The Immanence of Univocity
by Beth Metcalf

The tradition of Representational Thought assumes a possible correspondence between mental concepts and external reality.  But this can be assumed only by appeal to a transcendent miracle – a Transcendent Ground that would bring them into harmony.  Therefore, Representation is a theological vision of Transcendence.  However, there has always only been one ontology --- the immanence of Univocity.

‘Immanence’ has traditionally been thought to be the immediacy of our subjective experience, or the immanence “to” a transcendental subjectivity, or the immanence “to” an Absolute Concept.  However, Deleuze says that this supposed “immanence” is already a representation of experience.  It is already mediated by a prior concept about what the essence of all experience can possibly be.  We are so conditioned by the prior concept of spatialized-time, that we are not able to experience the world without it.  We cannot experience anything outside the possibilities of conceptual identity.  Representational Thought precludes the real experience of difference.  The Representation of conceptual difference prevents the real immanence of experience. 

Deleuze’s Univocity is very different from representations to our consciousness.  Whereas Representational Thought gives us merely the concept of difference, Univocity does not exclude those differences that are outside the possibility of conceptual identity.  Univocity does not describe reality through a concept of “What Is” or “What can possibly be”.  The Immanence of Univocity shows us singular difference that is more true to real experience than any Representational-conceptual thinking about experience.  Deleuze helps us to SEE real difference that is not merely a repetition of the SAME included in presupposed conceptual identity.

We cannot approach thinking about Deleuze’s Immanence without an understanding of his Spinozan Univocity. It is the key to Deleuze’s thought. This Univocity says that Substance is qualified as really and formally distinct, but there are no numerically distinct substances. This means that there is only ontologically single Substance. But that Substance is never qualitatively the same. Even in itself, it is not the same. It is difference in itself. Substance is qualified into a multiplicity of really distinct essences, but they are all ontologically one. These really distinct essences ARE ontologically one Substance. All essences, really distinct in the attributes, ARE one Substance. When substances are qualified as really distinct, each substance is a form of ontologically single Substance. Qualified substances are infinite or universal forms of ontologically single Substance. Each is really distinct from any other universal. Since each of these universal essences is a real distinction, each is also a singularity. It is the singular-universal. It has nothing to do with the generality of the particular. It has nothing to do with the numerical distinction of substances qualified into genus/species.

Therefore, we can see what Deleuze means by ‘multiplicity’. Univocity consists of multiplicities. ‘Multiplicity’ never refers to a numerical distinction of several substances which could share a common attribute. That is, Substance is not numerically ‘one’ or ‘multiple’. Substances are qualified as really distinct forms, ontologically single. Modes are the degrees of this real distinction. Individuation is a modal process. Therefore, we must no longer think of individuals as numerically distinct substances. All individuation is degree of multiplicity. Individuals are not separate substances. There are no substantial forms or subjects. There are only the intensive degrees of singularity. And, each degree is ontological singularity of Substance. There is never a numerical separation of individual substances. Individuals are not distinct, self-contained entities that remain the same. They are not substantial or essential subjectified forms. There is no longer the dichotomy of individual/collective. Rather, Individuals are fluid assemblages of degrees of really distinct quality. At the level of pre-individual singularity, the 'dividual' does not divide without changing nature.

For Spinoza’s Univocity (A Thousand Plateaus p.254) there are no substantial or essential forms.  There are real, intensive elements that are abstract in the sense that they have no form or function.  They are not atoms, because they have no form.  They do not enter into relations of opposition, but are composed of relations of speed, slowness, movement, and rest.  They are not infinitely divisible, because in dividing they change in nature.  Each intensive degree of power is an individual which is part of another individual, and another composition of relation to infinity.  Because these relations combine to form new individuals, the whole universe is a single individual of all combined relations.  There is now an intersection of all forms, really distinct but ontologically single.  Its degree of power increases with every intersection.  This means that each degree of individuation is an infinite multiplicity contained in another greater individual multiplicity, and another, until we see that the whole of Nature is ontologically “one” Individual---ontologically one Substance really and formally distinct.  But this unity of Nature has nothing to do with unity of form.  Rather, it is the plane of intersection of all forms, the machine of all functions.  Its dimensions increase depending on the multiplicities intersected.  Multiplicities interpenetrate.  This does not unify or totalize substantial forms.  Rather, it is the real distinction of forms without any numerical distinction of substances.

When a mode comes into existence (is actualized) an infinity of extensive parts fills the relations of movement and rest that correspond to the mode’s essence. Each extensive degree of composition corresponds to, but does not resemble, a degree of intensive singularity. At the sub-representative level of intensive singularity, modal essences all agree with each other. Since they are intensities, there can be no incompatibility. Whereas extensive elements can enter into compositions of relations that agree or disagree, all singular intensities agree. Intensive modal essences are involved in the attributes. They partake of the real distinction of the attributes. Only Univocity keeps the extensive compositions open in an eternal return to this intensive realm of the sub-representative where all singular intensities are compatible and affirmed and can communicate with each other. Only Univocity keeps representation open to the real distinction of ontologically single Substance. The consistency of a mode is constituted only by the inseparability of its components. The intensive modal essence is that which cannot divide or separate without changing its nature.

