In 2012, so far, I’ve finished two very evocative books. One is Deleuze’s Nietzsche and Philosophy. The other is Manuel De Landa’s 1000 Years of Nonlinear History.
Deleuze’s Nietzsche is the author’s interpretation of Nietzsche’s thought. This is perhaps one of the most coherent interpretations of Nietzsche I’ve read. It succeeds in turning Nietzsche’s notoriously unsystematic philosophy into a system with something like well-defined concepts and their interrelationships at its core. The work feels simultaneously fresh and firmly grounded in Nietzsche’s own ideas. This is a book that I expect I will read again, because I’m quite certain I haven’t understood everything. For example, I don’t yet have a good feel for the difference between Deleuze’s active and reactive force – I cannot even imagine what an active force is. Reading this work has made me suspect that I’ve thought of every force as being essentially reactive up until this point.
One caveat with this work is that it is a book with a mission; the mission is to destroy Hegelian philosophy and dialecticism. This is in line with the historical context of Nietzsche usage in France, where he was used mainly as an antidote to the dominant Hegelian thought, if I understand correctly.
I’ve previously read De Landa’s Philosophy and Simulation, a book about emergence and about corroborating philosophical theories with computer simulations. 1000 Years of Nonlinear History is an earlier, but no less interesting, work of his. It tells the simultaneous history of geology, genes and memes (in the form of languages). In order to fully appreciate this book I think I ought to gain some idea of the mathematics behind attractors and dynamic systems. Still, there is a lot to be gained even without those insights. The parallels between the three different historical fields are interesting, and the essential point that is made is that there is nothing like progress or determinism about the forms that society, language, ideas, life or matter take today. Instead, the state of the world is a nonlinear system of interacting attractors. We are invited to view the world as rich but essentially accidental, and free of distinctions such as organic-inorganic and human-nonhuman.