A Revolution in the Mind

At a second, recent visit to the Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, I recently bought Reidar Due’s book on Deleuze, part of polity press’s “Key Contemporary Thinkers” series. Here again is an explication of Deleuze which puts thinking in the center of his work: “Deleuze’s philosophy . . . aims to produce a revolution in the mind, a fundamental change in how we think” (1). Due sees Deleuze’s early philosophy as being concerned with “how mental activity is situated within reality,” and in the process of engaging with the philosophical tradition in order to answer this question enlists the “cosmological metaphysicians” (the Stoics, Spinoza, Leibniz, Nietzsche, and Bergson) who “consider the mind to be an activity that unfolds within a larger set of forces or energies that constitute the cosmos or the world as a whole. The crucial feature of this picture of the mind is that mental activity is seen to be part of the world and not separate from it: the mind is not a screen” (5).

Due continues in his introduction and writes about how Deleuze extends the meaning of “immanence”: “This concept becomes for Deleuze a principle of thought rather than a property of reality. The principle of immanence means, positively, to think genetically, i.e. to reproduce in thought the genetic process that engendered an object” (8). And in turning to explain Deleuze’s alternative concept of the subject (i.e. “the notion of the individual human mind as constituting a self-conscious centre of knowledge and action” [9]).

In Deleuze’s thought, the starting-point for formulating this alternative concept of the subject is the concept of ‘affect.’ According to Deleuze, affects are the basic components of mental activity. . . . To understand an affect is to see it as a force, a particular type of energy and this energy does not presuppose self-consciousness. . . . In this philosophical perspective, the mind is a site of thoughts rather than a centre of consciousness. These thoughts are not defined by the fact that someone can say: they are my thoughts. Thoughts, in other words, are not defined as belonging to a subject.

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