Totalizing identities: The ambiguous legacy of Aristotle and Hegel after auschwitz

Philosophy and Social Criticism 29 (2):209-240 (2003)
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The Holocaust throws the study of the history of philosophy into crisis. Critiques of Western thinking leveled by such thinkers as Adorno, Levinas and, more recently, postmodern theorists have suggested that Western philosophy is inherently totalizing and that it must be read differently or altogether abandoned after Auschwitz. This article intentionally rereads Aristotle and Hegel through the shattered lens of the Holocaust. Its refracted focus is the question of ontological identity. By investigating the manner in which the totalizing dimensions of Aristotle’s thinking are both eclipsed and implicitly endorsed by Hegel’s appropriation of Aristotle’s conception of God, and further by following the surplus of Hegel’s (mis)interpretation back into the heart of Aristotle’s ontology where we find a more open conception of ontological identity, we come to recognize not only the dangers endemic to certain strands of traditional philosophical thinking, but also the resources this tradition itself brings to bear on the attempt to think ontological identity after Auschwitz.



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Totality and Infinity.Emmanuel Levinas - 1961/1969 - Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press.
Negative dialectics.Theodor W. Adorno - 1973 - New York: Continuum.
Phenomenology of Spirit.Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel - 1977 - Oxford: Oxford University Press. Edited by Arnold V. Miller & J. N. Findlay.
Phenomenology of Spirit.G. W. F. Hegel & A. V. Miller - 1977 - International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 10 (4):268-271.

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