Philosophy of Transformation: Differentiation or Subtraction
Summary in Key Words
Philosophy of transformation; Deleuze; Badiou; differentiation, subtraction, (re-, de-) territorialization; folding; plane of consistency; events (interventions); truth procedure; subject; the capitalism; the democratic materialism
Summary of the Theme and the Aim of the Project
This project focuses on the characteristics of the radical change, concerning philosophies of Badiou and Deleuze. The plan is to analyze Deleuze’s idea of creative differentiation, relevant to the (re-, de-) territorialization and the folding, meanwhile to examine Badiou’s subtractive philosophy about the event (the intervention), and the truth procedure. Four steps to undertake this project will be conducted in sequence: first, to overview Badiou’s crucial claims on Deleuze, especially relevant to topics about the ontology and the subject; second, to offer a critical illustration on the ontology of Deleuze and Badiou, with the case of Leibniz, to compare Deleuze’s heterogonous differentiation and Badiou’s inconsistent subtraction; third, within the frame work of these two philosophers’ ontology, to scrutinize the statue and the function of the subject (or the a-subjective becoming in Deleuze), based on the psychoanalysis; forth, to examine their descriptions about contemporary social impasse, namely, the capitalism for Deleuze and the democratic materialism for Badiuo, in order to delineate how they formulate the question of social impasse and to compare how they offer corresponding solutions concerning the radical change. The elaborated dissection on these steps will not only allow for a better understanding of the ontological divergence between Deleuze and Badiou, but also show their distinctions on the contemporary controversies about social changes.
Research Background/ Intended Area of Research
Philosophies of Deleuze and Badiou, emerging under the legacy of Heidegger and the era of “linguistic turn,” reject the end of philosophy and the attribution of language as the essence of thinking. Deleuze’s philosophy, due to his varied narrations in accordance with specific works, does not have a clear uniformed figure or a continuous progress. Since his thoughts go from the early expressionism, to the dramatic shuffling of territorialization (books in cooperation with Guattari), and to his later neo-Baroque style of folding, he in general embraces a vitalist ontology, which emphases “the event as actualizations of the one virtual event” and describes the a-subjective or re-subjective transformations of concepts (Lecercle 32). The ontology of Deleuze is sufficiently fluid, differentiating in itself with immanent open-end. Badiou, on the other hand, revises his philosophy from Being and Event to Logics of Worlds. He clearly persists to equal ontology with mathematics, the mechanics of which delineates how events function through the subtraction and indicate the truthful intervention. The process of truth is universal, singular and infinite, indifferent to the “old” logic of the intervened world. Though both Deleuze and Badiou agree that philosophy is the configuration of thoughts, should be nourished by the unexpected, and demands a transformation to overcome the contemporary impasse; Deleuze’s expressionism of the (de-, re-) territorialization and the folding, as the continuous differentiation, antagonizes Badiou’s subtractive philosophy which explains fissures of worlds (situations of languages or bodies). As a consequence, their evaluations on the statues of the subject and the contemporary social impasse differ from each other. This project intends to grasp their discrepancy between the concepts of differentiation and subtraction, focusing on their ontologies, their issue of “subjective,” and, based on their antagonism, seeking how they describe and reject the capitalism or the democratic materialism.
In Deleuze: the Clamor of Being, Badiou delineates thoughts of Deleuze. He generalizes the essence of Deleuze’s philosophy as the disjunctive synthesis which eventually positions multiples under the presupposition of the One: a renewed concept of the ontological unity. This reading of Deleuze mounts to the metaphysics of the One, which is fallacious in many aspects, especially about Deleuze’s implication of the event and the subject. It could be said that Badiou’s notorious judgments root in his own philosophy of subtraction and in his description of the subject as the militant. This project will not show how Badiou misunderstands Deleuze, but illustrate the fundamental incompatibility between these two philosophers. By examining Badiou’s misinterpretations in Deleuze: the Clamor of Being, it will be clarified how Badiou’s concepts of the subtraction and the subject influence his judgments on Deleuze.
