by Beth Metcalf

It has always been my contention that those who neglect Deleuze’s univocity inevitably maintain the Dogmatic Representational Image of Thought – the very conceptual identity Deleuze rejects.  I have always been critical of those Deleuzean commentators who read Deleuze as if he were Hegelian, or as if he were a structuralist.  There are other commentators who may not make such claims about Deleuze, yet neglect Deleuze’s plane of univocality and how it is really different from its actualizations.  In this article I want to explore a book by Francois Zourabichvili, Deleuze: A Philosophy of the Event (DPE) along with The Vocabulary of Deleuze (VD)*.  It seems to me that Zourabichvili has uncommon insight into Deleuze’s thought.  Zourabichvili understands why Deleuze’s thought has nothing to do with phenomenology as homogeneous thought of the same (VD 174).  He understands why Deleuze has nothing to do with the negative dialectical relations of Hegel (DPE 80-1).  He understands why Deleuze rejects the classical structuralism of absence and lack (VD 215).  Furthermore, he understands why we must not leave out Deleuze’s plane of univocal immanence.  In my view, Zourabichvili enters into a rare encounter with Deleuze’s text.  His writing is a real singular event of univocal being. 

Zourabichvili tells us (DPE 37) that Deleuze’s philosophy is “…the extinction of the term “being” and therefore of ontology.”  However, he means that Deleuze’s philosophy is the perversion of ‘ontology’ taken in any classical sense.  Zourabichvili tells us that, for Deleuze, “ontology merges with the univocity of being.”  For Deleuze, being is univocal – ontology is univocal.  It has nothing to do with the equivocal ontology of classical tradition.  Ontology is no longer the metaphysics of presence.  Zourabichvili tells us that Deleuze’s ontology must be approached with two precautions (VD 173).  First, a new transcendental ontology is a pure given on a plane of immanence.  Here, Zourabichvili means that this ‘pure given’ is not the empirically ‘given’ on a plane of transcendence.  Rather, this pure given is, as Deleuze tells us, “that by which the given is given” (Difference & Repetition 222) on a plane of immanence.  Secondly, there must be heterogenesis.  That is, there must not be a traditional homogeneous engendering that merely traces the transcendental from the empirical.  Rather, it is heterogeneous coupling of disparate ‘intensity’.  It is the ‘becoming’ of disparate intensity that avoids any maintenance of conceptual identity.  The new concept of intensive becoming allows us to reach real change in nature.  It is not the classical “becoming” that merely varies sameness.  It is becoming-other.  This can occur only on a plane of immanence where Aion is the time of the event. 

Zourabichvili demonstrates a rare understanding of this plane of immanence.  He understands that every term Deleuze uses takes on a new ontological sense.  Just as ‘ontology’ takes on a new univocal sense, the term ‘sense’ itself takes on a new univocal sense and must no longer be confused with equivocal significations.  Zourabichvili’s The Vocabulary of Deleuze explores the new ontological sense of Deleuze’s terms.  Each term opens into external relations of univocal sense – ontological sense. 

Deleuze writes (DR 300-1) “….the eternal return is indeed the Similar, repetition in the eternal return is indeed the Identical – but precisely the resemblance and the identity do not pre-exist the return of that which returns….It is not the same which returns, it is not the similar which returns, rather, the Same is the returning of that which returns, -- in other words, of the Different; the similar is the returning of that which returns, -- in other words, of the Dissimilar….For the Same, or the Identical, has an ontological sense….The Similar has an ontological sense….” [underlines added]

Zourabichvili asks (DPE 39) how the transcendental and ontological may be compatible.  He has the insight that it is a new sense of ‘immanence’ that brings these two concepts together.  It is not ‘immanence’ in the old classical sense of immanence to….something (like a subject) that already claims to know what a body can do.  That would merely reintroduce transcendence, as Deleuze and Guattari tell us (What is Philosophy 44-5).  However, if a being is distinguished by its degree of power, not separated from what it can do, then affect opens new possibilities where anything may be brought into communication with anything else no matter how distant.  That is, beings are not distinguished by classification of generic or specific differences that merely claim to tell us what a body is in advance.  Rather, new couplings of disparate intensity may, no matter how distant, communicate by way of common affect.  Therefore, the terms ‘affect’ and ‘intensity’ also take on a new ontological sense.

