virtual / virtuality

virtual / virtuality
  ---- by Constantin V.Boundas
  In Deleuze's ontology, the virtual and the actual are two mutually exclusive, yet jointly sufficient, characterisations of the real. The actual/real are states of affairs, bodies, bodily mixtures and individuals. The virtual/real are incorporeal events and singularities on a plane of consistency, belonging to the pure past - the past that can never be fully present. Without being or resembling the actual, the virtual nonetheless has the capacity to bring about actualisation and yet the virtual never coincides or can be identified with its actualisation. Deleuze leans upon Duns Scotus when he insists that the virtual is not a potential. Other philosophical influences for his concept of the virtual include Henri Bergson and his critique of the possible, Baruch Spinoza's idea of one substance that is differentiated in its infinite attributes and always in the process of being further differenciated in its modes, and finally Friedrich Nietzsche's concept of the 'eternal return'.
  One way of characterising becoming is with the following schema: virtual/real4actual/real4virtual/real. What such a diagram points to is that becoming is not a linear process from one actual to another; rather it is the movement from an actualised state of affairs, through a dynamic field of virtual/real tendencies, to the actualisation of this field in a new state of affairs. This schema safeguards the reversible nature of virtual and actual relations.
  Meanwhile in different contexts Deleuze has characterised the virtual as the durée and élan vital in his studies of Bergson; as Ideas/structures and the realm of problems in Difference and Repetition whereby the diverse actualisations of the virtual are understood as solutions; and finally throughout many of his texts he referred to the virtual as an event. The variety of characterisations given the virtual by Deleuze raises the question of how the virtual ought to be understood and the extent to which each characterisation is complicit in the next. That the virtual is the Bergsonian durée and élan vital stems from the basic agreement between Deleuze and Bergson regarding the structure of temporality. Any actual present passes only because all presents are constituted both as present and as past. In all past presents the entire past is conserved in itself, and this includes the past that has never been present (the virtual).
  The idea of a past that has never been present (the immemorial past) can also be found in the writings of Jacques Derrida and Emmanuel Lévinas. The reasons for its postulation vary from one thinker to another, but there is one thing that they have in common: any philosophy that puts a premium on the de-actualisation of the present, in order to tap the resources of the past or the future, runs the risk of reifying the past (as in Plato's recollection) and the future (as in some apocalyptic eschatologies). To prevent this reification, the notions of the immemorial past and the messianic future (Deleuze prefers to talk of the pure past and of the eternal repetition of the different) succeed in safeguarding the idea of a process that presupposes non-determining tendencies. The past is called 'pure' in order to emphasise that it is the site of problems and the source of actualisations; that the realm of solutions is limited in numbers and, unlike the virtual past, it is rich in extention and poor in intensity; and that, occasionally, a great artist may assist something past to reveal its real being as if in a time that has been nobody's present. To the extent that both Deleuze and Bergson agree durée is not empty; rather it is an immanently differentiated dynamic process of the real whose nature is always to actualise itself in novel differenciations. Hence, the appropriate name 'élan vital'.
  Boldly transforming Kantianism in Difference and Repetition, Deleuze begins to identify the virtual with Ideas. An Idea, for Immanuel Kant, has no instantiations in the empirical world, yet at the same time it must be thought. Deleuze retains this imperative when he thinks of the virtual (for example, the cogitandum) but he moves beyond pure Kantianism when he multiplies Ideas by making them the gerundives of all faculties (the memorandum, the loquendum, and so on). The claim that Ideas are structures in large part comes from the prevailing structuralist vocabulary Deleuze uses throughout Difference and Repetition. In later work, Deleuze elaborates upon this claim that Ideas are structures when he describes the nature of the virtual in terms of a plane of consistency. Most important for Deleuze is that the virtual is not to be understood as duplicating or resembling the actual, nor should it be taken to mean transcendence. Simply put, problems do not resemble or represent their solutions.
  Were we to understand the relationship between virtual singularities and actual individuals in terms of resemblance or analogy, we would reduce the notion of repetition that Deleuze advances simply to a repetition of the same. To understand how the virtual may be characterised as an event we need to recall Deleuze's theory of sense, which is given in the infinitive of verbs (a verb, unlike a noun or an adjective, is better suited for an ontology of becoming). In their infinitival modes, verbs best introduce the untimely nature of the virtual, and the absence of subjects or objects; yet they also introduce the strange combination: the impassive and dynamic aspects of multiplicities in the process of actualisation.
   § becoming
   § differentiation / differenciation
   § duration
   § event

The Deleuze Dictionary. Revised Edition. . 2015.

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