Levi Bryant’s ‘Difference and Givenness’

by Beth Metcalf


Throughout this website I have attempted to show that, if we are to begin to understand Deleuze’s univocity, we must get beyond the structural relations of traditional structuralism.  In this article I use Levi Bryant’s ‘Difference and Givenness’ to illustrate why I think this is so.  Bryant and I both read Deleuze and use his terms, but we read Deleuze’s terminology in very different senses.  I contend that Bryant cannot understand Deleuze because he thinks in terms of the structural relations of traditional structuralism. 


Bryant says (DG58), “A multiplicity is neither one nor multiple….”  Of course, that is what Deleuze tells us.  Multiplicity is not one or many.  But then, on the next page, Bryant explains what he thinks that means.  “Perhaps the best way to think of multiplicities is in terms of the concept of structure….the idea of a set of elements characterized only in terms of their relations to other elements or in terms of relational identities…structure is the immanence of elements with respect to one another in relations of reciprocal conditioning.”  Therefore, Bryant says that Deleuze’s ‘multiplicity’ is the structural relations of extensive elements.  He does not seem to notice that he remains in the oppositional structure of the many and the one. He says, “Insofar as the elements are all mutually dependent upon one another for their being, we cannot say that a structure is many.”  [But insofar as that is the case, we can say structure is one.]  Bryant continues…. “However, insofar as the structure consists of a set of ordered relations and elements which are in some sense distinct, we also cannot say that the structure is one.”  [But insofar as that is the case, we can say it is many.]  In any case, despite this sleight of hand, Bryant does not avoid the many and the one.


Of course, Bryant reads Deleuze from the perspective of a structuralist.  He sees the positional relations of structure as the condition of empirical space-time relations, not the reverse.  However, as I intend to show, his transcendental condition still resembles the empirical because both belong to the plane of the already actual (the possible).  Therefore, Bryant’s relations of structure occupy the representative plane of extensive difference, actual and discontinuous.  He never reaches the transcendental source that is the sub-representative plane of intensive difference, virtual and continuous.  Because his structural relations are already actual, he cannot reach real difference in kind that has its source on the sub-representative plane of the virtual.  All his relations are internal possibility of already actual formed-matter.  He never reaches the transcendental real-virtual source of actualizations.  He never reaches the sub-representative plane that does not resemble its actualizations.  Bryant’s structural relations restrict him to only one closed structure of formed-matter, however infinitely variable that structure may be.  Since his structural relations are closed off from their sub-representative source, he never reaches Deleuze’s sense of ‘multiplicity’, but remains stuck in a one/many opposition.  Because his structuralism never reaches the virtual plane, he can never reach the actualizations of the virtual either.       


Deleuze’s univocity is the intersection of two types of multiplicity.  There is the intersection of all real distinction of kind with all degrees of modal-numerical distinction.  However, Bryant’s structuralism restricts him to only one plane of actual relations.  He excludes Deleuze’s virtual-real plane that is the transcendental source of every numerically distinct degree of every real difference in kind.  Bryant cannot reach the individuated singularity that is the intersection of both planes---the intersection of two types of multiplicity.  Since he is restricted to one relational structure of spatialized time, Bryant cannot reach the actualization of another really different structure.  He never reaches the intersection of multiplicities that individuate singularity, because he does not reach the pre-individual source. 


When Bryant says (DG 59), “…structure is the immanence of elements with respect to one another in relations of reciprocal conditioning”, he can see this only as reciprocal conditioning of extensive relations within one structure.  This has nothing to do with Deleuze’s sub-representative transcendental source where intensive events are distributed in reciprocal series---where concept and percept are reciprocally determined each time---to be actualized in a new empirical spatio-temporal world of real difference each time.  Without the sub-representative plane of intensive forces, structuralism never reaches the double articulation of real distinction (content and expression).  Structuralism remains on the extensive plane of coupling (form and substance) where there is no real distinction, since substances are nothing other than already formed matter (‘A Thousand Plateaus’ p.44).  Bryant’s structuralism remains on the closed plane of representation---one closed plane of formed matter.  He never reaches the heterogeneous conditions of real experience, multiplicity, or univocity. 


