Wednesday, October 13, 2010

(hopefully more time for the Platonic geometer tomorrow)

What is the spiritual destiny of a state? This might be the proper way to ask in terms of a phenomenology of spirit how to understand the distinction between state and church. The individual gives himself over to more than one kind of common destiny, so that there are destinies which are not ultimate in the way of the destiny of the church. However, the destiny of an individual fits in with the destiny of the church, but the destiny of a state seems not to fit in so nicely. My American upbringing (read “the manifestation of objective spirit which forms in part (which 'part?') the material for my own self-offering destiny,” if you like) makes it horrible for me to think that a nation might simply have no destiny of its own, might be only a collective tool of individuals — unless such a lack were the determinate self-negation of national destiny itself. On the other hand, the state seems to become something monstrous as soon as it lays claim to destiny. Our own history has involved a gradual abdication from a sense of “manifest destiny” learned perhaps only through the wretched enactments of that perceived destiny. On the other hand, this abdication seems to be nothing peculiar to our history — more of a destiny of the whole Western world. Nevertheless, I find it is beyond me to deny that America is something. If anyone has any idea what, please let me know.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

“For to think does not mean to be an abstract 'I', but an 'I' which has at the same time the significance of intrinsic being, of having itself for object, or of relating itself to objective being in such a way that its significance is the being-for-self of the consciousness for which it is [an object]. For in thinking, the object does not present itself in picture-thoughts but in Notions, i.e. in a distinct being-in-itself or intrinsic being, consciousness being immediately aware that this is not anything distinct from itself.”

I think the following is true—whether it's Hegel is another question:

Thinking an object means more than representing it for consciousness. For what can be represented to consciousness is not what can be thought. I can represent a circular thing to myself but I cannot represent a circle. The most I can do is represent something as representative of a circle. But even this "as" does not appear within representation. Only by hypothesizing the circular as the equal distance of points from a center on a plane do I form the concept of the circle. This hypothesis can be drawn through a figure, or better, through the tracing of a figure, and continually depends on the repetition of such a figure, in order to persist as the superseding of this figure. The circular is the determinate nothing constituted by the vanishing of a circular figure.
This concept of circularity is only a model: the discovery of the circular as the vanishing of a figure is not yet thinking, but it is like thinking. It is like thinking in that it supersedes what can be represented and is this superseding. Thinking, however, does not inhere in a mathematical approach to things, but in the disclosure of the thinghood of things through work. The proper object of consciousness shows up not in the light of the indiscriminate overturning of representation, but in the light of the good. At first this light shines in the proximate good which makes the object of work show up as something to be developed. Something that has to be worked into shape presents itself to the worker as resistance: it resists its own being—what it is supposed to be. Abstractly, the thing seems just to be what it is. In the light of the good which shines through work, it shows up as the concept of itself, which is to say that it shows up as really being what the working consciousness, referring to the good, has placed upon it to become. What from the outside seems to be a projection of the working consciousness on its object shows up in this light as the true being of the thing in itself.

Monday, October 4, 2010

How can an account of the development of consciousness divide itself between two incompatible consciousnesses? The “subservient consciousness” of the bondsman does not have any of the benefit of the developments already conditioning the “independent consciousness” of the lord. It lacks a developed pursuit of recognition, yet it purports to be a result of this development. To be sure, “the action of the [bondsman] is the [lord]'s own action; for what the bondsman does is really the action of the lord.” But the action of the bondsman is what is to become thinking, and at this point doing someone else's action reaches a limit—no one can think for anyone else. On the other hand, it is not the bondsman who encounters this limit of his recognition nor, superseding it, the concomitant vanishing of the one-sidedness of the recognition. Thus, the dialectic seems to allow the lord to have done the thinking of the bondsman.
Perhaps the thinking by which self-consciousness passes from lord to bondsman to develop itself belongs neither to one nor the other. But then, to whom does it belong? The strange drift of the Hegelian wind seems once again to have blown thinking right out of the reach of any one who wanted to accomplish it.

Friday, October 1, 2010


Stand by for more Hegel blogging. In the meantime some thoughts on that other threefold circler:

If, as Patrick Boyde has observed, Dante exploits the indeterminate phases of perception to create suspense, then the prelude to Geryon's arrival in Inferno amplifies this effect by disposing the monster's appearance out of the darkness as the expected, yet answer to a sign. When Virgil throws Dante's girdle down into the pit, the disappearance of the cord cuts a path into the darkness, through which Geryon can make his appearance. Dante, indeed, already perceives this possible arrival as a necessity:
"And surely, something strange must here reply,"
I said within myself, "to this strange sign--
the sign my master follows with his eye."

The sign is a cord, "knotted and coiled." It recently had the practical function of girdling Dante's attire, and once the allegorical function of enabling Dante "to catch the leopard with the painted hide." By divesting himself of it, Dante at once divests it of this its double significance--or rather, he testifies to the loss of its allegorical function. The history of the cord runs thus: once, it was an allegory--or a thing waiting to become one, like a coiled snake waiting to strike, its allegorical destiny bound within it; then, its significance waning, the allegorical occasion having escaped it, it became a mere thing, its knots and coils girdling only attire; now, Dante having "loosened it completely," the cord is loosened from its literal function as well. Yet, it remains "knotted and coiled." Around what, and binding what? Nothing, to be sure. But this nothing is a determinate nothing: the loosening of a thing from its literal and allegorical significance. Its meaning is now only this loosening, which it binds. "Strange sign," indeed.