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The Rise and Fall of Text:

Nietzsche, Deleuze and Derrida


Rajat Denzil Acharya
5 February 2015

Summary
This series of three commentaries considers the works of Nietzsche,
Deleuze and Derrida as champions of the typically postmodern hegemonic
principle of text as opposed to both the typically modern hegemonic principle
of man and the typically premodern hegemonic principle of God. This work
thus assumes that the hegemonic principles that govern the history of discourse
have been those of God, man and text that respectively correlate to the
premodern, modern and postmodern.1 However, Nietzsche, Deleuze and
Derrida are responsible for variously different theses of such postmodern text.
Arguably, Nietzsche is responsible for a thesis of its monstrous birth, Deleuze
is responsible for a thesis of its sustainable life and Derrida is responsible for a
thesis of its unsustainable death.

Of course, use of the term man is controversial. Nonetheless, the history of patriarchy is
recognised by both men and women and this work neither affirms nor denies either the
legitimacy or illegitimacy of patriarchal history. Additionally, this work does not assume the
historical matriarchy of ancient chthonic religions as either dominant or feminine enough to
justifiably render a historically hegemonic principle of woman. Rather, such a case, as religiously
theistic, would aptly be classified as evidence for the hegemonic principle of God. Indeed,
woman has never constituted such a hegemonic principle but has always been historically
dominated by either God, man or text. Again, this work does not comment about either the
legitimacy or the illegitimacy of such a history, but merely considers such history factual. Thus
use of the term man to signify one such hegemonic principle is perhaps justified.
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Nietzsche and the Birth of Text


Nietzsche is commonly credited for his proclamation of the death of God
and birth of man rather than for his proclamation of the death of man and
birth of text.2 However, the latter rather than the former is properly
Nietzschean.3 Hence the entirety of Nietzsches oeuvre is characterised by an
obsession with the historical depth gained by the hegemonic principles of
God and man hitherto lost by the hegemonic principle of text.4 Yet
Nietzsches obsession was not unwarranted, for the annihilation of depth as
such entails the negation of a cosmetic world organised by the transcendent
values of either God or man and the affirmation of a chaotic world
disorganised by the immanent value of text.5 Indeed, the progressive historical
transfiguration from cosmos to chaos is arguably the catastrophe that
Nietzsche predicted.6 Nietzsches discussion of this annihilation of depth
remains riddled through various fragments of his late notebooks. This
commentary therefore represents an attempt to render the relevant content of
such fragmentary riddles as a clear line of argument.
Nietzsches annihilation of depth may be summarised by three premises.
First, Nietzsche assumes that all cognition is constituted by textual signs.
Second, Nietzsche assumes that the world is a dynamic assemblage of such
textual signs. Third, Nietzsche assumes that both man and God as products of
such a world are the dynamic assemblages of such textual signs.
First Premise: For Nietzsche, every experience is a thought and every
thought is a sign. Such signs are predicated not with one stable signification
but with many unstable significations, the significance of which can only be
Indeed, Nietzsches (1974, pp. 167, 181-182, 279-280) Gay Science, Sections 108, 125 and 343,
famously proclaim the death of (the Christian) God while Nietzsches (2006, pp. 5-7) Thus Spoke
Zarathustra famously proclaims the birth of (the ber) man. However, neither the one nor the
other is original to Nietzsche. See Carrolls (2010) identification of such a concern as central to
Renaissance humanism. Such a concern is also arguably evidenced by Genesis 3:1-13.
3 Concern of the death of man is evident in La Mettries proposition of man as a machine and
Humes proposition of man as a bundle of perceptions, yet the death of man is not properly
established until Nietzsche. Indeed, the bermensch is arguably not man, but text. There is also a
proto-textual history that predates Nietzsche. Consider Augustines The Trinity, Lockes Essay
Concerning Human Understanding and Berkeleys Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge.
However, while after Augustine, Locke supposed a true reality behind textual signs (perceptions)
and Berkeley supposed a true ideality as textual signs (perceptions), Nietzsche supposed a false
ideal-real world of textual sign interpretations sans any truth behind it. The fallacy of text, for
Nietzsche, was all there is.
4 E.g. see Nietzsche (2003, p. 22), Notebook 36, June July 1885, Fragment 2.
5 Nietzsche (2003, p. 119), Notebook 5, Summer 1886 Autumn 1887, Fragment 71. The referenced
statement is that [t]here is nothing [] that has value except [] power, that is, text, sans the
values of either God or man.
6 Nietzsche (1968, p. 3), The Will to Power, Preface, Fragment 2.
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recognised by interpretation.7 Thus Nietzsche states that there are only


interpretations.8 However no such interpretations are truly correct,9 for
there is nothing behind an interpretation to which that interpretation may
correlate other than another interpretation. Even the position of an interpreter
behind the interpretation[s] is merely another interpretation.10 As such,
Nietzsche reduces all cognition to the textual signs of interpretation.
Second Premise: Thus arises [the] whole world as a creation of
interpretation.11 It is a sign-world [of] pure illusion and deception, relative to the
erratically volatile textual continuum of cognitive interpretations.12
This world [is] a monster of force, without beginning, without end [] which
[] only transforms itself, as a whole unchanging in size, an economy []
enclosed by nothingness as by a boundary [] as a play of forces []
accumulating here while diminishing there, an ocean of forces [] eternally
changing [] blessing itself [] as a becoming that knows no satiety, no surfeit,
no fatigue [] of eternal self-creating, of eternal self-destroying [] beyond
good and evil, without goal[.]13

Indeed, such a world is not monistic but pluralistic. It is transformed with every
mutation of cognitive interpretations by each being of that world, for such
beings are none other than dynamic mutations of textual signs that constitute
cognitive interpretations.14
Third Premise: Yet [i]n a world of becoming as such, in which every being
is a conditional product of flux, the assumption of the unconditional as
either man or God can only be error,15 for there is only the textual world as a
milieu in which everything exerts an influence over and against everything else

Nietzsche (2003, p. 34), Notebook 38, June July 1885, Fragment 1. Confer Nietzsche (2003, pp.
4-5, 9-10), Notebook 34, April June 1885, Fragments 54-55, 131. Nietzsche occasionally writes as
though there is one true extra-cognitive world. However, this is perhaps merely a faon de parler.
Nietzsche otherwise emphatically writes as though there are only many false intra-cognitive
worlds. See Nietzsches (2003, pp. 14-15) statements in Notebook 34, April June 1885 of
Fragments 230 and 247 that there is no truth and a beings world is the illusory product of that
beings valuations.
8 Nietzsche (2003, p. 139), Notebook 7, End of 1886 Spring 1887, Fragment 60. Confer Nietzsche
(2003, p. 63), Notebook 1, Autumn 1885 Spring 1886, Fragment 115.
9 Nietzsche (2003, p. 63), Notebook 1, Autumn 1885 Spring 1886, Fragment 120.
10 Nietzsche (2003, p. 139), Notebook 7, End of 1886 Spring 1887, Fragment 60.
11 Nietzsche (2003, p. 38), Notebook 38, June July 1885, Fragment 10.
12 Nietzsche (2003, pp. 9-10), Notebook 34, April June 1885, Fragment 131.
13 Nietzsche (2003, pp. 38-39), Notebook 38, June July 1885, Fragment 12.
14 Confer Nietzsche (2003, pp. 14-15, 25, 29-30, 49) in: Notebook 34, April June 1885, Fragment
247; Notebook 36, June July 1885, Fragment 20; Notebook 37, June July 1885, Fragment 4; and,
Notebook 41, August September 1885, Fragment 11.
15 Nietzsche (2003, pp. 21, 25-26), Notebook 35, May July 1885, Fragment 51 and Notebook 36,
June July 1885, Fragment 23.
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to by chance render such valuations.16 Thus, Nietzsche rejected the


valuations of both God and man as regulative fiction[s]17 that amongst such
turmoil were constructed to provide cognition with valuable points of
referential calm.18 Instead, Nietzsche adopted the valuation of text as a
multiplicity of drives19 appropriately valued to their degree of power.20
Thus for Nietzsche, both man and God as inauthentic transcendent values
are merely interpreted significations of the authentic immanent value of text to
which the entire world is properly reduced. Nonetheless, the text that Nietzsche
assumed sustainable sans both man and God was as such contrarily considered
unstable by both Deleuze and Derrida.

