Kinds of Minds provides an introduction to, and reﬁnement of, the position Dennett has developed to increasing acclaim over nearly thirty years, and which is now sufﬁciently important to require engagement from those aligned with different philosophical traditions. For he deals with a crucial topic – the place of intentionality in a material world – but eschews both reductionism and essentialist (or, if you like, ʻontotheologicalʼ) myth-making. Moreover, he rehabilitates teleology, apparently rolling back the ʻdisenchantment of natureʼ by reductionist science, writing beguilingly of ʻMother Natureʼ, of ʻdesignʼ in the form and function of living creatures, and of intention in their behaviour.
This might look congenial to many, so why the pejorative suggestion of my title? Like Terminator I, Herbert Spencerʼs brutal paradigm has obstinately refused to die, despite countless mortal blows. With Dennettʼs ʻIntentional Stanceʼ a new version supplants it, which, in power, subtlety and capacity to dissemble, stands to its forebear as does Terminator 2 to the original Arnie. This ʻpostmodernʼ Social Darwinism need not ﬁght its erstwhile opponents – it can be and say what it likes because it can, apparently, dissolve, assimilate and co-opt all self-styled opposition. Dennett may nonchalantly personify Nature if he has already succeeded in naturalizing persons and their culture.
How could this be? Using a Ryle-style treatment of the meaning of mental terms (as lying in dispositions to act overtly in certain ways), Dennett argues for their applicability wherever they fulﬁl an explanatory role, and consequently takes it to be essentially irrelevant to formulate a criterion for their ʻgenuineʼ applicability to creatures with a ʻrealʼ inner mental life. He takes there to be innumerable ʻintentional systemsʼ in biology, which may well (but may not) have complete causal descriptions, but which are nonetheless more perspicuously and economically explained in intentional terms ʻas thoughʼ they had purposes, beliefs and the like.
Each of these is a sort of ʻmindletʼ: Dennett has a wonderfully fecund imagination for examples where apparently ʻsmartʼ behaviour can be the product of a very simple intentional system, and a programme of ʻreverse reductionʼ to show how full-ﬂedged minds like ours might have been constructed from assemblages of simpler intentional systems.
Like Quine and Wittgenstein, Dennett is hostile to intentional objects of thought which the mind supposedly grasps inwardly, or which stand in a ʻrealʼ relation of ʻaboutnessʼ to things in the world (and to the ʻrealistʼ ontology of ʻsubstancesʼ and natural kinds which complements such views of the mind). Unlike Ryle, however, he does think we can ﬁnd physical bases for the dispositions to which mental terms refer – this is ʻCognitive Scienceʼ, for which he is the premier philosophical ʻunderlabourerʼ.
So, for each biological structure or process which can be explained in terms of its ʻpurposeʼ, ʻbeliefsʼ, and so on, it is legitimate (and far more economical) so to do, rather than indulge in tortuous, misleading, impracticable and ultimately fruitless reductionism to natural laws of cause and effect. That is, so long as intermediate ʻpurposesʼ, ʻbeliefsʼ, and so on can be attributed in virtue of the ultimate, overarching quasitelos of ʻsurvival valueʼ – past reproductive success in the context of natural selection. This Dennett calls the ʻIntentional Stanceʼ – it is a Darwinian evolutionary rehabilitation of teleology not only in biology but also in a naturalistic theory of mind. For this stance is applied contrariwise, so to speak, to argue that human minds are merely complex assemblages of the same kinds of intentional systems we ﬁnd everywhere in biology towards each of which the ʻIntentional Stanceʼ is ultimately justiﬁed by reference to natural selection. Such intentional systems, moreover, have parts outside the bodies of the creatures for which they have survival value (a spiderʼs web, for instance). Human culture is just such an intentional outgrowth.
Social Darwinism for postmodernistsDaniel C. Dennett, Kinds of Minds, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1996. 184 pp., £11.99 pb., 0 297 815466. The character and behaviour of adapted and adaptive systems, which are all ultimately the product of natural selection, can thus be explained as if they had a purpose, embodied beliefs, and so on, because, behind such explanations, the non-teleological notion of ʻsurvival valueʼ supplants the overarching telos – the end, purpose or ʻﬁnal causeʼ – on which, otherwise, such explanations would ultimately rest. This yields a circumscribed rehabilitation of teleological terms such as ʻpurposeʼ, ʻbeliefʼ, ʻfunctionʼ, ʻadaptationʼ and ʻgoal directedʼ within the nomological scheme of natural science, at the level of the particular structures and behaviours of animals and plants, because the notion of ʻsurvival valueʼ serves as the overarching ʻquasitelosʼ for such explanations.
What are the merits and limits of such an approach?
While teleology explains the present in terms of purposes lying in the future, nomological causality explains the present in terms of causes lying in the past. ʻPurposeʼ can be naturalized in biology because past survival value (as a cause) has the same explanatory consequences as future survival value (as a purpose). In other words, from two different sets of explanans statements, we can deduce the same explanandum descriptions, of inherited structures and predispositions to behaviour. One kind of explanans explains the presence of the inherited characteristics in terms of their future purpose in assisting survival and reproductive success; the other sort takes the retention of those inherited characteristics (and their effect in the modiﬁcation of behaviour) to have been caused by differential rates of past reproductive success in circumstances little different from those obtaining now.
So long as conditions of life remain comparable, the effects of selection by survival as the past cause are just what would have resulted had survival been the future purpose of what we seek to explain in biology. This extends to include all that plasticity and co-operation in behaviour which favours survival either directly, or indirectly, by way of pre-existing inherited appetites, aversions, preferences, ʻdrivesʼ or other inbuilt determinants of behavioural ʻsuccessʼ, themselves inherited for their survival value – that is, all the innate parameters of human cognitive development.
Teleological explanations are also holistic. They explain the signiﬁcance of parts in terms of their role in a larger pattern: small purposes are only such in relation to larger purposes to which they contribute. Every item or action which has a purpose only does so if its outcome, in turn, either serves some further, wider, purpose, or is itself one of the ends which subsidiary purposes ultimately serve – an ultimate end, or overarching telos.
Zealous reductionists have tended to see something like a thermostat, or biological homeostasis, as a purely causal mechanism. Although we can describe it ʻas ifʼ it acted with a purpose, they take the ʻmentalʼ aspect of the term ʻpurposeʼ to be entirely dissipated in the description of the causal relations between its parts. In fact, a thermostat has a purpose as surely as any other artefact made with a purpose; and it has its purpose in virtue of its relations to the larger context it occupies. Similarly, the adaptation of all biological adapted and adaptive systems is an essentially relational notion and, in biology, its ʻpurposiveʼ character derives from the ultimate ʻquasi-telosʼ of survival value.
To be sure, causal mechanisms sufﬁce to effect these purposes, but they do not possess them outside the systems within which such purposes are served. Natural selection explains how such a ʻpurposeʼ is served so long as there is one; and if there is, it obtains, within a living system, in virtue of the relations between whatever has such a purpose and other components of that system or its environment, and ultimately in virtue of considerations of species survival. Purely causal explanations of those mechanisms would be no different were circumstances to change so that the mechanisms they described impeded survival and reproductive success, and thus had no ʻpurposeʼ in the sense rehabilitated by the concept of natural selection (this has occurred often, with the extinction of organisms left behind by evolutionary change).
