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[The following is summary]
Gilles Deleuze's Philosophy of Time:
A Critical Introduction and Guide
Chapter 4: The third synthesis of time
Part 3: Pure and empty form of time
What does the cut in time got to do with you?
Drama determines temporal order.
1) "open determinability as a given, and"
2) "drama as form." (87a)
Deleuze will turn to Hölderlin and Hamlet.
Williams outlines the significance of this turn to drama.
1) The dramatic actions of the subject determine the self in time.
2) But because the subject depends on a passive self, it is fractured.
3) This means that the subject is not the condition for determinability. Rather, it is "the vehicle whose actions are further conditioned by passivity." (87b)
4) Thus there is a circular relation between dramatic actor and determinable self. "The actor is conditioned by the self that is created by the actor’s dramatic action." (87b)
Even though the passive self determines the subject, activity "is still undetermined in relation to novel differences that can be introduced into ongoing processes." (87c) In the third synthesis of time, "only difference returns and never sameness. This is the synthesis’s capacity for genuine novelty, rather than a repetition of the past. The third synthesis of time is the condition for novelty, which is why it must be pure and empty." (87c.d)
Deleuze turns to Hamlet and Oedipus to illustrate why "time has to be dramatised, that is, it must be assembled through a novel creative attempt where past, present and future are unified but only also as divided around an encounter with the new." (87d)
Williams then explains Deleuze's meaning for 'time is out of joint', from Hamlet. When we lose points of orientation in our lives, time comes out of joint.
"The Latin root for ‘gond’ is ‘cardo’ the hinge or axle, the north–south axis in a city, or orienting direction and cardinal points for a circle, for instance north on a compass. The number of revolutions of a circle can then be measured thanks to cardinal points, for instance, in the number of times a clock passes midday or a horoscope passes a birthday. The passing of time, as much for the soul as for the world, he says, is measured thanks to such cardinal points. When these go missing time goes out of joint and becomes maddened and disordered, as it does for Hamlet and the kingdom of Denmark when he receives the news, from his father’s ghost, of his uncle’s betrayal: ‘Thus was I, sleeping, by a brother’s hand / Of life, of crown, of queen, at once dispatched’ (Hamlet: I, v, 74–5)." (88b.c)
Time is empty because loses ordering, and pure because it is not contaminated by that ordering. There is no cardinal point to orient the cycling of events.
"Time out of joint or the third synthesis of time is therefore empty, in the sense of lacking cardinal numbering, and pure, in the sense of lacking hierarchies associated with numbering. We can understand this disruption further by returning to Deleuze’s critique of Plato. In the Platonic context, time out of joint means that the ideal is removed from the circle; we therefore are left with simulacra with no principle of resemblance. For Hamlet, once | his father’s ghost has spoken, the numbering and legitimacy of kings is out of joint and his time becomes empty (there is no next numbered ruler) and pure (there is no legitimate ruler). Hamlet’s task is then to revenge his father by killing his uncle, thereby re-establishing numbered order and legitimacy based upon it." (88-89)Rather than cardinal, time becomes ordinal, pure ordering without orientation to that order. (89b) In the third synthesis, this ordering is a cut or caesura. Every present is a cut in the present into an ordering of before and after. (89c) "the third synthesis is static because its sole characteristic of order always remains the same, the before and after of each cut always remain." (89cd) "If novelty is accepted in any process (animal, vegetable, mineral) then a third synthesis of time is implied as condition for the new." (90a)
[Our self is fractured into an active and a passive part. The active selects novel differences. The passive part of us is determined by synthesis that the active side cannot control. The subject is the process doing the selection.] The fracturing of the subject should "be read as implying that any activity is also passivity and fracturing of the subject of that activity, where active means selecting by introducing a novel difference, passivity means determined by syntheses outside the control of activity, subject means process of selection, and fracturing means dissolution of the subject through the syntheses it is passive to." (90b)
Every point on the line of time is such a cut. This cut is not point-like or instantaneous. (91a) Deleuze elaborates with the concepts of assembly and series. (91a)
Deleuze time is not a time-line series of points succeeding before and after one another. (91b) The caesura is an event and dramatic division that is not a point between points but is something that gathers the points before and after together dramatically. (91c) So events in time are both assembled, by relating them dramatically, but also severed, because that ordering occurs on the basis of cutting them apart. (91d)
"Each point on the line has a set of points before and after it. This is not Deleuze’s model. Instead, the caesura is an event and has a depth to it. It is not instantaneous but rather must be considered with its effect on the points before and after it. This is why the caesura implies a drama: it divides time such that a drama is required to encompass this division. This event-like and dramatic division is in contrast with the thin logical point and set account of the line of time where an arbitrary point is taken on a line and every point before it is defined as before in time and every point after as after in time." (91b.c)
"the ensemble is rather a process of gathering and tearing apart. Why is this? It is because the whole of time is ordered, but it is ordered differently, that is, into before and after. The events of time are gathered in an ordering, but they are also torn apart, since some are irreparably before and others irreparably after the dividing event." (91d)
Drama establishes what is before and what is after.
"A series is ordered by a dramatic event according to the following principles: ‘before’ is determined in accordance with the assembly of the line of time in an image operating as a symbol for that assembly. When the image is posed as ‘too great for me’ for a given event, then we have something before." (92b)We should not, as the English translation suggest, consider the action under consideration as being imagined. (92d) "However, the difficulty remains that Deleuze is referring to actions by subjects and to what certainly appears to be a conscious awareness of an image that is ‘too great for me’ is posed as ‘too great for me’ for a given event, then we have something before." (93b)
"the image is too great for the self, that is, for the underlying processes the subject is passive to. It exceeds those processes as past or before. None of this depends upon an empirical experience. It is rather a formal connection between processes of cutting, assembly and setting into series in relation to the future as novelty: As for the third time that uncovers the future: it signifies that the event and the action have a secret coherence that excludes the coherence of the self. It has become equal to them and they shatter it into thousands of pieces, as if the bearer of the new world were taken up and dissipated by the shattering of what it, in the multiple, gives birth to. The self is equal to the unequal in itself. (DRf, 121)" (93d)The cut, assembly, and serialization produces the future not as a dimension of the past and present. Williams then offers a helpful summary.
"The third synthesis of time, or pure and empty time, is a cut, an assembly, an ordering and a seriation. It is deduced as an a priori condition for action, which in simple terms claims that any novel action depends on a cut in time. This cut though must also assemble what comes either side of it. This assembly is itself dependent on a putting of time into an order of before and after the cut. The third synthesis of time is therefore a division of time and an ordering of time. This ordering though is also a seriation; it distinguishes the before and the after, rendering time asymmetrical. This complex third synthesis is the time of the future making the present and the past, which become dimensions of it, because the action it is posited upon is essentially determined by an open future. Neither the subject nor the self is a foundation for Deleuze’s philosophy, because in the third synthesis of time they are both ungrounded. The subject is divided by selves it is passive to. These selves though are shattered by the structure of the third synthesis that makes them past in relation to a future they cannot determine. All of these components of time are formal and deduced as necessary conditions for any novel action. So though Deleuze depends upon examples and vocabulary from drama to introduce and explain the third synthesis of time, this drama is strictly defined formally as the cut, assembly, ordering and seriation which can be explained by reference to Shakespearean drama but is not derived from it. As Deleuze insists all the way through his work on the third synthesis of time, it is a priori and not dependent on empirical observation." (94b.d)
Williams, James. Gilles Deleuze's Philosophy of Time: A Critical Introduction and Guide. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2011.