Integration and Difference

At long last, I’m very happy to share the news that my new book, Integration and Difference: Constructing a Mythical Dialectic has been published by Routledge. Here’s the description from the publisher and some kind words from respected colleagues:

This groundbreaking work synthesizes concepts from thirteen crucial philosophers and psychologists, relating how the ancient problem of opposites has been opening to an integration which not only conserves differentiation but enacts it, especially through the integration of myth into the dialectic.

Weaving a fascinating narrative that ‘thinks with’ the complex encounters of theorists from Baruch Spinoza, G. W. F. Hegel, Friedrich Nietzsche, and William James to Alfred North Whitehead, C. G. Jung, Gilles Deleuze, and Isabelle Stengers, this book uniquely performs the convergence of continental philosophy, pragmatism, depth psychology, and constructivist ‘postmodern’ theory as a complement to the trajectory culminating in Jacques Derrida’s deconstruction.

This is an important book for professionals and academics working across the humanities and social sciences, particularly for continental theorists and depth psychologists interested in the construction of a novel epoch after the modern.

Integration and Difference strikes me as an important book for continental philosophy especially because it emphasizes the positive, constructive, and indeed integrative potentials within this tradition while nevertheless attempting to do justice to the negative contributions of deconstruction and postmodernism more broadly. It is a wonderful book, patient and generous in its approach to the thinkers it treats and fundamentally hopeful about the power of their ideas to create new, non-totalizing syntheses, or in Maxwell’s terms, differentiating integrations. I fully expect it will become a valuable resource for many who are trying to create a new philosophical dispensation from the materials of the continental, pragmatic, and psychoanalytic traditions.’

David F. HoinskiProfessor of Philosophy, West Virginia University

‘This is a tremendously exciting and generative book. Through an exploration of thirteen of Western culture’s most original thinkers from Spinoza to Stengers, Maxwell brilliantly explicates various powerful forms of integrative thought that yet preserve and enact differentiation as their necessary and perpetual concomitant. Written in a supple, spirited, and engaging style, the book also performs its own impressive feat of differentiating integration in creating such a rich and cogent narrative among these so distinctive thinkers.’

Roderick MainProfessor of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies, University of Essex; coeditor of Jung, Deleuze, and the Problematic Whole

‘In an era of division, intellectual and cultural, Maxwell presents a thrilling journey through the work of some of the greatest thinkers, seeking a way forward which is embedded in theories often deemed to be in opposition. Where Derrida pauses in the still moment before integration and holds you there, this book explores how philosophy’s crises are part of its being, and their attempted resolution the very task that drives knowledge forward. Brilliant.’

Peter Salmonauthor of An Event, Perhaps: A Biography of Jacques Derrida

Integration and Difference is a deep and poetic rumination on some of the most important thinkers of our time, including several that are not often examined in mainstream philosophy. It offers a valuable process of integration providing new insight into the work of these great philosophers – a significant achievement that will benefit both those familiar with their ideas and those who are new to their work.’

Barbara JenkinsProfessor of Communication Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University; author of Eros and Economy: Jung, Deleuze, Sexual Difference

‘Inspiring in its ambition, staggering in its breadth, and powerful in its originality, Maxwell’s Integration and Difference charts an innovative path through nuanced readings of a number of thinkers whose difficulty is exceeded perhaps only by the disparateness of their approaches. Constructing a unique narrative arc, Maxwell integrates elements of pragmatism, post-structuralism, depth psychology, and deconstruction, as well as insights from the arts and social sciences, in the search for a new way to think about the shaping of a mythos, reminding us why he’s one of today’s most original thinkers.’

Vernon W. Cisney, Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies, Gettysburg College; author of Deleuze and Derrida

‘In this tremendously exciting book, Grant Maxwell offers a genuinely fresh philosophical perspective. Integration and Difference has the courage and ambition to look beyond the usual suspects to construct an integrative vision that feels original. By placing the ideas of academically neglected figures like C. G. Jung and James Hillman into productive tension with the thinking of philosophers like Deleuze and Stengers, Maxwell performs precisely the kind of integrative work his book seeks to explore. A hugely stimulating read.’

Mark SabanProfessor of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies, University of Essex; author of Two Souls Alas’: Jung’s Two Personalities and the Making of Analytical Psychology

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New video: Spinoza on Determinism and Freedom in Relation to Deleuze and the Oedipal

I made a new video in which I discuss Spinoza’s rejection of free will and his affirmation of freedom of mind as exemplified by Deleuze’s relation to the Oedipal, with digressions on Descartes, Hegel, Schelling, Nietzsche, Jung, Freud, philosophy Twitter, accelerationism, Nick Land, trans rights, and TERFs (trans exclusionary radical feminists).

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Video Introduction to Integration and Difference

I made a video introducing my forthcoming book, Integration and Difference: Constructing a Mythical Dialectic (Routledge 2022). I discuss Spinoza, Leibniz, Hegel, Schelling, Nietzsche, James, Bergson, Whitehead, Jung, Derrida, Deleuze, Hillman, and Stengers.

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Heraclitus and the Integration of Opposites

Heraclitus, The Weeping Philosopher

This piece is an “outtake” from Integration and Difference: Constructing a Mythical Dialectic (Routledge, forthcoming 2022).

