The Concept of the Simulacrum: Deleuze and the Overturning of Platonism

Continental Philosophy Review 38 (1-2):89-123 (2005)
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This article examines Gilles Deleuze’s concept of the simulacrum, which Deleuze formulated in the context of his reading of Nietzsche’s project of “overturning Platonism.” The essential Platonic distinction, Deleuze argues, is more profound than the speculative distinction between model and copy, original and image. The deeper, practical distinction moves between two kinds of images or eidolon, for which the Platonic Idea is meant to provide a concrete criterion of selection “Copies” or icons (eikones) are well-grounded claimants to the transcendent Idea, authenticated by their internal resemblance to the Idea, whereas “simulacra” (phantasmata) are like false claimants, built on a dissimilarity and implying an essential perversion or deviation from the Idea. If the goal of Platonism is the triumph of icons over simulacra, the inversion of Platonism would entail an affirmation of the simulacrum as such, which must thus be given its own concept. Deleuze consequently defines the simulacrum in terms of an internal dissimilitude or “disparateness,” which in turn implies a new conception of Ideas, no longer as self-identical qualities (the auto kath’hauto), but rather as constituting a pure concept of difference. An inverted Platonism would necessarily be based on a purely immanent and differential conception of Ideas. Starting from this new conception of the Idea, Deleuze proposes to take up the Platonic project anew, rethinking the fundamental figures of Platonism (selection, repetition, ungrounding, the question-problem complex) on a purely differential basis. In this sense, Deleuze’s inverted Platonism can at the same time be seen as a rejuvenated Platonism and even a completed Platonism.
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