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.
To skip ahead to the latest comments look for “***New Comments***” towards the bottom of this post.
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
Essential->Unessential->pure mediation-Being’s pure immediacy->Reflection->External
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Good to see a response even if it is a return to the earlier problems.
Concering the aether, if one does not question the onto-logical presuppositions of the orthodoxy I don’t see how you would become open to aether. For my part, it was really the conceptual issues that turned me, for that is what opens up the field of interpretations to become a valid standpoint. Whether one accepts it or not, however, the point of my bringing it up is for critical reflection and I’m glad you’re looking into it at all.
As for the issue of presuppositionlessness, unfortunately you give Hegel too much credit. He himself admits the beginning is not something you will ever be rationally convinced of at the beginning. It is, and after dealing with a couple others who asked me the same issue at the same time, clear to me now that it is a hopeless endeavor to attempt any explanation prior to the immanent practice which will explain it. One either goes with it and enters, or one does not and the whole thing will never make sense. Hegel, for his part, seems to have accepted this and so gives little argument for most of his beginnings other than pointing out the failures of others and offering his own systematic movements.
You mention that Hegel seems to take an either/or standpoint, I assume this is with Being/Nothing. I don’t see what that connects to Kant with, the whole issue about that indifferent difference is entirely to do with the operative cognition of immediacy as such. If one simple does this, it’s clear what it is. Recently I have been tutoring someone on the Logic, and once I managed to get them to stop fighting it by trying to think about it and instead to think it it quickly dawned on them what was going on even if they too became baffled about how it is that we operate that difference despite not knowing what it is. Once one builds up at least to Existence the description becomes increasingly easier concerning the beginning. I cannot argue it further, I’m afraid this is the limit of the discussion if you cannot step into the open mystery haha.
To go onto the other critiques, I must say I’m rather confused as to your confusion. Not only is Hegel not engaging either/or thinking as absolute, only as a real part of the determination process of concepts (and cognition if you like), but he is also not splitting ontology, logic, and epistemology. The Logic is actually all three. For some reason people are baffled by this, but the Phenomenology already proves from the very beginning that what we call epistemology and ontology is actually the phenomenon of logic: how we know things is necessarily what we think they are.
Next, it seems that you are misunderstanding determinacy for Hegel. It is not exclusive, nor is it imposed. The determinate is being with non-being, the category of their simultaneous immediate operation. This ends up requiring a doubling at every turn in that every being is immediately linked to its non-being and only repeats the unity of determinacy. The ‘ruse’ I mention is simply that with the beginning we take an indeterminate standpoint on an already existent determinacy, we should know this because we are dealing with thought and indeterminacy, the issue is simply that if we can’t latch onto a presupposed structural dynamic to these concepts we’re going to have to see for ourselves how an indeterminate conception becomes determinate when the difference asserts its reality and we cannot simply bring those higher categories into play. Andy Blunden has some papers that talk about this as a cognitive thing, e.g. how you and I can face something completely new which we cannot determine with given categories. How do we go about determining what we have no concepts to determine? By taking their immediacy and just seeing what they end up doing. I don’t know what A is other than that it is immediately. I observe it and look into it and notice B which is just what A already was. I stand back and see A again and notice B already was A. I look at the totality and A-B really are a whole that is C. The indeterminacy is only there when I am focused only on A or only on B, but if they do relate well are’t we intelligent and notice C? Basically, things we do not individually know as determinate, hence indeterminate, can and do relate as indeterminate and thus are just determinate. The determinate relation has no privilege of anything, all things that are are just as much nothing at all points, so they are both. The claim that there is some logical jump just doesn’t hold up. If you work through the first to second chapter you can see why and how it works.
The stuff about the other and the in-itself is just an external reflection on the categories. To defend Hegel from that I can only reiterate the entire movement of the Logic to show you that you are misunderstanding the categories as what they are, what they do, and how that relates to the more familiar realm of our actual existence. Regardless of what Levinas thinks of the other this is irrelevant for what Hegel means because for him the other is just a poor category very early in the system. Next, for Hegel the categories do not translate, they are the intelligibility of what is, i.e. Hegel is not a representationalist or philosopher of presence as some accuse. As to Hegel’s thing-in-itself being Idea, it’s an astute recognition though your following comments make me think it is a correct one for the wrong reasons. I haven’t read Kant directly, mostly secondary literature. According to Winfield, Kant does actually on rare occasions identity the thing-in-itself as the Idea of Plato, since it is the objective truth, but because of their transcendental nature and the limits of human reason we are never able to grasp them and they only serve as regulatory ideals of reason. What Hegel means by Idea is much the same, but since epistemology is ontology is logic, the question of stripping the Idea of ontological status is rather nonsensical.
The neo-Kantian reading of Hegel as merely a philosopher of cognition is just blatantly ignorant that Hegel already has thrown such ideas into the trashbin for being utterly useless and empty presuppositions, for what we think the world is is how we think it is. To put it concretely with our other issue, aether: what you already think the world is has a priori rendered you either capable or incapable of seeing such a thing is. We cannot pretend the world just is and that our cognition here is waiting, it isn’t. The world is as much as we strive to reveal it is, and we strive to reveal it is insofar as we think there is more to it in the presuppositions of what we believe it ultimately is. Shocks happen, but no shock itself has ever revealed that it can topple what we think the world is until the shock breaks the wall of dogma. Beyond that we just ignore these shocks and reinterpret them according to our standing beliefs. The ‘evidence’ for much is there, to whom and for what it is evidence of and why we even conceive the what is the question. There is no thing-in-itself except for the epistemologist who refuses to see that the thing-in-itself is only a product of their presupposition of a world already split from reason.
The rest of your comments on the Idea and nature I’m afraid are just too confused. The Idea is just the truth, that which is in and for itself. Insofar as anything has any independent being, it is Idea. Anything which forms a system of self-development and subsistence is Idea to the extent that it does so, with life and mind doing so to the highest degrees. Any other consideration of Idea is presupposing too much. Idea has nothing to do with finite minds, it is simply the Idea of Plato in Hegel’s sense: that which grounds the intelligible and objectively existential as one in accord with itself.
To aid matters of communication along, may I suggest you look into either Winfield’s “Hegel and the future of systematic philosophy” or if you prefer something a bit more involved with Kant, James Kreines’ “Reason in the World.” Kreines deals more heavily with the Idea and the problems it deals with. I don’t think Kreines is wrong, he has a fascinating reading, but he does go towards topics I have little interest in. Good book nonetheless. Winfield is more dense but also in my opinion initially a lot clearer on the issues though he spends less time with them in that book. A lot of misattribution and miscommunication can be saved with the clarification that these two provide to these very important but also very difficult categories.
Sorry for the delay but my music recording has been taking up large portions of my time.
With regard to this,
“As for the issue of presuppositionlessness, unfortunately you give Hegel too much credit. He himself admits the beginning is not something you will ever be rationally convinced of at the beginning. It is, and after dealing with a couple others who asked me the same issue at the same time, clear to me now that it is a hopeless endeavor to attempt any explanation prior to the immanent practice which will explain it. One either goes with it and enters, or one does not and the whole thing will never make sense. Hegel, for his part, seems to have accepted this and so gives little argument for most of his beginnings other than pointing out the failures of others and offering his own systematic movements.”
I do not give Hegel too much credit but I do give deductively logic more credit than Hegel apparently does. All the issues I have with Hegel’s beginning can be simply reduced by giving the definition of deductive logic…
“If all premises are true, the terms are clear, and the rules of deductive logic are followed, then the conclusion reached is necessarily true.”
If Hegel would have prefaced his entire “Logic” as inductive I would have no problems with it. For a quick and famous review of deductive logic…
All men are mortal. (First premise)
Socrates is a man. (Second premise)
Therefore, Socrates is mortal. (Conclusion)
The first premise states that all objects classified as “men” have the attribute “mortal.” The second premise states that “Socrates” is classified as a “man” – a member of the set “men.” The conclusion then states that “Socrates” must be “mortal” because he inherits this attribute from his classification as a “man.”
I am sorry Antonio but a ‘ruse’ is not a good start for deductive logic. Further, to go on with this ‘ruse’ with that boastful and unabashed claim that Hegel and his devotees have bellowed as “presuppositionlessness” could certainly be justified if in fact it were deductive logic but not if it is in fact inductive logic. Hegel’s “Logic” is no doubt ‘inductive’ but he treats it as deductive. Further, it is doubtful that the universal claims he wants to make could ever be made with deductive logic. What makes deductive logic work is the included middle in the premises. The included middle really amounts, in my estimation, to no more than a tautology. Unfortunately, tautologies do not really give us new information but tend to simply repeat the premises in the conclusion in a different form. So, Hegel could never start his work, much less complete it, as a deductive argument. This comment you made seems to me to be the definition of inductive logic…
“Next, it seems that you are misunderstanding determinacy for Hegel. It is not exclusive, nor is it imposed. The determinate is being with non-being, the category of their simultaneous immediate operation. This ends up requiring a doubling at every turn in that every being is immediately linked to its non-being and only repeats the unity of determinacy. The ‘ruse’ I mention is simply that with the beginning we take an indeterminate standpoint on an already existent determinacy, we should know this because we are dealing with thought and indeterminacy, the issue is simply that if we can’t latch onto a presupposed structural dynamic to these concepts we’re going to have to see for ourselves how an indeterminate conception becomes determinate when the difference asserts its reality and we cannot simply bring those higher categories into play. Andy Blunden has some papers that talk about this as a cognitive thing, e.g. how you and I can face something completely new which we cannot determine with given categories. How do we go about determining what we have no concepts to determine? By taking their immediacy and just seeing what they end up doing. I don’t know what A is other than that it is immediately. I observe it and look into it and notice B which is just what A already was. I stand back and see A again and notice B already was A. I look at the totality and A-B really are a whole that is C. The indeterminacy is only there when I am focused only on A or only on B, but if they do relate well are’t we intelligent and notice C? Basically, things we do not individually know as determinate, hence indeterminate, can and do relate as indeterminate and thus are just determinate. The determinate relation has no privilege of anything, all things that are are just as much nothing at all points, so they are both. The claim that there is some logical jump just doesn’t hold up. If you work through the first to second chapter you can see why and how it works.”
If “we can’t latch onto a presupposed structural dynamic to these concepts we’re going to have to see for ourselves how an indeterminate conception becomes determinate when the difference asserts its reality and we cannot simply bring those higher categories into play” then we have not restricted the field of play by essentially tying two premises (i.e, Being and nothing) through a included middle to reach a conclusion as you have just suggested. So, let’s not call what we are doing deductive logic or immanent logic as other Hegelians have called it. The problem I see is that Hegelians seem to think that if Hegel employs inductive logic they cannot make the absolute claims in the way they want to make them as apodictic truth. I find this arrogance untenable and simply wrong. Can we say that Hegel was wrong in thinking his logic as “deductive” and proceed with it as inductive logic?
Here is another issue we are running into which I think has been my fault to some extent. I have been responding to you from my background in what other Hegelian schools are writing about Hegel and not precisely about your conclusions on Hegel. You seemed to have reached your conclusions in variance to other scholars I have read. I think you have a much more tame and understandable take on Hegel which I find refreshing and more palatable. Here is one example,
The either/or comment does not come from me and my interpretation of Hegel but from a scholar who wants to force us to that direction. Remember this comment I made,
“It is a logical jump to make this into an either/or dilemma – e.g. merely epistemological or systemically deriving every determinacy without presupposing any underived determinacy. If we say that Hegel’s project “to systematically derive every determinacy without presupposing any underived determinacy” MUST be assumed in advance because the only other alternative to an “immanent method of derivation” of logical deduction IS purely (and merely) epistemological, we have assumed an absolute bifurcation of logic and epistemology which has not been purely and immanently derived but conveniently assumed. Why can’t there be a confluence between logic and epistemology?”
This is not my take on Hegel but Dr. Kisner’s argument. Remember, I ask, “Can it be that logical determination and knowledge is both/and?” We do not have to accept Hegel based on a reaction to a perceived and probably justified history of philosophy. We can simply call Hegel’s logic inductive and be done with it.
Another tendency of contemporary thinking on Hegel is to, in true post-post-modern thinking, react to transcendental steps in logic which, for them, amounts to slipping in gaps in logic based on dogmatic claims not on the “immanence” of the text. You seem to have no problem with transcendence or metaphysics with regard to Hegel’s “Logic” – this is a taboo in many Hegelians I have read unless it is somehow swallowed up along the way in some historical dialectic.
So, another problem in our communications is that I react to other Hegelian schools and not more directly to your views. I know you do not care about other philosopher’s take on Hegel when they diverge from your opinions but my understanding thus far on Hegel is not simply based on your views but my previous readings and understandings of Hegel.
Oh, certainly there is a philosophical, historical notion that identifies the thing-in-itself with Plato’s forms but Kant means something much more specific than Plato. His argument is that because ESSENTIALLY understanding can only come from a priori categories of knowledge and thus if you will, our existence/ontology/subjectivity etc., we can never know any ‘thing’ as it is apart from our understanding of the ‘thing’. You may object but I would suggest that for Hegel – there is no ‘thing’ other than Idea (which is not really a ‘thing’. However, Hegel’s mission, it seems to me and other Hegelians I have read, is to actually think the ‘thing-in-itself’ so we can be rid of metaphysics once and for all.
