8 Jan 2013

Pt3.Ch7.Sb4 Somers-Hall’s Hegel, Deleuze, and the Critique of Representation. ‘Deleuze and the Inverted World.’ 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 4: Deleuze and the Inverted World

Brief Summary:

For Deleuze, the actual and the virtual are not opposed terms but are rather two tendencies of the real. Thus they do not succumb to a Hegelian critique which would try to sublate them.


Previously we examined how from a Hegelian perspective, Deleuze’s ontology could be undermined by dialectically sublating his virtual and actual.

Deleuze distinguished his virtual from Hegel’s essence in Logic of Sense. For Deleuze, possibility creates a beyond or behind to appearance and it also draws a sharp distinction between existence and non-existence. Denying this second aspect is part of his rejection of Hegel’s argument. Deleuze rejects the all-or-nothing dichotomy, which allows him to characterize the virtual as existing as real but not separate from the actual. For Deleuze, the virtual and real are tendencies within the real, and not states of it. Everything is between virtual and actual rather than being “simultaneously in one or both states.” (201a)

Indeed, the pure virtual and pure actual are themselves abstractions created by taking tendencies to the limit. As Deleuze writes in Negotiations, "it's not beginnings and endings that count but middles. Things and thoughts advance and grow out of the middle, and that's where you have to get to work, that's where everything unfolds" (N, 161). In making this move, Deleuze is setting out a conception of the real as a process: "The individual is not only the result, but the milieu of individuation" (S, 43) .

[So the virtual (individuation or creation?) and the actual (that which is produced?) are both continuous with one another. Hence the transcendental is not indifferently related to the empirical, so there are no opposites to be united.]

What Deleuze means by this is that individuation, or creation, cannot be understood as something that is indifferent to that which is produced, something that comes to an end with the coming into being of the created, but it is rather continuous with the existence of the thing in question. It should be clear from the structure of Hegel's criticism that if Deleuze's conception of the transcendental field is such that ultimately it cannot be seen as indifferently related to the empirical, the further move, the unity of opposites, whereby each retains its distinctness likewise cannot be made. Without the difference between virtual and actual being pushed to the limit, there are no opposites to be reunited. (201)

But there are problems with this approach. If there is no pure actuality [then there is nothing purely self-same? and so] then we have trouble understanding how representation itself emerges. For, “it is only when the tendency toward actuality is conceived of as pure actuality itself that we develop a representational image of thought.” (201) We only get forms of the negative and finite affirmations appearing limited in themselves [thus representational forms] when we cut the actual off from the virtual, which we said was impossible. The not-A of opposition is a second order power where it is as if things are spread out on a flat surface. Instead Deleuze has us consider a stereoscopic image. [What makes the illusion of depth are the differential relations between the flat images happening on many virtual layers in the illusory depth. Difference produces the representational imagery. But I’m not sure actually what Somers-Hall is saying here:]

This understanding of representation allows us to answer the second question of the status of opposition in Deleuze's rejection of the symbol not-A, as here it is from the standpoint of representation that the opposition is being envisaged. There is therefore a tendency toward opposition in the Deleuzian conception of the real, but opposition is a "second order power, where it is as though things were spread out upon a flat surface, polarised | in a single plain" (DR, 50). Rather than this single plane of representation, or actuality, Deleuze puts forward the model of the stereoscopic image: "Stereoscopic images form no more than an even and flat opposition, but they depend upon something quite different: an arrangement of coexistent, tiered, mobile planes, a 'disparateness' within an original depth" (DR, 51). Here then, representation is seen as the result of a process, or rather as the result of creating an artificial difference between the process and the result. (201-202)

[I also cannot make the connection Somers-Hall is making between virtual and actual and process and product. Is the virtual sometimes mistakenly seen as a process of production that is independent to the product, when in fact instead they are part of the same process of actualization?]

For Deleuze, both difference and identity are tendencies in the real. And also, “the transcendental field requires identity, or extensity, in order to express itself.” (202) Hegel tries to put everything on a single plane, but Deleuze wants to give “a field of depth to supplement this plane.” (202) For Hegel, determinateness is

"non-being . . . taken up into being in such a way that the concrete whole is in the form of being" (SL, 110). This means that the concept of a difference that is not understood in terms of negation is an impossibility. It is a concept that would simply collapse back into indeterminacy.

