Academic journal article Philosophy Today

The Time of a Repetition

Academic journal article Philosophy Today

The Time of a Repetition

Article excerpt

Under the authority of difference, a certain philosophical discourse seems to have taken hold of our time and marked our century in a way that no other has. Or is it that our time itself has deposited its essence in this discourse of difference-whether as fracture, fissure, rift, fold, or caesura? Yet difference, one might wish to retort, was not born yesterday, and philosophy did not wait for the sunderings and the wounds of this century to attribute it a place. But the question is precisely that of the place or the space that philosophy chose to attribute to difference. For if difference must be attributed a place within thought, where would such a place come from, if not from some primordial identity, the identity of thought itself? As soon as it becomes a question of making room for difference, or of attributing a place to it, is difference not already subordinated to a regulative principle, the ultimate horizon of which is identity? Is difference really at home in this thought? Or is it not rather from out of a primordial and irreducible difference, as well as from out of the space broached by such a difference, that thought itself comes to be determined, finds its own place and unfolds? If to philosophize after Hegel means something for us, it is as a result of this question concerning the possibility of thinking difference without the logical priority of identity. Will difference ever be thought prior to, outside or independent of identity, or will it always be forced to reintegrate the ineluctable of what it itself calls its "principle"? If, in a way, we all come after Hegel, it is as the inheritors of a difference that is perfectly integrated, and of a content, or a thought, that is virtually differentiated. With Hegel, difference is infinitized, while remaining bound to identity, in which it finds its truth. More specifically, with Hegel, difference becomes the very way in which identity comes to constitute itself, the very way in which the content relates itself to itself and constitutes itself in the movement of opposition to itself. In other words, difference is opposition, and identity is self-differentiated. I do not wish, here and now, to sketch the characteristic features of that discourse that, having fully estimated the magnitude of this inheritance, attempts to develop a thinking of difference for itself, that is, a thinking wrested from the soil and the roots of Sameness. An abyssal discourse, I might add, since it ventures the reversal of a philosophical practice that goes back to Plato and that continues to nourish our thought, our knowledge, our institutions, our codes, and our systems. To speak of this discourse in the singular is already to betray it, given the multiplicity and the variety of paths which it clears. Such diversity constitutes a further reason not to address it here and now.

Yet if I mention such discourses-to which one could attach the names of Nietzsche, Derrida, Deleuze, or Bataille-it is only with a view to singling out one aspect or question that seems to run through them all, insistently and obsessively, one theme that seems indissociable from the question of difference. This aspect, perhaps most thoroughly exhibited by Deleuze, yet also strongly emphasized by Derrida, is defined as repetition, as recurrence or iterability. The question I would like to focus on, then, is that concerning the link between difference and repetition, not so much in the work of those thinkers I have just mentioned, but in the work of Heidegger, at least of the "early" Heidegger. More specifically, the question with which I shall be concerned here is: To what extent does the thinking of the ontological difference command a renewed interpretation of repetition? To what extent does repetition itself open onto a difference that does not presuppose the constitution of any sphere of identity?

1. Repetition and the Ontological Difference

Philosophy's fundamental and only constitutive question is that of the being of beings, and of the decisive, yet unrecognized difference between being and beings. …

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