Deleuzo-Hegelianism, Part III: On Deleuze’s Critique of Hegel and Hyppolite, Or, on ‘the Concept’

In the previous two posts I’ve argued for a Deleuzo-Hegelianism, but I have yet to speak of Deleuze’s review of Hyppolite’s Logic and Existence, one of his earliest published texts, and one in which we see precisely how he takes his difference from both Hegel and Hyppolite.

Generally speaking, the review is cordially approving. It is only in the last paragraph that we get Deleuze’s critique, but from this critique, the entirety of his corpus can be seen to flow. Deleuze argues the need for a logic of sense (the title of one of his own future texts, after all!), and he thoroughly endorses the anti-otherwordly immanence put forth so forcefully by Hyppolite. Furthermore, he endorses the radical anti-humanism, anti-anthropologism that differentiates Hyppolite from Kojeve.

But Deleuze parts ways over the notion of contradiction. He argues that Hyppolite’s notion of the immanence of self-differing substance, as difference within immanence, does not go far enough. Rather, Hyppolite, like Hegel, stops short of true difference, and only gives us contradiction.

Beyond Contradiction to the Immanence of Difference

What’s wrong with contradiction? For Deleuze, it is always contradiction between that which exists, which already exists, between determinate beings in the world. As a result, the potential for difference is only based on what already exists, and Hyppolite/Hegel’s logic of sense is only the logic of sense as it already has existed.

And this is why, for Deleuze, Hegel and Hyppolite, no matter how anti-humanist the later, sneaks anthropologism in by the back door. For if the shift to an immanent logic of sense works to replace metaphysics with an ontologization of logic, then this logic needs to be supra-human. But this is not, in fact, what Hegel gives us. Rather, we see a dialectic of for-itself and in-itself, a movement from being to essence. But how can we know that being, being itself, has this particular logic? That is is divided between subject and substance? That is comes to consciousness linearly, retroactively, in the manner of the coming to consciousness of a human?

For Deleuze, despite Hyppolite’s protestations to the contrary, Hegel’s Logic is human, all too human. But what would an attempt at a supra-human logic of sense look like?

The Concept of the Event in The Logic of Sense

In a much earlier blog post, I described precisely why the logics of the Event described in The Logic of Sense demonstrate this as an essential text in Deleuze’s corpus, one essential to understanding his conceptual logics. Let me summarize and recontextualize some of this here.

Deleuze’s 1968 text, with a name taken directly from a phrase developed by Hyppolite, presents Deleuze’s long gestating counter-argument to the metaphysical onto-logic presented in Hyppolite’s version of Hegel’s Logic. Rather than the trio being-essence-concept, we see multiplicity of events, each of which gives rise to planes of sense and non-sense. And as Deleuze makes explicit in his “What is a Concept?” section of What is Philosophy? (the last text he wrote with Guattari), the network of events he describes here are the same as what in this text he calls concepts, and in other texts, singularities (a term taken from mathematics).

What is the structure of these concepts/events/singularities? Firstly, each is dual, something he gets from Spinoza, in that they have mental and material sides to them, even though these are really two sides of the same. The mental side describes the form of an event, its composition through interior events, each of which fractally has more events inside them, each a potential emergence of its own. The network of singularities within any singularity determine its interior structure. When a singularity emerges onto a plane (and there are always planes for there to be singularities on them), they intertwine with the manner in which other singularities exist on such a plane.

What populates a plane? Potentials, forces, and other mini-singularities which flow between potentials, forces, and macro-singularities on the plane, all trying to emerge further into the existence of that plane. As a particular singularity unfolds on a plane, it gives rise to forces and potentials, warping the spacetime of a plane around it like a black hole does in physical spacetime. And yet, while black holes seem to destroy what passes into them, singularities do not necessarily do this. They are simply nodes which determine the inherent structure of a plane.

