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Who Are We Today? Foucault: Proust: Deleuze

Interview by Richard Marshall.

Increasingly I have felt that the task of philosophy is not to deal with the so-called eternal problems of philosophy, problems about which we could say that they were valid yesterday and will also be valid tomorrow, but with the question of the forces, discourses and practices that shape our own subjectivity, and through which we understand and experience who we are.

The claim I make in the book is that, with the advent of liberalism, desire undergoes a decisive transformation: it is no longer what needs to be governed, that is, controlled, dominated, even suppressed, in order for the good life, the ethical and spiritual life, to emerge; no, desire becomes an instrument of government, or that through which we learn to govern ourselves.

He seems to see in Sade a pivotal moment, which remains subjected to the age of representation (to the point of obsession) whilst unleashing the full force of desire. And that, he claims, is why Sade is still a libertine, rather than a pervert, why his age is still that of libertinage, and not yet that of sexuality.

Metaphor is the aesthetic equivalent or translation of the ontological concept of difference (and, I had initially planned to demonstrate, desire is the ethical equivalent of difference).

The novel, I think, raises the question: how can that life be overcome? How can nihilism be avoided? And the answer Proust gives is: through art, but on the condition that art not be understood as a form of realism (and therefore imitation), or even allegory, but as rooted in a form of experience – the experience of what I call the hypersensible – the model of which the narrator finds in involuntary memory, that is, in a form of time that escapes mere chronology, and a form of space that escapes the ordinary distribution and division of lived experience.

I think that what Deleuze and Guattari call immanence, or the plane of immanence, is another way of designating what Deleuze began by calling the transcendental field, and which served as the basis for his renewed, “superior” or indeed transcendental form of empiricism. The plane of immanence, or the transcendental, is the set of conditions that give rise to distinct, fully formed phenomena (physical, cultural, social, etc.); it’s where problems are generated.

Miguel de Beistegui specialises in 20th century German and French philosophy, and has published books and articles in the following areas: ontology, metaphysics, aesthetics, ethics and politics. Initially specialising in the thought of Martin Heidegger, and in phenomenology in general, he has become convinced that philosophy needs to resist extreme specialisation and develop the conceptual tools to engage with our time. This means that it needs to bring together the various branches of philosophy, but also establish a dialogue between philosophy and the other disciplines, in the social as well as the natural sciences. Here he discusses Foucault and desire from a genealogical perspective, why ours is a civilisation of desire, aesthetics after metaphysics, metaphor, the hypersensible, the philosophical Proust, Deleuze and immanence, and Delueze and Heidegger.

3:AM: What made you become a philosopher?

Miguel de Beistegui: It all started in my last year at school in France. I remember vividly my first philosophy class, on Plato’s Republic. I felt the world was opening up, and in a way I had never experienced before. I felt the magical power of concepts to reveal and guide us through the complexity of the world. I marvelled at the very existence of those creatures, which are at once abstract and absolutely real, strangely ideal, yet also strangely physical. I felt, for the same time, what thinking might mean and involve.

3:AM: You’ve recently written about desire and begin by asking Foucault’s question: ‘who are we today?’ Foucault’s question is rooted in both Nietzschean diagnosticism and Kantian historical ontology of ourselves isn’t it? Is this your approach to the philosophy of desire then? Can you say something about these Nietzschean and Kantian influences on your approach to the question of desire, in particular Kant’s understanding of critique which he connects with both archaeology and genealogy?

