dialogues at greenwich: Presentation on 'The Four Poetic Formulas That Might Summarize the Kantian Philosophy'

dialogues at greenwich

discussion and reports from the Volcanic Lines research group at Greenwich University

16 September 2006

Presentation on 'The Four Poetic Formulas That Might Summarize the Kantian Philosophy'

'Discordant Accord: Faculties Taken To Their Limits in Four Poetic Formulas'

This piece of work was presented in a partial form at the Volcanic Lines Deleuzian Research Group’s ‘Essays of Gilles Deleuze’ Reading Group Workshop on 5th February 2007 at The University of Greenwich.

I offer merely a collection of ideas about the very rich and deep essay by Deleuze entitled 'On Four Poetic Formulas That Might Summarise the Kantian Philosophy', although the text originated, I believe, in a seminar delivered at the University of Vincennes in 1978 before appearing in Essays Critical and Clinical and as the preface to Kant's Critical Philosophy. What follows here is embryonic at many points and not fully argued and structured. I welcome all comments, criticisms and suggestions. Any responses you want to make would help me to develop my thought and PhD thesis which is on the relation of Kant and Deleuze.

In Difference and Repetition Deleuze discusses Kant's schematism of judgement and uses a phrase that is perhaps the motto for his engagement with Kant as a whole – 'The Kantian schemata would take flight and point beyond themselves in the direction of a conception of differential Ideas, if they were not unduly subordinated to the categories which reduces them to the status of simple mediations in the world of representation.'1 The motto to 'take flight and point beyond themselves' is blocked by the categorized sum of possibility which, to refer back to Deleuze's essay on Beckett, must be exhausted. Yet rather than using the term exhaustion when talking about the faculties in Kant Deleuze talks about their respective limits.

Faculties could also be rendered in English as 'a potential or power to reach some end' which translates the German term Vermögen.2
However, Howard Caygill deepens the etymological trail by finding in Aristotle's Metaphysics two senses of the term:

1.The ability or power to achieve an end.
2.A potential for change.

Deleuze will undermine this distinction such that a potential for change immerses the self in an involuntary process of individuation and abilities or powers now emerge out of a pure thought that precedes any form of I or self.3

I do not intend here to go into the relevance or effectiveness of Deleuze 'Four Poetic Formulas which might summarise the Kantian Philosophy' for a reading Kant. My concern is with Deleuze's Kant, a subterranean Kant of fractures, discords and breakdowns. He is the Kant of faculties which are productive or individuating through their limit points of madness and not the ‘official’ Kant for whom Kant cannot hide his distaste. Deleuze seeks to envisage Ideas in terms of univocity instead of the analogy that Kant enshrines in terms of possible experience and so projects products into the production mechanism. Deleuze's concern with 'the conditions of real experience' takes different/ciation to be real, to be what is at work in experience and thus to undermine the boundaries of possibility. The virtual is real. Kant is 'a great explorer'4
for Deleuze very much because he at first didn't try to determine in terms of cognition the transcendental or virtual realm. He ensured its purity at thus point such that it could express itself in its own way and not take the form of what it needs to produce. Yet this taking flight was blocked by 'the transcendental conditions of possible experience,' Kant’s refuge in common sense. He is then for Deleuze a great explorer who ultimately sought to read what he discovered in terms of what was recognisable or within the bounds of cognition. Perhaps like the young Englishmen sent to administer India in the days of the Raj armed with their study of Stanley Gibbon’s history of the Roman Empire, with a way to administer otherness that did not engage with it. However, this is a caricature and Deleuze is not this tactless. He sees that Kant found the transcendental before blocking it off and this leaves in his texts point capable of 'taking flight and pointing beyond themselves', of lines of flight that the Four Poetic Formulas dramatise. Univocity as the ultimate limit uniting the limit of each faculty is Deleuze alternative to analogy. Yet it must not make this a discordant discord, avoiding the presupposed of a harmony by attaining the groundless synthesis proposed by the Fourth Poetic Formula. In order to reach the level of the poetic I want to engage with Kant’s appropriation of the faculties in Difference and Repetition.

Deleuze finds in Kant the potential for a superior empiricism defined in terms of faculties going to their respective limits or attaining their transcendent exercise:
'Transcendent in no way means that the faculty addresses itself to objects outside the world but, on the contrary is grasps that in the world which concerns it exclusively and brings it into the world.'5
The empirical operation of the faculties must not be the model for this transcendent exercise because this would deny their transcendental or productive form. I want to locate how 'Each faculty must be borne to the extreme point of its dissolution...' in the Four Poetic Formulas. We ask then 'what forces sensibility to sense', thought to think, imagination to imagine, desire to desire? We seek a point where 'Each faculty discovers its own unique passion.'

This concentrated point from which the force of each faculties particular activities emerge feeds into Deleuze's concern that 'Ideas occur throughout the faculties and concern them all.'6
They provide each faculty with its transcendent exercise which is their differential object. Rather than being something to identify this object is differenciating in experience in the diverse forms the faculty realises. It is never exhausted in this unique force (of sensation, of thought, of imagination… ) or in its power of differenciation because it is a bottomless and profound problem made the object or horizon of a faculty involved in the production of experience. Such an object must not then imitate what the faculty realises in experience, resembling its previous determinations at the expense of its realising its future. Its future involves the Idea that concern all faculties and their continuousness, in terms of which Deleuze formulates the single dice-throw that involves all differences and the origin of Ideas.7 Hence we have speech as a faculty and its transcendent object 'which cannot be spoken in the empirical usage of a given language, but must be spoken and can be spoken only in the poetic usage of speech coextensive with virtuality.'8 It cannot be said and yet it must be said because the exercise is not made up of a collection of things that are sayable or particular and yet it is what is behind the production of these particulars. Having arrived at the poetic it seems appropriate to turn to the four poetic formulas to find the story of faculties and seeing how they are good at 'eliminating every faculty constitutive of a common sense.'9 We have not a common object but the 'paradoxical exercise of the faculties.'10

Page references in parenthesis in the text itself are to 'On Four Poetic Formulas That Might Summarise the Kantian Philosophy' in Essays Critical and Clinical. Trans. Daniel W. Smith and Michael A. Greco, Verso, 1998.

