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Dialectics Beyond Dialectics

Translated by Cain Elliott and Jan Burzyński

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Malgorzata Kowalska

Dialectics beyond Dialectics is a study of contemporary French philosophy from Bataille to Derrida. It analyses, on the first level of generalization, the decomposition of Hegelianism understood as philosophy of totality. Many French philosophers of the 20 th century deconstruct Hegelian dialectics and harshly criticize the very idea of totality as either dangerous or impossible. The thesis of the book is that, on doing so, they do not really break with dialectics, but transform it. On the second level of generalization, the issue of the book is modernity and the thesis is that transformations of dialectics reveal transformations of modern consciousness which – despite hasty declarations on the end of modernity – still remains ours.
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Chapter 1: The Insufficient Totality

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Chapter 1

The Insufficient Totality

It seems paradoxical that totality, even absolute totality, might be regarded as insufficient. After all, if totality is all-encompassing by definition, what can it possibly lack? The only logical answer would seem to be nothing. Perhaps this is why the concept of “nothing” (nothingness and non-entities) has taken on such value in contemporary philosophy. But even nothingness, the only logical alternative to being as everything, has already been encompassed within the Hegelian totality. In what sense, then, might such a totality be insufficient? In order to answer this, we might begin by reversing the question – asking what might constitute the inherent excess to a totality formulated as such. What is crucial is the meaning of the notion of “encompassing.” Totality encompasses everything, in so far as it connects everything to everything else. Moreover, since it is the Hegelian (or, rather, Hegelian-style) totality in question, it is important to remember that this process of connecting has nothing to do with a simple or “external” summarization. Totality is not the sum of different elements, but rather the expression of their essential unity. All particular entities or phenomena constitute totality insofar as they form a network of strict interconnections, which are internal in the sense that every given entity or phenomenon ultimately contains – and is contained within – all the others. However, this also implies that totality cannot embrace things that are not connected to anything, and remain either radically “self-enclosed” or radically different. Revealing...

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