3 Jan 2013

Pt2.Ch5.Sb5 Somers-Hall’s Hegel, Deleuze, and the Critique of Representation. ‘The Essential and the Inessential’. 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. Also, proofreading is incomplete.]


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 5: The Essential and the Inessential 


Brief Summary:

In Hegel’s Science of Logic, essence constitutes seeming, but it does so through reflection as negativity. This is where the ideas of difference and contradiction emerge. They are determinations of reflection.

[Note: I could barely follow this section; I apologize I cannot explain it well.]



Previously we examined Hegel’s ‘Doctrine of Being’ in the Science of Logic. We begin with the pure indeterminate concept of being. There is nothing to determine it as a concept, nothing mediating it as a concept, because as indeterminate it does not stand in distinction to any other concept. It vanishes into pure indeterminate nothingness, and out of that we move to the concept of becoming. Because of the vanishing of the concept of being, the process itself is not aware that the concept it becomes co-determines and thus mediates it. Eventually this process develops to produce the concept of measure, which for the first time has two concurrent terms that mutually determine and thus mutually mediate one another. This process itself then realizes what essence is (because it sees terms being co-determined and c0-mediated, which allows for one to be distinguished from another), then the process from within itself retrospectively sees that from the beginning its categories, like being, had an essence to them.

We now turn to the next section, the Doctrine of Essence. Essence, as we will see, is the truth of being. Being is something purely immediate, but essence is something mediated [the essence of something is understood in terms of its specific differences with other essences], so essence is the negation and sublation of being. But because essence results from the dialectic of being, it preserves being. Essence is determined as not-immediacy. But, because essence is the moment of the dissolution of being, it has a degree of immediacy [because that to which it would relate has vanished]. Both essence and being stand on their own in their own immediacy; they are indifferent but equal. But since in themselves they are not related to one another, “it is only our own intervention that characterizes one as essential and the other as inessential”. (140)

But if we are conceiving being and essence as without relation to one another, then essence is no longer the foundation, the essential, in relation to being. We can only then understand these terms using a sort of picture thinking that allows us to see the relations between them as external. But, we cannot think essence apart from being, as essence is being’s activity of dissolving itself. This means that being cannot be. Thus it cannot be there to stand opposed to essence. Thus there is no third outside to the two of them to unite them [because they are inside one another?] [Note how from the perspective of essence, being only seemed to be pure immediacy.] “Being, insofar as it is immediacy, is now a mere seeming, a Schein, as it is only the seeming of immediacy that remains distinct from essence.” (140) “With this move, the relation of being to the movement of its development is now schematized as essence within the dialectic itself.” (140)

What Hegel has to say about the relation between seeming and essence is here unclear, but it is important for understanding how Hegel’s dialectic moves away from Kantian sort of transcendental positions. (140) We return to this topic in chapter 7.

The difficulty with seeming and essence is that they both seem to have a form of self-sufficiency [but also they are not opposed to each other or externally related to one another.] But

In order to show that this separation of seeming from essence breaks down, we need to show that ‘the determinations which distinguish it from essence are determinations of essence itself' (SL, 397). The key determinations that essence must therefore be shown to have are immediacy and nonbeing. (140)

[Essence is the product of determination] so “Essence first of all is negativity, as it is the negation of immediate being”. (140) That means essence is not immediate. But, it emerges immanently from being’s movement. As the truth of being [which is immediacy] essence cannot merely be not immediacy. Essence “is the true character of immediacy, or what immediacy has turned out to be”. (141)

[Being’s vanishing is one negation (its becoming determinate), and this is essence. But essence is what being turns out to be, so it is also the negation of the negation of immediacy (because it is a return to what immediacy is, a negation of mediacy which was a negation of immediacy).] “Essence is therefore the negation of a negation, which will lead to an alteration in our conception of essence”. (141) Being as immediacy at first seemed independent of any ground. But [through its movement] it refers outside of itself, and so it is mediated. Now, self-sufficiency is the defining characteristic of immediacy. [Essence as the essence of being would then be self sufficient]. The negation of the negation [essence’s taking on the characteristic of being’s immediacy] is not “supported by anything external but instead refers to itself. Such a moment of self-relation is therefore a moment where essence is immediately itself.” (141) So long as it is the dissolution of being, essence is identical with itself. So being has an apparent immediacy that turns out to not be so. That mediacy of being, its movement to being determined, is its essence. That essence is mediacy, but as the truth of being, it somehow shares in being’s immediacy. So essence here is “the real immediate 'beneath' the apparent immediate of being.” (141) But paradoxically, this double negation which shows the real immediacy of being is also a mediated structure. Here we have a structure where negation negates itself. [So insofar as we are talking about essence as the truth of being, we are talking about immediacy, but insofar as we are talking about essence as a negation of a negation, then we are talking about something, a negation, that is mediated through its second negation (it is determined by that second negation and is thus mediated by it).]

So essence as the negation of negation is also mediation, thus it only seems to be immediate being. “With this move, essence is now seen as that which is itself appearance, and through its own self-relation, that which generates the immediacy that we take to be illusory being.” (141) But the dialectic goes further. [We are seeing essence as ‘projecting seeming’. Essence seems to be immediate being, but as the negation of negation is mediation. But if it is just seeming, then it is not in conjunction with immediacy]. So essence on the one hand is mediation, but because it is separate from its projection, it on the other hand has a level of immediacy as self-sufficiency. Recall that essence is defined as mediation. “Once this fact is recognized, we can further note that just as immediate being is the seeming of essence, so essence as separated from this immediacy is once again an immediacy, and therefore once again a seeming of essence. We can now see that essence precisely is nothing other than what it seems to be.” (141) [Immediate being is the seeming of essence, because essence is mediation and not immediacy. Somehow this makes essence an immediacy, I don’t know how. Essence seems to be immediacy, turns out not to be because it is mediation, then for some reason in fact is immediacy.]

We now sum up the interrelations of essence to seeming. [I have to quote this because I cannot explain it.]

We can sum up the interrelations of essence to seeming by following the course that seeming takes through the dialectic. At first, being is conceived of as a determinate being that is merely inessential in relation to essence. Through our recognition that essence is the truth of being, we were brought to the understanding of being as mere seeming. With the recognition of self-reflection, we at first move to a view that seeming is a mere projection of essence, but once we reject the immediacy implicit in this view, we cannot any longer separate seeming from essence even as a projection. At this point, essence itself, in its own reflexivity, is the process of seeming. What this means is that essence constitutes seeming through a process of reflection (as negativity). It is in this movement of reflection that the ideas of difference and contradiction emerge, as determinations of reflection. That is, these concepts play a role in the very determination of seeming constituted through the reflection of essence. Once the immediacy of seeming is recognized to be constituted by essence itself, however, seeming is now understood as constituted immediacy. (142)


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

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