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Hegel, Death and Sacrifice Author(s): Georges Bataille and Jonathan Strauss Source: Yale French Studies, No.

Hegel, Death and Sacrifice Author(s): Georges Bataille and Jonathan Strauss Source: Yale French Studies, No. 78, On Bataille (1990), pp. 9-28 Published by: Yale University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2930112 Accessed: 28-09-2015 19:54 UTC

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GEORGES

BATAILLE

Hegel,Death and Sacrifice'

The animaldies.Butthedeathoftheanimalis thebecomingof

consciousness.

I. DEATH

Man's Negativity

In the Lecturesof 1805-1806,at themomentofhis thought'sfull maturity,duringtheperiodwhenhe was writingThePhenomenol- ogyofSpirit,Hegel expressedin thesetermstheblackcharacterof humanity:

"Man is thatnight,thatemptyNothingness,whichcontainsev- erythinginitsundividedsimplicity:thewealthofaninfinitenumber ofrepresentations,ofimages,notone ofwhichcomespreciselyto mind,orwhich[moreover],arenot[there]insofaras theyarereally present.It is thenight,theinteriority-or-theintimacyofNature whichexistshere:[the]purepersonal-Ego.In phantasmagoricalrep- resentationsitis nighton all sides:heresuddenlysurgesup a blood- spatteredhead;there,another,white,apparition;andtheydisappear justas abruptly.That is thenightthatone perceivesifone looks a man in the eyes: thenone is delvingintoa nightwhichbecomes terrible;itis thenightoftheworldwhichthenpresentsitselftous."2

1. Excerptfroma studyonthe-fundamentallyHegelian-thoughtofAlexander Kojeve.Thisthoughtseeks,so faras possible,tobeHegel'sthought,sucha contempo- raryspirit,knowingwhatHegeldidnotknow(knowing,forexample,theeventsthat haveoccurredsince1917and,as well,thephilosophyofHeidegger),couldgraspitand developit. AlexanderKojeve'soriginalityand courage,it mustbe said,is to have perceivedthe impossibilityof going any further,the necessity,consequently, ofrenouncingthecreationofan originalphilosophyand,thereby,theinterminable starting-overwhichis theavowalofthevanityofthought.Thisessaywas firstpub- lishedin Deucalion 5 (1955).WithpermissionofEditionsGallimard? 1988.

2. G. W. F. Hegel,JenenserPhilosophiedes Geistesin SamtlicheWerke,ed.

JohannesHoffmeister,(Leipzig:FelixMeiner,1931),vol.20 180-81.CitedbyKojevein

YFS 78, On Bataille,ed.AllanStoekl,C)1990byYaleUniversity.

9

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Ofcourse,this"beautifultext,"whereHegel'sRomanticismfinds expression,is nottobeunderstoodloosely.IfHegelwasa romantic,it wasperhapsina fundamentalmanner(hewasatanyratea romantic atthebeginning-inhisyouth-, whenhewasa commonplacerevo- lutionary),buthe didnotsee inRomanticismthemethodbywhicha proudspiritdeemsitselfcapableofsubordinatingtherealworldto thearbitrarinessofitsowndreams.AlexanderKojeve,incitingthem, saysoftheselines thattheyexpress"thecentraland finalidea of Hegelianphilosophy,"whichis "theideathatthefoundationandthe

sourceofhumanobjectivereality(Wirklichkeit)andempiricalexis-

tence(Dasein)aretheNothingnesswhichmanifestsitselfas negative

orcreativeAction,freeand self-conscious." TopermitaccesstoHegel'sdisconcertingworld,I havefeltobliged to mark,bya carefulexamination,bothitsviolentcontrastsandits ultimateunity.

For Kojeve, "the 'dialectical'or anthropologicalphilosophyof Hegelis in thefinalanalysisa philosophyofdeath(or,whichis the same thing,ofatheism)"(K,537; TEL, 539). Butifmanis "deathlivinga humanlife"(K,548;TEL,550),man's negativity,givenin deathbyvirtueofthefactthatman's deathis

essentiallyvoluntary(resultingfromrisksassumedwithoutnecessi-

ty,withoutbiologicalreasons),is neverthelesstheprincipleofaction.

Indeed,forHegel,Actionis Negativity,and NegativityAction.On theonehand,themanwhonegatesNature-by introducingintoit, like a flip-side,the anomalyofa "pure,personalego"-is present withinthatNature'sheartlikea nightwithinlight,likean intimacy withintheexteriorityofthosethingswhicharein themselves-like

a phantasmagoriain whichnothingtakes shape but to evanesce,

nothingappearsbut to disappear,wherenothingexistsexceptab- sorbedwithoutrespitein the annihilationoftime,fromwhichit drawsthebeautyofa dream.Butthereis a complementaryaspect:

thisnegationofNatureis notmerelygiveninconsciousness-where thatwhich existsin itselfappears(butonlyto disappear)-; this negationis exteriorized,and in beingexteriorized,really(initself) changestherealityofNature.Man worksandfights;he transforms the given;he transformsNatureand in destroyingit he createsa

IntroductiontotheReadingofHegel,(Paris:Gallimard,1947),573.(TELedition[Paris:

Gallimard,19801,575.)Henceforthcitedin thetext,as K; TEL).

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GEORGES BATAILLE

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world,a worldwhichwas not.On theone handthereis poetry,the destructionthathas surgedup and diluteditself,a blood-spattered head; on theotherhandthereis Action,work,struggle.On theone hand, "pureNothingness,"whereman "differsfromNothingness onlyfora certaintime"(K,573; TEL, 575).On theother,a historical World,whereman's Negativity,thatNothingnessthatgnawshim fromwithin,createsthewholeofconcretereality(atonceobjectand subject,real worldchangedor unchanged,man who thinksand changestheworld).

Hegel'sPhilosophyis a PhilosophyofDeath-or ofAtheism3

The essential-and theoriginal-characteristicofHegelianphiloso- phyis to describethetotalityofwhatis; and,consequently,at the same timethatit accountsforeverythingwhichappearsbeforeour eyes,togiveanintegratedaccountofthethoughtandlanguagewhich express-and reveal-that appearance. "In myopinion,"saysHegel, "Everythingdependson one's ex- pressingandunderstandingTruthnot(only)as substance,butalso as

subject."4

3. In thisparagraph,andthefollowing,I repeatina differentformwhathasbeen

saidbyAlexanderKojeve.Butnotonlyina differentform;essentiallyI havetodevelop thesecondpartofthatsentence,whichis,atfirstglance,difficulttocomprehendinits concreteaspect:"The beingortheannihilationofthe'Subject'is thetemporalizing annihilationofBeing,whichmustbe beforetheannihilatedbeing:thebeingofthe 'Subject'necessarilyhas,therefore,a beginning.Andbeingthe(temporal)annihilation ofthenothingnessinBeing,beingnothingnesswhichnihilates(insofaras Time),the

"Subject"is essentiallynegationofitself:thereforeithasan end."Inparticular,I have followedforthis(asI havealreadydoneintheprecedingparagraph)thepartofIntroduc- tionto theReadingofHegelwhichconcernsparts2 and3 ofthepresentstudy,i.e., AppendixII, "The Idea ofDeath in thePhilosophyofHegel,"Kojeve,527-73. (TEL, 529-75.) [Translator'snote:This appendix,fromwhichall ofBataille'sreferencesto Kojevearetaken,remainsuntranslatedinEnglish;itis notincludedinAllanBloom's reedition(andabridgment)ofKojeve'sIntroductiontotheReadingofHegel(NewYork:

BasicBooks,1969).J

4. Cf.,G. W.F.Hegel,ThePhenomenologyofSpirit,trans.A. V.Miller(Oxford:

OxfordUniversityPress,1977),9-10. In hisfootnotes,BatailleattributestheFrench versionshe uses ofHegelto JeanHyppolite'stranslationofThePhenomenologyof Spiritand oftenalso citesthepagesfromIntroductiona la lecturede Hegelwhere AlexandreKojevequotesthesamepassages.However,Kojeve'sversiondiffersfromthat

thelatterthatI havetranslated.Pagerefer-

ofHyppoliteandBataille'sfromboth.Itis

enceswillhereafterbegiventotheEnglishtranslationbyA.V.Miller,whichisoftenat significantvariancewiththequotationsas I haverenderedthem.[Translator's note.]

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In otherwords,naturalknowledgeis incomplete,it doesnotand cannotenvisageanybutabstractentities,isolatedfroma whole,from an indissolubletotality,whichaloneis concrete.Knowledgemustat the same timebe anthropological:"in additionto the ontological basesofnaturalreality,"Kojevewrites,"[knowledge]mustfindthose ofhumanreality,whichalone is capableofbeingrevealedthrough Discourse"(K,528; TEL, 530).Ofcourse,thisanthropologydoesnot envisageMan as dothemodernsciencesbutas a movementimpossi- ble to isolatefromtheheartofthetotality.In a sense,itis actuallya theology,wheremanhas takentheplaceofGod. ButforHegel,thehumanrealitywhichheplacesattheheart,and center,ofthetotalityis verydifferentfromthatofGreekphilosophy. His anthropologyis thatoftheJudeo-Christiantradition,whichem- phasizes Man's liberty,historicity,and individuality.Like Judeo- Christianman, the Hegelianman is a spiritual(i.e., "dialectical") being.Yet,fortheJudeo-Christianworld,"spirituality"is fullyreal- izedandmanifestonlyinthehereafter,andSpiritproperlyspeaking, truly"objectivelyreal"Spirit,is God: "aninfiniteandeternalbeing." Accordingto Hegel,the "spiritual"or "dialectical"beingis "neces- sarilytemporalandfinite."This meansthatdeathaloneassuresthe existenceof a "spiritual"or "dialectical"being,in the Hegelian sense.Iftheanimalwhichconstitutesman'snaturalbeingdidnot die,and-what is more-if deathdidnotdwellinhimas thesourceof hisanguish-and all themoreso inthatheseeksitout,desiresitand sometimesfreelychoosesit-there wouldbe no man orliberty,no historyorindividual.Inotherwords,ifherevelsinwhatnonetheless frightenshim,ifhe is thebeing,identicalwithhimself,who risks (identical)beingitself,thenmanis trulya Man: he separateshimself fromtheanimal.Henceforthheis nolonger,likea stone,animmuta- blegiven,hebearswithinhimNegativity;andtheforce,theviolence ofnegativitycasthimintotheincessantmovementofhistory,which changeshimandwhichalonerealizesthetotalityoftheconcretereal throughtime.Onlyhistoryhasthepowertofinishwhatis,tofinishit in thepassageoftime.Andso theidea ofan eternalandimmutable God is in thisperspectivemerelya provisionalend,whichsurvives while awaitingsomethingbetter.Only completedhistoryand the spiritoftheSage(ofHegel)-in whomhistoryrevealed,thenrevealed in full,thedevelopmentofbeingandthetotalityofitsbecoming- occupya sovereignposition,whichGodonlyprovisionallyoccupies, as a regent.

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The Tragi-ComicAspect ofMan's Divinity

This way of seeingthingscan with justicebe consideredcomic. Besides,Hegel neverexpressedit explicitly.The textswhereit is

implicitlyaffirmedareambiguous,andtheirextremedifficultyulti-

matelykeptthemfromfullconsideration.Kojevehimselfis circum- spect.He doesnotdwellon themandavoidsdrawingpreciseconclu- sions. In orderto expressappropriatelythe situationHegel got himselfinto,no doubtinvoluntarily,one wouldneedthetone,orat least,in a restrainedform,thehorroroftragedy.Butthingswould quicklytakeon a comicappearance. Bethatas itmay,topassthroughdeathis soabsentfromthedivine figurethata mythsituatedin the traditionassociateddeath,and theagonyofdeath,withtheeternaland unique God oftheJudeo- Christiansphere.The deathofJesuspartakesofcomedytotheextent thatone cannotunarbitrarilyintroducetheforgettingofhis eternal divinity-whichis his-into the consciousnessofan omnipotent andinfiniteGod.BeforeHegel's"absoluteknowledge,"theChristian mythwas alreadybasedpreciselyon thefactthatnothingdivineis possible(inthepre-Christiansenseofsacred)whichis finite.Butthe vagueconsciousnessin whichthe(Christian)mythofthedeathof God tookformdiffered,nonetheless,fromthatofHegel:in orderto misrepresenta figureofGodthatlimitedtheinfiniteas thetotality,it was possibleto addon,in contradictionwithitsbasis,a movement towardthefinite. Hegelwasable-and itwasnecessaryforhim-to addupthesum (theTotality)ofthemovementswhichwereproducedinhistory.But humor,it seems,is incompatiblewithworkand its necessaryas- siduity.I shallreturnto thissubject;I havemerely,forthemoment,

shuffledcards

It is difficultto pass froma humanityhumiliated

by divinegrandeurto that

Sage,his prideswollenwithhumanvanity.

of the apotheosizedand sovereign

A Fundamental Text

InwhatI havewrittenuptothispoint,onlyonenecessityemergesin a precisefashion:therecanbe authenticWisdom(absoluteWisdom, orin generalanythingapproachingit)onlyiftheSageraiseshimself, ifI can putit thisway,to theheightofdeath,at whateveranguish to him.

