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Adrian Daub on Hegel

Adrian Daub is Assistant Professor of German at Stanford University. He received his B.A. from Swarthmore College in 2003 and his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Pennsylvania in 2008.  He is the author, among other things, of a German-language study on the cultural reception of four-handed piano playing, “Zwillingshafte Gebärden – Zur […]

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This is KZSU Stanford.
Welcome to entitled opinions.
My name is Robert Harrison.
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In title opinions is a talk show that tries to keep thinking alive in the world
because a thoughtless world is not a world at all.
At best it's a mere society where most of what happens,
happens without reason, or happens for the wrong reasons.
The unwearlding of the world that takes place around us day in and day out,
you first timers may not know what I mean by that,
but long time devotees of entitled opinions do,
this unwearlding of the world that we're living through both causes and is caused by thoughtlessness.
Now I know that thinking is tough.
It makes you responsible to the world.
It forces you to realize that most of what you believed was necessary
is actually the result of human agency.
It makes you become aware of many absurdities,
but that's no reason to give up on it.
In title opinions, ladies and gentlemen,
an alternate world we're thinking can still take place.
Our long time listeners know that whenever I talk about thinking in my opening salvo,
it usually means that we're in for one of those ponderous,
philosophical shows that don't always make for easy listening.
Today is no exception.
We're going to fly high or dive deep depending on your metaphysical or metaphorical orientation.
So take a seat as you think along with us about the thinker who more than any other
thought his way through history, through logic, through art, through religion, through politics,
and yes, through the thinking mind itself, which he called "guised."
We're talking about the German philosopher Georg Wiedgen Friedrich Hegel.
How do you do, Georg?
Very nice to meet you.
One way to get to know someone like Hegel is to ponder some of his sentences.
Here's an interesting one.
Governments have never learned anything from history or acted on principles
deducted from it.
Now what does that mean?
Well, to begin with, it means that the philosopher may deduce principles from the events and course of history,
but only in retrospect.
First, history has to happen, and only afterwards can the thinker recollect its principles
in tranquility, or in Vienna, as it were.
There's something tragic about this belatedness or this retrospective twilight gaze of Minerva's owl,
because it means that the philosopher is of little use when it comes to prescribing standards or norms for actions.
Reason in its cunning may be at work in our action, but we act mostly in the dark.
Another sentence from Hegel's corpus confirms this, "A mid the pressure of great events, a general principle, gives no help."
Translation, it is our fault if we never learn anything from history, or it is not our fault if we never learn anything from history.
Since history is constantly under the pressure of great events, which renders principles useless.
Conclusion, we know not what we do until after it's done, and by then it's too late to do anything about it.
The good news is that Hegel was not much Beth, he did not believe that life is a tale told by an idiot.
He believed that history has meaning, purpose, and a redemptive end, namely the full realization of our potential for freedom.
I'll quote one last sentence, perhaps his most famous one.
The history of the world is none other than the progress of the consciousness of freedom.
What exactly that means and how exactly Hegel intended for us to understand it is a question that I'll refer to the guests who joins me in the studios of KZSU today.
Adrian Dowbe is an assistant professor of German studies here at Stanford, specializing in 19th and 20th century German literature and philosophy, especially German idealism and romanticism,
as well as the Frankfurt School of Marxism.
Adrian has been my guests on entitled opinions before in the spring of 2009, on which occasion we discussed the metaphysics of misogyny.
I look forward to talking to him today about one of the greatest philosophers in the history of philosophy. Adrian, welcome back to entitled opinions.
Thank you so much Robert.
As I said, I think that Adrian is a pretty heavy stuff. The history of the world is none other than the progress of the consciousness of freedom.
What do we need to know about Hegel or the historical period in which he was writing in order to make sense of that?
Well, I think it's because it emerges central both because it encapsulates the particular kind of optimism that Hegel and his generation exuded and are,
say, are dissatisfaction with it over the last 200 or so years.
In other words, on the one hand, this is clearly a sense that comes out of a generation that came of age in the shadow of the French Revolution and of all these states and all these forms of government emerging that had not been seen in Europe since antiquity.
At the same time, it's something that, especially after the events of the 20th century, we have a lot harder time signing our name to.
And so I think that's a very good place to start. It's both what makes Hegel bracing and exciting, but it also is what threatens to consign him to the dustbin of history.
Right? The fact that we don't think that we can legitimately think about history in this way anymore.
Well, that we is not a total.
We have to say that there are some people, for example, Francis Fukuyama, who wrote a book called The End of History in which he said basically,
Hegel was more or less right without maybe knowing why he was right, but that history has been so far along a sort of series of wars and battles,
especially the battles of ideology and forms of government and so forth.