So, for Dennett, teleology can be wholly reconstructed, and employed in its full-blooded form without any antagonism to, or incompatibility with, nomological explanation, just so long as it exclusively employs the ultimate ʻquasi-telosʼ of survival value. This can then be extended to a more generalized notion of self-perpetuation – of institutional or cultural motifs and other analogues of the ʻselﬁsh geneʼ. No need to follow old-style reductionists in attempting to eliminate or decry the idioms of reason, purpose, intention, and so on, as incompatible with scientiﬁc naturalism. The harsh opposition between ʻinhuman scienceʼ and the human world, it seems, has been transcended.
In the process a sleight of hand has been perpetrated, where, ironically, it is the slowness of the hand that deceives the eye. The stages are: (1) explaining ʻintentionalʼ systems ʻas thoughʼ they had purposes, intentions, beliefs and so on, is compatible with causal (nomological) explanation if, viewed in the broadest possible context, the effects of selection by survival as a cause and the dictates of survival as a purpose are isomorphic; (2) no need, then, to qualify such explanations with this tentative ʻas thoughʼ so long as ʻsurvival valueʼ serves as the ultimate ʻquasi-telosʼ for teleological explanation; (3) since we grant that all living things contain innumerable subsystems to which purposes can be legitimately ascribed, human activity has the purposes it does because of the purposive character of the component intentional systems that humans contain.
In case it is still so slow as to deceive, note that it amounts to this: (1a) purposive explanation requires naturalistic legitimation (so talk of purposes which lack this legitimation will be illegitimate for the naturalizer); (2a) so ʻsurvival valueʼ is the only ultimate purpose you can mean when you employ teleological explanations legitimately; (3a) all the purposes manifest in human activity can only have arisen from the intentional systems comprising human beings, their language and culture. So, however unlike ʻsurvival valueʼ our actual purposes appear to be, those purposes could not have arisen other than in ultimate relation to the quasi-telos of survival value.
Over and above the explanatory non sequitur here is an ethical hijack (and non sequitur) too. Several steps are required to unmask the latter. The two non sequiturs are: (I) that whenever you explain what people do in terms of their purposes, you are giving a biological explanation; (II) that because ʻsurvival valueʼ (reproductive success in the context of natural selection) serves as the overarching ʻquasi-telosʼ of purposive explanation in biology, reproductive success must be the ultimate purpose of all human action. But, ﬁrst, from the Darwinian insight that construing ʻpurposeʼ as ʻsurvival valueʼ confers legitimacy on teleological explanation in biology, it does not follow that, whenever you explain what people do in terms of their purposes, you are giving a biological explanation (try doing it for a mathematical proof!). Second, attributing a mere quasi-telos in the past to all such explanations strips them entirely of the ethical signiﬁcance they only have if they possess a bona ﬁde telos in the future.
Indeed, the notion of ʻsurvival valueʼ serves its theoretical purpose in Darwinian biology just because it is a ʻquasi-telosʼ, and not really an end or purpose at all. So we remain consistent with natural science describing the properties and behaviour of biological systems as if they had a purpose because, actually, they do not. The real explanation, when all intervening purposes have the apparent concluding, ultimate ʻpurposeʼ of reproductive success is that what we explain has been caused, directly or indirectly, by differential rates of past reproductive success in circumstances little different from those obtaining now. ʻPurposeʼ is then reinterpreted by Dennett to mean ʻfeature of systems which donʼt have a purpose, but which have been brought into being by causes with effects isomorphic with accomplishment of the ascribed purposeʼ.
Since this is not a purpose, it is not a contender in any ethical decision between bona ﬁde purposes, still less the only contender. Dennett has perpetrated a more subtle version of Spencerʼs ethical non sequitur with respect to ʻthe survival of the ﬁttestʼ. (Either ʻthe ﬁttestʼ = ʻthose which surviveʼ – a tautology – and ʻﬁtʼ has no more ethical signiﬁcance than ʻsurvivingʼ; or ʻthe ﬁttestʼ = ʻworthy in some evaluative respect over and above ability to surviveʼ, and there are no grounds for taking the claim to be a fact, still less an ethical truth.)One could (but Dennett does not) propose, despite the appearance (and avowal) of purpose in human action, that it actually has none. (Though that is what he holds if he adopts (a) below, to which he must be committed.) Instead, ʻpurposeʼ in its explanatory guise, he claims, is to be explicated in the terms described above. Now, either the claim here is: (a) that when ʻpurposeʼ is invoked, the appearance of purpose is wholly the post hoc result of immeasurably complex (and, usually, epistemically irretrievable) causal processes operating from the past to the future, which ultimately turn on differential rates of reproductive success, but that ʻpurposeʼ serves its explanatory function because we use it to deduce the same explananda as we would if we knew the causal processes; or it is (b) that there really is a purpose projected in the future, and ʻsurvival valueʼ is what it has to be.
There are no grounds for (b) either as a factual or an ethical claim; it does not follow from – indeed, is incompatible with – (a); and Dennettʼs argument from Darwinism supports (a) alone. For if we can, sometimes, ascribe an ultimate purpose to human actions which they actually do have, it must be an empirical question whether or not reproductive success is that ultimate purpose. It cannot be settled a priori that it must be, and certainly not by an argument from cases (in biology) where it is acknowledged that there is no purpose anyway! The question here is whether there can be varieties of teleology in ethics other than biological naturalism. The answer is that there can be and are; and, what is more, Dennettʼs ʻIntentional Stanceʼ provides no ethical argument for choosing biological naturalism.
This point actually extends well beyond the realm of ethics. Because ʻvalueʼ, in the phrase ʻsurvival valueʼ, is not a normative notion, the survival, or otherwise, of a species is neither right nor wrong, neither correct nor incorrect. Thus any (innate or invented) ʻideasʼ, including ʻrules of inferenceʼ, which creatures possess directly or indirectly in virtue of past survival value, can only have a contingent form and content. They are not necessarily correct: it has merely transpired that they work. That something works in relation to a speciesʼ survival (even our own) has no necessary implication for ethics; but nor does it for the broader normative criteria of rationality – for epistemic judgement or for the validity of inference.
Functionality does not provide a grounding for normativity. We say that functional structures and systems are supposed to do this, that or the other, but this does not make them intrinsically normative, because the supposition in question is ours. ʻThis ought to work … (in such and such a way)ʼ, we say, but no one supposes this to be a normative ʻoughtʼ. Implicit in saying this is ʻif I am right about its function, and it is performing its function, then I predict…ʼ. But if you are right about the function, and it doesnʼt perform it, then it has not broken a rule; it is just broken. The sorts of points above are often held to rest on contrasting ʻderivedʼ intentionality (like the meaning of artefacts), with ʻintrinsicʼ intentionality (like the source of meaning in rational authorial judgement and intention). Dennett (I think rightly) rejects this contrast, arguing that intentional characteristicsʼ appearing to have a ʻderivedʼ status does not sufﬁce to show that, in other cases, they must be intrinsic. This is important, he later argues, because the ʻderivedʼ status of traces that creatures leave in the environment (labels are the simplest example) does not stop these being ʻthings minds use to think withʼ – that is, a lot of what is in thought is not in the head but in the environment, and while, for dogs, this is pissing against trees, for human beings it will comprise the discursive and practical resources of their cultures.
