7 Jan 2013

Pt3.Ch7.Sb2 Somers-Hall’s Hegel, Deleuze, and the Critique of Representation. ‘Force and the Understanding.’ 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 3: Beyond Representation

Chapter 7: Force, Difference, and Opposition

Subdivision 2: Force and the Understanding

Very Very Brief Summary:

Hegel could critique Deleuze’s actual and virtual by showing that the forces involved in each are dialectically inherent to one another, thus collapsing the ontological distinction on which Deleuze bases his transcendental empiricism.

Very Brief Summary:

A Hegelian critique of Deleuze’s ontology would show how Deleuze’s virtual and actual dialectically transform into one another. This might be done on the basis of Hegel’s philosophy of force, which would say that Deleuze’s sensible actual is the flux of differences, which come about from a multiplying force, and the supersensible virtual is the persistence of that flux, and comes about through a unifying force. So we would say there is some force that makes Deleuze’s virtual always the supersensible conditions of appearing, and another force that makes the stable virtual continually actualize differently, but, these two forces are dialectically inherent to one another, thus placing the actual and virtual on the same ontological plane.

Brief Summary:

In Deleuze’s transcendental philosophy, the things that appear and the conditions of their appearing are on two different ontological levels, namely, the virtual and the actual. We want to see if a Hegelian can show that objects have such a doubled aspect that converge on a single ontological plane, that virtual and actual transform into one another. Hegel could do so with his concept of force. There is a constant flux of different appearings. There is force involved in the sense that force causes there to always be difference, yet there is also force in the sense that there is this ‘always be’ of the flux, its persistence or stability in that it is always this flux. This ‘always being differences’ is the condition for there being determinate differences, but this ‘always being difference’ is as well merely the process of the flux, which is on the same ontological plane as the appearances themselves. Nonetheless, it is supersensible, unlike the determinate appearings. But also for Hegel, the supersensible and the sensible are dilectically inherent to one another, as the process of appearance is inherent to the determinate appearences, and the determiante appearances are inherent to the process of the flux. Deleuze however does not dialectally mix the supersensible and the sensible, the virtual and the actual; there are objects and underlying them is a play of forces. So a Hegelian critique might involve us dialectically mixing the sensible and the supersensible in Deleuze’s philosophy.  To explain the nature of force, we might follow the way Hegel turns to the concept of law, which would say that there is always a flux of differences. But confirming the necessity of this will involve tautology. Instead we will turn to the inverted order of law.


We saw how for Hegel, essence is the process of appearing. Deleuze has a transcendental philosophy [which means he thinks the grounds for intelligible and sensible appearing are of a different ontological order than what appears].

Such a result would clearly present difficulties for a transcendental philosophy such as Deleuze's, where the object is conceived of as doubled, provided we could show that the Deleuzian concept of transcendental field can be captured within this structure of the dialectic. Hegel's dialectic of essence would allow the 'doubled' aspect of the object to be reincorporated into a single ontological plane, thus collapsing the distinction between virtual and actual. (188)

Hegel also take this approach when discussing Schelling, who tries to overcome the subject object duality in Kant’s system. Hegel says he fails because he does not use an immanent development from the speculative Idea but rather follows external reflection (189). Schelling uses formal deduction, which means there can be nothing in the conclusion that was not in the premises, so he begins by assuming the resolution of the dualism, which is also what he concludes. Hegel’s method is better because “movement of the concepts themselves to show the real status of the subjective and objective” (189)

the subjective signifies the transformation of itself into the objective, and that the objective signifies its not remaining such, but making itself subjective" (LHP, 3, 526). [189]

The Hegelian looking at Deleuze’s philosophy would need to show the virtual and actual transform into one another. In Hegel’s section ‘Force and Understanding’ in the Phenomenology he explains the dialectic between “a field of differences (appearance) and a field of identity (the tautological law) .” (189) We will explain Hegel’s claim

that "the supersensible is the sensuous and perceived posited as it is in truth; but the truth of the sensuous and perceived is to be appearance. The supersensible is therefore appearance qua appearance" (PS, 89). [189]

Consciousness cannot resolve the dialectic of the one and the many at the level of pure perception. But also an understanding using the universal is also inadequate. Consciousness thinks of the object as a bundle of properties. Because the properties are determinate, they are all separate from each other, but this makes the object itself dissolve into a plurality of properties. If the object is something more than its properties, then it itself has no properties, making it indeterminate. The understanding solves this with the notion of force, which reconciles unity and difference. Self-identical essence is posited by “focusing on the moment of transition between the simple unity and the many.” (190) In the transition of evanescent calculus values, there was a problematic, contradictory, ambiguous status of the fluxion being both a determinate quantity and yet also equal to zero. There is not this problem with force, because there are “two moments or aspects of force governing the thing”. For the object, “ ‘on the one side, a universal medium of many subsistent 'matters,' and on the other side, a One reflected into itself, in which their independence is extinguished’ (PS, 81)”. (190) Force is distributed across two levels: “force proper, which preserves the unity of force, and force as expressed manifoldly in appearance.”  (190) Manifoldly expressed force is “the dispersal of independent 'matters' in their immediate being,” and this is the expression of force. Force proper is what the independent matters have disappeared into; it is “ ‘Force which has been driven back into itself from its expression" (PS, 81). [Not sure what all this means. It seems force expresses itself in a multiplicity, but this multiplicity returns into itself, so there is both identity and difference, unity and multiplicity.] “Force therefore allows the understanding to reconcile the two aspects of the object, difference and identity, without having to bring in the notion of transition.” (190)

Thus we have “two moments: force as the One, and force as its expression”. (190) Force proper is the One. Its essence is to express itself. It needs some other to impress or force itself upon. This means that force’s expression is called forth or solicited by something else. Then, as soon as force expresses itself, it becomes expressed force, which is the many, and it is separate from its essence, which is One-ness. So after force expresses itself, it becomes “ ‘a medium of unfolded “matters” ‘ (PS, 83)” (191). So force proper goes outside itself as something other. But then to go back to itself, it needs something else to solicit its self-reflection. What makes force return to itself is again force [but this time a repulsive force somehow.]