Bryant’s “transcendental-virtual” and “empirical-sensible” are both on the plane of the already actual.  Therefore, his “transcendental-empiricism” can only reach the conditions of possible experience.  His ‘transcendentalism’ maintains the form of a given diversity.  It never reaches disparate difference of intensity (see Difference & Repetition p.222), because it never reaches the plane of the ‘virtual-real’.  This is still the “transcendentalism” that is traced from the empirical experience of already formed matter.  Bryant says, (DG64) “In other words, we are entitled to say that transcendental empiricism is the experience of experience producing experience, on the condition that we understand that the term experience here plays on two registers of signification, between experience as transcendental lived condition, and experience as the given diversity of the sensible.”  But how does this differ from that ‘transcendentalism’ that traces the transcendental from the empirical?  The two registers still resemble each other.  Given diversity resembles that by which the given is given.  The transcendental lived condition resembles the sensible experience of the lived.  Since Bryant restricts himself to the actual plane of already formed matter, his structuralism still traces the transcendental from the empirical.    


Bryant says (DG67-8), “Consequently, we can say that the object, the theme, the thing which the concept is identical to is not what is given in experience, but is rather the essence or style functioning as the principle of that experience or world.”  That is, Bryant says there is a transcendental principle of experience---a transcendental essence.  But how does this differ from that ‘transcendentalism’ that presupposes a principle of possibility?  Bryant’s answer seems to be (DG68) “A style or essence is what we might refer to as an identity of difference, or an identity produced through difference.  It is not a type or kind, but rather a rule of production, a genetic factor.  It is an identity that maintains itself through topological variations.  It is for this reason that we speak of morphological essences or diagrams of becoming.”  So, he is saying that there is one identity that remains the same through the many variations.  Or again (DG68-9), “In this respect, topological thought is similar to Husserlian free variation, with the difference that the aim here is not to discover the invariant essence without which the being could not be what it is, but rather to see what sorts of variations a set of singularities is able to undergo while maintaining a structural identity.”  So, Bryant’s structure of relations is the possibilities that singularities are able to undergo while maintaining identity.  His “difference” must maintain sameness through all its possibilities.  Bryant finds merely the conditions of possible, not the real, experience.  Bryant’s transcendental can only act as a principle of possibility toward sameness.  He falls into the “danger” of confusing the virtual with the possible (D&R211.)    


However, when Deleuze sees the Other-structure in ‘Tournier and the World Without Others’, he is not talking about an actual structure that would resemble an image of something already possible.  Rather, he is talking about a structure of the virtual (that cannot be imagined) on the other plane.  Now the ‘Other’ is “possible” in a new sense.  It is “possible” as the expression of a world that does not actually exist outside its expression.  (Logic of Sense 307) “The terrified countenance bears no resemblance to the terrifying things.”  Therefore, Deleuze’s structure is not Bryant’s structure as (DG68) “style”, or an “essence”, or “identity of difference”, or “an identity produced through difference”.  Rather, Deleuze’s structure is difference-in-itself. 


Bryant describes his sense of Deleuze’s ‘eternal return’ (DG182).  But, being restricted to the closed plane of the actual, Bryant says, “It is not that the categories of the Same, Similar, and the Identical disappear from Deleuze’s thought; rather, it is that these properties are produced as effect, and primarily as effects of the differential genetic factors.”  So, Bryant’s “genetic factors” produce the Same and Identical. His "difference" is merely a function of sameness. The only possible "differences" are those which produce Identity. His "difference" is mediated by the principle of conceptual identity. He sees merely 'conceptual difference' (D&R288).  There is only “genesis” of the same principle of essential structure.  There can be no real genesis, because his closed structure precludes any real difference.  In contrast, when we reach Deleuze’s two types of multiplicity, we reach the eternal return of becoming in a real genesis of difference.  Only with Deleuze’s univocity do we reach real distinction said in the same sense.  With Deleuze’s univocity there is no longer opposition between structure and genesis, as there is with traditional structuralism.


Bryant says (DG72) “…the subject itself is a temporal determination in a continuity between subjects and objects.”  Therefore, Bryant’s “topological” approach describes what Deleuze and Guattari call the “infinite subjective representation” of structuralism.  (‘Anti-Oedipus’ 305-6) “We should understand that representation, when it ceases to be objective, when it becomes subjective infinite—that is to say, imaginary---effectively loses all consistency, unless it is supported by a structure that determines the place and the functions of the subject of representation, as well as the objects represented as images, and the formal relations between them all.”  This infinite subjective representation of structuralism is restricted to the plane of extensive structural relations.  There is still a subject with mutually adapting faculties hinged into relations of a structure.  Structural possibilities maintain identity throughout infinite variability.  Structuralism may see arbitrary denotation and manifestation.  But signification still must maintain identity throughout this “arbitrary” variability. 


Bryant’s “morphological” or “topological” continuity is still ‘infinite representation’ (subjective rather than objective) that Deleuze, even prior to his writings with Guattari, always rejected.  Deleuze said (‘Difference & Repetition’ 209), “The reality of the virtual is structure.  We must avoid giving the elements and relations which form a structure an actuality which they do not have, and withdrawing from them a reality which they do have.”  Bryant’s extensive relations, on the plane of the actual, give structure an actuality it does not have.  Since he never reaches the plane of real-virtual forces of intensive unformed matter, he withdraws from structure a reality it does have. 


Infinite representation (whether objective or subjective) is the infinite variability of a constant relation---of one form-matter coupling.  No matter how infinitely variable it is, there is no real distinction.  There is no real genesis of continuous variation* at all, because it is restricted to the actual plane of the discrete and discontinuous.  Opposing elements must maintain a constant principle of relation throughout all variability.  However infinite that form of variability may be, it is still the many elements in the constant relation of one structure.  In contrast, Deleuze’s Idea of variation (D&R173) “integrates variation, not as a variable determination of a supposedly constant relation (‘variability’) but, on the contrary, as a degree of variation of the relation itself (‘variety’)….If the Idea eliminates variability, this is in favour of what must be called variety or multiplicity.”  Therefore, if we are to reach multiplicity, we must avoid thinking that Deleuze’s ‘continuous variation’ has anything to do with the mere infinite variability of infinite representation.  Such variability is found in Hegel and Saussure.  But it is not Deleuze’s univocity.    


When an individuated singularity is actualized there is a “use of representation” (LoS 146-7) conditioned by the transcendental-empirical intersection.  A structure may appear as an effect at the surface.  A many/one opposition may appear temporarily.  But there is no universalizing or generalizing “Representation”.  There must always be a return to multiplicity if the two planes are to remain open---if we are not to become dominated by the Image of Thought.  The ‘Image of Thought’ appears only when there is the closed plane of Representation to the exclusion of the virtual-real plane.  Therefore, I am not saying that there is no representation.  I am saying that “uses” of representation are actualized only when the transcendental-empirical source is included.  When that virtual source is left out (as I contend traditional structuralism leaves it out) there is only a closed structural relation of the Representational Image of Thought.  Bryant says, (DG239) “In short, a structural position is an affirmation which renders lack and absence possible.”  That is true only if the actualization of a “use” of lack and absence reaches the virtual source.  Then, we can speak in terms of “use” of representation --- temporary “uses” of really different actualizations of opposition or lack.  However, when structural position is determined on the plane of the already actual, closed off from the other plane, then we have only the universalizing “Lack” that is the “Image of Thought”.        


The Cartesian Cogito is the direct determination of the ‘I think’ upon the undetermined ‘I am’.  This direct determination restricts itself to the plane of the time of Chronos---the time of the extensive movements in an actualized space-time.  The time of Chronos is subordinate to movement.  However, Deleuze follows Kant’s initiative in fracturing this form.  He fractured the determined and the undetermined by the determinable (the transcendental pure and empty form of time---Aion).  This empty form finds an internal difference within undetermined being and the determinations of thought.  This means that the structure of the subject is dissolved.  There is now a process of subjectivation that opens all forms.  It must not be confused with a structural subject as a temporal (Chronos) determination in a continuity between subjects and objects, as Bryant claims (DG72). Deleuze’s ‘subjectivation’ is not ‘subject’ as a singularity that somehow occupies immanence.  Rather, immanence is reached only as dissolved self---as pre-individual singularity---haecceity.  Singularity is pre-individual and intensive, not individual extensive.  Deleuze’s ‘immanence’ is not a ‘subject’ with faculties hinged in structural relations.       


Therefore, there is a distinction between the times of the two planes---the two types of multiplicity.  Chronos is the plane of extensive structural relations.  Aion is the time of the other plane---the plane of intensive forces.  Aion is “empty” because it is empty of form-matter content.  It has only unformed forces of intensity and is empty of all extensive structural relations that happen on the other plane.  Aion is the form of change that does not change---Before-After.  Aion is static form of time because it is not determined by extensive relations of movement.  The intersection of the two types of multiplicity is ‘transcendental-empiricism’.  Aion is the transcendental condition of empirical uses actualized on the plane of Chronos. 


Aion is the time of the intensive plane of unformed matter.  The extensive plane of Chronos has extensive relations of formed matter.  These two planes must intersect in order to become open to new actualized forms of real difference.  However, when Bryant tries to reach Deleuze’s ‘empty form of time’, his faculties are hinged to one actual plane of already formed matter.  His structural relations are not “empty” of empirical-extensive content.  Being restricted to the extensive plane of structural relations, Bryant is restricted to the time of Chronos.  Therefore, he still describes ordinal time as being subordinate to structural movement through the retentions and protentions of Chronos.  He can’t reach the virtual-real plane of the forces of intensity that are not hinged into such structural relations.  He can’t reach the dice throw of singular events that, because they are unformed, can be nomadically distributed in static order (Before-After).  He never reaches the intersection of the planes of Deleuze’s transcendental-empiricism.


Bryant talks about Deleuze’s ‘encounter’ and the ‘being of the sensible’.  But Bryant’s adherence to structural relations won’t let him reach Deleuze’s sense of those terms.  He can merely reach ‘partial objects’ in the structuralist sense.  Structuralism, being confined to the plane of the actual, sees ‘partial objects’ as extensive-actual elements in relation.  However, for Deleuze ‘partial objects’ must be intensive-virtual.  Deleuze’s ‘partial objects’ have nothing to do with the structuralist sense of that term (see ‘Anti-Oedipus’ 44, 73, 309).   


Bryant (DG208-11) tells us why he thinks he escapes the alternative (that Deleuze rejects) between individuals (objects or persons) as singularities on the one hand, and an undifferentiated abyss on the other.  (See my article ‘Deleuze Versus Hegel’).  But Bryant, is still caught in this alternative.  He cannot help but see “singularity” as numerically distinct individuals, because he restricts himself to the plane of the actual.  He uses Deleuze’s terms 'encounter’, ‘nomadic singularities’, ‘empty form of time’.  But he describes them from his perspective on his plane of the actual.  His structuralism will not allow him to reach the sub-representative plane of intensive pre-individual singularity.  This is primarily due to his extensive ‘partial objects’ of structuralism---where the ‘partial object’ is individual, not pre-individual, singularity.  However, for Deleuze, ‘partial objects’ are not individual extensive things or parts of things.  Rather, singularities are pre-individual intensity.  Only when we reach the sub-representative plane can we reach the pre-individual singularity of intensity that is actualized on the other plane.  Singularity is pre-individual.  Individuation is intensive.  It must occur at the level where there are not already actualized structural-relations.      


