9 Mar 2009

Deleuze, Différence et répétition (Difference and Repetition), Chap 2, paragraph 2

Corry Shores
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Gilles Deleuze

Différence et répétition
Difference and Repetition

Chapitre II: La répétition pour elle-même
Chapter II: Repetition for Itself

Second paragraph of the chapter.

Previously we discussed Hume's theory of causal relations. We took his examples of Fire & Heat, and the communication of motion between colliding billiard balls. We noted that each instance of any such experience of conjoined impressions is unique. But the mind finds similarities between instances of conjoined impressions. So all the instances of fire resemble each other. And all the experiences of heat are alike as well. Hume writes,
our imagination runs easily from one idea to any other that resembles it, and that this quality alone is to the fancy a sufficient bond and association. (Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, §26, 11b)
after we have observ'd the resemblance in a sufficient number of instances, we immediately feel a determination of the mind to pass from one object to its usual attendant, and to conceive it in a stronger light upon account of that relation. This determination is the only effect of the resemblance; and therefore must be the same with power or efficacy, whose idea is deriv'd from the resemblance. (165a.b)
The several instances of resembling conjunctions lead us into the notion of power and necessity. These instances are in themselves totally distinct from each other, and have no union but in the mind, which observes them, and collects their ideas. (§352, 165bc)
So the imagination assimilates the similar instances. In this way, different cases come to be regarded as repetitions of the same conjunction. But each time we make such an assimilation, our minds are altered somewhat. For, each recurrence adds to the force of our association. So our imaginations become more inclined to make the "inferential" movement from impression to the idea for its usual companion object.

So Deleuze ended the last paragraph by noting how these different experiences come to be repetitions of alike instances, only on account of the change they make in our mind's forces of association. This seems paradoxical: what makes them repetitions of the same conjunction is the change that each one inscribes in our minds.

In this second paragraph, Deleuze wonders about the nature of this change that occurs in our minds when the imagination contracts similar impressions. He says that the imagination has a "contractile power." Hume writes:
These are therefore the principles of union or cohesion among our simple ideas, and in the imagination supply the place of that inseparable connexion, by which they are united in our memory. Here is a kind of ATTRACTION, which in the mental world will be found to have as extraordinary effects as in the natural, and to shew itself in as many and as various forms. Its effects are every where conspicuous; but as to its causes, they are mostly unknown, and must be resolv'd into original qualities of human nature, which I pretend not to explain. (§26, 12-13)
So according to Hume, our mind is not a "momentary mind" or mens momentanea [for more, see the previous entry or the entry on Leibniz explanation of the term.]. Instead, our mind "retains one case as the other appears" (Deleuze, Différence 96d/Difference 70c).

To grasp Deleuze's next point, let's recall some of Hume's distinctions. Our mind has perceptions. There are two kinds: impressions and ideas. The only difference between the two is that impressions are more vivid, and they press upon us with greater force. So ideas and impressions are both qualitatively the same thing, but they only are different quantitatively. For, ideas are merely weaker mental perceptions, and impressions are just stronger mental perceptions. Hence any instance of an idea can be seen as a faint impression. And also any impression may be considered a vivid idea. There is no fundamental difference between the two [§11].

One other point is that our impressions precede our ideas [§17]. And, there are two types of impressions: sensation and reflexion. So for example, we touch fire. In this case, something hot presses upon senses, so we have a sense-impression of heat. Then the mind copies that impression. This copy is the idea for that object we sensed, namely, fire. Then, the next time our hand nears the fire, we recall the heat-sensation. But it was painful as well, so we also recall the pain. But so far this is merely the operation of the imagination; for we have not touched the fire again. We merely recall the experience. Regardless, the recollection of the pain leaves another impression on us, which we might consider to be fear or caution. Such impressions that are derived from ideas and not directly from sensations we call impressions of reflexion. [§24].

For Hume, our sense of causal necessity results from such an impression of reflection. He notes first of all that we may examine causes and effects all day, but we will never find any property in one of them that implies the existence of the other. We may think fire without thinking heat, because we have seen many painted depictions of fire that were not hot. Likewise, we can conceive of heat without fire, because we can be burned by red hot irons that bear no flame. So one does not necessarily imply the other. [See §169, §193, §204, §347, §349.]

