The Insufficiencies of Hegel’s Force
Understanding power and history in the metamodern paradigm
Of principal importance to the metamodern political project is an understanding of both power and history. However, we must admit that any reflection on either, which has not firstly begun with observing the phenomena to which these words direct our attention, will have assumed a nursery school understanding of each. And, of course, any problematizing of power or history which assumes such an understanding will render any genuine metamodern thinking impossible. Therefore, if we are to problematize these objects appropriately within the metamodern project, we must first set aside any assumptions about them. Once the world has shown itself, as it is, of itself, only then we can go on to construct theories about “power” or “history”. And because this is the case, we are informed about the method which we must take up in addressing our problematization of power and history in the metamodern political project. Of course, even so, and if we were to say that our method of investigation is “phenomenological”, we would still need to qualify that word. For us, phenomenology cannot refer to any phenomenology (φαινομενον λογια) as a discipline which could be studied in the same way as psychology, sociology, or biology. And even less so could “phenomenology” refer to some phenomenologic (φαινομενον λογος) — that is, a λογος by which the phenomena may come into accord with one another. Rather for us, “phenomenology” must refer to a commitment — and this must mean to us something like so: a commitment to the phenomena as they appear, of themselves, as the objects which they are. To be sure, a problematizing of power and history by way of such a phenomenological commitment has been attempted before us, and an architectonic of that observation has been described. In this article, we will draw from the descriptions of G.W.F. Hegel in order to equip ourselves for a problematization of power and history within the metamodern political project. Specifically, in this article we will elucidate:
1. the adherence of phenomena by way of natural power, including the conditions of possibility for that adherence, as well as,
2. the insufficiencies of Hegel’s rational dialectic pattern of argument to explain this adherence by way of “Force” and “the play of Force”.
3. Then, we will compare the rational dialectic pattern of argument to the economic or ecological description of adherence, as it is treated within first economics philosophy.
4. Finally, we will introduce the conception of gravitas into the architecture of metamodern metaphysics in order to properly describe the adherence of phenomena by way of natural power.
Only with such an understanding of nature can we then go forward to understand history for what it is. Though, we must admit that the architecture of history cannot not become an explicit subject of investigation here in this article, due to medium constraints.
Hegel’s Force and the Understanding
At least since Hegel, the present has been taken as the point of phenomenal encounter in which time extends and the natural world may show itself, as it is, of itself. In the Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel begins with the language of Begriff (“Notion” or “Concept”) as the movement of knowing which marks the location and event, in its “twofold shape as here and now”, in which any scientific questioning can begin — whether that questioning proceeds from mechanical or ontological questioning, and whether it leads to physical, metaphysical, or historical descriptions. Hegel begins his phenomenology of the Notion by way of reflection on the declarative pronoun this. If we allow ourselves a bit of fantasizing on the genealogy of declarative gestures, we can imagine the German “das!” or English “this!” as modifications which owe their heritage to primitive grunts. Such declarations announce περας (peras, “end, goal, boundary”). For the Ancient Greeks, περας was not that by which something ends, but rather that by which something begins its adherence. Such an adherence can be characterized as having a natural power. This characterization allows phenomenologists to define nature as what shows itself, as it is, of itself. For Hegel, the Notion explains adherence. It is first constituted by a negation of one moment (say, a this by a that) which provides for a mediated simplicity. Hegel’s example in the Phenomenology is the negation of one moment of night by day. Then, by way of a plurality of mediated simplicities, the Notion achieves a common medium by which many such simplicities (universalities, such as “white”, “tart”, and “cubical”) coalesce in order objectify the Thing (in Hegel’s example, apparently a grain of salt). We immediately notice that Hegel’s description of the Notion is a process of forces — yet, those forces are not directed towards things outside of the location — they are instead, in each case, a force towards itself as ομοιωσις (homoiosis, “making like”). If we remember back to Plato’s so-called “theory of forms”, we could say that ομοιωσις presences the ιδεα “chair” as the particular chair that it is. The object adheres in its being when that object announces the phenomenal experience such that it stabilizes. Indeed, it is the appropriateness of the object to announce the possibilities (both those which are has-been and those which are still outstanding) which stabilizes the phenomena, such that the object adheres in the moment as here and now. Of course, Hegel’s novel contribution is the co-existence of positive and negative properties. If the essence of the object is unity, its many properties appear to consciousness as a single object, but if the essence of the object is disjointed, consciousness incorporates the multiplicity of properties into a unity, and understands it as such. Hegel sheds new light on the nature of objects by focusing on the relation of the properties of an object to each other (and the dynamics of this relation) instead of on the object itself, the properties, or consciousness. Therefore, the nature of objects, according to Hegel, presents us with something of an “optical illusion” — one between the unity and multiplicity, of the singularity and generality, and their disjointed and intertwined relationship.
