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Hegel and Deleuze on the metaphysical interpretation of the calculus

Somers-Hall, Henry (2010) Hegel and Deleuze on the metaphysical interpretation of the calculus. Continental Philosophy Review, 42 (4). pp. 555-572. ISSN 1573-1103

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Abstract

The aim of this paper is to explore the uses made of the calculus by Gilles Deleuze and G. W. F. Hegel. I show how both Deleuze and Hegel see the calculus as providing a way of thinking outside of finite representation. For Hegel, this involves attempting to show that the foundations of the calculus cannot be thought by the finite understanding, and necessitate a move to the standpoint of infinite reason. I analyse Hegel’s justification for this introduction of dialectical reason by looking at his responses to Berkeley’s criticisms of the calculus. For Deleuze, instead, I show that the differential must be understood as escaping from both finite and infinite representation. By highlighting the sub-representational character of the differential in his system, I show how the differential is a key moment in Deleuze’s formulation of a transcendental empiricism. I conclude by dealing with some of the common misunderstandings that occur when Deleuze is read as endorsing a modern mathematical interpretation of the calculus.

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