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Life Drawing

A Deleuzean Aesthetics of Existence

Gordon C.F. Bearn

Publication Year: 2013

Deleuze's publications have attracted enormous attention, but scant attention has been paid to the existential relevance of Deleuze's writings. In the lineage of Nietzsche, Life Drawing develops a fully affirmative Deleuzean aesthetics of existence.For Foucault and Nehamas, the challenge of an aesthetics of existence is to make your life, in one way or another, a work of art. In contrast, Bearn argues that art is too narrow a concept to guide this kind of existential project. He turns instead to the more generous notion of beauty, but he argues that the philosophical tradition has mostly misconceived beauty in terms of perfection. Heraclitus and Kant are well-known exceptions to this mistake, and Bearn suggests that because Heraclitean becoming is beyond conceptual characterization, it promises a sensualized experience akin to what Kant called free beauty. In this new aesthetics of existence, the challengeis to become beautiful by releasing a Deleuzean becoming: becoming becoming. Bearn's readings of philosophical texts--by Wittgenstein, Derrida, Plato, and others--will be of interest in their own right.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

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Quite A Crowd

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pp. vii-x

I did not write this book alone. I couldn’t have. True enough, my fi ngers wrote or typed its various chapters in various drafts, but I didn’t write or type alone. I couldn’t have. Nothing is written alone. Writing is folding heterogeneous materials together, egg whites into pancake batter. True...

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pp. 1-17

This book was such fun to write. There were difficult moments, of course, but mostly this book gave me all the inordinate joy of discovery and creation, the surest way to joy.
There is no unhappy creation, it is always a vis comica. (Deleuze 1967b, 134) ...

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One Yes and No

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pp. 18-67

Yes. Surprising as it seems, Western philosophy is afraid of Yes. In the wake of his early fascination with Schopenhauer’s dark pessimism, Nietzsche discovered in ancient Greek tragedy the energizing and terrifying power of Yes. Tragedy as dangerous affirmation, like wine. This was not, nor is it Slice one thin feature from the haunches of human tragedy: Tragedies ...

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Two Learning to Swim

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pp. 68-74

Is that the point? Pointlessness. Is that us, pulling on our boots, preparing to trudge off in pursuit of pointlessness, in pursuit of no longer being in pursuit of anything? The suggestion that we may solve the problem of life’s point by embracing pointlessness is an easy mark, maybe even self- defeating: Hegel mocked the pseudo wise resolution to learn to swim before going ...

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Three Andante Vivace

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pp. 75-98

Kundera’s short novel Slowness (1995) approaches, in its own way, the same territory that I have moved toward under the word Yes.1 So, roughly speaking, Kundera’s Speed is my No, and his Slowness is my Yes. But there will be differences; for one, Kundera doesn’t share my determination to turn back from double negation to an original Yes, and this difference may ...

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Four Again and Again

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pp. 99-158

It was never an issue. Nobody ever even suggested that I become a gigolo. So I was never really forced to decide why it would be a bad life. Why would it be a bad life? Set aside all those features of a gigolo’s life that won’t sufficiently discriminate that life from being a mathematician or a gymnast, features such as that all three of these occupations favor the young. ...

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Five Keep Everything in Sight at the Same Time

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pp. 159-160

Words are like tender buttons. They have official uses, well- known uses. They are like mother’s milk to us. Are my male nipples, barely rising from my fl at chest, therefore useless? Atavistic remnants of some Aristophanic hermaphroditism? We know better. Many uses. Many pleasures. Words too. Many uses. Many pleasures. Pleasures and powers that come with the ...

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Six Desire without Desires

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pp. 161-204

The most persistently negative feature of philosophy is the traditional interpretation of desire as a disturbing lack. It is at least as old as Plato, and it lives on in Kant, Mill, Lacan, and Derrida. Despite the work of Deleuze and Guattari, it shows no signs of losing popularity. And Derrida’s featuring the force of such expressions as “wanting to say” or “vouloir dire” shows ...

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Seven Becoming Becoming

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pp. 205-241

The meaning of the word aesthetic has narrowed in the last few centuries. The root meaning of the Greek word from which we get aesthetic refers to what we feel or apprehend through the senses, and the meaning of aesthetic is still sometimes given as “of or pertaining to sensuous perception.”1 But in the eighteenth century, especially in Germany under the influence of ...

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Eight Refusing Beauty; or, The Bruise

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pp. 242-255

Barthes tells us that one of the surprising things about speech is that there is no erasing. There is only going forward. There is only Yes (Barthes 1984, 93). This is a feature of speech that derives from speech’s being in time. Not its being in space. We can move back and forth in space but not in time (Bergson [1889] 1960, 154– 55). In time, that is in...

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Nine An Ethics of Affection

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pp. 256-295

The relation of most ethical theory to the anguish of existence is like the relation of dusting to architecture. It’s good to dust. And since dust always returns there is always more good to be done by dusting. But good dusters presuppose furnished structures, and there is no connection between being able to polish a table and being able to design it, between dusting a house ...

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pp. 296-300

The words life drawing evoke art classes with which we are familiar, easels scattering around a naked model, and something less clear, the intimation of a different practice, ceding control, letting your life be drawn by sensual singulars beyond representation, into beauty, becoming becoming. Wittgensteinians deny it, but you can feel those senses entangling like lovers’ ...


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pp. 301-314

Works Cited

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pp. 315-332


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pp. 333-342

E-ISBN-13: 9780823250394
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823244805
Print-ISBN-10: 0823244806

Page Count: 352
Illustrations: 20 b/w
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: Text