Thursday, August 09, 2007

Against Repetition: Habit

Deleuze (Empiricism and Subjectivity, p. 63) gives us the following quote from Hume's Treatise on Human Nature (Part III, Section VII): "We advance, rather than retard our existence." This is a thought to keep in mind as we explore Deleuze's discussion of habit in the third chapter of Empiricism and Subjectivity, "The Power of Imagination in Ethics and Knowledge." A couple of preliminary considerations are in order. Firstly, I will not be taking a strong stand here against the existence of repetition, but rather I will argue against a preemptive belief that we know what repetition is or that we know how to talk about it. Secondly, it will be necessary to return to the this topic at a later date, for example in relation to the habitus according to Bourdieu and also according to Deleuze's later work. And thirdly, since we are dealing with an early work of a philosopher whose thinking on the problem of repetition became even more embryonic (and also rhizomic) in later works, we should acknowledge that Deleuze felt that only some of the thoughts expressed in this early work were worth pursuing, and in any case we are not dealing with his last word on the topic.


In Difference and Repetition, if you will recall, Deleuze says that repetition is imaginary, or to be exact, "repetition is itself in essence imaginary, since the imagination here alone here forms the 'moment' of the vis repetitiva from the point of view of constitution: it makes that which it contracts appear as elements or cases of repetition" (p. 76, my emphasis). Though Deleuze's thinking here on the problem of habit has been elaborated (involving contraction through passive synthesis), his concern with its relation to the imaginary picks up on a theme from his study of Hume. The imaginary is not to be confused with the unreal or the untrue. Deleuze says that "culture is a false experience, but it is also a true experiment" (Empiricism and Subjectivity, p. 62). This is a key to interpreting his thinking about habit.


The imagination is not cold but impassioned. The passions are reflected in the imagination, and at the same time, the imagination extends the passions. The imagination is affected. It "reflects affection, and affection resounds inside the mind" (p. 59). This is the basis of a complex effect, a "reflection on a previous reflection" that we can identify with culture (pp.60-61). Deleuze asks, "what is the simple relation between the imagination and the passions which will permit the latter to develop inside the former a complex effect" (p. 63)? He answers his own question:


The modes of association give the ideas possible reciprocal relations, while the qualities of the passions give the relations a direction and a sense; they attribute them with a reality, a univocal movement, and hence with a first term. The self, for example, is the object of pride and humility in virture of a natural and original property which confers a tendency or a disposition upon the imagination. The idea, or rather the impression of the self, focuses the mind.


(p. 63, Deleuze's emphasis, my bold)


Is habit primarily confered? Is repetition? Does the advancement of existence occur naturally, or do we advance it by practice, or by the bestowal of disposition mediated by properties? Does existence advance by repetition? Let's look further at what Deleuze has to say.


"[A]ssociation links ideas in the imagination; the passions give a sense to these relations, and thus they provide the imagination with a tendency" (p. 63). So does Deleuze mean that the ultimate source of habit the passions as reflected in the imagination, and not the imagination itself? Perhaps not, since habit, in the form of culture, has to do with a complex effect, a reflection upon a reflection. However, culture is only one manifestation of habit. We may also have to deal with a natural habit, in which case it may be that Deleuze is saying that the passions are the source of habits, of tendencies and dispositions. And yet, he has already said that we are dealing qualities of the passions, or a natural and original property. What is the source of a quality?


Deleuze says, "the imagination follows the tendency which the passions give it; the relation that they suggest, by becoming univocal, has been made real. It is a simple component part, a circumstance of the passions" (pp. 63-64). Now we can talk about tendency in two senses, an original sense that pertains to the passions, and a secondary sense that pertains to the imagination which follows the passions.


[W]e must designate every determined degree of habit as a probability, without forgetting that probability presupposes habit as a principle. This presupposition is based on the fact that each degree of habit is, in relation to an object, the mere presumption of the existence of another object, like the one which habitually accompanies the first object. The paradox of habit is that it is formed by degrees and also that is a principle of human nature.


