I’ve been lagging shamefully in my discussion of the Science of Logic – the Hegel conference (preparing for it and then recovering from it) derailed other sorts of posts, such that the most recent listing of posts on the topic is still the one contained here. The in-person reading group is, however, still meeting (although the group took a break itself for the conference, which all of us were attending), and we’ve trundled our way up to the section on Being-for-Self – meaning that we finally reach the section on Quantity next week… ;-P So it’s been a bit slow… ;-P I will try to blog at least some bits and pieces from this discussion (and – ahem! – L Magee has also promised something soon).
I have only a few minutes this morning before the group meets, so I just wanted to toss up a quotation from today’s material, from the Remark on The Unity of the One and the Many, in the chapter on Being-for-Self. (I’m somewhat tempted to dedicate this passage to Wildly, who might perhaps be particularly well placed to appreciate why this passage attracts my attention… ;-P) I won’t have time elaborate, so consider this just a placeholder, with apologies that this passage might not spark in interesting thoughts in anyone else:
Self-subsistence pushed to the point of one as a being-for-self is abstract, formal, and destroys itself. It is the supreme, most stubborn error, which takes itself for the highest truth, manifesting in more concrete forms as abstract freedom, pure ego and, further, as Evil. It is that freedom which so misapprehends itself as to place its essence in this abstraction, and flatters itself that in thus being with itself it possesses itself in its purity. More specifically, this self-subsistence is the error of regarding as negative that which is its own essence, and of adopting a negative attitude towards it. Thus it is the negative attitude towards itself which, in seeking to possess its own being destroys it, and this its act is only the manifestation of the futility of the act. The reconciliation is the recognition that the object of this negative attitude is rather its own essence, and is only letting go of the negativity of its being-for-self instead of holding fast to it. (356)
There is a sense in which this passage captures the core of what I’ve been trying to do with Marx – this attempt to move beyond approaches that “regard as a negative that which is their own essence”. I’m inclined to agree with Hegel here that it is the “most stubborn error” to treat essence as negation – as something that arises when specific attributes have been stripped away – rather than as what Deleuze might call affirmation – as something constituted actively in a determinate positive shape. The framing of “essence” as “negation” deflects attention from the process of constitution – which is an important process to try to keep in view… From my point of view, critical standpoints are very often posited as negations in precisely this way – often unwittingly, in the context of analyses that see themselves as exploring processes of constitution, but that tacitly only thematise the constitution of what is being criticised, rather than also the constitution of the determinate qualitative characteristics of the critical standpoint itself, which is rather posited as an… abstraction – as something that left behind in the wake of a critical analysis of how other things are constituted. But the reading group is scheduled to begin in ten minutes, and I can’t cash out this comment now – have to run…