The Place of Connection, A Form of Relationship (Distinct But Inseparable) (Deleuze)

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How to sort through the relationship between this and that, the material and the immaterial, the political and the religious, art and everything else? The radical critical reflex is to start with and assert the value of one primary formation or identity, and either line everything else up in relation to that starting datum, or reduce everything else to it. Against identity and negation, this neat little formulation is a much better device with which to sort out the relationship between those disparate “things” that you know are nonetheless inseparable in real life. For those of us interested in theology, ontology, epistemology, politics, and aesthetics, here’s Deleuze drawing off Leibniz.

“The reciprocation of the Leibnizin principle  holds not only for reasonable souls, but also for animal or sensible souls themselves: if two really distinct souls can be inseparable, two inseparable things can be really distinct, and belong to two levels, the localization of the one in the other amounting to a projection upon a point (“ I do not  think that we can consider souls as being in points, perhaps we might say…they are in a place of connection’)” (Deleuze, The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque, p.12, emphasis added).

It’s not just that these terms subject to binaries in classical rationalist philosophy are subject to deconstruction. It’s that an identity maintains its own distinct consistency even as it remains inseparably linked up in this or that assemblage in the form of differential relationship. In Deleuzian philosophy, these figures are not so much placed in harmony as with Leibniz, but volatized, each point brought to the nth degree. I’m offering below a list of items about which this formulation might make sense of points of interest to me in Jewish philosophy and in Jewish politics.

They are:

God – world

The human – the divine

Animal – -human

Body – soul

Matter – Mind

Imagination – Reason

Religion – politics

Society – Religion

Politics – Aesthetics

Religion – Aesthetics

Money – Art

Politics – Money

Judaism – Christianity

Israel – Palestine

Judaism – Israel

The Occupation –  Religious Pluralism in Israel

Racism – Imperialism

Democracy – Imperialism

Freedom – Slavery

So for instance, as per Deleuze after Leibniz, “The soul and the body can always be truly distinguished, but inseparability traces a coming and going between one level and the other. My unique monad has a body; the parts of this body have crowds of monads; each of these monads has a body.,,” (p.108). The immediate reference here is to the body that I “have” and the swarms of animal creatures that inhabit that body. Deleuze will go on to say that “a real distinction” subsists between souls and matter. “One never acts upon the other, but each operates according to its own laws, one by inner spontaneity or action, the other by outer determination or action.” The relation that one can ascribe between levels (one acting on or causing the other) is just another way to say that each according to their own way, express “a single and same thing, the world.” The two levels for Leibniz are both distinct, but folded into each other (pp.118-19).

It would be no hard thing to draw similar lines of connection between those other points that I listed above. The immediate reflex in critical no less than in conservative thinking is to reduce one thing to another, to focus on the one while obviating the other. Especially in political arguments, the critical attitude can be quite pig-headed, nasty and negative. There is no one, no union of opposites, no sublation. Deleuze offers a way out of this kind of conceptual trap. Whether the topic is religion and politics, or art, or Israel and Palestine, what Deleuze reading Lebniz clarifies is the distinct actualization of the one in relation to the other with which it is always, already inseparable. For Deleuze, the view is not so much of world harmony, but a volatile swarm; and yet for all that, there are “things,” distinct or discrete, pleated phenomena. Difference is radical down to infinitesimal points, distinct and singular, and to the relations that leap across.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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