WHAT IS UNIVOCITY?
by Beth Metcalf
Do you believe there are really distinct minds to which may be attributed different thoughts? Do you believe there are really distinct bodies to which may be attributed different shapes? If so, you are thinking according to the common sense dichotomy of subject and object, consciousness and perception. If you are still thinking in terms of a process of generality (genus and species), then you are still thinking Representationally and do not reach Univocity. You still rely on some external miracle in the passage between things conceived as really distinct to really distinct things. You are still stuck in merely representational mediation of the possible and do not reach the REAL forces of Univocity, according to Deleuze.
Deleuze defines Univocity by saying (Difference and Repetition p.36), Being is said in a single and same sense of everything of which it is said, but that of which it is said differs: it is said of difference itself. What does this mean? If we want to understand Deleuzes philosophy, it is important to come to terms with his Spinozist Univocity. But, let us first understand what Univocity is NOT. Univocity is not similar to Representational thought.
A process of abstract generality constitutes Representational thought (See Expressionism in Philosophy Chapter One). There is classification by genus and species. Attributes qualify substances conceived to be really distinct differences in kind. But attributes also diversify modes. This means that substance is genus, the attribute is specific difference, and modes are species. An attribute constitutes the essence of a substance it qualifies, but it also constitutes the essence of modes it links to substances sharing a common attribute. Modes distinguish substances sharing an attribute. This carries the division of numerically distinct modes into substantial reality, mistaking a merely numerical distinction of substances for a real distinction.
Another problem with Representational thinking is that attributes, as conceived to be really distinct, all share a common form of conceptual identity. Attributes are conceived in their opposition to one another. And that means that substances (whether of the same attribute, or of different attributes) all share a common conceptual form of negative determination. Substances share a common conceptual form. But things with the same concept can only be distinguished by some external cause. Thus, Representational thinking depends upon an external, transcendent ground to mediate the correspondence of differing things with our minds way of conceiving them as possible. Therefore, Representational thought has merely numerically distinct substances and merely conceptual mediation of possibility, confusing these with real distinction.
Therefore, Deleuze follows Spinoza in saying that such Representational definition by genus and species is merely abstract classification. It is classification by merely extrinsic sign---by merely perceptible similarities and differences rather than internal causes. When we, thereby, take attributes as extrinsic signs, we confuse things conceived as really distinct with really distinct things. And, in spite of the fact that Representational thinking believes itself to include real difference, Deleuze is saying that, with its numerical distinction of substances, there is no real distinction---no real difference. Even when Representation opens the categories and is made infinite, as with Hegelianism, there is still only the numerical distinction of substances---and numerical distinction is never real. Nothing REAL-ly changes when Representation introduces infinite variability into a supposed numerical distinction of substances. There is still no real distinction because there is no Univocity. Infinite Representation still has no real, internal difference. There are still merely perceptual similarities and differences. The Absolute Concept of Hegels Infinite Representation never escapes the identity internal to the concept in general. There is merely mediation of possibility between the rational and what is supposed to be real.
So, what is Deleuzes Univocity? In contrast to Representational thought, Univocity has no numerically distinct substances. In fact, Deleuze-Spinoza says that, not only can there not be several substances sharing a common attribute, but there can be only one Substance for all attributes. Now, the heterogeneous attributes are thought and extension. (But there is an infinity of attributes which means that they can take on any form as they qualify Substance.) They are ontologically one Substance. There is no longer a transcendent ground mediating between things in extension and possibilities of thought. Now, the attributes ARE one Substance, ontologically. Substance has real, not numerical, distinction. This means that Univocity is not a process of classification by genus and species. With Univocity, there is an infinity of formally-really distinct attributes qualifying ontologically single Substance. The really distinct attributes ARE ontologically one Substance. Substance is qualitatively, not quantitatively, distinct. Substance and attributes correspond qualitatively or formally, and not numerically. There are really-formally distinct senses said in one ontological Sense. Really-formally distinct events ARE one ontological Event. Attributes qualify Substance as formally-really distinct essences of ontologically single Substance. It is because substances are really distinct forms that they now can all communicate with each other. They ARE one Substance ontologically. All formal essences are now open to each other, because they are not numerically distinct. They are virtual because they are really distinct and cannot be numerically separated. (EiP p.66) "All qualified substances form only one substance from the point of view of quantity. So that attributes themselves have at once identity of being and distinction of formaility. Ontologically one, formally diverse, such is their status."
