Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Duel of Giles Deleuze and Jean Hyppolite over the Pure Difference of Hegel’s Logic


Hegel never seems to have decided upon a precise systematic relationship between the Phenomenology of Spirit (1807) and the Science of Logic (1812) (hereafter referred to as PhG and SL). In the Preface to PhG, Hegel describes it as merely the "first part of science" because it presents only the "immediate aspect of mind" (PhG §36) that prepares our minds for the "element of true knowledge" of "the truth in the form of truth" in the "organically connected whole" that "is the Logic or Speculative Philosophy." (PhG §36) And again in the Preface to the Science of Logic, Hegel writes that "consciousness in the Phenomenology of Spirit" remained specifically "bound to externality" and anticipated the more general completion of the "System of Science that contains the Phenomenology", the progression of which, he says in the Introduction, "emerges within logic itself." (SL §51) 

When, in the 1st edition Preface to SL, Hegel proceeds to describe the place of PhG in his ‘System of Science’, he equivocally describes how it could either function as the first of three parts (i.e. PhG, SL, and a Science of Nature and Spirit jointly comprising the third part, like Kant’s Critique of Judgement), or as the prelude to the three-parts of Logic, Nature, and Spirit, as in the division of the Encyclopedia of Philosophical Sciences (1817). In the Introduction to SL (§§78-79), Hegel helpfully describes how the various specific determinations of PhG (e.g. of subject and object, consciousness and self-consciousness etc.) are each contained in SL as the concrete unity of the distinct moments that have been superceded, but he never bothered to spell out any further details. To make matters worse, both the third subdivision of the Encyclopedia, titled the Philosophy of Spirit, as well as his later lectures, re-trace many of the steps previously trodden by PhG, and – as if to haunt Hegel scholars from the afterlife – Hegel died just before he planned to substantially revise the Phenomenology of Spirit for a 2nd edition re-publication.

In his 1952 book Logique et Existence, Jean Hyppolite set out to solve what he called this “most obscure dialectical synthesis.”  (188) Together with Jean Wahl and Alexandre Kojève, his translation and voluminous commentary on PhG, the Genesis and Structure of the Phenomenology of Spirit, were instrumental in re-introducing Hegel to the French intelligentsia. Hyppolite argues that PhG and SL mutually presuppose and correspond one another. He writes:

“The two works [PhG and SL] correspond to one another. The one, the Phenomenology of Spirit, is a theory of experience which presents the content of experience, as if its source was alien to knowledge, but which shows that this experience presupposes absolute knowledge. The Phenomenology establishes the soil of absolute knowledge, the universal consciousness of being on the basis of human experience and on the basis of the finitude of this experience. The other [i.e. SL] starts from universal self-consciousness which is at the same time as it is things, whose language is the identity of this being and this reflection… This is why it appears, at the end of the Logic, not only as the being which is sense though the mediation of reflection, but also as the sense which is. But this mediating reflection is no longer an external or subjective reflection; it is the very reflection of being… it is the discourse which says universal being in itself and for itself. It is the Absolute itself which says itself as the universal self-consciousness.” (35)

Hyppolite seems to have hoped that, by preserving the ‘sense’ of PhG (cf. Sense-Certainty) in the self-reflection of the Absolute Idea by a correspondence between PhG and SL he could preserve Hegel’s Phenomenology from dissolution into the Logic: for if the ‘sense’ content of PhG were anulled and superceded by SL (as Hegel seems to suggest at SL §§78-79) then the only viable ‘logic’ of the phenomena would involve the transcendental bracketing, or epoché, of Husserl and Heidegger.

Hegel purports, in the Phenomenology of Spirit, to dialectically annul, preserve, and sublate the epistemic opposition of subjective being-for-us and objective being-in-itself (§88) into the “thought the single individual consciousness is in itself absolute essence” that is a being-in-and-for-itself (§231); but Husserl purports, in On Ideas, to bracket (epoché), suspend, and reduce the ‘natural attitude’ of perceiving real objectively existing things to a critical analysis of the subjective, or transcendental, conditions of such knowledge. (§§27-30) Where Hegel had attempted to mix the subjective and the objective into a higher and richer synthetic being, Husserl had attempted to reduce the objective to subjective knowledge.

