misusing Quentin Meillassoux’s “Subtraction and Contraction: Deleuze, Immanence and Matter and Memory” inter alia


Looking’s a matter of not seeing, listening a matter of not hearing…

In his reconstruction of Deleuze via Bergson, Quentin Meillasoux’s diagramme of the segmented circle showed two ways the living being has of negotiating the limitation of sensorial data. The limitation of the flows that traverse us is constitutive of our ability to know that we are traversed, but by too much, too many, and we die. Although to err in the opposite direction, and ward off interloping, interrupting realities altogether, and, equally, we die. Feast or famine: where neither option is desirable and a gradation of excesses is suggested.

The flows, the sheer bloody hormonal influx of difference, differenciating energies, at the threshold to adulthood, and those other overwhelming and decomposing cancers – cancer, after all, meaning unhaltable, uncontrollable growth, mad cell growth -, the thanatic and the erotic, the psychological maelstrom of first love, of unrequited love, of absent love, the whole erotic malaise, the thanatic fixations that are in fact still growths, differentiating processes, but ones, as all of these are, which are impersonal, pure affects, whatever fixed outcomes, fixes and medical, mediating representations we attach to them – and in that attachment, the prosthetic excess, the multiplication of characters, the circulation of new forms -, this disorderly procession of life happens without regard: we are assailed on all sides, now closing our segmented bodies, now opening them up, but essentially with the free will of actors, acted upon as much as acting, and playing roles we cannot choose – at the limit. And it would appear, on the face of it, that Meillassoux’s schema opposes Foucault’s.

For the latter, power is evident less in negation and injunctions against and more in incitements to act; that power is immanent and how we open up our segmented bodies is the effect power has on us, in us, and not over us. To close ourselves down, then, to shut out life, is to resist the impersonality of the flows of life as it is to become a resistant hard nub to the impersonal discourses of power.

No. You see they are not opposed: Foucault’s resistance was to generate counter discourses in a micropolitics, from the local and specific, against the dominant discourse of power, everywhere and general. However, there seems to be an advocacy of opening up, on the one hand, and an advocacy of closing down – for a politics of flows, which, when we identify these flows as belonging to the paradigm of capitalism, must be seen as good sense.

We don’t want to get carried away. We want to get carried away in a good way, not in a bad way. We have only each other to tell us what the difference is. And the other-structure becomes identified, in turn, with this moralism (positivist morality, protestant parsimony) when it provides the very conditions under which the limitation of flows can produce the subject who is told… too far in that direction you die lonely, too far in this direction the end is the same, but the journey has its compensations: at least you are productive.

There is something leading me to disagree entirely. Because it’s at the level of the segmented body we can’t choose. Which leads me to ask whether we can choose at all. Thought has no effect. But affects and quasicauses attach to it, representations, new modes and new forms: in this way it makes a difference.

Is to be open at this level to be open along the continuum of the segmented circle? Or is Meillassoux’s heuristic a dead form, which is interesting because it doesn’t produce difference? Like a tease, like today’s astrological reading. Or it produces at a level above or below as part of a new image: as an affect. I feel better or worse, depending on how the segments are today, closed, within an inch of their lives, open like wings, flung wide, like the doors to perception.

– Giotto, Noli Me Tangere, 1320s, San Francesco, lower church, Assissi

The segmented circle worries me. It gnaws exactly at my conscience. I have a hand over every hole, don’t touch me, the signs on each and every skin pore say, and I won’t take it from anybody that this is not the way to be; and I won’t accept that it is the production of desire – to which the powers incite – in which the difference inheres: that the good way is necessarily the way new things come into the world.

Today I am a small blue thing, she sang.


I returned to Quentin Meillassoux, as I ought to have some time ago, and found more than those meagre simplifications I had attributed to him. However, I felt the same misgiving, a similar discomfort to that which had led me to simplify his thoughts regarding the segmented circle in the first place. And I found no clear refutation of those thoughts, rather an endorsement by negation: the active creative courting of chaos is the “worst” – and what philosopher faced with the conceptual persona of the communicator would not choose the priest? that is, would not choose closing down to a monad (perhaps texting from in front of his TV) to opening up to the mad plethora of reality? (Note the compounding of negatives: faced with worst would not choose badly.)

To follow Deleuze, states Meillassoux, is to make a commitment to striking out into the chaotic maelstrom and to returning and to setting out again, having texted its reality from in front of the TV screen, to … whom? It is to cross the Acheron thrice. Who listens?

The rapprochement Meillassoux achieves in his reconstruction of Deleuze’s thought of immanence between his two preferred thinkers, Nietzsche and Bergson, derives from the notion that the censorship of perception is unfree. Therefore, the conceptual persona of the priest, the reactive ‘closing down’ becoming, expresses a complicity with life – whether puerile vitalism or not – in that life is unthinkable without closing down to a degree that is non-negotiable, unfree.

This constraint (on perception and constituting perception) of the unfree is acted out by the priest – in terms of conceptual persona, but persona nonetheless – in a becoming reactionary. And this reactive to reactionary turn ought to be able to be considered politically as well: faced with the risk of changing positions, of compromise, of difference, the priest opts for indifference, in a very particular sense.

An identitarian politics evolves directly from a universalist paradigm: out of the negation of identity, of subject, comes the subject fully formed and the identity of self-recognition; the political subject comes into existence without intermediary, immediately, springing forth from a chaos in which was found only his/her negation. Perhaps this is where Alain Badiou enters the discussion, with his concept of philosophy as being a subtraction, and the multiplicity of being being only accessible and intelligible through set theory. Philosophy can only point to what is not. Every thing that counts as one is then a false representation of reality for being subtracted from its set.

The logic of what is not – of the void, according to Alain Badiou, of being – giving rise to what is in one immediate step, or trait, or betrayal, perhaps, is it dissimilar to Gilles Deleuze’s conceptualising of the unthought of thought giving rise to thought? The beauty of this logic is as a movement: from the cancellation to the event in one gesture. Or decision. After which there can be no going back. Or defection. (Does reality become then the defection from irreality?)

I want to get closer to this movement. To dance it, I would have to have precluded from my repertoire the very gesture I was about to make. (But this is absurd!) It would not be enough that the gesture was repressed. And it could not be the case of the gesture being invested in any way with extra significance or interest. Creation ex nihilo is this, then, an arm, where before there was none and where that ‘none-ness’ of the arm were the direct predicate to the existence of the arm or the extension of the arm: No! to an arm.

Michel Foucault gives to the immediately formed political subject an intrinsic weight but does he hold onto the idea of the void from which the subject has made her leap? I’ve lately been following on <> a discussion about queer relational aesthetics and therefore am averted to the relationality of Foucault’s subject.

The question might be: in attending to the contact of the political subject, to the resistance of the floor, the thud, and inferring therefrom that he or she is at once a local and specific eventuality – and therefore occurs in relation to and not just in relation with – does the Foucauldian subject of power still offer a point of relation against which he or she eventuates? Is there a dark precursor to the political subject? Because it would appear that his or her gesture of resistance requires equally a state of affairs from which it could not follow.

– Stéphane Mallarmé, “Un Coup de Des”

The coup-de-dés of Deleuze’s queered Nietzsche then has this curious effect of displacement. And an untraceable origin. The conditions from which the difference differentiates bear no relation to it: the difference is not assignable to what makes it; hence, an impropriety, an improperness and darkness at ground level, at ground zero. Hence also, the spirit of negation to which Levi Bryant’s Ontic principle adheres, seemingly despite itself. There is no difference that does not make a difference, however, what makes a difference is divided from the difference made by an impassable gulf or abysm or cutting. Or crack. Until it seems almost that what differentiates the difference is not difference in itself but the force of a preceding negation. Might it not be that the affirmative power of difference is retroactive?

Or are there two processes: a creative incremental development, accretative, summative, adding to the sum of what is (known, thought, held, seen) by small differences, however nonteleological (in which would be included the deliquescence of habits, the melting of rigid formations, in play, for example); a reactive immediate eventuality, eventuation, ex nihilo, given rise to by conditions of negation, indifferent, by chance, perverse, absurd and aberrant, and without assignable origins?

They would share characteristics, like the unfreedom of Meillassoux’s living being to perceive, which still allows for incremental difference and growth in what can be perceived and which gives immediate rise to the subject of perception. And they would raise the issue of the poorly analysed compound: distinctions without differences.