Notes on Rajchman and transcendental empiricism

from+greenwich+to+london+bridge11_1082381684John Rajchman, in his introduction to Pure Immanence, emphasises that it was in terms of the problem of subjectivity that Deleuze posed the need for a new kind of empiricism. The first published work of Deleuze makes such a claim quite reasonable, since it is entitled Empiricism and subjectivity and constitutes Deleuze’s only prolonged public encounter with Hume.  Rajchman makes an interesting attempt to reconstruct a central part of Deleuze’s argument …

The Deleuzian argument (as suggested by Rajchman’s intro)

1) The being of sensation is what can only be sensed (aistheteon)


2) More material and less divisible than sense data, it requires a non-categorical synthesis (example of artworks  – Deleuze came to think that art-works just are sensations connected in materials in such a way as to free aesthesis from the assumptions of the sort of ‘common sense’ that for Kant is supposed by the ‘I think’ or the ‘I judge’ (p.9)


3) The asymetrical synthesis of the sensible is what gives the Merleau-Pontyian ‘flesh’.


4) This synthesis thus requires an exercise of thought


5) However, unlike the syntheses of the self or consciousness the asymmetrical synthesis requires ‘sort of dissolution of the ego’.


6) sensation is sythesised according to a peculiar logic: “ a logic of multiplicity that is neither dialectical nor transcendental – it is a logic of an AND prior and irreducible to the IS of predications” (p.10 – 11)


This sensation is prior to all subjects.

Transcendental empiricism may then be said to be the experimental relation we have to that element in sensation that precedes the self as well as any ‘we’, through which is attained, in the materiality of living, the powers of ‘a life’ (p.11)

Deleuze takes from Hume the idea of habit – the habit of saying I in particular. Against Locke, Hume put forward the idea that the self is not given, is not a fact, the identity of which then needs explanation. (p.12)

Hume thus opens up the question of other ways of composing sensations than those of the habits of the self and the ‘human nature’ that they suppose (p.12).


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

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