25 Aug 2015

Somers-Hall, (5.5), Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition, ‘5.5 Individuation (244–56/305–19)’, summary

by Corry Shores
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[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 5. The Asymmetrical Synthesis of the Sensiblence


5.5 Individuation (244–56/305–19)



Brief summary: 

For Deleuze, we have a realm of extensity. It is our familiar world we experience, and it has spatial features and other determinate qualities. One view would say that the states of affairs in this realm of extensity are determined by other extensive factors in prior moments, in a mechanistic sort of model. Deleuze, however, thinks that something more is at work. For him, there is another layer  of reality couched within the extensive world. There are not just extensive relations, like one thing being beside another. There are also intensive ones, like the “potential differences” that physics studies. We might for example have an electrical charge in the clouds and another in the ground. We could talk about extensive relations and say that the sky sits above the ground, but this will not explain to us much about why and how the coming lightning bolt will shoot between them. The charges or “potentials” in each region are such only in their differential relation to one another. That difference itself, which is relationally “between” them but not spatially interposed between them, is an intensive difference. Many varieties of intensities are couched in the extensive world, and they help shape it. The intensive difference between the charges shapes the extensive world by sending a powerful and destructive lightning bolt through the intervening region between the clouds and the ground. This transformation of the extensive world by means of intensive difference is called “explication:” certain actualizable outcomes are implicit in the intensive situation, and they become explicit through explication, meaning that they manifest overtly in the extensive world. The way that intensive relations explicate has to do with their interactions with “Ideas.” An Idea is a network of pure differential relations that might find one actualization or another when they are explicated. Perhaps all vertebrate organisms now and going way back in evolution have skeletons that are isomorphic. One explanation is that there is a transcendental template that is merely a fixed set of relations which may manifest in a wide variety of ways in different organisms. So the template of relations is an Idea. Any of many various organisms expressing it is an explication. Now also, the physical intensive conditions surrounding the organism’s embryonic development are the “field of intensities,” which is a notion that is important when understanding how creatures develop uniquely from nearly identical embryos. In fact, the embryos are never identical, even if the DNA is. For, there are contingent features in the actual situation, like the chemical composition of the embryo’s cytoplasm. They cause one embryo to follow one path of division and another embryo to follow a different developmental course. What happens is the fixed DNA code colludes with the variable intensive relations of the actual situation, and thus the development is dramatized rather than mechanistically predictable.


SH says we may now pose two interrelated questions: 1) How does intensity explicate into extensity, when the two differ in kind? 2) What is the relationship between intensity and Ideas? (180)

2) What is the relationship between intensity and Ideas?
We begin with the second question, since it will help us answer the first one. Recall Geoffroy’s evolutionary anatomy from section 4.5 [there is a transcendental “template” of sorts for the relations that the parts of specific species may take. (Note, “template” is my term, not SH’s. It do not mean it too literally. Again see section 4.5 for the concept).  Thus a fish fin is analogous to a human leg, since each bears the same relative position with respect to the rest of its own body parts. The point here seems to be that the transcendental template is an intensive field of differential relations. It is not an extensive map or plan saying one part must reside in a particular spatial position and take on specific spatial dimensions and have specific qualities. The fin has very different properties from the human leg. Here we see how intensive differential relations explicate into particular extensive features. One danger is seeing DNA as that intensive template. The DNA implies one specific development of a certain individual, and so it is perhaps not deeply intensive like Geoffrey’s template, which implicates an infinite variety of actualizable developments.]