Born circa 535 BCE in Ephesus, a Greek city in what was then part of the Persian Empire and is now in Turkey, Heraclitus was a younger Greek contemporary of Pythagoras, the Buddha, and Confucius. He has been nominated by Eva Brann as the first Western philosopher, as he is thought to have written the first relatively unified work of Western philosophy, though only one-hundred thirty brief fragments have survived through the succeeding twenty-five centuries.[1] Nevertheless, his thought has been deeply influential on many subsequent theorists, from Plato, Leibniz, Hegel, Nietzsche, and James to Bergson, Whitehead, Jung, Deleuze, and Hillman, who describes Heraclitus’ work as “strikingly postmodern.”[2] A significant portion of Heraclitus’ fragments center on the themes of opposition and unity, strife and reconciliation, asserting that a fundamental driving force of cosmic process is the tension of opposites, defining the field of constraints out of which arises harmonious balance.[3] Not only do these oppositions produce the precondition for the possible entities of the world through the difference endemic to their relational totality, but the harmony generated through opposition and its subsequent reconciliation is the way that new entities emerge. The constraints of present, given reality can only be superseded by the integration of duality that can, in turn, only arise from such discordant tendencies.[4]

Heraclitus suggests that an expanded view of the world, particularly the direct knowledge of distant cultures and their concomitant modes of thought, leads to such an expansive view of reality. Rather than basing our beliefs on the authority of others, Heraclitus exhorts us to search out the truth of any controversy for ourselves, to see the contextual motivation for both sides of the argument rather than remaining within our provincial enclosures, an activity which necessitates coming into intimate contact with the other, whether geographically, culturally, or epistemologically.[5] Not only does coming into contact with the other allow one to see one’s own position as relative and contextually mediated, as containing partial truths among others, but the persistent relation between two entities transforms those entities, each absorbing something of the other into itself, as the shore dissolves into the fluid ocean just as surely as the ocean is absorbed by the solidity of the shore.[6]

This quality of process is perhaps most simply expressed by the Taoist taijitu symbol, which arose from the thought of Heraclitus’ near contemporary Laozi, who died in 531 BCE, roughly four years before Heraclitus’ birth.[7] It seems highly unlikely that Heraclitus knew of Laozi’s existence, so it is all the more striking that Taoist philosophy finds such a profound resonance with Heraclitus’ thought at roughly the same axial age moment in the sixth century BCE.[8] As Hegel notes in a lecture on Heraclitus, there is indeed something “oriental” about Heraclitus’ “metaphorical expressions.”[9] Heraclitus suggests an analogy between the mutual complementarity of low and high notes in harmony and the union of male and female in the production of a child, which seems to imply that harmony is an emergent property toward which cosmic process teleologically tends, just as a child is the entity toward which the comingling of male and female is drawn. One might say that the harmonious reconciliation that issues from oppositional difference is an expression of the hieros gamos, the sacred marriage of opposites.[10]

Heraclitus recognizes not only that the emergence of novelty requires the tension of difference, but that if any entity, even the sun, eclipses its opposite too blatantly, balance is inevitably restored by countervalent forces in the nature of process, which requires the integration of dualities through their perpetual confrontation. The movement Heraclitus describes influenced both the Hegelian dialectic and the conception of a compensatory return of the repressed in twentieth century depth psychology, which discerns a corrective balancing trajectory in relation to the modern privileging of rational, logocentric, egoic consciousness over domains accessible to the affective, intuitive faculties which have often been denigrated and repressed.[11]

The reconciliation of opposites through discord is not an easy or confluent process, but one that requires great fortitude, as the task of conceiving a harmony that contains tension requires strength analogous to the muscular force necessary to string a bow or a lyre. Binary tension is, indeed, characterized by intensity, an internal struggle in opposite directions, which like the bow, produces directed force in a third, perpendicular direction, or like the lyre, produces harmonious melodies that emanate in all directions. This action along a unidimensional axis generates activity along a new axis or axes, both in physical processes involving strings, and in mental or cultural processes involving habitual dualities.[12]

In Heraclitus’ conception, each side of any controversy cannot contain the whole truth, as each expression of truth is inherently partial, so that judged by different entities, the ocean can either be clean or poisonous, life-sustaining for the fish who swim in it, but fatal to humans who drink its water, an image by which he seems to imply that different people or entities in different contexts can each find value in one side of a duality that is intolerable to their counterpart, and vice versa.[13] Humans cannot drink seawater, and they certainly cannot breathe it, whereas fish can only survive in water and, by analogy, while one assertion of truth or one mode of thought may be intelligible and even necessary to one being, it may be experienced as unintelligible or intolerable to another. However, pushing the analogy to its logical conclusion, although human beings cannot drink or breathe seawater, they can be nourished by eating the fish who breathe in that medium. Thus, even when one thinker finds the ideas to which he or she is opposed ridiculous, dangerous, or simply wrong, these ideas are often the conditions that produce an element that the thinker requires to render their worldview more expansive. As Heraclitus writes: “Singing together we compete. We choose each other to be one, and from the one both soon diverge,”[14] by which he seems to mean that binaries exist in tense competition in order to produce a harmonious unity, which then produces a further tension, which in turns produces a higher-order unity, and thus the world becomes both increasingly differentiated and increasingly integrated, moving toward ever more expansive modes of relation.

[1] Eva Brann, Heraclitus (Philadelphia, PA: Paul Dry Books, 2011).

[2] Heraclitus, Fragments, trans. Brooks Haxton (New York: Penguin Classics, 2003) xi.

[3] Heraclitus xviii, 31, 37.

[4] Heraclitus, 31.

[5] Heraclitus, 11.

[6] Heraclitus, 17.

[7] Jean Gebser, The Ever-Present Origin (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 1986) 221.

[8] Karl Jaspers, The Axial Age and Robert Bellah, Religion in Human Evolution.

[9] G.W.F. Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy, Volume II (Berkeley: University of California Press,2006) 70.

[10] Heraclitus, 43.

[11] Heraclitus, 19.

[12] Heraclitus, 31.

[13] Heraclitus, 35.

[14] Heraclitus, 39.

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A Critique of Bertrand Russell’s Critique of Henri Bergson

This piece is an “outtake” from my forthcoming book, Integration and Difference: Constructing a Mythical Dialectic (Routledge, 2022).