(p. 66, Deleuze's emphasis, my bold)


So Deleuze is saying here that habit is based on a presumption of likeness. This would be markedly different from his later work if he let it stand at that. However, he doesn't let it stand. Not exactly. He says:


[H]abit is a principle different from experience, although it also presupposes it. As a matter of fact, the habit I adopt will never by itself explain the fact that I adopt a habit; a repetition will never by itself form a progression. Experience causes us to observe particular conjunctions. Its essence is the repetition of similar cases.


(p. 67, Deleuze's emphasis, my bold)


So far, so problematical. The essence of experience is repetition on the basis of likeness, a presumption that things exist in likewise fashion? Once again, Deleuze says:


Repetition by itself does not constitute progression, nor does it form anything. The repetition of similar cases does not move us forward, since the only difference between the first case and the second case is that the second case comes after the first, without displaying a new idea.


(p. 67, my emphasis)


(I mean to underline Deleuze's idealism here, an interpretation which many scholars vehemently reject.) It would seem that we cannot link repetition to existence directly. However, there may still be another way of conceptualizing repetition even in this early work. Deleuze says, "habit is experience, insofar as it produces the idea of an object by means of the imagination and not by means of the understanding. Repetition becomes a progression, or even a production, when we no longer see it in relation to the objects repeated, because, if we do, it changes, discovers and produces nothing" (p. 68). So might there be a kind of repetition that becomes a progression, a repetition in step with the advancement of existence? In Difference and Repetition this kind of repetition is to be found in the eternal return, an idea I cannot fully embrace. But let's pause here on this notion of a bifurcation of repetition, the one branch leading to repetition of the like which can never be a progression, the other branch not being in relation to repeated objects. Does this second form of repetition deserve the name "repetition"? Or rather, are we beginning to see a problem of repetition, even a possibility that it might not exist?


Deleuze says that "habit can feign or evoke a false experience" (p. 69). It can create "phantoms of belief" like language(p. 70). More strongly, he says that "[h]abit is a principle which cannot invoke experience without falsifying it, or without, at the same time, invoking fictitious repetitions" (p 71). Are we justified in asking whether there any other kind of repetitions besides fictitious repetititions? Finally, Deleuze says that "habit is not, in itself and by itself, confined to the reptition of cases observed within experience, since other repetitions can form it equally well" (p. 72).


Do we have here a notion of repetition that is so utterly divorced from existence and from experience (or rather, tied to such an idealized vision of experience) that nothing can be salvaged from it? Or do we accept a broadening of our understanding of the imagination, and also the promise of a repetition that has not yet earned its name? Well, I'm not sure what to make of Deleuze's reading of Hume. I am withholding judgement on the question of repetition.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 8:42 AM.

28 Comments:

Anonymous dridio said...

What does he mean by the word "repetition" and/or "habit". Or rather, what must the nature of a thing or event consist of in order to be considered repetitious. I'm a dummy here of course, but it seems to me that the matter or repretition is somewhat relative and subject to individual inturpretation. Not only that, but in the event you/he defines it, what does it have to do with advancement (what's advancement considered)? It seems habit/repretition is a pragmatic word and belongs to the noe-pragmatists, but in this case it's being deployed in an ad-hoc manner in a bogus and yet another undefined concept as advancement. Is this really asking where advancement is in a habitual world?

I guess the issues I have with this is the author does well to define a concept attached to a word, but everything else he uses, "existance", "experience", so on, he's leaves undefined and subject to individual intupretation.
Ultimately, as much as things seem repetative, I can find many more things that make it different.

August 09, 2007 10:26 AM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

I would invite you to read the work for yourself (available here), dridio, so as not to confuse my failings with anything Deleuze said.

On the question of advancement and its relation to repetition, that is a question I have posed at the outset but perhaps not sufficiently worked out. When Deleuze talks about "progression" I want to tie that to "the advancement of existence." Deleuze says that "repetition will never by itself form a progression," and yet I believe he opens the question of on what basis repetition might be a progression when he says that "[r]epetition becomes a progression...when we no longer see it in relation to the objects repeated."

