New User Special Price Expires in

Let's log you in.

Sign in with Facebook


Don't have a StudySoup account? Create one here!


Create a StudySoup account

Be part of our community, it's free to join!

Sign up with Facebook


Create your account
By creating an account you agree to StudySoup's terms and conditions and privacy policy

Already have a StudySoup account? Login here


by: Jillian Graham


Jillian Graham
GPA 3.73


Almost Ready


These notes were just uploaded, and will be ready to view shortly.

Purchase these notes here, or revisit this page.

Either way, we'll remind you when they're ready :)

Preview These Notes for FREE

Get a free preview of these Notes, just enter your email below.

Unlock Preview
Unlock Preview

Preview these materials now for free

Why put in your email? Get access to more of this material and other relevant free materials for your school

View Preview

About this Document

Class Notes
25 ?




Popular in Course

Popular in Speech & Communication

This 14 page Class Notes was uploaded by Jillian Graham on Saturday September 12, 2015. The Class Notes belongs to SPCM 1500 at University of Georgia taught by Staff in Fall. Since its upload, it has received 18 views. For similar materials see /class/202381/spcm-1500-university-of-georgia in Speech & Communication at University of Georgia.

Popular in Speech & Communication




Report this Material


What is Karma?


Karma is the currency of StudySoup.

You can buy or earn more Karma at anytime and redeem it for class notes, study guides, flashcards, and more!

