Charles Spinosa was kind enough to respond to the first instalment of my intellectual biography with a long set of reflections that were too rich and thought-provoking for me to reply to at once. Moreover, the return to school took up all my energy as well, but I feel I owe him a reply.
Spinosa talks about an occasion four years ago when when he suddenly realized that he was seeing the same person « in a radically different light from moment to moment over the course of an hour », now as a friend full of nobility and purity of heart to be trusted and to stand by, now as an employee having flaws and talents to be encouraged and to be facilitated in the preparation of some masterwork. This new awareness of incommensurable micro-worlds soon led into another realisation: despite being incommensurable (that is involving different perceptions and different evaluations of what are the appropriate comportments) these worlds interacted with and enriched each other, allowing him to see his friends more clearly in terms of their talents and of the different kindnesses they required. There was also a heightened awareness of intensive scales of degrees of nobility, trustworthines, brilliance, egomania, and talent. His practice and thought of friendship expanded, and his ability to manage his teams was strengthened.
This apprehension of the person as an intensive multiplicity distributed over a plurality of micro-worlds is of necessity accompanied by another radical change that Spinosa doesn’t comment directly – a radical change in the feeling and practice of one’s own identity. This new perception of others leads to the apprehension of one’s own self as just such an intensive multiplicity distributed over a plurality of micro-worlds. This is the positive sense of depersonalisation that Deleuze discusses, where one acquires one’s identity by opening to the multiplicities that traverse us, and to the intensities that pass through us.
Spinosa’s reflective account of his experience is followed by what for me is a monist regression. He argues from the fact that we can reidentify the same person, over different worlds, as for example a friend and then a colleague (and later, why not?, as a business rival, a lover, or a spiritual guide), that this person may be said to have an identity outside the language-games and practices and their constitutive worlds. However, « identity », the fact that you can re-identify the same person, takes on a different meaning once you accept the existence of a plurality of micro-worlds. Identity itself, in this new pluralist sense, contains an inherent multiplicity of partial identities and a flow between them. This flow can be experienced sometimes « from moment to moment over the course of an hour » as in Spinosa’s phenomenological anecdote; and sometimes from incarnation to incarnation in the diverse periods of one’s life, as in the narrative of my intellectual biography.
An identity constitutively tied to a plurality, a distribution, and a flow is not the same notion, and, I would argue, not the same experience. So this pluralist identity, or, as Charles Stivale would have it (see here), this post-identity, is embedded in other practices or ways of practicing. We can recall the opening to Deleuze and Guattari’s RHIZOME: « we wrote ANTI-OEDIPUS together. As each of us was many, that was already a lot of people » (my translation). This is certainly not the same notion as that of a transcendent fixed and unique identity. Nor is a simple abstract theoretical artifact: Deleuze and Guattari have described in several places how this sense of identity informed how they worked together, how they composed their books, and how it affected the very style, content, and nature of their books. Not to mention the ways of reading them and making use of their concepts that their various readers incarnated.