Deleuze: The Song of Sufficient Reason – (Part 2)

Here is the second part of my discussion on Deleuze and sufficient reason. In this post, I’ll be explaining the some more of the details of my interpretation of Deleuze’s metaphysics. This won’t yet explain how Deleuze manages to reconcile sufficient reason with the principle of univocity, but it will start developing the necessary theoretical resources to to so.

3. Virtuality Contra Possibility

As I said in the last post, we are forced to choose between onto-theology and sufficient reason on the one hand, and negative theology and the rejection of sufficient reason on the other, only insofar as we think in terms of the possible and actual. Thus, in order to demonstrate how Deleuze escapes from this trap it is necessary to elucidate in brief his alternative to thinking in these terms, namely, his account of the virtual and it actualisation. Now, I don’t claim to understand the virtual in full. Grasping the proper nature of the virtual is perhaps the most difficult aspect of Deleuze’s philosophy, and I’m not sure anyone has done so entirely. However, I can explain it in part.

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Deleuze: The Song of Sufficient Reason

After another post on the structure of normativity I owe people some metaphysics, so I’m going to return to my continuing elaboration of Deleuze. In my earlier posts I have indicated how what I have called the strong version of the principle of univocity is at the heart of Deleuze’s metaphysics, in that many of the other decisions he makes in his metaphysics follows from it. I have also said that Deleuze’s system can be understood as a reinvention of Spinoza’s system to incorporate this principle (and thus also the ontological difference). In this post I want to talk about the other principle at the heart of Deleuze’s metaphysics, one which he shares with Spinoza: the principle of sufficient reason. In talking about this I hope to elaborate how other aspects of his metaphysics function, most importantly his monism.

I’ve been working on this post for a little while, and it’s ballooned to nearly 6000 words and climbing, so I’m going to break it up into parts. The first two parts I’m posting now will set the stage, and the following one’s will do some more in depth metaphysical work.

1. Sufficient Reason and Onto-theology

People have a tendency to ignore the fact that Deleuze accepts some form of the principle of sufficient reason, despite the fact that he says at one point that D&R is a book about sufficient reason. The fact that Deleuze accepts this is of a great deal of relevance in contemporary debates, given how fashionable it has become to reject it (see Badiou and Meillassoux, who I’ll will talk about a little below). However, the other important thing about Deleuze’s acceptance of the principle is that it at once both underscores his similarities with the key rationalist thinkers – Spinoza and Leibniz – but in doing so highlights the relevant ways he moves beyond them.

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Deleuze, Spinoza and Univocity

How quickly I break my word. After a couple good conversations over the weekend on this topic, I’m going to break my promise to write something about either Brandom or Badiou, and I’m going to make a few points about Deleuze. I’ve been making several of these points for a while, but do not officially work on Deleuze anymore, so this is a good excuse to write down something I otherwise wouldn’t.

The first point to make is that a lot of people get confused by what Deleuze means when he espouses the univocity of Being. He is not himself always clear about it, and as I hope to show in brief, some of the more important and salient features of it are not explicit at all. Indeed, I think if we get over confusions about precisely what the principle of univocity is, we can see how it is not just an aspect of Deleuze’s ontology, but rather the core aspect which motivates many of the other decisions he takes in building his system.

Confusion No. 1: The principle of univocity is the same in Duns Scotus, Spinoza, and Deleuze.

It might seem that this is at least Deleuze’s opinion from the sections on univocity in Difference and Repetition (D&R). Here he heaps much praise on both Duns Scotus and Spinoza. Although he does criticise them, for keeping Being neutral and not ‘making substance turn around the modes’, respectively, neither of these criticisms seems to have direct relevance to the principle of univocity itself.

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