Genesis: Ontological and Logical

by Beth Metcalf  

In trying to understand Deleuze, is it really important that we understand his univocity?  Can’t we just treat univocity as an optional detail and read Deleuze without grappling with this complicated and counter-intuitive concept?  Can’t we reach Deleuze’s sub-representative domain and his intensive forces without having to come to terms with this univocity?  It is my contention that, without an understanding of univocity, the reading of Deleuze tends to fall into the very Representational Thought Deleuze warns against.  And, when we do begin to understand it, it will act as a dark precursor that snaps everything into a new way of seeing and thinking.

Whenever we assume that an ontology of individual objects shares a simple correspondence with a generalized logic of propositional structure, we will misunderstand Deleuze’s univocity.  Deleuze’s difference is singular difference.  It is not to be confused with the merely conceptual differences of a generalized arborescent structure of genus and species.  Such a structure could never subsume the singularity of the individual.  It would merely give us an individual thought through the generality of a particular.  However, univocity is not the generality of the particular.  It is the universality of the singular.  Now the common opinion is that “everyone knows” Deleuze says this.  But is it understood?  Where is the secondary literature that demonstrates an understanding of this?           

For the univocity of Deleuze-Spinoza (Expressionism in Philosophy 34), “There cannot be several substances with the same attribute.  Deleuze-Spinoza tells us there can be only one substance for the same attribute.  Numerical distinction is never real.  With univocity, attributes uniquely qualify substance as really distinct.  This means there can be no numerically distinct substances --- no numerically distinct things.  This is very different from our common sense representational thought which tells us that several substances can share a common property.  Furthermore, “….there is only one substance for all attributes”.  Real distinction is never numerical.  Attributes uniquely qualify ontologically single substance as real distinction.  Because each qualified substance is really distinct, all are singular.  They all say the whole of Being in the same sense of universal singularity.  All real distinction of qualified substance is ontologically one.  This is not the generality of the particular, but the universality of the singular.  This is very different from representational thought for which numerically distinct substances are taken to be really distinct, and these individual substances (the many) are thought to be in the unifying form of conceptual generality (the one).    

Singularity cannot be found through the generality of the particular.  For example, let us take the arborescent structure of plough horse or draft horse and racehorse.  Each particular is under the general heading of ‘horse’.  However, no matter how far we subsume a finer and finer granularity, we will never reach an individual that has no generality in common with other particulars.  The ‘individual’ will be no more than a generalized particular.  It can never reach singularity.  When we divide the arborescent structure (for example, if we take away the draft horse) the generality ‘horse’ will not change in nature.  The racehorse will still have the general property of ‘horse’.  The generality of the particular is merely the homogeneity of already formed matter.  It cannot reach singularity.  The particular is homogeneous with its generality.

Now, let us take the assemblage, ox and plough horse.  This is not an arborescent structure.  There is pre-individual affective singularity through which the individual is actualized.  The intensive singularity is the ox-plough horse assemblage.  It shares nothing in common with any other singular assemblage.  When we divide this assemblage (for example, if we take away ox) the assemblage changes its nature.  It will no longer have the same intensive affect.  It will be a really different singularity.  Therefore, the singular is that which can have nothing in common with another singular assemblage.  When assemblages combine or divide, they change in nature.  They change in pre-individual singularity of real distinction.  So it cannot be said that two individuals can share properties in common, because individual-collective worlds are actualized singularities.  They are really distinct and singular modes of actualization.  With univocity, each singular assemblage is uniquely qualified by its intensive affect.  Any singularity can relate immediately to any other without mediation of a generalizing structure.  All modal essences (intensive singularity of real distinction) agree because they are not causes of one another (EiP 194).  We do not reach the real singular difference of univocity as long as we think that numerically distinct substances can share a common property.

Deleuze-Leibniz also illustrates this analytic singularity of the individual.  ‘Green’ is not a property that can be shared by several substances.  (Logic of Sense 111-112)  “When a predicate is attributed to an individual subject, it does not enjoy any degree of generality; having a color is no more general than being green….The increasing or decreasing generalities appear only when a predicate is determined in a proposition to function as the subject of another predicate.  As long as predicates are brought to bear upon individuals, we must recognize in them equal immediacy which blends with their analytic character.  To have a color is no more general than to be green, and this green that has this shade, that are related to the individual subject….green and color are two equally immediate predicates which translate a mixture in the body of the individual subject, without one predicate being attributed to it any less immediately than the other. …..Analytic predicates do not yet imply logical considerations of genus and species or of properties and classes; they imply only the actual physical structure and diversity which make them possible inside the mixture of the body….”

So far, we have looked at the ontological genesis of the individual.  But what happens beyond the individual defined in a world of convergences?  (LoS 113-14) The Ego is identified across divergent series --- across incompossible worlds.  Singularity is inseparable from a zone of indiscernibility of nomadic distribution.  The event is subdivided endlessly.  It is that which recombines endlessly in real distinction.  But all real distinction is ontologically single Event.  This means that incompossible worlds have something in common.  But this is not some property common to things.  Incompossible worlds become various ramifications of a story (real distinction said in one sense).  They are predicates that synthetically define persons in disjunctive syntheses that must not be confused with those exclusive disjunctions of genus and species distributed according to the categories.  Deleuze is talking about inclusive disjunction across all series --- even those which a prior concept would see as incompossible. 

