'The Plane of Immanence' (Part 1)
by Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari
Whenever there is transcendence, vertical Being, imperial State in the sky or on earth, there is religion; and there is Philosophy whenever there is immanence, even if it functions as arena for the agon and rivalry.
- Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari
Philosophical concepts are fragmentary wholes that are not aligned with one another so that they fit together, because their edges do not match up. They are not pieces of a jigsaw puzzle but rather the outcome of throws of the dice. They resonate nonetheless, and the philosophy that creates them always introduces a powerful Whole that, while remaining open, is not fragmented: an unlimited One-All, an "Omnitudo" that includes all the concepts on one and the same plane. It is a table, a plateau, or a slice; it is a plane of consistency or, more accurately, the plane of immanence of concepts, the phenomenon. Concepts and plane are strictly correlative, but nevertheless, the two should not be confused. The plane of immanence is neither a concept nor the concept of all concepts. If one were to be confused with the other there would be nothing to stop concepts from forming a single one or becoming universals and losing their singularity, and the plane would also lose its open ness. Philosophy is a constructivism and constructivism has two qualitatively different complementary aspects: the creation of concepts and the laying out of a plane. Concepts are like multiple waves, rising and falling, but the plane of immanence is the single wave that rolls them up and unrolls them. The plane envelops infinite movements that pass back and forth through it, but concepts are the infinite speeds offinite movements that, in each case, pass only through their own components. From Epicurus to Spinoza (the incredible book 5) and from Spinoza to Michaux the problem of thought is infinite speed. But this speed requires a milieu that moves infinitely in itself-the plane, the void, the horizon. Both elasticity of the concept and fluidity ofthe milieu are needed. Both are needed to make up "the slow beings" that we are.
Concepts are the archipelago or skeletal frame, a spinal column rather than a skull, whereas the plane is the breath that suffuses the separate parts. Concepts are absolute surfaces or volumes, formless and fragmentary, whereas the plane is the formless, unlimited absolute, neither surface nor volume but always fractaL Concepts are concrete assemblages, like the configurations of a machine, but the plane is the abstract machine of which these assemblages are the working parts. Concepts are events, but the plane is the horizon of events, the reservoir or reserve of purely conceptual events: not the relative horizon that functions as a limit, which changes with an observer and encloses observable states of affairs, but the absolute horizon, independent of any observer, which makes the event as concept independent of a visible state of affairs in which it is brought ahout.? Concepts pave, occupy, or populate the plane bit by bit, whereas the plane itself is the indivisible milieu in which concepts are distributed without breaking up its continuity or integrity: they occupy it without measuring it out (the concept's combination is not a number) or are distributed without splitting it up. The plane is like a desert that concepts populate without dividing up. The only regions of the plane are concepts themselves, but the plane is all that holds them together. The plane has no other regions than the tribes populating linkages with ever increasing connections, and it is concepts that secure the populating and moving around it. It is the plane that secures conceptual linkages with ever increasing connections, and it is concepts that secure the populating of the plane on an always renewed and variable curve.
The plane of immanence is not a concept that is or can be thought but rather the image of thought, the image thought gives itself of what it means to think, to make use of thought, to find one's bearings in thought. It is not a method, since every method is concerned with concepts and presupposes such an image. Neither is it a state of knowledge on the brain and its functioning, since thought here is not related to the slow brain as to the scientifically determinable state of affairs in which, whatever its use and orientation, thought is only brought about. Nor is it opinions held about thought, about its forms, ends, and means, at a particular moment. The image of thought implies a strict division between fact and right: what pertains to thought as such must be distinguished from contingent features of the brain or historical opinions. Quidjuris?-can, for example, losing one's memory or being mad belong to thought as such, or are they only contingent features of the brain that should be considered as simple facts? Are contemplating, reflecting, or communicating anything more than opinions held about thought at a particular time and in a particular civilization? The image of thought retains only what thought can claim by right. Thought demands "only" movement that can be carried to infinity. What thought claims by right, what it selects, is infinite movement or the movement of the infinite. It is this that constitutes the image of thought.
