I am finding Hallward’s book on Deleuze — Out of This World — so bitterly disappointing. Not because it lacks the scholarly aptitude evident in his other texts; far from it, Hallward is obviously a leading scholar in this sort of continental philosophy milieu. The only purpose I can see to his line of argument is to denounce a strawman, not even to create some useful conceptual tools. The burden of his intellect weighs on my stupidity. As I read through it (I started again to do this) I am going to document problems I have with his argument and then return to what I imagine is a series of posts with a condensed concluding version. If anyone wants to show I am wrong somewhere then I’d welcome it (although I may appear snarky it is just cause my patience is exhausted with this book). Of course, the title is a reference to Levi-Strauss. It captures a distinction between how I imagine my own intellectual activities as a bricoleur of stupidity versus the intellectual activities of someone like Hallward. Stupidity and intellect in the sense that Foucault used them.
1) The first problem I noticed was Hallward’s annoying habit of referencing other thinkers and their works (mainly Bergson, Leibniz or Spinoza) regarding some aspect of God or mystical thought and somehow attributing this to Deleuze’s work. I could waste an hour or so just going over those sections in the first 20 pages where Hallward does this. I am not sure if Hallward has read Alliez’s book (Signature of the World, of course Hallward has read it) and his reconception of Foucault’s critique of commentary in the Deleuzian mode, but it is the best approximation I have read of Deleuze’s specific reading methodology: the differential repetition of elements of the work of others to construct something new. Now the key term here is ‘differential’. To think the work of a philosopher or artist as arrayed as an event — the Kafka book is exemplary in this regard, Kafka’s various discursive tracings are reconstituted according to their virtual machinic functionings — and extract the singularity of concepts, or what is philosophical, through a process of counter-effectuation. This is a reactualisation of the same limited coordinates of potential in a different way, not an attempt to actualise some mystical and limitless Event of events (even though this happens as an inconsequential accident; yes, the cosmos lives on…).
2) Second problem I have so far found is very simple and so far appears fatal to Hallward’s argument. The concepts that Hallward creates are very inventive but I have a hunch are actually useless (ie they do not ground a problematic) and are based on a wilful misreading of a basic notion in Deleuze’s work. When I say this problem is simple, I mean it is very simple. Hallward talks about a creating that creates a creature. Ok. But Deleuze is talking about a continual process that is unlimited. Hallward first uses the word ‘process’ in this sense bottom of second para, page 28, but it is sandwiched between contradictory comments. (However he does mention something comparable earlier when arguing that because the ‘whole’ is “ongoing creation, the whole is never presentable in any static or finished state” ):
A creating is new in itself, in its being, for its own time but also for the whole of time. A creating is new because it is creative, precisely — because it is invested with an inherent power to make-new, to transform, change, disrupt, differ, and so on. (28)
The destiny of the creature, as we shall see in the next couple of chapters, is simply to invent the means (appropriate to its material situation) of emptying or dissolving itself so as to impose the least possible limitation upon the creating that sustains it. (29)
Bullshit. How can Hallward extract a creating from an actual creature, and therefore talk about creatings in the singular (as non-plural, not a singularity), without relying on the composition of the actual? If creation can not be individualized and is in fact a process (of the chaosmos, not God) that creates individuated entitites then what is the utility of attempting to smuggle a backformed single process of creating from the actualised creature to talk about a correlative ‘creating’? There is no nomadic distribution of singularities here. Is Hallward actually trying to get at becoming as creating? Because the pure process of the chaosmos and the continual cosmic state of differentiation and the singular process of individuation (becoming) are not the same. Deleuze talks about ‘the new’ not ‘a new’. They have different relations to the actual. The becomings on the scale of what D&G call becoming woman or animal-becomings are indeed limited to the lines of potential that constitute an entity, and to counter-effectuate is a process of sober experimentation. It requires the singularity of perspective (ala The Fold). Of course, Hallward in part realises this:
[S]elf-creating is itself simply a facet of a more general, properly universal or cosmic creeation. Those that realise this most profoundly — the dreamers, the artists, the philosophers, the mystics… — are precisely those people who must succeed in subordinating their personal or creatual interests to the impersonal imperatives of creation itself. (18)
Wow, yes, however not to subsume one’s will like some kind of aliens-are-landing-so-lets-kill-ourselves cultist, but to realise the perspective of the 4th-person singular regarding the proximity of potential (affects) which for the creature is unfortunately inseparable from itself as a living thing. Why is the tic with its three affects not a bloody philosopher? Hallward is attributing something impossible to Deleuze’s argument. Deleuze is writing of a tendency, not the realised potential that is congruent (in Whitehead’s sense) or resonant (in the sense of a refrain) with the Event of the chaosmos.
3) The third problem hasn’t quite reared its head proper but I just want to signal it here because Hallward is building up to it.
What is lived of thought can always be described within the coherence of a single destiny, so long as we remember that this coherence is that of a virtual creating and not that oif the actual creature. The coherence of a creating can only be grasped by suspending and then eventually abandoning the coherence of the creature to which it gives rise. (26)
Firstly, why would any creature deliberately abandon themselves completely like this? (Not the same as an artist or philosopher producing a situation where we can question or think in line with such an abandonment.) Second, destiny implies a certain relation of futurity which is pretty hard to imagine as singular (as non-plural, not singularity) if the singularities of creation (rather than a creating) are nomadically distributed and the exact conditions of which can only be perceived as necessarily problematic until they are actualised.