43 of 49 people found the following review helpful
on June 29, 2006
De Landa's Deleuze, as presented in this and other works, has its own unique "niche" among the various ways of reading this important figure. His approach tends to take as its principal text Deleuze/Guattari's *A Thousand Plateaus* and emphasizes that difficult "subtext" surfacing throughout Deleuze's broader corpus that involves what DeLanda refers to as an "ontology" derived from chaos and complexity theory and the non-linear mathematics underlying them. "Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy" is certainly the best available elucidation of this often perplexing strand of Deleuze's work and any serious student of Deleuze will benefit from it. The problem, addressed by the author in an "appendix" to the work, is that Deleuze quite deliberately alters his basic terminology from one work to the next, making a good deal of forcing necessary to fit other Deleuzian texts into DeLanda's "ontological schema." It is, in fact, not at all clear that Deleuze would have accepted DeLanda's claim about him operating with a fixed "ontology." And since DeLanda is convinced that the "key" to Deleuze is to be found in modern non-linear mathematical theory and its scientific applications, he tends almost completely to ignore that which constitutes another major aspect of Deleuze's work, namely, his intense and extensive engagement with the history of philosophy. As a helpful introduction to one very difficult aspect of Deleuze's work, this book excels; as a broader account of Deleuze's philosophy and its influence, it is quite limited and somewhat contrived.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on March 9, 2011
This book is a reconstruction of the ontology of the Continental philosopher Gilles Deleuze, but it is one of those rare commentaries that goes beyond being a mere commentary and achieves the status of an original work of philosophy in its own right. DeLanda's reconstruction of Deleuze's ontology is, interestingly enough, approached from the standpoint of analytic philosophy. DeLanda admits that he is taking a risk in attempting to reconstruct the ontology of a Continental philosopher in terms of analytic philosophy. He runs the risk of being 'too Continental' for analytic philosophers, and 'too analytic' for Continental philosophers. Personally, I tend to think that most philosophy students these days are a bit fed up with the Continental/analytic divide and are more then willing to make accommodations for those working in differing traditions. At any rate, the brilliance of DeLanda's reconstruction should be enough to silence any complaints.
DeLanda believes that Deleuze's ontology is fundamentally based on replacing the philosophical concept of 'essence' with that of 'multiplicity' (pg9). DeLanda writes, "In a Deleuzian ontology...a species (or any other natural kind) is not defined by its essential traits but rather by the morphogenetic process that gave rise to it...while an essentialist account may rely on factors that transcend the realm of matter and energy (eternal archetypes, for instance) a morphogenetic account gets rid of all transcendent factors using exclusively form-generating resources which are immanent to the material world" (pg.9-10). DeLanda's book is an attempt to explain in detail how this process works. DeLanda attempts to define multiplicities by using the resources of chaos and complexity theories (symmetry breaking bifurcations, vector spaces, attractors, etc.). DeLanda has recourse to a new modal status (the virtual) when determining the ontological status of multiplicities and he attempts to explain the differences between the virtual and the traditional categories of modal logic (possibility, necessity, and actuality). This is one way in which DeLanda attempts to provide an ontological account of a basic Deleuzian concept (the virtual) in terms that are more familiar to analytic philosophers (modal logic). DeLanda also gives detailed accounts of how virtual multiplicities and their singularities along with intensive properties and differences drive the processes of morphogenesis and individuation. For example, DeLanda gives a very interesting description of embryogenesis which is based on the work of Gerald Edelman and Stuart Kaufmann in which intensive properties (the rates of synthesis and degradation of different adhesion molecules, and the birth and death rates of cells) as well as attractors existing within nearby state space drive the structural and qualitative differentiation of cells which ultimately produces a fully formed organism from a single cell (pg62-65). This example illustrates the "three ontological dimensions which constitute the Deleuzian world: the virtual, the intensive, and the actual" (pg61). The virtual are the attractors which are nearby in state space and which guide the qualitative differentiation of the cell (these attractors are real but not actual, hence the term virtual), the intensive in this case are the rates of synthesis and degradation of different adhesion molecules and the birth and death rates of cells (DeLanda explains in detail and great clarity the difference between intensive and extensive magnitudes), and the actual is the actual structure of the organism which possesses both extensive and qualitative properties which then come to hide the intensive processes and the virtual multiplicities which produced it in the first place.
This is definitely a difficult book. DeLanda delves fairly deeply into a number of subjects which are going to be outside the scope of the average philosophy student (the history of mathematics, topology, chaos and complexity theory, embryogenesis, thermodynamics, etc.). A great deal of this book is still over my head. DeLanda's great saving grace is that he is an extremely clear and lucid writer a quality that differentiates him from many Continental philosophers including Deleuze. DeLanda also gives many concrete examples illustrating his abstract concepts which greatly aid the reader in understanding. Even with this help from DeLanda this book is still going to be a challenge for anyone who does not have DeLanda's grasp of all the relevant scholarship (and very few readers, if any, will). But unlike many philosophers DeLanda's difficulty does not simply frustrate but rather inspires. DeLanda inspires the reader to want to learn more about the subjects he is discussing in order to better understand what he is saying (if the reader is like me he or she may even wind up developing an entire research project centered around mastering the material referenced in this book). Unfortunately Deleuze, in my opinion, can often be more frustrating then inspiring. So even though I may take some heat for this I would actually recommend reading this book before attempting to read Deleuze himself. At the very least DeLanda should convince the skeptics that Deleuze does have something very interesting to say and he is worth the frustration which will inevitably accompany any attempt to read Deleuze's works first-hand.