File #78: "SYMPOSIUM12.1_67-88_Reynolds_Deleuze's Other-Structure.pdf"


Jack Reynolds (La Trobe University, Australia)
Deleuze suggests that his work grounds a new conception of the Other–
the Other as expression of a possible world, as a structure that precedes
any subsequent dialectical mediation, including the master-slave dialectic of social relations. I will argue, however, that the ethico-political injunction that Deleuze derives from his analysis of the „other-structure‟
confronts a different problem. It commits Deleuze to either tacitly prescribing a romantic morality of difference that valorizes expressive encounters without „relations of explication‟ and any kind of preunderstanding (embodied or otherwise), or his continual flirtations with a
mystical „going beyond‟ the other-structure must be more than mere flirtations.

Arguably one of the most ill-understood sections of Deleuze‟s oeuvre, both
because it is rarely addressed and because of a general lack of agreement
regarding how it fits in with his broader body of work, revolves around his
enigmatic comments regarding what he calls the “other-structure,” particularly in Difference and Repetition2 and in his essay “Michel Tournier and
the World Without Others,” an appendix to Logic of Sense.3 He also briefly
addresses the issue in Proust and Signs4 and What is Philosophy?5, and in
all of these books he points towards a new conception of the Other,
namely, the Other as expression of a possible world, as a structure that precedes any subsequent dialectical mediation and which hence avoids the
theory of the master-slave dialectic of social relations as it has been construed since Hegel. This is perhaps not overly surprising, since as with
post-structuralism in general, Deleuze‟s work resists the myriad different
philosophical positions that privilege contradiction, opposition, and negativity6, themes that are endemic to the master-slave dialectic on both Hegel
and Sartre‟s understanding. It is not that Deleuze simply seeks to refute
this version of the dialectic (the term „dialectic‟ is not a dirty word for
Deleuze as some have assumed7), or even to abandon their insistence upon
a realm of social conflict that is non-subsumable and, therefore, constitutive for politics. Rather, it is their transcendental insistence on understanding this conflict according to opposition and negation that he wants to
problematize, enabling him to retain certain of the strengths of the HegeloMarxist tradition. It continues to foreground questions to do with power,
oppression, and domination, and also points toward the limits of any pre-

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occupation with rationality, the law, and the self-interested agent. As such,
his work provides some of the most important corrective tools to mitigate
against any too optimistic understanding of the Enlightenment and rationality, which is what gave the master-slave dialectic much of its political salience, but without falling prey to some of the latter‟s excesses. At the
same time, however, and despite these important achievements, the ethicopolitical injunction that Deleuze derives from his position on social relations and his ambiguous writings on the „other-structure‟ confront a different but still pernicious problem. It will be argued that he is committed to
either tacitly prescribing a romantic morality of difference that valorizes
expressive encounters without „relations of explication‟ and any kind of
pre-understanding, embodied or otherwise (this is not only problematic but
also immanently unjustifiable in the context of the centrality that he gives
to the idea of reciprocal determination between the actual and the virtual),
or his continual flirtations with a mystical „going beyond‟ the otherstructure must be more than mere flirtations. It will eventually be argued
that both of these positions are unsatisfactory, but it is first necessary to
consider Deleuze‟s engagements with, and amendments to, the HegeloMarxist conception of the master-slave dialectic.
In various different texts, Deleuze distances himself from the oppositional logic at work in Hegel‟s conception of the master-slave dialectic
in which each of the interlocutors fights for, and depends upon, the recognition of the other. To present the key claim of this dialectic schematically,
the master‟s social identity is said to be thoroughly dependent upon the
recognition of the slave, and, to an extent, the reverse also applies. According to Hegel‟s paradoxical analysis in Phenomenology of Spirit, however, there is a sense in which the slave is actually freer because his identity is not so bound up with the need for recognition from the master and
because in his work he has an opportunity to transcend his socially designated situation8. As is well-known, this idea was later taken up and reconfigured by Marx (in his contradiction-based class analyses) in order to explain the revolutionary potential of the proletariat who is not tied to bourgeois interests like property and recognition, or at least is not tied to them
in a manner that is likely to perpetuate capitalism. Since then, the masterslave dialectic has been reformulated by various Marxists, notably members of the Frankfurt School, including Axel Honneth and contemporary
theorists of recognition9. Other major European philosophers, like
Nietzsche, Sartre and de Beauvoir (and arguably also Freud, as we will
briefly see), have also drawn heavily on the master-slave dialectic, without
quite the same „end of history‟ narrative that has tended to accompany the
Hegelo-Marxist versions. For Hegel, Marx, Honneth, and myriad figures in
between, the opposition between the master and the slave, the landowner

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and the worker, is eventually supposed to be sublated and overcome, either
by the movement of Geist, by material and structural transformation of the
ownership of the means of production, or by a combination of the two. It is
this teleological understanding of contradiction as both the cause of social
transformation and the potential cure, that post-structuralism generally, and
Deleuze in particular, rejects.
It is important to see, though, that it is not only the „end of history‟
grand narrative, the delimitation of the future as both known and inevitable, that is called in to question. Rather, as Deleuze makes clear, any priority given to the causal phenomena of opposition and contradiction (rather
than paradox) also misconstrues difference by simplifying the complex of
factors and problems that are at play (DR 50). In fact, he suggests that the
appearance of contradiction, such as in the reified contraries of the master
and the slave but also any other structurally equivalent opposition, is but an
epiphenomenon, a derivative ossification of a more fundamental swarm of
differences (a productive multiplicity, but also, as we will see, a nonrecuperable conflict) that is prior to, and resists, sterile class-stratified
analyses of society10. He even provocatively tells us that contradiction is
not the weapon of the proletariat but the manner in which the bourgeoisie
defends itself (DR 268), suggesting again its derivative status.
It is for similar reasons that Deleuze and Guattari object to the
equally influential Freudian model of social relations, which focuses on
familial contradiction (the „mummy, daddy, me‟ triad) as the key factor in
the channelling of desire and the determination of the psyche, and which
excludes from consideration investments in the broader social milieu. As
Deleuze and Guattari suggest in Anti-Oedipus, the Freudian blackmail is
that “either you recognize the Oedipal character of infantile sexuality, or
you abandon all positions on sexuality”.11 In Difference and Repetition,
Deleuze also stridently states that the repetition in psychic life is dominated and undermined by the opposition at the heart of the theory of repression (DR 271), thereby intimating that, for all of its advances, psychoanalysis also ends up domesticating „difference-in-itself‟ despite the significant debts that he owes to it, notably in regard to the death instinct.
Without being able to pursue the complicated issue of Deleuze‟s relation to
psychoanalysis further, except to say that his enduring post-Althusserian
insistence on a plurality of conflicts and interconnections, on an overdetermined multiplicity of causal influences, frees him from the grip of all
of these reinventions of the master-slave dialectic that artificially and erroneously cut out a particular opposition from a larger milieu of overlapping
These overlapping perspectives that Deleuze describes, which are
closely related to the ontological „plane of immanence‟ that he invokes in

