The Empty Form of Time—Eternal Return
by Beth Metcalf

Deleuze says that Kant’s discovery of the transcendental is the Copernican Revolution that frees time from its cardinal hinges. Kant’s critique of the Cartesian Cogito (Difference & Repetition p.85-6) allowed him to realize that the determination (I think) could not directly determine the undetermined (I am). So, he asked how the undetermined becomes determined. What is the determinable condition? The determinable condition is the pure a priori form of time that internalizes the difference between thought and being. The ‘I’ is fractured by this pure, empty form of time. The pure form of time is the correlate of the passive self as the empty form of the determinable. It signifies the death of God, the fractured I, and the passive self. Time is no longer subordinate to the cardinal measure of movement. Movement is subordinate to the time that conditions it. Time is pure static order---pure empty form. Time, out of joint.

This was the Kantian initiative. Unfortunately, Deleuze says, (DR87) this was an aborted initiative where Self, world, and God underwent a resurrection, and all was safe for the world of Representation again. The fracture of the ‘I’ was filled, and with it, the empty form of time was filled too. When Kant filled the fracture, reconstituted the self, and re-hinged the faculties, he found himself again at the level of the concept. His spatio-temporal forms were, a priori, in the image of the concept. (DR218) Then, all that Kant’s transcendental could do, as an “empty” (empty of empirical content) form of determination of time and construction of space, was to remain within the schema of the concept. But concepts, themselves, are not empty forms. The concept is already a form of logical possibility. It merely translates logical possibility into transcendental possibility. The spatio-temporal relations are still external to the concept, and as external, they can only find harmony with the concept by appeal to a miracle --- a transcendent ground of possibility. Therefore, Deleuze says, there must be a prior internal dynamic construction of space and time beneath the schema of the concept. The sub-representative dynamisms are no longer schemata of concepts, but dramas of Ideas. Univocity is that which allows Deleuze to take up Kant’s aborted initiative. With Univocity, the faculties remain unhinged in the sub-representative realm of the Idea. Ideas are not schemata of concepts which keep the faculties on their hinges. With Univocity, spatio-temporal dynamisms are external and without concept, but internal to the sub-representative Idea.

Therefore, Univocity gives Deleuze the means to find a sub-representative realm beneath the form of the ‘I’ and the matter of the ‘Self’. But we cannot reach this realm through relational forces which still remain at the level of formed matter of an I-Self system. We must reach a realm included only in Univocity where the faculties are unhinged, the I is fractured, and the Self is dissolved. With Univocity, there is no longer a prior form of the ‘I’ in comprehension. There is no prior matter of the ‘Self’ in extension. With Univocity, we reach a transcendental field beneath relations of formed matter. We reach a pre-individual realm of singularity. Here, Individuation is a process of differentiation of intensities. Individuating factors are enveloping and enveloped intensity. Intensity is singular difference itself. Singularity is pre-individual. An individuated singularity is an individual world in embryo. An individuated singularity is that which comes into actualization.

Therefore, it is not structural relations that enter into a process of individuation. Relations of opposition or negation are still structures of already formed matter. Individuation would still be a determination (I think) of the undetermined (I am). This is the case even with infinitely variable formed matter. Even the continuous development of form (of the ‘I’) and the continuous variation of matter (of the ‘Self’) never breaks the form-matter coupling. It is still always subordinate to the possible movements of continuity and succession. It is still subordinate to movement in a spatialized concept of time. As long as we think in terms of Selfhood---in terms of relational forces of the form of the I and the matter of the Self--- we do not reach the forces of Univocity. We misunderstand Univocity as long as we think in terms of structural-relational forces. Therefore, the I as an other is not the other as another I. ‘I’ is an ‘other’, not as oppositional relation, but as problematic. That is, the other is not the non-being of the negative of relational forces of the concept. The ‘Other’ is the problematic Idea of Univocity.

