This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
by exceeding both the literal and the metaphorical. The retrait functions beyond the literal and the (metaphysical concept of the) metaphorical because the “withdrawal of Being” is neither literal nor metaphorical. Rather, as Derrida remarks, it states “the condition of metaphoricity nonliterally” (71). This volume also includes essays on Barthes (“The Deaths of Roland Barthes”), Flaubert (“An Idea of Flaubert: ‘Plato’s Letter’”), Freud (“Me– Psychoanalysis”), Benjamin, Levinas, Heidegger, and Lacoue-Labarthe. “Racism’s Last Word” clarifies Derrida’s position vis-à-vis “the essence of evil, the worst, the superlative evil of the essence” defining the system of Britain’s South African apartheid. Derrida here denounces the history and logic of apartheid in no uncertain terms: “. . . like all racisms, it tends to pass segregation off as natural—and as the very law of the origin. Monstrosity of this political idiom” (379). In the end, Psyche: Inventions of the Other provides a useful and worthwhile portrait of Derrida’s philosophical, literary, and ethico-political concerns and commitments. One might say that it’s a question of expectation. Those readers expecting to find something radically original are advised to temper themselves; this is certainly not Derrida at his greatest. Nevertheless, the book does retain a certain documentary value, a record, as it were, of the breadth and byways of Derrida’s thought, a thought, lest we forget, the full effects of which remain to be thought.
The Johns Hopkins University TAREK R. DIKA
Jeffrey A. Bell. Philosophy at the Edge of Chaos: Gilles Deleuze and the Philosophy of Difference. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 2006. viii + 292 pages. In Philosophy at the Edge of Chaos, Jeffrey A. Bell analyses the ways in which Deleuze’s philosophy of difference maintains a systematic approach in order to make difference thinkable without reducing it to a predetermined identity or a systemic closure. He situates Deleuze’s thought within the tradition of Western metaphysics by referring to the critique of the metaphysics of presence that is carried out by Heidegger and Derrida. Bell rightfully argues for affinities between Deleuze, Heidegger, and Derrida with regard to their philosophical commitment to thinking difference. However, he attempts to show that it is only Deleuze who manages to sustain a valid account of a philosophical system that can think pure difference without eliminating the possibility of meaning. He argues that although both Deleuze and Derrida demonstrate the limits of the logic of either/or or of oppositional differentiation, only Deleuze gives us an account of a positive, non-binary mode of differentiation. In the first chapter, entitled “Systematic Thinking and the Philosophy of Difference,” Bell outlines two antagonistic trajectories in Western philosophy
M L N
that have generated diverse approaches to the question of system on the basis of the idea of the condition, which gives a sufficient account of what is real. He takes Hegel as the most distinctive representative of the first camp that attempted to maintain a self-present conceptual totality based on an understanding of reality that is coming into an ever-increasing comprehension of itself via the self-conscious realization of the Spirit. As opposed to Hegel’s systematic account that is anchored by the self-comprehending Notion, Bell proposes Nietzsche’s perspectivism that evaluates a complete philosophical system against the backdrop of the life-condition that it presupposes. Nietzsche suggests an evaluation of philosophical systems by looking at whether they are expressions of a descending or ascending life. Will to power refers to that irreducible and unique condition that distributes identifiable states and their associated values upon which beliefs and philosophical systems are erected. According to Bell, Nietzsche proposes will to power as the unidentifiable, uncommon condition that lies at the heart of any identifiable system. Bell starts his second chapter on Spinoza with the question of the nature of the relation between substance and its attributes. Drawing his inspiration from Deleuze’s non-dualistic reading of the Ethica, Bell claims that Spinoza’s substance should be understood as the self-ordering becoming which serves as the absolutely indeterminate condition for the actualization of determinate beings. Consequently, he argues that the attributes are the determinate order of identities immanent to the absolutely indeterminate substance as the selfordering becoming. Modes, on the other hand, are the actualization of the determinate order of attributes that become identifiable only when the latter are modified. Although the attributes are the intelligible identity and order immanent to self-ordering becoming, this identity is not something that is already established and waiting to be discovered. While the determinate things express the essence of self-ordering becoming, they are made determinate by virtue of the attributes and the modifications of these attributes. By giving a non-dualistic account of substance as the indeterminate and non-identifiable condition for the actualization of determinate beings, Bell