4 Jan 2013

Pt2.Ch5 Somers-Hall’s Hegel, Deleuze, and the Critique of Representation. ‘Infinite Thought’. 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

Very Brief Summary:

Hegel’s dialectic brings contraries together through their genetic links, and this allows him to go beyond Kant’s finite thought, and also to have totality to his system and an account of change, which is lacking in Aristotle’s system. 


Brief Summary:

We discuss problems with Kant’s and Aristotle’s (and Russell’s) representational systems. Hegel’s dialectic solves them. The problem with Kant’s deduction of the categories of judgment is that he assumes thinking is finite, but this proved to be a circular proposition. Hegel’s dialectic also views there being infinite thought, which allows him to derive the categories but also to say something about the structure of reality too. Hegel’s categories are genetically linked by means of productive contradictions. Terms include their opposites within themselves, and are inherently linked through their chain of genesis. Aristotle’s system had two main problems, one was achieving totality, for it could not define the overarching genera that unites all beings. The other problem was explaining the process of change that alters the accidents of individuals, because he could establish stable states but he could not describe the process of change between them that generates them. Because Hegel’s concepts are united genetically, differences are inherently linked, and thus he can have totality to a system of differences without the need of some generic category to encompass them all. Rather, their genetic process of unfolding is the glue uniting the differences. Thus he can also explain the process of change, as he has accounted for the process that generates and unites the diverse contradictory changes when something alters.


In the previous chapter, we discussed Bergson’s continuously integrated heterogeneous multiplicity, and how Deleuze uses it to characterize the Idea, the problem, and the concept. In all cases, they are terrains of virtual differential incompossibly-actualizeable paths of developmental explication.

Now in this chapter we examine Hegel’s dialect and evaluate how it overcomes problems in Aristotle’s and Kant’s representational systems.

Like Kant, Hegel would like to derive the categories of thought. But Hegel will not take up Kant’s assumptions that the categories should be found arbitrarily on the basis of the workings of formal logic, and also he will not assume that all thought is finite thought. He will derive the categories through a dialectical process beginning with thought thinking itself. This allows negation to produce new determinate content, unlike formal logic’s negation which only says some determinate content does not belong to something.

For Kant, the metaphysical deduction, which determines the categories of our thought, tells us the conditions for knowing things but it does not tell us about things in themselves. However Hegel’s dialectic will both give the categories of thought and also tell us about the structures of reality. 

The dialectic begins with indeteminate being, which is pure immediacy, because no other concept is needed to understand it. But because it has no determinations, it is like pure nothingness, and these concepts vanish to produce becoming. Because the concepts of being and nothingness vanish, they would not know they are understood through, that is mediated through, the concept of becoming and vice versa, because both inter-determining concepts are never together in the same instance. However, this process of dialectical mediation continues until reaching the concept of measure, where we have two quantitative terms in relation to each other, mediating one another, codetermining one another, both in the same instance. This then raises to the awareness of the process of thought how terms are really understood through their mediations, then it looks back to see that even being was mediated, and on the basis of its determining relations with becoming, being is seen to have an essence. So the process here becomes aware that there were essences all along from the beginning.

For Hegel, 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.

Reflection incorporates being into itself, but they retain their determinacy.


Reflection’s first determination is identity, A=A. But what determines identity is that it is not difference. And difference is the pure negation ‘not’ in not-A. It is not a difference between terms, but pure self-difference, yet the difference from difference is identity. So identity and indifference include each other within themselves. They lead to likeness and unlikeness, which then lead to positivity and negativity, which also include one another within themselves. Movement requires the interinclusion and interexclusion of identity and difference. So dialectic can explain motion and change, and also because it integrates inherently various terms, it can produce a total system, unlike with Aristotle and Russell.

For Kant, there was just the finite thought of understanding. For Hegel there is also the infinite thought of reason, which can conceive speculative propositions like God is being, even though they involve contradictions. Here we have the subject God, but he is not being predicated, but is rather being equated with another subject. So he returns to himself as different from himself. Because infinite thought thinks interpenetrated contraries, it does not fall to Bergson’s critique of spatialized thinking.

For Hegel, an essence of an object is the totality of the chain of mediations leading up to it. This solves two problems Aristotle’s concept of essence caused in his system. Hegel’s essence gives unity to different parts, because they are connected with their genetic relations. And it explains changing appearance, because something’s essence is not apart from its accidental appearings but rather is the process of it appearing.

Thus as we can see, Hegel’s dialectic overcomes the problems in Aristotle’s and Kant’s representational systems. It does so because it conceives its terms as both in opposition yet inter-inclusive. This allows him to give totality to his system and to explain becoming.



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

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