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The Betrayal of Substance

Death, Literature, and Sexual Difference in Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit

Mary C. Rawlinson

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Columbia University Press
09 February 2021
Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit exerts a unique influence on contemporary philosophy. Major figures from Jacques Derrida and Luce Irigaray to Jean-Paul Sartre and Judith Butler were shaped in large part through their engagement with Hegel's challenging masterwork. It unfolds a grand narrative of the ways of thinking and acting that comprise human experience. Along the way, Hegel seeks to incorporate all the fundamental structures of human life?from political community to consciousness to selfhood?into a whole that encompasses the total movement of human knowledge and culture.

Mary C. Rawlinson offers a critical reading of the Phenomenology of Spirit that exposes three crucial elisions: Hegel's effacements of sexual difference, human mortality, and literary style. In attempting to arrive at an ?absolute knowing? that would transcend all differences, Hegel discounts specificity in each of these areas in favor of a generic subject. Rawlinson turns Hegel's critique of abstraction against him, showing how his own phenomenological analysis undermines his attempt to master difference. Rawlinson's critique reveals Hegel's attempt to erase the difference of his own style, highlighting his images, tropes, and rhetorical strategies. Demonstrating how the power of Hegel's phenomenological method goes beyond even Hegel's own project of a pure logic, The Betrayal of Substance is a magisterial rereading of the Phenomenology of Spirit that encompasses crucially overlooked sites of complexity and difference.
By:   Mary C. Rawlinson
Imprint:   Columbia University Press
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 229mm,  Width: 152mm, 
ISBN:   9780231199056
ISBN 10:   0231199058
Pages:   256
Publication Date:   09 February 2021
Audience:   Professional and scholarly ,  Undergraduate
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active
Acknowledgments On Reading Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit Beginning: Philosophy and the Problem of the Preface Our Time Is the Birth-Time of Spirit: Kant and the Bird on a Lime-Twig Part I: Epoche 1. Critique of Immediacy: The Unreality of the Sensuous 2. Self-Consciousness: The Fate of the Singleton 3. Happiness: Reason at Work Part II: The Phenomenology of Spirit 4. Spirit, or Transubstantiated Life: Infrastructures of Community Part III: Absolute Knowing: The Betrayal of Substance 5. Leaving Literature Behind: The Return to Immediacy in the Life of the Concept Bibliography Index

Mary C. Rawlinson is professor of philosophy and director of graduate studies at Stony Brook University in New York and senior research fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies, University College London. Her books include Just Life: Bioethics and the Future of Sexual Difference (Columbia, 2016).

Reviews for The Betrayal of Substance: Death, Literature, and Sexual Difference in Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit

The Betrayal of Substance is a careful elucidation of The Phenomenology of Spirit which pays equal attention to its blind spots. Rawlinson argues, persuasively, that despite his enduring emphasis on life, Hegel betrays his phenomenological project in untethering consciousness from its immediate sensuous existence. Responding to these betrayals, she outlines a new conception of the political inspired by Hegel but based on creativity and the material aspects of public life. -- Elaine Miller, author of <i>Head Cases: Julia Kristeva on Philosophy and Art in Depressed Times</i> The Betrayal of Substance provides one of the most thorough and careful readings of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit to date. Rawlinson sees the limitations of what Hegel is doing while appreciating the magnitude of his achievement. This book's project is distinct, and its voice is singular. -- Todd McGowan, author of <i>Emancipation After Hegel: Achieving a Contradictory Revolution</i> Mary Rawlinson's The Betrayal of Substance elaborates a sophisticated and thought-provoking Hegelian critique of Hegel himself. With decades of experience deftly interpreting Hegel's philosophy, Rawlinson powerfully argues for a phenomenology of death, literature, and sexual difference as singular instances resisting uptake into any purported encyclopedic System of Absolute Knowledge. -- Adrian Johnston, author of <i>A New German Idealism: Hegel, Zizek, and Dialectical Materialism</i> Mary Rawlinson has written an elegant, nuanced analysis of Hegel's phenomenology that addresses its constitutive limits. She undertakes a Hegelian critique of Hegel, revealing his blindspots-his understanding of sexual difference, the finite individual, and the arts in general-while affirming his insights regarding the play of difference in human history. -- Elizabeth Grosz, author of <i>The Incorporeal: Ontology, Ethics, and the Limits of Materialism</i>


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