- Whitehead, Alfred North
- (1861-1947)---- by Roland FaberAlfred North Whitehead is one of the more hidden but inﬂuential sources of Deleuze's thought. Unlike philosophers on whom Deleuze wrote books, Whitehead appears only in scattered remarks but, nevertheless, in a profound manner, at pivotal points, and throughout Deleuze's work. Deleuze also read and wrote on the same illustrious group of philosophers as Whitehead - Hume, Kant, Spinoza, and Leibniz - and intensively worked out his thought through others like Plato, while (for similar reasons as Whitehead) shunning some like Hegel. However, whereas Whitehead was more inﬂuenced by pragmatist philosophers like James, Dewey, and Santayana in simultaneously developing his pluralistic understanding of the world while criticising their potential 'anti-intellectualism' (including Nietzsche), Deleuze based his understanding of multiplicity, becoming, and the event on Nietzsche and, like Whitehead, Bergson.Unlike many other philosophers related to poststructuralism, Deleuze was, with Whitehead, stubbornly interested in a new form of metaphysics that was not generated from generalizations of rationalist abstractions but as an instrument for limiting generalizations in light of the universal singularity of the event. Whitehead's 'fallacy of misplaced concreteness' appears throughout Deleuze's opus, reversing classical metaphysical formulations on how universals might construct the real world; namely, in no way. If it is impossible to reconstruct the becoming of events through abstract universals (in attaching eternity to them and even divinising them), we must instead ask: where is universalisation coming from and why do we find abstractions accompanying the occurrence of singular events?Deleuze confesses that he always thought of himself as a pluralist and empiricist in the sense of Whitehead, one who does not reconstruct the world of becoming from abstractions (being), but seeks the multiplicities underlying and hidden in false unifications, simplifications, and rationalisations that exclude the multiplicities from whence they are constructed. Hence, Deleuze revered Whitehead's Process and Reality as one of the greatest books in philosophy because of how his empiric-ideal concepts express multiplicity; Whitehead's concept of the event appears in the midst of The Fold, instead of Leibniz's, as the expression of a divergent world of differences unable to be united; and in What is Philosophy? Deleuze links his concepts of event and (plane of) immanence directly to Whitehead's analysis of infinite becoming.Deleuze models his transcendental empiricism by naming the condition of a world not under the paradigm of eternity but on the radical novelty expressed in Whitehead's divergent series of incompossible events, of which Deleuze understands even Whitehead's God to be an expression rather than a distraction. Moreover, with the concept of the chaosmos, Deleuze cumulatively labels Whitehead's strategies to establish the paradigm of novelty: the notion of creativity, the multiplicity of events of becoming, the immanence of all processes (that are not preformed by any law), the infiniteness of becoming, and the restatement of 'world' as a multiplicity of intensities. In fact, Whitehead's 'entirely living nexus' is a direct precursor of Deleuze's Body without Organs, and Deleuze considers their common deconstruction of organic orders into pure (orgiastic) life to be the aim of philosophy.Whitehead and Deleuze remain intimately related both by their refutation of idealism and materialism, and by refusing to divide philosophical categories into reality (actual) and abstraction (ideal). Instead, their logic of multiplicity always intertwines event-multiplicity as actual and virtual (ideal). Deleuze considered Whitehead's eternal objects to be pure virtualities instead of potentials-to-be-actualised from a pre-give law. Moreover, in their late writings both Whitehead and Deleuze addressed the question of abstraction with virtuals and values, respectively, such that the mutual immanence and determination of actualities and virtualities/values becomes the condition for a world of multiplicity, novelty, immanence, and becoming; in other words, their treatment of abstraction becomes the condition for avoiding dualistic warfare.Connectives§ becoming§ event
The Deleuze Dictionary. Revised Edition. Edited by Adrian Parr . 2015.