Univocity Versus Analogy

by Beth Metcalf


Deleuze says (Difference and Repetition p. 303), “Representation essentially implies an analogy of being.”  He contrasts this representation-analogy to his Spinozist univocity (DR 304) “Univocity signifies that being itself is univocal, while that of which it is said is equivocal: precisely the opposite of analogy.”  (Emphasis added.)  And if Deleuze’s univocity is precisely the opposite of analogy, then representation-analogy signifies that being itself is equivocal, while that of which being is said is univocal.  Therefore, Deleuze’s univocity is univocal being (said of the equivocal).  It is not to be confused with equivocal being (said of the univocal). 


Deleuze describes finite representation-analogy (DR303).  Generic and specific differences are complementary.  The equivocity of being in relation to the ultimate genera or categories is correlated with the univocity of the genus in relation to its species.  Being is distributed through the genera or categories in forms which vary the sense.  And, that of which being is said (genera in relation to species) is univocal.  But the categories are concepts said of possible objects of experience.  The categories merely mediate the possibility of conceptual identity. 


(DR33) Being is not a genus.  It is not a collective concept like a genus in relation to its species.  Being has content only in analogical proportion to the formal categories.  The equivocity of being is a matter of analogy.  Therefore, with the equivocity of representation-analogy, even when we say the univocal, it is still the equivocal categories and genera which speak through us.  Analogy of judgment has two functions:  Its distributive function partitions the concepts (common sense).  Its hierarchical function is the measuring of subjects (good sense).  The equivocity of generic difference, then, is distributive and hierarchical.  The concept of being has content in analogical proportion to the categories. 


Being is not a genus in relation to univocal species.  Rather, the categories proportion the content of being analogically.  Being has content only in proportion to the categories of formal difference.  (DR308 note 5) Deleuze describes Aristotle’s ‘pros hen’, as difference without a common genus.  The categories are said in relation to a unique term.  The categories distribute common sense.  This distributive unity is ‘analogy of proportionality’.  But also, ‘pros hen’ is a unique term as ‘primary sense’, formally and eminently related to terms of a hierarchical series of ‘good sense’.  This is the ‘analogy of proportion’.  (See ‘A Thousand Plateaus’, p. 234-237 for a description of these two types of proportion.)  There is the sedentary distribution and hierarchy according to these analogical proportions.


Therefore, the equivocity of being in Aristotle’s finite representation-analogy takes on two aspects.  There is the horizontal axis of distributive common sense.  There is the vertical axis of hierarchical good sense.  (See Diagram 1.)  (DR226) Common Sense is the subjective unity of the faculties and the objective identity of all the faculties.  But this Common Sense needs a dynamic element to determine the object and the situated self through time.  Good Sense is this dynamic element which cancels difference in the object.  The object becomes equalized through time (in the “good” direction of past to future) as the self becomes unified.  This is a static synthesis of an object supposed the same for all faculties of a unified subject. 




(DR269) In the analogical view of the world, difference has two limits---the large and the small.  The ultimate genera or categories (the large) are analogues of being.  They are distributive ‘common sense’ and hierarchical ‘good sense’.  On the other hand, the opposed specific differences in relation to a common genus are small.  The large units are relations of analogy.  The small units of difference are contrary predicates within each genus.  The univocity of species in a common genus (the small) is tied to the equivocity of being (the large).  The small and large are the limits of representation. 


Representation with its complementarity of generic and specific differences, essentially relates being and existents.  But the generality of analogous structure cannot say what constitutes the singularity of the individual.  (DR38)  “….analogy falls into an unresolvable difficulty: it must essentially relate being to particular existents, but at the same time it cannot say what constitutes their individuality.  For it retains in the particular only that which conforms to the general (matter and form), and seeks the principle of individuation in this or that element of the fully constituted individuals….”  Analogy retains in the species only the generality distributed by the categories.  Representational categories are merely said of every possible object of conceptual identity. 

So far we have seen why finite representation is analogy.  Finite representation seeks to include difference in the identical within the limits of the small and the large.  But infinite representation seeks to include that difference which escapes representation in the small or the large. Hegel tries to conquer the infinitely large.  Leibniz tries to conquer the infinitely small. 

But Deleuze says that infinite representation still does not escape analogy.  (DR49) Infinite representation sees the ground as the Whole of primary matter.  For Leibniz, the ground is the possible convergent continuity of universal essences contained in particular subjects.  For Hegel, the ground is contradiction of particular properties developed in the infinite ground, but those properties are determinations of an Essential Self enveloped in this ground.  But both result in an analogy of universal essences and a similarity of particular properties (finite essences).  Hegel’s movement of contradiction is the greatest difference only in relation to identity.  Liebniz’s condition of convergence excludes incompossibles. 

