28 Dec 2011

Paths of the Present. Ch2.1 of Williams' Gilles Deleuzes' Philosophy of Time

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Paths of the Present

James Williams'

Gilles Deleuze's Philosophy of Time:
A Critical Introduction and Guide

Chapter 2: The first synthesis of time

Part 1: The living present

What do the synthetic processes of Deleuze's living present got to do with you?
We are most immediately aware of what is going on right now. But we do not live each present moment as if none preceded it. When we get on a bicycle, we do not fall off right away like our first time. Rather, each prior time we rode it contracts together into the present instance. As well, right before beginning to ride, we know what to expect regarding how the mechanisms will work and what we have to do to ride it effectively. So the present is more than just a thin instant. It reaches us into our past and future. And, on account of the past moments we presently contract and the future ones we thereby anticipate, each current moment of our lives determines how we integrate our pasts and futures together into the changing structure of our life-times.


Brief Summary

Deleuze's first synthesis of time is the 'living present,' which contracts past occurrences with current ones. This is like how by means of habit we perform an action automatically because we contract all prior enactments into the current performance. In order for the contraction to relate different moments, they must have occurred originally without this temporal relation. This means that each is given to us as absolutely unique, and only secondarily through this synthesis do we regard them as repetitions of the same occurrence. The synthesis itself is a process that does not occur in time but rather is what creates this sort of time that relates particular past events with anticipated future ones. The future ones are general because we cannot know in advance the particularities of this event that gets contracted with its selected specific predecessors. For this reason, the temporality that the first synthesis produces is asymmetrical in this way, which explains the unidirectional 'arrow of time' [and perhaps then in this synthesis it is not the forward moving flow of time that determines its direction but rather the fact that we cannot go backwards from the particulars we experience to the generalities that anticipated them, because after they occur, we know now what only then could be implicitly anticipated.] The contraction draws from so many past occurrences that our memory and understanding cannot be thought of as actively performing this synthesis. Rather, it is a passive synthesis performed by a passive subject.

Points Relative to Deleuze:

Deleuze offers a sense of the living present that like in phenomenology regards it as a passive synthesis bringing together past and future events into the present, but unlike phenomenology, this sort of passively synthesized time does not proceed forwardly on account of a primordial flow of phenomenal time but rather the arrow of time results from the asymmetry between the particularity of the selected past events whose selections determine paths to the generalities of awaited futures.


Summary

When we do something habitually over and over, the past occurrences speak themselves if you will in the current enactment. Thus "the current motion is a passive synthesis of earlier events." (21cd) Deleuze explains this by means of some of Hume's ideas. In habit, our imagination draws together different impressions. This is not reflection, so it is not a memory or an act of understanding. Rather, it is an [instantaneous] contraction of the past into the present. (21d)

To understand why contraction is not simply memory, we first consider Deleuze's notion of 'repetition for itself'. (22c) Deleuze observes this following paradox:

a) for something to repeat, one instance needs to be related to another instance
b) but this means each instance must have occurred independently (22-23)

Thus repetition implies that all instances are not in themselves related, so something outside them must contract them. (23a)

"This is a case of Deleuze's reliance on Leibniz's law or the principle of indiscernibility of indenticals: '... no two substances are entirely alike and differ only in number ' (Leibniz, 1998:60)" [Leibniz Philosophical Texts Oxford]

If one instance was followed by another that is exactly the same, then really there has not been the movement to another instance.

"The paradox of repetition is then that although it is defined as the repetition of something that is the same, it can only be the repetition of a difference for something that is not the repeated thing". (23bc)

So when we think we are repeating something, in fact each occurrence is distinct from the others. Secondarily our mind contracts them, and in that way, as Deleuze writes "Repetition ... changes nothing in the object, in the state of things AB. ... a change takes place in the mind that contemplates. (DRf, 96)" [qtd, with my elipses, from Williams 23d]

Deleuze's explanation for the relation of instants in time cannot

a) involve conceiving instants as implying one another, because they are independent, and it cannot
b) portray instants as being contained in a larger grouping [like divisions of a flow of time], because that means all instants share a certain property and thus there would be a connection between instants that we have already said were inherently unconnected.

But

"Repetition does not require a mind, it requires a contraction. Repetition does not take place in time, but rather time - or one of the syntheses of time, the first one - is a contraction: 'Properly speaking, [contraction] forms a synthesis of time' (DRf, 97)." (24d)

Contraction's 'third term' then is not necessarily a mind but is rather a process. (24d) And it is an 'originary' but not an 'original' synthesis. (25a) It is not original, because it is not the fundamental ground of time. But since it produces a sort of temporality, contractive time, we may still consider it originary. (25a.b)

The first synthesis, or living present, is a process that brings together the past and future, because past occurrences are contracted into the present one, and future occurrences that will later contract with the current and past ones are now being anticipated. (25c.d) "This leads Deleuze to make the claim that past and future are only dimensions of the living present with no existence distinct from their contraction in it." (25d) Our memory and understanding cannot conceivably perform an action that remembers every single past contracted occurrence and anticipate every sort of future one, so the contraction cannot be considered active and is thus a passive synthesis. (26b)

The first synthesis contracts particular past occurrences with the present one, yet it cannot know in advance the future ones, so it 'awaits' rather than expects generalities and not particulars in the future. (26-27) And because the quantity of particulars and generalities is too great for any act of the mind to consider all at once, this contraction is an unconscious receptivity rather than a conscious action. (27b) It does not select specific particulars and thus is not an activity.

"even in activity the present is contemplation, that is, passive absorption and transformation of retained particulars beyond the set considered in an action." (26b) "passivity and activity are distinguished as processes where passivity is a form of retention and of expectation that is not related through a process selecting particular past events and associating them with a restricted number of general outcomes. This latter process is activity, but passivity is the wider condition for any active process." (26d)

Because past contracted events are particular and future ones are general, there is an asymmetry resulting from the first synthesis and it is responsible for the forward-pointing arrow of time. (28c)

"The passage is from particular to general and not the reverse." (28c) "Asymmetry [...] refers to the essential difference between particulars and generalities, where the former are actual and retained and transformed in the present and the latter are possible and expected in the present. There is no symmetry between the two because any set of particulars determines a much wider set of generalities, yet also, any given set of generalities neither determines nor includes a set of particulars." (28-29)

We may now reject two interpretations of the living present. It is not
1) psychological, because contractive contemplation can be performed by all sorts of beings. And
2) the living present is a process and not a "present instant for consciousness". (29b)

The subject involved in the second synthesis is not an acting human subject but is rather a subject that makes the transformation between past particulars and future generalities. (29bc)

In sum, the living present is necessary because otherwise repeated terms would have no connections. The synthesis establishes paths from the particular past events that it selects to future expected possible outcomes that are determined by that given selection. (29-30) "there is no repetition, no relation between actual events and possible events, and no relation between instants, without the living present." (30ab)



Williams, James. Gilles Deleuze's Philosophy of Time: A Critical Introduction and Guide. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2011.

21 Dec 2011

Revolutionary Times. Intro .3 Williams' Gilles Deleuze's Philosophy of Time

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Revolutionary Times


James Williams'

Gilles Deleuze's Philosophy of Time:
A Critical Introduction and Guide

Chapter 1: Introduction

Part 3: The critical power of Deleuze's philosophy of time



What does the critical power of Deleuze's temporality
got to do with you?

At work, our unique daily living experiences are not seen by our bosses the way we lived them. They try to homogenize all our living presents into one present flow of production. Would we not want to fight for a view of time management that does not treat us so objectively? And also, do we not want to feel free from historical views that try to confine our historical identities to something redundant rather than letting them evolve?


Brief Summary

Deleuze's theory of time has the ability to critique powers who try to strip each of us of the uniqueness of our living presents. It can also resist historical interpretations that confine peoples to a homogenous historical identity.


Points Relative to Deleuze:

Deleuze's theory of time has political power.


Summary

Because Deleuze's sort of time involves multiple processes that produce beings, we can apply it to life and other disciplines within and without philosophy. His time also makes these created beings passive and cleaved subjects, which renders it powerfully critical against both objective and subjective views. Deleuze's manifold time, for example, can offer a critique of labor time management techniques that objectify time and force all workers' times into one overall time whose productivity is measurable by a single metric. The first synthesis shows that really there are as many living times as workers, and their living present is not limited to the organization's singular goals. (17-18) The second synthesis tells us that there is no singular past to hold sway over the present. (18c) Historical identities are not essenses or pure identities but are continually able to reformulate through the novel assemblages produced by time. (18-19) Thus the past as well rearranges continually. (19b.c) Under Deleuze's theory, we can better examine how historically speaking things are continually differing. (19-20)

"Deleuze's philosophy of time is therefore not only critical. It is revolutionary. It is not only revolutionary as a philosophy of time. It is a time of the necessity of revolution, not once, or in one place, but eternally and everywhere." (20a)


Williams, James. Gilles Deleuze's Philosophy of Time: A Critical Introduction and Guide. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2011.

