[OPE-L:8277] Re: essence

From: Michael Eldred (artefact@t-online.de)
Date: Sat Jan 04 2003 - 07:33:18 EST

Cologne 04-Jan-2003

Re: [OPE-L:8271]

Christopher Arthur schrieb Fri, 3 Jan 2003 17:33:26 +0000:

> Michael in earlier mails foregrounded the term 'essence' but I think this
> is rather ambiguous and for Marxiam purposes needs setting in a
> post-hegelian context.
> Sometimes you use it as a synonym for 'what capitalism is'. This usage
> makes it a meta-category. It does not in itself imply the usual
> metaphysical category of explanation which would say capitalsim HAS an
> essence, say labor, distinct from its surface appearance. Hegel's Doctrine
> of essence is a sustained polemic against this sort of explanatory
> framework ending by reducing essence and appearance to interchangeable
> moments of Actuality, and arguing that 'what is' is known only in its
> Concept/Idea.

The idea is another way of saying _eidos_, both from the Greek verb _idein_ for
'to see'. The idea is the defined look which beings offer of themselves which
delineates what they are. (Aristotle employs the sensuous example of a line
defining a surface, or a surface defining what a solid body _is_.)

> >From this point of view your stuff about value being a groundless
> (measure?)-relation seems to imply it is a very 'thin' category, roughly on
> the level of Hegel's doctrine of Being.
> But in 8076 suddenly something like  the metaphysical category appears when
> you praise marx who "digs deeper into the essence of social relations". And
> in 8229 a very unexplained notion appears, namely a 'structure of essence'.
> Is this the same notion as Tony Smith and Geert Reuten? namely that the
> categories of essence are adequate to characterise capitalism because it
> lacks the self-determining harmony of the Concept?
> Or what do you mean?

Of course, I thought everything I said was utterly lucid. I don't have Hegel's
Logik at the back of my mind, but rather Aristotle's Metaphysics.

Basically, I understand essence as whatness, i.e. what something is in it mode
of being, in the way it stands before us in presence. This is the basic
metaphysical task -- to say (delineate, define) what beings are in their being.
This task involves giving the definition, not in the usual trivial sense of
'defining one's terms', but rather in the sense of delineating the limits
(_horizein_) by means of discourse (_logos_, _dialegesthai_) in order to bring
these moments of being to light in their interrelated, manyfold structure.

Thus, with regard to capitalism, saying what it is involves 'talking through'
(_dialegesthai_, dialectic) the various phenomena of capitalist society to
uncover that delineation of concepts (_ideai_, _eidae_) which defines it _as_
capitalism -- the movement and augmentation of value (Marx) or a world in which
beings show up as offering an opportunity for gain and in which human being is
out for gain.

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