Emotional Machines are Desiring Machines
Ferdinand de Saussure defines linguistics as the study of language, and as the study of the manifestations of human speech. For Saussure, while speaking is an individual activity, language is a social manifestation of speech. In his conception, language is a system of signs that evolves from speech activity. These signs are constituted by signifiers and signified. For the author, while the signifier is the acoustic impression of a concept, the signified is its mental correlation. In Jacques Lacan, the subject uses signifiers to perceive the world, everything that surrounds it, and itself; it enters the world structured by a language with its laws. Humanity does not determine it; on the contrary, language defines the world and humanity. Lacan relates reality with two central concepts of psychoanalytic theory, the ghost and the desire (Lacan, 1977). Lacan is heir to the Freudian tradition in that the origin of desire would arise from rediscovering an original (and lost) experience of satisfaction, the one that appears in the relationship with the object of desire. In this sense, desire results from a lack, and emotions are repressed by the signifier in the speaking being (Parlêtre).
A different perspective is adopted by Deleuze and Guattari, for whom desire does not seek to objectify itself from a lack that must be supplied. Deleuze and Guattari explicitly question this psychoanalytic and structuralist conception of desire. What constitutes the central theme of Anti-Oedipus is that, for these authors, desire is a factory that constantly produces. The objections of The Anti-Oedipus to structural linguistics are fundamentally directed against the primacy granted to the signifier since it performs an oppressive social function. In the book mentioned above, the genealogy of lack is relegated to the detriment of the post-structuralist conception of flow (Deleuze 2002). Thus they assign fundamental importance to lack by giving it a creative capacity.
In “What is Philosophy?” Deleuze describes how this creative process produces something new, namely ‘affects‘ and ‘percepts‘. Artistic creativity generates new affects and percepts and combines them into blocks of sensation (Deleuze and Guattari 1991). These blocks then form the basis of our experienced reality. For the French authors Deleuze and Guattari, desiring machines are the site of that production.