Chapter 2 of F begins, if possible, even more obscurely than Chapter 1. The first line of F, Chapter 1, is ‘The Baroque refers not to an essence but rather to an operative function, to a trait’ (F:3). This might be a dense sentence in that it’s implications will need to be unpacked and explored but compared to the first sentence of Chapter 2 it seems relatively transparent.
‘Inflection is the ideal genetic element of the variable curve or fold.’ (F:14) So begins Chapter 2. It continues – ‘Inflection is the authentic atom, the elastic point. This is what Klee extracts as the genetic element of the active, spontaneous line’ (ibid).
One of my fellow readers at the group had done some useful background research and traced the diagram or illustration that occurs at the beginning of Chapter 2 (F:15), tracking it to Klee’s ‘Pedagogical Notebooks’ where I didn’t notice any immediate reference to inflection but where the curve is described as ‘an active line on a walk for a walk’s sake’, which a number of us commented on as it seemed close to the image of the schizophrenic on a walk that Deleuze and Guattari use at the beginning of Anti-Oedipus.
These ‘backgrounds’ that can be filled in by tracking down some of the more allusive and elusive sources that fill Deleuze’s work help in the activity of familiarising ourselves with the text. In particular the diagram, which stands in the text unsourced, becomes less random and seems located, allowing us to feel like there is a work of unpacking to be done in reading F that is not without some point or purpose – that we’re not, as it were, on a wild goose chase. Nothing in the Klee reference, however, immediately illuminates quite what this notion of ‘inflection’ is doing here.
Another reader had tracked down some background that more specifically focused on the meaning of inflection, tracking it to a a possible geometric source where we can find that there is a use within the realm of differential calculus, where an inflection (inflexion) point has a specific role to play. Now it is not the case that the geometric usage needs to tally with the claim Deleuze makes (‘Inflection is the ideal genetic element of the variable curve or fold.’) since it is not a geometric claim that is being presented, at least I am not taking it to be such. It is rather a philosophical claim. It is clear from the presentation that it is Klee, not geometry, which Deleuze is drawing on and moreover it is Klee’s ‘methodological’ or ‘philosophical’ comments. Quite what philosophical claim is it, however, that Deleuze is attempting to put forward?
Only a paragraph later we find that ‘inflection is the pure Event of the line or the point, the Virtual, ideality par excellence’ (F:15). Deleuze then goes on to pursue again this productive model of the Event which the inflection is being mobilised to articulate. Here, in this second paragraph, the presentation brings in not just Klee but the work of Bernard Cache, an ‘independent architect and furniture designer living in Paris’ according to the MIT website which publishes the translation of ‘L’ameublement du territoire’, a book that Deleuze considers ‘essential for any theory of the fold’ (M:15, fn3)1. In the case of both Klee and Cache what it looks like is happening is that Deleuze is drawing on something like an account of essence but one which is not mathematically orientated but artistically and creatively focused. This is the point of the inflection notion, to begin or continue something like an account of the essence of a thing, or in this case, the essence of an event. It is, of course, only something like an account of essence because the very notion of an essence, as usually understood (or ‘as usually not understood’ we might say), is not to be presupposed, indeed might even be opposed. The task of the ‘inflection’ is to give us a new way of thinking something like that which we try to think with the concept of an essence.