'The Plane of Immanence' (Part 2)
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
The plane is surrounded by illusions. These are not abstract misinterpretations or just external pressures but rather thought's mirages. Can they be explained by the sluggishness of our brain, by the ready made facilitating paths [frayage] of dominant opinions, and by our not being able to tolerate infinite movements or master the infinite speeds that crush us (so that we have to stop the movement and make ourselves prisoners of the relative horizon once more)? Yet it is we ourselves who approach the plane of immanence, who are on the absolute horizon. It is indeed necessary, in part at least, that illusions arise from the plane itself, like vapors from a pond, like pre-Socratic exhalations given off hy transformations of the elements that are always at work on the plane. Artaud said that "the plane of consciousness" or limitless plane of immanences-what the Indians called Ciguri-also engenders hallucinations, erroneous perceptions, bad feelings. We must draw up a list of these illusions and take their measure, just as Nietzsche, following Spinoza, listed the "four great errors." But the list is infinite. First of all there is the illusion of transcendence, which, perhaps, comes before all the others (in its double aspect of making immanence immanent to something and of rediscovering a transcendence within immanence itself); then the illusion ofuniversals when concepts are confused with the plane. But this confusion arises as soon as immanence is posited as being immanent to something, since this something is necessarily a concept. We think the universal explains, whereas it is what must be explained, and we fall into a triple illusion-one of contemplation or reflection or communication. Then there is the illusion ofthe eternal when it is forgotten that concepts must be created, and then the illusion of discursiveness when propositions are confused with concepts. It would be wrong to think that all these illusions logically entail one another like propositions, but they resonate or reverberate and form a thick fog around the plane.
From chaos the plane of immanence takes the determinations with which it makes its infinite movements or its diagrammatic features. Consequently, we can and must presuppose a multiplicity of planes, since no one plane could encompass all of chaos without collapsing back into it; and each retains only movements which can be folded together. The history of philosophy exhibits so many quite distinct planes not just as a result of illusions, of the variety of illusions, and not merely because each plane has its own, constantly renewed, way of restoring transcendence. More profoundly, it is because each plane has its own way of constructing immanence. Each plane carries out a selection of that which is due to thought by right, but this selection varies from one plane to another. Every plane of immanence is a One-All: it is not partial like a scientific system, or fragmentary like concepts, but distributive-it is an "each." The plane of immanence is interleaved. When comparing particular cases it is no doubt difficult to judge whether there is a single plane or several different ones: do the pre-Socratics have the same image of thought, despite the differences between Heraclitus and Parmenides? Can we speak of a plane of immanence or image of so-called classical thought that continues from Plato to Descartes? It is not just the planes that vary but the way in which they are distributed. Are there more-or-less close or distant points of view that would make it possible to group different layers over a fairly long period or, on the contrary, to separate layers on what seemed to be a common plane? Where, apart from the absolute horizon, would these points of view come from? Can we be satisfied here with a historicism, or with a generalized relativism? In all these respects, the question of the one or the multiple once again becomes the most important one, introducing itself into the plane.
In the end, does not every great philosopher layout a new plane of immanence, introduce a new substance of being and draw up a new image of thought, so that there could not be two great philosophers on the same plane? It is true that we cannot imagine a great philosopher of whom it could not be said that he has changed what it means to think; he has "thought differently" (as Foucault put it). When we find several philosophies in the same author, is it not because they have changed plane and once more found a new image? We cannot be unaware of Biran's complaint when he was near to death: "I feel a little too old to start the construction again." On the other hand, those who do not renew the image of thought are not philosophers but functionaries who, enjoying a ready-made thought, are not even conscious of the problem and are unaware even of the efforts of those they claim to take as their models. But how, then, can we proceed in philosophy if there are all these layers that sometimes knit together and sometimes separate? Are we not condemned to attempt to lay out our own plane, without knowing which planes it will cut across? Is this not to reconstitute a sort of chaos? That is why every plane is not only interleaved but holed, letting through the fogs that surround it, and in which the philosopher who laid it out is in danger of being the first to lose himself. That so many fogs arise is explained in two ways. Firstly, because thought cannot stop itself from interpreting immanence as immanent to something, the great Object of contemplation, the Subject of reflection, or the Other subject of communication: then transcendence is inevitably reintroduced. And if this cannot be avoided it is because it seems that each plane of immanence can only claim to be unique, to be the plane, by reconstituting the chaos it had to ward off: the choice is between transcendence and chaos.
