What did Gilles Deleuze mean by “multiplicities”?

In thinking about any aspect of Deleuze’s work it’s helpful to keep in mind his overall motivation: he aspired to a fully naturalistic and materialist metaphysics, one that would adequately embody the modern scientific worldview and extend it to the entire field of human action. He seems to have believed that this required that normative concepts (ideas about how things ought to be, such as justice and morality) be completely purged from accounts of human phenomena. To accomplish this, Deleuze re-described political, economic, psychological, linguistic, and moral phenomena in terms and concepts taken from physics, chemistry, the earth sciences, and dynamics (especially self-assembly, self-organization, and chaos theory).

Many philosophers are naturalists of one sort or another, but most don’t want to simply do away with normative concepts. Instead the idea is to find ways of understanding the normative world (the world of reasons) that are consistent with the naturalistic explanations of science (the world of causes), without abandoning the sense most of us have that human behavior cannot adequately be described without recourse to concepts of justification, responsibility, obligation, and the like. Deleuze dissented from this view in an especially relentless, uncompromising, and highly original and imaginative way. Continue reading

What is the idea of “difference” in Gilles Deleuze’s “Difference and Repetition”?

Deleuze used the eternal return as a metaphor to talk about something that mattered more to him than getting Nietzsche right: the nature of identity. Deleuze’s real inspirations were Heraclitus and the Stoics. (But then, so were Nietzsche’s.)

In fragment 59, Heraclitus says that any object consists of an “opposing tension, like that of the bow and the lyre.” The string of a bow appears to be (and is) a stable and unified thing, but that is because it is being pulled in two opposite directions at once. The persistence of the bow over time depends on the persistence of this dynamic tension, not that of its constituent parts.

An object might also persist by changing its constituent parts. A river, for example, consists of flowing water. If you step into one, you’ll step into different water than you would have if you’d stepped in a moment earlier or later. Yet it would still be the same river, because a river is flowing water.

Continue reading