ON THE INCIPIT TO DELEUZE’S LOGIC OF SENSE

VIRTUAL SEMINAR

LOGIC OF SENSE is composed of thirty-four chapters, or “series of paradoxes”, and five appendices. These chapters correspond to roughly the number of classes in an academic year, and so the book expresses an “ideal seminar” (Badiou’s term for the succession of chapters in his THEORY OF THE SUBJECT), irrespective of whether the chapters were delivered as actual lessons or not.

TRANSLATION

The first chapter or “series”, after the short Preface, is entitled “First Series of Paradoxes of Pure Becoming”. I have re-translated the first half of that first paragraph to bring out more clearly some of its logical structure.

Alice and Through the Looking-Glass deal with a category of very special things: events, pure events. When I say “Alice grows,” I mean that she becomes bigger than she was. But by the same token too, she becomes smaller than she is now. Certainly, she is not bigger and smaller at the same time. But it is at the same time that she becomes both. She is bigger now; she was smaller before. But it is at the same time, in the same stroke, that one becomes bigger than one was and one is made smaller than one becomes. This is the simultaneity of a becoming whose characteristic is to elude the present (translation modified).

CATEGORIAL GRAMMAR

The very first sentence declares that Deleuze’s ontological project is an investigation of categories, of logical grammar. In particular, it is an investigation into the grammar of events. This link between ontology and grammar shows that Deleuze’s book belongs very much to the semiotic turn that characterised the major French thinkers of the second half of the Twentieth Century. This semiotic turn preceded, accompanied, and succeeded “structuralism”, which was merely one of its avatars.

TWO VOICES

It is noteworthy that three of first seven sentences in the chapter begin with “but” (in French “mais”, in each case). In each case we have two voices: a common sense, doxic, affirmation is not so much contradicted, as completed by and contrasted with a more paradoxical statement (introduced by but). The interplay between the two voices signals at the level of grammar that we are engaged in a series of paradoxes.

DOUBLE TIME

The expression “at the same time” seems to suggest something composite happening, when it is really a case of undetermined time, that of the event, Aion. Determined time, Chronos, is the time of the composite, of mixtures. Aion is the time of the pure event. So “at the same time” is a categorically ambiguous expression, between Chronos and Aion.

As Aion, Deleuze treats the expression “en même temps” as synonymous with “par là-même” (“by the same token”) and “du même coup”. One could translate this last as “in the same stroke”, but “coup” also evokes the “move” in a game (for example chess) and the “throw” of the dice. This second expression (“in the same stroke/move/throw” is omitted in the published translation).

By leaving this expression out the published translation blurs the distinction between chronological time (Chronos, time of composites) and evental time (Aion, time of the pure event, of pure becoming, of eluding the present) that is already being foreshadowed at the level of the vocabulary.

Note: I am indebted to an exchange with Corry Shores for helping me clarify my reading.

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