Gregor Moder, Hegel’s Orient and the Concept of Europe

Gregor Moder is a professor of philosophy and teaches “What is Enlightenment?” and “Philosophy of Art” at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. He is a member of the editorial board of Problemi, the foremost Slovenian journal for philosophy, psychoanalysis and culture. Moder is the author of Comic Love: Shakespeare, Hegel, Lacan (2015, in Slovenian) and recently of Hegel and Spinoza: Substance and Negativity (Northwestern UP, 2017).

The philosophy of the “Orient” (Morgenland) occupies a curious place within the structure of Hegel’s Lectures on the History of Philosophy, as it is neither part of the history proper nor explicitly excluded from it. As Hegel announces it in the introductory lectures, he is only interested in discussing the philosophy of the ancient India and China in order to explain that there is no philosophy as such present in that thought. The “Orient” thus constitutes the true beginning of thought, and yet it is at that very instant also discarded as pure and immediate nothingness. As such, the Orient nevertheless fulfills the task of any beginning for Hegel, such as it is famously posited in the paragraph on being in Science of Logic: “being, pure being – without further determination.” – In contemporary political and economic discourse on Europe and within Europe, we could perhaps argue that “Eastern Europe” constitutes such a Hegelian curiosity: an element which is excluded within its whole.