Review: Badiou’s “Deleuze: The Clamor of Being”

Badiou’s book on Deleuze, Deleuze: The Clamor of Being presents Deleuze as an aristocratic philosopher of the One, a Nietzschean vitalist who isn’t too far removed from Plato’s Parmenidies in continually affirming that there is only One path to being. Badiou’s text has generated many important controversies and bones of contention. Zizek’s work on Deleuze, Organs Without Bodies has taken Badiou’s text as a starting point for his critique of Deleuze, and Peter Hallward has commented on it at length, and Clayton Crocket’s forthcoming work on Deleuze, presents another excellent and thorough critique of Badiou’s text. In what follows, I want to offer some preliminary thoughts on Badiou’s text and raise what I see as a certain refusal to approach the ethical agenda at play in Deleuze’s work.

This review will be for my website only and I won’t seek to publish it elsewhere in part because I’m still a newcomer to Deleuze, and am much more familiar with Badiou’s philosophy.

It was Foucault who pointed out the ethical dimension to Deleuze’s work in his introduction to Anti-Oedipus (A Guide to Non-Fascist Living). Badiou’s confrontation with Deleuze neglects the use of the word ethical throughout the entire text. Badiou is seeking to place Deleuze not as an anti philosopher, or to privilege the schizoanalysis stage of Deleuze’s work with Guattari, but to systematize Deleuze’s thought, or style in the tradition of continental phenomenology and ontology after Heidegger. The key to unlocking Deleuze’s diverse engagements in topics spanning cinema, politics, art, music, as well as his core concepts: the nomad, the fold, and rhizomes is the univocity of being. Thinking for Deleuze is always an ascetic and difficult egalitarian affirmation of what is. The key difference between Badiou and Deleuze is around the multiple as one. For Deleuze, “the thought of the multiple demands that being be rigorously determined as One” (CB, 45). Deleuze’s philosophy, just like Badiou’s sees Kant’s critique as null and void, and his (Deleuze’s) concern is with founding a Platonism of the virtual, while Badiou’s is to develop a Platonism of the multiple (CB, 45).

It is Badiou’s contention that the end point of the multiple is the empty set. For Deleuze, to realize the virtual, you must construct a plane of immanence, which is pure chaos where simulacra and the virtual precede all thought. Because science does not attain to the ground of its own truth and it passes through the plane of immanence, science does not realize the virtual. For this reason, Deleuze can’t understand Badiou’s reason for choosing set theory, because the pure multiple can never be a set (CB, 48).

The price to be paid for the univocity of being is that the multiple can only be at the order of the simulacra, but the simulacra is for Deleuze not linked in any way to eternal forms as it is for Plato, and so Deleuze is pushing against Plato in important ways, but his real target is Aristotle, more precisely against any effort to class any difference of being. If you class every difference without a real status then the order of the world of being is a simulacra. Deleuze writes that to overturn Platonism is to make the simulacra rise and attain their rights. Deleuze, unlike Plato does not seek to relate the simulacra to really existing archetypes, but rather seeks to retain the ‘rights of simulacra’ to all joyously participate in the univocity of being.

What outdoes Plato is the ‘disjunctive synthesis’ that posits all beings are internally divided within themselves and they lack any transcendent Idea whatsoever. The only way to think the Good for Deleuze is to propose a pure event for the One: “Only the free man, therefore, can comprehend all violence in a single act of violence, and every mortal event in a single Event” (The Logic of Sense, pg. 152). The central problem for Deleuze’s ontology is how the virtual and actual are related. We know that everything is predetermined but we do not know what our predetermined destiny is. “Actual things express Ideas but are not caused by them (Difference and Repetition, Pg. 20). Actual things have an identity, in so far as they change and become something different in order to express something. The expressed virtual thing does not change, it only changes its relation to other virtual things.

For Deleuze, a single name is not possible to express the univocity of being, it can only be grounded in two names. One name signifies the unity of its power and the other the multiplicity of simulacra that this power actualizes. Univocal being is neither active or passive but it is neutral (CB, 34). In short, Deleuze’s thought is linked both to anarchic forms of desire and to the second name of being — the multiplicity of the simulacra — which is made of a fictive character. The two names of being also represent the two larger projects of Deleuze, the first of productive desire and the fallout of May 68′ (Anti-Oedipus period) and the second Deleuze of the multiplicity of the simulacra we found in Difference and Repetition and The Logic of Sense.

Since every fixed being is indifferent to the terms that are under them, its nomadism brings beings (simulacra) back to the univocity of being, what Deleuze calls “extra being” (CB, 34). So Deleuze, unlike Heidegger resembles Plato in the Parmenidies by affirming that being is not split between nothingness and being, but that there is only one path to being. In fact, the chief difference between Heidegger and Deleuze is around the univocity of being, for Deleuze, being is always One, and for Heidegger, it is always expressed in various ways as Aristotle claimed (CB, 23).

