Gilles Deleuze
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Introduction to Deleuze

by Laurent Chrétien

In this book, Arnaud Bouaniche, associate and PhD , invites an introduction to the work of the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze (1925-1995).

The aim of the author is to highlight the modernity of Deleuze beyond the simple image that has long stuck to his skin, as a thinker of May 68, leftist, materialist … Indeed, Gilles Deleuze is an atypical thinker which has often been assimilated to a current of philosophical thought of the 70s with Jean-Paul Sartre, Michel Foucault as tutelary shadows…

The latter, moreover, immediately understood the originality of his colleague, whom he said: “For a long time, I believe, this work will turn over our heads (…) But one day, perhaps, the century will be Deleuzian . « (Dits et Écrits /” Théatrum philosophicum “)

Indeed, Deleuze’s philosophy is an atypical philosophy because it is based on a philosophical, artistic … “classic” culture while opening up original lines of thought which at first seem quite simple. Gilles Deleuze conceived of philosophy as a toolbox which should serve everyone and especially those who were not specialists in philosophy.

This astonishing approach explains the appearance of unexpected terms in his work: “folds“, “refrains“, “waves” … These concepts appearing at the meeting of various fields of reflection: painting, music, literature.

In fact, Gilles Deleuze assigns philosophy a very precise role which makes it all its modernity: “Philosophy has a function which remains perfectly current, to create concepts” (in Pourparlers). Philosophy is not pure abstraction, on the contrary, it is anchored in a daily reality, in the movement of the world and it must make it possible to apprehend it in all its complexity. It should allow the creation of concepts that try to explain the path of thought and its apprehension of the world.

From the beginning of his work Deleuze seeks to question the novelty of a work, of an author (Bergson, Spinoza, Guattari …) and to experiment there what he finds “interesting“, “important” or ” remarkable ”, terms that are like new categories of thoughts that replace more traditional true or false ideas. This is for Deleuze and as Arnaud Bouaniche points out, to think new, to renew thought.

Deleuze tries to think “differently”, by relying on classic concepts of philosophy, while trying to overcome them by questioning new ways of thinking. In a world in constant flux, divided between a conception of “disciplinary” society in the 1970s (see M Foucault’s work on the subject) and the great freedom of 68, Deleuze questions “the trends of the moment »( l’air du temps). As Arnauld Bouaniche points out: “But this effort of coincidence of thought with the dynamic element of” what is being done “in order to describe changes, identify lines of rupture and mutation, is always associated to the critical analysis of the processes, which, in the opposite direction, try to prevent creation, and which essentially consist of devices of power, which Deleuze conceives above all as a blocking or a confiscation of creative potentialities.

 It is a question of understanding the processes, the concrete “multiplicity” plans in the making: Deleuze analyzes not the present but the current, that is to say what we are becoming: it replaces the “who am I ? « by Descartes » to « who are we? » by Nietzsche. He takes up his motto “Acting against the past, and thus on the present, in favor (I hope) of a time to come” (cf. Considérations Inactuelles Nietzsche). It is therefore a question of thinking about modernity not so much in terms of novelty (philosophical, cultural, ideological, etc.) as of reflection on the conditions for the appearance of novelty: “how to define the appearance of something new in general? “(In L’Ile déserte).

Arnaud Bouaniche then distinguishes three moments in Deleuze’s work: books on the history of philosophy first (studies by Nietzsche, Proust, Spinoza …) which lead to the writing of Différence et répétition and Logique du sens. Then a second period dominated by his work with Félix Guattari and seeking to “do philosophy” (L’anti-Œdipe; Mille plateaux). Finally, a third period focused on the arts: painting, literature and cinema. These three periods are three ways of thinking around three questions: what is thought? ; what is politics? ; what is aesthetics?


In this part devoted to the question of “what is thought?” “, Arnaud Bouaniche reminds us of the challenge imposed on Deleuze: how to succeed in making philosophy outside of the philosophical tradition and its expectations? It was therefore up to him to invent a new approach consisting first of all of turning away from the classic authors of philosophy (Descartes, Hegel, etc.) in favor of thinkers who are more difficult to classify in a category: Hume, Nietzsche, Spinoza, Bergson, etc. the singularity speaks to him.

