Bingeing on Deleuze: An Overview of Introductions & Explanations

9 April 2006 at 9:59 am 4 comments

I have been bingeing on books about Deleuze's work and have given frequent thought to posting here as I have read, but I just haven't taken the time (or had the time?  or created the time?) to make a post.  While reading through DeLanda's Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy and Bonta and Protevi's Deleuze and Geophilosophy, I ordered Todd May's Gilles Deleuze:  An Introduction and read this wonderful book in its entirety before (re)turning to John Rajchman's The Deleuze Connections.  I also ordered Claire Colebrook's Routledge Critical Thinkers edition of Gilles Deleuze and just finished the first chapter, "Why Deleuze?"  At this point I couldn't stand anymore; I am bursting; I had to put something down here (even though the evidence of my "blog stats" shows that nobody is tuning in).  What I anticipate right now–and this can change!–is that I could/should post daily on what has been happening to me as I've read (and read) these books.

For now, a quick introduction to my experience of these relatively recent introductions and explanations of Deleuze.  Of the lot, I found Todd May's book to make the most sense, putting Deleuze as he does into the broader philosophical context of the history of philosophy (and certain philosophical concepts) as well as the more recent context of Deleuze's influences (Spinoza, Bergson, and Nietzsche:  "Christ, the Father, the Holy Ghost.  They create the three concepts that form the tripod on which Deleuze's own philosophy stands:  immanence, duration, and the affirmation of difference" [69]).  May suggests that Deleuze's work is in response to a basic philosophical question, "How might one live?" and keeps returning to this as he works through introducing Deleuze's difficult constellation of concepts.

After reading the parts introducing Bergson's notions of time, I felt confident to return to DeLanda's book and started into Chapter 3, "The Actualization of the Virtual in Time."  I felt good after reading the second chapter on "The Actualization of the Virtual in Space"; with my background in mathematics (a minor of sorts in college) as well as my previous readings in SciAm, I was able to grasp this chapter firmly.  But the third chapter was difficult.  Despite having read quite a bit about Einstein and contemporary physics (the two most illuminating were Lincoln Barnett's classic The Universe and Doctor Einstein and the more recent David Bodanis book E=mc2:  Biography of an Idea), I often feel thick when trying to grasp these reconceptualizations of time.  I should be comforted by the fact that our brains our not wired for such conceptualization; it is a practical machine for survival.

I then decided to plow on through the rest of DeLanda, since I had been taking it one slow, dense chapter at a time, and there was only one more left.  This book is much more dense than any of the others, but I really like how he uses complexity theory and the physics of phase transitions and the mathematics of topology and "symmetry breaking" (among other things) to explain Deleuze's concepts.  This all seems to "ground" Deleuze, even though science is supposed to be a completely different way of thinking (according to Deleuze and Guattari, in What Is Philosophy?).  Along with May, I highly recommend this book.

After getting through DeLanda, I went right back in to Rajchman's The Deleuze Connections.  This is a book I had bought a few years ago and read up to the point where it started to get difficult–the chapter on "Multiplicities."  I thought that, having been through the other books, I'd be ready for this, and since this was one of two books that May recommended as excellent general treatments of Deleuze's works (the other being Colebrook, which I promptly ordered), I thought I'd get right into it.  May does warn that it's the more difficult of the two and is better approached after some engagement with Deleuze's writings, but I figured that, after all the primary and secondary reading I had done to this point, I was ready for it.  But not so–bits of this chapter I felt were inpenetrable and frustrating.  I am part-way through the fifth chapter on "Life" and will keep going.  I do have to say that the first three chapters of this book were excellent and very helpful for me.

The book I haven't mentioned is Bonta and Protevi's Deleuze and Geophilosophy.  This seems like it is a satellite of the DeLanda book, written as it was after DeLanda and admitting to adopting his perspective to some extent.  This was quick to get through because most of the book is a glossary of terms.  This is very useful to have on hand when reading Deleuze or about Deleuze.  The book ends with a case study which I haven't read yet; part one, though–the first 50 pages or so–were excellent.  This book is more about "doing geography after D&G," but it's helpful in getting a handle on Deleuze's difficult work.

So that's a summary of what I've been reading over the past month and a half.  I didn't know what else to do.  I hope this ends up being helpful to somebody, though ultimately what matters, I reckon, is whether or not it was helpful to me.  Because so much of my experience occurs in the process of reading, I do find it helpful to have a record of "the places I've been." 


Entry filed under: complexity theory, delanda, philosophy.

Complexity Theory and Philosophy Becoming Deleuzian?

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Walter Lewallen  |  21 May 2006 at 4:06 pm

    Hi Rich,

    I’m reading through your posts. You know, over the last decade or so I go back to D&G when I’m writing: initially for clarification, which leads to frustration, then the impetus reverts to speculation or experimentation. Now I’m going to continue reading up through your posts. best, WEL

  • 2. iamsamiam  |  17 June 2006 at 4:29 am

    Go to 🙂

  • 3. baghel  |  3 February 2008 at 11:50 am

    Interesting, I had read the colebrook, but was still feling flummoxed. i have ordered the Todd May now. I wonder if you would analyse something contemporary using Deleuzian ideas

  • 4. Richard Smyth  |  3 February 2008 at 9:18 pm

    I would if I could…But these things don’t come to me the way they do to others. I think these ideas are very applicable. See Manuel DeLanda’s work, for example.


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