You stated, “There is no thing-in-itself except for the epistemologist who refuses to see that the thing-in-itself is only a product of their presupposition of a world already split from reason.” – this is the either/or I referred to which I was not assigning to Hegel but to why Hegelians think we need Hegel to overcome it. Certainly, Hegel himself pushes this line but only in so far as it opens up the space for him to make another more important claim – the claim you also want to make – that the only alternative to Hegel’s Idea (Begriff) and epistemology’s Cartesian (mechanistic) split is his “Logic”. Sorry, I do not buy it – it is an alternative but not THE alternative. I find the force of violence (in thought, i.e., presuppostionless) is the only emotional reaction Hegelians have to the both/and approach. Certainly, Hegel is one possibility. I think we could go on to demonstrate Hegelian weaknesses if nothing else – his violent historic interpretations which lead to human atrocities. Is it unlawful to ask the question, ‘How did this come about?” Was it mere misinterpretation as we see for example in the reasoning of Christian apologetics or is there something in Hegel’s philosophy itself which can give rise to such unabashed indignance and totalitarian power? I do not see how this question should strike fear in the heart of Hegelians or indignant affronts. If Hegel and Hegelian’s are correct and we have obtained objective certainty in the “Logic” what does it matter if one questions it – why react at all? As Kierkegaard tells us what does it matter that Galileo denied his finding that the earth revolved around the sun when his life was stake by the church? If 1 + 1 = 2 and Hegel has obtained deductive logic in all its immanence – what does it matter if we entertain the question of its sort comings? Why react indignantly? What really is at stake here in such a reaction?
One more thing, “Idea has nothing to do with finite minds, it is simply the Idea of Plato in Hegel’s sense: that which grounds the intelligible and objectively existential as one in accord with itself.” We see in Christianity that Plato’s forms took on the face of the Christian God and later the face of Descartes mind/body split which led to mechanistic philosophy – I prefer to simply give the ‘face’ to the other – the he or the she – as it is rightly theirs.
As I have mentioned I much more to write and have written about the aether you and others (apparently) ascribe to but I will save that for a later post.
Not surprised about the confusion, it is endemic to Hegelianism itself as I told you.
On your first comments on the beginning of the Logic, it is deductive and not inductive. Being is Nothing, and cannot be otherwise no matter where, when, who, or what name it is called by. If one thinks immediately, one does not think at all and that is necessarily that these mean. If something were immediate, it would not be anything at all. If Being immediately is Nothing and Nothing immediately is Being, then they are the movement called Becoming, etc. There is no induction here, there is no way to think this differently if this movement is what we are thinking. Not even an alien from the mystical plains of the 12th dimension with intellectual intuition who does not speak by only uses intuitive telepathy could controvert this. To think otherwise is simply to assert something else. This proof only requires that one think these in their purity away from external contingent elements.
Now, Hegel, and I by extension of that project, can do nothing to ease your doubts about why the beginning is fine. I would say that your doubts are ultimately unfounded, for at the beginning of the Logic all knowledge of what logic is are out the window. That’s why no argument can be given to you, there isn’t even the shadow of any argumentative structure to be given at the outset. It is not asking you to take it on faith, for if you really have such concerns the answer lies in the immanence of the Phenomenology of Spirit—that is if your question concerns these issues of onto-epistemic relations or whether this or that conception of the Absolute really can be absolute. Your focus on the ethical, the Other, too are dealt with in the Phenomenology as it is one of the ways that we may conceive of ourselves and the world and its ultimate purpose and meaning. Certainly you will not find your position as you hold it spelled there, but considerations of why ethics cannot be the stopping point of philosophy is certainly there.
Concerning the ruse of Being/Nothing, it seems I was not clear enough: the ruse is not what the Logic does, the ruse is what we do to ourselves. The confusion we experience in the beginning with being surprised that Being is Nothing, mainly about why, arises not from Hegel having hid anything, but because it seems almost without fail we lose ourselves to this movement and strangely (but conveniently for the exercise to prove its point) forget how we got to the starting position in the first place. If we keep that in mind we get a perfectly reasonable external explanation for why we can do the movement of Being-Nothing-Becoming. There is no mystery at the end of the day about why it’s experientially possible, and further there is no mystery about why this is logical since we engage a pure thinking of thinking. Concepts are logics, etc.
Regarding the Idea, well yes, I agree. There is nothing other than the Idea. This, however, is nothing spooky, rather it’s a banal point if one grasps the simple meaning: the Idea is the unity of concept and object, i.e. it is simply the self-articulated thing itself. A atom is an Idea, an apple tree, a dog, a worm, the solar sun, the ecosystem. Any thing which achieves self-differentiated articulation in being is the Idea. The concept is pure articulation, the object is the body of this articulation, the Idea is the recognition that these are the same thing just as form and content are the exact same thing. It’s Platonic only in intelligible purpose (and Kantian to this end as well insofar as the Ideas are the ideal of reason’s consummation of knowing the thing itself), otherwise it is closer to Aristotelian form. To know the in-itself is simply to know this articulation of being from within, as a self-articulation in the same manner that we know that a species of animal is what it is according to the specification of its genetic plan of articulation. To me, it is a rather mundane yet fitting concept. To know this is and is not metaphysical, which is really something quite a few say: Hegel makes the metaphysical mundane even at its most metaphysical (such as Being-Nothing).
As for Hegel’s logic being the alternative to the onto-epistemic split of the absolute: it is and it isn’t. It is if what we are seeking is the self-articulating absolute which is intelligible in and for itself. It isn’t in that, well, obviously Hegel isn’t the first or the only one that just never made the split to begin with. Heidegger also makes no split of this kind, Spinoza, the neo-Platonists, etc. One can find even the truths Hegel puts forth in his logical derivations all over the place in a rather unsurprising matter since those who thought through these concepts in their intelligibility were by and large thinking the exact same thing.
But, this brings up the question that I think ultimately divides you and I: What are we looking for? What question have we posited that we are seeking an answer to? Because this question radically transforms the ground upon which we judge the offered answers. It’s often not a conscious question, and once we find something satisfying it is not necessarily clear to us what we had bee looking for anyway. Here I am, once a staunch materialist atheist convinced of scientism, and now I’m a staunch Idealist theist who despite his love of empirical science has for the most part almost no respect for it as a the theoretical unity it is. What brought me here? I could give some tale of how I have always valued Truth and that I’ve searched for it all along, but along the way what I thought Truth was changed many times, so was what I searched for in the beginning what I received in the end? I don’t know. At first I believed ethics was obviously the highest philosophy because it was the immediately practical, but then I thought it was ontology that would tell us ethics, and then epistemology and its skeptical issues took over and I thought ultimately everything was relative despite strong intuitions against it, and so on and so on.
