Despite Deleuze and Guattari’s increasing influence there are a number of common misconceptions like the superficial association of his thinking with postmodernism. We need to aim to place music and musical thinking deeply within our immanent world experience. We should be motivated to see what makes music. Deleuze often assumes in his own work that we are familiar with concepts he developed extensively through his earlier works. He has a tendency to create concepts and to adopt a new vocabulary to describe them.

“A concept is a brick. It can be used to build a courthouse of reason. Or it can be thrown through the window.”

The fact that much of Deleuze’s most influential work is either co-authored with Felix Guattari or consists of reinterpretations of historical figures in philosophy is yet another set of problems. Deleuze infamously claimed that he saw them as “a kind of buggery or an immaculate conception.

“I saw myself taking from behind an author and giving him a child that would be his offspring, but hideous.”


How do we escape the definition of “thinking” as a series of propositions that, through reason and contemplation, can lead us to a “truthful” image of the world? He answers that by avoiding a pattern of “statement-critique-review-consensus” encourages instead a proliferation of divergent images of thought.

“Contemplation, reflection and communication are not disciplines but machines for constituting Universals.”

According to Deleuze, communication, contemplation, and reflection are not philosophy, because what they introduce is the desire for transcendent Universals, Forms, and Ideas, and stifle the power of thought to create difference.

That’s why arguments are such a strain, why there’s never any point arguing. You can’t just tell someone what they’re saying is pointless. So you tell them it’s wrong. But what someone says is never wrong, the problem isn’t that some things are wrong, but that they’re stupid or irrelevant. That they’ve already been said a thousand times. The notions of relevance, necessity, the point of something, are a thousand times more significant than the notion of truth. Not as substitutes for truth, but as the measure of the truth of what I’m saying. It’s the same in mathematics: Poincaré used to say that many mathematical theories are completely irrelevant, pointless; He didn’t say they were wrong — that wouldn’t have been so bad.

Against the Western picture of philosophy as “a cooperative debate among friends,” Deleuze argues that nothing can be learned from conversation, because we never really speak about the same topic at the end. Alternatively, when we believe we have achieved a transcendent, universally agreed common sense-through reflection, negotiation and eventual agreement-Deleuze says we have created a kind of dead end for thought, an illusion of contemplation as a path to reality. By homogenizing it, we have shut down thought from its power to become something new.

“It is already hard enough to understand what someone is saying. Discussion is just an exercise in narcissism where everyone takes turns showing off. Very quickly, you no longer have any idea what is being discussed. All these debaters and communicators are inspired by ressentiment.”

As such, the man of anger is obsessed with common and restricting thought patterns based on a picture of life. Communication sometimes does just that, moving toward homogenization, supplanting one style of thinking with another, or creating mixtures of both that supplant previous thought: this is done to get closer to “the way things are,” or “the reality.”

Image of Thought

“Bring something incomprehensible into the world!”

Importantly here, Deleuze believed that philosophies were unique creations created by philosophers whose concept development presupposes this thought image. In other words, the development of a theory presupposes a number of problems that we can refer to as a picture of thought, or a specific outlook.

“The shame of being a man — is there any better reason to write?”

The concept of thought is the definition of what comes before thinking by Deleuze: what philosophy implicitly presupposes and specifically proposes, a pre-philosophical and universal and therefore dogmatic picture of what it is to think. The dogmatic image presupposes that the truth is what thought wants, willingly and materially.

“Let us create extraordinary words, on condition that they be put to the most ordinary use and that the entity they designate be made to exist in the same way as the most common object.”

Morality leads us to believe this. In the sense that everyone knows what it means to say, as if it were common sense, it is pre-assumed. We all have a shared picture of what thought entails. It is a picture in which subject and object as well as being and beings are given their proper place and relationship to each other.

“What does belief applied to the unconscious signify? What is an unconscious that no longer does anything but believe, rather than produce? What are the operations, the artifices that inject the unconscious with ‘beliefs’ that are not even rational, but on the contrary only too reasonable and consistent with the established order?”

The picture of thought refers to the ideas that evolve concurrently with the development of concepts; it is the secret assumptions that the thinker relies on in the formation of a theory regarding larger problems. Since philosophy is never fixed, there is room for other thought images at all times. In his formal collaborative work with Guattari, this creative power of life to produce different objects, what Deleuze would call “forms” of thinking.

Creation takes place in bottlenecks . . . A creator who isn’t grabbed around the throat by a set of impossibilities is no creator. A creator’s someone who creates their own impossibilities, and thereby creates possibilities . . . it’s by banging your head on the wall that you find a way through. You have to work on the wall, because without a set of impossibilities, you won’t have the line of flight, the exit that is creation, the power of falsity that is truth. Your writing has to be liquid or gaseous simply because normal perception and opinion are solid, geometric … You have to open up words, break things open, to free earth’s vectors.”

Deleuze and Guattari present a tripartite description of the forces of thought that incorporates metaphysical, artistic and scientific modes. Such forces are characterized in very distinct ways: philosophy as idea development, art as affect and perception creation, and science as function formulation.

