- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: Northwestern University Press; 1 edition (April 2, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0810124548
- ISBN-13: 978-0810124547
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,951,793 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Difference and Givenness: Deleuze's Transcendental Empiricism and the Ontology of Immanence (Topics in Historical Philosophy) Paperback – April 2, 2008
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About the Author
Levi R. Bryant is a professor at Collin College in Frisco, Texas. His work focuses on the contemporary theory, Freudian-Lacanian psychoanalysis, and the history of philosophy.
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Bryant's book is one of the few books I have read that really attempts to treat Deleuze as a serious philosopher. Deleuze has a reputation for being an affirmer of difference, a critic of representation, and a Dionysian reveler. That reputation is not entirely unfounded but a problem arises when we imagine that Deleuze's critiques of representation and his affirmations of becoming absolve us from the task of justifying those positions in a rigorous way through argumentation.
Levi Bryant takes many Deleuze interpreters to task for beginning from a normative standpoint and critiquing representation, the subject, morality, and the State from that standpoint, without actually providing any justification for that standpoint. It is simply assumed that representation, the subject, morality, and the State are "bad" without explaining why. Contrary to the commentators who follow this method Bryant argues, "One does not adopt the position of transcendental empiricism because it is against representation. Rather, one adopts the position because something is wrong with the philosophy of representation and transcendental empiricism is able to solve this problem" (4)
Levi Bryant, therefore, attempts to trace the problems that arise in philosophy when representation and identity are taken as foundations of being (Deleuze does not deny that representation and identity are aspects of our experience, but they are effects rather than causes), and the way in which Deleuze's formulation of transcendental empiricism is able to solve those problems. This is the way that any good philosophical argument should proceed.
The main focus of this book is, as the subtitle suggests, Deleuze's transcendental empiricism. One of the major strengths of Levi Bryant's account of transcendental empiricism is the way in which he distinguishes it from standard empiricism, on the one hand, and transcendental idealism, on the other. Standard empiricism begins from already constituted qualities and extensities, and takes these as the "given". Deleuze's empiricism is "transcendental" because it attempts to determine the transcendental conditions of givenness itself.
Transcendental empiricism must also distinguish itself from transcendental idealism for two main reasons, 1) transcendental idealism is concerned with tracing the conditions of possible experience while transcendental empiricism is concerned with the conditions of real experience, 2) transcendental idealism begins with a fully constituted subject which then constitutes the "given" through the categories. Transcendental empiricism, on the other hand, attempts to account for the constitution of subjects and objects from a pre-individual field of immanence. This avoids the mistake of determining the transcendental through resemblance to the empirical, and, thereby, essentializing what is merely historically contingent.
To fully unpack all of this would require more space than is allowed in an amazon review, and more time than I have, so I will resist the temptation to try to summarize Bryant's book any further and simply recommend that anyone with an interest in Deleuze pick up a copy of this book as soon as possible.
If you need to be further convinced: he reads Deleuze in the light of Kant, rather than as a Nietzschean 'everything-is-power-and-we-must- fight-the-forces-of-ressentiment' type. He takes the philosophy of difference given in 'Difference and Repetition' and 'The Logic of Sense' to be an answer to the problem of the Kantian passivity of reception. For Deleuze, Kant gives up on the critical project by not asking what makes the given of receptivity possible. Although Kant shows the transcendental conditions for the possibility of experience (being the conceptual determination of intuitions) he doesn't show the transcendental conditions for *real* experience: to do so would be to give the conditions for intuitions, or receptivity. Deleuze's answer to this question, what allows the given to be given, is Difference, which is located in a constellation of terms: Idea, structure, problems and so on.
Bryant reads 'experience' primarily in terms of the individuation of objects, it is individuation that difference explains (that is, how object x can be said to differ from object y). Deleuze takes previous philosophies to be incoherent with regard to individuation, because they take the individuation of an object to be dependent upon something external to it. Empiricists can only say 'this x is this red because it isn't that slightly different red;' Kantians can only say 'we can say this is this because our concept and intuition match up here.' Both are cases of 'representation,' according to which individuation is an effect of the subject rather than the object. But both types of philosophy are unable to link subject and object after accounting for individuation in this way, and so fail in their task.
So all philosophies which are tied to the Image of Thought have internal difficulties. But this isn't merely a moral flaw, as some Deleuzians claim. Rather, it is an error immanent to the very possibility of thought. The process of individuation covers over the conditions for the given, and makes it seem a priori. Due to the success of cognitive thought - the application of concepts to material - we mistakenly assume that cognition is the only form of thought we have.
How to avoid this? Well, in the 'encounter,' we are able to pierce the Image of Thought; Bryant goes into great depth to show how this is possible. This is followed by a chapter relating Deleuze's thought to pre-critical dogmatism. Bryant argues that Deleuze seeks a thought which avoids the problems associated with both philosophies of immediacy and philosophies of conceptual mediation. He does so by appealing to the possibility of a manifold without a transcendental apperceiver, and insisting on the necessity of *some* given within thought in order to set limits to thinking. By contrast, a thinking without object or given is necessarily identity thinking, or subjective idealism. Finally, the book closes with a chapter on the processes of individuation Deleuze's philosophy provides: the actual is merely one among many possibilities of the virtual structure of the world, one 'answer' to a given problem. This view requires neither an opposition between nor an identity of, subject and object.
Bryant's book is difficult, but worthwhile. I have barely scratched the surface here. He gives readers of Deleuze an important vocabulary, one which enables us to situate Deleuze in many 20th century philosophical debates, both continental (particularly with regard to Adorno's thought on the non-identical and the rights of the object) and anglophone (the Sellarsian debates about givenness, and the new Aristotelianisms). Most importantly, he's adequately nasty to 'Deleuzians' who need to be set straight, and has no time for deliberate obfuscation and self-righteousness. Really, you should buy this book.