This is the first in a series of posts, initiated by the suggestions of Evan Duq in his blog ‘Working on concepts‘. I’m in the throes of some intensive writing practice over the summer as I try to get the first draft of my new book into shape and currently am working on a paper for the ‘Strange Encounters: Kant and Deleuze’ conference we’re organising at Greenwich…so throwing LOS into the mix should be good.
I’m using the Athlone 1990 edition and all references are to that unless otherwise stated. Whilst this is a re-reading (in my case) of LOS I am going to approach it to a large extent as though it were a fresh reading…inevitably this will be slightly distorted by the existing annotations in the text but what I want to note is that these are reading notes rather than sustained critical commentary. Certain comments are inevitably going to be extremely tenuous and at times plain wrong…the freedom to be wrong, however, is part of the nature of the internet and why students quoting texts and online commentaries should remember caveat emptor!
LOS begins with a rather short and sweet preface that takes on a quite traditional role of introducing the text rather than philosophically positioning the reader in regard to the text. The first thing of note is the reference to ‘modern reader’ and a set of elements to be found within Lewis Carroll that would ‘please’ such a modern reader. The elements seem to refer to structuralist type aspects of form, as well as aspects of a psychoanalytic interest (children’s books “or, rather, books for little girls” and an explicit mention of “a profound psychoanalytic content“). Who, then, is the ‘modern reader’? Someone embedded within a psychoanalytic practice of reading? Someone embedded, moreoever, in a specifically structuralist psychoanalytic reading, ie; a Lacanian? Is the suggestion – perhaps – that Deleuze is presenting a text which should be of profound interest to the Lacanian reader and as such a common ground of discussion or theoretical concept creation? It seems likely, at least at the moment, that this is the case. If so this suggests a certain ‘audience’ for LOS – viz, the Lacanian reader, but an audience that needs to attend to something usually forgotten. “Over and above the immediate pleasure” Deleuze says (and I would want to check the French edition here to see whether jouissance is the specific term at work in this sentence) “there is something else” in the work of Carroll, that being the play of sense and nonsense. This “connection between language” (one form of sense) “and the unconscious” is readily present, Deleuze says, but he then indicates again the ‘something else’ he wants to bring to attention, “what else is this marriage connected with” (xiii).
Thinking across to Difference and Repetition it might be noted how that work begins by declaring that there is a certain thought ‘in the air’, a kind of ‘generalised anti-Hegelianism’ which DR is breathing itself into existence within. Is LOS, then, also breathing itself into existence within a certain air of ‘language and the unconscious’ but doing so in such a way as to try and bring attention to the ‘something else’?
The only other point of notice in the preface is the strange sugegstion, which I have no way of making sense of at the moment, that “This book is an attempt to develop a logical and psychological novel” (xiv). Again I am drawn to think of the ‘new way of writing philosophy’ that is mentioned in the introduction to DR but quite how LOS might be thought of in any sense as a novel, other than as a fictionalisation, is unclear to me.
The first series of paradoxes of pure becoming
Immediately we are thrown into the nature of the event as something in between, something that is inherently not capable of being subsumed under the concept of sens as a singular direction. This term, of course, connects us to the phenomenological notion of intention and its ‘sense’ or ‘direction’ and the privilege of the subject or transcendental ego, particularly within Husserlian phenomenology of the middle period. The idea of ‘good sense’ is in conflict with paradox, the double direction, and the event is aligned with this paradox produced by the double direction, by that which effects and is effected, that which causes and is caused, that which acts and is acted upon. The liminality or borderline position of paradox and the event is thus being brought to the fore.
It is worth noting that Deleuze is not putting forward an argument as such at this point. He is describing and characterising and Plato is the first of the figures of philosophy to be explicitly characterised with the notion of ‘good sense’ being located in the dialogues (Philebus, Parmenides and Cratylus being used as evidence for the characterisation). The important thing to note, of course, is that this is not a hostility to Plato since it is Plato who is cited as distinguishing between the two dimensions of the limited (the named) and the unlimited (pure becoming). Deleuze’s understanding of this distinction is found almost immediately (2) when he says that the distinction between the limited and the unlimited is not that between intelligible and sensible (Idea and matter or bodies) but rather a distinction in matter itself between that which receives the Idea and that which cannot, does not or will not. A perhaps more ‘analytic’ or traditional way of putting this distinction (though it begs the question no doubt) is between that which is conceptualisable and that which is not conceptualisable (a distinction that is not the same as that between the conceivable and inconceivable). Pure becoming, mad becoming, lying on the side of that which is not conceptualisable might be akin, perhaps, to the pure intuitions within Kant, that which is presented but incapable of representation (space and time and the way these are expressed in the problem of incongruent counter-parts).
Deleuze goes on (2) to discuss the relation of this pure becoming to what he calls ‘the paradox of infinite identity’ (and we find a humorous spelling mistake here, “two much“). The connection to naming and limited identification becomes explicit here as the pure becomings result in “the contesting of Alice’s personal identity and the loss of her proper name” (3) which is “the adventure which is repeated throughout all Alice’s adventures“. The inifinitely extended name, of course, can be understood in terms of Leibniz’s concept which is always analytic if taken to its infinite extension and in which limitation is merely a failure or halting of analysis before it reaches these infinite extensions. This, I think, helps us understand the curious lines in which the problem of personal identity is connected to God and the world through the necessity of a permanent knowledge that is needed to guarantee the personal identity. I am and am always and for ever this which is me and anything less is insufficient for personal identity, such would be the infinite identity, such would be the identity of the personal self, perhaps even constitutive of the personal self. Such a notion of the personal self as grounded in an infinite identity is incapable of being sustained in the face of the event. “For personal uncertainty is not a doubt foreign to what is happening but rather an objective structure of the event itself, insofar as it moves in two directions at once, and insofar as it fragments the subject …” (3).