Zero is nihilism defeated by itself.
The first affirmation is destructive of the negative, the second, creative of the affirmative. Zero shows that “sovereign affirmation,” from which a new vitalism arises, consists in “total destruction.” If the transvaluation of all values is to be affirmed, the entirety of life as we know it must actively and affirmatively destroy itself: “the joy of annihilation.”
- [The double conversion of negation into an affirmative power and reactive force into active force.]
- [The negative, affirming its conversion, returns as the willing of affirmation - just as reactive force returns as the universal becoming-active of forces in which the singular and the universal are united without mediation. Affirmation is only created as self-difference when the negative - opposition - passes into its opposite, which is not opposed to it.]
Conversion is a transmutation because it passes the test of eternal return. We will get nowhere until we see that the genius of eternal return consists in its showing that what we admire and affirm on one side – affirmation and becoming-active – is not something other than what we condemn and exclude on the other side – negation and becoming-reactive. Affirmation and becoming-active are the transvaluation of all values: the double conversion of the negative and reactive force. This is why there is no other of nihilism and no moment other than its self-destruction or defeat of itself. Active forces consist in nothing but reactive forces being denied, as affirmation consists in nothing but negation denying all reactive forces. Conversion is double here because within it is displayed auto-affectivity. Put simply, the double conversion of reactive force and negative will is the auto-affectivity of zero, which Deleuze, following Nietzsche, thinks as eternal return.
“But what does this mean: Ariadne abandoned by Theseus? It means that the combination of the negative will with the force of reaction, of the spirit of reaction with the reactive soul, is not nihilism’s last word. The moment arrives when the will to negation breaks its alliance with the forces of reaction, abandons them and even turns against them. Ariadne hangs herself, Ariadne wants to perish. Now this fundamental moment (“midnight”) heralds a double transmutation, as if completed nihilism gave way to its opposite: reactive forces, themselves denied, become active; negation is converted and becomes the thunderclap of a pure affirmation, the polemical and ludic mode of a will that affirms and enters into the service of an excess of life. Nihilism “defeated by itself.” Our aim is not to analyze this transmutation of nihilism, this double conversion, but simply to see how the myth of Ariadne expresses it. Abandoned by Theseus, Ariadne senses the approach of Dionysus. Dionysus the Bull is pure and multiple affirmation, the true affirmation, the affirmative will; he bears nothing, unburdens himself completely, makes everything that lives lighter. He is able to do what the higher man cannot: to laugh, play, and dance, in other words, to affirm. He is the Light One who does not recognize himself in man, especially not in the higher man or sublime hero, but only in the overman, in the overhero, in something other than man. It was necessary that Ariadne be abandoned by Theseus: “For this is the soul’s secret: only when the hero has abandoned her is she approached in a dream by the overhero.” Under the caress of Dionysus, the soul becomes active. She was so heavy with Theseus but becomes lighter with Dionysus, unburdened, delicate, elevated to the sky. She learns that what she formerly thought to be an activity was only an enterprise of revenge, mistrust, and surveillance (the thread), the reaction of the bad conscience and ressentiment; and more profoundly, what she believed to be an affirmation was only a travesty, a manifestation of heaviness, a way of believing oneself strong because one bears and assumes” (Essays Critical and Clinical, p. 102, emphasis mine).
Completed nihilism does not give way to its opposite, but becomes its opposite in the dissipation of negation – no longer existing as an independent power – and the destruction of reactive force. Affirmation and becoming-active, which are the dissipation of negation and the destruction of reactive forces, show the transvaluation of all values to be the transmutation of zero in and through their double conversion. What is transvalued isnothing, which does not find its way back to something (its opposite) because negation, the essence of which is opposition, no longer exists as an independent power. There is nothingand not something because all known valuations or values, as well as all known forces, have been actively and affirmatively destroyed. Nothing does not, therefore, acknowledge any opposition with something, which is why Deleuze and Guattari present the BwO as they do. Life is the infinite play of value in force, which is why we find in zero the affirmatively willed and active self-destruction of life – all values – so that life can value differently, restoring to nothing its proper vitality as the affirmative medium of future valuation.
The eternal return of the same is the eternal return of difference because the same – the denial of reactive force and dissipation of negative will – returns as self-different – the becoming-active of force and the affirmative will. The reactive soul or force of reaction, when abandoned by the negative will or spirit of reaction, is the second affirmation, abandonment being the first affirmation, which dissipates the negative as an independent power. The double moment of conversion is the coincidence of midnight and midday, the construction of immanence in the immanent dismantling of nihilism by itself. We are describing here the virtual destruction of all actual life by life become virtuality, or what amounts to the same thing, virtual valuation as the exercise of difference.
“But why oppose the two sides as the true and the false? Is it not the same power of the false on both sides, and is not Dionysus a great forger, the greatest “in truth,” the Cosmopolitan? Is not art the highest power of the false? Between the high and the low, from one side to the other, there is a considerable difference, a distance that must be affirmed. The spider is always respinning its web and the scorpion never stops stinging; each higher man is fixated on his own feat, which he rehearses like a circus act (and this is precisely how the fourth part of Zarathustra is organized, much like Raymond Roussel’s gala of Incomparables, or a puppet show, or an operetta). This is because each of these mimes has an invariable model, a fixed form, that can always be called true, though it is just as “false” as its reproductions. It is like the forger of paintings: what he copies from the original painting is an attributable form that is just as false as the copies; what escapes him is the metamorphosis or transformation of the original, the impossibility of attributing any particular form to it, in short, creation. This is why the higher men are merely the lowest degrees of the will to power: “May men higher than you stride over you! You signify steps.” With them the will to power represents only a will to deceive, a will to take, a will to dominate, a sickly, exhausted life that brandishes prostheses. Their very roles are prostheses they use to prop themselves up. Only Dionysus, the creative artist, attains the power of metamorphosis that makes him become, attesting to a surging forth of life. He carries the power of the false to a degree that is no longer effected in a form, but in a transformation- “the gift-giving virtue,” or the creation of possibilities of life: transmutation. The will to power is like energy: an energy capable of transforming itself is called noble. Those that merely know how to disguise or travesty themselves, that is, to take on and maintain a form that is always the same, are vile or base” (Essays Critical and Clinical, pp. 104-105).
The eternal return is selective because it does not occur without a transmutation. Deleuze thinks transmutation as the decisive moment where negative will becomes affirmative by denying reactive forces and reactive forces, denied by negative will, become active. What affirms itself is negative will when it dissipates its independent reality, just as what becomes active is reactive force, having been denied. Neither reactive forces nor the will to deny will return because the will to deny has willed affirmatively and reactive forces have been abandoned. They paradoxically fail to return because they pass the test of eternal return, selectively eliminating themselves through the transmutation of themselves. Neither the will to deny nor reactive force are effected in their respective forms once they have passed into eternal return. They are effected in a transformation of themselves in which neither return. In so doing, both the will to deny and reactive force pass from their base or vile form, always maintained as the same, into the energy whose nobility consists in the ability to transform or metamorphose: an excess of life rather than a sickly life that seeks only to preserve itself. That the will to deny and reactive force do not return is a testament to their having passed into the power of metamorphosis that defines Dionysus and the Dionysian. The creation of possibilities of life arises from the positivity of the future that returns in the absence of the will to deny and reactive force, which have eliminated themselves without appeal to transcendence.
“To pass from Theseus to Dionysus is, for Ariadne, a clinical matter, a question of health and healing. And for Dionysus as well. Dionysus needs Ariadne. Dionysus is pure affirmation; Ariadne is the Anima, affirmation divided in two, the “yes” that responds to “yes.” But, divided in two [dedoublee], affirmation returns to Dionysus as the affirmation that redoubles [redouble]. It is in this sense that the eternal return is the product of the union of Dionysus and Ariadne. As long as Dionysus is alone, he still fears the thought of the Eternal Return, because he is afraid that it brings back reactive forces, the enterprise of denying life, the little man (whether higher or sublime). But when Dionysian affirmation finds its full development in Ariadne, Dionysus in turn learns something new: that the thought of the Eternal Return is consoling, and at the same time, that the Eternal Return itself is selective. The Eternal Return does not occur without a transmutation. The Eternal Return, as the being of becoming, is the product of a double affirmation that only makes what affirms itself return, and only makes what is active become. Neither reactive forces nor the will to deny will return: they are eliminated by the transmutation, by the Eternal Return as selection. Ariadne has forgotten Theseus; he is no longer even a bad memory. Theseus will never come back. The Eternal Return is active and affirmative: it is the union of Dionysus and Ariadne” (Essays Critical and Clinical, p. 105).