But now we are living in what he calls The End of History, Hegelian kind of concept in which it's finally been revealed through the outcome of these battles that, you know, liberal, democratic, capitalist states are really the best form of government that the rest of the world is destined to adopt our solid government one way or another.
So therefore, the dustbin of history is, it might be a little bit premature to say that that's where Hegel belongs.
Yeah, and I would absolutely, I don't think he belongs there at all. However, in the case of Fukuyama, I'd have to say with friends like him, I think he doesn't need anyone to chuck him in the dustbin anymore.
But, Fukuyama, whatever his writings of Hegel were, points to a very interesting thing about him.
You have to grapple, I mean, the difficult thing with a lot of modern thinkers is the critical and the seemingly destructive edge.
I mean, when you try teaching Hume to undergraduates, you always see this, well, what's left?
Hegel presents the opposite problem in many ways. How do we deal with that much affirmative relationship to what exists? How do we make sense of that, given that we live in a world in which all of us, I think, tend to emphasize the things that we'd like changed and that we think are unjust or irrational?
And I think that's the, frankly, the charge that would have to be leveled against Fukuyama.
Hegel does not posit that different ideological systems work themselves out through history and the best one comes up on top.
That may be some kind of social Darwinism, it's not Hegelianism.
As the sentence that you read indicates, it's the realization of human freedom.
Now, the question is, do liberal democracies of the kind that Fukuyama extols genuinely realize freedom in the way that Hegel had sought?
And I think the answer would probably be no. They are probably further along the way than most other forms of governance.
But the end of history thesis, whatever it means by end, we can talk about that more.
I don't think he means cessation. He means completion or a goal point has more to do with the complete realization of human autonomy.
And I think in a country in which 10% of people are 20% probably if you look at all the figures are unemployed right now, not because the autonomous chose to do so, but because someone decided that for them, we're clearly a little ways off from what Hegel had envisioned.
That's fine, I can go along with that. But a number of questions are raised, obviously, when I probably shouldn't have brought Fukuyama into the discussion this early on.
However, it does give us the opportunity to raise a following question, which is what did Hegel really mean by freedom when you spoke about attaining the consciousness of freedom?
To what extent is the state, the final end point or culmination or embodiment of this fully realized freedom?
Or is Fukuyama's thesis that the maximum freedom that one can expect from a state is the recognition of the human dignity and autonomy and legal rights of every one of its citizens?
And if that's all that you can expect from the states, from a state, and if that's what and Fukuyama, if he were here, might say that, well, what's going on in the Arab world, now these kind of spring up, rising, that all this is still trying to work out, some people are still trying to get to the end of that history of that state.
And I'm not defending that thing.
No, I mean, I think Fukuyama is a very good entry point into this. The problem though is that he, I think he short changes Hegel in neglecting how illiberal a thinker he really is.
And I don't mean that critically, I mean, necessarily, it's something that each of you listeners will have to make up their own minds.
The interesting thing about Hegel is that for him, the state is not there to safeguard the autonomy of the individual or to reign it in when it gets out of control.
The state, when it is shot through with guys, when it is shot through with spirit, is in fact the realization of human autonomy.
Now that's very, very different from the way we as 21st century Americans or Westerners in general tend to think of freedom. We tend to think freedom is the ability to do something over and against something else.
For Hegel, that which is the traditional liberal view of, you know, from Locke onwards was the view of the Enlightenment by and large against this.
Hegel mobilizes this idea that in a ethical society, in a society that is dictated by customs that are shot through with rationality, the state is in fact a expression of human freedom.
And the oppositional element in which Fukuyama also relies, sort of can be worked away.
That to us, I mean, I think it's safe to say that for most of us that's a very alien conception, but it is Hegel's.
So the British tradition conceives a freedom largely in terms of what Hegel would have called negative freedom.
They may be freedom from coercion. That's right.
Freedom from not as understood as not being obliged to do something you don't want to do.
And this is also I think the American founding fathers vision of that, and then you have to throw that government, governance best, which governs least.
And I have to say as America, I'm a little bit sympathetic to that because I know when you don't have this freedom from coercion, you appreciate negative freedom.
But I think you're absolutely right for Hegel. Positive freedom is a very different thing.
Well, and it's not just positive freedom. It's also a freedom as autonomy has to do with an opposition to arbitrariness.
And I say, you're not free to do whatever the heck you want because you should not be free to indulge your stupid whims.
In order for your dignity as a human rational agent to be respected means that you also be blocked from things that you should not wish.
That is to say, if you use your freedom just to satisfy your appetite, then frankly, he got things that this, that this, that a government that allows you to do that is probably not doing its job properly and a state in which that's possible is something terribly wrong in it.
