Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm von

  ---- by Brett Nicholls
  Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz is drawn into Deleuze's engagement with the history of philosophy with a book length study, The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque, and he is present at strategic moments in Deleuze's wider thinking. In The Fold Deleuze reinvigorates Leibniz's concept of the monad with the notion that the world is 'a pure emission of singularities' (D 1993a: 60). Leibniz insisted in Monadology (written 1714, published 1867) that the universe consists of discrete entities: monads. Monads are simple substances, indivisible and indestructible, with no windows through which anything can pass. The world that we inhabit is constituted by monads that converge in series. And, for Leibniz, varying series converge in a harmonious unity that is preestablished by God.
  Existence for Leibniz and Deleuze bursts forth in its various forms from one plane of singularities. This plane can be understood as the inexhaustible and unknowable totality of monads that provide the substance from which subjects and objects in their multifarious manners emerge. It would not be remiss, however, to say that Deleuze seeks to rescue Leibniz from idealism. Leibniz ultimately considered substance as immaterial. For Deleuze the 'pure emission of singularities' is an organic field of life forces. His interest is in what he calls an 'animal monadology' (D 1993a: 109), in which the 'animal in me' is less opposed to the alter ego (as in Edmund Husserl [1859-1938]) and rather, an aggregate of vital forces, monads, that are organised or folded in various ways.
  The concept of the fold, expounded as it is via Leibniz's insistence upon one substance, enables Deleuze to think the order of things in ways not determined by dualism. The distinction between the mind and the body, for instance, is produced by a kind of matter that has the capacity to fold in upon itself in order to perceive. Matter outside the mind does not perceive. Enfolding brings the relation of an inner and outer world into being. Unlike the body, the mind is enclosed matter, an interior that does not respond directly to the outside world. This enclosure can be understood as a form of theatre, one in which thinking, imagining and reflecting occur. Deleuze links the form of this theatre to baroque architecture, art and music, which he admires as 'Fold after fold' (D 1993a: 33).
  The subject emerges in Deleuze's work upon Leibniz not as an attribute of substance, an essence, but as a point upon which series converge. At one level, the universe as 'pure emission of singularities' is thus reflected in every individual as a virtual predicate, but with a limited point of view (D 1993a: 53). An identity emerges in and through the convergence of a series of singularities. This means that the subject is determined rather than determining, and for Leibniz, writing within a Christian cosmology, the stability of the determined subject is guaranteed by God. This position is outlined in Leibniz's Theodicy (1890). He held that the subject is determined in the convergence of what he calls a 'compossible world'. Any series that is bound by the same law, governed by the principle of non-contradiction, belongs to the same world. It is not possible, in this view, for Adam to be both a sinner and not a sinner in the same world. And while we can imagine other realities, say a world in which Adam is not a sinner, the principle of sufficient reason effectively guarantees that this and not that is the best possible world. Leibniz thus claimed to have arrived at a solution to the problem of evil; other worlds would simply be incompossible.
  Incompossibility signals the impossibility of the co-existence of worlds that diverge from the law of non-contradiction. Deleuze, however, in all of his engagements with Leibniz, goes to work upon this solution and alters the trajectory of Leibniz's thought. He proposes that incompossibility is a condition of compossibility. Rather than governed by the metaphysical law of non-contradiction, the world is multiple and the subject can be defined in relation to foldable, polychronic temporalities, where incompossibles and compossibles co-exist.We might think, therefore, of the divergence of series not as negation or opposition but as possibility.
  This emphasis upon divergence as possibility is sustained in Difference and Repetition (D 1994: 123) where Deleuze reads against Leibniz's insistence upon compossibility with the notion that 'basic series are divergent' since they are 'constantly displaced within . . . chaos'. In The Logic of Sense (D 1990: 109-17), incompossibility becomes the ground for the overlapping of sense and non-sense. And in Cinema 2: The Time Image (D 1989: 130-1), Leibniz figures as a thinker who has unwittingly opened up the problem of time and truth. In each of these works, Deleuze draws Leibniz into his rejection of dualism and his critique of the order of things. He is concerned with pushing Leibniz beyond the limits of the principle of sufficient reason to affirm that incompossibles belong to the same world. Living involves, after Deleuze's Leibniz, not the relation of truth and falsity but the affirmation of possibilities, the work of unfolding and folding compossible and incompossible series.
   § fold
   § force
   § substance

The Deleuze dictionary. . 2010.

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