Issue #03 June 2017

Deleuze on Sense, Series, Structures, Signifiers and Snarks (Part B)


Now, these oppositions deliver us over to the notion of series. Why? Because for a relation to hold, it needs to hold reliably across members of at least two classes. A language of a single word is not a language at all, and neither is a language of a million words that all denote the same thing.

Shopping Lists

Take, for instance, a shopping list:


Reversing Sense

This is precisely an amusing problem I often think about when buying a collection of things like the above at a supermarket. You place the items on the counter, and there is a moment when the cashier looks down at them, and in that brief moment the objects signify, in a manner akin to the list, a bizarre, Carrollesque contraption where the objects are all used in tandem. In the above example it would be a tomato and milk protein shake with crushed battery acid: energy drink of kings. Surely I can’t be the only person who’s seen a random collection of objects I’m buying mean too much. The objects, then, reverse sense and begin to occupy the signifying role, making use of the exact same kind of excess (there are multiple kinds) that our shopping list had originally. That is, each term signifies its denotatum, but there is an additional empty signification created by the collection of terms themselves.


Deleuze then uses this model of series related through sense as the minimal definition of a structure. The move to structure here requires a certain reshuffling. When we imagined the series of words and the series of things, or, like Wittgenstein, the series of true propositions and the series of state of affairs, it was enough to relate one term of one series to the other. But if this is to have baring on structure in general, we need to examine what it is we mean by “terms of the series”.

  1. that every structure is composed of at least two of these series,
  2. that one series plays the role of the signifying and the other signified,
  3. this difference is bestowed by the strange object of sense and the orientation to which it is turned:
  4. There’s always an empty place in the signifying series, and an object without a place in the signified.

· · ·

John C. Brady is a perennial student of philosophy and educator situated in Beijing. He gets most of his reading done in traffic jams. He is also a co-editor of this magazine, by way of full disclosure.


June 2017


Bergson — Philosophy as Attention

by Timofei Gerber

Thoreau on Friendship and Solitude

by Justin Richards

Can Evolution Debunk our Moral Beliefs?

by Andrés Ruiz

Deleuze on Sense, Series, Structures, Signifiers and Snarks (Part A)

by John C. Brady

Deleuze on Sense, Series, Structures, Signifiers and Snarks (Part B)

by John C. Brady

Freud’s “The Ego & The Id”