Then, it is a question of “describing” a “certain exercise of thought” by seeking to produce a mental or conceptual portrait of such or such thought. For Deleuze it is not a question of describing a thought but of describing the movement of that thought. It is a question of taking the authors “in the middle” by taking them from the inside, in the very movement of construction of their thought. Deleuze has an almost oceanic approach to thought, to his approach in each author (see what he says about the Ethics of Spinoza which he evokes in the image of a river furrows, elbows, loops …) .

Starting from this original method, Deleuze will seek to determine what is the image of an author’s thought in all of its movement and complexity. Arnaud Bouaniche sums it up by saying that “the image of thought immediately designates the set of unconscious coordinates from which philosophy pursues its task and poses its concepts“.

To the question “What is it to think? Bouaniche quotes Deleuze, who clearly answers the question: “Draw up an immanence plan, draw a field of immanence, all the authors I have dealt with have done so” (in Pourparlers). As the author writes “Drawing up a plan of immanence”, it is to construct a space of thought in which there are no longer transcendent elements, that is to say of higher categories which would dominate and organize everything, like the One, the True, the Good, the Reason, the Subject, etc … In this collapse of all transcendence, there remain only multiplicities: affects, forces, signs, tendencies …

Arnaud Bouaniche then evokes the stages of Deleuze’s reflection, taking an interest in Hume and empiricism with regard to the problematic of the subject. The subject is no longer at the center of reflection but it is at the heart of impersonal relationships, the flow of the sensitive, impressions, images … Deleuze is more interested in the relationships of the Subject which come to the fore in analyze more than the subject itself.

Then, Deleuze will be interested in pluralism inspired by the reading of Nietzsche: the starting point of thought is not in a consciousness, nor in a subject, but in variable combinations of forces, on which the meaning of things depends. Thought itself must then be considered from the point of view of an internal genesis which generates it, through forces which take hold of it and make it think. It can therefore rely on “signs” as one can find them for example in art.

Indeed, the author recalls a fundamental point of Gilles Deleuze’s thought: his criticism of an overly classic approach to the act of thinking is part of the denunciation of the concept of truth and more specifically, the idealist and dogmatic prejudice, of a will naturally disposed to the search for truth.

Thought, for Deleuze, always depends on “signs” or “forces” that take hold of it. What is more, Deleuze will then rely on a reading by Bergson which highlights these principles with regard to the general theme of duration and time. Man is also not a being outside of nature, having a transcendent position which would allow him to judge it from the outside. As a matter of fact, influenced by Gilbert Simondon, Gilles Deleuze insists on the practical aspect of thought whose work is the demystification and destruction of the illusions that poison human life, while seeking an ethics redefining the relationships between individuals. It is a question of getting rid of all transcendence by taking care not to recreate new idols: the Self, the Ideas, the Subject …

 These principles will be the basis of a new reading of Spinoza, whose Ethics are no longer moral but must be understood as a composition of speed and slowness, of powers to affect and to be affected. Ethics is deeply immanent and must therefore guide our modes of existence. Deleuze insists on our power to act and understand while seeking to stop our reflex of judgment often based on transcendent values ​​which are the basis of our actions. The defining question is no longer “what should I do? »But much more « what am I capable of?

Arnaud Bouaniche then spoke of Deleuze’s work of seeking a definition of the act of thinking itself. He recalls that the act of thinking is never a natural disposition deploying spontaneously, but it arises on the contrary in the violence and shock of an encounter which forces our faculties by pushing them to their limit. Deleuze, against Plato, posits that the Idea is not of the order of essence but rather of the order of accidents and affections.

Arnaud Bouaniche then evokes many concepts developed by Deleuze (surfaces, intensity,dramatization”, “war machines” …) to illustrate this perpetual movement of the world which forces thought to think and to register in a plan of permanent immanence.


In this part the author invokes Spinoza’s. In his Spinoza, practical philosophy Deleuze uses philosophy as a tool which is part of the dynamics of transformation of reality. His “political” conception of philosophy was nourished by his meeting with Antonio Négri, Michel Foucault … and May 68. Politics is an “arrangement“, that is to say the composition of a whole. This period of Gilles Deleuze’s life is that of with Felix Guattari from which some of his master concepts will emerge: “line of flight”; “Spikes in deterritorialization”; “Rhizome”; “Becoming” …

Going through a critique of psychoanalysis, Deleuze and Guattari accuse it of having diverted the concept of “desire” from its truly applicable domain which is the social field, in favor of the individual and private history of an individual . Reflection on politics is above all a reflection on desire (repressed, creative …) more than power. The link with the Spinozist conatus therefore occurs naturally.

