by Corry Shores
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[Henry Somers-Hall’s Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition, Entry Directory]
[The following is summary. All boldface, underlining, and bracketed commentary are my own. Proofreading is incomplete, so please forgive my typos and other distracting mistakes. Somers-Hall is abbreviated SH, and Difference and Repetition as DR.]
Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition:
An Edinburgh Philosophical Guide
A Guide to the Text
Chapter 1. Difference in Itself
1.2 Aristotle’s Conception of Difference (30–3/38–42)
Aristotle’s conception of difference is bound up with his theory of classification. A genus is divided into species, which differ in kind. The division terminates in the individuals, which differ in number and only accidentally [rather than essentially like species do]. The genus-species distinction is relative, such that any genus can be a species to a higher genus, just as any species can be a genus to a lower species. The one exception is the species-individual relation, in which the species cannot again serve as genus, given that there are no species below it; instead there are only individuals. Difference in its truest sense is the difference in kind which distinguishes one species from another.
Deleuze’s critique of representation begins with Aristotle, whose philosophy in this account is thought to have presented “the first formulation of representation” (23). Aristotle conceived of difference in terms of opposition: “x differs from y if x is not y”. Deleuze says that this implies a certain concept of being. Deleuze will instead formulate a univocal conception of being in terms of intensive difference. Later Deleuze will discuss two ways of understanding difference, either spatially or as intensity. If spatially, then being is understood as fragment. If intensively, then being is understood univocally. In the following, SH will go over Aristotle’s basic ontological concepts of genus, species, difference, and accident, drawing primarily from his commentator Porphyry. Afterward we will see why Aristotle’s thinking leads him to certain problems. (24)
[The following can be confusing for a number of reasons. For example, there is terminology used in a way that is unfamiliar to me, and also the terminology is slightly inconsistent, namely in the cases of the phrases: predicated in and predicated of. Perhaps their meanings are identical, but even if so, I am not exactly sure I know how to define them. Also, there are two definitions given for genus, but in subtle ways they do not seem to line up, since the second one adds concepts not found in the first one. Another problem is that we might be familiar with this pairing: subject – predicate. And we might also be familiar with this pairing: genus – species. But somehow we need to combine them such that a genus, species, or individual can be predicated of or in something else. How to clearly conceptualize this is not apparent to me yet. The conclusion we will arrive at is that we need a species in between genus and individual. Yet, the exact reasoning for this is also unclear to me. The basic reason seems to be that the definition necessitates it. However I am not sure why the definition is formulated exactly in this way and not in some other manner. So according to the definition, the genus is made of different things that differ in kind. Working just with this definition, perhaps the reasoning is like this. We think of a set of individuals. If they are included in the genus, then so far we only know what generically is common to all of them (what is essential to them all) but their distinctions are not thereby designated. So it is as if they are all the same. In order for there to be a real diversity such that there are numerous members for the group, the individuals need to have differences in kind, which would be like subgroupings, and thus be species intermediateing between genus and individual. What is not clear to me is why genus is defined in this way and rather not just defined as a group of members. Perhaps the idea is that in order for it to be a group, it needs different things and not just one thing. And in order to have different things, they cannot be many instances of the same thing (or different quantitative variations of the same thing), since these could collapse again into one thing (or into one thing having different degrees of itself). They need to be different in kind in order to be a real multiplicity, and thus perhaps there needs to be species groupings among the members. Please read and discern the correct meaning of this paragraph for yourself.]
Porphyry defines the genus as ‘what is predicated in answer to “What is it?”, of several items which differ in species, for example, animal’ (Porphyry 2003: 4). This follows from Aristotle’s own definition: ‘what is predicated in the category of essence of a number of things exhibiting differences in kind’ (Aristotle 1984d: 102a). What does it mean to be predicated of items that differ in kind? If we take the case of Socrates, it should be clear that ‘animal’ can be predicated of him, to the extent that Socrates is a man (a rational animal). For Porphyry and Aristotle, however, there is no difference in kind between different men, but rather a difference in number. While it is the case that a given genus, such as animal, is predicated of an individual, such as Socrates, the genus cannot simply be directly used to define the individual. If it were used in this way, the genus would be the only function which was essential to each individual. This would mean that in essence each individual would be different only in number, whereas the definition of genus requires that it is predicated of what also differs in kind. We therefore need the intermediary category, which Aristotle and Porphyry call the species.
