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Re: [hegel] Sartre on Hegel's Being and Nothing

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  • Beat Greuter
    ... Oliver, Immediately after your quotation taken from the second Preface of the 1832 edition of the Science of Logic Hegel writes (German text further
    Message 1 of 16 , Mar 6, 2011
      Am 05.03.2011 22:21, Oliver Scholz writes:

      > Hello, Alan!
      >
      > Am 05.03.2011 18:59, schrieb Alan Ponikvar:
      > > These quotes are interesting and relevant in that they stand as a
      > challenge
      > > to a Hegelian thinking of being and nothing.
      > >
      >
      > What you write in your mail might very well be true. But long before
      > that, I'd say, the 500 lbs. gorilla, standing in the middle of the room,
      > beating his chest and hitting Satre over the head with a banana tree, is
      > that he's loading the categories of 'being' and 'nothing' with features
      > of much more elaborate thought determinations (e. g. 'there-being',
      > 'existence', 'positivity', probably 'actuality', maybe even 'abolute')
      > or, worse, with unreflected representations that are determined by such
      > much more advanced categories.
      >
      > (I mean, c'mon: "Negation can not touch the nucleus of the being of
      > Being, which is absolute plenitude and entire positivity." -- puhleaase!
      > One of the benefits of struggling through Hegel's Logic is that one is
      > enabled to discover a whole new dimension to the meaning of 'category
      > mistake'.)
      >
      > Satre's definitely talking about determinate being. Since Hegel already
      > provides an extensive discussion of that particular misunderstanding in
      > the 'anmerkungen', I dare say that Satre's reading has been rather
      > shallow.
      >
      > My favourite part is this: "When Hegel writes '(Being and nothingness)
      > are empty abstractions, and the one is as empty as the other,' he
      > forgets that emptiness is emptiness of something. Being is empty of all
      > other determination than identity with itself, but non-being is empty of
      > being. In a word, we must recall here against Hegel that being is and
      > non-being is not."
      >
      > I'm much amused by the lavish use of the thought determinations
      > 'something' and 'identity'. But the even funnier thing is: Hegel doesn't
      > actually say that 'being' in-and-for-itself amounts to 'nothing'. If
      > that were the case, the Logic would be over immediately after section B.
      > They are the same only if taken as *pure*, i. e. not *on* some other;
      > the very discovery that pure being and pure nothing would be the same
      > demonstrates that this very purity is meaningless. As Hegel states in
      > one of the anmerkungen: the statement 'being and nothing are the same'
      > already states their non-identity, that is: that statement itself poses
      > already what turns out to be the truth of both: 'becoming'. And even
      > more hilarious: If Satre's "being is" is meant to express something at
      > all, then Satre has inadvertently stated that being is non-identical
      > with itself; the same goes for "non-being is not".
      >
      > Nihil novi sub sole: From the second preface of the 1832 edition of the
      > "Science of Logic", my translation, German original attached at the end
      > of my mail:
      >
      > "... all too often and all too fierce I have encountered such opponents
      > who wouldn't make the simple reflexion that their inventions and
      > interjections contain categories which themselves require critique
      > before they are to be used. The unconsciousness with regard to this is
      > incredibly vast. This unconsciousness constitutes the fundamental
      > misunderstanding, the bad, that is: the uneducated attitude of thinking
      > *something other* with regard to an examined category, and not this
      > category itself. This unconsciousness is all the less excusable as such
      > *other* are other thought determinations and concepts, and those other
      > categories require in a system of logic their own place and need to be
      > subjected to their own examination. This is most conspicious in the
      > majority of interjections and attacks against the first concepts or
      > statements of the Logic: the *being* and the *nothing* and the
      > *becoming*, with the latter, itself a simple determination, containing
      > hopefully uncontestedly (the most simple analysis demonstrates this) the
      > former two determinations as its moments."
      >
      > I'm beginning to suspect that nowadays the situation is even worse.
      > Maybe 'nothing' has nowadays inevitably become connected with
      > representations of Parisian cafes, black turtleneck sweaters and film
      > noir. And 'being' has taken on the connotation of hyper-conservative
      > Huns, dwelling in ground holes in the Black Forest, writing
      > stylistically abominable German and thrieving in fantasies about rural
      > authenticity.
      >
      > Against this I'd like to put a strong emphasis on the extreme BANALITY
      > of both pure 'being' and 'nothing'. Pure 'being' is about nothing more
      > than what is in traditional logic expressed as the copula 'e'. (To be
      > honest, Dieter Henrich, if I remember correctly, tries to make a case
      > against this in one of his essays. But I attribute this, too, to
      > Heidegger's influence.) The rest is representation gone wild.
      >
      > Oliver
      >


