Hegel and Resistance

June 27, 2014 - June 28, 2014
School of Philosophy, University College, Dublin

Dublin
Ireland

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Main speakers:

Joseph Cohen
University College Dublin
Iain McDonald
University of Montreal
Brian O'Connor
University College Dublin
Frank Ruda
Freie Universität Berlin
Karin de Boer
KU Leuven

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The question of the development of consciousness in its relation to nature is one of the central themes in German idealism. The scope of this question was broadened until, in Hegel, it covered not just the development of consciousness as such, but also of those social, historical and conceptual formations with which this development was, in Hegel's view, inextricably intertwined. But if Hegel's philosophy has traditionally been read as the display of the "unhalting" forward motion and progress of Spirit towards its final end in the reconciliation of concept and object, consciousness and nature, throughout the last few decades interpreters have raised various objections to this view. Some thinkers have focussed on that which offers resistance to the speculative movement, while others claim that Hegel's philosophy itself resists being captured in interpretations which focus only on some elements, leaving out others, or which seek to reduce it to a rigid system. But the most interesting question, perhaps, is what role notions such as resistance, delay, 'tarrying' etc. play within Hegel's philosophy. We therefore suggest the following themes for discussion:

Resistance to Hegel. What are the limits of Hegelian thought? The systematic aspirations of Hegel's philosophy have led critics to suggest various things which Hegel cannot think, which escape or are systematically obscured by his system, which resist appropriation by the integrating force of speculative philosophy. Examples are the object or 'remainder' in Adorno, difference and event in Derrida, Deleuze and others, material conditions in Marx, or the (non-European, female, etc.) other. What do we make of these criticisms? And, in the light of the revaluation of Hegel as our contemporary, how should we position ourselves with respect to these exclusions?

Resistance by Hegel. Because of its complexity, its scope and its systematic character, Hegel's philosophy is notoriously resistant to appropriation and interpretation. It seems that we either have to try to absorb Hegel's thought in all its aspects, and risk being unable to take a sufficiently critical stance towards it, or take some particular element which we still find to be relevant today at the risk of ignoring its context, both in relation to Hegel's system and to its wider historical and philosophical background. Is it justifiable to extract from Hegel a pragmatics, a social theory or a coherence theory of truth? To focus on epistemological concerns over metaphysical or social and cultural aspects? Or to privilege a particular text or period over another?

Resistance in Hegel. The notions of historical and cultural development, as well as the development of what Hegel calls the concept, are central to Hegel's philosophy. Its supposed teleological model has traditionally been held as one of the main criticisms against it. But what elements can we find within Hegel's philosophy which go against this conception? What positive role do enduring difference and resistance to sublation play in the speculative movement? Which concrete concepts or phenomena resist logical and historical development (e.g. madness, war, mechanism, matter)? And are these things which escaped Hegel, or are they a necessary element, as it were, at the limits of his system?

The conference will take place on June 27-28, 2014 at University College Dublin, Ireland. The following speakers have been confirmed:

Karin de Boer (Leuven)
Joseph Cohen (UCD)
Iain McDonald (Montréal)
Brian O'Connor (UCD)
Frank Ruda (FU Berlin)

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