But what does this mean to the ‘immanence’ our experience? Deleuze and Guattari tell us that in order to reach the plane of Immanence, we must reach the intensity of the event. ATP262, “The street enters into composition with the horse, just as the dying rat enters into composition with the air, and the beast and the full moon enter into composition with each other…” In this passage ‘street’, ‘horse’, ‘dying rat’, ‘air’, ‘beast’, ‘full moon’ are not separate substances. They are not represented by a conceptual identity that would make them numerically distinct substances. They are not forms or subjects. They are not the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Rather, they enter into compositions of singular intensity of an event. They are dimensions of a multiplicity. They are an assemblage of singular haecceity. With each added degree of individuation, there is the becoming of a new singularity—and no singularity can divide without changing in nature. For example, if we take ‘horse’ out of the above assemblage, the whole event changes in nature. That is, a new degree of singularity brings with it a really distinct change in quality. This is not to be taken as a numerically distinct difference of substantial forms. Intensities are said in one sense, but in dividing or changing degree, they create really distinct difference. All singular modal essences of intensity are compatible, positive affirmation. They are not numerically distinct substances sharing a common attribute. They cannot enter into relations of opposition. They enter into assemblages which constitute the consistency of a mode---the singularity of an event. Therefore, ATP263, “Climate, wind, season, hour are not of another nature than the things, animals, or people that populate them, follow them, sleep and awaken within them. This should be read without a pause: the animal-stalks-at-five-o’clock. The becoming-evening, becoming-night of an animal, blood nuptials. Five o’clock is this animal! This animal is this place!”

Deleuze tells us (What is Philosophy?) that immanence “to” something re-introduces transcendence into our thought about being. I introduce transcendence when I think that the empirically “given” is immanent “to” my subjectivity—or when I think an experience is immanent “to” a concept. Whenever we talk about the immanence of experience, we usually take that to mean the immanence “to” the way we represent our experience to ourselves through the concept. I sit down at my computer--the same computer, the same chair in which I sit, I enter the same password---I am the same subject today as yesterday and it will be the same tomorrow. This is the Representation of numerically distinct substances which can share a common concept in the same essence. These are the forms and subjects of closed Representation on the plane of transcendence cut off from the plane of immanence. But on the plane of immanence, “Five o’clock is the animal”. This is the haecceity of the singular event. Therefore, the animal is not the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, just as my computer is not the same. ATP262, “It is the wolf itself, and the horse, and the child, that cease to be subjects to become events, in assemblages that are inseparable from an hour, a season, an atmosphere, an air, a life.” The haecceity is the individuated assemblage of the intensities that enter into it. It is singular event. We have only to consult the immanence of experience to see what this means. It is only when I explain my experience through a concept, that haecceity disappears. Pure Immanence is non-formal and non-subjectifying experience of fluid degrees of individuated assemblages that never separate into a dualism of subject and object. There is only immanent affect in fluid assemblages of intensity.

The haecceity is a cartography of longitude and latitude. Longitude is composition of unformed elements in relations of speed and slowness, movement and rest. Latitude is non-subjectified affect of which a body is capable at a degree of power or intensity. Therefore, whereas Representational thought defines bodies by genus and species, Univocity finds haecceity of pre-individual singularity. Haecceity has nothing to do with forms of individual persons, subjects, things, or substances. There is no resemblance or analogy. Becoming is affect, not representation. ‘Horse’, ‘street’, and ‘rat’ are intensities expressed in one sense. They enter into a haecceity of a singular machinic assemblage.

Immanence is that “ideal” or “divine” dice game that can’t fit the categories of Representation. All the throws of the dice are ontologically one. They are all really and formally distinct, but ontologically one throw. And all the throws remain OPEN to the whole of chance in each throw. This opening is crucial to immanence. It is the eternal return of Univocity. Since real distinction IS ontologically unique Substance, now all the really distinct forms are open to each other. All events communicate in the nomadic distribution of open space and time. The really distinct forms ARE ontologically one. And, they are all SAID in one sense. But it is because they are not numerically distinct substances, that they are now able to be really distinct. There are not numerically distinct substances sharing a common attribute which would bring them into the common essence or common sense of the concept. The forms remain open in real distinction. If the forms close, then they become numerically distinct and they introduce transcendence.

With Univocity, there is still representation. However now, representation is merely fragile and temporary surface effect. These “uses” of representation (Logic of Sense 144-147) must not be confused with the Representation of numerically distinct substances, or substantial essences. With Univocity, “uses” of representation are always modal. With Univocity, there is no representation of substantial forms to subjectivity. Actualization never proceeds from general to particular. All is singularity of the universal. Univocal singular intensities now carry their real difference into actualization. And this actualization remains open to the sub-representative forces of real distinction in one Substance. There are no longer any substantial forms of Representation at all.  Only when the forms close do the substances appear to be numerically distinct. They appear to share a common attribute. The forms sedentarily partition being into the form of the concept in general. It is the concept with its generality and identity that introduces transcendence into our thinking about being.  However, actualization is not to be confused with any conceptual production of the many as merely a numerical distinction of a totalizable One.  Rather, Univocity brings real distinction (virtuality) into actualization. Only with Univocity is there the opening of the forms in the eternal return of immanence.

When Deleuze says that actualization is a “use” of representation, he does not revert back to analogy or identity of the Representational Image of Thought.  Deleuze uses a language that is open to the sub-representative domain.  When D&G say (ATP 262) “We must avoid an oversimplified conciliation, as though there were on the one hand formed subjects, of the thing or person type, and on the other hand spatiotemporal coordinates of the haecceity type.  For you will yield nothing to haecceities unless you realize that that is what you are, and that you are nothing but that.”  Therefore, we are never forms and subjects of Representation that are closed into one form.  Even when we make actualized “uses” of representations (open to the sub-representative domain), there are no substantial forms or subjects.  We must reach a sub-representative transcendental-virtual that reaches structure as multiplicity --- that can actualize any really different modal “use” of representation (without any substantial forms or subjects).  Univocity is not just a new way of thinking.  Immanence is a new way of Being.  Univocity is the ontological sameness of all real difference of Being and Saying. 

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