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RP day school on dialectic; Hegel conference; State of literary theory

NEWS

R.P. Day School on Dialectic
On 19 June Goldsmiths College played host to another
Radical Philosophy Day School. The speakers were
Istvan Meszaros (The Cunning of History in Reverse
Gear); Joe McCarney (Social Science and Dialectic);
and Sean Sayers (Materialism, Realism, and the Theory
of Reflection). The presentations were exceptionally
clear and provided a good basis for discussion.

About 50 people attended and participated in lively
debates (initiated in some cases by interventions
from WRP members present). Altogether – a great
success. For information about future events write
to us or Madan Sarup at Goldsmiths.

Begal Conference
The Fourth Annual Conference of the Hegel Society of
Great Britain was held at Pembroke College, Oxford
on 15-16 September 1982. Five papers were presented
on topics connected with the Conference theme of the
Phenomenology. Among those of particular interest to
RP readers was J. Hartnack’s ‘Heppsahaft und
Kneahtsahaft: an Interpretation’. It argued that,
since Lord and Bondsman represent not distinct
social actors but merely aspects of a universal selfconsciousness, the section has no social still less
political significance. This view had a sceptical
reception at the Conference. Nevertheless, it helps
in a curious way with a difficulty raised by Chris
Arthur’s paper, on ‘Hegel, Marx, Feuerbach and
Negativity’. This highlighted Marx’s criticism that
Hegel knows only ‘abstract, mental labour’, a charge
hard to square with the fact the Bondsman’s labour
in the service of the Lord seems as concrete and
materi.al as one could wish. Marx’s neglect of the
point may be intelligible on the assumption that he
shared something of Hartnack’s interpretation, a
slightly ironic possibility since that interpretation
was put forward in conscious opposition to all ‘Marxist’ treatments of the topic. Arthur’s paper was a
version of one given at the RP day school in June
1982, and makes a contribution to the debate which
deserves speedy publication somewhere. A paper that
should be mentioned on grounds of general excellence
was R. Bernasconi’s ‘The Passage to Absolute Spirit
in the Phenomenology’. Among other points of interest
it advanced the surprising thesis that themes in the
work of Emmanuel Levinas are foreshadowed in the
remarks on language in Hegels’ text. It was decided
that the theme of next year’s Conference will be
‘Dialectics’, and Professor Raymond Plant, Chairman
of the Society, expressed the view that this should
interest readers of Radiaal Philosophy. It is to be
hoped that he is right, as dialectical interaction
between RP and the Hegel Society must surely advance
the kind of Aufhebung needed by both.

Joe McCarney
46

Conference: The State of Literary Theory Today
(IAPL Summer Weekend Workshop, Middlesex Polytechnic,
16-18 July 1982)
The International Association for Philosophy and
Literature, an American-based organisation which has
been conducting annual conferences at universities in
the USA for the past six years, held its first
European meeting in London last July. A varied programme of workshop sessions and lectures on the theme
of ‘The State of Literary Theory Today’ drew an
international audience of around sixty.

A major preoccupation of the conference proved to
be category distinction: as one of the workshop
sessions posed the problem, ‘Is Literary Theory the
Domain of Literature and Philosophy?’ Whether this
question was (or can be) satisfactorily resolved is
perhaps a moot point. At times over the course of the
weekend the conference gave the impression of being
an uneasy mixture of literary critics and philosophers
with little common ground between them. Fairly
traditional literary-critical papers, such as those
by Michael O’Dea (Our Lady of Mercy College, Dublin)
and Keith Fleming (Middlesex Polytechnic) on the
subject of Wordsworth’s poetry (from the workshop
‘Conflicting Approaches to The ~elude’) lay at one
end of the spectrum; an overtly philosophical piece
of work like Noreen O’Connor’s (University College,
Cork) ‘Face to Face with Deconstruction’ (‘Uses and
Abuses of Deconstruction’ workshop) lay at the other.

The connections were not always apparent, but the
amount of seapahing for common ground which went on
in the discussion periods was an encouraging sign:

possibly the most valuable legacy of the weekend in
fact. The other workshops covered Sartre’s Wopds and
Metacriticism.

The two more formal lectures by Catherine Belsey
(University College, Cardiff) and Terry Eagleton
(Wadham, Oxford) came closest to achieving the kind
of synthesis the discipline of literary theory
probably requires. Perhaps the wide range of
approaches adapted to the conference’s theme merely
serves to illustrate the currently uncertain status
of the subject in English academic life: a state of
affairs in marked contrast to that of France, where
Marxists, structuralists and post-structuralists have
long since staked out literary theory as a field of
predominantly philosophical enquiry. Macherey and
Derrida are two of the more outstanding examples of
practising philosophers who find literary theory a
particularly congenial site of operations, and who
cannot really be considered to have precise English
equivalents. The IAPL conference might be seen as an
attempt to synthesise the respective fields of
enquiry on the continental model: or at least to
address the problem of their apparent division in the
Anglo-Saxon world (America, currently the scene of
much experimenting with deconstructionist theory by
such critics as Geoffrey Hartman, might be exempted
from this latter judgement).

Several other issues tended to predominate throughout the conference besides the category distinction
one, with feminism and deconstruction forming what
amounted to a hidden agenda in many of the sessions.

Derrida’s influence on the current literary theory
scene could be noted by the frequency with which his
name was invoked in the discussions. The contributors
to the Deconstruction workshop certainly acknowledged
his influence, and all three papers here were more or
less pro-Derrida in tone.

Eagleton too displayed some post-structuralist
influences, albeit in a more tortuous way. He might
be described these days as a reluctant deconstructionist. His contributions to the workshop discussions

very often suggested a pro-Derrida line, but one could
hardly call it a case of unqualified support. It was
a fascinating experience to observe him wrestling
with deconstructionism in his conference-ending
lecture, as it is too in his recent book on Samuel
Richardson, The Rape of CZarissa (Oxford, 1982).

Eagleton clearly feels there are major problems
involved in reconciling Marxist and deconstructionist
principles, and he can be scathing on the subject of
Derrida’s apparent reluctance to effect the accommodation between the two he promised several years ago.

Yet as in. the case of the critique on Richardson,
Eag1eton IS perfectly capable of turning deconstructionist strategies to account – perhaps against his
better Marxist judgement? – and he can do so in an
ingenious and creative way.

This particular debate appears set to run for a
while yet, and it could well be argued that the state
of 1itera:y theory tomorrow will depend in large part
on what kInd of accommodation (if any) is eventually
reached between Marxism and deconstructionism.

Eag1eton has certainly made some moves in that
direction, but a less inhibited approach than his
might pay more dividents. Deconstructionism has a
great deal of potential as a means of confronting
authoritarian elements in Western culture, and
without wishing to sound too mil1enarian about the
subject it would probably repay the not inconsiderable
effort required to synthesise it with Marxist theory.

Probably the two most successful papers of the
weekend came from Eag1eton and Be1sey, who delivered
characteristically well-organised and thoughtprovoking pieces of work (although even here, in
typically English fashion one might say, the bias
was towards literature rather than philosophy). In
many ways, however, the deconstruction workshop
provoked the liveliest debate, since most of the
underlying issues of the conference seemed to surface
here, with Derrida’s influence looming particularly
large. If any current theory seems likely to bridge
the gap between literature and philosophy it is
deconstruction.

One of the participants in this workshop, Julia
McCannell (University of California, Irvine) treated
Bakhtin’s work in some detail, and the latter also
figured (in a more oblique manner, involving his
brother’s friendship with Wittgenstein!) in Eag1eton’s
lecture. Bakhtin’s star has risen of late, and his
acceptance as a major Marxist aesthetic theorist was
-another notable feature of the conference, his name
being bandied around almost as frequently in discussion as Derrida’s. It seemed satisfyingly logical
for the weekend to conclude with Eag1eton’s assessment
of the use-value of these two figures to the modern
literary theorist, since their influence had
extended over so much of the proceedings.

