[eDebate] 'education for grownups'

John Cook johntheempire
Tue May 6 11:51:59 CDT 2008


I'm sure my status as "grownup" will not be uncontested but here goes.

To discuss this criticism of standpoint epistemology, it is important to
understand Deleuze's understanding of how human agents come to make
decisions. This understanding is heavily informed by Leibniz and Nietzsche
and described by Deleuze in therms of the drives. Smith here puts it in a
context I'm sure most of the community will appreciate: lust and smoking

This is the source of Nietzsche's doctrine of perspectivism ("there are no
facts, only interpretations"),

but what is often overlooked is that, for Nietzsche, it is our drives that
interpret the world, that

are perspectival?and not our egos, not our conscious opinions. It is not so
much that I have a

different perspective on the world than you; it is rather that each of us
has multiple perspectives

on the world because of the multiplicity of our drives?drives that are often
contradictory among

themselves. "Within ourselves," Nietzsche writes, "we can be egoistic or
altruistic, hard-hearted,

magnanimous, just, lenient, insincere, can cause pain or give pleasure"
(Parkes, pp. 291-292). We

all contain such "a vast confusion of contradictory drives" (WP 259) that we
are, as Nietzsche liked

to say, multiplicities, and not unities. Moreover, these drives are in a
constant struggle or combat

with each other: my drive to smoke and get my nicotine rush is in combat
with (but also coexistent

with) my drive to quit. This is where Nietzsche first developed his concept
of the will to power?at

the level of the drives. "Every drive is a kind of lust to rule," he writes,
"each one has its perspective

that it would like to compel all the other drives to accept as a norm" (WP
481).

To be sure, we can combat the drives, fight against them?indeed, this is one
of the most common

themes in philosophy, the fight against the passions. In another passage
from Daybreak (109),

Nietzsche says that he can see only six fundamental methods we have at our
disposal for combating

the drives. For instance: if we want to fight our drive to smoke, we can
avoid opportunities for

its gratification (no longer hiding packs of cigarettes at home for when we
run out), or we can

implant regularity into the drive (having one cigarette every four hours so
as to at least avoid

smoking in between), or we can engender disgust with the drive, giving
ourselves over to its wild

and unrestrained gratification (say, smoking non-stop for a month) to the
point where we become

disgusted with it. And so on. But then Nietzsche asks: Who exactly is
combating the drives in these

various ways? His answer (given in a second aphorism taken from Daybreak) is
this: The fact "that

one desires to combat the vehemence of a drive at all, however, does not
stand within our own

power; nor does the choice of any particular method; nor does the success or
failure of this method.

What is clearly the case is that in this entire procedure our intellect is
only the blind instrument of

another drive which is a rival of the drive who vehemence is tormenting
us?.While 'we' believe

we are complaining about the vehemence of a drive, at bottom it is one drive
which is complaining

about the other; that is to say: for us to become aware that we are
suffering from the vehemence [or

violence] of a drive presupposes the existence of another equally vehement
or even more vehement

drive, and that a struggle is in prospect in which our intellect is going to
have to take sides" (Daybreak

109). What we call thinking, willing, and feeling are all "merely a relation
of these drives to each

other" (BGE 36).

Thus, what do I mean when I say "I am trying to stop smoking"?even though
that same I is

constantly going ahead and continuing to smoke? It simply means that my
conscious intellect is

taking sides and associating itself with a particular drive. It would make
just as much sense to say,

"Occasionally I feel this strange urge to stop smoking, but happily I have
managed to combat that

drive and pick up a cigarette whenever I want." Almost automatically,
Nietzsche says, we take our

predominant drive and for the moment turn it into the whole ego, placing all
our weaker drives

perspectivally farther away, as if those other drives weren't me but rather
an it (hence Freud's idea

of the "id," the "it"?it is clear he got this idea from Nietzsche). When we
talk about the "I," we

are simply indicating which drive, at the moment, is sovereign, strongest;
"the feeling of the I is

always strongest where the preponderance [?bergewicht] is," flickering from
drive to drive. But the

drives themselves remain largely unknown to what we sometimes call the
conscious intellect. In a

third aphorism from Daybreak, Nietzsche concludes, "However far a man may go
in self-knowledge,

nothing however can be more incomplete than his image of the totality of
drives which constitute

his being. He can scarcely name the cruder ones: their number and strength,
their ebb and flood,

their play and counterplay among one another?and above all the laws of their
nutriment?remain

unknown to him" (D 119). In other words, there is no struggle of reason
against the drives; what we

call "reason" is itself nothing more than a certain "system of relations
between various passions"

(WP 387), a certain ordering of the drives.

 [Daniel W. Smith, Parrehesia, "Deleuze and the Question of Desire: Toward
an Immanent theory of Ethics"]
This ordering of the drives then reflects not a cogent, stable personhood
(agency, ego, subjectivity, whatever) but rather the imposition of a moral
order that causes one to feel shame or fear in the face of a usurping of
that hierarchal understanding of the established order of the drives. Human
(ideological) conflict then can largely be explained by the attempt to
reassert the relational understanding of those drives by the creation of a
stable agent or ego who supposedly elects to order these drives in a
particular way - deviants who devalue the family in favor of pleasure,
terrorists who profane global ordered politics and the imagined Western
innocence in the name of radical politics, and so on).

I think, similarly to Kevin, that this has an interesting impact for how one
makes decisions and threatens the foundation of the judge as simply that a
"judge" of which arguments are more persuasive - in most paradigms, a line
that largely means which team best describes the truth of a given issue,
presents the "best" policy option, in short who more closely approximates
the world. Perhaps instead of this "judging" of arguments, the Deleuzian
criticism would posit an *evaluation *of arguments and teams not of whose
arguments provide the most firm grasp on the world (allowing us to
approximate and 'weigh' the best options as if our minds were scales of the
imaginary worlds of our own agency or creation) but of whose arguments
provide the most affirming mode of existence to "select" those positive
paths or choices and let those which negate the beauty of life "fall out of
themselves" or be excluded (not through our opposition to them but) of their
own negativity.
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