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Chapter 2 Antinomies of Pure Sexuation Chapter 2 Antinomies of Pure Sexuation© Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyAll Rights Reserved 2.1 From Kant to Hegel The properly philosophical outcome of chapter 1 is that everything turns around the passage from Kant to Hegel. In the predominant perception, Kant is supposed to openly admit the failure of general ontology which aims at grasping the Whole of reality: when our mind tries to do this, it inevitably gets involved in antinomies; Hegel then closes this gap, reinterpreting antinomies as contradictions whose dialectical movement enables us to grasp the Whole of reality, i.e., the return to precritical general ontology. … But what if the actual situation is quite different? True, Kant admits antinomies, but only at the epistemological level, not as immanent features of the unreachable thing-in-itself, while Hegel transposes epistemological antinomies into the ontological sphere, and thereby undermines every ontology:“reality itself” is non-all, antinomic. One must therefore be very precise here. When Kant deplores the fact that the thing-in-itself remains out of our reach, it is easy to detect the falsity of this deploring, clear signs of relief—thank God we escaped the danger of coming too close to it! That is why it is crucial to note that Kant does not only try to demonstrate the gap between appearances and the In-itself: Kant advocates something much stronger; his antinomies of pure reason claim to demonstrate that appearances cannot be the same as the In-itself, that they are necessarily mere appearances. (In an exact homology, in his Critique of Practical Reason Kant falsely deplores the fact that we can never be certain if our act was a truly free ethical act and not an act contaminated by pathological motivations: again, beneath this deploring, there is relief that we can forever avoid the Real of freedom.) A Hegelian critique of Kant does not simply contend that our appearances fit the In-itself; on the contrary, it fully asserts the gap between appearances and the In-itself, locating the Real in this very gap. In short, the very gap that seems to separate us forever from the In-itself is a A n ti n om i es of P ure S exuat i on 52 feature of the In-itself; it cannot be reduced to something immanent to the sphere of phenomena. So how are we to overcome the transcendental approach first elaborated by Kant? That is to say, how do we enact the passage from Kant to Hegel, without regressing into a precritical realist ontology? The ultimate consequence of Kant’s transcendentalism is the deadlock of Reason: when it tries to overstep the boundaries of our finite experience, reason (logos, the symbolic order) necessarily becomes entangled in antinomies: proof that our reason cannot reach reality as it is in itself. Next step: in her epoch-making “Euthanasia of Reason,” Joan Copjec linked Kant’s duality of mathematical and dynamic antinomies of pure reason to Lacan’s formulas of sexuation: mathematical antinomy is “feminine,” while dynamic antinomy is “masculine,” thereby asserting the ontological relevance of sexuality (in a way that is radically different from premodern cosmologies with their struggle of opposing principles , yin and yang, etc.).1 But what is the exact consequence of this insight? It seems that it again asserts the transcendental agnostic hypothesis, simply providing it with a“Freudian” root—along these lines: our reason gets entangled in antinomies, it cannot gain access to reality-in-itself, because it is always (constitutively)“twisted” by sexuality (sexual difference). The question that arises here is: how can we think this “euthanasia of reason” (reason’s inevitable entanglement in radical antinomies, its inability to grasp reality in its totality, as a Whole) without positing (or presupposing; in short—in Hegelese—positing as presupposed) an In-itself out of reach of our reason? There is, of course, only one (Hegelian) way: to enact the move from epistemological deadlock to ontology, to conceive a radical antagonism (a parallax split) as immanent to reality itself.As Hegel put it, Kant displayed too much“tenderness for things” when he refused to accept that antinomy is a feature of reality itself; against Kant, we should thus grasp what he perceives as an obstacle to our cognition of the thing-in-itself, the very feature that throws us into the abyssal heart of the thing-in-itself. The fact that we cannot grasp reality as a Whole does not mean that reality...


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