Now, to be sure, the adherence of objects according to this schema is of principal importance to Hegel, however, what cannot be overlooked is the fact that Hegel’s ontological interest is subordinated to the epistemology inquiry which was prevalent in his era. Therefore, of principal importance to Hegel is a reconciliation of subjective understanding (Immanuel Kant) and substance (Isaac Newton). Recalling from Arnold Vincent Miller’s translation of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, specifically the inceptual chapters on subjective consciousness, we can remember that,
“When we look carefully at pure being we see that much more is involved [than simply pure being]. Among the countless differences cropping up here we find in every case that the crucial one is that pure being at once splits up into the two ‘Thises’, one ‘This’ as ‘I’, and the other ‘This’ as object.”
Trivially, we can note that this force “inside of itself” is often successfully explored in science fiction. Thus, we can bring to mind H.P. Lovecraft’s extraterrestrial in The Colour from Outer Space, or Arthur C. Clarke’s monolith of 2001: A Space Odyssey fame. In these stories, the alien object’s being is the more primordial force, one which is a force towards itself, and only on account of the power of its presence, can any force be outside of it. We notice that in the case of 2001: A Space Odyssey, the alien object does not move, it has no physical force. Yet, being exerts force, such that the presence of the object displaces that which surrounds it simply through its being. This disruption in the present causes a counter-force in that which surrounds it. Similarly, the pure being of this is the essence of Hegel’s sense-certainty; yet, sense-certainty itself makes the outside move and asks the question, “what is this?” And when we compare the relation in which the first this (the object) and the second this (knowing) entered into the Notion, we find that the relationship is now reversed,
“The object, which was supposed to be the essential element in sense-certainty, is now the unessential element; for the universal which the object has come to be is no longer what the object was supposed essentially to be for sense-certainty [namely, the truth of the phenomenon itself]. On the contrary, the certainty is now to be found in the opposite element, viz. in knowing, which previously was the unessential element. [The object’s] truth is in the object as my object, or in its being mine; it is, because I know it.”
Of course, what is described here is not a succession of sequences, but rather the presence of the thing in adhering, of itself, as the object which it is. The “reversal” within the Notion reveals the dialectic process is not one of mere ομοιωσις, but is rather a dialectic between the subject and the object. We could say that in this moment of the Notion, that which was once inside the object, is now outside of the subject. And what is now inside the subject is precisely the force. However, because Hegel understands both subject and object as essential for the adherence of the here and now, he understands the dialectic process of the Notion as essentially a rational dialectic. Of course, it should be said that for Hegel, this rational dialectic has a rational character only insofar as the path to its conception (ver-nehmen) leads through the moment of reason (Verstand). Yet, this conception points to the holistic moment of reason (Vernunft) beyond reason. Thus, scholars can speak of Hegel’s idealism. Now, what should be apparent, then, is that if Hegel is thinking of the adherence of nature according to this type of rational explanation, he is likely thinking of adherence as did Immanuel Kant — that is, according to the “psychological” philosophizing of the early epistemologists. And because this form of philosophizing has persisted throughout much of the early modern Western philosophy, including Hegel’s, it is worth taking time to expound upon. By doing so, we will also expose the deficiencies of such philosophizing, and in doing so, we will also produce a bit of confidence in our own task at hand — namely, to compare Hegel’s rational dialectic pattern of argument to the economic or ecological explanation of adherence, as it is treated within the philosophy of first economics.
