Deleuze's 'Becoming-Subject': Difference and the Human Individual

Research output: ThesisNon-UWA Thesis


This study argues that a theory of the distinctively human Individual lies latent within Deleuze's readings of Hume and Bergson and his two major metaphysical treatises. This evolving theory derives from efforts to re-think the concept of 'the subject' In terms of 'difference', 'becoming', 'repetition' and 'event'. Using critical exegesis, the study shows that Deleuze's model is precise and workable, capable of supplanting discredited accounts of the subject and nullifying charges that Deleuze is an 'anti-humanist'. Deleuze's subject is neither pre-existent nor stable, but always in the process of becoming-other, Individuated by Inherent differences. Chapter 1 argues that Deleuze's account (and several theoretical resources) can be traced to an early engagement with empiricism, where he uses Humean atomism to define a field of difference 'within which' associationist psychological tendencies define the subject as a 'fiction'. As Chapter 2 shows, weaknesses in this model lead Deleuze to Bergson. Having adopted Bergsonlan Intuition as his method, Deleuze seeks after the preconditions of the flow and temporality of consciousness. He determines that the subjects constitutive moment is the virtual point of intersection between the physicality of material objects and the 'inner life' of consciousness. Chapter 3 turns to questions of ontology and ethics, arguing that Deleuze's theory of internal difference accounts for the role of contingent circumstances In subject-formation whilst his theory of the event establishes each lived moment as unique. Deleuze Interprets Nietzsche's eternal return as an ontological device entailing the recurrence of difference in the lived time of the subject's 'becoming', and as the means for coherence between the moments of a life. This theory leads Deleuze to an 'ethics of the event' with the goal of transforming human thinking from a concentration on unity and identity towards a more creative and fulfilling life of becoming.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Warwick
  • Ansell-Pearson, Keith, Supervisor, External person
  • Battersby, Christine, Supervisor, External person
Publication statusUnpublished - 1998


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