Zourabichvili understands that Deleuze’s ‘transcendental empiricism’ takes on a new ontological sense.  The ‘transcendental’ is no longer the a priori condition of possible experience.  Rather, there is a sub-representative transcendental field of affective consistencies never thought possible before.  This transcendental field is that by which the empirically given is given.  The ‘event is creation of new singular possibilities of consistency – never a generalizing universal truth already formed.  This shifting ground precedes new actualized usages that cannot be totalized.  The event is a ‘becoming’ in a new ontological sense.  ‘Becoming’ is no longer the homogeneity of causal connections.  Rather, there is a transcendental field of forces where ‘external relations’ bring heterogeneous dimensions into communication.      

Zourabichvili says (DPE 40), “….we would be mistaken in thinking that the variable has taken another value, while the function remained intact.”  This tells me that Zourabichvili understands that Deleuze’s transcendental field is not on the plane of constant variability of functions – which taken alone could only maintain sameness.  Rather, he understands that Deleuze includes a sub-representative transcendental plane of intensive doubling – an intensive field of inseparable variation.  Zourabichvili demonstrates the uncommon understanding of how being, as univocal, reaches real difference because it includes a plane of immanence – a plane of univocality.     

Zourabichvili understands the plane of immanence is not ground for fixed relations.  Nor is it ground for constant relations of variability.  There is only shifting ground for intensive singularities of disparate difference.  This shifting ground may be actualized into new singular uses, each time.  There can be no fixed ground for metaphor or literal representation.  ‘Event’ is the nomadic distribution of before-after as new singularity, each time.  The event is (DPE 40) “…a becoming in which the before and the after spring forth at the same time, on either side of a caesura…”   The event is a becoming through nomadic coupling of before-after.  The event is an in-between, never an origin.  ‘Belief’ no longer maintains a value or a constant signification. ‘Becoming’ is no longer that which maintains a constant relation of variability.  Zourabichvili understands that Deleuze’s becoming is becoming-other.  ‘Virtual’ now means that everything cannot be given.  The virtual is not an already actual form of possibility.  The virtual may now be actualized by transversal syntheses across heterogeneous dimensions.            

The Dogmatic Image of Thought internalizes the relation between thought and its outside.  It depends on the presupposed good will of the moral subject.  Its absolute transcendence depends on the necessity of an original grounding.  However, the immanence of ethical intensive difference has nothing to do with moral negative opposition that depends on the model of recognition in an a priori form of identity, homogeneity, and permanence.  Zourabichvili understands that Delueze questions the classical assumptions.  What if we question the assumption of a necessary ground or origin?  What if beginning does not return to a prior ground of thought?  What if reality is heterogeneous difference?  Then, ‘transcendence’ and ‘immanence’ take on a new ontological sense.  Transcendence is not in opposition to immanence.  Immanence is not immanent to subjectivity.  There is no longer a negative oppositional relation between internal and external.  There are no oppositional relations at all.  The outside is not opposed to an inside.  Reality is divergence.  The external is farther than any outside and closer than any inside.  Reality becomes pure immanence.  Truth is no longer an external objective generality.  Modern thought is affirmation and immanence of the event. 

Zourabichvili understands that Deleuze questions the classical assumption of transcendence.  Only shock of encounter brings thought into an ‘external relation’ with the outside.  But ‘outside’ takes on a new ontological sense.  Outside is not an external world in opposition to internal subjectivity.  There is violent encounter with a shifting ground that thought does not control.  Truth is differentiated by multiplicities of sense.  Truth is not a homogeneous relation between propositions and things.  The ground is problematic and outside all recognition.  Problems are not ready-made.  Sense is the problematic shifting ground of evaluation from which emerges something new.  To pose a problem is to encounter a pure relation with the outside.  The sense of a thing appears only in relation to the forces that take hold of it.  A sign is a force that seizes an affective evaluation of heterogeneous sense.  A problem emerges with violent shock.  It is encounter with an outside farther than an external homogeneous world of the empirically given.  It is encounter with an inside closer than any subjective internal world.  It is encounter with a plane of immanence. 

Relations are external to their terms.  Signs are heterogeneous ‘external relations’ that affect, or are affected, in ever-changing fields of forces.  The transcendental field of forces produces multiplicities of sense not traced from the empirical.  Whereas, false problems are negative-oppositional relations of transcendence, external relations are immanent intensive relations.  I take these external relations to be Deleuze-Spinoza’s parallelism between content and expression.  Now immanence is the transcendental conditions of disparate singularity, not universal generality.   

