By: Krithik Seela
Gilles Deleuze was a French philosopher whose main works and philosophical breakthroughs were developed throughout the 1900s. He was greatly influenced by Nietzsche and Spinoza, and he often wrote works about both their and other philosophical ideas while also collaborating with Felix Guattari to produce some of Deleuze’s most moving, influential works.
What did Deleuze believe?
Before he created his original works, Deleuze was focused on discovering the presuppositions he had adopted in his own education. His main revelation was a deep focus of identity over difference. He wanted to depart from the commonly accepted views of Hegel and especially Kant, including views of subject formation and especially ideas of truth and knowledge. The latter, Deleuze said, needed to involve a genuine account of experience instead of presuppositions of knowledge and morality existing as fact applied to the transcendental.
Consequently, the majority of Deleuze’s metaphysical and epistemological views surrounded his theories of the world as represented through affect – the non-cognitive motive flows and intensities that affect us and permeate through all our interactions. In other words, affect is all of the emotions, feelings, relationships, etc. that we are constantly experiencing.
As previously mentioned, Deleuze believed that the current way of understanding the world and humans was wrong – he opposed the idea of having an ideal conception of humanity and rationality. Instead, he was a type of substance monist who believed everything was made up of affect. Because of this, he believed that concepts were malleable, and what ultimately changes these concepts and our identity the most is time. Because of this, he rejected Kant’s conceptions of arborescent politics, ones which upheld a more linear, one-direction view of the world and of identity, and instead advocated for rhisomatic politics, a belief that focuses on the idea of becoming and not linearly defining our identity.
So, according to Deleuze, our identity and the world around us is an assemblage of different affectual relationships which should be thought of as a fluid concept instead of one that consists of structured, defined hierarchies and relationships.
How can this be applied?
Although these ideas of affect and identity may seem abstract, Deleuze’s philosophy can be applied to a variety of topics ranging from politics to more nuanced questions about identity.
For example, Deleuze’s philosophy can be applied to the identity question of what makes a person the same over time. Deleuze may answer this question by arguing that what makes identity persist is these different affective relationships that we engage in throughout time that have and will always be a part of our identity.
Krithik Seela is a junior in high school and in his fourth year as a member of his school's Lincoln Douglas Debate team and is an associate captain this year.
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