University of Melbourne Summer School 2000

Hegel, Marx & Derrida

Friday 18th and Saturday 19th February
by Andy Blunden and Geoff Boucher

The course will:

Each day is divided into four 90 minute segments:

Day One will concentrate on understanding the positive contribution of Hegel's philosophy and aims to allow participants to become familiar with his approach and to be able to draw on Hegelian ideas.

Day Two, on the other hand, will subject Hegel to criticism both from the standpoint of Karl Marx and from the standpoint of Jacques Derrida, and aims to prepare participants to become active players in current philosophical debates.

The cost of the course is $60 and refreshments will be provided for morning and afternoon breaks and each attendee will receive a CD or printed material at least two weeks prior to the day.

Payment is by cheque or cash at the time of registering. Registration forms are available by post or by phoning Rosa Brezac on 9344 5963, 9am-5pm Monday to Friday. Each day begins at 9am and concludes at 4pm with breaks at 10:30am, 12:30pm and 2:30pm. The target audience is the general public. The coordinator is Andy Blunden. The seminar will be held at the University of Melbourne.

Synopses of the four talks

One: Andy Blunden, Reason and the World (Friday morning)

This talk will introduce the main concepts of Hegel's system drawing on both the Logic and the Philosophy of Right. Concepts covered will include Being, Essence and Notion; Quantity and Quality; Absolute and Relative; Appearance and Actuality; Form and Content; Individual, Universal and Particular; Means and Ends. Emphasis will be given to understanding the social basis of rationality as an approach to understanding Hegel.

Two: Geoff Boucher, Hegel in the Postmodern (Friday afternoon)

For postmodern thinkers - and indeed many contemporary thinkers outside of the postmodernist camp - Hegel represents the very worst aspect of the past. His philosophy is seen as arrogant and reductive, and the idea of a dialectic leading up to absolute knowledge is viewed as the very model of totalitarian presumptions. This session aims to cover some of the postmodern myths and objections to Hegel by coming to a balanced understanding of what Hegel actually said. Indeed, it is possible that many postmodern thinkers have used a "straw target" of "Hegel" in order to reinvent many Hegelian themes. While covering in very general terms the serious problems of totalisation and absolute knowledge, the session focuses on the constructive and very relevant aspects of Hegel, namely, the idea of a "logic of essence", the fluidity and inter-relationship of social and logical identities, and Hegel's solution to the problems of relativism. People who attend the session should come away having been able to debate their understanding of what postmodernism means for modern philosophers like Hegel, and with a much clearer idea of how what Hegel really said relates to contemporary cultural and philosophical debates.

Three: Geoff Boucher, Hegel After Derrida (Saturday morning)

This session goes into more detail in examining the response to Hegel on the part of someone who is arguably the world's single most influential contemporary philosopher, Jacques Derrida. While "deconstruction" is a household word, it is possible that many people have a limited understanding of what deconstruction is all about. This session looks at the perhaps surprising respect Derrida shows to Hegel - Derrida has said that deconstruction is in many ways all about a reply to Hegel - by way of a look at Derrida's early treatment of Hegel in Derrida's book Writing and Difference. Derrida's objection to Hegel's dialectical method, most fully elaborated in Glas, is explained in terms of Derrida's rejection fo the notion that thought can ever totally explain reality. Having covered the main itinerary of Derrida's reply to Hegel, the session proposes that only a Marxist practice can respond to Derrida and the social conditions which underlie his standpoint.

Four: Andy Blunden, Labour & Capital (Saturday afternoon)

This talk explores the kind of practice which struggles for consensus through dialectics and is informed by Hegel's concept of Reason in the world, but also draws a line against the forms of domination which are implicit in Hegel's totalisation of the world in a single concept and is expressed in the all-consuming power of capital. In particular, the talk will explore, on the one hand, voluntary association as the creative expression of humanity, and on the other hand, the dehumanising forms of social relation fostered by global capitalism and will examine the forms of labour specific to the past decade or two, and how it is possible to combine irreconcilability in respect of the power of money with the broadest and most inclusive possible cooperation among people.