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Splitting the infinite

Author: joe

Monday, 09 July, 2007 - 22:48

Marx's appropriation of Hegel's dialectic was actually a reinvention. Thesis, antithesis and synthesis suited Marx's optimistic faith in the common man's ability to see reason, throw off the shackles and enjoy the fruits of the inevitable succession of progress.

Hegel, conversely, is mostly, to me, beyond comprehension, but his notion of dialectic I think is something more complex and deeper than the popular characterisation (no doubt Marx's too, but this is a blog, not a dissertation).

My personal reinvention of the Hegelian dialectic is as a fundamental diagnosis of the nature of human conception. The mind is a knife, and analysis splits the object of our contemplation into entities in a way that fools us into thinking we have concrete understanding, where in fact we only see the shadows in the cave. To comprehend the butterfly, we pin it and dissect it, asserting our mastery; in fact we have mastered dead flesh and traces - what is no longer a butterfly. To understand, we destroy.

Of course, the converse is equally true. In our mastery of the butterfly we have created more things than were previously in the world. We name thoraxes and epidermal membranes; we create intersubjectivities between each other as we share our new insights. We pattern the Lepidoptera, note consistencies and variations, engender entire fields of pursuit, and lifetimes spent chasing the fugitive knowledge of Fritillaries. We produce a meta-butterfly, an ur-insect. To understand, we create.

The dialectic - we destroy, we create - is pure perspective, commentary on the consequence of thought. Paradoxically opposed, mutually exclusive, in binary opposition, cleft halves of the whole. Each conceptual position we take deceives us into trusting its reasonableness, but a further examination reveals not only that it is merely an exclusion of the opposing position but also that both positions are, in fact, the same. My denouncement of you as evil is simply my fear that you are good. My definition of myself is also a definition of (absolutely) everything else. My simplification of complexity is nothing more or less than an augmentation of that complexity.

Categories: Marx, Hegel, dialectic, paradox, working-through,
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