Author Archives: leewatkins

Hegel, Reason, and the Unhappy Consciousness

As the sun sets in Canto II of Dante’s Inferno, the pilgrim, Dante himself, explains that he is not worthy to undertake the journey, through Hell and Purgatory, to Heaven. I lack the strength and skill, he says. The poet … Continue reading

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The “Specific Shape” of Stories (Notes on Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit §§678-679)

For Hegel, the limitation of religion is that it relies on “picture-thinking.” A religion is based around the interpretation of a number of stories, images, and rituals designed to show the human spirit the truth about itself and its place … Continue reading

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Conscience and the Perfection of Religion (Notes on Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit §§677-678)

Conscience holds the moral truth within itself. Instead of waiting for the day of judgement, conscience judges its own actions in the here and now. But conscience is fooling itself. The universal law that the moral self-consciousness holds within itself, … Continue reading

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Notes on Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit §§674-677: Heaven and the Underworld

In the ancient Greek conception of “the underworld,” the shades that dwell there are individual souls still, as they were in the world above. They are still cut off from the unknown, unknowable, and universal “fate” that determines the outcomes … Continue reading

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Notes on Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit §§673-674

“Religion” is a concept that Hegel develops throughout his Phenomenology of Spirit. Here I’m going to look at the most abstract concept of religion that Hegel provides, the most minimal notion of what a religion must be in order to … Continue reading

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Notes on Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin

The sun is shining and Berlin belongs to Hitler, is the almost final thought of Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin. Christopher catches his reflection in a shop window and is horrified to see that he is smiling: sunshine is still … Continue reading

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Notes on David S. Wills: Burroughs on Civilisation, Hallucination, and Telepathy

For William Burroughs, the nuclear attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki is a dividing point in history, marking the moment that Western civilisation finally ended. Could you really call a people capable of such an atrocity “civilised”? And so without civilisation, … Continue reading

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The Pendulum

In Chapter 5 of his book about the philosopher Leibniz, Gilles Deleuze ponders whether he should keep working this evening, or go to a nightclub. He’s not firmly in favour of either and he seems to prefer first the one … Continue reading

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Beats and Hippos

And the Hippos were Boiled in their Tanks is an early work of the Beat Generation, written in the winter of 1944-45 by William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac together, or separately in that they take it in turns throughout the … Continue reading

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Zipporah

Life into art: taking what you find, a smokestack or a button, and finding what is abstract in it, and thereby transmuting it into art. Miller, of course, the great example. Even in a button you can find the stuff … Continue reading

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