Hegel's Antigone
by Patricia J. Mills
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Hegel's Antigone
Part IV

My immanent critique of Hegel's Antigone, done through the lens of a feminist doubled vision, uses the force of Hegel's premises against his own conclusions. It reveals that Hegel's attempt to include dialectically all oppositional "moments" presents us with an abstract negation in which woman, defined as an ontological principle of otherness, represents the "difference" that cannot be fully comprehended in the logical Idea. As a result, Hegel's dialectical theory becomes a closed system, a system that is the quintessential form of identity logic in which difference is ultimately dominated and denied rather than reconciled. Hegel's concept of reconciliation -- the idea that latent in contradictions is an ultimate unity or identity-in-difference of subject and object, mind and matter, universal and particular, history and nature, man and woman -- has always meant domination: of the subject over the object, mind over matter, universal over particular, history over nature, man over woman.32

However, my critique should not be understood as a dismissive stance that claims that Hegel has "nothing to say to feminists." Rather, I believe Hegel's philosophy is significant because the Hegelian problem of the relation between identity and difference that is central to his phenomenology is at the heart of the feminist project to create a free and equal society. That is, Hegel articulates the fundamental problem of contemporary society with which feminists are concerned even though his analysis fails when sexual difference is "essentialized" and all that woman represents is confined to the family and "overreached." But it is precisely this "failure" to "overcome" or "reconcile" sexual difference that moves us to reconceive dialectical thinking. The contradictions in Hegel's philosophy thus lead us in the direction of Adorno's negative dialectics, a form of dialectical thinking that refutes Hegel's identity logic.

For Adorno it is the non-identity of nature and history, subject and object, particular and universal, that is required of a dialectical theory motivated by a concern for freedom. Thus, negative dialectics seeks to realize the goal of Hegel's philosophy, the goal of intersubjective recognition without recourse to domination, by refuting the moment of Hegelian reconciliation in which the negation of the negation becomes a positive moment of domination. Adorno writes: "The reconciled condition would not be the philosophical imperialism of annexing the alien [the Other]. Instead, its happiness would lie in the fact that the alien, in the proximity it is granted, remains what is distant and different, beyond the heterogeneous and beyond that which is one's own."33 Adorno's critique of Hegel keeps dialectical thought open to the negativity that motivates it and in so doing allows for the emergence of Antigone as the particular, the representation of difference, beyond the domination of a logic of identity.

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Article
Index:
I II III IV EndNotes

Hegel's Antigone

by Patricia J. Mills