the structure of rehearsals with book – mementi vitae (or three & four paradoxes of time): contemporaneity, coexistence, preexistence & conservation or coexistence of the past in and with itself

Regardless of whether we wish to think difference as essence, structure, assemblage, machine, system, or whatever other term we might fetishize to the detriment of actual inquiry, all of these notions become incomprehensible in the absence of an ontological dimension like Memory or the virtual. The reason for this is that they all rely on the notion of a structural, essential, machinic, systematic, or assemblage-based causality which is static with respect to events they render possible, rather than dynamic like the causality belonging to actual entities, which moves from actuality to actuality.

the world of causes and effects, of actual entities does not recognise the continuity of relations, their ontological efficacy, but only the ever-shifting movements of real beings transferring force to one another. We here encounter one of the fundamental reasons explaining why we tend to think of the world in terms of subjects or individuals and atomic objects, rather than the systems of relations organising them. … We fail to recognise a specifically structural causality. In this respect, it can honestly be said that Deleuze attempts to provide the ontology proper to structuralism. … structuralism dreams of a transcendental philosophy carrying itself all the way to the individual.

The First Paradox of Memory: Contemporaneity

we must be able to to determine the properties or dimensions which belong to Memory in its very being. … If such a thing as paradox is possible, this is always from the perspective of empiricism and recognition, and not the transcendental itself.

The first paradox of memory is expressed as follows:

No present would ever pass were it not past “at the same time” as it is present; no past would ever be constituted unless it were first constituted “at the same time” as the present. This is the first paradox: the contemporaneity of the past with the present that it was. It gives us the reason for the passing of the present. Every present passes, in favour of a new present, because the past is contemporaneous with itself as present. (D[ifference and ]R[epetition, p. ]81)[all citations from Deleuze are in the Levy Bryant text]

If the past were not contemporaneous with the present, then the present would be unable to pass. As such, time would deteriorate into a collection of disconnected instants forming nothing but an eternal present. … the past is both the past as such yet present with the present as well. … the past is not past in the sense of being consigned to oblivion … but is actually there with the present in the moment of the present’s passing. … the past and the present constitute themselves at the same time. … For Deleuze, time does not move in a linear fashion from instant to instant, but progresses by perpetually dividing itself between past and present like a river dividing its flow at a fork between two streams.

[My gloss in italics:]
3 mediations: 1) to determine the present we must needs first determine the past (or, Brecht: “it is difficult to transform something that isn’t there to be transformed”); 2) insofar as the present determines itself, it does so by the determination of its difference from the past; 3) Deleuze:

The passive synthesis of habit constituted time as a contraction of instants with respect to a present, but the active synthesis of memory constitutes itself as the embedding of presents themselves. (DR81)

The first passive synthesis … sets up a system of temporal relations between differences which function as signs of retention and expectation within experience. … [these relations – called a sign-signal system by Deleuze – work outside of necessity] … In this respect, habitus [or passive synthesis] serves as a condition for active synthesis [memory] insofar as it delimits the representational possibilities or relations between present presents and former presents. It is necessary for there to be a system of sign relations preceding any act of active representation on the part of consciousness.

Far from being derived from the present or from representation, the past is presupposed by every representation. (DR80)

memory may be founded on habit (the active on the passive synthesis) but it is in turn grounded by a transcendental condition which Deleuze calls “peculiar to memory itself.”

Whereas the passive synthesis of habit constitutes the living present in time and makes the past and the future two asymmetrical elements of that present, the passive synthesis of memory constitutes the pure past in time, and makes the former and the present present (thus the present in reproduction and the future in reflection) two asymmetrical elements of this past as such. (DR80)

Both the active synthesis of memory and the passive synthesis of habit refer to the pure past as the ground of the possibility of their own respective syntheses. It is in this respect that we must say the past is contemporaneous with the present. … The past is the third term functioning as the medium of communication in which events unfold. It is the … past as such, which enables the active synthesis to reproduce the former present in the present present, and which allows the first passive synthesis to contract differences int he formation of a living present or duration.

