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An Introduction to the Philosophy of Gilles Deleuze

Lecturer: Jon Roffe

Originally Taught: Winter School 2004

Like many French philosophers over the last forty years, Gilles Deleuze has frequently been misunderstood. Far from being the postmodern high-priest of buzz-words and obscurity, his philosophy is profoundly rigorous, systematic and above all of extreme importance to anyone looking for a way forward from the great modern thinkers and schools, Kant and Hegel, Marx and Freud, logical positivism and structuralism - not to mention the social forces of capitalism and their functionaries in marketing. Taking elements from empiricism, stoicism and epicurianism, Nietzsche, Spinoza, Kant and Freud - among many others - he forges a philosophy of his own based on affirmation, force, desire and creation. The aim of this course is to provide a basic outine of his philosophy, taking in some of its breadth and complexity, while laying the groundwork for further reading. In particular, each day will be oriented around a critique that Deleuze offers of important philosophers or schools of thought.

Monday: Introduction and early texts in the history of philosophy

This first day will focus on Deleuze's early books on Hume, Bergson, Nietzsche and Spinoza, with special attention to the way in which they provide an empiricist and vitalist alternative to Kant's version of transcendental philosophy.

Tuesday: 'Difference and Repetition' and the 'Logic of Sense'

These two seminal texts (published in 1968 and 1969 respectively) are central items in the movement that came to be known as post-structuralism. We will focus on
a) the manner in which 'Difference and Repetition' challenges the Cartesian and Hegelian legacy in modern thought; and
b) both books in terms of their infamous claim to 'overturn Platonism'.

Wednesday: Psychoanalysis, Politics, Language - the two volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia

On this day, we will take one tangential passage through these difficult but rich works, written by Deleuze with the psychoanalyst Felix Guattari. The focus will be in particular on their challenge to
1) Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalytic approaches to the nature of self and society;
2) to structuralist (Saussure) and geneticist (Chomsky) models of language; and
3) the traditional metaphysical account of the distinction between subjectivity and the world

Thursday: Literature, Cinema and Aesthetics

Deleuze wrote extensively on art, literature, cinema and music. His two books on Cinema (1983 and 1985) are famous. In this lecture, we will consider three topics in particular:
1) his priviledging of Anglo-American literature over the tradition of "great" modernist texts;
2) his radical account of cinema as a system of signs and not a narrative dispositif, along with a striking philosophy of temporality; and
3) his recently translated treatment of the paintings of Francis Bacon, in which he asserts many of his most fundamental beliefs about ethics, power and representation.

Friday: What is Philosophy? (What is science? What is art? What is logic? What is thought?)

This final lecture will offer a reading of the final book that Deleuze and Guattari wrote together before the latter's death. The opponents concerned are many and varied, from logicians to marketing executives. In question is the claim that philosophy has nothing to do with truth, but is a creative discipline, like art - and like science. In the end, Deleuze offers us a picture of philosophy that encounters the experience of the chaos of existence, and fashions something provocative to thought and politically empowering as a result.