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Quick Write-Up on the Hegelian Dialectic

Sept 15 2021

The Hegelian dialectic is a model of conceptualizing hierarchies, viewing them as a result of the desire for recognition, among other qualifiers; much critique of the dialectic is focused upon the initial premise that all men start on equal footing, one solution provided to this blind spot is the entire practice of critical theory, which examines power structures as they occur in reality without the greater angle of a dialectic.

The dialectic assumes some things are true, these being that:

  • People have an intuitive idea that they have a conscious experience
  • To have absolute knowledge of the idea that they are Self-Conscious they must be recognized as such by a subject.
  • Useful recognition must come from a being equal to the subject to the degree that they recognize the object (the being) as a Self-Consciousness, in other words recognition must be mutual.
  • Each subject seeks to subordinate the other in order to keep this recognition.

From these qualifiers we enter the chronological order of the dialectic in the instances of three ends to a fight.

  • Both die
  • Neither achieve the recognition they desire, they both become objects rather than subjects
  • Both subjects' will to live was superseded by their desire for recognition.

  • One dies
  • The Subject left is not satisfied as he cannot gain recognition from an object
  • Both or one of the subjects' will to live was superseded by their desire for recognition.

  • Neither dies
  • One subject is recognized as they won the fight, they forcefully subordinate the other by enacting mortal fear within them.
  • The one who risked their life for recognition becomes the Master, he who did not risk his life becomes the slave.

From this fight, the dialectic is formed; I will now list the traits of the Master and of the Slave

  • Master
  • Is recognized by the slave who lacks recognition from the master
  • Lives off the labor provided by the slave (negation)
  • Has no inherent characteristics, only those that occur from his relation to the slave

  • Slave
  • Prepares objects for negation
  • Lives in absolute fear of the master
  • Transforms objects and therefore the world through labor

Eventually the master realizes that recognition from a subject he does not recognize is illegitimate, there is no longer one worthy of being his equal and therefore he is once more reduced to an object. The slave however, who desired power less than his will to live, becomes recognized; not through an “other” but through his creations, he sees his tangible impact on the world and the manifestation of his consciousness through art and labour.

The World is Mine - a Hegelian and Nietzschean Analysis

Aug 27 2021

If you have not visited the digital shrine on my website to the world of mine I would absolutely suggest doing so, I’m much too lazy to summarize what I wrote there. The World is Mine is my personal favorite piece of manga and of fiction mainly due to the philosophical and emotional depth presented in every one of the characters. In this blog I plan to specifically talk about the philosophical depth of the main character Mon, possibly the most complex in the series.

“I affirm myself”

In the beginning of TWIM Mon is first presented in the middle of a fast paced scene in which he’s fucking a random girl in a car filled with pipe bombs going twice the speed limit, this setting immediately clues the reader into what type of person Mon is; utterly unhinged, in other words he is the perfect representation of the Hobbesian primitive man. Mon exists as an empty husk desiring subsistence and to “affirm himself” or through a more Hegelian lens; to be recognized. I choose to view Mon from a Hegelian lens as his entire character development is premised upon his desires and how they interact with the rest of the world. In Mons first phase of development he is like an animal, existing only by “negating” (to negate is to use an object for it’s utility and in doing so transform it, ex: eating food), most of Mon’s negations are killing others as he feels they are not worthy of moral consideration.

Mon kills because he feels dominant to the “other” and simply because he has the ability to do so, this is evidenced in his statement to Toshi, “every creature possesses the power to let others stay alive or kill them… Use it." Because Mom is always dominant in his relationships he is unable to be “recognized” by another subject(an equal) as a self-consciousness, he remains unsatisfied and therefore continues to destroy, satisfying what Hegel calls first order desires. Hegel expands on this idea of animalistic desire and directly connects it to self affirmation much as Mon does through his terrorist attacks on Japan; from which he cultivates a sense of self. Whenever Mon states "i affirm myself" the phrase is always followed with some sort of extreme violence, this can be represented in Hegelian terms with negation in which Mon takes an object outside of himself and either transforms it (in most cases killing it) or letting it live as his slave such as in the case of Toshi. Mon lives and affirms himself through negation and collects those “below” him to aid him in the fulfillment of his desires. Mon thus first fits the bill of the "master" in Hegel’s master slave dialectic; the reason I specify “first” in this scenario is due to fact that Mon’s relation to the dialectic changes vastly throughout the story, I will present these changes as phases of development thus phase one is Mon’s phase of what I will call “Primitive Mastery”. As stated previously, Mon only lives to fulfill base desires as an animal would, due to this he possesses a self-confirming sense of domination over the world around him, Mon has never met an equal who necessarily possesses the ability to recognize him as a self-consciousness.