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A passagefromtheprefacetothePhenomenologyofSpirit5force- fullyexpressesthenecessityofsuchan attitude.Thereis no doubt fromthestartofthe"capitalimportance"ofthisadmirabletext,not onlyforan understandingofHegel,butin all regards. "Death,"writesHegel,"-if wewishso tonamethatunreality- is themostterriblethingthereis andtoupholdtheworkofdeathis thetaskwhichdemandsthegreateststrength.Impotentbeautyhates thisawareness,becauseunderstandingmakesthisdemandofbeauty, a requirementwhichbeautycannotfulfill.Now,thelifeofSpiritis notthatlifewhichis frightenedofdeath,and sparesitselfdestruc- tion,butthatlifewhichassumesdeathandliveswithit.Spiritattains itstruthonlybyfindingitselfin absolutedismemberment.It is not that(prodigious)powerbybeingthePositivethatturnsawayfromthe Negative,as whenwe sayofsomething:thisis nothingor (thisis) falseand,having(thus)disposedofit,pass fromthereto something else; no, Spiritis thatpoweronlyto thedegreein whichit contem- platestheNegativefaceto face(and)dwellswithit.This prolonged sojournis themagicalforcewhichtransposesthenegativeintogiven- Being."

TheHuman NegationofNatureand oftheNaturalBeingofMan

Inprinciple,I oughttohavestartedthepassagejustcitedatan earlier point.I did not wantto weighthistextdownbygivingthe "enig- matic"lineswhichprecedeit.ButI shallsketchoutthesenseofthe omittedlinesbyrestatingKojeve'sinterpretation,withoutwhichthe consequences,in spiteof an appearanceofrelativeclarity,would remainclosedto us. ForHegel,it is bothfundamentaland altogetherworthyofas- tonishmentthathumanunderstanding(thatis,language,discourse) shouldhave had the force(an incomparableforce)to separateits constitutiveelementsfromtheTotality.These elements(thistree,

5. Cf.,Hegel,ThePhenomenologyofSpirit,trans.A.V.Miller,19.CitedbyKojeve, 538-39. (TEL,540-41.)Kojeve,Hyppolite,andBatailleall translatetheGerman"Zer- rissenheit"by "dechirement,"whichI in turnhavegivenas "dismemberment,"the samewordwhichappearsinMiller'stranslationofHegel.Itis importanttonotethat theword"dechirement"has themeaningsof"shredding"and "tearing"and,unlike "dismemberment,"doesnotimplya disarticulationintopredeterminedunits.InL'Ex-

p6rienceint6rieure,forexample,Bataillespeaksofhimselfas

leftin "lambeaux"

(shreds,as

(Paris:Gallimard,1954),19).[Translator'snote.]

d6chirer,"

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GEORGES BATAILLE

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thisbird,thisstone)arein factinseparablefromthewhole.Theyare "boundtogetherby spatial and temporal,indeedmaterial,bonds

whichareindissoluble."TheirseparationimpliesthehumanNega-

tivitytowardNatureofwhichI spoke,withoutpointingoutits de- cisiveconsequences.Fortheman who negatesnaturecouldnotin any way live outsideof it. He is not merelya man who negates

Nature,he is firstofall an animal,thatis to saytheverythinghe negates:he cannotthereforenegateNaturewithoutnegatinghim- self.The intrinsictotalityofmanis reflectedin Kojeve'sbizarreex- pression,thattotalityis firstofall Nature(naturalbeing),it is "the anthropomorphicanimal"(Nature,theanimalindissolublylinkedto

thewholeofNature,andwhichsupportsMan).ThushumanNega-

tivity,Man's effectivedesireto negateNaturein destroyingit-in reducingittohisownends,as when,forexample,hemakesa toolof it(andthetoolwillbethemodelofan objectisolatedfromNature)- cannotstopat Man himself;insofaras he is Nature,Man is exposed to his own Negativity.To negateNatureis to negatethe animal whichpropsup Man's Negativity.It is undoubtedlynottheunder- standing,breakerofNature'sunity,whichseeksman'sdeath,andyet the separatingActionoftheunderstandingimpliesthemonstrous energyofthought,ofthe "pureabstractI,"whichis essentiallyop- posedto fusion,to theinseparablecharacteroftheelements-con- stitutiveofthewhole-which firmlyupholdstheirseparation. It is theveryseparationofMan's being,it is his isolationfrom Nature,and,consequently,hisisolationinthemidstofhisownkind, whichcondemnhimto disappeardefinitively.The animal,negating nothing,lostin a globalanimalitytowhichitoffersno opposition- justas thatanimalityis itselflostinNature(andinthetotalityofall

that is)-does

not trulydisappear

No doubt the individual fly

dies,buttoday'sfliesarethesame as thoseoflastyear.Last year's

have died?

Perhaps, but nothinghas disappeared. The flies re-

main, equal to themselveslike the waves of the sea. This seems contrived:a biologistcanseparatea flyfromtheswarm,all ittakesis a brushstroke.Buthe separatesitforhimself,he doesnotseparateit fortheflies.To separateitselffromtheothersa flywouldneedthe monstrousforceoftheunderstanding;thenitwouldnameitselfand do whattheunderstandingnormallyeffectsbymeansoflanguage, whichalone foundsthe separationofelementsand byfoundingit foundsitselfon it,withina worldformedofseparatedand denomi- natedentities.But in thisgamethehumananimalfindsdeath;it

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findspreciselyhumandeath,theonlyone whichfrightens,which freezes-but which onlyfrightensand transfixesthe man who is absorbedin hisfuturedisappearance,to theextentthathe is a sepa- ratedand irreplaceablebeing.The onlytruedeathsupposessepara- tionand,throughthediscoursewhichseparates,theconsciousnessof beingseparated.

"ImpotentBeautyHates theUnderstanding"

Up to thispoint,Hegel'stextpresentsa simpleand commontruth, but one enunciatedin a philosophicalmannerwhichis, properly

speaking,sibylline.In

Hegel,on thecontrary,affirmsanddescribesa personalmomentof violence-Hegel, in otherwordsthe Sage, to whom an absolute Knowledgehas conferreddefinitivesatisfaction.This is notan un- bridledviolence.WhatHegel unleasheshereis nottheviolenceof Nature,it is theenergy,ortheviolence,oftheUnderstanding-the NegativityoftheUnderstanding-opposingitselftothepurebeauty ofthedream,whichcannotact,whichis impotent. Indeed,thebeautyofthedreamis onthatsideoftheworldwhere nothingis yetseparatedfromwhatsurroundsit,whereeachelement, in contrastto the abstractobjectsof the Understanding,is given concretely,in spaceandtime.Butbeautycannotact. It can onlybe and preserveitself.Throughactionit wouldno longerexist,since actionwouldfirstdestroywhatbeautyis: beauty,whichseeksnoth- ing,whichis,whichrefusestomoveitselfbutwhichis disturbedby theforceoftheUnderstanding.Moreover,beautydoesnothavethe powertorespondto therequestoftheUnderstanding,whichasksit toupholdandpreservetheworkofhumandeath.Beautyis incapable ofit,in thesensethatto upholdthatwork,it wouldbe engagedin Action.Beautyis sovereign,itis an end,oritis not:thatis whyitis notsusceptibleto acting,whyit is, evenin principle,powerlessand whyit cannotyieldto the activenegationof the Understanding, whichchangestheworldanditselfbecomesotherthanit is.6

the passage fromthe Prefacecited above,

6. HeremyinterpretationdiffersslightlyfromKojeve's(146 [TEL,1481).[Trans-

lator'snote:thispassagetoo is missingfromBloom'sabridgmentofKojeve,which startsonlywiththelecturesgivenin 1937-38.(Thepassagein questionis fromthe 1936-37 lectures.)I Kojevesimplystatesthat"impotentbeautyisincapableofbending totherequirementsoftheUnderstanding.Theesthete,theromantic,themystic,flee theideaofdeathandspeakofNothingnessitselfas somethingwhichis." Inparticular, he admirablydescribesthemysticin thisway.Butthesameambiguityis foundin

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Thisbeautywithoutconsciousnessofitselfcannot thereforereal- ly-but notforthesamereasonas life,which"recoilsinhorrorfrom deathand wantsto save itselffromannihilation"-beardeathand preserveitselfinit.Thisimpotentbeautyatleastsuffersfromfeeling thebreakupoftheprofoundlyindissolubleTotalityofwhatis (ofthe concrete-real).Beautywould like to remainthe signof an accord of the real with itself.It cannot become conscious Negativity, awakenedin dismemberment,and thelucid gaze,absorbedin the Negative.This latterattitudepresupposestheviolentandlaborious struggleofMan againstNatureand is its end.That is thehistoric strugglewhereMan constituteshimselfas "Subject"oras "abstract I" ofthe "Understanding,"as a separatedandnamedbeing. "Thatis to say,"Kojeveclarifies,"thatthoughtandthediscourse whichrevealsthereal arebornofthenegativeActionwhichactu- alizes NothingnessbyannihilatingBeing:thegivenbeingofMan (in theStruggle)and thegivenbeingofNature(throughWork-which results,moreover,fromtherealcontactwithdeathin theStruggle.) Thatis to say,therefore,thatthehumanbeinghimselfis noneother thanthatAction:he is deathwhichlivesa humanlife"(K,548; TEL,

550).

I wantto insiston thecontinualconnectionbetweenan abyssal aspectanda tough,down-to-earthaspectinthisphilosophy,theonly onehavingtheambitionto be complete.The divergentpossibilities ofopposedhumanfiguresconfronteachotherandassembleinit:the figureofthedyingmanandoftheproudone,whoturnsfromdeath, thefigureofthemasterandthatofthemanpinnedtohiswork,the figureoftherevolutionaryandthatoftheskeptic,whoseegotistical interestlimitsdesire.This philosophyis not onlya philosophyof death.It is also one ofclass struggleandwork. ButwithinthelimitsofthisstudyI donotintendtoenvisagethis otherside.I wouldlike to comparethatHegeliandoctrineofdeath withwhatwe knowabout"sacrifice."

philosophers(inHegel,inHeidegger),atleastultimately.Intruth,Kojeveseemstome wrongnotto haveenvisaged,beyondclassicalmysticism,a "consciousmysticism," consciousofmakinga BeingfromNothingness,and,inaddition,definingthatimpasse as a Negativitywhichwouldnolongerhavea fieldofaction(attheendofhistory).The atheisticmystic,self-conscious,consciousofhavingto die andto disappear,would live,as Hegelobviouslysaid concerninghimself,"inabsolute dismemberment";but, forhim,itis onlythematterofa certainperiod:unlikeHegel,hewouldnevercomeout ofit,"contemplatingtheNegativerightintheface,"butneverbeingabletotransposeit intoBeing,refusingto do itandmaintaininghimselfinambiguity.

