On Creative Difference

To Plato it was necessary to postulate an Other world. He splits reality into the apparent, or sensual world, and the intelligible world. The world of the intelligible is beyond sensible appearance – beyond individuals, beyond becoming, beyond sense data, beyond images or simulacra, beyond differences. The world of the intelligible is instead an eternally existing essence – the essence of Being, of Form, of Ideas, of Universals. The task of Platonic philosophy has been to think this Other world, and in order to do so, have recourse to another kind of knowledge: a knowledge beyond the sensible world, privy to the intelligible world.

The ‘overturning of Platonism’ has been a Nietzschean attempt to inverse the Platonic duality of the sensible and the intelligible, or the world of appearances and the world of essences. For the Nietzscheans there is no ‘other world,’ there is only one world and we are in it.

Consider Deleuze’s Nietzscheanism. He does not conceive of a split as if to follow Platonic dualism, and instead conceives of the sensible and the intelligible as complementary components of this world. The domain of ideas, or the intelligible, is conceived of as part of the domain of real experience, or the condition of the sensible. Ideas then become differentials that are actualized through the sensible. If Plato wants to elevate the intelligible to the Other world and think it in terms of the One and the Same, then the Nietzscheans have wanted to invert this condition through assertion of the sensible, in terms of the Multiple and Difference.

Following this inversion, the Nietzscheans have to locate a principle of immanence that allows for the proposition of the sensible and intelligible, which were once conceived as separate domains, as belonging to a single world. They do so as if to conflate the Platonic transcendental with the mythos of Christianity, as if the latter can be seamlessly grafted onto the former, however, Christianity does not believe in two worlds but one world, and it is arguable just how much Christianity can contrived as simply “Platonism for the masses.”

In order to think both the sensible and the intelligible, we cannot fall back upon old meditations. In contrast to Plato, thought begins in the sensorium – it originates in the sensorium, or in the being of the sensible – and only after it arises in the sensible does it proceed into the intelligible, or that domain where thought can think. It is perhaps against both Plato, which denied the reality of the sensible, and against Kant, who denied the reality of the intelligible, that a proposition on the unity of being that encircles both sensible and intelligible could be discovered.

One avenue that may lead us somewhere is Deleuze’s pronouncement of a philosophical alliance between metaphysics and aesthetics.

Deleuze is critical of both Plato and Kant, attacking the transcendental conditions,

“No wonder, then, that aesthetics should be divided into two irreducible domains: that of the theory of the sensible which captures only the real’s conformity with possible experience; and that of the theory of the beautiful, which deals with the reality of the real in so far as it is reflected. Everything changes once we determine the conditions of real experience, which are not larger than the conditioned and which differ in kind from the categories: the two senses of the aesthetic become one, to the point where the being of the sensible reveals itself in the work of art, while at the same time the work of art appears as experimentation.”[1]

Hence, the advance is towards a metaphysical aesthetics, where the terms of metaphysics and aesthetics become interchangeable. In this pursuit, aesthetics is a one world ontology. In this one world ontology, the dualism in Plato collapses as reality’s two aspects become a single world, hence the universal, virtual, transcendental Ideas, co-mingle with the singular, actual, sensible domain.

If this single world is to be known, Deleuze claims we need a different kind of knowledge where the intuitive and the creative are two aspects of a single principle. The sense of being as creative difference – the account of thought follows from an account of being. Creativity is thus understood as a model of knowledge in aesthetic experience.

The issue I have with Nietzsche and the Nietzscheans, however, is that prioritizing the agon is only ever a decision of mythos, and the issue of the transcendental as a counter-violence to a primordial violence is not necessarily the case, or at least not necessarily based on any sufficient reason but remains an aesthetic choice.

this regard, it is feasible to create another mythos that opts for a different aesthetic choice.

The possibility of creative difference ought to be seen in counter distinction to a materialist eliminativism. The latter views thought as an activity, but as an activity, or as something done, it views this something done as not something that is. Thought is presumed to be the active force, severing itself from being, which is considered passive. Such “vacuous actuality” (Whitehead), nihilates thought’s beingness, presuming thought to have no being, i.e. presuming thought is not something that is.

However, affirming the univocity of being, the distinction between being and thought is not a dualism because thought is in the same manner that being is, i.e. a creative difference.

As with the aforementioned Christian statement, it must be added that Christianity’s God is already in difference, as Trinity – as always-already a rotational and relational Godhead – and thus Christianity speaks of being-in-difference in this world as a emanation of a God of difference, and although Christianity opts for being and for identity, it is not simply a Platonic god of the one and the same.

As for the ontology of difference, the ambition had been to provide creative conditions that exceed or work against the normative space of reason, in an attempt to explore different kinds of knowledge that are not bound to the world of judgment and representation. This ambition could work against what Whitehead called “vacuous actuality,” which is a form of elimination-realism that succeeds inasmuch as it resurrects Descartes’ assertion of a strict separation between the primary and secondary qualities, where the former becomes a machine for canceling being, and the latter, which is linked to sensation and perception, etc., would be demystified and erased of all content in a nihilistic vision of extinction.

Yet, there is a deeper kind of reason – a reason prior to the reason of the ontotheology, which can serve as a better reflection not only of access to a Divinity but to a Divinity that is created difference.

It is not immediately evident that seeking a beyond to the ordering of judgement and representation necessarily concedes to a primordial violence, that once we dig underneath Enlightenment reason we simply find the “strife” of the agon.

To the painter creating a painting, there is only a single world and the world of judgement and representation come out of this single world. This world of appearance – of the sensible, of the image, of the expression – includes within it the transcendent, positioned in painting as the Witness of its making.

There is no strict separation into two worlds, as in painting the thought and being are of a single movement. So far from dividing the world into appearance and essence, painting is an activity that deflates both in a univocity of being.  This is at bottom the means through which painting can utilize the accident, but in a way where accident is the essence and the essence is the accident.

Following the insights of some of the postmodern, yet in a way that does not merely concede to the postmodernist mythos, which garnishes its metaphysics with Nietzsche’s agon, the presumption is that deducing substance to transition does not displace or rid us of a transcendental, but only reveals that its anchor has never really been in another (Platonic) world removed from life, but right in the thick of the web of difference. 


“Origin” by J Mason (tar, oil, soil, wood, acrylic on canvas / 20″x20″)





[1] Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, p 68

Published by fldwrk

I am a painter.

2 thoughts on “On Creative Difference

  1. You wrote, “To Plato it was necessary to postulate an Other world. He splits reality into the apparent, or sensual world, and the intelligible world.”

    And what do you yourself think, is there one world or two worlds? And why do you think what you think?


    1. I consider that this world is the only world, and that everything in constant metamorphosis and continual change. That being said, I am not on board with the reductive concept of a ‘vacuous actuality’ of dead matter. I have come to the impression that matter is itself agential, an active and living stuff that actively solicits.

      The two worlds of Plato is not the metaphysics of Christian covenant. Something else is going on with the latter that makes decisive breaks with the sensible/supersensible duality. My art practice is informed also by my interest in mysticism, and it has led me to the impression that this single world is the world of immanence as also the Body of Christ – the ‘flesh of the world,’ as the embodied corporeal reality and materialization of God’s first Icon, the Son – and therefore also a world of transcendence. That the two are nested within each other, each informing the other not in a hierarchy of divinities, but instead in a rotational relation.


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