The method of dramatization, by Gilles Deleuze

Paper presented to the Société française de
Philosophie, 28 January 1967.
The Idea, the discovery of the Idea, is inseparable from a certain type of
question. The Idea is in the first place an “objecticity” [objectité] which,
as such, corresponds to a way of posing questions. It only responds to the
call of certain questions. It is in Platonism that the question of the Idea is
determined under the form: What is…? This noble question is supposed to
concern the essence, and is opposed to vulgar questions which only refer
to the example or the accident. Thus you do not ask who is beautiful, but
what is the Beautiful. Not where and when there is justice, but what is the Just.
Not how “two” is obtained, but what is the dyad. Not how much, but
what… All of Platonism thus seems to oppose a major question, always
taken up again and repeated by Socrates as that of the essence or the
Idea, to minor questions of opinion which only express confused ways
of thinking, whether in old men or awkward children, or in sophists and
over-skilful orators.
And yet this privilege of the What is…? is itself revealed to be confused
and dubious, even in Platonism and the Platonic tradition. For the question
What is? in the end only animates the so-called aporetic dialogues. Is
it possible that the question of essence is that of contradiction, and that it
itself throws us into inextricable contradictions? As soon as the Platonic
dialectic becomes a serious and positive thing, we see it take other forms:
who? in the Politics, how much? in the Philebus, where and when in the
Sophist, in what case in the Parmenides. As if the Idea was only positively
determinable as a function of a transcendental typology, topology, posology,
and casuistic. What the sophists are reproached for, then, is less to
have used forms of questions which are inferior in themselves, than not to
have known how to determine the conditions in which they take on their
ideal scope and meaning. And if we consider the whole of the history
of philosophy, we seek in vain the philosopher who was able to proceed
using the question “what is?”. Aristotle – above all not Aristotle. Perhaps
Hegel, perhaps there is only Hegel, precisely because his dialectic, being
that of the empty and abstract essence, is inseparable from the movement
of contradiction. The question What is? prejudices the Idea as the
simplicity of essence; it then becomes obligatory that the simple essence
comprehends the inessential, and comprehends it in essence, thus contradicting
itself. A quite different procedure (the outline of which is found in
the philosophy of Leibniz), must be wholly distinguished from contradiction:
in this case, it is the inessential which comprehends the essential, and
which comprehends it only in the case. Subsuming under “the case” forms
an original language of properties and events. We should call vice- diction
this quite different procedure to contradiction. It consists in traversing the
Idea as a multiplicity. The question is no longer of knowing whether the
Idea is one or multiple, or even both at the same time. “Multiplicity”, used
substantively, designates a domain where the Idea, of its own accord, is
much closer to the accident than to the abstract essence, and can only be
determined with the questions who? how? how much? where and when?
in what case? – all forms which trace its true spatio-temporal coordinates.
We ask in the first instance: what is the characteristic or distinctive trait
of a thing in general? Such a trait is double: the quality or qualities that
it possesses, the extended space [l’étendue] that it occupies. Even when
one cannot distinguish actual divisible parts, one distinguishes remarkable
points and regions; and one must not only consider the internal space, but
the way in which the thing determines and differenciates a whole exterior
space, as in the hunting ground of an animal. In short, every thing is at the
intersection of a double synthesis: of qualification or specification, and of
distribution, composition or organisation. There is no quality without an
extension that underlies it, and in which it is diffused, no species without
organic points or parts. The parts are the number of the species, just as
the species is the quality of the parts. Such are the two correlated aspects
of differenciation: species and parts, specification and organisation. They
constitute the condition of the representation of things in general.
But if differenciation thus has two complementary forms, what is the
agent of this distinction and this complementarity? Beneath organisation,
as also beneath specification, we find nothing other than spatio-temporal
dynamisms: which is to say agitations of space, pockets of time, pure syntheses
of speeds, directions and rhythms. Already the most general characteristics
of division, of order and class, including generic and specific
characters, depend on such dynamisms or such directions of development.
And simultaneously, beneath the separating phenomena of cellular
division, we again find dynamic instances, cellular migrations, foldings,
invaginations, stretches, which constitute an entire “dynamic of the egg”.