In informal discussions before the final break-up
the possibility of another conference next summer
was considered, with feminism emerging as the likeliest candidate for an overall theme (this remains to
be finalised however). A scheme to publish the
conference papers in an inexpensively printed volume
was put forward by the organisers. For details of
availability contact Marianne Korn, Faculty of
Humanities, Middlesex Polytechnic, All Saints, White
Hart Lane, London N17 8HR.

Stuart Sim

CORRESPONDENCE
Heidegger Against Nazism

Dear Radical Philosophy,
Mark.Tebbit’s recent article on Lukaas, Heidegger and
(RP, Summer 1982) makes certain erroneous
statements about Heidegger which call for correction.

Tebbit’s misleading equation of Heidegger’s
philosophy and fascism is summed up in his initial
assertion that Heidegger ‘remained an unrepentant
adherent to the extreme right’ and that his thought
rema~ned ‘intrinsically … bound up with European
faSCIsm’ (p.14). Such a charge does serious damage
to both Heidegger’s personal and philosophical
integrity. Since Tebbit offers no concrete evidence
to support his accusation, bit simply rehearses an
unfounded rumour as established fact, I wish to set
the record straight with regard to Heidegger’s
alleged fascism.

In a series of rigorously researched and documented
articles published in Critique (Paris, 1966-67), the
French philosopher Frangois Fedier definitively
exonerated Heidegger from the charge of unrepentant
adherence to fascism levelled against him in three
German publications: Guido Schneeberger’s NaahZese
Zu Heidegger (Berne, 1962), Theodor Adorno’s Jargon
der EigentZiahkeit (Frankfurt-on-Main, 1964) and Paul
Huhnerfeld’s In Saahen Heidegger (Munich, 1961).

Fedier’s studies had a considerable impact on the
Continent and particularly in France and Germany where
several of the journalists and authors r~sponsible for
propagating false accusations against Heidegger went
so far as to publicly retract or apologize for their
statements. And the German newspaper Der SpiegeZ
permitted Heidegger to reply personally to his
critics.

Since Fedier’s studies have not been translated
into English – a regrettable fact which has undoubtedly facilitated the continuation of inaccurate
charges against Heidegger by such authors as George
Steiner, A.J. Ayer and Tebbitt – I would like to take
this opportunity to bring the English readers’

attention to the true facts of the case.

In 1933, Heidegger replaced Professor Von
Mtll1endorf, a radical Social Democrat, as Rector of
Freiburg University. The Nazi authorities had called
for Vo1 Mtlllendorf’s resignation because of his
refusal to allow anti-semitic propaganda on the campus
Von Mtlllendorf and other liberal members of the
university approached Heidegger, the eminenae grise
of Freiburg academia at that time and unaffiliated to
any political party, begging him to take over the
vacant post in order to keep the university free from
the Nazis’ campaign of anti-semitism. Heidegger was
extremel~ r~luctant to accept their offer, not only
because 7t Involved the compromise of mandatory
membershIp of the party, but also because he remained
sceptical of his chances of being able to resist the
growing tide of Nazi fanaticism. However the
.

unanImous
support of the predominantly anti-Nazi
faculty finally persuaded him to accept the Rectorship.

Just two days after Heidegger’s nomination, he was
approached by the leaders of the Nazi Student Movement
who demanded the resumption of the anti-Jewish
campaign forbidden by Von Mtlllendorf. Heidegger
flatly refused, despite unequivocal threats from the
Nazi leaders. Several days after his refusal
Heidegger was summoned to the local Higher Ed~cation

Fasa~sm

47

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