With Representation, numerically distinct substances can share a common attribute. This means that there are merely numerical differences that share a conceptual form of identity. But Univocity changes everything. There is ontologically single Substance that itself is constituted of really distinct forms. With Univocity, attributes are affirmed as positive and infinite essence of Substance. This means that there cannot be several substances sharing a common attribute which would give them something in common by which they could be conceived in relations of opposition. There is no mediation by way of the conceptually possible. Therefore, Deleuzes multiplicity must not be confused with the Representational opposition of one/multiple. Multiplicity must not be confused with any numerically multiple substances which could share one common conceptual form of identity. Nor is Substance a form of unity. Substance does not unify or totalize multiple or variable forms in relations of opposition. Substances are qualified as infinite forms, really distinct even though ontologically single. Only Univocity includes the qualitative multiplicities of real distinction.
For Deleuze-Spinoza's Univocity (EiP 32-3), "Two or more
substances cannot share the same attribute, for they would then
have to be distinguished by their modes, which is absurd."
Therefore, whenever we think there can be two or more numerically
distinct substances that share a common property, we are thinking
Representationally in terms of genus and species. But for
Univocity, numerical distinction is never real, and real
distinction is never numerical (EiP 34). The attributes qualify
Substance as all real distinction. But really distinct substances
can share no attribute in common. Therefore, all really distinct
substances must be singular. They cannot be numerically distinct.
Attributes constitute the essence of qualified substance as real
distinction, ontologically one. Attributes also contain the
heterogeneous parallelism of intensive modal coupling (see DR
222). The nature of real distinction changes with each degree of
intensive coupling. But all degrees of intensive coupling are
ontological singularity without numerical distinction. The whole
of Being is said in the same sense for all real distinction of
As well as the real distincion of qualified substances, Univocity also includes quantitative multiplicities. That is, there is a sort of numerical distinction (although, numerical is just a way of speaking about it). But now, with Univocity, we realize that numerical distinction is always modal. Modal-numerical distinction is not to be mistaken for any numerical distinction of substances. This means that bodies are not substances. Minds are not subjects. Modes are quantitative degrees of quality. They are physical degrees of intensity. And, in dividing, they necessarily change in nature. The essence of the mode is an intensive degree of power. A mode is the capacity of a body to be affected at a degree of power. But whatever the degree, being is said in one sense. Being is the same for all modes. But the modes are not the same. Each singular degree expresses itself in a certain relation of speed and slowness, movement and rest. When a relation is filled by an infinite collection of extensive parts, the finite mode comes into existence (is actualized). However, existing modes never resemble the modal essences they actualize. Univocity is not at all the abstract generality of Representational thought. No process of genus and species is ever involved in actualization (i.e., bringing a finite mode into existence). Univocitys process of numerical distinction of modes is not to be confused with Representations process of numerical distinction of substances.
With Representational thought, categories divide and repartition being sedentarily and give it a plurality of ontological senses (being is said equivocally). However, that of which being is said is the same (that of which being is said is univocal). There is no real difference. Being is said only of differences in general. The essence of Substance constitutes the essence of modes. Now, let us return to Deleuzes definition of Univocity. Univocity is the reverse of Representation-analogy. Being is SAID in one sense (being is said univocally). Attributes have a common form in Substance and in modes. That is, the attributes express being (the essence of Substance and the essences of modes) in one sense. However, Deleuzes definition goes on to say that that of which Being is said is different (that of which being is said is equivocal). It is difference itself. The essence of Substance and essences of modes are not at all the same. The essence of Substance does not constitute the essence of its modes. The attributes constitute the essence of Substance and contain the essences of modes. Now, with Univocity, it is not identity that is said in several senses. It is difference that is said in one sense.
