So I'm getting back to talking about Gilles Deleuze again – running back over the ideas in What Is Philosophy?. I first read this book about ten years ago. It was the first long book of his or Guattari’s that I’d ever read.
I didn't understand all of it at first. I mean, you’re never supposed to understand a genuinely good book completely – otherwise, there’s no value in returning to it, which means it isn’t genuinely good. One thing that I had trouble wrapping my head around the first time I read it was Deleuze’s concept of the plane of immanence.
Let’s get one stupid objection to this concept out of the way – Deleuze doesn’t think the plane of immanence is some supernatural field of thought. You call this guy a textbook Platonist, I’ll fight you.
The plane of immanence is an image of thought.
Remember Difference and Repetition, Deleuze’s first big solo book? Remember how the only chapter you didn’t need a pure mathematics degree to follow closely was called “The Image of Thought.” It was a critique of a way of thinking that unifies all worthy thought along a single vector.*
* The chapter did a lot of other things as well – Difference and Repetition was probably the most dense book of Deleuze’s entire career of writing stupendously dense books. But I want to concentrate on this one thing here.
Call it truth, the real, correspondence, the mind of God. The ideal of thinking was to converge on a unified universal. It wasn’t that Deleuze wanted this gone, or thought it was wrong, or had no value. He just didn’t want this image of thought to be the only legitimate one.
Which I guess means he did end up wanting it gone. Someone says they’re the only boss, then if you (and you, and you, and you) want to be the boss too, you’ll have to fight them for it.
plural perspective about thought. You can organize thought in many different legitimate ways, each of which opens some avenues and closes others.
It’s analogous to perception. Bats can experience the world with echolocation, for example, and we can experience the world with words. That doesn’t make either the bat’s perception or the human’s perception better or worse than the other in an absolute sense. Bats are able to do some things and not others. Same goes for humans. We each have our niches in the world.
It works the same way in thought. Let’s explain this starting with concepts. A philosophical concept is created when you snatch an idea from the chaos of life, abstract it enough from your own for pretty much anyone to apply, refine it to mathematical accuracy through careful writing and tough self-interrogation.
Then you have a philosophical concept – a thought that can serve as an interpretive framework for thinking and living – a schemata for your understanding.
Like I said a few days ago, concepts can work together, they can conflict, or they can blatantly contradict each other. The plane of immanence is a map of those concepts – their component ideas, how they’d interact when used in a single subjectivity or a single society, or a whole planet.
A map of compossibility space – of the limits and conditions of how concepts can work together in a single, very complicated, system. You could almost call it a philosophy’s geometry.