18 Aug 2015

Somers-Hall, (4.12), Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition, ‘4.12 Actualisation (214–21/266–74)’, summary

by Corry Shores
[Search Blog Here. Index-tags are found on the bottom of the left column.]

[Central Entry Directory]
[Deleuze Entry Directory]
[Henry Somers-Hall, Entry Directory]
[Henry Somers-Hall’s Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition, Entry Directory]


[The following is summary. All boldface, underlining, and bracketed commentary are my own. Proofreading is incomplete, so please forgive my typos and other distracting mistakes. Somers-Hall is abbreviated SH and Difference and Repetition as DR.]

Summary of

Henry Somers-Hall

Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition:
An Edinburgh Philosophical Guide

Part 1
A Guide to the Text

Chapter 4. Ideas and the Synthesis of Difference


4.12 Actualisation (214–21/266–74)



Brief summary: 

For Deleuze, actualization is the movement from the virtuality of the Idea to the actualities implicated in the Idea as solutions to problems. But actualization is not predictable. It rather unfolds by means of ‘dramatization’ like with the development of an egg, since what comes about is not overtly implied in prior states of the development, and thus it surprises us in a dramatic way, and also, that development involves interrelated parts that interact much like actors do in a drama. The development is initially spatio-temporally intensive, since it involves firstly intensive variations in accelerations and distributions of the development. Then, secondarily as a result of those intensive spatio-temporal dynamisms are the extensive quantitative and qualitative features of the organism that result. Thus extensive spatio-temporal features are only secondary to the intensive spatio-temporal dynamisms of the development.


We could simply understand actualization as a movement from possibility to actuality. Then “we will have no problem explaining why the actual object has the properties that it has, since these would be already mapped out in the structure of the possible” (163). But, this understanding posses a problem. It says that the only difference between possibility and actuality is the fact that the actual exists and the possible does not. But with this being the only difference, we have difficulty explaining how the possible develops into the actual. For, from this conception, actual existence seems to abruptly erupt out of nowhere, [since there seems to be no fundamental connection between the possible and the actual]. But given Deleuze’s alternate model, he needs to show “how the distinct-obscure structure of the virtual becomes actualised in the clear-confused structure of actual relations” (164). He says this happens by means of a process he calls dramatization, “which involves the folding of spaces, and processes operating at differential rates” (164). Here in chapter 4 Deleuze describes how this happens in terms of Ideas, but we learn in the next chapter that this account alone is inadequate, since we also need to grasp intensity’s role in the process (164).

“As we have seen, Deleuze is interested in the conditions of production of actual objects and relations” (164). He will draw from embryology to illustrate. [I do not follow this paragraph so well. It seems the basic idea is that there is no way to predetermine the way that actualizations unfold. I quote:]

When we look at an egg, we see that it develops from a completely undifferenciated form into one encompassing the various qualities that characterise its species. As we saw with Geoffroy’s transcendental anatomy, his claim was that only by looking at the unity of composition governing two animals, and the way this is actualised, can we determine how different parts were actualised in different organisms. Deleuze notes that we can equally make this point about the egg itself: ‘Take a division into 24 cellular elements endowed with similar characteristics: nothing yet tells us the dynamic process by which it was obtained – 2 × 12, (2 × 2) + (2 × 10), or (2 × 4) + (2 × 8) . . . ?’ (DR 216/268). In fact, Deleuze uses embryology to provide a more general model of actualisation. He delineates the various stages of the process as follows: ‘The world is an egg, but the egg itself is a theatre: a staged theatre in which the roles dominate the actors, the spaces dominate the roles and the Ideas dominate the spaces’ (DR 216/269). ‘Spaces’ here does not refer to actual spaces that we might measure, but rather to what Deleuze calls ‘spatio-temporal dynamisms’ (DR 214/266).
(SH 164)

There is nothing in the egg which overtly suggests what develops from it: “we | should see the embryo as developing through a series of transformations of its surfaces that simultaneously constitute the parts of the organism” (164-165). The process of this development “is governed by a ‘kinematics’ specified by the Idea” (165). [The next idea is tricky, but it seems that we cannot explain what happens next in the development (of an egg for example) solely on the states that came before, since the new states seemingly are original and come about “dramatically” in the sense of surprising us. The drama also stems from the fact that what takes place does so on account of a dramatic sort of interaction of the parts, like how actors interact in a play.]

As Deleuze notes, this kinematics differs from the possible movements of the developed organism, as the embryo is capable of transformations that are simply not possible for a developed organism. What Deleuze is suggesting here is that we are confronted with a process that cannot be understood in terms of cause and effect operating on a collection of atoms. Rather, the appropriate model is that of a drama, or in Ruyer’s terms, a sociology of development, where we understand the interactions between the elements in terms of the roles that they play, or the relations that they hold with other elements within the embryo [The following up to citation is Ruyer quotation]:

There is definitely, we shall see, a possible sociology of organic forms and their development, provided we give the word ‘society’ its true meaning, and don’t understand by ‘society’ a simple juxtaposition of individuals. A society in general always implies that the individuals that compose it follow a series of themes of coordination, and they know how to play their ‘roles’ in various stimuli-situations; ‘roles’ that do not arise automatically, like the effect of a cause, the sole spatial situation of the individual in the social whole. We cannot dispel the mystery of differenciation by making it the effect of differences in situation produced by equal divisions. These differences are of stimuli and not of causes. (Ruyer 1958: 91)
(SH 165)

[I also do not quite get the next point. It seems that the idea is that the dynamisms of the development are not just unfolding in space but also in time, and this has something to do with the speeds of the development. And this further means that the embryo “constitutes its own time” which seems to be its own pattern of accelerations and decelerations of development, but I am not sure. Maybe the next idea is that since these developments unfold both in space and time, that they are spatio-temporal dynamisms. But it is somehow more a matter of intensities (of degrees of variation in changes in space and time, somehow maybe), and thus they are somehow initially intensive spatio-temporal dynamisms and then secondarily extensive ones. We need to get this idea, but I am not sure how yet. Perhaps the idea is that certain qualitative features in extensive time and space of the developed creature are products of intensive variations in speeds and in the spatial distributions of related elements. That is still vague, so I am sorry.]

These dynamisms are not purely spatial, however, and Deleuze takes up Geoffroy’s suggestion that the differences between organisms can be understood by the relative speeds of the different processes that operate within the embryo. As such, the embryo constitutes its own time, which is defined by the differential relations of these processes. In fact, as Deleuze suggests, because we are talking about relationships between distances and time, at the level of the spatio-temporal dynamism, we cannot separate the dimensions of space and time themselves [the following up to citation is Deleuze quotation]:

Consider the following example, concerning sterility and fecundity (in the case of the female sea-urchin and the male annelid): problem – will certain paternal chromosomes be incorporated into new nuclei, or will they be dispersed into the protoplasm? question – will they arrive soon enough? (DR 217/270)

| Thus, the process operates at a level prior to the constitution of the extensive field of space and time
(SH 165-166)

[I also do not get the next idea. We have two levels, the level of species or of qualitability and the level of the parts or of quantaitability. I do not know what these levels are or why they have these alternate names. But it seems maybe the idea is that when the organism develops, from the egg for example, it is originally differentiated but then becomes differenciated with specific, determinate, extensively quantitative and qualitative features.]

We have the generation of the organism as an instance of a species (what Deleuze calls the element of qualitability), and on the level of the parts (the element of quantitability [DR 221/274]). Differenciation is therefore a process that generates both the extensive characteristics of the organism (its size) and the qualities it possesses. The process of cellular development therefore plays the same role in the world as integration of differentials plays in the sphere of mathematics. In both cases, they explain how we are able to move between two states that are different in kind.
(SH 166)

This ends chapter 4, and in the next and “final chapter of Difference and Repetition, Deleuze will look at this account from the perspective of intensity, to give an account of how Ideas are ‘dramatised’, or played out in a field of intensity” (166).


Citations from:

Somers-Hall, Henry. Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition. An Edinburgh Philosophical Guide. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University, 2013.

Or if otherwise noted:

Deleuze, Gilles. Difference and Repetition, trans. Paul Patton, New York: Columbia University Press, 1994/London: Continuum, 2004.

Ruyer, Raymond (1958), La Genèse des Formes Vivantes, Paris: Flammarion.



No comments:

Post a Comment