Zizek & Deleuze: On Desire

Of late I’ve been tracing down the two forms of desire that interplay through much of the past two-hundred years in discourse. I was rereading Zizek who is a student and epigone of Lacan/Hegel who both conceived desire as lack, while Deleuze on the other hand conceived desire as fully positive. I had discovered in Nick Land’s works this same sense of desire as in Deleuze. There is this undercurrent of philosophers that seem to battle between these conceptions of desire as if it were a central trope and mask for aspects of drive and energy that those following the transcendental Idealists despise with a passion. I’m just taking a few notes here and there as I trace this strange battle of the philosophers over conceptions of desire. It seems important.

 Below is a quote from Organs without Bodies: On Deleuze and Consequences by Slavoj Zizek:

…Deleuze insists that desire has no object (whose lack would trigger and sustain its movement): desire is “a purely virtual ‘movement’ that has always reached its destination, whose moving is itself its own destination.” This is the thrust of Deleuze’s reading of masochism and courtly love— in both cases, not logic of sacrifice, but how to sustain the desire … According to the standard reading of masochism, the masochist, like everyone, also looks for pleasure; his problem is that, because of the internalized superego, he has to pay for his access to pleasure with the pain, to pacify the oppressive agency which finds pleasure intolerable. For Deleuze, on the contrary, the masochist chooses pain in order to

dissolve the pseudo-link of desire with pleasure as its extrinsic measure. Pleasure is in no way something that can only be reached via the detour of pain, but that which has to be delayed to the maximum since it is something which interrupts the continuous process of the positive desire. There is an immanent joy of desire, as if desire fills itself with itself and its contemplations, and which does not imply any lack, any impossibility.

And the same goes for courtly love : its eternal postponement of fulfilment does not obey a law of lack or an ideal of transcendence: here also, it signals a desire which lacks nothing, since it finds its fulfilment in itself, in its own immanence; every pleasure is, on the contrary, already a re-territorialization of the free flux of desire.

Of course Zizek goes ballistic at Deleuze’s insistence on the notion that desire lacks nothing… Zizek being a faithful child of Hegel gets exasperated and wants to say, ah ha, I got you Deleuze when he says:

Therein resides the ultimate irony of Deleuze’s critique of Hegel: when, against Hegel, Deleuze claims that creation “is immediately creative; there is no transcendent or negating subject of creation that might need time in order to become conscious of itself or otherwise catch up with itself,”  he thereby imputes to Hegel a substantialization-reification which is not there and, in this way, obliterates precisely that dimension in Hegel which is the closest to Deleuze himself. Hegel repeatedly insists that Spirit is “a product of itself”: it is not a pre-existing Subject intervening into objectivity, sublating-mediating it, but the result of its own movement, i.e., pure processuality. As such, it does not need time to “catch up with itself,” but simply to generate itself. (ibid, KL 169)

What’s truly ironic is that for Hegel ‘Spirit’ is a mask for desire, so that it is Zizek not Deleuze who is bound to a misprisioning of Hegel and Deleuze both. Zizek has a fetish for the self-reflecting nothingness at the center of his own empty being: what he calls subjectivity. He could not find desire there so he has been chasing after it through all the worlds of philosophy, film, art, trash, culture, Lacan, Hegel… will he find it? All he need do is give up his love of nothingness. But that’s the key he desires less than nothing so will continue to revolve in his own black hole of non-being.

Yet, if we remember from his opus Less Than Nothing the basic theme was on desire:

This book tries to demonstrate that the Freudian drive cannot be reduced to what Buddhism denounces as desire or to what Heidegger denounces as the Will: even after we reach the end of this critical overcoming of desire-will-subjectivity, something continues to move. What survives death is the Holy Spirit sustained by an obscene “partial object” that stands for the indestructible drive. One should thus (also) invert Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s five stages of how we relate to the proximity of death in the Kierkegaardian sense of the “sickness unto death,” as the series of five attitudes towards the unbearable fact of immortality. One first denies it: “What immortality? After my death, I will just dissolve into dust!” Then, one explodes into anger: “What a terrible predicament I’m in! No way out !” One continues to bargain: “OK, but it is not me who is immortal, only the undead part of me, so one can live with it …” Then one falls into depression: “What can I do with myself when I am condemned to stay here forever?” Finally, one accepts the burden of immortality.2

And, of course, one realizes that Zizek is being beyond ironic in such statements since he is a purist of atheists. Zizek is after that “something continues to move”. The burden of life and immortality for Zizek is to be condemned to this life forever, to repeat it ad infinitum like Kafka’s surveyor in The Castle he is condemned to a novel that will never end because the author left the stage before it was completed. An irony too sweet to be missed: one can also conceive desire as a mode of avoiding the circularity of the drive: the self-enclosed rotary movement is recast as a repeated failure to reach a transcendent object which always eludes its grasp (Zizek, KL 5319). This is Zizek’s desire as lack. A sort of hell where one is condemned like Dante’s lovers to whirl in the winds of infinity just out of reach of each other, condemned to an eternity of longing that can never be fulfilled.

Deleuze will offer his own view on desire in which he will point out that desire always flows from within an assemblage. To desire is to construct and assemblage, to construct and aggregate – a dress, a sun ray, a woman or assemblage of a woman, a vista, a color, etc. To be abstract about it: desire is a constructivism. Everytime someone says they desire something, they first of all desire to construct an assemblage, to shape their desire around a mileu:

 

In the video he goes on to speak of the three points he and Felix Guattari had in disagreement with classic forms of psychoanalysis:

1) they were persuaded with the notion that the unconscious is not a theatre, a place where Hamlet and Oedipus continually play out their scenes. It’s not a theatre but a factory, a production… the unconscious produces, continuously produces… ;

2) the theme of delirium, which is closely linked to desire… to desire is to become delirious… it is opposite to what psychoanalysts discuss – it’s not about the father and mother… the great secret of delirium is that we desire about the whole world… one desires about history, geography, tribes, deserts, people, climates, etc. … it’s not about family, its about tribes and milieu, about one’s place within these…the determinants.

3) desire always constructs assemblages and establishes itself in assemblages, always putting several factors into play, while psychoanalysis is just the opposites and reduces the factors to a single factor: the father, the mother, etc.  While assemblages are a multiplicity, psychoanalysis is a reduction to the one. 

1. Zizek, Slavoj (2012-05-04). Organs without Bodies: On Deleuze and Consequences (Routledge Classics) (Kindle Locations 156-169). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.
2. Zizek, Slavoj (2012-04-30). Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism (Kindle Locations 313-321). Norton. Kindle Edition.

Deleuze on Foucault and Multiplicities

And what is the conclusion to Archaeology if not an appeal to the general theory of production which must merge with revolutionary praxis, and where the acting ‘discourse’ is formed within an ‘outside’ that remains indifferent to my life and death? … None the less, the core of the notion is the constitution of a substantive in which ‘multiple’ ceases to be a predicate opposed to the One, or attributable to a subject identified as one. Multiplicity remains completely indifferent to the traditional problems, of the multiple and the one, and above all to the problem of a subject who would think through this multiplicity, give it conditions, account for its origins, and so on. There is neither one nor multiple, which would at all events entail having recourse to a consciousness that would be regulated by the one and developed by the other. There are only rare multiplicities composed of particular elements, only empty places for those who function as subjects, and cumulable, repeatable and self-preserving regularities. Multiplicity is neither axiomatic nor typlogogical, but topological. Foucault’s book represents the most decisive step yet taken in the theory-praxis of multiplicities. (14)

– Gilles Deleuze, Foucault

Control Society: The History, Logic, and Methodologies of Control

There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the  conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he  must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though  the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can  come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground  which is given to him to till.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self Reliance

To the point that the idea of freedom, a new and recent idea, is already fading from minds and mores, and liberal globalization is coming about in precisely the opposite form – a police state globalization, a total control, a terror based on ‘law-and-order’ measures. Deregulation ends up in a maximum of constraints and restrictions, akin to a fundamentalist society.

