Silencing America as it prepares for war

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John Pilger, ’Silencing America as it prepares for war,’ 27.05.16,

Having just listened to a couple of mouthpieces for British and US capital being given free rein on Late Night Live, I thought I would post this article by the expatriate Australian journalist John Pilger.


Returning to the United States in an election year, I am struck by the silence. I have covered four presidential campaigns, starting with 1968; I was with Robert Kennedy when he was shot and I saw his assassin, preparing to kill him. It was a baptism in the American way, along with the salivating violence of the Chicago police at the Democratic Party’s rigged convention. The great counter revolution had begun.

The first to be assassinated that year, Martin Luther King, had dared link the suffering of African-Americans and the people of Vietnam. When Janis Joplin sang, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”, she spoke perhaps unconsciously for millions of America’s victims in faraway places.

“We lost 58,000 young soldiers in Vietnam, and they died defending your freedom. Now don’t you forget it.”  So said a National Parks Service guide as I filmed last week at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. He was addressing a school party of young teenagers in bright orange T-shirts. As if by rote, he inverted the truth about Vietnam into an unchallenged lie.

The millions of Vietnamese who died and were maimed and poisoned and dispossessed by the American invasion have no historical place in young minds, not to mention the estimated 60,000 veterans who took their own lives. A friend of mine, a marine who became a paraplegic in Vietnam, was often asked, “Which side did you fight on?”

A few years ago, I attended a popular exhibition called “The Price of Freedom” at the venerable Smithsonian Institution in Washington. The lines of ordinary people, mostly children shuffling through a Santa’s grotto of revisionism, were dispensed a variety of lies: the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved “a million lives”; Iraq was “liberated [by] air strikes of unprecedented precision”. The theme was unerringly heroic: only Americans pay the price of freedom.

The 2016 election campaign is remarkable not only for the rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders but also for the resilience of an enduring silence about a murderous self-bestowed divinity. A third of the members of the United Nations have felt Washington’s boot, overturning governments, subverting democracy, imposing blockades and boycotts. Most of the presidents responsible have been liberal – Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton, Obama.

The breathtaking record of perfidy is so mutated in the public mind, wrote the late Harold Pinter, that it “never happened …Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest. It didn’t matter… “. Pinter expressed a mock admiration for what he called “a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.”

Take Obama. As he prepares to leave office, the fawning has begun all over again. He is “cool”. One of the more violent presidents, Obama gave full reign to the Pentagon war-making apparatus of his discredited predecessor. He prosecuted more whistleblowers – truth-tellers – than any president. He pronounced Chelsea Manning guilty before she was tried. Today, Obama runs an unprecedented worldwide campaign of terrorism and murder by drone.

In 2009, Obama promised to help “rid the world of nuclear weapons” and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. No American president has built more nuclear warheads than Obama. He is “modernising” America’s doomsday arsenal, including a new “mini” nuclear weapon, whose size and “smart” technology, says a leading general, ensure its use is “no longer unthinkable”.

James Bradley, the best-selling author of Flags of Our Fathers and son of one of the US marines who raised the flag on Iwo Jima, said, “[One] great myth we’re seeing play out is that of Obama as some kind of peaceful guy who’s trying to get rid of nuclear weapons. He’s the biggest nuclear warrior there is. He’s committed us to a ruinous course of spending a trillion dollars on more nuclear weapons. Somehow, people live in this fantasy that because he gives vague news conferences and speeches and feel-good photo-ops that somehow that’s attached to actual policy. It isn’t.”

On Obama’s watch, a second cold war is under way. The Russian president is a pantomime villain; the Chinese are not yet back to their sinister pig-tailed caricature – when all Chinese were banned from the United States – but the media warriors are working on it.

Neither Hillary Clinton nor Bernie Sanders has mentioned any of this. There is no risk and no danger for the United States and all of us; for them, the greatest military build-up on the borders of Russia since World War Two has not happened. On May 11, Romania went “live” with a Nato “missile defence” base that aims its first-strike American missiles at the heart of Russia, the world’s second nuclear power.

In Asia, the Pentagon is sending ships, planes and special forces to the Philippines to threaten China. The US already encircles China with hundreds of military bases that curve in an arc up from Australia, to Asia and across to Afghanistan. Obama calls this a “pivot”.

As a direct consequence, China reportedly has changed its nuclear weapons policy from no-first-use to high alert and put to sea submarines with nuclear weapons. The escalator is quickening.

It was Hillary Clinton who, as Secretary of State in 2010, elevated the competing territorial claims for rocks and reef in the South China Sea to an international issue; CNN and BBC hysteria followed; China was building airstrips on the disputed islands. In a mammoth war game in 2015, Operation Talisman Sabre, the US and Australia practiced “choking” the Straits of Malacca through which pass most of China’s oil and trade. This was not news.

