Through the eyes of the dead others

Isaac Aaron Ceniceros, University of Texas at El Paso


I use Edith Wyschogrod's figure of the heterological historian to argue that we have a responsibility to learn from the "dead others" of the past in order to better apply in practical ways the lessons we learn from history. I draw on an interpretation of Nietzsche's view on historiography, to examine the claims of Hegel's dialectic, namely, that the Ideal Absolute for which Spirit pines, is actually achievable, particularly through the advent of the Internet. Beginning with a relatively well-known interpretation of Hegel's philosophy of history, Fukuyama's, I show how Hegel's dialectic takes shape in Fukuyama's interpretation as a negative aspect of Spirit's unveiling. This "negative aspect" results in Spirit being stuck in a perpetual feedback loop from which only the conscious realization of its current state, and a cognizant effort by the future subjects of history to free it, will in fact do so. Consequently, this thesis serves as the basis for rejecting Fukuyama's claim that history came to an end with the fall of communism, and, as such, the task of engaging in the dialectical work of Spirit in order to continue to work towards its final "Ideal" form is incomplete and calls for further philosophical and ethical work. I show how this active acknowledgement, the "conscious realization", and concerted, "cognizant effort" to bring about the necessary change needed for Spirit to carry on its journey is a fundamental part of Spirit's ongoing unveiling of the parousia that we, humans, are intimately a part of. It is an unveiling that is made manifest by the heterological historian's implementation of socially conscientious art and technology. Additionally, I further argue that this parousia can only be completed by way of active, practical engagement, and that phenomenology, in practice, can lead one to this realization. Furthermore, I argue that once one understands the conditions entailed by these claims and begins to engage in the practices they involve, one has a moral obligation to not only the dead others but to all future others to help them do the same. The practices involve addressing the voices of the dead others as victims of the dominant agents acting irresponsibly to achieve their own self-interest at the expense of the interests of excludes, or "dead" others. In order to do so, I make the claim that this is a moral prerequisite for all individuals who have satisfied the basic tenets of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. More specifically, I argue that the conditions for which the others can elevate themselves to the upper echelons of Maslow's hierarchy must first exist before indulging in the exploits afforded by Western liberalism, a condition which is not afforded to us by Fukuyama's interpretation of Hegel's dialectic. In doing so, I hope to show why I believe Wyschogrod is correct in stating three arguments for better taking into account the lost possibilities of the "dead others" and the potential possibilities of "future others", the first of which is that the inherent contradiction in Hegel's dialectic leaves out certain people and cultures from history. The second is Wyschogrod's claim that a new ethics, an ethics of understanding, is needed to manifest Spirit in a more conducive manner than war. Lastly, I hope to show that Wyschogrod is correct in stating that history, as we know it, is coming to an end via technology, and that it is the moral obligation of the heterological historian to help it do so.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Ceniceros, Isaac Aaron, "Through the eyes of the dead others" (2014). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI1562040.