MB: Yes, increasingly I have felt that the task of philosophy is not to deal with the so-called eternal problems of philosophy, problems about which we could say that they were valid yesterday and will also be valid tomorrow, but with the question of the forces, discourses and practises that shape our own subjectivity, and through which we understand and experience who we are. That’s the diagnostic question, which Foucault indeed sees at work in Nietzsche. And where he sees it connecting with Kant is on the question of critique. Not critique in the sense of the critiques of pure reason, practical reason, and judgement, not, that is, in the sense of a critique of faculties that are constitutive of subjectivity in a transcendental sense, but as a problematisation and a historicisation – an archeology and a genealogy – of the historical (rather than transcendental) conditions under which the forces and relations I was mentioning emerged, evolved, and eventually take to be granted, and are even attributed to ‘human nature’. This is the approach I decided to privilege in my book on desire, after having written one, which I never published, and which attempted to construct an ontology of desire. In that respect, that book doesn’t ask the question: what is desire? Or: what does it mean to desire something? Rather, it asks: how do we desire today? How is desire constructed and organised? How do we understand and experience ourselves as of subjects of desire today? How can we define the ‘today’ in question, how far back can we trace its emergence, and how does it differ from the way in which we – and by that I mean a form of western subjectivity – desired in the past?

3:AM: So what do you take to be the problem of desire from a genealogical perspective?

MB: I think I’ve already begun to answer this question. But let me say this by way of justifying the analysis of desire itself. Why desire, after all? Two reasons, really: first, the problem of desire is one that traverses virtually the entire history of philosophy, and of a number of other discourses, past and present, from theology to political economy, the science of sexuality, and the ethics and politics of recognition. Why is that? Why does desire occupy such an important place in our (again, western) history? The other, perhaps more important reason is the following: one way (that adopted by Foucault) to understand and analyse liberalism is less as a theory of individual freedom, and a reflection on ways to neutralise or at least minimise tyranny, and more as a technique or ‘technology’ of government, as a way of governing others as well as one’s own self, and one that could shed light (transversal light as it were) on the different forms of liberalism, on liberalisms of the right and the left.

The claim I make in the book is that, with the advent of liberalism, desire undergoes a decisive transformation: it is no longer what needs to be governed, that is, controlled, dominated, even suppressed, in order for the good life, the ethical and spiritual life, to emerge; no, desire becomes an instrument of government, or that through which we learn to govern ourselves. Therefore, I see the specifically liberal rationalities of political economy, sexuality, and recognition, as the discourses that give desire a new meaning and direction, a new role, which continue to shape our own subjectivity today. Those rationalities, together with the institutions and power relations without which they could not operate (I am thinking of the market, and the manner in which the role of the state is redefined as a result; the institution of the clinic, and the role other institutions such as the family, the school, etc. play in educating our children as sexual subjects; the law and the symbolic spaces of recognition, through which desire is articulated as the desire for recognition) can be seen as pillars of liberalism, and a specifically normative construction of desire (as opposed to, say, an understanding of desire that revolves around prohibition and transgression, or around the paradigm of the law).

3:AM: Is western society the civilisation of desire, as Foucault argued, and how did this happen? Is Sade a pivotal moment for this, in the way that Don Quixote was pivotal for the transformation of the classical into the Renaissance? Is this a shift from an ethics of pleasure to an ethics of desire?

MB: I don’t know if western society is the civilisation of desire, as Foucault once claimed. What I do know is that it is a civilisation of desire, and one that, throughout its history, has given way to specific constructions of desire. Foucault’s claim, which I’m not entirely convinced by, is that our obsession with desire (especially in matters of sexual conduct, and by contrast with the society of pleasure of classical Greece) began to emerge in late antiquity, and with Stoicism in particular, in which early Christians found a natural ally. Where does Sade fit in that history? Foucault’s claim in The Order of Things is that Sade marks a pivotal moment, indeed analogous to that played by Cervantes in the transition from the Renaissance to the classical age. Pivotal in what sense? In the sense that resemblance, which defined the episteme of the Renaissance, was eventually replaced with the episteme of representation in the classical age, and made possible the emergence of sciences such as general grammar, natural history, and the science of wealth; similarly, the modern age and episteme, which account for the transformation of the sciences just mentioned into those of philology, biology, and political economy, coincided with a decline of representation and the emergence of desire, of its force and thrust.

