In Difference and Repitition by Deleuze, he comes up with 3 syntheses of time. The first being habitus, which is the conditioning of actual experience through pre-existing material patterns for the Subject to interact with. The second is the Bergsonist coincidence of the past in the present (pure memory), and the presentation of the virtual/actual distinction over the possible/real distinction. The third is the Kantian synthesis, in which the issue with the first two syntheses is that under them the only thing which repeats in future time is the Same, or the Eternal Return as commonly interpreted from Nietzsche.

However, this is when Deleuze proposes that the third synthesis in order to break from this eternal cycle of the Same is with difference, and he gives an interpretation of Nietzsche in which what survives the Eternal Return is difference in itself, thereby giving structure for future time for the Subject.

All of this I understand, but I do not quite know how this is justified. If this third synthesis was introduced in the same place as the first or second I'm sure that his conception of time would not require the Eternal Return. In addition, he implies in his writing that some sort of conflict is made within the subject from the first two syntheses, which does not seem apparent to me.

I am asking if any of y'all know if there is any sort of real justification or necessity for the third synthesis to be the third postulated in that series of syntheses, or how the assumption of the Eternal Return is necessary, as this is not obvious or intuitive for me and seems to just come from Deleuze's desire to quote Nietzsche and Kant.

  • 1
    Perhaps since Parmenides the eternal return is a necessary assumption or conclusion for many philosophers, developed further by Nietzsche. In the first two syntheses the subject is trapped in either material pattern of habitus or the virtual/actual distinction coincidence of the past in the present as pure memory in a sequence lacking creativity, both are a form of eternal return. Deleuze's third synthesis is based on the insight of the formers to arrive at his proposed difference as not only metaphysical concept but a practical tool to confront eternal return, not Nietzsche's affirmation... Apr 29, 2023 at 4:46
  • Yes, in some sense you are definitely correct that the first two syntheses are forms of eternal return when together, as it would be part of an endless cycle. However, these syntheses are supported in argumentation by the intuitive immanence of these syntheses for the Subject. I can in good faith believe in the "self-evidency" of the habitus as it constitutes human experience of time, and although I disagree with the 2nd synthesis, I can see someone else experiencing time in such a way described for the 2nd synthesis. However, what does not seem apparent to me is both the ordering of the...
    – TCoff
    Apr 29, 2023 at 4:55
  • syntheses as well as the justification for the 3rd synthesis, as the 3rd does not seem "self-apparent" and I cannot see how someone can have an intuitive concept of time as such either. Furthermore, Deleuze presents the 3rd synthesis as a problem-solution, which is a way of thinking he highly criticizes in his resistance against platonic representationalism. As such, the 3rd synthesis seems very ad-hoc and a nonsequitur when reading Deleuze's philosophy. Therefore I was wondering if separate formulations of the 3rd synthesis without the problem-solution Deleuze proposes are known, any sources?
    – TCoff
    Apr 29, 2023 at 4:59
  • 1
    The habitus is the most actual experience of the world. The second deals with the conditioning of that experience by pre-existing virtual patterns. The third synthesis, then, is the most abstract and conceptual, as it deals with the nature of difference itself and its role in the production of time and introduces the virtual and the singular as a means of breaking free from the eternal return. Deleuze prioritizes virtual over actual, singular over general, thus the ordering here makes sense. And you're right intuitionists use singular constructions instead of representations to solve problem. Apr 29, 2023 at 5:27
  • 1
    Bergson further developed Kantian time in Deleuze's 2nd synthesis to allude to time is nothing but the virtual sustaining condition of the repetition (eternal recurrence) pattern, thus Bergson already finished the singular construction or metaphorization of time as an invitation to its completion. Ergo Deleuze's own 3rd synthesis is supposed to be more abstruse and conceptual concerning the nature of difference which precedes time or treating it as an emergent actuality from the 3rd virtual knowledge... Apr 29, 2023 at 21:41

1 Answer 1


Deleuze's 3rd synthesis of time is clearly related to what Derrida is referring to in Heidegger: The Question of Being & History, (pages 180-181) quoted below. It can be connected to will and eternal return, since will is the motive force of any 'self-activation'.