In “The Philosophy of Bergson,” Russell fundamentally misunderstands Bergson’s concept of intuition, writing that Bergson asserts “instinct as the good boy and intellect as the bad boy,” while “instinct at its best is called intuition,” though, for Bergson, intuition is an integration of instinct and intellect. Russell’s reductive misreading of this opposition as obeying the tertium non datur, the law of excluded middle, seems to preclude him from being able to see that one of the primary endeavors of what has come to be known as continental philosophy is to understand how such simplistic dualisms can be overcome through conceptions that exceed the traditional forms of logic. Bergson, far from proclaiming a “condemnation of the intellect” in favor of “the triumph of intuition,” as Russell insists, only critiques the exclusive privileging of intellect, which Russell implicitly assumes, thereby reducing Bergson’s argument to an either-or conflict in order to reject what he erroneously constructs as Bergson’s privileging of instinct over intellect, while Bergson is far beyond this kind of naïve dualism. In fact, the title of Gilles Deleuze’s Bergsonism appears to have been a sly joke at the expense of this mania for oppositional categorization, perhaps especially common in analytic philosophy, in which positions ending with -ism engage in interminable logical combat, an approach anathema to both Bergson’s and Deleuze’s philosophies (Dosse, Intersecting Lives, 140).

Similarly, while Bergson figures life as a wave ascending through the medium of matter itself, countervalent to the entropic descent of nonlife, Russell renders this figure as life constituting an ascending train while matter is a descending train, reducing Bergson’s figure to two entirely separate entities rather than one serving as the substrate which the other animates. Russell asserts an utterly conventional dualism of mind and matter, subject and object, in what he imagines to be a devastating critique of Bergsonian duration and memory as mere poetic confusion, but which is really a reduction of Bergson’s much more profound conception back to the modern doxa’s center of gravity where Russell complacently resides, at least in this critique. Finally, Russell strangely depicts Bergson as advocating “activity without purpose” as opposed to Russell’s putatively solid grounding of visionary intellectual contemplation, completely ignoring Bergson’s advocacy of a subtle, inclinational form of teleological purpose beyond the fatalistic “radical finalism” (Creative Evolution) characteristic of much ancient and medieval thought, also ignoring Bergson’s expression of the purpose of philosophy as “a true work of integration” (Matter and Memory).

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Interalia Magazine Interview

I recently did an interview for Interalia Magazine. The first half or so is on my book The Dynamics of Transformation, and the second part is on the possibility of reconciliation and the figure of the “beautiful soul” in relation to Goethe, Hegel, Nietzsche, Deleuze, Whitehead, and feminism.

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Jung’s Influence on Deleuze and Guattari

This piece is an excerpt from Integration and Difference: Constructing a Mythical Dialectic (Routledge, June 2022).

Although it is not clear that Deleuze was simply and unambiguously a Jungian, he certainly engaged with Jung’s work in both affirmative and critical ways, writing in Difference and Repetition: “Was not one of the most important points of Jung’s theory already to be found here: the force of ‘questioning’ in the unconscious, the conception of the unconscious as an unconscious of ‘problems’ and ‘tasks’? Drawing out the consequences of this led Jung to the discovery of a process of differenciation more profound than the resulting oppositions.”[i] The concern with problems and integrative differenciation is central to Deleuze’s project in what many consider his magnum opus, and it is striking that Deleuze expresses such a strong affinity between his work and that of Jung, as Jung’s influence on Deleuze has not tended to be emphasized by scholars, though as Frida Beckman writes, “Deleuze’s discussions of the unconscious in Différence et répétition may make more sense when we read Jung into the equation.”[ii]

There are several passages in which Deleuze takes Jung’s side against Freud, who nominated Jung his “successor and crown prince”[iii] in 1910, and then excommunicated him around 1913 for his purported psychoanalytic heresies. One of the most revealing of these passages by Deleuze is in L’Abécédaire, recorded in 1988 as part of a long television interview that would only air after his death, in which he discusses “a text that I adore by Jung” concerning Jung’s dream of descent through successive subterranean strata, at the deepest layer of which Jung finds an ossuary, numerous bones that Freud insists on reducing to the unity of a death wish, as a primary example of the concepts of multiplicity and assemblage, “a kind of constructivism”[iv] which “keeps very heterogeneous elements together.”[v] Deleuze portrays Jung as understanding these concepts, contrary to Freud’s egregious misunderstanding, an instance that also finds brief mention in A Thousand Plateaus, where Deleuze and Guattari write that “Jung is in any event profounder than Freud.”[vi] Although Derrida, in a 2004 lecture, suggests that “Deleuze laughs at psychoanalysis, to me, sometimes, a little too quickly,” and he jokes that part of Deleuze’s “absolute originality in French” is “admiring Jung more than Freud,”[vii] it is Derrida himself who perhaps laughs too quickly in this case given the admiration for Jung expressed by Bergson, Bachelard, and Simondon. Deleuze also makes affirmative references to Jung in “From Sacher-Masoch to Masochism,”[viii] Nietzsche and Philosophy,[ix] and Dialogues II,[x] and with Guattari in Anti-Oedipus.[xi] It even seems possible that Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of the rhizome is at least partially derived from Jung’s discussion of this concept in several texts,[xii] a possibility which Slavoj Žižek states as fact, but for which the evidence is not definitive, though it is highly suggestive. Žižek also writes that “there is a direct lineage from Jung to Anti-Oedipus,”[xiii] an insightful observation which he marshals as a criticism of both Deleuze and Jung in favor of Freud, though those of us who deeply admire all of these theorists may reframe it as an endorsement of what Barbara Jenkins describes as “a nascent ‘Jungian turn’ in Deleuzean and cultural studies.”[xiv]