When we looked at the structure of the Idea in the previous chapter, we saw that one of the examples Deleuze gave was of Geoffroy’s unity of composition (4.5). Geoffroy’s intention in developing this structure was to provide a way of comparing different animals in terms of the way in which they actualised a universal set of relations between bones. Thus, the form of actual creatures differs depending on how the non-metric relationships between parts were given determinate magnitudes in extensive space. The anatomical structures of a giraffe and a bison can both be mapped onto the same unity of composition if we only consider the relationships between bones, and put to one side the sizes of the bones themselves as expressed in extensity. The Idea therefore is in some sense determinative of the structure of the organism. At this point, we encounter a potential danger in our account of the development of the form of the organism. If we see the unity of composition as determinative of the form of the organism, we risk merely reiterating the structure of the organism at a transcendental level. By doing so, we remove the essential characteristic of the Idea that it is different in kind from the structure it generates. Deleuze cites DNA as the modern formulation of the Idea of the organ- | ism, in that it presents a field of elements that are different in kind from the characteristics we find in the organism to which it relates. Despite the fact that DNA differs in structure from the structure of the organism, there is still a temptation to understand it in terms of those structures. Thus, as the biologist Susan Oyama writes, ‘though we all know that there are no hooves or noses in the genes, the accepted formulation is that the genes that are literally passed on make hooves and noses in ontogenesis’ (Oyama 2000: 43). Seeing a direct relationship between the Idea and the extensive form that it determines in fact rests on the same model of synthesis we saw in Kant’s philosophy. The Idea here would be akin to the active subject that manipulates passive extensive matter into form, and the differenciation of the Idea would be the simple expression of its structure. To turn to Oyama once again, we can see that this model of active synthesis is indeed widespread in genetic theory [the following up to citation is Oyama quotation]:

The discovery of DNA and its confirmation of a gene theory that had long been in search of its material agent offered an enormously attractive apparent solution to the puzzle of the origin and perpetuation of living form. A material object housed in every part of the organism, the gene seemed to bridge the gap between inert matter and design; in fact, genetic information, by virtue of the meanings of in-formation as ‘shaping’ and as ‘animating,’ promised to supply just the cognitive and causal functions needed to make a heap of chemicals into a being. (Oyama 2000: 14)
(SH 180-181)


[The next concept to deal with is individuation, but I am not entirely sure I grasp what it is. In the last section, SH perhaps defined individuation as “the emergence of the subject from an a-subjective field of intensity”  (The full sentence was: “we will also have to deal with the problem of individuation, or the emergence of the subject from an a-subjective field of intensity”) (179). In the case of development from DNA, the subject I think would be the creature that develops, and the a-subjective field of intensity would be the transcendental template. Or (as we see later) maybe otherwise it is found in the actual physical conditions of the embryo’s development. So in the Geoffroy example, I am confused what is the Idea and what is the field of intensity. Judging from the material that follows, it might be like the following. The Idea is the template. But the field of intensity is found in the physical properties of a particular explication of that Idea. So under certain conditions in the intensive differences of the situation, it will explicate one way and under other conditions it will explicate another way. Let me quote.]

Deleuze himself notes that seeing Ideas as solely responsible for the constitution of the world is a potential misstep in the philosophy of difference that we are prone to [the following up to citation is Deleuze quotation]:

In fact any confusion between the two processes, any reduction of individuation to a limit or complication of differenciation, compromises the whole of the philosophy of difference. This would be to commit an error, this time in the actual, analogous to that made in confusing the virtual with the possible. Individuation does not presuppose any differenciation; it gives rise to it. (DR 248/308–9)

Instead of the structure of the organism being governed by the operation of Ideas on passive extensity, Deleuze instead argues that it is governed by the interplay between the Idea and the field of intensity: ‘Individuation is the act by which intensity determines differential relations to become actualised, along the lines of differenciation and within the qualities and extensities it creates’ (DR 246/308).
(SH 181)

[The important point seems to be that the Idea does not act on the extensive world like a cookie cutter and directly shape it. At this point I am still missing what the interplay is between the Idea and the field of intensity, which determines the organism’s structure. Perhaps it has something to do with the idea of the dice throw, but I am not sure. The material to follow might clarify this.]

