---- by Cliff Stagoll
  Deleuze is often labelled as a 'philosopher of difference', an assessment that highlights the critical place of 'difference' in his work. He is concerned to overturn the primacy accorded identity and representation in western rationality by theorising difference as it is experienced. In doing so, Deleuze challenges two critical presuppositions: the privilege accorded Being and the representational model of thought. He considers both to have important and undesirable political, aesthetic and ethical implications that a disruption of traditional philosophy can help to surmount. Deleuze uses his notion of empirical and non-conceptual 'difference in itself' in the service of such a disruption.
  Difference is usually understood either as 'difference from the same' or difference of the same over time. In either case, it refers to a net variation between two states. Such a conception assumes that states are comparable, and that there is at base a sameness against which variation can be observed or deduced. As such, difference becomes merely a relative measure of sameness and, being the product of a comparison, it concerns external relations between things. To think about such relations typically means grouping like with like, and then drawing distinctions between the groups. Furthermore, over and above such groupings might be posited a universal grouping, such as Being, a conception of presence that alone makes the groups wholly consistent and meaningful. It is because Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel drew a comprehensive and cohesive world of Being that made him such a significant target for Deleuze's critique.
  On such an account, difference is subordinated to sameness, and becomes an object of representation in relation to some identity. As such, it is never conceived in terms of 'difference-in-itself ', the uniqueness implicit in the particularity of things and the moments of their conception and perception. Rather, difference is understood in terms of resemblance, identity, opposition and analogy, the kinds of relations used to determine groupings of things. Yet this tendency to think in terms of sameness detracts from the specificity of concrete experience, instead simplifying phenomena so that they might 'fit' within the dominant model of unity. Deleuze's 'liberation' of difference from such a model has two parts. First, he develops a concept of difference that does not rely on a relationship with sameness and, second, he challenges the philosophy of representation.
  Deleuze argues that we ought not to presume a pre-existing unity, but instead take seriously the nature of the world as it is perceived. For him, every aspect of reality evidences difference, and there is nothing 'behind' such difference; difference is not grounded in anything else. Deleuze does not mean to refer, however, to differences of degree, by which he means distinctions amongst items that are considered identical or in any sense the same. Instead, he means the particularity or 'singularity' of each individual thing, moment, perception or conception. Such difference is internal to a thing or event, implicit in its being that particular. Even if things might be conceived as having shared attributes allowing them to be labelled as being of the same kind, Deleuze's conception of difference seeks to privilege the individual differences between them.
  Such individuality is, for Deleuze, the primary philosophical fact, so that, rather than theorising how individuals might be grouped, it is more important to explore the specific and unique development or 'becoming' of each individual. The genealogy of an individual lies not in generality or commonality, but in a process of individuation determined by actual and specific differences, multitudinous influences and chance interactions.
  Deleuze's difference-in-itself releases difference from domination by identity and sameness. Indeed, on this account, identity must always be referred to the difference inherent in the particulars being 'swept up' in the process of constructing a relationship between them. To realise this is to meet Deleuze's challenge of developing a new perspective in order to resist transcendence. However, to do so routinely is not easy. Only by destabilising our thinking, disrupting our faculties and freeing our senses from established tendencies might we uncover the difference evident in the lived world, and realise the uniqueness of each moment and thing.
  Deleuze's theory of difference also challenges the traditional theory of representation, by which we tend to consider each individual as representing ('presenting again') something as just another instance of a category or original. On such a view, difference is something that might be predicated of a concept, and so logically subordinated to it, whilst the concept can be applied to an infinite number of particular instances. To think in terms of difference-in-itself means to set the concept aside and focus instead on the singular, and the unique circumstances of its production. Awareness of such specific circumstances means that the notion of some 'thing in general' can be set aside in favour of one's experience of this thing, here and now.
   § repetition

The Deleuze Dictionary. Revised Edition. . 2015.

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