Self-Consciousness and the Critique of the Subject

Self-Consciousness and the Critique of the Subject: Hegel, Heidegger, and the Poststructuralists

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 288
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    Self-Consciousness and the Critique of the Subject
    Book Description:

    Poststructuralists hold Hegel responsible for giving rise to many of modern philosophy's problematic concepts -- the authority of reason, self-consciousness, the knowing subject. Yet, according to Simon Lumsden, this animosity is rooted in a fundamental misunderstanding of Hegel's thought, and resolving this tension can not only heal the rift between poststructuralism and German idealism but also point these traditions in exciting new directions.

    Revisiting the philosopher's key texts, Lumsden calls attention to Hegel's reformulation of liberal and Cartesian conceptions of subjectivity, identifying a critical though unrecognized continuity between poststructuralism and German idealism. Poststructuralism forged its identity in opposition to idealist subjectivity; however, Lumsden argues this model is not found in Hegel's texts but in an uncritical acceptance of Heidegger's characterization of Hegel and Fichte as "metaphysicians of subjectivity." Recasting Hegel as both post-Kantian and postmetaphysical, Lumsden sheds new light on this complex philosopher while revealing the surprising affinities between two supposedly antithetical modes of thought.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53820-6
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xx)
    (pp. 1-24)

    One of the cornerstones of what has come to be known as post-structuralism is its critique of the subject. This subject emerges in Descartes’s thought and reaches its pinnacle in German idealism, culminating in Hegel’s absolute spirit. The poststructuralist critique centers on what is said to be the reflective and metaphysical character of subjectivity. On this view, Hegel is engaged in an anachronistic project of attempting to solve the residual problems in the critical philosophy by appeal to what is in effect a robust pre-Kantian metaphysics. This interpretation of Hegel stands in opposition, however, to a resurgence of interest in...

  6. 1 THE METAPHYSICS OF PRESENCE AND THE WORLDLESS SUBJECT: Heidegger’s Critique of Modern Philosophy
    (pp. 25-37)

    Heidegger wrote extensively on German idealism throughout his career and his relationship to it has a number of phases. At some stages, he takes Hegel’s and Fichte’s thought to be the end of metaphysics and the pinnacle of every problematic tendency in modern philosophy. At other times, his approach is far more nuanced. The concern of this chapter is not to flesh out the various changes of attitude that Heidegger adopts toward German idealism—this has been done admirably well else-where²—but rather to re-create the narrative by which German idealism comes to be understood as the metaphysics of subjectivity....

    (pp. 38-65)

    The name for Fichte’s philosophical project is theWissenschaftslehre(Doctrine of Scientific Knowledge). His corpus does not include a single work with the title ofWissenschaftslehre; rather, it is the name for a broad project of which there are at least fifteen versions, and between which there is substantial terminological and methodological variation.¹ The terminological inconsistency and substantive variations between the numerous versions of theWissenschaftslehre, not to mention the complexity of his writing style, make Fichte a very difficult thinker to pin down. Perhaps all one can say uncontroversially is that he tried to transform Kant’s critical philosophy in...

  8. 3 HEGEL: Self-Consciousness and Self-Determination
    (pp. 66-109)

    The examination of Hegelian subjectivity poses significant difficulties, primarily because Hegel’s subject is not theorized and defined in the way that, for example, Descartes’s, Kant’s, and Fichte’s are. Hegel does not provide a clear view of how his subject should be conceived. Even the well-known discussion of self-consciousness in thePhenomenology of Spiritand its compressed summary in theEncyclopediado not provide a detailed exposition of self-consciousness, nor do they present an examination of the subject who undergoes the experiences in thePhenomenology. Similarly, thePhilosophy of Rightdoes not provide an extensive exposition of the subject who underlies...

    (pp. 110-137)

    A core challenge for Kant and German idealism is to reconcile the self-determining subject with the modern world. Descartes’s subject is positioned against a causal natural world, as well as against the irrationality of a social, political, and religious orthodoxy that had assumed their order was the given structure of reality. Descartes’s autonomous subject is thereby alienated from nature and the social world. Fichte and above all Hegel attempt to demonstrate that under the conditions of modernity, the social and political order could be considered as having transformed itself such that an autonomous self-determining subject could be at home in...

    (pp. 138-176)

    Heidegger and poststructuralism make a sustained case for presenting Kant, Hegel, and Descartes as the iconic figures of the philosophy of subjectivity. Unlike Deleuze, however, as we will see in the next chapter, Derrida is willing to claim that even this triumvirate can be read against the grain. One can find “aporias, fictions and fabrications” that undermine and problematize the coherence of the subjectivity upon which this philosophical canon appears to be grounded. “This would have at least the virtue of de-simplifying, of ‘de-homogenizing’ the reference to something like The Subject. There has never been The Subject for anyone. ....

    (pp. 177-216)

    The scientific rigor of modern philosophy reconfigured the self-world relation in a manner that for the most part made the knowing subject the arbiter of everything earthly. In the idealized narrative of modernity this inverted copernicanism is presented as a revolution, indeed the greatest revolution in human history, since it liberated humanity from all forms of dogmatism. If the center of the universe and all meaning determination has shifted from God to a “finite synthetic self,” who now assumes all these attributes, then, Deleuze argues, the Enlightenment’s disenchantment of the world was not a radical change in understanding from premodern...

    (pp. 217-222)

    Descartes founded modern philosophy by attempting to free philosophy from its presuppositions and its premodern certainties. But the method of doubt that Descartes employed to free himself from his and the tradition’s presuppositions required that he seek certainty for his reflections. He had to find a ground by which to anchor the new certainties. Descartes offers the rational subject as the authority for the new rigorous meanings that his system would establish. The self-certainty of the Cartesian cogito has cast a long a shadow over the philosophical tradition. It has become the model of the thinking of the subject—self-identical...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 223-244)
    (pp. 245-254)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 255-268)