In 1956’s “Bergson’s Concept of Difference,” Deleuze writes that “there are no accidents in the life of the psyche,”[xv] perhaps implicitly correlating the nuances of Bergsonian duration with Jungian synchronicity, a subtle correlation which finds further elaboration in 1966’s Bergsonism and 1983’s Cinema 1. In 1969’s The Logic of Sense, Deleuze explicitly employs the term “synchronicity,” and significant portions of that book seem to be explorations of something very much like Jungian archetypes, a term which Deleuze affirmatively employs in 1964’s Proust and Signs,[xvi] as well as the subtle kind of formal causation characteristic of the late Jungian conception of synchronicity in other terms. Deleuze indirectly defines synchronicity as a form of resonant correspondence that is not merely a linear logical series operating in terms of the causes and effects of efficient causation, while Jung, in the subtitle of Synchronicity, defines it as “an acausal connecting principle,” having two decades earlier explicitly equated synchronicity with transversality,[xvii] a concept employed by Deleuze and Guattari in both volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Deleuze takes up these definitions later in The Logic of Sense, in relation to the Stoics and Leibniz, in his discussion of “alogical incompatibilities and noncausal correspondences,” of which he writes that “astrology was perhaps the first important attempt to establish a theory,” as this ancient mode of thought posits a persistent formal, as opposed to efficient, causal (or perhaps quasi-causal, or even acausal) correspondence between the movements of the heavens and events in the human domain. And similarly, as he writes in a 1970 essay: “In a sense, humankind renews its ties with a destiny that can be read in the planets and stars. Planetary thought is not unifying: it implies hidden depths in space, an extension of deep universes, incommensurate distances and proximities, non-exact numbers, an essential opening of our system, a whole fiction-philosophy.”[xviii]

Deleuze and Guattari’s 1975 book, Kafka, differs not only with the Jungian conception of archetypes, and with Jung’s early method of free association, at least in relation to Kafka’s work, but with other concepts Deleuze asserts in both earlier and later texts[xix] (the symbolic, mythology, the imagination, phantasms[xx]), so that one must recall that Deleuze, perhaps especially with the impish Guattari, eschewed consistency in favor of attempts to think in new ways, Deleuze commenting in 1973 that “neither Guattari nor myself are very attached to the pursuit or even the coherence of what we write.”[xxi] But it is significant that these attempts are enacted in relation to Jung, not in a mere rejection, but in the guise of multiply affirmed admirers of Jung who critique the precursor that they nevertheless deem more profound than Freud. This critique is not a mere denouncement, but rather takes seriously Jung’s concepts, even when Deleuze and Guattari seem to portray them too narrowly, seeking to go beyond a classic archetypal conception (a project also undertaken by James Hillman, based on Jung’s later work) by building upon the differentiations this conception affords, much as Deleuze, in Difference and Repetition, enacts an overturning of Plato through the appropriation of certain moments in Plato’s own texts. In fact, it might be suggested that Deleuze’s primary philosophical allegiance is ultimately to Nietzsche because, more than any other figure before Deleuze, Nietzsche was always forging beyond existing categories of thought to create novel conceptions exceeding any systematizing enclosures, though neither Nietzsche nor Deleuze can be understood as simply rejecting the past, but rather as pushing the concepts and language of the past to their limits, willfully transgressing and dissolving existing boundaries in order to open space for novel conceptions. But this transgressive dissolution does not require us to reject all previous categories in favor of the ones that Deleuze, both with and without Guattari, cavalierly constructs and then often carelessly casts aside in the very next book, but rather allows us to employ existing categories and concepts, including those constructed by Deleuze, with a light, even ironic touch as pragmatic tools for novel creation, tools whose refinement and extension these transgressions afford, enabling their employment in the fabrication of new conceptual tools allowing further creation. The irreverence that Deleuze directs toward his precursors, undoubtedly including Jung, cuts both ways, as this irreverence can be directed toward Deleuze himself, whom one can profoundly admire while cavalierly—though still rigorously—selecting among his sometimes conflicting and even incoherent conceptions to achieve the greatest possible efficacy in further attempted creations.

In A Thousand Plateaus, composed over the subsequent decade, the figure of Professor Challenger—who is apparently an embodiment of the assemblage of Deleuze and Guattari based on a character by Arthur Conan Doyle—is giving an obscure and difficult lecture which seems partially designed to prune back the audience (and perhaps those reading about this oddly hallucinatory presentation) to the few steadfast die-hards willing to expend the extraordinary effort required to comprehend these esoteric domains, so that “the only ones left were the mathematicians, accustomed to other follies, along with a few astrologers, archaeologists, and scattered individuals.” In the same book, Deleuze and Guattari describe Jung’s approach as “integrating” any given animal image found in dream or myth “into its archetypal series,” though they express dissatisfaction with this construction, seeking further to deterritorialize Jung’s theory, which they clearly find great value in along with the Jungian approach of Bachelard in Lautréamont (about which Hillman also wrote), and of Simondon in Individuation in Light of Notions of Form and Information. “We sorcerers,” they write, can discern that “there is still room for something else, something more secret, more subterranean” constituted in a becoming beyond the “progress or regress along a series,” an overcoming which they associate with “the whole structuralist critique of the series.” However, later in the same text, they quote H.P. Lovecraft’s evocation of an ascendance through n-dimensions “up to the dizzy and reachless heights of archetypal infinity” in their description of the “plane of consistency” (as opposed to the “plane of development”) which is the locus of becomings “written like sorcerers’ drawings” on that immanent plane, “the ultimate Door providing a way out” or, alternately, “the gates of the Cosmos.”[xxii]

