Kant, Repetition, and the Categorical Imperative

This paper will bring into relation two largely neglected areas of research on Deleuze’s work: his critique of Kant’s moral philosophy, and his reading of Kierkegaard. In Difference and Repetition, Deleuze notes that Kant’s claim that an ethical action is one that rests on a maxim that can be universalised implies a Kantian account of repetition as the basis for morality. I will trace why Deleuze considers Kant’s account to be based on a misunderstanding of the nature of repetition, working through Deleuze’s distinction between bare and spiritual repetition. In doing so, I will show that Deleuze’s reading is heavily influenced by Kierkegaard’s own study, Repetition. I will use Kierkegaard’s work to trace the outlines of an alternative Deleuzian ethics of repetition. I will conclude by exploring some of the limitations of Kierkegaard’s account, looking at Deleuze’s claim that the dyadic basis of Kierkegaard’s ethics still leaves him too close to Kantian repetition.

A Research and Publication Project