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What is Philosophy? and elsewhere, cannot be understood as harmonious.
On the contrary, he continually reaffirms the impossibility and failure of
all theoretical positions that presuppose any kind of harmonious connection between self and world, and self and others. This is what he calls philosophy‟s governing ur-doxa; he denigrates it at length in The Logic of
Sense and Difference and Repetition12. Of course, it is true that Deleuze
does say, in collaboration with Guattari, that the social field cannot be said
to be defined by conflict. In Difference and Repetition he also develops the
analysis first offered in Nietzsche and Philosophy and suggests that there is
“a false profundity in conflict” (DR 51), largely because of his conviction
that oppositional conflict still presupposes a prior difference that remains
to be understood. In the concluding chapter of Difference and Repetition,
however, he restates this general position as follows: “conflicts, oppositions, and contradictions seemed to us to be surface effects and conscious
epiphenomena, while the unconscious lived on in problems and differences”, but he then adds the important rider that “it is no less bloody and
cruel as a result” (DR 268). There is, then, in his work, a double affirmation of difference and of a non-subsumable realm of conflict, and it is in
that sense that he can be said to retain certain strengths of the master-slave
dialectic, predicated as it is upon constitutive conflict. Indeed, if we take
this dialectic minimally, as intimating a transformative model of social relations and identity that also denies modernism‟s more grandiose claims to
have us on the way to social betterment and genuine understanding and
harmony between interlocutors, then this is still very much at work in the
thought of Deleuze. While he eschews the priority traditionally accorded to
negativity and rejects the idea that contradiction is the basic motor or impetus behind social life – rather, it is multiplicity, difference, which is productive –, on his view, a basic incommensurability and tension between
perspectives is still reaffirmed. As such, there is a resistance to modernism‟s optimistic postulations of imminent equality and liberty (the paradoxical bedrocks of liberal democracy13) and a certain constitutive tension
functions as the motor of social life, one that is conflictual, provided that
we recognize that these conflicts can only be superficially understood
along the schematized lines of an opposition. We can further justify this
claim by considering Deleuze‟s brief but revealing engagement with Sartre‟s famous version of the master-slave dialectic14, in the process of which
Deleuze offers his own view of the self-other dynamic.
In Being and Nothingness, Sartre argues that our relations with
other people will inevitably oscillate back and forth between versions of
sadism and masochism, without ever approaching any kind of complementary reciprocity. Even desire and love are understood on this model, and
Sartre arrives at this rather pessimistic conclusion on account of the fun-

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damental role that he gives to the phenomenological experience of shame
in the looker/looked-upon dyad, on which he bases his analyses of concrete
human relations. In one of the most famous scenarios in the book, Sartre
describes a person peering through a keyhole into the next room, entirely
absorbed in their activity. Suddenly though, they hear footsteps in the corridor behind them and they are aware that somebody is now watching
them. No longer concerned with what is going on behind the door, they are
aware only that they are the object of another‟s look and that they are being evaluated and judged in ways that they cannot control. They are reduced to an object in that other person‟s perceptual field, and this, for Sartre, is the original meaning of relations with others (what he calls beingfor-others). As such, the other is primarily apprehended negatively, as a
„not-me‟ who recognizes and apprehends a part of me that I cannot myself
apprehend or control, therefore, alienating me from my transcendent projects in the world. Here we find the “de facto solipsism” that persists in
Sartre‟s work15 despite his general argument that the experience of shame
offers us phenomenological proof of the existence of at least an other person. Although there are certain variations within the alternative roles that
people might adopt as a response to the phenomenological feeling of
shame, for him one is essentially either the looker or the looked-at, and he
insists that two people cannot simultaneously look at each other in his ontological sense. On his dialectic of social relations, the existence of the one
(i.e., a looker) presupposes an interlocutor who is the other (i.e., the
looked-at)16, and sadism and masochism are two opposing ways of dealing
with this dilemma. We can constantly judge and objectify others, thereby
seeking to prevent the emergence of our social self, or we can try and induce others to see us exactly as we wish to be seen, thereby controlling
their subjectivity. On Sartre‟s view, we also tend to be thrown from the one
attitude back into the other, as we engage in projects in the world.
While the master-slave dialectic arguably becomes unduly hypostasized in Sartre‟s philosophy, and Axel Honneth is perhaps right to say
that Sartre has transformed Hegel‟s vision from a battle for recognition in
to something more like an atomist battle for survival 17, it seems to me that
it nevertheless gets at something important about human relations and provides the foundation for the political radicality that Sartre and de Beauvoir‟s existentialist writings consistently emphasized. Their conception of
interpersonal relations offers a significant counterpoint to the optimistic
overtones of the enlightenment – that is, of humanity as improving, reaching equality, and becoming more rational. Instead, their work insists on the
need to be careful about the rhetoric of our good conscience understandings of democracy and liberty, as well as the assumption of the possibility
(and value) of transparent and open communication that undergirds them.

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Of course, it is not that we can simply dispense with such values, but
where Sartre‟s account of social relations is invaluable is in its suggestion
that something is always left over. There is a remainder and a miscomprehension at the heart of social relations, which makes possible differing
kinds of violence but also places in question the assumption of any kind of
first-person epistemological privilege, because our identity is thoroughly
bound up in how others apprehend us, which is not something that we can
ever confidently know or predict. For Sartre, then, to have a good conscience, to assume that one‟s hands are clean and that one is acting on the
side of the good and the just, is to be in bad faith, and, perhaps, to presage
a yet greater violence. Despite his tendency to try and make this point via
various rhetorical declarations that can, at first glance, seem somewhat
counter-intuitive, e.g., “there are no accidents”, “we choose our war”,
“there are no witnesses to violence, only participants”–his nonconspiratorial suspicion of the avowedly virtuous is still prescient for any
political philosophy that wants to take seriously the contemporary situation18.
We will shortly see that Deleuze differs from Sartre on his understanding of sadism and masochism, as well as with key aspects of his general theory of social relations. But, it needs to be noted that in an essay
written in 1964, a month after Sartre‟s refusal of the Nobel Prize for literature, and titled “Il a été mon maître,”19 Deleuze seems to endorse the Sartre
of Being and Nothingness, along with his insistence on conflictual relations
and a certain inevitability of violence, over the Sartre of “Existentialism is
a Humanism.” The latter text was Sartre‟s famous public lecture, attended
by thousands including Deleuze, that attempted to reconcile his existentialist convictions with an ethics of respect for the other‟s freedom (in Being
and Nothingness, however, he famously states that respect for the other‟s
freedom is an empty word20), somewhat along the lines of Simone de
Beauvoir‟s subsequent book, The Ethics of Ambiguity. For Deleuze, however, it is the earlier work that is described as a tough, penetrating existentialism, whereas “Existentialism is a Humanism” is seen as a Kantianism
that verges on re-enacting a spurious kingdom of ends21. Politically speaking, it seems clear that Deleuze agrees with the general thrust of his French
predecessor‟s earlier text, including aspects of his conflictual conception of
social relations.
By the time of “Coldness and Cruelty,”22 “Michel Tournier and the
World Without Others”, and Difference and Repetition (1967, 1967, and
1968), however, things had changed slightly as Deleuze‟s views had become more developed. Whether it can be related to the build-up to May
1968 or not, there is something remarkably productive about his work during this period (as there is with Derrida) as well as the strange excesses

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that these works evince, concerned as they all are, albeit in different ways,
with a revaluation of perversion. In the former essay, Deleuze details precisely why something like the Sartrean account of social relations is an inadequate basis for understanding the symptomatology of masochism in
particular. In the latter two texts, he also distances himself from the master-slave dialectic in quite clear terms, although he continues to recognize
the importance of conflict and remains reluctant to allow for any kind of
philosophical position that permits epistemological good conscience about
one‟s position in social life. More particularly, he rejects the tendency of
theories of social relations “to oscillate mistakenly and ceaselessly from a
pole at which the Other is reduced to the status of object to a pole at which
it assumes the status of subject” (DR 260). He targets Sartre for ultimately
remaining within this paradigm, despite having seen that the Other is an irreducible structure of being23. Deleuze argues that Sartre betrays this insight24, by positing the look as ontologically primary to, and constitutive
of, the other-structure. Because of this, Deleuze suggests that Sartre cannot
but return us to a looking (subject), looked at (object) model of social relations (LS 346). In Difference and Repetition, Deleuze recapitulates this
claim, stating that even Sartre, “was content to inscribe this oscillation in
the Other as such, in showing that the Other becomes object when I become subject, and did not become subject unless I in turn became object.
As a result, the structure of the Other, as well as its role in psychic systems, remained misunderstood” (DR 260).
Now, before considering exactly why this view is a misunderstanding, it is worth observing that it is not just Sartre who presupposes
such a theory of social relations, but, for Deleuze at least, also the phenomenological tradition more generally. In different ways, Deleuze‟s objection to any subject-object model of understanding the structure of the
other applies to Husserl, and arguably even to Levinas‟ “humanism of the
other man.” For Levinas, the alterity of the other person is wholly transcendent to the subject and never subsumable under any version of what he
calls the “imperialism of the same,” including the subject‟s many and varied projections on to, and about that, Other25. Although Levinas does not
speak of an oscillation, his permanent asymmetry between self and other
might be said to amount to a fetishized reversal of the typical subject/object framework. For Levinas, it is the Other that becomes subject,
who commands and holds hostage, and who is ungraspable in their infinite
difference. Indeed, while Deleuze points to the importance of the expressivity of the face just as Levinas also exalts the importance of the face-toface, Deleuze is at pains to insist, contra at least a certain interpretation of
Levinas, that the Other is its expressivity, the revelation given of a possible
world (DR 261)26. In What is Philosophy? Deleuze and Guattari also im-

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plicitly accuse Levinas‟ account of the Other as reinstituting a model of
“transcendence within immanence” (cf. WP 46), but without dwelling on
whether or not this is a fair assessment it is time to consider Deleuze‟s alternative understanding of the structure of the Other.
It is at once simple and difficult, and it is not a radical as one
might expect. In fact, to a large degree Deleuze‟s initial move recapitulates
the main thrust of Merleau-Ponty‟s critique of Sartre‟s view of social relations in Phenomenology of Perception and The Visible and the Invisible,
where he describes Sartre‟s work as an untenable “agnosticism about the
other” because it ignores the fundamental expressivity of the Other that
precedes and makes possible all further developments, including those involved in the master-slave dialectic27. This comparison with MerleauPonty is complicated in a footnote below, but for the moment it is worth
noting that Deleuze‟s key claim is also that the Other “cannot be separated
from the expressivity which constitutes it” (DR 260), from the frightened
world that is given in the glimpse of another, and he reaffirms this perspective some twenty years later in his and Guattari‟s analysis of the concept of
the other person in What is Philosophy? (17–19). Now, how we are to understand and grasp that expressivity that he refers to is no easy question,
but it is clear that on Deleuze‟s view we must adhere to some particular
conditions, conditions that are at least partly phenomenological ones. Indeed, Deleuze consistently refers to and intimates the need for a more radical reduction (WP 151, DR 52, 137), and in this context he suggests that
we must attend to “the moment at which the expressed has (for us) no existence apart from that which expresses it: the Other as the expression of a
possible world” (DR 261). Only by performing this more radical reduction
can we get beyond the apprehension of particular concrete others (and an
associated commitment to the self or subject) to the a priori Other that is
their transcendental condition. He insists on this distinction between concrete others and an a priori Other in all of the texts in question. He also argues that this a priori Other is best understood as a structure, and, more
specifically, as the “structure of the possible.”
What is meant by this formulation is the subject of some debate,
not least because of the derogatory connotations that are usually attached
to Deleuze‟s use of the term “possible.” After all, Deleuze frequently criticizes philosophical positions that prioritize the possible for not attaining to
what he considers to be the order of the true transcendental condition(s) of
actual experience, which he calls the virtual (DR 211). Without becoming
embroiled in the intricacies of his metaphysics, the virtual can be schematically understood as a transcendental realm of multiplicities and profligate differences that undermines fixed identities and is also generative of
the new. As Deleuze suggests, “the possible and the virtual are distin-

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guished… because the former refers back to the form of identity in the
concept, while the latter designates a pure multiplicity in the Idea that radically excludes the identical” (DR 273). Nevertheless, it is clear that when
referring to the Other as “structure of the possible,” his use of the term
„possible‟ does not refer to something abstract or something that does not
yet exist but might potentially do so. As he observes in his essay on
Tournier, the expressed possible world (e.g., frightened) “certainly exists,
but it does not exist (actually) outside of that which expresses it” (LS 346),
the final clause amounting to an insistence that we cannot understand the
Other‟s terror simply on the basis of the empirical world that sets it off or
by analogy with our own experiences of terror28. Rather, for Deleuze, it is
this other-structure that opens up both of these second-order possibilities as
well as possibilities more generally, including those given to us by the perceptual field and the experience of subjectivity itself. Rather than it needing to be explained how, given the fact of perception, one might manage to
apprehend a particular concrete other, the other-structure is understood as
the condition of possibility for perception. In a remark that is interesting,
not least because it seems to imply that the other-structure is akin to the
virtual, i.e., a transcendental field of differences (an idea that he distances
himself from shortly after), Deleuze suggests that “the first effect of others
is that around each object that I perceive, or each idea that I think, there is
the organization of a marginal world, a mantle or background… an entire
field of virtualities and potentialities which I already knew were capable of
being actualized. Now such a knowledge or sentiment of marginal existence is possible only through other people” (LS 344). While phenomenology and gestalt psychology have made similar points, for our purposes the
important idea to ascertain from this is that the “a priori Other”, the otheras-structure, precedes and makes possible what Deleuze calls the relations
of “development and explication.” These often resemble something like
the master-slave dialectic, as Sartre, Hegel and others have described it
(DR 281), and in which one subject (tacitly or otherwise) attempts to control another. The expressivity that is the Other commands a response and,
for Deleuze, one has no choice but to “explicate or develop the world expressed by the other, either in order to participate in it or to deny it” (DR
260). Perhaps we develop the expressed possible world into a reality that
consumes us; perhaps we denounce it as illusory. Here is where negation
and opposition become part of the equation, but these relations of development dissolve the true structure of the Other. The expressivity of the
Other as possible world (noting that this conception of the Other is not reducible to humans) precedes the kind of oppositional and contradictory
permutations that social relations can and must descend into, even if that is

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not to say that they are necessarily unhappy or hell-like, as Sartre had his
character Garcin dramatically observe in No Exit29.
From describing these transcendental and quasi-phenomenological
conditions of social life, Deleuze rather quickly derives an intriguing
ethico-political injunction: not to explicate oneself too much with the
Other, and not to explicate the Other too much, but to “multiply one‟s own
world by populating it with all those expressed that do not exist apart from
their expressions” (DR 260). This implied rejection of explication follows
philosophically from the priority that he accords to the expressivity of the
Other, because understanding social life from that perspective of explication misconstrues the structure of the Other in a manner akin to remaining
within the natural attitude. Nevertheless, the moral resonance of this comment gives us reason to pause. On what basis does Deleuze derive his injunction to multiply these possible worlds, these a priori expressed others
that have not yet been explicated or thematized? It seems that the transcendental condition (the other-structure as expressive of a possible world) is
simultaneously a moral injunction to maximize actual occurrences of such
expressivity. The spirit of this injunction is roughly equivalent to that
which accompanies his valorization in Difference and Repetition of the
disruptive trauma of learning and apprenticeship (DR 192) and his references to the child-player who can only win (DR 116), as well as his repeated solicitations to creative encounters and to nomadism in his collaborative works with Guattari.
While it is not completely clear how to understand this general
principle that is always under the surface in Deleuze‟s work, and that
James Williams summarizes as the imperative to maximize both forgetting
and connecting30, we can begin to tease this out by considering Deleuze‟s
comments on love that immediately follow his discussion of the expressivity of the Other. Deleuze suggests that, “there is no love which does not
begin with the revelation of a possible world as such, enwound in the other
which expresses it” (DR 261). In this sense, the expressivity of the Other
would be that revelation of a possible world, that event from which all that
is beautiful and bewildering began, and which will thereafter be transformed by relations of development and explication – the other person as
fascinating subject one minute, deceptive object another. But there are several questions that need to be raised here. Is the implied denunciation of relations of development and explication justified? After all, while relations
of explication might come to domesticate the Other‟s „otherness‟ and to
partially deprive the other of its radical difference, as Deleuze suggests, it
is also the case that they open up different and more diverse kinds of relations. These cannot be captured on this view that juxtaposes (and privileges) the relative purity of expressed „possible worlds‟ that have no ties of

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allegiance (that is, the different and the new), against their shutting down
and increased monotony in the world of identities. Indeed, the opposition
that Deleuze relies upon here seems to be unduly simplified, as Deleuze
himself has shown us that all oppositions are. Even if a transcendental priority is accorded to difference and the new, it is certainly not morally clear
that we can enrich the world only by promulgating encounters with these
uncontaminated „possible worlds,‟ and while Deleuze acknowledges that
any „possible world‟ must end up being actualized, he cannot but appear to
lament that this is so (as we will see, this is particularly apparent in his essay on Tournier). To put the problem another way, even if the condition for
relations of explication (a quarrel, a revelation, anything that remains with
the play of identities) is the other as possible world, it does not necessarily
follow from this that we should live privileging this transcendental condition, or even the intensities and singularities that this condition actualizes.
Indeed, while Deleuze himself repeatedly insists that there is reciprocal, if
asymmetrical, determination between the actual and the virtual (which
means that neither legislates and draws up limits or rules for the other,
whereby we might, for example, obtain clear moral rules about what
should take place in the actual), in practice the virtual (i.e., difference, and,
as we will soon see, the play of surfaces) clearly plays the determinative
role in his injunction to multiply encounters with the expressivity of others
and also elsewhere31.
If we think about this practically for a moment, though, and no
doubt more prescriptively than Deleuze would himself, what does this advocating of multiple encounters without explication and development
commit Deleuze to? To pose the problem bluntly, is Deleuze committed to
advocating a multiplicity of encounters and the radically new expressions
of possible worlds that are opened up prior to imbrication and explication?
Or, is he tacitly committed to what we might call perverse impulses of fidelity to particular kinds of moments of expressivity of the Other, modes
of living that have long held his attention in highly acute studies of sadism,
masochism, schizophrenia, etc? Coldness and cruelty, and the expressions
of fear and trembling are, after all, as revelatory of a possible world as anything else, and in Difference and Repetition Deleuze explicitly links the
desexualization and then re-sexualization of the third synthesis of time (the
privileged time of the future) with sadism and masochism (DR 114–5).
While the rejoinder to this suggestion might be that this more fetishistic
option does not have enough forgetting involved, to recall Williams‟ succinct maxim, it can be shown that there is often something close to an endorsement of masochism in Deleuze‟s work and the general transcendental
priority that he also gives to a „perverse structure‟ will be detailed shortly.
Ultimately, I am not sure that one can decide between these two options on

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the basis of textual analysis and it is likely that Deleuze himself would
consider any such attempt to decide to be a problematic example of what
he calls „good sense‟, not least because it seeks to reinstate a clear and distinct division between the normal and the abnormal. Nevertheless, it seems
to me that Deleuze is committed to the one or the other of these alternatives, and elsewhere I argue that this is largely because processes of embodied comportment to one‟s situation (habit and skilful coping within a
view to maintaining something like an equilibrium) are tacitly diminished
in his work, remaining radically disjunct from the realm of genuine learning, thought, creativity, the virtual, and that which is of value in the other32.
If this is not already problematic, later on in Difference and Repetition Deleuze also very briefly entertains going beyond the apprehension
of the Other as no-one (that is, the a priori other that is the structure of the
possible), “to where we reach the regions where the other-structure no
longer functions, far from the objects and subjects that it conditions, where
singularities are free to be deployed or distributed within pure Ideas, and
individuating factors to be distributed in intensity. In this sense, it is indeed
true that the thinker is necessarily solitary and solipsistic” (DR 282). Here
then, we see a clear reference to the virtual as being beyond, or prior to, the
other-structure (the other as expressive of possible worlds), thus troubling
James Williams‟ interpretation of the other-structure as synonymous with
the virtual33, but also troubling, in a slightly different manner, Constantin
Boundas‟ interpretation34. While this comment is not explored in any detail
in Difference and Repetition, it is developed at length in Deleuze‟s almost
contemporaneous discussion of Michel Tournier‟s novel, Friday, and it
hence cannot be dismissed as an inconsequential aberration.
We will examine Deleuze‟s text on Tournier shortly, but it is
worth foregrounding some of the difficulties with this position. First, and
immanent to Deleuze‟s work, given his new conception of the Other (as
expressive of a possible world, difference, etc.) does he have a need to go
beyond the other-structure? And, what might this going beyond consist in?
Who are these thinkers that can create without an other-structure? Is it not
Deleuze who has shown us that something always provokes us to think?
What could that provocation be, if not the Other, here understood as synonymous with problems? My problem with this mooted leaving behind of
any other-structure runs parallel with the critical impetus that can be discerned in some of Derrida‟s rare comments about Deleuze. For example, in
his eulogy following Deleuze‟s death, Derrida hints at a fundamental disagreement with the Deleuzian formulation of philosophy as being concerned with creating concepts35. Derrida‟s discontent with this idea is not
purely about what should be called philosophy (and hence definitional). It
is also about the very idea of the creation of the new itself. For Derrida, the

