Critical Inquiry: Life, War, Earth

Eugene Holland reviews John Protevi's book.

protevi_life coverWith characteristic rigor, clarity, and modesty, John Protevi here adds to his earlier, similarly focused books a superb collection of essays focused on the interface between philosophy and science in Gilles Deleuze.  Drawing on cutting-edge research in the cognitive and life sciences, he is able on one hand to shed invaluable light on the relations among the interacting domains of the virtual, the intensive, and the actual, which are key to Deleuze’s ontology.  Case studies drawn from state-formation and military training (part 1), the embodied mind branch of cognitive science (part 2), and contemporary biology (part 3) provide rich illustrations of the dynamics of differentiation, individuation, and differenciation characteristic of those three interacting domains.  At the same time, and perhaps more surprisingly, Protevi is able on the other hand to show how Deleuze’s ontology “enables us to understand natural processes in multiple registers” in especially productive ways (p. 9).  For one thing, Protevi’s astonishing transdisciplinary reach enables us to see the same abstract machines of self-organization at work on very different materials at very different scales, ranging from the behavior of hurricanes to the behavior of single-cell bacteria (in somewhat the same way, albeit on very similar scales, that Michel Foucault discerned the abstract machine of disciplinary power to be operative in schools and hospitals as well as armies and prisons). 

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Published in: Critical Inquiry
By: Eugene Holland