• prothero
    284
    Can someone explain the importance and meaning of these concepts in Deleuze in plain English? I have been reading but the significance is escaping me. Maybe a summary reference for the non philosopher?
  • StreetlightX
    5.3k
    I missed this earlier! Will have a crack at the virtual before moving on to difference:

    The virtual is best understood as a "problem" that has ontological standing. It is distinguished from the actual, which, by contrast, can be understood to be the corresponding 'solution' to the problem. A simple example that Deleuze gives - following Bergson - is the eye, which he refers to as the 'solution to the problem of light'. In other words, the eye - as an actual entity - solves a problem for a living creature: how to coordinate bodily movement in an environment, hunger, the need to live, the presence of light in the atmosphere, and a hereditary mechanism of biological evolution (among other things). The eye is a kind of 'condensation point' for all these factors, and it is a response to the conjunction of all of them. These factors or elements can be understood in turn as the virtual out of which the actual owes its genesis.

    Importantly, the virtual is not 'less real' than the actual. Just as the elements that preside over the genesis of the eye are entirely real, so too is the eye. Hence Deleuze's well known stipulation: "The virtual is opposed not to the real but to the actual. The virtual is fully real in so far as it is virtual". One way to understand this is as an attempt to replace Platonic Ideas with what Deleuze instead dubs 'Virtual Ideas'. The biggest difference being that the actual does not copy or resemble the virtual. Unlike Platonic Ideas, in which say, actual horses all simply emulate the Form of the 'Ideal Horse', Virtual ideas are not mere templates for actual horses. The horse - as an actuality - is the solution to a conjunction of problems that do not 'resemble' the horse: quadrupedal movement, grasslands, human domestication, hunger, etc etc. The virtualities that give rise to the horse are nothing 'like' the horse. None of this is limited to living things either: the earthquake and the tsunami are solutions to the problem of tectonic forces and geomorphic constraints.

    From this, you can get a sense of why Deleuze considers difference to be primary over identity. The identity of the horse, or the eye - or anything actual - is not a matter of an Ideal Essence which is then somehow instantiated on the worldly plane. There is no identity between the two. Rather, it is a whole play of differences that gives rise to the identity of any one (actual) thing. To be able to 'see' is to be able to evaluate differences in the environment; to be hungry to recognise a fall in energy that needs to be replenished so as to be able to engage in bodily work; to be able to move is to be able to articulate one's body among a changing environment; etc etc. These differences, and the relation of 'difference to difference' in particular 'complexes' that compose an individual, give rise to identities, which are derivative or secondary in relation to those primary differences.

    The last point to make is that the 'solutions' in question - the actual - are never of a finished form. They are provisional, usually sub-optimal (nature is a hack, a bunch of jerry-rigging and kludging, inefficient and excessive) and last for only as long as the problems to which they respond insist (no grasslands, no horses). In the most general terms, this is a dynamic, worldly, and temporally infused metaphysics: things - or the actual - don't exist by virtue of some Eternal, superlunary realm which lends form to matter, but by virtue of being temporary involutions of worldly problematics and differential forces. Knots of being, as it were, less ex-istant than con-sistant, everything a matter of temporary coalescence, sustained only as long as singular fields of difference in-sist or per-sist.
  • prothero
    284
    Thank you, your writing is unusually clear and vivid. I hope you write professionally somewhere because many formal sources lack those qualities.
  • csalisbury
    2.3k
    second @prothero - really clear & concise explanation.
  • StreetlightX
    5.3k
    Thank you. Spent alot of time - too much - trying to figure out this stuff.
  • csalisbury
    2.3k
    How would you relate Deleuze's co-opting of the Nietzschean 'throw-of-the-dice' (with the sky/earth-table distinction) to this? It seems to map broadly to it, but the 'throw of the dice' itself could potentially add a few new elements, I say tentatively. Curious to hear your take
  • jgill
    547
    Nice presentation.

    A little like the riddle, What is it that has quadrupedal movement, roams grasslands, prone to human domestication, gets hungry, etc etc ?
  • StreetlightX
    5.3k
    Yeah that's a very good way of thinking about it. Deleuze characterizes his approach as an attempt to lay out Being as understood in the mode of question, what he literally calls '?-being' (as distinct from non-Being qua Parmenides):

    "Being (what Plato calls the Idea) 'corresponds' to the essence of the problem or the question as such. It is as though there were an 'opening', a 'gap', an ontological 'fold' which relates being and the question to one another. In this relation, being is difference itself. Being is also non-being, but non-being is not the being of the negative; rather, it is the being of the problematic, the being of problem and question. Difference is not the negative; on the contrary, non-being is Difference: heteron, not enantion [different, not contrary -SX]. For this reason non-being should rather be written (non)-being or, better still, ?-being" (Difference and Repetition).

    The danger to avoid is construing this in terms of attributes of subjects (like Aristotle). The 'question' or riddle needs to be understood as open-ended, dynamic, and temporally insisted - not closed. It's not a list. The later Deleuze (with Guattari) conceives of the relation in musical terms: point, counterpoint; call and response.

