6.1 Who is time?
Departing from Heidegger’s 1924 lecture “The Concept of Time” Brassier traces how the question ‘what is time?’ transforms into the question ‘who is time?’ Whatness corresponds to essence (Das Was), and essence (Ousia) is understood in turn as presence-at-hand (Vorhandenheit); being-present. Therein lie the roots of ‘metaphysics of presence’: the essence of things is prefigured by a prior understanding of time as being-present in time, i.e. ‘whatness’ or essence determines the being of intra-temporal entities as being-present. However, time cannot merely be one more entity among others, since time is not one more entity present in time; so we must first inquire into the different ways of being-in-time as well as how temporalization and its configurations become possibly accessible on the basis of a specific entity for whom temporal entities are encountered, our own being: Dasein.
Its two defining characteristics are 1) temporal specificity (Jeweiligkeit) and mineness (Jameinigkeit). That Dasein is always mine means it is the determinate being (-in-the-world) which is specified in the ‘I am’. But if temporal specificity is of Dasein, and the latter is in-each-case-mine, then it follows that I am my time: each of us is time and time is in each case our own. Heidegger reaches this conclusion ‘Am I my time?’ is tantamount to ‘Am I my Dasein?’, since Dasein as being-in-the-world is the entity on whose behalf temporal specification is given: the question ‘what is time?’ becomes ‘who is time?’ since the question now turns on the specification of the being which in each case mine. To ask about this propriety Dasein’s being is defined in terms of its outmost-possibility: death. The being of Dasein is being-towards-death so that it is ‘running ahead of itself against its own past’, i.e. projected into the future, in each case thrown beyond the specificity of the present, onto its final determination in death (its finitude). This accomplishes the specification and individuation of the entity which is ‘in each case mine’; this ‘running-ahead’ is then characterized with respect to ‘resolute anticipation’ in being-towards-death. So individuation and temporal singularization remain the defining features of ‘finite transcendence’. ‘Death’ allows for Dasein’s temporal individuation. The question then becomes whether Dasein’s mineness can be said to be one’s own authentically or inauthentically. [NU: Pg. 154] Unlike Being and Time, Brassier notes, Heidegger here avoids attempting to go beyond time and establish a connection with other categories, it does not stipulate to draw the connection between Dasein’s time and temporal being in general. This tension between Sein and Dasein is, on the other hand, what becomes proper to the philosophical enquiry ahead of Being and Time.
In Being and Time Dasein’s being-in-the-world is the synthetic unity of the three ekstases of Dasein’s self-temporalizing: being-already, being-alongside, being-towards: ‘The phenomena of the “toward…”, the “to…”, the “alongside…”, make temporality visible as the “ekstatikon” pure and simple. Temporality is the primordial “outside-of-itself” in and for itself’ (Heidegger 1962: 377). It is here that the crucial difficulty for the project of B&T will become concentrated. For this we must remember that the existential analytic of Dasein was to serve as a provisional doorstep into clarifying the relation between Dasein’s individuated temporality (Zeitlichkeit) and the Temporality of being in general (Temporalitat). Being cannot be coextensive with Dasein, it must be pre-individual. But clarifying this pre-individual dimension was precisely the impasse which led Heidegger’s project of fundamental ontology into an abyss, as Theodore Kisiel points out, and which prefigured the writing of Being and Time before the Kehre of the 1930’s, as evidenced by the insistent use of the impersonal pronoun ‘It’ to describe the pre-theoretical, pre-individuated event of being, the primal-something (Ur-etwas). But this ‘ekstatikon’ in and for itself (which appears like a periodizing Hegelian absolute without dialectical closure) makes the idea of a Dasein-independent time rather mysterious, as is the idea of being as temporalization apart from Dasein’s finite transcendence. Is there then only my time, Dasein’s time? Brassier detects in Heidegger the attempt to render ontological time to existential time in The Concept of Time:
“Dasein is time, time is temporal. Dasein is not time, but temporality. The fundamental assertion that time is temporal is therefore the most authentic determination – and it is not a tautology because the Being of temporality signifies non identical actuality […] Insofar as time is in each case mine, there are many times. ‘Time itself’ is meaningless; time is temporal.” (Heidegger 1992: 21E)
Time-in-itself is meaningless since it would amount to ‘no one’s time’, so Heidegger finally surrendered in his attempt to and gave up on the ontological autonomy of Temporality in favor of Dasein’s temporal ekstasis.
6.2 Ekstasis and ekstema
Brassier recapitulates Dasein’s threefold ekstasis in Being and Time as the temporalization of temporality, synthesizing future (ahead of) past (already) and present (alongside):
1) As ahead-of-itself - Dasein’s existence is grounded on futurity, coming into its own, death as its own possibility.
2) As being-already - In coming into its own, it is appropriating what it already was, thereby returning to and appropriating its facticity. Resolute anticipation makes Dasein return to its-always-have been, appropriating its finitude, its own time.
3) As being-alongside - Becoming what it already was, Dasein accesses entities by ‘enpresenting’ or making-present (Augenblick).
The resolute anticipation of death triggers the synthetic unity of Dasein’s time insofar as it individuates it by giving closure to its being outside-of-itself, fixing death as its ownmost possibility, normally dispersed in ‘the One’ (Das Man; Brassier’s translation here as ‘the They’ is indeed misleading since the crucial fact is that in being irresolute, it Dasein simply lets itself be identified with the being of presence, the occlusion of its temporal ekstasis as thrown against death. In fact this is already the germinal seed for Heidegger’s later characterization of ontotheology as guiding the Seinsgeschikte in the configuration of metaphysics of presence. So it is Dasein’s being which specifies time as the ekstatikon in and for itself, while death limits thrown-projection individuating Dasein’s on the basis of its outmost possibility (for death, as transition from Dasein qua being-in-the-world to mere presence-at-hand; the dead individual who is subject for mourning for other Dasein’s).
Heidegger nonetheless distinguishes existential temporality (Zeitlichkeit des Dasein) from ontological temporality (Temporalitat des Seins), and their precise connection (left for the never completed third division) is the root of the collapse of fundamental ontology. In his 1927 lecture The Basic Problems of Phenomenology he nonetheless envisages the problem, as Brassier develops. Finite transcendence is not the ‘beyond’, but ‘stepping-beyond’, not what is being stepped over into; Dasein oversteps and is not immanent. There is always a ‘whither’ determining Dasein’s ekstasis as overstepping transcendence. This would be ‘being-as-such’, the ekstema which is correlate to the ekstasis of Dasein. Such whither is finally the ‘the transcendens’ pure and simple (Heidegger 1962: 62). This, however, is meant to be distinguished from the Husserlian distinction between noema and noesis, insofar as the latter is still construed in terms of intentional consciousness, which for Heidegger merely remains at the ontic level, and which is derivative from primordial ontological transcendence. So the ekstema is not simply an ‘object’, not an intratemporal entity as such, but also prefiguring the formal conditions of Dasein’s being-carried-away-to (also called removal), in which ekstasis is predetermined by this nothingness since it is non-localizeable. However, Brassier underlines that given that this ekstematic correlate is entirely prefigured form the horizon of finite transcendence is seems to depend on it for its production/generation/effectuation. Being and Time is nothing but the elucidation of how being-in-the-world generates from ecstatic temporality qua Dasein’s finite transcendence. The ekstematic correlate cannot be reduced to a mere objective beyond, but has to take place in constitution with the stepping-beyond proper to Dasein’s activity. Otherwise the ontological status of Dasein’s transcendence becomes jeopardized [NU: Pg: 158].
6.3 Finite possibility and actual infinity
How can the relation between ekstema and ekstasis be construed without objectifying the former, or reducing the former to the latter? The former option vitiates ontology; the latter implies the reduction of Sein to Dasein. The options for Heidegger then seem to be between objective and subjective idealism, while his attempts to purge subjectivism become threatened by the traditional transcendent dichotomies of noesis and noema, transcendence and transcendent, which Heidegger claimed to have dispensed with in fundamental ontology. So it is ironic, Brassier notes, that it’s Heidegger’s resistance to the reification of the world as a present-at-hand entity which ultimately threatens to deliver it to the idealist thesis that without Dasein there is no world is there either (Heidegger 1962: 417). The following quote from Introduction to Metaphysics condenses the Heideggerean version of the correlationist hypothesis, which is doubtlessly important insofar as many Heideggereans struggle to rescue Heidegger’s account from idealism, and which is challenged by Meillassoux’s account of the arche-fossil or the prospect of human existence:
“Strictly speaking we cannot say: there was a time when there were no human beings. At every time, there were and are and will be human beings, because time temporalizes itself only as long as there are human beings. There is no time in which there were no human beings, not because there are human beings from all eternity, but because time is not eternity, and time always temporalizes itself only at one time, as human, historical Dasein.” (Heidegger 2000: 88)
Brassier anticipates the correlationist impasse afflicts Heidegger: the space-time in which dates Dasein’s coming into existence cannot coincide with ekstatic temporality, and thereby this time cannot be an ekstematic correlate. By the same token, the cosmological disintegration of thought cannot take place within the temporality of Dasein’s being-towards-death. But Brassier reminds us of the precise ontological status Heidegger confers upon death, separating it from intratemporal entities in being the impossibility of possibility which precisely makes possibility and thus presencing possible, which determines Dasein’s ekstatic temporal projection in anticipatory resoluteness, which we know envelops Heidegger’s tragic existential narrative. Because death is not a singular event in life or Dasein’s time, but Dasein’s condition as being-towards-death makes it impossible for death to be an ontic fact, but it’s the ‘truth’ of facticity at large, ontological possibility (authentic) rather than ontic actuality (present-at-hand, inauthentic representation).
However, here I think Brassier might be slightly off the mark in the details, since inauthenticity is not exclusively tethered to Dasein’s dealing with present-at-hand entities; being lost amidst Das Man does not, for example, imply perpetual conceptualization such as that where objects appear themselves. One’s daily routine business at the office or queue when purchasing coffee are obviously not cases of authentic behavior, yet they do imply the equipment-integrated (Zeug) dealings proper to readiness-to-hand (Zuhandenheit). Of course herein lies another undecided part in Heidegger’s account, since he often distinguishes between the carpenter’s workshop, for example as authentic comportments, whereas from more urban cases of mindless behavior where it seems Heidegger tilts towards the inauthentic. But this might be simply the provincialist nostalgia already diagnosed by others (Zizek (2003), Badiou (1998)). In any case, resolute anticipation seems is not exhausted by non-representational comporting; although this is notoriously elusive in Heidegger’s account. Perhaps this can be fine tuned in the near future. For now let us continue to trace Brassier’s argument.
There seems to be an irreconcilable gap between the space-time which registers the bio-physical demise of Dasein from the latter’s mode of being as pure possibility. So the ontological separation between presencing and presence is tied to the transcendental separation of death as ontological possibility and as biological actuality as a function of temporalization (NU: Pg. 159). Death as transcendental condition of impossibility is unactualizeable; its perpetual deferral as a possible event guarantees that the being’s temporal opening is correlative to Dasein’s ekstasis as finite transcendence. Brassier writes that the temporalization of existence which is brought about resolute anticipation synthesizes the threefold of temporal ekstasis of past, present and future and by deferring the actualization of death prevents the reduction of presencing to presence. Nonetheless, we should specify that temporalization is not relative to resolute anticipation; which is rather ‘rare’ by existential standard; what it does is open Dasein’s ontological insight into the synthetic unity of temporalization, and the appropriation of time as one’s own. Inauthentic comporting blocks this ontological insight insofar as it remains blindly delivered to temporal specificity unilaterally and not in the equiprimordial threefold structure of ekstasis, thereby ignorant of how temporalization is opened by death as belonging to each Dasein as its outmost possibility, and thus as condition for presencing. In any case, Brassier underlines how this renders incommensurable the gap between Dasein’s temporal ekstasis of presencing and the static biological factuality of actuality. This gap Brassier calls an ‘actual infinity’ (Ibid, Pg. 160).