Individuality is not Selfhood. Individuating factors are not formed matter in the form of the ‘I’ or the matter of the ‘Self’. Individuating factors are pre-individual singularities of the dissolved self and the fractured I. Univocity includes the prior process of individuation, in a pre-individual field of singularity. Individuation is a modal process that carries real distinction, real difference, into actualization. Each singularity may be actualized within a really distinct, singularly Individuated world. All Individuals SAY their universal-singularity in one sense. Therefore, the Individual is the singular-universal. But the Individual-world is also fluid and mobile degrees of assemblage. Individuation has nothing to do with any process of numerical distinction of the forms and subjects of already formed matter. Rather, with Univocity, the fractured I and the dissolved self are actualized as fragile, fluid, and temporary surface effects that produce uses of representation within an Individuated world. They are no longer thought in the form and matter of numerically distinct substances within a fixed generality of Representation.

Therefore, as Deleuze takes up Kant’s aborted initiative, the pure empty form of time is not just empty of all empirical content. It is also empty in the sense that it is without concept. It is not a dynamic determination internal to a concept of an already spatialized time. That would merely subordinate it to movement with its successions and continuities. Rather, this empty form of time is static order. The pure, empty form of time is the Univocity of Time. As Univocity, it is the nomadic distribution of singularities in parallel series. Singularities are distributed into the static order of BEFORE-AFTER. Singularities are nomadically distributed into an open Time. There are really and formally distinct times in ontologically single Time. Only with Univocity does time truly become free from its cardinal hinges. Univocity is that which gives Deleuze the basis for reinitiating Kant’s aborted initiative without falling back into the empirical conditions traced by the concept.

Time as cardinal hinge is the quantitative measure of movement. But the pure order of time out of joint (with the unhinging of the faculties) is no longer subordinate to movement. Time is pure, empty form. It is purely ordinal. First, Before---Second, After. There is no empirical content in the pure order of time. However, neither is there a spatialized concept of time subordinate to movement. There is only formal and static a priori order. The order of time is before-after. It is the slowness of ‘What is going to happen?’ It is the speed of ‘What has just happened?’ Singularities are nomadically distributed into the static order. Movement is subordinate to duration. All duration is really and formally distinct in ontologically single Time. This is the unhinging of time---the unhinging of the faculties of the dissolved self. This unhinges time from its subordination to the cardinal measure of movement. With this unhinging, movement becomes subordinate to time. Time becomes the transcendental condition of movement without any prior concept of a spatialized time.

This is that strange dice game which can’t be thought. It is the dice game of Univocity where all throws are really and formally distinct in one ontological throw. This is the univocity of Time. In Kant’s Critical Philosophy p.viii, Deleuze says, “Everything which moves and changes is in time, but time itself does not change, does not move, any more than it is eternal. It is the form of everything that changes and moves, but it is an immutable Form which does not change. It is not an eternal form, but in fact the form of that which is not eternal, the immutable form of change and movement.” This means that time is not an eternal principle or an eternal, a priori form. That would be a merely conceptual form of spatialized time. The Univocity of Time means that there are really and formally distinct durations in ontologically single Time. All really and formally distinct change is one form which does not change or move. The form of Time (change) does not change. Before---After. This is the static form into which singularities are nomadically distributed in Aion. Each event communicates with all others in one Event. This is the eternal truth of the singular. Aion is the unique throw of the dice from which all throws are qualitatively, not numerically, distinguished. With the Univocity or Pure Order of Time, every time as really and formally distinct IS the whole of Time, ontologically one. The order, before-after, never changes. Aion, as pure empty form of time, has no empirical or conceptual content. It is pure, empty and static order. Action could be anything. Aion is the third synthesis of Univocity---the Eternal Return. Aion is ontologically single order of Time open in eternal return to all really and formally distinct durations. Aion nomadically distributes all times, really and formally distinct, into open Time, ontologically single.

The Eternal Return is not actualized in bodies or states of affairs. It is the third synthesis of counter-actualization. It is the synthesis that affirms all disjunctions in their distance. It condenses the singularities and makes them resonate. It is the affirmation of all chance in the unique throw. It says all really distinct singularities in one sense. In the eternal return of counter-actualization, the individual affirms distance, passing through other individuals actualized by other events, and entering into a becoming with them. The individual becomes the unique singularity that is all real difference. (Anti-Oedipus p. 21) “The subject spreads itself out along the entire circumference of the circle, the center of which has been abandoned by the ego. At the center is the desiring-machine, the celibate machine of the Eternal Return….It is not a matter of identifying with various historical personages, but rather identifying the names of history with zones of intensity on the body without organs; and each time Nietzsche-as-subject exclaims: “They’re me! So it’s me!””

Return to Home Page