Deleuze and Guattari critique the archetypes as “processes of spiritual reterritorialization”[xxiii] or “intrinsic qualities,” instead advocating a conception in which “cosmic forces” or “expressive qualities” (which are concretely symbolic,[xxiv] and “fictional” like the infinitesimal) are real but nonactual formal causes characterized by their function in specific assemblages of becoming, nomadic paths enacting a vital autonomy for which particular effectuations are derivative points, so that the trajectory is primary and the series derived from it secondary. However, this conception is already prefigured in the later work of Jung, where he tends to express the archetypes as cosmic dynamisms rather than as merely intrinsic psychological categories, as he tended to define them in his earlier work, though he remained ambivalent about their ontological status.[xxv] Rather than merely rejecting Jung’s archetypal theory, Deleuze and Guattari, like many Jungians, can be conceived as having refined that theory, rendering it more subtle and general by suggesting that the locus of becoming is not found primarily in the linear, sedentary series of chronological development, but in temporally nonlinear “transformational series” across orders ascending through increasing degrees of freedom. They suggest that the integration of differentiated n-dimensional archetypal series is the conceptual construction characteristic of the infinitesimal version of the integral calculus, and thus that the differentiating metaphysical integration correlated with the calculus specifically integrates these nonlinear and nonlocal archetypal series of diachronic and synchronic resonances, an expression intimately coextensive with the mode of relation characteristic of Jung’s late expression of synchronicity, approaching the always-receding transcendental archetypal potencies in their multiplicitous singularity.[xxvi]

While these discussions of Jung’s work are profound, they require a Sherlock Holmesian reading of subtle clues to decipher, a recognition that Deleuze implicitly sanctions, writing that “a book of philosophy should be in part a very particular species of detective novel,” with hints leading the reader to revelations of ultimately complex networks of intertwined relations that were formerly occluded.[xxvii] Deleuze, with and without Guattari, often only evokes these realms of thought, teasing the reader with references to Jung and his work in ways that cannot easily be pinned down, that remain elusive. One suspects the reason for this coyness is that, although Deleuze clearly found great value in Jung’s work, he also understood that Jungian thought has enjoyed an uneasy relationship with the main streams of academia, as Jung brilliantly and profoundly explored domains that were often “beyond the scientific pale,”[xxviii] as Anthony Stevens writes, for the dominant spheres of the twentieth century academy. Additionally, as Jon Mills observes, the fact that Jung has been studied much less by philosophers than Freud “may be in part due to the fact that while Freud was intent on systematizing his theories, Jung was not,” and that “Jung often disparaged philosophy in his writing while exalting religion, despite the fact that much of his corpus involves direct engagement with ancient, Gnostic, medieval, modern, Continental, and Eastern philosophical texts.”[xxix] However, this situation currently bears signs of a rapid shift, and the increased recognition of Deleuze’s extended, though complex, engagement with Jung may help to carry the Swiss psychologist from the liminal frontiers of thought, where he remains the undisputed king, into the central nodes of academic discourse where Freud has long presided, at least in the humanities. In fact, Deleuze explores most of the same uncharted domains as Jung, though Deleuze’s writing is so obscure, while still extremely distinct, that only those who are paying very close attention, and in many cases who are already familiar with Jungian thought, will discern the deep resonances between these theorists. One suspects that this was a subtle and purposive strategy by Deleuze, which has been extraordinarily efficacious in allowing his work to occupy a central place in continental thought, while also allowing him to engage with relatively marginal Jungian concepts, winking at the Jungian cognoscenti while this aspect of his work generally escapes the notice of those who unquestioningly accept the overly hasty dismissal of Jung largely instigated by Freud. Furthermore, Deleuze seems implicitly to have understood Hillman’s admonition that “Freud and Jung are psychological mas­ters, not that we may follow them in becoming Freudian and Jungian, but that we may follow them in becoming psychological,”[xxx] though of course the same can also be said about following Deleuze and Guattari as philosophical and psychological masters.

[i] Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994) 317n17.

[ii] Frida Beckman, Gilles Deleuze (London: Reaktion Books, 2017) 23; Christian McMillan, “Jung and Deleuze: Enchanted Openings to the Other: A Philosophical Contribution,” International Journal of Jungian Studies 10 no. 3 (2018): 185.

[iii] Sigmund Freud and C. G. Jung, The Freud/Jung Letters (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994) 104.

[iv] Gilles Deleuze and Claire Parnet. L’Abécédaire de Gilles Deleuze, avec Claire Parnet, 1996. 47-48 21.

[v] Gilles Deleuze, Two Regimes of Madness (Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2007) 179.

[vi] Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987) 241.

[vii] Jacques Derrida, “Gilles Deleuze: On Forgiveness,” European Graduate School Video Lectures 2/11, 2004.

[viii] Gilles Deleuze, “From Sacher-Masoch to Masochism.” Angelaki 9, no. 1 (2004): 128-30, 132-33.

[ix] Gilles Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006) 116, 212n8.

[x] Deleuze and Parnet, Dialogues, 80.

[xi] Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1983) 46, 162, 278.

[xii] C. G. Jung, Symbols of Transformation (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1956) xxiv; Alchemical Studies (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1967) 90, 195; Memories, Dreams, Reflections (New York: Vintage Books, 1989) 4; Roderick Main, Christian McMillan, and David Henderson, eds. Jung, Deleuze, and the Problematic Whole (New York: Routledge, 2020) 4.

[xiii] Slavoj Žižek, “Notes on a Debate ‘From Within the People,’” Criticism 46 no. 4 (2004): 662-63.

[xiv] Barbara Jenkins, Eros and Economy (New York: Routledge, 2017) 5.

[xv] Gilles Deleuze, Desert Islands and Other Texts (Los Angeles, CA: Semiotext(e), 2004) 36.

[xvi] Gilles Deleuze, Proust and Signs (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004) 47, 67.

[xvii] C. G. Jung, Visions (London: Routledge, 1998) 340.

[xviii] Gilles Deleuze, The Logic of Sense (London: Athalone Press, 1990) 120, 170-71; McMillan, “Jung,” 190, 193; Deleuze, Desert, 157; Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 2 (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1989) 202.

[xix] Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Kafka (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986) 7.

[xx] See for example Deleuze, Difference, 17, 61, 76, 126.

[xxi] Deleuze, Desert, 278.

[xxii] Deleuze and Guattari, Thousand, 43, 57, 235, 237, 250-51, 333.

[xxiii] Deleuze, Kafka, 13.

[xxiv] Gilles Deleuze, Essays Critical and Clinical (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997) 48.

[xxv] Richard Tarnas, Cosmos and Psyche (New York: Viking, 2006) 57.

[xxvi] Deleuze and Guattari, Thousand, 306, 322-23, 380, 398, 420, 507.

[xxvii] Deleuze, Difference, xx.

[xxviii] Anthony Stevens, Jung: A Very Short Introduction (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001) 1.

[xxix] Jon Mills, ed. Jung and Philosophy (New York: Routledge, 2019) 1.

[xxx] James Hillman, Re-Visioning Psychology (New York: Harper & Row, 1975) xii.


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The American Philosophical Association blog

I haven’t posted here in a while because I’ve been contributing articles to the American Philosophical Association blog (in addition to writing my new book and editing a few others):

Jean Gebser’s Structures of Consciousness and Biological Evolution

Jean Gebser vineyards


Does Philosophical Language Have to Be Difficult?

Does Philosophical Language Have To Be Difficult Photo


Arrival, Interstellar, and the Transcendence of Temporality



Why Are So Many Young Men Drawn to Jordan Peterson’s Intellectual Misogyny?



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William James, Sigmund Freud, and Analysis vs. Synthesis in Academic Discourse


I’ve been having a fascinating conversation with Dr. Andreas Sommer of Cambridge University ( in the comments of my earlier post “Affect and Rationality in William James” about whether Freud’s concept of “the return of the repressed” can viably be marshaled in relation to James’ ideas. I think Dr. Sommer is right that his approach as an historian is probably different from my approach as a philosopher and cultural theorist with a doctorate in English. But I also think he’s perpetuating a fallacy that’s fairly pervasive in contemporary academia, exemplified by the poststructuralist “incredulity towards metanarratives,” imposing an excessively critical analysis of conceptual wholes into their constituent parts. This primarily critical mode seems to miss the proverbial forest for the trees, which I believe is fundamentally counter to the integrative character of James’ philosophy. Indeed, James addresses this very issue extensively in his work. For instance, he writes in Pragmatism:

The pragmatic method is primarily a method of settling metaphysical disputes that otherwise might be interminable. . . . Theories thus become instruments, not answers to enigmas, in which we can rest.  We don’t lie back upon them, we move forward, and, on occasion, make nature over again by their aid. Pragmatism unstiffens all our theories, limbers them up and sets each one at work. . . . New truth is always a go-between, a smoother-over of transitions. It marries old opinion to new fact. . . . ‘To be true’ means only to perform this marriage-function. . . . Loosely speaking, and in general, it may be said that all things cohere and adhere to each other somehow, and that the universe exists practically in reticulated or concatenated forms which make of it a continuous or ‘integrated’ affair. . . . Everything makes strongly for the view that our world is incompletely unified teleologically and is still trying to get its unification better organized. (18-54)

The theoretical mode James consistently articulates is one in which diverse, and often contradictory theories, modes of thought, and thinkers can be brought into relation, their “metaphysical disputes” “settled” by the pragmatic “marriage-function,” which strives to unify, integrate, and reconcile seemingly incommensurable entities. This integrative impulse seems eminently applicable to the relation between the ideas of Freud and James himself, who, in the larger cultural context in which they are embedded, are more alike than they are different, not least in that they both spent their lives attempting to understand the same subject: the human mind in relation to the world.

Henri Bergson (with whom James was friends) also addresses the frequent modern academic preference for analysis over synthesis in Creative Evolution (to which James intended to write a laudatory preface for the English edition before he died):

Intellect therefore instinctively selects in a given situation whatever is like something already known; it seeks this out, in order that it may apply its principle that ‘like produces like.’ . . . Like ordinary knowledge, in dealing with things science is concerned only with the aspect of repetition. Though the whole be original, science will always manage to analyze it into elements or aspects which are approximately a reproduction of the past. Science can work only on what is supposed to repeat itself—that is to say, on what is withdrawn, by hypothesis, from the action of real time. Anything that is irreducible and irreversible in the successive moments of a history eludes science. To get a notion of this irreducibility and irreversibility, we must break with scientific habits which are adapted to the fundamental requirements of thought, we must do violence to the mind, go counter to the natural bent of the intellect. But that is just the function of philosophy. (24-25)

The mode of thought that Dr. Sommer is employing in apparently denying the possibility of finding complementary conceptual elements in James and Freud seems to me essentially complicit with the methods of reductive materialist science, which continue implicitly to dominate the humanities despite frequent protestations to the contrary. While I think the kind of critical, historical contextualization Dr. Sommer prefers is valid in its own right, it oversteps its domain of validity when it denies the impulse to produce emergent wholes through the synthesis of different thinkers’ ideas.

This pragmatic approach is concisely expressed by John Stuart Mill (whom James thought would have been a leader of pragmatism had he still been alive) in his essay “Coleridge”:

All students of man and society who possess that first requisite for so difficult a study, a due sense of its difficulties, are aware that the besetting danger is not so much of embracing falsehood for truth, as of mistaking part of the truth for the whole. It might be plausibly maintained that in almost every one of the leading controversies, past or present, in social philosophy, both sides were in the right in what they affirmed, though wrong in what they denied; and that if either could have been made to take the other’s views in addition to its own, little more would have been needed to make its doctrine correct.

Dr. Sommer seems to want to reify the “controversy” between James and Freud as metaphysically fundamental. I agree that Freud and James were very different thinkers, a point I allude to when I write that “James perhaps goes farther than Freud,” particularly in that James affirmed the validity of formal and final causation in addition to material and efficient causation, whereas Freud was a materialist, only affirming the latter two causal modes. However, I believe that critical negation (which Alfred North Whitehead terms “the peak of mentality”) of the possibility of synthesis, as Dr. Sommer seems to call for, should be relegated back to its appropriate place in the scholarly armamentarium, so that we can again begin to see apparently disparate modes of thought as complementary “in what they affirm.” In fact, as James asserts in a footnote to The Varieties of Religious Experience (444), this “inextricably mixed” quality of all kinds of “distinctions” was the predominant mode of thought prior to the seventeenth century. While I agree that critical, analytical, historical contextualization is a vitally necessary and important activity, one that has required the last few centuries for its individuation, this impulse is only half of a dialectical process. As Whitehead (who calls James “that adorable genius”) writes in Adventures of Ideas:

The difference between the two, namely the Hellenic and the Hellenistic types of mentality, may be roughly described as that between speculation and scholarship. For progress, both are necessary.  But, in fact, on the stage of history they are apt to appear as antagonists. Speculation, by entertaining alternative theories, is superficially skeptical, disturbing to established modes of prejudice. But it obtains its urge from a deep ultimate faith, that through and through the nature of things is penetrable by reason. Scholarship, by its strict attention to accepted methodologies, is superficially conservative of belief. But its tone of mind leans towards a fundamental negation. For scholars the reasonable topics in the world are penned in isolated regions, this subject-matter or that subject-matter. (108)

Despite Dr. Sommer’s assertion that “it’s of course fine that you make it your task to synthesize ideas,” he appears to contradict this affirmation in the rest of his response. He seems, along with much of current academia, to take an essentially Hellenistic rather than Hellenic approach to the production of knowledge, almost purely scholarly and analytic rather than speculative and synthetic. While I fully acknowledge the validity of tracing the direct influence on James of less well-remembered figures like Frederic W. H. MyersThéodore Flournoy, and Pierre Janet, I prefer a mode of thought which synthesizes the scholarly and speculative modes, asserting that, because James and Freud were perhaps the two primary psychologists who mediated the founding of psychology as a viable discipline, it is not only our right, but even our duty given a century of perspective, to bring their respective positive content into relation if we hope to generate novel understanding. Rather than a “forced marriage,” as Dr. Sommer terms it, I see this activity as a hieros gamos, a “sacred marriage” of opposites for the conception of discursive transformation via teleological concrescence.


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Bob Dylan’s Transfiguration

dylan motorcycle

Bob Dylan appears to have been undergoing a kind of prolonged death and rebirth initiation throughout the mid-sixties, similar to those experienced by shamans in numerous cultures around the world, which seems to have allowed him to act as a catalyst for the transformation of his culture. According to folksinger David Cohen: “his power, his mystique, just affected people in crazy ways,” many in his audience sensing that “this guy knows, this guy feels, and you want to be with him.” Or as Eric Andersen put it: “He’s got the heaviest vibes I’ve ever felt on anyone,” apparently a common perception by those who knew Dylan. By the mid-sixties, Dylan seems to have developed his intrinsic ability to embody the affective quality of the moment to such a high degree that he became the center of “a magnetic field” for people’s deepest desires and aspirations, similar to Elvis Presley’s role in his cultural moment, but at a more complex order of magnitude.[i]

Concluding the section about his self-naming in Chronicles, Dylan writes:

As far as Bobby Zimmerman goes, I’m going to give this to you right straight and you can check it out. One of the early presidents of the San Bernardino Angels was Bobby Zimmerman, and he was killed in 1964 on the Bass Lake run. The muffler fell off his bike, he made a U-turn to retrieve it in front of the pack and was instantly killed. That person is gone. That was the end of him. [ii]

What Dylan seems to be implying is that the fact that there was another man named Bobby Zimmerman who died in a motorcycle wreck in 1964 (actually 1961, though this discrepancy does not seem negatively to affect Dylan’s point) is a meaningful coincidence (the definition of Jungian synchronicity) that symbolically mirrored and enacted the death of Dylan’s old identity. This is an idea the validity of which it would be impossible for a purely materialist mode of thought to accept, at least outside of a novel or a film, but Dylan believes that the world does indeed work in mysterious ways. The name coincidence combined with the manner of the other Zimmerman’s death, which pre-iterates one of the primary images in Dylan’s mythology, the motorcycle crash of 1966, seems to suggest to Dylan a kind of cosmic orchestration in which events are somehow pulled into his wake of significance.

In his 2012 Rolling Stone interview, Dylan expands on the subject of the two Bobby Zimmermans, declaring: “You know what this is called? It’s called transfiguration. Have you ever heard of it?” “Yes,” the interviewer responds. “Well, you’re looking at somebody,” Dylan declares. “That . . . has been transfigured?” comes the hesitant rejoinder. “Yeah, absolutely,” Dylan asserts:

I’m not like you, am I? I’m not like him, either. I’m not like too many others. I’m only like another person who’s been transfigured. How many people like that or like me do you know? . . . Transfiguration: You can go and learn about it from the Catholic Church, you can learn about it in some old mystical books, but it’s a real concept. It’s happened throughout the ages. . . . It’s not like something you can dream up and think. It’s not like conjuring up a reality or like reincarnation – or like when you might think you’re somebody from the past but have no proof. It’s not anything to do with the past or the future. So when you ask some of your questions, you’re asking them to a person who’s long dead. You’re asking them to a person that doesn’t exist. But people make that mistake about me all the time. I’ve lived through a lot. . . . Transfiguration is what allows you to crawl out from under the chaos and fly above it. That’s how I can still do what I do and write the songs I sing and just keep on moving. . . . I couldn’t go back and find Bobby in a million years. Neither could you or anybody else on the face of the Earth. He’s gone. If I could, I would go back. I’d like to go back. At this point in time, I would love to go back and find him, put out my hand. And tell him he’s got a friend. But I can’t. He’s gone. He doesn’t exist. . . . I’d always been different than other people, but this book [about the other Bobby Zimmerman, written by Ralph Barger along with Keith and Kent Zimmerman (who bear no immediately apparent relation to either of the Bobby Zimmermans)] told me why. Like certain people are set apart. . . . I didn’t know who I was before I read the Barger book. [iii]