There can be no point in the human history when it becomes Dasein, and there can be no future intra-temporal point in which Dasein will cease to be Dasein. This is to be taken with a grain of salt, since the transition from Dasein to an entity present-at-hand is precisely what Heidegger describes as death’s occurrence, insofar as it is defined as being-Dasein-no-longer. However Dasein as such can not cease to be temporalizing, since it is pure potentiality which does not arise nor perishes, for Heidegger, in time but is its transcendental condition. So there can be no transition within time which would initiate temporalization; the latter’s already presupposed in Dasein’s finite transcendence and cannot ever be exempted from its constituting activity. The same impossibility applies to the history of the species, not just to individual history, of course, and so anything that is not human cannot have a world properly (see his lecture The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics from 1933). This is what identifies Dasein’s finite transcendence with infinity, since Heidegger is cornered into two options by accepting the timelessness of the disjunction between temporality and time:
1) Timelessness neither begins nor ends – it will always obtain, so finitude is jeopardized.
2) Temporalization emerged in time – But how or when? Heidegger’s account of Dasein’s finite transcendence leaves no room to think of another time since Dasein is originary transcendence as such, to stipulate its origin form the outside would instantiate a meta-genesis of sorts which would reintroduce objectivist idealism of some sort.
Here we finally see how Heidegger’s ontologization of Dasein’s primordial historical opening to the event of being renders unthinkable the history where this entity is intelligible, without bloating this entity into infinity. This infinite abyss would be required to mediate the temporal disjunction of ekstema and ekstasis, the time of death and time of dying, time and temporality. But as Meillassoux had shown, the introduction of a disjunction between two temporal orders, the bio-physical and ontologico-transcendental, finally occludes the dependence of the latter on the former. So Brassier continues; Heidegger’s subordination of bio-physical time and death to Dasein’s transcendent phenomenological time and death turns death into an impossibility which conditions everything else, thereby making sure can never happen. Transcendental conditions of representation cannot be represented; death as transcendental condition can not be registered as a contingent fact. Even if the possibility of death remains entirely commensurable within transcendental finitude, it is its reality which remains forever separated from Dasein; the time of death is disjunctive to the time of its separation. It is the same thing to say in this context that death can never be registered as an intra-temporal fact and to say death remains impossible.
However, I think Brassier here fails to address one aspect of the Heideggerean plot, which is Dasein’s transition to being-Dasein-no-longer and thus to the being of an entity present-at-hand. In other words, Brassier here oversteps the concrete role of the ontological continuity between the transcendent time which is in each case mine proper to every Dasein, whose death marks closure, and the intersubjective space of facticity where death provides the possible apprehension of Dasein as an entity: it is always the death of others which we experience, and the closure of death is only ontologically intelligible insofar as Dasein can become objectified in death and pass into the register of a mere present without presencing. In any case, this still retains the problem insofar as it presupposes the communal Mitdasein as an ontological characteristic precondition. In this sense, Heidegger’s space for intersubjective practice does not escape the clutch of correlationism; if anything it reinstates it insofar as it makes the factual intratemporal death of Dasein entirely subordinated to the presencing of some other Dasein that objectifies it in registering its static presence.
Brassier says that the reality of the time of death finally implies the inexistence of the time of anticipation. And because the time of death has a reality prior and posterior to existential temporality the former cannot be reduced to the latter. But the real problem comes in the differentiation of two times, that of thought and that of death. Guided by his belief to the sphere of hermeneutic sense as the final guarantor of authenticity, the ontological difference between being and beings is emptily presupposes as the forgotten dichotomy which must be resolved through interpretation of Dasein’s pre-theoretical understanding of being. Just the same, the disjunction between biological and existential death remains caught in the presupposition knit by the ontological difference which inflates our transcendent finitude as preconditioning the basis for any encounter of beings as such, and on the basis of our being alone: Heidegger does not argue for ontological transcendence; he insists upon it, then castigates those who would deny it for remaining in thrall to metaphysics and/or representation. [NU: Pg, 162] This ends up making the emergence of transcendence somewhat impossible, since it must already be presupposed in each and every case (something which perhaps can be said to also be part of Laruelle’s itinerary, insofar as he must presuppose transcendent objectification as occasional ideal cause only for thought to effectuate its identity with the immanent real as cause in the last instance- always already there, in axiomatic ultimation).
Next we will see Brassier’s treatment of death by Deleuze, and how he posits that the separation between death’s ontologico-formal side and its material side emerges within ontology rather than preconditions it. Before, I quote in full a fantastic passage by Brassier schematically outlining the embarrassing fate of philosophies of access around Heidegger’s attempt to unlock the access to the truth of being, in ever more esoteric procedures which finally devolved on a pathetic quasi-Zen renunciation of thought in an attitude of passive release (Gelassenheit); proceeding to make bombastic claims such as that three-hundred years of silence might be required to undo the damage by the tradition (in addition to the whole apocalyptic itinerary that concluded in the famous Spiegel interview and the claim that only the Gods could save us…):
”No doubt this difficulty had something to do with Heidegger’s abandonment of the project of fundamental ontology. But why does the latter unravel precisely at that point where the existential analytic, outlining Dasein’s ekstatic structure of transcendence, was to be surpassed towards an account of the temporality proper to being as such? Heidegger’s retrieval of the ontological problematic in Being and Time was to be effected via a critical radicalization of transcendental philosophy. The fundamental question is not just of being but of our access to being: how do we originally access the being of phenomena? Dasein is in the world but also not just something in the world. Herein lies the rub: where Kantian transcendentalism cultivated suspicion of unmediated access to phenomena, transcendental phenomenology countered with the revelation that the mediation is immediate, i.e. unmediated. That which is accessed is mediated, but the access as such is not, whether it be intentionality or finite transcendence. Finite transcendence is the condition of possibility for all access to the being of phenomena – indeed, according to Heidegger, it is the condition of possibility for those merely metaphysical conditions of possibility identified by the ontotheological tradition – but this condition of conditions is necessarily unconditioned: it is ‘the ekstatikon in and for itself’. Recognizing the taint of idealist subjectivism in this latter, Heidegger went on to seek an even more originary access to the primordial ‘happening’, and ever more radical means of unearthing the conditions for conditions: Ereignis, the fourfold, etc. The phenomenological radicalization of transcendentalism initiated by Heidegger finds itself excavating deeper and deeper into the primordial: uncovering the conditions for the conditions of the conditions, etc. Yet the deeper it digs towards the pre-originary, the greater its remove from ‘things themselves’ and the more impoverished its resources become. Heidegger and his successors – up to and including Laruelle – end up burrowing ever deeper into reflexivity in order to unearth the pre-reflexive, exacerbating abstraction until it becomes reduced to plying its own exorbitant vacuity. Derrida introduces both a healthy measure of skepticism and a fatal dose of irony into this meta-transcendental problematic by revealing how the immediacy of access was ‘always already’ contaminated by différance as inclusive disjunction of mediation and immediacy. But he is trumped by Laruelle, who unveils the unobjectifiable immediacy of ‘man’ as that which is always already presupposed by and hence the ultimate determinant for différance’s inclusive disjunction of mediation and immediacy (cf. Chapter 5).
Once the problematic of access, and of the access to access, has reached its absurd denouement in the claim that this ‘man without qualities’ is the primal phenomenon determining the conditions of the conditions of access, it is no surprise to see the very notion of a world indifferent to our access to it recede into unintelligibility. But if the idea of a world independent of our access to it becomes unintelligible, then perhaps the fault lies with the correlational criteria of intelligibility stipulated by the philosophy of access, rather than with the world. One cannot but be struck by the comic spectacle of the later Heidegger trying to uncover the roots of the primal phenomenon, the Ur-etwas, in old Greek words. The phenomenology that sought to begin again with ‘the things themselves’ is redirected by Heidegger and ends up poring over words, nothing but words …... Perhaps this is the inevitable fate of the philosophy of access.” (NU: Pg: 269)
6.4 Difference and repetition
Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition follows the Heideggerean attack on Kantian transcendentalism on the basis of an ontology of temporal difference and of being as differentiation. For Deleuze time is said in the same sense in all instances and across all differences or modalities, even if these are divergent (Deleuze 1968: 53, 1994, 36). Already having conceived being as pure differentiation, Deleuze’s Bergson’s Conception of Difference (1956) made the equation between being and duration: ‘Duration, tendency, is self-differentiating; and what differs from itself is immediately the unity of substance and subject’. The idea seems to be that duration can never be a mere substance of subject, but it is what perpetually defers self-identity and mediation so that the pure continuity of unitary substance/subject – being/thought is underlying in differentiating multiple being. However, although this has been oft quoted as a symptom of a materialist monism, Brassier underlines the privileged status of a particular being in Deleuze’s edifice in the psyche, insofar as it is only through the latter that individuation can become potentiated as differentiating difference; that is to say, insofar as difference becomes effectuated by thought’s Ideal differentiating act of individuation. Deleuze presents this through his third synthesis of time, in association with Freud’s death-drive (Todestrieb). Unlike the latter’s assignment of death to the compulsion of a return to the inorganic, Deleuze denies the materiality of death at large, and along Heidegger distinguishes between death’s objective repetition and death’s intensive form of individuation (Deleuze 1968:28, 1994: 17). Death is for Deleuze purely formal, given in thought’s individuation where the future un-grounds the past and death is subject to a time which splits the self, a time which is no-one’s rather than mine.
Perhaps we can anticipate an underlying disjunction in Deleuze’s account between the individuated objective being which forms the self, and the ontological-multiple differentiating univocity of subject/object for difference as time qua duration. Because this time is what differs itself immediately from the individuated subject, Deleuze seems to be suggesting that time is not relative to subjective transcendence, thereby severing the correlationist link between existential finitude and being’s temporality (Temporalitat). Being here is not tethered to finite transcendence, but to the self-differentiating unity of duration which renders the univocity of being and the identity of the dyad being-thought. But Deleuze also speaks of death’s ‘intensive’ subjective individuation: ‘Death does not appear in the objective model of an indifferent, inanimate matter to which what is living would “return”; it is present in the living as a differentiated subjective experience endowed with a prototype. It does not pertain to a state of matter; on the contrary, it corresponds to a pure form that has abjured all matter – the empty form of time’ (Deleuze 1968: 148, 1994: 112 tm).
Note that by saying death ‘does not appear in the subjective’ Deleuze remarks the way in which death somehow is itself intensively an experience potentiated by thought, insofar as through psychic individuation one prototypically differentiates subjective life from the pure form of death which corresponds with time’s duration and its ontological uniformity, abjuring all matter (and thus spatial individuation). Because death separates itself as intensive individuation, Brassier claims Deleuze finally turns thinking into the actor of an ‘apocalyptic individuation’ where the ideality effectuates its dissolution in differentiating from its univocal being as time or duration. But this is a self-differentiating time which admits of no bearer, no phenomenological pole or transcendent delivery, but which nonetheless is potentiated as thought identifies itself in ideal separation from death’s empty temporal uniformity, from merely objective death. Perhaps I am reading too quickly into this, and am running the risk of introducing more of Laruelle’s identity-in-the-last-instance into this than I should; but it surely seems similar in many respects on these ‘broad’ grounds. Isn’t the psyche here the Ideal occasional cause which would finally determine its identity with the real immanent as cause in-the-last-instance, here given as duration? And doesn’t Deleuze’s privileging of the psyche consist in the unilateralizing difference on the side of (transcendental?) intensive individuation by forcing the distinction between objective death and the intensive separation of death as pure form of time (real as virtual immanence?) devoid of material specificity? In any case, we should be vigilant of these possibilities without being precipitate.
Brassier reads Difference and Repetition as a rewriting of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason informed by Bergon’s Matter and Memory, reevaluating representation by abjuring the understanding in its mediatory role between reason and sensibility, folding the Dialectic into the Aesthetic. Instead of the synthesis of the understanding, Deleuze’s aesthetic manifold bears intrinsically the differential structure of ideal multiplicity (NU, Pg: 163). The conceptual mediation of the Analytic is thereby replaced by the spatio-temporal individuation of the aesthetic manifold as a non-conceptual synthesis of reason and sensibility, which itself gives shape to the dialectical structures of ideal multiplicities. Conceptuality as representation overburdens the individuated entity, which is nothing but the actualization of a virtual multiplicity as univocal determination of both ideal/real: thought/being are co-implicated-. Individuation thus determines actualization and forces the continuity between ideal origination and real empirical actuality. Individuation gives the actualized virtual multiplicity the form of the One by ideal genesis.
“In seeking out the ideal conditions capable of generating the individual entity of actual experience, rather than the particular object of possible experience, Deleuze’s ‘transcendental empiricism’ treats the concept (i.e. the Idea as virtual multiplicity) as the object of an encounter which is no longer governed by the logic of recognition: thus Deleuze declares, ‘concepts are the things themselves, but things in their free and untamed state, beyond “anthropological predicates”’ (Deleuze 1968: 3, 1994: xxi–ii tm).
