dialogues at greenwich

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

27 November 2006


Today the workshop tackled the final two chapters of ‘Deleuze: The Clamour of Being.’ We discussed the oceanic image of the virtual, Deleuze’s relation to politics, experimentation and Badiou’s use of set theory amongst other things.

The presentation began by suggesting that in chapter seven we see the machinery of ‘encounter’ kick into action very strongly. We see what Badiou means by ‘a “collaboration” that [is] … divergent and contrasting’ (page 5). Here we see Badiou outlining what he likes in Deleuze and what he doesn’t, suggesting what he can and can’t make use of and explaining why his philosophy leads him to reject elements of Deleuze.

The Heideggerian concern with thinking, Being and their interlacement/identity is introduced as central to philosophy since Heidegger (echoing Badiou’s claim at the beginning of ‘Being and Event’ that Heidegger is the last universally recognisable philosopher as the first of three assumptions on which to premise ‘the analysis of the current global state of philosophy’ (p. 1)).

We notice on the first page a proposed definition of ‘thought’ for Deleuze. This makes Badiou development of a ‘theory of interlacement’ in Deleuze simplistic – Nick Midgley’s presentation last week opened up the need to keep Deleuze’s different encounters in play. Here Deleuze brings in Leibniz, Cinema and Foucault a lot – he mentions Bergson briefly by comparing Fold and Memory and Nietzsche in order to link force in Foucault and active and reactive forces. However, is this enough to capture what Deleuze means by ‘thought’?

p. 81 If interiority is a result or product it cannot serve to identify the being of thought - interiority is not constitutive. This also avoids establishing relations between subjects and objects that instantiate reflectivity and negativity.

p. 82 Badiou argues that for Deleuze ‘subject’ as operator (instead of difference or ultimately the Eternal Return as operator) places thought in a scientific paradigm (the plane of reference). However, the alternative which Badiou finds developed in Deleuze’s ‘Foucault’ is topology, which is certainly scientific, and we can argue that Deleuze finds in science resources equal to modelling folding. However, for Badiou Deleuze’s use of maths and science is always metaphorical, as we have discussed in previous weeks.

Badiou argues that in Foucault we find the diagnosis of an illusion that structures and the subject are opposed. This illusion is what allows us today to believe that there is a place and status for the subject in places where structuring is not complete. We need to get away from the couple formed by structural objectivity and constitutive subjectivity.

At page 83 Badiou writes that ‘…given that thought is set in motion by disjunctive synthesis, and that it is solicited by beings who are in nonrelation, how can it be in accordance with Being, which is essentially Relation?’ How is the nonrelation a relation?’ (‘Foucault’ page 65). Badiou sees the fold as the response with its linking of thought (disjointed cases) and Being (the eternal return of the Same – where the same can only be said of difference). He draws from this the conclusion, at page 84, that for Deleuze we must find ourselves constrained to follow the One – we sense here that for Badiou Deleuze’s subversion of the One - as we find with other similarly traditional and restrictive terms that carry a lot of baggage (e.g. God, universal, the Same, attribute, Being, Idea, problem) - fails and doesn’t make the One productive and liberating.

We are then able to think nonrelation as relation – in Foucault truth is served by the two with no direct relation (a volcanic line). Badiou refers to Nietzsche and he develops this in a piece translated in ‘Pli’ (as ‘Who is Nietzsche?’ in volume 11 (2002) ‘Nietzsche: Revenge and Praise’).

At page 85 Badiou is enthusiastic about Deleuze’s notion that the closed set or actual object is kept open by a point of opening. But he then asks whether Deleuze doesn’t then introduce ‘a sort of theoretical convenience’? If the attachment of all objects to the rest of the universe is ‘marked’ on the object itself, what is Deleuze’s reason for invoking the exposure of thought to ‘the absoluteness of the disjunction’? Badiou then activates the creative-destructive machinery of encounter by asking: ‘Would it not suffice to be attentive to this “somewhere” where the objects remains open?’ He asks why we should attribute the chance of thought to a discernable division (actual and virtual) of its objects? Yet Deleuze can play a positive role in Badiou own thought when he invokes the ‘dis-sheltering’ of the closed set or actual object, its point of opening. Badiou writes: ‘Yes, indeed!’ – the words leap from the page in an affirmative and light-footed dance. Thinking a situation involves what isn’t sheltered by ‘the general regime of things.’ Badiou fleshes out what his encounter with Deleuze is producing as an evental site without either the virtual or the Whole. On the edge of the void and almost withdrawn from shelter. It isn’t in or out, without interior or exterior.

At page 86 Badiou defines Deleuze’s intuition here as animation by the outside whose element is force – ‘a constrained animation.’ For Badiou spontaneity is inferior to thought – again Badiou seems to ignore or deny Deleuze subversion of terms: spontaneity is surely present as long as it is not the spontaneity of the pre-constituted subject, just as thought and Ideas are productions of an outside and ‘I think’ and ‘I am’ are productions of Ideas and individuation respectively.

Badiou argues at page 88 that in Foucault Deleuze finds that each force reaches its own specific limit and this brings about separation. The specific limit is also the common limit that links forces. We have a topology of space and the One of the topology.

Badiou develops two senses of Being in Deleuze. At page 89 he writes that for Deleuze surface/outside and the limit are these two senses. The fold must be simultaneously the movement of a surface and the tracing of a limit: the fold of a sheet produces a common limit of two subregions but is not a tracing on the sheet. The fold as limit of pure outside is a movement of the sheet itself.

The presentation then turned to page 91 where Badiou argues that the fold makes every thought ‘an immanent trait of the already-there’. Therefore everything new is an ‘enfolded selection of the past.’ This draws upon Badiou reading of the virtual as fullness of the pure element of quantity, of quality, continuity, pure variety, biological ideas, social ideas…

The fold is an ‘epistemological invariant’ of the Eternal Return: for Badiou then the ER requires a theory of knowledge and invariants that allow it to function. This return to Badiou’s dissatisfaction with Deleuze production of the new as a repetition or recommencement under the jurisdiction of the One. He writes that ‘the thought of the new plunges the new’ into the virtual past. This plunging suggests that for Badiou the new is drowned in the fullness of the virtual or pure past. It needs to breath and this calls for the void. This of course refers us to the last sentence of ‘Difference and Repetition’ quoted by Badiou in the title of this book: ‘a single and same Ocean for all the drops, a single clamour of Being for all beings…’ (p. 304) Emphasising such an image has rhetorical effect and is repeated elsewhere in the book. He then argues that Deleuze engages with new ideas in order to test them and show that they were never ‘absolute beginnings.’

Badiou then makes the huge claim that for Deleuze philosophy is fused with art, This is because new ways of folding are discovered (rather than ‘the new’ itself) and thinking is reduced to philosophy or ‘a single configuration of its act’ (philosophy-art). With a full past thinking is reduced to thinking about the past and philosophy-art alone can do this, hence it is thought. This relies upon Badiou’s reading of a limited relation between Deleuze and science. Art and philosophy are ‘indiscernible companions’ because they alone capture the intuition of the One.

Badiou then fires up the machinery of critique by claiming that he can conceptualise ‘absolute beginnings’ and opposes this to the absoluteness of the One in which beginnings are submerged and made monotonous repetitions of the pure past. He argues that we must side with the new to the exclusion of the One (if we are to think ‘a political revolution, an amorous encounter, an invention of the sciences, or a creation of art as distinct infinities’) via a theory of the void and through Cantor’s plurality of types of infinity.

At page 92 Badiou argues that we must locate thought in much more than philosophy-art if different types of infinity are to initiate truth procedures. Distinct infinities mean incommensurable events. He opposes ‘our bleak world’ and its continuity traversed by rare and discontinuous events to Deleuze’s continuous and full virtual denying the discontinuity that would make room for the new, rare and chance-driven. He writes intriguingly in the last sentence of the chapter that ‘it is a question of taste.’ Is he referring to the taste for practice – Deleuze, he argues, goes for philosophy-art but he wants a range of practices to be accounted for (art, science, love, politics)?

The presentation then turned to chapter 8 begins with ‘the figure of communication between a disjointed singularity and the All.’ Start with the narrowest diagram of forces before plunging into ‘the most composite virtualities’ which circulate and interpenetrate one another. Then follow the ‘large circuit’ until ‘a local inflection of philosophy’s entire past’ makes ‘Deleuze appear as a fine point or crystal that is at once translucent and timeless – just like the crystal balls of clairvoyants.’ He is timeless or eternal because he is productive but also translucent or open for learning and encounter. For Badiou, at page 86, a concern is that ‘There does, in fact, exist a cynical Deleuzianism, poles apart from the sobriety and asceticism of the Master.’ He continues to characterise Deleuze at page 97 in terms of his ‘ironic solitude.’ What does this mean? It can’t be solitude from how we are produced but means withdrawing from an Image of Thought, the accumulations of habit. It takes its bearings as ironic from virtual continuity and so flies above actual relations. Deleuze is for Badiou the philosopher least affected by changes in the world (by the actual and its course) because he took his bearings from ‘the rigorous intuitive method that he had laid down once and for all.’

