When it comes to learning, Deleuze argues that “it is so difficult to say how someone learns.” (DR 23). More dramatically, Deleuze adds, there “is something amorous – but also something fatal – about all education.” (DR 23). In learning to drive a stick shift car, for example, it is not sufficient simply to be told by the instructor to “do as I do,” or to follow the rule as they have stated and/or exemplified it in their actions. Learning is not a matter of following a rule or of doing what someone else does; to the contrary, what one encounters in learning to drive a stick shift car is the task of connecting various elements – namely, the hand, foot, clutch, accelerator, slope of the road, etc.—and of connecting them systematically so that the foot releases from the clutch right when the accelerator is being pressed, etc. Similarly in learning to swim it is a matter of establishing connections between the various parts and motions of one’s body with the resistance, currents, and buoyancy of the water. As Deleuze puts it, “To learn to swim is to conjugate the distinctive points of our bodies with the singular points of the Objective Idea in order to form a problematic field.” (DR 165)
In clarifying what Deleuze means by conjugating the distinctive points “in order to form a problematic field” will offer, I argue, what I take to be a helpful perspective from which to understand Merleau-Ponty’s example of the expert organist as well as Jason Stanley’s recent work on skill.
In his very kind and generous response to my post Eric is right that in the passages I cite from the Treatise and the Enquiry I do “not remark upon” Hume’s claims that “custom and practice…have settled the just value of everything.” My concerns in this post were to sketch the manner in which a Deleuzian metaphysics of multiplicity offers a rapprochement of Spinozist monism and a Humean affirmation of multiplicity. But since Eric is correct to point out that Hume’s comment occurs both in one of the passages I cite and yet again in his dissertation on the passions, it’s worth exploring the implications of Hume’s comments.
What Eric finds surprising in Hume’s claim is that, contrary to what Hume says, it appears that “custom and practice” will not always “produce just values in philosophy” Eric offers an example from early on in the Treatise where Hume claims that in his opinion there has arisen a “common prejudice against metaphysical reasonings of all kinds,” an opinion that can be justified only by “the most determined skepticism, along with a great degree of indolence.” For Hume this prejudice is not justified, and this is for the reason, Hume will conclude a few passages later, because “‘Tis evident, that all the sciences have a relation, greater or less, to human, nature.”
It is this relation that I’ll turn to in order to uncover what gives rise to the apparently conflicting claims that Eric finds surprising.
I’ll be giving a series of lectures at the Deleuze Camp (Workshop) in Osaka at the end of May. Here are the abstracts of the lectures. Any comments or feedback are welcome.
“Learning to Think: Deleuze and the Art of Philosophy”
Lecture 1: The Problem with Solutions
In this first of three lectures I will begin to defend what I take to be Deleuze’s metephysics of multiplicity, a metaphysics that combines both an affirmation of Humean multiplicity and a Spinozist affirmation of monism. A guiding theme in these lectures will be Hume’s theory of taste, as found in his essay “Of the Standard of Taste.” This theme is not arbitrary, for in Chapter 3 of What is Philosophy?, Deleuze and Guattari argue that it is taste that is the “philosophical faculty of coadaptation” that relates the three elements that “constitute the philosophical trinity”—namely, the plane of immanence, conceptual personae, and concepts. This lecture will take up the theme of problems and argue that what is distinctive about philosophy is that it has a taste for the problems that are immanent to the solutions that supposedly resolve and displace them.
Lecture 2: Where there’s a will, there’s a way
In this lecture I will revisit the problem that Deleuze takes to be central to Hume’s philosophical project—that is, the problem of how a “subject transcending the given [can] be constituted in the given.” For Hume this was the problem of accounting for how one comes to the belief that A causes B when there is nothing in A, nor in the succession of A and B, that necessitates the causal relationship between A and B. For Deleuze this emerges as the problem of accounting for how an identity that is irreducible to difference is nonetheless constituted in difference. In short, how does difference-in-itself serve as the principle of sufficient reason for any and all individuated identities. The concept of conceptual personae, we will see, needs to be understood in the context of Deleuze’s efforts to respond to this problem.
Lecture 3: Learning to Think
The focus of the final lecture will be Deleuze’s claim, in Difference and Repetition, that “to think is to create – there is no other creation—but to create is first of all to engender ‘thinking’ within thought.” (DR 147) The first two lectures will have begun to lay out the conditions necessary for engendering thinking in thought. In this lecture we will look further at the relationship between thought and thinking. Learning to think, I will argue, entails a taste for the problems within thought itself, and both Hume and Deleuze had a taste for such problems; or, both were adept at learning to think.
Since much of the impetus for Deleuze’s approach to the PSR stems from a critique of representation, I thought it would be good to post a quick summary of this critique. In short, Deleuze argues that for representational modes of thought difference is always mediated by an already presupposed identity, when it is precisely the conditions for the possibility of identity itself that most concerns Deleuze. The mediation of representation by identity occurs in four ways, what Deleuze calls the “fourfold root” (see DR 29): namely, identity, analogy, opposition, and resemblance.