Clinton declared that America had a “national interest” in these Asian waters. The Philippines and Vietnam were encouraged and bribed to pursue their claims and old enmities against China. In America, people are being primed to see any Chinese defensive position as offensive, and so the ground is laid for rapid escalation. A similar strategy of provocation and propaganda is applied to Russia.

Clinton, the “women’s candidate”, leaves a trail of bloody coups: in Honduras, in Libya (plus the murder of the Libyan president) and Ukraine. The latter is now a CIA theme park swarming with Nazis and the frontline of a beckoning war with Russia. It was through Ukraine – literally, borderland – that Hitler’s Nazis invaded the Soviet Union, which lost 27 million people. This epic catastrophe remains a presence in Russia. Clinton’s presidential campaign has received money from all but one of the world’s ten biggest arms companies. No other candidate comes close.

Sanders, the hope of many young Americans, is not very different from Clinton in his proprietorial view of the world beyond the United States. He backed Bill Clinton’s illegal bombing of Serbia. He supports Obama’s terrorism by drone, the provocation of Russia and the return of special forces (death squads) to Iraq. He has nothing to say on the drumbeat of threats to China and the accelerating risk of nuclear war. He agrees that Edward Snowden should stand trial and he calls Hugo Chavez – like him, a social democrat – “a dead communist dictator”. He promises to support Clinton if she is nominated.

The election of Trump or Clinton is the old illusion of choice that is no choice: two sides of the same coin. In scapegoating minorities and promising to “make America great again”, Trump is a far right-wing domestic populist; yet the danger of Clinton may be more lethal for the world.

“Only Donald Trump has said anything meaningful and critical of US foreign policy,” wrote Stephen Cohen, emeritus professor of Russian History at Princeton and NYU, one of the few Russia experts in the United States to speak out about the risk of war.

In a radio broadcast, Cohen referred to critical questions Trump alone had raised. Among them: why is the United States “everywhere on the globe”? What is NATO’s true mission? Why does the US always pursue regime change in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Ukraine? Why does Washington treat Russia and Vladimir Putin as an enemy?

The hysteria in the liberal media over Trump serves an illusion of “free and open debate” and “democracy at work”. His views on immigrants and Muslims are grotesque, yet the deporter-in-chief of vulnerable people from America is not Trump but Obama, whose betrayal of people of colour is his legacy: such as the warehousing of a mostly black prison population, now more numerous than Stalin’s gulag.

This presidential campaign may not be about populism but American liberalism, an ideology that sees itself as modern and therefore superior and the one true way. Those on its right wing bear a likeness to 19th century Christian imperialists, with a God-given duty to convert or co-opt or conquer.

In Britain, this is Blairism. The Christian war criminal Tony Blair got away with his secret preparation for the invasion of Iraq largely because the liberal political class and media fell for his “cool Britannia”. In the Guardian, the applause was deafening; he was called “mystical”. A distraction known as identity politics, imported from the United States, rested easily in his care.

History was declared over, class was abolished and gender promoted as feminism; lots of women became New Labour MPs. They voted on the first day of Parliament to cut the benefits of single parents, mostly women, as instructed. A majority voted for an invasion that produced 700,000 Iraqi widows.

The equivalent in the US are the politically correct warmongers on the New York Times, the Washington Post and network TV who dominate political debate. I watched a furious debate on CNN about Trump’s infidelities. It was clear, they said, a man like that could not be trusted in the White House. No issues were raised. Nothing on the 80 per cent of Americans whose income has collapsed to 1970s levels. Nothing on the drift to war. The received wisdom seems to be “hold your nose” and vote for Clinton: anyone but Trump. That way, you stop the monster and preserve a system gagging for another war.


Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist 10b

10.7 Hegel and Plotinus rejected propositions of the understanding from their speculative philosophy

Hegel rejected from his philosophy those traditional tools of reason that are employed to test the worth and validity of concepts – the proposition of the understanding (Verstand), the use of predication and the formal syllogism – and he did so all for the same reason – that they deny the unity-in-difference and the principle of negation which are the engine of the conceptual openness and poetry of his Neoplatonic system, the mysticism of which neither he nor his ideological proponents would or could ever acknowledge.