1.'The Time is out of joint' - Shakespeare

The limit of the faculty of memory

Deleuze speaks of a time that is unchanging and unmoving precisely in the sense that it lacks chronological succession or a concern with possibilities of movement in space. If movement involves being measurable and having coordinates then a ‘time out of joint’ is unmoving. What emerges through time expresses a wider horizon than that provided by the 'joints' and 'hinges' because it invokes a different synthesis of time. In early works Deleuze takes from Bergson 'pure memory' as a supplementary dimension contemporaneous with passing presents.11
Here this is developed because 'Things succeed each other in diverse time, but they are also simultaneous in an indeterminate time.' (p. 28) The diverse or discontinuous time is measurable and thus respects certain points of reference and the scope of possible movements or the combining and coordination of points in space. It presents a sum of possibility where in principle we can predict every combination. Deleuze finds that Kant offers us notions of how time and space are together capable of realising impossible movements by reconstituting the mover and their terrain by taking faculties to their limits. The un-measurable continuity that is encountered at the limit must account for combinations of discontinuous terms which exceeds the bounds of possibility which is bounded precisely by 'joints' and 'hinges'. Relations in 'a time out of joint' avoid the reference points and possibilities that are what is to be produced and accounted for by this synthesis which does not resemble it. 'Time out of joint' avoids 'measuring a derived movement' because it is to be the source of its very derivation (p. 28). It equally avoids becoming a circle with an ideal centre since to be ideal is to be de-centred by the differenciation of difference. This is to avoid all Ideas were organised by a particular order or combination of Ideas. Decentring means that Ideas are combined according to the whole of chance, with nothing left out or made into the centre which is never produced or accounted for. Everything then is implicated in the way it is produced. Deleuze seeks to avoid a circle according to which encounters happen and are ordered we can have anything relating to anything else, attaining the most productive and free state of differences.

Lest space seem to be left behind as an inert and present and hand realm simply receiving passively the fruit of the virtual, we notice that Deleuze finds in Kant that space becomes involved in the production of experience.12
This is space that is not modelled by fixed 'hinges' and 'joint' but involved in their production, specification and organisation. It is not then the receptacle of products but the milieu of production meeting the challenges of the time of production (a ‘time out of joint’). Movement is realised or produced in a space of process and not by a space with pre-established coordinates. This is a space that relates 'movement to the time that conditions it.' (p. 28)

Deleuze enlarges on the role of time: 'Moreover, movement is no longer the determination of objects, but the description of a space, a space we must set aside in order to discover time as the condition of action.' (p. 28) Movement then describes a space that has emerged rather than accounting for its emergence. For Deleuze we need to grasp how movement and its chronology refer to the non-chronological insofar things happen without a chronological account. These are experience's limit points which are united by Ideas whose continuous variety they realise without ever exhausting it. Deleuze calls this time a labyrinth because what can relate here is not limited by what is encountered in a succession. It is a line that is 'indivisible' because what is on it is not limited by its position in a succession. It is 'incessant' because everything ceaselessly interacts or interpenetrates through this labyrinthine self crossing and criss-crossing without precedent or order. The distances involved are positive and affirmed as the differences synthesised through the lines ‘incessant’ combinations of differences. Here 'everything changes' because this point of determination concentrates what is realised in a time where combinations happen in this way. The line of thread of time transverses things with labyrinthine complexity and freedom in relating difference to difference continuously through difference. Commenting upon Kant elsewhere Deleuze finds that the Idea 'ensures a specification of the concepts of the understanding, by means of which the latter comprise more and more differences on the basis of a properly infinite field of continuity.'13
The continuity is provided because things relate with this freedom and so drawing upon all the resources of time rather than what went before and will come next in the succession of passing presents. Here specification of concepts is found in the fullness of a continuous differenciation of cases and this calls upon the power of this pure memory where everything relates. Continuity comes to express the fullness of the extension of variety across experience, then generalised in concepts, by relating every differences at work through its labyrinth that begins this extension by concentrating the differences that will extend it.

Hamlet, Deleuze writes, 'needed time in order to act' (p. 28). This is because his coordinates or points of reference enabling movement in space were exhausted, to use a term we encountered in our workshop on Deleuze ‘The Exhausted’. He found that movement depends on a time that acts through its own synthesis and without these hinges and joints that make up what Deleuze in Cinema 1 calls 'the sensori motor schema.' He need a liberated time for the full force of action, not limited by possible forms of movement, to be brought forth and to produce a new sensori motor schema through the dynamic space that is equal to this dynamic time. It is what Deleuze has also called a volcanic time because it can relate through its ideal continuousness, forming a labyrinth rather than a succession, thus drawing the most diverse and distanced resources into a contracted point of an autonomous eruption. However, lest we again think that space is devalued as the un-dynamic receptacle of time's creations Deleuze tells us that space and time both 'will have to find completely new determinations.' (p. 29) Time as 'the immutable form of change and movement' demands that we think through the problem of time 'out of joint' and yet Deleuze also wants space to become for us a problem, one freed of determined movement and becoming an 'any space whatever,' to use a term found elsewhere.14
This is a smooth space for a volcanic time, found at the limit of the faculty of memory where the production behind organised and successive presents is encountered in the labyrinthine coexistence of the levels of the pure past. This synthesis of the world’s memory seeks the ideal continuousness of the world’s differences because in a labyrinth they obey their own and fully differential (dis)order of relating.