1) How does intensity explicate into extensity, when the two differ in kind?
We now examine the process of intensity’s explication into extensity (181-182). The process has a fourfold structure:  differentiation-individuation-dramatization-differenciation. 1) Differentiation: one part of the structure are the calculus differentials of the Idea, which do not resemble anything in sensibility. [Since this moment has singularities (the differentials) that have not yet been actualized or explicated,] it is structured by “pre-individual singularities”. 2) Individuation: [For this part of the structure, we need to understand intensity as a difference between two potentials. In the thermodynamics example, there was a difference of potential between the heat regions. The greater that difference, the more work the system could perform. I am not familiar with this physics terminology where we would refer to two things as potentials. It might be like saying in the case of engines, there are two regions of different temperatures, and there is a potential difference between them, meaning that the difference can potentially cause a change in the states of the system. Or perhaps in the case of lightning, we could say that the electrical charges in the cloud and on the ground are of different values. And, this could potentially cause a discharge of electrical energy, if the potential difference between the regions crosses a certain threshold.] “The second moment is the moment of intensity. As we saw, intensity is understood as a difference between two potentials. It is this difference between potentials which allows work to be done in the thermodynamic model of intensive quantities” (182). [We then turn to the example of cellular anatomy. I do not follow this example so well, so let me quote it first:]  “To return to the example of the cell, we not only have the nucleus, which contains the genetic material, but also the cytoplasm, which appears to be a homogeneous field. Nonetheless, we find that the cytoplasm contains chemical gradients that determine differences between points within the egg” (182). [This might be referring to the discussion  in section 4.12. One thing I note here is that we have two terms, the cell and the egg, and I think they refer to the same thing, the embryo, but perhaps I am mistaken. Another thing that I am not sure about is the developmental process that is being referred to. Perhaps the idea is the following (but I am making a guess here). This cellular egg will divide further and further, each time perhaps differentiating into more distinct cells. (Perhaps with each differential repetition there is another “individuation,” but I am not sure). And perhaps also those divisions do not operate merely in accordance with the DNA’s instructions. Rather, each egg will divide partly on the basis of the chemical composition of the seemingly homogenous basic fluid that fills it. Thus it is not really homogeneous, since within it is a field of intensive differences which lead to different patterns of self-division. This field of intensive differences, then, is the field of individuation. I am not sure how this works. If I were to guess, perhaps there are something acting like fault-lines in the fluid or other structural sorts of irregularities that make the divisions open to contingent factors.]

To return to the example of the cell, we not only have the nucleus, which contains the genetic material, but also the cytoplasm, which appears to be a homogeneous field. Nonetheless, we find that the cytoplasm contains chemical gradients that determine differences between points within the egg. These differences set up potentials similar to the differences in temperature which allow the thermodynamic engine to function. This field of potentials is what Deleuze calls the ‘field of individuation’: ‘An intensity forming a wave of variation throughout the protoplasm distributes its difference along the axes and from one pole to another’ (DR 250/312).
(SH 181)

3) Dramatization: [The idea here is a bit hard for me to follow at a certain stage. The first point seems to be that one Idea can be actualized as one specific explication or as another. For example, the Idea of color can be actualized as red or as blue, etc. Whichever actualization it does take will of course exclude the other actualizations that could have found explication, even though they were there virtually in the Idea. Also, Geoffrey’s “unity of composition” (what I call the template) is an Idea that can actualize as this or that animal.]

The interaction of these two moments Deleuze calls ‘dramatisation’. If we return to the archetypal model of the Idea, colour, we can see that the Idea can be actualised in a variety of forms, each of which excludes the actualisation of other forms. If we actualise the Idea of colour, it will have to take the form of a particular colour. Similarly, if we actualise the Idea of the unity of composition, we will get a particular animal.

[I get lost, however, in the next sentences:]

It is the field of intensities which determines which form is actualised by determining the speed of development of various parts of the organism according to the distribution of intensities within the egg. Thus, the field of intensity determines how the relations between elements are determined in extensity.

[Let us stick first with the organism example. There is a field of intensities, which we said could be for example the differential relations in the cytoplasm. Somehow the field of intensities will change the speeds of development of various parts of the organism. I am not sure how that works. I can see how the in the case of the cytoplasm the heterogeneity of the composition creates potential fault lines of division, but I do not understand how they would modulate the speeds of division. There must be other factors, or I may have misunderstood what the field of intensity is (which is not unlikely). But how it is that the differences in developmental speeds between parts can determine the organism’s form is maybe something we can guess at. Perhaps for example, a giraffe egg at some point undergoes an acceleration in the division of the neck cells. And likewise, if we were to compare the development of different giraffes, some will have slightly faster speeds of division in the neck and thus result as a taller giraffe. (Although, later we learn that only secondarily would we say that they are both giraffes). Also, I do not know how this idea of the speeds of development would work with the example of the Idea of color. Perhaps it does not apply, and something else is at work in the explication of color. SH continues,] “As Deleuze noted in Chapter 4, this process of dramatisation relies on movements by the embryo that are topological – that is, understood in non-metric rather than metric terms” (182). [I do not remember if in the SH text here dramatisation was put in these terms, or if it is just that way in DR, but perhaps in SH’s text we might refer back to pages 164-165. Regarding topology, I suppose that the transcendental template (Geoffrey’s “unity of composition”) is understood topologically, since there are various deformations that preserve the relations of points of intersection of the parts. But I do not know. It reminds me of animations I have come across for “topological isomorphism”. This one is from wiki.


I am not sure if this illustrates a relevant concept, but I could imagine all the different vertebrate animal species being deformations from one another, while all maintaining the same relative connections of the parts. So using the animation as an analogy, just as the mug and the donut are topologically isomorphic without maintain metrical relations between the parts, so too is the dolphin and the human topologically isomorphic, and that is because both of our skeletons are explications of the same set of differential relations. Regarding the notion of dramatization, I am not sure if I understood it correctly to begin with. The idea might be that the developmental speed variations are not predictable, and they are complicated by the different “actors” or parts serving as variables in the development. The next example SH found is excellent and fascinating. It seems that frog DNA has, in a sense, “learned”  basic dynamic properties of fluids. Not all the information for how the organism develops is contained in the DNA. Rather, it seems that the DNA exploits the physical properties of fluids and lets those dynamics help shape the forms. So here there is an interplay between the DNA and the contingencies of the physical world. It also seems that SH’s point is that for this reason, DNA can in fact act like an Idea, on account of the dramatization of its explication into the physical world of specific extensive properties and qualities.]

As Deleuze noted in Chapter 4, this process of dramatisation relies on movements by the embryo that are topological – that is, understood in non-metric rather than metric terms. While these movements are possible within the intensive field of constitution, they are not possible within the constituted field of extensity: ‘Embryology already displays the truth that there are systematic vital movements, torsions and drifts, that only the embryo can sustain: an adult would be torn apart by them’ (DR 118/145). While it might be claimed that DNA differs from the unity of composition, in that it specifies one particular form or species, in fact, we | can note that here too, the milieu in which the genetic material expresses itself is fundamental to the form generated [the following up to citation quotes Stewart and Cohen]: Development seems to involve dynamics as well as chemical computation. When the developing frog embryo turns itself inside out during gastrulation, it looks just like a viscous fluid, flowing in an entirely natural manner. Some of the information required to make this process work may be specified by the laws of fluids, not by DNA. Brian Goodwin sees development as a combination of natural free-flow dynamics and DNA-programmed intervention to stabilize a particular dynamic form. Why should nature waste effort programming the shape of the organism into DNA if the laws of physics will produce it free of charge? It’s like programming into DNA the fact that salt crystals must be cubical. For example, the eye – a shape that puzzled both Darwin and his detractors – is dynamically very natural. Rudimentary eyes can occur naturally without any special DNA coding. Natural selection can then refine the rudimentary eye into something more sophisticated, but it is the dynamics that gives selection a head start. (Stewart and Cohen 2000: 294)
(SH 182-183)

[Recall the discussions on differenciation in section 4.8, section 4.11, and section 4.12. I might be mistaken, but differenciation seems to be the process (or result of a process) of explication whereby what is actualized has determinate features.] 
4) Differentiation: “The process of dramatisation gives us the final moment: differenciation. The result of the process of dramatisation is the extensive form. We should note, however, that the intensive does not become extensive, but rather gives rise to it. To that extent, dramatisation is concomitant with differenciation” (183). [The last point seems crucial, but I may not have gotten it well. Explication does not exhaust the intensive it seems. Or maybe we should say, what is explicated is something parallel to its intensive origins which remain intensive even while being explicated in extensity. Perhaps then the idea is that the “unity of composition” (the template of actualizable relations) is for the most part left unaltered regardless of its actual explications, which are infinite in their variety.]

SH then notes the two senses of Deleuze’s claim that the world is an egg. 1) “The first is that the milieu of individuation is not circumscribed by the boundary of the egg. In fact, we can note that the spatium (the complete field of intensity) is not made up of discrete elements. As such, the field as a whole is responsible for the differenciation of each entity, although most moments of intensity will have a negligible effect in each case” (SH 183). [I did not grasp what the idea was there. Maybe the basic idea is that the way a particular egg develops depends not just on what is contained within it but also on external factors, like with the frog egg example, and so the whole world is somehow involved in the development of any one egg. Probably it means something else, but I am missing it.] 2)  The second sense is that all phenomena can be understood on the model of the egg. [Perhaps the basic idea is that Deleuze thinks all phenomena result from this fourfold structure of explication, and thus all the world is an egg in that sense. SH then discusses the example of lightning, and I think here he is potentially bringing a lot of clarity to these ideas. But I am not sure I follow it well enough yet. 1) Individuation: A potential difference comes about in the electrical charges. There are now a multiplicity of ways the situation can develop. 2) Differentiation: this is supposed to have something to do with calculus differentials. In this example, perhaps the idea is that nature “calculates” the solutions to the problem of the differentially related charges. 3) Dramatization: the lightning takes the path of least resistance, but this is based perhaps on contingent and unpredictable factors.  4) Differenciation: the lightning takes one (branching) path and not another, and the lightning takes on all its physical properties.]

The second sense is that all phenomena can be understood on the model of the egg. If we return to the opening of Chapter 1, for instance, we find the example of lightning: ‘Lightning . . . distinguishes itself from the black sky but must also trail it behind, as though it were distinguishing itself from that which does not distinguish itself from it. It is as if the ground rose to the surface, without ceasing to be ground’ (DR 28/36). Here, a difference in electrical potential between the cloud and the ground (individuation) leads to a process of equalisation of charge (differentiation) along a path of least resistance (dramatisation), leading to the visible phenomenon (differenciation). Intensity expresses itself as extensity without itself | ceasing to be intensity. There are of course differences in the process of differenciation of biological, physical and social Ideas, but in each case, it is by being brought into relation with a field of intensity that the Idea becomes actualised.

SH says we now can interpret Deleuze’s claim that “‘‘it is not the individual which is an illusion in relation to the genius of the species, but the species which is an illusion – inevitable and well founded, it is true – in relation to the play of the individual and individuation’ (DR 250/311)” (SH 184). [The material here is a bit complicated. I am not sure, but perhaps the ideas are the following. We might think that individuation is like taking a “cookie cutter”, as DNA might be thought of being, and stamping it onto the world to give it living forms. However, we have seen that it is not so simple, as the frog egg example illustrated. In that case, there was a dynamic and cooperative interaction between the DNA’s patterns for development and the physical world of contingent factors that play vital roles in how the organism develops. Now, this means that each development is individual in the sense that it is a variation that was not pre-planned specifically. However, we might be tempted to say that for example all frogs are of a particular species, despite the particular variations of each individual. Were we to make this mistake, we would also think that perhaps the features of the species are set in advance, perhaps encoded in the DNA, and result like cutting a cookie. But this is an error in Deleuze’s view, since we are dealing with those properties after they have been explicated. We are not dealing with the dynamic factors of their origination, which do not follow a rigid plan. Instead, 1) we are looking at the differentiated properties that we predicate to an individual as a subject, and thus we are dealing with representations, and 2) on the basis of those representations, we say that a number of similar individuals are instances of the same species. I will quote, because I think I do not have it exactly right:]

As we saw in Chapter 1, species are defined by the addition of differences to an indeterminate subject. By progressively specifying the properties of an individual, we gradually limit the logical possibilities of what something can be, determining the nature of man, for instance, by addition of the properties material, animate, sensitive and rational, to substance. Given that different individuals clearly do belong to different species, we might be tempted to claim that this hierarchy of terms is what determines the nature of the individual. Thus, we saw that even though DNA differs in kind in structural terms from the organism to which it relates, there was a strong temptation to see it as straightforwardly encoding the kinds of properties Porphyry’s tree relied upon: ‘there is a tendency to believe that individuation is a continuation of the determination of species, albeit of a different kind and proceeding by different means’ (DR 247/308). Once we recognise that individuation does not simply operate on homogeneous, or at best, recalcitrant, matter, but relies on the particular potentialities within the egg, then we can no longer see it as a process of active synthesis relying on the attribution of universal qualities to a particular subject. Rather, differences are always individual, to the extent that they are determined by the reciprocal interplay of Ideas and intensity. They only give rise to these generalised properties once we draw together these individual differences according to their resemblances within the structure of representation.

[The next idea seems to be the following. We seem to have ruled out that a species pre-exists in the DNA. Rather, the individual organism comes about through the dramatized interaction of the DNA with its intensive field of differential relations in its particular physical context of development. And only secondarily by means of representations do we recognize a species, which is really an illusion, since it was never involved in the generation of the individual. But maybe we can say in the frog example for instance, that there is still a species which is the calculable combination of  the DNA’s instructions and the laws of physics, chemistry, and other factors that determine the intensive relations within and around the embryo. So in other words, perhaps we might say that we have this particular species of frog because it is built into the system of development which makes use both of genetic instructions and the intensive field of differential relations within and surrounding the physical egg. However, we are not supposed to think this way. Instead, we should think that no intensive field is identical, and thus there is no species built into any of them. I am not sure, but maybe the idea would also be like the following. Consider two genetically identical cloned animals. We will still find differences in their physiology, small ones perhaps, which resulted from them having different intensive fields in their development. So perhaps one egg had a different distribution of chemicals in its cytoplasm, which caused its divisions to take a slightly different route than its twin. Then, maybe a scientist would say that were we to control all the intensive variables which factor into the development, that we would get a matured twin who is absolutely identical even on the cellular level. Deleuze’s claim might be that this is impossible, since no intensive field is identical to another.  Perhaps the reasoning is found in the final sentences of the paragraph. I am not sure I get this, but let me make a guess using this clone example, and afterward I will quote. The intensive spatium of course does not map extensively over the extensive world. However, perhaps each point in the extensive world somehow corresponds to a place or relation in the spatium. This might be analogous to how each part of an vertebrate animal’s skeleton corresponds to the transcendental template, which does not have extensive spatial features like the resulting organisms do. But, this also means for example that even if we have eggs with identical DNA, we could not also make their intensive fields identical, since those fields correspond to different parts of the spatium.]

Now, one final point to consider is that if the individuality of the intensive field is responsible for differences being individual, then it cannot be the case that the same intensive field exists in different eggs. If that were the case, then we could talk about there being a real existence to species, although this would derive from the intensive field, rather than the Idea. It therefore has to be the case that each egg possesses a different set of intensive potentials [the following up to citation is Deleuze quotation]:

The form of the field must be necessarily and in itself filled with individual differences. This plenitude must be immediate, thoroughly precocious and not | delayed in the egg, to such a degree that the principle of indiscernibles would indeed have the formula given it by Lucretius: no two eggs or grains of wheat are identical. These conditions, we believe, are fully satisfied in the order of implication of intensities. (DR 252/314)

This condition is met by the fact that intensity is not constructed from pre-existing equal units, as extensity is. Rather, Deleuze’s claim that ‘the world is an egg’ makes explicit that the entire spatium is implicated in the potentialities of each individual egg, although different aspects of it are implicated to different degrees. As each occupies a different position in the spatium, each expresses the spatium differently.

SH will now discuss the fundamental differences between Ideas and intensity. [This as well gets complicated. We first recall from section 4.8 Leibniz’s pairings of clear-distinct and obscure-confused. We note that phenomenal experiences, like the perception of the roar of the ocean, are made of component perceptions, which synthesize into the organic whole. The division of component perceptions goes all the way to the infinitely small. When we hear the ocean’s roar, we are also hearing each tiny wavelet’s sound in tiny perceptions. All those tiny perceptions then add up to the whole roar. Now, the roar as a whole sound, even though it is white noise, is clear to us, because it is distinct from other composite sounds, like maybe music or traffic noise. But do we hear it distinctly? We do not hear all its distinct component parts when we hear the composite whole. Were we to do so, we would somehow hear those sounds individually, but we would lose the clarity of the whole that the little sounds compose. Perhaps that is because we lose the organic unity of differentially related tiny sounds. Maybe we can look at it this way. Consider the ocean’s white noise and the traffic noise. They are clearly different sound experiences. Now consider instead if in each case we heard each tiny component in its distinction. We would be so focused on the parts that we would lose “sight” of the whole, and thus the clarity of the experience is lost, since we would not be able to differentiate the experience of the ocean roar’s tiny parts from the experience of the traffic’s tiny parts. So thus we have the other pairing, the distinct-obscure. Now we will apply these concepts to Ideas and intensive fields. The Idea is a set of differential relations. All of them are distinct. But, the Idea could actualize as one thing or as another. It is not clear which. So the Idea is distinct but it is obscure in how it relates to its explications. Yet, when we look at its actualized explications, it expresses some relations in the idea clearly, but others it also expresses in a less obvious way, and thus these other expressions get confused with the obvious ones. For that reason, from the side of explication, it is clear but confused. Let us consider a possible way of seeing this. Recall from section 4.5 the diagram we looked at.

