In the folding of Divergent Series in a World Beyond Causality

Leibnitz and the Baroque Revisited

by Jane Love

I have a terrible time speaking or writing about Deleuze's The Fold. I am always falling prey, it seems, to the ineluctable, compelling allure of its powerful figure: the fold. I want to speak of this text as folded, enfolding; I lose myself in its folds and wish not to speak of it at all, but simply to live out its im-plications, to allow it to be implicit in my work and thought. I lose myself in the fine pleats of its textual details. I begin to think in rather than about. I begin to be thought as much as to think. This book is a philosophical retrovirus. It is infectious.

One can see the effect of The Fold in many places these days: philosophy, literary theory, architecture, art, film, hypertextual and other literary genres, virtual environments. I see it especially in cultural and media studies, where the fold serves as a trope for multiplicity, complexity, continuity, reiteration, and recursivity. The fold is the latest in the rhetorical stable of figures invoked to negotiate the hyper-relations that characterize so much of contemporary culture. As such, the fold is used for everything from self-referentiality within a text to the dynamic transvaluation of concepts. The figure of the fold seems to seek its own prolongation through thought, language, and art. Thinking about Deleuze's The Fold invariably becomes, at some point, thinking in the fold.

Beneath the scintillating cultural life of its central disseminated figure, The Fold is Deleuze's reinscription of Leibnitz and the Baroque, a historical moment that Deleuze finds enfolded by, as well as enfolding, our present millennial moment, a moment he calls the "neo-Baroque." If there is a "folding of divergent series in a world beyond causality," then it is this world in which we now live, a world in which freedom is increasingly tied to interiorities: interiorities of identity ("free to be you and me"), interiorities of experience (the thrill of the virtual frontier), interiorities of community and power (identity politics and the insular politics of hate). The ascendancy of the retrovirus, for which the poster child is HIV, radicalizes this movement toward interiority in a way that is at once succinctly symbolic and brutally literal, for not only does it infect, it also unfolds into the foldings of the body, merging its own genetic code in series with that of the body, im-plicating itself in and into, not about, the body. The interiorization of freedom is inextricably linked to the seemingly contradictory logic of interiority as figured in the retrovirus, and in the end we are faced with the task of reinventing human liberty, as was Leibnitz, as is Deleuze in the text at hand. In The Fold, Deleuze invents a neo-Leibnitzian freedom.

* * * * *

Tom Conley, translator of The Fold, notes that the book itself is structured like a monad, cone-shaped, with a broad base rising to a central apex that defines the point of view of the monad. And indeed, the book is organized into three sections of three chapters each, leaving a neatly centrist structure of four chapters on either side of the fifth, the central chamber of the book, the most withdrawn, the defining apex: the chapter entitled "Incompossibility, Individuality, Liberty." In this chapter, Deleuze explicates Leibnitz's concept of the incompossible as a way of addressing the problem of predetermination for the possibility of human liberty.

Voltaire mocked Leibnitz's optimism in pronouncing this the "best of all possible worlds," but in doing so, Voltaire missed the point for Leibnitz, which is not that this world is the best that could possibly be, but that this world is the best because, among all the worlds that are possible, this is the one that is (68). For Leibnitz, it is existence that confers "bestness," not the accumulation of attributes and qualities making up the world. In choosing these attributes, the singularities that comprise the world, "God himself conceives individual notions only as a function of the world that they express, and chooses them only through a calculus of the world" (50-51). God comprises the transfinite totality of all possible worlds; it is He who "conceives and chooses the world" (51), and in this sense all worlds are compossible--equally and simultaneously possible--in God.