Now consider the repetition of conjoined object-pairings. Eventually we only need to perceive the cause, and our imagination automatically evokes the idea for the effect. Each time, our mind performs the action of an associative motion. This movement itself leaves an impression, says Hume. And these impressions strengthen with repetition. So after a while, we come to regard the pairings as conjoined necessarily. For we also obtain the impression that there is a strong and perhaps inevitable tendency to move from the cause to the effect.
Necessity, then, is the effect of this observation, and is nothing but an internal impression of the mind, or a determination to carry our thoughts from one object to another. (§352, 165c)

The idea of necessity arises from some impression. There is no impression convey'd by our senses, which can give rise to that idea. It must, therefore, be deriv'd from some internal impression, or impression of reflection. There is no internal impression, which has any relation to the present business, but that propensity, which custom produces, to pass from an object to the idea of its usual attendant. This therefore is the essence of necessity. (165d)

necessity is something, that exists in the mind, not in objects; nor is it possible for us ever to form the most distant idea of it, considered as a quality in bodies. (§354, 165-166)
This internal impression of reflexion builds force with more contractions of similar instances. For, the more contractions, the more vivid the image [see the Dice throw example §287]. And as the idea becomes more vivacious, we develop a stronger tendency to evoke it. Deleuze writes that the imagination
contracts cases, elements, agitations or homogeneous instants and grounds these in an internal qualitative impression endowed with a certain weight. When A appears, we expect B with a force corresponding to the qualitative impression of all the contracted ABs. (Deleuze 70d)

Elle contracte le cas, les éléments, les ébranlements, les instants homogènes, et les fond dans une impression qualitative interne d'un certain poids. Quand A paraît, nous nous attendons à B avec une force correspondant à l'impression qualitative de tous les AB contractés. (96-97)
Now the idea for the necessity between A and B results from a reflection of impression. However, the contraction itself of all the pairings of AB is not a matter of reflection upon our memories. In other words, it is not in the very least an active synthesis. But to understand why Deleuze calls this a synthesis of time, let's review Hume's explanation for our sense of temporality.

We begin with Hume's example of the flute playing five notes. We also experience time while hearing them. But we do not experience it as though it were a sixth impression in addition to our five impressions of the notes.
The idea of time is not deriv'd from a particular impression mix'd up with others, and plainly distinguishable from them; but arises altogether from the manner, in which impressions appear to the mind, without making one of the number. (Hume 36c)
These five sounds making their appearance in this particular manner, excite no emotion in the mind, nor produce an affection of any kind, which being observ'd by it can give rise to a new idea. (Hume §85, 36-37)
We do not experience time by itself. However, it is not the same as any one impression that happens in a succession. In other words, time is not an abstraction. To grasp this conception, we should review Hume's critique of abstract ideas.

He offers an illuminating example. Let's imagine we are young and have yet to experience many things. Then someone presents us with a white globe. Hume argues that we are not able to conceive of its whiteness abstractly, or of its sphericity abstractly. Any time we conceive of white, we also conceive sphere. And likewise, any time we think of a sphere, it will appear white to us in our imaginations.

But we sure seem to have abstract ideas, because we talk about 'white' as though it were something in itself.

Hume explains. Imagine now that we are presented with a globe of black marble, and then with a cube of white marble. When we were shown the white globe, the presenter said, "white ball." And we repeat, 'white ball.' When we were shown the black globe, we heard and repeated "black ball." Likewise for "white box." So we developed the habits of attaching these words to those given sense-experiences. Now, when someone says "white," we have a tendency to recall either of two ideas: the white ball or the white box. It does not matter which. The point is that there is an internal tendency or an intensity to recall one or the other. And the more repetitions we have of such experiences, the stronger that "inferential" tendency becomes [see §§60-61 for more on this example.]

So we return to the flute's melody. When we hear the fourth note, we have already experienced not only the sounds, but also their succession. We then have a very strong tendency to associate this succession with every other succession we have experienced. Hence with each moment there is a synthesis that produces our sense of time, and it is based on an instantaneous tendency to associate an experience of a succession with all other experiences of successions.

So we obtain a sense of time by means of a synthesis that occurs only in a particular experience; for example, we obtain our sense of time in each specific note of the melody. Hume writes that time "is represented in the fancy by some particular individual idea of a determinate quantity and quality." (§81, 35a)

But there is a complication. Hume says that we cannot perceive time unless each instance in the succession is different from the rest. If each new impression could not be distinguished from the previous ones, then we would not have a succession. It would just be the same image that perseveres, rather than there being a sequence of different impressions. This is why we do not perceive time while we sleep or when we are meditating. For, there are no new impressions succeeding each other.
A man in a sound sleep, or strongly occupy'd with one thought, is insensible of time. (§82, 35b)
And, if our impressions succeed each other with greater speed, then time seems to move even faster.
and according as his perceptions succeed each other with greater or less rapidity, the same duration appears longer or shorter to his imagination. (§82, 35b)
But this means that if the objects we perceive do not change, then we likewise do not have a sense of time.
time cannot make its appearance to the mind, either alone, or attended with a steady unchangeable object, but is always discover'd some PERCEIVABLE succession of changeable objects. (§82, 35b)

But now we have to combine two ideas to see what results:

a) we obtain our sense of time by means of an associative synthesis that renews itself in each moment, and

b) each of these moments must present us with something new or different. Otherwise we would not have perceived a duration.

