Hegel - the end of Glauben und Wissen

Der reine Begriff aber oder die Unendlichkeit als der Abgrund des Nichts, worin alles Sein versinkt, muß den unendlichen Schmerz, der vorher nur in der Bildung geschichtlich und als das Gefühl war, worauf die Religion der neuen Zeit beruht - das Gefühl: Gott selbst ist tot (dasjenige, was gleichsam nur empirisch ausgesprochen war mit Pascals Ausdrücken: "la nature est telle qu'elle marque partout un Dieu perdu et dans l'homme et hors de l'homme") -, rein als Moment, aber auch nicht als mehr denn als Moment der höchsten Idee bezeichnen und so dem, was etwa auch entweder moralische Vorschrift einer Aufopferung des empirischen Wesens oder der Begriff formeller Abstraktion war, eine philosophische Existenz geben und also der Philosophie die Idee der absoluten Freiheit und damit das absolute Leiden oder den spekulativen Karfreitag, der sonst historisch war, und ihn selbst in der ganzen Wahrheit und Härte seiner Gottlosigkeit wiederherstellen, aus welcher Härte allein - weil das Heitere, Ungründlichere und Einzelnere der dogmatischen Philosophien sowie der Naturreligionen verschwinden muß - die höchste Totalität in ihrem ganzen Ernst und aus ihrem tiefsten Grunde, zugleich allumfassend und in die heiterste Freiheit ihrer Gestalt auferstehen kann und muß.

Notes:

a) Hegel habitually attempted to give the essence of his thought in the last sentence or two of his works. This text is the last sentence of Glauben und Wissen from 1802. (For the last sentences of the Differzschrift and Phänomenologie see the end of the Differenzschrift and "Nur" in Hegel and Heidegger)

b) What Hegel here calls "[d]er reine Begriff", "die Unendlichkeit" and "alles Sein" must include, he says, as an essential aspect ("rein als Moment"), "der Abgrund des Nichts", "unendlichen Schmerz" and "das absolute Leiden". These result from the terrible insight (which at the same time is "die Idee der absoluten Freiheit") that "Gott selbst ist tot", of "Dieu perdu" and of "Gottlosigkeit". The last sentence of the Phänomenologie similarly treats the "Schädelstätte des absoluten Geistes".

c) Only ('nur') when "der Abgrund des Nichts" is seen to have an essential 'place' at origin, in being itself, is it known that absolutely nothing vorhanden can limit human freedom. Even the great powers (gigantes) at origin are limited by the existence 'there' of other powers and of abysmal borders. "Limitation" is an equal power with them throughout all being.

d) Hegel wanted to give exoteric expression to the plurality and groundlessness of being itself. If he failed, it was not because he personally lacked this insight. Instead, his failure (or the failure of his posterity to grasp his insight in the form he was able to give it) seems to have been due to some combination of the following factors:

- the technology (the book, the essay, the philosophical argument) which Hegel had at his disposal was continuous and linear, but the insight he wanted to express was broken and multi-dimensional;

- the end Hegel attempted to reach was the truthful knowledge of truth, but this could imply a subjective consolidation and seamlessness (what Heidegger calls 'metaphysics') which stood in essential contradiction to his insight into fundamental plurality at origin;

- the nineteenth and twentieth centuries seem in retrospect to have been hellbent (at the cost hundreds of millions of human lives and the destruction of countless whole cultures and languages) to experience the meaning of "unendlichen Schmerz" and of "absolute[n] Leiden". It was somehow not enough that millenia of art and myth and of history itself knew of incredible tragedy and incalulable loss. Instead, we somehow had to live out such tragedy for ourselves as if caught in the grip of a fate from which artistic expression and theoretical foreknowledge could provide no escape.

If we are to extricate ourselves from this fate, at last, it will be necessary to understand Hegel's (and hardly only Hegel's) insight in a new way, in a way which is at once more broken and yet more practical. This is the aim of gigantomachia...

August 12, 2004 in Hegel, Original difference | Permalink

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