Hegel and the Infinite

Hegel and the Infinite: Religion, Politics, and Dialectic

SLAVOJ ŽIŽEK
CLAYTON CROCKETT
CRESTON DAVIS
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/zize14334
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    Hegel and the Infinite
    Book Description:

    Catherine Malabou, Antonio Negri, John D. Caputo, Bruno Bosteels, Mark C. Taylor, and Slavoj Zizek join seven others-including William Desmond, Katrin Pahl, Adrian Johnston, Edith Wyschogrod, and Thomas A. Lewis-to apply Hegel's thought to twenty-first-century philosophy, politics, and religion. Doing away with claims that the evolution of thought and history is at an end, these thinkers safeguard Hegel's innovations against irrelevance and, importantly, reset the distinction of secular and sacred.

    These original contributions focus on Hegelian analysis and the transformative value of the philosopher's thought in relation to our current "turn to religion." Malabou develops Hegel's motif of confession in relation to forgiveness; Negri writes of Hegel's philosophy of right; Caputo reaffirms the radical theology made possible by Hegel; and Bosteels critiques fashionable readings of the philosopher and argues against the reducibility of his dialectic. Taylor reclaims Hegel's absolute as a process of infinite restlessness, and Zizek revisits the religious implications of Hegel's concept of letting go. Mirroring the philosopher's own trajectory, these essays progress dialectically through politics, theology, art, literature, philosophy, and science, traversing cutting-edge theoretical discourse and illuminating the ways in which Hegel inhabits them.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51287-9
    Subjects: Philosophy, Religion, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE: Hegel’s Century
    (pp. ix-xii)
    SLAVOJ ŽIŽEK
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. INTRODUCTION: Risking Hegel: A New Reading for the Twenty-first Century
    (pp. 1-18)
    CLAYTON CROCKETT and CRESTON DAVIS

    This volume presents some of the most prominent readers of Hegel in contemporary philosophy and theology. We assert here that Hegel has become the litmus test of thought and possibility. How one interprets Hegel determines how one fundamentally understands the very force of thought, being, and truth. To be sure there are many different readings of Hegel, but among all the different readings, we suggest that one must finally come down on one of two sides: the Right, conservative side, or the Leftist, revolutionary side.

    The conservative side reads Hegel’s ontology as finally remaining captive to both the Kantian split...

  6. 1 IS CONFESSION THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF RECOGNITION? Rousseau and the Unthought of Religion in the Phenomenology of Spirit
    (pp. 19-30)
    CATHERINE MALABOU

    Is confession the accomplishment of recognition? This is one of the fundamental political questions that traverse the Phenomenology of Spirit.¹ I have chosen to expand upon it here according to one of its possible lines of interpretation, which concerns the divided and contradictory character of the figure of Rousseau in Hegelian discourse. This dual character is due to the following: it is the same philosopher, Rousseau, who is the author of both The Social Contract and The Confessions. Not that these two works would be incompatible with regard to their content or style. Hegel is much too subtle a philosopher...

  7. 2 REREADING HEGEL: The Philosopher of Right
    (pp. 31-46)
    ANTONIO NEGRI

    1. The theoretical and political problem of the State and Right seems to be focused today on the theme of the social control of living labor, or rather on the theme of the legal control of social labor. This is to say that if the contemporary State is becoming ever more socialized, if its action has become ever more diffuse, and if this is due to the extreme importance that the movements of the world of labor have progressively assumed, then it follows that the juridical essence of the contemporary State tends at its limit to merge with the form of...

  8. 3 THE PERVERSITY OF THE ABSOLUTE, THE PERVERSE CORE OF HEGEL, AND THE POSSIBILITY OF RADICAL THEOLOGY
    (pp. 47-66)
    JOHN D. CAPUTO

    Orthodox Christianity offers a formula for triumph over death but the purchase price is high, the theory of two worlds: one here below, the other up above; the one up front, the other behind the scenes; the one in time, the other in eternity. By “radical theology” I mean among other things a theology that has been bold enough to pull up this venerable root and to treat it as so much alienation or self-estrangement, to take it as a kind of modified gnosticism. The two worlds theory is the basis of supernaturalism and superstition, of magic and thaumaturgy, in...

  9. 4 HEGEL IN AMERICA
    (pp. 67-90)
    BRUNO BOSTEELS

    The expression “Hegel in America” should resound with something of the comic incongruence associated with titles such as Tintin in America, not to mention Tintin in the Congo, which allowed their author Hergé, at the time of Belgium’s infamous enterprise in Africa, to give vent to his colonial unconscious. The element of incongruence ought to be even more striking if we take “America” to mean “Latin America,” which we should not forget includes a large portion of “North America,” that is, modern-day Mexico. Lighting up his words across an empty outline of the United States on a giant computerized billboard,...

