Beyond Ontology

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abyss / bodies / Deleuze / language / machine / ontology / sense

Where are the abysses? But they are already swarming: through the lines of others’ faces and in the depths of spaces, in reflections and in distortions, flowing over one another within the black holes through which subjectivity escapes. An abyss swarms because it is always consuming: it is the earth itself, an autopoeitic unity of timeless forces and endless devourings. The terrifying abyss of nonsense is fulfilled in the floating signifier — not in the pure ‘being’ which speaks, but in the machinic mixture of surfaces and the self-destruction of the depths. Significations are yielded by dynamic enunciative assemblages, or precosmic abstract machines. Sense is so fragile: because it is founded upon nonsense. God, the world, and the self are all surface effects: they transcendently anchor sense, give a predetermined sense to themselves. They are their own guarantee–which is precisely why we have to trace beyond the surface.

Language does not possibilize itself: the world of incorporeal effects, or surface effects, makes language possible. This world is a distinction which allows speech: grounded only by pure events which wait upon us as we wait upon them, living only inside the language which expresses them. Secondarily only does language attract itself onto bodies as qualities. “Sense brings that which expresses it into existence, and from that point on is pure inherence, it brings itself to exist, within that which expresses it.” (166, 23rd series Logic of Sense) Sense is light, of the surface, a tracing between surfaces, an interface between subspaces, a biunivocalization: “Language is rendered possible by the frontier which separates it from things and from bodies, including those which speak.” (ibid.) Sense maps the fractal boundaries between the surface of the real and the virtual, and in this way functions as a primary transversal operator: affect, not the modes of existence of a body, but its nonsense: the black holes of sensation, the molecular flux of bodies and mixtures. A primary transcoding erupts: a hyper-organization becoming co-linearized, either in order words or DNA, which express the conditions of presentation– the possibility of a saying or the annihilation of a representation.

But how is the surface organized, and how does the chaotic machinery of the depths work? The abyssal world of incorporeal effects can be seen to belong to another order of time: one of bodies, blockages, durations and causes — the pure present, God; but there is another order, always already passed but always to come, the other time which is incorporeal, “the pure empty form of time,” stretching out infinitely in a straight line in either direction, the truth of time, which has unwound its circle and straightened itself up. This is the process of what Deleuze calls counter-actualizations: “Counter-actualization is nothing, it belongs to a buffoon when it operates alone and pretends to have the value of what could have happened. But, to be the mime of what effectively occurs, to double the actualization with a counter-actualization, the identification with a distance, like the true actor and dancer, is to give the truth of the event the only change of not being confused with its inevitable actualiztion.” (161 ibid) The time of the event, of the incorporeal affect, is the time of counter-actualization: taking the event and considering it at a distance, ‘making sense of it.’ So when the order of the surface is itself cracked, an ‘inevitable’ war machine arises to maintain order: but ought the surface be kept from breaking apart — or should its fragmentation be accelerated?

Ethics is not only a science of brokenness, a toplogy of lack or fractions or strata… but a science of molecular integration, in short, of community. A first-order ethics presents an algebra of multipilicity and faciality simultaneously. Observer and observed find themselves, surprisingly, to be in the exact same position— that is, of having to encounter the other. This is the profound reason an ethical algebra is attainable. The question is not: when ought we to extend the abyssal crack which is at once the subject, the marks and punishments upon the subject, and the whole depth of the social field? The question is much closer to asking: when does militant action possibilize itself? It is as when Deleuze asks: “How do we stay on the surface without staying on the shore?” (157 ibid.) While we forever try to prevent the crack from forming, we cannot subject any evolving process to axioms: we must accept the radical breaks of evolution while maintaining vigorously the position of life. We must recognize that mending a break is much more complex than cleaning a stain. In fact, healing is not where our attention is usually focused; it is at the margins where cracks erupt, “in people ready to destroy themselves,” who would prefer death to the false health of a broken society. Even more: without these cracks thought could not occur. “The eternal truth of the event is grasped only if the event is inscribed in the flesh.” (160 ibid)

So what is this double-abyss whereby we become but only through struggle, this “painful actualization”? But already more important is how to reverse it, how to counter-actualize it — which means remaining at a distance. “It is to give to the crack the chance of flying over it’s own incorporeal surface area, without stopping, at the bursting within each body; it is, finally, to give us the chance to go farther than we would’ve believed possible to the extent that the pure event is each time imprisoned forever in its actualization, counter-actualization liberates it, always for other times.” When Dionysus speaks, he speaks from the undifferentiated ground of future generations. Alienation can be turned into revolutionary exploration. There is no nothing, no abyss, no undifferentiated ground: it is not a choice between full organization or chaos. Rather, there is a chaosmos: the abyss is swarming with difference. The ‘night where all cows are black’ is doubly a lie: if the bovine are not phosphorecscent, this is no fault of Being. We must trace the ‘other’ structure in order to go beyond phenomenology; but first, we must trace the ‘sense-structure,’ or power itself. We must trace a path beyond a grammar, beyond a pure logic of sense, to an ontology of nonsense. Language is an agrammatical, nonsyntactical, impersonal, pre-individual abstract machine. But language acts on bodies: it is only the affects and mixtures of bodies, the conjuration and coordination of surfaces, a splicing and fragmenting of structure and form. Language is thus always both at once, and sense is re-absorbed continually into the gaping depths… Self-destruction cannot always be counter-actualized: the only way nature operates is against itself. Anything is possible: not only that the contradictions are real, but that the real contradicitons are not merely for a laugh!

The Author

mostly noise and glare


  1. Cilverthorne says

    First comment: I used to think, as well, that God, the Self, and the World were all surface effects. In fact, Deleuze writes in the Logic of Sense that they are actually depth-effects: “In depth, it is through infinite identity that contraries communicate and that the identity of each finds itself broken and divided. This makes each term at once the moment and the whole; the part, the relation, and the whole; the self, the world, and God; the subject, the copula and the predicate. But the situation is altogether different at the surface where only infinitive events are deployed; each one communicates with the other through the positive characters of its distance and by the affirmative character of the disjunction. The self merges with the very disjunction which it liberates and places outside of itself the divergent series as so many impersonal and pre-individual singularities. Counter-actualization is already infinitive distance instead of infinite identity. Everything happens through the resonance of disparates, point of view on a point of view, displacement of perspective, differentation of difference, and not through the identity of contraries” (175).

    Here it would merely seem that Deleuze’s distinction between infra-sense of the depths and surface sense are merely aimed at overcoming the contradiction-machine of Hegel’s phenomenology. But this is true only if we fail to connect this passage to what Deleuze tells us elsewhere in LoS: God, the World, and the Self merely serve to guarantee the tertiary structure of language. This means that God guarantees significance, the World guarantees denotation, and the Self guarantees manifestation. Yet these three are never fully grounded in so far as they attempt to ground each other mutually–this is where Deleuze’s theory of sense takes on its full implications. Because we know if the tertiary structure (induced through static genesis) cannot found itself, then the same goes for the secondary structuration of sense: common sense and good sense both are unfounded, yet as classical images of thought they have been sumperimposed as phallic coordinators. For good sense affirms sense in one direction: from the most differentiated to the least. Common sense, too, acts as a formal center of coordination because it not only implies the collaboration of the faculties of thought (reason, understanding, imagination—the Kantian trio), but common sense also implies an organic, communal subjectivity grounded in shared knowledge. This is why common sense grounds the synthetically finite person–common sense “allows” for intersubjectivity. The problem is, though, that paradox affirms both directions at once and causes the faculties to fail to coordinate (this is why it is important to link this to Difference and Repetition in which Deleuze offers a theory for how the faculties, acting independently, can be taken to their respective limits in order to impinge upon the other faculties’ autonomy).

    This is where we have to talk about the primary order of language: nonsense, of course. But there are two kinds of nonsense that are not easily defined: the clonic and the tonic. The first has to do with breaking words down into their pure phonematic components–the fragmented word: “In this collapse of surface, the entire world loses its meaning. It maintains perhaps a certain power of denotation, but this is experienced as empty. It maintains a certain power of manifestation, but this is experienced as indifferent. And it maintains a certain signification, experienced as ‘false.’ Nevertheless, the word loses its sense, that is, its power to draw together or to express an incorporeal effect distinct from the actions and passions of the body, and an ideational event distinct from its present realization. Every event is realized, be it in a hallucinatory form. Every word is physical, and immediately affects the body. The procedure is this: a word, often of an alimentary nature, appears in capital letters, printed as in a collage which freezes it and strips it of its sense. But the moment that the pinned-down word loses its sense, it bursts into pieces; it is decomposed into syllables, letters, and above all into consonants which act directly on the body, penetrating and bruising it…The moment the maternal language is stripped of its sense, its phonetic elements become singularly wounding” (87-88).

    The second, if I may be brief: “What defines this second language and this method of action, practically, is its consonantal, guttural, and aspirated overloads, its apostrophes and internal accents, its breaths and its scansions, and its modulation which replaces all syllabic or even literal values. It is a question of transforming the word into an action by rendering it incapable of being decomposed and incapable of disintegrating: language without articulation. The cement here is a palatalized, an-organic principle, a sea-block or a sea-mass…Rather than separating the consonants and rendering them pronounceable, one could say that the vowel, once reduced to the soft sign, renders the consonants indissociable from one another, by palatalizing them. It leaves them illegible and even unpronounceable, as it transforms them into so many active howls in one continuous breath” (89).

    So then two types of nonsense, one corresponding to the particles-signs of language after the disintegration of syllables enacts a true liberation that unleashes the phonemes as so many wounding molecular war machines.

    On the other hand, there is a type of nonsense that, instead of fragmenting the word, causes unpronounceable phonemes to become cemented into one another–inarticulate language, the stutter, the howling and thrashing of creative schizophrenia: onomatopoiesis.

  2. both the initial post and the comment here have reordered these familiar texts in truly thought-provoking ways, and with genuine insight. thanks!
    one correction in the initial post:
    “…to give the truth of the event the only change* of not being confused with its inevitable actualiztion.” (161 ibid)


    great blog. keep up the great work!

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