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An Interesting Dialog: A Hegelian and Myself (as of 1/2/19)

This is an ongoing conversation I have been having with a Hegelian.  I think it is interesting and informative.  Antonio seems like a really sharp young person.  He has taught a old dog like me a few things about Hegel so who says and old dog can’t learn new tricks.  …still have major misgivings with Hegel…

His blog is here: The Empyrean Trail

He has also published on some other sites.

***Previous Comments***

Me…

Hello. I am also an amateur student of philosophy. I did three graduate programs officially in philosophy and audited other programs while working professionally as an engineer. My background is ancient Greek philosophy and contemporary continental philosophy (Heidegger, Derrida, Levinas, Husserl, Hegel, …). Here are some of my questions concerning this article:

In general, it seems like a pattern that Hegel’s dialectic starts with pure indeterminateness and emptiness, abstraction, pure knowing, – then, negates such to give way a more positive, determinate which then, gives way to aufhebung which holds both together in their mutual self-negation as lifted up and transformed into a more concrete Idea. I am thinking of:

Being->Non Being->Becoming, the One->the Many->Repulsion->Attraction->Quantity

Being-in-itself->Being-for-other->Limit->Finite->Infinite

Essential->Unessential->pure mediation-Being’s pure immediacy->Reflection->External

Reflection->Determining Reflection->Identity->Difference->Contradiction->Ground

All have these dynamics play with terms such as abstraction, emptiness, negation otherness -> to/from -> opposition, positive otherness -> aufhebung

Hegel seems to think these dynamics prevent his Idea from being susceptible to the tautologies or ordinary science. Tautologies in this sense seems to simply be naming something then repeating the definition in the ‘findings’ of science. This seems to be a naïve view of science (especially for the “Encyclopedia of Science”) in that science is pervaded with supposition->empiricism->contradiction-> paradigm transformation. Certainly, ‘empiricism’ can be deemed a metaphysic, an abstraction, a tautology, etc. but it could also simply be a pragmatic assumption which allows further inquiry. Any Concept or Idea has, at least, this pragmatic, functional capacity including Hegel’s terms like Being, Otherness, Negation, Contradiction, etc. In a minimal sense what I have referred to as the dynamic, pragmatic terms, for Hegel indeterminate, abstraction, emptiness, negation, otherness, aufhebung, etc., are not unlike mathematical operators such as addition, division, square root, etc. in that they reflect relationships. Hegel seems to think he ends up in absolute Concept, Idea and completes philosophy as the System. It seems to me his Ideas are more reflective of a Newtonian styled absoluteness (i.e., time and space) than the newer sciences of relativity, quantum uncertainty, observer effect, dark matter and energy, etc.. – Indeterminacy in the newer sciences is not swallowed up as an artifact of dialectic but would remain in the same apotheosis as absolute Idea or Concept for Hegel.

The other or otherness is always peppered in as idea. To ‘think’ of the other as a he or a she would be what for Hegel? A he or she is yet another concept or idea that faces us? Would a ‘real’ he or she be a metaphysic? Would it simply be yet another form of the depraved naturalism of science? A he or she ‘in time’ even as the idea of a he or she assumes time and the ‘thought’ of a he or she.

What is to ‘think’? Doesn’t it assume time (e.g., a specific thought or thought process). Let’s look at Hegel’s notion of time:

Shall we say the ‘In the beginning was the Concept’, could we say time-space-less-ness? Concept is NOT the thought yet or the word (logos) – assumes time.

The absolute other of time is pure, empty, indeterminate space without dimensions of course.

The absolute other of space is a point.

The absolute other of the abstract point turns out to be time…which turns out to be yet another empty abstraction moving towards past, present, future, etc..

Ok, let’s ‘think’ about this…The Concept is concrete self-determinateness as Idea. We have not asserted any ‘thing’ yet (perhaps literally). Anyway, Concept must have an absolute other which is space. But space is also an idea – not empirical or any such metaphysic, so how can ‘space’ be an absolute other in the ‘absolute’ sense. Sure, it can be a contradictory idea or shall we say the ‘anti’ of tautology, tautology being Concept as Idea. Why do I write ‘tautology?

The jump from Idea to space (which turns out to be yet another idea) is not so complete as Hegel would have us believe. Anyway, from there we go to the point and then temporality. So thinking happens in time but Idea has not yet developed the notion of time so thinking (e.g. about Concept) cannot happen in time since Concept is time-space-less-ness. Yet, do we assume concept is something absolutely other from thinking? How can we think that without ‘thinking that’? Are we now postulating some kind of transcendent other (i.e., the Idea without thinking) – have we not lapsed into metaphysics but deny ourselves the possibility of thinking Idea as such? Wouldn’t this metaphysical leap be the hobgoblin of all self-respecting post-post-post (ad infinitum)-modernists. Hegelians tell us they are not metaphysicians – yet if Idea talks like a duck, quacks like a duck, waddles like a duck…isn’t it a duck? If Concept can be thought without thinking it haven’t we simply asserted yet another tautology?…otherwise called a metaphysic. Could it be in the highly circuitous route we have taken to Concept we have conveniently lost the notion of ‘metaphysic’ even though the dynamic Idea without a thought harkens back to God without Being and convinced ourselves that it is surely and essentially different?

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Antonio…

Concerning Hegel’s critique of empirical science I can see why you would think this, but Hegel’s critique of science is actually simpler and rather a critique of what goes on in the Phenomenology in a pointed sense. The main argument is about his concept of theory and practice, and he does have a rather short version of it in the Introduction to the Phil of Nat. The critique of theory attacks both rationalist and empiricist doctrines of science, and something like pragmatism is for Hegel just not worthy of attack since it has given up the attempt of science as absolute knowledge.

Concerning empiricism as a metaphysical doctrine, well, in Hegel’s concept of metaphysics it is. All concepts of ontological nature are at once both about what is and how to know it. The way we think of the world is a metaphysics. I agree, and Hegel would too, that his concepts are indeed exactly what you describe as mathematical functions, which is why concepts are logics. I would say, however, that it is a mistake to term Hegel’s views as grounded on a Newtonian view of absolutes (Hegel despises Newton, just as an aside) since how Hegel conceives things is not what anyone even today conceives as an absolute *even* at the radical process fringes of QM and related theories. As someone most simpathetic to the critics of modern science, *especially physics*, I would say that one must be careful with the dogmatic adoption of these new terms about reality, particularly due to their nebulous indeterminacy and a historical lineage of conception by contingent caprice and erroneous hand-waving of things ‘out of fashion’ such as a demand for coherency and intelligibility. History tells us much of the origin of these terms, and they are indeed not entirely pragmatic but rather a necessity of axiomatic dogmatism taken for fact.

Concerning otherness and the “he/she” and what concerns the thinking of such. At an ontological level, this ‘thinking’ manifests as the action of a ‘he/she’ and their relating to us. In this it is what they are and thus, yes, a metaphysic.

Concerning the he/she in time, it seems you really wanted to get at the existential presupposition of time in regarding the pure logic of self-thinking thought. Concerning beginnings, well, Hegel denies there ever was a beginning since everything in the finite sphere has a prior and posterior without end. Concerning the relation of time and space: you must keep in mind that Hegel’s foundational structure and dynamic of all Nature is self-externality. Depending on how we will look at this externality, either as substance or subject, being or activity, we shall determine this self-externality as space or time. The otherness of time and space is based on the unifying role of this self-externality such that space qua space finds itself existent through the diremption that is time, and time qua time finds itself existent through the diremption that is space.

Expanding on how “space” can be the absolute other of the Concept, I’m not going to pretend I fully know Hegel’s explanation for this, however, there are a few simple structural reasons that can be given. For one, the determination of the Logic in its closure of the Absolute Idea is the determination of logic as a domain of self-thinking thought. Experience, however, tells us there is more than pure thought, there is a realm of out-there-ness we call Nature. If logic qua logic is determinate, it exists, therefore it is determinately negated, therefore it has an other, this other is the Idea opposing itself, hence outside itself, and this relation is its fundamental concept: self-externality. There is the simpler and more straight forward logical explanation, which is that logic being determinate and existent now moves towards an opposite domain which is by negation determinate as not-logic, not self-immanent thought, but the inverse, and this is fittingly called Nature.

As for Hegel being a metaphysician: He does not deny it, I don’t deny it, but by his conception of metaphysician literally everyone who has a thought about any fundamental aspect of reality, cognitive or substantive, is engaging in the act of metaphysical determination of their world by positing some view as the true absolute (even relativism cannot escape this).

Returning to the problem of existential presupposition of the Concept: yes, *we* must and do think temporally in a natural sense. The conception of pure logic, however, is not about a temporal thinking, but just the process of the self-determination of thought, a determination that has always already been complete with all its defined parts. An atom’s self-determination certainly does not await time for its complete determination, even in frozen space it is logically articulated in many ways in one single moment. The determination of time is irrelevant for logic as such, and if you are pragmatic, you know this is the case for the world itself. Removing time cannot and does not remove at least half of the determinations of things, mostly the substance portion of logic, but plenty of dynamic logic still remains even without time (conditionality, relations, etc).

This blog is unfortunately in need of a deep revising which I have worked on over time. Currently the draft stands at double the length and certain sections like the one on time have been significantly changed in an attempt to clarify, as well as my comments on science in general have expanded to try to show the concreteness and relevance to issues today. I don’t find much to disagree with Hegel here in this first chapter, but trust me, I know I have differences with him which are indeed to do with the advances in knowledge we have had.

Thank you for your comment, I appreciate that others read these monstrosities I write haha.

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Me…

Antonio, I find your posts to be quite clear.  In fact, more so in some cases than actually reading Hegel which can get quite convoluted and obfuscated in my opinion.  I think perhaps a definition of terms might be good here as the word ‘metaphysical’ can have a wide variety of meanings…

Metaphysics was a term applied to a collection of Aristotle’s works in the first century AD.  It has been entangled in Latin and Catholic interpretations which as Heidegger thought obscured more than clarified Aristotle’s works.  Aristotle described his subject matter as ‘first philosophy’ or the study of being as being.  I have written on my blog rather extensively about the earliest form, phusis (φῠ́ω thought to be from proto-indo-european (phúō, “grow”) +‎ -σῐς (-sis)), which pervaded ancient Greek thought from Heraclitus and Parmenides.  From the earliest, phusis is a kind vitalism which increasingly through ancient Greek thought takes on the budding rationalism of logos.  For Aristotle, Metaphysics was a survey concerned with ‘first cause’ and the origin of things.  It was the highest level of generalization.  However, Metaphysics from Latin Neoplatonism and Christian thought transformed and lost some of the earliest origins of phusis.  Metaphysics became a leap, a dogmatism, which equated being with God, God beyond being, and eventually base metal with gold vis-à-vis the philosopher’s stone, etc..  My impression is that for Hegel after Kant the metaphysical would always be fashioned in purely negative terms since it is impossible to determine if synthetic, a priori claims are ‘absolutely’ true.  Metaphysical dogmatism was discredited by Kant in his Critique of Pure Reason.  However, the ‘thing-in-itself’ was precisely what Hegel wanted clear up and do away with from Kant.  Beiser thinks Hegel resists using the term Metaphysics except in a negative sense of the pre-Kantian, rationalist tradition.  In any case, Beiser certainly argued that Hegel retained a pre-Kantian foundationalist approach that the absolute could be obtained through reason – “What is rational is real; And what is real is rational.”.  In this way, Hegel seems to retain an influence form Spinoza albeit in the idealistic tradition. It seems that many contemporary philosophers do not find a transcendental leap of faith in Hegel but a highly rational and analytic approach to the absolute which was not typical of many of the traditional domains of metaphysicians. 

The dogmatism you referred to in your reply and the ‘not’ of Hegel’s ‘metaphysics’, in your opinion, was certainly something Hegel thought he overcame.  Certainly, indeterminacy and uncertainty are not hallmarks of traditional dogmatism which insists on the opposite, determinacy and certainty.  I am not a pragmatist but I do take pragmatism as a starting point at times for the least possible and most commonly accessible starting place for agreement on terms.  If indeterminacy and uncertainty have become a modern form of ‘scientific’ dogmatism that is news to me.  My engineering background and further education in relativity and quantum mechanics do not play loosely with those terms.  However, when I look in my own philosophical background for scientific equivalents I am not faced with Hegelian certainties and rationalism.  Certainly, we know that Hegel’s earlier attempts with the ether did not end so well.  I would also argue that his totalitarian and authoritarian views on how more enlightened cultures were allowed, entitled by right, to handle the more primitive cultures strikes a negative and violent tone to his absolute certainties (which I consider dogmas i.e., not ‘proven’ by his dialectics as he thinks).  Because the state is divine freedom is defined as right, violence is given necessary and free reign as “Machiavellian genius” (Hegel’s opinion of Machiavellian – “the great and true conception of a real political genius with the highest and noblest purpose”).  Violence can only come to its end after it has had its ‘last word’ and the last word has been accepted as divine.  As Nietzsche tells us, history is the story told by the victors.  Hegel certainly used the Christian motif in his terminology and the kenosis of Jesus.  For Hegel, God may be the whole or Spirit and certainly has a historical relationship to Christianity.  In any case, it has a double play which intentionally plays on historical Christianity and rationalism.  In this double play I see a intentional indeterminacy which can also lead to “a necessity of axiomatic dogmatism taken for fact”.  Uncertainty and indeterminism always plays an inferior role in Hegel’s dialectics.  That is, they are certainly never in themselves.  They are always an avenue, a vehicle, which never ‘stand-in-themselves’.  They always ‘stand-for-another’.   Indeterminacy and uncertainty lead us to determinacy and certainty – to the rational, the logos.  I do think in spite of Hegel’s dislike for Newton he did favor a “Newtonian styled” orientation at the very least, in a reductionary pragmatic sense, in the fact that both of them highly favored the ‘absolute’.  Also, both of them favored notions of Christianity and God although I will give you for very different rationales. 

Let’s take a specific case in the start of Hegel’s Logic – of Being he tells us:

“Being, pure being, without any further determination. In its indeterminate immediacy it is equal only to itself. It is also not unequal relatively to an other; it has no diversity within itself nor any with a reference outwards. It would not be held fast in its purity if it contained any determination or content which could be distinguished in it or by which it could be distinguished from an other. It is pure indeterminateness and emptiness. There is nothing to be intuited in it, if one can speak here of intuiting; or, it is only this pure intuiting itself. Just as little is anything to be thought in it, or it is equally only this empty thinking. Being, the indeterminate immediate, is in fact nothing, and neither more nor less than nothing.”

of nothing he tells us:

“Nothing, pure nothing: it is simply equality with itself, complete emptiness, absence of all determination and content — undifferentiatedness in itself. In so far as intuiting or thinking can be mentioned here, it counts as a distinction whether something or nothing is intuited or thought. To intuit or think nothing has, therefore, a meaning; both are distinguished and thus nothing is (exists) in our intuiting or thinking; or rather it is empty intuition and thought itself, and the same empty intuition or thought as pure being. Nothing is, therefore, the same determination, or rather absence of determination, and thus altogether the same as, pure being.”

Let’s symbolize this as Being = A, Nothing = B, indeterminate, immediacy = C

A = C

B = C

Therefore: A = B or Being is Nothing

Then we have Becoming…

“Pure Being and pure nothing are, therefore, the same. What is the truth is neither being nor nothing, but that being — does not pass over but has passed over — into nothing, and nothing into being. But it is equally true that they are not undistinguished from each other, that, on the contrary, they are not the same, that they are absolutely distinct, and yet that they are unseparated and inseparable and that each immediately vanishes in its opposite. Their truth is therefore, this movement of the immediate vanishing of the one into the other: becoming, a movement in which both are distinguished, but by a difference which has equally immediately resolved itself.”

Here Hegel tells us that actually Being and nothing does have a determination in spite of the fact the he just told us both are absolutely and immediately indeterminate (and therefore the same).  He told us that Being and nothing are the same and now he tells that they are not the same.  Now we find out that they have a distinction – a determinacy.  In either case, Being or Nothing, they are still that same as immediacy.  So while they do and do not have determinacy (i.e., they are absolutely distinct), they both have immediacy.  Each one immediately vanishes into the other.  So now we have a difference even though they are the same.  The difference and their immediate nullity is becoming.  Moreover, becoming is mediation.

So now we have determinacy (i.e., they are absolutely distinct) and mediation = D

Certainly, we can say that C != D (where != is not equal).  They are actually syllogistically, diametrical opposites.

Now Hegel wants to say A = C = D and B = C = D

Therefore: A = B or Being is Nothing but here we have absolutely contradicted ourselves because C != D

So, we have contradicted ourselves.  Is Hegel telling us that the contradiction is becoming and therefore we now have:

Being = Nothing = absolute indetermination and absolute immediacy = determination (absolutely distinct) and mediation (since they are both held in their absolute contradiction (both the same and different)

As far as I can see the only way to maintain this as TRUE is not based on logical deduction from a necessarily TRUE categorical syllogism but to maintain it dogmatically (and falsely) as a tautology.  It is not really a tautology but it is assumed by Hegel to be necessarily and absolutely TRUE and as a categorical syllogism BUT it cannot be proven true with a common medium term only a common medium contradiction (which must be ‘intuited’ and lifted up).  Additionally, in Kant’s term the beginning of “The Logic” cannot be analytic, a priori and thus necessarily true but can only be a synthetic judgement in that terms are applied to the subjects (Being and nothing) which are not contained in the mutual and contradictory predicates (indeterminate, immediacy, determinate, mediate).  Synthetic judgements are always contingent on perception.  Contingency does not belong to the absolute in Hegel.  Are we to arrive at the absolute when we start with the contingent?  Certainly this is a question of are synthetic a priori judgements possible?  I think they are.  The may or may not be true but there can never be an ‘absolute’ truth as analytic, a priori judgements.  They can never obtain that level of absolute if you will.  If you add in intuition, conditioned by categories of sensibility by Kant, you can arrive at a contingent certainty (such as cause and effect appears in empirical observation) but those judgements are ALWAYS conditioned by a degree of indeterminacy and uncertainty.

If we are now to apply intuition to Hegel’s Logic (i.e., we intuitively know that Being is distinct from nothing) we have introduced another medium term from ‘Being = indeterminate, immediacy = nothing’ to ‘Being = indeterminate, immediacy = determinate, mediate = nothing’.  The start in Hegel’s logic begins in intuition and therefore contingency and ends in Concept – the ‘absolute’ (not contingent).  Haven’t we made base metal into gold?  Are we to assume that the philosopher’s stone will resolve our dilemma?


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Antonio…

Regarding the definition of metaphysics, well, I place no value on it whatsoever. Frankly, I don’t care if someone is or is not metaphysical according to anyone. Hegel talks about metaphysics both as that generality of Being and Essence, but also as ontology in general which ends up making all philosophy nothing but a metaphysical exercise in asserting anything fundamental in any categorial sense. Whether you, Heidegger, or anyone else agrees I see as having no concern *within* Hegelianism. The issue with using someone else, even Kant, to define Hegel and point out strange contradictions is precisely that Hegel himself doesn’t *take* definitions from anyone, and his concepts are themselves not definitions in a common sense either. While one may talk about the relation, as Hegel himself does, one has to keep in mind Hegel conceives the relation not of himself to them, but them to him once he has his systematic groundwork in place. In this same way, although here I admit total immanent ignorance, charges of ‘onto-theology’ against Hegel strike me as, well, rather inane from a Hegelian standpoint itself. I’ve seen descriptions of this concept and have been given some by some self-professed Heideggerians and I always found it a strange charge (there have been times when a couple Hegelians reverse the charge against Heidegger lol on related matters such as the ontic difference).

Being, thought, and God aren’t exactly the same thing for Hegel except for the implicated dynamic that binds everything as the Absolute. The unity of Being and thought is, I think, a rather clever conception made by Hegel on analogical ground (Phenomenology of Spirit Preface) of existence=abstraction=thought, as well as the simple conceptual ground (Logic): With the concept of Being the only existential possibility is nothing due precisely to its immediacy.

Concerning the Absolute, while Newton was an absolutist, I think it mistaken if not disingenuous to equate what these two refer to by the same term name. Hegel’s absolute is not something else different and independent of the relative like Newton’s absolute space and aether were in regard to motion. The relative is not relative as something else, but as a moment which depends yet also is depended on for the realization of the Absolute.

Concerning Hegel’s politics, I certainly won’t defend his outlooks. First, because I’m not yet familiar with the works in their proper logic, and second because even if I was I am not someone who will defend Hegel for being Hegel, he does indeed have failures in lapses of his own methodology. However, as someone with some eye towards history, may I say that a Machiavellian prince is certainly something that for all realities of our nice natures does seem to be a great necessity in maintaining a shift from one social world to another. To my mind comes Simon Bolivar, whose liberal kindness and resolute moral idealism unfortunately ended up betraying his own dream and that of the continent he helped liberate… all because he refused to be a dictator in a historical moment where such concentration of power and vision was required to see the project of a new Latin America through. Poor fool. As for Hegel’s totalitarian tendency, well, I think that’s overstating things considering the whole of the project is to see the freedom of individuality flourish, which of course requires the stability of its social totality. Take my point with a grain of salt, however, I don’t speak for Hegel or Hegelians here, it’s so far an opinion based on a singular view of history.

Regarding the Being, Nothing, Becoming issue. You’re right to note that there is something glaring in the claims and methodology, but Hegel himself tells us so right from the first pages of that chapter. The beginning, as he presents it, is a ruse. He begins legitimately, but explains the movement in illegitimate form in taking on our own assumptions of the nature of these distinctions (hence the identity through indeterminacy/indifference and difference through intent). First is the intent, second is of course the appeal in Nothing to *existence* in order to make the return to Being. A lot of this issue sort of arises not just because these term names have some implication of some pretended meaning that seems unutterable, but that immediacy itself really is weird to us who are so determinate and used to given determinateness.

The issue of this beginning is that it is so abstract that linguistically there is simply going to be an inescapable failure to describe the immanent move without relying on external categories. Discounting the intention of meaning, we can make the difference of Being and Nothing in many ways: form and content, appearance and essence, thought and thinking. The beginning is presuppositionless and indeterminate in its *immanent intelligibility*. Indeed, these concepts don’t presuppose other concepts, they are what we conceive normally as closest to pure immediacies. In being truly immediate, they cannot be relative in the sense of Being vs Nothing, because that would presuppose the relation. Though thought content in conceptual form is indeterminate, we cannot escape that thinking is inescapably determining in action and determinate as existent. Regardless of how we try to explicate these categories, however, their indeterminacy only transfers to everything else if we try to be immanent, and though we may do things determinately we are left incapable of saying anything immanently as to why these are determinate.

The truth of the distinction, as I see it, is simply that we *can* make the distinction in act despite not having any conceptual cognizance of how we can conceive that we did it. This is because thinking is a capacity/power capable of self-abstraction without any seeming limit (its reflexivity). Thinking can think of thinking, and the fundamental split at the beginning is simply two faces of the thought process itself: thought and thinking. We are either immersed in penetrating thought already, or we are standing back from thought prior to this immersion. Being is thought, Nothing is thinking. We either notice the immediacy in its form/thought and simply determine that it is present indeterminately, or we notice the immediacy in its content/thinking which re-emerges into thought as the recollection of this activity and the observation that presence was absent in the engagement. With this there is no appeal to some intent to Being or Nothing, nor is their identity through a third, but rather through their inverting reflexion: Being is Nothing because that is what its thinking reveals itself to be. Nothing is Being because that is what its thought reveals it to be. Here, of course, you may charge that intention has only shifted to the subjectivity of attention—we want to attend to something different about each—and thinking of it right now, you may be right, but I have quite a bit of thinking I’ve been doing on this particular formulation of it and it still needs development. Part of me hopes that maybe this formulation has something more objective due to its tie to the nature of thought itself, of course, a nature which is not internally conceivable at the beginning.

Here, of course, you may level against Hegel the charge that indeed he is wrong or lying about his supposedly logical methodology because he *indeed has relied on an intuition*. This charge, I think, Hegel would simply wipe off like a chip on his shoulder. The intuition here is not at all a sensuous intuition. It is from the beginning an intellectual intuition about what thinking experiences of itself in pure thought terms, for it is indeed as I call it a phenomeno-logic that Hegel uses the entire way across all works from the beginning. Thinking itself has a phenomenal being, and why shouldn’t it? The appeal to the empty intuition of Nothing can indeed be taken in sensuous form, that of the suspension of thinking simply temporally idling with no possible engagement. We can, however, just as well recognize this as something we may want to call intellectual intuition of this suspension of thinking itself: immediate thinking is immediately negated, halted—absent. To call this an intuition in any Kantian sense is of course erroneous, and Hegel himself doesn’t use such language, but if we may speak of experience as learning, and if thought is an object of thinking, thinking intuits thought in a loose sense. If you find this unappealing, it can just as well be cast off as a rather sloppy description in terms, but what Hegel does remains working just as well.

I don’t in any way expect this satisfies your  curiosity and answers its problematic, but rest assured I too am (when I get into the issue) puzzled by the enigmatic beginning of the Logic as well.

Finally, to return to something earlier, on your mention of empirical science, pragmatism, and its concepts (such as indeterminacy), I’m not quite sure what you mean without any determinate (ha) case for you to give. I don’t think it would at all be fair to say that, say, the concept of indeterminacy in QM is what Hegel would be referring to by his concept of indeterminacy.

All in all, thanks a lot for the email. I would offer some books to read… but I don’t actually read many about Hegelianism so I can’t. I certainly enjoy a challenge, and if I seem stubbornly Hegelian it is perhaps because I am. My mind is thoroughly determined in the Hegelian conceptual fashion which is certainly quite different to what you’re used to, and I can say the same to the Heideggerian logic which is unusual to me. I’m only familiar with small bits of Heidegger, but those small bits are actually ones I like quite a lot due to how well thought they are, and how they meld well with Hegelian thinking. I’m afraid I ramble now.


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Me…

First, I am flattered a Hegelian would even take the time to talk to me.  The academics I have known including my best friend for decades will not engage in this kind of conversation at all.  To be fair, they spend all their time ‘publishing or perishing’.  I can tell you have not had a wide variety of exposure to philosophical thinkers but that is ok – I think philosophy should be fair game for all no matter what their background.  I can also tell you are a very bright young (I think) person and quite impressive for your Herculean efforts in what is probably the most difficult philosopher to understand.  I also like you honesty in dealing with the material.  From a very young age to the age of 62 (and having retired at the age of 43) I have had a lot of time for academic and my own studies in philosophy.  I have a broad background in the history of continental philosophy (not so much analytic tradition) with an emphasis in the ancient Greeks and contemporary philosophy (starting at the beginning of the 20th century).    I have had a number of decades in philosophy but still a content beginner IMO.

You are right in detecting that much of my academic background was in Heidegger.  However, for a number of years now I have not considered myself to be a Heideggerian.  I understand Heidegger now as having more to do with German Idealism than I previously thought.  More generally, my background in contemporary philosophy has been in phenomenology which is not the ‘phenomenology’ of Hegel but starting with Husserl.  This phenomenology was about not abstracting away from phenomena but observing it as it shows itself in such phenomena as lived time – the stretch of subjective time, epochs for Heidegger et al, etc. (not abstract linear ‘now’ moment time – oh, lived time fits well with relativity – came about around the same time) or lived space – as regions of deseverance for a subject, horizons for history and language, etc.  (not abstract geometrical three dimensional space – fits well with QM).

Perhaps my critical concern of ‘metaphysics’ comes from my reading of post-modernists, Derrida in particular.  His critique of ‘logocentrism’ certainly plays into the history of violence (capitalism, Stalinism, etc.).  He brings out the dogmatism in metaphysics not with another dogma but with a deconstruction of the text…using the margins of the text…the text’s own implicit determinations to undermine its ‘canon’.  I have read and talked to Hegelians which I think come from contemporary Hegelianism that believe Hegel is NOT metaphysical in essence.  They think that his logic follows rationally, immanently, without any transcendental leaps into metaphysics.  I know there have been many schools of Hegel which differ from that orientation and are more sympathetic to your irrelevance of the term.

In any case, I would currently think of myself as a Levinasian (he has been called an anarchist communist).  He was a student of Heidegger and Husserl but went in very different, and I would say very conflictive, directions from Heidegger.  For Levinas, simply put, the history of violence which he also finds in German Idealism is a history of retreat from the face of the other.  The face of the other is an infinity, a radical alterity which ontology retreats from.  Levinas’ major later work is entitled “Otherwise than Being or Beyond Essence”.  Levinas reserves the absolute as the he or the she which faces me and breaks through the ‘plastic cast’ I form of them given by the history of totality.  The other is not Concept or Idea but face that confounds me.  History which is the effacement of the other is ontology.  From this relation you can see how Levinas derives an ‘Ethics’ not as an altruism, a derived duty or idea, but a primacy from the ‘anarchic’ start with the encounter of the other.   The other has a ‘time not my time’ a ‘past not my past’ which cannot be coincident with my phenomenal temporality.  He calls this a ‘diachrony’.  All of our historic, linguistic categories which synchronizes time/space, universalizes idea, gives us certainty and determinacy (i.e., ‘reality’, being, Concept, even historic metaphysics, etc.) have been derived from an absolute inability to face the infinity of the other – a ‘passivity beyond all passivity’.  Before we think we are held captive by a substitution – I for the other.

In any case, I like the openness towards the other I find in Levinas.  I see a violence and reductive immanence in universalizing idea, naturalism (materialism, positivism, pragmatism, etc.)…a totality which truncates and essentially alienates.  Levinas as many of the other contemporary phenomenologists starts in embodiment, lived sensibility, etc. and even his Ethics is from the ‘touch’ not the Idea of the encounter with the other.

