what is a dark precursor?

To approach a better understanding of the dark precursor, we turn to the pages of Difference and Repetition in which that concept first appears. There, Deleuze discusses how systems emerge from the chaos of the eternal return. A system is composed of two or more heterogeneous series which enter communication in the exchange of pre-individual intensities from which full-fledged phenomena emerge. That disparate series enter into communication begs the question as to whether there really was some minimal resemblance there all along or whether an overbearing third party forces an identity between them. In other words, the question at hand is: do heterogeneous series take resemblance and identity as conditions for their communication after all?


The dark precursor is Deleuze’s response in the negative–that systems emerge by difference alone. After a series of questions about the place of difference in emergent systems, Deleuze writes “Thunderbolts explode between different intensities, but they are preceded by an invisible, imperceptible dark precursor, which determines their path in advance but in reverse, as though intagliated” (Difference and Repetition, 119). The lightning imagery concerns all phenomena that flicker when components of heterogeneous series collide. It highlights the unfolding of a path carved into a field swarming with intensities. The dark precursor traces not the smooth trails of resemblance and identity plotted in advance and safely followed; rather, it bolts through sharp turns and crooked paths, drawing its trajectory as it goes. For the path of emergence heads into the wild while nonetheless remaining a path. It is the path by which difference is differenciated at each fork along the way.


Deleuze admits that there indeed is a “there is” appropriate to the dark precursor, that the dark precursor never sheds itself of identity and resemblance. But rather than preconditions, identity and resemblance are effects of the dark precursor; they are its “inevitable illusions” ingrained in our “inveterate habit of thinking difference on the basis of the categories of representation” (Difference and Repetition, 119). The proper “there is” of the dark precursor remains indeterminate, as it is a “there is” not of the same from which difference derives but difference that procures an effect of the same; it is the in-itself of difference. That this “there is” remains indeterminate means that it can only be disfigured when called into representation; it entails that part of the dark precursor’s functioning is to conceal itself, leaving behind only a distorted afterimage of its fizzled charge.


It becomes difficult to conceive of the dark precursor as a thing that can act and be acted upon. It is the heterogeneous series themselves that come into immediate contact and communicate in a grammar that defies the active and passive voices: shit happens. Take a car accident on an icy road. A car, its tires, its driver, wintry weather, the arc of a turn in the road, and the tree breaking the spinout have nothing to do with each other except that they have been gathered in this event. At the level of the event, there is no subject or object proper–What caused the crash? My recklessness? The familial pressures compelling me to speed home for a holiday dinner? A job that let me clock out at 5p instead of 4p? The worn material of my car’s tires? Other drivers on the road? The urban planner who decided that a road should pass through this neck of the woods? The clouds that snowed upon the earth? All and none of the above, for agency remains fugitive where the dark precursor is concerned, and a car accident is not a matter of compiling like things nor the result of some determining agent. Shit happens.


The dark precursor, then, is less a real agent and more an explanatory placeholder forced by grammatical constraints. It reaffirms that difference is not subordinated to the same, that heterogeneous series need no modicum of resemblance or mediating agent in order to be differenciated. The dark precursor is the agentless function of differenciation, maintaining the thesis that difference remains in-itself and for-itself even when some notion of the same appears to claim the day.

1 Response to “what is a dark precursor?”

  1. 1 Sam wappler
    5 June 2013 at 4.41 pm

    Great little blog post. Awesome, succinct, to the point, clear, amazing topic!

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