Foucault sees this new dimension of subjectivity, which escapes the demands and constraints of representation, played out in Sade. He seems to see in Sade a pivotal moment, which remains subjected to the age of representation (to the point of obsession) whilst unleashing the full force of desire. And that, he claims, is why Sade is still a libertine, rather than a pervert, why his age is still that of libertinage, and not yet that of sexuality. Unlike Don Quixote, the characters of Sade don’t signal the ironic triumph of representation over resemblance, but that of “the obscure and repeated violence of desire battering at the limits of representation.” In Sade, everything must be said, named, represented. And yet, because of the manner in which, in what amounts to an exhaustive and exhausting discourse, he tries to represent the unrepresentable, he writes at the limit of that classical discourse.

But I wouldn’t want to overstate the importance of Sade for the history of desire, whether for Foucault, or indeed myself. I would simply say this: Sade is a libertine, perhaps the last libertine, or the figure for whom the question of sexual conduct is dictated not by the normative, clinical typology of sexuality of the nineteenth, but, depending on how we read him, either as an ethicist of pure pleasure, or (as someone like Lacan has insisted), as concerned, if not obsessed, with the status of desire in connection with the Law (and thus with the possibility of elevating transgression to the level of absolute jouissance). The latter dimension is one that Foucault doesn’t discuss.

3:AM: How are the Stoics an important part of this story?

MB: As I was saying, Foucault situates in Stoicism as key shift with respect to the ethics of the self: whereas, especially in matters related to sexual conduct, or the use of pleasures (aphrodisia), the act (which act, with whom, when, how often, etc.?) was the focus of the ethics in question, with Stoicism, and more so with Christianity, the intention, and thus the desire itself, becomes the focus of the self’s relation to itself, and the source of a hermeneutics, as well as an asceticism.

3:AM: As well as in the realm of sexuality, where else was desire developed? Can you say a bit more about how does all this lead to the development of liberalism?

MB: I already said a few things about this in response to a previous question above, but let me add this: the claim I make in the book is that, between the middle of the eighteenth and the middle of the nineteenth century, our western conception of desire undergoes a profound change, and coincides with the emergence of a series of discourses, and the transformation of certain spaces and institutions. I’m not saying that the analysis is exhaustive. But I do think that the emergence of political economy in the eighteenth century transforms and rehabilitates desire, by a. claiming that desire is a constitutive and irreducible dimension of human nature, and thus not one what can be endlessly suppressed; b. translating it into, or inscribing it within, a new family of concepts, especially that of interest, self-interest and utility. The argument is the following: it is by governing ourselves not against, but according to our own self-interest and ‘selfish desires’ (to use A. Smith’s expression) that the wellbeing of the majority, and not just my own, will be achieved. This new technique of government implies a new role for the state, and the transformation of the market as the space or mechanism through those selfish desires will be expressed and realised.

Similarly, and following clues from historians of sexuality, I try and show how the typology of sexuality which we have inherited form the nineteenth century, and the science of sexuality itself, was largely developed as an alternative, but also as a supplement to the liberal conception of crime and punishment, based on interest and motive, and thus on a ‘rational’ conception of desire (which, by the way, does not exclude the world of passions). Certain crimes, at times brutal, but at other times relatively benign, began to be attributed to a type of desire related to natural instincts and drives, and thus to a clinical and normative rationality of a different kind: sexual conduct began to be seen in terms of normal and abnormal behaviour, and the norm itself defined as genital, heterosexual and procreative. Any deviation from that norm was seen as clinically perverse, and was thought to underpin a range of criminal behaviours. Although sexuality is no longer or at least no longer exclusively defined in the same, normative manner, I’m convinced that sexuality remains a framework through which we understand, typologise, and increasingly think we choose who we are, and thus a key mechanism in the construction of the liberal self – and not just a domain onto which liberalism imposes itself.

Finally, philosophy itself, in a period stretching from Rousseau and A. Smith to German idealism, and again more recently (in the 1980s and 90s – I’m thinking here of the role of desire in Fukuyama’s claim regarding the liberal end of history), paved the way for an understanding of desire as desire for recognition – recognition of one’s own self, intrinsic value, identity, way of being, etc. In this context, we need to distinguish clearly between two different strands: one (let’s say Kantian, but we also find it in Rousseau and Hegel) is concerned with the values of respect and dignity, and led to important developments in constitutional and international law; the other is more symbolic, and leads to struggles over the legitimacy or illegitimacy of certain spaces, monuments, structures of language, cultural manifestations, etc. Many associate the latter in particular with the politics of difference, and thus with a form of liberalism in the (perhaps more North American) sense of the term.

3:AM: This new work on desire links with earlier thinking of yours. So when discussing aesthetics after metaphysics you raise the question where the “desire for metaphor” comes from, done in the context of wondering whether and how through this question of metaphor aesthetics can overcome its mimetic paradigm. So I guess I need to ask you to sketch for us what the issue is here – and what you take metaphor to be, in particular by drawing a contrast with mimesis.

MB: I’m glad you noticed the connection between those two books, which initially were connected in my mind in a way that I would call systematic, as both came out of another book, Truth and Genesis, which was an attempt to develop a differential ontology based on Heidegger and Deleuze. But even that isn’t quite right, as my ‘systematic’ work on metaphor came out of my work on Proust (Proust as Philosopher), and somewhat as a surprise. In any event, the thesis that emerged from the book on Proust, and developed further in Aesthetics After Metaphysics, was the following: metaphor is the aesthetic equivalent or translation of the ontological concept of difference (and, I had initially planned to demonstrate, desire is the ethical equivalent of difference). Between diapherein and metapherein, there is a relation of proximity, one that I chose to explore for itself, and by using a variety of examples, in Aesthetics After Metaphysics.

The first step was the following: to show how, throughout the long history of aesthetics and poetics, the Aristotelian interpretation metaphor, rooted in an ontology of analogy, was never really called into question, and therefore treated in a way that, I thought, didn’t do justice to the reality of, or indeed the pleasure we find in, metaphor. But if we read what writers and especially poets have to say about metaphor (I’m thinking here of Proust, of course, but also Hölderlin, Mandelstam, Claudel, St Aubyn (the ‘desire for metaphor’ you mention can be found in A Clue to the Exit)), we see that it’s quite different from what Aristotle and the tradition say about it. The reason for that, I think, being that they are not encumbered with the same metaphysical baggage, which influences even those thinkers who are critical of metaphor (and I include here people like Heidegger or Deleuze and Guattari).

As you rightly point out, one of the claims of Aesthetics After Metaphysics is that the philosophical approach to art, literature, and even the specific ‘trope’ of metaphor (but I want to suggest that it is more than just a trope) took place under the (more or less explicit) paradigm of mimesis, which runs very deep in our western culture, and gives rise to the tropes of symbol and allegory, for example. What’s distinctive about metaphor, when understood in a way that is not Aristotelian, that is, not rooted in a structure of analogy that can be developed independently of the metaphor itself, or translated in terms that are themselves not metaphorical, is that it escapes this schema of mimesis. How exactly? Metaphor, I want to argue, and to paraphrase Proust, is the capacity to see the beauty of something in something else; or, to be more precise, to see beauty as the result of this capacity. By seeing the beauty of something in something else, I mean the following: to see how something (it can literally be anything, no matter how ordinary), when seen not from the point of view of its ordinary or familiar distribution of points, shaped by our need to recognise it, and our further need to use or control it, but from the point of view of the wealth of hidden, singular points and their ability to connect with those of something else, opens up the world in a way that, up until that point, had seemed impossible.

