Reverberating the Glas: Towards a Deconstructive Account of Particularity in Hegel’s Logic of the Concept



Year of publication 2020
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Hegel Bulletin
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Keywords Hegel; concept; particularity; deconstruction; Derrida; example; paradigm
Description Understanding Hegel’s account of particularity has proven to be anything but straightforward. Two main accounts of particularity have been advanced: the particular as an example or instance and the particular as a subjective perspective on a universal concept. The problem with these accounts is that they reduce particularity either to singularity or to universality. As Derrida’s analyses make apparent, the ‘structure of exemplarity’ in Hegel is quite intricate. Hegel uses ‘example’ in three senses: it means (1) ‘instance’, ‘illustration’, or (2) ‘model’, ‘exemplary individual’, ‘paradigm’, or (3) a by-play (a meaning derived from Hegel’s neologism beiherspielen, in which Beispiel is understood quasi-etymologically as a ‘by-play’ of accidental moments). A Beispiel in the first sense can be replaced by another instance in a free play (by-play). This play of accidental moments, however, is not entirely free; it generates a series (of replacements) that ultimately leads to an example in the second sense, to an exemplary individual. I argue that particularity can be taken as exemplarity of this kind, oscillating between a singular example and a universal paradigm. Within this by-play, the universal concept, its law, is supposed to be mediated and determined. However, out of the differences between the examples the by-play induces another law, the law of non-mediation, which may, in Derrida’s view, actually negate the dialectical movement towards universality. I argue, utilizing Malabou’s concept of plasticity, that this disruption may be recovered. This implies that each individual example within a series is a particular determination of the universal. Hence, we can take literally Hegel’s claim that the movement of the concept is play.
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