Similarly, each world exists entirely within each of the monads that make it up, each monad illuminating its uniquely assigned portion of the whole, even as it contains the world within it: monads are uniquely individual in the perspectives they illuminate, but they are infinitely redundant in that each one recapitulates the entirety of the world. In this sense, monads are like God, but in respect to specific worlds: each monad contains the entire series of monads that makes up the world and thus contains all other monads as compossible with itself. In this sense, the differences that distinguish monads are not markers of absolute difference, and the differing perspectives of monads do not contradict each other since all perspectives represent divergences within the same series of perspectives that make up the world. Each monad also represents its own series of possibilities within the larger series of the world. The unity of the world, then, derives not from convergence or sameness, but from series nested in series, series that extend into other series according to "a curvature having a unique variable" (50), the unique inflection of the world, or its calculus. The world is completely enfolded within each of its monads, and the world enfolds all of its monads within the totality of the calculus of its curving toward God.

Why is it, then, that all possible worlds are not compossible in respect to each other in the same way that monads within a world are compossible? Just as each monad comprises the totality, the whole series of its world, God comprises the whole series of all worlds; why, then, cannot the world in which Adam sinned and the world in which Adam did not sin peacefully coexist in series with each other? Each world contains divergences within the series it expresses; each world is, in a sense, the point of reference for all such divergences, and each monad contains even these serial divergences from itself. Deleuze, however, notes that the question is not so much one of seriality as of the cognition of seriality: to be in a series is not equivalent to perceiving the seriality of the series, let alone its relations to other series. As Deleuze writes, although "the whole series is clearly in the monad, . . . the reason for the series . . . is not" (51). The series of the world exists within the monad, but it is chosen by God, and the harmony that exists among monads is preestablished by God in reference to a limit of seriality that is wholly extrinsic to the series. It is as if the frame of reference for the adjudication of seriality operates according to a set switching point: within the perspective allotted to monads, seriality is perceptible and conceivable within the limits of noncontradiction, but as the series moves and diverges beyond the ken of the monad, contradiction becomes the rule: one Adam sins; another does not, and these two Adams diverge into separate worlds of seriality. The perceptibility and cognition of the seriality of worlds presuppose God as both the reason for all worlds and the limit of their seriality. Although the fold is a figure of fractal continuity and iteration, it would be wrong to suppose that its folding does not often and necessarily obscure the view from the monadic points comprising its surface.

The incompatibility of worlds from the monad's point of view, then, raises the question of human freedom: if the two worlds in which Adam respectively sinned and did not sin are mutually exclusive from the point of view of the monad--if, within the world in which he sinned, his not-sinning is contradictory, then how is it possible that Adam sinned of his own free will? What possibility exists for morality within the contemporary neo-Baroque moment?

The relation among all possible worlds is termed "incompossibility": all worlds are possible, but only in relation to God; for God, then, all worlds are compossible. Among themselves, however, and their monads, worlds are incompossible: as a series, they converge in God, but as the same series, they also diverge in relation to singularities that comprise each world as it is: Adam's not-sinning is a divergence from the world in which Adam sins. Divergences create branchings, as when, in a hypertext fiction, one can choose from a number of plot developments of varying degrees of compatibility, each path containing yet more divergences within itself, the entire text branching endlessly into multiple narratives, some of which will be incompossible with each other. The image of such a hypertext is like the structure that organizes all possible worlds: a pyramid with its apex at the authorial homepage--which, in the case of worlds, would be God--and with its base indefinitely extended. Deleuze notes that Borges, in his fiction, wants "to have God pass into existence all incompossible worlds at once instead of choosing one of them, the best" (62), a desire that, Deleuze says, would be globally possible since incompossibility is not, strictly speaking, a matter of impossibility or contradiction. And yet, for Leibnitz, the local contradictions this would entail would leave us with a "trickster God" (63), a prankish and deceptive God operating without rules, and the rule for existence must be compossibility with what God chooses. Existence is not cut off from the folds of possibility, but it is distinguished by this rule of compossibility.

