1 Sep 2015

Somers-Hall, (Ch.5), Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition, ‘Chapter 5. The Asymmetrical Synthesis of the Sensible’, 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

Chapter 5. The Asymmetrical Synthesis of the Sensible


Very brief summary:

In Chapter 5, Deleuze examines how intensive difference is found in the extensive world and is at work in the productions of extensive properties and qualities. The Idea colludes with fields of intensity in the world so to explicate actualizable paths of development implicated in the Idea. On account of intensity’s “depth”, it cannot be represented, and also, it is a wellspring that continually injects difference, variety, and energy into the world by constantly generating differential relations. This depth is also at work in individuation, which is the fundamental process that produces the structures that secondarily come to be our subjectivity, ego, I, etc.  In efforts to represent intensity’s depth, we posit an Other as the grounds of representation, but it is an erroneous concept.

Brief summary: 
Intensive difference is at work in the generation of extensive properties and other qualities.  In thermodynamics, intensive differences in heat explain the work that is done in such thermodynamic systems as engines, for example. But more needs to be said, because we still need to know what makes intensive differences come about and regenerate. Since instead of succumbing to entropy which equalizes intensive differences and reduces the world to a homogenized disorder, we instead have living forms that increase intensive difference and tend toward heterogeneous order. These intensive differences that are spatially distributed come about on account of a deeper sort of intensity of some kind which generates also the extensive space and qualities within it, and as well it is responsible for the continual renewal of intensive difference in the world. One way to distinguish intensive from extensive multiplicities is what happens when you divide them: divisions of extensity produce homogeneous parts, while divisions of intensity produce heterogeneous ones. Intensities interact with Ideas when explicating into extensive actualizations. The Idea provides a network of actualizable outcomes, and the intensive circumstances of the world help channel the unfolding of those actualizations. For example, the DNA of the embryo is like the Idea, and it instructs the cell to divide, but the differential relations in the given chemical make-up of the embryo encourage certain divisions of the cell rather than others. Thus this development is dramatized. There is also a developmental process underlying who we are. It is our individuation, which is not our self, subject, or ego, but it is responsible for them. Since it is unrepresentable, our faculties fail to recognize it. They instead see as the grounds for representation a supposed Other which is the omni-perspectival view on the world that guarantees the wholeness of its parts. But in fact it is representable. Also, since philosophical thinking takes us to the pre-subjective structures of the world and ourselves, it is a solitary and solipsistic exercise.


(5.1 Introduction) We move now from the Idea to the role of intensive difference in space. (5.2 Thermodynamics and Transcendental Illusion) For Deleuze, difference is a difference in intensity. In thermodynamics, a system performs more work when there is a greater differential between input and environmental temperatures. In other words, an intensive difference is what changes the functioning of the system. But thermodynamics also has the idea of entropy, which implies that heat differentials in systems over time tend to equalize as the system enters into a state of homogenized order. Deleuze thinks thermodynamics is missing the element of the creation of differentials. Thermodynamics cannot for example explain the generation of life forms, where there is a movement toward more and greater differentials as the organisms becomes increasingly heterogeneous and organized rather than homogeneously disordered. (5.3 Merleau-Ponty and Depth) Deleuze has three spatial syntheses that are parallel to the temporal ones. 1) Intensive differences become spatially localized by being distributed into various spatial locations. From there they may exchange locations on the basis of how they relate, like how heat moves toward cold. 2) Intensive depth somehow generates the extensive space that intensities explicate into along with the qualities that are obtained. 3) The distributions of intensive differences along with their extensive properties and other qualities remains fresh and dynamic, because the intensive depth responsible for them returns eternally. In this way, newness and variety are continually injected into systems, which counteracts the tendencies toward entropy. (5.4 The Three Characteristics of Intensity) Intensity is of the realm of the spatium, and extensity of the extensum. Intensity explicates into extensity, thus intensity is more fundamental. The extensum is a homogenously divisible multiplicity, since its divisions produce parts of the same nature. This is what happens when we divide measures of space for example. The spatium is a heterogeneously divisible multiplicity, since each division produces parts that differ in nature. For example, were we to divide our consciousness of a melody between what it was like many moments before and what it is like now, we will find that the experiences are qualitatively different. Intensity has three important features, it includes the unequal in itself, since it does not divide into equal parts, it affirms difference, since its differential relations are not negational, and it is an implicated, enveloped, or embryonized quantity, since it explicates into extensities. (5.5 Individuation) Differential potentials in the physical world, like the electrical ones that create lightening, are intensive differences that explicate into extensive ones. There are actualizable outcomes implicated in the intensive relations that become explicit and manifest in the extensive world. For explication to happen, there is firstly the Idea, which is the structure of actualizable instantiations which in the Idea are a network of complicatedly implicated differential relations. The Idea establishes the sorts of solutions that can be taken. But the Idea interacts with the fields of intensities in the world which co-determine which actualization will explicate. For example, the embryo has a DNA code which can be thought of as the Idea. But this has to do with how it interacts with the intensive situation of the embryos and not because it is a fixed code. Certain intensive differences like in the chemical composition of the embryo help determine how the embryo develops. Thus the development is dramatized, since it is not entirely predetermined by the DNA. (5.6 The Other) For Deleuze, the individual is not the same as the ego, subject, I, etc. Rather, the individual has more to do with the generative processes that allow these other subjective structures to arise. Our faculties cannot recognize this generative process within us, since it is sub-representational. They have a solution for this, but it does not succeed. They need a non-representational basis for representation. They note how our perspectival limitations only give us fragments of the world and never complete objects. We seem however to posit an unlimited omni-perspectival view that guarantees the wholeness and unity of the parts of the world. But this omni-perspectival view is not possible for any subjectivity, and is thus seen as the Other. Because it creates a common constituted world for all of our judgments to agree about, the Other is the basis for representation. But such an Other is not really unrepresentable, but is only so for human which are perspectivally limited. But to really be the basis for representation, it needs to be un-representable. Deleuze also thinks that since philosophical thinking takes the thinker to the pre-subjective structures of reality, including those within oneself, it is a solitary and solipsistic exercise.


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.





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