The Eternal Return and the Phantom of Difference

  • Catherine Malabou
Keywords: Nietzsche, Deleuze, Derrida, eternal return, identity, difference, clone


The text tackles the interpretation of Nietzsche’s philosophy as the “philosophy of difference” in contemporary French philosophy (Deleuze, Derrida). This interpretation is not so “French” by and in itself since it comes from Heidegger. There where the latter sees concealment and unconcealment of the difference, Deleuze and Derrida see the disclosure of the difference itself. The main motive behind the persistent interpretation of the eternal return as the thought of difference in Deleuze and Derrida is anti-Hegelianism. The dialectics and the concept of the negative are declared to be phantoms. But the problem is not only that the difference is not a Nietzschean concept, but that in Nietzsche one cannot find a similar critique of Hegel, even more, in Nietzsche one cannot find the idea that the eternal return is the principle of choice and selection. In spite of some differences between Deleuze’s and Derrida’s reading of Nietzsche, their basic agreement is that in Nietzsche only the difference returns. The price to be paid for this is the suppression of some motives (in German: gleich, gleichgültig) which definitively have their place in Nietzsche’s conception of the eternal return. The author, therefore, proposes a new reading of it, she suggests replacing the difference with the clone and in this way obtaining a possibility of reading the eternal return as the thought of ontological cloning.


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How to Cite
Malabou C. The Eternal Return and the Phantom of Difference. FV [Internet]. 2016Feb.6 [cited 2020Jun.3];32(3). Available from: