‘Introduction: Repetition and Difference’ 1-35 in:
Deleuze, G., Patton, P., 2014. Difference and repetition. Bloomsbury Academic, London ; New York.
Repetition and resemblance are different in kind – extremely so.
Generality presents two major orders: the qualitative order of resemblances and the quantitative order of equivalences. Cycles and equalities are their respective symbols.
Repetition as a conduct and as a point of view concerns non-exchangeable and non-substitutable singularities.
Reflections, echoes, doubles and souls do not belong to the domain of resemblance or equivalence; and it is no more possible to exchange one’s soul than it is to substitute real twins for one another.
If exchange is the criterion of the generality, theft and gift are those of repetition. There is, therefore, an economic difference between the two.
To repeat is to behave in a certain manner, but in relation to something unique or singular which has no equal or equivalent. And perhaps this repetition at the level of external conduct echoes, for its own part, a more secret vibration which animates i, a more profound, internal repetition within the singular.
This is the apparent paradox of festivals: they repeat an “unrepeatable”. They do not add a second or a third time to the first, but carry the first time to the “nth” power.
With respect to this power, repetition interiorizes and thereby reverses itself: as Péguy says, it is not Federation Day which commemorates or represents the fall of the Bastille, but the fall of the Bastille which celebrates and repeats in advance all the Federation Days; or Monet’s first water lili which repeats all the others.
Generality, as generality of the particular, thus stands opposed to repetition as universality of the singular.
The repetition of a work of art is like a singularity without concept, and it is not by chance that a poem must be learned by heart.
The head is the organ of exchange, but the heart is the amorous organ of repetition.
Pius Servien rightly distinguished two languages: the language of science, dominated by the symbol of equality, in which each term may be replaced by others; and lyrical language, in which every term in irreplaceable and can only be repeated.
Far from grounding repetition, law shows, rather, how repetition would remain impossible for pure subjects of law – particulars. It condemns them to change.
As an empty form of difference, an invariable form of variation, a law compels its subjects to illustrate it only at the cost of their own change. No doubt there are as many constants as variables among the terms designated by laws, and as many permanences and perseverations as there are fluxes and variations in nature. However, a perseveration is still not a repetition.
So at each level, it is in relation to large, permanent natural objects that the subject of a law experiences its own powerlessness to repeat and discovers that this powerlessness is already contained in the object, reflected in the permanent object wherein it sees itself condemned. Law unites the change of the water and the permanence of the river.
If repetition exists, it expresses at once a singularity opposed to the general, a universality opposed to the particular, a distinctive opposed to the ordinary, an instantaneity opposed to variation and an eternity opposed to permanence. In every respect, repetition is a transgression. It puts law into question, it denounces its nominal or general character in favour of a more profound and more artistic reality.
From the point of view of scientific experiment, it seems difficult to deny a relationship between repetition and law. However we must ask under what conditions experimentation ensures repetition.
Natural phenomena are produced in a free state, where any inference is possible among the vast cycles of resemblance: in this sense, everything reacts on everything else, and everything resembles everything else (resemblance of the diverse with itself).
Expecting repetition from the law of nature is the “Stoic” error. The wise must be converted into the virtuous; the dream of finding a law which would make repetition possible passes over to the moral sphere.
Moralists sometimes present the categories of Good and Evil in the following manner: every time we try to repeat according to natures or as natural beings (repetition of a pleasure, of a past, of a passion) we throw ourselves into a demonic and already damned exercise which can end only in boredom or despair. The Good, by contrast, holds out the possibility of repetition, of successful repetition and of the spirituality of repetition, because it depends not upon a law of nature but on a law of duty, of which, as moral beings, we cannot be subjects without also being legislators.
It is useless to point to the existence of immoral or bad habits: it is the form of habit – or, as Bergson used to say, the habit of acquiring habits (the whole of obligation) – which is essentially moral or has the form of the good.
[…] habit never gives rise to true repetition: sometimes the action changes and is perfected while the intention remains constant; sometimes the action remains the same in different contexts or with different intentions.
There again, if repetition is possible, it would appear only between or beneath the two generalities of perfection and integration, testifying to the presence of a quite different power, at the risk of overturning these two generalities.
If repetition is possible, it is as much opposed to moral law as it is to natural law. There are two known ways to overturn moral law.