I know this is off the topic but I did want to give you a little background on where I am coming from so you do not have to guess.  I, as I think for yourself, am left of liberal and an activist for many years.  I also like Marx – his critiques of capitalism in particular).  I guess I would be more of the Trotsky type in that I take Marx to be speaking of a natural ‘evolution’ towards socialism and, for him ultimately, communism.  If nothing else, with the advent of technology and manufacturing automation, the future cannot be pure capitalism unless we are willing to exterminate the masses so only the elite can thrive.  We will have to think productivity and value in very different terms in the future than pure, Austrian capitalism can conceive.

I still love philosophy as Levinas did – incredible scholar.  I am intrigued by Hegel and the absolute ‘idea’-lism which for me, personally would be an absolute horror and false security that would reduce all to the one, the Idea, and forgo any excess – to the point of annihilating something phenomenally essential to ‘otherness’.  If ‘otherness’ is the occasion for dialectic culminating in self-determining Concept, certainly the protests of existentialism (Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, etc.) go unheeded but beyond that any ‘other’ has already been determined in advance as Idea (for Hegel).  I also have seen in Hegel and his students an indifference (perhaps smugness) and arrogance about his ‘presumption-less’ philosophy.  I and many others do not accept that on face value.  I think it is an exaggeration and apothotheois which cannot stand up to critical examination.

Notwithstanding my critical concerns of Hegel, I will say that I do have admiration for him.  He obviously had an incredible mind – even the very fact that he is sooo hard to criticize says something about his genius that few philosophers have ever attained.  I can see his philosophy as more of a work of art than the way he and his students seem to want to take him.  The ‘circularity’ of his philosophy and the apparent wholeness, completeness, of his System are apparent to me.  It almost seems ‘fractal’ like to me and so, embodies a kind of organic naturalism to it.  So, just because I have problems taking him in the way I think he wants us to take him, I can still appreciate his work and the challenge it presents.

The reason I brought up Kant is because Hegel himself brings up Kant as important to his philosophy and therefore, find it relevant to the discussion.  It is not based on what I think or others but what Hegel thinks relative to Kant.

With regard to onto-theology I also share a bit of a reservation with the free use of that critique.  Neither Hegel or Heidegger ‘should’ be simply reduced to onto-theology…almost as if it were some kind of psychologism of the thinkers.  Both thinkers borrow terms from the history of Christian theology but generally have very different reasons for doing so.  I have never ever read a word that Heidegger was Christian (hard to see) but Hegel certainly was – does not necessarily mean too much.  That being said, there certainly is a theological school of Hegel (mainly Catholic I think) and his fascination with the kenosis and Jesus as, how shall I say, presently the most complete manifestation of Geist does bring him in proximity to a reification of Christianity.  Sure, it can have a very different foundational reason but it is curious shall we say.  I understand the God/Man dialectic and the introspective subjectivity/individuality he thinks this brings to Geist and history.

Hegel himself in his early writing did employ the aether (Jena I, II, III – unpublished see http://www.cosmosandhistory.org/index.php/journal/article/viewFile/393/781) so it was not just Newton (and others including Einstein) although he seems to have recanted that in his later writings.  With regard to the ‘absolute’ in both, I agree that it means very different things but it is not simply ingenious that we observe they both employ the terms.  Both were highly concerned with the ‘absolute’.  I have read your own comments, something to the effect that modernity has disregarded and lost the concern for the absolute.  Both Newton and Hegel were immediately and evidently active about the business of thinking what the absolute could be.  An obsession with the absolute has dominate strains in history and while the particulars are different, the direction of the inquiry is motivated by what simply and at least pragmatically is given by the word ‘absolute’.  Certainly, what we currently understand by relativity (in physics at least) has deflated that concern and spilled over into contemporary philosophy as you seem to have observed.  Additionally, there was crossover from Newton to philosophy and Hegel to physics as temporal/spatial (certainly from the ancient Greek meaning of phusis to physis to Latin nature, etc.).  Certainly, there is a passion an intense concern culminating in a lifetime of substantial work after the absolute.  From an existentialism and 20th century phenomenological perspective (existing subject, egoistic) they share that desire.  It is certainly possible to say they share the same passion without implying that their field of work was the same.

With regard to Being and nothing as immediacy (“pure immediacy”), ‘immediacy’ for Hegel seems to me to be an artificially asserted state (or experience) which, in lived experience, never happens.  By the very presumption of ‘immediacy’ as some kind of vegetative human state of consciousness where there is no determinacy (except when it becomes) may be some kind of extremified state of Buddhist consciousness but it can only really be extrapolated as ‘real’ in some sense since, to have it as an experience, would be to lose it in any definitive modality.  When we correlate Being immediacy to the nothing immediacy, it seems to me that we have tread into deep waters which has lost the light of day.  Sure, we can imagine that state but to think of it as phenomenological, as a lived experience, seems to me to be self-contradictory.  It seems to me that immediacy in Being and nothing at the start of the Logic is as Epicurus wrote: “So death, the most terrifying of ills, is nothing to us, since so long as we exist, death is not with us; but when death comes, then we do not exist. It does not then concern either the living or the dead, since for the former it is not, and the latter are no more.”   I guess it could be ‘analogical’ for something or another.

With regard to this,

“However, as someone with some eye towards history, may I say that a Machiavellian prince is certainly something that for all realities of our nice natures does seem to be a great necessity in maintaining a shift from one social world to another. To my mind comes Simon Bolivar, whose liberal kindness and resolute moral idealism unfortunately ended up betraying his own dream and that of the continent he helped liberate… all because he refused to be a dictator in a historical moment where such concentration of power and vision was required to see the project of a new Latin America through. Poor fool. As for Hegel’s totalitarian tendency, well, I think that’s overstating things considering the whole of the project is to see the freedom of individuality flourish, which of course requires the stability of its social totality. Take my point with a grain of salt, however, I don’t speak for Hegel or Hegelians here, it’s so far an opinion based on a singular view of history.”

From the ‘world historical perspective’  Bolivar can be thought as a “Poor fool” but I am not sure that exhausts the subject of validity.  I suppose we could say that of Gandhi, Siddhartha Gautama, Jesus, Martin Luther King Jr., etc. but the measurement of the success of failure is not necessarily and exclusively taken in some socio-politico aftermath which may or may not have occurred.  It seems to me that all of these folks taken in a purely human way had no idea that, at the time, they were going to have a ‘world historical’ socio-politico-consciousness effect.  All, at the time, lived their life as if it were simply ‘a life’.  Apart from the mythical connotations they picked up in later history, they themselves were not motivated by delusions of (historical) grandeur.    It does bring up the question in view of the diversity of possible lived lives, “How shall we live our life?  What choices based on what concerns?  …an ethical question based on what? …world historical, illusions of grandeur, humble, empathetic, ethical, narcissistic (like our infamous president), etc.?

Also, individuality certainly is one level of Hegel but not necessarily a privileged level.  We know the ‘state” is “sacred” for Hegel.  Also, Spirit (or Geist) is epochal and collective  -even to the point where the individual seems almost slave-like with regard to the state and the Spirit.  Individualism seems more like a stop at the beginning of the way where not all individuals are given some endowment of freedom but hold the possibility for freedom as given by their epoch and their ability to perceive it.  For the more primitive they must be ‘mastered’ due to their enslavement and further, the end result of violence seems to be a ‘right’ of the…master race shall we say obliquely at the least (ok, too much but can we say that freedom is taken hold of, created by, the enlightened, the Spirit of the age, the victors?).

From this comment “Indeed, these concepts don’t presuppose other concepts, they are what we conceive normally as closest to pure immediacies” I would remark…

I find these parallelisms you name, Being and Nothing, form and content, appearance and essence, thought and thinking, etc. are interesting, especially thought and thinking.  Are these suppose to be analogous in some sense?  Perhaps as they share Hegel’s predicates of indeterminate/determinate, mediate/immediate, assertion/negation, diremption “of itself into itself as subjective individuality and itself as indifferent universality”.  I assume these hinge on existential-particular/universal?  Sure, these words can have meanings which, when pushed, can take on these connotations but there is nothing necessary in that ‘push’.  I have already talked about the ‘immediacy’ notion but when these other notions are set up as exclusive oppositions, dialectically opposites and negating each other, they seem to artificially and conveniently lose some of their included middles.  For example, form and content – form could be a perception of content and thus existential (as what one sees) but perception as seeing does not have to be an externality, a face, of content… an appearance.  From a minimal sense there are many ‘ways’ to see the same ‘content’ depending on how – the mechanism, by which you look.  In a banal sense we can look at the content of space as visible light, infrared light, electromagnetic, radio frequency, QM, etc.  Is the form accidental to content or essential?  This is a philosophical question.  The fact is that form is never, phenomenally at least, absolutely separable from content.  They could be ‘thought’ as antithetical I suppose, as negating each other, but not necessarily.  As a side, Nietzsche said ‘my body does my mind’ as a way to turn conventional thought on its ‘head’ so to speak.  It seems an abstraction to me to think these predicates as oppositional and exclusively.  Sure they can be thought that way but there are other ways such as the same phenomenon, mutually exclusive and inclusive members, purely formal, phenomenal, noumenal, etc. but to lose all these other denotations in a reductionary pool of oppositions is not somehow self-evident.   These terms are never “pure immediacies” that can somehow be stripped of their presumptions except in a purely abstract and oracular fashion.  We never experience them as somehow separate and purified of their fields of connotations as some kind of sterilized experience of ‘immediacy’.  To insist on this ‘immediacy’ is to presume on our lived experience which grasp heterogenous multiplicities of meanings and inflections in everyday, a priori (in Kant’s terms), understanding of the terms.  Contemporary phenomenology does not want to abstract and infer/imply abstractions to the way we encounter language but examine how we live them on horizons/wholes of meaning.  I know we can think as Hegel would have us think and assume a pure immediacy that is indeterminate but I think there is nothing necessary about that abstraction and, in that only a human vegetable could experience them as such, it would be impossible to isolate those predications as ‘indeterminate’ and still have any such thing as language.

“Finally, to return to something earlier, on your mention of empirical science, pragmatism, and its concepts (such as indeterminacy), I’m not quite sure what you mean without any determinate (ha) case for you to give. I don’t think it would at all be fair to say that, say, the concept of indeterminacy in QM is what Hegel would be referring to by his concept of indeterminacy.”

This is fair enough.  I only find indeterminacy in philosophy as an excess to, what I think, is an assumed absolute determinacy based on ‘logical’ abstractions.  I think your reasoning is very clear and honest.  I appreciate that.  In Hegel’s ‘logic’ it all fits together very well, artistically I would say.  I think perhaps it really comes down to a choice.  Do we want to think that Hegel and his Logic exhaust, sum up, complete the absolute, the all, without excess or even the possibility of being wrong?  If we make that choice then I suppose there is a kind of psychological security for some in that determinacy and certainty (as a pragmatic least anyway).  For me, indeterminacy leaves open possibility for the novel, for awe and wonder, for an other which has not entered my determinacies and certainties and that also has some psychological component to my choice as well. 

Just to let you know, I had full knee replacement September 10th on one knee and the other replaced December 3rd.  This has given me more time to read, think and converse than I would normally have.  Generally, my days are filled with working out every day, playing/composing/recording music in my studio, writing software for musicians which I really love, reading/thinking/writing philosophy and family.  I have really enjoyed this conversations and look forward to future discussions – I just may be a little longer to respond in the future as I get better.  I am sure you also have many engagements as well.


———————————————————————————

Antonio…

Unfortunately I find myself by necessity of external factors, but also by choice, outside the road to the ivory tower. Indeed, I haven’t actually read widely in philosophy, but because I know my bit of Hegel so well people assume quite often that I do. It is not due to lack of interest at all, even the philosophers I am antagonistic towards (Deleuze and Schelling for example) deeply fascinate me, but alas I am a inspirational reader and thinker who finds the spark of thought in a community of those who share in the effort and discuss, and outside of academic life this is almost an impossibility. That I have managed so much with Hegel in so short a time and with relatively so little read is almost entirely due to the luck of having met fellow enthusiasts open to the challenge. Most of what you find on my blog is actually written within time frames when I read with these groups and was caught up in the exercise, most of it really was conceived in the total of one year not of heavy reading, but of simply consciously and (mostly) unconsciously meditating on the short parts I’ve read.

Unfortunately I have been and currently am of ‘modest’ means, that is, scraping by. Often people sigh disappointedly at my financial state because they are impressed with my intellect, but think I use it for the wrong things (that which makes no money). Indeed, I may be more busy in the coming weeks which is often not the case, which is why I so readily answer emails. I’m going to be an entrepreneur (financial services), and while I despise the idea, the potential of it and the need of the money requires that I give up my discomfort and shame for a moment in order to achieve anything of this sort. I intend to succeed despite my usual misgivings about bothering people, I must succeed.

Indeed, Hegel places himself in stronger connection to Kant than to his immediate priors, but as I’ve noticed we must not mistake the nature of the relation to flow from Kant to Hegel, such that Kant will somehow elucidate Hegel from outside because Hegel simply elucidates himself and compares/contrasts himself to others.

On the aether, it seems I overlooked mentioning in the last response that I myself stand by a concept of aether. The concept of aether as such need not be absolute qua reference frame, and the implications of physics itself require it for other reasons of brutely paradoxical and conceptual nature. The nature of inertia, radiation, gravity, light, electromagnetism (fields in general) from within themselves call out to our reason to investigate the medium of their reality. Light, for all that we practically do with it, is in itself unintelligible to us, so is electromagnetism, gravity, and simple things like inertia and relativistic mass, particle/wave duality, etc. A relativistic infinitesimal aether not as a type of matter but as a general concept of what is for us indeterminately determinate matter would, given the material reality of Nature, answer and serve the mediating purpose to make intelligible a lot of these strange relations. Not fully, of course, I’m aware that certain issues are present concerning empirical attempts motivated to answer the issue one way or another, and while some of these experiments are supremely well designed, they rest on assumptions on what this aether would be and the nature of what relations may appear as. Multiple individuals far more capable than ourselves in these matters seem to think the conceptual issue is otherwise and far from unsettled, and it is from my experience these individuals who show the greatest grasp of the conceptual issues compared to the standard theorists.

About the parallels, I call them analogies in the Kantian sense of structural equivalences, i.e. we can talk *about* the dynamic of Being/Nothing with any of those and the exact issues will actually present themselves only with a different veneer. It does have to do with the movement of the Concept, but I don’t talk of it in those terms (mainly because they’re so advanced and I’m not so comfortable with it on that level of concretion). You note that there seems something forced in the abstractions of Being/Nothing, that we don’t necessarily have to think this way or think these thoughts, but I shall put that aside for now and simply say that *existentially* you’re right (Fichte has some beautiful words on the choice of philosophy and the individual, but like him I think that though this choice is telling of the individual it is also telling of what this individual is really committed to, and that there are higher and lower philosophies). I’ve been thinking a lot about this in the last couple of days because of you and someone else (the professor I was responding to in a prior email).

