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18 Passive Synthesis: connection, disjunction, conjunction

Yi-Jinkyung, Professor

Seoul National University of Technology


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‘Passive synthesis’ is a concept introduced by Deleuze to explain the synthesis of time in Difference and Repetition. In Anti-Oedipus, Deleuze/Guattari divide this concept into three types: connection, disjunction, conjunction. And they expand it into a more active concept that explains the operation modality of the desiring machine. Connection, disjunction, and conjunction are concepts that express the three modes of the passive synthesis. These three concepts which corresponded to different methods to make portmanteau words in The Logic of Sense, now get to be combined with the passive synthesis. The concept of 'passive synthesis' is not explicitly used in A Thousand Plateaus, but the concepts of connection and conjunction continue to be used in a changed way. And in this process, the meanings of the three concepts change, and accordingly the status of each concept varies.

'Analysis' is the separation of key factors from a mixture of things in order to find the distinctive cause of a result, whereas 'synthesis' is about creating a new effect by combining what was separated from each other into one. For example, photosynthesis of plants is the process of combining sunlight and certain gas to produce carbohydrate. This is the synthesis that plants perform on a daily basis. On the other hand, determining which of the various gases near the plant is involved in photosynthesis is an analysis.

Analysis corresponds to subtraction which eliminates all other variables except the key ones that produce the result by comparing the actions of the variables, whereas synthesis corresponds to addition that adds even those which were thought to have no relation with each other to see changes newly formed. Analysis is the purification process that separates the effect of a particular variable by means of subtraction, whereas synthesis is the process of mixture that sees what is newly formed by mixing variables that don't seem related to each other. The former is the one that identifies the factors which produce the same results among various variables, whereas the latter is the one which puts 'the difference that makes difference' into operation in that it pays attention to what are newly formed through combination.

It was through Kant that the word ‘synthesis’ emerged as an important concept in philosophy. It was Husserl that brought the word 'passive synthesis' to the fore as a concept. He sees synthesis as an active action belonging to the nature of consciousness. Even when seeing or hearing what is over there, consciousness performs the synthesis of constituting the object by paying attention. He calls the action of paying attention on something in this way 'active synthesis.' On the contrary to this, 'thorough passivity,' like, for example, a dog barking heard a moment ago, is about something that occurred somewhere and entered my sensory organs which we didn't pay attention to or concentrate on. Therefore, for Husserl, passivity is a negative concept in 'thorough' contrast with the activity of consciousness rather than a positive concept.

The concept of passive synthesis which Husserl has pushed into the corner is used by Deleuze for the operation of unconsciousness, which is the operation of numerous 'small egos,' 'larval egos' that exist before consciousness or 'ego,' For example, the synthesis of habit is the repetition occurring when a particular stimulus or movement is contracted in "heart, muscle, nerve, cell," etc. through "the emotion of a fulfilling contemplation"(DR 74-75). The contemplation and contraction of these ‘small egos’ are the ‘base’ and ‘foundation’ of active synthesis that occurs at the level of the ‘whole’ organism(DR 78, 79). Now we are well aware that these small egos which he named ‘larval egos’ have bacterial origins.

It is not yet known whether it is a book or an apple just by what is formed through this habitual synthesis alone. In addition to this, the memories of what you saw in the past should be involved again; the micro-memories of color, shape, and smell, etc. The memory, here, is the ‘small memories’ which the cell, muscle, nerve, or tongue remembers, the memory of a particular thing which a specific shape and smell are combined into. All of these are micro-memories before ‘me.' ’My memory’ is what the consciousness reproduces by recalling something memorized in the brain after all this synthesis is done.

On the other hand, the three types of synthesis presented in The Logic of Sense, which are connection, conjunction, and disjunction, are related to how to make portmanteau words(The Logic of Sense, 7th series). Connection is the abbreviation of one sentence or several words into a word. For example, NIMBY is the abbreviation of ‘Not In My BackYard’, and TMI is that of ‘Too Much Information’. The abbreviation of 'Double Income No Kid' into 'DINK' also belongs here. This is a common method for words used as buzzwords.

