the violence of subjectivity complements our lack of negativity

There is an inherent violence in being a subject.

AS what Slavoj Zizek calls the universal exception, our subjectivity each is an exception of the unbreakable rule of the universal.

This subjectivity must be "non-all" an untotalized whole which prevents the universal from foreclosing.

Part of why I think so much continental philosophy goes on and on about subjectivity and cannot bridge the gap between subjectivity and society remains in this gap between the "non-all" and the universal.

A great part of why modern philosophy starts with Kant is that Kant provides exegesis on subjectivity -- but only does so at the expense of the noumenal.  Kant sacrifices the rest of the world, the external world in exchange for securing subjective phenomenal experience.

Hegel tries to fix Kant.  The genuis of Hegel is that he wrote on the extra subjectivity, the becoming-universal of particulars -- he tried to bridge that gap with his dialectical absolutist system, to totalize the non-all and unproblematize the subjectivity by enfolding it back into the Notion.

Whether he succeeds or not is up to debate of course, but no other philosopher has come close to his achievement.  This is why Hegel remains for both Marx and Lacan (in fact even today), the godfather -- Hegel provides the only comprehensive system of talking about the universal qua society with an eye on the particular.  He does so by nearly sacrificing the subjective, but saves it through a kind of transcendental rambling.

By comparison, Deleuze and Guattari don't even talk about subjectivity; they make it irrelevant.  Graham Harman also side-steps this Cartesian mutualism by going via the Object with Merleau-Ponty and his notion of flesh.

But I'm not going to go in depth to examine others.

What's so damning about Hegel is that through his particular becoming-universal he found the universal on the particular, through a kind of metaphysical "raising" of essence.  This is obviously what Deleuze and Guattari do with various meta-tools, like territorializations and refrains, the difference though is that Hegel does this raising through negation.

Negation eliminates what does not fit that form.  To emphaize my point, Kristeva attributes negation as a concept to Hegel -- the specific making of a negative (something).  Contrast this with Kant and Kristeva points out that Kant only discovered negativity -- the absence of what we are looking for.

The negation of Hegel allows us not only a radical de-subjectivising but also the clearing of room to make way for the *trumpet sounding* throne of one particular to rise up to the throne of universality. In contrast, Kant used negativity in order to make room.

Where violence comes into place is our rejection of the negation.  Our supposition as a subjectivity must come about through social effluence -- we stand up to this symbolic universal by declaring our relevance against our own negation by this universal.

We tear out and subjectivise what would be an object.  We would do violence to universals and other would-be universal small-others through our radical Otherness qua subjectivity.  Think of the violence today perhaps in Libya and Egypt

Think of the French Revolution.

Think of all the expressions of free-self organization that the U.N. throughout the 20th century and up till today have stamped out, and how small-other Universals qua government seek to legitimize their claim on what would be a universal expression of their own brand of subjectivity... we return to State Democracy its own Jacobianian Excesses in the form of our own self-subjectivisation which then must always be violent.

This is also how Hegel is also the first modern philosopher-statesman inasmuch as the first and only true philosopher on modern Universality.

Unfortunately we seem stuck on this in Continental Philosophy and unable to articulate other forms of universality. We can't articular a society let alone conceive of one. And no, ramblings of a disintegrated body of objectivity does not a society make.

So no: the radical pluralism of Deleuze and Guattari do not count simply because while they clear our the space for alternate forms they are too reactionary against Hegel to be useful in constructivism.  It's also questionable as to whether or not we are at a point in which there is enough space for anything else to be constructed.

original entry here: Universal = Negation

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Comment by Alexander Lee on May 18, 2011 at 9:15am

You know, in the English Dept there is much contempt for Hegel.  I am sure most of the professors who scoff at his name have probably not read too much of Hegel.  Even with Zizek's enthusiasm, it took more than quite a few of his works to turn me around.  I read a book (called 'Alterity' something or other, I can't see to find it right now) that talked a great deal about Hegel but turned me off because it compared his personal life to his philosophy.  A good friend of mine pointed out, that's a character flaw -- not a philosophical flaw -- but that didn't sit well with me.  After a time, I finally read Phenomenology of Spirit, and discovered that everything anyone has said about Hegel was true, and that Hegel is rightly so, one of the (if not greatest) philosopher-statesmen around... and that it seems people talk so much trash about Hegel because they can't find a way out of him.


So I'm glad you found Hegel admirable.  There's much to admire, but there's much that is problematic, and leads to that centrist-modernist thinking in his work.  I don't think philosophy can really move forward until someone else completely replaces his work.

Comment by John McCreery on May 8, 2011 at 9:46am
Alexander, methinks my education was warped by a joke cracked by Hal Walsh, one of my philosophy profs at Michigan State. He liked to assert that Hegel was the first philosopher who was both married and a university professor—and, he said, the whole discipline had been going downhill ever since. Just wanted to let you know that you have rescued me from this prejudice. Thanks to your enthusiasm for Hegel, I went poking around and I now have a copy of Michael Allen Fox, The Accessible Hegel on my iPad. Highly recommended for anyone who would like to know more about Hegel but lacks the time and inclination to tackle the original.


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