O Father!  You and Dr. Freud stopped me from becoming a post structuralist!

Lots of people who should know better insist that children are natural philosophers.  It is a kind of version of Rousseau—kids  are born philosophising, but everywhere they are enchained in rigid conceptual schemes.  All sorts of people seem to support this view, including Deleuze. The argument is based on the ability of children to ask interesting questions.  That is, questions that are  interesting, and look philosophical, to adults, that is, to adult philosophers. 

Deleuze & Guattari have the example of the legendary Little Hans, the person at the centre of Freud’s analysis of childhood sexuality.  Deleuze quotes examples of the sorts of comments and statements that little Hans makes about horses.  It should be stated immediately that Deleuze is quoting Freud here, and Freud is quoting Hans’s father, who, like all parents, love to record the interesting statements and questions of their children, and who promptly forget all the banal and uninteresting ones.  Here is what I noted of what Deleuze and Guattari say ( in Thousand Plateaus):

The language of children represents a fair expression [but not an understanding surely] of the relations in assemblages before they have been disciplined – and Little Hans’s inquiries are cited – do machines pee/why do some machines like train engines pee; what exactly are the differences between boys and girls and how they pee, the use of indefinite articles ‘a body’ etc. Things like horses are a ‘list of affects’[for him] rather than a clearly defined member of a species – its eyes are blinkered, it has a dark band round its mouth, it drums with its feet etc. So becoming horse means not playing at horse, not developing an analogy with a horse, not empathising with a horse but


whether Little Hans can endow his own elements with the relations of movement and rest, the affects, that would make it become horse, forms and subjects aside. Is there an as yet unknown assemblage that would be neither Hans’ nor the horse’s but that of the becoming–horse for Hans? An assemblage, for example, in which the horse would bare its teeth and Hans might show something else, his feet, his legs, his peepee maker, whatever? And in what way would that ameliorate Hans’ problem, to what extent would it open a way out that had been previously blocked?...[and when Hoffmanstahl contemplates a dying rat and ‘becomes a rat’ ]... This is not an analogy, or a product of the imagination, but a composition of speeds and affects on the plane of consistency; a plan(e), a program, or rather a diagram [I later learned this meant some representation of a mathematical relationship], a problem, a question-machine’ (284-5)


As is well known, Deleuze and Guattari go on (in Anti-Oedipus mostly)  to chide Freud for making sense of Hans’s statements, including those of his fears and anxieties, which in turn are given as reasons for his sudden anxiety about going outdoors and encountering horses.  Freud squashes these interesting questions and statements into the emerging orthodoxy of the oedipal triangle.  The horse really stands for Hans’ father, and, later, for his mother (since horses pull box wagons which in turn stand for wombs, and energise Hans’ anxiety about his mother getting pregnant again and producing a rival: the connection with horses is particularly strengthened by recollections of an early visit in a horse drawn carriage to see a family with a new baby).  Freud also suspects that the particular anxiety about horses drumming with their hooves represents a witnessed primal scene of sex between his father and his mother.  Little Hans is ‘cured’ by his father explaining and discussing these aspects of infantile sexuality. 

For Deleuze and Guattari, however, this is a form of repression, preventing Hans from developing his own interesting ideas about horses and how they relate to his own desires, which Deleuze and Guattari suggest are more to do with wanting to play outside, including in the depot where the horses are, just like the street kids.  These have to be repressed to maintain social distance as well as the normal sexual relations between men and women and children.  At its most creative and imaginative, Deleuze and Guattari suggest, Hans is exploring becoming, the process of deterritorializing conventional understandings by opening up conventional categories.  This is described as his wish to ‘become-horse’, which is further explained, at least in AntiOedipus, as a less pathological form of what schizophrenics do.

As the paragraph above indicates, Hans uses affects of various kinds to drive his own enquiries.  Let us give him the benefit of the doubt and see his questions as embryonic percepts. We know that affects and percepts are important in the process of philosophical inquiry.  However, equally important are concepts.  These are required to extend questioning into philosophical challenges, and to stop deterritorialization by conceiving of new concepts, in a subsequent phase of reterritorialization.  Hans is only a small child.  He has a long way to go before he is able to develop a taste for concepts, and, above all, before he attains enough educational and cultural capital to construct new ones.  Deleuze and Guattari are clearly extremely well read themselves, for example, and a draw upon this extensive knowledge to construct their concepts.  They do not just rely on affects.  However, what is really being argued is that infantile affects are enough to make children into philosophers.  This is as a foolish a mistake as the one made by naive rationalists, who think you can just rely on concepts, or the one made by empiricists who rely on experience, to generate new thoughts.  You need all three, Deleuze tells us. 

This leads to what might be seen as the teachers’ dilemma.  To get there, let us imagine that Little Hans had encountered not horses but black people, and that for strangely subjective reasons, these had been attached to his anxieties.  Perhaps he saw a black man fall in the street and drum his feet in an epileptic fit.  Perhaps he saw a collection of pregnant black women.  He might then be induced by various affects to begin to think about black people as ‘a list of affects’.  We would then be faced with a dilemma as educators.  Would we want him to reterritorialize using our concepts—common humanity, explanations of perceived differences in terms of social and economic differences not ‘racial’ ones?  Or would we be content to let him explore, and maybe encounter quite different sorts of reterritorializations based on racist conceptions?  Are some affects and concepts better than others?  [Incidentally, I did manage to find Deleuze expressing a value judgment in Cinema 2 where he compares the irrational cuts and sequences in experimental, critical and political film approvingly with the commercially driven film pretending to be art, which might use irrational cuts and sequences itself and thus look rather similar, but which is not motivated by philosophy or politics.]

Or perhaps we would let Hans pursue endless deterritorializations only, so he could become one of those cultural heroes the schizophrenics?  Deleuze and Guattari clearly admire some schizophrenics, artists and philosophers especially.  But they also admit that they have never met ‘normal’ schizophrenic, and we can only wonder what on earth they would have made of people who hear voices telling them to kill other people, and are driven to criminality or serious insanity, sometimes to suicide, rather than to experimental art.

As usual, we need some way of deciding what is a ‘good’ form of affect, becoming, and deterritorialization.  I think that in the case of Deleuze especially, his own elite values deal with that important issue, and like all elite values, they are not made explicit, and probably that is because they reside in an unconscious habitus.  If we were to make them more explicit, we would have to leave behind abstract philosophy of course, and leap back into actual practice.  Philosophy will not solve the teachers dilemma on its own.

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