Welcome to the weblog for the Hegel Reading Group at Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths. This site is very much a work in progress but it can be useful for organizing meeting times, reading assignments, posting links, and continuing discussions. In order to be granted 'user' status email me at jeff@sakerna.se

Monday, July 31, 2006

Next Phenomenology meeting:Force and Understanding Aug 14th

August 14th at Ali Alizadeh's Abode in Dalston email ali.alizadeh@gmail.com or cup01jc@gold.ac.uk for directions and travel info. there will be a car leaving from NX for it. We'll be doing the third section of the first chapter of the Phenomenology of Spirit: Force and Understanding.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The tattered remains of the group (Scott, Maude and myself) met at Maude's last night - but rather than wading our way through Perception as perhaps we should have done, Maude and I had an argument (in a good way, I hope) about one of the passages in Lordship and Bondage. This was more or less resolved at the time - if only so that I could get on a train - but I'm sure there's more to say. Pehaps the conversation can continue, as it was an interesting one and I was enjoying it

The bone of contention was the last sentence of paragraph 188, below (this is a copy of the Bailey translation, free on marxists.org, not the Miller one that we've been using - but the wording is essentially the same):

Φ 188. This trial by death, however, cancels both the truth which was to result from it, and therewith the certainty of self altogether. For just as life is the natural “position” of consciousness, independence without absolute negativity, so death is the natural “negation” of consciousness, negation without independence, which thus remains without the requisite significance of actual recognition. Through death, doubtless, there has arisen the certainty that both did stake their life, and held it lightly both in their own case and in the case of the other; but that is not for those who underwent this struggle. They cancel their consciousness which had its place in this alien element of natural existence; in other words, they cancel themselves and are sublated as terms or extremes seeking to have existence on their own account. But along with this there vanishes from the play of change the essential moment, viz. that of breaking up into extremes with opposite characteristics; and the middle term collapses into a lifeless unity which is broken up into lifeless extremes, merely existent and not opposed. And the two do not mutually give and receive one another back from each other through consciousness; they let one another go quite indifferently, like things. Their act is abstract negation, not the negation characteristic of consciousness, which cancels in such a way that it preserves and maintains what is sublated, and thereby survives its being sublated.

Now, as I understood it at the time, Maude's argument (and I apologise if I misrepresent it) was based on Hegel's statement that the negation that takes place here is "abstract negation", and "not the negation characteristic of consciousness." Maude's claim (and again, If I misrepresent this I'm sorry) is that negations take place in the Phenomenology that are not sublations ("they are not characteristic of consciousness").

I think she's right - but only in so far as these negations are mistakes, contradictions, fuck ups in the dialectic which immediately require a new stage, and are thus sublated. The stage that supersedes them is directly informed by and results from this error, and on this basis I disagree that they fall outside the movement of Spirit.

My understanding of this passage is that it is at this point in the narrative that the two consciousnesses have engaged in the struggle to the death, in order to prove their distinction from Life (the objective world). Each consciousness wants to supersede the other, to use the other as its means of being self consciousness ("it must supersede the other independent being in order thereby to become certain of itself as the essential being; secondly, in so doing it proceeds to supersede its own self, for this other is itself" p.111) and as such they enter in to a struggle to the death.

But in the passage in question we see the immediate result of this struggle, in which on the one hand consciousness becomes negation (death, distinction from the objective world of life) and is thus shown to be consciousness, but has no independence (its fucking dead), whilst on the other consciousness as survivor becomes indistinguishable from life. Consciousness no longer has a consciousness to recognise. My claim is that this a contradiction which is then resolved into the relationship of lord and bondsman (where the loser in the struggle, instead of being killed off, is preserved as bondsman), which arises in the following passage (189, p.115).

In order to develop this claim, we might look back to a moment in The Truth of Self Certainty which echoes this movement. At that point in the text we see something very similar happening:

In The Truth of Self Certainty consciousness becomes desire ("self-consciousness is desire in general," p.105), and desires the object (which here becomes 'life': "the object has become life", p.106) - for it is through negating the object (consuming it, doing away with it) that it becomes self-consciousness. But if consciousness negates the object it will no longer have anything to bring it to self consciousness. The object which it wants to do away with is essential to its negating activity, and if the object has been done away with, this activity won't be possible. In this respect consciousness learns that the object must have independence. "...self certainty comes from superseding this other: in order that this supersession can take place, there must be this other. Thus self consciousness, by its negative relation to the object, is unable to supersede it; it is really because of that relation that it produces the object again, and the desire as well." (p.109).

