Deleuze’s masterful handling of the concepts of body, affect, desires, and even the notion of refrain (that he expanded with Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus) is a creative elucidation of Spinoza’s and Nietzsche’s philosophies.
What Deleuze added to this dyadic conceptual machine (SpinozaNietzsche)—I am utilizing the mathematical dyadic operator without dots or cross between the two names such as AB—is I think the elaboration of the question of the unconscious that is correlated to the death of God, which may we rephrase here as the elaboration of the question of the strange nature of life and the persistence of life without the need for an ‘exemplary causality.’ Both Spinoza and Nietzsche also grappled with this problem. Spinoza expanded the problem of the unconscious in terms of the tireless determinism of the ultimate substance whose modes and attributes could be demonstrated, using contemporary psychoanalytic lenses, as cathexes, affects, ripples of an unknown source of force. There is no question for Spinoza that this source is Life which he preferred to assume the immanent character of God (God is Spinoza’s line of [accomplished] becoming: God, the name that designates the accomplishment of his work as a desiring machine). For Nietzsche, it is more explicitly immanent. The source is the will which could be interpreted as a body without organs (BwO). The latter is correlated to the unconscious in the sense that, like the unconscious, BwO is a plane of consistency that receives intensities and flows, compositional multiplication of energy that grows as conjunctions are made. In psychoanalytic terms, this plane may also qualify into the notion of the Real, empty but is always invoked by composition in terms of grasping, reaching, and proceeding without a goal. Nietzsche’s concept of will fits into this frame of the unconscious as BwO in the sense of the will as ‘uneasiness’, ‘living in a state almost close to zero,’ as Deleuze describes.
The expressions of this uneasiness can also transform the plane, the will as unconscious, into a new compositional plane (to will more) that serves as attractor to another serialization of becoming. The aimlessness of this serialization no doubt makes the will as BwO vulnerable to reterritorialization by stratic machines, such as the reactive force of nihilism by conjugating desire to a goal, finality. The finality germane to this kind of nihilism is such that it wills only itself, itself being its own object of willing, the object being a non-object precisely as willing does not presuppose anything but itself hence, its own subjectivity foreclosed to contamination by difference and othering.
Incidentally, in A Thousand Plateaus Deleuze prefers the way-map over the psychoanalytic practice of tracing. The way-map illustrates how to deal with the unconscious, how to deal with life. This is a problem that had provoked the existentialist forays of the past decades. Life is the spider that lures an unwitting victim to die freely.
Life is the insect’s problem of how to escape it. Assuming its consciousness is capable of pulling a Sartrean lament, the insect acquires a capacity to approach life seemingly at its closest, in death. On the other side is life cushioning the ripples of the resistance to death by responding in a way that allows the insect to experience in discreet and analytic ways, which heightens a neural response to a threshold limit essential to a radical existential awakening, the indifference of life itself. It cushions the resistance and responds coldly, triggering a serialization of futile resistance. We praise life for its seemingly perfect response mechanism that has ironically transformed indifference to an opportunity to freely resist which endorses a view of subjectivity as a freely deterritorializing will. We must recall here that Deleuze (with Guattari) devoted the last sections of A Thousand Plateaus to an elaboration of the difference between absolute positive deterritorialization and absolute negative deterritorialization, a classic case of rehearsing a Nietzschean elucidation of the difference between active and reactive forces.
Following Nietzsche, however, we might ask, why life posits a world other than life, a world that accuses life? At the same time, if such a thought of a world other than the lived is possible, what does this tell us about the living?
I hope to make it clear that this response to your question does not by any means harbour a defeatist attitude towards Being and its promise of transition if not its immanent potential to evolve without an end. Far from surrendering Being even to the realization that climate entropy is real, that Being is at risk of transitioning into an irreversible end of difference, my position remains materialist. I should add: the problem of entropy has always been, since the dawn of humanity, a question of the management of difference.
From the savage to the paranoid despotic regime and to the modern post-signifying (nihilistic) regime of passion and subjectivity, the strange nature of life is to Being the familiar question of how to manage its transition, how to negotiate with change, how to make of the indefinite void that releases itself as a problematic at exactly the point when a transition is decided, when Being is decided as a proceeding, as a ritual, as a singularization to be incarnated (in the family, in society, etc.), to be lived, to be instantiated in time which enacts a break in the unilateral indifference of entropy (or space). When Man decided to have a break it was to negotiate with space, with the void by puncturing a hole on the plane of immanence, the hole as the decidability of Being itself. Space gradually ceased to be a concern of Being until Being is decided (in technocapitalism) as a pure chase, as time without a transition, the pure form of the future (that of pure space, the post-human), without looking back which is what time can offer, what Being as time can really offer.
The question for today is not whether to accelerate or decelerate (a question that serves the interest of space, of life as biopower, of admitting that nihilism is irreversible), but rather to reform our understanding of time which is of a transitory essence, which has the character of Being as a passage. To reclaim the capacity of Man as people to decide His fate according to His capacity for micro-fascistic management of entropy—to fight fire with fire. To defy Life acting as an extraneous force. Not to reclaim an Identity but to reclaim the question of what they are, what they are capable of doing. Man-people is capable of time. Not of space, not of life, but of production. Not of output, but rather of an event that lacks in nothing. The question is how to reclaim Man-people from His needless pilgrimage into space. To reclaim His virtuality, His species-being.
Already a confused mix of universal and particular, species-being (a virtual consistent existent) is a wound incarnated in Man, a wound that also teaches him that it can heal, but only in time which means it can also not heal unless the incarnation commits itself to the numbness of space. (Biopower is all about a speedy recovery, depriving the body of the phases of singularities of experience). Deleuze remarks: ‘A wound existed before me; not a transcendence of a wound as higher actuality.’ A different outcome takes place when it is understood otherwise as an exemplary causality such that the wound can be healed by embarking into space, to numbness, by the aid of anesthesia.
But life is no healer.
You can see Steven’s question in the comment box on this blog. (See also Claire Colebrook’s Deleuze and the Meaning of Life)
Between Planes (fractalontology.wordpress.com)
The Age of Speed: Accelerationism, Politics, and the Future Present (darkecologies.com)
Nihilism and Groundlessness: Towards a Gaian Praxecology (footnotes2plato.com)
Quote of the Day: Tiqqun on Speed and Strategy (deterritorialinvestigations.wordpress.com)