similarly, various versions of neo-Kantianism and idealism point to a “transcendental” or “absolute” consciousness that provides the fuller significance of our ordinary experiences.
Other versions of continental thought regard the essential activity of reason not as the logical regimentation of thought but as the creative exercise of intellectual imagination. This view is characteristic of most important French philosophers since the 1960s, beginning with Foucault, Derrida and Deleuze. They maintain that the standard logic analytic philosophers use can merely explicate what is implicit in the concepts with which we happen to begin; such logic is useless for the essential philosophical task, which they maintain is learning to think beyond these concepts.
Continental philosophies of experience try to probe beneath the concepts of everyday experience to discover the meanings that underlie them, to think the conditions for the possibility of our concepts. By contrast, continental philosophies of imagination try to think beyond those concepts, to, in some sense, think what is impossible.
Here I think Gutting is correct that for Deleuze "the essential philosophical task [...] is learning to think beyond" the concepts of everyday experience, aka, "representation." Call this (the critique of representation -- late addition, for clarification, 6:40 pm CST 29 Feb) Deleuze's critical project, which is developed in Chapter 3 of Difference and Repetition, "The Image of Thought," as the critique of "the dogmatic image of thought."
We need to nuance Gutting's characterization of Deleuze's positive project however. Gutting's characterization of this as "Continental philosophies of experience try to probe beneath the concepts of everyday experience to discover the meanings that underlie them, to think the conditions for the possibility of our concepts," is too Kantian (in the notion of "condition of possibility of our concepts") and too Husserlian (in the notion of "meanings.") To stick only with the Kantian angle, on several occasions in Difference and Repetition Deleuze affirms the relevance of the post-Kantian objection that "Kant held fast to the point of view of conditioning without attaining that of genesis" (170).
[UPDATE, 11:15 am CST: I just realized I need another nuance. Gutting intends "philosophies of experience" to be those of the phenomenologists, whereas he puts Deleuze with the "philosophers of imagination." But there is a sense in which Deleuze is a philosopher of experience, which I'll try to explain below.]
Positively put, the move to the fully differential virtual as the transcendental field in Chapters 4 and 5 of Difference and Repetition conforms to the following requirement: "In fact, the condition must be a condition of real experience, not of possible experience. It forms an intrinsic genesis, not an extrinsic conditioning" (154; see also 285).
What's at stake in this distinction between "condition of possibility of concepts" and "conditions of the genesis of real experience" is Deleuze's connection with the materialist and naturalist philosophers that form his minority canon: "I see a secret link between Lucretius, Hume, Spinoza, and Nietzsche, constituted by their critique of negativity, their cultivation of joy, the hatred of interiority, the externality of forces and relations, the denunciation of power ... and so on" (Negotiations, 6).
So, to conclude, a minor nuance about a formulation in a blog post is indeed quite close to much ado about nothing. But it could at least put us on the track of differentiating the materialist Deleuze and the deconstructive Derrida, whose views, arguably, are better captured by Gutting's formulations.*** And once we have Deleuze's materialism on the table, we can see how he radicalizes his project by dropping the human confines of the notion of "experience" and heading full speed ahead into the full naturalization of the notion of synthesis in Anti-Oedipus, and from there, the full contours of the engagements with multiple "minor sciences" in A Thousand Plateaus. (Alistair Welchman does an excellent job on the move from DR to AO in this essay.)
* Brian's post leads off with the following: "I haven't really been reading the 'Stone' blog." Everyone has to make their own reading decisions, but I would encouage people not to follow his lead here, since by not reading the Stone, one would have missed, just since January 15, pieces by Andy Clark, John Perry, Peter Singer and Agata Sagan, Steven Nadler, Justin EH Smith, and Todd May, in addition to numerous efforts by Gary Gutting.
** I hope some day to put up a more detailed reading of Gutting's remarks in that book on Deleuze, but even then I would take into account the aim of the book, which is not precisely a specialist work for a CP readership, but rather an opportunity for "metaphilosophical reflections" (Thinking the Impossible, p. 2).
*** It wasn't exactly a good cop / bad cop routine that Paul Patton and I pulled off in editing Between Deleuze and Derrida; it was more like a "lumper" and "splitter" one.