Infection and the Death of Reason

It’s been some time since I’ve updated my Academia.edu profile with any of my more recent work. Along with some notes for a recent conference presentation, I’ve uploaded a draft paper on self-sacrifice, authenticity, death and the infection structure in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. 

Infection [Ansteckung], for Hegel, has to do with the communicability or speaking-out of the subject, its interpenetration with the other, and its subsequent self-realization as Spirit.

A select excerpt from the paper follows – the full paper is available online here.

Reason in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit binds the ‘I’ to its body. Reason is bound to the individuality of the ‘I’; through each movement of self-consciousness as Reason, the ‘I’ attempts to escape itself, willing, as it were, that the maxim of its action would become universal law (to paraphrase Kant). As such, the individual embarks out onto the world first carrying the law of the heart (the law of his own heart, presupposed as the law of all hearts insofar as they are beating) whose claim to the world is then thwarted by competing claims made by the many other hearts. Beginning with this movement, self-consciousness as Reason learns the self-defeatingness of its individualism. Every movement of Reason is a movement of self-negation; every movement is a death for self-consciousness. This need to transcend itself through its own individual death is a necessary step towards the self-certainty through which Spirit first appears in its actuality. Otherwise than Reason’s deference and anxiety over its own death, Georges Bataille rightly says that Spirit “assumes death and lives with it.”[1] Death shapes Spirit’s universal actuality, imparted in part by Reason. Hegel’s phenomenological self-consciousness needs to watch itself die, in order to self-actualize as Spirit.

[1] Georges Bataille, “Hegel, Death and Sacrifice” in Yale French Studies, No. 78, On Bataille, 14.

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