Re: Discussion of EVI's Concept of the Ideal

From: Andy Blunden (
Date: Fri May 14 2004 - 08:12:58 PDT

Steve, I'm copying below a big snippet out of Hegel, where he talks about
tools as ideal, and as the exposition goes on one learns that a child or a
word is ideal as well. Use the hyperlink to get the whole passage. My point
is that when you read Capital, you need to keep in mind that Hegel's
thinking such as in this passage is already almost old-hat for Marx.
Intuition subsumed under the concept is the mediating term in difference or
this is alone the form in which the real mediating term is, while the
substance is dead matter; the mediating term as such is wholly external,
according to the difference of the concept, while the inner is pure and
empty quantity. This middle term is the tool. Because in the tool the form
or the concept is dominant, it is torn away from the nature to which the
middle term of sexual love belongs, and lies in the ideality, as belonging
to the concept, or is the absolute reality present in accordance with the
essence of the concept. In the concept, identity is unfilled and empty;
annihilating itself, it exhibits only the extremes. Here annihilation is
obstructed; emptiness is real and, moreover, the extremes are fixed. In one
aspect the tool is subjective, in the power of the subject who is working;
by him it is entirely determined, manufactured, and fashioned; from the
other point of view it is objectively directed on the object worked. By
means of this middle term [between subject and object] the subject cancels
the immediacy of annihilation; for labour, as annihilation of intuition the
particular object, is at the same time annihilation of the subject,
positing in him a negation of the merely quantitative; hand and spirit are
blunted by it, i.e., they themselves assume the nature of negativity and
formlessness, just as, on the other side (since the negative, difference,
is double), labour is something downright single and subjective. In the
tool the subject makes a middle term between himself and the object, and
this middle term is the real rationality of labour; for the fact that work
as such, and the object worked upon, are themselves means, is only a formal
mediation, since that for which they exist is outside them, and so the
bearing of the subject on the object is a complete separation, remaining
entirely in the subject within the thinking of intelligence. In the tool
the subject severs objectivity and its own blunting from itself, it
sacrifices an other to annihilation and casts the subjective side of that
on to the other. At the same time its labour ceases to be directed on
something singular. In the tool the subjectivity of labour is raised to
something universal. Anyone can make a similar tool and work with it. To
this extent the tool is the persistent norm of labour.

On account of this rationality of the tool it stands as the middle term,
higher than labour, higher than the object (fashioned for enjoyment, which
is what is in question here), and higher than enjoyment or the end aimed
at. This is why all peoples living on the natural level have honoured the
tool, and we find respect for the tool, and consciousness of this,
expressed in the finest way by Homer.

(gg) The tool is under the domination of the concept and therefore belongs
to differentiated or mechanical labour; the child is the middle term as
absolutely pure and simple intuition. But the totality of both [intuition
and concept] must possess just this intuitive simplicity, yet also the
ideality of the concept; or in the child the ideality of the extremes of
the tool must enter its substantial essence, while for this very reason in
the tool an ideality must enter into its dead inner being, and the reality
of the extremes must vanish; there must be a middle term which is perfectly
ideal. The absolute concept, or intelligence, is alone absolute ideality;
the middle term must be intelligent, but not individual or subjective; only
an infinitely vanishing and self-manifesting appearance of that; a light
and ethereal body which passes away as it is formed; not a subjective
intelligence or an accident of it, but rationality itself, real but in such
a way that this reality is itself ideal and infinite, in its existence
immediately its own opposite, i.e., non-existence; and so an ethereal body
which displays the extremes and therefore, while real according to the
concept, also has its ideality, since the essence of this body is
immediately to pass away, and its appearance is this immediate conjunction
of appearance and passing-away. Thus such a middle term is intelligent; it
is subjective or in intelligent individuals, but objectively universal in
its corporeality, and because of the immediacy of the nature of this being,
its subjectivity is immediately objectivity. This ideal and rational middle
term is speech, the tool of reason, the child of intelligent beings. The
substance of speech is like the child - i.e., what is most indeterminate
purest, most negative, most sexless, and, on account of its absolute
malleability and transparency, capable of assuming every form. Its reality
is completely absorbed into its ideality, and it is also individual; it has
form or a reality; it is a subject aware of itself; it must therefore be
distinguished from the formal concept of speech, for which [i.e., speech]
objectivity itself is a form of speech; but this objectivity is only an
abstraction, since the reality of the object is subjective in a way
different from the way the subject is subjective. Objectivity is not itself
absolute subjectivity. ...

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Tue Nov 09 2004 - 12:05:48 PST