11 Jan 2013

Conclusion. Somers-Hall’s Hegel, Deleuze, and the Critique of Representation. ‘Conclusion’ 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



Very Brief Summary:

We have seen how Deleuze and Hegel respond to the problems of representational systems, namely, Aristotle’s and Kant’s. They do so with a new understanding of difference. For Hegel it is sublating oppositions; for Deleuze it is integrative non-oppositional difference. We might further wonder about anti-representationalism in later phenomenology and Sartre.

Brief Summary:

Deleuze and Hegel are both in the post-Kantian tradition and the both respond to the problem of representational systems such as Kant’s and Aristotle’s (along with Russell). The question is primarily, how do the philosophies treat the relation between identity and difference? The classical representational systems see difference subordinated to identity. Hegel sees them as contrary but dialectically combinable, and Deleuze subordinates identity to difference. And we ask is, how do we obtain the categories of representational thought used for judging? Aristotle and Kant obtain them through classic representational logic, Hegel through infinite thought/representation, and Deleuze through sub representation. For Aristotle, we obtain the categories for beings (on the basis of which we judge what things are and make propositional judgments about the world) though division from highest to lowest. For Kant, we use a transcendental deduction, based on the workings and categories of formal logic, to obtain the categories of judgment.  For Hegel we obtain the categories through the dialectical movement. For Deleuze identities that our judgment uses are generated on a subrepresentational level through indefinite yet determinable differences that are virtual yet are given immediately in empirical experience. The problem in Aristotle’s system was defining the highest category, explaining the lowest level individual’s accidental changes, and finding a rigorous principle for division (as certain cases are resistant to divisional categorization). For Hegel, the dialectic explains the highest category as the beginning place of the genetic sequence of new categories. The individual’s becoming already combines essence and appearing. And division is a matter of the self-given logic of dialectical self-contradiction. For Deleuze the categories of our understanding would be generated on the level of representational actuality. As there are no identities on the virtual level, no exclusive oppositional differences, we do not have the problems of the highest, lowest, and of division. These obtain only when difference takes on traits of identity in actuality that we have these problems. Hegel would critique Deleuze by saying that his actual and virtual dialectically sublate, collapses the basic ontological distinction in Deleuze’s theory. But Deleuze would respond that it is not using an oppositional sense for the virtual and actual, but they are not opposed. Deleuze’s critique of Hegel is that infinite thought is still representational and thus does no give us access to level of pure differential genesis, like we see in evolution. Hence we saw how Deleuze’s philosophy better explains the anatomical principles involved in evolution than Hegel’s does. We  might push this investigation further. We might wonder if Deleuze’s critique of phenomenology as being based on the representational level holds, when Merleau-Ponty looks to a prerepresentational level as the basis of experience. We  might also pursue Sartre’s view that there is representation but existence always escapes it.



Hegel’s position in Deleuze’s philosophy is anomalous. Sartre, Bergson, and Kant play important roles in Deleuze’s Koalitionssystem. Yet

While Hegel remains largely absent from this list, Hegel develops much the same problematic as Deleuze, and Deleuze, in developing his own solution to what he terms "representation," engages directly with structural elements in Hegel's own thought. (239)

Both Hegel and Deleuze are situated within the history of post-Kantian philosophy. In this final section Somers-Hall (SH) will “draw together the results of our discussion and point toward some of the questions this work leaves unanswered.” (239)

[1] We find the problems of representation when analyzing it. We find internal tensions in its organizational structure. The problem of the large for Aristotle is defining “an overarching whole when definition only comes about through division, within the structure of judgment” (239) The problem of the small is relating “the transient and singular determinations of the sensible to the purely universal terms of the structure of judgment.” (239) [because judgment is in terms of subject predicate.] There is also the problem of establishing a rigorous principle of division in the system of classification. These limitations are in any “system that relies on judgment and its concomitant subordination of difference to identity.” (239) So we were not interested in the products of representation but rather with the categories of representational thought [for, they are the source of our problems.]

As we saw in chapter 7, for instance, the notion of the inverted world emerges for Hegel due to the Understanding's inability to think through the unity of opposites. For Deleuze, it is a matter of developing a new mode of thinking that goes beyond the traditional image of thought. (240)


The metaphysics in Deleuze’s early and later works both begin with a critique of representation. The rhizome is an alternative to the binary logic of Aristotle’s divisions. Hegel rejects finite thought/representation in favor of infinite thought.

Kant, Hegel, and Deleuze all see the problems with representation and “in each of these cases their responses lead not to a straightforward rejection of representation but to a desire to incorporate representation into a broader schema that will fundamentally alter its significance.” (240) Hegel infinitizes judgment’s structure.

