The issue of Kant is a tricky one, and Hegel is perhaps even worse. Why are we lingering with these two? The answer is given by Hegel: he thought German Classical philosophy the conclusion to the Reformation and that this left the modern world with the resources of philosophy to continue. But we tend to get stuck and try to disengage and pursue a different course, all well and good, up to a point. We can’t resolve the issue of the ‘transcendental’ (not the usual meaning: the Kantian take on subjectivity and the categories) and this leads us to try to revert to purely material assumptions. Zizek is actually sensitive to this issue, but opts to slip the noose.
Here Schopenhauer sensed the problem with great understanding and has a slick and streamlined ‘beaut’ in his realization of Kant. We suddenly ‘understand’ (perhaps!) and can see that simply ditching the Kantian ‘transcendental’ is a return to a version of realism with Hegelian ‘make up’. We can’t resolve this issue and we can’t resolve the ‘transcendental deduction’, which broke new ground in the realm of philosophic arguments. That deduction is hard to handle, and is simply ditched in Schopenhauer. It floats there in limbo, as the absolute classic moment for philosophy, for alien coneheads.
The issue for me is simply that you can’t do good science with dialectic. It shouldn’t be that way, but all the cases in practice don’t work. To inflict dialectic on the left then will produce theory that external ‘friends’ of the communist will be driven to refute. Dialectics and chaos theory, or punctuated equilibrium is a muddle, and dialectical biology staged a great set of ideological studies from Lewontin, but dialectical biology, as far as I know, isn’t going to work.
Whatever the case, I don’t think the trek from Kant via Hegel to the dialectic is a well defined outcome.
And the study of history in WHEE shows why the mystique of Hegel/Kant reverberates ad infinitum: they arrive at the climax of the modern transition, and set the workshop parameters for either the next religion (in the critiques of reason, triply complex) or the correct debriefing of religion in a true realization of secularism beyond scientism. The dialectic in Kant is a chapter title for the discussion of the antinomies, and the successors to that using ‘dialectic’ are speaking a new language that will suffer the warnings given by the old.
But the impulse to correct science is there, and speaks also in the wake of the Romantic movement. Clearly Zizek wishes to work this line with now a new set of themes from French philosophy. After a strong critique we should simply put these in a side show and proceed to a praxis that uses concrete categories of action, with competent versions of economic critique and a clear definition of communism that blends democracy and socialism in a framework leading to postcapitalism. I challenge the idea that dialectical materialism can achieve this.
I will cite this here for future comment.
The strategy in Last and First Men is much simpler: the historical model shown, reduced to a chronicle shows why the Kant/Hegel moment is a thunderclap that will resound into the far future, where most successor philosophy will suffer algae bloom. That’s why I critique French philosophy with a caution, and a strong sufferance of the way of philosophy through post-Kantian wastelands, but with an assertion of no blame. We should produce a garland of this fascinating phase but proceed to a new set of realization of philosophy in the large. In a way, the next stage will put a ‘sufi stop’ exercise to the genre as it proceeds to the practical in the tone and manner of the Communist Manifesto. Anyone who obfuscates that with oulala dialectics gets a dunce cap, or a trip to the future second coming of Zen monasteries in the Commune.