Culture, many writers hoped, was the rock on which old style Social Darwinism foundered. It was only going to, however, if culture was where normative canons of reason superseded the struggle for survival. This was long taken to require such a culture to be cumulatively authored by individual rational knowing subjects. Dennettʼs arguments parallel those of writers in other traditions who equally deny such a role to individual rational authorial intention, and so may seem congenial to disciples of the latter. However, arguments, from ʻpostmodernistʼ and other sources, against the necessity of candidate criteria for rationality, may well show that such criteria must be contingent, but not what they are contingent upon. For there isnʼt a simple, univocal contrast between ʻnecessaryʼ and ʻcontingentʼ here: what is contingent isnʼt, ipso facto, arbitrary. Moreover, it does not follow that the application of such criteria can only be rational if they are ﬁxed of necessity. For, if they are not, then perhaps they are contingent on what we understand, rather than merely on what works (gains acceptance).
Hopefully, then, one can be a consistent and wholehearted Darwinian without buying (I) and (II) above. Rejecting (I) attributes autonomy from biology not only to the sphere of ethics but also to the entire realm of intelligible human action. What and how much we understand of this may be contingent, but that does not imply an arbitrary answer to the normative question of what intelligibility is. There can only be one kind of intelligibility, even though, between different tracts of discourse, mutual comprehensibility may be less than complete. The fact that its form cannot be ﬁxed by any appeal to necessary truth does not imply that there could be a plurality of incompatible kinds of intelligibility, of which ours contingently happens to be one rather than another equally possible one. The arguments – from Quine to Derrida, and all points between – to show that there might be a plurality of equally good ways (i.e. no uniquely correct way) to understand some discourse or practice, require that there be a single set of criteria of intelligibility with respect to which the different interpretations are equally good (and a single augmented successor set whenever another contending interpretation is admitted). Demarcation of a normative sphere of reason and ethics from the non-normative sphere of biology,
What was socialism?
Donald Sassoon, One Hundred Years of Socialism: The West European Left in the Twentieth Century, I.B.
Tauris, London and New York, 1996. xxv + 965 pp., £35.00 hb., 1 85043 879 X.principal sources of resistance to, and restraint upon, the logics of capitalist expansion: tradition before it; Communism from without; and socialism from within. Yet whereas Hobsbawm argued that a combination of tradition and Communism had saved capitalist society from the ruthless and ultimately destructive logic of capitalist economies, seeing social democracyʼs internal successes as parasitic upon these external forces, Sassoon gives pride of place to the humanizing dynamic of social democracy within capitalist history. Others contributed to this process, of course, but the putatively universal appeal of socialist ideals meant that liberal and nationalist politics could only compete with socialism by stealing some of its clothes. ʻIn Western Europe, the main achievement of socialism in the last hundred years has been the civilizing of capitalism.… Socialists not only played a crucial role in the establishment of the welfare system, but were the true heirs of the European Enlightenment, the champions of civil rights and democracy.ʼ
Set against this positive assessment of social democracyʼs contribution to the civilizing of capitalism, however, is an appropriately sober reminder of the limits of reform. The context within which socialist parties operated included ʻcapitalist development, the nation-state, [and] the international systemʼ. Thus constrained, socialists needed an adequate political response to the questions of social reform, the regulation of capitalist economies and the organization of the international states system. And as Sassoonʼs account makes plain, social democracy was only ever able to deliver answers to the domestic questions of democracy and reform; and even these achievements were constantly threatened by the failure to regulate capitalist economies in the long run and devise an alternative international order. But why was this so? then, need not depend on demarcating ʻintrinsicʼ from ʻderivedʼ intentionality, nor on our having normative criteria of reason and ethics ﬁxed by an appeal to necessity. It is in the nature of the human project of seeking to understand that it effects its own normative demarcation from biology independently of accepting any particular answers to the questions it poses.
Winner of the 1996 Deutscher Memorial Prize, Donald Sassoonʼs remarkable political history of One Hundred Years of Socialism offers not only a unique survey of the West European Left since the 1890s but also a powerful argument about the achievements, problems and future of European social democracy. Sufﬁce it to say that there is nothing like it in English. Sassoonʼs geographical coverage is wide, paying as much attention to developments in Southern Europe and Scandinavia as to the better trodden ground of Britain, France, Germany and Italy; he ranges across economic, political and cultural matters with equal facility; he covers all the major phases and formative experiences of the evolution of European social democracy; and throughout what is essentially a political history of parties, programmes, governments and policies there is a deep understanding of socio-economic and ideological context.
Sassoonʼs focus is on the socialism born in Western Europe, in industrial or industrializing societies, out of the skilled (and predominantly male) working class. ʻOutside Western Europe,ʼ Sassoon avers, ʻsocialism – especially, but not exclusively, in its communist version – became a force for modernization, agrarian reform, decolonization, nationalism…. Only in Western Europe does socialism appear to survive, battered by electoral defeats, uncertain of its future, suspicious of its own past.ʼ The bulk of Sassoonʼs account is devoted to the social-democratic mainstream, leading to a sharp and largely negative assessment of the Communist experience as brutal modernization in the East, anti-imperialism in the South, and political failure and irrelevance in the West. A strong case is made for the importance of social democracy to the overall political history of capitalism in Western Europe. Like Eric Hobsbawm in Age of Extremes, Sassoon identiﬁes three What was it that limited the achievements of twentiethcentury socialism? Sassoon seems to offer two rather different answers – one an explicit argument about the conﬂict between the nationally based nature of social democracy and the international character of its capitalist adversary; the other a largely implicit thesis about the relationship between social democracy and liberal-democratic capitalism.
To begin with the national character of social democracy. Sassoon argues that since capitalist growth depended on the organization provided by the nationstate, and since socialists needed capitalist prosperity to ﬁnance their reforming designs, social democracy had to organize itself nationally. His account begins in the late 1880s and 1890s, by which time, he argues, the core demands of social democracy had already been formulated by the ﬁrst congress of the Second International (1889) and the German SPDʼs programme of 1891: political equality and representative democracy; the public (state) provision of welfare; regulation of the labour market; and an end to other (especially sexual) forms of discrimination and inequality. Over the next hundred years, this agenda was pursued on a more or less exclusively national terrain. The First World War destroyed the Second International, with 1917 merely providing the coup de grâce, as well as bringing social democrats into government. (The Third International, in Sassoonʼs judgement, was effective precisely ʻbecause it was supported by an authentic stateʼ.) In the interwar years socialists consolidated their positions, but they were usually unprepared for power and of limited effectiveness in ofﬁce (except in Scandinavia). In contrast to this modest advance of social democracy, the record of interwar Communism in the West, according to Sassoon, was one of more or less complete failure.
