To Gluten, or to not Gluten— and Other Platonic Guilt

As I sat in a coffee shop reading the schizophrenic philosophical whims of Gilles Deleuze I became bombarded with a young couple, their parents and a baker who devoured my personal space to fuss over cake choices for the young couples to-be wedding.   The cake maker asks the groom to be, “so you do not eat gluten” and the groom replied promptly: “no”.   And, without skipping a beat, the cake maker responds to this anti-gluten proclamation with the follow up question: “is it by choice?” If you so desire to need to know the grooms response to this rather puzzling question then I will pacify your need for absolution by telling you he said “no [it’s not by choice]”. However, for the purpose of this essay, I will focus only on the bakers question: “is it by choice?” I have no wherewithal to know or care if the groom has a gluten sensitivity or gluten allergy, but I am curious as to understand how it is reasonable for somebody to ask the question “is it a choice?” — how could it not be a choice? However, I will persist to claim that the cause of his desire to avoid gluten and the cause of his lack of perceived freedom to gluten or to not gluten is simply: Plato.

On any given day, as I transverse through the market there is an entire aisle dedicated to bread and the choices we have for bread seem to be endless— our bread freedom is not infringed upon. Our choices are aplenty. But our groom has no choice— so he says.   Even if gluten makes him sick he still has the choice to be sick or not to be sick. But, however, it may be true that he has no choices at all— perhaps his casual response is more insightful than we first thought. The irony of his request to not have gluten, notwithstanding his allergies, is that the party of five was sipping coffee made in South America that has a substantial carbon footprint, milk from cows that lived off corn drenched in pesticides and processed/refined sugar; and more specifically for the bride to-be: “milk” from the pesticide drenched soy bean and, in avoidance of sugar, the neurotoxin aspartame is substituted as her method to sweeten up her coffee. And, the icing on the cake, (not to take away from their sugar laced literal icing on their cake samples), is their coffee is served in paper cups that will live out their days in a landfill— even though they completely consumed their beverage in the coffee shop and there is a full shelf of beautifully branded ceramic mugs awaiting to be actualized. If, he does not have the choices to choose to eat with gluten or not, then it is reasonable to assert that the decision to consume all of their coffee/cake accouterment is also not a choice at all.   

This young couple, of maybe 25 at best, is getting married, having a wedding cake, testing cake with their parents and is under the polite consultation of the cake maker— where is the evidence of their free choice? What are choices anyway? Our desires? Our whims? Are conditioned response to the thing that triggers our pleasure principle? Are we, as Freud posits, merely desiring machines that perpetually operate in pursuance of acquiescing to the desires of our Id, Ego and Superego? But, if we are mere machine of desire— then it’d be reasonable to suggest that we as part of the social machine too. As, we do not exist as autonomous bubbles of desire — as much as we want to be.   So do my desires and whims become the product of the social machine, or are my whims and desires the product of the social machine?   Meaning, more specifically, does our couple do what they do because the social machine dictates their reality, or are they autonomously choosing to do as they do and are actualizing their true desires and, as it so happens, their desires are then reflected back into the social strata as the norm. In reduction, are they mere cause or mere effect?  

So I will first abstract our subjects into the objective reality of, what Kierkegaard would call, the crowd and asses the casual relationship of desire. If I was to create a business plan to sell, say for example cakes, my potential investors would be avid to claim I need to specify my demographic and explicitly tell them who I am creating my goods/services for, who I am marketing to and who I am, hopefully, selling to.   But, how do I know that my potential buyer exists, before the thing they want to buy exists?   Is it, as marketing departments state, that the aggregate crowd of desiring people exist prior to the thing of which they desire?   Or, does the thing of which they desire create the people desiring?   Nietzsche would argue that “selection does not presuppose a primary gregariousness; gregariousness presupposes the selection and is born of it. ‘Culture’ as a selective process of marking or inscription invents the large number in whose favor it is exerted.”[i] In other words, “culture” as the creator of the thing that we desire— objet petit a in Lacanian — is mere cause and the mere effect is the desire. This would imply that our subjects desire to drink what they drink, eat what they eat, marry and all desire and choice in whole is mere effect of the social-machine as cause, viz. “culture”.   However, it would be obtuse to suggest that all desire is mere effect, as the cause from social strata of “culture” cannot be causa sui. In other words, in order for a gregarious line of dominoes to fall in line, there needs to be a casual agent— a mere cause to tip the first domino, the creator of desire.

