Widder’s Genealogies of Difference
by Beth Metcalf

In his Genealogies of Difference p.49, Nathan Widder says, “Deleuze…. presents the structuring operation of dispersion in terms of a passage from a virtual field of forces into actual relations of difference. The schema of virtual and actual is not unlike the Hegelian system….The latter presents two levels, of actual experience on the one hand and a movement of forces that gives it meaning on the other. This second level remains constitutive but hidden….but is nevertheless fully real: it is not a possibility that may or may not exist but instead a condition necessary for experience to “make sense.”” Widder understands that Deleuze’s virtual-real forces are not forces of the possible. However, Widder concludes that, because Hegel’s forces are not empirically contingent possibilities, they must be “fully real”. Widder does not seem to be aware that Hegel’s forces ARE the conditions of logical possibility. Widder still confuses the ‘virtual’ with the ‘possible’. The movement of Hegel’s relational forces is that which conditions, mediates, and determines the possibility of the meaning and sense of our experience. And, that is exactly what Deleuze is trying to warn us! Hegel still mediates logical possibilities. Logical possibilities are internal to the concept. They still mediate the conceptually possible. And as long as there is such mediation, Hegel’s forces are not real. The movement of Hegel’s relational forces is merely mediation of conceptual-logical possibility. That ‘the real is rational’ means that Hegel takes the “real” to be rational possibility. These so-called “real” forces are merely possibilities internal to the identity of the concept. The movement of Hegel’s relational forces never escapes the identity of the concept. Of course, Hegel doesn’t remain in the concept as identical in itself, but his thought is still mediated by the principle of conceptual identity. Hegel’s forces are forces of Representation-analogy, not Univocity. Hegel’s forces are not similar to Deleuze’s forces.

In merely taking the concept to infinity, Hegel does nothing to introduce any real distinction. Difference & Repetition p.263, “But what is the point of making representation infinite? It retains all its requirements. All that is discovered is a ground which relates the excess and default of difference to the identical, the similar, the analogous and the opposed.” Hegel’s relational forces internal to the concept must not be confused with forces of Univocity internal to the sub-representative Idea. Forces of Univocity are positive forces of intensity without negation or opposition. They relate different to different immediately in one sense. However, the relational-oppositional forces of Hegel never reach the sub-representative, positive forces of intensity. Nor are they said immediately in one sense. Within Representation, there is merely an abstract differentiating process of similarities and differences, genus and species of numerically distinct substances. Whereas Deleuze’s Univocity says being in one sense and that of which it is said is difference; Hegel’s infinite representation says being in several numerically distinct senses and that of which it is said is internally related to the infinite variability of conceptual identity. They are not similar in any way.

The prevalent opinion that Hegel’s forces of infinite Representation are similar to Deleuze’s forces, at least initially, ignores Deleuze’s Spinozist Univocity. DR263, Hegel’s “…intoxications and giddiness are feigned, the obscure is already clarified from the outset.” From the outset Hegel’s forces are not at all similar to Deleuze’s, because Hegel never reaches the sub-representative forces of Univocity. DR264, “The entire alternative between finite and infinite applies very badly to difference, because it constitutes only an antinomy of representation….because both fail to capture the…sub-representative source.” Only Deleuze’s Spinozist Univocity allows him to reach that sub-representative source of Real difference. Ideas are sub-representative. Ideas are not concepts. But Hegel never reaches these Ideas, because he is still trapped in the requirements of Representation-analogy.

