Philosophy Hammer
Philosophy, Economics, Politics & Psychology Tested with a Hammer

42: Gilles Deleuze & Félix Guattari part II:
The Faulty Logic of Desire

Summary by: Jeff McLaren

         The authors thrive on challenging common assumption. Last time they challenged 1) the separation of physics and psychology as two independent subjects: claiming that the world is better understood if they are one; 2) the notion that pleasure/attraction/love are opposite to pain/repulsion/hate: claiming that they are intensities of flows; 3) the smallest and the biggest picture can give us the true cause of anything: claiming that there are far more explanations than science and theology.
         The Faulty Logic of Desire
         Traditional philosophy and language has corrupted our understanding of desire. Most languages say something like: “I want/need/desire a hamburger/car/etc.” The implication is that there is a subject that lacks an object. In other words language and philosophy place desire in a category of acquisition (Q1). But what if this is not true. What if a better category were a process of production?
         “Desire is the set of passive syntheses that engineer partial objects, flows, and bodies, and that function as units of production....Desire and its object are one and the same thing: the machine, as a machine of a machine. Desire is a machine, and the object of desire is another machine connected to it.”(Q2)
         The authors further claim that normal meaning of desire is a repressive notion that strikes fear into the population that they might not get their needs met. Need is not real it is a psychic reality created by the fear of withdrawal of a subject from desire. Thus needs and desires are opposites (Q3)(Q4).
         Desire and the Infrastructure
         The authors ask: how is it that people have come to desire their own repression: how is it that entire classes of people willingly act against the best interests of their class? (Q5) The authors claim that desire is part of the infrastructure of society. Interests can be determined logically but desires are not logical. When it comes to libidinal energy (the energy we use to do things beyond just living) it is usually invested in desire and not in interests. A very few of us do put some libidinal energy into calculating interests but not many. Since desire is to be plugged into other machines and regulating their flow; and since interests are more closely connected to needs (which are in no real danger of being unsatisfied) people get carried away with desires and do not worry about interests. The nefarious part is that the desires that one peruses are based on the social code of acceptable behavior. This code appears arbitrary but is in fact in the service of the ruling class (Q6).
         Social Repression and Psychic Repression
         Most systems of ethics claim that there are two elements in any prohibition: the law (repressing representation) that prohibits and the action (the repressed representative) that is prohibited. The authors claim that there is a hidden third element: the idea (the displaced represented), which is meant to give a false image so as to trap desire.
         It is commonly believed that a law exists to limit an “unhealthy” desire. We all desire to cheat, kill, steal (if we personally do not then we fear that others have these desires) but we don't act this way because law forbids us and threatens punishment. But what if it is the reverse: the law makes us want to do what is prohibited? (Q7)(Q8).
         This idea or notion or third category traps desire by making us worry, work towards fitting in to the society: By making us repress ourselves, ideas and judgments actually serve the interests of the status-quo – the ruling class (Q9).
         Q1 Desire as a feeling of a lack of something. How does this sound as a definition of desire? Do you desire somethings you lack? But do you also desire things you have? Do rich people have less desires than poor people by virtue of the fact that they lack less than poor people?
         Q2 Desire for the authors is being a machine connected to a machine regulating a flow. We therefore lack nothing. We merely desire to affect the flow. Does this adequately explain why everyone, both rich and poor, seem to always have desires no matter how much they acquire?
         Q3 Are needs and desires are opposites? The authors claim that needs arise when we as machines disconnect from the flow. We need to be connected to machines but we desire to affect the machines and the flow. Or in other words we need food (flow) in an existential sort of way but we desire certain kinds of food (we desire to affect a particular flow in a particular way). In fact we have no needs because there is no real shortage of any flow in modern society. Therefore needs are an imaginary boogieman designed to scare and repress us into behaving a certain way. Do you really have no needs? Are your desires only to affect the flow? Are you afraid of lacking something?
         Q4 Historically people have fought for their servitude just as violently as they have fought for their freedom. Just consider all the oppressive regimes and all the repressive regimes. Does the authors notion of desire and need explain why people fought and died for tyrants and why people fight and die for freedom?
         Q5 Do members of the middle class actually support the interests of the ruling class even against the interests of the middle class? In America, many people support further tax cuts for the rich; many people fought hard against universal health care; Many people insist on the right to bear arms; support companies rights as persons but not their duties as persons. Why do middle class people support these policies?
         Q6 Is our desire to produce (which is actually to arrange and regulate a flow) distracting us from what is truly important in our lives or is the most important thing in life to follow our desires and be part of the flow?
         Q7 Have you ever wanted to do something because it is prohibited? The authors do not say that crime will disappear if we remove the laws of society but they do claim that the law makes criminals of people who would not be criminals if the law were not there. Did you ever get drunk while under age? What if there had been no drinking age? – have you ever driven faster than the speed limit or crossed the street outside of the cross walk? Too many laws is psychologically damaging – do you agree or disagree?
         Q8 In each of the cases in Q7 there is a law and an action, but there is also the notion of criminal. Criminal is an all or nothing category that reduces a person into an irredeemable category. All names and labels (even ones without bad connotations) do this. Oedipus is one egregious example. Is there anything to be gained by saying “John killed a man” instead of “John is a killer”?
         Q9 The authors claim that anytime you make an all-or-nothing judgment you are perpetuating the system as it exists with all its injustices and privileges. Unless you are from the ruling class this is actually working against your interests. Do you agree or disagree?

© 2008 - 2017, James Jeff McLaren