Free Read: Revolution and the Return of Metaphysics

Below is an excerpt from “Gilles Deleuze and Metaphysics,” published last month by Lexington Books.

In this chapter written by Thomas Nail, argues that “we are witnessing the return of both in the work of French philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Alain Badiou. Their return, however, is no mere repetition of the previous forms of classical metaphysics and modern revolution—defined by totality and the capture of the state.”

Download the article from here.

  • Connor Syrewicz

    This paper is, unfortunately wrong. It conflates Badiou’s multiple ontology with Deleuze’s ontological multiplicity. This may seem like a small distinction but it is really huge: For Badiou, ontology is always multiple, as in, composed of many beings. This idea refers exactly to the Quentin Meillasioux quote that Nail gives to describe BOTH Deleuze and Badiou’s ontology: “Being is multiple to the strict exclusion of its opposite—namely, the One. Being is not therefore a multiplicity composed of stable and ultimate unities, but a multiplicity that is in turn composed of multiplicities. Indeed, mathematical sets have for their elements not unities but other sets, and so on indefinitely.”

    For Deleuze, on the other hand, BEING is always “univocal,” (see the first chapter of difference and repetition). BEING, therefore, is always unified, even if there happens to be an infinitely large or small amount of unified entities, being is actually, ONE. However, BEING is not the only dimension of Deleuze’s ontology, he is concerned more primarily with BECOMING. BEING refers to what Deleuze would call the extensive properties of matter whereas BECOMING refers to the intensive properties of matter. In order to understand this distinction, we can think of the distinction, in mathematics, between cardinal series and ordinal series. A cardinal series is a series like 1, 2, 3, 4. But an ordinal series refers only to the order of the numbers: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th. A cardinal series may always be multiple but each number refers to a strictly defined, clear, and ALREADY-INDIVIDUATED entity with strictly definable relations to other objects. Whereas the designated objects in an ordinal series do not have any essential relation to each other. Think of it this way: each marker on the Cardinal Series Highway–Mile 1, 2, 3, and 4–are all the same distance from the preceding mile marker: 1 mile. Whereas the markers on the Ordinal Series Highway–1st marker, 2nd marker, 3rd marker, 4th marker–do not have any essential relation to each other. The 1st marker could be 2 miles down the highway, the 2nd marker could be another 10 miles, the 3rd, 0.4 miles, etc. etc. The point here is that “…each member of a set is another set and so on indefinitely…” BUT each member of a set has a necessary, distinct, and individuated relationship with the other members of the set. This is the univocality of BEING, for Deleuze: necessary, distinct, and individuated relations. Becoming, however, does not have the clear and already-individuated boundaries of being. It is being-individuated which makes all of these boundaries fuzzy and none of the relations necessary.

    For Badiou ontology is always multiple but the concept of multiplicity, for Deleuze, can be defined as follows: “A multiplicity is a nested set of vector fields related to each other by symmetry-breaking bifurcations, together with the distributions of attractors which define each of its embedded levels.” (Delanda, Intensive Science… p. 32) Do you need to understand this? No. The point here is that there is something far more complex and profound happening in Deleuze than in Badiou and to reduce Deleuze’s concept of multiplicity to Badiou’s multiple ontology is really insulting.