[We cannot have determinate difference without limitation, thus a concrete whole has in it the concept of non-being, perhaps.] Deleuze cannot make difference opposition, for then it falls to Hegel’s dialectic of the inverted world, but it needs to have content or else it is too indeterminate.

Deleuze is therefore forced to walk a fine line between not pushing difference as far as opposition, as this would allow the Hegelian dialectic of the inverted world to come into operation, but giving it content, in order to avoid it becoming a pure beyond, which would leave it open to Hegel's claim against Schelling that we have an "Absolute as the night in which, as the saying goes, all cows are black" (PS, 9), where instead of inwardly saying "Om, Om, Om" (SL, 97), we are saying "difference, difference, difference." (202)

Deleuze in fact wants his difference to have determination. Deleuze writes

"In a certain sense, all Ideas coexist, but they do so at points, on the edges, and under glimmerings which never have the uniformity of a natural light. On each occasion, zones of shadow correspond to their distinction. Ideas are distinguished from one another, but not at all in the same manner as forms and the terms in which these are incarnated" (DR, 186-7). [203]

We saw before how Deleuze explains a difference that is not negation through geometries based on differential calculus. This allowed him to present a new logic that “operates outside of the categories of representation”. (203) This logic we have seen enables Deleuze to escape “from the dialectical reduction of the beyond to appearance”. (203) Hegel gives two options, but Deleuze’s is neither of these two but is rather a third: [1] “difference is not the same as it is for immediate law, so it does not collapse into appearance immediately,” [2] “it is not the difference of the inverted world, which is a difference taken to the level of opposition, so it is not open to reconciliation through contradiction”, but [3] “it proposes a new set of relations among the concepts of limitation, determination, and negation.” (203)

We noted before the role of the limit in Science of Logic. The limit shows how one thing requires another against which to be contrasted in order to become determinate; in this way the limit determines something’s being. So the limit “both distinguishes elements from one another and determines them as necessarily related to one another,” and this is also how Hegel characterizes the calculus. This means that determination is relational. The limit determines something finite by determining that thing with something outside it. But this means that it is the end of the thing, its ceasing to be, that determines it. “As we saw, this notion of the finite limit brings the idea of the infinite into play, as in going beyond itself, each finite reaches its end or ceases to be, but the overall movement of finitude persists, generating its contrary.” (204) Deleuze’s account of the calculus sees the differential relation’s components as undetermined but determinable. So we can have a purely affirmative notion of determination, [so we can view the world of appearing as made of determinable indeterminacies, somehow]. [But since determinability is a property of things in the world of appearance, ] “Deleuze is forced to move to a transcendental account in order to open up a space for difference that is not to be conceived of in spatiotemporal terms.” (204) [Hegel likewise said that we could not understand his concept of difference when using the spatialized form of understanding concepts that places them apart without being contained within one another.]

There is thus a similarity between the approaches of Hegel and Deleuze to the problem of difference. Just as Hegel argues that it is only because we are dealing with a spatialized conception of difference that we cannot reunite the world of laws and the inverted world into one common world, Deleuze argues, against Hegel, that difference is understood in terms of negation only because we base our notion of difference (implicitly or not) on an empirical difference, the idea of something being determined by not-being something else. (204)

So we have the Hegelian and the Deleuzean notion of limit. We see it in Deleuze’s distinction between sedentary and nomadic distributions.

The sedentary "proceeds by fixed and proportional determinations which may be assimilated to 'properties' or limited territories within representation" (DR, 36). It is this type that Deleuze claims Hegel has infinitized in his theory of orgiastic representation. The second distribution, the nomadic, is "no longer a division of that which is distributed but rather a division among those who distribute themselves in an open space-a space which is unlimited, or at least without precise limits" (DR, 36). It is this second kind of distribution that Deleuze takes as characterizing the transcendental field. (204)


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

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