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Deleuze and the Naming of God: Post-Secularism and the Future of Immanence by Daniel Colucciello Barber

Barber Cover

[Daniel Colucciello Barber introduces his book, Deleuze and the Naming of God: Post-Secularism and the Future of Immanence (Edinburgh University Press, 2014).]

This book emerged from my attempt to understand what is going on when Deleuze’s philosophy speaks about creation. Along these lines, “Deleuze and creation” names the problematic that consistently runs throughout the book, even as addressing this problematic requires working within the distinct registers of the philosophical, the theological, and the political. Creation, as I articulate it, names the enactment of that which would break or be incommensurable with the configuration of the present. In this manner, creation also names a political imperative: the task of bringing about a future that would be worthy of the name, one that could not be made recognizable within or analogous to the present.

It is not by chance that, when approaching this imperative, various philosophers—most prominently Agamben, Badiou, and Žižek—have sought to repurpose, in one way or another, the resources of Christian theology. Such an approach faces a number of severe difficulties, many of which revolve around a genealogy of Christianity, religion, and the secular modern. I have addressed the difficulties surrounding this genealogy in another book, On Diaspora, which I wrote concurrently with this one. In Deleuze and the Naming of God, however, I attend more precisely—or in a more conceptually explicit manner—to the question of how the creation of a future incommensurable with the present can be thought without any vestige of transcendence.

I think it is fair to say that the appeal of Christianity to the aforementioned philosophers is that it provides—through its expression of a reality that transcends the given—a means of imagining a future that would break with the presently given. While none of these philosophers would advocate a straightforward or canonical approach to Christianity, it remains the case that in their work the key conceptual issue of transcendence is only indirectly addressed. Deleuze’s thought, on the other hand—with its insistence on a philosophy of uncompromised immanence—provides a distinctive approach to the intersection between theology and creation. Such an approach allows one to more directly address some essential questions: If difference ceases to be thought as the difference between an immanent reality and an exterior, transcendent reality, then on what basis is it possible to think creation? If difference is without exteriority—immanent to immanence, one might say—then is it not the case that we are trapped within the presently given, and without any capacity to imagine an essentially different future?

These are questions that fall under the heading of political theology. However, in this book I insist that both the political and the theological should be understood according to the senselessness involved in differential immanence. This amounts to a refusal of efforts that would use the political as a means of giving sense to the theological, or that would use the theological as a means of giving sense to the political. These two modalities of effort still maintain recourse to the transcendent, for they seek to resolve the problem of one domain (the theological or the political) by means of the sense established by the other. My argument is that differential immanence names the reality of senselessness, which is irreducible to the sense established by both domains. What is at stake in immanence, then, is a differentiality that is essentially problematic. In other words, differentiality is antecedent to every attempt to resolve it—and it is this antecedent differentiality that insists on senselessness.

The politics of creation thus collapses into a politics of senselessness, one that is ultimately bound to the antagonism of immanence toward every transcendence. This means that attention must be diverted from the opposition between religion and the secular (or between the theological and the political), for this opposition is one between competing modes of transcendence, or competing modes of giving direction to senselessness. Attention must be given not to one side or the other—for both sides are on the side of transcendence—but rather to the senselessness of immanence.

That this is difficult or apparently impossible does not mean that we are in need of transcendence. If anything, it diagnoses the allure of transcendence as the allure of possessing sense, of possessing a means of orientation, and—most basically—of possessing a means of mitigating the difficulty or apparent impossibility of senselessness. It is in this vein that I oppose not only transcendence, but also the “affirmationist” reading of Deleuze’s immanence. This is because the allure of transcendence, insofar as it names the capacity to evade or supersede senselessness, is likewise apparent in attempts to cast senselessness as a positive object of affirmation.

In fact, immanence is no object at all, for its differentiality is essential, or antecedent to the imagination of any object of orientation. Differentiality is relayed by no other thing, but only ever by more differentiality. There is nothing, no object, to affirm or negate—including difference, which amounts to an interstitial intensity of non-being. To say it once again: differential immanence is senseless. Creation thus becomes a matter of experimenting with theoretical—as well as with ethical, affective, and aesthetic—habits that allow intelligence of a senselessness that is simultaneously wretched and a force of construction.

The simultaneity is key, for there is no dialectic of development, no playing the wretched and the constructive off of one another. What is necessary is to express wretchedness without reserve—without seeking to integrate it with apparently positive vectors of the present—at the same time that one experimentally constructs this wretchedness. Methodologically, this is the simultaneity of metaphilosophy (expression of wretchedness) and nonphilosophy (experimental construction of wretchedness), but I also articulate this simultaneity through a constellation of concepts: intolerability, belief into an immanently cracked world, utopia as the no-where that is now-here, and the fabulation of icons.

[A paperback version of Deleuze and the Naming of God : Post-Secularism and the Future of Immanence will be released in January 2015]


Daniel Colucciello Barber is Fellow at the Berlin Institute for Critical Inquiry , and is also the author of On Diaspora: Christianity, Religion, and Secularity (Cascade, 2011).



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