Redescriptive Philosophy: Deleuze and Rorty

Paul Patton

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3 Citations (Scopus)


In one of his last essays on Derrida, Richard Rorty called for a “syncretic, ecumenical perspective” that would minimize differences between his own pragmatism and the “postmodernism” of French philosophers such as Foucault and Derrida (Rorty 1998b, 338). Any serious pursuit of this program would have to include Deleuze and Guattari at the head of the list of those French philosophers who have much in common with Rorty’s pragmatism. Because Rorty wrote very little on either Deleuze or Guattari, and almost nothing that is favorable, this might seem an implausible extension of his ecumenical perspective. At an early stage in his engagement with French “postmodern” philosophers, he wrote a brief review of Deleuze’s Nietzsche and Philosophy together with Richard Schacht’s Nietzsche , in which he painted a rather unfl attering picture of a Parisian silliness that was supposed to have cultivated and imitated “the more fatuous side of Nietzsche” (Rorty 1983, 620). Deleuze’s crime was to have taken seriously Nietzsche’s metaphysical system-building tendency and to have elaborated the theory of will to power in a manner that ultimately “dissolves everything into a mush of reactive forces in order to bring out their underlying nastiness” (Rorty 1983, 619). Thereafter, references to Deleuze in Rorty’s work are scarce and mostly consist of adding his name to lists of French “postmodernist” philosophers alongside Foucault, Lyotard, and Derrida. 1Rorty’s ignorance of Deleuze was matched by the latter’s cursory attention to his work as expressed in occasional ironic comments about “the Western democratic popular conception of philosophy.” The introduction to What Is Philosophy? abruptly asserts that the idea of philosophy as a “Western democratic conversation between friends has never produced the slightest concept” (Deleuze and Guattari, 1991, 12 [1994, 6]). 2 Deleuze later identifi es the leading proponent of this conception of philosophy in suggesting that it provides no more than the occasion for “pleasant or aggressive dinner conversations at Mr Rorty’s” (Deleuze and Guattari 1991, 138 [1994, 144]). Disagreement over the nature of concepts and their role in philosophy provides one of the striking points of difference between them. Deleuze’s insistence that philosophy creates concepts appears to be directly contradicted by Rorty’s insistence that there are no such things asconcepts, only the more or less systematic uses made by people of particular words. Because for Deleuze the invention of concepts is inseparable from the deployment of new vocabularies and new uses of words, it is not clear how far this is a serious difference between them. In any case, there are more than enough far-reaching similarities between their approaches to philosophy to make the lack of any sustained engagement between them regrettable. Their mutual misrecognition amounted to an unfortunate rendez-vous manqué in contemporary social and political philosophy.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDeleuze and Pragmatism
EditorsSimone Bignall, Sean Bowden, Paul Patton
Place of PublicationNew York and London
PublisherRoutledge, Taylor & Francis
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781315764870
ISBN (Print)9781138789531
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameRoutledge Studies in Contemporary Philosophy


  • Redescriptive Philosophy
  • Deleuze
  • Rorty
  • Derrida
  • Pragmatism


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