4 Jan 2012

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

summary by Corry Shores

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Souls of Habit

James Williams'

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

Chapter 2: The first synthesis of time

Part 3: Of pebbles and their habits

What do the contractive habits of your body parts got to do with you?

You might witness a catastrophic traffic accident. You would feel something all throughout your body. Every part of you in a way is confronting the event. Your twitching muscles are in a sense 'contemplating' this moment, combining it with other frightening experiences that required the muscles move your body to safer locations, hence they twitch now. Each body part is performing their own individual contractive contemplations, and thus they are all like souls that make up who you are. But, who are you then? You are not any of the souls. Nor are you somehow the average of them all, if such a thing could be conceived. No, you are the differential relations between your soul components' contractions. Feel the difference within you. It makes you who you are.

Brief Summary

Habits create differences. This is because we are made up of a multiplicity of contemplating souls each contracting events in their own ways. This process never ends.

Points Relative to Deleuze:

The first synthesis of time involves multiplicity.


Deleuze portrays inanimate objects as also performing the contemplation and contraction of habit at work in the first synthesis of time. (38b) According to Deleuze, habit "draws" difference from repetition, (38c) and in this way it "creates a change or becoming in the series" of repetitions. (40ab) Williams goes on to explain the French term for 'draws'. The process involved in the synthesis is one of intensive variation. (40b.d)
"‘Soutirer’ is a technical term with a chemical basis from winemaking. It is one of many taken from chemistry and biology used by Deleuze when he wants to point to this differential variation (at other times he uses examples such as ebullition, at DRf, 296, for example). The term means to draw wine from one barrel into another, for instance, in order to remove sediment. It is important, however, not to identify the concept with the casks, or the wines in their apparently fixed states in each one. The process Deleuze wants to map his philosophical concept on is not the passage from one state to another. Instead, Deleuze is interested in the process itself and, more precisely, in the introduction of a difference in intensity, a differential variation, in the process synthesised as time. So habit is a contraction, not in the sense of a passage from a dilated to a contracted state, as Deleuze says about heartbeats, but rather a synthesis of events (contraction and dilation) as a differential, an ongoing variation of intensity or a becoming – and not a difference between two states. So we can now better understand what habit is as retention and expectation: it is the synthesis of a variation in intensity over events, where retention is the absorption." (40b.d)
When habit draws difference from repetition, it is synthesizing the series "in a novel manner, such that differences in intensity appear within the series and contract it differently in relation | to other series." (40-41)
"the process he is defining and describing is not about associating identified causes and effects repeating in the same way over time. Instead it is about a novel variation continuing to vary, thereby constituting time as the synthesis of the variation." (41b)
New contractions change the intensive relations in the series of repetitions, (41c) (as when a new occurrence changes how we configure our pasts and anticipate our futures, perhaps like when a plot-twist occurs).

Deleuze does not abandon a scientific perspective which would regard the synthetic process as constituting identities rather than differences, because Deleuze does not exclude identity from the process; he merely gives difference the primary role. (42b)
"From both angles, he does not seek to deny scientific evidence and theories, but instead seeks to complement them with an account of the role of difference as taking a primary but never complete role in relations of determination between actual identities and ideal differentiations. We can and should consider an event as the referent of scientific accounts. However, these accounts are incomplete unless taken with a more speculative model explaining the intensive difference making each event different." (42b)
Contraction is performed by a contemplative soul. (42c)
"The soul is the intensive difference contracted by a habit. It is the difference allowing a series of events to be synthesised in a living present, as different from identifications and representations of sameness to other events. The soul of any thing is therefore the singular way in which it contracts past and future series." (42c)
There are souls for all things. Deleuze's world is multiple and non-hierarchical.
"Deleuze’s world is radically multiple: it is constructed from multiple and irreducibly different syntheses forming many different perspectives on one another (where perspective is a way of describing different syntheses and contractions). A beach is not a totality of beings. It is a multiplicity of contractions which cannot be organised into a final order, logic or pattern without imposing an illusory sense of the real." (43a)
This also means each part of us, heart, muscles, nerves, is also a contracting soul. And thus, we are made up of a multiplicity of passive souls. (43c.d) [We are the differential relations between our multiple contractive souls.]

According to Williams, there are two types of contractions.

1) [Integration] Contraction of particulars into generalities [contracting series of occurrences] (43-44)
2) [Differentiation] Contemplative contraction at work in individuation [each soul differentiating itself as individual through its own particular manner of contraction] (44a)

Deleuze says that difference is between two repetitions. Is difference like an entity or substance lying between repetitions, or is difference "in the relations of the processes of repetition themselves"? (44bc)

Integrative contraction draws two sorts of difference from the "chaos of passing instants": "difference as opposition between represented identities, but also and primarily, difference as passive synthesis. This second difference is differentiation, where any integral thing is undone into a multiplicity of passive selves or syntheses in time." (44c) Thus

"The first synthesis of time is therefore a differentiation and an integration, a contraction allowing for action, and a passive synthesis undoing that contraction and opening up to novel differences. [...] The primary rep- | etition in the first synthesis of time is hence in passive synthesis, in the renewal afforded by a differentiating synthesis that means that no process of integration is final, determining of a complete entity, or free of internal differences and differential intensities." (44d; 44-45)

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

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