What Deleuze Gets From Nietzsche

Deleuze has written several pieces on Nietzsche in his collection of essays here, and in another collection here). There are sections in each of the main books too -- Logic of Sense and Difference and Repetition. There is even an entire book.  When I took notes on that book, the main problem I had was reconciling the usual view of Nietzsche as a proto fascist with Deleuze's admiration.  I understand that there was a context for the rehabilitation of Nietzsche in French thought, part of the turn away from Hegel that also saw interest in Spinoza, and it might just be that Deleuze did what philosophers do in rehabilitating formerly unpopular philosophers.  Even so, there are some substantive  issues as well.

The first arguments that I encountered were in Difference and Repetition (2004)

Deleuze needs to supplement his general argument in favor of difference rather than repetition by considering what looks like a celebration of repetition in Nietzsche's eternal return.  Deleuze insists that the eternal return will not be a simple repetition of existing arrangements, but some sort of qualitative change, not a contradiction in the classic Hegelian sense but the assertion of difference.
Repetition is opposed to the laws of nature, in Nietzsche’s eternal return, which is not just a banal cyclical event, but ‘the universal and the singular reunited, which dethrones every general law, dissolves the mediations and annihilates the particulars’ (2004: 8). Stressing difference in the eternal return supports the equally important notion of becoming:  'the being of becoming…  The becoming identical of becoming itself' (50-- 51). The assertion of difference as an inherent quality of Being helps us stave off philosophical notions of some univocal identity explaining being (as in essentialism), and the dubious generalizations of science.

The return justifies and demonstrates other aspects of Deleuzian ontology.
It is intensive, driven by difference.  It is being, ‘the only Same which is said of this world...[ which] excludes any prior identity’ (304). Deleuze says that Nietzsche was interested in the contemporary notions of energy in the science of the time, hoping ‘to make chaos an object of affirmation’, and he saw this sort of thinking which breaks the laws of nature as the highest thought. At its most obscure, possibly, the argument is that the eternal return also features pure difference, has series which return in a coexisting kind of way, with no obvious origin except in difference.  It features 'the for- itself of difference' (153). 
This notion of univocity is superior to that of analogy.  Analogy does operate with fixed elements which remain the same, and variable elements.  Univocity, however argues that although being operates in a single sense, this still produces difference, which is ‘mobile and displaced within being’(377).  This connection is outside of representation.  Being is univocal, while actualizations [?] are equivocal.  Categories are a poor substitute for the notion of the unity of all forms in being.  It also misunderstands how difference works to distribute beings in a space produced by univocal being, with no assumptions about fixed and variable elements, as in analogy.  Univocity is open.  It features nomadic distributions, crowned anarchy as opposed or sedentary distributions in analogy.  In univocal being everything is equal and everything returns, but only when difference is allowed full play.  ‘A single and same voice for the whole thousand – voiced multiple, a single and same Ocean for all the drops, a single clamor of Being for all beings: on condition that each being, each drop and each voice has reached the state of excess—…  that difference which displaces and disguises them and in turning upon its mobile cusp, causes them to return’ (378).

Nietzsche's eternal return serves as a general model of the production of apparent repetition. As above, repetition seems external again, or confined to the first occurrence, seen as a ‘once and for all’, or repeated in cycles—all this 'depends entirely upon the reflection of an observer', making judgements about resemblances through analogies managing empirical circumstances (367).  These observations are directed at empirical objects, but these are themselves 'simulacra' or signs of some deeper processes. The eternal return lets us see that,although again it looks as if it presupposes resemblance and identity.  Is it not the One that returns? (asks Deleuze).  Nietzsche suggests that would be impossible because the One cannot leave itself or lose its identity in the first place [definitional quibbling?]. It is the different that returns not the similar, and all other forms have been destroyed which attempt to limit it, including conventional systems of representation.  Any similarities are only effects, they are ‘”simulated”: they are the products of systems which relate different to different by means of difference' (154), they are fictions, but this is a necessary illusion.  Apparently, the eternal return maintains these illusions 'in order to rejoice in [them]’ (154). :  ‘The negative, the similar and the analogous are repetitions, but they do not return, forever driven away by the wheel of eternal return’ (370). However, there are additional repetitions. In pure time each determination or stage is already repetition in itself.  The perspectives of the external observer are no longer relevant. However, it is clear that there must be a third time which produces these analogous relations, among other possibilities. There is no conventional representation in the eternal return, so difference is liberated, ironically, by a repetition in the eternal return.  Representation is needed only once, in the early stages, and it is not reproduced in the eternal return. Yet there is a unity of the play of difference, or similarity between the series when they resonate and return. The similar, repetition and the identical in the eternal return are products of difference.  I am not sure if Deleuze feels himself vindicated, or if he is out to vindicate Nietzsche.