Yet we recognise it as real (rather than merely arbitrary), and as indicative of a different order or dimension of reality. The pleasure we experience, I think, comes from the realisation that a world of hidden connections lives beneath the surface of our ordinary distribution and organisation of the world, and that persons, objects or places which, under normal circumstances, would not be connected, are indeed connected, when seen from a different perspective (one that is no longer monoscopic, but stereoscopic). This also means – and it is philosophically relevant – that our experience of space and time, and the nature of our experience as limited by space and time (to speak like Kant) are, well, much less limited than Kant had perhaps anticipated.

3:AM: You talk about the ‘realm of the hypersensible.’ Can you say what this is and why it is significant to your thinking about metaphor’s role?

MB: What I’ve called (perhaps inadequately, clumsily) the hypersensible is a dimension that escapes the (metaphysical) schema of, and hierarchy between, the sensible and the intelligible, through which so much of the history of philosophy has thought the meaning and value of art. As such, it designates precisely this other sense of the sensible I was speaking about earlier on, in which metaphor finds its raison d’être, and which it opens up. It designates the sensible insofar as it does not require the mediation of the intelligible (and therefore of concepts or Ideas understood in a specific sense, that is, as indicative of the essence or quiddity of a thing, by definition irreducible to the thing in question, and accessible independently of it) to be philosophically valid or interesting. This is very important, because it reveals the extent to which there is a strong ontological connection metaphor and the hypersensible. But that doesn’t mean that concepts and thought are excluded from that process, and from the dimension of the hypersensible. Nor does it mean that concepts could only achieve a low, vulgar version of empiricism. Concepts can, indeed must be generated from within the hypersensible, but can do so only to the extent that they break with the onto-tauto-logy of metaphysics (the very metaphysics I analyse and criticise in Truth and Genesis). There is therefore a great proximity between metaphors and concepts.

3:AM: Why is metaphor precious?

MB: Metaphor is precious because it requires a different, non-metaphysical ontology, rooted not in the Platonistic schema of the self-identity and self-presence of the Idea, or the eidos, but the differential ontology of singular points and connections, which only a different kind of vision can bring out. But is also requires a different aesthetics, rooted not in the schema of mimesis and a conception of the sensible as accessible through means or faculties other than sensibility, but in the hypersensible. This is the reason why, following the Kantian terminology, I’ve referred to metaphor as the “schema”, or, to be more precise, the “hypotiposis” of the hypersensible. As for other tropes, such as metonymy, allegory and symbol, I try to show that they were developed within, and correspond to, the mimetic paradigm I try and overcome. They all fall under the demand to give a sensible presentation of an Idea or meaning that is itself supersensible. I look at the role of allegory in neoclassical art, of the symbol in romantic art, and contrast them with the metaphorical art of artists such as de Kooning or Chillida.

3:AM: You don’t see Proust as a pseudo-Stoic or Schopenhauerian – even though many read his work as one showing how terrible and disappointing life is. So what are we to take from Proust as philosopher? How does metaphor’s belief in transubstantiation prevent us seeing in Proust ‘a true abhorrence of time, a true source of bitterness and resentment’, as you put it?

MB: I think there is a Schopenhauerian line, or even various Schopenhauerian lines, running through Proust’s novel, and which are now well documented (although there are issues surrounding how deep they go, and how significant they are ultimately). The line I’ve emphasised concerns the narrator’s (as well as Swann’s) chronic disappointment with the places and people he discovers, which never match the richness of his imagination, or even the books he reads, and the nature of the life of desire, which seems to oscillate between suffering and boredom. The novel, I think, raises the question: how can that life be overcome? How can nihilism be avoided? And the answer Proust gives is: through art, but on the condition that art not be understood as a form of realism (and therefore imitation), or even allegory, but as rooted in a form of experience – the experience of what I call the hypersensible – the model of which the narrator finds in involuntary memory, that is, in a form of time that escapes mere chronology, and a form of space that escapes the ordinary distribution and division of lived experience. The joy that the narrator finds in those experiences has to do with the realisation that there is a form of experience that exceeds lived experience, a pure past that was never present, and a pure space that is not reducible to the monoscopic, practical way in which we normally navigate the world, and that the form of experience in question cam become the substance of literature.