Conjunction is about the case where words of heterogeneous series are abbreviated and integrated into an object with a particular new meaning. The new animal ‘snark’ that Louis Carrol made by abbreviating ‘snake and shark’ is the case. It is disjunction that Deleuze puts more stress on, which is the disjunctive combination of different meanings. He takes the French word ‘frumieux’ as an example, which is the abbreviation of ‘furieux’ and ‘fumant’(Logique de Sens 62), whose English equivalent would be ‘frumious’ as the abbreviation of ‘furious’ and ‘fuming’(The Logic of Sense 46). In that the abbreviated word has different meanings depending on which of those two words is weighted, and in the sense that it implies the meanings of both sides, this type of synthesis is called ‘disjunction.’ ‘Frumious’ is a portmanteau word for which the method of 'disjunctive' synthesis is used. The words made by this method simultaneously contain a meaning that can be diverged into very different meanings.

In Anti-Oedipus, the concept of passive synthesis is redefined as the synthesis in which consciousness is not involved, that is, the synthesis of unconsciousness in the microscopic layer. There are three different moments in this synthesis. Those three are production, registration, and consumption, and connection, disjunction, and conjunction are the modes of synthesis that corresponds to each of them respectively. The synthesis of production is the synthesis through which the connection of one body and another or one part of a body and another part is produced into a particular machine. For example, the synthesis of production where the connection of the part called 'mouth' and that called 'esophagus' produces an 'eating machine' that interrupts and draws off the flow of nutrients is the case. Another example would be the case where a sexual machine called 'female' and that called 'male' are produced by the connection of two bodies. This is why the form of productive synthesis is called 'connection' and corresponds to the word 'and'(AO 5). According to this book, there are two different modes of connection. One is the connection of body parts with molecular multiplicities, the other is the connection of any bodies in the molar-global determination of 'male' or 'female'(AO 68-69).

The synthesis of registration is about the registration of a particular determination that occurred through the synthesis of production on the body. For example, the body called 'mouth' becomes an 'eating machine' when connected to the esophagus, a ‘speaking machine' when connected to the vocal cords, and a 'sexual machine' when connected to other mouth. In other words, different determinations can be registered in the body called 'mouth.' This means that it can become a different machine depending on the mode of the productive connection. To put it another way, different determinations can be 'distributed' to that body. This is called 'disjunction' because it is a matter of deciding 'either...or...' between different determinations. Of course, it can also be distributed in the form of 'either...or...or'(AO 12). The former is an exclusive disjunction that allows to choose either one of the determinations saying "Is that a man or an wolf?" about a certain body, whereas the latter is an inclusive disjunction open to the registration of different determinations saying "That is a man and also an wolf"(AO 78).

Determination produced by the productive connection is registered on the body, and the integration of so registered partial bodies into one gives birth to a whole such as an 'organism' or a 'human'(AO 17). As the mouth, esophagus, stomach, anus, hands, feet, etc. are integrated into an organism called "I", it is called 'conjunction.' ‘So it’s...‘ is the word of conjunction that collects several parts and subsume them under one result. In other worlds, 'I' consumes parts of the body as locomotive organ, digestive organ, and excretory organ through this conjunction. Lacan said that babies feel pleasure when they look at their images reflected in the mirror and discover that the partial objects are integrated to form the whole body of "I"('mirror stage'). This also is one of the ways to consume an integrated whole. That is why conjunction is called the synthesis of consumption. There also are two different kinds of conjunctions here. One is the organic-biunivocal conjunction that allocates identity or difference through the correspondence between the halibut's gill and my lung, the cow's forefoot and my foreleg in the whole of organism. The other is the nomadic-polyvocal conjunction that distributes even my hands to different determinations that stray from organisms such as "walking machine," "cursing machine," and "stick machine" (AO 105).

The meaning and status of these three concepts of passive synthesis, which have the central positions in analyzing the production of desire in Anti-Oedipus, vary greatly in A Thousand Plateaus. First, the concept of disjunction which had the most important and positive status in The Logic of Sense, disappears. The concept of disjunction appears only once in A Thousand Plateaus, in a sentence that emphasizes the importance of the concept of connection: "....everything was on the lines, between the lines, in the AND that made one and the other imperceptible, without disjunction or conjunction but only a line of flight forever in the process of being drawn, toward a new acceptance, the opposite of renunciation or resignation"(1, 217; TP 207; MP 252).(In English translation, you can see the word disjunction many places, but all of them are the translations of ‘décalage’ not of ‘disjonction’)

Second, contrary to this, the concept of connection becomes a central concept frequently used throughout A Thousand Plateaus, and occupies the 'ideal' status that forms assemblages and constitutes multiplicities. For example, it is exactly connection that is mentioned first of all when explaining the characteristics of rhizome. "1 and 2. Principles of connection and heterogeneity: any point of a rhizome can be connected to anything other, and must be"(1, 11; TP 7).

