The Beginning of Spirit As We Know It: Hegel's Mother, F Ruda

Tags: German Idealism, Kierkegaard, Adrian Johnston, Science of Logic, Hegel, Schelling, transcendental idealism, University of Chicago Press, Johannes Climacus, MICHAEL O'NEILL, Louis Marin, human consciousness, J.G. Fichte, conceptual language, G.W.F. Hegel, Liverpool University, necessity, Slavoj Zizek, The Young Hegel, philosophical interest, Kant I. Gesammelte Schriften, University of California Press, Pippin R. Hegel, Hegel G. W. F., Hegel G. W. F. Lectures, Hegel G. W. F. Gesammelte, State University of New York Press, Friedrich Schelling, Immanuel Kant, Cornell University Press, Magee G. A. Hegel, Rose G. Hegel, Philosophy Department
Content: Russian Journal of Philosophy & Humanities Volume 1 · #2 · 2017 Establisher--Gaidar Institute for Economic Policy Editor-in-chief Valery Anashvili Guest editor Kirill Chepurin Editorial B oard: Alexander Bikbov, Vyacheslav Danilov, Dmitriy Kralechkin, Vitaly Kurennoy (science editor), Inna Kushnaryova, Michail Maiatsky, Yakov Okhonko (executive secretary), Alexander Pavlov, Artem Smirnov, Rouslan Khestanov, Igor Chubarov Editorial Council: Petar Bojani (Belgrade), Georgi Derluguian (New York, Abu-Dhabi), Boris Groys (New York), Gasan Guseynov (Basel), Klaus Held (Wuppertal), Leonid Ionin (Moscow), Boris Kapustin (New Haven), Dragan Kujundzic (Gainesville), Vladimir Mau (Council Chair, Moscow), Christian Mцckel (Berlin), Victor Molchanov (Moscow), Frithjof Rodi (Bochum), Blair Ruble (Washington, D.C.), Sergey Sinelnikov-Murylev (Moscow), Maxim Viktorov (Moscow), Mikhail Yampolsky (New York), Slavoj Zizek (Lublyana), Sergey Zuev (Moscow) Executive editor Elena Popova Design Sergey Zinoviev Layout Anastasia Meyerson project manager Kirill Martynov Website editor Egor Sokolov E-mail: [email protected] Website: Facebook: Twitter: All published materials passed review and expert selection procedure © Gaidar Institute Press, 2017
Contents 1 German Idealism after Finitude 3 Daniel Whistler. Abstraction and Utopia in Early German Idealism 23 Adrian Johnston. Contingency, Pure Contingency--Without Any Further Determination: Modal Categories in Hegelian Logic 49 Alex D ubilet. Speculation and Infinite Life: Hegel and Meister Eckhart on the Critique of Finitude 71 Kirill Chepurin. Beginning with Kant: Utopia, Immanence, and the Origin of German Idealism 91 Frank Ruda. The Beginning of Spirit As We Know It: Hegel's Mother 115 Oxana Timofeeva. The Owl and the Angel 135 Michael O'Neill Burns. Kierkegaard, Fichte and the Subject of Idealism 155 Dave Mesing. Debordian Strategists: Agamben and Virno on the Coming Politics ii
German Idealism after Finitude
IN the landscape of contemporary thought, German Idealism has again become a central--and contested--territory. As borders are being re-drawn, new alliances formed, and large-scale theoretical battles fought, major lines of conflict and division pass again through Kant, Hegel and Schelling. This has to do not only with the fact that German Idealism was a foundational epoch of thought whose influences resonate across the past two centuries and into today--although that is, of course, a prominent factor in its contemporary uses, employed, for instance, polemically by Quentin Meillassoux in his influential (and divisive) diagnosis of the "correlationism" inhering in the dominant idealist-phenomenological tradition. The new prominence enjoyed today by German Idealism is also informed by the realization that, far from being `merely' historically or genealogically important, it re-emerges today as an important resource for working through the current theoretical predicament, given not least the striking similarity of the philosophical situation. After all, just as German Idealism itself constituted a reaction against skepticism, irrationalism or linguistic metacritique--so, too, the new philosophical interest, critical or constructive, in German Idealism is defined in no small part by contemporary thinking's attempt to move beyond postmodernism, philosophy of language or phenomenology and towards a post-deconstructive "speculative" stage, revisiting and revising such concepts as the absolute, infinity, nature, divinity or speculation and re-defining what it means to talk about or practice materialism, realism, speculative ontology or even Naturphilosophie. Those are just two factors that may help explain the current interest in new interpretations of German Idealism, attuned to novel theoretical frameworks; the reader will surely be able to adduce more. In this short introduction, my aim is not to go into detail, and I will not dwell here on the myriad of books, published or forthcoming, academic or more speculative, that take it upon themselves to rethink many pivotal aspects of the German idealist project(s). I will just note that, generally, the fact that we again find ourselves in a battle for the speculative, the infinite and even the transcendental does not equal going back to the philosophical map of Europe in the 1790s or 1800s. The current speculative and ontological turn is essentially constructive in character: the task today is not to deconstruct but, after the deconstruction has already taken place, to construct something new by experimenting on and with philosophical (as well as theological and other) material. When it comes to German Idealism in particular, what is at stake is reconstructing the speculative gesture itself
and its conditions of possibility in a new phase of thinking--t he stakes that coincide crucially with those of the entire turn beyond the postmodern. The question of why German Idealism has gained new relevance today or why it is genealogically important implies thus also a working with German Idealism--as both an allegiance and an experimentation. That kind of working-with is precisely the goal of this collection of papers under the heading "New Life of German Idealism," written by some of the best established and upcoming scholars belonging to what may be broadly called the new generation in continental German Idealism studies--the generation through which German Idealism acquires new life. What these papers share is the contemporary speculative context from which they approach German Idealism, and the sense of its philosophical relevance for the present and future. The main intention behind them as I see it is not so much to provide an analysis of existing approaches to and debates around German Idealism as to offer new interpretations and open up new conceptual pathways. The papers are arranged so as to move broadly from the more "abstract" topics and conceptualities (contingency, totality, utopia, immanence, or the concept of abstraction itself) to the more "human" or "concrete" (anthropology, history or subjectivity). My hope is that the reader will notice not just the shared theoretical backgrounds, but also all the ways, big and small, in which these texts conceptually echo each other. There is, for example, a certain configuration of immanence, groundlessness and impersonality to be found in all of them: an immanent objective generation of possibilities (Johnson); an immanent, impersonal and non-subjective inheritance of spirit (Ruda); an inhuman community (Timofeeva); impersonal immanence as such (Dubilet); the inhuman totality of utopian space (Whistler); a groundless and immanently expanding utopian origin (Chepurin); or an impersonal ontological reading of the Kierkegaardian subject (Burns). Another point of resonance is e.g. the conceptualization of ohne Warum, "without a why," in Johnson's and Dubilet's papers. Furthermore, in all the papers, even when it comes to concepts such as the human, subjectivity or, say, methodology, these are always ontologically grounded or inflected--b e it as an ontology of subjectivity (Burns), anthropological inheritance (Ruda), immanent life (Dubilet) or contingency (Johnson), an abyss between reality and freedom (Timofeeva), or ontologies of the utopian origin (Chepurin) and utopian space (Whistler). Ultimately, no matter the specific aspects of German Idealism they focus on, what these papers show is what can be done with German Idealism today and how it can be re-worked in contemporary, systematic and constructive, and not just de(con)structive ways. Kirill Chepurin
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Abstraction and Utopia in Early German Idealism Daniel Whistler Senior Lecturer, Philosophy Department, Liverpool University. Address: Mulberry Court, Mulberry Str., L697ZY Liverpool, UK. E-mail: [email protected] Keywords: Friedrich Schelling; Louis Marin; abstraction; utopia; early German idealism. Abstract: This paper is based on a close reading of the first five propositions of Schelling's Darstellung meines Systems der Philosophie (1801). The author argues that what is distinctive and significant about these propositions is that they both describe and create an ideal space determined by an athetic logic. The first five propositions of the 1801 Darstellung are intended to transport the reader outside of time and space, outside of affirmation and negation, to a neutralised utopia defined by three functions alone: abstraction, entailment and definition. The author considers this intention in the context of German Idealist discussions of abstraction: Hegel's critique of the abstract particular and abstractive methodology, as well as Fichte's and early Schelling's attempt to theorise abstraction as the starting point for the philosophical enterprise. This leads the author to consider what a philosophical text that practices abstraction and construction (rather than deduction, inference, or explanation) looks like, and he draws upon the early work of Louis Marin to characterise such a text as utopic. In so doing, he attempts to demonstrate the significance and cogency of a nondialectical, a-Hegelian tradition in early German Idealism that culminates in the opening pages of Schelling's 1801 Darstellung. 3
Vous utopisez а perte de vue. Diderot to the Abbй Morellet1
§1. Definition. I call reason absolute reason, or reason insofar as it is conceived as the total indifference of the subjective and objective... Reason's thought is foreign to everyone: to conceive it as absolute, and thus to come to the standpoint I require, one must abstract from what does the thinking. For the one who performs this abstraction reason immediately ceases to be something subjective, as most people imagine it. It can of course no longer be conceived as something objective either... §2. Outside reason is nothing, and in it is everything. If reason is conceived as we have asked in §1, one immediately becomes aware that nothing could be outside it... Remark. There is no philosophy except from the standpoint of the absolute... §3. Reason is simply one and simply self-identical... §4. The ultimate law for the being of reason, and, since there is noth- ing outside reason, for all being (because it is comprehended within reason) is the law of identity, which with respect to all being is expressed as A=A. The proof follows immediately from §3 and the propositions that precede it... §5. Definition. I call the A of the first position the subject, to differentiate it from that of the second, the predicate. 2
1. Denis Diderot, Apologie de l'Abbй Galiani in Oeuvres politiques, ed. Paul Verniиre (Paris: Garnier, 1963), 91. 2. F.W.J. Schelling, Werke, ed. K.F.A. Schelling (Stuttgart: Cotta, 1856-61), 4:114-7; Presentation of My System of Philosophy, trans. Michael Vater, in Philosophical Forum 32.4 (2001), 349-51.
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SUCH are the first five propositions of Schelling's Darstellung meines Systems der Philosophy, published in May 1801. What follows attends to what is distinctive and significant about these lines; that is, I argue that not only do they describe a kind of ideal space for philosophising outside of existence, subjectivity, objectivity, action and reaction--a space determined by an a-thetic logic--these opening lines also perform this logic themselves. The first five propositions of the 1801 Darstellung are intended to transport the reader outside of time and space, outside of affirmation and negation, to a neutralised utopia defined by three functions alone: abstraction, entailment and definition. What is conspicuously missing from these propositions is any form of positing, whether thetic, antithetic or synthetic. For Fichte, Hegel and even Kant, some form of Setzen makes experience possible, gives rise to being and existence or motors the dialectical movement of reality. Schelling's text, however, is indifferent to all positing. From a Hegelian or even Fichtean perspective, such a philosophical space is impossible and can only be attained by means of an illegitimate act of transcendence, i.e. `abstraction'. The task of this paper is to get to grips with this Schellingian performance of abstraction, thereby making sense of the impossible space which opens the 1801 Darstellung. What is more, the chronological significance of these propositions should not be lost from view. Crudely put, in May 1801 Schelling stuck his neck out and began philosophising for himself. The Darstellung meines Systems der Philosophy has the emphasis placed firmly on `meines'; here Schelling becomes a Schellingian. However, the 1801 Darstellung, is a tricky character, one which resists our standard categories for interpreting German Idealism: there is no dialectic, no movement, no time or history, nor even--despite Schelling's reputation-- any mystical intuition. In fact, at this time Schelling falls foul of many of the accusations that Hegel will surreptitiously make of him in the Phдnomenologie: just as Hegel complains of him, he does proceed to the absolute `like a shot from a pistol', he does construct schema after schema `monochromatically', he does mix philosophy up with natural science, mathematics and many other disciplines, he does indeed put forward a rigorously Eleatic monism that does away with finite individuals (at least as one normally understands them). The task facing any post-Hegelian reconstruction of Schelling's 1801 Darstellung is, therefore, to defend it against the widespread intuition that the above somehow leads directly to the invalidation of Schelling's thought, that merely to subscribe to these tenets is prima facie to practise bad philosophy. This task involves making explicit the cogency of Schelling's thinking precisely as monochromatic and Eleatic, etc. What follows is
a very small contribution to this task: an attempt to demonstrate the significance and cogency of a non-dialectical, a-Hegelian tradition in early German Idealism that culminates in the opening pages of Schelling's Darstellung, a tradition knotted around the concept of abstraction. 1. Impossible Transcendence The poverty of the abstract is supposedly a decisive moral to be drawn from German Idealism; hence, the Hegelian dictum, `Think abstractly? Sauve qui peut!'3 Or, more fully, `the abstract universal... is an isolated, imperfect moment of the Notion and has no truth.'4 What I want to suggest, however, is that prior to and in opposition to Hegel's dialectical suspicion of the abstract, there is a generative conception of abstraction to be found elsewhere in German Idealism--i n, what one might call, the utopic strand of German Idealism. One way-in to this other strand is through Hegel's own critique of transcendental methodology, particularly the limit argument he repeatedly deploys against it. The point here is to take seriously Hegel's implicit contention that there is in fact a distinctive and very different way of doing philosophy at play within German Idealism here being attacked and refuted, a utopic alternative. The Enzyklopдdie Logik version of the limit argument runs, It is the supreme inconsistency to admit, on the one hand, that the understanding is cognizant only of appearances and to assert, on the other,... cognition cannot go any further, this is the natural, absolute restriction of human knowing... Something is only known, or even felt, to be a restriction, or a defect, if one is at the same time beyond it... There can be no knowledge of limit unless the Unlimited is on this side within consciousness.5 Or, as Hegel summarises it in the Vorlesungen ьber die Geschichte der Philosophie, `Kant says that we must remain at what is one-sided, at the very moment when he is passing out beyond it.'6 Hegel criticises Kant
3. G.W.F. Hegel, `Who Thinks Abstractly?' in Hegel: Texts and Commentary, ed. and trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Anchor, 1966), 113. 4. G.W.F. Hegel, Science of Logic, trans. A. V. Miller (London: Prometheus, 1969), 604. 5. G.W.F. Hegel, The Encyclopaedia Logic, trans. T.F. Geraets et al (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1992), §60. 6. G.W.F. Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy, trans. E.S. Haldane and Frances H. Simson (London: Routledge, 1896), 3:472. An early version of this argument is also to be found in G.W.F. Hegel, Faith and Knowledge, trans. Wal-
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for transcending the limits of human cognition at the same time as deeming such transcendence impossible, i.e. in order to limit knowledge, he must himself have already gone beyond such limitations to recognise them as limits. By Kant's own lights, therefore, philosophy seems to be methodologically constituted by an impossible transcendence. The transcendental philosopher illegitimately takes up an impossible position outside of the limits of experience from which to conduct a critique of the given. This is a methodological standpoint that exists under erasure or, to put it slightly differently, the philosopher here generates an impossible space, a no-place--w hich is simultaneously a good-place from which to do critical philosophy. The transcendental philosopher creates a methodological utopia for herself, and it is the utopianism of this transcendental methodology that bears the brunt of Hegel's criticism here. Hegel closely ties two further criticisms to the limit argument. First, the poverty of immediacy: as he writes of Kant, `This standpoint lacks mediation, and thus remains at the immediate,'7 echoing the `like a shot from a pistol' line from the Phдnomenologie8. Transcendental methodology immediately posits itself in a place in which its cognition is already secure. It knows prematurely. Hegel articulates this more fully as follows, `There soon creeps in the mistaken project of wanting to have cognition before we have any cognition, or of wanting to go into the water before we have learned to swim.'9 The Kantian's impossible transcendence is also to be understood as an illegitimate way of claiming knowledge too soon. The philosopher immediately posits herself outside of the limits of cognition in order to determine such limits. This moment of transcendence always occurs too early: not only is it impossible, it is also premature. Moreover, and appropriately enough, Hegel goes on to identify this methodology with the production of the abstract. He writes, transcendental philosophy gives rise to `the empty abstractions of an under-
ter Cerf and H.S. Harris (Albany: SUNY Press, 1977), 89. For a recent reconstruction of the limit argument that places it at the centre of Hegel's philosophy, see A.W. Moore, The Evolution of Modern Metaphysics: Making Sense of Things (Cambridge: CUP, 2011), 164-6. Moore earlier writes of Hegel's critique of Kant in this regard, `Can Kant, when he draws a limit to our thick sense-making, do so from anywhere inside that limit, or must he do so from somewhere outside it?... Must we not therefore already have taken a step back from the human standpoint?' (138-9) The inhumanity of abstraction will soon become apparent in regard to Schelling's programme for a philosophy of nature; see fn. 38. 7. Hegel, History of Philosophy, 3:475. 8. G.W.F. Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, trans. A.V. Miller (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), §27. 9. Hegel, Encyclopaedia Logic, §41.
standing which keeps itself in the abstract universal'.10 This is `a radically abstract thinking'.11 And its abstract character is a direct consequence of the above: the philosopher who immediately transcends limits to determine them prematurely from outside can know them merely externally. She imposes properties onto phenomena from above, rather than making them explicit from within. Cognition is forever absehen von, set apart from what is known. It is against such a paradigm of abstract and impossible transcendence that Hegel puts forward the model of dialectic, which `is not brought to bear on the thought-determinations from outside; on the contrary, it must be considered as dwelling within them.'12 Dialectic is immersive.13 2. Generative Abstraction It is Fichte who had first fully articulated the utopic methodology that Hegel later criticised14; indeed, Fichte is very explicit about the utopic 10. Hegel, History of Philosophy, 3:472. 11. Hegel, Encyclopaedia Logic, §52. 12. Ibid., §41. 13. This is not to say that Hegel himself merely employs `abstract' and its cognates in a negative sense; the word retains some ambivalence in his mature thought. As Osborne puts it, `In its adjectival form "abstract" (abstrakt) thus remained a predominantly derogatory term in Hegel's lexicon. It denotes the one-sidedness and finitude of the concepts of the understanding... For Hegel, "bad" abstractions are the one-sided, oppositional abstractions of the understanding, considered as if they are true forms of knowledge. "Good" abstraction is the concrete abstraction of the absolute idea, containing within itself the systematic relations between the abstractions of the understanding.' Peter Osborne, `The Reproach of Abstraction' in Radical Philosophy 127 (2004), 25. Such ambivalence is even more marked in Hegel's early thought (during his `Schelling-discipleship' in 1801, in particular); for example, G.W.F. Hegel, The Difference between Fichte's and Schelling's System of Philosophy, trans. H.S. Harris and Walter Cerf (Albany: SUNY, 1977), 97, 113. It is also the case that Hegel's philosophy can be said to only incompletely ward off the `reproach of abstraction' itself: for accounts of Hegel's unacknowledged commitment to methodological `bad' abstractions, see Lisabeth During, `Hegel's Critique of Transcendence' in Man and World 21 (1988), 287-305 and Andrew Buchwalter, `Hegel, Marx and the Concept of Immanent Critique' in Journal of the History of Philosophy 29.9 (1991), 260-7. 14. While it is explicitly Kant's name that is deployed by Hegel in the above, the method of abstraction is still obscured in his work. The clearest commitment to abstraction in the critical philosophy occurs in a methodological coda to the `Transcendental Aesthetic': `In the transcendental aesthetic we shall, therefore, first isolate sensibility, by taking away from it everything which the understanding thinks through its concepts, so that nothing may be left save empirical intuition. Secondly, we shall also separate off from it everything which belongs to sensation, so that nothing may remain save pure intuition and the 8 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
act of impossible transcendence that orients his philosophy. In the Erste Einleitung he writes, A finite rational being possesses nothing whatsoever beyond experience. The entire contents of his thinking are comprised within experience. These same conditions necessarily apply to the philosopher, and thus it appears incomprehensible how he could ever succeed in elevating himself above experience. The philosopher, however, is able to engage in abstraction. That is to say, by means of a free act of thinking he is able to separate things that are connected with each other within experience... and when he does so he has abstracted from experience and has thereby succeeded in elevating himself above experience.15 For Fichte, abstraction designates precisely that act by which the philosopher incomprehensibly rises above experience. The human is defined as what is limited to experience and this limitation `necessarily applies to the philosopher'--a nd yet, nonetheless and almost miraculously, by means of abstraction the philosopher generates an impossible space beyond experience from which genuine philosophy can be conducted. The philosopher manages to achieve what no human can: utopia. Hence, the impossible but successful experiment of abstraction founds philosophy, according to Fichte, and to this extent he adheres to the Hegelian caricature of transcendental methodology rehearsed above. However, Fichte counters that the type of knowledge that arises from this initial act of abstraction is not one-sided, empty or poor, but richer than it otherwise would have been. This is a form of abstraction that is generative: it makes appear to the philosopher aspects of reality not evident before. This is how Breazeale puts it, We are no more conscious of our immediate `feelings' than we are of the immediate unity of subject and object that is expressed in the Tathandlung... [They] become objects of thetic consciousness only within philosophical reflection, where they are abstracted from the full, rich context of lived experience.16
mere form of appearances.' (Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Norman Kemp-Smith (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 1929), A22/B36) See also Immanuel Kant, `The Jдsche Logic' in Lectures on Logic, ed. and trans. J. Michael Young (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), §6. 15. J.G. Fichte, `An Attempt at a New Presentation of the Wissenschaftslehre' in Introductions to the Wissenschaftslehre, ed. and trans. Daniel Breazeale (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1994), 10-1. 16. Daniel Breazeale, `Fichte's Abstract Realism' in Daniel O. Dahlstrom and Michael Baur (eds), The Emergence of German Idealism (Washington: CUA Press, 1999), 112; my emphasis.
Only by neutralising `lived experience' in abstraction does properly philosophical content come to consciousness. Moreover, Fichte is very clear, and this is central to what follows, abstraction is not negation. One does not actively cancel that from which one abstracts, one becomes indifferent to it. Abstraction is the proper operation of indifference. In Fichte's words, `The concept... is here not thought of at all--either positively or negatively.'17 The abstracted element is not posited in any form; there is a suspension of judgment (an epoch), rather than an antithetic judgment. Fichte's insistence on the fundamental difference between abstraction and negation needs to be contrasted with Hegel's collapsing of abstraction into another modality of negation. Here, for example, is Hegel's definition of abstraction in `Who Thinks Abstractly?', `This is abstract thinking: to see nothing in the murderer except the abstract fact that he is a murderer, and to annul all other human essence in him with this simple quality.'18 For Hegel, abstraction `annuls', and in so doing, the hegemony of the dialectic, motored by negation, is preserved. Nevertheless, there is a line of thought in early German Idealism that insists forcefully on the fundamental distinction between abstraction and negation, as evidenced in Fichte and, as we shall see, in the Schelling of 1801. To emphasise: since abstraction is not negation for Fichte, a philosophy premised on it possesses (at least) one non-dialectical moment. Abstraction cannot be subsumed into a dialectical play of negation and negation of negation, for it obeys a different logic. The early philosophies of Fichte and Schelling, premised as they are on this initial act of abstraction, offer therefore something different to the hegemony of dialectic, concreteness and immanent critique bequeathed by Hegelian thought, a utopic alternative within early German Idealism resistant to the pull of the concrete universal. 3. Fichte's Problem--v ia Manet Nevertheless, Fichte's account of abstraction is limited in one regard at least and I wish to name the limitation manifest here the problem of `the immune transcendental'. That is, Fichte proposes that one begin philosophising by abstracting from the object of intuition to isolate the self or the intuiting activity: `One should continue to abstract from everything possible, until something remains from which it is total- 17. Fichte, `New Presentation', 39. 18. Hegel, `Who Thinks Abstractly?', 117; my emphasis. 10 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
ly impossible to abstract. What remains is the pure I.'19 For Fichte, the abstracting I remains a limit; it is what is left over after the most thoroughgoing procedure of abstraction has removed every object of consciousness. Moreover, this I is unabstractable precisely, it seems, because it is what makes the activity possible in the first place. The transcendental condition of abstraction cannot itself be abstracted; it is itself immune from the process. The self remains untouched by its own operation of abstraction. This logic can be further illustrated by means of a very different example: Georges Bataille's Manet. For Bataille, Manet's painting can be characterised by the process of indifferentiation or abstraction: Stripped to its essentials, Manet's sober elegance almost immediately struck a note of utter integrity by virtue not simply of its indifference to the subject, but of the active self-assurance with which it expressed that indifference. Manet's was supreme indifference, effortless and stinging... His sobriety was the more complete and efficacious in moving from a passive to an active state. This active, resolute sobriety was the source of Manet's supreme elegance.20 Bataille picks Manet's Execution of Maximillian as an example of such abstraction: it refuses to empathise or to take sides, or even to engender affects in the spectator. The representation of murder is achieved as an affectless still-life: Manet deliberately rendered the condemned man's death with the same indifference as if he had chosen a fish or a flower for his subject... On the face of it, death, coldly, methodically dealt out by a firing-squad, precludes an indifferent treatment; such a subject is nothing if not charged with meaning for each one of us. But Manet approached it with an almost callous indifference that the spectator, surprisingly enough, shares to the full.21 Whether the painting depicts murder or fruit is a matter of indifference to Manet: he `put the image of man on the same footing as that of roses or buns'.22 Indifferentiation is actively pursued in the name of the
19. J.G. Fichte, `Concerning the Difference between the Spirit and the Letter within Philosophy' in Early Philosophical Writings, ed. and trans. Daniel Breazeale (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1988), 204. 20. Georges Bataille, Manet, trans. Austyn Wainhouse and James Emmons (New York: Skira, 1983), 73. 21. Ibid., 46. 22. Ibid., 97.
neutral; as Bataille puts it of the Masked Ball at the Opera, `every figure seems quite neutral.'23 However, it is precisely here, when we begin to consider the process of abstraction in Manet's painting, that the very same problem that haunted Fichte recurs. According to Bataille, Manet's `subversion' takes the form of an aestheticism that repudiates life, vitality and significance for the sake of reaffirming an insular sovereign subject who basks in his own creative powers. Manet subtracts from the world in the name of the self, finding in his paintings a mere reflection of his own mastery. In other words, the affect by which Manet indifferentiates the world is one of condescension: the construction of a master-subject over and above the material from which he is abstracting. Condescension names the affect that results when everything becomes indifferent except the self. This non-totalising operation of indifferentiation, moreover, reaffirms the problematic transcendental structure identified in Fichte's account. In both cases, the operation of neutralisation or abstraction is shown up as incomplete; in both cases, there is a limit beyond which it cannot pass, and this limit corresponds to the necessary condition that makes the operation itself possible. A final way of articulating this problem is in terms of utopia: Bataille's Manet and Fichte both replicate the logic of a `bad utopia', creating a transcendent, otherworldly space (the space of the painting or the thetic space, respectively) that puts into question all worldly values apart from those the utopia is itself affirming. In Louis Marin's words, `The utopian critique is ideological because it is not itself the object of a critique.'24 In other words, the critique is here incomplete, resulting in the construction of a secure domain in which all values are scrutinised apart from its own. Such, once more, is the problem of the immune transcendental. My question for the second half of this paper is, therefore, whether Schelling's account of abstraction in 1801 necessarily suffers from this problem too, or whether other forms of abstraction and indifference are possible. At stake, then, are a notion of totalising abstraction and the identification of a good utopia. This would provide the basis for a procedure of abstraction that put its own transcendental conditions into question while still rejecting the dialectical valorisation of the concrete universal. 23. Ibid., 86. 24. Louis Marin, Utopics: The Semiological Play of Textual Spaces, trans. Robert A. Vollrath (New York: Humanity Books, 1984), 195. 12 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
4. Immersive Abstraction In January 1801, Schelling found himself trying to articulate what distinguished his methodology for a philosophy of nature from Fichte's.25 He writes, `The reason that those who have grasped idealism well have not understood philosophy of nature is because it is difficult or impossible for them to detach themselves from [the methodology of Fichtean idealism].'26 The shortcomings of the latter are clear to Schelling, and once more revolve around the centrality of the self. Fichte remains bound by the concerns and structures of the self, never transcending them to intuit anything more: `During the entire [Fichtean] investigation I never get out of myself.'27 The Fichtean idealist remains trapped in `the circle of consciousness' which is `inescapable'28. Here the philosopher is both the subject and object of her philosophical interest: she is the one philosophising and she is also the one being philosophised about; philosophical narcissism at its most extreme. What, then, is Schelling's alternative to the Fichtean model? It is, surprisingly enough, abstraction. Even though Fichte had so often spoken of abstraction, Schelling still uses the very same concept to name that methodological practice that distinguishes them, and so enables an escape from the circle of consciousness: To see the objective in its first coming-into-being is only possible by depotentiating... This is only possible through abstraction.29 So, Schelling's assertion is odd: both Schelling and Fichte make recourse to abstraction as a central methodological operation, as we have seen, but yet it is precisely here that Schelling considers his methodological differences from Fichte to be most evident. And this must be because he has somehow transformed this concept to mean something contrary to its Fichtean use, which turns out to be the case. For Schelling, unlike Fichte, abstraction takes one towards the world, not away from it. While the Fichtean idealist raises himself above the adulterated objects of ordinary experience through 25. For a detailed reconstruction of Schelling's doctrine of abstraction in 1801, particularly in contrast to Fichte's account, see Daniel Whistler, `Schelling's Doctrine of Abstraction' in Pli 26 (2014), 58-81. 26. Schelling, Werke, 4:87; F.W.J. Schelling, `On the True Concept of Philosophy of Nature and the Correct Way of Solving its Problems', trans. Judith Kahl and Daniel Whistler in Pli 26 (2014), 14. 27. Ibid., 4:89; 11. 28. Ibid., 4:90; 12. 29. Ibid., 4:89; 12.
an act of abstraction (potentiation), in a subversion of the idealist the Schellingian philosopher transcends `beneath' the limits of consciousness into the depths of nature (depotentiation).30 Thus, in Ьber den wahren Begriff der Naturphilosophie, Schelling differentiates his own methodology from Fichte's as follows. The Fichtean alters (or potentiates) the object (i.e. nature) until it becomes identical to the subject: to bring nature into the mind and make it into a sensation or perception. Yet, there is a major problem here, according to Schelling: that which is not raised to the potency of consciousness still remains hidden from the philosopher. That is, reality exists at non-conscious as well as conscious potencies, and the former are not accessible to the Fichtean. Here is how Schelling puts it, `[The Fichtean] can behold nothing objective other than in the moment of its entry into consciousness... and no longer in its original coming-into-being at the moment of its first emergence (in non-conscious activity).'31 To limit the philosophical task merely to the raising of reality into consciousness is therefore to foreclose on the study and description of the non-conscious potencies. Schelling contends that through Fichte's method, `I assume myself already in the highest potency, and therefore the question is likewise only answered for this potency.'32 The Schellingian proceeds in the opposite direction: to alter consciousness so that it becomes identical to (and can therefore know) non-conscious reality. That is, instead of altering nature and bringing it into identity with consciousness, what requires changing is consciousness in order to bring it into equality with nature. The philosopher must reduce her intuiting down to the lower potencies, so as to become one with the unperceived, hidden natural world: she must become like nature, immerse herself in it.33 So, for Schelling the crucial methodological question in fact runs: what need the philosopher do to herself in order to become nature? And the answer is to be found in abstraction. In Ьber den wahren Begriff der Naturphilosophie, abstraction is the prac- 30. Hence, `abstraction' names one of the ways by which the Schellingian philosopher refuses the German Idealist arms-race of `going-meta'. Abstraction in its Schellingian subversion ends up reinstating the priority of the immanent and the worldly. Schelling `abstracts' in order to philosophise about stones. 31. Ibid., 4:89; 12. 32. Ibid., 4:90; 11; my emphasis. 33. Hence, the `of ' in philosophy of nature not only functions as an objective geni- tive (philosophy about nature), but also and primarily as a subjective genitive (philosophy from the viewpoint of nature); hence, the inhumanity of the abstractive standpoint. 14 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
tice that immerses the philosopher in the world. To repeat the crucial passage in full, To see the objective in its first coming-into-being is only possible by depotentiating the object of all philosophising, which in the highest potency is = I, and then constructing, from the beginning, with this object reduced to the first potency. This is only possible through abstraction.34 Nature at all of its levels of productivity, not merely the conscious, only becomes visible through a process of abstractive depotentiation by which philosophy shifts away from the high potencies in which Fichte philosophised and scours the low potencies for how nature comes to be. This form of abstraction differentiates Schelling from Fichte: `With this abstraction one moves from the realm of the Wissenschaftslehre into pure-theoretical philosophy.'35 According to the true concept of philosophy of nature, philosophy must be taken to the potency 0, to its very depths, through abstraction, before gradually reconstructing reality through all its potencies, mimicking the productive force of nature. The opposition between Schellingian and Fichtean abstraction can thus be schematised according to the following figure: Highest potency (freedom/pure thetic positing of the I) Practical abstraction (the beginning of the Wissenschaftslehre) Ordinary/pre-philosophical consciousness Theoretical abstraction (the beginning of Naturphilosophie) Potency 0 (non-conscious emergence of nature/pure productivity) 5. Abstraction without Limit Moreover, this change in orientation takes place because Schelling conceives of abstraction without limit, a totalising process of abstracting that not only indifferentiates all objects of experience, but the subject (and so the very act of abstracting) as well. For Fichte, abstraction reaches a limit with the subject; for Schelling it occurs without limits. The Schellingian process of abstraction neutralises both the subjective and the objective, so as to bring about pure indifference.
34. Ibid., 4:90; 12. 35. Ibid.
Hence, the Identitдtssystem itself begins in Schelling's 1801 Darstellung meines Systems der Philosophie with an initial methodological moment of abstraction from both what is subjective and what is objective.36 The first of the five propositions with which this essay started begins thus, I call reason absolute reason or reason as it is conceived as the total indifference of the subjective and the objective... Reason's thought is foreign to everyone: to conceive it as absolute, and thus to come to the standpoint I require, one must abstract from what does the thinking. For the one who performs this abstraction reason immediately ceases to be something subjective.... [Reason] can of course no longer be conceived as something objective either, since an objective something... only becomes possible in contrast to a thinking something, from which there is complete abstraction here. 37 Both the subject and the object are neutralised so as to isolate what Schelling here calls `the total indifference of the subjective and the objective'. Insofar as one abstracts from what is subjective for consciousness, one abstracts from what is objective for consciousness too. This is for the simple reason that one is inhumanly abstracting from consciousness as such, and so from the structural opposition of subjectivity and objectivity that it establishes. It is not the case that Fichtean abstraction merely removes what is objective, while Schellingian abstraction neutralises the subjective; rather, Schelling shows that the `true' process of abstraction--and the only one that is coherent--i s one which is shown to neutralise both the subjective and the objective insofar as they are qualitatively distinct in the name of a `pure' subject-object. Therefore, complete abstraction generates absolute indifference. This totalising gesture of abstraction presupposes the value--and even terror--of the abstract against the concrete (thereby refusing dialectics) and also the neutralisation of even its own transcendental conditions. What we begin to glimpse in the opening of Schelling's Identitдtssystem, then, is the structure of a `good utopia'. Indifferentiation is absolute for Schelling: nothing is posited whatsoever. The philosophical realm is 36. The 1801 Darstellung does, nevertheless, still limit abstraction in one way: to the philosophisable. Thus, nonbeing, which Schelling identifies with the non-rational and non-philosophisable in §2 of the work, remains external to its operation, and with it those aspects of reality which the Schelling of 1801 consigns to nonbeing, e.g. time, force, history and qualitative difference. In many ways, the subsequent attempts at the Identitдtssystem over the next few years constitute Schelling's repeated attempts to recuperate such aspects for the abstracting philosopher. 37. Schelling, Werke, 4:114-5; Presentation, 349. 16 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
constituted for him by a complete suspension of all judgment (absolute epoch). To abstract is to create a space for philosophising indifferent to positing, indifferent to self-consciousness, indeed indifferent to anything subjective or objective whatsoever. Such a philosophical space performs absolute indifference.38 *** This textual operation of abstraction also provides a crucial clue to a recurrent question for readers of Schelling's output: what precisely does a philosophical text do? That is, during this period, Schelling is keen to expel many typical modes of argumentation, explanation and description from the genuine philosophical enterprise. For example, he rejects all forms of description based on the category of representation, for they presuppose a dualism in which `on the one side [stands] thinking and on the other side matter or the empirical in general'39, and thus contravene the demands of identity. Schelling's task is thus to philosophise without recourse to the category of representation (or any of its correlates, such as reflection, correspondence or even adequacy): since representation is an inadequate category for understanding the activity of philosophising, there is a metaphilosophical need to think philosophical activity without representation. In the first of his Fernere Darstellungen, Schelling insists, moreover, that deduction, derivation, inference, explanation, even analysis and synthesis, are inadequate modes of cognition.40 Insofar as they presuppose the principle of causality or separate and conditioned finite entities, such methods are productive of `non-knowledge' that `dissolves into complete nothingness.'41 In general, `All these modes of cog- 38. One should also stress the radicality of Schelling's position here: it is through becoming indifferent to consciousness that one gains knowledge. To philosophise, Schelling states, I had `to posit [the I] as non-conscious... not = I.' (Schelling, Werke, 4:92; `On the True Concept', 14) As one depotentiates one's conscious attention, one intensifies one's knowledge. More is known through less--less freedom, less personality, less thinking. This is partly why one ought to designate the perspective made possible by abstraction as an impossible or utopic one; for how is it possible to know without consciousness? How philosophise thoughtlessly? The contemporary significance of these questions can be brought out in reference to questions which haunt Brassier's Nihil Unbound: `How does thought think the death of thought?' i.e. how does `the subject of philosophy... recognise that he or she is already dead'? Ray Brassier, Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 223, 239. 39. Schelling, Werke, 4:341. On the critique of representation, see further ibid., 6:137-40. 40. Schelling, Werke, 4:343-6. 41. Ibid., 4:343-4.
nition are false per se, according to their principle. They are an eternal and flowing source of error.--It is not only these specific forms which must change, but the whole outlook must be fully reversed and reconfigured.'42 Hence, there remains the question of precisely what Schellingian philosophy does, if description, explanation and all modes of argumentation are unavailable to it. If it does not argue, explain or describe, what then? The answer is, in short, that Schelling's writings are made up of Darstellungen: his philosophical texts exhibit. The very fact that Schelling entitles so many of his works `Darstellung' is itself evidence of this: the task of his texts is to exhibit reality linguistically, or, as he puts it more grandiosely himself, `Philosophy is the immediate or direct Darstellung of the divine.'43 In this way, the first five propositions of the 1801 Darstellung consist in, what Schelling elsewhere calls, `Darstellung with complete indifference'44--a perfect textual symbol of a-thetic space, or (quite literally) `a figure of the absolute'.45 Here, reality instantiates itself a-thetically. There are two components to this procedure of exhibition: abstraction and construction. This is not the place to discuss Schellingian construction at length46, but it is worth noting that these two complementary operations are both non-dialectical, insofar as they produce abstract particulars, rather than concrete universals. Following Kant, Schelling conceives construction as a procedure of exhibiting ideas in intuition, and since intuitions are particulars, constructions are to be understood as particular instantiations of abstract entities.47 The abstracted impossible space, which I have been outlining in this essay, is similarly both particular and abstract. The Schellingian text as a whole is an abstract particular: in place of argumentation, explanation or description, the first five propositions of the 1801 Darstellung generate abstract particulars in language that are intended to exhibit reality indifferently. 42. Ibid., 4:342. Schelling also attacks modes of critical and sceptical argument in a later section of the work (ibid., 4:350-52). 43. Ibid., 5:381; F.W.J. Schelling, Philosophy of Art, trans. Douglas W. Stott (Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press, 1989), 29. 44. Ibid., 5:411; 49. 45. Alberto Toscano, `Philosophy and the Experience of Construction' in Jane Nor- man and Alistair Welchman (eds), The New Schelling (London: Continuum, 2004), 117. 46. See Whistler, Schelling's Theory of Symbolic Language, Chapter Six. 47. See Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, A713/B741, and Schelling's endorsement of this definition in Werke, 5:128; F.W.J. Schelling, `On Construction in Philosophy', trans. Andrew A. Davis and Alexi Kukeljevic in Epochй 12.2 (2008), 273. 18 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
6. The Utopic Space of the 1801 Darstellung The above Schellingian procedure can, I wish to conclude, be precisely denoted as the production of a utopic space. For Schelling's conception of abstraction reinforces the contemporary link between utopia and the neutral, first invoked by Louis Marin in the early `70s and subsequently informing Barthes' 1978 Collиge de France lectures (indeed, the figure of the neutral was itself to provide a kind of utopic asylum from the structuralist hegemony of the signifier for Blanchot and those following him).48 Even Derrida, whose anti-utopianism often prevents him from properly appropriating the Blanchotian neutral, echoes Fichte in asserting the resistance to dialectics within the operation of neutralisation: `The movement of the neuter is evidently neither negative nor dialectical.'49 It is Marin, however, in his identification of utopia with the neuter, who approaches the a-thetic logic of Schellingian abstraction most closely. For him, the utopic space is `the place of the neutral'50, or more fully, `the place where mutual neutralisation occurs between contrary properties'.51 Schelling's performance of immersive abstraction converges with such a definition of utopia, i.e. as `the discursive expression of the neutral (defined as "neither one nor the other" of contraries).'52 Here, the contraries of subject and object are reciprocally neutralised, such that this no-place ultimately forms an impossible space. Marin writes, [Utopia] has no negative function because it comes before judgment or even a position one might take... neither before nor after affirmation or negation but between them... Neither yes nor no, true nor false, one nor the other: this is the neutral... This neutral is the span between true and false, opening within discourse a space discourse cannot receive. It is a third term, but a supplementary third term, not synthetic.53 The utopic space is an a-thetic space resistant to the dialectical ruses of contradiction and negation; indeed, it is a-Hegelian, or, in Marin's words, `the zero degree of the Hegelian synthesis'.54 Marin expresses this
48. On the above, see R. Teeuwen, `An Epoch of Rest: Barthes' "Neutral" and the Utopia of Weariness' in Cultural Critique 80 (2012), 1-26. 49. Jacques Derrida, Parages (Paris: Galilйe, 1986), 70. 50. Marin, Utopics, 11. 51. Ibid., 13. 52. Ibid., xiii. 53. Ibid., 7. 54. Ibid., 7.
resistance to the dialectic through the figure of the zero55, indifferent to the instable play of number, prior to judgment, `what remains after the crossing out of... negation'.56 Such a space is nowhere better exemplified in Schelling's output than in the first five propositions of the 1801 Darstellung, which perform, as well as describe, the generation of indifference through abstraction. It is only in proposition six57 that identity is posited, and so the initial (and sole) thesis of the Identitдtssystem occurs. Propositions one to five, on the contrary, must describe and perform an a-thetic state of affairs, consisting of abstract particulars. These propositions operate according to processes of abstraction, definition and analytic entailment alone. Here, as Schelling repeatedly points out and as we have seen, both the subject and the object are thoroughly neutralised in an act of total abstraction; here emerges a non-dialectical language of indifference. In other words, in the first five propositions of the 1801 Darstellung, Schelling abstracts absolutely so as to make manifest an athetic, utopic space: §1. Definition. I call reason absolute reason, or reason insofar as it is conceived as the total indifference of the subjective and objective... Reason's thought is foreign to everyone: to conceive it as absolute, and thus to come to the standpoint I require, one must abstract from what does the thinking. For the one who performs this abstraction reason immediately ceases to be something subjective, as most people imagine it. It can of course no longer be conceived as something objective either... §2. Outside reason is nothing, and in it is everything. If reason is conceived as we have asked in §1, one immediately becomes aware that nothing could be outside it... Remark. There is no philosophy except from the standpoint of the absolute... §3. Reason is simply one and simply self-identical... §4. The ultimate law for the being of reason, and, since there is noth- ing outside reason, for all being (because it is comprehended within reason) is the law of identity, which with respect to all being is expressed as A=A. The proof follows immediately from §3 and the propositions that precede it... 55. Ibid., xvii-xix, 7. 56. Ibid., 13. 57. Schelling, Werke, 4:117; Presentation, 351. 20 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
§5. Definition. I call the A of the first position the subject, to differentiate it from that of the second, the predicate. §6. ... The unique being posited through this proposition is that of identity itself...58 References Bataille G. Manet, New York, Skira, 1983. Brassier R. Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction, Basingstoke, Pal- grave Macmillan, 2007. Breazeale D. Fichte's Abstract Realism. The Emergence of German Idealism (eds D. O. Dahlstrom, M. Baur), Washington, CUA Press, 1999, pp. 95­115. Buchwalter A. Hegel, Marx and the Concept of Immanent Critique. Journal of the History of Philosophy, 1991, vol. 29, no. 9, pp. 260­267. Derrida J. Parages, Paris, Galilйe, 1986. Diderot D. Apologie de l'Abbй Galiani. OEuvres politiques (ed. P. Verniиre), Paris, Garnier, 1963, pp. 59­124. During L. Hegel's Critique of Transcendence. Man and World, 1988, no. 21, pp. 287­305. Fichte J. G. An Attempt at a New Presentation of the "Wissenschaftslehre." Introductions to the Wissenschaftslehre (ed. D. Breazeale), Indianapolis, Hackett, 1994, pp. 1­118. Fichte J. G. Concerning the Difference between the Spirit and the Letter within Philosophy. Early Philosophical Writings (ed. D. Breazeale), Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1988, pp. 185­216. Hegel G. W. F. Faith and Knowledge, Albany, SUNY Press, 1977. Hegel G. W. F. Lectures on the History of Philosophy, London, Routledge, 1896. Hegel G. W. F. Phenomenology of Spirit, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1977. Hegel G. W. F. Science of Logic, London, Prometheus, 1969. Hegel G. W. F. The Difference between Fichte's and Schelling's System of Philosophy, Albany, State University of New York Press, 1977. Hegel G. W. F. The Encyclopaedia Logic, Indianapolis, Hackett, 1992. Hegel G. W. F. Who Thinks Abstractly? Hegel: Texts and Commentary (ed. W. Kaufmann), New York, Anchor, 1966, pp. 113­118. Kant I. Critique of Pure Reason, Basingstoke, Palgrave, 1929. Kant I. The Jдsche Logic. Lectures on Logic (ed. J. M. Young), Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2004, pp. 521­642. Marin L. Utopics: The Semiological Play of Textual Spaces, New York, Humanity Books, 1984.
