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The Anarchy of Sense:

Husserl in Deleuze, Deleuze in Husserl

Nicolas de Warren
(KU Leuven)
In memory of Krzysztof Michalski
Les objections nont jamais rien apport.

It is one of the cruel ironies of the current wave of interest in the writings of Gilles
Deleuze that, for a philosopher who incessantly struggled against clichs in every form and guise,
so much of the secondary literature abounds in clichs of all forms and guises. This phenomenon
is especially apparent with assessments of Deleuzes confrontation with Husserl and the ways in
which critical features of transcendental phenomenology are reconfigured and transformed into
the transcendental empiricism of Logic of Sense and Difference and Repetition. Within this
literature, we find a veritable chaos of clichs with respect to Husserl in particular: Through the
epoch, phenomenology reduces any transcendental world or transcendent thing in itself to a
phenomenon; anything transcendent comes to be located within experience, the poch, or
bracketing, of the natural attitude gives rise to a pure consciousness distinct from the Cartesian
cogito in that evidence does not address the outside world, but rather the content of
consciousness, and other infelicities betray a less than adequate understanding circulating
through such thin images of Husserls thinking. This lack on the side of Husserl contrasts with a
fullness of paraphrasing and parroting on the side of Deleuze. We find here a delirious
reproduction of terms (singularity, intensity, impersonal transcendental field, etc) and statements
that merely succeeds in a spectacular fashioning of Deleuze.
Missing among this din is the kind of encounter between concepts that Deleuze himself
repeatedly orchestrated in his writings and for which he crafted a specific form of philosophical
discourse. As Deleuze writes in Thousand Plateaus, the first language, or rather the first
determination of language, is not the trope or metaphor but indirect discourse (Deleuze 1987,
76-77). With indirect discourse, boundaries between distinct figures (Husserl and Deleuze)
become porous and different points of view (Husserls thought is X, Deleuzes thought is Y)
become entangled. Indirect discourse is an assemblage of different voices within a voice rather
than a voice addressing or responding to another voice. A voice speaks through indirect discourse
a voice of ones own and yet not ones own. As the scene of a genuine encounter with thinking,
indirect discourse is neither a dialogue between two separate discourses nor a litigious game of
claims and counter-claims. Curiously, much of the contemporary attention surrounding Deleuze
takes the form of a direct discourse about a certain discourse Deleuze in opposition to another
certain discourse Husserl. Whether it is an issue of correcting Deleuzes mis-readings of
Husserl (and yet: to educate Deleuze in proper Husserlian is to miss the power of the false) or
amplifying Deleuzes over-coming of Husserlian phenomenology (and yet: to endorse what
Deleuze thought is to miss the power of repetition), each of these games reflects two images of
the philosopher (and hence of philosophy) identified in Logic of Sense: as a being of ascent
(Deleuze beyond Husserl) or as a being of depth (Deleuze deeper, i.e., more radical, than
Husserl). Opposed to these two images of philosophical discourse, Deleuze proposes a topology

of surfaces, neither height nor depth. 1 Such an assemblage is fitted through a series of reciprocal
complications and implications: internal complications produced through implications within an
outside and implications of an outside produced through complications within. 2 As Deleuze
remarks in Difference and Repetition: Commentaries in the history of philosophy should
represent a kind of slow motion, a congelation or immobilisation of the text: not only of the text
to which they relate, but also of the text in which they are inserted so much so that they have a
double existence and a corresponding ideal: the pure repetition of the former text and the present
text in one another (Deleuze 1994, xxii). The following is an experiment in just such a doublediscourse on Husserl in Deleuze, Deleuze in Husserl. My focus shall be limited to Deleuzes
confrontation with Husserl in one series from Logic of Sense. Likewise, I shall limit myself to a
set of concluding remarks meant to outline the contours of a more complicated entanglement
between Husserl and Deleuze that prospectively looks forward to Husserls Bernau Manuscripts
on time-consciousness through the lens of Deleuzes Logic of Sense. This confrontation between
Husserl and Deleuze on time will have to wait for another occasion, given the limited space
available here as well as my primary (and preliminary) interest in first complicating Deleuzes
confrontation with Husserl on the problem of sense.
Logic of Sense could also have been entitled Logic of Time. This logic of time is
constructed around a basic opposition between Chronos and Aion that traverses the entire series
of paradoxes that collectively assemble Deleuzes theory of sense. Chronos represents a
metaphysical conception of time that is wedded to thinking time as a chronological series of
present instants; only the present exists with the past and future relegated to simulation or nonbeing. Or rather, the past and the future owe their respective sense as before and after to the
present, as with Aristotles seminal definition of time as the number of movement with regard to
the before and the after. Aion envisions a heterogeneous temporalization that has broken with
linear succession and a field of temporal distribution centered on the present instant. As Deleuze
remarks: In accordance with Aion, only the past and future inhere or subsist in time. Instead of a
present which absorbs the past and future, a future and past divide the present at every instant and
subdivide ad infinitum into past and future, in both directions at once (Deleuze 1990, p. 188)
Aion is a line repeatedly re-configured and hence re-temporalized by an instant that is itself
repeatedly missing from its own place of occurrence. At every instant, the event of time (or
genesis) is an instance of subdivision into past and future. This instance of original
differentiation and complex repetition entails that the instant is always without place in time, out
of joint with the time that it itself originates. The instant arrives in no time at all. This Deleuzian
insight into the aleatory instant is only thinkable within a theory of sense that has broken with the
primacy of ontology. As Deleuze remarks in Thousand Plateaus: to overthrow ontology, do
away with foundations, and nullify endings and beginnings requires a logic of the AND
(Deleuze 1987, p. 25). The logic of the and implies an irreducible co-existence of the past and
the future without a founding axis on the is of the instant. Aristotles conception of time is
subverted: movement (or becoming) is the co-presence of the past and the future with regard to
an instant of time that never is. Likewise, this logic of the AND requires a logic of sense that
has broken with thinking of sense on the basis of an opposition between being and non-being,
much as the temporality of Aion breaks with an opposition between the present that is and the
past, the future that are not.