======On The Problem of Immediacy=====

Perhaps some elucidation on immediacy is required to make sense of this issue. Being and Nothing are immediate in that they do not presuppose any relation internal or external to them. Hegel says they are ‘equal only to themselves and not unequal to another,’ that they are indifferent within and without. In a way, this is a ruse, and Hegel knows it. We appeal to equality without difference, to innerness without exteriority, to indeterminacy without determinateness, to form without content, to immediacy without mediation as if such even makes sense.

This is the problem of immediacy as immediate: it can never be what it pretends, it itself never has or will be immediate alone. In common talk we speak of the immediate only as it is in mediation: the immediate is precisely something split and differentiated even if the same. Immediacy is always immediacy in mediation, immediate in relation to. We see an apple immediately, the apple is immediately to the right, it is immediately one, it is immediately in contact, it is immediately itself—here A=A, as Fichte shows in his opening to the Science of Knowledge, is itself hopelessly mediated in this posited identity which splits a thing from itself and rejoins it.

Being is absolutely immediate thought. There is not only no thought before or behind it, there is none within it. It’s not a thought at all, it is the absence of it. How did we ever manage to conceive indeterminacy at all? Because we implicitly operated with its opposite, determinacy, in order to determine it so. It is against determinacy’s absence that Nothing is determined. It is by the presence of the very determination of indeterminacy that Nothing is. The implicitness of this, and this is crucial and a very important difference, is in action and not in conceptual explicitness. I’ll explain this further below with thought/thinking.

The dialectic of Being and Nothing entails all dialectics of the Logic. Nothing is. Indeterminacy is a determinateness. Absence is present. Difference is identity. Content is form. Appearance is Essence. Thinking is thought. Subject is substance. Change is permanent. This occurs endlessly because thought and thinking are two sides of one coin which when we attempt to explicitly split will either end in Nothing or it will end in its immanent opposite side of the coin if we simply follow it through for itself.

What is Being? Nothing. It could not be otherwise. What is Nothing? It is indeterminate Being. This is where the action is implicitly happening. Nothing is determinacy (existent thought) falling into indeterminatess because of its drive to absolutize a determinacy we call immediacy, to achieve abstract absolute negation, to remove from content its form, to remove substance from subjectivity — in short, to rip thought from thinking and posit them as utterly distinct. Are we, then, wrong about Being? Is it not the most general, the most universal, the most immediate? Hegel seems to say quite early that, yes, we are indeed wrong about Being. If, indeed, all is, then Being entails far more than itself, but Being as a term has connotations that are more fit for the beginning of this impossible absolute one-sided abstraction.

The Identity

Being and Nothing are one and the same, not by a comparison of their immediacy and indeterminacy, but by the intellectual experience of their reflexive engagement in which one thought supplants the other. Being and Nothing are indistinguishable, they are one and the same concept in this indifference, nonetheless, they are different. They are indeed two different moments of thought, two indeterminacies which have yet to be determinate as thoughts, but we cannot yet immanently specify what this difference is from within the content of these thoughts themselves. We can, however, give an external account for the sake of methodological guidance and explanation. The usual manner of explaining this difference is in the shift of attention between form and content, but I shall opt for a more intuitive (in the experiential sense) distinction.

Thought and Thinking

We must come to awareness and keep in mind the peculiarity of our situation in the Logic: We are existentially beginning at a point far beyond where the Logic begins. We are by the fact of what we are, self-conscious thinkers, capable in ways these lower elements of the investigation themselves explicitly are not. This is also a truth we find in the Phenomenology of Spirit, where likewise we operate with capacities which lower forms of consciousness are simply not equipped to ever conceive or perhaps even come to awareness. Therefore, a key question implicit in this beginning, how we go from indeterminacy to determinacy, will be answered by an existentially determinate capacity — we are not limited to indeterminacy in action even if explicitly we do not call upon it. The capacity of thought is already a determinate capacity, and its power to conceive will be necessarily in use. This power at its most basic can be termed absolute negativity, the capacity to abstract without limit which by implication of its absoluteness determines it as self-operating in that thinking can think of itself.

We can perfectly explain how we arrive at Being is Nothing without making any unwarranted explicit leaps in the thought process by simply using the full capacities of thinking as such in its implicit functions. We must remember: at the outset we do not even know what thought or thinking as such are, let alone how they should function. The only way to find out is to carry out the task of thinking in its purity, and being that we presuppose nothing the only thing to do is to let thought think with the stricture of its self-abstraction. Thinking, being determinate, will operate determinately and determiningly without need of our awareness or comprehension of it.

We can discard with Being and Nothing and just as well speak of Thought and Thinking and still retain the problem at hand: there is a difference that immanently is no difference between thought and thinking, immediately they are recollected in immediacy, but we know that both are true because we know one is the immediacy of observation and the other of action. The indifference lies in that each concept simply falls into the other immediately, and this we find fully intelligible in that we do it in simply thinking these thoughts. However, we are struck by not knowing the intelligibility of the immediate difference within or between each despite the fact that we do make a difference. The difference is an inescapable practical reversal in the movement of absolute cognition exhausting all of its practical capacities: it can engage and it can stand back. Being appears to that which stands back (thought), Nothing to that which steps in (thinking). As noted, thinking already works determinately, so despite the intent of absolute immediacy it is already mediated, and despite the intent of indeterminacy, it is already determinate as indeterminate. The issue, to repeat, about the confusion of the beginning is precisely that the whole operation of thought works implicitly in determinate distinction such that Being is treated as existence (determinacy), Nothing as its absence (indeterminacy), but we cannot explicitly recognize this at the beginning.

This is the ruse, a ruse which after thinking through (never did I think it so much) now appears as not a ruse on us by Hegel, but by ourselves. The beginning works as the indeterminate coming to be determinate only explicitly, determinateness was always already there implicitly, and as Hegel repeats endlessly, we can only bring to explicit light that which is already there implicitly in action. Therefore, you are right of being a skeptic of the indeterminate and immediate beginning, the presuppositionless beginning. I return to my original point: Hegel is indeed presuppositionless explicitly, but the absolute has always aready been there in the process and it is we who are the fools to think we can get rid of its action even if we blind ourselves to preconception. Indeed, the think the indeterminate is not possible for the indeterminate as such, just as in the Phenomenology no form of consciousness can transcend itself if it does not already posses in its power absolute knowing.

==========Individual vs State=========

I feel that I understand your worries of totality and the importance of the Other. Unfortunately, I think it’s a bit of a romanticizing which given your political leaning is not unexpected to find in your theory.

On the individual vs totality, I think the fear here comes from two spooky considerations: the state and the Universal. The state is sacred to Hegel just as Spirit is sacred, and the Universal is sacred—sacred because they are quite literally holy as whole. The state is, for Hegel, the reality of an explicit community open before itself in its own universality. Prior to the life of a state there is a community, there is a Spirit, and the state is there implicitly already. All communities have norms, have rules, have an ethical life which, even if not codified in explicit statements open to the view of all, is nonetheless most definitely there in the very actions of that community’s members toward each other. Since the state is this unity of an entire way of life, the state as community is the basis which generates individuals and is regenerated by them, were we to negate the state and literally dissolve society, the obvious meaning of this is that we will have dissolved our own individuality and destroyed our own Spirit as community. The very ground of the human, its society, is taken from under them and they revert back to a simple animal (e.g. feral children). As a communist you should explicitly value this. Perhaps Hegel may be criticized for speaking of this from the view of some particular state, but according to his own logic the real crime here is for the fall of a type of state in which a higher culture and Spirit will be lost to the seas of history in a dark age, and thus the individual too will regress in that lower society to something less than what had been achieved prior. We cheer for the revolution which advances freedom’s reality, not for the one that regresses us to barbaric times and ideas.

=====On Barbarism in History==========

Of course, your mention of imperialism and conquest, genocide even, of other peoples is certainly a concern. It takes a most cold and purposefully disinterested view of history to claim much of what Hegel claims… and yet even when I considered myself mostly a Marxist I think things become apparent about certain realities which do not necessarily justify the horrors of reality in a moral sense, but explain it in an intelligible sense. When Marx says that all that is solid melts into air, and that capitalism’s historical mission was to reshape the entire globe in its image according to its own logic, the logic which ingrains itself to a peculiar culture and to a peculiar individual that enacts its self-expansion, was this not a mere poetic prophecy, but a prosaic statement of the being of this very power above us in history? Is not capital necessary for the material advancement of life? It seems it is, regardless of private or state capital. The enslavement of humanity to this moment of need is unfortunate, the existent horror something most cannot even look at, the unhinged logic of an abstract universality concentrated in deranged individuals serving but this abstract principle, and yet is this not the reality of history on the grand scale regardless of how we look at it? Is conquest not a progress? Certainly not for those individuals afflicted, but what of humanity? I am from Honduras, a state in ruins. First it was the natives conquering each other, then it was the Spaniards, then it was the US, now it is in addition a war of state vs gangs, etc. Should I grieve for a past people I feel and know no connection to, whose culture even if preserved is not really a culture that lives now? Should I reject the Americans, the Germans, the West in general, for having brought to being some of the greatest luminaries of humanity in the midst of a rape of the world and my people? I can certainly hate them for my life predicament in many ways, but that the West has a way of life and ideals which I would die for is unquestionable. Freedom is not something I will give up, those cultures be damned. Now, I think that if we were fully recognitive in explicitude we couldn’t do what we do to others regardless of their backwardness, but Hegel’s points about not grieving the disappearance of backwards people is simply a logical truth. Nobody rational grieves for the reality of the old ethical life prior to modernity, only for moments of it which we wish we had.

As for the bloody march of history, isn’t it an expected logical conclusion that when this material power is mixed with grandiose or base ambition that all society shakes and trembles under such a boot? And is not such a base ambition born not just of character but of ideal? Does it not, then, come to pass that of historical necessity this is the exact reality: that conquerors found states and institutions, that states unify and homogenize their people, that in the Spirit of the founding is the Spirit of the people, and that these states immanently live and die in the logic of their own contradiction? Should it then surprise us that this mix is not just possible, but actual? That individuals concretize an entire mass of will under their command and as one lead nations to war when interest and ideals collide? Is war not the ultimate sensuous reality of the logic of the other, not as unknown, but as opposed absolutely? To die for an ideal is to die in service of an absolute for us of which no denial or relinquishing is possible. While the boots on the ground may buy a story about an absolute of freedom, the pens in the office tell a story about the absolute of capital. Of course, the winner is not just the one willing to die for ideal, but with the means to kill and survive the opponent.

Ah, but what of those who weren’t founded by conquest? What of those like the Iroquois who seem to finally have recognized each other and come together? They certainly exist, but existence itself is historically of no virtue. The world spirits are those that lead, and we are being led by a train heading towards a cliff—alas, the strong in ethic, will, and charisma are not yet in our camp as champions. —By the way, Simon Bolivar certainly did not see himself as living any common life. He was from nobility and schooled by a radical who veered close to anarchism in many ways. It is this teacher which put him on the path of the vision not just to free Latin America, but with a resolute purpose to found a nation that would rival the United States and not be bullied by external powers. The man had the charisma of Napoleon and the heart of Robespierre, but the aim of a state with the spoken ideals of the US.

As some see it, we humans are adolescents coming to grips with the consequences of mistaking freedom. Who is there, what is there, that could teach us but our own wretched experience? An experience where we have committed and commit collective monstrosities under the guise that something else requires us to do it, under the false pretenses of individuals who care nothing for others and only for themselves. How is this other ever to be recognized without the turn toward ourselves, a turn in which you and I know as individuals partaking in elucidating ideas we have a part, but are hardly the determining part unless we happen to spark an unseen gas. The problems of society aren’t solved with individual reflections, but a whole social movement, and as Hegel and Marx note, history up to now has been a tail that has wagged the dog. The shift to what succeeds capital without stepping back on freedom requires something new and immensely difficult, the self-reflection of a society which understands its position, problem, and determines consciously to meld the solution to the crumbling house in the walls and beams of society itself, in its institutions, in the message of purpose it presents for and to itself.

=====Otherness and recognition=======

There is someone whose works I like despite deep disagreement with their interpretation of Hegel, that is Jay Bernstein. In one of his lectures on recognition he brings up part of this bit about the other. In one it is a point about ‘misrecognition’ which is a popular notion these days, and how American black slaves were and are, according to some, ‘misrecognized’ as an other. Along with Bernstein, I say that’s bullshit. The way we treat these Others is not in fact how one really treats a genuine Other presence. We don’t misrecognize people, it’s not their otherness, it’s the reflection of the negativity we hide in ourselves and which we project onto them. We tell ourselves lies in order that we don’t have to recognize any positivity in them, to hide from ourselves the reality of our own atrocities. Misrecognition on a grand systematic scale is done on purpose, and on the personal case it is done also by purpose hidden in an upbringing which dehumanizes a target.

Were we to meet a genuine Other, and this is just my own musing by the way (conceptually and in example), we’d be talking about meeting a being(s) who exceed our own capacities. A being to whom reason is not limited to our forms, to whom sense is not limited to our forms, and with whom as such we can pretend to have no possible way to truly communicate in a universal discourse of any kind with regard to that which is beyond us and which subsumes us. Of course, to us this being is truly an Other, unthinkable, inconceivable no matter how we play about conceiving it and interacting with it. It would be a being that baffles us in action and in spirit. It would, to use the tantalizing term, really be alien. Certainly the proper life instinct towards the genuine Other is cautious fear precisely in its unknown reality. The other is of course cautious curiosity in attempting to know it.

=========Indeterminacy As Excess========

On indeterminacy as excess against determinacy, the analogy is perfectly right. But now here you fall into a trap: you mistake epistemic indeterminacy for ontological indeterminacy. Phenomenally I’m perfectly comfortable, more than the average person, that reality is more than what appears to us so immediately. But that things do not immediately appear at all is not to say that they are not there, and therefore are already not determinate in their reality. The excess is inconsequential to the Absolute, since it is fundamentally about the total self-determination of thought. On the real philosophy side as opposed to the purely theoretical side of the Logic, Hegel himself is entirely open, especially with the Philosophy of Nature, that the relations and orders of Nature can and will be revealed as not being what we think on the theoretical side. This is why his use of just about everything is in fact provisional. As he cheekily notes, to paraphrase: Even if we were wrong about the empirical determinations that correlate with the concepts we generate, the concepts themselves are true. Perhaps he is wrong that the concept of time corresponds to the empirical reality we call time, but the movement of thought which occurs as the concept of time is for itself true and we should call it something else if need be. So, we can be wrong. We can be wrong about the empirical relation, we can be wrong about how many mediating steps there are in what we wish to talk about, we can be wrong about a lot of things. What we can’t be wrong about is how these thoughts immanently relate to each other.