The Second Paradox of Memory: Coexistence

If each past is contemporaneous with the present that it was, then all of the past coexists with the new present in relation to that which it is now past. The past is no more “in” this second present than it is “after” the first – whence the Bergsonian idea that each present present is only the entire past in its most contracted state. … the past, far from being a dimension of time, is the synthesis of all time of which the present and the future are only dimensions. We cannot say that it was. It no longer exists, it does not exist, but it insists, it consists, it is.(DR81-82)

If the past is the condition under which the present passes, then it cannot be constituted after the present passes, for in this case time would be powerless to begin.

However, while we can certainly grant this thesis from the perspective of the requirements of articulating a transcendental condition, it is still not immediately clear why this entails that the entirety of the past coexists with the present,that all the past is in some sense already there. Does this not effectively undermine the claim that the present passes and that pillar of Deleuze’s thought: that being is creative? If the entirety of the past is always already there, then how is it possible for anything new to be created at all?

while we can indeed say that the past is “different” for each present present from the perspective of active synthesis, this is not because the past passes, but because different dimensions of the past are actualized with the emergence of a present. As Deleuze puts it, time does not move from present to past, but from past to present. [The past is; the present was.]… It is also for this reason that Deleuze often claims that we place ourselves directly in the past, that we leap into the past itself, in the act of recollection. [Note that such recollection is (was) involuntary.]

The past becomes an ontological dimension, not a dimension of the present or the future. These are dimensions of it.

we think of memory as a representation of the present rather than granting it the ontological autonomy which belongs to it. … we then take Deleuze to be claiming that a leap into the past involves some sort of time travel which returns us to the present which has been lost. … What must forever be kept firmly in mind is that the past is a past that has never been present. … the past is not said to exist, but to insist and consist. … It is the past which renders existence as ex-stasis or standing-forth possible insofar as it is the condition under which active synthesis and the first passive synthesis become possible. [This is the meaning of the past being the ground.]

And contrary to (empirical) expectation and retention:

Because the entirety of the past coexists with the present, it follows that each present must be absolutely new. [Bigness added.] … for each present there is no going back, … we have lived it once and for all. It is for this reason that Deleuze says that repetition is never a repetition of the same, but rather it is always a repetition of the different, of the unique, of the new.

Bryant here digresses in an extremely worthwhile passage about Badiou’s reading of Deleuze’s notion of memory as grounding truth. Badiou, Bryant shows, misreads Deleuze at the moment where the new is made possible by the paradox of the coexistence of all of the past with every present. Deleuze does not say that memory is true and experience a fiction. He argues that the ground of experience is not found within it but in the past which coexists with it. Memory does not have a special all areas pass. But is able to plunge experience into a confrontation with a past, and represent this past through the signal-sign system of ‘memory,’ the active synthesis. (The word Deleuze uses for this doubling of memory and memory and past and past is ‘asymmetrical.’ The flow, as it were, is from the virtual to the actual: pure past to a past, the memorandum to our memory. Our workaday assumptions remain intact because they are dimensions of this transcendental dimension of time: virtuality.

Bryant then asks Badiou to account for his own concept of the event as a spatial multiplicity without having a ground in time as an ontological order. Badiou, I infer from what Bryant is saying, gives a structural account of the event without accounting for the ontology proper to that structuralism.

The Third Paradox of Memory: The Preexistence of the Past

I will add bigness:

each past is contemporaneous with the present it was, the whole past coexists with the present in relation to which it is past, but the pure element of the past in general preexists the passing present. There is thus a substantial temporal element (the Past which was never present) playing the role of ground. This is not itself represented. It is always the former or present present which is represented. The transcendental passive synthesis bears upon this pure past from the triple point of view of contemporaneity, coexistence and pre-existence. By contrast, the active synthesis [memory] is the representation of the present under the dual aspect of the reproduction of the former and the reflection of the new. The latter synthesis is founded upon the former, and if the new present is always endowed with a supplementary dimension, this is because it is reflected in the element of the pure past in general, whereas it is only through this element that we focus upon the former present as a particular. (DR82)