The temporal synthesis and the consciousness of time. Including the question as to which object adheres
We can rightfully call the works of the epistemologist, especially that of Kant, “psychological” insofar as the conditions of possibility which they endeavor to explain regard the human animal — and, in particular, that subject’s ψυχη, (psūkhe, “mind” or “soul”). To be sure, “consciousness” is a word which is common among epistemologists, including Hegel too. The adherence of objects in the “mental realm” have been well explicated — especially by way of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, but also by way of Edmund Husserl’s lectures on the phenomenology of the consciousness of time too. Within the Critique of Pure Reason, for example, we read that objects obtain into consciousness through what is known as the temporal manifold. Through the temporal manifold, phenomena persist through time, and this manifold is accomplished by way of what Kant calls the temporal synthesis. The explication of this synthesis is found within the doctrine of the threefold synthesis of the A-Deduction of his Critique of Pure Reason. However, and as we have already suggested, this description seems to be further pronounced (and perhaps even advanced) by Husserl. In Husserl’s lectures on the consciousness of time, we find the adherence of objects in consciousness described through the psychological language of retention, protentions, and what we call original impressions. And yet, if we were to simply accept the explanation of adherence by way of Kant’s temporal synthesis, or Husserl’s explicitly psychological language, then we would have only explained how an object and its motion adheres. What is explicitly lacking in this form of description is an explanation as to which object adheres. The problem asked about here can be considered by way of the following example: consider that lightning is not tantamount to or merely a type of electromagnetic discharge. At most, we could say that the description electromagnetic discharge is a refinement of the description lightning. But we could never say that one is more true or even more accurate than the other. This means that whether the object “lightning” adheres in consciousness or whether “electromagnetic discharge” adheres cannot be described by the temporal synthesis alone. Rather, it must be conditioned by something other than “subjective consciousness” or “Reason”.
Hegel’s “experienced change” and history
Now, it is likely that Hegel understood the polylogical nature of objectification as described above. If this is the case, then he also understood the deficiencies of philosophizing on ψυχη alone. For Hegel, this polylogical nature of objectification is expressed in history, which is indicative of the evolution of Spirit which emerges out of nature. Hegel begins by applying the rational dialectic not merely to the content of knowing, but also the form of the knowing itself. This leads Hegel to an account of the movement of this. A dialectic “play of Forces” between substance and subject is “constituted by the Force which is solicited by another Force” and is “equally the soliciting Force for that other, which only thereby becomes itself a soliciting Force”. For Hegel, this description of the play of Forces,
“contained the distinction of soliciting and solicited Force, but these were distinctions which in reality were no distinctions, and therefore were also immediately canceled again. [However,] what is present here is not merely bare unity in which no difference would be posited, but rather a movement in which a distinction is certainly made. In the process, then, of explaining the to and fro of change which before was outside of the inner world and present only in the appearance, has penetrated into the supersensible world itself. Our consciousness, however, has passed over from the inner being as object to the other side, into the Understanding, and [consciousness] experiences change there.”
Insofar as movement is the consequent manifestation of contradiction, this “experienced change” constitutes history. For Hegel, Aufheben (“sublation”) is this movement that signifies the process of development, of continuous enrichment, of Ent-wicklung (“unfolding”) in relation to the object and consciousness. The flow of Aufheben makes it possible for the thing to become what it is according to its truth. Truth is the object’s conformity to its intrinsic self, and the realization of the object’s own concept. It preserves it, because it is made of it and can reproduce it; and in the course of its development, it raises it to a higher level of its own existence. However, to the question “What is spirit?” we actually ask, “What movement is spirit?” The exposition of the movement of spirit thus becomes an exposition of spirit itself. When looking into history, in the moment of the Notion, we see evidence of Spirit in the fact that that which adheres has changed over time. The history of Spirit is our evidence of the polylogical nature of objectification. Inasmuch, the rational dialectic provides an account regarding the question of which object adheres. “Lightning” on one hand, “electromagnetic discharge” on the other, just as one example.
The insufficiencies of Hegel’s Force
Now, what should be obvious is that Hegel’s rational dialectic pattern of argument assumes Kant’s conditions of possibility as entirely descriptive of the content of history, which is his evidence. And, in leaving the burden of explanation of the which to the actual content of history, Hegel has prohibited any further explanatory function for the conditions of possibility. Because of this, we can say that Hegel’s metaphysics are not scientific enough. And we understand this to be the case even if we can see in the Phenomenology all the elements of which Karl Marx made use when he stood Hegel on his feet in order to problematize the human animal’s πραξις, and thereby suggest an advanced description of the conditions of possibility. (We refer to those elements which can be found in the Phenomenology of Spirit, sections 178 through 196, during the reflections on Lordship and Bondage and, specifically, the bondsman’s labor.)