So, could there be other modes of as of yet unknown sensibility? Absolutely. Do we have any reason to posit such and could we know what they are without any experience of it from ourselves or someone else who can communicate something about it? No. This indeterminate excess, this genuine other, is for us only a nothing, an indeterminacy brought to attention. And note that excess is in relation to us, the mere possibility which can only intelligibly be grounded on our actuality. It is entirely a subjective fancy to dream up that there is the undreamable, just as Lovecraft crafted his horrors in negations and the fear of the inscrutable unknown which is utterly indifferent to us as dirt is to our shoes.

***New Comments***

me…

I wanted to respond to the post on love which you published here – https://epochemagazine.org/better-to-have-loved-lost-recognition-love-and-self-211a3948f281.  I find the observations you make about love as the result of practical wisdom.  Personally, I would not lay the Hegelian grid over the very important and mature lessons one needs to learn to have a successful older age, an in my opinion a successful life.  Many never learn these lessons: recognition, desire, abstract and concrete love, self-love (and self-esteem), love for the other (I would also include Other – more on that later) and the ‘better to have loved than never to have loved at all’ which to me translates to ‘to be or not to be– that is not the question – the question is what shall we make of the Other’.  I understand perfectly how negation can apply in all the cases you cited.  ‘Negation’ in these cases meaning notions similar to what I might think as projection, need, sensual pleasure, recognition by the other which always fails, etc.. 

However, where I think these dialectics fail is a case you did not mention – what the ancient Greeks had the unique word for – agápe.  Agápe is unconditional love like the love a parent has for a child.  All the ‘negations’ or pitfalls along the way that you mention can derail a person such that are incapable of agápe when they have children.  In turn, this dysfunctionality can result in children that have barriers set up to their mature and full development in the ways of love.  Of course, Freud and Lacan both deal with these psychological pitfalls but I prefer Lacan to Freud.

For a child to develop in infancy it needs mirroring, first by the mother according to Lacan (although I am not convinced others cannot fill this role in infancy).  First, a few things about Lacan.  For Lacan, the unconscious is language.  Language is not private or personal but collective, cultural, social, historical, etc..  For Lacan there is a tripartite: Imaginary, Symbolic and Real.  The imaginary is the root of meaning, semantic or what we might generally think of as consciousness.  The symbolic is not conscious, it is the linguistic writing of the unconscious, the syntax, constituted by mutual differences.  For Lacan the symbolic is the radical alterity of the Other – for me the he or the she.  For Lacan the real is an ontological absolute or what Hegel would call the being-for-itself.  All the parallelisms you name, Being and Nothing, form and content, appearance and essence, thought and thinking, etc. are regions of the symbolic not the real.  The real is undifferentiated.  It is outside language and absolutely resists symbolization.  It is impossible to imagine and impossible to attain.  It cannot be mediated and therefore is the locus of absolute anxiety. 

With regard to Desire, Lacan distinguishes need from demand.  Need is the desire for recognition from the other.  Demand both articulates need and the demand for love.  For Lacan, the demand for love is the need to receive agápe – unconditional love.  For me, all of the dynamics you refer to in your post fall under the rubric of Lacan’s notion of Desire. 

If a child fails to get mirroring in infancy and fails to integrate transitional objects into its reality, the child will likely have a lifelong problem connecting words and thoughts to meaning.  If the child cannot name objects in the world and have them correspond to meaning, intense anxiety is the result.  Remember the real is undifferentiated and coupled with the child’s inability to differentiate, to connect, to verbalize, to relate the imaginary to the non-present-able symbolic results in the basis of anxiety.  When semantic cannot find syntax it flounders in the horrific real which can never come to conscious or unconscious. 

For me, as I understand Levinas, the symbolic is the retreat from the face of the Other, the he or the she.  The he or the she is the real.  However, by real I mean the radical alterity of their infinity which faces us.  Their otherness is taken as horror, as alien, by ontology.  The retreat from the he or the she as transcendent to me, to my past, my temporality, my imagination, forms the basis of what Levinas calls the ‘said’.  The ‘said’ is the locus of language and history.  It is the dread of the scene of writing in Blanchot, the il y a. The said is the mechanical and monstrous repetition of what Hegel referred to as the negation of the idea to the thing – the thing can never appear in itself as alienated and also ontologically ‘present’ (e.g., as if in some metaphysical sense).  So the idea is a phantasm of the thing.  The idea supplants the thing in a ghostly form just as imagination for Lacan holds the place of the symbolic, the conscious supplants the unconsciousness.  Juxtaposed to the said is the saying, the other that faces us and speaks to us.  Just as with the thing – we must supplicate, supplant, the he or she with the idea, with language, with phantasma.  In so doing, we replicate the violence of murder for Levinas.  We violate the commandment against murder, vis a vis our passivity beyond all passivity to the infinity of the Other.  This why I think of the Concept, the Idea, the Notion in Hegel as a reification of the absoluteness of the said.  This is why Hegelian idea-ology has been utilized by both fascist and communists.  The said is replication.  Replication can be manipulated and thus, the imaginary, the semantic, can be determinate as violence, ambition, power. 

Let me back up at this point and give you my personal idea concerning agápe – giving unconditional love for a child.   If a person can make it through all the pitfalls of love that you explicated, they may be lucky enough to encounter a Desire which is not based on need and the demand for love as reception in the Lacanian sense.  It is still a Desire but it is an absolute Desire for the good of the Other – even against my need or my demand – even if it destroys me to benefit the Other, the child.  Unconditional love is Desire which we  consciously know with absolute certainty that it will never be fulfilled but counts that as nothing in regard to the Other, the he or the she, the child.  Unconditional love lays down its life for the Other, turns the check, accepts abuse without recourse to anger and retribution – to murder.  This, I and Levinas, call Ethics.  It cannot be supplanted by violence as violence goes against its absolute constitution.  It is always for the Other over against my fears, my imaginations, even my ontological concerns for Being, for my being, my temporality, my past. 

One practical example of how this plays out is my experience when I occasionally would lose patience with my child.  I could never be simply angry with my child even if I was the object of abuse.  Any feeling of anger was always and immediately mediated by pain for my child.  Even after the horrific and tragic suicide of my son I have felt anger as to how could he do this to me, how could he rob me of my pride and joy for his future – for our future – even with that anger it always comes with mediation, with pain, with essential concern for him.  I cannot languish in anger only in pain, a ‘full’ pain for him, for what he must have feared that drove him to such an extreme act.  Now, what I have left with regard to the presence of my son is his absence and the presence of pain, deep – beyond my ability – beyond my able to be able – to be ultimately vulnerable to Chris…but honestly, if that is all I have left, as far as presence, with Chris – I will take that with the fullness of his once upon my time with his diachronous time.  My eternal hurt and my pain pale to the radical infinity, the alterity, that was/is my son, my Chris.  I will take the debt I owe him for his Otherness to my grave and count it as the basis of the highest, the best, the most beautiful which imagination could and never can, by essence, discover.  Because of unconditional love for the Other, my son, I have found contentment even in the most painful loss anyone could ever imagination.  I think this is the essence of what Levinas calls Ethics.

Zizek, Hegel, Possibility

This is why the Hegelian ‘loss of the loss’ is definitively not the return to a full identity, lacking nothing. the ‘loss of the loss’ is the moment in which loss ceases to be the loss of ‘something’ and becomes the opening of the empty place that the object (‘something’) can occupy, the moment in which the empty place is conceived as prior to that which fills it – the loss opens up a space for the appearance of the object. In the ‘loss of the loss’, the loss remains a loss, it is not ‘cancelled’ in the ordinary sense: the regained ‘positivity’ is that of the loss as such, the experience of loss as a ‘positive’, indeed ‘productive’, condition.

Would it not be possible to define the final moment of the analytic process, the passe, as precisely this experience of the ‘positive’ character of loss, of the original void filled by the dazzling and fascinating experience of the fantasmatic object, the experience that the object as such, in its fundamental dimension, is the positivization of a void? Is this not the traversing of the fantasy, this experience of the priority of place in relation to the fantasmatic object, in the moment when, recalling the formula of Mallarmé, ‘nothing takes place but the place’?

In the field of philosophy, Hegelian Absolute Knowledge – and perhaps only Hegelian Absolute Knowledge – designates the same subjective position, that of the traversing of the fantasy, the post-fantasmatic relationship to the object, the experience of the lack in the Other. Perhaps the unique status of Hegelian Absolute Knowledge is due to the question that can be posed to proponents of the so-called ‘post-Hegelian inversion’, whether the likes of Marx or Schelling: is this ‘inversion’ not, in the last resort, a flight in the face of the unbearability of the Hegelian procedure? The price of their ‘inversion’ seems to be a reading of Hegel that is totally blind to the dimension evoked by the traversing of the fantasy and the lack in the Other: in this reading. Absolute Knowledge becomes the culminating moment of so-called ‘idealist panlogicism’, against which one is able, of course, to affirm without any problem the ‘process of effective life’.

The Most Sublime of Hysterics: Hegel with Lacan, Slavoj Zizek

The conception of the self (ego) as identical with, yet threatened by and aggressive toward, the other (specular image) is at bottom alienation pure and simple; seeing him or herself as the other and other as self makes the very notion of selfhood one typified by a perpetual oscillation between projection and assimilation. The self and other are thus two sides of the same process, at the heart of which is alienation; they are mutually dependent on each other for their definitions, imaginatively existing while in reality merely ex-sisting: “The ego and the counterpart form the prototypical dual relationship, and are interchangeable. This relationship whereby the ego is constituted by identification with the little other means that the ego, and the imaginary order itself, are both sites of a radical alienation” (Evans 82). As Lacan says, although in an inversion of terms which reveals the mutually constitutive relationship of alienation to the imaginary, “alienation is constitutive of the imaginary order” (qtd. in Evans 82). Alienation, the ability to think the self as other and the other as self is thus the defining feature of the I, the basis for the fantasy of selfhood.

Returning thus to desire as a constitutive feature of human existence, we find a ready expression of how the desire for the other’s desire functions in the mirror stage. As I have shown above, the infant enters the imaginary through a process of identification with a specular image, an “other” with which it longs to be identified. The essential component to such identification, however (and the aspect that renders it impossible), is the necessity for the other similarly to desire identification with the infant. This desire for the other’s desire is not a simple matter of mutual desire such as that experienced in erotic love, but a more all-encompassing demand for total recognition; the infant wants not some part (however large) of the other’s desire, but all of it – he or she wants to be the be-all and end-all of the other’s desire. The impossibility of such a total identification is what keeps subjectivity moving from object to object in its quest for an object that will represent and capture the other’s desire and by possession of which the individual can absorb and utterly subjugate the other’s desire. Most simply put, desire is always a desire for the other’s desire; only the other’s desire for a given object transforms it from an object of demand or need into one of desire.

A Very Brief Introduction to Lacan, Prepared by Professor Stephen Ross

It seems to me that there is a play of differences in the way Zizek thinks of Hegel and the way the “post-Hegelian inversion” of “idealist panlogicism” would think of Hegel. If we think of the latter as the final move of Concept that loses contingencies from being and essence, truly the ‘concrete universal’ (asymptotic as abstract universality but concretized by taking full account of particularities), then the stated thesis eliminates the possibility for criticism and lays hold of the claim for presupposition-less. The concrete universal cannot be lacking. Otherwise, it would not be concrete; it would be abstract. By definition, the Concept as concrete universal must be self-determined. If it is not self-determined it would not be concrete. A tautology is hidden in this formula that must, of necessity, be true. If a concrete universal means that all contingencies are taken account of in the sublation of the Concept then an argument against the concreteness of the universal only proves what it would criticize – that the argument is already taken account of in the earlier movements of Spirit (being, essence). This also proves the presupposition-less claim that presuppositions are not dismissed but accounted for; therefore, there are no presuppositions. This is a ‘check mate’ of Spirit.

Many critiques against the pan logicians including Zizek’s Hegelian reading are already interior to the argument and can only result in a misunderstanding of latter moves. Thus, Zizek must have attributed a foundationalism to Hegel’s moment of negation that refuses the move into the resolution of oppositions, resolution not as some kind of new-age’y, mush of unity but as holding terms in their distinctness together. Thus the lack created by the loss of the phantasm of the object stops short of the culmination of the self in the object and the object in the self. Even from Lacan the self as mirrored from image, the specular, is the fantasm of object. Therefore, the lack in object and final depletion of desire, aggression; fantasm, is simultaneously the end of the spectacle. The self-object as master-slave dies and, according to the Concept, is resurrected in its final unity (which is all it ever really was). Thus, the negation gives way to inevitability, the final state of completion and therefore, self-determination. The critique of Zizek has been taken hold of and accounted for; Zizek no longer has to reify loss but let it pass into its natural death to find its completion in Concept.

This illustrates the impossibility of falsifying tautology. Critiques from psychology whether individual or sociological; political whether bourgeois or materialistic; philosophical whether categorical, empirical, existential or nihilistic; religious and mystical will always be taken already into account by the concretized absolute power of tautology. To criticize Hegel is tantamount to suggesting that true is false for pan-Logic. To think the concrete absolute is not concrete is to affirm that the concrete universal ‘is’. In this then the Concept has emancipated itself.

The emancipation of the Concept certainly does acquire the sure footing of self-sufficiency. It completes the lack of self and object (specular) in itself. The completion is not a lack but a fullness; the subject and object complete themselves in each other. Therefore, the lack is regarded as only a negative step along the way to Concept. The final Concept is not the final solution, the foundationalism of violence, otherwise it would not be universal. The concrete universal must contain all individual objections and contingencies as moments of hierarchy. The tautological seal must be all inclusive for the Concept to be what it is. -In this then has the authentic notion of tautology been universalized. When tautology is universal and concrete it must, by definition, provide a hermeneutic for any excess. Even more so, there is no ‘excess’ to Concept, no exteriority, as that would defy itself; the excess of Being and Essence IS Concept.

The possibility for no excess to Concept is impossible. If there truly is no excess, the possibility cannot exist, have essence or be thought…and yet, it ‘is’. Existentially, the absolute impossibility of the possibility of excess to the Concept exists (exits). It may be fantasm that the pan logicians must perpetually defend against. It may already be taken hold of in earlier movements of Spirit but how could it be if it is what it is?

Let’s recapitulate, the possibility referred to here is not a contingent claim against the Concept but a universal claim against the concrete universal – the possibility of excess to ‘concrete’ universality. Of course, the logical play is that would not be universal but abstract universality. Thus, to speculate that there is a possibility for excess to ‘concrete’ universality is to misunderstand the tautological definition of concrete universal. This ‘misunderstanding’ contradicts the defining ‘definition’ and therefore cannot be allowed. To allow it would be to allow nonsense, chaos, contradiction…perhaps what may be meant as existence?…poetry?…the supplement of writing? Is there a ‘concrete’ existence that is not taken account of by the pan logicians? Perhaps the moment of Being exceeds the contingency of Being without arriving at Concept. There may be lack in the notion of existence that topples the triads of the Logic. “Ah”, you say, “but that then would not be existence because existence would have to take hold of chaos (apeiron (πειρον) – unlimited, infinite or indefinite from – a-, “without” and περαρ peirar, “end, limit”, the Ionic Greek form of πέρας peras, “end, limit, boundary”).”

