Sub-representative Domain: (Part 4) Intensity

Beth Metcalf

“When we say that the eternal return is not the return of the Same, or of the Similar or the Equal, we mean that it does not presuppose any identity.  On the contrary, it is said of a world without identity, without resemblance or equality.  It is said of a world the very ground of which is difference, in which everything rests upon disparities, upon differences of differences which reverberate to infinity (the world of intensity).  The eternal return is itself the Identical, the similar and the equal, but it presupposes nothing of itself in that of which it is said.  It is said of that which has no identity, no resemblance and no equality.  It is the identical which is said of the different, the resemblance which is said of the pure disparate, the equal which is said only of the unequal and the proximity which is said of all distances.  Things must be dispersed within difference, and their identity must be dissolved before they become subject to eternal return and to identity in the eternal return….”  (Difference & Repetition p.241)

So, the eternal return is the Identical.  However, Deleuze is always very careful to distinguish this univocity from the world of Representational thinking --- from the world of the conceptually identical.  Univocity is the “Identical” which is not to be confused with conceptual identity.  Rather, it is the ontologically Identical (i.e., the Singular) which is said of difference.  The ontologically identical is said of the world of disparate, intensive difference.  All intensive, disparate difference --- in whatever intensive degree --- is said in one sense because it is all ontological singularity.  This world of the identical which is said of disparate difference is the world of intensity --- and this world of intensity is the world of univocity.  Whenever we do not reach the domain of disparate difference, then we will still be shackled to the requirements of Representation.  As long as we subordinate difference to identity in the concept, opposition in the predicate, analogy in judgment, and resemblance in perception; individuation is merely a difference in general.  It does not reach singular difference.  In order to reach Deleuze’s internal difference, we must reach that domain of pre-individual, singular intensity.  It is the transcendental source of really different actualizations.

The sub-representative plane of Aion is the incorporeal plane of the event.  Univocity includes the plane of the intensive incorporeal event.  (LOS 64) “Each event is adequate to the entire Aion; each event communicates with all others, and they all form one and the same Event….This is the secret of the event: it exists on the line of the Aion, and yet it does not fill it.  How could an incorporeal fill up the incorporeal …..?”  This is the plane of that dice game where ALL real difference (intensive differentials of connections, conjunctions, and disjunctions) is said as ONE --- all events in One Event.  It is the ONE/ALL of univocity.  It is, each time, the real pre-individual difference of singular event that is, each time, universal.  It is ontologically ONE Event of ALL really different singular events.  Every combination, accumulation, or degree of intensity changes its nature with every division or augmentation.  But all intensity is still said as Same, because it is each time a singularity said of the whole of Being.  We can combine any intensity with any other intensity and it is still a singularity as it changes the nature of its real difference each time.  Incorporeal singularity can’t fill up the incorporeal Aion, so “each” can be said as same even though it is really different.  It has nothing to do with the one/many of representation.   It is the unconscious source of thought.  We can’t think about it with our usual representations.  So, of course, we must not think of it as one global structure that totalizes many local parts.  If we remain only on the corporeal plane of extensity (Chronos), then there will only be opposition of one/many --- many individuals in one collective. But univocity opens the corporeal plane of Chronos to the incorporeal plane of Aion as they intersect in two types of multiplicities.

Therefore, the eternal return is the Identical that presupposes nothing of itself. It is the identical which is said of difference. However, this is not a conceptual difference that presupposes the identity of the concept.  Rather, intensive difference is that of which new becoming of the Identical is said.  Since all real difference of intensity is return of the ontologically singular, all can be said in the sense of the Identical, the Same, the Equal.  All real difference becomes the Identical of the eternal return.  The Identical is the saying in one sense of ontologically singular being that is repeated with difference.  How can this intensive becoming Identical of difference be confused, as it so often is, with the very conceptual identity that Deleuze says must be overcome?  Why is it so often confused with the very Representational point of view Deleuze opposes?

