NEGATIVITY

by Henri Wald

Any assertion implies negation. There is no assertion prior to negation. The first word proper that the child utters is "no!" and again "no" is the word marking off the final transition of anthropoid to man. Man is the outcome of the greatest revolt in the history of matter. By devising the tool and the speech, man succeeded in negating nature and asserting culture. In nature there is only attraction and repulsion. Negation and assertion are the tools of culture. Man is the only being that has succeeded in using his limbs and mouth not only to assimilate nature, but to contradict it, too. By means of the tool and the speech man has adjusted himself to nature and started changing it, he has stepped off the biosphere and started building the noosphere. By his materiality, man obviously belongs to nature but by his spirituality he has transcended nature and added culture to it. Through man, the world has acquired its second dimension: spirituality. Spiritual, not biological, power has permitted man to tame nature and impart human meanings to it.

The spirit has emerged from manís opposition to nature. The spirit is an act of opposition. But spirit does not negate nature in an absolute manner. By negating, it asserts. Without assertion, negation degenerates into negativism. The spirit refuses confinement to the sensitive mirroring of phenomena in order to mirror ever deeper essences, it refuses to stay bound to the present in order to prospect an ever more distant future, it refuses to linger in the concrete in order to build up ever higher abstractions, it refuses to stoop to successful achievements in order to make further progress. The spirit is the highest form of expression of manís disagreement with what already exists.

Spirit is not reducible to reason, to the logical forms of thinking, it is the process whereby manís aversions and aspirations have been converted into ideas. Spirit is the "field" extending between manís sensory and intellectual activities. Its genesis starts the moment when man, with the help of the means of production and communication, succeeded in outdistancing the phenomenon, the present, the concrete and kept reality at an increasingly longer distance. Spirit does not come from some other world, it is the outcome of a dual world ó nature and culture ó the outcome of manís struggle against his environment. Manís power over the environment grows bigger with his extending and expanding the spiritual "field" between experience and intellect. The history of culture would never have existed had man not "seen" the silex knife in an unchopped stone and the metaphoric strength of speech in the warning cries. The better the "understanding" of the intellect of what experience "perceives", the greater the force of spirit over matter.

The opposition between man and nature generates spirit, but what enables the spirit to understand the world is the unity between nature and man. Control of events implies knowledge of laws. It is only phenomena that man can negate. Essences must be found. Ignoring essences makes human practice destroy nature and avert it from culture building.

More serious, however, is ignoring the unity between technical means and moral aims. We are living an historical moment when manís creations tend to negate man himself. Contemporary man is compelled to check out with ever greater care the very negation through which it has been formed. The discrepancy between the overdevelopment of manís material force and the underdevelopment of his spiritual force must be urgently negated.


Wald, Henri. Introduction to Dialectical Logic. Bucuresti: Editura Academiei; Amsterdam: B.R. Grüner B.V., 1975. (Philosophical Currents; v. 14) Chapter 1, section 5, pp. 10-11. [Emphasis added by R. Dumain]


"On Trends in the Status of Dialectical Logic: A Brief Study of Lefebvre, Ilyenkov and Wald" by Claude M. J. Braun

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