  10. 5 INFINITE RESTLESSNESS
    (pp. 91-114)
    MARK C. TAYLOR

    Throughout the latter part of the twentieth century, Hegelianism was repeatedly read as the culmination of the onto-theological tradition in which the will to totality issues in the will to power, which, in turn, unleashes “the fury of destruction” in a holocaust that threatens to become all-consuming. In the wake of the Second World War and the shadow of the Cold War, everywhere people looked they detected what they believed to be totalizing systems that reduce differences—be they religious, racial, sexual, or political—to an identity that is inescapably repressive. As the culmination of the Western tradition, Hegelianism, many...

  11. 6 BETWEEN FINITUDE AND INFINITY: On Hegel’s Sublationary Infinitism
    (pp. 115-140)
    WILLIAM DESMOND

    I approach the interpretation of Hegel’s philosophy of religion with diffidence for the obvious reason that it generates opposite interpretations. At one extreme, we encounter the pious Hegelians who find great consolation in what they take to be Hegel’s magnificent defense of religion, not least his efforts to make philosophy and Christianity at one with each other. At the other extreme, we find the atheistic Hegelians who finally do not take Hegel’s engagement with religion seriously, deeming it as perhaps nothing but a concession to the pious hoi polloi, a concession freeing up space for the inner secret of a...

  12. 7 THE WAY OF DESPAIR
    (pp. 141-158)
    KATRIN PAHL

    The twentieth century has read the Phenomenology of Spirit as a coherent narrative of progress. It has commonly accepted that “the Phenomenology raises empirical consciousness to absolute knowledge,” understanding this “raising” as an improvement and “absolute knowledge” as the final mastery of truth.¹ Eugen Fink, for example, describes the itinerary of the Phenomenology as a straightforward movement with “a definite point of departure and a definite end. The point of departure is the ordinary conception of being, in which we lodge, as it were, in a blind and ignorant fashion. . . . The end of the path is for...

  13. 8 THE WEAKNESS OF NATURE: Hegel, Freud, Lacan, and Negativity Materialized
    (pp. 159-180)
    ADRIAN JOHNSTON

    Freud’s 1920 book Beyond the Pleasure Principle, despite being one of the most closely scrutinized portions of his picked-over corpus, contains a relatively neglected theoretical shift that has major philosophical repercussions. Of course, everyone familiar with Freud knows that this is a transitional text; it’s common knowledge that he here ushers in a fundamentally revised version of libidinal dualism, replacing prior oppositions such as sexual and self-preservative tendencies with the novel foundational distinction between Eros and the Todestrieb. This shift to a new dual-drive model involving the infamous death drive tends to be identified as the primary metapsychological significance of...

  14. 9 DISRUPTING REASON: Art and Madness in Hegel and Van Gogh
    (pp. 181-198)
    EDITH WYSCHOGROD

    Whether we envisage Hegel’s philosophy as a depiction of the dialectical trajectory of Spirit toward rational self-realization or in some alternative received fashion, it is unlikely that we would view his thought as a source of insight into the deviant psychological life of individuals, into what he terms in the language of the period “madness.” However in a segment entitled “Anthropology or the Soul” in his Philosophy of Mind, Hegel offers compelling accounts of what he terms “insanity” or “mental derangement,” whose characteristics, in turn, bear affinities to attributes he ascribes to the Romantic artist, a pivotal figure in his...

  15. 10 FINITE REPRESENTATION, SPONTANEOUS THOUGHT, AND THE POLITICS OF AN OPEN-ENDED CONSUMMATION
    (pp. 199-220)
    THOMAS A. LEWIS

    Hegel’s system has often been seen as the apex of a drive toward totalizing completion, hegemony, and closure. His apparent claims to having developed an all-inclusive system marking the end of history have appeared as politically perilous philosophical folly. While these concerns stalk Hegel’s thought as a whole, the contemporary political environment—with the recently more visible power of the “Religious Right” in the United States, debates over the role of Islam in terrorism, and calls for “crusades” in the Middle East—highlight the potential stakes of Hegel’s claim that Christianity is the consummate religion. The very notion of a...

  16. 11 HEGEL AND SHITTING: The Idea’s Constipation
    (pp. 221-232)
    SLAVOJ ŽIŽEK

    One of the topics of the pseudo-Freudian dismissal of Hegel is to regard his system as the highest and most overblown expression of oral economy: is the Hegelian Idea not a voracious eater that “swallows” every object upon which it stumbles? No wonder Hegel perceived himself as Christian: for him, the ritual eating of bread transubstantiated into Christ’s meat signals that the Christian subject can himself integrate and digest, without remainder, God himself. Is, consequently, the Hegelian conceiving/grasping not a sublimated version of digestion? So when Hegel writes:

    If the individual human being does something, achieves something, attains a goal,...

  17. LIST OF CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. 233-234)
  18. INDEX OF NAMES
    (pp. 235-238)