Sorry there has been so little posting lately — but for the past several weeks, every free moment has been devoted to writing my talk for the Deleuze conference that is coming up this weekend. The subject of my talk is “Deleuze’s Encounter With Whitehead.” Unfortunately, I haven’t quite managed to finish the paper, or get to the end of what I am trying to say — but perhaps this is just as well, since the paper has also gotten too long, even if I finished I wouldn’t be able to get through it in the time provided.
The part I have finished — the part I will be giving at the conference — is really little more than “Whitehead 101 for Deleuzians.” I work through Whitehead’s notion of events, show how important this notion is for Deleuze’s own thinking of the event, and compare Whitehead’s and Deleuze’s treatment of some of their most important common predecessors (Spinoza, Leibniz, Hume, and Kant). This leads up to a comparison between the virtual in Deleuze and the potential (also known as “eternal objects”) in Whitehead. I argue that both Deleuze’s virtual and Whitehead’s potential are “conversions” of Kant’s transcendental argument. They seek to define conditions of actual emergence instead of Kant’s conditions of (mere formal) possibility; but they join Kant in refusing to allow these conditions to be hypostasized as belonging to some radically other, transcendent realm. And they posit their transcendentals, not (as Kant does) to answer the epistemological question of how we can know, but instead to answer the (ontological? kairological? temporological?) question of how change is possible, or of how to account for a future that is not predetermined by the past.
However, this discussion is really just a preliminary to the argument that really interests me — and this is the part I have not written yet. I want to argue that Whitehead’s eternal objects offer us a better way to talk about change and becoming than the orthodox Deleuzian vocabulary of virtuality provides us with. And I want to suggest, similarly, that Whitehead’s notion of God provides a more useful alternative to Deleuze and Guattari’s formulations about the Body without Organs. Whitehead defines God â€“ or at least what he calls “the primordial nature of God” â€“ as the “graded envisionment” of all eternal objects, i.e. all potentials. The vision of God accounts for “how the actual includes what (in one sense) is ‘not-being’ as a positive factor in its own achievement.” Whitehead’s God, like the Body without Organs, is a non-totalizing and open “whole”, and can be regarded as the “quasi-cause” or “surface of inscription” for all events, in such a way that it does not determine these events, but allows precisely for their indeterminacy and continuing openness to difference in the future. But in a powerful way the notion of God (at least Whitehead’s notion of God, I don’t see how this would apply to anyone else’s) is a more flexible, more empirical, more pragmatic notion than D&G’s BwO is. Which means that it is, in a way, more accountable, more open to “temporal” considerations (like how to think the monstrous body of Capital) as well as to aesthetic ones (like how to conceive the affective qualities and implications of post-cinematic formal/technological developments). So I trying to ask Deleuzian questions — ones that Whitehead never thinks about — but arguing that these questions are better answered (or worked through) in Whiteheadian terms than in Deleuzian ones.
Will this work out or make sense? I don’t know. So far all I have is an intuition, and a project. I don’t know what will happen when I get the time to work through the actual argument.
Better post this now; I gotta go to the airport.