Date Created: 09/12/15
Nondialectical Materialism Pheng Cheah immhzs diacritics Volume 38 Numbers 12 SpringSummer 2008 pp 143157 Article Pubhshed by The Johns Hopkins University Press 00 70 735305 0 0050 A For additionai information aboutthia amoie mm Hmuse mu eduiuuvnaismasummaNv03838172 cheah mm invitiedm Hm 5m m Gamma NONDIALECTICAL MATERIALISM PHENG CHEAH I gave this essay the tongueiinicheek title of nondialectical materialism to counter pose what one might call the materialisms of Derrida and Deleuze with that of Marx Marx himself never used the phrase dialectical materialism It was a phrase rst used by Plekhanov to distinguish the Marxist approach to the sociohistorical process which focuses on human needs and the means and methods of their satisfaction from the tei leological view of history in Hegelian idealism1 But the concept was already implicit in the distinction Engels drew between the metaphysical mechanical materialism of the eighteenth century and the modern materialism that arose in the wake of the critique of German idealism Old materialism looked upon all previous history as a crude heap of irrationality and violence modern materialism sees in it the process of evolution of hu7 manity and aims at discovering the laws thereof Hence modernmaterialism Engels wrote in Socialism Utopian and Scienti c is essentially dialectic Engels 698 He further distinguished the materialist dialectic from the Hegelian dialectic in terms of its understanding of history as the history of class struggles where social classes are the products of economic conditions Hegel had freed history from metaphysicsihe had made it dialectic but his conception of history was essentially idealistic But now ideal ism was driven from its last refuge the philosophy of history now a materialistic treat ment of history was propounded and a method found of explaining man s knowing by his being instead of as heretofore his being by his knowing Engels 699 Simply put the two key features of the materialist dialectic are rst the understanding of nature and history as lawigoverned processes that can be rationally understood instead of im7 mutable metaphysical substances and second the determination of these processes as processes with a material existence that can be explained through empirical science Regardless of Althusser s quali cations concerning how Marx inverts the Hegelian dialectic the concept of negation as the source of actualization remains a fundamental principle of Marxi t 39 quot 2 The 39 39 of 39 I present reality into social processes and the imminence of the proletarian revolution as the radical transforma7 tion of existing social conditions are premised on Marx s understanding of material exisi 1 By entirely elimimting teleology from social science and explaining the activity of social man by his needs and by the means and methods of satisfying them prevailing at the given time dialectical materialism for the rst time imparts to this science the strictness 39 of which her sis terithe science of mtureiwould 0 en boast over her It may be said that the science of society is itself becoming a natural science notre doctrine naturaliste d39histoire 39as abriola justly says quot Plekhanov 20 2 If the Marxist dialectic is in principle39the opposite of the Hegelian dialectic if it is rai tioml and not mysticalimysty iedimysty icatory this radical distinction must be manifest in its es sence that is in its 39 39 39 39 and trquot r1 To be clear 39 39 39 asic structures of the Hegelian dialectic such as negation the negation of the negation the identity of opposites supersession 39 the transformation of quantity into quality contradiction etc have for Marx a structure different from the structure they have for Hegel quot Althusser 93794 diacritics spring summer 2008 diacritics 38172 143757 143 tence as something created through the purposive mediation of human corporeal activity as this is historically conditioned Marx suggested that human beings indirectly produce actual material life when we produce our means of subsistence through labor Material reality is therefore produced by negativity This is because Marx de ned creative labor as a process of actualization whereby given reality or matter is negated through the imposii tion of a purposive form As a result of the complex development of forces of production each immediately given object and also each individual or social subject comes into being only by being constitutiver imbricated in a web of social relations that form a system or totality3 The template and synecdoche for this system of reciprocally interdependent rela7 tions is the vital body of the organism As I have argued elsewhere Marxism is irrigated by an ontology of organismic vitalism Spectral Nationality ch 4 The labor of the negative remains of fundamental importance in the entire tradition of Marxist philosophy even when this power is viewed as primarily manifestedno longer in corporeal labor but in the aesthetic sphere as in the work of the Frankfurt School Herbert Marcuse expresses this succinctly art contains the rationality of negation In its advanced positions it is the Great Refusalithe protest against that which is 63 This shadow of negativity also animates the accounts of resistance and dynamism in varieties of social constructionism and theories of per for mativity In contradistinction a nondialectical materialism is a materialism that no longer grants primacy to the work of the negative and indeed treats negativity as metaphysical in the same way that dialectii cal 39 quot 39 L 39 quot 39 39 and idealism as metaphysical As we will see below Derrida s delimitation of the metaphysics of presence includes Marxist materialism itself There are important historical and political reasons for this undialectii cal turn in materialism WhatI wish to do in this essay however is to elaborate on some of the key features of nondialectical materialism s break with the concept of negation and some of its implications Materialism without Substance Derrida In Specters of Marx 1994 Derrida spoke in passing of his obstinate interest in a ma terialism without substance a materialism of the khora for a despairing messianism SM 168769 Although he did not explicitly elaborate on what this materialism would look like he had in fact already given some sense of it in a 1971 interview When pressed insistently by two Marxists to specify his position on Marxism Derrida made a characi teristically enigmatic but suggestive comment that cautioned against the conflation of de construction with materialism It follows that if and in the extent to which matter in this general economy designates radical alterity then what I write can be considered materialist Positions 64 His reticence in using the word matter he added was not idealist or spiritualist but instead due to the insistent reinvestment of the term with logocentric values values associated with those of thing reality presence in general sensible presence for example substantial plenitude content referent etc P 64 As long as matter is not de ned as absolute exterior or radical heterogeneity materialism is complicit with idealism Both fall back on a transcendental signi ed 3 On the epigenetic character of labor as it generates an objective dialectical system see Marx and Engels individuals certainly make one another physically and mentally but they