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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 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: Ruptures with Being


Chapter 1

Ruptures with Being

Being – the concept of being – is the proper field and the bulwark of identity. This view is shared by various authors, but it finds its most powerful expressions in Sartre and Lévinas.1 While they were both attentive readers of Heidegger and in various ways contributed to the popularization of Heidegger’s thought in France,2 neither of them attached too much significance to the Heideggerian famous “ontological difference,” to the distinction of the to-be and being as Dasein or the sum of the Daseins. Of course, this distinction is differently construed in Sartre and Lévinas’s philosophies. The former never dwells on this problem, which is why one can suspect that he either overlooks it or silently assumes that it is not as fundamental as Heidegger believed it to be. Lévinas, on the contrary, devotes much attention to “ontological difference”, but he also polemicizes against Heidegger, insisting that this concept is insufficient to describe the problem: the difference between the being and beings is merely “horizontal,” which is why it remains immersed in the realm of immanence and identity. One may demonstrate that the difference between “being” as a verb and “beings” as substantives is elaborated not only in Lévinas, but implicitly also in Sartre. However, neither of them considered it fundamental in other respects. Both Sartre and Lévinas are (traditionally?) sensitive to the fact that being cannot be separated from beings, that it is precisely that which...

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