To clarify what he calls Kant’s “obscure assertion” that “time affects a concept, in particular, the concept of the representations of objects” (Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, 133), Heidegger shows what time as pure intuition must signify: originarily, it can in no way signify affection of something by something, affection of a being by another being, affection of an existing subject by something outside it: because time is nothing, as such it cannot affect anything. It is affection of self by self. Auto-affection, a concept that is as incomprehensible as is, in truth, the movement of temporalization. This auto-affection as temporality is not a characteristic affecting transcendental subjectivity, one of its attributes; it is, on the contrary, that starting from which the self, the Selbst, the I think constitutes itself and announces itself to itself. Heidegger writes, [French] p. 244:

As pure self-affection, time is not an acting affection that strikes a self which is at hand (vorhandenes Selbst). Instead, as pure it forms the essence (Wesen) of something like self-activating (Sich-selbst-angehen as self-relating, to relate to self, angegangen werden zu können). However, if it belongs to the essence of the finite subject to be able to be activated as a self, then time as pure self-affection forms the essential structure of subjectivity. Only on the grounds of this self-hood can the finite creature be what it must be: dependent upon taking things in stride (angewiesen auf Hinnahme). (Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, 132) [GA 3, 1929]

Clarifying the connection of 'will' and 'eternal return', quoting from Heidegger, Off the Beaten Track [GA 5, 1943], pages 176 & 177.

As the essence of will, the essence of the will to power is the fundamental trait of all reality. Nietzsche writes (The Will to Power, no. 693, from 1888): The will to power is "the inmost essence of being." Here "being" is used in accordance with the language of metaphysics: beings in general. As the fundamental character of beings, therefore, the essence of the will to power and the will to power itself are not to be ascertained through psychological observation; rather, it is the other way round: psychology itself gets its essence, i.e., the ability to set and to recognize its object, only through the will to power.

. . . Since will is the overpowering of itself, no richness [Reichtum] of life will satisfy it. It has its power in overreaching [im Überreichen] - namely, in reaching over its own will. Thus it, as the same, is constantly coming back unto itself as the Same. The mode in which beings (whose essentia is the will to power) in their entirety exist, their existentia, is the "eternal return of the same." The two fundamental terms of Nietzsche’s metaphysics, "will to power" and "eternal return of the same," determine beings in their being in accordance with the perspectives which have guided metaphysics since antiquity, the ens qua ens in the sense of essentia and existentia.

  • 1
    @TCoff I can't comment on Deleuze's concept of difference, but starting from the Kantian point I can link will and will's recursion (eternal return) to 'self-activation' and the formation of time, and vaguely to "giving structure for future time for the Subject." It sounds like Deleuze is treading a very similar path to Heidegger, so my answer might clarify how eternal return relates in Deleuze's analysis. Apr 29, 2023 at 9:31
  • 1
    Note Derrida refers to this self-activation and temporisation as 'incomprehensible' so I wouldn't expect much crystal clarity from Deleuze. Nevertheless, the statement "an interpretation of Nietzsche in which what survives the Eternal Return is difference in itself" is fairly comprehensible to me in the light of the quotes I have posted. Difference as one movement of the self in contrast to a prior 'movement': affect of self on self, brought about by will (as essence, not deliberative force or thought). Apr 29, 2023 at 9:42
  • 1
    @TCoff Re. what do I think: As Derrida describes, Heidegger makes a subtle addition to Kant's concept of phenomenological time to posit "time as pure self-affection" as "the essential structure of subjectivity" ie authentic time bound up with Dasein. This is in contrast to 'ordinary' time which can (in the ordo cognoscendi) subsequently be discovered, defined and measured. Apr 29, 2023 at 10:00
  • 1
    Auto-affection and authentic time seems to correspond to "succession of psychological states", although maybe more phenomenological than psychological. "Succession of objects" corresponds comfortably to ordinary time, out in the world. Apr 29, 2023 at 10:05
  • 1
    Re. "driving force" - that would be 'will' as primordial motivating force causing a 'state' of self to reflect or differ from its former state, thus making a difference, constituting (in some way) time. Apr 29, 2023 at 10:09

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .