jansonp766If, as the Ontic Principle affirms, there is no difference that does not make a difference, then the Ontological Principle directly follows. Deleuze, following Duns Scotus, gives a particularly clear formulation of the Ontological Principle:

…Being is said in a single and same sense… of all its individuating differences or intrinsic modalities. Being is the same for all these modalities, but these modalities are not the same. It is ‘equal’ for all, but they themselves are not equal… The essence of unvocal being is to include individuating differences, while these differences do not have the same essence and do not change the essence of being… (Difference and Repetition, 36)

A bit later Deleuze goes on to remark that,

The words ‘everything is equal’ may therefore resound joyfully, on condition that they are said of that which is not equal in this equal, univocal Being: equal being is immediately present in everything, without mediation or intermediary, even though things reside unequally in this equal being. (DR, 37)

As Deleuze puts it in the magnificent elevenths chapter of Expressionism and Philosophy (a chapter that should banish all doubt that Deleuze’s thought is a variant of neo-Platonism),


…[P]ure immanence requires as a principle the equality of being, or the positing of equal Being: not only is being equal in itself, but it is seen to be equally present in all beings. And the Cause appears as everywhere equally close: there is no remote causation. Beings are not defined by their rank in a hierarchy, are not more or less remote from the One, but each… participat[es] in the equality of being, receiving immediately all that it is by its essence fitted to receive, irrespective of any proximity or remoteness. Furthermore, pure immanence requires a Being that is univocal and constitutes a Nature, and that consists of positive forms, common to producer and product, to cause and effect… Thus the superiority of causes subsists within the viewpoint of immanence, but now involves no eminence, involves that is, no positing of any principle beyond the forms that are themselves present in the effect. Immanence is opposed to any eminence of the cause, any negative theology, any method of analogy, any hierarchical conception of the world. (173)

In many respects, the Ontological Principle is simply another way of formulating the Ontic Principle. If there is no difference that does not make a difference, then it follows that “to be” is to both differ and produce difference. When Deleuze evokes remote causation, his target is entities such as the Platonic forms, Plotinus’ One from which all else is said to emanate, Kant’s categories, Hegel’s Geist, the sense-bestowing cogito of phenomenology, signifiers, etc. In other words, the Ontological Principle is an affirmation that banishes any sort of overdetermining cause that affects all other beings without itself, in turn, being affected. Henceforth, all vertical being will be banished and the world or universe will necessarily be understood as flat or horizontal without any causes that are “out of scene” and secretly determinative of the rest. The Ontological Principle thus announces a democracy of being as opposed to an aristocracy of being, insofar as there is no sovereign form of being (forms, categories, subject, signifier, God, etc) that coordinates the rest without itself being coordinated in terms. All beings are equal in the sense that all beings are and insofar as all are differences.

vangogh111I am tempted to say that the Ontological Principle is a peculiar sort of principle in that it seems to mark the closure of any ontology. Here, of course, I do not have in mind the understanding of ontology as articulating the “furniture of the universe”, but rather of ontology as asking the question of “being qua being” or what can be said of being as such independent of any beings. Here being qua being would be exhausted in the declaration that being is said in a single and same sense for all that is. The Ontological Principle would thus direct us squarely to the ontic.

As a consequence of the Ontological Principle it thus seems that another principle, again articulated by Latour, follows: The Principle of Irreduction. The Principle of Irreduction states:

Nothing can be reduced to anything else.

cool-fractals-swirls-spirals-thumb20813If the Ontic and Ontological Principles are both affirmed, it follows that no being can merely be an effect or product of anything else insofar as any being, as a being, makes a difference. To reduce one being to another being, say signifiers or atoms, is to declare the only the being to which the other being is reduced makes a difference. The Principle of Irreduction sounds, at the outset, scandalous as, for example, it seems to return us to mind/body dualism and a world where everything is disconnected from everything else. However, the Principle of Irreduction does not state that there are no relations of dependency in and among beings, only that all beings contribute a difference. Consequently, while it is certainly the case that my body would not be possible without DNA, DNA, in unfolding, must nonetheless undergo translation as it transports itself (Latour’s Principle, which I now think is distinct from the Ontic Principle), and the body formed in translation with DNA produces its own differences. The Principle of Irreduction leads to a very strange ontology that spells the ruin for the principle of individuation wherein act-ualities are individuated from one another by not being able to occupy the same position in place and in time. Rather, the Principle of Irreduction opens a world in which individuals can exist within other individuals, all existing at different levels of scale such that an individual even exists with spatially dispersed parts as in the case of a social movement like the Zapatista movement which is both an individual and composed of many individuals. In all events, the relation between individuals is not one where one type of individual explains the rest without remainder, but where processes of translation must take place.