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The metaphysical screen in Gilles Deleuze’s cinematic philosophy

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

“I feel I am a pure metaphysician,” declared Gilles Deleuze in a 1981 interview, and although perhaps his statement is more provocation than proof, this thesis takes Deleuze’s admission seriously in a reading of his Cinema books. It is the proposal of this thesis that many accounts of Deleuze’s cinematic philosophy and its ethical implications do not sufficiently interrogate Deleuze’s underlying metaphysical commitments. By first placing Deleuze’s philosophy in a tradition of metaphysical inquiry, I understand his work on cinema as part of a post-Kantian metaphysics underwritten by a vitalist reorientation of transcendental philosophy. From this standpoint, cinema acts as a model for thinking about the metaphysical production of reality, providing an inhuman transcendental perspective that reveals the contingency of habitual modes of perception.

The first chapter analyzes the transition from movement- to time-images as cinema’s Copernican Revolution. The concept of antiproduction – as that which allows sense to be made in the relentless becoming of production – proves instrumental in positioning aesthetic shifts in cinema as grounded in Deleuze’s metaphysics. The second chapter excavates cinema from the perspective of its birth as a scientific instrument to explore the ability of film to experiment with the possibilities of thought, reading Deleuze’s work through Jean Epstein’s practice of cinema as a lyrical science. The third chapter interrogates the historical status of Deleuze’s narrative of film alongside a concept of technicity garnered through the work of Gilbert Simondon, figuring progressions of cinematic logic as transcendental events: ruptures that do not merely happen in time but constitute things that happen to time, producing shifts in the conditions of experience.

Taking Deleuze’s metaphysics seriously requires facing up to the unsavoury aspects of its corresponding ethical position and demands a critical perspective to reveal its fatalistic implications when put to work in the contemporary context. Deleuze decries a rendering of the image as information, but in the fourth chapter I take the digitality of the current media landscape to be the conditions under which a post-cinematic pedagogy can escape an ethical and political fatalism. Cinema, through its modelling of thought as metaphysically contingent in the onslaught of becoming, can thus also act as a site on which to ground thinking. Much existing scholarship on Deleuze’s cinematic philosophy either accepts thought’s powerlessness as its ethical epicentre or ignores Deleuze’s metaphysics in order to smuggle humanist sentiment through the backdoor of politics. Against this, I will reintroduce the importance of a metaphysical principle of contingent reason with the intention of valorizing the self-grounding of reason as ethically primary for an engagement with cinema.
Original languageEnglish
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Award date1 Aug 2020

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