Deleuze‟s Other-Structure 79

new is highly unlikely, improbable, e.g., “invention, if there is such a
thing”36. For Deleuze, however, genuine philosophy creates new concepts,
and although this may be relatively rare, in his work there is a transcendental and moral commitment to the new, to difference, that is not accompanied by the obligatory „perhaps‟ or other forms of scare quotations that
Derrida regularly employs. Of course, phrasing the differences between
these two French philosophers in such a way runs the risk of making
Deleuze look like a naïve utopian thinker. This may seem reductive, but
from the perspective of Derrida‟s work it is also not altogether false. From
my point of view, while Deleuze offers us an illuminating account of the
other-structure, the rather romantic ethico-political position that he derives
from it is more troubling.
This ethic becomes most obvious in his intriguing essay on
Tournier‟s book, Friday, a rewriting of the Robinson Crusoe narrative. In
“Michel Tournier and the World Without Others,” Deleuze develops this
theme of the other-structure, as well as what his mooted „going beyond‟ of
the other-structure might entail, but it must be noted that the otherstructure takes on a far more negative understanding than we have seen in
Difference and Repetition. On Deleuze‟s reading, Tournier‟s tale suggests
that Crusoe, finding himself alone and despairing on the island, first
strengthens and reinstates an other-structure by neurotically setting up an
order of laws, rules, and habits (it is significant that skills and habits are
here treated as synonymous with rules and norms, as they are in Difference
and Repetition, when it is not clear that this is the case). In this context,
Deleuze also suggests that this other-structure ensures “the sweetness of
contiguities and resemblances,” “fills the world with a benevolent murmuring”, and provides for “transition” (LS 345). Later on he suggests, “the
other-structure organizes and pacifies depth. It renders it liveable” (LS
353). This view of the other-structure no longer seems to be so clearly associated with the expressivity of a possible world. On the contrary, his
comments about it overlap and dovetail with his contemporaneous critique
of much of Western philosophy for presupposing an ur-doxic harmony between self and world, and self and others (cf. DR 137, LS 102). The references to depth are equally important, suggesting that the other-structure
remains within the realm of depth (as do bodies and chronos, the time of
the present – LS 29), not yet attaining to the play of surfaces. In the main
part of Logic of Sense, it becomes clear that this play of surfaces is the pure
event (the incorporeal time of Aion), the true transcendental that is synonymous with what he later calls the virtual (LS 126, cf. 61, 72–3, 105)37.
Similarly, it is notable that both contiguities and resemblances, the terms
used to describe the other-structure in the Tournier essay, are given a thorough problematization in both Difference and Repetition and Logic of

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Sense (LS 123, 141, 165). But, does this implied rejection of the philosophical priority of this world-giving aspect of the other-structure, we might
say its „generosity‟ invoking the work of Rosalyn Diprose38, follow? And
even if it does, does it legitimate the subsequent morality?
These are difficult questions that we will return to, but to take up
the Tournier narrative again, it needs to be emphasized that after various
neurotic tribulations Crusoe is portrayed as enacting a kind of ontological
shift that leaves behind the other-structure (and therefore also the structure
of possibility), such that even when Friday eventually arrives on the scene
he is not encountered as another. Friday, Deleuze tells us, is not an Other,
but “something wholly other than the Other,” who “dissolves objects, bodies, and the earth” (LS 355). Without this structure, the category of the
possible collapses (LS 345) and “gone is the sweetness of contiguities and
resemblances that allowed us to inhabit the world. Nothing subsists but insuperable depths, absolute distances and differences, or, on the contrary,
unbearable repetitions” (LS 346). It is worth pausing here, to note that
these observations raise some interesting, if somewhat speculative questions, about Deleuze‟s more general philosophical project, which attempts
to thematize and advocate the enactment of (insofar as it is possible without lapsing into chaos) just such differences, repetitions, and „cracks‟ in the
realm of sense. Would it be remiss to suggest that his philosophy of difference, hence, constitutes a world without others, a perverse-structure that attempts to dispel the normativity inherent in the other-structure? After all,
we have seen that he explicitly discusses the solipsism inherent in creativity (DR 282), directly links the solipsism of sadism and masochism with
the privileged third synthesis of time in Difference and Repetition (DR
114–5), and, in his final collaborative work with Guattari, he stridently rejects any privileging of communication (WP 10, 108). Of course, there are
compelling reasons for all of these moves, and his target in the latter is
more a particular philosophy of communication (i.e., Habermas‟) rather
than communication per se, but it is nevertheless clear that such a world
without others would not be the lived world. And, it is also worth noting,
contrary to a certain reception of his work, that Deleuze is consistently
wary about the value of the lived (and the lived body), generally accusing
any philosophical explication of it, and certainly any philosophical reliance
upon it, of depending on common sense and good sense, ultimately
amounting to conservatism. This is most clearly shown in What is Philosophy? (WP 151) and Logic of Sense (LS 346). Without suggesting that
his concerns with the lived are misplaced, this conglomeration of issues
appears to provide the beginnings of an explanation as to why Deleuze is
so ambivalent in his treatment of the other-structure in the one or two
pages that he devotes to it in Difference and Repetition. This is the case

Deleuze‟s Other-Structure 81

because it threatens to illuminate some pivotal questions about the status of
his metaphysics of difference. After all, while Deleuze continually insists
upon the importance of the idea of reciprocal determination between the
actual and the virtual, it is from the virtual (or from the transcendental topology of surfaces in the terms of Logic of Sense) that he derives the morality that is bequeathed to his descriptions of the other-structure, both in
the injunction to multiply expressions of possible worlds (which constitutes the most obvious ethic of Difference and Repetition) and in the injunction to leave such worlds behind (which develops a thread from Difference and Repetition and constitutes the ethic of his Tournier essay).
This is problematic on Deleuze‟s own terms, but, even without considering
the morality that is sometimes betrothed to his philosophy of difference, it
is not clear just how these transcendental conditions (differences, repetitions, a transcendental field without an other-structure) can do without the
transcendental condition of the other-structure that is, as Deleuze himself
admits in multiple places, a priori (LS 346, DR 260). While Deleuze‟s nonKantian conception of a priori conditions (i.e., as a variegated and nonuniversal transcendental field that is in a reciprocal relationship with the
actual) means that a priori conditions can be changed and transformed, important questions remain about how these different transcendental levels
might interact that are never adequately thematized in Deleuze‟s sometimes contradictory writings on the other-structure. As we have seen, it is
sometimes treated as of the order of the virtual, sometimes like the event,
but more often as merely of the order of actuality and depth. The question
of the other-structure is, hence, it seems to me, an aporetic blind spot in
Deleuze‟s work, around which many key issues are bound up and coimplicated.
In order to see this, let us return once more to Deleuze‟s discussion
of Crusoe‟s eventual move beyond the other-structure39. After a period of
time, Deleuze suggests that rather than lament the loss of the otherstructure, for Crusoe it is this structure itself that begins to be seen as the
problem, as the progenitor of all of these invasive possible worlds (LS
350). Moreover, once he is able to move beyond the other-structure, Crusoe clings to objects and has a “generalized erection,” that is, an erection of
surfaces. The pure surface, Deleuze observes, is perhaps what the otherstructure was hiding from us, and it should be noted, although it cannot be
addressed in any detail here, that this links in with the transcendental privilege that Deleuze accords to both the surface and the time of the event
(Aion) in Logic of Sense (cf. LS 126). On this level of the surface, the
depth of the other-structure is seen as “imprisoning elements within the
limits of bodies” (LS 351), and Deleuze is “tempted to conclude that bodies are but detours to the attainment of images” (LS 352). Deleuze even