– Jean Baudrillard, The Spirit of Terrorism

Everywhere you turn you see the pulpists screaming conspiracy, paranoia, catastrophe as if the earth were the stage of some horrific cinematic apocalypse. Emerson preached a good tune, the great American Myth of the Self Reliant individual who could revolt against history, against the wisdom of the ages and invent himself whole cloth out of the emptiness of his own being, must mix it up with others in the carnival of life open and free. This was Emerson’s version of The Good Life, a personalist version of the pursuit of happiness in 10 easy lessons. Yet, in the pursuit of self-reliance and happiness we seem to have produced its opposite in less than a two hundred years. We are more dependent and unhappy than ever before in history. In our pursuit of the Liberalist Democratic Utopia we have imposed worldwide intolerance, hate, and unhappiness at the forefront. How did this all come about? Where is the history of this dark world to be found? In our pursuit to understand this are we not in ourselves forging the very links to control that feed the beast? Or, are we actually trying to liberate ourselves from its terrible grasp? Caught in the meshes of this fly-trap that seems to permeate the planet is there an escape valve, a way of withdrawing from its dark trap?

A great many individuals fall into the trap of ‘Conspiracy Theory’ narratives, which as Christopher Hitches recently said “are not just false, but are not even wrong” (2004). That is, they do not reach the threshold of acceptability to even be tested, to be falsifiable. If the mind is that sphere that can distinguish between truth and falsity, then conspiracy theories are beyond that sphere. They are para (beyond or beside) the nous (mind). They are paranoid.1 Richard Hofstadter (1967) in his germinal essay “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” this term transformed a multiplicity of beliefs in conspiracy into a style of thought. Transposing a clinical psychology term onto the field of politics, Hofstadter not only pathologized conspiracy theories, he gave them formal coherence, historical persistence, and intelligibility as a genre of political knowledge.(ibid.) As one scholar puts it:

Conspiracy theory is thus a bridge term-it links subjugating conceptual strategies (paranoid style, political paranoia, conspiracism) to narratives that investigate conspiracies (conspiratology, conspiracy research, conspiracy account). Conspiracy theory is a condensation of all of the above, a metaconcept signifying the struggles over the meaning of the category. We need to recognize where we are on the bridge when we use the term. (CP Kindle Locations 129-131).

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Deleuze and Foucault: A Conversation…

Representation no longer exists; there’s only action – theoretical action and practical action which serve as relays and form networks.

Gilles Deleuze in conversation with Michel Foucault

Michel Foucault opened a conversation with Gilles Deleuze relating his dismay that a Maoist in his circle suggested that Deleuze was somewhat of an enigma in regards to his political affiliations. Deleuze in response remarked that “No theory can develop without eventually encountering a wall, and practice is necessary for piercing this wall.” He continued telling us that practice was itself “a set of relays from one theoretical point to another, and theory is a relay from one practice to another.”

A system of relays within a larger sphere, within a multiplicity of parts that are both theoretical and practical. A theorising intellectual, for us, is no longer a subject, a representing or representative consciousness. Those who act and struggle are no longer represented, either by a group or a union that appropriates the right to stand as their conscience. Who speaks and acts? It is always a multiplicity, even within the person who speaks and acts. All of us are “groupuscules.” Representation no longer exists; there’s only action-theoretical action and practical action which serve as relays and form networks.

In response Foucault reminds us that “theory does not express, translate, or serve to apply practice: it is practice. But it is local and regional, as you said, and not totalising.” And, in response to this Deleuze is affirming: ” Precisely. A theory is exactly like a box of tools. It has nothing to do with the signifier. It must be useful. It must function. And not for itself. If no one uses it, beginning with the theoretician himself (who then ceases to be a theoretician), then the theory is worthless…”. Deleuze adds: “A theory does not totalise; it is an instrument for multiplication and it also multiplies itself. It is in the nature of power to totalise and it is your position. and one I fully agree with, that theory is by nature opposed to power. As soon as a theory is enmeshed in a particular point, we realise that it will never possess the slightest practical importance unless it can erupt in a totally different area.” I like this pragmatic Deleuze!

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Beyond Representation: Plato, Deleuze and the Simulacra

Reason is the black widow in the cage of time. Spiderlike sufficient reason allows nothing to escape its dark power. Even the infinite cannot escape the grasp of this deadly creature, the venomous touch of reason kills everything within its purview, and like its dark precursor dissolves even the smallest elements into the acid bath of its formidable categories: identity, difference, doubling, and reflection. Representation is the disease of time, the cracked wand of a dead wizard whose power is dispersed among the broken vessels of light scattered to the four corners of the universe. Like ministers to a dead god our philosophers and scientists serve a Master illusionist, a sorcerer who has hoodwinked them all into believing in the power of the mind to capture reality in a box, when in truth the Real is the wilderness that can never be captured by thought.

The dialectic sought to push contradiction to its supreme limits, when in fact the filaments of this web thrown across this universe of doubt was itself made of the very essence of identity it sought to dispel, instead of truth we discovered in this net the capture of difference within the logic of identity that makes it the sufficient condition for difference to exist to begin with. In Hegel the game was rigged from the outset, the player and the played were bound to the curve of sufficient reason and clarity all along, and the touted power of this method was bound to a monocentric system of circular ratios that left no doubts to chance and necessity. Do not be fooled by those others who offer you the incompossibility of the world, either. Between compossibility and incompossibility there is no true connection or reversal, the former is not reducible to the identical, and the latter is not reducible to contradiction.1

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Deleuze: A Short History of the Human

What were the conditions of possibility of the human sciences, or what is humanity’s true date of birth?
– Gilles Deleuze, Humans: A Dubious Existence

To answer this question of the birth of the Human Deleuze gave a precise and eloquent answer, saying, the “Human can exist in the space of knowledge only once the “classical” world of representation itself has collapsed under the pressure of non-representable and non-representative forces” (91).1 We know that for Deleuze the order of representation consisted of the essential elements of a system of identity, difference, doubling, and reflection. Yet, it could be after the collapse of these categories that the Human could emerge as something obscure. Before the Human can exist, biology must first be born, and a political economy and philology…“(91). Quoting Michel Foucault’s The Order of Things he continues, saying, “Once the living organisms have left the space of representation to lodge themselves in the specific depth of life; and wealth, in the progressive development of the forms of production; and words, in the becoming of language;” then natural history gives way to biology, the theory of money to political economy, and general grammar to philology.(91)

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Societies of Control: Deleuze and Foucault

It is true that capitalism has retained as a constant the extreme poverty of three quarters of humanity, to poor for debt, too numerous for confinement: control will not only have to deal with erosions of frontiers but with the explosions within shanty towns and ghettos.

