Translation from Gilles Deleuze’s Ontology: Véronique Bergen on the Syntheses of the Unconscious in Difference and Repetition

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Deleuze / Difference and Repetition / differenciation / Eros / French Translation / habit / memory / ontology / Psyche / syntheses of the unconscious / Thanatos / unconscious / Untranslated Theory / virtual


The following is an excerpt on the syntheses of the unconscious in Difference and Repetition from Véronique Bergen’s L’Ontologie de Gilles Deleuze, Paris: L’Harmattan, 2001. 325-327. Original translation by Taylor Adkins on 11/05/07.

The three syntheses of the unconscious in the times developed in Difference and Repetition, the three “beyonds of the pleasure principle”[1] organizing bio-psychic life

“correspond to figures of repetition, which appear in the work of a great novelist: the binding, the ever renewed fine cord; the every displaced stain on the wall; the ever erased eraser. The repetition-binding, the repetition-stain, the repetition-eraser: the three beyonds of the pleasure principle. The first synthesis expresses the foundation of time upon the basis of a living present, a foundation which endows pleasure with its value as a general empirical principle to which is subject the content of the psychic life in the Id. The second synthesis expresses the manner in which time is grounded in a pure past, a ground which conditions the application of the pleasure principle to the contents of the Ego. The third synthesis, however, refers to the absence of ground into which we are precipitated by the ground itself: Thanatos appears in third place as this groundlessness, beyond the ground of Eros and the foundation of Habit” (Difference and Repetition, tr. Paul Patton, p. 114).

The bio-psychic system is consequently the result of multiple passive syntheses. The synthesis of Habit, of binding and reproduction, adjoins the stimuli, sensations and excitations of deep, primary layers to this system via the pleasure principle. It generates myriads of “larval subjects,” of “passive selves” and prolongs the pleasure principle through a reality principle maximizing the adaptation of the organism to the milieu and the satisfaction of needs. The reality principle distributes reality in the ego and non-ego, in the subjective instance and the objective instance, and cuts it into molar forms through the projection of a system of representations. While in the syntheses of time the active syntheses of memory and understanding are founded on the passive synthesis of the present, here, the active synthesis of recognition is founded on the unconscious synthesis of the reproduction of the present. The reality principle corresponds to the active syntheses of memory and understanding built on the contemplation-contraction of the passive synthesis of the present. The synthesis of Eros or Mnemosyne, synthesis of the pure past, generates the acquisition of the symbolic, of verbal structures and is dichotomized in a detachment of lost virtual objects and a recognition of real disguised objects.

The third synthesis of Thanatos orchestrates a desexualization of the libido that wounds the narcissistic ego, cracks the I through the pure form of time, generating the thought in thought. While the second synthesis permits access to the symbolic that sticks to recognition, the third passes from knowledge to thought. The constitutive sub-representative syntheses of the Psyche, mobilized around differnciating elements, “dark precursors” (always displaced virtual objects, empty place, phallus, phantasm), articulate intensive series, “incarnating for their count the three dimensions of systems in general. But the psychic binding (Habit) operates a coupling of series of excitations; Eros designates the specific state of internal resonance that increases; the death instinct is confused with the forced movement whose psychic amplitude passes through the resonant series themselves (hence the difference of amplitude between the death instinct and resonating Eros)”.

All differential systems are contrived as phantasms or simulacra (bio-psychic, aesthetic, political, physical systems) excluding “the assignation of an originary one and a derived one, as from a primary one and a second one all at once, because difference is the sole origin, and makes coexist independently from any resemblance the different that it relates to the different”, and orchestrates their serial organization according to levels: 1st from a coupling between divergent series, from a production binding partial objects, from compulsions (Habit), 2nd from staging resonance between disparate series via “dark precursors” catalyzing ecstatic reminiscences and epiphantic explorations of involuntary memory (Eros, Mnemosyne), 3rd from a forced movement, akin to a death instinct as problematic (non)-being, spanning the series through their ascension to being, to the cosmos (Thanatos).

[1] This is what Beyond the Pleasure Principle means first of all: not only any of the exceptions to this principle, but on the contrary the determination of conditions under which pleasure really becomes a principle.

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  1. Pingback: French Translations: Works in Progress « Fractal Ontology

  2. When Gilles Deleuze make his Ontology, he is not insprated like when he see an ontology in Spinoza at the beginig of the 80’s. But as he write in his Foucault there more than his Unfold ontology : there is Overfold thought like a thought outside of the metaphysical thought (ontology or inside of the philosophy). It is not a non-philosophy but certainly an heresy (or if you want an autonomy far from the heteronomy).

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