Andrew McDonald

Tutor and Research Student - Sense, Transvaluation and Language: A Genealogy of the Concept of Sense in the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze 1953-1969



Andrew is a PhD student in Philosophy. He is also a Tutor and teaches on the following modules:

Research Topic

Sense, Transvaluation and Language: A Genealogy of the Concept of Sense in the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze 1953-1969


Professor James Williams & Dr Todd Mei



Andrew's research topic for his PhD thesis is 'Sense, Transvaluation and Language: A Genealogy of the Concept of Sense in the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze 1953-1969'.


This thesis adopts a genealogical technique in order to explore the concept of sense in the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze during the period 1953 – 1969. A genealogical approach has been adopted in order to analyse underlying epistemic conflicts between understanding and meaning that take place in Deleuze’s philosophy. The conflicts that are revealed throughout the chapters are not sought to be understood in a dialectical manner where one force will synthesise with another. On the contrary, it is through an analysis of these conflicts that enables a disjunctive synthesis to be affirmed. This is where the opposition between values is beneficiary for the production of knowledge. In other words, it is not through a continual resolution of problems but the creation and engagement with problems that enables the process of understanding to take place.

The introduction and initial chapters discuss the early philosophical foundations of Deleuze’s concept of sense. This demonstrates a transition in the concept of sense from an empiricism based upon a structural analysis of phenomena (which seeks to establish conditions for knowledge) to Deleuze’s radical transformation of empiricism based upon an immanent metaphysics (that reveals those conditions as affected by worldly forces). The introduction establishes the empirical foundations of Deleuze’s concept of sense. This empirical conflict is between sense (the process of understanding) and meaning (the attainment of comprehension) in Locke’s philosophy of language in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. It is on this basis that two further conflicts are analysed in the first two chapters as exposed in Deleuze’s analysis of Nietzsche in Nietzsche and Philosophy. The first conflict is between sense and transcendent values. This conflict occurs through a discussion of Friedrich Nietzsche’s early essays ‘On the Origin of Language’ and ‘On Rhetoric’. Nietzsche’s later concepts of genealogy and transvaluation are discussed as an advancement of his earlier essays. The second conflict is between sense and its dialectical negation. This is illuminated through an analysis of Hegel’s The Phenomenology of Spirit and The Science of Logic. Hegel’s emphasis on negation is problematized by Deleuze through a reading of Max Stirner’s The Ego and its Own. After this, a contrast emerges between the Hegelian concept of negation (experiential forces are nonsensical and do not constitute knowledge) and Nietzsche’s concept of the eternal return (experiential forces underlie the construction of knowledge). Deleuze’s reading of the eternal return enables a positive role of sense to be affirmed and in doing so, reverses the role of negation within the dialectic. From this it can be seen that the concept of genealogy is opposed to a Hegelian dialectical approach which documents the historical transformation of oppositional forces and their resolution over periods of time. A genealogical approach, on the other hand, documents the underlying immanent forces that influence the construction of an idea. A genealogical approach therefore affirms underlying immanent forces which influence the creation of general structures of thought or causal principles, rather than, seeking to establish them.

The remaining four chapters develop the relation of the concept of apprenticeship to Deleuze’s concept of sense. The fourth and fifth chapters develop the conflict between rationalist and empirical apprenticeships that occurs within Deleuze’s Proust and Signs. The fourth develops Deleuze’s anti-rationalist remarks in Proust and Signs. A concept of rationalist apprenticeship is defined through a reading of Descartes’ Rules for the Direction of the Mind and Meditations on First Philosophy. Descartes’ rationalist view is problematized through an objection made by Hobbes in the Meditations. These contrasting approaches to apprenticeship are reflected in a modern linguistic discussion of Noam Chomsky’s Cartesian Linguistics and William Labov’s Sociolinguistics. Deleuze’s critical remarks on Chomsky and Labov with Felix Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus demonstrates an adherence to an immanent process of language and radicalisation of Labov’s linguistics technique.

This allows for a contrast to be established with the Fifth chapter which establishes the concept of an immanent apprenticeship. It will be argued that the Deleuze’s concept of apprenticeship emerges through a conflict between singularity and universality. This is developed by engaging with Deleuze’s remarks on Leibniz that accompany his reading of Proust. Through the discussion of monads and possible worlds in Leibniz’s Discourse on Metaphysics and The Monadology enables further insight into the functioning of an immanent apprenticeship through the affirmation of the paradox between singularity and universality. Finally, in the thesis, Deleuze’s Logic of Sense is separated into two discussions. The first discussion of Logic of Sense deals with the paradox of becoming and universal language in Plato’s Cratylus. It is argued that an answer to the paradox is given by Plato that is based upon a pure metaphysics that negates immanence. The second discussion of Logic of Sense deals with Deleuze’s reversal of Platonism. This reversal is made in Deleuze’s reading of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. It is shown that Deleuze’s engagement with this paradox is reflective of the conflicts established in the previous chapters. Therefore through Deleuze’s engagment with this paradox allows for a formation of a framework for a philosophy of language as based on immanence and sense. The thesis concludes with a summary of the prior conflicts within the thesis and an analysis of Deleuze’s self criticism of his own use of concepts in order provide the reader with insight into the development of his philosophy of language and a reason for the necessity of his radicalisation of style that occurs in his work with Guattari.