Could the alpha-privative of limit, form, Concept already have been thought of at the beginning as the (Hegelian) end? Wouldn’t this turn the whole notion of progress, world historical Spirit, on its head? Why would it not be possible to turn the Hegelian tautology on its head and think of chaos (and contingency) not as a moment of Concept but Concept as a moment of chaos?

In thinking of the chaotic thought of excess not as abstracted from the concrete but as exceeding the concrete (henceforth the Possibility) we may have tried to think the sublimely ridiculous but we may also have stumbled back into existence not as a moment of Concept but as an excess of Concept. To suggest that the thought is absurd (ever heard of Kierkegaard) is not to extinguish its ridiculousness but merely to ignore it. The Possibility may take on all the adjectives of disdain, derision, improper, profane and unholy but nevertheless, even a Hegelian, could not deny that it COULD be posed (in all its horror and lunacy). This positing would then be an exteriority- perhaps a bastard exteriority as Chaos and Eros (neither divine nor mortal but a bastard) for Hesiod but nevertheless, an exteriority.

The impossibility of this exteriority may inherit all the moral indignations that it deservedly acquires from pan-Logic but Possibility must exist as a bastard. The ‘must exist’ not of subjugated moment but as circumscription of Concept may be Hesiod’s chaos. In Possibility, Concept may be but a moment albeit an eternal moment. Tautology would thus not be contradicted but in the possibility of the im-possibility of this otherness, the thought that can’t be, allowed to be, even thought; -the secret that cannot be uttered, the Other that cannot be faced – it undoes me and Concept(s). Perhaps in this undoing, absolutely chaotic passivity, anarchy; there may be something as Ethics – the need to act from the other that faces me in his or her im-Possibility. Of course, I know that all this can be re-appropriated into its proper ‘place’, its bare nakedness as Possibility can be thought as what it is ‘not’ or as what it should be or really ‘is’ but that would not think the thought as given but as what could be accounted for, what it really could be. This ‘real’ turns on the necessity of the Concept not the idea given by Possibility. Thus the materiality of the idea is transformed into its ideal. The eternal question that must reoccur is the violence of the ‘same’ – the totality of the Concept.

It may be that Possibility can be just as archaic and violent not as unifying violence but as tearing down violence (mystification). It may be that Possibility may throw out Ethics just as likely as it would include it. Violence in this case would be an overtaking of the other, the other that cannot be allowed, that must be mastered in order for the self to survive and thrive. It may be that Possibility would re-enact the fantasm of object; even more, give it unrestricted license. Agreed, Possibility is not bonded to Ethics. It may be that Possibility is the ‘rabbit hole’ of Alice. These objections do not take away Possibility although they do try to give it place. However, its place-less-ness remains; it’s excess to place. It is just as likely and historically, probably much more likely, that the bastardization of Concept can take its leave of Ethics. I know that the true Hegelian would protest that this is not the true Concept as a Christian would proclaim that the true Christ is not the Christ of the Crusades. Nevertheless, the profanity of the Concept has occurred in history and will occur again. The rubric of the proper has always held the potential for mass im-properness (Foucault). It may be that when the improper profanity of Concept is fueled by the fire of concrete absolutism, a kind of ‘no exit’ from Concept increases the passion of extremism to the infinite (a negative Kierkegaard theology). There certainly seems to be a historical circularity of the impossibility of the canonical text, concrete universality, as Derrida may point out. However, the trace may be the Concept’s impossible repeatability as ‘pure’, -each repetition is condemned to fail from its own infinite insistence of itself. In this case, Possibility may restrain the fanaticism of the play of Concept. Possibility then would not, could not ever be eternal or mortal but an interlude that humanizes in the shadow of Concept.

 

 

Another Start? (Updated 3/28/11, comments)

Why must Hegel’s Logic start with freedom? Freedom is not presupposition-less. Freedom means free. Free assumes a move away, a compulsion for dunamis; not dunamis for the sake of dunamis but dunamis as repulsion or attraction. Hegel thinks freedom as immediacy, ‘isness’. Because of freedom, immediacy wants what ‘isness’ isn’t – mediation. Two terms have appeared: freedom, ‘isness’ (immediacy). These two work together to lose themselves, objectify, mediate. ‘Isness’ is a rootedness, a dwelling, a place. As Kant’s monistic subject, we have place, immediacy. Immediacy may be boundless or bounded but it assumes locality and awareness of locality. It is easy to see how things proceed from this ‘there’, the ‘there’ of immediacy. In any case, assumptions are made about ‘isness’ (i.e., ‘isness’ must be free of itself). Since we make this assumption at the start, why not another? Instead of freedom, why not evocation? Instead of ‘isness’, why not other? Why can’t ‘isness’ presuppose other, the evocative that evokes ‘isness’? Why can’t evocation call ‘isness’ to immediacy? Why couldn’t freedom be a misunderstanding of evocation, dunamis from evocation? Certainly immediacy ‘is’ and as such, a start. However, this start may carry with it its logos. Its arche is certainly self-determination, itself. Could self-determination be an assumption given as a determination of immediacy? Are there other determinations that could be made? Would another direction, a logos, be possible from an other determination? Certainly an other does not appear in immediacy but how could it (and still be other in Levinas’ sense)? What determinations could be sustained if immediacy is ‘isness’ or ‘otherness’? Certainly ‘isness’ comes from nothing other than itself in its “pure immediacy” but “nothing other than itself” is already a tautological identity based on the “nothing other”. “Pure immediacy” absolutely negates other. Within this arche the other must fall out as mediated, as ad hoc from immediacy. Immediacy is pure negation. All its conditions reside in itself and thus, fail. Is this what is called ‘freedom’ or the impetus for freedom? What if all the conditions for immediacy reside in the other and ‘isness’ is called to be from what it isn’t? Is this a presupposition or another initial determination? Why presuppose a self-determination based on a ‘sense’ of immediacy? Is this automatically apparent, aprioir, assumed without self-criticism? If the Hegelian start is made by assuming that immediacy is self-determined, feels empty of other, then a decision, a determination, in kairos has been made. It may be that the moment of kairos, thought as immediacy, holds other options that require a very different ‘working out’, another start.

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9/10/10

Does the reification of the immediate reflect a certain kind of privileged, existentiell ‘there’ of being? Isn’t the start of Hegel a certain kind of mode of dasein’s being-in-the-world? Isn’t it when dasein is introspective, aware of nothing other than his or her own stark existence? Immediacy as discussed by Hegel occurs when no one is around, when one is intensely focused on oneself, and dasein is isolated from others. I suppose one could maintain that this stark, isolated, existentiell modality is ‘always’ there in some sense but that is a bit of a stretch.(1) Could it be that this thought is a ‘scientific’ assertion (doxa) of how dasein really is? When dasein is with others (mitsein) the ‘there’ is not dominated by hermetic and hermeneutic isolation (unless one is depressed). In everyday interaction with others, attending plays or sports events and perhaps watching a live entertainment broadcast, dasein is immersed in a kind of shared moment, a communal ‘now’, with others. Ontically, the “I” does not show itself but the “we”. The “I” does not dominate existentielly. The experience is not like anxiety where beings withdraw or instrumentality where dasein is engaged in work and not over and above him/herself. The experience is of a kind of shared ‘I’, a ‘we’, with others, the ‘now’ moment (immediacy) is not mine but ours. It seems to me that the kind of privileged (the beginning of the Logic?) and self-absorbed immediacy of Hegel is reified over and against the other ways that dasein ontically is in-the-world. What is the self-critical justification for this start? Is this a tradition brought about by the hermetic environment of academia? It seems to me that Hegel assumes immediacy is the moment of moments that all other moments get their oxygen from at least in the rarified atmosphere of academia. Has anyone ever even questioned this specifically? Probably but I am not currently aware of it. It seems to me that the start determines the path and the end. Why this start and not another? Is Hegel’s start supposed to be self-evident? (2)

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Notes:

(1) A thought…could the immediacy of Hegel have something in common with the concept of dread in Kierkegaard?

(2) It seems to me, this is yet another example of the sophistry that enters philosophy when philosophers become ‘professional’ and are paid for their ‘career’. It conglomerates and congeals, stupefies and specializes into a lifetime of having a financial stake in the game of apologetics. Sadly, I have seen it ruin the love of philosophy in several people. Could it be argued that this is one example of the alienation that Marx thinks is capitalism?

Responsibility and The Goods

In the light of multiple narratives that run through the notion of the good, responsibility takes on different necessities.  In Patocka’s notion of orgiastic and Kierkegaard’s notion of hedonism, responsibility is defined in terms of service to self.  Responsibility is not imposed externally but driven by needs.  It adheres to no logic or nothing greater than itself. 

In Plato, the Good is ascertained by logos as the apprehension of the Forms, later into Christianity’s res cogitans of Latin, and modern logic as thing-cognition.  The shadow world of mere passion is not informed by the Good, the true, the real beyond mere appearance.  In Plato a shift to cognition achieves two goals.  It moves responsibility to a more subtle footing of thought, a move towards the internal.  It also has the effect of moving responsibility outside, external, to the mere immediate desires of the self.  This double move of internal and external is the beginning of logic.  As Derrida points out in “The Gift of Death”, this is still the orgiastic. 

The orgiastic is no longer thought in terms of overt passion or need but the organ of cognition is essentially involved in the knowledge of the Good.  A connection to the Good has moved from sensation to apprehension.  Apprehension is towards the alterity of the Forms.  Its movement is towards externality while maintaining its internal locus in thought-feelings.  For Patocka and Derrida this is still orgiastic albeit the beginning of the movement of secret.  As such, it is also the step towards preservation of sanity as Foucault envisions it.  The sane is common to many selves.  It is constancy of purpose; as Nietzsche thinks of it, the freezing of the greatness of the Greeks into logic. 

Responsibility begins with Plato as beyond me, directed towards the Forms.  The Good is beyond being but places a burden on being to rouse itself (themselves) in apprehension.  Each being is responsible before the evocation of the Good whether he or she knows it or not.  The cave of shadows holds prisoners in chains to illusion while outside the cave the sun of the Good shines upon the prison of being.  Plato states this in the Republic,

You and I must first come to an understanding. Let me remind you of what I have mentioned in the course of this discussion, and at many other times.

What?

The old story, that there is many a beautiful and many a good, and so of other things which we describe and define; to all of them the term “many” is implied.

True, he said.

And there is an absolute beauty and an absolute good, and of other things to which the term “many” is applied there is an absolute; for they may be brought under a single idea, which is called the essence of each.

Very true.

The many, as we say, are seen but not known, and the ideas are known but not seen.

Exactly.

And what is the organ with which we see the visible things?

The sight, he said.

And with the hearing, I said, we hear, and with the other senses perceive the other objects of sense?

True.

But have you remarked that sight is by far the most costly and complex piece of workmanship which the artificer of the senses ever contrived?

No, I never have, he said.

Then reflect: has the ear or voice need of any third or additional nature in order that the one may be able to hear and the other to be heard?

Nothing of the sort.

No, indeed, I replied; and the same is true of most, if not all, the other senses — you would not say that any of them requires such an addition?

Certainly not.

But you see that without the addition of some other nature there is no seeing or being seen?

How do you mean?

Sight being, as I conceive, in the eyes, and he who has eyes wanting to see; color being also present in them, still unless there be a third nature specially adapted to the purpose, the owner of the eyes will see nothing and the colors will be invisible.

Of what nature are you speaking?

Of that which you term light, I replied.

True, he said.

Noble, then, is the bond which links together sight and visibility, and great beyond other bonds by no small difference of nature; for light is their bond, and light is no ignoble thing?

Nay, he said, the reverse of ignoble.

And which, I said, of the gods in heaven would you say was the lord of this element? Whose is that light which makes the eye to see perfectly and the visible to appear?

You mean the sun, as you and all mankind say.

May not the relation of sight to this deity be described as follows?

How?

Neither sight nor the eye in which sight resides is the sun?

No.

Yet of all the organs of sense the eye is the most like the sun?

By far the most like.

And the power which the eye possesses is a sort of effluence which is dispensed from the sun?

Exactly.

Then the sun is not sight, but the author of sight who is recognized by sight?

True, he said.

And this is he whom I call the child of the good, whom the good begat in his own likeness, to be in the visible world, in relation to sight and the things of sight, what the good is in the intellectual world in relation to mind and the things of mind:

 

Will you be a little more explicit? he said.

Why, you know, I said, that the eyes, when a person directs them toward objects on which the light of day is no longer shining, but the moon and stars only, see dimly, and are nearly blind; they seem to have no clearness of vision in them?

Very true.

But when they are directed toward objects on which the sun shines, they see clearly and there is sight in them?

Certainly.

And the soul is like the eye: when resting upon that on which truth and being shine, the soul perceives and understands, and is radiant with intelligence; but when turned toward the twilight of becoming and perishing, then she has opinion only, and goes blinking about, and is first of one opinion and then of another, and seems to have no intelligence?

Just so.

Now, that which imparts truth to the known and the power of knowing to the knower is what I would have you term the idea of good, and this you will deem to be the cause of science, and of truth in so far as the latter becomes the subject of knowledge; beautiful too, as are both truth and knowledge, you will be right in esteeming this other nature as more beautiful than either; and, as in the previous instance, light and sight may be truly said to be like the sun, and yet not to be the sun, so in this other sphere, science and truth may be deemed to be like the good, but not the good; the good has a place of honor yet higher.

What a wonder of beauty that must be, he said, which is the author of science and truth, and yet surpasses them in beauty; for you surely cannot mean to say that pleasure is the good?

God forbid, I replied; but may I ask you to consider the image in another point of view?

In what point of view?

You would say, would you not? that the sun is not only the author of visibility in all visible things, but of generation and nourishment and growth, though he himself is not generation?

Certainly.

In like manner the good may be said to be not only the author of knowledge to all things known, but of their being and essence, and yet the good is not essence, but far exceeds essence in dignity and power.

— Plato, Republic 507b-508d

In this discussion Plato begins the tradition of light as a metaphor.  The metaphor of light and sight lets us see the manifold, the many, objects of sense.  In like manner the mind and knowledge is given by the Good.  It allows us access to being and essence, the oneness that holds the many of sensation.  And yet, the Good is beyond mind and knowledge just as the sun is beyond sight and light.  In Plato, the distinction between sensation as sight and knowledge as being and essence is preserved in the metaphor.  Sight and light are not the same as mind and knowledge but inform us about how being and essence are like the sun in relation to the Good.  Plato distinguishes between sensations and mind and this begins the going under of being and essence.  Metaphysics has seemingly lost its chains to its shadow world and freed itself (ourselves) from mutability and change.  The mortal has tasted immortality and responsibility is borne on these wings.  The separation of thought from sensation makes logic possible.  Logic, the logos of being, guides and gives rise to being and essence. 

In Christianity John states, “In the beginning was the word (logos) and the word was with God and the word was God.”  John 1:1.  Jesus states that “no one is good but God alone”.  Mark 10:18.  Isaiah states in Isaiah 64:6 that “your righteousness is as filthy rags” (menstrual rags).  In Christianity the Good is emancipated from being and essence.  Here the Good has become a tautology for God.  The Good and God are equivalent as A = A and being is thought in terms of B.  In this move the secret has become the will of God for Abraham to sacrifice his son.  Ethics has become murder, responsibility has become secret…the will of God.  God and the Good are not beholden to man and apprehension.  A tautology owes no allegiance to contingency.  Logic has become absolute Spirit.  Neutrality has been placed beyond the reach of man and the command of it is the mysterium tremendum, the tremendous mystery (God).  Abraham obeys the will of God over and above his love of Isaac.  From an ethical point of view “Thou Shalt Not Hate” and “Thou Shalt Not Murder”  have been subordinated to the will of God.  Abraham must hate his life to find it.  He must hate his son and murder him for the sake of God.  In the face of the singularity of tautology hate and love have become one.  Responsibility has gone under in the force of secret.  Will to power and will of God have orgiastically merged in an unseen incestuous relationship.  In this history science begins.

What was lost along the way was the openness towards alterity, the Judaic shekinah glory of God, the holy of holies that is preserved in the separation of the people and God that is mediated by the high priest once a year.  The graven image of god is idolatry.  The itness of tautology as the culmination of logic and the great divorce of man and God has come full circle to pre-Socratic, orgiastic hedonism.  Science as beyond being has made the question of being and the concern of philosophy mute.  Truth owes no allegiance to human kind and yet has become the tool of human kind while making human kind its tool.  Logic has completed itself in the external and internal, self-determination and “I willed it thus” and “now man has become like one of us” have completed themselves in the logic of tautology, the history of light, the System of Hegel.  The other has been reduced to a term of it.  The secret absolves responsibility into self.  The absolute external and the absolute internal are now the force of will, the logic of identity.  The he or she, the other, is a step along the way, a faint memory of mythos.  All the while, the neutrality of the secret that commands from down under has reemerged onto the orgiastic Dionysian rite of death.  Totality and tautology, the will of God has become will to power, the it of truth has replaced the he or she of the other and responsibility is the ‘said’ of “I willed it thus”…all the while, on the other side of the mote from the castle, the grass grows under our feet and violence effaces the face of the other.

The gift of death or the face of the other… (Updated 11/5/10)

11/5/10 – Addition of paragraphs 3 and 4

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Jemeinigkeit, Heidegger’s notion of being-toward-death, is Dasein’s (the ‘there’ of human being) utmost possibility.  The possibility of the impossible is Dasein’s own most.  It cannot be outstripped.  It holds open the possibility of Dasein’s authenticity.  Death is not a he or a she.  Death is mine but it cannot be understood or apprehended.  No light can penetrate my death.  Death cannot be seen.  It cannot be taken hold of.  It even resists the notion of ‘is’.  Death ‘is’ but its final tragic comedy is the erasure of my ‘is’.  As such, death is alien.  It erases my ‘is’ while it writes my ‘is’.  Death is ‘it’.  It is a referent that does not point to another referent but ends, as in the Greek notion of telos, culminates, and gives referential meaning by point backward in the genesis of me as arche and telos, alpha and omega, the circle that has no outside.  Death is singularity; singularity that gives birth to me.  In death the neuter, the ‘it’ that begins and ends in ‘itself’, is identity.  It ‘is’ it…It ‘is not’ it and thus, contradicts itself in tautology…this is the absolute impossibility that nonetheless is possible.  All the notions of linguistics, the laws of physics, betray each other in singularity.  Death is the unmoved mover, the impenetrable ground of being and thus, the history of light.

The history of being is not tangled in the scaffolding of logic, of logos.  It is a retreat from an absolute not, the absolute negation of Being…In the beginning, before God and mortals, there was nothing…the nothing that is my most intimate moment, kairos, the supreme moment of moments from which all in-between moments flow.  The conundrum – this moment is death; it is nothing.  The nothing of death is not some abstract notion of nothing but sunyata, aperion, the fertile void.  It gives life from death, makes possible from impossible.  As the absolute ‘not’ of Being, as thrown from nothing, suspended from the void, there ‘is’ (the there-is) antithesis.  Antithesis is the history of Being, the tragic comedy of light…the logic.  Dasein is the aufhebung, the sublation, the synthesis of thesis – death and antithesis – Being.  The absolute, irrevocable ‘not’, death, reverses the Hegelian direction from thesis to ‘not’ to lifting up to light.

Death is the absolute ‘not’ of me.  It is the end of my freedom.   Death negates me.  Yet, death as the utmost possibility of Dasein that grounds Dasein and is the thrown nullity of Dasein is the antithesis that has become the thesis.  The ‘not’ as the referent that ‘is’ the telos and arche is absolute.  It is not preceded by Being and freedom.  This would be a lapse into the transcendental metaphysics of Hegel’s Logic.  Freedom is made possible by jemeinigkeit, by Dasein’s thrown nullity.  Only a being-towards-death has the possibility for freedom.  The awareness of death makes everydayness inauthentic.  Without jemeinigkeit circumspection would not be rooted in sorge, Care, the temporalizing ecstasies of Dasein.  Such a being would simply be immersed in the necessities of biological life until that being was no more.  The history of light would not be possible for such a being.  A being as this could only be thought in terms of ‘subject to the laws of physics’ from the circumspection of dasein.  Logic as the logos of Plato could only be ‘thought’ to exist from the type of being that is Dasein.  To suggest that the Forms exist or precede existence in a Kantian, categorical fashion for a being without jemeinigkeit is to take the step back into metaphysics.

The reversal of Hegel’s trifecta comes from the contradiction that is tautology, the nonsense of singularity, the moment of death that makes all other moments possible for dasein.  The thesis as the absolute ‘not’ of death and the antithesis as Being are lifted up as dasein.  The thesis is the antithesis and the antithesis is the thesis.  The normalized characteristics of each are reversed. For Hegel the reversibility of thesis and antithesis maintains and preserves the positive and the negation as thesis and antithesis but does allow either to give rise to, have absolute dependence on, the other.  The ‘not master’ is the slave and the ‘not slave’ is the master.  Each negation already asserts what is negated.   However, the formal placeholder of A -> not A = A AND not A is always maintained.  The negation will always assume and posit what is to be negated.  In the reversal A ‘is’ not A and not A ‘is’ A.  The negation, death, does not posit an apriori, a concurrent, contemporaneous Being.  To think death as the telos and arche of dasein that ‘is’ is a conundrum.  Death is not an ‘is’.  When death ‘is’ I am no more.  Death is the absolute denial of ‘is’.  The result of this reversal is the absolute rupture of dasein.  It is the inability to ever be pure Spirit.  It is what will never allow the system to be complete.  It is the trace of the erasure that cannot be summed up or canonized.  It is the narrative that must always essentially have counter narratives.  The tangle of rhizome can never be straightened out and done away with.  The will can never rise above the other as self-determination and self-limiting.  This term of Error refuses, withdraws and conceals and forever denies absolute rest to absolute Spirit.  An other step into this quagmire is posed by Levinas.

Levinas notes the neutrality of death and the evocative of the face of the other and asks, in effect, why neutrality?  Why ‘it’?  Why give precedence, priority, the proper to the unmask-able circle of nothing and light.  Why prefer the repression of the mysterium tremendum, the dreadful night of the soul, the ‘it’ that cannot die but must to the radical alterity of the face of the other?  Why face the totality of eternal light from the abyss of death when the other faces us; the other that is not ‘it’, that does not stand in our logic and fall with our presence?  What choice has history made for us?  What violence are we willing to promulgate to cling to our light?  As Nietzsche wrote of the waning freeze of the heroic Greek in logos, logic so light and ‘its’ logic freeze our dying cry of desperation.  All the while the other stands before us as mother, father, friend, enemy.  The other not as the hermetic seal of logic and neutrality but ‘its’ interruption.  The other is the small still voice, the call that is not of my origin nor of my history but is not alien either.  The caress that cajoles, evokes and washes over me from a time that is not my time.  What if Levinas is correct?  What if jemeinigkeit is the mould of the face of the other, the plastic cast that freezes our infantile narcissism while its cracks beckon us towards the face of the other?

The Problem of Logic

Foundationalism is always at work in conjunction with logic. By foundationalism I mean philosophical necessity. For example, in Heidegger’s view, Aristotle’s ontology is derived from phenomenological observation. According to Heidegger, Aristotle is astutely observing what shows itself as it is without trying to bring a previous theory (theoria) of what shows itself in the observation. Aristotle argues against Antiphon, heavily influenced by Plato and the Eleatic school founded by Parmenides, as forcing the thought of being into the one (hen) at the expense of the many (polumeres). Thus, the immutable and eternal are thought as being while change and multiplicity are relegated to the accidental and as such, non-being (see http://mixermuse.com/blog/2010/09/02/aristotle-and-modern-sciences/). Aristotle sees multiplicity and unity (hen) in the dynamic (dunamis), potentiality and actuality, of being (1). Rather than insist on a preconceived idea, Aristotle wants to observe beings and try to think being. For Heidegger, Aristotle escapes the charge of foundationalism because he is not insisting based on dogma (doxa) that being is this way or that but only what he sees in the showing of what Heidegger states is commonly and mundanely thought as being. Foundationalism is brought about when philosophy is thought as terms of tautology.

Tautology is what is necessarily true. The simplest tautology is A = A. This is the principle of identity. If the universal is thought as an identity then the particular is also thought as ‘not’ universal. Thus, if A = A and A is the category of the universal then everything that is not universal is thought as the particular. If the universal means not contingent on anything then the particular, as contingent, ‘is’, by definition, not universal. The ‘is’ in this case, called the copula, denotes equivalence. Equivalence gives identity. Thus, the universal holds itself in its identity as not particular. The critique of foundationalism cannot rest on the attempt to invalidate tautology as this would be a fool’s errand. Nevertheless, foundationalism can be legitimately criticized when it takes a step from logic to forcing its terms on what does not belong to it as Antiphon tries to do in his argument with Aristotle. The subtlety that gets introduced comes about by creating the categorical identity. If the universal is thought as being then the particular necessarily is not being. Thus, beings are not universal and therefore not being. The error occurs because the identity of the universal gets enmeshed with being. The necessity of the tautology of identity which cannot be denied is then taken up in the thought of being and beings. However the thought of being and beings is not necessarily the same as the thought of the universal and the particular. In this case, there is an added equivalence of identity added into the argument between the universal and being and therefore, the particular and beings. The additional identity is precisely where the fallacy gets introduced and philosophy gets conflated with mere assertion or opinion (doxa). This example serves as a model of how logic gets conflated with philosophy and results in foundationalism as history.

The charge of foundationalism does not refer to all history or all philosophy. It refers to a logical necessity that gets conflated with a historical, canonical narrative. There are many aspects of how this conflation occurs that inevitably refer to power structures in history. These power structures show themselves in economic, religious, political/nationalistic and scientific histories. It seems that it would be hard to deny foundationalism in history as evidenced by the violence of history. When extreme nationalism is tied to the purity of the Aryan race, purity and nationalism are conflated with the logic of identity and the result is the inevitable holocaust of the ‘impure’. This is what I refer to as the violence of light.

Light shows, it illuminates. Light is a unity of perception. It is the necessary condition for seeing. What shows itself (aletheia) is made possible by light, the clearing (lichtung). Light is neumena, concept, unity and potential. Seeing is phenomenal, particular, manifold and actual. Light arranges what it illuminates. It orders, makes sense of, holds together. Logic gets introduced as ‘not’ light. ‘Not’ light is thought as darkness. It is thought as the absence of light. As such darkness, thought in terms of the identity of light, is falsely thought as nonsensical, chaotic, without any order and therefore, without value. In this case, ‘not’ light is the depleted form of light. The darkness gets its identity as the ‘not’ of light. It gets defined by what it is ‘not’. The attempt to define by negation, what it is not, is really only light as what it isn’t, the absolute depletion of light, its negation. Darkness, as a necessary result of the identity of light, is the narcissistic love of light. It is the love of Medusa that cannot turn its gaze. This conflation, the violence of light, is the history of foundationalism. The ‘leap’ from tautology to the phenomenon of light associates adjectives that do not necessarily belong to the negation of the category.

When light is considered as an ideal then we can state that Light = Light therefore Darkness = Not Light AND Light = Not Darkness. We have established a reversible relationship. The reversal can occur in either direction without violating the ideal tautology. The problem comes about when phenomena are brought into the tautology.

For example, we know that different lights show different orderings. Visible colors are reflected light in the electromagnetic range of 400THz (Terahertz) to 790THz (for the human eye). Opacity is the degree of visible light that is reflected. Transparency is when no light is reflected Infrared’s electromagnetic range is 1THz to 430THz. What shows itself with visible light is very different that what shows itself with infrared. In the foundationalism of the Occident, visible light shows us ‘objects’ (of which we are one). The ‘not’ of visible light is ‘thought’ as invisible but actually it is not. Infrared shows various degrees of heat. It is not nothing but something, it is just different. It has adjectives associated with it that cannot be contained by nothing, invisible or the ‘not’ of objects. The ‘not’ of infrared light isn’t equivalent to visible light. The relationship is not reversible. When the other of visible light is thought in terms of its ‘not’ it is not really “the other” but the same merely absolutely depleted. The absolute depletion of the identity of the same is still only the same. This is what Levinas refers to as totalitarianism.

Totalitarianism is an ideal that functions as a theoria. It functions as a grid that is cast in advance of our ‘seeing’. It orders and arranges in advance how beings show themselves. It does not arise spontaneously every time we perceive but preconditions perception. It sets up in advance what is possible to ‘see’. This is what is meant by humans are historical. We have the capacity to ‘see’ what has already been gathered or ordered by language, history. When we take this gathering as identity, as the logic of necessity, we become foundationalists. In this case, tautology gets mistakenly substituted as what ‘is’. Being gets taken as theoria, a way of seeing.

If ‘not’ is given in terms of tautological identity it is no wonder that the original term only rediscovers itself in its nemesis. The rediscovery is not a transformation but a trans-fixation. As Medusa, the gaze is fascination that turns to stone. When theoria only sees itself, it becomes a cataract to sight. Its total opacity petrifies itself in its own terms. This is the ‘not’ of foundationalism. It’s essential characteristic is reversibility. When the ‘not’ is only given in tautological terms it leaves out the in-between, the adjectives that do not quite fit, the kairos.

Kairos and chronos are two notions of time in Greek thinking. The chronos is chronological time, the succession of now moments that chronologically proceed from a past to a future. The chronos is given by discrete ‘now’ moments. The current moment negates the past moment and the next moment. The ‘now’ moment relegates the past and the future to non-being (me on). Chronos depends on its absolute opposition to the past and the future. It depends on them, in tautological terms, as what it is not. The ‘now’ moment is no longer ‘now’ when it is past or when it is to come. Its identity depends on its ‘not’ to be what it is. The kairos is the in-between that has no duration but rather a quality. It is the quality that requires the supreme moment of decision from privation, steresis.

