27 Aug 2015

Somers-Hall, (5.6), Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition, ‘5.6 The Other (256–61/319–25, 281–2/351–2)’, summary

by 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 5. The Asymmetrical Synthesis of the Sensiblence


5.6 The Other (256–61/319–25, 281–2/351–2)



Brief summary: 

For Deleuze, the individual is not the self, ego, subject, or “I.” Rather, the individual is bound up in generative processes that create the conditions for these other structures to arise. So, couched within your self, that is, within the self that you recognize as being you, is an indeterminate, pre-subjective process that is variable and structured only by difference itself. And perhaps this variational dynamic causes you to mutate, despite your beliefs that you are still the same person throughout your life. Now note that it is our faculties that recognize our representational self (the ego or “I”). But they cannot recognize our sub-representational individual. This is because our faculties can only work with representations, but our deeper individual cannot be represented. However, our faculties can be aware of this problem. But their solution does not succeed. They seek a notion of something un-representable which can be the basis for representation. Now consider that the only way our faculties have to deal with the world is limited by their spatial and temporal perspectives. Nonetheless, they regard the fragmented world of perception as being composed of complete objects. They do this by supposing that were every other perspective given, then the object in its completeness would become directly apparent. Since this omni-perspectival view is not possible for any one subjectivity, it belongs to no one and is thus the Other. And yet, this Other is the grounds for us to see the world as being made coherently with complete objects, and it is also the basis for objectively finding common grounds and for settling disagreements. Thus it is seen as the basis for representation. However, this Other as it is understood in this way is not really un-representable, which it needs to be in order to account for representation’s origins. For, it is only unrepresentable because humans happen to have perspectival limitations. But, it is still potentially representable by an intellect lacking these limitations, and thus it is not fundamentally un-representable. Deleuze then says that since philosophical thinking takes us to the pre-subjective structures of reality, it is a solitary and solipsistic exercise.



We have been discussing individuation and differenciation. We now ask, “where do we locate the individual?” (186). SH then writes:

We have already seen in our analysis of Feuerbach that the ‘I’ is a structure of the species (a claim implicit in Descartes’ attempt to replace the Aristotelian definition of man with the ‘I think’) (3.2).
(SH 186)

[I could not find this idea regarding Feuerbach at least put this way from a quick check through section 3.2. I will return to it later if we need it. The idea it seems we need to have in mind is that the I is a sort of species or has the problematic features of species. Thus,] “As species are a transcendental illusion that emerge after the individual, the ‘I’ cannot be the seat of the individual” (186). [The next idea seems to be that we have a self which is the product of our faculties working together and recognizing ourself as an I. The faculties recognize representations, but we are not fundamentally a representation. So this recognized self is not our deeper individual.]

Similarly, the Self – when it is defined as Deleuze does here as ‘the properly psychic organism, with its distinctive points represented by the diverse faculties which enter into the comprehension of the I’ (DR 257/320) – cannot be identified with the individual, as in this case we are dealing with a representation of the psychic system. In both cases, therefore, we are dealing with a representation of the individual, rather than the individual themselves.

[We should not look for the individual in the representable extensive world. Rather, we should seek it in the fields of intensity and the Ideas related to them.]

Rather than these structures, which are defined in terms of universal properties and extensions, we find the individual in the field of intensity that gives rise to these representational structures. It is the field of intensity, in relation to the Idea that is expressed within it, that forms the basis for the individual: ‘These Ideas, however, are expressed in individuating factors, in the implicated world of intensive quantities which constitute the universal concrete individuality of the thinker or the system of the dissolved Self’ (DR 259/322).
(SH 186)

