Nietzsche’s Univocity
by Beth Metcalf

Deleuze says (Nietzsche & Philosophy p.3) “We will never find the sense of something….if we do not know the force which appropriates the thing, which exploits it, which takes possession of it or is expressed in it. A phenomenon is not an appearance or even an apparition but a sign, a symptom which finds its meaning in an existing force. The whole of philosophy is a symptomatology…..”

What does Deleuze-Nietzsche mean by “force which appropriates the thing”? We are told that there are “reactive” forces that can be appropriated or dominated by “active” forces. But forces are not appearances. For Deleuze-Nietzsche “a phenomenon is not an appearance…..but a sign…..” Therefore, active forces do not appear in relations of identity or opposition. They are forces of multiplicity. They are sub-representative forces of real distinction ontologically single. These active forces are not restricted as to which forces they can appropriate. Since there is no prior appearance, active forces are not separated from what they can do. They can appropriate any forces. However, when there is the triumph of reactive forces, then there are relations of opposition and negation. Then, phenomena are appearances of identity or opposition. Reactive forces can appropriate only that which is compatible with prior appearance.

Therefore, Deleuze tells us that we will not begin to understand the sense of Nietzsche’s Univocity if we do not know Nietzsche’s active forces which appropriate it. On the other hand, Deleuze says, (N&P162) “We will misunderstand the whole of Nietzsche’s work if we do not see “against whom” its principle concepts are directed. Hegelian themes are present in this work as the enemy against which it fights.” Any Hegelian interpretation of Univocity is a symptom---a sign of the reactive forces that appropriate it.

Deleuze continues (N&P3), “Nietzsche substitutes the correlation of sense and phenomenon for the metaphysical duality of appearance and essence and for the scientific relation of cause and effect. All force is appropriation, domination, exploitation of a quantity of reality. Even perception, in its divers aspects, is the expression of forces which appropriate nature.”

Phenomena are not appearances. Phenomena are signs or symptoms. Sense is not an essence, but an expression. There is correlation of the signs with the expressions. But, this is nothing like the exclusive correspondence of Representational thought which would be a merely reactive opposition holding everything in the identity of the essence with its appearances. Nor is this correlation a linear causal correspondence. Rather, the active forces which appropriate the thing can correlate any expression with any sign. The content of any phenomenon can be the sign or symptom of any expression at the level of active forces. This is because there is no essence which could dictate its correlation with a prior appearance. This is the “pluralism”, the “empiricism”, that is the “properly philosophical way of thinking” (N&P4). “There is no event, no phenomenon, word or thought which does not have a multiple sense. A thing is sometimes this, sometimes that, sometimes something more complicated – depending on the forces…..which take possession of it.” Therefore, Nietzsche’s master-slave relationship is not of Hegel’s dialectical form. It is not the opposition of master/slave which would merely hold everything (both Master and Slave) in the identity of a reactive-slave system. Rather, it is the heterogeneity of differential active forces in a sign-signal system.

Therefore, Nietzsche’s opposition to dialectics is not a dialectical opposition. Rather, it is the opposition to dialectical opposition. Oppositional dialectics separate forces from what they can do. Dialectics is the triumph of reactive forces. Atomic and relational-oppositional “forces” are merely homogeneous, holding everything in an essential identity. However, Nietzsche’s is the pluralist affirmation of multiplicity which is also the ontological singularity of Univocity. It is only the plurality of forces that can relate force to force. Only plurality, or heterogeneity, of forces introduces ‘distance’ as the differential element. The ‘will to power’ is the differential element of force. Pluralism is the philosophy of the will. Thus the ‘will to power’ has nothing to do with will toward, or power over, substantial objects of Representation.

(N&P40) “In a body the superior or dominant forces are known as active and the inferior or dominated forces are known as reactive. Active and reactive are precisely the original qualities which express the relation of force with force. Because forces which enter into relation do not have quantity without each of them having, at the same time, the quality corresponding to their difference in quantity as such.” Isn’t this the way Deleuze describes his forces of intensity? Intensive forces have quantity. They also have quality corresponding to their difference in quantity. Quality is inseparable from difference in quantity. Difference in quantity is the heterogeneous relation of force to force. It is the differential element of forces. (Difference & Repetition p. 222) “Every intensity is differential, by itself a difference…..each intensity is already a coupling (in which each element of the couple refers in turn to couples of elements of another order), thereby revealing the properly qualitative content of quantity.” Therefore, intensity is the difference that (DR223) “…..tends to ….cancel itself out in extensity and underneath quality.” That is, intensity is the active force that tends to be cancelled (i.e., that tends to become reactive) in extensity.