Infinite representation still appeals to a transcendent foundation.  This foundation is not identity itself, but a principle of infinite identity.  The foundation is the principle of sufficient reason which vice-dicts identity in Leibniz’s infinitely small, as the convergence of all finite representational points of view.  The foundation is the principle of sufficient reason that contradicts identity in Hegel’s infinitely large, as circles of negation around all possible centers of finite representation.  The foundation of sufficient reason merely provides the transcendent mediation between ground and essences.

With infinite representation, the categories are “opened” and become analytic for Leibniz and synthetic for Hegel.  But neither escapes the analogy of representation.  (DR303) “The list of categories may well be ‘opened up’ and representation may be made infinite; nevertheless, being continues to be said in several [equivocal] senses according to the categories, and that of which it is said is determined only by differences ‘in general’ [univocal].”   

(DR263-4) “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.  Nothing, however, has changed….all that has happened is the discovery of a more….sublime means to….. subject it to the categories of representation…….In short, representation may well become infinite; it nevertheless does not acquire the power to affirm either divergence of decentering.  It requires a convergent and monocentric world….The ground or sufficient reason is nothing but a means of allowing the identical to rule over infinity itself, and allowing the continuity of resemblance, the relation of analogy and the opposition of predicates to invade infinity.” 

However, what about structuralism?  Does the tradition of structuralism inspired by Saussure escape analogy?  Deleuze describes this ‘classical’ conception (Cinema 2 p. 210-11) developed along two axes (see Diagram 2).  The first axis is the integration (syntagm) and differentiation (paradigm) of the concept.  The second axis is the association of the image through arbitrary similarity (metaphor) and continguity (metonymy).  The first axis is the movement of the concept as it is integrated into a whole and differentiated into objects as parts of that whole.  The second axis is, on the one hand, the arbitrary similarity of acoustic image and concept.  On the other hand, it is the contiguity from one image to another.  The axes interact to reach an identity of concept and image.  “….indeed, the concept as whole does not become differentiated without externalizing itself in a sequence of associated images, and the images do not associate without being internalized in a concept as the whole which integrates them….” 

Deleuze (with Guattari) again describes these same axes (Anti-Oedipus 207).  There is the horizontal axis where the “signified is reduced to the value of coexisting minimal terms into which the signifier decomposes” (metonymy).  The vertical axis is where the “signifier is elevated to the concept corresponding to the acoustic image” (metaphor).  (See Diagram 2)  ‘Value’ is the opposition of coexisting terms.  ‘Concept’ is in opposition to the acoustic image.  “In short, the signifier appears twice, once in the chain of elements in relation to which the signified is always a signifier for another signifier, and a second time in the detached object on which the whole of the chain depends, and that spreads over the chain the effects of signification.  There is no phonological or even phonetic code operating on the signifier in the first sense, without an overcoding effected by the signifier in the second sense.”  Deleuze and Guattari go on to speak of these axes as the “biunivocal relations” effected by the transcendence of the signifier in the linguistic field of deterritorialized signs.  Biunivocalization is the result of the despotic signifier that distributes lack.  Arbitrary, or unmotivated, difference is cancelled. 

In Cinema 2 (p. 27-8) Deleuze says that this classical semiology assimilates an image to an analogical sign of an utterance.  However, as soon as semiology makes this assimilation, movement is taken away from the image.  Without movement, there is no distinction between the image and an object of representation.  Without movement the image is merely in resemblance to a perceptible form.  It is a ‘mould’ of an object.  This is in analogy to the utterance --- the ‘mould’ of an intelligible structure.  This never reaches the ‘modulation’ of the movement-image that puts an image in variation.

So, the “arbitrary” is the attempt to escape the analogy between the concept and the thing.  But this attempt fails.  Is metaphor, with “arbitrary” correspondence between concept and acoustic image, still not an ‘analogy of proportionality’, distributing interdependent significations of ‘common sense’?  Is metonymy still not ‘analogy of proportion’, drawing a hierarchical value system of ‘good sense’?  There is still a distributive sense, albeit arbitrary, of metaphor.  Metaphor is a distribution of common sense.  Each metaphor then acts as a primary sense of a metonymic chain.  Metonymy is still the hierarchical value of good sense.  This is still the analogy of equivocal being.  The syntagmatic and paradigmatic are univocal in that of which being is said. And, even if we change the metaphoric distribution, thereby changing the differential structure of the system, we still have merely a 'mould' of analogy without ‘modulation’.


