Welcome to part 3 of dialectical thinking. In this article we will be carrying on from Part 1 and 2, focused on the Real in-itself, Hegel’s system, and its final frontier. In this approach we are going to be identifying a Real without a dialectical element, the way in which Hegel’s system tries to approach this Real through dialectics, as well as the beyond of the dialectical system, or its final frontier.
In order to start we bring back to consciousness that the Real we have already identified is related to our contradictions of reason, and our subjective action. This Real of contradictions and subjective action, brings us beyond both the reals of science and religion, collapsing them from within, and forces us to confront a beyond of both religion and science, which is not capable of accepting contradictions of reason, and our subjective action, as the most real.
Thus, we are brought to fields outside of science and religion, like philosophy, psychoanalysis and existentialism. In philosophy, psychoanalysis and existentialism, there is a similar emergent structure where truth of the one is found in its self-split into two. For example, philosophy fractures between something and nothing; psychoanalysis fractures between eros and thanatos; and existentialism fractures between life and death. Notice in all of these structures, one of the two, is empty: nothing, thanatos and death; in relation to a series of ones: something, eros and life.
From a dialectical standpoint, the truth of the series of ones, something-eros-life, can be found in the absence of the other, nothing-thanatos-death. This then brings us to the real in-itself, and the distinction between the real for-us and the real in-itself. The real for-us is experienced as rational contradictions, as our own subjective action; however the real-in-itself is a pure absence. When we put the real for-us and the real in-itself together, we have a relationship between the subject’s contradictions and a gap which is invariant and absolute. This Real is the cause, or the reason why the subject is constantly involved in invariant contradictions of reason.
Consequently, it is not because the subject is at a distance from the truth that it finds itself in contradictions, but precisely because it is connected to the truth that it finds itself in contradictions. The truth of the real thus gains a temporal structure between the new and the old. There is the old in-itself, as well as the old for the new. As well as the new in-itself, and the new for the old. The tension or the antagonism for the real in-itself is the way in which the old and the new are being dialectized by subjective contradictions and actions. This constant tension prevents the closure of a perfect reason that would absolutely motivate subjective action without contradictions.
Thus, the Real in-itself is not to be thought of as a positively existing independent reality, but rather as a type of self-repelling negativity that can never be filled in with positive content. This self-repelling negativity that can never be filled in with positive content, brings us to the extremes that subjectivity feels in the intensity of its emotions: suffering due to the absence of the Thing; as well as desire due to the impossibility of the Thing.
This dimension of suffering and desire is identified by many spiritual and religious traditions. For example, in Buddhism suffering and nothingness is the ultimate reality; as well as for Christianity, love and the impossible oneness is the ultimate reality.
In terms of our concrete experience of the Real, there is always a feeling that there is something lost in the past: the old in-itself or the new for the old; or something missed in the future: the new in-itself, and the old for the new.
This feeling is being provoked because the Real is not a positive substance but something empty-absent: nothing, thanatos, death.
The only solution the subject has in relation to the Real as an absent-gap, is that it has to recognize this absent-gap as a positive feature. However, whether or not it is recognized as positive or negative by subjectivity, it is in-itself impossible to fill or close, and also unavoidable, one cannot get rid of it or eliminate it, it is irreducible.
Hegel’s system is a phenomenological system that tries to approach this Real. Hegel’s system is structured to mobilize negativity, the absence or the gap as a Real, and works with it, in order to produce higher levels of spirit. Thus, Hegel’s system does not positivize an imaginary noumenal Thing, but works with the Real thing-in-itself as contradictions of abstraction, which finds their truth in concrete disintegration, opening the space for new abstraction.
In order to understand how Hegel’s system achieves this, we have to understand on a meta-level that it is structured by three dimensions:
- 1. historical phenomenology is one spiritual process, nothing else exists, or rather, nothing is;
- 2. this process is always divided into two, with one of the two being an empty lack, a self-repelling negativity;
- 3. and that the reconciliation between the two is always that one of the two is empty which brings forth a paradoxical third element
This means that the first step in the dialectic is the subject, life-something-eros, posits some presupposition, abstractions, and these abstractions get caught up in the things-in-themselves; which are the contradictions, the incoherence, and the oppositions of the abstractions, because the Real in-itself is an empty lack; and then the abstractions meet their truth in concrete disintegration, the deployment of their set of potentials, which are finite, temporal, etc., and not infinite and eternal.
The consequence is that the subject as a phenomenal historical entity, is constantly caught up in generating itself in new posited presuppositions, like religion and capitalism. And then is forced to deal with the inherent negativity of these posited presuppositions, their contradictions, incoherence and oppositions, that are produced by the positivity of these abstractions, the critique of religion and capitalism for example, as a negativity. Finally, the subject finds the truth of these presuppositions in their concrete dissolution, the death of religion, the formation of late capitalism, and ultimately the dissolution of capitalism. A new system can then emerge as a concrete new reality.
Due to the nature of this dialectical motion, involving the emergence of abstractions, posited presuppositions, and their truth in temporal dissolution, Hegel’s system has a way of differentiating itself from a simplistic evolutionism, which is the dominant metaphysical paradigm in the science’s today.
Hegel’s dialectics differentiates itself from simplistic evolutionism in three main areas:
- It is synchronic, describing a system of abstraction in the present, over diachronic, describing the history of a certain system;
- It is constantly operating in the present and viewing the past from the retroactive standpoint of the present, as opposed to telling us a story, a particular story, of the past, and the way in informs the present;
- And finally, it is always-already closed-necessary-whole in-itself, a present motion of abstractions, as opposed to the emergence of it, which is open-contingent-processual, the past of abstractions.
Focusing on the present-moment of a certain symbolic totality leads us to three main problems or common criticisms of the Hegelian system from the point of view of individual experience, that needs to be addressed internal to Hegelian dialectics of sublation. The first is that of the problem of idealization of a totality, where an ideal is said to subsume individual experience; the fixed nature of identity, of a certain totality, as opposed to its processual becoming; and finally, the indefinite survival of a certain totality under a paradigm of goal-orientation or survival or fitness maximization.
In thinking sublimation, individual eros, over a type of Hegelian sublation, systemic totality, we can move from idealizing a symbolic totality, to thinking positively the untotalizable element of a particular totality, via individual repetition, the way in which repetition escapes any particular totalization by the ideal. This repetition prevents strict identification with a symbolic totality in identity, and moves towards the transforming of a totality via the introduction of a un-sublatable difference. Finally, we also have to change the perspective of the goal of a totality, the survival or continuation of itself, and instead point towards the death of a totality, and ultimately the freedom of spirit in the dissolution of what contains, controls or holds it.
That brings us towards the end of the three part series on dialectical thinking. In the first part we focused on origins of the search for truth, and the consequences for fundamental theory; on the second part we focused on dialectical negativity and the beyond of religion and science in spirit; and finally, we focused on spirit’s own Real, and how Hegel’s system approaches this Real, coupled with its own final frontier in philosophy.
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