demonstrates the centrality of the concept of expression in Deleuze’s reading of Spinoza. Bell continues to trace the theme of the conditions of possibility throughout his third chapter on Nietzsche. He interprets Nietzsche’s reversal of Platonism with regard to the shift that Nietzsche signaled concerning the philosophical understanding of the conditions that explain how things become. Taking sides with Deleuze against Heidegger, Bell argues that Nietzsche’s reversal amounts to a fundamental overcoming insofar as his critique attempts to reverse the very notion of reversal as well as its presupposed binary opposition. From that perspective, Nietzsche can be considered as a follower of Spinoza to the extent that their philosophical rigor amounts to a similar understanding of the reversal. They both propose a shift of the emphasis from an identifiable and common ground that reveals itself as a logic of either/or to a non-identifiable and uncommon both/and condition. Reading through Derrida’s famous essay “Plato’s Pharmacy,” which emphasizes
the ‘undecidable’ and ‘aneidetic’ as the condition that presupposes the decision of metaphysics embodied in the clear-cut oppositions, Bell argues that Nietzsche’s reversal has to be thought against the backdrop of the critique of the fundamental faith in opposite values. Then Bell discusses whether Heidegger was right in arguing that Nietzsche’s project of overcoming metaphysics was not successful due to the latter’s adherence to the primacy of life as the foundation for substituting Plato’s heavens. Heidegger argues that will to power is ultimately reducible to some form of self-presence. Therefore, he blames Nietzsche for falling back onto the metaphysics of presence and bypassing the question of the ontological difference. Hence we are left with the question: is Nietzsche’s project of overturning Platonism doomed to fail? Bell’s answer is a explicit “no” inasmuch as he takes Nietzsche’s project as not just the reversal of the condition from the eternal essences to a life-condition but also a reversal of reversal, that is, a shift of the conception of the origin. Bell follows Deleuze arguing that Nietzsche suggests a non-identifiable element that provides a both/and origin for any identifiable state inasmuch as his conception of will to power avoids providing a self-present condition for beings. In chapters four and five, Bell puts to the test Deleuze’s conceptual rigor in maintaining a philosophy of difference without falling back on some form of primordial unity. He makes a brief detour through Aristotle in order to demonstrate the validity of Heidegger’s critique of Aristotelian metaphysics. Bell demonstrates the way in which Aristotle postulates an unmoved mover to make conceivable the differences between genera in the same way in which he considers a genus or a species that acts as a ground for conceivable differences. Bell reads the Heideggerian critique of eidos in opposition to this model that can only think difference in terms of identity of a self-present Being. He demonstrates how Heidegger’s distinction between beings as presence and Being as presencing constitutes a fundamental difference that serves as the ground of his ontology. For Heidegger, only the postulation of an ontological difference that distinguishes fundamentally between the beings and their conditions of possibility will be able to resist the subordination of the presencing of eidos to the identity of logos. Nevertheless, Bell points out Heidegger’s failure to maintain a rigorous critique by reading through Derrida’s critique of the Heideggerian project. According to Derrida, defining the essence of Being as the systematic gathering of elements into an original being-at-once, Heidegger fails to recognize the fundamental difference (trace or différance in Derrida’s terms) that lies at the heart of beings. Bell emphasizes Derrida’s notion of différance as the presupposed non-identifiable condition for the possibility of a primordial plentitude from which disparate states and identifiable differences are derived. Likewise, Bell argues, Deleuze would object to Heidegger’s understanding of difference considered merely as a means for gathering into the primal unity of a self-contained Being. Bell contrasts this complete, self-contained meaning of Being with another that is advanced by Deleuze (and later Deleuze and
M L N
Guattari) in reference to Antonin Artaud’s notion of the body without organs. Providing a parallel reading of Derrida and Deleuze on Artaud’s writing, Bell observes the divergence in their reading of the body without organs. Whereas Derrida thinks that Artaud restores a purity of presence without interior difference via the notion of body without organs as the undifferentiated pure presence, Deleuze sees in this notion another level of differentiation alternative to the organization of organs. While Derrida dismisses the body without organs by identifying Artaud’s project with a repetition of the metaphysical tradition, Deleuze emphasizes the affinity of this notion with the immanent substance that serves as the uncommon and non-identifiable condition of possibility of identifiable elements. Distinguishing it from a unity whereby diverse elements are gathered by a