disjunctive synthesis


disjunctive synthesis
  ---- by Claire Colebrook
  At its most general, the disjunctive synthesis is the production of a series of differences. The significance of the concept of disjunction in Deleuze's work is threefold. First, whereas structuralism conceives difference negatively, such that an undifferentiated or formless world is then differentiated by a structure. Deleuze regards difference positively, so disjunction is a mode of production. There is a potential in life to produce series: a desire can attach to this, or this or this; a vibration of light can be perceived as this, or this, or this. Second, the differences of disjunction are transversal. There is not one point or term (such as consciousness or language) from which differences are unfolded or connected; consciousness can connect with a language, a machine, a colour, a sound, a body, and this means that series may traverse and connect different potentials. Sexual desire, for example, might leave the series of body parts - breast, or mouth, or anus, or phallus - and invest different territories - the desire for sounds, for colour, for movements. Finally, disjunction is not binary. Life should not be reduced to the miserable logic of contradiction or excluded middle either you want liberalism or you don't; either you're male or female; either you're for the war or for terrorism - for disjunction is open and plural: neither liberalism nor terrorism, but a further extension of the series.
  The concept of synthesis is central to both Difference and Repetition and Anti-Oedipus. In Difference and Repetition Deleuze rewrites Immanuel Kant's three syntheses (from the Critique of Pure Reason). For Kant, our experienced world of time and space is possible only because there is a subject who experiences and who connects (or synthesises) received impressions into a coherent order. For Deleuze, by contrast, there is not a subject who synthesises. Rather, there are syntheses from which subjects are formed; these subjects are not persons but points of relative stability resulting from connection, what Deleuze refers to as 'larval subjects'. In Anti-Oedipus Deleuze and Guattari expand the concept of the three syntheses into political terms: association, disjunction and conjunction. Association is the connection, not just of data (as in Kant's philosophy), but also of bodies or terms into some manifold or experienced thing, an 'assemblage'. Disjunction, the second synthesis, is the subsequent possibility of relations between or among such assembled points of relative stability, while conjunction or the third synthesis is the referral of these terms to the ground or plane across which they range.
  The disjunctive synthesis is important for two reasons. First, Deleuze argues that all syntheses (or ways of thinking about the world) have legitimate and illegitimate uses, or an immanent and transcendent employment. Syntheses are immanent when we recognise that there are not subjects who synthesise the world; there is not a transcendent or external point beyond the world from which synthesis emerges. Rather, there are connections, syntheses, (desires) from which points or terms are effected. No point or term can be set outside an event of synthesis as its transcendent ground, so there can be no transcendental synthesising subject as there was for Kant. Second, the subjection of modern thought lies in the illegitimate use of the disjunctive synthesis. From relations or syntheses (passions, sympathies) among bodies certain terms are formed, such as the mother, father and child of the modern family. We should, then, see male-female relations or gender as a production, as a way in which bodies have been synthesised or assembled. One can be male or female.
  The Oedipus complex is the disjunctive synthesis in its transcendent and illegitimate form: either you identify with your father and become a subject (thinking 'man') or you desire your mother and remain other than human. An immanent use of the synthesis would refuse this exclusive disjunction of 'one must be this or that, male or female'. Instead of insisting that one must line up beneath the signifier of man or woman and submit to the system of sexual difference, Deleuze and Guattari open the disjunctive synthesis: one can be this or this or this, and this and this and this: neither mother nor father but a becoming-girl, becoming-animal or becoming imperceptible.
  Connectives
   § becoming
   § desire

The Deleuze dictionary. . 2010.

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