Movement of the infinite does not refer to spatiotemporal coordinates that define the successive positions of a moving object and the fixed reference points in relation to which these positions vary. "To orientate oneself in thought" implies neither objective reference point nor moving object that experiences itself as a subject and that, as such, strives for or needs the infinite. Movement takes in everything, and there is no place for a subject and an object that can only be concepts. It is the horizon itself that is in movement: the relative horizon recedes when the subject advances, but on the plane of immanence we are always and already on the absolute horizon. Infinite movement is defined by a coming and going, because it does not advance toward a destination without already turning back on itself, the needle also being the pole. If "turning toward" is the movement of thought toward trnth, how could truth not also turn toward thought? And how could truth itself not turn away from thought when thought turns away from it? However, this is not a fusion but a reversibility, an immediate, perpetual, instantaneous exchange-a lightning Hash. Infinite movement is double, and there is only a fold from one to the other. It is in this sense that thinking and being are said to be one and the same. Or rather, movement is not the image of thought without being also the substance of being. When Thales's thought leaps out, it comes back as water. When Heraclitus's thought becomes polemos, it is fire that retorts. It is a single speed on both sides: "The atom will traverse space with the speed of thought? "The plane of immanence has two facets as Thought and as Nature, as Nous and as Phusis. That is why there are always many infinite movements caught within each other, each folded in the others, so that the return of one instantaneously relaunches another in such a way that the plane of immanence is ceaselessly being woven, like a gigantic shuttle. To turn toward does not imply merely to turn away but to confront, to lose one's way, to move aside." Even the negative produces infinite movements: falling into error as much as avoiding the false, allowing oneself to be dominated by passions as much as overcoming them. Diverse movements of the infinite are so mixed in with each other that, far from breaking up the One-All of the plane of immanence, they constitute its variable curvature, its concavities and convexities, its fractal nature as it were. It is this fractal nature that makes the planomenon an infinite that is always different from any surface or volume determinable as a concept. Every movement passes through the whole of the plane by immediately turning back on and also by folding ilself or allowing itself to be folded by them; giving rise to retroactions, connections, and proliferations in the fractalization of this infinitely folded up infinity (variable curvature of the plane). But if it is true that the plane of immanence is always single, being itself pure variation, then it is all the more necessary to explain why there are varied and distinct planes of immanence that, depending upon which infinite movements are retained and selected, succeed and contest each other in history. The plane is certainly not the same in the time of the Greeks, in the seventeenth century, and today (and these are still vague and general terms): there is neither the same image of thought nor the same substance of being. The plane is, therefore, the object of an infinite specification so that it seems to be a One-All only in cases specified by the selection of movement. This difficulty concerning the ultimate nature of the plane of immanence can only be resolved step by step.
It is essential not to confuse the plane of immanence and the concepts that occupy it. Although the same elements may appear twice over, on the plane and in the concept, it will not be in the same guise, even when they are expressed in the same verbs and words. We have seen this for being, thought, and one: they enter into the concept's components and are themselves concepts, but they belong to the plane quite differently as image or substance. Conversely, truth can only be defined on the plane by a "turning toward" or by "that toward which thought turns"; but this does not provide us with a concept of truth. If error itself is an element that by right forms part of the plane, then it consists simply in taking the false for the true (falling); but it only receives a concept if we determine its components (according to Descartes, for example, the two components of a finite understanding and an infinite will). Movements or elements of the plane, therefore, will seem to be only nominal definitions in relation to concepts so long as we disregard the difference in nature between plane and concepts. But in reality, elements of the plane are diagrammatic features, whereas concepts are intensive features. The former movements of the infinite, whereas the latter are intensive ordinates of these movements, like original sections or differential positions: finite movements in which the infinite is now only speed and each of which constitutes a surface or a volume, an irregular contour marking a halt in the degree of proliferation. The former are directions that are fractal in nature, whereas the latter are absolute dimensions, intensively defined, always fragmentary surfaces or volumes. The former are intuitions, and the latter intensions. The grandiose Leibnizian or Bergsonian perspective that every philosophy depends upon an intuition that its concepts constantly develop through slight differences of intensity is justified if intuition is thought of as the envelopment of infinite movements of thought that constantly pass through a plane of immanence. Of course, we should not conclude from this that concepts are deduced from the plane: concepts require a special construction distinct from that of the plane, which is why concepts must be created just as the plane must be set up. Intensive features are never the consequence of diagrammatic features, and intensive ordinates are not deduced from movements or directions. Their correspondence goes beyond even simple resonances and introduces instances adjunct to the creation of concepts, namely, conceptual personae.
