Nietzsche, Friedrich

Nietzsche, Friedrich
  ---- by Lee Spinks
  The importance of Deleuze's reading of Friedrich Nietzsche cannot be over-estimated. Although Deleuze engages continually with the work of Baruch Spinoza, Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz, David Hume and Henri Bergson (and wrote books on all these philosophers and what they enabled), his approach to the philosophical tradition is marked fundamentally by the Nietzschean goal of an affirmative philosophy. When Deleuze reads a philosopher, he follows Nietzsche in examining what their work enables, what concepts they create, the positive effects of the questions they ask and how their philosophies respond to life. While Deleuze is careful to locate the idea of a practical philosophy in the work of Spinoza, he glimpses the radical potential of this tradition for modern thought in Nietzsche's development of a number of Spinozist ideas.
  One way in which Nietzsche's work becomes central to Deleuze is through Nietzsche's reworking of the Spinozist idea of expressivism. Expressivism demands that we no longer conceive of an event as a predicate attached to a prior substance; there is not a matter or uniform substance which then becomes or takes on a form or quality. On the contrary, expressivism suggests that there is nothing other than the becoming of specific and singular qualities; and these qualities or events do not need to be related back to some neutral ground or substance. Deleuze argues that Nietzsche is the first philosopher actually to consider a world composed of these 'pre-personal singularities'. As Nietzsche argues, we do not need to relate actions back to a subject or 'doer', nor do we need to see events as effects or as having a pre-existing cause. These ideas provided Deleuze with a way of developing a philosophy of immanence and an understanding of being as univocity. If there is not a substance which then becomes, or a substance which then takes on qualities, it follows that there is no dualist distinction between being and becoming, or identity and difference. There is no prior ground, unity or substance which then differentiates itself and becomes; instead there is only a univocal field of differences. Difference conceived in this way is not difference from some original unity; if there is only one univocal being, then differences themselves become primary and constitutive forces. There is not a hierarchy in which an original unity or being then becomes; there is an original becoming which expresses itself in the multiplicity of events. The apprehension of immanent and univocal being demands that we account for the events of existence from existence itself without positing a transcendental condition (such as God, the subject or being). Deleuze's stress on Nietzsche as a philosopher whose significance lies in the tradition of univocity differs from the dominant Anglo-American interpretation of Nietzsche as a more literary writer who avoided arguments and principles.
  Alongside the development of the concept of immanent and univocal being, Nietzsche also presented a vision of life seen as a conflict between singular and antagonistic forces. Deleuze's use of the concept of 'life' in his reading of Nietzsche is neither biological nor humanist. Life is neither matter (as in biologism) nor the proper form or end of matter (as in humanism or vitalism). Life is a power of singularisation; a power to create differences. For Nietzsche, phenomena, organisms, societies and States are nothing other than the expression of particular configurations of forces. One of his most influential contributions to the understanding of life, consciousness and moral thought was to conceive of each of them as the effect of a primary distinction between active and reactive forces. Nietzsche's diagnosis, in particular, of the connection between reactive formations such as ressentiment, bad conscience and the ascetic ideal on one hand, and modes of subjectivity and forms of life on the other had a profound impression upon Deleuze's political thought. Similarly, Nietzsche's identification of Will to Power as the basis for a positive vision of life influenced Deleuze's elaboration of an immanent and anti-humanist mode of philosophy. The postulation of such an immanent principle - a principle that accepts nothing other than life - enables thought to focus upon the production and legitimation of divisions between different forms of life. Life, in Nietzsche's view, is constituted by a common and inexhaustible striving for power; human life (with its regulative norms, moral judgements and social truths) is merely a form through which life passes. This Nietzschean philosophy, which envisaged a plurality of forces acting upon and being affected by each other, and in which the quantity of power constituted the differential element between forces, remained of lasting importance to Deleuze's own philosophy of life.
  Following Nietzsche, Deleuze sought to move beyond the human investment in transcendence: the ascription of ideas beyond life that determine the goal and value of life.His work is marked by the attempt to engage with the broader movements of becoming from which our idea of life is constituted. This led him to concentrate upon a number of different forms of difference (such as language, genetic developments and mutations, social forms, historical events and so on) that bring the image of the human into focus. Deleuze also develops Nietzsche's genealogical reinterpretation of moral ideas while taking it in a wholly new direction. Where Nietzsche exposed the origins of morality in the manipulation of affect by regimes of cruelty and force, Deleuze developed the concept of affect to rethink the meaning and function of ideology and politics.Working against a vision of the 'political' that conferred privilege upon the ideological determination of social codes, Deleuze explored the production of 'politics' and 'ideology' through a series of pre-subjective or 'inhuman' styles and intensities. Before there is a political or ideological decision, Deleuze claimed, there is first an unconscious and affective investment in an image of life and a style of morality that is subsequently reconceived as the moral ground of life itself.
   § active / reactive
   § becoming
   § difference
   § Plato
   § will to power

The Deleuze Dictionary. Revised Edition. . 2015.

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