15 – Making Cosmos: the Tangle of the Universe

“Right now, I’m dealing, like everybody else, with the big bang, the creation of the universe, the infinite curvature, things like that. How did the big bang happen? I believe that at the origin of things there is no big bang, there is the Z […] Yes, the big bang should be replaced with the Z, which in fact is Zen, which is the path of the fly. What does that mean? For me to invoke the zigzag, it is what we were saying before, no universals, but sets of singularities. The problem is how to relate disparate singularities or potentials […] there was the obscure precursor, and then the flash. That is how the world is born. There is always an obscure precursor, which nobody sees. And then the lightning that lights up. And the world, and thinking should be like that. Philosophy should be like that, that is the big Z”.

                                                                                        (G. Deleuze, Alphabet Book)

Cosmology represents the margin of contemporary thought, the unthought of all ontological and metaphysical reflection: in the shadow of metaphysics and on the edges of ontology, cosmology subverts the foundations of the former and expanses the boundaries of the latter. In this sense the power of cosmology is an adventure of ideas still partly philosophically unexplored, but also a theoretical and poietic gamble on which contemporaneity seems to ask us to bet upon.

Cosmology is therefore a minor line of thought whose practical effects and theoretical depth are to be probed.

Cosmology is nourished by the inextinguishable task of articulating a thought on globality, and wholeness, while considering its radical and contradictory openness. Cosmology is structurally ambivalent: on the one hand, a genuine cosmological reflection implies a theory of everything, but, on the other hand, it does not cease to figurate it in its infinite and constantly postponed evenementiality. That of cosmology is thus a vocation for the paradoxical, and the chimerical. Cosmology is basically alost bet, a fallibilistic attempt to determine the perimeter «of a world of universal variation, of universal undulation, of universal lapping» (Deleuze 2001: 140). In this sense the power of cosmos is in principle incircumscribable, without thereby being in any way transcendent.

The Deleuzian thought can act as a forerunner in this sense as Deleuze draws the margins of a new geography of the cosmos: his absolute and absolutely immanent vision of the real conveys within philosophical reflection the two-faced and paradoxical need to hold together a global conception of the whole and its dimension of ever open and evenemential articulation.

The pulsating question at the center of this issue of La Deleuziana is therefore what is the usefulness  (for life and for thought) of a theory of everything, as well as what might be the status of the concept of totality in the Deleuzian thought and, more generally, in contemporary thought.

Nowadays, exhuming the corpse of a theory of everything, whose face we perhaps no longer even recognize, can only be a way of resemantizing its terms and to erode its presuppositions from within, i.e. intensively: this is the theoretical space that Deleuze’s thought seems to glimpse and whose heuristic nature we would like to probe.

Problematizing the relation between ontology, cosmology and metaphysics, thinking about their possible junctions and disjunctions, is the form that the question around the possibility of thinking the Deleuzian philosophy as a genuine cosmology takes in this issue.  The outline of a transversal, transindividual and transpecific cosmology seems to peep through the Deleuzian reflections, but there is an additional need of an “hermeneutic machination” (Vignola 2018) on the subject, in order to grasp the “implicatures” that the Deleuzian work never ceases to produce. In other words, Deleuze’s thought seems to make sign for a cosmology, but the power of the cosmological is in part still an unexplored ground.

One of the problematic points that this issue proposes to analyze is certainly that between reason and cosmology. After all, cosmology, at least in the eyes of moderns, has always carried with it a taste of unreasonableness, or even primitivism, to use an outdated and stale term. Cosmology has always seemed the reverse of the map of the rational world, a theoretical and practical milieu where powers and forces that escape modern constraints are constantly at work. How, then, can a new cosmological thought and reason, understood in the broadest possible sense of the term, be related?

Deleuze’s entire thought, moreover, bears the marks of this clash with reason, reasonableness, and common sense. His use of the tools produced by sciences has always been a subtle but constant conflict with the constraint uses that capitalist society attributes to those same conceptual weapons. How can this conflict, an affirmation of new uses for ancient tools, nurture a new Deleuzian cosmology?

Another path to pursue is the relation between virtuality and cosmos, exploring in what sense a transcendental that is not broader than all its explications can be configured as a mobile pre-condition of each of its expressions and in what terms the virtual represents the beginningless (cosmo)genesis of all things, nothing but a cosmic zigzag.

Deleuze’s thought seems to virulently push to interrogate the philosophemes of the beginning and the end (of all things) and to do so under a cosmic key, engaging in a hand-to-hand combat with absolutizing reifications of the concepts of the beginning and the end, which tend to be assimilated to “wellspring points” or hermetic and definitive closures. On the contrary, Deleuze detects their continuous openness and limitlessness.

In this perspective, the beginning of the world, of philosophy and of thought are nothing more than the illusory optical effects of the paradigm of representation, to which the paradigm of differentiation and genesis must be substituted. Under this light there is no “alpha point” of beginning but only a pure past that hems virtualiter every actualization, like a contrast agent.

The virtual is the shadow of the cosmos, the past that topologically chases every line and occasion of the actual without ever transcending it; that is to say, the pure past for Deleuze is an indelible trace that marks every determination and connects it to an informal field without origin from which each of them emerges. The cruelty of the beginning is its structural absence and its state of continuous disparity. For Deleuze: «every philosophical beginning, that is, Difference, is already in itself Repetition » (1994a: 129). The “cosmic fabric” of immanence is thus a reticular tangle where the origin sinks into the infinite tunnel of event, «an invisible, incessant labyrinth of a single straight line» (Deleuze 1998: 28), which has neither beginning nor end.