One of the key points of Deleuze’s philosophical work that I find neglected in the Clamor of Being is an underlying concern with ethics. Woven throughout Deleuze’s commitment to the eternal return of the same is a philosophy of affirmation, which presents philosophy with an ethical axiom. In Deleuzian intuition, that moment of ascesis that affirms the chance of chance infinitely, there appears a certain commitment to think relations of life and the will to power. Badiou nicely summarizes the confrontation that Deleuze has with Mallarme, where we find that for Deleuze, “chance proceeds from the Infinite – the infinite you have affirmed” whereas for Mallarme, his subtractive ontology states, “the Infinite proceeds from Chance – the chance you have negated” (CB, 72). Deleuze wants to assume the motif of the eternal return without ever sacrificing chance (CB, 73).

All being is found in the unique cast for all throws of the dice. This unique cast is the affirmation of the totality of chance. Chance must realize itself in the unique throw of the dice. What returns is the original unique throw that affirms chance. The eternal return is “the affirmation of all chance in a single moment, the unique cast for all throws, one Being and only one for all forms and all times, a single insistence for all that exists” (, Pg. 180).

For Badiou, chance is not the contingency of the One, but is the contingency of all possible events, while for Deleuze what emerges is a virtual doctrine of contingency – chance of the One itself is radical contingency of being. All being is found in the unique cast for all throws of the dice. This unique cast is the affirmation of the totality of chance. Chance must realize itself in the unique throw of the dice. What returns is the original unique throw that affirms chance. The eternal return is “the affirmation of all chance in a single moment, the unique cast for all throws, one Being and only one for all forms and all times, a single insistence for all that exists” (Logic of Sense, Pg. 180).

For Badiou, chance is not the contingency of the One, but is the contingency of all possible events, while for Deleuze what emerges is a virtual doctrine of contingency – chance of the One itself is radical contingency of being.

Badiou identifies three important misreadings of the eternal return that Deleuze has laid down:

1. The One cannot return because it is the power by which its immanent modes occur. There are only thoughts according to the One, and univocity precludes any idea of the return of the One. Therefore, the subject of the eternal return is the Same.

2. Deleuze rejects a democratic return where beings find that the power of thought means there is only one intuition, on the contrary, the eternal return is the becoming-mad that has been mastered, and made to copy the eternal, so the return becomes a law and transcendent principle (CB, 70).

The secret of the eternal return is that it is an affirmation of chaos, and what returns is the universal value of interferences of virtualities, and thought as inflections of the One. The Same is chaotic difference.

There is only the same to the extent that chaos (the Open) is affirmed, but this affirmation is what is returned: “the multiple is affirmed in the return as simulacrum and as superficial disjunctive synthesis and deep chaos” (CB, 71).

3. The return of the same is that which cancels chance. The question of chance is important for Deleuze in part because he seeks to keep divergence and the improbable within the very heart of the One.

Deleuzian Intuition

Deleuze’s theory of intuition is an inversion of the Cartesian intuition based upon a theory of light that claims the greater clarity we get from pure intuition the sounder it becomes. For Deleuze, sense is pure nonsense, which is why clarity found in sense is only a transience, a One – and Deleuze argues that the clear is in-itself confused and the distinct is in itself obscure (Difference and Repetition). Thus, Deleuzian intuition works in the following way: every being is double without it being the case that the two halves resemble one another (CB, 36).

The distinct is obscure for Deleuze because the living is put in isolation and the undead is put into being. The effort to resurrect intuition is a project of “perpetual reconcetenation.” Intuition becomes an ethical project that is prescriptive and tied to the overarching goal of thinking the One. Here is how it works:

“If thought seizes hold of these two aspects (the movement from beings to Being, and the movement from Being to beings) which necessitates that it be the movement of two movements, then it is adequate to being” (CB, 40).

If thought does this then it intuits the One because it traverses life in its raw virtuality, and is thus able to think the One.

There are two types of statements that intuition is underpinned by, descending and ascending. Descending are analytic statements that are produced by combinatory machines that are open at the single point in the square.

Against Structuralism:

For Deleuze, structuralism is a relation between distinct entities, which is made problematic by its relation to sense. There is within the set a singular point, the king, or the floating signifier that sets it in motion and makes the set singular. The empty set shows that the entire set is a simulacrum.

The singularity of structuralism is the source of its distinctness, but for Deleuze this is why it remains opaque (CB, 37). This is because the being proper to structuralism is not a being rooted in sense. Life that is a part of the structure, does not in any way enter into the sense so fabricated. Deleuze concedes that structuralism is born from a position where the univocity of being cannot speak because the univocity produced in structuralism is only nonsense.

Deleuze discovers through Foucault that the scientific “structures” and “subject” are found only through appearances. Foucault’s epistemes, epochs, and historical formations “escape from both the reign of the subject and the empire of structure” (Foucalt, 14). It is there that Deleuze gets interlacement of thought and being.

4 thoughts on “Review: Badiou’s “Deleuze: The Clamor of Being”

  1. I totally agree, and I wrote this review prior to finishing Being and Event. That is part of the reason why I published it here on my blog, as opposed to say a publication. I was still wrestling with the ideas. If I were to re-read the text, which I do not plan to do anytime soon as I am finishing my dissertation, I would flesh out the ideas more thoroughly. I appreciate your comment, though, and I hope you continue to read and respond to my work here, or elsewhere.

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