58. Schelling, Werke, 4:114-7; Presentation, 349-51.
Moore A. W. The Evolution of Modern Metaphysics: Making Sense of Things, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2011. Osborne P. The Reproach of Abstraction. Radical Philosophy, 2004, no. 127, pp. 21­28. Schelling F. W. J. On Construction in Philosophy. Epochй, 2008, vol. 12, no. 2, pp. 269­288. Schelling F. W. J. On the True Concept of Philosophy of Nature and the Correct Way of Solving its Problems. Pli: The Warwick Journal of Philosophy, 2014, no. 26, pp. 24­45. Schelling F. W. J. Philosophy of Art, Minneapolis, Minnesota University Press, 1989. Schelling F. W. J. Presentation of My System of Philosophy. Philosophical Forum, 2001, vol. 32, no. 4, pp. 339­371. Schelling F. W. J. Werke (Hg. K. F. A. Schelling), Stuttgart, Cotta, 1856­1861. Teeuwen R. An Epoch of Rest: Barthes' "Neutral" and the Utopia of Weari- ness. Cultural Critique, 2012, no. 80, pp. 1­26. Toscano A. Philosophy and the Experience of Construction. The New Schelling (eds J. Norman, A. Welchman), London, Continuum, 2004, pp. 106­127. Whistler D. Schelling's Doctrine of Abstraction. Pli: The Warwick Journal of Philosophy, 2014, no. 26, pp. 58­81. Whistler D. Schelling's Theory of Symbolic Language, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2013. 22 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
Contingency, Pure Contingency-- Without Any Further Determination: Modal Categories in Hegelian Logic Adrian Johnston Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of New Mexico. Address: 1 University of New Mexico, 87131 Albuquerque, NM, USA. E-mail: [email protected] Keywords: Hegel's logic; contingency; possibility; necessity; modalities. Abstract: Beginning during G.W.F.Hegel's own lifetime, two interlinked unsympathetic portraits of Hegel take shape and become enduring refrains in his critics' complaints. According to the first of these, the Hegelian philosophical system posits a foundational teleological necessity that rigidly determines the constitution of both natural and human realities. The second critical portrayal of Hegel charges him with an ideologically pernicious Panglossianism dressing up a miserably conservative/reactionary status quo as the highest possible sociohistorical realization of Reason itself. Taken together, these two connected criticisms amount to treating Hegelian Wissenschaft as a post-Kantian version of Leibniz's theosophy, with the former, purportedly like the latter, appealing to a necessary teleology supposedly guaranteeing the actualization of "the best of all possible worlds." From the late-period F. W.J.Schelling and Rudolf Haym through today, countless voices past and present have repeated these anti-Hegelian allegations. The goal of the paper, simply stated, is to discredit thoroughly both of these pictures of Hegel's philosophy. These two entwined lines of criticism ultimately rest upon the imputation to Hegel of a certain arrangement of modal categories in which possibility has priority over actuality, and necessity dictates the transition from the possible to the actual. Through a close reading of Hegel's core doctrine of modal categories as definitively delineated in his mature Logic, the author shows that the depiction of Hegel as a neo-Leibnizian is an intellectually bankrupt, one-hundred-eighty-degree inversion of the truth. 23
ONE of several stock stories about G.W.F. Hegel's philosophy is that it privileges the modality of necessity to such an excessive extent as to engage in what would be tantamount to a lamentable and/or laughable post-Kantian regression, within the traditions of German philosophy, to pre-Kantian Leibnizianism. That is to say, from this kind of all-too-common perspective, Hegel, like G.W. Leibniz before him, elaborates a theodicy (however secularly disguised or not) according to which reality, in its categorial and conceptual determinations via the metaphysically real God-like mega-Mind of "the Absolute Idea," necessarily is exactly as it is and cannot be otherwise. Purportedly like Leibniz's divinity, the Hegelian Absolute's sufficient reason(s) make it such that there is no space whatsoever left open for anomaly, arbitrariness, caprice, contingency, difference, facticity, irrationality, meaninglessness, randomness, and the like. Of course, near the start of his philosophical career in the early 1800s, Hegel (in his Jena period prior and leading up to the Phenomenology of Spirit) already encountered objections along these very lines to German idealism overall from the pen of W.T. Krug, an otherwise trifling writing instrument made (in)famous thanks exclusively to Hegel's stinging responses to Krug's critical challenges.1 And, before Hegel's corpse was 1. G.W.F. Hegel, "How the Ordinary Human Understanding Takes Philosophy (as Displayed in the Works of Mr. Krug)", Miscellaneous Writings of G.W.F. Hegel, ed. Jon Stewart (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2002), 229, 231, 233. G.W.F. Hegel, "On the Relationship of Skepticism to Philosophy, Exposition of its Different Modifications and Comparison of the Latest Form with the Ancient One", Between Kant and Hegel: Texts in the Development of Post-Kantian Idealism, ed. and trans. George Di Giovanni and H.S. Harris (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2000), 330. G.W.F. Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), 27-28. G.W.F. Hegel, Philosophy of Nature: Part Two of the Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970), §250, 23. G.W.F. Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy, Volume Three (New York: The Humanities Press, 1955), 511-512. 24 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
even cold, the later F.W.J. Schelling, faithfully executing his state-ordained duty by his Prussian summoners to "stamp out the dragon seed of Hegelianism" while occupying the philosophical chair at the University of Berlin vacated by his former friend's death, initiates what subsequently become commonplace refrains amongst subsequent critics of Hegelian philosophy: Hegel's System is centered on the Logic alone; The machinery of this absolute idealist apparatus dissolves the real into the logical; Hegelian "negative philosophy" (to be opposed by a Christian "positive philosophy") entirely excludes and is powerless to account for the extra-logical real, especially in terms of an undeducible factical "thatness" evading the grasp of any deducible categorial "whatness," a contingent givenness unassimilable by mediated necessity.2 I will show below, among other things, that this Schellingian dance on Hegel's grave, the first of many such performances, does not have a leg or even terra firma upon which to stand (let alone move gracefully). Hegel's modal doctrine in the Logic combined with his morethan-logical Philosophy of the Real -- Schelling and all those who reduce Hegel's philosophy to the Logic on its own fail to recognize that the System is the Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences in its entirety (within which Logik is only one part, along with Naturphilosophie and Geistesphilosophie)3--i s a rebuttal in advance (a refutation from the crypt, as it were) of Schelling's opportunistic attacks upon him. Additionally, as Klaus Dьsing perspicaciously observes, the late Schelling presupposes without supporting arguments a modal doctrine in his positive-philosophical critique (with its notion of factical thatness) of Hegel's allegedly Logic-centric negative philosophy.4 Hegelian Logik, by contrast, posits with supporting arguments precisely such a doctrine. I want now to elaborate an extended, detailed exegesis of Hegel's handling of the contingent, especially in the variants of his mature Logik. I will deviate from chronology in what follows, focusing first on the Encyclopedia Logic and then turning to the Science of Logic. The modalities of actuality, possibility, necessity, and contingency are addressed by Hegel at the close of "The Doctrine of Essence," itself bring-
2. F.W.J. Schelling, On the History of Modern Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 134-163. F.W.J. Schelling, The Grounding of Positive Philosophy: The Berlin Lectures (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2007), 118, 128-135, 137, 139, 145-147, 149-151, 155, 159-161, 202-205, 211. 3. Adrian Johnston, "Where to Start?: Robert Pippin, Slavoj Zizek, and the True Beginning(s) of Hegel's System," Crisis and Critique, special issue: "Critique Today", ed. Agon Hamza and Frank Ruda, vol. 1, no. 3, 2014, 371-418. 4. Klaus Dьsing, Das Problem der Subjektivitдt in Hegels Logik, Hegel-Studien, Beiheft 15 (Bonn: Bouvier, 1976), 341-342.
Adrian Johnston
ing the entirety of the "Objective Logic" (i.e., "The Doctrine of Being" [Die Lehre vom Sein] plus "The Doctrine of Essence" [Die Lehre vom Wesen]) to an end in transitioning into the "Subjective Logic" formed by the third book of the Logic, namely, "The Doctrine of the Concept" (Die Lehre vom Begriff). To understand Hegel's modal doctrine requires beginning where Hegel himself begins in this doctrine, namely, with the logical-categorial determination/moment of "Wirklichkeit." Of course, Wirklichkeit (actuality) is a particularly (in)famous Hegelian term specifically because of the appearance it makes in the renowned/notorious preface to Elements of the Philosophy of Right. Therein, as is all too well known, Hegel declares, in the form of what has come to be known as the "Doppelsatz," that, "What is rational is actual; and what is actual is rational" (Was vernьftig ist, das ist wirlich; und was wirklich ist, das ist vernьnftig).5 Countless critics past and present (starting with Rudolf Haym6) indicting this Hegel for being an apologetic mouthpiece for the conservative Prussia of Friedrich Wilhelm III latch onto this one-liner as "Exhibit A" for their indictment. But, in so doing, they ignore the precise technical sense of "wirklich" and thereby carelessly trample over Hegel's strict distinction between, on the one hand, Wirklichkeit and, on the other hand, Dasein/Existenz (being-there/existence). In §6 of the Encyclopedia Logic, Hegel directly refutes those accusing him of pronouncing a Leibnizian/Panglossian-style benediction over everything that happens to be the case in his given status quo as necessitated and justified by a theodicy of an omniscient and omnipotent Weltgeist. For this Hegel, much of what happens to be the case in his given status quo merely is there or exists, but is not fully real qua actual als wirklich. Such mere beings-there/existences would include, for the Berlin-era Hegel, what he construes as the futile, doomed Germanic reaction against the ultimately irresistible progressive currents represented by the French Revolution and Napoleon, the Emperor embodying and epitomizing Hegel's notion of history ьberhaupt as inexorably surging toward ever-greater realizations of human freedom. In this instance, actuality als Wirklichkeit and, hence, rationality (Vernьnftigkeit) resides on the side of revolution rather than reaction--revolu- 5. G.W.F. Hegel, Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts oder Naturrecht und Staatswissenschaft im Grundrisse: Mit Hegels eigenhдndigen Notizen und den mьndlichen Zusдtzen, Werke in zwanzig Bдnden, 7, ed. Eva Moldenhauer and Karl Markus Michel (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1970), 24. G.W.F. Hegel, Elements of the Philosophy of Right, ed. Allen W. Wood (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 20. 6. Rudolf Haym, "PreuЯen und die Rechtsphilosophie (1857): Hegel und seine Zeit," Materialien zu Hegels Rechtsphilosophie, ed. Manfred Riedel (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1975), 365-394. 26 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
tionary rationality is "the rose in the cross of the present"7 of a reactionary Dasein/Existenz--with reaction straining in vain against "the inner pulse" (inneren Puls) incarnated in and by revolution.8 Hegel's 1820s dictum "What is rational is actual; and what is actual is rational" is anything but an older, comfortably established man's cynical or craven repudiation of the progressive/revolutionary passions of his restless, volatile younger years. This one-liner's author remains the same person who faithfully toasted Bastille Day year after year, including publicly, and with audacity, in mixed company during the height of Prussian conservative repression. But, as Hegel's own defense of himself in the Encyclopedia Logic against the criticisms triggered by his proclamation regarding the rational and the actual in the preface to Elements of the Philosophy of Right indicates, his definitive determinations of the category of Wirklichkeit are to be found within the framework of the Logik (rather than within branches of Realphilosophie, such as Rechtsphilosophie or Geschichtsphilosophie). In the Encyclopedia Logic, Hegel opens the section on "Actuality" by stating, with its very first sentence, that, "Actuality is the unity (Einheit), become immediate, of essence (Wesens) and existence (Existenz), or of what is inner and what is outer."9 The entire prior two thirds of "The Doctrine of Essence" is structured around what fundamentally amounts to a twoworlds metaphysics. This Doctrine's first two sections on, one, "Essence as Reflection Within Itself " ("Das Wesen als Reflexion in ihm selbst," Science of Logic) or "Essence as Ground of Existence" ("Das Wesen als Grund der Existenz," Encyclopedia Logic) and, two, "Appearance" (Die Erscheinung) both unfold variations on the basic theme of the distinction between, on one side, supersensible essential ground and, on another side, sensible apparent existence. To cut the long story of the entirety of "The Doctrine of Essence" very short, this second of the three divisions of the Logic culminates with Wirklichkeit as the sublation of the closely interrelated families of dichotomies structuring the prior moments
7. Hegel, Elements of the Philosophy of Right, 22. 8. G.W.F. Hegel, "Hegel to Niethammer: Jena, October 13, 1806," Hegel: The Letters (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984), 114. G.W.F. Hegel, Enzyklopдdie der philosophischen Wissenschaften, Erster Teil: Die Wissenschaft der Logik mit den mьndlichen Zusдtzen, Werke in zwanzig Bдnden, 8, ed. Eva Moldenhauer and Karl Markus Michel (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1970), §6, 47-49. G.W.F. Hegel, The Encyclopedia Logic: Part I of the Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences with the Zusдtze (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1991), §9, 33; §6, 2930. Hegel, Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts, 24-28. Hegel, Elements of the Philosophy of Right, 20-23. G.W.F. Hegel, Philosophy of History (New York: Dover, 1956), 17-19, 63-64, 446-447. 9. Hegel, Enzyklopдdie der philosophischen Wissenschaften, Erster Teil, §142, 279; Hegel, The Encyclopedia Logic, §142, 213.
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of the Wesenslehre.10 That is to say, the "unity" (Einheit) Hegel speaks of in the just-quoted opening sentence of §142 of the Encyclopedia Logic is specifically a dialectical-speculative Aufhebung of the "two worlds" (as ground-versus-existence, essence-versus-appearance, inner-versus-outer, and similar variations on this theme) at stake in the first two-thirds of "The Doctrine of Essence."11 One of many consequences of actuality's sublation of the oppositions making possible any and every two-worlds metaphysics is the dialectical going under of what Hegel sees as perhaps the most sophisticated and formidable version of such a metaphysics, namely, Immanuel Kant's critical-transcendental framework as subjectively idealist in Hegel's precise sense of "subjective idealism" (as distinct from "objective" and "absolute" idealisms). The "Addition" (Zusatz) to §142 of the Encyclopedia Logic emphatically links Wirklichkeit to absolute idealism in terms of this idealism's anti-subjectivist realism, namely, its non/postKantian insistence that objective (qua extra/more-than-subjective) reality an sich is, prior to and independently of knowing subjectivity, always-already formed, structured, etc. in and of itself.12 Given Kant's omnipresent shadow looming over an ambivalently post-Kantian Hegel, this point is crucial. Kant, in the Critique of Pure Reason, treats the topic of modalities (i.e., as per Kant's "Table of Categories," the pairs possibility/impossibility, existence/non-existence, and necessity/contingency) under the heading of his subjectively idealist "Transcendental Analytic."13 By contrast, Hegel, in his mature Logik, narrates the modalities as emerging out of an actuality that itself involves, among other things, an absolute idealist sublation of anti-realist transcendental idealism (and all other two-worlds metaphysics along with it). This means that, for Hegel, modalities are not just subjectively ideal categories, as they are for Kant, but also objectively real ones. In other words, contra Kant and inverting a famous line from the preface to the Phenomenology of Spirit, subject (here, the categories of modality as subjectively ideal) must be thought, through a thinking responding to the compelling force of the movement of Hegelian Logic up through the culmination of the Wesenslehre in Wirklichkeit, also as substance (here, the categories of modality as objectively real in addition to subjectively ideal).14 10. Hegel, The Encyclopedia Logic, §141, 213. 11. Hegel, The Encyclopedia Logic, §143, 215. G.W.F. Hegel, Lectures on Logic: Ber- lin, 1831 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008), 155-156. 12. Hegel, The Encyclopedia Logic, §142, 214. 13. Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), A80/B106, 212. 14. Hegel, Lectures on Logic, 172-173. 28 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
In the "Addition" to §143 of the Encyclopedia Logic, Hegel stipulates that, "of course, it is not just what is immediately there (unmittelbar Daseiende) that should be understood as actual (das Wirkliche)"15 (incidentally, this clarification regarding a strict distinction between Dasein and Wirklichkeit buttresses the above-mentioned non/anti-conservative interpretation of "What is rational is actual; and what is actual is rational"). Earlier, in Hegel's Nuremberg lectures on the "Philosophical Encyclopedia" for advanced Gymnasium students, the category of determinate being-there (i.e., Dasein as immediate existence [Existenz]) already is deployed in connection with actuality--" The Actual itself is the unity of its possibility and its existence (Daseins)."16 In this quotation from Hegel's Nuremberg texts, the pairing of the category of being-there/existence (Dasein/Existenz) with the category of possibility arguably suggests that the former, like the latter, also is a modal category (or, at least, has a modal valence) in this precise context. Put differently, Dasein, in being an ingredient in Wirklichkeit distinct from that of possibility, is or represents a modality distinct from that of possibility itself. In yet other words, if being-there/existence is distinguished from possibility-as-a-modality, then this seems to suggest that beingthere/existence is or instantiates a modal category. Before proceeding further, a radically anti-Leibnizian upshot to Hegel's Logic at this specific stage of its unfolding must be appreciated. Only after the logical genesis of actuality towards the end of "The Doctrine of Essence" does the particular category of the modality of possibility explicitly arise--and, with it, the general (meta-)category of modality overall (i.e., any and every modality). That is to say, for Hegel, actuality precedes any and every possibility. By sharp contrast, in Leibniz's theosophical metaphysics with its Christian theodicy--this aspect of Leibnizianism resurfaces in multiple secular (dis)guises within the twentieth-century Anglo-American Analytic philosophical tradition-- possibility precedes actuality (with a benevolent, omniscient, omnipotent, and perfect God selecting amongst an infinitude of possible worlds before actualizing, through the act of creation, the one-and-only, opti-
15. Hegel, Enzyklopдdie der philosophischen Wissenschaften, Erster Teil, §143, 283. Hegel, The Encyclopedia Logic, §143, 216-217. 16. G.W.F. Hegel, "Texte zur Philosophischen Propдdeutik: Philosophische Enzyklopдdie fьr die Oberklasse," Nьrnberger Schriften, Werke in zwanzig Bдnden, 4: Nьrnberger und Heidelberger Schriften, 1808-1817, ed. Eva Moldenhauer and Karl Markus Michel (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1970), §48, 20. G.W.F. Hegel, "The Philosophical Encyclopedia [For the Higher Class]," The Philosophical Propaedeutic, ed. Michael George and Andrew Vincent (Oxford: Blackwell, 1986), §48, 133.
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mally-good "best of all possible worlds"). Hence, Hegel, already from within the pure conceptual abstractness of his logical apparatus, announces a principled, categorical opposition to the spiritualist idealism of Leibniz's ontologically prioritized metaphysical/virtual reality of possibilities purportedly pre-existing anything and everything actual. Hegel's anti-Leibnizian prioritizing of actuality over possibility noted, the identification of Wirklichkeit as a dialectical-speculative, sublational (als Aufhebung) synthesis ("unity" [Einheit]) of "immediate thereness" or "existence" and possibility still requires further exegetical unpacking here. Something being actual automatically entails it also already being possible too. In this sense, were this something impossible, it simply would not be. However, the peculiarity of this sort of possibility as invoked by Hegel at this stage of the Logic is that it is not a possibility preceding and preexisting the being-there/existence of the actuality for which it is the very possibility. Instead, the given actuality generates simultaneously both its own possibility as well as its being-there/existence. In other words, Mцglichkeit and Dasein/Existenz are contemporaneously co-emergent from Wirklichkeit as their shared ground. The first main paragraph of §147 of the Encyclopedia Logic corroborates this reading.17 At this point, two things are to be appreciated. First, as just explained, actuality logically (i.e., dialectically-speculatively) gives rise out of itself to the jointly-arising pair of possibility and being-there/existence--a nd, in so doing, initially introduces modality tout court into the movement of Hegelian Logik (modality here begins with the being-there of an actuality that, as really existing, is at the same time really possible). Second, if the determination/moment that introduces modality into the Logic is being-there/existence qua possible, then the modality of contingency surfaces before that of necessity. Therefore, the contingent definitely appears to enjoy a certain priority over the necessary in Hegelian thinking (with the Science of Logic furnishing confirmation of my interpretive reasoning here18). Indeed, Hegel discusses contingency before necessity, emphasizing the former in §145 and the latter in §147 of the Encyclopedia Logic. The Zusatz to §145 states that: ...contingency... does deserve its due in the world of objects (gegenstдndlichen Welt). This holds first for nature, on the surface of which contingency has free rein, so to speak. This free play should be recognised as such, without the pretension (sometimes erroneously ascribed to philosophy) of finding something in it that could only be 17. Hegel, The Encyclopedia Logic, §147, 220-221. 18. G.W.F. Hegel, Science of Logic (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1969), 545. 30 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
so and not otherwise (nicht anders sein Kцnnen). Similarly... the contingent also asserts itself in the world of spirit, since will contains the contingent within itself in the shape of freedom of choice, though only as a sublated moment. In regard to the spirit and its activity, we also have to be careful that we are not misled by the well-meant striving of rational cognition into trying to show that phenomena that have the character of contingency are necessary, or, as people tend to say, into `constructing them a priori.' For example, although language is the body of thinking, as it were, still chance indisputably plays a decisive role in it, and the same is true with regard to the configurations of law, art, etc. It is quite correct to say that the task of science and, more precisely, of philosophy, consists generally in coming to know the necessity that is hidden under the semblance of contingency; but this must not be understood to mean that contingency pertains only to our subjective views and that it must therefore be set aside totally if we wish to attain the truth. Scientific endeavors which one-sidedly push in this direction will not escape the justified reproach of being an empty game and a strained pedantry.19
Throughout this quotation, starting with its very first sentence, Hegel thrusts to the fore the objectively real status of the modality of contingency in his logical framework--and this by sharp implicit contrast with its subjectively ideal status in Kantian critical transcendentalism. One of Hegel's central assertions here, at least as much against Baruch Spinoza and Leibniz as contra Kant, is that the contingent is far from always symptomatic merely of epistemological ignorance (i.e., the knowing subject's failure to grasp a concealed underlying necessity in objective being an sich). Sometimes, this seeming ignorance is, in fact, direct ontological insight (i.e., the knowing subject's success, whether appreciated by this subject or not, at grasping the actual absence of necessity within objective being an sich). Relatedly, Hegel warns that the far-from-unproductive, not-always-unjustified rationalist tendency/drive to search for real necessity hidden behind or beneath apparent contingency, if left lop-sidedly unchecked by not giving to the contingent its countervailing metaphysical due, inevitably results in "an empty game and a strained pedantry." To begin with, I again would suggest that Leibniz exemplifies such a teller of these risible rationalist just-so stories (indeed famously lampooned by Voltaire). Within Leibniz's theodicy of the purported "best of all possible worlds," each and every seeming contingency is nothing more than an index of finite human knowers' lack of full understand-
19. Hegel, Enzyklopдdie der philosophischen Wissenschaften, Erster Teil, §145, 286287. Hegel, The Encyclopedia Logic, §145, 219.
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ing of God-the-creator's sufficient reasons for things being exactly so and not otherwise. In Leibnizian Christian-theosophical philosophy, the combination of the laws of classical, bivalent logic with the principle of sufficient reason guarantees that everything in creation necessarily and with certainty is precisely as it is, with no "illogical" or "irrational" breathing room for any really existent contingencies whatsoever. Additionally, and still apropos the passage from §145 quoted above, I also would maintain that there is a secular, as well as theistic (i.e., Leibnizian), epitomization of the contingency-denying rationalism derided by Hegel as predictably eventuating in absurd rationalizations: a modern, natural scientific Weltanschauung in which nature and all things natural/naturalizable (including living beings generally and even human beings specifically) can and should be reduced to structures and dynamics governed by laws qua deterministic causal rules imposing an iron-clad, inviolable necessity on all entities and events. Hegel, in the preceding quotation from §145 remaining under discussion here, sees fit to mention nature first when insisting upon certain contingencies as in fact being objectively real, with his motif of "the weakness of nature" (die Ohnmacht der Natur) palpably in the background. The necessitarian worldview of the natural sciences and scientists of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (this worldview lingers on in the early-twenty-first century too) is parodied as bringing about its own ridiculous self-wrought ruin in the section on "Observing Reason" in the Phenomenology of Spirit, culminating as this section does with the preposterous, comical pseudo-explanations of Franz Josef Gall's phrenology (with its attempts to eliminate such phenomena as "will" qua "freedom of choice" [§145] in favor of dumb bumps on lifeless bones). These phrenological pseudo-explanations are this naturalistic worldview's immanently generated reductio ad absurdum. According to Hegel's 1807 narrative, the scientific Weltanschauung taking form in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries begins to run into troubles with contingency particularly when it shifts its attention to the organic and human realms over and above physics and chemistry20 (incidentally, I have addressed both Hegel's Ohnmacht der Natur and phenomenological figure/shape of "Observing Reason" at length in other contexts21). 20. Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, 145-210. 21. Adrian Johnston, "The Weakness of Nature: Hegel, Freud, Lacan, and Nega- tivity Materialized," Hegel and the Infinite: Religion, Politics, and Dialectic, ed. Slavoj Zizek, Clayton Crockett, and Creston Davis (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011), 159-179. Adrian Johnston, "Second Natures in Dappled Worlds: John McDowell, Nancy Cartwright, and Hegelian-Lacanian Materialism," Umbr(a): The Worst, ed. Matthew Rigilano and Kyle Fetter (Buffalo: State 32 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
Furthermore, Hegel, particularly in the 1831 "Preface to the Second Edition" of the Science of Logic,22 insists that thinking, including that of the most purely logical sort, is inextricably intertwined with natural language(s) (as he also elaborates in the accounts of the linguistically mediated and facilitated emergence of distinctively human intelligence in various versions of his Philosophie des Geistes, itself a part of Realphilosophie rather than Logik alone).23 As seen from the previous block quotation, Hegel, in §145 of the Encyclopedia Logic, makes reference to this language-bound character of cognition. His point in this passage is that thinking, in thinking either itself (as in Logic) or anything else (as in the Philosophy of the Real), cannot avoid the contingent insofar as all natural languages without exception are shot through with myriad contingencies (as, one, the more-than-linguistic histories impacting etymologies, as, two, what Saussurian structural linguistics later designates under the heading "the arbitrariness of the signifier," and so on). A simple syllogism is enough to encapsulate Hegel's argument here: First, human sapience is made possible by and always operates within natural language(s); Second, all natural languages are riddled with contingencies; Therefore, cognitive intelligence cannot avoid entanglement with and working through incarnations of the modality of contingency.
University of New York at Buffalo, 2011), 71-91. Adrian Johnston, "The Voiding of Weak Nature: The Transcendental Materialist Kernels of Hegel's Naturphilosophie," Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal, vol. 33, no. 1, Spring 2012, 103-157. Adrian Johnston, "An Interview with Adrian Johnston on Transcendental Materialism [with Peter Gratton]," Society and Space, October 2013, Adrian Johnston, "Transcendentalism in Hegel's Wake: A Reply to Timothy M. Hackett and Benjamin Berger," Pli: The Warwick Journal of Philosophy, no. 26, Fall 2014, 204-237. Adrian Johnston, "Confession of a Weak Reductionist: Responses to Some Recent Criticisms of My Materialism," Neuroscience and Critique, ed. Jan De Vos and Ed Pluth (New York: Routledge, 2015), 141-170. Adrian Johnston, Prolegomena to Any Future Materialism, Volume Two: A Weak Nature Alone (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2017), forthcoming. 22. Hegel, Science of Logic, 31-33. 23. G.W.F. Hegel, "First Philosophy of Spirit (being Part III of the `System of Speculative Philosophy' of 1803/4)", System of Ethical Life (1802/3) and First Philosophy of Spirit (Part III of the System of Speculative Philosophy 1803/4), ed. and trans. H.S. Harris and T.M. Knox (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1979), 221-223. G.W.F. Hegel, Philosophie des Geistes, Jenaer Systementwьrfe III: Naturphilosophie und Philosophie des Geistes, ed. Rolf-Peter Horstmann (Hamburg: Felix Meiner, 1987), 176-178. G.W.F. Hegel, Philosophy of Mind: Part Three of the Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971), §459, 214, 218; §461, 219; §462, 220-221. Hegel, Philosophy of History, 62.
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Before turning attention to §147 of the Encyclopedia Logic, I want to highlight that, in §145 as quoted above, Hegel renders the modality of necessity as "could only be so and not otherwise (nicht anders sein Kцnnen)." Although this is a quite conventional way of defining the necessary, Hegel's recourse to it soon will prove to be important with the benefit of subsequent hindsight below. For now, suffice it to note that Hegelian necessity, as introduced at this exact moment in the Logic, is determined as no more and no less than the impossibility of any additional "otherwise" (anders sein). The time has come to parse a portion of §147 of the Encyclopedia Logic. While the main body of §147 portrays actuality as simultaneously realizing in and through itself the co-emergent pair of possibility and being-there/existence--I explained Wirklichkeit along these very lines a short while ago--its "Addition" goes into more detail as regards necessity. Therein, Hegel declares: The process of necessity (Der ProzeЯ der Notwendigkeit) begins with the existence of dispersed circumstances (der Existenz zerstreuter Umstдnde) that seem to have no concern with one another and no inward coherence. These circumstances are an immediate actuality (eine unmittelbare Wirklichkeit) that collapses inwardly; and from this negation a new actuality (eine neue Wirklichkeit) emerges. We have here a content that has a dual character within it in respect to its form: first, as the content of the matter (Inhalt der Sache) that is at issue, and secondly, as the content of the dispersed circumstances (Inhalt der zerstreuter Umstдnde) that appear to be something positive, and initially assert themselves as such. Because of its inward nullity, this content is inverted into its negative, and so becomes the content of the matter. As conditions, the immediate circumstances go under, but at the same time they are also preserved as the content of the matter (Die unmittelbaren Umstдnde gehen als Bedingungen zugrunde, werden aber auch zugleich als Inhalt der Sache erhalten).24 To cut to the chase and go directly to the crucial upshot of this passage without further ado, this quotation contains the thesis that necessity itself (i.e., the "process of necessity") originally arises out of contingency. In other words, there is an Ur-contingency preceding and at the root of the necessary. Conversely but correlatively (and contrary to so many ridiculous, flagrant bastardizations of Hegel), there is no transcendent, metaphysically real Ur-necessity, a divinely supernatural cosmic Idea 24. Hegel, Enzyklopдdie der philosophischen Wissenschaften, Erster Teil, §147, 289. Hegel, The Encyclopedia Logic, §147, 221. 34 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
or world Spirit, imposing in a top-down fashion the Platonic-style teloi of a preordained theodicy upon the being-there of really existing actuality. Instead, any and every necessity and/or teleology is a delayed effect and belated outcome of a primordially neither necessary nor teleological Wirklichkeit qua just-happening-to-exist possibility. Alternately, the only Ur-necessity recognized by Hegelian Logic is the necessity of Ur-contingency as a modal category with logical priority vis-а-vis the modal category of necessity. As Stanley Rosen expresses this sense of the necessity of contingency, "contingency itself, namely, as a category, is not itself contingent."25 To this should be added Georg Lukбcs's observation that, "in Hegel the annulment of contingency takes place on the assumption that it cannot be annulled."26 What logically comes first and, hence, has a certain categorial precedence in Hegel's philosophy is the being-there (Dasein) of (an) actuality (Wirklichkeit) which, as existing, is also at the same time possible (mцglich). And, a merely possible existence would amount to a contingency. Thus, a given actuality qua contingent is the factical ground, the baseless base, of an always-after-the-fact necessity (the Science of Logic directly ties existence to facticity as itself groundless [Grundlose],27 to an anti-Leibnizian, post-Kantian ohne Warum). That is to say, for Hegel, necessity is, in its very logical essence as a metaphysical category, invariably the result of a movement of becoming, with this kinetic trajectory (i.e., "the content of the matter") within which necessity takes shape pushing off from an initially contingent set of conditions--n amely, "the existence of dispersed circumstances that seem to have no concern with one another and no inward coherence," "circumstances" that "are an immediate actuality that collapses inwardly." Some of the exact wording in the above quotation from §147 should be highlighted. Arguably, the word "Existenz" in "the existence of dispersed circumstances" is used here by Hegel in its precise technical sense (i.e., as equivalent to determinate being-there [Dasein]). Likewise, when he depicts these same circumstances as "an immediate actuality," this resonates with the phrase "immediately there (unmittelbar Daseiende)" as employed in §143 to designate one of the two co-emergent modal
25. Stanley Rosen, The Idea of Hegel's Science of Logic (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014), 375. 26. Georg Lukбcs, The Young Hegel: Studies in the Relations between Dialectics and Economics (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1976), 394. 27. G.W.F. Hegel, Wissenschaft der Logik II: Erster Teil, Die objektive Logik, Zweites Buch; Zweiter Teil, Die subjektive Logik, Werke in zwanzig Bдnden, 6, ed. Eva Moldenhauer and Karl Markus Michel (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1969), 123. Hegel, Science of Logic, 478.
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dimensions of actuality (along with the modality of possibility). Both of these terminological details further reinforce the interpretive thesis (one advanced by Slavoj Zizek, among others28) regarding the primacy of contingency over necessity within Hegelian Logic itself. Finally, at the end of the previously-quoted passage from §147, Hegel indicates that (Ur-)contingency gets sublated, but never negated altogether, by the subsequent resultant necessity to which it gives rise (such contingencies "go under, but at the same time they are also preserved").29 Put differently, everything necessary bears upon itself a navel-like mark of its contingent origin, of its origin as contingent (i.e., as a prior actuality [Wirklichkeit] qua both existent and possible). Consistent with the immediately preceding, Zizek, in Absolute Recoil: Towards a New Foundation of Dialectical Materialism, remarks, "The key problem is... that of the umbilical cord connecting a formal-transcendental structure to its contingent historical content: how is the Real of history inscribed into a structure?"30 In connection with Zizek's mention of the topic of history, perhaps the best corroborative instantiation of the just-summarized Hegelian logic of modality in the more-than-logical Realphilosophie is to be found in the Philosophy of History. Specifically, the last stretch of this text's introduction, a section entitled "Geographical Basis of History,"31 indicates that, for Hegel, the grand arc of human history in its complex, extended entirety arises out of the grounds of actual, factual/factical contingencies, such as the geographical dispersal of different populations and, relatedly, the variations of climate, resources, etc. available to these scattered groups. Prior to everyone from Marx to Jared Diamond--G eorgi Plekhanov, among others, holds up the "Geographical Basis of History" as evidence of Hegel's historical materialist leanings avant la lettre32--H egel already argues that whatever necessities eventually come to hold sway and be retroactively discernible across sequences of human history, these necessities ultimately, when all is said and done, are secondary results, products of a becoming-necessary, emerging out of primary contingencies qua "the existence of dispersed circumstances" as "immediate actuality" (§147) (in this case, dispersed ge- 28. Adrian Johnston, "Absolutely Contingent: Slavoj Zizek and the Hegelian Contingency of Necessity," Rethinking German Idealism, ed. Joseph Carew and Sean McGrath (Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, 2016), 215-245. 29. Hegel, Science of Logic, 603. 30. Slavoj Zizek, Absolute Recoil: Towards a New Foundation of Dialectical Materi- alism (London: Verso, 2014), 101. 31. Hegel, Philosophy of History, 79-102. 32. Georgi V. Plekhanov, Fundamental Problems of Marxism, ed. James S. Allen (New York: International, 1969), 49. 36 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
ographical circumstances and the variables these circumstances bring with them). Moreover, anachronously invoking the Ernst Haeckel of "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny," the becoming-necessary of the contingent in phylogenetic collective history is mirrored, in Hegel's philosophy, by the same dynamic in ontogenetic individual history, as illustrated by the Faust-inspired figure of "Pleasure and Necessity" in the Phenomenology of Spirit (a Gestalt springing phoenix-like from the phrenological skull of "Observing Reason").33 At this juncture, I want to put forward an argument gathering together what I have traced thus far in terms of the intertwined threads from the Encyclopedia Logic (an argument I will further substantiate subsequently in connection with the Science of Logic). This line of thought might best be introduced through reference to another set of moments in the "Addition" to §143. This Zusatz opens with Hegel forcefully inverting the common misperception according to which possibility is greater than and enjoys priority over actuality: The notion of possibility appears initially to be the richer and more comprehensive determination, and actuality, in contrast, as the poorer and more restricted one. So we say, `Everything is possible, but not everything that is possible is on that account actual too.' But, in fact, i.e., in thought, actuality is what is more comprehensive, because, being the concrete thought (konkrete Gedanke), it contains possibility within itself as an abstract moment (abstraktes Moment). We find this accepted in our ordinary consciousness, too: for when we speak of the possible, as distinct from the actual, we call it `merely' possible (nur Mцgliches).34 He continues with the following paragraph: It is usually said that possibility consists generally in thinkability (Denkbarkeit). But thinking is here understood to mean just the apprehending of a content in the form of abstract identity (abstrakten Identitдt). Now, since any content can be brought into this form, providing only that it is separated from the relations in which it stands, even the most absurd and nonsensical suppositions can be considered possible. It is possible that the moon will fall on the earth this evening, for the moon is a body separate from the earth and therefore can fall downward just as easily as a stone that has been flung into the air; it is possible that the Sultan may become Pope, for he is a human being, and as such he can become a convert to Christianity, and then a priest,
33. Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, 217-221. 34. Hegel, Enzyklopдdie der philosophischen Wissenschaften, Erster Teil, §143, 282- 283. Hegel, The Encyclopedia Logic, §143, 216.
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and so on. Now in all this talk of possibilities it is especially the principle of a `grounding' (das Denkgesetz vom Grunde) that is applied... according to this principle, anything for which a ground (or reason) (Grund) can be specified is possible. The more uneducated (ungebildeter) a person is, the less he knows about the determinate relations in which the objects that he is considering stand and the more inclined he tends to be to indulge in all manner of empty possibilities (leeren Mцglichkeiten); we see this, for example, with so-called pub politicians (KannengiЯern) in the political domain.35 There is much to be unpacked in these two quoted paragraphs. To begin with, Hegel herein deploys a distinction between, on the one hand, the "concrete thought" of actuality and, on the other hand, "empty possibilities." Wirklichkeit and the concrete thinking of it contain within themselves non-empty possibilities, namely, those possibilities that are made concretely possible by an already-there (as Dasein) actuality endowed with the ontological weight of Existenz. Such Wirklichkeit internally harbors these non-empty possibilities as its own possibilities, as the multiple potential future actualities with real chances (i.e., nonnull probabilities) to be actualized in the а venir out of the previously actualized. This actuality therefore is a presence embodying not only the/its past and present, but also the/its future specifically in the form of this actual present's own immanently self-generated possibilities as its corresponding not-yets. Actuality's presence shelters within itself its own future as its auto-produced "abstract moment." To go even further, what makes a given actuality the very actuality that it indeed is in the present is, in no small part, what it has the potential to become in the future. All of this is buttressed with a characteristically Hegelian appeal to the (contingent) conventions of "ordinary language" ("We find this accepted in our ordinary consciousness, too: for when we speak of the possible, as distinct from the actual, we call it `merely' possible"). However, with Hegel's mention of "abstract identity"--he here means nothing other than the law of identity (A = A), the recto whose verso is the law of non-contradiction (A ¬A), as the load-bearing pillar of classical, bivalent logic--it is clear that he associates the emptily possible with mere logical possibility alone. Once again, through his references both to the law of identity as well as to the principle of sufficient reason ("the principle of a `grounding'"), Hegel evidently is taking yet more swipes at Leibniz. But, as was seen above in connection with the Zusatz to §145 of the Encyclopedia Logic, Hegel's handling of mo- 35. Hegel, Enzyklopдdie der philosophischen Wissenschaften, Erster Teil, §143, 283. Hegel, The Encyclopedia Logic, §143, 216. 38 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
dalities has critical consequences for certain secular scientific targets in addition to monotheistic religious ones. To be precise, I suspect, given Hegel's chosen examples, that some of his mockery of the bare thinkability of logical-but-empty possibilities is scorn being heaped upon the empiricist David Hume and the latter's confronting of the sciences with the problem of induction. Hegel, for a number of reasons, has a somewhat low estimation of Hume's philosophy,36 a philosophy inspiring such Hegel-disliked developments in the late-eighteenth/early-nineteenth-century German-speaking intellectual milieu as Kantian critical-epistemological anti-realism and the neo-Humean skepticism of such contemporaries as Salomon Maimon and G.E. Schulze. Whether as the immeasurable vastness of the metaphysical reality of countless possible worlds а la the Leibnizian theodicy, the indefinite number of unpredictable future patterns of observed entities and events а la the Humean problem of induction, the wild, free-wheeling sociopolitical hypotheses and predictions of drunk and uninformed barflies (i.e., "so-called pub politicians"), or whatever other imaginative playing upon the basic skeletal structure of logical possibility in its untempered purity (i.e., unconstrained by any considerations regarding probability)--all instantiations of the merely logically possible count, from Hegel's perspective, as just so many empty possibilities. Their emptiness is due to an emptying from the possible, whether through inadvertent ignorance or intentional neglect, of the possible's determinate contents endowed to it exclusively by virtue of it arising from the concreteness of established actuality. This Wirklichkeit, as the extant ground of its corresponding non-empty possibilities, renders a certain number of possibilities, a quantity far short of the incalculably large number of logical possibilities, actually possible (with the latter being those "abstract moments" "contained within" [§143] the concreteness of the actual as the latter's "ownmost" possibilities, to resort to a bit of Heideggerian jargon). In other words, the limited number of possibilities projected from and tethered to a given actuality are non-empty thanks to their anchoring in and expression of the actual potentials and probabilities of a really existent, already-there Wirklichkeit. The excessive surplus of the greater number of formal-logical possibilities over and above the significantly lesser number of these concretely real possibilities amounts to the arid, boring
36. G.W.F. Hegel, Faith and Knowledge (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1977), 69, 154. Hegel, "On the Relationship of Skepticism to Philosophy, Exposition of its Different Modifications and Comparison of the Latest Form with the Ancient One," 311-362. Hegel, The Encyclopedia Logic, §38, 77-79; §39, 80. Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy, Volume Three, 369-375. Hegel, Lectures on Logic, 26-30.
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expanse of empty, fantastical possibilities never-to-pass. Like the undisciplined, untrained mind of the inebriated "pub politician"--t his is the pathetic, pitiable figure to which all intoxicated speculators foolishly betting upon the unreal prospects of formal-logical possibility alone reduce (whether they be Leibnizians, Humeans, Meillassouxians, or whoever else)--the boundless, sprawling space of the logically possible beyond the confines of the really possible is vacuous and unformed (ungebildeter). Both are equally worthy of disregard and dismissal in Hegel's eyes. Earlier, and in connection specifically with the "Addition" to §145 of the Encyclopedia Logic, I placed a spotlight on Hegel's rendition of necessity as "could only be so and not otherwise (nicht anders sein Kцnnen)." Now, with me having just spent some time on the actuality-possibility link as elaborated in the Zusatz to §143, the significance of the modality of necessity as per §145 can be properly explained and appreciated. Given the ground I already have covered here apropos the Hegelian logical doctrine of the modalities, it can be said that Wirklichkeit embodies the modality of contingency. It also can be said that such logically-modally primary contingency is the concrete being-there (Dasein) out of which grow all real, actual possibilities (as opposed to the superfluous, frivolous limitlessness of empty formal-logical possibilities by themselves). On this basis, Hegelian necessity, as a modality qua logical category, can and should be comprehended as nothing other than the internally differentiated unity formed by the modal ensemble of the actual-qua-contingent and this actuality's correlative actual possibilities. Beyond this pairing of existent (als Existenz) contingency and the concretely possible corresponding to and sheltering within it, nothing else or more is possible. That is to say, although there is the wiggle room of the "otherwise" (anders sein) within concrete actuality for its multiple accompanying possibilities as non-empty/real--and, for Hegel, each and every present actuality is itself the actualization of one among several possibilities generated by a past actuality--the proliferation of mere logical possibilities in excess of actuality's own possibilities cannot really (come to) be. Put differently, outside the modal pair of contingent actuality and its correlative actual possibilities, "it cannot be otherwise," namely, no other, additional possibilities are really possible. Therefore, if the necessary is the modality of "cannot be otherwise," then, as is done in Hegel's Logic, necessity can be equated with the set constituted by the combination of Wirklichkeit with its own possibilities. In terms of modal categories, Notwendigkeit is the produced logical outcome resulting from the prior dialectical-speculative synthesis of Zufдlligkeit (as incarnated by Wirklichkeit) and an accompanying Mцglichkeit. 40 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
The moment finally has arrived for examining the modal categories as they feature in Hegel's Science of Logic. My focus in what follows will be on "The Doctrine of Essence," "Section Three: Actuality," "Chapter 2: Actuality." This specific chapter is divided into three main sub-sections: "A. Contingency, or Formal Actuality, Possibility, and Necessity" (Zufдlligkeit oder formelle Wirklichkeit, Mцglichkeit und Notwendigkeit); "B. Relative Necessity, or Real Actuality, Possibility, and Necessity" (Relative Notwendigkeit oder reale Wirklichkeit, Mцglichkeit und Notwendigkeit); and, "C. Absolute Necessity" (Absolute Notwendigkeit). On the basis of the table of contents alone, one readily can see that, for Hegel, contingency precedes necessity, with the "absolute" version of the latter being a late outcome/result (rather than eternally preexistent Alpha, Beginning, Origin, etc.) of the dialectical-speculative dynamics of reale Wirklichkeit, itself arising out of Zufдlligkeit. In "A. Contingency, or Formal Actuality, Possibility, and Necessity," Hegel directly links the dialectical-speculative relations between actuality and possibility with those between contingency and necessity. Referring specifically to the "two determinations" of actuality and possibility (in which the latter is co-emergent with the being-there/existence of the former in its contingent, immediate givenness), Hegel states: This absolute unrest of the becoming (Diese absolute Unruhe des Werdens) of these two determinations is contingency (Zufдlligkeit). But just because each immediately turns into its opposite (jede unmittelbar in die entgegengesetzte umschlдgt), equally in this other it simply unites with itself (mit sich selbst zusammen), and this identity (Identitдt) of both, of one in the other, is necessity (Notwendigkeit).37 One could say that the determinations of Wirklichkeit and Mцglichkeit are doubly contingent. First, as already observed here in connection with the Encyclopedia Logic, the actual itself fundamentally is a contingency as a merely possible being-there that also happens to exist. Second, no single one of the multiple real possibilities generated and contained within a given actuality is itself necessary qua destined or fated to be the one-and-only next actuality produced out of the current actuality as the latter's successor moment. Any one of the plurality of non-empty possibilities, as possible future actualities bound up with a present actuality, contingently could become the subsequently realized actuality. As Hegel has it, Wirklichkeit and Mцglichkeit are "opposites" qua complimentary pair of mutually entangled dialectical determinations.