2.'I is an other' – Rimbaud

The limit of the faculty of thought

Deleuze seeks to escape the particular forms of 'I' and 'self' in order to find the realm of thought in the scope of Ideas and their coexistence, providing the thought of the cogito via the faculty of thought as an individuating machine. This is to account for 'I think' as an act of 'instantaneous determination' we couldn't realise without the ideal coexistence of Ideas which the faculty of thought meet at its limit as ‘its own unique passion’. This for Deleuze has connotations of Dionysian delirium and drunken obscurity through which the distinctness of the Idea or problem is to be attained. We cannot account for the undetermined existence that 'I am' with an 'I think' that is simply given as an identity because the forms is always in the movement of its determination in time. ‘I think’ must not be taken to limit this movement or process but productively and spontaneously intervene in it not as a ready made identity but rather as a challenge. To explore this we have to refer to the production of both halves of this fractured self to processes that sustain the self through its internal difference.

'The Self is in time and is constantly changing: it is a passive, or rather receptive “self” that experiences changes in time.' (p. 29) Here thought as ideal confronts the material as a process of individuation. The 'I think' as pure act has to determine what 'I am' becomes in time but here we have two different times, that of Ideas that of individuation or the emergence of ‘I am.’ Both halves together are temporal process and so held together by the 'thread' of the labyrinth or world memory. This relate is nevertheless differential. It requires not just thought to proliferate but the indeterminate region of the individual 'I am' to emerge in response to the spontaneous determination 'I think.' If we refer ‘I think’ to the faculty of thought and ‘I am’ to the faculty of sensibility (15)
then these two faculties are related by their fractured because they realise a self through its internal difference, that expressed between ‘I am’ and ‘I think.’ What is common to the faculties is then their fundamental difference. The faculties emerge on either side of this difference. Thought provides the act and individuation the emergence of the individual. This is their 'fundamental difference' which ensure that a self is played out in thought and body.

This relates to Deleuze Spinozan question, what can a body do? This depends on both ideal and material resources, upon how the ideal or though engages with the material. It depends upon the ability of the body to respond to an utterly Other production of determinations. Yet it is both terrifying and attractive as a production because it provides the power of the individual, the power of what it can do and become. This is expressed in its expansion or overflowing in extended space, in the individuality or creative mark it makes. This is when the body is not separated from what it can do.

Through its involvement in both sides of the fractured self, with the body expressing itself in relation to thought, we find that this fracture or fundamental difference is for Deleuze what 'immediately reunites and articulates that which it distinguishes.' The fracture 'retains what it fractures' because ultimately 'Ideas contain their fractured moments.'16
The unity behind the different forms of thought and of individuation but also behind their unity as two halves of the self, this third element of the fractured self which sets the problem(s) of realising in experience how the self is thought by Ideas in two very different faculties, one material and one ideal. The differential objects of the fractured self is then its fracture, its own limit, through which the problem of a differential unity of the self is re-staged again and again in new thoughts and individuating sensations as two ways of responding to a renewed problem. It relies upon Ideas that transverse its aspects. 17

The 'eminently Kantian character', the fractured self, 'receives the activity of his own thought as an Other, which is nonetheless capable of giving him a dangerous power that defies pure reason.' (p. 30) Reason as the faculty of thought or Ideas is irrational at the limit because Ideas are capable of a delirious relating, of strange connections and combinations which exceed any particular or general thought, sense or experience of the self. ‘I think’ then emerges through the madness of the faculty of thought, not according to what is recognised or identical about the self. At no point must we then fall back upon what is not produced and at no point must this production be bounded by possibility (this subterranean Kant follows a line of flight from the point just before possible experience is hung like lead weight around the neck of the official Kant). If everything is produced the madness of thought becomes a power of the body or individual, showing that the faculties relate so as to expand the scope of their respective and unique processes or powers. Thought induces sensation to go to its limit and find in Ideas what is then the greater power both of ‘I think’ and ‘I am’. Yet the Ideas don’t belong to the faculty of thought but like the other faculties it encounters them in the fracture of the self. ‘I think’ communicates to all the other faculties their common but differential ground, in all its otherness, which emerges in the fracture, and yet we can envisage another faculty being dominant. As we shall see, in the third Poetic Formula the power passes to ‘I will’ and the faculty of desire at its limit rallying the other faculties and in the fourth the source of such domination is accounted for by disorder.

Thought and sensibility then always expresses their difference which is expressed in the fractured self but is first the difference between the processes or faculties that give rise to the aspects of the fracture self. The ‘being of the sensible’ – the faculty of sensation – must rise to the challenge of the ‘being of the pure past’ or time of Ideas. The problem of the self seems to be that of realising in different faculties the resources of thought, the thinking of a self that draws upon resources that make up the pure past or ‘time out of joint.’18

Deleuze rejects a notion of the moulding of a content by a form which he locates in Rimbaud’s work. This links to his concern with a body's own power which we have already touched open. This the scope of its individuation and the limit where it encounters not its ready-made mould but a process called thought that does not resemble what it produces in any way. This otherness is the continuousness of its labyrinthine thread. The individual or ‘I am’ is 'that to which all objects are related as to the continuous variation of its own successive states, and to the infinite modulation of its degrees at each instant.' (p. 30) He finds that Kant overcomes moulding through modulation or the emergence of individuality in a field of matter, something also developed as 'the being of sensation.' The new 'formal relation' he sees emerging through the time of Ideas must be related to a 'new type of matter'. He links this to Wagner's 'continuous variation', invoking a Wagnerian materialism through which the individuality of the recurring leitmotif is attained. Thus we do not have ready made forms or moulds handed down by thought but a properly individuating and material sensibility matching the problems thought poses of realising a new stage of self-consciousness with the sensible's new syntheses of the material. We have then a new role for space which is not limited to empirical cases but has its own being constituted by modulation or material differenciation.

