LEVI BRYANT ON DELEUZE: complete is not entire

Note: I am indebted to a facebook conversation with John Appleby for helping me clarify these ideas.

In his reply to Bryan Bannon’s review of ONTO-CARTOGRAPHY, Levi Bryant conflates the concepts of undetermined and indeterminate in Deleuze’s book DIFFERENCE AND REPETITION. On page 207 we can see that complete determination applies to the virtual part of the object, and that it leaves the actual part indeterminate. So Bryant is wrong both about Bannon’s claim that the virtual is “indeterminate” (as Bannon was talking about the indetermination of the virtual object with respect to its actualisation) and about Deleuze’s own view. Bryant misunderstands the notion of “complete” determination in the passage he cites, where “complete” refers only to the virtual object, and as Deleuze himself says it “lacks…the whole set of relations belonging to actual existence”.

Here Bryant confuses Deleuze’s thesis of the complete determination of the virtual, where “complete” is used in a technical sense (i.e. limited to the virtual), with the affirmation of the absence of any need for determination. He found a sentence that seemed to confirm his interpretation ( “far from being undetermined, the virtual is completely determined”) but he didn’t read further down to see what it actually meant in this context. Unfortunately, the full text shows that Bryant’s interpretation is wrong and that Bannon’s is right. The complete is the virtual, and so remains indeterminate as to its actualisation. The complete object “lacks the whole set of relations belonging to actual existence” (Deleuze). It is thus completely determined (as to its virtual existence) and wholly indeterminate (as to its actual existence). The word to watch here is “complete”, which does not mean what Bryant is taking it to mean. “Complete” is not everything, but just the virtual part.

I read Bannon’s review and thought it was OK in its contentbut a little too diplomatic in its style. Then I read Levi Bryant’s response and was disappointed that he did not reply to the more general argument, but was content with replying to an abstruse point about the interpretation of Deleuze.

Bryant seems to think he has found a “clincher” quote to rebut Bannon, but on reading this sentence in context it does not say what Bryant would have it say. I think that Bryant was playing fast and loose with the distinction between differentiation as determination of the virtual object, and differenciation as determination of the actual object. But he is probably only simplifying deliberately to score a point against Bannon. However, this is only a side issue to the more general argument.

Bannon’s more general argument, and mine, is that Bryant wants to create a conceptual synthesis of the objectal and the machinic paradigms, but that the mix has still not gotten to the stage of a real synthesis. The price Bryant is paying for this premature, and perhaps ill-advised, attempt at synthesis is too much abstraction and vagueness despite his call for concreteness.

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