dialogues at greenwich: 'The Strange Encounter of Kant and Deleuze' Conference Report

dialogues at greenwich

discussion and reports from the Volcanic Lines research group at Greenwich University

8 July 2007

'The Strange Encounter of Kant and Deleuze' Conference Report

'The Strange Encounter of Kant and Deleuze' Conference took place on Saturday 7th July 2007, a sunny day which a stiff breeze kept from becoming too hot. Delegates and speakers came from across the country and from abroad to Greenwich University's Maritime Campus on the banks of the Thames. Sessions took place in Queen Anne Court (pictured above) and began with two parallel sessions.

Joanna Hodge, Professor of Philosophy at Manchester Metropolitan University, gave a paper entitled 'Deleuze, Husserl, Kant: Transcendental Intermediaries.' She brought into play the as yet undeveloped encounter of Deleuze with Husserl and argued for its importance. This would allow the invention of concepts to be explored in new ways. The outcome of this encounter is an understanding of Deleuze different to that provided by his encounter with Kant's Ideas. This paper was able to reveal new aspects of Deleuze and take these forward, pointing the way for Deleuze scholarship.

Edward Willatt, PhD student at Greenwich, delivered a paper entitled 'Reason, Desire and Incompleteness' in the other parallel session. He sought to show the role of reason's desire at the heart of the advance of cognition in Kant's Critique of Pure Reason using Deleuze's reading of it. This involved relating Kant and Deleuze through the notion of the problematic Idea, providing the unity of the activity of the faculties, and the 'object=x'. The latter notion brought us to Deleuze’s essay 'How do we recognise structuralism?' Here the 'object=x' demands an ideal thinker or hero of structure who is equal to thinking the 'object=x'. This was related to Deleuze's concern to provide the Transcendental Unity of Apperception as the ideal thinker able to affirm his own 'object=x.' Among the questions after the paper was one about the nature of reason. In what sense is it formal and logical? For Kant there is a real sense in which it unifies the activity of faculties, providing its energy. Questions followed that concerned the scope of the comparison made by the paper. Does understanding really rely upon reason or is it the other way around? The paper sought to argue that reason and understanding imply one another but Kant’s veneration for the understanding make this a contentuous claim. Also questioned was whether the ‘object=x’ involved in Deleuze's philosophy of difference could be related very closely to Kant's ‘object=x’ which embodies his transcendental logic of identity and resemblance. Does Kant not seek to account for the move towards complete unity of cognition in contrast with Deleuze’s concern with pure difference? There is perhaps a sense in which Kant sought to give a complete account of cognition but, despite himself, made incompleteness essential to cognition when he kept finding problems that kept his thought open. Thus the problem of the organism in the Critique of Judgement and the problem of matter in the Opus Postumum mean he can never, and should never, write his promised 'metaphysics of nature' (Critique of Pure Reason, Bxliii). A further question concerned the 'dice throw'. Should we, with Deleuze, want to get rid of everything so as to affirm the 'dice throw'? Could it be said that certain structures must remain? It would be a case of taking forward Kant's concern but perhaps establishing something other than the categories as that which must remain.

After lunch another two parallel sessions took place. Filipe Ferreira, of the New School of Social Research in New York, presented a paper entitled 'Bergsonism and Critique.' He sought to show Bergson's role in a radicalisation of transcendental idealism and the critical project. Bergson's Matter and Memory was engaged with so as to elaborate his theory of matter and the notion that the body is pure matter, something taken forward by Deleuze. The nature of problems for Bergson was subject to analysis. Deleuze and Guattari's 'Body without Organs' was developed as the body made into a problem. Latent references to Kant in Matter and Memory were developed. The crux of the matter was located in the notion of limitation, the limitation of the unconditioned totality which is assumed by Bergson. For Kant this total reality is beyond possible experience. The Amphiboly in the first Critique was explored for its four different ways of thinking about nothing. The horizon of the complete determination of reality was developed as 'the pure plane of thought as such.' The problem is how we get from this ideal to what is determinable. Kant seeks to provide such limitation by limiting possibility using sensible conditions. Yet for Bergson, it was argued, the totality or complete reality is assumed when we assume the brain or the smallest part of matter. In this way he united Bergson, Kant and Deleuze through the problem of limitation, emphasising how Kant stands apart from the two later thinkers whilst sharing in this problem. Questions after the paper included one on the role of memory in Bergson's thought. In the paper it was argued that limitation is to be understood in terms of perception and not memory. Deleuze's investment in a plane of thought as such was developed as an indeterminate plane of problems. This meant that the Body with Organs was the ‘object=x’ or pure objectivity. In this sense, the speaker argued, it problematises life. Another question concerned the role of pure subjectivity – was this not to be found in the Body without Organs? Also discussed was whether Bergson offers us an account of the 'encounters' which are a part of the processes of individuation in Deleuze's thought.