Because of this contradiction the dialectic moves forward - we now come to realise that the object which provides desire with satisfaction (i.e. consciousness becoming self-consciousness) must be independent, and must negate itself ("On account of this independence of the object, therefore, it can achieve satisfaction only when the object itself effects the negation within itself; and it must carry out this negation of itself in itself, for it is in itself the negative, and must be for the other what it is." p.109) The object thus becomes another consciousness, and we now have two consciousnesses in relation with one another: "A self-consciousness exists for a self-consciousness. Only so is it in fact self-conscoiusness; for only in this way does the unity of itself in its otherness become explicit for it." (p.110)

So conscciousness learns here that it can't negate the object completely. Doing so results in a contradiction - and the result is that the dialectic moves forwards, and we end up with two conscoiusnesses rather than a consciousness and an object. On the basis of this inadequacy we move forwards, and in this respect the contradiction has been sublated into the next stage.

With this in mind - if we now go back to the passage from Lordship and Bondage, I think we can see something similar happening with the immediate result of the life and death struggle between the two consciousnesses.

Now, death is shown to be the negation of consciousness, but a negation without independence, "which thus remains without the required significance of recognition...Death certainly shows that each staked his life and held it of no account, both in himself and in the other; but that is not for those who survived this struggle."

So he's talking about victors and vanquished here - and he's talking about both as plurals. Both are killed off, both survive. This stems from the claims made on p.112, paragraph 182 (and throughout this section):

"Each sees the other do the same as it does; each does itself what it demands of the other, and therefore also does what it does only in so far as the other does the same. Action by one side would be useless because what is to happen can only be brought about by both"

Each seeks the death of the other. Each seeks their own perpetuation. Because what is happening to one is happening to both, we have a sense in the struggle to the death that both lose their connection to life, and yet both survive. He's also stressing in this passage that life is indepndence without negativity, whilst death is negativity without independence ("For just as life is the natural setting of consciousness, independence without absolute negativity, so death is the natural negation of consciousness, negation without independence..." p.114).

So, with death the two consciousnesses are shown to be consciousness, but no longer have independent existance (i.e. they're fucking dead); with life, i.e. survival, those that live no longer have negativity, i.e. they can no longer be classed as consciousness, and can no longer be distinguished from life (the objective world). As such they become "like things".

So again, just as was the case in The Truth of Self Certainty, we've reached a contradiction. Just like when desire did away with the object, which then had to change into a consciousness, we now have a contradiction in that the two consciousnesses cannot do away with each other. We've ended up with "an abstract negation, not the negation coming from consciousness, which supersedes in such a way as to preserve what is superseded, and consequently survives its own supersession." In other words, the negation that we've just enacted (killing off consciousness) hasn't worked, and has demonstrated itself to be inadequate. We now need to move forwards, and that's precisely what happens next:

"In this experience, self-consciousness learns that life is as essential to it as pure self-consciousness."(paragraph 189, p.115). Consciousness has learned that self consciousness cannot be distinguished absolutely from life - doing so ends up with an 'abstract negation,' a dead end. In learning this, it sublates this contradiction into a new form: the relationship of lord and bondsman. The victor does not kill the vanquished, but keeps him in a subordinate role.

SO: after that long, tedious explanation - I don't see why this isn't an example of sublation. we reach a contradiction in paragraph 188, in that the negation that consciousness undertook turns out to be flawed. This is then remedied in 189, and in this respect the error is sublated into a new form.