See Logic of Sense, Eighteenth Series of the Three Images of Philosophers.

See Franois Zourabichvili, La philosophie de Deleuze (Paris : PUF, 1994), p. 86.

Within Logic of Sense, the impassibility of sense and its power of genesis in the
Fourteenth Series of Double Causality forms a crucial paradox within the series paradoxes
through which Deleuze generates a theory of sense. Each of the thirty-four paradoxes in Logic of
Sense gives expression to the insight that sense is a non-existing entity, and, in fact, maintains
very special relations with nonsense (Deleuze 1990, p. ix). This pervading paradox of sense is
inseparable from the fragility of sense that, in yet another turn of paradox, defines sense as an
event of structuration. Genesis and Structure could be an appropriate sub-title for Logic of
Sense. The paradox in the Fourteenth Series marks an inflection point in the progression of
Deleuzes argument by generating a hypothesis that will guide the subsequent series of
paradoxes: the transcendental field as the domain and genetic power of singularities and antigeneralities that are impersonal and pre-individual. The fact that Deleuze evokes Husserl in the
context of generating this hypothesis is the focus of my interest in this paper; my concluding
suggestion is that this hypothesis is already implicated in Husserls problem of timeconsciousness, thus further complicating the encounter with Husserls transcendental
phenomenology for Deleuzes transcendental thinking.
As explored in the Fourteenth Series of Double Causality, the fragility of sense consists
in the impassibility of sense with respect to beings and states of affairs, by which is to be
understood that sense is an effect of corporeal causes and their mixture (Deleuze 1990, p. 109).
Sense is irreducible to its cause, such that the relationship between cause and effect is one of
heterogeneitya moment of non-sense dislocates the effect from its cause, not in order to
render the effect a cause on its own, but to produce an effect on its own, as the full autonomy of
the effect (Deleuze 1990, p. 109). The effect of sense is autonomous with regard to its (own)
cause. In a switch of formulation, Deleuze re-inscribes this opposition between impassibility
and genesis into an opposition between formal logic and transcendental logic, which is said
to traverse the entire theory of sense (Deleuze 1990, p. 110). This distinction is evidently drawn
from the discourse of transcendental philosophy, with Husserl here specifically invoked. With this
contradiction between the impassibility of sense and the power of generation, Deleuze implicitly
delineates the contours of his own transcendental empiricism and its transcendental principle of
intensity. Whereas intensity produces qualities and extended magnitudes (quantities), it is itself
effaced or displaced; intensity is indivisible or impassible, and yet itself transformed in dividing
itself into quality and quantity. As a transcendental principle, intensity is the co-presence of sense
and non-sense; it is a zero degree of maximal intensity that does not presuppose what it
(empirically) engenders (quality and quantity). This zero degree of intensity is the singularity of
the event of transcendental genesis.3
With this translation of the opposition between impassibility and genesis into the
opposition between formal logic and transcendental logic, it is not accidental that Deleuze
calls upon the example of Husserl in Ideen I. More than simply one possible example among
many, Husserls formulation of the transcendental structure of intentionality provides a singular
context and indispensable reference for the generation of Deleuzes hypothesis regarding the
transcendental field and its power of genesis. Logic of Sense can be read as a critique of the
noetic-noematic structure of intentionality in Ideen I, understood as a transcendental logic of
sense.4 In the Fourteenth Series, the focal point of Deleuzes interest in Husserl centers on the
intrigue presented by the concept of the noema. As Deleuze tacitly recognizes, the concept of the
noema is the decisive philosophical invention of Ideen I. The force of its originality as a concept,

See Chapter V Asymmetrical Synthesis of the Sensible in Difference and Repetition.

See Len Lawlor, Phenomenology and metaphysics, and chaos: on the fragility of the event in Deleuze, in: The Cambridge
Companion to Deleuze, eds. D.W. Smith and H. Somers-Hall (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012): 103-125. See also Alan
Beaulieu, Edmund Husserl, in: Deleuzes Philosophical Lineage, eds. G. Jones and J. Roffe (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University
Press, 2009): 261-281.

one of the most contested in Husserls thinking, consists in delineating a new problem in the
history of philosophy. This new problem posed in the concept of noema is the problem of sense
itself: every object has sense, but sense is not an object. There is, moreover, an essential
entanglement between the problem of sense and the problem of time, or more specifically, the
relation between time and movement as formulated by Aristotle: every movement, or change, is
in time, but time is not a movement; hence, time is not given without something happening,
without an object, and yet time is not an object. In the context of Husserls analysis of timeconsciousness, this Aristotelian formulation becomes translated into a distinction between time
and sensibility: every sensation is temporal, but time is itself not a sensation. 5 Sense is likewise
given within sensible experience; we see the tree as having such and such a sense, yet sense itself
is not a sensible (or intellectual) object. This phenomenological articulation of sense motivates
the problem of sense running through Logic of Sense: sense is a non-existing entity, and, in fact,
maintains a very special relation to nonsense (LS ix). This special relation to nonsense in the
problem of sense is embodied in the apparent nonsense, or ambiguity, haunting Husserls concept
of noema; it is as if the concept of noema risked its own nonsense in order to create a new sense
for the problem of sense as a non-existing entity. 6 The force of the problem that works itself
through the concept of the noema threatens to displace the sense of the concept itself. This
internal disruption of Husserls concept of the noema by its own indeterminacy or openness as a
problem accounts for its diverse impact on thinkers such as Heidegger, Fink, Derrida, Barthes,
and Deleuze.
The concept of the noema in Ideen I emerged from a lengthy period of gestation in
Husserls thinking that reaches back to the critique of psychologism in the Logical Investigations.
The details of this development cannot be investigated here nor can a reconstruction of Husserls
conception of the noema be hazarded in full. In brief, as Michalski cogently recognized, the
absurdity of psychologism for Husserl is not simply the result of mixing up two different
spheres of objects the real with the ideal, facts with meanings, but consists in the obfuscation
of a distinction between sense and object. The proper formulation of a distinction between
sense and object is inseparable from a proper clarification of consciousness in its structure of
intentionality. As Husserl argued in Logical Investigations, meanings are not objects in the
ordinary sense, they are only the manner in which objects are given to us; objects and meanings
are inseparably bound.7 The irreality of sense expresses the insight that sense itself is not
something existing in the manner of an object. As an ideal species, sense is equally not a
semantic construct since sense can be given, or fulfilled, in intuitive acts of consciousness; sense
is (perceptually) experienced. But, although Husserl succeeds in drawing a distinction between
sense and objects, and thus implicitly provides a first sketch of the paradox of sense, the handling
of the problem of sense in the Logical Investigations remained hampered by Husserls own
construal of the relationship between sense and experience in terms of a relation between species
(ideal species of sense) and particulars act of intentional consciousness. As Michalski notes, the
irreality of sense cannot be explained with the aid of such concepts as essence and individual,
since this way of thinking fails to do justice to its specific character, which prevents placing
meaning either on the side of subjectivity or objectivity. 8 This insight is crucial in two respects;
both insights set the course for the development of Husserls thinking during the years leading
from Logical Investigations to Ideen I. First: sense is an intentional correlate of consciousness

See Nicolas de Warren, Husserl and the Problem of Time (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009).

On the incomprehensibility of the noema, see Adornos schrill critique, Die Transzendenz des Dinglichen und Noematischen in
Husserls Phnomenologie, in: Gesammelte Schriften, I (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1973).

Krzysztof Michalski, Logic and Time. An Essay on Husserls Theory of Meaning (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1997), p.
26. Michalski speaks of meaning where I shall speak of sense. Husserls term is Sinn.

ibid., p. 32.

that is neither a content in consciousness (meaning is not in the head) nor an object in the form
of a thing or entity. Sense is neither subjective or objective, and yet sense is that in terms of
which objects are given or experienced to consciousness as such and such, namely, as having
such and such a sense. Second: the distinction between sense as an ideal species and its
instantiation in particular acts of consciousness in the Logical Investigations (i.e., Husserls
notion of intentional essence) is framed by a conception of intentionality based on the schema of
apprehension content of apprehension. This distinction further reflects a distinction between
generality and individual that imposes an ontological constraint on the problem of sense. As
Michalski remarks: Die Irrealitt des Sinnes, seine unzweifelhafte Unabhngigkeit vom
konkreten Kontext, in dem er erscheint, kann man mithin nicht mit Hilfe der Begriffe Wesen
and Individuum verstndlich machen. 9 We face here upon what Derrida has insightfully called
the anarchy of the noema. The noema does not have an origin in the different regions of being
nor can its sense be captured through traditional oppositions such as real-ideal, actualpossible, and individual-generality. As Derrida notes, the noema is anarchic not only due to its
lack of origin within a determinate region of being; it is anarchic in its disorderly movement, or
differentiation, in traversing and crossing-out different regions of being. 10
In response to problems engendered by his first breakthrough with the problem of sense
and intentionality in the Logical Investigations, epistemological as well as ontological, Husserl
creates the concept of noema to designate an irreducible dimension of sense that is neither
subjective nor objective, and that, moreover, cannot be fitted into an opposition between
generality and individuality (qua instantiation of a species). Husserls passage from ontology
to transcendental idealism passes through this discovery of the noema as ontologically anarchic,
yet transcendentally indispensable. Husserls transcendental idealism is the anarchy of ontology;
hence the supreme efforts with which Heidegger attempted to domesticate the destructive force of
transcendental thinking, in both Kant and Husserl, by muting its originality through a critique of
its supposed forgetting of being. The idea of noematic sense makes its first appearance in
Husserls 1908 lecture course on the theory of signification and has its linguistic baptism as a
technical term in 1912.11 Even though the presentation of the concept of noema in Ideen I is often
regarded as definitive, Husserl in fact continued to develop his conception and repeatedly
expressed his own dissatisfaction with its various formulations. As Husserl notes to himself in an
extended set of reflections entitled NOEMA und SINN from 1921: Ich muss die Begriffe von
Noesis und Noema neu gestalten.12 As with other concepts in Husserls thinking, the noema is an
experimental concept in the making over which Husserl never fully gained mastery. Even the
most cursory reading of his manuscript NOEMA und SINN (B III 12), due to appear in the
Husserliana edition Studien zur Struktur des Bewutseins, reveals a truly anarchic situation in
Husserls attempts to fit together different pieces of a puzzle for which is lacking a guiding
The noema is a complex structure within the noetic-noematic intentionality of
consciousness. I shall here presuppose a basic familiarity with the theory of intentionality as
developed in Ideen I and pass directly to a discussion of those aspects salient for Deleuzes

Krzysztof Michalski, Sinn und Tatsache. ber Husserls Auseinandersetzung mit dem Psychologismus, in: Offene Systeme II.
Logik und Zeit, eds. K. Maurin, K. Michalski, and E. Rudolph (Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1981): 329-370; p. 369 [The irreality of sense,
its unquestionable independence from concrete contexts, in which it appears, can not be made understandable with the assistance of
concepts such as essence and individual].

See the insightful remarks on the anarchy of the noema in Jacques Derrida, Genesis and Structure and Phenomenology, in:
Writing and Difference, trans. A. Bass (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978): 154-168; p. 163.

See Vorlesungen ber Bedeutungslehre. Sommersemester 1908, Hua XXVI; see Hua III/2, p. 567.
B III 12 IV/85a [I must design anew the concepts of noesis and noema].
This three-volume edition is currently under preparation by my colleague Ullrich Melle. Publication is expected in 2015.

thinking. The anarchy of the noema is structured around a nucleus of sense that is distinct but not
separate from the doxic modalities of consciousness, the noematic predicates of the object, and
what Husserl called noematic characteristics. The noematic nucleus of sense is impassible
and irreducible with regard to modalities of doxic belief: the different ways in which an object
appears as probable, questionable, etc. Likewise, what Husserl identifies as the noematic
predicates of an object or, in other words, the definite descriptions under which an object is
intended as such and such (as blue, round, etc.), are also distinct from the nucleus of noematic
sense. Finally, the noematic characteristics of an object, namely, the ways in which an object
appears as being-wishful, as being-desirable, etc., are equally distinct from the nucleus of
noematic sense.14 The noematic nucleus of sense designates the identical pole of unity that
supports the possible predicates and determinations of an object as intended. Different ways of
intending (perceiving, imagining, etc.) as well as different definite descriptions under which an
object appears are directed towards an ideal sense that is not identifiable with these different
noematic characteristics and dimensions.
In what is undoubtedly the critical thought behind the noema for Deleuze, the noema is
transcendent with regard to consciousness; it is not a reell part of consciousness (in contrast to
hyletic data and noetic acts), yet on the other hand, the noema is a non-independent part, i.e., it
does not enjoy a self-sufficient mode of being. The noema frames transcendence within
immanence, yet the transcendence of the noema does not signify that the noema exists
independently of consciousness. Indeed, the noema does not exist at all. Its manner of being
(Husserl speaks of Seinsweise des Noema) is ontologically ambiguous, anarchic. As Husserl
explains: Das in dieser Blickstellung Gegebene [das Noema] ist nun zwar selbst, logisch
gesprochen, ein Gegenstand, aber ein durchaus unselbstndiger. Sein esse besteht ausschlielich
in seinem percipi nur da dieser Satz nichts weniger als im Berkeleyschen Sinne gilt, da das
percipi das esse hier ja nicht als reelles Bestandstck enthlt.15 The noema is an object only in a
logical sense: it is an object only in being-reflected-upon within transcendental reflection under
the operator of the reduction. In the natural attitude, consciousness is directed towards the object
itself (the tree), not to the noema, even though the ways in which the object is given, or appears,
are inscribed within a noematic space of sense. It is only within the field of transcendental
experience, as a reduced phenomenon (i.e., a phenomenon produced in reflection), that we can
see and speak of the noema. The peculiarity of the noema as the logical object of reflection, and
hence not as a real (wirkliche) object, is that despite being an object of reflection, the noema is
not contained within this act of reflection. As Husserl stresses by drawing a contrast with
Berkeleys famous statement, the esse of the noema is not its percipi. In the case of a tree, for
example, it is both qua object not a real (reell) part of perception as well as an object that exists
independently of perception. By contrast, the perceptual noema of the tree as object, without
which no object is perceivable as such and such, is not a real (reell) part of consciousness and
yet it is also not an independent object. The tree can be burned, its noematic sense cannot. The
noema is thus a kind of virtuality and invisible dimension of sense within the natural attitude
without which actual (wirklich) objects cannot be experienced. The transcendence of the noema
within the immanence of consciousness is an ontologically ambiguous transcendence that disrupts
ontology itself. In Deleuzes manner of expression, Husserl has effectively discovered the
ontological paradox of sense, and this paradox can only be formulated within a framework of
transcendental thinking.

See Ideen I, 98 ff.


Ideen I, Hua III/I, p. 229-230 (my emphasis). Kerstens English translation (p. 241) has botched this decisive statement: Its esse
consists exclusively of its percipiexcept that this proposition does not have the Berkeleyian sense because here the esse does not
include the percipi as a really inherent component piece (my emphasis). A correct translation, however, for this clause should read:
the percipe does not include the esse as its real part. Kersten, in other words, has reversed the orderan unconscious resistance to the
novelty of Husserls view of the noema?

The transcendental intrigue of the noema is however double. As Deleuze recognizes: In

this nucleus of noematic sense, there appears something even more intimate, a supremely or
transcendentally intimate center which is nothing other than the relation between sense itself
and the object in its reality. Relation and reality must now be engendered or constituted in a
transcendental manner (Deleuze 1990, p. 110). Deleuze here follows Paul Ricoeur (who in turn
follows Eugen Fink) in calling attention to the double transcendence within the Husserlian
structure of intentionality (and not, as all too commonly understood, merely transcendence in
immanence). As Ricoeur observes at the beginning of his commentary to Section Four Vernunft
und Wirklichkeit of Ideen I: La IVe Section fait clater le cadre des analyses antrieures. Cellesci avaient pour thme le sens du nome et les multiples caractres qui les modifient, au
premier rang desquels on a plac les caractres doxiques. On a nglig un trait fondamental dus
sens (peru, imagin, jug, dsir, voulu, etc.): savoir quil se rapporte un objet.16
Consciousness is transcended by a noematic sense; yet, noematic sense is itself transcended with
its relation to (its) object. As Husserl writes in Ideen I: Jedes Noema hat einen Inhalt, nmlich
seinen Sinn und bezieht sich durch ihn auf seinen Gegenstand.17 The structure of
intentionality is thus three-fold: noesis (and non-intentional hyletic content), noema, and object.
In Ideen I, this dual complication within the concept of noema is reflected in the distribution of
Husserls presentation of the noema: it is first introduced as noematic sense in relation to noetic
acts in the Third Section, 87-99, and taken up a second time in the Fourth Section, 128-135
in terms of the noematic sense and its relation to the object. This distribution reflects two contexts
in which the noema operates. 18 The paradox of the noema can thus be formulated: the
transcendence of noematic sense within immanence of consciousness (the intentional experience
or phenomenon) is punctured or transcended (Ricoeur speaks of an absolutely novel
dimension) by a relation to the real. Every object is given with a sense (as such and such), yet
sense is not an object; moreover, the object itselfthe realcan only be related through a sense
that is itself ontologically ambiguous. Sense is neither objective nor subjective, yet without
sense the distance between subjective and object can neither be measured nor traversed. The
ambiguity of the noema consists in the difficulty of distinguishing between the noematic nucleus
as the subject of predication (as the ideal of sense within the noematic object) or as the subject of
the actual object. This difficulty can equally be expressed as the challenge of distinguishing
between the problem of sense within a context of signification (logic of judgment and semantic
meaning) and within a context of reason (logic of truth and evidence), but also, of relating the
problem of the noema within each context to the other.
The entire problem of the noema in its double significance is contracted within Deleuzes
Fourteenth Series in Logic of Sense. Deleuze implicitly construes the ambiguity of the noema in
terms of an opposition between formal logic and transcendental logic. The first moment of
the noema (noesis and noematic sense) is understood as stating the impassibility of sense; the
second moment of the noema (noematic sense and object) is understood as stating the
transcendental problem of genesis: relation and reality must now be engendered or constituted in
a transcendental manner. Yet, Deleuze argues that Husserlian genesis (by which Deleuze does
not have in mind what Husserl properly considered as genetic phenomenology) is based on a
slight of hand (un tour de passe-passe). Deleuze considers the noematic nucleus of sense as an
attribute or predicate of the object. The noematic core is thus understood as a form of the
conceptual, as marking off a sense that must be said, or predicated, of something, the object itself.