For Hegel, the propositional language of the understanding, of Verstand is inadequate for the expression of the complexity of philosophical Truth. Dialectic, pre-eminently exemplified in poetry, is essential to philosophical demonstration. Hegel believed the proposition of the understanding is an empty form because it distinguishes between, separates subject and predicate resulting in a meaning other than what was intended. Such a proposition denies the complexity of the experience of consciousness (the process of freedom, reconciliation and truth), giving something that is one-sided

One difficulty which should be avoided comes from mixing up the speculative with the ratiocinative methods, so that what is said of the Subject at one time signifies its Notion, at another time merely its Predicate or accidental property. The one method interferes with the other, and only a philosophical exposition that rigidly excludes the usual way of relating the parts of a proposition could achieve the goal of plasticity.1

Hegel echoed Plotinus who asked rhetorically

What, then, is Philosophy?

Philosophy is the supremely precious.

Is Dialectic, then, the same as Philosophy?

It is the precious part of Philosophy. We must not think of it as the mere tool of the metaphysician: Dialectic does not consist of bare theories and rules: it deals with verities…Dialectic…has no knowledge of propositions – collections of words – but it knows the truth and, in that knowledge, knows what the schools call their propositions…it leaves petty precisions of process to what other science may care for such exercises.2

10.8 Proclus and Cusanus on propositions

Proclus, follower and systematiser of Plotinus, sought to structure the unsystematic presentation of his master’s philosophy in the two hundred and eleven propositions of his Elements of Theology and men with interests as diverse as Kepler and Coleridge responded equally to the same speculative Neoplatonic dynamism of his writing, which pushed beyond the linguistic constraints of mere propositions of the understanding

His language flows like a torrent, inundating its banks, and hiding the dark fords and whirlpools of doubts, while his mind full of the majesty of things of such a magnitude, struggles in the straits of language, and the conclusion never satisfying him, exceeds by the copia of words, the simplicity of the propositions.3

The most beautiful and orderly development of the philosophy which endeavours to explain all things by an analysis of consciousness, and builds up a world in the mind out of materials furnished by the mind itself, is to be found in the Platonic Theology of Proclus.4

Cusanus also believed that speculative thinking focuses on what functions beyond the constraints of propositions of the understanding, of ratio. Jaspers wrote of his philosophy

Whatever may be formulated in a proposition, in a word, is for this very reason not yet the point which thinking strives to attain – a point beyond the formulation, the ‘absolute ground,’ ‘being itself,’ ‘what precedes being.’ And even these expressions are only signs.5

10.9 Hegel’s ultimate concepts – beyond predication

10.9.1 God

‘God,’ to which all roads lead in Hegel’s philosophy, was for him the most perfect concept – the ‘most perfectly real.’ Hegel believed that predication is not appropriate to God because it cannot grasp God in his thinking. Verstand’s definition of God by the use of determinate predicates amounts only to a list of particular, rigid characteristics which remain unresolved contradictions.

God’s determinateness is not constituted by a predicate or a plurality of predicates…(because) each determinate content has become just as immovable, just as rigidly for itself, as the natural content was to begin with …The predicates do not correspond to the reality of the concept…the concept in itself is real, wholly free totality, free totality present to itself.6

Plotinus also wrote that God has no qualities, but is simple and single – that no name is apt to it. Proclus argued that while what is around the One (the henads) can be predicated, the One cannot. Cusanus also argued that God cannot be predicated and he did so using words very similar to those of Hegel – what displayed for the latter the rigidity and separation of Verstand in relation to Vernunft did so for the former those of ratio (understanding/discursive reason) in relation to intellectus (intellect/intellectual vision)

just as God transcends all understanding, so, a fortiori, [He transcends] every name. Indeed, through a movement of reason, which is much lower than the intellect, names are bestowed for distinguishing between things. But since reason cannot leap beyond contradictories: as regards the movement of reason, there is not a name to which another [name] is not opposed.7

10.9.2 Absolute

Hegel thought the aim of philosophy is cognition of the Absolute. He famously mocked in his Phenomenology of Spirit the Absolute in which

the A = A…(where) all is one. To pit this single insight, that in the Absolute everything is the same, against the full body of articulated cognition, which at least seeks and demands…fulfilment, to palm off its Absolute as the night in which, as the saying goes, all cows are black – this is cognition naïvely reduced to vacuity.8

How did Hegel position this concept in his ‘full body of articulated cognition’? To repeat, Engels observed that Hegel had absolutely nothing to say about his own Absolute Idea,9 with which he concluded the lengthy development of his categories in his Science of Logic. Magee also made an excellent point when he wrote that Hegel’s system embodies, realises the Absolute rather than describes (or, as I would write, defines) it – that for Hegel, simply to give the Absolute voice is to give it being.10

Where is the criticism in academia of Hegel’s posturing hypocrisy on this issue? The ideology of the dominant class is at stake, and the silence of the unspeakable reigns supreme behind cloistered walls. Not only did Hegel write that the concept ‘Absolute’ is devoid of predicates11 and is synonymous with that of ‘God,’12 he many times equated ‘God’ with his conflation of the One in his overlay of the Christian myth on his Neoplatonic philosophy. An example

God is One, in the first instance the universal.

God is love and remains One, [subsisting] more as unity, as immediate identity, than as negative reflection into self.

God is spirit, the One as infinite subjectivity, the One in the infinite subjectivity of distinction.13

To give a developmental account (‘exhibiting’ or ‘self-exposition’ to use Hegel’s words14) of the ‘Absolute’ as Hegel did – at great length – is not to define it – which Hegel did as little as those he mocked or criticised. A process, even in its complex totality, is not a definition.

Magee wrote

Hegel takes over the idea of an Absolute from Schelling, including the idea that the Absolute transcends the distinction between subject and object.15

This is incorrect. As I have argued previously, Plotinus was the first to use, and repeatedly, ’Absolute’ as a noun – long before Cusanus and the German idealists who were inspired by him – including in his tractate ‘Nature, Contemplation, and the One,’ translated by Creuzer in 1805 (Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit was first published in 1807), and Hegel took over that idea from Plotinus, as he did the transcendence of the distinction between subject and object and much else besides.

Hegel theorised his Absolute consistent with his conflation of the Neoplatonic hypostases in his ‘reason-world’ – Plotinus’ second hypostasis

the process of its own becoming, the circle that presupposes its end as its goal, having its end also as its beginning16

For Hegel, this ‘reason-world’ is a systemic whole in which Mind or Being becomes conscious of itself. In the ‘unanalysable’17 beginning there is absolute identity which develops into a dialectically self-differentiating unity of ‘mutually antagonistic’18 elements eventually resulting in the sublation of the distinction between subject and object (between subjects/objects). Philosophy gives a ‘rational,’ dialectical account of the nature of the Absolute. All of this is explained by Hegel’s conflation of the Neoplatonic hypostases.

Plotinus wrote that a defined One would not be the One-Absolute (Absolute One) because the Absolute is prior to the definite19

this Absolute is none of the things of which it is the source – its nature is that nothing can be affirmed of it – not existence, not essence, not life – since it is That which transcends all these.20

10.9.3 Spirit

Hegel’s discussion of Spirit or consciousness is thoroughly Neoplatonic – it is One21 which through the process of producing itself, of self-differentiation and the positing of distinctions makes itself its own object, thereby gaining knowledge of itself. It is the process of the divine’s coming to self-consciousness in mankind. As with ‘God’ and ‘Absolute,’ it is

an eternal process (my italics) of self-cognition in self-consciousness, streaming out to the finite focus of finite consciousness, and then returning to what spirit actually is, a return in which divine self-consciousness breaks forth. The community is a process of eternal becoming.22

Hegel wrote

Spirit is consciousness that has Reason…by passing through a series of shapes (Spirit must) attain to a knowledge of itself.23

Again, utterly Neoplatonic. The simile of the sculptor shaping and perfecting his soul24 resonates through the Enneads and Western culture – specifically, Soul is shaped in its passage through Intellectual-Principle in its return to the One.

Shaping Soul through Reason’s thinking is the activity of Intellectual-Principle – Intellectual-Principle is the sculptor

The Intellectual-Principle is in one phase the Form of the Soul, its shape; in another phase it is the giver of the shape – the sculptor, possessing inherently what is given – imparting to Soul nearly the authentic reality25

10.9.4 Concept/Notion (using Miller’s and Wallace’s translations)

Hegel wrote in his Science of Logic that it is essentially only Spirit that can comprehend the Notion as Notion because it is Spirit’s ‘pure self.’26

As Plotinus described the creative energy of his second hypostasis, ‘boiling over with life’27 in its self-differentiating, so Hegel described Notion as the vital, boundless activity of its self-differentiating. As Plotinus wrote of Intellectual-Principle’s being at rest and in motion28 – a ‘stationary wandering’29 within itself, Hegel wrote of Notion pulsating within itself but not moving, inwardly vibrating yet at rest.30 For both, what characterises this activity – ‘the very heart of things (that) makes them what they are’31 – is its vital, divine nature.

10.9.5 Absolute Idea

Absolute Idea is the culmination of Hegel’s Science of Logic. It is the identity of the theoretical and practical Idea, God as divine thought thinking itself, embodied in the ‘mind’ of the philosopher – the union of subject and object.

This same union of subject and object occurs at the conclusion of the Enneads. Findlay wrote that ‘the Absolute Idea is defined by Hegel as the eternal vision of itself in the Other.’32 Plotinus wrote

In this seeing, we neither hold an object nor trace distinction; there is no two. The man is changed, no longer himself nor self-belonging; he is merged with the Supreme, sunken into it, one with it33

Magee writes that Absolute Idea ‘is understood to “contain” all the preceding categories, as, in effect, (Absolute’s) definition.’34 Such a claim, even though it is putting Hegel’s view, should not go without criticism. It is the attempt to impose a complete definition on a process which is without end in which such a definition has no part. The same provisional and inadequate definition of the Absolute by the categories in their dialectical development should apply no less to ‘Absolute Idea.’

