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9. event, ideal event


Yi-Jinkyung, Professor

Seoul National University of Technology


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In the philosophy of Deleuze, the word event is used in two very different contexts. One is the concept of event associated with the ups and downs of life or the world, and the other is the one associated with the sense of sign. Although Deleuze did not tell it apart explicitly, we can further propose to distinguish the former into two concepts. One is an inflection point by which an individual’s life before and after this inflection point can never be the same. It is something that serves as a momentum to say “It was an event of my lifetime.” It’s like the event in which Joë Bousquet suffered gunshot wounds(The Logic of Sense 148) or the event of Ahab’s encounter with Moby Dick. We may as well call them ‘existential events,’ though this concept is not the one used by Deleuze.

The other one is an event as a bifurcation point at which something is bifurcated into two very disparate worlds. A good example would be the event of Adam’s having picked the apple. It is the bifurcation point of two divided worlds; the world in which Adam ate the apple and the one in which he hadn’t done so(The Fold, Chapter 5). A new world that is incompossible with the world given begins there. This, of course, is similar to an existential event in that two worlds don’t exist separately at one time, but one world is divided into two before and after the event. However, it is different from that in that what changes at this bifurcation point is not an individual’s life but a world. That’s because this bifurcation point is not only for Adam’s life but also for those of other people. For convenience, this may be called ‘an event-between-the-worlds.’

In line with Deleuzian-Leibnitzian expression ‘the world is the folds folded in the soul’(The Fold, Chapter 2), we can say: An existential event is the one in which a new world emerges in a soul, whereas an event-between-the-worlds is the one where a new world is born between the existing souls. You may say it is the event in which new souls are born by folding new folds incompossible with the existing souls into them.

There’s another important difference between these two events. An event-between-the-worlds is the one the effect of which any individual or group within its orbit can hardly escape from willing or not. On the other hand, when it comes to an existential event, it is whether you accept it in the affirmative or not that distinguishes between an accident that you would be better off without and the event that you were better off with. This is true in the case of Joë Bousquet cited by Deleuze. In the beginning, the gunshot wound was an unfortunate accident that made him have no choice but to spend his whole life in bed. However, it makes him an excellent poet who thinks about the depth of Being. The moment the poet accepts his life in the affirmative, the accident that made him bedridden gets to be accepted in the affirmative as the starting point node of that positive life. Now, it becomes a positive inflection point that he was better off with. Nietzsche would have called it ‘salvation of the past’ in contrast to ‘ressentiment against the past’(Zarathustra). The affirmation of the present life saved the past.

Unlike these. there is a concept of event that is paired with sense on one hand, and singularity on the other hand. It should be noted here that this concept of event is not about a grand event that changes something significantly like the previous ones but a small event of a minimum size, and not about an unprecedented event but an commonly recurring event. It is a concept of event that has different grain from the word ‘event’ which is used grandiosely. This concept of event may well be contrasted to Heidegger’s concept of ontological Ereignis that is the biggest event making a raid on our lives or Badiou’s concept of unprecedented event that comes about in the void of Being. To put it in advance, Deleuze defines event as becoming. As becomig takes place everywhere every moment, the concept of event as becoming should hold every event whether it’s unusual or ordinary. Rather, even the usual ones should be defined through unusual or singular. This is why Deleuze seeks to define even ordinary events through singularity. Surprisingly, Deleuze pushes this concept of ‘small’ event to the ethical choice of eternal return.

What Deleuze digs into intensively in The Logic of Sense is exactly this concept of ‘small’ event. Here, the sense of sign or words is an event, and event is defined as a singularity, namely, ‘the serialization of facts that are singular points.‘ If you say ’soccer ball’ when you see a flying soccer ball, it is correct but nothing but a mere tautology. Conversely, you might say ‘that thing flying over there’ to mean the soccer ball. This is the concept of meaning from the viewpoint of representation. However, no matter how much you concentrate on the soccer ball and think about its meaning repeatedly, it can hardly be said that you are watching a soccer game. You are just looking at the flying ball, not knowing the sense of the flying ball at all.

