Performing the speculative : a feminist departure from Kant and Hegel

Dahms, Isabell (2019) Performing the speculative : a feminist departure from Kant and Hegel. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


This thesis defines the philosophical concept of speculation and assessesits emergence in Kantian and post-Kantian German philosophy, in the attempted construction of a post-Enlightenment “scientific” philosophy and alongside early work in anthropology and gynaecology. It argues that in the historical elaboration of the problem of speculation “race” and “sex” emerge as concerns for this newly defined scientific philosophy. Moreover, a concept of performativity is introduced in the attempt to think the ontological implications or “effects” of speculative thought. This thesis proposes that Hegel is the originator of such a concept of performativity, introduced as the conclusion to the Science of Logic. Here, performativity is defined as activity of form or determinate being in contrast to the empty notion of being pure being with which the Logic begins. Speculation, the Logic proposes, is not only a methodological necessity giving rise to an essentially epistemological problem, as Kant had defined it, but is also to be thought as ontological Thätigkeit (activity) proper. Rewriting speculation as an ontological concept of form, Hegel uses, among others, social and political examples to illustrate the nature of speculative thought. The surprising appearance of the state and the sexual relation in the Logic, alongside the concepts of violence, resistance, power and freedom, demonstrates that speculative (theoretical and non-empirical) reason necessarily encounters political categories and suggests that these might be exemplary of its nature. While it remains unclear, in Hegel, precisely how the unfolding of conceptual form leads to political categories, both Irigaray and Butler offer answers to this question. In doing so, they separately outline ways of thinking the ontological dimension of speculative thought: Irigaray by modifying speculation as specula(riza)tion – an attempt to visualise speculation and to render its social dimensions visible; and Butler by formulating the concept of gender performativity. This thesis offers its own answer, too, by situating the emergence of speculation and performativity as philosophical concepts in the context of the history of modern gynaecology and the speculum. It reads these concepts alongside those of sexual difference, Geschlecht and gender, arguing that only in this way can speculation and performativity be thought.

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