Anaxagoras, becoming, being, chaos, cosmos, desire, discourse, freedom, infinity, intensity, lacan, morality, morphology, Nietzsche, nous, ontology, phenomenology, psychology, Theory / Philosophy, unconscious

Beyond Desire: Remarks on Nietzsche and Becoming



Topos (biocosm)



In the beginning all things were mixed together; then came understanding and created order.

Anaxagoras [1]

What had to be accomplished in that chaotic pell-mell of primeval conditions, before all motion, so that the world as it now is might come to be, with its times of day and times of year, all conforming to law, with its manifold beauty and order, all without the addition of any new substance or force?

How, in other words, could a chaos become a cosmos?

Friedrich Nietzsche [2]

The true difficulty for psychology is that the field of the unconscious is also the site of the production and interpretation of reality. With the unconscious we encounter thoughts and bodies mixed together heterogeneously, without the clear ontological divisions we tend in other disciplines to take simply for granted.

It is no wonder then why Lacan has suggested the reality of the unconscious is the most difficult subject for philosophers to approach [3] — for there is no ontological method which could aim to find handles on this incorporeal assemblage, on this “body without organs.” In the enfolding of the psychic within the material we discover a phenomenological reality of the unconscious which is necessarily presupposed by any ontological analysis.

Why? Because the unconscious functions as an unground for structures, obstructing original pathways to being, blurring images and spaces for thought. In the unconscious, only becoming matters.

The unconscious is a passageway and a field of differences: both a coded transfer and an imaginary matrix. Psychology is not a narratology, not grounded in the process of interpretation or the gestures of metaphor, but rather ceaselessly questioning these symbolic foundations, the formation of the signifier itself. Thus the “ontology” (and this word is already inappropriate) proper to the unconscious is transitive, abyssal, possessing a “structure” like that of an eternal recurrence of a minimal difference, a break within the identity of the concept; already, however, this difference is a working system, a living machine, even a whirling chaotic milieu which produces the conditions for heterogeneous development of all kinds.

Therefore, a phenomenological account of the unconscious must be beyond representations, beyond the egoist separation from the real, endeavoring to move life-negating philosophy to its topological limit. Precisely the operation of the unconscious(as revealed in the production of significance, the forms of discourse and the theory of abstract structure,) would be in question in such a rigorous thinking of becoming.

It is already obvious that (perhaps until quite recently) only Nietzsche’s philosophy could be our exemplary model here, for it is a philosophy at once cosmic, molecular, machinic and abstract; his project is an atheistic and profound philosophy of becoming, a thinking of pure difference, of singular intensities and diverse assemblages of forces.

By blurring the ontological division between thought and being, a passageway is opened beyond the transitory figures of discourse which is the field of the unconscious. In order to study the production of the unconscious, we must already move our discourse beneath and beyond discourse; this, perhaps, is not even enough. We must move ourselves beyond good and evil — that is, beyond representatives, beyond idealizing fictions, pretexts and excuses for hatred, for shame and lust for power.

Thus this pre-ontological phenomenological position aims beyond power and knowledge, and radically reformulates the question of the production of desire as a non-totality, open to multiplicity. The philosophy which could describe production generically, i.e., of reality and the unconscious at once, could not be primarily anthropological. It would make no teleological or ontological presuppositions.

We must go back as far as Anaxagoras and his concept of the nous to find an adequate model of this mode of pure becoming beneath expression. Nous is the infinite and self-ruled movement of spirit upon itself, operating via the thinnest of things, through the purest and lightest of beings. The abstract machine of the cosmos is expressed or instantiated in the self-organization of matter which takes place in transduction, and works not just by exploding the existing organized fields of intensities. Rather, by pervading even the pre-original field of becoming with a kind of free and constructive energy, nous accomplishes a primordial return, from to earth to its turbulent ungrounding and back, all as a single and simple free movement: play.

In this sense, the spirit is a real body, a uniquely free inclination, originating rotary movements at random in the field of intensities gradually extending until everything is turbulently in motion. Nous is the pure abstract machine, the ungrounding motor of becoming, the simultaneous vehicle of cosmic and psychic separation.

In Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks, Nietzsche dramatically presents Anaxagoras’ account of cosmogenesis. In his elegant formulation, “the order and efficiency of things are but the direct result of blind mechanical movement” produced in the dead intertia of chaos by “a free and undetermined spirit” guided by “neither causes nor ends.” [4] The primary reality is chaos, a differential field of intensities: a minimal change anywhere begins the whirling and gyrating process of centrifugal development through which a chaos becomes a cosmos, unearthing unconscious forms buried beneath the ground, transcoding them into explicit information.

