Peerage, judgment and combat

This time I’ll be looking at something that I read not that long ago, maybe less than a month ago, give or take. It’ll on the short side, I hope. Well, at least the text itself isn’t that long, mere nine pages, so it shouldn’t be too bad. So, this time I’ll taking a close look ‘To Have Done with Judgment’ by Gilles Deleuze. The text is included in a collection of various short essays known as ‘Essays Critical and Clinical’.

Before I get into this, explaining how I ended up writing on this, let’s have a look at the word itself. It’s understood as being a faculty, something you possess, as indicated in a dictionary, in this case the Oxford English Dictionary (OED, s.v. “judgment”, n):

“The ability to make considered decisions or to arrive at reasonable conclusions or opinions on the basis of the available information; the critical faculty; discernment, discrimination.”


“The fact of possessing this ability to a high degree or in a sophisticated form; discretion, good sense, wisdom.”

As well as:

“The formation of an opinion or conclusion concerning something, esp. following careful consideration or deliberation. Also: the opinion or conclusion thus formed; an assessment, a view, an estimate.”

But it is also understood as something declared:

“That which has been formally decided and pronounced to be the case; any formal or authoritative decision, as of an umpire or arbiter.”

It is also used in a legal sense, which is, perhaps, what we are most used to:

“The action or result of pronouncing a legal decision, and related uses.”

There are numerous definitions provided for the word in the dictionary and I’m not listing all of them here. There are, however, certain ones that have to do with religion:

“A divine pronouncement; an eternal law or ordinance.”


“The determination of human reward and punishment by God.”

Clarified as having to do with:

“[T]he evaluation of human moral worth and consequent determination of reward and punishment by God.”


“Punishment imposed by God for wrongdoing. Hence: a misfortune or calamity regarded as a divine punishment, or as signifying God’s displeasure; (in later use also more generally) any untoward event or circumstance interpreted as following inevitably upon a wrong or wicked action, an unwise decision, etc.”

Anyway, this essay has to do with how the word is used in all of these senses, mostly in the legal sense, but also bearing particular relevance in the other senses as they are related to one another. You’ll see.

So, after that introduction, I was not going to write on this, at least this wasn’t on my to do list. What prompted me to address judgment was an encounter with judgment. No, it was not a legal judgment. I was not in court and found (not) guilty. I was, however, (un)happy to read that an article of mine was rejected. Now, to be fair to my judges, sorry, referees, they did point out certain shortcomings, even if some of them were, as is typically the case, about pointing what they deem to be missing, which others would then judge me for including. That’s the problem with opinions. This is not even about what the judgment masked as feedback was about. This is rather about judgment itself. What I find severely lacking is the possibility to argue. There simply is no room for it. I’d love some polemic! Upheaval! Get medieval! Jokes aside, the thing is that it’s called peer review, which is itself a misnomer and an oxymoron. Why is that? Well, peers are people who are of equal standing. If I’m your equal, then my word is as good as yours. The same applies the other way around as well, rather obviously. If we are of equal standing, that is to say our position is in parallel, not greater or lower in relation to one another, then we cannot compel one another. Am I right?

To put this in military terms, which you’ll for sure understand if you’ve experienced it, you cannot exercise power over those who are of the same rank. You simply aren’t in the position to do so. Those who outrank you, they get to do that. Oh, and don’t think for a minute that you get to object to whatever those who outrank you make you do. There is no challenging your superiors. It’s rigged that way. As an expert tip, the best way to minimize being pushed around is to minimize the contact with people who are in the position to do so. Don’t go thinking your superior is your peer. Those who are equal are your peers. This is hierarchy 101. It’s also an interesting social experiment. I know that I’m getting sidetracked here, but it’s fascinating how it works in the military. Your background doesn’t matter. You are flattened to your rank and you end up associating with the people of that rank, just because, well, they, for sure, are not in the position to exercise power over you. Conversely, you avoid your superiors like the plague if you can help it, not because you don’t like them or don’t respect them, but because at any time they can look at you and tell you to jump. Jumping becomes your only option. Sure, there are limits to this, but still. That’s pretty much how it is.

The military is not your everyday life, unless you are in the military that is. In its defense, I must however say, it is at least honest and transparent about how it works. Rank is everything. Image is nothing. Obey your superior. It’s clear that people with more bling are above you. You can actually see this, those chevrons, stripes and stars or whatever it is, eagles or lions, that marks the rank on the uniform, typically in gold, just so that it stands out. Anecdotally, to amuse you for a moment, there is this expression in the army that “shit rolls down hill”, albeit in the Finnish form it’s “shit flows downwards”. You can think of the stripes or bars that officers have in some countries as their insignia as stacking up. The lower the stack, the more of you get covered in it. The same applies to the non-commissioned officers, who, at least in the case of Finland have chevrons, inverted v-shapes, as their insignia. The chevron is itself humorously called the “shit plow”. Anyway, the lower the stack, the more you get covered in it. Those at the bottom, without anything to stack, well they are the ones to get most of it. Anyway, that said, the taller the stack, the higher the rank, the easier it gets to avoid these people like the plague. You’ll learn to see them coming about a mile away. This is not the case outside military or at least it is not as obvious.

