Don’t push your metaphors too far

Among the long list of fallacies we teach in level 1 philosophy is one called weak analogy:

This fallacy consists in assuming that because two things are alike in one or more respects, they are necessarily alike in some other respect. From here

It’s one that students usually spot easily in class when we are playing “spot the fallacy”, but it is still made more often than it should be.

For example: in D&G’s ATP we are given the rhizome as a metaphor for a type of thinking. So it’s a metaphor. That means that there’s a type of thinking that’s a bit like a rhizome, and we can talk about whether that’s useful, and how they resemble each other. But I don’t think that metaphors are things that can be right or wrong, and I really don’t think that you should blame the person who suggested a metaphor when it’s not a perfect fit.

So don’t say that D&G are being bad scientists when the botanical structure does not fit the particular facet of thinking that you are attending to – D&G were never doing science in the first place.

There are, you see, two ways of reading a book; you either see it as a box with something inside and start looking for what it signifies, and then if you’re even more perverse or depraved you set off after signifiers. And you treat the next book like a  box contained in the first or containing it. And you annotate and interpret and question, and write a book about the book, and so on and on. Or there’s the other way: you see the book as a little non-signifying machine, and the only question is ‘Does it work, and how does it work?’ How does it work for you? If it doesn’t work, if nothing comes through, you try another book. This second way of reading’s intensive: something comes through or it doesn’t. There’s nothing to explain, nothing to understand, nothing to interpret. It’s like plugging in to an electric circuit. I know people who’ve read nothing who immediately saw what bodies without organs were, given their own ‘habits,’ their own way of being one. This second way of reading’s quite different from the first, because it relates a book directly to what’s Outside. A book is a little cog in much more complicated external machinery … This intensive way of reading, in contact with what’s outside the book, as a flow meeting other flows, one machine among others, as a series of experiments for each reader in the midst of events that have nothing to do with books,as tearing the book into pieces, getting it to interact with other things,absolutely anything … is reading with love. That’s exactly how you read the book. (Deleuze, 1990/1995, quoted in Elizabeth St Pierre 2004)

So, that’s how I read D&G.

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