4 Jan 2013

Pt2.Ch5.Sb7 Somers-Hall’s Hegel, Deleuze, and the Critique of Representation. ‘The Determinations of Reflection’. 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 7: The Determinations of Reflection

Very Brief Summary:

For Hegel, identity and difference include one another. On account of this contradiction we can explain motion and change and have a complete system.



Brief Summary:

Reflection’s first determination is identity, A=A. It is determined through its exclusion of difference. This makes difference something all its own; it is the pure not of not-A, it is not difference between terms but rather self-difference. But if difference differs from itself, it is not difference and hence it is identity. Identity includes difference within itself and vice versa. They collapse bringing about likeness and unlikenes. These are thought of as in opposition to one another, bringing about positivity and negativity. In their opposition, they both include and exclude one another, and include and exclude themselves. For example, what makes positivity is its exclusion to negativity, but such an exclusion itself is negativity. Movement requires contradiction, a dual interinclusion and interexclusion of identity and difference. This is a form of contradiction understandable in terms of the dynamics of the dialectic. Contradiction is missing from Russell’s and Aristotle’s system, which is why they were unable to explain change and also why their systems were incomplete.


[Previously we discussed the structure of reflection. It both incorporates being within itself while the two maintain their mutual co-determinations.]

Now we turn to a closer examination of the determinations of reflection. The first determination of reflection is identity. It arises from the immediacy of reflection and thus the self-identity of essence in its immediacy. In the understanding it first appears as the A = A, which “ ‘grasps everything finite as something identical with itself and not inwardly contradicting itself' (EL, §113 Rem.). Identity is not simply the equality of self of being or nothing, it is rather the equality-with-self that brings itself to unity. Yet because the two terms collapse into each other, they lack determination. 

In order for identity to maintain itself as identity, therefore, it must exclude this second moment that differs from it. On this basis, the meaning of identity now rests on difference. Identity differs from difference by excluding it. (146)

But because identity is giving difference a persistence outside it, difference is turned into a determination of essence.

But difference [because it determines identity] must be seen as identity’s return to itself. It is a pure returning that was not included in the concept of identity. So we begin with identity, move through difference, which moves back to identity, so “Identity, however, represented the beginning and end of differing, in the form of the points of departure and return through the structure of the A = A”. (146) So when we conceive of difference, we cannot do so in terms of this beginning and end of identity. So the term A will not enter into its definition. Rather it will be the pure not of the negation.

"In the absolute difference of A and not-A from each other, it is the simple not which, as such, constitutes it" (SL, 417) . Difference thus becomes a pure differing from itself, "not dif | ference resulting from anything external, but self-related, therefore simple difference" (SL, 417) . [146-147]

If difference were the difference between two terms, it would be understood in terms of the identities of these terms. Instead, difference is merely self-difference and not a relation between things.

What Hegel is pointing to here is that we cannot see difference as the difference between two terms, as such a difference would rely on a prior identity; that is, they would differ in respect to something that was an identical determination, as we saw was the case for Aristotle, where all differences in species were to be related to identity in the genus. Difference rather simply differs from itself; it is not a relation between two beings, but a relation purely to itself. (147)

But if difference differs from itself, then it is not difference and hence it is identity. So difference remains what it is while also being the main action of identity, its incorporating itself within itself.

Through this self-relation, however, difference turns out to be identity, as in differing from itself, difference differs from difference, and what differs from difference is identity. "Difference as thus unity of itself and identity, is in its own self determinate difference" (SL, 418). In incorporating identity within itself, difference does not cease to be difference, however, once again much as seeming turned out to be essence without ceasing to be seeming. (147)



Identity showed itself, in order to assert itself as pure identity, to incorporate the concept of difference within itself. In a similar manner, difference was seen to include a moment of identity in order to complete the movement of differing from itself. (147)

Thus the concept of difference includes identity, and the concept of identity includes difference. But this means they can collapse into one another and move to a new external relationship. [For some reason] both contain the whole within them, and so they are self-sufficient and hold external relations to one another. External reflection will compare them, but it cannot use concepts of identity and difference. Identity and difference are self relations, but likeness and unlikeness are external determinations.

