TRANSCENDENTAL EMPIRICISM
by Beth Metcalf

In grounding the form of truth, we try to rise from the conditioned to find the condition. But Deleuze asks how we can do this without tracing the condition from that which is conditioned. How do we avoid tracing the transcendental condition from the possibility of that which is conditioned by our concepts? How do we proceed without tracing causes from the very effects we are trying to ground? How do we escape the conceptual conditions that mediate the possible? How do we avoid tracing the transcendental from the empirical?

Deleuze presents his Transcendental Empiricism as this unconditioned condition. It is that by which the given is given. But what is meant by “the given”? Representational thought sees the “given” as the immediacy of that which is given to our senses. It is the immanence of the empirically given prior to any mediation of conceptual thought of the perceiving subject. Or, perhaps given immediacy is thought to be immanent “to” a transcendental subjectivity, or “to” an Absolute Concept. However, Deleuze is telling us that this Representational “given” is still transcendence. This empirically “given” is still mediated by spatialized time as the form of the conceptually possible. This “given”, Deleuze is telling us, is NOT REAL. It is NOT IMMEDIACY. It is NOT IMMANENCE. In Difference & Repeitition, Deleuze tells us that empiricism becomes transcendental only when it becomes the being of the sensible. It is that which can only be sensed. This unconditioned cannot be remembered, imagined, or thought. It is only with the shock of encounter that the faculties are unhinged, the representational schemas of our faculties dissolve, and we reach a sub-representative domain of the real, unconditioned difference of the being of the sensible. Therefore, we see that what Deleuze means by ‘immanence’ is not at all what that term means in the context of Representational ontology. For Representation, immanence is the supposed immediacy of the here and now. It is supposedly given to the senses. However, Deleuze is saying that the supposed “given” of Representation is already mediated. It is mediated by the possibilities of the concept. That which Representation calls ‘immanence’ is still transcendence which keeps us from reaching the being of the sensible and the unhinging of the faculties. Representation never escapes the tracing of the empirical from the identity of the concept in general, or the tracing of the transcendental from the empirical. Deleuze is telling us that the ‘given’ is not the sensory given. Nor is it the presupposed concept. Rather, the given is given as expressed.

With Kant’s Representational transcendentalism, that by which the given is given is still included in the given concept of spatialized time. It is a schema. It merely traces the transcendental from the empirical. DR218, “A schema is indeed a rule of determination for time and of construction for space, but it is conceived and put to work in relation to concepts understood in terms of logical possibility: this is so much part of its nature that it does no more than convert logical possibility into transcendental possibility. It brings spatio-temporal relations into correspondence with the logical relations of the concept. However, since it remains external to the concept, it is not clear how it can ensure the harmony of the understanding and sensibility, since it does not even have the means to ensure its own harmony with the understanding without appeal to a miracle.”

Kant introduced the empty, pure form of time into thought. However, Kant saved the world of Representation with a “practical resurrection”. Deleuze takes up Kant’s aborted initiative of the transcendental while avoiding any tracing of the transcendental from the empirical. DR218, “Everything changes when the dynamisms are posited no longer as schemata of concepts but as dramas of Ideas. For if the dynamism is external to concepts – and, as such, a schema – it is internal to Ideas – and, as such, a drama or dream.” Ideas are not to be confused with schemata of concepts. Dynamisms dramatize Ideas in an actualization that does not resemble what is actualized. That is, the given does not resemble that by which the given is given. The conditioned does not resemble that by which the conditioned is conditioned.

In A Thousand Plateaus p.265-6 and p.280-2, Deleuze and Guattari say that on the plane of transcendence, the principle of the plane is hidden. The principle of the plane is not given. We find that it is on the plane of transcendence, the plane of development of form, where movement is imperceptible. We merely assume the principle of this plane without being able to perceive it. This plane renders forms perceptible, but the principle of the plane cannot be perceived. Movement itself continues to occur elsewhere. Therefore, it is on the sub-representative plane of immanence or composition where the hidden principle is perceived.

