From Hume to Hegel
Why did I find myself drawn from Scotland to Berlin?
I support the Counter-Enlightenment and Scottish Enlightenment, discussing also “The Modern Counter-Enlightenment,” and I have a particular love of David Hume, about whom papers can be found throughout O.G. Rose. My main paper is “Deconstructing Common Life,” where I argue that Hume stresses a need to “return to common life” to keep philosophy from becoming a force of totalitarianism—so why in the world am I spending so much time on Hegel? Isn’t Hegel everything Hume warned against? Indeed, for a good decade, I interpreted Hegel as the logical extension of Kant which lead into Marx and “totalizing projects” which contributed to the horrors of the 20th Century. In other words, I wanted nothing to do with Hegel. But David Hume was big on friendship and stressed that we learn a lot from friends, so when I found that Dr. Cadell Last respected Hegel, I thought I might need to revisit him. And indeed, my view entirely changed. Furthermore, as considering “givens” instead of “restraints” in Philip Rieff helped make the thinking of Belonging Again possible, so in thinking of “nonrationality” as overlapping with Hume’s “common life,” I found ways to “open” and connect Hume to Hegel in ways that still seem critical.
When I was younger, I was never much for Continental Philosophy, preferring far more the work of Wittgenstein and Aristotle, the Pragmatism of Rorty and Pierce, the economics of Hayek, and the sociology of Berger and Rieff, the aesthetics of Hans Balthasar and Augustine, and the like. “How Should We Live?” in Thoughts offers a fuller autobiographical account, and I should also note my interest in thinkers of “The Modern Counter-Enlightenment,” but basically the point here is that I didn’t see a need to venture into the Germans, especially not Hegel. But you see, as I mentioned to Dr. Filip Niklas, I gradually had to start acknowledging that Hume left open some gaping holes, mainly in the realm of relating and difference.
As I argued in “Dialectical Ethics,” David Hume stresses a need for philosophy so that we might defend our “common life” from outside control. It is a weapon to protect others with versus impose our will on others with, and we require it because the government and church, indirectly or directly, will likely impose ideas on us that we will then have to respond to; furthermore, we will have to judge if something is good or bad in our life, and if something should be allowed or stopped. Ethics is unavoidable, and that means philosophy is necessary. But in Hume we see a philosophy that is very focused on defending and justifying a “common life” in order to control power and avoid totalitarianism, and for me no philosopher can be taken seriously in whom David Hume cannot be fit and integrated. This is clear to me, but what isn’t so clear is how Hume might help us deal with the world after “The Death of God.”
Hume lived when “givens” were robust, which is to say the problems explored in Belonging Again were not pressing. Nations were diverse, yes, but they were not intricately connected, economically dependent, or equipped with nuclear weapons. Sure, Girard’s “scapegoat mechanism” was overturned, and Hume saw how religious and national wars tended to result from “totalizing visions,” and certainly his philosophy plays a critical and central role in helping us avoid this terrible violence, but Hume did not live where difference was for the average person or nation utterly deep, and no one like Deleuze was around to suggest that ontology was radically individual, nor had theology and metaphysics been deconstructed in the mind of the average person. The world was still “enchanted,” to allude to Charles Taylor, and life still felt meaningful to most, even though the reality of difference was becoming clearer. Today though, we face nihilism, “The Meaning Crisis,” and notions of cynical Postmodernity are prevalent. In this circumstance, we have to get along with difference or not and thus accept isolationism and division. For me, this suggests how Hume by himself can lead to “The Fourth Political Theory” of Alexander Dugin.
Dugin is a logical response of a deep Western Conservatism to “The Meaning Crisis,” as I have written on in “Is Putin a Thomas More Who Caved?” I claimed that Dugin is a reaction to classical solutions by which to deal with “The Meaning Crisis” and Western Nihilism, and that in Dugin we see a failure to “rise to its challenge.” I attempted to argue that nobility could be found in “The Meaning Crisis,” as nobility can be seen in Thomas More failing to compromise on his values, but who cares for nobility if it causes incredibly high rates of suicide? Ah, this could be the counter, and indeed if there is no solution to “The Meaning Crisis” or way to prepare ourselves to handle “The Technological Singularity” without being overwhelmed, then Dugin is not insane. He’s rational, and it is according to this thread that I sensed incompleteness in Hume.
I did not know Hegel might provide angles to better “complete” Hume, but in learning from Cadell Last, I started to see a possibility worth pursuing. I can fit the Scottish Enlightenment into Hegel, and I must do in order for “common life” to avoid becoming tribalistic, isolationist, and even Fascistic. For Hume, a “common life” would also almost necessarily be “in common life,” which is to say it would be readily shared with others, but today that is not so easily the case. Difference is widespread and profound. A “common life” is not merely an “ordinary life,” but a life which is shared. My life in Virginia is not merely “my life” but a life that I have “in common with others.” “Common life” is fundamentally relational, but here there is not much of a need for Hume to stress this point in his work, because “sociological givens” were still very much at play. Existentialism had not occurred, and “The Meaning Crisis” was not even a possible notion. But today “givens” have been deconstructed, and the average individual is radically free to the point where they are encouraged to ontologically define themselves. Everything changes.
