30 Nov 2012

Pt1.Ch1.Sb1 Somers-Hall’s Hegel, Deleuze, and the Critique of Representation. ‘Introduction.’ summary


by Corry Shores
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[Note: All boldface and underlining is my own. It is intended for skimming purposes. Bracketed comments are also my own explanations or interpretations.]


Henry Somers-Hall


Hegel, Deleuze, and the Critique of Representation.

Dialectics of Negation and Difference


Part 1: The problem of Representation

Chapter 1: Deleuze and Transcendental Empiricism

Subdivision 1: Introduction


Brief Summary: Henry Somers-Hall gives a preview of chapter one and part one, which will focus on Kant, Aristotle and Russsel and on Deleuze’s transcendental empiricism.



The first part of this book will examine the nature and limitations of representation, with a focus on Kant, Aristotle and Russsel. He will “outline the aporias that develop immanently from the formulation of a representational account of our relation to the world”. (11) For both Hegel and Deleuze, “these aporias are endemic in the history of philosophy and that they can only be overcome by a fundamental change in our approach to philosophical enquiry.” (11) This first section on a whole will give “an account of the impetus behind both philosophers' attempts to move beyond (finite) representation and to have shown that this impetus develops as a response to real philosophical problems”. (11)

Chapter one will explain Deleuze’s transcendental empiricism and its place in post-Kantianism:

The radical difference between Deleuze's system and those of the post-Kantians who precede him is the attempt to construct a theory of the transcendental that maintains the differentiated structure of the transcendental field while removing the subject as the synthesizing agent. (11)

In Kant’s system however, the subject (the transcendental unity of apperception) “is the center of a synthesis that produces the empirical world for the empirical subject”. (12)

For Kant, the categories provide the form of the empirical world, and judgment provides the form of our knowledge of the empirical world . Deleuze will argue that, traditionally, transcendental philosophy has been founded on this claim that "the conditions of the real object of knowledge must be the same as the conditions of knowledge" (LS, 105 ).

[The conditions for the synthetic unity of empirically given objects is the same as the conditions for knowing such objects. Those conditions perhaps are the synthetic unity of the subject who both empirically synthesizes phenomenal data in accordance with the concepts in his understanding, and also another condition might be the synthetic coherence in both the empirical world and in our body of concepts which allows the one to correspond to the other.]

The thesis of the identity of conditions allows us to explain our ability to make statements about the nature of the world, since the synthesis of the empirical world is now a function of the subject, and secures a direct correspondence between the structure of knowledge and the structure of the world. (12)

{Footnote 1 here explains that we are following Henry Allison’s conception of Kant’s transcendental idealism, which posits “two radically district epistemic relations to objects, neither of which is ontologically distinct” (qting Allison’s Kant’s Transcendental Idealism). This being radically distinct in an epistemic sense without being ontologically distinct mirrors Deleuze’s “own ontology to the extent that the virtual and the actual are differences in kind generated merely by differences in degree.” (247-248)}

[So the synthetic unity of the subject allows for the synthetic unity both within the realm of concepts and within the domain of empirical givenness, and as well the synthetic unity of the subject allows for the coherent correspondence between empirical objects and concepts.] If the synthesis of the world were not in the subject, then it must be found outside it. But the ways of doing this produce difficult problems, which is why Kant created his transcendental idealism. The synthetic unity of the subject explains how “the predicates that we use to describe the world correspond to the properties of the object within the world itself.” (12) Without this conjoining factor, we would need some other way to explain the correspondence. {ft.2 supports this with a Heidegger quotation.} There are two apparent ways to do this. One is “through a metaphysics of essences and preestablished harmonies, returning to the notion of God as guarantor of the isomorphism of the two structures” and the other way is “through the rejection of essences and metaphysics and a move toward a raw empiricism” (12) [Recall how synthetic a priori propositions have a predicate that is not contained in the subject (making it synthetic), and its justification does not rely upon experience (making it a priori). One example of a synthetic a priori proposition is: 5 + 7 = 12. It might seem that implied in the terms on one side of the equation are the terms on the other side. But the definition of 12 is not 5 + 7. It requires a conceptual synthesis to get from 5 + 7 to 12. Consider another tricky example, this time of a purely analytic statement: ‘all bodies are extended’. A body cannot be properly defined without mentioning that it takes up space. However, the number ‘12’ certainly can be adequately defined without mentioning 5 + 7.] If we take up either of the two ways of explaining the correspondence between concepts and the world, we encounter problems when considering synthetic a priori propositions. The first way presupposes a benevolent God who will guarantee the correspondence [hence the synthetic element is not adequately grounded], and the second way’s empiricist skepticism puts synthetic a priori propositions out of play [by eliminated the possibility of them being a priori].

For Deleuze, the difficulty with the debate between the metaphysical thinkers and those of a Kantian persuasion is that, for both, the necessity of an isomorphism between the two structures has been presupposed, whether through the Kantian notion of synthesis, or the metaphysical notion of essence. Deleuze instead will posit a difference in kind between the transcendental and the empirical. (12)

{ft.3 turns to the Allison text again to elaborate on the two different characterizations of the world, and it foreshadows Deleuze’s alternative formulation.}


Deleuze instead proposes a third alternative, which is that the structure of the transcendental field is different in kind from the empirical. The implications of this approach would be that the transcendental field would become entirely preindividual, but still differentiated, removing the subject | from the role of synthesizing agent, and thus splitting the conditions of knowledge of the object, in the sense that our knowledge of the object is understood propositionally, or in terms of the structure of judgment, from the conditions of the object, which will now be given by what Deleuze calls a subrepresentational transcendental field. This will mean that while conditions of the object will be formulated in terms of the difference between the transcendental and empirical, conditions for knowledge of the object will be formulated in terms of a structural identity between the constituted object and judgment. (12-13)

[Somers-Hall will explain all this in more detail in the first chapter.] He continues:

Knowledge of the object requires in excess of the conditions of the object a further set of conditions-an isomorphism between judgment, as subject-predicate based, and the object, as substance-property based. It is in this sense that Deleuze's rejection of the identity of conditions of objects and conditions of knowledge of objects is to be understood. For Deleuze, this difference in kind between the empirical, which is governed by the structure of judgment and the transcendental allows the transcendental to be seen as properly generative. That is, rather than merely conditioning the object, it actually generates the objectival structure of the empirical without itself possessing that structure. (13)

While in this chapter giving a schematic clarification of all this, he will examine relevant sections of Kant’s first critique and  “Sartre's critique of the role of the subject within transcendental philosophy”. (13) Somers-Hall further writes:

This will allow us to see why Deleuze feels the necessity to move to a theory of the virtual and the actual and to highlight what he considers to be the two fundamental misunderstandings of the transcendental field: the "dogmatic confusion between event and essence" and the "empiricist confusion between event and accident" (LS, 54) . I will conclude with some comments about the validity of this Deleuzian deduction of transcendental empiricism, given his reliance on Sartre's notion of the transcendental field, which turns out to be not so different from Kant's conception of the transcendental. By the conclusion of the chapter, we should, therefore, be in a position to understand Deleuze as attempting both to engage with and to overcome the limitations of Kant's philosophy. This will form the groundwork for the comparison of Deleuze's approach with Hegel's similar (at least in respect of the problematic from which their thought arises) project. (13)

Somers-Hall, Henry (2012) Hegel, Deleuze, and the Critique of Representation. Dialectics of Negation and Difference. Albany: SUNY.

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