June 2021

Purged Objects, Morgan Slade

One of the attractive features of the discussion engaged by Martinican theorist Frantz Fanon in Black Skin, White Masks (1952) is that it draws resources not only from the discussion of psychoanalysis but also from the Continental tradition in Western philosophy, a tradition that is occupied with concepts of consciousness, self-consciousness, subject and object of consciousness, and the relation between mind and body. Fanon acknowledged in Black Skin, White Masks the proximity between his position and that of the German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel, who, in his Phenomenology of Spirit (1807) maintained that consciousness of oneself as the subject of thinking is in part consciousness of oneself as a ‘degraded and distorted’ entity (see PS 178-196).

In his presentation of the ambivalence of self-consciousness Hegel argues that servile self-consciousness fails to realize reciprocal recognition that true self-consciousness demands for the latter cannot come from a degraded and distorted consciousness but must transcend its finitude through absolute negativity. Delineating degradation from what counts as absolute negativity this chapter accounts for the object of Hegel’s dialectical purge and argues that understanding what Hegel means by ‘degraded and distorted consciousness’ has consequences for the answer one may give to the question of Fanon’s view of the subject’s embodiment of consciousness in the course of her thinking.

About Our Guest
Morgan Slade is a PhD candidate in Comparative Literature at UC Irvine. The question at the core of her dissertation found its first formulation in Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (1781) and has known a revival in the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of blackness: What is self-consciousness and how does it condition the concept of blackness as a field of no possible experience—or none of which the subjective constitution of the mind can form a coherent conception.

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