Illusionism and the Self-Deceiving “I”


Hegel’s “Notion,” as elaborated in the Science of Logic (1812), makes an interesting premise for considering the specifically ethical relation of knowledge to ignorance. It proffers a métier for self-superseding experience. It likewise suggests how character might be a counter of aesthetic value. For with the Notion, Hegel famously presupposes a mode of subjective consciousness propelled by ignorance that is nonetheless experientially grounded in its own historical trajectory. On this assumption, subjective consciousness is always moving beyond its immediate powers of self-recognition, but never abdicating its responsibility to experience. If, as Hegel maintains, the Notion is the relation of being to essence, where essence is the first negation of being, being de facto becomes illusory being. And if the Notion proper is the second negation, or the negation of this negation (Logic 596), then the underlying stakes of Hegel’s speculative inquiry demand something like a respect for illusionism. After all, as Robert Pippin observes, “Essence and appearance…are not understood as separate beings, but as ‘moments’ of any being that reflection can identify and understand” (202). Reflective mind seems to entail the plot reversals of illusionism (i.e. the transition from being to essence) as the condition of its universal objectivity for Hegel.

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