Mille Plateaux: 10, 11
What difference does it make to be human? I'm still struggling with the Professor Challenger plateau, number 3, and with the difference in my approach to reading the biology sections and politics sections of the book. As Rick asked in his email to this list this week, why should I or we be so much more interested in the question of fascism than that of biology? Or I would post the question like this: why should we treat differently on the one hand passages that deal with the assemblages and striation of cells, rocks, or birds, the alternatives of their organization and flight, and on the other hand passages that deal with the assemblages and striation of humans, alternatives of their organization and flight? At a sufficiently abstract level, these assemblages and striation, these alternatives of organization are really the same. This is really D&G's anti-humanism, which I take to be absolute. And here I understand anti-humanism to mean that the laws of human nature are the very laws of nature as a whole. Let me quote Spinoza again about this because I think he states it most clearly. "Most of those who have written about the Affects, and human's way of living, seem to treat, not of natural things, which follow the common laws of nature, but of things which are outside nature. Indeed they seem to conceive man in nature as a dominion within a dominion" -- as if human nature were separate from nature as a whole. On the contrary, we must recognize that "the laws and rules of nature, according to which all things happen, and change from one form to another, are always and everywhere the same. So the way of understanding the nature of anything, of whatever kind, must also be the same .... (...) Therefore ... I shall consider human actions and appetites just as if it were a Question of lines, planes, and bodies" (Ethics, III, Preface). All of nature (humans, cells, rocks, birds, trees) acts according to the same laws, and thus through the same striation, assemblages, alternatives of organization, and so forth. Therefore, for example, when D&G are analysing multiplicities in plant development or in bird mating or in geological formations it is not metaphorically related to the multiplicities of human society; they are the very same multiplicities. Since the laws of nature, as Spinoza says, are always and everywhere the same, we can look anywhere in nature to understand the way that multiplicities work, how the double articulation works, how assemblages work, and even what alternatives exists among them. If you want to understand the laws of the political organization of humans, you can just as well look to cell biology or plant reproduction. At that level, the level of analysis of the laws of nature, I understand the anti-humanism very well. In addition to the analytical level, however, there is also another level to D&G's text which I think does necessarily privilege the human. I read the text (at least at times) as not only an analysis of the laws of nature, as I say, but also an exhortation to action or practice. Here it does make a difference that we are human rather than rocks, plants, or birds. We can learn about lobster articulation and bird refrains, but when we seek to act we translate them to questions and alternatives of human organization and human society. Rocks and plants may have desires, may have alternatives of practice, and in D&G's framework they certainly have lines of flight. As Jon pointed out well in his email response to Rick I think, part of what D&G find so useful in Geoffrey as opposed to Cuvier is that he recognizes the alternatives present in the natural world. That said, however, the text does not and more generally we cannot speak to them. There might be alternatives in nonhuman nature, but they are not alternatives we can act on. D&G necessarily exhort us as humans. In other words, D&G do not preach to the sparrows, they do not try to argue with the birds that they should prefer one type of multiplicity over another; they do not try to tell a tree that it should become like the leaves of grass. Humans are the only ones who we can engage in these questions of ethics or practice. That has to do perhaps with limitations of the world but with our own limitations, but those limitations are nonetheless real. (Just like Spinoza says there are an infinity of attributes but we can only recognize thought and extension -- that is not a statement about the world but about our limitation.) So I'm trying to propose this as an attempt at explaining why we react differently about discussions dealing with biology or geology and those dealing with human society and organization (such as fascism). We should treat them the same insofar as we are considering them analytically, as part of a study of the laws of nature; according to this aspect of the text it makes no difference to be human. But insofar as we are considering these issues ethically or practically, we should indeed treat them differently, because only questions of human society or human activity are open for us a field of practice. In this regard it does make a difference to be human.