The incompossibility of worlds, then, addresses their radical singularity, just as the incompossibility of the Adam who sins and the one who does not sin addresses their respective singularities, as well. Whether Adam sins or not, does not, then, represent variations on the possible actions of a single Adam who persists across multiple incompossible worlds according to his actions: the Adam who does not sin is a different Adam from the one who sins. Both Adams, however, belong to a converging series of singularities, which might also include the Adam who snatches the apple from Eve before she can taste it and greedily refuses to share with her, the lazy Adam who names every animal "cow" and lets it go at that, and the jealous Adam who chases after the serpent to slay it with a garden implement. As Deleuze writes, "Individuation does not go from a genre to smaller and smaller species, in accord with a law of differentiation, but goes from singularity to singularity, under the law of convergence or of prolongation that ties the individual to one world or another" (64). Singularities exist within a larger fold of prolongation, where what is prolonged would seem to be generic--a garden, an Adam--but in fact is no more than a series of singularities marked by convergence and divergence.

One result of this way of conceptualizing individuation and differentiation is that difference ceases to be absolute. Deleuze writes that "Difference no longer exists between the polygon and the circle, but in the pure variability of the sides of the polygon; difference is no longer between movement and inertia, but in pure variability of speed" (65). This bears significantly on the question of liberty: if the relation between a sinning and non-sinning Adam is one of absolute difference, then neither Adam can be said to have acted freely. But if the difference between sinning and not-sinning is one of a "pure variability" of sinning, then the prolongation of Adam would draw to itself the converging singularities of an Adam who sinned in thought but not in deed, who set teeth to apple and then changed his mind, and who ate of the apple only later to regurgitate it, having found that knowledge did not, after all, agree with his nature. Within the prolongation of this "pure variability" of sinning, all possibilities converge, all are linked, and the singularity of any given possibility does not contradict any other possibility, although they may be incompossible from any given Adam's point of view.

But, as we know, in this best of all possible worlds, Adam sins, and, given that this world which is best is also the world within which Adam sins, it appears that Adam was destined to sin, despite the fact that his not-sinning is not impossible. His sinning is at best certain and not necessary, although, as Deleuze writes, "In human eyes it does not suffice that Adam may not sin in another world, if he is certainly sinning in this world" (69). It appears that the monad, despite the fact that it enfolds the world within it, is nevertheless trapped within the closure of its own determination, all questions of "pure variability" and incompossibility notwithstanding. As long as the point where possibility and variation converge is extrinsic to the individual but intrinsic to God, as it is for Leibnitz, human liberty seems to be meaningful, not on the human level, but only as expressive of God's liberty.

Deleuze, however, delineates an unfolding of the concept of liberty that extends into the human register, and it follows the trajectory of predication as a form of volition. For Leibnitz, predication does not follow the familiar grammatical pattern of subject-copula-attribute; instead, as Deleuze writes, for Leibnitz,

Predicates are never attributes. . . . [T]he predicate is only a relation or an event. [. . .] Events in their turn are types of relations; they are relations to existence and to time. Included in the notion as subject is forever an event marked by a verb, or a relation marked by a preposition: I am writing, I am going to Germany. . . (and, if things had the gift of speech, they would say, as might, for example, gold: 'I will resist melting and nitric acid'). (52)
While an attributive notion of subjectivity aligns qualities with essences, Leibnitz's notion of subjectivity is based on unity, within which the predicate is a verb, a relation and an event, not an attribute (52-3). As Deleuze writes, "I can no more reduce 'I travel' to 'I am a traveling being' than I can reduce 'I think' to 'I am a thinking being.' Thought is not a constant attribute, but a predicate passing endlessly from one thought to another" (53).

Whereas attributes are added onto an essence, predicates, as events or relations, are strictly internal to the subject, even when the predication would seem to involve an external relationship between two subjects, as in the propositions Deleuze offers as examples, "Peter is smaller than Paul," and "Paul is bigger than Peter." In this case, Deleuze tells us, predication lies not in the relation between Peter and Paul, but in the relation between a representative of Peter in Paul in terms of height, and likewise of Paul in Peter. This insistence on inclusion--that the predicate must be included in the subject, and not externally tacked on--speaks both to the radical interiority of monads, which are famously "windowless," and, Deleuze says, to "an entire history of the concept that goes through the wholes-and-parts, things and substances, by means of extensions, intensions, and individuals, and by which the concept itself . . . becomes a subject"; "the concept itself is no longer the essence or logical possibility of its object, but the metaphysical reality of the corresponding subject" (54). Concepts no longer provide the armature for attributive ornamentation, but heave and flow within the folds of events and relations; concepts become events and relations, predications and also subjects. This Leibnitzian transvaluation of the concept from essence or logical possibility to event engenders a consequent Baroque proliferation of concepts and principles to correspond with the fecundity of events; Baroque principles are the multifarious offspring of what Deleuze calls "the honeymoon of singularity and the concept" (67). Adam's sinning, or lack thereof, is not an attribute of Adam but a predicate expressing the eventfulness of his being and is thus inseparable from him; it is part of the concept, the logical possibility of that Adam. Although Adam's sinning may be, by virtue of incompossibility, not necessary but certain within this world, within the singular Adam who sins, sinning is an intrinsic and a necessary predication.

We seem to have returned once again to the problem of freedom: how are singularity and individuality to be reconciled with liberty? The key, says Deleuze, lies in the fact that predication is not attribution, but event. The difficulty encountered in reconciling singularity with liberty arises when liberty is treated as an attribute rather than as a predicate, as a quality appended to acts rather than as an act or event in itself. Events in the soul cause changes in perception, and Deleuze writes that "an event is voluntary when a motive can be assigned, such as reason or change of perception" (69). Deleuze describes the mechanism by which the soul reconciles the spontaneous quality of its events with its own volition as follows:

. . . [I]n truth the soul is what invents its own motives. . . . We have to begin from all of the smallest inclinations that ply our soul in every direction, in the flash of an instant, under the stress of a thousand 'little springs': disquiet. [. . .] The action is voluntary when the soul--instead of undergoing the total effect into which these little appeals enter--gives itself a certain amplitude, such that it bends entirely in one direction or toward one side. (69-70)
The image for inclination is one of tipping a set of scales in one direction or another, where the shifting weight that makes the decisive difference is a movement of soul expressing itself, a "voluntary act [that] is free because the free act is what expresses the entire soul at a given moment of its duration" (70).

This tension between the "whole" enduring soul and the present moment of inclination would seem to suggest that past events determine and thus constrain present events, along with the specific amplitude expressed by the soul in any given moment. But for Leibnitz, the relation of past and present is not one of causality, but one of inherence: past, present, and future express the inherent unity of the soul, a unity that is continually unfolding through the soul's amplitude and inclination. Liberty lies in these two conditions: the inherent unity of the soul, without which there would be no subject for the predication of liberty; and the capability of the soul to constitute its unity through various movements, various inclinations. Human liberty is a practice, not an attribute, and it lies in the degree to which the whole soul expresses itself in the present (71). The closure of the monad does not refer to something accomplished or past, but to the proper unity of the soul (70). Interiority constitutes liberty itself. And so: to the question, "Does Adam sin freely?" Deleuze replies, ". . . at that instant his soul has taken on an amplitude that is found to be easily filled by the aroma and taste of the apple, and by Eve's solicitations. Another amplitude--one having retained God's defense--is possible. The whole question turns on 'laziness'" (70).

The question here is not only that of liberty, but of morality, and laziness is evidently a great impediment to morality. The amplitude of the soul refers to its region of clear expression, which is not of any fixed degree or extent but varies from moment to moment, age to age, and is unique to each soul, nonreproducible, part of the inherence of both the soul itself and of the world to which it belongs. "Morality," writes Deleuze, "consists in this for each individual: to attempt each time to extend its region of clear expression, to try to augment its amplitude, so as to produce a free act that expresses the most possible in one given condition or another" (73). "To attempt . . . to extend," "to try to augment": morality is not a matter of choosing in accordance with a program of correct and incorrect actions, but a matter of effort in relation to a task that cannot be graded in terms of success or failure. Given that each monad, each soul stands in relation to God as His passage through and into space, time, and the world, there is only the question of "laziness," of failing to make the effort to expand and prolong God's passage. As Deleuze writes, "Does Adam's sin not correspond to a soul, too pressed or too lazy, that has not explored everything in its subdivision or its garden?" (73).