After the Second World War, social democracy emerged as hegemonic on the Left, and even where Communist parties prospered they did so as a result of the national legitimacy achieved after 1941 in resistance movements, and to the extent that they adopted broadly social-democratic agendas. While the postwar period brought social democrats real power in government, they ʻcould accede to power only once they had accepted the international hegemony of the USA, the only capitalist power devoid of a strong socialist partyʼ. Postwar social-democratic foreign policies were no different from those of the centre and centre-right parties. During the postwar period, social-democratic parties and governments achieved extensive gains in the ﬁeld of social reform, and these are well chronicled by Sassoon. But in effect Sassoon argues that social democrats became victims of their own success, turning into conservative defenders of the reformist status quo: ʻThey defended the growth model of Western capitalism, which provided sought-after consumer goods and the necessary surplus with which to pay for the welfare state; they supported the Atlanticist international order, thus demarcating themselves from authoritarian forms of socialism in the East; they endorsed the liberaldemocratic organization of the state, which provided the political conditions for their obtaining a parliamentary victory and/or participation in governmental power; they upheld the prevailing form of the family, with its peculiar division of labour, because it seemed best suited to existing conditions and was not overtly challenged by anyone. Consequently, many traditional socialist commitments were in practice abandoned or relegated to an ever-receding long term.ʼ
At this point, Sassoonʼs argument takes a slightly different tack. The Atlanticist, welfarist order of social democracy crucially depended on the maintenance of stable and relatively high levels of economic growth. Once growth slowed down in the late 1960s and 1970s, and politics shifted from a contest about how to distribute its beneﬁts to one of how to reinvigorate growth itself, social democracy was thrown into crisis. While the Right promoted a turn to the market and a retreat of the state, the Left argued for further extension of state regulation; and by the 1990s, ʻthe Left had been comprehensively defeated in the West.ʼ Or, at least, its preferred economic model had been defeated, since electorally the support for socialist parties has been remarkably stable throughout the postwar period. Sassoon explains this victory of the Right, here agreeing with Hobsbawm, by the fact that capitalist economies have outgrown their national regulatory shells: ʻTo a large extent, the contemporary crisis of socialism is a by-product of the globalization of capitalism.… Socialists have been more affected than conservatives, because of their essential conviction that politics can govern the economy. In a global economy, national politics can survive only at a less ambitious level.ʼ Thus Sassoon concludes that ʻthe new ideological consensus of European social democracy: the neo-revisionism of the late 1980s … marks the second historical reconciliation between socialism and capitalism. The ﬁrst, on social-democratic terms, took place after 1945. The second represented a compromise on the terms set by neo-liberalism.ʼ
There is clearly much truth in this assessment. Yet Sassoonʼs own survey of the record of social democracy since the 1890s suggests that a rather different – perhaps harsher – verdict might also be in order. Certainly socialists were at the forefront of reform in liberal-democratic capitalist societies; and it is also true that their liberal and conservative political opponents stole much of their programme. But reformist elements were also present within the liberal culture and in much of the conservative traditional order. Indeed, socialists were not above borrowing from these traditions. In other words, social democracy was only one – albeit, in some countries, the dominant – current that contributed to the civilizing of capitalism. More importantly, the most fundamental limitations of social democracy, present since its inception in the 1890s and requiring no revisionism to bring it about in the 1950s or the 1980s, has been its total lack of any creative alternative to the capitalist organization of production, distribution and exchange. (As Sassoon himself says, speaking of the postwar order: ʻThe pattern of nationalization, the paucity of planning, the absence of the most rudimentary forms of industrial democracy, demonstrate the massive failure of socialists throughout Europe to achieve even the semblance of a distinctive policy towards private capital.ʼ) It has been this signal failure to devise, let alone implement, a viable alternative to the capitalist economic order that has above all restricted its achievements. Accommodations to the political order of the nation-state and to conservative traditional mores have both played a role in subordinating the ends of social democracy to its means. But in the absence of an alternative socio-economic programme, the wider project has, of necessity, always been about a humanized, liberal-democratic capitalism.
Now that Sassoonʼs negative verdict on the Communist experience looks all the more convincing – certainly more cogent than Hobsbawmʼs evasions – what is left of a distinctive socialist tradition? Those looking for answers would do well to consult Sassoonʼs ambitious and thought-provoking study.
The shadow of indirect lightMartin Heidegger, Hölderlinʼs Hymn ʻThe Isterʼ, trans. William McNeill and Julia Davis, Indiana University Press, Bloomington and Indianapolis, 1996. xi + 185 pp., £29.50 hb., 0 253 33064
5. ^ Dominique Janicaud, The Shadow of That Thought: Heidegger and the Question of Politics, trans. Michael Gendre, Northwestern University Press, Evanston IL, 1996. ix + 149 pp., £50.00 hb., £14.95 pb., 0 8101 1234 5 hb., 0 8101 1215 9 pb.
In 1961 Heidegger suggested that his Nietzsche volumes provided a view of the path his work had taken from 1930 to 1947, whereas Erläuterungen zu Hölderlins Dichtung (Commentaries on Hölderlinʼs Poetry) ʻshed only indirect light on that pathʼ. Even indirect light can provide some illumination, and Hölderlin is certainly central to the later Heideggerʼs thought. Quite how important has been difﬁcult to ascertain, especially for the English reader without access to either the latter book (though two of its essays appeared in Existence and Being) or any of the three lecture courses on Hölderlin.
The translation of Hölderlinʼs Hymn ʻThe Isterʼ is therefore to be welcomed. It is the ﬁnal course that Heidegger gave on the poet, delivered in the summer of 1942 at the University of Freiburg. The course begins by considering Hölderlinʼs hymn ʻThe Isterʼ, a poem about the River Danube; provides a detailed reading of the choral ode in Sophoclesʼ Antigone; and meditates on Hölderlinʼs relation to the Greeks. The course deﬁes summary, but much of it is about the nature of translation, and this is reﬂected in the presentation. Hölderlinʼs poetry is provided in both the original German and in an English translation that tries to emphasize the meaning Heidegger reads in it. Similarly, the text of Sophocles is presented in the Greek, Heideggerʼs German translation, and an English rendition of this German. This allows the reader to understand the shift Heidegger makes between the languages. One point of contention is that the Greek alphabet is retained, rather than the characters being transliterated. Most readers would recognize polis or tekhne; most will struggle when they appear on the page as πολις and τεχνη. But part of Heideggerʼs argument is that Greek words are too often taken in the received meaning, without due thought being given to their real sense. For example, the understanding of polis is discussed at length, furthering the remarks made in An Introduction to Metaphysics.
This discussion suggests that polis should not be understood politically, but as site (Stätte). The polis is understood as polos, as the pole around which everything turns, rather than as the city-state. What is important about the polis is that it is the site and stead (Statt) of the abode of humans. Its signiﬁcance is primarily spatial (or better, locational) and only secondly political. This follows from the discussion of the River Ister that formed the ﬁrst part of the course. The ﬁrst line of Hölderlinʼs poem begins with a ʻNowʼ, but is followed in line ﬁfteen by a ʻHereʼ. Heidegger reads the ʻnowʼ as a point in time, a moment (Augenblick), but stresses that the poem gives equal emphasis to the here, a designation of place. The river determines the dwelling place of human beings on the earth, their abode, a locale (Ort). Hölderlin is described as being outside of Western metaphysics, and Heidegger suggests that trying to understand this ʻnowʼ and ʻhereʼ in terms of the three dimensions of space and the fourth of time is ﬂawed.
No calendrical date can be given for the ʻnowʼ of Hölderlinʼs poetry, and no Cartesian co-ordinates can locate this ʻhereʼ. This is because they cannot hope to understand the Other that Hölderlin poetizes. This Other takes the river as its basis, and Heidegger suggests that the ʻnowʼ and the ʻhereʼ can be better understood in terms of locality and journeying. The river acts as the locale for human beings, and in its passage shows the journeying of historical being. The river is both the locality of journeying and the journeying of locality. This is a different understanding of time–space from that of metaphysics, which is tied up with the process of world domination and modern technology. Instead of resorting to historiography and geography, of seeing the rivers as symbols, we must relate to the rivers poetically, through lived experience.
