McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
Atomism, Deleuze, Ideas, Kant, Lucretius, Plato
Deleuze and Guattari famously defined philosophy as the "art of forming, inventing, and fabricating concepts." This, however, is not the whole story of philosophy. For concepts, according to Deleuze, are formed or invented as solutions to problems. If concepts are the solutions to problems, then there is a philosophical task prior to the creation of concepts: the selection of true problems. The value of a philosophy is thus not located simply in the concepts it creates, but also in the problems that it selects. Deleuze values philosophies that focus on true problems and create interesting concepts. According to this criterion, one philosophy that Deleuze values particularly highly is Lucretian atomism. While Deleuze's relationship to Lucretius has been almost completely ignored, De rerum natura homes in on at least one significant problem: to think of nature in the form of a problem. To be more exact, thinking of nature as a problem eventually sparks the emergence of thought itself as a product of the natural world. This insistence on thinking the world under the form of a problem, I claim, is the site of the Deleuze-Lucretius encounter. It is through this encounter that the particular selection of problems for philosophical and ethical thinking deployed in De rerum natura eventually came to reverberate through, and actually structure, many of Deleuze's texts. I claim, in sum, that Lucretian atomism produced many essential features of Deleuzianism.
Johnson, R. (2013). The Problem: The Theory of Ideas in Ancient Atomism and Gilles Deleuze (Doctoral dissertation, Duquesne University). Retrieved from https://dsc.duq.edu/etd/706