Hegel’s or Hegelian Philosophical Discourse

Men don’t just live; they tell each other about life, invent stories for themselves, stage the World. They exclaim and call out. They give or carry out orders, address prayers to the gods they invoke, take oaths. They also question and provide answers, debate, contradict each other. Their universe is the universe of discourse.

The essential fact for philosophical discourse is the very fact of speech. To speak as a philosopher is to talk about everything about which one speaks, taking into account everything about which one says and taking into account the fact that one speaks about it. Or again: philosophy is a discourse which speaks both of the essences of things and of the meaning of speeches, which “relate” to it, and which can do so only by speaking of a “third party” which, while being neither essence nor meaning only, can nevertheless appear as both: what Kojève, following Hegel, calls the Concept.

To speak of the Concept as the singular unity of essence and meaning is to talk about the truth. And to talk of truth is to talk of time. “Indeed […] the truth in the proper sense of the word is something which is supposed to be neither able to be modified nor denied: it is valid ‘universally and necessarily’ as they say. ‘it is not subject to changes; it is, as we also say: eternal or not temporal. On the other hand, there is no doubt that it is found at a certain point in time and exists in the World.

As soon as we pose the problem of truth, even partially, we necessarily pose the question of time, or more particularly that of the relationship between time and timelessness.”

Let us exclude the “Heraclitean” solution from the outset, the very basis of all scepticism and all relativism. According to this hypothesis, the truth is exclusively temporary and, therefore, the speech is only AN endless “chatter, where it is always plausible and (thus) justified to contradict at some point what has been said before. It is not that this chatter is “contradictory” as it is without end. As an endless chatter, it is an undefined chatter since, instead of receiving a meaning likely to be discussed, it can always, like an unfinished sentence, receive any sense.

That is to say, it does not have any specific determination. Philosophical discourse is then impossible. The philosophers first believed they could save the truth by saying that it is eternity or, at the very least, Eternal. The latter is the “Parmenidean” thesis, taken up in Spinoza’s way. Unfortunately, if the “Heraclitean” solution to the problem of truth led discourse to chatter, the “Parmenidean” or “Spinozist” solution reduces it to silence. Indeed, if the Concept is different from the time of the World where men live and speak in general and philosophers in particular, then it becomes rigorously impossible to account for the manifestation of the truth in the dated speeches of men:, “Ethics” explains everything, except the possibility, for a man living in time, to write it down”.

Suppose the history of philosophy begins with identifying the Concept with Eternity. In that case, we know that, according to Kojève, it ends with the “Hegelian” identity of the Concept with Time, not with the indefinite time of the cosmos, nor with time qua the cyclical of life. Still, within historical time, that is to say, when the future takes precedence.

He gives himself an end that is not inscribed in any nature that man “detaches” himself from being to “conceive” it. Thus, the history of philosophy appears as the progressive reduction of the transcendence of the Concept. At the end of this process, the philosophical discourse understands that it cannot speak without contradicting itself about the Concept, and therefore account for itself, only on the condition of saying that the Concept, which is neither essence nor meaning, is revealed by first becoming essence and then meaning. 

In other words, the Concept is nothing other than the historical process of the transformation of the universe of objects into the universe of discourse: “Everything in the world, exists to end in a book”, and the history of philosophy is only the thousand-year-old pedagogy by which men have awakened themselves to the “Wisdom” which teaches them that they are the only ones in the World to speak and that there is no transcendent “Word” to whom they must address prayers or no transcendent “Entity” who can dictate commandments to them.

For, unlike Christian theology, for which the cosmos supposes an infinite logos that does not presuppose it (the cosmos), Wisdom affirms the “finitude” of the logos, which assumes before and after it an eternally silent cosmos. Speaking is to “break the silence”: for a while. Silence will hover again over the waters at the end of this time.

“The relationship between the Sage and his Book is therefore rigorously analogous to that of Man and his death. My death is mine; it is not the death of another. But it’s mine only in the future; for one can say: “I am going to die”, but not: “I am dead״.

 Likewise for the Book. It is my work and not that of another, and it is a question of me and not of another thing. But I am in the Book; I am this Book only as long as I write it or publish it, that is to say, as long as it is still a future (or a project).

Once the Book has appeared, it is detached from me. It ceases to be me, just as my body ceases to be me after its death. Death is just as impersonal and eternal: just as inhuman as the Spirit fully realized in and by Book. Let us open the Book.

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