“Image of Thought: An Imaginary Dialogue with Gilles Deleuze in
COVID 19 times” by Saurabh Todariya
Care Consciously! # DEFEAT CORONA

I just received a call from my friend. She seems to be excited about unlock 1.0. I was not sanguine about it as I feel that still we have a long way to go. As the people working in the unorganised sector are reeling under the impacts of extended lockdown, there might be the possible slowdown. Finally the governments across the world are choosing economies over the lockdown as the lockdown strategy seemingly failed to contain the spread of the virus. However, it is also true that without lockdown and the adequate government preparation there could have been mayhem. Still the fact remains that the number of cases are rising steadily.

But the world is not the same anymore. Everywhere you see the people wearing masks but sometimes putting it off to breathe naturally; trying to follow social distancing in the crowded places.The spirit of togetherness and careless mingling with people does not seem to be possible in the near future. It is quite strange that we are struggling hard against our naturally and biologically acquired behaviour of social mingling.

And this produces the sense of homelessness in the world; a strangeness lurking in the familiarity. Sometimes I feel like a character from the movie Shawshank Redemption who finds the ways of the world completely odd having served a long sentence in prison.

Phenomenologically we can say that COVID 19 has de-worlded our world. The worldhood of the world is lost as we seem to be suspended in our personal spaces. But sometimes in this locked world, I feel that imagination is feeling free. Reason functions in a logical manner and therefore it presents a bleak picture of the current situation. But imagination relies on hope and therefore it can imagine a Possible world. Perhaps Imagination helps us to transcend ‘what is’ and to hope for the beautiful.

But philosophers have generally avoided imagination as it could corrupt the Truth. This is what Plato believed. And therefore poets, whose imagination trespasses into the unknown terrains, got no place in his “Republic” Reason gives us a comprehensive and consolidated picture of the Reality but at the same time reason could hardly see the emergence of the ‘new’. I feel that it would be interesting to have discussion with Gilles Deleuze in this regard. Deleuze had thought over the interesting themes in philosophy like imagination, sense, difference etc.

Me- Hi

Deleuze- Hello!

Me- Good to see you. Today I have been thinking about the Imagination. I feel that imagination is different from the other modes of thinking as it always gives rise to something new. What do you think about it?

Deleuze- I think you are right in understanding the imagination. However, we should also be aware of the fact that the imagination has been explained by the philosophers in different ways esp. by Aristotle, Hume and Kant. In my works, I have analysed the notion of difference which is basically the emergence of new only.

Me- Yeah. People call you the philosopher of difference.

Deleuze- Well, I have analysed the difference in philosophical manner, which problematising the established canons of philosophy. But at that time, the so-called postmodern or post- structural thinkers like Foucault, Derrida, Lyotard were engaged with the differences and deviations therefore we all have thought over the difference.

Me – What is the difference then?

Deleuze – My problem was to think of difference purely without referring to Identity. Usually, difference is derived from the identity. That which is not the same is different.

Me – Then what it is!

D- It is an explosion, which shatters the binaries.

Me- I didn’t get it. Can you explain the idea behind this metaphor?

D- Well! Let me explain this metaphor with the help of another metaphor “Image of Thought”

Me- Image of Thought! I guess there is a whole chapter on it in your Difference and Repetition.

D- Yes. Actually I argued there that the whole philosophy actually works under the image of thought therefore it cannot see the difference as such.

Me- Hmm.

D- Let is first dwell on the issue of how thought functions. As Kant has shown us that knowledge of the external world requires both sensory data as well as the conceptual categories. Isn’t it?

Me- Yes

D- Thought basically operates on the basis of concepts. Concepts are the general description on the basis of which the particulars are identified as well as categorised. If there were no concepts then we cannot give judgment like S is P.

Me- Correct.

D- Now the problem is this that in the dynamics between the sensations and concepts, concepts have been favoured in the history of philosophy. Therefore the image of thought is basically the image of concepts.

Me- But without concepts we would only have the rhapsodies of sensations and I don’t think that the knowledge can be churned out from the overwhelming data.

D- Exactly. That’s my point. This overwhelming thought is the difference. Fir e.g. Art is the idea of this overwhelming experience which reconfigures the experiencing subject. Kant’s subject is a boring subject which remains aloof from what comes through the senses. For me, there is the primacy of empiricism, where a subject gets restructured with the experience.

Me- This is quite Nietzschean. But what it has to do with the difference and my original question of imagination?

D- You see that transcendental philosophy which accounts for the experience operates on the model of recognition. Recognition is basically re-cognition which means that the given sensory data should be re-cognized through a conceptual category. We already have the concept or general image and the new experience has to be filtered through that.

Me- Okay

D- Now in this process sameness is privileged over the difference. Difference is ignored as deviation and we prefer the identity. However, we forget that it is the deviation which points towards the emergence of new.

Me- Exactly.

D- I hope that you must have got your answers.

As Deleuze uttered these words, I started to think about the relationship between imagination and difference. Imagination never remains satisfied with what is available to reason. It thinks absurd, contradictory and ‘non-sense’. But while doing this, it thinks differently. Deleuze is right in suggesting that difference cannot be thought through the model of recognition because it cannot see the emergence of new.

Sometimes the moments of differences force us to come out of our conceptual framework. The way COVID 19 virus has challenged our epistemic framework shows that there is the primacy of empiricism and the richness of experiences can hardly be captured through the transcendental categories. I think this is what Deleuze referred to as the plane of immanence which cannot be thought through the transcendental categories. .

Disclaimer: The opinions endorsed by the speaker is solely the author’s and not in any way endorsed by the Institute/Programme.