Zourabichvili understands that Deleuze’s horizons of sense are not universal.  In order for there to be common ground for conversation, there must be a common problematic.  He knows there must be return to a plane where action and reaction differentiate themselves (DPE 82) and does not presuppose a negation.  Negation is a fragile and temporary consequence, not an origin (DPE 83).  Only on that plane Deleuze calls ‘sub-representative’ can relations be external to their terms.  Only disparate intensive relations are external to their terms.  With the triumph of reactive forces, both active and reactive forces become fixed into negative oppositional structure in the dialectic of false problems.  But Zourabichvili knows how important it is to reach non-dialectical becoming – to reach that which Deleuze calls ‘vice-diction’ (DPE 85).  We must reach thought without image, without prior concept, without prior recognition.  There must be no transcendent image.  There is only immanence of the event that does not claim knowledge in advance. 

Zourabichvili describes Deleuze’s forces and affects as a field of exteriority – pure heterogeneity in a field of absolute difference.  THE plane of immanence is this virtual coexistence of all planes – the ‘body without organs’ in intensive states of difference that divides into itself.  Its internal difference differentiates itself.  ‘Difference’ is no longer negative relation, but heterogeneous distances (DPE 104).  ‘Intensity’ is no longer degrees of sameness, but degrees of heterogeneity that do not divide without changing in nature.  Pure ‘intensity’ in its ontological sense does not resemble its actualizations.  Heterogeneous disparate forces of intensity may be enveloped as singular and actualized into new uses of diversity. 

Zourabichvili describes Deleuze’s empty form of time, ‘Aion’.  Time is out of joint.  That is, with the inclusion of the plane of ‘Aion’, the sense of ‘time’ itself has new ontological sense.  There is perpetual “ungrounding” of the present (DPE 97).  ‘I’ is an Other.  Aion’s ‘event’ has no presence.  Zourabichvili understands that Deleuze’s ‘event’ is the in-between that unites before-after in singularity.  Singularity is not individual.  It is pre-individual.  ‘Haecceity’ is pre-individual event.  ‘Haecceity’ is singular intensive event of individuation that is prior to individual form.  The ‘event’ straddles several heterogeneous dimensions of disjunction.  It is the intensive coupling of past-future, before-after.  It brings future (not yet and already here) into correspond with a past (still present and already past) of becoming.  ‘Event’ does not take place in the time of Chronos.  It takes place in the empty form of time (Aion) as condition of its own chronology, differently with each repetition.  Aion intersects with Chronos to effectuate the event.  ‘Haecceity’ is not a state of affairs in pre-existing space-time.  It is incorporeal transformation that presides over the genesis of states of affairs.  Haecceity differs in nature from corporeal mixtures of bodies that actualize an event. 

Zourabichvili describes the plane of univocality.  It is the game of the “infinitely subdivided unique Throw “numerically one but formally multiple.…” (DPE 98)  That is, they are not numerically distinct things, but differenciations that are formally distinct.  It is non-chronological time of heterogeneity.  It is not the retentions and anticipations of Chronos.  Rather, the plane of Aion is difference of intensive coupling that, with division, changes in nature. 

‘Desiring machines’ precede subject-object division and condition it.  ‘Desire’ is a machinic assemblage of heterogeneous intensive dimensions of affect.  ‘Partial-objects’ are not parts of a whole.  ‘Becoming’ is intensive heterogeneity that, with division, changes in nature.  ‘I’ is becoming-other.  ‘Disjunction’ becomes inclusive, not exclusive negation-lack.  Univocal being is all inclusive disjunction of internal difference said always as ontological singularity.  As heterogeneous disparate difference, being is plural.  As degrees of ontological singularity, being is one.  Pluralism = monism.  Difference is univocal.  Zourabichvili’s writing demonstrates that, if we are to reach an understanding of Deleuze, our use of terms must take on new ontological sense.  Our thought must encounter a plane of univocal immanence.   


*Deleuze: A Philosophy of the Event (DPE), together with The Vocabulary of Deleuze (VD), by Francois Zourabichvili, Translate by Kieran Aarons, Edited by Gregg Lambert and Daniel W. Smith.  Edinburgh University Press 2012.


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