This turbulence of turbulences is process itself, genesis, a revolutionary anti-structure which expands radially outwards in ever-widening orbits, encompassing the entire universe.

There is no representation, no anthropomorphic teleology in such a conception: begin randomly, at any susceptible point in the chaotic mixture. In the whirling vortex, similar elements are naturally joined together: the heavy, dark and moist are forced into the center, compressed by centrifugal forces, while everything that is warm, light, ethereal becomes concentrated around the outside. That there is some free independent force which initiates the process is the really crucial point; again, an ontology of flux, thought liberated from teleology.

The Anaxagorean nous is the principle of individuation itself, the primordial impulse which is also the ordering and governing principle of all things. It is the elemental medium communicating with and organizing itself. The centrifugal forces in the vortex are the means by which nature tears light from darkness, and wrenches darkness from itself so it can be purified through fire. In nous we have the production, the source of potency itself, the force of force which dominates in complete freedom and reckless abandon, a violent and real conception of strength. Nous is lightness itself at play, engendering the genesis of the real, pure power: the infinite and free force of becoming.







Eros (opening/being-opened)


All psychology so far has got stuck in moral prejudices and fears; it has not dared to descend into the depths. To understand it as morphology and the doctrine of the development of the will to power, as I do – nobody has yet come close to doing this even in thought – insofar as it is permissible to recognize in what has been written so far a symptom of what has so far been kept silent.

Friedrich Nietzsche [5]

There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness.

Friedrich Nietzsche [6]

Time begins without warning, at random and without purpose. It comes in bursts, stuttering, flowing endlessly towards us across an infinite abyss. From this initial movement and circular ramification, chaos begins to develop into increasingly complex forms, unfolding alternate and internal dimensions of time.

At this point, to ask why it begins at all is really to ask why it begins at a particular time; but in fact there is no singular starting point. Rather we always begin with the field of pre-individual intensities, with pure multiplicity. Plurality is anterior to unity. Anaxagoras’ account must not be confused with those who would attribute a purpose to becoming. The nous is undetermined and free, and from its random intervention the genealogical development of the universe follows.

The cosmos and the unconscious are not totalities but assemblages of singularities, heterogeneous complexes of machines, all engendered by the nous and in some sense completely determined by its anti-foundational, originating indeterminacy. These machinic fields of desire are productive of new assemblages and varietes; that is, they are engaged in experimentation, engendering new differential surfaces upon which new kinds of transductions, new modalities of events are possible. Hence, by definition none of these fields are singular or complete, and though they unfold “mechanistically,” they do not therefore express a totality (whether in single purpose, homogeneous development, or final state.)

The evolution of fields of intensity endlessly produces more and more novel forms without a fixed horizon. There is no origin or destination, but only an eternal return to the edge of chaos, enriching the earth and language; this conjunction itself is the form which is continually ungrounded, folded and fragmented, laid open, wrecked upon infinity. Time is this recurring passage and return to the exterior.

Therefore the modality of opening should be understood both from the inside and from the outside. For opening onto… is also to be opened, to be lacerated, to extrude from deeper within a new ontological dimension yet more primordial than the orders of interior and exterior. Thus the unconscious is transpierced by reality as well as by expression; when we write, we are violently opening bodies, being opened by words. With thought there begins a new inward and abyssal dimension which reinscribes desire upon surfaces and objects, hijacking a transversal signal which circulates through new regions of becoming, bridging each ontological “jump” into a more or less complex field of intensity.

A subject is conjured into being through interpellation by speech. It exists by virtue of becoming pressed into place, made to conform to a role, made to assume itself as (guilty) One — transfixed by judgment. In other words, the space of thought cannot be thought outside of its biocosmic implications; as Deleuze poignantly notes, politics precedes being. So how is consciousness produced in the midst of life?

Hegel answers this question by pointing towards a mystical negation of life which is nonetheless mysteriously tied to life. Ironically, Nietzsche might approve of this formulation as a historical (and not metaphysical) description. That is, consider the same abstract story without the mysticism. In the Nietzschean terms of Genealogy of Morals, we see that the life-negating processes of guilt, bad conscience and shame are in fact the productive furnace of individuation which is prior to the necessarily self-hating individuals themselves. The individual is an impossibility as a subject, produced only in order to be controlled. The perfect subject is calculable, a commodity.

