Presented at an international symposium, taking place from 18th to 21st October 1966, entitled ‘The Languages of Criticism and the Sciences of Man’, at The Johns Hopkins Center, Baltimore, USA. Text available /Authors A-Z (Hyppolite) or Texts by Date (October 1966)

All the contributions to this symposium are published in: ‘The Languages of Criticism and the Sciences of Man: the Structuralist Controversy’ edited by Richard Macksey and Eugenio Donato: The Johns Hopkins Press Baltimore and London: 1970. Contents, Preface, Contributors and Colloquists (as published in Macksey & Donato) : see this site /5 Other Authors A-Z (Donato or Macksey) Electronic copy of the book /Texts by request

Presenter: Jean Hyppolite

Description of Jean Hyppolite as in 1970 :

Jean Hyppolite: was professor of the History of Philosophy at the Collège de France and former Director of the École Normale Supérieure.

Title: The Structure of Philosophic Language According to the “Preface” to Hegel’s ‘Phenomenology of the Mind’ & Discussion.

P168-169 of Macksey & Donato (1970) – Jean Hyppolite’s last paragraph – Reference to Maurice Marleau-Ponty

On the other hand, the search for all the articulations which make up the structure and the architecture of languages—this is the Logic. Is such an enterprise possible? In one case the philosopher loses himself in the system and in the architectonics of the determinations of thought, while in the other he finds himself immersed in the common consciousness. In my opinion Hegel’s greatest moment is the point of oscillation between the architecture of the Logic and the common consciousness of the Phenomenology. Afterward he tried to build a system, the Encyclopedia, but it is the movement between these two works which is fundamental for us. For the common consciousness, as it appears in the Phenomenology, is not without the consciousness of the philosopher which follows it, narrates it, and records it. But inversely the consciousness of the philosopher is not the consciousness of God, speaking through the philosopher. Nobody could push pride that far. Thus Hegel’s two great works are relative, each to the other. Ordinary consciousness accompanies the search for the articulations of thought, and inversely these articulations underlie, in their discovery, the history of ordinary consciousness. So that the rhythm of philosophical discourse (where the search for the “speaker” is simultaneous with the treatment of the object spoken of) is attenuated by the sense of finitude which accompanies it. Hegel has been reproached for not recognizing this finitude, for “putting himself in the place of God,” but he knew finitude very well. He knew that there is meaninglessness [non-sens] and that it is sometimes irredeemable. As there are lost letters and lost causes, so too there is lost meaning. But whereas a negative theology admits a meaning beyond meaning, for Hegel what is redeemable has meaning, but what is irredeemable is the measure of meaninglessness that invests all meaning. And this difference he calls the Absolute Difference. Hegel therefore recognized finitude in terms of this meaninglessness investing meaning. It cannot be said that he put himself in the place of God, for he well knew that when he was searching for the universal articulations of thought it was still as one concrete philosopher that he was carrying on the quest He well knew, in the words of my friend Merleau-Ponty, that there is no philosopher without a shadow.

P175 of Macksey & Donato (1970) Reference to Bertrand Russell

Jean Hippolite. However, the “Preface” that I misunderstood and scorned a little the first time I read the Phenomenology appears to me today to be a capital piece of work. I wasn’t able to show here the sort of technique, a living technique, by which Hegel shows how the nonphilosophical public complains and laments because it is obliged to reread philosophical works two or three times. And why doesn’t the public understand? It is because a philosophical statement isn’t like an ordinary statement. In a philosophical statement, the subject has started to disappear. In an ordinary proposition, there is a subject. What are you talking about? I am talking about a worm. What is this worm? It is round; it is white; it is black. There is a basis, a support, and then there are the properties of the support, which is called the predicate. Whereas in a philosophical subject, the support disappears. There is nothing to hang on to. There is no nucleus. It has passed into the predicate. Russell didn’t understand. He is a great mathematician, who started out as a Hegelian. And he said to himself, “But what is Hegel doing? He is making identical propositions and he is confusing the copula with the identity.” No, Hegel’s identical proposition is not an identity in the sense of the mathematician: A = B, where A remains fixed and B remains fixed. A passes into B. And the only subject is the becoming. It is because of the disappearance of the subject and this continual mediation that people don’t understand. They don’t understand because they want a support. But leaving aside the question of the support, ordinary thought also admits critical thought. That is, thought oscillates between the support and what I have called argument. (I translate raisonnieren as argument rather than ratiocination, because Hegel applies it to mathematics, to literature, and to conversation. The only thing to which he doesn’t apply it is philosophy. Therefore to translate it as ratiocinate doesn’t work, but to translate it as argue works very well.) That is to say, ordinary thought argues. Once it has the support it attaches the predicates like cars to a train. Philosophic thought crushes ordinary thought because the support collapses. Hegel describes this in dynamic terms. He says that ordinary thought experiences a sort of shock—it is in the process of passing into the predicate and suddenly it is sent back, repulsed, to the subject that it has lost. It tries to find itself outside of the thing and there it is in the thing just at the moment when it would like to lose itself. There is something which has never existed before—technical philosophers who try to refine or reflect on their instrument. Hegel put criticism inside the instrument; more exactly, he put criticism in the movement of things.

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Other texts by Jean Hyppolite at /Authors A-Z (Hyppolite)