6 Jan 2012

Destined to be Free. Ch.3.3 of Williams' Gilles Deleuze's Philosophy of Time

summary by Corry Shores

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Destined to be Free

James Williams'

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

Chapter 3: The second synthesis of time

Part 3: Destiny and freedom

What does the destiny and freedom implied in the pure past got to do with you?

You are free to let your past haunt you, teach you, distract you, etc as much or as little as you choose. But because your past never goes away, you are destined to always live it freely as new moments of your life act like plot twists that change the way your past appears to you.

Brief Summary

In the second synthesis, repetition is found as the degrees of contraction in our memory. [We live the whole of our lives each moment at a different level of Bergson's cone.] This is destiny [although it is somewhat unclear why]. But although it is destiny, we have the freedom to choose that level of intensity. The pure past is virtual, because it is real and not actual, and it is noumenal, because it is the condition for the present's passage. Repetitions cannot be represented.

Points Relative to Deleuze:

Freedom and destiny are intertwined in the pure past.


Previously Williams ended with this question.
"‘condition’ has a different meaning to Deleuze’s. Bergson is not deducing a general transcendental condition for a formal process (such as the passing away of the present). Instead, like Deleuze, he is offering an alternative to the concept of cause, but unlike Deleuze, he is doing so in order to give an account of how each individual consciousness relates to its past as shown in the true operation of memory. This is where we can raise the question of the legitimacy of Deleuze’s work when compared with Bergson’s. What is the validity of an account of the past that does not base itself on a scientific account of causality (or some other contemporary candidate for explaining relations between states of affairs scientifically) but equally does not observe the operations of memory in detail or offer a full theory of memory in relation to consciousness, but instead constructs a speculative transcendental frame with abstract terms such as the pure past?" (68a.b)
Williams now addresses a possible objection to Deleuze, "that he does not observe memory or consciousness in a thorough or consistent way." (68bc) Williams offers as an answer to this objection:
"He is not primarily concerned with human memory or consciousness, but rather in a general study of repetition in relation to time. He is not constructing a philosophy according to an empirical approach, but rather combining a minimal observational element with a series of transcendental deductions guided by a speculative conceptual frame." (68c)
The way that repetition operates in the first synthesis is different from how it works in the second. In the first, repetition is based on a succession of elements that are contracted. In the second, repetition is found in "degrees of contraction of a whole ‘that is in itself a coexistent totality’ (DRf, 112)." (68d) [It does not seem here that Williams is thinking yet of the degrees as layers of the cone.]

Deleuze will relate these concepts to destiny, determinism, and freedom in our lives. Quoting:
"‘Nevertheless, we have the impression that, however strong the possible incoherence or opposition of successive presents, each one plays “the same life” at a different level. This is what we call destiny’ (DRf, 113)." (Deleuze qtd in Williams 69d)
To explain [again, rather than turning here to the layers of the cone], Williams notes that we have durations of differing lengths, like the time we have to finish our coffee or our life as a father. These can be incoherent. To explain destiny, Williams writes: "This preliminary definition of destiny is explicitly loose and Deleuze is careful to point out that it is based on an ‘impression’, that the incoherence and opposition are ‘possible’." (70a)

To further develop his concept of destiny, Deleuze contrasts it to determinism. Destiny is not determined; our life is not a single continuous line. (70c) But how can one life be multiple in this way?

[Here Williams seems to consider the 'levels' as overlapping durations, perhaps like the coffee and father examples above, rather than the layers of the cone] "The condition for connecting fragmentary durations into a life is that they are playing the same life but at different degrees and levels." (71a) What is destined is that each moment gives us the freedom to 'reprise' past moments. (71c) "The meaning of freedom in relation to destiny in Deleuze is then not the freedom to add to a sequence, for instance, when a new director adds a new film to an established franchise (My Life IV). Instead, we are free to make a new cut of an existing film (My Life, The Director’s Cut)." (71c.d)

Williams then seems to interpret the degrees and levels in terms of how much significance we regard past moments, and at each moment we have the freedom to grant those moments more or less significance. "Freedom exists in relation to destiny and determinism for Deleuze because we are free to change the relations of level and degree given to all past events through our present acts." (72d) Williams then seems to offer an interpretation of the levels and degrees more like the cone layers of differing expansion and contraction of the past.
"We are not free to change determined relations between actual presents. Here, changes in level and degree can be understood as changes in the intensities of distinctness and obscurity of relations in the pure past, that is, some relations in the past will be made more distinct as others become more obscure. For example, an act of atonement in the present can change nothing of the actual acts it seeks to atone for. It is free, though, to change the hold such acts have on new passing presents, perhaps by making them less significant in their relations to other events, or by making them more obscure and distant, and thereby diluting their hold on novel ones. Thus, to heap betrayal upon betrayal might increase the intensity of treach- | ery as a line leading from the past to the present, whereas to forgive might weaken it. Within Deleuze’s metaphysics, this freedom exists because the pure past makes all presents pass and coexists with them." (72-73)
To distinguish the second synthesis with actual presents, Deleuze appeals to Kant's noumenal and Bergson's virtual. The pure past is virtual, not actual, and as the condition for the present's passage, it is noumenal. (73b) Deleuze's noumenal then is not like Kant's realm of things-in-themselves but rather a transcendental pure past, a "realm that all actual things determine and are determined by. It becomes a virtual and ideal realm as condition for all events and not just those of human memory." (73c)

Deleuze also articulates these ideas in terms of 'metempsychosis."
"Since each one is a passing present, a life can take another on, at a different level: as if the philosopher and the pig, the criminal and the saint played the same past, at different levels of a giant cone. This is what is called metempsychosis. (DRf, 113)" (Deleuze qtd 74a)
Williams explains: "for Deleuze, humans are not fully human until they express the pig within them and the true philosopher is one who is also or even foremost a fool." (74b)

Deleuze also then discusses "the return of difference" in terms of material and spiritual repetition. (74d)
"In material repetition, the synthesis of the living present or first synthesis of time, difference is subtracted, because a selection is made of a particular series within many differences. In ‘spiritual repetition’, the second synthesis of time, difference is included, because all differences are taken up, but at a particular level and degree." (74d)

This sort of difference cannot be represented. "When repeated elements are represented the subtraction that representation depends upon is erased. When repetition within the pure past is represented a subtraction is imposed on it such that it is no longer the whole of the past." (75bc) "difference is between the living present and the passing present that they belong together. One subtracts from the other while the other adds it back, but always differently in an ongoing creative process." (75cd)

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

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