Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Aphoristic Meditation I: Hegel and The Miscarriage of History
Some days I wake up in the morning and it hits me: the world is coming to an end.
Other days it dawns on me that I know better: the world has long since already ended.
But what's this?
Could the end of the world be such thing as to have been missed?
-Pseudonymic Aphorism 1
What would it mean that the end of history is presently missing, that history is, at this point in time, still missing its end? Hegel spoke of the end as nothing other than the beginning which has, in the passage of time, ceased to be the beginning, and has thus become other than itself. For Hegel, this self-othering of the beginning becomes complete in and as the end. The end is the other beginning. Here we must be more precise: the end is indeed the beginning, but no longer bound, that is, no longer bound to end. This is why Hegel spoke of the Unendlich end, the Infinite end. The Infinite end is not the endless succession of present moments, of 'nows' that never stop coming ---if only because, by virtue of their succeeding, these moments are bound; they are by nature bound to succeed. Because they are bound to succeed, they fail to reach beyond this boundary. Success, as that in terms of which these moments approximate their boundary, is the very thing which keeps them from ever attaining ---that is, overcoming ---it. For Hegel however --and that means, with the establishment of the system of science as absolute knowledge, we now already know the end towards which all of this has been leading.
Contra Hegel, however, Heidegger, by way of that other historical thinking, had to indicate that the true end is not the unbound beginning which, coming after succession itself, necessitates it. The true end is not the Infinite end. Rather, the end is the interruption of the beginning, and it is merely this. For the beginning, if it is truly a beginning and therefore harbors the greatness that alone gives the beginning its possibility, is by no means bound by the end; it is bound by itself only. Because of this it is not bound to end, but to return to the beginning (a difference that is impossible for Hegel). In the movement of seynsgeschichte, the end is, therefore, not something that is initially missed (in and as the beginning) and finally attained (in and as the end). Instead, the end is missed in itself, i.e. in a missing that is proper to the end. The end is missed ---essentially. This is why the true meaning of the end cannot be conceived in terms of limit, but must be found in those words that are most of all already spoken, the earliest words: πέρας, or as Heidegger often reminds us, "that from which something begins." The earliest word for end means beginning.