by Corry Shores
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[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.]
Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition:
An Edinburgh Philosophical Guide
Very brief summary:
SH introduces DR. He will focus on the metaphysics of difference, while helping the reader through the challenges DR presents. DR’s structure: 1) First, it formulates a new understanding of difference that conceives it as being more fundamental than identity, and on the basis of this notion, we may reconceptualize repetition. 2) Then, it shows that this new notion is needed for understanding the more fundamental layers of reality (intensity, problems, Ideas), since the older philosophical means which use judgment and representation are inadequate. 3) Finally, it paves ways for this new sort of philosophical thinking. We also note that SH’s text is a handy guide to consult while reading DR, since it summarizes the philosophical argumentation and also provides useful supplements, like a glossary and further reading suggestions.
Before summarizing DR part by part, SH introduces the book in a more general way. His guide will focus primarily on the theme of the metaphysics of difference. Deleuze is critical of metaphysics that regard identity as being prior to difference. There are many challenges to following Deleuze’s philosophical presentation, like difficult terminology and an unclear structure to the text, but SH will mitigate these issues as best as possible while keeping to a summarizational mode. In SH’s reading, DR’s basic structure is that it begins with a new understanding of the concepts of repetition and difference, on the basis of which Deleuze provides a novel way to understand the world without representation or judgment. The introduction explains how repetition is based on a non-conceptual difference rather than on law. Chapter 1 shows how the traditional logic of difference (x is different from y), which forms the basis for representation and judgment, cannot give a complete description of the world. Chapter 2 looks at experience and argues that the fundamental source of the constituting syntheses of our world of experience are not the fixed structure of judgment and the unity of the self, as Kant would have it, but rather they are found on a level of pure intensity. Chapter 3 is critical of the traditional understanding of thinking, since it prevents us from examining this intensive level of reality. Chapter 4 is about Ideas and how differential calculus is able to deal with unrepresentable values or relations. In chapter 5 Deleuze looks at the relation between Ideas and intensity to argue that Ideas should not replace judgment, since Ideas should be more than just ways we understand the world. SH’s book should be read alongside DR, but it can be read on its own as well. And readers can make use of many helpful supplements at the end.
(Intro sect.1) SH will focus on the theme of the metaphysics of difference in DR. Deleuze is critical of metaphysics that regard identity as being prior to difference. (Intro sect.2) SH notes that working through DR presents a number of challenges, namely, Deleuze uses difficult terminology, he refers to many various other thinkers, and the structure of DR is not very clear. SH’s guide to DR will present the text in an accessible way by mitigating these problems as best as is possible while maintaining the guide’s summarizational mode. (Intro sect.3) SH thinks DR’s basic structure begins with a new understanding of the concepts of repetition and difference, and on the basis of that new understanding, Deleuze then provides a novel way to understand the world without representation or judgment. More specifically, SH sees DR as taking the following structure. In the introduction, Deleuze relates the concepts of repetition and difference by saying that repetition is not to be understood in terms of law but rather repetition should be grasped in terms of a non-conceptual understanding of difference. Chapter 1 gives a logical and metaphysical analysis of our relationship to the world. The orthodox logic of difference which says that x is different from y is inadequate for telling us about the difference that is within and at work in the world. This traditional logic of difference also operates in our judgments that attribute predicates to objects and also to representations. Yet it can only give a partial description of the world. Chapter 2 is concerned with what makes experience possible. For Kant, there is a subject-predicate structure to judgment. A subject (in the sense of a self, I, thinking intellect, etc.) synthesizes the manifold of variations in the world into concrete structures by using that structure of judgment. But Deleuze digs deeper into Kant’s model and finds that in fact Kant’s syntheses are based on temporal syntheses that do not have the structure of judgment. Also, Kant thinks that the unity of the self and the structure of judgment account for the coherent synthesis of time, but Deleuze shows that really it is the other way around. There is instead a deeper play of intensity at work in the syntheses that are constituting us and the world. In Chapter 3, Deleuze looks at how this deeper intensity is invisible when we use traditional concepts regarding how thought transpires. Chapter 4 discusses differential calculus ideas to find a way to grasp how it is that the world is fundamentally intensive. Doing so requires dealing with facets of reality that are not representable conceptually using representations and judgments. The calculus succeeds at this its way of handling unrepresentable yet still calculable values or relations: “while the calculus is a definite conceptual structure, it is a conceptual structure with a determinate reference beyond the conceptual realm” (SH 5). Other domains can also understand the world without reducing it to judgment, for example, physics, biology, and sociology have in some cases done this. In Chapter 5 Deleuze discusses the relation between Ideas and intensity. For Deleuze, Ideas should not replace judgment by being no more than ways we understand the world. SH will touch upon these and some other important related themes and also the alternate philosophical tradition that Deleuze thinks we need for this project. (Intro sect. 4) SH ends his introduction by saying that his guide is best read alongside Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition, even though it could also be read alone. SH also provides many helpful supplements at the end. [The glossary is useful while reading the text, as certain terms might get confused, like differenciation and differentiation. Also, the recommended readings for the specific parts of DR might be helpful as well while reading, so perhaps the reader can check that supplement while working through the main text.]
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.