Philosophy is not self-help, which is to say it is not merely in the business of helping individuals make the most of themselves. Philosophy is radically relational and in the business of organizing hermeneutics and helping difference come to live together peacefully, and the more profoundly different the difference, the more profoundly the need for philosophy. When philosophy is something more inward, it should be such in helping us figure out “how we might relate to ourselves,” as if we are something alien and strange (which we are). If one day we find ourselves around AI which makes it seem as if there is nothing humans can do that an AI cannot do better, than the question of “how we relate to ourselves” will be radically important, and without philosophical training (and “intrinsic motivation”), I fear our response will be very poor.
Where there are no relations, there is little need for philosophy (as we’ll explore in the work of Samuel Barnes), and yet philosophy also tends to make “relations not divisions.” Like theology, philosophy can make relations essential and “part of us,” and this is very strange and hard to understand (A/B) (and might ultimately require a move into theology). And yet this is exactly what I think we need if we are to be so radically different and not in the business of destroying one another (especially when we start to become similar from our radical difference, exactly as Girard warned). If this is true, then a world of greater interconnected, both from Globalization and AI, will radically need philosophy, but not simply a philosophy which defends and respects “common life,” but one that helps different people of different “common lives” find commonality. This step of “commonality” was not something Hume had to worry about, but it is something that we must worry about today. And it was in Hegel, which entails an emphasis on “The Modern Counter-Enlightenment,” that I found this step addressed and considered.
We cannot advance in our thinking and leave Hume behind though, so Hegel for me must sublate Hume to be of any worth. That means “common life” must be respected and defended, but we need Hegel so that “common lives” might relate peacefully, productively, and creatively, both to themselves and to emerging technology. In Hegel, the “common life” of Hume becomes a concern about “relating global common lives,” which fundamentally requires a philosophy which can train us in hermeneutics, valuing differences, and relationships. Some examples of the questions I could not find answers to in Hume:
How can I come to believe that others don’t need to do philosophy and really mean it?
How I can employ the benefits of Deleuze (radical and deep difference) without ignoring the admonishments of Philip Rieff?
How can I believe others think differently than me and truly not see them as “wrong” (the great problem of “substantive democracy” as described by James Hunter)?
If I believe what I think is right (as I must), it seems impossible for me to really believe that people who think different from me somehow add value and/or aren’t “less than me,” yes?
How in the world can I accept the existence of difference and it not just be part of a social “script” that I say because I know I need to say it?
More could be said, and please note that I also don’t believe it is obvious that Hume can be fit with Hegel—that requires work, and ultimately perhaps the effort is futile and will prove a waste of time. Still, given what seemed to me the inescapability of Globalization and complexity, I saw a dire need to think “beyond Hume,” though not in a manner that left him behind, for that would doom us to fall back into the mistakes of Modernism. As Cadell Last has noted a need for us to turn to philosophy due to “The Singularity” he saw approaching, so I found a need to look beyond Hume because of realities of Globalization, a concern alongside which I now include AI, thanks to Cadell Last. If we do not carry out this work, I see no ready alternative than what is presented in “The Fourth Political Theory” to what seems to be an otherwise extremely powerful Center of Global Power, run by people or AI. Neither strikes me as desirable.
Though I think Hume is a necessary part of addressing what has been called “The Meaning Crisis,” his solution necessitates the existence of “givens” in which a “common life” becomes possible. But what do we do when “givens” are gone, liquid, or radically divergent? I could not find answers to this problem in Hume, and if indeed “The Meaning Crisis” or “nihilism” is much of what Dugin is responding to, then a failure to address these concerns is a failure to avoid ending up in Dugin. Where “givens” are gone, relationships have become complex and existential, for we are now interacting with many people of many different backgrounds, worldviews, and the like, all of whom don’t necessarily agree on what is best and yet must also live together. In this circumstance, it is natural to feel everyone is wrong in what they think while we are right, or otherwise we wouldn’t think the way we did, would we? And how can we let people be wrong? Isn’t that immoral? And so, as discussed in “Epistemic (Ir)responsibility,” we will likely feel driven to convince others to think like us, and if we’re not trained in philosophy and oration, we will likely only have power available by which to realize this goal. When power and a desire to change are combined, events which make Dugin seem justified can occur…
I am not an expert on Alexander Dugin, and I don’t mean to say that his entire philosophy is invalid or that he has never said anything of value. I also stress that his “Fourth Political Theory” is arguably justified unless we can find an alternative road, one of which is not readily available. Like I said, Hume can lead to Dugin, and I love Hume, but I’m not ready to accept what Dugin proposes. Perhaps there is no way to address “The Meaning Crisis” without returning to old solutions; perhaps it is foolish to be “a Thomas More who doesn’t cave.” Perhaps, but again I am not ready to accept that destiny. At the same time, I also don’t deny the radical difficulty of what we must manage to do if we are to explore a road alternative to Dugin, and that is basically to learn somehow to relate to people who live according to different worldviews and genuinely not think less of them for it, while also not lowering our intellectual standards. On this point, I can make clearer why I found myself drawn to Hegel from (but with) Hume.