When the plane selects what is by right due to thought, in order to make its features, intuitions, directions, or diagrammatic movements, it relegates other determinations to the status of mere facts, characteristics of states of affairs,or lived contents. And, of course, philosophy will be able to draw out concepts from these states of affairs inasmuch as it extracts the event from them. That which belongs to thought by right, that which is retained as diagrammatic feature in itself, represses other rival determinations (even if these latter are called upon to receive a concept). Thus Descartes makes error the feature or direction that expresses what is in principle negative in thought. He was not the first to do this, and "error" might be seen as one of the principal features of the classical image of thought. We know that there are many other things in this image that threaten thinking: stupidity, forgetfulness, aphasia, delirium, madness; but all these determinations will be considered as facts that in principle have only a single effect immanent in thought-error, always error. Error is the infinite movement that gathers together the whole of the negative. Can this feature be traced back to Socrates, for whom the person who is wicked (in fact) is someone who is by right "mistaken"? But, if it is true that the Thaetctus is a foundation of error, does not Plato hold in reserve the rights of other rival determinations, like the delirium of the Phaedrus, so that it seems to us that the image of thought in Plato plots many other tracks ?
A major change occurs, not only in concepts but in the image of thought, when ignorance and superstition replace error and prejudice in expressing what by right is the negative of thought: Fontenelle plays a major role here, and what changes at the same time is the infinite movements in which thought is lost and gained. There is an even greater change when Kant shows that thought is threatened less by error than by inevitable illusions that come from within reason, as if from an internal arctic zone where the needle of every compas goes mad. A re-orientation of the whole thought becomes necessary at the same time as it is in principle penetrated by a certain delirium. It is no longer threatened on the plane of immanence by the holes or ruts of a path that it follows but by Nordic fogs that cover everything. The meaning of the question of "finding one's bearings in , thought" itself changes.
A feature cannot be isolated. In fact, the movement given a negative sign is itself folded within other movements with positive or ambiguous signs. In the classical image, error does not express what is by right the worst that can happen to thought, without thought being presented as "willing" truth, as orientated toward truth, as turned toward truth. It is this confidence, which is not without humor, which animates the classical image-a relationship to truth that constitutes the infinite movement of knowledge as diagrammatic feature. In contrast, in the eighteenth century, what manifests the mutation of light from "natural light" to the "Enlightened" is the substitution of belief for knowledge-that is, a new infinite movement implying another image of thought: it is no longer a matter of turning toward but rather one of following tracks, of inferring rather than grasping or being grasped. Under what conditions is inference legitimate? Under what conditions can belief be legitimate when it has become secular? This question will be answered only with the creation of the great empiricist concepts (association, relation, habit, probability, convention). But conversely, these concepts, including the concept of belief itself, presuppose diagrammatic features that make beliefan infinite movement independent of religion and traversing the new plane of immanence (religious belief, on the other hand, will become a conceptualizable case, the legitimacy or illegitimacy ofwhich can be measured in accordance with the order of the infinite). Of course, we find in Kant many of these features inherited from Hume, but again at the price of a profound mutation, on a new plane or according to another image. Each time there are great acts of daring. When the distribution of what is due to thought by right changes, what changes from one plane of immanence to another are not only the positive or negative features but also the ambiguous features that may become increasingly numerous and that are no longer restricted to folding in accordance with a vectorial opposition of movements.