Have a good weekend,


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Young Hegel conference

St Edmund Hall, Oxford4th-5th September 2006"Hegel and His Early Writings"Website: http://www.hsgb.group.shef.ac.uk/conference.htmlSpeakers include:James Clarke (University of York)"Fichte and Hegel on Recognition"Claudia Melica (University of Trento)"Striving to Unity: Hegel and Hemsterhuis"Paul Franks (University of Toronto)"Ancient Scepticism and Modern Nihilism in Hegel's Early Writings"Wayne Martin (University of Essex)"In Defense of Fichtean Infinitude: Hegel's Fallacy in theDifferenzschrift"Evangelia Sembou (University of Oxford)"The Young Hegel on 'Life' and 'Love'"Dennis Schulting (University of Amsterdam)"The Functionality of Christian Life"Registration forms are available from the Hegel Society of Great Britainwebsite: http://www.hsgb.group.shef.ac.uk/conference.htmlFor further details, contact:Dr Thom BrooksDepartment of PoliticsUniversity of NewcastleNewcastle upon Tyne, NE1 7RUUnited KingdomEmail: t.brooks@newcastle.ac.ukThe registration deadline is *1st AUGUST 2006*

Thursday, July 13, 2006

A brief note on Sublation from hegel.net

Sublationby Kai Froeb

One central term of Hegel, the German word "aufheben", is usualy translated as "sublation" into English.
It has three meanings, which Hegel all means at the same time:
a) in it's basic meaning, it stands for a picture: to raise something, from a lower place to a higher place. Usually, you would think of taking something from the floor/ground into your hand.
Out of this picture, came these meanings:
b) You can see in that picture the meaning "raising something to a higher level", taking it a step further etc. While Hegel plays much with this meaning (in the sense that the Aufhebung / Sublation needs to take the original thesis to a higher level, think for example of Newton Physics vs. Einstein Physics), it is not really that much explicit present in the common use of that phrase in German common language.
c) You take something from the ground to examine it or to store it away. So the phrase is also used in the sense of "storing", "saving", "preserving" (usualy for later use). This is a common use of the word in German. Hegel uses this interpretation in the sense that the original thesis and antithesis are still present in some sense in the wider sublation (again one can think of Newton vs. Einstein).
d) Another popular use of "Aufhebung"/"aufheben" in the German common language is nearly the opposite of c): I think the English language also uses the verb "to lift" (as present in the original picture presented in a)), in the sense of "to end", "to negate" say in the expression "to lift a ban" etc.
In German we also speak i.e. of the lift of a law, when a law of the state is expressed to be not more valid anymore.
Hegel thinks of this aspect of sublation/Aufhebung in what I tried to express in 2d of that Hegel posting. While c) lays the expression on the fact that the older thesis are not just denied, but that all what was reasonable in them is preserved in a better system (and that the better system is not better/subject to criticism in the grade it fails to implement all reasonable from the thesis), d) lays the emphasis more in the aspect in that the Sublation is also something new and also a kind of critique of the former thesis (otherwise, why would one need the sublation? The thesis would be enough). Especially, the idea here is that the implicit assumptions, borders of thesis (and probably antitheses) are "lifted"/"overcome" in a meaningful "sublation".
In order to express these three aspects all together, Hegelians prefer to speak from "Aufhebung" instead of expansion, inclusion, synthesis or similar, which all more focus on some aspects. BTW, Hegel himself never used the term "synthesis" for the concept of "sublation" discussed here.

Next date and further clarifications


The next meeting will be at my house on Thursday the 20th. Email cup01jc@gold.ac.uk for the address, (it was posted it to the ccs-phd list). I think it's best to go through the book slowly, throughly and consistently in a quiet room. Due to the nature of the Phenomenology of Spirit as outlined in the Preface, may I suggest that we do not try to summarize or pin down the slippery Hegel too prematurely. Each section in a way sublates the section that precedes it.

For those of you who have missed most or a few or all of the sessions it is indeed not too late to join in! We indeed have not gotten very far with the Phenomenology of Spirit. For those of you who will not be able to make weekly meetings, I think if we keep a steady slow pace that you will be able to join in every two weeks or just attend the sessions on the section you are interested in, if you are already familiar with the book. We will post the dates, the corresponding sections and the locations (whose house it will be held in or what room in Goldsmiths) after the meeting on Thursday on this site and to the ccs-list. I will send out weekly reminders of the section and the location (with full address) on the ccs-phd list.