Hyppolite seems to have projected to use Hegel as a foil against Husserl’s most famous pupil, Martin Heidegger, whose popularity would later percolate into Jean-Paul Sartre’s Existentialism. But Giles Deleuze objected that Hyppolite’s correspondence thesis inadvertently transformed Hegel’s Science of Logic into an “ontology of sense” that reduced its rich Gothic complexity to a flattened Rayonnant facade of “the same being and the same thought” in both “the empirical and the absolute.” He writes:

“Following Hyppolite, we recognize that philosophy, if it has a meaning, can only be an ontology and an ontology of sense. The same being and the same thought [i.e. univocally] are in the empirical and in the absolute. But the difference between thought and being is sublated [i.e. annulled] in the absolute by the positing of the Being identical to difference which, as such, thinks itself and reflects itself in man. This absolute identity of being and difference is called sense. But there is a point in all this where Hyppolite shows himself to be altogether Hegelian: Being can be identical to difference only insofar as difference is carried up to the absolute, that is, up to contradiction. Speculative difference is the Being which contradicts itself. The thing contradicts itself because, in being distinguished from all it is not, it finds its being in this difference itself; it reflects itself only by reflecting itself into the other, since the other is its other. This is the theme that Hyppolite develops by analyzing the three moments of the Logic, being, essence, and concept.” (194-195)

Deleuze argues that if philosophy is, for Hypollite and Hegel, is an ‘ontology of sense’, then each and every being in the whole towering structure of being, or ontology, must be equally sensible. Hence, every judgment of every being, from the basest mud to the noblest Idea, must be judged in one and the same way, or univocally. Since Hyppolite affirms the correspondence of PhG and SL, and the first moment of PhG is ‘sense’ while the first moment of SL is ‘being’, Deleuze suggests that he must not hesitate to equally affirm a correspondence between univocal ‘sense’ and ‘being’.

Henry of Ghent and John Duns Scotus had, amidst the darkening hues of Gothic France, founded transcendental ontology by rejecting Thomas Aquinas’ mixed grammar of an analogy of being in favor of a transcendental univocity of being (Ord. 1, d. 1, pars 1, q. 1–2, n. 142); and founded transcendental epistemology by rejecting coincidence of intelligible forms and existing substances in favor of a new distinction between the subjective order of possible mental representations and the objective order of represented necessary substances (Ord. I, d. 3, pars 3, q. 1). In subsequent centuries, Francisco Suarez would turn the univocity of being into the foundation for modern ontology, or the structure of being, while René Descartes would turn the subjective and objective orders into the foundation for modern epistemology, or the structure of knowledge.

Deleuze counters Hyppolites’ Hegel with Heidegger’s univocal sense-of-being (i.e. Dasein) where, he thinks, every “difference between thought and being” is annulled in the “absolute identity of being and difference” which is called sense. Since ‘sense and being’ correspond as one and the same univocal being, and Hyppolite affirms that this sense-of-being is ultimately absolutely self-identical, Deleuze can argue that the absolute identity of being and difference in sense-of-being ultimately gestures to an equivalence of being-as-difference. Later in Difference and Repition, Deleuze will describe this univocity as the “tortuous cycle in which sameness is said only of that which differs” in the “formless being of all difference.” (1972 51/57) But here Deleuze insists that the authentic Hegelian position is for this univocal equivalence of being-as-difference to be “carried up to the absolute, that is, up to contradiction” where it may eternally explode in a black nova of Absolute contradiction. Deleuze writes:

“Speculative difference is the Being which contradicts itself. The thing contradicts itself because, in being distinguished from all it is not, it finds its being in this difference itself; it reflects itself only by reflecting itself into the other, since the other is its other.” (195)

Since, for Hegel every difference between beings is potentially the site of contradiction, and being-as-difference is different from itself, every individual being-as-difference – even the Absolute being-as-difference – is self-contradictory. Moreover, since every individual being-as-difference is - as an individual - also differentiated from other individual being-as-differences, each is differentiated in itself only by its differentiation of other from itself, so that “it reflects itself only by reflecting itself into the other, since the other is its other.” Finally, since every individual being-as-difference is differentiated into infinitely many more individual being-as-differences, there is an inconceivable plentitude of contradictions, and  “[S]peculative difference is the Being which contradicts itself.”