– Gilles Deleuze, Postscript on the Societies of Control

Someday there will be a history written of the impact of Michel Foucault on the work of Gilles Deleuze. One can browse just a smattering of essays Deleuze wrote from the early seventies to the early nineties in which he develops threads and productive moments that he first read in the works of Foucault. As in his praise of Foucault’s commentary on Raymond Roussel, the relatively unknown artist: “…recently Michel Foucault has published a commentary of great poetic and philosophical power on the work of Roussel, and finds the keys to this work in an entirely different direction from what the Surrealists had indicated.” (72)1

Yet, it is not about this close reading of Foucault’s works by Deleuze that I want to write today, instead it is about the shift from certain elements of Foucault’s methodical uncovering of the societies of discipline and how those have in our time transmuted into societies of control. Deleuze in his Postscript on the Societies of Control reminds us that Foucault’s histories of these disciplinary societies from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries reached their pinnacle in the twentieth. Yet, somewhere during the mid part of the twentieth century new forces made themselves known that began as a process of reform in schools, industries, hospitals, armed forces, and prisons that lead to these societies of control. Deleuze, a long time reader of William Burroughs, took the term “control” as best befitting this new “monster, one Foucault recognizes as our immediate future.” Each of these new regimes discovered sites of confinement, environments for enclosure within which they could practice their experimental pressure of control.

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Gilles Deleuze: Difference and Repetition – A Short Intro

Difference is not and cannot be thought in itself, so long as it is subject to the requirements of representation.

– Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition

Gilles Deleuze (January 18, 1925 – November 4, 1995)

For Deleuze we are all imprisoned in subtle webs of thought, bound to a world of thought-images, pre-suppositions, both objective and subjective, that weave the lightstreams of our minds in ways beyond telling, and it was to unlock these dark enclosures of the broken Image of thought that he set sail upon the seas of philosophical speculation. A post-philosophical Argonaut, he  sailed into that strange world where even the greatest of philosophers have lost their way, riding the twisted seas of this chaotic clime, fierce and resolute, Deleuze stood proudly among these speculators of the mind, sailed within his trusty ship, Critique, knowing that it was against the classical image of thought itself that he labored:

…and as long as the critique has not been carried to the heart of that image it is difficult to conceive of thought as encompassing those problems which point beyond the propositional mode; or as involving encounters which escape recognition; or as confronting its true enemies, which are quite different from thought; or as attaining that which tears thought from its natural torpor and notorious bad will, and forces us to think.”(DR xvi)

Yes, it was the emancipation of thought from its own chains that drove this Ulysses of the philosophical slipstream, a cunning intelligence who sought the “liberation of thought from those images which imprison it”(xvii). Looking back over the distant battlegrounds of his hard won victory he reminisced about the difference between philosophy proper and the history of philosophy. He likened the one to the study of “arrows or the tools of a great thinker, the trophies and the prey, the continents discovered”; while in the other case “we trim our own arrows, or gather those which seem to us the finest in order to try to send them in other directions, even if the distance covered is not astronomical but relatively small” (xv). And what do we discover when we dare to speak in our own name? Humbly he tells us the truth: “we try to speak in our own name only to learn that a proper name designates no more than the outcome of a body of work – in other words, the concepts discovered, on condition that we were able to express these and imbue them with life using all the possibilities of language”(xv).

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Anti-Oedipus: The Black Book of Riddles

Desiring machines make us an organism; but at the very heart of this production, the body suffers from being organized in this way, from not having some other sort of organization, or no organization at all.

– Gilles Deleuze/Fritz Guattari, Anti-Oedipus

There comes a moment in their dreamwork (for that is what we must call this black book of riddles) when D&G – in an almost gnostic litany of negativity from one of the drifting echoes of Artaud (“No mouth. No tongue. No teeth. No larynx. No esophagus. No belly. No anus”) expose the body of death to the onslaught of expressive delineation: “The automata stop dead and set free the unorganized mass they once served to articulate.(8) It’s as if the nanobots of our own late era had already infiltrated the discourse of this early dreamwork, as if the viral memes of our late capitalism had suddenly exited the stage, freed of their host to suddenly invigorate the dark contours of a deadly truth. But what is this body of death? “The full body without organs is the unproductive, the sterile, the unengendered, the unconsumable (8)”. This is the dead body of capital after its robotic zombies have wandered free of its broken world. Without form and void: capital as the body of death, the body without organs as frozen labor, frozen time. Pure death instinct: “that is its name, and death is not without a model. For desire desires death also, because the full body of death is its motor, just as it desires life, because the organs of life are the working machine.(8)”

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The Machinic World (D&G): Organic Machines at the Edge of Time

“…what redefinitions of collective subjectivity will we encounter when social media can be tapped through the individual’s own neural passageways?”

from Deterritorial Investigations Unit blog

Are we prepared for the future? Have we insulated ourselves from the harsh truth pressing down on us from this accelerated world coming at us? The radical chic of the Enlightenment seems almost tame now as we move closer and closer to a rear end collision with the future. The myths of reason will seem like quaint tales to our descendants. “Making yourself machinic – aesthetic machine and molecular war machine… – can become a crucial instrument for subjective resingularisation and can generate other ways of perceiving the world, a new face on things, and even a different turn of events.”1 I took this quote from an excellent blog post by Deterritorial Investigations Unit ( I have no clue who is behind this blog, since even in the About we find no hint of the actual being who writes these intriguing posts). In the post Becoming Machine: Thoughts on Hardt and Negri’s ‘Enigmatic Passages’ we see a few passages explicated that for the most part would have gone under the radar left as footnotes in a forgotten discourse. In his conclusion we discover what we’ve all suspected that it is neo-liberalism itself, the globalist corpocratic empire of both East and West that are becoming-machinic and “capturing of the multitude’s own creativities and desires” towards ends no one could have dreamed of during the heyday of cyberpunk.

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Nomadic Ethics: Deleuze and the Ethics of Freedom

War machines take shape against the apparatuses that appropriate the machine and make war their affair and their object: they bring connections to bear against the great conjunction of the apparatuses of capture and domination.

Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari: Nomadology: The War Machine

Against those like Badiou or Zizek and their sense of the negative and negation as the basis of subjectivity, the nomadic ethics of Deleuze affirms the positivity of Otherness, of life as zoe (from ancient Greek ζωή, meaning spiritual life, in contrast to Bios, meaning biological life).  Amor fati: that we must be, as Rosi Braidotti reminds us, “worthy of what happens to us and rework it within an ethics of relation, without falling into negativity” (ibid. 185). This is an ethics of relation, praxis, and complexity that promotes a radical ethics of transformation, an ontology of process (a vision of subjectivity that is propelled by affects and relations), and moves subjectivity beyond the reflective negativity and toward “reciprocity as creation, not as the recognition of Sameness” (194, ibid.). The keys to this nomadic ethics of freedom are self-determination through resistance and transgressive discipline, as well as the interminable critical analysis and questioning of all forms of repressive regimes. Finally, the need to think globally, but act locally – a shibboleth of our times still holds true for any viable microrevolutionary nomadism. As Braidotti remarks: “Localized and concrete ethical gestures and political activities matter more than grand overarching projects. … nomadic theory is a form of ethical pragmatism” (196, ibid.).