In the other parallel session Matthew Hammond of the University of Exeter gave a paper entitled 'Picking over the Bones of David Hume.' The paper began with Kant's views on Hume and how he found him to have approached, but not fully realised, a synthetic principle. Kant's concern with time was emphasised, something taking us beyond mere empirical repetition to the unity provided by the understanding. This was insightfully related to Deleuze's Difference and Repetition. Here it was argued that Deleuze has allegiances to both Kant and Hume, appreciating the Kant's emphasis upon time and the Hume's emphasis upon repetition. The differences between Kant's and Deleuze's treatment of Hume was considered. Kant wants to get beyond repetition to 'a single experience.' For Deleuze repetition is to overcome the present that repeats. In time repetition becomes primary. Hume also offers Deleuze a self in time which he uses to develop Kant's fractured or divided self. Also discussed was the passive synthesis of habit in Hume, to which Kant responds with an active synthesis to account for it. Yet for Deleuze we do not need to have an active synthesis from the start but can begin with passive synthesis, in this way accounting for active synthesis. For Deleuze, it was argued, Kant's notions come to rely on the passive synthesis and understanding of time that he finds in Hume.

After a tea break the conference re-convened for the keynote session. The speakers were Daniel W. Smith of Purdue University, who has this past academic year been a visiting fellow at Middlesex University, and Paul Davies of Sussex University. Dr Smith gave a paper entitled 'Deleuze, Kant, and the Post-Kantian Tradition.' This began with Deleuze's destruction of self, world and God as the three great forms of identity. The role of Solomon Maimon in Deleuze's reading of Kant was developed in depth. Maimon argued that Kant had rejected the demands of a genetic method and like Deleuze he sought to extend critique, with difference operating in the conditions of real experience. It was suggested that Deleuze takes forward Maimon's 'coalition system' because he writes upon the thinkers who were to be united in it. Deleuze's essay on the Critique of Judgement, 'The Ideas of Genesis in Kant's Aesthetics', was discussed. Here Ideas are thrown back into sensible nature. This means that anything that is is a multiplicity. The theory of Ideas is then a way of thinking the theory of being. Deleuze's Cinema books were also discussed as the elaboration of Kant's Transcendental Aesthetic, showing a space and time that other arts don't show. This wide ranging linking of Kant and Deleuze continued with the argument that What is Philosophy? at last gives us Deleuze's own Analytic. This is despite Deleuze's commitment to univocity which precludes there being any categories. The Critique of Practical Reason was also located as a theory of desire where desire is defined in causal terms, causing the actuality of its representations as objects.

The second keynote paper, given by Dr Davies, was entitled 'Regulating and Inventing Concepts.' This began with Deleuze’s notion that concepts can be invented. In Kant regulation and the concept are conjoined. Reference was made to Kant's logic lectures and his placing concepts in the context of judgement. It seems that concepts cannot be radically new or invented in the first Critique. Yet, it was argued, in the third Critique this may be challenged by reflective judgement. This relies upon judgement coming before concepts, a unifying operation found in both first and third Critiques. Reference was made to the attempts to improve Kant's concepts by two different traditions – that following Frege made use of the function and that following Hegel used systems. This story of the improvement of Kant's account of concepts and their use was said to make the conceptual 'a site of genuine problems for philosophy.' It was then argued that Deleuze seeks to engage with a Kant who is not yet either continental or analytic. This is how we can understand Deleuze's account of the concept. Can we find in Kant the notion that a concept is accompanied by an event, something that would make an excess over the concept into the material for extending concepts. It was suggested that here Kant and Deleuze do share the same experience, thought or predicament. In the third Critique we still need judgement to go first. Deleuze sees creativity and inventivity here, and argues that it was there in the first Critique as well. He seeks a discordant accord in the third Critique, the hidden disunity and difference between faculties. It involves an inventivity already there in the first Critique, overcoming the impression of the primacy of the regulative. Yet, it was argued, despite Deleuze's efforts the rule clarifies the concept throughout Kant, blocking the inventivity that he seeks to find. The distinction was in this way made between the concept referred to an event and the concept referred to a rule.

A very 'strange encounter' indeed is seen here taking place outside Queen Anne Court.

We would like to thank our speakers very much indeed for travelling to Greenwich and delivering papers which made this conference very exciting and productive, contributing a great deal to Kant and Deleuze scholarship. Many thanks are also due to delegates for contributing to intense and invigorating discussions. We would also like to thank the philosophy department of the University of Greenwich for their support for the conference and for Volcanic Lines: Deleuzian Research Group over the first year of its activity. Given that the Kant-Deleuze relation is a relatively new area for study we feel that the conference has opened new paths and questions that demand very much attention. Volcanic Lines events will continue in the Autumn term and we will work further on Deleuze's encounters. At some stage we hope to focus some sessions upon Solomon Maimon's work as a much neglected thinker whose importance for the Kant-Deleuze relation demands to be recognised, as Dr Smith’s paper showed.

Please feel free to add to this report and to continue the discussion by clicking on 'comments' below this post.

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At 7/16/2007 , Blogger Jared said...

sounds exciting.

Does anyone know when Smith's new book on Deleuze is coming out?

At 8/03/2010 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

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