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Between Natural Stupor and the Thought of Stupefaction: On Gilles Deleuze's Transcendental Stupidity

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Between Natural Stupor and the Thought of Stupefaction: On Gilles Deleuze's Transcendental Stupidity

Pollhammer, Andrew (2017) Between Natural Stupor and the Thought of Stupefaction: On Gilles Deleuze's Transcendental Stupidity. [Graduate Projects (Non-thesis)] (Unpublished)

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Abstract

In this essay I offer an exegetical account of Deleuze’s notion of “transcendental stupidity.” I show how Deleuze’s notion of transcendental stupidity concerns a fundamental inability on the part of human representational cognition to think difference conceptually. However, it is this very same inability to think difference by way of concepts that is at once representational cognition’s “greatest powerlessness” (to think difference) and its “highest power” since it is through the use of concepts that (at least for Deleuze’s transcendental philosophy) the maximal thinking of difference is possible, to the extent that concepts are pushed to the limit of what they can achieve toward this end. In the first section of this paper I provide a brief overview of some of the extant literature on the topic of Deleuze’s transcendental stupidity. I show here that while a fair amount has been written on the topic of transcendental stupidity more work is needed with regard to explaining some of Deleuze’s obscure statements on this notion in his magnum opus Difference and Repetition. Wirth (2015) and Posteraro (2016) offer insightful accounts of the influence of FWJ Schelling on Deleuze’s notion of transcendental stupidity, but both commentators emphasize the negative aspects of stupidity as a deleterious reality that has befallen human cognition. In contrast to these accounts, I will emphasize throughout this Major Research Paper the degree to which transcendental stupidity is very much a positive notion, precisely to the extent to which it is what allows for what Deleuze calls the “highest power” of thought (when pushed to the limit of its powers). In the second section of this paper I offer an account of the origins of the “problem of stupidity” in Deleuze’s work so as provide the reasons for why Deleuze wished to conceptualize a de jure transcendental (rather than empirical or de facto) stupidity in the first place. In the third section I will provide an explanatory account of transcendental stupidity by showing how it concerns a fundamental inability on the part of representational cognition to think difference (which Deleuze also calls an intensive groundlessness); however, it is this same fundamental inability which proves to be thought’s highest power toward the end of thinking difference. I will show that thought oscillates between a tendency toward ipseity (which I, following Deleuze, call thought’s “natural stupor” or “territorialization”) and a tendency toward differentiation or deterritorialization (the maximal limit of which I refer to as the “thought of stupefaction,” and which Deleuze refers to as “stupefied moments” of thought’s encounter with the sublime). Transcendental stupidity concerns this oscillation in the specific mode of human representational cognition.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Philosophy
Item Type:Graduate Projects (Non-thesis)
Authors:Pollhammer, Andrew
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:M.A.
Program:Philosophy
Date:August 2017
Keywords:Gilles Deleuze, Transcendental Stupidity, Friedrich Schelling, Bêtise, Intensity, Quantitative Difference
ID Code:983013
Deposited By: ANDREW POLLHAMMER
Deposited On:12 Sep 2017 13:35
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:56
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