12 Aug 2015

Somers-Hall, (4.1), Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition, ‘4.1 Introduction: Kant and Ideas (168–71/214–17)’, 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 4. Ideas and the Synthesis of Difference

4.1 Introduction: Kant and Ideas (168–71/214–17)

Brief summary:
Deleuze is looking for a way to understand thinking and the problems it deals with that does not do so in terms of propositional solutions relating to empirical objects. Kant’s notion of the Idea seems at first to succeed at this. For Kant, our reason wants a systematized knowledge of the world. But knowledge normally requires empirical intuitions. However, some things that are important for a total system of knowledge cannot be given in intuition. For example, we cannot experience the temporal origin of the world, nor does the ground of all appearances (the Idea of God) itself appear to us. So such Ideas as the Idea of God seem to allow us to think without relation to empirical objects. Nonetheless, in the end, for Kant, these ideas do come to obtain empirical determinations, and so they fail to satisfy Deleuze’s requirements. Instead, he wants “an account that intrinsically relates Ideas to the empirical world, while allowing them to maintain their difference in kind” (131).







Recall from section 3.7 how for Kant, “knowledge requires a connection between different faculties” (129) [here is where we discussed his “transcendental illusion.” The point was that knowledge really requires all the faculties working together and not just reason supplying ideas without them being processed as well together with the other faculties.] Then we saw in section 3.9 “the role of reason (3.9), which ‘does not create concepts (of objects) but only orders them, and gives them that unity which they can have only if they be employed in their widest possible application, that is, with a view to obtaining totality in various series’ (Kant 1929: A643/B671)” (SH 129) [recall that the ideas played a regulative role and not a genetic one]. [Recall also from section 3.6 that] “In order to unify knowledge, reason requires the idea of total unity, as a focal point for its enquiries” (SH 129). Since we cannot actually experience this unity, it “serves merely as a ‘focus imaginarius’ (Kant 1929: A644/B672) that allows reason to perform its function” (SH 129). Reason then falls for the illusion that its ideas are sufficient for “fully determining its objects of knowledge” (129). Deleuze says that there is an analogous sort of illusion whereby we think that “everything can be captured by representation” (129). Recall also how in the previous chapter, Deleuze was concerned “with developing a notion of a problem that wasn’t defined in terms of the truth or falsity of its solutions” (129). [Recall as well from section 3.7 that] “Since Kant’s notion of an Idea goes beyond experience, and hence specifies an object that simply cannot be given, Kant calls the status of the Idea ‘problematic’. An Idea refers to an object that can be thought but not known, and so ‘it remains a problem to which there is no solution’ (Kant 1929: A328/B384)” (SH 129). [I do not grasp the next part so well, so I will quote it. It seems the points are the following. Kant does not seem to think that these Ideas are fundamentally illegitimate, since they still relate to objects even if these objects cannot be experienced. This means that they are a form of knowledge which is not propositional, since it seems that propositional knowledge would rely on the empirical content of experience (but I am not sure how this works). Deleuze in the end thinks that still Kant’s notion of Ideas falls under the problematic image of thought, which he demonstrates with the notions of the indeterminate, the determinable, and the determined.]

Kant goes further, and notes that it would be wrong to say that each of these | Ideas is ‘only an idea’ since our inability to determine these Ideas does not mean that they do not relate to objects. In this sense, the Idea appears to fulfil Deleuze’s requirements for a notion of a problem that is real, an ‘indispensible condition of all practical employment of reason’ (Kant 1929: A328/B385), but is not reliant on the empirical content of experience itself (the field of solutions). While Deleuze will take up many of the features of this account, ultimately he will argue that Kant has failed to properly escape from the image of thought Deleuze presented in Chapter 3. In order to demonstrate this, he introduces three categories: the indeterminate, the determinable and the determined.
(SH 129-130)

1) Indeterminate: Since “the Idea cannot be presented in a determinate form in intuition,” this means that “the Idea itself is undermined” (130). For example, the ground of all appearances, the Idea of God, is not something that itself can be apparent to us. Nevertheless, it is “a concept that we can determine to some extent by analogy with our own empirical intelligence,” since, “the concept of God is determinable (we can specify what properties inhere in it) by analogy to the empirical world” (130). [Yet, this does not give us a full cognition to understand the way things really are but rather just an analogy to organize and grasp as best we can our knowledge of the world.] “In doing so, however, we only determine it ‘in respect of the employment of our reason in respect to the world’ (Kant 1929: A698/B726)” and thus we do so only “on condition that we only use this Idea to allow us to unify our understanding of the world further (by seeing the world as if it were created for an intelligible purpose, for instance)” (130). [The next point is complicated, and I will not be able to present it properly. Let me quote it first:]