In Genealogies of Difference p.40-4, 49-51, 152-3, Nathan Widder sees Deleuze’s forces as initially similar to those of Hegel. But Widder says that Deleuze-Nietzsche goes beyond Hegel’s identity of identity and opposition. Widder insists that it is possible to go beyond Hegel with a new synthesis of relational forces. He asserts (GD 43-4) that Deleuze describes Nietzsche’s forces as still relational, but with a disjoining that decenters. When relational forces are disjoined, they are said to overcome their oppositional relations. Widder sees what he calls Nietzsche’s "relational forces" as avoiding identity and opposition to find a groundless difference. (GD40-1) Widder says, “As Deleuze explains, Nietzsche views differences in force relations that cannot be gauged on a fixed scale…” He says that Nietzsche’s forces find an “excess of the in-between”, an “unlocalizable warping”, or an “unnameable excess”. Therefore, Widder says that Deleuze-Nietzsche does not mediate opposites, but rather brings about a disjunction of relational forces, or a disjoining of heterogeneous differences through their differences. But what is heterogeneous about the differences of relational forces? Before such a disjoining there would still be relational forces of identity and opposition internal to the homogeneity of the concept. And, even after mediation by this exclusive disjunctive synthesis, relational forces are still the mediated possibilities internal to the identity of the concept. Why does Widder not consider this disjunctive synthesis to be mediation---that is, a mediation of the possibilities of the concept? And, although Widder disjoins conceptual differences, there is still no Univocity. He is still not reaching the heterogeneity of real distinction. Widder is talking about Hegel’s relational forces. And, even with their disjoining, they still never escape the (DR263) “ground which relates the excess and default of difference to the identical, the similar, the analogous, and the opposed.”

Deleuze-Nietzsche’s forces of Univocity are forces of difference said immediately in one sense. This has nothing to do with mediation of force relations that can only relate excess to the identity of the concept. In the disjoining of identity and difference, Widder does not overcome relations of opposition. He never reaches the nomadic distribution of singularities in an opening of space and time. Widder is still within the same “genealogy” of Hegel’s conceptual difference. Only Univocity includes the immediacy of the sub-representative. Difference as intensity relates different to different immediately. There can be no disjoining of relational differences. DR117, “…difference must immediately relate the differing terms to one another. Difference.…must relate different to different without any mediation whatsoever by the identical, the similar, the analogous or the opposed.” And since the disjoining of relational forces is such mediation, it is not the difference of Univocity. Forces of Univocity are forces of intensity. They are not negative relations. They are not relations of identity or opposition. Only Univocity is the positive difference of intensity said immediately in one sense. Only forces of Univocity are Real, according to Deleuze. Any relational forces of identity or opposition are still internal to the identity of the concept and are therefore merely conceptual, not real, differences.

So, with this “disjoining”, how does Widder determine the relational forces that are to be disjoined? These relational differences can only be thought by the four requirements of representation----by the identity in the concept, opposition in the predicate, analogy in judgement, and resemblance in perception. When there is a disjoining (rather than an identity) of identity and opposition, there is merely a disjunction (rather than a conjunction) of conceptual differences. It does not overcome relational oppositions, but merely relates the excess to the four requirements of Representation. But this does nothing to escape the identity of the concept (Logic of Sense 170-6). We still remain within the concept of a world or an individual in which certain events are excluded. This exclusive disjunction never breaks the form internal to the identity of the concept. What is still missing in this “genealogy” of conceptual difference is the sub-representative difference of Univocity. We need to reach Univocity without concept if we are to escape the identity of the concept in general. We must reach a sub-representative realm where LoS177, “divergence is affirmed and disjunction becomes a positive synthesis…[where] all events, even contraries, are compatible.” Univocity is affirmation of disjunction where there can be no exclusions of logical, or alogical, incompatibility. We must reach forces of positive intensity beneath relational forces. We must reach a sub-representative inclusive disjunction of real forces, ontologically one.

Widder recounts Deleuze’s analysis of Nietzsche (Nietzsche & Philosophy 3), “We will never find the sense of something…if we do not know the force which appropriates the thing, which exploits it, which takes possession of it or is expressed in it. A phenomenon is not an appearance or even an apparition but a sign, a symptom which finds its meaning in an existing force.” However, Widder’s understanding of that analysis misses Nietzsche’s Univocity. That is, forces of Univocity are not a problem of conceptual relations (i.e., force relations of identity and opposition) that may be resolved by the facts (a resemblance in perception). How can Widder tell which forces are in relations of identity or opposition unless he already has a prior concept?  How can Widder tell which forces are in relations of similarity or difference unless he already knows what constitutes a prior possibility of resemblance?  Nietzsche’s Univocal forces are not appearances of perceptual resemblance whereby one could make judgments about relations of identity and opposition.  There are no prior appearances of resemblance.  There are no prior appearances of relational forces that could be disjoined.  Rather, Univocity finds a prior pre-individual singularity of expressive sense. Deleuze cannot be understood through a genealogy of conceptual difference. Deleuze can only be understood through Spinoza’s Univocity which is omitted in Widder’s genealogy.

