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QSCP Summer School 2017: Jon Roffe on Gilles Deleuze's 'Difference and Repetition'

  • Queensland College of Art, Building S.02, Room 6.38 226 Grey Street South Brisbane, QLD, 4101 Australia (map)

This course is made up of five 2-hour seminar sessions which will run from Monday the 23rd January - Friday the 27th January, 6pm - 8pm.
*Please note enrolments are essential, see the enrolments page for details.

This course will work through what is arguably Deleuze’s most important book, the work in his oeuvre that engages most rigorously with the standards and goals of philosophy traditionally conceived, and an emblem of a certain form of radical twentieth century French philosophy rarely matched. Published in 1968, Difference and Repetition was Deleuze’s primary doctoral thesis. It presents a fully elaborated – if at times highly compressed and elusive – philosophical system. This system in turn is founded on the two categories noted in the title: a concept of difference insubordinate to identity, and a concept of repetition irreducible to the simple reiteration of identity. 

While the course will traverse the book in a non-linear order, its goal is nevertheless to present all of the major moments of Deleuze’s remarkable argument, which traverses the history of Western philosophy, mathematics, the physical and biological sciences, and the advances made in his own milieu.

Seminar 1: Introduction; The Objective Misrecognition of Difference
The first seminar will introduce Difference and Repetition in broad outline, before turning to the concept of difference as it appears in the history of philosophy. For Deleuze, there is a dominant conception of difference – one that subordinates it to the category of identity – that begins with Aristotle and has continued on into the present. It is only by criticising the various forms of this misrecognition that a philosophy and an ontology adequate to difference can begin to appear.

Seminar 2: The Subjective Misrecognition of Difference
The subjective counterpart to the objective and conceptual misrecognition of difference that appears in the history of western philosophy constitutes a more intractable problem. In this seminar, we will examine the central chapter of Difference and Repetition, ‘The Image of Thought,’ in which Deleuze presents his critique of the subjective misrecognition of difference, the manner in which the very structure of habituated subjectivity elides and represses difference as such. As with the previous seminar, we will also begin to see the scaffolding on which Deleuze will build his positive account, which here goes under the name of ‘thought without an image’.

Seminar 3: The virtual
With Deleuze’s critique of the two forms under which difference is misrecognised in hand, the third seminar will be devoted to a first constructive moment, one that involves the infamous concept of the virtual. As with the previous seminars, the material we will cover will be drawn from the history of philosophy, and particularly from Kant’s invention of the transcendental, and the post-Kantian critiques and developments of this concept. We will also however discuss the differential calculus, which provides Deleuze with an incisive means to excavate the nature of the transcendental without making reference to a grounding subjectivity.

Seminar 4: The intensive, or difference-in-itself
Deleuze’s search for a concept adequate to difference does not, as is often assumed, conclude with the concept of the virtual, but instead with its correlative intensity. In this seminar, we will consider the fifth and final chapter of Difference and Repetition in which he develops this concept, drawing in particular on physics and embryology. We will see the way in which intensity gives to Deleuze a new non-reductive way of conceiving materiality, and the way in which it relates to virtual structure.

Seminar 5: Temporality, the constitution of identity and the sufficient reason of change
With concepts of transcendental structure and intensive materiality in hand, the final major part of Deleuze’s analysis concerns the role of time. Deleuze famously breaks this analysis down into three passive syntheses corresponding to the present (habit), the past (memory) and the future (the eternal return). Working through these three temporal modalities, we will see how it is that identity is produced, and how radically difference is affirmed in the form of the necessity of contingency.

By way of conclusion, we will locate human subjectivity in the argument of Difference and Repetition, and in this way recapitulate the course of the argument.