dialogues at greenwich

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

22 November 2006


This week chapters 3 and 4 of ‘Deleuze: The Clamour of Being’ were under discussion. We continued our discussion of the mathematics used by Deleuze and Badiou and also explored feedback systems, the possible, the organic versus the abstract (or biology versus thought) and the ‘unequal odd’ virtual and actual halves of the object in Deleuze. References below to Deleuze's 'Difference and Repetition' are to the older format of the Paul Patton translation, not to the new compact edition.

The ten minute presentation was this week given by Edward Willatt and began with Badiou’s focus on Deleuze’s critique of categories. At page 32 he argues that difference must not be imitative for Deleuze, no matter how multiple or flexible, since formal divisions or categories are general and distant from production. This seems to capture Deleuze’s concern that difference be productive and internal to the production mechanism, that it be expressive and not imitative. Also brought up was Badiou’s concern with ‘Deleuze’s philosophical language’ at page 33. He argues that an active-passive duality is commonly identified throughout Deleuze's work, giving rise to an image that Deleuze himself didn’t intend but encouraged through his philosophical language. This seems to demonstrate the corrective value of Badiou’s reading in that he wants to preserve the philosophical rigor of Deleuze’s work. His attack on the active-passive duality as an image of Deleuze's thought seems very relevant if we want to talk about, for example, individuation as a process without this appearing as a passive and actual receptacle of virtual creativity.

Badiou’s focus on Deleuze’s use of structuralism was also dealt with by the presentation. There is a concern that this aspect of his thought overbalances the system in going so far from the actual and determination that we don’t see how we can get back. Can we get back from the ideal operation of the empty square to an account of material individuation? Alberto Toscano in his 'Theatre of Production' poses just this problem when he focuses upon Deleuze’s treatment of the problem of individuation. He writes that in Difference and Repetition the disjunction between the virtual and the actual is a disjunction internal to, and generated by, the processes of ontogenesis themselves. He distinguishes this from the ‘Logic of Sense’ where a quasi-cause is needed. He argues that from the point of view of the problem of individuation we must emphasise Deleuze’s development of internal difference ‘as a process that requires the dramatization of internal multiplicity in intensive systems and spatiotemporal dynamisms.’ (p. 174-175) This analysis seem highly relevant when we note that as part of his reading Badiou argues that in Deleuze structure is simulacrum and as such does not enter into the sense that it fabricates or sustains. The problem with Deleuze’s structuralism seems to be its distance from other aspects of his system. Yet he wants to combine structure and genesis. He seems to want individuation to play a creative role in the process as well as Ideas, to balance the extremes that have opened up dramatically for us through our discussions of Badiou's ‘Deleuze: The Clamour of Being’.

Chapter four begins with Badiou’s argument that in Deleuze the two ‘nominal’ names of Being (actual and virtual) express the deployment of the One or univocal Being. The virtual is the ground of the actual. This was called into question in order to bring into play the actual processes that Deleuze seems to talk about. It was argued that the clear-confused seems to refer to individuation and the distinct-obscure to Ideas. These two extremes in Deleuze’s system – ideal and material – demand our attention. If you start with one extreme, as Badiou does and emphasises this through his focus on Deleuze’s structuralism, isn’t there a need to see if the other extreme fits in? If Deleuze’s system fails it is because he can’t fit in or hold everything together in a meaningful way. The difference between the two extremes is to be internal to the system. Badiou talks about the need for internal difference to operate but then to neglect it when collapsing the actual into the virtual in his reading of Deleuze. We have different parts of Deleuze work, even parts of the same book as we see in ‘Difference and Repetition’, threatening to go off in different directions. How does the empty square relate to the problem of individuation? The presentation used in the figure of the fractured self, as Deleuze develops it, has as three aspects: ‘I think’, ‘I am’ and time. Isn’t this the expression of Ideas and individuation respectively (in 'I think and 'I am' respectively), pure thought thinking itself and the material individuating itself whilst being related by the pure form of time?

