Another part of our experiment, an inconsequential joke at Hegel’s expense for a Sunday post.
Throughout one chapter of Critique of Dialectical Reason, Sartre returns repeatedly to different parts of his analysis of the French Revolution. He conceives of the Terror as a kind of institutionalized paranoid violence, the ability to expel anyone from the revolutionary community. A radically fast converter of friend to enemy. But remember Friday’s point about betrayal: the new enemy is always a brother and the object of love. The Terror is a social machine, constituted from the actions and relations of a community of individuals. Its purpose is to identify traitors, but it’s gone a bit wonky, and the people who themselves are the machine don’t catch on to what they’re doing wrong just yet.
He calls an institution with this power the Sacred, a term that clearly evokes religion and religious institutions. In a later chapter, he discusses membership in the Catholic Church as a phenomenon of giving someone the freedom to leave it. He discusses parents saying that they’ll baptize their child at birth, expecting him to decide for himself what religion to follow: Catholicism, or to be an atheist like his parents. Sartre has adopted the Hegelian tradition; he is writing a dialectical philosophy, after all. But here is a massive departure from Hegel which I think I should take seriously as I research this tradition of thinking about history.
For Hegel, a uniform religion which drove the personal, political, and social morality of the people was essential for a culture/state (by this point in Hegel’s conception of a culture’s development toward highest reason, the two are now synonymous) to achieve harmony among its parts and with reason. This struck me as being very important to Hegel’s thinking. Surely a dialectical tradition would have to follow the logic of the dialectic, following the unity of the people from a community to a culture to a state to a religion.
I make a hash out of a complicated philosophy, I admit it. But hyperbole aside, I think it’s a legitimate question when you research the development of philosophy, and do philosophy yourself, to ask what it means for one thinker to follow the tradition of another. How far can a thinker depart from his ancestor before we no longer call him an ancestor?
For one, religion is one of the penultimate developments of a society's harmony and uniformity with reason. For the other, religion is an evocation of institutionalized violence on social scales, and a simple lifestyle choice on familial scales. I certainly know which of the two visions I like best. But it's interesting to see the departures in figures that are considered, at least with this book, to be in the same tradition.
On your last point, you might think of misprision, the notion that authors inevitably misread their influences/ productive misreading.ReplyDelete
The difference between Hegel and Sartre is to my mind a classical consensus vs. conflict set of expectations. Hegel is uncomfortable with conflict and wants to explain it away; Sartre is uncomfortable with consensus/ conformity and wants to explain that away. Sartre's productive misreading of Hegel is to assume that there is some positive dimension to extraneous conflict in Hegel's imaginary.
Now that I write that, I'm not sure how useful the concept it.
But you haven't posted for today, so that's all you'll get!