The Same but Different

Deleuze’s concept of difference is a central aspect of his philosophy, and it challenges the traditional philosophical notion of identity and sameness. According to Deleuze, difference is not just a matter of distinguishing one thing from another but is a positive force that is constitutive of the world. In other words, difference is not just a negative absence or lack of sameness, but a productive and creative force that generates new and unforeseeable possibilities.

Deleuze argues that difference is not just a property of objects or things but is immanent in the world and is the very condition of possibility for all things. Difference is not something that exists outside or apart from things but is inherent in them. For Deleuze, things are not just what they are, but they are also what they are not, and this is because of the continual process of differentiation and becoming that occurs in the world.

Deleuze’s concept of difference is also closely related to his idea of the virtual. The virtual is not opposed to the actual but is rather an aspect of it, and it is the realm of pure potentiality that exists alongside the actual world. According to Deleuze, the virtual is the site of infinite possibilities and potentials, and it is from the virtual that the actual emerges through processes of differentiation and becoming.

In summary, Deleuze’s concept of difference challenges the traditional philosophical understanding of identity and sameness and sees difference as a positive force that generates new and unforeseeable possibilities. Difference is immanent in the world, and it is the very condition of possibility for all things.

What is being repeated?

First, it is important to note that repetition is not unidirectional, there is no object of repetition, no ultimate goal to which it can be said to guide everything that repeats.

What therefore repeats is not models, styles or identities, but the full force of difference in and of itself, those pre-individual singularities that radically optimize difference on an immanent plane.

Becoming is so to speak what is being repeated. Being, identity, any static system of thought, these are just attempts by people to grow roots in the ground and reduce the rootless, complexity of the rhizome to a hierarchical simplicity. For Deleuze, the truth is that identity isn’t just an easy concept and talking about identity that just leads to problems when we try to impose these old ideas of the enlightenment era on constructing the world in which we live.

What Deleuze takes from this reading of Nietzsche is that he thinks identity is a derivative of difference, not the other way around. The appearance of being, or what we’ve mistaken as constants of the universe, is only possible to categorize as a result of us seeing what is truly fundamental and what is really fundamental is the constant process of becoming.

This is a far cry from Sigmund Freud who suggested that we are compulsively repeating the past, where all of our repressed subconscious material drives us to replay the past in all its discomfort and pain. In reality, psychoanalysis restricts repetition to expression, and what therapy is meant to do is to fully stop the process along with the illnesses it causes.

On the other hand, Deleuze urges us to repeat as he sees in it the potential of reinvention, i.e. repetition dissolves personalities as it transforms them, producing something unrecognizable and efficient. That’s why he maintains repetition is a positive transitional force.


Complex repetition has a multi-faceted relationship with time, a fact that influences how we conceive of rhythmic repetition in music. In this respect, Messiaen and Boulez strongly influenced the theories of Deleuze.

Deleuze takes up this distinction, relating it to the Stoic concept of time, whereby time consists of two modes: Chronos, the time of ordered and successive moments, as found in music that includes normal meters; and Aion, the time of the Universe which pre-exists our numerical “clock-like” order of time-this is the free-floating time beyond the amounts of metric division.

In Messiaen’s case, Deleuze shares with him the idea that rhythmic music in fact rejects simple numerical repetition; instead, it puts rhythm in a constant state of variation, producing unequal length chains. To Boulez, the comparison between what he terms “pulsed time” and “non-pulsed time” brings out this distinction.

Conceiving time through this opposition has its origins in Classical Antiquity, whereby Greek philosophers may talk of the period before there was time. Deleuze saw that both Messiaen and Boulez wrote music involving Aion’s time, or non-pulsed time:


Deleuze deploys the idea of variation to focus on what may be his most basic theme, namely that life is not solely characterized by continuity, but rather by a constant sense of motion and transition. That is, it is becoming. Therefore, the units and structures we find in life are the result of this fundamental movement being organized, and not the other way around.

Deleuze offers a number of examples for the concept of ‘variation’ in his work, one of which is music. Music is traditionally understood on the basis of scales that are fixed moments of pitch extracted from the whole range of frequencies. In western music, there is also the concept of the octave that divides sound up into repeatable scalar units. For Deleuze, we must consider these structures to be secondary in relation to the movement of sound itself, which has no intrinsic notes or scales.


there is only the continuous pitch variation, a simple, identity-free movement of difference.

Rather, like the use of words, depending on the context of their use, often changes, Deleuze and Guattari identify this as the inherent language variation in A Thousand Plateaus. The fact that language use is not static but dynamic is the very essence of language itself.

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