Deleuze describes “the world of intensity” as the world of disparate difference that reverberates to infinity.  It is pure difference in itself.  Every phenomenon is not appearance but a signal-sign system that is constituted by at least two disparate heterogeneous series.  (D&R 222) “Every intensity is E – E’, where E itself refers to an e – e’, and e to e – e’ etc.: 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.”  But disparate intensity must never be confused with diversity.  Diversity is appearance of the empirically given.  But disparate intensity is the transcendental condition.  It is that by which the given is given as diverse appearance.  Intensity is the transcendental source --- the internal difference that is disparately individuated --- of the empirically given appearances of diversity.  Therefore, intensive quantity is never a homogeneous diversity of already formed-matter, because it is always already heterogeneous coupling of disparate intensity.  That is why when an intensive quantity is divided it necessarily changes its nature.  Because each degree of intensity is a coupling in heterogeneous series, its quality before division is not the same as any part after division.  Difference in depth is the distance of indivisible asymmetrical coupling.

Intensive forces have no form or function.  They are distinguished by their speed (what happened?) and their slowness (what is going to happen?) and their forced movement (that with which division changes nature) and rest (within a minimum and maximum).  They are not atoms (finite formed elements).  The composition of intensive coupling must not be confused with extensive formed elements in structural relations.  Intensive quantities are degrees of power --- capacity to affect or be affected.  With their singular composition, they are all really distinct qualities of quantity.  They condense into new real distinctions of singularity.

With representation, species are subsumed under their genus.  But this is the inverse image of the sub-representative domain and must not be confused with it.  Intensity is not the domain of the homogeneity of genera with their species.  Rather, sub-representative intensive coupling is already heterogeneous difference to infinity.  Deleuze, in writing with Guattari, finds a new way to describe this concept of heterogeneous coupling of intensity.  Intensive partial objects are the emission of flows and the interruption of flows.  In Anti-Oedipus (p.5-6) intensity is described as “desiring machines” or “flow-producing machines” that are connected to emit flows or interrupt or partially drain off flows.  Any intensity is already an overlapping of flows or permutation of partial objects (see A-O p. 324-7) which, because all is ontological singularity in the body without organs, cannot oppose or negate.  Any combination, permutation, or overlapping of intensive partial objects can be compatible.  In connecting, they change nature.  In entering a really different consistency, there is a new singular partial object.  But partial objects are not part of an organic totality.  Bodies without organs and partial objects are opposed to the organism.  They do not unify or totalize.  They are not part objects of extensive structural relations. They are the unconscious functioning of a dice throw.  The synthesis of partial objects and bodies without organs is not to be confused with an organic synthesis of unification or totalization that would negate in opposition or excluded disjunction.  Rather, there is a synthesis that changes the nature in included disjunction and nomadic conjunction.  Partial objects are the intensive power of bodies without organs.  Body without organs is the unformed matter of partial objects that say the whole of being in different degrees of intensity.  The body without organs is Spinoza’s Substance.  Partial objects are Spinoza’s attributes of real distinction.

Intensity is not an appearance.  Deleuze’s intensity is not to be confused with extensive relations among elements that could be derived from appearances.  (Nietzsche & Philosophy 3), “We will never find the sense of something…if we do not know the force which appropriates the thing, which exploits it, which takes possession of it or is expressed in it.  A phenomenon is not an appearance or even an apparition but a sign, a symptom which finds its meaning in an existing force.”  So, the signal-sign system of intensity is not an appearance.  It must not be confused with extensive forces of structural relations or degrees of psychic states that are mere prior appearances, or resemblances, or conceptual relations of identity or difference.  Intensity is nomadically distributed in a sub-representative domain that is the transcendental source of appearances.  Intensive difference is the asymmetrical synthesis of the sensible.  If ‘intensity’ can be conceived, remembered, or imagined, then it is not Deleuze’s intensive being of the sensible.  If we judge ‘difference’ according to a prior appearance of opposition, identity, or resemblance; then we are not reaching Deleuze’s sense of the term ‘intensive difference’.  We must reach sub-representative intensive multiplicities of disparate difference.  We cannot understand Deleuze without an encounter that unhinges the faculties from the Representational relations of extensive structure to which they are shackled.

(DR144-5) “For it is not figures already mediated and related to representation that are capable of carrying the faculties to their respective limits but, on the contrary, free or untamed states of difference in itself; not qualitative opposition within the sensible, but an element which is in itself difference, and creates at once both the quality in the sensible and the transcendent exercise within sensibility.  This element is intensity, understood as pure difference in itself, as that which is at once both imperceptible for empirical sensibility which grasps intensity only already covered or mediated by the quality to which it gives rise, and at the same time that which can be perceived only from the point of view of a transcendental sensibility which apprehends it immediately in the encounter…..”  Here Deleuze describes the two planes (also see the description of these two planes in A Thousand Plateaus 265-6, 280-1).  Movement is imperceptible on the empirical plane of transcendence.  This is the actual plane of given diversity.  It is the plane of “uses” of representation which are surface effects that find their transcendental condition on the other plane.  However, on this other plane --- the sub-representative plane of immanence, consistency, or univocality --- movement must be perceived.  On this sub-representative plane, movement must be perceived as it is nomadically distributed into disparate couplings of intensity without prior appearance or conceptual relation.  There is intensive, disparate coupling into heterogeneous series that is the transcendental constructivism of the percept of movement.        

Bergson critiques the homogeneity of impure mixtures which he calls “badly analyzed composites”.  Furthermore, Bergson condemns intensity because he thinks it must be merely degrees of qualities and already constituted extensities.  He assumes that ‘intensity’ is embedded in the homogeneous impure composite of the sensible and perceptible.  He condemns intensity because he thinks of it as merely degrees of one kind of homogeneous composite.  However, Deleuze (DR 239) sees Bergson’s critique of intensity to be unconvincing.  Bergson attributes to quality that which belongs to intensive quantity.  However, Deleuze says that Bergson frees quality only by attributing to it a depth that belongs to intensive quantity.  Bergson reaches this depth (while still criticizing intensity) without realizing that he has discovered a new sense of the term ‘intensity’.  Deleuze says (Bergsonism 91-2), “….Is it [Bergson’s critique of intensity] directed against the very notion of intensive quantity, or merely against the idea of an intensity of psychic states?  If it is true that intensity is never given in a pure experience, is it not then intensity that gives all the qualities with which we make experience?”  Is not intensity really the sub-representative depth of heterogeneity that Bergson himself discovered? 

Therefore, although Bergson criticizes “intensity”, Deleuze says that the essential point is that Bergson reaches a decomposition of composites --- Bergson reaches the heterogeneity of real difference in kind.  This moment of “dualism” is not the homogeneous dualism that is the source of all binary oppositions.  Rather, it is a moment of heterogeneous dualism.  Duration or memory is difference in kind.  Space or matter is difference in degree.  Between the two are all degrees of difference, that is, intensity.  Duration and memory are the most contracted degree of matter.  Matter is the most expanded degree of duration.  Therefore, with this intensive expansion and contraction, there is no longer any oppositional dualism between differences in kind that are homogeneous with their degrees of difference.  There is a moment of monism of the virtual.  There are two heterogeneous types of multiplicity that intersect in an intensive internal difference that is the source of real, not merely possible, experience. There are not merely different degrees of a homogeneous composite. Rather, there are heterogeneous degrees of real difference.

However, many of Deleuze’s expositors and critics still do not reach this heterogeneity.  They still see ‘intensity’ (and therefore ‘difference’) in the merely homogeneous sense.  They do not escape the badly analyzed composites that shackle their subjectivity to Representational thinking.  How can we reach Deleuze’s sub-representative intensity of real difference?  How do we reach that eternal return?  How do we avoid that Representational Image that merely cancels intensive difference? 

From the perspective of the world of the Representational Image of thought, ‘intensity’ is taken to be the degree or strength of a perception --- like a degree of a psychic state.  But we must not confuse this usual sense of ‘intensity’ with Deleuze’s intensity.  Deleuze’s intensity is not a degree of an essential quality on the plane of already formed extensive magnitudes.  It is not a degree of an extensive quality that, in dividing, never changes in nature.  Deleuze’s disparate difference is the “world of intensity”.  It is a sub-representative domain without prior extensive forms or subjects.  In dividing, it necessarily changes its nature.  It can be reached only with an encounter that unhinges the faculties.                 

