Parmenides in the Night

What are the desiderata for a critical philosophy? Reference to its object cannot be separated from the contingency of subjective experience, which manifests in the need or the demand for criticism in “destruction”. Destruction, however, is not merely negative and could only be so if we considered the dialectical character of criticism a method. The relation of criticism to its object—or, more precisely, to the world of critique—then becomes a problem of indirect signification or distance, i.e., the continuous separation of criticism (and thought) from its object—the non-identity of thinking with its object (and, ultimately, to itself). Hence the “negativity” of dialectics consists in its resistance to identity-thinking (whose preconditions include the affirmation of a world according to the reification of categories). The task of criticism subsequently becomes an aesthetics (or perhaps an ethics) of subjectification—i.e., what are the forms of experience through which non-identity appears such that we can “give an account of ourselves”?

But: is this the only model of dialectical criticism? In Kant, the non-identity of subject and object is rigorously maintained, dialectically, in discourse through the mediation of language. What if, on the other hand, we could speak of a “dialectics of the idea” (idea as neither intentional nor reflective)? The idea as structure and not object—hence not quite an “objective idealism” but an “ideal idealism” in which we refuse the notion that the idea of the idea is an idea (Plato, Parmenides). If form is the principle of being, the idea secures the relation of being to thought with the consequence that the idea of an idea is simply representation.


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