Friday, July 11, 2008

Return Redux Return

Andre Pierre Colombat generously offers us a candidate for “Deleuzian” affirmation. He says that it is an active negation,

“…according to Kant a distinction must be made between passive and active negations. So, for instance, if a proposition states that “A believes P,” its passive negation would be “No (A believes P),” while its active negation would be “A believes non-P”. The negative reigns over the former, but in the latter the negation appears only as the shadow of another affirmation. In a Deleuzian context, the first “passive” negation constructs a relation between being and nothingness with the difference characterized as a nonrepetition. The second “active” negation renders thinking as a battlefield of forces continually affecting each other. The “active” negation would mark only the point where two different or even opposite powers of affirmation come into contact with one another.

All of Deleuze’s work revolves around active negation and denounces the myths and illusions of representations based primarily on passive negation.”

(The above quotation comes from Colombat’s wonderfully titled essay,Deleuze and the Three Powers of Literature and Philosophy: To Demystify, to Experiment, to Create, which invites us to consider affirmation as an infitival power. My copy of the essay is contained in A Deleuzian Century? Volume 96, number 3, of the South Atlantic Quarterly, Summer 1997, which I bought at a used book store for $0.50. The Quarterly was repackaged,republished, and reissued in 1999 as A Deleuzian Century? by Duke University Press. If you buy a copy from, currently expect to pay $22.95 new,or $21.00, used. Repetition with price difference!)

First, notice that Colombat’s notion of Deleuzian affirmation operates under the auspices of negation—it is explicitly negation-- even though admittedly the negation is considered to be “active.” However, was not Deleuze's intention to make a “positive” affirmation—in other words an affirmation which did not first require “ox eye” inversions through precursors of negation?

Second, notice that Colombat’s notion of Deleuzian affirmation does not require “eternal return” or “difference” to work… Colombat's concept of Deleuze's concept of affirmation abandons the distinctive of Deleuze's concept. Colombat has taken "active negation" from Kant and the neo-Kantians. Is it plausible that a Deleuzian notion of affirmation would unburden itself of “eternal return” or “difference” to reconnect with the Kantian tradition?

Perhaps the qualification of active negation as “active” is meant to remove active negation from the realm of the negative, to qualify this kind of negation as affirmation. I think that’s the explicit intention because Colombat says that in active negation, the negation appears only as a shadow of another affirmation. How does Colombat know his portrayal of the relationship and interplay of negation and affirmation in "active negation" is more than "shadow play"?

Are there good reasons to call one form of negation "passive" and the other "active"? Only in the realm of the metaphorical, I think. We could as easily call the Kantian passive negation active or the Kantian active negation passive—-what actually changes if we switch things around? There’s only word play in this-- a whiff of propaganda and of rhetoric in the air. As a matter of energy discharged in brain, the thought of “active negation” versus a thought of “passive negation,” are equivalent. One is as active or inactive as the other. We could call them "smigler" and "fpigler" negation if we wanted. The distinction of “active” and “passive” negation revolves within verbal and symbolic circuitries-- it's not real. We're easily fooled because we are all biased in favor of what's active over what's passive. It's "natural" for us to associate the active with affirmation. This does not necessarily make "the active" be "the affirmative," however.

We need a non-metaphorical affirmation; we need an affirmation within which the divorce from negation is more than purely verbal or symbolic.

The terrible trouble, and the crucial risk, is that if we cannot devise or conceive of systems of affirmation which DO NOT essentially require negation, we CANNOT think difference; we CANNOT make difference, (make a difference.) Difference only appears as negation. In these systems,difference IS negation;negation IS difference. What’s at stake is that within systems of negation, we don’t get affirmation or difference…Sure, we have the words affirmation and difference...But we are stuck... We go round and round in symbolic fools’ play, in bland repetitions, we don’t return within the eternal return (or however else one might wish to phrase this. The point is extremely important and it is sad how difficult it is to phrase the point vividly.) THERE IS NO CHANGE, NO BECOMING.


Post a Comment

<< Home