A 71-year-old Dylan, in a simultaneously more open and more cantankerous mood than usual, declares unequivocally that he was fundamentally transformed in his twenties, that he died and was reborn through something like the Christian process of Transfiguration, the recipient of which becomes spiritually exalted, taking on an aspect of divinity, a process that bears a striking similarity to the shamanic initiation elucidated by Mircea Eliade and others. The Transfiguration of Christ, which St. Thomas Aquinas referred to as “the greatest miracle,” is when Jesus shined radiantly upon a mountain (perhaps like the Beatles on the Cavern stage) and became mysteriously connected to the Hebrew prophets Elijah and Moses who appeared beside him. In the New Testament, Paul refers to the believers being “changed into the same image” through “beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord,”[iv] which suggests that the witnessing of the transfigured individual can mediate a similar transformation in those who believe in that Transfiguration, acting as a mirror for the collective. Ultimately, the Transfiguration appears to have been fulfilled in the death and rebirth of Christ, which seems to be a kind of fractal reiteration of the archetypal death and rebirth of the shamanic initiation that Dylan appears to have experienced.

As Dylan asserts, those few who are fundamentally transformed through this kind of process, by various accounts including primal shamans, ancient mythological heroes who traversed the underworld (Osiris, Dionysus, Heracles, Persephone, Orpheus, Psyche, Odysseus, Aeneas, Theseus, Gilgamesh, Odin, and others), figures from the Hebrew Bible (Jacob, Enoch, Elijah, Moses), the New Testament (Mary and Christ), and the Buddha, are reborn as new people, which separates them from the majority of humanity who have not undergone such a transformation. According to Dylan, this Transfiguration is not something that one can “dream up and think” in a hypothetical, conceptual way, but something that one either feels or does not. From Dylan’s perspective, which is very much like that articulated by William James, one cannot choose one’s destiny. Rather, one either knows that one has been transfigured or one does not, and the skepticism of those who have not experienced Transfiguration, either in themselves or in others, has no bearing on the reality of the phenomenon. As it is expressed in several places in the New Testament, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”[v]

Thus, for Dylan, his young self, named Bobby Zimmerman, died during the mid-sixties, culminating in Dylan’s motorcycle crash, which was synchronistically presaged by the death of the other Bobby Zimmerman in a motorcycle crash a few years before, regardless of whether it was 1961 or 1964. However, after the 2012 interview, Rolling Stone was apparently able to determine that the biker Bobby Zimmerman died “within weeks” of Robert Shelton’s 1961 review of Dylan’s show at Gerde’s Folk City in the New York Times, which catapulted Dylan into the limelight, essentially marking the beginning of Dylan’s public career.[vi] In a roundabout way, this chronological mistake in the book from which Dylan took his information only serves to add credence to Dylan’s interpretation, for naratologically speaking, the 1961 date seems even more perfectly orchestrated to confirm Dylan’s conviction of his Transfiguration than 1964. Indeed, the five year period between September 1961 when Dylan was elevated by Shelton’s review and July 1966 when he crashed his motorcycle and went into seclusion is one of the most creative, epochally transformative half-decades that any artist has ever undergone.

Furthermore, by declaring that “it’s not anything to do with the past or the future,” Dylan seems to be evoking something like Bergsonian duration, implying that his Transfiguration is partially constituted in the shift from relating to time as quantitative to understanding that moments with similar archetypal qualities resonate in a qualitative way that seems to exceed linear temporality. Although the two Bobby Zimmermans were materially unconnected, the mode of thought Dylan enacts, which appears coextensive with the generally predominant mode of thought prior to the seventeenth century, sees a closer connection between the young man who would become Dylan and another young man with the same name who had died years before than between Bobby Zimmerman from Hibbing and the famous singer Bob Dylan. As Dylan asserts, he can never go back to being Bobby Zimmerman no matter how much he might want to revisit his former self, for this is apparently the price one must pay for Transfiguration: it is impossible to unknow something once it has been deeply experienced. Or as Heraclitus expressed it: “You cannot step into the same river twice.”

According to Dylan, this shift in perspective has been a primary factor in allowing him to do what he has done, “to crawl out from under the chaos and fly above it,” for in this mode of thought, the chaotic meaninglessness of pure materialism, consisting of atoms randomly colliding for no reason, can be overcome by embracing a view of life as filled with cosmic significance, though hopefully tempered by intellectual rigor. The material facts do not change in this mode of relation, though the results of approaching the world in this way constitute “that slightest change of tone which yet make all the difference,” as Whitehead puts it. In his narrative of the two Bobby Zimmermans, Dylan seems to imply that something like the order of the world sacrificed another man with the same name as him to literalize the death of one of the most transformative figures in history’s original identity. This type of meaningful coincidence occurs frequently in literature and film, but our culture usually assumes that these instances are merely plot devices invented by the author rather than occurrences containing extra-textual meaning. Although there is no mode of causation that has been broadly accepted in the main streams of late modernity which could explain such a phenomenon, the ancient and well-established principles of formal and final causation offer just such an explanatory mode. From this perspective as articulated by Dylan, both the symbolic and literal deaths of the two Bobby Zimmermans are expressions of a formal cause, the sacrificial death and rebirth of the individually embodied shamanic archetype on a mass scale apparently luring culture towards a final cause, a collective Transfiguration at that moment in the mid-sixties.

[This is a (slightly modified) excerpt from my book, How Does It Feel?: Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and the Philosophy of Rock and Roll]

[i] Epstein 134.

[ii] Chronicles 79.

[iii] Rolling Stone 2012. The book Dylan is referring to is: Sonny Barger, Keith Zimmerman, and Kent Zimmerman, Hell’s Angel: The Life and Times of Sonny Barger and the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club (New York: William Morrow Paperbacks, 2001).

[iv] Holy Bible: King James Version (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 1979) 2 Corinthians 3:18.

[v] The King James Bible, Matthew 11:15.

[vi] “Bob Dylan: His Hells Angel Conversion,” The Guardian Music Blog,


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