[eDebate] kairos

Kevin Sanchez let_the_american_empire_burn
Sat Apr 28 04:29:39 CDT 2007

in chapter III of Gilles Deleuze's 'Difference & Repetition', the 
philosopher sketches out 8 things that can make thought dogmatic. the 
paragraph below explains number 7 - 'the postulate of modality' - or the 
reduction of problems to solutions (...in debate terms, the reduction of 
resolutions to plans).

"We are led to believe that problems are given ready-made, and that they 
disappear in the responses or the solution. Already, under this double 
aspect, they can be no more than phantoms. We are led to believe that the 
activity of thinking, along with truth and falsehood in relation to that 
activity, begins on with the search for solutions, that both of these 
concern only solutions. This belief probably has the same origin as the 
other postulates of the dogmatic image: puerile examples taken out of 
context and arbitrarily erected into models. According to this infantile 
prejudice, the master sets a problem, our task is to solve it, and the 
result is accredited true or false by a powerful authority. It is also a 
social prejudice with the visible interest of maintaining us in an infantile 
state, which calls upon us to solve problems that come from elsewhere, 
consoling or distracting us by telling us that we have won simply by being 
able to respond: the problem as obstacle and the respondent as Hercules. 
Such is the origin of the grotesque image of culture that we find in 
examinations and government referenda as well as in newspaper competitions 
(where everyone is called upon to choose according to his or her taste, on 
condition that this taste coincides with that of everyone else). Be 
yourselves - it being understood that this self must be that of others. As 
if we would not remain as slaves so long as we do not control the problems 
themselves, so long as we do not possess a right to the problems, to a 
participation in and management of the problems. The dogmatic image of 
thought supports itself with psychologically puerile and socially 
reactionary examples (cases of recognition, error, simple propositions and 
solutions or responses) in order to prejudge what should be most valued in 
regard to thought - namely, the genesis of the act of thinking..." (page 

...we can apply this to academic debate, sentence-by-sentence: in this 
forum, resolutions too are given to debaters 'ready-made' by the topic 
committee (or 'the master[s]', if you like). then you're expected to pretend 
you possess a quick-fix solution, which often inhibits a realistic grappling 
with these problems - or as Deleuze puts it, under this dogmatic postulate 
of what it means to think, 'problems... can be no more than phantoms', 
because they're not permitted to be open questions. 'the result is 
accredited true or false by a powerful authority', in this instance, a 
policy judge, who decides which team made the more fatal errors.

so what's Deleuze's impact?... disempowerment. this reactionary model feeds 
'a social prejudice with the visible interest of maintaining us in an 
infantile state'. basically, it's a disguised kind of hierarchical pedagogy.

this also helps to explain why various attempts at 'democratic empowerment' 
in debate have been co-opted, since they focus on personal expression (or 
'narratives'). Deleuze characterizes this as the injunction to 'be 
yourselves' on the condition that 'this self must be that of others'. in 
other words, perform whatever role you want (dance a dadaist jig, chant, 
rap), provided you stick to the overall script - the pre-formatted 
subject-position you're prohibited from altering and must express yourself 

in opposition to this 'consoling or distracting' paternalism, Deleuze 
asserts 'a right to the problems'. what might this mean for debaters?... the 
right to participate fully in the creation and management of their activity. 
basically, it's an honest kind of critical pedagogy.

it also relates to a right to 'philosophical obstinacy with no ally but 
paradox' (page 132 of the same chapter). participants might consider this 
non-negational problematization as a new debate ethos - wrestling with real 
world problems without feigning certainty, unlearning the practice of 
automatic refutation.

therefore, in addition to empowerment, this offers a new paradigm of 
education: one based on contingent encounters, not methological forms. as 
Deleuze writes (on page 139), "the conditions of a true critique and a true 
creation are the same: the destruction of an image of thought which 
pressuposes itself, and the genesis of the act of thinking in thought 
itself."... or rewritten for you:

what works as a good kritik and a good plan are the same: questioning 
debate's presupposed limits by taking it beyond what's expected of you, 
generating speech-action (illocutionarities) in debate itself, thereby 
forcing people to think.

kevin.sanchez at gmail.com




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