In this light Kant's critical decision to not specify the content that categories are applied to as it is 'in itself' (as a 'thing in itself') becomes very positive for Deleuze. Kant does very much talk about what has a role in the production of individuation of experience through his transcendental deductions of the conditions of possible experience. He reserves his positive talk for what is active and at work in the production of experience, albeit limiting its scope of production to the unity possible experience. Deleuze wants to find through Kant’s insights the unity of real experience through difference. The dynamic role of content (which is found for example in the account of intensities in 'The Anticipations of Perception' in The Critique of Pure Reason) can then assume the role of the 'thing in itself' because there is no 'thing in itself' according to Deleuze other than what is active or 'ready at hand'. Kant bracketed the inert 'thing in itself' so that what he considers to be remarkable, important or productive in experience is what is part of a process of production. ‘Content’ this new sense is dynamic because it is not observed and inert but at work prior to perception as the very being of the sensible. Kant would certainly reject such a positive discussion of the content of cognition, or intuition as he often termed it. However, in trying to stick to his account of the subject and its mechanisms for synthesising experience he stuck to what was always already involved with other operations in this activity or process. If with Deleuze we take from this that Kant's transcendental subjectivity or unified production of experience is externalised, that rather than talking about what ‘belongs’ to a subject he is talking about processes through which the subject emerges, then the interior-exterior collapses. Ian Mackenzie in The Idea of Pure Critique argues that Deleuze values in Kant the critique of indifference. If something is indifferent we haven’t involved it in how its is produced, it isn’t subject to a transcendental deduction that shows whether it is at work in this production or a product we have made essential out of habit.

For Deleuze Kant shows that subjective-objective is a distinction that emerges, we can only think it the externalised process of the production of experience. Kant then has perhaps despite himself shown that since 'the thing in itself' is not productive or active in this production it is illusory – like the Eternal Return Deleuze develops from Nietzsche we have a selective test of whether things are active or reactive and so only differences return. This is Kant’s higher sensibility at the point where faculties open onto pure Ideas, before he blocks this line of flight. Following this Deleuzian reading of Kant, the 'thing in itself' can then only be said of difference, only this is always at work and not what is produced and doesn't play a part in producing the ever new. We have seen that a new space and a new time are needed and this suggests that both must be active (differentiating in the case of time and differenciating in the case of space). Both are constituted by what returns, a time and space constituted by difference and not by what isn't involved in producing experience and thus fails the test of Kant's subterranean Eternal Return. This subterranean Kant has tried to stick to what is closest to the subject but in so doing has expanded the faculties as the individuating machine so that they, along with Ideas which unite them, are the world prior to the subject and in which it is produced. Deleuze draws very directly upon the subterranean Kant's new active world when he appropriates his account of intensities, despite again complaining that they are limited to anticipating perception by the official Kant. They must meet the needs of possible rather than real experience and its throw of the dice. Deleuze seeks to give intensities a role as individuating differences so that Kant's work 'takes flight' by ensuring that nothing indifferent in the 'thing in itself' or ‘being of the sensible.’ Everything is always at work in the apparatus or machine of individuation meeting the challenges of differential Ideas. Kant never gets to the dice throw because the form of possible experience blocks this flight. However, we can see a line of flight does emerge in Kant as the partner to the paralysis that he induces with fractures, breakdowns and discords.19
He may have been reactive to the limit he attained, finding refuge in discontinuity of possible experience from the terrifying continuousness of the groundless ground, and yet he was attracted by this terror. He attained these singular points through his critical stance that cleared the ground even if only to paved it over with the most tasteless and not really or profoundly 'crazy' paving. Through this Deleuze read Kant in a very positive way.

This can be referred to Deleuze account of modulation, replacing inactive moulds with an emergent and processual account of 'the being of the sensible.' We have suggested that Kant overcomes the interior-exterior dualism of subjective and objective because transcendental subjectivity includes all that is at work in the production of experience. However, Deleuze finds an exterior and interior that is not modelled on products, subject and object, but something very active in how experience is produced. It is the returning or recurring Kantian character of the fractured self, the little or contracted refrain or leitmotif of a Wagnerian materialism that each time plays itself out in two extended series of differences communicating through difference or fracture: ‘I am’ and ‘I think’. This must be expanded to include other series of faculties united by the fracture of the self, the series ‘I will’ of desire, ‘I say’ of speech and so on. Space external because it concerns 'the formal possibility of being affected by something else as an exterior object.' (p. 31) It concerns the milieu where individuals emerge because it 'makes possible every representation of objects as other and exterior', it is materially individuating through the affective encounters that its smoothness produces in response to a volcanic time. The interiority of time means it isn't limited by distances but can emerge at any point in space as the point where 'I think' happens spontaneously thanks to drawing all at once on the whole of 'a time out of joint' where Ideas coexist. We have then the 'unlimited space' upon which 'I am' emerges through the 'sliding or floating' of material differences relating to or affecting one another and the 'vertigo or oscillation' of a labyrinthine time thinking up new determinations of self-consciousness which are continually renewed at the limit.

