Everything is a machine. We are here to convey expressive thoughts traversing all those machines. Expecting their reaching to numerous unknown machines, we hope to assume the role of making them unfold outward and be folded inward by the outside.
Seoul National University of Technology
One of the important concepts that run through the entire Deleuzian philosophy is intensity. What’s important in the philosophy of difference is not the ’difference made’ but the ‘difference that makes,’ which is exactly intensity. You can say it is the difference as ‘Becoming’ rather than as ‘Being’, namely the difference as the force of becoming.
Intensity is the opposite concept of extension. This concept is not in contrast with the logical extension but the physical extension. Simply put, intensity is force. Force is about quantity. When it comes to quantity, a homogenized state is commonly assumed for the sake of counting or comparison. For this reason, Bergson sided with quality and criticized quantity. However, intensity is quantity preceding quality. Intensity is the microscopic quantity that determines and changes quality. If the density of pigments changes, ‘blue’ becomes different blue. In this case, density is a kind of intensity. Simply saying whatever is blue is just ‘blue,’ overlooking this point, is speaking only of quality, missing the difference in intensity. When the color of the water changes as the ink spreads, it is the density of the pigments that makes the color different. To learn calligraphy, you need to change the intensity of each part of the finger muscles, that is, the distribution of intensity.
Intensity has a magnitude because it too is quantity. However, all that has a magnitude/size is not intensity. Though the length of a straight line, area, or volume has a size, it doesn’t belong to intensity but extension. Velocity, density, or temperature on the other hand is all physical quantity that belongs to intensity. How do you think these two are different? When a room with a temperature of 25°C is divided into two, the area or volume is halved, but the temperature remains the same. Extension is what is reduced to 1/n when divided by n, whereas what is not reduced by division is the quantity of intensity.
However, this alone is not enough to fully understand Deleuzian concept of intensity. Extension means spreading out, that is, expanding. The state in which the heat spreads out evenly and equally so that an entire part is homogenized is exactly extension. When the temperature of a room is 25°C, it means the entire part of the room has a quality of 25°C. When divided, it’ll be divided keeping the identical qualitative character of 25°C for each divided part. It is the state of extension. The same is true of the state in which ink spreads in water evenly. This refers to the state in which the things concentrated in different densities, that is, ‘the folded’ in Deleuzian concept, are unfolded evenly. What distinguishes between extension and intensity is not the physical quantity itself such as the temperature or density of a certain part but the way of the microscopic distribution.
Intensity is force, but it is force as difference. When the temperatures of two adjoining rooms are equal, the convective heat transfer doesn’t occur between the two rooms. It is the same with any temperature whether it’s 10°C or 100°C as long as the temperatures of both rooms are equal. However, when the temperature of one room is 10°C and the other 20°C, a heat transfer occurs between the two rooms proportionately to the temperature difference. What if the temperature of one room is 50°C and the other 60°C? A heat transfer of the identical intensity arises. An intensity movement corresponding to the temperature difference between the two rooms arises. Important is not the temperature but the temperature difference. The same goes for the phenomenon in the same room. When a heater is turned on at one corner of a room, the heat spreads out to the places of lower temperature. As long as there’s a temperature difference, a heat transfer occurs. The moment there’s no temperature difference as the result of the even spread of the heat, heat transfer stops. Temperature difference determines the intensity of movement. In short, intensity is difference.
Any force resulting from difference is intensity. When an object is raised from the ground, potential energy is generated. The higher the object, the bigger the energy. This too is intensity. To say something has intensity means that it is in the state of folding proportionately to the difference. To say that intensity increases means that the difference in temperature or density increases. Intensity exists wherever there is force. To put it in Spinozian way, it is a ‘common notion’ shared by all modes. You can say the world we live in is a universe of intensity in that it is full of intensity everywhere.
Making intensity is making difference. A loud voice, for example, doesn’t mean a big intensity. Even a yelling sometimes just passes by your ears, whereas a small voice, in some cases, makes you open your ears wide and touches your heart. A musician who’s skillful at managing sound is not the one who plays a musical instrument loud but the one who, just with only very small sounds, makes the audience listen to his play with the tension of suspense. To be good at dealing with intensity doesn’t mean just making the difference bigger but handling the subtle change of difference skillfully. That is the intensive ability of a player. Therefore, even when playing the same score, performance varies depending on the player. We are surprised at a very different performance of the same piece of music. A single persimmon remaining at the top of a withered branch catches your eye more strongly than a persimmon tree heavy-laiden with red persimmons.
To grasp with intensity doesn’t mean grasping what an object is but the forces surrounding the object, that is, the distribution of intensive differences. It’s not about recognizing what’s hanging at the end of the branch is a persimmon but about grasping the atmosphere created by the forces surrounding the persimmon. It’s about perceiving the distribution of forces permeating the atmosphere. Thereby, we enter the loneliness of the persimmon left alone beside which only the last fall is waiting. Getting out of the world of object, we get into the world of affect.
