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Deleuzes Intensive Reading.

By Adrin Romero Faras.

[DRAFT] This free essay is a work in progress.
Please don't cite in any publication.

In his Letter to a harsh critic Deleuze explains how he sees retrospectively what he
had written as a philosopher not only with regards to the history of philosophy, but
also with regards to the process he went through to liberate himself from the
disciplinary constrictions that such history traditionally imposes to any
philosopher, which is also the process that leaded him to write philosophy in his
own name. For Deleuze, this process is intimately related to the intensive reading
that he made of the authors he admired and respected, those who challenged the
rationalist tradition in history especially Nietzsche and Spinoza. Of course, all
these ideas that Deleuze exposes and explains in his response to Cressole, were not
new nor a secret: because five years earlier in 1968, he referred to them in a couple
of interviews following the same critical argument. In both interviews Deleuze
describes how this intensive reading means much more a philosophical love rather
than a philosophical buggery where Nietzsche and Spinoza, among others like
Bergson and Hume, have a very special place in Deleuzes heart. Thus, it is clear
that the ideas that he exposes with this regard in those interviews, would be
deployed five years later even in a more affective fashion, in his response to
For instance, in his interview with Jean Noel Vuarnet, Deleuze affirms that this
intensive reading needs to be considered as an assumption that implies new ways
of thinking and writing, and that in Nietzsche this implication presupposes a
radically new conception of thought and language because sense and value,
signification and evaluation terms that Nietzsche introduces to modern
philosophy as rigorous notions: the sense of what one says, and the evaluation of
the one saying it, as Deleuze indicates, bring into play mechanisms of the
unconscious. From Deleuzes point of view, it is with respect to these mechanisms
that the philosopher always get the truth he deserves accordingly to the sense of
what he says and to the values to which he gives voice: for Deleuze, it is with
respect to these mechanisms that the impersonal individuations or even preindividual singularities of the world should be uncovered critically by the
philosopher, in order to make them speak that what has not been said yet of them.
Though, for Deleuze, it cannot be but through the intensive reading of the work of
an admired author that it is possible to reach out for the singularities that compose
and give consistency to his respective thought. Deleuze is already suggesting here
in what sense admiration can lead to an intensive reading through which the
philosopher is visited by the genius of the author that is conceptually treated, and

that also permits him to grasp the problems raised critically by such an author, i.e,
to elevate himself to those problems so as to denounce and enrich them in a way to
make them speak the singularities that compose the untimely thought of such an
author. In this specific regard, Deleuze considers that the intensive reading leaded
by admiration is also a way to love and creation.
In the same sense, just a few months later in his interview with Jeannette
Colombel, Deleuze would reiterate all these ideas about intensive reading and the
process that means to give voice to the singularities that the philosopher is aimed
to uncover. In such an interview, Deleuze would also remit to the disciplinary
constrictions that the history of philosophy imposes to the philosopher, referring to
all these singularities as non-textual values that should be considered too in
regard to the work of an admired author. As he refers, this would implicate to put
on scene the differences traced by him, i.e, a staging of those singularities that
individuate his thought in a way to alternate the aim of history for a conceptual
theatre of philosophy. In the same vein, Deleuze takes his chance to emphasize
again the love and admiration that he had for Spinoza and Nietzsche, although not
at all for Hegel: we can see how Deleuze implies the reason why he never wrote a
word about him: he did not love nor even admired his work in any sense. But this
should not mean that he did not read him intensively, on the contrary: it is because
Deleuze did apply an intensive reading of Hegel that he took the decision to betray
the history of philosophy by not writing a word about him, implying for him that
Hegels work is not worth to be taken as philosophy itself. But it is interesting to
see how Deleuze underlines the negativity of Hegels singularities with respect to
life and its affirmation, suggesting that the language of betrayal that his work
inspires is what exceeds Hegel himself. From Deleuzes point of view, therefore, to
give voice to these negative singularities would mean to betray the act of making
them speak, and it is in this sense that he decides to not give such Hegelian
language any voice, as a way to effectuate a counter-affirmation of life that would
betray the history of philosophy and its disciplinary constrictions. In this regard, it
is also interesting to note how Deleuze considers that Hegels work incarnates all
these constrictions historically imposed to the philosopher as part of the same
monstrous enterprise that submits life to negativity. To this point, we can see in
which specific sense the word monstrous would be used by Deleuze five years
later in his response to Cressole, specifically in his famous buggering passage.
We can see how in both 1968 interviews Deleuze exposes the same ideas that he
would develop more affectively in his 1973 Letter to a Harsh Critic and how they
would be giving the clues to understand what such controversial passage was all
about. In this sense, it is to note that in this response to Cressole, Deleuze was also
taking retrospectively his work and himself as a philosopher, in order to give

