Deleuze on "Nietzsche and Philosophy" (WIP)
Deleuze concludes this book buy summarizing Nietzsche's philosophy through three main themes: dance, laughter, and play.
[D]ance transmutes heavy into light, laughter transmutes suffering into joy and the play of throwing (the dice) transmutes low into high. But in relation to the Dionysian dance, laughter and play are affirmative powers of reflection and development. Dance affirms becoming and the being of becoming; laughter, roars of laughter, affirm multiplicity and the unity of multiplicity; play affirms chance and the necessity of chance.
I started reading Deleuze earlier this year, when I was really demoralized. I saw a world dominated by powerful, fixed institutions with an unlimited capacity for cruelty, and a world in terminal decline, with no foreseeable capacity for escape. And on a personal level, I felt bound by routine, kind of vaguely anhedonic, stuck on a fixed path that led nowhere. This was near what we I guess consider to be "the end" of COVID, a 2 year period that really fucked me up. The way this period of time affected me sometimes makes me feel insane and alone -- it didn't seem to affect others in the way it affected me, or at least they didn't show it.
Reading philosophy is an eccentric thing to do, and I find it difficult to relate these ideas to others sometimes. I don't want to "dumb down" the rich insights of Deleuze and Nietzsche, but I don't want to get lost in academic jargon. It took me a long time to get where Deleuze is going, and how the seemingly-incomprehensible language served a purpose. It took me a while to understand how reading Deleuze, and philosophy, could really, fundamentally, change me for the better, and how this wasn't just some academic exercise, but a conceptual map to change yourself and the world, and that his work is really capable of doing that.
I first encountered Nietzsche in 2013, and at the time, Beyond Good and Evil really did change my life. I had read a lot of bad philosophy in high school and college, and BGE tore away all of that. People think of philosophy as a stuffy, academic pursuit, when Nietzsche's writing explicitly rejects that: it is passionate, wild, loud, brash, etc. Neither his philosophy nor his writing is dry and detached: it is active and full of life.
Deleuze refers to some philosophers as "state philosophers". Ie, philosophers who view philosophy as the pursuit of "truth". But Truth, "beauty", "the Good", etc means truth as defined by the existing social order. Rather, philosophy should be creative. Nietzsche uses the model of the artist:
It is art which invents the lies that raise falsehood to the highest affirmative power, that turns the will to deceive into something which is affirmed in the power of falsehood. For the artist, appearance no longer means the negation of the real in this world but this kind of selection, correction, redoubling and affirmation. Then truth perhaps takes on a new sense. Truth is appearance. Truth means bringing of power into effect, raising to the highest power. In Nietzsche, "we the artists" = "we the seekers after knowledge or truth" = "we the inventors of new possibilities of life"
For Nietzsche (and Delueze), Truth is not some transcendent value outside of life. To put it naively, a question like, "what is good" refers not to some abstract principle of "good". "The world is neither true nor real, but living". This is a philosophy of being and of creation. Instead of seeking something outside of the world, his philosophy is in the world, and changed by it.
What is the purpose of our lives? I would say many people would say they live for something, ie, in service of God. I think of this passage from the Bible:
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
Nietzsche describes this as nihilism, which Deleuze categorizes as "negative nihilism" -- the value of life is diminished in favor of a greater, transcendent, eternal value. One can also substitute reason or truth for God -- one does not live for life, but for something else, outside of life. This does not make Nietzsche a hedonist. He is interested not in pleasure, but in power, which in a Nietzschean sense does not mean power-over, but power-to. Power to create new values, the power of the artist. Negative nihilism saps people of their power. Nietzsche would invert 1 John -- Love the world, because the world passeth away.
Deleuze describes other forms of nihilism, which are interesting, but I won't get into.
How have these ideas affected me? What can we get out of Deleuze, and Delueze's reading of Nietzsche? I draw a couple of themes for my personal life. First, a focus on dynamism, rather than fixed identities. Rather than thinking of myself as a person
(not nietzsche, need to edit)
Next, a focus on non-individualism. This is getting a bit away from the Nietzsche book and more about his book on Spinoza. The "self" is ultimately a (bourgeois) fiction, there are only forces and reactions. To not see myself as separate from the forces that constitute myself, and thus, to think about those forces. There is no "I want to be a good person", there are instead, forces inside of me: forces of anxiety, of cruelty, bitterness, fear, as well as love, joy, creation, etc. Rather than think of myself as a fixed, cumulative identity, I think of myself as existing only in the present, in relation with others, constantly shifting and evolving. I also see others in this way, not defined by fixed categories, but also changing in relation to each other. How can we harness these forces towards creation, joy, love? (TBD edit)