Reading Deleuze from the Ground Up

In these journals, I would like to continue the work that I began in my initial discussion post dealing with the work of the cartoonist Chris Ware as it pertains to Deleuze’s writing on time, thought, and the image. I do not know, precisely, that I am using Ware to explain Deleuze, or, conversely, that I am using Deleuze to explain Ware. Either method would likely be reductive. Rather, I hope that these journals will generate a new understanding of comics as a medium, its structure and, more importantly, its possibilities, particularly in the modes of the ethical and the political. At the same time, I hope that the application of Deleuzian models of thought will enhance my personal understanding of his work. With these twin goals in mind, I will use Ware’s Building Stories (2011) as my primary testing ground, with occasional recourse to Ware’s other works, like Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth (2000), and perhaps older experimental comics such as George Herriman’s Krazy Kat (1913-1944).

The question that concerns me most, in relating Difference and Representation to Cinema 2, is the question of how the Image of Thought (and, necessarily, the Thought without Image) relates to Deleuze’s metaphysics of Time. What is the structure of time, such as it relates to the production of real difference—a difference that also seems to be a repetition that appears, in an illusory form, only as resemblance, identity, analogy, representation, and the negative (Difference and Repetition 265-267)? It is through thought, it seems, that difference is grasped, or sensed, but in a form that exceeds ‘faculties’ like memory, imagination, and intelligence—or, rather, thought is born of the instant when the encounter tears apart any unity between the faculties, and takes each to the edge of its ability. How does this happen? It must, it seems, be related to how time is conceived (or preconceived), because each of the faculties seem to correspond with an attempt to locate the self within time. Memory represents to the self the I of the past, while intelligence is applied to grasp at the present, and imagination produces possible futures. But in all these conceptions, the unity of the self is presupposed, as is the ability of the self to order itself within time. Deleuze, rather, is pursuing something else, a kind of something that does not presume an ordered and unitary self that moves through an ordered and unitary time—whether circular or linear—but that is fragmented, fractured, and only comes into being through its contingent, chaotic encounters throughout space and time.

“We seek the truth only within time, constrained and forced,” Deleuze writes in Proust and Signs (97). But we know time only by presupposing the I that moves through it. In the case of both the Platonic (or Viconian) circular time, and the Kantian linear time, we maintain our stability through representation, analogy, identity, and similarity. These elements form the “ground” that covers over difference and buries it within its own substance. The ground, Deleuze writes in Difference and Repetition, is a tripartite structure formed of Identity, Resemblance, and Simulacra. The same or identical is that which is the only thing that possesses itself: “What it is, and what it possesses, it is and it possesses primarily, in the utmost. What, apart from Courage, would be courageous, or virtuous apart from Virtue?” (272). In other words, courage and virtue are among those things that are identical only to themselves, that are inhabited and can be claimed only by themselves. When a person says, “I am virtuous,” or “I am courageous,” it is an appeal to the second part of the structure, Resemblance. This claim of resemblance “is always a claim or an ‘image’ that requires a ground or appeals to a ground […] Each well-grounded image or claim is called a representation, since the first in the order of claims is still second in itself in relation to the foundation. It is in this sense that Ideas inaugurate or ground the world of representation” (272). Resemblance is thus one step removed from its transcendental ground, the unified idea of courage upon which it stakes its claim, yet it can be claimed only because of that presupposed and inaccessible ground. Finally, there are also Simulacra, “the rebellious images which lack resemblance” (272). These, Deleuze writes, “are eliminated, rejected and denounced as ungrounded, false claimants” (272). It seems, however, that this is precisely the sign of difference, of the ungrounded that destabilizes the image(s) of thought that cannot account for it. This is also why Deleuze says that stupidity, not error, is the enemy of learning; because error is productive, and marks the return of difference. Deleuze rails against a philosophy that finds in the simulacra only the negative, or an antithesis to be incorporated into a Whole, because they encounter difference only as an obstacle to be surmounted, to be subsumed by repetition. Rather, it is not difference in repetition but the repetition of difference that seems to give form to history and time. “It is as if repetition were never the repetition of the ‘same’ but always of the Different as such, and the object of difference in itself were repetition” (256).