James Williams, Entry Directory, Deleuze's Philosophy of Time


by Corry Shores

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Entry Directory for

James Williams  

Gilles Deleuze's Philosophy of Time:
A Critical Introduction and Guide



 


Chapter 1: Introduction


Part 1: Why study Gilles Deleuze's philosophy of time?



Part 2: The Do's and Don'ts of Time Travel

Time Journeys. Intro .2 James Williams' Gilles Deleuze's Philosophy of Time



Part 3: The critical power of Deleuze's philosophy of time

Revolutionary Times. Intro .3 Williams' Gilles Deleuze's Philosophy of Time





Chapter 2: The first synthesis of time


Part 1: The living present

Paths of the Present. Ch2.1 of Williams' Gilles Deleuzes' Philosophy of Time



Part 2: Synthesis and method in the first synthesis of time

Time & Method. Ch.2.2 of Williams' Deleuze's Philosophy of Time



Part 3: Of pebbles and their habits

Souls of Habit. Ch.2.3 of Williams' Deleuze's Philosophy of Time



Part 4: The passing present

Passing Habits. Ch.2.4 of Williams' Deleuze's Philosophy of Time





Chapter 3: The second synthesis of time


Part 1: A time within which time passes







Part 4: Past and Present as Dimensions of the Future  

Part 5: Transcendental Dogmatism

Eros and the Virtual. Ch.4.5 of Williams' Gilles Deleuze's Philosophy of Time




Chapter 5: Time and Eternal Return




Williams, James. Gilles Deleuze's Philosophy of Time: A Critical Introduction and Guide. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2011.

Time Journeys. Intro .2 James Williams' Gilles Deleuze's Philosophy of Time

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Time Journeys

James Williams'

Gilles Deleuze's Philosophy of Time: A Critical Introduction and Guide

Chapter 1: Introduction

Part 2: The Do's and Dont's of Time Travel




What does Deleuzian Time Travel Got to Do With You?

We find ourselves always living in a present. But is not the past still here in a way, like when we have flashbacks? When flashing back, we never leave the present, and instead we see how the past is already here implied in the present situations and conditions that triggered the memory.


Brief Summary

Deleuze's three syntheses are 'time travels' of sorts. The first synthesis, the living present, continually synthesizes past and future in novel ways, and in that sense we in the present travel to the past and future. The second synthesis involves the pure past. The present is passing only because it is contemporaneous with the past, and in this way we travel from the past into the present and future. The third synthesis regards the future. The novelty of events is what provides the other syntheses with the differences they synthesize, and in that way we move from the future to the present and past.


Points Relative to Deleuze:

Deleuzian time should be seen as involving separate processes that reach into one another and inter-operate.

Summary

To see how Deleuze's theory of time differs from others, we will examine why his allows for time travel while others do not.

Time travel is moving either backwards through the past or forwards into the future. For Deleuze, present processes in a way move backwards and forwards in time. "The past and the future are not simply realms we might be able to visit, they are processes fully implicated in our present ones." (8c)

Deleuze's time travel is not the science fiction sort that in a way is self-contradictory, like when going back in time and removing the conditions which allow for that same backwards trip. In fact, Deleuze's sort of time travel does not require any such machine or procedure, because all present temporality is already time traveling: "Any actual present is altering the past and the future, not in a causal | or statistical manner but instantaneously and for all the past and all the future." (8-9)

Past, present, and future are not independent dimensions; rather, they are somehow dimensions of each other insofar as each is a process operating on series of events. (9b) Yet there is not one law that governs the workings of all the processes. (9-10)

We see these relations in Deleuze's three time syntheses. The first synthesis generates a 'living present' of sorts, and past and future are dimensions of this present. "This means that a process in the present, often described by Deleuze as the 'living present', determines processes in the past and in the future such that the present process changes the past and the future by synthesising them in a novel manner;" (10b) "in the first synthesis, past events and future possibilities become fully actual, fully present." (10c) Living presents of different creatures interlock while maintaining their perspectival singularities. (10-11bc) Thus in the living present we 'time travel' not only through our own past and futures, but we travel into the living presents of other creatures intersubjectively/intertemporally. (11c)

The past as understood in the second synthesis is difficult to grasp. It is a pure past that we cannot represent, and it operates on the present so to make the present pass. (12a) Deleuze derives this notion of the past from Bergson. (12c) The present lies at a limit of all pure differences, and this is what makes it pass. (13b.c) The present moment is so singular and unique that when we try to represent it, we fail to capture all the singular particulars of the event. (13d) Hence we see that there are different processes at work depending on whether the present is a dimension of the past or the past a dimension of the present. (14b)

In the third synthesis, the future has its own processes and the past and present are dimensions of it. (14d) The different processes involve the future being a novel event. (14d) That novelty is what explains the emergence of the novel singularities that appear in the present and pass into the past. (14-15) Thus in a way, all events are cuts or 'caesura' in the series of happenings. (15b.c) "Everything changes with every new event." (15c) However, still before and after come together, because "each novel event assembles all other events in a novel manner." (15d) In this way the novel event time travels through all the rest, and forms a series. (15d) There is an eternal return in the sense there are always new differences arriving in the present on the basis of things moving into the past, because as present events pass, they leave traces of pure novel differences. (16b)



Williams, James. Gilles Deleuze's Philosophy of Time: A Critical Introduction and Guide. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2011.