3.'It is an extremely painful thing to be ruled by laws that one does not know! ... For the essence of such laws in this way necessitates the secret of their content.'
- Kafka

The Limit of the Faculty of Desire

Daniel W. Smith writes of how desire is causal in the Critique of Practical Reason.
Products of desire in its higher forms are acts of freedom under the moral law.20
This noumenal causality means that within Kant we have the self fractured in its moral moments when an 'I will' emerges with only a practical reality. It is theoretically without reason because it has no phenomenal or mechanistic causal explanation or reasoning. It is as spontaneous as 'I think' but is more dramatic in Kant's own writings because its fracture from what 'I am' is emphasised by Kant himself. Everything changes from a practical points of view. This practical account of determination is echoed in Deleuze account of the production of experience whose reality is both practical and theoretical, with remarkable or singular points re-organising the habits and actions of bodies to the level of specifying the 'I am'. This concerns how faculties progress through such points. This expansive will of objects, their remarkable points and larval subjectivity, means that their determination is practical because it is a process of the incarnation of points in the vicinity of which new contractions of matter are realised and through which an individuality is expressed and expanded. It refers us to their differential unconscious as the desiring-production of all objects. For Deleuze then we have a practical ontology behind the theoretical and the practical.

Therefore we find that Kant has so developed moral practice, considering the forces at work here on their own terms, that Deleuze can expand this realm, showing that what doesn't concern practical and forceful elements is not important (remarkable or singular) in experience. Theory cannot be separated from its practical formation. The moral will as spontaneous and overcoming what is established and inactive in practice (appetites and interests for Kant) becomes a model for how experience progresses at points where what is no longer productive is cleared away. We envisage then the spontaneous determination ‘I will’ as well as the ‘I think’. They are both an other to ‘I am’ but they think or desire the individual which is realised by the modulation that produces ‘I am.’

Daniel W. Smith argues that Deleuze finds the alternative to judgement in decision
. 21 An Idea is involved here – decision involves having Ideas that don't arise in historical contexts, they are trans-historical. Thus the element of social upheaval is in the vicinity of a singular point incarnated by an Idea – society as an individual has Ideas. The Idea and its incarnation of a differenciating point is a volcanic moment of decision rather than a calculated and careful application of categories of what is possible in experience through a judgement. Here everything changes in practice because certain Ideas are behind what happens. For Kant the Idea of God is behind series of decisions as a continuous problematic field through which more and more differences are realised, despite this being without any theoretical foundation. The concentrated and continuous power of this Idea holds together what from a theoretical point of view is madness and as such is at the limit of the faculty of desire. The law that rules but which one does not know has therefore as its content a limit where the force behind all desires, i.e. pure desire, is concentrated.

The law is exhausted of any actual forms 'and thereby raise[d] to the level of a pure and empty uniqueness.' (p. 32) It can then return again and again because it does not specify anything that is to be done but provides the faculty of desire with the openness of the virtual (it's transcendental and differential object) that it encounters at the limit. It is singular and universal because it refers to pure desire and so like the dice throw there is only one law because it leaves nothing out. To be productive at the limit of the faculty of desire the law must not be specified but rather be singular and unique in concentrating the pure force of desire without providing it with an object, interest or direction. It must not then involve a lack and the resulting need or intention directed to finding an object to fill it. Pure desire is ideally continuous, it includes every point and can therefore relate these points all at once rather than making anything transcendent to desire.

The good then depends on the law because it is realised through harnessing the force of the law or of pure desire actively or expansively. This is in contrast to being reactive by focusing not on this limit but, through resentment, upon other beings and things (to use the terms Deleuze employs in Nietzsche and Philosophy). The form things must take to be moral expresses their openness to this limit. It shows that are not restricted by a relation to any intention or appetite, expressing fullness rather than lack at the limit. The 'purely practical determination' requires such openness so that active expression of the force of desire may be given in the way a life is lived, in 'the good life.' This must overcome attachment to what has gone before. To be moral then for Deleuze's Kant is to be practically unconcerned about what we can know theoretically and for motives determined by things already produced, whether this be attachment to objects, people or appetites. This practically productive force must by be conditioned by the phenomenal. Being unconcerned by others is of course on in a phenomenal sense, in terms of noumenal selfhood every will is at one with every other in a 'kingdom of ends.'

'The law is indistinguishable from its sentence, and the sentence is indistinguishable from its implementation or execution.' (p. 32) This ensures that the noumenal and purely practical determination is not conditioned by the phenomenal with its distinction between these terms. In the phenomenal one tells the story of each of these following from the other but in the noumenal they happen all at once because there is no lack in the power of desire to deliver the whole of the law. It is a moral event because of its autonomy and its direct action in providing the 'I will' just as pure thought provided 'I think' but without determining how this is to be played out by individuation and in practice. The difference between discontinuous, actual desires and pure desire is what is realised at the limit in a point that cannot be broken into phenomenal components, it cannot made into an object or objects of consciousness. The law then retains its Otherness just as the act of thought did. The law doesn't make sense, we cannot distinguish accusation, defence and verdict so as to give a phenomenal account of the power and practical effects of the law (p. 32). Instead it happens at once according to an unknowable production. It is not then limited to having to explain itself in understandable terms and or terms that are based on what desire has done before. Desire can do what it likes because it goes to the limit but according for Kant to a universal kingdom of ends. It is again a challenge to individuation because The Law 'coincides with its imprint on our heart and in our flesh.' (p. 32) This imprint occurs in the moment of its act because desire acting all at once as a challenge to the practice of individuation. Like the 'I think' this act then challenges individuation or the faculty named elsewhere 'the primary sensibility we are.'22
Yet it does not program or write out a plan of practical individuation, a plan for 'the good life', it writes nothing but 'Act Though Duty.' (p. 32) It demands renunciation of interests and inclinations for individuation to meet its challenges, for the body to realise the power of the pure desire in the particular desires it then forms and acts through. We are never acquitted from this task of individuation and of expressing it positively, grasping the moment of 'I will' without attachment to anything else.