Badiou describes Deleuze’s use of musical order as a metaphor at page 44, as he did with his use of maths in chapter 1. This seems to go against the notion that the music we write is pure production expressing itself, as with ‘I think’ and ‘I am’ as they emerge as aspects of the fractured self.

The presentation then took a critical stance towards Badiou’s assessment at page 45 that Deleuze is a classical philosopher – because the multiple needs a rigorous determination of Being as One - and so ‘does not submit to the critical injunctions of Kant.’ While Deleuze is highly critical of Kant for messing up the production mechanism he had discovered, Badiou’s statement needs to be questioned. Kant is seen by Deleuze as projecting products into the production, the empirical into the transcendental. He wants production to be pure, free of the Image of Thought or what is produced and then is taken as fixed and given. Yet Deleuze seems to value critique insofar as it seeks to keep the transcendental pure. This is a highly positive critical injunction if we don’t want the same to return and want to preserve heterogeneity in the production mechanism in order that it not resemble what is produced. Deleuze talks about ‘total critique’ in his ‘Nietzsche and Philosophy’ as a way to complete Kant’s work. Critique then has a role that needs to be explored. What we cannot talk about (theoretically) for Kant still operates in his system – it has practical reality. Deleuze wants to involve production but in a new way and so, like Kant, we must cease one discourse (the theoretical for Kant and the Image of Thought for Deleuze) in order to grasp the transcendental through its own expression (morality in Kant and differenciation in Deleuze).

Last week Matt Lee developed an analysis of Badiou’s reading of Wittgenstein’s ‘Tractatus’ where after critique, which limits what we can talk about, we have mysticism. This purification through critique seems to have similar connotiations to Deleuze's use of Kant. For Deleuze we can talk about ‘the noumena closest to the phenomena’ (‘Difference and Repetition’, page 222). What needs to be engaged with is Kant’s project of purifying the production of experience from theoretical givens and his giving it a practical reality. Some have suggested that ‘Anti-Oedipus’ can be read as Deleuze and Guattari’s re-writing of the Kant’s ‘Critique of Practical Reason’ (Daniel W. Smith made this case during his keynote paper at the Society for European Philosophy 2004 Conference here at Greenwich. He introduced this move by talking about investments of desire, in ‘Anti-Oedipus’, that are beneath the rational. The rational is a particular configuration of desires. He then argued that reading the second Critique is just like reading Anti-Oedipus. Deleuze dislikes the morality but models Anti-Oedipus upon The Critique of Practical Reason. Present in both books is a faculty with a causal relationship to its object. Desire is the cause of the actuality of its representations because desire is production. Deleuze likes this structure but makes it serve immanence instead of transcendence, thus Ideas must be immanent and synthesise desire. Kant’s desire is made immanent through the influence of Nietzsche, suggesting again that Kant’s critique is of value when extended through Nietzsche to a ‘total critique’). In both texts we can find the notion that desire creates its object. The gap between subject and object is overcome by desire or production, as something pre-individual and as the milieu of individuation itself. We must think the creation of objects through the desire or production that is prior to the self in its isolation from an object. Badiou is of course quite right to say that the moral law is invalid for Deleuze but he doesn’t need to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

At page 46 Badiou refers to ‘the act of the one’ which he has emphasised through his reading of Deleuze’s structuralism. He identifies this as transcendence and finds in this a reason for his divergence from Deleuze in a contrasting form of classicism: the forms of the multiple are always actual and the One is sacrificed. Badiou wants ‘integral actuality’ where a multiple is a multiple of multiples.

At page 46 Badiou offers some clarifications of the virtual which Deleuze had offered in their correspondence. The first of these is that the virtual is the ‘there is’ that precedes all thought. This seems to expand the virtual in a way that we find in Deleuze’s very late work ‘Immanence: A Life…’ – here at page 27 he writes: ‘We will say of pure immanence that it is A LIFE, and nothing else. It is not immanence to life, but the immanent that is in nothing is itself a life. A life is the immanence of immanence, absolute immanence: it is complete power, complete bliss.’

At page 49 Badiou writes that ‘Actualisation breaks with resemblance as a process no less than it does with identity as a principle.’ He seems to be arguing that Deleuze’s Image of Thought is a process, just as reactive forces in ‘Nietzsche and Philosophy’ can be seen as a process. He argues that Deleuze breaks with this reactive process in favour of differentiation and divergence and from this draws the conclusion that the existent is a creation rather than a creature when considered in terms of the virtuality that it actualises.

At page 50 he talks about the notion of problems found in Deleuze and gives a very particular reading, extending his emphasis on the virtual. The virtual is ‘the real of the problematic in general’ – it is ‘the universal power of problems and their solutions’. He seems to neglect the problem-solution feedback that introduces two sides or powers of difference in ‘Difference and Repetition’. Whilst the Image of Thought is a reactive accumulation of solutions, there is a sense in which individuations as solutions to problems show the contribution of both problems and solutions to the progress of the system.

At page 51 Badiou deals with the problem of there being virtual and actual parts of the real object – ‘unequal odd halves’ (‘Difference and Repetition’ 209-10). Badiou argues that making parts of the object indiscernible – the object as the point of indiscernability between two distinct images – leads to a disorientated intuition and the indetermination of the actual. This follows from the complete determination of the virtual (page 53). For Badiou then we save the One by making the two unthinkable and thus collapsing the actual into the virtual. The virtual then determines the destiny of everything because the actual is irreal, undetermined and non-objective – it is simulacrum.

The discussion first focused upon the notion of a feedback system. It must create its components and so the actual solutions to virtual problems contribute components of the system rather than simply getting in its way. Problems with this were raised. What about the problem of ‘bootstrapping’ that gets the system going? Could it be a critical mass concept, a bifurcation? The concern was raised that a feedback system sounds Hegelian. The point was made that Deleuze seeks to avoid negation in the internal relations he uses, like that between problems and solutions. Against the notion of a feedback system it was suggested that the virtual is actualising and actual is ‘virtualising.’ Therefore both having a role as two powers of difference relating through their difference but not in the restrictive sense of being a feedback system. Can we talk about systems? Are these too strict for the divergence and differentiation that Deleuze labels ‘production’? This raised the issue of the status of Deleuze’s ‘technical models’ (Difference and Repetition page 220-221). They mustn’t fix the virtual, it eludes such a capture. They must be flexible and diverse as a true expression of production and not limit its expression by embodying an Image of Thought. However, they must capture the selection that takes place when pure virtual production is actualised. If there was no model or system of actualisation it is hard to see how the actual could be different from the virtual. No system can actualise all of the virtual, it is Open and constantly changing, but systems or models must produce actual states of affairs that do not resemble their production. The system enables solutions to arise by relating problems and solutions, it must express the scope of the virtual but in a singular form. We cannot pin down the virtual and yet it must be related to the actual, as problem is to solution.

We discussed how for Badiou one term become more important on the basis of the actual-virtual duality, this term (virtual) is real whilst the duality is formal. It is a ‘purely introductory’ ‘initial formalism’ at work in thought or intuition (‘Clamour’ page 34). At this point the difference between the actual and the individual was raised. It can be argued that for Deleuze the individual is freedom because it is in touch with the pre-individual (problems/Ideas) in its work of solution through its power of clear-confused. The actual perhaps refers to the determined terms that take their bearings from the process individuation through their relation (to the universal prior to all particulars and generalities - cf. ‘Difference and Repetition’ page 171).

Returning to the notion of a feedback system, the idea that actual solutions have the virtual within them and give rise to new problems was raised. This would be to elaborate the particular power of difference at work in individuation. This was made concrete by the intriguing notion that a problem field disappears in the deep sea because light isn’t there and so there is no problem of sight. This is the sense in which Ideas or problematic fields ‘occur here and there in the production of an actual historical world.’ (‘Difference and Repetition’, p. 190) In this sense actualisation has a role. The point was made that this is very compelling when we talk about the organic because here a dynamic relation between problem field and field of solution in each case is convincing. Yet, it was argued, in abstract thought there isn’t this constant resolution of a field but a break or cut, something quite unlike the organic. This was developed in relation to Deleuze ‘Negotiations’ where he talks about not writing for a period of eight years. Is this Hiatus virtual since from it a new book was produced at the end of this period? In response it was suggested that this model sound Freudian. It suggests the return of the repressed in one form or another. It suggests that the subconscious is operating.

