Blake & Hegel (was Fwd: (UPDATED) Ten Years On - Gulf War, ANZUSPlowshares B52 Disarmament)

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Sat Dec 30 06:45:16 MST 2000

Gary complains:

>Yoshie's remorseless pounding away at what is often obvious.

"The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom."  A Proverb of
Hell, you see.  Besides, debates do not progress without oppositions
which are "true Friendship": "Note: This Angel, who is now become a
Devil, is my particular friend; we often read the Bible together in
its infernal or diabolical sense which the world shall have if they
behave well.  I have also The Bible of Hell, which the world shall
have whether they will or no."

>Well we should seek out what Gramsci termed the Church of the Poor
>and ally with them in our struggle against Capital.
>One element of the Church of the Poor is led by my good friend
>Ciaron O'Reilly. He is in Gt. Britain at present and what follows is
>a post detailing his activities past and present.  I think it is
>obvious from the p[ost that he has done good work. Indeed he spent a
>year in prison in the USA and has been arrested and imprisoned many
>times here in Oz.  It is his faith that motivates and gives him
>strength and I respect that.

Loyalty & faithfulness to a good cause are admirable, whatever their
source (God, Marxism, Feminism, Nationalism, Gay Liberation, etc.).
Your advocacy of Bhaskar's turn to spirituality, however, seems to go
much _beyond_ such admiration as all of us have.

Hegel says in _The Philosophy of History_:

*****   The special interest of passion is thus inseparable from the
active development of a general principle: for it is from the special
and determinate and from its negation, that the Universal results.
Particularity contends with its like, and some loss is involved in
the issue.  It is not the general idea that is implicated in
opposition and combat, and that is exposed to danger.  It remains in
the background, untouched and uninjured.  This may be called the
cunning of reason, -- that it sets the passions to work for itself,
while that which develops its existence through such impulsion pays
the penalty and suffers loss.  For it is phenomenal being that is so
treated, and of this, part is of no value, part is positive and real.
The particular is for the most part of too trifling value as compared
with the general: individuals are sacrificed and abandoned.  The Idea
pays the penalty of determinate existence and of corruptibility, not
from itself, but from the passions of individuals.

A possibility of _philosophical_ reconciliation of Marxists &
Religionists (as opposed to merely _practical_ coalition between
them, which has & will continue to take place as a matter of fact)
that you hope for may depend upon whether both sides are wiling to
accept the Hegelian idea of the cunning of reason, to which all of us
are alike instruments, our particular passions (be they theistic or
atheistic) spent as "the penalty of determinate existence and of
corruptibility" in the service of the Universal to come.  A chilly
summit of Objective Idealism.

Hegel goes on to say:

*****   But though we might tolerate the idea that individuals, their
desires and the gratification of them, are thus sacrificed, and their
happiness given up to the empire of chance, to which it belongs; and
that as a general rule, individuals come under the category of means
to an ulterior end, -- there is one aspect of human individuality
which we should hesitate to regard in that subordinate light, even in
relation to the highest; since it is absolutely no subordinate
element, but exists in those individuals as inherently eternal and
divine.  I mean morality, ethics, religion.  Even when speaking of
the realization of the great ideal aim by means of individuals, the
subjective element in them -- their interest and that of their
cravings and impulses, their views and judgments, though exhibited as
the merely formal side of their existence, -- was spoken of as having
an infinite right to be consulted.  The first idea that presents
itself in speaking of means is that of something external to the
object, and having no share in the object itself.  But merely natural
things -- even the commonest lifeless objects -- used as means, must
be of such a kind as adapts them to their purpose; they must possess
something in common with it.  Human beings least of all, sustain the
bare external relation of mere means to the great ideal aim.  Not
only do they in the very act of realising it, make it the occasion of
satisfying personal desires, whose purport is diverse from that aim
-- but they share in that ideal aim itself; and are for that very
reason objects of their own existence; not formally merely, as the
world of living beings generally is -- whose individual life is
essentially subordinate to that of man, and is properly used up as an
instrument.  Men, on the contrary, are objects of existence to
themselves, as regards the intrinsic import of the aim in question.
To this order belongs that in them which we would exclude from the
category of mere means, -- Morality, Ethics, Religion.  That is to
say, man is an object of existence in himself only in virtue of the
Divine that is in him, -- that which was designated at the outset as
Reason; which, in view of its activity and power of
self-determination, was called Freedom.  And we affirm -- without
entering at present on the proof of the assertion -- that Religion,
Morality, &c. have their foundation and source in that principle, and
so are essentially elevated above all alien necessity and chance.
And here we must remark that individuals, to the extent of their
freedom, are responsible for the depravation and enfeeblement of
morals and religion.  This is the seal of the absolute and sublime
destiny of man -- that he knows what is good and what is evil; that
his destiny is his very ability to will either good or evil, -- in
one word, that he is the subject of moral imputation, imputation not
only of evil, but of good; and not only concerning this or that
particular matters and all that happens ab extrâ, but also the good
and evil attaching to his individual freedom.  The brute alone is
simply innocent.  It would, however demand an extensive explanation
-- as extensive as the analysis of moral freedom itself -- to
preclude or obviate all the misunderstandings which the statement
that what is called innocent imports the entire unconsciousness of
evil -- is wont to occasion.

