Pure Immanence: A Reply to a Poet (darkecologies)
Deleuze in his late works, especially after his last collaboration with Guattari, was grappling with something that all those collaborations could only hint at. But we can also say, apropos his early works which I think were more substantially ecological that Deleuze had already fixed his conceptual gaze on two of his most important influences, namely, Spinoza and Nietzsche. Spinoza and Nietzsche to my mind constitute the most crucial threads of Deleuze’s philosophy. Deleuze’s masterful handling of 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 be rephrased 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 essence of God (God is Spinoza’s line of [accomplished] becoming: God as 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 more immanently still in Deleuzian terms 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 (which makes it virtual in essence) in terms of grasping, reaching, and proceeding without a goal. Nietzsche’s concept of will fits into this format of the unconscious as BwO precisely in the sense of the will as ‘uneasiness’, ‘living in a state almost close to zero,’ as Deleuze describes.
And this kind of discomfort grows virtually in the sense that only the functions of its uneasiness can be detected in terms of the expressions it realizes and not some independent cause of discomfort. Its expressions can also transform the plane, the will as unconscious, into a new compositional plane (to will more) that serves as an attractor to another serialization of becoming. The aimlessness of this serialization no doubt makes the will as BwO vulnerable to be reterritorialized by a stratic machine, such as, in the case of Nietzsche, the reactive force of nihilism by conjugating desire to a goal, a 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 as its object, hence, its own subjectivity foreclosed to contamination by difference and othering.
In both treatments of the unconscious, life can serve as a cushion that absorbs the conceptual shocks of the philosophers’ immanent failure to draw a map that could show not only how to enter a force field within which to compose a new line of becoming but also how to get out. Still, in A Thousand Plateaus Deleuze prefers the way-map over the psychoanalytic practice of tracing (that is never keen on trying a way out). The way-map illustrates how to deal with the unconscious, how to deal with life, or to put it within the context of the problem of vitalism, how to deal with a force field that allows you to get in but, unfortunately, does not guarantee a way out. Certainly, that 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; freely in the sense that the way out is the necessity to live out the entropic process whose principle the unsuspecting insect attests as certain and final in proportion to how it resists death.
Life as a cushion certainly applies to the insect’s problem of getting out which by the way affords it a critical experience of a limit. It is at that point where the insect, assuming its consciousness is capable of doing a Sartrean lament, 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 way, 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 (what we can describe with Laruelle’s notion of the unilateral movement of the One unconcerned about our representations of it). Understandably, the problem of vitalism (which we have freely transposed here to a problem of how to deal with life) has, in Colebrook’s observations, ‘mobilized philosophical, theoretical and literary contretemps,’ but I should add, has also in general encouraged an understanding of Life that can benevolently accommodate the ripples of our resistance to death. We praise life for its seemingly perfect response mechanism that has ironically transformed the texture of the problem, from indifference to an opportunity to resist freely which endorses a view of the subject, to utilize Deleuze’s lingo, 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. If it will take time for Life to release the tension accruing upon its absorbent capacity, talking about a large closed system, such as society, or continent, or planet which have more or less measurable span relative to its entropic potential, the allure of freedom is difficult to resist, especially for the West that enjoys huge resources at its disposal to get by. Entropic management of resources is therefore the key to understanding life as a benevolent shock absorber.
Taken from a larger ecological context, the arguments and disputes about freedom are also triggered in the West by its unique political geography. What makes this political geography unique is the way the West has successfully built a protective mechanism against any releasement of tension that Life can make at any point in the entropic process. This is what the Western Enlightenment project was all about (the Orient had a remarkably different event) which was actually preceded by an already intensive prehension of a notion of Life as benevolent, quietly shaping the mood of the Western mind. This prehension, call it a Hegelian spirit, was efficiently coded by an already established political mechanism, a coding of territories and bodies, of spaces and desiring machines. Yet, the prehensive template was not ‘manna from heaven’. It was historically shaped by the preceding epoch which the present channels to a new level of stratification, without saying here that it ceases to be a spirit because its transmission was historically mediated. It remains a spirit by all means in proportion to how it would constantly instigate argument after argument—the question of the strange nature of life, as you put it, deploying Nietzsche’s shocker through Colebrook’s probing statements:
“That is, following Nietzsche we might ask what the strange nature of life is such that it posits a world other than life, a world that accuses life? At the same time, and again following Nietzsche, if such a thought of a world other than the lived is possible, what does this tell us about the living? In this second sense, vitalism returns already formed models and normative images back to their generating source, but at the same time confronts a potential for self-annihilation within generating life ‘itself’.”
The Orient had long ago responded to the question of the strange nature of life by positing what Nietzsche had sought to introduce into the Western intellectual landscape, the concept of the recurrence of the Same. Nietzsche knew the odds involved—he had to ignore how life is differently managed in the Orient and the West by postulating a notion of the Same to refer to life as a global concept. As a global concept Life foreshadows differences in culture and most especially geographical assemblages in the sense that foreshadowing is employed from the standpoint of a being capable of self-differentiation, obviously a concept foreign to the Orient precisely because it is taken for granted. For the Orient, Life not Being self-differentiates, that is to say, in a strange manner. In contrast, the self-differentiation of Being in the West is carried out in a reflexive manner. The correlations are far from neat nonetheless.
On the one hand, the strange nature of Life leaves the problematic of Being unsettled, or the problematic of responsal which necessarily situates Being into a bind. The ultimate response of the metaphysical Orient (metaphysical in the sense that Life dominates its philosophy) is to relegate Being to the transitoriness of change, to a surface plane of determination which legitimates an enfoldment dividing a horizon—between above and below. In this sense, Life becomes a territorializing machine which subordinates Being-below (or Being) to an exemplary causality, a principle that causes the fold. On the other hand, the reflexive essence of Being, the negative legacy of the Orient in the sense that Being is introduced as a problematic of determination that it (the Orient) consigned to becoming, claims an exemplary causality that efficiently operationalizes the fold from a declaration of suffering that must be overcome. What the Orient abandoned to the entropic process, Being (which indicates that Life is a dominant principle), the West salvaged in order to arrest the infinite determinism of life.
Nonetheless, the Oriental praise of Life is different from the early Western celebration of life as benevolent (which we mentioned above) seemingly so ordered as to afford Being an in-between space of individual determination out of deferred entropic time. Indeed, the very taking up of Being as an issue necessarily defers time in the sense that it introduces an obstructive flow by individualizing life, singularizing the phases of its flow, literally forcing it to express itself; by retarding life in terms of generating its double from the outside, hence, minimizing its intensity by absorbing its energy that enhances singular bodies’ performance while Life stands still this time because seemingly deprived of pure voidality, its unilateral non-affair with Being.
But when Heidegger affirms that Being, or the name that designates the logic of the ontological difference, we are fortunate to discover that the transitory character of the difference in question quietly pays homage to Life, to the Oriental praise of its mystery for which Heidegger describes the task of thinking to remain open to its releasement, to remain open to the releasement of the Orient. Unfortunately, the Orient has no excess (nihilism) to release in which case Heidegger had to simply imagine the arrival of the Orient. But first, the Orient must be deprived of its Life principle in order to arrive at Being. Such is the logic of the conquest of the Other of the West.
But we are thinking of a new way of depriving Life of its exemplary principle.
Deleuze, through Nietzsche, would have the guts to declare the obvious. The transition of Being gives life its due. But what kind of life is that to which Being gives its due? For Deleuze, this life no longer poses the questions that used to surround its immanence, such as, how it was able to make possible a ‘world other than the lived,’ certainly a question that is permissible only in Being. This time Life is no longer benevolent, rather indifferent. It seems Being has successfully transitioned into Life, into a state of non-Being, courtesy of the post-humanist techno-nihilism of contemporary time, in which the world is more than a fable (more than what Nietzsche foretold) because it is this time devoid of human interest. In a slight departure from Deleuze’s concept of Life, we are arguing here that Being is rather overcome by the imperial hegemony of Life, life transformed into an overarching principle.
No doubt technocapitalism has pushed Being to the limits of the ontological difference by dissolving difference in favor of the non-temporal unilateralization of a global space called Life. Being has dissolved into the indifferent intentionality of biopower.
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 in the sense of a historical analytic: Life is not ahistorical and absolute. 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)