This evening we discussed the Becoming-Animal plateau in The New Centre seminar on A Thousand Plateaus. I emphasize that this was a discussion; for there was little textual commentary or close reading. In many respects, I think this was a moment of orienting ourselves in this mysterious and difficult work. In particular, we discussed issues of the theoretical status of D&G’s work and what sort of politics we might find within it. This is a deeply ambiguous work. From the first plateau, Rhizome, we’re presented with a critique of the Book as a picture or representation of the world. We’re told to map rather than trace. This generates daunting interpretive challenges, for what are we to make of a philosophical work that doesn’t attempt to represent the world (here we might think of Laruelle)? Indeed, we might ask whether this is a philosophical work at all. Put differently, what is the status of truth in Deleuze and Guattari? I don’t have answers to these questions. I suppose that I’m too deeply mired in the logic of representation (and a love of D&G) to abandon the claim that they are making claims about the world.
As a strategy for interpreting– already a bad exercise, as Deleuze and Guattari call for a moratorium on interpretation –the Becoming-Animal plateau, I’ve chosen to bracket their positive claims about the nature of becoming (though I intend to return to them), instead looking at what they critique. Throughout A Thousand Plateaus as a whole there is a denunciation of filiation, descent, resemblance (or mimesis), and, of course, [molar] identities. This is the famous opposition between the rhizomatic and the arborescent. With the arborescent we get the tree model where beings are rooted in something more fundamental, while the rhizomatic refers to a field, network, or assemblage of horizontal relations where anything can link to anything else, where being proceeds by linkages, and where there is no transcendent verticality (it’s noteworthy that there are discussions of theology throughout ATP. Here Shults Iconoclastic Theology is of interest). This is closely connected with a critique of resemblance or mimesis. Everywhere Deleuze and Guattari denounce thinking in terms of resemblance and mimesis. I believe we should be utterly naive when approaching these dimensions of their thought and ask what is objectionable to thinking in terms of trees and roots, mimesis, and being over becoming. Why are these categories normatively coded? Alice torments my thought and memories.
Hypothesis 1: The Ontological Hypothesis: This just isn’t how it is with being. Being is neither a filiation, nor a descent. If we look at biology, speciation proceeds by populations, not from the less differentiated (the common ancestor) to the more differentiated. The individual, or rather populations of individuals, precedes the species of common aggregate. The differentiations that take place within populations do not proceed by resemblance or mimesis, but rather by invention. Invention is a confusion of description and being. We sort beings into categories according to a system of resemblances, but in reality, nothing ever resembles anything else. Rather, all beings are a response to the problematic field, the cartography, in which they occur. Being is creative and differential, not mimetic. Why should it be any different anywhere else in being?
Hypothesis 2: The Hermeneutic Hypothesis: Hermeneutics is based on a logic of descent or filiation. We trace a text or artifact back to its supposed origin. Everything is an iteration of the Greeks, or the history of philosophy. Nothing new under the sun. In psychoanalysis, all turmoils in the present are reflective of the family setting. All of Alice’s relations really reflect her fraught relationship with her mother or impotent father. Her fascination with the kinetoscope never traces a path of escape or flight, but reflects her mother who was lost in media. The Mad Hatter just reflects her failed father. Such is the logic of hermeneutics and psychoanalysis. There is always a logic of filiation based on mimesis that defines what is linked to what, that provides a rule of interpretation. There is no such thing as production in such a universe. Rather, all is anamnesis of what is forgotten, a repetition of the same. Yet as per hypothesis 1, if it is true that nature does not work according to a logic of filiation and descent, if nature does not proceed by mimesis, but rather invention, why should it be any different with cultural artifacts? Little Hans doesn’t have a phobia of horses. He dreams of escape. He is inventing in his becoming-horse. The horse owns the street. It is powerful. It is fast. These relations are always lateral, horizontal. They aren’t the vertical relations of the root, of depth.
Hypothesis 3: And Another Thing: In his earlier work, Freud taught that libido invests anything and everything. This is the whole problem with the filiative model. Deleuze and Guattari say that love is a war machine. Romantic words. But it’s true. Libidinal investment is a becoming. Again the truth of evolution. Pirates. In the Schreber case there is, as Deleuze and Guattari point out in Anti-Oedipus, a rich content that’s completely lost in Freud’s interpretation. Everything is traced back to the father and the familial situation. But there is history, nationalism, race, economics, gender. Are these not so many inventions? So many creations as in the case of speciations. Freud halts the becomings of Little Hans, he blocks them, rather than fostering them as a path of escape or an alternative to the suffocating environment he’s trapped in. Libido not as a mimesis or resemblance to a filiation, but as an invention or experiment in escape.
Hypothesis 4: Narcissism: Whatever you might think, familiarity with Freud and Lacan are indispensable. Why is identity, self, subject, ego objectionable? Ego is dyadic, a fold. It is an identification with an image, yet the lived body, the molecular body, never manages to coincide with that image. Lacan taught that the drives don’t converge on a unified object. They’re polymorphous perverse by nature. Paranoia is the attempt to unify that which cannot be unified, that which is molecular and rhizomatic by nature. As Freud taught, the more we attempt to attain identity or selfhood, the more there is a return of the repressed… But now in the form of aggression and conflict. Endless war. The logic of the imaginary. If tribe, filiation and self are so objectionable then it’s because they are the domain of perpetual failure and conflict. So a start.