do not make themselves quot 55756 Cf Marx Men make their own history but not oftheir ownfree will not under circumstances they themselves have chosen but under the given and inherited cir7 cumstances with which they are directly confrontedquot I46 Realism or sensualismi empiricism 7are modi cations of logocentrism The signi er matter appears to me problematical only at the moment when its reinscription cannot avoid making of it a new rndamental principle which by means of a theoretical regression would be reconstituted into a transceni dental signi ed It can always come to reassure a metaphysical materialism It then becomes an ultimate referent according to the classical logic implied by the value of referent or it becomes an objective reality absolutely anterior to any work of the mark the semantic content of a form of presence which guari antees the movement of the text in general from the outside P 65 In these tantalizing hints of what a deconstructive materialism might involve Der rida suggests that we might understand matter through the gure of the text in general This gure depicts the opening up or over owing of any form of presence such that it becomes part of a limitless weave of forces or an endless process or movement of refer ral In contradistinction a metaphysical concept of matter regards materiality either as the endpoint of this movement of referral or as an external presence that sets off and secures this movement Matter as presence is the airestation of the text in general It is important to add here that this movement of referral is not the free play of autoreferentiality Der rida 39 I 39 such 39 quot by A 39 39 the importance of materialism as a philosophy of the outside It is important to understand the text as matter he emphasizes so as to prevent us from lapsing into a new idealism of the text as a self interiority without an outside For whether it is denigrated as contingent exteriority as in Hegelian idealism or celebrated as the actuality of sensuous corporeal existence as in Marxist materialism matter has always been the outside As Derrida puts it the concept ofmatter must be marked twice outside the oppositions in which it has been caught matterspirit matterideality matterform etc In the double writing of which we were just speaking the insistence on matter as the absolute exterior of opposition the materialist insistence seems to me neces7 sary In a very determined eld of the most current situation it seems to me that the materialist insistence can tnction as a means of having the necessary generalization ofthe concept of text its extension with no simple exterior limit not wind up as the de nition ofa new selfiinteriority a new idealism ofthe text P 66 Yet Derrida also warns us that this exteriority must not be thought in simple opposii tion to the inside A simple outside is complicit with the inside It is important to rememi ber here that the German word for object is Gegenstand that external thing that stands against the subject From a dialectical standpoint the outside qua objectis the negation of the inside qua subject But it can be negated in turn when the outside is recognized by the subject as nothing other than itself thereby allowing it to return back to itself in a moment of re ective internalization Or alternatively the outside can be posited as a reassuring external presence that anchors the subject and arrests its drifting the outside can always become again an object in the polarity subjectobject or the reassuring reality of whatis outside the text and there is sometimes an inside that is as troubling as the outside may be reassuring This is not to be overlooked in the critique of interiority and subjectivity P 67 To think of matter outside the oppositions that have imprisoned it therefore re quires us to think of matter outside opposition itself including the oppositions that most patently denote opposition the inside outside and subj ectobj ect pairs In its interde nability with text matter exceeds and confounds the oppositions be tween the positive and the negative the immediate and the mediated presence and its diacritics spring summer 2008 145 representation We have conventionally mistaken this materialist understanding of text for a form of linguistic constructionism because we have not framed it through the prob lem of time For the implied question here is why is it that matter is textiile or woven Why is it that any present being always over ows itself and intimates an absolute alter ity Derrida s point is that in order to be present any being must persist in time This means that the f orrn of the thingithat which makes it actual imust be identi able as the same throughout all possible repetitions But this iterability implies that any presence is in its very constitution always riven by a radical alterity that makes it impossible even as it makes it possible By de nition this alterity cannot be a form of presence Because it both gives and destabilizes presence it subjects presence to a strict law of radical con tamination Strictly speaking this force or dynamism if we can use these words is inhuman It is prior to any gure of human consciousness such as the subject reason or spirit and even practical action Nor does it issue from anthropologistic structures that are com monly viewed as constituting reality through negativity or mediation such as society culture or language In Derrida s view these are all forms of presence At the same time however the system of spacingalterity he suggests is an essential and indispensi able mechanism of dialectical mateiialism P 94 even though the dynamism of alterity contravenes the two key terms of dialectical materialism First it evades the dialectical moments of negation and position The nonphenomenality or nonpresence of the other is not an absence or negated presence but something that deviates from the op position presenceabsence negated presence P 95 A negated presence always holds out the possibility of sublation that returns one to presence By the same token the other also cannot be posed or positioned setzen since this would be to reduce its alterity to the same to an other that is posited by the subject as its other4 As Derrida puts it the positioniofitheiother in Hegelian dialectics is always nally to poseioneself by oneself as the other of the Idea as otherithanioneself in one s nite determination with the aim of repatriating and reappropriating oneself of returning close to oneself in the in nite richness of one s determination etc P 96 Second the other is also not material in a Marxist sense because within Marxist discourse body and matter are sensuous forms of presence or existence Derrida insists that no more than it is a form of presence other is not a being a determined being existence essence etc P 95 It would not be inappropriate to speak of deconstruction as a materialism of the other or more precisely as the thought of the materiality of the reference or relation to the other This relation to alterity is more material than matter as substance or presence because it is more fundamental or infrastructural so to speak since it constitutes matter as such Simply put Derrida s argument is that the very presence of matteriits persistence en durance or being in timeiis premised on there being such a thing as a true gift of time or which is the same thing a pure event As nite beings