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Deleuze, Guattari, & the New Right, Part 2

Deleuze-Guattari-53,479 words

“With Platonism, philosophy becomes a police operation.” Miguel de Beistegui[1]

The Affect of Truth

Part One of this examination of the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari from a radical New Right perspective briefly introduced Deleuze and Guattari, placed their thought within an illiberal Leftist variation of the Counter-Enlightenment, and then grounded that thought in Deleuze’s reading of Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morality. While it is hoped that Part One’s radical re-evaluation of postmodernism is not lost on the reader, it is more important that we understand the Nietzschean current that courses through Deleuze and Guattari’s philosophy. This current will be familiar to any of Nietzsche’s closest readers, although it may be put to different uses than we are accustomed to.[2]

To be familiar with these uses can only be a good thing, however. Truth, as Nietzsche says, affects only comfort. That comfort, according to Deleuze, affects uncritical, thoughtless thought. We can afford none of these, but while we often speak against comfort, rarely do we do so regarding our own thought. This is because of the radical project to which we are devoted. But, as radical as it – and we – may be, we are still prone to noncritical acceptance of concepts and forms of thought that keep us connected to bourgeois modernity. Moving beyond those concepts and forms is the basis of what Deleuze and Guattari call becoming-revolutionary.

Before we get to that, however, we must maintain our focus on the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze, for we have yet to be fully initiated in the transvaluation that makes becoming-revolutionary possible. This, in part, is the transvaluation of logos.

While the next two papers are based on Deleuze and Guattari’s two-part Capitalism and Schizophrenia, this one continues laying a foundation that might aid an understanding of why this philosophy is useful to the New Right. It focuses on Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition (1994) – his primary dissertation toward the doctorate in philosophy – and his “reversal of Platonism.” This means that, while on our way to an attack on the legitimacy of the liberal nation-state, we will make a quick stop to participate in a riot against transcendence and divine judgment.

Logos and Nomos

For all of its difficulty being translated from the Greek, logos can be coherently simplified as meaning word, reason, or law. In a logocentric world, everything has its right place; it is a structured and ordered conception of existence. Conversely, nomos is Deleuze’s name for a conception of arrangement that does not rely on an organization or permanent structure. Deleuze locates nomos etymologically in the open distribution of pastoral land in Homeric Greece, which had neither enclosures nor property in pastures. Instead animals grazed in open country-or-mountain-side. This space, without precise limits, was the nomos.[3]

While logos has a central role in North American New Right thought, acting as the foundation of both Traditionalism and Ethno-Statism, two solutions to the crisis of modernity rooted in the past, nomos has been largely relegated to the Nietzschean and anarcho-fascist fringes that solve modernity itself from the perspective of the future. Where one acts as the basis for truth and morality, large-scale social organization, and universal conceptions of man, the other promotes ethics, local tribalism, and irreducible particularity and difference.

In Deleuze’s terms, logos and nomos create different problems from life, and conversely, leave the problems of the other unexamined. Deleuze’s favorite example is Kant contra Nietzsche. Remaining faithful to logos, Kant problematizes doubt and untruth, but leaves rationality unscathed. Meanwhile Nietzsche takes the opposite approach. Problems, as we will see, force critical thought.[4]

Interestingly, the European New Right makes a problem of the logos/nomos split itself, seeking to create a model of Rightist revolution that benefits from the intellectual and political impetus embodied in each approach. This is apparent in the works of Alain de Benoist, Pierre Krebs, and Alexander Dugin, each of whom suggest an ethical basis rooted in the pre-modern past for the creation of new postmodern values.[5]

However, the biggest influence of nomos in their works is seen in the willingness to evaluate concepts and forms of thought that undermine the logoi of Western modernity. De Benoist’s upcoming book on Carl Schmitt is a case-in-point, as it critiques Schmitt from the perspective of Deleuze and Guattari’s attack on capitalism and modern citizenship.[6]

Deleuze posits nomos as a type of loose organizing principle found in pre-Socratic Greece, wherein heroism, manliness, greatness, and peoplehood is defined micro-locally. This is the Greece of ethics, myth and legend, before these are problematized and rejected by Plato as unreliable and irresolvable to truth. It is this spirit of rejection that prompts Deleuze to conceptualize logos as “moral law.”[7] After explaining how philosophy has been beholden to logos, from Plato and Aristotle to Hegel and Kant, Deleuze upholds Nietzsche as the model for moving thought beyond the “law,” making it clear that what is at stake in the opposition of nomos to logos is the very ability to create new values.[8]

Nietzsche Contra Platonism

In the twelve aphorisms of “The Problem of Socrates,” Nietzsche plays his last hand in the war against Platonic metaphysics.[9] He begins by explaining that Socrates and Plato are symptoms of decay and the agents of an unnamed (Hebrew) force of disintegration of the Greek affirmation of life. He then describes dialectics as the defeat of nobility by plebian ressentiment. Finally, he turns to the tyranny of rationality against the instincts, before settling on rationality’s dirty little helper: morality. This set of aphorisms reads like a descent into the modern mind, with plebian instincts and decadent positive valuation of rationality, health, and happiness settling into an abyss from which to condemn the complexity of life.

However, as he pushes us into the abyss he also pulls us back out, with the “history of an error” that is “How the True World Finally Became a Fable.”[10] In six steps, Nietzsche moves from Plato to his Zarathustra. After he lays the creation of a “true world” at the feet of Plato – he who is wise, pious, and virtuous enough to live this world – he immediately moves to the Christian promise of the true world for those sinners who repent. He then involves Kant – who finds consolation in the true world, even if he is skeptical of its existence – and the positivists, who, although they feel no obligation to believe in the true world, nonetheless leave its metaphysical power intact.

It is only with his Zarathustra that someone finally thought to get rid of it altogether. “The true world is gone: which world is left? The illusory one, perhaps? But no! We got rid of the illusory world along with the true one!”[11] Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition can be read as a companion to Nietzsche’s journey to and from the abyss, as he finds justification and motivation for his view of logocentric Being as a moralistic illusion from these parts of Twilight of the Idols and their corresponding entries in Nietzsche’s notebooks.[12]

But, while Nietzsche keeps a safe distance from Socrates, Plato, and Kant, firing from his mountaintop (as was his style), Deleuze engages in hand-to-hand combat with Platonism. And while the imperial Nietzsche led him into battle, Deleuze emerges from the battlefield with a more grudging respect for his foe.

Deleuze’s Reversal of Platonism

Deleuze-Guattari-6Deleuze seeks a reversal of Platonism, or a diminution of logos for the sake of nomos, because, like Nietzsche, he understands the former as a moral, aesthetic, political, and metaphysical solution to the complexity of life that is based in negation and ressentiment. Philosophically, he undertakes his reversal because Platonism is the basis of the representational Cartesian image of thought (discussed in Part One of this series as “an immanent plane or set of pre-philosophical presuppositions that condition the determination of problems and creation of concepts”), and his goal at this juncture is to create a new way of thinking and living without the transcendence that representation presupposes.

But more than merely overturning the problem and solution of Platonic thought – namely the truth or untruth of the relationship between an Idea, a genuine copy, and a simulacrum – Deleuze also wants to know what vitalist motivations lay behind the move toward the Platonic metaphysics of representation. Deleuze, then, wants to create a new image of thought based on a new thought of the image.[13]

Against common understandings of Platonism based on an opposition between essence and appearance, Deleuze finds the more fundamental distinction to be between images and simulacra. Plato, he says, introduces this distinction in the context of a critique of mimetic art’s ability to deceive the public and thus lessen the impact and value of the political and philosophical classes. This deception is the realm of the simulacra, or false images that seem to conform to an Idea, or the truth of a being-in-itself, but which, in fact, have no relation to that truth.[14]

Simulacra are dangerous because they are a threat to the thought, morality, politics, and art that positively correspond to Plato’s truth. As Deleuze says, “the will to eliminate simulacra or phantasms has no motivation apart from the moral. What is condemned in the figure of simulacra is the state of free, oceanic difference (or affirmation in Nietzsche’s language), and of (Dionysian) nomadic distributions.”[15]

Platonism’s attack on simulacra, or nonconformity, Deleuze continues, is motivated by a fundamental desire to establish a definitive, transcendent, authority against which everything in life can be measured – essentially introducing divine judgment into philosophy.[16] But, the problem with this is the same for Deleuze as it is for Nietzsche: transcendence is not native to philosophy, but injected into it from a religious, moral, and political attack on difference.

Difference: An Aside

In order to complete our examination of Deleuze’s reversal of Platonism, an explanation of difference and its importance to Deleuze’s (and Guattari’s) philosophy is necessary. Difference is the ontological reality of the world – a great mass of individual specimens that resist all forms of representation and universalization – as it is sensually experienced. Deleuze insists that there is no ground, subject, or being that experiences; there is only experience that flows and becomes in each passing instant.[17] There is no actual world that is then represented in virtual images by the privileged mind of man.

Deleuze’s difference is the concept that embodies the problem Nietzsche made of consciousness in the context of total affirmation of life (seen most clearly in the Eternal Return). Nietzsche naturalizes consciousness to just one of several bodily reactions to experience, but he did, however, include it, thought, and ideas in the flow of experience. This area of Nietzsche’s thought is normally discussed as his physiology, wherein human life is created from the flow of experience instead of it being the ground from which life is merely perceived.

Likewise, Deleuze understands that ideas are created through the problem of interacting with experience; but also that ideas extend and enhance experience. This does not create a second-order of evaluation but instead firmly roots ideas in the flow of experience. By making life an interaction of multifarious flows of information, time, ideas, and images, Deleuze seeks to give a better sense of the modern forces shaping human possibility, as well as give us a better chance of thinking beyond the dominant conception of thought and the bourgeois thinking subject.

This thinking would be utterly “new” and would force a rupture with time, making the past before the new thought something entirely different from what it might have been, and the future a new realm of possibilities.[18] While we might think of this as a rare, earth-shattering event, it was foundational to Deleuze’s transcendental empirical metaphysics.[19] Difference does not mean “difference by degrees” between two otherwise conceptually similar objects – which would assume a pre-existing transcendent unity between them, but instead a difference-in-itself that is the world as it is perceived.

Difference, then, is Deleuze’s answer to the dominant (Cartesian) image of thought that creates difference through resemblance, identity, opposition, and analogy (y=y not x). Instead, he posits an image of thought in which “the particularity or singularity of each individual thing, moment, perception, or conception”[20] is acknowledged above and beyond the Platonist/humanist/bourgeois desire to homogenize, universalize, and standardize each and all through the power of its representational image of thought. Here, Deleuze is marrying Hume and Nietzsche while Plato looks on in disgust.

The Idea and Difference

Deleuze-Guattari-4The Platonic Idea allows us to discriminate between images that are trustworthy – that lead toward truth – and those that lead toward error and illusion. It is the space between the Idea – the true image – and the simulacra – the potentially false – that Plato makes the domain of the philosopher – the new custodian of order! But keep in mind, Deleuze advises, that the Aristotelian division of life according to classification – although no less problematic – is not operative in Plato’s method, which is only concerned with the distance between the real/true and the untrue.[21] In other words, Platonism is only a system of judgment in favor of the true and Good.[22]

But what does this mean for representation? In order for the Idea to be linked with a copy, there must be an appropriate amount of likeness, sameness, or identity between the two. Plato thus subordinates difference to sameness, while making both knowable only through a representational relationship (created by resemblance, identity, opposition, and analogy) between Idea and object.

Differences or simulacra are rejected. In opposition to this model or image of thought, Deleuze proposes to think difference-in-itself – or, the uniqueness implicit in the particularity of things, conceptions, and perceptions – so as to connect more thoroughly with the specificity of concrete experience without simplifying phenomena in order to fit them within a unitary truth or Idea.

Looking ahead, it is important to know that in this conception of experience, individual humans cannot be made knowable genealogically as general or common manifestations of an Idea, but instead by understanding the processes of individuation determined by actual and specific differences, multitudinous influences, and chance interactions. While racial groupings – one of the hallmarks of modern thought – fall by the wayside, please take note that inequality – perhaps the very basis of pre-Platonic thought – does not.

The Cogito and Common, all too Common, Sense

Needing to attack representational thought head-on, Deleuze moves from Plato to Descartes and Kant. In doing so, however, he extends his reversal of Platonism to the rejection of the Cogito. As he says, a slippage occurs by the time the Platonic Idea reaches the thinking subject, but the same moralist orthodoxy remains, as does the same image of thought based in recognition of the same.[23]

In Part One, we saw that Deleuze rejects the Cogito both because it is bound up with bourgeois assumptions of a humanity, a good will, and a truth; and thought based in systemic recognition/representation. This quick summation can easily and clearly be expanded upon, especially if we shift to Deleuze’s words themselves.

While Descartes is interested in constructing a rationalist system of analytic truths, in which independently truthful propositions – “this is a book” – can stand as a ground for the deduction of other truths, Deleuze maintains that all knowledge is partial and open to revision.[24] What’s more, Descartes posits his rationalist system as the operative system for all men in all places, leaving no room for interpersonal distinctions. Men become Man, people become Human, and each and all perceive, remember, imagine, and conceive in exactly the same manner.[25] This manner rests upon each of these “faculties” of thought operating in concert each and every time a Human encounters a given object or event.

While both Descartes and Kant call this manner of perception and conception “common sense,” only Kant goes so far as to suggest that a system of common senses exists which corresponds to the “natural orientations of rationality.” Some of the common senses examined in Kant’s three Critiques are morality, reflection, faith, and knowledge – each of which is linked to the Human’s naturally occurring rationality.[26]

Deleuze rejects this humanization of men, making a further distinction between reason and thought and sensation and thought. Where Descartes places independent reason at the heart of the Cogito, Deleuze – following Nietzsche – argues that no thought is free of sensation. “The Cogito cannot be self-evident because sensation always extends to a multiplicity of further conditions and causes”[27] which point in the direction of Nietzsche’s vitalist physiology of conceptualization and transvaluation.