It is in representation that the two registers, difference and repetition, are shown to be codependent and mutually implied; while at the same time each term displays a double aspect depending on whether they are grasped according to representation or in themselves. This is even though one can superficially sense an affinity between difference and thought on the one hand, and repetition and sensibility. Material repetition displays passive syntheses which support ideal differentiation, while the latter is implicated in material repetition. Temporal difference and material repetition finally converge in an account of individuation. Brassier provides a neat, but somewhat confusing, separation of the principal qualities pertaining to each term in its variation:
1) Difference in representation / in the concept – identity in concept, opposition in predicate, resemblance in perception, analogy in judgment.
2) Concept of difference (in itself) – exhibited in the Idea, simulacral, dialectical, intensive and univocal.
3) Repetition in representation (without concept) – bare, material, extrinsic, reproductive. Repetition is that which reproduces itself without difference.
4) Concept of repetition for itself (repetition of difference) – clothed, spiritual, intrinsic, productive. The actualization of multiple difference as that which repeats for itself, and therefore as inherently productive.
So while difference in representation delimits identity conceptually (it determines the condition for what counts as identical / x is x insofar as it is not y) repetition in itself. and so outside the concept. prevents or blocks conceptual difference (I interpret this to mean that what repeats itself in itself can not be differentiated conceptually, but I have no clear understanding of this). We might stipulate the following: x distinguishes itself from y, but x1 cannot distinguish itself from x2. It is repetition-in-itself, outside the concept that enables the productivity of a posterior stratification of differences by that which repeats itself within a field of differences, and thus blocks the legitimacy of the original conceptual differentiation. It is only when the concept of difference in itself (non-conceptual) is repeated for itself (conceptually) that representation becomes undone. That is to say, once difference in itself can be thought to be repetitive for itself it is disassociated from the idea of a representation, and it rather becomes identifiable with the intensive productivity of the virtual actualization of multiplicity in an intensive ideal differentiation. So repetition is finally productive since thought actively produces difference this way; which Brassier sees in the third synthesis of time as the eternal recurrence (of repetitive difference for itself). The repetition of difference however is triggered by the act of psychic individuation. Brassier insists in the irreducibility of the fourfold opposition laid above to the Manichean disjunction between temporal heterogeneity and spatial homogeneity, virtuality and actuality. Ideas are virtual multiples expressed and enveloped by intensive repetitions while they also are actualized as species/parts in the process where intensive quantity is expressed as extensive quality (NU, Pg 165). This thereby separates Deleuze’s account from the traditional Bergsonian dichotomy of quantity and quality, by saying that it is futile to attempt to express the irreducibility of quality to quantity, or life to extensity, since they are mutually implicated and present in intensivity; difference in degree and difference in kind are mutually implied as intensive quantities: ‘between the two are all the degrees of difference, under both lies the whole nature of difference: the intensive’ (Deleuze 1968: 299, 1994: 232):
a) Extensive quantities - are proportional to the size (?) of the system which they measured and the part/whole relation (energy, mass, volume or entropy).
b) Intensive quantities - measure in accordance to the ratio of two differences and co-variation (speed, density, pressure, temperature). Intensity is:
i) Unequalizable – intensity is what cannot be cancelled in quantitative difference, what ‘underlies it’ as unequalizable in quantity itself, since it is the quality of quantity as such. It is the essential inequality which makes up every quantitative determination. Every number is based upon this essential inequality and remains relative to it. Fractions, for example express an inequality in the relation of two magnitudes which cannot be reduced to whole numbers, an inequality which it cancels in the quotient. Irrational numbers express the impossibility of obtaining a common quotient between integers cancelled by equal geometric relation (NU: Pg 181). But intensive inequality remains implicated by quantitative extension, and so there is an incommensurable gap between the two: even as extensity cancels intensity, inequality remains implicated in it.
j) Affirmative principle – Equivalence is asserted by affirming inequality rather than identity: A and B are equal just in case A is distant from every C which is distant from B. Inequality is intrinsic to intensity, always constructed on series of differences implicated in it constructed on more series of differences, all implicated. The intensive synthesis which explains intensity in qualities/parts of extensive magnitudes requires inequality in distance. So the depth of intensity is affirmed by the affirmation of inequality in distance.
k) Enveloped and enveloping – Intensive difference can not be negated since it is implicated / implicating as enveloping difference and enveloped distance: it is only secondarily extensional as parts. ‘Difference in depth is composed of distances, but “distance” is not an extensive quantity but an indivisible asymmetrical relation, ordinal and intensive in nature, which is established between series of heterogeneous terms and which expresses each time the nature of what does not divide without changing nature’ (Deleuze 1968: 306, 1994: 238). This enveloped distance of intensive difference renders it indivisible into parts, and therefore a continuum whose division entails a change of state. Intensive distance expresses itself in three extensive dimensions: left-right, up-down, figure-ground: but remains implicated within extensive space as ‘pure for of depth’ of intensive space.
It is intensive difference which explicates illusion of change from differentiated to undifferentiated, from disequilibrium to equilibrium. Entropy is thus rendered an illusion occasioned by representation mistaking the extrinsic implication of intensity with intrinsic implication in itself: Instead of creating an extensive factor with intensive existence to account for intensity, Deleuze says intensity intrinsically explicates itself implicated within itself. Its being is implication and explicates itself as individuating (Deleuze 1968: 293, 1994: 228tm). Brassier anticipates challenging the denouncing of entropy as illusion and the avowal of vitalism, i.e. the view that chemical/physical processes are insufficient to explain biological functions and processes). But before he sets to examine two Deleuzean claims: the being of the sensible is intensity; the being of difference is implication (Deleuze 1968: 305, 1994: 236). For this, Deleuze re-inscribes the Heideggerean ontological difference in the dichotomy between
1) Virtual differentiation –Of the Idea as problematic multiplicities.
2) Actual differenciation – Into parts and qualities of extensity.
Being does not represent the actual, but relates to how differenciation actualized virtual multiplicities. Intensity is the paradoxical ideality whereby the fully differentiated becomes differenciated. It is at once what cannot be sensed and the only thing that can be sensed. For example, intensive depth is implicated in the three dimensions of spatial extensity as imperceptible (sentiendum, ontological dimension of sensibility) but which is only sensed, and opens the way for the immemorial which can only be remembered (memorandum, ontological dimension of memory) and the un-thought (cogitandum, ontological dimension of thought) which can only be thought. (Deleuze 1968: 183, 1994: 140-1). Since this imperception generates sensibility, intensity devolves in the combat of the faculties claiming their own in a divergent effort. The faculties exercise a discordant-transcendence with regards to their object in which they become individuated for the world. And yet sensibility retains a privilege as the source of all access to the intensive by triggering thought: ‘From the intensive to thought, it is always by means of an intensity that thought comes to us. If sensibility enjoys a privilege as origin it is because that which forces feeling and that which can only be felt are one and the same in the encounter, whereas the two instances are distinct in the other cases’ (Deleuze 1968: 188, 1994: 144–5 tm). Entropy is an illusion in overstepping this transition in intensivity from sensibility to cognition, stipulating an external objectivity rather than psychic activity.
But Brassier insists in that intensivity only explicates itself outside itself while being implicated in itself as enveloping difference and enveloped distance (NU: Pg, 170). It should not appear all that strange that this bilateral implication proper to intensivity and the virtual differentiation of the multiple is something of a self-generating real in Deleuze’s discourse, demanding thought artificially for its actualizing individuation and synthetically leveling the ontological tripartite structure of sensibility, memory and thought. So Brassier asks, why does intensivity externalize itself to begin with? This necessitates delving further into Deleuze’s theory of individuation, and why intensivity does not remain in-itself but passes through the (repetitive) for-itself which individuates difference and subverts representation in actualizing the extensive from the virtual. This happens in three stages: spatial, temporal and psychic. It is only through individuation that differenciation actualizes the virtual multiple Idea which is an intensity (Deleuze 1968: 317, 1994: 246). It is through intensity that Deleuze rehabilitates ontological univocity, since every differentiating extensity reveals itself from and as intensity. This is the hypostatizing of psychic intervention, since individuating differences are actualized by and of thought. As thought repeats being’s individuating differentiation in differenciation and moves from representation to ontological production, Deleuze thereby accomplishes, says Brassier, a ‘double genesis of thinking and being’ (NU: Pg. 171).
“By realizing univocal being, thinking transcends representation and accesses the intensive noumenon underlying the extensive phenomenon. Thus the reciprocal presupposition between the thinking of individuation and the individuation of thinking marks the point at which univocal immanence is articulated with ontological transcendence.” (Ibid).
6.6 Individuation and the individual
Deleuze explains individuation through the spatio-temporal dynamics of intensities insofar as they actualize differenciation and introduce distinctive quality and extensity where there was bare, naked indistinct differentiation (Deleuze 1968: 276, 1994: 214). Intensities are individual, while individuation is the dynamic process circling between an intensive individual and the pre-individual singularity of the Idea (the Ideal differentiated idea doesn’t change, it is bare, naked, immaterial; it needs individuation through the dynamic implication in the sensible which actualizes them). This is all very confusing at this point, so let’s grind away. Individuation is the juncture between b) dynamic implication of intensive sensibility and b) Ideal static differentiation. Intensities in themselves are only differential relations; individualized singulars presuppose Ideas; the latter exist un-differenciated in a state of virtual perplication. The Idea is distinct in its perfect and yet static differentiation, obscure in insofar as it is not yet distinguishable through individuating thought, not yet ‘intensified’. Likewise, intensities are clear as enveloping depth (expressing Ideas in existing ‘points’) and obscure as enveloped distance, once Ideas come individuated into the field of implication. This confuses me; I can vaguely interpret this as meaning that intensities have a sensible depth that is transparent in the Ideal relations they express. Having an enveloping role means that it ideally fixes the depth in differentiating relations, they will later be specified into species in the dynamics of what it includes in its field. As enveloped, however, in-differentiated distance makes the entirety of other relations obscure since what is not enveloping can only be included in it confusedly.
At the same time it is this obscurity which targets individual differences between the clearly differentiated field: for example if we clearly distinguish stars and planets we obscure the relations between the matter in the star, but these individual enveloped differences individuate the former enveloping ones, and dynamically allow for further instances of actualization. This is the role of repetition qua enveloped differences, whose repetition mobilizes the dynamism towards productive acting. So if for the Idea what is confused is the possibility of differenciation, what is obscure in the intensity is precisely the differentiating univocity of relations excluded by those clearly expressed by the Idea. Enveloping intensities (depth) correspond to individuating differences, while these are filled by enveloped (distances, space between distinctly enveloping depths) composed of individual differences. Intensities are implicated to one another, as the changing totality of Ideas which regulates the entirety of differential relations dynamically (Ibid: Pg. 252). This is why individuation, which is the result of spatio-temporal dynamism, corresponds to thought as agent so that in the individuated intensity of the sea, for instance: “our perception of the noise of the sea, which confusedly includes the whole and clearly expresses only certain relations or certain points by virtue of our bodies and a threshold of consciousness which they determine.” In any case, it should be understood already that for Deleuze the expression of the individuating Idea remains the act of thought; so finally Ideas find expression in the juncture of individuation with the sensible, outside the confines of representation in the indissociability of thought/being, ideal/real:
“Every spatio-temporal dynamism marks the emergence of an elementary consciousness which traces directions, doubles movements and migrations, and is born at the threshold of those singularities condensed relative to the body or the object of which it is the consciousness. It is not enough to say that consciousness is consciousness of something; it is the double of this something and each thing is consciousness because it possesses a double, albeit very distant and very foreign to it.” (Deleuze 1968: 316, 1994: 220 tm)
Of course, Brassier asks the question about the precise relation between this ‘consciousness’ and its spatio-temporal dynamic doubling object; insofar as this doubling is not representation but not mere idealist production. The answer to this comes in the twofold characterization of individual intensity as clearly-obscurely expressing intensity and the distinct-obscure difference of the expressed Idea. The univocity of being is split in actualization between the expressing thought (larval subject of spatio-temporal dynamism) and the expressed Idea which finds itself individuated in its sensible repetition. The split of thought-being is intrinsic to beings-in-themselves; this ambiguity is intrinsic to the intensification of virtual multiple differences in their Ideal actualization effectuated by and as thought (Ideal) in the sensible (intensity). Each thing expresses the Idea and the thought through which the Idea is expressed: being is split into the circular knot of expressed Idea /expressing thought. Everything is a thought and thinks insofar as it expresses the Idea whose actualization it determines, reduced to its intensive reasons (Deleuze
1968: 327, 1994: 254). Intensivity thus provides the sufficient reason for the expressive actualization of the Ideal as thought and in the sensible; that which is expressed Ideally is expressing thought at the same time and by the same intensive effectuation:
“Thus things themselves determine their own actualization insofar as they are the loci of spatio-temporal dynamisms inhabited by larval subjects whose thought is the clear/confused expression of a distinct-obscure difference in the Idea…. The individuating difference expressed by the larval subject of the spatiotemporal dynamism is the agent of differenciation through which the disparity in potential between these heterogeneous series crosses a critical threshold of disequilibrium, resulting in a sudden exchange of information whereby ideal differentiation enters into a relation of internal resonance with extensive differenciation” (NU: Pg: 173)
Individuating difference then marks the juncture between the Idea and differential intensive in individuation as the intensifying Idea which actualizes the virtual through the agency of the larval subject. We must remember that Ideal differentiation is not some subjective creation, or a priori categorial register for transcendent constitution, but that it is in the virtual realm of pure difference as the multiple as such. So individuating difference finally resolves a potential disparity between virtual and actual in differenciation as follows: differential relation becomes correlatively differenciated in a biophysical instantiation which can be subject to partition or specification. This is condensed the expression of intensity as extensity in the larval subject’s differenciating actualization. Thus the notion of a differenciator of difference (t), and the obvious nod in Deleuze’s philosophy towards differencial calculus (as opposed, say, to Badiou’s exclusively extensional set-theoretical domain, which forecloses any appeals to virtuality). We will see next the precise connection between the larval subjects’ expressing thought and the expressed Idea in the passive syntheses of space-time.
