7 Jan 2012

Cycles of Synthesis. Ch.4.2 of Williams' Gilles Deleuze's Philosophy of Time:

summary by Corry Shores

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Cycles of Synthesis

James Williams'

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

Chapter 4: The third synthesis of time

Part 2: Back to Plato

What does Deleuze's modification of Plato's circle of time got to do with you?

You once returned to a place that you haunted in your childhood. The past returned to you, but as completely new, because wasn't the experience so much different than when you experienced that place as a child? But in every moment of our present living, doesn't the past inform us? It is never as though we see the things around us for the first time. They have become familiar. But the present moment itself, doesn't it always feel fresh? Even when we are bored, isn't the problem really that the present keeps imposing itself anew, and we are doing something unstimulating with that freshness of the moment? Is boredom maybe a tension we feel, having before us the immediate feeling of newness accompanied secondarily by forced distracting redundancies?

If you get bored staring at a clock, is it because the past keeps returning redundantly as the same? Or is it that the past keeps returning differently; each moment of seeing the clock has its own unique qualities and feels, but the situation compels us to ignore the differences from moment to moment, hence we become frustrated? Perhaps an interesting exercise might be not so much a meditation where you try to keep your focus on the clock or some other thing and stabilize your awareness, but rather an antimeditation where you keep your focus on the clock and experience each moment in its new freshness. Perhaps then boredom will be less a factor in your life, as you come to find normal redundancies continually renewed. The past is cycling back into the present always as something new. We can feel it.

Brief Summary

To expand the concepts of pure and empty time, Deleuze turns to Plato's theory of reminiscence and circular time. The main difference is that the return of the past is not based on an ideal and resemblances, but rather the past returns as something undetermined and yet also determinable.

Points Relative to Deleuze:

Deleuze has a cyclical temporality.


To further explain a pure and empty form of time, Deleuze turns now to Plato's theory of reminiscence: "knowledge must be remembered ... rather than acquired through the senses." Yet because knowledge is recalled, it must have been first forgotten. (84b) The Plato material also fits nicely with the concepts of the pure past and circular nature of time in the eternal return.
"On the one hand, there are aspects shared by the two philosophies: a circular notion of time, a relation between a phenomenal world and a world of Ideas (the actual and the virtual in Deleuze), and the foundation of time through the past rather than the present (explaining the priority of reminiscence for Plato and the necessity of the second synthesis of time for Deleuze). " (84-85)
Yet there are important differences between Deleuze and Plato. For Plato, the circle of time has layers of resemblance that culninate in the in-itself of the ideal. Things resemble the ideal, and they do so to more or less of a degree. If the soul can preserve the ideal or in-itself, it can escape the circle. "It does not return but is always the same ideal other things return to – to greater or lesser extent in relations of resemblance. In Deleuze’s circle, taken from Nietzsche’s eternal return, there will be no order of resemblance, no ideal or in itself and no escape through true knowledge." (85a)

For Plato, our lives are circular, because we undergo the cycle of death and rebirth.
"But each soul can return to the ideal or immortal part of its former incarnations through knowledge of the Idea, that is, through a return of the Idea as the same origin from which all phenomena decline. This means escaping the circle, because the ideal remains the same and hence does not revolve." (85b)
The only things that revolve are things that resemble, the simulacra. Deleuze's pure past is a 'founding' rather than a 'foundation', because it is a process that allows the present to pass. Plato's
past is a foundation and is
"still a present, because it is a present that has become past. However, it is not a present like any other, since all other presents | exist in relation to that foundation. So the present as foundation has to be a mythical present: ‘[. . .] the Idea is like the foundation from which successive presents are organised into the circle of time such that the pure past that defines it must necessarily still be expressed in terms of the present, as an ancient mythical present’ (DRf, 119)." (85-86)
"Deleuze’s objection to Plato is then two-fold. First, the past becomes the ground for identity and representation in the circles of resemblance of presents to mythical present. Second, this mythical present subsumes the past itself to representation and identity, and thereby it turns the past back on to presents that it is supposed to found, in the sense of make pass or dissolve in terms of identity: ‘This is the insufficiency of the founding, to be relative to what it founds, to borrow the character of what it founds, and to be proven by them’ (DRf, 119)." (86a.b)

Because of Deleuze's restricting representations from the cycling returns, "when the past returns with a new present it does so free of any determinations." (86c) This means that the new present is radically new; it is completely undetermined, although it is determinable. "This is why he adds the work on Plato to the work on Kant: it allows him to introduce the idea that time is circular with the paradox that this circle must not involve the return of identity and representations, of the same and the similar." (86c.d)

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

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