28 Aug 2015

Somers-Hall, (0: DR’s Intro), Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition, ‘0 Introduction: Repetition and Difference’, summary

by Corry Shores
[Search Blog Here. Index-tags are found on the bottom of the left column.]

[Central Entry Directory]
[Deleuze Entry Directory]
[Henry Somers-Hall, Entry Directory]
[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.]

Summary of

Henry Somers-Hall

Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition:
An Edinburgh Philosophical Guide

0 Introduction: Repetition and Difference


Very brief summary:
In the Introduction to DR, Deleuze clarifies how true repetition is not generality, and thus it is not the repetition of  artificially equalized things, like the replications of scientific experiments and the mechanically rigid application of moral laws as if each ethical situation were identical. Rather, it can be the reiteration of things with the same conceptual determinations but with non-conceptual differences, like Kant’s incongruent counterparts, words, and atoms, and also it can be the repetition of inconsistent moral commands, like Kierkegaard’s notion of God’s variable moral law.

Brief summary: 
Repetition is normally conceived as the repetition of identical things. But this is generality and not repetition. Scientific experimentation treats different situations as identical. It homogenizes them by arbitrarily selecting quantified parameters. But this generalization conceals the fundamental individuality of each instance.  Moral law, like the categorical imperative, calls for the same actions in similar situations. But this mechanically rigid application is too much like how natural law, which is a generalization, is thought to apply to diverse similar situations that in fact are not reducible to each other. Kierkegaard however conceives of a higher moral authority (God), whose commands are inconsistent, as with Abraham being commanded to kill his son. This is true repetition, since it is a reiteration of following the moral command without that law or action being the same each time. Representation, however, is not true repetition, since what repeats is thought to be identical. An idea is thought to have a comprehension (its purely conceptual determinations) and an extension (the things that have these determinations). True repetition needs there to be different instances (different things in extension) but to be repetitive, they need to be treatable as reiterations (have the same comprehension). However, according to Leibniz’ identity of indiscernibles, when two things have the same conceptual determinations (the same comprehension) they must be the same thing (the same extension). Kant’s incongruent counterparts shows that this is not always to be true. We can have conceptually identical things, like two same sized 3-4-5 triangles, but with one having the short side on the left and the other on the right. They are conceptual identical but are still distinguishable. In the first chapter Deleuze will further investigate this non-conceptual notion of difference.


(0.1 Introduction) Normally repetition is understood in terms of generality and law. But repetition is not generality. So we are not dealing with repetition in scientific experiment, moral law, and psychological habit, which work with generalities. (0.2 Science and Repetition) Scientific experimentation is not really repeating situations. Its methods artificially select parameters, and it converts all unique qualitative variations into symbolized numerical quantities with the intent of equalizing all experimental cases. But this blinds us to the differences that distinguish each instance. Also, natural laws derived from experimentation only hypothesize sameness (‘given the same circumstances…’).  (0.3 Kant’s Moral Law ) Moral laws tell us to do the same thing for the same situations. Thus they might at first appear to be instances of repetition. But because we must apply moral laws in a mechanical and pre-determined way, we are thinking of them too much like natural laws, which likewise we suppose to be non-deviable. And so, it suffers from the same problem as natural laws, namely, that it only hypothetically supposes that each situation can be seen as equivalent, when in fact they in fundamental ways are not. (0.4 Kierkegaard) God commands Abraham to kill his son. Kant thinks that Abraham should not have complied, since the highest imperative is the categorical imperative, which says you cannot murder. Kierkegaard thinks that there is a higher absolute (namely, God) with greater moral authority than ethical universals. This absolute does not command the same actions over and over, but rather the commands are heterogeneous and inconsistent. Here, then, we have repetition but not of the same action or law. (0.5 Extension and Comprehension) Representation is generality, since it repeats the same things, and thus it is not true repetition. For example, representational memory re-presents former objects and recognition compares present ones with mental representations. Such representations have a comprehension, which is the conceptual description that delineates the essential attributes of the thing, and the extension, which is the variety of things (or the thing) that the representation includes. For example, the comprehension of ‘triangle’ includes such conceptual determinations as ‘three lines,’ ‘three angles,’ etc; and the extension includes all the many sorts of triangles there are. The more determinations we add in the comprehension, the more restrictive the concept gets, which makes the extension shrink. When an idea refers to just one thing in extension, then its comprehension has expanded infinitely. Now, to have real repetition, we might need a series of instances of things that have the same concept. But according to Leibniz’ identity of indiscernibles, two things that have the same properties (and thus are conceptually indiscernible) are in fact identical. This would seem to make true repetition impossible, since if the instances shared the same concept, they will collapse into one another. One instance of things that are conceptually indiscernible but not collapsable are atoms, which differ only in spatio-temporal determinations. Another instance is words, which can be the same in different contexts, each time with the same definition and thus the same conceptual determinations, but also each time with different contextual colorings making them all unique. (0.6 Incongruent Counterparts) Kant’s incongruent counterparts provide another example of conceptually identical repetitions of things that are in fact not identical. Imagine we have a 3-4-5 scalene triangle. We can produce another one of the same size, where the relations between the parts are identical (with the 3-side connected to the 4 and 5, and so on) but construct it such that the 3-side is placed on the right while the first triangle has it on the left. Conceptually they are identical. But they are distinguishable on the basis of non-conceptual determinations, namely, relative spatial relations. (0.7 Conclusion) In chapter 1, Deleuze will investigate the principle of difference in a way that does not see it as being conceptual. But the investigation will not end merely by discovering its non-conceptuality.

Citations from:

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

Or if otherwise noted:

Deleuze, Gilles. Difference and Repetition, trans. Paul Patton, New York: Columbia University Press, 1994/London: Continuum, 2004.






No comments:

Post a Comment