In order to allow force to return to itself, it requires some other to solicit its self-reflection. As Hyppolite notes, this other will in turn be force itself. As he writes, "to every attraction corresponds a repulsion; otherwise, the matter of the whole universe would coagulate at one point." When we think back over the nature of force, this result should seem inevitable, to the extent that the concept of force was brought in precisely to allow two seemingly contrary ideas, identity and difference, to coexist with one another. From the start, it was therefore implicit in our understanding of force that it could only be force that was solicited by force, or in other words, that it is the nature of force itself that necessitates its expression. (191)

So [somehow] force begins unified, it is broken into two independent forces, but these forces are dependent on each other. Since “force can only be in relation to the other, ultimately, it lacks all determinacy.” (191) The two moments of force then collapse into an undifferentiated unity.

Force has now become, as Hyppolite puts it, "the thought of the phenomenal world which, as an interplay of forces, is now no more than the incessant exchange | of determinations, a perpetual instability whose unity and consistency lie only in thought." (191-192)

[The understanding only sees the vanishing.]

For the understanding, therefore, the play of forces is conceived of as a nonbeing, a surface show (Schein), the totality of which is appearance. Appearance, as a nonbeing of being, a being that vanishes, brings with it the corresponding notion of the being of being, "the inner being of things qua inner" (PS, 86), which is mediated by immediate appearing. (192)

But now we have the problem of a beyond. But the beyond is simply a void. Hegel thinks “consciousness has two choices in relating to this beyond.” (192)

[1] Leave the inner world and consider it “an inaccessible beyond of consciousness.” (192) The problem is that consciousness has already characterized the beyond as the truth of appearance. Thus it we would perceive it as true while knowing to not be true.

[2] Populate the void of the beyond with determinations. These determinations must have their root in appearance.

The reason for this is clear, in that if consciousness relates not to the beyond, but to appearances, then the only content it is able to apply to the beyond is that found in appearance itself. If consciousness were able to apply the determinations of the beyond to the beyond, then it would be clear that the beyond was not in fact a beyond, as it would be accessible to consciousness. (193)

Appearance is the filling of the supersensible.

Hegel's point is that within the flux of appearance, in which nothing is stable, we become aware of at least one permanence: the permanence of the flux itself. "The truth of the sensuous and the perceived is to be appearance" (PS, 89), which for Hegel is the structure of appearance itself. (193)

So what is appearing is in flux, but what it is appearing in, the structure of appearance, is stable. “the truth of the flux of appearance being the process of its appearing.” (193) [The supersensible perhaps is the stable structure of appearance.] So the supersensible is appearance qua appearance but not mere sensibility. Deleuze does not equate the supersensible with appearing [the virtual with the actual] So

The dialectic, which begins with the play of forces and ends with the equation of the supersensible with appearance, if it could be shown to apply to Deleuze's philosophy, would clearly offer strong grounds to reject his dual ontology of virtual and actual. This is particularly clear in relation to Deleuze's early work, Nietzsche and Philosophy, where the world of objects is conceived of as the expression of an underlying field of forces, necessarily inaccessible to consciousness. (193)

Hegel uses the concept of law to overcome certain shortcomings. So the truth of appearance is its own ceaseless movement. What is in the flux is always different, so there is a universal difference of the flux. This is the truth of the flux, and it is the ‘simple element in the play of Force’, so it is the law of force. The beyond has an element of universality. Law takes this universality, and law itself subsists in the sensible flux. But law combines two conflicting tendencies: [1] the law must capture all the difference in the play of forces and [2] the laws must express the unity of force in appearance.

Either we maintain the diversity of laws, in which case, we end up with a diversity which cannot capture the unity of appearance, which is their purpose, or else, we abstract from these general laws in order to generate a unified theory, but in this case, the specificity of the law is lost, and we return to a beyond as, at the limit, an abstract universal. (194)


We have another problem, we have no way to establish the necessity of the laws of force. When trying to do so, the understanding uses tautology. [I cannot explain this, here is the passage].

In order to introduce the necessity that Hegel argues is lacking from the notion of law, the understanding is forced to resort to explanation by tautology. This is achieved by creating an artificial distinction between two different moments, followed by the cancellation of this difference. In the case of the law itself, this is achieved through taking a phenomenon as if it were structured from indifferent elements. Thus, for instance, "motion is not itself thought of as something simple, or as a pure essence, but as already divided; time and space are in themselves its independent parts or essences, or, distance and velocity are modes of being or ways of thinking, either of which can well be without the other" (PS, 94). This structure of the law is then repeated in that which is to explain it: "The single occurrence of lightning, e.g., is apprehended as a universal, and this universal is enunciated as the law of electricity; the explanation then condenses the law into Force as the essence of the law. This Force then, is so constituted that when it is expressed, opposite electricities appear, which disappear again into one another; that is, Force is constituted exactly the same as law; there is said to be no difference whatever between them" (PS, 94-95). The movement of the law is therefore paralleled by a movement of force. It turns out that explanation in terms of law simply moves from the same to the same. The implication of this is that what is posited as a ground for appearance is in fact no ground at all but is merely the same as | appearance itself. (194-195)

So we cannot explain the unity of the world appearance using law. Instead, we will see, the understanding posits an inversion of the order of law. (195)



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

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