dialogues at greenwich

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

26 November 2006


The workshop tackled chapters 5 and 6 today. The subjects focused upon included time and truth, movement, the new, chance, dualism, subject and event.

Today Nick Midgley presented on the text. He first suggested that Badiou seeks univocity in his own way through integral actuality. Hence Deleuze is a dualist because he introduces the virtual and undermines univocity. Nick then turned to Badiou’s focus on the paradox of contingent futures at page 60 of ‘The Clamour of Being’. Time needs to be suppressed in favour of truths and the role of time in Deleuze undermines the role that truth needs to play. Nick critiqued Badiou’s reading which suggests that Deleuze still holds to truth, albeit in a devalued form. Contrary to this it was argued that Deleuze and Guattari's philosophy does not consist in knowing and is not inspired by truth. There is a need to get away from the image of truth so as to get an image of thinking – truth and falsehood involves playing games (triviality) when what we need is the interesting and productive. We must seek the singular, remarkable and interesting rather than asking ‘is it true?’

Badiou deals with Deleuze’s critique of truth by arguing that the version of truth which is the object of critique is a trivial one. It involves good and bad copies of an original. Badiou seeks to locate a deeper notion of truth in Deleuze but it was pointed out that he cannot find a quote to back this up. Badiou argues that in Deleuze everything is simulacrum and therefore simulacra are the truth. Nick argued that this isn’t a Deleuzian kind of move. For Deleuze philosophy isn’t inspired by truth and what matters in philosophy is what motivates it. Deleuze finds in Nietzsche certain diagnoses of thought leading to questions like ‘is thinking resentful?’, ‘who has that thought?’, ‘what drives it?’ And this leads to Deleuze ask ‘are problems productive or not?’ Therefore, it was argued, Badiou makes a very formal move when it is important for Deleuze that we don’t call simulacra truth because with truth we get transcendence. We cannot, according to Deleuze, say that Spinoza is true and Kant is false. We need to emphasise Deleuze’s use of Nietzsche’s ideas which means that what characterises and drives a thought is important rather than the result or product.

The presentation then highlighted Badiou remarks at page 65 of ‘The Clamour of Being’ on Deleuze’s ‘Foucault.’ He describes it as ‘the most appeased’ (or friendly) writing on truth of Deleuze’s works. He highlights the role of games of truth and how here truth is inseparable from a procedure establishing it. Nick pointed out that in ‘Difference and Repetition’ truth is only the empirical result of sense and how solutions don’t have any meaning without the problem they respond to. Therefore the procedure for establishing truth links truth to its genesis. It was argued that in this light for Deleuze in his ‘Foucault’ truth is still trivial. There are truths in a discourse but they are no deeper than that. In this book the dualism of the visible and articulable is elaborated (for example prisons as disciplines and jurisprudence as legal discourse). Two discourses are different domains. This was referred to Bergson’s notion of ‘badly analysed composites’ which Deleuze develops in his ‘Bergsonism’. Nick then explained the different senses given to dualism by Deleuze in his ‘Foucault’:

1. dualism found in Descartes (substances) and Kant (faculties),

2. dualism as provisional stage leading to monism (found in Spinoza and Bergson). For example, in Bergson we get a dualism of duration and space, a provisional dualism because ultimately everything is duration.

3. In Foucault we find a preliminary distribution operating at the heart of a pluralism. A micro-physics of power exposes relations of forces prior to strata (two stratas form a dualism). This forms the outside of strata and to think is to reach the unstratified.

Nick argued that Badiou faces the problem of whether we can say that Deleuze is closer to Foucault or to Bergson and Spinoza. In ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ a micro-physics of power is elaborated and this is closer to Foucault. The Foucault case provides a pluralism and not a monism. Badiou therefore appears to be on weak ground here.