3:AM: Changing tack a little, you’ve written considerably about Deleuze. I find he’s a difficult philosopher to understand for all sorts of reasons and I’m often left exasperated. But I meet people who seem to find it powerful, intense and revolutionary. I suspect I’m missing something. In your book Immanence you ask ‘about what, exactly, orients Deleuzian thought?’ Can you sketch for us how you go about answering that question?

MB: Let me try and answer your question, and say why I think Deleuze is a great thinker, by returning to the question of the role and meaning of concepts in philosophy, and refer to Deleuze’s famous – but often misunderstood – definition of philosophy as the creation of concepts. He basically says two things about the creation of concepts. First of all, concepts are difficult to create – as difficult as a symphony or a painting. We can’t just decide to create concepts, and create them out of thin air. They need to have their own necessity, their own urgency. Secondly – and this point is of course related to the first – if concepts need to be created, it’s because they’re not already given, already available, either as a priori categories of the understanding, or as Ideas existing in the heavens of eternal problems. They need to be produced. But why, or as a result of what? They need to be produced under the pressure of problems, which emerge, evolve, change, and thus force thought out of its habit, its torpor. Problems introduce a kind of shock, violence or crisis in thought, in the sense that someone like Kuhn talked about in relation to the formation of scientific concepts, or Mallarmé in relation to poetry.

Problems are real, or of the real: they can be physical, biological, social, artistic, etc. The – always local or empirical – solution to problems, which are themselves transcendental, is nothing like the problems themselves, it does not resemble them. An eye is nothing like the problem of light which it solves, a soap bubble nothing like the problem of energetic efficiency it solves, a painting nothing like the problem it attempts to solve through lines and colours. Similarly, philosophical concepts don’t resemble the problems they reveal and solve at the same time. Take the mother of all concepts, the Platonic Idea: although Plato goes out of his way to convince us that that there is a relation of imitation (of model and copy) between the Idea and the various phenomena it is supposed to account for – Beauty and all beautiful things, Justice and all things just, etc. – Deleuze claims that the metaphysical concept of the Idea is introduced to solve a problem of a very different kind, namely, who has a legitimate claim to speak about those things, to run the affairs of the newly created Athenian democracy.

This Deleuzian move is, I believe, crucial, insofar as it transforms the nature of transcendental philosophy (in part by following Salomon Maimon’s own critique of Kant): so long as the transcendental is a. in a relation of resemblance or imitation (or analogy) with the empirical; in other words, so long as the phenomenal or empirical world is not related to, yet radically distinguished from, the transcendental world of problems; b. attributed to a privileged being (the Subject, consciousness, Dasein, etc.),philosophy will never be more than an exercise in re-presentation and recognition, which never arrives at the real (that is, genetic, and not simply possible) conditions of phenomena. In the end, concepts need to be produced because the nature of reality is one of production.

3:AM: You suggest that the thing you call ‘immanence’ that orients Deleuze is ambiguous and problematic. Can you try and clarify what you make of this term for us. How does it help us understand the project and why is it so difficult to grasp? Why can’t we clarify it – you ask whether it is a concept at all, whether it can be an object of thought at all – which makes me wonder what are we to make of something that seems to resist philosophising that plays such a significant role in a philosophers’ project?

