The Task of Philosophy: Deleuze and the Pluralist Tradition

“The philosopher-comets knew how to make pluralism an art of thinking, a critical art.”
— Gilles Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy

There seems to be in our present generation a need to overthrow the recent dead in philosophy, to clear a space and move forward into the ‘great outdoors’ as certain speculators would have it. Yet, one wonders why? Why is renouncing the recent work of such philosophical originals as Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze, to name just two of the recent great philosophers of our previous generation, done with such dismissive gestures. We love labels for some reason, we love to peg certain labels on the proverbial donkeys tail; or, should I say, philosopher’s hind. One wonders if such dismissal misleads our present generation? “Stupidity and baseness are always those of our own time, of our contemporaries, our stupidity and baseness.”1

Deleuze, like his progenitor, Nietzsche, always considered philosophy as both critical and untimely: “This is why philosophy has an essential relation to time: it is always against its time, critique of the present world (107)”. Philosophy is the great dymystifier: its task is the rooting out of stupidity and baseness in the present age. There are moments when I need to remind myself of that. Sometimes I forget that philosophy has a task:

Philosophy does not serve the State or the Church, who have other concerns. It serves no established power. The use of philosophy is to sadden. A philosophy that saddens no one, that annoys no one, is not a philosophy. It is useful for harming stupidity, for turning stupidity into something shameful. Its only use is the exposure of all forms of baseness of thought. (106)

Have we lost the art of thinking in our time? Have we all become stupid and base, forgetting the task of philosophy? One doesn’t have to go far to hear certain – so called, new philosophers, decrying critique as if the task of philosophy is no longer critical but is something else altogether. Why is that? What are these so called philosophers up too, anyway? These new philosophers put me to sleep, their thought is dead, it does not quicken me into active thought, but instead hands me a noose and kindly says: “Go hang thy self.” These – so called, philosophers are the great mystifiers, the bringers of grand illusions, utopianists of reality. They offer only to guide the unthinking into a deeper labyrinth of mindless dribble. Instead of such strange speculators who would lead us astray we should all return to such philosophers as Nietzsche and Deleuze not because they offer some great wisdom or knowledge, but because they exasperate, they confound, they awaken us from our slumbers and give us the one thing we need most: thought that is alive and resilient – the figure of the philosopher, thinking. Their thought goes against the grain, against time, it makes one restless and full of life, it disturbs us in our sleep and makes us uncomfortable with the status quo. It expounds on the stupidity and baseness of its age and teaches us to do the same.

This kind of philosophy makes us all travelers of thought, frequenters of tropical zones “frequented by the tropical man, not temperate zones or the moral, methodical or moderate man (110).”

1. Gilles Deleuze. Nietzsche and Philosophy. trans. Hugh Tomlinson (Columbia University Press: 1962)

7 thoughts on “The Task of Philosophy: Deleuze and the Pluralist Tradition

  1. ok but didn’t Nietzsche & Deleuze (like Emerson before them) have similar complaints about the state of the art of philosophy/thinking in their own times/generations?
    I support folks like Latour and Paul Rabinow who are inspired along the lines of William James (that research progenitor) who wanted to produce “living” choices (Richard Rorty mines the same in Donald Davidson’s idea of living metaphors) of taking lines of inquiry/experimentation to the sites/scenes of power/production and get past the outmoded ideas of Repression and Denial, of consciousness-raising, and to the hard work of making things different.
    One doesn’t have to believe in Thinking to grasp that Heidegger was on to something in wanting to get beyond the gossip-worlds of cliques and social climbing that rule our institutional lives (academic and otherwise), no?
    see Stengers:


    • See, I’ve already spurred you to think… I assume you read my statement:

      “This is why philosophy has an essential relation to time: it is always against its time, critique of the present world (107)”. Philosophy is the great dymystifier: its task is the rooting out of stupidity and baseness in the present age. There are moments when I need to remind myself of that.

      I did not name specific names, did I? Haha… you assume I speak of all present philosophers. Obviously there are a 1001 present day philosophers pursuing a 1001 variations on the theme… take a ticket, and choose your target. What’s interesting is that this is the first time of recent date that you have actually said something of length. Sounds like there are some thoughts struggling to come out dmf. I like it when you actually say something rather than always replying with other people’s vids. haha! 🙂


      • sadly that comment of mine is really more of a weary retread than inspired thinking, my point is just that we have contemporary prototypes that offer us truly alternative ways to act if we find the world unsettling enough to be so spurred, an extreme minority position to be sure, freaks even among the geeks I suppose…


      • Yes, obviously… and my argument is not against such men or women, it is to point out simply that many present philosophers seem to be trying to overcome ‘critique’ and the task of philosophy for something else… social commentary, religious ideology, etc. The point of the post is not to name names of those who are actually doing the work of philosophy, but to return us to the task of philosophy itself. I just happen to use Deleuze and Nietzsche as examples: one could pull out of the hat a whole genealogy of comets from the gamut of philosophical history that fit that ticket. 🙂

        But, it would also be nice to hear what you think in posts rather than your affirmation of others thoughts in vids, etc. Even if you have a low estimation of your own thoughts: they are yours, not someone elses… (and, of course, all thought is communal in that regard… we all dip into the collective world of words).


    • No, no… that was not my intent: I was getting at you, your self, wanting to see you actually write out your own thoughts. The links and vids are fine, but it would be nice to know what you are thinking, not just you posting a link or vid to someone else thinking… do you understand?


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