The cosmos in its virtuality is a dark precursor that precedes like thunder every flash and burst (of the actual), never ceasing to guide its intensive evolution. The dark precursor is a topological and timeless past, whose rhythm is ascribed to a non-pulsed and cosmic temporality: the past (virtuality) is simultaneous with every now (actuality).  This is exactly the power of the cosmos: breaking all diachrony, towards an out-of-joint temporality, perfect synchrony of the eternal.

Moreover, the evolution of the cosmos is configured as the continuous establishment of a metastable equilibrium between chaos and kosmos. The trajectory that unites order and chaos is that of a disjunctive synthesis collected in the Guattarian term chaosmos (Guattari 1995), a still little-studied word that this issue of La Deleuziana proposes to explore in depth. The aim is to highlight the ineliminable mutuality between the line of flight, that is the virtuality of the cosmos, the plane of immanence, an informal multiplicity that sifts chaos and gives consistency to its infinite velocities (Deleuze Guattari 1994b: 36), and the molar lines that preside over the formation of all hierarchizing structuration.  Ultimately, it is a question of problematizing the relation between the virtual and the actual, grasping the power of this nexus in its cosmic breath.

Another node of interest in this issue is the elaboration of what we might call a cosmology of unreason, a specification of that troubled relation between rational thought and cosmology. After all, Deleuze made no secret that he imagined his philosophy as an operation of theoretical aberration. It has become almost a cliché to associate Deleuze’s thought, with or without Guattari, with madness, understood both in a liberating and explosive sense and in a paranoid and dystopian one. From the Artaudian nomadic signs to the topic of molecular control, the Deleuzian reflection is traversed from top to bottom by a complex, non-medicalized conceptualization of unreason. And Deleuze himself, after all, has defined his thought nothing less than an apocalyptic science-fiction. How, then, do apocalypse and madness come into play in cosmological thought? Can there be a Deleuzism of “the last things”? An aberrant cosmos?

A further itinerary of interest that seems to emerge spontaneously within contemporary thought is a possible alliance between the questions that the Deleuzian philosophy leaves open and anthropology. Of particular relevance in this regard is the topic of non-Western cosmologies (Viveiros de Castro, 2012, 2016, 2017) that are capable of reconfiguring the cosmological and cosmomorphic force (Montebello 2016) of philosophy. Under this light the notion of becoming-other decomposes the classical binarism of modern thought (nature/culture, male/female, soul/body, subject/object…), proposing a surprising return to things, to the entities of the world and to the dynamics of becoming that they are capable of mobilizing.

Ultimately, this issue will also welcome works of fiction or theory-fiction. Moved by the idea that making cosmos cannot be reduced only to a philosophical task, we will seek alternative methods of probing cosmological visions. Narrative will be treated as a way of constructing “test-tube universes” and the ability to provoke or inhibit cosmological visions will be central to the issue.

Main (but not exclusive) theoretical paths:

1.          Difference between cosmology, metaphysics and ontology. What is the relation between cosmology, the history of metaphysics and Western thought? Can Deleuze’s thought be considered as a cosmology? What is the usefulness (for life, for thought) of a theory of the Whole? What status does the concept of totality have within the Deleuzian and contemporary thought?

2.          Relation between rationality, scientific speculation and cosmology. What is the relation between cosmic thought and scientific reason? How to articulate an epistemology of the problematic? Which logics (of virtuality, of event) can support a speculative thinking? Which logics are proper to a cosmological thought? Is there a cosmic Reason beyond Western modernity?

3.          The beginning and the end of everything. How can Deleuze’s thought resemantize the concepts of the beginning and the end of the world? What is the future of philosophy as apocalyptic science fiction? What is the ontological status of the concept of cosmogenesis in a cosmology of becoming?

4.          Delirium and cosmos. How can chaosmotic thinking be activated in contemporary thought? What role do delirium and aberrant forces play in Deleuzian cosmology? What relation (or conflict) unites reason and chaos? What cosmology for the cruel? For schizophrenia? For the asignificant? For primary misosophy? What cosmology for creation?

5.          Non-Western Cosmologies. What is the relation between Deleuze’s thought and non-Western cosmologies? How can we imagine new relations with the Earth, the non-human and the inhuman? How can we overcome the classical dualisms of modern thought (nature/culture, male/female, soul/body, subject/object…)?

6.          Philo-fiction and cosmos. How can the literary, poetic gesture be an expression of a radical cosmological vision? How has contemporary literature experimented with new images of cosmos (new weird, splatterpunk, elevated horror…)?


Deleuze, G. (2001). Cinema 1. The Movement-Image, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Deleuze, G. (1998) Essay Critical and Clinical. London/New York: Verso.

Deleuze, G. (1994a). Difference and Repetition. London: The Athlone Press.

Deleuze, G. & Guattari, F. (1994b) What is Philosophy?  New York: Columbia University Press.

Guattari, F. (1995). Chaosmosis. Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.

Montebello, P. (2016). Métaphysiques cosmomorphes: La fin du monde humain. Paris: Les presses du réel.

Vignola, P. (2018) La funzione N. Sulla macchinazione filosofica in Gilles Deleuze. Napoli-Salerno: Orhotes.

Viveiros de Castro, E.  (2017).  Cannibal Metaphysics: for a post-structural anthropology. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Viveiros de Castro, E. & Dnowski D. (2016). The Ends of the World. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Viveiros de Castro, E. (2012). Cosmological Perspectivism in Amazonia and Elswhere. London/Manchester: Hau.



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