. . . . . . Organs without Bodies - Gilles Deleuze
. . . . . . . .5. Quasi-Cause

. . . . . . . .Slavoj Zizek

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So, on the one hand, Manuel DeLanda, in his excellent compte-rendu of Deleuze's ontology, affirms the logic of the "disappearance of process under product," the logic which relies on a long (also Hegelian-Marxist!) tradition of reification. "This theme of the disguising of process under product is key to Deleuze's philosophy since his philosophical method is, at least in part, designed to overcome the objective illusion fostered by this concealment." [1] And, the proper level of production is also unambiguously designated as that of virtualities: in and beneath the constituted reality, "the extensive arid "qualitative" properties of the final product," [2] one should discover the traces of the intensive process of virtualities - Being and Becoming relate as Actual and Virtual. How, then, are we to combine this unambiguous affirmation of the Virtual as the site of production which generates constituted reality, with the no less unambiguous statement that the virtual Is produced out of the actual?

Multiplicities should not be conceived as possessing the capacity to actively interact with one another through these series. Deleuze thinks about them as endowed with only a mere capacity to be affected, since they are, in his words, "impassive entities - impassive results." The neutrality or sterility of multiplicities may be explained inthe following way. Although their divergent universality makes them independent of any particular mechanism (the same multiplicity may be actualized by several causal mechanisms) they do depend on the empirical fact that some causal mechanism or another actually exists. /.../ they are not transcendent but immanent entities. /.../ Deleuze views multiplicities as 'Incorporeal effects of corporeal causes, that is, as historical results of actual causes possessing no causal powers of their own. On the other hand, as he writes, 'to the extent that they differ in nature from these causes, they enter, with one another, into relations of quasi-causallty. Together they enter into a relation with a quasi-cause which is itself incorporeal and assures them a very special independence.' /.../ Unlike actual capacities, which are always capacities to affect and be affected, virtual affects are sharply divided into a pure capacity to be affected (displayed by impassible multiplicities) and a pure capacity to affect. [3]

The concept of quasi-cause is that which prevents a regression into simple reductionism: it designates the pure agency of transcendental causality. Let us take Deleuze's own example from his Time-Image: the emergence of cinematic neorealism. One can, of course, explain neorealism by a set of historical circumstances (the trauma of World War II, etc.). However, there is an excess in the emergence of the New: neorealism is an Event which cannot simply be reduced to its material/historical causes, and the "quasi-cause" is the cause of this excess, the cause of that which makes an Event (an emergence of the New) irreducible to its historical circumstances. One can also say that the quasi-cause is the second-level, the meta-cause of the very excess of the effect over its (corporeal) causes. This is how one should understand what Deleuze says about being affected: insofar as the incorporeal Event is a pure affect (an impassive-neutral-sterile result), and insofar as something New (a new Event, an Event of/as the New) can only emerge if the chain of its corporeal causes is not complete, one should postulate, over and above the network of corporeal causes, a pure, transcendental, capacity to affect. This, also, is why Lacan appreciated so much The Logic of Sense: is the Deleuzian quasi-cause not the exact equivalent of Lacan's objet petit a, this pure, immaterial, spectral entity which serves as the object-cause of desire?

One should be very precise here in order not to miss the point: Deleuze is not affirming a simple psycho- physical dualism in the sense of someone like John Searle; he is not offering two different »descriptions« of the same event. It is not that the same process (say, a speech activity) can be described in a strictly naturalistic way, as a neuronal and bodily process embedded in its actual causality, or, as it were, "from within," at the level of meaning, where the causality ("I answer your question because I understand it") is pseudo- causality. In such an approach, the material-corporeal causality remains complete, while the basic premise of Deleuze's ontology is precisely that corporeal causality is NOT complete: in the emergence of the New, something occurs which CANNOT be properly described at the level of corporeal causes and effects. Quasi-cause is not the illusory theatre of shadows, like a child who thinks he is magically making a toy run, unaware of the mechanic causality which effectively does the work - on the contrary, the quasi-cause fills in the gap of corporeal causality. In this strict sense, and insofar as the Event is the Sense-Event, quasi-cause is non-sense as inherent to Sense: if a speech could have been reduced to its sense, then it would fall into reality - the relationship between Sense and its designated reality would have been simply that of objects in the world. Nonsense is that which maintains the autonomy of the level of sense, of its surface flow of pure becoming, with regard to the designated reality ("referent"). And, does this not bring us back to the unfortunate "phallic signifier" as the "pure" signifier without signified? Is the Lacanian phallus not precisely the point of non-sense sustaining the flow of sense?

