Nobody cares if you stop here. You can
look for hours, gaze out over the forest.
And the sounds are yours too—take away
how the wind either whispers or begins to
get ambitious. If you let the silence of
afternoon pool around you, that serenity
may last a long time, and you can take it
along. A slant sun, mornings or evenings,
will deepen the canyons, and you can carry away
that purple, how it gathers and fades for hours.
This whole world is yours, you know. You can
breathe it and think about it and dream it after this
wherever you go. It’s all right. Nobody cares.
William Stafford, The Methow River Poems (1996)
At Footnotes2Plato, my friend and colleague Matt Segall posted a thoughtful essay, “Worldly Religion in Deleuze and Whitehead: On the Possibility of a Secular Divinity.” As the title suggests, the essay aims to rethink religion as worldly religion by thinking with Deleuze and Whitehead. And, of course, there are plenty of references to Plato.
It’s a good essay, indicative of a new trend in Whitehead studies: connecting Whitehead to poststructuralist philosophers. It’s also indicative of a new trend in Deleuze studies: articulating the spiritual/religious aspects of Deleuze’s thought by connecting Deleuze—a staunch critic of all things religious—to theological elements in the works of his influences (e.g., Whitehead, Bergson, Spinoza, Cusa, Bruno).
I find the Whitehead-Deleuze encounter to be fruitful, and I’m excited to see it unfold in increasingly rich contrasts. As it continues unfolding, I’m sure we’ll see more attention to Guattari’s role in all of this. Guattari is often dissociated from Deleuze (e.g., Badiou, who dismisses D&G’s co-written works as an aberration in Deleuze’s philosophy) or he is assimilated into Deleuze (e.g., the common practice of citing D&G’s co-written works by using phrases like “Deleuze says” or “according to Deleuze”). Something quite unique to the philosophical tradition happened with the conjunction of Deleuze and Guattari, a philosopher and non-philosopher, and an encounter with Deleuze must encounter that conjunction. But I digress…
I’ll conclude with one of Matt’s insights into Deleuze’s and Whitehead’s contributions to “a world-renewing medicinal brew sorely needed in the contemporary world.”
Whitehead shares with Deleuze a sense for the importance of experimental thinking. In the context of religious experimentation, asking whether or not God really exists becomes irrelevant. What becomes important is the sort of thoughts and practices that belief in God makes possible for the believer, and for the society to which the believer belongs.
Close to what, for some, is a date inscribed with an apocalyptic script, I’m reminded of Derrida’s comment that we will never be done reading and rereading Hegel.
“Besides, it is not difficult to see that ours is a birth-time and a period of transition to a new era. Spirit has broken with the world it has hitherto inhabited and imagined, and is of a mind to submerge it in the past, and in the labour of its own transformation. Spirit is indeed never at rest but always engaged in moving forward. But just as the first breath drawn by a child after its long, quiet nourishment breaks the gradualness of merely quantitative growth—there is a qualitative leap, and the child is born—so likewise the Spirit in its formation matures slowly and quietly into its new shape, dissolving bit by bit the structure of its previous world, whose tottering state is only hinted at by isolated symptoms. The frivolity and boredom which unsettle the established order, the vague foreboding of something unknown, these are the heralds of approaching change. The gradual crumbling that left unaltered the face of the whole is cut short by a sunburst which, in one flash, illuminates the features of the new world.”
—“Preface” to Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit
The Whitehead Research Project released a new volume in its book series on Contemporary Whitehead Studies. This anthology develops a creative contrast between Whitehead and a philosopher rarely if ever associated with Whitehead: Judith Butler. It features a couple essays from Roland Faber and a couple from Catherine Keller: two of the most interesting and important Whitehead scholars alive today.
The book, Butler and Whitehead: On the Occasion, is based on a conference that happened a few years ago at Claremont Graduate University (in Claremont, California). Audio of Butler’s presentation of her paper, “On this Occasion,” can be found HERE.
Whitehead’s philosophy is at its most relevant and effective when situated in dialogue with contemporary thinkers, so I’m quite happy about this new book and about all of the various efforts of the Whitehead Research Project to bring Whitehead into poststructuralist, queer, and ecological milieus.
Butler: Let’s face it. We’re undone by each other. And if we’re not, we’re missing something. (Precarious Life)
Whitehead: In this way immediacy of finite existence refuses to be deprived of that infinitude of extension which is its perspective. (Modes of Thought)