we cannot give ourselves time Under conditions of radical nitude where we cannot refer to an in nite presence that can give us time time can only be thought as the gift of an absolute other that is unprei sentable but that leaves a trace in the order of presence even as the phenomenalization appearance or presentation of the other is also its violation Similarly the very eventiness of an event consists in its not being identi ed recognized or anticipated in advance Something is not an event if we can tell when and from where it is or will be coming Hence the event and the gift can only be if they are entirely other if they come from the other They must therefore be understood through the gure of the impossible that which 4 I would even say that the alterity of the other inscribes in this relationship that which in no case can be posed 39nscription is not a simple position it is rather that by means ofwhich every position is of itself confounded diffe rance inscription mark text and not only thesis or themeiinscn39ption of the thesisquot 95796 we cannot imagine or gure within the realm of the possible They require the thought of an inappropriable other that must necessarily remain unappropriated For once the other that gives time and the event is appropriated then it is no longer other and there is no longer a gift or a pure event Although the impossible is not of the order of presence it is not without relation to concrete actuality since it constitutes it Indeed the impossible is curiously more mate rial and real than concrete actuality In his later writings Derrida repeatedly insists on the fundamental reality of this impossible relation to or coming of the other The deconstruction oflogocentrism of linguisticism of economism ofthe prop er ofthe atihome chezisoi oikos ofthe same etc as well as the a rmation of the impossible are always put forward in the name of the real ofthe irreduci ible reality of the realinot of the real as the attribute of the objective present perceptible or intelligible thing res but of the real as the coming or event of the other where the other resists all appropriation be it anaiontoiphenomenoi logical appropriation The real is this noninegative impossible this impossible coming or invention of the event the thinking of which is not an ontoiphenomi enology It is a thinking of the event singularity of the other in its unanticipati ible coming hic et nunc that resists reappropriation by an ontology or phenom enology of presence as such Nothing is more realist in this sense than a deconstruction It is whatiwhoiever happens ce qui arrive As If It Were Possible 367 trans modi ed This impossible coming of the other is not utopian It is a force of precipitation that is experienced as an eruption within the order of presence and that in turn forces the expei riencing subject to act The impossible Derrida writes gives their very movement to desire action and decision itis the very gure of the real It has its hardness closeness and urgency Not Utopia 131 For present purposes the desubstantialization of matter that occurs as a result of the deconstructive inscription of materiality as the impossible relation to the other has at least three practical 39 A quot 39 First it 39 the concepts of actuality Wirklichkeit and actualization Verwirklichung at the heart of Marxist materialism Where Marx op poses ghosts and specters such as those of ideology the commodity and the money form to the concrete actuality that is actualized by the material corporeal activity of labor Der rida argues that as instances of presence and objective existence concrete actuality and the work that effects it or brings it about are only possible because of a certain spectrality The very form of actuality and the form that material activity seeks to actualize are pre mised on their iterability and temporalization But because this iterability can only come from the absolutely other it breaks apart from within any actuality that is established as a fundamental ground or arche lterability inscribes the possibility of the reference to the other and thus of radical alterity and heterogeneity of differance of technicity and of ideality in the very event of presence in the presence of the present that it disijoins a priori in order to make it possible thus impossible in its identity or its contemporaneity with itself SM 75 Second this movement of desubstantializationithe survival or livingion of the form of a thingiis a paradoxical form of causality that yokes together what has been viewed as diarnetrical opposites in the history of Western philosophy automatism and autonomy We conventionally distinguish the automatism of the machine from free human action on the grounds that the former is a form of mindless mechanical causality and the latter is spontaneous and universal rationalipurposive activity Now the constitutive dislocation of the living present by iterability is precisely a freeing or independence from presence diacritics spring summer 2008 147 But this freedom is inhuman because it is prior to and exceeds the spontaneity of human practical reason What is at broached here Derrida notes is a certain materiality which is not necessarily a corporeality a certain technicity programming repetition or iteri ability a cutting off from or independence from any living subjectithe psychological sociological transcendental or even human subject Typewriter Ribbon 136 This materiality is a movement of freeing from the spontaneous rational subject It is thus para doxically a freedom prior to human freedom It is Derrida writes the contradiction of automatic autonomy mechanical freedom technical life SM 153 Indeed this materiality is even inorganic insofar as it is a scarring that threatens the teleological selfiretuin of the organism as a selfiorganizing proper body or organic total ity Derrida goes as far as to describe it as a machinistic materiality without materialism and even perhaps without matter TR 75776 Materiality in this sense has four charac7 teristics First as a very useful generic name for all that resists appropriation mate riality is not the body proper as an organic totality TR 154 Second it is marked by suspended reference repetition and the threat of mutilation TR 156 Third it exhibits a mechanical machinelike automatic independence in relation to any subject any subject of desire and its unconscious TR 157 Fourth it implies the values of the arbitrary the gratuitous the contingent the random and the fortuitous TR 158 In dialectical materialism the process of actualizing material reality is part of the epi genesis autoiproduction and autoimaintenance of the human corporeal organism as it creates the means of its own subsistence The proletaiian revolution is precisely creative labor s teleological process of appropriative return writ large on a worldihistorical stage Deconstructive materialism is a delimitation of organismic vitalism and its teleological understanding of history By attending to the machinic and spectral effects of iterability it accounts for the possibility of the supplementation of organic life by tech1e and the con tamination of living actuality by commodi cation ideology etc5 Indeed Derrida argues that the key concepts of dialectical materialism are no longer adequate for understanding the rhythms and speeds of contemporary technomediated reality because they