Hegel – Preface to Phenomenology of Spirit (1807)

The Phenomenology of Spirit – a tendentious and scattered foray into the Preface:

Important as a way of structuring my list. In section 3 of the Preface, Hegel claims that project is not complete by achieving a result, an actual whole, but in and through the carrying out of that aim. The aim is merely the drive, the result merely a corpse, they must be brought together. When all the particulars are accounted for, they should all express the universal. In this way, my list is most thoroughly dialectic the moment the 3 parts dissolve into one–that is, the moment when i claim my list no longer dialectical.

But this is exactly the impulse to sublimate that my list wants to avoid, and this is bound up in the idea of taste. I want to think of taste in contradistinction to eating–as related but different different phenomenological compartments first and foremost to objects in the world that are there for us to eat, but also in relation to other people, and to texts. Hegel is explicit about the digestive paradigm of dialectics. Subjects are submerged in a world (in sense-certainty, we don’t start in the subject, we start out in the world, the subject’s move toward self-consciousness is a movement of digestion…this is dialectics as a shape of experience) full of objects that need to undergo mediation in order for “culture” to emerge from “substantial life.” He diagnoses spirit as being, not only undernourished, but so depreciated that Sprit is easily satisfied with the merely sensory.

Now what the phenomenology is producing is a shape, or various shapes, of experience–all of them valid, relatively, but only in so far as they connect in a chain of sublimation.

What I want to do is relax the dialectic, and to think of taste as a shape of experience. What would this entail. First, it would admit, with Hegel, that negativity, in the form of the production of desire, is fundamental, but it would insist on alternative ways of satisfying that negation. Hegel will claim that it is the difference between subject and objects that draw them together, and as negation, catalyzes movement…but I will argue that the difference needs to be reinterpreted within a schema that privileges neither an ascetic relationship to experience, nor one that is overly appropriative or dominating.

So if, instead of claiming that the evanescent is essential, we claim the evanescent must remain essential…what happens to the Bacchanalian revel? What’s curious about that image is that it gets repeated across Hegel’s oeuvre in different contexts: appearance, ethical community, nature and art work are all likened to this dance of death that is at once transparent and simple repose. In a sense, we have a metaphor that is being pulled in metonymic ways.

Indeed, expressing the necessity of my aim is at one and the same to accomplish that aim–namely the construction of taste as a shape of experience.

[history of sense-certainty is contingent]…I want to recover that contingency.

THIS is always changing, refers to every this.

empiricists should look to the ancient philosophers–and to bacchus and ceres–in order to learn how to drink wine and eat bread. pre-christian (not causal connection to greater meaning of spirit…doesn’t go into symbolic register immediately: bacchus and ceres are alternatives to the Eucharist which consummated eating as conceptual exercise.) Animal relations have a truth revealing function.\, to the degree their own evanescence, and the evanescence of objects in the world.

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