In this respect the entire world is an egg. No concept would receive a
logical division in representation, if this division was not determined by
sub-representative dynamisms: we see it clearly in the Platonic process of
division, which only operates in function of the two directions of right
and left, and, as in the example of line-fishing, with the aid of determinations
of the type “surround-strike”, “strike from up downwards – from
below upwards”.
These dynamisms always presuppose a field in which they are produced,
outside of which they would not be produced. This field is intensive,
which is to say it implies a distribution in depth of differences in intensity.
Although experience always places us in the presence of already-developed
intensities in extended space, already covered by qualities, we must
conceive, precisely as a condition of experience, pure intensities enveloped
in a depth, in an intensive spatium which pre-exists any quality and
any extension. Depth is the power of the pure spatium without extension;
intensity is only the power of difference or the unequal in itself, and each
intensity is already difference, of the type E – E’, where E refers in turn
to e – e’ and e, to e – e’, etc. Such an intensive field constitutes a milieu of
individuation. This is why it is not enough to remind ourselves that individuation
operates neither by prolonging specification (species infima),
nor by the composition or division of parts (pars ultima). It is not enough
to discover a difference in nature between individuation on the one hand,
and, on the other hand, specification or division. For in addition to this,
individuation is the prior condition under which specification, and divi582
sion or composition, operate in a system. Individuation is intensive, and
is presupposed by all qualities and species, by all the extensions and parts
which come to fill or develop the system.
Intensity being difference, we still need differences of intensity to communicate
with each other. We need something like a “differenciator” of
difference, which relates the different to the different. This role is played
by what is called the dark precursor. Lightning shoots between different
intensities, but it is preceded by a dark precursor, invisible, imperceptible,
which in advance determines path, hollowed out in an inverse relation,
because it is in the first place the agent of communication of series of
differences. If it is true that any system is an intensive field of individuation
constructed on bordering series which are heterogenous or disparate,
the putting into communication of series, under the action of the dark
precursor, induces the phenomena of coupling between the series, of internal
resonance in the system, and of a forced movement in the form of
an amplitude which overflows the starting series themselves. It is under all
of these conditions that a system is filled with qualities and is developed
in extension. For a quality is always a sign or an event which emerges from
the depths, which flashes between different intensities, and which endures
the time required for the annulment of its constitutive difference. In the
first place and above all, it is the set of these conditions which determines
the spatio-temporal dynamisms, themselves generative of these qualities
and these extensions.
Dynamisms are not absolutely without a subject. Yet their subjects can
only be partial [ébauches], not yet qualified or composed, patients rather
than agents, alone able to bear the pressure of an internal resonance or
the amplitude of a forced movement. A composed, qualified adult would
perish therein. The truth of embryology, already, is that there are movements
which only the embryo can bear: here, no other subject than a larval
one. The nightmare itself is perhaps one of these movements that neither
the awake man, nor even the dreamer, can bear, but only the dreamless
sleeper, the sleeper of deep sleep. And thought, considered as the specific
dynamism of the philosophical system, belongs perhaps in turn to these
terrible movements which are irreconcilable with a formed, qualified and
composed subject like that of the Cogito in representation. “Regression”
is poorly understood as long as we do not see in it the activation of a larval
subject, the only patient able to support to requirements of a systematic
This set of determinations – field of individuation, series of intensive differences,
dark precursor, coupling, resonance and forced movement, larval
subjects, spatio-temporal dynamisms – these outline the multiple coordinates
which correspond to the questions, How much? Who? How? Where
and when?, and which give them a transcendental scope, beyond empirical
examples. This set of determinations, in effect, is in no way bound to such
or such an example borrowed from a physical, or biological, system, but
provides the categories of any system in general. No less than a physical
experiment, psychical experiments of the Proustian type imply the communication
of disparate series, the intervention of a dark precursor, the
resonances and forced movements which follow. It happens all the time
that dynamisms, qualified in a certain way in one domain, are taken up
again in a completely different mode in another domain. The geographical
dynamism of the island (island through rupture with the continent and
island through emerging out of the water) is taken up again in the mythical
dynamism of the man on a desert island (secondary rupture and original
recommencement). Ferenczi showed, in sexual life, how the physical dynamism
of cellular elements is taken up again in the biological dynamism
of organs and even in the psychical dynamism of people.