Yet the question remains: how does this bear upon time and its image? Deleuze gives the ground a temporal as well as an ideal dimension: To ground is “to represent the present—in other words, to make the present arrive and pass within representation (finite or infinite). The ground then appears as an immemorial Memory or pure past, a past which itself was never present but which causes the present to pass, and in relation to which all the presents coexist in a circle” (273-74). This image is particularly intriguing when one thinks of the work of Chris Ware, but I want to bypass that for now and continue along this line of thought. The point is that such a conception of time still invokes representation, still covers over difference because it proceeds along points, in memory, or in a mythical circling, that precede the encounter itself, and denies the division between the I that has happened and the I that is happening. To grasp hold, somehow, of this fracture, which is not an absence but a site of productive difference, seems to be the location, or the temporality, of the image without thought:

It is this form of time which distributes throughout itself an I fractured by the abstract line, a passive self produced by a groundlessness that it contemplates. It is this which engenders thought within thought, for thought thinks only by means of difference, around this point of ungrounding (276).

For Deleuze, it is not representation that orients us within time but his interpretation of Nietzsche’s eternal return: a repetition that is only the repetition of difference. “Time,” he writes, “must be understood and lived as out of joint” (298). This pure form of time is structured only by the singular intensities and multiplicities that emerge within it; it is the only guarantee of time itself.

As it turns out, I have left myself without the space or time necessary to include anything but a cursory mention of comics in this journal entry.  Nor have I been able to find the ethical implications of this investigation, so far as it stands. I hope, in future entries, to return to those subjects. They are, I think, integral to my development as a scholar. So, at this point I would like to simply end with a question rather than an assertion. The question I want to end with: Deleuze seeks the ungrounded thought without image, a mode of inquiry that begins with something like the interrogative: is-God rather than God-is or God-being. Deleuze himself describes a thought without image as “solipsistic” and “an essentially amnesiac narcissistic ego.” Yet he also writes of a plane of immanence that is always becoming, always growing with intensities and mutations. But if this is so, if every presupposition must be resisted, how can any structure be built upon, or any seed germinate? Deleuze says, “it’s multiplicities that fill the field of immanence, rather as tribes fill the desert without it ceasing to be a desert” (Negotiations 146), but are these to be nomadic tribes, constantly scrounging for a meager subsistence, always on the move and without any permanent shelter, any way to organize their own existence? If so, it’s a bleak proposition, though perhaps this fear and disorientation I feel at such an idea says more about my own image of thought than it does about Deleuze’s. Or, maybe, it is less a matter of abandoning any permanent structure than it is of historicizing it, of bearing in mind its contingency and the particular forms of deviant simulacra it has denounced in order to appear as it does. If this is the case, it seems to indicate a sort of tactical philosophy, which may indeed be a philosophy of life and affirmation.

The Affective Lives of Kats

“Several times on every page the reader is released–like a trapeze artist–into the open air of imagination… then caught by the outstretched arms of the ever-present next panel!  Caught quickly so as not to let the reader fall into confusion or boredom.  But is it possible that closure can be so managed in some cases–that the reader might learn to fly?”

–Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art (1994), 90.


In this entry, I would like to focus most directly on the movement-image and time-image. Specifically, I would like to explore the modes of linkage that at once connect them to and expand the plane of immanence. To do so, I will turn once more to work in the field of comics. To say that the fundamental operation of comics is the representation of time as space is a truism in comics studies. Is there room, however, to assert that it is possible for time itself to enter the picture (or image)? Perhaps, and perhaps this is what McCloud implies (though likely unwittingly) when he suggests that there might be an alternative to the way the reader is “caught” by the outstretched arms of the next successive instant. Can space, and the contents of the image bound on each side by the frame, be managed (or unmanaged) in such a way that the comics panel becomes something other than a discrete moment of chronologized time? I believe so, but first it is necessary to indicate how the movement-image emerges in the comics form.

