language, ontology

Deleuze/Foucault’s Ontology of the Statement and the Visible

Language, Rarity, Reality

What theory of language emerges in Gilles Deleuze’s reading of friend and fellow “French philosopher” Michel Foucault in Foucault (1986)? Foucault, Deleuze claims, “deals only with statements” (1), which are distinguished from propositions and phrases as “essentially rare,” de facto and de jure (2). Propositions (undefined; defined by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy as the information content expressed by linguistic elements) are “stacked on top of one another” and “can be thought of in any number of ways [… in which ] the differences between types [… can be used] to express any one in terms of the others” (2). This vertical hierarchy of propositions compose a “typology [… that] lays itself open to abstraction, creat[ing] a type for each level that is in fact superior to its constituent elements” (2), presumably by which a proposition gains value or makes sense. A proposition is thus understood from above (perhaps in terms of its information content or truth value), explained by a higher “type.” Phrases, implicitly defined as “what is really said” (2), are on the other hand characterized by a “horizontal relationship […] in which each seems to respond to another” (1) yet “one phrase denies the existence of others” (2). This foreclosure makes the phrase de facto rare, yet implies “virtual or latent content [that, perhaps through horizontal reference,] multiplies meaning and opens itself up to interpretation, creating a ‘hidden discourse’ that de jure is a source of great richness” (2). Both rare and rich, phrases are thus almost but not quite statements. In fact, this richness subjects phrases to “a dialectic [… that] is always open to contradiction” (2), which, ironically, is yet another avenue for multiplication. “Contradiction and abstraction are the means by which phrases and propositions are multiplied, since one phrase can always be opposed to another, or one proposition formed on the basis of another” (2-3).

In contrast, “statements […] inhabit a general realm of rarity [… where there is] no sense of possibility or potentiality”: “everything in them is real and all reality is manifestly present” (3). As such, given a statement, there are no other statements implied (even if there are other statements, they are of the same status as, not merely implied by, the first) and there is no higher type that, while not manifest, abstractly lends it reality. It seems that Deleuze is talking about a statement at a particular time/place, i.e. a particular statement: “All that counts is what has been formulated at a given moment, including any blanks and gaps” (3). In fact, however, what is contingently characteristic is ontologically definitive: “Statements can be opposed to one another, and placed in hierarchical order,” but these “contradictions” and “comparisons” are located “within this space of rarity” (the space of statements) “linked to a mobile diagonal line” by which statements are related (3). Thus what seems like a characterization of a statement at the moment of its utterance turns out to be the definition of the statement (what makes it a statement, what defines statements in general). This definition, as Deleuze/Foucault assert, hinges on rarity: “statements are essentially rare” (2). This implies “not only [that] few things are said, but [that] ‘few things can be said [or stated]’” (3). This is a matter not of originality (“no originality is needed in order to produce [statements as] a statement always represents a transmission of particular elements distributed in a corresponding space” [3]), but of regularity, the statement “associated not with the transmission of particular elements presupposed by it but with the shape of the whole curve to which they are related, and more generally with the rules governing the particular field in which they are distributed and reproduced” (4). Thus rather than produced by or referring to a particular subject or context (“there are many places from which any subject can produce the same statement”), “a statement accumulates into a specific object which then becomes preserved, transmitted or repeated” (4).

Three Realms that Encircle the Realm, Repetition and Difference, Identity and the Subject

Elaborating, Deleuze notes the “three different realms of space which encircle any statement [posited in its own realm of rarity]” corresponding to three different functions of the statement, three senses of its regularity (4). “There is collateral space […] formed from other statements that are part of the same group” on the basis of “rules of formation [that] cannot be reduced either to axioms, as in the case of propositions, or to a single context, as in the case of phrases” (4-5). Whereas axioms are higher types that “determine certain constant and intrinsic factors and define a homogeneous system” and a particular context is one among many systems delimited according to “extrinsic variable factors,” rules of formation are immanent, “found on the same level as” the statement, which “is inseparable from an inherent variant” and “operates neither laterally nor vertically but transversally” (5). With statements, “we never remain wholly within a single system but are continually passing from one to the other (even within a single language)” and “a group […] is […] ‘formed’ by rules of change or variation to be found on the same level, and these rules make the ‘family’ a medium for dispersion and heterogeneity” (5). For instance, “even when they seem to operate within the same language, statements of a discursive formation move from description to observation, calculation, institution and prescription, and use several systems or languages in the process” (5). As such, this space is characterized by adjacency or association in which “each statement is inseparable [from a multiplicity] via certain rules of change (vectors)” and “each statement is itself a multiplicity, not a structure or a system”—a topology rather than a typology or dialectic (6).

There is “correlative space,” “concerned with the link which a statement entertains […] with its subjects, objects and concepts” (6). Rather than the “linguistic ‘I,’” the subject of enunciation that links the phrase to “the intrinsic constant (the form of the ‘I’) and the extrinsic variables (where he who says ‘I’ creates a sense of form),” the statement refers “to certain intrinsic positions which are extremely variable and form part of the statement itself” (6). “The same statement can [for example] offer several different positions for the speaking subject” and be stated in different contexts for various reasons, with the “positions stem[ming] from the statement itself” (7). Rather than the external referent (“information content” in the SEP) that predicates a proposition’s intrinsic purpose on something “extrinsic and variable,” “a statement has a ‘discursive object’ which does not derive in any sense from a particular state of things, but stems from the statement itself” (7-8). Rather than a signified, “an extrinsic variable to which [a word] is related by virtue of its signifiers (an intrinsic constant),” statements “possess their own discursive concepts or ‘schemata’ […] to be found at the intersection of different systems and are cut across by the statement” that account, for example, for “the groupings and contrasts which medical statements make between various different symptoms at any particular age of discursive formation” (8). “If statements can be distinguished from words, phrases or propositions, it is because they contain their own functions of subject, object, and concept in the form of ‘derivatives’” such that “what seems accidental from the viewpoint of words, phrases and propositions becomes the rule from the viewpoint of statements” (9). In short, subject, object, and concept, according to Deleuze/Foucault, derive from the statement itself, and intrinsically rather than contingently.

This does not mean, however, that the statement is closed in on itself. There is, finally, “the complementary space of non-discursive formations ([Deleuze’s translation of Foucault’s] ‘instructions, political events, economic practices and processes’)” (9). This, Deleuze implies, is the space of institutions extrinsic to yet connected to discourse in a relation of mutual implication: “Any institution implies the existence of statements such as a constitution, charter, contracts, registrations and enrolments. Conversely, statements refer back to an institutional milieu which is necessary for the formation both of the objects which arise in such examples of the statement and of the subject who speaks from this position” (9). Importantly, Deleuze argues that the relation “between the non-discursive formations of institutions and the discursive formations of statements” is not one of expression (“a sort of vertical parallelism [… in which] two expressions symboliz[e] one another”) or reflection (“a horizontal causality in which events and institutions would determine the nature of the supposed author of the statement”) (9-10). Rather, “non-discursive milieux, which are not in themselves situated either inside or outside the group of statements […,] form the above-mentioned limit [of discursive relations], the specific horizon without which these objects could neither appear nor be assigned a place in the statement itself” (10). Thus the relation between them is one of repetition (“only ‘the statement may be repeated’”), but under strict conditions: “The area of the distribution, the allocation of unique elements, the sequence of place and event, the link established with an instituted milieu—in each case, all these must be the same in order to give the statement a ‘materiality’ that makes it repeatable” (10).

The strictness of the conditions by which repetition takes place, Deleuze continues, is “a result of that internal materiality that makes repetition itself the power that a statement is alone in possessing” (11). This internal materiality has to do with the way that “a statement always defines itself by establishing a specific link with something else that lies on the same level as itself: that is, something else which concerns the statement itself (and not the meaning or elements of that statement)” (11). Is the non-discursive that constitutes its limit akin to the meaning or elements of the discursive that are excluded from its self-definition, or is it (“not […] situated either inside or outside [the collateral space of] the group of statements”) the something else that concerns and lies on the same level as the statement? By internal materiality, Deleuze seems to mean internal difference, which makes possible a multiplicity’s (not necessarily one statement, but the realm of statements) relation to itself: “This ‘other thing’ may also be a statement [another or the same statement?], in which case the statement openly repeats itself. But rather than being a statement, almost inevitably it is something foreign, something outside [of the statement, but not necessarily outside the group of statements?]” (11). Either Deleuze is arguing that the relation between the discursive and the non-discursive is ultimately rooted in the internally material/different discursive (in which case discourse is not closed in on itself, but everything, not only the correlative subjects, objects, and concepts, but also the complementary non-discursive, seemingly begins from it) or the non-discursive, the above-limit, is itself in the realm of statements, constituting the materiality/difference of the discursive (which would make internal difference more material, consisting in the substantial difference between the discursive and the non-discursive). In any case, “a statement is in itself a repetition [by the discursive of the non-discursive, and vice versa?], even if what it repeats is ‘something else’ that nonetheless ‘is strangely similar and almost identical to it’ in which it is “the tiny difference that paradoxically creates identity” (12). Deleuze does not clarify whether this is the “difference” between the discursive and the non-discursive in which “identity” in a very particular sense (not so much sameness, e.g. same meaning or elements, as mutual presupposition and situation in the same realm even if in different spaces) constitutes their link (akin to the difference and link between signifier, signified, and referent) or the difference between statements (based on their particulars) that lend each one an identity (a way of identifying them) (akin to the differential relation between signifiers). Either way, the indebtedness to Saussure’s structural signification is implicit, but, of course, with a difference (compare to Derrida’s deconstruction).

Deleuze highlights the difference of his theory with summary pronouncements that reiterate the hallmarks of his elaborate ontology: “Statements are not […] a synthesis of words and things, or […] composite phrases or propositions. On the contrary, they precede the phrases or propositions which implicitly presuppose [statements], and lead to the formation of words and objects” (12). “Structure is propositional, has an axiomatic nature that can be tied to a specific level and forms a homogeneous system, while a statement is a multiplicity that passes through all levels and ‘cuts across a domain of structures and possible unities, and which reveals them, with concrete contents, in time and space.’ The subject is the product of phrases or dialectic and has the character of a first person with whom discourse begins, while the statement is an anonymous function which leaves a trace of subject only in the third person, as a derived function” (14-5). Foucault’s “endpoint is the statement, [this time defined as] the simple inscription of what is said” (15): Foucault is not out to get some hidden meaning, but is focused “only [on] the statement’s presence in the space of dispersion that constitutes the ‘family’ [the collateral space or the general realm of rarity that is the realm of statements]” at the same time that “the statement is not immediately perceptible but is always covered over by phrases and propositions” (16).

Deleuze then sums up Foucault’s “concrete method”: “We are forced to begin with words, phrases and propositions, but we organize them into a limited corpus that varies depending on the problem raised” (17). “The words, phrases and propositions examined by the text must be those which revolve round different focal points of power (and resistance) set in play by a particular problem” (17). “Once the corpus has been established (which does not in any sense impose limits on the statement), we can then determine the way in which language gathers round or ‘falls’ into this corpus” (17-8). “It is therefore possible to isolate statements from words, phrases and propositions. Statements are not words, phrases or propositions, but rather formations thrown up by the corpus in question only when the subjects of the phrase, the objects of the proposition and the signifieds of the words change in nature: they then occupy the place of the ‘One speaks’ and become dispersed throughout the opacity of language. […] The language coagulates around a corpus only in order to facilitate the distribution or dispersion of statements and to stand as the rule for a ‘family’ that is naturally dispersed” (18). Despite Deleuze/Foucault’s disinvestment from / overinvestment against the speaking subject, the linguistic ‘I,’ the “we” with which the summation begins, not only puts the subject, if anonymously and collectively (as beings of language?), back in the process, but places it in an almost originary, if forced, position (along with language), in which statements, seemingly primary in previous descriptions, turn out to be themselves derived from (“thrown up by”) a broader corpus (presumably rarer than language but not as rare as statements) when there is a “change in nature.” It is only after this process that statements “then” become primary—transforming the collective and anonymous but subjective “we” into the generic, passive, and objective “One”—and do the work Deleuze attributes to them above, connecting the discursive and the non-discursive through repetition while containing subjects, objects, and concepts in it and associating with other statements (the “family”) in a rare realm of dispersion, subject to language (that “stand[s] as the rule”) and motivated or driven by change.

While this abstract mechanism (pragmatics?) defines statements, not all statements are the same. Deleuze adds that there are many statements (e.g. science and knowledge more broadly) that “lack a common denominator and cannot be reduced or made equivalent in any discursive way” (20). “There is always a point in space and time when series begin to diverge and become redistributed in a new space, and it is at this point that the break takes place,” (21) this break constituting “the limits of a family or discursive formation” (20). Deleuze also highlights the historical character of statements, but in a geological rather than sequential way: “Whether discursive or not, formations, families and multiplicities are historical. They are not just compounds built up from their coexistence but are inseparable from ‘temporal reactors of derivation’; and when a new formation appears, with new rules and series, it never comes all at once, in a single phrase or act of creation, but emerges like a series of ‘building blocks,’ with gaps, traces and reactivations of former elements that survive under the new rules. Despite isomorphisms and isotopies, no formation provides the model for another. The theory of divisions is therefore an essential part of the system. […] Instead of simply displaying phenomena or statements in their vertical or horizontal dimensions, one must form a transversal or mobile diagonal line” (21-2).

