Gilles Deleuze: On the Debt - 1988, Abecedary (J as in Joy - traduction by Charles Stivale)

(...) Deleuze continues by suggesting that the confusion between force and powers is quite costly because power always separates people who are subjected to it from what they are able to do. Spinoza started from this point, Deleuze says, and he returns to something Parnet said in asking her question, that sadness is linked to priests, to tyrants, to judges, and these are perpetually the people who separate their subjects from what they are able to do, forbid them from realizing forces. Deleuze recalls something that Parnet said under "I as in Idea," referring to Nietzsche's anti-Semitism. Deleuze sees this as an important question, since there are texts of Nietzsche that one can find quite disturbing if they are read in the manner mentioned earlier, reading philosophers too quickly. What strikes Deleuze as curious is that in all the texts in which Nietzsche lashes out against the Jewish people, what does he reproach them for, and what has contributed to his anti-Semitic reputation? Nietzsche reproaches them in quite specific conditions for having invented a character that had never existed before the Jewish people, the character of the priest. Deleuze argues that, to his knowledge, in no text of Nietzsche is there the least reference to Jews in a general attack mode, but strictly an attack against the Jewish people-inventors of the priest. Deleuze says that Nietzsche does point out that in other social formations, there can be sorcerers, scribes, but these are not at all the same as the priest.

Deleuze maintains that one source of Nietzsche's greatness as a philosopher is that he never ceases to admire that which he attacks, for he sees the priest as a truly incredible invention, something quite astounding. And this results in an immediate connection with Christians, but not the same type of priest. So the Christians will conceive of another type of priest and will continue in the same path of the priestly character. This shows, Deleuze argues, the extent to which philosophy is concrete, for Deleuze insists that Nietzsche is, to his knowledge, the first philosopher to have invented, created, the concept of the priest, and from that point onward, to have posed fundamental problems: what does sincere, total power consist of? what is the difference between sincere, total power and royal power, etc.? For Deleuze, these are questions that remain entirely actual. Here Deleuze wishes to show, as he had begun earlier, how one can continue and extend philosophy. He refers to how Foucault, through his own means, emphasized pastoral power, a new concept that is not the same as Nietzsche's, but that engages directly with Nietzsche, and in this way, one develops a history of thought.

So what is the concept of the priest, and how is it linked to sadness, Deleuze asks? According to Nietzsche, this priest is defined as inventing the idea that men exist in a state of infinite debt. Before the priest, there is a history of debt, and ethnologists would do well to read some Nietzsche. They've done much research on this during our century, in so-called primitive societies, where things functioned through pieces of debt, blocks of finite debt, they received and then gave it back, all linked to time, deferred parcels. This is an immense area of study, says Deleuze, since it suggests that debt was primary to exchange. These are properly philosophical problems, Deleuze argues, but Nietzsche spoke about this well before the ethnologists. In so far as debt exists in a finite regime, man can free himself from it. When the Jewish priest invokes this idea by virtue of an alliance of infinite debt between the Jewish people and God, when the Christians adopt this in another form, the idea of infinite debt linked to original sin, this reveals the very curious character of the priest about which it is philosophy's responsibility to create the concept. (...)

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Pic: The painting "Women Carrying Housesis an oil on panel (2010) by artist Brian Kershisnik (1962- ). You can check out Brian's amazing work at http://www.kershisnik.com/.