Abstraction and Utopia in Early German Idealism Abstraction and Utopia in Early German Idealism

This paper is based on a close reading of the first five p tions of Schelling’s Darstellung meines Systems der Philosophie (1801). The author argues that what is distinctive and significant about these propositions is that they both describe and create an ideal space determined by an athetic logic. The first five propositions of the 1801 Darstellung are intended to transport the reader outside of time and space, outside of affirmation and negation, to a neutralised utopia defined by three functions alone: abstraction, entailment and definition. The author considers this intention in the context of German Idealist discussions of abstraction: Hegel’s critique of the abstract particular and abstractive methodology, as well as Fichte’s and early Schelling’s attempt to theorise abstraction as the starting point for the philosophical enterprise. This leads the author to consider what a philosophical text that practices abstraction and construction (rather than deduction, inference, or explanation) looks like, and he draws upon the early work of Louis Marin to characterise such a text as utopic. In so doing, he attempts to demonstrate the significance and cogency of a nondialectical, a-Hegelian tradition in early German Idealism that culminates in the opening pages of Schelling’s 1801 Darstellung.

Contingency, Pure ContingencyWithout Any Further Determination: Modal Categories in Hegelian Logic Contingency, Pure ContingencyWithout Any Further Determination: Modal Categories in Hegelian Logic

Beginning during G.W. F. Hegel’s own lifetime, two interlinked unsympathetic portraits of Hegel take shape and become enduring refrains in his critics’ complaints. According to the first of these, the Hegelian philosophical system posits a foundational teleological necessity that rigidly determines the constitution of both natural and human realities. The second critical portrayal of Hegel charges him with an ideologically pernicious Panglossianism dressing up a miserably conservative/reactionary status quo as the highest possible sociohistorical realization of Reason itself. Taken together, these two connected criticisms amount to treating Hegelian Wissenschaft as a post-Kantian version of Leibniz’s theosophy, with the former, purportedly like the latter, appealing to a necessary teleology supposedly guaranteeing the actualization of “the best of all possible worlds.” From the late-period F. W. J. Schelling and Rudolf Haym through today, countless voices past and present have repeated these anti-Hegelian allegations. The goal of the paper, simply stated, is to discredit thoroughly both of these pictures of Hegel’s philosophy. These two entwined lines of criticism ultimately rest upon the imputation to Hegel of a certain arrangement of modal categories in which possibility has priority over actuality, and necessity dictates the transition from the possible to the actual. Through a close reading of Hegel’s core doctrine of modal categories as definitively delineated in his mature Logic, the author shows that the depiction of Hegel as a neo-Leibnizian is an intellectually bankrupt, one-hundred-eighty-degree inversion of the truth.

Speculation and Infinite Life: Hegel and Meister Eckhart on the Critique of Finitude Speculation and Infinite Life: Hegel and Meister Eckhart on the Critique of Finitude

The paper turns to the thought of G.W. F. Hegel and its c gence with Meister Eckhart’s thought in order to explore the possibility of a speculative and affirmative relationship between philosophy and religion. It argues that these thinkers, taken together, offer a possible way of rejecting one of the binary structures prevalent in recent continental philosophy, namely the division between an atheistic defense of philosophy and its (secular) egological subjects on one hand, and the affirmation of the primacy of transcendence and alterity (in a quasitheological vein) on the other hand. Hegel’s and Eckhart’s works suggest that such binaries foreclose a third possibility of annihilating the subject as a way to affirm a speculative and infinite immanence. Utilizing different discursive spaces and theoretical vocabularies, Hegel and Eckhart propose to annihilate the subject as the site from which transcendence could be affirmed in the first place. Moreover, here, God no longer functions as a name against which to struggle in the name of atheism, or one to uphold for a theological critique of the secular. Rather, it becomes the name for the possibility of absolute desubjectivation, of self-emptying and annihilating the subject— processes that are no longer open to transcendence, but reveal the ungrounded immanence of life. In tracing these logics, this paper questions the dominant distribution of concepts structuring the recent turn to religion in continental philosophy, and suggests one possibility for the democratization of thought that would dislocate the imperialism of secular and atheistic discourses without elevating theology to a renewed position of power.

Beginning with Kant: Utopia, Immanence, and the Origin of German Idealism Beginning with Kant: Utopia, Immanence, and the Origin of German Idealism

This paper outlines a utopic reading of the Kantian origin of German Idealism, which in turn implies and necessitates a rearticulation of the concept of utopia. In this optic, utopia ceases to be a mere idealistic vision of the future and becomes, first and foremost, a utopian method and standpoint from which Kantian idealism begins. Utopia, in this sense, originates as if at a distance from the real, but in such a way that it remains impossible to reach it from within reality; any such transition would have to remain, at best, an infinite approximation. It is therefore pointless to expect utopia—one can only begin from it. This implies a different, non-Spinozan immanence, which this paper characterizes as utopian and discovers in Kant. On this reading, transcendental idealism, as non-realism, suspends the real and starts from a “non-place,” refusing to think the emergence of the ideal from any environment or the in-itself. This non-place is reduplicated as an immanent, non-dualist facticity from which the subject of idealism proceeds to think and act. Idealism thus implies a utopian structure (non-relation), operation (suspension), and temporality (futurity-as-facticity), which, taken together, suggest a different way of looking at the continuity between Kant and post-Kantian idealism, as well as a way to think immanence as non-Spinozistic—and even as deconstructing Spinozism—while also avoiding any dualism, including that of the religious-secular binary.