I think Deleuze does offer a definition of experience. He says its essence is "repetition of similar cases." I don't think this is satisfactory because it relies on a concept of repetition which is not satisfactory, as there may yet be, in Deleuzean thinking, a kind of repetition which is not based on similar cases. I think this needs to be clarified before saying that the essence of experience is any kind of repetition.

August 09, 2007 11:34 AM  
Anonymous Yusef said...

It was interesting that you mentioned eternal return as Deleuze's solution to a problem, but as a solution you couldn't fully embrace. As a matter of fact, I can't fully embrace it myself...What intrigues me is that there are now so many people willing to take Deleuze very seriously who nevertheless come to the icky-gooey parts of Deleuze and simply skip over them, even though these icky-gooey parts often present themselves as crucial.

August 09, 2007 5:26 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

It has been insinuated by others (and maybe myself) that I'm not a very serious reader of Deleuze. Actually I greatly enjoyed Difference and Repetition. And still am from time to time. But I'm not in the game for a serious theory. I just want to be edified, and to edify in return. Call me Nature Yak.

August 09, 2007 5:37 PM  
Anonymous Yusef said...

The serious parts of Deleuze are the schizophrenic parts, the icky-gooey parts. I don't think they are edifying, though, and that might be why they are getting edited out. One can receive a PhD for a dissertation on William Blake, not for being William Blake.

By the way, a farmer here raises yaks, and I pass by them nearly every day. It's hard to believe they are a part of nature. They need editing out.

August 09, 2007 8:11 PM  
Anonymous Yusef said...

It seems as if you are unwilling to think of repetition as primative. Is that so? My impression is that Hume thought of repetition as the primitive and then explained understanding based on repetition's action on the mind. Do you agree?

August 09, 2007 9:55 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

The intention of these "against repetition" pieces is to question repetition, so I am unwilling to accept repetition as a primitive, although provisionally or eventually I may be willing to accept repetition as a primitive.

I haven't studied Hume enough to say I that I agree with him. Your impression sounds right to me, but like I say....

In reading Deleuze your winnowing process is far ahead of mine. I don't know if I can be edified without handling some icky gooey, though it is certainly not my intention to propogate the icky gooey. Maybe edification will always be for me an ongoing work, maybe I'll always be winnowing and never eating the grain. Maybe I am hampered by a belief that a Deleuze's work represents a system, or aided by a notion that Ideas represent complexes of coexistence or that the Idea is an element not of knowledge but of "infinite learning" (DR, p. 192). Deleuze says, "Philosophy is revealed not by good sense but by paradox" (p. 227). Well, he has already trashed good sense, but even so, this is difficult. It is perhaps a guide to Deleuze's thinking. When he says "habit never gives rise to true repetition" (p.5), I believe he is on to something, even if I can't embrace the solution he comes up with (even the bare and the clothed raises a paradox--the clothed appears to be more originary than the naked). On the same page he says "If repetition is possible...." So I read from that point on as if the possibility of repetition were in question, and here I am.

Since I'm making notes on DR, I want to add that Deleuze says "Repetition is pathos and the philosophy of repetition is pathology" (p. 290). I see a continuity with his study of Hume. Perhaps Deleuze means that repetition is imaginary, but only because the passions are reflected in the imagination, not because the imagination cooks up repetition on its own. So back to your question on Hume, perhaps we should see passion as a primitive, and maybe habit, and maybe repetition is an unexamined part of that. But I would have to study that on my own before I could say.

By the way, "Nature Yak" was a reference to the song "Nature Boy." "They need to be edited out" sounds pretty harsh. Does the smell bother you or what?

August 10, 2007 8:02 AM  
Anonymous Yusef said...

Your comments are very useful to me, and thank you. I got your reference and caught your humor -- I tried to respond in kind, but that fell flat on its face, the story of my life. The yaks don't look as if they are part of nature, but the nature of nature is to be unnatural. I don't think Yaks smell - my experience is that they smell better than healthy cattle, and healthy cattle by and large smell okay to me ( except when they're in a stock yard, crowded together, waiting to be slaughtered.) I think maybe yaks have a reputation for smelling bad because yak butter smells bad, but yak butter smells bad because it's made rancid. (btw, I also did not mean to insinuate that you do not read Deleuze well.)

August 10, 2007 2:29 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

I thought there might be an or what. Extinction has been on my mind so I was ready to jump to a wrong conclusion. Sorry that I had to check that with you.

I really didn't mean to insinuate that you insinuated that I am not a serious reader of Deleuze. There really are other people deeply knowledgable about Deleuze who have insinuated as much. So I am probably too keenly aware of my aloneness in my criticism. I'm glad you read the piece and saw the problem I'm dealing with. It helps me feel like I'm really doing something.

August 10, 2007 2:52 PM  
Anonymous Yusef said...

The communication is profoundly difficult...I sometimes feel as if what we got from the internet was not so much a way to interact but the discovery that we CANNOT interact, no matter what. I could easily imagine the internet as we know it closing down, crushed by forces of commercialization, but just as importantly from people burning out and just plain getting bored and aggravated by what happens online.

But getting back to repetition as something not needing to be defined: take an example AABA AABA, ( an example Deleuze uses.) What is ambiguous here? What requires explanation? In writing AABA I've created an event of repetition...It doesn't have any deleterious significance at all in my opinion that it was act utterly simple and basically "mindless"...In a way, the whole point of a lot of the discussion in Deleuze ( and in a way, here at your blog, for example in your thinking about your philodendron,) is that this is MIND ( if I can get you to forget just for a brief moment, in order to convey something to you, all of the entanglements of the concept of MIND ( Deleuze is a brilliant writer to have chosen contemplation instead of MIND but...))

August 10, 2007 9:55 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

Your same three fingers hit the same three keys but each movement was different. If your keyboard were a piano you would be able to hear this. I think you can feel it, though, with the keyboard you have. Let me try. AABA AABA AABA AABA AABA AABA --no, no exact repetition on my end. When we call an act a simple repetition its like we let the signified define the act, the movement of articulation. Maybe this movement should also should be called repetition, I'm just not sure it's the same thing as the repetition of the signified. I am biased against mind in this way: I think the intellect is far simpler than than the body, with its elegances and its ganglinesses, I imagine that I could live better with my consciousness more attuned to my body. Is that also a contemplation, a bodymind? Perhaps. It's something I am exploring. I am having trouble reducing an act of will, which repetition may be, to action. So no doubt I have a hangup.

You know I have begun to think, Why do people desire (their own) repetition? Maybe it has to do with an adequation to the will, an implicit reassurance that the subject is powerful. I rebel against fear as much as torpor. I want to see if it's possible to live, even to form habits of life, without repetition. Well this is absurd. If I do have to live with repetition, I don't want it to go unexamined. Ultimately I want the signified to bend to my will rather than have my will bent to the signified. This is what my psychologists would call grandiose. Well, it's not like I am unaware of trying to think beyond my abilities.

I wish you'd elaborate on your idea about mind.

August 11, 2007 11:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know that among the 'deleuzians' there is a book length study of Diff. and Rep. that is given good marks for dealing with the icky guey stuff....I'll check the title -

Altho it's prob the only bk out there with Diff and Rep. in the title apart from the 'original'.

I always liked Gilles and Felix for honestly claiming that Anti Oedipus was better understood by teenagers and non-academics....

Also 1000 plateaus is supposed to be humorous - a rare commodity in contemp. phil (altho Latour can be quite a laugh).
Diff and rep. was certainly Deleuze doing his 'major book' thing - altho the, imo unreadable big Spinoza bk, is even bigger!



Crocco:
"And, so, physics became to investigate not things, but objects; and, these, just as phenomena, not in their extramentality.

"Even the cogito was slyly presented as not being an intuitional, antepredicative grasping, or hylozoic non-indifference to itself, selfgrasping inmediately as extramental; but, contrarily and in the ratiocinative mode, as a rationalistic or discursive “product” (of a structural, logical derivation that yields a hypostatic contents for a notion of the self non identical to the observer which it pretends to substitute; what of course enervates it), so as to avoid falling into extramentality." (Crocco, Sensing)


" All persons are unlawful, as the facts we are considering show; but in the Platonist scheme all eclosions are worthless specimens, that is, just events that illustrate, or instance in some historical situation or moment of time, imperishable patterns of ontic possibility or transcendent Forms. This situation of a différentiel (or “difference,” à la Deleuze) serving only repetition even worsens if depicted with modern mathematical tools [pb: as Deleuze does], in which differential equations describe dynamic evolutions whose next step solely depends on the pattern cast at the previous step.
Just as with quantum physics, they cannot depict finite minds. Such depiction leaves out all eclosions and semovience, absolutely intractable in differential equations even with approaches designed to consider and highlight the role of singularities in the systemic dynamics; and reinforces the classical and less specialized tenet, the one pretending that scientia de individuo non datur." (Crocco, Palindrome).

Likewise for Deleuze and Company - they cannot depict persons - they are just surface effects. Strange cos his phil would appreciate persons as semovient rather than reactive. His criticism of Foucault was that resistance to power structures was still reactive rather than creative - but this is all too abstract.

I always remeber a tv show which included Foucault and Illich - with Foucault denying that there were any real subjects or 'persons'
P.

August 11, 2007 3:26 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

Hi, Paul. You'll have to recall the author or the exact title because I found a couple with DR in the title, one by James Williams, another by Keith Ansell Pearson (which looks pretty interesting).

I'm just wrapping up another post on Kojima. When that's done I'll start on "Palindrome." Now, if I want to be critical, will I have to take up an argument for repetition? In any case if I'm going to appreciate Mario's insights I will have to let go of some prejudices.

August 11, 2007 5:13 PM  
Anonymous Yusef said...

"Let me try. AABA AABA AABA AABA AABA AABA --no, no exact repetition on my end."

There's a difficult point to be made here - you may not consider it "difficult"- maybe just balderdash, I don't know- but repetition and difference aren't opposed - they are two sides of the same thing, the verso and recto of a sheet of paper. I think this is the beginning point of Deleuze's argument, that repetition and difference are not opposed. The problem he is trying to deal with is the difference between a bland, lifeless repetition ( can't remember the exact adjective he used,) and another kind of repetition which introduces the new, which is revolutionary, lively, or however you want to describe it. This doesn't oppose difference to repetition, though.

"When we call an act a simple repetition its like we let the signified define the act, the movement of articulation. Maybe this movement should also should be called repetition, I'm just not sure it's the same thing as the repetition of the signified. I am biased against mind in this way: I think the intellect is far simpler than than the body, with its elegances and its ganglinesses, I imagine that I could live better with my consciousness more attuned to my body."

I think these are profoundly important insights, but there are points here where we are in disagreement,( maybe- whether there is disagreement or not would have to be clarified.) It seems to me as if you are associating the signifier with the mind and the signified with the body in a way I would not, but then you ask, "Is that also a contemplation, a bodymind?" in a way which makes me question whether I've understood you. I think that the signifier imposes the dull repetition, the truncation of the full experience which renders it lifeless, mindless. That seems both congruent and incongruent with the point you might be making.

"You know I have begun to think, Why do people desire (their own) repetition?"

This made me think of Deleuze's comment that one does not repeat because one represses, but represses because one repeats.( In other words, one represses because one differs.) I think this is one reason for that,"Maybe it has to do with an adequation to the will, an implicit reassurance that the subject is powerful."

"I want to see if it's possible to live, even to form habits of life, without repetition."

I'm curious to see if you think there is a change in what this means based upon what I have to say above.

August 11, 2007 6:59 PM  
Anonymous Yusef said...

"Against habit:repetition" See, this is precisely correct. A habit, though, is a kind of repetitious behavior. Also, a person of peculiarly-rigid habitual behavior, for example Immanuel Kant, might be an extraordinarily creative, revolutionary individual. This is what needs to be explained - this is where the problem lies.

August 11, 2007 7:49 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

Not balderdash, Yusef, but questionable. I think Deleuze thinks we know what naked repetition means, but he asks us to think of clothed repetition, and I am not sure (a) whether this is really repetition as we understand it, and (b) whether it can be thought without (Deleuze's) eternal return, the "for-itself of difference" (p. 125).

I was thinking of the signifier as bodily, but not in a sense that we can't be aware of except as an object (res extensa) or that doesn't inform our consciousness. But the bodily can be forgotten. Were you really thinking as you typed AABA AABA this is different, this is different....? I think that once you are aware of these differences in a sequence of actions it becomes harder to say that this is simple repetition.

I have thought about it a little. I will think about it some more. At the moment eternal return also seems as absurd as a life without repetition, and I don't see why I shouldn't live by carpe diem with no thought of moments recurring forever. It's not what is brushing your teeth, but how do you want to brush your teeth? (Deleuze is maybe right about that problem.) I don't want to brush my teeth eternally, but only a few times a day, and only while I still have teeth to brush.

August 11, 2007 8:09 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

Against Habit: Repetition. If what really matters is clothed repetition (and I'm unsure of what that really means) then it may be a mistake to regard habit as nakedly repetitive.

August 11, 2007 8:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fido, it must be the James bk (I haven't read it). Keith was my third thesis reader...
You would prob. enjoy 'Germinal Life'. He's a prof of phil at Warwick, UK. and v. 'deleuzian'. Wrote a number of bks v. quickly (also v. Bergsonian = deleuzian). Warwick is/was the trendiest phil dept. in the Uk apart from Goldsmiths, London.

You're reading a lot more than me!
p.
I'm enjoying rereading Illich's 'the rivers north of the future. Amazing - parishes connected to the invention of the horse saddle....
Watched Pulp fiction (1994) last nite - it still seems v. contemporary. quentin was only 31 when he made it - where did he come from....?

August 12, 2007 12:18 AM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

Paul:

"where did he come from....?" I'll assume that wasn't rhetorical. Tarantino was born in Knoxville, Tennessee. He didn't go to film school, but worked in a video store. His first movie, Resevoir Dogs, played at Sundance. I think part of the reason Pulp Fiction still seems so contemporary is because many contempory filmmakers are influenced by it.

I will check out The Rivers North of the Future in the future (somebody else has it checked out right now). I'm pretty sure you've read more than I have (in the field of general ideas), and I know I'm reading pretty slowly, much slower than I did in grad school.

Yusef:

First of all maybe I should have used a semi-colon. Now I have "Against Repetition: Orbits, Phenomenology, and Habit" and would have to add something like "without Repetition" for it to make sense. Ha ha.

I have thought your question some more and now I will say that I was hasty, and that before deciding if I want to live without repetition I want to know what I'm talking about.

I wonder if Deleuze's insight into repetition could have led in other directions, such as an exploration of the advancement of existence that didn't involve the eternal return, and also the questioning of the status of naked repetition. Another way to think this problem is that only clothed repetition exists and deserves to be called repetition, and that naked repetition is a misconstrual of what actually goes on in repetition, in which case we only need two terms provisionally if at all. In any case, I would want to settle what repetition means before committing one way or another.

August 12, 2007 8:17 AM  
Blogger Yusef Asabiyah said...

"Were you really thinking as you typed AABA AABA this is different, this is different....? I think that once you are aware of these differences in a sequence of actions it becomes harder to say that this is simple repetition."

I was not thinking this is different, this is different as I typed AABA AABA. I was in the mode of the imaginary as I typed. You, in pointing to an actual experience of typing, were not in the imaginary mode.

You were registering the difference while I was registering the repetition.

That this "discrepancy" has come about in this manner is not beside the point, nor does it invalidate either side. If this can be grasped, I believe it will be extremely significant in terms of understanding what it is Deleuze is trying to say, even though I do acknowledge I may be wrong -- in which case THAT will also be highly significant FOR ME understanding what Deleuze is doing.

August 12, 2007 10:39 AM  
Anonymous Yusef said...

Blogger is malfunctioning this morning...My more detailed comment was lost. I have a feeling a lot of people attend the "church of blog" on Sunday morning.

