The Affirmed World of Difference

Here's an abstract of a paper that I've had in the drawer for six years.

In the early 1960's, philosophy in France placed a special emphasis on difference. This attention to difference called identity into question and displaced contradiction as its main conceptual determination. Philosophical and scientific discourse in this period attempted to reconsider the import of the metaphysical tradition, precisely on the question of difference, and the failures of representation. Difference, it could be said, demanded attention in that it needed to be restored to its proper philosophical place, as difference in itself, and it is the belief here, that aesthetics must do the same, as aesthetics of difference.

In Thinking Through French Philosophy: The Being of the Question (2003), Leonard Lawlor conjectures that, ‘the most basic problem is this: how to conceive, within immanence, the difference between logic and existence, structure and genesis, thought and experience, the said and the unsaid, monument and soul, philosophy and non-philosophy.’ Lawlor continues this line of resonance and claims that all of the ‘great French philosophy from the sixties amounts to a series of solutions to this most basic problem’, the problem of the intrinsic relations of difference. He lists his primary philosophers of difference, as Foucault, Derrida, and Deleuze, and of course, the later Merleau-Ponty. It is Hyppolite, however, that opens difference onto the future of philosophy.

“If, then,” Foucault states, “more than one of us is indebted to Jean Hyppolite, it is because he has tirelessly explored, for us, and ahead of us, the path along which we may escape from Hegel.” In Positions (1981: 44), Derrida contends, “I have attempted to distinguish différance…from Hegelian difference, and have done so precisely at the point at which Hegel, in the greater Logic, determines difference as contradiction only in order to resolve it, to interiorize it, to lift it up…” Deleuze states the thesis of Logic and Existence as such: ‘Philosophy must be ontology, it cannot be anything else; but there is no ontology of essence, there is only an ontology of sense.’ Further, and into the direction of this article, Deleuze projects: “In the wake of this fruitful book by Jean Hyppolite, one might ask whether an ontology of difference couldn’t be created that would not go all the way to contradiction, since contradiction would be less and not more than difference.” (Deleuze 2004: 18)