Phase two of Mon’s development begins with his first encounter with God, in this case represented with the massive bear-capybara Higumadon; After Mon’s attack on the Aomori police station he finds himself face to face with Higumadon (whether this is a delusion or actually godly intervention by Higumadon is still up to interpretation). Mon is utterly beaten and finds himself unable to kill after understanding the absolute fear/dread a man goes through before death. This parallels the scenario that Hegel presents the Dialectic through, two beings equally powerful and equally confident in their self-consciousness engage in a fight, afterwards one submits to the other and in doing so becoming the slave (Mon), only due to this submission does the other become the master (Higumadon). Within the traditional progression in the dialectic, the slave’s fear of the master becomes a motivating force to create and change the world around him through labor, Mon however does not create, he and Toshi reach a state of cooperation due to Mon’s more subdued state and they submerge Japan in a state of fear (almost seeming to mimic the master) in a sense “preparing” the public for Higumadon’s attack on Otome. Another part of the slave’s position under the master is the idea of “preparation” in which the slave transforms an object in order for the master to negate it, the most simple example is food preparation; the slave kills a hog and chops it into edible pieces for the master to eat or negate.

Mon and Toshi initiate an age of terrorism in Japan by feeding upon the emotions of the populace; they manipulate the prime minister into stripping nude for national television, create a crime wave of 7 times the traditional murder rate, and prompt a nationwide investigation motivated by fear (much like the slave) to find their locations. While Japan dips into this state Mon and Toshi travel to Otome to carry out their plans where they are intercepted by Maria; she becomes incredibly important to the story later on, eventually allowing Mon to transcend his reliance on others for affirmation. Mon is even more docile in Maria’s presence as she represents the motherly love that Mon was never able to experience as he grew in the contempt of his parents; due to Maria’s replacement for a mother, Mon seems to revert in age, behaving like a child. This can be read like a literal interpretation of a passage in Thus Spoke Zarathustra in which a priest encounters the prophet Zarathustra after his visit to the mountains, “Zarathustra is transformed, Zarathustra has become a child, an awakened one is Zarathustra. What do you want now among the sleepers?”. Coincidentally (or most likely intended), the transformation into childlike existence is the start of both Mon and Zarathustra’s transformations to becoming Ubermensch or Overman, men unconstrained by the morality of the common people who seek to rebirth the world much like they themselves were "reborn".

Rebirth tends to be a great theme throughout TWIM, whether it be the rebirth of Mon as the Overman, Toshi´s rebirth into a demon, or Maria´s rebirth in the Waltz for Maria arc; each of the main subjects of the story change. Mon´s rebirth takes place on the run when he and Toshi are staying with Maria´s friend Junko, at the time, Toshi is absorbed in himself, transforming his own moral system and in a sense submitting to the idea that he is a demon. Mon within phase one was continuously trying to convince Toshi of his wicked nature, oftentimes encouraging him to blackmail the women that Mon raped and to of course build his pipe bombs. After months running from the police Toshi begins to dissociate from his former self and all his past connections, in almost retaliation against his past self he threatens the TV stations broadcasting his fathers statement to the public and to Toshi himself.

When Toshi´s outburst occurs it seems almost surprising, he rejects the recognition that he had in his previous life to become a deranged serial killer, but in the process of doing so he is recognized by the whole world. Toshi throughout the story never truly becomes a demon, his outburst against the TV shows that he is still bothered by the memories of the past and thus he remains a slave; both in fear of the world but still seeking its recognition. Toshi is a failure, a false rebirth; Mon, his master, has tricked him, he is the true rebirth, the Overman.

Mon´s rebirth into the Ubermensch (or phase 3) takes place in three stages, Fetal, Childlike, and Adult. The fetal stage occurs all within Maria´s lap, Mon recounts all of his childhood memories expressed like an explosion, a big bang within his own reality. From this vision he wakes into the childlike stage. Maria, having metaphorically become Mon´s mother, is overcome with emotions when Mon wakes; going insane, she is dragged into a massacre as Mon has lost all fear of the Higumadon and escaped the dialectic. He has projected all of his emotions upon her and becomes once again a husk, able to kill as he no longer remembers absolute fear.