answer to Cressoles accusations and critiques. With this regard, when he refers
about how he saw the history of philosophy as a sort of buggery, he does so as to
express how he coped with the constrictions that such a discipline imposed to him:
a sort of resistance with respect to its rationalist tradition and in favour of the
authors he loved i.e, in favour of the affirmation of life contained in their respective
philosophies and concretely in their critique of the negativity. Just as he implies
in his affective retrospective, it is with respect to these constrictions that he
imagined himself compelled to take from behind the authors he loved so as to
make them speak all what he wanted them to say i.e, meaning such constrictions as
implying a depersonalization meant not by love but by subjection. Given that the
history of philosophy was for Deleuze something like philosophys own version of
the Oedipus complex, it seems obvious that the implication of this
depersonalization through subjection would prefigure a sort of buggery or sodomy
as its resultant, of which conception would still be the authors offspring, yet it
would be monstrous as well. But for Deleuze the authors offspring was
necessarily monstrous not because it was regarded to such an author and to his
philosophy, but because of the oedipical constrictions imposed by the history of
philosophy: the constrictions that he would also ascribe as part of the Hegelian
monstrous enterprise which submits life to negativity.
As we can see, while the reference of what is philosophically monstrous for
Deleuze can be also tracked its way back to the ideas he declared in both of his 1968
aforementioned interviews, the passage raised by him about how he saw the history
of philosophy as a sort of buggery in his response to Cressole, can only come as an
effect of his affective retrospective point of view. For instance, in his interview with
Jean Noel Vuarnet, the implication of engendering as immaculate conception is
already referred by Deleuze when he speaks about how the philosopher needs to
work his way back to the problems posed by the oeuvre of an author, so as to
extract something that still belongs to him, though that would also be turned
against him. This implication is also referred when he describes how the method
of intensive reading would demand the philosopher to be inspired and visited by
the geniuses he denounces. So it is that, in his response to Cressole, Deleuze would
give himself the chance to extend this conceptual implication in terms of buggery,
given the affective fashion of his epistolary exchange. Though, it is because he was
speaking then in his own name that he was also deploying a retrospective view that
would let him illustrate this implication in those controversial terms. Thus, the
terms of buggery that Deleuze employs in this famous passage can only be taken as
such, precisely as the result of his liberation: as the result of being able to speak in
his own name. In sum, what Deleuze retrospectively describes in terms of buggery
was about how the intensive reading that he did of the authors he loved was in fact
constricted by the depersonalization effected by the history of philosophy. This

means that the method of intensive reading was not for Deleuze a procedure of
buggery but a procedure of philosophical love that would resist to the negativity
that threatens life and its affirmation. This is why he declares, in his response to
Cressole, that he really enjoyed all the constrictive procedures of doing history of
philosophy: but if he really enjoyed such procedures, it was not only because he
was getting away with the authors he admired and loved and this includes his
critique of Kant, strategically as an enemy i.e by restoring and reintroducing their
philosophies in history, but also because he was confident about how such
philosophies were already undoing such constrictions, i.e, doing a good job within
their critique of the negativity, so they would remain an implacable resistance in
this regard despite all those constrictions, as they would make worth the resistance,
as they would be affirming life in the most active way.
To this point, it is also necessary to remark how Deleuze managed himself to take
position precisely with respect to the constrictions and subjections imposed by the
history of philosophy, and this is very clear with regards to the way he treated
Hegel. As we know, in his interview with Jeannette Colombel Deleuze declares how
he betrayed such discipline assuming the role of traitor in relation to Hegel. But if
he assumed such a role was because he positioned himself in favour of life and its
affirmation. So if Deleuze could speak since then about his ideas on intensive
reading, was because he took life and its affirmation as reference, but not in order
to betray the history of philosophy as its prime objective i.e by not giving any
voice to Hegels work, which is just a consequence of this position, but in order to
give consistency to the uncovering of the singularities that compose the thought of
authors he loved, as he insisted from the beginning. In this sense, the relation that
Deleuze had with Hegel can be better explained by how Deleuze reoriented the
dialectic of fidelity or betrayal as one of the most immediate and important aspects
of his method of intensive reading. Unlike Hegel, keeping fidelity to Deleuze is
never an imperative that means a trap in which the philosopher could fall, and
while such dialectic is removed from Deleuzes work, it is true that he does not
omits it nor ignores it. Effectively, while this dialectic is just another variant of the
Master and Slave Hegelian dialectic and therefore, it has no room in Deleuzes
thought, Deleuze was not indifferent about the constrictive effects this dialect had
with respect to the history of philosophy. On the contrary, Deleuze used it on his
favour so as to keep fidelity to those authors he loved and to betray those that
would only mortify life with their philosophies. It is in this fashion that he was very
proud to take the role of traitor with respect to Hegel, though, this was not much
against Hegel but against the history of philosophy in general, while this betrayal
was in fact an act of consistency regarded to the philosophers who affirmed life
with their philosophies as well.