      Oliver,

      Immediately after your quotation taken from the second Preface of the
      1832 edition of the Science of Logic Hegel writes (German text further
      below):

      "Thoroughness seems to require that the beginning, as the foundation on
      which everything is built, should be examined before anything else, in
      fact that we should not go any further until it has been firmly
      established and if, on the other hand, it is not, that we should reject
      all that follows. This thoroughness at the same time has the advantage
      of guaranteeing that the labour of thinking shall be reduced to a
      minimum; it has before it, enclosed in this germ, the entire development
      and reckons that it has settled the whole business when it has disposed
      of the beginning which is the easiest part of the business, for it is
      the simplest, the simple itself; it is the trifling effort of thought
      required to do this which really recommends this 'thoroughness' which is
      so satisfied with itself. This restriction to what is simple gives scope
      for the free play of caprice which does not want to remain simple but
      brings in its own reflections on the subject matter. Having good right
      to occupy itself at first only with the principle and in doing so not to
      concern itself with what lies beyond it, this thoroughness actually
      proceeds to do the opposite of this, for it does bring in what lies
      beyond, that is, categories other than those which constitute the
      principle itself, other presuppositions and prejudices."

      I think what Hegel describes here is exactly Sartre's procedure: to
      think thoroughly about the principle which is the germ and therefore
      seems to be something deep but in fact is only the simplest requiring
      the least labour of thinking, and afterwards to start with a
      sophisticated reflection for not remaining simple which, however,
      includes alien categories brought in uncritically not yet unfolded from
      the simple.

      Regards,
      Beat Greuter


      "Die Gründlichkeit scheint zu erfordern, den Anfang als den Grund,
      worauf alles gebaut sei, allem voraus zu untersuchen, ja nicht
      weiterzugehen, als bis er sich fest erwiesen hat, im Gegenteil vielmehr,
      wenn dies nicht der Fall ist, alles noch Folgende zu verwerfen. Diese
      Gründlichkeit hat zugleich den Vorteil, die größte Erleichterung für das
      Denkgeschäft zu gewähren; sie hat die ganze Entwicklung in diesen Keim
      eingeschlossen vor sich und hält sich für mit allem fertig, wenn sie mit
      diesem fertig ist, der das Leichteste zum Abtun ist, denn er ist das
      Einfachste, das Einfache selbst; es ist die geringe Arbeit, die
      erforderlich ist, wodurch sich diese so selbstzufriedene Gründlichkeit
      wesentlich empfiehlt. Diese Beschränkung auf das Einfache läßt der
      Willkür des Denkens, das für sich nicht einfach bleiben will, sondern
      seine Reflexionen darüber anbringt, freien Spielraum. Mit dem guten
      Rechte, sich zuerst nur mit dem Prinzip zu beschäftigen und damit sich
      auf das Weitere nicht einzulassen, tut diese Gründlichkeit in ihrem
      Geschäfte selbst das Gegenteil hiervon, vielmehr das Weitere, d. i.
      andere Kategorien, als nur das Prinzip ist, andere Voraussetzungen und
      Vorurteile herbeizubringen."


      > "Im Gegenteil haben sich mir zu haeufig und zu heftig, solche Gegner
      > gezeigt, welche nicht die einfache Reflexion machen mochten, dass ihre
      > Einfaelle und Einwuerfe Kategorien enthalten, welche Voraussetzungen
      > sind und selbst erst der Kritik beduerfen, ehe sie gebraucht werden. Die
      > Bewusstlosigkeit hierueber geht unglaublich weit; sie macht das
      > Grundmissverstaendnis, das ueble, d.h. ungebildete Benehmen, bei einer
      > Kategorie, die betrachtet wird, *etwas Anderes* zu denken und nicht
      > diese Kategorie selbst. Diese Bewusstlosigkeit ist um so weniger zu
      > rechtfertigen, als solches *Anderes* andere Denkbestimmungen und
      > Begriffe sind, in einem System der Logik aber eben diese andere
      > Kategorien gleichfalls ihre Stelle muessen gefunden haben und daselbst
      > fuer sich der Betrachtung werden unterworfen sein. Am auffallendsten ist
      > dies in der ueberwiegenden Menge von Einwuerfen und Angriffen auf die
      > ersten Begriffe oder Saetze der Logik, das *Sein* und *Nichts* und das
      > *Werden*, als welches, selbst eine einfache Bestimmung, wohl
      > unbestritten -- die einfachste Analyse zeigt dies -- jene beiden
      > Bestimmungen als Momente enthält."
      >