“Philosophy is not in a state of external reflection on other domains, but in a state of active and internal alliance with them, and it is neither more abstract nor more difficult.”

Such various ways of thinking are closely interpenetrated and continually overlapping, while at the same time we are able to identify their distinct features-or “forces.” Deleuze maintains that we are not misunderstanding the three powers of thinking. At first, separating thought into abstract, affective, and functional forms may seem counter-intuitive; Painting can present concepts, and science can present affects.

“Philosophy, art, and science are not the mental objects of an objectified brain but the three aspects under which the brain becomes subject.”

For example, a painter can present concepts about the nature of subjectivity or the state of society through visual images; a scientist can present a particularly influential and moving account of the Big Bang and the universe’s birth. Nevertheless, for Deleuze, this does not diminish the fact that each force of thought has its own limits that we have to try to expand.

“Art is not communicative, art is not reflexive. Art, science, philosophy are neither contemplative, neither reflexive, nor communicative. They are creative, that’s all.”

According to him, against our propensity to homogenize thought, we must extend thought to the highest power. When we see all modes of thinking as commensurate and prepositional, as if we could connect one thought to another and get a clear picture of the world, we succumbed to a peculiar Western thought habit.

“An image of thought called philosophy has been formed historically and it effectively stops people from thinking.”

And as long as philosophy holds this image, conceptually thinking doesn’t matter what happens. If the thought image guides concepts to be created then those concepts will be part of the same projected image. In fact, it is the presumption of a natural ability to think in this way that enables philosophy to claim to begin without assumptions. It is a supposition born with the power to undermine the present moment’s circumstances and its perversions which surround this.

“The theory of thought is like painting: it needs that revolution which took art from representation to abstraction. This is the aim of a theory of thought without image.”

“Only thought is capable of inventing the fiction of a State that is universal by right, of elevation the State to the level of de jure universality”

Illusion of transcendence

The problem of separating thought from reality is that it gives rise to what Deleuze describes as a transcendence illusion. Such illusions arise when one seeks to create a unified ground for experience by making thought beyond experience. The Platonic Thought Forms can be seen as a common example of such transcendence. This approach is somewhat contrasted with metaphysical empiricism, which posits observation as the means of fostering knowledge about life and the world, rather than adherence to external types.

In particular, Deleuze saw his research as an example of transcendental empiricism: a type of philosophical thought which provides no overarching grounds for supposedly defining “truth.” This higher level of empiricism will take experience (and not just human experience) as the sole basis for thought, it is precisely the rejection of all possible forms of transcendence that makes Deleuze.

The delusions of transcendence take on a number of forms in Western tradition, including Reality, God, and Being. In the example of truth, we believe that there is some universal or absolute quality of truth; we live by the expectation that if we can recognize this everlasting value, it will allow us to live a better and more meaningful life. When this image of truth is subsumed by the image of God of Western Christianity, an illusion of transcendence is set in motion, whereby judgment exists outside our own world experience, transmitted from an unknown realm.

“Christianity taught us to see the eye of the lord looking down upon us. Such forms of knowledge project an image of reality, at the expense of reality itself. They talk figures and icons and signs, but fail to perceive forces and flows. They bind us to other realities, and especially the reality of power as it subjugates us. Their function is to tame, and the result is the fabrication of docile and obedient subjects.

Likewise, in an illusion of transcendence the Western concept of subjectivity is subsumed. Subjectivity becomes the concept by which we can know the world after the “death of God.” Deleuze sees a highly prevalent concept of transcendence at work in Descartes ‘ “cogito,” and one that in the contemporary world has extremely sfrong resonances. We must already have an image or concept of “I” when we begin with the subject as the basis of experience: we have already formulated a concept of subjectivity from the flow of experiences that constitute life. If we believe that the point of departure for understanding is the subject’s experience, we have created an instance of transcendence, because we first had to create the idea of the subject as the basis from which we can know a supposedly “stable” world.

Deleuze focuses on the subject as a cycle of becoming rather than seeing the subject as a stable being, set apart from the world whose knowledge of this nature gives rise to the knowable. There is life, the flow of experience that exists before perceivers or subjects can be determined. From this stream, through perception, we differentiate between “within” and “outside.” The idea of the perceiver comes from intuition, and from the perceiver there is the possibility of creating an “I” as distinct from an actual, transcendent universe.

Another example of transcendence is the “representational” Western method, which happens when we describe thought as representing the first objects and their instances. We have created an illusion of representation when we think of a musical work in terms of an abstract idea or form, whereby the “essence” of music exists outside of our possible world experience. This conviction helps us to formulate a highly creative set of assumptions about musical value: for instance, that musical performances are seen as more or less faithful copies of a supposed “original.” All these ways of transcendence deferral introduce what Deleuze refers to as the dogmatic picture of thinking.


“We head for the horizon, on the plane of immanence, and we return with bloodshot eyes, yet they are the eyes of the mind.”

Immanence affirms, while transcendence denies that God is contained within the world, and thus within the limits of human reason, or within the norms and resources of human society and culture.

How can we think of life in terms not dependent on Universals? We tend to think outside of reality about God, subjectivity, concepts or universals: constructs that pre-exist and determine how we understand the world. But why do we imagine a God forming the universe, or a topic capable of knowing the world? Why are we describing God or Reality as outside and above our experience’s world?

