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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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Preliminary remarks


French philosophical production, from Bataille to Derrida, abounds with terms such as déchirure, déchirement, rupture, faille, fêlure, fente, scission, division or écart, translated as split, tear, rupture, break, scission, division, discrepancy etc. Even if they are not exactly synonyms – after all, the frequency of their uses and the meanings that they receive differ in particular texts – it is striking that the vocabulary of rupture or breaks is so widespread in contemporary French philosophy. One should also list other related terms, including: séparation [separation], so often used by Lévinas, and discontinuité [discontinuity], treasured by structuralists. All these terms are meant to express an irreducible difference that separates beings and phenomena, making it impossible to subsume them under the category of totality; or at least, under the category of totality in the strong sense of unity or identity. Therefore, they can all be said to serve the struggle against the specter of Hegel in contemporary philosophy.

When one moves from the level of words to the level of concepts, it is important to make distinctions that are not purely linguistic or verbal. Regardless of the particular terms employed to express it, the rupture that I will discuss in this part of the book should be considered precisely as a concept. In fact, this is what makes it different from the dispersion that will be discussed in the third part (and that has often been expressed in the same or similar terms). As I...

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