Therefore (LoS 118-125), individuals and persons are the first two elements of the ontological genesis.  However, the third element of ontological genesis is not embodied in an ontological proposition.  The multiple classes and variable properties (the formed substances in classification of genus and species) are another order of proposition that constitutes the condition and form of possibility of the logical proposition in general.  With the logical proposition, individuals and persons are no longer ontological propositions since they now can act only as realization within an already conditioned possibility of logical generality.  That is, the individual can only be a relation of denotation.  The person can only be a relation of manifestation.  And, they can only act within a form of possibility of a general relation of signification.  Therefore, whenever we think in syllogistic terms of logical implication or demonstration through genus and species, properties and classes, we are thinking only in terms of a prior possibility.  Then, we can only find the condition that is already in the form of the conditioned. 

How do we reach a logical genesis that is unconditional?  Deleuze tells us that we must reach a univocity that is the logic of sense.  It must not be a prior form of logical possibility.  It must not be a prior logic of signification.  We find that there is no correspondence between the individual and denotation, the person and manifestation, or a system of classification and signification.  There is no simple correspondence between the ontological genesis of individuals and persons, on the one hand; and a logical genesis of denotation, manifestation, and signification, on the other.  Rather, there is relay, shifting and jamming.  There can be no simple correspondence between individual things we see and the general forms of what we say. We must reach the heterogeneity of content and expression.

Sense, as condition of truth must be distinct from the form of the conditioned (LoS 17-22).  Sense must be unconditioned (pre-individual, impersonal, and aconceptual) source of the conditioned (individual-denotation, personal-manifestation, and general signification).  But in order to reach this unconditioned sense, the circle of the proposition (denotation-manifestation-signification) must be broken.  The logical attribute does not merge with the bodily state of affairs.  The attribute does not qualify a being or a thing.  Rather, it inheres in the proposition without merging with it. It is an attribute said of the thing without merging with it.  Sense is the expressed of the proposition and attributed to a bodily state of affairs.  Sense is the boundary between propositions and things.   Words and things are said immediately in the same sense without any mediation of a prior signification of logical generality. 

This means that words do not represent things.  Things are not said in several numerically distinct senses that share a common form of logical generality.  Rather, the problem refers to a structure of sense (an ideational objectivity) that is a transcendental field where both knowledge and the known are constituted together, with real difference, each time.  The form of conceptual possibility and the empirically perceived are constructed together with real difference each time.  The dimensions of the proposition (denotation-manifestation-signification) and the proposition’s correlates (the denoted individual, the manifested person, and the signified propositional generality) are constructed together with real difference each time.  Sense is the ideational objective truth of the problem.  Sense is the unconditioned condition of signification.  Sense purges the transcendental field of all resemblance between the condition and the conditioned.

Sense produces bodies and their mixtures.  Bodies and their mixtures also produce sense.  But this is not a circular process, because production of sense does not occur through an individuation that presupposes itself as a signifying generality.  Production of sense is intensive and sub-representative.  Production of sense is pre-individual, impersonal, and aconceptual.  The frontier between general propositions and things is intensive articulation on a surface of sense.  It is a distribution of language and bodies said in one sense.  Sense is the expressed that subsists in propositions.  Sense is the intensive event that occurs in bodies.  Sense and Event are said in one sense.  Sense produces a temporary and fragile effect on a surface.  It produces really distinct individuated-worlds in one sense of ontological singularity.  Therefore, individual, person, and signification are not totalizable into Transcendent One-ness (world, self, and God).  They are not a logic of signifying generality.  They are constituted from the univocity of a logic of sense.      

So, the individual is not primary.  It is individuated as pre-individual singularity.  “Each” individual (not a numerically distinct substance) may find a new disjunction with another to reach a new common notion --- to change its nature in a new individuated affect.  Then, it is differenciated or actualized into new species and parts.  “Each” individual is inseparable from its species and parts.  That is, it is actualized into a new individual-collective world each time --- a new singular world incommensurable with any other actualized world.  Yet all singular worlds of real distinction are ontologically one.  Neither the individual nor the generalities of propositions are given. They are constructed together in the univocity of Being (ontological genesis) and Saying (logical genesis).  Being and Saying constitute all real distinction, ontologically one.  What we see is never homogeneous with what we say.

So far, we have looked at the actualization of inclusive disjunctions.  Divergence is affirmed and disjunction is an inclusive synthesis.  All events are compatible (really distinct, but ontologically singular).  Now, we reach the eternal return of counter-actualization.  Disjunctive synthesis affirms all singular events of real distinction.  Each series resonates across all distances.  Being is said in one ontologically singular sense for everything.  But that of which it is said is not the same.  It is real distinction.  It is the same thing which occurs and is said.  Univocal Being inheres in the proposition and is attributed to things.  Univocal Being is inclusive distribution of Aion that relates things and propositions.  Being is one ontologically singular Event for all events of real distinction.

Return to Home Page