If philosophy begins with the creation of concepts, then the plane of immanence must be regarded as prephilosophical. It is presupposed not in the way that one concept may refer to others but in the way that concepts themselves refer to a nonconceptual understanding. Once again, this intuitive understanding varies according to the way in which the plane is laid out. In Descartes it is a matter of a subjective understanding implicitly presupposed by the "I think" as first concept; in Plato it is the virtual image of an already-thought that doubles every actual concept. Heidegger invokes a "preontological understanding of Being," a "preconceptual" understanding that seems to imply the grasp of a substance of being in relationship with a predisposition of thought. In any event, philosophy posits as prephilosophical, or even as nouphilosophical, the power of a One-All like a moving desert that concepts come to populate. Prephilosophical does not mean something preexistent but rather something that does not exist outside philosophy, although philosophy presupposes it. These are its internal conditions. The nonphilosophical is perhaps closer to the heart of philosophy than philosophy itself, and this means that philosophy cannot be content to be understood only philosophically or conceptually, but is addressed essentially to nonphilosophers as well. We will see that this constant relationship with nonphilosophy has various features. According to this first feature, philosophy defined as the creation of concepts implies a distinct but inseparable presupposition. Philosophy is at once concept creation and instituting of the plane. The concept is the beginning of philosophy, but the plane is its instituting." The plane is clearly not a program, design, end, or means: it is a plane of immanence that constitutes the absolute ground of philosophy, its earth or deterritorialization, the foundation on which it creates its concepts. Both the creation of concepts and the instituting of the plane are required, like two wings or fins.
Thinking provokes general indifference. It is a dangerous exercise nevertheless. Indeed, it is only when the dangers become obvious that indifference ceases, but they often remain hidden and barely perceptible, inherent in the enterprise. Precisely because the plane of immanence is prephilosophical and does not immediately take effect with concepts, it implies a sort of groping experimentation and its layout resorts to measures that are not very respectable, rational, or reasonable. These measures belong to the order of dreams, of pathological processes, esoteric experiences, drunkenness, and excess. We head for the horizon, on the plane of immanence, and we return with bloodshot eyes, yet they are the eyes of the mind. Even Descartes had his dream. To think is always to follow the witch's flight. Take Michaux's plane of immanence, for example, with its infinite, wild movements and speeds. Usually these measures do not appear in the result, which must be grasped solely in itself and calmly. But then "danger" takes on another meaning: it becomes a case ofobvious consequences when pure immanence provokes a strong, instinctive disapproval in public opinion, and the nature of the created concepts strengthens this disapproval. This is because one does not think without becoming something else, something that does not thinkan animal, a molecule, a particle-and that comes back to thought and revives it.
The plane of immanence is like a section of chaos and acts like a sieve. In fact, chaos is characterized less by the absence of determinations than by the infinite speed with which they take shape and vanish. This is not a movement from one determination to the other but, on the contrary, the impossibility of a connection between them, since one does not appear without the other having already disappeared, and one appears as disappearance when the other disappears as outline. Chaos is not an inert or stationary state, nor is it a chance mixture. Chaos makes chaotic and undoes every consistency in the infinite. The problem of philosophy is to acquire a consistency without losing the infinite into which thought plunges (in this respect chaos has as much a mental as a physical existence). To give consistency without losing anything ofthe infinite is very different from the problem of which seeks to provide chaos with reference points, on condition of renouncing infinite movements and speeds and of carrying out a limitation of speed first of all. Light, or the relative horizon, is primary in science. Philosophy, on the other hand, proceeds by presupposing or by instituting the plane of immanence: it is the plane's variable curves that retain the infinite movements that turn back on themselves in incessant exchange, but which also continually free other movements which are retained. The concepts can then mark out the intensive ordinates of these infinite movements, as movements which are themselves finite which form, at infinite speed, variable contours inscribed on the plane. By making a section of chaos, the plane of immanence requires a creation of concepts.
