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I am beginning reading Anti-Oedipus and am trying to understand the synthesis of two notions D+G discuss in the first section on Desiring Machines:

  1. The quasi-metaphysical conception of everything as a 'circuit' of flows and interruptions; basically the universe as compromised of an infinite and linear grid of machines.

  2. The subsumption of all categories into the category of production; D+G seem to argue that any given entity can be identified with the production of itself; analogously a category theorist identifies any object with its identity morphism.

To begin, is this universe of machines solely the structure of the unconscious, and hence the vision of reality as a matrix of machines is the schizophrenic process, which produces clinical schizophrenia when it is wholly conscious? In short, is the notion of machines an ontology D+G offer for reality itself or merely a characteristic of the "schizophrenic out for a walk", which they then use as a conceptual model for the entire unconscious?

In http://people.duke.edu/~hardt/ao1.htm , the conception of everything as machines seems to be taken "properly ontological" in that reality itself is taken to be composed of machines. Should we say that this holds insofar as reality is filtered through the psychical apparatus in the Kantian sense of conforming to our perception? Or are D+G making a genuinely metaphysical claim that machines are the atomic units of reality?

If they are making a genuine metaphysical claim, then it seems that all categories are subsumed by production in the sense that "being is becoming" or our reality is continuously produced by the machine matrix (similarly to the movie of the same name). But this 'writing large' of the machine-nature of reality seems to entail a huge number of metaphysical and ontological claims, which D+G don't seem to acknowledge or otherwise expect the reader to be familiar with. Contrast Nietzsche's insistence that a prospective reader of the Genealogy of Morals be familiar with "all of my books". Hence in total I am inclined towards the interpretation of machinism as the schizophrenic process.

In this light it would seem that the slightly more traditional notion of the schizophrenic as an individual for whom there is no filter of 'impossibility' or 'censorship' in the conception of what is reality is homologous to D+G's description of reality as machines.

Note: I have edited this post several times with massive changes to reflect the changing nature of the question, apologies if it is confusing.


As an update, let me (sort of) continue with the category-theory analogy for desiring-production, and see if I am correct in my conceptualization.

Production overwhelms all categories inasmuch as we can identify any category with the production of itself in the sense of continuously becoming itself - "being is becoming". Each category then becomes a production-machine that continuously produces itself. But production-machines can also connect to each other in the sense that 'A produces B'. This parallels category-theory in mathematics in the sense I mentioned above.

For example, the hand produces the grip which produces the holding of the pen which produces the ink which produces the writing which produces the inscription. This assemblage is itself a production-machine, namely the production of inscription, but is subdivided into component production-machines. This is what D+G mean when they say production is always grafted onto the producer-product.

Now, specializing the unconscious, we use this as a model. Freud (very roughly) posits the unconscious as consisting of 'impulses', which D+G call 'partial-objects'. These partial objects are identified with the desiring of themselves, and hence are 'desiring-machines'. These are then connected in the sense of 'A desires B', where 'desires' is not a lack but is productive in the same manner as 'produces' above. To use D+G's standard example, the mouth desires the breast.

Its clear that both desire (immanently) and production (transeuntly) are of the same essential form - this form is called desiring-production. D+G in fact break down 'morphisms' connecting desiring-or-production-machines into connection, disjunction, and conjunction.

Continuing the parallel of transeunt production and immanent desire, the Body without Organs is basically a parallel of the Self and Capital, both of which are composed of matrices of desiring-machines and production-machines, respectively, yet appear as there source: Desire appears to come 'from' the self, and production appears to come 'from' capital. More precisely, the machines constituting the BwO take on a dual nature as a constituent part of the assemblage producing the BwO (connection), and as a subset or congealment of the BwO as an undifferentiated mass (disjunction).

  • Please consider asking more questions about this stuff as you work through it! – Joseph Weissman Jan 18 '14 at 23:28
  • just one point, a category theorist wouldn't identify an object with its identity morphism; one of the priorities of category theory is to complicate the understanding of equality - two objects can be 'equal' yet different; this perspective is crucial in many ways in CT; that doesn't mean that in particular instances that one can identify. – Mozibur Ullah Apr 24 '14 at 11:33
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Lifted from the preface by Foucault, p.xiv in the 2004 Continuum version : "it would be a mistake to read Anti Oedipus as the new theoretical reference (you know, that much heralded theory that finally encompasses everything ...)

I think for this question context is very important. I think context is the neglected dimension which leads a lot of people to misunderstand this strange, beautiful little beast of a book.

To begin, all the central notions of Gilles Deleuze's philosophy have (at least) one important feature in common - they specify positive forces, that lack self identity. Pure difference, singularity, intensity, virtuality, complex repetition, the body without organs - as difficult as they can be to understand, they're difficult for a reason: they're his insurrection, mounted from within enemy territory. One of the driving forces of Difference and Repetition is a critique of what representation has been taken to be within the history of philosophy. The book uses sharply academic philosophical expression to draw out a new sense of what it is to think and express things about life - things which have typically occupied the domain of the image of thought that he critiques. He is rightly called a 'process philosopher', yet he speaks of his goal in the book as being not the creation of a new image of movement, but the task of making movement itself the work of philosophy. I know this may seem only obliquely related to your question, but bear with me.

In his Letter to a Harsh Critic, which is published in a collection called Negotiations, Deleuze makes the following, quite strange, remark (p.11):

But what do you know about me, given that I believe in secrecy, that is, the power of falsity, rather than representing things in a way that manifests a lamentable faith in accuracy and truth?

Why, or how, could a philosopher say such a thing! - The simple answer, is that Deleuze's critique of 'the dogmatic image of thought' led him to a place where expression should not have the goal of reduction, simplification or generalisation. Rather, his vision encourages experimentation, amplifying complexities and priveledging what he calls 'molecular movements' over reified generalities. There is a continual focus on the materiality of language. The question 'is it true now, and for all time?' is less interesting to D+G than 'what does it do? what series does it participate in? What new material effects are made possible by viewing things from this perspective?' .. As the introduction by Mark Seems notes, the heroes of the book are not found in the so oft tried union of Freud (the psychodynamic unconscious) and Marx (production, mystification, superstructure etc), they're a selective section of Marx (production) and Nietzsche (perspective, force).

The book I think can be viewed as an exercise in pragmatics, in this sense. To go back to the preface, I think that it's for this reason that Foucault characterises it as a book of ethics (as opposed to for example, a book of ontology). AO is the Deleuze that has moved away from critiquing an image of thought or movement, and beginning to 'make movement itself the work'. Machines are not meant to specify the truth of an ontological substance, they're a brick through the window. The question of what viewing things from the perspective of machines does, is more important than the question of their truth-value as an ontological postulate.

To the question about things being viewed through the Kantian conception of subjectivity, the answer must be no. The book occupies a key spot in what has come to be known in the French philosophy world as the 'de-centring of the subject'. The chapter entitled 'the whole and its parts', with its notion of subjectivity being realised as an after effect, an "ah, so that's what I am", as a whole which is always periphery to its parts, - this is the section I would recommend for investigating this part of your question.

Lastly, one thing that helped me get a better insight into the book is 4 interviews which Deleuze and Guattari did on AO which are included in a collection of Guattari's writings called Chaosophy. It begins to be clearer when they refer to the book itself as being a little machine; instead of seeing it as a set of propositions which someone either gets or doesn't get, it's something to be plugged into, a unique circuit to experiment with, the experience being a series to be passed through rather than a set of axiomatic truths to be gleaned.

p.s - it's good to see a well thought out question, hope this helps :)

  • From what I have understood it seems that AO is meant to be read as a response to observed phenomena more than as a ground-up theory of Freudo-Marxism, e.g. both the conscious and capital take on the form of a body without organs, but this should not be taken as indicative of some precise (i.e. properly metaphysical) link between libido and capitalist production, but rather as a homology? In short, when we say that something is a desiring-machine, we are not necessarily implying that it is part of the unconscious, but rather operates in an analogous manner. – Cameron Jan 16 '14 at 19:02

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