3 Jan 2013

Pt2.Ch4.Sb5 Somers-Hall’s Hegel, Deleuze, and the Critique of Representation. ‘Bergson on Ravaisson.’ 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 4: The Virtual and the Actual

Subdivision 5: Bergson on Ravaisson

Very Brief Summary:

Bergson offers a way to conceive the generality of general ideas as being the organicism of its inner self-variation rather than being the non-specificity of its constituent parts.


Brief Summary:

Bergson distinguishes two ways to define color. We can try an Aristotelian approach, and consider all species of color, and remove from the concept of each color what makes it the color it is and not some other color. What remains is the generic concept for color. The other method keeps in mind that if we converge rays of light for all the colors, we obtain white [or if we break white up, we get the spectrum of colors.] So white can be thought of as the general notion of color, because it is composed of the organicism of all color variations.



Previously we discussed Deleuze’s conception of what a problem is. It is more like a field of differential relations in a situation that create tendencies toward a solution. When evaluating a problem it is not enough to merely examine its propositions and solve them. Instead, a Bergsonian intuition is needed to determine whether or not a solution corresponds to a valuable problematic.

Now we turn to Bergson’s theory of the commonality between colors. He notes two primary ways of finding that commonality. One is like Aristotelian categorial system, where we ignore the specific differences between each species of color, so we put aside what makes red uniquely red and not blue, for example, and this tells us what all colors have in common.

We have effectively a relation of subsumption, where each color is a species of the genus color. This is Aristotle's approach, | which is, for Bergson, "an affirmation made up of negations" (CM, 225). While this approach appears to capture the general nature of color, it in fact remains abstract and only achieves generality through the gradual extinction of the term under consideration.  (12-1221)

The other approach notes that when all colors (as light rays) are combined, they create white light. So here what all colors have in common is that they are all degrees or nuances of white. We might think of white then as what all colors share in common, in that all colors are together white and independently are variational degrees of white. [The basic insight here seems to be that a general concept can be considered general either because it is definable as a totality of variation, and thus it is general because it is constituted by a wide spanning heterogeneity whose combination makes that concept, or we may think of the generality of a concept being its non-specificity, it’s lacking in internal differentiation. So generality can be seen either as the organicism of heterogeneity or as homogeneity.]

The alternative approach, for Bergson, is to take the "thousand and one different shades of blue, violet, green, yellow and red, and, by having them pass through a convergent lens, bring them to a single point" (CM, 225 ) . This generates a "white light in which [each shade] participates, the common illumination from which it draws its coloring" (CM, 225). What is central to this approach to the universal is that the different shades are unified in the white light. "The different colours are no longer objects under a concept, but nuances and degrees of the concept itself' (BCD, 43). The concept contains the different colors as degrees of difference in such a way that they are no longer opposed to each other but instead interpenetrate. (122)

Now consider how in actuality, each color would occupy a different space. But in virtuality there is no extensive space for colors to be externally related. Thus for Deleuze

"the Idea of colour . . . is like white light which perplicates in itself the genetic elements and relations of all the colours, but is actualised in the diverse colours with their respective spaces" (DR, 206). [122]

So there are no hierarchies in the Idea, in its virtual state, but they unfold when actualized. So Deleuze is not completely in opposition to representation. He is rather trying to supplement it [by explaining its transcendental grounds, the virtual Idea.]

Here, virtual understanding is contrasted with an actual understanding where each trajectory or difference would be actual in a different space, each excluding the other. As we have seen, for Deleuze, there are two multiplicities, so, with the actualization of the virtual idea, we will see the generation of hierarchies as the virtual multiplicity finds actual expression. Thus, there is a sense in which Deleuze's aim is not opposed to representation but rather attempts to supplement it. These two moments provide us with an analysis of the object that contains both its actual structure and its virtual dynamic tendencies, thus reincorporating the moments that were excluded from the Aristotelian and Russellian models. (122)



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

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