Nietzsche (2003, pp. 1, 36-37, 41, 46-47), Notebook 34, April June 1885, Fragment 12, Notebook
38, June July 1885, Fragment 8, Notebook 39, August September 1885, Fragment 17 and Notebook
40, August September 1885, Fragments 61, 69.
17 Nietzsche (2003, pp. 20-21), Notebook 35, May July 1885, Fragment 35.
18 Nietzsche (2003, pp. 2-3), Notebook 34, April June 1885, Fragment 46.
19 Nietzsche (2003, pp. 45-46), Notebook 40, August September 1885, Fragments 38, 42.
20 Nietzsche (2003, p. 119), Notebook 5, Summer 1886 Autumn 1887, Fragment 71. Nietzsche
thus suspiciously privileges his own interpretations and valuations even though they were
produced by a chaotic play of texts that drove him to such conclusions and thus prevent his
consideration of any other interpretations and valuations.
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Deleuze and the Life of Text


Scholars have characterised Deleuzes work as an intellectual cluster
bomb of many theses.21 Nonetheless, one such thesis is the dissolution of
both God and man by text. Hence Deleuzes characteristic sentiment that the
organisational transcendent depth of both God and man is no longer a
compliment but rather a disease that disguises the disorganisational
immanent surface of text, by which everything occurs and behind which
there is nothing.22 Thus like both Nietzsche and Derrida, Deleuze maintained
an explicitly ascetic rejection of such depth for a liberation of the surface. Yet
contra both Nietzsche and Derrida, Deleuze maintained an implicitly parasitic
adoption of that depth for a conservation of the surface.23 This Deleuzean
paradox has provoked controversy among scholars about whether Deleuze was
a champion either of one or the many.24 This commentary uses Deleuzes
work to suggest that despite his characteristic sentiment, Deleuze championed
the organisational transcendent one for sustainability of the disorganisational
immanent many.
Deleuzes paradox may be summarised by four premises. First, Deleuze
assumes a world of pure becoming. Second, such a world requires the explicitly
ascetic dissolution of both God and man. Third, such a world is text. Fourth,
such a world requires the implicitly parasitic resolution of both man and God.
First Premise: For Deleuze, the world is constituted by five categories of
becoming: chaos; rhizomes; machines; parts; and, desire. Chaos is the eternally
primordial field of becoming by which forms are perpetually composed,
decomposed and recomposed as moments of a great [r]efrain or song of the
universe.25 Rhizomes are the intermingled systems of becoming by which
eternal flows are perpetually connected, disconnected and reconnected.26
Machines are perpetually constructed, deconstructed and reconstructed bodies
21

Buchanan (2008, p. 21). See also Colebrook (2002a, p. 8; 2002b, p. xviii).