6.7 The syntheses of space and time
Intensity synthesizes the three dimensions of time (present, past, future) and those of space (explication, implication, ungrounding). First, we get the temporal passive synthesis of habit as the contraction of difference in two (bare) spatial repetitions in the living present. This is undertaken by what Deleuze dubs the ‘passive self’: contracting contemplation defines the organic passive syntheses, providing the presentation of repetition as well as the foundation for all psychic phenomena, such as representational consciousness. Although it happens in the mind, it is not activated by it; prior to memory and reflection but passive. This is the originary presentation of repetition and which is presupposed in all representation. Consequentially, a contracted present is a retained past and expectancy of a future, both which are integral to this ‘living present’. Repetition is presented to consciousness, but not representationally, but which constitutes it. Time moves like an arrow from particularity to generality, from disequilibrium to equilibrium (of causal efficiency?), so synthesis constitutes ‘sense’, canceling its intensivity in extensity (Deleuze 1968: 289, 1994: 224). So the contraction of the present is the spatial synthesis which explicates intensity as extensity, producing generality itself insofar as it differentiates rules in repetition for future anticipation:
“Time is constituted only in the originary synthesis which operates on the repetition of instants. This synthesis contracts the successive independent instants into one another, thereby constituting the lived, or living, present. It is in this present that time is deployed. To it belong both the past and the future: the past in so far as the preceding instants are retained in the contraction; the future because its expectation is anticipated in this same contraction. The past and the future do not designate instants distinct from a supposed present instant, but rather the dimensions of the present itself in so far as it is a contraction of instants.” (Deleuze 1968: 289, 1994: 71)
Yet the present presents a paradoxical feature: it is simultaneously presupposed as the empirical ground for time, but this foundation in turn requires the synthesis of the past wherein the ‘present can pass’. In other words, even if experience opens up to time by way of living presencing, this presencing is only ever given relative to a time which is in itself unconstituted by such experience, but which then requires a synthesis of this time as past for the present to pass. For time to become contracted as ‘present’ it must synthesize the time which can be said to precede this present as a whole; or more precisely, the time into which this present passes as it comes. So the constitution of every present is also at the same time the constitution of a time to where this present passes. If the past needed to ‘wait’ for another present to become past then the old past wouldn’t recede and the new one wouldn’t arrive (NU: Pg: 175). A ‘new present’, discontinuous with the time which is past, and which does not pass in this time but which pushes time to recede would not be conceivable as present in this time, and to this past. The present passes into the past continually as it is constituted in simultaneity with it, the latter does not ‘wait’ for the former since the present is nothing but the synthesis of ‘accumulated’ past which projects forward and thus passes. The past as a whole thus coexists with every present, it can no be said to be ‘included’ in this present relative to which it is now past (thus it cannot be discontinuous) nor can it follow a past present which it ‘has been’: presence is this self-estrangement which passes in a synthesized past as a whole and which anticipates the future. It is the most ‘contracted point of the past as a whole’, to which the past belongs as retention and the future as anticipation, i.e. the present doesn’t need to go ‘outside itself’ to reach past and future, but rather constitutes these going from the particular to the general, presenting and thus distinguishing repetition.
Another way of saying this is that the present has no intrinsic ‘duration’ irrespective of the time in which it passes, as a distinct point in a line, but it is always the contracted synthesis of the line of that which has passed as a whole. Contemporaneity and coexistence with the past are thus two paradoxical features of the present. Although it makes the new present pass and the new one ‘come forth’ this past is never past as such: one cannot say that ‘it was’: it doesn’t exist, but it consists and is. The third paradoxical feature is that the pure past, Deleuze says, pre-exists the passing present as an a priori precondition for all time. The synthesis of these three moments is transcendental memory, not only grounding passive sub-representational habit but preconditions representation of the past in the active synthesis of memory (NU: Pg, 176).
The present qua contraction of all past instants as a whole is thereby the psychic pre-representational effect of repetition in the synthesis of the past as lived present: “The past and the future do not designate instants distinct from a supposed present instant, but rather the dimensions of the present itself insofar as it is a contraction of instants…the living present goes…from the particulars which it envelops by contraction to the general which it develops in the field of its expectation…” (Gilles Deleuze Difference & Repetition, pg. 71). This fleeting present which passes requires the past has no intrinsic duration, since it can only pass in a past without waiting. On the other hand, the pure past never passes, it formally preconditions although it properly never exists or becomes actualized; it rather is the pure form where individuation can occur. The following diagram can help us heretofore understand the three temporal syntheses in Deleuze, which will be clarified as we proceed grinding through the text.
Deleuze distinguishes the retention of the past in the living present, from the reproduction of the past in memory. The first past belongs to an actual present contracted as the element of generality oriented towards the anticipated future. The reproduction in memory however relates to the pure past insofar as it is not merely the retention of the past in the lived present, but relates to a non-present which was and which allows the general form of distinction between all presents, past and actual, thus functioning to mediating them. Particularity is thus given by the contraction of the past in the living present, while the pure past gives its general condition as that which mediates all presents and the past as that which was. And yet in this representation of past in the actual is also the reproduction of the past as actual, that is, as lived present since it is only given in the living present and having been in the living present. This means that the actual present represents itself as actual:
“Accordingly, the pure past is the element of generality within which the old present can be represented in the actual present. But every representation of a past present in the actual present also involves the representation of the present in which this past is. Thus representation always represents itself” (Deleuze 1968: 109, 1994: 80)
This is the double dimension of the active synthesis of memory: reproduction of the past present in the present and the reflection of the actual present as present which retains the past. The pure past remains a condition for representation (active synthesis of memory) and grounding the sub-representational passive synthesis (of habit). This second synthesis is supported by the passive synthesis of the imagination in habit. Thus on the basis of the retained imagination, reproduction in memory can incite the reflexive and representative particularity. Likewise the future passes from the anticipation to the reflexive future of prediction, of the reflection of the ‘understanding’ as such since “…the understanding weights the expectation in the imagination in proportion to the number of distinct similar cases observed and recalled” (Deleuze 1968: 109, 1994: 71). Deleuze summarizes the three moments of the syntheses in this great moment: The constitution of repetition already implies three instances: the in-itself which causes it to disappear as it appears, leaving it unthinkable; the for-itself of the passive synthesis; and, grounded upon the latter, the reflected representation of a 'for-us' in the active syntheses.” (Ibid).
So the passive synthesis of habit constitutes time in the contraction of instants to the living present, and the active synthesis embeds presents in relation to one another with respect to the pure past as precondition, and which allows its reproduction in the present. The synthesis of time as pure past is thus the non-representable ground for representation; making possible the presentation in the actual present of the past present and the reflection of the actual present. All past presents and future presents are given through this pure past which remains in-itself, non-represented and preconditioning all representation. Further, the past as a whole is characterized, following Bergson, in terms of degree of contraction and dilation of duration; the latter is differentiated internally with respect to the multiplicities and governing their actualization. The pure past exhibits different layers of coexistence and in degrees which point to differential relations in the Idea. Brassier continues and claims that the present has two faces: as point of outmost contraction of duration of intensive repetitions of the past as a virtual whole grounded in memory; and also its maximal dilation founded on the repetition of habit contracting difference from bare/spatial repetition: ‘The present is always a contracted difference; but in one case it contracts indifferent instants, while in the other, by going to the limit, it contracts a differential level of the whole which is itself one of dilation or contraction’ (Deleuze 1968: 114, 1994: 84 tm). Let us group the corresponding terms accordingly to remind ourselves of the associations:
- The first two temporal syntheses –
- 1) Passive synthesis of habit (present) – Contraction of pure past in living present. Retention of the past. Empirical condition for time.
- 2) Transcendental synthesis of memory :
i. Passive synthesis of memory – Transcendental a priori condition. Pure past as form of generality, grounds the sub-representational synthesis of habit, precondition of representation in active synthesis. .
ii. Active synthesis of memory- twofold reproduction in memory: reflecting the present and reproducing the past in the present. Ground for representation, distinguished from retention.
The present is thus given as twofold as the act of the larval subject:
a) Passive contraction of present in habit – passive synthesis of instants/space, bare/spatial repetition of indifferent instants, maximal dilation of duration. Explication in extensity. Enveloped. Present is reflected as it is given.
b) Contraction of the past in memory – Clothed repetition of intensive differentiation of the virtual whole, most contracted point of duration. This second contraction is of a differential level which is itself one of contraction (of time by space) or dilation (of space by time) intrinsically to the temporal synthesis of the pure past. Implication in intensity. Enveloping. Past is re-produced.
It is the passive synthesis of memory that differentiates the virtual whole, and which gives the pure form of time which preconditions any contracted instance of the present in general, whether past or future, and which thus synthesizes time ‘as a whole’. At the same time, the synthesis of memory presupposes empirically the passive synthesis of habit, insofar as it is in the contraction of instants into the living present which is always given, only to ground it later transcendentally. This is since in the active synthesis of memory every present is doubly articulated. The past present is reproduction, the living present is reflected; the contracted living present reveals the pure past as its general ground as that which insists while at the same time gives itself as and in the present. So, it is finally the pure past’s, as form of generality for all representation, which grounds the living present and every ‘instant’ through the active synthesis of memory. This double articulation is the work of the larval subject, and how extensive repetition (in reproduction) implicates intensive difference in the actualization of the virtual past as a whole (NU: Pg 177). This means that the temporal synthesis as actualized by the larval subject distinctly express the enveloping Idea and the obscurity of the perplicated intensive field. So actualization remains a function of reciprocal variation of the enveloping intensity’s expression of distinct relations in the Idea, and the intensive confusion as obscure perplication. These rhythmic variations determine degree of intensive implication and extensive explication. The larval subject thinks individuating difference as the contraction of memory; it expresses distinction in the Idea thus ‘dreaming matter into being’. The implicated intensive clothed depth of space as time is implicated by the explication carried forth in the active synthesis of memory.
