Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Translation #4: Alexandre Kojève, Introduction à la lecture de Hegel

This was not translated in the English version, and indicates Kojève's strange interpretation of Hegelian phenomenology in the Husserlian (and, one might add, early Heideggerian) meaning of the term. I'm not sure if this interpretation is entirely correct, something I'm sure most Hegelians would agree with. As an off-the-cuff critique, undeveloped at this point, the problem seems to turn on the relative role of history and historicity in each understanding of phenomenology, especially considering the teleological aspects present in Hegel which do not exist in Heidegger, nor, as far as I know, in Husserl. I need to read more. Regardless, it's ridiculous how much easier French is to read/translate than German, which is entirely understandable given my current living environment. However, perusing the rest of the book, Kojève's style is also extraordinarily clear. Something else to add to the post-thesis pile.

La dialectique à trois temps (these →synthèse →antithèse) n’est pas une méthode. La dialectique est la nature propre, veritable des choses elles-mêmes (Enc. §81), et non un ‘art’ exterieur aux choses. (Enc. §274): la réalité concrete est elle-même dialectique.

La méthode philosophique ne peut être que la contemplation passive du réel et sa description pure et simple. Le Savoir absolu est une inaction apparente (cours d’Iéna, 1801-1802).

La pensée du philosophe est dialectique parce qu’elle reflète (révèle) le réel qui est dialectique.

On peut considérer la Phénoménologie (de 1807) comme: a) introduction pédagogique (point de vue secondaire); b) introduction subjective (Hegel lui-même a dû penser et écrire la Phénoménologie); ou bien objectivement, comme prise de conscience de l’Esprit absolu dans et par elle. Historiquement, l’Esprit s’est realisé; mais il doit prendre conscience de lui-même; et c’est ce q’il fait en pensant—en la personne du Hegel—la ‘Phénoménologie de l’Esprit,’ c’est-à-dire l’histoire de ses progrès, ‘apparitions’ ou ‘révélations’ (‘phénomènes’).

La Phénoménologie est une description phénoménologique (au sens husserlian du mot); son ‘objet,’ c’est l’homme en tant que ‘phénomène existential;’ l’homme tel qu’il apparaît (erscheint) à lui-même dans son existence et par elle. Et la Phénoménologie elle-même est sa dernière ‘apparition.’

Introduction à la lecture de Hegel, 38

“The dialectic in three moments (thesis →synthesis →antithesis) is not a method. The dialectic is that of nature, true of the things themselves (Enc. § 81), and not an ‘art’ outside of things (Enc. §274): concrete reality is itself dialectical.

The method of philosophy can be nothing other than passive contemplation of the Real and its description pure and simple. Absolute Knowing is an apparent inaction (Jena course, 1801-1802).

The thought of the philosopher is dialectical because it reflects (reveals) the Real which is dialectical.

We can consider the Phenomenology (of 1807) as: a) pedagogical introduction (secondary point of view); b) subjective introduction (Hegel himself had to think and write the Phenomenology); or objectively, taken as the consciousness of Absolute Spirit and by it. Historically, Spirit realizes itself; but it must have consciousness of itself; and that is what it does in thinking—in the person of Hegel—the ‘Phenomenology of Spirit,’ which means the history of its progress, ‘appearances’ or ‘revelations’ (‘phenomena’).

The Phenomenology is a phenomenological description (in the Husserlian sense of the word); its ‘object’ is humanity in so far as [it is] an ‘existential phenomenon;’ humanity as it appears (erscheint) to itself in its existence and by it. And the Phenomenology itself is the last ‘appearance.’”


  1. I bet you felt that brief moment where you thought you ought to work on a French figure after your dissertation...

    The word 'propre' is one of the more difficult to translate. In §81 of the Encyclopedia, Hegel says that "the dialectic is the genuine nature that properly belongs to the determinations of the understanding, to things, and to the finite in general." And then he goes on to say that, of course, the dialectic goes on to do much more, etc.

    So "The dialectic is that of nature" tones down the claim; using "The dialectic is the genuine nature" resonates with the existing English translation of Hegel, and doesn't mute the impact of 'propre,' even if it might not be the most literal translation of the term.

  2. Yeah, I was having trouble with it, as I only know it in the sense of belonging, like notre propre maison, 'our own house' (putting aside 'clean,' of course). Thanks for the clarification!

    The 'brief moment' may turn into something more long-term...

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