Sub-representative Domain (Part 3): Perspectivism

by Beth Metcalf


Deleuze says (‘Difference & Repetition’ 275), “The fact is that to ground is to determine the indeterminate, but this is not a simple operation.” [Italics added]  Many critics and admirers alike do not reach Deleuze’s plane of consistency.  Some try to understand Deleuze’s univocity by way of Scotus’s univocity.  Some try to understand Deleuze according to a traditional interpretation of Spinoza.  Some try to understand Deleuze by way of Hegel, some by way of structuralism.  Some critics see “dualism” between the virtual and actual (or some other oppositional dualism) turning the virtual into the possible.  But all these critical approaches have something in common.  They trace the transcendental from the empirical.  They do not escape the already formed matter of experience.  They still see Deleuze merely from the perspective of a closed Transcendent plane, leaving out his sub-representative source of univocality.  If we leave out Deleuze’s sub-representative virtual source, then we do not reach the actualizations of that virtual either.  And, reaching that sub-representative domain is not a simple operation.


(Difference & Repetition 304) “It is not analogous being which is distributed among the categories and allocates a fixed part to beings, but the beings which are distributed across the space of univocal being, opened by all the forms.  Opening is the essential feature of univocity.”  We must reach that sub-representative source that opens the forms.  But this is not a simple operation.  We may even open the categories into an infinite representation (DR 303), but that still does not open the forms.  Infinite representation restricts us to merely one form of infinitely diverse many.  (D&R 38) In contrast to analogy, Univocal Being is immediately related to individuating factors.  But this immediacy is not found in our experience that is already mediated by formed matter.  It is not enough to say, as Scotus says, that individuation is the ultimate actuality of form.  We must reach the pre-individual, sub-representative source of individuation if we are to avoid tracing the transcendental from the empirical.  (Expressionism in Philosophy 64-6) Scotus sees a minimally real distinction.  His univocity still keeps the forms closed because it does not reach a pre-individual source.  It still works at the level of forms of our experience.  However, Deleuze sees in Spinoza a sub-representative source.  For Deleuze-Spinoza, formal distinction is no longer a minimally real distinction.  Formal distinction is real distinction.  This opens all the forms.  Now, all formally-really distinct attributes are ontologically one Substance (all-one).  Spinoza reaches a sub-representative domain that opens the forms.      

From the perspective of the closed plane of Representation, it appears that we can say how reality or truth must be represented.  It seems that we can answer the question ‘What is truth or reality?’  However, any attempt to pass a universalizing judgment is to proclaim some external Archimedean point.  So, from the perspective of Deleuze’s plane, ‘criticism’ in the traditional sense --- a universalizing perspective about how reality must, or must not, be represented --- is no longer possible.  Deleuze tells us that (Empiricism and Subjectivity 106), “People say….things are not like that.  But in fact, it is not a matter of knowing whether things are like that or not; it is a matter of knowing whether the question which presents things in such a light is good or not, rigorous or not.”  Once we see the construction of Deleuze’s plane and its sufficient reason, we can ask the critical question --- ‘Is the question that puts things in this light a good and rigorous question?’ 

Of course, we all read Deleuze from a different perspective --- from a different plane of consistency.  There are folds of perspective.  We repeat Deleuze with difference.  We see in the text that which our own perspective allows us to see.  And, Deleuze would affirm any reading that can find a ‘common notion’ to enter into a ‘machinic becoming’ with his text.  However, Deleuze opposes (in the sense of vice-diction) that closed plane of negation, opposition, and exclusion to which philosophical tradition is mainly confined.  Deleuze opposes that closed plane of prior possibility, because it is the conceptual identity that negates and excludes the disparate difference of the ‘real’.  Deleuze tells us how things appear once we reach the perspective of his plane.  Once we encounter his plane, the faculties become unhinged and all is affirmation.  If the reader still sees opposition or negation in Deleuze, then the reader has not reached his plane of consistency. 

Deleuze’s thought is a ‘perspectivism’. But this perspectivism is not external points of view on a supposedly invariant structure. If we are to begin to understand Deleuze, we must give him the benefit of laying out his own plane of consistency.  Everything Deleuze says is meant to tell us how things appear once we finally reach his sub-representative plane of univocality.  Only when we reach Deleuze’s plane, will we see its expressive consistency.  Then ‘critique’, in the usual negative sense, becomes impossible.  Critique in a new affirmative sense is evaluation of whether a plane is interesting, remarkable, or important.   (‘What is Philosophy?’ p. 28) “…when philosophers criticize each other it is on the basis of problems and on a plane that is different from theirs….It [discussion] never takes place on the same plane.  To criticize is only to establish that a concept vanishes when it is thrust into a new milieu, losing some of its components, or acquiring others that transform it….”  If we are to begin to understand Deleuze, it does no good to argue against his plane.  (WiP 82) “Constructivism disqualifies all discussion – which holds back the necessary constructions – just as it exposes all the universals….as sources of what are called “false problems” emanating from the illusions surrounding the plane.”    

There is, of course, nothing wrong with positing a new consistency.  For Deleuze, the heterogeneous series of percepts and concepts, content and expression, opens the forms in new articulation each time.  Once we reach that domain, we can see the necessary construction of each singular perspective.  According to Deleuze, any consistency is possible once we reach the sub-representative domain of univocality.  On this plane of unformed matter every consistency is possible.  Any self-posited consistency may be an expressive affirmation within the limits of its own construction --- an autopoiesis.  There is a self-positing construction of each relative consistency.  That is, there is truth of the relative, not relativity of truth.  There are not many relative perspectives on one generalizing universal Truth.  Each perspective is a singular construction. Any constructed percept may be compatible with any constructed concept once we reach the sub-representative domain.  Incompatibility is born only when a plane is actualized.  So, if a critic sees incompatibility or inconsistency in Deleuze, it is only because that critic has not reached the transcendental source of Deleuze’s construction.  Incompatibility or inconsistency can be seen only from the perspective that critic has actualized.  If we want to begin to understand Deleuze, we must suspend judgment to undergo the violence of unhinging the faculties --- to be open to a new encounter, or a new becoming, with Deleuze’s text.  But can we expect to create a new becoming with Deleuze’s text from the perspective of that closed universalizing and exclusive Image of Thought that is cut off from everything Deleuze is talking about? 

For example, when someone thinks Deleuze is talking about latent religion of ‘Unifying Oneness’ (against everything Deleuze tells us) we know that that interpretation does not reach Deleuze’s sub-representative plane of univocality.  Anyone who sees theism, theophany, pantheism, panentheism, or unifying Oneness in Deleuze’s text is not reaching his self-posited consistency.  Alain Badiou and Peter Hallward both see Oneness in Deleuze.  Badiou and Hallward seem to see in Deleuze’s text the ‘emanation’ that Deleuze, in ‘Expressionism in Philosophy’ Chapter 11, distinguishes from his Spinozist ‘expressionism’ and ‘immanence’.  Deleuze explores the history of this problem of Platonic participation well before his debate with Badiou.  I see Badiou as taking the side of what participates.  Badiou sees Deleuze as trying to reverse Platonism from the side of the participated (i.e. emanation).  However, Deleuze carefully contrasts his Spinozist expressive immanence from any such notion of emanation.  Badiou’s perspective only allows him to read Deleuze under the notion of ‘emanation’ which never reaches the sub-representative immanent source. 


Badiou is interpreting Deleuze’s ‘All-One’ in terms of the participation of emanation.  But his formulation of the problem is really the many/one opposition on the empirical plane of already formed matter.  His 'virtual' is already actual sets on the plane of formed matter.  He never reaches Deleuze’s plane of unformed matter.  Then, Badiou can see no real distinction that would open all the forms.  Badiou cannot reach the heterogeneity of ‘real distinction’ or the modal intensity of ‘numerical distinction’.  Badiou’s reading of Deleuze never reaches the sub-representative source of disparate difference.  From Badiou’s perspective, he cannot see how Deleuze overturns Platonism.    

In ‘Clamor of Being’ (chapter on ‘The Virtual’), Badiou reports that “[e]arly in the spring of 1993, I raised the objection to Deleuze that the category of the virtual seemed to me to maintain a kind of transcendence, transposed, so to speak, “beneath” the simulacra of the world, in a sort of symmetrical relation to the “beyond” of classical transcendence.  ….Deleuze acknowledged at once that this issue lay at the very heart of our controversy…..”  Badiou is reading Deleuze’s sub-representative “beneath” as if it were on the transcendent plane of the “beyond”.  When Badiou reads Deleuze’s sub-representative virtual ‘All-One’, he interprets this from his perspective on the transcendent plane of ‘many/one’.  Badiou’s univocity is closer to that of Scotus.  He does not reach a heterogeneity of real distinction like Spinoza’s attributes or the powers that open all the forms.  He does not reach a heterogeneity like Bergson’s multiplicities that intersect and differ in kind.  Deleuze himself (along with Guattari) responds to Badiou (‘What is Philosophy?’ 151-3) “There must be at least two multiplicities, two types, from the outset.  This is not because dualism is better than unity but because the multiplicity is precisely what happens between the two.”  We can’t get between terms of a form/matter duality (opening the forms) without reaching two types of multiplicity.  If we are restricted to the plane of representation, then not only do we not reach the sub-representative multiplicity of the virtual, we do not reach the multiplicity that actualizes the virtual either.  This is because the sub-representative plane has been left out, and the plane of representation has been cut off from its source.  