However, we see from Deleuze’s Spinozism that ‘perception’ has a new sense on the plane of immanence. It is that which understanding perceives as necessary. Therefore, this ‘perception’ is not sensory perception which is conditioned by the concept of a spatialized time. Rather, it is a perception of an understanding as unhinged faculty. Likewise ‘sense’ is the being of the sensible. It is not common sense hinged to the faculties in the identity of the concept. Therefore, Deleuze uses the terms ‘sense’, ‘perception’, and ‘understanding’ in a manner that does not depend on any prior possible conditions of our sensory perceptions or our faculties. ‘Perception’ is not sensory perception. ‘Understanding’ (or ‘comprehension’) is not conditioned by the concept. ‘Sense’ is not the ‘common sense’ or ‘good sense’ of the hinged faculties. Rather, these terms refer to that unconditioned ground from which both our sensory perceptions and concepts are conditioned. With Transcendental Empiricism, understanding is a perception. It is not the sensory perception of representational empiricism. Nor is ‘understanding’ a conceptual comprehension. Rather, it is the being of the sensible. It is that by which the given of perceptions (in extension) and concepts (of comprehension) are given as expressed. It is that which can only be sensed. Because attributes are expressions, they have an understanding that “perceives” what is expressed. (Spinoza: Practical Philosophy p.51) “If the attribute necessarily relates to the intellect, this is not because it resides in the intellect, but because it is expressive and because what it expresses necessarily implies an intellect that “perceives” it.” Each attribute expresses a certain essence, and what the attribute expresses necessarily implies an intellect that “perceives” it. Comprehension demonstrates the properties of a thing at the same time it becomes a perception. Expressionism in Philosophy p.61-2, “It is because attributes are themselves expressions that they are necessarily referred to the understanding as to the only capacity for perceiving what is expressed.”

As ‘perception’ takes on this new sense on the plane of immanence, the principle of composition (which was hidden on the plane of transcendence) is perceived as it composes. It is, therefore, that by which the principle is given as transcendental condition of both the empirical and the conceptual. This “perception”, then, is Spinoza’s ‘Idea’ (not to be confused with the schemas of the concept). The ‘Idea’ is the basis for Deleuze’s dramatization of spatio-temporal dynamisms in his attempt to revive the Kantian initiative.

It is on the representational plane of extensity that sub-representative intensity is covered by formed qualities and cancelled in extension. If the forms of this plane become cut off from the intensity of the sub-representative plane, the concepts close into blockages. In Representational thought, the relations internal to the generality of the concept (comprehension) are inversely related to extension. But no matter how far comprehension of the concept is pushed, there are always conceptual blockages, so that the concept never can say what constitutes the singularity of the individual.

It is only with Deleuze’s Spinozist Univocity that we find a new sub-representative domain that conditions both our perceptions and our concepts---a Transcendental-Empirical field of real-virtual forces. Here, comprehension is not to be confused with psychological forms of consciousness. Nor is extension to be confused with any representative contents designating objects of our sensory perceptions. Rather, this transcendental field consists of the being of the sensible. Comprehension and extension (which take on this new sense) are now directly, not inversely, related in this sub-representative domain internal to the Idea. (DR176) “Ideas are concrete [singular] universals in which extension and comprehension go together—not only because they include variety or multiplicity in themselves, but because they include singularity in all its varieties.” This means that there is no longer any Representational generality of the universal. There is an infinity of varieties of singular-universals. (DR1) “Generality, as generality of the particular, stands opposed to repetition as universality of the singular.” Each singular-universal is an entire world as an egg (DR216). Each singularity is an individual embryo containing the entire universe. This embryo is what is actualized each time--- the whole of chance each time. It is modal singularity that each time is actualized into a plurality of modal significations constituting a world. The Transcendental field of pure immanence composes singularities which are themselves universal. Therefore, with Univocity, we see that extension and comprehension are directly related. (DR173) “The idea as concrete universal stands opposed to the concepts of the understanding, and possesses a comprehension all the more vast as its extension is great.”

Therefore, we see that with Univocity everything changes. With the Transcendental Empirical field of intensity, comprehension and extension (which take on a new sense due to the unhinging of the faculties) are directly, not inversely, related on the plane of immanence. Now, thought (comprehension) and extension are the attributes and powers in heterogeneous parallelism. Now the universal as singular, is no longer abstract universal generality. There are multiplicities of singular-universal varieties. And, there are individuations in degrees of singularity. Therefore, there are no eternal principles of generality. It is the intensities (singular-universals) that are actualized. Comprehension and extension are composed together with real difference each time.

Deleuze’s forces are those of a sub-representative field of intensity where comprehension and extension are constructed together in a prior, pre-individual singularity. This field conditions each singular use of representation. It is the condition for both our perceptions and our concepts. Sense perceptions are no longer seen to be immediate. They are constructed from a prior field of immanence. Immediacy is sub-representative. The identity of the concept is no longer presupposed. Concepts are created from a prior sub-representative intensity. There is no general conceptual identity. There is REAL difference of Univocity.

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