Metaphor and metamorphosis: Paul Ricoeur and Gilles Deleuze on the emergence of novelty

Boven, M., 2016, [Groningen]: University of Groningen. 357 p.

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This dissertation develops a new reading of the works of two French philosophers, Paul Ricoeur (1913-2005) and Gilles Deleuze (1925-1995). through a focus on their understanding of the emergence of novelty. Ricoeur’s conception of novelty is understood in terms of a living metaphor. The living metaphor ‘time is a beggar,’ for instance, brings two incompatible concepts together in a single image (a ‘beggar-time’ or a ‘time-beggar’). This non-conceptual image presents us with a mixture in which aspects of a beggar are suddenly combined with aspects of time. This results in a semantic innovation that still needs to be clarified conceptually, but that already shows reality in a new light.

Deleuze’s conception of novelty, in contrast, is understood in terms of a mutual metamorphosis. Such a metamorphosis emerges when two bodies encounter each other, enter into an affective relation of some kind and start to change under each other’s influence. A literary example of this can be found in Franz Kafka’s story ‘A Report to an Academy,” in which the ape Red Peter manages to find a way out of his captivity by bursting into speech. This becoming-human of Red Peter opens a zone of indistinction between the ape and the human. Red Peter starts to incorporate aspects of humanity in his ape-nature, without actually changing into a human being. At the same time, Red Peter’s teacher becomes involved in a becoming-ape of some kind. Both the ape and the human being are swept along in a process of mutual metamorphosis and start to change under each other’s pressure, creating a new type of being.

As such, metaphor and metamorphosis are here presented as two different ways to conceptualize the emergence of novelty.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Heusden, van, Barend, Supervisor
  • van der Heiden, G.J. (Gert-Jan), Supervisor, External person
  • Lawlor, L. (Leonard), Assessment committee, External person
  • Evink, Eddo, Assessment committee
  • Korthals Altes, Elisabeth, Assessment committee
Award date22-Dec-2016
Place of Publication[Groningen]
Print ISBNs978-90-367-9472-5
Electronic ISBNs978-90-367-9471-8
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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