The Disenchantment Of Hope

We use the term 'politics of authenticity' to designate a type of politics that seeks its justification in the immediacy of ontology, all spiritualism in politics is subsumed under this broad category and contrasted to politics of rationalism.

Rationalism is grounded on the unity of the ideas of the Beauty, Good and Truth. This unity is the fundamental ground of the project of Enlightenment, it has failed because its results uprooted its grounds. Historically this unity was produced by religion, both theoretically and practically, and a revival of its ideas depend on whether knowledge itself can be used to determine it. Rationalism ended before it had begun, the unity of the Good, the Beautiful and the True was destroyed as modernity shifted its understanding of humanity towards a world-view in which the domains of knowledge, art and practice are irreducibly distinct. Kant's three questions posed at the end of Critique of Pure Reason, "What can I know? What should I do? What may I hope?" represent the distinct domains, the first is answered by Metaphysics, the second by Morals, the third by Religion.

The first question is theoretical, the second practical, the third, however is both theoretical and practical, and therefore the key concept of practice, when we understand human practice as exactly this nexus of theoretical and practical. Hope is either the determination of practical interests with theoretical or the determination of theoretical interests with practical, either disenchanted or enchanted. The former is the mode of representation, the latter of expression, the former the mode of rationalist politics the latter the politics of authenticity. We oppose the expressive mode of practice, because it is either fanaticism or demagoguery, either madness or a receptivity to it. Kant poses the question for the moral individual, yet because it is the essential concept of practice, it should be formed in general terms, as "What may humanity hope for?" If for Kant the individual can hope for happiness as the fulfilment of his interests, if he obeys the imperative, when we reflect on its generalized form, we see that this is a confusion of cause and effect. For humanity in general, hope cannot be defined in this way, because hope itself determines what the practical interests of humanity are, and only the practical interests can determine the imperatives of practice. The potentiality of humanity, the seed of its future, is contained in its present as hope.

In Introduction to Logic, Kant adds another question, "What is man?" as the fundamental question to which all the former questions refer, subjectivity now grounds the unity of metaphysical ideas, this is the essential mark of modernity. There are two general modes of answering this question, it is answered in metaphysics, in terms of man's essence, and/or in positivism, that grasps man in terms of his existence, both types of knowledge are necessary for it, and when late modernity excludes metaphysics, as the only science of the relation between truth of essence and truth of existence, it merely adopts its lower types, the metaphysics of common sense and religion. Even when we do in fact suppose knowledge of such things is possible, the two types of knowledge seem in contradiction, as Adorno writes in his Negative Dialectics:

The more concretely anthropology appears, the more deceptive it becomes, indifferent towards that in human beings which is by no means grounded within them as the subject but rather in the process of desubjectivization, which since time immemorial ran parallel with the historical formation of the subject. [...] Existence is a moment, not the whole, against which it was thought up and from which, once severed, it seized the unredeemable pretension of the whole as soon as it stylized itself as philosophy.

What positivism can't grasp about man is his subjectivity, its self-determination, yet without the spiritualism of pure differences that would isolate the subject from his empirical conditions a priori, this negative human essence can only be grounded in the factual process of alienation. It is not despite this falseness of positivism, scientific or not, that the subjectivity is self-determined, but because of it.

This falseness is constitutive of subjectivity as subjectivity. The positivity of particularity is necessary, because what is at stake is potentiality, not mere possibility. Potentiality of human subject is the empty, but not a priori determination of subjectivity, it does not exist, yet it can only be filled with existent determinations, and can therefore only be known abstractly. This abstract knowledge is sufficient, because its essence is abstraction itself. Human essence is always self-determined positively, either adequately or not, this falseness of confusing inessential with essential produces different modes of objectification. Human essence is the difference of the subject and the human animal, a difference that exists only as this falseness of the imperative of alienation that demands from the subject to strive for his self-determination, while practically necessarily failing the perfection of this purpose, yet achieving practical, finite modes of autonomy as its result, becoming its true, yet inessential positive grounds.

Alienation is the force of abstraction cast upon the world, the partial, inadequate and false inessential positive moments of subjectivity are objectified and by objectification made actual. Confronted with its own truth in an objectified form, the subject feels the loss of its own essence, but not only was this essence merely an appearance, its concrete objectified form had now shown its insignificance, it is seen as a failed essence, a triviality that only a fool would consider essential and is therefore excluded from the essence of subjectivity. Confronted with this triviality of its own essence, the subject, or at least humanity, must move on. This movement is not dialectical, it does not happen as a priori contradiction, but as empirical process of negation, as a factual process of exclusion and inclusion, of ordering and disordering.

This exclusion pains the subject, and he either acts reactively and imagines an authentic past where the human essence that was excluded still dominated over the world, and because there is no repetition, by this creates new ones. In reflection of this process a philosopher can recognize the imperative of alienation as the extrinsic essence of mankind, yet this recognition does not mean an end of history, but merely an adequate abstract concept of human essence, its conceptual ground and its relation to particularity. This does not already mean that humanity has entered the kingdom of Grace, the dominion of Justice where the moral subject may hope for its just reward, but merely the conceptual ground of universal practical interests of reason. Alienation as the practical mode of our extrinsic essence of abstraction is the unity on which we can construct a ground for universalist politics, yet this unity is too abstract to be itself political, yet sufficient to determine the abstract answer to the question of hope. What we may hope for is to determine practical interests of reason with knowledge, not belief.

Politics of authenticity assume the autonomy of the subject, and for this reason miss it’s imperative. Autonomy is the positive ground of freedom and morality, yet if we assume it as given in theory, its possibility is excluded in practice. Politics of authenticity is a politics of despair, there is nothing to hope for, or rather hope is enchanted by contingencies of time and cannot be rationally constructed. A society where human potential could be fulfilled is impossible to determine, because it posits its conditions as always already given, there are no possible means of achieving it. Achieving subjective and intersubjective autonomy in all its different modes (environmental, economic, intellectual, etc.) is the only means of achieving a society where human potential could be fulfilled justly. Because this autonomy is factual and empirical, its practice will always remain imperfect, plural and undetermined, and its universality can only be produced in theory, as the unity of practical interests of humanity and the individual, and its practical generality established as the harmony of autonomy of our species with the autonomy of all its parts. To determine human essence as extrinsic to humanity, is not to posit a difference between a constitutive transcendental subject and its empirical manifestation, but rather the difference between the empirical conditions of abstraction and abstraction in abstraction. For this reason, the human animal possesses no such essence, and is content to live without spirit. Also the opposite is true, progress is cruel, it has no pre-determined harmony with humanity. There is nothing necessary about this harmony, there is no force that would erupt as an historic event, no invisible minds or hands exist, to turn us back on our path.

What then is our practical interest of reason? Harmony of practical interest of reason with its theoretical interests, the harmony of our particular autonomies and the universal and abstract autonomy of mankind. The task of constructing the harmony between man and progress. Rationalism is therefore a humanism, and humanism a futurism.

2016-05-22