Celibate machines and epiphenomenalism

Fotamecus+excerpt.mp4_5641474471465483442(Reading Anti-Oedipus again)

The paranoic machine repulses, the miraculating machines attracts and then there is a kind of reconciliation in the celibate machine. This dialectic of desiring machines locates the subject as “a mere  residuum alongside the desiring-machines”, a situation where the subject “confuses himself with this third productive machine and with the residual reconciliation that it brings about” (AO: 19).

The “mere residuum” reading of the subject displaces the subject and at the same time makes the question of the constitution of the subject irrelevant.  We will not need to have a process that is sufficient for subjectivity, one that can perhaps account for reflexivity, since the process that is the condition of the subject is a process entirely unconnected to the subject in any real form.  The subject is simply a side effect, a “spare part” (AO :21).  Neither lack nor presence is relevant in the model of the desiring machines.  On the surface this model of the subject looks like a form of epiphenomenalism and presumably has the same problems that epiphenomenalism of the mind encounters.

Each machine produces and in the case of the celibate machine the answer to the question ‘what does it produce’ is cautiously (“would seem to be”) that the celibate machine produces “intensive quantities” (AO: 20).  These intensive quantities (IQ) are something like the feelings of the organism, though the attachment implied in the use of possessive is problematic.   To simply and unquestioningly allow the attachment of the feelings to the organism is ambiguous as it makes it seem like the feelings somehow stem from the organism when in fact the model is clearly suggesting that the organism stems from the feelings, at least in part.  Deleuze and Guattari refer in the footnotes at this point to the work of W.R.Bion.  They comment that Bion is the first to indicate the role of an ‘I feel’ but that he places it in the wrong level, as though he makes exactly this mistake of attaching the feelings to an organism rather than an organism to the feelings.  The ‘I feel’ should perhaps be replaced if this is the case, ‘feels that’ maybe a better linguistic shorthand for the phenomena in question.  Of course it is one thing to ask for a pause in our assumptions, a suspension of preconceptions, but quite another to conceive of what exactly might be meant by the idea or claim that somehow the organism is attached to some preexisting feelings.   We will have to leave this problem for now until we move further into the book.


About notebooker

philosopher and filmmaker from brighton, currently teaching philosophy at the Free University of Brighton

9 thoughts on “Celibate machines and epiphenomenalism

  1. Interesting! I am writing something about the celibate machine but it is still a draft and needs to be boiled a bit more. I think the question ‘what does it produce’ not only refers to ‘intensive qualities’ but also to what it induces in experience, say, the event, the creative absolute aperture, the schizo break as the very event of experiencing intensity=0. This state of intensity=0 refers to a raw piece of ‘feeling’ previous to any designation of meaning, a non-organized piece of ‘feeling’ in raw state (this is taken from Klossowski’s interpretation of Nietzsche). As i understand it, that what the celibate machine produces is this event to happen, and the ‘feeling’ is the aperture to the very non-organized flow of life, which is almost unbearably intense.

  2. I think the state of intensity can refer to feeling – in that raw, unattached sense of an affect – but at the same time I think it’s suggested that it refer to something broader, in particular in the connection to the socius and specifically with regard to capitalism. My sense is that this is why it’s intensive quantities not intensive qualities. In capitalism, the three machines might perhaps be mapped onto labour as the paranoic machine, the commodity form itself as the miraculating machine and then that suggests the market money-price as the celibate machine. I’m curious how far the tripartite structure is intended ontogenetically in the broadest sense, as well as specifically with regard the subject. In terms of the Klossowski, the connection that he draws between the specific affect and ‘thought’, the capacity to think a particular thought such as the thought of the eternal return, is a curious one. I suppose I also encounter Klossowski as exploring something like the ‘event’ that you mention, but in the sense of some sort of physico-chemical quantity, some kind of ‘conjugation’ of the possibilities of the thinking thing that is akin to the production of a state via chemical, ritual or sexual means, means that possess the thinker with the thought. Still, these are all just attempts on my part to grapple again with AO and so will no doubt form into new shapes as the encounter continues.

  3. Oh, i should wrote quantities and not qualities, sorry, I guess it was a keyboard dislexia or something: intensive quantities, yes, but when D&G pose the question, they immediately say that ‘there is a schizophrenic experience of intensive quantities in their pure state, to a point that is almost unbearable’': they say this literally: that this is a concrete experience that breaks with everything (and when they say about hallucinations and delire, they are saying that in these two states, there still exists a self, a reminiscence of an ‘I’, thus, this schizo-experience that they refer, means an absolute aperture to the pure state of these intensive quantities, the state of intensity = 0, and this is what i refer as the event: an aperture that comes form the outside). I see what they also refer as the celibate machine is with respect to modern practices of erotism, as you suggest: for example, when they refer to schizophrenizing death, they are criticizing certain anti-psychiatric practices (with psychedelics) where death can be experienced several times without implying any break of the self. I think the point that they mean there is that this break into an absolute aperture precedes these practices of hallucination/delire and that its state of pure-raw-feeling is precisely where a real materialistic psychiatry should be founded and modeled (so the intensive quantities that the refer are outside any experience, but with the celibate machine they can induce the event so to be experienced in their pure state).

  4. I love that suggestion of aperture, it gives me a way of understanding the idea of the event that you speak of without it getting caught up in the self but without forgetting what it does when selves are in play. I suppose I’m in part reading in a rather abstract way at the moment, almost avoiding the actual schizo and the issue of materialist psychiatry in favour of just a materialism in general, although that is definitely a distortion on my part. So yes, it is important to think about it in terms of “what it induces in experience”. On that note one of the things that comes to mind is John Holloway and his description of resistance to capitalism, in those everyday acts of resistance he calls ‘the scream’, acts which maybe are encounters with that aperture onto other possible world’s.

  5. “We are unbalanced, unstable. We scream not because we are sitting back in an armchair, but because we are falling over the edge of a cliff. The thinker in the armchair assumes that the world around her is stable, that disruptions of the equilibrium are anomalies to be explained. To speak of someone as unbalanced or unstable is then a pejorative term, a term that disqualifies what they say. For us who are falling off the edge of the cliff (and here ‘we’ includes all of humanity, perhaps) it is just the opposite: we see all as blurred movement. The world is a world of disequilibrium and it is equilibrium and the assumption of equilibrium that have to be explained.”

    From John Holloway, How to change the world without taking power, available online at


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