Is this not a sleight of hand on the part of Hegel?  What's the point
of "moral freedom" if individuals are merely particular instruments,
the _unintended_ consequences of whose passions serving to realize
the Universal?

Hegel again:

*****   In contemplating the fate which virtue, morality, even piety
experience in history, we must not fall into the Litany of
Lamentations, that the good and pious often -- or for the most part
-- fare ill in the world, while the evil-disposed and wicked prosper.
The term prosperity is used in a variety of meanings -- riches,
outward honour, and the like.  But in speaking of something which in
and for itself constitutes an aim of existence, that so-called well
or ill-faring of these or those isolated individuals cannot be
regarded as an essential element in the rational order of the
universe.  With more justice than happiness -- or a fortunate
environment for individuals, -- it is demanded of the grand aim of
the world's existence, that it should foster, nay involve the
execution and ratification of good, moral, righteous purposes.  What
makes men morally discontented (a discontent, by the bye, on which
they somewhat pride themselves), is that they do not find the present
adapted to the realization of aims which they hold to be right and
just (more especially in modern times, ideals of political
constitutions); they contrast unfavourably things as they are, with
their idea of things as they ought to be.  In this case it is not
private interest nor passion that desires gratification, but Reason,
Justice, Liberty; and equipped with this title, the demand in
question assumes a lofty bearing, and readily adopts a position not
merely of discontent, but of open revolt against the actual condition
of the world.  To estimate such a feeling and such views aright, the
demands insisted upon, and the very dogmatic opinions asserted, must
be examined.  At no time so much as in our own, have such general
principles and notions been advanced, or with greater assurance.  If
in days gone by, history seems to present itself as a struggle of
passions; in our time -- though displays of passion are not wanting
-- it exhibits partly a predominance of the struggle of notions
assuming the authority of principles; partly that of passions and
interests essentially subjective, but under the mask of such higher
sanctions.  The pretensions thus contended for as legitimate in the
name of that which has been stated as the ultimate aim of Reason,
pass accordingly, for absolute aims, --- to the same extent as
Religion, Morals, Ethics.  Nothing, as before remarked, is now more
common than the complaint that the ideals which imagination sets up
are not realised -- that these glorious dreams are destroyed by cold
actuality.  These Ideals -- which in the voyage of life founder on
the rocks of hard reality -- may be in the first instance only
subjective, and belong to the idiosyncrasy of the individual,
imagining himself the highest and wisest.  Such do not properly
belong to this category.  For the fancies which the individual in his
isolation indulges, cannot be the model for universal reality; just
as universal law is not designed for the units of the mass.  These as
such may, in fact, find their interests decidedly thrust into the
background.  But by the term "Ideal," we also understand the ideal of
Reason, of the Good, of the True.  Poets, as e.g. Schiller, have
painted such ideals touchingly and with strong emotion, and with the
deeply melancholy conviction that they could not be realised.  In
affirming, on the contrary that the Universal Reason does realise
itself, we leave indeed nothing to do with the individual empirically
regarded.  That admits of degrees of better and worse, since here
chance and speciality have received authority from the Idea to
exercise their monstrous power.  Much, therefore, in particular
aspects of the grand phenomenon might be found fault with.  This
subjective faultfinding, -- which, however, only keeps in view the
individual and its deficiency, without taking notice of Reason
pervading the whole, -- is easy; and inasmuch as it asserts an
excellent intention with regard to the good of the whole, and seems
to result from a kindly heart, it feels authorized to give itself
airs and assume great consequence.  It is easier to discover a