Now, if you have no experience in military, I cannot judge you. I can only say, that’s on you, mate. I don’t know what to do with that. However, it’s only likely that you’ve gone through a system of education, for example a primary school followed by a secondary school. If you are reading this, it’s also only likely that you are an academic, someone with university education. Of course, you might be a veritable autodidact, interested in this type of stuff, so there’s that. I applaud you if that’s the case. Anyway, assuming that you did go to school, for years, you’ll know how it is. Other students are your peers. Your teacher is not. As in the military, this does not mean that you dislike the superior or that you have no respect for the superior. You just recognize that you are not at equal footing. If it has been too long since you went to school, which is only likely to be the case, you may not remember how it was. Or wish to do so. Fair enough. If you’ve ever worked in a factory, it’s the same thing. Same with working in an office. You know your peers. They are the people not above you, nor below you. They are the people you work with on a mutual first name basis.

I think it’s time to jump to the text by Deleuze. I tried my best to explain this in terms of hierarchy in the military, but it’s all too quaint and fair in its transparency, to the points it’s obvious. It’s, so, so, old school despotic. There’s no appeal to reason or logic. The only logic is to do as you are told by your superiors, who are told to it by their superiors, who are told to so by their superiors etc. At the top of this is someone is effectively the supreme leader of the military, the despot-god, to put it in Deleuzo-Guattarian terms. At least you know you serve the emperor. Okay, time for some Deleuze (126):

“From Greek tragedy to modern philosophy, an entire doctrine of judgment has been elaborated and developed.”

What is this judgment then? Well, I did allude to it early on, but I think I’ve said enough thus far. Deleuze (126) attributes Friedrich Nietzsche as the one who recognized the condition of judgment as having to do with a debt to a deity, that is to say a god. Moreover, he specifies (126) it’s not just debt among other debt, something you can simply pay and be done with it but a debt that cannot be paid. It is, as made abundantly clear by him (126), an infinite debt. Therefore he (126) summarizes the doctrine of judgment:

“Man does not appeal to judgment, he judges and is judgable only to the extent that his existence is subject to an infinite debt; the infinity of the debt and the immortality of existence each depend on the other[.]”

If you are puzzled by the infinite debt, it is infinite because the debtor never dies, as clarified by Deleuze (126-127). Spoiler alert, the debtor never dies because it is immortal, a god. To be more precise, it’s actually not merely a god, but the God. The point here really is, in summary, that as the one on top is immortal, you cannot do anything about. What are you going to do to an immortal? It’s rather obvious that resistance is futile. I mean, we are talking about an immortal. Even if we ignore how it is presented, think of what would happen if your neighbor, to use the closest person that came to my mind, even if your neighbor is technically closest to you, not me, would realize its immortality. Yeah, something tells me that that person would end up as the supreme leader and we’d end up jumping, each and every time, uppity downdidy, or else. Among others, Deleuze (127) exemplifies this with Franz Kafka’s ‘The Trial’:

“Kafka, for his part, locates the infinite debt in an ‘apparent aquittal,’ and the deferred destiny in an ‘unlimited postponement.’ both of which keep the judges beyond our experience and our comprehension.”

So, in trial, in general, not just in the book, you are found either guilty or not guilty, as this or that. That’s judgment. However, what Deleuze (127) points to in Kafka is the infinite deferral of judgment. Even if you acquitted, found not guilty of whatever it is you have ended up in court for to be judged, this is just one case, one segment. Acquittal does not mean that the system of judgment is done with you, not to mention done in general. You can always end up in court. Trial is, of course, only one form of judgment or tribunal. You don’t need a courtroom to be judged. Deleuze (127) uses real life Kafka as example a tribunal outside the courtroom, in reference to Elias Canetti’s ‘Kafka’s Other Trial: The Letters to Felice’:

“Kafka showed himself to be ‘diabolical in all innocence’ in order to escape from the ‘tribunal in the hotel’ where his infinite engagements were being judged.”

He (127) provides D.H. Lawrence as another example:

“Lawrence lived under the accusations of immoralism and pornography that were brought against the least of his watercolors[.]”

Here the point is that you can, indeed, be judged by just about anyone, for about anything. To connect this to being a peer, an equal, it is often a sham. If you end up judged by the people purporting to be your peers, they are, in fact, no longer your peers. They’ve elevated themselves, either by promoting themselves or by demoting you. They’ve engaged in one-upping you. In both cases here, it’s about moral condemnation. I like how in that passage Deleuze uses the word ‘engagement’ so aptly. Kafka is getting judged for breaking off engagement with Felice Bauer. Now, apparently, Kafka was flip-flopping on the engagement, so, yes, he did sort of have it coming. That said, there’s a difference between disagreement and judgment. You can voice your concerns and objections to someone, even tell them off. I don’t know about others, but in my experience that results in mutual disagreement. It works both ways. It can, however, also result in agreement. In judgment, it’s not about disagreement but about assumption of guilt. Jean-Jacques Lecercle (29) puts it particularly well in ‘The Misprision of Pragmatics’:

“The law of ordinary conversation is a lynching law, where there is no smoke without fire, and where the accused answers from a position of presumed guilt.”

He (29) also points to another relevant bit:

“If conversation is an unfair trial, or a battle where the stronger party, not the innocent one, wins the day, the question of alliances is decisive – one must isolate one’s enemies.”

