A lot goes on in the Second Series of Paradoxes of Surface Effects, so I’m going to do two posts on this Series. In this post I want to focus on the distinction that Deleuze finds in the Stoics between states of affairs and events, the implications he thinks this distinction has for a conception of time and causality, and its relation to Aristotelian and Platonist ontology. Okay, whew, here we go.
States of Affairs
We can begin with states of affairs, as Deleuze does, since these seem to be the easiest to understand. States of affairs are the “mixtures” of bodies which includes their actions and passions in relation to one another. These relations of action and passion are commensurable such that a total unification of all bodies, something like a plenum of bodies which each action having a corresponding equivalent passion, can be conceived. This seems to be the Stoic concept of the Whole, which Marcus Aurelius likes talking about. The Whole is unified in the present; a sort of “fat” present that includes a present-past and present-future, though more on that later. The basic characteristics of states of affairs seem to be this: they exist in the present, and all qualities and quantities exist as measurable bodies. All of these bodies are causes (in a double sense, as we’ll see).
Deleuze says the unity of bodies here is called “Destiny.” I can’t find the term Destiny in Inwood and Gerson’s The Stoics Reader and my copy of Epictetus’s Discourses doesn’t have an index. Marcus Aurelius uses the term, though it’s unclear whether he thinks of it as a technical term or not. This seems to be the most helpful mention of Destiny in the Meditations:
“Think of the whole of existence, of which you are the tiniest part; think of the whole of time, in which you have been assigned a brief and fleeting moment; think of destiny – what fraction of that are you?” (5.24)
Destiny seems to encompass time and existence. But, as we’ll see, Deleuze maintains there is another time and another (non-)existence.
Bodies are causes in a double sense. A body can act and produce a passion in another body. However, bodies also produce events as effects. This is the crucial distinction between states of affairs and events. Events are incorporeal effects produced by states of affairs and are captured by infinitive verbs (to grow, to shrink, to become X, to cut, to be cut, etc). These are not qualities but, Deleuze says, “logical or dialectical attributes.” These events, being incorporeal, do not “exist” properly but rather “subsist” or “inhere” within states of affairs as necessary effects. There is something in these events, Deleuze thinks, that cannot be analysed down into mixtures of bodies, qualities, quantities, in states of affairs. I’m not yet sure why this is, why we need to insist on the dimension of events, but hopefully it will become clear.
Duality of Time
This dualism of states of affairs and events produces “two simultaneous readings of time.” The first is what we might call “body-time.” It includes what I referred to above as the “fat” present of states of affairs, what Deleuze also calls the “living” present. I’m not sure what import “living” is supposed to have here but it suggests something moving or dynamic. Since, of course, movement happens over time, it seems the present here should be conceived of as more than just the immediate instance of “now” but a present that has a stretch of time within it. This is possibly what Deleuze means when he says this present “absorbs” past and future. In this present, all bodies are unified yet still analyzable in terms of active and passive bodies.
The second time is “event-time.” This time is “infinitely divisible” into past and future, effectively doing away with the present moment. Events as effects from bodies exist simultaneously in the past and the future and, it seems, cannot be understood merely through reference to a present. Deleuze uses an example from Bréhier of a scalpel cutting flesh. We can understand this as an action of the scalpel producing a passion in the flesh. The scalpel is sharp. The scalpel moves in a straight, 3-inch line through the flesh. The flesh now has a wound. All of this is still on the level of states of affairs, mixtures of bodies. Each sentence describes the state of affairs as a present, though sometimes including a past and future, such as in the 3 inch movement of the scalpel. But, this action of the scalpel also produces as an effect the event of being cut. Being cut is irreducible to a present or to bodies, qualities, quantities, actions, and passions; Bréhier describes it as a “way of being” and not a being itself. Being cut is not identical to the quality of possessing a wound, rather, it is a verb that is not itself a substance. “Being cut,” somehow, stretches into the past and the future while evading the present.
That’s the best description of event-time I can give at the moment, though I find it inadequate. I’m hoping this will become clearer the more I read.
Splitting the Causal Relation
The dualism of states of affairs and events also produces what Deleuze calls a “splitting of the causal relation.” Rather than dividing up causality into different kinds of causes, like Aristotle did, the Stoics place cause wholly on the side of states of affairs and effect wholly on the side of events. This is how states of affairs or mixtures of bodies become doubly causes. All bodies are causes in relation to one another, since bodies act on other bodies to produce passions. Since every action produces a proportional passion, we can perform a total unity of bodies in virtue of their relation to each other as causes, and thus get the Whole. However, states of affairs or mixtures of bodies also produce events as incorporeal effects. Events, Deleuze says, are also unified but not in the same way that bodies are. There is no relation of cause between events. Deleuze isn’t clear on how events are unified, but does mention there is a sort of relation of “quasi-causality” between them which, I think, will become more salient later when he discusses the “reversible” nature of events.
This is still kind of obscure, but I think we can understand it through the example of falling dominos, a classic case of direct causality. In a common sense conception of causality, we could model the falling of dominos by first isolating the dominos as distinct bodies and modelling their causal interaction using the material conditional in the following proposition:
∃x∃y∃z((Dx ^ Dy ^ Dz) ^ (Fx → Fy) ^ (Fy → Fz))
Where D is “is a domino” and F is “has fallen.” This proposition, however, only represents the relation of action and passion between the existent bodies. Each body here, the Stoics maintain, are causes. The effect of this mixture of bodies, the falling dominos, is the event “to fall” that is carried out over time, and not captured by the above logical reconstruction. This event “to fall” is an effect of the mixture of bodies, but is not itself a cause of anything. Thus, rather than causality being a chain in which A causes B which causes C, etc., causality is instead a two-step operation in which a state of affairs causes an event-effect. These event-effects are not themselves causes and do not produce further effects.