From this perspective, while we can see in which direction the intensive reading
that Deleuze made of such philosophers permitted him to give voice and to make
speak that what their philosophies have not said yet in conceptual terms, it is also
in this very sense that his betrayal was about muting Hegel, about saying nothing
regards to Hegels philosophy and its negativity: Deleuze only used Hegel as an
expiatory sheep to betray the history of philosophy, by refusing himself to do his
job, i.e, by saying nothing about it, and by rescuing the very affirmation of life,
giving voice to the thinkers he loved. While this Deleuzian schizo-love of dissolute
fidelity would extend and improve intensively and conceptually the thought of
those thinkers, tracing and placing a complementary portrait of them so as to
achieve a Nietzschean and Spinozian comprehension of their respective
philosophies, the paranoiac-hate of sad incarnated betrayal would only mean to
reduce their thought to a ruling idea: the ruling idea of the master. This means that
Deleuzes thought is indeed immune to any Hegelian dialectic of fidelity and
betrayal: the radical difference resides in the very intimate relation that he
entangles with his readers through his work, a relation which can be intensive or
not, and which can be made as disciples or as friends. And we can see that it is only
then that Deleuzes intensive reading implies a critical and intimate questioning of
such a sterile dialectic: how to betray the thought of our master if we have not
levelled ourselves up to his thought, catching up with him as friends, knowing what
he conceptually would with his work, knowing the winks that he would give us so to
get that gist? And then, when we have reached out that point of friendship, if so: we
cannot but realize that the act of betraying would make no sense at all if we have
loved enough the philosophers we treated through our own intensive reading. And
if we have managed to do that, if we have upgraded ourselves to such a point, why
not to align thoughts and see their contrasts and determine which intensities
remain left to be differentiated and which forces and encounters happily conjugate
in the same affirmation?
We see that keeping fidelity to Deleuze is thus keeping fidelity to an open
affirmation of life which is what his intensive reading mediates as a method: a
retroactive exchange of love and comprehension, nurturing a conceptual
friendship. It is not but Deleuzes method of intensive reading which accepts no
dialectics what leads to an intensive immunity and permits us to align different
systems of thought through an intensive planification which can only take life as a
reference. It is reading with love as Deleuze would say in the Nietzschean and
Spinozian sense. Within this implication, Deleuze is giving us the clue to
understand how intensive reading works: we have to take life and its affirmation as
a reference that would be in absolute contraposition with the history of philosophy
and its constrictions, in order to contrast and differentiate that what has not been
said yet of the work of an author, i.e, what is untimely about his philosophy, so as

to uncover the impersonal, pre-individual singularities that inhabit his thought,

which are not reducible to individuals or persons, nor to a sea without difference.
For him, the idea of taking life and its affirmation as a reference is what permits the
philosopher to distribute all these singularities in an open space without
enclosures or properties: a procedure that would put on relief the constrictions
imposed by the history of philosophy: a philosophical love that is always regarded
to the method of intensive reading, leading us retroactively to speak in our own
name: indeed, a Nietzschean and Spinozian relation of love and comprehension,
that would engender a creative and transformative conception of thought in us: a
depersonalization through love that is actively affected by life and its affirmation.
We can see how the affective tone in Deleuzes response to Cressole would even
resume his idea about intensive reading in schizoanalytic terms, taking life and its
affirmation as a reference that would put the philosopher in relation with an
outside, with a more complicated external machinery.

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