Of Affliction : The Experience of Thought in Gilles Deleuze by way of Marcel Proust

Abstract: The aim of the present thesis is to explicate the experience of thought corresponding to the critical undertaking characteristic of Gilles Deleuze’s philosophy between Nietzsche and Philosophy (1962) and Difference and Repetition (1968), from within the conjunction of Deleuze’s Proust and Signs (1964) and Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time (1913-1927). The importance of Proust for the development of Deleuze’s two major themes at the time, the overturning of Platonism and transcendental empiricism, has generally not been sufficiently recognised and investigated in Deleuze scholarship. This thesis is written in response to this disregard. To this end it seeks to develop the positive side of Deleuze’s critical destruction of the “image of thought” insofar as this aspect is most elaborately and concretely expressed in relation to Proust. In order to circumscribe the real conditions of the experience of a “thought without Image”, by way of Proust, but also by way of an intricate dialogue with Plato, this study seeks to overturn the classical interrogation into the what? of thought. Proceeding from the questions which?, who?, how?, and to what effect?, a conception of the essence of thought as determined by accidents rather than substances is established to the effect that (1) thought is no longer a voluntary exercise of a given faculty, but the result of an irruption from without finding its necessity in the contingency of the event; (2) the thinker is no more the ancient Friend of Wisdom desiring to know by virtue of nature alone, but the Jealous Lover searching for truth only under the pressure of the beloved’s lies; (3) the truth is never a universal knowledge immediately recollected from a timeless past, but is extracted from randomly encountered signs distributed through time; (4) the finality of thought cannot be the recognition or representation of the Essence as an abstract and identical universal, but the experimental creation of the Essence as a singular and concrete manifestation of pure difference.

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