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Topics in 20th Century French Philosophy I (PH9A5)

“The Deleuzian Image of Thought”

Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition (1968) is one of the most challenging and significant works of twentieth century “continental” philosophy. It marks the completion of a process of thought that began with the publication of Empiricism and Subjectivity in 1953 and that can be summarised as “transcendental empiricism.” By that, and beyond what may seem like a contradiction in terms, Deleuze means a method as well as a philosophical project, which we will try and define in detail.
This module will consist of a close reading of key passages from Deleuze’s magnum opus, and especially of Chapter 3 (“The Image of Thought”). The third chapter of Difference and Repetition consists of a confrontation with key figures in the history of philosophy, and possibly the most canonical ones: Plato, Descartes and Kant. The point of that chapter is simply to ask: what does it mean to philosophise, or, more broadly perhaps, to think? How does thought come about? What are its conditions not of possibility, but actual emergence? Deleuze’s point is that there’s an answer to that question that’s dominated the history of philosophy, and which he wants to oppose by extracting the conditions of what he calls a “thought without image.” He offers a critique of what he calls the “dogmatic image of thought,” and offers in its place a more ambitious, less restrictive conception of thought, which leads to an original doctrine of the faculties. He does that by drawing on resources from the history of philosophy and literature.

As a way of approaching that complex chapter, and introducing some of Deleuze’s key concepts, we’ll begin by reading a number of shorter texts, from his early review of Jean Hyppolite’s Logique and Existence to his studies on Bergson, Nietzsche, Kant, Proust, and Plato, which all found their way into Difference and Repetition. No prior knowledge of Deleuze’s thought is required.

Module Director

Miguel Beistegui


This module is worth 20 or 30 CATS depending on your programme of study.