11 Dec 2012

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

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



Brief Summary: In the first chapter, Somers-Hall explains Deleuze’s transcendental empiricism by applying Sartre’s critique of Husserl’s transcendental ego to Kant’s transcendental apperception as the non-empirical grounds for knowledge of objects. For Kant, the unity of our a priori self-awareness allows for the unity of concepts, of intuitions, of their correspondence and for the judgments which share the subject-predicate structure of concepts and intuited objects. Sartre thinks that we can have unified consciousness without a transcendental ego, because the coherent temporal continuity of phenomenal objects provides the unity of consciousness from which we may derive a unified self-consciousness. Deleuze does not adopt Sartre’s unified consciousness to explain the non-empirical ground of our knowledge of objects. Instead he locates it in the incompossible logic in the world of givenness, which produces a coherent subject-predicate structure in things without the predications determining the subjects. Differential relations in the field of givenness are both given empirically while also providing the non-empirical grounds for us understanding the objects. This is Deleuze’s transcendental empiricism.



Chapter 1 explains how “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) Somers-Hall (SH) first examines the transcendental field in Kant, which provides the conditions for our concepts to correspond isomorphically to our intuitions, which enables us to make judgments proper to the world we sense. For Kant, there is a unity to our self-awareness. It is the transcendental apperception, the ‘I think’ that accompanies all our mental acts. It is the same I for all the acts of awareness even though they temporally exclude one another, as our empirical intuitions of the world happen in passing moments of time during which a continuously varying self appears to itself empirically. The a priori unity of the I guarantees that the parts in our manifold intuitions belong together and to the same self who synthetically unifies them. The a priori unified self is like the glue that keeps together a) the parts of our conceptual manifolds, b) the parts of our intuitive manifolds, and c) the isomorphic correspondence between the syntheses of our understanding and of our empirical intuition. The syntheses of the conceptual and intuitive manifolds are isomorphic in that both take a subject-predicate or subject-property structure, and as well, this is the structure of judgments. And because it is the synthesizing process that constructs this structure in each case, the a priori unified self is what allows for this isomorphism that then allows for our judgments to apply to the objects in our world. Deleuze criticizes Kant’s transcendental ego by taking up the basic notions in Sartre’s dual defense of Husserlian phenomenology and critique of Husserl’s transcendental ego. Deleuze will agree that a unified subject is not needed for consciousness, but not for Sartre’s reason that consciousness is already unified on account of the unity of the phenomenal object. For Sartre, moments of our awareness of objects are continuously coherent with one another, which provides the basis for a synthetically unified self. So for Sartre and unlike for Kant, it is the unity of experience that grounds the unity of the self, and not the other way around. Deleuze will show that the parts of empirical objects appear already with the possibility of their synthesis built into them, thereby providing the basis for us understanding them, but not because there is a unified subject or a unity of consciousness of the object. This is because empirical givenness will already have a subject-predicate form, thus no unified subject or unified consciousness will be needed to give it this form. However, the subject-predication structure is indeterminate, because the transcendental field is differentiated. We can have both subjects and their predicates without the subject being determined by those predicates, if we take into account Leibniz’s logic of incompossibility. Adam the monad has all possible predicates folded within him, but not all can unfold, because many will run into logical incompatibilities with other monad’s unfolded predicates. According to Leibniz, God at the beginning precalculates all permutations of predicate-unfoldings through time, putting aside the ones that lead to internal contradictions and choosing from the the coherent worlds the best one of them (the best of all possible worlds). Adam can either eat the apple or not, have the predicate sinner or innocent. Because of God’s calculations, for Leibniz our predications are predetermined, but there is no such God in Deleuze’s rendition of incompossibility. Before eating the apple, there are two variations of the same Adam that can unfold, but his predicate is not yet determined until he makes his decision. Any one situation can go many ways, and this overlapping of various worlds causes there to be subjects and predicates without the subjects being determined by the predicates. The transcendental field (the non-empirical origins of our knowledge) is given to us through the differentially various current situation of empirical givenness. This [perhaps] characterizes Deleuze’s transcendental empiricism.

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

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