Part Four – Difference – initial confrontation

What is difference? Blue is not red and you are not me. But is that all how we can define difference?

Dictionaries consider as synonyms for difference words as: distinction, dissimilarities, dissimilitude, distance, contrast, disagreement, diversity etc.

I became aware that difference is more and deeper. Differences in the form of binaries were and are at times used to support ideology and hegemonic worldviews e.g. high art / low art in Modernism, capital / workforce in Marxism, Male / Female in Feminism, Black / White in racism etc.

During part 3, I came across the concept of ‘difference’ especially in my reading of Plato and Deleuze.  Plato’s conception of division, representation, idea/icon and model-copy. Deleuze opposed Plato’s concept as a converging model of the self-same. Plato’s conception of a ‘phantasmatic simulacra’ based on semblance and not resemblance would, according to Deleuze, always leave the falsified claim, the sophist, the one who lays claims not on the essence but merely on appearance, as a fake,

He opposed his conception of disparity as a model of difference.  Multiple viewpoints ‘where all differences are alike’ (Deleuze, 1983). The essence is difference.

Structuralists e.g. Saussure, considered that meaning is produced by differences between signs (to differ). Peirce came along similar conception, but added a point of reference to it

Derrida’s notion of différance, a French wordplay from différer, between ‘to differ’ and’ to defer’, related to semiotics and structural analysis that texts do not convey directly a meaning but through arbitrary symbolic signs of the word. Also, that there is never a final meaning, more like an endless semiosis of meaning. Derrida questioned identity and stated that ‘meaning is always the effect of the trace, paradoxically, of the other in the self-same’ (Belsey, 2002, p. 83)

Another conception of difference I didn’t understand quite well, was mentioned in an article about the virtual in photography, shared with me by fellow student Stephanie. Kember related to Deleuze and the three rules of intuition: ‘the second rule of intuition as a method requires us to distinguish between differences in degree, and differences in kind – or between false and true differences.’ (Kember, 2008, p.177). Here I can see some Platonist senses of division (false, true). Kember highlighted in reference to Bergson that memory is a difference in kind (ibid, p.183). With reference to Manovich she argued that photography is due its exteriority a difference in degree, but through digitalisation all media converged and became merely a difference in degree. (ibid, pp.178-9)

So, what was or is difference in degree versus difference in kind?

“The difference in mind between man and the higher animals, great as it is, certainly is one of degree and not of kind.”  — Charles Darwin

One could say that ‘in kind’ means like binaries, ‘in degree’ like continuum: animal / human, bird/fish, male/female, photography/painting, shades of grey, analog / digital media, pro / contra arguments? Are these examples explaining the difference between the difference in kind or degree? It seems to be it could be become an endless argumentation of positions. Whether one looks more on similarities or on dissimilarities, from a detailed or from a distant point of view.

I can sense that this part will be challenging with regards to make one argument cohesive and clear, To explain one’s position in why and what let us think about differences. Do we want to enforce converging or diverging views? And what would be the underlying belief and assumption?

 

Reference:

  • Belsey, C. (2002) Poststructuralism: A Very Short Introduction, Very short introductions. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Deleuze, G. (1983) ‘Plato and the Simulacrum’, In:October, 27 pp. 45-56.
  • Kember, S. J. (2008) ‘The Virtual Life of Photography ‘, in: Photographies. [Online]. 1(2),  pp. 175 – 203,  Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17540760802285239 [accessed 23 Mar 2017].
  • Schaffeld, SJ (2017) Notes: Preparation A3 – Plato and a dualistic philosophy / The Republic (weblog post, 08 Aug 2017) Available from: https://ocauvc.stefanschaffeld.com/?p=1884 

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