Deleuze, Guattari and India
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Deleuze, Guattari and India

Exploring a Post-Postcolonial Multiplicity

Ian Buchanan, George Varghese K, Manoj N. Y., Ian Buchanan, George Varghese K, Manoj N. Y.

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eBook - ePub

Deleuze, Guattari and India

Exploring a Post-Postcolonial Multiplicity

Ian Buchanan, George Varghese K, Manoj N. Y., Ian Buchanan, George Varghese K, Manoj N. Y.

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About This Book

This book presents a pragmatic engagement between the philosophy of Deleuze and Guattari and various facets of Indian society, culture and art. The universal appeal of the philosophy of Deleuze and Guattari finds its due place in India with a set of innovative analyses and radical interpretations that reimagine India as a complex multiplicity.

The volume brings together scholars from various disciplines and theoretical orientations to explore a wide range of issues in contemporary India, like dalit and caste studies, nationalism, gender question, art and cinema, and so onunder the rubric of Deleuzo-Guattarian philosophy.

This interdisciplinary book will be useful to scholars and researchers of philosophy, anthropology, cultural studies, sociology, postcolonial studies and South Asian studies.

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Part I Deleuzian ontology

Difference, events and codes

1 Deleuzian ontology

Encounter and experimentation

George Varghese K.
DOI: 10.4324/9781003217336-3
Deleuze’s ontology, developed for a substantial part with Guattari, is elaborated mainly in Difference and Repetition, and in the two volumes on capitalism and schizophrenia, Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus. Deleuze articulates his specific position on ontology and philosophy in the chapter titled ‘The Image of Thought’ in Difference and Repetition (Deleuze 1994: 129–167). We shall build our analysis of Deleuze’s ontology beginning with this forcefully expressed position. First of all, Deleuze distances himself from traditional philosophy’s dogmas and concepts, finding them to be representational and commonsensical. Philosophy, on the other hand, needs to be creative and critical. Therefore, its mode of relating to the world becomes an ‘encounter’ rather than ‘recognition’. What is encountered could be a human, an object or an event, which in turn arouses different affects and emotions like wonder, love, hatred, suffering, etc. All these affects and emotions, dismissed by traditional philosophy as illusional and imperfect, in fact become the worthy building blocks of philosophy. The object of encounter is not ‘a sensible being but the being of the sensible. It is not the given but that by which the given is given’ (Deleuze 1994: 140).

The dogmatic image of thought and the problem of difference

It is important to know how Deleuze encountered other philosophic systems in the process of shaping his own ontology. In this regard, as Michael Hardt says, there were ‘proximate enemies’ like Mechanicism, Platonism and Kant, as well as the ‘fundamental enemy’, Hegel, and his dialectics (Hardt 1993: 4). Let us move straight to the fundamental enemy. Deleuze’s signature concept, ‘difference’, is a forceful disavowal of Hegelian contradiction and negation. The Mechanicists, Plato and Aristotle maintained a notion of difference which was fundamentally exterior. This exteriority was taken to its extreme limit of contradiction by Hegel. As he formulates in the Science of Logic
Only when the manifold terms have been driven to the point of contradiction do they become active and lively towards one another, receiving in contradiction the negativity which is the indwelling pulsation of self-movement and spontaneous activity (Lebendigkeit) … More precisely, when the difference of reality is taken into account, it develops from difference into opposition, and from this into contradiction, so that in the end the sum total of all realities simply becomes absolute contradiction within itself.
If contradiction becomes the fundamental driving force of reality and its determinations, it is realised through negation. This idea of negation as determination is drawn from Spinoza: omnis determinatio est negatio (Hegel 1969: 113). All determination requires negation, according to Spinoza. Hegel’s determinate being (Dasein) embodies this process quintessentially. In the Science of Logic, being is introduced as devoid of any distinguishable attribute so that it becomes in its essence ‘nothing’, the very concept that is its dialectical opposite. Being and nothing have a problematic relation—they are apparently contradictory but essentially the same in the first movement of the dialectic. ‘Pure being and pure nothing are, therefore, the same’ (Hegel 1969: 82). Their apparent opposition is overcome or sublated in the ‘becoming’, which is the pivotal moment of Hegelian ontology. Through becoming, being (Sein) is transformed into determinate being (Dasein), whose essential nature is the possession of quality (Hegel 1969: 109). Here, negation becomes central. The qualities are determinations in determinate being which becomes possible only through negation. As Hegel puts it,
If, on the other hand, reality is taken in its determinateness, then, since it essentially contains the moment of the negative, the sum-total of all realities becomes just as much a sum-total of all negations, the sum-total of all contradictions ….
Negation determines qualities in the determinate being in two senses: contrastively and interactively (Taylor 1975: 234–5). In the static form, all qualities are contrastive. For example, we cannot have a shape like the square without other contrasting shapes like the circle or the triangle. Likewise, there is no black without white, or blue without red. For Hegel, these contrasts are mutual negations. But there is a dynamic form of negation also, which is interactive. The interactive negation is active and causal and becomes most evident in the case of the subject. The fullest realisation of the subject or the return to the self occurs as part of a double negation. In the first movement, the other negates the subject, followed by a second movement in which this negation by the other is negated by the subject. The subject in its most assured form, therefore, becomes the ‘other of the other’ effected through a double negation. For Hegel, interactive negation is important as its absence would make the subject blank and undetermined. This is most effectively articulated in the master–slave dialectic in the Phenomenology of Spirit, where two unequal self-consciousnesses are pitted opposite each other, and each one’s identity realised qua the other through negation (Hegel 1997: 111–19).
For Deleuze, Hegel’s negation and double negation are false, empty, circular and, at best, can serve only the cause of identity, and not difference. ‘Those formulae according to which ‘the object denies what it is not’, or ‘distinguishes itself from everything that it is not’, are logical monsters … in the service of identity’ (Deleuze 1994: 49). Moreover, affirmation through the negation of the negation is a sophistical gimmick. In fact, the first negation only gets conserved and intensified through the second one. The construed affirmation is only a pseudo one, in order to say yes to all that is negative and to all that can be denied. For Deleuze, it is Nietzsche who understands this nuance too well so that for him the affirmation through negation is the ideology of the slave, most appropriately represented by Zarathustra’s ass (Deleuze 1994: 53). Bergson’s criticism becomes equally important for Deleuze. Bergson thinks that Hegel’s dialectics operate with baggy concepts like the One in general, the multiple in general, nonbeing in general, etc. As a crucial upshot, the real gets recomposed with the abstract, and the inadequacy of a general concept recompensed by the inadequacy of another one. Being versus Nothing or One contra Multiple are telling examples. Hence, for Bergson, dialectics is ‘a false movement, that is, a movement of the abstract concept, which goes from one opposite to the other only by means of imprecision’ (Deleuze 1988a: 44).
Though Deleuze denies Hegelian negation and its exteriority, he nonetheless incorporates difference as the central driving force of reality in his system. The prime stimulus comes from Bergsonian ontology. For Bergson, once the Hegelian negation was pushed out of the scene, there should be something worthwhile that replaces it as the causa sui of being. Difference came to occupy this space, becoming the interior cause of being that sustains both its necessity and substantiality (Hardt 1993: 5). For Deleuze, this was also the upsurge of a much castigated and misinterpreted category in Western metaphysics. Difference was always held as an inferior and even a ‘monstrous’ category by the Greeks. It represented excess and transgression in contradistinction to the harmony and objectivity of Form. Aristotle’s specific difference becomes its essential tamed form. But this could hardly represent the singularities, events and excesses innate to reality. In effect, difference was deprived of its independence and creativity; it had to depend on another term for making sense or meaning like comparison. It is only in relation to an abstract middle term like ‘being human’ that the difference between two persons or two genders could be drawn. In this framework, different terms become different because they differ in terms of an underlying common nature, quality or property. As Deleuze observes:
Difference appears only as a reflexive concept … As a concept of reflection, difference testifies to its full submission to all the requirements of representation, which becomes thereby ‘organic representation’. In the concept of reflection mediating and mediated difference is in effect fully subject to the identity of the concept, the opposition of predicates, the analogy of judgment and the resemblance of perception.
The fetter around difference in classical philosophy was finally broken by Nietzsche, Bergson and Deleuze. Difference must be made to stand on its own with independence and dignity. For that, there need to be developed a ‘differenciation of difference’, ‘an in-itself of difference’, as Heidegger’s ontology calls for (Deleuze 1994: 117). Such a notion of difference upturns classical assumptions and converts becoming into being and change into identity. Its varying expressions can be seen in Spinoza, Nietzsche and Bergson. Let us look into each of these philosophers, and see how difference develops through their systems to reach its culmination in Deleuze. We go to Spinoza and Nietzsche immediately below and Bergson later.
Spinoza’s philosophy of immanence and expression rejected all forms of metaphysical and theological hierarchies. In their place he proposed a triadic schema of substance, attributes and modes, in which all three become co-equal partners. In Spinoza’s system substance becomes the central axis which is self-caused, independent of beings, and something in itself as well as conceived through itself (Lin 2006: 144). There is only one substance and in its infinite form it is God. God’s very nature is expression which, in turn, becomes an unfolding. This unfolding occurs through attributes which are infinite forms of being. Attributes, in turn, express the divine essence through modes which are at the level of concrete things. Modes are numerical and quantitative. For the ontological monism of Spinoza, there is no hierarchy between these three moments of substance or God, attributes and modes. Their relation is one of ‘complication’ and ‘explication’. ‘Things remain inherent in God who complicates them, and God remains implicated in things which explicate him. It is a complicative God who is explicated through all things …’ (Deleuze 1990b: 175). But this ‘identity of difference’ manifested among the three moments is not foolproof or perfect enough for Deleuze. There is a fissure since it appears that modes are dependent on the substance. The real Copernican revolution occurs only with a reversal in which the ‘substance must itself be said of the modes and only of the modes’ (Deleuze 1994: 40). With such a revolution the much-sought-after identity of the different, the being of the becoming, and the one of the multiple get established. For Deleuze, it is Nietzsche who provides the means for this pivotal reversal (Somers-Hall 2013: 39).
Nietzsche’s concept of eternal return had seminal influence on Deleuze’s anti-transcendent immanence. Eternal return does not signify the return of an identical and originary being as time unfolds. By contrast, it is the return of a different being each time. The return is ceaseless and what returns is the different. Here what is same is not the being but the very process of returning as such. ‘Returning is the becoming-identical of becoming itself. Returning is thus the only identity, but identity as a secondary power; the identity of difference, the identical which belongs to the different, or turns around the different’ (Deleuze 1994: 41).
Eternal return is an old mytho-philosophical notion which states that things return after moving into the past in a cyclical pattern. For the ancients everything moved in cycles, or, in other words, things leave positions temporarily only to return to the same place later. This is observable in the change of seasons as well in the celestial motions. The ancients who thought that things returned also thought that what returned was identical and the same. This return of the identical was observable in the annual return of the seasons and in the circular motion of celestial bodies. In both cases, the return is presented as a law of nature. This idea, in turn, gave birth to the anthropological idea of the ‘wheel of births’, and of the escape from the wheel of birth as the ultimate form of salvation. Note that in all these cases only the identical and the same returned. It is the same star or the same season that returned after a lapse of time.
To Nietzsche, this eternal return of the identical seemed illusory and false. He formulated an alternate notion of eternal return with its own difference. For him, it is not the equal or the identical that returned but the unequal and the different. If bodies like stars were held to be perfect by the ancients they should be also confined to definite stationary positions in the cosmos. Then, why should they move out of their positions to describe circular motions? Nietzsche argued that, contrary to our assumption, these bodies are imperfect and it is the drive deriving from imperfection that makes them move towards perfection which appears to be circular. This is also the law behind man’s will-to-power. Will-to-power is also a restless drive that derives from a feeling of lack of perfection, which, in turn, leads the humans towards the acquisition of more power (Deleuze 1983: 72).
For Nietzsche and Deleuze, eternal return results from a pure difference in the origin. It is the groundless law of difference which always flows out and remains in that process of discharge without ever getting pacified or suppressed. In that case, the difference becomes the in-itself and the eternal return the for-itself of difference.
The eternal return has no other sense but this: the absence of any assignable origin—in other words, the assignation of difference as the origin, which then relates different to different in order to make it (or them) return as such.
In this regard we must be clear about the different senses of the terms ‘the same’, ‘the identical’ and ‘the similar’. The same and the similar in the eternal return are only an effect of the oper...

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