Philosophy, Necessity, Reality

To return, now, to the procession of the word, as discussed in the first entry here, we can see that this idea of “procession” is, in fact, a concept, in the Deleuzian sense—which is to say that, this idea is not simply novel but necessary. Indeed, the idea I attempted to express through my use of that particular word is not novel in the least, one articulated by many of the great (and mostly continental) philosophers of the twentieth century—which is to say, specifically, the concept of the signifying chain—but my application of the concept of procession is certainly necessary, and is, as Deleuze would have it, a “response to [a] real problem[]” (136).

What is the necessity, then, of this concept? If our words are always sliding, slipping away from us and changing their shape, empty vessels floating without anchor, we find ourselves unable to say anything with certainty, adrift in the fluidity of language. If the meaning of a text is determined by the reader, though the writer is the author of its content, how can any concept or idea be guaranteed? How are we to learn or know anything if the ground upon which our learning and knowledge is based is completely without integrity? All of which is to say, if we accept that the sign is truly arbitrary, is there any other possible conclusion than that at which the postmodernists and the post-postmodernists have already arrived? To lump all of these diverse thinkers together, are not the disputes that characterize contemporary philosophy, at bottom, matters of semantics, a field which, in turn, can be explained away by that oh-so-simple proposition of arbitrariness? Should we not, then, resign ourselves to this fact, and accept the total variability of experience? But how, after doing so, are we to carry on with our lives, fully aware of the illusory nature of our assertions and our politics, our relationships and our desires—really, all that we place value in as “real” and “true” and “worthwhile”? What are we left with but the utilitarian demand of survival, of simple, individualistic persistence?

There is a necessity at work here, a real problem that must be addressed. This is the value of Deleuze’s conceptual methodology—in his pragmatism there is a deep responsibility to which the philosopher must answer. The reality that the philosopher addresses is a reality inhabited by real people with real lives and real concerns, an embodied reality which finds itself inextricably tied to the world of thought and feeling—an “ideal” world which lies under the influence of the doctrine of arbitrariness. Thought and feeling cannot be separated from their material experience, nor material experience from the thinking and feeling of it. So, then, this precept of arbitrariness that shapes the “ideal world,” influencing our discussions of politics, identity, and being, operates in that hazy (and to some, nonexistent) middle ground between mind and body, a denizen of neither, but an actor in both. The real is permeated with the ideal, and vice versa. It is the philosopher’s responsibility to analyze this relationship.

Certainly, my identity is a performance, and certainly my use of the word “red” to describe the wavelength of visible light between 620 and 740 nanometres has been arbitrarily determined by my birth into a particular culture with a particular language, but neither is this enough to dissuade my belief that I am the same person that I was yesterday, and that the red I see is definitely red. My subjectivity is truth, as Søren Kierkegaard would have it, though I cannot fully reconcile it with certain propositions of the objective world. I mean, though my meanings are grounded in nothing; I am, though my being is but a simulacrum of a perceived norm; I dream, though my purposes are destined to return with my body to the dust. The implications of the doctrine of arbitrariness, drawn out to the best of my fundamentally limited knowledge, do not resolve with my subjectivity, my lived experience, without modification. This is the sort of obstacle that demands a new concept to be surpassed.

So. Our words as procession fall somewhere between being and action—structurally processional, while effectively a process. To reduce our language to a lexicon of nouns, as the early philologists did, is to privilege the content of our speech, an error which the aforementioned postmodernists (and especially those of Derrida’s school of deconstruction) have thoroughly critiqued. But, in turn, to swing to the other side as certain cultural tourists do, and laud (by which I mean, reduce) those First Nations languages which privilege the verb over the noun, is to fall into a similar error. What is needed, then, in response to this atomistic ideology of language, is a rupture (as referred to in the previous entry) with such a construction. As Heidegger articulates so effectively in On the Way to Language, the beingness of the word is consubstantial with its bethinging—that is, the word, our language, is, and in its being, the things with which it is concerned are made into things. The name and the naming are inseparable. The thing is never in itself, but finds itself in the word; so, inversely, the word. The being and action of language are language, its essence simultaneously distinct from and intermingled with its function. Thus, the procession of the word, put into conversation with Heidegger’s bethinging, is the beginning of a subjective ground for the value of our meanings.

There are a myriad more implications to be drawn out and thought through because of this conceptual dialogue, but my purpose in this entry is to avoid doing so, and to demonstrate instead the practice of a Deleuzian conceptual methodology. By approaching this practice of philosophy from a position of fallibility, by taking no idea for granted, by proposing concepts and thinking them through to their conclusions, all while interrogating and synthesizing those concepts put forward by other thinkers, we can more effectively engage with the problems that philosophy is uniquely qualified to deal with—which is to say, those very real experiences of which our embodied existences are formed.

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