27 Aug 2015

Somers-Hall, (Prefaces), Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition, ‘The Two Prefaces: After Difference and Repetition (xv–xxii/xiii–xx)’, 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


The Two Prefaces:
After Difference and Repetition (xv–xxii/xiii–xx)



Brief summary: 

Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition has two prefaces. We learn from them that Deleuze was attempting to revolutionize philosophical thinking by liberating it from the constrictions placed on it by its conventional subordination of difference to identity. DR does not succeed entirely, since his notions of intensity and simulacra are still too closely tied to former conceptual structures. However, the third chapter acts as a guide for finding a new way to think philosophically, which Deleuze later accomplishes with Guattari in their rethinking of the concept of multiplicity.


Deleuze passes on the advice to read prefaces last, and hence SH will discuss the prefaces of DR now at the end of his summary. SH notes that the first preface was written in 1986, eighteen years after DR’s French publication, which contained what was to become the second preface. SH will discuss how Deleuze’s view of DR changed after it was published.

In the first preface (the one written 18 years later), Deleuze distinguishes philosophical works that are historical from ones that are philosophical in their own right. Deleuze’s prior works were historical, and DR is his first attempt at doing original philosophy. Yet we saw how DR is filled with the history of philosophy. Nonetheless, ideas from this history of philosophy are utilized creatively and originally and combined as a collage. Deleuze also thinks that DR is an attempt at trying to do philosophy in a new way (188). Deleuze claims that philosophers in the old style subordinate difference to identity or to the Same, to the Similar, to the Opposed, or to the Analogous (SH 188, quoting DR xv/xiii). SH then wonders, does DR really supply a new mode of philosophical expression? (SH 189).

SH gather’s from his own and from Deleuze’s critical reflections on the text that it is more a work of philosophical history than one of philosophy itself. [I do not quite understand what it is about Deleuze’s philosophy in DR that keeps to the old style of subordinating difference to identity and so on. Let me quote it first. As you will see, it is a richly insightful and beautiful passage:]

In a preface written in 1990 to Jean-Clet Martin’s book on Deleuze’s thought, Deleuze writes, ‘it seems to me that I have totally abandoned the notion of simulacrum, which is all but worthless’ (TRM 362). What is indicative in this comment is a rejection of the more positive project of Difference and Repetition. The simulacrum is a key moment in Deleuze’s efforts to overturn Platonism, and with it, the model of judgement, but in the process, Deleuze develops a mirror image of Plato’s own philosophy, even if, as with Lewis Carroll’s looking glass, ‘everything is contrary and inverted on the surface, but “different” in depth’ (DR 51/62). Thus, at the very moment when, in Difference and Repetition, Deleuze appears to break with classical philosophy, he finds himself operating within those same structures [the following up to citation is Deleuze quotation]:

For my part, when I was no longer content with the history of philosophy, my book Difference and Repetition still aspired nonetheless toward a sort of classical height and even toward an archaic depth. The theory of intensity which I was drafting was marked by depth, false or true; intensity was presented as stemming from the depths (and this does not mean that I have any less affection for certain other pages of this book, in particular those concerning weariness and contemplation). (TRM 65)

Deleuze’s reflection here clarifies his later attitude to Difference and Repetition. While it cleared the ground for the new task of philosophy, Difference and Repetition is still a work in the ‘old style’ which at the time he thought he had left behind. As such, Difference and Repetition itself is a text which Deleuze might assign to the history of philosophy. Perhaps | rather than seeing Difference and Repetition as the beginning of a new phase in Deleuze’s development, it might be better to see Difference and Repetition as the last (at least until his late book on Leibniz) of his great works on the history of philosophy, and a work itself of the history of philosophy. It is in his later collaborations with Félix Guattari that Deleuze draws out the implications of Difference and Repetition, in order to attempt to develop a philosophy that thinks in terms of ‘multiplicities for themselves’ (TRM 362) rather than ‘difference in itself’. There, Deleuze replaces the logic of genealogical enquiry and selection with a thinking in terms of the rhizome and horizontal connections. As he puts it in conversation with Claire Parnet: ‘In my earlier books, I tried to describe a certain exercise of thought; but describing it was not yet exercising thought in that way . . . With Félix, all that became possible, even if we failed’ (D 16–17/13). Not everyone follows Deleuze in moving beyond Difference and Repetition however, and we can also note that its hybrid nature, as a text in the ‘old style’ that opens onto the later work, is also its strength. Difference and Repetition provides a point of transition, but also a point of engagement for those who wish to critique Deleuze, and for those who wish to deploy his own critique within the debates between more traditional philosophical approaches.
(SH 188-189)

[I am not certain, but perhaps the problem with DR is the following. Intensity explicates into extensity, but in that way it is to be thought of as being on two levels at once, and thus there is an identity between both instances. Regarding the simulacra, I do not recall any discussion about it in our summaries. The point seems to be that Deleuze’s notion of simulacra still resembles Plato’s too much. Another idea seems to be that Deleuze’s work with Guattari is continuous with DR but in some ways breaks from it. I am not certain, but the difference seems to be that the notions of multiplicity that D&G discuss do not fall victim to the classical philosophical thinking in DR, and also that DR’s third chapter on the Image of Thought paves the way to thinking these multiplicities. By the way, Terence Blake has an excellent post and article regarding Deleuze being more a philosopher of multiplicity than one of difference.]





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.


Deleuze, Gilles. Two Regimes of Madness: Texts and Interviews 1975–1995, ed. David Lapoujade, trans. Ames Hodges and Mike Taormina, New York: Semiotext(e), 2007.






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