Infinite Representation may open the categories.  Structuralism may reach the “arbitrary” correspondence of acoustic image and concept.  However, they do not escape the formal distribution of the sedentary.  In contrast, Deleuze’s Spinozist univocity does not merely open the categories.  It opens the forms themselves to reach a more truly arbitrary nomadic distribution.  It is a question of how things are distributed---according to analogy or univocity.  With the sedentary distribution of analogy through the categories, there is a division of that which is distributed in proportional determinations.  With the “arbitrary” distribution of structuralism, there is still the overcoding by the Signifier.  It is still a dividing of that which is distributed in a space.  However, with univocity, there is no division of that which is distributed.  Rather, there is division among that which distributes itself in an open space.  (DR36-7) “It is an errant and even ‘delirious’ distribution, in which things are deployed across the entire extensity of a univocal and undistributed Being….”


In ‘Expressionism in Philosophy’, Deleuze contrasts the finite representation-analogy of Descartes with Spinoza’s Univocity.  For Descartes, extension is the nature of the body while thought is the nature of the soul.  Attributes are properties that qualify substance.  Attributes are the substance's property of changing through modes of thought or extension. Shapes are modes of extensive bodies.  Thoughts are modes of different souls.  The attributes, therefore, qualify substances as really distinct.  However, attributes also qualify modes.  Attributes qualify both substances and modes.  The consequence of this is that we find several substances sharing a common attribute.  Substances have to be distinguished by their modes which is absurd.  Real distinction, then, corresponds to a numerical distinction.  Modes can distinguish substances sharing the same attribute.  (EiP p.31)  Real distinction, whether between substances with different attributes or those with the same attribute, brings with it a division of things, that is, a corresponding numerical distinction.  Descartes mistakes numerical distinction for a real distinction.


Furthermore, Deleuze-Spinoza says in regard to Descarte’s finite representation, there is a transcendent ground of mediation between substances conceived as really distinct and really distinct substances.  There must be a transcendent ground of possibility that, by some miracle, makes substances (in extension) analogous to our concepts (in thought).  This transcendent ground has to link substances conceived as really distinct to really distinct substances.  Conceptual possibility is mistaken for the real. 


In contrast, Spinoza’s real distinction is never numerical.  There cannot be several substances sharing one attribute.  This is the univocity of Spinoza’s ontologically single Substance which includes all real distinction.  And since this real distinction, qualified by the attributes, cannot be numerical distinction, there can be only one Substance for all attributes.  There is one Substance qualified as really distinct in the attributes. 


Furthermore, numerical distinction is never real.  Numerical distinction can never distinguish or qualify substances, but only modes that involve the same attribute.  Numerical distinction must be modal, not substantial.  Only modes are divisible while changing nature at each stage of division.  That of which being is said (the mode) is no longer univocal, but equivocal.  That is, being is said of individuating differences, each one of which is modal-numerical distinction.  The modes are not species.  They are repartitioned in the attributes by the intensive degrees of power which immediately relate the modes to being without analogous mediation through the categories of thought. 


With representation-analogy, the formal distinction between attributes is mistaken for a numerical distinction between substances.  A distinction of reason is projected, through the categories, onto substantial reality.  This is the mere possibility of the concept as the analogue of the real.  But Spinoza’s ‘attributes’ are not categories.  His qualified substances are not genera or species.  His modes are not species.  With Spinoza’s Univocity, there is one Substance qualified as really distinct in the attributes.  This is the pure qualifying multiplicity without numerical distinction of substances.  Qualified Substance is real distinction which is never numerical distinction.  Modes are numerical distinction that is never real distinction.  (DR303-4) Forms of being are not determined by the categories.  Nor do these forms divide being or distribute ontological sense.  Being is no longer equivocal, but univocal.  Attributes are not categories or genera.  Attributes do not divide Substance or break the unity of ontological sense.


Univocity reaches a “sub-representative source”.  (DR69) This source is the simulacrum which includes difference within itself.  It is not the source of possible, but real, experience.  (DR277)  “Systems in which different related to different through difference itself are systems of simulacra.  Such systems are intensive…..intensive quantities which may divide, but do so only in changing their nature according to their own particular order….In short, systems of simulacra must be described with the help of notions which, from the outset, appear very different from the categories of representation.” 