Is this task or process really positive for Deleuze? He cannot hide his distaste for this 'indefinite prolongation ... the infinite route of the slow death, the deferred judgement, or the infinite debt.' (p. 33) We must then find a subterranean Deleuze and Guattari in Anti-Oedipus if we are to agree with Daniel W. Smith that this can be read as affirming Kant's moral theory. In this way the law of pure desire is creatively expressed in an active and expansive expression of the individuality formed in response to this Law. This can only add to deeper understandings and work with Anti-Oedipus.

4. ‘To attain the unknown by disorganising all the senses ... a long, boundless, and systematised disorganisation of the senses.' - Rimbaud (letter to George Izambard, May 13 1871 p. 101 and letter to Paul Demeny, May 15, 1871, p.103.)

The Common Limit of the Faculties

Deleuze wants to read this poetic formula in terms of 'an unregulated exercise of all the faculties.' (p. 33) Often when we hear these words quoted the word ‘systematised’ is missed out, indeed the version of the Four Poetic Formulas reproduced as the Preface to Kant's Critical Philosophy gives only the worlds 'A disorder of all the senses as the formula.' This risks obscuring the meaning of the formula for Deleuze. For him disorganisation at the limit, in an apprenticeship of the faculties, is to be involved in a system of individuation. We recall the term dramatised in chapter five of Difference and Repetition 'the system of the dissolved self.'23
We have then a systematised disorganising which is ongoing, ‘long’ and ‘boundless’ through its resources as the production of new experience in the quite different forms that the faculties mark. This is systematic in the sense that we have with the faculties the apparatus of a machine of individuation, such that what is disorganising, long and boundless does not herald chaos alone but rather chaosmos.24 The process referred to here is therefore boundlessly individuating because out of it new determinations emerge without ever exhausting the variety realised by faculties in their own ways.

Deleuze sees Kant as moving beyond the first two critiques in The Critique of Judgement because here the 'dominant or determining fundamental faculty' is not assumed (p. 33). Rather like with his earlier account of dominance in terms of active and reactive forces in Nietzsche and Philosophy, Deleuze here seeks to account for the differential forces behind relations of dominance and submission in moments where these relations break down – at the limits of the faculties. Faculties 'taken together' are not now well defined because 'free and unregulated relationships hold at the limit’ (p. 34) attaining an indeterminate harmony that must never the less feedback with the well defined moments of the faculties, their ordinary or non limit points and relations.

The ‘being of the sensible’, as it is elsewhere termed, is invoked here, beyond a logic of the sensible which conforms to the form of objects of consciousness. This sensible isn't bounded by a logic of what is possible in experience or by any other logic. It will 'grasp time as its burst forth' (p. 34) and this reminds us of the act of the 'I think' and the moral event of the law whose spontaneity means that they are autonomous eruptions in the world. Thus bursting forth involves the vertiginous because it happens according to a time out of joint, beyond all logics of what is possible in the sensible, and thus giving rise to strange combinations. Deleuze locates in the undetermined unity of the faculties the conditions of real experience because this unifies it through its ongoing and boundless production. This is extended differently but within the same individual by thought, sensation, desire, imaginings, and so on. This develops the virtual combination of differences not according to categories of possible experience but as leading to a 'bursting forth' of autonomous events in experience which occur discordantly or in the form of different faculties.

In the sublime the faculties ‘wrestle’ so as to reveal the violence of their common production that does not unite them harmoniously, as in 'the beautiful soul' where difference simply is, but profoundly in the sense of difference relating to difference through their difference. This is the violence of the groundless ground, of the differential but common production that must not be modelled by analogy with ordered and regulated relationships of the faculties. It is univocal and expresses this by both differentiating and reuniting or articulating the faculties. The deepest or productive level is where faculties are 'most foreign' (p. 34) to each other and can then affirm this difference as their common production, as the bifurcation at their origin. Distance is here affirmed, it is not an essential ‘other structure’ but rather the spark of difference relating to difference. It is not difference extended but implicated in a continuous realm. At page 35 Deleuze relates this to the fracturing of the self and talks here of a 'tempest in the chasm opened in the subject' (this is elsewhere in Difference and Repetition referred to as the swarming of Ideas in the fracture of the self, p. 169 old edn.). The chasm retains what it fractures just as 'I am' and 'I think' find their own account through the fundamental difference between individuation and Ideas, of the faculties of sensation and thought, that is their very fracture. The reciprocal determination of the faculties is found in chasms and remoteness because a ‘remote harmonics’ is found between the very different limits which distance faculties from one another. With dissonant accords real experience is being realised very differently by very different faculties but for a subject who is stretched by this 'separation that joins.' (p. 35) The new music of discord or a ‘time out of joint’ means that spontaneous acts emerging in the world have a rhythm that is ordered by difference and in this sense is disordered. It is an atonal music because its beats are grouped without a tonal or home key in a ‘time out of joint’. In this time things happen ‘all at once.’


Deleuze appreciates the problematic form of Ideas in Kant, this subsumes ‘researches and investigations’25
so as to constitute a problematic field. The richness of these pages relates to the unbounded depth of the problems that are opened. They reveal the problems behind faculties and so expand the horizons of each of these through the reality of the virtual which includes them all. Yet this accord is discordant, they are given their differential objects at the same time as being related in a common and bifurcating production. The difference between faculties and the differences within them are precisely the problem realised in their different forms in experience. They express its common thread, the ‘time out of joint’, which stitches together by breaking apart. Deleuze writes elsewhere that 'One of the most original points of Kantianism is the idea of a difference in nature between our faculties.'26 Sensibility is passive and understanding active and to show how they work together Kant invokes the faculty of imagination. For Deleuze this use of another faculty to show how all faculties work together means 'the problem is merely shifted' because all faculties differ in nature, the difference between imagination and understanding now confront us. For Deleuze the need is for faculties to find at the limit their common production that accounts for their differences, for chasms that keeps opening in Kant’s system. These are the productive elements of his thought (giving us a subterranean account of the differential unity of real experience beneath the official account of the unity of possible experience). Here the problem is dealt with insofar as we do not use what is actually a solution to it, another faculty, in order to solve it and get rid of it. Instead the product must not resemble the production and the horizon of the productive problem must continue to be at work within the product. Kant fails to see beyond common sense, a particular way the faculties can work together, to the differences (or differential unconscious 27) that are the full and real horizon of the faculties.