One should therefore problematize the very basic DUALITY of Deleuze's thought, that of Becoming versus Being, which appears in different versions (the Nomadic versus the State, the molecular versus the molar, the schizo versus the paranoiac, etc.). This duality is ultimately overdetermined as "the Good versus the Bad": the aim of Deleuze is to liberate the immanent force of Becoming from its self-enslavement to the order of Being. Perhaps the first step in this problematizing is to confront this duality with the duality of Being and Event, emphasizing their ultimate incompatibility: Event cannot be simply identified with the virtual field of Becoming which generates the order of Being - quite the contrary, in The Logic of Sense, Event is emphatically asserted as "sterile," capable only of pseudo-causality. So, what if, at the level of Being, we have the irreducible multitude of interacting particularities, and it is the Event which acts as the elementary form of totalization/unification?

Deleuze's remobilization of the old humanist- idealist topic of regressing from the "reified" result to its process of production is telltale here. Is Deleuze's oscillation between the two models (becoming as the impassive effect; becoming as the generative process) not homologous to the oscillation, in the Marxist tradition, between the two models of "reification?" First, there is the model according to which reification/fetishization misperceives properties belonging to an object insofar as this object is part of a socio-symbolic link, as its immediate "natural" properties (as if products are "in themselves" commodities); then, there is the more radical young Lukacs (et al.) notion according to which "objective" reality as such is something "reified," a fetishized outcome of some concealed subjective process of production. So, in exact parallel to Deleuze, at the first level, we should not confuse an object's social properties with its immediate natural properties (in the case of a commodity, its exchange-value with its material properties that satisfy our needs). In the same way, we should not perceive (or reduce) an immaterial virtual affect linked to a bodily cause to one of the body's material properties. Then, at the second level, we should conceive objective reality itself as the result of the social productive process - in the same way that, for Deleuze, actual being is the result of the virtual process of becoming.

Perhaps the limit of Deleuze resides in his vitalism, in his elevation of the notion of Life to a new name for Becoming as the only true encompassing Whole, the One-ness, of Being itself. When Deleuze describes the gradual self-differentiation of the pure flux of Becoming, its gradual "reification" into distinct entities, does he not effectively render a kind of Plotinian process of emanation? Against this "idealist" stance, one should stick to Badiou's thesis on mathematics as the only adequate ontology, the only science of pure Being: the meaningless Real of the pure multitude, the vast infinite coldness of the Void. In Deleuze, Diffence refers to the multiple singularities which express the One of infinite Life, while, with Badiou, we get multitude(s) without any underlying One- ness. In Deleuze, Life is still the answer to "Why is there Something and not Nothing?," while Badiou's answer is a more sober one, closer to Buddhism AND Hegel: there IS only Nothing, and all processes take place "from Nothing through Nothing to Nothing," as Hegel put it.

In his notional determination of the constituted reality to be undermined by the shift towards the virtual space of becoming, Deleuze condenses the two levels which, for Heidegger in Sein und Zeit, form the most elementary ontological opposition, that of Vorhandene (present-at-hand) and Zuhandene (ready-at-hand): for Deleuze, this standard attitude simultaneously considers objects as isolated positive entities occupying a particular location in abstract geometric space, as objects of contemplative representation, and as objects perceived through the standpoint of the subject's existential engagement, reduced to their potential use within the horizon of the subject's interests, projects, desires, and so on. (For Heidegger, as well as for the late Husseri, the elementary metaphysical gesture is precisely the withdrawal from the immersion into a concrete life-world to the position of abstract observer.) The fact of this condensation does not imply any direct criticism of Deleuze: it can easily be shown that what he defines as the proper conceptual work of philosophy (or, at a different level, the work of art) undermines BOTH our immersion into the life-world and our position of abstract observers of reality. When a philosopher produces a new concept, or when an artist renders an affect in a new way, liberated from the closed circle of a subjectivity situated in a given positive reality, he shatters our immersion in the habitual life- world as well as our safe position as the observer of reality. We lose our position of abstract observers; we are forced to admit that new concepts or works of art are the outcome of our engaged production - yet, in the same gesture, philosophy or art also undermines our immersion in the habitus of a particular life-world. [4]