When we see attributes as attributed properties in representation-analogy, we see numerically distinct substances sharing a common attribute in an equivocity of being.  But when, with Univocity, we see the attributes as attributive, we see the attribution of essence to Substance that is ontologically one for all attributes.  Each attribute qualifies an infinite essence of real distinction and attributes it to the essence of substance. Thought and extension are now the attributes (the only two we can know). The really distinct essence inheres in the attribute and is attributed to the essence of substance.  (EiP42)  “How can one say that the attributes express not only a certain essence, but the essence of substance?  The essence is expressed as the essence of substance, and not that of an attribute.  Essences are thus distinct in the attributes in which they have their existence, but amount only to one single essence of substance.”  Substance is formally and really distinct but ontologically one.  Substance is expressed by the attributes as one single essence and attributed to the essence of substance.  That essence constitutes the essence of substance, but it only implies an essence of a mode.  The attributes are then the ‘common form’ that is shared by substance and mode.  But it is that common form that allows the essence of substance to differ from the essence of the mode.


With Univocity, there is no analogy of form between Substance and modes.  Attributes are forms of being common to Substance and modes.  (Expressionism in Philosophy p.46-7) “The analogical method denies that there are forms common to [Substance] and to [modes] but, far from escaping the mistake it denounces, it constantly confuses the essences of [modes] with the essence of Substance.”  With the identity of form between Substance and modes, there is no confusion of essences between Substance and modes.  With univocity, “Attributes are thus forms common to God [Substance], whose essence they constitute, and to modes or creatures which imply them essentially.  The same forms may be asserted of [Substance] and of [modes], even though [Substance] and [modes] differ in both essence and existence.”


Representation rejects any form common to Substance and modes.  It thereby draws analogy between the essence of Substance and essences of modes.  But with Spinoza’s univocity, attributes are forms common to Substance and modes.  Attributes constitute the essence of Substance, but do not constitute the essences of modes.  Rather, the attribute is the common form that constitutes the essence of Substance and implies an essence of a mode each time.  Attributes are forms common to Substance and modes while allowing difference between essences of Substance and modes.


Representation, in trying desperately to make a great theological distinction in kind between Being and beings, has erased all difference between the essence of Being and the essences of beings.  Being and beings share a common (analogical) conceptual essence.  As long as a common form is rejected, we fall into the analogy of representation between the essence of Substance and the essences of modes.  Analogical being merely finds a substance that is already formed in analogy to the concept. It then takes a transcendent miracle to leap between objective reality and our subjective concept of it.


With representation-analogy, the ‘I’ and the ‘self’ interact throughout the history of the Cogito.  The conceptual form of the ‘I’ is in analogy to the extended matter of the ‘self’.  But univocity finds an individuating difference that precedes formed matter.  Univocity of being immediately relates to difference.  It precedes the generic, the specific, and the fully constituted individual.  With Univocity, form and matter do not presuppose an already constituted individual.  Rather, intensive individuation is prior to formed matter.  With univocity, the form of the ‘I’ and the matter of the ‘self’ are not individuating factors.  Rather, each individuating factor is already a disparate difference of a different order.  The individual is fluid change with each division of intensive difference.


With univocity, there is a form common to Substance and modes.  In Substance there is all virtual-real distinction of form, ontologically one.  The attribute constitutes “a” non-numerical essence of really distinct substance each time.  This real distinction of form is that ‘common form’ which is virtual in Substance and actualized in a mode.  This common form constitutes “an” essence of substance but only implies an intensive essence (a modal degree of power) each time.  This common form now allows no resemblance between the virtual Substance and its modal actualization.  The essence of Substance is real distinction.  The essence of mode is numerical distinction.  Substances and modes no longer share an analogical conceptual essence.  Substance and modes can now be really different in essence because they share a common form.  As the ‘common form’ or 'common notion' changes, it constitutes a new really distinct essence of substance each time.  This real change in form happens without any necessity of order, connection, or continuity.  From another point of view, as the mode changes in degree of intensity, it changes its nature (its modal essence) at each stage.  And in so doing, the ‘common form’ through which it is implied constitutes a new really distinct essence of substance as it implies new essences of modes.    


