29 Dec 2012

Pt1.Ch2.Sb8 Somers-Hall’s Hegel, Deleuze, and the Critique of Representation. ‘Hegel and Aristotle.’ 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 1: The problem of Representation

Chapter 2: Difference and Identity

Subdivision 8: Hegel and Aristotle


Very brief summary:

Hegel’s system is different from Aristotle’s and Russell’s systems in that for Hegel, there is (1) an ambiguity of concepts that breeches the law of the excluded middle, and (2) there is a generative motion between unimplicated concepts. However, like Aristotle and Russell, this movement is not temporal.

Brief Summary:

We will further explore the problems of Aristotle’s and Russell’s hierarchies by examining similar issues in Hegel. There are important similarities between Hegel’s and Aristotle’s systems. For both, a thorough analysis of the empirical leads us to the speculative. Both their systems begin with a necessarily indeterminate concept of being. And for both there is a process of increasing determination. Yet there are important differences between their systems. (1) Aristotle’s unmoved mover is difference from Hegel’s self-movement of being. (2) For Aristotle movement between concepts is no more than that of implication, but there is more generation in Hegel’s sense of the intervanishing of being and nothingness moving to becoming.  So, in Aristotle’s and Russell’s hierarchies, there is no transition or contradiction, where in Hegel, being as indeterminate is not differentiatable from nothingness, and this mixing leads to a movement to a new unimplicated concept of becoming (hence a sort of ambiguity or breach of excluded middle that is not allowable in Aristotle and Russell, and also an account of transition). However, like Aristotle and Russell, Hegel’s movement is not temporal.



Previously we saw how Russell’s and Aristotle’s hierarchical systems rely too much on the principle of excluded middle. This prevents them from being able to explain transition and ring species.

Now Somers-Hall  (SH) turns to Hegel, and he begins by looking at his relations to Aristotle.

Hegel, in his analysis of Aristotle, | forms an image of Aristotle that is very close to that which one might draw of Hegel himself. While Aristotle's system "does not give the impression of its being in construction a self-systemised whole" (LHP, 2, 118), its parts "still form a totality of truly speculative philosophy." Aristotle is "the perfect empiricist" (LHP, 2, 133), in that through an absolutely thorough analysis of the empirical world, we are led back to the idea of the speculative notion. The Aristotle of Hegel is therefore an empiricist who pushes empiricism so far as to arrive at a truly speculative form of knowledge. (62-63)

Also, there important structural similarities between their systems. For both of them, speculative thought begins with the concept of being, and for both of them this concept is necessarily indeterminate. “The Science of Logic begins its deduction with the concept of ‘Being, pure being’ (SL, 82) which, like that of Aristotle is, for thought, ‘pure indeterminateness and emptiness’ (SL, 82).” (63) In Aristotle’s classificational divisions, there is also a dialectic that is

a process of increasing determination, through the addition of differentiae, to the point at which the lowest species can be specified in its essence. This too is the movement of the Science of Logic. The progressive accumulation of determinations allows us to move from the purest, but also the emptiest, of notions, to one that is adequate to the conception of being. (63)

[Recall that in paronymy, things have similar names and similar meanings, even though they are not exactly the same. Paronymy is a type of homonymity (also called equivocity), which is when things share the same name but different meanings. For Aristotle, being and its beings are paronymous, thus also equivocal.] So, SH wonders, is Hegel’s being equivocal like Aristotle’s being?
But Hegel never refers to Aristotle’s problem of the highest genus. In fact, we can find important differences between their systems.

Differences between Aristotle’s and Hegel’s systems:

1) Aristotle’s unmoved mover is very different from the Hegel’s self-movement of being.

2) Aristotle’s implicatory movement between concepts and Hegel’s being and nothingness vanishing into one another and moving to becoming.

We have emphasized how Aristotle's system eliminates the possibility of movement through what Deleuze will call a "mediated concept of difference," but reading the problem of the highest genus in the light of the Principia Mathematica, we also see that this move eliminates the possibility of contradiction. Hegel, on the contrary, is willing to push the question of the indeterminate notion of being to the point where this very notion itself breaks down. Thus, if being is such that "there is nothing intuited in it," this very concept itself will vanish into nothingness: being, as indeterminate, is impossible to differentiate from nothingness. The instability of being, however, is paralleled by a similar indeterminacy of nothingness, which in turn vanishes into being. Thus, in this process of vanishing, a further concept is developed, that of becoming, the movement between the two prior concepts, which shows that the provisional meaning of being and of nothing is for both to be simply this vanishing of one into the other. This provisional result will itself be qualified, since becoming, the unstable unity | of being and nothing, gives way to determinate being, which is a resolved unity of both. Now, what has been presented here is a certain movement between concepts. Of course, in the logics of Aristotle and Russell, movement between concepts is possible, but this movement must purely be one of implication, that is, nothing not already present in the concept can emerge from it. Hegel himself recognizes this distinction between his own system and that of Aristotle. While for Hegel, the movement of the system is a progressive determination of the concept of being, for Aristotle, the process by which the indeterminate concept is reached is one of enumeration and abstraction. (63-64)

But one similarity we might draw between Hegel’s and Aristotle’s and Russell’s systems is that Hegel’s movement is not temporal, as the notion of pure being is logically prior to temporality.

Similarly, while the inability of either Russell or Aristotle to deal adequately with the notion of temporality is an indication for Deleuze of the problematic nature of their systems, we saw that the real root of the problem was not itself temporal. What exactly is driving the Hegelian dialectic becomes clear when we look at Hegel's comments on Zeno's dialectic and compare them with those of Russell. (63)

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

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