The oppositional relation of reactive forces is not differential force at all. It relates elements, not forces. It reduces quantity to one quality---the reactive quality. It reduces differences in quantity to equality. It has no ‘distance’. It has no heterogeneity. It is not the pluralism of forces. Pluralism of forces means that quality is an aspect of quantity, of intensity. (N&P44) “Quality is nothing but difference in quantity and corresponds to it each time forces enter into relation.” And this is why when quantity is divided, it necessarily changes in nature---in quality. (N&P49-50) “We must remember that every force has an essential relation to other forces, that the essence of force is its quantitative difference from other forces and that this difference is expressed as the force’s quality. Now, difference in quantity, understood in this way, necessarily reflects a differential element of related forces – which is also the genetic element of the qualities of these forces.” Therefore, this is a “superior empiricism” that is no wider than what it conditions and that changes its condition as it conditions.

The dialectic misinterprets sense because it does not understand the nature of the forces which appropriate phenomena. The dialectic is reactive force of opposition and the will to nothingness of negation. The dialectic is found in opposition and contradiction. It reflects the false image of difference---the inverted image. (N&P196) “The Hegelian dialectic is indeed a reflection on difference, but it inverts its image…..Opposition substituted for difference is also the triumph of the reactive forces that find their corresponding principle in the will to nothingness.” And again, (N&P157) “It is not surprising that the dialectic proceeds by opposition, development of the opposition or contradiction and solution of the contradiction. It is unaware of the real element from which forces, their qualities and their relations derive; it only knows the inverted image of this element which is reflected in abstractly considered symptoms…..Dialectic thrives on oppositions because it is unaware of far more subtle and subterranean differential mechanisms…” The dialectic misses the differential relations of forces beneath the apparent relations of opposition.

Nietzsche says that the ‘will to power’ is the genealogical element of force. Genealogy is differential and genetic. It introduces real difference into history. However, (N&P56) when we use a “genealogy” that sees itself upside down in the mirror of reactive forces, its inverted image then appears as an evolution. It appears as merely a genealogy of causal succession. It is this Representational “genealogy” that is the merely conceptual difference of historicism. It is that “genealogy” that moves Deleuze and Guattari to say (A Thousand Plateaus 11&21) “the rhizome is an antigenealogy.” It is that which moves them to say (Anti-Oedipus 155) “Alliances never derive from filiations, nor can they be deduced from them.”  This means that ‘genealogy’ does not go from filiations to alliances (nor does it deduce alliance from filiation).  Rather, there is a passing from an intensive order to an extensive system each time.  As long as we are still thinking in terms of an inverted reactive image of genealogy (a descent through extended structure of filiation) we do not reach Nietzsche’s ‘genealogy’ or the ‘geology’ of Deleuze and Guattari.

The eternal return is the fact of returning for that which differs. But what does it mean to ‘differ’? Oppositional relations of elements do not differ. Only forces can differ, not elements. Only heterogeneous forces are differential. The will to power is the differential element of forces. Eternal return is the becoming of heterogeneous difference of forces. Nietzsche’s dice-throw is the affirmation of the multiplicity of chance all at once. It is the unity affirmed of multiplicity. It is being which is affirmed of becoming. The eternal return is real difference and the becoming of that difference. It eliminates that which is return of the same. For Nietzsche’s genealogy, (N&P85-6) “The will to power is plastic, inseparable from each case in which it is determined; just as the eternal return is being, but being which is affirmed of becoming, the will to power is unitary, but unity which is affirmed of multiplicity. The monism of the will to power is inseparable from the pluralist typology.”

For Nietzsche’s perspectivism, there are not relative points of view or appearances of one universal Truth. Each world is actualized truth as singular-universal perspective. Each perspective is really different from any other. However, really different worlds of perspective are ontologically single. Nietzsche’s perspectivism is the Univocity/multiplicity of truth.

For Nietzsche, there are no moral facts or phenomena. There are only moral interpretations. Therefore, Nietzsche does not criticize false claims of truth. He criticizes the Ideal of Truth itself. That Ideal sees this world as mere appearance. It is inseparable from a will toward moral obedience and established value. Thought and knowledge become reactive. Thinking, then, depends on reactive forces that appropriate thought. However, if thought is controlled by reactive forces, we are not yet thinking.

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