deconi struct the opposition between the actual and the ideal or virtual The deconstruction of dialectical materialism is demonstrated today better than ever by the fantastic ghostly synthetic prosthetic virtual happenings in the scienti c domain and therefore the do main of technoimedia and therefore the public or political domain It is also made more manifest by what inscribes the speed of a virtuality irreducible to the opposition of the act and the potential in the space of the event in the eventiness of the event SM 63 Yet despite the scarring dislocation and tearing that it in icts on presence material ity in the deconstructive sense has a rigorously af rmative and generative character Be cause it refers us to the radically other materiality is also the opening of an unforeseeable future an divenir toicome that cannot be anticipated as a form of presence Despite his insistence that there was no ethicoipolitical turn in his work Derrida explored the ethicoi political implications of this messianic dimension of materiality as absolute alterity in his writings from the 1990s onward As If It Were Possible 360 Simply put since the other is that from which time comes the experience of absolute alterity however disrupi tive must be af rmed because without it nothing could ever happen An understanding of materiality in terms of negativity effaces this messianic dimension because by positing the other as the same it closes off the experience of radical alterity Materiality as the rational subject s experience of alterity puts into question the clas7 sical distinction between dynamis and energeia the potential and the actual that under 5 For a ller discussion of the comections and di erences between deconstruction and Althusser s attempt to break away from dialectical materialism in his aleatory materialism or the materialism ofthe encounter see Balibar w1ites our canonical understanding of power and action For matter as dynamis has ali ways been thought under the concept of possibility It is potentiality as opposed to the act or energeia that actualizes what is merely potential makes the potential actually existing by giving it a de ning form In the Aristotelian subordination of potentiality to actuality dynamis is what is merely virtual or potential but it is also power or potency ability ca pacity and faculty Vermo39gen Kra and therefore also sheer possibility In the German philosophical tradition to which Marx belongs the opposition is sublated in the idea of selfiactivity or selfiactualization of a power or potentiality that can continually make it self real or actual This power is deemed to reside in the form of the human subject as the negation of the mere matter that nature gives us whether negativity is conceived as the capacity of the concept to externalize itself in objective existence or as labor powerithe capacity to work and produce the means of subsistence by actualizing ends in matter In this case dynamis is also the virtuality of the purposive image what is possible for the subject to actualize through activity as long as it can be imagined or gured as an ideal form or image What is at stake is possibility as the power of an I can or I am able to It can have many permutations For instance in the vital organic body living matter is endowed with the capacity of selfiorganization Or in the case of performativity a set of norms or conventions establishes a range of possibilities for the subject that can contest this set of norms even as the power of the subject is secured by this set of norms In quot 39 39 the 39 of materiality indicates aforce that is impossible something not yet and no longer of the order of presence and the pos7 sible The im7 possible announces itself it precedes me swoops down upon and seizi es me here and now in a nonvirtualizable way in actuality and not potentiality It comes upon me from on high in the form of an injunction that does not simply wait on the horizon that do not see coming that never leaves me in peace and never lets me put it off until later Such an urgency cannot be idealized any more than the other as other can The impossible is thus not a regulative idea or ideal It is what is most undeniably real And sensible Like the other Like the irreducible and inappropriable di e rance ofthe other Rogues 84 This weak force can be characterized through three motifs rst it implies a constitutive heteronomy or nitude that derives from the structural openness of any material being to the gift of time or the pure event Second itis a structure of precipitation and urgency that prevents an inde nite deferral of the actualization of the potential Third since it comes from outside the capability or power of the subject it is a fundamental passivity But this passivity is not opposed to activity because it stimulates the activity of the subject as a response It forces us to act What must be thought here then is this inconceivable and unknowable thing a freedom that would no longer be the power of a subject a freedom without autonomy a heteronomy without servitude in short something like a passive de cision We would thus have to rethink the philosophemes of decision of that foundational couple activity and passivity as well as potentiality and actuality R 152 In Deriida s View the experience of absolute alterity is the origin of normativity imi perativity and responsibility Such ethicoipolitical phenomena arise in situations where we encounter and respond to the inappropriable other who gives us actuality For ex ample the undertaking of calculative legal decisions is propelled by our experience of an incalculable justice that escapes all rule Or a truly responsible decision must break with the order of knowledge and undergo the ordeal of the undecidable because a decision that follows a rule of knowledge is a mere technics and therefore irresponsible The expeiii ence of alterity is essentially the urgent force of any rational decision and action that diacritics spring summer 2008 149 cannot be reduced to the mastery or sovereignty of the rational subject It makes every decision originaiily passive Derrida explains it as follows The passive decision condition of the event is always in me structurally an other event a rending decision asthe decision ofthe other Ofthe absolute other in me the other as the absolute that decides on me in me I decide I make up my mind in all sovereignty ithis would mean the other than myself the me as other and other than myself he makes or I make an exception of the same K nowledge is necessary if one is to assume responsibility but the decisive or deciding moment of responsibility supposes a leap by which an act takes off ceasing in that instant to follow the consequence ofwhat isithat is ofthat which can be determined by science or consciousnessiand thereby frees itself this is what is called freedom by the act of its act of what is therefore heterogeneous to it that is knowledge In sum a decision is unconsciousiinsane as that may seem it involves the unconscious and nevertheless remains responsible It is this act of the act that we are attempting here to think passive delivered over to the other Politics ofFriendship 16 In other words the force of materiality is nothing other than the constitutive expo sure of the subject of power to the other For if the freedom of the rational subject comes inas its response to the other then decision is promptedby and also comes from the other It is therefore in the original instance passive and unconscious not active and conscious unlike the sovereign decision of exception Schmitt and the deliberation of public reason Habermas The force in question is not a counterpower that can be deployed against a given state of power It is not the dispersal of power into a mobile eld of relations be tween micropowers Foucault It is instead the constitutive exposure of power as such which has been conventionally thought in terms of the circular economy of appropriation or the returnitoiself of selfimastery to what makes it vulnerable and defenseless As the undoing of the power of the subject the force of materiality carmot lead to a political program Indeed it is what resists and confounds any teleology such as that of Marxism and even any purposive or endioriented action that is based on rational calculations or the projection of an ideal end But as that which opens power up unconditionally to the other this force also has a messianic dimension It aporetically implies an absolute or incalculable hospitality to the other that demands a response in which we calculate with given conditions in order to act in a responsible manner 2 Material Forces ofNonorganic Life Deleuze Derrida s understanding of the force of materiality is very close to but also very far from Gilles Deleuze s account of matter as the power of nonorganic life This concluding sec tion brie y discusses various points of touching and three areas of divergence between their conceptions of materiality Deleuze s account of matter arises from a trenchant crii tique of the Hegelian reduction of difference to dialectical negation and contradiction Deleuze argues that if we understand being and the genesis of the world in terms of negativity we have fundamentally misunderstood the nature of thought and its relation to being by fettering both within the prison of consciousness We take consciousness as a starting point and regard thought as an attribute or power that consciousness deploys in its encounter with what is outside it The outside is what is different from and opposed to consciousness By means of propositions consciousness duplicates represents or medii ates the outside so that it can resolve this difference By negating the outside it can grasp 150 it with apodictic certainty Deleuze argues that viewing the difference between conscious ness and the outside in terms of opposition and negation begs the question of the genesis of both consciousness and the outside by an af rmative power of difference This af rmai tive difference cannot be reduced to negation because it is prior to consciousness and the objects and things consciousness confronts In Deleuze s words negation is difference but difference seen from its underside seen from below Seen the right way upfrom top to bottom difference is affirmation It is not the negative which is the motor Negation results from affirmation this means that negation arises in the wake of affirmation or beside it but only as the shadow of the more profound genetic elementiof that power or will which engenders the affirmation and the difference in the affirmation Those who bear the negative know not what they do they take the shadow for the reality they encourage phantoms they uncouple consequences from premises and they give epiphenomena the value of phenomena and essences Difference and Repetition This af rmative power of difference is the key principle of Deleuze s ontology of chance Being Deleuze suggests is a matter of absolute chance because we do not know what it is and why there is being Being is repeatedly constituted each and every time by events of chance the at of creation that are projectiles of being throws of the dice that give rise to different singularities or commencements These events of chance have the form of questions and imperatives Ideas or problems arise in response to this clarnor of Be ing An idea or problem is an in nite eld of continuity that is opened up by a speci c projectile of being Hence instead of being an attribute of a thinking substance ideas are the neuralgic points where the I is fractured The imperatives of and questions with which we are inf used do not emanate from the I it is not even there to hear them The imperatives are those ofbeing while every question is ontological and distributes that which is among problems Ontology is the dice throw the chaosmos from which the cosmos emerges If the imperatives ofBeing have a relation with the I it is with the fractured I in which every time they displace and reconstitute the fracture according to the order of time Consequently far from being the properties or attributes of a thinking substance the Ideas which derive from imperatives enter and leave only by that fracture in the I which means that another always thinks in me another who must also be thought DR 1997200 Put another way ideas do not emanate from us They are responses to Being But since Being is absolute chance it carmot be a simple origin or individuality from which the singularities of being issue through repeated throws Instead one must think Being itself as a repetition of singularities the reprise or recommencement of being The diff ference that characterizes being qua singularity would then issue from or be emitted by an originary repetition or difference DR 200701 This movement of originary repetition and difference is not yet a being or an existent But this nonbeing is not negative since this would imply something derived from a prior being Nonbeing corresponds instead to the continuous eld of anidea When we de ne this nonbeing as a negative we reduce it to the propositional language of consciousness and obscure the complexity of the prob lem as a eld formed from an imperative of Being In Deleuze s words the negative is an illusion no more than the shadow of problems The form of negation appears 6 Deleuze derives this a irmative conception of difference in part from Nietzsche Is concept of the eternal return diacritics spring summer 2008 151 with propositions which express the problem on which they depend only by distorting it and obscuring its real structure DR 202 This originary difference is positive but its positivity is not a simple unity It is a multiplicity that escapes the opposition between the One and the many because the multiple is not the mere fragmentation of the One into the many As we have seen Derrida also broke away from dialectical negation through the thought of an originary movement of difference iterabilitydi e rance But whereas for Derrida originary difference intimates a radical alterity that is not of the order of presence and actuality and thus is neither negative nor positive Deleuze characterizes the move ment of originary difference as a transcendental eld or which is the same thing a plane of immanence that generates actuality An idea denotes a continuous eld or plane that contains all ideal distinctions that is the positive ground of any actual concrete being To understand any speci c emission of singular being we must refer rst of all to this eld of ideal differentiations all the varieties of differential relations and all the distributions of singular points coexisting in diverse orders perplicated in one another DR 206 It is important to emphasize here that these ideal differentiations are not imposed by human rational consciousness They precede consciousness but also any concrete phenomenon or object of appearance Actualization is the process by which objects are formed from these differential relations Here the differentiations become concretely speci ed and are incarnated in distinct species while the singular points which correspond to the values of one variety are incarnated in the distinct parts characteristic of this or that species DR 206 In other words actualization is the cutting up of this continuous eld by real relations and concrete settings such that the ideal differentiations are further determined This coupure generates an actual being or given object As Deleuze puts it actualization is the production of nite engendered af rmations which bear upon the actual terms which occupy these places and positions and upon the real relations which incarnate these relations and these functions DR 207 In a strictly Kantian terminology this plane of originary difference is nournenal insofar as it is the groun that generates all appearances or phenomena all things that are given to us But unlike nournenality in the Kantian sense namely the thingiiniitself that is merely possible and thinkable difference is a structure a real eld of relations Hence difference Deleuze points out is that by which the given is given as diverse Difference is not phenomenon but the noumenon closest to the phenomenon DR 222 This eld of differences is transcendental in the sense that it is the ground of genesis and the real condition of possibility of the actual However this transcendental eld Deleuze argues cannot be de ned in terms of a subject or even a pure stream of im7 mediate consciousness because the intentional subject and any object it intends is not foundational The subject is generated from this transcendental eld which is comprised of preindividual and impersonal singularities Singularities he notes are the true trani scendental events Far from being individual or personal singularities preside over the genesis of individuals and persons they are distributed in a potential which adrnits neither Self nor 1 but which produces them by actualizing or realizing itself although the gures of this actualization do not at all resemble the realized potential 7 Because the transcendental is now no longer connected to the subject or person or even to a pure stream of an immediate consciousness it is also a plane of immanence Deleuze uses this phrase to denote a limitless eld that cannot be contained or conditioned by something else First the plane of immanence is immanent because it is coextensive with actual ex istence But it is not contained within or reducible to actual existence because it generates 7ForDeleuzesaccountof1 47439 439 39 39 39 from consciousness and his critique of the entire tradition of German idealism including Husseri lian phenomenology see The Logic of Sense 9amp110 34344n5 and ImmanenceA Life quot 25728 The quoted passage is from The Logic of Sense 103 152 eaanrangows Maber sound engmeer Spam February 1999 Demda and J it But second andmore important instead of being an attribute of some other thing that is transcendent immanence as a plane is absolute It is always implicated in or inheres only in itself Deleuze notes that it is only when immanence is no longer immanence to anything other than itself that we can speak of a plane of immanence lmmanence 26 We saw earlier that Derrida characterized materiality as a weak messianic force that exceeds the A 39 39 quot quot r 39 39 and that renders power def fenseless Deleuze s account of originary difference as a plane of immanence leads to a different account of the quot 39J He quot 39 39 the quot 39J from the merely possible by arguing that the idea as a eld of differential relations is real and determined and not merely abstract and potential8 The reality of the virtual is that of a completely de termined structure that is formed from genetic differential elements and relations and the singular points corresponding to these relations DR 209 Every real object has a virtual content The process of actualization further differenciates and determines this virtual content according to actual conditions The virtual must be de ned as strictly a part of the real objectias though the object had one part of itself in the virtual into which it is plunged as though into an objective dimension DR 209 We can understand the virtual as the set of speeds and intensities that generate an actual object The relation between the actual object and the virtual is therefore twofold On the one hand the actual object is the accomplished absorption and destruction of the Virtuals that surround it On the other hand the actual object also emits or creates virtuals since the process of actualization brings the object back into relation with the eld of differential relations in which it can always be dissolved and become actualized otherwise as something else by being linked through other differential relations to other particles Deleuze s distinction of reality into actual and virtual parts fore grounds the funda7 mental play of chance and difference in the actualization of an object In the classical distinctions between the possible and the real the ideal and concrete existence the real or the concretely existing is in arelation of resemblance to the possible or the ideal The real is a mere duplication of the ideal and indeed a de cient copy Or the possible is regarded as defective because its actualization requires a leap into existence In contradistinction the power of the virtual is not merely that of a preexisting possibility whose actualizai tion is predetermined and limited by the process of duplication or resemblance The ac tualization of the virtual is instead a genuine creation of something that corresponds to singularities and differential relations but does not resemble the virtual As Deleuze puts it the actualization of the virtual always takes place by difference divergence or differenciation Actualization breaks with resemblance as a process no less than it does with identity as a principle Actual terms never resemble the singularities they incarnate Actualization creates divergent lines which correspond toiwithout resemblingia virtual multiplicity DR 212 In actualization the relation between the actual object and the virtual is that of an im7 mersion andor propulsion from a eld of differential relations Deleuze s favorite image for this generative propulsion from the transcendental eld or plane of immanence is that of a falling fruit The actualization of the virtual is singularity whereas the actual itself is individuality constituted The actual falls from the plane like a fruit whilst actualizai tion relates it back to the plane as if to that which turns the object back into a subject AV 149750 To relate the fruit back to its ground of genesis is to acknowledge that each 1 8 Note that in German idealism the virtualideal is seen as synonymous with what is merely possible since ideas are principles of reason rather than objects The idea is then opposed to the actual which is synonymous with the real Deleuze loosens the identi cation of the actual with the real and expands the real to include the virtual as a power 9 For afuller 7 1 quot film 39 39 39 39 39 39 d 7 N 7 see Deleuze The Actual and the Virtualquot 148752 154


