FEYERABEND’S LAST INTERVIEW (6): On the Way to Immanence

Jung’s first question, concerning what administrative means Feyerabend could recommend to promote new ideas, is a philosophical solecism. This is not the sort of question that Feyerabend wishes to address, and Jung admits that in reply to his very first letter Feyerabend said that he could not say anything about it. Feyerabend is against the principle of administration, he does not situate himself on that plane. Call it the plane of organisation, as Deleuze does, or the plane of administration, as Feyerabend implicitly posits. Nor does he share the « mania for order » of intellectual bureaucrats (Denkbeamte). Feyerabend situates himself on an altogether different plane, with a different attitude: the plane of immanence and the humanitarian (or, more broadly, « participative ») attitude. His motive in the dialogue is as always to get people to change planes and to transform their attitudes – to pass from transcendence to immanence, from abstract reason to concrete participation.

Jung has some trouble embodying this approach in his questions, despite having made some progress along this path. He is not imprisoned inside the professional walls of the rationalist philosopher. He wants to favorise new ideas and is worried about the closed mind of professional journals. He is interested in Feyerabend’s ideas and opinions, and shows us that he has read many of his texts. In his writing he has stepped outside the walls of academia, and considers himself one of the « philosophers who write for newspapers », and not just for professional journals. He seems to be a nice guy, and this must be part of the reason that Feyerabend accepted an interview with him, in what Feyerabend surely knew would be his last published philosophical act, constituting a final testament.

But Jung is only on the way to immanence. his language is still too contaminated with philosophical jargon and so contains presuppositions that Feyerabend rejects as betraying the richness and fluidity of reality. His questions are often either too abstract and philosophical or too concrete and merelly personal. In response, Feyerabend all too often has to correct his philosophical questions or has nothing much to say in reply to his personal ones. The interview is often frustrating in that regard. But this must be another reason that Feyerabend chose Jung for his last interview, instead of recording a conversation with his wife Grazia Borrini – who he considers to have gone further on the path to immanence than himself.

Deleuze has commented on this frustrating, sterile quality of many interviews, their imprisonment in rigid binary oppositions, their blindness to movement and becoming. He tells us that this is due to the privileging of reflection, of the reflective attitude. He contrasts this with a different attitude, more open to the fluidity and multiplicity of real life, which he calls the point of view of intensities, or the intensive attitude. So instead of taking part in a classical interview composed of reflective questions and answers (which was the guiding principle for the collection in which DIALOGUES was published), Deleuze chose to embody the intensive attitude in a dialogue with Claire Parnet where the identities were inassignable:

« the first plan for a conversation between two people, in which one asked questions and the other replied, no longer had any value. The divisions had to rest on the growing dimensions of the multiplicity, according to becomings which were unattributable to individuals, since they could not be immersed in it without changing qualitatively » (DIALOGUES, x).

Feyerabend could have chosen this solution, but he tells us in KILLING TIME that this has been the case in his writing for the previous ten years:

« Grazia read some of my articles and criticized them quite thorougly – the language, the presentation, the ideas … I in turn read some of her work and made some suggestions here and there. After ten years of such exchanges our views have become rather similar except that Grazia knows a wealth of details and has the ability, which I lack, to grasp the simple ideas behind a complex and murky message » (KILLING TIME, p175).

Thus Feyerabend  is an adept of the deleuzian post-identitarian dialogue. But he has something else in mind in this Last Interview, not to give us an already accomplished example of dialogue outside abstract categories and identities, but a sample of the transition from abstract to immanent thought. Feyerabend is quite frustrating:

He refuses to suggest any administrative solutions, declares that he has had only good experiences and to have enjoyed total freedom, rejects Jung’s philosophical jargon (« subjectivity », « construction »), claims to have no philosophical position, calls methodological pluralism in the sciences just « a statement of fact », maintains that arguments « don’t count », affirms his suspicion of anything positive in philosophy, brags that his aim is to « upset people », terms rationality « an emotional attitude » etc. But whenever Jung gives in and asks a merely personal question Feyerabend replies laconically, with nothing much to say. At the end Feyerabend seems to have come full circle, denouncing the situation in the United States, where « there are many people who are much better than there so called superiors … idiots getting large amounts of money in important positions … smart young people … pushed around with no jobs, no money, nothing » (p168). The whole interview has been a feyerabendian deconstruction of the initial question and of the principles and attitudes present in our institutions responsible for this state of affairs. Feyerabend speaks of his life yes, but he brings out a more than personal import, without letting it become impersonal. He « teaches » Jung , and through him he educates us, by telling stories that embody his humanitarian attitude, and his rejection of « intellectualistic conceit and folly » (AGAINST METHOD, Fourth Edition, p280). Perhaps the best statement of intention is in Feyerabend’s « last letter« :

« What I want to do is change your attitude. I want you to sense chaos where at first you noticed an orderly arrangement of well-behaved things and processes ».

Repeatedly Feyerabend finds that Jung’s questions presuppose too much order, and he responds by trying to get him to sense in its place chaos, ambiguity, interpenetration, multiplicity, fluidity, difference, abundance. Jung is on the way to immanence, and just as anything can be distorted in the direction of transcendence (« You can twist everything into a rational shape … Anything can be bent in a direction », p167), so too anything can be pushed towards immanence. Jung’s questions, with their transcendent  presuppositions, are necessary to render that demonstration possible, so we can only be glad that he was there.

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