To the question "Can or must philosophy be regarded as Greek?" a first answer seemed to be that the Greek city actually appears as the new society of "friends," with all the ambiguities of that word. Jean Pierre Vernant adds a second answer: the Greeks were the first to conceive of a strict immanence of Order to a cosmic milieu that sections chaos in the form of a plane. If we call such a plane-sieve Logos, the logos is far from being like simple "reason" (as when one says the world is rational). Reason is only a concept, and a very impoverished concept for defining the plane and the movements that pass through it. In short, the first philosophers are those who institute a plane of immanence like a sieve stretched over the chaos. In this sense they contrast with sages, who are religious personae, priests, because they conceive of the institution ofan always transcendent order imposed from outside by a great despot or by one god higher than the others, inspired by Eris,"pursuing wars that go beyond any agon and hatreds that object in advance to the trials of rivalry." Whenever there is transcendence, vertical Being, imperial State in the sky or on earth, there is religion; and there is Philosophy whenever there is immanence, even if it functions as arena for the agon and rivalry (the Greek tyrants do not constitute an objection to this, because they are wholeheartedly on the side of the society of friends such as it appears in their wildest, most violent rivalries). Perhaps these two possible determinations of philosophy as Greek are profoundly linked. Only friends can set out a plane of immanence as a ground from which idols have been cleared. In Empedocles, Love lays out the plane, even if she does not return to the self without enfolding hatred as movement that has become negative showing a subtranscendence of chaos (the volcano) and a supertranscendence of a god. It may be that the first philosophers still look like priests, or even kings. They borrow the sage's mask-and, as Nietzsche says, how could philosophy not disguise itself in its early stages? Will it ever stop having to disguise itself? If the instituting of philosophy merges with the presupposition of a prephilosophical plane, how could philosophy not profit from this by donning a mask? It remains the case that the first philosophers layout a plane through which unlimited movements pass continually on two sides, one determinable as Physis in as much as it endows Being with a substance, and the other as Nous in as much as it gives an image to thought. It is Anaximander who distinguishes between the two sides most rigorously by combining the movement of qualities with the power of an absolute horizon, the Apeiron or the Boundless, but always on the same plane. Philosophers carry out a vast diversion of wisdom; they place it at the service of pure immanence. They replace genealogy with a geology.
Can the entire history of philosophy be presented from the viewpoint of the instituting of a plane of immanence? Physicalists, who insist on the substance of Being, would then be distinguished from noologists, who insist on the image of thought. But a risk of confusion soon arises: rather than this substance of Being or this image of thought being constituted by the plane of immanence itself, immanence will be related to something like a "dative," Matter or Mind. This becomes clear with Plato and his successors. Instead of the plane of immanence constituting the One-All, immanence is immanent "to" the One, so that another One, this time transcendent, is superimposed on the one in which immanence is extended or to which it is attributed: the neo-Platonists' formula will always be a One beyond the One. Whenever immanence is interpreted as immanent "to" something a confusion of plane and concept results, so that the concept becomes a transcendent universal and the plane becomes an attribute in the concept. When misunderstood in this way, the plane of immanence revives the transcendent again: it is a simple field of phenomena that now only possesses in a secondary way that which first of all is attributed to the transcendent unity.
It gets worse with Christian philosophy. The positing of immanence remains pure philosophical instituting, but at the same time it is tolerated only in very small doses; it is strictly controlled and enframed by the demands of an emanative and, above all, creative transcendence. Putting their work and sometimes their lives at risk, all philosophers must prove that the dose of immanence they inject into world and mind does not compromise the transcendence of a God to which immanence must be attributed only secondarily (Nicholas of Cusa, Eckhart, Bruno). Religious authority wants immanence to be tolerated only locally or at an intermediary level, a little like a terraced fountain where water can briefly imrnanate on each level but on condition that it comes from a higher source and falls lower down (transascendence and transdescendence, as Wahl said). Immanence can be said to be the burning issue of all philosophy because it takes on all the dangers that philosophy must confront, all the condemnations, persecutions, and repudiations that it undergoes. This at least persuades us that the problem of immanence is not abstract or merely theoretical. It is not immediately clear why immanence is so dangerous, but it is. It engulfs sages and gods. What singles out the philosopher is the part played by immanence or fire. Immanence is immanent only to itself and consequently captures everything, absorbs All-One, and leaves nothing remaining to which it could be immanent. In any case, whenever immanence is interpreted as immanent to Something, we can be sure that this Something reintroduces the transcendent.
Beginning with Descartes, and then with Kant and Husserl, the cogito makes it possible to treat the plane of immanence as a field of consciousness. Immanence is supposed to be immanent to a pure consciousness, to a thinking subject. Kant will call this subject transcendental rather than transcendent, precisely because it is the subject of the field of immanence of all possible experience from which nothing, the external as well as the internal, escapes. Kant objects to any transcendent use of the synthesis, but he ascribes immanence to the subject of the synthesis as new, subjective unity. He may even allow himself the luxury of denouncing transcendent Ideas, so as to make them the "horizon" of the field immanent to the subject." But, in so doing, Kant discovers the modern way of saving transcendence: this is no longer the transcendence of a Something, or of a One higher than everything (contemplation), but that of a Subject to which the field of immanence is only attributed by belonging to a self that necessarily represents such a subject to itself (reflection). The Greek world that belonged to no one increasingly becomes the property ofa Christian consciousness.