With respect to the third paradox [the past is pure passing but in preexisting any particular present it is what enables the present to pass], we are also reminded of the Bergsonian thesis that duration is substance. To claim that duration is substance is not to claim that it is existence. Rather, to claim that memory is substance (recalling here the other Bergsonian claim that duration is memory) is to claim that the past, Memory, is that which stands beneath, that which supports, that which enables; that it is hupokeimenon. Far from claiming that Memory is existence, which can only properly be attributed to the present of that which is not, the claim that Memory is substance is nothing other than the claim that Memory is the transcendental condition under which the present is able to pass.

The Fourth Paradox of Memory: The Coexistence of the Past with Itself

this whole past coexists with itself, in varying degrees of relaxation … and of contraction. The present can be the most contracted degree of the past which coexists with it only if the past first coexists with itself in an infinity of diverse degrees of relaxation and contraction at an infinity of levels (this is the meaning of the famous Bergsonian metaphor of the cone, the fourth paradox in relation to the past). Consider what we call repetition within a life – more precisely, within a spiritual life. Presents succeed, encroaching upon one another. Nevertheless, however strong the incoherence or possible opposition between successive presents, we have the impression that each of the them plays out “the same life” at different levels. This is what we call destiny. (DR82-83)

How would a new present come about if the old present did not pass at the same time that it is present? How would any present whatsoever pass, if it were not past at the same time as present? The past would never be constituted if it had not been constituted first of all, at the same time that it was present … [In other words, we strike the same block with a past to get to the past as we did with a present to get to the present.] If the past had to wait in order to be no longer, if it was not immediately and now that it had passed, “past in general,” it could never become what it is, it would never be that past. (B[ergsonism, pp. ]58-9)

half of the passing present is always already submerged in the past. There is no generality here, but rather the singularity of the event. Consequently, to speak of a past in general is not to say that there is a quality of pastness as such which then comes to be filled by particular presents which pass, but is rather to say that the ontological dimension of the past is fully at work in all of our experience. In fact, here we come before one of the most important aspects of memory: unlike kinds, memories are always singular and unique. … memories always have the character of events. What is general in memory is not memory as such, but the motor diagrammes or schemes that come to be formed between memory and habit, between the first synthesis of time and the second synthesis of time. For it is in the dimension of the future as it is found in habitus [passive synthesis] that generality, serving as the foundation of the active synthesis of recognition, comes to characterise our experience. [Bigness added to point to a tangent worth examining later in detail.]

all of our experience is accompanied by an essential unconscious halo of obscurity flickering about its field of clarity, such that each present expresses the totality of the past in a contracted state. … Proust, as is well known, was deeply inspired by Bergson. [An excellent tangent.]

The point at which memory converges with the present constitutes the most contracted degree of Memory, while the Whole of Memory constitutes the most relaxed moment of Memory. Each specific level or plane of Memory expresses all of the others, contains all of the others, or coexists with all of the others but in a more or less contracted way.

(1) memory as such is necessarily forgotten and is thus unspeakable, and (2) … any discussion of memory constitutes a creative actualization of memory which draws it into empirical experience. To say that the Revolutionary War was a war for American independence from England represents a very relaxed degree of the past. This is because it leaves the relations composing the war highly unspecified. A greater contraction of such a memory would consist in claiming that the war was brought about due to a lack of representation with respect to taxes. Finally, the greatest degree of contraction would consist in living through an individual skirmish expressive of the war as an event. In each of these cases the degree or level of the past involved is distinct from the others, yet nonetheless they all express one another in a manner similar to Russian dolls embedded within on another. Each contraction involves a specification of relations moving forward in degrees of ever-greater complexity. It is in this sense that the past coexists with itself. Not only do the various levels of memory coexist with one another, but they express or implicate one another as well.

– Levy Bryant, Difference and Givenness, pp. 112-125