A further point concerned Deleuze stated rejection of the notion of simulacrum and his adoption of the notion of rhizome. These are more organic and it was suggested that Deleuze’s thought works better using biology. The simulacrum is more abstract. This opens up an intriguing division in Deleuze that Badiou seems to neglect. The virtual-actual as structure works better as organic and Deleuze develops this, for example, in ‘Difference and Repetition’ chapter 5. The point was also made that the simulacrum, as it is used here, is a notion that Deleuze finds in Klossowski. He combines this with the virtual and this led the questions about whether he can hold such diverse things together, perhaps whether he can hold together what he appropriates from Klossowksi on the one hand and from Bergson on the other.

A further point was that in ‘Anti Oedipus’ Deleuze and Guattari have a notion of machines that only work by breaking down. Is this better than the notion of structure and the empty square? Ideal connections can be made – time is out of joint and we have free connectibility when the empty square affects everything. It was suggested that Deleuze’s structuralism here may be linked to Derrida’s work. Here aporia and aporetic moments are limits of impossibility within possibility. However, it was argued, Deleuze wants to go beyond these transcendental limits that are grounded in the impossible. In ‘Proust and Signs’ Deleuze argues that we mustn’t reduplicate the empirical – or project products into the production mechanism as he argued in his criticism of Kant. For example, a square circle is a limit of geometry and geometry is here mapped out in advance (as possibility). Derrida bases his work on this impossibility structure whereas for Deleuze the virtual is not the possible. He drops the possible-impossible opposition so that the virtual has no conceptual limits.

A further issue was raised around how for Deleuze each philosopher is singular, they create a new problem field. Therefore, how can you compare philosopher’s concepts as we usually do? The philosopher invents his concepts, they are completely his own. How can one philosopher follow on from another? A response raised to this problem was that each plane of consistency is cut out of all the others – it is available to all the others – the worlds of two philosophers are then related by strange nuptials. All are part of the problem field of ‘how to think’- a common, ideal field with a time out of joint that allows for ideal (non-linear) connections beyond those between passing presents.

Also discussed was Badiou’s stand on sets. He sees Deleuze as seeking to talk about things which he thinks cannot be listed in a set. For Badiou it is only the void or empty set cannot be listed, something that, ‘plead as I might’, Deleuze would not except (‘Clamour’ page 47). This is developed at page 48 in a challenge to Deleuze’s multiplicities. These seem rooted in pure variety, such as the pure biological or the pure social. ‘The Idea of fire subsumes fire in the form of a single continuous mass capable of increase. The Idea of silver subsumes its object in the form of a liquid continuity of fine metal. … Continuousness truly belongs to the realm of Ideas only to the extent that an ideal cause of continuity is determined.’ (‘Difference and Repetition’, page 171) This variable spread is behind the extension of forms of the biological, the social … Is this a romantic notion? Certainly Deleuze is resistant to multiples appropriated from set theory because they define things he wants not to define. The fluidity and permeability of Ideas – giving rise to the perplication of Ideas – is behind the extension and of series despite their actual distances and lack of relations.

In discussing Badiou’s multiples a point was made about his use of mathematics. To make the empty set or void productive we need to use a negation structure which is mathematical but not set theoretical. This raises questions about Badiou’s use of maths – can he justify his ontology solely through maths or does he not have to give philosophical reasons for taking set theory and adding to it to make it works the way he wants? In the recent colloquium by Brian Smith of The University of Dundee the move Badiou makes in adding a temporality to set theoretical operations that they don’t have by themselves was brought up.

