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Deleuze, Hegel and the rhizomatic model of thought

Somers-Hall, Henry (2011) Deleuze, Hegel and the rhizomatic model of thought. ISSN 1752-5624

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One of the most influential notions of Deleuzian philosophy which shapes my aesthetic and artistic research is the idea of rendering visible invisible forces: in art, and in painting as in music, it is not a matter of reproducing or inventing forms, but of capturing forces. To paint for Deleuze means “the attempt to render visible forces that are not themselves visible” (Francis Bacon, The Logic of Sensation ). I extend this approach to digital technologies: with the digitalization of visual and sonic languages, and with the rise of the digital meta-language, data, sounds, vectors, shapes and pixels, are the minimal signifiers in the development of new hybridizations between micro and macro, tangible, intangible, natural, artificial. In a time where global warming, pan-toxicity, pesticide pollution, resource scarcity, and a host of environmental problems regularly appear in news headlines, the perennial question about what the relationship between humans and nature is and should be, is more pressing than ever. Our way of knowing and being in the world is the problem. As such, to address kinship imaginaries, is to approach the problem from the understanding that we must first change the way we think about nature and culture if we are to solve this problem. In this paper, I explore Hegel’s own analysis of the rhizome in the Philosophy of Nature. I show how Hegel’s analysis of the rhizome bears many similarities to that presented by Deleuze, but how ultimately, it is the difference between these accounts which is critical to understanding their relationship. I show how on the surface, Hegel’s analysis tracks Deleuze’s, showing that the rhizome presents a non oppositional structure that is governed by the logic of conjunction. Hegel argues, however, that such a decentred structure is unstable and ultimately collapses, leading dialectically to a centred arborescent structure. I show how Deleuze is well aware of this reading, and how his distinction between the decentred and the poly centred, and his characterisation of the multiplicity as an alternative to the many, allow him to avoid this implication.

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