So, yeah, it's always not libertarianism in that sense. The question that now arises is, "Guys, because this freedom and autonomy that's associated with it in Hegel's system is certainly at least in the phenomenology of spirit or the phenomenology of
"Guys," you can translate "Guys" either a spirit or mind. It doesn't have an exact equivalent. But if I understand the larger project of the phenomenology, it's the way in which Hegel retraces all the various stages that this so-called "guys" has gone through and the various historical institutional instantiations, various ages of history and so forth.
And that basically is not so much the human individual's autonomy and freedom that is being realized as much as it's "guys," it's the mind, it's spirit itself which is coming to a full realization of what its own essence has been from the very start, namely that it is working itself through history in order to come to a moment of self-realization of itself as the author, as well as the protagonist of the whole story.
That's right, spirit cognizing itself as spirit is what Hegel terms absolute knowing, which concludes in that rapturous last chapter of the phenomenology, that concludes a spirit's trajectory according to Hegel.
However, I don't think that at least when you look at his political philosophy, it's fairly clear that we can't, that the autonomy of spirit cannot come at the expense of individual autonomy.
And obviously, it's very easy to read Hegel that way, sometimes he says things that really don't help him out in this respect.
And of course, this is what has served to recommend him as a proto-totalitarian to critical readers for much of the 20th century.
Some of them are the most astute readers, however, it's pretty clear that Hegel as a dialectical thinker wants to maintain in dialogue or intention the autonomy of the individual and the autonomy of the world's spirit.
And one place where you can see that is human history. You read a wonderful upper-poq quote, and you pointed out that we can only know about spirit coming to its self-realization through world history after the fact.
And so, I think the idea is that, well, because world spirit works its way through our autonomous musley chosen actions.
I just to say, if we, Hegel hates this idea of, I'm going to do subjective laws of history, and then I'm going to tell politicians how to run things.
And we're going to figure out who the bad guys are that we've got to get rid of. He doesn't mean that.
He thinks that essentially human freedom fully realized on an individual level within rationality, in time, will essentially bring about this course that he's describing for spirit.
Freedom, we have connotations as well with that word that also come with notion that things are not dictated by necessity.
But is it not the case that when you go through the various stages of history that Hegel outlines in the phenomenology that you cannot say that something like the Enlightenment could have preceded the Christianity?
Or the French Revolution is not something that could have happened at a different time than it have.
So if there's not a necessity to the actual itinerary that history has followed, there is a certain logic to it.
Oh, there is, absolutely. And I think the good that you're making, the distinction between logic and necessity.
He does not think that any necessity that, you know, if, I don't know, let's say, this microphone is this microphone, that has to be the case in order for us to be able to say anything about the world, that's not the kind of constraint that he's concerned with.
Now, he's a Kantian in that way. Necessity means that forces from outside of you dictate your course of action, not that intrinsic forces to the things you're trying to do dictate your course of action.
There is something about human rationality that wants to unfold in a certain way, right?
And the same way that we can, you know, that of course we can develop fanciful theories about the origin of the universe, but it turns out that the ones that we've come up with come closer to explaining it than anything else.
That means that the universe is to some extent forcing our hand, but he's not concerned with that.
If, however, people act morally, quote, unquote, "only" out of self-interest, that to him means that they are driven by something outside of themselves, their animal instincts, their animal appetites, and that's the kind of necessity that he's concerned with.
There's a famous Hegelian concept of the cunning of reason, like alluded to in my remarks, how do you understand this notion of the cunning of reason that sometimes there is a rationality to things, the way things happen even though we, the actors, and the agents of it are not aware of it.
It means that rationality in world history doesn't have to assert itself in a self-conscious way.
It means that people don't always have to know that they're doing the rational thing.
So the question there that Adrian is agency.
Are human beings ultimately the agents of this movement of world spirit, or is there a different agency of which humans are executors, or I don't know what metaphor you would want to use?
Well, yes, I know. Why does Alexander charge into Asia? Why does Napoleon conquer Europe? There's a volitional element in it. They decide to do this.
That also, there was an old world to be wiped away because it had tottered and it had outlived itself, is something that they would have at best been very, very dimly aware of.
So that's how Hegel is thinking this. There is, of course, an element of necessity, let's say, in there, but there's also volitional element. There's an element in which it could have been Alexander or could have been a successor. It could have been Napoleon or he could have been someone else. It could have started in France. It could have started someplace else.
Did Hegel believe that the possibility for him to tell the whole story of world spirit and his final realization and declare the so-called end of history was possible only because certain historical events had taken place in his era, namely the French Revolution and perhaps its aftermath in Napoleon, or was this sort of thinking did he presume it to be?
It's a sort of rise above this sort of historical contingency.
Absolutely not. I think there is a strong indication that for his generation, the French Revolution loomed very large. There's a line in the preface of the phenomenology of spirit where he says it's not difficult to see that ours as a birth time in a period of transition to new era.
