Difference and Repetition: Time-quake, with James Williams

March 6, 2012
Time and place: 10.00 – 13.00, Universiteitsbibliotheek Amsterdam (Singel 425), Potgieterzaal

Gilles Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition: Time-quake…

What does a great work of philosophy do? It is a time-quake: a rupture in time, an event reverberating back and forward through history, disrupting former certainties and orders, altering futures, creating new ideas and making others redundant. Spinoza’s Ethics is one such, setting off waves of doubt about free-will. Descartes’ Meditations is another, determining modernity (no less) and thereby also consigning an ancient world to dogma. Plato’s Dialogues and Aristotle’s Metaphysics struggle back against the Meditations: an eternal dogfight of ideas. The works and their quarrels are world-creating, but they know nothing of steady and regular physical niceties. They can work slowly and then suddenly shatter common sense. They can leap through time, leaving no trace, reappearing as if by magic, in a strange scene far removed from their matrix. Has Marx’s Capital exploded yet? Or did it too soon, only to lie in wait for a few more centuries? Yes, these works are dangerous. One of them, The Will to Power, teaches us that. They disrupt and rearrange, cause decay and breathe life (a Creative Evolution, another tells us).

Is it not folly, then, to try to elect another to their pantheon so early, but a mere forty four years after its happy year of birth? We can be confident Kant’s Critiques deserves elevation, and perhaps Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, among recent candidates, but what of the right of Difference and Repetition to sit alongside? This workshop will seek to investigate its claim to greatness. The case will rest on its ideas, its style, the quakes it has begun, the quarrels it has already picked, the subjects and spheres it has transformed, the world it has begun to spin and the shocks it has caused and – as befits this occasion – the translations it demands. All philosophical time-quakes call to be translated. Language is their medium and the measure of their multiple effects. These great works have to be seen to work through a tongue before we divine the special nature of the effects they spread through each culture. Sometimes the event happens ever so quietly, sometimes it is so loud that for a while we cannot even hear ourselves think, until our minds adapt to strange new ways.

Professor James Williams lectures on Philosophy at the University of Dundee . As a writer and lecturer, Williams has a specific interest in 20th Century French Philosophy (Deleuze, Lyotard, Foucault, Kristeva, Derrida, Badiou) Postmodernism, Poststructuralism, Aesthetics and Political Philosophy. The many books and articles authored by Williams, include Gilles Deleuze’s Philosophy of Time (Edinburgh University Press, 2011), Gilles Deleuze’s Logic of Sense (Edinburgh University Press, 2008), Understanding Poststructuralism (Acumen, 2005), Gilles Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition (EUP, 2003) and Lyotard and the Political (Routledge, 2000).

To enroll in the NICA-Masterclass with James Williams, please email nica-fgw@uva.nl. Limited places available.    This masterclass is now fully booked. We are no longer accepting new participants.


James Williams at Spui25

The night before, on March 5, professor Williams will lecture on Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition at Spui25. The evening starts at 20:00 and is moderated by Laurens ten Kate. Participants to the masterclass are encouraged to attend the lecture as well. Spui25 is located at Spui 25 in Amsterdam.