Bergson and Univocity
by Beth Metcalf

Bergson says that experience gives us only composite mixtures and differences in degree. With the “badly analyzed composite” given in experience, the mixture of recollection-images and perception-images are different only in degree and not in kind. However, Intuition as a method takes us beyond the possibilities of experience to the conditions of real experience. The method of Intuition gives us a moment of ‘dualism’ that differs in kind, not just in degree. This is not the oppositional dualism of composite experience. Rather, it is a moment of ‘dualism’ that divides representation in general into two lines that differ in kind. When a composite is decomposed by the intuitive method, there are two types of multiplicity. One is Space which is homogeneous, discontinuous, and actual difference in degree. It is perception in space that puts us at once into matter. The other is Duration which is heterogeneous, continuous, and virtual difference in kind. It is memory of past preserved in duration that puts us at once into the mind. All real difference is on the side of duration. Therefore, although there is a point within composite experience that gives us only mixtures and difference in degree, beyond the turn in experience is a moment of ‘dualism’ (difference in kind). And, beyond that is a point of convergence in the virtual where dualism rediscovers monism. In this moment of ‘monism’ we rediscover the point where the lines intersect again, not in the composite in which they started, but in a virtual point that is the sufficient reason for the composite---the condition of real experience.

Therefore, Representational thought gives us the homogeneity of “false problems” and “badly analyzed composites” that differ only in degree and never reach difference in kind at all. Bergson says it is only with the heterogeneity of the Method of Intuition that the sufficient reason for an actualized composite is found on the other side of the turn in experience. This is, therefore, the ‘transcendental empiricism’ that we always find with Deleuze’s Univocity. The transcendental condition of experience is never found within our experience. It is the virtual which is actualized in experience. Virtual-transcendental conditions account for all real differences of duration which become actualized. Each actualization finds its sufficient reason on the other side---the virtual side---of the turn in experience. Each actualization is generated from a real difference in kind that can never be found in the mere possibilities of experience. Each actualization is really different from any other.

Deleuze says it is this virtual-transcendental condition that allows Bergson to give Einstein’s scientific Theory of Relativity the metaphysical foundation it lacked. Bergson knew that the condition for Einstein’s scientific theory cannot be found inside our empirical experience. A transcendentalism that merely resembles experience cannot account for experience. Rather, we must find the transcendental conditions of real experience. We must reach a ‘transcendental empiricism’.

Bergson criticizes Einstein’s Theory of Relativity for merely introducing another way of spatializing time. Einstein says there can be two systems that are not of the same time. Each frame of reference sees the other as a different time. But what is this other time? Both systems are held in the symbolic identity of the concept of spatialized time. The two systems can differ only quantitatively. If time is held within a conceptual identity of spatialized time, there can be no real difference in kind. The other time cannot be lived as different. Bergson says, paradoxically, there can be no real difference in lived duration unless time is ontologically singular virtuality. There can be no other time as another one of many durations. For Bergson, only a single time can account for the virtual multiplicity of real difference in kind. Duration is virtual coexistence of all degrees of a single time. Bergson integrates duration into space as sufficient reason for that which is actualized in extension. The virtual point is the sufficient reason in duration that becomes actualized. There is extensity in duration. There is duration in matter. The two lines of repetition---the two multiplicities---the virtual-real multiplicity and the actual-numerical multiplicity---intersect and interpenetrate. Extensity becomes qualified by the contractions that become expanded in it. There are numbers enclosed in qualities. Intensities are included in duration. Memory is difference in kind, matter is repetition in degree. Between the two lines are all degrees of difference and all nature of difference. Duration is the most contracted degree of matter. Matter is the most expanded degree of duration. There is no longer dualism between difference in degree and difference in nature. All coexist in monism. All levels of expansion and contraction coexist in the virtual singularity that is all real difference.

Therefore, just as Univocity says being in one sense, so does Bergsonism live time in one sense. And that of which being is said, or time is lived, is the difference of real distinction---of real difference in kind. If time is merely a fourth dimension of space, as Einstein says, then we still have a merely spatialized-time. There can be no real difference in time at all. Bergson says that Einstein’s theory merely finds another way of spatializing time---of conceptually symbolizing relative difference in degree in a way that cannot be lived as difference. For Einstein’s Relativity Theory, different reference frames are merely relative to a totalizable structure of space-time. Therefore, Bergson tries to give a metaphysical foundation for Einstein’s theory. That is, a ‘transcendental empirical’ philosophy must be the foundation for scientific theory. A scientific theory is an actualization of a virtual ontology. Science is the actual, numerical, and discontinuous multiplicity of space.  Philosophy is the virtual, continuous, and qualitative multiplicity of duration.  The intersection of these two types of multiplicities is necessary to give science its philosophical foundation.  

Therefore, Bergson says that there cannot be multiple times that could be totalized into one symbolic unity. That would be merely the multiple/one opposition that Univocity overcomes with its concept of multiplicity. If there were multiple durations, then there would be one symbolic or conceptual spatialized time to which all durations would be relative. Only with Univocity can there be multiplicity. Only with Univocity can there be One time lived in All durations of real difference. There is no multiple/one opposition. Rather, there are two types of multiplicity that interpenetrate in the One-All. At the level of virtual multiplicity, with its interpenetrating contractions, duration cannot divide without changing in kind. At the level of numerical-actual multiplicity, matter divides without changing its nature. The two lines of repetition intersect as the virtual is actualized. Between the two lines of repetition all degrees of difference and all nature of difference are said/lived in one sense.

For Deleuze’s Bergsonism, duration is lived in the sense of a single time, but it is the real difference of rhythms of duration. That is, there is monism of time. But this monism of single time is not at all inconsistent with the pluralism of really distinct rhythms of duration. Only when there is “dualism” of real difference in kind, can there be divergent lines of contraction in a “monism” of time. The real differences of contracted rhythms of duration become inserted into matter to be actualized/individuated differently. Each actualization is really different from any other actualization. Each actualization is open onto ontological duration. Monism rediscovers dualism generated as it is actualized. Movement is explained by duration inserted into matter. On the one hand, space (difference in degree) is homogeneous and discontinuous. On the other hand, duration (difference in kind) is internal succession that is heterogeneous and continuous. These are two types of multiplicity. Things have a rhythm of duration that is a way of being in time. Things differ in kind from other things and from themselves.

Duration is not merely psychological experience, but our insertion into the ontology of things. (Bergsonism p. 37) “It [duration] is a case of a “transition,” of a “change,” a becoming, but it is a becoming that endures, a change that is substance itself.” So, we see that virtual duration is single Substance (monism) that is real difference, because it is “dualism” as difference in kind. The real difference, the real distinction of the dualistic tendencies of difference in kind IS the ontologically single Substance (duration). Therefore, just as Spinoza’s Univocity is ontologically single Substance that is, itself, real distinction (i.e., real distinction in the parallelism of attributes and powers); so is Bergson’s thought a “monism” of contracted Substance (virtual duration) that is, itself, the “dualism” of real difference in kind. Bergson’s moment of “dualism” is the real difference that allows interpenetrating contractions within the “monism” of duration. Monism and dualism are both together in duration lived in a single sense. There is harmony of dualism (difference in kind) and monism (degrees of expansion-contraction). This harmony gives us the “pluralism” (including both generalized and limited) of all real difference lived in the sense of one Time.

Therefore, just as Spinoza’s attributes are thought and extension that together qualify new forms; so also does Bergson’s “intelligence” (B 88-9) distinguish form and sense.  Form is expanded (or extended) in matter at the same time that its sense (expression of thought) is contracted in new uses of matter in a new qualified form of scientific reference.  Neither Spinoza's attributes nor Bergson’s intelligence presuppose an order of matter according to categories of possible experience.  “Intelligence is contracted in matter at the same time matter is expanded in duration….”   

Therefore, for Bergson (as it is for Univocity) all real distinction IS the ontological singularity of virtuality. The virtual is not to be confused with the possible. The possible is in the image of the real. The possible is merely realized in the homogeneity of resemblance. For Bergson, there is not the realization of the possible, but the actualization of the virtual. The actual does not resemble the virtual. The virtual is distributed in lines that can’t be summed up. Divergent lines that coexist in the virtual cease to coexist in the actual. Each actualization retains the whole, but from a certain perspective. But an actualized perspective is not to be confused with a perspective that is merely a realized possibility of a totalized concept. Duration is the virtual Whole that becomes actualized by divergent lines. But these lines do not form a whole and do not resemble what they actualize. Actualization is always creation of something new. Actualization is, each time, the differentiation of the virtual whole, but from a perspective. Each actualized perspective IS, itself, a really different world of space-time. Each actualization is a differentiated perspective of the non-totalizable virtual whole. There can be no totalizable whole between or among different actualizations, because they are incommensurable actualized perspectives of a non-totalizable virtual. Therefore, we see that there is not the relativity of perspectives within a unified space-time concept. Rather, there is real difference of duration in each perspective of spatialized-time. All really different actualizations live time in one sense. It is because all actualizations are lived in the singular sense of one time, that they can be really different rhythms of duration.

Therefore, the composite dualisms of multiple/one opposition are not to be confused with multiplicity. For Deleuze's Bergson, monism is not opposed to pluralism. There is not the alternative: either monism or pluralism. Monism no longer sees the many as mere illusion. Pluralism is no longer merely the diversity of a totalizing Unity. Bergson’s “dualism” of difference in kind is not to be confused with the negative oppositional dualisms of Representational thinking. Nor is Bergson’s ‘monism’ to be confused with a self-identical concept or the unity of a symbolic spatialized-time. Bergson’s ‘monism’ (consistent with the Univocity of Time) is the one that is all real difference in kind. Bergson’s ‘pluralism’ (multiplicity of duration) is the virtual coexistence of all real difference in one time. Monism is pluralism. Univocity is multiplicity. Therefore, Univocity is not opposed to multiplicity. Univocity is not to be confused with the one opposed to the multiple. Rather, Univocity IS multiplicity.

(‘What is Philosophy’ p.152) “There must be at least two multiplicities, two types, from the outset.  This is not because dualism is better than unity but because the multiplicity is precisely what happens between the two.”

However, Deleuze never refers to Bergsonism as Univocity. I believe this is because Deleuze sees Univocity as constituted by three syntheses. Bergson never reaches the third synthesis. (Just as Hume is Deleuze’s influence for the first synthesis, Bergson is an influence for the first and second. Neither Hume nor Bergson reaches the Univocity that requires all three syntheses.) Bergson reaches only the actualization of the virtual. He never reaches the third synthesis of counter-actualization---the synthesis of the eternal return. Bergsonism is movement-image that does not reach the time-image.

Return to Home Page