The fanciful universal (bourgeois) thinking subject (Cogitatio natura universalis) climaxes with the comical “common sense” upon which it is based. As Deleuze explains,

“It cannot be regarded as a fact that thinking is the natural exercise of a faculty, and that this faculty is possessed of a good nature and a good will. ‘Everybody’ knows very well that in fact men think rarely, and more often under the impulse of a shock than in the excitement of a taste for thinking. Moreover, Descartes’ famous suggestion that good sense (the capacity for thought) is of all things in the world the most equally distributed rests upon no more than an old saying, since it amounts to reminding us that men are prepared to complain of lack of memory, imagination, or even hearing, but they always find themselves well served with regard to intelligence and thought.”[28]

Concluding to Look Ahead

Finally, by the time we reach the “repetition” of Deleuze’s reversal of Platonism, we have “merely” come full circle with Nietzsche. For repetition is the recognition that only difference returns, and that the earth is in a continual state of becoming. Difference, then, as opposed to Platonic imitation and representation, is the only productive force in life. But difference and repetition do not point to chaos as much as the ontological reality of our radical potential.

Deleuze is not seeking a beyond of either representation or the Cogitatio natura universalis so as to demolish the gravity of human experience itself, but instead to demonstrate how fragile, narrow, and self-serving is the modern understanding of that experience. If we are new and unique from one minute to the next – only being held in check by the representational image of thought that convinces us of both the permanence of the law bound material world and of the inevitability of contemporary human institutions – then there is an almost limitless number of opportunities for creation and for thinking and acting beyond the modern bourgeois order of life in a single day.

Reading Difference and Repetition makes it clear that, while Deleuze respects Plato for having created a concept (Idea) that thoroughly impacts upon life, he leaves Descartes and Kant bruised and bloodied in a Strasbourg ally. In all three cases, though, Deleuze contends that the Being promised to life is not only an illusion but one based in the comfort of imitation (representation) and the secure foundations of old values. Against these he champions the reality of difference and becoming, a love of creation, an adoration of the abyss, and the necessity of creating new values.

Notes

[1] Miguel de Beistegui, “The Deleuzian Reversal of Platonism,” in The Cambridge Companion to Deleuze, Daniel W. Smith and Henry Somers-Hall, eds. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 59.

[2] This paper was reviewed and edited by Adam Smith.

[3] Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, trans. Paul Patton (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), 309 (note 6).

[4] Deleuze 1994: 138.

[5] See Alain de Benoist The Problem of Democracy, Pierre Krebs Fighting for the Essence, and Alexander Dugin The Fourth Political Theory; each published in English by Arktos Media.

[6] Alain de Benoist, Carl Schmitt Today, forthcoming from Arktos, 2013.

[7] Deleuze 1994: 6-7.

[8] Deleuze 1994: 54.

[9] Friedrich Nietzsche, “Twilight of the Idols,” in The Anti-Christ, Ecce Homo, Twilight of the Idols, and Other Writings, trans. Judith Norman, ed. Judith Norman and Aaron Ridley (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 162-66.

[10] Nietzsche 2005: 171.

[11] Nietzsche 2005: 171.

[12] See in particular entries 72-83 in Notebook 11, November 1887-March 1888. Friedrich Nietzsche, Writings from the Late Notebooks, trans. Kate Sturge, ed. Rüdiger Bittner (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 211-15.

[13] de Beistegui 2012: 77.

[14] Deleuze 1994: 62-63.

[15] Deleuze 1994: 265.

[16] Deleuze 1994: 64

[17] Claire Colebrook, Gilles Deleuze (London: Routledge, 2002), 87.

[18] Deleuze 1994: 89-90.

[19] Transcendental empiricism is Deleuze’s metaphysics. While it is empirical – seeking only sensual data, or at least data that is free from an imposed conceptual schema – it is transcendental in as much as experience is assumed to pre-exist human sensory data. After all, we are not the only sensuous beings on earth.

[20] Cliff Stagoll, “Difference,” in The Deleuze Dictionary, Revised Edition. Adrian Parr, ed. (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2010), 75.

[21] Deleuze 1994: 32.

[22] Deleuze 1994: 265-66.

[23] Deleuze 1994: 266.

[24] James Williams, “Cogito,” in The Deleuze Dictionary, Revised Edition. Adrian Parr, ed. (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2010), 51.

[25] Deleuze 1994: 133.

[26] Deleuze 1994: 137.

[27] Williams 2010: 52.

[28] Deleuze 1994: 132.

 

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