To understand the sense of the flying ball, you need to see its neighbors connected to it, which are the players at the front and rear of the ball. In case both the kicker and the receiver of the ball are Korean players, the sense of the flying ball is ‘passing.’ However, if the receiver is a German player, that is to say, if serialized as Korean player-ball-German player, the sense becomes ‘mistake in passing.’ If the ball is flying toward the goalpost, the sense of the ball will be ‘shooting,’ and if the ball is inside the goalpost, the sense will be ‘goal’ What if there’s a Korean player wearing gloves in front of the goalpost? Yes, the sense is an ‘own goal.’

This is event as sense. In the case of soccer game, it can be said that an event takes place with every kick. Only if you recognize the event, you get to understand the sense of the flying ball. Only when you can recognize the difference between the senses, you’ll get to watch a soccer game, not seeing a ball. The same goes for ‘playing’ a soccer game. Playng soccer means making such events one after another. A soccer game is another event made by the gathering of small events such as passing, shooting, goal, etc.

A soccer ball is a physical entity, whereas a sense is an event that occurs depending on the neighbor attached to the surface of it. One and the same ball as a physical entity has different senses like this according to the neighbor. Facts are the corporeal, whereas events are not the corporeal but what arises on the surface of a body. Therefore, an event is referred to as the surface effect of a body. In other words, Sense is neither the product of intention as the phenomenologists say nor what belongs to the designated thing as the realists say. It is a surface effect that results from the serialization of things. It is an event that occurs between subjectivity and materiality, on the surface of matter.

Event is defined by singularity. “Passing,‘ ’mistake in passing,‘ ’shooting,‘ ’goal,‘ and ’own goal’ all refer to disparate singularities. These singularities are defined by the ways of the serializations of the ball, the player, and the goalpost. The ball, the player, and the goalpost are singular points. When we say that a sense is an event, and an event is a singularity, we exactly mean this. But to be more accurate, we have to write: ”what is an Ideal event? It is a singularity.“(The Logic of Sense 121; LS 52) In other words, for Deleuze, an event is an ’Ideal event.‘ Then, the next question should be what an Ideal event is. This concept is indeed the gate to the inside of the Deleuzian concept of event.

The concept of ‘Idea’ added to the word event here is the one presented in Difference and Repetition. As explicated previously(see ‘Idea’), contrary to the grand concept of Idea that integrates everything, it is Idea as question and problem, differential Idea of minimum size, or Idea as virtuality. Herein, the virtuality has indetermination, determinability. and complete determination, and is actualized in combination with the outside conditions. In The Logic of Sense, Deleuze develops the concept of Ideal event by combining this concept of Idea with that of event. Another thing to keep in mind is this concept of Idea carries out the function of unity which was performed by generality or universality in the previous philosophies.

Let’s back to the story of soccer. The way event such as passing or mistake in passing is defined as singularity was by differential relation meaning neighboring relation. Passing or mistake in passing defined this way is not just a one-time event in a particular situation but the one that repeatedly occurs everywhere in soccer games. It evidently has a kind of ‘universality’, though it, of course, is actualized differently in each situation. It is microscopic seed that makes up different soccer games on each occasion. It is an ‘atom’ of soccer game. In that sense, singularity belongs to a different layer than a particular physically embodied game. It belongs not to actuality but to virtuality. The singularities surrounding the ball such as passing, mistake in passing, shooting, and goal are sense units that make up a soccer game. It can be said that they are minimum articulation units of ‘sense’ compared to the phoneme of phonemics or the morpheme of semantics in linguistics. They are the minimum sense units with complete determination.

A larger scale event is made by the combination of these sense units into a reciprocal relation. Playing a soccer game means asking how to interweave these small events. It is about problematizing these singular events whenever a kick is made and whenever a tactic or a strategy is made. “The mode of the event is the problematic.”(The Logic of Sense 125; LS 54) An attack, for example, is about asking the problem of how to connect the passings and do shooting to lead to a goal and looking for the answer to it. A game is about asking the problem of how to organize these attacks and defenses and searching for the answer. To solve this problem means to get the ‘answer’ by analyzing the skills of my team and the opponent and considering the specific conditions of that day. Of course, an event even at the level of minimum size is a ‘problem.’ That’s because doing a passing is asking and answering yourself where and how to pass.

This event of the minimum size is precisely the Ideal event. Though passing is a microscopic event, it is hardly said to be ‘minimum’ size in fact. It, of course, is indeterminate in that it is not yet combined with other events such as following passing or shooting, but it has a complete determination in itself. That’s because a passing is neither a shooting nor a mistake in passing. However, if you go back to the event of the minimum size or the pure virtuality, you reach the moment when whether to pass the ball in front of the feet or do shooting is not yet determined. In other words, you should go back to the indetermination where whether to pass or shoot is not yet determined, and to the ball that is not yet serialized with any neighboring foot.