Aside from its intrinsic interest, this course is perhaps most important for the light it sheds on Heideggerʼs later thought. Along with the Nietzsche volumes, there is much here that enables a better understanding of language, poetic dwelling, the question of global technology, and the increasing importance of space in many of the later works. Also present are references to events on the world stage at the time of writing. We may wish to discount these, but their presence cannot be denied. The entry of America into the ʻplanetary warʼ is mentioned in passing, and ʻAmericanismʼ is touched upon in a few places; the relation of the national to the foreign is discussed; we are reminded that people ﬁght wars over space (Raum), which of course has resonances with Lebensraum (living space); and the uniqueness or ʻhistorical singularityʼ of National Socialism is stressed again. In this text we can hear the distant roar of battle.
Or perhaps we see the shadow thrown by the light. This is the subject of Dominique Janicaudʼs contribution to the debate over Heidegger and his Nazism. In his posthumously published interview with Der Spiegel, Heidegger was asked about the shadow that hung over his philosophical work ʻbecause of some events that did not last very long and that were never really clariﬁedʼ. The relevant facts (more serious than was previously admitted) are now relatively well known, and there have been a number of studies of them in recent years. (For a useful background and appraisal of some key texts, see Peter Osborneʼs article in RP 70.) Those who wish to save Heidegger, at least to some extent, tend to take one of two paths: either to divorce the man from the thought; or to suggest some kind of break in Heideggerʼs thinking, by which he turned away from his earlier views, including his support for Nazism.
Janicaud does not take either of these paths. Instead, he draws connections between Heideggerʼs politics and his philosophy, refusing to save the thought in the damning of the man. Janicaud suggests that it is not enough simply to know that the shadow over Heideggerʼs thought is Nazism; ʻone must determine its density and vibrations, follow the contours that delineate it from the most dazzling pages of his work.ʼ This is a book written, he says, ʻagainst his heartʼ, since one never likes ﬁnding shadows in a picture of greatness. However, Janicaud argues that it is also written with a will to face up to something that confronts us all, not merely readers of Heidegger: the legacy of this century. To suggest that we should not read Heidegger any more, or maintain our previous faith and admiration, are, Janicaud asserts, false options. We must read Heidegger from the perspective of the political question. Janicaud undertakes his task with careful readings of key passages from Heideggerʼs works, and relates them to events and ideas at the time. These readings include discussions of remarks made by Heidegger that relate to the wider world picture – the Nazi electoral victory in the ﬁrst lecture course on Hölderlin, the defeat of France in the 1940 course on Nietzsche – an analysis of the Rectorial address, and a noting of the absence of the ʻracistʼ, biologizing and anti-Semitic elements of Nazism in Heideggerʼs discourse.
Particularly impressive is the discussion of the infamous passage in An Introduction to Metaphysics, where Heidegger distinguishes between the philosophical works of National Socialism and ʻthe inner greatness and truth of this movement (namely the encounter between global technology and modern man)ʼ. This was a course delivered in 1935, and published (with the addition of the matter in parentheses) in 1953. Janicaud suggests that it could be read as an honest profession of faith in Nazism, but not in its ʻphilosophyʼ: honest because the passage is retained in 1953. However, he sensibly points out that the parenthesis holds the key to an understanding, as it only makes sense within the context of the later Heidegger, but forces a reinterpretation of the 1935 remark. It turns the positive ʻinner greatness and truthʼ into a negative judgement, because, from the perspective of 1953, Nazism signally failed to think the encounter. But Janicaud sees a continued ambiguity in Heideggerʼs attitude to Nazism. The encounter is not one undertaken by modern man in general, but by German man; and not with global technology as such, but with the call for ʻtotal mobilizationʼ. Nazism failed to live up to Heideggerʼs aims for the reassertion of the national character; but he himself continued to think about this issue for the rest of his career.
Heidegger is neither entirely damned nor wholly saved. His thought is seen as forming a complex and interrelated whole with his political life. In many later pieces Heidegger quoted Hölderlinʼs words: ʻbut where danger is, grows the saving power alsoʼ. We would do well to remember them in reading Heidegger. As Janicaud so rightly states, we cannot have the one without the other. The danger cannot be conjured away, though salvation exists alongside it. These are two important books for those interested in Heideggerʼs thought and politics. But each stands in the shadow of the other.
FanomenologyAndrew Blake, Body Language: The Meaning of Modern Sport, Lawrence & Wishart, London, 1996. 222 pp., £12.99 pb., 0 85315 834 7If someone set out to discuss the culture of ﬁshing, the focus would be on the millions of participants in that activity. You could be sure that a book on netball and its body language would be about this (largely female) activity and its immediate context. Yet, for some reason, when ʻCultural Studiesʼ gets hold of ʻModern Sportʼ it is taken as given that an ʻinterestʼ in this is primarily a matter of being a fan or spectator. In other words, sport is seen as part of the modern fantasy and identity industry. This is not how men and women study sport in dozens of colleges with PE departments. But it is the primary sense in which modern sport is conceived as ʻpopular cultureʼ in Andrew Blakeʼs book, introducing sport to students of Cultural Studies.
I say this, yet Blake does at various points designate rambling, aerobics, mountaineering, crime and gambling as sports. But such things seem to get into the ball game in the service of particular argument strategies. Blakeʼs starting point is that top-line, professional-industrial spectator, largely male, sports are what modern sport is. Thus he divides those interested in sport into three categories: ʻthe publicʼ, ʻthe supportersʼ and ʻfansʼ, and, at the ʻapexʼ, the ʻplayersʼ – the professional ʻstarsʼ whose fantastic feats are beamed down through the rest of the ʻtriangleʼ, where the consumers identify with their heroes and idols (Us, Me), at the expense of their correlative enemies and scapegoats (Them, Him). Even local club sportspeople are relegated to the stratum of ʻfanʼ.
Given this elite and consumerist focus, it is disappointing that Blake does not have more to say about television, the increasingly dominant and determinant force in the industrial sportsworld. How, in a post-Cold War world, with a globally mobile athletic labour force and instant transmission for private viewing, with teams, arenas, media and outﬁts the property of corporations, are the collective identity-fantasies so central to more territorial supporter-participant bases going to be maintained? We see sports men and women marketed as part of the entertainment industry and sports redesigned in an effort to maximize strategic market shares. Thus does capital cannibalize pre-capitalist values of nationality, ethnicity, heroic commitment, chivalry, loyalty, and so on, into a sort of servile devotion to ʻcompetitionʼ, actually orchestrated by forces whose competitive instincts are focused away from the ofﬁcial arena of play. Why, these punters can make a million out of the spontaneous triumph of a properly kitted sportsman! Blake is critically into such developments. He is, for example, against restrictions on drug intake or deliberate body ʻdesignʼ that would maximize performance potential. Non-sexistly, he is in favour of breaking down biological gender barriers to the point where, through sports bio-technology, gender becomes practically irrelevant to success. He is against ʻhumanistʼ inhibitions, against such things in the name of ʻnatureʼ, ʻessenceʼ, and the rest of the quasi-fascist rule-book of reactionaries in such areas. Thus does his vision imply a world in which the competitors on the ﬁeld are essentially the vehicles of biotechnical, pharmaceutical and outﬁt companies.