      > > I will make some comments. And since Randall will soon post his
      > thoughts on
      > > being and nothing, we can take my remarks here as a response before the
      > > letter of what I imagine will be Randall's reading. So I am
      > following advice
      > > you gave a week or so ago to let loose with my own thoughts and not
      > wait to
      > > be led by Randall. I will set my own agenda.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > Sartre notes that "non-being supposes an irreducible mental act"
      > which for
      > > him is the denial of being.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > For Hegel this denial can be articulated. First, there is a
      > description of
      > > pure being which can be viewed as a series of predications all of which
      > > indicate the emptiness of being. This takes no special skill and
      > thus can be
      > > characterized as an activity of the understanding: what do we have
      > before us
      > > when we think pure being?
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > Second, we move from a series of attributions to a stipulation. Nothing
      > > emerges in place of being. Sartre wants to see this as a denial of an
      > > original being that nonetheless persists in being denied: "let
      > anyone deny
      > > being whatever he wishes, he can not cause it not to be."
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > Hegel wants to see this as an active contrast. The thought of being is
      > > disrupted; it proves not to be a stable thought. Another thought
      > emerges to
      > > replace being. Thus, something actually happens to being. This
      > happening is
      > > the emergence of nothing as the thought we think when we find we are
      > unable
      > > to think being in any recognizable way as being. Being vanishes to be
      > > replaced by an emergent nothing. Only when being itself then
      > reemerges to
      > > replace nothing do we have being as able to persist. But it now
      > persists as
      > > but one moment of the rotary motion between being and nothing. What
      > persists
      > > is this rotary motion of coming to be and ceasing to be; what
      > persists is
      > > becoming. What persists is a mediated return to self or an identity that
      > > maintains itself in difference. The original thought of being shows
      > itself
      > > to be unthinkable as a self-identical thought. Only a self-specifying or
      > > speculative identity is truly an identity for Hegel.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > So contra Sartre, Hegel would say that a Parmenidean notion of being
      > cannot
      > > stand. It vanishes in the very attempt to think it. So when Sartre
      > says that
      > > "Negation can not touch the nucleus of the being of Being" he is
      > expressing
      > > the centuries long metaphysical view that we can think being as a
      > > self-standing thought.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > What has enabled this thought to withstand centuries of scrutiny and
      > persist
      > > even to this day is the prejudice that truth has a standing
      > independent of
      > > thinking. So if being is denied, this is a matter of thinking and
      > does not
      > > touch the truth of being as such. So if we say that thought and
      > being are
      > > one what we have always meant is that what is thought and the
      > thinking of it
      > > are univocally one WHEN ONE THINKS TRULY. That is why the way of
      > non-being
      > > is no real way at all. Or as Sartre says: "Non-being is denied at
      > the heart
      > > of Being."
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > Hegel's innovation is to recognize that in saying thought and being
      > are one
      > > we are not constricting thought to thinking what is an independently
      > given
      > > external truth. This is not to be a collapse of thought into being.
      > Rather
      > > being itself is to be self-specifying thought. What this means is
      > that being
      > > is to be an emergent expression of what thought does. There is to be an
      > > equivocation at the heart of being between thought process and thought
      > > content. If we can borrow from Badiou, there is to be an event of
      > being, but
      > > for Hegel (unlike Badiou) this event is to immediately invert and show
      > > itself as other than itself. Process inverts when it becomes
      > content. The
      > > processional identity in difference qua content becomes a one-sided
      > > abstraction that leaves behind the mediation that establishes an
      > identity as
      > > absolute.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > What this means then is that the event of being is but for a moment.
      > Once
      > > made manifest a thought becomes merely a manifestation discounted
      > from its
      > > originary event. Thought ceases to be a true identity. A thought
      > immediately
      > > becomes a one-sided expression having left behind the activity of
      > thinking
      > > out of which it has emerged. What follows as the thought of this
      > one-sided
      > > expression recollects the forgotten origin of this thought. It makes the
      > > thought whole again if only for a moment by enacting the dormant
      > origin as
      > > what first appears for thinking as an alienated self-expression. A new
      > > identity in difference comes on the scene.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > Thus Hegel's innovation is about how we are to attend. We are to be
      > keenly
      > > attentive to what happens to a thought when it is detached from the
      > thinking
      > > out of which it arises. Sartre, in keeping with the metaphysical
      > tradition
      > > is more interested in the thought itself as it is apart from the
