SKC Project Seminar: Anna Cornelia Ploug


The aspiration to concrete philosophizing that became fashionable in mid-20th century French philosophy was conceptually enabled by the concurrent reception of Kierkegaard and new readings of Hegel. Albeit their contrasting positions as thinkers of singularity and totality, respectively, both offer a stark critique of abstraction and more particularly of thinking in the abstract. In this seminar, I look at how the junction of their critiques of abstract thinking play out in the turn towards the concrete in wartime France. In its intimate association with existence, concretion constitutes for Kierkegaard an antidote to the abstract discourse of systematic philosophy. On Hegel’s account, abstract determinations serve as a necessary methodological state on the way to the concrete, i.e., the comprehensive conceptual result of a process of determination. The intersection of these two ideas are key to the French celebration of ‘concrete philosophy’, in which we find both a critique of intellectualism or of the alleged self-sufficiency of disciplinary philosophy and a rebuttal of the ‘pseudo-concreteness’ of the immediate and empirically given. One case in point is Jean Hyppolite, whose interpretation of Hegel may be seen as an attempt to reconcile structuralist and existentialist thought. Another example, this time of concrete philosophizing in action, is Simone de Beauvoir, who in The Second Sex develops her critical notion of ‘woman’ precisely through a combination of incorporating non-philosophical experiential material into the notion and determining it by tracing its logical genesis.