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.]
Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition:
An Edinburgh Philosophical Guide
Chapter 3. The Image of Thought
Very brief summary:
Philosophy so far has failed to think about the intensive and differential basis of the world, because it has been using a representational model of thinking that cannot deal with this non-representational level of reality. Deleuze characterizes this traditional image of thought by discussing its eight “postulates”: 1) good sense (reason alone is adequate for thinking), 2) common sense (the faculties cooperatively deal with a common object), 3) recognition (thereby they recognize an object), 4) representation (its means and product are representational, since it has the four features of representation, namely, identity, analogy, opposition, and resemblance), 5) error (as misrecognition), 6) proposition (propositions bear truth), 7) solutions (problems are understood in terms of possible solutions in propositional form), 8) knowledge (as being propositional rather than the learning process). For Deleuze, in order to think about the intensive grounds, our faculties need to operate discordantly while having objects that differ in kind. Kant’s sublime experiences are partly like this, since the faculties have different objects that do not conform to one another. Also Plato’s experiences of inconsistency involve sense data of an imperfect idea and a mental recollection of a pure Idea, which differ in kind. But Kant thinks that reason finally supplies a representation, and Plato traces the origins of thinking to another realm of Ideas rather than to the immediate intensive situation.
One of the reasons that philosophy has not thought about the intensive grounds of the world and of ourselves is because it has been using a faulty conception of what philosophical thinking should be. Deleuze characterizes this traditional “image of thought” on the basis of its eight “postulates:” 1) good sense: reason is thought to be adequate for the task of philosophical thinking, 2) common sense: our faculties including reason cooperate to recognize a common object, 3) recognition: common sense processes the data, and by means of good sense we can recognize the thing by forming a proper judgment of what it is, 4) representation: what we come to recognize and as well our means of arriving at that recognition has the four problematic features of representation, namely, a) identity (there is one self-same object that receives determinations), b) analogy (it is recognized when the intuitive and conceptual contents are analogous to each other), c) opposition (we select the object’s determinations partly by knowing what are the opposing determinations), d) resemblance (the selected determinations resemble one another). 5) error: misrecognition is the source of error. 6) proposition: the locus of truth is the proposition and not sense, 7) solutions: the problem is understood in terms of possible solutions, and 8) knowledge: knowledge is taken to be propositional solutions rather than the process of learning while struggling within the problem. These postulates show how traditional philosophy has placed thinking on a level of representation that misses the underlying problems and significances that thinking should attend to. For this, Deleuze thinks that all the faculties should work discordantly, each having objects that differ in kind. Kant’s sublime experience at first creates such a situation, but it is rectified by the reason which supplies the needed idea. Plato’s discussion of the experience of inconsistent properties also seems at first to satisfy Deleuze’s requirement. Here the sense faculties are dealing with for example imperfect equality among sense givens, while the understanding is recalling something that differs in kind, namely the experience of the pure Idea of perfect equality. Yet unlike Plato, Deleuze thinks the Idea should be immanent to the intensive situation and not found in a separate realm of Ideas.
(3.1 Introduction) Deleuze is critical of the traditional image of thought, because the foundations of thinking cannot be found within the structure of judgment. (3.2 Feuerbach and the Postulate of the Principle) There are eight postulates of the dogmatic image of thought. 1) good sense: rational thought is adequate for thinking. Descartes’s method of doubt for example leads us to a basic act of reason, the ‘I think’, which can be a stable and reliable basis for all other thinking. Hegel also begins with thought itself. Feuerbach criticizes this notion, since the methodologies assume things other than rational thought, for example, the assumption that the philosopher is speaking the truth, which is required for understanding what they say in the first place. Instead, Feuerbach thinks that philosophical thinking must go outside itself and have an encounter with pure sensuous intuition. Deleuze also wants such an encounter, but instead with the transcendental ground for the passive synthesis of sensuous intuition. (3.3 Descartes and the Postulates of Common Sense and Recognition) 2) The second postulate is common sense. There are two meanings for common here: a) all our faculties cooperate to recognize a common object, and b) all people in common have such faculties that work this way. In cases of misrecognition, our reason might incorrectly judge the organized givens of our faculties as something it really is not. (3.4 Kant and the Postulate of Representation) 3) The third postulate of recognition. By means of the common sense operation of the faculties, we may recognize the object. 