MB: In the end, I think that what Deleuze and Guattari call immanence, or the plane of immanence, is another way of designating what Deleuze began by calling the transcendental field, and which served as the basis for his renewed, “superior” or indeed transcendental form of empiricism. The plane of immanence, or the transcendental, is the set of conditions that give rise to distinct, fully formed phenomena (physical, cultural, social, etc.); it’s where problems are generated. It’s quite real, yet not actual (only virtual). But as such and as I was just saying, those conditions don’t refer to a subjectivity, with its transcendentally constituted faculties. This is where the Deleuzian account of the transcendental (or immanence) differs from that of Kant, or phenomenology for that matter. The translation of the transcendental into subjectivity, or the subjectivisation of the transcendental if you prefer, is precisely a betrayal of immanence, and the reinscription of a moment of transcendence within it. As such, it is a betrayal of philosophy itself. For immanence is the cornerstone of philosophy, its own test, and what distinguishes it from religion.

This is the reason why, in the end, Deleuze is so harsh with Kant: he discovers the transcendental, but only to attribute it to another form of transcendence, the Subject. The same goes for Freud: he discovers the unconscious, and the transcendental nature of desire, but only to reterritorialise it unto the Oedipal complex and the triangular family structure, the highest point of which is of course the Father. The true transcendental is the one that is not modelled after the empirical, but gives rise to it (through processes of actualisation and differentiation). Immanence is a difficult concept to grasp, because it is the condition of possibility of all concepts, or the horizon of philosophy itself. It gives rise to concepts, which are always local and temporally specific solutions to problems, or Ideas, which themselves exceed those solutions. As such, it is not exactly a concept, but the soil from which all concepts (so long as they designate singularities, and not generalities) grow. That’s why it’s so hard to have a unified concept of immanence. All concepts illuminate it, they are like glow worms that shine in its midst, but no single concept can encompass (cum-capire) immanence as such. I’m not sure I’ve answered your difficult question.

3:AM: This seems to connect with Heidegger and his question about the origin of thought itself and his contention that our time was the least philosophical time. Can you say something about how Heidegger saw philosophy in his time and whether Deleuze was continuing Heidegger’s contention that there was something of a crisis for philosophy in the contemporary modern setting?

3:AM: Deleuze isn’t a big fan of the vocabulary of crisis, especially if it’s to draw our attention to a golden age of philosophy. But it’s true that, on the question of thought, of how thought comes about, or what it can be attributed to, he likes to quote Heidegger’s claim in What is called Thinking? according to which what is most thought-worthy in our age that calls for thinking is that we are not yet thinking. He understands this “not yet” as indicative of the fact that thinking is not something that is in our power, or a matte for our will (it is, as I said earlier, involuntary). It’s not something we decide to do, a button we can switch on, contrary to what much of the modern, especially Cartesian tradition wants us to believe: we don’t have this innate, special relationship with truth, which the correct method can deliver. No: thought comes from without, from the world, from a kind of shock or violence. We are forced to think. Heidegger felt that this “force” was that of Being, and that, in the technological age, that force was most obscured and withdrawn, for all we are left with is the will to power and dominate of the human, and its force of representation. Yet Heidegger also felt that technology provides food for thought, indeed demands to be thought, from within this sense of abandonment and urgency, of planetary crisis and desolation that we feel as a result of it. There is no such historical account of thought in Deleuze. But there is a similar attempt to locate the possibility of thought not in a human faculty equipped with its ready-made concepts and ideas, but in problems, which can be extremely varied, and trigger the need to create concepts (or functions, percepts or affects, through science and art). Thought was always rare and difficult, and always will be.

3:AM: And finally, are there five books, other than your own, that you could recommend to readers here at 3:AM that would take us further into your philosophical world.

MB: The books I keep reading, and have exercised the greatest influence on me, are:

Heidegger’s Being and Time,

Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition,

and Proust’s In Search of Lost Time.

In the last few years, however, I have been reading, and am increasingly drawn to, Spinoza’s Ethics

and Political Treatises.

Finally, I’d like to mention Foucault’s short “What is Critique?”, which is the point of departure for my current research on crisis and critique.

ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER
Richard Marshall is still biding his time.

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End Times Series: the first 302

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Saturday, February 3rd, 2018.