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Deleuze & Guattari: America, Nomadism and the Rhizomatic Middle

America is a special case. Of course it is not immune from domination by trees or the search for roots. This is evident even in the literature, in the quest for a national identity and even for a European ancestry or genealogy… Nevertheless, everything important that has happened or is happening takes the route of the American rhizome…

 from a thousand plateaus
by gilles Deleuze / felix Guattari

Why America? What is there special about America that these nameless ones – these schizoanalytical philonauts who write neither philosophy, nor anything that could be identified as part of the two-thousand year literature of wisdom, have discovered about the dreamworlds of the “Western Lands” (Burroughs). “There is a whole American “map” in the West, where even the trees form rhizomes. America reversed the directions: it put its Orient in the West, as if it were precisely in America that the earth came full circle; its West is the edge of the East”(19).1 What is this open secret, what story does America have to tell us? “Has not America acted as an intermediary…,” D&G inquire. Yes, we say, it has brought both death and life, flows, intensities, migrations, exterminations, liquidations, and immigrations:

The flow of capital produces an immense channel, a quantification of power with immediate “quanta,” where each person profits from the passage of the money flow in his or her own way…: in America everything comes together, tree and channel, root and rhizome. There is no universal capitalism, there is no capitalism in itself; capitalism is at the crossroads of all kinds of formations, it is neocapitalism by nature. It invents its eastern face and western face, and reshapes them both  – all for the worse. (20)

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Deleuze’s Anti-Platonism

In the same moment that Greece gave birth to democracy (demos) it also gave birth to its greatest enemy, Plato. Plato reduced the fragmented authority of tradition to the syllabus of the Laws and Republic. Out of Plato came the new authority of Philosophy itself: its distinctions and judgments, of a supposed superior authority as one of its greatest inventions, and of its greatest triumph: the concept of  ‘transcendence’, the Idea, the metaphysics of representation, imitation, and participation.

The real world of the Idea as opposed to the apparent world of simulacra became both the tool and means for the dialectic: the art of hierarchical theory and exclusionary practices, as well as an elitism in philosophical theory and practice, aesthetics and political rule.  As Miguel de Beistegui remarks:

Platonism is a response and a solution to a problem brought about by the birth of Athenian democracy, in which, in the words of a commentator, “anyone could lay claim to anything, and could carry the day by the force of rhetoric.” Such is the reason why Platonism seeks to nip this anarchy and rebellion in the bud, by hunting down, as Plato says, simulacra and rogue images of all kinds (57).1

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Deleuze: Quote of the Day!

Anglo-American literature constantly shows these ruptures, these characters who create their line of flight, who create through a line of flight. Thomas Hardy, Melville, Stevenson, Virginia Woolf, Thomas Wolfe, Lawrence, Fitzgerald, Miller, Kerouac. In them everything is departure, becoming, passage, leap, daemon, relationship with the outside. They create a new Earth; but perhaps the movement of the earth is deter-ritorialization itself. American literature operates according to geographical lines: the flight towards the West, the discovery that the true East is in the West, the sense of the frontiers as something to cross, to push back, to go beyond. The becoming is geographical. There is no equivalent in France. The French are too human, too historical, too concerned with the future and the past. They spend their time in in-depth analysis. They do not know how to become, they think in terms of historical past and future.

– Deleuze, “On the Superiority of Anglo-American Literature,” Dialogues

Rosi Braidotti: Nomadic Ethics and Subjectivity

The notion of the non-human, in-human, or post-human emerges as the defining trait of nomadic ethical subjectivity.

– Rosi Braidotti, Nomadic ethics

Bruno Latour once argued that the modernist distinction between nature and culture never existed.1 He claimed we must rework our thinking about such distinctions as to conceive of a “Parliament of Things” wherein natural phenomena, social phenomena and the discourse about them are not seen as separate objects to be studied by specialists, but as hybrids made and scrutinized by the public interaction of people, things and concepts (ibid. 142-145).

Rosi Braidotti offers us a reading of Deleuze as neo-Vitalist, a neo-Spinozist whose ethics is activated by a specific subjectivity and mode of ontological life (zoe). She defends Deleuze against the post-Hedeggerians (Foucault, Derrida, Agamben, etc.) saying that he espouses the generative force of Zoê and a culture of affirmation rather than negation:

Life is not an a priori that gets individuated in single instances, but it is immanent to and thus coincides with its multiple material actualizations. … Deleuze’s immanence … locates the affirmation in the exteriority, the cruel, messy, outside-ness of Life itself.2 (172)

Braidotti argues that the Liberal Subject is no longer viable, the called for in this post-liberal era are new modes of ethical behavior.  Beyond the liberal universalistic and individual core lies the realm of an ethics of forces, desires, and values that act as “empowering modes of becoming”, rather than the moralistic framework of established protocols and sets of rules and guidelines for behavior (173). That there are certain prerequisites and preconditions for such move is without doubt and Braidtotti situates her stance within a framework that entails a new understanding of subjectivity. She follows Deleuze in affirming Life as central, but this vital force is defined within the older Greek notion of zoe – Zoê (from ancient Greek ζωή, meaning spiritual life, in contrast to Bios, meaning bological life): as a vital force that is non-human, impersonal, generative, trans-individual, post-anthropocentric, and post-finitude dimension of subjectivity (173-174).

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Gilles Deleuze: What is immanence?

“What is immanence? A life… No one has described what a life is better than Charles Dickens, if we take the indefinite article as an index of the transcendental. A disreputable man, a rogue, held in contempt by everyone, is found as he lies dying. Suddenly, those taking care of him manifest an eagerness, respect, even love, for this slightest sign of life. Everybody bustles about to save him, to the point where, in his deepest coma, this wicked man himself senses something soft and sweet penetrating him. But to the degree that he comes back to life, his saviors turn colder, and he becomes once again mean and crude. Between his life and his death, there is a moment that is only that of a life playing with death. The life of the individual gives way to an impersonal and yet singular life that releases a pure event freed from the accidents of internal and external life, that is, from the subjectivity and objectivity of what happens: a “Homo tantum” with whom everyone empathizes and who attains a sort of beatitude. It is a haecceity no longer of individuation but of singularization: a life of pure immanence, neutral, beyond good and evil, for it was only the subject that incarnated it in the midst of things that made it good or bad. The life of such individuality fades away in favor of the singular life immanent to a man who no longer has a name, though he can be mistaken for no other. A singular essence, a life…”

– Deleuze, from Immanence: A Life…

Deleuze/Guattari: Prelude to an Event

What is important is that the action took place, at a time when everyone judged it to be unthinkable. If it took place, then it can happen again. . . .

— Jean-Paul Sartre, 1968

As a prelude to my own reading of Intersecting Lives by Francoise Dosse about the lives of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari I decided to go back and do some parallel reading about the history of that period. Found two newer works May ’68 and its Afterlives by Kristin Ross as well as From Revolution to Ethics: May 1968 and Contemporary French Thought by Julian Bourg.

In the years after 1968, France did experience a revolution. In 1968 that word – revolution – was on everyone’s lips. By the early 1980s and especially by the 1990s, everywhere one turned, there was talk of ethics. What had been revolutionized was the very notion of revolution itself.

