On the origin of the left-Hegelian concept of immanent transcendence: reflections on the background of classical sociology

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Strydom, Piet
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This article pursues the question of the origin of the left-Hegelian concept of immanent transcendence that emerged in the nineteenth century. Whereas some contemporary critical theorists apparently understand the concept as deriving from a religious origin, evolutionary and historical considerations would seem to indicate that more might be involved. Evolutionarily, the origin of the concept can be traced to the civilisation-founding cognitive achievement that marks the emergence of the current version of the human species and the concomitant cultural explosion during the Palaeolithic period. In this context, the cultural consolidation of the newly acquired metarepresentational capacity by language and visual symbolisation or art preceded religion by a considerable elapse of time. As one among a number of sociocultural practices, it could only have made a partial contribution to the conditions for the emergence of the concept. Historically, the thought of the key nineteenth-century left-Hegelians Marx and Peirce was fundamentally shaped, not by religion, but rather by the core modern innovation of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries – the new mathematical-scientific-philosophical understanding of infinity as real – which gained primacy by significantly impacting on relevant late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century intellectual developments, including laying down the parameters of classical social thought in general and left-Hegelianism in particular. Since the competing religious understanding of infinity, despite having left traces on modern validity concepts such as truth, justice and truthfulness, remained shrouded in indefinite incomprehensibility, it could at best continue to play only the role of an identity-securing, identity-cultivating and motivational source for some, not all. As such, it did not contribute to the nineteenth-century left-Hegelian concept.
Habermas , Honneth , Infinity , Kant , Left-Hegelianism , Marx , Modernity , Peirce , Religion
Strydom, P. (2018) 'On the origin of the left-Hegelian concept of immanent transcendence: reflections on the background of classical sociology', Journal of Classical Sociology, pp. 1-19. doi:10.1177/1468795x18803642
© 2018, the Author. Reprinted by permission of SAGE Publications.