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Gilles Deleuze's Difference and Repetition

Lecturer: Jon Roffe

Originally Taught: Winter School 2009

This course will provide a comprehensive survey of Deleuze's most important work, published in 1968 and half of his doctoral thesis. We will discuss the meaning of the two crucial words in the title, and their relationship to the history of philosophy, before examining the two key questions posed on the basis of their elaboration: what is thinking? and what is the nature of being?

This course will be suitable for anyone with an interest in the heart of Deleuze's project, and with some background in the history of philosophy.

Monday: The concept of difference from Plato to Nietzsche
After a brief introduction to the general project of the book, we will examine the first Chapter's attempts to locate the concept of difference in the great projects of fundamental philosophy from Plato and Aristotle all the way through to Nietzsche, and Deleuze's own position. We will also discuss one of Deleuze's key ontological ideas in this context, the univocity of being.

Tuesday: Time and repetition
What is the significance of the idea of repetition for Deleuze? The second chapter of DR attempts to lay this out, with reference to the fundamentally disruptive nature of time. This is also the first instance in which the category of the subject emerges in the work, something that we will pay particular attention to.

Wednesday: What is thinking? Overturning the dogmatic image of thought
In a late interview, Deleuze insists that it is this third chapter which is the heart of the book and remains the most significant. It is here that he mounts a strong critique on the presuppositions concerning the nature of thought that spring from the misrecognition of difference and repetition in the history of Western thought. We will lay out the coordinates of this 'dogmatic image of thought', and confront them with Deleuze's own goal - the elaboration of a 'thought without an image'.

Thursday: Difference and the transcendental
With the predominantly critical moments of the text behind us, we will turn on Thursday to the first of the two constructive chapters of DR. The fourth chapter, an infamous blend of engagements with Kantian philosophy and differential calculus, reveals the importance of the often evoked - yet generally poorly understood - category of the virtual for Deleuze. We will see in this lecture the role that virtual Ideas play as the genetic transcendental elements in being.

Friday: Difference and intensity 
The final lecture will focus on the all-important discussion of intensity mounted in chapter five of DR. The goal here will be to understand the nature of the actual in relation to the virtual ideas discussed previously, but also to answer a central question for any thorough-going philosophy of difference: how does identity emerge?