- ---- by Claire ColebrookDeleuze might appear to be a purely inventive philosopher, avowedly creating concepts and vocabularies while rejecting the constraints of already formed metaphysical systems. Certainly, he would seem to be a far cry from the project of Martin Heidegger that approached Being through its philosophical history. Central to Heidegger's destruction of the history of philosophy was the way in which the concept and grammar of 'substance' had dominated thinking. In Difference and Repetition, Deleuze repeatedly refers to Heidegger's project of re-activating thinking, and part of this reactivation depends upon avoiding the logic of a certain understanding of substance. However, it is not only in his early works on the history of philosophy but also in his later work with Guattari that Deleuze engages with the concept of 'substance'. There are two reasons for the importance of this concept. Philosophically, the concept of susbstance goes back to the Greek term, hypokeimenon, or that which underlies, and to the concept of ousia, or that which remains present through a series of changes. We can think of a substance that then has various accidental qualities or predicates. The history of metaphysics has therefore debated just what counts as a substance, or that upon which all other properties depend. Deleuze takes part in, at the same time as he overturns this debate. For Deleuze, part of this overturning is to think of substance, not as a noun - something that is - but as an infinitive: not, 'The tree is green,' but a power 'to green'. So, Deleuze accepts the function of substance - that from which differentiated beings are expressed - but he does not see substance as some ultimate being or entity, but as a power of creation and expression.If we think of substance (as it is traditionally defined) as what exists in itself before all relations, requiring no other being in order to be, then this has two resonances in Deleuze's philosophy. First, following Baruch Spinoza, Deleuze argues that substance cannot be numerically several. This is because Spinoza adopts the traditional definition of something that exists in itself, but also says that substance is conceived through itself. We do not need more than one substance - say, the substance of mind that will represent or know the substance of matter. Substance - or what is - unfolds in two modes: the mode of extension (or spatial matter) and the mode of thought or mind. So there is just one substance that is then expressed both in thought and in body. If there were more than one substance - say mind and body (which is the Cartesian answer) then we would have to explain a relation between the two. But it is the very nature of substance to be independent of its relation to anything else. Substance must then be one, but it must also express itself differently. Indeed, real difference is only possible on such an account. We should not, for example, think of different minds as different substances. What is numerically several - all the different minds in the world - is substantially univocal; each mind is an expression of the one power of life to express itself in the attribute of mind; each is a different mode of the one attribute. Because there is only one substance we cannot say that mind is the origin or author of matter, or vice versa; all dualisms are invalid and arise from mistaking the expressions of substance - the relations unfolded from substance - for relations between substance. No substance is the cause or ground of any other; there is just one univocal substance that expresses itself infinitely, and cannot be reduced to any of its expressions, effects or accidents. This allows Deleuze to think of substance in terms of powers or potentials. We cannot reduce life to already effected relations, for there is also a power or potential to produce relations. In this sense, then, the metaphysical function of substance, as that which exists in itself before relations, and through itself, forms a vital role in Deleuze's work.In traditional metaphysics, a substance is whatever can exist without requiring any other being in order to be. For instance, there cannot be whiteness without some thing that is white; substance is the bearer of predicates or properties. Deleuze's philosophy is concerned with the problem of substance, for the usual commitment to substance allows philosophers to establish an ultimate reality or ground - what really is before its different expressions or perceptions. Even more importantly, God was established as the only true substance, while all other beings were said to 'be' only by analogy. Against ontology and the notion of substance as a preceding ground, Deleuze argues that all beings possess full reality - whiteness, a memory, a smile, a potentiality - and are equally real and are formally distinct while numerically one (that is, are truly different only because there is only one substance and so nothing is a lesser being in relation to any other).Connectives§ memory§ real
The Deleuze dictionary. Revised Edition Edited by Adrian Parr . 2010.