Throughout his work, Dr. James Hunter describes the radical need for “substantive democracy,” which is a democracy and society where difference is treated as deep versus something we can just move between like tourists. This is discussed in both The Conflict of Mind and Belonging Again, and the point is that for Dr. Hunter failure to accomplish this task would almost inevitably lead to conflict (as discussed in Before the Shootings Begins, notably). I agree, and though Hunter focused on internal conflict, I think Dugin is a more international manifestation of the same logic playing out on a larger scale (and do note that the local tends to naturally grow and expand to having global consequences). This suggests that Hunter was right on the need for “substantive democracy,” but how in the world might that be possible and not just be a show, which is to say performative? If I really deeply believe people are different from me and that we cannot be unified by “a common rationality” (which is perhaps the dream of the Enlightenment, a “Global common life”), then I must conclude we all disagree with one another in essential ways, which means unity is impossible. We might get alone, sure, but this connection will be extremely fragile; after all, we must think we are all essentially wrong to one another. Just a little bit of pressure and stress, and this tentative and fragile network of connections will likely snap.
In The Iconoclast, Samuel Barnes argues that we cannot answer “The Meta-Question,” which is to say that philosophy cannot ever gain access to truth which isn’t presuppositional. And yet at the same time we all must live “as if” we’ve answered “The Meta-Question,” which is to say we cannot escape living with a philosophy, ideology, worldview, or the like—we must ultimately organize our rationality by a truth which cannot be fully justified rationally (a dilemma central to The True Isn’t the Rational by O.G. Rose). I completely agree, and if we do indeed try to use philosophy to “access the capital-T-Truth,” we will likely just fall into conflicts of ideology and “Pynchon Risks” (as discussed in “The Conflict of Mind” essay). Yes, we need to entertain philosophy to give ourselves “confidence” in what we think versus certainty, or otherwise we will easily fall into nihilism or lack humility, but it is possible for us to go too far “vertically.” This is what we learn also from David Hume, and it suggests that concerns of philosophy must at some point humble themselves and cease trying to “go deeper,” or else philosophy will be self-effacing.
“Vertical philosophy” which tries to obtain “absolute certainty” is not only impossible but dangerous, and on this point Mr. Barnes is correct. Before I moved into Hegel, I found myself feeling this way and then thinking that “substantive democracy” (which is ultimately Pluralism and Globalization) might work if people simply accept the impossibility of “certainty” and thus become humbler about their thinking, and no doubt this is a critical step, but I fear it’s not enough. We can know “we might be wrong” and thus be “open to the other,” but are we really “open” in this context? Is not our identification only negative and shallow? Furthermore, we eventually must make a decision as a collective, and though shrinking State power would help, unless we are utterly anarchistic and isolationist, there will be some degree of collective action. And at this point, whose “humble position” will become “the position” which organizes the social order? Humility and “openness” then will be beneficial but easily not enough, especially on the stage of International Relations. Here, it seemed to me we needed to move from “openness to the other” to “identification with the other,” and though the second can include the first, the first doesn’t necessarily include the second. It is one thing to be “open” to the possibility that other people live according to different “common lives,” but something entirely else to truly believe that those “common lives” in their deep and clear difference are necessary for ours.
Can the Christian truly believe that Hinduism is essentially part of Christianity? Is that absurd to think? Indeed, perhaps it is, but if it is absurd then the existential anxiety people feel amongst difference will likely only intensify to ever-greater amounts until there is radical political consequence and possibly war. Can we come to be thankful that AI has come to make it seem as if there is “nothing” unique about humans (which would mean we could only find humanness in something “alien”)? If not, then it seems inevitable that we will aggressively resist the development and spread of AI, which will set us up for a very pathological and tense future. Trying to stop and ban technology never seems to be a working strategy, but how can we not try to ban AI if it will make humans obsolete? Though not “anti-technology” any more than Heidegger, I see in Dugin someone who accepts this reality and how the current Global Order praises diversity while actually erasing it, and thus Dugin supports a response where Russia militarily separates itself from Globalization and Capitalism. Is that not the only way to defend “common life” and stay true to Hume.
Incorporating the work of Mr. Barnes, if I were to summarize what strikes me as the prime questions:
“How can we know that people answer the Meta-Question differently and genuinely believe it’s good that they do so?”
“How can we see hope in AI forcing humans to live in a world where there is nothing that makes humans obviously unique from machines?”
“How can we believe not everyone needs to study philosophy and genuinely not think less of those who don’t study philosophy?”
“How do we actually believe there is good in difference versus just say such is true?”
“Without Dugin, how might ‘substantive democracy,’ Pluralism, and the like be substantive versus lame?”
I do not believe these answers can be found in Hume beyond Dugin, and perhaps ultimately Dugin is right, but again this is not something I am ready to accept. Can we be truly and deeply grateful that others don’t think like us? How can we and stop injustices which worldviews can cause, for surely not all worldviews are equally ethical? Are we to support “anything goes?” Also, if we just live near people who are different from us, will we have to suffer the existential anxiety of experiencing and knowing about that difference. How will we not be overwhelmed by anxiety in this circumstance?
In all this, we can start to see a role for philosophy even if philosophy which tries to “answer the Meta-Question” is impossible. Philosophy is in the business of managing relationships, and the need for it grows and intensifies as does the difference which attempts to relate. Philosophy as an individual or “heroic” effort of an individual to find “absolute certainty” is problematic, as Barnes and Hume warns, but philosophy which is primarily relational is extremely important. Hume is a philosophy of relation, but again “common life” in his day was also “in common life,” for “givens” were still present and authoritative. Now, we have to do the work of both committing to a “common life” and creating something “in common,” and it is this second part which forced me to turn to Hegel. Like Hume, Hegel is a philosopher of relating and relationship, evident in the move from “Self-Consciousness” to “Reason,” which is what I call “The Absolute Choice,” a choice that in Hume stays contained.
The philosophy of Hegel is not about “absolute certainty,” but about exploring why “absolute certainty” is impossible (“What is the ontology and metaphysics which makes this the case?”), and why exactly this impossibility is actually empowering and beneficial. Critically, Hegel provides a robust structure in which “others” are essential to us, which means we can relate to “others” not simply from a place of knowing we should (due to moral or political pressure), which is “negative,” but from a place of positively seeing “otherness” as essential for us to carry ourselves through the world well. If “A = A” indeed leads us into a “self-relating negativity” that proves to be an effacement, then we are utterly poised and arranged for pathology. But what if “A = A” is incomplete? What if there is more to the story? Well then there is hope, both for ourselves in avoiding “self-effacement” but also in that we can see others as essential to us, which is to say we can come to genuinely cherish and respect “deep difference,” not simply “say” we like difference superficially, mitigating our existential anxiety and the consequential political fallout. I see little possibility of Pluralism, Globalism, and “The Singularity” not proving to be a disaster unless we come to essentially identify with “otherness,” and this alone seems the way for a “Global Common Life” to be a life we all have “in common” and it not be a result of power, totalitarianism, and conformity.
In Hume and Hegel, we learn that philosophy must be in the business of “managing and defining the meaning of relationships,” and so we can agree that philosophy which tries to achieve “absolute certainty” is problematic (a problematic effort I used to see Hegel as contributing to and worsening). Hegel helps us “become-other,” where Hume would only have us avoid efforts of totalizing and effacing “unity” or “systems.” That was all that was needed in Hume’s day, but today the world is Globalized and Digital. We must learn to live as people who believe in something which is different from what others believe, all while believing that this “radical difference” is somehow good, and that only seems possible to me if we realize an ontology and metaphysics that gives us “reason to think” this is the case (for “truth organizes values”). Otherwise, we will be left with slogans, and slogans permeate war. If we are to live by our “absolute” whiles others live by theirs, it is good to know none of us can have certainty, but even better to believe we are all in our difference somehow participating in “The Absolute” we can never fully encounter. On this metaphysical foundation, a Globalization and Technological Singularity that doesn’t end up a terror might be possible—but only “might.” Hegel never lets us escape contingency.
Mr. Barnes noted in “The Net (24)” that the big revelation of philosophy might just be that we’re all stuck in our own heads, and I completely agree that this is one of the great revelations of philosophy. We can never answer “The Meta-Question,” and if that is the goal of philosophy, then the goal of philosophy is its own effacement. This though is why changing the point of philosophy to focusing on “relationships between possible-answers-to-The-Meta-Question” (“worldviews”) is utterly necessary. This is a move from A/A to A/B, a movement from “self-relation” to “becoming-other” (“communal ontology,” as I’ve discussed with Trey at telosbound), which I believe is necessary for us to avoid “the hell of self-relating effacement.” Philosophy took centuries to learn with strong confidence (bordering on certainty, ironically) that we are “stuck in our own heads,” which in Hegel is positive knowledge. If we know this, then philosophy can focus on something else, mainly relationships and “the meaning of difference.” If we are all “stuck in our own heads,” then philosophy must negate/sublate from questions seeking “absolute certainty” to asking “What is the ontology that makes this the case?” and “How might all the heads-we’re-stuck-in come together?” Unfortunately, philosophy has mostly spent the 20th century responding to the impossibility of “absolute certainty” with nihilism, existentialism, and deconstruction, which though in some ways is beneficial, also keeps us in the realms of Modernism and Postmodernism. To avoid being effaced by “The Meaning Crisis,” we need to turn to “The Modern Counter-Enlightenment,” and the beginnings of this can be found in Hegel, notably The Science of Logic.
