Variety and Variation

by Beth Metcalf.


Difference & Repetition p.206, “Ideas contain all the varieties of differential relations and all the distributions of singular points coexisting in diverse orders ‘perplicated’ in one another.  When the virtual content of an Idea is actualized, the varieties of relation are incarnated in distinct species while singular points which correspond to the values of one variety are incarnated in the distinct parts characteristic of this or that species…. (p.207)….We call the determination of the virtual content of an Idea differentiation; we call the actualization of that virtuality into species and distinguished parts differenciation.  The Ideas know nothing of negation….Forms of the negative do indeed appear in the actual terms and real relations, but only in so far as these are cut off from the virtuality they actualize….”


Variety (longitude) is, then, purely positive.  There is nothing negative about the variety of Ideas.  There is nothing negative about the values of variation (latitude) within a variety.  And when the virtual content of the Idea is actualized, there is still nothing negative about the species and parts that are incarnated.  Illusions of the negative appear only in so far as they are cut off from the virtual that they actualize.


Therefore, the process of Univocity is a movement from the virtual to its actualization.  But Deleuze tells us that there is a danger (D&R211) that the virtual-real could be confused with the possible.  The Representational Image of Thought sees only the possibility of a prior concept and confuses this with the real.  Representation proceeds from genus to species, from one actual term to another, or from general to particular and tries to subsume a unique singular individual in that manner.  But Representation can only find individuals within the generality of the concept.  It cannot find the singularity of individual difference.  (D&R 248) “In any case, so long as it is subordinated to the criteria of resemblance within perception, identity within reflection, analogy within judgement and opposition within the concept [i.e., the Representational Image of Thought], difference is not regarded as individual difference.  It remains only general difference, even though it is borne by the individual.”  The ‘individual’ of Representation is merely a generalized, conceptual possibility.  Representational Thought never escapes the possibilities of the concept---it never reaches the virtual-real from which individual difference is actualized.


Therefore, the Representational Image of Thought takes on the arborescent structure of genus and species.  However, this structure is merely that of a prior concept and the possible conditions of its identity.  Numerically distinct objects (the many) are categorized into this arborescent structure (the conceptually one).  (This is the case even when Representation takes on an infinite variability.)  The objective structure of reality must somehow dualistically correspond to the subjective structure of the mind.  Dualistic oppositions, such as subject and object, correspond through a transcendent ground of possibility.  This Representational Image of Thought is in the form of negation (opposition and limitation) because it is cut off from its virtual source.  As long as we think within the prior concept of possibility, we still remain in the Representational Image of Thought cut off from its virtuality.  But Deleuze warns us that this conceptual-possible structure of opposition is not to be confused with Univocity’s actualizations of the virtual.  Whereas genus and species are in the Representational structure of possibility of the concept, species and parts are actualizations of the virtual-real.    


With Deleuze’s Spinozist Univocity, there are varieties of real-formal distinction (of qualified substances in the attributes) that become actualized as species.  This intersects with the numerical-modal distinction of variation (in degrees of intensity) that is actualized in parts.  These are the conditions of fluidity that do not close objects into any numerical distinction of substances.  Therefore, instead of an oppositional structure of already formed-matter (genus and species), there is actualization in fluid assemblages of species and parts.  Species, then, are actualizations of singular varieties of the virtual-real.  Parts are actualized numerical variation within variety.  This difference is fluid and real.


Therefore, each variety is really distinct from any other. But within a given variety there is no real distinction --- there is only inseparable variation.  But when there is a change or separation in intensive degree of variation there is real change in variety.


Each actualized variety and its values in actualized variation (of species and parts, qualities and extensities), is really different from any other.  Actualization remains open to its virtual source.  This is not an arborescent structure of Representation.  Rather, it is a rhizome.  It is the actualization of real, singular difference.  A new concept (as actualized singular variety) is created each time.  There is no prior concept to which experience must conform.  Each different actualization, as covered over by qualities in extension, may take on a temporary use of representation --- a temporary arborescent structure of variability (genus and species).  However, it is really the singular species of variety and its variation in parts that is actualized from the virtual source each time.  This always remains open to the real distinction of the virtual.  It never closes into the rigid Representational Image of Thought.   


(D&R173)  The Idea “integrates variation, not as a variable determination of a supposedly constant relation (‘variability’) but, on the contrary, as a degree of variation of the relation itself (‘variety’)….If the Idea eliminates variability, this is in favour of what must be called variety or multiplicity.  The Idea as concrete universal stands opposed to concepts of the understanding, and possesses a comprehension all the more vast as its extension is great.”  If an intensive quantity of variation is separated from its qualified variety, then the whole variety changes its nature.  There is real change of variety.  Variability is merely the one/many opposition in a supposedly constant relation.  It is not the sub-representative variety in variation of multiplicity.  With Univocity the relations of forces are ordinal degrees of disparate intensity that are not to be confused with oppositional relations of elements.  When we reach the intensive Univocity of forces, we find the (D&R222) “…properly qualitative content of quantity.”


With Univocity, comprehension and extension are created together in singular varieties of variation each time.  Comprehension and extension are the heterogeneity of real difference.  But this real difference is said as singular variety of inseparable variation.  This conditions both concept and thing together, differently, in each singular variety.  This means that there is no longer a subject/object dualistic opposition in one conceptual identity.  Each singularity is actualized with real difference each time.  Each time this real difference is said in one sense.  But in order to reach this actualization of the virtual, we must first reach the virtual-real ideas. (D&R176) “Ideas are concrete 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.”


(D&R 250) “It is not the individual which is an illusion in relation to the genius of the species, but the species which is an illusion – inevitable and well founded, it is true – in relation to the play of the individual and individuation.  The question is not whether in fact the individual can be separated from its species and its parts.  It cannot.  However, does not this very ‘inseparability’, along with the speed of appearance of the species and its parts, testify to the primacy in principle of individuation over differenciation?  It is the individual which is above the species, and precedes the species in principle.”  Therefore, there is pre-individual singular variety actualized in the species.  And the variation within a variety is the intensive degree of the disparate (see D&R222) actualized in the parts.  This means that, before we can find the singular difference of the individual, we must reach that virtual-real singularity which is individuated prior to its actualization in species and parts.  Singularity is pre-individual.  Individuating difference is first differentiated (variety and variation) before it can be differenciated (species and parts).  This is because univocity includes a sub-representative domain.  Deleuze says (Expressionism in Philosophy p. 181), “Substance and modes, cause and effects, only have being and are only known through common forms [attributes] that actually constitute the essence of the one [Substance – variety], and actually contain the essence of the others [modes – variation].”           

(D&R244) There is “…confrontation between two types of relations [two types of multiplicity]: differential relations in the reciprocal synthesis of the Idea [virtual variety] and relations of intensity in the asymmetrical synthesis of the sensible [an intensive quantity of variation separated from its qualified variety].”  There is a change in the nature of variety in the course of its individuation.

It is instructive to consider Deleuze’s perspective on Leibniz.  Deleuze tells us that Leibniz is still caught in the Representation of the infinitely small.  Leibniz does not reach Univocity.  However, Leibniz’s only error (D&R 51,213,279) is that he excludes all that is incompossible with the “best” of all possible worlds.  Leibniz could have approached the vice-diction of Univocitiy had he included the divergence of the incompossible.  Nevertheless, Leibniz does reach the expressive event.


Leibniz sees no opposition between the principle of indiscernibles and the law of continuity.  The principle of indisceribles is a principle of individuation.  However, the divisions established by individuation, under this principle, are not ruptures of continuity.  That is, the principle of indiscernibles is the principle of the singular varieties of inseparable variations.  The principle of continuity is the variation within each variety (the intensive and disparate distances that create a new continuity each time).  Therefore, there is no generalizing-universal concept , but rather singular individuation.  The Fold p 64, “Individuation does not go from a genre to smaller and smaller species, in accord with a law of differentiation, but goes from singular to singular under the law of convergence or of prolongation that ties the individual to one world or another…..Thus the power of the concept (to become a subject) does not consist in determining a genre to infinity, but in condensing and in prolonging singularities.  The latter are not generalities but events…”


Leibniz (especially if he had included divergent series as Whitehead later did) sees no dualistic opposition between subject and object.  Rather, the subject becomes ‘superject’ as object becomes ‘objectile’.  There is variety of points of view.  Every point of view is in variation.  However, the point of view is not to be seen as a variation of the subject.  Rather, it is the condition by which the subject becomes the continuous variation of singular events.  The Fold p42, “…the concept is not a simple logical being, but a metaphysical being; it is not a generality or a universality, but an individual; it is not defined by an attribute, but by predicates-as-events.”  That is, the concept is not a generality, but a singular variety in variation.  (‘What is Philosophy?’ p. 158) “It is a concept that apprehends the event, its becoming, its inseparable variations.”  Each variety is defined by the variation of predicates-as-events.  And, if any event is separated from its variety, it changes the variation and, thereby, the nature of its variety.  There is no longer the Representational opposition between concept and individual, form and matter, subject and object.


Therefore, with Univocity there is no longer the Representational opposition between individuation/continuity, simultaneity/succession, structure/genesis, synchrony/diachrony.  Our challenge is to think of ‘ontological singularity’ without confusing it with totalizing possibility (the one of ‘conceptual identity’).  And when we think of ‘qualified divergence’, we must take care not to confuse it with the many extensive qualities in variability of an already formed matter.  We must not confuse extensive quality (which divides without changing nature) with intensive quantity (which cannot divide without changing nature).  The Representational Image of thought says being in many senses of numerically distinct substances and that of which it is said is the variability of extensive qualities locked into the identity of one concept.  However, Deleuze’s multiplicity changes everything.  Univocity says being in one sense of all ontologically singular varieties in real variation.  The challenge, then, is not to think of difference as universalizing and generalizing variability, but as the real difference of singularity of variation in all its varieties.


A Thousand Plateaus p. 100, “There is no primacy of the individual; there is instead an indissolubility of a singular Abstract and a collective Concrete.  The abstract machine [variety] does not exist independently of the assemblage, any more than the assemblage [continuous variation] functions independently of the machine.”



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