“Heidegger says that the basic category of steresis dominates Aristotle’s ontology. Steresis means lack, privation. It can also mean loss or deprivation of something, as in the example of blindness, which is a loss of sight in one who by nature sees. Steresis can also mean confiscation, the violent appropriation of something for oneself that belongs to another (Met. 1022 b33). Finally, Aristotle often calls that which is held as other in an opposition of contraries a privation. Heidegger will point out in his later essay on Physics B1 that Aristotle understands this deprivation as itself a kind of eidos. Thus, steresis is the lack that belongs intrinsically to being. According to Heidegger, with the notion of steresis Aristotle reaches the pinnacle of his thinking about being. Heidegger even remarks that Hegel’s notion of negation needs to be returned to its dependency on Aristotle’s more primordial conception of the not.”(2)

The moment of decision is the supreme moment, the moment of moments, the being of beings. It is based on obligation to what it is not, to what it lacks. In this case, what is needed is the double ‘not’, the ‘not’s not’.

There are two ways of thinking about not’s not. The first is based on chronos. It is reversible. Specifically, the ‘now’ moment negates the past and the future AND the past and future negates the ‘now’ moment. This gives way to sublation. What gets lifted up out of this dialectic is the concept, the concept of time. The concept unifies the apparent opposition; it erases the appearance of the absolute other, the negation of each term for the other. The other as real is eradicated by the concept. The concept holds the other together and as such, shows them as unity. Unity, the one (hen), is without otherness. The second thinking about not’s not is based on kairos. It is not reversible. It allows for differences that are not totally subsumed by the categories of ‘now’ and not ‘now’. It recognizes the middle way (middle voice in Greek thought) AND adjectives that are not logically temporal. However, the recognition is not based on concept but decision. Decision is forced by lack. The fullness of the moment lacks its sublation, the ground for its resolution. It cannot return to light and not light. This is not due to the inevitability of the concept but to actualizing the possibility of decision. The moment of decision holds open the possibility of Ethics for Levinas.

For decision, the ‘not’ that ‘nots’ itself can release its hold on light and its deprivation in the actuality of Ethics or it can narcissistically cast its gaze to the light and its deprivation, the concept. It can disallow its own terminus and therefore hold itself in check. In this case, its telos is not determinate (viz. the concept) but opened by actualizing the supreme moment of choice, the encounter with the other. By understanding how logic gets conflated with ‘isness’, the immediacy of ‘now’, we resist the narcissism of light, the resolution of concept. We impose limits on the bounds of ‘seeing’ and are opened to what does not show itself in ‘theoria’, in light. Our gaze is not to confirm (re-confirm), sublate, our logical categories but to leave open what we cannot see, not as a ‘not’ but as not’s not, the other that is not reversible. To the degree that a philosophy universalizes identity in history is the degree that it becomes foundationalism. The resolution of concept (eidos) is not necessarily given by tautology when bound with what is seen in ‘now’ and not ‘now’. The sublation is a conflation. It sacrifices steresis to gain the ground of reversibility and the supreme resolve of concept, the eternity of self-determination. It violently appropriates the moment of decisionin privation (steresis), to deny otherness.

“Not’s not” is not neuter, an ‘it’. An ‘it’ is already a way of seeing. The ‘it’ here is understood in terms of what is not a ‘he’ or a ‘she’. The categories are built into the theoria of the Occident, the history of essence, substance. Other histories such as animism did not make that ‘leap’. An ‘it’ reflects a generic reduction to what is seen in the exclusive categories of ‘now’ and not ‘now’. The ‘it’ is a historical abbreviation for the concept. The semblance of the other is now lifted up into the ‘it’ of concept. As such, ‘it’ is no longer determined by the other but self-determined. Self-determination is pure ‘isness’. Pure ‘isness’ has become ‘itness’. Decision is lost to neutrality and as such, passivity. The lack of decision has become the passive resolution of ‘itness’. This is foundationalism in the form of totalitarianism. The totality, the universal, the unity, the ‘it’ is being. In its completion the he or she is a moment, a stage, and ethics, an addition to what has already been completed. Ethics is founded on concept and unity not he or she and steresis. Thus Hegel’s system is complete, almost.

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Notes:

(1) Heraclitus says at the beginning of Greek philosophy:
potamoisi toisin autoisin embainousin hetera kai hetera hudata epirrei.
B12. On those stepping into rivers staying the same other and other waters flow. (Cleanthes from Arius Didymus from Eusebius) (see http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/heraclitus/ and http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Heraclitus)

This is from the famous fragment thought as ‘never stepping into the same river twice’. However, the original fragment has an intentional ambiguity regarding what is the same and what is changing, those stepping into rivers or the rivers. If the rivers (plural in the fragment) are changing they remain what they are by changing. One the other hand, if those stepping into rivers are changing then it is as if the flowing, changing environment constitutes those stepping into rivers as the same. The unity, the same, is given by change or flux.

Plato interprets this as:
Panta chōrei kai ouden menei
“Everything changes and nothing remains still”
Plato changes the word flow to choros, change.
The assertions of flow are coupled in many fragments with the enigmatic river File:[33]
“We both step and do not step in the same rivers. We are and are not.”

B88. As the same thing in us are living and dead, waking and sleeping, young and old. For these things having changed around are those, and those in turn having changed around are these.

(2) Heidegger and Aristotle The Twofoldness of Being, Walter A. Brogan, State University of New York Press, Albany© 2005 State University of New York, page 19

Fun with Math – NOT

Professor Loy writes about the Diamond Sutra and the logic form utilized by the teaching as:

A is not A, therefore it is A

So, “Purity is not purity; that is why it is purity.”

This is transformative as we come back to purity with a different approach as a result of the process.

This has a striking similarity to Hegel’s aufheben – sublation from thesis and antithesis.

It also makes me think of integration in Calculus:

A is not A, therefore it is C where C is equal to (I have to write this out without mathematical symbols due to limitations of text):

…the integral from minus infinity to plus infinity of A AND Not A (or A – A)

In math, the result would be zero or cancel each other out. For Hegel, the cancelation keeps or holds the terms vis-a-vis lifting them up, synthesis (transformation of the integral).

So, for all instances (or dynamics of) the master AND Not Master (or Slave), the successful integration results in full self-consciousness (or the dissolution of subject-object in social acceptance of authority and responsibility). The master and slave find their freedom only in their positive acceptance of their dependence.

In calculus differentiation takes us in the opposite direction from, in Hegelian terms, the synthesis to thesis and antithesis. Of course, not all functions have known solutions and some converge to a limit and some diverge towards plus or negative infinity. I guess in Hegel sometimes the master and slave kill each other and synthesis is never obtained. I suppose some bone head could work out the calculus of Hegel for their doctoral dissertation but…

I think I prefer Zen. Hegel gives me a headache.

What is Not

Rene Descartes wrote of the unique idea of infinity.  Infinity is a word that we know and use.  Even more, today we would say that calculus is the math of infinities.  Yet, according to Descartes, infinity is a notion that overflows itself.  Of necessity, it is a word that must be what it isn’t.  A word or an idea is finite.  Yet, the idea of infinity is a placeholder for what it cannot be.  It is not like the ostensive definition of a cat.  The word cat points directly to a cat.  The word “infinity” does not point directly to any such “thing” as an object.  However, it is a word that gets its meaning by negating itself not for some mystical reason but for something as real as the mathematics of calculus.

The Greeks were very taken by the geometry of the triangle.  Even more, Plato spoke of the forms, the ideal perfection, the real of everything we see.  Everything we see is murky and shadowy.  We know from Einstein that there is no such thing as a perfect triangle.  Space-time is warped and curved by mass so, while we might imagine a straight line, a straight line does not exist.  The real strait line only exists in concept form.  The real triangle is an ideal form but has never existed.  Yet, we use the idea practically all the time.  It is a concrete ideal or as Hegel might phrase it a concrete universal.

While language is a system of signs, signs are not all made the same.  Some signs have a real, ostensive object like a cat.  Others can only point to something concrete by dismantling themselves, by holding the “not” more closely they point to ideals that never “are” in existence and yet “are” as real, concrete and practical as a cat.  What should be observed is that they are what they are by being what they are not.

Perhaps this could be said of all words and ideas to some degree.  They designate over and against to function.  They instantly define by negating what they are not.  Some words and ideas can function as ambiguities, metaphors, poetry, art, etc.  Similar to infinity they can simultaneously hold various systems of thought, ideas or get reduced to a myriad of words.  Take this poem I wrote a while ago:

Oh wistful night of a million suns.
Spawn dancing shadows from nameless orbs.
Through stellar darkness light years are thrown.
Perchance dark grace our sun or moon
And primal night fire my heart drum.

Oh wistful thoughts of a million souls
Spawn dancing shadows from nameless histories.
Through unconscious darkness years are thrown.
Perchance dark grace our I or other.
And primal projections fire my loves

This poem speaks of a natural phenomenon, an eclipse.  Yet, it also holds with it a primal humanity, an archaic origin.  These are not systems of signs that would normally go together but in the metaphor of poetry that can actually elucidate or bring to presence a “reality” of who we are. 

Words can also be mistakes. We can say that a square is a circle or that A is not A but it is simply wrong to insist on such a thing.  In a more sophisticated fashion we can all freely develop ideals or ideologies in politics, religion, morality, etc. that are simply based on wrong facts.  We can put together ways of thinking that do not belong together.  As in evolution, we can make mistakes that can take on a life of their own.  When Einstein first came out with what we now call relativity more physicists opposed him than agreed with him.  Many thought that the universe Einstein envisioned was a step back to the hocus pocus of the dark ages, a step away from the concreteness of Newton.  Over many decades the doubters became less and the believers increased.  Einstein had a set of facts that he observed keenly that embodied many wrong perceptions (see “Einstein’s Mistakes”) but held together enough of unexplained phenomena that the Newtonian physics could not hold together to provide a more plausible showing of our universe.  The point here is that while language allows us to put together systems of signs that do not go together, that are wrong, not based on “facts”, they can also hold enough of a truth, a cohesion that does hold together to make them plausible.  This does not mean that a square will ever be a circle but in curved space-time it is possible to pick a coordinate system in which an object could be described as a square or a circle.  A cylinder can be sliced as either.  Yet, the idealized concept of a square and a circle will always be fundamentally at odds with each other.  To insist that A is not A is opposite to a tautology, an absolute contradiction.  The idea holds together concepts that are absolutely incompatible.  In its “wrongness” the idea comes to be.  Its “wrongness” is always contingent.  It can only be wrong by proclaiming it, by naming it and what it necessarily entails.  It abstractly “nots” itself while at the same time asserts itself.

In every thought and concept there is a “not”.  The “not” has to be for the word, thought or idea to be.  Any idea must be what it is by announcing what it is not, by suggesting it is this and not that.  This may seem trivial but for Hegel the “not” was always an absolutely necessary operative in every concrete word, concept, idea, reality, etc. – the “not” is always necessarily and unequivocally implied by existence.  Post modern deconstruction might think this as the trace of the knot that always must undo itself, a sort of tangential contingency that is always taken up into our surest notions, the dark side of presence, the banal “not” of existence.  It allows and creates existence.  It is always the “other” that cannot be totalized or brought into a cohesive presence.  It must eternally be relegated to the nether region.  For the light to be, the dark must always be a close ally.  Our finitude and mortality can only be in lieu of infinitude and immortality.  Wrong must be for right to be.   This is a step into Hegel.

Knowing this play of signs destabilizes our absolutes, our forms.  This awareness curves in on itself into an absolute singularity, nonsense, a hermeneutical circle.  It frees us of logic while simultaneously necessitating logic.  Normally, only the ravings of a madman would be attributed to such rants.  Perhaps it is madness but it is a madness that must be for the sane to be.  Foucault spoke if this in “Madness and Civilization”.  There is a irrationality that necessarily plays at the roots of rationality.  It can be “deduced” and has been by philosophers and scientists.  Physicists have known about singularities for centuries.  Yet, a black hole is a singularity.  When they recognize a singularity it causes them to reflect back on their theory.  The mind necessarily turns back on itself and doubts itself, its current understanding of physics in this case.  Curved space-time was such a demonic notion for a classical Newtonian.  How can mass get larger with speed?  How can a ruler get shorter with speed?  How can time slow down with speed?  Did you know that one of the first ways relativity was proved was by synchronizing two clocks, putting one in a plane and flying it around the world several times and comparing the results when the clocks were brought back together?  Sure enough, they reported different times.  Can you image being one of the folks carrying a clock around in a airplane to see if speed changed it?  No wonder physicists thought Einstein was insane.  Need I discuss string theory?  Have you heard of the m-verse, the multi-universe?  All particles we observe in our universe are really multi-dimensional strings coming in and out of existence or our brane (membrane).  Just as a triangle can never really exist because all space is curved, our brain tells us that it is and we use it every day as an essential tool of technology. 

You may think that the way the “not” circumscribes and denotes what is is insane but the fact is that it is as a “not”.  I am not making this stuff up, only reporting it in the company of those that are much smarter than me.  Sure there are myriad other ways to process this insanity at the roots of the sane but they may only be the illusions of a brain that cannot allow the contradiction to be.  It may be that the evolution of the brain has made it impossible for the concreteness of an absolute “not” that “is”, that necessarily gives rise to “isness” to “see” what shows itself here.  This absolute fissure in achrony, time, how we perceive, understand, know, etc. is an alterity or otherness that can never be gathered or held together – and yet, it must be in its “not being”.  The sense of this is embodied in the intuition that for God to create being and existence God must be outside of being and existence.  Only by God “being” outside of existence can existence be.  This is yet another indication of the insanity that awaits us in the “absolute impossibility of the possibility of death” as Heidegger suggested.  The “me” that is to die cannot in any way conceive of death and yet death “is”.  Be careful as Nietzsche points out that if we look too long in the abyss the abyss will look back into us. 

What gives rise to the “soul”, the different kinds of awareness’s that enables humans to write books, create art, build technology, in effect, create worldhood?  It is the way that we are thrown back on ourselves in the face of the “not”.  It is the reflection that forces us to doubt our concrete perceptions, understandings, knowings.  When we doubt we re-think, we ponder, we try to make sense of, decipher and restore the cosmos to order.  This is our life long burden and we eternally are rolling the stone up a huge, never ending mountain.  While our dilemma may be insane it cannot be argued that it is not concrete and as “real” as any of our functional and assumed realities.  Only by the denial and sublimation of what the conscious cannot conceive can we have an unconscious, a dark side, a mystic writing pad that in advance of our deliberations writes our history and requires our obedience to a call that we cannot choose.  The turn here can only recognize a sort of Kantian category of knowledge.  Light is invisible and yet when it hits mass, particles it gets filtered sort of like a prism and shows color, sight, objects.  Light is not what we are seeing only the effects of the filtering of light.  Likewise, the “not” that necessarily gives rise to being, existence, concreteness is itself always never perceived but in its wake we are and have our being.