Believing in this World for the Making of Gods: Ecology of the Virtual and the Actual


The central claim of Peter Hallward’s recent Out of this World: Deleuze and the Philosophy of Creation is that Deleuze is ultimately a spiritual thinker, and therefore those interested in emancipatory and revolutionary political projects should abandon Deleuze’s thought because it is insufficiently materialist. Hallward writes:

Deleuze is most appropriately read as a spiritual, redemptive or subtractive thinker, a thinker preoccupied with the mechanics of disembodiment and de-materialisation. Deleuze’s philosophy is oriented by lines of flight that lead out of the world; though not other-worldly, it is extra-worldly.


In my review essay of Hallward’s book I argued that he was correct to bring attention to the neglected spiritual aspects of Deleuze’s philosophy, but that his negative valuation of this spiritual aspect was dependent on a misreading that ascribed a certain inherent moralism to the difference between the virtual and the actual (Hallward’s version of materialism simply reverses this moralism, so that the virtual is bad and the actual is good). Ultimately this misreading arises out of an ecological and political weakness, for it confuses the relationship between the virtual and the actual with a moral relationship, whereas what Deleuze presents is more adequately understood as an ecology of the virtual and the actual within the milieu of immanence. The task of this essay is to develop this idea beyond the merely provocative to a demonstration of this aspect, both spiritual and ecological, of Deleuze’s thought.

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