Morgan. Geoffrey homology p8 or so

“Fig. 3. Limb skeletons of extinct and living animals, showing the homologous bones: 1, salamander; 2, frog; 3, turtle; 4, Aetosaurus; 5, Pleisiosaurus; 6, Ichthyosaurus; 7, Mesosaurus; 8, duck. (After Jordan and Kellogg.)” (Morgan p.8)

Now consider for example numbers 1 and 6. Perhaps we might clearly see that the “f” bones are both expressions of a differential relation in the transcendental “template”. However, in 6, we have a very different distribution and shape to the other bones. So while particular relations to the Idea are clear, on the whole, very many of the relations are confused with one another.]

At this point, we can note the fundamental difference between Ideas and intensity. When we looked at Descartes’ method at the opening to Chapter 3, we saw that Descartes based his method on clear and distinct ideas. The lack of separation between these two terms is, for Deleuze, a fundamental failing of representation [the following up to citation is Deleuze quotation]:

the weakness of the theory of representation, from the point of view of the logic of knowledge, was to have established a direct proportion between the clear and the distinct, at the expense of the inverse proportion which relates these two logical values: the entire image of thought was compromised as a result. (DR 253/315)

Now, as we saw in the previous chapter (4.8), the terms clear and distinct do not need to be associated with one another. If we consider the noise of the sea, we can conceive of it clearly, in that we can recognise it. Nonetheless, we do not perceive the differences which make it up (the noise of the individual drops of water that make it up and are below our threshold of perception). In this case, our perception of the noise of the sea is both clear and confused. If we instead focus on the noise of the individual waves, we can conceive of these distinctly, even though we cannot form a clear idea of them as they are too small to perceive. Thus, in this case, we either focus on the waves, which are distinct, but obscure, or the sea, which we perceive clearly but confusedly. Similarly, the pure Idea, is distinct, in that it is completely determined. Nonetheless, in so far as it is only in relation to a field of intensity that it can determine how it relates to an actual organism (whether it will instantiate a bison or a giraffe), it is obscure. Conversely, intensity expresses some relations clearly only at the expense of other aspects of the Idea which, while still present in the organism, are only present confusedly, on the basis | of the domination of certain intensive potentialities. Thus, the process of differenciation can be seen as the movement from a distinct-obscure Idea to a clear-confused field of intensity.

[The next idea I do not grasp so well. I apologize, but I have to quote it, since I will botch any attempt to interpret it.]

Likewise, the thinker, as an individual, is an intensive field. The thought he expresses, however, is the distinct-obscure of the Idea. What gives unity to the thinker is this intensive nature. Just as we cannot divide an intensity without changing its nature, a thinker cannot give up their unity without ceasing to be the particular thinker that they are. Nonetheless, as we saw in Chapter 2, everything thinks. Thus, the death of the thinker is not the end of thought, but merely a change in thinking’s nature.

[I want somehow to take something away from this. I get the impression that there is an Idea or a network of Ideas that all thinkers are expressing some part of. But also it seems maybe that each thinker is somehow shaping that Idea or network of Ideas. Also somehow thinking itself in this or in some other more general sense is like an intensive multiplicity, such that were we to divide it or subtract from it, we change the nature of the whole. Thus, when a thinker dies, thinking itself keeps going, perhaps in the minds of other thinkers, but the overall Idea or network of Ideas has somehow changed. And maybe this spills over into how each particular thinker thinks. So perhaps we could say that when Derrida died, something in the way all of us did our thinking has changed somehow, since Derrida himself no longer was shaping the overall Idea or network of Ideas that we all express parts of and also help to shape.]




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.

Oyama, Susan (2000), The Ontogeny of Information: Developmental Systems and Evolution, Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Stewart, Ian, and Jack Cohen (2000), The Collapse of Chaos: Discovering Simplicity in a Complex World, London: Penguin Books.


Morgan, Thomas Hunt. A Critique of the Theory of Evolution. Princeton/London: Princeton University Press / Humphrey Milford Oxford University Press, 1916.
Available at the Internet Archive:

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