Perhaps the best way to approach the relationship between Deleuze and Agamben is to adopt a method from Deleuze and Guattari’s late philosophy: the conceptual persona.1 Here philosophical proper names do not stand for biographies or persons but for orientations or maps of thinking. Descartes, for example, enables a whole tradition of Cartesian dualism, even for those who neither read nor reference his work. There are some occasions when Agamben’s history of thought also considers proper names less as labels for specific historical individuals, and more as markers of a certain style or distribution of thinking. His recent The Use of Bodies, for example, sees Spinoza as a way of coming to terms with the relation between essence and existence (between what a being is, and that a being is) (UB 160). The names Agamben draws upon are not so much focused upon for their singular greatness, but because they provide a way for thinking about what Agamben sees as the ongoing problem of the singular existence of an individuated being, and then the way that being is identified in language. One might also think of this as the difference between the simple event that something is, and then the identifiable what of the thing. In What is Philosophy? Deleuze and Guattari treat proper names as conceptual personae, suggesting – as Agamben does – that philosophical problems (and the names that attach to them) are not academic exercises of a specific discipline, but have to do with the very possibility of thinking (in domains well beyond philosophy).
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