transcendent element, Bell describes the body without organs as a self-produced, strange unity that is presupposed by identifiable units. It is to the development of this definition of body without organs as the undifferentiated and self-engendered substance that Bell turns in the second part of his book, “Rethinking System.” A dynamic system is both open and closed inasmuch as the elements of the system are in a relationship of consistency with one another. Following Bergson, Deleuze conceives of the virtual as the self-differing differentiating condition that allows for the emergence of identifiable actual beings. As the differentiating and unidentifiable condition, the virtual is distinct from the identifiable states it conditions: the virtual does not resemble the actual. Nevertheless, the virtual as the paradoxical instance, or the condition of possibility of the identifiable states, inheres or subsists in actual identifiable states by giving them their sufficient reason for change and becoming. Therefore, Bell continues, the virtual, as the transcendental condition for the possibility of identifiable beings, is inseparable from the empirical state of affairs. Likewise, a dynamic system is to be understood as both complete unto itself and open to an immanent chaos that allows the system to create novel adaptations by constantly posing new threats to it. Bell uses Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of chaosmos in order to emphasize the identity and completeness of cosmos together with chaos that subverts these. As a self-organized and dynamical system, chaosmos is simultaneously complete and open. According to Bell, the concept of the body without organs refers to the condition for the possibility of a non-causal correspondence between chaos and cosmos. Involving the immanent principle of auto-unification, it is the paradoxical element serving as the quasi-cause that draws singularities into relationships through which they are actualized. Dynamic systems are self-organized to the extent that there is no primordial, pre-fixed identity that governs their processes of organization. The concept of chaosmos implies an understanding of such a dynamic system at the edge of chaos that involves difference as its conditioning element. Only such a system will be complete and ordered while being open and chaotic at the same time. Bell concludes that philosophy involves thinking this uncommon and non-identifiable element within the common
and the identifiable: it is an encountering of the both/and condition as paradoxa within the logic of either/or. Bell’s work lays the ground to compare and contrast Deleuze’s thought with two fundamental figures of contemporary continental thought, Heidegger and Derrida, via the central theme of the critique of the metaphysics of presence. Tracing some of Derrida’s major texts and giving detailed accounts of Derrida’s and Deleuze’s respective readings of Nietzsche and Artaud within the context of systematic philosophy, Bell precisely distinguishes Derrida’s critique from Deleuze’s positive ontology. Secondly, he provides a detailed account of Deleuze’s philosophy of difference by going back to sources within the Western intellectual canon in order to trace the trajectory by which difference has been problematized. Providing a systematic outline of relevant themes from Plato, Aristotle, Spinoza, and Nietzsche, Bell unpacks Deleuze’s project in a larger context without merely reproducing his arguments. Nevertheless, Bell does not really provide us with a sufficient account of dynamic systems theory. Instead, he settles for a hasty overview with some preliminary suggestions and citations for the interested reader. That said, Jeffrey E. Bell’s Philosophy at the Edge of Chaos can be regarded as a significant contribution to the existing body of Deleuze scholarship, providing as it does a succinct recapitulation of some of the major Deleuzian arguments around the problematic of philosophical systems.
The Johns Hopkins University BICAN POLAT
Tracy McNulty. The Hostess: Hospitality, Femininity, and the Expropriation of Identity. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2007. liii + 279 pages. Reading Tracy McNulty’s The Hostess might lead one to believe that a kind of crisis of hospitality has occupied a central position within the Western cultural and intellectual imaginary for thousands of years—and that this crisis continues to profoundly effect narratives of identity, systems of belief, political and social structures, and sustained ethical inquiry. If this compelling claim is to be accepted, one might then be struck by the apparent audacity of a book which attempts to contribute something almost entirely new to the study of hospitality. What, after all, can a return to this question hope to contribute to a path of ethical inquiry already well-worn by thinkers no less accomplished than Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Martin Heidegger, and Emmanuel Lévinas? McNulty suggests in her brief sketch of these thinkers’ various philosophical confrontations that “every ethics is fundamentally an ethics of hospitality” (xv), that almost any critical interrogation of selfhood, property, and intersubjective relations has in some way responded to the