Saturday, December 8, 2007

The big Marx, Hegel, Feuerbach post, part 5

I'm just continuing my Marx post from a while ago that tried to discern the transition from Hegel through Feuerbach to the early writings like The German Ideology, and perhaps even into Capital--why not get it all out, for those who are interested! In the next post, we'll get a visit from Beethoven and Steve Reich as good examples of the difference between Hegel and Feuerbach. But for now, here we go again:

...Feuerbach’s intentions thus clarified, we find ourselves puzzled and asking the following: if Feuerbach does not show us that Hegel’s God is only fully determined Spirit in order to contrast it with some “better” idea of the Absolute, does Feuerbach really show that a contradiction exists here in what Hegel is saying? That is, doesn’t the fact that the Absolute still lacks any necessary connection with fully developed Spirit simply disappear? The meaning of “Absolute” just has to be considered equivalent with fully developed Spirit—indeed, we just finished showing that Feuerbach does not say the Absolute is something different than the Hegelian developed Spirit. Altogether, then, all that has been shown is that it does not follow that because Spirit completes its development through historical action, it is therefore Absolute. In other words, all we see is that the Absolute remains the end of Spirit, and the two terms “Absolute” and “Spirit” stand opposed only terminologically and not because they are essentially different from other. They thus share some affinity that we have yet to specify, but this specification cannot disprove their identity. With only this terminological difference proven, then, we cannot help but implore again: what is the import of his pointing out the error of Hegel? What harm is there in making the Absolute just the full development of Spirit? It is not like we have or even should have any other conception of the Absolute!
This is the point at which the overthrow of Hegel really begins to commence, because (as we saw) it does not alter the truth of what Hegel asserts by contesting it directly, but alters it via revolutionizing this truth’s use. Feuerbach showed that all that exists when Spirit completes its development is a fully developed structure of historical actions. Now, if the meaningful development of meaning, the development and determination of Spirit, is to be therefore considered Absolute, if we are just going to make the full development of Spirit fall under the name of the Absolute as we just suggested, the necessity of that Spirit being Absolute must necessitate from historical action only, and not from any idea about the essence of the Absolute being in conformity with the essence or character of fully developed Spirit. It is not clear at first how revolutionary a step this is for understanding Hegel and the “contradiction in the speculative doctrine of God,” (the succinct title of one of Feuerbach’s most crucial chapters in The Essence of Christianity) as well as the fact that, indeed, despite all we have said, this contradiction exists in Hegel. So let us clarify. Though Feuerbach claims the identity of the Absolute and fully developed Spirit cannot and should not be disproved by specifying the as-yet-unnamed affinity between the two—and cannot and should not be disproved because their identity is the foundation of any true Christianity—he shows that the specification does indeed change the whole sense of this identity and how it is to be grasped and related to by beings. This is what we mean by calling Feuerbach’s God different than Hegel’s by virtue of its being “an object of religion”—religion is merely this grasping and comportment towards the identity of Spirit and the Absolute, merely how the truth of what Hegel asserts is used. The sense of God changes because Feuerbach discerns that Hegel ultimately attempts to approach the issue of reorganizing and reconstructing our conceptions of what the Absolute is—i.e. attempts to make God consistent in the sense we outlined above—by organizing Spirit around the Absolute, or ordering its development from the top down: in short, Feuerbach sees that Hegel attempts to construct a structure of the Absolute that is consistent (i.e. will not be otherworldly nor be the product of anthropophasis), and then derives the development of Spirit up to the point where it completes itself from this notion, such that the development of Spirit will complete itself in this structure, at this limit. The Absolute, then, is disseminated throughout the development of Spirit as its developmental principle, as the principle by which it (non-Absolute Spirit) in its multiplicity will eventually coalesce into identity with the structure of the Absolute. Feuerbach thinks this is a grievous error, because it does not show anything more than that we have renamed the Absolute—to reiterate once more, it lacks the necessity of proving that completed Spirit is not just completed Spirit but God, Absolute Spirit, a form of reality that is real.
Thus the essential conundrum boils down to this: God must be the principle of all meaningful action in those actions, not merely what they tend towards in their essence. The principle is still external to the meaning. How can Hegel show that what he has defined as meaningful action is all there is of meaningful action? How can he show that the principle of meaningful action is internal to meaningful action itself? Not as he does throughout his philosophy, Feuerbach claims. That is, not by reference to the Absolute, or even the Absolute supposedly within Spirit. Hegel must necessitate the relationship between the Absolute and Spirit by referring to the principles that are the precondition of Spirit. Otherwise he merely becomes teleological: developed Spirit or the totality of history is all there is (or is Absolute) because Spirit completes itself and history totalizes itself when it is all there is (or is Absolute). This tells us nothing! In fact, it makes us commit the most egregious mistake of reasoning with which Kant revolutionized philosophy before Hegel: Hegel advocates the synthetic derivation of a priori principles (the Absolute) from things experienced a posteriori (Spirit, Spiritual acts). By “synthetic” Kant of course means that there effectively is no derivation at all, for one overlooks any particular manifestation of Spirit to see what about it is in conformity of the Absolute. The answer will be nothing, because there is nothing “about it,” the a posteriori, that is in consideration—one’s eyes are only on the Absolute, arbitrarily asserted to be present in the world. The identity with the Absolute supposedly internal to meaningful action is still, even though it is now inside action, really external to it...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I really hope you continue with this