Each plane has a macro-structure, then, determined by its macro-concept, and is populated by mini-planes each goverend by their own concepts. These concepts are what Deleuze and Guattari, in Thousand Plateaus, call abstract machines, which are the ‘mental’ side of ‘concrete assemblages.’ For example, take a chair. A chair is a concrete assemblage, it is made up of material parts. It also has a mental side, a plan, so to speak, and Deleuze loves to play on the manner in which the word plan has more than one meaning in French (it means both plan and plane in English). How is a chair planned/planed?

This particular chair I’m thinking of has four legs, is made of wood, has some support beams, and a wooden seat. Each of these parts is a concept on the plane of this chair. And yet this chair is one type of chair, and as such, is fuzzily related to other chairs built differently. This material/mental entity, a matter with an immanent form, a sensible logic to it, then co-inhabits the plane of chairs with other chairs, and the concept of ‘chairness’ is the fuzzy attractors which bring all this together on the series of layered, intertwined chains.

But does this mean that Deleuze reduces the world to language? Not at all. What he calls sense is in fact its own plane, one which brings together phonetic planes and graphic planes, planes with objects in the world and planes with humans on them. Each plane has its own logic, its own distribution of force and potentials. This distribution is determined by its network of singularities, its immanent concept. This concept is not on another plane, it is immanent, but it is also transcendental, for it is, in a sense, extimate to the plane itself, it structures it by means of it interior absence.

Each plane therefore has its own spacetime structure. While Hegel’s concept moves retroactively, and occurs in threes, with three logics of time, Deleuze’s is more flexible. This is not to say that he doesn’t think linear time needs to be superseded. In fact, in his section on the syntheses of time in Difference and Repetition, or his description of how the supratemporal time of the event (which he calls Aion) ingresses in different forms in various forms of common time (Chronos), we see the manner in which he derives much of his approach to time from Hegel and Kant’s attempt to think outside the box of human, linear time. In fact, much of the tripartite structure of the way he describes this in Difference and Repetition, also from 1968 seems to be an interior reworking of Hegel’s approach to time in the Logic.

This is nicely reworked in his late texts through cinema, as I’ve worked to show in other posts, in Deleuze’s cinema books, which are, in their way, extended these on precisely what is meant by time. In these texts, Deleuze employs the image of a crystalline time, a turning crystal in which a shattered mirrorball of refractions produces a logic of time and space whose differences and repetitions defy not only linear time, but also retroactivity. If Hegel’s notion of the time of the concept is that of differentiation, it is always that of differentiation within the concept between being and essence. But here it is differentiation as such. Deleuze’s model of time, of which retroactivity simply one model, is closer to the manner in which quantum physics imagines the smeared spacetime of quantum superposition. And in fact, science and math are as much Deleuze’s primary models as Hegel’s are largely historical.

But why then would we need a Deleuzo-Hegelianism today? Might Deleuze simply not be enough? Doesn’t Deleuze’s radical shattering of Hegel’s insights produce an immanent eventology whose multiplicity of forms of difference make the Hegelian project, simply, obsolete, if not antiquated or conservative?

What Hegel Brings to the Table: History

What Hegel brings to the table, however, is precisely what Deleuze criticizes him for, which is history, and human history in particular. In What is Philosophy?, Deleuze and Guattari argue that Hegel’s genealogy of the concept is that of the contingent history of western philosophy, thereby reducing the history of the supposedly absolute concept to that of the simple contingent opinions of philosophers. There’s hardly anything absolute here. In this sense, Hegel doesn’t go far enough.

But in some senses, by removing history from the equation, it seems to me that Deleuze goes too far. Don’t get me wrong, Deleuze is a radically politically thinker, and the political interventions which his texts and theories were able to make in their current time and culture were clearly on his mind. Deleuze is also someone who participates fervently in the history of philosophy. But there is a timelessness of his approach even to the history of philosophy. Historical and cultural details are simply uninteresting, what interests him is concepts, and these have their own spacetime to them. And while Deleuze did participate in activist organizing in his day, this was in many ways separate from his philosophical work.

