Thursday, October 18, 2007

Badiou on Deleuze


These are my notes on Badiou's book Deleuze: The Clamour of Being. They are more detailed than I thought and supplement the very popular notes I already have here on Deleuze.


Badiou, Alain. Deleuze: The Clamour of Being. Trans. Louise Burchill. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000

there are two paradigms that govern the manner in which the multiple is thought…the “vital” (or “animal”) paradigm of open multiplicities…/ and the mathematical paradigm of sets, which can also be qualified as “stellar” in Mallarm√©’s sense of the word (Badiou, Deleuze 3-4).

· his analysis of Deleuze in the opening pages is designed to re-situate his thought in relation to the traditional metaphysic of the one, expressly so as to undermine the belief that Deleuze’s work is “devoted to the inexhaustible variety of the concrete"” (Badiou, Deleuze 14).
· thus the role of multiplicity here is to liberate being from such variety in an ascetic purification which Deleuze calls being chosen by the inorganic as an automaton. This must be in keeping with Badiou’s own position and is where I have to be careful not to see his work as just version of the mathematical sublime, unless I reconsider this sublimity somehow.

Certainly, the starting point required by Deleuze’s method is always a concrete case…/ But one starts to go wrong as soon as one imagines that constraint exercised by concrete cases makes of Deleuze’s thought a huge description or collection of the diversity characterizing the contemporary world. For one presumes then that the operation consists in thinking the case. This is not so: the case is never an object for thought; rather…the case is what forces thought and renders it impersonal. It is therefore perfectly coherent that, in starting from innumerable and seemingly disparate cases…Deleuze arrives at conceptual productions that I would unhesitatingly qualify as monotonous… (Badiou, Deleuze 14-15).

The rights of the heterogeneous are, therefore, simultaneously imperative and limited. Thinking can only begin under the violent impulsion of a case-of-thought…And each beginning, being a singular impulsion, presents also a singular case. But what begins in this way is destined to repetition… (Badiou, Deleuze 15).

· in other words each case is a case of the one concept of being, as he notes in relation to Deleuze’s work on cinema, thus Deleuze’s work is, he argues, organised around the metaphysics of the one, proposes and ethics of thought based on asceticism, and is systematic and abstract (Badiou, Deleuze 17).
· what can there be then within the proliferation of the case and what is the function of singularity here. Again there seems to be agreement with Nancy here that the multiplicity of the case merely establishes the limits of thought. Case proliferation does not open thinking up to an unbearable relativity, but in fact closes it down to an equally unbearable limited set of monolithic principles. As he says “I am convinced that principles do exist” (Badiou, Deleuze 17).

· it is central to Badiou’s project to turn ethics away from alterity, multiplicity away from diversity and philosophy away from language and his reading of Deleuze is based exactly on this. His is instead a return to a sense of being, an existential sense revealing his early debts to Sartre, which comes back to Heidegger as the central force of twentieth century philosophy. The univocity of being which he picks up on in Deleuze relates then directly to this aim, to reduce multiple voices as just examples of a limited number of cases which all testify to a very limited set of principles which all relate to the ontological certainty of being which is not reducible to identity.

· in reading Deleuze’s work as kind of updating of Plato he notes in relation to the simulacra of the real the Plato also notes…

it is necessary to affirm the rights of simulacra as so many equivocal cases of univocity that joyously attest to the univocal power of being…/ One does far more justice to the real One by thinking the egalitarian coexistence of simulacra in a positive way than by opposing simulacra to the real that they lack, in the way Plato opposes the sensible and the intelligible. For, in fact, this real lies nowhere else than in that which founds the nature of the simulacrum as simulacrum: the purely formal or modal character of the difference that constitutes it, from the viewpoint of the univocal real of Being that supports this difference within itself and distributes to it a single sense (Badiou, Deleuze 26-7).

· this is similar in some ways to Nancy’s argument that singularity reveals the edge of being through its interruption of myth only working on the opposite direction. For Badiou the singular case is only a proof of the univocity of being, for Nancy it only allows univocity by a linguistic intervention.

· he then goes on to consider the problems of giving a name to being with being itself being seen for rather dull reasons as insufficient. What is more interesting is Badiou’s reason for Deleuze must give being two names:

What emerges over the course of these experiments is that a single name is never sufficient, but that two are required. Why? The reason is that Being needs to be said in a single sense both form the viewpoint of the unity of its power and from the viewpoint if the multiplicity of the divergent simulacra that this power actualizes in itself…it is as though the univocity of being is thereby accentuated for thought through its being said, at one moment, in its immediate “matter”, and, in the next, in its forms or actualizations. In short: in order to say that there is a single sense, two names are necessary (Badiou, Deleuze 28).

· these two names for being reveal Badiou’s own opinion about the relationship of being and its event in simulacra. He also notes that Deleuze uses a wide ranges of “doublets” or double names for beings, but that this does not mean a relativistic view but an experimentation with a suitable doublet.