These formulas are ritornello's – a little return (28)
because they are short in their actual extension but deep in what they imply – as the repetition of an instrumental introduction in a song recurs but is followed always by something different. They are problems that return as a repetition of difference. They express Deleuze's theory of problems in their style, their depth isn't about actual extension (such as a text with extensive arguments setting out in an analytic style the arguments in ways that are meaningful or common sensical given past experience. The analytical virtue is the clear and distinct) but about virtual implication or the non-sense behind sense, the intensive spatium behind the extension of the actual and the full and rich problematic field behind the extension of actual solutions. In this style we get closer to continuity – we are not at the level of the problem itself because this would not be a text. This would involves forces we could not withstand. Rather we are closer to problems because we do not find the greatest extension, the ordinary, but are in the vicinity of limit or singular points through which we are closer to the contraction or spontaneous act which sets the problems for thinking. They subsume projects of researching and investigating their depth and this is precisely their potential for differenciating experience. If the nonsense at the heart of sense is more profound it is because it both paralyses and activates, as we saw last week 'I would prefer not to' is a formula and ritornello that hollows out a foreign language within the language and results in paralysis accompanied by a line of flight. The four formulas are as such texts whose power derives from their closeness to problems rather than having the power of being very original solutions.


Caygill, Howard (1995) A Kant Dictionary, Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Deleuze, Gilles (1998) 'On Four Poetic Formulas That Might Summarise the Kantian Philosophy', Essays Critical and Clinical, trans Daniel W. Smith and Michael A. Greco, London and New York: Verso.

-(1994) Difference and Repetition, London and New York: Athlone.

-(1984, 1995) Kant's Critical Philosophy, London: The Athlone Press.

Smith, Daniel W ‘Deleuze and the Question of Desire: Toward an Immanent Theory of Ethics’, Parrhesia, number 2, 2007, p. 66–78. [http://www.parrhesiajournal.org/parrhesia02/parrhesia02_smith.pdf]


1 Difference and Repetition [hereafter DR], p. 356 in new 2004 dinky edition. My italics.
2 Howard Caygill, A Kant Dictionary, p. 190.
3 Deleuze's finds in Kant a self fractured by its own production, only able to say 'I am' and 'I think' because it is both thought by Ideas and individuated by sensation ( 'the primary sensibility that we are'.) The faculty of sensation is for Deleuze the milieu which the schematism of judgements finds its full account. The adapting of concepts to spatial and temporal conditions of sensation or intuition must be reformulated so that rather than judgement dealing with two already given things (concept and intuition) the intension and extension of the concept are found through a primary sensibility such that perceptual syntheses refers us back to organic or organising syntheses. 'The sensed quality is indistinguishable from the contraction of elementary excitations, but the object perceived implies a contraction of cases such that one quality may be read in the other, and a structure in which the form of the object allies itself with the quality at least as an intentional part.' DR, p. 72-73 (old edn.) Thus perceptual syntheses resulting in concepts, resemblances, identities and so on (indeed in a veritable 'image of thought') must refer us to our passivity or organisation by 'a primary sensibility that we are.' Yet this will ultimately refer us to the pure thought as well as the sensation which are both behind concepts, providing the ideal connection of cases in strange combinations, as we shall see with the second poetic formula where the necessary otherness of 'I think' is Deleuze's concern.
4 'Take the example of Kant: of all philosophers, Kant is the one who discovers the prodigious domain of the transcendental. He is the analogue of a great explorer – not of another world, but of the upper and lower reaches of this one.' [DR p. 135 old edn.] Kant then encountered the limits of the faculties insofar as he did not try to know or cognize this domain but feel its own power.
5 DR (new edn) p. 180.
6 DR (old edn) p. 193.
7 The dice throw is ideal and is the synthesis at the origin of thought because Ideas that transverse varieties incarnated in experience, as for example 'the liquid continuity of fine metal' (DR, p. 171 2004 edn.), are here related all at once in the moment of the single throw the dice. It is singular because it affirms all of chance and so cannot leave out or neglect anything that would be included to in a second, distinct throw. This is the ideal fullness of the virtual. Thus for Deleuze 'Continuousness truly belongs to the realm of Ideas only to the extent that an ideal cause of continuity is determined.' (DR, p. 171 new edn.) Cf. the conclusion to DR.
8 DR, old edn. 193. Here Deleuze further expands the role of faculties by talking about sociability as a faculty and its 'transcendent object which cannot be lived within actual societies in which the multiplicity is incarnated, but which must be and can be lived only in the element of social upheaval (in other words freedom, which is always hidden among the remains of an old order and the first fruits of a new).'
9 DR new edn. 242.
10 DR new edn. 244.
11 DR, p. 80 (1994 edn.) ‘Memory is the fundamental synthesis of time which constitutes the being of the past (that which cases the present to pass).’
12 This is to argue against Peter Hallward's reading in Out of this World: Deleuze and the Philosophy of Creation (2006, Verso). He writes that 'the one real philosophical problem' from a Deleuzian perspective is that creatures get in the ways of 'creatings.' (p. 55) He does not find a positive and active account of space in Deleuze, associating it with the creatural which gets in the way of the creative and virtual movement of life. I would argue that Deleuze’s comments on spatial extension which Hallward cites (DR, p. 228, 233), where difference is suppressed, lead him ignore the properly individuating and material space of implication. This leads him to see the overwhelming priority of the virtual in Deleuze, calling him 'a spiritual, redemptive or subtractive thinker, a thinker preoccupied with the mechanics of dis-embodiment and de-materialisation.' (p. 3) He argues that Deleuze's philosophy is pre-critical or pre-Kantian in assuming and renewing 'the self-evident legitimacy of immediate intellectual intuition.' (p. 12)

