salle des crises

It was the stoics who first concerned themselves with the logical implication of the event – that is, they were concerned with the seeming disjunction between the realm of the quantitative and the qualitative, which were what they were left with after Aristotle’s syllogisms. The classical example is the heap of sand. There is no one grain of sand that ‘crowns’ the heap, – it does not emerge as a thing to be analyzed quantitatively, its structure opening up, its covering – dermis, hide - transparent, to our pullulating pluses and minuses.

Of course, these are the issues that became famous, again, in the eighties and nineties with chaos and then complexity theory. But the event is the secret rail that many a fumbling soul has squeezed in the dark, going up the back stairs in the Castle. Lichtenberg, somewhere, remarks that the proportion of the corpuscle of light to the eye was similar to the proportion between the Meditteranean and a leaf that has fallen into it – and just as the corpuscle contributes, in its infinite smallness, to the face of the beloved or to any of our visual images, the leaf, for all we know, may create a disturbance in the water that effects the waves coming in on the China coast. Once we have dispensed with the usual metrics of the quantitative, we’ve entered a realm in which what is small and what is large, judged by effect, can’t be predetermined by our biases. We must wipe the impressions on the slate of the mind clean.

Deleuze’s chapter on the problematic begins with the stoic theme of the event – the ideal event. Deleuze, from the beginning, had been influenced by Emile Bréhier’s reconstruction of stoic logic, from which he drew upon to sketch out the nature of the event, one of the great themes in the whole of Deleuze’s work. He is drawn to events like addiction, schizophrenia, revolution – events in which the perspectives given us by addition and subtraction are unsatisfactory, insufficient, and morally degrading.

The event, then, for Deleuze consists of singularities that escape the domain of the quantitative – and yet have a distinct insistence in the world. These he calls ‘singularities”. He quotes Peguy about singularities in history – crises, critical points – and nears, in his language, the kind of talk that the complexity school, in the eighties, adopted as their own:

Péguy saw profoundly that history and the event were inseparable from such and such singular points: “there are critical points of the event as there are critical points of temperature, points of fusion, of congealing, of boiling, of condensation; of coagulation, of crystallization; and there are even, in the event, those states of superfusion that do not precipitate out, which don’t crystallize, which are only determined by the introduction of a fragment of the future event…” And Péguy knew how to invent an entire language, among the most pathological and aesthetic that one could dream of, for telling how a singularity is prolonged in a line of ordinary points, but also takes itself up into another singularity, redistributes itself in another set (the two repetitions, the bad and the good, that which enchains and that which saves).”

I should point out, here, that crisis was not only a term of art in early modern medicine, but – among the Mesmerists – became the supreme event, the moment when the cure of animal magnetism produced its convulsive or deranging effects on the body of the patient. Though I have yet to find any commenter remark upon the connection between Kierkegaard’s use of ‘experiment’, and its connection with seduction and temptation (which I will try to get back to later), there is a certain invisible ink, here. I smell it. I taste it. I am a great licker of pages. Crisis, is, of course, one of the great Kierkegaardian terms.

To return to Deleuze – while other philosophers have clung to the secret rail, Deleuze – and this is the thrill of reading him – seems to switch on a light. One that nobody has bothered to switch on before. In the midst of a sometimes puzzling language, taken from anywhere – having no problem with mismatching vernaculars if that is what it takes – Deleuze explains the seemingly chaotic nature of the event by putting it, ideally, under the reign of another temporal order – Aion. It is in that order that the problematic comes out of its shell, so to speak – no longer is it a subjective difficulty, but it is the horizon of the event itself.

And here I will pause for a yawning parenthesis, to write something about Repetition and freedom for the next post.


roger said…
North, you need to check out Rick Moody's upcoming novel, which I am reading for a review. Much much astronautica!