Foucault on Delueze’s “reversed Platonism”



In any event, here is Deleuze. His “reversed Platonism” consists of displacing himself within the Platonic series in order to disclose an unexpected facet: division. Plato did not establish a weak separation between the genus “hunter,” “cook,” or “politician,” as the Aristote lians said; neither was he concerned with the particular characteris tics of the species “fisherman” or “one who hunts with snares”, he wished to discover the identity of the true hunter. Who is? and not What is? He searched for the authentic, the pure gold. Instead of sub dividing, selecting, and pursuing a productive seam, he chose among the pretenders and ignored their fixed cadastral properties, he tested them with the strung bow, which eliminates all but one (the nameless one, the nomad). But how does one distinguish the false (the simulators, the “so-called”) from the authentic (the unadulterated and pure)? Certainly not by discovering a law of the true and false (truth is not opposed to error but to false appearances), but by looking above these manifestations to a model, a model so pure that the actual purity of the “pure” resembles it, approximates it, and measures itself against it; a model that exists so forcefully that in its presence they sham vanity of the false copy is immediately reduced to nonexistence. With the abrupt appearance of Ulysses, the eternal husband, the false suitors disappear. Exeunt simulacra. Plato is said to have opposed essence to appearance, a higher world to this world below, the sun of truth to the shadows of the cave (and it becomes our duty to bring essences back into the world, to glorify the world, and to place the sun of truth within man). But Deleuze locates Plato’s singularity in the delicate sorting, in this fine operation that precedes the discovery of essence precisely because it calls upon it, and tries to separate malign simulacra from the masses [peuple] of appearance. Thus it is useless to attempt the reversal of Platonism by reinstating the rights of appearances, ascribing to them solidity and meaning, and bringing them closer to essential forms by lending them a conceptual backbone: these timid creatures should not be encouraged to stand upright. Neither should we attempt to rediscover the supreme and solemn gesture that established, in a single stroke, the inaccessible Idea. Rather, we should welcome the cunning assembly that simulates and clamors at the door. And what will enter, sub merging appearance and breaking its engagement to essence, will be the event; the incorporeal will dissipate the density of matter; a timeless insistence will destroy the circle that imitates eternity; an impenetrable singularity will divest itself of its contamination by purity; the actual semblance of the simulacrum will support the falseness of false appearances. The sophist springs up and challenges Socrates to prove that he is not the illegitimate usurper. 

To reverse Platonism with Deleuze is to displace oneself insidiously within it, to descend a notch, to descend to its smallest gestures-discreet, but moral - which serve to exclude the simulacrum; it is also to deviate slightly from it, to open the door from either side to the small talk it excluded; it is to initiate another disconnected and divergent series; it is to construct, by way of this small lateral leap, a dethroned para-Platonism. To convert Platonism (a se­rious task) is to increase its compassion for reality, for the world, and for time. To subvert Platonism is to begin at the top (the vertical dis tance of irony) and to grasp its origin. To pervert Platonism is to search out the smallest details, to descend (with the natural gravita tion of humor) as far as its crop of hair or the dirt under its fingernails-those things that were never hallowed by an idea; it is to discover the decentering it put into effect in order to recenter itself around the Model, the Identical, and the Same; it is the decentering of oneself with respect to Platonism so as to give rise to the play (as with every perversion) of surfaces at its border. Irony rises and subverts; humor falls and perverts. To pervert Plato is to side with the Sophists’ spitefulness, the unmannerly gestures of the Cynics, the arguments of the Stoics, and the fluttering chimeras of Epicurus. It is time to read Diogenes Laertius.

We should be alert to the surface effects in which the Epicurians take such pleasure: emissions proceeding from deep within bodies and rising like the wisps of a fog-interior phantoms that are quickly reabsorbed into other depths by the sense of smell, by the mouth, by the appetites, extremely thin membranes that detach themselves from the surfaces of objects and proceed to impose colors and contours deep within our eyes (floating epiderm, visual idols); phantasms of fear or desire (cloud gods, the adorable face of the beloved, “miserable hope transported by the wind”). It is all this swarming of the impalpable that must be integrated into our thought: we must articulate a phi­losophy of the phantasm construed not through the intermediary of perception of the image, as being of the order of an originary given but, rather, left to come to light among the surfaces to which it is related, in the reversal that causes every interior to pass to the outside and every exterior to the inside, in the temporal oscillation that al ways makes it precede and follow itself-in short, in what Deleuze would perhaps not allow us to call its “incorporeal materiality.

It is useless, in any case, to seek a more substantial truth behind the phantasm, a truth to which it points as a rather confused sign …
— T H E A T R U M  P H I L 0 S O P H I C U M, Michel Foucault (at
Thanks to lointaine-3

Apologies to followers who find Foucault’s rhapsodizing off-putting. I think this essay is a treasure, and I’ve never known of its existence. I have friends who are very taken with Delueze, but I have always found his writings to be overly ornate. (I prefer High Renaissance architecture to Baroque. That should tell you a little about where I stand on these things.) But in this essay, Foucault reminds me of Michelangelo: the bursting forth of  a fully ripened genre, spreading the seeds of what is to follow. In doing so, he sharpens my curiosity about Deleuze. Foucault’s joy at showing off is so unrestrained, but at the same time so artful, that I just sit here radiating joy. I’m happy to be alive in a world where people enjoy playing so seriously with ideas. 

I had forgotten this til outersystems liked it today. It gives me joy to read it again. Still thrilled.