The mystical and exploitative dissociation of energy and desire found in both theology and capitalism also accounts for the compulsive fascination of psychoanalysis with power. In other words, psychoanalysis characteristically tends to hide the historical fact that the only subjects we’ve ever been able to create are always self-hating, resentful, impotent herd types, whereas in terms of the state precisely these are “good individuals.” Democracy is born from slavery, it is an internalization of the external confinements of slavery, whose over-all structure is articulated through the people. In a sense, this is true of all behavior insofar as it is expression: its form can never separated from some kind of collective enunciation.

In particular, this frozen diachrony of freedom within slavery is not merely a tense turbulence isolated to politics, but is a symptom of a dangerous double-becoming which modern society cannot help but feel profoundly. This internal agitation causes us no little amount of anxiety, mirroring as it does the profound external agitation of the modern urban space, and so further contributes to our alienation from reality; again often stimulating the compulsive construction of more and more intricate mechanisms of observation and social control. More fundamentally, separation and micro-segmentarity are the reality of the social, the cruel movement of culture dividing bodies into organs, horrifically opening organic bodies onto more primary machinic systems of control.






Machina (creativity)


…in the determination or behavior of each citizen or singularity there should be present, in some form or another, the call to a world democracy to come.

Each singularity should determine itself with the sense of the stakes of a democracy which can no longer be contained within frontiers, which can no longer be localized, which can no longer depend on the decisions of a specific group of citizens, a nation, or even a continent.

This determination means that one must both think, and think democracy, globally…

Jacques Derrida [7]


Unlike the pure intellection of the nous, historical and individual self-consciousness does not develop freely or at random. It’s origin is tied to machines of social control, to one-way exchanges and asymmetrical power relations. According to Nietzsche the origin of self-consciousness is tied to the development of morality and culture, social processes which Nietzsche identifies as originating historically in debtor-creditor relationships. In order that life could be made “responsible,” man’s incalculable inner depths had to be constructed precisely in order to be made calculable. The truth of man’s being, the historical essence of his conscious activity in the world, became real through the formation and social ordering of debt and recompense. Capital is shame, spirituality the desire for punishment, and “democracy” silence.

Thus the rational, creative and ethical dimension of life is born ultimately in fear and laziness, through conscious and unconscious processes of resentment, shame and jealousy. All history is a history of contradictions. On the individual scale we find religion born in horror at the terrifying depths of the other; on the global or cosmic plane, philosophy awakens to the misery of being alone, nomadic, untimely and so therefore evil, incomplete, archaic, marginal, separate, dangerous, repressed, and in short, terrified. All culture is already the terror of the other within us, the movements of the alien war machine within our bodies, opening us up from within.

Capitalism names a post-human machinic order emerging gradually from the biopolitical space of human activity, constructing a new dimension of control by the transformation of existing power structures. Theology seeks to separate bodies from their power, the unconscious from what it is able to do: this is the sublime cruelty of conventional morality, the existential meaning of being made calculable. The horizon of this moral calculus is its own proliferative ungrounding; as Nietzsche writes: “To be ashamed of one’s immorality: that is a step on the staircase at whose end one is also ashamed of one’s morality.” [8]

In short, the field of the unconscious is social, productive of social desires. We are immersed in an unconscious machine, a self-organized field of pre-ontological desire. What cannot be expressed in any space is forcibly silenced; there is no guarantee that positive experimentation, however exuberant, will lead to liberation. Affirmation as the production of a smooth space is not enough; to affirm a belief is also the transitive closure of intensive social space, a limitation of interpretative dimensionality; it is being-opened rather than opening onto…

Perturbation in Semi-fluid Space

The psychological function of a traumatic disruption of space is classically identified with signification, intervening from an alternate order of being incommensurate with the material ground of psychic becoming. The psychoanalytical model of the unconscious is as a lacerated space, a space with a hole punctured into it, a non-organic space extruded from another body: lacerated or opened spaces functions to dissolve the compromised partial object (or fractured subject to power!) in a differential field of morphogenetic intensities, actively diffusing boundaries between words and things.

The experiment converges obscenely upon theoretical models. Which means: if we represent our models only as models, and not as experiments themselves, they will therefore lack the ability to actually provoke the meltdown of static theoretical, political, and ontological categories. In other words, engendering new hybrid modalities of interconnection and transformation cannot occur without experimentation.

Otherwise, we are left simply with the old paradoxes — the subject dissolves in chaos to become a cosmos, and then there is no subject anymore: the I is suddenly all the names in history. But in many ways this remnant of archaic chaos is the hidden truth of the absurdity of system itself. The rigid separation of freedom from reality is merely an illusion. Ideology is a gesture, immaterial, a transient locus of separation which disappears even in its own construction, permanently virtual, a truth without extension and, precisely for this reason, of possibly infinite intensity.

