30 Dec 2009

Subjective Multiplicity §33. Ch.2.Duration as Immediate Datum. Bergsonism. Deleuze

by Corry Shores
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[The following summarizes parts of Deleuze's Bergsonism. My commentary is in brackets. Paragraph subheadings are my own.]

Gilles Deleuze

Le bergsonisme

La Durée comme donné immédiate
Duration as Immediate Datum

Previously Deleuze discussed Bergson's notion of objectivity. Something is an object when this happens: we divide it, and both its parts share the same nature. Extending things have this property. We see this exemplified with numbers, which maintain their homogeneous divisibility no matter how many time we divide them.

§33 Subjective Multiplicity

Now, if objectivity is divisible into parts, does that mean that subjectivity involves indivisibility? It seems not. In order for us to have a pure, indivisible subjective state, it would need to be simple rather than complex. For otherwise, we could decompose it into parts. In order to have such a state, it would need to be 'realized,' which means that consciousness would have to have a distinct perception it [perhaps this is because a feeling which is not a part of our consciousness would then not be a conscious state, which is what is under consideration here]. However, when we combine our perception of the state with the state itself, we now have a compound. Bergson writes [and Deleuze quotes]:

a complex feeling will contain a fairly large number of simple elements ; but, as long as these elements do not stand out with perfect clearness, we cannot say that they were completely realized, and, as soon as consciousness has a distinct perception of them, the psychic state which results from their synthesis will have changed for this very reason" (Bergson, Time and Free Will, 84a, see §55).

So no matter what, states of consciousness are complex. If we had a simple state, we might divide it into parts that were of the same kind. But when we split complex states, we obtain parts that are of different natures. Hence it is not that conscious duration is indivisible. In fact, it is. Only, each time it divides, it changes in kind. In this way it is a multiplicity [see this entry for Riemann's influence on Bergson's notion of multiplicity].

So we may distinguish here two types of multiplicities: 1) Numerical multiplicities retain the same nature with each division; 2) Non-numerical multiplicities change in kind with each division.

Bergson explains in §75 of Time and Free Will that we need to distinguish same and other when differentiating qualitative from quantitative multiplicities. First recall Bergson's example of the bell tolling the time while he is engrossed in writing book [See §77, also see §57]. While writing, he did not consciously separate each sound-image of the bell and juxtapose them so that they may be counted. However, hearing four bells, for example, has a certain feeling to it, and this feeling is different from when we hear three or five bells. What we come to count begins first as a feeling. Hence Bergson says that qualitative multiplicities contain number only potentially. [Here Deleuze probes deeper into Bergson's insight and distinguishes other from several. At the basis of Deleuze's idea is that there can be differences that do not immediately express number. So along these lines, we can have an other without there being two things. In other words, we might secondarily come to count and say there are two different things. But primarily these differences were expressed without there firstly being a quantity of two things. Rather, difference itself expresses itself fundamentally. So something can be other to something else, without either being one thing and both being two things. This makes sense when we consider qualitative differences, which are of different kinds, and hence are not inherently grouped together or homogenized to each other in a way that they may be counted as each being one of the same category. Also recall Bergson's examples of the shepherd counting his sheep, in §51 and §52. The shepherd might consider each sheep individually. But he might also disregard their individual differences. This way, he can count them one-by-one, because they are all considered just sheep and no longer unique individuals. So when we see the sheep as individuals, they are different and other to one another, but not yet numbering anything. This is like Bergson's tolling-bell example. We feel numbers before we count them. This is also why for example merchants subtract a cent from a price: 9.99 feels different (and better) than 10.00 (also see §75). In the case of the bell-tolls, four tolls feels different than three tolls, even before we know the quantity of each. We often think that when one thing is different from another, there must be two things. Yet, consider conscious states, at least. In the first place they express difference, and only secondarily do they express there being two distinct and countable different states. You can have otherness without numerical difference. Sometimes it is said that two coke bottles for example are numerically different but qualitatively identical. But two consciousness states are qualitatively different without also being numerically different. As Deleuze writes,] "There is other without there being several; number exists only potentially / Il y a autre, sans qu'il y ait plusieurs; nombre seulement en puissance" (42d/36a).

Now, consciousness is always a continuous multiplicity. And duration is thoroughly heterogeneous. So as it flows, no instant is qualitatively the same as any other instant. Hence duration is actual so long as there is differentiation. And whenever there is differentiation, there is multiplicity. And when there is multiplicity, there is potentially or virtually number. Deleuze writes,

the subjective, or duration, is the virtual. To be more precise, it is the virtual insofar as it is actualized, in the course of being actualized, it is inseparable from the movement of its actualization. For actualization comes about through differentiation, through divergent lines, and creates so many differences in kind by virtue of its own movement. Everything is actual in a numerical multiplicity; everything is not "realized," but everything there is actual. (42-43)

En d'autres termes, le subjectif, ou la durée, c'est le virtuel. Plus précisément, c'est le virtuel en tant qu'il s'actualise, en train de s'actualiser, inséparable du mouvement de son actualisation. Car l'actualisation se fait par différenciation, par lignes divergentes, et crée par son mouvement propre autant de différences de nature. Tout est actuel dans une multiplicité numérique : toute n'y est pas « réalisé », mais tout y est actuel, il n'y a de rapports qu'entre actuels, et de différences, que de degré. (36a.c)

In a virtual multiplicity, you do not yet actually have numerically distinct things. However, in a numerical multiplicity, all the things are actual, and they differ in degree (being more or less). Yet a non-numerical multiplicity, like duration and subjectivity, "plunges into another dimension, which is no longer spatial and is purely temporal: It moves from the virtual to its actualization, it actualizes itself by creating lines of differentiation that correspond to its differences in kind" (43b). We noted that such multiplicities are heterogeneous. And [because they are not numerically distinguishable, they 'melt' into each other and hence] they are continuous multiplicities. As well, [because dividing a virtual multiplicity requires a secondary act, they are not primarily complex aggregates made-up of actual parts, and thus primarily] they are simple.

Now, if duration is thoroughly heterogeneous, that means no one instant is like its immediate neighbor. That would seem to imply that duration is discontinuous. However, [we see that one instant cannot be seen as being numerically distinct from one of its neighbors. Hence in a way,] they are continuously different. So we might normally think that Bergson would encounter contradictions by saying that duration is both heterogeneous and yet continuous. However we see he has here no problem reconciling the two. (43b)

Bergson, Henri. Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness, Transl. F. L. Pogson, (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 2001).

Available online at:http://www.archive.org/details/timeandfreewill00pogsgoog

Deleuze, Gilles. Bergsonism. Transl. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam. New York: Zone Books, 1991.Deleuze, Gilles.

Deleuze, Gilles. Le bergsonisme. Paris : Presses Universitaires de France, 1966.

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