Deleuze maintains that in some transcendent dimension, such as “God” or the all-knowing “subject,” the force of nature does not exist outside the universe. Instead, existence and thought are immanent to life. Life is the difference making. This is an example of immanence:

“to think is not to represent life but to transform and act upon life.”

Such an approach will have an impact on how we define music and thinking. If we define thinking not as an act inflicted on music, but as something that takes place alongside music, transforming and transforming in the event, then we have affirmed immanence over transcendence.

However, transcendence should not be defined as the opposite of immanence. Deleuze suggests that we affirm transcendence as an example of the thought’s positive power to create; as a way for us to examine the different “images of thought” throughout history. Through musical philosophy, we may consider as the fundamental ground of musical meaning separate from different theoretical derivations of a Platonic approach, the picture of culture or history.

“Perhaps this is the supreme act of philosophy: not so much to think the plane of immanence as to show that it is there, unthought in every plane, and to think it in this way as the outside and inside of thought, as the not-external outside and the not internal inside — that which cannot be thought and yet must be thought, which was thought once, as Christ was incarnated once, in order to show, that one time, the possibility of the impossible.”

Also, we can think of the plane of immanence; that is, the “prephilosophical” or “outside” aspect of thmking, the differential power from which different types of transcendence emerge. Rather than implying that there is an ultimate ground for life, the plane of immanence is the thought of that which creates transcendence. Deleuze uses the example of Descartes’ cogito: to formulate this question, Descartes must first have created the concepts of doubt and certainty, and formulated the problem “what can I know for certain?” Thus there is a plane of immanence that presupposes the plane of transcendence.


Deleuze believed that philosophy could only be determined by what it could do. So what we know about philosophy is always changing, because we are constantly discovering it can actually do a lot of things. The way it does these things is through the development of concepts. We may often see the concept as an observation of external events in philosophy, as an objective proposal. Instead, Deleuze thinks of the concept as involving a particular philosopher’s intensive act of singular creation.

The text has context and nothing stops you from drawing a more meaningful boundary between signifier/signified and the sign. Perhaps the traditional boundaries had dissolved after WWII and new ones had to be drawn around signifier/signified and the sign.

The old boundaries established to cohere around signifier/signified and sign include the invention of the atomic bomb, the holocaust, and the atrocities committed by the Soviet Union. “Il n’y a pas de hors-texte” means there is an inevitable underside to what gets said where other, hidden meanings lurk. But those meanings are not necessarily random. The signifier/signified and sign combo is a hit and miss compared to Music or Art.

A contradiction is something that cannot be true, because it refutes its premises. A paradox is something that can be neither be true nor false, because refuting the premises provides an equally false set of premises. Consider Russel’s paradox:

Does the collection of all collections that do not contain themselves contain itself? You can’t say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Either answer implies the opposite. If it contains itself, then it does not meet the criteria. If it does not contain itself, then it does and must be included.

Paradoxes are indeed invalid arguments, but what makes them special is that they rest on unproblematic assumptions. Because we know the conclusions of those paradoxes are false, we know that something is wrong with the arguments.

The task then is to identify the assumptions that lead to the false conclusion. You could call them ‘invalid’ and then ignore them, but if taken seriously they can help us diagnose and fix problems with existing logico-mathematical frameworks.

Think of the following

1. Duration.

2. Pitch.

3. Dynamics and Expressive Techniques.

4. Tone Colour.

5. Texture.

6. Structure.

In a passage that resonates loudly with Deleuze’s anti-Platonism. Deleuze and Guattari write:

There is no heaven for concepts. They have to be designed, made, or rather produced, and without the signature of their maker would be nothing.

As Nietzsche wrote, he laid down the task of philosophy,’

[ Philosophers] must no longer accept ideas as a gift, nor merely purify and polish them, but must first render and construct them, present them and persuade them.

Up to now, one has usually trusted one’s concepts as if they were a wonderful dowry of some sort of wonderland,’ but they must be replaced by mistrust, and philosophers must dismiss most those concepts they did not create themselves. As an example of this, Deleuze and Guattari point out that although Plato claimed the contrary,

he was actually aware of concept creation, for he had to create the concept of the Idea before the Idea could be contemplated.

The concept is also a multiplicity, made up of components. For Deleuze there is never a concept with only one component. A concept is also a response to a specific problem:

“All concepts are connected to problems without which they would have no meaning and which can themselves only be isolated or understood as their solution emerges.”

All concepts have history, which is not to suggest that their history is homogeneous, but that each concept actually consists of components from other concepts. Deleuze also talks about the creation of concepts by forming relationships on the same plane with other concepts.

1st: Every concept relates back to other concepts, in its own history and becoming, and it is also possible to understand its own components as concepts.

2nd: The concept allows a continuity of its components. While components are distinct, they are not separable but rather overlap: as Deleuze and Guattari write, the different components of a concept have a “zone of neighborhood” or a “threshold of indiscernibility”

3rd: Each concept should be considered as a point of condensation, an accumulation of its own components.



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