Concerning theoretical violence to both and approach, I don’t know what that refers to. Hegelian philosophy is generally hated precisely because it is seen as this, it seems to make no commitments to valuing one side over another. I would like a concrete example. Regarding violence itself, while I once was against it absolutely, I have no qualms with it now. Real violence and theoretical violence are fine by me, it has its use in rational practice. I suppose you take Hegelianism to have some sort of universal violence, but that’s not what I see. Within the field of philosophy the violence is everywhere, and as Jay Bernstein says in his lectures on the Phenom: Why would we think it wouldn’t? If a way of thinking is a form of consciousness, and that is itself a social life world which takes itself as True, why wouldn’t it rise against any opposition to crush it? To question a thought is to question a life. If you question my life, and I believe (perhaps I know) that my life is true against your claims that it isn’t, what person worth calling living would simply lay down and let someone else just end their life? The animal fights against its death, so too does the thought fight against its destruction. We are what we think, and if we have any conviction in our life as our life we must and will retaliate. It is rather interesting, but of course it only appears in one context: the absolute clash. Violence is only apparent when there is no successful interpenetration of the mind, where the Others refuse to open up and remain Other all the while insisting in interaction based on their lifeworld imposed on the other. We’re not talking about people indifferent to each other, we’re talking about people who for whatever reason see a need to interact yet find no basis for interaction, and this leads to violence.
As for why I react, well, we’re having a dialogue of course. Nothing I despise more than misunderstandings, and so I fight your assertions insofar as they are assertions about me, my conceptions. What you believe, how you believe, and what you shall do that does not pertain to me isn’t of interest in the discussion. Were this some kind of meet and greet, a mere sharing of ideas in which i put forth mine, you yours, and we take what we like, then there would be no issue. But you and I are not playing that game. I hope and believe we are not, and that instead we are attempting to pry open that mystery of the Other through this interplay of progressive revelation through argument. As you claim and question, so I answer and attempt to reveal myself as these thoughts to you, and likewise you reveal yourself to me in my assertions and questions. To some extent we think and believe we understand each other, and to another extent each believes the other simply misunderstands and the more we attempt to explain the more we realize there is perhaps a fundamental barrier, the barrier at which the Other is not going to step into our shoes not because they do not will to, but perhaps because they can’t. As Fchte says, each person’s philosophy tells of who they are. If you and I have different paths it is because we are to that extent essentially different people who cannot really conceive the reality of the Other. It does not mean we cannot accept that, I accept far stranger things which I shall never experience or know for myself. But just as you say that I cannot comprehend your notion of love in that I do not know the love of a child, perhaps you cannot comprehend me because you do not know the same deranged passion for universal comprehension which leads one to entertain pure thoughts over any other given. To me the differentiated unity and circularity of thought is just exhilarating, it captures exactly the kind of mystery I want to grasp.
Anyway, sorry for rambling, I do enjoy the exchanges. I’ve been reading on mathematics lately, particularly some basic things on negative numbers in foundational theories. If 2+2=4, well, mathematicians seem to have given up on that being of significant meaning long ago haha.
I have been reading some books and essays on Hegel which has kept me busy. One book I really like is: The Unconscious Abyss: Hegel’s Anticipation of Psychoanalysis by Jon Mills
It takes an in depth look at Hegel’s notion of Schacht and less mentioned abgrund. He draws out parallels with Freuds notion of the unconscious. He also spends a lot of time at the beginning on Hegel’s mentors in this regard such as Boehme, neo Platonism and Shelling. I have written about the notion of Chaos in the Presocratics in my philosophy series especially in Hesiod so the connections are rampant. The ground which is no ground is where consciousness emerges and the birth place of Spirit. The Phenomenology starts with the immediacy of consciousness, the pure ‘this’. Similarly, the Logic starts Idea from Being and nothing as pure indeterminacy. As such, they seem to echo the abyss at the very start, just as the Phenomenology traced the anthropological start with the immediacy of consciousness. Hegel refers to the abyss as a “nightlike abyss within which a world of infinitely numerous images and presentations is preserved without being in consciousness” (EG § 453). Perhaps the nothing is the abyss as the pure not of Idea but there is much more to it than simply nothing.
I have found that there is much more Hegel would tell us about the nothing than we see in the beginning of the Logic. Also, the groundless ground never leaves Hegel in the form of desire and drive which is a movement all the way through his analysis. I have written much about this already elsewhere but for now I will just say that the nothing at the start of the Logic and from which Spirit arises cannot be at rest. It is genitive replete with “infinitely numerous images and presentations without being in consciousness”. For me, this marks the erased trace which cannot come into consciousness of the Other. History is that dead account which must drive Spirit towards self-objectification as what must give account of itself before there is self and consciousness. The origin, the arche, is abyss for self and fully realized Spirit. It is merely a footprint that is the unconscious trace, the mystic writing pad of Freud, of what is anarchical…a past not my past. To encapsulate Spirit as a homogenous whole in self-determined Idea is to remake the Other into the Same, i.e., as soul which has slipped and encapsulated its mortal bounds…Spirit as whole and universal in Idea. Yet, what remains behind the unity and oneness which culminate from the many is the Other. The Other is taken up at an earlier stage in the Logic as a necessary objectification of what will otherwise cloth Idea. In my thinking, this is why Idea can never rest from its work – the absolute dismantling of any such infinity which can be thought as absolute Other. The abyss and the culmination of Spirit in Idea share one essential predicate – abolition to the point of extinction for any ethic of the Other which is the ‘not’ (the negation of Hegel) dealt with: from the solitary abyss, to the unity of same-other and the self-determining Idea. What if Idea has an eternal choice – itself or Other…that which is not itself even as the ‘not’ but truly can only remain as a choice, an ethic, a decision to not count equality with God as a thing to be grasped, achieved, completed in-itself but to face us in the simplicity of the he, the she, the it we/history/Spirit could only retain as remnants of presentation, image, even Idea – all mistaken in Hegelian desire as the ‘not’. Could it be that this Other can never be founded/accounted for in solemnity as Idea but in a once that has no origin, no mediation and can only be retained as disembodied images, as erased traces which cannot come to consciousness but only doomed to the abyss from which Spirit must rise once again until the simple evocation who faces us gives place to found Idea? I do not think this ethical decision can be arrived at from origin and epistemology only maligned into what will ever be the ‘not’.
