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Michael R Caplan
Sep 20, 2021
In General Discussions
Hegel's notion of aufheben is "dialectics in a word". His particular (though not linguistically incorrect way) use of the common German term itself contains the key to understanding what constitutes "dialectical movement". It is now generally understood that aufheben is not a simplistic "thesis + antithesis = synthesis". This old method of explaining sublation has long been discredited, not only because it's simply not what Hegel meant (most of the time). He and the Idealists would reject it because it's a prime example of "finite thinking" (or "the Understanding" or "the natural mind"), which his philosophical Science aims to overcome (indeed, to sublate): a finite "1" is added to another finite "1" (even if they may be defined as being "opposed" to each other) to produce a finite "2" (a sum or melding or "conjunction" of the previous finite quantities.). But thinking itself is not transformed by this kind of movement (unless one imagines a mystical sort of experience from a mystified notion of "conjunction"), and Hegel's ultimate goal is the transformation of our thinking of Being. We're also familiar with the more accurate and truly Hegelian definition, in which three seemingly contradictory notions are taken together: to "sublate" is to negate, to preserve, and to elevate. Our "natural" understanding tends to place the three terms in a sort of time sequence: first we "negate", during or after which we also somehow "preserve" (despite having "negated"), and this allows us to "elevate" the original notion. This sort of seems reasonable, but it remains very difficult to grasp just what's going on in these movements. Instead, there's another way of understanding the relationship of the three terms that demystifies dialectical thinking very neatly. At the outset, we are in a situation of wishing or needing to move from a point at which two figures or positions are stuck in opposition, and to one in which this deadlock has been broken through, the stalemate resolved, and our understanding refined. This is the situation that calls for a resolution by means of dialectical thinking, and the movement required here is to bridge the aporia, the seemingly insurmountable difference. But how? We neither combine nor neutralize the two "sides", but (merely!) come to realize how they are already combined precisely in their stance of mutual opposition. We "negate" the entirety of the terms' own first-level negation (of the terms by each other) not by rejecting it, but by elevating our own viewpoint – or to put it the other way around: once we've seen the two sides in their function as mutually defining, we have elevated our viewpoint. The "elevation" is something that occurs to our position, to the stance from which we do our thinking, and this is what it allows us to see that the two sides were always-already dialectically interconnected, indeed that they are constituted precisely in and by their interdependence. The opposition of the "sides" is negated as such, but is in the same movement (i.e., not afterwards or as a consequence) preserved as the manner in which they together form one figure, one "shape of consciousness". Once the two "sides" are recognized as the whole (if inherently dirempted) figure they together constitute, our original position (which at first consisted only of these two sides and their opposition) has been "sublated". And this newly achieved position is now itself ready to be "negated" and "preserved" by being identified as "one side" of a more comprehensive whole, and thereby "sublated" or elevated into the next stage of dialectically-driven development. So the very word aufheben, in Hegel's usage, is itself a perfect example of "the dialectic". It contains two moments, one made up of "negate and preserve" and the other of "elevate". The first moment constitutes what happens to our original position and its two opposed sides: they are negated and preserved, and this simultaneous negation/preservation itself is the second moment, sublation as such, in which the two sides are recognized as mutually determining aspects of a single, internally differentiated figure. To elevate IS "to negate and preserve", or again the other way around, to negate and preserve IS "to elevate"; the meaning of "elevation" is "negation-and-preservation", and the combined result of "negation-and-preservation" is "elevation".
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Michael R Caplan
Feb 28, 2021
In General Discussions
Hi! Just wanted to drop by and say congrats to the Exec and to all who helped get the site up and running. Looks nice! And it's great to have all that material available - the archived threads, conference presentations, galleries... Sweet! Michael
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Michael R Caplan
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