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Dialectics Beyond Dialectics

Translated by Cain Elliott and Jan Burzyński


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 20th 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 3: The Dangerous Totality


Chapter 3

The Dangerous Totality

If totality in the strong, Hegelian or para-Hegelian, sense is understood as a kind of synthesis, which is de facto constantly developing, but which de iure or potentially is always already achieved, and as the ultimate unity and identity of everything (the “unity of identity and difference”); if it is at best a kind of regulative idea of cognition and action, and at worst a speculative fiction, mystifying the actual complexity, diversity and discontinuity of history (of the world, being etc.) – if, in short, such a totality is for some reasons ontologically and epistemologically impossible, then the belief that it is real must be viewed as a cognitive mistake, resulting either from an ideological illusion, or from a dogmatic blindness. If the way in which people gain knowledge about the world had nothing in common with the way they act, if the cognitive mistake had merely theoretical implications, then its inherent danger would be inconsiderable. However, if cognition is also a premise and an effect of action, if theory does not supervene above practice but guides and informs it (while also being guided and informed by it), if, in the end, practical interests cannot be distinguished from cognitive interests, then the mistake is not purely theoretical. In other words, theory cannot be simply reduced to a mistaken ideology. Cognitive blindness always has practical effects and assumes certain practical interests. The mistake becomes a sin, or even stems from a sin.

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