After discussing this splitting of cause and effect onto states of affairs and events respectively, Deleuze makes the following strange claim: “Thus freedom is preserved in two complimentary manners: once in the interiority of destiny as a connection between causes, and once more in the exteriority of events as a bond of effects.” Why has freedom suddenly come up? What is the interiority of destiny? The exteriority of events?
I have a tentative interpretation of this claim about freedom, which I think is at least coherent with what Deleuze has said so far. If we think of the freedom Deleuze is talking about as a negative freedom, we can then ask: what is the interiority of destiny free from? What is the exteriority of events free from? If the “interiority of destiny” is this deterministic relation of action and passion between bodies, then it is free from the influence of events. Deleuze describes events as neither active nor passive but impassive. They cannot be active since they themselves produce no effect either on each other nor on bodies. But neither can they be passive, because they are incorporeal and thus cannot receive actions of bodies. Instead, they are pure effects, pure events. The exteriority of events, on the other hand, seems to refer to the ontological status of events as “outside” of Being or the Whole. How is freedom maintained in the exteriority of events? Events are free from the influence of each other. Unlike bodies, they are not causes for each other and thus (strangely) one event does not cause another event. This, I think, is why Deleuze says freedom is preserved in two manners.
He concludes by saying this is how the Stoics can oppose destiny and necessity. Again, obscure. But we know that destiny is on the side of states of affairs and, I’m speculating, describes the deterministic unity of action and passion in bodies in the Whole. So, necessity must be on the side of events and so, possibly, signifies the relation between states of affairs as causes and the event-effects they produce.
Deleuze has already hinted that this metaphysics is not Aristotle’s, as the Stoics divide up causality not into types of causes but rather into a domain of causes and a domain of effects. But the Stoics also oppose the Aristotelian ontology of the Categories. There, Aristotle tackles the homonymy of Being, all of the different things that are said of Being. The Categories is a difficult text and often ambiguous, but what seems important for Deleuze here is this. Aristotle identifies substances as basic, and all other categories (quality, quantity, relation, position, etc.) exist only as accidents of substances. Aristotelian substances are, however, not homogenous “matter” or pre-Socratic elements, but what we would identify as kinds of objects. Primary substances are lowest-level species such as “human”, “horse”, “book.” There are also secondary substances which are higher-level genera such as “mammal”, “animal”, “tool.” Lower-level species are defined by their essence which consists of their genera and a differentia. So, for instance, humans are rational animals (animal = genus, rational = differentia). Thus, within substance are essential differences which divide secondary substances down into primary substances. Multiple entities of a single primary substance are then individuated via accidental qualities (a brown horse and a black horse are both of the same primary substance but distinguishable as individuals through the accidental property of colour). The upshot of this is, in Aristotle, we have an ontological distinction between essential being (substance) and inessential being (accident).
The Stoics do not recognize this; for them all bodies, qualities, and quantities–all Aristotelian categories–are unified in substance. Their determinism on the level of states of affairs seems to make accidental properties incoherent. This substance is then contrasted with what Deleuze terms the “extra-Being” of events.
The Reversal of Platonism
Perhaps more interestingly and significantly, the Stoics effect a reversal of Platonism. Deleuze says they are the first to do so. This reversal seems rather straightforward. In Platonic metaphysics, material objects participate in ideal Forms which impose on them their essence. We thus have a direction of influence down from the heights of the ideal Forms to the depths of bodies. However, Plato recognizes that the depths of bodies do not always conform to the influence of the forms. I touched on this already in my preliminary discussion of the simulacrum in Plato. Bodies have a tendency to evade Platonic forms and the simulacrum does exactly this by appearing to be an object while being incongruent with the Forms. The simulacrum is thus that which must be suppressed for Plato, or, identified from the position of height and exposed for what it really is. The Stoics, in reversing the order of causality here, reverse Platonism. Rather than Forms shaping their material copies, the material bodies produce incorporeal events as effects, with these incorporeal events as analogous to Platonic Ideas. However, this reversal does away with the simulacrum. Bodies can no longer evade Ideas since they are their direct cause; the simulacrum is just one more effect among effects. The Idea is no longer the Form imposed on bodies, but rather represents, Deleuze says, “all possible ideality.”
While this reversal of Platonism seems straightforward in abstract terms, I’m still left with some questions. Most significantly: what is the ontological status of these events, effects, ideas? I can’t see anything in Deleuze’s treatment of events that rules out events being merely ideas in the (human) mind rather than objective non-existing entities. Though, Deleuze’s language so far has been very careful to avoid stating this; he talks of events as if they are objective things, not merely artifacts of thought. I’m hoping the next series, on the proposition, will present something like an argument for why events cannot just be human interpretations of states of affairs.
There is also the more basic question: what do we get out of acknowledging events? I suspect Analytic philosophers, on reading this, would be eager to analyze events down to states of affairs, and then claim there is nothing added by speaking about events. Why speak of infinitive verbs like “to cut” when we can simply talk about A cutting B as a relation of action and passion between bodies?