[The terms predicated of and predicated to would seem to mean: “is a predicate to”. So for example, animal can be predicated of Socrates, since it is a predicate to Socrates as in the formulation: Socrates is an animal. Now we move to the definition of species. The genus, we saw above, is what can be the predicate to a species, which would be groups of individuals that differ in kind to other species. So the genus animal can be predicated to various species, such that, ‘man is an animal’, ‘dog is an animal’, and so on.] Species we now see are what are predicated to things which differ in number. [So perhaps there is no difference in kind between Socrates and Plato. They is just difference in number. They are different instances of the same species man. So, “Socrates is a man” and “Plato is a man”.] Thus the individual can be predicated of both its genus and its species. [But we ask now, how would we define the grouping above “animal”? Perhaps it might be, “living creature”, including also plants and whatever else. It would seem that ‘genus’ and ‘species’ are relative terms, such that a genus can serve as a higher genus’ species.]
Porphyry writes that ‘the intermediate | items will be species of the items before them and genera of the items after them. Hence these stand in two relations, one to the items before them (in virtue of which they are said to be their species), and one to the items after them (in virtue of which they are said to be their genera)’ (Porphyry 2003: 6).
[This also means that only the lowest species has individuals as its more basic members. We need to define species now in terms of its genus, and not just in terms of having members differing in kind, like we saw above. I am not exactly sure how this is done. Perhaps the new definition of species would be: ‘a species is the subgrouping of the genus, and this grouping is based on differences in kind.” But that does not add anything to the definition of genus, so I am not sure.]
A consequence of this is that we now need to define the species in terms of something other than the individual, since only the lowest species relates directly to things which differ only in number. Instead, we now define the species in terms of its genus. Thus we have a hierarchy, reaching from the highest genera to the individual, through which the individual is specified by a process of division from the genus through the various species, gaining determinations as it goes, since each genus will determine the essence of that below it.
[Next we look at ‘accidents’. SH says they do not define species, so it is not clear yet why we need to mention them. Perhaps they are what distinguish individuals, which differ in number, but not in essence. There are separable and inseparable accidents. This distinction is not very clear to me. Separable accidents are not defined, but they are exemplified, for example, Socrates can be sitting or not sitting. It is clear why this is accidental, since it is arbitrary and does not change Socrates himself. Inseparable ones are explained as being accidental traits that were they removed from the individual, that individual could still keeps his essence. The counter example is a trait that were it removed, the individual does lose its essence. All this is clear, except it is not clear why the second kind of accidents are called inseparable, since they can be separated without changing the individuals essence. Perhaps they are inseparable in the sense that they are inherent to the individual and physically inseparable, even though they are non-essential.]
The last category we need to consider are accidents, which do not define a species. These can either be separable (as in the case of Socrates, who can be sitting or not sitting), or not separable (for instance, ‘being black is an inseparable accident for ravens and Ethiopians’ [Porphyry 2003: 12]), in that an Ethiopian could lose his skin colour without ceasing to be an Ethiopian, whereas a man without reason (at least potentially) is no longer a man.
