The Persistence of Expression: Deleuze and the Problem of Consciousness

Dissertation, The Pennsylvania State University (2001)

Russell Ford
Elmhurst College
Deleuze's philosophy of difference, characterized by a style of thinking without image, offers both a powerful critique and an important contribution to philosophical conceptions of consciousness. At stake in such a philosophy is the very life of thought---its force---that philosophy must encounter as always underway. The thoughtful movement of consciousness is always already coming to expression, and this constitutes the first challenge to a thinking of consciousness. Traditionally, philosophy takes up the problem of consciousness by proposing a logical recollection of the grounds of thinking. Plato's epistemology is marked by this tendency, as is Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit that begins with the recollection of consciousness. This recollection is characteristic of a philosophical style that organizes thought according to the principle of identity; the ground of thought must be recollected in order for thinking to henceforth develop into truth. ;Deleuze develops his own investigation of consciousness through a fictional recollection of the philosophical tradition. Rather than recollect other theories of consciousness, Deleuze repeats them, bringing them to bear upon the problem of a philosophy of difference and allowing them thereby to become expressive of possibilities of thinking no longer organized by identity. In particular, Deleuze's repetition of Hume, Kant and Nietzsche repeats a movement whereby empirical knowledge develops first into transcendental knowledge and then into immanent knowledge. In repeating the historical narrative of these three thinkers, Deleuze makes this narrative into a fable whose fictional character is nonetheless indicative of the force of thinking itself. ;Deleuze's Difference and Repetition takes up the force of thinking as its central theme. Displaying a strong indebtedness to Bergson, Difference and Repetition attempts to develop concepts capable of thinking the movement of thought without reducing this movement to a succession of momentary states. Difference is the concept adequate to a thinking of the diversity of the thought of consciousness, while repetition is the concept adequate to a thinking of the difference of consciousness from itself. The intersection of these concepts is the differential moment of thinking, a moment that opens difference onto the alterity of the new that always develops it
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