There is something that might appear as a kind of preliminary ethics or even politics. Repetition points towards the future, escaping reminiscence and habitus.  ‘Forgetting becomes a positive power’ (9), which is important since the obsessional man of bad conscience or the paranoid man of ressentiment can never forget anything. We also find a useful critique of Hegelian dialectic which also preserves all the past moments in some ‘gigantic Memory’ (64). By contrast, in stressing difference (not negation) extremes represents difference itself, ‘the univocity of the different…  The eternal formlessness of the eternal return itself’.  Everything which can be denied is denied, we must pursue an active forgetting, and that includes weak affirmations resulting only from negatives. Of course, the 'we' here does not refer to the normal notion of a human subject. Deleuze tells us that Nietzsche suggested that beneath the I and the Self is an abyss.  This would mean that it is the I and the Self which become abstract universals, and the terms must be replaced by a proper understanding of individuation, to produce more fluid conceptions.  We need to go back to the pre-individual singularities.  The nearest image is the ‘fractured I and the dissolved Self’ (322).  The two are correlated.  Ideas, as problems, ‘swarm around the edges of the fracture’, appearing as multiplicities, and expressing themselves as individuating factors producing ‘the universal concrete individuality of the thinker or the system of the dissolved Self’ (322)

Finally, Nietzsche offers a model for the ideal philosopher to pursue. Any idiot can reproduce similarities through 'recognising' them in every new event, and the community will reward you if you do: Deleuze tells us that
Nietzsche insisted that the latter was not what he meant by the will to power, and derided Kant and Hegel as  ‘”philosophical labourers”’ because they did not want to break with recognition (172) philosophy actually requires an individual ‘full of ill will  who does not manage to think, either naturally or conceptually’ (166), someone who sees subjective presuppositions as prejudices, refusing to go along with appearing as a wise idiot, not partaking in current culture.  ‘Such a one is the Untimely, neither temporal nor eternal’ (166). This echoes Nietzsche's rather self-pitying view of himself, of course, especially in Zarathustra, and the idea is pursued in Nietzsche's work on education. In Difference and Repetition, Deleuze tells us that  cruelties and violence are necessary, Nietzsche said, precisely in order to train “a nation of ‘thinkers’” or to “provide a training for the mind”’ (205).

The second set, in Logic of Sense

People like Nietzsche are still misunderstood as an advocate of transcendence—but he only used the term the death of god to explain the bad faith and ressentiment which emerged (71). Transcendentalism involves  a false choice between chaos, ‘an abyss’ without differences and without properties’, and ‘a supremely individuated Being and intensely personalized Form’ (106).  It follows that such a being would have to possess all the characteristics of reality within itself.  The being can be either god or man. In both options ‘we are faced with the alternative between undifferentiated groundlessness and imprisoned singularities’ (106). Nietzsche came close to discovering a world of pre-individual singularities, driven by a free energy, ‘the will to power’ (107).  ‘Being…  leaps from one singularity to another, casting always the dice belonging to the same cast, always fragmented and formed again in each throw’ (107 [Deleuze’s own position?].  For Nietzsche, this is the philosophy of the ‘pure unformed’, and ‘the subject is this free, anonymous, and nomadic singularity which traverses men as well as plants and animals independently of the matter of their individuation and the forms of their personality.  “Overman” means nothing other than this—the superior type of everything that is’ (107).  However, Nietzsche also returned to explore the ‘bottomless abyss’ (108).

