Repetition is not generality. Repetition and generality must be distinguished in several ways. Every formula which implies their confusion is regrettable: for example, when we say that two things are as alike as two drops of water; or when we identify 'there is only a science of the general' with 'there is only a science of that which is repeated'. 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. But in any case, generality expresses a point of view according to which one term may be exchanged or substituted for another. The exchange or substitution of particulars defines our conduct in relation to generality. That is why the empiricists are not wrong to present general ideas as particular ideas in themselves, so long as they add the belief that each of these can be replaced by any other particular idea which resembles it in relation to a given word. By contrast, we can see that repetition is a necessary and justified conduct only in relation to that which cannot be replaced. 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 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 it, 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 and 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 Peguy 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 lily 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. (It is true that repetition also concerns the head, but precisely because it is its terror or paradox.) 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 is irreplaceable and can only be repeated. Repetition can always be 'represented' as extreme resemblance or perfect equivalence, but the fact that one can pass by degrees from one thing to another does not prevent their being different in kind.
On the other hand, generality belongs to the order of laws. However, law determines only the resemblance of the subjects ruled by it, along with their equivalence to terms which it designates. 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. The constants of one law are in turn variables of a more general law, just as the hardest rocks become soft and fluid matter on the geological scale of millions of years. 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. Elie Faure said of Watteau: 'He imbued with the utmost transitoriness those things which our gaze encounters as the most enduring, namely space and forests.' This is the eighteenth-century method. Wolmar, in La Nouvelle Heloise, made a system of it: the impossibility of repetition, and change as a general condition to which all particular creatures are subject by the law of Nature, were understood in relation to fixed terms (themselves, no doubt, variables in relation to other permanences and in function of other, more general laws). This is the meaning of the grove, the grotto and the 'sacred' object. Saint-Preux learns that he cannot repeat, not only because of his own change and that of Julie, but also because of the great natural permanences, which assume a symbolic value and exclude him no less from true repetition. If repetition is possible, it is due to miracle rather than to law. It is against the law: against the similar form and the equivalent content of law. If repetition can be found, even in nature, it is in the name of a power which affirms itself against the law, which works underneath laws, perhaps superior to laws. 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). However, experimentation constitutes relatively closed environments in which phenomena are defined in terms of a small number of chosen factors (a minimum of two - for example, Space and Time for the movement of bodies in a vacuum). Consequently, there is no reason to question the application of mathematics to physics: physics is already mathematical, since the closed environments or chosen factors also constitute systems of geometrical co-ordinates. In these conditions, phenomena necessarily appear as equal to a certain quantitative relation between the chosen factors. Experimentation is thus a matter of substituting one order of generality for another: an order of equality for an order of resemblance. Resemblances are unpacked in order to discover an equality which allows the identification of a phenomenon under the particular conditions of the experiment. Repetition appears here only in the passage from one order of generality to another, emerging with the help of - or on the occasion of - this passage. It is as if repetition momentarily appeared between or underneath the two generalities. Here too, however, there is a risk of mistaking a difference in kind for a difference of degree. For generality only represents and presupposes a hypothetical repetition: 'given the same circumstances, then .. .'. This formula says that in similar situations one will always be able to select and retain the same factors, which represent the being-equal of the phenomena. This, however, does not account for what gives rise to repetition, nor for what is categorical or important for repetition in principle (what is important in principle is ON times as the power of a single time, without the need to pass through a second or a third time). In its essence, repetition refers to a singular power which differs in kind from generality, even when, in order to appear, it takes advantage of the artificial passage from one order of generality to another.
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. There is always a task to recommence, a fidelity to be revived within a daily life indistinguishable from the reaffirmation of Duty. Buchner makes Danton say:
'It is so wearisome. First you put on your shirt, then your trousers; you drag yourself into bed at night and in the morning drag yourself out again; and always you put one foot in front of the other. There is little hope that it will ever change. Millions have always done it like that and millions more will do so after us. Moreover, since we're made up of two halves which both do the same thing, everything's done twice. It's all very boring and very, very sad.'
However, what good is moral law if it does not sanctify reiteration, above all if it does not make reiteration possible and give us a legislative power from which we are excluded by the law of nature? Moralists sometimes present the categories of Good and Evil in the following manner: every time we try to repeat according to nature 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 despair or boredom. 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. What is Kant's 'highest test' if not a criterion which should decide what can in principle be reproduced in other words, what can be repeated without contradiction in the form of moral law? The man of duty invented a 'test' of repetition; he decided what in principle could be repeated. He thought he had thereby defeated both the demonic and the wearisome. Moreover, as an echo of Danton's concerns or a response to them, is there not a moralism in that repetition apparatus described with such precision by Kant's biographers, right down to the astonishing garters that he made for himself, and the regularity of his daily promenades (in the sense that neglecting one's toilet and missing exercise are among those conducts whose maxim cannot, without contradiction, be regarded as a universal law, nor, therefore, be the object of rightful repetition)?
Conscience, however, suffers from the following ambiguity: it can be conceived only by supposing the moral law to be external, superior and indifferent to the natural law; but the application of the moral law can be conceived only by restoring to conscience itself the image and the model of the law of nature. As a result, the moral law, far from giving us true repetition, still leaves us in generality. This time, the generality is not that of nature but that of habit as a second nature. 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. Furthermore, in this whole or generality of habit we again find the two major orders: that of resemblance, in the variable conformity of the elements of action with a given model in so far as the habit has not been acquired; and that of equivalence, with the equality of the elements of action in different situations once the habit has been acquired. As a result, 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 and 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. One is by. ascending towards the principles: challenging the law as secondary, derived, borrowed or 'general'; denouncing it as involving a second-hand principle which diverts an original force or usurps an original power. The other way, by contrast, is to overturn the law by descending towards the consequences, to which one submits with a too-perfect attention to detail. By adopting the law, a falsely submissive soul manages to evade it and to taste pleasures it was supposed to forbid. We can see this in demonstration by absurdity and working to rule, but also in some forms of masochistic behaviour which mock by submission. The first way of overturning the law is ironic, where irony appears as an art of principles, of ascent towards the principles and of overturning principles. The second is humour, which is an art of consequences and descents, of suspensions and falls. Must we understand that repetition appears in both this suspense and this ascent, as though existence recommenced and 'reiterated' itself once it is no longer constrained by laws? Repetition belongs to humour and irony; it is by nature transgression or exception, always revealing a singularity opposed to the particulars subsumed under laws, a universal opposed to the generalities which give rise to laws.
There is a force common to Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. (Peguy would have to be added in order to form the triptych of priest, Antichrist and Catholic. Each of the three, in his own way, makes repetition not only a power peculiar to language and thought, a superior pathos and pathology, but also the fundamental category of a philosophy of the future. To each corresponds a Testament as well as a Theatre, a conception of the theatre, and a hero of repetition as a principal character in this theatre: Job-Abraham, Dionysus Zarathustra, Joan of Arc-Clio). What separates them is considerable, evident and well-known. But nothing can hide this prodigious encounter in relation to a philosophy of repetition: they oppose repetition to all forms of generality. Nor do they take the word 'repetition' in a metaphorical sense: on the contrary, they have a way of taking it literally and of introducing it into their style. We can - or rather, must - first of all list the principal propositions which indicate the points on which they coincide:
1. Make something new of repetition itself: connect it with a test, with a selection or selective test; make it the supreme object of the will and of freedom. Kierkegaard specifies that it is not a matter of drawing something new from repetition, of extracting something new from it. Only contemplation or the mind which contemplates from without 'extracts'. It is rather a matter of acting, of making repetition as such a novelty; that is, a freedom and a task of freedom. In the case of Nietzsche: liberate the will from everything which binds it by making repetition the very object of willing. No doubt it is repetition which already binds; but if we die of repetition we are also saved and healed by it - healed, above all, by the other repetition. The whole mystical game of loss and salvation is therefore contained in repetition, along with the whole theatrical game of life and death and the whole positive game of illness and health (d. Zarathustra ill and Zarathustra convalescent by virtue of one and the same power which is that of repetition in the eternal return).