 – Julian Bourg,  From Revolution to Ethics

As the twentieth anniversary of May ’68 neared, the dwindling list of witnesses to just a few authorized spokesmen, the corrosion of forgetting, and the disinformation at work in representations like “Le procès de Mai” had made May into something of a cipher. Disembodied, increasingly vague in it contours and plural, even inchoate in its aims, it was thus more available to treatment as a purely discursive phenomenon: a set of ideas rather than a political event, a disembodied spirit or ethos rather than an alternative social form. But if it was a cipher, it was still a necessary cipher.

– Kristin Ross, May ’68 and Its Afterlives

  For one who lived in the midst of such worlds, without ever participating in the events described, yet being in the same air on a turning globe that lived through such events its is odd to read these histories that pretend to described such strange days. Am I, too, a part of history, already receding into the hinterlands of a cipher? One can read memoirs, novels, documentaries, journals, scholarly quarterlies of the era, etc. till one is blue in the face, but what really is it that happened in the event we call ’68? Many of our so called philosophers, journalists, essayists, etc., some living, some dead, have yet to answer that question. What happened? Was it a failure? Or the beginning of something else? A turn toward a new type of ethics as Joulian Bourg would have us believe? Do Jaques Derrida, Michael Focault, Eliphas Levi, Alain Badiou, Slavoj Zizek, and a myriad of women philosophers from Simone de Beauvoir to Catherine Malabou have an answer?

Be that as it may we move on with our reading of those twined lives, two friends who in the midst of this were on the edge of such events, or to the side of them. One Felix Guattari was a student of Lacan. Guattari had been a disciple of Lacan, and he was beginning to position himself as Lacan’s interlocutor, hoping that the master would anoint him as a preferred partner. But Lacan’s attitude toward him was ambiguous; he preferred the Maoist-Althusserian clique from the rue d’Ulm, which included Jacques-Alain Miller and Milner. Guattari was left out in the cold.1

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Deleuze/Guattari: The Arrangement -The Wasp and The Orchid

Just a short entry from my reading of Francois Dosse’s Intersecting Lives…

The tendency today is to forget Guattari’s name and remember only Deleuze’s. Yet Dosse emphasizes that What Is Philosophy? cannot be read as a return to “true” philosophy by Deleuze without Guattari. Its contents, style, and concepts make it impossible to imagine how the book could be “de-Guattarized” to make Deleuze its sole author. This would be to ignore the way the two authors worked together, similar to what they described in their Rhizome, of branching, of the arrangement between a wasp and an orchid.

The orchid leaves its own territory by forming an image, by imitating a wasp; but the wasp returns to its territory in this image while leaving its turf at the same time and becoming part of the orchid’s reproduction apparatus; the wasp reterritorializes the orchid by carrying pollen . . . capture code, surplus-value code, increase of valence, a true becoming, becoming-the-wasp of the orchid, becoming-the-orchid of the wasp.(15)1

Of course one could might still need to go back to works such as Ronald Bogue’s Deleuze and Guattari, or that of Philip Goodchild’s Deleuze and Guattari: An Introduction to the Politics of Desire for certain nuances and productive information left out of this account. In some ways any author misreads other authors, one always has blind spots in one’s apprehension of an other’s work. Paul DeMan is out of vogue today because of his early affiliations, yet his first book Blindness and Insight is still of use in detecting the blindspots in one’s own rhetoric. The key problem of scholarship on Deleuze seem to be precisely how to read him — is the project Deleuze has laid out to reread his texts as he has reread others? How is one to be Deluezian? Do we follow the auspices of someone like Harold Bloom and always read for the sparks, the auras; an aesthetic approach, a misprisioning of the text? Or, do we do a subtle and evaluative, almost scientific, close reading like the early modernist critics? There can never be any literal readings, to read literally is to repeat the markers of a dead spirit, to resurrect a memory that was always already a lie. Instead we appraise the work either philosophically or as secondary literature. Biography is secondary, yet is a good source for nuances that are otherwise missed in one’s primary readings, a sort of background hum that registers the subtle truths in a way that otherwise would fall through the cracks of rhetoric.

1. Dosse, Francois (2010-06-22). Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari: Intersecting Lives (European Perspectives: A Series in Social Thought and Cultural Criticism). Columbia University Press.

Deleuze/Guattari: The Opening Gambit

From the beginning things were touch and go, Guattari a little fearful of the overpowering presence of Deleuze. “Guattari was anxious about meeting with Deleuze. He had always worked in groups and would have preferred that his friends at the Center for Institutional Study, Research, and Training (CERFI) be involved” (7)

From the start, their relationship centered on theoretical issues; their immediate complicity was personal and intellectual, but they never became profoundly close. They came from two very different worlds, and each respected the other’s network of relationships. The success of their common intellectual work depended on mobilizing and using everything that made them different, rather than pretending that they worked in osmosis. Each had an exalted idea of friendship. (6)

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1968: Friends, History, and Philosophy

WELL, IT’S ALL OVER. The Odéon has fallen! And today, which is June 16th, a Sunday, the police on orders of the Government entered and took over the Sorbonne on some unclear and garbled pretext about some man who was wounded by a knife. There was some rioting this afternoon, but the police handled it fairly easily. So that is it. And I sit here at my window on the river in the crepuscular light of that peculiar gray-blue Paris twilight which is so beautiful and like no other light anywhere on earth, and I wonder, What now?

– James Jones, The Merry Month of May

1968. I was a runaway. I’d left Austin, Texas, thumb out, shifting the skies blue and black, night and day, till I found the Rainbow Wagon People tumbling toward me. Sitting on my pack, parked just outside a truck stop near Amarillo, I had a sign roped to my shoulder that read: California or bust. Tripper Jack stuck his head out at me and yelled, “One more for the road, Ginny! Cmon’ in boy we got plenty room.” Tripper Jack was a burly black bearded old hippie, who wore a red bandanna, flip-top shades, old cutoff jeans and shirt made of strips of multi-colored ribbons. His lady, Dreamwitch, was skinny as a bean pole, but her jet black eyes shone like some beautiful death-angel piercing me like two black opals, their strange fire reading my soul like a half-tattered set of old Tarot Cards. What she saw in my own bloodshot eyes is still a mystery to me, but her laughter warmed me to her wicked ways, and as I entered the bus she gave me a hug and put a set of paisley beads over my head chanting some kind of blessing under her breath. Once inside I realized it wasn’t so much a school-bus I’d entered, as it was a dream machine for lost souls; or, should I say, fried souls.

We were a psycho-squad tripping purple double-domes like candy seeking neither shamanistic travel-guides to nowhere nor religious ecstasy on the road to hell. We just liked to get high, live life, fuck all night, and let rock n’ roll ride us through the merry world.  It was our age of wreckage, drugs, and freedom. Our escape from the authorities of life… We were the last ghost-riders,  a sort of death troupe riding to the last apocalypse, where oblivion was our only savior, and the only place we were going to end up was either jail or some beach head on the edge of an ocean-side beach-combers paradise in Southern California.

– S.C. Hickman, my personal journal

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Deleuze/Guattari, Kant, and Friendship: Old age and philosophy…

The question of what is philosophy? can perhaps be posed only late in life, with the arrival of old age and the time for speaking concretely.

– Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, What is Philosophy?