4) The fourth postulate is of representation. The faculties recognize the object under the form of a representation, which means it has the four problematic qualities of representation: a) identity: it is a self-same entity to which its determinations are predicated, b) analogy: the object’s determinations are grasped as belonging to the object by means of an analogy between their intuitive and their conceptual manifestations, c) opposition: the object’s determinations are selected in part by knowing which ones are opposed to those, and d) resemblance: the determinations are selected also on the basis of their resemblance to one another in their shared belonging to a common object. Kant’s model of recognition shows all the first four postulates. (3.5 Plato and the Encounter) Deleuze would prefer instead that each faculty’s object be different in kind and that all faculties worked discordantly. Plato might have a model that would satisfy Deleuze. For Plato, we have faculties for our sense experience and faculties for our conceptual thinking. Sense experience can give contradictory properties of the same object, as when two things appear as equal in size under certain conditions and not equal under others. Plato thinks this experience causes us to recall a prior experience of the Idea of pure equality that we had before our bodies were born. Thus in such experiences our faculties have objects that differ in kind, since the senses are dealing with impressions of imperfect equality and our minds with a pure Idea of perfect equality. But really they are not different in kind, since both the bodily experience of imperfect equality and the experience of the Idea of pure equality are both the same sort of experience, only with the prior one being better. Also, his model has the four problematic properties of representational thought, since the Idea is self-same (identity), the objects have opposing properties (opposition), our knowledge of things is analogous to our knowledge of ideas (analogy), and the sense experience resembles and thus recalls the pure experience (resemblance). (3.6 The Kantian Sublime and the Discordant Relation of the Faculties) In Kant’s mathematical sublime, there is a discord of the faculties. They cannot agree on what what the object is, since it is too great to be processed, and yet they are forced to come to some conclusion about it. The reason then supplies the Idea of totality. Deleuze is not satisfied, since he would prefer that the Idea come from the discord itself and not from one faculty, especially not from the reason. (3.7 Descartes on the Postulate of the Negative or Error) 5) The fifth postulate of error, which is the notion that error results simply from misrecognition. Descartes sees error as happening when the faculties together process a common object, but the reason fails to make the proper judgment about what it is and in that way misrecognizes it. For Kant, we want a total system of knowledge. But for him, all knowledge needs both concepts and intuitions from sense experience. However, many things we need to know cannot be experienced, like the temporal origin of the world. So reason supplies concepts without the necessary intuitions, in order to have a more complete system of knowledge. On the one hand, this makes us think that we can have knowledge without intuition, while on the other hand, this is not true. Thus Kant calls it the transcendental illusion, and this for him is error. (3.8 The Postulate of the Proposition) 6) The sixth postulate of the proposition or of the logical function. A sentence has both a sense and a denotation. Its designation is the true objective state of affairs it refers to. Its sense is subjective belief, which is not dependent on truth and falsity, since a proposition can make sense even if it is false. Sense is broader than denotation, since it refers to possible states of affairs (either that it is or is not raining), but denotation can only refer to one state of affairs, the true one. But still the tendency in philosophy has been to give denotation the primary status, and then sense is understood in terms of how it can take propositional form. This leads to a number of problems. One is that sense is broader and thus more fundamental than the proposition, so we cannot make the proposition the ground for sense. The second problem comes when we try to explicate the sense of a proposition in propositional form. It only produces a new proposition, which will have a new sense. This regress could terminate in a fundamental proposition like Descartes’ cogito, which has problems that we already noted. Or the regress might be infinite and thus fail to find a solid ground. (3.9 The Postulate of Modality or Solutions) 7) The seventh postulate is of solutions or modality. Under this view, problems are understood propositionally and in terms of their possibility of being solved. So for example, a referendum deals with a problem, but it is understood as a possible policy change that is formulated as a proposition that takes the form of a questions, like “Yes or no, should this possible change be made?” But such an understanding of problems as propositions only tells us what conditions them, since we try to know, under what conditions can it be solved? But such a focus on solutions cannot help us know what generates the problems, and thus it is not adequate for a model of thinking the grounds of reality. (3.10 Conclusion: The Postulate of Knowledge) 8) The eighth postulate is of knowledge. It regards knowledge as being constituted of propositional solutions to problems expressed in propositional form. For Deleuze, what is more important for knowledge is the process of learning, which for him is the active engagement with the problems when we are still trying to grasp them and solve them.
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.