What Deleuze concludes from this that the succession of instants presents time's "constantly aborted moment of birth." For, with each new and different impression, we obtain a new sense of time. But this time is something we obtain only in that particular successive experience we are having in the present. At the fourth note, we have our sense of time up to that point. At the fifth note, the forces of our associative tendencies have been strengthened. So our sense of time has changed at the fifth note. But temporality is always only an passive associative tendency that temporally intends in an instant. [It does not temporally extend, because there is no extension in an instant. This is like Leibniz' conatus. Temporality here is a tendency whose force would cause time to extend from the past to the future, if it were released out of its present instant. But by itself, it is just the internal force of time's movement. It is intensive temporality, rather than extensive temporality. With intensive time, the present does not flow continuously from the past, through the present, and into the future. Rather, it contracts all moments into the present instant. This combines all their associative forces and causes us to experience all time in a living present. But this is not Husserl's living present. For it is not a Now point continuing backward through a "comet tail" that extends into the past. Nor does it project into the future through a protentional "halo" that extends continuously from our present intentions. Rather, this living present is an instantaneous present moment that is pure intensity with no temporal extension whatsoever. Thus Deleuze's intensive living present should not be confused with Husserl's intentive living present or Now point.]
Time is constituted only in the originary synthesis which operates on the repetition of instants. This synthesis contracts the successive independent instants into one another, thereby constituting the lived, or living present. It is in this present that time is deployed. (Deleuze 70d)

Le temps ne se constitue que dans la synthèse originaire qui porte sur la répétition des instants. Cette synthèse contacte les uns dans les autres les instants successifs indépendants. A proprement parle, elle forme une synthèse du temps. (97a.b)
Deleuze will now explain how the past and future factor-in. But first we recall what Hume writes. We do not need to use our rational faculties to determine what we expect in the future. Experience has taught us that the "train of objects" will continue-on in the future as it had in the past. This is based on our past experiences proving to have analogical cases in successive instances. In this way we become accustomed to expecting the future to resemble the past.
This habit or determination to transfer the past to the future is full and perfect; and consequently the first impulse of the imagination in this species of reasoning is endowed with the same qualities. (Hume, §296, 134a)
Deleuze explains that the both the past and the future are thereby contracted into the present. For in the present moment, we project the past into the future, which manifests as our present tendency of expectation.
The past and the future do not designate instants distinct from a supposed present instant, but rather the dimensions of the present itself in so far as it is a contraction of instants. (Deleuze 72a)

Le passé et le futur ne désignent pas des instants, distincts d'un instant supposé présent, mais les dimensions du présent lui-même en tant qu'il contracte les instants. (97b)
In the past we had particular experiences that we then generalize as "laws" for the future. To illustrate, Hume has us imagine a man being tortured. The criminal has been sentenced to hang from a tower in an iron cage. [image credits provided at the entry's end.]

In the past, the man has had experiences where his life was endangered from great drops. As well, he had experiences of iron fences and other sturdy iron structures that kept him safe. So from these past experiences, he has generated two general laws: "great drops will kill you," and "iron is strong enough to secure you." So his experience in the hanging cage evokes two tendencies of association. But because the death images are more vibrant in his mind, he cannot help from fearing for his life, even though he could rationally conclude that the law regarding his safety holds in this case. [See §322 for this example.]

So we form such general laws based on our particular past experiences. This is why Deleuze says that by going from the past to the future, the living present also moves from the particular to the general.

Now let's consider this act of contraction. There is an extension of past similar instances that become contracted into the present. In this sense, our mind "envelops" (enveloppe) them together. So it involves them together as implicit intensities in that one contraction. But in another sense, our mind expands this group's outward reach even further, because it "develops" (développe) them into a general rule that will apply for all the future instances. So the contraction also evolves them into an explicit extensity. Thus we see that contraction is a double expression of envelopment & development, involution & evolution, implication & explication, and intension & extension. [See the entry on Spinoza's complicated expression for more on this double expression.]

Deleuze gives this contraction a name: passive synthesis. It constitutes the present phenomenon, but it is not something we actively perform.
It is not carried out by the mind, but occurs in the mind which contemplates, prior to all memory and all reflection. (71b)

Elle n'est pas faite par l'esprit, mais se fait dans l'esprit qui contemple, précédant toute mémoire et toute réflexion. (97c)
Hume explains that there could be a real succession of changes in the objects around us. But so long as we do not have our subjective experiences of that succession, there will not be any time that takes place.
Wherever we have no successive perceptions, we have no notion of time, even though there be a real succession in the objects. (Hume, §82, 35c)
Hence Deleuze says that time comes about through the subjectivity of a passive subject. And recall also that by means of this passive synthesis, we move from the particularity of the past to the generality of the future. This contraction then is asymmetrical. It imparts "direction to the arrow of time," (Deleuze 71b) as though the loaded associative forces of past experiences impel the motion of time forward into the open unknown future.

Deleuze, Gilles. Différence et répétition. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1968

Deleuze, Gilles, Difference & Repetition. Transl. Paul Patton. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994.

Hume, David. A Treatise of Human Nature. Ed. L.A Selby-Bigge. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979.

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