We see here how schizophrenia is productive of zero. In return, negative will is affirmative and reactive force, active; what comes does not come back, which amounts to saying that what comes back does so without having first come. Intensity comes back, though it only does so by merging with nothing = 0, which measures the height or distance from zero since the intensity only expresses its difference from zero by a fall to zero that always and invariably starts at zero. Put simply, the production of intensity starts at zero because zero is the height from which the intensity falls to zero. The conversion of non-decomposable distance into implicated or intensive depth is the conversion of the will to deny and reactive force in eternal return. Nihilism defeated by itself is zero because the transmutation or conversion of the negative and the reactive does not substitute something else (affirmation) for them, showing instead that what is affirmative and becoming-active is nothing, which comes back without ever having come.
“Active destruction means: the point, the moment of transmutation in the will to nothingness. Destruction becomes active at the moment when, with the alliance between reactive forces and the will to nothingness broken, the will to nothingness is converted and crosses over to the side of affirmation, it is related to a power of affirming which destroys the reactive forces themselves. Destruction becomes active to the extent that the negative is transmuted and converted into an affirmative power: the “eternal joy of becoming” which is avowed in an instant, the “joy of annihilation”, the “affirmation of annihilation and destruction. This is the “decisive point” of Dionysian philosophy: the point at which negation expresses an affirmation of life, destroys reactive forces and restores the rights of activity. The negative becomes the thunderbolt and lightning of a power of affirming.Midnight, the supreme focal or transcendent point which is not defined by Nietzsche in terms of an equilibrium or a reconciliation of opposites, but in terms of a conversion. Conversion of the negative into its opposite, conversion of the ration cognoscendi in theratio essendi of the will to power. We asked: why is transformation the completion of nihilism? It is because, in transmutation, we are not concerned with a simple substitution, but with a conversion. Nihilism reaches its completion by passing through the last man, but going beyond him to the man who wants to perish. In the man who wants to perish, to be overcome, negation has broken everything which still held it back, it has defeated itself, it has become of affirming, a power which is already superhuman, a power which announces and prepares the Overman. “You could transform yourself into forefathers and ancestors of the Overman: and let this be your finest creating” (Z II “On the Blissful Islands” p. 110’*). Negation sacrifices all reactive forces, becoming “relentless destruction of everything that was degenerating and parasitical”, passing into the service of an excess of life (EH III “Birth of Tragedy” 3-4): only here is it completed” (Nietzsche and Philosophy, pp. 174-175).
Eternal return is midnight, the supreme focal point at which the negative will breaks with reactive forces, destroying them and thereby making the will affirmative. What we saw Deleuze describe above as the double affirmation – the “yes” responding to “yes” – is the negative saying yes, becoming affirmative in the active destruction of reactive force, at the same time that reactive force says “yes” to its being destroyed, thereby becoming active. The product of their double affirmation is eternal return or zero, which returns as the intensive measure of the height of the intensity extinguished in it. Only in the extinction-production of intensity – what Nietzsche calls will-to-power – does valuation find an entirely different medium for all values: the future, which eternally returns.