Yet one more step: when immanence becomes immanent "to" a transcendental subjectivity, it is at the heart of its own field that the hallmark or figure [chiffre] of a transcendence must appear as action now referring to another self, to another consciousness (communication). This is what happens in Husserl and many of his successors who discover in the Other or in the Flesh, the mole of the transcendent within immanence itself. Husserl conceives of immanence as that of the flux lived by subjectivity. But since all this pure and even untamed lived does not belong completely to the self that represents it to itself, something transcendent is reestablished on the horizon, in the regions of nonbelonging: first, in the form of an "immanent or primordial transcendence" of a world populated by intentional objects; second, as the priviIeged transcendence of an intersubjective world populated by other selves; and third, as objective transcendence of an ideal world populated by cultural formations and the human community. In this modern moment we are no longer satisfied with thinking immanence as immanent to a transcendent; we want to think transcendence within the immanent, and it is from immanence that a breach is expected. Thus, in Jaspers, the plane of immanence is given the most profound determination as "Encompassing" [Englobant], but this encompassing is no more than a reservoir for eruptions of transcendence. The Judeo-Christian word replaces the Greek logos: no longer satisfied with ascribing immanence to something, immanence itself is made to disgorge the transcendent everywhere. No longer content with handing over immanence to the transcendent, we want it to discharge it, reproduce it, and fabricate it itself. In fact this is not difficult-all that is necessary is for movement to be stopped. Transcendence enters as soon as movement of the infinite is stopped. It takes advantage ofthe interruption to reemerge, revive, and spring forth again. The three sorts of Universals-contemplation, reflection, and communication-are like three philosophical eras-e-Eidetic, Critical, and Phenomenological-inseparable from the long history of an illusion. The reversal of values hadto go so far-making us think that immanence is a prison (solipsism) from which the Transcendent will save us.
Sartre's presupposition of an impersonal transcendental field restores the rights of immanence. When immanence is no longer immanent to something other than itself it is possible to speak of a plane of immanence. Such a plane is, perhaps, a radical empiricism: it does not present a flux of the lived that is immanent to a subject and individualized in that which belongs to a self. It presents only events, that is,possible worlds as concepts, and other people as expressions of possible worlds or conceptual personae. The event does not relate the lived to a transcendent subject = Self but, on the contrary, is related to the immanent survey of a field without subject; the Other Person does not restore transcendence to an other self but returns every other self to the immanence of the field surveyed. Empiricism knows only events and other people and is therefore a great creator of concepts. Its force begins from the moment it defines the subject: a habitus, a habit, nothing but a habit in a field of immanence, the habit of saying I.
Spinoza was the philosopher who knew full well that immanence was only immanent to itself and therefore that it was a plane traversed by movements of the infinite, filled with intensive ordinates. He is therefore the prince ofphilosophers. Perhaps he is the only philosopher never to have compromised with transcendence and to have hunted it down everywhere. In the last book of the Ethics he produced the movement of the infinite and gave infinite to thought in the third kind of knowledge. There he attains incredible speeds, with such lightning compressions that one can only speak of music, of tornadoes, of wind and strings. He discovered that freedom exists only within immanence. He fulfilled philosophy because he satisfied its prephilosophical presupposition. Immanence does not refer back to the Spinozist substance and modes but, on the contrary, the Spinozist concepts of substance and modes refer back to the plane of immanence as their presupposition. This plane presents two sides to us, extension and thought, or rather its two powers, power of being and power ofthinking. Spinoza is the vertigo of immanence from which so many philosopliers try in vain to escape. Will we ever tw mature enough for a Spinozist inspiration? It happened once with Bergson: the beginning of Mater and Memory marks out a plane that slices through the chaos-both the infinite movement of a substance that continually propagates itself, and the image of thought that everywhere continually spreads a pure consciousness by right (immanence is not immanent "to" consciousness but the other way around).
Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari / What Is Philosophy?/ The Plane Of Immanence
Qu'est-ce que la philosophic? © 1991 by Les Editions de Minuit.
Translation © 1994 Columbia University Press
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