Anti-mimesis Finally I think in this section I have a better handle on the attack on metaphor that D&G have conducted since the first page of AO. I understand it here really more generally as an attack on mimesis more generally, and in this regard we might see this argument, this anti- mimesis, as part of the project Deleuze announced a long time earlier to reverse Platonism (but that will be more clear in the aesthetic theory in a moment). What I mean by anti-mimesis is D&G's refusal of resemblance, first of all as the logic of the organization of nature. The memories of a naturalist work out this argument. One of the principle questions of natural history, they say, is to understand the relationships among different animals. One of the principle ways this has been understood is as a relation of series, where animals and their functions will relate to each other by analogy: the gills of the fish are like the lungs of the mammal. (They pose Jungian archetypes as an example of this kind of series resemblances in social or cultural terms.) The other principle way the relation among animals has been understood is in terms of structure, where each of the animals or function relate (again by analogy) to the transcendent and defining structure through internal homologies among the instances. (Levi- Strauss's structuralism series as an example of this second alternative in social analysis.) "... in both cases Nature is conceived as an enormous mimesis: either in the form of a chain of beings perpetually imitating one another, progressively and regressively, and tending toward the divine higher term they all imitate by graduated resemblance, as the model for and principel behind the series; or in the form of a mirror Imitation with nothing left to imitate because it itself is the model everything else imitates, this time by ordered difference" (234- 35). The general argument here is that the dominant vein of the natural and social sciences have understood the world as being internally organized and as propogating on the basis of resemblances, through mimesis, or if you want through a giant metaphorical mechanism. D&G argue rather that nature is not organized and does not function through mimesis but through becoming. "Becoming is never imitating" (305). A becoming does not involve approaching a certain endpoint or model; it is rather a kind or style of movement. Becoming- rat, for example, does not mean resembling a rat; it means functioning the way rats function, as part of the rat pack. Rats too pursue a becoming-rat. I take becoming, then, as D&G's answer to the naturalist's question, how are animals and plants related among themselves and how do they evolve. They are related and they evolve through becomings. Now, becomings are always minoritarian in the sense that they are always departures for the majority or the standard. In other words, the paradigm has been shifted from serial or structural resemblances and differences to a question of deviations from the standard. A becoming always deviates from the majority. This is how it works in all of nature, humans included. When considering specifically human becomings, then, we can see why D&G say there is no such thing as a becoming-man, "because man is majoritarian par excellence, whereas becomings are minoritarian; all becoming is a becoming-minoritarian" (291). Since man is the primary standard, all becomings (even when they involve women) take off from the point of man (as standard) and furthermore becoming-woman has a privileged role as the primary becoming. That is how I make sense out a statement such as the following: "A woman has to become-woman, but in a becoming-woman of all man" (292). For men and women alike, the standard man is the starting point and becoming-woman is the primary becoming. A similar formulation should hold, according to D&G, for all the other minoritarian becomings, becoming-jewish, becoming-black, and so forth. All of this becoming-minoritarian, at least when humans are concerned, is political. "Becoming-minoritarian is a political affair and necessitates a whole labor of power, an active micropolitics. this is the opposite of macropolitics, and even of History, in which it is a question of knowing how to win or obtain a majority. As Faulkner said, to avoid ending up a fascist there was no other choice but to become- black" (292). Now, what exactly is meant by politics here? Looking at this passage it seems to me power is involves two elements, power and choice, or power and an alternative we can exercise. We have alternative to become or not to become, to remain with the standard or to deviate from it. Ok, to go back now to where I started, becoming is situated in D&G as an alternative to resemblance and mimesis, an alternative explanation of the organization and mutation of nature, of species, of human society. Becomings are primary in this analysis because they (and not series or stuctures of resemblances) are what determine the organization of nature. The anti-mimesis operates also in also in the aesthetic realm, which, although of course it is really in some sense the same as the way it operates in natural history and human society, feels rather different. This is where we can clearly see D&G's anti-mimesis as a reversal of Platonism -- precisely insofar as Plato understood art as a copy of the apparent world, and in turn that apparent world as a copy of the ideal forms. As in the other domains, in art too D&G claim that it is not a question of imitating, of mimesis, but of becoming. "No art is imitative, no art can be imitative or figurative. Suppose a painter 'represents' a bird; this is in fact a becoming-bird that can occur only to the extent that the bird itself is in the process of becoming something else, a pure line and pure color" (304). Art, then, is not at all about reproduction. Thinking of it as reproduction, that is thinking of nature as a fixed thing that is copies in art, mistakes the dynamic character of both nature and art. The painted bird is a becoming-bird insofar as the bird too is becoming line and color. Art is production just like all of nature is production; or rather, art is becoming just as all of nature is becoming: "for all time, painting has had the project of rendering visible, instead of reproducing the visibe, and must of rendering sonorous, instead of reproducing the sonorous" (346). This is where I best understand the mandate against metaphors. The painted bird is not like the bird, it is not a representation. It is a becoming-bird of the same status as the becoming bird of the bird, or its becoming color and line. They are both rendering visible.