I have much more to write about from my studies and your help in understanding and thinking about Hegel. Even if you contest these points as I am sure you will, surely conceded that merely attempting to grasp, overcome, refute the difficulties of Hegel’s genius must make us better in some yet unqualified sense for having tried.
Much more to write and think through with regard to your previous comments. However, in short I do not see the included middle of deductive logic in Hegel’s start of the Logic – unless perhaps it is nothing which is inductively, IMO, thought to pass over into becoming – where is the included middle from the premises in the conclusion (becoming)?
Concrete examples of violence taken from Hegel – through Feuerbach into Marx and Engels as dialectical materialism…shall we say Stalin? I find similar paths which we can speak of later in the road through capitalism to authoritarianism.
I do like the give and take, the challenge towards better thinking and the learning I have in the encounter with you. I do not take it as any form of violence or attempt at domination. For me it is fun, not as demeaning to you, but as friends connecting in more significant and satisfying ways than what many folks seem to have no real desire for. I never want to offend or put you down. I only ask that we help each other be better, achieve more meaningful goals in our philosophical aspirations. I know that everything can be reduced to power relations to those who are so inclined to psychologically require such mutilations of meaning but I really believe you and have no need to fall into that abyss 😉 take care…
Hey there Mark,
If the last response seemed to show any hard feelings or annoyance from me it wasn’t intended, I enjoy the discussion.
Regarding there being more to say of Nothing, it is my comprehension that it is true and false. It is true in that the Absolute which Nothing is to explicate is more than a mere abstract Nothing, it is false in that when we speak of Nothing we’re not using it as a higher category of any kind. Each concept has its specific place of poverty or richness in the system and each is used in accord with those levels of relation and cognition. I think a fundamental talking past each other is occurring in that you are attempting to translate your Levinasian terms into Hegelian terms, but while I can point out partially what is in error, I also cannot pinpoint the error in that I really have no background on Levinas to know what it is that you are trying to get across here. In dealing with the unconscious, or with the ethics of the Other, I do not know what this is really trying to get at. I wrote a lengthy response which was a rant about how I fundamentally cannot agree that otherness among the human in is not possible, and that true others are something truly beyond human cognition and capacities of experience, however, I realized we are talking of the Other in completely different senses.
If you have any book or articles that would give me an overview of Levinas’s philosophy I think it would clarify things between us.
I have never taken anything you said as offensive – its cool. I have been busy after my wife’s surgery doing house chores and helping her out.
Actually, in my reading of Hegel lately I am thinking that Hegel may have had it mostly right. I do think he has charted out the inner/outer workings of the self as it rises through externality to its abgrund which is a transcendent essence. I just do not think the self ends up in monism – a universal Idea. OR, if it does end up in a universal, I see it more as a co-existing singularity which can never be done away with by the universal (as it would not be universal then). Here is a thought for you – suppose you end up at the end of Hegel’s road to the universal Idea. Is that all that is left to do? For Aristotle, no. For Hegel, I think yes. I do not think singularity can be resolved into the particular. Suppose the end of this phenomenological life is to rise to the universal Idea which somehow still cannot by essence do away with singularity as I think Hegel and Aristotle had varying notions about – how could it be universal if it does not essentially include singularity? What if, when we have achieved the Hegelian crown, the next phenomenology which perhaps, we can stand on our tip toes to see from here is to willingly lose it all albeit perhaps in a particular way ;-). – Just as Hegel thought Spirit had to externalize itself to know itself – after it has achieved this Hegelian knowledge of itself the next thing might be to willingly and consciously without all the trappings of Godhood become or better humbly dwell in its singularity – something like a self-willing mere human (or some equivalent). Why? – to welcome the Other – the other singularity which ‘knowing’ as such can never conquer, transcend or integrate into a higher Concept. What if the co- existing of the absolute singularity has to necessarily recognize the Other – the other absolute singularity that it can never be but only choose to recognize that absolute vis-à-vis Ethics. The abyss would no longer be relegated to the ‘not’ of drive and desire but the Ethics of an Other which the absolute leaves room for to be an Other absolute which radically exceeds its own Godhood.
Also, I wanted to flesh out deductive logic a little better than I did previously. In deductive logic the conclusion MUST follow necessarily from the premises. The way it does this is by establishing a necessary not a sufficient relationship to the premises. For example,
All men are mortal. (First premise)
Socrates is a man. (Second premise)
Therefore, Socrates is mortal. (Conclusion)
The included middle is men plural and man singular.
The conclusion unites mortal and Socrates vis-à-vis the included middle in a necessary relationship. If deductive logic does not accomplish this, it cannot be thought as such. However, this does not make inductive logic false. Inductive logic gives us greater degrees of certainty as to truth value but can never accomplish necessary certainty as deductive logic can. I would go on to add that the truth claims of deductive logic have a much narrower field of possible claims because deductive logic rest on the apodictic certainty of tautology – the conclusion simply explicitly restates what the premises already said so it is merely the statement A=A. Science is really almost all inductive logic. I think Hegel is as well. See if you can structure a categorical imperative in the example above from the beginning of the Logic. I do not see how it can be done because becoming is not an included middle or even anywhere in the premises in nothing and Being. It seems to me the included middle may be undifferentiation. I might add that Hegel seems to repeatedly ‘define’ undifferentiation as nothing. Once this is done many predicates can follow such as immediacy. However, the abyss which is the immediacy of the unconscious or not yet able to rise to consciousness is not really nothing as in some unexplained or at least vague fashion there are images, drives, restlessness, desire, etc. without coherence. It is not really nothing in a strict sense of no-thing – no thing which can be named or thought. I think it may be that nothing is an impossibility of thought just as infinity is as well.
Oh, as far as Levinas, I would recommend “Totality and Infinity” which was Levinas’ most famous early work and “Otherwise than Being or Beyond Essence” as his probably more famous later work. “Otherwise than Being or Beyond Essence” is more philosophically technical.
I am reading this introduction <https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/373332.To_the_Other?ac=1&from_search=true> overview on Levinas. I read his essay “Ethics As First Philosophy” and while I could follow the first half, the shift to the Other as such was incomprehensible to me. I also listened to this short lecture <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RaPNYQ_qdII> , and combined with some other short clips I got the impression that I hardly disagree with the notion of letting the Other be and reveal themselves, etc. My disagreements come more from the ontological claims, but they are not clear to me yet such that I can say I truly disagree.
Anyway, I hope that insofar as I come to learn some of your language I may be able to better clarify our true differences so that our otherness remains not implicit, but is explicit.
