Philosophic Dialogue: On the 1953 letters

From the March-April 2015 issue of News & Letters

Because, for Hegel, subjectivity and objectivity constitute the same unit in opposition, in his work we witness subjectivity coming out of objectivity. For example, Science of Logic is divided into objective (Being and Essence) and subjective (Notion) logic. When, in the last part of the Doctrine of Essence, objectivity finds itself equal to itself in the form of reciprocity, we make the big leap toward the subjective notion: It is the transition from necessity to freedom which constitutes the very essence of the whole movement from Being to Notion—but that just now, after all its self-development, has come to the fore. This reminds us of Marx saying that the realm of freedom must emerge from the realm of necessity; this means that, only after the human race has taken control of the capitalist means of production and put them at its own service, can it begin constructing a new—human—world.

In the Idea of Cognition section from the Doctrine of the Notion, we see an opposite movement: it is the subjective Idea of the Good creating, only by the force of its will, the objective world. This movement complements itself with the transition from this Practical Idea, through itself, to the Absolute Idea: the merging of subjectivity and objectivity, of the Theoretical and the Practical Ideas in the same unit.

In Hegel’s Philosophy of Mind, we can see again the transition from objectivity to subjectivity: it is the Free Mind that has left behind “all that interferes with its universalism.” From here we go to Absolute Mind, where we find the final three syllogisms: Logic-Nature-Mind; Nature-Mind-Logic; Mind-Logic (Idea)-Nature. In these syllogisms, we witness the same spiral movement of subjectivity (Mind) coming out of objectivity (Nature) and, at the same time, subjectivity (Logic) giving birth to objectivity (Nature).

In her May 20, 1953, Letter (see Jan.-Feb. 2015 N&L), Dunayevskaya interprets the Hegelian dialectic in a revolutionary way. In her May 12, 1953, Letter (Sept.-Oct. 2014 and Nov.-Dec. 2014 N&L), she had already seen that Science of Logic didn’t end (as Lenin believed) with the mere transition from the Theoretical to the Practical Idea, but with the merging of both in the Absolute Idea.

Now, at the end of Philosophy of Mind, she realizes that “the movement is from the logical principle or theory to nature or practice and from practice not alone to theory but to the new society which is its essence.”

Furthermore: “Nature, standing between the Mind and its essence, sunders itself, not indeed to extremes of finite abstraction, nor itself to something away from them and independent—which, as other than they, only serves as a link between them: for the syllogism is in the Idea and Nature is essentially defined as a transition-point and negative factor, and as implicitly the Idea.” If, for her, Nature can be translated as Practice, and this is the mediation between Logic and Mind, then Nature/Practice is the idea in itself.

What philosophical-political conclusions can be made? 1) That practice is itself a form of theory, as practice is the Idea in itself; therefore, the actions of the masses are forms of theory in themselves. This breaks completely with the vanguardist idea of the “backwardness of the masses.” Dunayevskaya dedicated her first book, Marxism and Freedom, to making this clear.

2) However, practice alone is not enough to bring a new world; we should develop this theory implicit in practice itself—and for doing so, our theory should be rooted in dialectical philosophy. That would explain the main objective of her second book, Philosophy and Revolution.

3) Just this total merging of the Theoretical and the Practical Idea can give birth to a new world: it is the Absolute Idea and the Absolute Mind that Dunayevskaya read as entering a new society.

—G.W.F. Hector

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