2. In consequence, oppose repetition to the laws of nature. Kierkegaard declares that he does not speak at all of repetition in nature, of cycles and seasons, exchanges and equalities. Furthermore, if repetition concerns the most interior element of the will, this is because everything changes around the will, in accordance with the law of nature. According to the law of nature, repetition is impossible. For this reason, Kierkegaard condemns as aesthetic repetition every attempt to obtain repetition from the laws of nature by identifying with the legislative principle, whether in the Epicurean or the Stoic manner. It will be said that the situation is not so clear with Nietzsche. Nietzsche's declarations are nevertheless explicit. If he discovers repetition in the Physis itself, this is because he discovers in the Physis something superior to the reign of laws: a will willing itself through all change, a power opposed to law, an interior of the earth opposed to the laws of its surface. Nietzsche opposes 'his' hypothesis to the cyclical hypothesis. He conceives of repetition in the eternal return as Being, but he opposes this being to every legal form, to the being-similar as much as to the being-equal. How could the thinker who goes furthest in criticising the notion of law reintroduce eternal return as a law of nature? How could such a connoisseur of the Greeks be justified in regarding his own thought as prodigious and new, if he were content to formulate that natural platitude, that generality regarding nature well known to the Ancients? On two occasions, Zarathustra corrects erroneous interpretations of the eternal return: with anger, directed at his demon ('Spirit of Gravity ... do not treat this too lightly'); with kindness, directed at his animals ('0 buffoons and barrel-organs ... you have already made a refrain out of it'). The refrain is the eternal return as cycle or circulation, as being-similar and being-equalin short, as natural animal certitude and as sensible law of nature.
3. Oppose repetition to moral law, to the point where it becomes the suspension of ethics, a thought beyond good and evil. Repetition appears as the logos of the solitary and the singular, the logos of the 'private thinker'. Both Kierkegaard and Nietzsche develop the opposition between the private thinker, the thinker-comet and bearer of repetition, and the public professor and doctor of law, whose second-hand discourse proceeds by mediation and finds its moralising source in the generality of concepts (d. Kierkegaard against Hegel, Nietzsche against Kant and Hegel; and from this point of view, Peguy against the Sorbonne). Job is infinite contestation and Abraham infinite resignation, but these are one and the same thing. Job challenges the law in an ironic manner, refusing all second-hand explanations and dismissing the general in order to reach the most singular as principle or as universal. Abraham submits humorously to the law, but finds in that submission precisely the singularity of his only son whom the law commanded him to sacrifice. As Kierkegaard understands it, repetition is the transcendent correlate shared by the psychical intentions of contestation and resignation. (We rediscover the two aspects in Peguy's doubling of Joan of Arc and Gervaise.) In Nietzsche's striking atheism, hatred of the law and amor fati (love of fate), aggression and acquiescence are the two faces of Zarathustra, gathered from the Bible and turned back against it. Further, in a certain sense one can see Zarathustra's moral test of repetition as competing with Kant. The eternal return says: whatever you will, will it in such a manner that you also will its eternal return. There is a 'formalism' here which overturns Kant on his own ground, a test which goes further since, instead of relating repetition to a supposed moral law, it seems to make repetition itself the only form of a law beyond morality. In reality, however, things are even more complicated. The form of repetition in the eternal return is the brutal form of the immediate, that of the universal and the singular reunited, which dethrones every general law, dissolves the mediations and annihilates the particulars subjected to the law. Just as irony and black humour are combined in Zarathustra, so there is a within-the-Iaw and a beyond-the-law united in the eternal return.
4. Oppose repetition not only to the generalities of habit but also to the particularities of memory. For it is perhaps habit which manages to 'draw' something new from a repetition contemplated from without. With habit, we act only on the condition that there is a little Self within us which contemplates: it is this which extracts the new -in other words, the general - from the pseudo-repetition of particular cases. Memory, then, perhaps recovers the particulars dissolved in generality. These psychological movements are of little consequence: for both Nietzsche and Kierkegaard they fade away in the face of repetition proposed as the double condemnation of habit and memory. In this way, repetition is the thought of the future: it is opposed to both the ancient category of reminiscence and the modern category of habitus. It is in repetition and by repetition that Forgetting becomes a positive power while the unconscious becomes a positive and superior unconscious (for example, forgetting as a force is an integral part of the lived experience of eternal return). Everything is summed up in power. When Kierkegaard speaks of repetition as the second power of consciousness, 'second' means not a second time but the infinite which belongs to a single time, the eternity which belongs to an instant, the unconscious which belongs to consciousness, the 'nth' power. And when Nietzsche presents the eternal return as the immediate expression of the will to power, will to power does not at all mean 'to want power' but, on the contrary: whatever you will, carry it to the 'nth' power - in other words, separate out the superior form by virtue of the selective operation of thought in the eternal return, by virtue of the singularity of repetition in the eternal return itself. Here, in the superior form of everything that is, we find the immediate identity of the eternal return and the Overman.
We are not suggesting any resemblance whatsoever between Nietzsche's Dionysus and Kierkegaard's God. On the contrary, we believe that the difference is insurmountable. But this is all the more reason to ask why their coincidence concerning this fundamental objective, the theme of repetition, even though they understand this objective differently? Kierkegaard and Nietzsche are among those who bring to philosophy new means of expression. In relation to them we speak readily of an overcoming of philosophy. Furthermore, in all their work, movement is at issue. Their objection to Hegel is that he does not go beyond false movement - in other words, the abstract logical movement of 'mediation'. They want to put metaphysics in motion, in action. They want to make it act, and make it carry out immediate acts. It is not enough, therefore, for them to propose a new representation of movement; representation is already mediation. Rather, it is a question of producing within the work a movement capable of affecting the mind outside of all representation; it is a question of making movement itself a work, without interposition; of substituting direct signs for mediate representations; of inventing vibrations, rotations, whirlings, gravitations, dances or leaps which directly touch the mind. This is the idea of a man of the theatre, the idea of a director before his time. In this sense, something completely new begins with Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. They no longer reflect on the theatre in the Hegelian manner. Neither do they set up a philosophical theatre. They invent an incredible equivalent of theatre within philosophy, thereby founding simultaneously this theatre of the future and a new philosophy. It will be said that, at least from the point of view of theatre, there was no production: neither the profession of priest and Copenhagen around 1840, nor the break with Wagner and Bayreuth, was a favourable condition. One thing, however, is certain: when Kierkegaard speaks of ancient theatre and modern drama, the environment has already changed; we are no longer in the element of reflection. We find here a thinker who lives the problem of masks, who experiences the inner emptiness of masks and seeks to fill it, to complete it, albeit with the 'absolutely different' -that is, by putting into it all the difference between the finite and the infinite, thereby creating the idea of a theatre of humour and of faith. When Kierkegaard explains that the knight of faith so resembles a bourgeois in his Sunday best as to be capable of being mistaken for one, this philosophical instruction must be taken as the remark of a director showing how the knight of faith should be played. And when he comments on Job or Abraham, when he imagines the variations of Agnes and the Triton, he rewrites the tale in a manner which is clearly that of a scenario. Mozart's music resonates even in Abraham and Job; it is a matter of 'leaping' to the tune of this music. 'I look only at movements' is the language of a director who poses the highest theatrical problem, the problem of a movement which would directly touch the soul, which would be that of the soul.