Ides directrices pour une phnomnologie, trans. P. Ricoeur (Paris: Gallimard, 1950), p. 431.
Hua III/I, p. 436 [Every noema has its content, namely, its sense and relates through this sense to its object].


See most recently, tienne Bimbenet, La double thorie du nome: sur le perspectivisme husserlien, in: Husserl. La science des
phnomnes, eds. A. Grandjean and L. Perreau (Paris: CNRS ditions: 2012): 187-211.

This object is an identity and pole of unification, the object X. The first consequence of this
Husserlian conception of the noema is that sense is not an event or verb but a concept. This is
reflected in Deleuzes depiction of noematic sense as a predicate of the object and hence, as
defined by the form of judgment. Deleuze here clearly reads the noematic sense within the
framework of Husserls theory of signification and thus in terms of the ideal sense of judgments
(what can be said of an object). The second consequence is that the relation between sense and
object is the natural result of the relation between noematic predicatesa something = x which is
capable of functioning as their support or principle of unification (Deleuze 1990, p. 111). Here,
Deleuze reads the noematic nucleus through the lens of Husserls theory of knowledge or, in other
words, in terms of the noematic sense as intuitively given within experience (what can be seen of
the object).19 In the first case, the noema functions within a theory of signification
(Bedeutungslehre) or what Deleuze calls formal logic. In the second case, the noema functions
within a theory of reason (or truth) or what Deleuze calls transcendental logic. 20 Yet, Deleuze
commits his own slight of hand with both of his own characterizations: the first passes into the
second in order for Deleuze to argue that Husserl fails to distinguish one from the other. In fact,
Deleuze betrays a Fregean manner of reading the relation between noematic sense and object. As
he remarks: It has in relation to sense an extrinsic, rational relation of transcendence, and gives
itself, ready-made, the form of denotation, just as sense, as a predicable generality, was giving
itself, ready-made, the form of signification (Deleuze 1990, p. 111). For Deleuze, in other words,
formal logic (noema as logic of signification) and transcendental logic (noema as logic of
truth) collapse into one structure of signification: the conceptual of form of judgment. This is not
only to miss that Husserl has already undermined the traditional image of truth as located in the
judgment (and representation) but also that the noema is arguably not an intervening
representation or object (contrary to the so-called West Coast view of the noema as a Fregean
Sinn) that mediates the relation to the object. 21 But nor is the object the thing in itself set apart
behind appearances since, for Husserl, it is the object itself (the tree) that appears through the
noema; the noema defines the space of meaning in which the object is given, or experienced, as
such and such since the noema is the appearing of the object itself, even if the noema itself is
nothing that appears as such.
I shall not adjudicate the complex interpretative issues surrounding the proper sense of
the concept of noema and whether a coherent account is indeed at all achievable. My interest is
instead to pursue the strategic function of Deleuzes construal of the noema, regardless of
whether it is strictly speaking correct or incorrect. This is not to dismiss the question of
properly understanding the noema; it is however to grasp in the first place how Deleuzes
construal of the noema provides critical leverage for proposing that this thing = x is not at all
therefore like a nonsense internal and co-present to sense, or a point zero presupposing nothing of
what it necessarily engenders. It is rather the Kantian object = x, where x means in general
(Deleuze 1990, p. 111). The power of the false is the strategic function of a concept that might
otherwise strictly speaking be false in its intended meaning. Deleuzes objection repeats, on the
one hand, the problematic conception of intentional essence, which Husserl had already
abandoned from the Logical Investigations: Deleuze implicitly considers the relation between
noematic sense and object in terms of a relation between individuation and generality. On the

On the difficulty of distinguishing between these two senses of the noema and these two contexts of Husserls thinking (theory of
signification and theory of knowledge/truth), see Rudolf Bernet, Le concept de nome, in: La vie du sujet (Paris: PUF, 1994), p. 90

A closer examination of this Deleuzian distinction in this Husserlian context of discussion would reveal, however, that Deleuze
projects a Kantian distinction between formal logic and transcendental logic onto Ideen Iand thus not strictly speaking a Husserlian
distinction between formal logic and transcendental logic as developed in Formal and Transcendental Logic.

