Jure Simoniti

University of Ljubljana

Jure Simoniti is researcher at the University of Ljubljana. His main research topics are: truth, German Idealism, philosophy of language, philosophy of science. His latest publications include Die Philosophie der kleinsten Prätentiösität (Wien, Berlin: Turia + Kant, 2014), The Untruth of Reality. The Unacknowledged Realism of Modern Philosophy (Lanham etc.: Lexington Books 2016), and New Realism and Contemporary Philosophy (co-ed. with G. Kroupa, London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2020).

Speaking at the conference

Thursday, 22 September, 12pm, Kosovel Hall

Master, Slave, and the World beyond Subjectivism and Objectivism

The master-slave-dialectic marks the perhaps most momentous watershed in the Hegelian philosophical edifice, its genuine knot. While consciousness, as embodied in the Begierde, annihilates the outside world – a move perhaps structurally similar to the Fichtean subjectively idealist Verichlichung of the not-I –, the struggle for recognition between the two Begierden comes to its end when the one consciousness risks life and shows its willingness to die. Something unthinkable happens; it is as if Fichte’s I committed suicide, or, even more acutely, as if Kant’s transcendental subjectivity conceded the frailty and needlessness of its conceptual forms. Hence, not only did Begierde bereave reality of its metaphysical, ideal objective order, but now even self-consciousness, by leaving itself at the mercy of the chance of death, avows the possible obliteration of its inner, logical subjective structure.

Often, the master-slave-dialectic has been interpreted as a transition from the still naïve epistemological set-up into the more comprehensive fabric of the “sociality of reason.” From here on, it is surmised, there will exist no part of reality that has not always already been disclosed within the collective frames of communal life, communicative reason, mutual recognition, and arguably consensus. In our reading, however, the risk-taking of the master, following the gluttony of Begierde, does not amount to the utter inter-subjectivization of being, but rather performs a much more precise and exhaustive operation: the world can hereafter no longer presume to be either objectively or subjectively true; instead, its truth is being negotiated upon a much thinner membrane taking shape between the collapsing objectivism and subjectivism.

In the master-and-slave dialectic, two central logical laws, the law of non-contradiction and the principle of sufficient reason, are indirectly circumvented. But it would be wrong to assume that Hegel thereby imagines a vision of an immanently anarchic and noncausal universe. Instead, a guess can be ventured whether these two principles have only been dissolved in order to be redefined as neither plainly objective nor solely subjective; they seem merely to be divested of their functions as either metaphysical laws governing things-in-themselves or Kantian forms of synthesizing experience. Against the vulgar solution of Meillassoux, whereby the objective world-in-itself surrenders its (sufficient) reason but retains its non-contradiction, it will rather be argued – developing Hegel’s original intention further – that the provisional bypassing of both principles can be exploited to reveal the world beyond the simple alternative of either metaphysical realism or subjective idealism, that is, the anti-humanist world of modern scientific facticity and causality.

Jure Simoniti