April 23, 2009

Whitehead’s God and Deleuze and Guattari’s body without organs

Apr 4, 2009 Without Criteria
from The Pinocchio Theory by Steven Shaviro

MIT Press informs me that my new book, Without Criteria: Kant, Whitehead, Deleuze, and Aesthetics, has now been published and will shortly be available (I am supposed to receive my own copies in the next week or so). (Amazon.com still lists the book as not being published until May 29, but you may be able to order it well before then elsewhere).

Of course, given the way academic publishing works, this means that it has been slightly more than a year since I sent the final copy of the manuscript to the Press. The time lag between submission and publication doesn’t seem to have changed at all in the almost twenty years since my first book was published, even though the technologies of publication have been completely revolutionized in the interim. (It will probably take the rise of new publishing operations, like the wonderful, open-source publisher re.press, to extend the benefits of new technologies to the sclerotic world of academic publishing). I don’t have a pdf of the book as published, I’m afraid, but near-final drafts of all the chapters are available here.

For the most part, I am happy with how Without Criteria came out. I managed to work through, to my own satisfaction (and hopefully other people’s as well), some of Whitehead’s weirder notions, like “eternal objects” and (especially) “God.” I developed Whitehead’s ideas about what he calls “feeling” in relation both to contemporary affect theory, and to contemporary biology. And I showed how strongly and deeply Whitehead’s metaphysics resonates with that of Deleuze. This is not a matter of saying that Deleuze was “influenced” by Whitehead, nor of reading Whitehead entirely through a Deleuzian lens. Rather, I looked at how the concerns of the two thinkers seem to intersect — the problems they look at are closely related, even when their answers to these problems differ. Whitehead’s eternal objects and Deleuze’s virtual are both given as answers to the same metaphysical problems; likewise Whitehead’s God and Deleuze and Guattari’s body without organs.

The one thing that I feel is lacking in the book — and that I have been increasingly concerned with in the year since I handed in the final copy — is a (re)consideration of Whitehead in the light of the issues raised by the (so-called) Speculative Realists. In particular, I finished Without Criteria before I had a chance to read Graham Harman’s Guerrilla Metaphysics, or Iain Grant’s Philosophies of Nature After Schelling. (I also didn’t read Alberto Toscano’s Theatre of Production carefully enough). All these books put my claims about the relation of Kant to Whitehead and to Deleuze in a different light.

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