We see here (and in Difference and Repetition), Deleuze's interest in this dice-throw metaphor. Obviously, this does justice to the elements of chance and contingency in the unfolding of Being (although Nietzsche was entirely [?] anthropomorphic here, seeing the dice throw as the mechanism determing the fate of free individuals, and admiring the acceptance of chance among the strong). Deleuze also sees it as extending the affirmative nature of the eternal return since (in a mere sentence or two in Zarathustra) since the dice throw has itself to be affirmed,not just the results of one particular throw. This is the meaning of the double throw metaphor once in Heaven and once on earth. It links to the figure of Dionysus, enjoying the results of chance, whatever they may be. Incidentally, the whole thing about Dionysus becomes clear only if you have read Nietzsche on Greek tragedy, in my view -- it's also the only bit of Nietzsche I enjoyed!

The common image of a philosopher is the platonic one, where the philosopher ascends above reality to get to the world of ideas.  Nietzsche advocated going in the opposite direction, penetrating beneath biographies to get to the workings of life itself. (127) .Difference here is a topological term relating to distance on surfaces rather than depths. It is not just a matter of suggesting ‘some unknown identity of contraries (as in commonplace in spiritualist and dolorist philosophy)’ (173).  An example is Nietzsche arguing that health and sickness can both inform each other, act as points of view, remembering that ‘things, beings, are themselves points of view’ (173).   [And then there is a very curious bit about how Nietzsche perished—ostensibly from sickness and death, but from a 'quasi cause' [Deleuze waffle to avoid causality]  ‘which represents the state of organization or disorganization of the incorporeal surface’, something to do with his entire oeuvre and style [his {absurd} 'physiological determinism?] .  ‘We see no other way of raising the question of relations between an oeuvre and illness except by means of this double causality’ (108)

Modernity shows the power of the simulacrum (so we are on familiar ground here) .  Nietzsche attempted to critique it by extracting from it ‘the untimely, which pertains to modernity, but which must also be turned against it’ (265).  It involves going back to the past, in this case Platonism, to reverse it; seeing current simulacra as critiques of modernity [sorting out the artificial?]; seeing the future as dominated by the phantasm of the eternal return [which is at least a belief in the future].  The simulacrum opposes itself to mere artificiality, copies of copies, and preserves at least the constructive aspects of chaos [which include ‘the destruction of Platonism’ (266)].

Turning to the essays, first the two in Essays: Critical and Clinical (1997)

The first one compares Nietzsche's take on Christinaity with that of DH Lawrence ( a major author for Mrs Deleuze who teanslated him into French). Most of it is about Lawrence on the Apocalypse, and it's rather clever in suggesting that the Apocalypse is the proletarian vengeful take on the second coming of Christ, where the masses will triumph over the Roman Empire Deleuze notes the stress on the important pagan symbolism in the Apocalypse, another device to make the terms graspable by the masses. By contrast, Nietzsche focuses on the work of St Paul in modifying Christianity into a universal religion, making it abstract and cementing the links with ressentiment and the bad conscience. Lawrence is the major focus though.