Whereas analogy attempts to find the individual in the sedentary partitioning through the categories, univocity reaches the singular intensive forces of individuation which open the forms in nomadic distribution.  Univocity individuates “a” real distinction of ontological singularity while changing its nature with each new degree of intensity.  Therefore, univocity says the real distinction of being in one (univocal) sense, but that of which it is said is mobile and displaced difference (equivocal).  Analogy is the reverse.  Analogy says being in several (equivocal) senses, and that of which being is said is fixed and well determined (univocal).  Whereas the categories mediate representation and are the condition of possible experience, univocity is the immediacy of repetition across all real-formal distinction of ontological singularity.  Univocity opens the forms themselves.  The problem concerns how being is distributed ---by analogy or univocity.




(Difference & Repetition 34) “Generic and specific differences are tied together by their complicity in representation.”  But generic and specific differences do not in any way share the same nature.  Genera are determinable by their opposition to external specific differences.  And genus in relation to identity of its species cannot form a similar relation of identity with being.  Being is not a common genus in relation to generic difference, because specific differences ‘are’.  There is, in Representation, univocity of species in a common genus, and equivocity of being in different genera.    


In Representational classification, large units (generic branches) relate in analogical judgements.  Small units (species) presuppose sensible continuity according to resemblance in perception.  These small and large units reflect each other in the generality of identity in the concept.  There may be methodological continuity by taking the small units as limit where little genera or species are determined by perception of resemblances.  Or, there may be systematic distribution by analogy in judgment if large units are taken as the limit of organic representation.  At one pole, method extracts generic identities from continuous perceptual resemblances.  At the other pole, system assumes the passage from genera to relations of analogy by intelligible judgment.  Representational “difference” is mediated by conceptual identity, opposition of predicates, analogy of judgment, and resemblance in perception.


(DR38) Therefore, representation-analogy assumes complicity between generic and specific differences.  It assumes that method and system will always meet in the same classification of conceptual identity.  It assumes the intelligibility of the system will coincide in a common structure with the resemblances in perception.  Analogy is assumed to essentially relate intelligible judgment and particular existents.  But it can do so only in one general conceptual structure of classification.  It can reach only the generality of the particular.  It cannot reach the universality of the singular.  The individual as specific difference does not reach singular individuation.  Real singular individuation would necessarily precede the already extensive formed matter of genus and species.  Individuating difference must be pre-individual.  Individuation is not reached at the level of form, matter, or extensive parts.  Individuating difference must differ in kind from merely specific difference.  (DR 39) Representation-analogy denies being is a genus because specific differences ‘are’.  However as we now see, specific differences are not individuating.  Therefore, specific differences (not being individuating differences) ‘are not’ and must not be --- if we are to reach real singular difference.  Individuating difference must not be specific difference.  Real difference must not be in a structure of genus and species. 


That is the problem with organic, or finite, representation; but what about orgiastic, infinite representation?  (DR 43) “Orgiastic [infinite] representation has the ground as its principle and the infinite as its element, by contrast with organic [finite] representation which retains form as its principle and the finite as its element.”  This means that (DR 303) “The list of categories may well be ‘opened up’ or representation may be made infinite; nevertheless, being continues to be said in several senses according to the categories, and that of which it is said is determined only by difference ‘in general’.”  Infinite representation still does not open the forms (DR 304).  The categories are merely analogues of being in representation.  They still sedentarily distribute common and good sense (DR 269).  Infinite representation is still the analogical being of representation.


(DR 43) The ground of common and good sense, that was assumed to have coincided in finite representation, is thought to disappear with infinite representation.  Infinite representation claims to find a middle term where method and system meet.  This middle ground would supposedly be the true universality (not the genus) and the authentic singularity (not the species).  And yet this orgiastic ground still allows the finite to subsist as a vanishing point (DR 43-4).  The infinite is still said of the finite, either as the infinitely large (Hegel) or the infinitely small (Leibniz).


Representation-analogy, in opposition to univocal being, says being is equivocal while that of which it is said is univocal.  Univocal being changes everything.  As Deleuze says, (DR304) “Univocity signifies that being itself is univocal while that of which it is said is equivocal: precisely the opposite of [Representation] analogy.”  With univocal being, several formally distinct senses refer to being as if to a single designated, ontologically one.  But now, specific differences are not and must not be, because they can never reach pre-individual singularity.  Therefore, we must add that being (the common designated) expresses itself in a single ontological sense of all numerically distinct designators and expressors.  All such designators and expressors are pre-individual, intensive, and singular.  This means that being is ontologically singular Substance for all qualitatively distinct forms.  And also it must be added that every numerically distinct mode says being as ontologically one.  Specific differences are not because they are already extensively formed individual substances that never reach singularity.  All real univocal difference has a sub-representative source that is intensive, pre-individual, and singular.    

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