Sub-representative Domain (Part 1):  Individuation

by Beth Metcalf   

In order to reach Deleuze’s individuating difference (‘Difference & Repetition’ 38) it is not enough that univocal being relates immediately to individuating factors.  It is not enough to reach a univocity like that of Duns Scotus.  We must reach an individuating difference that does not proceed by way of the individual factors we know from experience.  Individuation is already presupposed by form, matter, and extensive parts.  Individuation must precede matter and form, species and parts, and every element of the constituted individual.  Therefore, when we proceed by way of generic, specific, or individual difference, we confine the process to an already formed matter of representation.  We do not reach the sub-representative, individuating difference of Deleuze’s univocity.  We do not reach the sub-representative transcendental condition of the representations of our experience.  If we are to reach Deleuze’s univocity we must reach the individuating factors of the sub-representative field---an individuation of pre-individual singularity.  However, Deleuze’s critics (and even many of his admirers) still do not reach the sub-representative source of determination.  They are still confined to the already formed matter of experience.

How do we reach the singular individuating difference of Deleuze’s sub-representative domain?  Deleuze says (‘Difference & Repetition’ p.275), “The fact is that to ground is to determine the indeterminate, but this is not a simple operation.  When determination as such occurs, it does not simply provide a form or impart form to a given matter on the basis of the categories.  Something of the ground rises to the surface, without assuming any form but, rather, insinuating itself between the forms…. (A determination which is not opposed to the indeterminate and does not limit it.)  That is why the matter-form couple is not sufficient to describe….determination:  matter is already informed….and the whole is under the protection of the categories.  In fact, this couple is completely internal to representation….”  This raises the following questions I attempt to answer below:  1. What is the ‘something’ of the ground that rises to the surface?  2. What is the ‘something’ that has no form while insinuating itself between the forms?  3. What is a determination that does not oppose the indeterminate and will therefore not limit it?  4. How can this ‘something’ be both without form and determinate at the same time?       


1. ‘What is the ‘something’ of the ground that rises to the surface?


We are told that to ground is to determine the indeterminate.  However (D&R 276), determination does not immediately bear on the indeterminate.  Before we can determine the indeterminate we must find the form of the determinable --- the pure empty form of time --- the form of difference between the indeterminate and the determination.  But this cannot be done at the level of an already formed-matter under the protection of the categories of possible experience.  That would restrict determination to the plane that represents difference internal to a concept --- a merely conceptual difference.  Rather, something of the sub-representative ground rises to the surface.  Every determination remains open to this sub-representative form of the determinable.  Something of this form rises to the surface to ground determination as a singular use of determination, each time. 


Deleuze says (DR 26-7) that as long as difference is thought to be intrinsically conceptual and repetition is taken as extrinsic difference between objects represented by that concept, the relation between difference and repetition will appear to be a problem that can be resolved by the facts.  That is, difference and repetition will be restricted to the representational-empirical plane of already formed matter.  Deleuze rejects this formulation of the problem.  Deleuze says that difference is not internal to the identity of a concept of already formed matter.  Nor is repetition an external difference between objects represented by that concept.  Rather, there is repetition of difference that is internal but not conceptual.  Difference is internal to a sub-representative Idea, but it is external to the concept by which an object is represented.  Difference is internal to the Idea on the sub-representative plane, but it is external to the concept by which objects are represented on the plane of representation. 


‘Repetition’ open to sub-representative ‘difference’ is that ‘something’ of the sub-representative ground.  The empty form of time gives rise to an internal form of difference.  There is internal difference of the sub-representative Idea that grounds a concept of an object represented within a whole form of exteriority.  Therefore, on the one hand, we must find a singular ‘difference’ at the level of sub-representative Ideas.  On the other hand, ‘repetition’ brings something of this sub-representative difference to the surface.  Difference and repetition must be the result of interferences between two lines---a representative plane and a sub-representative plane.  There are two types of multiplicity that intersect.   


If we see “difference” only in a form of already extensive objects and qualities, then we cut off the plane of representation from its sub-representative source.  The principle of individuation appears to be a process at the level of facts.  It traces the transcendental from the empirical.  However, with Deleuze’s concept of ‘difference’, individuation is a process of pre-individual singularity.  Something of the sub-representative Idea rises to the surface in a modal use of representation, each time.  There is a temporary use of representation open to a sub-representative process of individuating difference and repetition. 


2. What is the ‘something’ that has no form while insinuating itself between the forms?   


I take the ‘something’ that has no form to be disparate ‘difference’ that insinuates itself between the forms through ‘repetition’.  ‘Repetition’ is this formless determination that insinuates ‘difference’ between the forms.  (DR 57) “Repetition is the formless being of all differences, the formless power of the ground which carries every object to that extreme ‘form’ in which its representation comes undone.  The ultimate element of repetition is the disparate, which stands opposed to the identity of representation….” 


So, this singular individuating difference that insinuates itself between the forms is repetition of the ‘intensity’ of disparate difference.  But intensity must not be confused with an impure mixture on the empirical plane of experience.  Intensity is not an impure mixture of sensible quality and extensity, nor is it physical quality and extensive quantity.  Intensity is not an individual factor that can be known from experience.  Intensity is sub-representative difference that tends to be cancelled in extensive quality on the other plane.  If intensity is seen to be greater or lesser degree of experienced sensation, then it is still mistaken for a degree of sensation on the plane of extensive representation.  (DR 223) “In short, we know intensity only as already developed within an extensity, and as covered over by qualities.  Whence our tendency to consider intensive quantity as a badly grounded empirical concept, an impure mixture of a sensible quality and extensity, or even of a physical quality and an extensive quantity.”  On the sub-representative plane, intensity is the being of the sensible as that by which the given (on the plane of extensity) is given.  The being of the sensible cannot be sensed from the point of view of an empirical exercise (on the plane of representation), but can only be sensed from the point of view of a transcendental exercise (on the sub-representative plane).    


(DR 222) “Difference [intensity] is not diversity [extensity].  Diversity is given, but difference [transcendental condition of real experience] is that by which the given is given, that by which the given is given as diverse….each intensity is already a coupling in which each element of the couple refers in turn to couples of elements of another order, thereby revealing the properly qualitative content of quantity.  We call this state of infinitely doubled difference which resonates to infinity disparity.”  So, this coupling that is enveloped by intensive difference at the sub-representative level must not be confused with the form-matter coupling at the level of extensive representation.  (DR 23-4) The former is covered repetition.  The latter is bare repetition.  The former is the transcendental condition of the latter.  The coupling of the former is heterogeneous doubling without negative opposition or causal connection (like Spinoza’s ‘attributes’).  There are intensive degrees of this parallelism.  Intensity is the difference of covered repetition beneath the homogeneous extensive qualities of bare repetition that tend to cancel it.  (DR 230) Intensity is imperceptible on the extensive plane of representation, because there it can only be covered by qualities and extensity in which it is explicated.  So, I take covered repetition to be that ‘something’ without form that insinuates itself between the forms of bare repetition.  The two repetitions intersect in two types of multiplicity.  It is the interference of two forms of repetition on two planes that intersect in two types of multiplicity.   


3. What is a determination that does not oppose the indeterminate and will therefore not limit it? 


What is (DR 275) “determination which is not opposed to the indeterminate and does not limit it”? (Italics added.)  When determination is opposed to the indeterminate, it limits the determination to one already formed matter.  When the form-matter coupling opposes determination to the indeterminate, that “indeterminate” is already limited to the one determinate form.  The form-matter coupling is already a form of negative determination internal to representation.  It limits determination to one form of possibility.  The (DR 203) ‘oppositions’ and ‘limitations’, on this plane of already formed matter, are merely negative determinations internal to a conceptual identity.  This means (DR 85-6) that the determination must not bear directly on the undetermined.  Rather, there must be the form of the determinable that establishes an internal difference between being and thought.  This form of the determinable is the pure empty form of time (DR 276).  It is the real distinction that qualifies Substance without negative opposition or limitation.  The sub-representative intensive disparate is the element of repetition that does not oppose the determinate to the indeterminate. 


(DR 28) “Difference is the state in which one can speak of determination as such.  The difference ‘between’ two things is only empirical, and the corresponding determinations are only extrinsic.  However, instead of something distinguished from something else, imagine something which distinguishes itself – and yet that from which it distinguishes itself does not distinguish itself from it….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….Difference is this state in which determination takes the form of unilateral distinction.”    


Therefore, the ‘something’ of the ground that rises to the surface is a unilateral distinction without opposition or limitation.  The determination which does not oppose the indeterminate is the unilateral distinction of vice-diction.  Vice-diction gives us the sufficient reason, or transcendental condition of real, not merely possible, experience.  It is an intrinsic genesis, not merely an extrinsic conditioning.  (DR 189-191) With vice-diction something of the sub-representative inessential ground rises to the surface as a temporary surface effect.  Vice-diction is a process of determination through the inessential.  Something of the inessential ground does not distinguish itself from determinations at the surface.  The concept distinguishes itself from the Idea, but the Idea does not distinguish itself from the concept.  This keeps repetition open to the inessential difference of the sub-representative plane. 


(DR 152) “Individuation…. operates beneath all forms, [it] is inseparable from a pure ground that it brings to the surface and trails with it….For this ground, along with the individual, rises to the surface yet assumes neither form nor figure.  It is there, staring at us, but without eyes.  The individual distinguishes itself from it, but it does not distinguish itself, continuing rather to cohabit with that which divorces itself from it.  It is the indeterminate, but the indeterminate in so far as it continues to embrace determination….” 


4.  How can this ‘something’ be both without form and determinate at the same time?


How can this ‘something’ be both formless and determinate?  I believe that we can understand this paradox through Deleuze’s Spinozism (‘Expressionism in Philosophy’ Chapter 12).  As we have seen, the empty form of time is the form of the determinable.  It is empty of empirically formed content.  It is without formed substance.  Yet it is not undifferentiated.  It is all real distinction.  It is the source of all intensive differentiation without negation, exclusion, or limitation.  As Deleuze reads Spinoza (Expressionism in Philosophy 195-99), individuation occurs only through a mode’s existence, not its essence.  As long as a mode does not exist, its essence is only contained in its attributes and cannot be distinct from them.  There is real distinction but no numerical distinction.  A mode’s essence is not distinct from attributes in which it is contained.  Nor is there extrinsic distinction between a modal essence and other essences.  Extrinsic distinction happens only when a mode exists.  Only existing modes have extrinsic individuation or numerical distinction.  But there is a prior intrinsic individuation of singular modal essence even if there is no corresponding modal existence.  Modal essences are intrinsic intensive quantities.  There is singularity of modal essence.  A quantitative intensive variation (a modal essence) is contained in a singular qualitative variety (attribute).  Intensive individuation is not extrinsic quality.  It is intrinsic intensive quantity contained in singular quality.  Attributes contain modal essences as degrees of intensive quantity.  But modal essences are inseparable as contained in the intrinsic singularity of the attribute.  If a modal essence separates from the singular unity of its attribute, there is a change in the singular quality.


Deleuze discusses his understanding of Spinoza’s notion of the mode’s existence (‘Expressionism in Philosophy’ Chapter 13).  A mode’s existence possesses a great number of extensive parts external to the mode’s essence.  If a mode exists it possesses extensive parts corresponding to its essence (its intensive degree of power).  An infinity of extrinsic parts of an existing mode corresponds to an intensive degree of power of a modal essence.  Extensive parts and degrees of intensity have no one to one correspondence.  Every degree of intensity corresponds to extensive parts that have some extrinsic relation of movement and rest.  A mode exists when an infinity of extensive parts enter into a relation that corresponds to different intensive degrees of power of a modal essence.  A modal essence expresses itself in a certain disparate intensive coupling on different levels or degrees of power.  A mode comes into existence when extensive parts actually enter into this relation.  If parts enter into a different relation corresponding to a difference modal essence, they compose a different existing mode.  So, there is singular intensive essence, existing mode composed of extensive parts, and an individuating formal relation through which an infinity of extensive parts may have a fragile and temporary relation to an essence.  The extensive parts have only mechanical laws of determination extrinsic to their essence.  Modal essence and modal existence do not have a real distinction.  They are two types of modal distinction that intersect as two types of multiplicities.  A mode’s essence is intrinsic to the attributes.  A mode’s existence is extrinsic.