I don’t know about the book but that video was horrendous. Therefore, I tried to quickly put together something that might address your concerns better with ontology. It is rather long and I really did not have time to proof it so I apologize in advance for both…
I always like these summaries:
Emmanuel Levinas <https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/levinas/#LogOthThaBei>
On the logic of ontology meant here as the logos of being, the essay states:
“The second chapter [of Otherwise Than Being or Beyond Essence] approaches Heidegger’s theme of language as the way in which Being becomes, the way it temporalizes. Levinas adopts Heidegger’s argument that the logos gathers up Being and makes it accessible to us. But Levinas will argue that the lapse of time between lived immediacy and its representation cannot really be gathered by a logos. Therefore, the lapse poses a challenge to language itself and falls, much the way that transcendence did, outside the realm of Being as process.
I am going to quote some from this dissertation you can get freely on the web here:
Ontology in Levinas’s Philosophy <https://ecommons.luc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1006&=&context=luc_diss_6mos&=&sei-redir=1&referer=https%253A%252F%252Fwww.bing.com%252Fsearch%253Fq%253Dlevinas%252Bbeyind%252Bontology%2526form%253DEDGTCT%2526qs%253DPF%2526cvid%253D0fb668f1ef6e4e64a5dc9ba711e59ba7%2526refig%253D12db6765c307453ca1b27047a4b06ed4%2526cc%253DUS%2526setlang%253Den-US%2526elv%253DAXK1c4IvZoNqPoPnS%252521QRLOOyNpVQ2mb6%252521XDswOBZofhN9ZBGKtJjDFQIMoBcnd3IMEUgghearLNUBUOpL2A3Rl6Es52d4K2fOQqvekULsABS%2526plvar%253D0#search=%22levinas%20beyind%20ontology%22>
This is mostly in the section: The Dialectic of the Instant: Il y a and the Hypostasis of the Existent
Additionally, with regard to the ‘not’ of Being, Levinas has a somewhat similar notion to Hegel’s abgrund or abyss in the il y a. In Time and the Other he tells us: “Let us approach this situation [i.e., existence without existents or il y a] from another slant. Let us take insomnia. This time it is not a matter of an imagined experience”
I think you will find Hegel’s notion of abyss as images, presence and the horror as a restlessness – perhaps you could think of not-being or ‘nothing’ in Hegel’s term as insomnia. In Hegel’s terms the il y a might be thought as the absolute ‘not’ of Being where consciousness has absolutely abandoned Being, ontology has met its other in what we may say has similarities to the beginning of the Logic where Being and nothing are absolutely drowned in indeterminacy, unable to be able
Quotes from the dissertation…
“Insomnia, is constituted by the consciousness that it will never finish—that is, that there is no longer any way of withdrawing from the vigilance to which one is held. Vigilance without end. From the moment one is riveted there, one loses all notion of a starting or finishing point” (TA 27/TO 48).
From existence to the existent:
The impossibility of tearing the invading, inescapable
and anonymous rustling [bruissement] of existence is manifested in particular through certain moments where sleep escapes [se déroble] our appeals. One watches when there is no longer anything to watch and despite the absence of every reason to watch. The bare fact of presence oppresses: one is held to being, held to be. One is detached from every object, from every content, but there is presence (DEE 109/EE 61).
“Insomnia,” Levinas writes, “is constituted by the consciousness that it will never finish—that is, that there is no longer any way of withdrawing from the vigilance to which one is held. Vigilance without end. From the moment one is riveted there, one loses all notion of a starting or finishing point” (TA 27/TO 48). And in From existence to the existent:
The impossibility of tearing the invading, inescapable
and anonymous rustling [bruissement] of existence is manifested in particular through certain moments where sleep escapes [se déroble] our appeals. One watches when there is no longer anything to watch and despite the absence of every reason to watch. The bare fact of presence oppresses: one is held to being, held to be. One is detached from every object, from every content, but there is presence (DEE 109/EE 61).
Levinas expresses this paralytic powerlessness by speaking of our being “riveted” to being (TA 27/TO 48), of being “held to being, held to be” (DEE 109/EE 61)—language that tries to indicate that insomnia is not dependent upon me, but happens to me. I do not seize on il y a, but am seized by a state of sleeplessness, or a feeling of horror. I cannot escape either insomnia or horror, because they come from that which is independent of my will: presence.
The presence at issue in insomnia and horror is not that of an undesired obstacle, i.e., of a determinate object or complex of objective conditions that I could foresee (and so perhaps avoid or mitigate). The move from “held to being [tenu à l’être]” to “held to be [tenu à être]” serves as a kind of corrective that elucidates the difference between the presence of a being and the presence of existence to which the insomniac is “deliver[ed]” (DEE 96/EE 54) and which horror “executes” upon the horrified one (DEE 102/EE 58): in the first phrase, one might be tempted to say that being or presence is an entity, something outside of me that approaches, that could be an obstacle; in the second phrase, however, it is clear that there is nothing outside of me that approaches.11 I am held to be, made to persist—by what? Nothing determinable, but presence which is not the presence of any thing, nor of a totality of things, but of no thing. Presence is existence in the absence of any and all existents (i.e., individuals)—existing as an unqualified persistence, as failing to lapse, as the presence even of absence (DEE 94, 99/EE 52, 56), which latter then cannot be pure and absolute nothing, even if it also cannot be absence as a possibility of beings in their objective or real being. Presence of absence, global absence sensible12 only as present or presencing and inflicted globally and irremissibly is existence not bound to existents: such presence is an excluded middle that nevertheless happens in the experience of insomnia and horror.
Insomnia, or insomniac subjectivity, to the degree that it is a mode of being structured by existence-as-presence, is not consciousness; at best, it is a deformed consciousness…
Yet what is Levinas’s starting point in both From existence to the existent and Time and the Other? “Let us imagine all beings, things and persons reverting to nothingness” (DEE 93/EE 51). And in Time and the Other, using phrasing that is nearly identical, he likewise invites his audience to imagine that all beings were to “return” to nothingness (TA 25/TO 46).
What is important in insomnia, considered as a relation or a strange and exotic14 form of intentionality, is that its “intentum,” il y a, has a sense that exceeds its intention: it signifies self-less, worldless, objectless presence, presence that is not only distinct from the identity that I am, but which has separated from any particular being, from any totality of beings, from the totality of all beings, and which is not a possibility of my being. This is the crucial inadequation that, when taken together with the withdrawal of being from “exterior things” (DEE 94/EE 52) in toto, warrants the claim that existence as presence is not merely distinct from existents (including me), but separate, though not as a substantive. Absolute absence as positive presence of no individual is not experienceable, yet it is signified in horror and insomnia.