The movement-image, as montage and sequence, is without doubt (but with qualifications) the classical form of the comic strip as it developed during the proliferation of mass media.[1] In the newspaper strips of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the inevitable repetition of action—often a physical gag at the end of the strip—provided a structure for comics that did not merely mark the conclusion of the narrative, but rather shaped the strip in its entirety. The direction of reading, the iconic arrangement of its parts, and the number and order of its panels found significance through the transcendental power of the final gag. This is true even of highly regarded works that approached the avant-garde in their manipulation of movement and sequence. Winsor McKay’s Little Nemo (1905-1926), for instance, about a boy’s fantastical adventures in the land of dreams, always ends with Nemo waking abruptly in his bed. Likewise, George Herriman’s Krazy Kat (1913-1944) consistently revolves around the moment when Ignatz Mouse launches a brick at the head of his lovelorn admirer, Krazy, who takes each lump as a sign of Ignatz’s devotion. This fact, of course, does not in the least minimize the importance of these works. Deleuze, following Bergson, writes that “through movement the whole is divided up into objects, and objects re-united in the whole, and indeed between the two ‘the whole’ changes” (MI 10). The open whole that changes through the variation of its parts is the indicator of universal variation. How does this process make itself known in comics, even in the early strips that I relate to the movement-image? A brief example is in order.

A single image from Krazy Kat should suffice to make clear the role of the movement-image in comics. My own work is largely focused on the inter-iconic relations between panels—on what I see as the radical potential of the networked page as opposed to the linear sequence—but, for the sake of brevity, and to follow Deleuze in demonstrating the indication of the whole by the set, I will focus on a single panel (Figure 1). Screen Shot 2015-11-06 at 7.37.43 PM

In this image, we can see the tripartite elements of perception, affection, and action that make up the movement-image. Indeed, here the elements form an inseparable circuit, a sort of perpetual movement machine. The form of the image is circular: we begin at the top left (following the typical vector of reading), where the violent “POW” that leaps out from the static background suddenly dissolves the calm evening sky. Our eyes could drift down to the impact that caused the sound, the brick hitting Krazy’s head, but to do so would ruin the effectiveness of the strip—the inevitable gag must wait until the end, even though the initial “POW” has already signaled its occurrence. Instead we let our eyes be drawn along the road that seems to begin at the sound itself. We are led, again along the typical vector of reading, to Offissa Pupp, the police officer dog who tries to protect Krazy from harm. The road we’ve followed leads directly into Pupp’s eyes—he is pure perception. “Living beings allow to pass through them,” Deleuze writes, “those external influences which are indifferent to them; the others isolated become ‘perceptions,’ by their very isolation” (MI 62). Pupp isolates the violence of the inevitable brick; for him, it is “Transgression!!!” and nothing else, though, as we will see, the role of the brick is far more complicated than that. In this image, Pupp is frozen at one end of the sensory-motor situation. He, like the reader, is only a witness to the event. However, he also reassures us of the unity and authority of our subjectivity. Because the knowing reader’s perception is different from Pupp’s (it circumscribes his own), our perception of his perception becomes a source of laughter.

Moving on from Pupp, we find Ignatz Mouse’s hand (which has always already launched the brick) blocking the road itself, arresting the movement of the reader’s eye and demanding its subordination to the action of the flying brick. We may think of Ignatz as pure action, arm always outstretched, leg lifted, always having just released his missile. We can no longer simply follow the road that curves through the panel—we must follow the path of the brick itself, indicated with ‘speed lines’ and a dynamic “ZIP.” Finally we reach Krazy Kat, who—in a very simplistic sort of way—marks the image of affection. Krazy’s position here is neither that of action (s/he is being acted upon), nor purely that of perception (it is significant that in the visual medium of comics, Krazy always faces away from the brick). Of course, affect here is not a simple subjective emotion, despite the heart that we see emanating from Krazy. As Deleuze tells us, “there is inevitably a part of external movements that we ‘absorb,’ that we refract, and which does not transform itself into either objects of perception or acts of the subject; rather they mark the coincidence of the subject and the object in a pure quality (MI 65). Here it is the brick itself that is transformed; freed from Ignatz’s hand as an object of aggression, it is re-fashioned mid-flight into a sign of love. The heart on the far left, at the end of the reader’s journey, matches the color and trajectory of the brick exactly, so that it seems to have physically transformed as it passes through Krazy. Here, then, the brick itself seems to occupy the “zone of indetermination” that Deleuze says is the mark of the subject (MI 66). It is overdetermined, divided between perception, affection, and action, cutting through the center of the image and warping the temporality of the scene into a spiral that uncurls in its wake. It is singular and still, yet it is a movement-image.

As I began this close reading, I noted that the image from Krazy Kat forms a sort of circuit, a perpetual movement machine. Indeed, our path through the image leads us finally from the brick back up to the sound it makes, the “POW” that re-initiates the cycle. But if this were wholly true, what chance would there be of a direct image of time in the comics medium (or in any work of art)? There is something in the movement-image that is not equal to itself… some element of excess where the actual and the virtual collide. I propose that this element emerges in the paradoxical and simultaneous co-existence of the heart and the “POW” onomatopoeia.   This is the true “gap” whose presence is diagetically echoed by the brick. For the gag to be truly complete, the reader must read in the direction of the heart (to the left), the sign of Krazy’s joyful acceptance of the brick as a token of love. At the same time, the brick’s physical collision with Krazy must lead upwards, toward the sound that accompanies it. It is true that the eye can take in both these moments at once, but it cannot do so and remain loyal to the vectors of motion that structure the strip. To follow the brick straight to the “POW” means disregarding the heart. Conversely, to follow the brick to the heart means having to reverse the trajectory of reading, to go backwards—violating the ‘time as space’ truism of the comics image—to the brick and then up to the “POW.” This is where recollection, incompossibility, and the co-existence of presents make their presence felt. The sensory-motor flux is troubled, and the heart points outward toward the out-of-field. Herein lies the limitation of the movement-image on the comics page. Herein waits the germ of true difference in the cyclical image.

Once again, I’ve set myself up for a thesis that I did not have space to put forth. The time-image as it may appear on the comics page is a result of the mode of inter-iconic linkages between panels and across pages. This much I’m sure of. I’ll have to prove it to you next time.

[1] Because comics are drawn rather than filmed, they make different claims of indexicality. They are incapable of the “any-instant-whatever” of cinema and are bound to present privileged moments. This is a complication that must be addressed if one wishes to explore comics through the work of Bergson or Deleuze. I hope I’ll have the opportunity to do so at some point.

Movement=Image, Virtuality, The Plane of Immanence

As has probably become clear in class, I’m a tad obsessed with chapter four of Cinema 1. It seems to me that there’s so much of Deleuze’s philosophical project contained within these fourteen pages, and it’s elucidated in a strikingly clear but incredibly intense way. In reading around about Deleuze, I’ve come across a variety of references to what is referred to as the “performative” aspect of Deleuze’s thought. That is, the idea that the actual experience of reading his work is inseparably tied to the ideas, concepts and work that may arise out of that experience. I will admit to having this feeling a number of times already – reading the Image of Thought chapter from D&R and this chapter from Cinema 1 not least among them. Although I could riff on this experience for a while, I can also sum it up rather easily as positive pole of the experience of becoming lost.

Reading these chapters, I had the sensation of not quite being sure what I was understanding, and feeling frequently as though I had lost the grip of Deleuze’s argument. Although I was underlining, starring, and circling rather furiously, I was drifting in and out the experience of comprehension, lacking entirely the kind of epiphany that arises out feeling like you’re fully understanding a line of argument or web of concepts (the experience that reading “Critical Theory” has for me, at its best). However, now that I’ve had that initial, very pleasurable and intense reading experience, I’ve become aware of two facts: the first is that I “understood” a lot more than I thought I did at the time—I feel comfortable with many of the ideas and can connect them to other, integrate them into my own thinking, to a degree I continue to find surprising. On the other hand, the second is that I also feel as though the ground continues to shift beneath my feet, producing new problems with their own tentative solutions and webs of connectivity. This is all a long preamble to the point that although I constantly refer back to this chapter from Cinema 1 as a focal point, every time I open the book I find something rather different. I want to use this journal as the beginning of an exploration into a few related concepts from this chapter that are particularly adept at worming their way through my thought.

They all revolve around what I’m tempted to call Deleuze’s “cosmology of images.” This occurs throughout the chapter, but Deleuze establishes the broad strokes rather quickly in section one, glossing on Bergson and then launching himself into space. “Everything,” Deleuze writes, “that is to say every image, is indistinguishable from its actions and reactions: this is universal variation (60).” In establishing his plane of immanence, Deleuze takes particular care to make clear that this is particularly true of the human subject: “My body is an image…how could my brain contain images since it is one image among others?” and, even better, “External images act on me, transmit movement to me, and I return movement: how could images be in my consciousness since I am myself image, that is, movement?” At this point in his argument, Deleuze is eager to banish the kinds of differentiation that he will later introduce in the movement-image types, and instead is attempting to establish the terms of universal variation that, for the moment, prevent any kind of distinguishing capacity between images. He provides two reasons for why this is possible. The first, negative, reason is that a conception of bodies prevents us from experiencing everything as movement-image; Deleuze wants us to consider what this plane of immanence would be like if we do away with the body and replace it with movement, pointing out that this will necessarily erase the boundaries between action, quality, and body itself. The second, positive, reason is “that the plane of immanence is entirely made up of Light…propagated ‘without resistance and without loss (62).’” The brightness of the Light that composes the plane of immanence forms everything not as body but simply as figures of light and non-rigid lines. As opposed to the light-beam of consciousness that illuminates things for phenomenology, this Bergsonian conception claims everything in the plane of immanence as luminous for itself, immanent to a consciousness that is equally diffused through all images on the plane.

This sets up Deleuze’s radical complication of this schema, in which he introduces the workings of our interactions on the plane of immanence, our ability to reflect and block the light, so as to shape the plane into what we experience as consciousness, vision, perception. Not as body or as subject, but simply as “living images” or “centers of determination,” in which the light runs up against “an obstacle, that is an opacity which will reflect it (64).” I won’t go into too much detail about the way in which Deleuze defines this, but his centers of determination are the vector through which movement-images writ large become shaped into action-images, perception-images, and affection-images, a tripartite but seemingly only temporarily limited schema of images that form in the interval between action and reaction, and which begins to differentiate the plan of immanence. In all his talk of privileged facets and the opacity of living images that allows them to form responses in the interval, Deleuze is careful to emphasize that this is a description of our experience of the plane, and does not hierarchize this capacity as being especially human—or especially anything, really. He attempts to explain how we can understand our role in the plane, but doesn’t detail if this is an experience that is shared with other living images, or what those might be.

This strikes me as being particularly interesting on a number of facets, but in particular seems to illuminate some of what we’ve been struggling with in class about the plane of immanence. Notably, it’s the attempt to comprehend the cosmology that he’s sketching out for itself, as opposed to for us, that led me down the path in class of describing it as being like the veil of ignorance. The other image of thought that I came up with to describe the plane of immanence as he sketches it out here is in early descriptions of cyberspace—I’m thinking in particular of the way that William Gibson describes it in Neuromancer. I don’t have the text in front of me, but the principle is that entities in Gibson’s cyberspace form blocks of color of varying shapes and sizes that don’t have any consistent or telling connection with their real-world counterparts. A massive block of color could be a corporation’s firewall, but it could also simply be a disguise for something else, a massively powerful supercomputer or A.I. The point being, that while things are differentiated, that are differentiated infinitely so—no one object looks like another, and there are no “types” that allow users to distinguish between themselves and others. Hence the particular skill of the hackers that populate such a world, who are, through a combination of incredible amphetamine powered reflexes, practice, and luck, able to navigate such a space.

