biol_04_img0404One of the problems with Continental writing is that it is unreadable to anyone who lacks an extensive background in the history of philosophy. It is difficult, for example, to pick up a copy of Derrida’s Speech and Phenomena without already having a deep familiarity with the work of Husserl, and it is difficult to pick up Husserl without already having a background in a whole host of philosophical texts. Increasingly I have students approach me remarking that they have bought my book, Difference and Givenness. Every time I hear this I cringe with shame and embarrassment. What value could this book possibly have for them outside of a deep acquaintance with the work of Deleuze and familiarity with Kant, Bergson, Hegel, etc? I feel as if I’m wasting their money and the money of anyone who is not steeped in Deleuze.

I would like to write a book that anyone could pick up, regardless of whether or not they have a philosophical background. When I fantasize about writing such a book I am not fantasizing about writing a book that is “easy” or “clear”. Rather I am fantasizing about a book that could function as an element of other assemblages or networks without the reader already having to be linked in to a pre-existent and extensive network characterized by the history of philosophy. The adventure of such a book would be premised not on maintaining its identity or the sameness of a message throughout all of the possible relations it enters into among readers, but would rather function as an element, like lavender in the region of wine grapes, contributing to the production of new productions. Here the history of philosophy wouldn’t be absent or ignored, but would be, as it were, virtual or in the background. Philosophy wouldn’t proceed through the activity of commentary as is practiced in Continental thought today, but rather there would be direct ownership of one’s writing and appropriation of the history of philosophy. Just as the peppers in my garden are borne of the soil, the water, and air out of which they grow without displaying these elements in any recognizable sense, such a writing would be willing to take direct responsibility for how it has “prehended” or integrated that history without thematically making that history the issue or question of the writing. Is it possible, today, to write in the fashion of a Descartes, Spinoza, or Hume?

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