Notes towards a metaphysics of difference. From Hyppolite to Deleuze.
Ebke Thomas (Universität Potsdam)

April 9, 2019, 4:00pm - 5:30pm
Department of Philosophy, PHI research group, Deakin University

C2.05 Burwood Campus. Ic1.108 Waurn Ponds. *VMP 522 39354
221 Burwood Highway
Burwood 3125

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In his critical review of Jean Hyppolite’s study Logic and Existence (1953), Gilles Deleuze already seems to break through to and to define in a nutshell the systematic problem around which is entire philosophy of difference revolves. Aside from its merit of dismantling the reduction of Hegelian speculative dialectics to philosophical anthropology, Hyppolite’s work, according to Deleuze, conjures up a conception of differencethat precedes and subverts Hegel‘s focus on mediation and contradiction. It is in fact at this early stage of his career that Deleuze explicitly introduces the formula of an „ontology of difference“, which he reconstructs as the very upshot of Hyppolite’s reading of Hegel. Following Hyppolite, the concept, in realizing itself, does so only in a twisted, inflected way to the extent that, while being constitutes itself as the being of the concept, the concept reflects itself only i the immediacy of being, by remaining implicated in immediate being as the immanent difference from itself, that is the concept. However, the ambivalence within Deleuze’s assessment of Hyppolite’s Hegelian configuration becomes clearly noticeable. In Deleuze’s perspective, Hyppolite’s text falls apart into two divergent projects: Whereas in the first part Hyppolite elaborates a philosophy of expression qua language in which expressivity is irreducible to contradiction, the second half of the book, in the eyes of Deleuze, turns out to be unfaithful to this approach. It is in this context that Deleuze attributes to Hyppolite the crucial flaw of speculative dialectics, namely the choice to „[carry] difference up to the absolute“ (Deleuze), to ultimately sublate difference into contradiction.

In my paper, I wish to argue against this picture of Hyppolite’s conception as a dualistically torn idealism. As it were, my strategy will be to explore the fecundity of the tension stigmatized by Deleuze. Rather than pushing difference all the way back down from contradiction to thereby obtain „différence pure“ (Deleuze) as a generative principle which in itself is prior to empirical diversity, it may be promising to return to Hyppolite’s view of difference as an expressivity below the concept, but above empirical diversity. For that matter, I wish to describe Hyppolite as the „vanishing“ (or even the vanished) mediator of a metaphysics of differencewhose blueprint his particular Hegelianism incorporates. It shall be the objective of my talk to spell out the systematic structure of a metaphysics of difference which Hyppolite seems to have bequeathed to contemporary thought only between the lines of his Hegelianism.           

Thomas Ebke

* academic assistant at the department of philosophy at the University of Potsdam

* current project: metaphysics of difference, with the philosophies of Jean Hyppolite and Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi as crucial sources

* title of the dissertation (translated from the German original): Vital knowledge of life. On the interlacing between Plessner’s philosophical anthropology and Canguilhem’s historical epistemology (Akademie Verlag 2012)

* German translation of G. Canguilhem’s articles on „Life“ and „Regulation“ for the Encyclopédia Universalis

* managing director of the German Society of Francophone Philosophy (DGFP)

*research interests: philosophical anthropology (in the sense of the German tradition: Scheler, Plessner, Gehlen), historical epistemology (particularly Canguilhem), philosophy of the cinema, German idealism, history of the reception of Hegel in France (particularly Hyppolite)

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