To live safely in confinement is domestication; the problem is that this is what we often secretly desire. But isn’t it a little like living on the shore of a great ocean without ever peering beneath the surface? Desire is only ever made calculable through a long and subjective process of negating life. Yet there is always already an infinitesimal escape from onto-theology, beyond self-interest, which is actual: creativity, joy, the ever-renewing erotic potential for opening the world and for being laid open by it; intoxication is not always negative, it can become an affirmation, a tidal wave in the desert, unearthing power structures, refusing to play any role but completely embracing its own in its entirety. This is reality, the actual decision, eternally recurring, the “meaning” of life. There may not be wrong or right when it comes to life, but there is a very clear yes and a no. Are you a yes?

In order to open the possibility of a psychology operative beyond the horizon of signification, of sonority and sociality, we advance the thesis of desire as energy, as the life-blood of conscious and unconscious assemblages, intrinsically mobile, conjoining and disjoining real machines to one another. Desire is not in-itself, but composed of and even immersed within other complex flows of desire. It is an intensive space, the pre-affective ground of the unground, the pre-individual field of the nous itself (which is therefore a pure intensity operating without shame or pity, but with complete freedom.) Desire is the substratum of the world-governing nous which sparks the turbulent disruption of fields of intensity.

Not by necessity but pure freedom are worlds and time born, through the overflowing exuberance of metaphysical desire for what is beyond becoming. The question is not whether machines can desire, but how desire is made calculable, ascetic, turned against life itself: in short, captured by power, enamored with punishment, made willing to enter into a tyrannical regime of renunciation. In this process of being made calculable, subjects are invariably produced which desire their own repression. This in itself should no longer be mysterious, but the production of investment as such still remains problematic: after all, desire can be reactionary or revolutionary, but it is impossible to predict.

Subjectivity is never reducible to a relation as such, never a pure connection to a transcendental surface (figure, model, face, etc.) Yet many individuals proclaim such a reduction to be true of themselves; this is a contemptuous self-deception, a willing degradation. This kind of individuality is precisely superfluous, a sham upon a sham, produced ultimately from an excess desire for punishment and cruelty, an excess of self-hatred. (After all, it is a rather naive discovery that culture almost always tends to betray a repressed, but repellent and resentful, desire to control and dominate and destroy.) This desire is also actual joy — a sublime and corrupted joy in cruelty…

The path was once shining before us, but  the night has fallen; and now the way to dawn itself must be produced by our hands. We have accelerated morality to the horizon of calculability, beyond the uncertain boundaries of time and logic. Dare we go further, and pierce the abyssal depths of the glittering chaotic outside? Dare we venture beyond good and evil?

The mother of excess is not joy but joylessness. – Friedrich Nietzsche


(1) Attributed to Anaxagoras (500 – 425 B.C) Diogenes Laertius’ Lives and Opinions (II. 6)

(2) Friedrich Nietzsche, Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks 107

(3) Jacque Lacan, Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis

(4) Friedrich Nietzsche, Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks 117

(5) Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil 23

(6) Friedrich Nietzsche, On Reading and Writing

(7) Jacques Derrida from “Nietzsche and the Machine,” Journal of Nietzsche Studies 7 (1994), 7-66

(8) Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil 95


5 thoughts on “Beyond Desire: Remarks on Nietzsche and Becoming

  1. Max le chat says:

    Artaud’s vision of life was amazingly profound, if I can just get you to catch an eye on the whole of his work, the whole of his life. And may you read about Anti-psychiatry. I think it could interest you. Human in its whole.

    “I wanted a new work that catches certain organic points in life,

    a work

    in which we feel the whole nervous system

    burning like an incandescent lamp

    with vibrations,


    which invite




    his body

    in pursuit of this new, strange and radiant Epiphany in the sky.


    Anybody, down to the coal merchant, must understand being fed up with the filth-

    -physical, as well as physiological,

    and DESIRES an in-depth




  2. “Written poetry is worth reading once, and then should be destroyed. Let the dead poets make way for others. Then we might even come to see that it is our veneration for what has already been created, however beautiful and valid it may be, that petrifies us.”

    Thanks for your comment, Max. (You may also like reading this.)

  3. Max le chat says:

    [“mental illness” is simply deviance from what people want or expect in any particular society. “Mental illness” is anything in human mentality greatly disliked by the person describing it.]


    [ You see, no you know, that all you have lived in all of these years was some joke, a nonexistant place designed to keep your brain busy. ]



    my appreciation,

  4. Pingback: The Following is Based on a True Conversation « SHMLEGSHMLIN

  5. Pingback: Politics, cybernetics, philosphy and fractal ontology… « Hypermediadisc

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