Thursday, July 19, 2012

Flaxman Review

I typically don't write on philosophy on the blog, but last January, I asked our readers if anyone would like to join a book club discussing Greg Flaxman's "Gilles Deleuze and the Fabulation of Philosophy".  AR and I managed to get most of the way through it, and I was able to finish it a couple of weeks ago.

In his volume (the first of two parts), Flaxman posits the very modest goal of showing how Deleuze's own philosophical concepts are reflected in the style of his writing (e.g. minoritariansm).  But the book goes far further and broader that that, searching for the roots of Deleuze's approach in his reading of the Greeks, and making an elegant exposition and argumentation of the Powers of the False, a concept Deleuze originally lifted from Nietzsche.

Flaxman's prose is evenhanded and clear, and make inroads to elucidate an otherwise abstruse and commonly misunderstood philosopher.  Where he wavers though is in his (in-)decision to label the False as the primordial ground of Deleuze's geophilosophy.  From the time that I studied under Flaxman, there has been some debate as to whether Deleuze's philosophical world could function as an ontology (as the monad does for Leibniz or Nature does for Spinoza).  Deleuze's non-grund takes on many names in Flaxman's book: the No, the Outside, the False, Chaos, the Minor, the Simulacrum, the Untimely, Non-style, the Multiplicity, the Virtual, the Subtracted One, n-1.  Flaxman opts instead to advocate for something like Godel's incompleteness theorem to describe the Deleuzian World, but to me, it's a cop out...As he says, "There is a kind of Godelian problem operating here inasmuch as, roughly speaking, we seem to affirm that Deleuze's philosophy cannot be both consistent and complete; but the mutual exclusivity of these terms, which implies the negation of one or the other, gives way in sci-phi to the queer logic of the Outside, from which philosophy draws the becomings of new forces, and toward which it vaults its own becomings and lines of flight." (p.318)  Which is just a fancy way of skirting the issue of how to begin to schematize Deleuzian ontological space.  Flaxman is right to begin with the Outside, and incorporate the Event, but where does one go from there?  To begin to think about this, I would (selfishly) recommend an excursion I wrote on Deleuze's Logic of Sense. This reading is not easy, but it lays the groundwork for how we might begin to define this problem holistically and mathematically.

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