SH now asks what the role of difference is in this hierarchical schema. For Aristotle, only things sharing something in common can also differ, for otherwise the difference would be so great as to disallow any basis for them to stand in relation to one another. [The commonality seems to be a shared genus at some higher level]. SH then asks “If differences between things of different genera are too broad, how can we formulate a narrower conception of difference?” [But it is not yet clear to me yet how some genera are similar enough to have an evident difference and others do not, and I also do not understand what is meant by a narrower conception of difference and how it would solve this problem.] SH explains that [in the face of this problem] there are three forms of difference, namely, common difference, proper difference, and the most proper difference. Yet Porphyry only considers the most proper difference to be real difference. Common difference is not real difference, because it is the difference between accidents, meaning that that the difference is between “non-essential predicates, and is not effective in determining a real difference between entities” (SH 25). Proper differences are in fact real differences because they are inseparable properties of things [above we looked at inseparable accidents, like the black of the Ethiopian. It is not clear how that notion fits here into proper differences. Perhaps they are the same, and here proper differences distinguish individuals but perhaps like inseparable accidents they do not distinguish species.] (25) Then we have the most proper difference, which is specific difference. It “is what allows species to be defined in Porphyry’s tree by dividing the genus” (25d). [It is not clear to me what the ‘proper’ means here and why more proper brings the difference to the difference between species. Accidental traits it seems distinguish individuals. Proper differences do too. And somehow, the more proper, the less distinguishing of individuals and the more of species.] [So now we are somehow no longer thinking of proper difference as distinguishing individuals but instead as dividing genera into species. Recall also that difference between genera can be so great such that the genera are too other to one another that they cannot be properly distinguished. (There was no example for this, so it is difficult to conceptualize. Perhaps this would happen if the genera are at least two steps removed. So consider these two classifications: 1) Socrates – Man – Animal – Living Thing. 2) The largest cut diamond – Gem – Stone – Non-Living Thing. Perhaps Gem and Man are too other, since we cannot say, Both Man and Gem are X, except Man is has these distinguishing traits and Gems have these other distinguishing traits. For, the next most common genus is ‘thing’, but to make the comparison, we would say, a man is a thing, that is also a living thing, that is also an animal, while a Gem is a thing, which is also, … etc. So specific difference, which would also for some reason be equated with conceptually significant difference, is in between the otherness of genetic difference and the ultimate specificity of individual difference. Perhaps also to see just individual difference is to be aware of metamorphoses, on account of very specific changes which cannot be reduced to a single common thing happening over those changes. I am not sure, so please judge for yourself the meaning of these sentences.]
The most proper difference, however, is specific difference. Specific difference is what allows species to be defined in Porphyry’s tree by dividing the genus. So, if we take the genus, animal, we are able to determine the species, man, by dividing animals into two kinds: rational and non-rational animals. Difference is the criterion by which | we divide the genus into two species. Conceptually significant difference therefore occupies a middle point between the extremes of otherness and accidental difference: ‘Specific difference refers only to an entirely relative maximum, a point of accommodation for the Greek eye – in particular for the Greek eye which sees the mean, and has lost the sense of Dionysian transports and metamorphoses’ (DR 32/40).
Porphyry then, by means of these divisions based on essential differences, “provides an account of the determination of objects that allows us to characterise all of their essential determinations through a process of division. We begin with a property which belongs to everything, for instance, substance, and by a repeated process of division of things into contrary classes, we eventually arrive at a complete determination of the subject” (SH 26). [SH then quotes Porphyry who speaks of the form-matter distinction in this context. It seems to add concepts that we will not need later, so I will just replicate the text without commenting on it.]
He puts this point as follows [quoting Porphyry up to the citation]:
For in the case of objects which are constituted of matter and form or which have a constitution at least analogous to matter and form, just as a statue is constituted of bronze as matter and figure as form, so too the common and special man is constituted of the genus analogously to matter and of the difference as shape, and these – rational mortal animal – taken as a whole are the man, just as they are the statue. (Porphyry 2003: 11)
Of course, Porphyry is not implying that what we have here is a temporal constitution (we don’t find in the world beings that are only determined as animals, for instance). Rather, his point is that the series of genera and species provide an account of the logical order of determinations of a particular object.
Somers-Hall, Henry. Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition. An Edinburgh Philosophical Guide. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University, 2013.
Or if otherwise noted:
Aristotle (1984d), ‘Topics’, trans. W. A. Pickard-Cambridge, in Jonathan Barnes (ed.), The Complete Works of Aristotle, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 167–277.
Porphyry (2003), Introduction, trans. Jonathan Barnes, Oxford: Clarendon Press.