In a recent article on the Definitive Introduction to Metamodern Metaphysics an advanced description of the conditions of possibility was proposed. In that article, the economic or ecological commercium was announced as the realm of thought by which to scientifically investigate those conditions. However, so as to not repeat what has already been written there, we refer the reader to that article now. Plus, in doing so, we can expedite the development underway here. In what follows, we will account for adherence when considering the commercium, thereby answering the question as to which object adheres by way of a more robust architectonic of the conditions of possibility. To be sure, this exposition will take us away from Hegel’s text and his thinking. However, our exposition will eventually lead us back to Hegel’s Force, rendering the adherence of phenomena by way of natural power relevant to our contemporary political project. To begin, we now turn towards language from Martin Heidegger’s architectonic of the conditions of possibility, as it is presented in Being and Time.
In Being and Time we read of Heidegger’s geworfenheit (“thrownness”). Immediately, we notice that thrownness is an action of the subject inside itself. This action inside itself refers to an inability to get behind possibilities. Da sein exists as “thrown” into the possibilities available to it in the here and now. In recalling passages from John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson’s translation of Being and Time, we remember that,
“The character of da sein is its ‘there’ in such a way that, whether explicitly or not, it finds itself in its thrownness. In a mood, da sein is always brought before itself, and has always found itself, not in the sense of coming across itself by perceiving itself, but in the sense of finding itself in the mood that it has.”
In the above translation, we have intentionally added emphasis to the word “mood”. We will use this word (or rather, the original German stimmung) to shed light on adherence. However, in order to proceed with stimmung, we should acknowledge that Heidegger chose the words for his architectonic of the conditions of possibility carefully. Stimmung allows for phenomenal elucidation, even if it belongs properly to metaphysical description. Consider that in a psychological sense, moods such as sadness draw the world into it. And in times of sadness, depressing music feels good — and if this is the case, then this is because that music allows the world to be (and to present itself in its true form) as the world that it is — namely, as a world full of frustration, disappointment, and unfairness. Of course, at the same time, we can be sure that Heidegger is not referring to any “psychological projection” — a process by which an individual’s mood “colors” the world. This is also indicated by Heidegger’s language. In German, stimmung (which is commonly translated as “mood” or “attunement” in contemporary Heideggerian scholarship) is not usually used to refer to one’s personal mood or the attunement of an individual. Rather, Heidegger’s stimmung is that of the subiectum (and, in the case of Being and Time, his subject is the possibilities available to a tribe, village, community, or nation). Stimmung is that to which any da sein has been thrown, and which conditions the possibilities of anything present, including the possibility of an authentic self. Of course, removing stimmung from the ψυχη of a human animal, only then to place it within the social commercium of that human animal may not be quite satisfactory either. To be sure, Heidegger notes that one reason for the “noncomprehension” of Being and Time lies in our habitation, entrenched and ineradicable, to the modern mode of thought, which treats “man” as the subiectum and, inasmuch, “all reflections on him are understood to be anthropology.” In the same passage, Heidegger emphasizes that the disruption to the completion of Being and Time can be attributed to the very attempt and path it choses, which “confront the danger of unwillingly becoming merely another entrenchment of subjectivity”. Heidegger admits that, “every appeal to ‘objectivism’ and ‘realism’ remains ‘subjectivism’.” From this, we can see that Heidegger understood that his attempt in Being and Time was to describe something outside of “man” as subiectum and, thus, something which could rightfully be called “objective”, in contrast. Yet, for Heidegger, such an attempt must “hinder at the decisive steps”.
Introducing αληθευειν to the metaphysical architectonic
In searching for an understanding of stimmung which honors Heidegger’s above reflections on Being and Time, we can return to Classical Greece. In Aristotle, for example, we already find a departure from the natural power of ομοιωσις (adherence) by way of a priority of the human animal. This is apparent in Aristotle’s αληθευειν. Now, in Modern Greek we might translate αληθευειν as “to truth” — as in, for example, “to walk”. And this coheres with Heidegger’s translation too as it pertains to the subject “man”. Within Heidegger’s early philosophy of being, adherence is an action towards the “unconcealed” in the “saying”. As such, we understand that for early Heidegger αληθευειν preserves the bias towards that which is produced by the human mouth and by the human hand. From within this bias, adherence is an action towards the saying, that is, towards the word, language, and the unique being of “man” — that which is λογος. However, what should be apparent, when following Heidegger into his later projects, and when displacing “man” from the epicenter of the economic or ecological commercium, is that unlike those ways of being as described by Aristotle, namely σoφoς (sofos), τεχνιτης (technitis), or φρονιμος (fronimos), αληθευειν (“to truth”) would describe the comportment of the world wholly. We can therefore conclude that the adherence of phenomena by way of natural power is not one of a human animal towards its phenomenal world (as Heidegger understands αληθευειν, taking lead from Aristotle), nor is adherence that of an object within the consciousness of a human animal, without regard to that animal’s commercium (as Hegel understands it). Rather, once we have returned ομοιωσις to nature, then αληθευειν (that “to truth”) describes the natural power of the object to itself, as adherence. The “to” of αληθευειν is a “force” as projection, and is that by which the meaning of beings becomes accessible as what they are. Thus, αληθευειν refers to the “force” of the world, which shows itself, as it is, of itself.
