Logic of Sens/ation: Two Conflicting Conceptions of Transdisciplinarity in Deleuze and Guattari

Central to Deleuze and Guattari’s theorisations concerning transdisciplinarity, and key   to Deleuze’s ontology, is the problem of communication across a real distinction or difference in kind. The dynamic at stake is the following: this difference cannot be negated or sublated yet there is a way to bypass it nondialectically.

In this paper I propose to tackle a sequence in Deleuze and Guattari’s oeuvre absolutely central to the problematic of aberrant nuptials introduced above: the confrontation between philosophy and art. More specifically, I will be examining two conflicting approaches to this relation in Deleuze’s, and Deleuze and Guattari’s, work and exploring the reasons for this conflict.

The first is to be found in The Logic of Sense (1969), in which Deleuze shows that art— specifically literary nonsense and humour—enables philosophy to reach an understanding of univocal being as a surface ontology comprised of a play of sense and nonsense wherein both disciplines are combined.

After meeting Guattari, Deleuze’s relation to art fundamentally changed. For Deleuze after Guattari, any framework bound to a conception of being that is in some way linguistic is not sufficiently open to the Outside (force, chance). Correlatively, art can open for philosophy a privileged route to the Outside only once it has broken free from the structuralist problematic of sense and nonsense.

With Deleuze’s Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation (1981), we find the anti-structuralist answer to the overly Carrollian Logic of Sense. With the term “Figure,” contrasted to the figurative, Deleuze makes it clear that he is following Lyotard who, in Discourse, Figure (1971), had argued for the irreducibility of the plastic and visual arts to the realm of language.

This irreducibility between art qua logic of sensation and philosophy qua logic of sense  is formalised in Deleuze and Guattari’s What is Philosophy? (1991). Here they distinguish between the philosophical “plane of immanence”—now decidedly a non-linguistic plane (contra the “plane of reference” of logic)—and the aesthetic “plane of composition,” which is discussed primarily with reference to the plastic and visual arts (rather than literature).

Thanks to Deleuze’s late engagement with Leibniz in The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque (1988), Deleuze and Guattari differentiate in 1991 between the event’s actualisation in  a state of affairs by a denoting proposition (logic), its counter-actualisation by philosophy, and its aesthetic realisation in “a body, a life.” The event is counter-actualised or actualised in philosophy and logic, but it is realised only in art.

As the discipline that formalises-constructs sensation, and thus the one most familiar with the real experience of the body, art most directly encounters the Outside of force and chance imprinted via sensation. Yet with Deleuze’s “Immanence: A Life” (1995), he problematises this a final time: art’s embodied and lived logic of sensation must combine with philosophy’s plane of immanence of thought to attain the absolute—immanence: a life—as both transdisciplinary and psycho-physical disjunctive synthesis.