An interesting review of Lars Lih’s Lenin biography (I posted about that book already) here. In this passage Mark Bergfeld, the reviewer, writes:
In a quite unusual move, Lenin turns to Hegel’s Science of Logic which forces a break with the deterministic, “scientific” Marxism of the Second International which placed its emphasis on gradualism and the ‘iron laws of economics’. By rescuing the dialectic from the intellectual dustbin, Lenin also reasserts the primacy of human agency in the revolutionary process, which finds its highest expression in the “April Theses” which proclaims “All Power to the Soviets” rather than proclaiming all power to the Bolsheviks or the Provisional Government for that matter. Lih does acknowledge that this represents a major shift in Lenin’s outlook but falls short of developing how theory consistently informed Lenin’s political and revolutionary practice.
This is an interesting take on the matter. Much of course has been made of Lenin’s decision to study Science of Logic while others struggled to understand the crisis of WWI but I have never seen it put quite this way – Lenin basically changed his position from “scientific Marxism” to what exactly? If humans makes history, then surely they do so in Marx more than they do in Hegel. The oddness of the picture – Lenin changes course by reading Logic – seems to be that found in this rather peculiar point: Lenin “believed” things would unfold in a deterministic way before he realized it’s the individual revolutionaries that matter and thus, being a revolutionary, he acted on this insight and changed the world. But is going back to individual human agency from the more advanced positions of “scientific Marxism” (with all of the latter’s insights into the role of material base and socio-economic development) a step forward? Were not the Populists already there? Going to the people, teaching them, trying to change their views and achieve a new state through slow gradual change of the “human agent”?
Does Lenin “rediscover” Hegel and thus succeeds at bringing about the Russian Revolution? Did Hegel make Russian Revolution possible? It seems unlike that a lonely fellow at a library reading a turgid book would somehow discover something so significant that it would change the world – too much power given to one human subject…
I am sure that the future reviewers of the book will point it out, but the first three chapters (constituting “The Drink Before” = Part One) are supposedly preparing us for the encounter with Hegel and Lacan (with a final section – “The Cigarette After” = Part Four). Having finished Part One I am not entirely sure what is about to happen in Parts Two and Three. So if it is indeed a “drink before,” than it is entirely unclear what is to follow. I think there is always a general discrepancy in Žižek between the announced structure of the book and the actual content, but in this case we are witnessing a grandiose structure basically coming to nothing, perhaps on purpose, but I doubt it. So we are getting ready for something with a drink – obviously sex, but with who? Hegel or Lacan? Both? Part Three is Hegel, Part Four is Lacan – so we are having sex with them one after another? The reader than is a kind of prostitute, prepared by the pimp (Žižek) with a “drink before” (and maybe some drugs to dull the obvious humiliation) for the encounter with two of his most important johns. Continue reading
Look, it’s the Hegel age – you know it and I know it. It’s been the Hegel age for the past 200 hundred years, but only recently have we come to realize that in all the recent attempts to “overcome Kant” there is no overcoming Kant like the Hegelian overcoming of Kant. Thus Hegel is back (because he never left).
Now, the problem with Hegel is that, well, he is too Hegelian – too difficult to understand, too German and inaccessible, too time-consuming. Fear not, dear future Hegelians! Here are a few useful tips on faking your way through Hegel – if you follow these, you will surely come across as the most intelligent and thought-provoking expert on all things Hegelian. Continue reading
Preferably something like this. See the post featuring this insightful drawing here.
Even though I have not had a chance to make considerable progress in reading of Science of Logic, I have read some recent posts on the Prefaces and, again, the Introduction – all excellent observations, including one on the opening of the Doctrine of Being (“With What Must Science Begin?”). As I was thinking about Hegel’s persistent attempts to draw attention and to criticize a conventional logic and the assumed distinction between “form” and “matter” of thought, I decided to take another look at Kant’s CPR – partly because I have always thought (and I am sure I by no means came up with that, I simply internalized this thought to an extent that I can know say “I have always thought”) of CPR as a kind of Kant’s Science of (Transcendental) Logic. Just to refresh the memory: CPR’s longest section is Part II (“Transcendental Logic”) of the Doctrine of Elements, a part that itself disproportionately leans toward a detailed discussion of “transcendental dialectic” – so, in a sense, a large portion of the book is indeed a treatise on logic.