The Neoplatonists, like the sorcerer’s apprentice, summoned forth a magnificent power – they gave expression to how the world (for them, in consciousness) works. Hegel took this to the highest point of development within Neoplatonism and Marx, having stood this philosophy ‘on its feet,’ applied it in its correct material orientation. But these greatest dialecticians all made the same error in seeking to impose the products of their own consciousness, their own volition on infinitely greater processes prior to it – from the soaring conclusion of the Enneads to that of the Science of Logic, from the Prussian state to communism.



1. Hegel, Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, op. cit., 39
2. Plotinus, The Enneads (Abridged), op. cit., I.3.5
3. Quoted by Thomas Taylor in his Introduction to Proclus, On the Theology of Plato, op. cit.
4. Quoted by E.R.Dodds in his Introduction to Proclus, The Elements of Theology op. cit., xxxiii
5. Jaspers, The Great Philosophers, op. cit., 140
6. Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, op. cit., vol. III, 185-186
7. Nicholas of Cusa, De docta ignorantia (‘On Learned Ignorance’), op. cit., I,76,40
8. Hegel, Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, op. cit., Preface, 9
9. Frederick Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy, Part I: Hegel,
10. Magee, Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition, op. cit., 98
11. Hegel, Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, op. cit., 351
12. Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, op. cit., vol. I, 118
13. Ibid., vol. III, 78
14. Hegel, Hegel’s Science of Logic, op. cit., 530
15. Magee, The Hegel Dictionary, op. cit., 160
16. Hegel, Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, op. cit., Preface, 10
17. Hegel, Hegel’s Science of Logic, op. cit., 75
18. Magee, The Hegel Dictionary, op. cit., 23
19. Plotinus, The Enneads (Abridged), op. cit., V.3.12
20. Ibid., III.8.10
21. Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of World History, Introduction: Reason in History, op. cit., 52
22. Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, op. cit., vol. III, 233
23. Hegel, Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, op. cit., 265
24. Plotinus, The Enneads (Abridged), op. cit., I.6.9
25. Ibid., V.9.3
26. Hegel, Hegel’s Science of Logic, op. cit., 618
27. Plotinus, Enneads, Trans., A.H.Armstrong, op. cit., vol. VI, VI.5.12
28. ‘(Intellect) is both at rest and in motion; for it moves around Him (the Good). So, then, the universe, too, both moves in its circle and is at rest.’ Ibid., vol. II, II.2.3
29. Plotinus, The Enneads (Abridged), op. cit., VI.7.13. Plotinus also wrote of the ‘static activity’ of Intellect. Armstrong op. cit., vol. II, II.9.1
30. Hegel, Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, op. cit., 100
31. Hegel, Hegel’s Logic, op. cit., 232
32. Findlay in Hegel, Hegel’s Philosophy of Mind, op. cit., Foreword, xi
33. Plotinus, The Enneads (Abridged), op. cit., VI.9.10
34. Magee, The Hegel Dictionary, op. cit., 99

Contents of Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist posts

Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist 10a

Concepts, propositions, predication and the speculative sentence

10.1 Hegel, philosopher of concrete concepts

In bourgeois ideology Hegel is known as the philosopher of concrete concepts, the hard man, master and exemplar of reason. Whilst he agreed that we are always thinking – even in sleep – (something of immense importance that he never explored or allowed to influence his theorising) he believed that it is only in the waking state that ‘Intellect’ and ‘Reason,’ for him the modes of proper thought, are active and that conceptual thought is our essence.

Hegel equated ‘conceptual’ with ‘scientific’ – philosophy for him is the scientific grasp of Truth which could only be expounded as a conceptual system. Philosophy proceeded according to the categories of reason. This rigour supposedly gives us reasoned knowledge of the Idea and of fully concrete Spirit, a conceptual account of the Absolute and, above all, true self-knowledge.

