In Alexandre Kojéve’s Introduction to Hegel, the author is explaining, in the first chapter, about the self-consciousness of a human as it is originated only in the presence of another human. He says that self-consciousness is achieved when a human desires of being desired by the other human. After a little more explanation on this part, the author says that in this way there develops a relationship of Master and Slave between two humans and this relation is always the result of the fight for recognition (being desired).

On page 9 of his book, we find these lines:

... if Desire must end in satisfaction, if the science of man must possess the quality of definitively and universally valid truth —the interaction of Master and Slave must finally end in the “dialectical overcoming” of both of them.

I cannot understand what the author meant by “dialectical overcoming”. As far as my search is concerned, I have found that dialectic is a way of reaching the truth by proper methods of argumentation and reasoning, but it is not helping in understanding that.

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    Hegelian dialectics is the sublation of opposites into unity, ie. the meaning is a bit different in that context. Will see if I find the time for a proper answer in a few hours.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Mar 12, 2021 at 12:46
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    'Overcoming' of a thesis, through an antithesis that creates a new synthesis. Perhaps, the end of slavery through acknowledging common humanity, and embracing of universal citizenship, for instance. There's good arguments around intersubjectivity and Private Language that we need interaction and dialogue to develop. Personally I'm dubious that master-slave or any other highly unequal interaction are archetypal for such developmental interactions; but the divine right of kings, and myth of noble blood, have been powerful social technologies, to the point some see them that way.
    – CriglCragl
    Mar 12, 2021 at 13:18
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    It is just possible that as mankind is pushed harder against the wall, and due to the plasticity of the world, and the power of spirit or mind, that we could pull a rabbit out of the hat somehow. Science perhaps. But right now irrationalism and denial and fantasy prevail.
    – Gordon
    Mar 14, 2021 at 16:36
  • The IEP website is either down or slow now you can find the Kojève article there.
    – Gordon
    Mar 14, 2021 at 16:52
  • Kojeve is doing something political. And my answer is given in response to Kojeve's doing something political. But the big picture is that Kojeve is not the best expositor of Hegel, and neither am I in response to Kojeve. But Kojeve’s lectures, the lectures themselves, had great influence so we have to come to terms with them.
    – Gordon
    Mar 14, 2021 at 17:22

1 Answer 1


There is no getting around the fact you will have to study Hegel.

The overcoming is a reasonable unity that contains the master-slave contradiction but rises above it.

Economics is the study of scarcity. The idea being that capitalism would solve the scarcity problem to a great extent, and individuals could be equally respected under law. Master-Slave is “overcome”. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy Kojéve https://iep.utm.edu/kojeve/

Kojéve was dead wrong and so was Horkheimer, though I believe Horkheimer was actually in bad faith. He knew better, he just wanted to feather his own nest. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=5lmLMFJXuSk (you can find this with English subtitles)

Capitalism only works as long as it can deliver the “goods” to a relatively large number of people. If it can’t deliver the goods, if it in fact destroys the Earth, then law and order will break down, which is happening right now. (In other words, as the pie shrinks, even liberals become fascists, or especially liberals become fascists, in order to preserve (in their minds) their piece of the pie). This is individual madness, not individuals living peacefully under law.

We simply cannot rush Hegel. Master-Slave will be overcome through a hellish dialectical process. Billions will die in the process. Reason will prevail if we don’t destroy everything first.

PS in one sense we overcome master-slave as we become conscious of the contradiction as we read Hegel’s Phenomenology. In other words we recognize that it could be overcome, and the “idea” begins its own work in the world to overcome it.

NB we can put aside this “desire for recognition” business as we see that the idea of “desire” is formulated by a thinker sitting in a comfortable chair in a comfortable room. This is a fight, or struggle, for material existence in light of scarcity (and now in light of increased scarcity)

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    If you talk about struggle for recognition you should at least mention Axel Honneth IMHO;)
    – Philip Klöcking
    Mar 14, 2021 at 17:25
  • I read over the IEP Kojeve and it can probably stand as a good answer in itself. Thanks @PhilipKlocking for the Axel Honneth Recommendation. I will put this down for the OP too britannica.com/topic/Hegelianism/… And archive.org/details/lowith-from-hegel-to-nietzsche_202006
    – Gordon
    Mar 14, 2021 at 18:02
  • Here is another article for the OP: Kojeve, Hegel, and Heidegger ebrary.net/104369/philosophy/kojeve_hegel_heidegger
    – Gordon
    Mar 14, 2021 at 18:08
  • I had heard of Axel Honneth but was not aware of his biography or of his books and writings, I am embarrassed to say. en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axel_Honneth
    – Gordon
    Mar 14, 2021 at 18:57
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    Why suppose thesis and antithesis have to be debated among large numbers of people? If one person sympathetically understands both the thesis and the antithesis, his mind is forced to produce a new, creative solution. This is a particle collider for philosophy. Hegelian dialectic ought to be usable as a tool for producing history's successes rather than diagramming its failures. Mar 18, 2021 at 2:48

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