21 Mar 2015

Somers-Hall, (1.1), Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition, ‘1.1 Introduction [to DR’s 1st Chapter]’, summary

Corry Shores
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[The following is summary. All boldface, underlining, and bracketed commentary are my own.]

Henry Somers-Hall

Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition.
An Edinburgh Philosophical Guide

Part 1
A Guide to the Text



Chapter 1. Difference in Itself

1.1 Introduction (28–30/36–8)


Brief summary:

We are seeking a more profound notion of difference than what we normally ascribe to it. We operate as though there is a world to which our judgments make differentiations and determinations. We say, ‘this is an x’, and in this way we use the subject-predicate structure to designate things in an otherwise undifferentiated world. But in fact, using such representations will not suffice to explain the grounds of our representational system, which is subrepresentational.




The first chapter begins with the notion of the absence of difference (indifference), and Deleuze aims here to show how representation tries to tame difference. Deleuze gives two examples of indifference: 1) The undifferentiated abyss into which everything dissolves, and 2) The white nothingness on which are scattered unconnected determinations (21-22). In the first case, a lack of difference makes everything seem indistinguishable and seemingly be identical. In the second case, the lack of difference prevents things from forming determinate relations with one another. Deleuze then explains two main ways of understanding difference: either as secondarily imposed on an indifferent world or instead as something which emerges immanently on its own accord (22).

Then Deleuze returns to the idea of representation. It is a matter of asking ‘what is it?’. The sought answer would take the form ‘it is x’, which takes the structure of a judgment with its subject and its predication. In the undifferentiated abyss, one of the conditions has not been met [since either the things in the abyss cannot be pulled apart into distinct subjects or those subjects are distinct but the predications which distinguish them are not]. Thus judgment is impossible and so is representation and as well “thinking is suspended” (22).

By examining this undifferentiated abyss which receives determining judgments we see “the central problem of representation” (22d). Representation in a sense is descriptive of what comes about, but it cannot account for how things do come about. There must be some subrepresentational level to which representation imposes its forms but to which representation is inadequate to express in its originality.

The first of these possibilities, the abyss, brings us to the central problem of representation. While representation is able to qualify forms and subjects (‘this square is red’), it is unable to account for the genesis of form itself. Form simply has to be imposed on something fundamentally non-representational; something that simply cannot be captured within the formal structures of judgement. Such an abyss is in a literal | sense unthinkable. This is the dialectic of representation which operates in the opening of Chapter 1. If form, and with it the structure of the world of subjects and properties, emerge from an abyss, and if this emergence cannot be explained in terms of representation, how can it be explained? The difference between the formless abyss and form must be something that falls outside of representation. Difference is therefore Deleuze’s name for this process of the emergence of form, which cannot be captured within the structure of the already formed.

But representation should want to be grounded, however it cannot think its own (subrepresentational) ground. When trying to represent these grounds, we resort to concepts of identity, analogy, opposition, and resemblance. But Deleuze shows in this chapter why these attempts fail.

In the process, he will make the claim that underlying representation is a structure that is different in kind from it. Underneath the represented world of subjects and properties is a differential field of intensity. (23)

SH then outlines the structure of Deleuze’s argument. First Deleuze looks at Aristotle’s theory of species and genera, which is “a paradigm case of representation;” next Deleuze shows what is wrong with this theory; third, he gives an alternative conception; fourth, he argues that “Leibniz and Hegel’s attempts to save representation fail;” and finally, he shows that Plato, although a founder of representation, also hints at an “alternative ontology” (23).



Somers-Hall, Henry. Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition. An Edinburgh Philosophical Guide. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University, 2013.

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