10.2 Hegel’s concepts are spiritual, religious and open

Hegel’s concepts are, as is his philosophy, spiritual and religious – his system is the service of God the self and his concepts must be assessed on that basis

the content of philosophy, its need and interest, is wholly in common with that of religion. The object of religion, like that of philosophy, is the eternal truth. God and nothing but God and the explication of God. Philosophy is only explicating itself when it explicates religion, and when it explicates itself it is explicating religion. For the thinking spirit is what penetrates this object, the truth; it is thinking that enjoys the truth and purifies the subjective consciousness. Thus religion and philosophy coincide in one. In fact philosophy is itself the service of God, as is religion.1

For Hegel the activity of ‘reason,’ of forming concepts and dialectical thinking is the practice of religion. He described the conceptual grasp of an object Neoplatonically

The conceptual grasp of an object consists in fact in nothing but that the self makes the object its own, penetrates it and brings it to its own form.2

Further, the categories of logic, ‘the all-animating spirit of all the sciences’ comprise a ‘spiritual hierarchy,’3 a movement of concepts or thought determinations which, though expressed in language, is not reducible to language.4 Hegel wrote of a movement of ‘pure thought’5 – God ‘as he is in and for himself’ – ‘the pure thought of eternity.’6 Jaspers wrote

In this thinking concepts are not defined with logical cogency and are not related to one another, but denote guiding threads whose meaning is disclosed in the course of attempts at speculative thinking.7

Marcuse wrote

All fundamental concepts of the Hegelian system are characterised by the same ambiguity. They never denote mere concepts (as in formal logic), but forms or modes of being comprehended by thought.8

10.3 Speculative exposition preserves the dialectical form

Speculative reason looks for the principle of motion in an object that makes it what it is. The speculative proposition or, much better, sentence (spekulativer Satz) reflects the dialectical nature of consciousness in its self-development. In the dialectical movement of thought, every thing comprises a coexistence of opposed elements and speculative exposition preserves this form.

Findlay described the superficial view of the proposition of judgement as

an external connection of independently significant elements…(whereas) the speculative view…sees…the self-development, through complimentary differences, of a single significant content. …the fixed points of reference necessary for the former are lacking in the latter.9

The task of speculative reason is not the analysis of concepts but the development of them – speculative dialectic shows fixed (false, limited) distinctions of the understanding breaking down in their development. Speculative philosophy is a continual unfolding of consciousness to itself. Hence, for Hegel, categories develop themselves.

Hegel continued the Neoplatonic emphasis, established by Plotinus, on the metaphors of sight and mirror in his incorporation of the meanings of ‘speculative’ in his philosophy – from theoria ([divine] ’contemplation,’ ‘speculation,’ from theoros ‘spectator’), from speculum (‘mirror’) and speculatio (‘contemplation,’ ‘speculation’) – ‘reality’ and consciousness, infinite and finite, ultimately subject and object mirror and contemplate each other, developing conceptually through their relationship.

Cusanus placed the greatest importance on our ‘mind’s’ generation of concepts as an image of the working of God’s ‘Mind’ and his study of them as the ‘coincidence of opposites’ was, within idealist philosophy, fully, dialectically developed by Hegel. This aspect of Cusanus’ philosophy is one of the greatest debts Hegel owed to him (which I will discuss later).

10.4 Neoplatonic concepts are always dynamic

Neoplatonism has shown that concepts have life. Cusanus and particularly Hegel explored the potential of concepts in their inter-relationship and development. Verene wrote that in the speculative proposition the subject is not separate from the predicate but

is extended into the predicate and the meaning of the predicate must ultimately be found by returning from it into the subject term.10

Findlay wrote of

a logical flux, a passing of contents tracelessly into one another…In a given exercise we both can and should preserve comparative clarity, distinctness, and fixity, but the thought-material we are coercing never fully acquiesces in our fixations, and forces endless revision upon us no matter how we seek to withstand this.11

10.5 The importance of negation

For the Neoplatonists, ‘the true is the whole.’ Magee set out Hegel’s position

each standpoint in Hegel’s dialectic is ‘false’ because each, taken on its own, is only a part of the whole. Taken in abstraction from the whole, each part is, in a way, misleading. For instance, each category of the Logic is a ‘provisional definition’ of the Absolute. Each on its own terms, is false as a definition – but each is part of the entire system of the Logic, which constitutes the complete articulation of the nature of the Absolute. (my italics)12

But ‘the whole’ is not something bounded, it is a process the essential, unrelenting aspect of which is negation, the driver of the dialectic. Hegel, who wrote

Everything concrete, everything living contains contradiction within itself; only the dead understanding is identical with itself13

concluded his explication of God in his Science of Logic with his most ‘concrete’ concept Absolute Idea. With it, we are to accept that negation has now found completion, when surely the primary lesson of the Science of Logic, which documents the movement of incompatibles in their never ending unrest is the opposite

To hold fast to the positive in its negative…this is the most important feature in rational cognition14

Negation in the process of emanation and return drives the Enneads no less than it does Hegel’s use of the Christian myth (God goes into the world/first negation, God dies and returns to self/negation of that negation) and his Science of Logic. Just as the second hypostasis negates the first (because agent, object and movement are introduced) so the first hypostasis negates the second (because agent, object and movement disappear). The third hypostasis negates the second by lighting and ordering the world which engagement is in turn negated by Soul’s return to the second hypostasis.