For a classic interpretation of the noema against the Fregean view of Follesdal and others, see John Drummond, Husserlian
Intentionality and Non-foundational Realism (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1990).

other hand, regardless of whether Deleuzes reading of the noema is plausible, his objection
motivates a transcendental desiderata that shapes his principal hypothesis: instead of the object as
an identity, or pole of unification of sense, Deleuze proposes to collapse, as it were, the Real
(object) into an internal and indeterminate (non-identifiable) instance within sense. This instance
of non-sense within sense would effectively puncture sense from within through an outside
(dehors) that would not however have the form of transcendence within immanence.
This Deleuzian critique of Husserls conception of the relation between noematic sense
and object as conforming to an ontological structure of predication and judgment (and hence, a
form of direct discourse) is supplemented by a second objection that brings more clearly into
view Deleuzes basic critique of Husserls transcendental thinking. The notion of the noematic
sense as a conceptual predicate of the object is taken as evidence for the claim that Husserl is
unable to differentiate between the (constituting) transcendental field of genesis and (constituted)
empirical structures. In the case of the noema, the formal logic of signification is structurally
indiscernible and hence isomorphic to the transcendental logic of genesis; or, in other words,
the two functions of the noema, on this Deleuzian reading, partake of the same empirical
structure of conceptual (i.e., predicative) thinking. Deleuze finds additional warrant for this
critique with the charge that Husserl ultimately conceives of the transcendental field on the basis
of common sense. The reduction in Husserl is not radical enough. The genuine field of the
transcendental has not been discovered by the reduction of Ideen I, which, instead, remains
captive to a natural manner of thinking or, according to the concept of Deleuzes Difference
and Repetition, an image of thought.22
In Logic of Sense, Deleuze sketches in one rapid motion the thought that: in conformity
with the requirements of the phenomenological methods of reduction, Husserl clearly indicated
the independence of sense from a certain number of these modes or points of view [ empirical
perception, imagination, memory, understanding, volition]. But what prevents him from
conceiving sense as a full (impenetrable) neutrality is his concern with retaining in sense the
rational mode of a good sense and a common sense, as he presents incorrectly the latter as a
matrix or a non-modalized root-form (Urdoxa). It is this same concern which makes him
conserve the form of consciousness within the transcendental (Deleuze 1990, p. 117). With this
statement, one recognizes more clearly the sense given to the impassibility of sense in the
noematic nucleus for Deleuze. The various characterizations of noetic consciousness (perception,
imagination, etc.), the noematic sense-predicates of the object (red, blue, round, etc.), and
noematic characteristics (the object in its appearance as being desirably, being-wishful, etc)
are taken here as points of view that gather around a nucleus of sense that itself remains
impassible and neutral towards subjective and objective alignments, including, most
significantly, any measure (or ratio) spanning both alignments, as with the Husserlian
transcendental structure of intentionality. The nucleus of sense is for Deleuze to be thought as an
event prior to the crystallizations of noetic and noematic dimensions of intentionality. In
fact, taking a cue from Derridas insight that the difficult but decisive theme of the non-real
(reell) inclusion of the noema opens up the possibility that within consciousness there is an
agency which does not really belong to it, we can recognize how Deleuze seeks to liberate the
implied agency of the noema within consciousness from the form of consciousness. 23
Husserl, however, is prevented from this emancipation of the transcendental event due to
his rationalization of genesis, by which is meant, his fixing the nucleus of sense to an identity

A more complete reflection on Deleuzes critique of Husserls commitment to Urdoxa would have to turn in greater detail to the
discussion of Chapter III The Image of Thought.

Jacques Derrida, Genesis and Structure and Phenomenology, p. 163.

that in turn reflects a complicity with the primacy of Urdoxa as an unmodified core of doxic
belief. Deleuze suspicion against Husserls transcendental program targets in particular Husserls
metaphor of the nucleus: Nucleus-metaphors are disquieting; they envelop the very thing which
is in question (Deleuze 1990, p. 112). 24 What is in question for Deleuze is the event of sense or
what he also calls the bestowal of sense or genesis. The transcendental event of sense cannot
be thought in the form of consciousness; liberating the event of sense from its noematic concept
as well as from common sense would emancipate the transcendental field from the form of
consciousness. The specific meaning of this de-personalization or asubjective conception of
the transcendental field is apparent from Deleuzes claim, directed against Kant as well as
Husserl, that the transcendental syntheses are deduced from corresponding psychological
syntheses, and this, so Deleuze, is no less evident in Husserl when he deduces an originary and
transcendental Seeing from perceptual vision (Deleuze 1990, p. 112). This structural
isomorphism between the empirical and the transcendental stems from an adherence to common
sense or, in other words, the failure to institute a radical and genuine break with the natural
attitude and its image of thought (thinking as representation, knowing as based on identity, etc).
In the concept of the noema, the force of the question of sense traverses Husserls thinking so as
to leave it powerless to realize its own transcendental promise. This powerlessness within
Husserls transcendental phenomenology structures the entire dimension of manifestation, in the
position of a transcendental subject, which retains the form of the person, of personal
consciousness, and of subjectivity identity, and which is satisfied with creating the transcendental
out of the characteristics of the empirical (Deleuze 1990, p. 111-112).
Husserl succumbs to a conflation, or lack of proper differentiation, between the
transcendental and the empirical, the foundation and the founded, the constituting and the
constituted. Transcendental genesis is dcalqu from the empirical with the consequence that the
difference between the transcendental and the empirical collapses. This collapse of the distinction
between the transcendental and the empirical is witnesses in the determination of the
transcendental field as a form of consciousness. Yet, this inability to fully realize transcendental
thinking also reflects an isomorphism between constituting and constituted with the result of
a vicious circle between transcendental foundation and what is founded as empirical. The
salient point for Deleuze is this identity spanning transcendental principles and their empirical
production. Transcendental empiricism in the manner envisioned by Deleuze crystallizes in the
recognition that transcendental conditions have a different form of being than what is founded;
indeed, these conditions and operations are situated on another plane than the plane, or order, of
what is constituted, and are, in fact, without being. A logic of sense breaks with a logic of the IS
and develops in its place and as its displacement a logic of AND in the temporality of Aion. By
contrast, Deleuze sees in Husserl a rationalized caricature of the true genesis, or transcendental
temporality: It seems that Husserl does not think about genesis on the basis of a necessarily
paradoxical instance, which, properly speaking, would be non-identifiable (lacking its own
identity and its own origin) (Deleuze 1990, p. 111). The bestowal of sense (or event of sense),
as Deleuze further specifies, may occur only within a transcendental field which would
correspond to the conditions posed by Sartre in his decisive article of 1937: an impersonal
transcendental field, not having the form of a synthetic personal consciousness or a subjective
identitywith the subject, on the contrary, being always constituted (Deleuze 1990, p. 112).
This critique of Husserl leads to the formulation of the critical hypothesis motivating Deleuzes
transcendental empiricism and the subsequent series of paradoxes in Logic of Sense: The idea of