“The contraction of memory constitutes the originary sub-representational depth of intensive difference without which the contraction of habit in extensity would be impossible. Moreover, since the latter is merely the envelope of the former, extensive space is merely the de-differentiation – more precisely, the individualizing actualization or ‘indi-different/ciation’ – of intensive time. Accordingly, the relation between space as maximal contraction of temporal intensity and the as minimal dilation of spatial extensity is entirely internal to time. If time qua duration pertains essentially to mind (‘esprit’), it is precisely the mind of the larval subject, whose thinking of individuating difference determines the actualization of the virtual as a contraction of memory.” (Deleuze 1968: 114, 1994: 84 tm)
6.8 The fracture of thinking
How does the correlation between expressing thought and expressed Idea emerge? Or put differently, what guarantees the correspondence between intensity and Idea through actualization? The two syntheses are related as between a) the empirical contraction of the present in the passive synthesis of habit as the physical presentation of time in the organism and b) transcendental/metaphysical ground of the contraction of the pure past by the active synthesis of memory which represents time. This dual ground of the second synthesis of memory is at once transcendental insofar as it is the being of the pure past wherein any present can pass, and metaphysical insofar as it in-itself preconditions consciousness of the present as pure past. Presentation is transcendental, representation is metaphysics. The latter is properly metaphysical insofar as it makes the form of the past, into which the present passes in simultaneity in order to be represented, the original and general model for it. Brassier explains, somewhat obscurely, that “Representation institutes a series of concentric presents expanding outward in ever-widening arcs from an originary but always already past present. (NU: Pg 179) This image of concentric presents with widening arcs should be understood as follows: representation constantly brings contracts time into new presents which are stretched into the future from the always already form of the past present as presupposed form for the former. The a priori grounding past and the empirically given grounded present are related by resemblance; while their difference thus becomes subordinated to ‘identity in the concept’ (which, as we saw, corresponds to the representational concept of difference) (Deleuze 1968: 351, 1994: 274).
However, actualization happens as individuating difference is the determination of differentiation in the Idea, and not specification in the concept. So determination must be distinguished from specification and Idea from conceptuality. How so? Determination is to be understood as the distinction in the Idea as the pure virtual realm, whereas specification in concepts already refers to given differentiated concepts. The Idea as pure virtual is non-conceptual difference in-itself, insofar as it is merely latent in the whole, not already specified by conceptual identity. Thus actualization achieves an individuated difference by determining an immanent difference in the Idea. Determination in actualization determines a) extrinsic different of instances contracted in the present and b) the intrinsic difference between degrees of contraction in memory; the difference between present and past is determined as the difference between extensive repetition related to successive instants (living present of habit, expressing thought or larval subject) and intensive repetition of co-existing levels in the past (past as whole, contraction of time (pure past) by space / dilution of space by time (pure past) / expressed Idea of the virtual undifferenciated being). (Deleuze 1968: 114, 1994: 84). It is a third synthesis of these two moments, as expressing and expressed which guarantees their correspondence, and their unitary being. Thought determines in the passivity of the larval subject (present as contracted past, empirical ground), the Idea is undifferenciated being (pure past as transcendental/metaphysical ground); between them is the pure empty form of time which transcendentally guarantees that the indeterminate (Idea) can become determinate (Deleuze 1968: 220, 1994: 169). This is a purely logical, non-chronological time void of empirical content (living present of habit) or metaphysical substance (contractions/dilations of ontological memory) and guaranteeing the correspondence between thinking and being, expressing and expressed. Brassier writes:
“Accordingly, it establishes the correlation between the determination of thought as individuating difference borne by the intensive thinker, and the determinability of being as differentiated but undifferenciated pre-individual realm. Thus it is the third synthesis of time which accounts for the genesis of ontological sense as that which is expressed in thought, and which relates univocal being directly to its individuating difference as the expressed to its expression. In this regard, it is indissociable from the transcendent exercise of the faculties through which the Idea is generated.” (NU: Pg 179)
This is a little confusing since it almost seems to indicate the Idea is not merely expressed but actually generated; which seems to be non-sensical. Yet what we should retain from this is precisely that in individuating difference the undifferenciated but differential virtual is actualized, and that only in this actualization the Idea is expressed. We should thus understand generation as the actualization of the Idea by which larval thought weds it to the sensible and introduces it in a differenciated field of extensity: it only ex-ists as ex-pressed by thought’s ex-pression. This synthesis of pure time is the ontological backbone of sense as given to thought since it guarantees the correlation between the univocity of being in the Idea and the differenciation of intensified actualization and individuation. This synthesis finally allows the production of the future in bringing together the separating past and present (the contracted instants of the living present and the degrees of contraction/dilation of time-space in active memory in pure past): ‘For just as difference is the immediate gathering and articulation of what it distinguishes, so the fracture retains what it splits, and Ideas also retain their sundered moments’ (Deleuze 1968: 220, 1994: 170 tm). The pure form of time sublates the representational ego or constituting subject as the fracture of identity which separates the larval subject which contracts in memory pre-individual Ideal singularities, which Brassier calls ‘the un-differenciated groundlessness of the Idea’. Deleuze neatly condenses this point as follows:
”It is the empty form of time that introduces and constitutes Difference in thought; the difference on the basis of which thought thinks, as the difference between the indeterminate and determination. It is the empty form of time that distributes along both its sides an I that is fractured by the abstract line [of time], and a passive self that has emerged from the groundlessness which it contemplates. It is the empty form of time that engenders thinking in thought, for thinking only thinks with difference, orbiting around this point of ungrounding.”(Deleuze 1968: 354, 1994: 276 tm)
Thought’s determination of the passive self and the indetermination of the fractured ‘I’ in the pre-individuated Idea thus the pure form of time can thereby establish the correlation between expressing individuated intensity and expressed virtual Idea. In this way, thought is finally the agent that overthrows the autonomy of the self and the identity of the ‘I’ in intensive activity, and prepares it for the split which the pure form of time brings together in its correlational separation. So Brassier finally states that the crucial distinction must be for Deleuze between ontological differentiat/cion carried by thinking and the thought of the larval subject expressing this difference. Thought is then twofold: the agency which enacts the correlation by pure time in the ontological possibility of the expression of different/ciation between the larval subject (actual) and fractured I (virtual), and the clear-confused actual expression of difference in the act. It is thinking which determines this difference for pure time to knit it back together as an empty form.
6.9 The caesura of the act
The encounter with intensity and the transcendent exercise of the faculties generates thinking in thought: this is the act. Thinking is caused by intensive difference, not the effect of a pre-constituted or individuated field. The psyche folds back into individuation depriving the I of specificity and self-organization: as act, it precludes condensing habitual differentiation into the ‘I’ and the explication of intensities into the material self. The psyche is thrown back into the process of individuation, Thinking remains the most individual act insofar as it displays the determination correlating larval consciousness (thought, actualization) with pre-individual singularities (Idea, virtuality) in an individuation which dissolves actual consciousness, which fractures the time of the ‘I’ and the egoistic stable intensified temporal dynamism through the ontological determination of thinking which split the two irrevocably in the correlation between fractured I (as given by the active reproductive memory) and dissolved self (passive larval subject) (Deleuze 1968: 332, 1994: 259). So what is equal to intensive individuation must be characterized as the unequal in itself, insofar as it is split by this divide. The thinker is the individual affirming the ‘eternal recurrence’ which Deleuze dubs the universal individual. But this affirmation requires an act of ontological repetition (as a condition for action) which provides the difference between psychic repetition of the past and physical repetition of the present, all the same while avoiding the straightjacket of representation.
This is all extremely confusing at this point; I have no clear idea of what Deleuze is saying, or Brassier, for that matter. Whereas actualization as established in the synthesis of habit restricts the psyche to the repetition of the present just as that of memory restricts it to the repetition of the past (as present), the third synthesis in a certain way deprives the repetition from both sides. It actualizes itself by repeating the past in such a way that it erases itself as repeated condition, and repeats the present erasing itself as repeating agent, producing the future. The physical repetition of the past in habit as living present, and the repetition of the present in memory as represented past are interjected by the ontological repetition productive of the future as a ‘repetition of repetition’ that determines their differences while eliminating the past as repeated condition and the present as the (contracting) repeating agent (which of course must refer back to the larval subject qua agent of individuation):
“Repetition now pertains imperatively to repetitions; to modes or types of repetition. Thus the frontier or ‘difference’ has been singularly displaced; it is no longer between the first time and the others, between the repeated and the repetition, but between these types of repetition. It is repetition itself which is repeated.” (Deleuze 1968: 377, 1994: 295 tm)
This repetition is thus the caesura which fractures time and introduces it into thinking by effecting the ordination of time into a ‘before’, ‘during’ and ‘after’ as relative to the static synthesis separating time as pure form from its chronologically and empirically determinate content. This act is finally the configuration of time as a whole, by throwing it out of joint: the joints are cardinal points which stand for measures of succession; past, present, future, not just in singular series, but sets of series and terms in successive series. Time as jointed it is subordinated to intra-cyclic/inter-cyclic repetitions (intra-cyclic: - 2 repeats 1, 3 repeats 2 / inter-cyclic - 1(b) repeats 1(a)) and their relations are configured conforming to stricture of analogy and resemblance. It thus remains subordinated to identity; while the caesura devolves in a static synthesis outside representation and the dynamism of empirical content. Terms are series are distributed univocally outside measures of succession and thus avoid subordination by determination of analogical judgments (perplicated) or perceptual resemblance (implicated) - since this would tether them to identity-in-the-concept. Difference is already intrinsic to the repetition enacted by the caesura of pure time into thinking: the past is no longer model or condition for repetition just like the present is no longer a repetition of the past. This ultimate repetition repeats itself once and opposes itself to that which must repeat itself every time, infinitely. Even if the time ‘before’ the caesura is condition for the act, it is retroactively determined by the act (similarly to Laruelle’s determination of the real in-the-last-instance).
In the same way, the time ‘during’ which the caesura occurs is its agent only to reveal itself as retroactively cancelled by the time produced coming after it. The future is this unconditioned production of the caesura, since it simultaneously subverts the present as repetition of the past and the past as condition for the repetition of the present, generating a repeated projection of repetition itself in its undetermined modality. The pure form of time thus repeats repetition in producing an unspecified future wherein all temporal modalities can occur, i.e. which differentiates them. This is the decisive import of the third synthesis: it once and for all provides the caesura wherein thinking can generate itself splitting from the twofold dynamic between the present/past in the synthesis of habit/memory, as the locus for all actualization and dynamism, to be finally delivered to a pure static form wherein difference in-distinguishes both poles in the production of the future. This is what Deleuze names the ‘eternal return’. Difference in-itself is repeated for-itself: the future is an absolute novelty as dependent on the introduction of the caesura by the act of thinking: “Only consciousness can be folded back into its own pre-individual dimension; only the psychic individual can become equal to its own intensive individuation. Ultimately, it is the thinker – the philosopher-artist – who is the ‘universal individual’. (NU: Pg 185). So even if it is the pure form of time which finally introduces thinking in thought, causing it, thought must necessarily mediate in order to provide this caesura, the act is filtered by and as thinking. The third synthesis is the locus for the movement from thought as contemplation to production. Here Deleuze is at his best:
“The Before and the During are and remain repetitions, but repetitions which only repeat once and for all. It is the third repetition which distributes them in accordance with the straight line of time, but which also eliminates them, determining them to operate only once and for all and keeping the ‘all times’ for the third time alone […] The frontier is no longer between a first time and the repetition that it renders hypothetically possible, but between the conditional repetitions and the third repetition or repetition in the eternal return, which renders the return of the other two impossible […] As we have seen, the condition of the action by default does not return; the condition of the agent by metamorphosis does not return; what alone returns is the unconditioned in the product as eternal return.” (Deleuze 1968: 379–80, 1994: 297 tm)
6.10 The two faces of death
Psychic individuation as given in the caesura of thinking shows a sense of dying which is irreducible to bio-physical death. There are two deaths: external/extensive (disappearance of the person which cancels represented difference by I and self; qualitative and quantitative return to inanimate matter: the extrinsic, scientific, objective definition) and internal/intensive (the field of pre-individual differences unbound from psychic individuation). This last state is defined as that without the effect of the ‘I’ or differences without identity and subjective agency. This second death is never mine, but rather it is no-one’s death: an impersonal anonymous death where the reintegration into the inorganic ‘releases’ pre-individual singularities in the fractured time within the psyche. Following Blanchot’s reversal of Heidegger, death remains thus the impossible (im)personal possibility since it disintegrates the self into an anonymous pre-individual realm of in-differentiation. However, for Deleuze this latter pre-individual realm is the locus for psychic maximal individuation, as the universal individual who introduces thinking into thought; it is ultimately the latter which dies as the nexus for an act which intensifies the pre-individual in-difference in individuation. We thus get the distinction between intra-psychic death as maximized difference in time’s fracture in the pre-individual (intensive), from the minimization of difference through explication in extensity which closes the gap between organic and inorganic being. The former is the apex of intensive individuation in which differences are released, the latter of extensive in-differentiation of the ‘big’ split between living/dead, i.e. it cancels representational extensive difference in the return to the inorganic (Deleuze 1968: 333, 1994: 259 tm).
Yet in intensive death we find the death-drive which is understood, radicalizing Freud, not as the libidinal compulsion of the organism thriving to ‘return to the inorganic’, but the maximal potentiation of the difference between intensive differentiation (pre-individual differences released from psyche) and extensive de-differentiation (of the organic into the inorganic). This complicity between the intensive dying and the death-drive comprises the irreducibility of drying to death, or of death to the death of bio-physical envelopment. So the death-instinct triggers the affirmation of recurrence in an act of thinking wherein repetition in intensity and repetition in extensity are differentiated as a function of the repetition of difference in pure/negentropic time: ‘The time which is empty and out of joint, with its rigorous formal and static order, its crushing totality, and its irreversible series, is precisely the death-instinct’ (Deleuze 1968: 147, 1994: 111 tm). Brassier connects the caesura of thinking – the fracture of time – the affirmation of recurrence, and the experience of death which re-implicates the psyche in individuation – insofar as they indicate an ‘ontological conversion’ whereby representation is undone by thinking’s occasioning for the eternal return of difference-in-itself. It is the caesura of thinking that implication in intensity is finally freed from its explication in extensity and intensive difference liberated from extensive repetition. This act is non-confined to the individual psyche, since everything thinks and is a thought, as established in the third-synthesis’s correlation between expressing thought and expressed Idea. The caesura is thus univocally distributed across:
1) Physical (1st Synthesis) - Extensive explication of the contracted instants.
2) Temporal (2nd Synthesis) - Pure past as conditioning intensive implication, contraction-dilations of time in space / space in time.
3) Psychic (3rd Synthesis) - Fracture of time, implying thus not just a transformation of the role of subjective agency, but a redefinition of nature as such.
However, one must wonder at this point whether Brassier’s account is overstating the precise function of the undoing of representation as an act of consciousness, since he seems to suggest that the caesura of thinking is still somehow enacted by the universal individual, rather than simply acknowledged by it. However, therein lies the entire crux of the issue, consciousness cannot simply observe or reflect or abstract itself from difference-in-itself as triggered by the caesura, since in doing so it merely reinstates representation. But the univocity of the triad being-time-psyche along with the uniform distribution of thinking across things and thus of things as thought must pass through the first two syntheses in which the individuating intensification of the Virtual finally generates the crack in the temporal chronology. It is by un-identifying the pure form of time as the realm wherein difference-in-itself repeats itself that thinking can finally subvert representation, fracturing the I and self in a time thus unbound from the shackles of individuation but which becomes for this reason the maximal individuation, i.e. the act of thinking as an ontological leveling. As we saw, this marks the passage of thinking from reproduction to production, the de-qualification of the past in the agency of habitual repetition, and of the present as the repetitive instantiation of the conditioning pure past, in order to generate a future which merely repeats repetition, outside chronology, as that ontological repetition which always returns. Brassier is thus right to insist in that the caesura of thinking is finally the universal individual insofar as it unbinds representation, and which fractures time away from habit and memory, from living immediacy and representation. We are set to examine the complicity between mind and nature, psyche and being.
6.11 The fusion of mind and nature
We have seen the tripartite modalities of actualization, but he also distinguishes between physical/biological/physical systems with respect to their order of differentiation in the Ideas which they instantiate, i.e. their rates of individuation. In physical systems these are given ‘all at once’ and at the boundaries (just like the living present is but the outmost contraction of the instants of the past), while in biological systems they involve successive influxes of singularities involving the entire internal milieu in its operations (Deleuze 1968: 328, 1994: 255 tm). But also, these strata are ordered according through the typology of differenciation: qualification and partitioning in physical systems, specification and organization in biological and psychic systems (Deleuze 1968: 328, 1994: 255). There is a double cancellation of difference in every actualization: first, we have the explication of intensity as extensity, since it becomes subordinated to identity in the concept / bare repetition is re-productive insofar as it obscures difference-in-itself.
We can approach this idea schematically by way of an interpretative example, also recollecting on what we learned about repetitive series. The distinction between 30% and 31% of body-fat content occludes the internal difference among inter-serially which have 30% - some may have 30.1% and 30.2%- as well as the intra-serially – the subject who is identifies as having 30% is nonetheless unique insofar as he/she might have a peculiar distribution of body-fat. Thus for every spatial determination or bare repetition in physical systems, there is an occlusion of difference insofar as the explication of intensity entails simultaneously the obscuration of the Ideal differentiation as productive. Secondly, there is the death of an actual bio-physical system, which entails in the effacement of differenciation as produced. We may approach this idea by thinking the disturbance of an ecosystem which changes the internal dynamics of individual differences distributed among organisms; thus the differenciation produced is annulled. So actuality assigns explication to the entropic principle which cancels producing and produced difference. But this is all very obscure at this point; and my reading is far from satisfactory.
Deleuze continues to say that explication as entropic principle cannot account for the conditions of production of the actual or its explicated differenciation. Explaining everything, it accounts nevertheless for nothing. Its validity as empirical principle certainly explains the functional operation of a specified extensive domain. However, in doing so, it occludes the preponderance of the intensive which generates the possibility of that specification and domain, the synthetic reproduction of intensive difference as the explanatory background which grounds it, and which we saw, became implicated already in the second synthesis of memory, i.e. intensive difference as transcendent principle. This intensive difference is the spatium whose depth the laws of the natural sciences lay bare in explication: ‘‘at the same time as the laws of nature govern the surface of the world, the eternal return ceaselessly rumbles in this other dimension, that of the transcendental or of the volcanic spatium’ (Deleuze 1968: 311, 1994: 241 tm). This depth unveils an originary chaos beyond all law and jurisdiction from explicated nature and which underlie the intensive dynamics of the eternally recurrent second nature. The ‘universal ungrounding’ of the eternal return is not confined to the psychic domain to sublate representation, but must be extended to nature itself, as intensive difference rises up to dissolve all law from scientific explanandum. Brassier observes that this rests on the naïve implication that the caesura of the act of thinking can finally interrupt all physical qualification/partitioning and biological specification/classification. Anyhow, Deleuze attempts to avoid this implication by distinguishing between two states of quality and extensity as follows:
“One in which quality flashes forth as a sign in the distance or interval of a difference in intensity; the other in which quality is an effect which already reacts against its cause and tends to cancel difference. One in which extensity remains implicated in the enveloping order of differences; the other in which extensity explains the difference and cancels it in the qualified system. This distinction, which cannot be effectuated in experience, becomes possible from the viewpoint of the thinking of the eternal return.” (Deleuze 1968: 314, 1994: 243–4 tm) So from the distanced perspective of the eternal return, we can observe the qualities as sign in the intervallic intensities which preserve difference, and so extensity remains as implicated in the enveloping order of differences. What remains of extensity is only what is implicated in the uniformity of the spatium, harboring the ethereal promise to bring:
“Qualities which are more beautiful, colors more brilliant, stones more precious, extensions more vibrant; because, being reduced to their seminal reasons and having broken with every relation to the negative, they shall remain forever affixed onto the intensive space of positive differences – then Plato’s final prediction in the Phaedo shall be realized; the one in which he promised to the sensibility which has been freed from its empirical exercise temples, stars, and gods which have never been seen; unheard of affirmations.” (Deleuze 1968: 314, 1994: 244 tm)
The aegis of thinking is then not to forever empty the vast stock of extensity, but to release it from its empirical constraint by its fixation onto the intensive space of differences in themselves, not bound by the bare dissection of the negative. These, Brassier underlines, are aesthetic rather than cognitive qualifications, but in such a way that the transcendental aestheticism is vitiated. This happens in how the caesura of thinking in the eternal return demotes representational identity and explanation to affirm the convergence between the dialectic of Ideas and the aesthetic of identities, purified thought and refined sensibility. So the ‘sign’ above is not an object recognized by an act of representation, but an intensive noumenon which occasions to the cogitandum in the transcendent exercise of the faculties. And to grasp extensity as implicated in the enveloping intensity (thereby reverting the original implication of intensity) is to go beyond to the intensive difference to posit retroactively the differenciated as produced by it through the exercise of the faculties. Let us schematize these distinctions neatly:
i) Differenciated property (representation).
ii) Extensive sign (caesura).
i) Explicated difference (representation).
ii) Implicated in intensive difference (caesura).
But then Deleuze makes these distinctions depend entirely on their generation through the act of thinking, which merely dodges the implication that the subversion of representational identity entails the effacement of differenciation in actuality. It rather seems that this act of thinking is designed to render the annulment difference implied in the empirical explication inoperative by the release of intensity carried by purified thought and elevated sensibility. So the ontological status of differenciation is ambiguous between objectively real phenomena founded on extension and transcendentally grounded by difference in intensity; and yet this reality seems to be defeated by the act of thinking which differentiates between the two states of quantity/quality and where empirical law seems to be bereft in purified thought and through the exercise of the faculties. It is the latter which guarantees the continuity between the sublation of representation in maximal psychic individuation and the intensive ungrounding of extensive explanation. But this seems to suggest that empirical reality explained by the laws of natural science are merely in functions of representation, and so that their foundational role collapses along with identity. And Deleuze’s empiricism certainly needs this mediation by the faculties to guarantee that the primacy of experience links psychic transformation with natural transformation.
He accomplishes his empiricist attack on representation by substituting concrete sub-representational conditions of experience for abstract epistemological reasons in order to explain the concrete. Experience is not subsumed to be the object of recognition for the subject, but is preserved as the organic object of habit all the way to the psychic act which ungrounds empirical explication as merely bare representational laws. Here Brassier is excellent in explaining how Deleuze’s account finally is incompatible with any version of realism about bio-physical laws, since they remain circumscribed to a register of experience which goes from the passive synthesis of habit all the way to the transcendental sublation which distinguishes between the merely explicatory empirical index implicated by the intensive field which the caesura of the thinking act distributes uniformly across the dyad ideal/sensible, psychic/physical:
“Deleuze plunges into the sub-representational dimension of experience that subsists beneath the abstractions of knower and known, subject and object, to excavate the passive syntheses which generate the receptivity of sensibility, the activity of consciousness, and the empirical congruence between the differenciation of actuality and the categories of representation. At the same time, he ascends beyond the merely given differences in actual experience to explore their genesis in the dimension of transcendental synthesis that implicates the ideal within the sensible. Thus, it is because ‘experience’ is the mediating term between the dialectic of ideas and the aesthetic of intensities – between the psychic and the physical – that the principle of explication which is eliminated by the transformation in thought and sensibility is not an ‘objective’ aspect of bio-physical reality but rather an empirical dimension of experience. Since the latter is generated by transcendental synthesis, it can be reconfigured by it.” (NU: Pg. 190)
Deleuze’s account however remains ambiguous between transcendental and absolute idealism; whether transcendental terms apply to our experience of things or things in themselves. The former option eliminates representational of physical/biological qualities within experience, rather than their actual being/existence. But this implies the physico-biological extensive reality explicated by natural science is an illusion generated by representation to occult the chaos of intensive spatium. And it leads to the conclusion that scientific phenomena have no known or knowable reality beyond their representational status, which is subverted in the fetish of an aesthetic contemplative elevation separated from empirical skeletal nudity.
However, the shift to productive thinking of the transcendent exercise of the faculties, points towards the absolutist conception which simply eliminates actual differenciation rather than in representation, as the caesura of thinking identifies intensive thought with noumenal reality. This way we can separate intensive signs from extensive qualities and implicated extensity from explicated intensity. But then again this is only made possible insofar as the ontological scope of the third synthesis would guarantee that the caesura of thinking ultimately determines the conditions under which intensity relates to individuating differences. It thereby absolutizes the correlation between the ideality and sensibility, underlying the empirical correspondence between representational identity and actualized differenciation in experience. This is the work of the transcendent exercise of the faculties and the correlation between intensive thinking and the noumenal intensive pre-individual realm. Here Brassier condenses the work of the three syntheses neatly for us, and the correlational bond established in the third synthesis, insofar as it releases intensive generation from physical degeneration implicating differences back into the pre-individual intensive field by way of the psychic temporal fracture. Through this synthesis of thinking as caesura and the noumenal the psyche escapes the sordid bio-physical death by mediating between pre-individual Ideal singularities and impersonal individuations in intensity:
“The first synthesis establishes the conditions for the sub-representational experience of actuality; the second establishes the conditions for the representation of actuality in consciousness, but the third synthesis releases experience from the yoke of representation in the conjunction between the caesura of thinking and the ungrounding of extensity. Accordingly, the third synthesis brings about a fusion of the psychic and the physical beyond the adjudications of representation and the legislatures of explication.” (NU: Pg. 191)
“Such is the world of the ‘ONE’ or the ‘they’; a world which cannot be assimilated to that of everyday banality, but on the contrary, one wherein encounters and resonances unfold; the ultimate face of Dionysus and the true nature of the depth and groundlessness which overflows representation and brings forth simulacra.” (Deleuze 1968: 355, 1994: 277 tm)
6.12 The expression of complexity
The threefold division between physical, biological and psychic systems are distinguished by Deleuze with respect to three features:
i) The order of Ideas exhibited by them.
ii) Their rates of individuation.
iii) Figures of actualization (values of implication / centers of envelopment) – Present in the system as it becomes actualized, representative of intensive individuating factors in a complex system in the process of explanation. These exhibit three characteristics:
i. Signs – flashing between two series of difference in intensity, these establish a signal system which generates signs.
ii. Expression of Sense of the Idea
iii. Insofar as they envelop intensity without explication, these centers testify to local negentropic increases which defy the empirical law of entropic explication.
So complex systems incorporate individuating differences, which are not expressed in the actualized extensity which they determine and in which they are explicated, insofar as they subsist only as implicated in signal-sign systems. These are the so-called centers of envelopment for intensive difference in an extensive system, which is what would correspond closest to the intensive noumenon (Deleuze 1968: 329, 1994: 256). The complexity of an extensional system is thus measured with regards to how individuating factors are separated from the pre-individual continuum underlying the depth of intensity and incorporated as signal-sign systems. The intensity factors that individuate physical extensity in a wholesale partition and qualification are extrinsic to the latter. On the other hand, biological individuating factors are enveloped in the organism (genetics for example) so that their classificatory partitioning is successive through influxes of dynamic interaction between the organism’s internal milieu and its environment. Signal-sign systems are thus the wedding of implicated extensity as signaling the functional dynamism linking organic interaction within intensive difference. This dynamism expressed through the enveloped intensive factors endows biological systems with an intrinsic intensity which is expressed functionally, rather than the bare externality of thoroughly explained physical systems, which accounts for the former’s ‘superior degree of expression’.
Deleuze concludes from this that ‘the living pays witness to another order; one that is heterogeneous and of another dimension – as though its individuating factors or atoms considered individually according to their power of mutual communication and fluent instability, benefited from a superior degree of expression in it’ (Deleuze 1968: 329, 1994: 255 tm) The complexity of the living is thus heterogeneous to the inorganic insofar as the former can express intensity to higher degrees, since relation implies a torsion between expresor and expressed in which the latter cannot exist without the former even if they are absolutely distinguished. In this case, the torsion occurs between individuating intensity and pre-individual Idea generated in the fracture of time; or ontological expressivity between univocal being and individuating differences remain a function of the correlation between intensity in sensation and ideal sense effectuated through the caesura of thinking. The expression of intensive difference is not its degree of dilation in physical space, such as it occurs in explication. Rather, it is the degree of contraction in psychic time consummating the relation between sensible repetition and ideal difference. It is thus through psychic individuation that intensive difference expresses what is expressing. The act of thinking identified with intensive death is filtered through ‘the other’, the psychic individual non-representable as an ‘I’ emerging in the split between the fractured I and the passive self, the intensive universal individual emerging in the psychic act of thinking that amounts, finally, to no-one. We should perhaps interpret this as the inscription of the death which is no one’s, insofar as the caesura in the act of thinking fractures the representational I and the passive self, as the point where “the expressed is enveloped in an expression that has been purified of its explicative aspect” (NU: Pg. 194). The expression of this ‘possible world’ is not so much abstracted from representational actuality, but is a virtuality in the form of an intensive sign which exists implicated and enveloped within the form of the other, which is the unexplained pure form death. Only this way the expression (thought) becomes continuous with the expressed (Ideal virtuality), just as thought becomes re-implicated back into the pre-individual purely (un)differentiated Idea.
The correlation between subject and physico-biological reality is thus folded back onto originating psychic individuation in the caesura of thinking which envelops them reciprocally as expressing intensity and expressed Idea. Brassier concludes with these powerful words, which condense the negentropic coup on representation in the psychic act: “Far from signaling the disintegration of the psyche or testifying to the sovereignty of physical entropy, the experience of dying defies the law of entropic explication governing physico-biological extensity and marks the apex of psychic life as vector of negentropic complexification.” (NU: Pg. 195) At this point, as should be apparent, there is a certain obscurity in Brassier’s account when explaining what precise role this exercise of the faculties persists in a context not simply subject to the standard criticism against correlationism: if the exercise of the faculties in fact instantiates the ‘death instict’ which occasions the fracture in the representational self, such that the separability of the psychic dissemination of thinking into things achieves the split between the bio-physical extensive empirical ground and intensive difference through thought’s enactment of psychic individuation. The problem is that this renders the ontological status of bio-physical entities extremely ambiguous: since on the one hand they seem to depend on the specific exercise of the faculties as thought while at the same time avoiding the absolute idealism whereby bio-physical empirical reality is constituted through thought. How then is the caesura’s in thinking’s generative subsumption of bio-physical externality to intensive difference implicate phenomena such as the arche-fossil, if science tells us these phenomena occurred in conditions where thought was not merely absent, but materially impossible?
It seems that Deleuze must admit that the field of intensive individuation renders the spatial exteriority of bio-physical phenomena to be the byproducts of thinking, while the chaotic reality of undifferentiated Ideal univocity of virtuality must subsist inertly to the emergence of life and thinking. This endangers a noomocentric variant of absolute idealism, whereby differenciation is finally a byproduct of thinking’s caesura as it singularizes virtual difference in extensive sensible being, and thus reintroduces the correlationist transcendental function as that which splits the arid stillness of the pre-individuated Ideal realm by the catalyst of the faculties. Bio physical reality thus needs the catalysis of thinking in order to arrive at the dynamic effectuation of physical phenomena, which means that without thought Ideas would remain locked in chaotic intensivity of which bio-physics is absent. Without thought whatever reality is rendered legible in bio-physical differenciation must be left outside thought and being, so that finally the chaotic virtual remains something of a pre-noumenal virtual integral being which confers the world with sense through a genesis of thought. This borders the proto-theological inscrutability of the One transcendent being as self-sufficient reason, an intensive field whose motives are silent and whose self-generating moment of thought unravels the chain of being from itself alone. In this the position of the larval subject is precisely to precondition the actualization of difference, but at the same time relegating the being of this difference to the self-splitting intensive field by thinking and its obscure genesis. Bio-physical repetition thus remains transmissible only through the faculties’ involuntary production. The difference in-itself of intensive difference brings the thought of being into emergence just it brings the being of thought, but must thereby relegate its fundamental to a pure generative chaos of the intensive Life which inflects reality to its evental split between itself and the exteriority of difference; the temporal intensive difference whose enveloping depth grounds and rejects individuated difference to the static repetition of a bare representational extremity from the temporal contraction by the psychic act. This bare exteriority is wrested from all dynamic productivity to its intensive causes and repetitions which depend on the larval subject’s organic temporalization of the intensive field, making Life’s intensivity ontologically prior and grounding bio-physical reality:
“The claim that intensive difference originates in an elementary form of psychic contraction is the crucial empiricist premise (derived from Deleuze’s reading of Hume) which will allow Deleuze to attribute a transcendental function to time understood as intensive difference and to construe the latter as the precondition for space construed as extensive repetition… Thus the clothed or intensive repetition of duration inhabits bare or physical repetition as its enabling condition. Accordingly, it is the empiricist premise that time implies the psychic registration of difference, and hence that temporal difference is a function of psychic contraction, that provides the precondition for the transcendental claim according to which the intensive noumenon furnishes the sufficient reason for the extensive phenomenon.” (NU: Pg 196)
6.13 The life of the mind
The psychic death-drive instantiates ontological repetition so the expression of difference is differentiated from bio-physical explanation; the former is incommensurable to the later and ground its effectuation. Just like Heidegger death is crucial for time and ontological difference. For Heidegger, Dasein’s ontological transcendence is condition for access to entities but this is potentiates in Dasein’s temporalization of time by its appropriation of being-towards-death. For Deleuze, ontological differentiation occurs through thinking’s affirmation of intensive death, but in a way which seems to necessitate bio-physical repetition (Brassier must mean, however that there is transitivity between the empirical ground apprehended in the passive syntheses and the pre-individuated intensive field). But this intensive field is at the same time finally grounded on the act whereby physical explication is separated from physic expression of difference, since the bio-physical phenomena can only be said to ground the psyche insofar as it is already given to the passive synthesis of habit. It is this last priority of the passive synthesis of habit underlying the being of bio-physical phenomena (since they are pre-reproductive and effected by thought) which gives ultimate primacy to experience and underlies the separation between entropic explication and negentropic expression in the third synthesis generated by thought’s fracture.
Consciousness is dissemination into the totality of larval subjects who inject intensive duration to physical extensity. Intensity being implicated in space it remains temporal as ‘the multiple which cannot divide without changing in nature’, i.e. that which through the act of thinking fractures the univocity of virtual un-differentiated being by generating the successive expulsion of spatial being from the intensive field necessarily implicated in the ontological difference. This finally makes psychic temporal contraction which underlies the primacy of experience. This is what we meant earlier when we sad that exteriority’s dejection to the de-intensification of clothed spatial exteriority cannot but remain ontologically guaranteed by the concomitance of the empirical bio-physical of the habitual synthesis and the intensive differential domain of third synthesis. The integrality of thinking/being is finally guaranteed on the side of thought:
“In each instance, material repetition is the result of a more profound repetition which unfolds in depth and produces it as a result, like an external envelope or a detachable shell, but one which loses all its sense and all its capacity to reproduce itself once it is no longer animated by its cause or by the other repetition. Thus it is the clothed that lies beneath the naked, and that produces or excretes it as the effect of its secretion.” (Deleuze 1968: 370, 1994: 289 tm)
Intensive repetition occurs between the degrees of differentiation in ontological memory as enabling condition for bare extensive repetition. Temporal difference is a function of psychic contraction and preconditions the extensive field of spatial difference wherein bio-physical phenomena. The intensive noumenon is the sufficient reason for the extensive phenomenon. So Brassier suggests that Deleuze’s radical empiricism is underwritten by a pansychism resting on the undifferentiated noumenal field from which thought is made both into an agent and patient. But there is a fundamental ambiguity between the organic/psychic domains. First, the larval thinker has the status as a universal ‘intensive’ individual, and thought is an individuating factor: ‘every body, every thing thinks and is a thought insofar as, reduced to its intensive reasons, it expresses an Idea whose actualization it determines’ (Deleuze 1968: 327, 1994: 254 tm). The larval subject catalyzes the actualization of Ideas, and in reducing it to its intensive reasons constitutes all spatio-temporal dynamisms. Assuming not everybody or thing is organic then there are passive syntheses in the inorganic; which seems to be excluded by Deleuze’s own account. The following two quotes help us:
“[I]in the order of constituting passivity, perceptual syntheses refer back to organic syntheses as to the sensibility of the senses, to a primary sensibility which we are. We are made of contracted water, earth, and light, not only prior to recognizing or representing them, but prior to perceiving them. Every organism is, in its receptive and perceptual elements, but also in its viscera, is a sum of contractions, retentions, expectations.” (Deleuze 1968: 99, 1994: 73 tm)
“What organism is not made up of elements and cases of repetition, of contemplated and contracted water, nitrogen, carbon, chlorides and sulphates, thereby intertwining all the habits of which it is composed? Organisms awake to the sublime words of the third Ennead: all is contemplation!” (Deleuze 1968: 102, 1994: 75)
The contemplative soul in habitual contraction underwrites all bio-physical reality, confirming the continuity between the organic and larval subjectivity. The necessity of the passive synthesis contracting into the present and of larval individuation finally vitiate the ubiquity of the organic/inorganic, but the vitalist thesis that everything must ultimately be organic or living, so everything must think, i.e. Deleuze’s panpsychism is rooted in the vitalist position. This is different from the notion that consciousness, in some form, must underlie implicated even within the inorganic in the generation of thinking things, and that this must condition organic sentience made complex from this initial inorganic thinking (present, in Brassier’s estimation in panpsychist accounts such as those of Chalmers or Whitehead). Deleuze rather seems to organize his position around the following two axes, explaining:
1) There is a primitive organic time-sentience implied by the psychic expression of temporal difference as the correlation between (individuating) thought and virtual Idea. This time conditions the actual experience of individuated extensity, where the former is split between a sub-representational/representational level (first two syntheses), and the latter is construed in terms of physico-biological explication of intensity (third synthesis).
2) The psychic expression described by (1) obtains ontological dignity within a dimension of psychic individuation: organic contraction provides the juncture of the virtual pre-individual realm of Ideas and the actual realm of differenciated individuals in effective split by which thinking from the passive sub-representational to the representational level. It is this contraction of habit which as originary organic synthesis from which the empirical-ideal are derived. (NU: Pg 199)
The split between ideal-sensible and virtual-actual originate empirically in organic contraction before reuniting in the ontological repetition which distinguishes psychic expression from physical explanation, the former as sufficient reason for the latter. But then Deleuze seems to be confusing his account to be explaining actual experience rather than a genesis of actualization at large. Deleuze claims that extensity is caused by the organic contraction of the present in habit for actual experience, while the psychic expression of difference actualizes Ideas. But in the spectrum of phenomena captured by this organic contraction, leave parts of reality unaccounted for. Specifically, physical phenomena such as neutrinos, protons, gravitational fields and dark matter which compose space-time cannot be reduced to being contractions of organic habit. The empirical bias in Deleuze allows him to find in muscles the loci for contraction and dismiss these physical-entities to being ideally imbedded in virtual multiplicities for abstract representation, outside the concretion of experience in which organic contraction guarantees psychic expression. The radicalization of empiricism whereby experience stretches to include unconscious sub-representational realms continues to assume that there is an underlying reality behind explicative representation. This is rendered in the ensuing separation between conceptual abstractions (the temporal actualization leading to the representational explication of space-time from the passive contraction of habit) and perceptual concretion (the underlying exercise of the faculties which delivers thinking as psychic expression wherein temporalized organic contraction determines actual experience in the ontological difference). This allows him to include muscles and water within actual experience while leaving galaxies and electrons to the mere already explicated bio-physical representation made relative to the organic contraction originating in the passive synthesis of habit:
“It is because the actual extensity whose genesis Deleuze attributes to the operations of passive synthesis has been circumscribed as a domain of experience, and hence necessarily tethered to the organic, that the muscles of rats are deemed more appropriate sites for the larval subjects of spatio-temporal dynamisms than are electrons. And it is Deleuze’s empiricist bias towards the genesis of actuality as constituted in experience that explains his restriction of the ambit of passive synthesis to differences that can be organically registered.” (NU: Pg 200)
Even if the ideality as virtuality of pre-individual singularities is autonomous, it remains anchored in the empiricist demand for temporal difference as the organic contraction effected by the larval subject; psychic expression presupposes the organic substrate which it finally generates. Ideal expression remains a function of organic contraction. The underrepresentation of physics in comparison to biology devolves in a gap in the putative conciliation between vitalism and the phenomena science, all the way to the reduction of entropy as illusion. The implication of the uncancellable temporal intensive difference within extensity through the synthesis of memory as the form of the pure past based is based on duration, but the latter is vitiated by the empiricism which stipulates this temporality in the juncture between organic and sensible. The absence of a physicalist correction, vitalism surrenders into noocentrism in the correlation between intensity and Idea, larval thought and ontological memory. Matter is reduced to being the reproductive effect of memory’s explication in extensity underwritten by temporal difference. Entropy is belied by the spatio-temporal dynamic which presupposes organic contraction, and relegates physical space to the bare explication of organic contraction passive synthesized. This continued to assume that time is irreducible to objectifying representation of space, due to a putative irreducibility of an original first person experience to a third person ontological space (Searle often repeats this point). In this correlationist vision, absolute time must be compromised in the ontological of temporal difference as the necessary precondition for the autonomy of an absolute time. For Deleuze the privilege given to experienced time in his attempt to synthesize space-time outside mere representation is vitiated in the junction of his vitalist and empiricist theses: reabsorbing space into time, and quantity to quality. This seems to be something of an ‘idealist monism’, argues Brassier (Ibid). The three syntheses are finally summarized thus:
“Thus Deleuze’s account of spatio-temporal synthesis begins by ascribing a privileged role to organic contraction in the 1st synthesis of the present, proceeds to transcendentalize memory as cosmic unconscious in the 2nd synthesis of the past, and ends by turning a form of psychic individuation which is as yet the exclusive prerogative of homo sapiens into the fundamental generator of ontological novelty in the 3rd synthesis of the future… Transcendental access to the sense of being is internalized within experience through the transcendent exercise of the faculties that generates Ideas as the intensional correlates of larval thought (albeit a ‘sense’ which is indissociable from non-sense).” (NU: Pg: 201)
Here perhaps we should stop to clarify that although Brassier is right in saying that the exercise of the faculties transcendentally correlates the Ideal and larval subjectivity, this already occurs in the temporal syntheses in which it is retroactively presupposed that the Ideas subsist virtually prior to all actualization. It is therefore misleading to speak of generation without qualification, even if the correlation itself and thus the implication between Ideality and sensibility, is effectively guaranteed by the facultative exercise in organic contraction. However, Deleuze reinstates his case since in the last end the Ideal differentiation is not simply perceived in thought, as in observational-representational accounts, but come into being in thought’s fracture which expresses itself by the reproduction of ontological memory, the unconscious of pure thought. This is accomplished insofar as Deleuze presupposes actualization in the expression of being, and their ideality a function of thinking’s fracture. The underlying unity of the organic realm remains ontologically guaranteed through thinking’s fracturing modalities expressing it. The virtuality of Ideas are both presupposed in thought’s unconscious syntheses of ontological memory and at the same time the differentials of thought’s fracture; but mind you, the thought correlative to a larval subject which is already behind the strictures of representation. Yet as we have seeing this subject is also constrained to the passive synthesis by and in the divergent series of actualizations occasioned by thinking. The differences in being are only caught by and as thinking in both the larval subject’s temporal instantiation of explicated difference and the fractured ‘I’ univocally guaranteeing ontological sense. Time makes a difference which cannot be erased:
“It is nevertheless true that Ideas have a very special relationship to pure thought. The para-sense or violence which is transmitted from one faculty to another according to an order assigns a particular place to thought: thought is determined such that it grasps its own cogitandum only at the extremity of the fuse of violence which, from one Idea to another, first sets in motion sensibility and its sentendium, and so on. This extremity might just as well be regarded as the ultimate origin of Ideas. In what sense, however, should we understand ‘ultimate origin’? In the same sense in which Ideas must be called ‘differentials’ of thought, or the ‘Unconscious’ of pure thought, at the very moment when thought’s opposition to all forms of common-sense remains stronger than ever. Ideas, therefore, are related not to a Cogito which functions as ground or as a proposition of consciousness, but to the fractured I of a dissolved Cogito; in other words, to the universal ungrounding which characterizes thought as a faculty in its transcendent exercise.” (Deleuze 1968: 251, 1994: 195 tm)
The Ideas expressed are correlative to the distinct ‘senses’ of being, senses defined in terms of the qualitative modalities or ‘attributes’ actualized through the organic contraction of the singular organic substance, and which ultimately are produced in the specific modes the caesura of thinking temporalizes being. The ontological univocity, explained finally in the third synthesis’, is nonetheless given to experience within the implied temporal contraction of habit which, tethers the original dynamic point where subsumes bio-physical spatiality is finally only separated from the intensive sensible in their explicatory inertia. On the other hand, the organic contraction on which they are shown to depend finally makes them nothing but ontological memory’s recapitulation of the empirical extremity of organic contraction; space is nothing but the Idea’s bare undifferenciated expulsion from the primitive organic contraction, and ontologically grounded in the apprehension of the death-instinct in the third synthesis. Spatial explication is finally grounded in temporalization insofar as it delivers all externality to a univocal ontological sense: the being of thought and of the sensible uniformly organic contractions expressed by the psyche. But since this psychic expression is presumed to explain the caesura whereby thinking fractures the univocity of being into the temporal inflection which characterizes actualization, then Deleuze has no choice to but privilege the primitive organic contraction as ontologically favored by reduction of space to the temporal as experienced.
“The contrast with which Deleuze presents us, between actuality as an entropic junkyard yoked beneath the iron collar of representation, and an actuality transformed into an inexhaustible reservoir of ontological novelty as the result of what effectively amounts to an idealization of matter, continues to assume that the experience of time is irreducible to the objectifying representation of space. As we saw in Chapter 1, this assumption seems to be grounded in the conviction that first-person experience, in both its conscious and unconscious aspects, cannot as a matter of principle be integrated into the third-person perspective of scientific objectification. This is one of the abiding intuitions that fuels correlationism, whose ontologization of temporal difference remains complicit with the denial of the autonomy of absolute time. Nevertheless, the latter cannot be subsumed within duration by positing a synthesis of space and time that continues to ascribe an unalloyed privilege to the experience of time.” (NU: Pg 201)
The ‘tracts’ of reality, as Brassier calls them, thereby expelled from this originary ontological dignity are thus left to be mere functions of a psychic contraction where thinking shows intensive actualization as sufficient reason for extensive space. This choice is nonetheless one which Deleuze must gratuitously stipulate the irreducibility of the empirical/experiential to being the mere explicatory function of primitive degrees of organic contractions, or the irreducibility of duration (temporal contractions of the ungrounded past by the future in the 3rd synthesis) to spatial representations (2nd synthesis) by ontological memory dependant on empirical contraction of habit (1st synthesis). The generation of Ideas in thinking is then finally the product of an exercise of organic facultative differentials rather than inorganic objective functions. This allows to the muscles of rats to claim ontological priority over the ‘merely’ empirical priority of space; but this makes the ontological status of primitive physical entities to being unfathomably functions of organic contraction expressed by thought: rendering their reality dependent on that of the empiricist experiential contraction of vitalist organic intensivity. Ontological transcendence is introjected to experience in the exercise of the faculties which generate Ideas as intensional correlates of the organic substance construed by larval organic contraction. The Ideas expressed by thought are thus supervenient as ontological memory of thought’s unconscious recollection:
“Matter is relegated to ‘a dream of the mind’ whose representation in extensity presupposes its animation by a temporal difference that generates inanimate extensity as its blockage. The empiricist premise that the life of thought must already be implicated in insensate matter insofar as the latter is experienced underlies Deleuze’s vitalist claim that physical space-time harbors an impetus towards complexification belying the reign of entropy in actuality… Transcendental access to the sense of being is internalized within experience through the transcendent exercise of the faculties that generates Ideas as the intensional correlates of larval thought (albeit a ‘sense’ which is indissociable from non-sense).” (NU: Pg 201)
But Brassier thinks the role is to uncover an identity of space-time in objectivity, determining for thought and which is irreducible to thinking or converting it this identity into an ontological principle, not even that of negentropic differentiation in Ideas and individual differences. There is one sense of being, but this being differs expressed in thought as functional divergences in rates of actualization, according to the different senses in which Ideas become intensional correlates. So we can sketch this out a) ontological differentiation (real) supervenes on a) grasping differences in actualization (ideal), which in turn depends on grasping c) how the larval subject of spatio temporal dynamics bears individuating differences clearly enveloping distinct differences in the dyanamic of intensive implication in the Idea/ and individual differences, confusedly enveloping the Ideas’ obscure undifferentiated virtual perplication. Yet the expression of being which renders transparent individuation of being as such occurs in and as thought from that of the larval subject (1st synthesis) to that of the fully potentiated thinking of the fractured self (3rd synthesis) (Ibid). Being is its expression in and as thought.
This is precisely what the extensional approach of Badiou’s subtractive ontology and Laruelle’s anti-philosophy opens the possibility of axiomatic equation of being with nothingness. The void of ontological substance means to make the real commensurate to being-nothing, unbinding the correlational synthesis of thinking and being.
 ‘La conception de la différence chez Bergson’ in L’île déserte et autres textes, Paris: Minuit, 2002a, 52.