Gilles Deleuze’s Ontological Functionalism and The Problem of Intensity

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis argues that Deleuze’s metaphilosophical constructivism develops a notion of metaphysics based on an ontological conception of principles as functions. Whereas ‘constructivism’ refers to both immanent and transcendent metaphysics, the latter posits principles that operate on a supplementary dimension to that which they condition, thus remaining ‘hidden’ and their power unexplained. By contrast, immanent metaphysics relies on principles whose functioning develops on the same plane and in direct relation with that to which ‘they give rise’. They refer to ‘transparent’ ontological functions whose product merges with the process of production itself. Accordingly, I argue that Deleuze develops his metaphysics based on the immanent functioning of the principle of intensity. The latter’s constitutive and individuating power extends beyond the genesis of real experience to the production of the ethico-aesthetic determinations of experience, namely its pragmatics or how ‘real experience works’. As I aim to demonstrate, intensity’s immanent functionalism originates in Deleuze’s commitment to the critical methodology of superior empiricism, developed in his early historical writings. Deleuze derives from Hume the idea that principles are functions and that immanence depends on the logic of external relations, and from Bergson, Deleuze derives an ontological principle of internal difference and the concept of multiplicity. However, as I argue, it is through his readings of Spinoza and Nietzsche that Deleuze obtains the specifications of intensity as the principle of his immanent metaphysics. The first two chapters discuss Deleuze’s Spinozism and Nietzscheanism, wherein intensity operates immanently: in Spinoza, the individuation of modal essences as degrees of power, and in Nietzsche, the productive synthesis of forces as the will to power. In both cases, intensity constitutes an immanent corporeal plane of affective and ethical determinations. In the last two chapters, I discuss the role of principles in Deleuze’s two solo works, Difference and Repetition and The Logic of Sense, where Deleuze theorises intensity’s immanent functioning to develop his concept of sense as simulacrum – phantasm.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Widder, Nathan, Supervisor
  • Somers-Hall, Henry, Supervisor
Publication statusUnpublished - 2023


  • Metaphysics
  • Immanence
  • Intensity
  • Metaphilosophy
  • Simulacra
  • Sense
  • Gilles Deleuze
  • Poststructuralism
  • ontology
  • Principles

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