Badiou argues that for Deleuze’s Bergsonism ‘it is always what is that is right’. We cannot then evaluate life itself and nothing is new because everything is constantly new. Everything is a production of the One, its return. This takes away all militancy – everything is new and so nothing can selected as worthy of fidelity, Life is immobilised because for Badiou what animates it – militancy, fidelity and the subjects they constitute – are not accounted for. Badiou opposes this with rare interruptions or supplements which force our lasting fidelity – rather than the continuity of the virtual with its monotony that means nothing is ever worth being faithful to.

The presentation then turned to the charge, at page 99, that in Deleuze intuition is internal to the immanent changes of the One. This continually depreciates any ‘conceptual stability in the order of theory, of formal equilibrium in the order of art, amorous consistency in the existential order, and organisation in the political.’ Concrete analyses provide the temptation ‘to lay down one’s arms before the sweeping tide of actualisation with its progressive dissolution of all objects…’ Badiou refers to the tide and so again suggests the ocean and the drowning of the new, referring again to the image of a single ocean at the end of ‘Difference and Repetition.’ The virtual as full and excluding the void through its continuity is again the subject of Badiou’s critique and is firmly tied in his reading to the negative and hopeless connotations of the ocean. A great deep ending action and life, removing all hope of resistance from an overwhelmed subject. It also aids his critique because it is not a space of action but undermines or unground these, submerges action. It is the limit at which loss of form merges terms in a point of indiscernability so that neither can be defended. The fluid and ideal continuity of the virtual is played upon here. Against it Badiou argues that our age threatens us with ‘powers of decomposition’ – the tide comes in and washes away sand-castles and unstable structures. The need for fidelity to outlast the tides is emphasised against the changes and becoming of the virtual providing its continuity. Badiou talks about building (contrast to Deleuze’s emphasis on ungrounding) ‘an internal barrier’ to enable thought to resist (using resources of logic, maths and abstraction as well as those of ‘organised emancipatory politics’). He locates this in a tradition going back to Descartes and Plato. He has built up to this conclusion by arguing that Deleuze’s use of maths and science is metaphorical.

The presentation then moved to the final pages of the book. At page 100 Deleuze function as ‘a power of reception’ for the return for great conceptual creations and ‘the whole of philosophy is treated as an absolute detemporalised memory.’ Again, ‘detemporalised’ is misleading – eternity is subverted and is not anti-time but time out of joint, time not measurable or linear. The ‘exact eternity’ of philosophers is living only when actualised in living thought. Badiou writes intriguingly that in their correspondence Deleuze tried to pin on him the ‘crushing accusation’ of the epithet ‘neo-Kantian.’

At page 101 Badiou argues that for Deleuze everything is constantly replayed. In this way Platonism will never cease to be overturned because from the beginning it has been overturned (Stoics, Spinoza, Nietzsche, Bergson, Deleuze…). Badiou opposes to this the overturning of anti-Platonism. At page 102 he finds that Deleuze was most progressive in his approach to Plato but failed to finish with anti-Platonism itself. Deleuze was a pre-Socratic in the sense of being a physicist, one of the ‘thinkers of the All’ for the Greeks. But Plato opposed philosophy as a Great Physics in order for thought to be philosophical independently of ‘any total contemplation of the Universe or any intuition of the virtual.’ This for Badiou is resistance to being swept away by the virtual. Deleuze then as physicist is for Badiou speculatively dreaming, prophetic but without this providing us with any promise (no promise of the militant subject sought by Badiou). Salvation by ‘the All’ promises nothing because it is ‘always already there.’