Badiou and Hallward tell us more about their own perspectives than about Deleuze’s.  Hallward (‘Out of this World’ 29), cites Deleuze (‘Bergsonism’ 29 and ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ 20-1).  “Though creation is one, it proceeds through the dualism of creating/creature in order eventually to express and intensify the monism that it is.  Every apparent “dualism is therefore only a moment, which must lead to the re-formation of a monism [….].  We employ a dualism of models only in order to arrive at a process that challenges all models” and that generates “the magic formula we all seek – PLURALISM = MONISM”.”  Deleuze tells us that we must reach the ‘PLURALISM = MONISM’ equation that he finds in Bergson.  There is a moment of dualism in Bergson that leads to the re-formation of a monism.  But this is not a simple operation.  Hallward tries to reach this equation by an emanative creating/creature duality.  However, this is exactly the kind of homogeneous duality that Bergson calls a “badly analyzed composite”.  This is not the heterogeneous dualism that Deleuze-Bergson tells us avoids the impure mixture of the composite.  It merely sees emanation of a ‘virtual’ creating which is already ‘possible’.  Then, the moment of dualism is oppositional.  Hallward never reaches Deleuze-Bergson’s heterogeneous moment of dualism that would open the forms.  Then the whole process (dualistic opposition synthesized in a monism) is closer to Hegel’s dialectic.  Hallward can only see from a perspective that leads him to interpret Deleuze in terms of an Otherworldly “theophanic” Oneness. 

Both Badiou and Halward see the same homogeneous duality of oppositional virtual/actual emanation. Neither Badiou nor Hallward reach the heterogeneity of real distinction, ontologically one.  They see only numerical distinction of substances (already formed matter) and never reach the numerical distinction of modes.  Since they remain restricted to the plane of homogeneity, there can be no real distinction in Deleuze’s sense at all.  There is no opening of the forms.  Once we reach the sub-representative domain, we see that Deleuze’s moment of “dualism” is not homogeneous.  His moment of “monism” is not Universalizing Oneness.  Deleuze’s ‘dualism’ is all real distinction of heterogeneity, ontologically one.  Deleuze’s ‘monism’ is intensive ontological singularity that temporalizes space differently each time.  In order to reach Deleuze’s ‘dualism = monism’ equation, we must reach his sub-representative source which is not a simple operation.


In ‘The Event in Deleuze’, Badiou says of Deleuze’s ‘event’, “Variety’ must here be understood as ‘variation’, as variation on a theme….”  But Deleuze tells us that, once we reach his sub-representative plane, variety changes its nature with each degree of intense variation.  It is not to be confused with many variations on one theme---many perspectives on one truth--- the one/many opposition.  Rather it is variation across the opening of all forms.  Badiou’s perspective never reaches Deleuze’s sub-representative variety that, in dividing, necessarily changes in nature.  He never reaches Deleuze’s sub-representative heterogeneity of variety that changes its real distinction with every new degree of intensive variation.  Then of course, from Badiou’s perspective, Deleuze appears to be talking about Platonic Oneness.  And in leaving out the sub-representative virtual, he is leaving out the actualizations of that virtual also.  Can Badiou really claim to bring forth a monstrous offspring of Deleuze when he leaves out everything Deleuze is talking about? 

I do not expect Badiou, or any reader, to attempt to copy some original model of Deleuze with resemblance.  According to Deleuze, to escape Platonism is to reach simulacra (without resemblance between model and copy) on the sub-representative plane of Aion (Logic of Sense 164-5, 256).  However, because Badiou reads Deleuze only from that Representational perspective that can never avoid resemblance between model and copy, he can only judge Deleuze as being still entangled in Platonism.  Can the reader expect to enter into a “machinic becoming” with Deleuze from the very Representational perspective that Deleuze tells us leaves out his sub-representative plane of difference? 

There is a tendency to project the presuppositions of Representational thought into the reading of Deleuze.  But whenever someone judges Deleuze from that perspective, leaving out Deleuze’s sub-representative domain of univocality, the criticism is irrelevant.  Criticizing Deleuze from that point of view is analogous to a scientist trying to criticize quantum physics by using classical principles.  At least, that is how it appears from my perspective.

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