Academic journal article Philosophy Today

Alexandre Kojève: Authority/Temporality/Community

Academic journal article Philosophy Today

Alexandre Kojève: Authority/Temporality/Community

Article excerpt

I

Me dijo que su libro se llamaba El libro de arena, porque ni el libro ni la arena tienen ni principio ni fin. (Borges 2011:149)

In the presentation of the Introduction to the System of Knowledge (ISS),1 Kojeve (1990: 27-63) engages in several attempts to address that which he is about to discuss. In this exercise he questions himself as an author, the function of a title, the form of the philosophical text, the post-philosophical stand (i.e., wisdom), the function of an introduction, and the project that is being presented, as onto-logy. Except for the notion of wisdom, these are unprecedented issues in Kojeve's work.

Regardless of the relevance, or the salience, of the remaining topics, his presentation of the ISS strikes the most relevant point when he reflects on the function of an introduction. Discussing this function in an introductory text of a book, that is itself an introduction, brings forth its critical relevance, but casts doubt on which introduction is being referred to. Is it the introductory section where this reflection is undertaken? Does it discuss the introduction that follows the presentation of its function? Is a reference to the specific book that is to follow the presentation of the function of an introduction prevented by the general, abstract genre in which the latter is presented? After this introductory text there is an introduction to the ISS (Kojeve 1990: 65-83) inducing a conception of layered introductions, each one opening after the other. The ISS itself is composed of three introductions (Kojeve 1990: 75-83), neither of them being the "presentation" or the "introduction" to this book. But what, in the introduction, allows it to be excluded from the structure of the ISS, from the very beginning? The title, which Kojeve calls the "first pedagogical 'introduction' of the book" (Kojeve 1990: 58),2 is also left out of his accounts.

Despite the layered introductions, a lack of unity among them remains. The succession of introductions induces a necessary limitation that belongs to each one of them in its own way, while their co-presence creates a shared spectrum in the very lack of unity. For Kojeve, this is the proper sense of the function of an introduction. Whilst the introduction "is not connected to the Exposition by indissoluble bonds" (Kojeve 1990: 48), it is a constitutive element (Kojeve 1990: 50) that presents a forthcoming exposition to which it already belongs. Thus, the introduction may be a constitutive part of something to which it maintains no links. Kojeve presents this disconnection by recognizing the possibility of an introduction that introduces "an Exposition which no one has yet done" (Kojeve, 1990: 48). It is from here that the particular role of the introduction comes forth. The introduction appertains to a text that renders it "null, not to say negative" (Kojeve 1990: 52). "But such an Introduction will only be philosophically 'inoffensive' to the extent that it will be followed by an Exposition" (Kojeve 1990: 57). Until the arrival of that final exposition, the introduction will keep its full value in its disconnection. Moreover, the continual absence of that defining exposition renders any text as an introductory one.

II

Au fond le temps mythique est ¡'origine de ľautre et il émerge continuellement en produisant tout ce qui s'y manifeste de déconcertant ou d'inexplicable. (Caillois 1950:131)

Roman terminology is one of the main constituent elements of contemporary political vocabulary. Nevertheless, the texts providing this lexical legacy come from a period that no longer had access to its founding roots. Thus it can be understood how Arendt attributed the basis of Roman concepts, whose foundations preceded Greek influence, to Greek thought (Arendt 2006: 106). Actually, the etymology of much of those terms is to be found in a common origin of both Greek and Latin, in their ancestry. Despite of each of the resulting languages developing their Indo-European roots into different concepts, the Indo-European terms can still be traced in contemporary political terminologies. …

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