published on May 23, 2014
The Abolition of Time in Hegel's "Absolute Knowing" (and Its Relevance for Marx)
In the history of interpretations of Hegel, how one reads the chapter on ‘Absolute Knowing’ in the Phenomenology of Spirit determines one’s whole perspective. In fact, Marx’s only comments on the Phenomenology concern this final chapter, taking it as the very “secret” of Hegel’s philosophy. But what is the secret hidden within the thicket of this impenetrable prose? My suggestion is that it turns on a very specific meaning of the “abolition of time” that Hegel describes in the very last paragraphs. But the meaning of this idea is not what Marx criticized in his last Manuscript of 1844, that is, it is not simply a form of idealism which abolishes the finitude of man. Rather this relationship to time accepts such finitude, making it the central axis upon which the possibility of freedom turns. In this paper, I will present a reading of Absolute Knowing that focuses on the meaning of overcoming time, and connect it to some thoughts on “disposable time” that Marx discusses in the Grundrisse.