Chapters 9 & 10: “Difference and Repetition” by Gilles Deleuze; and Theatrum Philosophicum by Michel Foucault
Again we will examine two pieces from our reader. The “Introduction” to Deleuze’s “Difference and Repetition” and Foucault’s “Theatrum Philosophicum”. The former talks about its namesake (shocking!) while the latter reinforces the message of the first in the form of a book review framed within Platonic discourse. Each is dense in their own way yet their fundamental concept is simple, hence this entry will be brief. In any case, this is no chip on my shoulder as the less I have to talk about Deleuze’s theories, the better; I can only take so much of a headache in one day.
As said before, Deleuze is focused on difference and repetition. “It is a question of knowing why repetition cannot be explained by the form of identity in concepts or representations. (154)” This is because Deleuze is rejecting a conceptualization of symmetry which uphold natural causality; of everything holding together as part of a larger-recognizable-effect. Rather, Deleuze is interested in breaking down what he sees as two types of repetition: abstract and causing (155). The former is archaic while the latter dynamic, each is opposed to one another yet connected insofar as they are perceived. The tangible extrapolation being the distinguishing of the internal repeating singularity present, yet hidden, within any series of repetitious signs (157). From here he launches into his concept of difference which stresses that, in the end, there must be a concept to define repetition as difference, otherwise the only fact which matters is that which relates to the intrinsic; an approach like this would ignore the ideas present within, therefore missing a substantial method of inquiry. So these are the two questions confronted: what is the concept of difference irreducible to conceptual difference, and what is the building blocks of repetition irreducible to difference while lacking concept?
That was the problem which Deleuze tackled in the remainder of his book and which Foucault summarized in his review. Highly impressed by Deleuze’s efforts, Foucault reviews Deleuze’s book while presenting a metaphysical account of what he sees as the issue of difference and repetition. Asserting that Deleuze successfully inverts Plato to disclose division (162). So if Plato opposed essence to appearance what Deleuze is doing is “Locat[ing] Plato’s singularity in the delicate sorting… that precedes the discovery of essence precisely because it calls upon it, and tries to separate align simulacra masses of appearance.” Which leads Foucault, in turn, to interpret Deleuze’s method in a metaphysical mode: to decenter the non-similar aspects (what Deleuze defined as his two problems). Foucault dubs these aspects as “phantasms”. He sums up and says: “At the limit of dense bodies, an event is incorporeal (a metaphysical surface); on the surface of words and things, an incorporeal event is the meaning of a proposition (its logical dimensions); in the thread of discourse, an incorporeal meaning-event is fastened to the verb (the infinite point of the present). (166)” This is to say that metaphysics have been transplanted onto the concept of difference and repetition to define an understanding of history and time; the crux is that the event underlies difference and repetition as the event.
Was that hard to grasp? I bet it was because it was hard for me to write it with a resemblance of coherency. The Foucault piece was only needlessly dense, however, because he tackled issues which sprouted off from Deleuze’s piece without you-the reader-having the ability to read these outgrowths yourself. It takes a certain level of taking things at face value in order to understand them in addition to a small amount of circular logic (a=b=c=a+d). Yet you should have hopefully at least grasped the basics that the concept had evolved into a representation of how history moves in relation to time. I know I gleamed such an insight, though only barely.