Having reached the ripe old age of sixty this year I understand the reflections that Deleuze harbored as he began this reminiscence of life in What is Philosophy? And, yes, this was his form of autobiography; for, how else does a philosopher write about his dual life: the life of a dual author? The Mind floats over the strangeness of it all, the memories that rise and dip out of one’s life retrieving the moments of pain and pleasure; yet, as we know, it is the pain that lasts, the problems that were never resolved, never overcome, without solution because there can be no ultimate solution, no resting place for the never-resting mind. There is only the search, the quest, the slow growth over years of more and more questions. It is not the solutions that last, it is the problems, the problematic aspects of life and thought that keep us going, keep us moving, keep us rising daily to understand and solve the indissoluable.

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Cengiz Erdem has great post on Zizek’s lecture On Melacholy. Well worth a read in that it also brings in Deleuze : “This requires the production of a new mode of being in the world in such a way as to be in relation to the without within this world, to an outside inside this world, a non-correlationist relation to nothing itself. Is it worth mentioning that Deleuze’s “impersonal consciousness” is something akin to that mode of being? It is this transcendental inconsistency itself that regulates, governs and drives the Deleuzean plane of immanence, and precisely for this reason Deleuze calls it the transcendental field of immanence in his last book, Immanence: A Life, where he attempts to clarify his “transcendental empiricism.” He continues saying,

The Deleuzean “univocity of being” is the flow itself, it is the flow of being becoming in-itself, and it is only death that brings about the completion of this process, it is only in death that being becomes in-itself, that is, as nothingness, as a void, as an absence, as non-being. And there, where something is split from nothing, novelty takes place, it takes the place of nothingness and death, hence giving birth to new life, an impersonal life, the life that is not of something, but the life that is non-being itself, the being of death within life which drives it as an undercurrent. And therein also resides the link between Deleuze’s concept of the impersonal consciousness, Jung’s collective unconscious and what Nick Land would later call cosmic schizophrenia.…

Let it suffice for the time being to say that transcendental materialism is repetitively different from transcendental empiricism, in that what’s at stake in transemp is the action of the unconscious upon the subject, whereas in transmat the situation is retroactively reversed in a progressive way; it is the subject’s indiscernibility from the unconscious that’s at stake in transmat. Influenced by and influencing Zizek, Adrian Johnston’s transmat adds to Deleuze’s transemp the role of the external matter itself as internally constituted in the self-constitutive process of the subject. Profoundly Hegelian indeed to say the least…

Senselogic

 

In his lecture On Melancholy and an essay entitled Melancholy and the Act, Slavoj Zizek claims that melancholia occurs not when we lose the object, but rather when the object is still here although we no longer desire it. According to Zizek, melancholia as Freud defines it in Mourning and Melancholia, shouldn’t be interpreted as if it is a product of the failure of mourning, but rather as the premature mourning for an object before it is lost. According to the orthodox interpretation of Freud’s essay, the work of mourning is to symbolize the loss and transcend it, so that one can go on with one’s life as usual. Melancholia takes over the subject if the work of mourning fails in rendering the subject capable of accepting the loss. A melancholic is s/he who cannot come to terms with the loss and turns the lost object into an…

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Deleuze as Hierophant: The Fate of Philosophy

Joshua Ramey in his new book The Hermetic Deleuze almost wants to resurrect this master of the obscure into a hierophantic world where philosophical speculation and transcendental empiricism merge into a new mythologizing therapeutics, a modernist version of the ancient Greek religions and mysteries so well documented by Walter Burkert. One wonders reading Ramey if Deleuze is a philosopher or a sorcerer. Here is Ramey at the end of a chapter that has delved into post-modern occultism in the guise of Antoine Faivre, entered the primitivist world of magic and sorcery, and returned with a gnosis that is at once the deep immanence of our virtual earth as well as the awakening to active imagination that reminds one more of C.G. Jung and Henry Corbin:

Deleuze designed his conceptual operations to exceed cognitive limits, evoking new figures, personae, and forms of life. Inspired in his adolescence by hermetic dreams of a mathesis universalis, and convinced by his own Spinozism and Bergsonism of a deep rapport of mind with nature, Deleuze developed a reading of symbolist and modern art as an oblique flowering of perennial hermetic aspirations. In the course of attempting to rethink philosophy in view of these alternate modes of thought, Deleuze developed a new image of thought, one ultimately linked to the intensities of spiritual ordeal. This ordeal is grounded in a certain nonidentical repetition of Platonism, a redirection of the sense of Platonic anamnesis toward an excavation of the interiors of nature’s cave and the vertiginous realm of simulacra. This philosophy’s peculiar mode of becoming is uncanny, humorous, and intense. It forges concepts linked to an abridgement of the intensive, and unfolds through the strategic evocation of enigmatic conceptual personae forming a plane of immanence: the creation of concepts. Deleuze finally attempted in What Is Philosophy? to clarify the different relations of art, science, and philosophy to a common plane of immanence, pointing to a new vision of immanent thought that might be sustained in the life of “a people to come.”1

Are we really ready for such a Hierophantic Mystery Religion for a people to come? What Deleuze called the “ecology of the virtual”? It was Deleuze himself in his last work Pure Immanence who told us that “we now have only instances where thought bridles and mutilates life, making it sensible, and where life takes revenge and drives thought mad, losing itself along the way. Now we only have the choice between mediocre lives and mad thinkers” (PI, 67). Some say that Nick Land followed Deleuze into the abyss but pulled back just before the full madness of this Dionysian truth broke him into a thousand fragments. Now he filters cultural criticism in a harmless blog. One wonders just why this epigone of Deleuze left the race, fell away from such mysteries? We remember the fate of Holderlin, Rimbaud, and Artaud… why do such truths enforce such dark worlds on us? What did these harbingers of thought see that drove some of them mad, others to withdraw into solitude away from their fellow philosophers?

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Vita Activa: Deleuze against the Contemplative Life?

“Bergson invokes metaphysics to show how a memory is not constituted after present perception, but is strictly contemporaneous with it, since at each instant duration divides into two simultaneous tendencies, one of which goes toward the future and the others falls back into the past.”

– Gilles Deleuze, Bergsonism

In my continuing reading of Joshua Ramey’s interesting hermetic turn in Deleuzean thought he comes to a point where he takes up Deleuze’s Bergsonism. Here he sees Bergson’s figure of the mystic as a legislator, as “a leader who enables the life of the society to grow into a more vital expression” (KL 2409).1 He goes on to say,

In Bergsonian terms, the mystic’s intense spirituality is in fact a kind of “innate science of matter,” a deep connection between unconscious mind and material depth that enables an extreme degree of freedom, even up to the capacity to re-create the instincts. (Pico della Mirandola’s vision of humanity as free because excessive, displaced, and neither finite nor infinite anticipates this dimension of Bergsonism.) Mysticism is thus, for Bergson-and one might add, retrospectively, for Renaissance hermeticism-not so much an ability to distance oneself from time and circumstance through identification with God, but an intensification of cosmic memory, an involution in the past of a universe become a “machine for the making of gods.”” What is important for Deleuze is that the mystic is not an exception to but rather an ideal type of human life. (Kindle Locations 2410-2414).