If we attempt to set out the features of a modern image of thought in such a summary fashion, this is not in a triumphalist way, or even in horror. No image of thought can be limited to a selection of calm determinations, and all of them encounter something that is abominable in principle, whether this be the error into which thought continually falls, or the illusion within which it continually turns, or the stupidity in which it continually wallows, or the delirium in which it continually turns away from itself or from a god. The Greek image of thought already invoked the madness of the double turning-away, which launched thought into infinite wandering rather than into error. The relationship of thought to truth in the ambiguities of infinite movement has never been a simple, let alone constant, matter. That is why it is pointless to rely on such a relationship to define philosophy. The first characteristic of the modern image of thought is, perhaps, the complete renunciation of this relationship so as to regard truth as solely the creation of thought, taking into account the plane of immanence that it takes as its presupposition, and all this plane's features, negative as well as positive having become indiscernible. As Nietzsche succeeded in making us understand, thought is creation, not will to truth. But if, contrary to what seemed to be the case in the classical image, there is no will to truth, this is because thought constitutes a simple "possibility" of thinking with out yet ddining" a thinker "capable" of it and able to say "I": what violence must be exerted on thought for us to become capable of thinking; what violence of an infinite movement that, at the same time, takes from us our power to say "I"? Famous texts of Heidegger and Blanchot deal with this second characteristic. But, as a third characteristic, if there is in this wayan "Incapacity" of thought, which remains at its core even after it has acquired the capacity determinable as creation, then a set of ambiguous signs arise, which become diagrammatic features or infinite movements and which take on a value by right, whereas in the other images of thought they were simple, derisory facts excluded from selection: as Kleist or Artaud suggests, thought as such begins to exhibit snarls, squeals, stammers; it talks in tongues and screams, which leads it to create, or to try to. 13 Ifthought searches, it is less in the manner of someone who possesses a method than that of a dog that seems to be making uncoordinated leaps. We have no reason to take pride in this image of thought, which involves much suffering without glory and indicates the degree to which thinking has become increasingly difficult: immanence.
The history of philosophy is comparable to the art of the portrait. It is not a matter of "making lifelike," that is, of repeating what a philosopher said but rather of producing resemblance by separating out both the plane of immanence he instituted and the new concepts he created. These are mental, noetic, and machinic portraits. Although they are usually created with philosophical tools, they can also be produced aesthetically. Thus Tinguely recently presented some monumental machinic portraits of philosophers, working with powerful, linked or alternating, infinite movements that can be folded over or spread out, with sounds, lightning flashes, substances of being, and images of thought according to complex curved planes. However, if it is permissible to criticize such a great artist, the attempt does not quite seem to hit the mark. Nothing dances in the Nietzsche, although elsewhere Tinguely has been quite able to make machines dance. The Schopenhauer gives us nothing decisive, whereas the four Roots and the veil ofMaya seem ready to occupy the bifaceted plane of the World as will and representation. The Heidegger does not retain any veiling-unveiling on the plane of a thought that does not yet think. Perhaps more attention should be given to the plane of immanence laid out as abstract machine and to created concepts as parts of the machine. In this sense we could imagine a machinic portrait of Kant, illusions included .
The componenets of the schema are as follows: 1) the "I think" as an ox head wired for sound, which constantly repeats Self = Self; 2) the categories as universal concepts (four great headings): shafts that are extensive and retractile according to the movement of 3); 3) the moving wheel of the schemata; 4) the shallow stream of Time as form of interiority, in and out of which the wheel of the schemata plunges; 5) space as form of exteriority: the stream's banks and bed; 6) the passive selfat the bottom ofthe stream and as junction of the two forms; 7) the principles of synthetic judgments that run across space-time; 8) the transcendental field of possible experience, immanent to the "I" (plane of immanence); and 9) the three Ideas or illusions of transcendence (circles turning on the absolute horizon: Soul, World and God).