The presentation now turned to the notion of truth in Badiou as the undoing of time just as revolution is the end of an epoch. It is interruption. For Badiou truth is completely other than knowledge, something he finds in mathematics where incompleteness shows that no self-consistent totality is possible. Set theory is a structural condition for us. Badiou argues that truth in Deleuze leads us to ‘the Relation’. Bergson leads Deleuze to focus on time without spatial categories. This is time that isn’t a chronology. However, Badiou reads Deleuze as a Platonist on the basis of this purification of time. At page 60 he argues that in Deleuze time is not temporal. We return to Deleuze’s alleged classicism. Yet his Bergsonism suggests that we move not from time to eternity but to time without spatial categories. It can be argued that this shows him to be more of an empiricist with a better method of seeing what time is.

The presentation then moved to chapter six and its list of misinterpretations of the Eternal Return. Badiou explores the idea of a single throw of the dice at page 74-75. Nick referred to ‘The Logic of Sense’ where the actor is a counter-actualisation because every mortal event is in the single Event so that there is no room for accident or resentment. The point was made that Badiou doesn’t give much argument against the single Event. For him chance is plural. The chapter ends by referring to Deleuze’s own death (how it is ‘somewhat disconcerting’ that he cannot rejoin the discussion) and then in the last Badiou line declares ‘death is not, and can never be, an event.’ (p. 76-77) Is he suggesting that it isn’t through the disconcerting death of Gilles Deleuze that things will happen? More obviously he of course is referring to his own critique of Deleuze notion that the virtual continually recommences its production. Anything actual dies in order to make way for this operation of the One.

The discussion that followed first focused upon Peter Hallward’s reading of Deleuze. The subject as being out of action is expressed in the figure of the soldier dying on the battle field. Withdrawl from action allows contemplation, seeing everything. But, it was argued, Deleuze is concerned with activity, with enacting through counter-actualisation. This was to counter the immobility and eternity located by Badiou as an ideal of doing nothing in any actual sense. As Nick argued in his presentation, Deleuze seeks to get rid of spatial terms, points of reference or points of measurement. However, his ‘static genesis’ is a positive production despite not resembling the actual. The actual needs what does not resemble it to move forward. Therefore Deleuze subverts terms like eternal and static. Do they then lead to actual inactivity? Is taking away actual terms from time to divorce it from the time and space of the actual?

The point was raised that in the contraction of presents (the first of the three syntheses of time presented in ‘Difference and Repetition’ chapter 2) difference is contracted or made internal. The internal difference is then the source of counter-actualisation. However, it was suggested that this is a Hegelian move. We grasp the eternal by engaging with a particular aspect as the internal difference. This is a stage on the way to becoming an absolute Idea. You have the becoming of the absolute Idea. Furthermore, do we have becoming if we have throw after throw of the dice. How are they related? If we have complete interruptions no event leads to the next event. There is no becoming. This was related to dualism which is presented in ‘The Logic of Sense’ as the Stoic distinction of between Chronos and Aion. There are no causal relations between them. Becoming is the virtual actualizing and but there are no relations between actuals, no becoming for the actual. This was referred to Deleuze’s ‘Proust and Signs’ where there is a non-actual continuity or relation between moments where an essence is expressed. Combray as essence was never lived and its actual expressions do not resemble one another, in other ways they have a virtual continuity but not an actual one.

Reference was made to ‘Difference and Repetition’ page 136 where ‘the new’ is not the historically new and so is not something that can go out of date. It is new from the outset, always different and the different is what returns according to Deleuze’s Eternal Return. For Badiou the virtual is always too full for the new to come about or to have chance operate, hence the need for the void (‘Clamour’ p. 76). At page 64 reference is made to Heidegger and the act of remembering. For Heidegger the new is always near but we lose access to its newness. When we study history the truth of that history is made past. We need to think as the Ancient Greeks thought. Yet for Badiou we have to forget time to think truth because for him truths are not in the past (page 60). The past is an ontological notion while truths aren’t. Fidelity to the event is temporal and through it the subject is constituted, but this is added through ontology and not in or between events themselves.

