The wheels of Dialectics and the Relation of Negation

‘Every determination is a negation’ says G.W. Hegel. He borrowed this insight from Spinoza. Hegel credits the discovery of it to Spinoza but laments that Spinoza did not fully appreciate the importance of his own discovery. ‘Determination is negation’ is linked to the idealism that views finite as unreal. This view thinks that only real is the infinite and therefore thinks that all determinations are negation with respect to the absolute infinite ( God). Thus, what is a determine is limited and is not fully real. Infinite, therefore, is the only real. The finite being is nothing but the limitation of the real. Hegel appears to build his dialectics based on Spinoza’s take that determination is a negation. Determination is a relation of contrast with something other than itself. It is in reference to the other that we understand a determination of a thing. Maybe so far we have walked the abstraction of philosophy. Now let us put some life in our thinking . Let us take a concrete determination. Let us take the name India. It determines a land and people. Now this determination of land is limiting the land as well as its people. It could be ‘’…….’ meaning something else and in that case we would not be Indians but ‘……..’s . Perhaps this is why popular wisdom ask ‘ what is there in the name?’.

There is a good difference between acosmist interpretation of determination as negation ( which is done by contrasting determination with infinite being of God as in the case of Spinoza or Shankaracharya in India) and dialectical interpretation of determination as negation ( Hegel). The dialectical interpretation of the determination as negation says that not only the finite is a determination or negation of the infinite, the infinite or indeterminate is a negation of the finite. The dialectical reading makes the scope of application of the principle that says that determination is a negation universal. Thus, everything is a negation of what it is not. This is why we can say when one determines Indian as Hindu, one is negating India. Therefore, one who claims India as only Hindu or of any other faith makes a negation the other India. We may also take the acronym INDIA taken as the name of opposition unity in our country. The very name negates the discourse of BJP that make a soloist claim on nationalism and patriotism. This is why the acronym has become inconvenient to the ruling party.

We may have to take a few step back and come to Immanuel Kant to deepen our insight into determination as a negation. Kant see determination as a relation between finite things and the maximally determined being. To Kant the maximally determine being is Infinite being ( God). To him the infinite is maximally determined because it serves as a store house from which all qualities are generated through limitation or negation. This is why Hegel thinks that the absolute or the infinite is the negation of negation. Now universalising this insight, we can concretize how something is maximally determined. We can take India again, India is maximally determined. India is mother or store house from where all people who may be determined to have qualities of being Hindu, Muslims, Sikhs , Buddhists, Christians etc., can be viewed. Same way we may see Goans, Mharastrians, Kanadigas , Tamils etc. In Hegelian terms, India is a negation of negation that embraces all other indic determinations or negations.

Dialectical thinking opens us to the negation. Everything that we affirmatively position say the Hinduness of India dialectically involves its other. The same is true of other affirmation. Therefore, one is not truly Indian enough. There is the dialectical gap that everyone has to overcome. There is always more room to be Indian. This is why those that continue the politics of distribution of certificates of not being Indian enough to others are themselves turning the wheels of dialectics on themselves and are like everyone else are not Indian enough. India and Indians are maximally determined and therefore, cannot be claimed by any one of the said determination. Therefore, although, India has a quality of being Hindu, this quality of Hinduness does not empty entire India. This is why the Hindu supramist claims over India are never actually Indian enough and by that token profoundly anti-India.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao