One of the main difficulties I have with Deleuze and Guattari is that it is difficult for me to see how one might make decisions and evaluations within their philosophical outlook. I like to think of these evaluations and decisions in terms of boundaries, and I am convinced that a significant part of living well involves producing good boundaries and living well in and amongst these boundaries. We do this through disciplines, fidelities, and traditions, which are interwoven with and inextricable from experimentations, creativities, and rebellions. And it is along these lines where I am often baffled by Deleuze and Guattari: it is clear we can fail and we can make and do good or bad things, but I am rarely convinced that their philosophy of immanence gives us the tools to determine whether we are on track or how we can get back on track when we do realize that we are going a bad way. It is not fair to say that they advise us to simply follow our creative impulses; their analysis of the ways desire can be captured and misled is too subtle for that. But there does seem to be an optimism that desire will successfully find its own way, if we can free it from all systems of signification and teleology.
And that loses me. I do not know how anyone could even begin to free his or herself from destructive significations without disciplines, fidelities, and traditions. I don’t know what it means to think of desire (or creativity) if it has not been formed by habits cultivated in and with fidelities, disciplines, and traditions. And I suspect that if we do manage to free ourselves from all determinations and significations that we will find the freedom to do all things – to observe limits only as we please – to be little less oppressive.
Nevertheless, I am writing this post because I recently came across a passage that helped to fill in some of these “I do not knows.” During a discussion of becoming-imperceptible and a critique of drug use (which we are to evaluate as something that is not-so-good) they write:
“The vital assemblage, the life-assemblage, is theoretically or logically possible with all kinds of molecules, silicon, for example. But it so happens that this assemblage is not machinically possible with silicon: the abstract machine does not let it pass because it does not distribute zones of proximity that construct the plane of consistency. We shall see that machinic reasons are entirely different from logical reasons or possibilities. One does not conform to a model, one straddles the right horse. Drug users have not chosen the right molecule or the right horse. Drugs are too unwieldy to grasp the imperceptible and becomings-imperceptible; drug users believed that drugs would grant them the plane, when in fact the plane must distill its own drugs, remaining master of speeds and proximities.” – Deleuze and Guattari, 286
The first thing to notice here is that drug use is not the right choice; there is the possibility for decision and evaluation. Next, we can see that the basis for these decisions is machinic. Deleuze and Guattarie elsewhere advise us that the only question worth asking is: “how does it work?” Here they seem to be suggesting that our answers to this question – “it doesn’t really”; “it works great”; “inconsistently” – provide the reasoning for questions of evaluation and decision making. Third, we should observe that we misstep if we think of the plane of consistency/immanence as something that is. Rather, Deleuze and Guattari claim that the plane of consistency/immanence is constructed; it becomes. And this provides a path for thinking about what “work” might mean here, beyond the most literal of physical limitations: how does this action work to construct the plane of consistency? To which we may answer: “let’s find out.”
This does not answer all questions. Indeed, some might say that this merely defers my questions to the level of needing to determine what is (becomes?) the plane of consistency and what is (does?) not. But I think it does force the conversation to become a bit more nuanced and productive, because with machinic reasoning one can always answer this by asking: well, does it work?