London and New York: Verso. ISBN-10: 1-84467-555-6.
Little Affect: Hallward’s Deleuze
Gregory J. Seigworth
I only have one thing to tell you: stick to the concrete, and always return to it. Multiplicity, ritornello, sensation, etc., are all developed into pure concepts, but strictly speaking, they are inseparable from the passage from one concept to another. This is why we must avoid giving one term ascendancy over the others: every notion must drag in all the others, in its turn, and when the time is right …. The more gifted a philosopher is, I believe, the more he or she tends to leave the concrete behind, at least in the beginning. Resist this tendency, at least from time to time, just long enough to come back to perceptions, to affects, which will redouble your concepts. (Deleuze, 2006: 363)
Upon finishing Peter Hallward’s Out of this World: Deleuze and the Philosophy of Creation, one is left with the after-image of a Deleuze depopulated – unmoored from the actual, adrift in the pure virtual, an island, a deserted island, or at the very least a Robinson Crusoe (even if the differences, for Hallward, between Michel Tournier’s and Daniel Defoe’s Crusoe turn out to matter little in the end). Although it is not altogether clear whether Hallward entirely fancies himself as Friday to Deleuze’s Crusoe, there might be something mirrored in Deleuze’s claim, found in his early essay ‘Desert Islands,’ that ‘one could hardly imagine a more boring novel’ (1953/2004: 12) than Robinson Crusoe, and Hallward’s complaint in the opening pages of his own book about ‘the monotony of the underlying logic of Deleuze’s philosophy’ (2). The punchline for Deleuze is that ‘any healthy reader dreams of seeing Friday eat Robinson’ (1953/2004: 12). Hallward’s own punchline in regard to Deleuze might read, however, a great deal more like Hegel’s pronouncement on Spinoza’s death by consumption, namely that it was ‘in harmony with his system of philosophy, according to which all particularity and individuality pass away in the one substance’ (Hegel, 1968: 257). As Hallward has it, ‘eleuze is most appropriately read as a spiritual, redemptive, or subtractive thinker, a thinker pre-occupied with the mechanics of dis-embodiment and de-materialisation. Deleuze’s philosophy is oriented by lines of flight that lead out of this world . . .’ (3). Thus, in Hallward’s reading, Deleuze appears as a philosopher of ‘contemplative and immaterial abstraction’ (7) and as a proponent of an unanchored ‘absolute creation’-ism, where the world in all its ‘fleshy materialism’ and creatural life is progressively consumed by the subtractive vaporousness of the virtual – until finally Deleuze, as Crusoe, devours himself.
But there is one other lingering image conjured, somewhat more accidentally, by Out of This World. It is the image — a moving image — of an elaborate magic-trick gone terribly awry. You know the one: where the magician has the big saw and asks either an audience member or a beautiful assistant to lie down in a long horizontal box with feet, head, and hands poking out right where they are supposed to be. In this case, of course it is Gilles Deleuze up on the stage, inserted into the spindly wheeled compartmentalized box, his arms wriggling, feet flopping to and fro, his head sticking through the circular window (perhaps even sporting an impressive mustache that belongs to Nietzsche, disguised as Klossowski). However, Hallward as magician has a unique variation on the routine: instead of sawing through the body at mid-torso, he cleaves it down the middle vertically, splitting left from right rather than top from bottom. It’s a great trick, a real stunning display. The crowd is thoroughly impressed but, then, rather than put Deleuze back together again, Hallward tries to convince everyone that the half-Deleuze in the whirling box is all there ever was. Nonetheless, the other (missing) half is still plainly there. Not quite fully tucked behind the stage curtain, the missing-half-Deleuze is waving mischievously from the wings betraying the conceit of the trick’s own conclusions. The crowd is standing and pointing as Hallward attempts some momentary bit of classic misdirection, a quick sleight-of-hand maneuver, perhaps even offering up a tidy, little misattribution that can only be properly located by tracking it back to a footnote in the back of his book, and then following that to its original source and context in Deleuze.
