Watercolour and ink on paper, 76 x 56 cm, 2016
What is the time of Absolute Knowledge? It is that which follows from circular or teleological time [the Aristotelian conception of time, that is the circular unrolling of δύναμις (force) and ἐνέργεια (action)] and linear time (the time of Christianity, that is the time in which the subject ‘sees itself as a passing moment’). The idea ‘moment’ precedes both conceptions of time as their condition of possibility, since both are finite. Hegel’s frame is the Christian moment of the concept of time which presupposes its Aristotelian/Greek moment in the following way: there are no moments before the divine kenosis, that is the divine alienating itself from itself, positing itself in exteriority/otherness to itself. The infinite divine posits itself as a finite moment of itself and in doing so temporalizes itself. Hegel gives us this schema (the making sensible of the suprasensible) when he talks about the ‘labour of the Concept’. This is the Concept’s returning to itself through alienating itself. The ‘labour’ of the Concept is in its moments, its temporalising and finite instances which it relieves. These moments are sequential and circular: sequential in that one moment represses its predecessor and circular in that that moment preserves its predecessor in itself. God, the Concept, temporalised himself, making himself into a moment of Himself, Jesus. Here for Hegel lies the origin of speculative philosophy (hence his Christian frame of time). God manifests Himself to His own gaze, “the specular presentation divides the divine from itself” (Malabou). Jesus is the finite moment, the ‘Example’ which God gives humans but because the moment of circular time is already in the Christian moment of time, Jesus must die. As a finite moment, He returns twice to the infinite, His Father’s (the Concept’s) side, once as the finite (Jesus the mortal man, God’s sacrifice) and once as the Son of God, resurrected from finitude into infinity. A different account of temporalisation takes place in the story of the Titan king Kronos who vomited his own sons because of the Pharmakon given to him by his mother Gaia, having devoured them at birth to stop them succeeding him. God negates His own moment of divine kenosis (Crucifixion) and then negates His own negation (the Resurrection) and this is the ‘speculative example’ He gives humans.
The ‘example’ is the schema and vice-versa. The schema is the speculative (for the gaze which beholds its own self-presence) revelation of the Concept (God). To reveal itself, the Concept must predicate itself, that is give itself finite being. This means that the schema’s fate is always momentary, accidental. But the schema’s predicative becoming also reveals the concept’s speculative becoming. The Concept as infinite labours through this process of finite predication of itself and the end is the time of Absolute knowledge, the end of the necessity of predication. It is that which remains ‘after’ and ‘from’ the infinite/finite division of time, it is when time ceases to gorge its own moments (Kronos). Hegel talks of a bad infinite – that is an infinite which is either purely sequential or purely circular, bad because in the former the Concept cannot return to itself and in the latter it is locked in self-identity. René Girard talked about one of the problems of Western thinking as always being framed in etymological terms, always rehearsing existing meaning instead of giving itself the possibility of new meaning. This relates to Hegel’s thoughts on the ordinary conception of ‘outline’ (Grundriß). This is where the content has been presupposed, is familiar, and has to be presented in an already decided upon short space. Time is explicit in the outline, which Hegel believes should schematically present a moment of the speculative movement of the infinite Concept (it should represent the movement of the infinite and not that of the finite, empirical and sensible, that would be figuration), a moment of the speculative movement arrested by the process of abbreviating the immediate and natural, thus providing a short(er) cut to the Concept, one that “should not truncate or amputate arbitrarily the process of predication, but must respect the intrinsic movement of speculative unfolding” (Hegel). In this process of abbreviation “spirit submits to its self-sacrifice and is transformed into a lifeless skeletal thing. A thing without flesh and blood … yet this life destroying formalisation is a guarantee … which alone makes it possible for universality to be used in a superficial way” (Ibid).
Design for Kalemegdan Pasarela: Richard Deacon and Mrđan Bajić