Deleuze suggests, but declines to develop, Hyppollite’s presumptive response, which, he says, is “that an ontology of pure difference would return us to a purely external and formal reflection, and would prove in the final analysis to be an ontology of essence.” (195) Deleuze seems to have understood, but dismissed, the objection that his ‘ontology of pure difference’ would, for Hegel, amount to little more than an ‘external reflection’ (i.e. an abstract separation of a form of thought) of the platitudinous contradictoriness of being-as-difference throughout a univocal space (e.g. Spinoza’s substance). In Logic and Existence, Hyppolite describes the how such an external reflection of the principle of contradiction into an “empty identity” (i.e. A:A where A = Not-A) “always oscillates between an unformed content and a formal reflection.” (77-80, cf. PhG §116-118)

Hyppolite, however, proceeded even further in his critique than Deleuze was willing to acknowledge when he argues that Hegel, already in his critique of Kant in Faith and Knowledge (1802), “overcomes this merely formal reflection.” (80) Hyppolite writes:

“The transcendental is not an empirical, merely human, subjectivity, any more than it is an objective essence. As possibility or ground of experience, it expresses the logicity of being. It is beyond the notions of subject and object. It states their original identity which appears in the judgment of experience… This identity, that only the transcendental imagination truly develops, is, for Hegel interpreting Kant, the original synthetic unity, different indeed from the abstract Ego. ''Thus Kant himself distinguishes the abstract Ego or the abstract identity of the understanding from the true Ego, the absolute, original synthetic identity" (FK 71-72)”

The 'external reflection' of the principle of contradiction into an "empty identity" is, Hyppolite suggests, the consequence of a prior misapprehension of the judgement of difference as the "abstract identity" made by an "abstract ego" without a concrete basis in an absolutely "original synthetic identity". In Faith and Knowledge, Hegel had described Kant’s synthetic a priori concept as no more than a ‘relative identity’ that remained fixed and determined by the categories of finite understanding:

“Because the relative identity was fixated as the universal or the category and the relative duplication as that of the universal and the particular, their absolute identity-that is, the identity of the relative identity and the relative duplication-was also bound to be cognized in reflected form, that is, as Reason. Imagination, however, which is Reason immersed in difference, is at this level raised only to the form of infinitude and fixated as intellect. This merely relative identity necessarily opposes itself to, and is radically affected by, the particular as something alien to it and empirical.” (74)

Hegel argued that Kant, no less than Fichte, could never realize any synthetic a priori self-identical concept unless he followed Schelling’s Identitie-Philosophie and postulated some originary ‘absolute identity’ as the ultimate transcendental condition for the possibility of every synthetic a priori and self-identical concept. He writes:

“The Kantian philosophy remains entirely within the antithesis. It makes the identity of the opposites into the absolute terminus of philosophy, the pure boundary which is nothing but the negation of philosophy… On the contrary, the sole Idea that has reality and true objectivity for philosophy, is the absolute suspendedness of the antithesis. This absolute identity is not a universal subjective postulate never to be realized. It is the only authentic reality. Nor is the cognition of it a faith, that is, something beyond all knowledge; it is, rather, philosophy's sole knowledge.” (67)

Hegel then proceeds to dissect the absolutely non-identical relative identity of Kant’s synthetic a priori judgments into a cascading negative dialectic, from (a) Kant to (b) Jacobi to (c) Fichte, that first reduces Kant’s transcendental idealism to the difference of non-identical relative identity, and finally dissolves every non-identical difference into the plentitudinous non-being of an infinitely-accelerating Jabobian nihilism. The duel between Deleuze and Hyppolite may, upon closer examination, seem to merely repeat the duel between Kant and Hegel. Yet where Hegel’s negative dialectic is meant to return to the ‘speculative good Friday’ that announces the advent of speculative philosophy, Deleuze seeks to drown the star of its arrival in an opposing negative dialectic of (a) Spinoza-Leibniz-Hume, (b) Fichte-Schelling-Hegel, and (c) Maimon-Nietzche-Bergon. 

The fatal blow to Deleuze may come, not from the bare postulation of an originary absolute identity, but from the re-thinking of the inner negativity of pure difference itself as the sign of a deeper and fuller plenitude of differences preserved within an identity of difference. The difference between the Phenomenology and the Logic may then, forthwith, no longer be adequately conceived as simple difference of corresponding presuppositions, but, must instead be taken up and transfigured in the essential reflection of the Logic itself. This transfiguration of the logicity of the Phenomenology may then imply a new philosophical history, in which even Deleuze's negative dialectic of infinitesimal being-as-difference may be speculatively annulled and resolved into a positive dialectic of differences reflected into the simple identity of the self-differentiating Idea.

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