It’s that dynamisms, and their concomitants, work beneath all the qualified
forms and extensions of representation, and constitute, rather than an
outline, a set of abstract lines coming out of an unextended and informal
depth. A strange theatre made of pure determinations, activating space
and time, acting directly on the soul, having larvae as actors – and for
which Artaud chose the word “cruelty”. These abstract lines form a drama
which corresponds to such or such a concept, and which directs both its
specification and division. Scientific knowledge, but also the dream, and
also things in themselves, dramatise. A concept being given, we can always
seek the drama, and the concept would never divide or specify itself in the
world of representation without the dramatic dynamisms which determine
it in this way in a material system beneath all possible representation.
Take the concept of truth: it is not enough to ask the abstract question
“what is the true?”. Once we ask “who wants the truth, when and where,
how and how much?”, our task is to assign larval subjects (the jealous person,
for example), and pure spatio-temporal dynamisms (either to make
the “thing” emerge in person, at a certain time, in a certain place; or to accumulate
clues and signs, from moment to moment and following an endless
path). When we then learn that the concept of truth in representation
is divided into two directions, one according to which the true emerges in
person and in an intuition, the other according to which the true is always
inferred from something else, concluded from clues as that which is not
there, we have no trouble in finding beneath these traditional theories of
intuition and induction the dynamisms of the inquisition or the confession,
of the accusation or the enquiry, which work in silence and dramatically,
such that it determines the theoretical division of the concept.
What we call drama particularly resembles the Kantian schema. For the
schema according to Kant is indeed an a priori determination of space
and time corresponding to a concept: the shortest is the drama, the dream
or rather the nightmare of the straight line. It is precisely the dynamism
which divides the concept of line into straight and curved, and which,
moreover, in the Archimedean conception of limits, allows the measurement
of the curve as a function of the straight line. Only what remains
quite mysterious is how the schema has this power in relation to the concept.
In a certain way, the whole of post-Kantianism attempted to elucidate
the mystery of this hidden art, according to which the dynamic
spatio-temporal dynamisms truly have the power to dramatise a concept,
even though they are of a completely different nature.
The answer is perhaps in the direction indicated by certain post-Kantians:
pure spatio-temporal dynamisms have the power to dramatise concepts,
because in the first place they actualise or incarnate Ideas. We possess a
point of departure in order to prove this hypothesis: if it is true that the
dynamisms order the two inseparable aspects of differenciation – specification
and division, qualification of a species and organisation of an extension
– it would be necessary for the Idea to present in turn two aspects,
from which these are derived in a certain way. We must thus question the
nature of the Idea, on its difference in nature to the concept.
An Idea has two principal characteristics. On the one hand, it consists in
a set of differential relations between elements without any sensible form
or function, which only exist through their reciprocal determination. Such
relations are of the type dy/dx (although the question of the infinitely
small does not at all have to be introduced here). In the most diverse cases,
we can ask if we indeed find ourselves before ideal elements, which is to
say without figure and without function, but reciprocally determinable in
a network of differential relations: do phonemes fall into this category?
And certain physical particles? And biological genes? We must in each
case follow our enquiry until we obtain these differentials, which neither
exist nor are determined except in relation to each other. We thus invoke
a principle, called reciprocal determination, as the first aspect of sufficient
reason. On the other hand, differential relations correspond to distributions
of “singularities”, distributions of remarkable and ordinary points,
such that a remarkable point engenders a series which can be prolonged
along all the ordinary points to the neighbourhood of another singularity.