Bryant never reaches the sub-representative domain (see my article Sub-reprentative Domain: Initensity) of intensive forces that, in dividing, change in kind.  And, therefore, his extensive structure can never account for the genesis of real difference.  In trying to describe ‘intensity’ Bryant says (DG242), “The concept of an intensive magnitude is not simply the notion that an intensive magnitude has a degree of influence on the senses.  No, if this were the case the intensive magnitude would simply be empirical and would contain no a priori dimension to it….Rather, the notion of an intensive magnitude pertains to the increase and decrease of a sensation, such that, given any sensation, we can imagine its diminution to 0 and its increase to infinity [italics added].”  But Bryant has described “intensive magnitude” as that which Deleuze describes as extensive quantity.  Deleuze says of extensive quantity (D&R237), “Division can therefore take place and be continued without any change in the nature of what is being divided.”  However, Deleuze says of intensive quantity, “An intensive quantity may be divided, but not without changing its nature.”  Therefore, we have a way to test whether we are talking about an intensive quantity, or not.  When we divide Bryant’s image of “intensive” magnitude, is there necessarily a change in its nature?  Bryant says (DG243), “…intensity…posits a sort of identity in difference in the course of increase and decrease.”  I take that as a “No”.  Bryant’s “intensity” is extensive magnitude that, with increase or decrease, has no change in nature.  It retains identity throughout all its divisions or augmentations.  It is not Deleuze’s intensity.  Bryant continues (DG243), “If I am able to conceive an increase or decrease of a sensation a priori, then this is because I conceive it as unfolding in time as a becoming [italics added].”  But Deleuze tells us that ‘intensive forces’ cannot be imagined, remembered, or conceived.  They can only be sensed because they are the ‘being of the sensible’.  If they can be imagined or conceived (as Bryant thinks they are) they can be so only in the possible image of the already actual---as the image of possibility that resembles the empirical. 


Bryant wants Deleuze to provide grounds for calling the Image of Thought ‘moral’.  But Deleuze calls the Image of Thought ‘moral’ because moral values, in contrast to ‘ethics’, have no virtual ground or source (see ‘Spinoza: Practical Philosophy’).  The ‘moral’ Image is cut off from the transcendental-virtual ground.  Bryant says (DG222) that he finds nothing resembling ‘active’ and ‘reactive’ forms in Delueze writings other than in regard to Nietzsche’s thought.  I suggest that he substitute ‘intensive forces’ for ‘active’ and ‘extensive elements and structural relations’ that tend to cancel difference for ‘reactive’. (See my article 'Nietzsche's Univocity'.)  When difference is cancelled in reactive (extensive) forces, they are cut off from their active (intensive) ground.  Then, there is merely the “moral” Representational ‘Image of Thought’ that is not actualized from a real-virtual ground.  The Image of Thought is ‘moral’ because it is universalizing value.  Deleuze rejects it because it has no transcendental-empirical ground. Because the Image of Thought tries to be a universalizing ground, it cannot reach the ungrounding of the other plane.

Bryant's "difference" merely mediates possibility according to the requirements of Representation. He is still stuck in the “dogmatic Image of Thought” because his structuralism leaves out the sub-representative domain.  He says being in many senses of numerically distinct substances.  That of which it is said is one conceptual totality (Identical and Same).  However, when the sub-representative domain of pre-individual intensity is included, we reach univocity.  Then being is said in all really distinct senses, ontologically one.


*We must not confuse ‘infinite variability’ with Deleuze’s Idea of ‘continuous variation’.  Bryant’s closed plane of structure can see only a “genetic” factor that produces Identity as an effect.  However, when we open the actual plane to its virtual source, we reach all variety in variation.  (See my article ‘Variety and Variation’.)  Structure and genesis, synchrony and diachrony, are no longer opposed when we include intensive forces that change in kind while changing in degree. Then, instead of only one form -- one kind -- of infinite variability, univocity opens all the forms of variety in variation.

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