Rethinking Religion with Whitehead, Deleuze, and Segall

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.