Widder believes that relational forces escape the problems of atomism. GD25-6, “Primacy is thereby given to the relations between forces, not the forces in themselves….Force therefore differs from the object of perception, in which the atomistic thing is defined by external predicates. Difference and relationality gain priority.” Widder believes that if relational forces gain priority, that that would be somehow sufficient to escape the invariance of atomism. But relational forces are still internal to the identity of the concept. They do not escape invariance. (A Thousand Plateaus 92) “The very idea of structure is inseparable from invariants, whether atomic or relational.” Deleuze does not have anything similar to such relational forces. These relational forces are still relations internal to the concept. They are still relations of conceptual identity and difference. And, again, how do we make judgements about relations of identity and opposition? We make these judgements through analogy. Identity is identity in the concept. Opposition is in the predicate. And, we can make these judgements only through resemblance in perception. Widder’s relational forces never escape the four requirements of representational identity.

Structural-relational forces of opposition-negation have nothing to do with Deleuze’s positive forces of Univocity. As Deleuze says (DR204-5) in regard to structural forces of negation ‘without positive terms’, ‘eternally negative’, and ‘presupposing the idea of opposition’, “Everything points to the contrary….When difference is read as opposition, it is deprived of the peculiar thickness in which its positivity is affirmed.” Structural-relational forces introduce arbitrary denotation. But arbitrary denotation is not arbitrary enough. It is merely signifying semiology still subject to the despotism of the Signifier. Anti-Oedipus 214, Deleuze & Guattari say that arbitrary designation is merely the “reverse side” of necessity of signification. We must reach an asignifying semiotics---a transcendental field of pre-individual forces---that can produce, not merely arbitrary denotation, but can be an arbitrary source of denotation, manifestation, and signification. Then, "arbitrary denotation" no longer refers to merely numerically distinct substantial objects, but to really distinct fluid assemblages.

Deleuze continually tells us that he disagrees with Hegel. However, there seems to be a very prevalent opinion that we must still understand Deleuze by way of Hegel. Some say that Deleuze “misreads” Hegel. When something in Deleuze’s text seems inconsistent with the traditional interpretation of Hegel, they say “Deleuze does not understand Hegel”. But from what plane can an absolute judgement be made as to whether Deleuze is right or wrong about Hegel? (Empiricism and Subjectivity 106) Deleuze says in regard to philosophical critique, “People say…things are not like that. But in fact, it is not a matter of knowing whether things are like that or not; it is a matter of knowing whether the question which presents things in such a light is good or not, rigorous or not.” That is philosophical critique. It has nothing to do with the question ‘Are things like that?’ or ‘Is Hegel like that?’ If we want to understand Deleuze, we must try to suspend judgement. If Deleuze says something that sounds inconsistent, that means it is only inconsistent from the plane we are on. It means we have not yet reached Deleuze’s plane of consistency. To give Deleuze a fair reading, one must try to make consistency out of what Deleuze is telling us. When we do, we find ourselves on a plane we could never have imagined before. When we reach Deleuze’s plane of consistency, we see that it is not a matter of whether Deleuze is right or wrong about Hegel. When we see Hegel from Deleuze’s plane of consistency, we are seeing reality in a whole new way. Then, we can ask the critical question, ‘Is the plane which puts Hegel in that light a good question, or not? Is it rigorous, or not? Deleuze is trying to show us that as long as we remain within conceptual difference (including that of the Infinite Representation of Hegel), we will never reach the singular difference of Univocity. Univocity is a very strange dice game. If we are to play the game, nothing can remain the same.

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