    @Csalisbury, need to percolate a bit before I get back to you on that.
  • csalisbury
    2.3k
    no rush, or worries

    Some historical curiosity:

    I've been reading Pierre Klossowski's Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle for a few years now. A few years because: whenever I read a chapter, everything seems really significant and right, in some hard-to-define-sense, but I can't quite place it. I know it's right, but I can't say why. I step away and think on it (or forget it consciously and let it steep)

    Then I come back a few months later and I 'get it' in the sense that I both understand what drew me in and also grasp the nuts and bolts. Which lets me get to the next chapter --- rinse, repeat. I've been with it for a while, and never cease to get something new when I come back.

    Anyway, onto the actual historical curiosity.

    The book is dedicated to Deleuze. There was some sort of friendship. Continuing: Klossowski's mom was the last lover of Rilke. Rilke had many lovers. One of them is Lou Salome. Lou Salome, of course, is most famous for her role as a non-lover to someone who would have preferred that things were different.
  • StreetlightX
    5.3k
    The book is dedicated to Deleuze. There was some sort of friendship. Continuing: Klossowski's mom was the last lover of Rilke. Rilke had many lovers. One of them is Lou Salome. Lou Salome, of course, is most famous for her role as a non-lover to someone who would have preferred that things were different.csalisbury

    This is really cool. Salome was, herself, an incredible thinker and a first-rate psychoanalyst. I know of her work only second-hand - Kaja Silverman wrote an absolutely gorgeous book (Flesh of my Flesh) that deals with the notion of 'analogy', and she spends alot of time detailing the intellectual relationship between Rilke, Salome and Freud, and devotes quite a few pages to examining Salome's work on it's own terms. It made me sad and a bit ashamed that I only ever knew her as Nietzsche's and Rilke's love interest.

    I read that Klossowski book a really long time ago. I remember finding it a bit hard to digest, and it's one I've been meaning to come back to. I think what I got out of it was an appreciation for just how heavily Nietzsche's psychological state left it's mark on his philosophy. What is it that keeps drawing you back?

    How would you relate Deleuze's co-opting of the Nietzschean 'throw-of-the-dice' (with the sky/earth-table distinction) to this? It seems to map broadly to it, but the 'throw of the dice' itself could potentially add a few new elements, I say tentatively. Curious to hear your takecsalisbury

    I'll try and relate this to Deleuze's third stipulation about the virtual: that it is not to be confused with the possible (the first two stipulations, to recall, were: (1) The virtual is an ontological problem; and (2) The virtual does not resemble the actual). This third stipulation, that the virtual is not the possible, follows from these first two. The actual (this actual horse, say) is not the realization of a 'possible horse' (note the terminological distinction: actualization =/= realization). There is no possible horse that exists somewhere and is then subsequently given the stamp of reality. So if that's the case, what is possibility? What kind of ontological standing, if any, does possibility have? How does one explain the very idea of possibility, and the idea that it comes 'before' the reality of some thing?

    For Deleuze - following Bergson again - the very category of possibility is an illusion that is retroactively posited as accounting for the genesis of the actual. Possibility comes after, and not before the actual. The idea of possibility as a genuine ontological category arises when one 'forgets' that virtual problematics (grasslands, movement, light, etc) are what in fact gives rise to actual things, and when instead of difference, identity is given primacy. The possible, after all, exactly resembles the actual. It is the actual 'minus' the property or attribute of existence, but which resembles it in every other respect. This is actually alot more straightforward than it sounds - if you calculate the odds of something happening, you're almost certainly extrapolating from past events: you're using the actual to define the possible. This is how any normal betting shop will probably calculate the odds of your wager. There's nothing wrong with this per se. It just doesn't make for good grounds for ontology.

    Now if this all makes sense, then it follows that there are two ways in which 'chance' can be grasped. The first way - the usual way - is that chance is the realization of one or another possibility. You have a set of possibilities, and it is by chance (a roll of the die, say) that this possibility rather than that possibility is realized. On this account, chance is subordinate to the reproduction of a situation that is identical across all throws of the die. Deleuze in the Logic of Sense puts it best: "these games... retain chance only at certain points, leaving the remainder to the mechanical development of consequences or to skill". This is just another way of saying that chance, when grasped under the aspect of possibility (and hence identity), simply 'realizes' this or that possibility, as given in advance.

    However, if possibility is in fact a derivative formation that is parasitic upon an actualization that moves from virtual to actual, then there ought to be a second way to understand chance, this time as grasped under the aspect of the virtual. Rather than chance as subordinate to a given set of possibilities, this is chance as that which reorganizes or introduces new possibilities into the equation to begin with. This is why Deleuze relates the dice throw to the temporality of the future, and the introduction of genuine novelty into the world. A throw of the dice that "affirms the whole of chance each time", is one in which chance is not distributed according to a prior structure of possibility, which would instead "fragment it according to the laws of probability over several throws". Hence why the 'ideal game' is one in which "each move invents its own rules".