deficiency in individuals, in states, and in Providence, than to see
their real import and value.  For in this merely negative
faultfinding a proud position is taken, -- one which overlooks the
object, without having entered into it, -- without having
comprehended its positive aspect.  Age generally makes men more
tolerant; youth is always discontented.  The tolerance of age is the
result of the ripeness of a judgment which, -- not merely as the
result of indifference, is satisfied even with what is inferior; but,
more deeply taught by the grave experience of life, has been led to
perceive the substantial, solid worth of the object in question.  The
insight then to which -- in contradistinction from those ideals --
philosophy is to lead us, is, that the real world is as it ought to
be -- that the truly good -- the universal divine reason -- is not a
mere abstraction, but a vital principle capable of realising itself.
This Good, this Reason, in its most concrete form, is God.  God
governs the world; the actual working of his government -- the
carrying out of his plan -- is the History of the World.  This plan
philosophy strives to comprehend; for only that which has been
developed as the result of it, possesses bona fide reality.  That
which does not accord with it, is negative, worthless existence.
Before the pure light of this divine Idea -- which is no mere Idea --
the phantom of a world whose events are an incoherent concourse of
fortuitous circumstances, utterly vanishes.  Philosophy wishes to
discover the substantial purport, the real side of the divine idea
and to justify the so much despised Reality of things; for Reason is
the comprehension of the Divine work.  But as to what concerns the
perversion, corruption, and ruin of religious, ethical and moral
purposes, and states of society generally, it must be affirmed, that
in their essence these are infinite and eternal; but that the forms
they assume may be of a limited orders and consequently belong to the
domain of mere nature, and be subject to the sway of chance.  They
are therefore perishable, and exposed to decay and corruption.
Religion and morality -- in the same way as inherently universal
essences -- have the peculiarity of being present in the individual
soul, in the full extent of their Idea, and therefore truly and
really; although they may not manifest themselves in it in extenso,
and are not applied to fully developed relations.  The religion, the
morality of a limited sphere of life -- that of a shepherd or a
peasant, e.g. -- in its intensive concentration and limitation to a
few perfectly simple relations of life, -- has infinite worth; the
same worth as the religion and morality of extensive knowledge, and
of an existence rich in the compass of its relations and actions.
This inner focus -- this simple region of the claims of subjective
freedom, -- the home of volition, resolution, and action, -- the
abstract sphere of conscience, -- that which comprises the
responsibility and moral value of the individual, remains untouched;
and is quite shut out from the noisy din of the World's History --
including not merely external and temporal changes, but also those
entailed by the absolute necessity inseparable from the realization
of the Idea of Freedom itself.  But as a general truth this must be
regarded as settled, that whatever in the world possesses claims as
noble and glorious, has nevertheless a higher existence above it.
The claim of the World-Spirit rises above all special claims.

While on the face of it Hegel is kinder & gentler to the religious
than Marx (to say nothing of certain materialist philosophers who
preceded Marx), it seems evident that Objective Idealism cannot but
treat religious shepherds & peasants in a patronizing & condescending
fashion, essentially holding that Reason & History must remain
obscure to them (as well as to anyone who is not the Philosopher).
In contrast, Marx's advocacy of "the ruthless criticism of the
existing order, ruthless in that it will shrink neither from its own
discoveries, nor from conflict with the powers that be" & "the
self-clarification...of the struggles and wishes of the age" is based
upon an assumption that peasants & workers, not just philosophers,
are capable of such criticism & clarification.


More information about the Marxism mailing list