Hegel Kojeve and Desire for Desire

The philosopher Hegel stresses the significance of “a desire for a desire” and this is expanded by Alexander Kojeve in his book “An Introduction to the Reading of Hegel’s Phenomenology” which I have here and read 40 years ago. I would have to brush up and I dont find anything in Google. But you can TALK and perhaps you can “talk about talking” and you can even talk about “talk about talking” but beyond three levels it has no real meaning for the mind reels. Nature abhors a vacuum and reason abhors an infinite regress. I just opened up Kojeve’s book. Let’s take the example of someone who wants someone else to like them and therefore “desires that the other person desire them.” That is one example of “desire for a desire.” In the Gospels when it says “I believe, help thou my unbelief” then that is a desire to have more belief. There is a Psalm which prays “let the lifting up of my hands be as an evening sacrifice” which is an example of ‘prayer for prayer.” And when young people decide they want to become a doctor or some other professional, then they start of by more or less PRETENDING to act like that professional… they desire to have the knowledge and desires of that trained professional. I will look at Kojeve’s book for some other examples.

Stop and think about what the average politician desires. They desire YOUR DESIRE; that is to say, the politician wants you to want them. That desired desire becomes a form of political power. The philosopher Hegel did not necessarily have Marxism in mind. It is said that Marx “stood Hegel on his head” to use Hegel’s dialectic as a basis for dialectical materialism. By the time Kojeve comes along in the 1950s, Kojeve is looking at Hegel through the lens of Marxism. The early pages of Kojeves book tries to establish this “desired desire” in the social context of humans as creatures who socialize and have mutual needs.

Kojeve summarized this social desire for recognition by saying that no one is simply a person but is who they are in the social contest of either a master or a slave. Now the “master and slave” concept is an important part of Hegel’s Phenomenology. Ultimately the slave is somehow transformed by the bondage and ultimately becomes a master. If one looks at the surfs of the middle ages, and then the industrial revolution with workers and capitalists then once sees Marx call “workers of the world unite; you have nothing to lose but your chains.” Or we can look at the Jew being enslaved in Egypt and then gaining freedom and somehow gaining dominance over their former masters.

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