Further, Plotinus wrote of his second hypostasis, Hegel’s mystical ‘reason-world’

In that Intellectual Cosmos, where all is one total, every entity that can be singled out is an intellective essence and a participant in life: it is identity and difference, movement and rest, the object moving and the object at rest, essence and quality. All There is pure essence…and therefore quality is never separated from essence.15

10.6 Hegel used his concepts mytho-poetically

Magee wrote that Hegel was less interested in the truth of statements than in the ‘truth’ or meaning of concepts and that Hegel’s form of speculation is identical with mytho-poetic circumscription

Hegel rejects propositional thought, which would define the Absolute, and instead ‘talks around’ or ‘thinks around’ the Absolute, revealing at each point some aspect or part of it. The totality of Hegel’s philosophical speech is the Truth, the Absolute itself. …His is truly a mythology of reason: a new myth-form made of ideas16

Hegel’s philosophy is not ‘a new myth-form made of ideas’ nor does he employ concepts in a ‘radically different way,’17 his philosophy is the highest development of an ancient form in the expression of ideas which has been treated as pornography by generations of career-building, time- and ideology-serving academics – Neoplatonism.

Just as concepts (particularly the hypostases themselves) were stepping-stones to be ‘thought around’ for Plotinus and the Neoplatonists prior to Hegel, from and to spiritual unity with their highest concept the One-Absolute, so Hegel, following particularly Plotinus, Proclus and Cusanus used his concepts in the same way from and to spiritual unity with his God/One/Absolute. What makes Hegel’s philosophy ‘mythical’ is his overlay of the Christian myth across his Neoplatonism.

Hegel rejected the definition and propositional thought of Verstand both because he correctly saw their deadening limitations and because he faced the challenge confronted by all Neoplatonic philosophers and by those inspired by Neoplatonism and mysticism – how best to express and evoke, to draw their audience into the dynamic subtleties and spiritual flux of ‘reality.’ Inevitably he employed the devices of poetry including images, metaphors and symbols – myth, in Christian form, being the most important of them – Christian mythology provided Hegel with images, metaphors and symbolism.

Hegel didn’t build a conceptual argument but wove a dense mystical tapestry using concepts as focal or anchor points. He wrote that speculative thinking is from one point of view akin to the poetic imagination and he used words and concepts to create a rationalised feeling for the Absolute, rather than to attain a literal cognition of it. In his philosophy, God comes to know himself Neoplatonically – most importantly, he does so dialectically.



1. Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, op. cit., vol. I, 152-153
2. Quoted in Raymond Plant, Hegel, An Introduction, Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1983, 144
3. Hegel, Hegel’s Logic, op. cit., 40
4. Dale M. Schlitt, Divine Subjectivity: Understanding Hegel’s Philosophy of Religion, op. cit., 37
5. Hegel, Hegel’s Science of Logic, op. cit., 843
6. Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, op. cit., vol. I, 187
7. Karl Jaspers, The Great Philosophers, Ed., Hannah Arendt, Trans., Ralph Manheim, Rupert Hart-Davis, London, 1966, 128
8. Herbert Marcuse, Reason and Revolution, Routledge, London, 2000, 25
9. Findlay in Hegel, Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, op. cit., 503
10. Donald Phillip Verene, Hegel’s Recollection: A Study of Images in The Phenomenology of Spirit, State University of New York Press, Albany, New York, 1985, 23
11. Findlay in Hegel, Hegel’s Logic, op. cit., Foreword xv-xvi
12. Magee, The Hegel Dictionary, op. cit., 251-252
13. Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, op. cit., vol. III, 192-193
14. Hegel, Hegel’s Science of Logic, op. cit., 834
15. Plotinus, The Enneads (Abridged), op. cit., V.9.10. ‘Plotinus in particular…radically modified the ancient discipline of dialectic by prioritising the thinking of differences in identity and identities in difference. By setting the categories of identity and difference at the centre of dialectic, Plotinus fashioned a powerful dialectical mode of contemplation that was influential throughout the Middle Ages, with Nicholas of Cusa representing perhaps the last and best known example’ Andrew Cole, The Function of Theory at the Present Time, The Chicago Blog, 07.12.15, 
16. Magee, Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition, op.cit., 95
17. Ibid.

Contents of Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist posts

Us Aussies are laid-back ‘n easy-goin,’ ‘elp any feller when ‘e’s down, we would

Iranian refugee Omid Masoumali died having set himself on fire after UNHCR told him he would remain on Nauru. He had been on the island for three years and was requesting to be sent to a third country.

