• • •
I pity the fool who had to write the essay on Sigmund Freud in Deleuze’s Philosophical Legacy. It’s because there actually isn’t much to say when a thinker so powerfully rejects a former influence in a fit of rage.
One of the most influential books Gilles Deleuze ever wrote was Anti-Œdipus with Félix Guattari – definitely the most influential among the political thinkers who build on his work. That book was built around a detailed, incisive, forceful, and total rejection of the core dynamics of all Freudian thinking.
|Freudian concepts of desire dominated French thought about|
psychology early in Deleuze and Guattari's career. They
wrote against it with the fury of a betrayed disciple.
Nothing reversed so radically in Deleuze’s intellectual life than his belief in Freudian ideas. It took meeting Guattari for him to realize that Freudian psychology was the closest thing possible to an opposite of the direction he wanted to develop – a metaphysical framework based on heterogeneity, variety, difference, becoming.
Working with Guattari helped Deleuze realize that Freud’s entire system was built on a premise that those images – Œdipus in particular – constituted a universal structure to human consciousness.
Guattari – a man who worked all his life with schizophrenics – knew from the examples of his daily professional life that it was far from universal. More than that, the dynamics of Œdipal imagery, concepts, and principles in action on people’s personalities and identities grounds an ethic of unearned submission and servitude to authority of force and might. Father–King–Policeman–Gun–Man.
Fucking patriarchy, man.
• • •
Ronald Bogue ended up writing the most boring kind of history of philosophy paper imaginable – the list. He lists and dispassionately describes the appearances Freud’s ideas made in Deleuze’s work. Doesn’t contribute any more analysis than that.
|There's a masterful essay in cultural theory on how Freudian|
philosophy of desire and sexuality leads to the ideology of Zardoz.
But I'm not about to write it. That would mean I'd have to watch
Best I can do is speculate – about the habits and norms of the academics of the global university system. Not what everyone does, of course. I’m just talking about the tendencies people get socialized into as they teach their courses, hunt for research grants and contracts, submit their articles and edit their journals, chase tenure.
There’s a tendency to crave wholeness in a primary material philosopher. At conferences, in classes, and in articles, so many ask questions like, “What was Aristotle’s concept of the soul?” for example. As if there could only be one answer to that question.
Some philosophers are allowed breaks. Ludwig Wittgenstein was one of those, but he was so extreme in declaring it in his life that no one can deny it. Kant was way more professional with his declaration, but it was still pretty extreme.
I was trained to think of such figures as outliers in the broader tradition of philosophy – those were consistent thinkers. Even the two Kants and the two Wittgensteins are each treated as being consistent. The concepts are clear in each one. You’d get weird looks if you suggested that the primary material thinkers were just as uncertain of the ideas they wrote about and the concepts they developed as anyone else.
So much secondary material is scholarship arguing over what a given philosopher really meant by a particular concept. If even the primary material writers didn’t quite know the exact concept – if they were figuring it all out like the rest of us – there isn’t any real hook for why they’re among the ranks of the great philosophers.
Well, there is. It’s the ambition, care, and skill with which they wrote their battles with difficult, vital concepts. Plus, they had the social and institutional connections and reputations to publish their work where it would be widely read and taken seriously.
If you think primary material philosophers reached any truth that make them categorically different from anyone else. We don’t read Aristotle to follow and join along with his concepts about the nature of the soul – We read Aristotle to know Aristotle’s concept of the soul.
Maybe we shouldn’t. You know that everybody shits, right?