Dead Ends: The Undoing of Hegel’s Comedy

klee comedyPaul Klee, Comedy (1921).

The recent history of philosophy has been marked by a series of non-events. From Francis Fukuyama’s declaration of the end of history to Benjamin Bratton’s recent comments on the ‘revenge of the real,’ the tenor of philosophical fashion has turned from the revelation of new modes of thinking to the delimitation of thought within the rapidly shrinking space of possibilities of the present moment. Time, we are told, is running out, and all notions of human history are being jettisoned to make way for the great cancelation of history itself. In a pithy remark on the coming apocalypse, Bruno Latour summons Hegel’s Geist to stand once more for the sum of humanity’s endeavours, when he writes that “the breath of Spirit is now overcome, surpassed, aufgeheben, intoxicated by carbon dioxide!”[1]

Meanwhile, the apparent death of Spirit is mirrored by the emergence of an unorthodox Hegel, whose writing is no longer understood as the marker of a supremely rational, teleological, and humanist moment in philosophy. Instead, as Spirit chokes on greenhouse gases, the return to Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit now reveals an altogether more sombre picture: a fragmented narrative, an anxious absolute, and an aimless movement through the graveyard of Spirit’s precursors. As Gillian Rose once remarked, contemporary philosophy supplanted Hegel’s comedy with a mourning-play without transcendence or resolution—but now this melancholy extends even to recent readings of Hegel himself. To take seriously the loudly proclaimed death of Spirit—as this paper intends to do—it will be necessary to run through these re-evaluations of Spirit, to understand the ramifications of Spirit’s confrontation with its own demise. Continue reading “Dead Ends: The Undoing of Hegel’s Comedy”

Year of Reading in Review (2021)

booksread2021Over the course of the last year I’ve been updating a twitter thread with the books that I’ve read, including short comments detailing my thoughts or attempting to summarise the text (you can find the beginning of the thread here). The resulting thread, with all of 65 individual posts, is an absolute pain to navigate on twitter, so in what feels like a fit of narcissism I have compiled, organised, and refined those comments here. For the sake of identifying connective threads and ongoing areas of interest, I have sorted the entries into broad topics, but have attempted to keep these topics and their constituent books in a mostly chronological order.

For background, I started 2021 in a state of post-thesis confusion, having spent the previous six years in orbit of my thesis topic, and the bulk of 2019 and 2020 more immediately concerned with finishing the writing of my thesis. With no project at hand, my reading for the first half of the year mostly bounced between interests which I had not been able to fully explore while in the depths of my doctorate—precipitating around an interest in the theory of history, which would lead through Benjamin, Marxist theory, a return to the Gothic, and eventually on to a closer study of Hegel. Continue reading “Year of Reading in Review (2021)”