4 Jan 2018

Terence Blake’s ‘OLD AGE A TRANSCENDENTAL REALITY: Notes on Deleuze and Guattari’s WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY (6)’


by Corry Shores


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Terence Blake




In this post Blake discusses the theme of old age in Deleuze & Guattari’s What Is Philosophy? and he cautions that we should understand the shift of pronouns from “one” to “I” not as a move to one’s own personal lived experience but rather to transcendental lived reality of a conceptual character:

This illusion of empiricism crops up again in the middle of the first paragraph when they pass from the question “what is philosophy?” to “what is it I have been doing all my life?” This passage from one question to another is accompanied by a change of pronouns, by the transition from “one” to “I”. As already noted, the very first line, literally translated, begins: “Perhaps one can only ask the question”. The pronoun “one” is used twelve times before the passage to “I”, and then the text continues with “one”:

Perhaps one can pose the question What is philosophy? only late in life, with the arrival of old age and the time for speaking concretely. In fact, the bibliography on the nature of philosophy is very limited. It is a question one poses in a moment of quiet restlessness, at midnight, when one no longer anything to ask for. One asked it before; one asked it ceaselessly, but too indirectly or obliquely; the question was too artificial, too abstract. One was not seized by it, rather one set it out and dominated it in passing. One was not sober enough. One had too much desire to do philosophy, one did not wonder what it was, except as a stylistic exercise. One had not reached that point of non-style where one can finally say, “What is it I have been doing all my life?”

I have modified the published translation to bring out the contrast between “one” and “I”, which is quite striking in this passage. It would be a mistake to see the second question as a direct appeal to lived experience, the “I” in question is a conceptual character and as such is not a lived experience but a “transcendental lived reality”, in the same way that the authors tell us, that the “friend” as it

appears in philosophy no longer stands for an extrinsic persona, an example or empirical circumstance, but rather for a presence that is intrinsic to thought, a condition of possibility of thought itself, a living category, a transcendental lived reality [un vécu transcendental] (WIP?, 3).

(Terence Blake)












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