Monday, April 19, 2010

Flaxman, Gregory, and Abe Geil. Review of Joe Hughes, DELEUZE AND THE GENESIS OF REPRESENTATION. NDPR (April 2010).

Hughes, Joe. Deleuze and the Genesis of Representation. London: Continuum, 2008. The nature of Gilles Deleuze's relationship to phenomenology is among the most vexing problems of his philosophical genealogy. Broadly construed, the problem appears to consist in a kind of contradiction between Deleuze's explicit statements about phenomenology and his implicit affinity for its methods and inclinations. On the one hand, in interviews and recollections, Deleuze consistently describes his own entry into the milieu of academic philosophy against the dominant landscape of phenomenology. In the 1950s, when he first began to write, the French philosophical establishment was given over to the "suffocating" conditions of phenomenology and the tradition of the "three H's" (Hegel, Husserl, and Heidegger). Hence, Deleuze's turn to Nietzsche, Bergson, Spinoza and the genealogy of a minor philosophy seems to constitute nothing less than a kind of escape, a line of flight from the institution of phenomenology. But on the other hand, and despite his seeming antagonism, Deleuze consistently expresses his admiration for phenomenology and, more particularly, a number of its partisans, including Sartre, Hippolyte, Wahl, and Merleau-Ponty. This affinity is perhaps most clearly expressed in an early essay, "He Was My Teacher" (1964), in which Deleuze embarks on a remembrance of Sartre. "Our teachers, once they reach adulthood, are those who bring us something radical and new, who know how to invent an artistic and literary technique, finding those ways of thinking that correspond to our modernity," Deleuze characteristically begins, but in what follows, he subtly switches registers. "We know there is only one value for art, and even for truth: the 'first-hand,' the authentic newness of something said and the 'unheard music' with which it is said."[1] Inasmuch as expression is linked to experience, he adds, Sartre's genius defined the phenomenological possibilities that Deleuze's philosophy would invariably take up, namely, the "pre-judgmental" and "sub-representational"[2] -- or what we might simply call ontology. But to what degree is Deleuze's own (and very idiosyncratic) ontology indebted to phenomenology? This question lies at the heart of Joe Hughes' Deleuze and the Genesis of Representation, which contends that, in elaborating the eponymous problem, Deleuze offers an account that is deeply indebted to the transcendental logic of phenomenology. In this regard, the uniqueness of Hughes' book consists in having moved beyond (or before) the work of Merleau-Ponty, Sartre, or even Heidegger, to that of Husserl. As Hughes rightly points out, the majority of the Anglo-American literature on the relation between Deleuze and phenomenology has dwelt on the latter's French tradition, most often in terms of Merleau-Ponty, in order to consider the raw nature of experience and the embodiment of perception. By contrast, Hughes turns to Husserl for a strictly formal philosophical model for the genesis of representation. Deleuze and the Genesis of Representation begins from the precisely circumscribed definition of phenomenology provided by Husserl's assistant Eugen Fink. According to this definition, phenomenology is oriented around two essential elements: the method of the phenomenological reduction (or epoché) and the problem of genetic constitution. Hughes's sweeping claim is that "Deleuze's thought unfolds entirely within these two general orientations of phenomenology" (3). . . . Read the whole review here:

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