Three ways of Thinking

Deleuze continues by suggesting that we almost have to distinguish three dimensions, which is his future work that he and Guattari develop in What is Philosophy?:

1) in the first, there are concepts that are invented in philosophy;

2) in the second, there are percepts in the domain of art. An artist creates percepts, a word required to distinguish these from perceptions. What does a novelist want? He wants to be able to construct aggregates of perceptions and sensations that survive those who read the novel. Deleuze gives examples in Tolstoy or Chekhov, each in his own way, who are able to write like a painter manages to paint. So, to try to give to this complex web of sensations a radical independence in relation to he/she who experiences them: Tolstoy described atmospheres; Faulkner, and another great American novelist, Thomas Wolfe who nearly stated this in his short stories: someone goes out in the morning, smells toast, sees a bird flying, and feels a complex web of sensations.

So, what happens when someone who experiences the sensations goes on to do something else? This, says Deleuze, is a bit like in art, where we find an answer. It’s to give a duration or an eternity to this complex web of sensations that are no longer grasped as being experienced by someone, or at the outside, might be grasped as experienced by a fictional character. What does a painter do? He gives consistency to percepts, he tears percepts out of perception.

Deleuze points to the Impressionists who utterly twisted perception. A concept, Deleuze says, creates a crack in the skull -fend le crane-, it’s a habit of thought that is completely new, and people aren’t used to thinking like that, not used to having their skulls cracked, since a concept twists our nerves. Deleuze cites Cézanne from memory, who said something like, we have to make impressionism last/durable, that is, new methods are required in order to make it have duration, so that the percept acquires an ever greater autonomy.

3) A third order of things, a kind of connection among them all, are affects. Deleuze says that, of course, there are no percepts without affects, but that these are specific as well: these are becomings that exceed him or her who goes through them, exceed the strength of those who go through them. Doesn’t music lead us into these forces -puissances- that exceed our grasp? It’s possible, Deleuze answers. If one takes a philosophical concept, it causes one to see things -faire voir des choses- since the greatest philosophers have this “seeing” trait or aspect -côté ‘voyant’-, at least in the philosophers that Deleuze admires: Spinoza causes one to “see”, one of the most visionary -voyant- philosophers, Nietzsche as well. They all hurl forth fantastic affects, there is a music in these philosophers, and inversely, music makes one see some very strange things, colors and percepts. Deleuze says he imagines a kind of circulation of these dimensions into each other, between philosophical concepts, pictorial percepts, and musical affects. There’s nothing surprising in there being these resonances, he maintains, just the work of very different people, but that never stop interpenetrating.

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Communications and Media Senior Lecturer at SAE Byron Bay Australia

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