The real distinction of the attributes constitute the essence of qualified substances and contain the essences of modes.  I take Deleuze- Spinoza’s ‘concept’ to be two types of modal distinction.  The concept (an existing mode) distinguishes itself from the Idea (the modal essence contained in its attribute), but the Idea does not distinguish itself from the modal concept that it vice-dicts (EiP 213-14).  The relation of a modal essence is that ‘something’ of the ground that rises to the surface to be filled by extensive parts in a fragile and temporary modal existence.  On the sub-representative plane, each substance qualified by the attributes has intensive modal quantity that is its singular ‘internal difference’.  This modal essence is the determinate singular internal difference of the Idea.  Therefore, modal essences have singular determination --- an intensive quantity.  However, as contained in their attributes, modal essences have no extrinsically distinct form.  Modes have a virtual half as modal essences.  They also have an actual half as existing modes when filled with extensive parts.  Therefore, modes are unformed (virtual) and formed (actual).  The concept can be both formless and determinate because it is modal quantity.  The concept is no longer taken to be an essential substance (an already formed matter) on a closed plane of Representation.  Modal essence is the determinate difference of intensive quantity.  Modal essence is also the changing relations of difference and repetition that is the formless power where representations become undone.  The sub-representative modal essence and its degrees of relation are both determinate (difference) and formless (repetition). 


Deleuze-Spinoza’s individuation is not a process at the level of formed matter.  It is sub-representative and pre-individual.  When Deleuze tells us that difference is internal to an Idea, he means that intensive difference of modal essence is internal to the sub-representative attribute which contains it.  When Deleuze tells us that difference is external to the concept by which an object is represented, he means that the existing mode on the empirical plane has extrinsic and extensive parts in a corresponding relation to its modal essence.  It fills this relation with extensive parts.  But this correspondence is not a causal connection or resemblance. 


Each qualification of Substance constituted by the attributes has intensive modal quantity.  This singular modal quantity (modal essence) is the disparate coupling in degrees of intensive difference.  It is the properly qualitative content of quantity.  It is the determinate ‘internal difference’ of sub-representative individuation.  Therefore, Deleuze-Spinoza’s individuation of the concept is not qualitative or extrinsic.  It is not a process of substantial forms.  Rather, individuation is quantitative and intrinsic (intensive).  A mode’s essence must not be confused with a substantial essence.  Essence is modal, not substantial.  The essence of a mode is that determination that rises to the surface without any substantial form.  Therefore, the concept (as modal essence) is that ‘something’ which is both without form and determinate.  Is the ‘modal essence’, then, that point of intersection between two types of multiplicity?  Is it not that indiscernibility between the virtual and the actual?


Individuation does not proceed from general to particular.  It proceeds from infinite quality (real distinction) in the attributes to a corresponding quantity (modal-numerical distinction) of intensity.  But all of this happens at a sub-representative level.  It is only when the modal essences are cut off from their attributes (thereby mistaking them for substantial essences) that we fall into the abstraction of the Representation Image of Thought.  However, the virtual Idea includes the coexistence of all real distinction.  And, since all real distinction is ontologically singular, each actualized concept retains the virtual whole from a different perspective.       


In conclusion, the sub-representative plane is the pure spatium of intensity.  Ontologically singular Substance is the matter that fills this spatium to different degrees of intensity.  This must never be confused with the spatialized time of an extensive order of generality on the plane of empirical representations.  Sub-representative ‘intensity’ is indivisible in the sense that, in dividing, it necessarily changes nature.  It must not be confused with extensive quantities on the other plane that can divide without any change in nature.  The sub-representative, virtual-real must never be confused with the conceptual possibilities that are temporarily actualized on the other plane.  The sub-representative intensive relations of the Idea must never be confused with extensive structural relations of the other plane.  Unformed Substance qualified by the attributes on the sub-representative plane must not be confused with the extensive qualities that cancel difference on the other plane.  The sub-representative disparate coupling of heterogeneous series must not be confused with the homogeneous coupling of form and matter on the other plane.  Sub-representative ‘sense’ must not be confused with representations of ‘signification’ on the other plane.  To fail to reach the sub-representative plane is to trace the transcendental from the empirical.  The transcendental plane of pre-individual and sub-representative individuation does not resemble its actualizations on the empirical plane of extensive representations.  If we fail to reach the sub-representative virtual source, then we will fail to reach the actualizations of that virtual source also.



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