· what can also be said is that his concept of the multiple should not be confused with a theory of variety or categorical difference. Difference, as it exists in the multiple, resides only to confirm the singularity of being. One must also consider his sense of singularity in relation to that of Nancy and the others, for there seem to be major differences which are not apparent from the terminologies they share in common. Multiples are not different categories which pertain to the ethical code of being, and heterogeneity is not a sense of “being various” but of being in terms of an unspeakable supplement.
· His list of vital texts for Deleuze are Difference and Repetition, The Logic of Sense, Foucault, Cinema 1 & 2, and The Fold.

· it is true that it would be tempting at this stage to think of the second name as being that of categories of the first, something which one finds from Plato through Hegel to Heidegger. Badiou calls the dysymmetrical view where the names are secondary categories of being which serve to divide up being into a series of essential subdivisions such as matter, form or substance. Instead, he sees Deleuze as undermining this tradition:

The univocity of Being and the equivocity of beings (the latter being nothing other than the immanent production of the former) must be thought “together” without the mediation of genera or species, types or emblems: in short, without categories, without generalities (Badiou, Deleuze 32).

· this is the essence of Deleuze’s anti-dialectic in Difference and Repetition especially through an attack on mediation. Mediation is a passage from one being to another based on a relation that is internal to one of them, for Hegel negation. However “univocal Being is affirmative through and through” (Badiou, Deleuze 33) meaning the negative is impossible. Thus the long error of philosophy which divides ontology into being and nothingness is attacked:

There are not two ‘paths’…but a single ‘voice’ of Being which includes all its modes, including the most diverse, the most varied, the most differentiated (Badiou, Deleuze 33) quoting Difference and Repetition p. 36.

· instead of being/non-being, Deleuze goes for active/passive and all his couplets are based on this how everyone must not lose sight of the fact that while two names are needed to described being, this does not produce an ontological division which could be productive of categories. Within the violence of though one must begin somewhere and it is natural to being with categories but the aim is neutrality of a point beyond active/passive.
· interesting precisely because it is an attack on categories and their false role in dividing up the indivisible and putting a name to the unnameable. Obviously I should refer this to consciousness as well.

· he goes on to consider these doublets in terms of the double movement of thought that is typical of Deleuze from beings to Being and Being to beings for from sense to nonsense and from nonsense to sense. All thought consists of this double moments then between the singularity of beings and the univocity of Being. Badiou’s terms this in the form of descent and ascent, beings to Being and Being to beings and concludes:

when we have grasped the double movement of descent and ascent, from beings to Being, then from Being to beings, we have in fact thought the movement of Being itself, which is only the interval, of the difference, between these two movements…Univocal Being is indeed nothing other than, at one and the same time, the superficial movement of its simulacra and the ontological identity of their intensities… (Badiou, Deleuze 40).

When thought succeeds in constructing, without categories, the looped path that leads, on the surface of what is, from a case to the Ones, then from the One to the case, it intuits the movement of the One itself (Badiou, Deleuze 40).

thought is always an (ascetic, difficult) egalitarian affirmation of what is (Badiou, Deleuze 45).

· he turns his attention to the return to the importance of the ground in Deleuze’s work or the univocal Being behind each of the simulacra of beings, stressing that this is not a pictorial ground where the beings are mimetic copies of an ideal ground but in the sense of the double movement we have just considered. In turning Deleuze towards this grounding (fond) he seeks to state that they both share in common the fact of being classical philosophers:

in this context, classicism is relatively easy to define. Namely: may be qualified as classical any philosophy that does not submit to the critical injunctions of Kant…[it} upholds, against any “return to Kant,” against the critique, / moral law, and so on, that the rethinking of the univocity of ground is a necessary task for the world in which we are living today (Badiou, Deleuze 45-6).

whereas my aim is to found a Platonism of the multiple, Deleuze’s concern was with a Platonism of the virtual. Deleuze retains from Plato the univocal sovereignty of the One, but sacrifices the determination of the Idea as always actual. For him, the Idea is the virtual totality, the One is the infinite reservoir of dissimilar productions. A contrario, I uphold that the forms of the multiple are, just like the Ideas, always actual and that the virtual does not exist; I sacrifice, however, the One (Badiou, Deleuze 46).

· Badiou says then that Deleuze’s work results in transcendence while he argued that Badiou’s work failed to hold thought within immanence, resulting presumably by accidental transcendence? He raised this problem in a letter to Deleuze.

Reaffirming the integral actuality of Being, as pure dimension-multiple, I stated that, in my eyes, immanence excluded the All and that the only possible end point of the multiple, which is always the multiple of multiples (and never the multiple of Ones), was the multiple of nothing: the empty set (Badiou, Deleuze 46).

· thus they ended up in a non-resolvable controversy over what constituted the ground, multiple-actual vs. the One-virtual
· the result was an “impasse” as he says:

for me, multiplicities “were” sets, for him, they “were not” (Badiou, Deleuze 48).

· the way he presents this debate is fascinating in terms of the differend and the ethics of friendship. Here they line up in an arrangement that does not agree to disagree, does not agree, and yet which retains no hostility. Surely this is the aporia at the heart of a classical philosophical debate, the basic inability of ontological certainties of different orders to talk to each other in debate. Their argument consists of Badiou saying yes and Deleuze no.

· after critically appraising Deleuze’s theory of the virtual, he concludes:

I must therefore return…to my own song: the One is not, there are only actual multiplicities, and the ground is void (Badiou, Deleuze 53).

I have always conceived truth as a random course or as a kind of escapade, posterior to the event and free of any external law, such that the resources of narration are required simultaneously with those of mathematization for its comprehension. There is a constant circulation from fiction to argument, from image to formula, from poem to matheme… (Badiou, Deleuze 58).

· quite central for work on the avant-garde and the theory of chance encounters
· then goes on to consider the false and the true in terms of paradoxes of time to show that truth supersedes time. He agrees with this:

truths are actual multiplicities with a much higher “Dionysian” value than that accruing to any sort of phenomenological salvaging of time…I maintain that every truth is the end of memory, the unfolding of a commencement (Badiou, Deleuze 60-4).

· the section on chance, 68-76, is concerned with the throw of the dice in an opposite sense, Badiou believes, to the may it is found in Mallarm√©. He ends up by summarising Deleuze's position in terms of three basic axioms: the throw of the dice is always unique, the unique cast is the “affirmation of the totality of chance” (Badiou, Deleuze 74) and what eternally returns in each event is “the original unique throw of the dice with the power of affirming chance” (Badiou, Deleuze 74).
· the importance of these axioms’ for Badiou, is to clarify Deleuze’s relation to the eternal return but there is also a second importance in determining the difference between absolute chance, the event, and the role of chance in probability. Thus the throw if the dice is not part of a series of throws which move towards a probability which is that of the dominance of the same, such as in an infinite series where eventually all six sides of the dice will occur equally. Instead, chance is the affirmation of the absolute uniqueness of the event. Thus what returns in each throw is not a movement towards probability like monkey’s typing the works of Shakespeare, but the uniqueness of the event.

With each throw of the dice (with each event), there is, no doubt, the formal distinction of numerical results. But the innermost power of the cast is the unique and univocal, it is the Event, just as it is what affirms in a unique Throw, which is the Throw of all the throws, the totality of chance. The numerical results are only the superficial stampings or simulacra of the Great Cast (Badiou, Deleuze 74).

· in contrast to this approach, he makes clear his own…

…I said to myself that the indiscernibility of casts (of events, of emissions of the virtual) was, for him, the most important of the points of the passage of the one. For me, on the other hand, the absolute ontological separation of the event, that fact that it occurs in the situation without being in anyway virtualizable, is the basis of the character of truths as irreducibly original, created, and fortuitous. And if truth is indiscernible, it is not at all so with respect to other truths (from which it is, on the contrary, doubly discernible: by the situation in which it is inscribed, and by the event that initiates it), but with respect to the resources of discernment proper to the situation in which it originates (Badiou, Deleuze 75).

Contrary to Deleuze, therefore, I think that the “event dice throws” are all absolutely distinct—not formally (on the contrary, the form of all / events is the same) but ontologically. This ontological multiplicity does not compose any series, it is sporadic (events are rare) and cannot be totalized. No count can group the events, no virtual subjects them to One (Badiou, Deleuze 76).

If, when all is said and done, chance is the affirmation, for Deleuze, of the contingency of the One in all its immanent effects, it is, for me, the predicate of the contingency of each event. For Deleuze, chance is the play of the All, always replayed as such; whereas I believe that there is the multiplicity (and rarity) of chances, such that the chance of an event happens to us already by chance, and not by the expressive univocity of the One (Badiou, Deleuze 76).

…for me, given that the void of Being only occurs at the surface of a situation by way of the event, chance is the very matter of truth. And just as truths are singular and incomparable, so the fortuitous events from which they originate must be multiple and separated by a the void (Badiou, Deleuze 76).

Chance is plural, which excludes the unicity of the dice throw. It is by chance that a particular chance happens (Badiou, Deleuze 76).

· we end up with two versions of chance, the ludic and vital (Nietzsche/Deleuze) and the stellar conception of the Chance of chance (Mallarm√©/Badiou)

For me, alas!…death is not, and can never be, an event (Badiou, Deleuze 77).

· in final conclusion he states his defence against Deleuze’s accusation that he is guilty of transcendence:

…I conceptualize absolute beginnings (which requires a theory of the void) and singularities of thought that are incomparable in their constitutive gestures…Deleuze always maintained that in doing this, II fall back into transcendence and into the equivocity of analogy. But, all in all, if the only way to think a political revolution, an amorous encounter, an intervention of / the sciences, or a creation of art as distinct infinities…is by sacrificing immanence…and the univocity of being, that I would sacrifice them (Badiou, Deleuze 91-2).

· on grace…

It does occur, by interruption or by supplement, and however rare or transitory it may be, we are forced to be lastingly faithful to it (Badiou, Deleuze 97).

During this (short) period of our philosophical history, all in all there have been…two serious questions: that of the All (or the One) and that of grace (or the event). (Badiou, Deleuze 98).
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