In Kafka’s case it was indeed one against many. Actually, innocence and guilt were not on the menu, winning the day was. Felice could have confronted Kafka all by herself, told him off for flip-flopping, as well as for courting others, and end it right there, be done with it. Instead she orchestrated a trial in which, she, her sister and her friend, confronted Kafka. This is the tribunal at the hotel. If you are interested, this is explained in more detail in, for example, ‘A Franz Kafka Encyclopedia’ edited by Richard Gray, Ruth Gross, Rolf Goebel and Clayton Koelb. Just look up Felice Bauer. Deleuze (126-127) also uses Antonin Artaud as one of his examples, but I don’t think I need to bring him up here, aside from that the title of Deleuze’s essay is in reference to Artaud, who wish to be done with the judgment of God.

Summarizing the trials and tribulations of Nietzsche, Lawrence, Kafka and Artaud, all accused of different things, for being immoral really, Deleuze (127) states that this has to do with the logic of judgment:

“[It] merges with the psychology of the priest, as the inventor of the most somber organization: I want to judge, I have to judge.”

Find this confusing? Well, I’ll let Deleuze (127) further elaborate this:

“It is not as if the judgment itself were postponed, put off until tomorrow, push back to infinity; on the contrary, it is the act of postponing, of carrying to infinity, that makes judgment possible. The condition of judgment lies in a supposed relation between existence and the infinite order of time.”

Who gets to judge then? Deleuze (127) explains:

“The power to judge[,] and to be judged[,] is given to whomever stands in this relation.”

I acknowledge that this may seem rather theological to you, but that’s because it is. However, it’s not limited to morality. This is particularly relevant when it comes to academics. I’ll let Deleuze (127) explain this as he puts it so aptly:

“Even the judgment of knowledge envelops an infinity of space, time, and experience that determines the existence of phenomena in space and time (‘every time that …’).”

So, to comment this, before I let him finish and make the connection, we are dealing here with what is true and what is not. That’s what the cited bit in the passage is about, stating that, for example, every time that something happens, it leads to something else happening. Anyway, Deleuze (127) wraps this up:

“But the judgment of knowledge in this sense implies a prior moral and theological form, according to which a relation was established between existence and the infinite following an order of time: the existing being as having debt to God.”

You are probably not convinced by him, but that’s probably because we are barely halfway through the second page of his essay. In order to make more sense of this, Deleuze (127-128) juxtaposes the doctrine of judgment with what he refers to a system of cruelty. He (127) credits Nietzsche for having making it apparent to us that there is no infinite debt, only finite debt between various parties:

“One begins by promising, and becomes indebted not to a god but to a partner, depending on the forces that pass between the parties. … Everything places between parties, and the ordeal is not a judgment of God, since there is neither god nor judgment.”

Now, I reckon it actually makes no difference if there is a god or gods, or not involved. As he (129) points out later on, it just happens to be that this is particularly marked in religions, especially in the Christian form. The crux of is that the relation is between parties and thus breaking that contract ought to result in confrontation between those parties and only those parties. Appealing to judgment, to an outside party, is an illegit, illegitimate move on the behalf of one of the parties involved. The other party ends up having to participate in a rigged game. Think of it as playing a game of cards, poker, the classic version, the one in westerns where someone may get shot after a round, no re-raising allowed, and you end up losing the game because someone cheated, having an ace up one’s sleeve. There’s a reason why people get shot around tables in westerns. To explain this better, I remember my brother once explaining to me that as kids a friend of his used to play poker with his younger brother. The rules were as they are, except for the fact that the older brother always won the game because he had six cards, instead of five, a trump card if you will. Even if he lost the game according to the set rules, he was able to bring that trump card in from the outside to win the game. Now, his younger brother was, apparently, no, not dumb, but simply too young to understand and/or to question his older brother. Why would someone you look up to do that? Well, that’s the point exactly. Because they can. That move may be illegit, but that’s the whole point.

So, as in the risk of getting shot at a poker table in a western, Deleuze (127-128) explains how this works according to Nietzsche:

“[T]here exists a justice that is opposed to all judgment, according to which bodies are marked by each other, and the debt is inscribed directly on the body following the finite blocks that circulate in a territory. The law … does not have the immobility of eternal things, but is ceaselessly displaced among families that either have to draw blood or pay with it.”

This is why it’s called the system of cruelty, in case you were wondering about the moniker earlier on. To make this abundantly clear, Deleuze (128) characterizes it:

“Such are the terrible signs that lacerate bodies and stain them, the incisions and pigments that reveal in the flesh of each person what they owe and are owed[.]”

This is a level playing field. No third parties involved or invoked. In contrast, the doctrine of judgment involves exactly that, invoking a superior force to your aid. This is also the comic version of the golden rule: whoever has the gold, makes the rules. No, it’s not about you giving someone gold in exchange for something, perhaps a favor, a debt between two parties. If that were the case, the gold would simply circulate. It’s about the involvement of a third party, the authority that guarantees that your gold has value as gold has no intrinsic value.

How does this work then? Deleuze (128-129) explains that it functions according to lots, supposedly given to people by gods, and forms, how well one fits the allotted lot for some end. Now, obviously the lot might not be the one you want or fit in, but, well, too bad, that’s what you got to deal with, or else. Life is reduced to judgment in the name of higher values. Deleuze (129) elaborates how it operates between people:

“[People] judge insofar as they value their own lots, and are judged insofar as a form either confirms or dismisses their claim. They judge and are judged at the same time, and take equal delight in judging and being judged.”

What happens if you fail to stay or value your own lot? Deleuze (129) states that if you fail at that, it results in delirium and madness, well, any form of supposed deviancy, really. I realize that all this theology might bore you. It probably seems a bit archaic. Anyway, before I get to how this operates contemporarily, it’s worth noting that, as I sort of pointed out already, it’s in Christianity where judgment becomes about judgment itself, not about this or that lot or form as there is only one lot and one form, as explained by Deleuze (129). He (129) explains how this works in modernity then:

“At the limit, dividing oneself into lots and punishing oneself become the characteristics of the new judgment or modern tragedy.”

This reminds me of what Deleuze and Guattari state in ‘A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia’. They (130) call this the “paradox of the legislator-subject” in which the despot-god is replaced by the Cartesian Cogito. As they (130) characterize it, one is no longer slave to anyone else but yourself, obeying yourself at all times, very, very passionately. You no longer need anyone else to judge you. You judge yourself! It is in this sense that we can think of judgment as a faculty. It is, indeed, both extremely cold and extremely passionate at the same time, as they (130) point out. Of course that doesn’t mean that just because we judge ourselves, we cease to judge others. No. Only the source of judgment has shifted from a higher power to each and every one of us. This actually only makes the judgment more potent. Deleuze (129) elaborates this:

“Nothing is left but judgment, and every judgment bears on another judgment.”

In other words, we are dealing with endless chains of judgment. Deleuze (129-130) moves on to provide examples, mainly ones from as recently as in the times of the ancient Greeks. I wouldn’t bring these up if there wasn’t something particularly interesting in these examples. Anyway, he (129-130) explains that, contrary to what many might think, dreams are not liberating, but imprisoning. The problem for him is that our dreams are organized, structured, after all, Apollo is not only the god of dreams but also the god of judgment. More contemporarily, it is, apparently, the people most interested in dreams that like to make use of them to judge and punish people outside dreams, in reality. So, for example, if you had a dream of about this and/or that, then it’s taken to mean this and/or that, perhaps something that needs rectifying. He contrasts this with insomnia. For him insomniacs are not people who fail to sleep, but people who escape dreams, in the Apollonian sense. This why he (130) calls insomnia “the state of Dionysian intoxication, [a] way of escaping judgment.” This is perhaps too literal, but, if you think of it, what results from insomnia, sleep deprivation, is somewhat similar to intoxication. I wouldn’t call myself an insomniac, I quite like to sleep and enjoy the absurdity of my dreams, but there is, in my experience, something to this. When I feel like I can’t sleep, it’s driven by this will to escape judgment, to create something, right here, right now. It’s also clarifying that Deleuze is not opposing insomnia with sleep, but with dreams. He (130) actually refers to it as dreamless sleep. You really have to think of this in multiple sense of the word, dreams as having to do with sleeping and as having to do with how we wish for something to be, this and/or that, organized in a certain way.

Deleuze (130-131) moves on to elaborate how the system of cruelty and the doctrine of judgment operate at the level of the body. He (130) starts by pointing out how our bodies are organized, how parts of our bodies are organs, which he (130) specifies as “both judges and judged[.]” He (130) adds that the divine judgment is then the organization of infinity. This is where he (130) connects judgment with sensing, as in having to do with our sense organs. In other words, senses are faculties, hence the connection to judgment. With regards to the body then, the physical body, he (131) clarifies that body is only an organism in as much it is judged as such, marked by classifying it into various organs. In contrast, the body that is not classified as an organism, consisting of organs, is thus, following Artaud, referred to by him (131) as the body without organs. This is a concept that gets elaborated in more detail in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’. An entire plateau is dedicated to it. He (131) elaborates it as vital, living, affective and intensive, having poles, zones, thresholds and gradients. He (131) also calls it inorganic, which may seem a bit confusing, but remember that this is not about organic in the sense that we tend to think of it as having to do with something living, but about organization. So, inorganic is about unorganized. Deleuze (131) states the application of this:

“The way to escape judgment is to make yourself a body without organs, to find your body without organs. … [T]o defined the body in its becoming, in its intensity, as the power to affect or to be affected[.]”

This, “the power to affect or to be affected”, he (131) attributes to Nietzsche’s project, as in ‘Will to Power’. After explaining this with regards to the body, Deleuze (132) moves on to explain what replaces judgment, in all its senses:

“[I]t is combat that replaces judgment. And no doubt the combat appears as a combat against judgment, against its authorities and its personae.”

So, judgment is replaced by combat. It only follows that the judge is replaced by the combatant, as indicated by Deleuze (132). That said, he (132) adds that the combatant not only engages in combat against judges but also and even more importantly against oneself:

“[I]t is the combatant himself who is the combat: the combat is between his own parts, between the forces that either subjugate or are subjugated, and between the powers that express these relations of force.”

In other words, if you already forgot about it, probably because it is a bit obscure, it’s worth remembering that the body without organs is “the way to escape judgment”, as indicated by Deleuze (131). Simply put, it starts with you. This why Deleuze (132) characterizes Kafka’s works as elaborating combat, “the combat against the castle, against his father, against his fiancées.” For example, as discussed already, Kafka did indeed flip-flop with his fiancée, but it had more to do with combating himself and the judgment in general, all the expectations that are associated with marriage, than his fiancée. So, in summary thus far, Deleuze (132) distinguishes between combat-against and combat-between, the former having to find its justification in the latter. To fight others, you must fight yourself, otherwise you are just fighting for the sake of fighting. In Deleuze’s (132) parlance, the combat-between is becoming. What it is opposed to is being. Well, technically it is not opposed to being, not at all. It’s rather that being necessitates becoming. Deleuze (xi) explains this well with regards to Nietzsche in ‘Nietzsche and Philosophy’:

“[O]nly that which becomes in the fullest sense of the word can return, is fit to return. Only action and affirmation return: becoming has being and only becoming has being. That which is opposed to becoming, the same or the identical, strictly speaking, is not.”

