I am the word – the word is I. I live so as to write, and I write so as to live. I do not know whether this be true, but it does sound good. To be sure, it almost sounds a bit too good to be true. It suggests a certain grandeur on my part which I refuse. I do not want to raise above others, but to stand out from them. Indivual and community only seem to contradict each other. Ever since Immanuel Kant’s categorial redefinition of the word in his Critique of Pure Reason, we speak in cases like this one of ‘dialectics’.1 Kant himself speaks of ‘a natural and unavoidable dialectic of pure reason’2, of ‘a natural and inevitable illusion’3, ‘which rests on subjective principles, and foists them upon us as objective’4. Dialectics is no longer, as in antiquity, understood as the art of examining arguments in a conversation, which stands in contrast to the sophistic eristic, the art of persuading someone to any opinion.5 Instead, dialectics now becomes a ‘logic of illusion’, that is, of contradictions, which serves to determine the relationship between subject and object in the process of acquiring knowledge.6 With Hegel, dialectics eventually becomes the principle of all processes in the world in general. 7 Therefore, by emphasizing my uniqueness, I do not necessarily isolate myself from community8 and society8. Existence as an individual make community and society possible in the first place. Where there be no individual, there is neither community nor society. This insight neutralizes the contradiction between individual and community or society. It is, borrowing an expression from Hegel, the negation of negation. With the first negation, the individual deems itself to constitute a contradiction to community and society. It rejects them accordingly. With the second negation, the individual then realizes that it indeed is part of community and society; that, even more so, without it community and society are nothing. It recognizes them as something which originates from it in the first place. We see that the negation of negation does not reinstate the original condition. Rather, it creates, as a process, a higher level. The dialectic movement is complete. ‘Higher’ does, by the way, in this case not mean ‘better’ in an evaluative sense, but only serves to describe the result of the process of development.
I am the word – the word is I. To a certain extent, it is true, after all. The word does not, in virtue of me, determine what I am, yet in virtue of the word I determine, largely, what I am. The word is not merely an accidental noise but a tool. By means of it I can create – sentences, texts, messages, social relationships, worlds – and destroy. The word allows one’s own imagination to become omnipotent. At the same time, this poses the risk of getting lost in one’s own imagination, or of becoming sick in face of the real world, where one is not omnipotent. To those who create too big a utopia in their imaginations, everything outside of it must appear despicable and corrupt. Actual, permanent change takes place in small measures, although greater upheavals are required at times, too. The two are interdependent. What is difficult is to find the right balance.
The contents of my articles lie beyond the popular cultural mainstream. They may therefore provoke, especially because of their consequent unwillingness to compromise. Yet I do not write so as to please. I write so as to learn and so as to communicate. In this sense, Wolfgang Sofsky excellently remarked: ‘Not consensus but dispute, not tolerant indifference but truth is the first principle of free debate. Only by learning facts humans can judge what is the case and what is merely fiction, what they can do and what they cannot do.’9 Somewhere else he writes:
Laziness, cowardice, and indifference are still the most important causes of mental immaturity. Not social conditions, not the ailing education system, not the secular devaluation of all values are responsible for ensuring that people remain in the twilight of conformism. Mental immaturity is self-inflicted. Many people prefer a convenient dependence. They are too lazy to use their own understanding, and rather leave the judgment to others. Not the cognitive work exhausts them but the habit of doing nothing. They allow others to speak, think, and act for them, and retreat to the cage of passivity. The cowards, in turn, immediately take to their heels, when a dispute breaks out somewhere. If they sense opposition, they complain about a lack of tolerance. The hypocrite always prefers peers and equals. He rather drops to the floor than to withstand an attack.10
Only via opposition there can be progress. Without opposition, there is as much progress possible as in evacuated space without a ground. In this sense, I finish with Kant: ‘Sapere aude! Have courage to use your own understanding! is therefore the dictum of enlightenment.’11
1. Confer: Kant, Immanuel: Critique of Pure Reason; translated by Norman Kemp Smith; Boston, New York: Palgrave McMillan, 2007; A 298/B 354.
5. Confer Schwemmer, Oswald: „Dialektik“. In: Jürgen Mittelstraß (Hrsg.): Enzyklopädie Philosophie und Wissenschaftstheorie; Sonderausgabe, Bd. 1; Stuttgart/Weimar: J. B. Metzler, 2004; p. 463 and the very same: „Eristik“. In: ibidem; Bd. 1, p. 574.
6. Confer the very same: „Dialektik“. In: ibidem; Bd. 1, p. 465.
7. Confer: Hegel, Georg Friedrich Wilhelm: Phänomenologie des Geistes; Sonderausgabe der Philosophischen Bibliothek; Hamburg: Meiner, 2006.
8. Community and society are not necessarily the same (the linguistical problem rather arises in German than in English). Max Weber defines them in his Economy and Society by the terms »Vergesellschaftung« (societization, as it were) and »Vergemeinschaftung« (communization, as it were) as follows:
A relationship is supposed to be called ‘societization’ if and inasmuch as the attitude of a social act be based upon rationally (valuative or purposive) motivated reconciliation of interests or, motivated in the same manner, upon connexion of interests. Societization can typically in particular (but not: only) be based upon rational agreement by mutual promise. […] The purest types of societization are a) purposive free dealt exchange on the market: […]
2. Communization can be based upon any kind of affectual or emotional or else traditional foundation: a pneumatic band of brothers, an erotic relationship, a reverence-based relationship, a ‘national’ community, a combat unit sticking comradelily together. (Weber, Max: Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft; Paderborn: Voltmedia, without year; p. 50. Emphases in the original.) (Translation by me.)
He hastens to add, however: ‘The great majority of social relationships bears characteristics of both communization and societization.’ (Ibidem.) (Translation by me.)
9. Sofsky, Wolfgang: Verteidigung des Privaten. Eine Streitschrift; München: C. H. Beck, 2009; p. 155.
10. Ibidem; p. 146.
11. Kant, Immanuel: »Was ist Aufklärung?«. In: the very same: Was ist Aufklärung? Ausgewählte kleine Schriften; Hamburg: Meiner, 1999; p. 20. (Emphasis in the original.) (Translation by me.)