The Motivation of Platonism

In his project to release the power of the false, Deleuze follows Nietzsche in identifying Platonism as the force, within Western thinking, that seeks to elevate the true at the expense of the false. Characterised as the theory of Ideas, Platonism understands that the essence of a thing resides in its Idea, its essential nature, which exists beyond the physical. Things that we see are, in varying degrees, images or copies of their otherworldly original. At the beginning of his essay “Plato and the Simulacrum,” Gilles Deleuze quotes Nietzsche’s claim that the task of future philosophy will be nothing less than the “overthrow of Platonism.”

Yet, rather than subverting this Platonic “world of essence and appearance,” Deleuze maintains that Nietzsche’s call is aimed at tracking down its motivation. This, he finds, is in its “will to select, to sort out,” by distinguishing between the “thing itself” and its images. In this sense the theory of Ideas is a process of division, through which the claim of images to truthfulness are ranked in order, from the true copy to the false image, the simulacrum

The Platonic Idea enables a judgement of the degree to which an image possesses the quality of the original. Distinguishing between the rightful claimant to truthfulness, the model or copy, and that which has only the semblance of truthfulness, the simulacrum. The truthful image will resemble the idea, while the simulacrum will have a semblance “ever corrupted by dissemblance.”

Thus the motive of Platonism is to ensure the triumph of the true copies and and to repress the simulacra, false images, “keeping them chained in the depths” (48).

Next Post: The Domain of images

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