I am looking forward to the forthcoming publication in English of two of Francois Zourabichvili’s works in a single volume Deleuze: a Philosophy of the Event: Together with the Vocabulary of Deleuze. To be honest I had not really heard of Zourabichvili’s work until some online discussion alerted me to the presentation at the Deleuze 2012 conference by the forthcoming volume’s translator Keiren Aarons. Here is Aarons’ abstract for his Deleuze 2012 presentation:
There is no ‘ontology of Deleuze’ —Involuntarism and the Critique of Truth in the Work of François Zourabichvili
In what direction does the future of Deleuze’s philosophy of the event lie? From the publication of his Deleuze: Une philosophie de l’événement (P.U.F. 1994) until his untimely death in 2006, Francois Zourabichvili was one of the most important new voices in contemporary philosophy in France, and arguably the most important inheritor of Deleuzian philosophy. A brilliant, polemical, and original reader, Zourabichvili’s reading of Deleuze consistently challenged the received wisdom regarding the project, scope, and meaning of the Deleuzian project. Nowhere is this more evident than in his 2004 claim that “there is no ‘ontology of Deleuze’ ”. Deleuzians, even his closest allies (e.g. Boundas) either criticized or dismissed the claim, and for obvious reasons: the discourse of Deleuze as an ‘ontologist’ has become the normalized, conventional understanding of this thinker. In this paper, I offer a philosophical defense of Zourabichvili’s claim, which I suggest offers a third way beyond the distinction “end of metaphysics” / “return to metaphysics”.
The 2012 Deleuze Studies conference will also coincide almost exactly with the longawaited English language publication of Zourabichvili’s book-length studies of Deleuze, of which I am the translator.
In this paper I argue that this third way, which locates in Deleuze an immanent destruction of the discourse of ontology – as distinct from an external rejection of it – can only be understood in light of a prior distinction: to be an irrationalist (objective knowledge is undermined) does not mean that one is an illogicist (thought discovers a new objectivity in the logic of force). Parsing these two claims, and their importance for the relation that thought subsequently maintains with necessity, is a precondition for the comprehension of the object of Deleuzian philosophy: rather than having as its goal a murkily-defined “knowledge of being” as with the tradition of fundamental ontology, the object of Deleuzian critique, for Zourabichvili, lies elsewhere: it is experience, conceived of as the sign of the body, where this sign is a sign of a force that affects the body, and where the evental synthesis of force demands that thought respond with a conceptual symptomology, not an ontology. A rigorous “order of reasons” is at work here.
If this logical order is overlooked, Zourabichvili’s claim that “there is no ontology of Deleuze” can seem at first glance either to be splitting hairs (e.g. by distinguishing between events versus being, and belief versus knowledge), or else simply incoherent (since the problematic of experience does not at first glance seem to be sufficiently distinct from that of phenomenological ontology).
This paper will provide a conceptual defense of Zourabichvili’s break with the ontological readings of Deleuze, and his attempt to carve out a new trajectory for critical philosophy.
I searched online for any available texts by Zourabichvili translated into English. Here is what I found:
1. Relating to the title of Aarons’ presentation is this brief interview with Multitudes translated by Diarmuid Hester on the differences between Negri and Deleuze in light of the then recently published Empire. Zourabichvili discusses Negri’s volutarism and what he argues is Deleuze’s involuntarism.
2. Translations by Taylor Atkins of two entries from Zourabichvili’s latter Vocabulary of Deleuze book. The two entries are “Pre-Individual Singularities” and “Univocity of Being”. The brief “Pre-Individual Singularities” is a useful counterpoint to Levi’s recent post that reads Deleuze’s philosophy in terms compatible with object-oriented ontology.
3. A chapter in the Gilles Deleuze A Blackwell Critical Reader, “Six Notes on the Percept (On the Relation between the Critical and the Clinical)”.
From this chapter is the question of the necessity of ‘creating’ (pgs 201-202):
One question grows increasingly urgent: is there, independently of art and philosophy (which creates concepts) a vital creation close to life, a creation of life itself? At this level, it would be true but inadequate to recall that art and philosophy are also manifestations of life, and not disciplines adjacent to life. The question is, is this possoble, without recourse to signs which are not those of lived experience itself, but a refraction life in some material? Or can we attain this Health, neither physical or mental, yet nonetheless real for all that, without creating? The Deleuzian response, it seems, is no.
Which leads to a forceful provocation in the endnotes (pg 215, fn 19):
We see no reason on this point to warn of an elitist ethic, on the pretext that we may not ourselves by capable of this. Not only because ressentiment is not an argument, and because the idea of social justice happily does not depend on this, but because such an ethic is genuinely addressed to everyone(perhaps the only one that is), to the extent that it implies the immanent condition that one cannot know in advance who commands favourable circumstances and the raising of obstacles, social and familial in the first instance. In fact, what sense do we give to social injustice, if not knowing too well in advance who will’pull through’ and who will not ‘pull through’, as long as, and with the result that, many are separated from what they can do, and even, in consequence, from their ability to rebel? What sense do we give to the Idea of democracy, if not that destinies may be played out over and again, entirely within, and not beside or above, existence itself (Immanence), according to the laws, customs, and milieus that extend beyond and territorialise it? In a general way, Deleuzianism is in fact an elitism, if this is understood to mean that all ways of existing and thinking are not of equal value, and that the selective evaluation of possibilities for existence is the immanent activity if life and thought. Other than this, Deleuze asks only that little humility necessary in order to perceive the extraordinary health gained by a few great creators and to marvel at them; perhaps also to gain something from them, even though we may not feel equal to claiming this.