To put this in other words, to extract the nugget of gold here, identity, that is to say the same or the identical, is not being. Being is tied to becoming. You are what you’ve become, not what you think you’ve become. What you think you’ve become, say, this and/or that, is some identity that you attribute to yourself, as do others, inasmuch as they do, hence the point about the same and the identical. It simply cannot have being. Don’t believe me? Well, let’s ask a dictionary (OED, s.v. “identity”, n):

“The quality or condition of being the same in substance, composition, nature, properties, or in particular qualities under consideration; absolute or essential sameness; oneness.”

In other words, as pointed out by Deleuze (xi), it’s the same, the identical. Sure, there are contradictory definitions, which I’m sure you can look up. I’m not contesting this. However, when we look at the provided etymology, we can see that the oldest account is 4th century Latin identitat-, identitas, which stands for the “quality of being the same”, rooted in idem, the same, and tās, ty. It was, apparently, translated from Greek ταὐτότης (taftótis). It is indicated that it is a much later developed which occurs in French that we end up using identity as having to do with the individual, as in the nonidentical, as opposed to the mass. In other words, the way it was used to be used has to do with haecceity (OED, s.v. “haecceity”, n), thisness:

“The quality that makes a person or thing describable as ‘this’; the property of being a unique and individual thing; particular character, individuality.”

In contrast, the way it is used these days has to do with, oddly enough, its opposite, quiddity (OED, s.v. “quiddity”, n), whatness:

“The inherent nature or essence of a person or thing; what makes a thing what it is.”

Now, to get the distinction between the two, haecceity is what something has become, how this or that is the way it is to us, right here, right now. In contrast, quiddity is about the qualities of it, which, to be honest, we attribute to it. Therefore, I’d say quiddity is rather what we think something is, not what it is. This is where you get to the same, the identical, whereas with haecceity, the identity proper, is what something is, what it has become at any given point in time. So, right, in summary, being is not opposed to becoming. In fact, it necessitates it. As an anecdote here, and as sort of a praise, this was also mentioned in passing at the aesthetics lectures that I attended. Knowing his Latin, the lecturer made note of how people, the youth that is, considering that he’s an elderly man (you get the joke), wish to express their identity by wearing the same t-shirt as their peers. The irony of that. Defining identity as the identical. Yes. It’s palpable.

To get back on track here, skipping a couple of juicy examples (to leave you something to read yourself), Deleuze (133) summarizes what is common between Nietzsche, Lawrence and Artaud, and I guess Kafka as well, even if he is, I guess, more marked by his struggles, being at crossroads (no not a Britney Spears reference, just in general) than by embracing combat or becoming (hence his work is interesting for someone at the same stage). That actually explains quite a bit about the flip-flopping. He was getting there.

Anyway, so he (133) summarizes that the thing in common is that “their common master is the thinker of combat, Heraclitus.” In case you are interested, he is the philosopher who famously stated that “one cannot enter the same river twice”, as indicated, for example, in Aristotle’s ‘The Metaphysics’ (189), only to be challenged by his follower Cratylus who stated that “it cannot be done even once.” I can only agree with both. Heraclitus is correct if we think the river, the one that we enter as a specific entity, understood as such, snaking across the land, originating at some elevated ground, typically a mountain, only to meet a larger body of water, a lake, a sea or an ocean. The thing is that as we recognize it as such and enter the river, the river has already changed as you exit it. So, it is in this sense that you can never re-enter it. It’s no longer the same. The change may be imperceptible, but it has changed nonetheless. That said, Cratylus is correct in the sense that our understanding of how the flow of water works, designated as an entity, is exactly that, us designating it as such, thingifying a flow, a process, that is more of an infinite chain or a network of events that occur. The point with Cratylus being that it was never actually river in the first place. I reckon you understand that this is not about rivers, but, well, about everything in general. Static vs dynamic.

Right, to finally summarize the people discussed by Deleuze (133), he states that they all have to do with combat and in converse:

“[W]henever someone wants to make us renounce combat, what he is offering us is offering us is a ‘nothingness of the will,’ a deification of the dream, a cult of death, even in its mildest form – that of the Buddha or Christ as a person (independently of what Saint Paul makes of him).”

Only to state this in reverse (133):

“But neither is combat a ‘will to nothingness.’ Combat is not war. War is only a combat-against, a will to destruction, a judgment of God that turns destruction into something ‘just’. The judgment of God is on the side of war, and not combat.”

He (133) goes on to add that this applies even if and “when it takes hold of other forces” as it starts to mutilate those forces, reducing them to the same level, that of war. He (133) adds that “[i]n war, the will to power merely means that the will wants strength … as a maximum of power … or domination.” In other words, war is indeed about the will to power but it is its lowest form, will to power for the sake of it. That’s why he (133) calls it its sickness. To exemplify this, he (133) points out that babies are the opposite of this. They are full of energy and vitality, the will to live. However, go forward some years and the child becomes more organic, that is to say organized, and personal, more molded according to certain organizing principles that we impose on the child, wittingly or unwittingly. The point here is that, as Deleuze (133) puts it, “the baby is combat”, becoming.