Intensity is usually taken to be a psychic state on the plane of already actual forms and subjects.  But Deleuze’s intensive haecceity is a very different mode of individuation.  It must not be confused with already formed substances or subjects.  Rather, (ATP 261) “…the individuation of a life is not the same as the individuation of the subject that leads it or serves as its support.  It is not the same Plane: in the first case, it is the plane of consistency….which knows only speeds and affects; and in the second case, it is the altogether different plane of forms, substances, and subjects.  And it is not in the same time, the same temporality…..”  That is, Deleuze’s intensity must not be confused with degrees of one homogeneous kind on the actual plane of extensity.  When we reach the sub-representative plane of heterogeneous couplings of disparate intensity, we open all forms in a signal-sign system between a disparate coupling of heterogeneous series (content and expression).  Any intensive content may be coupled with any intensive expression because there is no prior relation of extensive structure --- because it is an abstract-virtual machine empty of empirical content.  This disparate intensive coupling that reverberates to infinity is the nomadic distribution of Aion.

(DR 238-9)  “Difference becomes qualitative only in the process by which it is cancelled in extension.  In its own nature, difference [intensity] is no more qualitative than extensive….In short, there would no more be qualitative differences or differences in kind than there would be quantitative differences or differences of degree, if intensity were not capable of constituting the former in qualities and the latter in extensity, even at the risk of appearing to extinguish itself in both….”  Therefore, there are two planes, two types of multiplicity, or two forms of repetition (DR23-4).  One is actual, extensive, and homogeneous.  The other is virtual, intensive, and heterogeneous.  They intersect to reach the internal difference of intensity. 

If the extensive plane of representation is closed off from its intensive sub-representative source, we have merely one kind of already formed substance.  Its degrees are taken to be merely strengths of that one kind.  There can be no real difference in kind no matter how variable the form-matter coupling may be because there is merely the homogeneity of an impure composite.  In dividing, it does not change in kind.  However, with the intersection of the two planes, we reach all degrees in all kinds of difference.  We reach intensity.  (DR 239) “Difference is a matter of degree only within the extensity in which it is explicated; it is a matter of kind only with regard to the quality which covers it within that extensity.  Between the two are all the degrees of difference – beneath the two lies the entire nature of difference – in other words, the intensive….”              

Therefore, intensive multiplicity must not be confused with extensive multiplicity.  (DR238)  “We must henceforth distinguish between two types of multiplicities, such as those represented by distances and lengths respectively:  implicit as opposed to explicit multiplicities; those whose metric varies with division and those which carry the invariable principle of their metric.  Difference, distance and inequality are the positive characteristics of depth as intensive spatium.”  Deleuze is not talking about an extensive already actualized space/time.  Rather, he reaches a sub-representative intensive spatium that is the transcendental source of all disparately individuated space-times, each actualized with its own diversity of form-matter variability. 

(DR240) “Difference pursues its subterranean life while its image reflected by the surface is scattered….”  This “subterranean” or “sub-representative” is the domain of disparate intensity --- the transcendental source that gives the empirical given to the other plane as diverse variability.  Intensity is that by which the given is given.  There can be no extensity in general once we reach the domain of intensity.  Intensity is the disparate individuation of singular multiplicities of disparate differences that may be divergently actualized in multiplicities of extensive diversity on the other plane.  (DR26-7) As long as we think difference is merely a difference within the identity of a concept (a merely conceptual difference), then we will take repetition to be merely extrinsic difference between objects represented by that identical concept.  However, Deleuze’s repetition is not extrinsic difference between objects represented by a concept.  Internal difference is not intrinsic to the plane of already actualized representations of conceptual identity.  Deleuze’s internal difference is that transcendental source that can be found only in the pre-individual domain of intensity.  We reach the singular Idea of difference only when we reach an intensive sub-representative domain. 

Return to Home Page