Rhythm without Time: Difference & Phenomena


by Scott Wollschleger and Corry Shores

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[The following is a presentation we gave at the London Graduate School's Rhythm & Event conference, 29 October 2011. May I thank Eleni Ikoniadou and all those involved in organizing the conference, and may I thank John Mullarkey for his incredible help with my research.]



Scott Wollschleger
Corry Shores

"Rhythm without Time:
Difference & Phenomena"

Presentation at the London Graduate School
Rhythm & Event conference



[Audio]
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Deleuze defines the phenomenon as the flash of difference communicated between the terms of heterogeneous series. Now, following Husserl, we might consider simultaneous and successive elements of our phenomenal consciousness. At any moment of our visual awareness, for example, there will be variations throughout our field of vision that are all given together at once. But even if we are staring at a motionless scene, there will still be slight variations in the way things appear from moment to moment. Yet from this Husserlian perspective, there will be associating similarities within each moment and also carrying-on between moments. A more traditional phenomenology might be concerned with how these parts synthesize into self-same phenomenal objects over the course of time. A Deleuzean phenomenology, however, would instead be concerned with the differences flashing between the simultaneous and successive series of variations. So, something appears phenomenally when it stands-out. And something stands-out on the basis of a differential relation. A Deleuzean phenomenology would regard these differential flashes as lying at the basis of phenomenal appearings.

Deleuze also describes rhythm in similar terms. The rhythm of sensation, for example, involves the differential coupling of continuously varying waves of intensity. What we wonder is whether time as we normally understand it in phenomenology and music is in fact not what is most immediately involved in our experiences of musical and phenomenal rhythm.





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In Husserl’s phenomenal time consciousness, for example, each moment overlaps with its neighbors, creating a bloated and somewhat extending now-moment of our awareness. The now of consciousness is not instantaneous, and it is impossible for any moment to be discontinuous with the rest. It is on the basis of these continual overlappings of moments that objects become constituted as self-same, despite their variations over time. Also, in Merleau-Ponty’s portrayal of phenomenal time, each moment is thoroughly integrated with the rest. What we now experience already in an implicit way is indirectly announcing future phenomena, because all moments of our consciousness are woven together like a fabric. One value of Deleuze’s concept of rhythm is that is can give us a way to understand phenomenal givenness on the basis of a different sort of temporality, one which is bordering on being a sort of non-temporality.

In Difference & Repetition, Deleuze distinguishes cadence repetition from rhythm repetition. Cadence repetition is “a regular division of time, an isochronic recurrence of identical elements.” Consider if we were to focus on the ticking of a clock. At first it might begin as the phenomenon in the forefront of our awareness. But as its homogenous and redundant pattern becomes increasingly monotonous, it fades from our attention, becoming less phenomenal. If the clock malfunctioned, however, and produced irregular ticking, it would pop back into our awareness again. This is something like what he calls rhythm repetition. It is heterochronic rather than isochronic. Its recurrences appear through unequal and incommensurable relations. Deleuze writes “The reprise of points of inequality, of inflections or of rhythmic events, is more profound than the reproduction of ordinary homogeneous elements.”

Deleuze derives this concept of rhythm as heterochronic from the theoretical writings of music composers Messiaen and Boulez. Boulez speaks of rhythm in terms of an irregular pulse. He says that one way he accomplishes it is by dividing the time into such a nuanced pattern that only a machine could perform it with perfect precision. This causes the human performer to produce a rhythmic pulse that continually defies a regime of regularity. According to Messiaen, a military march is not rhythmic, because there is nothing about its regular pattern that interferes with the listener’s pulse, breathing, or heartbeats, and thus she receives no shock. He continues, “the march, with its cadential gait and uninterrupted succession of absolutely equal note-values, is anti-natural. True marching is accompanied by an extremely irregular swaying: it’s a series of falls, more or less avoided, placed at different intervals.” What seems to underlie these notions is that rhythm is characterized by motion and change; and if the same standardized patterns are repeated without variation, then the motion stagnates and loses its rhythmic feel.

Deleuze says that artists and musicians should hone our attention so that we directly perceive the infinitely intricate differential variations of rhythm from moment to moment. He writes, “When Fred Astaire dances the waltz, it is not 1,2,3, it is infinitely more detailed. When Africans dance, they are not seized by a rhythm demon, they hear and perform all the notes, all the times, all the tones, all the pitches, all the intensities, all the intervals.” Here is some of Fred Astaire’s infinitely intricate waltzing.

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Like Fred Astaire, when Horowitz plays the waltz, he adds infinitely more rhythmic detail. Compare the mechanized midi version with Horowitz’s rendition. [Below we use Stephen Malinowski’s amazing Music Animation Machine.]

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When discussing non-pulsed time, Deleuze refers us to Boulez’ Eclat. In this piece, Boulez instructs the musicians not only to vary the tempo, but also to do so in continuous variation, as if slowing down or speeding up a turn-table. He indicates these tempo disfigurations with up and down arrows. We will look at the opening part.
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We might feel the acceleration in the way that the piano notes seem to tumble out with increasing rapidity. We repeat those notes, each time slowing them down so we might perceive the variation more closely.

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In this clip we see Boulez overseeing the performance, and we might also sense the continuous variations of tempo.

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We will now look more closely not merely at successive heterogeneity but also at simultaneous heterogeneity, which adds another layer of differential rhythm.

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We see these two rhythmic differentiations at work in Michael Gordon’s composition, Yo Shakespeare, described as having “irregular rhythms, sudden, precise tempo changes, and simultaneous different meters.” Or as Gordon himself says “there's […] three types of dance rhythms going on at the same time […] almost as if there are three different dance rooms with three different dance bands playing at [once] […] playing different songs and different tempos, but somehow you […] dance to it.”

A glitch in Gordon’s computer program allowed him to juxtapose even and odd divisions of time along the motion of particular instruments. So each such instrumental voice collides with itself in a continual stutter. Yet also, each instrumental motion is in metrical defiance with the others.

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Let's now consider Deleuze’s analysis of Leibniz’ micro-perceptions. They are the differential relations between perceptions that have diminished to the infinitely small. They have vanished, but the relation between them remains. To help us visualize this, Leibniz describes a geometrical figure with two triangles, constructed with the same line. As this line moves to the right, one triangle increases while the other decreases.

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Yet the sides of both triangles remain proportional, so the ratio of the larger one always indicates the ratio of the smaller one. This holds even as the smaller triangle’s sides diminish to the infinitely small. They have vanished, but their differential relation remains, still discernible in the larger triangle.


Our micro-perceptions are also like these differential relations between vanished terms. For example, when we perceive green, we are really noticing the differential relations between infinitely small perceptions of blue and yellow. At their basis, all our perceptions are primarily these undetectable micro-perceptions.

Deleuze microperceptions yellow blue green differential perception animation
So the perception of green is not merely the addition of yellow and blue, like when we mix paint. Green results not from their assimilation and bleeding into one another, but rather from their jarring up against each other.

So at any moment, seeing green might be a matter of viewing differential flashes between simultaneously given tiny blues and yellows.

Now, to better grasp the phenomenality of successive variations, I suggest we turn to filmmaker Stan Brakhage.


Deleuze refers to him when discussing the infinites of variation in our fields of perception. One thing Brakhage says he likes about film are its “sharp hard clarities of snapping individual frames.” In many later works, he hand-painted every frame individually. Each one could be a work of art on its own. But, is it only the pictures that we notice when watching his films? Or is there phenomenal content to the differences between the images, which are responsible for making each new frame stand-out in the first place?


First consider this simpler example from an earlier work. Moving one frame to the next, we change from black to red then return to black, all between other shifting imagery. We will repeat this rapid transition here a few times, because it is easy to miss.


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Is the phenomenon the red or the black, or is it not the shock we feel between the two?

Rhythm and phenomena in this Deleuzean sense are based on differential relations between simultaneities and within instantaneities. In other words, at their basis, neither rhythm nor phenomena are most fundamentally experienced throughout an extended flowing passage of time. They are given in immediacy. I would like to close with this passage from Brakhage where he articulates a sort of rhythmic appearance of phenomena that are given to him on the basis of their differential incompatibilities.

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Questions Section

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Audio gratefully taken from:
http://backdoorbroadcasting.net/2011/10/corry-shores-scott-wollschleger-manhattan-school-of-music-rhythm-without-time/
Thanks for recording the presentations and making them available


Conference page:
http://www.thelondongraduateschool.co.uk/blog/symposium-rhythmevent/