29 May 2009

Existence and Innocence, §10, in Deleuze, Nietzsche & Philosophy

Gilles Deleuze

Nietzsche et la philosophie
Nietzsche & Philosophy

Chapitre Premier: Le tragique
Chapter One: The Tragic

§10 Existence et innocence
§10 Existence and Innocence

We are profoundly and absolutely innocent, no matter our actions. This is because all of reality is innocent. Thus we should not blame others or ourselves for the way things happen. They happen by chance, so we can never know the consequences of our actions. But the chance outcomes could not have been otherwise. For, there is only one world. There are not "possible worlds." Whatever else "could have happened" would have occurred in another world. Hence in this world in which you reside, nothing can be otherwise. So all is necessary.

Yet we can never predict the values we will later give current actions. We have options, we choose one. The outcome is decided by chance. But our choice was fate. There are no alternate lines of history that grow at each decision-junction. We cannot say, "Oh, I could have done that instead." There is only one world of becoming that is governed by chance necessity. This is the innocence of becoming.

We cannot judge history as though we take some vantage-point outside it and view it as a whole. For we are a part of history, standing within it, and influencing its course.
nothing exists besides the whole. (Nietzsche, The Will to Power §765, p.403a, equivalent to La Volonté de puissance III 458)
But history is never complete. So there never really is a whole or "all" to begin with.
there is no all, there is no great sensorium or inventarium or storehouse of force.
shatter the all; unlearn respect for the all; take what we have given to the unknown and the whole and give it back to what is nearest, what is ours. (Nietzsche, The Will to Power §331, p.403a, equivalent to La Volonté de puissance III 489)
So we are always set within a particular point-of-view that changes over time. And each one of us has such a changing perspective that continually revises and reviews the contents and values of the past. No one vantage is greater than any other, for none are all-seeing or complete. Hence,
L'innocence est la vérité du multiple. (26b)
Innocence is the truth of multiplicity. (22c)
An American Native sees a mountain. He interprets it as a god. It is valuable. And it is his god, not a god of the competing tribe. The colonist knows there are minerals in the mountain. He sees it as having material value. It is a dead corpse for him to rob. Hence he takes the mountain for his own financial gain.
What makes the mountain are the forces that interpret it. The mountain itself refers us to the forces interpreting it. It is a god, and it is a source of wealth. The interpretation that takes the mountain to be a god is one that has the power of deification. Such an interpretive mode could also find spirits everywhere, and thereby load the world with spiritual value. The interpretive mode that sees mineral wealth can as well find monetary value throughout the world around him. So the interpretation's force refers us to what the force can do.

To interpret something is to affirm it and its value. This results from an indeterministic competition of perspectival forces. So it is innocent. The mountain stays preserved or becomes mined depending on accidental events and conditions and not on account of the inherent value of the interpretation. For all interpretations have equally high value. Only by chance the colonist had more firepower, so his interpretation prevailed. (22d)

When something new is discovered in science, there is often initial opposition by those who are not yet willing to interpret some phenomena in a new way. When such a new thing is uncovered, the force of no scientific mind has yet interpreted it. Nor has anyone's will evaluated it. But the new thing calls out for the will and force of some scientific mind to evaluate and interpret it. Nonetheless, if the new thing does not correspond to the powers of our forces, then we tend to deny its existence. Hence the scientists who resist the new discovery probably would lose the power of the theories they already developed.

The younger scientist who made the discovery could not have done otherwise. His interpretation of the new thing resulted from a battle of forces within him and with his outer world, which could not have gone another way, even though chance decided the outcome. So the young scientist was part of some greater event. He freely and willfully exerted his power to uncover the new thing. But he was not some sort of a moral actor. The older scientists cannot blame him for shattering the scientific traditions. There was no sacrilege intended. What happened was not predetermined, but when it happened, it could not have been otherwise. Hence he would not have been more "worthy" to hold back. His interpretation was innocent and necessary. People see lightning and its flash. Lightning flashes. Already our grammar reveals our error: we see the result of a force-competition, like lightning, but then distort it by pulling out the subject, the lightning, and its action or effect, the flash. Likewise for moral action. When someone commits a crime, we think there is the criminal with two wills: the will to increase his power through crime, and the free will to choose between alternative realities, committing the crime or not.