Deleuze ends chapter 5 with the topic of the Other. [Recall from section 1.11 Merleau-Ponty’s notion of the forgetfulness of our perspective in how we regard objects in their wholeness. Phenomenological analyses of givenness tell us that we never are given an object in its wholeness, because we are always limited by a spatio-temporal perspective. We can only see one side of it at a certain moment of its appearing. We assume that that those other parts are there and are apparent to the rest of the world. SH says now that in so doing we are thinking of the world as an Other. This causes us to deprioritize the importance of our own perspective, making the extensive object with its properties be what is essential and our own perspective inessential. Now also recall one of Merleau-Ponty’s ideas about depth, from section 5.3. Our field of vision is basically 2-dimensional. We can see height and width directly. But the dimension of depth extending away from us is not perceived so directly. We infer it from visual clues, like the relative size of objects. We also can judge depth by changing our points of visual focus. However, we can treat depth as being like the width of our own vision, but seen perpendicular to our line of sight as if from another supposed viewer standing adjacent to us. In that way, we posit an Other directly seeing the depth that we only view indirectly. Thus in these ways, the Other is what allows us to be given a world of extended objects with properties. And since it sets up a universal sort of “perspective”, it allows us to have common ground to make “objective” determinations so to have facts in common and to settle disagreements about the world.]

At the close of Chapter 5, Deleuze introduces the last philosophical theme of Difference and Repetition: the Other. As we saw in Chapter 1 (1.11), Deleuze takes up Merleau-Ponty’s account of the forgetfulness of our perspective. Now, one of the key moments in this account was the presence in the world of the Other. It was the Other that gave us an infinite number of possible perspectives of the object, thus leading us to | take the object, as a given extensive object with properties, as essential, and our own perspective as inessential. Similarly, it was the Other that made us fail to recognise the intensive quality of depth. Rather than seeing depth as the ground for the other dimensions, the presence of the Other allows us to see it ‘as a possible length’ (DR 281/352), i.e., what is depth for us is simply length from another point of view. Thus, it is the Other that presents us with the field of extended objects and properties, and allows us to develop the language to express ‘our commonalities as well as our disagreements with the other’ (DR 261/324).