This account gives rise to many problems that concern philosophy and the history of philosophy equally. Sometimes the layers of the plane of immanence separate to the point of being opposed to one another, each one suiting this or that philosopher. Sometimes, on the contrary, they join together at least to cover fairly long periods. Moreover, the relationships between the instituting of a prephilosophical plane and the creation of philosophical concepts are themselves complex. Over a long period philosophers can create new concepts while remaining on the same plane and presupposing the same image as an earlier philosopher whom they invoke as their master: Plato and the neo-Platonists, Kant and the neo-Kantians (or even the way in which Kant himself reactivates certain parts of Platonism). However, in every case, this involves extending the original plane by giving it new curves, until a doubt arises: is this not a different plane that is woven in the mesh of the first one? Thus, the question of knowing when and to what extent philosophers are "disciples" of another philosopher and, on the contrary, when they are carrying out a critique of another philosopher by changing the plane and drawing up another image involves all the more complex and relative assessments, because the concepts that come to occupy a plane can never be simply deduced. Concepts that happen to populate a single plane, albeit at quite different times and with special connections, will be called concepts of the same group. Those concepts that refer back to different planes will not belong to the same group. There is a strict correspondence between the created concepts and the instituted plane, but this comes about through indirect relationships that are still to be determined.
Can we say that one plane is "better" than another or, at least, that it does or does not answer to the requirements ofthe age? What does answering to the requirements ofthe age mean, and what relationship is there between the movements or diagrammatic features ofan image of thought and the movements or sociohistorical features of an age? We can only make headway with these questions if we give up the narrowly historical point of view of before and after in order to consider the time rather than the history of philosophy. This is a stratigraphic time where "before" and "after" indicate only an order of superimpositions. Certain paths (movements) take on sense and direction only as the shortcuts or detours of faded paths; a variable curvature can appear only as the transformation of one or more others; a stratum or layer of the plane of immanence will necessarily be above or below in relation to another, and images of thought cannot arise in any order whatever because they involve changes of orientation that can be directly located only on the earlier image (and even the point of condensation that determines the concept sometimes presupposes the breaking-up of a point Or the conglomeration of earlier points). Mental landscapes do not change haphazardly through the ages: a mountain had to rise here or a river to flow by there again recently for the ground, now dry and flat, to have a particular appearance and texture. It is true that very old strata can rise to the surface again, can cut a path through the formations that covered them and surface directly on the current stratum to which they impart a new curvature. Furthermore, depending on the regions considered, superimpositions are not necessarily the same and do not have the same order. Philosophical time is thus a grandiose time of coexistence that does not exclude the before and after but superimposes them in a stratigraphic order. It is an infinite becoming of philosophy that crosscuts its history without being confused with it. The life of philosophers, and what is most external to their work, conforms to the ordinary laws of succession; but their proper names coexist and shine either as luminous points that take us through the components of a concept once more or as the cardinal points of a stratum or layer that continually come back to us, like dead stars whose light is brighter than ever. Philosophy is becoming, not history; it is the coexistence of planes, not the succession of systems.
That becoming, that coexistence is why planes may sometimes separate and sometimes join together-this is true for both the best and the worst. They have in common the restoration of transcendence and illusion (they cannot prevent it) but also the relentless struggle against transcendence and illusion; and each also has its particular way of doing both one and the other. Is there a "best" plane that would not hand over immanence to Something x and that would no longer mimic anything transcendent? We will say that THE plane of immanence is, at the same time, that which must be thought and that which cannot be thought. It is the nonthought within thought. It is the base of all planes, immanent to every thinkable plane that does not succeed in thinking it. Itis the most intimate within thought and yet the absolute outside-an outside more distant than any external world because it is an inside deeper that any internal world: it is immanence, "intimacy as the Outside, the exterior become the intrusion that stifles, and the reversal of both the one and the other" the incessant to-ing and fro-ing of the plane, infinite movement. Perhaps this is the supreme act of philosophy: not so much to think THE plane of immanence as to show that it is there, unthought in every plane, and to think it in this way as the outside and inside of thought, as the not-external outside and the not-internal inside-that which cannot be thought and yet must be thought, which was thought once, as Christ was incarnated once, in order to show, that one time, the possibility ofthe impossible. Thus Spinoza is the Christ of philosophers, and the greatest philosophers are hardly more than apostles who distance themselves from or draw near to this mystery. Spinoza, the infinite becoming-philosopher: he showed, drew up, and thought the "best" plane of immanence-that is, the purest, the one that does not hand itself over to the transcendent or restore any transcendent, the one that inspires the fewest illusions, bad feelings, and erroneous perceptions.
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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