9 Jan 2013

Pt3.Ch8.Sb2 Somers-Hall’s Hegel, Deleuze, and the Critique of Representation. ‘The Philosophy of Nature.’ 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: Responses to Representation

Chapter 7: Hegel, Deleuze, and the Structure of the Organism

Subdivision 2: The Philosophy of Nature

Brief Summary:

For Hegel, the Idea is The One Totality and it is self-determining reason. This totality is nature, but it becomes other to itself as externality and multiplicity. Nature is rational. The movement in nature involves the identity of difference and identity. So while there are multiplicities of bodies, they form whole systems. In physics bodies form indifferent relations to one another. In chemistry chemicals combine and transform, but their processes are not self-perpetuation. They are however in organic life. Here we have unity and difference in the form of the unity of the organism being constituted through the differences of its organs, and its processes are self-perpetuated.


For Hegel, the idea is self-determining reason.

More than this, through the recognition that the Idea relates to itself, much as the moments of infinity did in the doctrine of being, we come to realize that the Idea itself is "the One Totality" (EL, §242). That is, it forms a self-referential whole. (212)

The totality is nature, but it is an immediacy, which makes it a one-sided determination of nature. The Idea as totality then becomes other to itself as multiplicity or externality.

We can note, however, that Hegel argues that while this idea of a unified totality is already nature, as a strict unity, it represents an immediacy and is therefore a one-sided determination of nature. In order to counteract this one-sidedness, the Idea "resolves to release out of itself into freedom the moment of its particularity or of the initial determining and otherness, [that is,] the immediate Idea as its reflexion, or itself as nature" (EL, § 244). In order to thus become determinate, the Idea therefore becomes the other of itself as immediate unity. Nature is thus first presented as multiplicity, or pure externality. (212)

Even thought the Idea becomes other to itself, nature is not governed by reason; rather, it become reason that is expressed otherwise than as self-determining idea. So [1] nature is immanently rational, it is a moment of reason and not a creation of it. [2] Yet reason is not in the form of reason in nature.

however, reason is not present in the form of reason in nature . In fact, it is other than itself. Because of this, we will encounter in nature moments of contingency, where there is an incommensurability between the particular forms of nature and their rational Notion. (213)

Nature is a system of stages. The movement between states is governed by reason, which is the movement of the inner Idea of nature. The Idea’s governing principle is the unity of identity and difference. The moment of difference is what first predominates in nature. Nature we said is externality in its opposition to the pure idea. This externality we find described in Philosophy of Nature, where it is discussed in terms of matter. Because matter is infinitely divisible, this implies the parts’ indifference to each other, which would be their externality. But externality is one side of the Idea and unity is the other, so matter contains the idea of unity. So while the planets seem indifferent to one another, in fact they form one system of “bodies in reciprocal relations to one another”. (213)

The Philosophy of Nature describes an immanent movement with there “arising of more and more explicitly unified systems of diverse parts, culminating in the animal organism.” (213) Space, as externality, is the first moment. It gives rise to time and matter. The physics of matter gives us a universal system that allows us to relate all material bodies to one another. but because it is universal, it is too abstract to capture the particularity of the world. (213)  This makes the determinate content become isolated and detached from one another, lacking any necessary connection. So in physics, bodies enter into relations of movement, but in chemistry, different bodies can enter into transformative relations, and this will mean that chemistry does more to develop the moment of unity in difference. For example, acids and bases combine to form salts, which are chemicals with properties different to both acids and bases. [Different salts can mix in water. But chemistry does not completely tell us about the identity of difference and identity.]

While salts are neutral , by combining certain salts, mediated by another substance such as water, we can, in special circumstances, get them to exchange their respective salts. In the chemical sphere, we therefore have a concrete unity between the different elements. Salts and acids, for instance, appear to be inherently relational. While this is the case, chemical interactions do not give us the complete idea of the identity of identity and difference that we are looking for, however. (214)

Various chemicals can be separated and unified. These processes repeat, making them conceivable as part of one greater unified process. If the produces of these chemical processes spontaneously renewed the processes of combination and separation, then they would be life. So it is in the organism where Hegel locates the unity of difference in nature. An organism is a whole but it is made of separate organ parts. And unlike bare chemical processes, it can perpetuate its own processes rather than have them perpetuated by means of external intervention. Because it is about organs and organisms, it refers to the problem of the one and the many. (214)

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

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