This ability to navigate is what differentiates this cyberspatial metaphor from Deleuze’s cosmology, particularly as it exists prior to distinguishing between types of movement-images. Without the particular capacities of the living images to slide into the interval between action and reaction, there is no orientation, only universal variation. However, the comparison does illuminate something for me that seems useful for thinking through Deleuze’s schemas and his thought in general. The limited similarity between cyberspace and the plane of immanence seems like it might be conditioned through the concept of virtuality, writ large.

Virtuality, for Deleuze, seems most explicitly drawn out in D&R. When Deleuze is discussing the qualities of ideas in relation to the dual regimes of differenciation/differentiation, he offers a useful example of the way virtuality operates: “It is as though everything has two odd, dissymmetrical and dissimilar ‘halves,’ the two halves of the Symbol, each dividing itself in two: an ideal half submerged in the virtual and constituted on the one hand by differential relations and on the other by corresponding singularities; an actual half constituted on the one hand by the qualities actualizing those relations and on the other by the parts actualizing those singularities.” Differenciation is what brings the virtual into the actual. Defined this way, virtuality seems to have a lot in common with the two different approaches to the plane of immanence as I’ve tried to sketch it out here. The plane of immanence—before movement-image is separated out into action-image, perception-image, and affection-image—is purely virtual: everything within it is infinitely differentiated, as it exists within the realm of universal variation, but nothing is differenciated or actualized. Were we to exist within this plane, losing our capacity as centers of indetermination, we would be incapable of perceiving anything but Light, universally diffused and infinite. However, when the living image begins to play around in the interval between action and reaction, might we see some forms of differenciation? As movement-image goes from universal variation into specific forms of action-image, etc, does it become actualized? Or am I trying to put a square peg in a round hole?

Part of the puzzle here, for me, is trying to work out exactly what Deleuze means when he’s sketching out his cosmology here – as with the Image of Thought, or the Plane of Immanence itself, there’s a fluidity between Deleuze’s various works in relation to what these concepts are doing, or might mean. It seems foolhardy to try and integrate them into a systemic order, not because of any inconsistency, but simply because his supposed “overproduction of concepts” is a way of responding to the ever-shifting set of problems he’s trying to approach. The Plane of Immanence has to change in accordance with what it’s posing itself as the concept for. Having said that, I wonder about the universal variation as Deleuze sketches it out here. The world of movement=image, especially prior to the opacity provided by living images, does seem to have a special and, dare I say it, permanent role for Deleuze, in terms of what all of his concepts share. Whether it’s THE plane of immanence or the thought without image, there’s a mutually constitutive interest in this cosmology of infinite differentiation, immanent to consciousness and to itself, which is the universe.

This is why I find it curious that it’s so tempting for me to try and understand the plane of immanence in terms of metaphors or reference to other concepts. It seems like it’s tempting for others as well. I wonder if, undergirding this temptation, there’s a sort of will to power at work. Is my desire to understand the plane of immanence in terms particular to my experience or perceptual apparatus—to understand, almost literally, what it looks like—an attempt to rehumanize the non-human, to experience universal variation? Because it does seem as though Deleuze is arguing that this is constitutively precluded from our experience of the world due to our role as living images. We’re fundamentally incapable of not becoming blocs of opacity that allow us to perceive, act, etc. For us, the plane of immanence will never appear truly immanent—we only receive glimpses, back up the path towards the “acentered state of things.”