In the preceding analysis, both identity and difference showed themselves to have reflective structures. We were dealing with self-identity and self-difference. As such, neither of these terms is applicable to the activities of external reflection. Instead, this relation is carried out through the categories of likeness and unlikeness, which are identity and difference's external (both to the diverse and to one another) determinations. (147)

We do not need unlikeness to say things are alike, and vice versa, so these terms are indifferent to one another.


[But if we are to consider both the likeness and the unlikeness of something, we see them as tied together but opposed. I am not sure what he means by ‘objects’ in this sentence. Maybe he is saying comparing likeness itself to unlikeness itself] “If comparison is to properly relate both objects to one another, however, it must take up both of these moments simultaneously. It is this movement that | leads to the transition from diversity to opposition.” (147-148) The concepts of likeness and unlikeness [together] we see that they can only be understood as being in opposition to one another. This moves us to the categories of positive and negative. The positive is alike and differentiate from the unlike, and the negative is differentiated from the like. (148) Positive and negative are directly related and determine one another, so they make one joint concept of positive-and-negative in which the terms still oppose one another. “once the two terms are connected immanently rather than externally, each contains the other, as each is internally differentiated (negatively) from the other but maintains its own identity (positively) through this process of differentiation.” (148) But the positive includes the negative not essentially, and vise versa, so they maintain their essential positivity and negativity. “while the positive includes the negative, it includes it inessentially as that which is negatively excluded, thus preserving its essential positivity. In the same way, the negative, in order to be self-contained, essentially excludes its relation to the positive . In doing so, however, it excludes itself as selfcontained being, as the positive is itself self-contained being.” (149)


In opposition, terms both include and exclude one another, and also exclude themselves, [because in the case of positivity, excluding negativity is a negative act, and negativity to include itself is positivity.]

The positive can only gain its meaning through the exclusion of the negative. This very process of exclusion, however, is negative. Therefore , in the very moment of its coming to be pure positivity, the positive includes a moment of negativity that itself excludes the positive. The positive, in being negative, thus excludes itself. For the negative, likewise, we have a structure that both includes and excludes itself. (149)

The reflexive character of negativity means it “relies on a moment of self-identity in order to perpetuate itself.” (149) [But if negativity is identical with itself, then it is itself negating itself.] The negative, then, must exclude itself. Both negativity and positivity include and exclude their own selves, which means that there in inherent contradiction.

This contradiction is resolved by the movement of ground, which is "the unity but equally the distinction of identity and distinction" (EL, §121 Add. 1). [149]

Reflection is both a movement and a stability [because it is a returning movement back to what began moving]. So movement creates contradiction, but contradiction is what causes movement. “Movement generates contradiction, but contradiction itself generates movement, as it forces the object to renounce its previous form and adopt one which resolves the tensions inherent within it.” (149) [Now recall how Aristotle and Russell denied self-referentiality in their systems. For Aristotle, being can not be predicated of itself, so it cannot refer to itself in its definition. This means it cannot be defined. Also, there is a problem with self-reference when describing change, because the same thing cannot be a different thing at different times. In Russell’s system, classes cannot refer to themselves or else there might be paradoxes.]

As this movement is a movement of returning, however, reflection also exhibits itself as a structure of stability. These two differing determinations are thus held simultaneously. Movement generates contradiction, but contradiction itself generates movement, as it forces the object to renounce its previous form and adopt one which resolves the tensions inherent within it. Ultimately, the very fact that the object of our inquiry has the structure of reflexivity means that it is impossible to resolve these contradictions. To do so would be to pay the price of banishing all movement from the world. As we saw in the second chapter, this was the approach taken by both Aristotle and Russell, who, by denying any selfreferentiality to the object of our enquiry, were able to prevent us from needing to think contradiction. This was achieved, however, at the cost of both removing all movement from their systems and removing the possibility | of thinking the system (and by implication, the world) as a totality. While those thinkers held to philosophies of identity, for Hegel, contradiction actually provides a proper understanding of this concept too, as, once we get beyond purely formal identity, a concept obtains real self-identity precisely when it "contains the determination of distinction essentially" (EL, §116). [149-150]



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

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