Buy Material

Are you sure you want to buy this material for

25 Karma

Buy Material

BOOM! Enjoy Your Free Notes!

We've added these Notes to your profile, click here to view them now.


You're already Subscribed!

Looks like you've already subscribed to StudySoup, you won't need to purchase another subscription to get this material. To access this material simply click 'View Full Document'

Why people love StudySoup

Steve Martinelli UC Los Angeles

"There's no way I would have passed my Organic Chemistry class this semester without the notes and study guides I got from StudySoup."

Kyle Maynard Purdue

"When you're taking detailed notes and trying to help everyone else out in the class, it really helps you learn and understand the I made $280 on my first study guide!"

Bentley McCaw University of Florida

"I was shooting for a perfect 4.0 GPA this semester. Having StudySoup as a study aid was critical to helping me achieve my goal...and I nailed it!"


"Their 'Elite Notetakers' are making over $1,200/month in sales by creating high quality content that helps their classmates in a time of need."

Become an Elite Notetaker and start selling your notes online!

Refund Policy


All subscriptions to StudySoup are paid in full at the time of subscribing. To change your credit card information or to cancel your subscription, go to "Edit Settings". All credit card information will be available there. If you should decide to cancel your subscription, it will continue to be valid until the next payment period, as all payments for the current period were made in advance. For special circumstances, please email


StudySoup has more than 1 million course-specific study resources to help students study smarter. If you’re having trouble finding what you’re looking for, our customer support team can help you find what you need! Feel free to contact them here:

Recurring Subscriptions: If you have canceled your recurring subscription on the day of renewal and have not downloaded any documents, you may request a refund by submitting an email to

Satisfaction Guarantee: If you’re not satisfied with your subscription, you can contact us for further help. Contact must be made within 3 business days of your subscription purchase and your refund request will be subject for review.

Please Note: Refunds can never be provided more than 30 days after the initial purchase date regardless of your activity on the site.