Also discussed was the criticism beginning at page 51 of Deleuze’s actual and virtual ‘unequal odd halves’ of the real object. Badiou reads the two images involved – actual and virtual – as being simulacra for Deleuze. This makes an image of the virtual, a half of the object, untenable. The point was made that Deleuze is using ‘image’ in the sense in which it is used in Bergson’s ‘Matter and Memory’ and therefore Badiou’s argument is a strange one. He reads ‘image’ in a literal sense when it is in fact grounded in Deleuze’s Bergsonism. This seemed to be a sign of Badiou’s reliance on the simulacrum when it is an image used at one time and later abandoned by Deleuze. It is not his constant term for the actual. Badiou is keen to defend Plato in his own work and his emphasis of Deleuze’s Platonism of the virtual and emphasis of the Platonic term simulacrum seems to be a simplification.

We discussed the univocity Deleuze finds in Spinoza – it ensures there is no hierarchy, with actualisation always dividing and differentiating. Virtual multiplicity can always be divided, it is not to be confused with units. Its total permeability and coexistence is key. It seems as if sets move away from this. Yet a clarification was provided - sets are made up of rules or definitions and not of units. This explains the concern of set theoreticians that we ought not really to talk about sets as collections of things, although this is the easiest way to talk about them for the layman. Thus we get the an ideal rule with enormous depths. Further discussion of set theory revealed that for Badiou maths has shown us that we need to use new rules. It was argued that mathematical reasons are behind his use of set theory. The infinity of multiplicity was too simplistic according to mathematicians and so a more complex notion of infinity was needed. Our notion of infinity needs to be supplemented, according to set theory. Cantor’s continuum hypothesis emerges as a way of dealing with the infinite that set theory opens up.

The point was made that for Deleuze we find a bad infinite in Hegel and a good infinite in Spinoza because of the way they responded differently to calculus. The good response recognises the role of approximation in the sense that you can never get to the limit, invoking the infinitesimal. However – it was suggested – isn’t differential calculus still concerned with counting to infinity and so lacking the complex infinity maths demanded when it found the infinitesimal non-rigorous and wanted to establish its own foundations? Yet – it was argued – with dx/dy we don’t get counting but what Deleuze characterises as the problem of the signification of zeros (DR 171).

Developing the discussion of mathematics, a further defence was mounted of Deleuze’s approach. Maths is concerned with problems and solving them with rules. Without calculus you cannot deal with the world – engineering works in this way, dynamics are worked out to model structures. This is done without knowing what the numbers are, through approximation. It gives access to the virtual and the structure of actualisation for Deleuze. For Badiou the actual is already infinite and so you don’t need the virtual. Maths has its own world and so you don’t need the empiricism of the calculus. For him Being is a void – he asks what is Being (a Heideggerian question) and reads Deleuze as asking this too. Yet – its was argued - Deleuze wants to ask other questions and explicitly rejects the ‘what?’ question. He wants to ask about the remarkable, the interesting and the singular – things that concern practice rather than foundation. Thus in maths it is problems and solutions and not foundations that concern him. What is the relevance to the production of experience of that which isn’t practical, that isn’t a singular or limit point? This returns us to the argument that both Kant and Deleuze seek to overcome a theoretical perspective in order to get to what is significant in practice or the production realised through desire. Foundations aren’t modelled on production, they don’t take their bearings from it.

For Badiou everything is literally capable of being placed in a set of some sort. The point was made that for him set theory is a genuinely historical/revolutionary event of which there are few. They include Jesus, invoking St Paul’s fidelity, (love), the French revolution (politics) and set theory (science - our structural analysis). These are how we are conditioned today.

In this way we arrived at the opposition of the multiples of Deleuze and Badiou. For Badiou Deleuze’s multiplicities are dependent on the One when they try to avoid actual terms and reach for the spread and variability of the virtual. The ideal cause of continuity collapses the actual into the virtual. For Deleuze you cannot get to a virtual multiplicity by concerning yourself with units, you lose touch with the obscurity through which distinction emerges.