The discussion began with the link being made between ‘simple traces of [actualisation’s] passage in the sand’ (page 99) and Foucault’s notion that man is nothing but writing on the sand that will be washed away. Badiou picks up on the notion of grace and that in Deleuze everything is grace and thus nothing is grace, the antidote being that it occurs interruptively. This was referred to Deleuze’s ‘Expressionism in Philosophy’ where to be is to be beatified. It was argued that here grace is internal to you and that this the real difference between Deleuze and Badiou. For Badiou grace is external, it happens in the world. He wants the new, a breakthrough and the continual folding of folding. It was argued that this is part of Badiou’s argument that Deleuze does not use his philosophy for politics. It was suggested that Badiou approaches philosophy as purely political.

It was suggested that at page 99 we see signs of a reading of Deleuze as ‘vulnerable to the powers of decomposition that our grandiose and decaying capitalism liberates on a large scale.’ This follows if whatever happens (through difference) is good and there is to be no resentment (which could be taken to mean no resistance). What you build is only s product of capitalism to meet your desire for philosophy. The virtual is not a foundation for resistance to capitalism and can be equated with capitalism’s production of desires itself. New desires produces new philosophies. This was linked to Naomi Klein’s ‘No Logo’ and the notion that here the idea is not about opposition but going as far as you can go as part of a market of ideas. It was argued that Badiou is antoganised by people who use Deleuze to oppose Marxism. This was related to Lyotard and his work on the molecular. Everyone likes being fucked by capital. It was argued that it is crude to lump Deleuze together with this. Badiou requires actual ways of judging, constructing other roots of actualisation and ways oif analysing the truth of events of religion, revolution and so on. Reference was made to Schelling and the criticism that according to his thought in the night all cows are black. There are no distinctions here and likewise in Deleuze you cannot judge capital as a negative thing because if the Eternal Return selects differences this doesn’t exclude the mechanisms of capital. In response reference was made to Deleuze’s statement that life doesn’t need philosophy. People don’t need philosophy and they do politics. Politically relevant writing is in fact propaganda. Does Badiou subsume other truth procedures under politics? It was suggested that the very need for a structure of infinities relies ultimately on politics in Badiou.

A further point of discussion was the notion at page 102 that Deleuze ‘did not support the idea that “the great Pan is dead.”’ It was pointed out that for pagans the whole point is that Pan is everything because Pan is death. Reference was made to ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ where Deleuze and Guattari talk about Pan and sorcery in a very positive sense.

Also of interest to us what Badiou remark at page 91 that ‘it is a matter of taste’ when it comes to his and Deleuze’s dispute over the One. This seemed to us to refer to Nietzsche where taste (as intuition) is before truth. Deleuze makes use of this because to get rid of judgement structures and still make decisions means you rely upon taste/intuition rather than the rational, indifferent mathematical set theory.

We noted that for Badiou the hisyoricity of philosophy found in Deleuze’s vision is not progressive. The Deleuzian history of philosophy is a non-linear time because bringing principles to bear isn’t going to capture the truth of the situation. It was asked whether there is a before and after in Deleuze? Reference was made to the beginning of ‘Difference and Repetition’ where Deleuze writes that thoughts of difference and repetition are in the air. Is this significant or just a colloquial reference to the present philosophical conversations and evidence of Deleuze locating himself as a philosopher. In the latter sense such remarks reflect linear and actual time rather than virtual time. It was pointed out that Deleuze has written of himself that he is a philosopher and it was argued that this is not a philosophical statement – so what is it doing in a work of philosophy?

Also discussed was Badiou development of structure and subject at page 82. At this intersection thought and Being’s interlacement is situation by Deleuze. It was argued that Badiou is locating Deleuze as a poststructuralist because this point in history isn’t important – the move is conceptual. Badiou’s argument that Deleuze’s makes thought a philosophy-art fusion was also discussed in terms of its development from earlier arguments that maths is metaphorical in Deleuze’s thought. It was argued that also behind this move is Badiou’s concern to link Deleuze to Heidegger. Deleuze presupposes Heidegger because he has cleared some ground for him but can we extend this to relating Deleuze’s philosophy of art to Heidegger’s later thought? It was suggested that the present issue of ‘Collapse’ helps us here because in it Badiou says he is essentially talking about discourse in doing his ontology. He is then closer to Heidegger. and also to Derrida, in the sense that everything is the text and there is no outside (no virtual).

