An Outline of Deleuze's 'To Have Done With Judgment'

This is the third time in my life that I've taken notes on this essay. I was very pressed for time, and I was not able to articulate every insight, but this was probably my closest reading of the text since I first encountered it. These notes are largely unedited; this is what I used as my speaking outline for the relevant episode of Acid Horizon.

Gilles Deleuze - “To Have Done With Judgement”

I. The origin of the doctrine of judgement

A. The doctrine of judgment is a historical development brought about through a convergence of Greek tragedy, philosophy, and Christianity. It involves the institution of categories and the tribunals that oversee them.  The power of judgment is domination of the intensive order, the overriding of the system of cruelty or what Deleuze calls ‘justice’, a concept he opposes to judgment.

1. Nietzsche, Kafka, Lawrence, and Artaud are the paradigmatic figures who have suffered from judgment. Their work and lives are typified by their struggling against accusations of immoralism and the condemnations implicit in the categories they challenged.

II. What are the conditions of judgment?

1. Nietzsche lays bare the primary condition of judgement: for man to be subject to an infinite debt imposed by his deity.

2. Postponement - the imposition of an infinite debt entails a postponement of the judgment of man and hence his fate as well.  Damnation or absolution only come at the end and never arrive in the mortal lives of men.

a. It is not only to be prejudged, a Derrida says, but to suffer the perpetual postponement of judgment.

b. Thus, Deleuze writes, “the condition of judgment lies in a supposed relation between existence and the infinite in the order of time”.  Judgment presupposes a metaphysics of time, or it creates its time; judgment renders a gap between time in existence and a future time of judgment.  The power of judgment is either wielded or suffered in this temporal relation.

III. Distinguishing the doctrine of judgment from ‘justice’ or a ’system of cruelty’. (Movement 1)

A. Deleuze credits Nietzsche with discovering the creditor-debtor relationship as primary to exchange.  In other words, social relations obtain on the basis of a system of debt which undergirds its economics, broadly construed.

1. There has existed a form of debt of a finite variety unbound by judgment.  Consider societies where debt and obligations are mobile, being transferred though the creation of familiar alliances, through ritual scarification, etc.  These debts remain untethered to the idea of a transcendent god and , as Deleuze puts it, ‘circulate in a territory’ in which they can be paid off or dismissed entirely.

2. Deleuze via Artaud opposes ‘the writing of blood’ (justice/cruelty) to the ‘writing of the book’ (judgment).  The latter dispossess us from the territorial struggles of the former. Though the latter seems more moderate, it is more relentless in endlessly condemning us to servitude.

3. Defining ‘the system of cruelty’ - Deleuze appropriates Artaud’s notion of ‘the theater of cruelty’ to elaborate a theory of forces already at work in the text.  The word ‘cruelty’ in this context doesn’t refer to intentional brutality. Artaud intends to expand the concept of violence to describe affective and intensive contestations, all of which are perpetually transfigured.

IV. Existence cut into lots (a history of bifurcations of judgment moving towards the singular infinite judgment)

A. The doctrine of judgment emerged on the basis of the origin of the forces that underlie the system of cruelty eventually becoming ascribed to the gods.

1. Eventually, men and gods conspired to to cut existence into lots. These divisions involved ascribing appropriate categories to people and things, imbuing them with a purpose or purposes which aligned with specific ends.

2. The valorization and valuation of categories is an effect of judgment, but they also create an affective shift which allows them to be recuperated. Some take pleasure in their lot, and others suffer the madness from false judgments imposed upon them (a failure of the judgment to correspond with the intensive trajectory of the being).

V. Dreams vs. Intoxications

A. Deleuze identifies the world of judgments with with world of dreams.

1. What’s wrong with dreams? 

a. they involve an epistemological hurdle (you never know when you are in the dream, that is , if you are trapped in the dream)

b. The censor of knowledge and experience fails to repel judgments “hurled into the void” of dreams

c. Dreams are judged by tribunals of analysts, etc., who appoint themselves to the task of interpreting dreams, taking a specific inventory of their movements, determining their meanings, etc.

B. Intoxication is a dreamless sleep. It is akin to insomnia: a lucid wakefulness that exists alongside sleep. It is the Dionysian way of escaping judgment.

VI. The organized body (judgment) vs. the body without organs (the system of cruelty)

A. Artaud accuses God of stealing the body without organs from us in order to exercise judgment upon us.

1. Judgment imposes upon us a strict cast of being to which all becomings are subordinated, rendering us as ‘organic’ beings

2. The body without organs is an anarchic body which consists of “poles, zones, thresholds…”. which is traversed by a non-organic vitality which defies organization.  (A body always becoming other to its forms of organization)

a. Deleuze addresses the practical dimension of his ethics here: we can escape judgment by becoming a body without organs.

i. Nietzsche: to define the body in its becomings and though the intensive mesh which composes it

ii: Kafka: the body of judgment (courtrooms, bailiffs, documents) are dissolved in zones of indiscernability or are undermined at their interstice (how does one escape the law not as invisible but as indiscernible?)

VII. Combat Everywhere

A. The system of cruelty involves a notion of combat, particularly internal combat.

1. Deleuze makes a distinction between the combat between internal and external forces.  

a. ‘Combat against’ involves attacking external forces pitted against an Other

b. ‘Combat between’ involves the struggle of forces within Oneself: the internal seizures of power which attempt to take hold of forces and make them one’s own.  

2. We can view the internal combat as a series of intensive flows available to the combatant with which they can become allied in their struggle to escape judgment and other forces we fall prey to. It is in combination with intensities excluded by judgment or by navigating through zones indiscernible to judgment that we escape its power).

3. Deleuze takes stand against the nihilism of both Eastern and Western religions as cults of death, those which renounce combat.  For Deleuze, the enlivenment that comes from successful combats stands above abstinence of the will.

4. Combat is not a ‘will to nothingness’ nor does it equate with war.  War is the most crass and lowest form of ‘combat against’, a will to destruction through mutilation of forces.  

a. The baby is the paradigmatic example of combat-between. The baby experiences the world in terms of an utterly impersonal and athletic grouping of intensities (the baby is undergoing a constant transfiguration unmitigated by forms of judgment).

I. Smallness, minorization: escaping categorical judgment by occupying the small and minor

VIII. ‘Combat is the way to have done with judgment’

A. We evacuate judgment by affirming a combat that is without judgment.

B. The imposition of judgment prevents the new from being created; its categories and lots police the becomings that edge into zones of indiscernability. 

C. Judgment does not impose value; value is created in defiance of judgment.