Thus, “The Other is therefore a precondition for representation” (187). SH now asks, “but how does our understanding of the Other develop?” [I have trouble following the next ideas. I will go part-by-part. I will do so under the assumption that the Other is a fabrication, and we are explaining how we come upon this notion. I am not at all sure that this assumption is correct.] “Deleuze’s claim is that once we note that both the I and the Self are bound up with extensity, representation needs to explain how there can still be a development of the psychic system itself” (187). [Perhaps the thinking here is the following. We saw how the I and the Self are bound up with extensity. I am not sure why representation itself needs to be what is giving an explanation. I am also not exactly sure why we need an explanation of the development of the psychic system. Maybe the idea is this. One view says there is a preexisting I that underlies the workings of the psychic systems. But when we regard the I more as the product of those workings, or at least simply as an illusion, then we no longer have it as a basis in our account. In the following however I might be wrong that the Other is a fabrication, as it might instead be a part of what Deleuze regards as fundamental, namely intensity and Ideas.] “This process of individuation cannot be attributed to either the self or the I, as these are both extensive or qualitative moments. Rather, the process of individuation is attributed to something seemingly outside of the system of the psyche: to the Other” (187). [Perhaps the idea here is the following. SH wrote before that “the Self – when it is defined as Deleuze does here as ‘the properly psychic organism, with its distinctive points represented by the diverse faculties which enter into the comprehension of the I’ (DR 257/320) – cannot be identified with the individual, as in this case we are dealing with a representation of the psychic system.” Perhaps the situation is the following. We have the psychic organism. It has distinctive points (although I am not sure what those are. Perhaps they are certain unique things in its structure or dynamics). The faculties of this system fabricate an I or Self by somehow representing those points. Now, since that I is extensive and representational, it cannot be responsible for the process of individuation which brought about the psychic system. And perhaps for some reason, nothing else within the psychic system can be said to be the basis for the individuation which brought that system about. Therefore, something outside that system is responsible for it, namely, the Other.] “While the self is seen as something given (the Cartesian cogito), the Other cannot be reduced to a set of properties” (187). [I am not sure why the Other cannot be reduced to a set of properties. Perhaps it is because only given things can be reduced to properties, but since the Other is not given, it cannot be. But I do not know why only givens can have properties. Perhaps the idea is that the Other is too vague, abstract, or universal to take properties, but I really do not know.] “Rather, ‘the Other cannot be separated from the expressivity which constitutes it’ (DR 260/323). When we look at, to use Deleuze’s example, a terrified face, we see this face as expressing a world that is terrifying for the subject. Just as extensity differs in kind from intensity, the terrified face differs in kind from the terrifying world it expresses” (187). [So instead of being reduced to a set of properties, it must instead be seen as inseparable from the expressivity which constitutes it. I wonder if the idea is like the following. Consider again the perspective ideas we dealt with before. We never see every spatial and temporal facet of the object. But we posit an Other which can. Yet that Other never appears to us directly, since we are spatially and temporally limited. But, that Other is given to us implicitly and indirectly, since any one phenomenon indirectly makes us aware of phenomena related to it and that phenomenally co-constitute it. The particular way that a carpet looks to us tells us also about the lighting and objects obstructing that light, even before we turn our gaze to these objects related to the appearance of the carpet. I am not sure why the face and the other are different in kind. Maybe it is because the face is givable but the world, or the Other, is not.] “As such, the Other presents an analogue for the process of individuation” (187). [I may not be following this. The analogy maybe is, just as the face is different in kind from the Other while yet being expressive of it, so too is the extensive explication of intensity different in kind from the intensity and Idea responsible for that explication, and yet the explication is expressive of that intensity.] “There is a key difference, however. Whereas the intensive is in principle inaccessible to representation, the world expressed in the face of the Other is understood by the psyche as only de facto inaccessible. It is merely the same world viewed from another perspective. Rather than providing an understanding of individuation, the Other allows representation to occlude the process of individuation, and thereby establish a world of pre-existing qualities and extensities” (187). [I have trouble here too. The idea might be the following. A true understanding of the process of individuation that generates the psychic system would need to be inaccessible to that system. This is because the system has at its disposal only representations. But the process of individuation cannot be represented. Now, the psychic system posits an Other as the source of its individuation, and that Other, as it should be, is not accessible to the psychic system. However, that inaccessibility is not because it is really fundamentally different in kind or is truly inaccessible. Rather, it is inaccessible only because the psychic system is perspectivally limited. Were it not limited, that Other would be accessible. Therefore, the Other is not truly inaccessible and hence is potentially representable and thus is not the basis for the process of individuation.]

It’s worth noting at this point that Deleuze is here talking about the Other as a structure within the psyche itself, rather than a particular individual, and in fact, Deleuze leaves space for the possibility of a genuine encounter with others (see DR 139/176 on the encounter with Socrates, for instance). Nonetheless, the role of the philosopher is still one of the renunciation of the ‘everybody knows’, and with it, the Other [the following up to citation is Deleuze quotation]: |

departing from the subjects which give effect to the Other-structure, we return as far as this structure in itself, thus apprehending the Other as No-one, then continue further, following the bend in sufficient reason until we reach those regions where the Other-structure no longer functions, far from the objects and subjects that it conditions, where singularities are free to be deployed or distributed within pure Ideas, and individuating factors to be distributed in pure intensity. In this sense, it is indeed true that the thinker is necessarily solitary and solipsistic. (DR 282/352)
(SH 187-188)

[It seems the idea in the quotation is the following. As with the face example, an actual Other as another person tells us about the Other as being the world seen as if from all perspectives (and is thus No-one). But our inquiries probe into the structures of the world, taking us to the intensive sub-representational level of intensive difference and Ideas. Since our thought takes us away from subjects (other people) and deep into the underlying structures of ourselves, our world, and its objects, when we are thinking in this way, we are solitary and solipsistic.]


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.






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