Becoming-Other: Foucault, Deleuze, and the Political Nature of Thought


  • Vernon W. Cisney Gettysburg College



Outside, Badiou, Hallward, Deleuze, Foucault, Thought, Difference, Virtual, Actual, Self, Freedom, Power, Unthought, Subject, Eternal Return, Individuation


In this paper I employ the notion of the ‘thought of the outside’ as developed by Michel Foucault, in order to defend the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze against the criticisms of ‘elitism,’ ‘aristocratism,’ and ‘political indifference’—famously leveled by Alain Badiou and Peter Hallward.  First, I argue that their charges of a theophanic conception of Being, which ground the broader political claims, derive from a misunderstanding of Deleuze’s notion of univocity, as well as a failure to recognize the significance of the concept of multiplicity in Deleuze’s thinking.  From here, I go on to discuss Deleuze’s articulation of the ‘dogmatic image of thought,’ which, insofar as it takes ‘recognition’ as its model, can only ever think what is already solidified and sedimented as true, in light of existing structures and institutions of power.  Then, I examine Deleuze’s reading of Foucault and the notion of the ‘thought of the outside,’ showing the ‘outside’ as the unthought that lies at the heart of thinking itself, as both its condition and its impossibility.  Insofar as it is essential to thinking itself, finally, I argue that the passage of thought to the outside is not an absolute flight out of this world, as Hallward claims, but rather, a return of the different that constitutes the Self for Deleuze.  Thinking is an ongoing movement of deterritorialization and reterritorialization, or as Foucault says, death and life.  Thinking, as Deleuze understands it, is essentially creative; it reconfigures the virtual, thereby literally changing the world.  Thinking is therefore, according to Deleuze, thoroughly political.

Author Biography

Vernon W. Cisney, Gettysburg College

Vernon W. Cisney is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Gettysburg College. He is the author of Derrida’s Voice and Phenomenon: An Edinburgh Philosophical Guide (Edinburgh University Press, forthcoming, 2014), as well as, Derrida and Deleuze: Difference, Immanence, and the Future (Edinburgh University Press, 2015). He is also the co-editor of Biopower: Foucault and Beyond (University of Chicago Press, forthcoming), The Way of Nature and the Way of Grace: Philosophical Footholds on Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life (Northwestern University Press, forthcoming), and Between Foucault and Derrida (Edinburgh University Press, forthcoming). In addition, he is co-translating La Monnaie Vivante by Pierre Klossowski for Bloomsbury Academic.




How to Cite

Cisney, V. W. (2014). Becoming-Other: Foucault, Deleuze, and the Political Nature of Thought. Foucault Studies, (17), 36–59.



Special Issue on Foucault and Deleuze