Logic of Sense: Series 2 on the Paradox of Surface Effects: Dialectics as the Art of Conjugation

In series 2 on the paradox of surface effects, Deleuze happens to mention dialectics as “the art of conjugation” (8). Before diving into the implications of this statement, we should note that for Deleuze, the pure event can be conceived of as an infinitive independent of any temporal, modal, vocal or personal grammatical determinations—and so in essence, this type of pure event can be conceived of properly as a pre-individual singularity that escapes the logical ordering of worlds (214). This insistence on the link between the infinitive and the event can be traced throughout the book and culminates in series 30 on the phantasm; however, we can understand how and for what purpose Deleuze chooses to designate a role for dialectics (note, not the dialectic) in his philosophy. All that is required is a more concrete definition of dialectics as Deleuze gives it and an unpacking of what the art of conjugation entails for an understanding of the way in which events come to be expressed in propositions and the way that these events are themselves related in propositions (8).

I did not happen to bring up series 30 on accident, for what Deleuze makes explicit is that psychoanalysis and dialectics, fundamentally at least, share a strong affinity (notice Deleuze chiding Freud for taking a ‘Hegelian’ position on the contradictory nature of primitive words) (213). This is because psychoanalysis takes phantasms as the (im)material for its science of events. Similarly, Deleuze links the incorporeal effects or “dialectical attributes” to the events that populate the surface (5). In fact, Deleuze will even say “The Stoics discovered surface effects. Simulacra cease to be subterranean rebels and make the most of their effects (that is, what might be called ‘phantasms,’ independently of the Stoic terminology)” (8). It is here that Deleuze first equates the event with being beyond the passive/active opposition, being both and neither at once (8).

If dialectics is “the science of incorporeal events as they are expressed in propositions, and of the connections between events as they are expressed in relation between propositions,” then one might well question whether or not Deleuze fully bypasses this sort of static conception of events (8). In fact, I want to hypothesize that Deleuze brings up dialectics at the start as a one-sided approach to the phenomenon of language formation along a frontier. What will become important to Deleuze is not simply how the infinitive-event is conjugated in a world, but instead how infinitive-events can be said to be a-cosmic and singular. This singularity can be tricky if we choose to see events circulating in a univocal Event that is transcendent to the world and its logic. If we choose to see the ideality of the pure event as transcendent, we fall into the easy trap that Badiou is guilty of—namely, that of condemning the concept of the virtual as that which introduces transcendence into an otherwise untainted, univocal system of immanence.

But this does not answer the obvious question—what does the virtual mean and how does it correlate with Deleuze’s concept of dialectics? If we can roughly divide the terms actual/virtual with the two movements of time Chronos/Aion, then we may be able to make some progress (or make things more confusing). As I understand it, Chronos is the time of the pure, full present, the past and the future being subsumed and contracted or folded into one layer. But Aion works exactly opposite: instead, future and past are infinitely subdivided and the present is what is empty—in this sense, the present is not, or it can be considered a void point. If we can imagine that the world partakes of both times at once, we belie the fundamental point—events that are temporalized have actual consequences on the world of Chronos. Instead of being just past or just about to come—as Deleuze understands the time of Aion and the pure event—actualized events come to share in the consequences of world formation and logical development. But this leaves the obvious question of the virtuality of the event: what about an event that isn’t actualized? We can say that the event did not take place because of a lack of force or because of a sufficient intensity for a zone was not activated. In other words, events have potentials that must be tapped into and unleashed for a proportionate actualization. In some sense, the event requires certain conditions and the relative critical energy in order for the chaos of the virtual to be actualized in the production of reality. It is, then, the duty of dialectics to be able to formulate specific conditions that augment the conjugation of pure events from the virtuality of Aion to the actuality of Chronos.

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