Philosophy at the Edge of Chaos: Gilles Deleuze and the Philosophy of Difference (Toronto Studies in Philosophy)
Jeffrey A. Bell
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From the early 1960s until his death, French philosopher Gilles Deleuze (1925-1995) wrote many influential works on philosophy, literature, film, and fine art. One of Deleuze's main philosophical projects was a systematic inversion of the traditional relationship between identity and difference. This Deleuzian philosophy of difference is the subject of Jeffrey A. Bell's Philosophy at the Edge of Chaos.
Bell argues that Deleuze's efforts to develop a philosophy of difference are best understood by exploring both Deleuze's claim to be a Spinozist, and Nietzsche's claim to have found in Spinoza an important precursor. Beginning with an analysis of these claims, Bell shows how Deleuze extends and transforms concepts at work in Spinoza and Nietzsche to produce a philosophy of difference that promotes and, in fact, exemplifies the notions of dynamic systems and complexity theory. With these concepts at work, Deleuze constructs a philosophical approach that avoids many of the difficulties that linger in other attempts to think about difference. Bell uses close readings of Plato, Aristotle, Spinoza, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Derrida, and Whitehead to illustrate how Deleuze's philosophy is successful in this regard and to demonstrate the importance of the historical tradition for Deleuze. Far from being a philosopher who turns his back on what is taken to be a mistaken metaphysical tradition, Bell argues that Deleuze is best understood as a thinker who endeavoured to continue the work of traditional metaphysics and philosophy.
theory, they merely become.' 1 5 In other words, Whitehead's monads, as discussed earlier, are in his system referred to as 'actual entities'; however, one cannot say of these actual entities that they are, or that they are an identifiable fact, for once their process is complete and they are identified, they perish and then assume an objective immortality insofar as they are prehended by other actual entities in their own pro cess of becoming. Leibniz's monads, on the other hand, are undestood
Derrida indeed recognizes this tendency in the meta physical tradition and will routinely reveal the excessive play that lurks unquestioned within a text. Derrida' s understanding of deconstruction, in fact, consists in large part in revealing and thinking that which is uncommon, unique, non-identifiable, excessive, and complex; and he thinks or reads this within a text which at one level daims to be setting forth truths that are simple, pure, and common. We saw how Derrida read Hegel in this
philosophers such as Derrida and Deleuze, who state, follow ing Nietzsche, that their task is to reverse the Western philosophical tradition they trace back to Plato. On the surface, at least, there are sorne important similarities between Plato and Nietzsche, for Plato too was well aware of this 'chaos in one- 64 Thinking Difference self.' In The Republic, for example, we find the recognition of this chaos, a recognition that necessitates the attempt to explicate both the reasons why order
control in Western cultures represents for Heidegger a frenzied attempt to make up for the lack of what is essential by excessively con trolling and arranging the everyday world of beings: The consumption of ail materials, including the raw material 'man,' for the unconditioned possibility of the production of everything is determined in a concealed way by the complete emptiness in which beings, the materials of what is real, are suspended. This emptiness has to be filled up. But since the
the process of becoming actual, and in this process there is involved three distinct things. First, there is the actual entity that appro pria tes or prehends (Whitehead's term) the potentialities which become actual within the actual entity. Second, there is that which is prehended, or what it is that is being appropriated. And finally there is the manner in which this datum is prehended, or how the actual entity prehends it (28). Yet, as the subject involved within this process, Whitehead is