I think he adds, "Spirit has broken with the world that it has hitherto inhabited and imagined and is of a mind to submerge itself in the past and in the labor of its own transformation."
So there is very clearly a, well, let's put this way, Hegel thinks that there is reason in history and history in reason.
He thinks that there is a confluence happening around his time where human freedom is advanced to a point where it could become self-conscious as that.
We're not questioning the divine right of kings so much as we're saying human freedom has a value in itself and it now needs to be asserted.
And he is connecting that with Emmanuel Kant. He thinks that it's not an accident that for him the greatest and most productive enunciation of philosophical autonomy in the history of philosophy occurs in the 1771.
The first critique of the period of reason.
And I mean, for Hegel, that is the book without which he's unimaginable. That's for him.
And why is that?
Well, Hegel and his entire generation sort of encountered Kant, I guess probably in high school sort of.
And to this religious school called the shift in tubing and where Hegel in fact room for a short moment with Frity Chordale in the poet and Frity Ch
for him, he was a shelling, another great idealist, probably the other great idealist thinker who would go on to be both his mentor a little bit.
But he was younger and his great enemy at the end.
And for these really young kids, they discovered Kant and found in him the battering ram they needed to well to liberate metaphysics from the residual theology that clung to it in their education.
And they experienced this coming to themselves as philosophers as very much in resonance with the events in France.
There is a very murky incident that biographers make a lot of where one of the three clearly was caught whistling the Marseilles in the stiff.
We don't know much more about it than that, but they understood their own emancipation from the tottering structures of the old metaphysics and of the old theology as being of a piece with the French people's emancipation from the irrational structures of the absolute estate.
And do you think Emmanuel Kant would have gone along with him in that reading? Because it's true that Kant does a lot to streamline metaphysics delimitat radically what we can know in a kind of synthetic aprior way.
But at the same time he is famous for that little essay, "What is Enlightenment in which it's not an apology for revolution."
No. On the contrary, it's like this progressive incremental enlargement of the sphere of freedom.
And there's something I think about the German idealists and perhaps the romanticism that's connected with German idealism which had such a thirst for the absolute that they were not willing to accept the sort of delimitations that Kant placed on
for reason. And knowledge is knowledge only of the phenomenal, not the new manile.
Well, given that Kant battled the censors famously for much of his career, less so in his political theory than when it came to his religious philosophy, it's interesting, this is a battle between these young Turks of German philosophy and this master that they both very much idolized and who they created.
It's fought on the field of religion. They thought that Kant had given away the game in the second critique when he admitted what's called the postures of pure practical reason.
It's to say that the old metaphysical baggage all had to be assumed in order to be, or the theological baggage had to be assumed in order for the Kant system to make any sense at all.
But it's certainly true that for them, this sort of failure of a nerve on the part of Kant, that's how they saw that these, went along with a more broader political failure in which had to do with a capitalization, the
capitalization, sorry, vis-à-vis the structures of society and of the state as they existed in their time. And both the critique is the same in each case. It's dualism.
They criticized Kant for insisting on a separation of the phenomenon, the new manile, the object as it appears to us in experience and the thing as it is in itself.
And they see a similar kind of dualism at work, a willingness to let particular stand unrecord-siled in political and religious matters.
And if you look at any Hegelian passage and you don't understand it, one good thing to look at is what oppositions are being left unrecord-siled in this passage, because you know that's where he's going to be driving at. Those two are actually going to be one.
And this is a kind of mania that all the idealists have, bringing together by reference to the absolute things that Kant left dualistically the same.
And that's what I find so heroic about German idealism and especially Hegel and the even the Hegel of the phenomenology more than the later Hegel in my view, because it's more romantic, sure, sure, work.
And this refusal to take no for an answer when it comes to our access to the absolute.
And would it be correct to say that the only way Hegel can overcome the dualism in Kant's system is by making the subject, which for Kant was human subjectivity, and he then outlines all the limitations of the knowledge of the human subject.
And so many humans subject, which is a sense experience, the A-priorive forms of intuition of space and time and so forth.
In order to overcome that dualism Hegel, then turns the subject into, I don't want to use the term transcendental ego, which is a term that was really used this later, but a subject which is actually again, as we were saying about Geist, is not that removed from the object.
In fact, is the object, an objectivity is this geist in a different mode, and ultimately the distinction, the opposition between the two, will be overcome at the very end of the story that he tells in the phenomenology about the spirit's self-recognition at the end of the whole story.
In fact, in that goes back to the old Kantian distinction between the object of experience and the thing as it is in itself.
For Kant, this was not a problem.
It meant that if philosophy had to limit itself in its everyday business to a couple of things, and it couldn't talk about some of the things that metaphysics had very confidently pronounced on previously.
And this means simply, there is an object that we constitute through the use of our categories of the understanding.