Starting out with the consumption of fantastic spectacle (as a Spurs fan, he doubtless thinks in a long time-frame), Blake loses touch with a sense of play and sport as natural and universal forms of activity. Any culture with valued skills, dispositions and capacities is liable to have ʻarenasʼ where model activities are tested and contested ʻfor their own sakeʼ, in relative abstraction from functional (productive, reproductive, military, etc.) goals. Neither the ancient Greeks nor the Victorian public schools invented this dimension of life. What they did was systematize, standardize and potentially universalize it. (Let it readily be granted that such structurings subserved, and were adapted to, all sorts of gross goals; but let it not be forgotten that the existence of such futile activities needed to be defended on the ideological terrain of capitalism, imperialism and militarism.) In other words, it would be well to start from an activity rather than spectatorial focus. And then, since the deliberate creation of contests that require the virtues, graces and skills (so that whoever plays has to develop such qualities to play properly – that is, their best), it is not difﬁcult to see the correlative role of spectators to glory in, and poets to praise, the wonderful best doing their best. Nor is it difﬁcult to see the anciently realized potential for bread and circuses, or the continuous survival and invention of diverse grassroots sporting activities remote from the roar of the stadium or, nowadays, the television screen.
If one starts from some idea of ʻplayʼ, recognizing its conﬂictual and contradictory intersections, one is less likely to assume that a culture which became dominated by the watching of drugand machineenhanced super ʻgladiatorsʼ as they competed in spectacular ʻrollerballʼ contests for the big bucks would be an apotheosis of sport – however athletic the participants might be. It might embarrass Andrew Blake to contemplate this, but when in a vital soccer match of national signiﬁcance in March 1997, Robbie Fowler of Liverpool disclaimed a penalty he had been awarded by the referee against the Arsenal goalkeeper, he was exhibiting a sportsmanship that, however remarkable, shows the difference between the sporting and the merely athletic, powerful or commercial. Capital sucks at sportsmanship and can sell what it renders more scarce at ever higher prices. But it is not just humanist sentimentality that emphasizes such ʻCorinthianʼ features as characteristic of sport. Like lovers of art or sex or dancing, the people for whom sport has to watch out include the Cultural Studies games hosts, turning it into an item of academic meta-consumption.
It would be unsporting to end without saying that Blakeʼs book is an interesting, provocative and informative read. But radical philosophers will be aware that there has been a Journal of the Philosophy of Sport since the 1970s. They should also know that C.L.R. Jamesʼs Beyond a Boundary has been reprinted (Serpentʼs Tail, 1996). This is not a new subject.
Signiﬁcant differencesSimon Critchley, Jacques Derrida, Ernesto Laclau and Richard Rorty, Deconstruction and Pragmatism, edited by Chantal Mouffe, Routledge, London and New York, 1996. ix + 88 pp., £35.00 hb., £9.99 pb., 0 415 12169 8 hb., 0 415 12170 1 pb.
The major concern of this collection is to examine what the work of Derrida and Rorty can contribute to non-foundationalist thinking about democracy. It is based on a symposium on ʻDeconstruction and Pragmatismʼ held in 1993. The four contributors, and Chantal Mouffe, address the title question and Richard Rorty also responds to Simon Critchley and Ernesto Laclau.
Overall, the collection brings out the sense in which both Derrida and Rorty further the broad political project of the Enlightenment even while, unlike Habermas, they reject its foundationalist premisses. Derrida even insists that he does not want to renounce the discourse of emancipation, though he is quick to add that he is not ʻfor teleology, metaphysics, eschatology or classical messianismʼ. However, although Rorty and Derrida both underscore the limitations of universal reason as the basis of political thought, and likewise reject the assumption of a necessary connection between universalism, rationalism and modern democracy, this comparison of deconstruction and pragmatism highlights the incompatible implications drawn by each.
Derrida persists with quasi-transcendental questions concerning the conditions of possibility and impossibility of things – in this case democracy, consensus, justice, the law. Rorty, by contrast, considers this sort of reﬂection no longer useful. In his reformist pragmatism the focus is rather on the level of what he regards as real issues which can be addressed in banal ways such as piecemeal social reform. One consequence of this difference is that whereas the implications of Rortyʼs pragmatism for politics are not in doubt, the political relevance of deconstruction is open to question. Indeed, Rorty argues that it is better to view Derrida as a ʻprivate ironistʼ than a ʻpublic liberalʼ whose work is of no political utility, or at least (as he eventually concedes) not much. As Critchley points out, this is because for Rorty the realm of the private ironist is the realm of self-overcoming and autonomy, and thus lacking in public utility. It is distinct from that of the public liberal, which is about social justice and the suffering of others, and therefore publicly and politically relevant.
However, according to Mouffe, this view rests on the misconception of politics that informs Rortyʼs vision of a consensus-based liberal utopia, stemming from a lack of reﬂection on the nature of democracy. Liberal democracy, she argues, is above all a pluralist democracy that admits of dissent as well as consensus. Mouffe ﬁnds deconstruction helpful here: ʻAs conditions of possibility for the existence of a pluralist democracy, conﬂicts and antagonisms constitute at the same time the conditions of impossibility of its ﬁnal achievement. Such is the “double bind” that deconstruction unveils. That is why, in Derridaʼs words, democracy will always be “to come”, traversed by undecidability and for ever keeping open its element of promiseʼ (p. 11).
Disagreeing with Rorty, Derrida insists that he is not being utopian or romantic. Undecidability is not a moment to be ultimately resolved. Indeed, as Critchley reminds us, in ʻThe Force of Lawʼ (1988) Derrida presents an ethical concept of justice in which the law and justice are distinguished. Justice is undecidable and undeconstructable. It is the condition of possibility for deconstruction. Derrida even draws on Levinas at one point to pose justice as a relation to the other that demands an inﬁnite responsibility. It is this ʻmysticalʼ or ʻimpossibleʼ ʻexperienceʼ of justice that marks the move from undecidability to the decision – judgement, the realm of politics. Politics, then, is the realm of laws, conventions, political institutions, and so on, which temporarily stabilizes that which is essentially unstable and chaotic. At the same time it provides the possibility for future change, since it can in that case be destabilized.
Simon Critchley and Ernesto Laclau both argue for the political relevance of deconstructionʼs undecidability. However, since they are both concerned that this does not provide any grounding for the decision, they both feel it requires something other than deconstruction to move from structural undecidability to the decision – that is, from the ethical ʻexperienceʼ of justice to judgement (i.e., political action). Whereas for Critchley this is to be derived from developing the link with Levinasian ethics, Laclau argues for a theory of hegemony to operationalize deconstructionʼs political effects.
Although this collection does not contain any new ideas, it does help to clarify some of the old ones about deconstructionʼs relationship to pragmatism and, relatedly, to politics. As Derrida increasingly turns to questions of justice, judgement and responsibility, it provides a useful discussion of what is at stake in the very different political understandings and ethical orientations of deconstruction and pragmatism, and their respective contributions to non-foundationalist thinking about democracy. It highlights the critical edge that deonstruction has and which Rortyʼs pragmatism lacks. This lies in an ethical concern with alterity and is a difference of no small signiﬁcance.
Fanon out of contextLewis R. Gordon, Fanon and the Crisis of European Man: An Essay on Philosophy and the Human Sciences, Routledge, New York and London, 1995. xiii + 137 pp., £11.99 pb., 0 415 914159.