Consistency and Composition For a few weeks now I've been saying that the primary objective of MP is to address the question of society, how society exists rather than not. Or really, I should pose it on a more general level, how does nature hold together, how is it not just radically heterogeneous and fragmented? "This is a question of consistency: the "holding together" of heterogeneous elements. At first, they constitute no more than a fuzzy set, a discrete set that later takes on consistency" (323). Now the word consistency suggests something rather passive to me, and the plane of consistency also seem to me as a kind of backdrop or commonality or intersection. Consider, for example, when D&G say, "The plane of consistency is the intersection of all concrete forms" (251). But I think instead we should understand consistency as something active that brings elements together. "Consistency is the same as consolidation, it is the act that produces consolidated aggregates, of succession as well as of coexistence ..." (329). Consistency, then, does not refer just to a common state of elements, a collection of homogeneous elements, but refers rather to a process of making heterogeneous elements consistent. "Consistency necessarily occurs between heterogeneities, not because it is the birth of a differentiation, but because heterogeneities ... become bound up with one another through the 'consolidation' of their coexistence and succession" (330). So, consistency and the plane of consistency has nothing to do with homogeneity; consistency is rather the process of the consolidation of heterogeneous elements. This is why I like the shift from consistency to composition when D&G begin to talk about Spinoza. Composition rather than consistency poses more clearly for me the process involved of organizing or composing heterogeneous elements. This process is the subject of the two memories of a Spinozist sections. I think it's correct to say that at one end of this process of composition is the haecceities; they are more or less the raw material, the heterogeneous elements that enter into the process of composition. Now, the term haecceity comes from the work of Duns Scotus, the Scottish scholastic philosopher (14th century?) and specifically from his book on individuation. I think haecceity can be used interchangeable, at least in the context of scholastic philosophy, with the term singularity. A haecceity, D&G explain, is a mode of individuation very different from a person, a subject, a thing, or a substance. A haecceity might refer rather to a season, a time of day, a wind. The light at that hour, or that color was singular. It cannot be captured in its difference from something else, but is only defined in its thisness. (The recourse to "thisness" or to the "here and now" are often used to understand Duns Scotus's use of the term.) D&G of course explain it somewhat differently. "They are haecceities in the sense that they consist entirely of relations of movement and rest between molecules or particules, capacities to affect and be affected" (261). Or, in their terms they consist of longitude (relations of movement and rest) and latitude (powers of affect). (I have no idea why the words longitude and latitude are used.) This definition of haecceities as longitude and latitude demonstrates how they are available or disposed to the process of composition. On one hand, and this according to Spinoza's definition of the Individual in the Ethics, an Individual is composed of bodies that have a common relationship of movement and rest (that is the longitude part). And on the other hand, (and now in terms of latitude), the affects of each body, including both its power to act and its power to be affected, determine a different axis of composition. This has to do with the Spinoza line Deleuze likes so much: we still don't know what a body can do. What it can do indicates how it can be composed. "We know nothing about a body until we know what it can do, in other words, what its affects are, how they can or cannot enter into composition with other affects, with the affects of other bodies, either to destroy that body or to be destroyed by it..." (257). What interests me in these two axes, longitude and latitude, is that they begin to identify how the process of composition can take place. Now, I would like to extend this same Spinozian logic and think of the refrain as a kind of composition, or really a process of composition. In particular, I understand the refrain as a process of composition that deal with time. As D&G say, the refrain is a prism, a crystal of space-time; it makes time. "Time is not an a priori form; rather, the refrain is the a priori form of time, which in each case fabricates different times" (349). The refrain is a kind of constitution, a temporal constitution.