[1]At the end of the workshop the call for ‘more Kant, much more Kant’ was described as ‘the cry of the depraved’ by a man with a razor smile.

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At 11/23/2006 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another inspiring meeting: in my own reading I was convinced by Badiou's critique in chapters three and four, but the group analysis of the text left Deleuze relatively unscathed. During the session, it was suggested that Deleuze's metaphysics of the virtual overlap with recent developments within biology; that Deleuze's concepts work better from a biological perspective. An interesting and sympathetic article by Mark Hansen,
'Becoming as Creative Evolution?' may suggest otherwise:

If Badiou argues that Deleuze's mathematics has been surpassed by the developments in set theory, can this charge also be extended to Deleuze's 'metaphorical biology'?

Sorry to play Badiou's advocate!
Matt T

At 11/27/2006 , Blogger edward said...

Thanks for recommending the Mark Hansen article. I am finding it very interesting reading. However, you raise the point that Deleuze’s maths and biology are surpassed or out of date. I would argue that if Deleuze is using aspects of maths and biology as ‘technical models’ in doing philosophy then this criticism doesn’t of itself lessen the value of his work. Of course a practicing mathematician or biologist must take into account and deal with new developments in their field. However, if seventeenth century maths concerned itself with physical presentations that it grasped using the notion of the infinitesimal this is of interest in itself for philosophy. It is the object of an encounter. That mathematics then decided that it should concern itself with its own foundations rather than with physical dynamisms doesn’t cancel out the value of the infinitesimal for philosophy. Maths wants rigor and finds it lacking in the infinitesimal. Yet if the infinitesimal is at work in the ongoing determination of experience, the fact that maths finds it isn’t relevant to its quest for foundations doesn’t change the fact that it has modelled this aspect of the physical and offers this model to philosophy. What is negative about it for maths is positive for Deleuze’s philosophy.

I don’t agree that Deleuze’s maths or biology are metaphorical because in both cases he is concerned with what these disciplines grasp of the dynamisms of individuation and ‘the being of the sensible’. This can remain valid for a philosophy developing a transcendental empiricism even if it isn’t for the ‘progress’ of science and what Deleuze calls its ‘plane of reference’. In ‘Difference and Repetition’ chapter 5 we find a concern with embryology and with the notion that ‘the world is an egg.’ This is a technical model for the intensive spatium which is the milieu of individuation. It models this philosophical notion and dramatises the clear-confused. Philosophy may learn a great deal from the advances and new ideas of biology and maths but isn’t tied to the ‘progress’ and up to date ideas of each discipline. It may learn a great deal from any point in the history of these disciplines as the object of an encounter. As Badiou finds in ‘The Clamour of Being’ for Deleuze the whole of the past is mobilized by each present time (page 62). Therefore, we cannot see the models from maths, biology or elsewhere, becoming inevitably obsolete as if the past is empty and no longer at work. For Deleuze there is a selection operated by the eternal return but what returns is difference, that which is always new but not in the sense of coming after the past (being up to date) but being produced out of the past through operation the future (the eternal return). The past is contemporaneous with every present. The chronology or succession involved in selecting which notions in biology or maths are up to date is then a faulty selection principle for Deleuze. It does not value the time of encounters because it is an actual criterion disconnected from the virtual. For Deleuze it is through practice of encounter that strange nuptials emerge because ‘time is out of joint.’ Philosophy can encounter the most up to date physics and the physics of the stoics insofar as both express the role of difference in determination. Their actual distance in time is not relevant to the selection of what is productive. Therefore being ‘surpassed’ means failing to affirm difference and it follows that the Same does not return.

I got a great deal from Mark Hansen’s article but I think he is arguing that Deleuze and Guattari’s work needs to be supplemented by more up to date biology for philosophical reasons. I don’t think he is trying to suggest that the validity of philosophy depends solely upon how up to date the biological models it uses are. Otherwise we find philosophy subordinated to other disciplines and to a philosophy of time that is assumed by certain notions of progress but subjected to critique by Deleuze.


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