Since both Deleuze and Badiou formulate their ontology via the exposition of Leibniz, this project will apply Leibniz as a sample point to unveil how Deleuze’s ontology pictures the heterogeneous differentiation, while also presenting how Badiou emphases the subtraction from the situation of counted-one. In his early discussions on Leibniz, Deleuze already undertakes Leibnitzian metaphysics in a form of expressionism: besides God, the Leibnitzian ontology entails expressive immanence that differs and betrays principle dominations. In A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia and What is Philosophy?, concepts of Deleuze evolve from the “body without organs” to the plane of consistency, indicating the method and the ontology of uneven differentiations and infinite changes. In Deleuze’s geo-philosophy, especially in contrast with the concept of the striated space, the smooth pertains to the fundamental heterogeneity, as “the continuous variation” or “the continuous development of form,” which is never homogeneous (in Badiou’s sense), but as essentially amorphous (Deleuze and Guattari 489). In The Fold, a crucial book of his later years mainly dealing with Leibniz, Deleuze’s ontology of amorphous crossings and collections is explained as “fold” [pli], to grasp the twist of the fabrics and origins of life, meanwhile to show the nature of the event and the subjectivity. Folding, in a style of neo-Baroque or ontological mannerist, is the difference-in-itself, bringing all differences together without eradicating any distinctions: both an inside and an outside: a past (memory) and a present (subjectivity), as two sides of the single surface (Conley 172). It could be said that in the reading of Leibniz, Deleuze’s ontology of differentiation reaches an ultimate form: the heterogeneous and continuous differentiator.
In contrast, though Badiou also builds his ontology by reformulating Leibniz, he firmly asserts the gap between the consistency and the inconsistency. Right at the beginning of Being and Event, by analyzing “what is not a being is not a being” claimed by Leibniz, Badiou affirms that the one of the “a” is not “being”. Therefore, “the being qua being” talks not about the “one,” but the “not one” of pure multiples. His intention is to raise an ontology of mathematics which is essentially multiple and numeral. Philosophy for him begins from a hole as the proven inconsistency, to maintain the truthful intervention and the procedure of the thinkable. Though agreeing with Deleuze that being is essentially multiple, Badiou emphases the significance of the truth, operating initially not as opening or folding, but in a subtractive way. Therefore, he criticizes Deleuze’s immanence of the (re-, de-) territorialization and the folding as unified forms of thinking not indicating the substantial truth. Therefore, not similar to the plane of consistency or the continuous folding in Deleuze, Badiou’s ontology is essentially based on the inconsistent subtraction, subtracted from the consistent counted-one. The “not-be,” or “the nothing”, marks the gap between the discernible void and the almost untraceable pure event. The truth comes from the latent inconsistency in a given world, demanding the fidelity of the subject for a “future perfect.” Though in Logics of Worlds, Badiou’s attention shifts from the ontology to the logics of appearing, the fundamental status of subtraction remains: the event is not the being qua being, but implies the violation of ontological principles. Hence the origin of truth procedures, in Badiou’s accounts, is the eruption of foreignness, which does not exist in any conditions before: the inconsistent abruptions. The innovative transformation begins from the void of nothingness in a subtractive way, followed by genetic procedures, changing logics of the world universally and infinitely. In short, this project aims to examine Deleuze’s ontology of uneven differentiation and Badiou’s subtraction as foreignness, using Leibniz as a sample, to compare and to grasp the core of their distinctive thoughts.
After explanations on Deleuze and Badiou’s distinctions between the ontology of differentiation and subtraction, between the a-subjective becoming and the fidelity of the subject, this project will turn to a more practical dimension: to examine how their distinctions lead to their different strategies to settle the contemporary social impasse, which, for Deleuze, means to break the capitalism, while, for Badiou, to break the democratic materialism. Deleuze devotes two volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia, in his cooperation with Guattari, to describe ways to interpret and dismantle the capitalism. He has showed the conceptual and institutional commons between the structure of psychoanalysis and the capitalism, pertaining to the production and the reproduction of desire, the apparatus of the political economy and the Oedipus complex. Based on his ontology of continuous and heterogonous differentiation, he implies new forms of changes that are able to turn over the current condition, within the exact domain of the capital. In Anti-Oedipus, the immanent productions of desire contain power to overthrow the logic or the organization of the capital. In A Thousand Plateaus, the new smooth space of capital reaches its “absolute” speed, deterritorializing the modern State apparatuses in its form of the capital. Namely, within the distinctions and interactions between the striated capital and the smooth capital, the integrating capitalism contains internal transformations that break its own limits (Deleuze and Guattari 492). Different from Deleuze, Badiou’s consideration on the capitalism or the contemporary social situation is political in general. He seeks the politics of emancipation with unconditioned prescriptions, supported by the philosophy of subtraction and the subject as militant operations. He terms the democratic materialism as the axiom of contemporary conviction: the regulated and developed liberal equilibria, with reasonable management, capital and general institutions (Badiou 1). The truthful politics, as collective actions, however, aim to subtract from any sorts of oppressions, divisions, partitions or the world community (Badiou 148). Since Badiou is against the presumption of totality, the persistent efforts of the militant subject will draw from the void of the naturalness, the capitalism and the parliamentary, as the subtraction from the capitalist economy. In Logics of Worlds, Badiou proposes the idea of the materialist dialectic, which affirms the politics of emancipation as the innovative core for social changes, enabled by the ungraspable event and the subjective fidelity, to break through the contemporary consensus, the plurality of languages, and the juridical equality. In brief, the purpose of this project is to indicate how Deleuze’s heterogonous differentiation and Badiou’s subtraction of foreignness affect their formulation about the route to break the contemporary social impasse, toward radical social changes.
In sum, with differentiated ideas pertinent to the contemporary condition, Deleuze and Badiou exhibit their particular ontology and try to guide ways for social changes. They illustrate two distinct contemporary formations of philosophy, which also target problems of modern impasse. The proposed project plans to focus on their antagonized ontological ideas, namely, the differentiation and the subtraction, Deleuze’s a-subject becoming and Badiou’s subjective operations of fidelity to delineate their divergence and show how such divergence is maintained in their prescriptions of social changes.
Core Research Questions
This project scrutinizes the philosophy of transformation pertinent to theories of Deleuze and Badiou. There are three sub-divided groups of questions relevant to the main goal:
- What is the ontology of radical change implied in philosophies of Deleuze and Badiou, respectively? What is their fundamental discrepancy; especially unveiled in their varied discussions on Leibniz? In comparison, what are the characteristics of Deleuze’s heterogeneous differentiation (of the conceptual creation of the (de-, re-) territorializations or the dramatic folding) and Badiou’s inconsistent subtraction (about interventions or truth procedures)?
- What are the roles of the subject in Deleuze’s abstract machine of territorializations and foldings, and in Badiou’s conditions of truth and logics of worlds? How do these two philosophers value the status and the functions of the subject, exemplified in their ways of dealing with the psychoanalysis? What are the corresponding differences and significances of them regarding the subjective mechanics that enable the social transformation?
- Are the philosophies of transformation provided by Deleuze or Badiou universal? How does Deleuze’s philosophy of differentiation and a-subjective becoming formulates methods that dismantle the capitalism? How does Badiou’s philosophy of subtraction and subjective fidelity lead ways that break the democratic materialism? What are the corresponding pros and cons of their theories? How to formulate changes in accordance with the aforementioned theories?
In brief, this proposed project tries to analyze and compare philosophy of transformation relevant to Deleuze and Badiou, indicate their main (ontological) distinctions and different methods that delineate social changes.
- . To critically dissect Badiou’s claims on Deleuze. Apart from notorious statements and misinterpretations in Deleuze: the Clamor of Being, this project will focus on the conceptual origin of Badiou’s claims on Deleuze, based on his own perspectives, especially regarding to their different presuppositions on the event of change and on the function of the subject. This analysis will build a clear introduction for the sequent topics of this project.
- . To discuss and compare the ontology of Badiou and Deleuze. One of the remarkable developments in contemporary philosophy is to describe the possibility of radical changes and the condition for the persistence of corresponding consequences. Badiou and Deleuze represent the most recent prominent scholars who formulate the philosophy of transformation. Different from other philosophers or theorists, they have established their own unique ontology and philosophical formulations with integrity. Hence, choosing their philosophies, probing varied logics for the current world, is reasonable. Though with discrepant and antagonistic ideas among them, their diversity provides different theoretical foundations for this project. The project will focus on the heterogeneous differentiator in Deleuze’s work and the subtractive foreignness in Badiou’s. Recourse to their illustrations on Leibniz can provide a substantiated ground to gather concerning theories coherently.
- . To identify the operations of subject (or a-subjective becoming) within the scrutinized philosophies. Though delegating differentiated importance of the subject, Badiou and Deleuze confirm the function of “subjective” in the process of transformations. This project intends not to determine the role of the subject, but to compare relevant explanations. Deleuze and Badiou’s antagonism on the significance of psychoanalysis indicates their varied evaluations on the function of this subject. Therefore using clues of psychoanalysis (Freud and Lacan), philosophies of Deleuze and Badiou could be discussed under a common topic to make a genuine comparison between their formulations.
- . Based on philosophies of Deleuze and Badiou, to offer a picture on the issue of transformation, pertinent to contemporary social controversies. The practical aim of this project is to check the universality and the applicability of the contemporary philosophies of transformation. Deleuze and Badiou do not limit the appliance of their philosophies to the western world, and intend to propose a universal condition for the transformation. However, their descriptions on the modern impasse differ from each other: one as the capitalism, the other as the democratic materialism. Though overlapping their formulations, this project intends to search for the origin of the divergence between their strategies about the social change. The goal is to examine the pros and cons, as well as the universality of their formulations.
The Scientific or/and Social Relevance of the Research Project
On the whole, there are three perspectives of originality in this research project. First, out of current polemics, the project searches for the priority of transformations in domain of philosophy, crucially relevant to the ontological and the subjective conditions, to answer calls for theories which can successfully address the impasses of current stubborn conditions. Secondly, though Deleuze and Badiou explain ways toward transformations innovatively, their philosophies are not agreed with each other, and the universality of their ontology/philosophy is still questionable. This project plans to analyze their ontology, as well as theories about social changes, to fill the pertinent philosophical lacuna of theirs. Third, since concepts of western philosophy are still dominant, especially in attempts to explain the current social impasse after the birth of modernity, it is crucial to examine the universality and the applicability of these concepts. Deleuze and Badiou formulate distinctive theories that are able to build conceptual models for future scholars, regardless of linguistic or cultural relativism. Therefore, examining their theories is reasonable and promising.
Summary for Non-specialists
This project calls for philosophies that can successfully address the current impasse of systematical theories and can outline strategies for genuine social transformations. The focus is on the ontological frameworks that determine ways to conceptualize current conditions, and on the role of subjective operations within social changes.
Among dominant philosophies, this project chooses two continental philosophers, Deleuze and Badiou, who not only address impending problems in the Western philosophy, but also have formulated philosophies applicable to non-western realia, offering universal methods to explain social changes. Different from other philosophers or theorists, they represent the most recent prominent scholars who built their own distinctive ontologies, as well as theories about the subject, with integrity. Deleuze, generally as a vitalist, builds his unique expressionism about the dramatic changes of geo-philosophical (territorializations or folding). The immanent transformation for him is the continuous and heterogeneous differentiation, affecting and undermining the dominant social structure, from the peripheral and the trivial sectors of the world. Correspondently, according to Delueze, the subject in the becoming toward the differences (or the Other) is rather a-subjective, submerging in the constant force of changes. Badiou, different from Deleuze, exhibits the ontology of mathematics, which on one hand regulates the way of ontological presentation as the counted One; on the other hand, indicates the mechanics for eventual radical changes, as the pure inconsistency subtracting beyond ontological situations. The truth procedure, as infinite progressive transformations, starts in this subtractive way, from the void within the conceptual or the social domains. To this extent, Badiou demands the character of subject playing an active and determinate role, through keeping the fidelity to the event and through persisting the subjective practices in social changes. To substantiate common grounds for the discussion, this project will refer to the philosophy of Leibniz and the issues of psychoanalysis, which are both examined by Deleuze and Badiou, concerning topics of ontology and subject.
After clarifying philosophical distinctions between Deleuze and Badiou, this project will turn to Deleuze’s criticisms on the capitalism and Badiou’s on the democratic materialism, to indicate the ontological origins of their differentiated methods that try to settle social problems. The project will also probe varied logics or conceptual apparatus to describe the current world, according to theories of Deleuze and Badiou. Globally, there is a demand to illuminate a philosophy of transformation, to settle the polemics of modernization, which is not constrained in western countries. Though with discrepant and antagonistic ideas, Deleuze’s and Badiou’s theories are possibly universal, indicating varied dimensions to fill the lacuna of contemporary philosophies, which have the partiality of either politics or intellectuality or relativism, thus failing to see the significance of the universal theory about change. Philosophies of Deleuze and Badiou, with their own unique formulations, embrace potentialities and universalities that hint ways to enhance the condition of mankind. The pros and cons of their theories will be more obvious via the comparison intended in this project.