Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol 16, No 1 (2020)

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Against the Virtual: Kleinherenbrink’s Externality Thesis and Deleuze’s Machine Ontology

Ekin Erkan

Abstract


Following Arjen Kleinherenbrink’s Against Continuity: Gilles Deleuze’s Speculative Realism (2019)—arguably one of the closest and most rigorous secondary readings of Deleuze’s oeuvre—this paper seeks to demonstrate how any relation between machines immediately engenders a new machine, accounting for machinic circuits of activity where becoming, or processes of generation, are always necessarily irreducible to the generators. Thus, navigating Kleinherenbrink’s work and Deleuze’s literature, this paper treats reality as a byproduct of discontinuity, where direct contact between the interior (virtual) and real (actual) being of machines is necessarily foreclosed. Rather than privileging Deleuze as a theorist of the virtual, this paper situates Deleuze’s virtual as non-relational excess over and above all other relations while treating continuity as dependent upon the Idea, powers (puissance), or singularities of any machine in question. By relating and distinguishing aspects of Deleuze’s externality thesis, where no machine is reducible to another, this position opposes a recently popularized interpretation of Deleuze by theorists who proffer the “aisthetic perspective” of relation or produce approaches to “affect” that hierarchize the virtual, thereby prioritizing continuity.  I argue that this interpretation fundamentally misreads Deleuze and mischaracterizes continuity as a product of direct contact between intensities and the processes comprising such intensities; it is, in fact, due to the “sense-event,” which corresponds to actuality, that the virtual aspect of any two machines is precluded from coming into direct contact. In addition to reviewing Kleinherenbrink’s book (which argues that the machine ontology is a guiding current that emerges in Deleuze’s work after Difference and Repetition) alongside Deleuze’s primary texts, we will also relate Deleuze’s machine ontology to positions held by a host of speculative realists and object-oriented ontologists such as Quentin Meillassoux, Levi Bryant, Maurizio Ferraris, Markus Gabriel, Manuel Delanda, Graham Harman, Tristan Garcia, and Bruno Latour. Arguing that the machine ontology has its own account of interaction, change, and novelty, I ultimately set to prove that Deleuze is by no means a reductionist, positing that the any “cut” on behalf of virtual realm is never warranted because, unlike the realm of actualities, it is necessarily inconsistent—that is, because it cannot be homogenous, any theory of change vis-à-vis the virtual realm makes it impossible to explain how and why qualitatively different actualities are produced. Preferring a machine ontology to an ontology derived from the virtual realm, this paper also engages with a new and emerging interpretation of Deleuze termed “differential heterogenesis,” where externality is treated as it exists between processes.

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