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The Betrayal of Substance


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Table of Contents

On Reading Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit
Beginning: Philosophy and the Problem of the Preface
Our Time Is the Birth-Time of Spirit: Kant and the Bird on a Lime-Twig
Part I: Epochē
1. Critique of Immediacy: The Unreality of the Sensuous
2. Self-Consciousness: The Fate of the Singleton
3. Happiness: Reason at Work
Part II: The Phenomenology of Spirit
4. Spirit, or Transubstantiated Life: Infrastructures of Community
Part III: Absolute Knowing: The Betrayal of Substance
5. Leaving Literature Behind: The Return to Immediacy in the Life of the Concept

About the Author

Mary C. Rawlinson is professor of philosophy and director of graduate studies at Stony Brook University in New York and senior research fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies, University College London. Her books include Just Life: Bioethics and the Future of Sexual Difference (Columbia, 2016).


Mary Rawlinson has written an elegant, nuanced analysis of Hegel’s phenomenology that addresses its constitutive limits. She undertakes a Hegelian critique of Hegel, revealing his blindspots—his understanding of sexual difference, the finite individual, and the arts in general—while affirming his insights regarding the play of difference in human history.
*Elizabeth Grosz, author of The Incorporeal: Ontology, Ethics, and the Limits of Materialism*

Mary Rawlinson’s The Betrayal of Substance elaborates a sophisticated and thought-provoking Hegelian critique of Hegel himself. With decades of experience deftly interpreting Hegel’s philosophy, Rawlinson powerfully argues for a phenomenology of death, literature, and sexual difference as singular instances resisting uptake into any purported encyclopedic System of Absolute Knowledge.
*Adrian Johnston, author of A New German Idealism: Hegel, Žižek, and Dialectical Materialism*

The Betrayal of Substance provides one of the most thorough and careful readings of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit to date. Rawlinson sees the limitations of what Hegel is doing while appreciating the magnitude of his achievement. This book's project is distinct, and its voice is singular.
*Todd McGowan, author of Emancipation After Hegel: Achieving a Contradictory Revolution*

The Betrayal of Substance is a careful elucidation of The Phenomenology of Spirit which pays equal attention to its blind spots. Rawlinson argues, persuasively, that despite his enduring emphasis on life, Hegel betrays his phenomenological project in untethering consciousness from its immediate sensuous existence. Responding to these betrayals, she outlines a new conception of the political inspired by Hegel but based on creativity and the material aspects of public life.
*Elaine Miller, author of Head Cases: Julia Kristeva on Philosophy and Art in Depressed Times*

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