Deleuze on Bergson: Why is there something rather than nothing?

In Bergsonism, Deleuze writes,

When we ask “Why is there something rather than nothing?” or “Why is there disorder rather than order?” or “Why is there this rather than that (when that was equally possible)?” we fall into the same error: We mistake the more for the less, we behave as though nonbeing existed before being, disorder before order and the possible before existence. As though being came to fill in a void, order to organize a previous disorder, the real to realize a primary possibility. Being, or order or the existent are truth itself; but in the false problem there is a fundamental illusion, a “retrograde movement of the true,” according to which being, order and the existent are supposed to precede themselves, or to preceded the creative act that constitutes them, by projecting an image of themselves back into a possibility, a disorder, a nonbeing which are supposed to be primordial.

page 18

If we think we were in a condition of nonbeing before we were conceived, we fall into this error. Nonbeing is a not a condition that precedes being. If we think we return to a state of nonbeing after death, this is also an error. There was never anything (a condition of nonbeing) to return to. If we think the world or our own life is in a condition of disorder, we are assuming there was a prior condition of order and the current disorder is a falling away from that primordial state. Disorder is not less than order but more. We start with the idea of order and then add a negation. Bergson negates the negation.

The error lies in thinking of everything in terms of more or less. We think that disorder is more or less than order, but disorder and order differ in kind not in degree. Order and disorder are different, they aren’t different degrees of the same thing, as in different degrees of order, more or less orderly.

We might say we feel less happy than we did yesterday or 30 years ago. Or, instead, we can just say what we feel today is different than it was yesterday or 30 years ago. Our emotional condition is simply different today than it was before, not necessarily better or worse. If it’s a cloudy day, we don’t have to complain that there is less sunshine than some other day; it’s just different weather, not more or less of anything.

This is essentially what Zen Buddhists talk about— living in the here and now.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.