Deleuze and Guattari (2004b, p. 20) and Deleuze (2004, pp. 12-13-40). Confer Deleuze and
Guattari (2004a, pp. 9, 30-31, 35-37; 2004b, p. 9).
23 Watkin (2011, pp. 1-11) uses both ascetic and parasitic as terms to classify problems in the
work of contemporary French thinkers. I borrow such terms for this critique of Deleuze.
24 See Badious Deleuze (2000) and Roffes Badious Deleuze (2012). Contra Roffe, I agree with
Badious charge against Deleuze as a thinker of the implicit singularity who thus binds together
the explicit multiplicity of multiplicities. Confer Deleuzes comments about God as a singularity
in Anti-Oedipus (Deleuze & Guattari, 2004a, p. 14) and text as a multiplicity of multiplicities in A
Thousand Plateaus (Deleuze & Guattari, 2004b, p. 27). Man is thus less molar than God yet less
molecular than text.
25 Deleuze and Guattari (1994, pp. 118, 189-191).
26 Consider Deleuze and Guattaris (2004b, pp. 3-28) discussion of rhizomes as the topic of the
first chapter of A Thousand Plateaus.
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without organs that flow as per the process of [their] becoming.27 [P]arts
are the basic constituents of machines, rhizomes and chaos by which becoming
proceeds.28 [D]esire is the force of becoming that drives parts, machines,
rhizomes and chaos.29 Thus the world is a pure becoming without measure, a
veritable becoming-mad, which never rests.30
Second Premise: Such a molecular world of pure becoming blurs the molar
identities of both God and man.31 The world as such is God insofar as the
energy that sweeps through it[s parts] is divine.32 The world as such is man
insofar there is only a process that produces the one within the other such
that both are the same and no longer have any difference.33
Third Premise: Yet Deleuze admits that believing in this world becomes our
most difficult task,34 for he considers the world as artificial insofar as
supposition of its reality inevitably amounts to a psychic ideality.35 Thus
Deleuze states that there is nothing to see behind the curtain [of text],36 for
the world as text is a network of signs that refer only to other signs ad
infinitum37 and which has as such signified long before we perceptive
assemblages of such a world came to be.38
Fourth Premise: Despite the textual world thus rather explicitly established,
Deleuze rather implicitly discussed that which he referred to as A LIFE of
complete power, complete bliss.39 Yet this lan vital is not a heterogeneous
multiplicity but a homogeneous singularity,40 precisely because such
conservation of the one is required for a sustained liberation of the profoundly
Consider Deleuze and Guattaris (2004a, pp. 1-54) discussion of machines as the topic of the
first chapter of Anti-Oedipus.
(AO 1-54) Deleuze and Guattari (1994, p. 112).
28 Deleuze and Guattari (2004a, pp. 28, 34; 2004b, p. 375).
29 Deleuze and Guattari (2004a, pp. 6, 29, 32; 2004b, p. 25).
30 Deleuze (2004, p. 3).
31 Deleuze (2004, pp. 5, 21).
32 Deleuze and Guattari (2004a, p. 14). This Spinozan theme is reified by Deleuze and Guattaris
(1994, p. 60) rather hyperbolic claim that Spinoza is the Christ of philosophers and that the
greatest philosophers are hardly more than [his] apostles.
33 Deleuze and Guattari (2004a, pp. 2, 4-5). See Deleuzes (2004, p. 21) statement that the
classical man who says I, was guaranteed only by the permanence of [the classical] God. A
stable man is impossible sans a stable God.
34 Deleuze and Guattari (1994, pp. 74-75).
35 Deleuze and Guattari (2004a, pp. 27, 35, 37). Thus Deleuze and Guattari (2004a, p. 5) state that
schizophrenia is the universe. Schizophrenia is a derivative of the Greek skhizein (i.e. split) and
phren (i.e. mind). As such, this statement is rendered sensible if Deleuze and Guattari consider the
real physical world as an ideal psychical textual structure of signs.
36 Deleuze (2004, p. 12).
37 Deleuze and Guattari (2004b, p. 124).
38 Deleuze (2004, p. 58) affirmatively quotes this statement by Levi-Strauss.
39 Deleuze (2001, p. 27).
40 Deleuze (2001, p. 29).
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schizoid many.41 Sans such a conservative one, the many would decompose,
disconnect and deconstruct into fragmentary signs ad infinitum.42
Deleuzes statement that [d]epth is no longer a compliment is thus
profoundly significant.43 It suggests a distaste for the authoritarian organisation
of both God and man as the one and a taste for the antiauthoritatian
disorganisation of text as the many. However, Deleuze recognises that text
sans both man and God is unsustainable. Yet while Deleuzes solution is the
proposition of an lan vital as a transcendental field that is supposedly
indistinguishable to a pure plane of immanence,44 it is clear that this is a
blatant parasitism of the transcendence of both God and man to authoritatively
organise the otherwise antiauthoritative disorganisational immanence of text for
the sake of its sustainability.

41

Deleuze (2001, pp. 28, 30) and Deleuze and Guattari (2004a, p. 20).
Confer Deleuze and Guattari (2004a, p. 6; 2004b, pp. 7-8) for the fragmentary world. Consider
Deleuze and Guattaris (2004b, p. 27) nave statement of it not being a question of one or
multiple, but multiplicities!
43 Deleuze (2004, p. 12).
44 Deleuze (2001, pp. 26-28).
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Derrida and the Death of Text


Derrida is often credited for his statement that [t]here is nothing outside of the
text.45 Yet such a statement is arguably shared by both Nietzsche and Deleuze.
However, unlike both Nietzsche and Deleuze who considered the world of text
as a sustainable perpetual metamorphosis of reconstruction, Derrida considered
the world of text as an unsustainable monstrosity of permanent
deconstruction.46 Hence Derrida referred to the play of text as an economy of
death that by a progressive disintegration relentlessly proceeds towards its
tomb.47 This commentary attempts to clarify this Derridean concern which is
evidential through the entirety of Derridas oeuvre, although perhaps chiefly
represented by Structure, Sign and Play.
This Derridean concern may be rendered clear by four premises. First,
Derrida (perhaps regrettably) assumes that the world amounts to an assemblage
of textual signs. Second, Derrida assumes that the world of textual signs is
inevitably governed by what is referred to as a centre. Third, Derrida assumes
that both God and man as illegitimately transcendent centres commit the world
of textual signs to modalities of sustainable reconstruction. Fourth, Derrida
assumes that text as a legitimately immanent centre commits the world of
textual signs to a modality of unsustainable deconstruction.
First Premise: Derrida was very much aware of a progressive obsession with
text. Indeed, Derrida considered such an obsession as the sign of an epoch,
which heralded a universal recognition that the textual structure of
language constituted the entirety of world history.48 Hence Derridas
explicit statements that [t]here is nothing outside of the text, everything became
discourse and there is nothing but context.49 However, for Derrida, this was
also the sign of [] a crisis.50 Hence Derridas implicit statement that the
anxiety about languagewhich can only be an anxiety of language, within
language itselfis the anxiety of world historys progressive selfdeconstruction.51

45

Derrida (1997, p. 158).