* * * * *

Freedom, then, is a matter of the soul expressing itself, while morality is a matter of the soul amplifying or extending itself. Both expression and amplification are matters of "pure variability": the soul pulses, it waxes and wanes in amplitude, now gravid in darkness, now repleat with illuminated folds. Morality is not clearly distinct from immorality: if Adam was too lazy to explore the garden, Eve was not, and her sin would then consist not in amplifying her soul beyond the limit of interdiction, but in sharing the apple with Adam and thus depriving him of the opportunity similarly to exert himself. For Leibnitz, the monad's task is self-development (74), and the damned are those who fail to develop. The damned, however, are essential to the development of souls: by failing to develop, they free up a range of amplitude within the world for other souls to develop. The damned thus contribute directly to the progress of other souls; they are the foundation of this best of all possible worlds.

Perhaps Eve's amplitude arises from Adam's sin, and the seriality of her being with his--literally, extracted from the series of Adam's ribs--renders them not entirely distinct. Perhaps the space-time that is "not a grid or a pre-existing receptacle" (66) for the world is nevertheless the mark of a feminine amplitude enfolded in the world. Deleuze writes, "It is space, time, and extension that are in the world on each occasion and not the inverse" (66), just as the womb, that khora, enfolded in the darkest recesses of the body, is every monad's first Baroque apartment.

In his short essay, "The Deleuzian Fold of Thought," Jean-Luc Nancy writes the following:

A philosophy of speed as opposed to the slowness inherent in discourse. Not the anxious apparatus of truth, but the arrow of judgment. . . . Hence also that all writing is concentrated in names and not in movements of phrase. It is not a matter of style . . ., it is a matter of nomination and description: a sort of grand ekphrasis (with the Greeks this was the genre specific to the description of pictures or tableaux).

To draw up a tableau and let it be seen: such would be the philosophical imperative. . . . (111)

The significance of "tableau" for Nancy is revealed, I think, when Deleuze writes, ". . . difference is no longer between movement and inertia, but in pure variability of speed" (65). This is the key to what Nancy means here: discourse moves while tableau does not, but this is not the difference between movement and inertia, but a variability of speed. Tableau is not stillness; it is the all-at-onceness of Mozart hearing an entire composition in an instant. It is speed as potentia rather than kinesis. Tableau happens at the speed of womb, where all is given and held, enfolded and unfolding. The fold is always both implication and explication, where beneath the diverging prefixes is the prolongation of plicare, the folding itself.

The Fold is a textual tableau, a Leibnitzian womb for Deleuze's philosophy, and what it lets us see is Deleuze's profound optimism, never more subtly or clearly or more philosophically demonstrated than in one small turn of phrase: "It is because the body and the soul have no point in being inseparable, for they are not in the least really distinct. . ." (11). What, indeed, would be the point in indistinct entities remaining inseparable, or in distinct entities maintaining a firm and formal distance? It would be a needless redundancy, a fold with no amplitude. It would be consistent to hold that separable entities are distinct from each other, but it is optimistic to point out that there is no need to enforce consistency through static reiteration, an optimism that finds an unlikely biological counterpart in the retrovirus, for whom distinctiveness is no bar to inseparability. Deleuze reads into the spaciousness in Leibnitz, the voluminous embraces of his concepts, and finds there grounds for trusting that a world grown increasingly divergent will nonetheless allow us to discover "new ways of folding, akin to new envelopments," while, nevertheless, "we all remain Leibnitzian because what always matters is folding, unfolding, refolding" (137).