Even more so with Nietzsche. The Birth of Tragedy is not a reflection on ancient theatre so much as the practical foundation of a theatre of the future, the opening up of a path along which Nietzsche still thinks it possible to push Wagner. The break with Wagner is not a matter of theory, nor of music; it concerns the respective roles of text, history, noise, music, light, song, dance and decor in this theatre of which Nietzsche dreams. Zarathustra incorporates the two attempts at dramatizing Empedocles. Moreover, if Bizet is better than Wagner, it is from the point of view of theatre and for Zarathustra's dances. Nietzsche's reproach to Wagner is that he inverted and distorted 'movement', giving us a nautical theatre in which we must paddle and swim rather than one in which we can walk and dance. Zarathustra is conceived entirely within philosophy, but also entirely for the stage. Everything in it is scored and visualised, put in motion and made to walk or dance. How can it be read without searching for the exact sound of the cries of the higher man, how can the prologue be read without staging the episode of the tightrope walker which opens the whole story? At certain moments, it is a comic opera about terrible things; and it is not by chance that Nietzsche speaks of the comic character of the Overman. Remember the song of Ariadne from the mouth of the old Sorcerer: here, two masks are superimposed - that of a young woman, almost of a Kore, which has just been laid over the mask of a repugnant old man. The actor must play the role of an old man playing the role of the Kore. Here too, for Nietzsche, it is a matter of filling the inner emptiness of the mask within a theatrical space: by multiplying the superimposed masks and inscribing the omnipresence of Dionysus in that superimposition, by inserting both the infinity of real movement and the form of the absolute difference given in the repetition of eternal return. When Nietzsche says that the Overman resembles Borgia rather than Parsifal, or when he suggests that the Overman belongs at once to both the Jesuit Order and the Pruss ian officer corps, we can understand these texts only by taking them for what they are: the remarks of a director indicating how the Overman should be 'played'.
An excerpt from introduction to the Book: Difference and Repetition by Gilles Deleuze
Speculating Freedom: Addiction, Control and Rescriptive Subjectivity in the Work of William S. Burroughs
Jose Rosales - ON THE END OF HISTORY & THE DEATH OF DESIRE (NOTES ON TIME AND NEGATIVITY IN BATAILLE’S ‘LETTRE Á X.’)
Jose Rosales - BERGSONIAN SCIENCE-FICTION: KODWO ESHUN, GILLES DELEUZE, & THINKING THE REALITY OF TIME
Obsolete Capitalism - THE STRONG OF THE FUTURE. NIETZSCHE’S ACCELERATIONIST FRAGMENT IN DELEUZE AND GUATTARI’S ANTI-OEDIPUS
Obsolete Capitalism - Acceleration, Revolution and Money in Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-OEdipus (Part 1)
Obsolete Capitalism - Acceleration, Revolution and Money in Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-OEdipus (Part 2)
Obsolete Capitalism: Acceleration, Revolution and Money in Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-OEdipus (Part 3)
Obsolete Capitalism - Acceleration, Revolution and Money in Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-OEdipus (Part 4)
Obsolete Capitalism: Acceleration, Revolution and Money in Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-OEdipus (Part 5)
Steven Craig Hickman - The Carnival of Globalisation: Hyperstition, Surveillance, and the Empire of Reason
Steven Craig Hickman - Shaviro On The Neoliberal Strategy: Transgression and Accelerationist Aesthetics
Steven Craig Hickman - Hyperstition: Technorevisionism – Influencing, Modifying and Updating Reality
Terence Blake - CONCEPTS OUT OF THE SHADOWS: Notes on Deleuze and Guattari’s “What is Philosophy?” (2)
Terence Blake - GUATTARI’S LINES OF FLIGHT (2): transversal vs transferential approaches to the reading contract
Himanshu Damle - Games and Virtual Environments: Playing in the Dark. Could These be Havens for Criminal Networks?
Himanshu Damle - Hegelian Marxism of Lukács: Philosophy as Systematization of Ideology and Politics as Manipulation of Ideology.
Nick Land - The unconscious is not an aspirational unity but an operative swarm, a population of 'preindividual and prepersonal singularities'