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II. SACRIFICE

Sacrifice,on theonehand,and on theother,theGaze ofHegel Absorbedin Death and Sacrifice

I shallnotspeakoftheinterpretationofsacrificewhichHegelgivesin thechapterofthePhenomenologydevotedto Religion.7It no doubt makessenseinthedevelopmentofthechapter,butitstraysfromthe essentialand,fromthepointofviewofthetheoryofsacrifice,itis,in myopinion,oflessinterestthantheimplicitrepresentationwhichis givenin thetextofthePrefaceandwhichI shallcontinuetoanalyze. Concerningsacrifice,I can essentiallysay that,on thelevel,of Hegel'sphilosophy,Manhas,ina sense,revealedandfoundedhuman truthbysacrificing;in sacrificehe destroyedtheanimal8inhimself, allowinghimselfandtheanimaltosurviveonlyas thatnoncorporeal truthwhichHegel describesandwhichmakesofman-in Heideg- ger'swords-a beinguntodeath(Seinzum Tode),or-in thewordsof Kojevehimself- "deathwhichlivesa humanlife." Actually,theproblemofHegelis givenintheactionofsacrifice.In sacrifice,death,on the one hand,essentiallystrikesthe corporeal being;and on theotherhand,it is preciselyin sacrificethat"death livesa humanlife."Itshouldevenbe saidthatsacrificeis theprecise responsetoHegel'srequirement,theoriginalformulationofwhichI repeat:

"Spiritattainsitstruthonlybyfindingitselfinabsolutedismem-

berment.It does not attainthat (prodigious)powerby beingthe

Positive that turns away from the

no, Spirit is that

poweronlyin thedegreetowhichitcontemplatestheNegativeface

to face [and] dwells with it

."

Ifonetakesintoaccountthefactthattheinstitutionofsacrificeis practicallyuniversal,itis clearthatNegativity,incarnatedin Man's death,notonlyis thearbitraryconstructionofHegel,butalso thatit has playeda rolein thespiritofthesimplestmen,withoutanycom-

7. ThePhenomenologyofSpirit,chapter8: Religion,B.: Religionin theformof

Art,a) The abstractworkofart(434-35).In thesetwopages,Hegel dwellson the disappearanceof objectiveessence,but withoutdevelopingits consequences.On thesecondpageHegellimitshimselftoconsiderationsproperto "aestheticreligion"

(thereligionoftheGreeks).

8. Still,althoughanimalsacrificeseemstopredatehumansacrifice,thereisnoth-

ingtoprovethatthechoiceofananimalsignifiestheunconsciousdesiretoopposethe animalas such;manis onlyopposedtocorporealbeing,thebeingthatis given.He is, furthermore,justas opposedtotheplant.

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mongroundscomparableto thosewhichareregulatedonceandfor all bythe ceremoniesofa Church-but nonethelessin a univocal manner.Itis strikingtosee thatacrosstheworlda communalNega- tivityhas maintaineda strictparallelismin the developmentof ratherstableinstitutions,whichhavethesame formand thesame effects.

WhetherHe LivesorDies, Man CannotImmediatelyKnowDeath

I shall speak lateroftheprofounddifferencesbetweentheman of

sacrifice,actingin ignorance(unconscious)ofthefullscopeofwhat heis doing,andtheSage(Hegel)surrenderingtotheimplicationsofa Knowledgewhich,in his owneyes,is absolute. Despite thesedifferences,thequestionofmanifestingtheNega- tivestillremains(andstillundera concreteform,i.e.,attheheartof

theTotality,whoseconstitutiveelementsareinseparable).Theprivi-

legedmanifestationofNegativityis death,butdeath,infact,reveals nothing.Intheory,itis hisnatural,animalbeingwhosedeathreveals Man to himself,buttherevelationnevertakesplace.Forwhenthe animalbeingsupportinghimdies,thehumanbeinghimselfceasesto be.InorderforMan torevealhimselfultimatelytohimself,hewould haveto die,buthe wouldhaveto do itwhileliving-watchinghim- selfceasingtobe. In otherwords,deathitselfwouldhavetobecome (self-)consciousnessat theverymomentthatit annihilatesthecon- sciousbeing.In a sense,thisis whattakesplace (whatat leastis on thepointoftakingplace,orwhichtakesplacein a fugitive,ungrasp- ablemanner)bymeansofa subterfuge.In thesacrifice,thesacrificer identifieshimselfwiththeanimalthatis struckdowndead.Andso he dies in seeinghimselfdie,andeven,in a certainway,byhis own will, one in spiritwiththe sacrificialweapon.But it is a comedy! Atleastitwouldbea comedyifsomeothermethodexistedwhich couldrevealto thelivingtheinvasionofdeath:thatfinishingoffof thefinitebeing,whichhis Negativity-whichkillshim,endshim and definitivelysuppresseshim-accomplishes alone and whichit alone can accomplish.ForHegel,satisfactioncan onlytakeplace, desirecan be appeasedonlyin theconsciousnessofdeath.Ifit were based on theexclusionofdeath,satisfactionwouldcontradictthat whichdeathdesignates,ifthesatisfiedbeingwho is notconscious, notutterlyconscious,ofwhatin a constitutivemannerhe is, i.e., mortal,wereeventuallytobe drivenfromsatisfactionbydeath.That

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is whytheconsciousnessthathe has ofhimselfmustreflect(must mirror)themovementofnegativitywhichcreateshim,whichmakes

a manofhimfortheveryreasonthatit will one daykillhim. He will be killedbyhis ownnegativity,butforhim,thereafter,

therewill be nothingleft;his is a creativedeath,but if the con-

sciousnessof death-of the marvelousmagic of death-does

touchhimbeforehe dies,duringhislifeitwillseemthatdeathis not destinedto reachhim,and so thedeathawaitinghimwill notgive

him a human character.Thus, at all costs,man mustlive at the momentthathe reallydies,orhe mustlivewiththeimpressionof reallydying.

not

KnowledgeofDeath CannotDo Withouta Subterfuge:Spectacle

This difficultyproclaimsthenecessityofspectacle,orofrepresenta- tioningeneral,withoutthepracticeofwhichitwouldbepossiblefor us to remainalien and ignorantin respectto death,just as beasts apparentlyare.Indeed,nothingis less animalthanfiction,whichis moreorless separatedfromthereal,fromdeath. Man doesnotlivebybreadalone,butalso bythecomedieswith whichhewillinglydeceiveshimself.InMan itis theanimal,itis the naturalbeing,whicheats. But Man takespartin ritesand perfor- mances. Or else he can read: to the extentthatit is sovereign- authentic-, literatureprolongsinhimthehauntingmagicofperfor- mances,tragicorcomic. In tragedy,9at least,itis a questionofouridentifyingwithsome characterwho dies,and ofbelievingthatwe die, althoughwe are alive.Furthermore,pureand simpleimaginationsuffices,butithas thesamemeaningas theclassicsubterfuges,performances,orbooks, to whichthemasseshaverecourse.