This Mon is the Ubermensch, however he lacks ideology, there is no drive for anything other than satisfaction. In fact there is barely anything distinguishing stage two Mon from phase one Mon except for one thing, Mon is no longer a master, he no longer regards Toshi as a slave, for Toshi has become the slave of the world, not Mon´s. Toshi, and Mon´s inherent sense of dominance over others was the only thing tying Mon to the dialectic. In his rebirth he no longer has these ties to the world, he is experiencing it for the first time, like a child. This reality presents a problem; Mon is massacring people who he regards as equals, no longer does he view them as inferior consciousnesses, through his massacre we see that he no longer desires recognition, he desires to rebirth the world just as he did.

Maria dies. A focal point in Mon´s development as he loses the mother from which he projects upon his own emotions, distraught, he calls upon the Higumadon, a feat only possible by an equal to it, a god, or an overman. Mon by this stage has not just succeeded the dialectic but become equals with the Higumadon, a god in its own right with no superior. Mon has become an adult within three days; unlike Zarathustra in the traditional Nietzschean canon, Mon does not bring new meaning to the world in the absence of god; Mon is the harbinger of the world's destruction. Instead of bringing new meaning to life on earth he begins new life on a distant planet, springing from his corpse, in a final act of god.

A Brief Biography of Balanchine and the Birth of Neoclassical Ballet

Jun 21 2021

One of the greatest contributions to modern ballet in America came not from Americans but instead Russian defectors who revolutionized the standards and methods of the companies of the era. The most impactful of these Russian defectors was "the Father of American Ballet" George Balanchine, who created the momentum necessary to allow commercial ballet to flourish in America.

“God creates, I do not create. I assemble and I steal everywhere to do it - from what I see, from what the dancers can do, from what others do.”

George Balanchine studied ballet in russia for the early years of his life practicing the Vaganova discipline of ballet from the Imperial Ballet School in St. Petersburg. After displaying enormous talent he was quickly swept into a professional career with the ballet russes company. Balanchine travelled the soviet union with this company performing traditional ballets all consistent with vaganova styling, he grew bored of this and feared the artistic repression he was faced with in the Ballet Russes. During a trip to germany with this company he fled to Paris for artistic freedom, this event is considered the starting point of "American ballet" as we know it (previous to the Baryshnikov era, more on that next blog!!!). In Paris he began forming his own form of "neoclassical" ballet, blending elements of musical theatre and jazz with his Vaganova training to give each movement a more dramatic and dynamic quality. His Paris endeavors culminated in a collaboration project with Stravinsky; Apollo. the ballet sought to display the holiness of the greek god with his iconic lute; what differentiated it from previous attempts of representing apollo was an almost hollywood-like quality to the choreography, such as steps modified with slides and jazz arms (totally novel movements in a professional ballet setting).

Due to this, Apollo later came to be known as the first neoclassical ballet. After George Balanchine left Paris for America he gained experience dancing in broadway and hollywood acts, places which would directly impact his conception of what a ballet could be. He would spend much of his professional dancing career there, honing his technique and choreography into what i can now only refer to as "distinctly Balanchine". Balanchine would later move to new york after an injury would prevent him from dancing professionally, there he founded the New York City Ballet Studio Company and School of American ballet with the arts patron Lincoln Kirsten who would continue to finance his creative endeavors. These two organizations were based upon his new technique as opposed to already established disciplines such as Royal ballet or Russian Vaganova ballet. His first piece in America; Serenade, was an instant classic, the ballet (which i performed recently) incorporated elements of choreography from the tragic ballet Giselle and a very modern jazz styling of the port de bras (carriage of the arms). From then on Balanchine — or Mr.B as he was known to those close to him — created many ballets all consistent with this styling such as the Jewels series of works and the short piece "Square Dance".

Accompanying Balanchines new form of American ballet was a drastic rise in the standards of skill required to be considered a "real" professional ballet dancer, suddenly century old pieces performed regularly in Europe were required of the much less skilled american dancers. A large race to the top in New York ensued in which hundreds of ballet studios were founded and then collapsed, each with either a novel technique or simply trying to replicate Balanchine. Until the Baryshnikov era however the Balanchine discipline of ballet reigned supreme in America.