Univocity, Duality, and Ideal Genesis: Deleuze and Plato

In Abraham Jacob Greenstine & Ryan J. Johnson (eds.), Contemporary Encounters with Ancient Metaphysics. Edinburgh University Press. pp. 65-85 (2017)
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In this essay, we consider the formal and ontological implications of one specific and intensely contested dialectical context from which Deleuze’s thinking about structural ideal genesis visibly arises. This is the formal/ontological dualism between the principles, ἀρχαί, of the One (ἕν) and the Indefinite/Unlimited Dyad (ἀόριστος δυάς), which is arguably the culminating achievement of the later Plato’s development of a mathematical dialectic.3 Following commentators including Lautman, Oskar Becker, and Kenneth M. Sayre, we argue that the duality of the One and the Indefinite Dyad provides, in the later Plato, a unitary theoretical formalism accounting, by means of an iterated mixing without synthesis, for the structural origin and genesis of both supersensible Ideas and the sensible particulars which participate in them. As these commentators also argue, this duality furthermore provides a maximally general answer to the problem of temporal becoming that runs through Plato’s corpus: that of the relationship of the flux of sensory experiences to the fixity and order of what is thinkable in itself. Additionally, it provides a basis for understanding some of the famously puzzling claims about forms, numbers, and the principled genesis of both attributed to Plato by Aristotle in the Metaphysics, and plausibly underlies the late Plato’s deep considerations of the structural paradoxes of temporal change and becoming in the Parmenides, the Sophist, and the Philebus. After extracting this structure of duality and developing some of its formal, ontological, and metalogical features, we consider some of its specific implications for a thinking of time and ideality that follows Deleuze in a formally unitary genetic understanding of structural difference. These implications of Plato’s duality include not only those of the constitution of specific theoretical domains and problematics, but also implicate the reflexive problematic of the ideal determinants of the form of a unitary theory as such. We argue that the consequences of the underlying duality on the level of content are ultimately such as to raise, on the level of form, the broader reflexive problem of the basis for its own formal or meta-theoretical employment. We conclude by arguing for the decisive and substantive presence of a proper “Platonism” of the Idea in Deleuze, and weighing the potential for a substantive recuperation of Plato’s duality in the context of a dialectical affirmation of what Deleuze recognizes as the “only” ontological proposition that has ever been uttered. This is the proposition of the univocity of Being, whereby “being is said in the same sense, everywhere and always,” but is said (both problematically and decisively) of difference itself.

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Paul Livingston
University of New Mexico
John Bova
University of New Mexico

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