Philosophy which accepts “the impossibility of answering the Meta-Question” is a philosophy that focuses on the primacy and essentialness of relationships, and the need for this kind of philosophy intensifies as does the radicalness of the difference which attempts to relate. The impossibility of “absolute certainty” must be our “absolute foundation,” paradoxically, which means we must be in the business of “The Absolute” versus “The Truth” (as explored in The Absolute Choice). We are an intricate piece of the puzzle versus what must be “bracketed out” so that the puzzle might be solved (“objectively”): whatever is solved without us can’t actually be a solution, due to the impossibility of answering “The Meta-Question.” Philosophy is about managing how “different” people might live together who cannot answer “The Meta-Question” while necessarily living as if they have, and in Hegel we see a way to view all this as good and essential versus just “messy” and tragic. Yes, messiness and tragedy are part of the equation, but that’s entirely different from believing they are the equation, per se. This is what Postmodernism has basically attempted, and I think it has run its course. In “The Modern Counter-Enlightenment” we see a way for the messiness to be good for the design.
It is only by A/B logic that I see any possibility of escaping “conflicts of mind” and “Pynchon Risks,” for A/B-thinking has us focus not on gaining “absolute truth” (which Barnes is correct to note is impossible to gain), but to instead focus on “relations” between people. In Hegel, we can relate to difference while seeing difference as genuinely good, whereas I fear in Deleuze we only see a support of “essential difference” that seems weak in its resources for how that difference might relate. If “substantive democracy” is to be robust and not lame, it needs the A/B of “The Modern Counter-Enlightenment,” which makes “otherness” not merely in strange and “emergent” ways but essential (we must be careful not to treat “others” as a means to an end of “emergence”).
Where “givens” existed, we generally would receive our philosophy, metaphysics, and ontoepistemologies passively, and thus we could readily understand one another, almost “magically.” It didn’t even seem like hermeneutics were involved when we had “givens,” for we just did understand one another (we “read” not “interpreted,” per se), or at least “practically enough” that difference seemed more like an exception than the norm. But now difference can feel more like the norm, and that means the role of hermeneutics and interpretation is increasingly undeniable. And that is a hard and existentially destabilizing reality to face (as is realizing the role of philosophy seems like it must be, which is perhaps why moving into philosophy from theology can be best—the move seems like it can be less stark, but I’d have to explore that point). With “givens,” again, “common life” was “in common life,” but now those cannot be assumed to accompany one another (perhaps we could say that we have lost “the privilege”). We must work for “common life” to be “in common life,” and that is the work of philosophy: “the philosophy seeking absolute certainty” has been negated/sublated into “a philosophy of making common life in common.” Achieving this goal would seem doable with A/A-thinking (after all, everyone just “conforms to what is the case”), and this seems to have been the Dream of Modernism. And we tried that road, and in the despair of our failure, we have fallen into nihilism. But must this be our fate? Might we try A/B, if only we provided “reason to think” it wasn’t a mere notion (which is to say “if we could justify it”)?
As described in Belonging Again, “common life” makes us vulnerable to “the banality of evil,” and Dugin’s political philosophy I fear does not reduce the probability of this nightmare unfolding, justifying national separation and isolationism which might further the likelihood that “the banality of evil” occurs precisely thanks to (something like) the reconstitution of “givens” which having lost has caused us suffering. It is not wrong to believe we need something like “givens” again: the question is only how we might regain what was lost? Part of the reason that “The Meaning Crisis” is indeed so problematic is precisely the loss of “common life” (which is why Hume cannot be abandoned), and to have a “common life” we must commit to a way of life that we truly believe in. At the same time, we cannot be fundamentalist and close-minded, because that is what happens with “the banality of evil”: we must commit deeply to our choice and yet recognize we might be wrong. Frankly, we cannot be wrong unless we take a stand on something, and why would we do that if we thought we could be wrong? This seems paradoxical, and so we have to truly commit to something while at the same time not being closedminded. But what does that even mean?
When “givens” were strong, to take “a stand” was far easier, for it was natural for us to do so precisely thanks to our “givens” (our “stand” was “given” to us, per se). Now though, we must “take a stand” while intimately experiencing and encountering difference (which is far harder than “knowing” people are different, for “ideas are not experiences”), and how might we do that and both hold “nothing back” in giving ourselves over to our beliefs and hold “nothing back” in truly and deeply believing that “we need others as other.” In other words, how do we deeply believe in what we believe while believing that it is good that others are “other” and believe differently than us? Isn’t that impossible? In A/A-logic, this indeed seems impossible, unless that is “the true is the rational” and “coherence is correspondence,” as Modernism generally believed, but this dream is no longer tenable. In A/B-thinking though, this paradox is exactly what we should expect. In “common life” as Hume described it, this paradox was still required, yes, but it was easier to emotionally and psychologically handle, because we were not intimately connected with “difference” and regularly interacted with it. Yes, we could know that Christians and Hindis were different, for example, but we as Christians did not interact with Hindis often (if ever), and if our views were wrong about them, the consequences were not dire. But things have changed.
Where “the true isn’t the rational” and “coherence isn’t correspondence,” we can fully commit to a rationality, correspondence, and worldview while always knowing “the truth” and “correspondence” could at any moment upset and deconstruct our schema, and yet this status and disposition not be a “holding back” from our beliefs. This possibility is integrated into the very structure of our thinking in “the truth not being the rational,” and so being open to this possibility is epistemically and ontologically justified. And this is because we don’t really have to be “open” to it, per se—it can just happen. Really, what we need to do is be able to “improvise” and “integrate” the unexpected without a pathological reaction, which is not the same as being “open” in a lukewarm mediocre sense. “Being prepared” and “being open” can indeed be used to refer to the same orientation and “toward-ness,” but it’s just important that we don’t think of “open” as meaning something “relativist” and “non-comital.” Rather, as I often like to discuss, we need to be more like someone in a Hip Hop Cypher, an improv comedy, Dialogos, and overall someone who is simply able to respond to the unexpected and not break. A great artist can immediately and seemingly instantly integrate “the unplanned” into his or her thinking and life without missing a beat, and this is the kind of being that I mean we need to have in “being open.” But this requires great training and must be “a way of being” which moves into the realm of habit and “something we can do without thinking about it,” which suggests why the topic of “habit” will be very important in The Absolute Choice if we are to understand the “tense reconciliation” which Hegel leads us into and with.
The Cypher, Dialogos, “the creative act”—these are examples discussed throughout O.G. Rose of “the way of being” (and “self-forgetfulness”) which is required of us if we are to navigate the tensions we must if we are to avoid Dugin and pathological collapse when faced with radical difference. But it is one thing to suggest this is “an option” or “way a person can choose to live,” and entirely something else to argue that “it follows” given the very metaphysical and ontoepistemological nature of being. Hence, this is why the need to argue and justify A/B is critical, for if we cannot then we cannot claim that becoming “a master at improvisation” and “self-forgetful” is anything more than a personal choice. We cannot give our claim weight or even ethical imperative, but if A/B is the nature of reality, then an “A/B way of life” is “fitting” and thus arguably “right” to employ. However, if A/B is not the case, then we cannot establish such imperative. Without this “push,” it is unlikely that ideas of A/B-thinking and “improvisational” ways of life which follow from it will be taken seriously or spread. For this reason, we can see why justifying and defending the claims of Hegel and “The Modern Counter-Enlightenment” is of the upmost importance, and arguably, if Mr. Samuel Barnes is right, there is no other role of philosophy left. Philosophy cannot answer “The Meta-Question,” but philosophy can help us make the claim that “we need to be masters of improvision” be a claim that doesn’t express mere taste but ethical imperative (for “truth organizes values”), while at the same time helping us navigate relations between deep difference. And all this is critical.
Marriage is generally hard because there is difference brought into regular proximity, and yet people who choose to be married tend to believe they are “compatible (enough)” to live a whole life together, only to find a relatively small amount of difference grows with time due to proximity and closeness. Nations which are forced to relate are not approximal like spouses, but that lack of proximity is “made up for” (in intensity) with an increase in relative difference. In this way, we can see how “marital problems” are like “national problems,” both of which are aided by philosophy, but not philosophy as traditionally understood, which suggests why The Iconoclast is a valuable text—it suggest that “traditional philosophy” must come to an end.
Philosophy is not about identifying the “sole” uppercase-Truth (which sounds individual and Cartesian), but about understanding and maintaining “relations” as ontological versus arbitrary. No, we cannot reduce individuals to relations, but we also are foolish to treat relations as “accidental” versus “essential.” In A/A, relations are “accidental,” but in A/B relations are “essential,” and the very impossibility of answering “The Meta-Question” is exactly why. If we could answer “The Meta-Question” and achieve “absolute certainty,” then “relations” would not be ontological but secondary, and so the impossibility of “pure philosophy” should only horrify us if we are ideologically committed to A/A. But if A/A is negated/sublated into A/B (versus only deconstructed), there is nothing to fear.
In The Science of Logic, Hegel laments the mistake of philosophers to think in categories versus inquire into the categories themselves and their very emergence. In the “Introduction” of his masterpiece, he notes that ‘other sciences are […] permitted to speak of their ground and its context and also of their method, only as premises taken for granted which […] are to be applied straightway, and also to employ the usual kind of reasoning for the establishment of their general concepts and fundamental determinations.’¹ In other words, fields outside of philosophy can assume their foundations (and frankly must), which is to say they may operate within what is called “a sub-question” by Mr. Barnes. In these fields, “A = A” is basically assumed, as is warranted, given how incredibly useful that model and “map” can prove (which is precisely also why it is so “totalitarian” and unstoppable when “overfit,” just how in Christianity it is the highest angels which become the darkest demons when they fall). But philosophy or ‘[l]ogic, on the contrary, cannot presuppose any of these forms of reflection and laws of thinking,’ which is to say philosophy will not allow itself to reside in “a sub-question” or “dogma.”² And yet it is also seems true that “pure philosophy” without presupposition is impossible, so what is philosophy in the business of doing? Well, it’s at least in the business of (“iconoclastically”) refining our concepts and keeping us from being “overly dogmatic,” which is to say susceptible to “the banality of evil,” but then at the same time why do this if A/B isn’t the case? Why ascribe to such a difficult “personal preference?” Well, because there’s “reason to think” A/B is not a mere preference but actual, and it is this “actuality” that could organize our values into “an aesthetic, skilled, and improvisational life” and that seems necessary if Pluralism is to avoid Dugin and self-effacement.