      > thinking of
      > > it. Like most every other thinker other than Hegel, Sartre respects the
      > > distinction between an essential thought and an unessential
      > thinking. For
      > > Sartre, nothing is nothing but an effect of wayward thinking.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > So when Sartre says: "being has no need of nothingness in order to be
      > > conceived and that we can examine the idea of it exhaustively without
      > > finding there the least trace of nothingness" he is defending the
      > > traditional approach to the thinking of being. Hegel, in contrast,
      > attempts
      > > to show how being is not truly a thought - not a thought in
      > communion with
      > > being - until it emerges from an enactment at which point it manifests
      > > itself as a mediated immediacy. This is why Hegel says that there is
      > nothing
      > > that is not a conjunct of immediacy and mediation. All truths for
      > Hegel are
      > > mediated immediacies or emergent presences. For Hegel, being emerges to
      > > replace nothing; it does not stand as something entirely distinct from
      > > nothing. In place of a contrast of the understanding we have a
      > speculative
      > > insight into an identity in difference. A double negation of speculation
      > > replaces a first or contrastive negation of the understanding.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > regards Alan
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > From: hegel@yahoogroups.com <mailto:hegel%40yahoogroups.com>
      > [mailto:hegel@yahoogroups.com <mailto:hegel%40yahoogroups.com>] On
      > Behalf Of john
      > > Sent: Saturday, March 05, 2011 11:27 AM
      > > To: hegel@yahoogroups.com <mailto:hegel%40yahoogroups.com>
      > > Subject: [hegel] Sartre on Hegel's Being and Nothing
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > [The following is from Sartre's _Being and Nothingness_:]
      > >
      > > Non-being is not the opposite of being; it is its contradiction. This
      > > implies that logically nothingness is subsequent to being since it
      > is being,
      > > first posited, then denied. It cannot be therefore that being and
      > non-being
      > > are concepts with the same content [as Hegel suggests] since on the
      > contrary
      > > non-being supposes an irreducible mental act: whatever may be the
      > original
      > > undifferentiation of being, non-being is that same undifferentiation
      > denied.
      > >
      > > [page 14]
      > >
      > > If I refuse to allow being any determination or content, I am
      > nevertheless
      > > forced to affirm at least that it _is_. Thus, let anyone deny being
      > whatever
      > > he wishes, he can not cause it not to be, thanks to the very fact
      > that he
      > > denies that it is this or that. Negation can not touch the nucleus
      > of the
      > > being of Being, which is absolute plenitude and entire positivity. By
      > > contrast Non-being is a negation which aims at this nucleus of absolute
      > > density. Non-being is denied at the heart of Being. When Hegel writes
      > > "(Being and nothingness) are empty abstractions, and the one is as
      > empty as
      > > the other," he forgets that emptiness is emptiness of something.
      > Being is
      > > empty of all other determination than identity with itself, but
      > non-being is
      > > empty of being. In a word, we must recall here against Hegel that
      > being is
      > > and non-being is not.
      > >
      > > [page 15]
      > >
      > > Being is prior to nothingness and establishes the ground for it. By
      > this we
      > > must understand not only that being has a logical precedence over
      > > nothingness but also that it is from being that nothingness derives
      > > concretely its efficacy. This is what we mean when we say that
      > nothingness
      > > haunts being. That means that being has no need of nothingness in
      > order to
      > > be conceived and that we can examine the idea of it exhaustively without
      > > finding there the least trace of nothingness. But on the other hand,
      > > nothingness, which is not, can have only a borrowed existence, and
      > it gets
      > > its being from being. Its nothingness of being is encountered only
      > within
      > > the limits of being, and the total disappearance of being would not
      > be the
      > > advent of the reign of non-being, but on the contrary the concomitant
      > > disappearance of nothingness. Non-being exists only on the surface
      > of being.
      > >
      > > [page 16]
      > >
      > > [Of course "non-being" is not quite the same as "nothing", as
      > non-being has
      > > an explicit reference to being. But, Sartre argues, nothing also has a
      > > reference to being, albeit implicit. He writes:]
      > >
      > > If adopting for the moment the point of view of naive cosmogonies,
      > we tried
      > > to ask ourselves what 'was there' before a world existed, and if we
      > replied
      > > 'nothing', we would be forced to recognize that this 'before' like this
      > > 'nothing' is in effect retroactive. What we deny today, we who are
      > > established in being, is what there was of being before this being.
      > Negation
      > > here springs from a consciousness which is turned back toward the
      > beginning.
      > > If we remove from this original emptiness its characteristic of
      > being empty
      > > of _this_ world and of every whole taking the form of a world, as
      > well as
      > > its characteristic of _before_, which presupposes an _after_, then
      > the very
      > > negation disappears, giving way to a total indetermination which it
      > would be
      > > impossible to conceive, even and especially as a nothingness.
      > >
      > > [page 16]
      > >
      >
      >


