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Henry Somers-Hall. Hegel, Deleuze, and the Critique of Representation.

Henry Somers-Hall. Hegel, Deleuze, and the Critique of Representation. New York: SUNY Press, 2012. 289 pp.

Gilies Deleuze's philosophy is often referred to as 'anti-Hegelian.' Despite this, there are very few scholars who have looked in-depth into this claim. Henry Somers-Hall's new book is probably the most detailed attempt written so far regarding the nature of this philosophical relation.

As the title explicitly tells us, the starting point that links these two philosophers together (and which also sets them apart) is the critique of representation. According to Somers-Hall, both Deleuze and Hegel begin their philosophical inquiries from the problem of finite representation in Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. For these two philosophers, Kant's Critique formidably examines the conditions of human knowledge, but fails to explain the genesis of these conditions. This constitutive problem becomes, for both Deleuze and Hegel, the starting point of their own philosophical systems. It is in this sense that Somers-Hall argues that both Hegel and Deleuze should be included in the post-Kantian philosophical tradition. Furthermore, if Deleuze is to be read as anti-Hegelian, this should be done bearing in mind how his work deals with the limitations of Kant's philosophy in the opposite way than Hegel's work does. While Hegel solves the problem of finitude in Kant by introducing the infinite character of thought, Deleuze does it by means of his transcendental empiricism. For Hegel, representation is conceived as the finite reification of the real movement of thought which is itself dialectical and infinite. For Deleuze, the problem of the genesis of representation is solved by posing the possibility of an immanent field, where determination is pre-individual and pre-subjective. Deleuze's philosophy gets rid of the subject, but without getting rid of the transcendental conditions that make knowledge possible.

Somers-Hall's book is divided into three parts. The first part outlines the problem of representation by looking mainly at two figures: Kant and Aristotle. The author manages to explain, in a concise manner, how these two philosophers lay down the two main problems of representation: judgement and identity. The second part presents both Hegel's and Deleuze's responses to the limitations of representation identified in the first part. Henry-Somers grounds Deleuze's response mainly on his Bergsonism: Bergson's distinctions between two forms of multiplicity and between the virtual and the actual allow Deleuze to think beyond the traditional dualism of both Aristotle and Kant. Finally, the third part examines the differences between these two approaches by 'applying' them to three different objects: differential calculus, the concept of force, and the concept of organism in evolutionary theory. The author explains at the beginning of this third part that considered from the point of view of the logic of their argument, it is not possible to decide in favour of any of these two philosophers. Therefore, this third part explores how their philosophical systems react when applied to concrete objects. Somers-Hall's verdict is that when dealing with the problem of finite representation, Deleuze's philosophy "surpasses" Hegel's.

This book has two strong assets. First, it provides a well-documented clarification of the philosophical relation between Hegel and Deleuze. As I have already stated, Deleuze's work is often defined too quickly as anti-Hegelian, without understanding what this really stands for. Somers-Hall's work looks into the relationship between these two thinkers beyond the common places assigned to Deleuze's anti-Hegelianism. This book offers a serious and informed debate about the nature of this relationship in strictly philosophical terms.

Secondly, this book achieves a high degree of clarity. The author assumes the task of dealing directly with two of the most difficult books from the history of continental philosophy, Hegel's Science of Logic and Deleuze's Difference and Repetition. In order to keep its clarity, the book does not overwhelm the reader with unnecessary secondary literature on the topic. Instead, it focuses on the primary sources. This does not mean, however, that the author is unaware of the secondary work done on each of the topics he addresses, falling back upon them when required. The result is a clear exposition of extremely complicated philosophical problems. Moreover, Somers-Hall never loses track of its main aim, which is to explore the philosophical relation between Hegel and Deleuze from a post-Kantian critique of representation.

One could argue that this book completely ignores any historical reflection upon Deleuze's anti-Hegelianism, meaning that it does not consider the historical context of Deleuze's philosophy and the problematical presence of Hegel in twentieth-century French philosophy. However, this claim would not be fair to the author's intentions. Somers-Hall explicitly states that his object is the philosophical relation between these two philosophers. Nonetheless, from this perspective, I feel that one essential element is missing. This book does not look into the philosophical problem of the three passive syntheses, originally presented in the first edition of Kant's Critique, as a central part of his metaphysical deduction. These syntheses, which later became the object of deep reflections for both Husserl and Heidegger when looking at the problem of genesis in Kant's deduction, are also the core of Deleuze's Difference and Repetition. In my opinion, they constitute Deleuze's anti-Hegelian response to the problem of finite representation in Kant, and the key to understanding his transcendental empiricism.

Apart from this missing element, Somers-Hall's book is still the most informed discussion on the philosophical relationship between Hegel and Deleuze published until now. In this sense, it constitutes a must-read for any scholar researching on post-structuralism and the critique of representation.

Claudio Celis, Cardiff University
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Author:Celis, Claudio
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2014
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