Georges Bataille’s Refutation of Hegel


from a letter to Alexandre Kojève by Bataille:

If action (‘doing’) is – as Hegel says – negativity, the question arises as to whether the negativity of one who has ‘nothing more to do’ disappears or remains in a state of ‘unemployed negativity’. Personally, I can only decide in one way, being myself precisely this ‘unemployed negativity’… I imagine that my life – or, better yet, its aborting, the open wound that is my life – constitutes all by itself the refutation of Hegel’s closed system.

2 thoughts on “Georges Bataille’s Refutation of Hegel

  1. And again Bataille reminds me of Stirner. For instance, here is his mocking criticism of Hegel’s closed system of thought:

    “In Hegel it comes to light at last what a longing for things even the most cultured man has, and what a horror of every “hollow theory” he harbors. With him reality, the world of things, is altogether to correspond to the thought, and no concept is to be without reality. This caused Hegel’s system to be known as the most objective, as if in it thought and thing celebrated their union. But this was simply the extremest case of violence on the part of thought, its highest pitch of despotism and sole dominion, the triumph of mind, and with it the triumph of philosophy. Philosophy cannot hereafter achieve anything higher, for its highest is the omnipotence of mind, the almightiness of mind”.

    And again, the conclusion of Stirner’s only book:

    “I am owner of my might, and I am so when I know myself as unique. In the unique one the owner himself returns into his creative nothing, of which he is born. Every higher essence above me, be it God, be it man, weakens the feeling of my uniqueness, and pales only before the sun of this consciousness. If I concern myself for myself,[Stell’ Ich auf Mich meine Sache. Literally, “if I set my affair on myself”] the unique one, then my concern rests on its transitory, mortal creator, who consumes himself, and I may say:

    All things are nothing to me”.

    The transitory creative nothing that consumes itself-> the emptiness of the concrete ego that annihilates itself with its every moment-> the open wound of singularity.

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    • Yes, I’m one of those that believe Nietzsche was heavily influenced by Stirner, and Bataille was so heavily influenced by Nietzsche it was second nature with him… so in this sense one has to approve what wiki speaks of in its article:

      Franz Overbeck’s wife Ida reported that during the period from 1880 to 1883 Nietzsche lived with the couple at several points, and that he mentioned Stirner directly. She describes a discussion she had with Nietzsche in which he mentioned Klinger and Stirner as follows:

      “Ach,” he said, “I was very disappointed in Klinger. He was a philistine, I feel no affinity with him; but Stirner, yes, with him!” And a solemn expression passed over his face. While I was watching his features intently, his expression changed again, and he made something like a gesture of dismissal or defense: “Now I’ve told you, and I did not want to mention it at all. Forget it. They will be talking about plagiarism, but you will not do that, I know.”

      The above is a perfect example of Harold Bloom’s notion of Anxiety of Influence. Nietzsche never mentions Stirner directly in his own writings, but the influence is so pervading that he needed to distance himself by this very refusal to acknowledge him in his works. Strange, one finds this form of anxiety over and over in many authors down the centuries…

      Even Deleuze will chime in:

      We have every reason to suppose that Nietzsche had a profound knowledge of the Hegelian movement, from Hegel to Stirner himself. The philosophical learning of an author is not assessed by the number of quotations, nor by the always fanciful and conjectural check lists of libraries, but by the apologetic or polemical directions of his work itself. We will misunderstand the whole of Nietzsche’s work if we do not see ‘against whom’ its principal concepts are directed. Hegelian themes are present in this work as the enemy against which it fights. Nietzsche never stops attacking the theological and Christian character of German philosophy (the ‘Tubingen seminary’) — the powerlessness of this philosophy to extricate itself from the nihilistic perspective (Hegel’s negative nihilism, Feuerbach’s reactive nihilism, Stirner’s extreme nihilism) — the incapacity of this philosophy to end in anything but the ego, man or phantasms of the human (the Nietzschean overman against the dialectic) — the mystifying character of so-called dialectical transformations (transvaluation against reappropriation and abstract permutations). It is clear that Stirner plays the revelatory role in all this. It is he who pushes the dialectic to its final consequences, showing what its motor and end results are. But precisely because Stirner still sees things like a dialectician, because he does not extricate himself from the categories of property, alienation and its suppression, he throws himself into the nothingness which he hollows out beneath the steps of the dialectic. He makes use of the question ‘which one?’ but only in order to dissolve the dialectic in the nothingness of the ego. He is incapable of posing this question in anything but the human perspective, under any conditions but those of nihilism. He cannot let this question develop for itself or pose it in another element which would give it an affirmative response. He lacks a method, a typological method which would correspond to the question. Nietzsche’s positive task is twofold: the Overman and Transvaluation. Not ‘who is man?’ but ‘who overcomes man?’ ‘The most cautious peoples ask today: “How may man still be preserved?” Zarathustra, however, asks as the sole and first one to do so: “How shall man be overcome?” The overman lies close to my heart, he is my paramount and sole concern — and not man: not the nearest, not the poorest, not the most suffering, not the best’ (Z IV ‘Of the Higher Man’, 3, p. 297) — the allusion to Stirner is obvious.

      — Deleuze, Gilles, Nietzsche and Philosophy, pp. 153–154

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