      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Paul Healey
      John, the use of these quotes imo was a good idea, as I cannot help feel that being and nothingness have not been well understood by some on this list.  
      Message 2 of 16 , Mar 7, 2011
        John, the use of these quotes imo was a good idea, as I cannot help feel that 'being' and 'nothingness'
        have not been well understood by some on this list.
         
        If I am right, it appears to me that Hegel would deny that 'Being is prior to nothingness and establishes the ground for it. '
        For such a presupposition sounds far too close to an empiricist ideology. This is were I presume
        the reason for the senses is merely their being or nothingness, and so such an understanding becomes a denial of the intellect
        as in belonging to a self-conscious being that can reason. For if the antecedent and consequences of real processes are not independent 
        of what the mind can actually experience, both can be negated. Therefore what cannot be negated is what holds for
        the function of the dialectic.

        Even the contingency of that which is merely being asserted holds for it, so its value is prior to
        its being and to its nothingness. A realists understanding of processes therefore also fails,
        because the reason for the function of the dialectic transcends being and nothingness.

        Any quotes from Satre's later works would be appreciated, as apparently he began to recognise,
        as in change his attitude towards Hegel's understanding of the dialectic.

        Paul Healey
         
         
        From: john <jgbardis@...>
        To: hegel@yahoogroups.com
        Sent: Saturday, 5 March 2011, 16:26
        Subject: [hegel] Sartre on Hegel's Being and Nothing


         
        [The following is from Sartre's _Being and Nothingness_:]

        Non-being is not the opposite of being; it is its contradiction. This implies that logically nothingness is subsequent to being since it is being, first posited, then denied. It cannot be therefore that being and non-being are concepts with the same content [as Hegel suggests] since on the contrary non-being supposes an irreducible mental act: whatever may be the original undifferentiation of being, non-being is that same undifferentiation denied.

        [page 14]

        If I refuse to allow being any determination or content, I am nevertheless forced to affirm at least that it _is_. Thus, let anyone deny being whatever he wishes, he can not cause it not to be, thanks to the very fact that he denies that it is this or that. Negation can not touch the nucleus of the being of Being, which is absolute plenitude and entire positivity. By contrast Non-being is a negation which aims at this nucleus of absolute density. Non-being is denied at the heart of Being. When Hegel writes "(Being and nothingness) are empty abstractions, and the one is as empty as the other," he forgets that emptiness is emptiness of something. Being is empty of all other determination than identity with itself, but non-being is empty of being. In a word, we must recall here against Hegel that being is and non-being is not.

        [page 15]

        Being is prior to nothingness and establishes the ground for it. By this we must understand not only that being has a logical precedence over nothingness but also that it is from being that nothingness derives concretely its efficacy. This is what we mean when we say that nothingness haunts being. That means that being has no need of nothingness in order to be conceived and that we can examine the idea of it exhaustively without finding there the least trace of nothingness. But on the other hand, nothingness, which is not, can have only a borrowed existence, and it gets its being from being. Its nothingness of being is encountered only within the limits of being, and the total disappearance of being would not be the advent of the reign of non-being, but on the contrary the concomitant disappearance of nothingness. Non-being exists only on the surface of being.

        [page 16]

        [Of course "non-being" is not quite the same as "nothing", as non-being has an explicit reference to being. But, Sartre argues, nothing also has a reference to being, albeit implicit. He writes:]

        If adopting for the moment the point of view of naive cosmogonies, we tried to ask ourselves what 'was there' before a world existed, and if we replied 'nothing', we would be forced to recognize that this 'before' like this 'nothing' is in effect retroactive. What we deny today, we who are established in being, is what there was of being before this being. Negation here springs from a consciousness which is turned back toward the beginning. If we remove from this original emptiness its characteristic of being empty of _this_ world and of every whole taking the form of a world, as well as its characteristic of _before_, which presupposes an _after_, then the very negation disappears, giving way to a total indetermination which it would be impossible to conceive, even and especially as a nothingness.

        [page 16]




        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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