It is not identical with the thing as it is in itself, but no matter.
It's something in reality that he records bonds to this and this is fine.
This is not something that his young readers would have endorsed.
They thought that Kant was leaving him a problem. He wouldn't have realized that the recognize this is a problem at all. He thought this was fine.
Their assumption is to some extent to have the, let's put it this way.
For 20 years after Kant, the game in German philosophy was to try and figure out how to drop the thing in itself out.
Schopenhauer famously, he barked on the solution where the thing in itself which he called the will becomes all reality, so that way you get around it.
Because suddenly, the perceiving subject is only an emanation of the thing in itself.
Well, you've got the two things put together.
He and the idealists tend to think, no, it has to be the other way.
The thing in itself that is recognizable needs to drop out. For hegulites that it's worked away slowly.
That is to say, we recognize that as this guy, as this human rationality or as this rationality to cool, becomes more refined and more internally declined, let's say, or defined,
it will eventually come to realize that it is all reality. There's nothing outside of it.
So that's hegulites. Hegulites approach to this problem.
In each case, the intention is the same.
You don't want to let stand a kind of partial or a particularization of the field of philosophy that gives philosophy sort of a job to do, but nothing else.
There's an anti-bourgeois effect here, two of these were philosophers who really thought that they could be part of what they call the revolution of reason.
They wanted to change the big picture. They didn't want to just work on a finite set of problems.
They wanted to say something about reality as such.
Subsequent lead to Hegul in 20 or 30 years, there would be a kind of aggressive turn against Hegul and the universities would go on to particularize the different scientific disciplines and actually want to operate in local,
in terms that Hegul would have found very objectionable because it was losing sight of the whole picture.
And of course, science went on to definitely pursue and aggravate this sort of increasing specialization and separation of one discipline from the other.
Absolutely. And that's where Hegul became a victim of a historical material necessity as new departments developed in
German universities. You had to justify why this new course of study, you know, deserved its own department, its own tenure lines, its own grants.
And how did you do that while you pointed out to those overreaching theologians that in fact, this was a sub-discipline that philosophy had nothing to say about.
And this continues in professional, well, in the humanities in general until today.
We have a colleague in the philosophy department who shall remain nameless, who's on record, is saying that taking advice from Hegul on logic is like asking Jeffrey Dahmer for food recommendations.
So we have a professional philosophy as it exists today, really enunciated its core mission over and against these kinds of projects that the German idealists largely stood for, which I think both accounts for the fact that they're not taught as much and they're not often taken seriously when they're taught, but also why they won't go away.
So the content irritates into the little bad conscience that I think dogs a lot of the humanities and social sciences.
Well, I think the science, the certain sciences, especially life sciences, are realizing that this discrete approach to phenomena is not, is severely limited and that basically you don't understand a particular phenomenon discreetly until you put it in relation to what surrounds it.
That in relation to larger contexts and even from the cell to the organ, to the organism, to the environment, to the biosphere, to the whole cosmos, a holistic sort of thinking is becoming more and more necessary for certain kinds of scientific investigations.
If nothing else Hegul is the most sublime, grand symphony of what a kind of a thinking of totality represents.
Absolutely, and I think that's why as the university found less and less use for Hegul, those who wanted to criticize the totality as it existed in their day, I mean, I'm going to mention Marx here.
As an example, found Hegul useful.
Now, Marx, of course, thought he was turning Hegul from his head back onto his feet.
There's every indication that by turning him into materialists.
However, one has to say in Marx's defense that he was really reacting against a particular kind of Hegul that was being taught at the time.
If you got two of the two thinkers into one room, over a couple of beers, you'd be surprised by the amount of overlap I think you'd find not so much on the revolutionary stuff.
Hegul is a dialectician.
He thinks the material does have a material basis of existence that's have a profound bearing on consciousness.
At the same time, so I think that's sort of the countercurrent to the specialization in some way, a professionalization of these disciplines.
There is this kind of, these people who want to put on trial what exists have always found Hegul very, very congenial.
I mean, does that fame is saying, you know, if the facts don't conform to the concept of reason, well, so much the worse for the facts.
And so if you're not particularly enamored with the facts as they stand right now, then Hegul indeed is a kind of a go-to guy for you.
So, Marxism would be one legacy.
The Hegul system where the drive to understand things as a whole would still be very important for Marx and other certain other.
Maybe even Foyer Baca in the history of religion?
Of course, him.
The Foyer Baca was a member of the so-called Lefte-Gellians, the Young Hegellians, who in many ways, they sought to radicalize Hegul, but really it was kind of a family squabble about which parts of Hegul one takes more seriously.
And part of the problem was that the parts that the Young Hegillians who were at that time sort of adjunct professors we call on today at different universities were emphasizing where the least pallets of all with respect to religion and state.