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asks, “when we desire others, are not our desires brought to bear upon this
expressed possible world which the Other wrongly envelops, instead of allowing it to float and fly above the world, developed into a glorious double?” He intimates that perhaps, “the absence of the Other and the dissolution of its structure do not simply disorganize the world, but, on the contrary, open up a possibility of salvation” (LS 354). This privilege accorded
to dissolution and to disequilibria over equilibria undergirds much of his
work, and in this context at least it verges perilously close to a religious
mysticism of sorts40, but, of course, a label is not sufficient to show what is
wrong with such a view. Moreover, perhaps Deleuze might respond that he
is here merely voicing the logics of Crusoe‟s perversion and analyzing
Tournier‟s novel rather than making a philosophical statement. Such a response is, however, disingenuous, despite the fact that Deleuze flirts with it
himself – “everything here”, he says at one stage, “is fictitious” (LS 356).
After all, we have seen that in Difference and Repetition he also refers to a
leaving behind of the other-structure, and in his essay on Tournier the
other-structure (envisaged as organizing and regulatory) is consistently
shown to be disrupted by the perverse-structure that is so evocatively captured by Tournier‟s descriptions of Crusoe, and, we should also note, by
the many and varied other literary authors and characters that Deleuze has
been concerned with (think of Proust, Fitzgerald, Beckett, etc.). In fact, it
is arguable that all of Deleuze‟s work enumerates a metaphysics of what he
himself calls the perverse-structure, which is the condition of actual perversions and which is also opposed to the other-structure (LS 151, 357).
For him, all perversions, including sadism and masochism, eschew the
other-structure. In “Coldness and Cruelty,” for example, Deleuze argues
that in the worlds of both de Sade and Sacher-Masoch there are no others,
and, as consequence, there are also no possibilities. There is little doubt
that Deleuze is getting at something important in his exploration of the
significance of the perverse-structure, but his point is more than merely
that the other-structure and the perverse-structure are engaged in an ongoing dialectic in which they interrupt each other without any possibility of
synthesis. Rather, he describes this kind of perverse-structure as the transcendental condition for the other-structure, and, he consistently implies,
as superior to it (cf. LS 126, 151). In other words, there seems to be a
metaphysical or ontological hierarchy at work here. In-itself, it might be
suggested that this is unproblematic. After all, his claims to reciprocal determination between the virtual and the actual do not deprive the virtual
(the perverse-structure) of its ontological priority. However, we have seen
that this hierarchy, which is perhaps most noticeable in his account of the
other-structure, repeatedly also becomes a quasi-morality. The perverse is
prioritized, but precisely why is never legitimated, other than through ref-

Deleuze‟s Other-Structure 83

erence to its role in the genesis of creativity. In Logic of Sense, following a
discussion of the need to be “a little alcoholic, a little crazy, a little suicidal, a little of a guerrilla” (LS 179), Deleuze grapples directly with this
question. He comments: “If one asks why health does not suffice, why the
crack is desirable it is perhaps because it is only by means of the crack and
its edges that thought occurs, that anything that is good and great in humanity enters and exits through it, in people ready to destroy themselves –
better death than the health which we are given.” (LS 182).
Now, I am not convinced that Deleuze is right about this. He may
be right in his premise that health alone does not suffice, but his conclusion
“better death than the health which we are given” does not, it seems to me
at least, follow. His point in making such a comment is presumably to
denigrate a degraded sense of health in which we become trapped and limited, but once more his ethico-political injunction derives much of its force
from the presentation of a forced dilemma and an opposition (not a paradox) – either limitation or its overcoming – without due consideration of
myriad positions in between. While it is certainly true that we do not want
what Deleuze refers to under the label of the perverse-structure (i.e., the
pure surface, but also depths being broken open in the manner of Artaud,
masochism, death-instinct, etc.) to be covered over by the supposition of
rationally self-interested agents in the manner that is arguably characteristic of some of the analytic philosophical tradition, there is also something
about the reverse move that is sometimes evinced in Deleuze‟s work that is
unsatisfying and fraught with difficulties. We have seen his quasi-moral
call for expressive encounters with others without relations of explication,
and we have seen his inconsistent and somewhat mystical desire to move
beyond the Other as expressive of possible world to the perverse-structure
that is its condition. It might hence be said that Deleuze really does throw
the dice and invoke the “power of a decision… which makes us descendant
from the gods” (DR 199), when he chooses the perverse-structure against
the other-as-structure of the possible. In so doing, he selects the impossible41, but is this injunction, with which his transcendental philosophy of
difference both leaves us and tacitly relies upon for its attraction, satisfactory? That which is of value in experience may be always partly experimental, as the French language suggests, but it seems to me that we can retain that insight without falling prey to Deleuze‟s romanticism of difference that manages to do without others.


I am indebted to the Australian Research Council‟s financial support of this research

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project in the form of a Discovery Grant, as well as La Trobe University. Some of the footnotes in this paper draw on material that I have published elsewhere with Jonathan Roffe in
our essay, “Deleuze and Merleau-Ponty: Immanence, Univocity, and Phenomenology,”
Journal of the British Society of Phenomenology, Vol. 37, No. 3, October 2006, p228–51,
and I would also like to thank Jon for his feedback on this essay.
Deleuze, G., Difference and Repetition, tr. P. Patton (New York: Columbia University
Press, 1994). Hereafter referred to as DR.
Deleuze, G., Logic of Sense, tr. M. Lester (London: Continuum, 2004). Hereafter referred
to as LS.
Deleuze, G., Proust and Signs, tr. R. Howard (Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press,
2004), 7–9.
Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F., What is Philosophy?, trs. H. Tomlinson and G. Burchill
(London: Verso, 1994), 17–9. Hereafter referred to as WP.
Deleuze does not like the negative at all, contrary to what Diana Coole claims in her otherwise important book, Negativity and Politics: Dionysus and Dialectics from Kant to
Poststructuralism (London: Routledge, 2000).
Despite the reservations about the dialectic that he expresses in Nietzsche and Philosophy
and in What is Philosophy? (WP 79–80, 147), Deleuze continually refers to the long history
of the distortion of the dialectic, the distortion consisting in the subordination of difference
to negativity, opposition and contradiction (DR 268), and in taking the form of the proposition (i.e. the statement „S is P‟) as exhausting the form of the question in general. As the
term distortion intimates, this does not entail a repudiation of the dialectic per se. On the
contrary, he clearly states that “problems are always dialectical” (DR 179) and, although
somewhat inelegant, we might even label his position a dialectic of the multiplicities of difference.
Hegel, G. W. Phenomenology of Spirit, trans. A. V. Miller, J. N. Findlay (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1979).
See Honneth, A., The Struggle for Recognition: The Moral Grammar of Social Conflicts,
tr. J. Anderson (Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press, 1996), and Fragmented World
of the Social, ed. C. Wright, (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995).
With the help of a sustained reading of Spinoza and Marx, Hardt and Negri transform Deleuze‟s concept of a multiplicity into the more clearly political idea of the multitude. See
Hardt, M., & Negri, A., Empire (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000), and also Negri, A., Time for Revolution, tr. M. Mandarini (New York: Continuum, 2003).
Deleuze, G., Guattari, F., Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, tr. R. Hurley
(New York: Viking Press, 1977), 100. Hereafter referred to as AO.
What he refers to as an urdoxa is basically the presupposition of a perfect fit, or a natural
harmony, between self and world. More technically, it is the supposition of the harmony between what Deleuze calls „good sense‟ and „common sense‟ (LS 77–8).
At the same time, Paul Patton is right to suggest that Deleuze‟s resistance to, and problematizing of, aspects of modernity, liberalism, and democracy, does not entail outright opposition to these dimensions of modern life – see Patton, P., Deleuze and Politics (London:
Routledge, 1999).
Although Ronald Santoni suggests that Sartre‟s theory is circular rather than dialectical
(Sartre on Violence: A Curious Ambivalence (State College: Pennsylvania State University
Press, 2003), 16), such a position reflects the enduring conviction that any dialectical thinking must involve a synthesis or sublation of the opposing terms. Against Santoni, I think
that Sartre‟s conception of the dialectic, but also Merleau-Ponty and Deleuze‟s, have shown
us that this is not the only, or even the most important, understanding of the dialectic. Difference and Repetition outlines an alternative dialectic to that of Hegel, one that affirms pa-