But for Deleuze, “judgment is to be supplemented by a dimension of virtuality”. (241) We cannot solve the problem of judgment on its own basis; we need rather to introduce extrinsic criteria for judging representation, and here is where Hegel and Deleuze diverge.

For Hegel, this involves a claim that judgment is taken as the primary moment of representation only through a failure to recognize the function of reason, while Deleuze argues for the need to invert the traditional hierarchy of identity and difference. A schism thus emerges between the immanent problematic from which these philosophies emerge and the diagnosis of the cause of this problematic, which drives their positive accounts. (241)

For Hegel, “the categories of judgment could only be properly developed by a process of showing how these categories immanently sublated themselves. He achieves this by elevating contradiction to the highest principle of his system.” (241) By introducing productive contradiction into the system, not only is the highest genus no longer a problem, it is “motor that drives the dialectic forward.” (241) The problem of the small involved a problem with reconciling an individual’s continuously changing appearance with its essence, but Hegel solves this “by a reconception of appearance as the movement of essence itself, which attempts to reconcile the ontological split between the two categories”. (241) For Hegel, division is an immanent movement where contradictions flow from prior terms, so there is no need to introduce and external principle to govern it. Hegel combines judgments of identity and judgments of difference, as seen in speculative propositions (God is being), where infinite thought is needed to think them together. “Hegel therefore resolves the problem of identity and difference by attempting to show that at the limit of contradiction, identity and difference mutually imply one another.” (242)

Deleuze also aims to “overturn the structure of judgment and with it the set of problems outlined above.” (242) For Deleuze, there is a domain of representation, pure actuality. This “representational actuality requires the supplement of a nonrepresentational moment, the virtual.” (242) “The limitations of judgment therefore point to the necessity of a moment that cannot be captured by the structure of judgment” (242) [Judgment is based on identities and subject-predicate form. But the genesis of what is being judged is not understandable under this form of judgment]. “Without a recognition of a moment outside of representation, we are forced to conceive of difference in terms of the negation of a certain structure of judgment, for instance, rather than as a positive term in its own right.” (242) [The problems of the large and the small result from difference understood negatively, thus] “The moment of virtuality thus allows us to understand why representation cannot solve the problems of the Large and the Small”. (242) Also, “representation's genetic conditions are subrepresentational,” so we would not be able to specify a principle of division for it, because that would involve representational structures, negative difference, etc. But “Rather than reconciling these two moments on the same ontological plane through a notion of contradiction, however, Deleuze separates difference and identity by making difference a transcendental condition of identity itself. Identity is grounded in the nonidentical.” (242)

But Hegel and Deleuze could on the basis of their own theories critique one another. Even though Hegel is not using finite representation, he is using infinite representation, which still prioritizes identity, because it depends on primary unity. Deleuze needs to show that the prioritization of identity is responsible for the problems of representation. There are also objections to Deleuze form Hegel’s perspective. If ‘Deleuze’s transcendental mirrors the structure of the empirical, it is redundant and has no explanatory value, but if it is opposed, it will not provide a true explanation. For Deleuze, the problem with this critique is that it reduces difference to a form of opposition.

If difference is not taken to the extreme of opposition, it provides the possibility of a transcendental explanation that is different in kind from the empirical without falling into pure inversion. (242)


We see their divergences when we turn to the empirical. For Hegel the organism is unified, it is a “whole grounded in the reciprocal determination of the parts. The relation of the parts to one another is in tum grounded in the purposive nature of the whole.” (242) But then

the failure of a part to fulfill its function can only be understood negatively, as a lack. Hegel takes up Cuvier's account of the organism, and it is this implication that led Cuvier to reject the idea of the transformation of species. Hegel's speculative logic therefore implies a model of the organism as incapable of evolving. (242)

Deleuze’s support for Geoffrey’s transcendental anatomy, however, lends  more to Darwin’s evolutionary theory.

It is here, therefore, in the application of these two images of thought to the world, that we find a criterion for determining the adequacy of the two approaches. The ultimate question is how well each image traces the articulations of the world, and on this point, Deleuze's philosophy surpasses that of Hegel. While Hegel searches for reason in nature, he fails to realize that the moment of contingency is not the impotence of nature but, precisely, its power. (243)

Deleuze rejects Hegel, Husserl, and Heidegger, but does Deleuze see phenomenology as a form of representation or a response to it? (244) Heidegger’s notion of being seems not not be representational, because it cannot be conceived of as an entity. And the question of representation is at the heart of later phenomenology.