Whereas those Hegillians who had written Hegul's code tales all the way to the university and into full professorships, etc.
were loath to emphasize those parts of the system that seemed to claim that monotheistic religion and the Prussian state were going to go the way of the dodo, if reason that anything to say about it.
So the Hegul that we've gotten that is this conservative caricature of him is owed again more to professional politics of the day in that these people figured they'd be out of a job real quick if they ran with the wrong implications of the Gellian system and Foyer Baca and Bruno Bawa and Max Chdilna just saying, "Actually, of course being sort of the worst of the worst in that respect" had no qualms about just running with the most betray parts of the system.
And I think correctly probably but in ways that we're not good for professional advancement and/or staying out of jail as the case may be.
Adrian, can we talk a little bit about the relationship between Hegul's thinking and in very broad terms just call it totalitarianism or certain ideologies associated with totalitarianism because we've had, you know, Jijek was on campus just a few days ago.
And he is well known for having critiqued in aggressive ways, the craving for the absolute in certain kinds of forms of political ideology.
And there is a romantic drive in many of us that is not only the Marxist who want a world revolution and a new state and a new life in a new beginning, but even the fundamentalist Christians in the United States.
For them, you know, the separation of church and state is, you know, that's too rational, it's too Kantian. We want the world and we want it now. In fact, we want the whole and if there's not going to be this penetration to a newmanal wholeness, then it's going to be insufficient. We're going to live in constant disappointment.
The the the Gijek, among others, says that this is what certain kinds of dictatorial regimes thrive on by promising always in false promises that some kind of sense of lost unity or the absolute is going to be is going to be provided by fear.
If we get rid of those people who you know, are wonderful or wonderful. So I find myself very torn between on the one hand, the the the more modest Kantian living within the limits of what we can know and what we can say and do.
And the limitation of freedom and even conceiving of freedom as as negative freedom because it does correspond to certain kind of democratic forms of government that stumble along and you have little minor increments of human freedom, but you don't have the whole thing.
Then on the other hand, there is a sense. No, it has to be the whole otherwise it it's all just bourgeois, particularism, self interest and so forth. So I want to retrieve Hegel for some for some kind of insistence that one must push towards the totality.
But without going down the line of totalitarian, do you think that's possible? That's a good question. I mean, the I mean, as I say, the roots of this problem are probably the fact that he does just not a liberal in any way.
Does that mean he's a totalitarian? I don't think so, but does it mean that it puts him in a position where the individual is often subsumed to larger holes. Yeah, it kind of does.
However, Hegel is a dialectician and there's nothing less dialectical than totalitarianism, I'd say. If in a in these kind of fantasies of unification, you know, where all separation falls away, there is a kind of well, there is a.
The assumption of the individual under the totality, but no corresponding move from the individual back to the totality. The individual exists solely to confirm and mirror back the whole back to itself. That to Hegel is the sign of a good old fashioned, you know, ancient sort of either theocracy or Asian despotism.
I was trying to. You're a sense of a story. That's his term exactly. I was trying to make him briefly more palatable, but you caught me. There is this break in the field of epistemology that he has with the romantics and with the earlier idealists at the time of the phenomenology, where he says, you know, the absolute knowledge of the absolute is has to be earned. It is created through a.
It's a. It's a result. It's a process. It's a process created in a process of self discovery and of labor as is is word there. And it's not and this is the that's what he says to fish that you're not going to leave fish to says it's not shot from a pistol. The absolute doesn't come from a shot from a pistol. It's a epistemological point, but it should it goes through all of Hegel's political writings as well.
The unity cannot be given or dictated because it's just there. Right. It organically creates in a dialogue between particular and totality. If it doesn't, it's just phony coherence. And so that is probably the place where you'd want to start if you wanted to say,
Hegel is not really totalitarian because the Ontarians always assume and fundamentalist of all stripes always assume that this unity is pre given right. The right thinking individuals, the German race, the, you know, I don't know, found the family values crowd right. I mean.
Or just America right. I mean, like we we all agree and that's just a given if that coherence is to some extent.
Arrived that in this kind of wrangling process and we kind of look at something different aren't we. Well, one of the other characters in the 20th century speaking now about the legacy of Hegel's philosophies is a theater or a door. No. That's right. Who certainly was not a Hegelian in any kind of orthodox sense.
But Hegel is important for him, although he was had severe criticisms of Hegel's systems. What was a door nose take on Hegel all about? Well, I mean, a doorknob is usually, I mean, you're referred to him and you refer to the Frankfurt School of Marxism in your introduction. And that's the interesting thing. For a for a supposed Marxist, a doorknob seems to be a lot more interested in Hager than he is in Marx. And that's true for a lot of the Frankfurt School.