Agreementand DisagreementbetweenNaive Behaviorsand Hegel'sLucid Reaction

Byassociatingitwithsacrificeand,thereby,withtheprimarytheme ofrepresentation(inart,infestivals,inperformances),I havesought to demonstratethatHegel'sreactionis fundamentalhumanbehav- ior.It is not a fantasyora strangeattitude,it is par excellencethe

9. I discusscomedyfurtheron.

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expressionendlesslyrepeatedbytradition.Itis notHegelalone,itis all ofhumanitywhicheverywherealwayssought,obliquely,toseize whatdeathbothgaveandtookawayfromhumanity. BetweenHegel and the man of sacrificethereneverthelessre-

mainsa profounddifference.Hegelwas consciousofhisrepresenta- tionoftheNegative:he situatedit,lucidly,in a definitepointofthe "coherentdiscourse"whichrevealedhimto himself.That Totality includedthediscoursewhichrevealsit. The man ofsacrifice,who lackeda discursiveconsciousnessofwhathe did,had onlya "sen- sual" awareness,i.e., an obscureone,reducedto an unintelligible emotion.Itis truethatHegelhimself,beyonddiscourse,andin spite ofhimself(inan "absolutedismemberment,")receivedtheshockof deathevenmoreviolently.Moreviolently,aboveall,fortheprimary

reasonthatthebroadmovementofdiscourseextendeditsreachbe-

yondlimits,i.e., withintheframeworkoftheTotalityofthereal. Beyondtheslightestdoubt,forHegel,thefactthathe was stillalive was simplyan aggravation.The manofsacrifice,on theotherhand, maintainshis lifeessentially.He maintainsitnotonlyin thesense thatlifeis necessaryfortherepresentationofdeath,but[alsoin the sensethat]he seekstoenrichit.Butfroman externalperspective,the palpableand intentionalexcitementofsacrificewas ofgreaterin- terestthantheinvoluntarysensitivityofHegel.The excitementof whichI speak is well-known,is definable;it is sacredhorror:the richestandthemostagonizingexperience,whichdoesnotlimititself to dismembermentbutwhich,on thecontrary,opensitself,like a theatrecurtain,ontoa realmbeyondthisworld,wheretherisinglight ofdaytransfiguresall thingsanddestroystheirlimitedmeaning. Indeed,ifHegel'sattitudeopposeslearnedconsciousnessandthe limitlessorganizationofa discursivethinkingtothenaiveteofsacri- fice,stillthatconsciousnessandthatorganizationremainunclearon onepoint;one cannotsaythatHegelwasunawareofthe"moment" of sacrifice;this "moment"is included,implicatedin the whole movementof the Phenomenology-whereit is the Negativityof death,insofaras it is assumed,whichmakesa man ofthehuman animal.Butbecausehedidnotsee thatsacrificeinitselfborewitness to the entiremovementofdeath,10thefinalexperience-theone

10. Perhapsforlack ofa Catholicreligiousexperience.I imagineCatholicism closertopaganexperience;I meantoa universalreligiousexperiencefromwhichthe

Reformationdistanceditself.Perhapsa profoundCatholicpietycouldalonehaveintro-

ducedtheinwardsensewithoutwhichthephenomenologyofsacrificewouldbeim-

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peculiartotheSage-describedinthePrefacetothePhenomenology was atfirstinitialanduniversal-he didnotknowtowhatextenthe wasright-withwhatprecisionhedescribedtheintimatemovement ofNegativity;he didnot clearlyseparatedeathfromthefeelingof sadnesstowhichnaiveexperienceopposesa sortofshuntingyardof theemotions.

Pleasureand theSadnessofDeath

ItwaspreciselytheunivocalcharacterofdeathforHegelthatinspired

thefollowingcommentaryfromKojeve,whichapplies,again,tothe passagefromthePreface:(K,549; TEL, 551). "Certainly,theidea of deathdoesnotheightenthewell-beingofMan; itdoesnotmakehim happynordoes it givehimanypleasure."Kojevewonderedin what waysatisfactionresultsfroma familiaritywiththeNegative,froma tete--tetewithdeath.He believedithisduty,outofdecency,toreject vulgarsatisfaction.The factthatHegelhimselfsaid,in thisrespect,

thatSpirit"onlyattainsittruthbyfindingitselfinabsolutedismem-

berment"goestogether,inprinciple,withKojeve'sNegation.Conse-

quently,it would evenbe superfluousto insist

statesthatthe idea of death "is alone capable if satisfyingman's Indeed,thedesiretobe "recognized,"whichHegelplaces at theoriginofhistoricalstruggles,couldbe expressedin an intrepid attitude,ofthesortthatshowsa charactertoitsbestadvantage."Itis

only,"saysKojeve,"inbeingorinbecomingawareofone'smortality orfinitude,in existingand in feelingone's existencein a universe withouta beyondorwithouta God,thatMan can affirmhisliberty, hishistoricityandhisindividuality-uniquein all theworld-and

Kojevesimply

possible.Modem knowledge,muchmoreextensivethanthatofHegel'stime,has assuredlycontributedtothesolutionofthatfundamentalenigma(why,withoutany plausiblereason,has humanityingeneral"sacrificed"?),butI seriouslybelievethata correctphenomenologicaldescriptioncould onlybe based on at least a Catholic period. -But atanyrate,Hegel,hostiletobeingwhichdoesnothing,-towhatsimplyis, andis notAction,-was moreinterestedin militarydeath;itis throughsuchdeath thatheperceivedthethemeofsacrifice(buthehimselfusesthewordina moralsense):

"The state-of-the-soldier,"he statesin his Lecturesof 1805-06, "and warare the objectivelyrealsacrificeofthepersonal-I,thedangerofdeathfortheparticular,-that A"(inHegel,SdmtlicheWerke, vol.20, 261-62. CitedbyKojevein Introductionto theReadingofHegel,558 [TEL,

560]).Nonetheless,religioussacrificehas,evenfromHegel'spointofview,anessential

signification.

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havethembe recognized.(Ibid.).ButifKojevesetsasidevulgarsatis- faction-happiness-he now also sets aside Hegel's "absolutedis- memberment":indeed,suchdismembermentisnoteasilyreconciled withthedesireforrecognition. Satisfactionanddismembermentcoincide,however,inonepoint, butheretheyharmonizewithpleasure.Thiscoincidencetakesplace in "sacrifice";it is generallyunderstoodas thenaiveformoflife,as everyexistencein presenttime,whichmanifestswhatMan is: the noveltywhichhe signifiesintheworldafterhehas becomeMan,on theconditionthathe has satisfiedhis "animal"needs. At anyrate,pleasure,orat leastsensualpleasure,is suchthatin respecttoitKojeve'saffirmationwouldbedifficulttouphold:theidea ofdeathhelps,in a certainmannerandin certaincases,tomultiply thepleasuresofthesenses.I go so faras to believethat,underthe formofdefilement,theworld(orratherthegeneralimagery)ofdeath is at the base of erotism.The feelingofsin is connectedin lucid consciousnessto the idea of death,and in the same mannerthe feelingofsinis connectedwithpleasure.11Thereis infactnohuman pleasurewithoutsomeirregularityinitscircumstances,withoutthe breakingofan interdiction-thesimplest,andthemostpowerfulof which,is currentlythatofnudity. Moreover,possessionwasassociatedinitstimewiththeimageof

sacrifice;it was a sacrificein which woman was the victim

That

associationfromancientpoetryis verymeaningful;itrefersbacktoa precisestateofsensibilityin whichthesacrificialelement,thefeel- ingofsacredhorroritself,joined,in a weakenedstate,toa tempered pleasure;inwhich,too,thetasteforsacrificeandtheemotionwhich itreleasedseemedinnowaycontrarytotheultimateusesofpleasure. Itmustbe saidtoothatsacrifice,liketragedy,wasan elementofa celebration;it bespokea blind,perniciousjoyand all thedangerof thatjoy,andyetthisis preciselytheprincipleofhumanjoy;itwears outandthreatenswithdeathall whogetcaughtupinitsmovement.

GayAnguish,AnguishedGaiety

To theassociationofdeathandpleasure,whichis nota given,atleast is notanimmediategiveninconsciousness,is obviouslyopposedthe

11. Thisis atleastpossibleand,ifitisa matterofthemostcommoninterdictions,

banal.

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sadnessofdeath,alwaysin thebackgroundofconsciousness.Inprin-

ciple,consciously,humanity"recoilsinhorrorbeforedeath."Inprin-

ciple,thedestructiveeffectsofNegativityhaveNatureas theirob- ject.ButforMan's Negativitytodrivehimintoa confrontationwith danger,forhimto makeofhimself,orat leastoftheanimal,ofthe naturalbeingthathe is, theobjectofhis destructivenegation,the banalprerequisiteis hisunconsciousnessofthecauseandtheeffects ofhisactions.Now,itwasessentialforHegeltogainconsciousnessof Negativityas such,tocaptureitshorror-herethehorrorofdeath- byupholdingandbylookingtheworkofdeathrightin theface. Hegel,in thisway,is less opposedto thosewho "recoil"thanto thosewho say: "it is nothing."He seemsto distancehimselfmost fromthosewhoreactwithgaiety.

I wantto emphasize,as clearlyas possible,aftertheirsimilarity, the oppositionbetweenthe naive attitudeand thatofthe-abso- lute-Wisdom ofHegel. I am not sure,in fact,thatofthetwoat- titudesthemorenaiveis theless absolute.

I shallcitea paradoxicalexampleofa gayreactioninthefaceofthe

workofdeath. TheIrishandWelshcustomofthe"wake"is littleknownbutwas stillpracticedattheendofthelastcentury.Itis thesubjectofJoyce's lastwork,12FinnegansWake-the deathwatchofFinnegan(however,

the readingofthisfamousnovelis difficultat best).In Wales,the coffinwas placedopen,standingat theplace ofhonorofthehouse. The dead man wouldbe dressedin his finestsuitand tophat.His familywouldinviteall ofhis friends,whohonoredthedepartedall the morethe longertheydancedand thedeepertheydrankto his health.Itis thedeathofan other,butin suchinstances,thedeathof theotheris alwaystheimageofone's own death.Onlyunderone conditioncouldanyoneso rejoice;withthepresumedagreementof thedeadman-who is an other-, thedeadmanthatthedrinkerin his turnwill becomeshall have no othermeaningthanhis prede- cessor. This paradoxicalreactioncouldbe considereda responseto the desire to deny the existenceof death. A logical desire?Not in theleast,I think.In Mexicotoday,deathis commonlyenvisagedon the same level as the amusementsthatcan be foundat festivals:

12. On thesubjectofthisobscurebook,videE.Jolas,"Elucidationdumonomythe

de JamesJoyce"in Critique(July1948):579-95.

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skeletonpuppets,skeletoncandies,skeletonmerry-go-rounds-but thiscustomis associatedwithan intensecultofthedead,a visible

obsessionwithdeath.13

IfI envisagedeathgaily,it is notthatI too say,in turningaway fromwhatis frightening:"itis nothing"or "itis false."On thecon- trary,gaiety,connectedwiththeworkofdeath,causesmeanguish,is accentuatedbymyanguish,andin returnexacerbatesthatanguish:

ultimately,gayanguish,anguishedgaietycause me, in a feverish chill,'4 "absolutedismemberment,"whereit is myjoythatfinally tearsme apart,butwheredejectionwouldfollowjoywereI nottorn all thewayto theend,immeasurably. Thereis onepreciseoppositionthatI wouldliketobringoutfully:

the one hand Hegel's attitudeis less whole thanthatofnaive humanity,butthisis meaninglessunless,reciprocally,onesees that thenaiveattitudeis powerlesstomaintainitselfwithoutsubterfuge.

on

DiscourseGives UsefulEnds toSacrifice"Afterwards."

I have linkedthe meaningofsacrificeto Man's behavioronce his animalneedshavebeensatisfied:Man differsfromthenaturalbeing whichhealsois; thesacrificialgestureiswhathehumanlyis,andthe spectacleofsacrificethenmakeshishumanitymanifest.Freedfrom animalneed,man is sovereign:he does whathe pleases-his plea- sure.Undertheseconditionshe is finallyable to makea rigorously autonomousgesture.So longas heneededtosatisfyanimalneeds,he hadtoactwithan endinview(hehadtosecurefood,protecthimself fromthecold).Thissupposesa servitude,a seriesofactssubordinated toa finalresult:thenatural,animalsatisfactionwithoutwhichMan

properlyspeaking,sovereignMan,couldnotsubsist.ButMan'sintel-

ligence,his discursivethought,developedas functionsofservilela-

bor.Onlysacred,poeticwords,limitedtothelevelofimpotentbeau-

ty,have retainedthe powerto manifestfullsovereignty.Sacrifice, consequently,is a sovereign,autonomousmannerofbeingonlyto the extentthatit is uninformedbymeaningfuldiscourse.To the extentthatdiscourseinformsit,whatis sovereignis givenintermsof

13. ThiscameoutinthedocumentarywhichEisensteindrewfromhisworkfora

longfilm: iVivaMexico!The cruxofthisfilmdealtwiththebizarrepracticeswhichI havediscussed.

14. Reading"chaudetfroid"for"chaud-froid,"whichmeansa dishpreparedhot

butservedcold.

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servitude.Indeedbydefinitionwhatis sovereigndoesnotserve.But simple discoursemust respondto the question that discursive thoughtasks concerningthemeaningthateachthingmusthaveon the level ofutility.In principle,each thingis thereto servesome purposeor other.Thus the simplemanifestationofMan's link to annihilation,thepurerevelationofMan tohimself(atthemoment whendeathtransfixeshis attention)passesfromsovereigntyto the primacyofservileends.Myth,associatedwithritual,hadatfirstthe impotentbeautyofpoetry,butdiscourseconcerningsacrificeslipped intovulgar,self-servinginterpretation.Startingwitheffectsnaively imaginedon thelevelofpoetry,suchas theappeasingofa godorthe

purityofbeings,theendofmeaningfuldiscoursebecametheabun-

danceofrainorthecity'swell-being.The substantialworkofFrazer, whorecallsthoseformsofsovereigntythatwerethemostimpotent and,apparently,theleastpropitiousforhappiness,generallytendsto reducethemeaningoftheritualacttothesamepurposesas laborin thefields,andtomakeofsacrificean agrarianrite.Todaythatthesis oftheGoldenBoughis discredited,butitseemed-reasonableinsofar as thesamepeoplewhosacrificedinscribedsovereignsacrificewithin theframeofa languageofplowmen.Itis truethatin a veryarbitrary manner,whichnevermeritedthecredenceofrigorousreason,these peopleattempted,and musthavelaboredto,submitsacrificeto the

laws ofaction,laws to whichtheythemselvesweresubmitted,or laboredto submitthemselves.

ImpotenceoftheSage toAttainSovereigntyon theBasis ofDiscourse

Thus, the sovereigntyof sacrificeis not absoluteeither.It is not absolute to the extentthatthe institutionmaintainswithinthe worldofefficaciousactivitya formwhosemeaningis, on thecon- trary,sovereign.A slippagecannotfailto occur,to the benefitof servitude. IftheattitudeoftheSage(Hegel)is not,foritspart,sovereign,at leastthingsfunctionintheoppositedirection;Hegeldidnotdistance himselfandifhewasunabletofindauthenticsovereignty,hecameas nearto it as he could. Whatseparatedhim fromit wouldevenbe imperceptiblewerewe not able to glimpsea richerimagethrough thesealterationsofmeaning,whichtouchon sacrificeand which havereducedit froman end to a simplemeans.The keyto a lesser

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rigorousnesson thepartofthe Sage is thefact,not thatdiscourse engageshis sovereigntywithina framethatcannotsuit him and whichatrophiesit,butpreciselytheopposite:sovereigntyinHegel's attitudeproceedsfroma movementwhich discourserevealsand which,in theSage'sspirit,is neverseparatedfromitsrevelation.It cannever,therefore,befullysovereign;theSage,infact,cannotfailto subordinateit to thegoalofa Wisdomwhichsupposesthecomple- tion of discourse.Wisdomalone will be fullautonomy,the sov-

At least it would be ifwe could findsovereignty

bysearchingforit:and,infact,ifI searchforit,I amundertakingthe

projectofbeing-sovereignly:buttheprojectofbeing-sovereignlypre-

supposesa servilebeing!Whatnonethelessassuresthesovereigntyof themomentdescribedis the "absolutedismemberment"ofwhich Hegel speaks,therupture,fora time,ofdiscourse.Butthatrupture itselfis not sovereign.In a sense it is an accidentin the ascent. Althoughthetwosovereignties,thenaiveandthesageones,areboth sovereigntiesofdeath,beyondthe differencebetweena declineat birth(betweena gradualalterationandan imperfectmanifestation), theydifferonyetanotherprecisepoint:onHegel'spart,itisprecisely a questionofan accident.Itis nota strokeoffate,a pieceofbadluck, whichwouldbeforeverdeprivedofsense.Dismembermentis,onthe

contrary,fullofmeaning.("Spiritonlyattainsitstruth,"writesHegel (butit is my emphasis),"byfindingitselfin absolutedismember- ment.")Butthismeaningis unfortunate.It is whatlimitedandim- poverishedtherevelationwhichtheSagedrewfromlingeringin the regionswheredeathreigns.He welcomedsovereigntyas a weight, whichhe letgo Do I intendtominimizeHegel'sattitude?Butthecontraryis true! I wanttoshowtheincomparablescopeofhisapproach.To thatendI cannotveil theveryminimal(and eveninevitable)partoffailure. To mymind,itis rathertheexceptionalcertaintyofthatapproach whichis broughtoutin myassociations.Ifhe failed,one cannotsay thatit was theresultofan error.The meaningofthefailureitself differsfromthatof thefailurewhichcaused it: the erroralone is perhapsfortuitous.In general,it is as an authenticmovement, weightywithsense,thatone mustspeakofthe "failure"ofHegel. Indeed,manis alwaysinpursuitofan authenticsovereignty.That sovereignty,apparently,was, in a certainsense,originallyhis, but doubtlessthatcouldnotthenhavebeenin a consciousmanner,and so in a sense it was nothis,it escapedhim.We shall see thatin a

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numberofwayshecontinuedtopursuewhatforevereludedhim.The essentialthingis thatone cannotattainit consciouslyand seek it, because seekingdistancesit. And yetI can believethatnothingis givenus thatis notgivenin thatequivocalmanner.

TranslatedbyJonathanStrauss

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