The conception of the universe as a ‘machine for the making of the gods’, and of the enfoldings of cosmic memory through intensification and creative expressiveness as active and participatory agency rather than as some hybrid mystical identification through contemplation is key to Deleuze’s involvement in Bergsonism. Yet, I have problems with this last sentence where Ramey sees Deleuze’s use of the mystic figure as an ideal type. Why? Well Deleuze in his Bergsonism was not seeking some ideal type but the pragmatic figuration of a very earthly incarnation or materialization of the Vita Activa principle rather than the Vita Contemplativa of the god fearing Mystic type of the Christian variety. A radical immanence mystic of the earth, rather than an objectalist mystic of some contemplative world of God or Platonic realm of Ideas. The mystic as artist and co-creator of the real through active participation in its material judgments in which Deleuze divines the finite or mortal god in sense-datum is closer to the truth. Deleuze inverts our ideal type of the Mystic, reversing its contemplation of an objective Other, and instead shows the deus in the mud of existence; yet, this is no deus absconditus of Thomas Aquinas, this is the active principle of emergence and of that indefinable elan vital that is the creative movement of the ‘intenstive spatium’ itself.

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Wild Empiricism: Deleuze and the Hermetic Turn

As I’ve been reading Joshua Ramey’s work The Hermetic Deleuze: Philosophy and the Spiritual Ordeal I kept asking myself: Why am I interested in such a book? What does it truly say about Deleuze? I know that Deleuze pushed the limits of philosophical speculation, that he was very much an independent thinker, who was schooled and trained in the disciplines of a stringent academic world; yet, he formulated an aesthetic philosophy that followed the fine lines between material anorganic and organic life, its affective relations, its uncanny demarcations in the nerve center of time. Even his concepts of time are not our normal ones.

I still return to Ray Brassier’s Nihil Unbound with its unique reading of Deleuze from time to time. The thing about Brassier’s writing is its density, its weight, which forces one to return again and again, to repeat the process of ingesting little nuggets rather than chewing the cud of the whole discursive cow in one sitting. Brassier presents a Deleuze as a philosopher of Time, a psychonaut of the fly lines of temporal differentiation (NU 162).1 This is the being qua time of Deleuze’s ontological univocity. Yet, as Brassier notes the modality of this being is of a special type, because of his reinterpretation of univocity is brought under the sway of time what we get in Deleuze is a “modality of individuation, that of the psyche” (163). It is just here that Deleuze formulates what Brassier terms a third sense of time based on Freud’s ‘death-instinct’: the psyche is the battlefield of immanent forces in which “individuation becomes fully potentiated as the differentiator of difference” (163).

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Deleuze, Kant, and the Shock of Pure Difference in Art

To invert Platonism is to discover a thought that remains within signs, rather than reaching beyond them. Overturning Platonism involves a kind of cognitive vertigo: disconnected from ideal reference points, signs are destined to remain obscure.

– Joshua Ramey. The Hermetic Deleuze

I’m enjoying this new work by Joshua Ramey, The Hermetic Deleuze: Philosophy and Spiritual Ordeal. I must admit that Deleuze has always been a thorn in my side. One cannot discount this idealist and his philosophical project. Most of those who now call themselves New Materialists were schooled in Deleuze’s thought, which shows how idealism and materialism are still twin sisters, and are subtly united by threads of thought that are more alike than not. That Deleuze was a realist of Ideas is without doubt a commonplace, but that he was a materialist in the old sense of the word is no longer a truth we can hold. He moved into the full Idealist camp with his transcendental turn when he formulated a ‘transcendental empiricism’.

Let’s face it the whole empirical tradition grew out of a revival of the Epicurean tradition during the Renaissance with the rediscovery of Lucretius’s The Order of Things, so well documented by among others Stephen Greenblatt, in The Swerve: How the World Became Modern. We all know their names: Francis Bacon, Thomas Hobbes, Pierre Gassendi, members of The Royal Society of London, John Locke, George Berkeley, David Hume. Each resuming that ancient heritage of Democritus and his atomistic universe. It was Plato who first wiped Democritus from the philosophical world by not even mentioning his name in his own works, that was how much he hated this anti-formalist. For Democritus above all things did not believe in the eternal world of Ideas or Forms.

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Deleuze: Transcendental Empiricist? – Fidelity and Betrayal

In Nabokov’s short story “Signs and Symbols” a suicidal son “imagines that everything happening around him is a veiled reference to his personality and existence. …Everything is a cipher and of everything he is the theme”. Of course this is closer to R.D. Laing’s sense of the delusional references of a paranoiac: ‘in typical paranoid ideas of reference, the person feels that the murmurings and mutterings he hears as he walks past a street crowd are about him. In a bar, a burst of laughter behind his back is at some joke cracked about him’ that deeper acquaintance with the patient reveals in fact that ‘what tortures him is not so much his delusions of reference, but his harrowing suspicion that he is of no importance to anyone, that no one is referring to him at all’.

But what do we call the delusions of philosophers who reduce the thought and systems of another philosopher to one conceptual thought or ruling idea? What of fidelity and betrayal? I was thinking of this when reading Eleanor Kaufman’s new work on Deleuze, The Dark Precursor Dialectic, Structure, Being, which is an excellent read so far. In it she mentions the work of Alain Badiou, Slavoj Zizek, and Peter Hallward in relation to Deleuze. As she states it:

AS WITH MANY PROMINENT thinkers, there is a striking imperative that circulates among those who read Deleuze: a drive to fidelity, or more nearly to not betray the master’s thought, the trap that so many who write in his wake purportedly fall into. The world of Deleuze criticism is rarely immune from the dialectic of fidelity and betrayal that is arguably so far removed from Deleuze’s thought. (87)

All three of these authors seem to attack those disciples of Deleuze who have fallen into the trap of literalizing the Master’s work, instead one must betray the Master “to remain faithful to (and repeat) the ‘spirit’ of his thought” (87). Yet, as concerns Deleuze, there are those who have betrayed the master by taking one part of his work – the complicit co-authored works of Deleuze and Guattari – for the singular splendor of the Master’s truth. Kaufman cites Badiou in this regard:

“That Deleuze never did anything of an explicit nature to dissipate this [misunderstanding] is linked to that weakness rife among philosophers— in fact, none of us escape it— regarding the equivocal role of disciples. As a general rule, disciples have been won over for the wrong reasons, are faithful to a misinterpretation, overdogmatic in their exposition, and too liberal in debate. They almost always end up by betraying us…” (87-88)

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Symbols of Life: Deleuze reading D.H. Lawrence

“If we are steeped in the Apocalypse, it is rather because it inspires ways of living, surviving, and judging in each of us. It is a book for all those who think of themselves as survivors. It is the book of Zombies.”