“The task of modern philosophy is to overcome the alternatives temporal/non-temporal, historical/eternal and particular/universal. Following Nietzsche we discover, as more profound than time and eternity, the untimely: philosophy is neither a philosophy of history, nor a philosophy of the eternal, but untimely, always and only untimely – that is to say, ‘acting counter to our time and thereby’ acting on our time and, let us hope, for the benefit of a time to come” Following Samuel Butler, we discover Erewhon, signifying at once the originary ‘nowhere’ and the displaced, disguised, modified and always re-created ‘here-and-now’. Neither empirical particularities nor abstract universals: a Cogito for a dissolved self. We believe in a world in which individuations are impersonal, and singularities are pre-individual: the splendor of the pronoun ‘one’ – whence the science-fiction aspect, which necessarily derives from this Erewhon. What this book should therefore have made apparent is the advent of a coherence which is no more our own, that of mankind, than that of God or the world. In this sense, it should have been an apocalyptic book (the third time in the series of times). Science fiction in yet another sense, one in which the weaknesses become manifest. How else can one write but of those things which one doesn’t know, or knows badly? It is precisely there that we imagine having something to say. We write only at the frontiers of our knowledge, at the border which separates our knowledge from our ignorance and transforms the one into the other. Only in this manner are we resolved to write. To satisfy ignorance is to put off writing until tomorrow – or rather, to make it impossible. Perhaps writing has a relation to silence altogether more threatening than that which it is supposed to entertain with death” (Difference and Repetition, p. xxi).
Deleuze locates the substance of philosophical science fiction in Samuel Butler’s Erewhon: “at once the originary ‘nowhere’ and the displaced, disguised, modified and always re-created ‘here-and-now’. If philosophy is, as Deleuze suggests, inseparable from a sort of science fiction, it is because philosophy is essentially untimely, acting on our time by acting counter to it in favor of the Erewhon or time to come. Infinite zero is the originary nowhere as well as the here-and-now always re-created by way of its incessant displacement, disguise and modification. We do not know of zero or know of it only badly because it constitutes the future as such, the unknown into which each and every one of us must pass by breaking through intensively rather than breaking down extensively. We do not satisfy ignorance by working at the frontier of our knowledge, but transform the one into the other just as the negative will and reactive force are transformed into affirmative will-to-power and active force. Zero is the silence of creation, which returns as the yet to come: a coherence, Deleuze writes, “which is no more our own than that of God or the world.”
“Eternal return, in its esoteric truth, concerns – and can concern – only the third time of the series. Only there is it determined. That is why it is properly called a belief of the future, a belief in the future. Eternal return affects only the new, what is produced under the condition of default and by the intermediary of metamorphosis. However, it causes neither the condition nor the agent to return: on the contrary, it repudiates these and expels them with all its centrifugal force. It constitutes the autonomy of the product, the independence of the work. It is repetition by excess which leaves intact nothing of the default or the becoming-equal. It is itself the new, complete novelty. It is by itself the third time in the series, the future as such. As Klossowski says, it is the secret coherence which establishes itself only by excluding my own coherence, my own identity, the identity of the self, the world and God. It allows only the plebeian to return, the man without a name. It draws into its circle the dead god and the dissolved self. It does not allow the sun to return, since it presupposes its explosion; it concerns only the nebulae, for which alone it moves and from which it becomes indistinguishable. For this reason, as Zarathustra says at one point to the demon, we simplify matters in expounding the doctrine of eternal return as though it affected the totality of time; we make a hurdy-gurdy song of it, as he says at another point to his animals. In other words, we rely upon the overly simple circle which has as its content the passing present and as its shape the past of reminiscence. However, the order of time, time as a pure and empty form, has precisely undone that circle. It has undone it in favor of a less simple and much more secret, much more tortuous, more nebulous circle, an eternally excentric circle, the decentred circle of difference which is re-formed uniquely in the third time of the series. The order of time has broken the circle of the Same and arranged time in a series only in order to re-form a circle of the Other at the end of the series. The ‘once and for all’ of the order is there only for the ‘every time’ of the final esoteric circle. The form of time is there only for the revelation of the formless in the eternal return. The extreme formality is there only for an excessive formlessness (Hölderlin’s Unförmliche). In this manner, the ground has been superseded by a groundlessness, a universal ungrounding which turns upon itself and causes only the yet-to-come to return” (Difference and Repetition, pp. 90-91).