Form of Articulation and Form of Visibility, Informal Purity Producing New Reality, Abstract Become Concrete through the Intensive

Following Foucault, Deleuze rearticulates the discursive and the non-discursive, two social formations that may overlap but are heterogeneous (“no correspondence or isomorphism, no direct causality or symbolization”) (31), into the form of articulation and the form of visibility, respectively. Whereas the form of articulation is “a system of language that classifies and translates […] and calculates […]; a family of statements that is also a threshold,” the form of visibility that “not only […] display[s …] but in itself constitutes a visibility, […] is a system of light before being a [particular] figure […] defined […] by a visual assemblage and a luminous environment” (32). Visibility, “a thing [… e.g.] prison […] seen as an environmental formation (the ‘prison’ environment) and a form of content (where the content is the prisoner)” (31), also “a way of acting on bodies” (32), “does not refer back to a ‘word’ designating it or to a signifier for which it would be the signified,” but rather “refers to completely different words and concepts […] which express a new way of articulating infractions, sentences and their subjects,” e.g. “penal law.” This articulation to which visibility refers, “this formation of statements [is] a form of expression” (31). The non-discursive and the discursive thus become translated as “a system of light and a system of language [that] are not the same form, and do not have the same formation” (32). “A form of content,” Deleuze clarifies, “has its own statements and regulations [e.g. the rules of the prison? … and that] a form of expression […] has its contents [… presumably the] series of offences [listed by penal law]” (33) that, apparently, are apart from articulation being the form of expression of visibility and prison being the form of content articulated by penal law. Yet, “the two forms continue to come into contact, seep into one another and steal bits for themselves: penal law still leads back to prison […] while prison continues to reproduce delinquency, make it an ‘object,’ and realize the aims which penal law had conceived differently” (33). “There is a mutual presupposition operating between the two forms, yet there is no common form, no conformity”: visibility “forms or organizes matter; [… articulation] forms or finalizes functions and gives them aims” (33). Between them, there is not so much correspondence as “coadaptation” (33).

This coadaptation between visibility and articulation, this dynamic, intersecting relation between multiplicities, can be explained by “conceiv[ing] of pure matter and pure functions [presumably formless, i.e. pure before gaining form], abstracting the forms which embody them” (33). This “dimension” without form is what Foucault calls the “‘diagram,’” Deleuze’s “abstract machine” “defined by its informal functions and matter and in terms of form makes no distinction between content and expression” (34). “There are as many diagrams as there are social fields in history” (34), each of which “involves a different relation between forces” (synonymous with “particular strategies” and “power relations” [36]) and in which there are “intermediary diagrams in which we shift from one society to another” (35). A diagram, which “is intersocial and constantly evolving,” “never functions in order to represent a persisting world but produces a new kind of reality, a new model of truth. It is neither the subject of history, nor does it survey history. It makes history by unmaking preceding realities and significations, constituting hundred of points of emergence or creativity, unexpected conjunctions or improbable continuums” (35). By defining the relation of forces that underpin the social prior to matter and function gaining form away from the present (“the subject of history”) and the past (“nor does it survey history”) and as by default driven toward the new (if only by “unmaking preceding realities and significations”), Deleuze implies that a diagram could never and does not fully approximate society (consistent with his view, in accord with Foucault, of it being productive rather than representative). At the same time he asserts that “every society has its diagram(s)” (35), in which perhaps the conflict/tension among them “doubles history with a sense of continual evolution” (35), leading to the new (needless to say, an optimistic view).

“The diagram,” Deleuze repeats, “acts as a non-unifying immanent cause that is coextensive with the whole social field” (37). He then clarifies the relation between the abstract and the concrete—different from the relation between visibility and articulation and between matter and function—in terms of the intensive process by which the virtual becomes actual, in the process explaining the emergence of the two formations from the informal: “There is a correlation or mutual presupposition between cause and effect, between abstract machine and concrete assemblages (it is for the latter that Foucault most often reserves the term ‘mechanisms’). If the effects realize something this is because the relations between forces, or power relations, are merely virtual, potential, unstable, vanishing and molecular, and define only possibilities of interaction, so long as they do not enter into a macroscopic whole capable of giving form to their fluid matter [i.e. visibility] and their diffuse function [i.e. articulation]. But realization is equally an integration, a collection of progressive integrations that are initially local and then become or tend to become global, aligning, homogenizing and summarizing relations between forces” (37). “Concrete assemblages […] integrate qualified substances [i.e. the formed visible …] and finalized functions [i.e. the formed articulation …] and ultimately this realization and integration is a differentiation […] because the diagrammatic multiplicity can be realized and the differential of forces integrated only by taking diverging paths, splitting into dualisms, and following lines of differentiation without which everything would remain in the dispersion of an unrealized cause” (37-8). Deleuze describes this differential process as doubling, perhaps a translation of what is earlier referred to as repetition: “Things can be realized only through doubling or dissociation, creating diverging forms among which they can then be distributed, [… producing] the great dualities [e.g. between classes …]. But, more than this, it is here that two forms of realization [what in earlier books Deleuze refers to as actualization] diverge or become differentiated: a form of expression and a form of content, […] the form of the visible and the form of the articulable” (38). The informal diagram is posited in between these two emergent forms: “It is precisely because the immanent cause, in both its matter and its functions, disregards form that it is realized on the basis of a central differentiation which, on the one hand, will form visible matter, and on the other will formalize articulable functions. Between the visible and the articulable a gap or disjunction opens up, but this disjunction of forms is the place—or ‘non-place,’ as Foucault puts it—where the informal diagrams is swallowed up and becomes embodied instead in two different directions that are necessarily divergent and irreducible” (38). In other words, the abstract diagram is the primordial unity or, better yet, multiplicity that inevitably actualizes difference, leading to the great oppositions but also to the difference between articulation and visibility, the discursive and the institution/s.

Ontology of Complexity/Multiplicity/Difference, Strata: Systems and Machines of Conditions, Non-Relation in Truth

Instead of a binary opposition, this ontology allows Deleuze to posit a complex relation between power and knowledge: “If knowledge consists of linking the visible and the articulable, power is its presupposed cause; but, conversely, power implies knowledge as the bifurcation or differentiation without which power would not become an act” (39). Likewise, it allows Deleuze to describe the entities he has posited as multiplicities on the spectrum between the virtual and the actual in terms of what Foucault calls a machine: “The concrete machines are the two-form assemblages or mechanisms [the concrete attributed with a form of visibility and a form of articulation; “every mechanism is a mushy mixture of the visible and the articulable” 38], whereas the abstract machine is the informal diagram” (39). “It is as if the abstract and concrete assemblages constituted two extremes, and we moved from one to the other imperceptibly. Sometimes the assemblages are distributed in hard, compact segments. […] Sometimes […] they communicate within the abstract machine which confers on them a supple and diffuse microsegmentarity” (40). “If we continue to move from one extreme to the other, this is because each assemblage sets off the abstract machine, but in varying degrees” (41). Finally, Deleuze reiterates the foundation of his ontology on difference, thereby relegating interiority (consistent with the so-called “death of the subject,” also associated with Foucault) and hylomorphism (which informed his earlier distinction of actualization from realization) as secondary: “These forms [or articulation and visibility] neither enclose nor interiorize anything; they are ‘forms of exteriority’ through which statements and visible things are dispersed” (43). Deleuze likewise reiterates his emphasis on the new: “There is a history of assemblages, just as there is development and change in the diagram” (42). “The history of forms, of the archive, is doubled by an evolution of forces, the diagram [Deleuze refers to this doubling in his earlier works as double articulation]. The forces appear in ‘every relation from one point to another’: a diagram is a map, or rather several superimposed maps. And from one diagram to the next, new maps are drawn. Thus there is no diagram that does not also include, besides the points which it connects up, certain relatively free or unbound points, points of creativity, change and resistance” (44).

Deleuze then repeats his discussion of the visible and the articulable, the discursive and the non-discursive, but with a difference, i.e. by discussing realms or fields (comparable to what he describes in the beginning as space and which could be read as a radically different version of Marx’s base and superstructure) rather than entities. Deleuze calls these realms strata, “historical formations, positivities or empiricities,” “‘sedimentary beds’ […] made from things and words, from seeing and speaking, from the visible and the sayable, from bands of visibility and fields of readability, from contents and expressions” (47). He clarifies, however, that “the content has both a form and a substance: for example, the form is prison and the substance is […] the prisoners [… and that] the expression also has a form and substance: for example, the form is penal law and the substance is ‘delinquency’ in so far as it is the object of statements” (47). “Just as penal law as a form of expression defines a field of sayability […], so prison as a form of content defines a place of visibility” (47). Deleuze asserts that an age or a period is defined by distribution in the strata: “Each stratum […] implies a distribution of the visible and the articulable which acts upon itself; […] from one stratum to the next there is a variation in the distribution, because the visibility itself changes in style, while the statements themselves change their system” (48). “A way of saying and seeing, discursive practices and forms of self-evidence: each stratum is a combination of the two, and in the move from one stratum to the next they vary in terms of composition and combination” (48). Notably, for Foucault, according to Deleuze, “the statement has primacy” (49), but “only because the visible has its own laws” and precisely for which “the visible contests it with its own form, which allows it to be determined without being reduced” (50). “The places of visibility will never have the same rhythm, history or form as the fields of statements, and the primacy of the statement will be valuable only in this way, to the extent that it brings itself to bear on something irreducible” (50). For Deleuze, the particular combination of forms constitutes what Foucault calls knowledge: “Knowledge is the unity of stratum which is distributed throughout the different thresholds,” “which impose particular layers, splits and directions on the stratum in question,” “the stratum itself existing only as the stacking-up of these thresholds beneath different orientations,” the practices—“the discursive practices of statements [and/or] the non-discursive practices of visibilities”—“exist[ing] beneath archaeological thresholds whose shifting points of demarcation constitute the historical differences between strata” (51).