Singularities are ideal events. It is possible that the notions of singular and
regular, of remarkable and ordinary, have a much greater ontological and
epistemological importance for philosophy itself than those of true and
false; for sense depends on the distinction and the distribution of these
brilliant points in the Idea. We conceive that a complete determination of
the Idea, or of the thing in its Ideal form, is effected in this way, constituting
the second aspect of sufficient reason. The Idea thus appears as a
multiplicity which must be traversed in two directions, from the point of
view of the variation of differential relations, and from the point of view
of the distribution of singularities which correspond to certain values of
these relations. What we were calling before a procedure of vice-diction
merges with this double traversal or this double determination, reciprocal
and complete.
Several consequences follow. In the first place, the Idea thus defined possesses
no actuality. It is virtual, it is pure virtuality. All the differential relations,
in virtue of the reciprocal determination, and all the distributions of
singularities in virtue of the complete determination, coexist in the virtual
multiplicity of Ideas. The Idea is only actualised precisely to the extent that
its differential relations are incarnated in separate species or qualities, and
that the concomitant singularities are incarnated in an extension which
corresponds to this quality. A species is made up of differential relations
between genes, as organic parts are made up of incarnated singularities
(cf. the “loci”). We must however emphasise the absolute condition of
non-resemblance: the species or quality does not resemble the differential
relations that they incarnate, no more than the singularities resemble the
organised extension which actualises them. If it is true that qualification
and distribution constitute the two aspects of differenciation, we will say
that the Idea actualises itself through differenciation. For the Idea, to actualise
itself is to differenciate itself. In itself and in its virtuality, it is thus
entirely undifferenciated. Yet it is in no way indeterminate. We must attach
the greatest importance to the difference of the two operations, marked
by the distinctive trait t/c, differentiate and differenciate. The Idea in itself,
or the thing in its Ideal form, is not at all differenciated, since it lacks the
necessary qualities and parts. But it is fully and completely differentiated,
since it possesses relations and singularities which will actualise themselves
in qualities and parts, without resembling them. It seems that every thing,
then, has, so to speak, two uneven, dissimilar and dissymmetrical “halves”,
each one of these halves itself divided into two: an ideal half, plunging into
the virtual, and constituted both by differential relations and concomitant
singularities; an actual half, constituted both by the qualities incarnating
these relations, and the parts incarnating these singularities. The question
of the “ens omni modo determinatum” must thus be posed in this way: a
thing in its Ideal form can be completely determined (differentiated), and
yet lack the determinations which constitute actual existence (it is undifferenciated).
If we call distinct the state of the fully differentiated Idea,
and clear the state of the actualised Idea, which is to say differenciated, we
must break with the rule of proportionality of the clear and the distinct:
the Idea in itself is not clear and distinct, but on the contrary distinct and
obscure. It is even in this sense that the Idea is Dionysian, in this zone of
obscure distinction that it conserves in itself, in this differenciation which
is nevertheless perfectly determined: its intoxication.
We must finally specify the conditions under which the word “virtual”
can be rigorously used (the way in which Bergson for example used it not
long ago by distinguishing virtual and actual multiplicities, or the way in
which M. Ruyer uses it today). Virtual is not opposed to real; what is opposed
to the real is the possible. Virtual is opposed to actual, and, in this
sense, possesses a full reality. We have seen that this reality of the virtual is
constituted by differential relations and distributions of singularities. The
virtual corresponds in all respects to the formula by which Proust defined
his states of experience: “real without being actual, ideal without being
abstract”. The virtual and the possible are opposed in multiple ways. On
the one hand, the possible is such that the real is constructed in its image
[à sa ressemblance]. This is even why, in function of this original flaw, we
can never cleanse it of the suspicion of being retrospective or retroactive,
which is to say constructed after the fact, in the image of the real that it
is supposed to precede. It is also why, when we ask what more there is in
the real, we can ascribe nothing except “the same” thing as posited outside
of representation. The possible is only the concept as principle of the
representation of the thing, under the categories of the identity of what
represents, and the resemblance of what is represented. The virtual, by
contrast, belongs to the Idea, and does not resemble the actual, no more
than the actual resembles it. The Idea is an image without resemblance;
the virtual does not actualise itself through resemblance, but through divergence
and differenciation.