The things of the daytime world do not, then, become in the night the source of the ‘horror of shadows’ because the look would not manage to ambush their “unforeseeable plots”; quite the contrary, they borrow their fantastic character from this horror. Obscurity does not only modify their contours for vision, but brings them back to the anonymous, indeterminate being that they ooze (DEE 9697/EE 54, my emphasis).
Horror as an affect that accedes to the restless verbal reiteration of presence does not modify the daytime world in any derivative fashion; it rather exposes19 “[t]he anonymous current of being” which “invades, submerges every subject, person or thing” (DEE 94/EE 52, my emphasis). This exposure does not take place before consciousness or in consciousness; horror rather “strips consciousness of its very ‘subjectivity’” (DEE 98/EE 55). In later works, Levinas might have reformulated this line to read: subjectivity is stripped of consciousness, but the point is clear: “[t]o be consciousness is to be torn away from il y a, since the existence of a consciousness constitutes a subjectivity, since it is a subject of existence, i.e., in a certain measure, mastery of being [être]
Here mastery is exceeded as a kind of anonymous passive beyond all passivities (might we think existence beyond all existents…umm) which cannot even yet be thought as slavery…I suppose the il y a is absolutely antithetical to Being…
At this point we introduce the unfolding of Being, self-consciousness as beginning, as the temporality of the instant or what Hegel might call immediacy as the essential prerequisite for Becoming…
Quotes from the dissertation…
The intrusion and assimilation of my being to the endless presence of il y a is always a threat, but it is difficult to analyze this threat, for it is difficult to discover a way by which to access ontological difference. Existence is ordinarily “contracted” into a relationship with an existent in the instant (DEE 16, 31/EE 1, 12). The instant is the unique event by which there is a beginning within the eternal presence of existence, and is achieved by the appearance of an existent who exists. The existent or subject who exists, takes position “here” in the instant (DEE 118/EE 66). By taking position, existence then “adheres” like an attribute to the existent (DEE 16/EE 1), which dissimulates the difference between existence and an existent, for the participatory relationship between them is suspended. But the existent who masters existence has not managed to break with il y atic being once and for all. The subject who takes position in the instant is the other term of ontological difference, and in relation to insomnia as depersonalized being, it is a kind of sleep (DEE 142/EE 84).
“a kind of sleep” as opposed to the insomniac of non-being…here sleep is interiority
Quotes from the dissertation…
An instant is the event by which depersonalized being—il y a—is interrupted by a subject, who takes position in il y a, thereby polarizing being between existence and existent (DEE 16/EE 2). This polarizing interruption is not something that the subject does, if by this we mean that the subject is already an individual existent who arrives as if from an outside (from some unknown place or world) into anonymous being and effects a polarization, thereby interrupting it, like a stone going through a window interrupts the continuity of the window. The existent who “arises at the bottom of il y a”25 signifies ontologically as effecting the transmutation of existence into an existent: “By the hypostasis anonymous being loses its il y atic character. The being [étant]—that which
is—is a subject of the verb to be and, thereby, it exercises a mastery over the fatality of being become its attribute. Someone exists, who assumes being, immediately his or her being” (DEE 141/EE 83).
The world and knowing [savoir] are not events where the point of existence is dulled in a personality [moi] that would be absolutely master of being, absolutely behind it. The I recoils in relation to its object and in relation to its impersonal self [soi], but this liberation with regard to impersonal self [soi] appears as an infinite task. The I has always already a foothold in its own existence. Outside in relation to everything, it is interior in relation to itself, bound to itself. The existence that it has assumed, it is forever enchained to it. This impossibility for me [moi] not to be a oneself [soi], marks the fundamental tragedy of the I [moi], the fact that it is riveted to its being (DEE 143/EE 84).
The instant may be somewhat akin to Hegel’s becoming at the beginning of the Logic. However, it is different in that, for Hegel, immediacy is still encapsulated by undifferentiation and therefore nothing (although as I pointed out elsewhere nothing is not really nothing…I think better to think the abyss). From immediacy and the tension, restlessness, drive, desire at the start of the Logic we get becoming. For Levinas the instant is not undifferentiated. It is an arising from il ya into self. However, self here is not meant as an identity – a uniform hypostasis which surmounts the abyss. For Levinas the tension of il ya and the instant are never resolved and as such remain dynamic. I am reminded of Freud’s ego which is dynamically suspended between the death wish and libido, id and superego. Levinas vis-à-vis his mentor Husserl here is departing from Husserl’s notion of what Levinas refers to as the ‘privilege of representation’ in intentional apperception.
Levinas wants to start with sensibility which has not yet privileged episteme and representation. Kant made a similar move although he took it towards noumena, the thing in itself. Levinas start is from phenomenology. This is the concrete self not the self of formal logic. The concrete self is sensibility as instant, as sleep from the insomnia of il ya.
Quotes from the dissertation…
The identification of the Same in the Me [Moi] does not show up [se produit]19 as a monotone tautology: “I am I” [Moi c’est Moi]. The originality of identification, irreducible to the formalism of A is A, would thus escape attention. It is necessary to fix it not in reflecting on the abstract representation of a self by itself [soi par soi] (TeI 7/TI 37).
Levinas argues that in order properly to conceive the originality of the self’s identification,
[i]t is necessary to start from the concrete relation between a self [moi] and a world. The latter, strange and hostile, should, in all good logic, alter the self [moi]. Now, the true and original relation between them and where the self is revealed precisely as the Same par excellence, occurs as sojourn in the world. The manner of the Self [Moi] against the “other” [<<autre>>] of the world, consists in sojourning, in identifying oneself [s’identifier] by existing [en existant] there at home (TeI 7/TI 37).
So the self is never the same as the formal notion of identity. In Hegel’s discussion of the same and the other we are taken up by a purely formal discussion of the same and the other as a proper function of language; from a purely definitional approach. Levinas does not see a formal sameness in the self. Instead he sees an oscillation of the instant as sensibility which he explores in depth and il y a or the abyss.
So, if the self is not the same in a purely formal, privilege of representation but exceeds or precedes such a present which lends itself to the epistemic, how can the other be self-same with itself?
Levinas looks a world and how world relates to the concrete self as non-essentialist, not a “monotone tautology”, as sensibility.
Where do we get the notion of identity and sameness regarding the self? What is temporality in this context? How do we get sensibility of time flowing.
