Philosophy Today


published on February 28, 2015

Lode Lauwaert, Erica Harris

The Enjoyment of Pure Reasoning
Gilles Deleuze on Marquis de Sade

This paper is dedicated to a discussion of Gilles Deleuze’s Coldness and Cruelty and its special place in French Sade studies. In this text, Deleuze famously argues against the notion of ‘sadomasochism’ as a unity. Sadism and masochism are, on his view, two entirely separate and incompatible ways of making use of pain and suffering in perversion. What is less known about Deleuze’s text is that he argues, against the current in French philosophy, psychiatry, and even intuition, that the essence of sadism is a kind of thinking rather than a pleasure in causing pain to others. In this essay, we try to make sense of the idea that the sadist, at heart, is a metaphysician who thinks by means of suffering and indifference. Our paper also addresses the related concern about how to account for the properly sexual nature of this metaphysical perversion. We argue that the sexuality of thinking is rooted in pre-genital sexual life as described by Freud in his Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality.