Deleuze’s Repetition of Kant

by Beth Metcalf

To repeat: Deleuze’s Repetition of Kant, by Beth Metcalf.  That is, I do not claim that this essay is Deleuze’s repetition of Kant.  It is my repetition of Deleuze’s repetition of Kant.  And, the reader may add his or her proper name in a new layer of repetition.  But if these are to be repetitions with real intensive difference, what must they not be?  According to Deleuze (Difference & Repetition 126-8) they must not be copies resembling a supposed ideal model.  That is, they must not be the “good” copies that resemble a supposed ideal model of Kant.  If we are to reach Deleuze’s simulacra on his plane of univocal being, we must stop treating repetition as if it were consistent with some totalizing plane of reference whose “difference” maintains identity of an original image.  If we are to reach what Deleuze tries to reveal to us, we must see how Kant appears in the light of Deleuze’s plane of consistency.  We must find coherence in Deleuze’s text (i.e., consistency with Deleuze’s plane of univocal being) without importing concepts he does not have (i.e., without any concept that traces the transcendental from the empirical).  That is, we must not read Kant in order to understand Deleuze.  We must read Deleuze’s Kant if we want to see how his concept of univocal being changes the nature of how Kant appears.  Doesn’t Deleuze tell us that his plane of consistency has nothing to do with Kant’s transcendentalism and its categories of possible experience?  Doesn’t Deleuze tell us we must reach a transcendental-empiricism of real experience?  Deleuze repeats Kant’s Copernican Revolution with real difference. 

Deleuze tells us (DR 218) that Kant’s ‘schemata’ are determinations that merely bring spatio-temporal relations into correspondence with logical relations.  But since these two types of relation are external to each other, how can we know there is correspondence between them without appeal to a transcendent miracle?  But everything changes if we reach dynamisms internal to ideas.  We must first reach a sub-representative dramatization of ideas beneath concepts and their representations.   

With the Cartesian Cogito, determination (I think) directly implies the undetermined (I am).  But Deleuze says that Kant does not accept determinations of the Cogito (DR 85-6).  There can be no direct correlation between determination and the undetermined.  We must first find the form by which the undetermined is determinable.  We can no longer just assume we already know the form when we have a merely empirical difference between two determinations.  We must no longer be satisfied with a mere conceptual difference between determinations.  We must first find an internal difference (sense) of an a priori transcendental relation between thought and being. 

Kant’s form of the determinable is time.  Kant’s undetermined is determinable only as a passive subject appearing as a phenomenon in time.  ‘I think’ is no longer thought as the determination of a substantial ‘I am’.  Thought acts on a passive subject which represents that action as the effect of an Other.  ‘I’ is an Other.  The determined ‘I think’ and the undetermined ‘I am’ is fractured by the form of the determinable --- the pure empty form of time.  The empty form of time is a fracture between the active determinations of the I (thought and being) in correlation with a passive self as it represents active determination to itself --- and lives it as an internal difference within thought and being.  This is the dice game of univocal being played between two tables (DR 283-4).  There is no substantial matter of self (I am) identical to itself.  There is no continuous form of self (I think) similar to itself.  Identity disappears.  The fracture is the empty form of time (Aion).  On one side of the hinge between the two tables is the determinations of ‘I’ fractured by this empty form.  On the other side a passive self, dissolved in that empty form.  (DR 261) “For it is not the other which is another I, but the I which is an other, a fractured I.”

Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason saw the speculative death of God which does not leave the identity of I intact.  Kant’s form of the determinable is the pure empty form of time --- the speculative death of God and Self.  But Kant aborted this initiative in his second Critique with a “practical resurrection” of Self-World-God (DR 85-7).  Therefore, according to Deleuze, Kant did not follow through with his initiative.  Deleuze takes up Kant’s aborted initiative to show how Kant could have overturned the Dogmatic Representational Image of Thought.  But Kant still maintained the good nature of thought in common sense implied by the harmony of the faculties in form of the Same (DR 136-7).

In Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, imagination, reason, and understanding find a common accord in speculative common sense under the legislation of the faculty of understanding.  In his Critique of Practical Reason, reason legislates for moral common sense.  In his Critique of Judgment, an aesthetic common sense finds free accord among the faculties without legislation of any faculty.  Kant merely multiplied the forms of common sense rather than freeing us from it.  Kant never really questions the interest of reason.  (DR 137) “Far from overturning the form of common sense, Kant merely multiplied it….Throughout, the variable model of recognition fixes good usage in the form of a harmony between the faculties determined by a dominant faculty under a given common sense.”

Deleuze takes up the initiative that Kant never followed through on (Difference & Repetition 85-6).  As Deleuze takes up the promise of Kant’s initiative, no generalizing form of common sense is reintroduced.  Deleuze asks how necessarily unconscious Ideas are to be understood (DR 192-3).  How is the unthinkable to be thought?   Can Ideas of reason be objects of a faculty?  Deleuze answers that Ideas and structures do not refer to a particular faculty, but occur through all faculties.  There is no maintenance of any common sense form, structure, or image of identity.  This is what Deleuze sees in Kant’s initiative.  (DR 194) “There is thus a point at which thinking, speaking, imagining, feeling, etc., are one and the same thing, but that thing affirms only the divergence of the faculties in their transcendent exercise.  It is a question, therefore, not of a common sense but, on the contrary, of a ‘para-sense’ (in the sense that paradox is also the contrary of good sense).  The elements of this para-sense are Ideas, precisely because Ideas are pure mulitplicities which do not presuppose any form of identity in a common sense but, on the contrary, animate and describe the disjoint exercise of the faculties from a transcendental point of view.” 

The unconscious of thought is an extra-propositional and sub-representative problematic in the multiplicity of Ideas as “para-sense” (the paradoxical exercise of the faculties).  Ideas are the differentials of thought.  (DR 194) “Ideas, therefore, are related not to a Cogito which functions as ground or as a proposition of consciousness, but to the fractured I of a dissolved Cogito; in other words, to the universal ungrounding….”  Therefore, Ideas as multiplicities of the paradoxical exercise of the faculties give no ground for a common sense.  Deleuze says (DR169-70), “Ideas…. repeat the three aspects of the Cogito:  the I am as an indeterminate existence, time as the form under which this existence is determinable, and the I think as a determination.  Ideas are exactly the thoughts of the Cogito, the differentials of thought.”  Ideas swarm in the fractured I without filling what cannot be filled.  There is an internal problematic unity of the undetermined, determinable, and determination. 

Therefore, those who tell us that Deleuze’s ‘difference’ maintains identity are still clinging to their common sense.  They do not reach the violence of paradoxical sense of the sub-representative and extra-propositional domain of univocal being.  When Deleuze takes up Kant’s aborted initiative, he does it by reaching that which he finds in Kant’s Critique of Judgment.  (DR 143) We must no longer trace the transcendental from the empirical phenomena that still maintains a common sense.  Deleuze sees in Kant’s initiative the ground for a superior empiricism.  In this transcendental-empiricism, each faculty undergoes a violence of dissolution.  (DR 144) What is it that can only be sensed and yet is imperceptible?  What are the requirements for a new doctrine of the faculties that do not merely mediate relations of representation?  How can we reach a free and untamed difference in itself that Deleuze calls ‘intensity’ which is imperceptible from the point of view of empirical sensibility? 

Harmony of faculties can only arise from a discordant accord among them so that there can be no form of common sense.  (DR 146) “Ideas, far from having as their milieu a good sense or a common sense, refer to a para-sense which determines only the communication between disjointed faculties.”  Isn’t the mystery of univocal being that which Kant, according to Deleuze, would have reached if he had followed through with the singular Genius of his own insight?   

In the Preface to Kant’s Critical Philosophy, Deleuze writes of four poetic formulas that summarize what Deleuze sees as an unfulfilled promise of Kant’s philosophy.  The first says, ‘time is out of joint’.  As long as time is subordinate to movement, time measures movement.  But time out of joint reverses this relationship.  With this reversal, movement is subordinate to time.  Time is no longer measured by movement.  Time conditions movement.