All that returns is return – infinite zero – completely unconditioned. Nihilism is defeated by the revelation of formlessness, a universal groundlessness that causes only the untimely – zero – to return for all times – all intensities. The paradox of intensive production, which defines its de jure schizophrenia, is that it returns as a belief of the future, in the future always yet to come: complete novelty without condition or correlate. Complete novelty, in which is constituted the frontier of our knowledge, is nothing. Belief in the autonomy of the future is belief in the world, in life, which can only come at the price of life virtually destroying all of the known valuations constituting its actuality. Eternal return is unconditioned when zero is the autonomous product, no longer retroactively conditioned as the principle of production the by the produced intensive magnitude, the extinction of which zero marks.
Zero is the impossibility of substitution. Precisely because the will to deny and reactive force constitute, through their active destruction, the eternal return in which they do not return, zero shows nothing to be the irreducibility of the future that cannot but return. Only nothing positively succeeds in passing the test of eternal return; belief would not be in the future or of the future if that were not the case.
Intensity can only start at zero by rejoining zero because it comes back without coming. When intensity rejoins zero, it rejoins the height that defines it. That intensity can only coincide with itself by rejoining the other in becoming is not an accident but the reality of its difference. Put simply, what comes in eternal return does not come back or return and what comes back or returns in eternal return does not come. It is why the eternal return constitutes a center of metamorphosis or transformation and not a form determinable as the same.
“Eternal return alone effects the true selection, because it eliminates the average forms and uncovers ‘the superior form of everything that is’. The extreme is not the identity of opposites, but rather the univocity of the different; the superior form is not the infinite, but rather the eternal formlessness of the eternal return itself, throughout its metamorphoses and transformations. Eternal return ‘makes’ the difference because it creates the superior form. Eternal return employs negation like a Nachfolge and invents a new formula for the negation of the negation: everything which can be denied is and must be denied. The genius of eternal return lies not in memory but in waste, in active forgetting. All that is negative and all that denies, all those average affirmations which bear the negative, all those pale and unwelcome ‘Yeses’ which come from ‘Nos’, everything which cannot pass the test of eternal return - all these must be denied. If eternal return is a wheel, then it must be endowed with a violent centrifugal movement which expels everything which ‘can’ be denied, everything which cannot pass the test. Nietzsche announces only a light punishment for those who do not ‘believe’ in eternal return: they will have, and be aware of, only an ephemeral life! They will be aware of themselves and know themselves for what they are: epiphenomena. This will be their absolute Knowledge. In this manner, negation as a consequence, as the result of full affirmation, consumes all that is negative, and consumes itself at the mobile centre of eternal return. For if eternal return is a circle, then Difference is at the centre and the Same is only on the periphery: it is a constantly decentred, continually tortuous circle which revolves only around the unequal” (Difference and Repetition, pp. 54-55).
The difference made by eternal return is the differing of negation from itself. Making the difference through repetition in the eternal return eliminates negation, the essence of which is opposition. Moreover, negation and reactive force are eliminated in eternal return without appeal to negation as a force. Intensity = 0 because eternal return, properly understood, consists solely in the negation of negation, its transvaluation. The nothing that Deleuze and Guattari think as infinite zero – the plane of consistency – is the double affirmation of the negative and reactive force not having returned. Nothing = 0 is the positive negation of negation in eternal return. The radical implication that follows from this understanding of nothing is that the only positivity acknowledged by Deleuze is nothing, which arises in and through the negation of negation in eternal return. We cannot invoke any positivity whatsoever in the name of overcoming the negative. Eternal return is selective both because it constitutes the positive negation of negation and because it shows that the positive does not pre-exist, being affirmed solely through eternal return and as nothing besides the negation of negation.
Reactive forces denied are, as such, active forces. Negative will denying reactive forces is,as such, affirmative will. We might be tempted at precisely this point to substitute affirmation for negation and action for reaction. However, affirmation and action name nothing but the negation of negation and reaction, which does not proceed through the negative as a power. Nothing = 0 is the positivity of the negation of negation and reaction. The only possibilities are preserving the negative and reaction or actively destroying them. Affirmation and action are the second possibility, which destroys the first. Dionysus is the affirmative becoming of will in the joyful destruction of reactive forces, just as Ariadne is the becoming-active of the reactive forces destroyed. The product of their marriage – the overman – is nothing = 0, in which the defeat of nihilism by itself is shown. If, as Deleuze suggests, action and affirmation are all that return and action is the destruction of reactive forces by the negative will which, as such, becomes affirmative, then what returns in eternal return is the event of what does not return in eternal return not returning. What is selected is the exclusion of what is not selected, what can be destroyed through active forgetting.
