Life as Art
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Life as Art

A Deleuzian Concept of the Self

Introducing Fulfillment in Becoming

Photo by Diego Madrigal from Pexels

Life has always seemed to me like a plant that lives on its rhizome. Its true life is invisible, hidden in the rhizome. The part that appears above ground lasts only a single summer. Then it withers away — an ephemeral apparition. When we think of the unending growth and decay of life and civilizations, we cannot escape the impression of absolute nullity. Yet I have never lost a sense of something that lives and endures underneath the eternal flux. What we see is the blossom, which passes. The rhizome remains.(Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections)

You open the gates of the soul to let the dark flood of chaos flow into your order and meaning. If you marry the ordered to the chaos you produce the divine child, the supreme meaning beyond meaning and meaninglessness. (Carl Jung, The Red Book)

Minimum Requirements

Deleuze’s philosophy of difference and a liberal thin theory of justice cohere in a vision that affirms difference in the public sphere.

As interpreted, the liberal state is one possible public formation for a society that embraces the freedom of becoming. But as such, it outlines only the minimum requirements for living a life of becoming.

We have not yet flushed out a thick and comprehensive vision of what it means to live a fulfilling life.

Ethics of Difference

Elsewhere, I have discussed Deleuze’s ethics of difference, an ethics that values the exploration and expression of our immanent power to experiment and create in life.

Deleuzian ethics is a vision of life as the production of the new in the open whole. Deleuzian desire overflows in productivity and creativity.

Life itself is a process of becoming, creativity on a plane of immanence.

Meaning in Life

In the following articles I will attempt to expand on Deleuze’s concept of life as creativity on an immanent plane to arrive at a comprehensive vision of leading a fulfilling life.

In doing so, I will rely on ideas from modern philosophy that have focused on human existence and meaning in life; philosophical thought that has centered on authenticity and narrativity.

And we will take a brief look at thought from psychology in relation to the unconscious source of our power to create.

We will see that a Deleuzian interpretation of existentialism, life as narrative and the nature of the psyche results in a dynamic vision of how to live a life that embraces pure difference and becoming.

Self vs Identity

Some important questions arise at the outset in any attempt to meld Deleuzian thought with humanistic philosophy and psychology, such as:

How can we apply Deleuze to thought that focuses on the individual when so much of his philosophy is pre-individual?

How can we apply a philosophy that focuses predominantly on the virtual to the actualization of a human life?

How can we interpret Deleuze in such a way that his philosophy is important and informative to the individual who cares about his or her life?

How do we construct a Deleuzian vision of the self, a self that matters, without resort to notions of identity?

Fulfillment in Becoming

We will see that a thick theory of the pursuit of a fulfilling life based in Deleuzian philosophy may not be for everyone.

Leading a life of becoming, exercising critical freedom in our own lives, is challenging to say the least. Many may prefer instead to ground their existence in norms and values they would resist questioning.

On the other hand, aspiring to pure difference may be the only choice for those who wish to approach life with open creativity and experimentation; to live life at the perimeter of what is possible.

Our first step is to turn our attention to existential thought and its relationship with Deleuzian philosophy.

I hope you enjoyed this article. Thanks for reading!


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Excerpt from my forthcoming book, Becoming: A Life of Pure Difference (Gilles Deleuze and the Philosophy of the New) Copyright © 2021 by Tomas Byrne. Learn more here.



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Tomas Byrne

Tomas Byrne

Jagged Tracks Music, Process Philosophy, Progressive Ethics, Transformative Political Theory, Informed Thrillers, XLawyer