Hegel believes philosophy is logic, for “metaphysics is logic,” and in this he suggests we cannot be “logical” unless we are philosophical (a sentiment I agree with if “the true” and “the rational” are distinct). This places philosophy in a strange business, for ‘it is quite inept to say that logic abstracts from all content, that it teaches only the rules of thinking without any reference to what is thought or without being able to consider its nature,’ and yet at the same time philosophy cannot just think content and must destabilize the “categories” in which content is situated.³ How can we consider things while at the same time destabilizing the “categories” and ideas through which things are defined? “The Ubiquity of Categorization” by O.G. Rose (tentative title) in (Re)constructing “A Is A” basically points out that thought must categorize, so what is thought which destabilizes the categories it requires? Well, something very strange, dialectical, and paradoxical, and describing this A/B-thinking is the task Hegel sets upon himself (like many of the MCE).
Critiquing Kant, Hegel suggests that ‘it is assumed that the material of knowing is present on its own account as a ready-made world apart from thought, that thinking on its own is empty and comes as an external form to the said material, fills itself with it and only thus acquires a content and so becomes real knowledge.’⁴ This “representative theory of truth” is for Hegel a category we assume, and so a philosophy that simply explores representation is operating in “a sub-question” when it should be questioning the meaning, structure, and validity of this very category. Hegel notes that we assume ‘the object [is] something complete and finished on its own account, something which can entirely dispense with thought for its actuality,’ and though we might immediately assume Hegel is thus a “Hard Idealist,” that too is a category, and Hegel would likely be frustrated that one cannot even point out assumptions without being seen as doing such for the sake of a different set of assumptions (if anything, Hegel seems more a thinker of “Quantum Logic,” as Cadell Last has stressed).⁵ Hegel places us in assumptions but aware of the necessary space between them, and it is this “in-and-between” that gives us A/B, while just being “in” gives us A/A — that move provides us a way to avoid Dugin. If we forget “the between” and cease to deeply feel it, then we will fall back into (self-effacing) A/A (even if we claim to be A/B), and thus we must always be actively philosophical. This is the price that must be paid if we want to avoid totalitarianism, Dugin, or pathological torture when faced with “The Singularity.”
Most famously, Hegel will start his inquiry destabilizing the categories of “nothing” and “being,” and in so doing change everything. This for Hegel is the business of philosophy, and though this destabilization risks “nihilistic deconstruction,” it is also necessary to submit A/A to if there is any hope of negating/sublating it into A/B, as necessary for avoiding Dugin. Unfortunately, without the MCE, so criticizing A/A only leads to its (Postmodern) deconstruction, but without “common life” the MCE is not possible. If we must always move “between and in,” then we need more than thought, and that means we need “common life”—this is where Hume is maintained. We require “experience” and “reality,” and thanks to them thought itself can always move beyond its self-relation into “a world” beyond it. But if we cease thinking and philosophy, then all we have is “the world,” and that ends up its own “self-relation” and A/A too (such as seen in “Scientism” or “Hard Empiricism”), which leaves us to suffer reductionism and the resulting “Meaning Crisis”).
A philosophy which tries to “think categories” while avoiding “being categories” involves a very paradoxical kind of thinking, and I think it inevitably proves very phenomenological and aesthetic. This case is made throughout O.G. Rose, and overall in having made the mistake of not focusing on “the very deriving of categories” and actively combating it, it is not surprising that philosophy seems to have ran its course and died. For indeed, we cannot answer “The Meta-Question” in a (sub)category, an effort which philosophy must fail at, and if it is this effort that philosophy defines itself according to, then philosophy must self-efface. We cannot think outside of categories (concretely), and so ultimately we can only think why we must think categories and what those categories might be, and how categories might interact between different people. And this is the work we must do while also making it clear that living such a way is not a mere preference but plausibly an expression of deepest reality as A/B.