But even then, it doesn’t mean returning to the thing that is the ball. It’s going back to not the ball but the event in which the ball enters into relation with its neighbors. There are forces that’ll be applied to the surface of the ball, like whether to kick the ball outside or toward the face of the referee, not to mention passing or shooting. There exists an event-making force that makes all the events. It has numerous determinabilities that’ll vary according to the magnitude and direction of the force. It may be said that it is an indeterminate event open to countless events. It is the Event that may be said to be the ‘embryo’ of all events, the ‘event’ as pure virtuality. There exists a void space between the ball and its neighbor, which contains nothing.

Deleuze calls this pure virtuality, which doesn’t have any determination yet but is open to all events and all neighbors like this, ‘one and the same Event’(The Logic of Sense 140; LS 64). This pure ‘event’ which Deleuze capitalizes deliberately for the reason that it is the one and the same event that makes all events communicate is the one that doesn’t have any thing in itself. It is an virtual event that exists between all the neighbors. It is an event of the minimum size which is as small as the differential. There exist the ‘void space’ of indetermination open to all determinations, and the ‘nonsense’ open to all senses of events. The same can be said not only between two things but also between two states of a thing. It's an event like 'grow' that occurs between larger and smaller states, ‘Pure Becoming’(LS, 1) at the beginning of The Logic of Sense means a pure event of the smallest size that occurs between two states.

This ‘event’ resembles the differential dx of the Differential theory that makes the magnitude and direction of every force be expressed but doesn’t have any determination for himself. When entering into a differential relation with the magnitude and direction of the force to be applied to the ball, and the moving speed of the landing point of the ball, etc. this differential ‘event’ turns into a specific reciprocal determination. And that determination is thrown as a problem of where and how to kick to lead this situation to a goal. And the moment the specific conditions such as the weight of the ball, the wind, the position and speed of the opponent player who will intervene in the path of the ball are taken into account, a passing is physically actualized. It is also said that it is effectuated as an actual reality. The moment the ball is kicked, the ball is already pulling to its surface the landing point which it has yet to reach. It has already become a physical event.

Every time a player kicks a ball, he throws the problem ‘which event?’. However, all those problems also mean one question: “how to kick the ball?” This is ‘one and the same question’ that every player should cast every time he kicks the ball. This question, of course, is not cast ‘separately or independently.’ It’s always thrown as a problem because it is always thrown under the conditions surrounding the ball such as the positions of the players, the location of the goalpost, and empty space to move through, etc. Just as there is an indeterminate Event of the minimum size ‘before’ the Ideal events such as passing and shooting, etc., there is evidently one and the same question that should be always cast ‘before’ the problem which is thrown under a specific condition.

When this question is cast, the ball that has not yet kicked is surrounded by the possibility of numerous events. The question of how to kick also means that of which event to kick toward. Deleuze calls the set of the numberless landing points that will be connected to the ball by the kicking ‘aleatory point.’ All of the numberless determinable events are the elements of the set of aleatory point. One single event surrounded by the elements of aleatory point is the virtual embryo of all the events.


Not only does an actualized event have a definitive determination, but it usually even has evaluations such as success and failure, good and bad, etc. Hard-linked passing and a good shooting that leads to a goal are applauded, but an unskillful passing is booed and a foul is blamed. Nevertheless, the soccer game continues, and kicking towards new events continues. Though it was a poignant shooting which made the nice passing come to nothing, the player runs towards the ball saying ‘okay, but once again!’ Because aleatory point includes the smallest time that our consciousness can’t grasp, the ball kicked by the player to solve the problem is surrounded by unexpected possibilities. Therefore, Even if there’s a high chance of failure, an outstanding player runs across probability towards a new repetition of event. It is the throwing of a dice towards aleatory point surrounding the ball and towards an ‘Event’ as pure virtuality.

The same goes for everything. It’s the same with love, and revolution too. Throwing a dice towards a new aleatory point of becoming-event regardless of the chance of success, that is the diceplay of eternal return. This is why Deleuze repeatedly says about ‘Event’ in which nothing occurs.





translated by Jung Ki Lee


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