3 Jan 2013

Pt2.Ch5.Sb4 Somers-Hall’s Hegel, Deleuze, and the Critique of Representation. ‘From Being to Essence.’ 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 2: Responses to Representation

Chapter 5: Infinite Thought

Subdivision 4: From Being to Essence

Very Brief Summary:

Hegel’s dialectical movement is not aware of the essences of its categories until it arrives upon measure, at which point it looks back to see that even at the beginning, being had an essence.


Brief Summary:

Hegel’s doctrine of being begins with the pure, indeterminate concept of being. It is purely immediate, because as indeterminate, it cannot be distinguished from other things, and thus our understanding of it is not mediated through other concepts. It vanishes into nothingness, which also as indeterminate is indistinguishable from it even though they are different from one another. There is a process of concepts giving rise to their contraries and moving to new terms. Eventually this movement arrives upon the notion of measure, which involves the mutually determining and thus mutually mediating relation between quantities. Previously there was the mediation involved when one term dies and becomes another. The process itself was not aware that it is being mediated by the term it becomes. So for example, being and nothingness vanish into each other and move to the concept of becoming. Only a meta-perspective that sees all the terms even after they have vanished would see that being and nothingness are understood more determinately in their relation to becoming, and vice versa. But with the emergence of the concept of measure, we have mutually mediated terms without either vanishing. So the process here becomes aware that there were essences all along from the beginning.


Previously we saw how Hegel’s determination of the categories of thought through the dialectic will also tell us about the structure of reality.

We now look at Hegel’s doctrine of being. Hegel’s logic begins with pure being. As such, it has no further determination, and it is equal only to itself. Because it is not determined through any other mediating relations with other concepts, thus it is a pure immediacy. But, since it lacks determinations, we cannot determine its difference from its opposite, and thus [without anything to make it something different from anything else] it collapses into nothing. But nothing [which also lacks determination] is pure immediacy, and so it collapses back into being. The dialectic proceeds, and the indeterminate concept of being is replaces with the concept of determinate being (Dasein), which is the concept of a being rather than of being in general. To conceive of determinate beings, we need the concept of limit, “It is by excluding that which is not it that a being is able to become determined.” (137) But that means it also brings with it the object outside the first one. “In effect, the limit can be seen as operating in two directions. Not only does it determine the being that introduces it, but as it also limits the being which is excluded, it simultaneously also determines the being outside of the limit as a determinate being.” (137) So there is the concept of negation and plurality. So now there is mediation (one concept is understood through the medium of its negated counterpart). Also, neither quantity nor quality remain pure immediacy. Quantity develops into a ratio of powers. That means each element only gets its meaning through the other. And qualities are “mediated by state transitions brought on by quantitative changes, as in the case of, for example, water, whose qualities change completely depending on temperature and pressure”. (137)

So in the doctrine of being, we begin with pure immediacy (or a concept understood purely in its own terms) and there is a movement of passing through mediation and arrived at a mediated immediacy. [But all mediations move into new immediacies]

While each stage of the doctrine of being provides an implicit connectedness with the terms preceding and succeeding it, being itself is not able to explicate the fact that immediacy is always mediated, as the mediation of one concept is always grounded in the prima facia immediacy of its successor. (137)

But this is “apparent from the outside of the dialectical movement, rather than being thematized within the movement of thought itself”.  (137) Thus the structure is similar as in the Phenomenoogy of Spirit “where each category ‘goes beyond its limits, and since these limits are its own, it is something that goes beyond itself' (PS, 51). Each category suffers a 'death' in its passing into otherness, which leads to the new category appearing as immediacy.” (138) But we move toward measure, which brings two different entities into relation with one another. So it makes explicit for us the mediation between the categories, and this happen through the movement of reason itself. [Before measure comes about, mediation was always hidden in a way, because we move from terms to the next through mediation, but here we have two terms determining each other without that movement obscuring the mediation.] Thus we cannot see being as immediacy [for it was determined by its mediation into another immediacy, becoming?] and this leads us to “essence as the realm of nonimmediacy.” [because the essence of something comes from how it is mutually determined or mediated by something else.] (138)

Essence is matter of “recollection, and internalization (Erinnerung) of those dialectical movements that led to the positing of each concept within the concept itself.” (138) [So now the dialectic must revise its self-understanding of the categories it generates.]

What we saw on a metadialectical level as the dialectical conditions for the emergence of a particular term are now taken up into each term. However, the characterization of these terms as purely immediate can no longer be supported. Thus, the metadialectical analysis must now be incorporated into the dialectic itself, or in other words, the dialectic must reflect on its own movement by thematizing the connections between categories themselves. (138)

We now characterize essence. [1] Because essence is a response to the limitations of pure immediacy, it is a concept that comes after being [because with being there was only pure immediacy], [2] “this response will take the form of a negation of immediacy, since essence emerges in opposition to the simple immediacy of being.” (138) [3] [On the logical level, we saw how each category moves to the next, with the first dying off. A meta-logical reflection would show that the prior and the succeeding terms mutually mediate and determine each other.?]  [With the movement to measure, we see that all along, the terms mediated each other, so now now the dialectic itself realizes this, and] “as the doctrine of essence involves the collapse of the distinction between logical and metalogical results, we will have to retrace many of the dialectical movements that occurred in the doctrine of being, although this time the logic will deal with the fact that | the dialectical thought is explicitly relating to thought itself. This means that many of the structures of the doctrine of essence will be analogous to those uncovered in the doctrine of being” (138-139) But new structures do not replace the old ones, because “the former are reflective in a way in which the categories of being are not.” (139) So the concepts of difference and contradiction were inherent in the doctrine of being, but only became explicit in the doctrine of essence. We must also recognize that “the rejection of immediacy is not the rejection of it in all forms, but only as bare immediacy. Instead it is the claim that immediacy can only be understood as constituted by mediation.” (139)


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

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