It is tempting after Hume to believe philosophy is over (and even good to think, to a certain degree), and arguably we know what a world without philosophy looks like, for though philosophy has not readily admitted its death, the world has mostly advanced after Modernism as if Metaphysics, Ontology, and the like are finished. Philosophers have examined the dynamics of power, ideology, economics, identity, and deconstruction, all while science has become the dominate mode of “finding truth” and conspiracies spread (“Pandora’s Rationality” has been released). And all of this might be a valuable process if it helps us (return) to “The Modern Counter-Enlightenment,” but that “flip moment” is yet to occur—but it still might. (“Perhaps. Always perhaps.” Until there is no “always.”) And indeed, “philosophy which seeks absolute certainty” is a mistake (but couldn’t have been experienced as a mistake until we tried), and so Postmodernity and Neo-Pragmaticism are not wrong in this regard. The mistake is “overfitting” this conclusion and seeing no role of philosophy at all in the world today, though at the same time I cannot blame this prevalent impression: it is very strange to think “A = A” as an incomplete notion. Somehow, we must appreciate a movement of what I have called “Philosophical Developmentalism,” which is found in Hume but is expanded (as necessary) in Hegel:
Common Life to the Philosophical Journey back to Common Life (Hume)
I came to think of it:
Tribe to Ivy Tower to “(In) Common Lives” (Hegel/Hume)
We have seen efforts to use Deleuze and “essential difference” to create relationships between radical difference, and I fear this has not worked and only strengthened the case of Dugin. Postmodernity cannot provide us with a globe of “common lives” which relate peacefully, while Hume is part of the puzzle but can lead into Dugin if not sublated into something else. This is where I came to study Hegel, and this is where I have come to see a need for Belonging Again (Part 2). Again, in Hegel, I find a way to approach what seems to me to be the critical question: “How can we know people answer ‘The Meta-Question’ differently and we believe that this is good?” How might we do something that seems crazy and believe the madness is sane?
Isaiah Berlin argued for a democracy that operated and managed “irreconcilable differences” versus try to reason “over” the differences (through (re)education, trying to make the differences shallow, tribalism, etc.), a notion he defended with “The Counter-Enlightenment.” I believe in Berlin’s project, but I fear that the success of this project requires an update in our very logic, just as Hegel suggested in the Introduction of The Science of Logic. If we engage in Pluralism but still entertain A/A-thinking, we will just end up in “Conflicts of Mind,” stuck in “Indestructible Maps,” and worse, a fate I think also awaits “The Open Society” of Karl Popper, regardless how valid his general schema might be and prove (notably in its critique of “totalizing visions” of Modernism). Both the goals of Popper and Berlin require A/B to prove sustainable, or otherwise we will fall into Nihilism, a Global State, or Duginism, all while approaching a “Technological Singularity” we will not be prepared for (as Cadell Last discusses). So likewise we require A/B for us to make possible “the substantive democracy” of James Hunter, for us to resist “the triumph of the therapeutic” described by Rieff, and also to keep the “mimetic desire” of Girard from leading us to the Apocalypse. The stakes couldn’t be higher.
Ultimately, just saying “we need A/B-logic” is nothing: we have to earn this position and find genuine and plausible reason to believe A/B is indeed the case. And it is in Hegel that I have found this work, though that isn’t to say there aren’t others who are helping with the effort—this is where the whole “Modern Counter-Enlightenment” can be taken seriously. My love of Hume expressed in The True Isn’t the Rational was forced into Hegel by Belonging Again, and here I stand. If what Hegel attempts fails, then I am of the opinion that philosophy essentially ends at Hume (“Philosophy is dead” was declared long before the madman spoke on God), that the value found in Hegel is also found in other thinkers of various Counter-Enlightenments. This means we basically must choose between Dugin or a Global Centralized Planner, and that there is no good answer to “The Meaning Crisis” which isn’t a return to old solutions. “Communities of Absolute Knowing” discussed in Belonging Again are either impossible, fragile, or doomed to fail, and large global fallout seems probable. Perhaps I’m being bleak here, and I don’t deny that a “black swan” might occur that changes everything, so I’m not saying we should lose hope. Rather, I’m saying that I like to take risks and try things when those attempts seem worth trying, and since I see possibility of “a good risk of possibly wasting time” in Hegel, I have attempted to give Hegel a go. But let us say that in the end “a return to Hegel” is a waste of time, and that staying in Hume is the best I can hope for—have I not been a fool? Ah, a fair question, but one of the reasons why I have not minded diving into Hegel is precisely because I believe doing so helps “common life,” or at least it does in the way we have gone online. People often worry that philosophy is “a waste of time,” but I think that, at the end of the day, we all have to take bets on what we think is a waste of time and what isn’t—no one knows for sure. Personally, I find philosophy as a great way to make friends, to deepen my appreciation of life, and to have something to talk about. Even if philosophy does nothing more than give me something to do, there’s nothing I would rather do. True friendship feels possible.
¹Hegel. G.W.F. The Science of Logic. Translated by A.V. Miller. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press International, 1990: 43.
²Hegel. G.W.F. The Science of Logic. Translated by A.V. Miller. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press International, 1990: 43.
³Hegel. G.W.F. The Science of Logic. Translated by A.V. Miller. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press International, 1990: 44.
⁴Hegel. G.W.F. The Science of Logic. Translated by A.V. Miller. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press International, 1990: 44.
⁵Hegel. G.W.F. The Science of Logic. Translated by A.V. Miller. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press International, 1990: 44.
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