Actual vs Virtual

“The virtual is opposed not to the real but to the actual. The virtual is fully real in so far as it is virtual. […] Far from being an object of knowledge, the virtual is, on the contrary, that which makes knowledge possible, indeed, creates knowledge.”


According to Deleuze, the virtual is not a realm of mere possibility, but rather a realm of real but unactualized potentiality. It is fully real insofar as it is virtual. The actual, on the other hand, is the world of concrete, material objects and events that we experience in our everyday lives. It is the realm of the present, of things that exist in space and time and can be directly perceived or interacted with.

Deleuze emphasizes that the virtual is not opposed to the real but to the actual. The virtual is not a mere representation of the actual, but an active force that shapes and transforms the actual. In this sense, the virtual is fully real, as it creates and makes knowledge possible. Deleuze argues that the virtual is not an object of knowledge but the condition of knowledge itself.

The relationship between the actual and the virtual is complex and interdependent. The virtual is constantly influencing the actual, pushing it to change and evolve in new and unexpected ways. At the same time, the actual is the material realization of the virtual. The actual is the result of the process of actualization, in which the virtual is made real.

Deleuze’s ideas about the actual and the virtual have far-reaching implications in philosophy, art, and technology. In philosophy, Deleuze’s ideas challenge traditional notions of reality and the relationship between the mind and the world. In art, Deleuze’s ideas have been influential in the development of new forms of digital and interactive art that blur the boundaries between the actual and the virtual. In technology, Deleuze’s ideas have been applied to the development of new forms of virtual reality and simulation technologies.

In conclusion, Deleuze’s philosophy of the actual and the virtual invites us to reconsider our relationship to the world around us. By emphasizing the interdependence of the actual and the virtual, Deleuze challenges us to imagine new possibilities for how we might interact with and shape the world in which we live.

To become other than ourselves is to enter into the flow of experience prior to the ordering of human perception; it sets in motion an ambiguous engagement with the multiple differential flows of life. So Deleuze proposed a modal distinction as a replacement for the problematic real-possible dichotomy commonly used in philosophy.

The possible presupposes that everything that is real must also be possible (which rules out a great number of conceptual inventions, consigning them to the ontologically lesser category of the unreal, or impossible), and it is unable to explain why that which is possible has not already come into being.

For Deleuze, both the actual and the virtual are fully real — the former has concrete existence, while the latter does not, but it is no less real for that fact. The importance of this distinction can readily be seen by giving thought to the state of being of an idea: it may only exist in our heads, or on paper, but its effects are fully real and may also be fully actual too.

Life is not defined by the real conditions of possibility, but rather by a creative flow of virtual potential, or virtual difference.)

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