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Thursday, March 22, 2007

The question of epistemology now becomes a question of immanent ontology

It seems to me that Hegel’s argument here applies to a wide variety of skepticisms common to thought today. Thus, for example, there are versions of linguistic philosophy that argue that we are unable to know reality as it is in itself beyond language. In making this claim, these linguistic philosophies unwittingly reveal their Kantian commitments. Social constructivist thinkers such as Niklas Luhmann claim that we can only ever know the world as a function of our distinctions (which are not in the things themselves), and never the world as it is in itself. Others, perhaps vulgar forms of cognitive psychology and neuropsychology, will claim that we can only ever know the world as we perceive it, not as it is.
Hegel’s entire point is that there is no world as it is, but rather there is only these inter-relationships between being-in-itself and being-for-other. That is, being-in-itself only discovers what it is in relation to being-for-other; for it is being-for-other that evokes the properties of being-in-itself. For instance, iron only reveals its oxidation properties in relation to oxygen. Why should it be any different with mind and world?
The epistemological question is thus poorly posed, abstractly posed, stupidly posed, so long as we think of it as a question of how an independent mind (a mind-in-itself) can know an independent object as it-itself is (a being-in-itself). It is in these interrelations that both the properties of subject and the properties of object come-to-be. Hegel’s conception of the in-itself will thus be one of becoming or coming to be. As Hegel puts it in an important Zusatzen from The Encyclopedia Logic...
Elsewhere Hegel argues that it belongs to ground to erase itself. Returning to my previous example of rusted iron, this simply means that the specific interrelation among existents that produced this property disappears in the result. However, Hegel’s point is that if we wish to understand the being of the existent at all, we must understand its “reflection-into-another” or concrete interrelationships with other existents in a world. In short, Hegel’s conception of essence is not that of an abstract and unchanging form common to a plurality of diverse instances (what all particular dogs share in common, for instance), but rather is a theory of individuation conceived in terms of the concrete contextual embeddedness of existents and the manner in which this situation actualizes these potentialities.
Here Hegel shows, very surprisingly, a tremendous proximity to Deleuze’s account of individuation. Indeed, later in the Doctrine of Essence, Hegel will discuss these interrelationships in terms of relations of force, thereby foreshadowing Deleuze’s discussion of force in relation to Nietzsche in his brilliant Nietzsche and Philosophy...
There is thus nothing behind or beyond the thing, but rather the thing, as Hegel will go on to show, is a negative unity of these properties evoked or summoned in and through dynamic and ongoing interrelations among things. The question of epistemology now becomes a question of immanent ontology, and that of how actualities are evoked in and through interactions in webs of related existents, producing this specific state of affairs here. To overcome abstraction is to think these interrelations in their historical and present contextualities. Things become events and emergences, rather than static substances. But perhaps most importantly, any approach that would heirarchialize one element of these interconnections such as signs, power, economy, language, history, the social, system, technology, nature, brain, etc., is here undermined insofar as each of these moments only discovers what it is in being reflected-into-its-others. ~ by larvalsubjects on March 21, 2007.
Anthony, I think so, though I would have to do some digging to determine their differences. I suspect that Hyppolite’s Logic and Existence played a pretty decisive role in the formation of Deleuze’s Logic of Sense. Deleuze reviewed this book very favorably and it’s pretty clear he studied it closely. There Hyppolite argues that Hegel’s ontology is a logic of sense that rejects any transcendence in favor of absolute immanence. larvalsubjects said this on March 21st, 2007 at 1:03 pm
I’m not the first to notice this parallel. In his book Genealogies of Difference, Nathan Widder very convincingly shows strong parallels between Deleuze’s account of force and Hegel’s account of force by focusing on a close reading of Nietzsche and Philosophy and Hegel’s “Force and Understanding” chapter in the Phenomenology. Like Deleuze, Hegel’s understanding of actualized phenomena refers back to a play of forces. Further, like Deleuze, Hegel’s conception of force necessarily involves a play of at least two forces, where one is the soliting force (active force) and the other is the solicited force (passive force) that produces the actualization. Much of the Doctrine of Essence is a careful working out of these relationships between appearances and their grounds, where interrelationships among existents, plays of forces, complexes of causality (Hegel distinguishes a number of different types of causality), etc., are mobilized to account for actualized phenomena in their specificity. I haven’t read the entire book, only what he shared with me, but Widder’s work is well worth a look. He does an especially good job with the relationship between Deleuze and Scotus.
larvalsubjects said this on March 21st, 2007 at 1:36 pm

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