Once again, Derridas discussion of the noema is quietly present in Deleuzes thinking. As Derrida observes: Doubtless it [ the
noema] can rightfully be laid bare only on the basis of intentional consciousness, but it does not borrow from intentional
consciousness what metaphorically we might call, by avoiding the realization of consciousness, its material. Deleuzes own
suspicion against the metaphor of nucleus calls attention to the way in which this metaphor represents a borrowing, as it were, of the
noemas material from the materiality of consciousness (the nucleus of its Urdoxa and identity).


singularities, and thus of anti-generalities, which are however impersonal and pre-individual,
must now serve as our hypothesis for the determination of this domain and its genetic power
(Deleuze 1990, p. 113). What remains unthinkable in Husserl is an impersonal transcendental
field and transcendental genesis based on the concepts of intensity, singularity, and the nonidentifiable zero-degree of an instant presupposing nothing of what it engendersan instant
perpetually out of joint with time itself.
I would like to conclude with a hypothesis of my own, in fact, a hypothesis inserted into
Deleuzes own hypothesis: the splendor of the pronoun one, by which Deleuze speaks of the
event of impersonal individuations and pre-individual singularities within the transcendental
field of genesis, is already on display in Husserls reflections on time-consciousness in the Bernau
manuscripts. Deleuze is indeed onto something in Husserls thinking, something anarchic, but in
fact something else in Husserl is already onto Deleuzes thinking. There is a force common to
Husserl and Deleuze; each pursues the problem of sense into the impersonal domain of
transcendental genesis that reverses ontology through a logic of time based on the original
differentiation of past and future. This is not to claim that the projects of Husserl and Deleuze are
identical. It is, however, to further complicate the conceptions of time and sense in Husserl and
Deleuze by implicating each other.
Written in the fall of 1917 and the spring of 1918, Husserl produced a remarkable set of
research manuscripts around as series paradoxes that animated the phenomenological problem of
inner time-consciousness; by Husserls own admission, the most difficult of all problems for
phenomenology. When seen through the lens of Deleuzes transcendental desiderata for an
impersonal transcendental field of genesis, the Bernau manuscripts emerge in their own
impersonal splendor.
The Bernau manuscripts are characterized by an unrelenting dedication to a pure
experience of thinking. Written during the apocalyptic years of 1917 and 1918, these writings
bear no trace of the world in which they are written, in both its historical and biographical forms:
the final days of European humanity in the Great War and the loss of Husserls son Wolfgang,
killed at Verdun in 1916. One is here reminded of the reflections on time set apart from the world
and history in the Swiss sanatorium of Thomas Manns Magic Mountain. In the Bernau
manuscripts, it is as if Husserl created his own sanatorium in which he turned to the problem of
time-consciousness just as the end of time appeared ever so near. These writings, especially when
contrasted with Husserls war-time lectures on Fichte in 1917 and his Kaizo articles on renewal
after the war, exhibit a total suspension of the mobilization of the intellect that was the first
causality of the war and to which Husserl himself succumbed. These manuscripts are entirely
given over to a description of the thing itself, the transcendental stream of time-consciousness,
and to nothing else, as if historical and biographical time have been immobilized and suspended
in order for time itself to appear in its transcendental field of genesis.
There is a more general feature of Husserls thinking that becomes expressed in a
concentrated form in these manuscripts, namely, writing as the power of repetition. This
experience of thinking was inseparable from its materialization in writing. Yet, the kind of writing
that Husserl fashioned in his thinking was primarily a form of research, not intended for
publication or, indeed, any defined audience, other than himself. But even here, there are
moments when one senses Husserls thinking in the grasp of an idea, or force, such that even the
question of whether these writings are addressed to Husserl himself becomes problematic. The
private or personal character of Husserls research manuscripts is not adequately seen for


