Tuesday, February 18, 2020


"The idea of the unity of the world belongs to a latter stage, that of the philosophy of identity. ...The identity of spirit with itself and the subsequent synthetic unity of apperception, is projected on things by the method alone, and thus becomes more ruthless as it tries to be more sober and stringent. That is the original sin of prima philosophia. Just in order to enforce continuity and completeness, it must eliminate everything which does not fit from whatever it judges." Adorno, Against Epistemology, pg. 10, MIT Press 1983 

The concept of identity is itself an abstraction of idealism, which is to say, it doesn't represent the real world. Its tyranny lies in the fact that it is posited as an absolute beginning (and therefore end), as a presupposition containing no presuppositions of its own. Identity, as ideal, is imposed on the world in such a way that it deceives the one who imposes it. To use this concept to understand the world, can only end by distorting the world, and this is because, as Hegel so ingeniously noted, the presupposition which stands before identity is that of "difference." The unity of the world is a myth, while the inner-connection of things is not.

The "ruthlessness" of identity is derived from its dogmatism, which is to say, one assumes the finality and axiomatic nature of categories which actually presuppose realities more primitive than the categories themselves. With these contingent categories one proceeds, not only to define the world, but also to act toward the world. Part of the problem is that thinkers who proceed thus, are not aware of the fact that their categories presuppose more primitive, concrete realities. These realities are nothing other than the real world itself. Those who strive to be precise, according to this standard, end up doing violence to comprehension itself. Through this narrow prism objects are distorted, the world is not discerned but projected. The thinker is seeking the coherence of a narrative that gives him comfort against the chaos of reality; tragically, it matters not if his narrative is an accurate representation of reality, all that matters is that it offers a convincing linguistic structure against the frightful chaos of being. This is why the identity-thinker always strives to eliminate contradiction from the picture, not because he's seeking to understand reality, but because he's seeking to evade reality through the comfort of his idealism. Anything that contradicts his presumption of coherence must be withdrawn from the equation.

Man desires to see the world in terms of unity, precisely because it makes him feel better about the chaos of reality. The method of identity is predetermined by the presuppositions which are mistaken for totality. These assumptions have to do with isolation, which is to say, the identity-thinker assumes that objects have no history, no interconnection, that immediate presentation is the only axiom from which one should proceed. However, the moment we ask about the object's history, is the very moment that identity exceeds its depths.

The "ruthlessness" of identity is that it presupposes its own absoluteness, which then functions as a premise from which to pass sentence on existence. This judgment inevitably leads to tyranny, precisely because reality is not monological, but irrationally intertwined and connected. The historical nature of the object refutes the simplicity of its appearance. Dialectic is a way of seeing beyond the appearance of the immediate; dialectic is thought comprehending the object within the circumference of its historical and social context.

The monological thinker cannot help but be deceived by reality -- because this is what the logic of his method dictates. He must eliminate the contradiction, isolate it to the confines of its own category. This leads to the fallacy of distorted classification, it ultimately renders one incapable of comprehending reality. When one is an idealist, one seeks to understand the world, not in terms of past, present, and causal contingency, but in terms of what is projected. In this sense reality is not allowed to speak for itself, contradiction is banished from the equation. Through identity totality becomes the fallacious conclusion that is deduced from segmented assumptions.

The more one insists on the accuracy of the monlogical picture, against concrete plurality, the more tyrannical one's stance toward the world becomes. The more one leans toward the finality and exhaustion of identity, as an absolute principle by which to discern reality, the more one ends up distorting and misunderstanding the objects of reality. Eventually this method leads to violence, even as it begins in violence. The violence of artificially isolating the objects of reality from reality itself, which is to say, according to idealism's a priori desire to make the world conform to itself. There is no such thing as isolated being untouched by the influence of other objects. To truly comprehend what stands before us, we must know something of its history, we must pay close attention to its causal connections.

To say that the world is as simple as identity, is to fail to comprehend that identity has its own presuppositions. To use identity, as a method to master nature, can only result in tyranny, precisely because the narrowness of this methodology, does not result in concrete comprehension, but amounts to a form of abstraction. This idealism is then imposed on the world, which is the very essence of tyranny.

The presupposition of isolated existence is the problem. The shallowness of identity is the problem. In contrast, dialectic does not simply approach objects through a solitary lens, instead, dialectic strives to comprehend the object through the totality of its history, through its interconnection and exposure to other objects. It's not that identity is without value, it's just that its value is limited. It is neither the first or the last, but stands in between more absolute and ultimate categories. 

The question can indeed be asked, even if we claim to transcend the concept of identity, do we not thereby continue to presuppose it as a necessity? The answer is that identity begins and ends at the plurality of the object of being. It is existence itself that negates the idealism of identity, and this is because the object is always becoming, even as it has transformed through the past in order to make its way to the present.

One can never be too careful when it comes to avoiding the irrelevance of logical formalism -- words can seduce the user into struggling with contradictions that have no reality or value outside the domain of words themselves. The object stands before us, it is the thing that exists, the concrete specimen, it should not be filtered through the idealism of identity, but identity should be measured by the object that exists -- existence should not be forced to conform to identity, but identity should be forced to conform to existence.