Four tasks for Deleuzians

Snowrush_5363592454Following the reading of Alain Badiou’s ‘Clamour of being’ that we undertook as the first task of the Volcanic Lines – deleuzian research group at Greenwich University, I recently re-read Alberto Toscano’s interesting review of Badiou ‘Clamour’ and his ‘Manifesto’.  This piece dates back to 2000 when it appeared in the Warwick University journal ‘Pli’.  It concludes with a set of four tasks, which Toscano frames in terms of the responses Deleuzians might need to make to Badiou, tasks that still seem to me very resonant and which perhaps might frame the key moments of an attempt to think through Deleuze.  Part of the resonance, no doubt, results from the fact that the first two of these tasks are ones that I intuitively agree with and which I think I took up, somewhat unconsciously, within my doctoral thesis.  They have continued to maintain their presence as the main focus of my reserach.  The fascinating point, for me at least, comes in the third point however.

Recently I have turned to begin thinking the ‘political’ in relation to Deleuze and this was, at least in part, the subject of a presentation I gave to the conference on Deleuze we held at Greenwich last July.  There I began to try and think a concept of the ‘human bomb’ that derived from a kind of struggle to use a Deleuzian method to articulate contemporary political actions.  The paper provoked a quite hostile response from some attending, which was gratifying to a degree, but did become blocked in some ways through an underlying difficulty, that of thinking an action, in some sense, ‘beyond justification’, that is, an action that appears both ‘beyond justification’ in ‘good sense’ (unjustified) and the tension with an action that is ‘beyond justification’ in the ‘common sense’ (unthinkable).  There seemed to be something missing, some ground or preliminary set of arguments that would be needed before such a task could take place and my intuition now, resonant with Toscano’s tasks, is that this preliminary work needs to take place in the realm of the ontology, that is, specifically, in terms of the ‘link between univocity and ethology’.  Crudely speaking – or rather, speaking in another register – this feels at the moment like it would be something like articulating a position akin to the ‘compatabilists’ in the debate on free will, or the possibility of a naturalistic philosophy of mind (these being very rough indications of possible comparisons).

Toscano’s four tasks for Deleuzians are:

  • “One, to grasp Deleuzian affirmation as a resistance to the present,transforming Badiou’s ascetic image of the purified automaton into a constructivist one. This point depends on a close encounter with Deleuze’s ethics of the event through the concept of counter-actualisation.
  • Two, the extraction from Deleuze work of a new theory of illusion, cast in a deeply Nietzschean mode, that does not depend on the re-instatement of a separation between truth(s) and simulacra. The necessary prelude to this is an exhaustive account of Deleuze theory of the problem.
  • Three, the elucidation of the essential link between univocity and ethology, or, why Deleuze is a political ontology.
  • And four, a careful inquiry into the tensions which potentially mine the consistency of the relationship between immanence and virtuality.”

(Pli 9 (2000), 220-38)

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

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