12 Aug 2015

Somers-Hall, (3.9), Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition, ‘3.9 The Postulate of Modality or Solutions (156–64/195–204)’, summary

Corry Shores
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[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

Part 1
A Guide to the Text


Chapter 3. The Image of Thought

3.9 The Postulate of Modality or Solutions (156–64/195–204)

Brief summary:
The seventh postulate of the problematic image of thought is of solutions or of modality. Here problems are understood in terms of propositions and the possibility of the problems being solved. For example, a referendum is based on a possible policy change, which can be stated as a proposition or as a question like, “Yes or no, should the possible change be made?” Deleuze’s criticism is that understanding problems this way only helps us grasp what conditions them and not what generates them, and therefore it does not provide an adequate model for accounting for thinking itself.






Since, [as we saw in the previous section] sense cannot be given in terms of a proposition, Deleuze considers the possibility that it can be given in terms of a question. SH writes: “It is clearly the case that we can see a proposition as in some way expressing a question, and it is also the case that a question differs from a statement, in that it is not itself true or false” (SH 125) [Later we will learn more about how propositions express questions.] So the question is different in kind from the statement. But “The extent to which we are able to understand the ground of the proposition as different in kind from it will depend on how we understand questioning” (125). One way of understanding questioning seems merely to take a proposition and formulate it as a question or a “problem” by considering it as a possibility. So a government referendum proposes a possible policy change, and formulates it as a question like, “Yes or No, should this possible change be made?” Deleuze refers to how Aristotle notes that a problem can be made from a proposition by modifying its syntax. Also, a problem can obtain its value depending on whether it is solvable or not. So, “Here, what makes the problem false is purely the fact that it does not have any (propositional) solutions” (126). The seventh postulate of the image of thought, then, is “that ‘truth and falsehood only begin with solutions or only qualify responses’ (DR 158/197)” (126). So recall that a proposition is false if it fails to designate an actual state of affairs. Yet, problems or questions can go wrong if “They can circumscribe too narrow or too broad a domain to capture properly the point at issue.  In these cases, they are false through overdetermination or indeterminacy, regardless of whether they generate true propositions” (126). The difficulty here, according to Deleuze, is that problems are defined in terms of possibility. In the case of the referendum, the problem is understood purely in terms of its possible solutions [the solution being either to enact or to not enact the policy]. “A problem in this sense can be seen as simply a disjunction of propositions, one of which is true. As such, it fails to escape from the image of thought” (126).

[Recall Kant’ notion of transcendental illusion:]

As we have seen, Kant at first glance appears to provide something of an exception to this conception of the problem by introducing the notion of transcendental illusion. Kant’s claim is that reason’s task of systematising knowledge leads it to introduce what are known as transcendental Ideas. These are concepts of unconditioned totality that arise naturally when reason goes beyond the bounds of experience, and provide a focal point (focus imaginarius) for reason. As such, reason generates false problems not simply in the sense of problems with no true solutions, but as necessary moments in its operation. In introducing the Idea in the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant explicitly claims to take up the Platonic notion of the Idea as ‘something which not only can never be borrowed from the senses but far surpass the concepts of the understanding . . . inasmuch as in experience nothing is ever met with that is coincident with it’ (Kant 1929: A313/B370). As modes of thinking of totality, the Ideas emerge when reason considers all possible relations between our representations.

Since for Kant there are three forms of relations encompassing all things, he proposes three transcendental Ideas: 1) the relation to the subject (which contains the absolute, unconditioned unity of the thinking subject), 2) the relation to objects (which contains the absolute unity of the series of conditions of appearance), 3) the relation to all things (which contains the absolute unity of the condition of all objects of thought in general). (SH 126-127, citing Kant 1929: A334/B391) [I am not sure how all this works, so I cannot say more to elaborate]. These concepts go beyond experience and for that reason Kant considers them problematic. But they are what allow us systematize knowledge by making use of concepts not found in nature. “Ultimately, therefore, for Deleuze they sustain the image of thought precisely at the moment when reason goes beyond experience” (SH 127) [Perhaps this is because the image of thought privileges reason, where Deleuze wants a model of thinking that takes into account raw experience that cannot be processed by reason]. Also, these transcendental Ideas merely “play a regulative role rather than a truly genetic role” (127). [Perhaps the idea here is that the transcendental ideas do not produce new knowledge but only help organize knowledge we already possess, but I am not sure.] For Deleuze, recall, sense does more than condition the proposition, since it in fact generates it; “what is needed is a model that recognises the intrinsic relationship between representations and their non-representational ground. Rather than being interested in what regulates the image of thought, Deleuze is interested in those structures that underlie it.  In this way, sense is what makes possible the proposition.” (127). The Idea for Deleuze is likewise related more to the structures that underlie thought. “Similarly, the Idea is what makes possible the structure of recognition that we encounter in the image of thought. The two processes operate concurrently, just as the passive syntheses operated underneath active syntheses” (127).



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.


Kant, Immanuel (1929), Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Norman Kemp Smith, London: St. Martin’s Press.



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