Okay, I’m almost done with Deleuze’s essay. As he is using the word power quite a bit in this essay, as in, for example, in ‘Will to Power’, he (134) elaborates what is meant by this:

“A power is an idiosyncrasy of forces, such that the dominant force is transformed by passing into the dominated forces, and the dominant by passing into the dominant – a center of metamorphosis.”

This is why I try to explain power as a force. Think of it in terms of physics. What is resistance? When one force meets other forces. Foucault (95) addresses this in the first volume of ‘The History of Sexuality’:

“Where there is power, there is resistance, and yet, or rather consequently, this resistance is never in a position of exteriority in relation to power.”

Foucault (95) adds to this that power is not something that is held, contrary to popular belief, as manifested in expressions such as ‘I got the power’, ‘they have the power to do …’ and the like. Instead, he (95) states that:

“This would be to misunderstand the strictly relational character of power relationships. Their existence depends on a multiplicity of points of resistance, these play the role of adversary, target, support, or handle in power relationships. These points of resistance are present everywhere in the power network.”

Only to return to reiterate the earlier remark in other words (96):

“[Resistances] are the odd term in relations of power; they are inscribed in the latter as an irreducible opposite.”

So, as expressed by Deleuze, if power has to do with force or forces, what it or they force itself or themselves upon are also forces, considering that, as explained by Foucault, resistance is also a point in power relations. Anyway, I didn’t let Deleuze finish, so I’ll let him (134) do that:

“This is what Lawrence calls a symbol: an intensive compound that vibrates and expands, that has no meaning, but makes us whirl about until we harness the maximum of possible forces in every direction, each of which receives a new meaning by entering into relation with the others.”

Before I let him continue, take notice of the word relation there. It is no accident that it’s there. Deleuze (134) continues:

“A decision is not a judgment, nor is it the organic consequence of a judgment. It resolves the combat without suppressing or ending it. It is the lightning flash appropriate to the night of the symbol.”

I decided to include this bit because you might be wondering how we do anything if we cannot judge. Well, as clearly indicated here, a decision is not synonymous to judgment. As it was discussed earlier on, it’s a different thing for one to deal with another party than to deal with another party and a third party. Judgment always has that appeal to something outside the arrangement between two parties.

The symbol bit might a bit tricky to get as well. Deleuze (134) indicates that the four, Nietzsche, Lawrence, Kafka and Artaud are all symbolists and their books are books of symbols, ‘Thus Spoke Zarahustra’ being “the combative book par excellence.” In other words, it’s the book of becoming par excellence. He (134) notes that with Nietzsche and Kafka, “there appears an analogous tendency to multiple and enrich forces, to attract a maximum of forces, each of which reacts upon the others.” There are other examples included by him, but I’ll jump to his summary bit on the four, where he (134) states that “these are all figures that constitute so many symbols through the building-up of forces, through the constitution of compounds of power.”

Almost done, only one last paragraph to cover. Deleuze (134) summarizes why this is important, in general, but also in particular to people, in case you hope to get something out of this for yourself:

“No one develops through judgment, but through a combat that implies no judgment.”

In other words, an identity is not being, existence, becoming is. He (134) explains why:

“Existence and judgment seem to be opposed on five points: cruelty versus infinite torture, sleep or intoxication versus the dream, vitality versus organization, the will to power versus a will to dominate, combat versus war.”

He then acknowledges how this can be hard to understand. He (134) notes that it may come across as disturbing because it forces us to renounce judgment, which in turn may leave an impression that nothing matters anymore, “depriving ourselves of any means of distinguishing between existing beings, between modes of existence, as if everything were no of equal value.” However, this is not the case. The opposite is. He (134) questions this:

“But is it not rather judgment that presupposes preexisting criteria (higher values), criteria that preexist for all time (to the infinity of time), so that it can neither apprehend what is new in an existing being, nor even sense the creation of a mode of existence?”

In other words, the point he makes in the preface to his book on Nietzsche is reiterated, only becoming has to do with existence, with being. The problem with judgment is that it works with a certain presupposition, sneaking it in through the back-door, if you will. Everything is turned static, hence the immutability of identities, hence the problem with identities. It is the anti-being. He (135) then moves to note that the opposite is called a system of cruelty because it involves “a certain cruelty toward [one]self[.]” Remember, to combat-against needs combat-between, otherwise you end up with war instead of combat. He (135) also notes that it is, in fact, judgment that fails to recognize value “because what has value can be made or distinguished only by defying judgment”, as in engaging in combat. To pun a bit here, I mean why not, it is, in fact, vital to do so. To make this a bit more clear, Deleuze (135) summarizes how it is that we are then, post-judgment, supposed to work things out:

“It is not a question of judging other existing beings, but of sensing whether they agree or disagree with us, that is, whether they bring forces to us, or whether they return us to the miseries of war, to the poverty of the dream, to the rigors of organization.”

Indeed, as I believe I did point out earlier on already, it’s about agreement and disagreement, as well about voicing it, without an appeal to presupposed criteria that are, supposedly, universally applicable, have been so and will be so in the future, for all eternity, that one of the parties is tempted to sneak in to get the upper hand. It’s not really even about the existence of deities or the lack thereof, but making use of such. As also pointed out in this essay, it has to do with pure reason. We often like to invoke such appeals in the form of, for example, saying that it’s in our nature, hence this and/or that, or that it’s natural for this and/or that to happen. That is a presupposition that you sneak in order to validate your claim. Now, to be fair, it may be the case, that something is because of this and/or that, but how one comes to that is illegitimate as it sets a premise that works to validate the claim. Deleuze and Guattari (107) make note of this in the modern context, as indicated by the two in ‘What Is Philosophy?’:

“Human rights say nothing about the immanent modes of existence of people provided with rights.”

Note that human rights and rights provided to people, not rights inherent in people. So, similarly to the appeals to nature, the problem with appeals to human rights is not that people are not provided such, as agreed by people, different contracting parties, but that they are presupposed. There is no such inherent thing as human or rights, beyond people agreeing on this and/or that which pertain to people. To be absolutely clear, they are not against people having rights. They are against presupposing that they have rights.

For example, when one encounters a face-to-face fundraiser, one typically engages in conversation about helping someone else, let’s say people in some distant country, deprived of certain rights that both of the interlocutors enjoy in the territory they reside in. In terms of combat, this is a yes or no type of a deal, about agreement and disagreement between the parties. First of all, does one want to do something about it or not? One needs to take into account all kinds of details that pertain to the actual circumstances in that specific case. One also needs to weigh whether one is in the right to do so, whether or not it infringes on the agreed rights of others in a territory that is not of your own. Let’s suppose that ones says no, that one disagrees with one’s interlocutor. It is in the interest of the interlocutor, the fundraiser, to raise funds for this. It may well be that it is not merely a job for the fundraiser, but it is, nonetheless, within the interest of the fundraiser to get people to agree, to donate money. Therefore the fundraiser may, as in my experience they do, appeal to humanity or human rights. If one disagrees, one is judged as immoral, inhumane. It works the way discussed in this essay, by sneaking in a presupposition that is not presented as such. That’s how judgment works. It’s no longer a decision.

Deleuze (135) ends his essay by explaining combat, becoming, in Baruch Spinoza’s terms as a matter of love and hate, not of judgment, what you love you love, what you hate, you hate. He (135) then counters that “[t]his is not subjectivism” because “to pose the problem in terms of force, and not in other terms, already surpasses all subjectivity.”

In summary, of the whole essay, mine and Deleuze’s, this all has to do with what he calls an image of thought. The doctrine of judgment is part and parcel of what Deleuze (129-133; 103-110) calls the dogmatic, orthodox or moral image of thought in ‘Difference and Repetition’ and in ‘Nietzsche and Philosophy’. It is largely associated with the Cartesian Cogito, as well as the Heideggerian Being. I rarely run into phenomenologists these days so I won’t address it more here, perhaps another time. Anyway, the problem is that, as more or less discussed already, the self is presupposed, elevated into an a priori position while ignoring that it is actually an a posteriori move, an elevation according to which everything else is then prejudged. In other words, in the dogmatic image, a doxa, an opinion, is elevated to objective universal truth. When it comes to judgment, it has to do with this, how everything revolves around the presupposed subject. It is a premise, one that is rarely ever indicated as such. It nonetheless grants the subject the faculty to judge. Why is it rarely indicated as a premise? Well, I reckon it sort of defeats the utility of it. If you acknowledge that is is a presupposition, then you’ll have to defend it, engage in combat, which goes against the doctrine of judgment. I’m sure people are capable of engaging in combat, both against and between, but they most likely have too much to lose if they do. They have to let go of a lot of things, things they judge as dear to them, and that’s rather discomforting. Simply put, it’s not that they can’t, but that they won’t.

Deleuze and Guattari (28) elaborate this in ‘What Is Philosophy?’ as there being very little room for actual discussion. They (28) note that there is discussion but it’s always discussion that leads nowhere, thus it’s not actual discussion, partly because no wants to do or address anything that might challenge them but also because people speak past one another, not taking into account the premise from which others start. They (28) also note that it is the idea of discussion that has been watered down into perpetual discussion for the sake of discussion, into communicative rationality or into universal democratic conversation. They (28) point out that when people do actually engage with one another, it is done in a way that becomes criticism for the sake of criticism, ignoring the premises of the others, melting words into weapons, just as “the way a cannon can be melted down to make new weapons” and attacking others from their own premise. They (28) aptly summarize the issue:

“To criticize is only to establish a concept vanishes when it is thrust into a new milieu, losing some of its components, or acquiring others that transform it.”

In other words, it doesn’t do anything. To understand something, for example how a certain concept works, you need to step into their shoes, address their premise, step on to their plane. They (28-29) continue:

“But those who criticize without creating, those who are content to defend the vanished concept without being able to give it the forces it needs to return to life, are the plague of philosophy. All these debaters and communicators are inspired by ressentiment. They speak only of themselves whey set empty generalizations against one another. Philosophy has a horror of discussions.”

The key word here is ressentiment, resentment, a concept borrowed from Nietzsche, who (20-21), in ‘On the Genealogy of Morality’, explains it as imaginary revenge, negation instead of affirmation, saying no instead of yes, marked by “feeling of contempt, disdain and superciliousness”, as well as dishonesty to oneself. Moreover, he (21) characterizes it as having to do with the “mind lov[ing] dark corners, secret paths and back-doors, everything secretive [that] appeals” in order to bring security and comfort, “keeping quiet, not forgetting, waiting, temporarily humbling and abasing [one]self.” He (21) disapprovingly gives credit to ressentiment in the sense that it is clever. To connect this to this essay, I’d say it that, yes, it is well clever to presuppose, to sneak in something through the back-door. Anyway, I reckon that’s enough, for now.

