The dialectic heals.

Years ago, I translated an article by Gérard Lebrun, in which he said that “the dialectic pacifies”. To him, this was a criticism, not a compliment. Dialectics would have only pretend conflicts, destined to be overcome later. She didn't value enough conflict, always reducible, always curable. Being a Nietzschean, Lebrun thought of conflict as agonizing, ultimately leading to death, never to peace.

In dialectics, the queue moves. She heals the past. This was the place of thesis and antithesis, of which the present is, albeit temporarily, a synthesis. Nothing is left of the past, everything has come to the new synthesis. There is no leftover, memory, nostalgia.

Dialectics is a ball forward, that's why it's therapeutic. Everything that's gone bad dissolves, like when a good masseuse takes away muscle pain with a strong, wisely applied elbow. Really hurts! but cure. Pain kills, yes, but dialectics saves because it doesn't leave nodules of pain in the muscles, in the spine.

For Nietzsche, conflict is always agonizing, antagonistic. In it we have a hard, severe war. We have the unsurpassed. For Nietzscheans, denying that there is something irreducible in every singularity is unacceptable. There is always something left over, left over, not dissolved. Singularities are extremely potent.

this is true for Hannah Arendt, for many social scientists, for psychoanalysts today.

For Freud, however, there was a cure. The cure was so important that, in the later “Analysis finished and analysis interminable” he tells of a Russian prince who took a long time to heal, until around 1913 Freud set him a deadline: it is this year. Whatever it is, this year ends its analysis. And it worked. The Grand Duke returned to Russia. But it didn't work out, confesses Freud, because a few years later the Russian came back to him, and he wasn't doing well. (The curious thing is that there had been the Russian Revolution, he had lost his title, wealth and relatives, but Freud thought that if he were really cured he would need no further analysis: which is obviously Freud's delusion; but if that is not to believe in the cure, I don't know what it would be).

Healing is overcoming, discarding the residues, when the past trauma is really behind us. But today's psychoanalysts understand that there is no cure, the past is present in everyone's identity. A crisis is never fully resolved.

In this Nietzschean residue there is a tragic element, which recalls – curiously, given that the two are opposed in everything – the Hegelian tragic. For Hegel, tragedy is not a sad story, as in the mask of tragedy the smiling face (and laughing in that of comedy). It is the situation in which two opposing particularities are both right, but they do not reach a synthesis, they do not rise to a higher level where the two are integrated. This, which for Hegel is a failure, is an inability to synthesize, is, in short, tragedy – and thus is at odds with the human condition as it should be – for Nietzsche it is what it is: it is the human condition. Every belief in synthesis is a huge self-delusion.

The dialectical project consists in putting an end to this situation, in promoting a meeting, a non-opportunistic conciliation, which is not limited to overcoming momentary difficulties, but is an effective resolution of problems. At the base of every utopia lies a dialectic, even if the utopians don't know it. But for Nietzscheans, the most we have access to is harm reduction, crisis and loss management.

At the end of the line, dialectic smiles. All along the line, Nietzsche weighs – something very heavy, which perhaps is called responsibility. For the Nietzschean, utopia, dialectic and overcoming are just illusions, which surround us, which deceive us about what we are. For those who want to heal – even – the world, a dialectic is necessary.

1 comment

  1. Interesting text, how could we see the possibility of the über-mensch if not through the dialectical method, through synthesis? Would it have to have different presuppositions already in the thesis and antithesis?

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