No Cuts!: Deleuze and Hillman on Alterity

“How far away is the “other”? If we can no longer be sure that we remember who we are, where do we make the cut between “me” and “not-me”?” (James Hillman, A Psyche the Size of the Earth)

I have been discussing Zizek’s critique of Deleuze in terms of the inability of his Hegelian and Freudian theorising to come to grips with, or even to perceive, Deleuze’s espousal of alterity. Zizek has no idea of the trajectory of Deleuze’s “Letter To A Severe Critic” from identity to post-identity, from certainty to uncertainty, from literal reality to the power of the false. I argue that Zizek’s psychoanalytic tools prevent him from understanding what is happening in the “Letter” and more generally in the works arising from the Deleuze-Guattari encounter.

Zizek can’t help imagining (and thus mesuring and judging) Deleuze against a Freudian-Lacanian conceptual background and so renders himself incapable of comprehending even the simplest arguments in Deleuze’s post-Nietzschean, post-encounter (with Guattari) texts. Hillman’s post-jungian psychology, in contrast, abounds in ideas and formulations that converge with Deleuze and Guattari’s philosophical texts and with their movement towards an ecosophy.

To recap, Michel Cressole tries to get Deleuze either to come out as gay or to admit that he is a parasite feeding on the life-blood of the true marginals (schizos, homos, drug addicts, alcoholics). He wants to extort a confession. Deleuze’s response can only be understood as a letter that is not written by the identity “Deleuze”, the civil servant (profession: professor of philosophy, conjugal status: married with two children, author of over 20 books), but rather by a post-identitarian assemblage. In his preface to the American edition of DIALOGUES Deleuze situates all his work from ANTI-OEDIPUS to A THOUSAND PLATEAUS (and, we can imagine, beyond) as happening “between” Guattari and himself. This is why Zizek’s claim that ANTI-OEDIPUS is “arguably Deleuze’s worst book”, is doubly erroneous. The problem is not so much in the use of “arguably” (Zizek does not argue against Deleuze and Guattari’s arguments, and is incapable of doing so) but in the expression “Deleuze’s worst book”. He wilfully blinds himself to the fact that ANTI-OEDIPUS was not written by Deleuze, but by Deleuze and Guattari, in the full sense of the Deleuzian “and”: the book, like the letter, is a multiplicity of becomings that happened between Deleuze and Guattari and many others, themselves multiplicities in a world of becoming.

All this talk of multiplicities and becomings is beyond Zizek. Deleuze’s letter traces a path from identity to post-identity, from psychoanalysis, from vengeance to love. He uses the image of “buggery” to induct, if possible, Cressole into a rhizomatic exchange, deterritorialising his vocabulary to help him escape the marginal trap: an identity founded on transgression is still an identity, coming out is no substitute for going outside, invoking multiplicity and becoming is not the same as creating them in an individuation that is not based on identity. Deleuze indicates that this “depersonalisation through love” initiated in his encounter with Nietzsche came to full incarnation when he began to work with Guattari, insisting on “how each understood and completed the other, depersonalised himself in the other, singularised himself by the other, in sum loved the other”.

Deleuze refuses the opposition between the impersonal observations of a professor, the paranoiac “frigid doctor of distances”, and the personal confessions of a transgressor, the hysterical “simulator of identifications” (DIALOGUES, p53-54). Both are only too happy to find the “dirty little secret” that they can propose as the key to a work. The alterity of the work is neutralised, its power voided, its love of the world travestied. The whole process of de-subjectivation, of individuation away from and outside of the egoic subject and of literal realities is re-translated into a dogmatic reductive grid. Deleuze is justified in exclaiming: “There is thus no risk of seeing the power of life which runs through a work”.

Naxos is right to denounce “Žižek’s Intensive Masturbatory Reading of Deleuze“, as Zizek remains within the confines of oedipal decoding and interpreting. “Psychoanalysis is exactly a masturbation, a generalized, organized and coded narcissism” (DIALOGUES, p102). Deleuze talks of leaving the history of philosophy behind and of speaking in one’s own name; Zizek retains Deleuze’s repression of an incestuous desire for Hegel. Deleuze speaks of love traversing the multiplicities and zones of intensity of another’s body and one’s own, discovering “its groups, its populations, its species”; Zizek retains sublimated buggery and repressed incest.

But there is no sublimation and no repression here. We must reply with James Hillman: “Nothing is repressed, in fact, nothing can be repressed” (RE-VISIONING PSYCHOLOGY, ix). Zizek’s biggest mistake is literalism, a malady that Hillman attributes to, amongst many others, Freud and his followers. Deleuze likewise condemns “a deplorable belief in exactitude and truth”, and revendicates the right to express his individuation with its immobile voyages in oblique and circuitous ways. This indirect expression, or “power of the false”, is a type of language that eschews the “unidimensional literal report by and about a fiction called “me”” (RVP, xi), or indeed about any dogmatically imposed interpretation treated as self-evident “reality”. “What’s so great about your version of “reality”?, asks Deleuze, Your realism is unimaginative.”

This unimaginative realism confines itself to a world divided into stereotyped categories by “signifying cuts”. This is the realm of the great divide between self and world. Deleuze’s pluralism evokes on the contrary a metaphysical “rupture” where you are no longer a conforming or transgressive identity (let’s face it, all identities are transgressive, you don’t and can’t really conform to the Norm), but where

“You have become like everyone, but in fact you have turned “everyone” [and we must add “everything”] into a becoming“. (DIALOGUES, p127, translation slightly modified).

So it is that Deleuze can join with Hillman in crying “no cuts“! (Hillman, A Psyche the Size of the Earth). The “interior” is coextensive with the external world, and so innerness gets redefined as no longer signifying spatial confinement but as synonymous with an all-pervading dimension of depth and intensity.

Postscript:Matthew Segall at footnotes2plato has posted some interesting reflections on Hillman (here and here). In particular, one can cite Segall’s thesis:

“The Cartesian ego’s paranoid search for absolute certainty and formulaic Truth leads to the repression of the ambiguities and paradoxes of soul-making in the valleys of the world”.

Deleuze and Guattari are equally against “The Cartesian ego’s paranoid search for absolute certainty and formulaic Truth” and “the repression of the ambiguities and paradoxes of soul-making”, although they prefer the term “desiring-production”.

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2 Responses to No Cuts!: Deleuze and Hillman on Alterity

  1. schizostroller says:

    For a while I enjoyed the fable: “there are many ways up the mountain, the only one’s wasting their time are those running around telling everyone else how to get up it”

    But then I found another in Erik Davis’s book: Nomad Codes that was far better and relates to the quote referring to the valley’s of the soul. Davis quotes an unnamed druid as stating:

    “People are always saying how all paths lead to the same mountain top. But why climb the mountain in the first place, when you can explore the valleys”


  2. Pingback: CLEARING THE GROUND (3): Latour and the pluralist outside | AGENT SWARM

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