37. Hegel, Wissenschaft der Logik II, 206. Hegel, Science of Logic, 545.
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Additionally, they are enrichments of the logical category of Becoming (Werden). Of course, Becoming famously surfaces near the very beginning of the main body of the Logic, doing so precisely as the Aufhebung of the first two moments of "The Doctrine of Being," namely, Being (Sein) and Nothing (Nichts).38 The much later logical moment of "Actuality" near the conclusion of "The Doctrine of Essence" retroactively adds to Becoming modal determinations. In the quotation above, Werden acquires as characteristics the modalities of possibility, contingency, and necessity. What is more, this modally enriched Becoming (i.e., the "absolute unrest of the becoming" in the passage just quoted) is one involving the two determinations/moments of actuality and possibility. Therein, "each immediately turns into its opposite" insofar as, one, a current actuality becomes a subsequent actuality by transitioning into one of the actual possibilities it already harbors within itself and, two, possibilities ceaselessly transition into being actualities in and through the perpetual movement (i.e., "absolute unrest") wherein posterior actualities continually take shape out of prior ones. In short, actuality passes over into possibility (with this possibility thereby becoming the new, next actuality) and possibility passes over into actuality (with this actuality producing in and through itself further possibilities). More succinctly stated still, the actual becomes the possible and vice versa. Even putting aside temporal connotations that always risk being problematic in relation to Hegel's Logic in its strict logical abstractness, the categorial determinations of actuality and possibility structurally imply each other within the Hegelian framework. Any and every actuality is itself an actualization of a possibility; and, any and every possibility in Hegel's precise sense (i.e., as real/non-empty qua more than simply a formal issue of mere, sheer logical possibility alone) is tethered to an extant actuality making this possibility an actual possibility. With Hegelian actuality and possibility conceptualized thusly, the one essentially and necessarily entails the other. Lastly, as Hegel stipulates at the close of the preceding quotation, necessity is the "identity" (specifically as a dialectical-speculative unity via sublation) of actuality and possibility. That is to say, the necessary is the Aufhebung-attained identity-of-identity-and-difference between the actual and the possible. Necessity preserves the distinction between actuality and possibility while, at the same time, being nothing other than what results from the interminable restlessness of the passage of Wirklichkeit and Mцglichkeit into each other (this passage being the immanent dialectics of the actual and the possible, their self-subversion as au- 38. Hegel, Science of Logic, 82-108. Hegel, The Encyclopedia Logic, §86-88, 136-145. 42 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
to-sublation). But, as I already stressed apropos the Encyclopedia Logic, Hegelian Notwendigkeit is nothing more or other than this, namely, the contingency-ridden relations between actualities and their accompanying limited-but-open plethoras of possibilities. Along these precise lines, it bears repeating that necessity а la Hegel is, contrary to countless caricatures, anything but a metaphysically real predestination flawlessly manifesting itself as a unique, contingency-free fate or theodicy. The title of the second sub-section of "Chapter 2: Actuality" of "Section Three: Actuality" of "The Doctrine of Essence" in the Science of Logic clearly contrasts with that of the preceding sub-section of this same chapter. Whereas sub-section "A" deals with "Contingency, or Formal Actuality, Possibility, and Necessity," sub-section "B" deals instead with "Relative Necessity, or Real Actuality, Possibility, and Necessity." Obviously, the "formally actual" as contingent now has become the "really actual" as "relatively necessary," with the three logical categories of actuality, possibility, and necessity shifting from being "formal" to being "real." As formal, the three dimensions of contingent actuality, possibility, and necessity are not really distinguished from each other. Sub-section "A," as explained by me above, makes clear that contingent actuality and possibility ultimately are identical, with this identity being necessity itself. Minus the reality of any content, there is nothing to realize the formal differences between these modalities in sub-section "A." But, now in sub-section "B," the addition of the reality of content enables the implicit formal differences between modalities to become explicit real differences. With a really existent content, the actuality of this content as present can be seen to be distinct from any of its not-(yet-)present possibilities.39 With an eye already to the third and final sub-section ("C. Absolute Necessity") of "Chapter 2: Actuality," a focus on necessity in sub-section "B" is an appropriate reflection of the dialectical-speculative transition, the very movement of Wirklichkeit itself, from contingency to absolute necessity. As regards real necessity, Hegel specifies that, "this necessity is... relative. For it has a presupposition from which it begins, it has its starting point in the contingent" (Diese Notwendigkeit... ist... relative. Sie hat nдmlich eine Voraussetzung, von der sie anfдngt, sie hat an dem Zufдlligen ihren Ausgangspunkt).40 Insofar as necessity is the result of the relationship between contingent actuality and the latter's accompanying possibilities--the necessary presupposes the combination of the contingently actual and the actually possible--it is "relative" to Wirklichkeit as itself, at least initially, contingent.
39. Hegel, Science of Logic, 546-547. 40. Hegel, Wissenschaft der Logik II, 211. Hegel, Science of Logic, 549.
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Hegel proceeds to posit that, "in point of fact real necessity is in itself also contingency... Real necessity... contains contingency" (In der Tat ist... die reale Notwendigkeit an sich auch Zufдlligkeit... Die reale Notwendigkeit enthдlt... die Zufдlligkeit).41 He soon adds that, "Here, therefore, the unity of necessity and contingency is present in itself or in principle; this unity is to be called absolute actuality" (An sich ist also hier die Einheit der Notwendigkeit und Zufдlligkeit vorhanden; diese Einheit ist die absolute Wirklichkeit zu nennen).42 As I elucidated much earlier here apropos both §147 of the Encyclopedia Logic as well as the section on the "Geographical Basis of History" in the introduction to the Philosophy of History, contingency, as the Ur-modality of modalities, sets in motion the "absolute unrest of the becoming" in which actuality and possibility constantly pass over into each other. The contingent thereby self-sublates by immanently generating out of itself "absolute actuality" as necessary insofar as nothing other than this absolute Wirklichkeit is possible. Put differently, no possibilities for things being "otherwise" than this actuality beyond the non-empty, more-than-formal/logical possibilities already contained within Wirklichkeit are truly possible. This particular "cannot be otherwise" is Hegelian real necessity which, as an outcome/product of the interrelations between actuality and possibility primordially activated and launched by contingency, "contains contingency" as this necessity's sublated but impossible-to-expunge-altogether basis, the groundless ground of its originary factical givenness ineliminably preserved in whatever Aufhebung it undergoes. Hegel succinctly reiterates the immediately preceding at the very start of "C. Absolute Necessity,"43 the sub-section bringing "Chapter 2: Actuality" to a close. He goes on to characterize absolute necessity thusly--" it is, because it is... it has only itself for ground and condition. It is the in-itself, but its in-itself is its immediacy, its possibility is its actuality. It is, therefore, because it is" (es ist, weil es ist... es hat nur sich zum Grunde und Bedingung. Es ist Ansichsein, aber sein Ansichsein ist seine Unmittelbarkeit, seine Mцglichkeit ist seine Wirklichkeit. -- Es ist also, weil es ist).44 Hegel's depiction of absolute Notwendigkeit here already suggests what is emphatically emphasized two paragraphs later, in the penultimate paragraph of sub-section "C": With the absolute of necessity (or also the necessity of the Absolute), a dialectical-spec- 41. Hegel, Wissenschaft der Logik II, 213. Hegel, Science of Logic, 550. 42. Hegel, Wissenschaft der Logik II, 213. Hegel, Science of Logic, 550. 43. Hegel, Science of Logic, 550. 44. Hegel, Wissenschaft der Logik II, 215. Hegel, Science of Logic, 552. 44 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
ulative "convergence of opposites" transpires in which Ur-contingency is Ur-necessity and vice versa. As that penultimate paragraph states: ......this contingency is... absolute necessity; it is the essence (Wesen) of those free, inherently necessary actualities (freien, an sich notwendigen Wirklichkeiten). This essence is light-shy (Lichtscheue), because there is in these actualities no reflective movement (Scheinen), no reflex, because they are grounded purely in themselves alone (nur rein in sich gegrьndet), are shaped for themselves (fьr sich gestaltet sind), and manifest themselves only to themselves, because they are only being (Sein)... contingency is absolute necessity, it is itself the presupposing of that first, absolute actuality (sie selbst ist das Voraussetzen jener ersten absoluten Wirklichkeiten).45 So, not only is contingency the first of the modalities to be introduced in Hegel's Logic--i t returns as (part of) the last of the modalities (i.e. absolute necessity) therein too. Thus, contingency is, in a certain sense, genuinely both the Alpha and the Omega of the modal categories of Hegelian Logik. Any necessity (whether formal, real, and/or absolute) is a subsequent result arising from or supervening upon a prior contingency--specifically, a merely possible actuality just so happening also to enjoy beingthere/existence. Such necessity sublates but, as is the well-known nature of Hegel's Aufhebung, does not negate entirely and without remainder this always-already-there contingency to which necessity remains tethered (as Hegel puts it in the previous quotation here, "absolute necessity... is itself the presupposing of that first, absolute actuality," with this always-prior absolute Wirklichkeit incarnating ineliminable Ur-contingency). Furthermore, each and every necessity, even when "absolute"-- this absoluteness can be construed as referring to primordial origins, unsurpassable horizons, absence of an otherwise, and/or lack of any Beyond/Outside--confronts thinking, when all is said and done, with a spade-turning "it is, because it is." This tautology expresses the convergence of opposites in which this convergence, rather than being an equal, balanced synthesis between the opposed modalities of contingency and necessity, lop-sidedly favors contingency. "It is, because it is" articulates the ultimate contingency of necessity. Likewise, the Hegelian Absolute ьberhaupt (obviously invoked as part of the phrase "absolute necessity"), whatever else it might be, also is just such a coincidence of the apparently contradictory modal determinations of contingency and necessity.
45. Hegel, Science of Logic, 553.
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Finally, Hegel cautions that this dialectical-speculative identification of the absolutely necessary with the contingent is "light-shy." He indicates that this has to do with the fact that absolute necessity, as absolute, is self-grounding ("necessary actualities... are grounded purely in themselves alone, are shaped for themselves, and manifest themselves only to themselves"). The notion of self-grounding is shrouded in obscurity precisely because of its dialectical ambiguity: on the one hand, the self-grounded is grounded insofar as it supplies itself with a ground; on the other hand, the self-grounded is groundless insofar as it rests on nothing beyond, behind, or beneath itself. In the Hegelian System, absolute necessity specifically and the Absolute generally, in their shared lack, given their absoluteness, of any Other or Externality, involve this ambiguous combination of being simultaneously with and without ground qua reason: "with why" (mit Warum) as auto-justifying and self-supporting (i.e., with a base of grounded necessity); but, at the same time, also "without why" (ohne Warum) as unjustified and unsupported (i.e., with a baselessness of groundless contingency). Hopefully, my preceding reconstruction of Hegel's logical doctrine of the modal categories has succeeded at making the privileging of contingency in Hegelian philosophy highly plausible and readily defensible. If nothing else, this reconstruction shifts the burden of proof squarely onto the shoulders of all those who would stubbornly cling to doubts about the centrality of the contingent in Hegel's System, namely, those who would persist in portraying Hegel as a pre-Kantian wolf (or "Wolff " а la the Leibnizianism of Christian Wolff) in post-Kantian clothing (i.e., a theosopher of divine necessitation, a metaphysical realist about a transcendent destiny, and so on). For the black-and-white vision of the understanding (Verstand), with its congenital blindness to the colors of reason (Vernunft), the ambiguities of absoluteness are difficult, if not impossible, to discern (i.e., they are "light-shy").46 They really are there nonetheless. Here, the Hegelian circle closes, with the Absolute rejoining the "Being, pure Being, without any further determination" (Sein, reines Sein, -- ohne alle weiterer Bestimmung)47 of the very start of the System at the (apparent) beginning of the Logic. The Absolute of Being and/or the Being of the Absolute resultantly has turned out to be, in truth, Contingency, pure Contingency --without any further determination. 46. Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, 2. Hegel, Science of Logic, 48. Hegel, The Encyclopedia Logic, 5, 7-8; §81, 130-131; §82, 132-133. 47. G.W.F. Hegel, Wissenschaft der Logik I: Erster Teil, Die objektive Logik, Erstes Buch, Werke in zwanzig Bдnden, 5, ed. Eva Moldenhauer and Karl Markus Michel (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1969), 82. Hegel, Science of Logic, 82. 46 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
References Dьsing K. Das Problem der Subjektivitдt in Hegels Logik, Bonn, Bouvier, 1976. Haym R. PreuЯen und die Rechtsphilosophie (1857): Hegel und seine Zeit. Materialien zu Hegels Rechtsphilosophie (ed. M. Riedel), Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp, 1975, pp. 365­394. Hegel G. W. F. Elements of the Philosophy of Right, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1991. Hegel G. W. F. Faith and Knowledge, Albany, State University of New York Press, 1977. Hegel G. W. F. Hegel: The Letters, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1984. Hegel G. W. F. How the Ordinary Human Understanding Takes Philosophy (as Displayed in the Works of Mr. Krug). Miscellaneous Writings of G.W.F. Hegel, Evanston, Northwestern University Press, 2002, pp. 226­244. Hegel G. W. F. Jenaer Systementwьrfe III: Naturphilosophie und Philosophie des Geistes, Hamburg, Felix Meiner, 1987. Hegel G. W. F. Lectures on Logic: Berlin, 1831, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 2008. Hegel G. W. F. Lectures on the History of Philosophy. Volume Three, New York, The Humanities Press, 1955. Hegel G. W. F. On the Relationship of Skepticism to Philosophy, Exposition of its Different Modifications and Comparison of the Latest Form with the Ancient One. Between Kant and Hegel: Texts in the Development of Post-Kantian Idealism (eds G. Di Giovanni, H. S. Harris), Indianapolis, Hackett, 2000, pp. 311­362. Hegel G. W. F. Phenomenology of Spirit, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1977. Hegel G. W. F. Philosophy of History, New York, Dover, 1956. Hegel G. W. F. Philosophy of Mind: Part Three of the Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1971. Hegel G. W. F. Philosophy of Nature: Part Two of the Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1970. Hegel G. W. F. Science of Logic, London, George Allen & Unwin, 1969. Hegel G. W. F. System of Ethical Life (1802/3) and First Philosophy of Spirit (Part III of the System of Speculative Philosophy 1803/4), Albany, State University of New York Press, 1979. Hegel G. W. F. The Encyclopedia Logic, Indianapolis, Hackett, 1991. Hegel G. W. F. The Philosophical Encyclopedia [For the Higher Class]. The Philosophical Propaedeutic, Oxford, Blackwell, 1986, pp. 124­169. Hegel G. W. F. Werke in zwanzig Bдnden, Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp, 1970. Johnston A. Absolutely Contingent: Slavoj Zizek and the Hegelian Contingency of Necessity. Rethinking German Idealism (eds J. Carew, S. McGrath), Basingstoke, Palgrave MacMillan, 2016, pp. 215-245.
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Johnston A. Confession of a Weak Reductionist: Responses to Some Recent Criticisms of My Materialism. Neuroscience and Critique (eds J. De Vos, E. Pluth), New York, Routledge, 2015, pp. 141­170. Johnston A. Prolegomena to Any Future Materialism. Volume Two: A Weak Nature Alone, Evanston, Northwestern University Press, 2017, forthcoming. Johnston A. Second Natures in Dappled Worlds: John McDowell, Nancy Cartwright, and Hegelian-Lacanian Materialism. Umbr(a): The Worst (eds M. Rigilano, K. Fetter), Buffalo, State University of New York at Buffalo, 2011, pp. 71­91. Johnston A. The Voiding of Weak Nature: The Transcendental Materialist Kernels of Hegel's Naturphilosophie. Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal, 2012, vol. 33, no. 1, 103­157. Johnston A. The Weakness of Nature: Hegel, Freud, Lacan, and Negativity Materialized. Hegel and the Infinite: Religion, Politics, and Dialectic (eds S. Zizek, C. Crockett, C. Davis), New York, Columbia University Press, 2011, pp. 159­179. Johnston A. Transcendentalism in Hegel's Wake: A Reply to Timothy M. Hackett and Benjamin Berger. Pli: The Warwick Journal of Philosophy, 2014, no. 26, pp. 204­237. Johnston A. Where to Start?: Robert Pippin, Slavoj Zizek, and the True Beginning(s) of Hegel's System. Crisis and Critique, 2014, vol. 1, no. 3, pp. 371­418. Johnston A., Gratton P. An Interview with Adrian Johnston on Transcendental Materialism. Society and Space, October 7, 2013. Available at: Kant I. Critique of Pure Reason, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1998. Lukбcs G. The Young Hegel: Studies in the Relations between Dialectics and Economics, Cambridge, MIT Press, 1976. Plekhanov G. V. Fundamental Problems of Marxism, New York, International, 1969. Rosen S. The Idea of Hegel's Science of Logic, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2014. Schelling F. W. J. On the History of Modern Philosophy, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1994. Schelling F. W. J. The Grounding of Positive Philosophy: The Berlin Lectures, Albany, State University of New York Press, 2007. Zizek S. Absolute Recoil: Towards a New Foundation of Dialectical Materialism, London, Verso, 2014. 48 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
Speculation and Infinite Life: Hegel and Meister Eckhart on the Critique of Finitude Alex Dubilet Lecturer, Departments of English and Political Science, Vanderbilt University. Address: 323 Commons Center, 230 Appleton Pl, Nashville, TN 37203, USA. E-mail: [email protected] Keywords: Hegel; speculation; finitude; life; immanence; negative theology. Abstract: The paper turns to the thought of G.W.F.Hegel and its convergence with Meister Eckhart's thought in order to explore the possibility of a speculative and affirmative relationship between philosophy and religion. It argues that these thinkers, taken together, offer a possible way of rejecting one of the binary structures prevalent in recent continental philosophy, namely the division between an atheistic defense of philosophy and its (secular) egological subjects on one hand, and the affirmation of the primacy of transcendence and alterity (in a quasitheological vein) on the other hand. Hegel's and Eckhart's works suggest that such binaries foreclose a third possibility of annihilating the subject as a way to affirm a speculative and infinite immanence. Utilizing different discursive spaces and theoretical vocabularies, Hegel and Eckhart propose to annihilate the subject as the site from which transcendence could be affirmed in the first place. Moreover, here, God no longer functions as a name against which to struggle in the name of atheism, or one to uphold for a theological critique of the secular. Rather, it becomes the name for the possibility of absolute desubjectivation, of self-emptying and annihilating the subject-- processes that are no longer open to transcendence, but reveal the ungrounded immanence of life. In tracing these logics, this paper questions the dominant distribution of concepts structuring the recent turn to religion in continental philosophy, and suggests one possibility for the democratization of thought that would dislocate the imperialism of secular and atheistic discourses without elevating theology to a renewed position of power. 49
I. Rethinking the Polemics around the Religious Turn THE turn to religion in continental thought is no longer a radically new phenomenon. Over the course of the last several decades the penetration of religious problematics into philosophy, a process that had already become visible in the second half of the twentieth century, has only intensified. Undermining the modern assumptions about the strict separation of philosophy and theology, there has been a powerful rearticulation of the boundary of and the relation between these discourses. The strictures demarcating the proper and legitimate place of philosophy in relation to theology that had guided modern philosophy--at the very minimum from Kant's critique of speculative theology to Heidegger's outlining of the ontological function of philosophy in "Phenomenology and Theology"--no longer holds sway with quite the same unquestioned force.1 What, however, does remain up for debate is the precise significance of the transformation enacted by the religious turn. What exactly is the nature of the interpenetration and to what end is it performed? If religious and philosophical discourses are no longer strictly separated, how exactly do they become reconfigured? One answer to these questions has been offered by Hent de Vries, who suggests that the religious turn allows for the illumination of "the unthought, unsaid and unseen of a philosophical logos that, not only in the guise of modern reason, but from its earliest deployment, tends to forget, repress or sublate the very religio (relegere, religare, or relation without relation, as Levinas, and, following him, Derrida would have 1. One useful attempt to articulate a typology of possible relations between philosophy and theology is found in Daniel Colucciello Barber, On Diaspora: Christianity, Religion, and Secularity (Eugene: Cascade Books, 2011), 1-29. 50 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
it) to which these motifs testify."2 The motifs being referred to are all those figures of thought, operations, non-dogmatic theologemes that have recently returned to theoretical significance, which include questions of prayer, apocalyptics, messianicity, sacrifice, specters, apophasis, and revelation, among others.3 On this account, the religious turn allows us to return to the religious and theological archives in order to uncover and reactivate the operations disavowed in the self-narration of philosophical reason. Within this broad theoretical intervention, a more restricted trajectory is traceable. The religious turn took up the critique of the philosophical subject, variously its autonomy and consistency, its self-possession and mastery, its egological self-enclosure and self-identity, and did so in order to re-affirm the primacy of transcendence. The link between the breakdown of the subject, the affirmation of transcendence and the critique of secular philosophical reason is nowhere enacted as starkly as in the corpus of Levinas. His thought at once sought to displace the subject towards an ethical relation to the transcendence and, complementarily, to liberate the name of God. For Levinas, the two tasks were convergent precisely because they challenged the status of philosophy, which rendered the subject and God the two nodes through which the dominance of the Same was enforced at the expense of the relation, both theoretical and ethical, to the Other. The general tendency to recuperate transcendence is succinctly recapitulated by de Vries around the deconstructive figure of the adieu. "All this is implied from the outset in the phrase а Dieu or adieu, in all its ambiguity of a movement toward God, toward the word or the name of God, and a no less dramatic farewell to almost all the canonical, dogmatic, or onto-theological interpretations of this very same `God'."4 In other words, God becomes the name for a non-dogmatic relationality, naming an exteriority and a transcendence that constitutively cannot be exhausted by operations of knowledge or mastery. But the critique of onto-theology yielded different and even divergent paths. In Derrida, for example, it ultimately entailed a reactivation of negative theology not as an affirmation of a hyperessentiality, but as an enactment of a relentless negativity.5 Apophasis, or negative theology, was reappraised
2. Hent de Vries, Philosophy and the Turn to Religion (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999), 5-6. 3. Ibid, 23 and passim. 4. Ibid., 24. 5. Derrida's appraisal of negative theology changed over the course of his life, from its rejection to a positive reappraisal in later writings. For an example of the latter, see: "How to Avoid Speaking: Denials," trans. Ken Frieden, in Derrida and
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in part because of the ways it put into question the pretensions of philosophical discourse: it suggested that determination is never as powerful as it claims, revealing it as the projection of a masterful subject attempting to possess and exhaust what is transcendent to it.6 At the same time, the critique of modern philosophy in its onto-theological dimensions has yielded more explicitly religious-oriented paths. One can think of the Catholic phenomenologist Jean-Luc Marion, who followed Heidegger in dislodging onto-theology, but did so in order to affirm a God beyond being.7 Recently, however, questions have been raised as to whether the result of the religious turn has not simply been a failure for philosophy itself. Through his diagnosis of the `correlationism' in modern philosophy, Quentin Meillassoux has argued that the finitization of thought has led to a reemergence of fideism in various forms: once thought is restricted to the domain of the human, it generates an undetermined beyond that can be filled with God knows what. An even more explicit push back against the religious turn and its appropriation of deconstruction has recently been offered by Martin Hдgglund, who has proposed an interpretation of Derrida as a "radical atheist." The general contours of this position--the assertion of a stark divide between an atheist discourse (however much it might borrow from theological and religious archives) and a properly (dogmatically, orthodox) religious discourse--is one that has had more general purchase. For example, Christopher Watkin has recently offered a reading of Meillassoux, Alain Badiou and Jean-Luc Nancy as proposing a "difficult atheism" in polemical contrast to any so-called religious turn.8 Attempts to reassert the proper domains of philosophy in opposition to its contamination by the theological are not exactly new: more than two decades ago, Dominique Janicaud diagnosed and sought to restore the proper limits and scientific merit of phenomenology in contrast to its cooption by the theological, which he saw as dominant in post-Levinasian phe- Negative Theology, ed. Harold Coward and Toby Foshay (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1982)). On the transformation see: John D. Caputo, The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida: Religion without Religion (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997). 6. For a classic account along these lines see: Kevin Hart, The Trespass of the Sign: Deconstruction, Theology, and Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991). 7. Jean-Luc Marion, God without Being, trans. Thomas A. Carlson (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991). 8. Christopher Watkin, Difficult Atheism: Post-Theological Thinking in Alain Badiou, Jean-Luc Nancy and Quentin Meillassoux (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2011). 52 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
nomenology. Each of these retorts can be said to exhibit a certain kind of secularism of thought insofar as they seek to reassert the purity of a philosophical or atheist position in polemical opposition to religious discourse, which is relegated to being the hostile enemy of philosophy. Anthony Paul Smith and Daniel Whistler, editors of the recent volume After the Postsecular and the Postmodern, appraise this situation in a particularly perspicacious way: "The deconstruction of the philosophy/theology binary has resulted, not in a true democracy of thought between philosophy and theology, but in the humiliation and debasement of philosophy before the Queen of the sciences, theology."9 In other words, the religious turn did not yield a democratization of thought, one that would dislocate the imperialism of secular and atheistic practices to allow religious discourse to be treated seriously. Rather, what has happened is a reversal, a "theologisation of philosophy." In contrast, Smith and Whistler call for a "liberation of philosophy of religion," which would mean undertaking "the task of experimenting on and with theological and religious material."10 Significantly, they don't call for a mere re-inversion, for a militant atheism standing again in opposition to religion. Instead, they ask whether there is a way of making speculation and experimentalism lie at the heart of religion and philosophy alike. Perhaps, one can avoid choosing sides in this false polemic: between a militant atheistic defense of philosophy, which becomes, intentionally or not, another weapon in the intellectual arsenal of secularism, and a religious turn as it has been understood in the Levinasian and Derridian register. Perhaps, there is a way to think outside of these relentlessly persistent binaries that seem to reappear as soon as we undo them: either a masterful subject of ontology in contrast to a finitude aporetically relating to an (ethical or divine) alterity, or (from the other side) a supposedly religious orthodoxy as opposed to a nuanced atheism. As though, we never learn from old polemics, but can only restage them anew in ever more complex theoretical ways. Perhaps, there is another possibility, one that becomes visible when we read Hegel and Meister Eckhart together, one that that imbricates the philosophical and the theological in a different, immanent, and speculative way. Something of such a third option is provocatively suggested by the editors of After the Postsecular when they rearticulate the nature of philosophy of religion as a speculative rather than a
9. Anthony Paul Smith and Daniel Whistler (eds.), After the Postsecular and the Postmodern: New Essays in Continental Philosophy of Religion (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2010), 3. 10. Ibid, 4
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critical enterprise. Rather than a critical genealogy that took philosophy of religion as a battleground for political interests that sought to deflate religious orthodoxy (a tradition they see spanning from Locke and Hume to Nietzsche and Derrida), they propose "an alternative genealogy of speculative or affirmatory philosophy of religion leading from Spinoza through Schelling to Bergson and Deleuze."11 These resulting speculative productions are not simply apolitical or private exercises in cosmographia. Rather, they are affirmative precisely because they avoid being primarily structured by a polemical antagonism, but are driven instead by a speculative and experimental impulse: they indeed have political ramifications, but ones no longer fundamentally structured by a divide between secular atheism and religious orthodoxy. By looking at Hegel and his convergence with Eckhart, I want to insist on such a speculative and affirmative relation of philosophy and religion, but I want to do so along a particular axis. I want to suggest that the two thinkers engage with theological materials without enforcing the primacy of subjective finitude. They indeed follow speculative line by "ignoring the pathos of finitude so central to phenomenology, hermeneutics and deconstruction and, instead, prioritising the infinite."12 What I find in them are two interrelated thinkers who propose to reject the very binary between a masterful egological subject that undergirds onto-theology and the affirmation of alterity. For them, this binary forecloses a third possibility, the possibility of annihilating the subject as a way to affirm a speculative and infinite immanence. Utilizing different discursive spaces and theoretical vocabularies, Hegel and Eckhart both propose to annihilate the subject as the site from which any kind of transcendence could be affirmed. Moreover, for them, God is not a name against which to struggle in the name of atheism, nor one to uphold within a theological critique of secularism. Rather it becomes the name for the possibility of absolute desubjectivation, of self-emptying and annihilating the subject, processes that no longer affirm transcendence, but open onto an infinite, immanent life. II. Annihilating Finitude and Subverting Transcendence Near the end of the introduction to the 1802 essay Faith and Knowledge, Hegel writes the following lines: "Truth, however, cannot be deceived by this sort of hallowing of a finitude that remains what it was. A true 11. Ibid., 7-8. 12. Ibid., 19. 54 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
hallowing should annihilate [vernichten] the finite."13 In this statement, Hegel articulates a position on the status of finitude, which persists in various forms continuously from his works in Jena through to his Berlin lectures. Within the context of Faith and Knowledge, the affirmation of the necessity of annihilating finitude delineates the specifically Hegelian perspective in contrast to the reigning post-Kantian philosophy of his time. The insistence on not absolutizing finitude as such, of not making it primary in our theoretical and ethical thought, is not a marginal component, but rather presents one of the definitive axes of Hegelian thought. The specificity of the position is located in the particularly unremitting formulation that finitude must be annihilated, absolutely taken as nihil. It is not to be exalted as such, or merely be given a proper place within an ordered totality, or even partially negated in order to exalt something above it. This insistence on annihilation--and the conceptual logic that undergirds it--f orms a categorical divide between Hegelian thought and the dominant contours of the philosophy of his contemporaries.14 Ultimately, for Hegel, theoretically there are two mutually-exclusive possibilities: either naturalizing finitude as self-standing, as the unsurpassable limit out of which one thinks and lives, or, alternatively, annihilating finitude as the primary theoretical nexus, and instead situating it as a moment in a movement that precedes and exceeds it. He diagnoses the situation as follows: "The fundamental principle common to the philosophies of Kant, Jacobi and Fichte is, then, the absoluteness of finitude and resulting from it, the absolute antithesis of finitude and infinity, reality and ideality, the sensuous and the supersensuous, and the beyondness of what is truly real and absolute."15 What is valorized is a dual and bifurcated reality, a finite subjectivity, separate, singular and enclosed, and a transcendence to which it remains related, and which, in turn, in being rendered constitutively unreachable, maintains the subjectivity in its finitude. Hegel analyzes the variations and permutations that this principle takes, including the ideality of the moral law as the ultimate objective reality (in Kant), the prioritization and elevation
13. G.W.F. Hegel, Faith and Knowledge, trans. Walter Cerf and H.S. Harris (Albany: State University of New York, 1977), 65, translation modified and G.W.F. Hegel, "Glauben und Wissen" in G.W.F. Hegel, Gesammelte Werke, Bd. 4: Jenaer Kritische Schriften, eds. Hartmut Buchner and Otto Pцggeler (Hamburg: Felix Meiner Verlag, 1968), 323. 14. For a powerful interpretation of the significance of Faith and Knowledge in Hegel's overall project, see: Gillian Rose, Hegel contra Sociology (London: Athlone, 1995), esp. 92-102. 15. Hegel, Faith and Knowledge, 62.
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of the singular subject in its feeling and longing (in Jacobi), and the attempted enactment of this opposition in a synthesis and the drive for mastery and suffering thus produced (in Fichte). But what is notable is precisely the way that for Hegel these differences matter much less than the common conceptual matrix that underlies these variations. Each of these philosophical systems legitimates an injunction: "never to forget the absoluteness of the subject."16 What Faith and Knowledge seeks is to reconfigure theoretical conceptuality so that one could precisely forget that absoluteness, and it does so through the insistence on the process of its Vernichtung. Annihilation is not a violent process of immolation or sacrifice, nor a simple absorption of particularity into a totality or individuality into the absolute. Annihilation appears as a violent operation only to the position that takes empirical subjectivity as the sine qua non, the baseline beginning and unsurpassable site, for thought and life. It is a loss only if one begins with life and thought as already possessed and appropriated, as my life and my thought--a s possessions or quasi-faculties, rather than from a position that affirms that I partake in thought and life that precedes and exceeds me. By contrast, for Hegel, annihilation is first and foremost an operation that rearticulates the very status of finitude. Hegel offers the following image to describe this dynamic: It is as if someone who sees only the feet of a work of art were to complain, when the whole work is revealed to his sight, that he was being deprived of his deprivation and that the incomplete had been incompleted.... In the Idea, however, finite and infinite are one, and hence finitude as such, i.e., as something that was supposed to have truth and reality in and for itself, has vanished. Yet what was negated was only the negative in finitude; and thus the true affirmation was posited.17 What is at stake in this conception of annihilation is the annihilation of finitude as finitude, as something self-standing and severed from the infinite it posits and holds as a transcendent truth. For Hegel, finitude as such must not be affirmed as primary, but taken as only an abstracted form, the result of a secondary operation, which breaks apart the impersonal, immanent process that exceeds any given finite appropriation. To begin with an empirical perspective, as Hegel repeatedly diagnoses in his immanent critiques of dominant philosophical and theological paradigms, is to improperly essentialize and naturalize finitude, allow- 16. Ibid., 64. 17. Ibid., 66. 56 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
ing life and thought to at most strive to elevate themselves towards a transcendence that can definitionally never be reached; but it is always to fail to inhabit speculative infinity immanently, which precisely requires annihilation of finitude "in and for itself," that is, as something self-standing and independent. The convergent point that Hegel never ceases to impart is that infinity cannot be posited merely as the other of finitude without being thereby rendered finite itself. Infinity articulated in opposition to finitude remains itself merely finite because it is defined and limited by this opposition. Precisely insofar as it is other to the finite, it is determined as its other, and thus reveals itself not to be genuine infinity, but merely an abstract projection of finitude itself. "They understood the sphere of this antithesis, a finite and an infinite, to be absolute; but if infinity is thus set up against finitude, each is as finite as the other."18 Though the explicit target of Hegel's critique is the philosophy of his contemporaries, it also contains the kernel of a proleptic critique of Levinasian and post-Levinasian thought. This becomes visible when we realize that Hegel's decisive theoretical move is to insist that transcendence, the positing of a beyond for which one strives or by which one is affected (whatever the form one gives it, whether the moral law, eternal life, the intelligible world, or the Other) is an abstraction, an effect of self-negation or self-limitation that does nothing but enact a gesture of prostration towards alterity--and, moreover, that this formation can be formalized within religious discourses no less than philosophical ones. The assertion of transcendence, then, no longer functions, as it frequently does even in contemporary discourse, as an act of valorization, one that upholds the purity of what is posited as radically other--but rather as a ruse of abstraction whose central effects are the delimitation and enforcement of finitude. For Hegel, to critique the subject in order to exalt some form of transcendence surreptitiously reinforces the very perspective of finitude that it means to be subvert. What is at stake is not the opening up of finitude to transcendence, however conceived, but the diagnosis of the correlation between finitude and transcendence, and in turn the subversion of that entire correlation. To annihilate finitude for Hegel is to remove the very negative constraint of transcendence that structures its entire theoretical and affective matrix, and in this way to hallow life, to release it from the determination as essentially finite. In other words, one must resist merely choosing between the affirmation of a self-possessed subject and its self-negation as a way of valorizing transcendence; instead, the task of the speculative enterprise becomes the collapse of the entire
18. Ibid., 63.
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conceptual field governed by finitude, in order to articulate finitude itself as a moment of infinite generation of immanence. This is why Hegel can write: "Infinity is the pure annihilation [Vernichtung] of antithesis or of finitude; but it is at the same time also the spring of eternal movement, the spring of that finitude which is infinite, because it eternally annihilates itself."19 For Hegel, in contrast to Levinas, the infinite names not a transcendence that ruptures the self-sufficiency of the subject, but an immanent and impersonal process that precedes and exceeds the very difference between self and other. This is why Hegel insists that annihilation is an "eternal" process, one that continuously subverts the primacy of the subject and affirms its absolute (rather than partial or analogical) participation in processual infinity. And yet, what is thus annihilated is only the negative determination, only the theoretical and existential decision on the primacy of finitude itself. According to this reading, Hegel's thought is less one of closure and totality than one of externalization and productivity, one that speculatively affirms an immanence that is not merely a possession or a property of the subject, but is an impersonal process in excess of all subjectivity. III. Divine Speculation: Immanence against Negative Theology At the outset of Faith and Knowledge, Hegel points out one of the central problems with all philosophy that commences from the perspective of finitude: "In this situation philosophy cannot aim at the cognition of God, but only at what is called the cognition of man."20 For Hegel, such restriction of thought to the human subject presents as the successful realization what used to--a nd, for Hegel, still must--m ark the very "death of philosophy."21 Hegel's articulation of thought as divine must not, however, be mistaken for its attribution to a transcendence entity, to a God beyond the human. At stake is not the displacement of thought to a different subject--a divine instead of a human one--rather it is the reconfiguration of the very parameters of thought. For Hegel, speculative reason can be said to be the cognition of the divine only if one takes divine as something absolutely immanent to itself, and not simply that which is external and transcendent to the human. To say immanent only to itself is to say that it has nothing outside of it. Hegel is adamant that nothing has standing outside of God: "Philoso- 19. Ibid, 190 (trans. mod.). 20. Ibid., 65. 21. Ibid., 56. 58 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
phy recognizes that there is no outside of God, and hence that God is not an entity that subsists apart, one that is determined by something outside of it, or in other words, not something apart from which other have standing. Outside of God nothing has standing at all, there is nothing."22 In other words, for Hegel, the divine ceases to name transcendence and becomes speculative precisely once finitude is annihilated as the site from which thought and life takes place. Taken speculatively, God names the possibility of immanence itself, the articulation of a thought and plane of immanence no longer bound to the strictures of the perspective of the finite subject and its correlation to transcendence. What this crucially means is that, for Hegel, there is no longer any essential connection between God and transcendence, on the one hand, or immanence and humanism or secularism, on the other. In fact, not only is there no essential connection, there is no connection at all: God speculatively names immanence that challenges traditional theologies oriented around transcendence, no less than the humanisms and secularisms that appropriate immanence and restrict it to a wordily condition. It is the decoupling of God from transcendence that makes Hegel a radical critic of the logic of negative theology, of any position that proclaims the indetermination of God as a beyond. For Hegel, negative theology is, in the end, nothing but the proclamation of the failure of thought, one that underwrites the finitude of the subject. It is nothing but the prostration of finitude pointing in exaltation beyond itself, without declaring anything but its own prostrated frustration. Already present in Faith and Knowledge, this position persists into his late Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion: Thisis especially the attitude and the way of viewing [religion] in our time; religion is an orientation toward God, a feeling, speaking, and praying directed toward God above--but [only] toward God ... we know nothing of God, have no acquaintance with the divine content, essence, and nature; [we are oriented] toward a place that for us is empty.23 By associating the name of God with a pure beyond, with a transcendence in excess of all possible determination, what is in reality accomplished is less the valorization of the divine beyond all conceptual idol-
22. Ibid., 169. 23. G.W.F. Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion: Introduction and The Con- cept of Religion, trans. Peter C. Hodgson (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), 191.
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atry, than the determination of life as oriented towards a transcendent goal, which it, by definition, fails to ever reach.24 It becomes a way of defining life as dirempt, because it is essentially related to transcendence. As Hegel polemically judges this Enlightenment position: "From such a God, in Him, there is nothing to be had for He has already been emptied of all content. He is the unknowable... the void lacks content, is indeterminate and possesses no immanent life and action."25 Being emptied of all content, but retaining its form as transcendence, God becomes the name for the beyond whose main accomplishment is the enforcement of the human in its finitude. For Hegel, the negative theology, philosophically most explicitly articulated by Kant, bars the relation of the intellect to the divine: it situates intellect not as one of the names of the divine (perhaps the name for Hegel) but always as something situated on the outside. Nor should it be overlooked that what is eradicated in such a conception is not only speculative thought, but precisely divine, "immanent life," that is, a life that is immanent because it has nothing beyond it, a common life not split into my life and the life of the other. What the retention of an apophatic beyond accomplishes is less the proper actualization of the beyond than the enshrinement and essentialization of the finitude of the human. Does the attribution of thought to God render Hegel a megalomaniacal philosopher, the kind of onto-theological metaphysician that Heidegger charged him with being?26 Nothing is less certain, unless one is committed to the theoretical unsurpassibility of the correlation between finitude and transcendence. I would suggest, by contrast, that for Hegel, God becomes a speculative name that allows for the theoretical articulation of immanence, and thus also for thought and life to be seen as exceeding their subjective appropriation. But what does it mean that thought is not reducible to an appropriation of the human subject? The transition from the perspective of consciousness, of the subjective perspective, is not simply an affirmation of the perspective of the divine. Rather than a view from nowhere, Hegel proposes a non-anthropomorphic and non-anthropocentric artic- 24. For a contemporary concern about conceptual idolatry, see: Jean-Luc Marion, The Idol and Distance: Five Studies, trans. Thomas. A. Carlson (New York: Fordham University Press, 2001). 25. G.W.F. Hegel, "Foreword to Hinrichs' Religion in Its Inner Relation to Science," trans. A.V. Miller, in Miscellaneous Writings of G.W.F. Hegel, ed. Jon Stewart (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2002), 341. 26. Martin Heidegger, "The Onto-theo-logical Constitution of Metaphysics," in Identity and Difference, trans. Joan Stambaugh (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002). 60 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
ulation of immanence, for which any empirical subjectivity becomes a moment rather than a ground. What Hegel reintroduces into philosophy, against its dominant tendencies then and now, is the appreciation that we are not just finite. Hegel's gesture is to denude the pretensions of the subject, and expose its pretense to being self-grounding in order to make it acknowledge the immanence in which it partakes without reserve or mastery. At stake is an immanent movement of infinity, one no longer possessed by the subject, nor simply appropriated by God as a (divine) subject to which creatures and the world then would stand opposed. Hegel's thought is a thought of immanence because it disrupts the conceptual topography that separates and keeps separate the self, the world and God. Such a reading suggests that Hegelian speculative thought should be inserted back within the genealogy of immanence that Deleuze articulates in Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza and What is Philosophy? Although Deleuze has often been interpreted, in accordance with his explicit position, as offering a radical anti-Hegelianism, this has led to a failure to note their theoretical convergence on the primacy of generative immanence. Certainly, as is most powerfully visible in his Nietzsche and Philosophy, Deleuze places his philosophy against the humanistic Hegel dominant in 20th century post-Kojиvian philosophy. Yet this is not the only Hegel that there exists, even for Deleuze himself, since Jean Hyppolite had already articulated Hegelian thought as a non-humanistic ontology of immanence in his Logic and Existence.27 Years before his articulation of the genealogy of immanence in relation to Spinoza, Deleuze read and appreciated Hyppolite's intervention.28 The differences between Deleuze and Hegel are certainly great, especially on the status of difference and contradiction and Deleuze's conception of a transcendental empiricism. But these differences have led to the forgetting of the strong theory of immanence in Hegel's thought, which deserves to be reinserted in the genealogy of immanence from medieval mystics to Giordano Bruno through to Spinoza and to Deleuze himself. Moreover, when Hegel describes thought as divine, such an ascription should be read within the tradition of philosophy that takes God as a site for speculation in excess of the fields of representation established between subjects and objects. In other words, as part of the tradition that takes the name of God as liberating thought's speculative ca-
27. Jean Hyppolite, Logic and Existence, trans. Leonard Lawlor and Amit Sen (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997). 28. Deleuze's appreciative review is published as an appendix of the English translation: Hyppolite, Logic and Existence, 191-196.