    The stuff about the sky and earth relate to Deleuze's whole tripartite theory of time, which is a bit much to go into, but I think the above should hopefully articulate virtuality and the dice throw in a decent way. I'll say, in closing, that I reckon the discussion of the dice throw in The Logic of Sense is somewhat easier than the one in D&R. The chapter which discusses it ("The Tenth Series of the Ideal Game") is only 8 pages long, if you can read it.
  • csalisbury
    2.3k
    I read that Klossowski book a really long time ago. I remember finding it a bit hard to digest, and it's one I've been meaning to come back to. I think what I got out of it was an appreciation for just how heavily Nietzsche's psychological state left it's mark on his philosophy. What is it that keeps drawing you back?StreetlightX

    It's hard to say. Above all, I recognize the voice, something resonates. "This guy gets it" sort of thing

    After that:

    all the tangles and contradictions that he - Klossowski - highlights have been the same ones I got (get) hung up on. He seems to get at the core of Nietzsche, directly. Clinically, to be sure, but not without a lot of sympathy. There's no 'lifting' of decontextualized nietzschean thoughts in order to apply them to this, that, or whatever- there's a honing in on the central thing that produced them. That's cool. Nietzsche is too often seen as a pure iconoclast. That's not the case - or at least not the case in the way its usually taken. He's very much 'working-through' the culture he lives in, in that problem/solution sense. Klossowski, I think (I'm not sure) shows how the deep irritation at the center of Nietzche is: 'it's fucked up people have to deeply suffer so others can thrive, and part of 'thriving' is everything I find valuable in philosophy and philology.' That plus 'but is all my thought against thriving, just resentment at not being selected for the nicer role?' [this sounds simple obv but it gets tangled when you pull on any thread, as he did]

    Everything is a matter of working out that undigestible thought, and it has its own logic. Of course it ended, as we all know, with a collapse at the feet of the turin horse.

    I know this is all a tangent, but on the way to the Deleuze stuff
  • Number2018
    303

    The virtual is best understood as a "problem" that has ontological standing. It is distinguished from the actual, which, by contrast, can be understood to be the corresponding 'solution' to the problem.StreetlightX
    There is one more way to think of Deleuze’s virtuality. When heat is applied to a tranquil liquid, the liquid’s equilibrium is disturbed. In classical thermodynamics, a physical system tends toward maximum entropy, which is the highest degree of stability and homogeneity under existing conditions. In theory, when the heat is increased, the liquid loses its stability but retains its homogeneity so that molecules are moving chaotically with increased speed. But, if the heat is increased at a specific rate, a threshold is reached, and an order spontaneously arises out of chaos. A pattern of a system of vortexes appears. So, the liquid now is
    unstable, but it is no longer homogeneous, and the system has moved from entropic equilibrium. Yet, its tendencies to retain a balance do not disappear. There are two virtual attractors (or dimensions): the constraint to dissipate heat and return to thermal equilibrium, and the restriction to lose momentum to gravity and return to kinetic equilibrium. The liquid contracts the two virtual states into its actuality, becoming a kind of individualized singularity. Each vortex has a population of locally correlated particles, but its molecules are also associated with all the liquid particles. The new whole acquires particular sensitivity to the variation of its determinants. There is the set of independent variables (a phase space) so that the sum total of the system transformations could be represented as a trajectory or a fractal. The virtual and the actual are co-resonating systems. They necessarily duplicate and effectuate each other. Actualized, the metastable order decreases the effects of the virtual. But, at a threshold state, the virtual intensifies, and the actual weakens at a bifurcation moment. In reality, the process of actualization is complicated by many fluctuations and indiscernible factors. Even in the considered simple example, interference between attractors adds an element of chance, so that the choice of the actualized state at the bifurcation moment is often unpredictable. A mutual immanence of the virtual and the actual is a particular synthesis, the coexistence that transcends its genesis and actuality. When we move from physical systems to social ones, the complexity increases, and the indeterminacy heightens. Therefore, based on the differentiation of the virtual and the actual, Deleuze’s social ontology has been an act of audacity.
  • csalisbury
    2.3k
    I think where the specter of a possible/actual metaphysics lurks is something like: a set of rules for generating one state [particles in positions at t2] from another state [particles in positions at t1] can, in principle do all the work of incorporating Darwin & rejecting Plato. Another way to phrase this: Darwin would agree that there's no platonic forms, but would he need Deleuze's metaphysics?

    I'm being intentionally dense - Deleuze's analysis, to me, makes a lot of sense at a conceptual-poetic level --- and seems a much more fruitful way of thinking about things. And contemporary physics seems to agree reality is non-deterministic at core. But isn't the dice-throw something that is neither a realization of one state from another, folllowing strict rules of generation or just the pure possibility of a new arrangement, randomly recreating the rules of the game? (I think there is a teleological/vitalistic thing that can't be left out, and suspect that may be the old maid in the attic the glosses gloss over). I am happy with a teleological or vitalistic approach, but I think it either has to be recognized, or there has to be an explanation of what's going on with the metaphysics, such that a new metaphysics is necessary, without making use of teleology/vitalism.
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