With the categories of Representational thought, the individual is classified within a general/particular framework of already formed matter. The principle of individuation is contained in the fully constituted individual. Therefore, Representation generalizes the universal, and it cannot tell us what constitutes the singularity of the individual. However, with Univocity, there are really distinct varieties of singularity. Individuating factors act in a sub-representative domain of pre-individual singularity beneath form and matter. Singularity is pre-individual. The individual is no longer determined within a general framework of already formed matter. Generality does not determine the individual. There is no universal, abstract generality. Rather, there is only the multiplicity of singular-universals. With Univocity, individuation precedes formed matter, species and parts, and the fully constituted individual of our experience. (DR247) Qualities, extensities, forms and matters, species and parts are not primary; they are imprisoned in individuals as though in a crystal. Moreover, the entire world may be read, as though in a crystal ball, in the moving depth of individuating differences or differences in intensity. Now, intensive, modal singularities relate immediately to univocal being. Universal, ontologically single Substance is said, in one sense, immediately of all pre-individual singular modal essences. Modes are repartitioned within attributes according to mobile singular degrees of individuating difference. Each singularity can be actualized as an individual-world of plural modal significations. Being is also said immediately, in one sense, of these extensive modes. But no actualized world can be a universal generality. If actualization is confused with universal generality, then it does not escape Representation.
Deleuze-Spinozas Univocity must never be confused with Representational categories of possible experience. Representational thought, with its arborescent structure of genus and species, has numerically distinct substances sharing a common conceptual form of negative determination. Representation is already formed-matter. It never breaks its form-matter coupling. In contrast to Representational thought, the individuation of Univocity operates beneath the forms. Univocity breaks the form-matter coupling to reach a sub-representative domain of pre-individual singularity where matter is not yet formed. Rhizomes remain open to the subterranean field of unformed matter. There is an opening of the forms to allow a qualitative repartitioning of being without breaking the unity of ontological Sense.
When we divide modes into numerically distinct substantial, extensive parts, we fall into abstraction. In Representational abstraction, we separate modal essences from their internal cause and from the attributes that contain them. But with Univocity, representation is temporary surface effect. Univocity always keeps the representational plane of transcendence open to the sub-representative plane of immanence. It rhizomatically keeps the forms open in the eternal return of real difference. That is, it keeps the forms in contact with the real distinction of attributes in ontologically single Substance. This means that actualization is not a process involving numerically distinct substances. Actualization is not a process involving species within a common genus. It is singular modes which come into actualization. Individuation is not a process going from genus to species, or from general to particular. It goes from infinite quality to corresponding intensive and singular quantity. It is singular modal essences which become actualized in the existing modes, without resemblance. Actualization is always a modal process. Actualization is not a Representational process of the generality of the particular. Univocity is the process of universality of singular difference, each time.
Therefore, forces of Univocity are not at all similar to those of Representations abstract generality. We can define things Representationally by genus and species. But that doesnt tell us the capacity of a body to be affected. We can think by way of Representational images of consciousness and perception. But that doesnt reach Univocity where Being expresses elements of unformed matter and non-subjectified affect in one sense. And, even though Representational thought has always assumed itself to include real forces of difference, Deleuze says it does not. Deleuze is saying that Representational thought has only numerical distinction of substances and no real difference. Only with Univocity do we come to understand what it means to say that numerical distinction is always modal. Only when numerical distinction is seen to be modal, not substantial, does representation remain open to the sub-representative, sub-atomic field of the real forces of Univocal difference.
Representational Thought is the oppositional negation that opposes what it is to what it is not. Representation excludes everything it is not. But Univocity opposes Representational negation. What Univocity is does not exclude or negate what Univocity it not. That is, Univocity does not exclude or negate representation. Rather, Univocity vice-dicts representation. Univocity includes inessential modal uses of actualized representations. It is not a universalizing generality of Representation that excludes real difference.
Return to Home Page