Breaking from Saussure, Deleuze/Foucault assert that the statement is not the signifier since it is “a function that crosses different unities, tracing a diagonal line more akin to music than to a signifying system” and that visibilities do not constitute the signified or the referent because they “are not forms of objects, nor even forms that would show up under light, but rather forms of luminosity which are created by the light itself and allow a thing or object to exist only as a flash, sparkle or shimmer,” i.e. “not […] elements that are visible or more generally perceptible” (52). Deleuze then argues for a process of opening up or extraction that would lead to the emergence of statements and visibilities. “Statements […] are never hidden, yet they are not directly readable or even sayable” (53). “The statement does remain hidden, but only if we do not rise to its extractive conditions; on the contrary, it is there and says everything as soon as we reach these conditions” (54). “Statements become readable or sayable only in relation to the conditions which make them so and which constitute their single inscription on an ‘enunciative base’” (54). “The subject is a variable, or rather a set of variables of the statement” (55). The statement “is offered up by the ‘there is language,’ ‘the being of language’ or the language-being, that is to say by the dimension involved, which is not to be confused with any of the directions to which language refers” (55-6). For their part, “visibilities are never hidden, [but] they are nonetheless not immediately seen or visible. They are even invisible so long as we consider only objects, things or perceptible qualities, and not the conditions which open them up,” which are “not the way in which a subject sees [since] the subject who sees is himself a place within visibility” (57). Visibilities are “first and foremost forms of light that distribute light and dark, opaque and transparent, seen and non-seen, etc.” (57). “As statements are inseparable from systems, so visibilities are inseparable from machines. A machine does not have to be optical; but it is an assembly of organs and functions that make something visible and conspicuous” (58). “Therefore there is a ‘there is’ of light, a being of light or a light-being, just as there is language-being. Each of them is an absolute yet historical, since each is inseparable from the way in which it falls into a formation or corpus. The one makes visibilities visible or perceptible, just as the other made statements articulable, sayable or readable” (58). “Each historical formation sees and reveals all it can within the conditions laid down for visibility, just as it says all it can within the conditions relating to statements, [… these constituting the] two forms of exteriority within which dispersion and dissemination take place, sometimes of statements, sometimes of visibility” (59-60).

Deleuze claims that the two forms “go beyond any behavior, mentality or set of ideas, since it makes these things possible” (49). “Speaking and seeing, or rather statements and visibilities, are pure Elements, a priori conditions under which all ideas are formulated and behavior displaced, at some moment or other” (60). While this sounds like Kantianism, Deleuze elaborates on Foucault’s revision of it: “The conditions are those of real experience (statements, for example, assume a limited corpus); they are on the side of the ‘object’ and historical formation, not a universal subject (the a priori itself is historical); all are forms of exteriority. But […] visibilities together with their conditions form a Receptivity, and statements together with their conditions form a Spontaneity. The spontaneity of language and the receptivity of light. […] Receptive does not mean passive, since there is as much action as passion in whatever light reveals. Spontaneous does not mean active, but rather the activity of an ‘Other’ which acts upon the receptive form” (60). Thus Deleuze is able to clarify the process in which the two forms are combined and determined: “Visibilities […] refer to a form of the determinable, which refuses to be reduced to the form of determination [i.e. articulation]. […] The problem is that of the coadaptation of the two forms or two sorts of conditions, which differ in nature” (61). Deleuze claims that there are “procedures of truth” (63) in which “truth offers itself to knowledge only through a series of ‘problematizations’ […] created only on the basis of ‘practices,’ practices of seeing and speaking” (64), more precisely “enunciative methods [articulation or the extraction of statements] and machine-like process [the extraction of visibilities]” (63).

Consistent with his ontology, Deleuze explains the combination of the extraction of statements and of visibilities in Foucault’s procedures of truth through the non-relation and determination of forms different in nature: “These two halves of truth must enter into a relation, problematically, at the very moment when the problem of truth denies any possible correspondence or conformity between them” (64). “The conjunction is impossible for two reasons: the statement has its own correlative object and is not a proposition designating a state of things or a visible object […] but neither is the visible a mute meaning, a signified of power to be realized in language. […] The archive, the audiovisual is disjunctive” (64). “Between the two there is a perpetual irrational break. […] But there is a continual relinking which takes place over the irrational break” (65). “The unique limit that separates each one is also the common limit that links one to the other, a limit with two irregular faces, a blind word and a mute vision” (65). “Between the two there is no isomorphism or conformity, in spite of a mutual presupposition and the primacy of the statement” (61). “The two heterogeneous forms comprise a condition and a conditioned element, light and visibilities, language and statements; however, the condition does not ‘contain’ the conditioned element but offers it in a space of dissemination, and offers up itself as a form of exteriority” (66). Even as they may be simultaneous, “the statement has primacy by virtue of the spontaneity of its conditions (language) which give it a determining form, while the visible element, by virtue of the receptivity of its conditions (light), merely has the form of the determinable. [… Yet,] the two forms differ in nature” (67). As such, “only statements are determining and revelatory, even though they reveal something [visibility?] other than what they say” (67). “The visible figures and the signs of writing combine, but in a different dimension to that of their respective forms” (69).

Power/Knowledge, Integration: Institution and Agency, Regularity and (Non-)Relation

This dimension different from their forms in which visibility and articulation combine, their distribution constituting a stratum, is the dimension of power. Rehearsing Foucault, Deleuze explains that “power is a relation between forces” (70) and that “an exercise of power shows up as an affect, since force defines itself by its very power to affect other forces (to which it is related) [force in active mode, related to spontaneity] and to be affected by other forces [force in reactive mode, related to receptivity]” (71). Deleuze then relates the two modes of force constituting a power relation to the two forms of the concrete, but at the informal level (the level of the abstract diagram): “The power to be affected is like a matter of force [that which is organized by visibility], and the power to affect is like a function of force [that which is finalized by articulation]” in their moment/state of purity, when matter is “unformed” and function “non-formalized” (71-2). Elaborating on what Foucault describes as the power/knowledge nexus, Deleuze explains the relation in ways similar to his description of the dynamic between statements and visibilities, but in which the difference consists not on the object or the realm, but on the (state of) form(ation) of the entity with which they are concerned. The difference, in other words, is between the virtual and the actual. Deleuze writes, “Between power and knowledge there is a difference in nature or a heterogeneity; but there is also mutual presupposition and capture; and there is ultimately a primacy of one over the other. […] Knowledge concerns formed matters (substances) and formalized functions, divided up segment by segment according to the two great formal conditions of seeing and speaking, light and language: it is therefore stratified, archivized, and endowed with relatively rigid segmentarity. Power, on the other hand, is diagrammatic: it mobilizes non-stratified matter and functions, and unfolds with a very flexible segmentarity. In fact, it passes not so much through forms as through particular points, which on each occasion mark the application of a force, the action or reaction of a force in relation to others” (73). If visibility and articulability make possible and condition the procedures of truth that lead to knowledge of (actual) statements and visibilities, the power relations between forces—which “constitute a strategy” [73]—are (in a virtual, but no less real, sense) at work at the site at which or before matters and functions diverge and gain form. “Power relations […] make […] possible and provoke forms of knowledge [savoirs] which can more or less cross an epistemological threshold or create a practical knowledge [conaissance]” (74). “Conversely, relations between forces will remain transitive, unstable, faint, almost virtual, at all events unknown, unless they are carried out by the formed or stratified relations which make up forms of knowledge [savoirs]” (74). “This leads to the affirmation of a complex or power and knowledge that ties together the diagram and the archive, and articulates them on the basis of their difference in nature” (75). Consistently, Deleuze forges links where there is difference.

Deleuze elaborates on these ideas by repeating the claims in a different way, once again relying on his ontology of the virtual/actual. “Power-relations are the differential relations which determine particular features (affects). The actualization which stabilizes and stratifies them is an integration: an operation which consists of tracing ‘a line of general force,’ linking, aligning and homogenizing particular features, placing them in a series and making them converge,” consisting not in a global process but in “a multiplicity of local and partial integrations” (75). “The integrating factors or agents of stratification make up institutions, [… which] are practices or operating mechanisms which do not explain power, since they presuppose its relations and are content to ‘fix’ them, as part of a function that [unlike power] is not productive but reproductive” (75). “The most general character of the institution […] seems to consist of organizing […] molecular or ‘microphysical’ relations around a molar agency” (76). “It is these integrations or molar agencies which constitute forms of knowledge [savoirs],” “an institution necessarily ha[ving] two poles or elements: ‘apparatuses’ and ‘rules’” (76). “Actualization integrates only by also creating a system of formal differentiation”: “In each formation there is a form of receptivity that constitutes the visible element, and a form of spontaneity that constitutes the articulable element,” “the two forms [being] derived from these affects [in which power manifests], and find in them their ‘internal conditions.’ For the power relation has no form in itself, but establishes contact between unformed matter (receptivity) and unformalized functions (spontaneity). On the other hand relations of knowledge, on each side, deal with formed substances and formalized functions by using the receptive kind of visible element, or the spontaneous kind of articulable element” (77). “There is no confusion, therefore, between the affective categories of power (of the ‘incite’ and ‘provoke’ variety) and the formal categories of knowledge (such as ‘educate,’ ‘look after,’ ‘punish,’ and so on), the latter passing through seeing and speaking in order to actualize the former. But it is precisely for this reason, by virtue of this displacement which excludes coincidence, that the institution has the capacity to integrate power-relations, by constituting various forms of knowledge which actualize, modify and redistribute these relations” (77).