Deleuze‟s Other-Structure 85

radox, rather than the synthesizing of the terms involved and the overcoming of difference
(notwithstanding our earlier comments about the more pejorative understanding of the dialectic evinced in What is Philosophy?). Similarly, in The Visible and the Invisible, tr. A.
Lingis (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1964) Merleau-Ponty distinguishes his
conception of genuinely dialectical thinking, which he terms the hyper-dialectic, from the
„bad‟ dialectical thinking that he characterizes as a “preponderant force that always works
in the same direction”, that thinks it “recomposes being by a thetic thought, by an assemblage of statements, by thesis, antithesis, and synthesis” (VI 94). Above all, the hyperdialectic is a refusal of what Merleau-Ponty calls “high-altitude thinking”, which surveys
proceedings from some transcendent position above, ignorant of the questioner‟s involvement and co-implication in that which is being questioned. For more on this, see the previously cited essay by Reynolds, J., and Roffe, J., “Deleuze and Merleau-Ponty: Immanence, Univocity, and Phenomenology” in The Journal of the British Society of Phenomenology, Vol. 37, No. 3, October 2006, 228–51.
I borrow this expression from Le Doeuff, M., Hipparchia‟s Choice: An Essay Concerning
Women, Philosophy etc, tr. T. Selous (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991, 62–3).
See Sartre, J. P., Being and Nothingness: An Essay in Phenomenological Ontology, tr. H.
Barnes (London: Routledge, 1996), 257.
Honneth, A., The Struggle for Recognition, 146, 165.
Arguably, one of the problems with much analytic political philosophy is that it is not
suspicious enough and apparently has not taken seriously the work of the „masters of suspicion‟: Marx, Nietzsche and Freud. We should also add the names of Derrida and Deleuze
to this list.
See Deleuze, G., L‟Ile déserte et autres textes (Paris: Gallimard, 2002). In English, see
Desert Islands and Other Texts, tr. M. Taormina (New York: Semiotext(e), 2004), 77.
Sartre, J., P., Being and Nothingness, 49.
Like Deleuze, I want to endorse the Sartre who is unrelenting on the inevitability of dirty
hands and even a certain kind of violence, rather than the Kantian Sartre that is often preferred by both his apologists and his critics. See, for example, the work of Ronald Aronson,
Linda Bell, Ronald Santoni and, to a lesser extent, Thomas Flynn, in his important book,
Sartre and Marxist Existentialism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990). While
Santoni is right to point to the sustained ambivalence of Sartre‟s views on violence, I would
emphasize the alternative side to that which Santoni prefers. In fact, it is worth noting how
the relationship of the Critique of Dialectical Reason to the “Rome Lectures” in 1964
seems strangely isomorphic with the relation that obtains between Being and Nothingness
and “Existentialism is a Humanism”, and, significantly, it seems that something about the
public audience and performance convinced Sartre to ameliorate the radicality of his views
on violence and conflict on both occasions.
Deleuze, G. “Coldness and Cruelty” in Masochism, tr. J. McNeil (New York: Zone
Books, 1991).
For Sartre, the ontology evinced by the mode of being-for-others is not reducible to the
categories of either being-for-itself (the negations of consciousness) or being-in-itself (the
plenitude of objects and things).
As an aside, it is worth noting that Deleuze makes a similar point about Sartre‟s discovery
of the transcendental field. Deleuze credits Sartre‟s analysis of Husserl in The Transcendence of the Ego with discovering this „pure immanence‟ of the transcendental field. In this
text, Sartre shows how phenomenology should not posit a transcendental ego that is inside
all experience; any ego is literally transcendent to, or not part of phenomenological experience, which involves nothing more than what Sartre calls non-thetic self-awareness (we
are indirectly aware that we are not that object that we are intending or negating). At the

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same time, Deleuze thinks that there is no value in insisting upon the priority of consciousness (as Sartre does), since consciousness always makes reference to “synthes[es] of unification” (LS 102) and ends up reintroducing a type of ontological transcendence. On this
analysis, Sartre betrays his discovery of the immanence of the transcendental field by reintroducing the form, if not the content (since, for Sartre, consciousness has no content and is
literally no-thing-ness), of the subject in its Cartesian-Husserlian formulation.
Levinas, E., “Philosophy and the Idea of Infinity”, Collected Philosophical Papers, tr. A.
Lingis (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1977).
James Williams well explores some of the differences between the thought of Levinas and
Deleuze in chapter three of The Transversal Thought of Gilles Deleuze: Encounters and Influences (Manchester: Clinamen Press, 2005). Nevertheless, his positive interpretation of
Deleuze‟s view of the other-structure, including the association of it with the virtual and the
transcendental (cf., 36, 39), will be challenged in the remainder of this paper by pointing to
passages that trouble Williams‟ interpretation. Deleuze consistently treats the otherstructure ambivalently, whether it be in regard to his enigmatic comments about going
beyond the other-structure in Difference and Repetition, as well as the entire essay on Michel Tournier‟s novel, which explores the priority of a certain „perverse-structure‟ (which is
linked to what Deleuze calls the virtual – synonymous here with the transcendental) over
the other-structure (which is treated more like an actualization of the transcend dental).
See Merleau-Ponty, M., Phenomenology of Perception, tr. C. Smith (London: Routledge,
year?), and The Visible and the Invisible, tr. A. Lingis (Evanston: Northwestern University
Press, 1964). While Sartre asserts that the alienating experience of being-for-others (e.g.,
shame before the look) precedes and founds our experience of being-with-others as a collective group, Merleau-Ponty argues that being-with-others, not being-for-others, is the
more primordial mode. Although Deleuze would have reservations about the connotations
of sharing involved in this „being-with‟, he seems committed to agreeing with MerleauPonty that the phenomenological expressivity of the embodied other comes first, before the
conflictual relations evinced by the look. For more on the proximity between the immanent
ontologies of Merleau-Ponty and Deleuze, see the previously cited essay by Reynolds and
It hence appears that Deleuze defines the other-structure as against resemblance and similarity, and in favour of heterogeneity and difference. It is for this reason that Williams argues that Deleuze‟s conception of the other as „structure of the possible‟ can be understood
as referring to the virtual, rather than merely to the actual or to the possible in the derogatory sense that he usually gives to this term (Williams, The Transversal Thought of Gilles Deleuze, 36, 39). Although this interpretation seems plausible at first glance, it does not quite
capture the ambivalence of Deleuze‟s writings on the issue, including his references to a
„beyond‟ of the other-structure (DR 282), as well as his explicit comments that treat the
other-structure as of the order of possibility and resemblance (LS 345–6), as we will see.
Other secondary literature on this issue includes: Hallward, P., “Deleuze and the world of
others”, Philosophy Today, 1997, 41: 4, Winter, 530–44; Bowden, S., “Deleuze et les
Stoïciens: une logique de l‟événement”, Bulletin de la Société Américaine de Philosophie de
Langue Française, Vol. 15, Number 1, Spring 2005, 72–97; Arnott, S. J., “The Problem of
Solipsism and Deleuze‟s Ethics”, Contretemps, Vol. 2, 2001, 109–123; and the two essays
by Constantin Boundas that are discussed in a footnote below.
Sartre, J. P., “No Exit” and Three Other Plays, tr. S. Gilbert and L. Abel (New York:
Vintage, 1956).
See Williams, J., An Introduction to Deleuze‟s „Difference and Repetition‟ (Edinburgh:
Edinburgh University Press, 2003), where he reads these as the two dominant motifs of Deleuze‟s book.

Deleuze‟s Other-Structure 87


By this, I refer again to the priority that he gives to the disruptive and traumatic elements
of learning and apprenticeship (DR 192), but also to the ethic of being worthy of the event
that Deleuze discusses in Logic of Sense in relation to stoicism (LS 169). Although I cannot
deal with this fully here, this prioritizing of the event, which on Deleuze‟s understanding refers to the incorporeal and the time of Aion, seems to follow a similar pattern of deriving a
morality from the transcendental condition.
This is dealt with in greater length in my paper, “Deleuze and Dreyfus on l‟habitude, Coping, and Trauma in Skill Acquisition” (International Journal of Philosophical Studies. Vol.
14, No. 4, December 2006, 539–559), where I argue that the phenomena in question are
more complicated than Deleuze‟s account sometimes suggests. It seems to me that Deleuze
too often invokes a false opposition between either experimentation beyond limits and
boundaries, or the guarding of those boundaries. Merleau-Ponty‟s more nuanced analyses of
embodied corporeality and adjustment towards one‟s circumstances (i.e., habit, coping, and
skill-acquisition) trouble this disjunction.
See Williams, The Transversal Thought of Gilles Deleuze, 36, 39.
Boundas suggests that “the foreclosure of the other discloses a world of necessity, where
the virtual and the possible can no more find firm foothold” (111), and “the absence of the
other as possible world would bring about the collapse of the possible and the triumph of
the necessary” (112). This conclusion does not seem quite right for the opposite reasons to
Williams‟ account. Although Deleuze is ambiguous on this, the only coherent interpretation
is that the foreclosure of the other-structure in favour of the perverse-structure does give us
the order of the virtual (and the time of Aion). Indeed, at one point, Boundas himself admits
that the foreclosure of the other-structure “allows, for the first time, for the emergence of
the virtual”, and it is no easy task to see how this claim might be reconciled with his earlier
comments. For Boundas‟ own analysis, see “Deleuze: Serialisation and Subject Formation”,
Deleuze and the Theatre of Philosophy, eds. C. Boundas and D. Olkowski (New York:
Routledge, 1994). He offers a more detailed account of this interpretation in Boundas, C.,
“Foreclosure of the Other: From Sartre to Deleuze”, Journal of the British Society of Phenomenology, Vol. 24, No. 1, 1993, 32–41.
See Derrida, J., The Work of Mourning, eds. P. Brault and M. Naas, tr. S. Weber et al
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001). Consider also Deleuze and Guattari‟s account of philosophy as about concept creation in What is Philosophy? tr. H. Tomlinson and
G. Burchill (London: Verso, 1994), 2–5. See also Between Derrida and Deleuze, eds. P.
Patton and J. Protevi (London: Continuum, 2003), where this difference between the work
of Derrida and Deleuze is explored in several of the essays, perhaps best by Dan Smith,
notwithstanding my reservations about his too-stark divide between Derrida and Deleuze as
philosophers of transcendence and immanence respectively.
Derrida, J., Politics of Friendship, tr. G. Collins (London: Verso, 1997), 39.
For Deleuze, the discovery of the surface and the critique of depth is a theme of modern
literature in general (LS 14), not just Lewis Carroll‟s work which is his focus in Logic of
Sense, and it is something that he also seems to endorse, notwithstanding his love for Artaud, who is, for Deleuze, a writer of the depths.
See Diprose, R., Corporeal Generosity (New York: SUNY Press, 2002). This is an important issue that extends beyond Diprose‟s work. Merleau-Ponty‟s philosophy, for example,
whether in Phenomenology of Perception or The Visible and the Invisible, might well be
said to agree with Deleuze‟s descriptions of the other-structure, but argue that it does not
commit one to harmony and that there is no going beyond this chiasmic intertwining. Perhaps we are returned here to a distinction between Merleau-Ponty‟s lived phenomenology
and Deleuze‟s apparent desire for a phenomenology without reference to the lived. Another
way of putting this is to say that their respective works evince two different kinds of prag-

88 Symposium: Canadian Journal of Continental Philosophy

matism. Merleau-Ponty‟s ontology never quite leaves phenomena and the body behind.
Even The Visible and the Invisible is still based on certain phenomena (i.e., the famous example of two hands touching, as well as other chiasms that are phenomenologically evident). For Deleuze, however, metaphysics leaves this lived behind in the importance that he
accords to the virtual, which it will be argued tacitly legislates for the actual in an asymmetrical move that sometimes seems to simplify what is involved in our embodied comportment to a situation (and, on the contrary, he rarely shows us the manner in which the lived
ramifies on the virtual, when the idea of reciprocal determination seems to demand that this
be so). In other words, they have two very different attitudes towards the lived body. Deleuze wants to ascertain transcendental conditions for it and privilege those conditions that
lead to creativity; Merleau-Ponty wants to derive transcendental conditions from the body,
although these are generalizable far beyond the realm of the human (i.e., the flesh). Merleau-Ponty‟s transcendental philosophy of normality is hence opposed to Deleuze‟s selfproclaimed transcendental philosophy of the perverse (LS 151). In this light, we can understand Foucault‟s observation that Logic of Sense is the most antithetical book imaginable to
Phenomenology of Perception, but my wager, against Foucault no doubt, is that we are best
served seeing the imbrication of these accounts rather than privileging the one over the other as the philosophy of the twenty-first century.
It is interesting to note that Crusoe‟s three-stage journey in relation to the other-structure
parallels what Deleuze describes as the three-stage journey of Oedipus and Hamlet (DR 89)
and which he argues was also projected to be the case with Nietzsche‟s Zarathustra, i.e.,
from sickness, to convalescence, to the overcoming that he associates with the future and
the eternal return of difference (DR 91–2, 298). In all cases, in attaining to the final stage
they manage to live the transcendental and the virtual and, thus, also function as a kind of
moral exemplar either of the play of surfaces and the time of Aion (Crusoe in Logic of
Sense) or of the differential time of the future (Zarathustra, Oedipus and Hamlet in Difference and Repetition).
For an interpretation of all of Deleuze‟s work along these religious lines, see Peter Hallward, “Gilles Deleuze and the Redemption from Interest”, Radical Philosophy, Vol. 81,
Jan-Feb 1997, 6–21.
In his recent work Derrida argues that it is only the thinking that negotiates with the impossible (e.g., impossible or absolute forgiveness), which attempts to transgress given
boundaries, that involves any real movement.