Because we distort force-battles into actor-action events, we are not able to really see the world around us. So we cannot begin to interpret or evaluate our existence without resorting to moralistic distortions. But some find that there are too many inconsistencies in their religious beliefs for them to hold together any longer. They see that their moralistic standpoint was just an interpretation, and that any evaluation results from one arbitrary interpretation or another. But because their belief in a moral God seemed like the ultimate interpretation, none of the rest could possibly be more satisfying. So without a moral God, all existence seems pointless and without meaning.
One interpretation has collapsed; but because it was considered the interpretation it now seems as if there were no meaning at all in existence, as if everything were in vain. (Nietzsche, Will to Power § 55, Kaufman transl. 35a)

Une interprétation entre autres a fait naufrage, mais comme elle passait pour être la seule interprétation possible, il semble que l'existence n'ait plus de sens, que tout soit vain. (VP III 8, Bianquis transl. 12c)

One interpretation among others was shipwrecked, but as it passed for the only possible interpretation it seems that existence no longer has meaning, that everything is in vain (Hugh Tomlinson transl. in Deleuze, Nietzsche & Philosophy. 23bc)

But we are bad players of the dice-game of life if we think that the shipwreck of one interpretation means that the voyage is over. We cannot find all of existence guilty if by chance one interpretation falters. Rather, existence is innocent. Things happen according to the struggles between force, will, and chance. If we think the world could have been otherwise, or if we could have willed otherwise, then we are not seeing existence's innocence. [For more on the innocence of becoming, see the Innocence of Becoming (L'innocence du Devenir) of The Will to Power (La Volonté de puissance) VP III 457-796]

For Heraclitus, our suffering is evidence of justice: we are given the right to fight. No matter if we are winning or losing, suffering or enjoying, our forces are competing: we are free in the wild to fight for life. Hence existence justifies all things in life, including suffering. This makes Heraclitus a tragic thinker. Tragedy is not suffering. Tragedy is the recognition that all things, no matter how painful or horrible, are good, because they affirm the struggle and game of existence. Life is innocent. Life is just. For, it is the innocent play of the child or artist. Hence existence is an aesthetic phenomenon and not a moral or religious one. It is on this basis that Nietzsche contrasts Heraclitus with Anaximander. Anaximander posited the Indeterminate and the realm of determinate things. But for Heraclitus there is not two worlds. There is just one becoming. And becoming is affirmed and justified. But that would seem to involve affirming that there is becoming. However, becoming supposedly does not have being. So on the one hand:
a) There is no being. There is only becoming.
But on the other hand:
b) We affirm the being of becoming. Thus becoming affirms being.

These are two sorts of thoughts.
1) the working thought that affirms becoming itself (to the exclusion of the idea of being), and
2) the contemplative thought that affirms becoming's being (and hence affirms the idea of being).

Deleuze explains these two ways of thinking are "the thought of a single element, as Fire and Dike, as Physis and Logos." (23d) The being that becoming affirms is not any being outside of becoming, as though becoming has an eternal essence. So, there is always becoming in the present, but there is no becoming that endures despite all its changes. For, becoming is a dice game, and the rules keep changing. If the rules change, the game changes. So there is no being in the sense that even if there are no sandcastles they would still exist as essences, ideas, forms, possibilities, and so forth. No, a sandcastle exists only if there is one currently somewhere struggling against the tide to remain standing.

The fact that there is a multiplicity of things in the world affirms that there are struggles of forces. If there were no struggle, all would be homogeneous. If the rules of the game stayed the same, then eventually winning powers would aggregate, dominate, and eliminate all other beings of the multiplicity, and thus create homogeneity. But in all the eternity of time preceding us, that never happened. This is because the rules of the game keep changing. So the changing rules ensure there is always a multiplicity. Thus the multiplicity affirms there is always a fresh game being played. In this way, the multiplicity affirms unity.

Because there is no existence outside of becoming, nothing then is ever lacking from the world. There is no negation in the world, only the affirmation and justification of becoming and existence. Heraclitus is obscure because he leads us to most obscure truths. The return is another swing of the fist, another roll of dice, another round of a boxing match. We each time return to the fight. But becoming is always creating unique things. This is because we struggle insofar as our each play changes the game itself. If the game of becoming is not continually renewed by inherent changes that change the game itself, then becoming stays in a mobile stasis, like a living organism. Our bodies undergo extraordinary changes to maintain an overall balance (our sleeping state is remarkable contrary to our waking alert one, the difference is 'day and night.') The sort of change that becoming undergoes changes the whole workings of the 'organism' itself, if you will. So becoming is a cosmos without order. It is not chaos, because there are definite rules. But it is not cosmos, because the rules themselves obey no laws.

So the return is more than our taking another swing in the ring. Consider how when an artist makes something radically new and great, it changes reality itself. People no longer see things the same way, do things the same way, all on account of the way the artist changed reality. She changed the rules of the game. No consider when children play with a toy. They become bored with it, and put it away. Later they come back to it, and see something new in it. They make it take-on a whole new play-role. The race-car becomes a war-machine. The doll who was once the sister is now the mother. The hedge-hog that was an animal-creature is now a croquet-ball. [For more on rule-change games, see this entry for Deleuze's explanation of Lewis Carroll's games, and see section 8 of this entry for Gregory Bateson's account.]

So both the artist and the child change the game each time they return to the toy or canvass. Each time, it is
a) different, because different rules change the game and the ways the multiple things in the game interact, their roles, meaning, values, and so forth
b) the same, because it is always a creative act,
c) a return, because it is each time a going back into the ring, the casino, the toy-box, and the studio,
d) an affirmation, for each time we change the rules, we affirm that becoming has not become stable motion, but is rather a wild unpredictable ride,
e) a multiplicity, because there are always many things that are coming into existence and passing away, and because the changing rules change the many things, like how the changing Croquet rules change the roles and functions of the game pieces, each moment presents us with new things altogether,
f) a unity, for each return is the return to the same thing: a struggle to create a new game in that very moment of action, and
g) justice, but not because things are punished. We do not suffer because something went wrong. No rather, something went right, we were given the right to fight, and suffering only affirms the fight we rightfully wage.

Hence Heraclitus says,
The contest of The Many is itself pure justice! And after all: The One is The Many. (Nietzsche, Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks, section 6)
Deleuze explains that the one & many, and becoming & being, correlate to form a game, which has three moments:
1) The affirmation of becoming itself,
2) The affirmation of the being of becoming, and the third term,
3) The player, artist, or child (the player-artist-child, Zeus-child, Dionysus).
Le joueur s' abandonne temporairement à la vie, et temporairement fixe son regard sur elle; l'artiste se place temporairement dans son œuvre, et temporairement au-dessus de son œuvre; l'enfant joue, se retire du jeu et y revient. (28c)

The player temporarily abandons himself to life and temporarily fixes his gaze upon it; the artist places himself provisionally in his work and provisionally above it; the child plays, withdraws from the game and returns to it. (24d)
Because the rules of becoming's game continually change, we might say that becoming and hence time (aeon) plays a game with itself.
just as the child and the artist play, the eternally living fire plays, builds up and destroys, in innocence — and this game aeons play with themselves. (Nietzsche, Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks, section 7)
We said above that the being of becoming is the second moment of the game. We affirm always that there is becoming. So in this way it is eternal return. But in the third moment, the creative action, we bring the game back upon itself when our dice-throw changes the rules of the game itself.

The eternal return has two main senses:
1) things have continued their changing
2) things have changed again.
The first one is the eternal return as it is happening in the moment. And the second one is the return as a cycle of time, as the fact that what is happening now comes-about because a game was played again, even though it is a new game altogether.

The reason becoming continues to play is not because it is guilty of pride. The artist goes back to studio out of the desire to play.
A moment of satiety, then again desire seizes them, as desire compels the artist to create. Not wantonness, but the ever newly awakening impulse to play, calls into life other worlds. (Nietzsche, Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks, section 7)
It is not guilty pride but the ceaselessly reawoken instinct of the game which calls forth new worlds. (Hugh Tomlinson transl. in Deleuze, Nietzsche & Philosophy. 25a)
There is not injustice or evil in the world, rather only a justification of all that is becoming. So it is not a theodicy but a cosmodicy. There is no cosmic hubris for Heraclitus.
That dangerous word, hybris, is indeed the touchstone for every Heraclitean; here he may show whether he has understood or mistaken his master. (Nietzsche, Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks, section 7)

Deleuze, Gilles. Nietzsche & Philosophy. Transl. Hugh Tomlinson. New York: Columbia University Press, 1983.

Deleuze, Gilles. Nietzsche et la philosophie. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1962.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks. Available online at: http://www.geocities.com/thenietzschechannel/ptra.htm

PDF of Maximilian A. Mügge translation available at


It is found on page 71 of the above book.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Will to Power. Ed. Walter Kaufmann. Transl Walter Kaufmann and R.J. Hollingdale. New York: Random House Vintage Books, 1967.

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