August 12, 2007 10:43 AM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

"My more detailed comment was lost." That's such a drag. I tried getting into the habit of typing everything into a text editor, but it's an extra step, and so it hasn't stuck.

"You, in pointing to an actual experience of typing, were not in the imaginary mode." Well I've been trying to imagine what this experience is. Unimaginative? Is jazz improvisation not in an imaginary mode? I go through the changes AABA, and every chorus is different, every note is different (even though I have pretty good time). I wonder if there is such a thing as perfect time. Either it's musical or it's not.

August 12, 2007 11:46 AM  
Anonymous Yusef said...

"Well I've been trying to imagine what this experience is. Unimaginative? Is jazz improvisation not in an imaginary mode?"

I have assumed that Deleuze uses the term imaginary in a Lacanian fashion - perhaps someone will read my comment and correct me if this assumption is wrong.

In Lacan, the imaginary arises during the mirror stage and it is tied up with seeing oneself as a whole, as a unity, as something completed and full, irregardless to the real. ( Now, this little description of the Lacanian imaginary is pocked with inaccuracy --I'm hoping it will suffice to give you some idea.)

This imaginary state almost has nothing to do with what we ordinarily think of as the imagination...It comes close to being the opposite of that, even. What gets imagined is a kind of stability,permanence, defined boundaries, and unity which aren't pertaining in reality per se. It's not so much wild free improvisation as it is the cancellation of those, their taming, in a manner of speaking.

This is why Deleuze is calling repetition imaginary ( I think.) What I was calling repetition AABA was being given an imaginary regularity which you were quick to point out was not really there, ( ie in the actual experience of AABA, as in my finger movements of typing out AABA, or from any of an enormous number of other vantage points, for example in terms of the thoughts flitting through my mind at the time of typing - I couldn't help but think of other meanings and complexities within this simple pattern AABA when I decided to use it as an example of repetition...etc.)

Now I am on some thin ground here, but I think that jazz innovation belongs as much to the symbolic order as to the imaginary...I definitely don't think it or any other example from the arts should be equated with the imaginary. The imaginary and the symbolic aren't really separated, anyway, but what makes them distinct becomes an important matter in terms of these ideas of Deleuze, I think.

August 12, 2007 4:15 PM  
Anonymous Yusef said...

Maybe I should add that in jazz you are contacting the real as much as "using the imagination" or exemplifying imaginative behavior.

August 12, 2007 4:20 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

"I have assumed that Deleuze uses the term imaginary in a Lacanian fashion"

What do you think Deleuze takes from his study of imagination in Empiricism and Subjectivity? How does that fit with what you're saying?


"[I]n jazz you are contacting the real as much as 'using the imagination' or exemplifying imaginative behavior." Interesting.

Not to be redundant, but let me share something from Ellington's Music is My Mistress:

So there in that atmosphere I became one of the close disciples of the James P. Johnson style. Some nights we'd wind up--James, Fats Waller, Sonny Greer, and I--and go down to Mexico's to hear The Lion [Willie Smith]. I was working and would buy a drink. Tricky Sam had likely stayed up all night to help make it. Tricky was Mexico's official taster. So we would sit around, and during intermission I would move over to the piano. Then it would be Fats. Perhaps he'd play "Ivie." (He dedicated that to Ivie Anderson, I think.) Afterwards, he'd look over his shoulder jovially at James anc call, "Come on, take the next chorus!" Before you knew it, James had played about thirty choruses, each one different, each one with a different theme.
By then The Lion would be stirred up. James had moved into his territory and was challenging. "Get up and I'll show you how it's supposed to be done," he'd say. Then, one after the other, over and over again they'd play, and it seemed as though you never heard the same note twice.


Do you find it interesting that Ellington's relation to stride piano is one of discipline? Let me add another observation. Each one of these cats (well I'm not too familiar with Greer) had a distinctive sound. It only takes a few bars for me to know who it is at the keyboard. Would you think of a musician's sound as real or imaginary?

August 12, 2007 8:09 PM  
Blogger Yusef Asabiyah said...