Everything affirmed by Deleuze and Guattari is affirmed, not as something that positively exists or could exist, but as that which is no longer prevented from existing: virtual possibilities of life and not realities of the living or the lived. Infinite zero is the production of non-resistance, “the instant or the eternity of becoming eliminating whatever offers resistance.” A Thousand Plateaus devotes itself entirely to the self-description of the infinity of becoming, which does not encounter resistance from anything. There is no way to comprehend ontically the absolute non-resistance to becoming, as what is no longer prevented from existing does not, for all that, pass into existence. The freedom produced by eternal return is the complete absence of resistance to the infinity of becoming, which therefore lacks nothing and needn’t pass into existence. Only at the point where the infinite potential to exist is affirmed as such can an ontological instead of a merely ontic reading of Deleuze and Guattari be proffered. We cannot arrive at the infinite freedom of becoming to become in possibility piecemeal, through the realization of possibilities. In the final instance, there is only infinite zero, the fusibility of the plane of consistency, because the infinity of becoming is non-decomposable.
There is nothing existent that does not offer resistance to becoming, which is why the eternal return is in and of itself complete novelty or the new as such. The difference repeated in eternal return is, then, the difference of everything - negation and reaction -not coming back. It is everything that does not return, as nothing positively returns by differing from the Same that would have consisted in the return of everything. Absent this immanent and wholly virtual disruption, there is no sense in which we can speak or write of difference. We must will our own downfall for life because we have become what imprisons life. Deleuze and Guattari confront us, in this way, with the paradox of what is having no Being and what is not – becoming – constituting the only Being. Fusibility is the eternity said of becoming, in which everything offering resistance to fusibility does not come back. Everything is expelled from the circle of return, this being what returns in the unconditioned affirmation of complete novelty, in the “form” of the production of the real as an intensive quantity starting at zero or its extinction. Why is this so, if not because the extinguished intensity is the produced difference consisting in the return of the expulsion of the whole of what is from return? We can see here the Anti-Hegelian moment, which is simply the positive existence, in return, of the elimination of negation and reaction, neither of which returns. In other words, the anti-Hegelian moment consists in the non-contradiction of return and what doesn’t return, their identity being said solely of difference. Deleuze can be said to be anti-Hegelian because the “anti” has the sense of difference and not opposition, in keeping with Nietzsche’s Antichrist.
The only way to fill the BwO, to produce the corresponding intensities, is to extinguish them in zero. Infinite zero is simply the whole of intensive production fused. Being nothing by virtue of becoming nothing infinitely, zero lacks nothing: an infinite remission that fills itself with itself and its contemplations. Zero is the degree of intensity in which intensity coincides absolutely with the absence of intensity. If we are to understand the sense in which eternal return is the return of negation and reaction failing the test it constitutes, then we must turn to the experience of immanent absence with which zero confronts us. The absence of which we speak here is not to be met with aversion, as it constitutes the vital absence of negation in the will and reaction in force. Both have to experience their not having returned through the absence of intensity that is also the highest degree of intensity or fusibility of all its degrees and principles of production:
“If a sign retains its meaning, it is because the degree of intensity coincides with it; it signifies only through a new afflux of intensity, which in a certain manner joins up with its first trace. But a sign is not only the trace of a fluctuation. It can also mark an absence of intensity – and here too, a new afflux is necessary, if only to signify this absence! (Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle, p. 48).
In the final instance, zero – the positive absence of negation in power and of reaction in force – produces every intensity and takes in every principle of production or zero because all must produce and be produced to express the absence or remission it constitutes. There is no exhausting the absence of degree zero, which is why production, or what amounts to the same thing, becoming is an infinite process, even though it does not venture out of itself.