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pacities. With God, everything is permitted, because through thinking God, concepts become disarticulated from the bounds of representation, and a new kind of freedom of thought is made possible. God does not name the origin of moral restrictions or condemnations, but names instead the site for the liberation of thought. As Deleuze explained in his late lectures on Spinoza: With God, everything is permitted... God and the theme of God offered the irreplaceable opportunity for philosophy to free the object of creation in philosophy--that is to say concepts--from the constraints that had been imposed on them... the simple representation of things.... The concept is freed at the level of God because it no longer has the task of representing something. 29 For Deleuze, such an approach is emblematic of early modern philosophy. I have argued elsewhere that medieval mystical theologians like Eckhart likewise used God as the name for immanence in excess of subjectivity, decoupling it from any remnants of transcendence or operations of creation--a fact that Deleuze failed to see due to his overly rigid distinction between the tasks and domains of theology and philosophy.30 For Deleuze, philosophy consists of constructing concepts, articulating immanence, and upholding univocal relations while theology is relegated to the conservative defense of an ineffable God, cosmological hierarchies and analogical predication.31 Here I would like to insist complementarily that Hegel reactivated precisely a philosophical use of God in the wake the Kantian moment in which God again became the name for a pious and moral restriction on thought. Hegel rediscovers this impulse insofar as for him God no longer names the limit of the human--a s though being something beyond the human--but the name for the force of processual immanence, which leaves nothing external to itself. God becomes the name for the process of speculation that renders thought and life as absolutely immanent, no longer essentially severed into a finite subject and a transcendent beyond. It names the site not of the ultimate (self-)possession, but of all subjective dispos- 29. Gilles Deleuze, Lectures on Spinoza, (accessed June 04, 2013). 30. Alex Dubilet, "Freeing Immanence from the Grip of Philosophy: On Univocity and Experimentalism in Meister Eckhart" in Speculation, Heresy, and Gnosis in Contemporary Philosophy of Religion: The Enigmatic Absolute, eds. Joshua Ramey and Matthew Haar Farris (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2016). 31. Gilles Deleuze, Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza, trans. Martin Joughin (New York: Zone Books, 1990), 169-199 and passim; and Dubilet, "Freeing Immanence." 62 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
session, precisely because immanence is no longer a possession or property either of the subject or the secular world. Hegelian speculative immanence allows one to abrogate choosing between a secular subject and a theological transcendence, and instead upholds the task of thinking and living out of that processual infinite that can be called divine precisely and only insofar as it is nothing but immanence itself. IV. Immanence, or a Life without a Why: Hegel as an Inheritor of Eckhart At the very moment in the Lectures when Hegel articulates the nature of the speculative perspective that stands in contrast to the perspective of the finite subjectivity, he evokes "earlier theologians who saw to the very bottom of this depth, especially Catholic theologians."32 And yet, despite conjuring a plurality of predecessors, he names only one: Meister Eckhart, a Dominican monk of the fourteenth century, says in the course of one of his sermons on this innermost [dies Innerste], `The eye with which God sees me is the eye with which I see him; my eye and his are one and the same. In justice [Gerechtigkeit] I am weighed in God and he in me. If God did not exist nor would I; if I did not exist nor would he...' "33 What Hegel finds in Eckhart is a predecessor in the rejection of the theoretical primacy of external relations between the human and the divine, in order to affirm their identity and immanence.34 Hegel finds, within the terrain of medieval theology, the assertion of the dependence not merely of the subject on God, but much more radically, of God on the subject: "If I did not exist nor would he." What makes Eckhart a Hegelian precursor is the fact that he diagnosed and sought to subvert the prima-
32. Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, 347. 33. Ibid., 347-348, trans. mod. As the editors of the Lectures point out, the quota- tion is an amalgamation of several of Eckhart's sermons. 34. The connection between Eckhart and Hegel (and between German Medieval Mysticism and German Idealism more generally) is helpfully explored by Ernst Benz, Les Sources Mystiques de la Philosophie Romantique Allemande (Paris: J. Vrin, 1981). Hegel's response to reading Eckhart is canonically captured in the comment he is purported to have made to Franz von Baader in 1824: "Da haben wir es ja, was wir wollen." (Les Sources Mystiques, 12). On this also see the brief discussion in Glenn Alexander Magee, Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2008), 224-227. H.S. Harris makes the claim that Hegel encounters the medieval mystics much earlier, in 1795, while working on his essay on the positivity of Christianity, cf. H.S. Harris, Hegel's Development: Towards the Sunlight 1770-1801 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971), 230-231.
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cy of asymmetrical relations of externality, and moreover, one that did so by insisting that thought is not something external to its object: taken speculatively, my eye is the divine eye, and not merely a human eye looking at the divine as something external or transcendent. For Hegel, as for Eckhart, there is not a severed duality between the (human) self and the (divine) other, but only the immanence of the One as process. There are several interrelated vectors of convergence between Hegel and Eckhart, which put them at odds with the dominant logics operating both in medieval theology and modern philosophy. The first is the insistence of the necessity to annihilate finitude as the site from which thought and life are articulated. Eckhart's sermons repeatedly thematize questions of self-annihilation, detachment, and self-dispossession; indeed, they generate a veritable kenotic lexicon.35 For Eckhart, just as for Hegel, this process of undoing the delimitation of the subject entails precisely not the affirmation of transcendence, but rather the collapse of the entire correlation between finitude of the subject and divine transcendence. In other words, in contrast to what might be expected of medieval mystical and spiritual writings, in Eckhart's discourse, the annihilation of the self does not yield experiences of God or foretastes of beatific afterlife. Eckhart repeatedly makes this point, but perhaps nowhere more acutely than in his famous Sermon 52, where he delineates the position that true poverty requires not only giving up the self, but also to become free of God as God, that is, God as a transcendent externality. Eckhart and Hegel, in different discursive frames, both problematize the link of God with transcendence, and do so not in order to foist on the beyond a set of concepts that would produce an idolatrous relationship, but because such a link forecloses the possibility of an absolute immanence that would not be a priori severed between the (finite) self and the (divine) other. This is performed, at least in part, through the subversion of negative theology, which is understood not as a pious operation that exalts God (as it is in the Christian tradition from Pseudo-Dionysius onwards) as much as an exaltation of a transcendence, which is nothing but the inverse of the affirmation of human finitude. For Hegel and Eckhart both, the true opposite of negative theology is neither simply kataphatic or positive theology nor an idolatrous relation (which Christian theologians never cease warning us of), but the infinitizing of thought and life. It is the affirmation of 35. For a useful enumeration of relevant terms, see: Alois M. Haas, "`... das Persцnliche und Eigene verleugnen': Mystische vernichtigkeit und verworffenheit sein selbs im Geiste Meister Eckharts," in Mystik als Aussage: Erfahrungs-, Denk- und Redeformen christlicher Mystik (Frankfurt am Main: Insel, 2007), 370 and passim. 64 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
the possibility of the cognition of God, not from the position of the finite subject, but as the condition for the articulation of the divine as absolute immanence itself. They suggest that the rejection of negative theology in order to affirm speculative immanence is not simple idolatry: it does not give an improper name that exhausts God. Rather it shows how the traditional concerns of negative theology themselves can be said to disavow their enactment of a negative idolatry, in which God remains defined as the negative beyond of the perspective of human finitude. Instead of affirming transcendence, the annihilation of finitude is an operation that opens onto a speculative conception of God as absolute self-immanence, one from and not towards which one thinks and lives. For Hegel and Eckhart, thought and life are not severed or opposed. On this point, one can recall Deleuze: "Actually there is only one term, Life, that encompasses thought, but conversely this term is encompassed only by thought."36 They are no longer possessed, they are no longer appropriated, but name what is common, what precedes and exceeds the subject. But they do so not as a hyper-excessive transcendence, but an immanence that subverts at once the subject and any transcendence to which it can be attached. Annihilation of finitude enacts not a violence of abstraction or the self-mutilation of subjective life, but quite the opposite--t he recognition that subjective life itself is always already a deformation, a life made to suffer by being forced into itself. Annihilation is thus not a simple negation, but a radical affirmation of life and thought in which one partakes in excess of one's own subjectivity. If there is an ethics of self-annihilation that affirms the speculative immanence of life, one could say, turning directly to the vocabulary of Eckhart and the medieval mystics, that it is a question of a life "without a why." This is life out of the absolute univocal identity that precedes the very differentiation between the human and the divine, between creature and creator, between self and other. Life without a why is neither creaturely nor divine (or, when ascribed to the divine, it is thereby rendered absolutely immanent, as lacking all externality and alterity), but is immanent generation that precedes and undoes all operations of appropriation and transcendence, all difference between humans and divinities. Indeed, one can say that for Eckhart life and immanence are precisely what is revealed in the wake of the breakdown of the conceptual grammar structured by the hierarchical relationality of the delimited self, the created world, and the transcendent God. No longer im-
36. Gilles Deleuze, Spinoza: Practical Philosophy, trans. Robert Hurley (San Francisco: City Light Books, 1988), 14.
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manent to something, in the sense of being a property of something, life is articulated only as immanent to itself. It is out of this inner ground that you should perform all your works without asking, "Why?" I say truly: So long as you perform your works for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, or for God's sake, or for the sake of your eternal blessedness, and you work them from without, you are going completely astray.... If anyone went on for a thousand years asking of life: "Why are you living?" life, if it could answer, would only say: "I live so that I may live." That is because life lives out of its own ground and springs from its own source, and so it lives without asking why it is itself living.37 This passage suggests that life cannot follow the instrumental logics of `in order to' or `for the sake of ' or `so that' without being maimed and losing its quality as life. It is not that life should not be instrumentalized for things that are somehow unworthy of it, but that life cannot be made to serve any ground or reason whatsoever--w hether it be the kingdom of heaven, God, or eternal blessedness. It would be difficult to find a more exalted religious triad, and yet Eckhart's insistence on absoluteness of the mistake suggests precisely a qualitative difference, a conceptual rupture between a life lived according to the logic of instrumentality that arises out of the severance of means and ends, between finitude and transcendence, and, on the other hand, the logic of immanent life without a why. In recognizing that life is not something possessed or appropriated by the subject, but an immanence revealed through annihilation and self-emptying, both Eckhart and Hegel are harbingers of the connection identified by Deleuze in his last essay: "We will say of pure immanence that it is A LIFE, and nothing else."38 If for Eckhart, life without a why is a recurring topos, which insists on life's irreducible immanence,39 it is perhaps less obviously the case for Hegel. Nevertheless, Hegel repeatedly bemoans the maiming of life under the configurations of concepts, the suffering and longing that is produced under the philosophies of his contemporaries. The problem with absolutizing the subject 37. Meister Eckhart, Meister Eckhart: The Essential Sermons, Commentaries, Treatises and Defense, trans. Edmund Colledge and Bernard McGinn (Mahwah: Paulist Press, 1981), Sermon 5b, 183-4, emphasis added. 38. Gilles Deleuze, "Immanence: A Life," in Pure Immanence: Essays on a Life, trans. Anne Boyman (New York: Zone Books, 2001), 27. 39. For this dimension of Eckhart's thought, see: Reiner Schьrmann, Wandering Joy: Meister Eckhart's Mystical Philosophy, trans. David Appelbaum (Great Barrington: Lindisfarne Books, 2001). 66 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
and tethering it to transcendence is not only the failure of theoretically articulating a consistent conception of infinity, but also its foreclosure of a shared immanence of life. Moreover, it should be remembered that the effect of philosophies of subjective reflection is not a generation of an actual beyond, but the deformation of the speculative capacities of thought and the existential capacities of life: both reason and life become essentially subjective, appropriated, privatized. This is why Hegel imbricates the two sides so closely: "the task of philosophy consists in uniting these presuppositions... to posit the finite in the infinite, as life."40 For Hegel too, then, life is precisely not simply an attribute of the subject, but that which is opened onto, once the finite subject is seen as partaking in the infinite immanence that exceeds it. But what does this entail? As Hegel writes in immediately preceding passage: "It is the goal that is being sought; but it is already present, or how otherwise could it be sought?"41 Rather than a transcendent goal or a telos, posited as something to be achieved, the speculative perspective ungrounds life and thought, leaving them without transcendent moorings and destinations. Hegel's thought proposes a movement from the diremption constitutive of a finitude severed from a transcendence to a speculative conception of life which is fundamentally immanent and infinite insofar as it is no longer a property of the subject. The result is an ethics of ungroundedness and an abolition of teleological work. Speculative life is immanent life, generic common life, one no longer appropriated by the subject nor tethered to a transcendent telos. Such an interpretation is further confirmed by the fact that Hegel differentiates himself from both Kant and Fichte through the way the latter conceive of striving and accomplishment. In the Jena writings, Hegel's critique of Fichte stems precisely from the teleological framework in which Fichte seeks to unify opposites through subordination and mastery: of nature to self, of necessity to freedom, of drive to reflection. For Hegel, this is the direct result of Fichte's prioritization of the subjective appropriation of speculation, of articulating the speculative identity as ultimately the possession of the subject. Here identity is merely ideal insofar as it is posited as an ought, something to be achieved, leading to a relation of a violent imposition, a teleological making real of the ideal that cannot but be violent. In contrast, for Hegel, the task cannot be to overcome separation and difference into iden-
40. G.W.F. Hegel, The Difference Between Fichte's and Schelling's System of Philosophy, trans. H.S. Harris and Walter Cerf (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1977), 94. 41. Ibid., 93.
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tity, but one that affirms speculative immanence as preceding the very division between subject and object, self and other, finitude and transcendence. Identity and immanence are not then merely the property of the subject, but must be read speculatively as undermining the status of the subject and any moral mission it might claim. Not coincidentally, right after evoking Eckhart in the Lectures, Hegel differentiates the implications of this position from the position most closely associated with Kant and Fichte, one that gives priority to the morality: "as though there were a world, forsaken by God, outside of me, waiting for me to introduce the goal (or goodness) for the first time."42 But for Hegel, as for Eckhart, the task is not to realize a goal, as though the subject is beholden to a necessity (of the norm, of the law, of the free will) to transform the world, which is separate from a transcendent God. Rather, the question is of conceptually subverting the very production of such illusions of necessity, along with the triadic division between the subject, the world and God that underwrites them. Indeed, to read Hegel in this way is to resist the pieties of scholarship and the powers of historicist common sense that insist on the privileged position of the Kantian framework for interpreting Hegel's thought. But it is also to propose a different mode of organizing traditions, no longer structured by the disjuncture between religious and philosophical domains, but instead by the difference between modes of thought that give voice to immanence and those that enshrine the primacy of transcendence. Such an organization, moreover, compels us to acknowledge that problematizing frameworks that prioritize transcendence and arrest the process of immanence does not necessarily have to be anti-religious, whatever the united voices of theologians, philosophers and common sense might tell us: philosophical and religious discourse each have the capacity to be articulated immanently and speculatively. In such an organization, Hegel must indeed be seen as an inheritor of a medieval theologian like Eckhart, and to stand in opposition to any theoretical articulation that enshrines transcendence, even when it is articulated philosophically, as it is by Kant.43 42. Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, 350. 43. Though the importance of Kantian categories for Hegel is undeniable (e.g. Rob- ert Pippin, Hegel's Idealism: The Satisfactions of Self-Consciousness (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1989)), one risks missing something essential if one traces the persistence of Kantianism in Hegel: the very way that Hegel radically traverses and subverts the Kantian framework to open up his speculative perspective, and in so doing recuperates traditions of thought that preceded Kant and which Kant sought to disqualify as illegitimate. So, although it might be true that Hegel is not a metaphysician in a pre-Kantian sense, as Pippin insists, 68 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
References After the Postsecular and the Postmodern: New Essays in Continental Philosophy of Religion (eds A. P. Smith, D. Whistler), Newcastle upon Tyne, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2010. Barber D. C. On Diaspora: Christianity, Religion, and Secularity, Eugene, Cascade Books, 2011. Benz E. Les Sources Mystiques de la Philosophie Romantique Allemande, Paris, J. Vrin, 1981. Caputo J. D. The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida: Religion without Religion, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1997. de Vries H. Philosophy and the Turn to Religion, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999. Deleuze G. Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza, New York, Zone Books, 1990. Deleuze G. Immanence: A Life. Pure Immanence: Essays on a Life, New York, Zone Books, 2001, pp. 25­34. Deleuze G. Lectures on Spinoza. Available at: Deleuze G. Spinoza: Practical Philosophy, San Francisco, City Light Books, 1988. Derrida J. How to Avoid Speaking: Denials. Derrida and Negative Theology (eds H. Coward, T. Foshay), Albany, State University of New York Press, 1982, pp. 74­142. Dubilet A. Freeing Immanence from the Grip of Philosophy: On Univocity and Experimentalism in Meister Eckhart. Speculation, Heresy, and Gnosis in Contemporary Philosophy of Religion: The Enigmatic Absolute (eds J. Ramey, M. H. Farris), Lanham, MD, Rowman & Littlefield, 2016, pp. 247-258. Haas A. M. "...das Persцnliche und Eigene verleugnen": Mystische "vernichtigkeit und verworffenheit sein selbs" im Geiste Meister Eckharts. Mystik als Aussage: Erfahrungs-, Denk- und Redeformen christlicher Mystik, Frankfurt am Main, Insel, 2007, S. 355­383. Harris H. S. Hegel's Development: Towards the Sunlight 1770­1801, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1971. Hart K. The Trespass of the Sign: Deconstruction, Theology, and Philosophy, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1991. Hegel G. W. F. Faith and Knowledge, Albany, State University of New York Press, 1977. Hegel G. W. F. Foreword to Hinrichs' "Religion in Its Inner Relation to Science". Miscellaneous Writings of G.W.F. Hegel, Evanston, Northwestern University Press, 2002, pp. 332­353. it must be noted that the very dichotomy between pre-Critical thinkers like Spinoza and Critical thinkers following Kant is itself a product of the Kantian genealogical self-narration.
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Hegel G. W. F. Gesammelte Werke. Bd. 4: Jenaer Kritische Schriften, Hamburg, Felix Meiner Verlag, 1968. Hegel G. W. F. Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion: Introduction and The Concept of Religion, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1984. Hegel G. W. F. The Difference Between Fichte's and Schelling's System of Philosophy, Albany, State University of New York Press, 1977. Heidegger M. The Onto-theo-logical Constitution of Metaphysics. Identity and Difference, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2002, pp. 42­76. Hyppolite J. Logic and Existence, Albany, State University of New York Press, 1997. Magee G. A. Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 2008. Marion J.-L. God without Being, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1991. Marion J.-L. The Idol and Distance: Five Studies, New York, Fordham Uni- versity Press, 2001. Meister Eckhart. Meister Eckhart: The Essential Sermons, Commentaries, Treatises and Defense, Mahwah, Paulist Press, 1981. Pippin R. Hegel's Idealism: The Satisfactions of Self-Consciousness, Chicago, Chicago University Press, 1989. Rose G. Hegel contra Sociology, London, Athlone, 1995. Schьrmann R. Wandering Joy: Meister Eckhart's Mystical Philosophy, Great Barrington, Lindisfarne Books, 2001. Watkin C. Difficult Atheism: Post-Theological Thinking in Alain Badiou, Jean-Luc Nancy and Quentin Meillassoux, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 2011. 70 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
Beginning with Kant: Utopia, Immanence, and the Origin of German Idealism Kirill Chepurin Senior Lecturer, School of Philosophy, Faculty of Humanities, National Research University Higher School of Economics. Address: 21/4 Staraya Basmannaya Str., 105066 Moscow, Russia. E-mail: [email protected] Keywords: Immanuel Kant; German Idealism; utopia; immanence; temporality. Abstract: This paper outlines a utopic reading of the Kantian origin of German Idealism, which in turn implies and necessitates a rearticulation of the concept of utopia. In this optic, utopia ceases to be a mere idealistic vision of the future and becomes, first and foremost, a utopian method and standpoint from which Kantian idealism begins. Utopia, in this sense, originates as if at a distance from the real, but in such a way that it remains impossible to reach it from within reality; any such transition would have to remain, at best, an infinite approximation. It is therefore pointless to expect utopia--one can only begin from it. This implies a different, non-Spinozan immanence, which this paper characterizes as utopian and discovers in Kant. On this reading, transcendental idealism, as non-realism, suspends the real and starts from a "non-place," refusing to think the emergence of the ideal from any environment or the in-itself. This non-place is reduplicated as an immanent, non-dualist facticity from which the subject of idealism proceeds to think and act. Idealism thus implies a utopian structure (non-relation), operation (suspension), and temporality (futurity-as-facticity), which, taken together, suggest a different way of looking at the continuity between Kant and post-Kantian idealism, as well as a way to think immanence as non-Spinozistic--and even as deconstructing Spinozism--while also avoiding any dualism, including that of the religious-secular binary. 71
With Kant came the dawn. Schelling to Hegel1 Why a beginning at all? ... The beginning is already a later concept. Novalis2 THIS paper outlines a reading of Kant's thought--and thus the Kantian origin of German Idealism--as utopian. This kind of reading, however, requires a rearticulation of both Kant's Critical project and the theoretical concept of utopia. Continental philosophy's new-found engagement with German Idealism, in which the latter has emerged as an important resource for new forms of thinking, rarely approaches Kant in a constructive manner--instead, more often than not, he continues to be pitted negatively against Hegel and Schelling, the two leading characters in the current German idealist revival. Here, I would like to provide a more speculative angle from which to consider Kantian thought itself, in order to see what is, theoretically and politically-theologically, "idealist" about Kantian (and, potentially, post-Kantian German) Idealism. To that end, I will revisit Kantian thought as a thought of immanence--a n immanence which, while born out of a Spinozistic context, is not Spinozan; an immanence which, furthermore, is idealist or non-realist. The "refusal of transcendence" (and its flip side, the affirmation of immanence) has lately grown to be a central motif in contemporary Continental philosophy, not least 1. Schelling an Hegel, Tьbingen, den 4ten Febr. [17]95 // Briefe von und an Hegel. Bd. I: 1785­1812 / J. Hoffmeister (Hg.). Hamburg: Felix Meiner, 1952. S. 21. 2. Novalis. Das Allgemeine Brouillon. Nr. 634 & 76 // Werke, Tagebьcher und Briefe. Bd. 2: Das philosophisch-theoretische Werk / H.-J. Mдhl (Hg.). Mьnchen: Carl Hanser, 2005. S. 622, 485. 72 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
in philosophy of religion, where immanence names an alternative to the traditional binary division between "religious" and "secular" (in this division's religious and secularist forms alike).3 However, following Deleuze, immanence has predominantly been considered as equivalent to, or genealogically aligned with, its Spinozistic articulation. Here, I aim to conceptualize a different, non-Spinozan--i dealist and utopian-- immanence, which I discover in Kantian idealism and which likewise escapes any binary confines, including the procrustean bed of the religious-secular opposition. On this reading, we can discern within transcendental idealism a certain theoretical core--a structure, temporality, and method of what I would like to call "utopian immanence." Importantly, this structure of immanence in Kant is not dualistic in essence, which allows, at least on one count, to escape or render more theoretically complex the commonplace distinction between Kant as a dualist and post-Kantian thought as striving towards unity. In an important section in the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals entitled "Of the Uttermost Boundary of All Practical Philosophy," Kant himself complicates what is often taken to be his dualism between "nature" and "freedom"--a longside other divisions or parallelisms he mentions there (and elsewhere in that work), such as those between theoretical and practical reason, Verstand and Vernunft, Sinnenwelt and Verstandeswelt, as well as, for instance, "the world" vs. rational agency. In different ways, each of these conceptual pairs represents for Kant two aspects or "senses" into which a unity is bifurcated but which remain within this unity--K ant calls this a Wegescheidung (AA 4:455)4, which I am translating here as "bifurcation." The subject is the name or site of this bifurcation, but it is not itself the origin of or that which produces it, and not where it begins. Moreover, Kant insists on the original unity--of the subject, and of reason. Since both nature and freedom are "ideal" in Kant (what he calls "nature" is for him based on the ideality of
3. See e.g. Barber D.C. Deleuze and the Naming of God: Post-Secularism and the Future of Immanence. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014. See also Alex Dubilet's paper in this issue. The phrase "refusal of transcendence" is taken from the title of an important recent book on Kierkegaard: Shakespeare S. Kierkegaard and the Refusal of Transcendence. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. 4. With the exception of the first Critique, references to Kant in this paper are to the "Akademie-Ausgabe" (abbreviated AA, followed by volume and page number): Kant I. Gesammelte Schriften. Hg. von der Kцniglich PreuЯischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. Berlin: Georg Reimer / Berlin-Leipzig: de Gruyter, 1900­. References to the Critique of Pure Reason adhere to the standard citation style: "A" for the first edition, "B" for the second, followed by page number.
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space and time), to ask about the origin of this Wegescheidung in Kant means to inquire into the origin of ideality, or the ideal, as such--i nto the origin and structure of the ideal in "transcencendental idealism." *** In this paper, I will argue that this origin is utopian. It cannot be a part of, or derived from, any pre- or extra-ideal reality, which we may (provisionally for now) call the "in-itself ". If that were the case, that would, for Kant, result in "dogmatism"--a dogmatism that, at once metaphysically and politically, serves to justify the world as it is, the realist status quo, while leaving no room for freedom and critique. The ideal must therefore, for Kant, begin only from itself and its own here and now, not from the world or the past--b egin from that which the dogmatic real cannot account for, a non-place, a nowhere which is the immanent now-here, a "fact of reason." Such is, provisionally, the first, basic sense in which idealist immanence is "utopian". Generally, the focus on the utopian should not come as too much of a surprise given that, if you look at Kant himself or German Idealism in the wake of Kant--a t Fichte, Schelling, Hegel or the Romantics--y ou can see a lot of explicitly utopian projects of a perfect society, new religion, new mythology, new revelation, absolute identity, the perfect reconciliation of morality and happiness or morality and right, the idea of a complete system, or the idea of completion-- and sometimes even incompletion--itself. These projects may be political, political-theological, or theoretical, but they are also, seemingly, all of that at once--a lways rooted in or following from theoretical considerations. Additionally, none of them is strictly secular or strictly religious. In order to get at the root of this, utopia needs to be grasped as something other, and more interesting, than merely a utopian vision of another world or an impossible future. I will argue that it is in and with Kantian idealism that we can begin to conceive of utopia in this way. To put it briefly and provisionally: whereas Spinozan immanence is devoid of distance and transition,5 utopian immanence is a distance without transition and a suspension without dualism. Originating by definition as a "non-place," utopia must involve a rearticulation of the problem of beginning itself. Utopia suspends the real and starts at a distance from it (albeit in a non-relative way--a distance as non-place), making it impossible to transition to the utopian from within reality, history or the world; any transition of this sort would have to remain, 5. See Barber D.C. Nonrelation and Metarelation // Serial Killing: A Philosophical Anthology / E. Connole, G. J. Shipley (eds). Schism Press, 2015. P. 39-52. 74 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
at best, an infinite approximation. It is therefore pointless to expect utopia--o ne can only begin from it. Utopia must therefore be rearticulated as a structure, method and temporality that is immanent, not transcendent. This implies a different kind of temporality compared to those traditionally ascribed to German Idealism and Romanticism, irreducible to a divine cyclical time, an approximation of the future modeled upon the present, a transcendent Christian eschaton or a mere incessant delay of the apocalypse without beginning or end. Utopia is, here, the idealist or non-realist origin and structure, as well as the idealist strategy (or method), which are immanently constitutive of and operating in ideality (be it reason, history, freedom, community, Geist, cognition, the human, the I, the subject, sometimes nature, or any other name for the ideal familiar from German Idealism). It is also a fundamentally political-theological concept that in an important sense precedes both the secular-religious binary and "ideal" things like knowledge, law, religion, and community, setting up a stage of critique, a "critical" plane of immanence on which the ideal as such operates and which Friedrich Schlegel calls a realism or Spinozism "of an ideal origin" ("idealischer Ursprung")6. As Franзois Laruelle has put it, "utopia must first be the means before being the ends."7 As such, utopia, for me, is not, at least not first and foremost, a utopian vision of the future, although it can operate at this level, too,--a nd as mentioned, German Idealism does include some explicitly utopian visions. Instead, I want to revisit the concept of the utopian as the minimal theoretical condition inscribed within Kantian idealism as such (which, furthermore, makes it a philosophy of immanence before making it a philosophy of the subject). The point here is not to "defend" idealism or to defend the term "idealism", but to make it explicit. What is at stake in saying "the ideal" and not "the real"? What is the logic of idealism as "non-"realism? In what follows, I aim to consider these questions by turning to Kant's Critical corpus from the Critique of Pure Reason to the Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone. In my future work, I also hope to trace this logic in post-Kantian German idealist thought. 1. As delineated by the first Critique, the architectonic of pure reason extends from sensibility to the understanding to reason in the narrow
6. Schlegel F. Rede ьber die Mythologie // Schriften zur Kritischen Philosophie, 1795-1805. Hamburg: Felix Meiner, 2007. S. 99. 7. Laruelle F. Struggle and Utopia at the End Times of Philosophy. Minneapolis: Univocal Publishing, 2012. P. 146.
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sense. I will also call this structure that of "ideality" or "the ideal," following the fundamental distinction Kant draws between "transcendental realism" and his own "transcendental idealism," as well as his use of the terms "ideality of space and time" and "ideas" of reason. On the one side, this transcendentally ideal structure begins with sensibility, affected by the objects (A19/B33) that, as appearances, are grounded in the "thing in itself " as their correlate ("the true correlate of sensibility," A30/B45), as well as the "transcendental object" as "appearance in general" of which "I know nothing of what it is in itself " (A253). On the other, pure reason is delimited by, and culminates in, "transcendental ideas," or "ideas of reason" (such as the idea of God). These, too, are unknowable in itself, nor can they be taken to correspond to any actual objects, instead governing the "systematic unity" of empirical cognition (B595-6) and given to us as ideal "tasks" (e.g. B380) to be followed and "problems" to be pursued (e.g. B397, A647/B675). Thus, ideality is here suspended, as it were, between the two "in itself," both unknowable yet thinkable--precisely as the limits or boundaries of ideality. The issue of the ideal's origin or starting point as introduced in the first Critique has been particularly problematic for Kant interpreters starting already from Jacobi's famous criticism of the thing in itself as that without which one cannot enter the Kantian system and with which one cannot remain inside it. Other aspects of his argument aside, Jacobi correctly identified the change of perspective from the in-itself to appearance and the accompanying "forgetting" of the thing in itself (which cannot, as such, have any place within Kant's system) as the starting point of transcendental idealism. It is, after all, around this change of perspective--f rom the (transcendentally) real to the (transcendentally) ideal--that Kant's Copernican revolution itself revolves. The "idealist" point here, however, is not that our knowledge is somehow "unreal," but that ideality does not need to be traced back to or derived from the in-itself, beginning instead with its own facticity and functioning as autonomous or indifferent to however the in-itself may be independently of us.8 To better understand this change from realism to idealism, it would do well to recall what Kant considers "transcendental realism" to be--a philosophy that, for him, culminates in Spinozism and against which, among other things, he positions his "transcendental idealism" during (but also, as Omri Boehm has recently argued,9 even before) the socalled Pantheism Controversy of the 1780s. Transcendental realism is de- 8. On this point cf. Chepurin K. Spirit and Utopia: (German) Idealism as Political Theology // Crisis and Critique, 2/2015. P. 329. 9. Boehm O. Kant's Critique of Spinoza. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. 76 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
fined by, first, the conflation of the in-itself and appearance and, secondly, the contention that the "ordained order of nature" as it is in itself, nature as such, the infinite series taken as a whole or totality or substance, is absolutely or objectively necessary10--that it is itself the absolute or God (given that Spinozism rejects any substance pluralism). "Therefore," says Kant in the second Critique, "if one does not adopt this kind of ideality of time and space [i.e., the realm of appearance as ideal], nothing else remains except Spinozism, in which space and time are essential determinations of the first being [Urwesen, i.e. God] itself " (AA 5:100). We should take note of the real ontological continuity at work in transcendental realism according to Kant--a logic of continuity between the real and the ideal, which precludes any autonomy of ideality. By contrast, for Kant against Spinozism, if the ideal and the real coincide, or the former is somehow derived from or in relation to the latter, immanent critique becomes impossible, which results in "dogmatism." Dogmatism, in its turn, refers to the conception that regards the ideal as emerging from a pre- or extra-ideal stratum,11 and thus, relatedly, to the attempt to explain ideality (knowledge, morality, history, religion, etc.) from within the real, to trace the emergence of the former from the latter and therefore close the gap by going back to, or proceeding from, the in-itself. Idealism, however, maintains this gap. If the latter were to be closed by going back to the emergence of the ideal from the real and re-instituting the continuity, critique would become impossible. As Kant puts it, "if appearances are things in themselves, freedom cannot be upheld" (A536/B564). In other words, in order for there to be ideality and freedom, the structural starting point for reason's critique must be ideality itself-- ideality as distance without emergence or transition. The foundational move of Kant's transcendental idealism involves a suspension of or a disinvestment from the real in order to set up an autonomous critical stage of reason. Kant's short essay "What Does It Mean to Orient Oneself in Thinking?" (1786), his explicit intervention in the Spinoza Controversy, is programmatic in this regard. Ideality, says Kant, "orients" itself solely by its own facticity in abstraction from everything preor extra-ideal, by the fact that it exists--and, as it were, does its own thing. That is also why, in the Critique of Pure Reason, reason for Kant begins not with the real or any sort of correspondence between the real
10. Cf. Grier M. Kant's Doctrine of Transcendental Illusion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. P. 225. 11. Per Markus Gabriel's formulation in Gabriel M. Aarhus Lectures: Schelling and Contemporary Philosophy // sats 14(1), 2013. P. 72.
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and the ideal, but with itself: "reason has insight only into that which it produces after a plan of its own" (Bxiii) or "what reason brings forth entirely out of itself " (Axx). As Markus Gabriel notes, Kant "is not interested in grounding the dualism of appearance and thing in itself in some futher fact."12 Importantly, however, for Kant, there is no need to ground ideality further (and arguably no dualism within the system either), since that would disrupt the immanence of reason. This is why, even though he infamously calls the in-itself the "ground" (A380) and "cause" (B567) of appearances, Kant is indifferent to theorizing this "ground" and "cause" any further. From the hypothetical realist standpoint (the standpoint of ontological continuity), one might well regard the ideal as emerging from within the real, because otherwise it would be phantasmic and absurd ("absurd" being Kant's own word--h e says that to think appearances without the in-itself would be absurd; Bxxvi-xvii). For idealism, however, it is from its own facticity that the ideal begins or originates. Idealism does not conceptualize its origin in the in-itself, because only by keeping its distance from the latter and keeping it suspended can it remain what it is. The in-itself is, for ideality, the "empty" distance that makes freedom and critique possible. There is no place for the in-itself as such within the system of the ideal, and the latter remains non-dualistic. Thus, already at the beginning of the architectonic of reason, the ideal's facticity, indifferent towards the non-place of the real, and therefore Kantian critique, for which this facticity is constitutive, show their utopian character (here, literally, as ou-topos). The utopian in this "technical" sense is at the same time aligned with a number of characterstic traits of utopia as commonly understood: utopia as not derivable from the real historical process and not emerging from it, and therefore as suspending the real and beginning with its own facticity, to which there is no transition. 2. In the 1783 Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, Kant claims that "metaphysics is utterly impossible, or at best a disorderly and bungling endeavor" if we do not separate "ideas of reason" from "concepts of the understanding" (AA 4:329). In an important section of the first Critique entitled "On the Regulative Use of the Ideas of Pure Reason," he points out, relatedly, that "transcendental ideas are just as natural to reason as the categories are to the understanding" (A642/B670). When it comes to our knowledge, Kant analyzes three classes of such ideas, whose objects 12. Ibid. P. 84. 78 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
can never be given empirically: the absolute unity of the thinking subject, or the totality of the subjective conditions of all representations; the unconditioned unity of the "series of conditions of appearance," or put simply, the world as a whole; and the absolute unity of the "conditions of all objects of thought in general," or the being of all beings (A334/B391). Reason, for Kant, "unites the manifold of concepts through ideas by positing a certain collective unity as the goal of the understanding's actions" (A644/B672). It provides a "unity a priori through concepts to the understanding's manifold cognitions" (A302/B359). Furthermore, there is a coherence and unity among these ideas of reason themselves, so that, says Kant, they form a system (e.g. A333-8/B390-6, A645/B673). The in-itself as "limit-concept" thus works both ways: limiting our sensibility at the origin of idealist knowledge, it also limits how far this knowledge can go--i mportantly, however, this limit is what conditions knowledge and thought alike, so that without it ideality cannot operate. In a sort of reduplication, the unknown that affects our sensibility re-appears as the unattainable closure of knowledge (the full unity or system of knowledge as, per Kant, an intrinsic goal of reason), marking a fundamental gap that "leaves open a space which we can fill neither through possible experience nor through pure understanding" (A289/ B345). Hence, it is reason that attempts to fill this gap with the help of transcendental ideas as ideas of complete syntheses (A322-3/B379-80). If the thing in itself as affecting sensibility is the lower limit of the ideal, this may be said to be its upper limit, with reason arriving at transcendental ideas as it "ascends" from given objects to their conditions (A330-2/B386-9). What must be taken care of, then, in order not to fall into dogmatism, is making sure that reason does not overstep its bounds as it arrives at this limit. That is not, however, an easy thing to do. Transcendental ideas are supersensible so that, as the "Transcendental Dialectic" shows, reason falls into contradiction if it attempts to conclude from these ideas to the actual reality of their respective objects--w hich amounts, onto- and epistemologically, precisely to a conservative return or transition from the ideal to the real. Obviously, for Kant, our reason is by nature errant and enjoys nothing more than to deal in illusion (Schein); hence the popularity of dogmatic rational metaphysics as well as attempts to ontologically prove God's existence. Rational theology of this kind is, however, nothing more than itself a species of illusion. In the famously "destructive" section of the first Critique called "Critique of All Theology from Speculative Principles of Reason," Kant declares that "reason, in its merely speculative use, is far from adequate for such a great aim as this, namely, attaining to the existence of
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a supreme being" (A639/B667) and asserts that "all attempts of a merely speculative use of reason in regard to theology are entirely fruitless and intrinsically null and void" (A636/B664). Contrary to many negative readings of Kant's dialectic, however, reason for him is not merely the faculty of producing illusion, and transcendental ideas are not there solely to point beyond the limit at an unreachable object. In order to retain its ideal and critical character, and not generate contradiction, reason must handle this limit properly by making proper use of its ideas; what is at stake here, like earlier in reason's self-orientation, is not just the structure of ideality, but also the proper method of idealism. Kant notes that reason has "a natural inclination to transcend [its] limits" (A642/B670). If reason indulges this Hang and concludes from ideas to "actual things," it falls into transcendence (A643/B671)--and we fall back into dogmatism. Reason must therefore, for Kant, stay immanently within ideality, which involves what he calls the "immanent" or "regulative use" of ideas (A6434/B669-70). Here, Kant arguably has in mind the definition of immanence he gives earlier in the Critique: "We shall entitle the principles whose application is confined entirely within the limits of possible experience, immanent; and those, on the other hand, which profess to pass beyond these limits, transcendent" (A295-6/B352). The structure and method of the ideal we have traced so far remains strictly immanent as long as reason employs--and critiques--transcendental ideas properly. Furthermore, in their immanence, transcendental ideas gather the experience, as ideal, into a single focal point: [Alongside their transcendent use,] ideas [also] have an excellent and indispensably necessary regulative use, namely that of directing the understanding to a certain goal respecting which the lines of direction of all its rules converge at once point, which, although it is only an idea (focus imaginarius)--i .e., a point from which the concepts of the understanding do not really proceed [i.e., in the realist or empiricist sense], since it lies outside the bounds of possible experience--nonetheless still serves to obtain for these concepts the greatest unity alongside the greatest extention (Ausbreitung). (A644/B672) This focus imaginarius may lie, in a utopian manner, "outside" the boundaries of experience, but it is regulative, immanently and repeatedly performed at and as this boundary, or non-place. The "unity" of the ideal as immanent, the closure of the utopian circle, is the full "system" of ideas--a point which the later post-Kantian idealism, culminating in Hegel, will develop further. Importantly, transcendental ide- 80 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
as are not derived or borrowed from experience, and thus their immanent use is not governed by but governs empirical cognition: "Such concepts of reason are not created from nature, rather we question nature according to these ideas, and we take our cognition to be defective as long as it is not adequate to them" (A645-6/B673-4)--a revolutionary reversal of the correspondence theory of truth, and an important constructive or positive aspect of Kant's transcendental dialectic. The ideal suspends the real in order to treat it, critically, as material. This is, I believe, a crucial aspect of the logic of the "non-" inherent in idealism as non-realism, or idealism as criticism. For Kant, in other words, we employ a transcendental idea immanently not by attempting to derive it from experience or sensibility, but by proceeding from it as an "as if " focal point located at the limit of cognizability, which gives unity to concepts of the understanding, guides them in a certain direction, and arranges them into a system. The transcendent God or the (no less transcendent) immortal soul as really existing objects are thereby transformed into the immanently employed transcendental ideas of reason. The regulative use means that reason performs its own limit in an immanent manner. Methodically and methodologically, in the course of the first Critique, it ascends to the limit and then orders everything as leading up to it, as if proceeding from the ideas themselves­ which is, for Kant, necessary for knowledge.13 "As if " in Kant thus indexes immanence. What looks, pragmatically, as cautiousness on Kant's part--t he stipulation of the "as if "--serves to mark nothing other than the suspension of the dogmatically real and the absolute immanence (and, in a sense, groundlessness) of critique, as if to downplay its revolutionary character. At this point, we can discern the logic of utopia not only as a non-place (ou-topos), but also the good place (eu-topos) of the full system of knowledge, from which reason proceeds. Utopianism and idealism here coincide. 3. Reason for Kant has a "speculative interest" (e.g. A466/B49414) in the immanent completeness that transcendental ideas provide. By having an interest, however, reason proves its de facto practical character. As
13. We ascend to transcendental ideas as conditions, which is, for Kant, required to make fuller sense of what is given in appearance: "...for the complete comprehensibility of what is given in appeareance, we need its grounds, not its consequences" (A411/B438). Cf. A702/B730. 14. Cf. ibid. on "practical interest."
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Kant puts it in the second Critique, elaborating on the relationship between the speculative and the practical, "all interest is ultimately practical and even that of speculative reason is only conditional and is complete in practical use alone" (AA 5:121). In the "Canon of Pure Reason" in the first Critique, Kant mentions three ideas to which "the final intent" (Endabsicht) of reason is directed: the freedom of the will, the immortality of the soul, and the existence of God (A798/B826).15 These ideas have great importance not merely for the theoretical immanent use, but also "for the practical" (A800/B828). Indeed, in the first Critique Kant notes that the transition from theoretical to practical reason may be regarded as going precisely through transcendental ideas, which "perhaps make possible a transition from concepts of nature to the practical, and themselves generate support for the moral ideas and connection with the speculative cognitions of reason" (A329/B386). This transition has, moreover, an important additional aspect, aside from the practical character of theoretical reason's interest in these ideas. Namely, the ideas that marked the immanent limits of theoretical reason are in Kant's practical philosophy turned into the "postulates" of practical reason, which are "theoretical propositions," too (AA 5:122), but ones that we perform "as rules" and as "the original condition" (A328/B385). In other words, transcendental ideas point for Kant to the unity of reason. Even though he distinguishes between theoretical and practical reason and asserts that reason is above all practical, "it is still only one and the same reason which, whether from a theoretical or a practical perspective, judges according to a priori principles; it is then clear that, even if from the [theoretical] perspective its capacity does not extend to establishing certain propositions [e.g., the existence of God] affirmatively, although they do not contradict it, as soon as these same propositions belong inseparably to the practical interest of pure reason it must accept them" (AA 5:121). Theoretical reason has, in the first Critique, established the immanent character of the ideal's utopian plane, and this facticity is where practical reason begins. Ideas are performative in that reason acts by them, and it does so as a matter of fact--K ants calls this the "Faktum der Vernunft," the fact as well as immediate deed of reason. Morality is for Kant instantaneous. The moral agent is "certain on the spot what he has to do" (AA 8: 287), a facticity also reflected in Kant's formulation of the categorical imperative: "Act so the maxim of 15. Cf. "These postulates are those of immortality, of freedom considered positively (as the causality of a being insofar as it belongs to the intelligible world), and of the existence of God" (AA 5:132). 82 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
your will could hold every time at the same time [jederzeit zugleich] as a principle of universal legislation" (AA 5:30).16 The principle of morality, just like the ultimate principle of cognition, is, for Kant, necessary yet uncognizable; what we, however, can cognize is precisely its "uncognizability" (AA 4:463)--a "non" that is, in fact, a starting point, a facticity from which reason begins, the unique, single point where, as Kant puts it, "the negative" and "the positive" coincide--a nd which must be thought of as preceding the division into positive and negative. There is nowhere to begin within the dogmatic status quo of the real, which is why we must begin, positively, necessarily and immanently, from a utopian point of the ideal's own facticity, out of which it then immanently unfolds--via two causalities, that of experience (ideas of reason) and that of morality (the same ideas as postulates). The theoretical origin-as-if and the practical origin thus coincide, or are reduplicated.17 Just like theoretical reason proceeds as-if, or immanently, from the unconditioned, practical reason begins with transcendental ideas as postulates. Thus, it takes its beginning immanently from within the field of (theoretical) reason, expanding the scope of ideality from the theoretical to the practical. However, in contrast to theoretical reason, practical reason does not proceed from e.g. the idea of God in order to give unity to empirical experience. Instead, it immanently constitutes its own, moral field of experience. In the realm of "that which pertains to principles of morality, legislation and religion ... the ideas first make the experience (of the good) itself possible, even if they can never be fully expressed in experience" (A318/B375). In theoretical reason, ideas immanently govern or regulate the utopian structure of ideality; in practical reason, they immanently constitute it. As such, the transition from the theoretical to the practical is an immanent expansion of reason towards morality, which preserves the plane of immanence insofar as reason produces it out of itself--o ut of the transcendental ideas to which it immanently ascended in the first Critique. 16. Translation taken from Comay R. Mourning Sickness: Hegel and the French Revolution. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2010. P. 162. 17. "The doubling of the ideas' constitution and function in Kant" is mentioned, among others, by Dieter Henrich, who notes that "these two aspects of Kant's doctrine of ideas--ideas `as-if ' and ideas expressed in terms of [immediate] certainty--are very hard to reconcile into a single concept." Henrich D. Grundlegung aus dem Ich. Untersuchungen zur Vorgeschichte des Idealismus. Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 2004. Bd. 2. S. 1527. Importantly, however, the "as if " is for Henrich a wholly "fictitious" and not an immanently constitutive principle. Furthermore, on my reading, this kind of structural reduplication of a utopian origin is fundamental for German Idealism as such in its various (Kantian and post-Kantian) mutations.
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As a consequence, according to Kant's definition of immanence ("we shall entitle the principles whose application is confined entirely within the limits of possible experience, immanent") as applied to moral experience, morality is immanent, too, since it constitutes its own experience by proceeding from the ideas as postulates. Kant only reinstates the same ideas that the first Critique argues to lie beyond knowledge as principles of morality because they were already there as the limit-concept which reason performed. This expansion is not the final one, either. In fact, it may be said that Kant's account of reason in his critical corpus--up to and including the rational religious standpoint in the Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone--proceeds by way of several such immanent expansions of ideality. 4. At the basis of all moral judgment and agency lies for Kant the idea of the good (A315/B372). At the end of the first Critique, Kant introduces "the ideal of the highest good," or the idea of God considered practically as reconciling Sittlichkeit (ethics or morality) and Glьckseligkeit (happiness). "Consequently," Kant concludes, "God and a future life are two presuppositions that are not to be separated from the obligation that pure reason imposes on us in accordance with principles of that very same reason"--a reconciliation that, however, is "possible only in the intelligible world, under a wise author and regent," so that "reason sees itself compelled ... to assume such a thing, together with life in such a world, which we must regard as a future one" (A809-11/B837-9). Here in the first Critique, unlike later in Religion, Kant seems to limit the religious principle to that of "a future life." At the same time, however, already here such a life amounts for Kant to "the condition that everyone do what he should" (A810/B838)--a standpoint according to which morality contains within itself a transformative principle: the "idea of the moral world" is one that "really (wirklich) can and ought to have its influence on the sensible world, in order to make it agree as far as possible with this idea" (A808/ B836). Reason is for Kant transformative in the sensible world as transforming it from the standpoint at which reason already immediately is in its facticity. This facticity is thus that of an immanent future, or the future as the moral now, from which we begin in a utopian way. As Kant claims, this transformative principle is theoretical reason's ground for hope: "...just as the moral principles are necessary in accordance with reason in its practical use, it is equally necessary to assume in accordance with reason in its theoretical use that everyone has cause to hope for happiness in the same measure as he has made him- 84 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
self worthy of it" (A809/B837). In this, we do not overstep the boundaries of reason's immanence--p recisely because moral experience is immanentaly constituted by reason, and the interest in seeing morality realized in the world is inherent to it: Pure reason thus contains... principles of the possibility of [moral] experience, namely of those actions in conformity with moral precepts which could be encountered in the history of humankind. For since they command that these actions ought to happen, they must also be able to happen. (A807/B835) We can, however, only encounter these actions "in history" by proceeding from the moral "ought." The same move in repeated in Kant's Conjectural Beginning of History. Here, Kant starts from the ideal--reason, freedom, and morality--as a fact, as if man produced it "completely from within himself " (AA 8:19). The "beginning" of history can only be "presumable" or "conjectural," because Kant can only speak about reason and morality in history by beginning from the standpoint of reason and morality. This standpoint is not based on the model of our moral behaviour and our historical efforts to act morally, but on the contrary already implied in and by these efforts--i t is a utopian futurity-quafacticity, a normativity that is not transcendent but immanently operative and transformative. This means that the future is not constituted by the past, that it does not "project images drawn from the world" or from history. It is also in this sense that Kant introduces, in Religion, a distinction between "revolution" and "infinite approximation" in the creation of the "new man". From the standpoint of actual Historical development, the "revolutionary" limit of full moral reform may be seen as the unreachable limit. However, for reason, this utopian limit is the facticity from which it begins. Importantly, the "new man" may or may not be regarded as "new" in the usual sense; there is no dualism or transition from old to new here--i t is, immanently, what and where we already are within our morality. "Infinite approximation" indexes not a transition, but an absensce thereof. (And generally, as we have seen in thought and morality, it is not newness but utopia which is structurally important--utopia may imply newness, but it may also imply intemporality or a repetition of the here and now.) Similarly, in Kant's practical philosophy, reason compels us to recognize the highest good "as possible since it commands us to contribute everything possible to its production" (AA 5:119), and so, as Kant puts it in Religion, the human being "is driven to believe in the cooperation or the management of a moral ruler of the world, through which alone this end is possible" (AA 6:139). Morality therefore, for Kant, "in-
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escapably" or "inevitably leads to religion" (AA 6:6, 6:7n.). At the same time, the rational religious standpoint to which it leads is irreducible to morality: The proposition, `There is a God, hence there is a highest good in the world,' if it is to proceed (as proposition of faith) simply from morality, is a synthetic a priori proposition; for although accepted only in a practical context, it yet exceeds the concept of duty that morality contains ... and hence cannot be analytically evolved out of morality (AA 6:6n.). In the same passage, Kant calls religion an "expansion" of morality: "morality, therefore, leads inescapably to religion, through which it expands to the idea of a powerful moral legislator outside the human being" (AA 6:6).18 This expansion is, for Kant, carried out with necessity by reason alone only to become, in an already familiar fashion, that which immanently determines reason ("among its determining bases"; AA 6:7n.). Since religion is not merely a part of morality, it cannot be a direct moral duty to adopt the religious standpoint. What the latter contributes is a new transformative horizon that unites "all our duties" and recognizes them "as divine commands" (AA 6:154) aimed at the collective realization of the highest good in the world. Thereby moral duties are collectively performed as actually transformative. Religion is thus an expansion of morality also in the sense that it introduces a unified perspective on all duty, turning into what Kant goes on to call "a universal religion" (AA 6:154). As he notes in the Metaphysics of Morals, "in this (practical) sense it can therefore be said that to have religion is a duty of the human being to himself " (AA 6:444). Similarly, in Religion, Kant speaks of "a duty sui generis, not of human beings toward human beings but of the human race toward itself " (AA 6:97).19 In conceiving of this duty, reason finds itself at the utopian standpoint of full moral reform, which it cannot but think and from which it cannot but proceed in accordance with the necessity of its own nature--a total transformation of humanity towards a universal moral condition. Neither a strictly political community nor individual mo- 18. Cf. AA 6:7n.: "...the [moral] law ... expands to the point of admitting the moral final purpose of reason among its determining bases. That is, the proposition, `Make the highest good that is possible in the world your final purpose!' is a synthetic a priori proposition which is introduced through the moral law and through which practical reason nonetheless expands beyond this law." 19. The fact that this is not a new particular duty, but rather a standpoint that gathers or "collects" all our duties into a single point and provides their ultimate condition, allows Kant to claim that "there are no particular duties toward God in a universal religion" (AA 6:154). 86 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
rality can, for Kant, suffice to fulfill that kind of utopian task, leading him to introduce the idea of the "ethical community," or the "invisible church." At the same time, the utopian political-theological standpoint of the ethical community also involves for him, politically, "an eternal peace" (e.g. AA 6:124). The political-theological focal point thus points in Kant to the limits of the political--with utopian politics going beyond any Realpolitik and beginning from this limit.20 "An ethical community," Kant concludes, "is conceivable only as a people under divine commands, i.e. as a people of God" (AA 6:99). If such a community were to be realized, we would enter the "kingdom of God on earth" (AA 6:101). But if the religious principle is predicated, it would seem, on a God beyond, then does this not imply a transcendent rupture of reason's immanence? How can we act within our autonomous rationality if our ethical-religious striving as humankind is dependent on a God who is seemingly "outside the human being" and therefore transcendent? Kant is aware of this problem, and so, in a move similar to the one we saw vis-а-vis transcendental ideas in the first Critique, he transforms the standpoint of an ethical community into a regulative principle whose very realization already presupposes, for reason, its immanent facticity. The utopian structure of reason compels us to conceive of a universal ethical horizon and to act, says Kant,"as if " the coming about of the kingdom of God were a regulative principle for us and dependent on our efforts: "Each must... so conduct himself as if everything depended on him. Only on this condition may he hope that a higher wisdom will provide the fulfillment of his well-intentioned efforts" (AA 6:101)--a hope that indexes the utopian here and now. We perform God's alleged transcendence, but it is we who do so "as-if." It is this curious immanent/as-if-transcendent structure that has historically provided religion with its real transformative force21--w hich we can only appreciate from the moral-religious stand-
20. Kant speaks of the historical church as a "sensible vehicle" for the invisible one (AA 7:37), required "for the sake of praxis" (AA 6:192). Cf. AA 6:101: "The true (visible) church is one that displays the (moral) kingdom of God on earth inasmuch as the latter can be realized through human beings." 21. I would argue that Kant's above-mentioned concept of "revolution" in the Religionsschrift, far from being purely moral or religious in the private sense, is similarly located at the limits of the political. The ethical revolution, Kant explicitly notes, "is not brought about through the endeavor of the individual person for his moral perfection alone, but requires that rational beings unite for this same purpose" (AA 6:97). It is, thus, a utopian coincidence of political, moral and religious which must be thought as preceding their division and from which, again, reason must proceed--so that this revolution turns out to be not a transcendent future, but the immanent now. What may
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point. Theology is thus, in Kant, transformed into a transcendentalperformative political theology of immanence. Furthermore, when speaking of "hope" in this way, Kant may be regarded as making an anti-messianic point. We may approach this by drawing a distinction in Kant's text between "hope" (Hoffnung) and "expectation" (Erwartung), the latter having the connotations of warten, "to wait." It has become habitual in Kant scholarship to refer to Kant's three questions--" What can I know?", "What ought I to do?" and "What can I hope for?"--where hope is often taken to mean waiting for something good to happen and change the way things are, for a transcendent future event. It is, however, important to distinguish Kant's use of "hope" from that kind of use. The conclusion at which he arrives in the Religionsschrift states that "to found a moral people of God is, therefore, a work whose execution cannot be expected (erwartet) from human beings but only from God himself " (AA 6:100). Hope as Erwartung is for him transcendent. There is no point in waiting, since idealism takes utopian facticity as its starting point. Only in this way, if "each ... conducts himself as if everything depended on him ... may he hope (darf er hoffen) that a higher wisdom will provide fulfillment of his efforts" (AA 6:101). Reason can only hope by doing its own thing. Which is why Kant also explicitly criticizes messianism in the Religionsschrift, since for him any covenant (Bund) is transcendent--based, in this sense, on expectation, not hope--a nd the Kingdom of God must be thought of immanently. In order to conceive of a (moral-political) revolution, one must begin from it. The "new man" is what we proceed from, "as if " transformed into it "through a single immutable decision" (AA 6:47). The utopian starting point of humankind's collective existence (the kingdom of God, the answer to "What can I hope for?") thus structurally coincides with that of individual morality ("What ought I to do?") as well as that of idealist knowledge as conditioned and focused by the immanent ideas of reason ("What can I know?"). Conclusion Kantian idealism is thus a non-realism insofar as it suspends--i.e., begins from a non-place that does not relate to--t he real, refusing to think the ideal in terms of its emergence from, or trace it back to, any sort of environment or the "in-itself ". Accordingly, utopian origin in idealism look like reason and history dualistically striving towards a future, is actually immanently constituted by the revolutionary standpoint at the limit of the ideal. 88 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
is one to which no return is possible. Instead, the non-place of the origin gets reduplicated as the immanent facticity of the ideal, starting from which the subject of idealism begins to think and act, so that the nonplace and the all-place structurally coincide. This immanence may bifurcate into different configurations and binaries (nature-freedom, theory-practice, morality-religion, etc.), but must be thought as preceding them all. The critical, non-dogmatic character of idealist immanence is also supposed to prevent utopia from turning into ideology;22 critique is here fundamentally auto-critique. It may be said that Kantian idealism literally de-constructs Spinozism. The ideal is the utopian distance that suspends both "nature" and "God" but does not relate or transition to either. In Spinoza's deus sive natura, idealism is the "sive"--t he repetition or re-enactment, as well as an affirmation, of the "or." It is on this ideal stage that Kantian critique operates, so that its "autonomous" character--the fact that it is a critique-qua-suspension rather than just a critique of something--this kind of autonomy is itself utopian, and is also a constant re-enactment of a certain non-Spinozistic immanence. In this paper, I have limited myself to a reading of Kant, but to conclude, I would like to put forward the hypothesis that this idealist structure is also one that gets inherited by, and further mutates in, post-Kantian German Idealism. One could, I believe, argue that Fichte's self-positing of the I and the way it (non-)relates to the uncognizable Wechsel between the I and the non-I, Fichte's and Hegel's philosophies of history, Hegel's concept of Geist and his statement that "Geist begins only from Geist", the idea of the system in Hegel or post-Kantian idealism more broadly, Schlegel's articulations of idealism, revolution, and the new mythology, the utopian standpoint of reconciled free agency and predestination in Schelling's System of Transcendental Idealism or the standpoint of his system of identity, may all be regarded as sharing, in many important respects, a similar utopian structure (the reduplication of the non-place), method (suspension or non-relation), and temporality (futurity as facticity).23 This would allow us not only to reassess what is "idealist" about German Idealism, similarly to how it has been done in this paper with relation to Kant's transcendental idealism, but also to provide a novel and potentially productive way of looking at its continuity in the wake of Kant, as well as its unity with its Kantian beginning. The point, then, would be not to present this structure
22. Contra Louis Marin's verdict. See Marin L. Utopics: The Semiological Play of Textual Spaces. New York: Humanity Books, 1984. P. 195. 23. I have briefly considered some of these examples elsewhere. See Chepurin K. Spirit and Utopia. P. 336-345.
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as exhaustive of German Idealism but to discern it within the latter as, among other things, a structure of inheritance and continuity. But this has to remain, for now, a story for another time. References Adorno T. Minima Moralia: Reflexionen aus dem beschдdigten Leben, Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp, 1951. Barber D. C. Deleuze and the Naming of God: Post-Secularism and the Future of Immanence, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 2014. Barber D. C. Nonrelation and Metarelation. Serial Killing: A Philosophical Anthology (eds E. Connole, G. J. Shipley), London, Schism Press, 2015, pp. 39­52. Boehm O. Kant's Critique of Spinoza, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2014. Chepurin K. Spirit and Utopia: (German) Idealism as Political Theology. Crisis and Critique, 2015, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 326­348. Comay R. Mourning Sickness: Hegel and the French Revolution, Stanford, CA, Stanford University Press, 2010. Fichte J. G. Werke. Bd. 7: Zur Politik, Moral und Philosophie der Geschichte, Berlin, de Gruyter, 1971. Gabriel M. Aarhus Lectures: Schelling and Contemporary Philosophy. sats, 2013, vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 70­101. Grier M. Kant's Doctrine of Transcendental Illusion, Cambridge, Cam- bridge University Press, 2001. Hegel G. W. F. Briefe von und an Hegel. Bd. I: 1785­1812, Hamburg, Felix Meiner, 1952. Henrich D. Grundlegung aus dem Ich. Untersuchungen zur Vorgeschichte des Idealismus. Bd. 2, Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp, 2004. Kant I. Gesammelte Schriften: Akademie-Ausgabe, Berlin, Leipzig, Georg Reimer, de Gruyter, 1900­. Kuzniar A. Delayed Endings: Nonclosure in Novalis and Hцlderlin, Athens, GA, University of Georgia Press, 1987. Laruelle F. Struggle and Utopia at the End Times of Philosophy, Minneapo- lis, Univocal Publishing, 2012. Marin L. Utopics: The Semiological Play of Textual Spaces, New York, Humanity Books, 1984. Novalis. Werke, Tagebьcher und Briefe. Bd. 2: Das philosophisch-theore- tische Werk, Mьnchen, Carl Hanser, 2005. Ruda F. For Badiou: Idealism without Idealism, Evanston, IL, Northwestern University Press, 2015. Schlegel F. Kritische Ausgabe, Paderborn, Ferdinand Schцningh, 1979. Schlegel F. Schriften zur Kritischen Philosophie, 1795­1805, Hamburg, Felix Meiner, 2007. 90 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
The Beginning of Spirit As We Know It: Hegel's Mother Frank Ruda Senior Fellow, International Center for Research into Cultural Technologies and Media Philosophy (IKKM), Bauhaus University Weimar. Address: Cranachstr. 47, 99423 Weimar, Germany. E-mail: [email protected] Keywords: Hegel's anthropology; philosophical anthropology; habit; inheritance. Abstract: Contemporary anthropological discourses are struggling and striving more than ever before. This may come as a surprise, given the longtime intimate connection anthropology has had with metaphysics. This article investigates how and why Hegel's anthropology, the first part of his philosophy of subjective spirit and his philosophy of spirit as a whole, is a means of overcoming a substantialist characterization of the human. To that end, the article turns to Hegel's conception of habit in order to raise the problem of the human spirit's beginning in Hegel's anthropology and the relationship between habit as "second" nature and the "first" nature that habit transforms. In doing this, we come across the issue of inheritance in Hegel: if there is nothing that is a given, then how can we conceive that which spirit somehow inherits? Hegel refers to this presence of spirit in the mode of absence as "nature." Spirit presupposes nature, i.e. its own absence. There are, furthermore, two important aspects to the natural disposition of spirit in Hegel, analyzed here: the concept of "genius" and the role of another subject. The author defends the idea that Hegel's anthropology may be regarded as overcoming substantialism, because for Hegel the human being cannot but be confronted with the fact that there is no (m)other. 91
1. Human Life Discourses ONC E upon a time, philosophical anthropology was a wasteland. Nearly all endeavors within its terrain were subjected to harsh and fundamental criticisms, far-reaching de(con)structions of different kinds, or even worse, blunt repudiations. How did this peculiar situation come about? In expounding the internal structure, logic and / or (of the) natural constitution of human beings as such, philosophical anthropology did not only seem to constitutively rely on an objective and objectifying conception of the human, but produced and postulated a concept of the human being and human life that had highly problematic implications. In part, this was because it provided the ground for the (first widely ignored and then, after a transitory and affirmative period, widely rejected and allegedly idealist) Weltanschauung of humanism. Humanism politically, and at least supposedly, enabled criticism of existing social conditions by emphasizing their opposition to, or contradiction with, the true end(s) of human nature. Humanism thereby was always a closet Aristotelianism. The humanist perspective may have encouraged criticism of social and political circumstances, but only by paying the high price of returning to a metaphysical conception of human nature. Because of humanism, i.e. Aristotelianism, philosophical anthropology was led into a proper Scylla or Charybdis situation. If human nature is the basis for changing or at least critically evaluating the existing worldly conditions, then we rely on a stable basis for performing the very act of criticism. And even if this basis allows us to change or criticize the world, we thereby implicitly acknowledge that we will never be able to change what allows us to change the world, namely our own nature. Philosophical anthropology tending towards humanism aristotelianized itself and thus immediately became a substantialist human-nature-and-life-metaphysics. 92 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
A slightly different phrasing of the same conceptual concatenation, which is often identified or associated with the work of early Marx1, emphasizes that human beings are the only ones that constantly transform their own nature, so that any society that is fixated has to rely on a fiction / fixion of what human beings are.2 Such a fiction / fixion may allow for the constitution of a certain--say, capitalist--form of society, but as human life constitutively and constantly re-determines itself, any fixion of human nature turns out to be nothing but an inhuman fiction alienating society from its own subjective life-impulse and therefore from its natural basis. Human nature, in this depiction, is different from that of all other beings because it can only properly realize itself within a self-transforming and self-transformative practice. With this conceptual move--the definition of human nature as essentially unfixable--history or historical transformation is turned into the proper nature of mankind. It implies that "history is human nature."3 As a consequence, as long as society is alienated from its substantial subjective ground, we are still living in "the prehistory of human society."4 Even if one seeks to claim that humans do not have any pre-given nature but only are what they are through a historical process of self-transformation, i.e. through their own practice, one thereby cannot but again naturalize history. Saying that history is human nature, and therefore the human being has no other nature than a self-transforming one, implies not just a normative, but also a fundamentally substantialist assumption. The essential instability of human nature turns out, as a result, to be a surprisingly stable condition. Critical or (self-proclaimed) emancipatory anthropology inferred from this, inter alia, that the present state of (capitalist) affairs must be criticized because it fixates, and thereby oppresses, the true realization of human nature, hindering actual human life and practice. Both of these `left-wing' anthropologies of human nature turned out, however, to be highly problematic with regard to their concepts 1. Erich Fromm was one of the most prominent proponents of a humanist Marx. See, Erich Fromm, Marx's Concept of Man (London/New York: Continuum, 2004). For a cognitive map of different reactions to humanism, see Frank Ruda, "Humanism Reconsidered, or: Life living Life", in: Filozosfki Vestnik, Ljubljana, Vol. XXX, No. 2, 2009, 175-197. 2. The term fixion with an ,x' was introduced by Jacques Lacan. See, Jacques Lacan, "L'etourdit", in: Autres йcrits (Paris: Seuil, 2001), 483. 3. Robert B. Brandom, A Spirit of Trust: A Semantic Reading of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit (unpublished typescript, available at: http://www.pitt. edu/~brandom/spirit_of_trust_2014.html). 4. Karl Marx, "Preface to a Critique of Political Economy", in: Selected Works, Vol. I (Moscow: Foreign Language Publishing House, 1955), 364.
of history and historicity. Either one ended up with an ahistorical and invariable human nature grounding all social or political change and thus history (nature as turned into the basis of history, and history as thereby essentially naturalized);--or one ended up with a supposedly historical and transformative nature of the agent of history (the human being), claimed to be so fundamentally historical that it implied the abolishment of any substantial kind of human nature.5 However-- in an apparently paradoxical way--t his very abolishment proved to be a renewed re-inscription of a substantialist kind of nature. Why? Because the only thing that could not or was not supposed to change, according to the normative consequence of this doctrine's principal idea, was the constantly changing human nature itself. Anthropology in these two versions ended up conceptually eliminating history, which means it ended up in nature. From this one can see why it may not be too surprising, after all, that both of these anthropological visions could be easily converted and incorporated into the opposite, namely into conservative political orientation. The first version--t he invariantly unchanging human nature--became quite prominent with the (still) repeated claims about human nature as essentially self-seeking and egotist (one may here think of Hobbes and many others), and therefore only fit for a competitive surrounding best represented by the capitalist mode of social organization.6 If human nature has substantial characteristic traits, one could argue that it is precisely these traits, determining as they are for all human conduct and interaction, that counteract any demand to transform society in a fundamental way. Human nature, in this conservative anthropological articulation, serves not as the unchangeable foundation allowing for transformation, but as the unchanging natural ground preventing any change from happening.7 The given state of society is what it is because of hu- 5. One version of this kind of anthropological claim is that there is no pre-given nature of mankind, since human nature is essentially indeterminate. Yet contending the indeterminateness of human nature ultimately means either that human nature is what humans make of it or that it will always be essentially indeterminate. The former leads to the consequences depicted above, the latter substantializes indeterminacy (one may here think of Sartre). 6. On this, see the by now classical study: C.B. Macpherson, The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism. Hobbes to Locke (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990), 9-159. 7. This is why, for example, Max Horkheimer remarked, opposing such claims, that ,,the discourse raised since eternity that opposes necessary historical transformation because of human nature should finally hush." Max Horkheimer, "Bemerkungen zur philosophischen Anthropologie," in Kritische Theorie, ed. by Alfred Schmidt, Vol. 2 (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1968), 227. One should 94 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
man nature, and those who dream of another state of the world either dream unnatural (and often violent) dreams or have the wrong idea of human nature and need to be reminded of the correct one. The second version, that of the constantly changing nature of the human being, reappeared in two different conservative stances. The first contends that any kind of social construction that is not as dynamic as human nature necessarily hinders productive transformative potential at the heart of human life and activity. Therefore, for the social and political organization to function properly, it must adopt the internal transformative dynamics of human nature as its normative standard. This normative standard is then presented as the necessity for a society and its members to be constantly dynamic, moving, and flexible. Societies can only survive if they admit of self-transformation and are constantly self-transforming. At the same time, the laws of this self-transformation are not freely decided upon by those subjected to them, but are rather regarded as themselves natural (one such `natural environment' is, for example, the market and its specific laws).8 The second possible option of integrating the self-transforming human nature into an often (although not necessarily) conservative framework, is to emphasize that human beings are deficient by nature. Human nature is weak and malfunctioning, and therefore we have to rely on strong social institutions that operate in the compensatory way, allowing the human society to function.9 Human nature is so weak that it cannot help relying on a constant socio-cultural process of prosthetization, which in its turn constantly transforms human nature--precisely because there was no functional human nature before its institutional transformation, education, and formation in the first place. Human nature has thus been unable to determine the society humans live in, because it needed the society it was formed by to function. In this way society and culture present themselves as the natural destiny of the weak human nature, which enables the latter to overcome its weakness. In these conservative articulations, the end result is either human nature which naturally determines the given form of society, or the kind of human nature that is unable to decide upon its own laws of transformation, whereby these laws are naturalized.
also mention that Stalin's idea of creating the new man is, in a way, a determinately negative conceptual consequence of this definition of human nature. 8. For an analysis of flexibility against what is called "plasticity", see Catherine Malabou, What Should We Do With Our Brain? (New York: Fordham University Press, 2008). 9. One may here think e.g. of Arnold Gehlen.
Philosophical anthropology became a conceptual wasteland because all these--c onservative as well as emancipatory--v ersions remained, in one way or another, imprisoned in a metaphysical, substantializing account of (human) nature. The discourse of the human being and human nature became an uninhabitable terrain due to its own naturalizing tendency, which ultimately elided any historicity proper. Anthropology became a wasteland because in its kingdom nature ruled and history withered away. The struggles that were fought between the conservatives and the emancipators on this deserted battleground turned out, more often than not, to be struggles about (the) ahistorical nature (of human beings). Among other things, the aftermath of these battles did a lot of collateral damage to any further attempts at any discourse with even the slightest anthropological timbre--which is one of the reasons why, for example, psychoanalysis in general and Freud's theory of the drives in particular were criticized for turning "historical accidents into biological necessities"10 (some of Freud's critics also contended that one could infer from his theory the general mechanism of naturalization, and hence ideology11). Once upon a time, philosophical anthropology was a wasteland because it stank of substantialism and metaphysics, or more precisely: of a metaphysics of (human) nature. It naturalized human nature, and history became its anathema-- an anathema it nonetheless constantly talked about and referred to. At the same time, the naturalizing tendency led to issues that exceeded even the conflict between the emancipatory and the conservative position. The reason for that is conceptual, since substantialism cannot but turn into an exclusivism--t he inheritance of a certain underlying Aristotelianism12--and to exclude some people not only from the social and political sphere, but also from the sphere of humanity as such proved politically (and historically) more than disastrous. As a result, any discourse that sought to substantially define the human (being) became a highly forbidden and justifiably avoided territory. The dangers were too many: substantializing nature, naturalizing substance, both at the same time, both at the same time by way of trying to avoid them both at the same time, political and ontological exclusivism, etc. 10. Herbert Marcuse, Triebstruktur und Gesellschaft (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1955), 17. 11. "The unhistorical character of Freud's concepts ... entails...its opposite." Ibid, 34. 12. For some implications of this see Jacques Ranciиre, Disagreement: Politics and Philosophy (Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 2004), and for a complication of this reading see Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998). 96 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
2. Habit Then suddenly, not so long ago, a resurgence of interest in philosophical anthropology took place. Neo- or non-neo-biologisms are in vogue; many forms of philosophical vitalisms encourage a return to anthropological speculations; Naturphilosophie came back together with new materialisms that not only re-define matter but, with the same stroke, also revivify the definitions of human nature; finally, theories of second nature have become predominant in many philosophical camps. Given how bad the situation had been for anthropology, how did this happen? The question is easier to answer than may seem at first glance, since the resurgence of anthropology was, in a certain sense, already inscribed into what brought about its very decline. What was needed was a nonsubstantialist discourse on human nature, and this was brought about precisely by taking seriously the substantialist anthropological claims.13 Left with the options of an unchangeable human nature that grounds or prohibits change or a constantly changing nature that allows for or prohibits the same, one can infer that the conflict between these two versions is determinative not only for human nature, but also for anthropology itself. Human nature in anthropology is split between static and dynamic, unchanging and unchangeably changing determinations, so that this split also splits the discourse itself. In this sense, anthropology lost substance because of its substantialism, which in turn made the return to anthropology possible. To make this more comprehensible, here is a highly reductive schema (see next page). Where does the real struggle reside? Where does the lack of substance occur? Obviously, between the first two and the second two columns: an antagonism running through the definition of human nature and thus through anthropology as its defining discourse, too. The unity of this difference is the structure of anthropology itself, which lost its substantialist character precisely by understanding its own structure (seeing it as a wasteland or battlefield). That is to say, by taking the overdetermined (overdetermined, because it is ultimately determined by an unchangeable factor) contradiction at its heart seriously, anthropology was led to the insight that there is no stable definition of the human
13. It is worth noting that already in 1969 Adorno (a critic of any substantialist anthropology) praised Ulrich Sonnemann's book Negative Anthropology. The return to anthropological questions is thus neither overly new nor a proper return, simply because the very historical moment of overcoming anthropology coincided with a return to it (a very Adornian motif). Or, in other words, the moment when the substantialist discourse lost all substance (and became a wasteland) was the moment when this discourse could be taken up again.
Unchangeable Human Nature Pro Change
Constantly Changing (determinate or indeterminate) Human Nature
Unchangeable Human Nature
Constantly Changing (determinate or indeterminate) Human Nature
Pro Change
Against Change Against Change
being and life, neither as simply transformative nor simply as resisting transformation. It is, rather, constitutively both, as well as at the same time changing and unchanging. Taking this seriously meant that anthropology lost its inherent substantialist character and had to address its immanent contradiction. And since, as a famous saying goes, it is not enough to address a contradiction only in terms of substance, but also in terms of the subject, it is no wonder that most, if not all, of the current renewals of anthropology start from or at some point turn to Hegel. This goes for both the so-called `continental' and for the more analytic or pragmatist approaches. For is not Hegel the thinker of contradictions that are at the same time strangely or peculiarly bound together into a unity? That is why it is not a great surprise that the resurgent interest in anthropology coemerged with the resurgent interest in the Hegelian system--a nd more specifically in a part of it that had for a long time been neglected, or even considered a wasteland of its own: his philosophy of nature (as well as human nature, or the philosophy of subjective spirit). Hegel's anthropology is, of course, not a part of his philosophy of nature, except in a certain sense: it is the transition out of nature, which both is itself a part of nature and is not anymore. Hegel's anthropology is thus in and outside of nature; in other words, it deals with the specificity of human nature.14 But what can one learn from Hegel's anthropology that exceeds anthropology's previous substantialism? It was the achievement of, inter alia, Catherine Malabou15 and Slavoj Zizek16 to have brought attention
14. One of the first volumes dealing with Hegel's philosophy of nature is Hegel and the Philosophy of Nature, ed. by Stephen Houlgate (New York: State University of New York Press, 1998). Subjective spirit does not play any significant role in it at all. 15. Catherine Malabou, The Future of Hegel: Plasticity, Temporality, and Dialectic, London/New York: Routledge, 2004. 16. Slavoj Zizek, "Discipline Between Two Freedoms--Madness and Habit in German Idealism," in: Markus Gabriel and Slavoj Zizek, Mythology, Madness, and Laughter. Subjectivity in German Idealism (London/New York: Continuum, 2009), 95-121. 98 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
to the centrality of the concept of habit in Hegel's philosophy--a concept that provides the answer to the above question. Habit is a concept that is supposed to conceptually circumvent all unchanging substantialist traits of human nature, as well as to be crucial for any kind of human practice. It therefore stands at the heart of the properly human life. Habit is relevant not only for Hegel's account of the formation of subjectivity, or subjective spirit, but also for his treatment of socio-political phenomena (objective spirit). In fact, one may go as far as to assume that it plays a crucial role for the constitution of absolute spirit, too--t hat is, the spheres of art, religion, and philosophy. It is, furthermore, this concept which occurs in the transition from Hegel's philosophy of nature to his philosophy of mind, in the first part (the "philosophy of subjective spirit") of the third volume of his Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences--t he part in which he deals with the (natural and spiritual) formation of the subject and which begins with the "Anthropology" before moving on to the "Phenomenology" and "Psychology," and then to objective17 and absolute spirit. Habit is an element of what Hegel calls the "feeling soul,"18 and as has been argued many times before, habit is for him a formational category. By means of habit one is able to transform one's nature into another kind of nature--t he second nature. Habit is formational and transformative, because it is through habit that one is not only able to get used to things and activities (from breathing to walking to talking, etc.), but also to make these activities a part of one's own self-feeling (that is to say: one cannot imagine oneself without these capacities). This is why the concept of habit belongs in Hegel to the "feeling soul." Habitualized things are felt as if they were inscribed into our very nature-- precisely because they have been habitualized, becoming our second nature. Yet they are acquired and hence cultural, because this nature is second nature. Everything we are is, in an abstract sense, habitualized and hence not naturally inherited. By means of habit one is capable of doing several complex things at once (speaking while walking, smoking and thinking, etc.), too. It is not my aim here to present a rather poor overview of the Hegelian concept of habit; neither do I seek to explicate the conceptual intri-
17. I also contributed to the long list of Hegelian habit-studies by investigating the role habit plays in objective spirit in: Frank Ruda, Hegel's Rabble: An Investigation into Hegel's Philosophy of Right (London: Continuum, 2011), 75-99. 18. The concept of habit occurs in § 409, after Hegel has given an account of "selffeeling" and the "feeling soul in its immediacy." See: Hegel's Philosophy of Mind. Translated from the Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences (Oxford: Clarendon, 1984), 39ff.
cacies inscribed into it. Rather, the present return to anthropology (and more specifically to Hegel's anthropology) raises one simple question, thereby raising the stakes as well: if there is always only a transformed, second nature, determined as it is by the very practice that habitualizes the subject, then what is the nature that is transformed? This question becomes even more pertinent if one takes into account that Hegel's anthropology does not start with habit, but with something else to which I will return in an instant. So, what is the nature that is transformed through the practice of spirit? Differently put: does spirit inherit anything from nature? Is there anything that naturally determines spirit? Or again in different terms: is there any first nature? Is there--and can there be--a theory of inheritance in Hegel, or does his theory of habit systematically preclude such a theory?19 The immediate answer seems to be a straightforward "no": there is no inheritance whatsoever that would not be fundamentally an inheritance of spirit to spirit. Of course, habit contributes to the formation of culture and the inheritance of cultural practices, but there seems to be no natural element of inheritance involved in that (even though some claim that second nature is simply another kind of nature, and therefore spirit never leaves behind that from which it tries to liberate itself).20 If, in the philosophy of subjective spirit, spirit begins to form itself by forming a second nature, one can see why Hegel can explicitly state that "spirit does not naturally emerge from nature."21 If spirit does not naturally emerge from nature, this is simply because it always is "its own result." Thus, nature cannot be "the absolutely immediate, first, originary positing," but merely a precondition that spirit "makes for itself."22 Since spirit in the beginning cannot but (among other things) 19. Obviously, Hegel has a legal theory of inheritance that he develops in his Philosophy of Right, concerning family relations. I am here focusing solely on the `biological' or `natural' meaning of inheritance. For the legal theory see: G.W.F. Hegel, Outlines of the Philosophy of Right (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 176ff. 20. One may here think of the work of Hubert L. Dreyfus. One may also recall that for Hegel even breathing is something that a human child first has to learn when it is born, and then becomes immediately habitualized to it. Yet the fact that human bodies need to breathe and that there is air and an atmosphere cannot be said to be merely an effect of culture (although the atmosphere is, of course, a cultural concept). 21. Here and in the following I cite the German edition, since it includes a critical edition of the additions (Zusдtze) to the paragraphs, compiled by Hegel's pupils, that are often Hegelian in spirit and highly instructive: G.W.F. Hegel, Enzyklopдdie der philosophischen Wissenschaften im Grundrisse, Dritter Teil, in: Werke, Vol. 10 (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1983), 25. 22. Ibid., 24. 100 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
naturalize itself, the emergence of spirit is fundamentally spiritual. This is the seemingly paradoxical move: spirit naturalizes itself--i t takes nature for its precondition--yet this naturalization is an act of spirit. Could one therefore not simply assume that the only thing that spirit inherits is the product of spirit, determined by spirit to be inherited by itself? One could, but what precisely does this mean? Given Hegel's claim that "as it is by nature or immediately, humanity is what it ought not to be, and that, as spirit, humanity has instead the vocation to become for itself what in its natural state it still is only in itself,"23 it seems that the only thing making humanity into humanity, spirit into spirit, is the very act of transforming that which seems to have the status of an immediate natural givenness. One of the means to do so--perhaps the most crucial one--is habit, i.e. the formation of a second nature. Furthermore, everything that appears to be an immediate natural given is in truth posited by spirit in an act of naturalization. Does it therefore not simply seem useless to inquire into a Hegelian conception of inheritance? One can, however, complicate the matter by asking the following question: what does spirit inherit as that which it needs to transform, so that it is that which spirit posited as that which it needs to transform? If there is nothing given in Hegel, not even nothing, how does one conceive of that which is less than nothing that we somehow inherit? Before introducing the concept of habit in his anthropology, Hegel unfolds a concept that, at least at first sight, seems to provide a possible ground for a Hegelian conception of inheritance. This concept is what he calls "Naturell,"24 which can be translated as disposition. In German the reference to nature is obvious. Moreover, it is an aspect of this concept that can provide the answer to the question I raised--n amely, the notion of genius, on which I will elaborate in what follows. To approach the concept of "Naturell", one should take note, first, of Hegel's methodology when he says that "one... cannot begin with spirit as such, but must begin with its inadequate reality. Spirit is already spirit in the beginning, but it does not know that it is spirit."25 Spirit thus begins inadequately. Its beginning is a failed beginning. This inadequate reality of spirit is what Hegel refers to as nature.26 Thus, nature is spirit in an
23. G.W.F. Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy, Vol. III (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990), 25. 24. Hegel, Enzyklopдdie, Dritter Teil, 71. 25. Ibid., 33. 26. Obviously, this is a very reductive way of elaborating the concept of nature in Hegel, which is far more complex. Yet, here it is only important to note that nature is what is there if there is an inadequacy of spirit.
inadequate form--t hat is to say, in the beginning spirit is natural simply because it is not (yet) spirit. It is spirit that is not spirit, because it does not know what it is and therefore is not what it is. This inadequacy is measured and articulated by Hegel in terms of knowledge. Spirit is there in the beginning, but it does not know that it is there and therefore it is not-there in the beginning.27 It is a spirit that does not know where, what, or even that it is. In its beginning spirit is disoriented. And it will only slowly start to sense that it is and what it is (i.e. the feeling soul). Spirit arises from its own inadequacy, which is why it will ultimately be its own result. And it arises from its own inadequacy because spirit cannot simply begin with itself as such, emerging instead from its own failure to grasp itself. In this sense, one may say that spirit begins even before its beginning; it is there before it is properly there. Given that "spirit is essentially only what it knows about itself "28 and that spirit does not know it is spirit, spirit is not spirit at the beginning of spirit. Spirit begins before it begins, yet this beginning is not the beginning, because the spirit that begins before spirit begins is not yet spirit. Spirit is there before being there, but only as the absence of spirit and therefore as its own failed anticipation. The name for this presence of spirit in the mode of absence is nature. Why nature? Because nature is for Hegel the other of spirit, the positive (in both the trivial and the Hegelian sense of the term) notion of the absence of spirit. But how does spirit emerge from its own absence? 3. Finally: The Life of Spirit Hegel states that "spirit, for us, has its presupposition in nature..."29 Does spirit thus inherit anything from and by nature? Nature is the other of spirit, i.e. its absence, or more precisely: spirit not (yet) being spirit, so is there anything that the presence of the absence of spirit hands over to spirit? What is the status of this peculiar presupposition? To elaborate on this, one should recall that Hegel classifies three forms of spirit: spirit immanently relating to itself, spirit relating to something outside of itself, and spirit relating to something outside of itself as (posited by) itself. Subjective, objective, and absolute spirit. It is important to note that spirit from the beginning is part of (absolute) spirit, which is why it is only "for us" (from the perspective of absolute spirit, i.e. philosophy) that it has its presupposition in nature (i.e. in the absence of spir- 27. With an emphasis on both the ,,not" and the ,,there". 28. Hegel, Enzyklopдdie, Dritter Teil, 33. 29. Ibid., 17. 102 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
it). But it is also important to note that, `as such', spirit does not presuppose nature, since there is simply no given and objective nature that is simply there before spirit, which could serve as the latter's pre-spiritual precondition. Spirit presupposes nature, that is, its own absence, and the name of this presupposition is nature. Yet it does not merely presuppose itself negatively as absent--it presupposes its own absence by determining this absence and assigning (natural) qualities to it. If it is absent, then there is an other that fills this lack--i .e., nature--a nd nature can be determined. Spirit assigns to its absence qualities that are marked by the absence of spirit in such a way as to bear the traits of this absence. If spirit is that which is able to determine itself, then the absence of spirit (as spirit's precondition) is marked by unchangeable laws, natural cycles, and heteronomous determinations. Spirit thereby determines its own absence (we are dealing with the positive aspect of determinate negation). To reiterate, however: spirit at its own beginning, i.e. at the beginning of subjective spirit, does not know that it is spirit; as a result, it appears to itself in the form of (given) natural determinations that determine its absence.30 Spirit appears to itself in the form of something other than itself.31 In fact, however, spirit is "not the mere result of nature, but rather truly its own result; it brings itself forth from the presuppositions that it lays itself."32 This is why nature is not simply a given presupposition, it is posited by spirit as the absence of spirit, so that this very absence--which spirit does not know it posited--starts to determine spirit. Thus, one may say that nature emerges as soon as spirit starts to believe that there are given presuppositions (which it does not acknowledge as having been posited by itself). As soon as one starts believing in the givenness of the objective presuppositions that one posited, forgetting or ignoring the act of positing itself, these presuppositions begin to externally determine oneself. It is precisely this kind of determination that is at stake at the beginning of 30. Hegel also calls this move "the shift (Umschlagen) of the idea into the immediacy of the external and individualized being-there. This shift is the becoming of nature." Ibid., 30. 31. However, it is important to note that this is only an appearance, since "the emergence of spirit from nature should not be taken as if nature is the absolutely immediate, primary, originally positing, and as if spirit is in contrast only something posited; rather, nature is posited by spirit and the latter is the absolute primary." Ibid., 24. Spirit is here determined by its own appearance (even though it posited the latter unknowingly in the first place), and the fact that it does not know that it is ultimately determined by itself forces it to take a natural form. 32. Ibid.
spirit. Nature turns out then to be the name for the idea that there is something, anything at all, before it has been posited. It is the assumption that there is a `there is' before any positing. However, this assumption is itself posited, and forgetting that means being determined by something posited as if it were not posited. Nature appears here as a posited myth of the given, whose act of positing has been forgotten. In a certain abstract sense, one may contend here that if there is a natural inheritance at work here, it is `natural' in precisely the sense delineated above. What one inherits from nature, is inherited because one does not know that one posited that which determines oneself, instead taking it as a given. In other words, it seems that inheritance is only there at the beginning of spirit because spirit has failed to grasp that there is nothing to inherit. In the beginning, spirit cannot help failing to know that there is nothing to inherit--hence, there is natural inheritance. Natural inheritance thus has its origin in spirit positing a precondition and ignoring the positedness of this precondition. This leads spirit to believe that there is a (natural and objective) ground for its own being. As the positing agent, spirit should have known that the presupposition was posited by spirit, but somehow it does not know what it knows. Such is the way spirit emerges from nature, i.e. from spirit not knowing that it knows something it does not know. Because it does not know what it knows, spirit inherits something from and by nature. To simplify the matter, this means that conceptually there is for Hegel no natural path from nature to spirit (since there is no nature without spirit misconceiving itself33). The only way of getting from nature to spirit is via spirit, simply because nature is spirit that failed. At the same time, this failure makes the move from nature to spirit look as if there were also natural determination involved. How can we more precisely account for the move from spirit that does not know what it is, thus appearing as natural determination, to spirit proper? As has been stated, Hegel situates this beginning in subjective spirit, divided into three distinct domains: anthropology, phenomenology, and psychology. Anthropology deals with spirit in itself, which Hegel calls "soul" as well as "natural spirit," or (literally) spirit in nature (Naturgeist). Spirit in the beginning is in nature (it is there only by virtue of being not-there). Phenomenology (in the Encyclopedia) deals with consciousness, and psychology with spirit as such. Spir- 33. Hegel's point here is highly relevant (e.g. for today's ecological debates): not even nature should be naturalized. Of course, the same holds for spirit, although spirit in the beginning cannot but find itself in nature (thereby constitutively missing itself). 104 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
it can therefore be differentiated into three forms: abstract universality (soul), particularity (consciousness), and singularity (spirit for itself). And it is the anthropology that deals with the "groundwork of man."34 As Catherine Malabou succinctly formulated: The course of the Anthropology as a whole explicates the process whereby originary substance, leaving behind the natural world, progressively differentiates itself until it becomes an individual subject. This movement unfolds in three moments which structure the exposition: self-identity, rupture, return to unity. The meaning of this division organizes itself in the process of the soul's singularization which, from its beginning in the `universal' (understood as `the immaterialism of nature' or `simple ideal life'), moves progressively towards selfindividuation until it becomes `singular self '. From the `sleep of spirit' to the `soul as work of art' the genesis of the individual is accomplished, that individual which, configured as the `Man', finally stands forth in the guise of a statue. If the anthropological development appears to be a progressive illumination, it does produce some abrupt returns to obscurity, some moments of trial and error, some aberrations. ... The unfurling of the process of individuation is the constitution of the `Self ' (Selbst), the founding instance of subjectivity.35 The course of the anthropology begins with "spirit that is still based in nature, and still related to its embodiment."36 This is why the primary object of the anthropology is "the soul bound to natural determinations"37 that determine that which appears to be determined by the absence of spirit. These natural determinations of spirit appear to spirit, for example, in the form of racial differences (such as the assumption that the French think differently from the Japanese simply because of different natural--s ay, geographical--d etermining factors). As Malabou again states: The soul's determinations are in the first instance the `natural qualities' which make up its initial `being-there (Dasein).'... But what, for the Anthropology, are these `qualities'? ... [The] first [group of] natural qualities can be classified under the generic term of `influences', in the original sense of that physical and fluid force believed by ancient physics to proceed from the heavens and the stars and act upon men, animals and things. These `physical qualities' determine the soul's correspondence to `cosmic, sidereal, and telluric life'... The second
34. Hegel, Enzyklopдdie, Dritter Teil, 40. 35. Malabou, The Future of Hegel, 28. 36. Hegel, Enzyklopдdie, Dritter Teil, 40. 37. Ibid.
group of `natural qualities' contains those of the specialized `naturegoverned spirits' (Naturgeister) which constitute the `diversity of races'. The third set of `qualities' consists of those which can be called `local spirits' (Lokalgeister). These are `shown in the outward modes of life (Lebensart) and occupation (Beschдftigung), bodily structure and disposition (kцrperlicher Bildung und Disposition), but still more in the inner tendency and capacity (Befдhigung) of the intellectual and moral character of the peoples'.38 The first and therefore most inadequate natural form in which spirit presupposes itself (as being absent, or not yet spirit) is that of the soul. Spirit knows itself as the soul and not yet as spirit. The soul appears as something given, besides the givenness of the absence of spirit. This is an important point, since the soul is natural in the sense that it appears to spirit as a given and not as posited, yet it appears to spirit as its own given presence, whereby the complete (but nonetheless posited) absence of spirit is overcome. Yet since the givenness of the soul still conceptually implies the absence of spirit (since it is not conceived as having been posited), the soul ends up being conceptually determined by physical, natural, and local determinations. The soul is thus spirit taking an always already naturally determined form of itself to be a given. Spirit assumes that it is naturally given to itself in the form of the soul. It is, however, important to note that, starting with the soul, an important differentiation occurs. For the soul is not simply nature, but the immaterial beginning of spirit; Hegel calls it the "immateriality of nature" and "simple universality."39 Spirit posits a determinate presupposition of itself that is separate from nature as such (the pure absence of spirit), and this determination is as general and simple as it can be: there is a givenness of spirit. Spirit assumes itself to be given, not recognizing that there is always an act of positing involved, the positing of itself as its own presupposition. If the unacknowledged positing of a given presupposition leads spirit into nature, the unacknowledged positing of itself as the given presupposition, i.e. of its own givenness, leads spirit to the assumption of a (naturally given) soul that differs from nature due to its immaterial (and yet natural) qualities. That is why Hegel can contend that the soul names "the universal immateriality of na- 38. Malabou, The Future of Hegel, 30. 39. Hegel, Enzyklopдdie, Dritter Teil, 43. One trivialized way of reading this would be to observe that we are usually not inclined to regard ourselves as merely natural beings (such as plants); we believe ourselves to be endowed with something else, too, which is not as material as the rest of our natural constitution. This something--a surplus exceeding the mere bodily constitution--is that which is here named "soul." 106 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
ture... the sleep of spirit... that is potentially everything."40 The soul is spirit sleeping, but whoever sleeps also dreams (of oneself). Spirit posits itself as its own presupposition, and hence as different from nature. At the same time, this difference from nature still appears to be a difference that is given, and therefore natural, not posited. Spirit posits itself as the soul that is different from nature, yet it remains Naturgeist (spirit as given and not as its own result). Here one can see how the (seemingly unavoidable) failure of spirit to take its own act of positing into account leads to the assumption that spirit is not only given, but also--due to this very givenness--determined by factors that exceed spirit's grasp. Spirit sleeps and dreams of itself, but what and how it dreams does not appear to spirit to be its own fabrication (although it is, as later Freud will also clearly expound). Spirit's dreams seemingly come from a source outside of spirit; as a consequence, spirit seems to inherit its being (or existence) from nature. Spirit inherits its dreams as well as itself. But where from? This question is what awakens spirit. The soul thus grounds the process of the awakening of spirit (to itself), because it does not appear merely as simple universality, but also as "singularity"41. That is to say, in the ensuing steps of his anthropology, Hegel will start to differentiate and individualize the assumption of the givenness of determinations by differentiating these determinations of givenness themselves. Spirit assumes that it has a given determined nature (the nature of spirit, different from nature as such), which it slowly begins to grasp. This makes a difference, because spirit thereby unknowingly acknowledges that there are different forms of positing a presupposition, so that positing the soul as the form of spirit's givenness determinately specifies the act (of positing a presupposition) itself. Spirit slowly begins to make a real difference. 4. Soul-Mates The soul is for Hegel divided in three forms: the natural soul, the feeling soul, and the actual soul. Thus far I have referred to the natural soul (the assumption of the natural givenness of spirit). The natural soul is not yet individualized in any specific manner. Conceptually, it embodies the assumption that there are general qualitative determinations, "the physical as well as psychical racial differences in humanity"42--dif-
40. Ibid. 41. Ibid., 51. 42. Ibid., 50.
ferences that enable the individualization and differentiation of the one simple universal natural soul (a process in which one differentiates and individualizes the presupposition that there is a presupposition).43 This process of differentiation does not only produce external natural differences (of races), but also facilitates the inner differentiation and individualization of human beings. For instance, it generates the assumption that there are unchangeable natural ages, be it of an individual, a race or a state (childhood, youth, adulthood, etc.)--the soul is determined by the natural form of change and so spirit assumes that it, too, cannot but be subjected to these natural determinations. The latter take at first the guise of the (universal) natural soul living a "universal planetary life" determined by "the differences of climates, the changes of the seasons, and the periods of the day."44 The life of spirit in the form of the natural soul is a natural life determined by natural changes. Spirit presupposes itself as given in the form of the soul as something different from nature (the absence of spirit), only to re-introduce nature as the determining instance of its own givenness. However, this determining instance is thereby particularized and individualized so that, in this process of differentiation, we advance from races to the more "local spirits"45 (local cultures, ethical communities, etc.). We proceed here from racial to national differences, and this process is the re-assertion of spirit. It is determined by nature, and yet this determination leads spirit to re-determine that which determines it--the process in which spirit is, again and again, led back to naturalizing that which it assumes to be the determining instance. It should be obvious that this continuous differentiation of different determinations leads to an increasing degree of particularization of what spirit assumes to be a given precondition for itself (such as assuming that being born into the Italian state and thus into certain given customs makes for a different spirit than one born, for example, in Turkey). One moves from the effects of climatic conditions to races to national communities to, ultimately, intrafamilial relations, i.e. the naturally determining impact of mothers on their children. Hegel claims that this particularization appears in the form of the "special temperament, talent, character, physiognomy, or other dispositions and idiosyncrasies of families or singular individuals."46 We thus proceed to individual fam- 43. One can see here that Hegel's philosophy of subjective spirit is also a fundamental critique of ideology, since ideology always relies on naturalization. 44. Ibid., 52. 45. Ibid., 63. 46. Ibid., 70. 108 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
ily life, the life of an individual in a family, and the life of an individual as an individual. This brings us closer to the concept of inheritance. Hegel states that "the peculiarity of an individual has different sides to it. One distinguishes it by means of the determination of the disposition (Naturell), temperament, and character."47 What is a "Naturell"? 5. Naturell Hegel defines "Naturell" in §395 of the Encyclopedia as "natural dispositions in contrast to that which a human being has acquired by means of its own activity."48 A natural disposition is thus not a habit (although it is posited, if unknowingly, in the sense elaborated above). This is why this disposition can be characterized as "innate."49 An astonishing claim for (any Hegelian) spirit. Spirit unknowingly presupposes itself as given, i.e. as the soul, yet some part of the determinate character of this givenness (the natural disposition) is, or at least appears to be, innate. This implies two things: 1. Spirit unknowingly presupposes itself in such a way that it is given as different to nature while still possessing the fundamental quality of nature, namely the unchangeability of its constitution (even though the natural disposition is highly individualized here). Spirit presupposes itself as given and takes this to be an unalterable fact. In the beginning of spirit, and for spirit, spirit has no beginning; consequently, its beginning is conceptually and necessary a failed beginning. 2. That also makes clear why spirit cannot but presuppose a natural disposition of itself (which is the sense in which this disposition is "innate"). Spirit--a t least subjective spirit, spirit in the beginning, spirit that ignores its beginning--i s stuck with the assumption that it has a given ground it cannot alter. Spirit cannot alter the assumption that there is something it cannot alter. That which spirit cannot alter is the assumption of its own givenness, which makes spirit assume an innate ground, or itself in the form of a natural disposition. What Hegel calls the "talent" and the "genius" are part of spirit's unalterable, natural disposition. Both terms express a "determined di-
47. Ibid., 71. I will in the following leave aside what Hegel says about the temperament, because it is "the most general form in which an individual is active" (Ibid., 72), and also what he states about the character, determined by "formal energy" and "a universal content of the will" (Ibid., 73). Both are already situated at a point where "natural determination loses the guise of being fixed" (Ibid., 74), and here I am only interested in investigating Hegel's theory of natural disposition and the question about a theory of natural inheritance in Hegel. 48. Ibid., 71. 49. Ibid., 74.
rection that the individual spirit has received by nature."50 But whereas talent produces something new within a specific given field (one can, for example, be talented in painting), the genius is able to "create a new species (Gattung)."51 Talent is a given, but one that remains within the domain of the given. Genius is a given that alters the given, creating something new. In the unalterable given natural condition of spirit, there is a part that is repetitive and another that is transformative. Spirit differentiates its own presupposition in two different innate parts. At the same time, both talent and genius "have to be cultivated in a universally valid way."52 This cultivation follows a natural logic (since one assumes to simply cultivate, not posit the given), and thus the logic of the ages of life (childhood, youth, adulthood, etc.) as well as educational institutions (kindergarten, school, etc.), which play a crucial role. In all that, spirit never ceases to sense that it is not simply given, and yet it takes itself to be given, thereby ending up in natural determinations. That allows Hegel to claim that this very oscillation of spirit represents the natural cycle of spirit's sleeping and waking. Here, we are still caught up in the domain of natural determination, and so the underlying rhythm of waking and sleeping--the law of when spirit sleeps or is awake--is determined not by spirit, but by nature. It appears to be natural to spirit that it is spirit, but also that it is given without having posited itself. However, only one of the two states (Zustдnde) generates a form of feeling (Empfindung) proper to waking life. Only in its waking life does spirit sense that it is spirit, and hence not simply a natural given. This feeling--which turns the natural into the feeling soul-- is not natural, but a form of self-relation of spirit.53 It is a "judgment,"54 namely the judgment that spirit is there and given. Ignoring the selfpositing act of spirit, this judgment posits a relation to that which does not appear to have been posited. But it is an erroneous judgment, a judgment that "is the form of the dull weaving of spirit,"55 in which a particular content appears. Spirit feels itself, and it feels itself as being something particular (it does not feel the whole nature, nor its innate disposition, but only something specific). However, feeling is the "worst form of spirit,"56 relying as it is on the assumption that the foundation of that feeling is something that is simply given (the soul). 50. Ibid., 71. 51. Ibid. 52. Ibid. 53. Ibid., 96. 54. Ibid., 97. 55. Ibid. 56. Ibid., 100. 110 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
Hegel distinguishes two types of feeling--t hose produced by exterior impulses and those expressing internal ones. This distinction immediately collapses, however, since the soul is something internally external, i.e. assumed to be given, to spirit. In this, we can also see more clearly what the concept of feeling implies for Hegel. 1. The determinations that appear in feeling are transient and singular, although as such they also imply a sense of self.57 They do not last, but they are always feelings belonging to the soul. 2. Feeling implies a passivity of the soul. Hegel here toys around with the etymology of "Empfindung", tracing it back to "finden", "to find something" (that is given). The soul finds a feeling, thereby relating to something that did not originate in itself. The soul itself does the same thing as spirit does when it assumes there is a soul--i t takes something to be simply given and not posited. The soul feels something, and whatever it feels also actualizes the feeling of the soul's own givenness. This is why feeling is a determining as well as individualizing factor of the soul's givenness. 3. A feeling can occur even when something is not immediately present at hand (e.g. to the senses). Feeling thus differentiates the concept of givenness: a feeling can emerge from something that is given in a form different from any objective, apparent givenness. At the same time, this helps to explain why feeling always implies selffeeling, since the self, or the soul, is also given in a non-objective way. Hegel derives from this the concept of the individual soul. And it is here, in §405 of his Encyclopedia, that he further specifies the notion of the genius. The soul that feels has a sense of individuality, since it always feels itself. However, it does not have a true sense of self, since what it feels comes to it from something that is as much a given as the soul itself. This is why Hegel can state that "the feeling soul in its immediacy"58 is not as itself. The soul feels itself, but it does not feel itself as itself--in the same way that spirit does not recognize itself in the soul. But as what does the soul feel itself when it feels itself in such a passive way? Hegel's answer is: as "another subject."59 6. Imagine There Is No Mother Hegel's paradigm for this other subject is the mother. The mother "is the genius of the child."60 Here, Hegel defines "genius" as the "intensive
57. These feelings I have now are always my feelings. Hegel claims: ,,What I feel... is me, and what I am, I feel." Ibid., 119. 58. Ibid., 124. 59. Ibid. 60. Ibid., 125.
form of individuality."61 First of all, this implies that the mother-child relation is in some way similar to the spirit-soul relation. The child cannot avoid taking the mother as a given, simply because it takes itself to be a given (it is given to itself by the mother, which must have been given in order to be able to give a child). But what does the mother give to a child? Hegel's answer is fourfold: 1. The mother gives to the child the child itself. 2. The mother gives to the child its (the child's as well as the mother's) individuality. Thereby, the mother gives itself to the child, and this is the paradigm of givenness for the child (as well as the source of all its feelings--at least before it has been born). 3. It gives to the child the individuality in the form of the genius--as "concentrated individuality,"62 condensing the individuality of the child and the mother. Inside the mother's womb, the child feels what the mother feels. In this way the mother becomes the paradigm of the other subject to which spirit constitutively relates. 4. The mother gives to the child the concept of givenness as such (of the mother, of the genius, and most importantly: of the child itself). Here, it is important to recall that genius, for Hegel, also defines that which allows for the creation of a new species. The mother thus gives to the child that which she herself is, namely that which makes her into a mother: the act of creating something new.63 What the child thus inherits from the mother is nothing but the possibility--t o be distinguished from a capacity--t o generate something that exceeds the given coordinates, a possibility that exceeds all capacities, that is not a given, a possibility beyond the possible, an im-possibility. At the same time, Hegel clearly states that the mother is the genius of the child. Does the mother therefore possess genius, in the sense of a capacity transmitted to the child? One can unfold here a simple argument, namely that the mother used to be a child herself and, thus, genius is also something that has been passed on to her. Genius names a possibility that is not -- although it is by necessity mistakenly perceived as if it were -- a natural disposition. Genius is that which names the quality to posit new presuppositions. And if the mother gives this possibility to the child, can one not conclude that there is no mother of this possibility (not simply because every mother used to be a child but, additionally, because one can never assume this possibility to be 61. Ibid., 126. 62. Ibid., 126. 63. Here one can see how Marx's infamous saying about a society being pregnant with something new implies, in a specific way, a Hegelian theory of inheritance. See Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Volume One, trans. Ben Fowkes (New York: Penguin Books, 1990), 916. 112 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
a given)? Because of that, any mother has a mother, but there is no Mother of all mothers. Hegel's theory of inheritance leads to the surprising conclusion that there is no Mother, not only in the sense that there is ultimately no mother of that which is inherited--n o sujet supposй de l'avoir -- but also that the only thing spirit, reason, and all of us can inherit is genius, an im-possibility, eine Un-Mцglichkeit, to posit new presuppositions.
References Agamben G. Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1998. Brandom R. B. A Spirit of Trust: A Semantic Reading of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit. Unpublished typescript. Available at: http://pitt. edu/~brandom/spirit_of_trust_2014.html. Fromm E. Marx's Concept of Man, London, New York, Continuum, 2004. Hegel and the Philosophy of Nature (ed. S. Houlgate), New York, State University of New York Press, 1998. Hegel G. W. F. Hegel's Philosophy of Mind. Translated from the Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences, Oxford, Clarendon, 1984. Hegel G. W. F. Lectures on the History of Philosophy. Vol. 3, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1990. Hegel G. W. F. Outlines of the Philosophy of Right, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2008. Hegel G. W. F. Werke in zwanzig Bдnden, Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp, 1983. Horkheimer M. Bemerkungen zur philosophischen Anthropologie. Kritische Theorie. Bd. 2 (Hg. A. Schmidt), Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp, 1968, S. 200­227. Lacan J. Autres йcrits, Paris, Seuil, 2001. Macpherson C. B. The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism. Hobbes to Locke, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1990. Malabou C. The Future of Hegel: Plasticity, Temporality, and Dialectic, Lon- don, New York, Routledge, 2004. Malabou C. What Should We Do With Our Brain?, New York, Fordham University Press, 2008. Marcuse H. Triebstruktur und Gesellschaft, Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp, 1955. Marx K. Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Vol. I, New York, Penguin Books, 1990. Marx K. Selected Works. Vol. I, Moscow, Foreign Language Publishing House, 1955. Rancire J. Disagreement: Politics and Philosophy, Minnesota, University of Minnesota Press, 2004.
Ruda F. Hegel's Rabble: An Investigation into Hegel's Philosophy of Right, London, Continuum, 2011. Ruda F. Humanism Reconsidered, or: Life living Life. Filozosfki Vestnik, Ljubljana, vol. XXX, no. 2, 2009, pp. 175­197. Zizek S. Discipline Between Two Freedoms -- Madness and Habit in German Idealism. In: Gabriel M., Zizek S. Mythology, Madness, and Laughter. Subjectivity in German Idealism, London, New York, Continuum, 2009, pp. 95­121. 114 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
The Owl and the Angel Oxana Timofeeva Senior Lecturer, Department of Political Science and Sociology, European University at St. Petersburg. Address: 3 Gagarinskaya str., 191187 St. Petersburg, Russia. Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Philosophy, Russian Academy of Sciences. Address: 12/1 Goncharnaya str., 109240 Moscow, Russia. E-mail: [email protected] Keywords: Hegel; Walter Benjamin; Owl of Minerva; Angel of History; happiness; revolution; dialectics. Abstract: In Hegel's philosophical system, the owl of Minerva is not just a metaphor, but a significant symbol. In the symbolism of Hegel's time, it stood for ideas of enlightenment and political emancipation, including radical, revolutionary, cosmopolitan, anti-monarchical, and even anarchistic ideas. Hegel, however, places the owl in a context that appears utterly un-revolutionary. "The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of dusk," he writes in the preface to the Philosophy of Right, thus summing up his argument that philosophy's task is not to teach the world how it ought to be, nor to issue instructions to the state, but rather to comprehend the world as reasonable. Not only does Hegel's owl seem to defend the reactionary present state (a state against which she previously fought in the name of reason and freedom), but she also seems to teach us to accept the present with joy. The point is not merely to reconcile oneself with reality, but also to enjoy it. This paper traces a number of explanatory trajectories--philosophical, psychological, and anthropological--in order to elucidate the paradoxical nature of this enjoyment, and compares the figure of Minerva's owl with another flying creature, Walter Benjamin's Angel of History. Such a comparison aims to pave the way towards a new interpretation of Hegel's philosophy of history and time. 115
Like cabbage-heads in some seedbed of hell They lay, looking up at us, The heads of our comrades Kirill Medvedev THE owl of Minerva in the Hegelian system is not just a metaphor, but what one might call a heraldic symbol. Existing in a separate category from really existing owls, it presents a simplified image, like other heraldic animals (lions, griffins, falcons, dragons, and so on) whose purpose is to reveal an idea or the essence of a thing. Once it appears in the philosophical bestiary, the owl becomes an irreplaceable, indispensable element in it, and the reader of Hegel is faced again and again with the temptation to lose himself in tracing the trajectory of its twilight flight. Since, in Oscar Wilde's words, the only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it, the ideas inspired by this image have lost none of their immediacy. Even before Hegel introduced the owl of Minerva into his philosophy in the position of housekeeper, this symbol was in circulation in the culture of Hegel's time and was well-known to his contemporaries. Minerva was the name of a renowned historico-political journal edited by Johann Wilhelm Archenholz,1 appearing at the turn of the nineteenth century, from whose pages Hegel, Hцlderlin, Schelling and many other educated, progressively inclined Germans learned about the most recent world events (D'Hondt 1968: 7-43)--for example, rev- Translated from Russian by Timothy Dwight Williams 1. All issues of the journal from 1792 to 1815 are archived online: http://www. (last accessed September 8, 2015). 116 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
olution, not only in France but in Haiti (Buck-Morss 2009: 42-47). The owl perched on an open book served as the emblem of the Bavarian Illuminati--a secret society of the Masonic type, founded in 1776 in Ingolstadt (D'Hondt 1998) by the "first citizen of freedom,"2 Adam Weishaupt. According to Jacques D'Hondt, author of a "secret biography" of Hegel, the philosopher was loosely involved in the society's activities, though still quite a young man in 1784, when the Bavarian Government placed an official ban on the group. Secret esoteric societies such as the Freemasons, the Illuminati, and the Rosicrucians at that time faced the crucial task of fighting ignorance and disseminating the ideas of the Enlightenment, but there were, of course, other reasons for the authorities to fear them. Brotherhood had already materialized as a reality in these closed associations--f reedom and equality were yet to come. In the wake of enlightenment understood as general intellectual and spiritual emancipation there followed ideas for political emancipation, including radical, revolutionary, cosmopolitan, anti-monarchical and even anarchistic ideas. Amongst other accusations leveled at them, the Illuminati were charged with conspiracy, with the abolition of nation-states as one of its goals. As a significative symbol, the owl of Minerva reflects the ambiguity of the situation where the ideals of universal knowledge, openness, equality and freedom demand from their chief adherents, conversely, a certain amount of secrecy, the observance of occult rituals, a strict hierarchy, and so on. The necessarily conspiratorial nature of their subversive activity in conditions of pervasive obscurantism has correspondingly given birth to conspiracy theories that explain the lack of transparency in organizations of the Masonic type (cf. Piatigorsky 1997) as resulting primarily from their evil intentions (whether involving the blood sacrifice of children or a global cabal). In the image of the owl of Minerva sitting on a book is embodied the paradox of knowledge itself, necessarily universal and simultaneously necessarily occult: where there is knowledge, there must be a secret supposed to be known. On the one hand, the owl is the bird of reason and light; on the other hand, the "ominous and fearful owl of death," in Shakespeare's words, is the ruler of night and darkness, in which murders and sorcery take place.
2. The tombstone of the order's founder bore the inscription: "Here lies Weishaupt--a respected man of scholarly mind, the first citizen of freedom!" Cf. (last accessed September 12, 2015): adam-weishaupt.
Oxana Timofeeva
In short, Hegel's owl does not appear from nowhere. In the symbolism of the age, it represents not only reason, but also revolution, around which reason circles dangerously and with increasing intensity. The utterly un-revolutionary context into which Hegel suddenly places the owl is thus all the more bewildering. "When philosophy paints its grey in grey, then has a shape of life grown old. By philosophy's grey in grey it cannot be rejuvenated, but only understood. The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of dusk," he writes in the penultimate paragraph of the preface to the Philosophy of Right (Hegel 1967: 13), thus summing up his argument that philosophy's task is not to teach the world how it ought to be, and give instructions to the state, but to "comprehend what is [...] for what is, is reason" (Hegel 1967: 11). Hegel's owl, it seems, is no anarchist or revolutionary, no conspirator seeking to change the world, but an old defender of the same state against which she once stood in the name of reason and freedom. Philosophy finds its proper place within God and the state as the "moral universum." More rational than ideals is the grey old reality, with which one must become reconciled. This reconciliation is furthermore not renunciation or simply acceptance of the inevitable. Reason "is just as little content with the cold despair which submits to the view that in this earthly life things are truly bad or at best only tolerable, thought here they cannot be improved and that this is the only reflection which can keep us at peace with the world: There is less chill in the peace with the world which knowledge supplies" (Hegel 1967: 12). This peace is by no means coerced; on the contrary, it brings joy: "To recognize reason as the rose in the cross of the present and thereby to enjoy the present (Gegenwart ... sich zu erfreuen), this is the rational insight which reconciles us to the actual, the reconciliation which philosophy affords to those in whom there has once arisen an inner voice bidding them to comprehend, not only to dwell in what is substantive while still retaining subjective freedom, but also to possess subjective freedom while standing not in anything particular, but in what exists absolutely" (Ibid.). A number of passages in this quotation attract our attention and merit some closer thought. First of all, the rose on the cross is, like the owl of Minerva and in equal measure, an ambiguous symbol: if the owl evokes the Illuminati, the rose on the cross is the emblem of the Rosicrucians. Hegel's works are full of deliberate allusions to the secret societies of his time. In their philosophical interpretation, these images take on new and unexpected meaning. Moreover, Hegel is not the sort of author who piles on metaphors gratuitously: the rose on 118 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
the cross in the preface to the Philosophy of Right is freighted with rich significance. On the one hand, this powerful image hints to us that the present is a kind of cross, possibly a heavy one, to which reason then becomes attached, or perhaps out of which reason grows, as something extraneous, but beautiful and alive (like a rose). The contrast here is important: the cognition that reconciles us with reality, would not permit us to enjoy the present if it were not at the same time a heavy cross we must bear. In an earlier passage in the preface, Hegel paraphrases the moral of Aesop's fable of the Boasting Traveler and, acting as if the sense of such a play on words were self-evident, transforms "Hi Rhodus, hi saltus" (Here is Rhodes, jump here) into "Hier ist die Rose, hier tanze" (Here is the rose, dance here) (Hegel 1967: 11). Philosophy invites us to dance, expressing the joy of sympathetic reason and reconciliation with reality, not somewhere, sometime, but precisely here and now. The dance with the roses on the cross of the present is the culmination of the celebration of universal understanding. "Here is the rose, dance here" could be Hegel's answer to the anarchistic motto attributed to Emma Goldman, "If I can't dance, it's not my revolution." It is not in some distant, ideal revolution, but in the reality of the actually existing state that sympathetic reason begins joyfully whirling in its ritual dance. On the other hand, the cross symbolizes death in Christian culture. Crosses adorn and designate graves. The cross as a sign thus testifies to the dead's status as truly dead; we should remember, however, that in Christianity, the finality of death in fact represents immortality and eternal life for the dead: the deceased rest in peace, and only those dead who are not dead, the undead, the living dead continue wandering about, restlessly. In an analogous manner, the Hegelian "cross of the present" represents the end of time itself. "[P]hilosophy is its own time apprehended in thoughts," Hegel says, meaning the present: it is impossible to "overleap his own age, jump over Rhodes" (Ibid.), impossible to leap over death. For philosophy, any time which is not present (and that means any time, because the present is not a time, but a ceaseless transition into nonbeing) is always already dead in some sense. Hegel's cross of the present on the grave of time is crowned with the roses of knowledge. Philosophy spins around this grave in a macabre dance. Reason, the funeral wreath, is given over to mourning, and reconciliation is indistinguishable from the peace of the graveyard. The owl of Minerva flying at twilight arrives at just such a picture of completed, and therefore comprehensible and accessible, time. Instead of resolving how to take action and creating projects for the or-
Oxana Timofeeva
ganization of the future, philosophy takes a look backward, acting like a monochrome painting: grey on grey nicely captures the graveyard atmosphere. As if the dust of ashes drew not a rose but the owl sitting on a graveyard cross in Caspar David Friedrich's painting "Owl on a Grave Marker." In fact Friedrich's whole series of sepia depictions of owls, completed in the period between 1836 and 1839, after the artist was devastated by paralysis and could no longer work in oil painting-- "Owl Flying Against a Moonlit Sky," "Owl in a Gothic Window," "Landscape with Grave, Coffin, and Owl," could serve as great illustrations for this passage in Hegel. Incidentally, the last of the illustrations mentioned, "Landscape with Grave, Coffin, and Owl" (1839), appears on the cover of Rebecca Comay's book Mourning Sickness: Hegel and the French Revolution (2011), which undertakes an interesting effort to rethink the relationship between Hegelian philosophy and its historico-philosophical context. Comay's analysis starts with the concepts of trauma, mourning and melancholy.3 The author expands upon these concepts, taken from Freud, by applying them to German culture more broadly and German philosophy in particular. The diagnosis, declared in the title, of mourning sickness, originates in contemporary mass culture: it is the name for the lamentations and collective affect that the media provokes in connection with certain world or national events, such as the death of a celebrity. In Comay's view, the common mournful and melancholic tone of German classical thought is determined by references to a traumatic event which had not in fact taken place in Germany. It is mourning the loss of something that was never there. Revolution--t he embodiment of the ideas of the enlightenment in reality, transforming the political life of society in its entirety--h ad occurred nearby, in France, and the Germans, active readers of magazines and newspapers, had merely observed it at a safe distance, as people look, in Herder's words, "from a secure shore at a shipwreck far off in the open sea" (Herder 1971: 336), drawing lessons from the mistakes of someone else's history.4 3. Hegel's relationship to the French Revolution in terms of melancholy are also examined by Artemy Magun, though he places greater emphasis on the idea of negativity (Magun 2013: 187-192). 4. In the drafts of the Briefe zu Befцrderung der Humanitдt, Herder writes: "And if Providence itself put this spectacle before our eyes, if it, after a long preparation, allowed it to happen in our time, that we might see it and learn from it-- who does not want to learn from it and will not thank God for the fact that it is happening abroad and that we are involved in it only as a newspaper report, unless, as already mentioned, some evil genius is not going to plunge us reck- 120 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
Comay calls this type of situation, when revolution appears not as a really lived experience, but as a sublime spectacle of catastrophe, simultaneously splendid and appalling, a "Kantian theater," noting the duality or even duplicity of Kant's position: on the one hand, sympathy with the ideals of Enlightenment and republicanism (which Kant, introducing the distinction between spirit and letter, proposes to support as regulative ideas within monarchical government) (Comay 2011: 166-167), and on the other, rejection of revolution as such, inasmuch as it goes against the law -- not only against a particular juridical or moral law, but against the principle of law in general, against universal formal law. The execution of the sovereign, who was the guarantor of law, exposes the pure arbitrariness that underlies its very form (Comay 2011: 36-37). German culture knows revolution only in translation, Comay underscores, following Marx, who, in the Communist Manifesto, for example, ridicules German philosophers and "literati" for their unconvincing attempts to "bring ... the new French ideas into harmony with their ancient philosophical conscience," implemented "in the same way in which a foreign language is appropriated, namely, by translation" (Marx, Engels 1848). According to Marx, the most important element is lost in translation, namely the class struggle; political revolution is emasculated by being transformed into a revolution of the spirit, of ideas, of morals--a conceptual, theoretical revolution. "Not true requirements, but the requirements of Truth" are raised up as goals; "not the interests of the proletariat, but the interests of Human Nature, of Man in general, who belongs to no class, has no reality, who exists only in the misty realm of philosophical fantasy" (Ibid). Such "foul and enervating literature" represents the product of so-called "true" German socialism, which, being a "silly echo" of French criticism, lets its real historical chance pass it by and remains faithful to its calling-- to serve as the "bombastic representative of the petty-bourgeois Philistine" (Ibid). In her discussion of the temporality of translating the French Revolution into the language of German culture and philosophy, Comay frequently notes its paradoxical nature: the past had not yet occurred here, but the future is already precluded--having failed to appear, never having materialized, it nevertheless got left behind. In response to Marx's
lessly headlong into what is happening? Here we are allowed to gather all of our German common sense, to look it over with empirical scrutiny, to reasonably use everything good, and throw out, according to justice and prudence, everything reprehensible" (Herder 1971: 337).
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witty remark, in the introduction to his Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right, that the Germans "have shared the restorations of modern nations without ever having shared their revolutions" and that "we only once kept company with freedom, on the day of its interment" (Marx 1843), Comay, however, observes that Hegel himself anticipates such a criticism--and not so much in the Phenomenology of Spirit as in the Philosophy of Right. The "strange temporality" in which the future is left in the past but the past has not taken place (the revolution has not yet come to pass, and now will never do so), finds its adequate expression in Hegelian philosophy which places before it the task of signifying the present--and in particular the actually existing state--as an anachronism (Comay 2011: 144). This form of life, beneath which is buried the freedom that never materialized, has already become old in the here and now. Readers of the Philosophy of Right fall into two groups--those who consider it an eloquent testimony to Hegel's rejection of his youthful ideals of revolution and an apologia for the Prussian state, and those who see in the work a continuation of the emancipatory project under conditions of external reaction and censorship by that same Prussian state. Comay unequivocally belongs to the second group: in her interpretation, Hegel remains unconditionally true to the event of the revolution--the event that did not take place and was allowed to slip away. Comay is convinced that the Phenomenology of Spirit and the Philosophy of Right are two sides of the same intellectual scenario regarding the Spirit, and that the often-bewildering conservative pathos of the Philosophy of Right and, probably, many other works in the history of Political Philosophy, represents the result of "an endless negotiation with the censors" (Comay 2011: 144). In defending Hegel the revolutionary against Hegel the reactionary, it is possible to base the argument on the fact that the rational reality Hegel refers to in the controversial passage on reconciliation is not exactly reality as we generally understand it. Thus, in the Science of Logic, Hegel makes a distinction between reality and existence and defines reality as the unity of essence and existence. As Engels underscores, "according to Hegel certainly not everything that exists is also real, without further qualification. For Hegel the attribute of reality belongs only to that which at the same time is necessary" (Engels 1946). As concerns the Prussian state of which the Philosophy of Right is commonly believed to be a vindication, according to Engels, Hegel's stance with regard to it rather signifies that "this state is rational, corresponds to reason, insofar as it is necessary; and if it nevertheless appears to us to be evil, but still, in spite of its evil character, continues to exist, then the 122 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
evil character of the government is justified and explained by the corresponding evil character of its subjects. The Prussians of that day had the government that they deserved" (Ibid.). By strongly accenting the "strange temporality" of Hegelian philosophy, Comay, for her part, gives this classical Marxist reading an innovative Benjaminian twist: "`Actualization' (Verwirklichung) in this sense can mean nothing other than the deactivation of the existent and the reactivation and reenactment (in every sense) of the thwarted futures of the past. Actuality thus expresses precisely the pressure of the virtual: it opens history to the `no longer' of a blocked possibility and the persistence of an unachieved `not yet'" (Comay 2011: 144-145). In this "temporal convolution" the author discerns "something resembling the messianic structure of `hope in the past'" (Ibid.). The Prussian state in this reading is presented as perhaps a real, but not an essential form of life. It is the cross of the present, upon which grows the rose of knowledge, on which there perches at twilight the owl of philosophy, and underneath which is buried the future itself. In the grave of time lies that which has not yet had a chance to be born. The present as anachronism both blocks and at the same time marks a whole series of missed opportunities. If we extend this thought further, then any moment in the present could be a revolution. This interpretation of Hegel's philosophy undoubtedly draws profound inspiration from reading Benjamin. It would seem that we have no grounds whatever for juxtaposing the two authors: if Hegel's thesis on the rationality of reality is treated as an apologia for the status quo, ("for what is, is reason"), what can be further from the thought, persistently developed by Benjamin, that what is, is a catastrophe? Nonetheless, Comay manages to make a persuasive case for this parallel. In Benjamin's view, the main threat to humanity is represented not by the coming apocalypse, but the stability and preservation of what is: "That things are `status quo' is the catastrophe" (Benjamin 2002: 184). The critical moment does not cease presenting itself as long as things maintain their position or follow their course (Benjamin 2002: 185). Every minute of the present in which the status quo is preserved, buries the future in the past and transforms history into ruins. "Catastrophe--t o have missed the opportunity," writes Benjamin (Benjamin 1999: 474). It is this territory of missed opportunities and hope buried in the past where his meeting with Hegel takes place. The owl of Minerva completes her flight at precisely the moment when everything has already happened, and what has occurred cannot be changed, or (what amounts to the same thing) when nothing has already happened, when the opportunity has been missed, that is, now.
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In an essential way, the owl of Minerva is a witness to the catastrophe. As Mladen Dolar suggests,5 a condition for the existence of philosophy and its activity of drawing grey on grey is, in Hegel, a devastating, catastrophic event--the end of the world or apocalypse--only after which event can thought arise, as if from ashes. In fact, being, in order to be, requires this primeval catastrophic event: the end of the world precedes its beginning. To begin from the very beginning, it is necessary at the beginning to reach the end. Of decisive importance is the point of transition (an empty point) from being (pure being) to nothingness (and vice versa). Hegel describes this transition in various ways, everywhere, it may be said, in all of his works, but particularly precisely and tersely at the beginning of the first chapter of the first book of the Science of Logic, where he declares that pure being and pure nothingness are one and the same thing (Hegel 2010: 59). It is crucial to note that here, "one and the same" signifies not indifference but absolute engagement, the truth of which--b ecoming--contains a delicate temporal nuance: "being has passed over into nothing and nothing into being--`has passed over,' not passes over" (Hegel 2010: 59-60). Becoming unfolds in the post-apocalyptic modality of "always already," and thought, which in this process ceases to identify itself with being, carries from the outset a mark of the irremediability of (non-)happening. Comay also sees Hegel as a philosopher of catastrophe, but in addition, she radically reads him as already expressing Benjaminian awareness of the unpostponable urgency of revolutionary interference in the course of history and the need for a break with the catastrophic continuum of the present (Comay 2013: 251-259). Reconciliation with reality, read this way, dialectically crosses over into its opposite, into irreconcilability, which emerges, however, not as a romantic rejection of reality, but as its deactivation, its abolition through completion, through the "always already" of the transition from being into nothingness. This transition becomes double and in its natural, immediate form is cast off or overcome; the negation of negation takes place. That which buries the future in the past is itself old, grey, and dead. As if we could do away with it and start over, find what was lost, let the un-happened to happen. Like Hegel's owl of Minerva, Benjamin's Angel of History--the Angelus Novus from Klee's painting--is a witness to the world ca- 5. I am borrowing the idea of catastrophe, of apocalypse as the founding event of being and thought in Hegel's philosophy from Mladen Dolar, who has been kind enough to share with me an unpublished passage in which the Hegelian subject is described as a catastrophe survivor. 124 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
tastrophe. With his eyes wide open and his lips rounded, he looks into the past, from whence none return. A storm wind blows back in his face from heaven. "The storm drives him irresistibly into the future, to which his back is turned, while the rubble-heap before him grows sky-high" (Benjamin 2015): the precipitate movement of the angel into the future looks more than anything like falling down. Instead of a series of events succeeding each other, he observes "one single catastrophe, which unceasingly piles rubble on top of rubble and hurls it before his feet" (Ibid.). He would like to stay, "to awaken the dead and to piece together what has been smashed," but the storm is so strong that he cannot even fold his wings. Benjamin's reader almost feels the pain of the fallen angel experiencing his clumsy, brutish, birdlike body. The owl of Minerva and the angel of history, two images whose mediation is vital to our understanding of modern historical subjectivity, have much in common. Both the angel and the owl have feathered wings. They are both flying creatures. Both turn their gaze backward, into the past, at what has already been (un)consummated. Both see in front of them something grey: the angel of history ruins and rubble, the owl of Minerva dust and ashes. Both are unable to change or fix anything. They are united by the irreversibility of real or imagined loss, inability to interfere in the catastrophic march of events or influence it, to replay history. They are birds of grief, mourning and melancholy. And yet, such a description does not exhaust their shared psychoemotional content. Behind the obvious background of desolation, something else is hidden. As we find our way toward this something else, we should once again remember the dance with roses and the fact that Hegelian reality at the moment of our reconciliation with it not only makes itself understandable, but gives cause for enjoyment. The end of the world watched over by the owl of Minerva, the end of history, the end of time, represents a sorrowful picture of the withering of life, but in point of fact, the philosophizing animal's passion is not for life but for truth. That animal's main organ of feeling is reason. As translator T.M. Knox writes in the notes to the English edition of the Philosophy of Right: "If the actual is rational, then however tragic the actual may seem to be, reason will be able to find joy in it, because it will find itself in it as its essence."6 The thesis on the rationality of reality thus contains a certain kind of "imperative to enjoy." In making this reconciliation, we are not renouncing the pleasure principle in favour
6. Hegel 1967: 303, note by T.M. Knox.
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of the reality principle, in order to receive some safe and happy grey life in return. On the contrary, at the world's twilight, when the Hegelian spirit embodied in the nocturnal bird abandons the dead body of history, some primary, unconscious desire of ours suddenly uncovers its element. The angel of history, in turn, is revealed to be an unambiguously melancholic figure. As Jonathan Flatley writes, it is not only "that Benjamin himself--born, as he noted, `under the sign of Saturn'-- tended toward depression is well known, and the problem of melancholy recurs regularly in his work" (Flatley 2008: 64), but materialist method is itself melancholic, inextricably linked as it is with loss. A prominent tradition of Benjamin interpretation is focused on melancholy and depression; its most important voice is that of Gershom Scholem. Scholem analyzes in particular an enigmatic short fragment written by Benjamin on Ibiza in August 1933, entitled "Agesilaus Santander" (Scholem 1976: 198-237). This fictional name, supposedly bestowed on the author by his Jewish parents to supplement his real name, belongs not so much to Benjamin himself as to his "personal angel." In the Jewish tradition, each person possesses such an angel: he represents the person's hidden or celestial self. No less important, according to Scholem, is the fact that this combination of the name of the king of Sparta, Agesilaus, and the name of the north Spanish city Santander conceals the anagram "Der Angelus Satanas," signifying a union of "angelic and demonic forces" (Scholem 1976: 217). Scholem traces the dynamics of how the demonic motifs, inspired not only by mysticism and theology, but also the poetry of Baudelaire, develop in Benjamin's angelology, and claims that the Angelus Novus from Thesis IX in On the Concept of History is the same Satan who figures elsewhere in Benjamin's work, though concealed under a different name. The word "Novus" (new)--given that the real, "old" name of the angel is already designated and known--indicates an uncanny repetition and the return of the same. It is truly a fallen angel, a dark bearer of evil rather than good. His Satanic nature, in Scholem's view, is underscored by his "claws and knife-sharp wings": "No angel, but only Satan, possesses claws and talons" (Scholem 1976: 222). For Benjamin, the encounter with this demonic angel is a secular epiphany, but, Scholem concludes, its secular nature does not prevent the image from playing a deeply mystical role, as it expresses the "occult reality" of Benjamin himself, a melancholy accumulation of various irreparable losses. It is difficult to disagree with Scholem's version, and yet there is a philosopher who takes it upon himself to face that challenge, painstak- 126 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
ingly refuting the most self-evident and convincing arguments in his interpretation--G iorgio Agamben.7 In his reading, the angel of history is not a melancholic figure, but a messianic one. Agamben directs our attention to the following passage from Benjamin's fragment: "He [Agesilaus Santander] wants happiness: the conflict in which lies the ecstasy of the unique, new, as yet unlived with that bliss of the `once more,' the having again, the lived" (Scholem 1976: 208). Scholem, of course, did not neglect to discuss this passage, but for him the happiness that the angel wants consists of a mystical connection with lost objects, where for Agamben happiness lies in salvation and redemption. If Benjamin's "personal angel" is a demon, then it is by no means the demon stigmatized by Judeo-Christian religious tradition, it is not Lucifer, whose fierce claws are kissed by witches at their Sabbaths. Agamben proposes to examine the other meaning of the word "demonic," originating in classical Greek ethics, which Agamben reads as the doctrine of happiness: "For the Greeks, the link between the demonic (daimonion) and happiness was evident in the very term with which they designated happiness, eudaimonia" (Agamben 1999: 138). Agamben agrees that the old and the new angel are the same character, but he rejects its depressive-melancholic, occult, and Luciferian qualities. Instead, in Agamben's reading, the angel is "a bright figure who, in the strict solidarity of happiness and historical redemption, establishes the very relation of the profane order to the messianic [...]" (Agamben 1999: 145). These counter-intuitive conclusions may, of course, seem bewildering to some who, following Scholem, could point to the angel's feral claws as endowing him with a diabolical nature, but for them Agamben also has an answer: Satan is not the only angel with claws. In the European iconographic tradition it is Eros, more than Satan, who joins together angelic and demonic features--a nd he, too, incidentally, is often depicted with feral claws. It is no accident that Benjamin himself, in The Origin of German Tragic Drama, refers to a painting by Giotto, in which Cupid is shown "as a demon of wantonness with a bat's wings and claws" (Benjamin 2009: 226). As Agamben remarks, the new angel in Klee's painting has arms and claws that make him resemble a predatory bird. The claws reveal not the demonic, but the "destructive--and simultaneously liberating--power of the angel" (Agamben 1999: 142). Thus we are dealing with no depressive melancholic, but a real exter-
7. I owe this reference to Sami Khatib, from whom I learned that the Angel of history is happy when brushed again the grain.
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minating angel.8 Agamben references yet another text, in which Benjamin cites Klee's angel and speaks of "a humanity that proves itself by destruction": "where origin and destruction come together, [the demon's] rule is over" (Agamben 1999: 150, quoting Benjamin 1986: 273), he writes in the essay "Karl Kraus," as if disputing in advance the interpretation placed on his work by his friend Scholem. The theme of destruction, emphasized by Agamben, plays a crucial role here.9 Destruction does not contradict happiness and love, quite the contrary: the place where destruction and origin meet is the moment of redemption. It must be admitted that understood in this way, the desire of Benjamin's angel is close to the drive to reach the end in order to begin again, with which Hegel's owl flies at twilight toward death--another creature with long, sharp claws, naturally. The owl and the angel are birds of the apocalypse. They do not simply observe catastrophe, but find in it their own element and the beginning of a new life. Beyond mourning, sorrow and melancholy, they share a strange enjoyment. We could try to explain this enjoyment in a number of ways. The first would be a philosophical explanation. The owl and the angel enjoy as they find themselves drawn into a vertiginous vortex of double negation. In the owl's case this is expressed in the fact that reality, or the present as the simple negativity of time, annulling everything that is not itself, in turn also becomes obsolete and annuls itself in each of its constitutive moments. The owl rejoiced at the catastrophic nature of the transition point from being into nothingness, as the owl coincided with this point on the path to the beginning that can be followed through to the end only by slipping through the needle's eye of death. In the angel's case, it is the joy of victory over the demon, the happy possibility of the destruction of destruction itself, thereby becoming joined together with origination, that is, again finding the beginning of the path through its end. For the owl and the angel, the end of history is connected with the redemptive destruction of the destructive force that operates in history. It is a purely dialectical, difficult enjoyment, accessible only to a select few. The second kind of explanation would be psychoanalytical: the secret of the owl and the angel is that their principal drive, the death drive, finds itself actualized in history's most catastrophic development. As 8. El бngel exterminador (Sp.) is the title of a well-known Surrealist film by Luis Buсuell, which refers to some Biblical stories, particularly the apocalypse, as well as the Old Testament story of the Angel of Death. 9. Sami Khatib develops this theme in his extensive study of Benjamin's messianism and nihilism as a revolutionary philosophical method (Khatib 2013). 128 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
Comay writes, elucidating the link established by Freud between the repetition compulsion (for example, daily rituals through which a traumatic event is unconsciously reenacted) and the death drive: " ... the compulsion to repeat expresses a desire for inanimate existence and ultimately for nonexistence: it is a desire to return to a time before the beginning--t o go back not for the sake of regressing but in order to take it over again, to do it otherwise. The desire for repetition is essentially the desire for difference. This is why Lacan will underline the link between the death drive and sublimation. It is only the encounter with death that clears the slate for a new beginning: every creation is an ex nihilo creation" (Comay 2011: 148). Death is needed and desired, then, in order to return, to repeat (but also remake) history. Moreover, examined from the point of view of psychology, happiness and melancholy are not, strictly speaking, mutually exclusive. In keeping with Freud's theory, as Artemy Magun underscores, "there is, in both mourning and melancholy, a manic, joyous phase, in which the individual celebrates his sovereign solitude, liberation from the object, both external and internal" (Magun 2011: 51). What if the owl and angel have already moved into this manic phase, and take sovereign joy in their solitude and freedom? Finally, an anthropological explanation can also be found for the enjoyment of the owl and the angel. They are not only simultaneously witnesses to and participants in the catastrophe (of the end of the world and of missed opportunities), but are also those who survived the catastrophe. They are the last birds. They fly over when all the other animals have already died. They are survivors, and survival, in the words of Elias Canetti, "is a kind of pleasure" (Kanetti 1984: 230). A central chapter of his book Crowds and Power is concerned with the nature of this pleasure, compared to which "all grief is insignificant" (Kanetti 1984: 227); Canetti describes survival as the "moment of power": "Horror at the sight of death turns into satisfaction that it is someone else who is dead. The dead man lies on the ground while the survivor stands" (Ibid.). The feeling of absolute power arises from this exaltation over the dead, who can no longer stand in your path. It is important that "whether the survivor is confronted by one dead man or by many, the essence of the situation is that he feels unique. He sees himself standing there alone and exults in it; and when we speak of the power which this moment gives him, we should never forget that it derives from his sense of uniqueness and from nothing else" (Ibid.). The survivor "knows of many deaths"--he has seen his comrades and his enemies, whom he risked his life with, fall. There is a pile of dead men around the survivor. He, however, has managed to avoid death,
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and is therefore the "victor," "favoured of the gods," and a "hero" (Kanetti 1984: 227-8). From this perspective, grief and mourning for the fallen appear to be rather a mask, a screen for that same manic happiness of "sovereign solitude" and liberation to which the owl and the angel are subject. Enjoyment, happiness, and pleasure are not so much affects as a certain kind of ontological modes, not unlike Heideggerian horror. They in fact immediately border on horror in certain conditions, or rather, since the words "immediately border on" make no sense in the Hegelian context (since any border is already a form of mediation), they pass over into each other. If for Canetti horror at the feeling of imminent death precedes the survivor's triumphant joy, then for Hegel it accompanies the consciousness of absolute freedom. That is the political condition discussed in the concluding part of the sixth chapter in the Phenomenology of Spirit's second section, "Absolute Freedom and Terror." In it, Hegel discusses the Enlightenment, which "will taste the fruits of its deeds" (Hegel 1977: 354). The Enlightenment is followed by revolution, which in turn is followed by terror. When there is no god, and the previous form of rule and social stratum have been done away with, the "undivided Substance of absolute freedom ascends the throne of the world without any power being able to resist It" (Hegel 1977: 357). In the experience of revolution, the "common sense" and "utility" with which the Enlightenment linked itself suddenly devolve into the madness and potlach of terror. The fruits of the Enlightenment that allow the spirit to open up for itself the space of absolute freedom look like vegetables--self-consciousness suddenly sees before itself the guillotine and decapitated heads piled up like cabbages: "The sole work and deed of universal freedom is therefore death, a death too which has no inner significance or filling, for what is negated is the empty point of the absolutely free self. It is thus the coldest and meanest of all deaths, with no more significance than cutting off a head of cabbage or swallowing a mouthful of water" (Hegel 1977: 360). As Comay writes in her commentary on this passage, "Absolute freedom is terror. It is the infinite melancholia of a self that knows no other" (Comay 2011: 68). The world of objects, detached from self-consciousness and opposed to it, has lost the certainty of its reality; the "independence of real being" has been transformed into a "corpse" (Hegel 1977: 358). Spirit thus finds itself entrusted to its own self, to its "sovereign solitude," and now death as a free, but choiceless reality frightens it: "the terror of death is the vision of this negative nature of itself " (Hegel 1977: 361). Such terror would appear to have nothing in common with the philosophical owl's enjoyment in recon- 130 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
ciliation as it flies at the end of time, and yet it gives birth to pleasure: "so does absolute freedom leave its self-destroying reality and pass over into another land of self-conscious Spirit where, in this unreal world, freedom has the value of truth. In the thought of this truth spirit refreshes itself, in so far as it is and remains thought" (Hegel 1977: 363). The "fury of destruction" that embodies negative freedom (359), like the night owl, also has wings.10 Between terror and pleasure (the latter attributed by Hegel to the birth of a new form of "moral spirit") runs this boundary, or rather transition. Sovereign freedom brings this transition into being, thereby revealing itself in its new, euphoric, manic mode. To rejoice in the new, it was necessary to pass through its devastating and catastrophic trial, encountering solitude and death themselves under the name of freedom. Freedom is necessity, that is, reality, that is, reason. The encounter that takes place at this juncture between the "revolutionary" Phenomenology of Spirit and the "reactionary" Philosophy of Right, closing--or opening (it amounts to the same)--t he Hegelian system, once more convinces us of its irreproachable consistency. The owl of Minerva pierces its way through from the end to the beginning like the Benjaminian Angel who wishes to destroy destruction itself. So what if this path is not accessible to people at all, but only to clawed, winged creatures, since it goes through the abyss between reality and freedom--t he abyss into which historical humanity irreversibly disappears? Hovering or hanging over this abyss, revealing from a bird's eye view the picture of the apocalypse that has just occurred, is accompanied by oscillations between depression and euphoria, terror and joy, melancholy and happiness. The problem, as I see it, lies in the fact that the amplitude of these oscillations develops, if anything, according to a psychotic scenario. The situation of losing not simply the other, but the whole world, without any hope of reassembling it, is a typical one for psychotics. As has already been noted, the survivor, the Spirit of revolution, the owl and the angel find themselves in complete solitude at the critical moment. It is precisely solitude, that is, the incommunicability of the experience of knowledge, which gives that experience a psychotic quality. Solitude is a crooked mirror, looking into whose reflection leads the viewer to mistake power for freedom (it is no accident than Canetti's book ends with a chapter on the paranoia of Judge Daniel Paul Schreber). Should not the survival of a witness to the world catastrophe itself be witnessed by
10. The goddesses of vengeance, the Furies or Erinyes of Greco-Roman mythology, are often depicted with snakes for hair, black canine snouts, or batwings.
Oxana Timofeeva
someone else, by others? Only then, when in the gap between thought and the disappearing world there appears community, does the Hegelian "terror of death" transform into what Georges Bataille called "joy in the face of death" (Bataille 1979). According to Bataille, the practice of joy in the face of death can only take place in a collective, shared fashion. The isolated individual ceases to exist when it happens, as the boundaries of individuality break down: "Having got into the game with death, he has already gone outside the limits of himself, into the glorious community who laugh at the misery of their fellows and, with each moment driving out and destroying his predecessor, he triumphs over time as it continues to reign over his neighbors ... community is necessary to him in order to feel the glory of that moment that tears him from existence. The feeling of connection with those who have been chosen to unite their great intoxication, is only a means of noticing that loss is glory and victory, that the dead man's end signifies renewed life, a flash of light, an alleluia" (Bataille 1979). The triumph of the participant over time "that reigns over his neighbors" resembles the negation of negation, rejoiced in by the owl, and the destruction of destruction wherein the angel finds happiness. But to make the "fury of destruction" itself disappear, it seems an entire flock of owls and host of angels would be required. Hegel is, in his own way, conscious of this problem and designates the way out of it dialectically, through the formation of the moral Spirit, or the State: thus that is how we arrive in the end at the Philosophy of Right. Community, however, does not appear as a central theme for philosophy until the twentieth century, in the wake of a series of catastrophes that bring down entire States. What kind of inhuman community can take up the challenge of our still post-apocalytic world? Let this difficult question lie at the foundation of further investigations and communities, in which Hegel and his wise owl will no doubt emerge once again as participants. References Agamben G. Walter Benjamin and the Demonic: Happiness and Historical Redemption. Potentialities: Collected Essays in Philosophy, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1999, pp. 138­159. Bataille G. La joie devant la mort. Le Collиge de Sociologie (ed. D. Collier), Paris, Gallimard, 1979, pp. 302­326. Benjamin W. On the Concept of History. Marxists Internet Archive. Available at: http:// 132 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
Benjamin W. Reflections, New York, Schocken Books, 1986. Benjamin W. Selected Writings: 1938­1940, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 2002. Benjamin W. The Arcades Project, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1999. Benjamin W. The Origin of German Tragic Drama, New York, Verso, 2009. Buck-Morss S. Hegel, Haiti, and Universal History, Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009. Canetti E. Crowds and Power, New York, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1984. Comay R. Benjamin's Endgame. Walter Benjamin's Philosophy: Destruction and Experience (eds A. Benjamin, P. Osborne), New York, London, Routledge, 1994, pp. 246­285. Comay R. Mourning Sickness: Hegel and the French Revolution, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 2011. D'Hondt J. Hegel secret: recherches sur les sources cachйes de la pensйe de Hegel, Paris, PUF, 1968. D'Hondt J. Hegel: Biographie, Paris, Calmann-Lйvy, 1998. Engels F. Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy. Marxists Internet Archive. Available at: marx/works/1886/ludwig-feuerbach/ch01.htm. Flatley J. Affective Mapping: Melancholia and The Politics of Modernism, Cambridge, MA, London, Harvard University Press, 2008. Freud S. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works. Volume XIV (1914­1916), London, Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1957. Hegel G. W. F. Phenomenology of Spirit, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1977. Hegel G. W. F. Philosophy of Right, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1967. Hegel G. W. F. The Science of Logic, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2010. Herder J. G. Briefe zu Befцrderung der Humanitдt. Bd. 2, Berlin, AufbauVerlag, 1971. Khatib S. R. Teleologie ohne Endzweck: Walter Benjamins Ent-stellung des Messianischen, Marburg, Tectum Verlag, 2013. Kojиve A. Introduction to the Reading of Hegel, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1980. Magun A. Edinstvo i odinochestvo: Kurs politicheskoi filosofii Novogo vremeni [Unity and Solitude: A Course in Modern Political Philosophy], oscow, Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2011. Magun A. Negative Revolution: Modern Political Subject and its Fate After the Cold War, New York, Bloomsbury, 2013. Marx K. Introduction to "A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right." Marxists Internet Archive. Available at:
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Marx K., Engels F. Manifesto of the Communist Party. Marxists Internet Archive. Available at: Piatigorsky A. Who's Afraid of Freemasons?: The Phenomenon of Freemasonry, London, Harvill, 1997. Scholem G. Walter Benjamin and His Angel. On Jews and Judaism in Crisis: Selected Essays, New York, Schocken Books, 1976, pp. 198­236. 134 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
Kierkegaard, Fichte and the Subject of Idealism Michael O'Neill Burns Senior Lecturer, Department of Philosophy, University of the West of England. Address: Frenchay Campus, Coldharbour Lane, BS16 1QY Bristol, UK. E-mail: [email protected] Keywords: Sшren Kierkegaard; Johann Gottlieb Fichte; subjectivity; German Idealism. Abstract: While the philosophical and religious authorship of Sшren Kierkegaard is often said to be absolutely anti-systematic, and in particular anti-idealist in its orientation, this essay argues that Kierkegaar's philosophical project can in fact be best interpreted as offering a critical appropriation of the philosophy of German Idealism. Through a reading of his text, Johannes Climacus, the author shows that Kierkegaard is interested in exploring the existential stakes of the philosophy of German Idealism from the perspective of the dynamic development of consciousness. Along with this, he uses the work of J.G.Fichte to further show the manner in which this concern with the life of the individual subject places Kierkegaard in continuity with one of the key figures of German Idealism. Along with a systematic reading which places Kierkegaard in clear historical continuity with German Idealism, the paper concludes by arguing that this idealist interpretation of Kierkegaard not only places his thought more clearly in a nineteenth century philosophical context, but equally that this reading can offer conceptual support to contemporary theories of subjectivity. In particular, the author argues that only by rereading the work of Kierkegaard via the conceptual framework of German Idealism can we bring his thought to life in a way that makes it absolutely crucial to contemporary philosophical debates on the nature of subjectivity and the political. 135
I WHEN we ask the question of what the legacy of the philosophy of German Idealism will be in the twenty-first century, and in particular when we inquire into what sort of `new life' can be injected into this nineteenth century tradition, one does not immediately think of the religious authorship of nineteenth century Danish author Sшren Kierkegaard as a crucial resource for this task. To begin with, Kierkegaard was not German or an idealist, and in many senses his legacy is most strongly connected to his religious and existential rejection of the totalizating metaphysical aims of the absolute idealism of Hegel. This then leads to his being considered as a proto-existentialist critical thinker with little concern for systematic accounts of the structure of consciousness or formal ontology. Along with this, Kierkegaard is often thought to be necessarily theological in his orientation and subsequently outside the realm of those proposing to think the real of both subject and reality in the terms of a systematic idealism. This reading is problematic on (at least) two counts; first, a reading that places Kierkegaard as in any way contra the systematic aims of German Idealism (Fichte-Schelling-Hegel) misses the philosophical spirit of his authorship completely. Kierkegaard was not only deeply indebted to the thought of the German idealists, but his own work touches on many of the same systematic aims, only from a different perspective. As Lore Hьhn and Philipp Schwab have recently argued, "it is precisely by means of his critical reaction against idealism that Kierkegaard outlines the shape of his own philosophy."1 While Kierkeg- 1. Lore Hьhn and Philipp Schwab, "Kierkegaard and German Idealism," in The Oxford Handbook of Kierkegaard, ed. John Lippitt and George Pattison (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 55. 136 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
aard is critical of many of the philosophical tendencies of German Idealism, it is only through this critical appropriation that Kierkegaard develops his own post-idealist systematic philosophy. Some of this confusion regarding Kierkegaard's relation to idealism can be attributed to a difference in style. While Hegel aimed at a rigorously systematic and logical exposition of his philosophical idealism as it pertained to consciousness, logic, nature and the state, Kierkegaard flirted with a number of different literary styles to outline his systematic thought. Rather than provide an objective (or, external) account of an ideal ontological framework, he provides an account of ontological structure via the perspective of the individual subject itself (or, an internal account). However, instead of putting him at odds with the literary style of the German idealist, this emphasis on considering the stakes of idealism through the eyes of the particular subject places Kierkegaard in a tradition utilized by Fichte himself in his Vocation of Man, a text that Kierkegaard was familiar with.2 In this sense, the divergence between Kierkegaard and German Idealism is not a matter of great ontological or systematic difference, but rather, a matter of perspective and literary style. Hegel (and to various extents Schelling and Fichte) aimed to articulate the dynamics of the absolute through an objective, or external, account (through an elaboration of either spirit or nature); Kierkegaard's style shows the relationship between the individual subject and systematic thought from the perspective of the becoming of the consciousness of the individual philosophical subject. Whereas the conceptual structures at play remain largely the same, in Kierkegaard's case we see the becoming of the concept develop via the movements internal to the reflective activity of the subject. In particular, as I will argue in this essay, Kierkegaard preforms this sort of idealism in Johannes Climacus, an unfinished text published posthumously.3 While stylistically this is one of Kierkegaard's most literary texts, when read in a similar fashion to texts such as Fichte's The Vocation of Man we can see it as an existential account of the stakes of idealist philosophy from the perspective of the dynamic development of subjective consciousness. It should now be clear why a reading that attempts to place Kierkegaard in opposition to the systematic aims of German idealist philoso- 2. For a detailed account of Kierkegaard's relations to Fichte, and in particular his reading of The Vocation of Man, see David Kangas, "J.G. Fichte: From Transcendental Ego to Existence," in Kierkegaard and His German Contemporaries, ed. Jon Stewart (Surrey: Ashgate, 2009). 3. Sшren Kierkegaard, Philosophical Fragments and Johannes Climacus, trans. Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985).
phy holds little weight; however, the question of the theological basis and aims of his thought still remains. Although I have argued for the possibility of a non-theological interpretation of Kierkegaard at length in another work,4 I will provide a concise summary of that argument to set up the main argument of the present essay. The first step of this is to note that many of the theological aspects of Kierkegaard's philosophical thought are merely posited as existential (or ethical) solutions to fundamental ontological (or philosophical) problems. For example, even though faith can be considered in an explicitly theological fashion, it can equally be seen as an existential concept showing the possibility of the individual subject to commit to existential projects without any underlying ontological certainty. Following this reading one can still give weight to these theological solutions, but they do not prove any sort of retroactive theological necessity in terms of the philosophical problems outlined by Kierkegaard (contingency, uncertainty, despair, anxiety, etc.). Along with this, it is worth noting that Kierkegaard never provides any clearly theological content in his pseudonymous authorship.5 The religious is a general existential structure without any particular systematic content. This has led to readings in which traditional Lutherans, contemporary Catholics, and fanatic evangelicals can all claim Kierkegaard's thought as their own. While this tendency can lead to a variety of theological readings of the existential-religious solutions provided by Kierkegaard, it is clear that these are merely religious solutions to many of the problems left in the wake of the systematic ontology of German idealist philosophy. To counter this tendency to read Kierkegaard as either necessarily theological and/or absolutely opposed to the philosophical project of German Idealism, this essay will argue that Kierkegaard's thought develops via a critical repetition of the key philosophical ideas of German Idealism. However, Kierkegaard differs from traditional idealism by placing a focus on the ontology of the actuality of lived human life, rather than a strictly conceptual account of life in a more formal sense. Reading Kierkegaard alongside the idealist anthropology of Fichte will highlight this emphasis on the ontology of lived activity. This historical reading of Kierkegaard against the backdrop of German Idealism 4. Michael O'Neill Burns, Kierkegaard and the Matter of Philosophy: A Fractured Dialectic (London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015). 5. For more on this see Jon Stewart, Idealism and Existentialism: Hegel and Nineteenth and Twentieth Century European Philosophy (London: Continuum, 2010). 138 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
also bears relevance to contemporary debates in continental philosophy, specifically those aiming to utilize the theoretical resources of German Idealism to contribute to contemporary political philosophy and theory. Following this, the essay will conclude by arguing that this idealist informed reading of Kierkegaard opens up the path to consider the life of the subject in a materialist and political context. II Kierkegaard's Johannes Climacus (hereafter JC) is an unfinished work not published during his lifetime that manages to be both one of his most literary texts while conceptually being one of his most purely philosophical. In JC Kierkegaard offers a narrative account of a young man, Johannes, who has an encounter of sorts with philosophy and subsequently falls in love with thought, and in particular, the process (or act) of thinking. This amorous relationship with thought leads him to an obsession with the foundational moment, or beginning, of the process of philosophical thinking. For Johannes this creates a tension between ideality and actuality, as this obsession with fully comprehending the absolute leads him to abandon any concern with the seeming inconsistencies of nature and actuality. In the terms of German Idealism, Johannes becomes completely enamored with the possibility of absolutely knowing the ideal structure that exists beyond the mere appearances of actuality, and thus "ideality became his actuality."6 While Johannes is certain that the end of philosophical speculation is this form of absolute knowing (which in many ways is a parody of the Danish Hegelians) in which `the rational is the actual', he struggles to fully account for the originary grounds of this form of speculation. To attempt to think in a retroactive fashion towards these grounds, he begins an investigation of the foundations of modern philosophy, which for him can be captured in the statement: philosophy begins in doubt.7 It is worth mentioning at this point that much of Kierkegaard's critique of German idealist philosophy has to do with what he considers to be an ironic use of the concept of actuality, and in JC we see him exemplify this issue through the particular anxieties of the individual philosophical subject, Johannes. For Kierkegaard, the issue becomes apparent when the idealist philosopher conflates conceptual actuality with existential actuality, and subsequently thinks that conceptual thought is capable of consistently comprehending pre-conceptual
6. Kierkegaard, Philosophical Fragments and Johannes Climacus, 124. 7. Ibid., 132.
existential reality. In this model there is a consistent relation between thought and being, or ideality and actuality. For Kierkegaard this misuse (which he identifies in the Danish Hegelians) leads the individual philosopher to believe that conceptual thought (which has to do with the internal consistency of concepts) can allow a person to comprehend the whole of reality (and their own existential activity). This leads to a consideration of the role of doubt as the foundational moment of the act of philosophical speculation, and in particular, a consideration of what makes the act of doubt possible in the first place. Johannes begins by considering what `the philosophers' have said about the possibility of beginnings, stating that there are three possibilities: absolute beginning, objective beginning, and subjective beginning.8 The absolute beginning is equated with absolute spirit (the absolute concept), objective beginning is absolutely indeterminate being (nature), and subjective beginning is consciousness (reflection). After a consideration of each of these options, which each equate to a particular concept of German idealist philosophy, Johannes remains in despair as he concludes that none of these accounts of philosophical beginnings can offer the space for doubt. For an absolute beginning, doubt is impossible since absolute spirit is wholly consistent with absolute structure, and there is no space or tension from which any form of doubt could emerge. An objective beginning, which is `absolutely indeterminate being', can be thought of as pre-reflective nature, before the emergence of mind, i.e., before there can be any contradiction between the process of nature and the act of mind by which doubt could occur. Finally, Johannes equates subjective beginning with the sort of self-positing account of consciousness by which the subject is self-produced, and once again, there is no space (or difference) within which the subject would have room for doubt. Once he works through the inadequate accounts of the philosophers regarding the possibility of doubt, Johannes asks, "by what act can the individual begin" (to philosophize)?9 Put otherwise, he wants to know what needs to occur to make doubt possible, as the philosophers have convinced Johannes that philosophy begins in doubt, and if doubt is not possible for the individual, than philosophy becomes impossible. In particular, Johannes asks whether doubt is something that individuals are capable of producing on their own, or must something external take place to make this possible? 8. Ibid.,149. 9. Ibid., 150-151. 140 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
This line of inquiry leads Johannes to the realization of the inadequacy of his attempts to begin the act of philosophy (doubt) as his own grounds, i.e., as a completely consistent and self-identical subject. Rather than the act of philosophy being something immediately possible to consciousness as such, he realizes that for philosophy to be possible for the individual, an ordeal is required, something which exists absolutely outside of the consistent activity of self-consciousness. This ordeal is what creates the conditions that make doubt, and thus philosophy, possible. In systematic terms, this ordeal is a moment of contradiction by which a space of rupture emerges between the seeming consistency of the self and reality, and in this space doubt comes to be possible. In more properly ontological terms we could say that this ordeal is a moment in which there is an abyss between the self and its grounds, and this disjunction creates the conditions for doubt. One could here think of the ordeal as that which breaks the seeming consistency of a dialectical process by which thought and being are neatly synthesized into a consistent conceptual structure without remainder, a reading often ascribed to the systematic aims of German idealist philosophy. While in this version of the project of idealism, thought (and being) begin and end with a moment of consistency, through this emphasis on subjective experience Kierkegaard is outlining a model by which philosophy begins and ends (or more precisely, fails to ever properly end) with ordeal, and inconsistency. Consistency in the purely conceptual realm is not problematic for Kierkegaard, it is the notion that this consistency bleeds into our conception of reality as such which is the enemy; and this false notion of consistency leaves the philosophical subject in a place of ironic conflation. At this point Johannes is able to push the previously offered account of the genesis of the philosophical act even further; rather than being satisfied with `philosophy begins in doubt', he now realizes that before this is possible, "philosophy requires an ordeal."10 Whereas the first definition (philosophy begins in doubt) assumes only the autonomous act of the singular philosophical subject in her own act of doubt, this updated understanding (philosophy requires an ordeal) now presupposes that something external to the act of the thinking subject must occur to create the very conditions by which actual philosophical speculation, and doubt, is possible in the first place. While this will be discussed in more detail in the present essay, we can already begin to see how Kierkegaard's internal critique of the subject of idealism shares an affinity with that of J.G. Fichte. As Fichte
10. Ibid., 158.
himself wrote in 1804, "life has become merely historical and symbolic while real living is scarcely ever found."11 For Fichte, a certain strand of idealism has mistakenly turned life (and in particular, the life of the individual subject) into an historical and symbolic concept at the expense of accounting for the actual life (and living) of the individual philosophical subject. In both cases, it is clear that this critique is not against the structure of idealist philosophy as such, but rather, against the conflation of the conceptual consistency of idealist thought with the inconsistent experience of actual existence. I will return to a further discussion of the relationship between Kierkegaard and Fichte later in this essay. Kierkegaard's analysis (via the narrative account of Johannes) has remained largely existential up until this point, but he makes a transition to considering the ontological conditions that make this existential situation possible, and this is where we can most clearly see Kierkegaard's critical re-articulation of the German idealist project. Johannes asks, "What must the nature of existence be in order for doubt to be possible?"12 Put otherwise, he is inquiring into the ontological conditions for the existential possibility of doubt, or, the difference between the possibility of and the production of doubt.13 As Johannes considers it, this possibility must be essential for human consciousness to emerge. Through this line of questioning, Kierkegaard is implicitly critiquing German Idealism insomuch as these philosophies run the risk of skipping ahead to assuming that human consciousness is immediately able to do philosophy in terms of conceptually comprehending the absolute in thought. Johannes is here realizing that this moment of doubt must precede the constitution of speculative consciousness. He then outlines this through an exposition of Johannes' own journey to/ through consciousness. Johannes begins by considering the first state of consciousness, which he refers to as `immediate consciousness', which is indetermi- 11. J.G. Fichte, The Science of Knowing, trans. Walter E. Wright (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2005), 21. 12. Kierkegaard, Philosophical Fragments and Johannes Climacus, 166. 13. It is worth noting that this distinction, between the ontological and the existen- tial, is one of the key issues that has kept Kierkegaard's work from being considered as a resource in the contemporary revival of interest in German idealist philosophy. When one simply stops at the existential, Kierkegaard continues to be considered in an anti-idealist (and even an anti-philosophical) fashion. However, once we aim at uncovering the ontological conditions that make these existential concepts possible, we see that Kierkegaard is always-already engaged in the process of critically building upon the systematic ontology of German idealist philosophy. 142 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
nate and has no relation.14 Here we can think of consciousness as something like an immediate comprehension of its nature with nothing external that would constitute the possibility of relation. This form of consciousness simply is what it is, with no gaps between subject and object, or, internal and external reality. The emergence of the possibility of relation is what leads to the cancelation of this immediacy, and a relation is made possible when consciousness is brought into relationship with something wholly external to itself. At this point, according to Kierkegaard, untruth becomes possible, as the possibility of relation has cancelled immediacy, or, subject and object are no longer in a consistent relation to one another. As he goes on to explain, immediacy is reality itself, and mediacy is the word which is able to cancel immediacy by presupposing it. We can think here of the difference between immediate existence and the space created when this immediate nature is conceptualized via language, since language creates a difference between the thing and its conceptualization. (We here see the difference between the conceptual and the existential-actual.) So, when immediacy moves to a state of conceptualization (in language), there is no longer any immediate relationship to reality by the self, as everything is now mediated through conceptual language, and relation is made possible by this space. When immediacy moves to the act of conceptualization, there is no longer any immediate relation to reality, given that everything is now known through the mediation of conceptual language. Immediacy thus equates to reality-in-itself, and language to ideality. Consciousness is subsequently neither reality nor ideality, but rather, the possibility of the contradiction, and subsequent relation, between the two. Consciousness is only made possible through a contradiction between reality and ideality, as consciousness is the very possibility of a relation between ideality and reality, since in reality itself there is no space for doubt. Using this discussion of Johannes' journey to consciousness, Kierkegaard places emphasis on the fact that it is always a particular subject that brings ideality into relation with reality for herself. Without mutual contact, consciousness exists only according to its possibility. It is therefore precisely the act of the individual subject which both splits reality and ideality through the conceptual abstraction of language, and then subsequently is able to bring these two aspects (reality-ideality) into relation with one another through the dialectical ac-
14. Kierkegaard, Philosophical Fragments and Johannes Climacus, 167.
tivity of consciousness. For Kierkegaard, then, the condition of actual existence (and not merely conceptual actuality) is collision, and in particular, the collision between ideality and reality that takes place in consciousness. Because Kierkegaard's concern here is with placing emphasis on the particular subject of idealism, he notes that this collision must necessarily involve an `I', and does not merely take place by itself. This then leads to a discussion of the crucial difference between consciousness and reflection, a difference that further makes sense of Kierkegaard's critique of certain aspects of German idealist philosophy.15 For Kierkegaard, many idealist philosophies mistake reflection, which is an act of abstract thought, for consciousness, which has to do with appropriation and activity. In other words, the split between reflection and consciousness could be seen as the difference between abstraction and activity, with Kierkegaard falling on the side of the later and idealism too often stopping at the former. Kierkegaard outlines this distinction by placing emphasis on the dialectical nature of his own conceptual structure. According to Johannes, reflection's categories are dichotomous, i.e., ideality-reality. In reflection these categories touch each other in such a way that relation becomes possible, but as long as one stays in reflection these relations are only possible and not actual. In this manner reflection creates the conditions for a relation, but does not actively force the relation, since there is always a gap between these dichotomous categories, i.e., there is no third which could offer the possibility of an indirect relation between them. Rather than the dichotomous categories of reflection, consciousness' categories are trichotomous, and are demonstrated by language. As Kierkegaard states, "consciousness is mind,"16 and when one is divided in the world of mind there are three, never two. He is here arguing that mind is what separates the two categories (ideality-reality) via language. Instead of serving as an alternative to reflection, consciousness presupposes it, which is what can allow us to adequately understand both the ontological conditions and the existential activity of doubt, given that doubt is possible because of the possibility of relation offered by this third category (mind) which is able to facilitate a collision between ideality and reality. Doubt is then the sign that consciousness is in fact possible, since the act of doubt presupposes the possibility of consciousness created through reflection. Another way to understand the distinction between reflection and consciousness is through an emphasis on the importance of the inter- 15. Ibid., 160. 16. Ibid., 169. 144 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
est of the subject. Reflection, while providing the possibility of a relation between reality and ideality, remains disinterested. Consciousness, as a relation, is interested. This interest (interesse) is equivalent to a "being between."17 While a pure reflection can be observed positively as a form of purely objective thinking, Kierkegaard considers doubt to be of a higher form, as it prepossess objective thought but also has a third, which is the interest of consciousness. To relate back to the previously quoted passage from Fichte, reflection may understand life in a symbolic and historical sense, but only the interest of consciousness is concerned with the actual living of individual subjects. Accordingly, consciousness (as interest) creates the conditions for an actual (and active) subject, and with this breaks the myth that the subject can be wholly reflective and objective in its activity. Interest is necessary to move from the passivity of reflection to the activity of consciousness. According to Kierkegaard, the subject must have a genuine interest in reality if she is going to move beyond a simply objective and systematic knowledge and towards an active and interested existence. Systematic knowledge fails to relate to life insomuch as it is disinterested, whereas doubt is based on interest. Because doubt is based on an actual interest, it is the beginning of the highest form of existence, and not merely the beginning of systematic thinking.18 In the terms of systematic ontology, while reflection presupposes a sort of objectivity and stability on both sides of its activity, consciousness emerges through and presupposes collision and contradiction. Kierkegaard can here be read as inverting the traditional notion that idealism begins and ends with completion (or, totality), as for him, a contradiction and collision reside on both sides of a seemingly immediate, or complete, form of consciousness. This construction of consciousness is in opposition to an idealist form of reflection and leads to a particular set of implications for the lived existence of the philosophical subject, and one of the keys to understanding these implications is Kierkegaard's well-known category of repetition.19 In particular, following this line of thought we can see how this understanding of consciousness provides the ontological conditions for repetition as existential activity.
17. Ibid., 170. 18. Ibid., 170. 19. For his most famous employment of this concept see Sшren Kierkegaard, Repe- tition, trans. Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983).
To begin with, Kierkegaard notes that whenever the question of repetition arises, there must be a collision present, as in reality as such there is no repetition--reality only is in the moment.20 There is no repetition in ideality either, but when ideality and reality touch, repetition is made possible. At the level of consciousness, repetition can be understood through the concept of redoubling, by which the moment of actuality emerging through the collision of reality-ideality redoubles within consciousness.21 Rather than being an external act divorced from the activity of consciousness, this collision between reality and ideality takes place within consciousness itself, and in this way consciousness has a disjunctive role more so than it does a synthetic one, and in fact, this disjunction is the necessary pre-condition for any attempt at a synthetic act. The only possible synthesis is the synthetic act by which ideality and reality are momentarily held together--a purely subjective act, which never has the reflective effect of bringing thinking and reality into a completely consistent relationship. Consistency is only in this brief moment which facilitates the necessary act of repetition that follows. Because consciousness has the structure of a fractured dialectic, repetition is the manner by which this fracture is momentarily bridged only to return back to a state of fracture. Through repetition consciousness is paradoxically involved in recuperative acts which are marked by a further disjunction, as the dialectical interaction between the real and language, neither of which is a necessarily consistent category, means that the dialectic is always moving both ways, and it is not the case that it is only the work of language, and the language of logic in particular, to fully conceptually comprehend reality. The conceptual importance of this repetition has recently been explained as such: The form and manner of this repetition can consequently be characterized as an operation that both maintains and renews the tension of the relation to this originary event, a tension generated by the unsublatable and ultimately unfathomable difference between what brings the repetition and what is repeated.22 This passage highlights the manner by which repetition serves as a category explaining the possibility of the philosophical subject's existence against the backdrop of an inconsistent and disjointed reality. While Kierkegaard's antagonism to the philosophy of Hegel is much 20. Kierkegaard, Philosophical Fragments and Johannes Climacus, 170. 21. Ibid., 171. 22. Hьhn and Schwab, "Kierkegaard and German Idealism," 79. 146 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
more nuanced than it is often presented, and much of Kierkegaard's systematic style is completely Hegelian in form, we can here see one of the biggest points of distinction between Kierkegaard and Hegel. For Kierkegaard, any emphasis on a conceptual completion that exists in the realm of pure thought serves the purpose of undermining the particular activity of lived subjectivity, and this activity is only possible through the primacy of an originary incompletion and subsequent collision, rather than a final sublation. This is what leads to an emphasis on the practical dimensions of human existence, and as Hьhn and Schwab have argued: In making this objection to Hegel's system, however, Kierkegaard comes into proximity to the late philosophy of Fichte, who, in precisely the opposite way, makes the pratical-ethical dimension of human self-affirmation the center of his thought.23 As we see, this reading of Kierkegaard as in opposition to a traditional reading of Hegel does not place him at absolute odds with idealism, but rather, allows us to consider his relevance to idealism through the emphasis on self-affirmation his shares with Fichte.24 To once again quote Hьln and Schwab: Kierkegaard may have sought critically to portray the aesthetic life as a perverted form of a life that should be otherwise constituted, but Fichte should rightfully be acknowledged as having decisively anticipated this basic motif of Kierkegaard's thought.25
III While Kierkegaard is most often considered in historical relation to (and his reaction against) the work of Hegel and to a lesser extent Schelling, for the purpose of the present argument I find it most useful to (briefly) consider this project in relation to the work of Fichte. The intellectual continuity between Kierkegaard and Fichte has received little attention in the recent literature (likely due to Kierkegaard's own brief, and dismissive, interaction with his work), and while at first the systematic aims of Fichte's philosophy can seem at odds with Kierkeg-
23. Ibid., 80. 24. It must be noted, however, that the reading that places Kierkegaard in oppo- sition to Hegel rests upon a traditional reading of Hegel's dialectic, in which there is a moment of final synthesis in absolute knowing. 25. Hьhn and Schwab, "Kierkegaard and German Idealism," 80.
aard's seeming assault on the scientific aspirations of German Idealism, when we set these characterizations aside we see that Kierkegaard and Fichte were engaged in extremely similar projects, and in particular shared extremely similar practical aims. I have previously shown that Kierkegaard's critique of idealism was not a critique of systematic philosophy as such, but rather, a critique of the lack of subjective appropriation on the part of the individual subject engaged in the activity of philosophical speculation. Rather than offering a full-scale critique, Kierkegaard is instead critiquing the idea that the individual subject is ever capable of occupying the perspective of the absolute idea. This equates to a serious consideration of the how of idealist speculation and not just the what which is the absolute object of this speculation. Kierkegaard's concern is with giving both an existential and systematic account of the subject of idealism, which is capable of supplementing a non-subjective account of the object of idealist speculation. Fichte is crucial on this point since he levels the same critique of the tendencies of idealist philosophy in a work that bears much stylistic resemblance to Kierkegaard's own authorship, The Vocation of Man. In this work Fichte provides a narrative analysis of three forms of philosophical (and existential) activity: Doubt (associated with a sort of Spinozist determinism), Knowledge (associated with Kantian transcendentalism), and finally Faith (associated with Fichte's own brand of idealism). While the very mention of the place of faith as an alternative to either absolute doubt or absolute knowledge (which each produce their own form of despair), can bring to mind a clear connection with Kierkegaard's own emphasis on faith as a response to the despair induced by idealist speculation,26 the English translator of The Vocation of Man is quick to dismiss this comparison: The use of the word "faith" should not suggest a kind of Kierkegaardian collapse into orthodox religion. Rather, faith indicates a free (i.e., theoretically unjustifiable) act of mind by which the conditions within which we can act and use our intellects first come to be for us.27 Fortunately for the present argument, this dismissal of the connection between Kierkegaard and Fichte rests upon deeply shaky, if not com- 26. On this point see Sшren Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death, trans. Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980). 27. J.G. Fichte, The Vocation of Man, trans. Peter Preuss (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1987), "Editor's Introduction," xi. 148 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
pletely non-existent, grounds. First, it completely misses the systematic role of faith within Kierkegaard's account of the constitution of human subjectivity, which is never a collapse into orthodox religion. Second, this wildly reductive reading of Kierkegaard derails any possible productive encounter between Fichte and Kierkegaard. Most importantly for the purposes of this essay, in The Vocation of Man we see Fichte place emphasis on the distinction between knowledge and activity, a problem that both he and Kierkegaard see in idealist philosophy. As Fichte states, "your vocation is not merely to know, but to act according to your knowledge"28--a similar distinction to the one Kierkegaard noted between reflection (which is concerned with knowing) and consciousness (by which one acts in response to knowledge). For Fichte, this emphasis on action is not to be read as some sort of supplement to the primary purpose of human subjectivity in knowing, as he states clearly, "you exist for activity."29 We can here see a structural similarity to the role of repetition in Kierkegaard, a concept signifying an existential response to the truth of various forms of knowledge, when Fichte states that, "faith is no knowledge, but a decision of the will to recognize the validity of knowledge."30 We could equally say that for Kierkegaard repetition is the act by which the subject recognizes the validity of various forms of knowledge and subsequently repeats this form and its set of implications in an existential fashion. While this brief discussion of Fichte's Vocation of Man provides a sort of existential insight into the role of faith in practical philosophy, and in particular, the manner by which faith is a way out of the dead end of the subjective despair produced by determinism and skepticism, we can glean a more conceptual picture of this form of idealist subjectivity through Fichte's 1804 presentation of his systematic project, The Science of Knowing. One of the main arguments of Fichte in that work is that idealism cannot merely be presented in an objective fashion, but rather, must be appropriated by the individual who hopes to understand the conceptual structure of the idea. Among other things, Fichte is concerned with drawing a distinction between life as an intellectual concept, and living as the activity of the particular subject, as he argues, "life has become merely historical and symbolic, while real living is scarcely found."31 The point is to not confuse understanding a sys-
28. Fichte, The Vocation of Man, 67. 29. Ibid., 68. 30. Ibid., 71. 31. Fichte, The Science of Knowing, 21.
tem of philosophy with actual living, and thus not merely to grasp the system of philosophy, but instead to "undertake this thought process again for oneself."32 For Fichte, each individual has to "fulfill these terms [of the true] in himself, applying his living spirit to it with all his might, and then the insight will happen of itself without any further ado."33 There is a subjective element, and active involvement, that plays a part in any sort of actual philosophical knowing. Here we can see a similar point to the one expressed so forcefully in JC, namely, that any idealism that forgets the importance of appropriation of the truth by the individual subject necessarily becomes ironic and fails to account for the importance of individual subjective activity. Of course it is crucial to note that this in no way implies that each of us has our own version of the absolute, but rather that we each necessitate an individual experience of this absolute, and that there must be an inward appropriation if we are to move beyond a merely symbolic and historical existence and towards real life. In more conceptual terms Fichte states that there must be a "universally applicable distinction between the mere concept and the real."34 For Fichte this is a distinction between apprehending and appropriation, according to which merely apprehending is history, and appropriation is living.35 Here we once again find the emphasis placed on the gap between an abstract concept and its real. It is important to note, however, that I am not attempting to fully align the systematic aims of Fichte and Kierkegaard, as there still remains a crucial difference at the level of the ontological, or put differently, while they both argue for a similar conception of the relationship between the individual subject and the absolute, they do not conceive of the absolute in the same way. For Fichte the absolute still caries a largely monistic character, as he states, "...absolute oneness is what is true and in itself unchangeable, its opposite purely contained within itself."36 For Kierkegaard, on the other hand, there is no absolute oneness, and the absolute itself is characterized by a primordial fracture, or as a lack of access to primary ontological grounds. To stay within the realm of German Idealism, we could say that while Kierkegaard and Fichte are aligned in the emphasis they each place on the act of subjective appropriation, Kierkeg- 32. Ibid., 21. 33. Ibid., 22. 34. Ibid., 23. 35. Ibid., 24. 36. Ibid., 24. 150 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
aard's conception of the absolute is significantly more aligned with the work of Schelling.37 IV At this point we could rightly pose the question of whether or not this Kierkegaardian conception of the relationship between idealism and subjectivity has anything to offer either the relevance of German Idealism or the relevance of Sшren Kierkegaard's thought for contemporary philosophical debates. The first thing this reading offers is a sort of idealism with what we could call an open, or even broken, structure. Rather than positing an initial and final moment of absolute synthesis, this structure grounds the emergence of thought in an ordeal that must first take place. This open sort of idealist dialectic does not, then, reject Hegelian philosophy, but rather re-figures it in such a way as to account for the necessity of each particular philosophical subject engaging in the act of doubt, and thought, for themselves. As a result, Kierkegaard's post-idealism provides an account that maps out the conditions for subjective activity, and not merely the structural conditions of thought. In this way idealism is less about ideal systematic structures as such, and more about the manner by which this ideal structure creates the conditions for the thought and activity of the individual philosophical subject. Finally, this emphasis on activity leads to certain socio-political consequences, and in other words, lets us see a Kierkegaard of action, and not just the Kierkegaard of isolated religious despair. This is especially relevant as much contemporary European philosophy, and in particular those attempting to build upon the legacy of German Idealism, has been deeply concerned with the relationship between subjectivity and the political.38 Through this reading we see how a political philosophy which falls into the traps of a wholly internal idealism (i.e., one in which all that matters is intellectually understanding objective political concepts) lacks the ability to ground political activity and subjectivity. One could here think of the work of contemporary figures like Alain Badiou and Slavoj Zizek, who rely on readings of both Kierkegaard and German Idealism in their major theoretical works, and who build upon
37. For one of the most detailed accounts of Kierkegaard's ontological relation to the work of Schelling see Alison Assiter, Kierkegaard, Eve and Metaphors of Birth (London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015). 38. We can here mention the work of Slavoj Zizek, Alain Badiou, Catherine Malabou, and Jean-Luc Nancy.
these figures to theorize the manner in which contemporary political thought depends on a form of subjectivity grounded in the necessity of activity. In this way, we could even venture to say that figures such as Badiou and Zizek are involved in furthering the project of a post-idealist philosophy of the subject already outlined by Kierkegaard in nineteenth century Denmark. Along with the political ontologies and theories of subjectivity at play in figures such as Badiou and Zizek, Kierkegaard's emphasis on consciousness as the result of contradiction has recently been articulated (or even, redoubled) in the materialist philosophy of Catherine Malabou, for whom, "a reasonable materialism ... would posit that the natural contradicts itself and that thought is the fruit of this contradiction."39 As we have already seen, Kierkegaard grounds the capacity for human thought in a collision, or contradiction, between reality and ideality, and argues that the possibility of philosophical speculation (and activity) in the individual subject is the product of this contradiction. Following this, we can note that contemporary European materialist philosophy does not render Kierkegaard's theory of idealist subjectivity antiquated, but rather, shows that we can now provide a material basis for this internal contradiction which produces a more-than-material form of subjectivity. This also helps solve some of the lingering theological problems of Kierkegaard's authorship, as the primordial contradiction that Kierkegaard could only think in spiritual or romantic terms40 can be accounted for in material, and even neurobiological, terms. This contemporary re-consideration of Kierkegaard's creative repetition of German Idealism can further reinforce the bridge between nineteenth century idealist philosophy and the conceptions of subjectivity and ontology at play in twenty-first century materialist philosophy. To approach a conclusion I would like to offer a quotation from Lars Iyer's recent novel, Exodus, a story involving two British philosophy lecturers attempting to reckon with the consequences of thought for a country being ravaged by the effects of contemporary capitalism. One of the themes of this novel is the two main characters' attempt to write on Kierkegaard and the political, and much of the stakes aimed at by these characters are similar to those of the present essay, mainly, what does an idealist such as Kierkegaard have to offer to contempo- 39. Catherine Malabou, What Should We Do with Our Brain?, trans. Sebastian Rand (New York: Fordham University Press, 2008), 82. 40. See Sшren Kierkegaard, Concept of Anxiety, trans. Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980). 152 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
rary philosophical debates? The character W. puts this in terms so similar to the ethos of the present essay that it is worth quoting at length: W. snaps shut the copy of Josiah Thompson's Kierkegaard that he found on the library shelves. We should shun Kierkegaard scholarship, he says, Kierkegaard scholarship can only make us afraid to do what we must do: remake Kierkegaard in our image. We must be free to dream, as he has dreamt, of a Kierkegaard who was happily married to Regine, W. says. Of a Kierkegaard who understood that the religious sphere is no higher than the ethical one, and that love for God is really love for the other person. Hasn't W. dreamt of a Kierkegaard who never believed that Jesus was really the Messiah, or that messianism could never be understood in terms of the coming of a particular person? Of a Kierkegaard who had faith only in the messianic epoch? His Kierkegaard is turned to the world, W. says. To politics! His is a Kierkegaard of the barricades, whose despair has caught fire, whose inwardness has become outwardness, whose religious faith has become ethical faith, has become political faith.41 It is my contention that this Kierkegaard, the one of ethical and political faith, must become our Kierkegaard. And that to get to this Kierkegaard, we must risk what many Kierkegaard scholars would find utterly paradoxical, and first reconsider Kierkegaard as an idealist figure concerned with a repetition of the structure of German idealist philosophy from a perspective of the individual subject. This idealist interpretation of Kierkegaard helps us circumvent the reading by which Kierkegaard's authorship is one of the crucial moments of antiidealist philosophy that paved the way for existentialism, phenomenology, and quasi-mystical philosophies of religion. Rather, I am offering an interpretation that places Kierkegaard in the line of the creative post-idealist thinkers dealing with the implications of German idealist philosophy for issues of politics, human praxis, and materialism. Rather than being considered as a nineteenth century ally to twentieth century French existentialism (of both the Catholic and atheist varieties), this makes Kierkegaard a fellow traveler of Marx and the young Hegelians. While this is obviously important for reasons of historical context, this reading also bears direct consequences on contemporary philosophy as this circumvention also makes it possible to draw a logical line of connection between Kierkegaard's critical appropriation of German idealist philosophy and contemporary post-idealist philosophical tendencies, such as dialectical materialism, materialist
41. Lars Iyer, Exodus (Brooklyn: Melville House Publishing, 2013), 157.
dialectics, and transcendental materialism. In this way, Kierkegaard's critical appropriation still has much to offer to the continuing life of German Idealism. References Assiter A. Kierkegaard, Eve and Metaphors of Birth, Lanham, MD, Rowman & Littlefield, 2015. Burns M. O. Kierkegaard and the Matter of Philosophy: A Fractured Dialectic, London, Rowman & Littlefield, 2015. Fichte J. G. The Science of Knowing, Albany, NY, State University of New York Press, 2005. Fichte J. G. The Vocation of Man, Indianapolis, Hackett, 1987. Hьhn L., Schwab P. Kierkegaard and German Idealism. The Oxford Hand- book of Kierkegaard (eds J. Lippitt, G. Pattison), Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2013, pp. 54­85. Iyer L. Exodus, Brooklyn, NY, Melville House, 2013. Kangas D. J. G. Fichte: From Transcendental Ego to Existence. Kierkegaard and His German Contemporaries. Tome I: Philosophy (ed. J. Stewart), Aldershot, Ashgate, 2009, pp. 49­66. Kierkegaard S. Concept of Anxiety, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 1980. Kierkegaard S. Philosophical Fragments and Johannes Climacus, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 1985. Kierkegaard S. Repetition, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1983. Kierkegaard S. The Sickness Unto Death, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1980. Malabou C. What Should We Do with Our Brain?, New York, Fordham University Press, 2008. Preuss P. Editor's Introduction. In: Fichte J. G. The Vocation of Man, Indianapolis, Hackett, 1987, pp. vii­xiii. Stewart J. Idealism and Existentialism: Hegel and Nineteenth and Twentieth Century European Philosophy, London, New York, Continuum, 2010. 154 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
Debordian Strategists: Agamben and Virno on the Coming Politics Dave Mesing PhD Candidate, Philosophy Department, Villanova University. Address: 800 E. Lancaster Ave., 19085 Villanova, PA, USA. E-mail: [email protected] Keywords: Guy Debord; Giorgio Agamben; Paolo Virno; language; politics; life; post-operaismo. Abstract: This paper considers Agamben's political project as it develops in response to Guy Debord. By tracing the historical context of Agamben's initial engagement with Debord during the summer of 1968, I argue for a reading of The Coming Community as at one and the same time the opening of Agamben's explicit political project and as part of a specific theoretical horizon, namely a divergent or heretical Marxism. The importance of Debord for Agamben's political project allows for a helpful comparison between Agamben and postoperaismo, especially the work of Paolo Virno, alongside whom Agamben published an essay recapitulating the conclusion of The Coming Community in a 1991 book on the Situationists. I situate Agamben's inheritance from Debord against the work of Virno in order to carry out an immanent critique of Agamben's conceptualization of language, life, and the common in relation to politics. Situating Virno's development within a similar, if fleeting, Debordian heritage, I argue that it is especially the problem of the common that remains under-conceptualized in Agamben's political project. 155
Introduction IN the prologue to The Use of Bodies, the last volume of his Homo Sacer series, Agamben calls attention to the fact that Guy Debord's Society of the Spectacle opens with the word "life" and never ceases to interrogate the historical weave of life up to and including its "concrete inversion" in the spectacular conditions of modern society.1 On the one hand, Agamben's focus on the problem of life is not surprising, given his account of bios and zoe at the heart of the Homo Sacer project. However, the concise but thorough discussion of Debord's works that suffuses the prologue of The Use of Bodies also allows us to consider Agamben's conceptual deployment as an inflection on his relationship with this master of strategic philosophy.2 More specifically, instead of enumerating life in spectacular so- 1. Giorgio Agamben, The Use of Bodies, trans. Adam Kotsko (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2015), xix. For Debord's remarks on the spectacle as the "concrete inversion of life," cf. Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle, trans. Fredy Perlman et al. (Detroit: Black & Red, 1983), 2. All references to Society of the Spectacle are to the numbered theses, not page numbers. 2. For a more thorough account of Debord, strategy, and philosophy, particularly in relationship to Hegel, cf. Jason E. Smith, "Strategy and the Passions: Guy Debord's Ruses," in Mark Potocnik, Frank Ruda, and Jan Vцlker, eds. Beyond Potentialities?: Politics Between the Possible and the Impossible (Zurich: diaphanes, 2011), 169-182. Smith notes Agamben's recounting of a story in a lecture given a year after Debord's death in which Agamben tells of his rebuke, given Agamben's recurring temptation to call him a philosopher, that he is not a philosopher but a strategist. My attempt to read both Agamben and Virno as Debordian strategists is situated within the ambivalent relationship between philosophy and strategy present in Debord's writings. A fuller reckoning of this relationship might begin also with Althusser, who along with Debord best understood the Kampfplatz of philosophy in the twentieth century. Such a reckoning would, in turn, also need to consider our inheritance of an old alternative, that of Hegel or Spinoza. 156 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
ciety as an addendum to the Homo Sacer series, we might do well to work through the implications of the Debordian context at the root of Agamben's constructive political project. Agamben's engagement with Debord, although clandestine and scattered, dates from an initial encounter in the breaks of Heidegger's 1968 Le Thor seminar, and I will argue that the genesis of Agamben's constructive political project with the publication of The Coming Community in 1990 is marked by the theoretical horizon of Debord's divergent or heretical Marxism.3 Agamben shares this horizon with Paolo Virno, to whom I will return in conclusion for a slight, but importantly different articulation of the strategic relation between language and life such that it allows him to reflect on a problem that remains under-theorized in Agamben's work: the common. Before entering this analysis, it is useful to linger briefly with the Debordian horizon shared by Agamben and Virno. Both thinkers share a concern for the interaction between language and life, using the conditions of spectacular society diagnosed by Debord as points of departure. Neither Agamben nor Virno has produced an extended study on Debord, and the analysis of their similar, but not shared constructive projects is thus less a problem of identifying relations of indebtedness than demonstrating the Debordian insights that are operative in their deployment of concepts. In line with Debord's Hegelian Marxism, this shared horizon might be most succinctly encapsulated as two political reflections on Hegel's claim in the Sense-Certainty chapter of the Phenomenology of Spirit that in trying to speak about a "this," we speak the
3. Agamben describes this encounter in a 2010 interview with Hanna Leitgeb and Cornelia Vismann. Cf. "Das unheilige Leben: Ein Gesprдch mit dem italienischen Philosophen Giorgio Agamben." Interview with Hanna Leitgeb and Cornelia Vismann. Literaturen (Berlin), 2010, 2 (1), 16-21. Further analysis of the genesis of Agamben's political project might take into account his remark in the same interview regarding a coterminous interest in the work of Hannah Arendt, coupled with his lament that most of his friends engaged in the 1968 movements considered Arendt a reactionary thinker. My argument that the genesis of Agamben's constructive politics are marked by a Debordian horizon is not intended to downplay the influence of other thinkers, such as Arendt, Foucault, Heidegger, and Benjamin, on his work, but rather to trace a thread that makes a significant contribution to his understanding of politics. My characterization of Debord as a divergent or heretical Marxist is not meant as a polemic, but rather more generally a critical engagement from within the inheritance of Marx and Marxism, similar to what Andrй Tosel identifies as the blooming of a thousand Marxisms. Cf. Andrй Tosel, "The Development of Marxism: From the End of Marxism-Leninism to a Thousand Marxisms-- France-Italy, 1975-2005," in Jacques Bidet and Stathis Kouvelakis, eds. Critical Companion to Contemporary Marxism (Leiden: Brill, 2008), 39-78.
Dave Mesing
universal even though we mean to say a particular: "We do not envisage the universal This or Being in general, but we utter the universal."4 Here again, while neither thinker has dedicated an entire study to Hegel, this Hegelian insight about language is fundamental for both.5 In an early seminar on language and death in Hegel and Heidegger, Agamben uses precisely this account of Hegelian indication to argue for a conception of speech that always speaks the ineffable, showing it to be each time the nothingness that it is. The experience of nothingness, among other formulations about language in this early work, becomes integral to the explicit political project Agamben embarks on in The Coming Community.6 Virno's variation on uttering of the universal has less to do with the repeated experience of nothingness than with the repeated re-enactment of anthropogenesis. Virno thus perhaps reads this Hegelian insight even more literally than Agamben, who traces out the way in which the utterance of the universal implicitly shows how the concept is always at work such that ineffability is precisely manifested as nothingness. By contrast, Virno attempts to simultaneously account for the physical reality produced by speaking--the physiognomic expression of logic7--and the way in which the fact of speaking demonstrates the potential synchronicity of anthropogenesis to any particular, contingent moment.8 I will return to the conceptual inter- 4. G.W.F. Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, trans. A.V. Miller (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), 60. 5. I have concentrated the reference to Hegel to this brief element from SenseCertainty because it nicely goes to a point of both similarity and difference in Agamben and Virno's work. Future work involving the relationship of these two thinkers to Hegel and language would certainly benefit from Hegel's discussion of language in the Philosophy of Subjective Spirit. Cf. G.W.F. Hegel, Philosophy of Subjective Spirit, Volume 3: Phenomenology and Psychology, ed. and trans. M.J. Petry (Dordrecht: D. Reidel Publishing Company, 1978), 156-179. 6. Cf. Giorgio Agamben, Language and Death: The Place of Negativity, trans. Karen E. Pinkus and Michael Hardt (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991), 6-15. My reference to this work as early (the Italian publication date is 1982, and the seminar on which it is based was held in 1979) is not meant to suggest a heavy periodization of Agamben's works, but simply to register that the five books which precede The Coming Community are primarily concerned with aesthetics and language; neither of these concerns disappear in his later work, but the political valence becomes much stronger in 1990's The Coming Community, which of course then carries over into the Homo Sacer project and Means Without End (1996), definitely his most "concrete" political analysis. 7. Paolo Virno, When the Word Becomes Flesh: Language and Human Nature, trans. Guiseppina Mecchia (Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2015), 122-132 8. Virno, When the Word Becomes Flesh, 51-61; 100. We will return to this point in the final section of the paper, but the fact of speaking to which Virno refers is specifically delineated by having the logical form "to say: I say." 158 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
play between language and life in both thinkers below, but here it is worth noting that although the text in which Virno gives this substantial treatment of language, When the Word Becomes Flesh, was published in 2003, several years after the opening of Agamben's political project, the two thinkers published essays on Debord alongside one other in 1991, and Agamben contributed to some of the early issues of the Italian journal Forme di vita with which Virno is heavily involved.9 While we should not force too many comparisons between the two, given the substantial differences and the more overtly political nature of Virno's writing,10 we can at least situate the shared Debordian horizon to the early 1990s, summarized by Agamben's claim in The Coming Community that the spectacle is "the politics we live in."11 I will begin by reconstructing Agamben's scattered responses to Debord before turning to the development of language and life throughout his political project. Agamben's deepening account of language and life in the Homo Sacer project arises from Debordian concerns in the concluding chapters of The Coming Community, but the related problem of the common has not yet been given significant treatment by Agamben. Thus, by way of conclusion, I argue that this problem is under-conceptualized in Agamben's political project, and thereby needs to be addressed in order to lay claim to the "fuller Marxian analysis" he gestures towards in The Coming Community. In order to carry out this immanent critique, I return to the Debordian context of Agamben's political project, and introduce Virno's work in order to provide the resources to think the production of the common in a way that addresses the shortcomings of Agamben's approach to the coming politics.
9. The first issue of Forme di vita, entitled "La natura umana," was also published much later, in 2004. This presents us with a roughly fifteen year span during which there were some shared publishing ventures, but neither thinker has to my knowledge engaged at any length with the other's work on language or otherwise. 10. Here we should not pass over in silence the fact that Virno dedicates When the Word Became Flesh to the protestors in Genoa during 2001's demonstrations, or the fact that Virno was arrested and jailed under the false accusation of being involved with the Red Brigades in the 1970s. As he notes in the interview cited above, Agamben was not involved in the movements that emerged around and after 1968, but Agamben's work has been influential for groups in the extra-parliamentary French left such as Tiqqun, and Agamben wrote an editorial for the French newspaper Libйration in defense of the so-called Tarnac 9 after the arrest of Julien Coupat and others in 2008. 11. Giorgio Agamben, The Coming Community, trans. Michael Hardt (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003), 80
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1. Agamben's Debord Negotiating Agamben's texts as a response to Debord is no simple task, and not only because of the enigmatic style of The Coming Community. Besides the prologue to The Use of Bodies cited above, if we limit ourselves to direct and substantial references, we seem to have three very good candidates. First, an essay in Means Without End--Agamben's most focused political book, dedicated to the memory of Debord--simply entitled "Marginal Notes on Commentaries on the Society of the Spectacle," which Agamben intends literally, claiming that Debord's works need perhaps little more than "a few glosses in the margins."12 Second is The Coming Community, especially the final two chapters Shekinah and Tiananmen. And third is a book mentioned above on the Situationists from 1991, in which Agamben published an essay alongside Virno.13 However, a closer look reveals that certain passages are contained in all three of the texts. This is not due to redundancy or a marketing ploy, especially because these various passages, which make up large parts of the final two chapters of The Coming Community, are not identical in any of the three works. Instead, these texts reveal the key points of reference to Debord animating Agamben's politics. Because I will return to Virno in the conclusion, and because Agamben does not provide anything substantially different in his 1991 text,14 I will restrict my analysis to the first two texts in order to introduce the problematic of language, life, and the common for the coming politics. In the Marginal Notes text, Agamben helpfully identifies three ways in which he wants to marshal Debord's work as "the pure power of the intellect."15 First, Agamben adopts the centrality of commodity fetishism to Debord's account of the spectacle. Although Agamben briefly repeats this point in The Coming Community, he spells out the con- 12. Giorgio Agamben, Means Without End, trans. Vincenzo Binetti and Cesare Casarino (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press), 73. 13. Agamben also references Debord in passing in the final chapter of The Kingdom and the Glory, and I want to note two excellent papers which I only encountered after completing this paper, listed in the bibliography under the entries Abbott and McLoughlin. McLoughlin's paper treats aspects of Agamben's Debordian context with respect to the conceptual arsenal of The Kingdom and the Glory especially, and Abbott's paper situates Debordian aspects of The Kingdom and the Glory within Agamben's Aristotelianism. 14. Agamben's contribution to this volume adds some reflections on Italian politics that were originally written for the newspaper il manifesto. See Giorgio Agamben, "Violenza e speranza nell'ultimo spettacolo," in I Situazionisti (Rome: Manifestolibri, 2001), 11-17. 15. Agamben, Means Without End, 74. 160 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
text of his reading more fully in the Marginal Notes text. Through his understanding of commodity fetishism, Agamben affirms the comprehensiveness of the obstacle course facing any attempt at constructing community within the spectacular society: "The `becoming-image' of capital is nothing more than the commodity's last metamorphosis, in which exchange value has completely eclipsed use value and can now achieve the status of absolute and irresponsible sovereignty over life in its entirety, after having falsified the entire social production."16 Debord identifies such an obstacle course most clearly when he writes of the spectacle as "the epic poem of [the struggle between commodities], an epic which cannot be concluded by the fall of any Troy. The spectacle does not sing the praises of men and their weapons, but of commodities and their passions. In this blind struggle every commodity, pursuing its passion, unconsciously realizes something higher: the becoming-world of the commodity, which is also the becoming-commodity of the world."17 The extreme element in spectacular society thereby remains linked to the simultaneously transparent and phantasmagoric present in the fetishism of the commodity form itself. Second, Agamben strongly emphasizes the centrality of language. Comparing Debord to Karl Kraus, Agamben claims "language presents itself as the image and place of justice."18 Throughout The Coming Community, Agamben holds that the alienation of linguistic being is the common experience driving contemporary politics and making possible a community of whatever singularities who have appropriated their being-in-language.19 Agamben sketches a response to this accomplished nihilism in a third key point from the Marginal Notes text, which is that the gesture is an expression of liberation "after the passage of life through the trial of nihilism." Gesture is "the other side of the commodity,"20 neither use value nor exchange value, but rather what allows the fully realized commodity fetishism and concomitant linguistic experience of nihilism to sink in. Taken together, these elements demonstrate the centrality of language and life to the task of any future community or politics according to Agamben. As "the politics in which we live," Debord's spectacle provides a specific historical jumping point for Agamben. Although Agamben's comments, as well as Debord's remarks throughout Society of the
16. Agamben, Means Without End, 76. 17. Debord, Society of the Spectacle, 66. 18. Agamben, Means Without End, 77. 19. Agamben, The Coming Community, 60; 65; 83. 20. Agamben, Means Without End, 80.
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Spectacle, remain attentive to the representative and reified nature of the spectacle, it is crucial to note that in Debord's account, the spectacle is neither an image, nor a supplement to reality, but rather a social relation.21 Agamben takes this point up directly in the Shekinah chapter of The Coming Community, dissociating the spectacle from what is ubiquitously referred to today as the media.22 For Debord, this social relation is not the natural development of an alienating technology, but rather is chosen by society--the spectacle is the process whereby society chooses its own alienation. As Debord puts it in a crucial passage, "the spectacle's form and content are identically the total justification of the existing system's conditions and goals."23 The genesis of Agamben's political project can thus be considered as departing from a Debordian context. Agamben enigmatically outlines his constructive response to the spectacular society at the conclusion of the Shekinah chapter in The Coming Community: Only those who succeed in carrying [the society of the spectacle] to completion--without allowing what reveals to remain veiled in the nothingness that reveals, but bringing language itself to language-- will be the first citizens of a community with neither presuppositions nor a State, where the nullifying and determining power of what is common will be pacified and where the Shekinah will have stopped sucking the evil milk of its own separation.24 The interaction between life, language, and the common in this passage rests on Agamben's assertion that "it is clear that the spectacle is language, the very communicativity or linguistic being of humans."25 In order to provide a more straightforward account of these concepts, it is helpful to turn away from Agamben's messianic prose in The Coming Community and towards his remarks on language and life in The Sacrament of Language and The Highest Poverty. 2. The Interplay of Language and Life in Agamben The task and stakes of such a constructive response to the spectacular society through language and life are perhaps most clearly evident in the following two questions, posed by Agamben in the final threshold 21. Debord, Society of the Spectacle, 4-6. 22. Agamben, The Coming Community, 79. 23. Debord, Society of the Spectacle, 6. 24. Agamben, The Coming Community, 83. 25. Agamben, The Coming Community, 80. 162 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
of The Highest Poverty: "How can use--that is, a relation to the world insofar as it is inappropriable--be translated into an ethos and a form of life? And what ontology and ethics would correspond to a life that, in use, is constituted as inseparable from its form?"26 In other words, Agamben sets himself the task of articulating a form of life that is indifferent towards and unable to be absorbed by the machinations justifying the existing conditions of the society of the spectacle and contemporary capitalism, as well as a theoretical justification of such a use of linguistic life. Both of these problems are addressed through Agamben's analysis of Franciscanism in The Highest Poverty, but before turning to the coincidence between language and life in this text, it is first helpful to pause over Agamben's understanding of language itself. The relevance of Agamben's The Sacrament of Language to his political project lies chiefly in the interaction between gesture and language he identifies in the oath. As we indicated in Agamben's "Marginal Notes on Commentaries on the Society of the Spectacle," Agamben understands gesture as the other side of the commodity, or that which is able to communicate the traversal of human existence through the trial of nihilism. In The Sacrament of Language, however, he considers the origins of the oath as "a gesture symmetrically opposed to that of blasphemy."27 In the linguistic event of naming, Agamben claims, we can understand the oath as a gesture whereby the speaker swears "on the correspondence between words and things that is realized in [the oath]."28 This use of language is an experience wherein "it is not possible to doubt" such correspondence.29 Agamben situates the spheres of religion and law as responses to the oath: "they were invented to guarantee the truth and trustworthiness of the logos through a series of apparatuses, among which the technicalization of the oath into a specific "sacrament"--the "sacrament of power"--occupies a central place."30 As a gesture pre-dating law and religion, the oath can be understood as a subversive element capable of redeployment against both these spheres; since Agamben connects the oath to every act of naming,31 this means that the event of naming occupies a central place in the coming politics.
26. Giorgio Agamben, The Highest Poverty: Monastic Rules and Form-of-Life, trans. Adam Kotsko (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2013), 144. 27. Giorgio Agamben, The Sacrament of Language: An Archaeology of the Oath, trans. Adam Kotsko (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2010), 42. 28. Agamben, The Sacrament of Language, 46. 29. Agamben, The Sacrament of Language, 54. 30. Agamben, The Sacrament of Language, 59. 31. Agamben, The Sacrament of Language, 46,
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Agamben is not entirely sanguine about the oath, since there is a concomitant risk of curse alongside it. Every naming is, in fact, double: it is a blessing or a curse. A blessing, if the word is full, if there is a correspondence between the signifier and the signified, between words and things; a curse if the word is empty; if there remains, between the semiotic and the semantic, a void and a gap. Oath and perjury, benediction and male-diction correspond to this double possibility inscribed in the logos, in the experience by means of which the living being has been constituted as speaking being.32 Agamben considers the ambivalence of this experience in linguistic life to be full of potential, but not simply in the form of a nostalgic longing for the experience of language available prior to the emergence of law and religion. Instead, he concludes that philosophy begins when the speaker puts into question the correspondence between word and thing.33 In a variation on his understanding of the accomplished nihilism revealed by language in The Coming Community,34 he argues here that politics is the "governance of empty speech over bare life."35 Agamben's reconstruction of the linguistic experience in the oath is thus to clarify lines of "resistance and change," rather than to articulate an ontological guarantee available through some purification of language. If the critique of the oath forms an essential element of Agamben's account of the co-implication of language and life, his analysis of the monastic rules within Franciscanism goes much further towards an ontological situating of the coming politics. Agamben takes up the "most precious legacy of Franciscanism" in order to think a form of life in which form is irrevocably linked with life, such that the form of life could never be substantialized or appropriated by an outside, but is rather only given as common use.36 According to Agamben, this is because the Fransciscan monastic rules coincide to such an extent with the lives of the monks that the form of the rule is not easily identifiable as a law in the same way that the life under the rule is no longer truly life; "the rule enters in this way into a zone of undecidability with re- 32. Agamben, The Sacrament of Language, 69-70. 33. Agamben, The Sacrament of Language, 72. 34. "In this extreme nullifying unveiling, however, language (the linguistic nature of humans) remains once again hidden and separated, and thus, one last time, in its unspoken power, it dooms humans to a historical era and a State: the era of the spectacle, or of accomplished nihilism." See Agamben, The Coming Community, 82. 35. Agamben, The Sacrament of Language, 72. 36. Agamben, The Highest Poverty, xiii. 164 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
spect to life."37 Such an understanding of monastic rules causes Agamben to succinctly define Franciscanism as "the attempt to realize a human life and practice absolutely outside the determinations of the law."38 Just like in his account of the oath, Agamben's purpose in resuscitating such a legacy from Franciscanism is not a form of nostalgic longing. Instead, this understanding of life as common use provides a foothold for Agamben to introduce an understanding of ontology he thinks is capable of undergirding a life characteristic of those who would carry the society of the spectacle to its completion. In his theory of use developed at the conclusion of The Highest Poverty, Agamben clarifies that such an ontology is existentialist rather than essentialist.39 In this sense, Agamben's ontological account of form of life is not systematic, but rather gestural. As he puts it, "the ontology that is in question here is thus purely operative and effectual."40 The conflict that takes place in the common use of form of life against all other appropriable conceptions of life and law is a "purely existential reality" waiting to be liberated from the clutches of law and religion, the same two spheres that arise in response to the oath. As a gestural and active operation, such an existentialist ontology is rightly characterized as purely evental.41 The ontology Agamben sketches in The Highest Poverty helps explain his remark in the postface to the 2001 Italian Edition of The Coming Community that inoperativity rather than work is the paradigm of the coming politics. "Inoperativity does not mean idleness, but katargesis--that is to say an operation in which the how integrally replaces the what, in which the life without form and the form without life coincide in a form of life."42 As the coming politics, such an act that renders law and religion inoperative is not deferred into the future, but rather takes place in each instance of the linguistic event form of life. 3. On Not Foreclosing Ambivalence: Form-of-Life and the Common The interaction between language and life clearly frames a crucial aspect of Agamben's political project as it has developed through the Homo Sac-
37. Agamben, The Highest Poverty, 26. 38. Agamben, The Highest Poverty, 110. 39. Agamben, The Highest Poverty, 136. 40. Ibid. 41. This is Lorenzo Chiesa and Frank Ruda's instructive argument in their "The Event of Language as Force of Life: Agamben's Linguistic Vitalism." Angelaki vol. 16 no. 3 (September 2011): 163-180. 42. Giorgio Agamben, La comunitа che viene (Turin: Bollati Boringhieri, 2001), 92-93.
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er series in accordance with the Debordian concerns we outlined in The Coming Community. I have treated the common as a kind of shadow concept throughout the paper, and with the operative ontology of form of life in place, it is time to bring this concept onto center stage in order to press Agamben's under-theorization of it. Agamben does consistently refer to the common as a crucial concept of the coming politics. In the passage I referenced earlier as paradigmatic of Agamben's constructive response to spectacular society, for example, Agamben alludes to the disappearance of "the nullifying and determining power of what is common" in the coming community.43 In the same chapter, just prior to claiming that the spectacle is "the politics we live in," Agamben identifies the appropriation of the Common logos as the most extreme form of capitalist expropriation.44 As such, capitalism's affront on the common is precisely what is at stake in the alienation of linguistic being and experience of nihilism that render Agamben's existentialist ontology of form of life possible. However, the common remains only a negative and limit-concept in Agamben's work, restricted to the linguistic sphere. This is a further reason why Agamben remains stuck in a form of linguistic vitalism: his ontology is unable to explain how such a form of life that resists spectacular society is able to be produced and defended in common, other than through the repetition of a meta-historical event.45 If the form of life offered by Agamben as constitutive for the coming politics is indeed a common use of life, we require a more detailed account of its production as common. In this under-conceptualization of the common, Agamben in fact follows a similar logic as his account the oath as gesture of naming that is double, capable of both benediction and malediction.46 However, instead of the ambivalence he maintains with respect to this double potential, the linguistic vitalism in his conception of form of life forecloses the risk involved in constructing a community at odds with spectacular society. Such an ambivalence was identified with perspicuity by Paolo Virno in a 1991 essay on Debord he published alongside Agamben, which we referenced earlier. Before turning to the concepts of language, life, and the common in Virno, it is important to clarify the sense in which 43. Agamben, The Coming Community, 83. 44. Agamben, The Coming Community, 80. 45. Again, Chiesa and Ruda are perceptive, arguing that Agamben "aims at estab- lishing a theory of the event in and of language according to which being as such is meta-metaphysically a sort of arche-event," or more simply that language itself functions as a kind of transcendental without emergence. See Chiesa and Ruda, "The Event of Language as Force of Life," 163 and 165. 46. Agamben, The Sacrament of Language, 69-70. 166 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
Virno's constructive project might also be said to depart from Debordian concerns. We have worked through Agamben's claim in The Coming Community that the spectacle "is the politics we live in," and a quick glance at Virno's essay on Debord reveals a similar appreciation for the strategic philosopher. Virno situates Debord's Society of the Spectacle alongside a series of texts, comprising "an unusual family album" which also consists of Raniero Panzieri's Plus-valore e pianificazione, Alfred Sohn-Rethel's Intellectual and Manual Labor, Mario Tronti's Operai e capitale, Antonio Negri's La crisis di Stato-piano, and Hans-Jurgen Krahl's Konstitution und Klassenkampf. Together, Virno suggests, these works form "useful picklocks to unhinge the society of mature capitalism and its State."47 Virno specifically picks up on what he refers to as the double nature of the spectacle: it is one product or commodity among others as well as an index for the quintessence of the contemporary mode of production. Virno shares with Agamben the distance from falsely conflating the spectacle with the media: "the situationist critique has nothing to do with the jeremiads of consumerism and the alienation of free time, and does not let itself be confused with the exquisite disgust for the mass media and advertising."48 Instead, a critique of the spectacle remains tethered to putting the mode of production itself into question. For Virno, the contemporary mode of production is linked to language, as well as, eventually, life. In the spectacular society, language is put to work by becoming the principle recourse for social reproduction. We are meant to read this putting to work of language quite literally: Virno claims that the linguistic faculty needs to be thought together with wage labor, and not that language or immaterial labor simply replaces older forms of labor under capitalism, as some hasty and broad-sweeping assessments of post-operaismo thinkers occasionally suggest. In fact, Virno argues that contrary to what is suggested by a "little postmodern song," the appropriation of linguistic communication in the spectacular society radicalizes the antinomies of capitalism rather than allows them to languish or become inoperative.49 Virno's account of language differs from Agamben, although their shared emphasis on the linguistic faculty also shares a genesis in an analysis of Debord. For Virno, "the spectacle is the reified form through which that amount of communication, intelligence, and knowledge is presented, which although always in the name of capitalist productivity, cannot come to be deposited in machines, but must manifest itself in the co-
47. Virno, When the Word Becomes Flesh, 20. 48. Virno, When the Word Becomes Flesh, 21. 49. Virno, When the Word Becomes Flesh, 26.
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operation of living subjects."50 Virno subjects this broad understanding of the linguistic faculty to a different development than Agamben, but maintains language as "the terrain of conflict and the odds at stake,"51 a phrase that successfully reiterates the angle of Agamben's constructive political project we have been pursuing from another vantage point. Virno's advance on this battlefield involves a shifted conceptual constellation that brings the production of the common into sharper focus. Rather than forcing a schematic point-by-point comparison with Agamben, now that we have underscored the shared Debordian political horizon for both thinkers, it is useful to return to Virno's differing take on Hegelian indication we observed at the outset of the paper in order to help stage this transmuted conceptual constellation. For Agamben, uttering the universal opens up the possibility of experiencing and traversing the nothingness present in every act of locution, whereas for Virno each time the universal is spoken, the moment of anthropogenesis is re-staged in the present. These differing perspectives cannot be reduced to a prioritization of negation on Agamben's part versus an elision of the work of the concept in order to trace the positive contours of universal indication on Virno's part.52 Virno places less emphasis on the operation of use, which is so central to Agamben's articulation of the relationship between language and life, comprising a substantial part of The Use of Bodies, and as a result the alternation between the two concepts remains pervasively ambivalent throughout his project.53 We can locate in Virno's account of language 50. Virno, When the Word Becomes Flesh, 24. 51. Paolo Virno, "Cultura e produzione sul paloscenico," in I Situazionisti (Rome: Manifestolibri, 2001), 26. 52. In fact, Virno's most recent book is a study of negation, and the function of negativity in both thinkers would make for a productive study, as would other angles such as their accounts of potentiality and time, two topics which are widely debated in ENGLISH LITERATURE on Agamben, but would benefit from being read alongside Virno, especially now that his work is becoming more accessible in English. Both thinkers also share a common reference to Aristotelian theoretical and practical philosophy, in addition to am ambivalent appreciation of Arendt, especially in the case of Virno. Perhaps also of note in terms of these potential skirmishes is the fact that Virno's doctoral work was done on Adorno, a thinker almost wholly absent from Agamben's field of reference. For more on Virno's interesting reconfiguration of Arendt, cf. Paolo Virno, "Virtuosity and Revolution: The Political Theory of Exodus," trans. Ed Emory in Paolo Virno and Michael Hardt, eds. Radical Thought in Italy: A Potential Politics (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996), 189-212. 53. Agamben briefly elaborates on the concept of use in The Highest Poverty, but his most sustained treatment to date comes in the first section of The Use of Bodies, comprising eight chapters. 168 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
and life a displacement of Agamben's conceptual arrangement in three movements. First, Virno argues through a reading of the later Wittgenstein that language and life are co-extensive concepts; they share an indeterminacy of lacking extrinsic purpose and obeying arbitrary rules.54 Language and life are not identical concepts, but are rather coterminous to the extent that the fact of speaking opens up the potential space for alteration. Virno refers to this as the "naturalistic virtuosity" of speech. "Linguistic practice rests in the hiatus between the mind and the world, a gap that cannot be filled by a predetermined conduct but needs to be mastered with virtuoso performances and arbitrary rules."55 This carries with it the important consequence that this potential space is public in a very precise sense. Neither mirroring an exterior state of things nor residing in a secret interior, this potential space is the common precondition for the strict separation of an interior and exterior out of this transindividual, and intrinsically political, potential of language.56 Virno develops his description of naturalistic virtuosity from out of the fundamental locutionary act wherein this potential is spoken. The logical form "to say: I say" functions for Virno as a translation of the universal uttered through Hegelian indication, and it is thereby accurate to refer to "the event of language" in Virno's work. We followed Chiesa and Ruda's argument that Agamben's linguistic archeevent lapses into vitalism,57 but this figure functions in a much more mundane sense for Virno: "the event of language is contained in the work of the epiglottis: its insertion in the world flashes through an air movement."58 Such a formulation is not merely an ironic turn of phrase for Virno, but rather signals the naturalistic dimension of his work. Accordingly, Virno's second major deployment on the linguistic battlefield consists in the fact that life is not characterized by the meta-historical repetition of negation, but rather that life is characterized by the task of historicizing metahistory. Virno's exhibits this task through both of the coextensive terms. "Every statement of facts and of the state of things is simultaneously a statement on the use of words: what we witness, thus, 54. Virno, When the Word Becomes Flesh, 29. 55. Virno, When the Word Becomes Flesh, 30. 56. Virno, When the Word Becomes Flesh, 41. 57. In the prologue to The Use of Bodies, Agamben does signal his attention on the problem of vitalism, suggesting that the task of thought and politics today is to identify the intimate connection between being and living outside of every vitalism. Chiesa and Ruda's essay was published prior to the publication of The Use of Bodies, and Agamben's relationship to vitalism remains an OPEN QUESTION, especially now that the final volume of the Homo Sacer series has been completed. Cf. Agamben, The Use of Bodies, xix. 58. Virno, When the Word Becomes Flesh, 55.
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is a complete fusion of language-object and metalanguage."59 Enunciating the event of language gives an exaggerated visibility to the language faculty, which Virno argues is a "biological invariant."60 Although mundane, the event of language presents the possibility of historicizing metahistory as a perennial challenge; the challenge opened up is to both reconstruct the biological invariant while also analyzing the operative field of social practice, which shares the potential for variation indicated by the naturalistic virtuosity of the speaking animal.61 Finally, then, Virno's dislocation of the conceptual constellation consists in a persistent commitment to ambivalence. Virno provides a compact account of this commitment in the conclusion to an essay on jokes and logic. For Virno, ambivalence can be characterized in two closely related ways: the space between the rule and regularity of species-specific action, or the treatment of meta-history as historical or historical contingency as metahistory.62 In either case, with respect to life, ambivalence is linked to a theory of crisis. For the former example, following Wittgenstein, "a form of life withers and declines when the same norm is realized in multiple dissimilar ways that contrast with one another."63 The potential space in which these forms are articulated is and remains ambivalent because facts within life can "thicken" into norms--and empirical regularity can take on a grammatical rule, but for precisely this reason, the relationship between rule and regularity is not given in advance or absolute. In the second example, whereby the meta-historical and historical come to be confused, such a particular crisis for a form of life reintroduces a persistent potential problem, that of "shaping life in general."64 This element in the theory of crisis is rightly recognized as a state of exception, and to link this analysis with our development of language and life, we would do well again to take another brief pass at Virno's account of Hegelian indication, and the occasional and ambivalent synchronicity of anthropogenesis involved in the locutory event of language. The ambivalence inherent in this paradoxical restaging of anthropogenesis is transitional, involving each time the actual production of 59. Virno, "Jokes and Innovative Action: For a Logic of Change," in Multitude: Between Innovation and Negation, trans. Isabella Bertoletti, James Cascaito and Andrea Casson (Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2007), 143. 60. Virno, When the Word Becomes Flesh, 202. 61. Virno thus notes that "biopolitics is a particular derivative aspect of the inscrip- tion of meta-history within the field of empirical phenomena; an inscription [...] that distinguishes capitalism historically." Cf. Paolo Virno, Dйjа Vu and the End of History, trans. David Broder (London: Verso, 2015), 166. 62. Virno, "Jokes and Innovative Action: For a Logic of Change," 166. 63. Virno, "Jokes and Innovative Action: For a Logic of Change," 151. 64. Ibid. 170 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017
a content from within a coextensive and coterminous potential. Although the linguistic event is mundane, as we have noted, its precise instantiation in the event of language, or as Virno also refers to the logical form "to say: I say," the absolute performative, occurs very rarely.65 The rarity of the absolute performative or pure expression of anthropogenesis in the linguistic faculty as such does not imply that the politics of such a form of life ought to be heroic. In fact, as we noted above, Virno argues that politics "is inherent to the very fact of having language."66 Politics does not characterize one among many possible interactions between life and language, but the political character of speech itself forms part of the presupposition for any form of life. Although the pure logico-linguistic form of ambivalence is rare, each instance of speaking constitutes a production in the present that extends, challenges, and/or constructs some form of life. "An act of speech establishes the present and makes it dovetail with its own unrepeatable execution, precisely because it leaves behind the perennial latency of the language faculty."67 Any collection of beings that would resist the contemporary mode of production manifested by capitalism in the spectacular society subject their coincidence of life and language to the field of praxis. The citizens of a coming community do not simply vow to take up arms against capitalist appropriation, but rather actively develop means of resistance and alternatives in common. The effectuality, status, and longevity of these powers of intellect and activity are not guaranteed -- such is the common and ambivalent ordeal marking the terrain of the battle against capitalism. References Abbott M. Glory, Spectacle, and Inoperativity: Agamben's Praxis of Theoria. Agamben and Radical Politics (ed. D. McLoughlin), Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 2016, pp. 27-49. Agamben G. L'uso dei corpi, Vicenza, Neri Pozza, 2014. Agamben G. La comunitа che viene, Turin, Bollati Boringhieri, 2001. Agamben G. Means Without End, Minnesota, University of Minnesota Press, 2000. Agamben G. The Coming Community, Minnesota, University of Minnesota Press, 1993. Agamben G. The Highest Poverty: Monastic Rules and Form-of-Life, Stan- ford, Stanford University Press, 2013.
65. Virno, When the Word Becomes Flesh, 50. 66. Virno, When the Word Becomes Flesh, 41. 67. Virno, Dйjа Vu and the End of History, 139.
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Agamben G. The Sacrament of Language: An Archaeology of the Oath, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 2010. Agamben G. The Use of Bodies, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 2015. Agamben G. Violenza e speranza nell'ultimo spettacolo. I Situazionisti, Rome, Manifestolibri, 1991, pp. 11­18. Chiesa L., Ruda F. The Event of Language as Force of Life: Agamben's Lin- guistic Vitalism. Angelaki, 2011, vol. 16, no. 3, pp. 163­180. Debord G. Comments on the Society of the Spectacle, London, Verso, 1990. Debord G. The Society of the Spectacle, Detroit, Black & Red, 1983. Hegel G. W. F. Phenomenology of Spirit, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1977. Hegel G. W. F. Philosophy of Subjective Spirit. Volume 3: Phenomenology and Psychology, Dordrecht, D. Reidel Publishing Company, 1978. Leitgeb H., Vismann C. Das unheilige Leben: Ein Gesprдch mit dem ital- ienischen Philosophen Giorgio Agamben. Literaturen, 2010, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 16­21. McLoughlin D. Liturgical Labor: Agamben and the Post-Fordist Spectacle. Agamben and Radical Politics (ed. D. McLoughlin), Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 2016, pp. 91-151. Smith J. E. Strategy and the Passions: Guy Debord's Ruses. Beyond Potentialities?: Politics Between the Possible and the Impossible (eds M. Potocnik, F. Ruda, J. Vцlker), Zurich, diaphanes, 2011, pp. 169­182. Tosel A. The Development of Marxism: From the End of Marxism-Leninism to a Thousand Marxisms -- France-Italy, 1975­2005. Critical Companion to Contemporary Marxism (eds J. Bidet, S. Kouvelakis), Leiden, Brill, 2008, pp. 39­78. Virno P. Cultura e produzione sul palcoscenico. I Situazionisti, Rome, Manifestolibri, 1991, pp. 19­26. Virno P. Dйjа Vu and the End of History, London, Verso, 2015. Virno P. Jokes and Innovative Action. Multitude: Between Innovation and Negation, Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2007, pp. 67­167. Virno P. Virtuosity and Revolution: The Political Theory of Exodus. Radical Thought in Italy: A Potential Politics (eds P. Virno, M. Hardt), Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1996, pp. 189­212. Virno P. When the Word Becomes Flesh: Language and Human Nature, Los Angeles, Semiotext(e), 2015. 172 R J P H · V O L U M E 1 · # 2 · 2017

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