To get back to where I was when I didn’t plan to write this, but spontaneously ended up doing it. Yes, peer review. In the light of this essay, it’s apparent that it’s based on the doctrine of judgment. You write something which is then judged by referees, also known as arbiters, also know as judges. How is it that a peer is a referee, an arbiter, a judge? As it is only topical at the moment, think of a football game. In football you are a player, part of a party, a team, that participates in game against another team, another party, consisting of other players. In summary it’s about two parties facing one another. Both teams consist of players, you included. These people can be considered your peers. The are at equal footing. Who is not? The referee. The referee is the third party, the arbiter between the two parties, the person who judges the players and to whom the players appeal when they deem that injustice has occurred. If you’ve ever seen a football game, this is a recurring phenomenon. Why do some players embellish fouls, to the extent that at times they fall to the ground on their own, not of contact with anyone? Because they are clever. They literally cry foul. They do it, they appeal to a third party in order to gain leverage against the opposing party. That’s why. The same applies the other way around as well. Players complain to referees about this and/or that, often in objection to a judgment, not because they engage in combat against the referee but because they seek to influence the referee to blow the whistle against their opposition more. It’s only clever. Dishonest, but clever. To link this back to Deleuze’s essay, why was Kafka confronted by three people instead one, the person who it concerned? Because it helped in appealing to a third party, to gain leverage.

When it comes to academics then, especially in peer review, be it for articles, for positions, for funding, for awards, etc., the problem is that, unlike in a court of law, or on a football pitch, or in the military, those who judge are presented as your peers, part of the same community, as if there was no hierarchy, as if everyone played on the same team or in parallel teams. This is a misnomer and an oxymoron because that’s the exact opposite of peer. The closest thing it is to peer is peerage (OED, s.v. “peerage”, n), in the sense that it has to with a hierarchical system of ranks. That’d be fine, but, for some reason, we have this charade. Why is it that judgment is needed? Why is it that referees are not only referred to as peers, but that they are anonymous? What was it what Nietzsche (21) states about everything secretive? This has to do with judgment and avoiding combat against it. You may wish to combat the judgment of the judges, all you want, as much as you want, but it’s futile because you can’t know who are the ones who judged you. It’s a one way street. And this is thus far assuming that they don’t have any conflict of interest. It becomes next level clever if you claim anonymity and support the doctrine of judgment not because it has to do with your premise, that is because you believe in it, but because you can make use of it, to attack your opponents and competitors. As I stated already, it’s only clever. Dishonest, but clever. Super clever in the sense that you can’t be caught for it as it’s anonymous. What was it again that Deleuze and Guattari stated about communication?

Oh, I almost forgot, or I edited it out when I came up with a more apt title, but so, what about me? Well, if it isn’t obvious already from this, and from my other essays, I’m against judgment, but I also engage in combat with myself. It’d be dishonest otherwise. In Deleuzo-Guattarian parlance, I embrace becoming. I’m never done. I can’t remember whether it was Foucault or Deleuze and Guattari who dislodged me from the dogmatic image of thought. Perhaps it was a bit of all of them, as well as a bit of me, and a bit of other people. I wish others did too, but, of course, I cannot force them, nor judge them if they don’t. I wish I could challenge people more and thus also be challenged more. It would be way better than be judged, that is for sure. I don’t know about others but I don’t mind, I’m not fearful of being wrong, if there is such a thing. If I get something wrong, mess something up, then well, mea culpa, my bad, moving on. It’s actually rather rewarding when such happens because you can use it to develop yourself, even if that development isn’t towards a preset goal but rather open ended. It’s a win-win really and rather cheerful.


  • Aristotle (1933). The Metaphysics (H. Tredennick, Trans.). London, United Kingdom: William Heinemann.
  • Canetti, E. ([1969] 1974). Kafka’s Other Trial: The Letters to Felice (C. Middleton, Trans.). New York, NY: Schocken Books.
  • Deleuze, G. ([1962] 1983). Nietzsche and Philosophy (H. Tomlinson, Trans.). London, United Kingdom: The Athlone Press.
  • Deleuze, G. ([1968] 1994). Difference and Repetition (P. Patton, Trans.). New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
  • Deleuze, G. ([1993] 1998). Essays Critical and Clinical (D. W. Smith and M. A. Greco, Trans.). London, United Kingdom: Verso.
  • Deleuze, G., and F. Guattari ([1980] 1987). A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (B. Massumi, Trans.). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Deleuze, G., and F. Guattari ([1991] 1994). What Is Philosophy? (H. Tomlinson and G. Burchell, Trans.). New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
  • Foucault, M. ([1976] 1978). The History of Sexuality. Volume 1: An Introduction (R. Hurley, Trans.). New York, NY: Pantheon Books.
  • Gray, R. T., R. V. Gross, R. J. Goebel and C. Koelb (2005). A Franz Kafka Encyclopedia. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
  • Kafka, F. ([1925] 1937). The Trial (E. Muir and W. Muir, Trans.). London, United Kingdom: Victor Gollancz.
  • Lecercle, J-J. (1987). The Misprision of Pragmatics: Conceptions of Language in Contemporary French Philosophy. Royal Institute of Philosophy Lectures, 21, 21–40.
  • Nietzsche, F. ([1887] 2006). On the Genealogy of Morality (C. Diethe, Trans.). Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.
  • Nietzsche, F. ([1892] 2006). Thus Spoke Zarathustra (A. Del Caro, Trans.). Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.
  • Oxford English Dictionary Online (n. d.). Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.