New Humanism Deleuze Critique


I’m just about finished posting about Deleuze and Foucault. I’ll have more to say about Deleuze and Badiou, and Deleuze and Hallward, and Deleuze and Buber. But right now, I want to draw a line, my own line of flight from Deleuze. Mostly it has to do with my own stubborn and rearguard humanism.

I always shied away from those moments in Deleuze based on the superman conceit that one can become machine and molecular, able to think-unfold the absolute from a non-human standpoint. I tend to think we’re always stuck with consciousness and representation, no matter how much we might want to bracket those hoary old philosophical “things.”

Consider the use of the term “mere.” The universal, according to Deleuze, is “merely the shadow of a particular and ephemeral combination carried by a historical stratum” (Foucault, p.75). And these historical strata “merely [collect] and [solidify] the visual dust and sonic echo of the echo of the battle [of forces] raging above them” (99).

I have no problem with either description as much as with the qualifier. For us slow carbon-based forms that cannot move at infinite accelerations, not even in thought, these effects can never be merely “mere.” Strata constitute what Deleuze himself recognized as part of the living inside of the folds that we inhabit, whereas the universal would always constitute our attempt to step outside into more capacious “atmospheric [elements]” (p.99).

How bourgeois is that?! Deleuze wants to have his cake and ear it too. Against the Deleuzian grain, I think there is plenty of place here in Foucault and elsewhere upon which to ground a new humanism. This would be to do with Deleuze exactly what Deleuze did to Bergson and to others. That you can actually do this with Deleuze says an awful lot about him, all of it good.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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4 Responses to New Humanism Deleuze Critique

  1. donovanschaefer says:

    I love Deleuze and this makes a lot of sense to me. I feel like one of the things he’s always struggled with is how to make his ontological picture of molecular forces into a phenomenological picture that talks about how it feels to be a body moving around the world. (Yes, I know phenomenology is a dirty word for him–I think that’s part of his problem.) He makes various passes at this in his work, none of them quite satisfactory to me. In affect theory, I think the more Deleuze-oriented theorists still are working on this problem, while the more phenomenological theorists tend to drift away from Deleuze.

  2. I would love to see your thoughts on Deleuze and Buber. Have you looked at Poma’s treatment of Deleuze and Hermann Cohen?

    • zjb says:

      i’ll write up a little about Deleuze and Buber, but can you tell me where Poma writes about Cohen and Deleuze?? Who would have ever thought?

  3. Thanks for writing the Buber/Deleuze entry! The Poma essay is in ‘Yearning for Form’ (the last one, I think.

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