It may be intuited from the previous paragraph that there was a desire creator that dictates what things come into existence and from the creation of that the thingdesire grows.   As to conjure and suggest that the cycle of production is a cycle of the repetition of creating, as Badiou would call it, an Event that becomes situated in the void to which it non-existed prior to its existence.[ii]   In other words, prior to the invention of soymilk, there was a negated soymilk void to which the soymilk became situated within, and subsequently, the desire to select soymilk was thrusted into existence as the desiring subjects actualize their fidelity to the Event of soymilk. And this is all part of the cycle of production.  But, even in the Badiou argument we run into the dilemma of not knowing who pushed the first domino. All that we have reasoned from Badiou is that each string of dominoes became from its own negated being and that it is only knowable by a process that can be reduced to a philosophical game of three-card Monte — as we try to discover the queen that hides between Aristotelian logic and axiomatic set theory. Is this merely just codifying the rules of ideology? Before we start to unpack ideology, let’s return to Deleuze for a moment:

Deleuze would argue, as Marx would, that capitalism divides — as a “repressive machine” — it’s own essence into two categories: “abstract labor” and “abstract desire”— notwithstanding its process to alienate, re-alienate,[iii] ad infinitum.   This puts people into two categories: “political economy and psychoanalysis, political economy and libidinal economy.”[iv]   The first category, as political economy is the desire cause and as psychoanalysis is the facilitator of desire negation and secondly, as political economy is the desire cause and as libidinal economy is the actualization (effect) of said desire.   Meaning, all people are the cause and effect of desire, and the psychoanalysis is, as Deleuze argues, the facilitator of desire negation (in both form and content). Psychoanalysis does not discover repression, it, conversely, creates repression. What that said, I will go back to ideology for a bit:

Althusser would argue that ideology is created for the subject and by the subject and it has no history.[v]   This notion that ideology is created for the subject and by the subject is arguing that an agent, as subject, objectively (as they perceive) projects their desire upon the Other and, in exchange as does the Other. Creating a feedback loop of self-validation that vacillates from subject to subject (rationalized in the illusion of objectivity).   And although the content of ideology always changes, the form of ideology “has no history”— meaning it never changes or alters.   It could be reasoned that Deleuze’s notion that all people are both abstract desire and abstract labor (as desire creating social-machine) is, merely arguing as Althusser does, but with different terminology.   Inferring: desire is the ideology of capitalism. And the Event (or ideology) of psychoanalysis is the rational strong arm of desire repression; reduced to merely the scientifically validated repackaging of religious guilt.

So in returning to our married couple to-be we could suggest that their desires are the product of capitalist ideology and capitalist ideology is the product of their desire. They are both the cause and effect of their own desires— however, their autonomous choices to select their desire does not exist.   As argued, their perception of objective ideology will create the illusion that the rationality behind their decision is objectively validated and henceforth it’s reasonable to acquiesce to the crowd— even though they are the crowd. This is, perhaps, a reasonable argument in our investigation of our gluten-fearing cake eating friend — he is not desire cause, or desire effect, but, in actu, is the Hegelian synthesis of cause (thesis) and effect (antithesis).

Although I could settle with concluding that our anti-glutenite was wrong to assert that he has no choices, but that also does not mean he has a choice. His act of actualizing his notion of non-choice is the act that removed his capacity to have choice. He negated his freedom by actualizing his freedom towards non-freedom.   However, as stated earlier, I am going to blame Plato for this problem, so we shall continue.   Marx and Deleuze would persist on arguing that this is the product of capitalism (division of labor) and does this have a history, a beginning—when did capitalism begin? Who kicked the first domino?   Rancière would argue that the first domino was kicked over by Plato by the act of casting the shoemaker into the role of proletariat[vi] — Plato implicitly decided the division of labor.   If it is true, as Althusser reasons, that both ideology and philosophy are not possible without society[vii], then I could posit the following: Plato is the father of western philosophy, the father of western ideology, the father of capitalism and, as he casted away our reality into his idealistic world, he inscribed the void within the human psyche to forever desire the real as we forever perpetuate the imaginary.   As Badiou perceives all that is as coming to be in the void of all that is-not it is Plato, I posit, who created the void, the hole, the desire, the dread, the nothing, the lack— the negative void of existence that all western civilization has been damned to contend with. This is our Platonic guilt.



[i] Deleuze, Gilles, and Fe Guattari. Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 1983. Print. Page 343

[ii] Badiou, Alain. Theory of the Subject. London: Continuum, 2009. Print.

[iii] Deleuze, Gilles, and Fe Guattari. Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 1983. Print. Page 303

[iv] Ibid. 304

[v] Althusser, Louis. On the Reproduction of Capitalism: Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses. Print.

[vi] Rancière, Jacques, and Andrew Parker. The Philosopher and His Poor. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2004. Print.

[vii] Althusser, Louis. On the Reproduction of Capitalism: Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses. Print.


One thought on “To Gluten, or to not Gluten— and Other Platonic Guilt

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