The Beginning of Spirit As We Know It: Hegel’s Mother The Beginning of Spirit As We Know It: Hegel’s Mother

Contemporary anthropological discourses are struggling and striving more than ever before. This may come as a surprise, given the longtime intimate connection anthropology has had with metaphysics. This article investigates how and why Hegel’s anthropology, the first part of his philosophy of subjective spirit and his philosophy of spirit as a whole, is a means of overcoming a substantialist characterization of the human. To that end, the article turns to Hegel’s conception of habit in order to raise the problem of the human spirit’s beginning in Hegel’s anthropology and the relationship between habit as “second” nature and the “first” nature that habit transforms. In doing this, we come across the issue of inheritance in Hegel: if there is nothing that is a given, then how can we conceive that which spirit somehow inherits? Hegel refers to this presence of spirit in the mode of absence as “nature.” Spirit presupposes nature, i. e. its own absence. There are, furthermore, two important aspects to the natural disposition of spirit in Hegel, analyzed here: the concept of “genius” and the role of another subject. The author defends the idea that Hegel’s anthropology may be regarded as overcoming substantialism, because for Hegel the human being cannot but be confronted with the fact that there is no (m)other.

The Owl and the Angel The Owl and the Angel

In Hegel’s philosophical system, the owl of Minerva is not just a m phor, but a significant symbol. In the symbolism of Hegel’s time, it stood for ideas of enlightenment and political emancipation, including radical, revolutionary, cosmopolitan, anti-monarchical, and even anarchistic ideas. Hegel, however, places the owl in a context that appears utterly un-revolutionary. “The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of dusk,” he writes in the preface to the Philosophy of Right, thus summing up his argument that philosophy’s task is not to teach the world how it ought to be, nor to issue instructions to the state, but rather to comprehend the world as reasonable. Not only does Hegel’s owl seem to defend the reactionary present state (a state against which she previously fought in the name of reason and freedom), but she also seems to teach us to accept the present with joy. The point is not merely to reconcile oneself with reality, but also to enjoy it. This paper traces a number of explanatory trajectories—philosophical, psychological, and anthropological—in order to elucidate the paradoxical nature of this enjoyment, and compares the figure of Minerva’s owl with another flying creature, Walter Benjamin’s Angel of History. Such a comparison aims to pave the way towards a new interpretation of Hegel’s philosophy of history and time.

Kierkegaard, Fichte and the Subject of Idealism Kierkegaard, Fichte and the Subject of Idealism

While the philosophical and religious authorship of Søren Kierkegaard is often said to be absolutely anti-systematic, and in particular anti-idealist in its orientation, this essay argues that Kierkegaar’s philosophical project can in fact be best interpreted as offering a critical appropriation of the philosophy of German Idealism. Through a reading of his text, Johannes Climacus, the author shows that Kierkegaard is interested in exploring the existential stakes of the philosophy of German Idealism from the perspective of the dynamic development of consciousness. Along with this, he uses the work of J. G. Fichte to further show the manner in which this concern with the life of the individual subject places Kierkegaard in continuity with one of the key figures of German Idealism. Along with a systematic reading which places Kierkegaard in clear historical continuity with German Idealism, the paper concludes by arguing that this idealist interpretation of Kierkegaard not only places his thought more clearly in a nineteenth century philosophical context, but equally that this reading can offer conceptual support to contemporary theories of subjectivity. In particular, the author argues that only by rereading the work of Kierkegaard via the conceptual framework of German Idealism can we bring his thought to life in a way that makes it absolutely crucial to contemporary philosophical debates on the nature of subjectivity and the political.

Debordian Strategists: Agamben and Virno on the Coming Politics Debordian Strategists: Agamben and Virno on the Coming Politics

This paper considers Agamben’s political project as it develops in response to Guy Debord. By tracing the historical context of Agamben’s initial engagement with Debord during the summer of 1968, I argue for a reading of The Coming Community as at one and the same time the opening of Agamben’s explicit political project and as part of a specific theoretical horizon, namely a divergent or heretical Marxism. The importance of Debord for Agamben’s political project allows for a helpful comparison between Agamben and postoperaismo, especially the work of Paolo Virno, alongside whom Agamben published an essay recapitulating the conclusion of The Coming Community in a 1991 book on the Situationists. I situate Agamben’s inheritance from Debord against the work of Virno in order to carry out an immanent critique of Agamben’s conceptualization of language, life, and the common in relation to politics. Situating Virno’s development within a similar, if fleeting, Debordian heritage, I argue that it is especially the problem of the common that remains under-conceptualized in Agamben’s political project.

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