Iranian refugee Omid Masoumali died having set himself on fire after UNHCR told him he would remain on Nauru. He had been on the island for three years and was requesting to be sent to a third country.

Tim Dick, ‘Australia is a bad neighbour and we should be better than this,’ The Sydney Morning Herald 01.05.16

If there were a neighbourhood watch group in this part of the world, Australia would be the neighbour the group had to watch. It is rich and large, rude and loud, and doesn’t seem to care that its behaviour brings the region down.

Our government has managed to infuriate most nearby countries in some way or other. Some have to deal with the consequences of our peculiar, unjustified obsessions with refugees and dole bludgers. One, the youngest, smallest and poorest nation in Asia, has to cop rampant Australian greed for its mineral wealth.

Australia has behaved scandalously towards East Timor. It behaves selfishly towards New Zealand. Highhandedly towards its former colony, Papua New Guinea. It acts towards tiny Nauru as if it is a shameful illegitimate child, to be paid off to do our dirty work, running a refugee gulag hidden from view.

The rendition of innocent asylum seekers, guilty of nothing more than choosing the wrong country to ask for help, has erupted during the phoney election campaign only because the PNG opposition leader had the fortitude to sue for their freedom.

The PNG Supreme Court merely had to point to its constitutional guarantee that no person shall be unlawfully deprived of liberty to order them freed, a guarantee Australia’s constitution does not provide. The forceful bringing into and detention of the asylum seekers on Manus Island was unconstitutional, it found, and therefore illegal.

As it should be. Australia did not merely turn these innocents asking for help away; it picked them up and banished them, forcibly imprisoned in a country they did not try to enter.

We paid handsomely for this immorality, increasing spending reinforcing our fortress while cutting our meagre foreign aid. We even paid for the PNG government’s doomed defence, one of an appalling scheme in which a processing centre did little processing, and incalculable damage to the unfortunate souls locked behind razor wire, to PNG’s reputation, and to what should be Australia’s good name.

The Turnbull government takes the view, contrary to all facts and any reason, that the fate of the unlawfully imprisoned is the responsibility of Papua New Guinea. That is as self-evidently wrong as setting up the Manus Island version of Guantanamo Bay in the first place, with indefinite incarceration of hundreds somehow justified by the legitimate aim of stopping too many deaths of those who come by sea.

The name of Nauru, which after Manus closes will be our remaining client state, is so thoroughly besmirched as a prison island as Napoleon’s Elba, although at least the crafty emperor had enough support to break him out. Only setting yourself alight gets you off the Pacific’s phosphate prison. All on Australia’s watch.

Towards East Timor, we behave with appalling greed. Rather than renegotiating the manifestly unfair boundary between us – one that gives one of the world’s richest countries more of the vast mineral wealth which should belong to one of the poorest – we refuse to budge.

We even pulled out of an international scheme to settle boundaries two months after East Timor’s independence. The Howard government sent in the spies to ensure our smallest neighbour did not get what it deserved.

The boundary should run along the median point, like most boundaries do when the exclusive economic zones overlap, but that would divert the wealth to a country that needs it more. Australia couldn’t have that, so East Timor is forced to try obscure parts of the UN to pressure it towards common decency.

Even towards supposedly close New Zealand, which puts the NZ in Anzac, we behave boorishly.

Australia and New Zealand have long agreed to allow the people of each country to live in the other, but Australia has reneged on part of the deal by allowing the Kiwi dole-bludger myth to dictate policy.

Australia now treats arriving New Zealanders as guest workers to be tolerated and taxed, but to be excluded from such luxuries as the disability insurance scheme for which they have to pay.

Then it exports those criminals imprisoned for a year with New Zealand citizenship, no matter how much a product of Australia they might be. Far too many have been deported for NZ to deal with who moved to Australia even before their first day of school. How it is fair to expect the Kiwis to rehabilitate Australian crooks is never explained. Australia can do it, so it does.

It is difficult to underestimate the ill feeling this creates in New Zealand, yet most Australians are oblivious to it and the government entirely shameless about it.

In contrast, Australians who move to New Zealand can vote after living there for two years. If they are without work, they get welfare. If they are injured, they are looked after by the national no-fault compensation scheme.

Australia should be better than all of this. Australians certainly are, in the main, a caring and thoughtful bunch, far more decent than the likes of Peter Dutton make us appear.

But without a serious attitude adjustment, to one that respects the neighbours rather than being callously indifferent to them, Australia’s reputation will remain sullied for no justifiable end.


When you put the above article against the pride in servility of Australians first to the interests of British and now U.S. capital (from the skirts of Mother Britannia to the coat-tails of Uncle Sam), you begin to get a sense of the depth of hypocrisy, sickness and rapidly increasing meanness in Australian culture.