DELEUZE, BADIOU, LARUELLE, CIORAN: a plea for polychromatic vision

Badiou, despite being radically mistaken and wrong-headed on important points in his interpretation of Deleuze as expressed in his book DELEUZE: THE CLAMOR OF BEING, highlights certain aspects of Deleuze that go against euphoric neoliberal interpretations and already point towards the need to include a « dark » Deleuze in our comprehensive, pluralist understanding of Deleuze’s philosophy.

The only way I can make sense of the popularity of the Dark Deleuze theme is as an answer to the recent reductive interpretation of Deleuze as proposing the pure affirmation of the beautiful soul, Nietzche’s ass.

I have never seen Deleuze in this way. Right from the beginning of my reading, in 1978, I saw him through Nietzschean eyes. Badiou’s book infuriated me when it came out in 1997, but twenty years later the details have faded in importance and the image of Deleuze as critical of neoliberal « artistic » capitalism remains.

Badiou himself has continued to evolve and his most recent ideas on the « immanence of truths » reflects his own becoming-deleuzian. Time changes all things, which should be a banality for those who love Deleuze’s philosophy. I maintain that the darkness was there from the beginning, and this is what attracted me to Deleuze so many years ago.

Laruelle on Badiou is clearly wrong, as he is on many other points. His readers would do well to judge Laruelle by his own criteria, and they would find him just as rigid, abstract, dogmatic and full of stereotypes as he claims Badiou to be, with some justification. Badiou himself is not always like this, and he often uses his theoretical vocabulary with pluralist openness and metaphorical fluidity.

I am always surprised that people are willing to take a philosopher’s self-descriptions and self-presentations at face value. Cioran is a good example, people hail his « lucidity », but in fact they are just repeating what he said about himself. I never found him particularly lucid and was not surprised when later it was found that he had romanced his life to fit his myth of himself and had had proto-fascist leanings in his youth. This is why I have never been on the side of those who edify a cult to Cioran, who paints the world grey on grey and then proclaims this monochrome vision « lucidity ».

So when some Laruellians talk about Laruelle’s fluidity, his democracy of thought, and his inventivity I remain very sceptical. Despite its failings Laruelle’s ANTI-BADIOU is a very interesting book, and PHILOSOPHIE NON-STANDARD even more so. Yet I am convinced that Deleuze and Guattari, Badiou, and Zizek are far more « non-standard » than Laruelle is.

I would never have thought of Deleuze as purely bright, just as I would never have thought of Cioran as particularly « lucid ». The difference is that the « bright » Deleuze is the public image that ideologists apply to cover over Deleuze, whereas the « lucid » Cioran is the self-publicity that Cioran applies to himself, to cover over his dark past and obscurantist delusions and his one-sided greyness of vision.

For me, pluralist light trumps monochromatic vision, of Deleuze, of Badiou, of Laruelle, or of Cioran (including his own self-vision or self presentation), any day.

Note: I am indebted to a discussion with Nicolas Cours-Barracq for helping me clarify my ideas on this question.

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