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ADRIAAN PEPERZAK 10. Some Remarks on Hegel, Kant, and Levinas Although most pages of Totality and bifinity quote Heidegger or allude to his work, it is obvious that Hegel's "system of philosophy" is a paradigmatic case of the "totalitarian" philosophy attacked by Levinas, whereas it is not immediately clear whether his criticism does full justice to Heidegger's long meditation on the difference between being (Sein) and the totality of all beings (das Ganze des Seienden). Heidegger's name does not occur very often in Otherwise than Being or Beyond Essence, but this thought is still more present there than in Totality and Infinity, because in the former Levinas' target is no longer the absolutization of totality but the proclamation of being as the ultimate horizon within which all beings, including others and God, must appear. During the thirteen years separating his two main works, Levinas radicalized his nonontological thought about the ways of being and the very different ways of its beyond, but this radicalization has not abolished the validity of the questions formulated in the title of Totality and Infinity. The modes of being and appearance, as manifested in a philosophy of totality; the possibility of a concept of the infinite within the horizon of such a philosophy; the "otherwise" of a discourse trying to separate and "save" the idea of the infinite from its coincidence with the collectivity of all beings and from being itself - these and similar questions continue to be symptomatic for the struggle that divides not only the scene of contemporary philosophy but also the mind of every philosopher expecting more from philosophy than a passionate game, an aesthetic delight, or a quasi-scientific discovery. 205 206 ADRIAAN PEPERZAK For Hegel, 'being' is the minimal determination of thought and - because thought and reality are one and the same - of all reality. Nothing, either actual or possible, can be conceived of or be what and how it is, if it has not the structure of a being. Being is, thus, the most universal ontological category. It is almost nothing; it is certainly no thing, because a thing presupposes many other determinations as well. Being is as good as nothing: it is not anyone of all the predicates that can be attributed to a subject. Concerning all realities and possibilities, however, we must say that they "are;' for example, that they "are" a reality or a possibility. The copula affirms this "is" or "are"; it covers all beings - but a being is already more than the determination being through which it is. Because of its extreme abstractedness, 'being' is empty and therefore open to all possible determinations. It is the quasi-determination of indeterminateness, of pure transparency, of the nothingness of an abstract openness in which all varieties of things and nonthings can manifest what they are. Being can be conceived of neither as a predicate nor as the subject of a sentence. As copula it cannot exist except in something else - a nonbeing - in which it is united to (other) determinations. It includes, therefore, that which it is not: nonbeing is its necessary complement . In order to be freed from its (almost) nothingness, being needs a determination that is more of an antidetermination: its opposite. Of course, nonbeing is also not able to be what it is (a "non-is"), unless it relies on its opposite (being), of which it is the inseparable complement. Being and nonbeing cannot be (and not be) what they are unless they pass continuously into one another. The unity of being and nonbeing is their ceaseless changing into their opposite: an endless movement of becoming, which - just as Aristotle's dynamis - is the onto-logical core and secret of movement and materiality. Nothing can escape from the texture woven by being and nonbeing as they become what they are not and therefore become what they are. There is no other dimension and no other stuff of which a being could be made. If the universe has meaning, it must be found somewhere within this texture or in the whole of it. Nothing is, unless it can be developed from this fundamental text. Hegel's logic is the attempt to show that the universe of thought and being (in which 'thought' and 'being' are two opposite names of one and the same idea) is nothing but the full unfolding of a minimal thought. The movement through which being starts its transformation into its opposite and its adventures following from this...


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