Hegel, and Marx after him, however, works to dialectize history, to put it to work, in the manner in which psychoanalysis works to put the individual history of the subject to work. Hegel’s logic of the concept shows how sense can be immanently extracted as concept retroactively from any endeavor.

In this sense, perhaps the general Deleuzian project shows us how an immanent conceptology can differ from that described by Hegel, while the Hegelo-Marxian project shows how we can use immanent-conceptology to put our own history into motion for specific purposes. For Hegel, that purpose was the bourgeosie state, while Marx showed that a Hegelian mechanics could help lead to a communist revolution, by showing the immanent conceptuality within the economy. Within both thinkers, there is a tension between an attempt to get an objective hold on what history is doing, while manifesting desire in their form of their appropriation. And it is in this manner that we see how Hegelian immanent conceptualization traces the manner in which the world is dialectized by a subject.

Deleuze extends the logic of sense much wider than either of these theorists, but in a manner which does not suspend the subjective side, for Deleuze’s own desires are all over his texts, but rather, which operates on a plane of philosophical concepts. The matter of his conceptualization is not history or the economy, but rather, philosophical concepts extracted from historical and human context as much as possible. It is in fact in the works he co-wrote with Guattari that we see the inklings of history and context re-emerge. But Deleuze simply finds this sort of messiness rather uninteresting.

For the radical Hegel that is being advocated by Nancy, Jameson, Zizkek, history is all about its contingent accidents, and these accidents determine, retroactively, what is seen as rational by the actors within various social arena. Hegel is the first thinker to show the mechanics of this, so show this logic of sense. Deleuze radically extends this, generalizes it, frees it from contradiction and moves it towards multiplicity, linking it with the most advanced theories of contemporary science. He shows us how we can think an immanent conceptuality beyond the strictures of the old.

But Deleuze does not get his hands dirty in the messy contingent details of history in a manner in which Marx, as Hegel’s heir, does. And this is why I think that today we need a tension between the Marxist approach to being a Hegelian, and a Deleuzian one. We need to keep in mind that the divisions that structure Hegel’s texts, such as in-itself/for-itself, being and essence, these are contingent manifestations of his own desire in relation to the history of philosophy. The logic of the concept, as an immanent logic of sense, goes beyond this.

And this is why we have to read Hegel against his own texts. For the logic of immanence he described as that of the Concept goes beyond the particular form he describes in his texts. Marx shows one way to develop a different logic of the concept in relation to economics. And Deleuze develops a much more abstract, diverse, multiplicitous immanent logic of sense, one that truly works to give difference its full due.

But labor needs to be done to bring the Deleuzian difference closer into contact with the projects of history, with activism, with the attempt to make a better world in the here and now, with an attempt to understand immanently the logics of the historico-social-psychic contexts in which we find ourselves. While Deleuze may do this despite himself and indirectly, he does not engage in this directly.

This is why I still think we have much to learn from Hegel today, and why Deleuze and Hegel need to be thought together, with Marx and Lacan as well, to develop an approach to the world which is immanent yet activist, historical yet truly attendant to radical difference.


~ by chris on August 10, 2011.

2 Responses to “Deleuzo-Hegelianism, Part III: On Deleuze’s Critique of Hegel and Hyppolite, Or, on ‘the Concept’”

  1. these posts on Hegel have been very interesting, but i’m afraid i’m unconvinced why Hegel’s history in particular adds something to D&G (versus say, de Landa’s deleuzoguattarian Braudel). In particular, I am wondering if you could elaborate on a couple of things:

    1. You’re pretty hard on D & history, so what do you make of the two “historical” plateaus, nomadology and apparatus of capture, as well as the “universal history” of anti-oedipus? It seems that there D&G dive right in to history, they simply refuse History as a coding of the past. You note this, but then say that “Deleuze simply finds this sort of messiness rather uninteresting,” a claim that seems somewhat unfounded to me, based on his actual activism (see #2) and also the arguments he makes in the book on Foucault, in his interviews and short texts (especially on palestine), and in What is Philosophy? Even in Difference & Repetition, Deleuze is sympathetic to Marx, but specifically shows how his historicism differs from Hegel’s (p207-208).