what it is when seen in contrast to publications, lecture courses and other public-oriented
writings. The Bernau manuscripts are moreover not a cohesive body of writings; they are an
assemblage of patchwork investigations, with not every series of reflections in alignment with the
others. Within these writings, we experience a complicated form of repetition and simultaneity, as
if all of these series of reflections were simultaneously thought together without thereby forming
a coherent or unitary whole. The empty spaces or silences between the manuscripts are often as
meaningful as the materialized thoughts themselves. Husserl repeats the same insights and
continuously returns to the same formulations, drawing and re-drawing over and over again the
same distinctions and returning, time and again, to the same conceptual landscape. Perhaps,
indeed, the purest expression of thinking for Husserl, on display in these writings (but also
elsewhere in his rhizomic corpus), is to bring into play simultaneously different repetitions of
thinking, with their differences in kind and rhythm, their respective displacements and disguises,
their divergences and decenterings; to embed them in one another and to envelop one or the other
in illusions of effect of which varies in each case. 25
Husserl develops in these writings a phenomenological analysis of the genesis of the
transcendental field of consciousness as initially prepared or discovered through the reduction of
Ideen I. If Ideen I opened a field of transcendental experience organized by the noetic-noematic
structure of intentionality, this absolute dimension of transcendental consciousness is nonetheless
perforated by a hole. This hole within Ideen I is marked by the exclusion of the problem of timeconsciousness, as Husserl readily acknowledges in 81: The transcendentally absolute which
we have brought about by the reduction is, in truth, not what is ultimate; it is something which
constitutes itself in a certain profound and completely peculiar sense of its own and which has its
primal source in what is ultimately and truly absolute. 26 The writings on time-consciousness in
the Bernau manuscripts are inserted into this hole within the field of transcendental subjectivity in
search of what is ultimately and truly absolute, namely, absolute time-consciousness. As Husserl
slowly came to recognize, the question of the self-constitution of absolute time-consciousness is
not posed at the level of transcendence in immanence, but at the deeper level of preimmanence or, in other words, the genesis or stream of an original time-consciousness in
which the noetic-noematic structure of intentionality (and hence the ego-pole and object-pole) are
situated and constituted.
Although the experience of thinking in the Bernau manuscripts is centered on the
problem of time-consciousness or, in other words, the stream, or genesis, of the transcendental
field, there is in fact no one problem that directs Husserls thinking. In fact, these writings are as
much workings on a set of problems as they are worked through a set of problems that remain
indeterminate and thus open as problems. Most of all, these writings are a veritable laboratory for
creation or birth of new problems. Here, I want to suggest that one of the principle problems that
traverse these writings is what Husserl comes to understand and formulate as paradox of
subjectivity. As Husserl would more fully confront in his C-Manuscripts on time-consciousness
and in Crisis of the European Sciences, the paradox of human subjectivity (die Paradoxie der
menschlichen Subjektivitt) centers on the question of the unity and identity of empirical ego and
transcendental ego. As Husserl writes in 53 of the Crisis: But now a truly serious difficulty
arises which assails our whole undertaking and the sense of its results and indeed necessitates a
reshaping of both: how is transcendental subjectivity both a world-constituting subjectivity and
incorporated in the world itself as something constituted? 27 This paradox of subjectivity expresses

To inject Deleuzes description of the highest object of art from Difference and Repetition, p. 293.


Hua III/I, p. 163/p. 193.


Husserl, The Crisis of the European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology, trans. D. Carr (Evanston: Northwestern
University Press, 1970), p. 178 ff.


the paradox of the transcendental field as not being-identical or resembling with what it originates
or constitutes. The domain of the transcendental field and the power of transcendental genesis is
paradoxical in this sense that it differentiates and displaces itself from the plane of its own
constitution. The stream of transcendental temporality has a different form of being than what
is founded or constituted within it. Indeed, as Husserl seeks to express with his preferred
terminology of the stream and process, the transcendental field of time-consciousness is a
becoming that cannot be thought in terms of being. Transcendental temporality is therefore not
the self-constitution the being of transcendental subjectivity (as Heidegger claimed) that would
bestow sense on the world, but the genesis or becoming of a world (what Husserl later calls
Verweltlichung) for a consciousness itself in becoming.
In the Bernau manuscripts, we witness a first becoming of this problem with the
appearance of the concept of Ur-Ich.28 The streaming of hyletic data (or points of intensities) is
polarized around one singular Ur-Ich.29 Although Husserl speaks of the Ur-Ich as a subjective
pole, the Ur-Ich is within the context of the Bernau reflections not identical with the ego-pole of
the noetic-noematic intentionality of Ideen I or the ego-person of habits in Ideen II. The Ur-Ich
correlates to original affections or the intensities of hyletic affections, yet as Husserl further
specifies, the Ur-Ich is the genesis of the ego. Husserl even speaks of a pre-ego (Vor-Ich) or, in
other words, a nascent or larval ego that is not yet individuated in the form of a constituted ego
and person. The Ur-Ich is pre-individual and impersonal yet paradoxically singular in being-egoless (its essential lack of being) in the sense of a tendency towards becoming an ego or subject.
Nothing, of course, in the Bernau manuscripts provides the final word on these and other
problems. But, indeed, as Deleuze remarks: How else can one write but of those things which
one doesnt know, or knows badly?30
Beaulieu A. (2009). Edmund Husserl, in: Deleuzes Philosophical Lineage. Edinburgh:
Edinburgh University Press, 2009.
Bernet R. (1994). La vie du sujet. Paris: PUF.
Bimbenet E. (2012), La double thorie du nome: sur le perspectivisme husserlien, in: Husserl.
La science des phnomnes. Paris: CNRS ditions : 187-211.
Deleuze G. and Guattari, F. (1987). A Thousand Plateaus. Minneapolis : University of Minnesota
Deleuze G. (1990). The Logic of Sense. London : Continuum Press.
Deleuze G. (1994). Difference and Repetition. New York : Columbia University Press.
Derrida J. (1978). Writing and Difference. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
de Warren N. (2009). Husserl and the Problem of Time. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

See text Nr. 15 from 1918.

Hua XXXIII, p. 286.
Difference and Repetition, p. xxi.


Husserl E. (1970). The Crisis of the European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology.
Evanston: Northwestern University Press.
Husserl E. (1976). Ideen zu einer reinen Phnomenologie und phnomenologischen Philosophie.
Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff. Hua III, 1.
Husserl E. (2001). Die Bernauer Manuskripte ber das Zeitbewutsein (1917/1918). Dordrecht:
Kluwer Academic Publishers. Hua XXXIII.
Lawlor L. (2012). Phenomenology and metaphysics, and chaos: on the fragility of the event in
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Michalski K. (1981). Sinn und Tatsache. ber Husserls Auseinandersetzung mit dem
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Michalski K. (1997), Logic and Time. An Essay on Husserls Theory of Meaning. Dordrecht:
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