In response to Badiou’s forgetting of time the need to study the past to know what the events mean was suggested. Yet forgetting is to allow the new event to happen, to a avoid any over determination by history and fact. Yet, it was argued, when the French Revolution started is a matter of history. However, for Badiou this is a matter of knowledge and not truth. The subject is constituted through the time of fidelity to the event. The event will have been true on the basis of the practice that constitutes the subject – therefore it is not a matter of what we say is, or is not, an event. If we concentrate on the facts of history we reduce the event of truth to the trivialities of knowledge.

It was asked whether we have pure situationism in Badiou? Historical information has no impact. The empty set isn’t given in the situation but is of the situation. In Badiou it is the ontological that gives continuity and links things. Events aren’t linked. In contrast, for Deleuze continuity is the virtual.

In Badiou set theory isn’t a condition for us in the sense of being a historical fact. Instead it will have been an event through the practice that constitutes the subject. It has been a structure of situations, a condition. It is not a fact but part of practice, or rather practice (which constitutes the subject) is fidelity to the event. The structure of the situation changes after a new revolution and so set theory, it seems, could become no longer the condition of practice. Yet if truth is infinite the new is always new. An event doesn’t go out of date because events don’t relate through time.

The point was also raised that time is the ‘being there’ of the concept in Hegel. However, for Badiou to have things that are always true we need to leave time out. He sees Deleuze’s virtual as too full to provide the new, it doesn’t have the scope to account for the new because a void is needed to allow chance to occur through itself.

Reference was made to Badiou’s ‘Being and Event’ page 233 where the same situation and the same event produce different fidelities. For example, October 1917 produces the fidelity of Stalinists and Trotskyites. The paradoxes discovered by maths in the early twentieth century lead to the fidelity of both axiomatic maths and intuitionism in maths. We wondered whether for Deleuze this involves different events with a common production? Perhaps in Deleuze’s ‘Proust and Signs’ the essence of Combray produces different events. Does fidelity to the event in Badiou determine what the event is? This gives too much weight to the subject who is really constituted as fidelity to the event. The event breaks into the world as the ideal into the material, as the incorporeal event in Deleuze’s ‘Logic of Sense’ seems to do. Is there a doubling of the event as there is for Deleuze in the emergence of an elementary consciousness (‘Difference and Repetition’ p. 221)? Is it a performative doubling? It ‘cuts’ through the course of time. However, for Deleuze this is only from a human and actual point of view because for the virtual there is only fullness and complete determination, the continuity out of which actual ‘cuts’ emerge.

A notion was introduced from astro-physics of black wholes as singularities. Things disappear into a black whole but there is a dense and substantial object in the middle, something defined by the galaxy or fields of forces of which it is the motor.

A number of questions and problems were identified at the end of the session: A further point was the link between affirmation and the difficult notion of counter-actualisation in Deleuze. Furthermore, how does coming to bear the wound in Deleuze relate to fidelity in Deleuze? How is the event prior to fidelity? Is the subject collective? For Badiou individuals and subjects are distinguished so that we cannot assume the individuality of the subject. A link was made to Nietzsche where the lamb and the eagle have different fidelities to the event. Are there lots of subjects/fidelities and therefore lots of truths? Do situations play a role in the actualisation of an event? This brought us back to the difficult notion of ‘feedback’ that was discussed last week and, as was pointed out, has problematic Hegelian connotations.

A further issue concerned Deleuze’s relationship with Kant which Badiou sees as relatively unimportant. In what sense, and at what point, does Kant’s thought move beyond epistemology to a philosophy of production? This could be located in the problems concerning teleology and the organic in ‘The Critique of Judgement’ and in the ether proofs found in ‘Opus Postumum.’ It was suggested that this undermined what Kant achieves in the first Critique. However, can we say that Kant was trying to extend critique by giving the material its own role in the process, freeing it from uncritical notions? However, can critique survive without a subject that operates it? Does Deleuze undermine the mechanism of critique, the means of justifying critical moves? In this way a lot of questions and problems were uncovered in this session establishing further vital and challenging grounds for discussion at next weeks workshop and here online.

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