Among those in the crowd standing and pointing toward what is visible at the stage wings are the first reviewers of Out of this World – Paul Grimstad (2007), Steve Shaviro (2007), and Jason Read (2006). They have each conveyed in their own ways how — in cleaving Deleuze’s philosophy from itself by severing the ‘reciprocal determination’ of the virtual from the actual, of the transcendental from the empirical, of the incorporeal from the material — it is Hallward who has in fact not-so-magically produced a purely ephemeral Deleuze. This new ‘Deleuze’ can then be pronounced politically useless and philosophically beside-the-point. Following in the wake of Hallward’s gruesomely compelling but ultimately unsustainable Deleuze-rend(er)ing, what I want to undertake here is not really a recovery-operation of the missing half-Deleuze (especially as this task has already been picked up quite ably by Grimstad, Shaviro, and Read). Rather, I wish to wonder briefly about what philosophical preconceptions and/or misapprehensions might have precipitated this monstrous creature of Hallward-Deleuze (halved, deserted, and vapid) and, thereafter — as in any efficiently dispensed monster story — consider how this misbegotten creature might eventually be turned toward its creator’s undoing. Such monstrous becomings and unbecomings are bound to follow in the confusion of freedom ‘from’ the human (Hallward’s halved-Deleuze) with freedom ‘of’ the human (Deleuze).
What I want to challenge most of all is the initiating premise of Hallward’s book: the place of creativity and creation in Deleuze’s thought. This is not so much to deny that Deleuze’s philosophy is a philosophy of creation (because, undeniably, it is) but instead to argue that the absolutely (purifying) virtual telos that Hallward reads into Deleuze’s work is where everything immediately goes haywire. It is so in part because a telos, by definition, is forever going to move unidirectionally (producing a left and, then, a right or vice versa): it cannot traverse univocally (everywhere and at once) immanence as a single plane. And, still further, any philosophy of creation that terminates teleologically at ‘the creature’ is doomed forever to dwell there, as a creationist philosophy tightly drawn around the creatural, and not as a philosophy that proceeds, more expansively, through the creation of concepts. To paraphrase some recent remarks by Constantin Boundas: with Hallward’s Deleuze, one is left with the unfortunate formulation of a creator trapped inside the creature in a state of ever-diminishing intensity (2007). This formulation, I hope to show, is one that is not fully recognizable in or as Deleuze’s philosophy, or, that is, it is no longer recognizable when bringing the full-Deleuze into account.
Of course on the second page of his book, Hallward acknowledges that the terminological stringing-together of ‘creation, creatings, creatures and so on’ is not Deleuze’s own; it is imported by Hallward from theophanic philosophies like those of Meister Eckhart, John Scottus Eriugena, and Sufi philosopher Ibn al-‘Arabi. From this perspective, God (or any divine source or creator) is perpetually made manifest in the world — God is present in all things and all things are present in God. Here Hallward’s particular theophanic construction-project ultimately results in a process of creation understood more immediately as emanative cause (wherein a cause remains in itself to produce an effect exterior to it) rather than immanent cause, where ‘not only does the cause remain in itself, but its effect remains “immanate” within it, rather than emanating from it’ (Smith, 2001: 174). Thus, through a quickly proposed and rather shaky processual homology, Hallward equates the emanative causality of theophanic philosophies with Bergson and the virtual, Spinoza and expression, and, thereby, Deleuze and creation. But whereas theophanic philosophies of creation, in the way that Hallward deploys them at least, progress — from creator through creatings to creatures — in a series of stepped-down gradations of power/force (following again a philosophy of emanation and not immanence), Deleuze’s Spinozist-inspired philosophy of creation does not pass through such similarly sequential diminishments. Why not? Because — as I will elaborate next — immanence inheres in the persistent resonances and refrains of the affectual.
The role of affect is given little attention in Out of This World — which is not altogether too surprising, given Hallward’s intellectual alignment with Alain Badiou (for whom Spinoza is decidedly more geometrical, whereas Deleuze’s Spinoza is intensely passional). The distinctions that Deleuze carefully delineates in Spinoza’s work between affectio, affectus, and essence (or beatitude) barely register in Hallward’s book; except in the way that affectio simply becomes creature, affectus turns into the act of creating (indeed, creation at one point is even defined by Hallward, like affectus, as a ‘line of continuous variation’ ), and an unknowable or unthinkable creator takes the place of essence or beatitude. Over the book-length expansion of these transpositions, a set of tidy but entropic unilateralisms (approximations with steadily diminishing returns) afforded by Hallward’s theophanic predelictions come to largely displace the univocally vibrant affective cyclings (in eternal return) of Deleuze’s Spinozism.