Furthermore, the Idea is also present in empirical objects, in so far as we consider them to be completely determined. If we are going to consider empirical objects as being completely specifiable in terms of intelligible properties, Kant claims that we need the Idea of God. In order to specify something completely in terms of the properties that it has, we need some kind of account of all properties it is possible for an object to possess, so that we can determine which of each pair of properties (the property and its contrary) inheres in the object. ‘The Ideal is, therefore, the archetype (prototypon) of all things, which one and all, as imperfect copies (ectypa), derive from it the material of their possibility, while approximating to it in various degrees’ (Kant 1929: A578/B606).
(SH 130)

[Perhaps the ideas here are as follows, but I will be guessing mostly. For Kant, empirical objects can be specified completely in terms of intelligible properties. Thus, we need an account of all possible properties an object can possess, so that we can determine for some certain object which it has and does not have. (Here is where I am making guesses:) But this account of all possible properties cannot come from experience. Thus it requires a (transcendentally illusory) Idea. We said before that God is the Idea serving as the ground for all possible appearances. Since we want an account of all possible properties that appearances can take, we need the Idea of God.] [At this point it should have been evident that we have covered the other two moments. From what follows, they seem to be these two things. Recall first that initial one was that the Ideas are undetermined since they cannot be determined by experience. 2) The determinable: the object can become determined by means of the Idea, by assigning it its predicates that indicate its properties. 3) the determined: by these means, the object becomes determined. The next point is that “these three moments of the Idea together could be used to make up a genetic account of actualisation” (130). So the Idea creates a situation where we have an undetermined object that calls for determination, which we then do by assigning to it its actual properties.]

Now, as Deleuze notes, these three moments of the Idea together could be used to make up a genetic account of actualisation. The Idea as undetermined provides a moment which differs in kind from the actual, and hence falls | outside of its categories. As determinability, it is a moment whereby the object of the Idea becomes capable of sustaining predicates, and hence being determined as an actual object, and as determined, it provides a moment whereby it takes on the actual properties the object has.

[The next ideas are also difficult. Let me quote:]

The three moments of the Idea therefore could provide an account as to how the ground of appearances expresses itself within the world of appearance itself. It would thus provide an account of how a problem finds expression in empirical solutions without having to understand the problem itself in empirical terms, as the Idea remains indeterminate in relation to that in which it is expressed, while nonetheless determining it.

[I am not sure how the world of appearance expresses the ground of appearances. I suppose the idea could be the following. The world of appearances is inadequate for giving us a full systematic  knowledge of the world, since it is missing such things as its temporal origin. For this, we need to supply other Ideas that will not relate to experience. The conditions of this situation tell us about the grounds of appearances, which we discussed above, namely, indetermination, determinability, and the determined. For the next point, perhaps we need to understand those cases where we are making use of (transcendentally illusory) Ideas as being instances of problems. These instances finally find empirical solutions, since they receive empirical determinations that were  not obtained empirically. (I am guessing there.)]

SH then writes: “In order for this model to account for the movement from the problem to its empirical solution, all three moments would have to be intrinsic parts of the Idea” (131) [I am not exactly sure why this is. Perhaps the Idea and the problem are on one side of the situation, and all the movements toward the empirical solution must be on their side. The terminology is getting hard for me to follow at this point.] Yet, “As Deleuze notes, however, for Kant, ‘two of the three moments remain as extrinsic characteristics’ (DR 170/216). That is, the way in which we understand the determinability and the determined nature of an Idea such as God is solely in relation to already existing empirical states of affairs” (131) [I am not sure I follow so well, but the point seems to be the following. The Idea of God is the ground for all appearances, but it is undetermined. However, we understand it by analogy to determinable things in the world’s empirical states of affairs.] The reason we take up such ideas is “not in order to explore the conditions for the constitution of the world itself,” but rather only “to allow reason to pursue its interests in systematising our knowledge of the world” (131). [So Deleuze wants a notion of Ideas that allows us to think about problems without relation to their possible solutions. However, Kant’s Idea’s still rely on solutions found in empirical objects.]

In this sense, while Ideas at first appear to offer us a way to think of problems in a way which is not dependent on solutions, Kant’s account ultimately only allows us to make use of them in so far as they are thought by analogy with and in relation to empirical objects. The problem of the Kantian Idea is still understood in terms of the solutions it gives rise to. What is needed, therefore, is an account that intrinsically relates Ideas to the empirical world, while allowing them to maintain their difference in kind, rather than Kant’s merely extrinsic and regulative account.




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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