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164 Hent de Vries Testing Existence, Exacting Thought: Reading Ronell with Deleuze Test everything; hold fast what is good. —Paul, I Thessalonians 5:21–22 Let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in him alone and not in his neighbor. —Paul, Galatians 6:4 In Spinoza: Practical Philosophy, Gilles Deleuze writes that “existence is a test.” He immediately adds: “But it is a physical or chemical test, an experimentation , the contrary of Judgment. . . . The physical-chemical test of states constitutes Ethics as opposed to moral judgment.”1 The motif of testing, as opposed to judging in its propositional definition, which is both Kantian and legal, not to mention moral, also appears earlier in Deleuze’s writing, as does a repudiated “dogmatic” image of the test, which, in the words of Difference and Repetition, manifests a naïve commonsensical and epistemic “representation” of what constitutes genuine “problems” (or true “problematics”) in science and the arts, in practical philosophy, including politics and law, and in life and existence as such. Here is what Deleuze, in the pivotal chapter devoted to “the image of thought,” says about “tests”: We are led to believe that problems are given ready-made, and that they disappear in the responses to the solution. Already, under this double aspect, they can be no more than phantoms. We are led to believe that the activity of thinking, along with truth and falsehood in relation to that activity, begins only with the search for solutions, that both of these concern only solutions. This belief probably has the same origin as the other postulates of the dogmatic image [of thought]: puerile examples taken out of context and arbitrarily erected into models. According to this infantile prejudice, the master sets a problem, our task is to solve it, i-viii_1-256_Davi.indd 164 4/10/09 3:14:47 PM 165 Testing Existence, Exacting Thought and the result is accredited true or false by a powerful authority. It is also a social prejudice with the visible interest of maintaining us in an infantile state, which calls upon us to solve problems that come from elsewhere, consoling or distracting us by telling us that we have won simply by being able to respond: the problem as obstacle and the respondent as Hercules. Such is the origin of the grotesque image of culture that we find in tests [les tests] and government referenda as well as in newspaper competitions (where everyone is called upon to choose according to his or her taste, on condition that this taste coincides with that of everyone else). Be yourselves—it being understood that this self must be that of others. As if we would not remain slaves as long as we do not possess a right to the problems, to a participation in and management of the problems. The dogmatic image of thought supports itself with psychologically puerile and socially reactionary examples (cases of recognition, error, simple propositions and solutions or responses) in order to prejudge what should be the most valued in regard to thought—namely, the genesis of the act of thinking and the sense of truth and falsehood.2 A little later, Deleuze identifies this tendency to reduce problems and the problematic to potential and possible solutions, couched in propositions or theoremes alone, with the “technical” character and novel form of an age-old “illusion,” an at once “natural” and “philosophical” diversion or, as he likes to say, “denaturation” of the original task that “dialectics” has set itself since Aristotle.3 Deleuze and his discussion of the test—this time, in the context of his Nietzsche and Philosophy, “the test of the eternal return,” a motif that also informs the argument of Difference and Repetition—makes a decisive appearance in Avital Ronell’s The Test Drive.4 As in her earlier work Stupidity , where she refers to Deleuze’s discussion of bêtise (an equally important theme in Difference and Repetition), the striking resonance between Deleuze’s discussion and her concern with the “test” and its “drive” provides a significant clue for receiving and analyzing her thinking. If I am not mistaken, Deleuze’s conception of “existence as a test”—together with his concern with “experimentation,” in constant discussion with the meaning of this term and its distortion in the propositions of science (including mathematics and the life sciences), as well as in judgments presupposed by dogmatic images of thought—provides an excellent foil that will help...


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