Having placed the discursive and the visible in this sophisticated ontology, Deleuze is then able to finally explain the relation between the two. “The relations between forces determine individual points, such that a diagram is always a transmission of particular features. But the curve which connects them by passing near them is completely different” (78). This curve constitutes “regularity, […] a property of the statement” (78). “The statement is not at all defined by what it designates or signifies. […] A statement is the curve joining individual points: that is, the thing that brings about or actualizes relations between forces […]. But the individual points themselves, with their relation between forces, did not already constitute a statement: they were the outside of the statement, which the statement may strongly resemble to the point of being virtually identical. As for visibilities, for example the letters on the keyboard, they are external to the statement but do not constitute its outside. […] Visibilities must also be connected to the outside which they actualize, together with the particular features or relations between forces which in turn they integrate, but they do so in a different way and in a different mode from that of statements, since they are external to the latter” (79). The outside, as it turns out, is not the other, but the constituent elements that the actual(izing) regularity resembles, and between the discursive and the visible there is only a relation of externality due to a difference in nature and in which each, it seems, does its own thing, if by analogous processes. As Deleuze explains above, however, the statement, being primary, determines the visible, the determinable, yet what the statement determines is other than what it says. By this, does Deleuze mean that the statement does determine the visible, which nonetheless remains external, other, yet evades it in some way (there, it seems, would always be error in the statement), or does it determine other than what it says or claims, i.e. in its primacy, it claims to determine the visible, but it does not, really? Either articulation seems overly primary, if limited by what it will determine (it has to determine the visible: it has no choice as to what it will determine, but it does determine this thing given for it to determine, the determinable), or articulation does not determine visibility, in which case it is hard to see how the two are connected (they are restricted to their own fields, as it were, the difference in nature disallowing any linkage) other than the fact that they diverge from the primal multiplicity consisting of relations of forces.

Deleuze could be suggesting either in the following pronouncements, but, even when it seems that the less radical possibility is taken, Deleuze highlights its most radical implications (radical in its contrast to conventional notions about the relation between the discursive and the non-discursive): “The statement-curve integrates into language the intensity of the affects, the differential relations between forces, the particular features of power (potentialities). But visibilities must then also integrate these in a completely different way, into light” (79), by “form[ing] scenes” (80). “The description-scene and the statement-curve are the two heterogeneous forces of formalization and integration” (80). “The relation between the two forms at the heart of their ‘non-relation’ will be the two ways in which they fix the unstable relations between forces, localize and globalize diffusions, and regularize particular points” (80). What matters to Deleuze, it seems, is the actualization of the virtual, if in two forms, but respectively, i.e. not so much the relation between the discursive and the visible. Deleuze reiterates this when he returns to the discussion of power, which, he clarifies, is the outside constituting the forms: “The relations between forces […] do not lie outside strata but form the outside of strata” (84). “How could the two forms of exteriority [the visible and the discursive] be external to one another, if there were not this outside, which his both closer and farther away? This is ‘the other thing’ [not only in the sense of the non-discursive being the other of the discursive, but other to both, at a different level …]. And if the two formal elements of knowledge, external and heterogeneous, find historical accords which provide solutions for the ‘problem’ of truth, this is […] because forces operate in a different space to that of forms, the space of the Outside, where the relation is precisely a ‘non-relation,’ the place a ‘non-place,’ and history an emergence” (87). The visible and the discursive, it would seem, are linked only at the level of the virtual, at the site of the relations of forces from which they originate, a site of non-relation because at that point, forms do not exist yet, the visible and the discursive have not diverged yet, at the same time that there cannot be relation between the two because their emergence is driven and conditioned precisely by their divergence from each other. Rather than determining what precisely this (non-)relation is, Deleuze then associates power with thinking, intimating his priority: “If seeing and speaking are forms of exteriority, thinking addresses itself to an outside that has no form. To think is to reach the non-stratified. Seeing is thinking, and speaking is thinking, but thinking occurs in the interstice, or the disjunction between seeing and speaking” (87). Rather than thinking about the relation between the discursive and the visible, Deleuze, it would seem, would rather think about, indeed associates thinking itself with what constitutes the discursive and the visible, namely, what Foucault calls power.


Deleuze, Gilles. Foucault. Trans. and ed. Sean Hand. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1988. Print.

King, Jeffrey C. “Structured Propositions.” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Ed. Edward N. Zalta.


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