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History and EventFrom Marxism to Contemporary French Theory$
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Nathan Coombs

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780748698998

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748698998.001.0001

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Hegel’s Leaps and the Historicist Theory of Knowledge

Hegel’s Leaps and the Historicist Theory of Knowledge

(p.19) Chapter 1 Hegel’s Leaps and the Historicist Theory of Knowledge
History and Event

Nathan Coombs

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter locates the roots of the Marxist theory of revolutionary change in G.W.F. Hegel’s philosophy. In the well-known formula, cumulative changes in quantitative properties give rise to a qualitative leap into the future. However, the chapter argues that the idea rests on shaky ontological foundations. Through a close reading of the Science of Logic, it is shown that Hegel’s idea of leaps relies on excising irrational numbers. To make his dialectical transitions work, Hegel has to dialecticise the mathematical infinite and ignore scientific epistemological breaks from the classical period onwards. This compares unfavourably to Alain Badiou, who makes Georg Cantor’s breakthrough with transfinite set theory the lynchpin for his discontinuous philosophy of events. The final section argues that Hegel’s notion of quantity to quality leaps is also complicit with the reformism and technological determinism promoted by key thinkers of Second International Marxism.

Keywords:   Philosophy, Marxism, Hegel, Ontology, Infinite, Mathematics, Leaps, Quantity to quality, Cantor, Second International

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