His and he struggles with exactly this question that we talk about. He likes the anti bourgeois anti capitalist and and a liberal strain in Hegel. He likes this drive towards totality, which he thinks of as a corrective to a to the dictatorship of what works of just the stuff that's always worked for us and therefore we're going to keep doing it.
And for him, that's a big part of what it means to be a political in the 20th century. However, he really is worried about what exactly we are to make of the clear consonants between Hegel and fascist thought.
Well, going back to the question of the you know, the subjective or let's say, Geis as the subject, the grand absolute subject of the whole story.
And you we began our conversation with you saying that there it's impossible to divorce Geis from the human element that is part of the realization or maybe is the subject of the realization.
And that Hegel conceived of this ever growing consciousness of freedom as linked to the human. But Adorno does follow him all the way down that line on the contrary.
Well, he does. He does. Adorno's favorite phrases or favorite word might might be negative. There's the famous book, Negative Dialectics, which is essentially a negative version of the Hegelian dialectic.
And he proposes a negative universal history. He says, Hegel is absolutely right. There is something working itself out in world history. However, that's not to be affirmed.
What is asserting itself is a negative principle. As to say, Spirit does not find its completion in liberal democracy. It does not find its conclusion in the its end in depression state or anything.
It finds its conclusion in Auschwitz. It is the sub-sumption of all subjects to this overarching objectivity.
You know, for him Western rationality, he drives to that telos.
Is just why is that? Because why does he think that?
Not why does he think it, but what is it in the development of reason that drives towards the absolute reification and reduction of the human to kind of numerical anonymity and so forth?
Because if you ask that of Heidegger, who sees the history of metaphysics culminating in what he calls "technicity" and you can follow his whole notion of the dispensation of different epochs of being where things appear one way and the other.
And that we are now because of the way metaphysics has thought of the object subject distinction and so on and so forth. And the role of the will plays and the will to will and the will to power.
That "technicity" now is the frame, the gashteau within which everything appears to us as manipulable, controllable, at our disposal, etc.
Well, don't know has a very similar view. That's the famous dialect of Enlightenment, which is another title of a book that I urge you readers to check out. You listeners to check out.
He thinks that, yeah, there is in Western rationality, the tendency to treat the particular as exchangeable.
And eventually that rationality will extend to human beings and treat them as exchangeable until they become predicates of the object, which is to say of, well, he would say guys, Adorno would say, well, catastrophic sort of progress of rationality.
For him, of course, and here's where Adorno's Hegelian doesn't come through. This is rationality misunderstood. This is what he calls instrumental rationality.
True rationality. True rationality that demands that, again, this harmony between subject and object, but doesn't enforce it upon the object, the subject, but rather, you know, let's subject an object to figure it out for themselves, that kind of rationality will inevitably sort of usher in or will with some effort, I should say, usher in a better world.
So Auschwitz is not the end of the particular kind of rationality, but that particular kind of rationality does not fulfill or does not bring to completion the...
But is he Hegelian enough to believe that the good form of rationality will eventually come into its own?
He's not enough of Hegelian, he's enough of a Marxist. I mean, he avoids the word revolution like the plague, but I think that's where he's driving at.
He thinks that the right kind of rationality will mean that the totality of existence has to be transformed. How do you do that? Well, you don't do it through reform.
He doesn't come out and say this, but it seems that, yeah, he thinks left to its own devices, even something as innocuous seeming as liberal democracy will produce only greater disenfranchisement of the subject.
And a true reconciliation between subject and object is possible only if you change the entire framework.
He leaves it open how he thinks this needs to be done, and his own students, when they joined the student protests in '68, were quite surprised to find that that's not how he had in mind you should do it.
He'd originally died before he passed on how exactly he thought this was going to be done.
He wasn't going to happen through Soviet communism.
Absolutely not, he hated that. And for the very same reason that we've talked about with these despotisms, his critique of the Soviet Union is that of...
You could Xerox pages from Hegel's philosophy of history, and just paste in what you wouldn't even call it Soviet. He just called it in the East. Very dismissive.
All the Frankfurt schools sort of started out very Marxist until they went to Moscow or encountered Moscow in whatever way and realized this can't be it.
There's something about Adorno thinking that always innervates me. I've asked you before. Please help me figure out why I'm allergic to this particular kind of recasting of Hegelian and Marxist.
But of course, there are many things I'm sympathetic to in Adorno. It had not been Adorno himself who would have formulated. One of the things I think I can point to is his insistence that philosophy must always remain critical philosophy.
Therefore, it's almost guarantees that disenchantment has to be the mode in which we remain. And it's always the philosophy of suspicion, of attack, prosecution.
I guess it's because I don't like the prosecutorial. I prefer the defense over the prosecution in general when it comes to the legal things.
And this prosecutorial mode and tone and his dismissal of popular culture, his refusal to understand that the most interesting things about the 20th century were if precisely the things that he held in most contempt.