Reference was then made to being forced to think for Deleuze, referred to by Badiou at page 86. It was related to making a film by just starting and don’t know where to go. Ho does this relate to the future? How do you put yourself in a situation where forces occur. This was linked to the notion of a bottleneck: being creative without forcing yourself into certain ideas. You need space for improvisation – does this mean forcing something into the world and onto your ontology. It was argued that in chapter 3 of ‘Difference and Repetition’ where being forced to think is developed we find the diagnosis that thought is lazy. Everyone is lazy and thinks in clichés. We need a big thought to get out of it and also stupidity and animality as antidotes to laziness. It is so difficult for thought to do something new. It was also argued that Deleuze is at his most practical and useful in making possibilities, creating bottlenecks – a pure situationist slogan. Making a film lasting a very long time and with a great amount of a certain subject. You stop at a certain time and certain amount short of the aim but have got a lot of material out of it. You have started by making an impossible situation – is this the virtual? It’s going to produce something different to the original idea you had. It is better if the original idea you had was more bizarre. This is experiment and, it was argued, Badiou doesn’t grasp this. He wants deduction that starts from a rare point. However, in maths string theory comes from ‘ramming’ lots of different variables into the explanations – maths does this a lot. Badiou misses the notion of creating a space – creating a space brings other things together. It was suggested that for Badiou we need certainty in order to find the right response to a problem – it forces you to face things you might not want to face. At page 86 Badiou says that there is no spontaneity in Deleuze because this opposes a common reading of Deleuze and Badiou wants to be polemic. However, he misses experiment. Reference was made to Plato’s ‘Meno’ where the slave boy’s recollection is experiment, using tools at hand when they fit into the deduction.

The eleventh Plateau ‘1837: Of the Refrain’ was brought into the discussion with notions of chaos and then the drawing of the boundary, marshalling the forces of chaos. The movement involved are happening always at the same time. There is always a smooth space, always a constant activity. The theme of counter-actualisation was introduced here and related to the dice throw and to experiment. How are you able to do/think/write anything? You assume a certain ontology and then you experiment. You need to assume an ontology (e.g. actual-virtual) and then test it. The need for grounding in the face of pure chaos was related to the idea that with the oceanic and tidal virtual which Badiou finds in Deleuze we get only sandcastles when it comes to actual constructions. But are sandcastles a positive image? The need to ground, to draw boundaries, brings in different levels and conditions: the material, ideas, intensities, individuation… Yet fundamentally, it was argued, thought must go somewhere else – going into another space because something forces it. Reference was made to William Burrows’ ‘do easy’ where the practice of everything you do should continue to be completely natural and you keep doing it until becomes completely easy. It is the process of turning yourself into an automaton. It is one of Burrow’s techniques of space creating for making films. Another point of reference was G. E. Moore writing on civilisation and discusses motivational speakers. He says that in fact civilisation advances because we don’t have to think about what we do – this is a becoming automaton. This was related to computers replacing thought with procedure.

Also discussed was Badiou statement that his multiplicity is Cantorian at page 91. This, it was argued, means that he needs to affirm the continuum hypothesis which is now outside of mathematics because it is a straightforward assumption in maths that is made for the sake of argument. It is not assumed in string theory of black hole theory. Gödel and Cohen were referred to as those trying to show that it makes no difference whether one does or does not accept the continuum hypothesis. The axiom of choice are independent because set theory works with and without them. Set theory using the axiom of choice is in fact a very odd kind of set theory. The axiom of choice gives you an intensive order where one element is bigger than the other. You arbitrarily choose a particular ordering whereas in Deleuze’s actualisation has to come from the virtual, crystallising out of it via a strange precursor. Therefore the axiom of choice is transcendent to set theory and one way of providing intensive order to sets. For Badiou we have choice and for Deleuze realisation.

Finally we discussed our impressions of the book we had now read and discussed over the four weeks of the workshop. It was praised for thinking through the rigor of non-relation, taking the ideas to their limit. Getting rid of badly analysed composites and emphasising the purity of Deleuze’s ideas. It was also argued that in assuming that we can’t extract a politics from Deleuze Badiou is forcing a much needed response. He points out where the problem occurs – this means that you need to go deep into Deleuze to deal with the problems.

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At 1/18/2007 , Blogger edward said...

An article entitled 'The Event in Deleuze' by Alain Badiou can be found at the following location:


At 1/25/2007 , Blogger edward said...

A further online text by Badiou with some relevance to his reading of Deleuze is entitled 'Philosophy as Creative Repetition'. It can be found at:



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