As I concluded the previous post, I argued that the Deleuzian extension of Hume’s project entailed both the affirmation of monism (Spinoza) and multiplicity (Hume). This point is made crystal clear in A Thousand Plateaus when Deleuze and Guattari announce that “pluralism = monism” (ATP, p. 2; see this earlier post where I discuss this theme in the context of William James’ radical empiricism). This effort to bring Hume and Spinoza together, however, is fraught with difficulty, or at least apparently so, in a philosophical landscape that has been forever altered by Kant’s project. Since Kant was woken from his dogmatic slumber, Hume and Spinoza have come to be rethought, if rethought at all, in the context of the conditions for the possibility of experience. In the case of Hume, this has largely led his philosophy to be read as a project in epistemology. Hume comes to be seen as a precursor of a Bayesian epistemology whereby knowledge comes to be constituted through a process of induction that constitutes degrees of belief. Spinoza, at worst, is thrown into the refuse pile of philosophical dogmatists, one of the philosophers who accepted, without question, that guarantees of our knowledge. Spinoza, in fact, goes much further than either Descartes and Leibniz in that while they accept God as the unquestioned guarantor of our knowledge of the world (Descartes) as well as the harmony of the world itself (Leibniz), God remains inaccessible and unknowable; Spinoza, by contrast, argues in the last half of Part 5 of the Ethics that even God can be known.
To state the contrast between Spinoza the dogmatist and Hume the skeptic, one could say that Spinoza presupposes the identity that grounds knowledge while Hume argues that this identity comes to be constituted. Husserl remarked upon this aspect of Hume’s thought, and it is for this reason that I have argued for a Humean phenomenology (see this). So how then can one bring Hume and Spinoza together? Put simply, through a rethinking of the principle of sufficient reason (PSR). And this brings me back to the issue that in part spawned the New Hume debate – to wit, Hume’s claim that the “particular powers, by which all natural operations are performed” are powers that provide the reason for the regularities of nature but these powers “never appear to the senses.” What are these powers? The simple answer to this question is that these are the laws of nature that are the subject of natural science, and it is precisely the nature of these powers that are revealed, over time, through the process of scientific enquiry. We could say that this is a scientific explanation of facts. That which appears to the senses, therefore, would bring in our mental faculties and the epistemological problems of how we come to know the “particular powers” of nature. With this we have an epistemological explanation, and form here we are not too far from the Bayesian epistemology mentioned above.
I’ve begun a weekly blog post over at New APPS, what I’m calling Continental Connections Thursday. My intention is to write much along the lines of what I’ve written over here at Aberrant Monism (and I will likely do riffs and variations upon what I have written here). I’ll write from my broadly Deleuzo-Humean perspective on issues that connect to concerns of analytic philosophy and beyond. Today’s post is titled White Light/White Heat after the Velvet Underground album of the same name. I take off from a brief discussion of the band, Lou Reed and his fascination with white noise, to explore the Deleuzian notion of a concrete universal (of which Deleuze gives white noise as an example), arguing (however briefly) that despite the nominalist, Humean trajectory of Deleuze’s thought he maintains a healthy Platonism, at least if this is the Platonism of the late dialogues (especially the Philebus). I assume the Humean strand of Deleuze’s thought, which I’ve argued for here and in my published writings, but the Platonism of Deleuze’s thought is not as well addressed, so the post is primarily on Plato for that reason. This most recent post follows another I wrote on the incredulous stare a week or so ago. The traffic over at Newapps is such that I get much more feedback than I do over here, so I’ve decided for the time being to devote most of my blogging energy to Newapps. I’ll still post at Aberrant Monism when I deem it to be too far off the mainstream diet of the blogosphere – which probably will be pretty often. In the meantime, if anyone stumbles upon any of my old posts I’m always open to comments, no matter how long after the post was written.
With midterms out of the way I’ve been able to begin preparing for some upcoming events. In particular, I’ll be one of the lecturers at this year’s Deleuze Camp, along with Ian Buchanan, Dan Smith, and Ron Bogue (there are a couple others as well, I believe, but that’s all I know for now), and so I’m busy preparing for what I’ll do there. I’m also editing a book with Levi Bryant and have finally gotten together my proposed abstract for that project. I post the abstract here since I’ve already posted on this blog many of the ideas that will eventually appear in that essay. This work is also related to what I’ll be doing at the Deleuze Camp so any feedback or suggestions are welcome. As is the nature of abstracts, they often make broad sweeping claims and promises with only an indication, if that, of how successful the arguments will be in the end. I would hope that combined with previous posts some of these inherent problems in abstracts will be alleviated. Regardless, comments are welcome. The tentative title for the essay is ‘Conceptual Automata’.