I don't know. It makes it difficult for me to say, "Okay, Adorno, I'm going to join you now and say that the right kind of reason is what we have to work towards. And we have to make sure that we give Marx a second chance and it works out."
Well, if I do not like the prosecutorial, let me parse that. On the one hand, I think my attempted conversion of you to Hegelianism has failed then because of course he does this too.
However, if the image of the prosecutor is sort of meant to suggest there are these tables of the law and you then measure up a particular moment in history or particular art movement or whatever, according to what those tables that you got from the mountain say, neither Hegel nor Adorno does this.
These are imminent critics. The rationality of the thing itself is allowed to work itself out. If you look at the phenomenology, Hegel and each case, I need to show us a knowledge relation and then show us how it's internally contradictory. He doesn't sort of show up with, oh, here's how it should be and here's how you fall short.
And Adorno does much the same thing. He's interested in he thinks that there are contradictions in modern bourgeois capitalism that if comprehended correctly point you towards a better way of doing things.
But yeah, that is necessarily negative or necessarily critical. I don't know if it's prosecutorial because he's very mumm on what any of these better ways of doing things would look like.
And I think it's critical. That's for sure. That's his big beef with Heidegger, who he spent decades savaging.
Well, the problem was that he thought higher. Well, I mean, his critique is a simple one. I don't know how Heidegger could have gone around it. He says Heidegger gets the facts factors of existence of late bourgeois capitalism exactly right.
The problem is that then he turns around and says these are necessary determinants of all of human design in general. And Adorno just says I don't see where you were your license to make that move.
And I don't and I think and he thinks it's a misunderstanding of a misreading of history.
Now, I don't know how I would have countered that. You have to essentially, if you're Hegelian that automatically makes sense if you had a guarantee automatically doesn't.
So, I think it's not exactly a dialogue between these two men.
No, it's not. And there probably would be a whole other radio show to try to put them into dialogue and see points of coincidence and possible sympathy.
And it could just be a question of style. I can understand Adorno being completely put off by Heidegger's postures and his style and everything that the same way I react to Adorno style. I just cannot stand to read him.
I always try over and over again to get into him and kind of rescue.
But I just for the moment maybe in 10 years it'll be different. Maybe they're both unique in that way that you can pick up on people who read too much of them within a second of reading any article or essay or book.
You end up, they both sort of impose their own jargon on, especially German philosophical writings in the latter half of the 20th century.
One thing that's interesting is that Adorno's jargon of authenticity, which is the book that excoriates this Heidegger is actually very light on Heidegger quotes.
But some indication that he didn't think Heidegger was too guilty of this. He doesn't dislike Heidegger so much as he dislikes Heideggerians.
And I think there's something like that with the brochure too.
The problem is that it's tragic to be a great thinker or even a great writer because disciples, they're such a huge, abyssal divide between, let's say Heidegger and Heidegger and even Diddy down the Doridians.
Or Marx and certain Marxists and even Krit even Jesus and his followers.
So there I can understand that.
But going back to Hegel I find that he had some very worthy heirs, not all of them.
And we're talking about, we mentioned the left to Galen's, of four-year-back Marx and others.
So I believe that Heidegger was definitely one of the heirs and felt that he had to retell the story because he needed to make room for a different kind of philosophy of history than the one that Hegel had brought to an end.
I think the story you tell the Hegelians is maybe a little more positive than the one I would tell.
I think Hegel is lucky in that he had a great many good heirs.
Unfortunately he also had, thankfully these people are now forgotten, but he had a bunch of terrible ones too.
And I think the good ones are precisely the ones that kept sight of this idea of holism and of the totality and were able to do interesting things with it.
The ones that are today justifiably forgotten are the ones that were enamored with the idea of building the system and finding room for things in system.
These were people who were, you know, they would have studied spreadsheets if they hadn't discovered Hegel instead.
The ones that got that this was about the big picture in here, I think Adorno for all his faults, is a good and a stewed reader of Hegel.
The ones who got that this is about making sense of a world that seems new and that clearly calls up for new kind of thinking.
They're the ones that sort of preserve, even if they misread Hegel terribly.
They really preserve what was appealing and energetic and energizing about his philosophy in the first place.
I warned our listeners at the beginning that this was going to be one of those heavy philosophical shows.
And I don't think we've disappointed the ones who actually prefer those kind of shows on entitled opinions.
So thank you, Adrienne.
We've been speaking with Professor Adrian Dow for entitled opinions.
My name is Robert Harris and I want to thank our production manager, Dylan Montignatti, who is the one who takes care of all the technicalities, sends out the emails and announcements and keeps the whole thing going.
So thanks again, Adrienne.
Thank you.
Well, I've gone again.
Bye bye.