Sunday, January 25, 2009

Apres Moi, Deleuze and Guattari


Week of Vexing Individuals: Day One — Anarchism and Beyond

From January 25-31, I’ll look at individuals who somehow complicate our ideas about property rights or capitalism — in alphabetical order.

I’ve read Derrida, Lacan, Foucault, etc. — and hated them all, arrogant anticapitalist obscurantists that they are, turning vague whining about the culture into pseudo-arguments on economics shot through with the most pretentious variety of Marxism — but I have never, I confess, read the work of philosophers Deleuze and Guattari. Nonetheless, in the ultimate act of deconstruction, I will form an opinion about them anyway. (I get the impression Guattari’s the interesting one, actually, taking an interest in relatively practical things like group-therapy dynamics and applying them to philosophical disagreements, while Deleuze, I gather, spends hundreds of pages trying to unravel metaphysics by doing things like criticizing the principle of identity.)

But the important thing for current purposes is that my ill-informed impression of these two Frenchmen is based mainly on the book cover to their work A Thousand Plateaus, a complex, Escher-like diagram/image that seemed to hint at what girlfriend Helen recently called “three-dimensional thinking,” a willingness to consider and reconsider things from multiple philosophical perspectives, hoping to change one’s own thinking instead of merely strategically outmaneuvering argumentative foes. (Her 3D thought analogy caused me to offer her my handy 3D glasses, meant to be used to perceive the multiverse in a comic book that came out last week. She declined, despite me noting that they are not merely cheap 3D glasses but, as the label clearly indicates, an Overvoid Viewer.)

Anyway, I gather D&G just offer more French lit-crit capitalism bashing, but what I was really hoping for was something more akin to “post-anarchism,” the post-structuralism-influenced view that freedom requires not just escaping manmade laws and remaining willfully ignorant of the laws of economics (the two pillars of conventional left-anarchism) but escaping stable ideology itself by constantly shifting one’s philosophy.

The anarchist sci-fi writer Robert Anton Wilson achieved something like a reductio of post-anarchism, without to my knowledge using the term, by trying to consciously switch to a new philosophy each day, at least for one period of his life (Foucault did something similar, in a slower way, but was too enamored of some absolutely nasty philosophies such as totalitarian Islam — and thus probably should have been disciplined and punished in a prison in Tehran for a while).

A willingness to change one’s mind without treating the change as damage is a wonderful thing — though being a relativist is not. All available evidence suggests that the world will not go away because you change your mind about it, no matter how much some self-aggrandizing navel-gazers might like to think otherwise. And it’d be a shame if you died in a car crash because you were distracted by questions about whether “momentum” is merely an illusory construct foisted on us by bourgeois scientists who fetishize and commodify Cartesian notions of order.

(Or were thinking about the fate of the multiverse as revealed this coming Wednesday in the comic book Final Crisis #7, for that matter.)

Still, it is worth valuing philosophical flexibility over rigidity. You’ve probably been wrong before. You might be wrong now.


Jacob T. Levy said...

three-dimensional thinking

How could you resist?

He is intelligent, but not experienced. His pattern indicates two-dimensional thinking.

Helm, Z minus 10,000 meters; stand by photon torpedoes.

Todd Seavey said...

That reminds me: the IDW _Star Trek: Countdown_ comic book miniseries bridges the gap between the chronologically-latest old Star Trek and the impending back-to-the-start new _Star Trek_ — and does so with nice art and strong black negative space suggestive of interplanetary travel, giving it all a movie-like gravitas.

So I’ll be getting the final three issues of that, Johns’ JSA, and Johns/Perez’s Legion as my comic-collecting ends. Then I go see the Trek movie and the Wolverine movie, and it’s like transitioning to 3D, almost.