Derridas (2001b, pp. 369-370).
47 Derrida (1984, pp. 3-5).
48 Derrida (2001a, pp. 2-4; 2001b, pp. 351, 354; 2001c, pp. 76-77). Consider Derridas (2001b, pp.
354, 369-370; 1984, pp. 114-117) consistent reference to Nietzsches champion of text as such
that progressively gains popular recognition.
49 Derrida (1997, p. 158; 2001b, p. 354; 2001c, p. 19).
50 Derrida (2001a, p. 2).
51 Derrida (2001a, p. 1).
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Second Premise: For Derrida, world history is a traceable chain of


discourse that is inevitably governed by a type of hegemonic principle
referred to as the center.52
[T]his center was not only to orient, balance, and organize the structure
[] but above all to [] limit what we might call the play of the
structure. [T]he center [] permits the play of its elements [but]
also closes off the play that it opens up and makes possible. 53

Indeed, Derrida stated that the entire history of the linguistically discursive
structure of text as such is governed by a series of substitutions of center for
center, as a linked chain of determinations of the center, which is to claim that
the centre determines its own substitutional supplementarity.54
Third Premise: Derrida recognised both God and man as the first and
second major historical centres, respectively.55 However, Derrida argued for the
rejection of both God and man as such due to their position of transcendent
absence to the textual world they supposedly governed.56 Indeed, since there is
assumedly nothing other than the textual world, for Derrida both God and
man as transcendent centres are either outside text as other than text
perpetually there where [they are] not there or inside text as none other than
text perpetually in a state of self-deconstruction. As such, neither God nor
man is able to either permit or restrict the play of text.57
Fourth Premise: Derrida thus argued for the adoption of the milieu of text as
its own centre due to its inevitable position of immanent presence to itself.58
Wherever and whenever it is, it is only ever present to itself. However, this
consequently uncontrolled play is the very disruption of [its own] presence,
which all of it itself is. Thus such disruption renders it unsustainable.59

52

Derrida (2001b, pp. 351-354, 369).


Derrida (2001b, p. 352). Confer Derrida (2001b, pp. 365-366).
54 Derrida (2001b, pp. 353, 365).
55 Derrida (2001b, p. 353). Consider Derridas (2001b, pp. 352-355) recognition of Nietzsche who
argued for both the death of God and death of man precisely because they were major
organisational principles.
56 Derrida (2001b, pp. 352-353).
57 Derrida (1984, pp. 116, 118, 121, 126-127, 130-131, 133-134; 2001c, pp. 71, 84). Confer
Derridas (2001b, pp. 352-355) statement that pretentiously powerful texts must be either rejected
as transcendent or adopted as immanent, but by whichever means lose their pretentious power by
which they opened up and closed down the play of other texts.
58 Derrida (2001b, pp. 353-354).
59 Derrida (2001b, pp. 354, 367, 369).
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- The Rise and Fall of Text [B]ecause there is no [] locus of truth outside the field, no absolute
and ahistorical overhang [] the field [is] necessarily subject to
multiplicity and heterogeneity.60

Thus Derrida stated that [i]t is not I who deconstruct; rather, something I call
deconstruction happens to the [] world as a sort a great earthquake []
which nothing can calm but by which everything is subject to fission.61
Hence, Derrida refers to text as a monstrosity of self-deconstruction that
relentlessly progresses towards its death.62 Indeed, Derridas project was a
protest against the system of text63 driven by the prediction that properly
pure immanence as such is a death sentence.64

60

Derrida (2001c, p. 12).


Derrida (2001c, pp. 9, 80) thus renders an illustration comparable to the heat death of the
universe, yet rendered purely by the world of texts self-deconstruction.
62 Derrida (2001b, p. 370).
63 Derrida (2001c, pp. 4, 76).
64 Derrida (2001c, p. 23). Consider Derridas (2001a, p. 5) claim that the deconstruction of text
threatens the very foundations of Being, for prior to text was both man and God but
posterior to text there is nothing!
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