Arnaud Bouaniche plunges us into all the finesse of Deleuze’s political thought, which remains today, in our era of new technologies, with surprising topicality. What is the role of a State vis-à-vis an individual moved by “desire” and who is more “desiring” than rational? I quote Deleuze: “” Streaking space “is therefore, for each State, a vital activity, in all senses of the term, which enables it to secure a control space by capturing” flows “( money, populations, goods …), by the institution of “fixed paths, in well-defined directions, which limit speed, which regulate traffic, which relativize movement, which measure in detail the relative movements of subjects and objects “(In Mille Plateaux).

The aesthetics

The last part of Deleuze’s work is part of a reference to the arts: Bacon’s study, in-depth work on cinema, a study on the Baroque (Le pli chez Leibnitz), literary critics …
Arnaud Bouaniche considers that the conditions of creation that Deleuze releases and articulates can be reduced to three:

wrest something from chaos

fight against opinion

promote a “people to come”

Thought can indeed only create by tearing itself away from the “chaos” of daily determinations and by striving to tear something away: a “concept” for philosophy, a “sensation” for art, a ” function “for science.

Arnaud Bouaniche then describes Deleuze’s fascinating work on the arts through painting, cinema, literature.
As a matter of fact we are fortunate to be able to find these analyzes, always relevant and so profound (conference on the act of creating, course at Vincennes on Painting, on Proust, etc.) quite easily on the internet. So we can only encourage the reader to sharpen his curiosity and appreciate not only its relevance but also its great modernity.

Without going further in the analysis made by Arnaud Bouaniche which is fascinating and allows us to understand all the modernity of Deleuze, we can only invite the reader to listen in particular his conference given at FEMIS in 1991 on the act of creation. Indeed, it contains all of Deleuze’s art of thinking through philosophy and beyond: the act of creating is an artistic act but which questions society and the way of living in this world.

Gilles Deleuze talking at FEMIS

I will be forgiven, as a conclusion to this article, for a copy-paste from this remarkable book by Arnaud Bouaniche on Deleuze but it alone sums up all its interest, its vitality and its great modernity:

Deleuze’s analyzes insistently return to this fragility of the conditions of creation, which can only emerge by resisting the forces of repression and systems of opinion: cinema struggling against the television function of surveillance and control, literature against the best-seller regime, philosophy against all intellectual marketing… It is here that the threads of the work are remarkably knotted: the analysis of becoming, aesthetics and the political criticism of capitalism.

Furthermore, each time, the possibilities of identifying noetic and aesthetic functions are painfully extirpated from a drying social environment, not because it censors, but because on the contrary it tends to organize proliferation more and more “useless words” and without interest, which tends to make it difficult for the interesting and the new to appear: “We are pierced by useless words, insane amounts of words and images.

Stupidity is never silent or blind. So the problem is no longer to make people express themselves, but to give them vacuoles of solitude and silence, from which they finally have something to say (in Talks) “. The binding power of this device is such that each creation is a modest conquest. But this modesty is not incompatible with the tremendous critical power of all creation. Because as soon as a creation manages to stand up, and take consistency in a material, it reveals the mechanisms of power that it defeats by interrupting them.

Indeed, the Deleuzian philosophy of creation is in this sense inseparable from practical and political issues: “All creation has a political value and content“. So this political force of creation is one with its power to destroy stereotypes and opinions – so many predefined lines that relate to the position of a standard imposing stereotypical behaviors, to which thought, when it succeeds, opposes his creations as a protest and a challenge ”.

Gille Deleuze, Une introduction is an exciting, stimulating book which must accompany us on a daily basis in our understanding of the world. The current period of lock down makes reading it all the more essential because it is at the heart of Deleuze’s reflection, which questions the act of thinking and being in a world in perpetual motion and filled with chaos.

Gilles Deleuze, une introduction
Arnaud Bouaniche
éditions Agora

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