These two changes need to be elaborated a bit because some argues that disjunction is “the principle of the philosophy of difference.” In The Logic of Sense, disjunction is definitely given the most important position among the three methods of synthesis. That the univocity of Being is paired with it demonstrates this well. Saying “philosophy merges with ontology, ontology merges with the univocity of Being,” Deleuze goes so far as to say “the univocity of Being merges with the positive use of the disjunctive synthesis which is the highest affirmation”(LS 179). To put it simply, this means that Being can have all of the different determinations as self-expressing words. ‘Whether it’s this or that,‘ everything can be the expression of Being. On the other hand, as connection is defined as the abbreviation of words or sentences that form a series in this book, it is homogenous even compared to conjunction.

However, in Anti-Oedipus, connection is newly defined as the combination of heterogeneous terms. Thereby, connection gets to have for the first time the meaning that matches the word 'connection.' This is because it becomes clear at this time that it is through connection that something becomes ‘which machine’, and it becomes a different machine if the connecting neighbor is different. In this case, connection can be denoted with the sign of '+' that the word 'AND' literally means. On the other hand, if connection is the abbreviation of the words or sentences of a series like in The Logic of Sense, there's no meeting of the heterogeneous. Because it is the way of abbreviation in which words get out from a given series, it should be marked as '-', not as '+.' Therefore, it can be said that this concept of connection is still far from the philosophy of difference. It is for this reason that connection has only a secondary and negative position in this book.

In Anti-Oedipus, connection is redefined as ‘+’, and connection, disjunction, and conjunction now have coordinate statuses as the forms of passive synthesis corresponding to production, registration, and consumption. As mentioned above, there are exclusive one and inclusive one for disjunction, molecular-partial one and molar-global one for connection, and also organic one and nomadic one for conjunction. All three syntheses commonly have both positive one and negative one. However, the concept of disjunction which was the most important in The Logic of Sense, disappears in A thousand Plateaus and instead, connection emerges as the general and most positive concept. It comes to have the status corresponding to the difference as what makes the determination of a term by the neighbour relation and makes the determination different as the neighbor it meets becomes different. namely, the status of 'the difference that makes,' When Deleuze/ Guattari suggest the concept of rhizome in contrast with the transcendent thinking that postulates the One, they mentioned connection as its first characteristic; the number of dimensions increases as the number of connections increases; the plane of consistency can be reached through this. Therefore, from the standpoint of A Thousand Plateaus, if there's such a thing as the 'Idea' of synthesis in the philosophy of difference, it is more appropriate to say it is connection, not disjunction.

Third, the meaning and status of the concept of conjunction also change. In A Thousand Plateaus, Deleuze/ Guattari use the concept of conjunction to refer to the totalization in the mode of organic or arborescent mode(TP 415), but what is as important as that is the concept of 'the conjunction of flow'. The conjunction of flow is associated with the abstract machine, which leads to the positive plane of consistency. "Beneath the forms and substances of the strata the plane of consistency (or the abstract machine) constructs continuums of intensity: it creates continuity for intensities that it extracts from distinct forms and substances..... Beneath relative movements the plane of consistency (or the abstract machine) performs conjunctions of flows of deterritorialization."(TP 70) In this case, the conjunction of flow has a positive meaning.

But that's not all. The conjunction of flow is also divided into two again. It is in relation with decoded and deterritorialized flow that the concept of the conjunction of flow is analytically used the most. First of all, the qualified and topical conjunction that consolidates the decoded flow of wealth between different nations or empires is the case(TP 451). Another case would be the abstract and generalized conjunction of the flow of wealth and that of labor(TP 453), which leads to the birth of capitalism. However, even this abstract conjunction is nothing more than a “conjunction causing blockages” unlike “creative connections” unless it strays from the abstract machine of axiomatic system, and is in contrast with the “ability to draw a plane of consistency with an increasing number of connections”(TP 513). Even the abstract and generalized conjunction is not just positive.

In summary, the concept of passive synthesis continues to appear in Deleuze's thoughts from Difference and Repetition to A Thousand Plateaus. In the early days, the concept of disjunctive among the three syntheses had a central status, but in the later years, the concept of connection changes to be a central one. In this process, the meanings of the three concepts continue to change, and the concept of connection precisely gets to accord with the concept of difference created through meeting, the concept of difference that makes. That this concept leads to the ability to draw a plane of consistency indicates the maximum of the positivity of this concept.



translated by Jung Ki Lee

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