Final thought: where is time? Obviously, we’re still in the realm of the movement-image, but I’m interested in the way that time is somewhat occluded from this plane of immanence. Deleuze refers to the plane as being one of universal variation, but he describes this as being part of the always-moving images, not as images that are continually unfurling in a process of becoming. It would seem that the plane of immanence in this instance exists in the pure and empty form of time that we’ve seen scattered around Deleuze’s work. Time, in the most general sense, forms part of the structure of the plane of immanence here, but it seems undifferentiated as well as undifferenciated. I wonder if we’ll see this in the time-image? Does time lend itself to the same kind of differentiation as movement?

Deleuze and Guatarri’s History of Philosophy

In What is Philosophy?, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guatarri find that “every creation is singular and the concept as a specifically philosophical creation is always a singularity.” WIP, 7. While concepts are, for Deleuze and Guatarri, singular, this singularity by no means implies conceptual simplicity. WIP, 15 (“There are no simple concepts. Every concept has components and is defined by them. . . It is a multiplicity, although not every multiplicity is conceptual.”). Despite this complexity and multiplicity, philosophical concepts, as opposed to artistic of scientific concepts, “must combine it with a point of view or a ground.” Id. This point of view or a ground is not a priori, but historical or temporal. WIP, 79 (“A concept lacks meaning to the extent that it is not connected to other concepts and is not linked to a problem that it resolves or helps to resolve them.”). Thus, for Deleuze and Guatarri’s philosophical concept, one must ‘know’ a concept’s genesis or context in order to give the concept meaning. But Deleuze and Guattari also suggest that this history “zigzags, though it passes, if need be, through other problems or onto different planes. In any concept there are usually bits or components that come from other concepts, which corresponded to other problems and presupposed other planes. This is . . . because each concepts . . . takes on new contours, and must be reactivated or recut.” WIP, 18.

But if Deleuze and Guattari’s philosophical concept requires a contextualization (or consideration) of its multiplicities, what should we make of the history of philosophy? What is the role of the philosopher with regards to the history of philosophy? Similarly, what should we make of Deleuze’s dogmatic image of thought in Difference and Repetition?

To grapple with the question of the nature and role of philosophy, we must first understand how concepts are created and relate to the plane of immanence since “[p]hilosophy is a constructivism, and constructivism has two qualitatively different complementary aspects: the creation of concepts and the laying out of a plane.” WIP, 36-37. The plane of immanence is an image of thought that “gives itself what it means to think, to make use of thought, to find one’s bearings in thought.” WIP, 37. A plane of immanence also us help us understand or “think” thought in general. Deleuze and Guattari describe various philosophers as occupying distinct images of thought. WIP, 54. For Deleuze and Guattari, concepts need conceptual personae. WIP, 2. The philosopher, as a friend of wisdom “invents and thinks the Concept.” WIP, 3. But this relationship of creation, for Deleuze and Guattari is complex. The philosopher is not the merely the inventor of the concept, she is the “potentiality of the concept.” WIP, 5.

While philosophical concepts are historical, “they have their own way of not dying while remaining subject to constraints of renewal, replacement, and mutation that give philosophy a history as well as a turbulent geography . . . .” WIP, 8. Philosophical concepts are historical, but not reified in history. This idea of the philosophy allows it to remained rooted and informed in history, while not being wholly determined by it. In comparing the Greek image of thought with the modern image of thought, Deleuze and Guatarri cautions that their description is not rooted in normative judgment. WIP, 54 (“If we attempt to set out the features of a modern image of thought in such a summary fashion, this is not in a triumphalist way, or even in horror.”). Instead, they posit that no image of thought can be limited to a “selection of calm determinations,” by being wholly categorized as error or illusion. Id. Deleuze and Guatarri liken the history of philosophy to the art of portrait painting. The philosopher is not, like the work of an amateur portrait painter, making matter “lifelike.” WIP, 55. On the contrary, the philosopher “produc[es] resemblance by separating out both the plane of immanence he instituted and the new concepts he created.” Id. Deleuze and Guatarri locate the ‘progression’ of the history of philosophy within this production of resemblances.

