23 Nov 2012

Our Future of Difference Precedes Us. Ch.4.4 of Williams' Gilles Deleuze's Philosophy of Time

summary by Corry Shores

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James Williams'

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

Chapter 4: The third synthesis of time

Part 4: Past and Present as Dimensions of the Future 

Brief summary:

In the third synthesis, the past and present become dimensions of the future, because  the future determines what will return from the past.


"Just as the move from | the first synthesis to the second involved a change in dimensions, where the present became a dimension of the past, in the third synthesis, present and past become dimensions of the future." (102-103)

In the first synthesis, the living present in a way creates the past and future as dimensions of the present, because it contractively organizes past moments into the present one, and this determines paths in the future as to how we might later make our contractions. In the second synthesis, the pure past dynamically rearranges itself and imposes its influence on the present and makes it pass, and this makes the future undetermined. (103b) In the third synthesis, the future determines what will return from the past. (103c) Deleuze writes: "‘The repetition of the future is the royal one as it subordinates the other two and strips them of their autonomy’ (DRf, 125)." (103d) But the third repetition is not independent of the first two, because they are "necessary dimensions of the future as actor and condition." (103d) And the first two are not completely subordinated, because this is only so when they are dimensions of the future. When they are dimensions of the future, they do not play their founding role. (103-104)

So consider the living present from the perspective of the third synthesis. Any such living present is any present whatever, and it is not situated as a point of origin among the other presents in its assembly. It finds its place in accordance with "a symbolic image of the entirety of time and in relation to an action." (104b) Likewise, the past does not determine the present as the most contracted state of the past, but rather dynamic processes of the past must "be taken all together as the entirety of an ordered time." (104bc)

Williams will offer three ways to help explain this.

1) "we can reflect further on the two concepts that Deleuze uses to express the shift in dimensions"

Deleuze says that in the third synthesis, the actor is 'destined to be erased' (DRf, 125). (104d) "The seriation of the third synthesis erases the hold of the passive syntheses of the first." (105a) Also, because the undetermined in the future is what sets up order of moments, it cannot be that the pure past is doing so. (105a)

Williams then discusses Deleuze's claim that no walk is endogenous. (105b.d) For Deleuze, there are two reasons that every event is new.

a) "the present is an agent erased by the return of pure difference in any event;"

2) "the past is a condition of the future only once pure difference has returned" (106b)

This means that all habitual actions are new. "The past never conditions the future. Every pace taken is new, but it is new for all of the past and for every series synthesised in the present. However hard the struggles to break with or repeat the past in the present, both fail the test of the new, or the eternal return of pure difference." (106b)

We repeat the future in the sense of repeating "the processes of the future, or to reaffirm them a second time in our acts, such that repetition becomes ‘the category of the future’ (DRf, 125)." (106c)

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


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