Why is the disorganising of the material, to attain an inorganic life or process of individuation, read as 'de-materialisation'? Does not Deleuze expand his notion of matter rather than trying to escape it? The immediacy of intellectual intuition seems to misrepresent the role of pure thought, which may indeed be the immediate intuition Kant rejected. However the problem of individuation (which Hallward seems to avoid in focusing on the problem of de-individuation) invokes Kant's concern with apparatus of individuation formed by the faculties. It seems that Hallward is reading Deleuze as non-Kantian insofar as his virtual is so perfect there is no need for it to worry about individuation and it simply drops individuals or creatures into the world ready made. However, the problem of individuation means that between virtual and actual we have this apparatus or individuating machine. Since Hallward bases his account on the problem of thinking the virtual he misses the problem of thinking the actual-virtual circuit which appears to be a circuit that fails to work, since the virtual takes over, only because a pressing problem (that of individuation) wasn't focused on at the start. If individuals are at different stages of consciousness then intellectual intuition is more like a traumatic and delirious moment at the limit, a problem orientating and subsuming researches and investigations (Difference and Repetition old edn. p. 168). There we don’t ‘all at once’ know that the virtual is perfect and give up all attempts to be creative ourselves but ‘all at once’ we are struck with a problem that sets many creative challenges for us. For Deleuze it is a matter of asking the right questions – 'who wants ... when and where, how and how much?' ('The Method of Dramatisation', p. 98, Desert Islands, Semiotext(e), 2004). These are involved in the material and individuating account which keeps the actual in play. Deleuze’s study of cases, if these cases are genuinely different and show the value of the actual in realising the virtual in different ways, show that we cannot reduce production to one perfect act but must seek the acts of differenciation that respond to the constantly renewed single throw of the dice.
13 DR old edn. p. 169.
14 For example in 'The Exhausted', Essays Critical and Clinical, for instance at p. 171.
15 The faculty of sensation is developed in terms material individuation in Difference and Repetition: 'We are made of contracted water, earth, light and air- not merely prior to the recognition or representation of these, but prior to their being sensed.' DR old edn. p. 73. It invokes ‘the primary sensibility that we are.’
16 DR, p. 216.
17 The ‘transversal’ concerns a line intersecting two or more lines and systems of lines lying across. This is more appropriate for Deleuze than ‘traversal’, which is passing across or going through. The line for Deleuze has an ideal and frictionless journey not interrupted by a striated space. The line of flight is ideal and is thought itself because it does not meet material resistance to its course. The ‘time out of joint’ where thought finds its scope in the First Poetic Formula finds this in a line that avoids any of the coordinates of movement because movement implies the organisation and specification of a striated space. Deleuze instead seeks the smooth or exhausted ‘any space whatever’ which is capable of affirming the transversal line of flight. Deleuze talks about white light as a way of thinking about the Idea of colour. We cannot say that while light is in movement because there are no ways of measuring or perceiving movement. Yet their coexistence is ideal for actual cases of light because it allows the combination of the resources of light that overcomes the discontinuity of their incarnations. This way of thinking about the idea suggests that a fluidity is attained that is ideal. The liquid continuity of metal is another case that helps Deleuze think about Ideas. This is how Ideas are ideal but also how they engage with the material whose variety they relate and combine in this way.
18 In Difference and Repetition the origin of problems is located in questions. Perhaps ‘what is it to be a self?’ is answered by ‘It is to be fractured’ in responded to by problems of realising selfhood in the faculties operating through but on either side of the fracture that unites them.
19 Deleuze ‘Bartleby; or, the formula.’ I refer here to last weeks subject, the essay on Bartleby, where paralysis with the formula 'I would prefer not to'. The breakdown of grammar (which would allow those characters in the vicinity to understand and respond in established and possible ways) is accompanied by a line of flight where a character enters into new movements that seem absurd and take no account of what it possible or established. A line of flight that isn’t hampered by a striated space because this has been exhausted by the formula so as to attain the smooth 'any space whatever.'
20 Dan Smith, ‘Deleuze and the Question of Desire: Toward an Immanent Theory of Ethics’, Parrhesia, number 2, 2007, p. 73.
21 Ibid, p. 73.
22 DR, p. 73 old edn.
23 DR, p. 254 old edn.
24 At Difference and Repetition page 150 (new edn.) Deleuze refers to Gombrowitz's novel Cosmos where two series of heterogeneous differences (that of hanging and that of mouths in the novel) 'call forth their own communication through various signs, until the inauguration of a dark precursor (the murder of the cat) which plays the role of differenciator of their differences.' We have then an 'absurd representation' expressing the chaotic but it provides the basis for the unleashing of dynamisms and production of events in the Cosmos system. Deleuze then cites in Joyce, Borges and Grombrowicz's work the identity 'chaos=cosmos.' The involvement of disorder in a system or machine of individuation is what we find in the fourth poetic formula.
25 DR, p. 168.
26 Gilles Deleuze, Kant's Critical Philosophy, p. 22.
27 ‘… Ideas must be called “differentials” of thought, or the “Unconscious” of pure thought.’ DR, p. 244 new edn.
28 This distinguishes it from ‘ritornel’ which is not specified as small.

(The discussion of this paper that was held in the workshop - and ongoing discussion online via comments - can be found here)

Labels: , , , , ,

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home