The ﬁfth and ﬁnal chapter of what Gordon describes as ʻan engagement with Fanonʼ is entitled ʻFanonʼs Continued Relevanceʼ. It is immediately obvious that Fanonʼs relevance pertains neither to his native Martinique, his adopted Algeria, nor to the France he repudiated, but to debates within black cultural studies in American universities. One has the impression of having strayed into a private war in which Gordon engages on very hostile terms with Henry Louis Gates Jr and his ʻorbit of cultural studiesʼ elite.ʼ Whether or not this engagement has any relevance to anyone outside that particular debate is doubtful, but this essay displays many of the depressing features of so much recent writing on Fanon.
The degree to which Fanon is abstracted from the tensions of the Martinique–France–Algeria triangle that gives his work its characteristic ﬂavour is alarming. Martinique is a point of origin to be forgotten as soon as it is mentioned; Algeria a synecdoche for Third World Revolution; France a hostile backdrop. The air of timelessness is equally alarming. Like so many others working on Fanon – black and white – Gordon is fascinated by the chapter on women and the veil in A Dying Colonialism, but a simple reiteration of Fanonʼs analysis at a time when Algeria women, already forced to live under the terms of a harshly oppressive Family Code, are threatened with rape and murder if they infringe a fundamentalist dress code, borders on the irresponsible, not to say the obscene. Gordon discusses Fanonʼs account of the role of radio in forging a national identity during the war of liberation, but not the role of cassettes in spreading the message of fundamentalism. He attempts, perhaps rightly, to rescue Fanon from postmodernists and post-structuralists (and there is something absurd about attempts to turn Fanon into a Lacanian on the basis of one footnote), but he does not restore him to the daughters of the women he wrote about and for. It might also be possible to use Fanonʼs text to look at Franceʼs so-called ʻheadscarf affairsʼ; it has, that is, been argued that the girls who refuse to take off their headscarves at school, and thus offend against Republican secularism, are involved in a act of resistance, or an attempt to negotiate an identity. Fanon might be more relevant than he has seemed for some time, but no attempt is made to engage with that possibility.
Gordon is concerned to recruit Fanon into a phenomenological study of racism, and makes interesting use of the Sartrean category of bad faith. The value of the excursions into Schutzʼs phenomenology, on the other hand, is less than self-evident, and a brief discussion of Algeriaʼs colonial history would shed more light on Fanonʼs notorious theory of cathartic violence than a digression into Aristotle on tragedy. Gordonʼs title refers to the crisis of European man that is supposedly symbolized by ʻthe twentieth-century person of colourʼ, but his terms of reference appear to be purely American. He insists, for instance, that the racial constructions that dominate the Euro-world deﬁne Arabs and North Africans as ʻCaucasianʼ – a category more likely to be found in US census data than in any European discourse. Gordonʼs bitter comments on the myth of ʻwhite victimizationʼ in universities adopting afﬁrmative-action policies are telling, but surely relate to an American rather than a European context.
Perhaps the main problem is that it is difﬁcult to ﬁt Fanon into a general theory of racism. His lived experience as a black man – and not, pace his translator, the fact of his (or anyone elseʼs) blackness – is deeply rooted in the peculiar situation of Martinique and in his response to a distinctly French form of racism which masquerades as assimilation or integration. What the Martinican novelist Patrick Chamoiseau calls ʻFranco-universalismʼ is the essential agent that perpetuates the cultural alienation analysed in Black Skin White Masks, and a sense of profound alienation is still palpable in Martinique, where television broadcasts are in French, but where Creole is the ﬁrst language of so many people. French values masquerading as universals deny the validity of the black or Creole culture of Martinique, just as they deny Arab teenagers in headscarves access to schools preaching a universal secularism. Fanon could be so relevant, but not when he is caught up in culture wars (and cultural studies wars) that are none of his making.
Paul Patton, ed., Deleuze:
Blackwel , Oxford and Cambridge MA, 1996. x + 316 pp., £50.00 hb., £14.99 pb., 1 55786 564 7 hb., 1 55786 565 5 pb.
Paul Patton begins his introduction to this collection by admitting that large tracts of Deleuzeʼs work remain obscure to commentators, citing as one reason the lack of connections made between the philosopherʼs ʻexperimentalʼ work and his studies in the history of philosophy. The accounts given here of predecessors and inﬂuences all have the virtue of illuminating the latent possibilities that Deleuze disturbed in them, rather than merely situating his work in a tradition. However, the more focused the essays are (on the ʻSpinozistʼ or ʻBergsonianʼ Deleuze, for instance), the less coherent ʻDeleuzeʼ as a single thinker becomes. This can be taken as a symptom of the general critical dissensus on Deleuze; even those who take him seriously disagree as to what is really central in his philosophy.
One prevalent response to such uncertainty has been to embrace it and improvise ʻDeleuzianlyʼ around issues of oneʼs choice; this philosophy is supposed to be ʻnomadicʼ, after all.
Deleuze is a style you adopt, a motley inspiration and spur to creativity. Some of the essays present very successful examples of this approach. Deleuzeʼs refusal to engage in questions of method is perhaps a source of this situation, and critics often adopt his statement that ʻa theory is a box of toolsʼ, as if this in itself was some sort of anti-method: Deleuzeʼs works are then read as disorderly ontological manuals, using now the transcendental method, now the Bergsonian method, all in pursuit of the elusive powers of ʻdifferenceʼ.
On the other hand, Deleuze always claimed to be a systematic philosopher. The fact that he appears to have produced over a dozen systems in the course of one life doesnʼt necessarily contradict this, but provokes the question of what a truly immanent system of philosophy would be were it to exist. Deleuzeʼs attempt to think an immanent cosmos, divested of the laws of subjectpredicate logic, the Absolute, rules and representation, is an often perilous attempt to balance coherence with experimentation.
His task can be characterized as the construction of a series of pragmatic systems, all expressions of immanent thought, some ʻbetterʼ than others in different ways. Thus in What is Philosophy? he claimed that Spinoza had produced ʻthe best plane of immanenceʼ. It follows that the fragmented appearance of this collection issues from a certain necessity inherent in its subject.
However, another attempt at a ʻway inʼ surfaces a number of times: the theory of intuition and affectivity. As this is a blind spot in much contemporary philosophy, Deleuzeʼs approach, which is neither phenomenological nor physicalistic, unsurprisingly proves attractive to commentators. Lucid essays on neo-Kantian inﬂuences on his theory of sensation, and his use of differential calculus (which Bergson described as the closest theory could get to concrete reality), are very useful, while François Zourabichviliʼs account of the ʻordeal of vitalityʼ that Deleuzeʼs theory imposes on the body is a meditation on his esoteric side.
Despite its title, the collection is short on criticism, which is perhaps excusable because the task of exposition still looms so large. Catherine Malabou (on Hegel) and Jean-Luc Nancy engage in sympathetic critique; the latter claims not to see how one can conceive of Being without inscribing any sort of lack (i.e., ﬁnitude or temporality) at its centre; he concludes that Deleuzeʼs thought has no connection to ʻthe realʼ. However, it is just such pheno-menological conﬁdence in what is humanly ʻrealʼ that Deleuze is so suspicious of. Transcendence of any variety is always a false refuge for thought. Deleuzeʼs thought is never a mirror in which we can recognize ourselves and remember what we are ʻsupposed to beʼ; it refracts rather than reﬂects, which is why it has to be unashamedly metaphysical.
