Notes from Kojéve

Ultimately, freedom is about acting. But how freely can you act? Hegel struggled with this question—as explicated by Aleandre Kojéve:

The free act is situated, so to speak, outside of the line of temporal evolution. The hic et nunc, represented by a point on this line, is determined, fixed, defined by the past which, through it, determines the future as well. The hic et nunc of the free act, on the other hand, is unexplainable, on the basis of its past; it is not fixed or determined by it. Even while existing in space-time, the being endowed with freedom must be able to detach itself from the hic et nunc, to rise above it, to take up a position in relation to it. But the free act is related to the hic et nunc: it is effected in given, determined conditions. That is to say: the content of the hic et nunc must be preserved, while being detached from hic et nunc.

Alexandre Kojéve, Introduction to the Reading of Hegel, trans. James H. Nichols, Jr. (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1980), 111.

So you are free when you act outside that which determines your here and now. Your action must also have an effect:

If freedom is something other than a dream or a subjective illusion, it must make its mark in objective reality (Wirklichkeit), and it can do this only be realizing itself as action that operates in and on the real.

Kojéve, 209.

So it has to change things are—or negate them:

it is Hegel’s merit to have understood that this union in independence and this independence in union occur only where there is negation of the given: Freedom = Action = Negativity. But if action is independent of the given real because it negates it, it creates, in realizing itself, something essentially new in relation to this given. Freedom preserves itself in the real, it endures really, only by perpetually creating new things from the given. Now, truly creative evolution, that is, the materialization of a future that is not simple prolongation of the past through the present, is called History: Freedom = Negativity = Action = History.

Kojéve, 209.

So freedom is what makes for history—the change in things over time.

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