Differenciation or actualisation is always creative in relation to what they
actualise, whereas realisation is always reproductive or limiting. The difference
between the virtual and the actual is no longer that of the Same
in so far as it is posited in one instance within representation, in another
instance outside of representation, but that of the Other, in so far as appears
in one instance in the Idea and the other instance, completely differently,
in the process of actualisation of the Idea.
The extraordinary Leibnizian world puts us in the presence of an ideal
continuum. This continuity, according to Leibniz, is not at all defined by
homogeneity, but by the coexistence of all the variations of differential
relations, and the distributions of singularities which correspond to them.
The state of this world is well expressed in the image of the murmur, of
the ocean, of the water mill, of the swoon or even of drunkenness, which
bears witness to a Dionysian ground rumbling beneath this apparently
Apollonian philosophy. It is often asked what the notions of “compossible”,
of “incompossible” consist in, and what exactly their difference is
to the possible and the impossible. The reply is perhaps difficult to give,
because the whole of Leibniz’ philosophy shows a certain hesitation between
a clear conception of the possible and the obscure conception of
the virtual. In truth the incompossible and the compossible have nothing
to do with the contradictory and the non- contradictory. It is a matter of
something else entirely: of divergence and convergence. What defines the
compossibility of a world is the convergence of series, each one of which
isconstructed in the neighbourhood of a singularity, to the neighbourhood
of another singularity. The incompossibility of worlds, by contrast,
emerges at the moment that the obtained series would diverge. The best
of worlds is thus the one which comprehends a maximum of relations
and singularities, under the condition of continuity, which is to say under
the condition of a maximum of convergence of series. We can understand,
given this, how, in such a world, individual essences or nomads are
formed. Leibniz says both that the world does not exist outside of the
monads which express it, and yet that God created the world rather than
the monads (God did not create the sinning Adam, but the world in which
Adam sinned). It’s that the singularities of the world serve as a principle
for the constitution of individualities: each individual envelops a certain
number of singularities, and clearly expresses their relations in relation to
its own body. Such that the expressed world virtually pre-exists expressive
individualities, but does not actually exist outside of these individualities
which express it from proximity to proximity [de proche en proche]. And
it is this process of individuation which determines the relations and the
singularities of the ideal world to be incarnated in the qualities and extensions
which effectively fill the intervals between individuals. The traversal
of the “ground” as populated by relations and singularities, the constitution
of individual essences which flows on from this, the subsequent determination
of qualities and extensions, form the whole of a method of
vice-diction, which constitutes a theory of multiplicities and which always
consists in subsuming “under the case”.
The notion of different/ciation does not only express a mathematicobiological
complex, but the very condition of all cosmology, as the two
halves of the object. Differentiation expresses the nature of a pre-individual
ground, which is in no way reducible to an abstract universal,
but which comprises relations and singularities characterising the virtual
multiplicities or Ideas. Differenciation expresses the actualisation of these
relations and singularities in qualities and extensions, species and parts as
objects of representation. The two aspects of differenciation thus correspond
to the two aspects of differentiation, but do not resemble them:
a third thing is necessary to determine the Idea to actualise itself, to incarnate
itself in this way. We have attempted to show how the intensive
fields of individuation – with the precursors which placed them in a state
of activity, with the larval subjects which constituted themselves around
singularities, with the dynamisms which filled the system – effectively had
this role. The complete notion is that of: indi-different/ciation. It is the
spatio-temporal dynamisms at the heart of fields of individuation which
determine the Ideas to actualise themselves in the differenciated aspects
of the object. A concept being given in representation, we know nothing
yet. We only learn to the extent that we discover the Idea which operates
beneath this concept, the field or fields of individuation, the system or
systems which envelop the Idea, the dynamisms which determine it to
incarnate itself; it is only under these conditions that we can penetrate the
mystery of the division of the concept. It is all these conditions which define
dramatisation, and its trail of questions: in which case, who, how, how
much? The shortest is only the schema of the concept of the straight line
because it is firstly the drama of the Idea of line, the differential of the
straight line and the curve, the dynamism which operates in silence. The
clear and the distinct is the claim of the concept in the Apollonian world
of representation; but beneath representation there is always the Idea and
its distinct-obscure ground, a “drama” beneath all logos.

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