“Hegel’s philosophy of contradiction deprives subjects of their enemies, which also deprives them of their image of self-identity.”Todd McGowan, Emancipation After Hegel
We, the people, inhabiting this new ultra-modern world, are obsessed with self-identification, especially with regard to social presentation. We align ourselves with political parties, champion athletic contenders, consume specific brands, sell products, promote causes, and subscribe to memberships and services, in the name of identifying, understanding, and developing this elusive “true” self. With each alliance, each membership, we solidify our respective self-conceptions, while simultaneously adhering to the norms of the social collective to which we’ve voluntarily aligned. No person can self identify without some form of communal inter-dependence. At the same time, any membership community requires the exclusion of non-members. This means that the formation of identity simultaneously requires rejection–alientaion–opposition.
Can a subject discover a sense of selfhood without simultaneously alienating an other?
According to Todd McGowan, in his book, Emancipation After Hegel, Hegelian philosophy accounts for a subjectivity that embraces its inherent contradictions, which allows for the development of self-awareness, including the awareness of self-identification by way of identification with or against any other. In other words, a subject can understand him/herself in relation to an other, by embracing the elements of the other he/she finds within his/herself. This movement towards awareness of the hidden contradictions of an individual psyche opens one to compassion and humility in the face of those he/she may have once opposed.
“By asserting the primacy of contradiction in relation to opposition, Hegel breaks with all philosophies that establish identity through the contrast between self and other or between friend and enemy.”Todd McGowan, Emancipation After Hegel
With that said, I have initiated a new project for this blog. I will commence a weekly series called Self Portraits. In this series, I will share an actual self portait–taken by camera, as opposed to a selfie, taken by phone. I will then reflect on the image–on my presentation–considering both conscious choices, as well as attempting to interpret unconscious drives, contributing to the compehensive scene. I would like to investigate the ways in which I alienate others through my identification with an exclusive few. I am hoping this project will enable me to view my particular life experience in a universal light, so I may break the barricades I have mounted in my own social relationships. Finally, I aim to inspire my readers to reflect on their (that’s your) own self-identification and social presentation, in kind.