Is this opposition of the virtual as the site of productive Becoming and the virtual as the site of the sterile Sense-Event not, at the same time, the opposition of the "body without organs" (BwO) and "organs without body" (OwB)? Is, on the one hand, the productive flux of pure Becoming not the BwO, the body not yet structured or determined as functional organs? And, on the other hand, is the OwB not the virtuality of the pure affect extracted from its embeddedness in a body, like the smile in Alice in Wonderland that persists alone, even when the Cheshire cat's body is no longer present?: »'A11 right,' said the Cat; and this time it vanished quite slowly, beginning with the end of the tail, and ending with the grin, which remained some time after the rest of it had gone. 'Well! I've often seen a cat without a grin,' thought Alice; ' but a grin without a cat! It's the most curious thing I ever saw in my life!'" This notion of an extracted OwB reemerges forcefully in The Time-Image, in the guise of the GAZE itself as such an autonomous organ no longer attached to a body. [5] These two logics (Event as the power which generates reality; Event as the sterile, pure effect of bodily interactions) also involve two privileged psychological stances: the generative Event of Becoming relies on the productive force of the "schizo," this explosion of the unified subject in the impersonal multitude of desiring intensities, intensities that are subsequently constrained by the Oedipal matrix; the Event as sterile, immaterial effect relies on the figure of the masochist who finds satisfaction in the tedious, repetitive game of staged rituals whose function is to postpone forever the sexual passage a 1'acte. Can one effectively imagine a stronger contrast than that of the schizo throwing himself without any reservation into the flux of multiple passions, and of the masochist clinging to the theater of shadows in which his meticulously staged performances repeat again and again the same sterile gesture?

So, what if we conceive of Deleuze's opposition of the intermixing of material bodies and the immaterial effect of sense along the lines of the Marxist opposition of infrastructure and superstructure? Is not the flow of becoming superstructure par excellence - the sterile theater of shadows ontologically cut off from the site of material production, and precisely as such the only possible space of the Event? In his ironic comments on the French Revolution, Marx opposes the revolutionary enthusiasm to the sobering effect of the "morning after": the actual result of the sublime revolutionary explosion, of the Event of freedom, equality, and brotherhood, is the miserable utilitarian/egotistic universe of market calculations. (And, incidentally, is not this gap even wider in the case of the October Revolution?) However, one should not simplify Marx: his point is not the rather commonsensical insight into how the vulgar reality of commerce is the "truth" of the theater of revolutionary enthusiasm, "what all the fuss really was about." In the revolutionary explosion as an Event, another Utopian dimension shines through, the dimension of universal emancipation which, precisely, is the excess betrayed by the market reality which takes over "the day after" - as such, this excess is not simply abolished, dismissed as irrelevant, but, as it were, transposed into the virtual state, continuing to haunt the emancipatory imaginary as a dream waiting to be realized. The excess of revolutionary enthusiasm over its own "actual social base" or substance is thus literally that of an attribute-effect over its own substantial cause, a ghost- like Event waiting for its proper embodiment. It was none other than G.K. Chesterton who, apropos of his critique of aristocracy, provided the most succinct Leftist egalitarian rebutal of those who, under the guise of respect for traditions, endorse existing injustice and inequalities: "Aristocracy is not an institution: aristocracy is a sin; generally a very venial one." [6]

Here, we can discern in what precise sense Deleuze wants to be a materialist - one is almost tempted to put it in classic Stalinist terms: in opposition to the mechanical materialism which simply reduces the flow of sense to its material causes, dialectical materialism is able to think this flow in its relative autonomy. That is to say, the whole point of Deleuze is that, although sense is an impassive sterile effect of material causes, it does have an autonomy and efficiecy of its own. Yes, the flow of sense is a theater of shadows, but this does not mean that we should neglect it and focus on "real struggle" - in a way, this very theater of shadows is the CRUCIAL site of the struggle; EVERYTHING is ultimately decided here. William Hasker perspicuously drew attention to the strange fact that critics of reductionism are very reluctant to admit that the arguments against radical reductionism are false: "Why are so many non- eliminativists strongly resistant to the idea that eliminativism has been conclusively refuted?" [7] Their resistance betrays a fear of the prospect that, if their position fails, they will need reductionism as the last resort. So, although they consider eliminativism false, they nonetheless strangely hold onto it as a kind of reserve ("fall-back") position, thereby betraying a secret disbelief in their own non-reductionist materialist account of consciousness - this being a nice example of a disavowed theoretical position, of the fetishist split in theory. (Is their position not homologous to that of enlightened rational theologians who nonetheless secretly want to keep open the more "fundamentalist" theological position they constantly criticize? And, do we not encounter a similar split attitude in those Leftists who condemn the suicide-bomber attacks on the Israelis, but not wholeheartedly, with an inner reservation - as if, if "democratic" politics fails, one should nonetheless leave the door open for the "terrorist" option?) Here, one should return to Badiou and Deleuze, since they really and thoroughly reject reductionism: the assertion of the "autonomy" of the level of Sense-Event is for them not a compromise with idealism, but a NECESSARY thesis of a true materialism. [8] And, what is crucial is that this tension between the two ontologies in Deleuze clearly translates into two different political logics and practices. The ontology of productive Becoming clearly leads to the Leftist topic of the self-organization of the multitude of molecular groups which resist and undermine the molar, totalizing systems of power - the old notion of the spontaneous, non-hierarchical, living multitude opposing the oppressive, reified System, the exemplary case of Leftist radicalism linked to philosophical idealist subjectivism. The problem is that this is the only model of the politicization of Deleuze's thought available: the other ontology, that of the sterility of the Sense-Event, appears "apolitical." However, what if this other ontology also involves a political logic and practice of its own, of which Deleuze himself was unaware? Should we not, then, proceed like Lenin in 1915 when, in order to ground anew revolutionary practice, he returned to Hegel - not to his directly political writings, but, primarily, to his Logic? What if, in the same way, there is another Deleuzian politics to be discovered here? The first hint in this direction may be provided by the already- mentioned parallel between the couple corporeal causes/immaterial flow of becoming and the old Marxist couple infrastructure/superstructure: such a politics would take into account both the irreducible duality of "objective" material/socio-economic processes taking place in reality as well as the explosion of revolutionary Events, of the political logic proper. What if the domain of politics is inherently "sterile," the domain of pseudo-causes, a theatre of shadows, but nonetheless crucial in transforming reality?


[1] Manuel DeLanda, op.cit., p. 73.

[2] Manuel DeLanda, op.cit., p. 74.

[3] Manuel DeLanda, op.cit., p. 75.

[4] What is a concept? It is not only that, often, we are dealing with pseudo-concepts, with mere representations (Vorstellungen) posing as concepts; sometimes, much more interestingly, a concept can reside in what appears to be a mere common expression, even a vulgar one. In 1922, Lenin dismissed "the intellectuals, the lackeys of capital, who think they're the brains of the nation. In fact, they're not its brains, they're its shit."(Quoted in Helene Carrère D'Encausse, Lenin, New York: Holmes & Meier 2001, p. 308.) As Badiou did apropos of Sartre's (in)famous claim that "anti-communists are dogs," one should, instead of shamefully ignoring this statement, take the risk and elaborate the underlying CONCEPT of shit.

[5] One of the metaphors for the way mind relates to body, that of a magnetic field, seems to point in the same direction: "as a magnet generates its magnetic field, so the brain generates its field of consciousness"'(William Hasker, The Emergent Self, Ithaca: Cornell University Press 1999, p. 190). The field thus has a logic and consistency of its own, although it can persist only as long as its corporeal ground is here. Does this mean that mind cannot survive the body's disintegration? Even here, another analogy from physics leaves the gate partially open: when Roger Penrose claims that, after a body collapses into a black hole, one can conceive the black hole as a kind of self-sustaining gravitational field - so even within physics, one considers the possibility that a field generated by a material object could persist in the object's absence. (See Hasker, op.cit., p. 232).

[6] G.K.Chesterton, Orthodoxy, San Francisco: Ignatius Press 1995, p. 127.

[7] William Hasker, op.cit., p. 24.

[8] There is nonetheless a specific seductive charm in a (similar to Dennett concerning qualia), the position of blatantly DENYING our most "immediate" experience. Is this not the ultimate paradox: that the materialists whose standard starting point is the defense of immediate material reality against all transcendent claims end up denying our most immediate experience of reality?

Slavoj Zizek's Bibliography

Slavoj Zizek's Chronology

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