Spar of the Authors! Deleuze v Levinas

Welcome to the newest Saturday rumble: Spar of the Authors! This weekly post will be an author v author “debate” focusing on the main points of tension from each author’s philosophies. The purpose of this segment is to learn about two common authors in debate and explain how their works may clash. This first week’s “spar” is between Gilles Deleuze and Emmanuel Levinas.

by guest author: Logan Reed


Ideal theory bad

Liberalism bad (dump that most Deleuze debaters have)

Ideal theory/Liberalism good (may be the same or different)

Levinas is ideal because he thinks we should still abstract, we should just abstract to the level of inter-social interaction

Ontology > Ethics as a prior question.

-Similar but slightly different response is “western metaphysics bad”

–       Ethics > Ontology may also implicate Levinas first

–       Universalizable theories good

Levinas is problematic: mostly criticisms about racism and sexism, though there’s also a Disability K about ‘facing’ the other or standing being a link (not my favorite). These (other than disability) seem to link to his literature better than Kant’s (maybe not) Whatever responses available


Desire good

Affect gives better account of interaction with the other.

This can be tied in with ideal theory bad stuff (and can be read as an effective hijack)

The “interpersonal defines ethics” argument that is pretty standard to most Levinas syllogisms can be used to press Deleuzians on generating a moral obligation.

–       The argument would be that deleuze doesn’t have a coherent articulation of ethical obligations even if we buy his ontology claims because bad vs good affect doesn’t have a clear distinction (this is honestly a bit of an internal issue in Deleuzian theory).

I think this is very strategic in a meta where people tend to read impact justified Deleuze frameworks. There can be more meta framing issues here that would clarify impact calculus, like an ethical obligation (and by extension, ethical theory) by definition have to generate clear normative obligations.

Levinas essentializes the other and encounters with the other into one thing that can be understood through rational reflection which always falls short because some things are outside his conception of the other (Identity argument) OR because no account of the subject can fully understand encounters between bodies (core Deleuze)

This is also the internal link into microfascism impacts because this establishes that Levinas makes claims to a static subject

The Identity angle is pretty cool. Neo-Deleuzians would probably say Levinas’ subject and other is always already a white, cis het man and his obligations are built off a liberal order that presumes that type of subject

Encountering the other presumes we are not always in contact with the other. Deleuze says we are.

– Levinas’ theory cannot account for the always interconnected nature of the world

-Levinas’ system doesn’t consider the unstable nature of a subject

The subject is constituted via encounters with the other, not affect

Even if Deleuze/affect theory is the best evaluation of social relations, the Levinas framework or standard generates good obligations for generating desirable affect (kind of like a “rule Util” hijack?)

This works well with the one above because their explanation of good affect will probably end up sounding pretty consequentialist

Deleuze resolves Levinas’ standard offense

–       a Deleuzian would know the other has potentiality and affect they can never fully understand (affect is definitionally unable to be defined). This means they wouldn’t commit violations to the other Levinas says are bad like assuming to understand their subjectivity

STRATEGIC SPAR – general suggestions 

Deleuze debaters should really try to spin their impacts/alt/etc. as contention level offense under the Levinas framework and make a lot of hijacks depending on what syllogism is read. Working on impact calculus can reduce how much offense links to your standard. The Levinas debater should probably read truth testing and may want to beef up their “impact calculus” section of the debate.
The Deleuze debater should make the debate pre-fiat (e.g. with a Spikes K or something) because there’s better literature on Deleuze and affect in education than that for Levinas Levinas debaters can claim to solve the AFF or make perm arguments based on some of the convergent opinions of the authors.
A smart Deleuze debater will have an a priori or two (ironically easy to make with Deleuze) in case the Levinas debater triggers truth testing, as well as presumption because some of these framework arguments are defensive Both debaters should also read turns to their opponents’ framework that are independent of their own framework (this tends to be more devastating functionally to Levinas tricky debaters who skimp out on the contention often).
Kant bad generics here and attack specific parts of the Levinas framework There’s a lot of internal Kant stuff that Levinas borrows from that can be used against frameworks like Deleuze. I feel like a lot of generic Kant first cards can be used but not all of them.

Jayanne Forrest