Therefore, with this reversal, time is no longer defined by succession of things in space.  Nor is space defined by simultaneity or coexistence.  Space and time are no longer merely causal determinations (Chronos).  There must be a form of the determinable --- the empty form of time (Aion).  Time is the form of everything that moves and changes, but it is an immutable Form of change and movement.  This empty form is the univocity of time without empirical content.  It is all real distinction of ontologically singular intensive difference without any already formed matter.  It is the empty form of the determinable that interiorizes difference between determinations.  

The second formula says, ‘I is another’ in The Critique of Pure Reason.  Kant’s passive and receptive ‘Self’ experiences change through time.  But also, ‘I’ acts as Other to synthesize time.  Present is divided in past and future directions.  There is not a determination (I think) that implies an undetermined (I am).  We must find the form of the determinable.  We must find the form of time that is internalized in the changing ego.  I constitute my passive self as an Other by the form of the determinable --- the empty form of time.  I and self as Other are really distinct, but they are ontologically one synthesis as ego is affected in a new form.  “The form of the determinable means that determined ego represents determination as an Other.”  Time is the form in which I (mind) affects ego (itself).  Therefore, time is immutable form of interiority.  Time is the form of the determinable that relates I and Ego and continually stitches them together.  There is not one form of the determinable.  Nor are there many forms that could be totalized into one.  The empty form is ideas as multipliticities in the paradoxical exercise of the faculties.

The third aspect is from the Critique of Practical Reason where Kant’s Law is empty form of the morally determinable.  Kant reverses the relation of Law and the Good, just as he reversed the relation of time and movement in the Critique of Pure Reason.  The Good depends on the Law.  The law is empty form that has no content other than its imperative.  The law is pure empty form with no object.  It does not tell us what to do.  It merely tells us to what subjective maxim our actions must conform.  A moral act must conform to a maxim that can be thought as universal without contradiction.  The moral law is pure empty form of singular act that may be thought as universal (a singular–universal).  Law is empty of content.  It expresses itself through its sentence of guilt.  “Guilt is like the moral thread which duplicates the thread of time.” 

(DR 98) Kant saw the self merely in terms of passive receptivity of sensations in an already formed structure of common sense.  Then, he unified self without any real genesis.  But according to Deleuze, if Kant had followed through with his initiative hidden in his Critique of Judgment, he could have reached a real genesis.  In the first two Critiques, the faculties are regulated under the legislation of one of them.  In the Critique of Pure Reason, understanding dominates imagination and reason.  In the Critique of Practical Reason, reason dominates by constituting pure form of universal law.  But Deleuze says that, if the faculties can enter such variable relations regulated by one, it must mean that all faculties together must be able to enter free and unregulated harmony.  With the fourth aspect of the discord of the faculties, we can reach a real genesis.  Then, this free accord in the Critique of Judgment provides the un-grounding of the first two critiques so they may enter free accord.

So, the fourth aspect is the Critique of Judgment.  The judgement ‘this is beautiful’ is the power of free reflection in the imagination and indeterminate power of the understanding without concept.  Faculties enter into an accord that is no longer under the legislation of any one of them.  There is a spontaneous accord of Ego and I under the conditions of the beautiful in nature.  With the sublime there is a discord between imagination and reason.  Faculties find a discordant accord in an unregulated exercise of all faculties.  Genius is the singularity of real difference.  It brings about new intersubjective universality of its singularity and calls for the becoming of new singularities.  As Deleuze follows Kant’s initiative, the singularity of genius creates universality of the singular that overturns the universalizing and totalizing generalities of common sense.

As Deleuze reads Kant’s Critique of Judgement’ (Chapter 3 of Kant’s Critical Philosophy), Kant asks if there is a higher form of feeling.  With the faculty of knowledge, understanding legislates as the higher form.  Desire in its higher form is the legislation of reason.  When the faculty of feeling finds its higher form, judgement legislates. But in this third case, aesthetic judgement is reflective and does not legislate over objects.  It has no determinate object, but free accord of all faculties.  Kant’s higher pleasure should not be attached to any sensible, empirical interest or any practical interest.  A higher faculty of feeling must be disinterested.  It is not an object of interest but a disinterested subjective judgement of aesthetic feeling --- a pure empty form of a singular intensity is reflected in the imagination.  In contrast to the form of faculties in the first two critiques, this higher form has no interest of reason (speculative or practical).  The aesthetic faculty, in its higher form, is disinterested.  Aesthetic judgement does not legislate over an object in its empty form of the determinable.

When an object is judged to be beautiful, we claim a necessary universality for the judgement, but the object is without concept.  Its necessity and universality are subjective.  With the higher form of aesthetic feeling, the imagination is in free accord with understanding that is without concept.  There is a free subjective accord in aesthetic judgement.  Therefore, aesthetic common sense is not derived from the objective common sense of the first two critiques.  Rather, “it provides them with a basis or makes them possible” (Kant’s Critical Philosophy 50).  But this free subjective accord can’t be presupposed.  Aesthetic common sense must be engendered.  But how?

There is another type of judgement…..‘this is sublime’.  Then imagination experiences violence when it reaches its own limits.  The sublime gives us a subjective relation of dissension between imagination and reason.  An imagination-reason accord (conjunction) is not presupposed.  It is engendered in a dissension (disjunction).  Ideas of reason are speculatively indeterminate and practically determinate in this genesis of conjunction of disjunctions (free accord of faculties in dissension).  The universality of the sublime is the product of a cultural genesis.  The sublime prepares the genesis of a higher faculty and a suprasensible destination of all faculties.

Therefore, the sublime has a universality that is not assumed, but engendered.  The beautiful is not an object in the interest of reason, but it may find a synthesis with an interest of reason.  So, there is not merely a given structure of common sense as a transcendental traced from the empirical.  Common sense is not a given universal structure of generality.  It must be the product of a singular genesis --- the product of that by which the given is given (transcendental-empiricism). 

Pleasure in the beautiful is disinterested, but there is a rational interest in contingent accord of nature with our faculties.  The genesis of the beautiful finds, in an Idea of reason, an indirect presentation (symbol) analogous to presentations in nature.  Imagination finds free reflection apart from the understanding.  Imagination is free.  Understanding is indeterminate.  Their accord is engendered and not merely given.  It is engendered in that by which the given is given.  Both the transcendental and the empirical of the first two critiques must be engendered in the third by a new form of the determinable --- a free discordant accord of transcendental empiricism.

The aesthetic Idea is intuition to which no concept is adequate.  The rational Idea is a concept to which no intuition is adequate.  There is an inverse relation between aesthetic and rational Ideas.  But Deleuze asks if this inverse relation is adequate.  (KCP 57) “The aesthetic Idea is really the same thing as the rational Idea: it expresses what is inexpressible in the latter.” So instead of an inverse oppositional relation between form and formed-matter on the level of representation, Deleuze sees in Kant’s initiative, a parallelism. There are parallel series fractured by the form of time with the aleatory point circulating through them.  At the sub-representative level of judgement, any intensive content may find accord with any intensive expression without regulation.  Genius expressed in art is the creation of a new nature --- new singular genesis of universality.  This is no longer a common sense of a universal generality.  It is universality of the singular.

So, is judgement a faculty?  Deleuze says that judgement implies several faculties and expresses accord among them.  In determining judgement, the concept is given.  In reflective judgement, there is a free and indeterminate accord among all the faculties without concept or determinate object.  Any determinate accord, at the level of objects, presupposes a free, sub-representative indeterminate accord.  Kant’s transcendentalism then finds its ungrounding in the free discordant accord of all faculties.  Deleuze calls this ‘transcendental empiricism’.  It is the genesis (that by which the given is given) of both the transcendental and its own empirical (given).   Kant’s third Critique is the ungrounding that gives new ground for the first two.

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