Introducing gravitas into the metaphysical architectonic
Following this, we can return to our reflections on stimmung. In doing so, we not only transport this word’s meaning from early Heidegger to later Heidegger, but we can go beyond Heidegger as well. Once having removed the human animal from the epicenter of the commercium, we find that it is rather the case that the adhering as αληθευειν, and in being “to truth”, is that which collects the world around it. Borrowing language which was developed in The Definitive Introduction to Metamodern Metaphysics, we use the term πραξις-πολις to refer to the subiectum of the architectonic of the project, and to suggest a gravitas outside of any human animal’s experience — one which pulls da sein inward, towards the epicenter of the pole, only to push da sein outward and towards its horizons. As an example, we could consider Rome, and particularly Roman verum (“truth”). Only by way of the adherence of the imperial ideal could verum come to be, whatsoever. All surveillance and subterfuge throughout the Roman empire were mere mechanical actions in accordance with such an adherence of the imperial ideal. To be sure, mechanical action outside itself will always and forever lag behind and chase after the motionless action of adherence inside itself.
At the inception of this article, we had suggested that both power and history are of principal importance to the metamodern political project. Yet, at the same time, we must admit that this understanding is only valuable when applied to political concerns. Those concerns include, among other things, the building of our future worlds, and especially the material products and paraphernalia of that environment as well. When thinking of Daniel Fraga’s recently published book, Ontological Design: Subject is Project, we can remember the discussion of cognitive attention, and especially the importance of the attention of the human animal in regards to design industries. In that book, it is argued that these industries must understand attention itself as one of the most precious commodities in “late capitalism”. In the book, Fraga writes that,
“Attention has the property of scarcity, meaning that after a certain threshold, the provision & extraction of attention cannot scale. Attention is inextricably tied to time, which is conspicuously much more finite than plastic.”
We take this book as evidence that our unique economic condition today demands for a metaphysics of gravitas. Perhaps designers of the future must not merely understand the character of αληθευειν (stimmung) as that which draws the world inward to itself. Perhaps the question of design is not to be directed at what we design, but rather how we are designed. The weight of that question rests on the “we”. If the project is subiectum, then who or what are “we” as the object which is designed by “our” subiectum. Both pronouns “we” and “ours” must be elucidated, if metamodern metaphysics are to truly progress the discipline.
First economics philosophy
At this point we may need to remind ourselves that we are not making things especially difficult when we choose to introduce αληθευειν and gravitas into the metaphysical architecture. We are fully aware that Ancient Greek αληθευειν may simply be transported into English as “sincerity”, “honesty”, or “genuineness”. However, such translations would refer to properties of the individual-subject of epistemological metaphysics or of scientific psychology. Therefore, when we appropriate αληθευειν into our metaphysical architectonic, we mark the beginning of a philosophy which stands in contrast to Hegel’s rational dialectic form of explanation and to Heidegger’s anthropological pattern of argument, as it is found in Being and Time. While we are indebted to each (and we should not overlook Hegel especially, who stands at the inception of the phenomenological method of inquiry) we can be sure that both thinkers are biased in the Western tradition, which treats the human animal, his reason, and its commercium, with special priority.
In thinking of the name of the discipline which treats of αληθευειν, we can turn towards Aristotle’s τα περι της πρωτης φιλοσοφιας (that is, “the [writings] concerning first philosophy”). Of course, the French philosopher Rene Descartes offers a more English-friendly term for this realm of thought; prima philosophia. And so, following the Latinized expression, we might say that we are here doing prima economics — prime economics. However, for ease of translation into English, let us simply name the thinking space of the commercium as first economics.
*Editor’s note: This reading of metaphysics as first economics is likely to be unfamiliar to the reader. For further explication, visit Justin’s YouTube channel, here or here. The Medium article here. And the first economics Facebook group here or How to Nurture Truth and Authenticity: A Metamodern Economic Reform Proposal on Amazon.com.