Much of Deleuzeʼs work arose in the milieu of a distinctly non-ʻContinentalʼ French tradition (including Guéroult,
Vuillemin and Wahl), which excavated and analysed the history of philosophy and science in pursuit of furtive directions and conceptual experimentation.
Our reiﬁed tradition of Continental Philosophy perhaps doesnʼt know how to experiment so innocently with philosophy and its history. This collection shows real signs of the will to break out of this cultural constraint, and provides some of the best writing yet on Deleuze.
christian kerslakephilip goodchild, deleuze and guattari: an introduction to the politics of desire,
Sage, London and Thousand Oaks CA, 1996. ix + 226 pp., £12.95 pb., 0 8039 7601 1.
Deleuze and Guattari were resolutely anti-representational thinkers. Rather than search for concepts that would adequately represent the world, they moulded their concepts into tools that could create new worlds. In place of arid and constipated commentary on the history of ideas, they took the task of forging new ideas so seriously that they spawned a whole new conceptual lexicon – ʻschizoanalysisʼ, ʻrhizomaticsʼ, ʻthe war machineʼ and ʻnomadic thoughtʼ are some of the more obvious. Even in their last book together, What is Philosophy?, Deleuze and Guattari never shied away from further conceptual innovation, despite the meditative and reﬂective tone of that work. The only way of summing up what they had been doing together all these years was to continue doing it.
Unfortunately, this creates a tendency among some Deleuze and Guattari scholars to produce texts that contain so many laboured neologisms that they are barely readable. In their desire to escape the tyranny of commentary, however, such scholars become the worst kind of commentators: disciples. To his credit, Goodchild does not fall into this trap. While he is all too aware of the need to ʻbuggerʼ Deleuze and Guattari (an image Deleuze used to explain the non-representational, erotic way he approached the texts of philosophers such as Bergson, Spinoza and Nietzsche), Goodchild never resorts to the slavish desire to out-create Deleuze and Guattari. He recognizes very clearly that unthoughtful and uncritical conceptual innovation repli-cates the kind of representational thought Deleuze and Guattari sought to leave behind. In place of such sad piety, Goodchild shows us the joy to be found in a careful and critical engagement with the works of Deleuze and Guattari.
The book is divided into three parts. The ﬁrst, ʻKnowledgeʼ, examines Deleuze and Guattariʼs attempt to shift the epistemological goal posts away from the idea that knowledge is about adequately representing the world, towards the idea that knowledge is the creation of concepts in the world. Moreover, as Goodchild emphasizes, such creation is not the product of human minds, but a selfpositing process coextensive with the social ﬁeld and ultimately constitutive of an immanent plane of desire.
The second part, ʻPowerʼ, deals primarily with the critique of capitalism and its institutions found in the two volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Goodchild charts a course through these tricky texts with admirable ease; and the addition of a central section on the relationship between Deleuze and Guattariʼs schizoanalytical approach and a series of other theoretical approaches will prove useful to scholars and students alike.
The third part, ʻLiberation of Desireʼ, broaches the problem of what kind of ethical commitment, if any, arises from their critique. For many ʻDeleuzo-Guattariansʼ the very idea of ʻliberationʼ will be all the proof they need that Goodchild has succumbed to the philosophical discourses of the state. However, Goodchildʼs is a carefully thought-out argument with no time for such extreme nihilism. ʻProblem 9ʼ (the book includes a series of ʻproblemsʼ, separated out from the main text, that directly address some of the thorniest issues in Deleuze and Guattari scholarship), is a wonderful explanation and example of what Deleuze and Guattari understand by ʻbecoming-ethicalʼ. Goodchild shows how this process escapes the moralizing and normalizing thrust of mainstream ethical thought, and that the idea of ʻliberationʼ, when sensitively handled, has a coherent meaning in the conceptual world of Deleuze and Guattari: ʻone seeks an ethical intensity – the intensity of friendship – that always exceeds expression in speech and conductʼ (p. 208).
With this book, and the publication of Gilles Deleuze and the Question of Philosophy (see Jean-Jacques Lecercleʼs review in RP 83), Goodchild has announced himself a major ﬁgure in the English-speaking reception of Deleuze and Guattariʼs thought.
EvaLundgren-Gothlin, Sex and Existence: Simone de Beauvoirʼs ʻThe Second Sexʼ,
Linda Schenck, Athlone, London, 1996. xi + 329 pp., £45.00 hb., £16.95 pb., 0 485 11469 0 hb., 0 485 12124 7 pb.
This book is well-written and illuminating in its historical and philosophical contextualization of The Second Sex. Viewed against the backdrop of postwar France, Lundgren-Gothlin suggests, de Beauvoirʼs seminal work should be read as a remarkable departure from the constraints of her social and historical situation. Indeed, given her analysis of the French political and social scene at the time of de Beauvoirʼs writing, Lundgren-Gothlin fully justiﬁes her claim that de Beauvoirʼs demands (i.e. the right of women to work, to control their own reproductive lives, and to become full and participating members of society) were of ʻforemost importanceʼ (p. 252).
The study works best, however, at the philosophical level. Its central thesis is that de Beauvoirʼs theoretical position in The Second Sex represents a synthesis of elements of the work of Sartre, Hegel and the early Marx. Thus, claims Lundgren-Gothlin, although Sartre is a central ﬁgure, de Beauvoirʼs use of Being and Nothingness is mediated through, and transformed by, her synthesis of existentialism, Hegelianism and Marxism. Through her incisive discussions of this attempted synthesis, Lundgren-Gothlin convincingly demon-strates that de Beauvoir should not be cast as a ﬁgure who stands in Sartreʼs philosophical shadow but regarded as a philosopher in her own right, who transcends the limitations of Sartreʼs philosophy in certain important respects.
An example is the use she makes of Hegelʼs ʻmaster–slaveʼ dialectic. For Sartre, this unstable relationship is essentially one of conﬂict in which one is either subject or object, and it is impossible for both participants to recognize the other, simultaneously, as a subject. However, on de Beauvoirʼs view, in accordance with Hegel, conﬂict is not inevitable. She escapes this negative aspect of Sartreanism, Lundgren-Gothlin argues, by emphasizing the function that work plays in Hegelʼs philosophy. It is this activity which allows the slave to overcome her or his immediacy, and thus facilitates the recognition of herself or himself in the other. Once this occurs, we are at the ﬁrst stage in a dialectical process which leads, via the detour through work, to the transcendence of the opposition between subject and other. Through this process, ʻhuman beings can reciprocally recognise one anotherʼ (p. 214), develop their full human potential, and discover the truly human virtues of friendship and generosity.
This is not to suggest that Lundgren-Gothlin is wholly uncritical of The Second Sex. Throughout, she notes its various shortcomings in comparison with the writings of contemporary feminists. Moreover, despite her claims for the autonomy of de Beauvoirʼs thought, she highlights the problems which arise when de Beauvoir allies herself too closely with the androcentric approach of Being and Nothingness.
The only real weakness of Lundgren-Gothlinʼs commentary is that she is a little too generous in her analysis of the difﬁculties which arise when de Beauvoir attempts to synthesize existentialism with Marxism and Hegelianism. Nevertheless, this book can be recommended both as an introduction to and as an analysis of de Beauvoirʼs most inﬂuential work.