When it comes to art, this is especially important. The true ability of an artist is not representing an object accurately as it is but expressing the distribution of the forces surrounding the object and the intensive atmosphere created by the distribution. An accurate representation of one’s face is merely an explication of who the portrayed person is. It never belongs to art. An artist folds intensity into the face to express the atmosphere surrounding the person and the forces emanating from the face. The reason Rembrandt's self-portrait is magnificent is not because he painted his face accurately but because he excellently folded into the painting the forces that run through his life at that time. As in Bacon’s paintings, such forces get the face crushed and deformed not to recognize whose face it is.
That’s why Deleuze says ‘the sensible’ in real meaning is intensity. For Kant, sensibility is the ability to accept an object. For him, the sensible means the object that is properly represented by sensibility. For Deleuze, however, the sensible in its truest sense is not that but the intensities that are hard to grasp because they are concealed under the shadow of the represented. It’s the outside of representation, and unable to be represented. Therefore, intensity is what is sensible but can only be sensed. It’s something visible to the eye but that you are unable to recognize. It’s something that intensively surges into your sense in spite of your not knowing what that is. In that sense, intensity is insensible.
Kant would say ‘sensible synthesis’ is an acceptance that accurately represents an object, whereas Deleuze would say it is to grasp the unrepresentable intensity oozing out of an object. In fact, what Deleuze says is not sensible synthesis but intensive synthesis. For important to him is not epistemological procedure but ontological becoming. Intensive synthesis is the process where the forces surrounding an object is folded into the same object. The forces of the environment surrounding a developing embryo being folded into it, an individuation escaping from the specificity progresses. Intensive synthesis folds asymmetry into between differential virtuality and differenciated actuality.
Intensity is related to the concept of Idea. As explained in my previous essay on the concept of Idea, Deleuze defines Idea as the differential. Differential relation is neighboring relation. The neighboring relation between the components of the minimum size is Idea. Neighboring relation means the state in which distinctly distinguished terms are arrayed adjacent to one another. One gene, for example, is distinctly distinguished from another one. The genes causing certain diseases are distinguished, not to mention the eye gene or wing gene. When unfolded, a specific character of a particular species emerges; wing out of the wing gene, eye out of the eye gene. However, from the viewpoint of Idea that is in differential state, even though it is distinctly the wing gene, it is obscure what it develops to become. This is because the intensive synthesis progressing during the developmental process folds the ‘outside’ not intrinsic to the gene into the developing embryo. That’s why Idea is ‘obscure and distinct.’ Folded in that obscurity is a different future. Hiding there is drunken Dionysus.
On the contrary, the intensive is ‘clear and confused.’ Since intensity is force and force is the difference between forces, intensity is the intensity of intensities. Every intensity is a mixture of disparate intensities. To grasp intensity doesn’t mean discriminating microscopic intensities one by one. Discriminating them isn’t possible. Besides, if you try to do so, you’ll miss the really important thing, which is the atmosphere of affect made of the confusedly intermixed intensities. Even though intensities are confusedly mixed, clarity is born from there like an orchestra in which the sounds of various musical instruments are confusedly mixed to create a single clear sound.
Let me talk a bit more about music. A musical score expresses the Ideal virtuality of a piece of music, whereas an actual performance of it is its actualization through an intensive synthesis. A musical score is a distinct array of notes that have pitches and note values. The Fugue No.1 musical score of Bach’s <The Well-Tempered Clavier Book I>, for example, has a particular determination that any player can’t escape from. However, it becomes different music depending on how the player renders it. The vertical intensity of touch and horizontal intensity of velocity are indiscernibly mixed to create a single clear sound. The intensive synthesis of Glen Gould transmutes it into a piece of embarrassingly different music. The width of the variations by the jazz pianists such as John Lewis and Jacques Loussier are even bigger. They even change pitches and note values. Therefore, even though a musical score, which is the Idea of the music, is distinct, it has obscurity open to varied actualization. Virtuality is obscurity that implies numerous determinabilities. Intensive synthesis pushes actualization far away from the expected point.
Some say that virtuality is intensive, whereas actuality is not. However, it should be said in the reverse way. Intensive synthesis is much closer to actualization. Ideal virtuality, on the other hand, is differential relation before intensive synthesis and has the state of ‘intensity=0’ as its limit. Deleuze refers to a body in the state of intensity=0 as ‘body without organ.’ Various intensities being inscribed on the surface of this body, it becomes a differenciated body. It is unfolded along the line of actualization. However, it is never all unfolded wholly to becomes a state of extension because its unfolding is that into which the outside is folded by the intensive synthesis. If intensive distribution varies, this current body becomes a different one. The reason 'becoming' as such a bodily transformation is possible is because the pure virtuality of body without organ always lies beneath every differenciation. That's because there is virtuality open to the disparate intensive synthesis. The determinability for a different life breathes beneath every determination.
Deleuze asserts that 'difference is not diverse.' Diverse is difference as the given. Difference as the given means 'difference already made.' The difference that Deleuze pays attention to is the 'difference that makes.' That is intensity. Making beings individuals released from the differenciation of differential relation, that is exactly intensive synthesis. That's why it is equally said to be 'individuating difference.' The difference that makes the waves of every moment into beings in the enormous sea of Being, that is difference as intensity. Intensity, in that sense, is 'ontological difference’ if, as Heidegger says, the ontological difference is the difference between Being and beings.
translated by Jung Ki Lee