The “One-as-Multiple” of Continuous Being
Differential and dialectical being are both rooted in the transcendental. As such they appeal to the law, either in the form of a moral imperative or a political dynamic. Across these realms is found the Father and the Prince, the law and the commandment. These realms have been incredibly powerful historically, yet have changed in recent years because of sustained critiques of the transcendental. Such critiques have come from both the left and the right; they target things like hierarchy, repression, and social exclusion, as well as more exotic maladies such as logocentrism and ontotheology.
So now leave the realm of the transcendental and enter the realm of immanence. The One-as-Multiple achieves immanence by way of multiplicity and continuity. It is best understood as a “natural” immanence, or an “immanence of everything.” Shunning the repressive laws of difference, continuous being affirms any and all entities as participants and grants them an open invitation to the multiplicity of the world.
Hence nature, for thinkers like Deleuze, is at root a smooth aggregation of heterogenous entities, all on equal footing within a material substratum. Crystals grow, and animals procreate. Elements catalyze chemical reactions just as nations surge together in battle. Each entity is a heterogenous singularity. But taken as a whole, they constitute a single plane of being, the plane of immanence, broad, flat, and continuous. There is no vacuum in a Deleuzian universe, no absence or lack, no unconscious, no repression, no binarisms like self/other or man/woman, only variations in intensity, fields of attraction and repulsion, local crystallizations of material habit and corruptions of structure leading to dissolution and subsequent recombination. Deleuzian immanence is an immanence at the level of ontology. Nature is immanent to itself; it does not need to go outside itself in order to realize itself.
The generic is therefore not unknown to Deleuze. But he locates the generic at the level of the totality. This is why continuous being is an “immanence of everything.” Its totality is a “whatever totality”; any and all or whatever.
Here the one reappears not as the singleton but as the universe, not an entity in its finitude but the infinite undulations of the Earth. Deleuze’s One is always a One All. Collectivity, for Deleuze, is a question of the totality of matter and the totality of physical processes. Deleuze is thus properly labeled a physicist, not a metaphysicist. His philosophy is that of physics and sensation, empiricism and aestheticism, not things like essence or teleology or truth. But while dialectical being achieves totality via negation, continuous being achieves totality via affirmation.
The passwords of continuous being are terms like integration, multiplicity, wave, attractor, continuum, univocity, analogy, indifference, promiscuity, miscegenation, hybridity, mixing, process, emergence, autopoiesis, contagion, intensification, and modulation.
And as Deleuze and Guattari so rightly pointed out, because of the propensity for multiplication and parallelization, the chief malady for continuous being is the “split mind” of schizophrenia (not fetishization, as was evident previously for differential metaphysics), as the traditional linkages among thought, emotion, and behavior break down and are replaced with various kinds of mental fragmentation. In the face of such developments Deleuze and Guattari made a virtue of necessity by advocating a new kind of schizophrenic subject -- not uncontroversial in some circles -- based in metastatic existence, the multiplication of affects, and the proliferation of desires.
“To reverse Platonism,” Deleuze remarked, “is first and foremost to remove essences and to substitute events in their place, as jets of singularities.” Admittedly it is incorrect on the face of things to call Deleuze a theologian. But the vitality of pure matter that he describes; his obvious love for Spinoza’s God-Nature; the One All that he credits also to Duns Scotus and Nietzsche: these things point to an underlying mystico-theological core within Deleuze’s world. Is it new age mysticism, a weird twist on neoplatonism, or simply garden variety vitalism? Regardless of the answer, continuous being will tend toward a sacred, enchanted, if not entirely theological explanation for things.
These “jets of singularities” that surge and shoot, these counter-Platonic non-essences, are pure events. Continuous being is, in this sense, the converse of dialectical being. They both locate the event at the core of things, making events the very building blocks of all existence. Yet although the dialectic proceeds through a chain of negation, formulating dynamic oppositions in series, continuous being proceeds immanently via inductive, emergent affirmation. So Badiou is ultimately correct to pounce on the “clamor” in Deleuze’s being. Deleuze’s events are these never-ending clamorous occasions. They happen all the time, and everywhere. In fact, for continuous being, the world is nothing but such clamorous occasions.
Entities become less important, while processes more important. For the One-as-Multiple of continuous being, the universe is no longer divided up into objects so much as nexuses of relation, forever ebbing and flowing in and out of equilibrium. The law, the commandment, and other grand structures start to fade from view, to be replaced by common convention. Indeed both continuous and generic being shun the law in favor of the immanent mode of practice. Yet although practice may pertain to both things and nature, continuous being (for which Deleuze is the exemplar) places practice ultimately in the lap of nature. So while Deleuze and Guattari sing beautifully of the nomad with its war machine, or the child who hums a tune to fend off the dark, their most reverent words are saved for the strata of the Earth, which Deleuze describes so mystically as “the primary order which grumbles beneath.”
In this way, continuous being renounces metaphysics in favor of legato being, in which an undivided continuum of smooth, flowing aggregates attach fluidly to themselves across space, bounding into the unbroken continuum of time.
The “One-and-the-Same” of Generic Being
For Badiou, philosophy consists in thinking the generic as such. Philosophy consists in thinking the elemental condition of subtractive being, in which the specificities of discrete entities, including the apparatuses required to mold and maintain them as discrete entities, are dissolved in favor of a newfound agnostic totality of the particular entity.
If continuous being approaches immanence at the scale of nature, generic being approaches immanence at the scale of the person. If continuous being is thus ultimately a question of the affirmative infinity of nature, generic being is ultimately a meditation on the finitude of common existence and experience.
This is why Laruelle can speak of an immanence that is finite (as opposed to an immanent infinitude, which can only ever resemble God or some God proxy such as nature or the absolute). Likewise it is why Badiou can speak of truth, not in terms of grand overarching absolutes, but in terms of the generic fidelity to truth furnished to all persons. Hence the label One-and-the-Same: it affirms the generic sameness of unadorned personhood; it affirms the oneness evident in raw commonality. Here is Badiou:
“What we know about inventive politics at least since 1793, when it exists, is that it can only be egalitarian and non-Statist, tracing, in the historic and social thick, humanity’s genericity, the deconstruction of strata, the ruin of differential or hierarchical representations and the assumption of a communism of singularities. What we know about poetry is that it explores an unseparated, non-instrumental language, offered to everyone, a voice founding the genericity of speech itself. What we know about the matheme is that it seizes the multiple stripped of every presentative distinction, the genericity of multiple-being. What we know about love, at last, is that beyond the encounter, it declared its fidelity to the pure Two it founds and makes generic truth of the fact that there are men and women. Philosophy today is the thinking of the generic as such.”
In Badiou the generic revolves around these four truth procedures: politics, art, science, and love. Politics illuminates a generic humanity; poetry, a generic language; mathematical science, a generic multiple; love, a generic miracle of an intimacy that is “ours.”
But Badiou does not exhaust the sources of the generic, and we are not obligated to think about generic being strictly in these terms. Laruelle mentions in particular Feuerbach’s rupture with Hegel and his endorsement of “generic man,” as part of a longer tradition of “minor or minoritarian thinkers”:
“Hamann (against Kant), Jacobi (against Fichte), Eschenmayer (against Schelling), the Young Hegelians up to Stirner, and fully realized with Kierkegaard (against Hegel). A single key feature unites all these figures: how to break with philosophy, with its systematic nature, in the name of passion, faith, feeling? in the name of actually existing religious individuals? in the name of non-philosophy?”
At the intersection of both immanence and negativity, generic being operates through a subtractive logic. If dialectical being deploys the negative in the service of transcendental transformation (the persistence of the party through struggle, the persistence of spirit through actualization, and so on), generic being deploys the negative as a kind of pure bunker for thought. The One-and-the-Same hunkers down within immanence; its negativity is not that of negation, resistance, or opposition, but of solitude, absence, peace, and love. If the dialectic is an instance of provisional negation, the generic is an instance of pure negation. Its passwords are oblivion, withdrawal, subtraction, nothingness, commonality, something, whatever, equality, disappearance, exodus, and the impersonal.
Both Badiou and Deleuze have written on the generic. But perhaps the most well-developed theories of generic being come from Henry and Laruelle. If Deleuze and Guattari wrote about the dangers and affordances of a schizophrenic immanence, Henry and Laruelle gravitate instead to what I’ve been calling an autistic immanence. Their concern is not so much the fragmentation or multiplicity of the subject but a purely autonomous entity that need not go outside itself in order to realize itself, not so much an unbridled proliferation of relation running to and fro within the subject but a static parallelism consisting of the one and the person in superposition. “We must radicalize the Two (after first radicalizing the One),” writes Laruelle. “The generic shall be the Two fleeced of its totality or system.”
Indeed, generic being summons not so much an “immanence of everything,” as with continuous being, but an “immanence of something.” Deleuze’s immanence of everything views the plane of being as a space of endless multiplicity. But an immanence of something redirects focus from the plane to the entity, be it a person or the one itself. These something-entities are no longer elongated horizontally, like the subterranean offshoots of the rhizome, but instead persist modestly and finitely without differential multiplicity. Generic being is generic in its immanence. Not so much a generic totality, but a generic particularity. Not a generic infinity, but a generic finitude.
So while formerly the rivenness of being was resolved by proliferating such rivenness into endless repetitions of difference, here the rivenness of being is resolved by pretending it never happened: the fundamental cleavage is not repeated or rehearsed, it is not fetishized or ossified, and it is not reduplicated or multiplied; rather, the fundamental cleavage is deprived of itself and dissolved into a new state of impoverishment.
Like the three previous modes of the standard model, generic being has its own theory of the event. Instead of politics, morality, or theology, the generic event is understood as ethical practice. The generic is a lived relation, and therefore defined as an ethos. It follows no explicit goal and is subservient to no state of affairs, and is thus rooted strictly in practice. Practice may be the practice of nature, but it can also be, as it is here, the practice of entities themselves.
But this is an ethos of negation, not affirmation. The slogan now is not “Liberate your desires,” as it was with continuous being. The new slogan for generic being is “We have no demands” or “Withdraw, and leave being behind.” The mission is no longer to identify and legitimate new subject positions, as in the socially visible monikers of woman, proletarian, queer, and so on, but to slough off the very apparatus of subject formation that obliges a person to assume such a position. Yet even then, through the very rejection of subject formation, the generic being achieves a generalized woman, a generalized proletarian, or a generalized queer.
In this way, we should speak not of a staccato being, nor a harmonic, or legato being, but a quiescent being, a mode of living that grows quieter and quieter with each passing day, even as it passes more fully into whatever it is. Its virtues are rarely those of liberation -- more like withdrawal, abstinence, or discipline, that same discipline that has today been so thoroughly discounted and demoralized by the forces of liberation, in everything from May 1968 to capitalism itself.
Instead of the queer consumer, generic being produces something like a queer communism, in which the absence of a shared essential nature serves, perhaps ironically, as the common infrastructure for a new ethical life. Within generic being, therefore, the goal is not to liberate affect; the goal is to starve and suppress it. The self must not be granted new access to representation, new access to the metaphysical apparatus, but rather the self must decline such access. Thoroughly monastic in its structure, generic being nevertheless achieves a more profound sublimity: love in an intimacy unbound by fetish; a body in balance with an energy never wasted or exploited; communion through the absolute suspension of violence against the other; the self-revelation of being as something, whatever it is.
(Excerpted from Laruelle: Against the Digital [University of Minnesota Press: 2014], pp. 37-43.)