Merleau-Ponty's working notes for his unfinished Visible and the Invisible provide a series of critiques that could have been proposed by Deleuze himself. Merleau-Ponty writes, for instance, of Husserl's eidetic reduction that it "moves from one intelligible nucleus to the next in a way that is not belied by experience but gives us only its universal contours. It therefore by principle leaves untouched the twofold problem of the genesis of the existent world and of the genesis of the idealization performed by reflection." Merleau-Ponty's point is that Husserl's search for the intelligible nuclei of experience, in the form of essences, begins at too advanced a stratum of constitution and therefore is incapable of grounding an enquiry into the genesis of these intelligible moments itself. It fails even as a propaedeutic to a proper study of experience. (244)

Merleau-Ponty sees two intertwined problems: “the problem of the emergence of the existent world and the problem of the emergence of reflection itself”. (244) Deleuze solves this problem by turning to “a moment prior to the constitution of the subject and the object: a field of pure difference from which both representation and that which is to be represented emerge.” (244) So in Logic of Sense Deleuze describes the twofold genesis as “sense as sensation and sense as the meaning of sensation.” (244) Merleau-Ponty seeks a phenomenal relation to the world that precedes the foundations of judgment, which are the universal and the particular; he seeks the moment where Deleuze’s two senses are intertwined. This is the flesh, which has a prerepresentational logic. [Phenomenology presupposes there is a first doctrine of experience (an experience can be grounded in a description by means of the method of epoche). However, phenomenology needs art in order to more properly perform the epoche (since in art we are given not just phenomenal experience but an inside look at its workings). But this means that phenomenology alone cannot reach that core of differentiation at the heart of experience. But it could be that the Urdoxa can given an account of the genesis of representation.]

Deleuze's criticisms in What Is Philosophy, that his phenomenology simply presupposes an Urdoxa of lived experience, and that it is parasitic on art in order to carry the epoche into this new domain, amount once again to the claim that phenomenology is unable to truly think the preindividual and to develop a pure concept of difference. Neither of these criticisms rests on the immanent 'catastrophes' of representation themselves, however, but instead on Deleuze's diagnosis of the source of these catastrophes. The question is therefore still open as to whether the Urdoxai of phenomenology can provide the ground for an account of the genesis of representation or occur only when its fundamental structures have already crystallized. (244)

We noted how Deleuze thinks the Sartrean project fails [because he still grounds experience in consciousness even if without a unified transcendental ego.] Also, like how Hegel does, Sartre develops his critique of representation by “refusing the possibility of a transcendental ground as an explanatory principle of the empirical”. (245) For Sartre, transcendental principles cannot explain particular events in the world. In his ontology there are two incommunicable levels: knowledge and being. Even though we need representation and judgment to relate to the world, there are still catastrophes of representation.

The reflexive relation of the self leads not to understanding, but to bad faith. The other appears to us not as an object of knowledge but precisely as a moment of the disruption of our representations, the locus of a field of distances that are not our own. (245)

So Hegel offered a model of infinite representation, and Deleuze offers the model of the nonrepresentational thought. Sartre offers an option between them: thinking is inherently tied to representation, but existence escapes representation at every turn.”  (246) [Deleuze has a philosophy of immanence where transcendental is immanent to empirical, but it is not representation which is the basis for this connection (the structure of judgment being the same on both levels like Kant) but rather there is a nonrepresentational incompossible logic of virtual explicating into actual. But perhaps we still need nonrepresentation to guarantee this connection. This might be what Somers-Hall is saying in the following:]

Sartre's philosophy is therefore in line with Nietzsche's assertion that "we are not rid of God because we still have faith in grammar." The grammar of representation remains, but without the benevolence of God to guarantee its application to the world, faith in it is lost. For Sartre, therefore, the philosophy of immanence, as exemplified by Deleuze, would instead be a return to the idea of such a benevolent God, albeit a nonrepresentational God. Sartre's attempt to produce a consistent atheism thus leads to a philosophy that revels in the catastrophes of representation. (246)


But perhaps there is yet another response to representation.

Recognizing the centrality of the question of judgment gives us the means to relate such disparate thinkers as Hegel and Deleuze, by tracing the genesis of their philosophies as responses to representation. While the catastrophes of representation emerge immanently, the diagnosis of the causes of these catastrophes varies. Deleuze provides a response that opens up a series of difficulties in Hegel's philosophy. While Hegel might succumb to these difficulties, it is not at all clear whether Deleuze provides the only possible response to representation. The question is still open, therefore, whether an alternative diagnosis of the problem of representation can be given. (246)






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

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