See you Thursday.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Force and the Understanding Summary

I've changed this as I was hopelessly wrong, and feel duly ashamed

The universal that consciousness starts off by looking at is a construct of consciousness. In Sense Certainty he describes a universal as follows: "A simple entity of this sort, which is by and through negation, which is neither this nor that, which is a not-this, and with equal indifference this as well as that — a thing of this kind we call a Universal." The universal is a product of consciousness' interaction with the object, a union of object and consciousness, and as such when consciousness takes the universal as its object it is looking at an object which comprises its own relationship with objectivity.

When we start the book looking at particulars (the tree at night, the house at day) and end up learning that the truth of any one particular is the universal - i.e. I can only know this particular thing by knowing it as a particular moment within a plurality of moments. It seems from this that the true 'essence' of particularity is universality. But this means that we have a conditional universality, a universality that is derived from and hence 'burdened' with sensual objectivity. In Perception this is addressed, and we end up looking at the relationship between universality and particularity. In so doing we resolves this conditional relationship; universality is not the essential part of the relationship between universality and particularity, rather both are equally essential to the other. Everything is in so far as it is for another; the essential truth of the particular object is not particular to it, but ris ather its existance within the universal, whilst the essential truth of the universal is that it comprises particularity.

So when we start Force and the Understanding we have this 'unconditioned' universality as our object; and although this object is in fact a construct of consciousness, consciousness is not aware of this as its been looking at objectivity throughout, and considers the 'answer' its ended up with to also be an object. In this universal it sees the movement between particularity and universality, which Hegel calls force. So force must therefore essentially be the movement of consciousness as it constitutes this universal - and not an objective, real, substantial force that constitutes objective, real, substantial being which is how I'd first understood this. As I now understand it, force is consciousness itself as the object of the Understanding (although the understanding doesn't know this).

When force is first introduced its a differentiation between universality and particularity that only exists in the Understanding, as we've already established that these are differences that are really no differences at all. Force is only implicitly a Notion, is only within the understanding, and as such is a Notion that has not been actualised. However, we've established that the truth of the unconditioned universal is that what something is for another it also is in itself - and as such these distinctions must be real and present within the unconditioned universal. We start off saying that the unconditioned universal is itself force, and that the particularities within this universal are force expressed. The movement of force is then resolved into the reciprocal relationship between two forces - and this is then resolved into a second universal, which is the Notion, the thought of the unity of these two forces. This becomes the inner world.

So there's a sense in which this section of the text follows the movement of the Notion (of which I have only a rudimentary understanding) - a blank, imediate universality (the unconditioned universal); particular moments (the two forces); particular moments within a mediated universality (force as an actualised). The inner world - which at this stage is noumenal - is implicitly the Notion, and is essentially the movement of consciousness in its interaction with the objective world.

The chapter then goes on to describe how this inner world is populated by laws, how these laws condense into an overall Law, and how the distinction between the Law and law is really no difference at all. In explaining the world we put forward accounts of the difference between the particular and the universal (a lightning strike and electricity, for example), but in so doing also say that there is no distinction between the universal and the particular (the lightning strike is electricity). So in putting forward these explanations we are implicitly describing consciousness in its interaction with the objective world; we are describing a relationship between universality and particularity, a relationship between the positive (particularity, objective being) and the negative (universality, consciousness).

Having understood that the truth of the inner world is a difference that is really no difference at all, the inner world becomes the inverted world; the truth of every thing is that it is in opposition to itself, and from this we end up with the concept of infinity - every unity is an opposition, and every opposition is a unity. Infinity now becomes the object of consciousness.

Although infinity is the movement of consciousness, and its essential truth, consciousness doesn't know this yet - it still takes it as an object. However, when consciousness comes to take infinity as its object, it knows this object - and the nature of it (infinity) is such that it knows that the difference between itself and its object is really no difference at all. We, as observers, have known that infinity is in fact the real nature of consciousness; but now that consciosuness does away with the distinction between itself and infinity it knows itself in its object. consequently, it differentiates itself from itself, whilst understanding that this distinction is really no distinction at all, and is therefore self-consciousness.