'The Actual and The Virtual' Workshop Discussion
This is a report on the discussion that followed Nick Midgley's presentation on Deleuze's essay 'The Actual and The Virtual' from Dialogues II on 19th February 2007 at the Volcanic Lines Research Group's workshop. The discussion began with the notion of ‘dramatic identity’ – this seems to resonate with Deleuze’s version of the Kantian schemata as developed in ‘The Method of Dramatization.’ He traces dramatic structures like Kant did in his attempts to relate concept and intuition. It was argued that 'The Actual and The Virtual' does have a Kantian flavour since ‘brevity’ means that the manifold is immediately represented. Does the reference to a ‘spatium’, along with the brevity which makes indeterminate, resonate with the intensive spatium that in Difference and Repetition is the dramatisation of Ideas? Reference was made to Bergson for whom perception is characterised by a gap, the centre of indetermination which distinguishes the discontinuity of the actual from the continuity of the virtual. The virtual centre of indetermination draws together the actual discontinuity around it because it draws upon the resources of its continuity to produce a singular and attractive determination. This is described by Deleuze as ‘emission and absorption, creation and destruction’.
At this point Deleuze’s Logic of Sense was related to the discussion. Here states of affairs are distinguished from bodies and events. We have a three-fold synthesis of time as in Difference and Repetition. Deleuze finds in the Stoic conception of the body the non-actual self which corresponds to the contracted self and individual in Difference and Repetition. The action of the body is the body going to the limit of its power of individuation.
The role of memory was also discussed. The ‘Combray moment’ in chapter two of Difference and Repetition allows us to access pure memory. But is the crystal we find in ‘The Actual and The Virtual’ closer to the ‘Eternal Return moment’, the ordinal structure, being a before and after moment of crystallization. It was argued that rather than any leap into the pure past, invoking perhaps an existential subject, we need eros. Deleuze can be said to leave Bergson behind when it comes to accessing the pure past because of his leap into the pure past. The eros moment explains the encounter and we don’t need to jump or leap to the Eternal Return, as if collapsing levels of Deleuze’s system and suggesting that through thought or Ideas there is a privileged access to Being. The argument rests upon keeping open the ways of accessing the past rather than privileging thought and making the subject beholden to a moment of revelation after which nothing else seems to be left. If we leap to the Eternal Return we seem to give up all reference to the actual and yet in this essay we find that virtual encircle the actual like a cloud. If the eros moment explains the encounter this places the encounter in everyday life, it is the affect that allows perception to occur.
Developing this point, the case was made that saving the pure past for ourselves is related closely to notion of apprenticeship for Deleuze. Eros is forced onto you and this invokes ongoing encounters or an infinite learning. The virtual that encircles the actual seems to develop a crystalline individuation and suggest that we must think the past through individuation, the common limit of the past and future. The film ‘Citizen Kane’ was mentioned – at the beginning a crystal ball shatters. Does this take you to pure memory? The event that shatters the actual – a kind of interruption that makes it impossible to say what is real and what is imaginary or a dream. It was argued that rather than a leap into the past we have the crystal as an eruption into a meta-stable situation, bring us closer, it could be argued, to the virtual encircling the actual. The seed seems to always be needed – it is what gets the system going. Temperature changes the types of structure that will form. This resonates with the earlier account of intensities in Deleuze’s work and with Manuel DeLanda’s work on Deleuze.
Can the crystal be regarded as an assemblage? Both are half actual and half virtual. They both seem to be individuating systems. Reference was made to Deleuze’s Nietzsche and Philosophy where there are no objects, only combinations and forces. In Deleuze’s philosophy as a whole, it was argued, there appears to be a big tension between the depth of the individual and the enormity of the virtual. There seems to be a risk that one or the other takes over, leading Deleuze to seek a circuit of the expansive horizon the virtual with the contracting that sustains an individual. ‘The Actual and the Virtual’ seems to draws these themes together. This was related to a possible film scenario where a character looks in the mirror and cannot see who they are. Individuation as a process seems to be crystallization here, individuation as a circuit. The reference at one point to dissolution seems to relate this to the earlier conception of ‘a system of the dissolved self’ as seen in Difference and Repetition chapter 5. In the last paragraph of ‘The Actual and The Virtual’ we find the distinction, upon the plane of immanence, between the actual’s ‘own virtual’ in its circuit of crystallization and its relation to the whole of the virtual (referring ‘to virtuals as to other things in the vast circuits where the virtual is actualised.’) This draws on the notion of contraction already mentioned in the essay and stages an expansion-contraction. It was argued that here we see that the problem of individuation, as a process ‘between’ actual and virtual, recurs. However, this was the subject of some debate. The persistence of individuation as ‘the third thing’ or level (as it appears to have been in Difference and Repetition) was disputed. This developed from the debate over the leap into the past versus the encounter with the past: do we have the individuated subject of encounters ‘between’ actual and virtual or the actual leaping into the virtual? Is the actual embedded in its cloud, it crystalline circuit, as well as relating to the whole of the virtual or is it exposed to this whole in abstraction from its individuation? This fundamental debate will no doubt continue productively.
Is going into memory a counter-actualisation? We need, it was argued, an empirical moment and not merely a leap. We cannot simply posit transcendental conditions as abstract and non-empirical. We have no representative access to the past and need an encounter, something that is non-representative. Bergson’s intuition appears unexplanatory, a ‘cop out’. What is it? How do we show that one intuition is better than another? It needs to be made rigorous, Bergson writes, but how? We need the structure of the encounter and Deleuze gives us this. The specific encounters can be selected by intuition as being true to their encounter. Thus we ask: Has the novelist constituted the affect? At some point you encounter yourself having an intuition – a contraction of the past – bang! Event! Rigor demands a method to say if I am actually doing this or not.
What do you encounter? In Derrida we have the aporetic moment and in Lacan the objet petit a. For Zizek you encounter the moment and then you’ve got the virtual. With Derrida, it was suggested, we get monotonous repetition because anything can be deconstructed. Yet for Deleuze, the virtual problem is of this text and not just any text, it is its own problem (its own virtual thanks to the crystalline circuit of its individuation).
A final point was that images come to sound more like forces because they are always in the process of acting and reacting.