Quotes from the dissertation…
It is in relation to the world that the self undergoes changes and identifies itself. And yet, despite its intrinsic reference to the world as its “other,”21 the changes the self undergoes in responding to the world do not undo its identity. The self remains itself and in its concrete relation with the world, its identity cannot be said to be determined or defined by its position within the worldly whole or a system. The self’s sameness is not the result of its delimitation by other beings in the world-system, but somehow comes from itself in its very contact with worldly alterity: the self’s identity is a self-identification in relation to the world. And this self-identification is the very “manner” of the self, its way of being, against the alterity of the world.
What of the alterity of the world, which ought “in all good logic” to alter the self, but fails despite enabling in some fashion the self to change and alter itself? The world as other is a dwelling place: “a place where I can, where, dependent upon another reality, I am, despite this dependence, or thanks to it, free. It suffices to walk, to do in order to seize oneself in every thing […]” (TeI 7/TI 37). The world as other offers the self a place in which the self can find itself in any relationship with a worldly being, and this support that the world-other offers nevertheless—somehow!—does not reduce the self to a moment of its own being or a part of it. Instead, as noted, the world exists in a relationship with the self that is sufficient for the self’s identification, allowing every worldly relationship to function in the self’s self-identification. For no other existent does existing in the world suffice to identify it; only the self enjoys such sufficiency, which is possible only because its existing is—somehow!—self-identification with respect to every other being.
The self as same (the Same as always and only self-same) is, on Levinas’s interpretation, situated as sojourning in the world, which places its identification outside of the bounds of representation. We are rather on the plane of sensibility. Yet where, in the 1950s, sensibility had seemed to be the opening of relations of alterity that did not fall into the immobility of consciousness, it seems here that that claim has been modified, at least as regards its signification: the sensible self constitutes itself as the Same, as an absolute position whence it never can depart. The sojourning self is its self-identifying, for the “alterity of the self and of the inhabited world is only formal,” i.e., delimited by a system I articulate somehow, and which “falls under my powers in a world where I sojourn” (TeI 8-9/TI 38). Conceptual, physical, and emotional force—the panoply of violence, on Levinas’s reading—are encompassed within “my powers” (TeI 14/TI 44).
Our sense of self-sameness. The relation to the world is where self-identity comes from. Self-identity comes from a relation with an alterity, the world. The world is not derived epistemologically from the self and visa versa. There is a sufficient relationship not a necessary relationship of the self to the world. Here, epistemology does not provide a suitable logic with which we can adequately explain one as a result of the other, as a mathematics of identity. To think ‘both and’ does not combine, it merely represents one and the other. To think a sameness with regard to the self and the world is to confuse the distinctness and uniqueness. The self is the sensible tension between existence and existent as instant. The world, if you will as essence in Hegel’s thinking, is radically different. It only ‘shows it essence’ as a relationship not a ‘think of its own…in itself’.
The self sojourns in the world. It is not a relationship of essentiality. It is a relation of alterity. Sure we can make formal relationships but we have to sacrifice sensibility to do so.
What shall we make of alterity?
Quotes from the dissertation…
Three points bear mentioning here: (1) with respect to the fatal ontology, we note immediately that the self’s self-sameness arises in relation to the world, not in direct relationship with pure presence nor in the self’s relationship with itself via a place that accomplishes only the bare or schematic self, so far as this preliminary and rather formal description shows. (2) At the same time, Levinas claims that the self who self-identifies “is not a contingent formation thanks to which the Same and the Other [Autre]—logical determinations of being—can in addition be reflected in a thought. It is in order that alterity show up [se produise] in being that a ‘thought’ is necessary and that a Self [Moi] is necessary” (TeI 9-10/TI 39).22 The self in its self-sameness and identity is, despite its reduction of alterity to identity within the sphere of its own identification, necessary for alterity to show up in being. This is why Levinas first addresses the identity of the self under the heading “The rupture of totality,” where totality is in some fashion aligned with being. By implication, the sameness of the self is not ontological, is not reducible to being or relations with being. At the same time, the self is a manner of existing, a mode of being. What does it mean to hold in addition that sojourning can also accommodate Levinas’s claim that “[t]he Same is essentially identification in the diverse, or history, or system. It is not me who refuses myself to the system, as Kierkegaard thought, it is the Other [Autre]” (TeI 10/TI 40)? This reminds us of the dictum that one cannot leave monadology and expect to escape monism, i.e., one cannot escape the logic of absolute self-sameness and expect to escape an impersonal sameness. The Same is thus an ambiguous formation in terms of its sense. (3) Finally, with respect to the need to substantiate the difference between the identity of the self and the identity of other beings, it remains at this stage unclear what this self-identification is, or how it proceeds. What does it mean to “sojourn” in the world, or to be “at home” there, and so beyond constitution by a totality that is visible to an onlooker?
The “fatal ontology” here is one of “pure presence” and only formal. The same the other as Hegel thinks it is not the self who identifies. The self that Levinas write of is not a relation to Being as Heidegger thought nor is it a relation to beings as Husserl might have thought in intentionality. None of this epistemology accounts for the rupture which thinking and identity try to synthesize…bring under the rubric of logic. The relation is not one of epistemology but one of the failure of epistemology to explain radical rupture.
“one cannot leave monadology and expect to escape monism, i.e., one cannot escape the logic of absolute self-sameness and expect to escape an impersonal sameness.”
So, Hegel’s analysis of the purely formal same and other sucks us down the rabbit hole where self becomes one with the formal Idea..monism. From Aristotle’s perspective singularity is not subservient universality. For Aristotle there is at best a co-equal but I think more of an unresolved cataloging which ultimately fails to find a place for logic except in the service of ethics (phronesis… Nicomachean Ethics). I am reading a really interesting book on this now – The Ethics of Ontology: Rethinking an Aristotelian Legacy <https://www.sunypress.edu/p-3949-the-ethics-of-ontology.aspx>
Quotes from the dissertation…
This link between freedom and identity requires that the other appear only within the system of knowledge visible to the self’s regard, which free subjectivity itself constitutes (TeI 6-8/TI 36-38). This is what it means to receive nothing from an other but what I have already in myself. Within such a visible system, the alterity of the other outside of me is reduced to a set of limits imposed by the other’s position within a greater whole (TeI 8, 9/TI 38, 39): its alterity becomes, in other words, the form of its identity, but this identity derives strictly from the being’s delimitation in relation to other members of the system. The system itself is the manifestation of freedom as the totality of knowledge that makes beings available for me and on my terms.
This begins Levinas’ notion of alterity which I will not go further into at this point.
All of this discussion so far has centered on the early works of Levinas before and including Totality and Infinity. In the mature work of Levinas, Beyond Essence of Otherwise than Being, Levinas will deal with problems of language and temporality. The last chapter of the dissertation will deal with this work. For me, that is enough for now.