The second essay deals with the poem about the myth of Ariadne, which we are told elsewhere is crucial although this is never spelled out very well. In the book, Deleuze even uses the stuff on Ariadne to reject the charges of misogyny against Nietzsche, but her main role is to complement, support and affirm Dionysus ( the second affirmation -- since Dionysus is himself affirmative). Ariadne was first connected to Theseus,who can be compared to the Higher Man in Zarathustra, the man of modernity, overcoming nature, but seeing it in heroic terms, as a massive burden to be borne. Theseus is not a happy playful person, and is even adversely compared (by Deleuze) to the playful bull which he subdues in the labyrinth. Ariadne is abandoned by Theseus, is mystified, self-doubting and lamenting, but is transformed by her relationship with Dionysus into a support for the playful. Deleuze says we can see this in the actual (bloody awful) poem: again he is pretty selective though and focuses mostly on the last verse, where Ariadne meets Dionysus. Before that we have lots of lines of lament, turning on perceived injury from an unknown and spiteful god, who nevertheless is missed by Ariadne when he leaves her.  Within the 5 lines of thatthat selected last verse, Deleuze goes further, picking out a remark in one line about Ariadne's ears,which he rends as Dionysus saying they are small, round and labyrinthine. In the book, Deleuze tells us that Nietzsche was proud of his own small ears which he thought women found attractive, but there is also an implicit comparison with the large and long ears of the ass, the beast of burden, a reference to Theseus and the higher man. Ears are a labyrinth, Dionysus is a labyrinth, life itself is a labyrinth, but this is not something to be feared and overcome, domesticated by a modernist device -- Ariadne's thread

Smith's very useful Introduction to the Essays says Deleuze saw Nietzsche as an exemplary diagnostician (of nihilism) by ‘isolating its symptoms (ressentiment, the bad conscience, the ascetic ideal), by tracing its aetiology to a certain relation of active and reactive forces (the genealogical method), and by setting forth both a prognosis (nihilism defeated by itself), and a treatment (the revaluation of values)’ (xix), and that this is the basis for Deleuze's own 'clinical', method in this collection and elsewhere. Deleuze's discussion of this own use of the 'method of dramatization' is also explained in the book on Nietzsche -- to avoid charges of anthropocentrism, Deleuze says Nietzsche makes the clash of forces into a play of human wills.

These theme is spelled out in more detail in the book on Nietzsche, but it's also a controversial reading.  Deleuze tells us explicitly that Nietzsche denies that's the eternal return will be a repetition of the similar or identical, but it is clear that in one of the areas where Nietzsche discusses the term, in Zarathustra, he says exactly the opposite.  Nietzsche also discusses the eternal return in several other places, with slight modifications, suggesting, for example, in Will to Power, that if the strong can come back to their former dominance, they will be able to insist that their values persist in the eternal return, but this is still rather hypothetical.This leaves still owes with quite a bit of work to do, and I have added in my notes on the book, some comments about how he does this.  The first stage is, as we've seen, to read what Nietzsche actually said in zarathustra to mean the exact opposite of what might be seen as normal reading.  This is part of the 'symptomatic reading' strategy that Dedleuze pursues on encountering a number of controversial pieces in Nietzsche.  Another example arises with discussing the will to power, which Deleuze assures us does not mean the coming to power of a particular group, although the discussion of the role of the strong seems to suggest quite the opposite.  The strong have a very important role in preventing decadence, in reconnecting with human projects that have been subverted by ressentiment and bad conscience: they might even have a role in selecting the best element saw the eternal return, as we saw.  There is it also admiration for particularly strong dominant individuals, especially Napoleon.  Finally,  Nietzsche does indeed excuse if not glorify war, part of the inevitable cruelty of the strong, almost a leisure pursuit for them.  Deleuze tries to gloss this by ignoring it, but also arguing that it is 'warlike play' that Nietzsche is advocating, which looks a bit like a possible endorsement for male invasion games, or possibly return to chivalric jousting.

Deleuze then attempts a reconstruction of Nietzsche's context, one of those occasional interludes where philosophers get quite close to the sociology of knowledge, but then back rapidly away.  Deleuze explains that the eternal return has to be properly cyclic and selective, because Nietzsche wanted to oppose the particular models that were dominant in the science of his day, those relating to a clockwork universe.  Those notions predicted eternal equilibrium, evolution...  One of the objections that Nietzsche had was that these sciences worked with excessive metrication and quantification.  There is quite a heavy handed section in the book where this rather familiar argument is made in terms of the qualities of forces which are not just reducible to the quantitative.  Since Nietzsche opposed these conceptions, Deleuze wants to argue that his notion of the eternal return must also oppose them, and that therefore qualitative change is being predicted, as the only available alternative at the time.  I have suggested that is possible to detect in this argument and number of flaws, like smuggling in the conclusion in the definition.  In particular, in this specific case, there is no real discussion of how the qualitative can indeed be reduced to the quantitative, and how positive [sic] benefits can ensue.

We can see some of these operational and beneficial procedures in Nietzsche's own work, and the sections where Deleuze is trying to complement Nietzsche as a systematic thinker, especially with the development of typologies like those of different sorts of 'man'(ugliest man, last man, higher man and so on).  For sociologists, more familiar with Weberian ideal types, Nietzsche's types are sadly lacking in terms of their 'adequacy': there's no way of using them to do actual research or indeed to test them.  It would involve a long and laborious study of the bizarre writings of Nietzsche, but my guess would be that there are also incoherences in the way in which he uses these types, but I'm not the one to test out this suggestion with close reading.

Perhaps the most dubious exercise an apology follows the compliments on these typologies.  Deleuze tells us that they depend on a topology, some attempt to rank factors such as forces, to assign them some moral force.  This brings back morals into philosophy, Deleuze tells us early in the book, meaning that they are really inseparable from more abstract exercises like the development of typology.  No doubt this is true, but Deleuze never really goes on to explain what Nietzsche's values actually are and offers a sanitized and abstracted view of them.  Thus the paeans of praise to the strong, to their carefree stance towards people's lives and their own, their pleasure in cruelty and suffering, their refusal to be constrained by pity, which is condemned as weakness throughout, the scorn directed at socialism or equality including the equality of women, and the dark suspicions leveled against ethnic groups such as the Jews, and, to be evenhanded, the Germans of the period.  All these are rendered as abstract admiration for the creative and active forces in human life.  The times, this is clearly a celebration of male heroics—adventure, risk taking, laughing at fate, staking everything on the role of the dice and so on.

The same goes for the notorious examples which have attracted a great deal of commentary already in Nietzsche.  The anti Semitism, for example is 'balanced'by citing Nietzsche's criticisms of antiSemites, including some of his correspondents.  I've already argued in my notes on Nietzsche, that this is rather flimsy defence, because it's perfectly possible to admire individual Jews, and to detest individual antiSemites while holding a more general anti Semitism.  If we're looking for selective reading, incidentally, even Kaufmann finds an example of pretty explicit anti Semitism in Nietzsche's work but obviously much is going to depend on how we read many of the comments.  The Jews are admired for completing their mission in developing Christianity as a more universal form, for example, but then Nietzsche detests Christianity as the triumph of the weak and the resentful.  It is true that the priestly type, are represented initially by Jewish priests has a positive role, but mostly, priests collude in developing a system that binds the weak, the bad conscience. As for being anti female, examples proliferate in the actual Nietzsche, and again apologists tried to argue that Nietzsche was really saying that women would not be happy if they simply tried to copy male roles.  However this is also saying that they should stay in their appointed place.  Nietzsche had no doubt about where that was, that by nature they were fitted to be the support of man, the domestic partner of man, or the erotic object of man, at least in the version of courtly love.  Suggesting that women should receive full equality was a clear sign of decadence, as was any kind of equality.  No doubt again, at Nietzsche admired particular women, but then that is a different proposition from advancing the cause of women in general.  The issue of race is also apparent, of course, with the same sort of ambivalence.  In Genealogy, Nietzsche clearly admires the 'Aryans', the mythological 'blond beasts', and Kaufmann takes pains to explain that these admirable creatures on not to be identified with the current German 'race'.  Indeed, Nietzsche tends to dismiss current Germans as vulgar and drunken but then, HItler didn't like actual Germans much).

Other problems include Nietzsche's anthropomorphism.  The whole thing is about culture, history and human politics, with someone discussed notion of 'nature'or a bizarre 'physiology' as the only material forces.

Anthopomorphic? Feeblexcuses. Egocentgric -- discussed in Essays -- typically back to front

What hefets -- activity (butno id of active forces), politics agin consv trends but mythical Dionysian polcs and eternal return as post-capist utopia. HGardlynmentioned MArx escept via GI and Stirner. Wilful to choose NIetzsche instead!