– Gilles Deleuze, Essays Critical and Clinical

Deleuze in Nietzsche and St. Paul, Lawrence and John of Patmos, juxtaposes the John of the Gospel of Love with the other, John of Patmos and the Gospel of Terror: the Book of the Apocalypse. He tells us that Christ brought love, but that John of Patmos brought us the tools of terror and judgment, revenge and hate. In Nietzsche, there is the great opposition between Christ and Saint Paul: Christ, the softest, most amorous of the decadents, a kind of Buddha who frees us from the
domination of priests and the ideas of fault, punishment, reward, judgment, death, and what follows death this bearer of glad tidings is doubled by the black Saint Paul, who keeps Christ on the cross, ceaselessly leading him back to it, making him rise from the dead, displacing the center of gravity toward eternal life, and inventing a new type of priest even more terrible than its predecessors.1 (CC 37)

Lawrence takes from Nietzsche only the fire of the argument, but redirects it between Christ and Red John. In this black book of death we see the betrayal of Christ and his gospel, the redemption turned apocalyptic, the enforcement of a new justice, the iron hammer coming down upon the collective madness of the world:

“In truth, it is Christianity that becomes the Antichrist; ‘. it betrays Christ, it forces a collective soul on him behind his back, and , in return it gives the collective soul a superficial individual figure, the .. little lamb. Christianity, and above all John of Patmos, founded a new type of man, and a type of thinker that still exists today, enjoying a new reign: the carnivorous lamb, the lamb that bites …”(CC 39)

This is the thinker of the collective soul of the great hordes of Zombies that hide among the late and belated worlds of Capitalism. This collective soul wants power, but not the simple power of the despot; instead what it seeks is to “penetrate into every pore of power, to swarm in its centers, to multiply them throughout the universe. It wants a cosmopolitan power, not in full view like the Empire, but rather in every nook and cranny, in every dark corner, in every fold…” of every last zombie (CC 39). So begins the Age of Judgment: the power of the weak-souled ones, where “power no longer exists except as the long politics of vengeance, the long enterprise of the collective soul’s narcissism. The revenge and self-glorification of the weak…”(CC 39).

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Gilles Deleuze: The Expressive Aesthetic

In Proust and Signs, Deleuze writes,

Certain Neoplatonists used a profound word to designate the original state that proceeds any development, any “explication”: complication, which envelops the many in the One and affirms the unity of the multiple. Eternity did not seem to them the absence of change, nor even the extension of a limitless existence, but the complicated state of time itself (uno ictu mutationes was compiectitur). The Word, omnia compiicans, and containing all essences, was defined as the supreme complication, the complication of contraries, the unstable opposition. From this they derived the notion of an essentially expressive universe, organized according to degrees of immanent complications and following an order of descending explications. (ps, 45) 1

Deleuze affirms the univocity of being, but he does so not at the level of substance, but at the level of expression itself. For Deleuze, univocity is not a given, but a generated and generative power, productive only as a “power of thinking which is in itself equal to the power of producing or acting” (E, 181).2 He goes on to say that “expression characterizes both being and knowing. But only univocal being, only univocal consciousness, are expressive. Substance and modes, cause and effects, only have being and are only known through common forms that actually constitute the essence of the one, and actually contain the essence of the others. (E, 181)

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Gilles Deleuze: Quote of the Day

“In Spinoza the whole theory of expression supports univocity; and its whole import is to free univocal Being from a state of indifference or neutrality, to make it the object of a pure affirmation, which is actually realized in an expressive pantheism or immanence. Here, I feel, lies the real opposition between Spinoza and Leibniz: the theory of univocal expressions in the one should be opposed to the equivocal expressions in the other.

Representation is thus located in a certain extrinsic relation of idea and object, where each enjoys an expressivity over and above representation. In short, what is expressed everywhere intervenes as a third term that transforms dualities.

What is expressed is sense: deeper than the relation of causality, deeper than the relation of representation. The body has a mechanism in reality, there is an automatism of thought in the order of ideality; but we learn that the corporeal mechanism and the spiritual automaton are most expressive when they find their “sense” and their “correspondence” in the necessary reason that was everywhere lacking in Cartesianism.”

– Gilles Deleuze, Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza (333-335)

Deleuze: The Philosophy of Crime Novels

Going back through these older essays one is struck by Deleuze’s curious mind. He didn’t have some ultimate plan, instead he had that empowering curiosity that allowed him to wander the highways and byways of life and thought and thereby shed light on both the sublime and the most mundane objects. In his short essay on The Philosophy of Crime Novels, gathered together in Desert Islands, we see his fascination with two aspects of the detective mind. Literature has for the most part always lagged behind the cultural matrix within which it finds itself. Crime novels have been a staple in French society since their inception and one of the editors and promoters of this captivating art form Deleuze honors in this essay was Marcel Duhamel of the famed La Série noire (Éditions Gallimard).

In 1945, under the editorship of Marcel Duhamel , Gallimard  started publishing its translations of British and American crime novels in the La Serie Noire .  In 1946, echoing the Gallimard label, the French critics Nino Frank and Jean-Pierre Chartier wrote the two earliest essays to identify a departure in film-making, the American ‘film noir ‘.  Although they were not thought of in the United States as films noirs  (the French label did not become widely known there until the 1970s), numerous postwar Hollywood movies seemed to confirm the French judgment that a new type of  American film had emerged, very different from the usual studio product and  capable of conveying an impression ‘of certain disagreeable realities that do in truth exist’. 

Deleuze acknowledges the power of both deductive and inductive reasoning and attributes it too earlier forms of detective fiction, as well as to the dialectical interplay between the French and English approaches to the art of both philosophy and crime detection. From the beginnings in the 19th Century the detective novel devoted itself to the ‘power of the Mind’ and the genius of the Detective to elucidate the activities of the criminal world. At the center of this Deleuze tells us was the deep seated need know the truth about such things:

“The idea of truth in the classic detective novel was totally philosophical, that is, it was the product of the effort and the operations of the mind. So it is that police investigation modeled itself on philosophical inquiry, and conversely, gave to philosophy an unusual object to elucidate: crime” (Desert Islands, 2004. 81).

What’s fascinating to me about Deleuze is much the same I find in Slovoj Zizek, his ability to take even the most mundane aspect of culture and turn his curiosity as a philosopher into something that sheds light on both the cultural artifact and the philosophical world upon which it is based into something that enlightens as it instructs. He had a light touch, he was neither pedantic, nor a full blown pedagoge, he was able to see with a double eye or vision the dual aspects of our cultural life. In the crime novel he discovered the art of detection, the uncovering of truth as method and quest, and what he discovered was two schools of truth: the dialectical interplay between two cultures – the French and the English.

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Deleuze: Another Path

Yet, Deleuze offers us another path against substantive formalisms:

“…a plastic, anarchic and nomadic principle, contemporaneous with the process of individuation, no less capable of dissolving and destroying individuals than of constituting them temporarily; intrinsic modalities of being, passing from one ‘individual’ to another, circulating and communicating underneath matters and forms. The individuating is not the simple individual. In these conditions, it is not enough to say that individuation differs in kind from the determination of species. It is not even enough to say this in the manner of Duns Scotus, who was nevertheless not content to analyse the elements of an individual but went as far as the conception of individuation as the ‘ultimate actuality of form’. We must show not only how individuating difference differs in kind from specific difference, but primarily and above all how individuation properly precedes matter and form, species and parts, and every other element of the constituted individual. (DR, 38)

He felt it was essential to overturn the primacy of substance, of the self subsistent or identical, and so too any infinite being that transcends and governs the world of finite beings and becoming. It is necessary to situate an originary web of difference from which individual identities both appear and dissolve. Accomplishing this would not only demolish the onto-theological, but affirm the differences by which individuals always exceed categorization according to similarity and sameness. These differences could be neither indifferent to one another – for this would imply their being self-contained – nor related through a common identity. They would instead have to be linked through their difference – a disjoining that univocity has always embodied. Univocity might still imply a sameness, but it is nothing other than this ‘same’ excessiveness of all beings. In this way, univocal being is said no longer indifferently of fully-constituted beings that ‘share nothing in common’, but of the difference immanent to them that escapes representation and compels their self-overcoming. It is said, in short, of difference itself.1

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