Havel, Hegel and New Age philosophy:

Hauser doesn't know what he is talking about

7. 9. 2009 / Karel Dolejší

Michael Hauser finds it important to criticise Václav Havel's philosophical legacy. A criticism of his philosophical argumentation, written by a member of the Czech academic establishment, is surprising. It wouldn't be surprising in the times when Havel held the post of the Czech president and the media were interested in his various whims. But now Havel, the representative of the de-legitimised and moribund tradition of the "Velvet Revolution", is in political retirement. So it is difficult to understand why it is worth while to criticise his ideas. Is Havel well-known these days for anything other than his political influence from behind the scenes, which is based on his private connections?

A Czech version of this article is HERE

Hauser's article entitled "Václav Havel's Disharmony and his Politics of a Cosmic Order" begins with a reference to György Lukács -- a loyal Stalinist who tackled all his "disharmonies" with the official communist party line by denouncing the most original ideas he has published in his Theory of the novel and History and the Class Consciousness . Thus, paradoxically, Hauser's text uses as a point of departure a thought from a man who "always knew his right place". Lukács, a Hegelian Stalinist, who in his theoretical work invented the category of totality, in practice destroyed the livelihoods of his independently thinking colleagues István Bibó, Béla Hamvas, Károly Kerényi and Lajos Prohászka. I am probably not the only one to whom this way of starting a defence of disharmony seems somewhat disharmonious. But let us proceed.

The ability to "see all the fragments of social life as a single whole", which Lukács sees as a unique feature of Marxism, is undoubtedly a unique characteristic of Hegel's objective idealism. This type of idealism doesn't need to bother concretely analysing an object and to look for its possible links to another object, if it wants to achieve their conceptual unity -- it simply presupposes this unity. Real experience becomes subordinate to the theory. The methodological principle -- the category of totality -- becomes a law which tyrannically rules over all objects, no matter how different they might be. This comfortable standpoint makes it possible for us to stop distinguishing between objects. It enables us to give up our reverence for the object of our thinking and become sloppy in our argumentation.

Just like the communist handbooks of Marxism, published before the fall of communism in 1989, Michal Hauser sees contradiction as the most determining feature of reality. Quoting Niels Bohr, Hauser argues that there isn't any "order" in nature which we as finite creatures would have to respect. In his view, it is human beings who merely project their own ideas of order into nature, nature in itself is merely full of contradictions. The structuring of the natural reality has thus been reduced to the existence of contradictions. But Hegelian idealism teaches that contradictions can be mastered by "dialectic" thinking, so the structuring of objective reality has been reduced to the order of the thinking by the Absolute Spirit. The only (Adorno's) "non-identical", which cannot be removed by thinking away the contradictions, resides in Man, says Hauser. Thus, Hauser has dismissed not only the harmonising New Age ideology, but also our awareness of the fact that throughout history, human beings have always had to choose between conquering nature and being conquered by nature.

Havel's one time obsession with an individual's "having a dissident footprint" is now totally forgotten by Hauser. He now only speaks of Havel's later uncritical identification with the American "defence of Western civilisation". But, wait: is Hauser's rule, postulated above, namely that seemingly different things -- such as post-modern spirituality and psychiatry -- are interconnected and merge, suddenly no longer valid? What, in fact, is the difference between Havel's one-time "dissident footprint" and Hauser's "disharmony" of today?

The failure of Havel's project of personal authenticity is the result of his shameful conformism with American foreign policy, not of his cheesy talk about the "Natural Order of Things". Had the former president of the Czech Republic really adhered to the concept of natural rights, he wouldn't have ever been able to coin the newspeak term of "humanitarian bombardment" of Yugoslavia. Havel's alleged "politics of the Cosmic Order", his alleged attempt to found a cosmological civilisation is thus probably only Hauser's invention. Maybe it is a result of Hauser's misreading of Wittfogel.

It is evidently a weird Czech habit that ecological topics, which in the West have now made it into mainstream politics, are constantly being ignored or ridiculed in the Czech context, this time in connection with Havel. This unfortunately has happened even in the case of the article by the translator and main interpreter of the legacy of the Frankfurt School. But the order within the minds of theoretical philosophers is surely far from identical with the order of the thinking of the Absolute Spirit...


Obsah vydání | Pátek 26.2. 2010