"What do you think Deleuze takes from his study of imagination in Empiricism and Subjectivity? How does that fit with what you're saying?"

I don't know. That's an extremely difficult question. In order to really answer it, I'd need to understand the original Hume, E&S, and the rest of Deleuze's works much better than I do.

This is just me B.S.'ing: Deleuze never stopped calling himself an empiricist ( although what empiricism meant to him seems to have undergone some changes I don't really comprehend well,) so my general feeling is that aspect of E&S may have been retained. However, I think that Deleuze's later attitudes and ideas about subjectivity are very, very different than we see in E&S, and that's got something to do with the difficulty we have of understanding his ideas about imagination - how that fits with the empiricism in this work. ( Maybe. Or maybe this is a copout on my part.)

"Do you find it interesting that Ellington's relation to stride piano is one of discipline? Let me add another observation. Each one of these cats (well I'm not too familiar with Greer) had a distinctive sound. It only takes a few bars for me to know who it is at the keyboard. Would you think of a musician's sound as real or imaginary?"

I don't agree with you that this passage reflects an attitude of discipline to the music. For me, it was more reflective of the desiring production of music. They played a lot, but they played a lot because they got themselves enthused about what they were doing. I don't know why that would be called disciplined as the word is ordinarily used.

It's too complicated for me to designate a musician's sound as either real or imaginary. There's a lot going on here. You can recogniz the different styles of the musicians - I think you have to be in touch with the music to do that...So, to whatever extent you are in touch with the music to do that, the sound is real. On the other hand, if you hear a few bars and hear the pattern you recognize and stop experiencing the sound at that point, it could be that it then becomes imaginary.

I am very interested in John Dewey's ideas about recognition replacing experience...For example, one sees a tree, the word tree instantly enters one's mind, and concurrent with the label being placed,one sees no further. One does not experience "tree" beyond identifying what it is. ( And we all learned to identify trees a long, long time ago...In other words, we've basically stopped experiencing a long, long time ago.) Deleuze is either familiar with Dewey's ideas and is applying them in different ways, or else his work is a very remarkable independent corroboration of Dewey's. Some scholar somewhere might know which.

Is any of this relevant to what you were asking me?

August 14, 2007 8:52 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

Sure it's relevant. Thanks.

On discipline I was taking that from the word "disciple." This suggests that Ellington did not see himself as a passive listener at these sessions, or that he thought of the music as something other than entertainment. He was studying and learning.

August 14, 2007 9:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"On discipline I was taking that from the word "disciple." This suggests that Ellington did not see himself as a passive listener at these sessions, or that he thought of the music as something other than entertainment. He was studying and learning."

I have to wonder about this. I completely agree that Ellington didn't see himself as a passive listener, that he was studying and learning, and regarded music as something other than entertainment in a narrow sense.

I don't think that necessarily entails equating his attitude to music as one of discipline.

A: " Hey, those kids are having a good time." B: " Yeah, they're really disciplined." A:" Disciplined? This is a birthday party. Where do you come up with calling them disciplined?" B:" Well, it takes a lot of discipline to eat that much birthday cake." A:" No, the kids eat that much birthday cake because eating birthday cake is what those kids like to do."

Coming as it does in this context,your comment makes me think it has something to do with our discussion about imagination.

We're inculcated from earliest age to regard the repetition AABA AABA as an essence; the essence is the reality, the truth. The difference AABA AABA is ephemeral, it's error, deviation, it's falsity, it's even sin. ( I think that the situation is even more radical than I can say here because AABA AABA isn't even regarded as a repetition - it's regarded as "immutable form.")

When Deleuze says that repetition is imaginary, he's saying that essence, truth, immutable form is imaginary. This is to say something very different from what virtually everything orients us to think (and say.) This isn't a simple inversion or sign change, however. The imaginary isn't opposed to the real, the opposite of the real.

And the real is contacted in a way which is radically different from the way we "imagine" the real is contacted. It isn't contacted through discipline. It is contacted through joy, which isn't conditioned by discipline, and can't be.

August 15, 2007 10:02 AM  

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