positive difference | negative difference

1.

You want to make a positive difference?

Then you will have to start with embracing the positive difference that always already exists in you and the universe. That’s what this book collection of texts growing manuscript website is about. Or better still, is a catalyst for.

2.

Positive difference has two meanings.
One is the everyday, ethical meaning: making the world, or just your own life, better. Things might change for the better (making a positive difference).
But there’s also a more neutral, fundamental ontological meaning: that the differences we experience in the world and universe might only be described in positive terms. There’s no negation, no nothing, no absence. Just what is, is.

And now we have two definitions of negative difference: making things worse (the ethical meaning) and describing things in terms of negation in which something is defined by what it is not (the ontological meaning).

3.

So why is the universe, and our existence, marked by positive, and negative, difference? 
Why does embracing positive difference lead to a better world (to making a positive difference?
And how might we do this, what could it look like?

Let’s find out. Let’s do it.

4.

This distinction is found everywhere. Because difference is everywhere.

This distinction describes the difference between two basic modes of difference – a dyad for which if the difference that is happening is not of the one sort, it will be of the other – and since difference is everywhere, this distinction is everywhere. At all scales and forms of existence.

This distinction structures, or is structured by (who can quite tell?), the differentiation that we call life, or better: living. Living is the differentiation, the making of difference, in what that keep up both the differences produced, and the differentiation processes that make such differences, going.

5.

To recap: positive difference acknowledges that things are different, but that one could only describe this difference in positive terms. This thing here is like this, and that thing there is like that. Such difference can be contrasted but in a very basic sense it cannot be compared; this here cannot be compared with that there. We get a feel for this with the cliche 'it’s like comparing apples with oranges'. The point being: it’s not possible. This orange here has a particular taste, touch, feel, texture, geography, history, connection. And so it goes also for that apple over there.

But not all difference is framed like this, not by a long shot. Often, what drives things is negative difference, which pits difference in negative terms, within a single spectrum or category or dimension of possibility. This means that any description of what something is, is also a description of what it is not, or what it is yet to become. If we have the category of 'fruit', then the fruit called orange is now also the fruit which is not other fruit, and thus it is now not-an-apple. And vice versa for the apple, which is now not-an-orange.

6.

This idea of positive and negative difference I've got from Henri Bergson (via Deleuze and also John Cage), and Bergson himself re-modelled the idea of multiplicities from the mathematician Riemann. Bergson actually calls it 'qualitative multiplicities' vs 'quantitative multiplicities', or ‘differences in kind’ vs ‘difference in degree’, which Deleuze wrote about, in a fairly approachable book ("Bergsonism"). And I reckon most of the dyads which Deleuze later used are reversions of this basic Bergson-ian one. Dyads like: rhizomic vs arboreal; smooth vs striated; nomadic vs sedentary; minoritarian vs majoritarian; intensive vs extensive.

Positive difference and negative difference somehow belong together. In that we (humans) can't really exist without both, which is something that Bergson and Deleuze explain. But also, I think positive difference is actually the 'truer' type of difference. In that it is the difference that is always there, out of which negative difference arises. I'm not sure how to really explain this yet… however Manuel Delanda has given one explanation of it. He's an artist-cum-computer-graphics-engineer-cum-philosopher who I think is one of the few commentators I've read who seems to actually understand some of the potential of Deleuze's thinking to re-cast anything we could think about. In one of his books, which I'm reading now (“Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy”), Delanda basically tries to prove how 'metric space and time' derive from a more primordial non-metric fluid-continuous space and time. Things are smooth before then become striated, but they do striate, as part of forming identity/difference. If this is the case, then maybe dealing with humans primarily in terms of positive difference, and secondarily in terms of negative difference, is the way to go (ie, let's attune to this, if this is the way things really are).

7.

There are other dyads which also re-tell the story of positive-negative difference. Here they are…