Deleuze’s Intensive Reading (II): ‘A World of Pre-individual, Impersonal Singularities’


Just a few months later, in his interview with Jeannette Colombel, Deleuze would reiterate all these ideas about intensive reading and the process that means to give voice to the singularities that the philosopher is aimed to uncover. In such interview, Deleuze would also remit to the disciplinary constrictions that the history of philosophy imposes to the philosopher, referring to all these singularities as non-textual values that should be considered too in regard to the work of an admired author. As he refers, this would implicate to put on scene the differences traced by him, i.e, a ‘staging’ of those singularities that individuate his thought, in a way to alternate the aim of ‘history’ for a conceptual ‘theatre’ of philosophy.

“We are uncovering a world of pre-individual, impersonal singularities. They are not reducible to individuals or persons, nor to a sea without difference. These singularities are mobile, they break in, thieving and stealing away, alternating back and forth, like anarchy crowned, inhabiting a nomad space. There is a big difference between partitioning a fixed space among sedentary individuals according to boundaries or enclosures, and distributing singularities in an open space without enclosures or properties. The poet Ferlinghetti talks about the fourth person singular: it is that to which we try to give voice… Philosophers often have a difficult time with the history of philosophy; it’s horrible, it’s not easy to put behind you. Perhaps a good way of dealing with the problem is to substitute a kind of staging for it. Staging means that the written text is going to be illuminated by other values, non-textual values (at least in the ordinary sense): it is indeed possible to substitute for the history of philosophy a theatre of philosophy… Precisely, by virtue of those criteria of staging or collage, it seems admissible to extract from a philosophy considered conservative as a whole those singularities which are not really conservative: that is what I did for Bergsonism and its image of life, its image of liberty or mental illness.” (DI, 142-144).

In the same vein, Deleuze takes his chance to emphasize again the love and admiration he had for Spinoza and Nietzsche, although not at all for Hegel: we can see how Deleuze implicates the reason why he never wrote a word about him: of course, he did not love nor even admired his work in any sense. But this should mean not that he did not read him intensively, on the contrary: it is because Deleuze did apply an intensive reading of Hegel that he took the decision to betray the history of philosophy by not writing a word about him, implying for him that Hegel’s work is not worth to be taken as ‘philosophy itself’:

“If you don’t admire something, if you don’t love it, you have no reason to write a word about it. Spinoza or Nietzsche are philosophers whose critical and destructive powers are without equal, but this power always springs from affirmation, from joy, from a cult of affirmation and joy, from the exigency of life against those who would mutilate and mortify it. For me, that is philosophy itself… Why not Hegel? Well, somebody has to play the role of traitor. What is philosophically incarnated in Hegel is the enterprise to “burden” life, to overwhelm it with every burden, to reconcile life with the State and religion, to inscribe death in life —the monstrous enterprise to submit life to negativity, the enterprise of resentment and unhappy consciousness. Naturally, with this dialectic of negativity and contradiction, Hegel has inspired every language of betrayal, on the right as well as on the left (theology, spiritualism, technocracy, bureaucracy, etc.)” (DI, 144).

It is interesting to see how Deleuze underlines the negativity of Hegel’s ‘singularities’ with respect to life and its affirmation, suggesting that the “language of betrayal” that his work inspires is what exceeds Hegel himself. From Deleuze’s point of view, therefore, to give voice to these negative ‘singularities’ would mean to betray the act of making them speak, and thus in this sense he decides to not give such Hegelian language any voice, as a way to effectuate a counter-affirmation of life that would betray the history of philosophy and its disciplinary constrictions. In this specific regard, it is also interesting to note how Deleuze considers that Hegel’s work incarnates all these constrictions historically imposed to the philosopher, as part of the same “monstrous enterprise” that submits life to negativity. To this point, we can see in which specific sense the word “monstrous” would be used by Deleuze five years later, in his response to Cressole —and specifically, in his famous ‘ass fuck’ quote—.

3 Comments on “Deleuze’s Intensive Reading (II): ‘A World of Pre-individual, Impersonal Singularities’

    • @dmf No, it is not possible. This is not a question of you being enamored. It is a question of feedback and retrieving: you can read intensively an author that is not lovable as he would never retrieve such openness of heart to you, so that his work would only mortify you (Hegel, in this case). We are not talking about feelings here, we are talking of affects and depersonalization. The clue is to see that there is no way to comprehend anything without love, and without any aperture.

  1. Pingback: Intensive Immunity: Keeping fidelity or betraying Deleuze | ~ S c h i z o s o p h y ~

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