[The beginning is here and still more here.]
Having read “Introduction” several times last night and earlier this evening, I have to say that Hegel could be accused of all kinds of sins (being dense, confusing, haste and outright bizzare, for starters), but the lack of enthusiasm is not among them! As I have already pointed out, only as an observation and not, by any means, as a chosen interpretive strategy, the language of the “Introduction” contains several theological metaphors of redemption/salvation: “ordinary logic” is to be saved from its blind mechanistic calculations that are presented to us as actual workings of the mind. It is interesting to note, at least for me, that if Hegel were to join a discussion on the role of philosophy at a university and asked to share his views on the value of a variety of courses related to so-called “critical thinking,” one would probably hear something like this:
I would like to officially join N.Pepperell’s reading of Hegel’s Science of Logic, partly because I think a group effort would be a great idea in this case, partly because I have been turning to Hegel quite often in my recent studies and a reading of Science of Logic (SL) will do me good. I would have loved to attend an actual in-person reading group, of course, but it has been inconveniently scheduled to take place in Australia, so I will have to participate via the internets. Not taken it upon myself to introduce “Introduction,” I would like to share a few observations, while trying to fit my voice into what appears to be a rich community of readers (both online and offline).
Just thought I point out that LA Opera’s production of La Traviata is now available on DVD – somehow I did not see it before, so I just ordered it, it looks like a very traditional production and it features Villazon and Fleming. Here is some quick information from Musical Criticism (check out their website for more reviews of CDs and DVDs)
Verdi: La traviata
Renee Fleming, Rolando Villazon, Los Angeles Opera/James Conlon (Decca)
Release Date: December 2007
Featuring the American soprano Reneé Fleming in divine form, this excellent DVD of Verdi’s La traviata is sure to beat off the winter blues.
With stiff competition from earlier recordings in the catalogue, one might not think there was a need for yet another. Yet Fleming’s strong track record in Verdian repertoire (she is also an excellent Amelia Grimaldi and Desdemona) continues with this new release, documenting her portrayal of Violetta at the Los Angeles Opera in 2006.
For me, her voice is particularly suited to works by nineteenth-century composers such as Tchaikovsky and Verdi, who wrote with a sense of classical line and sensitive orchestration yet infused their music with potent drama. Fleming doesn’t always convince me in Mozart and especially Handel, where a more fluid and less mannered approach is required in some of the legato passages, but here in Verdi the mixture of a beautiful sound with a highly developed dramatic instinct – both in the acting and in the voice –is rarely less than compelling.
The rest of the review (and more production photos) is here.
P.S. In other (more philosophical) news, I think I am going to forego my re-reading of Hegel’s PhG and join N. Pepperell (RoughTheory.Org) in her reading of Hegel’s Science of Logic. This should be an excellent way to kick in this new year!
UPDATE: Another review of The Future of Hegel here.
Originally published in Philosophy Now, Issue 54:
Peter Benson bravely reads a difficult book (by Catherine Malabou) about a difficult philosopher (G.W.F. Hegel).
When a book about the most difficult philosopher of the 19th Century (G.W.F. Hegel) has a preface by the most difficult philosopher of the 20th Century (Jacques Derrida) one knows in advance that it will not be an easy read. In no conceivable way is this an introductory book on Hegel. Only those with some preliminary knowledge of Hegel’s philosophy should attempt to read it. Nevertheless, by the standards of contemporary French philosophy the book is by no means as difficult as it might have been, and it offers brilliant clarifications of some of the more opaque aspects of Hegel’s thought.
Hegel’s system of philosophy is one of the great intellectual achievements of Western culture. It has a solemn majesty and a sparkling multiplicity, a unity in diversity, comparable to a Wagnerian opera or a gothic cathedral. Tourists visiting such a cathedral usually opt for an introductory tour, a brief guide to the building’s principal features. But sometimes an architectural expert might be on hand, to lead us deeper into details. Malabou is just such an expert. Continue reading
Ok, in the spirit of wasting time and all that, here’s my contribution to this and this, the lolphilosomopher competition started by our friend Alexei (Now Times):