Multiplicity (philosophy)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Multiplicity is a philosophical concept that Edmund Husserl and Henri Bergson developed from Riemann's mathematical concept. It forms an important part of the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze, particularly in his collaboration with Félix Guattari, Capitalism and Schizophrenia (1972-80). In his Foucault (1986), Deleuze describes Michel Foucault's The Archaeology of Knowledge (1969) as "the most decisive step yet taken in the theory-practice of multiplicities."

Deleuze's philosophy

The notion of multiplicity forms a central part of Bergson's critique of philosophical negativity and the dialectical method, Deleuze argues in his commentary, Bergsonism (1966). The theory of multiplicities, he explains, must be distinguished from traditional philosophical problems of "the One and the Multiple." By opposing "the One and the Multiple," dialectical philosophy claims "to reconstruct the real," but this claim is false, Bergson argues, since it "involves abstract concepts that are much too general."

Instead of referring to "the Multiple in general," Bergson's theory of multiplicities distinguishes between two types of multiplicity: continuous multiplicities and discrete multiplicities (a distinction that he developed from Riemann).

The features of this distinction may be tabulated as follows:

Continuous multiplicities Discrete multiplicities
differences in kind differences in degree
divides only by changing in kind divides without changing in kind
non-numerical - qualitative numerical - quantitative
differences are virtual differences are actual
continuous discontinuous
qualitative discrimination quantitative differentiation
simultaneity succession
fusion juxtaposition
organization order
subjective - subject objective - object
duration space

See also


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