- ---- by James WilliamsIn Deleuze's work, identity is perhaps the most heavily criticised concept from the philosophical tradition. That criticism takes many forms and depends on many different arguments and aesthetic expressions. However, these can be simplified through the claim that Deleuze's opposition to identity is directed at the falsifying power of identity in representation. Identity works against and covers deeper pure differences. It does so because of the dominance of the demand to represent in the history of philosophy. Objects, subjects, faculties, feelings, ideas and thoughts must be represented for them to become a legitimate part of philosophical debate. For this representation to take place they must be identified.There is a strong description of this historical dominance in Difference and Repetition, where Deleuze characterises it according to a series of 'postulates' presupposed by a certain 'image of thought'. When thought is associated by right with truth and with the good, certain unexamined premisses are at work. Most notably, that truths and goods can be represented in thought and most properly by thought.So what concerns Deleuze is not only the claim that truths and goods must be represented, but also the belief that thought is dependent on representation and on identity for its path to the good and the true. His critiques of other philosophers often depend on showing how this image of thought is operating unconsciously and damagingly in their works. The damage is caused because reality is a process of becoming, which involves pure differences that cannot be represented.By turning us away from reality, the commitment to identity in representation furthers an illusion that leads us to repress processes of becoming at work in our own existence. The effects of these processes become all the more difficult to work with, once that repression has taken place. In terms of identity, Deleuze's philosophy can be seen as a critical attempt to cure us of the self-destructive dependence on identity.But what is identity according to Deleuze? In Difference and Repetition he gives an account of it in terms of concepts (though in What is Philosophy? he and Guattari use the term in a different sense). Identity is opposed to multiplicity, in that multiplicity is both uncountable and not open to a reductive logical or mathematical analysis. Thus, if any concept is defined as a series of identifiable predicates or properties, then to say that all things must be represented through concepts is to further a false image of reality. An identifiable predicate would itself be simple, limited and well-determined, something that could be checked empirically or through reason with certainty.According to Deleuze nothing can be checked in this way. Concepts and representations do not correspond to anything in reality. This is because all things are connected to multiplicities, that is, to uncountable and unidentifiable processes of becoming, rather than existing as fixed beings with identifiable and limited predicates or essences.But this shows the extreme difficulty of Deleuze's position, not only in terms of communicability, but also in terms of how it can be understood. Do we not need to be able to represent something in order to be able to talk about it in an open and effective manner? Do we not need to be able to identify something in order to be able to understand it truthfully?His answer is that communication is expressive as well as identifying. So though we represent what we think and talk about, a series of unidentifiable processes are always at work behind that representation. There can be no identity without pure differences standing in the background as a condition for the illusory appearance of a pure, well-determined identity.Connectives§ thought
The Deleuze dictionary. Revised Edition Edited by Adrian Parr . 2010.