How Can We Avoid a Theological Vision?

by Beth Metcalf

Deleuze says (Logic of Sense 179-80), “Philosophy merges with ontology, but ontology merges with the univocity of Being (analogy has always been a theological vision, not a philosophical one, adapted to the forms of God, the world, and the self)…..The univocity of Being merges with the positive use of the disjunctive synthesis which is the highest affirmation.  It is the eternal return itself….”  Therefore the question, ‘How can we avoid the analogical transcendence of a theological vision?’ becomes the question, ‘How can we reach the ontological immanence of univocal being with its positive use of the disjunctive synthesis?’  The Kantian ‘transcendental’ ushered in the speculative death of God.   God, from then on, can merely preside over the disjunctive synthesis.  However, Deleuze argues that Kant’s ‘God’ did not reach the positive use of the disjunctive synthesis and therefore is still a theological vision.


Deleuze says (Difference & Repetition 85-6) that the Cartesian Cogito draws a direct relation between the determination (I think) and the undetermined (I am).  However, Kant discovered that determination must first find the form of the determinable before the undetermined can be determined.  Kant’s form of the determinable is the empty form of time.  To the ‘I think’ and the ‘I am’ is added the passive self (the form of the determinable in time) interiorizing difference between being and thought. 

Therefore, Kant’s transcendental initiative was the introduction of a pure empty form without empirical content.  This entailed the speculative death of God, the fractured ‘I’, and the passive self.  However, Deleuze (DR 87) argues that Kant did not follow through on his initiative.  Even in the speculative domain the fracture of the ‘I’ is filled*.  There can be no death of God until Self is dissolved.  (DR 136) Kant still preserved the nature of thought in a unity of Self and an accord of the faculties.  Kant merely substituted ‘I think’ for the infinite God.  God is not dead as long as ‘I’ still has an identity it owes to its resemblance to the divine.  Therefore, although Kant’s transcendental philosophy introduced the pure empty form of time that entailed the death of God, the fracture I, and the passive self; Kant aborted this initiative, saving the world of representation.  The fracture is filled* by a new kind of identity and a receptivity of a passive self without power of synthesis.  Kant’s passive self assumes sensations already formed while relating them to a priori forms of space and time.  Kant’s transcendental is still traced from the empirical.

According to Kant (DR168-70) reason is a faculty of Ideas.  Ideas are regulative problems that have ‘legitimate use’ only as related to categories of the understanding.  Problematic Ideas are undetermined in regard to their object, determinable regarding objects of experience, and an ideal of infinite determination regarding concepts of the understanding.  Ideas are differentials of thought that swarm in the fracture split by the form of time.  The Ideas are internal unity of the undetermined, determinable, and determination.  However, Kant did not fulfill his initiative because he still saw the ideal of determination only in relation to the categories.  In being restricted by the categories, his Critique still has too much empiricism (it does not fill* the empty form) in contrast to the dogmatism of the post-Kantians (who fill* the empty form).  Kant’s empty form of time is still too corporeal.  It does not reach the incorporeal differential Ideas of the empty form of time (Aion) that fills without filling*. 

(LoS 64) “This is the secret of the event: it exists on the line of the Aion, and yet it does not fill it.  How could an incorporeal fill up the incorporeal or the impenetrable fill up the impenetrable?  Only bodies penetrate each other, only Chronos is filled up with state of affairs and the movements of the objects that it measures.  But being an empty and unfolded form of time, the Aion subdivides ad infinitum that which haunts it without ever inhabiting it --- the Event for all events.”      

Therefore, Deleuze resumes the Kantian initiative with a new empty form of time (Aion) that is no longer cardinal, but ordinal (pure static order of before-after).  The synthesis is static order because time is no longer subordinate to movement.  The Self becomes equal to the unequal in itself. 

Deleuze tells us (LoS 294-5) that Kant discovers a link between ideas and syllogisms.  Kant initially defined reason by way of concepts of the understanding.  Given a concept, reason looks for another concept which, in its totality, conditions the first concept to its object.  But when reason is applied to the categories, there is a problem.  Categories are already attributed to all objects of possible experience.  Therefore Kant discovered that reason must invent the ‘Idea’ that can condition a category of relation to all objects of possible experience.  The idea of ‘Self’ is a substance that conjoins phenomena in a transcendental unity of apperception.  The Self conditions the attribution of the category of substance to the phenomena of inner concepts and outer perceptions in the categorical syllogism (synthesis of conjunction).  The idea of the ‘World’ conditions the attribution of the category of causality to connect all possible phenomena in the hypothetical syllogism (synthesis of connection).  The idea of ‘God’ conditions the attribution of the category of community in the disjunctive syllogism.  Therefore, God is reduced to the totality of all possible relations of divergence (synthesis of the disjunction).  This is the ‘either…or’ of the exclusive and limiting use.  It is the totality of all that is thought to be possible, and is thus disjoined from everything else which is to be excluded.  Therefore according to Kant, Ideas are regulative problems that have ‘legitimate use’ only as related to categories of the understanding.  However, according to Deleuze and Guattari, Kant’s use is a negative and limitative ‘illegitimate use’ of the disjunctive synthesis. 


Deleuze asks (LoS 174-5) what conditions make disjunction a true synthesis instead of merely an illegitimate use of analysis.  Ordinarily (Kant is an example), disjunction has never been a real synthesis.  It has always been merely a regulative analysis subordinate to a prior concept of convergent series thought to be possible.  The disjunctive syllogism is merely the totality of possible convergence from which all divergence had to be excluded.  The conjunctive synthesis excludes divergence and is merely regulated by a connective synthesis under prior conditions of causal continuity.  However, Deleuze tells us that the legitimate uses of the syntheses turn this path around.  Now, disjunction is a real synthesis that includes every ramification of all partial objects, and because the conjunction of all partial objects of intensive-disparate difference coordinates all heterogeneous and divergent flows, the conjunctive synthesis affirms all divergence which has already connected all series in multiplicities of continuities.  Connections already contract multiplicities of divergent flows which are all ontologically singular.  However, this all depends upon our definition of ‘partial objects’.  As long as we remain chained to a structuralist concept of partial objects and the illegitimate uses of the syntheses, we are still chained to a theological vision.  We do not reach univocal being that Deleuze’s says (DR35) is the only ontological proposition of immanence.

Therefore, until we lose the God-Man structure of the three syntheses in their illegitimate uses, we are still pious.  To lose this structure is to reach the desiring machines that ask “How does the unconscious work?” rather than “What does it mean or represent?”  We must reach an unconscious that is (Anti-Oedipus 109) “…material rather than ideological; schizophrenic rather than symbolic; machinic rather than structural…” 


Therefore, if disjunction is to be a real synthesis, it must include every divergence in the ramification of all partial objects, even those which are thought to be impossible from the point of view of a prior concept.  We will never reach the legitimate uses of the syntheses as long as we cling to the structuralist conception of ‘partial object’.  The partial object must not be conceived as already individuated. 

Deleuze and Guattari say (AO 326-7), “The organs-partial objects and the body without organs are at bottom one and the same thing, one and the same multiplicity that must be conceived as such by schizoanalysis.  Partial objects are the direct powers of the body without organs, and the body without organs, the raw material of the partial objects.  The body without organs is the matter that always fills space to given degrees of intensity, and the partial objects are these degrees, these intensive parts that produce the real in space starting from matter as intensity = 0.  The body without organs is the immanent substance in the most Spinozist sense of the word; and the partial objects are like its ultimate attributes, which belong to it precisely insofar as they are really distinct and cannot on this account exclude or oppose one another….”

Deleuze and Guattari tell us (AO 43-4) that the body without organs is produced as a whole.  However, this whole is not unified or totalized by its parts.  Melanie Klein, who discovered partial objects, still missed their machinic production because of her idealist bias.  She still relates partial objects to an original unifying whole or to a totalizing whole that is yet to come.  Deleuze and Guattari (AO 46) say that partial objects are not representations.  They are intensive parts of desiring machines.  The structuralist concept of partial objects, in all their variability, still maintains the unity of a whole.  However, desiring machines and partial objects do not represent a unified whole.  They are the machinic production of all legitimate uses of the syntheses.  Multiplicities of uses never maintain conceptual identity.  Partial objects must reach pre-individual singularity.  (AO 60)  When the partial objects enter relations of connection, disjunction, and conjunction on the body without organs, everything opens in affirmative legitimate use.  With the legitimate uses of partial objects there is no castrating lack.  There is no negative limitation or exclusion.  (AO 324-5)  In contrast to Melanie Klein’s structuralist definition of partial objects, Deleuze and Guattari see partial objects as never referring to a lost unity or a future totality.  Every organism and extensive structure is dislodged.  All is dispersion and real distinction. 


In Anti-Oedipus Chapter 2, Deleuze and Guattari describe two uses of each of the three syntheses.  First, the connective synthesis has a global and specific illegitimate use, or a partial and nonspecific legitimate use.  With the Oedipal misuse, the connections of desiring production seem to be relations between already individuated people.  The legitimate use reaches a pre-individual domain.

Then, the second disjunctive synthesis has a negative restrictive, exclusive, illegitimate use; or it has a legitimate affirmative, nonrestrictive, inclusive legitimate use.  The legitimate use merges with univocity of Being which is the highest affirmation of the eternal return.  Klossowski (LoS Klossowski or Bodies-Language) contrasts God of the former illegitimate use with an antichrist of the latter legitimate use.  But these two uses are without any negative oppositional relation between them which would merely reestablish an illegitimate disjunction. 

Then, the third conjunctive synthesis has a segregative and biunivocal illegitimate use; or it has a nomadic and polyvocal legitimate use.  The former has a structure of Oedipal triangulation and lack. The latter use dissolves the subject with a nomadism that passes through intensive thresholds of affective states on the body without organs. 


Every partial object presupposes the continuity of a flow.  Every flow presupposes the fragmentation of a partial object.  That is the legitimate use of the first synthesis of connection.  When the flows of two partial objects overlap, at least partially, the overlapping parts become indiscernible and exchange functions.  Then, where they no longer overlap, they have the relation of included disjunction – a new legitimate use of the disjunctive synthesis.  The third legitimate use of the synthesis of conjunction is the permutation of partial objects that emit overlapping flows.  (AO 326-7) The partial objects on the body without organs are never related in an exclusive disjunction.  Organs-partial objects on the body without organs are only opposed to an organism.  Everything opens in a new legitimate univocal use of the syntheses.  Everything divides but into itself. 


Therefore, the new uses of the syntheses never maintain a theological structure of identity, unity, or totality.  Yet today, even though we may think we no longer are chained to a theological vision, we may still be ruled by its structural assumptions. 

Deleuze says (LoS 281), “….One no longer needs to believe in God.  We seek rather the “structure,” that is, the form which may be filled with beliefs, but the structure has no need to be filled in order to be called “theological.”  Theology is now the science of nonexisting entities, the manner in which these entities – divine or anti-divine, Christ or Antichrist – animate language and make for it this glorious body which is divided into disjunctions.” 

But how can we avoid the theological vision if it is merely in an oppositional relation with anti-theism?  A negative opposition theism/atheism is still a theological disjunction.  (LoS 280-301)  Deleuze uses Klossowski to illustrate the ‘order of the Antichrist’ in contrast to the divine order.  The death of God, destruction of the world, and the dissolved self is often taken to be the atheistic revolution.  However, Deleuze questions if this is the critical turning point as marked by Kant.  As long as a finite self is taken as the substantial unity of the body, God is still the guarantor of a theological vision.  Klossowski overturns Kant’s Critique of Reason.  It is the Antichrist, not God, who is master of the disjunctive synthesis in its legitimate use.  It is this anti-God that opens the disjunctive syllogism to all partial objects in an infinity of disjunctive permutations, dissolving identity of Self.  There is no longer the theological condition as totality of self, world, and God.  There is no longer negative and exclusive disjunction of castrating lack.  There is difference, divergence, and decentering that includes all disjunctive ramifications while still keeping them as disjunctions.

Therefore, if we are to avoid a theological vision, we must avoid the illegitimate uses of the syntheses.  We must escape the God-Man structure.  We must reach univocal being.  The world of disparate intensities, pre-individual, impersonal singularities, and partial objects on the body without organs is the world of univocal ontology that escapes the theological vision.  Inclusive disjunction becomes the object of affirmation.  The subject is pre-individual singularity of a dissolved self.  This communicates with all other singularities (as partial objects) without ceasing to form disjunctive relations, and without distributing them into sedentary negative exclusions.  The eternal return is not said of Same (there is no identity).  The Same is said of that which differs in itself (disparate intensity).  Univocal Being is said of beings which are not univocal.  Univocal Being has always been the only ontological proposition.  It is only the theological vision of the negative and exclusive use of disjunction that is excluded by the eternal return that affirms all divergence.   


*See my article, ‘The Old and the New Structure’ for a discussion of the two accidents of the old structure that fill or do not fill (but can never fill without filling) the empty form.

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