Friday, October 2, 2009

TV Shows and Tube Socks: Same Difference

Deleuze distinguishes between difference in his terms and empirical difference. Empirical difference distinguishes between two objects – "x differs from y." For Deleuze, though, difference is even prior to this empirical differentiation as a principle. In other words, there has to be a sufficient reason for x to differ from y, and this sufficient reason – this process – is difference. Difference "becomes a transcendental principle that constitutes the sufficient reason of empirical diversity as such" (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosphy). Difference is what makes differentiation possible. It is no longer an identity (x differs from y), but should be seen as the process (context or grounds) for such actualization to take place.

As I understand it, this is why for Levi, if we have a world made up of a single substance, a color or a sound, even though nothing else exists to distinguish this singularity by or from, this entity in and of itself is a difference – that is, it is the condition for differences to be created. Yet, with Levi's onticology and his definition of differences, this condition or possibility for the creation of differences is turned into a necessity – for there is no difference that does not make a difference. Every difference must make differences, or every difference must produce. But what I find incredibly interesting is that in discussing objects in terms of Deleuzean differences, we have shifted from a discussion of product – What is produced? Why it is important? What can it do for Me? – to one of production – How and under what conditions do differences get made? In other words, if difference is a necessary product of the process of difference, then this differenc-as-product is unimportant or in-different. So for example, suppose we have object A, and object A fulfills the requirements of an object under onticology – that is, it is a difference that makes a difference. If object A must produce in order to maintain its ontological status as real, then it must persistently produce differences, and it does so always in relation to other objects. Therefore, the differences produced by object A are in-different to the relationships (whether exo- or endo-) between object A and this other object. What is important is how and under what conditions object A produces these differences – as I say in my composition course, process over product.

If we want to look at this from a Lacanian point of view, we can think of it in terms of desire, drive, and objet petit a. In The Four Fundamental Concepts, Lacan states:

Even when you stuff the mouth – the mouth that opens in the register of the drive – it is not the food that satisfies it, it is, as one says, the pleasure of the mouth.[…]

This is what Freud tells us. Let us look at what he says – As far as the object in the drive is concerned, let it be clear that it is strictly speaking, of no importance. It is a matter of total indifference. (167-68)

What Lacan finds here is that the object we supposed would satisfy the drive or the larger desire is of no real importance – that is, this object could be anything: chips, candy, or a four-course meal. It doesn't matter. Instead, the satisfaction of this drive is fulfilled by something other than the food – it is the pleasure of the mouth, the process of desire that succeeds in satisfying said desire. Food, itself, is completely indifferent. What is misperceived is what Lacan calls the object cause of desire, or objet petit a – the necessity of pleasing the desire, not the object of momentary fixation (in this case, food).

For onticology, if the production of differences (exo- or endo- ) is a necessary condition for existence and the difference itself, then the satisfaction of this necessity, of this drive to produce, can only be met by producing and not by any of the actual differences produced. Difference becomes the drive of Being – the process of producing process.

But what about the second half of the Deleuzean process – repetition? Of what importance does it hold in onticology, if any? For Deleuze repetition is more than the simple mechanical replication of an object. It is the repetition of the singular, and in this way gives structure to difference as a process. Repetition is the actualization of a difference from a difference. In other words, every repetition is unique. That is, it contains something the parent difference did not.

In onticology, however, the parent object does not distinguish itself from its progeny, or the difference made. Instead, the repetition (by being a difference itself) is already distinguished. And in this distinguishing, in this actualization of a difference from the original process of difference, a creation (or genesis) takes place – new differences are born. Or in diagram form:

The only problem with the above diagram is that it supposes an original difference, which under onticology is impossible. To be a difference is to not only make a difference but also to be made by a previous difference. There is always a prior and subsequent difference to every other difference.

And it is in this way that onticology denies both a singular, unchanging monad or object, but it also denies an origin object. By origin object, I simply mean a difference that started it all – that is, a difference with no prior differences. Therefore we would have to redraw our diagram to look like:

Difference (as a process), then, makes differences (or actualizes them) and is itself actualized by a previous difference. This is why I feel we can call difference the process of being. Difference needs a before and after, and in this way is reliant upon other objects (whether internal or external to itself). The point that I have been leading up to, however, is this: these other objects are always indifferent others.

If objects are processes (thought of like drives or desire) then products are of little importance to the process itself. But, it seems to me, if what this process creates is simply similar processes, then the product becomes even less important or indifferent to the overall chain. We might be able to think of this last point in terms of a factory. Now the goal of a factory is to produce an object. But as far as the factory itself is concerned, this object is of little importance. The factory simply needs to produce to stay in business, for if the factory stops producing it is shut down or ceases to exist. If being is the process of difference, of making differences, then (again) the difference produced is indifferent to the original process. The factory of being simply needs to produce. We can take our example one step further and say that all objects in onticology seem to be factories of this sort – except that what they are producing are other factories of the same sort (and these factories are doing the same, ad infinitum). Therefore, if being is determined not by the material (or what these factories are made of), the formal (or what shape they take), or the final (or what they produce), then efficiency is all that is needed. To be is to be efficient, to be-produced and produce-being.

Now let me clarify and muddle this last statement with something I said earlier. If difference is only worried about the production of difference and not about the produced difference itself, and if we find the Ontic Principle (that there is no difference that does not make a difference) to express the notion that "to be means to be-produced and to produce-being," then being qua being is ultimately indifferent to everything else. Being, as a process, as difference, exists solely for itself – that is, for the process of being. Unlike an object that has being for others – that has a duty towards or cares for an other object – the onticological object has being only for itself. It is a selfish object, an object that gives but gives only to please itself, to satisfy the drive and desire of difference.


  1. The idea of production bothers me a bit because of its baggage. As in your example of the factory, it brings with it to many aspects of linearity and determination. However, the processes of difference may be innumerable and simultaneous, aleatory and dynamically deregulating.

  2. Hey dan,

    I think what I was trying to get at with the factory example is that difference, if thought of like a process (and especially a process that must make other processes), always produces some *thing*. The point is that this thing isn't important to the overall process. It could really be ANY-thing. What matters in onticology, it seems to me is that difference is produced. Now, if the Ontic Principle were to read: There is no difference that is not the result of a difference, then definitely the factory example wouldn't work.

    So, I think you are correct in stating that this seems too linear and determined, but I wonder if it's because difference is given a necessary condition to exist in onticology - that is, it must MAKE a difference as well as BE a difference? Otherwise, difference on its own - perhaps, pure difference - is dynamic and progressive in nature.

    Any thoughts?