Deleuze and Guatarri, in describing a machinic portrait of Kant, find that “[s]ometimes the layers of the plane of immanence separate to the point of being opposed to one another, each one suiting this or that philosopher. Sometimes, on the contrary, they join together at least to cover fairly long periods.” WIP, 57. Overtime, philosophers can create new concepts within the same plane that invokes the same image that earlier philosophers have referenced. Id. When this occurs, the philosopher adds new curves to the original plane of immanence. Id. Whether a philosopher is critiquing or re-reading another philosopher, she is using complex and relative assessments of the concepts within a plane of immanence. WIP, 57-58. Interestingly, this suggests that the act of critique has a productive dimension, since it is adding new form to the plane of immanence. These complex assessments are possible because concepts can belong to similar “groups,” despite existing at different times on the same plane of immanence. WIP, 58. But concepts that do not refer to the same plane cannot belong to the same group. Id. While Deleuze and Guatarri find that there is a strict correspondence between the “created concept and the instituted plane,” the creation of concepts themselves comes about through indirect relationships between the concept and plane that are still to be determined. Id.

This suggests that when Deleuze and Guatarri is critiquing and writing on Kant or Heidegger, they are adding new dimension to their thought. Critique, however, does not have the common or colloquial definition for Deleuze and Guatarri. Deleuze and Guatarri does not believe that we are able to definitively say that one plane of immanence is better than another. WIP, 58. The goal of philosopher is not to think of the ultimate, universal plane of immanence. WIP, 59. Instead, the goal of the philosopher is to show that there is “unthought in every plane, and to think it in this way as the outside and inside of thought, as the not-external outside and the not-internal inside—that which cannot be thought and yet must be thought . . . to show . . . the possibility of the impossible.” WIP, 59-60. Deleuze and Guatarri cite favorably to Spinoza as the ‘best’ philosopher since he created the plane of immanence that did not hand itself over to the transcendent and inspired the fewest illusions, bad feelings, and erroneous perceptions. WIP, 60.

But why does a philosopher write? Similarly, does a philosopher create concepts with any particular end in sight? Deleuze and Guatarri, in favoring Spinoza over other philosophers, seems to suggest that philosophers take on a normative dimension in their writing. In Difference and Repetition, Deleuze explored this concept further in his critique of the dogmatic image of thought. The philosopher is meant to engender thinking in thought. DR, 147. Thus, perhaps the greatest sin that the dogmatic image of thought has committed is not descriptive, but preventing people from thinking thought and creating new images of thought. This is explicitly normative because Deleuze doesn’t seem as concerned with the dogmatic image of thought being ‘wrong’ as much as he is concerned with its limitation on thinking. As a result, Deleuze is not, as a philosophical project, attempting to assert a more descriptively accurate account of thinking, but an image of thought that aids in the creation of concepts and ideas. Additionally, Deleuze and Guatarri seem to be open to the possibility that an older ‘discredited’ plane of immanence or image of thought can take on new life. Deleuze and Guatarri describe the history of philosophy in terms of a turbulent geography, in which each of its moments is preserved in time and passes outside of time. WIP, 8. This “[m]ental landscape do[es] not change haphazardly through the ages: a mountain had to rise here or a river to flow by there again recently for the ground, now dry and flat, to have a particular appearance and texture. It is true that very old strata can rise to the surface again, can cut a path through the formations that covered them and surface directly on the current stratum to which they impart a new curvature.” WIP, 58. Here Deleuze and Guatarri, through their understanding of philosophy’s stratigraphic time, suggest that older images of thought can suddenly stir new concepts and alter other planes, including ones contemporaneous to our current milieu. This comports with the normative dimension of Deleuze and Guatarri’s conception of the practice of philosophers. If philosophers are to engender new thought and concepts, then it must be the case that philosophers’ creative insights can stem from older philosophical works.