    2. You’re also hard on D & activism, and I’m wondering if this is unfairly so. You state that “Deleuze did participate in activist organizing in his day, this was in many ways separate from his philosophical work.” I am wondering if you could describe exactly what this separation is (they seem consistent to me). There’s another point concerning his health, which his biographer Dosse has showed prevented him from fully participating as an activist – he passed out at one protest and was taken to the hospital (if I remember correctly), and that was really all he could take! Relatedly, I am wondering if bringing Guattari back into the picture might clarify politics and show how the relationship between the two changed Deleuze’s politics.

    3. Finally, I’m wondering if 1&2 aren’t related to a particular view of Deleuze which minimizes the role of Guattari in his thought, works, and life.

    Like I said, I am sympathetic to these issues especially in relation to politics and history, but I remain unconvinced that the unholy alliance of “Deleuzo-Hegelianism” shows an adequate “way out,” so to speak, versus “Deleuzo-Guattarianism.”

  2. It’s a really good question. You’re absolutely right that I completely overlooked the ‘universal history’, a genealogy of the relation of power and sense, that Deleuze develops with Guattari in Anti-Oedipus and Thousand Plateaus. Which is interesting because Guattari is hardly and anthropologist, though as Roudinesco showed in her biography, they did get a lot of outside help when it came to developing their ideas on these things. But it’s interesting that these sorts of concerns don’t show up that much in Guattari’s solo work.

    Certainly we see a genealogy of capitalism in relation to its coding of desire and social meanings. And this is an attempt to dialectize, for lack of a better word, perhaps ‘capture’ is the term I’m looking for, aspects of the contemporary social problematic so as to gain traction with it.

    That said, I wish there was a real emphasis upon the method whereby they had produced it. And this is something that I think Hegel does provide, a sort of meta-discussion of historicization as such, the method whereby a subject comes to look backwards at its own autoproduction, and realize that it is the process of its production thereof.

    Granted, Deleuze and Guatarri want to think beyond the traditional subject. But do I think they lose some of Hegel’s insights along the way. Which is why, I guess, I have always suplemented my D&G with Zizek’s Hegelianized Lacan. I think D&G are very useful for thinking beyond subjects, and about how they are constituted. But when you need to think WITHIN more traditional structures, I think the Lacanian side is really useful, and I think Hegel is potentially useful in a similar sense.

    I think I also find the lack of systematicity in Deleuze not always a good thing. The fuzzy/strange attractor structure of Thousand Plateaus, for example, has much to say for it. But by forbidding itself a certain type of systematicity, I think you lose something. I think both are needed. And this is where I think Hegel is particularly useful in both the Phenomenology and the Logic, in that he explodes so many arguments from his historical context, the history of philosophy, the science of his day, etc., from within. His texts are deconstruction machines. And highly strategic ones.

    What is one left with at the end of his texts? A ladder. I don’t think you necessarily get the bourgeosie state, or rather, it is possible to read him in a manner in which this is a means to an end.

    I guess what bothers me is that Deleuze, who is ultimately much closer to my heart than Hegel, is a thinker of the singular much more than Hegel. Hegel is thinking the universal, and by universal, I mean human language. Whether this is the language of humans or broader than this is hard to say. Deleuze is clearly trying to get beyond this, to shatter this, and I think he accomplishes much towards this end. But if we want to know how human language works, Hegel is I think a better tour guide than Deleuze.

    I guess what I’m saying is that for understanding orthodoxy from within, while also exploding it from within, Hegel’s pretty damn great. If you want to go beyond, Deleuze is much better, but he’s not that good at describing so well all that Hegel does wonderfully. Hence, why I think they make a great pair.

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