In one quite lengthy footnote, the second longest of the book, Hallward tackles what he calls the ‘fuller version’ of Spinoza’s sequence as understood by Deleuze. He concludes by arguing that affect has been critically overvalued because, ‘although the object of the idea that constitutes a mind is its body, what constitutes the essence of this idea is of course its (divine) cause, not its object’ (179). Here one could agree, to some extent, with Hallward’s assertion that the privileging of a proto-materialist/sensationalist Deleuze, especially for more than a few who have written in the wake of Brian Massumi’s influential Parables for the Virtual, has lead to a sometimes rather reductive reading (what we might even call a ‘trans-descendant-ly’ reductive reading) of Deleuze’s affectual ontology. But this purposeful counter-move by Hallward in an opposite (and decidedly spiritualist) direction is at least every bit as reductive, albeit trans-ascendant-ly. Fortunately, between these two maneuvers lies the rhythmic heart of Spinoza’s affective/expressive scheme as Deleuze understood it. It is indeed a ‘triadic’ expressive scheme that — in Pierre Macherey’s words — ‘always sets between what is expressed and what expresses it the act of expressing, the very fact of expression, that dynamically frames what each element is in itself, along with their relation’ (1996: 146). What we find, then, in Deleuze is a folding and unfolding of affects and their relations at each and every moment: an expressive scheme that does not move by way of trans-ascendant succession and miraculating displacement but by accretion and sludging superimposition, a schema that does not proceed by complete evacuation or subtraction of substantial connections with the real but by the inclining-and-declining gradation of forces or intensities and the differential relations-of-force.
In sum, this is not a schema that runs on purification and evaporation, but one that churns along by clamorous concatenation and agglomeration. Because everywhere the virtual enters it is viewed by Hallward as the inevitable dissolving of material bonds (a kind of ‘contamination by purity,’ as Foucault once said of Deleuze [1977: 168]), Hallward almost completely misconstrues how the virtual is, for Deleuze, a Whole that simultaneously persists alongside its parts as one other part: a self-varying whole that opens perpetually to what exceeds it, to accommodate ever-new forms of relationality. Although Hallward is focused on elaborating an impossibly pure, absolute, Platonist Deleuze (not unlike a clean shaven Marx, except in this case, it might involve a Deleuze with closely trimmed fingernails), Foucault more accurately describes Deleuze’s reversed Platonism in far messier terms: as an accumulation of ‘the smallest gestures,’ divergent series, lateral leaps, a crop of hair, dirt under the fingernails, as a metaphysics of ‘extra-being’ and not its sublime neglect or dissolution (1977: 168).
Hallward perpetually poses Deleuze’s philosophy of creation in subtractive terms of the really-real creatural minus the virtually affectual: where only a divine (though largely affectless) source creates creatures, because affect — in Hallward’s world — circulates only as far as the spaces of a body: radiating perhaps as a little ‘affectio’ but nothing more. Hallward thus gives Deleuze a problem (and many of the rest of us a headache) that never really needed to be posed in the first place. From affect as immediate bodily encounter (affectio) to affect as continuous passage of intensity (affectus) to affect as infinite speed-survey (essence), and then continually back again (in reverse fashion), there is in fact no single point at which affect absorbs or somehow steals away all manner of vitalist matter-energy from the creatural in order to become purely evaporative, or to otherwise depart from the actual world (what Hallward describes as ‘the progressive liberation of virtual creatings from every trace of their creatural confinement’ ). As Deleuze will note in The Fold, ‘To state that God has already passed through, by virtue of his prescience, means nothing since eternity consists, much less in forging ahead or going backwards, than in coinciding each time with all the passages that follow in the order of time, with all the present living beings that make up the world’ (1993:73). Similarly, Deleuze and Guattari are very careful, at the moment when they address Badiou’s work briefly in What is Philosophy?, to state that the relation of virtual to actual multiplicities is not a matter of absorption but rather of how events ‘adsorb’ actual states of affairs (1994: 153). Adsorption is the accumulation of substances, gases, ‘independent variables, particles-trajectories, sign-speeds’ into a condensed layer (‘a cloud of constantly emitted and reabsorbed particles’ [1994: 153]), a snowballing palimpsest of surface-affects in both their heterogeneities and combinatory mixtures. Thus, this becomes a ceaseless, circulatory multiplicity of affective passages where inevitable escape or the excess of process only leads to further addition (adsorption) and not to the subtractive siphoning of potential or power (though, yes, without offering guarantees about any particular political valence).
Deleuze will insist, following Spinoza, that ‘affection of essence’ encompass each and every modality of affect, and hence, as Deleuze states in his lectures on Spinoza and affect, ‘every affect affects essence . . . inadequate ideas belong to essence no less than adequate ideas’ (1981: np): whether it is the passionate instantaneousness of affection as inadequate ideas, the durations of active affects (or ‘affectus’ as passage of lived intensities) through the discovery of common notions in the continuous compositions of movement and rest, or the eternity of the affections of essence in the expression of belonging to the open whole of absolute affectivity. Each and every affect drags in all the others in its turn. A life, a world: fully and inseparably adsorbed. To adhere to a philosophy of immanence and to foreground the act of concept-creation is, then, to follow affect in its varied rhythms and reciprocal resonances (the inescapable capacities to affect and to be affected) — traversing inadequate ideas, common notions, and essences (at once, and in all directions) — as adsorb-ative, both passing through and coinciding. Always more, and not somehow less.
So, when Hallward picks up on Deleuze’s contention that the real task of creation is ‘always to extract an event from things and beings,’ this extraction from Hallward’s perspective can only be understood in terms of ‘a process which will eventually require the evacuation of those same things’ (91). The end-result, already foreclosed from the start, can lead only to ‘the dissipation of the actual, not the solidification of materials but their dematerialization, not the preservation of embodiment but an intensive disembodiment’ (90). This inability to account for affect in any thoroughgoing way means that Hallward cannot hold together — but rather chooses to split in half — the way that the virtual and the actual/transcendent, and the empirical/incorporeal and the material reciprocally determine one another (all the while continuing, porously, one alongside the another) and, further, how any primacy given to substance over other categories of being — as found in theophanic philosophies that end at the creatural — has no true place in an affectual Deleuzean-Spinozan philosophy of expression. ‘You will not define a body (or a mind),’ writes Deleuze in Spinoza: Practical Philosophy, ‘by its form, nor by its organs or functions, and neither will you define it as a substance or a subject’ (1988: 123). Dan Smith will make this point even clearer for my purposes here: ‘Between God and man, plant and animal, there can be no difference of category, no difference of substance, no difference of form. . . We must no longer ask what the essence of a thing is, but rather what its affective capacities are, since the power of an existing individual is expressed in a certain capacity for being affected’ (2001: 178). Only a philosophy of creation that begins and ends with affect (affectio and essence respectively) in an eternal cycle of return, by grasping affect at its middle (i.e., the miniscule to immense gradations of difference-in-itself as affectus), will be capable of articulating together external relations and intensity while sticking fast to the immanent plane of existence, and its multiple comings-into-existence.
Hallward’s half-Deleuze will always founder on the shoals of a desolate, deserted actuality, unable to find affective passage to and from the crowd of virtuality that can only arrive, in the purest of pure separations, as redemption from this world. Given, however, the expressly impure affectual story that I have tried to sketch thus far as alternative to this lonely creatural account, it is interesting then to look again at Hallward’s reading of Deleuze’s ‘Desert Island’ essay. In pairing it with ‘Immanence: A Life,’ Hallward argues that, as these are among the very first and very last essays that Deleuze published in his lifetime, they might offer a succinct and unwavering through-line that bookends the whole of Deleuzean philosophy. After all, Hallward uses ‘Desert Island’ to help cinch the argument of his opening chapter, an argument that serves to frame his entire book about Deleuze’s subtractive vitalism and otherwordly virtualism. Perhaps though, on closer examination, this ‘Desert Island’ essay will reveal that this rather dreary situation (of a philosophically impoverished and politically useless Deleuze) is otherwise than Hallward has portrayed it.
Deleuze’s creation story in ‘Desert Island’ does not end, as Hallward would have you believe, at the creatural and individual. Indeed, at almost the very moment that Hallward suspends his own quotings from the text, Deleuze’s essay begins again, retracing its argument back through its first movement, in order to subtly shift and rearrange its elements and their relations, and thus to resituate his own starting premises along a different trajectory. Deleuze, in this second movement of his essay, acknowledges that his previous set-up of ‘the unity of the deserted island and its inhabitants is not actual, only imaginary’ and that ‘the individual imagination’ could not very likely raise itself up to the task of creating a world anew; instead, Deleuze says ‘it would require the collective imagination’ (2004: 11). And, as Deleuze emphasizes further, the act of creation never arrives as if outside this world but must always begin again, as a second beginning, in this world:
We have to get back to the movement of the imagination that makes the deserted island a model, a prototype of the collective soul. First, it is true that from the deserted island, it is not creation, but re-creation, not the beginning but a re-beginning that takes place. From [a second origin] everything begins anew. . . It is not enough that everything begin, everything must begin again once the cycle of possible combinations has come to completion. The second moment does not succeed the first: it is the reappearance of the first when the cycle of the other moments has been completed. The second origin is thus more essential than the first, since it gives us the law of repetition, the law of the series, whose first origin gave us only moments (13).
These words all resonate of course with the affirmation of the being of becoming, the affectivity of the eternal return of difference, especially as it adheres to ‘the event.’ See, for example, What is Philosophy?, where Deleuze and Guattari write that ‘the event has the privilege of beginning again when time is past. . . [and that its] becoming continues to pass through its components again and to restore the event that is actualized elsewhere, at a different moment’ (1994: 158). This is far different from Hallward’s contention that becoming-as-creation perpetually flees its components, and ‘involves an escape . . . a flight, an exit. The essential effort is always to extract a pure potentiality, a virtual creating from an actual creature, such that the former can be thought as wholly independent of the latter’ (44). I hope that, by now, it is also slightly more difficult to hear such a ‘wholly independent’ line of flight in Deleuze’s (and Guattari’s) own words because every philosophical act of concept-creation is an island of the second sort, always a beginning again at the moment when the nomadic distribution of difference that composes the first island’s essence becomes the event of its affectual return in the second. As Deleuze and Guattari will explicitly state, once again in What is Philosophy?, ‘The concept speaks the event, not the essence or the thing . . . . The concept is defined by the inseparability of a finite number of heterogeneous components traversed by a point of absolute survey at infinite speed’ (1994: 21). Repeat to differ; affirm difference’s return (all the while traversing the differentials of this affective plane everywhere and at once); raise up a concept on this plane of ceaseless composition, not as move to depopulation and depoliticization, but as a processual opening in advance of a people always yet to come.
Finally, in what surely has to be a severe blow to any too easy alignment with theophanic creationism, Deleuze concludes his ‘Desert Island’ essay by arguing that, ‘[s]ince the island is a second origin, it is entrusted to man and not to the gods. . . . After all, the beginning started from God and from a couple, but not the new beginning, the beginning again . . . In the ideal of beginning anew there is something that precedes the beginning itself, that takes it up to deepen it and delay it in the passage of time. The desert island is the material of this something immemorial, this something most profound’ (2004: 13-14). So, while Peter Hallward has written a brilliant book of little affect, delivering up his message to the gods of Deleuze’s first island, there is a whole other island directly beneath his feet, a second island, revealing itself over and over again in the differential of every shifting grain of sand, in the single clamor of every thousand-voice wave lapping at its shore.
Boundas, Constantin (2007) ‘Deleuze and the Problem of Freedom.’ Plenary paper presented at Gilles Deleuze: Texts and Images, 9th Annual Comparative Literature Conference, University of South Carolina, April 6.
Deleuze, Gilles (1981) ‘Deleuze/Spinoza’ lecture Cours Vincennes, March 24.
Deleuze, Gilles (1988) Spinoza: Practical Philosophy. San Francisco: City Lights Books.
Deleuze, Gilles (1993) The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press.
Deleuze, Gilles (2004) Desert Islands and Other Texts: 1953-1974. New York: Semiotext(e).
Deleuze, Gilles (2006) Two Regimes of Madness: Texts and Interviews 1975-1995. New York: Semiotext(e).
Deleuze, Gilles & Guattari, Felix (1994) What is Philosophy? New York: Columbia University Press.
Foucault, Michel (1977) ‘Theatrum Philosophicum,’ Language, Counter-Memory, Practice. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press.
Grimstad, Paul (2007) ‘Creative Writing,’ Radical Philosophy, Issue 142, March/April: 46-48.
Hegel, G. W. F. (1968) Lectures on the History of Philosophy. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Macherey, Pierre (1996) ‘The Encounter with Spinoza,’ in Deleuze: A Critical Reader (ed.), P. Patton. Cambridge, MA and Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishers.
Read, Jason (2006) ‘Creation and Interest,’ Mute (on-line magazine), September 5. http://www.metamute.org/en/Creation-and-Interest
Shaviro, Steve (2007) ‘Hallward on Deleuze,’ The Pinocchio Theory (blog), March 14. http://www.shaviro.com/Blog/?p=567
Smith, Dan (2001) ‘The Doctrine of Univocity: Deleuze’s Ontology of Immanence,’ in Deleuze and Religion (ed.), M. Bryden. New York and London: Routledge.
Gregory J. Seigworth is Associate Professor in Communication & Theatre at Millersville University of Pennsylvania, USA. He has most recently contributed chapters to Deleuze: Key Concepts (2005), Animations of Deleuze and Guattari (2003), and New Cultural Studies (2006). He is currently co-editing a collection of essays on affect and cultural theory, and another collection of critical essays on Henri Lefebvre’s work in the 21st Century. Contact: Gregory.Seigworth@millersville.edu