Thursday, May 23, 2024

Integration, Contradiction of Knowing and Denying

The philosophical point about integration is the contradiction of knowing the other and denying it at the same time. 

One of the factors leading to an increased focus on integration at the EU level is the belated recognition that migration will be a permanent part of Europe’s future. The workers who come to fill skills and labor shortages, refugees, overseas students, and family members who arrive to join immigrant relatives will require a level of incorporation, whether they stay temporarily or permanently (Sarah Spencer).

The problem takes place from two main streams. The first stream is about migrants coming from the process of European unification, workers, students, family members. The second stream concerns refugees, asylum seekers subsequent international conflicts, extreme poverty, climate change, human trafficking. Public resentment and fear of difference lead to discrimination and community tensions.

In addition, it has contributed to the rise in support for far-right political parties, which successfully exploit people’s fears and resentments. It is interesting to stress how Danish socialistic coalition has lost the last political elections, only because the xenophobic opposition exploited the public fear for diversity. It is impressive how a far-right and xenophobic political party has won the last elections, exploiting people’s resentment and creating a state of fear ad hoc.  

It is important to note how UK decided to leave the EU for the same reason. The same for the last Germany political elections where xenophobic parties represent 13% and are now present in the Parliament.

It is usually tacitly and implicitly taken for granted that the hosting nation is culturally superior to the hosted population. There is no rational reason to assert that unless “superior” refers to a more attractive or stable economy. As a consequence, the better economy, makes the hosting nation to believe of being culturally superior. However, this sense of superiority might be generated by fear of diversity, for diversity may entail the obligation to expand one’s consciousness (in Hegelian terms).

Migrants, moreover, come from a far wider range of countries, and bring a greater diversity of languages and cultures, than in the past. Some European states have only recently become countries of immigration, with no experience of integration strategies.

Since migration at EU level will be a permanent part of Europa’s future, the idea that the hosting nation is culturally superior to the hosted population is not logic according to a dialectic process. The opposition migrant-host does not make any sense at all in a long-term period. If hosting populations won’t change their attitudes, by becoming attractive for migrants, hosting cultures risk of disappearing, losing their own selfhood and self-identity, being insulated by the migration wave. It is not a matter of opposition at all, but rather a matter of “sublation” or aufheben


“Dialectics” is a term used to describe a method of philosophical argument that involves some sort of contradictory process between opposing sides.

I have above-mentioned terms as sublation and aufheben.  The English verb “to sublate” translates Hegel’s technical use of the German verb aufheben, which is a crucial concept in his dialectical method. Hegel says that aufheben has a double meaning: it means both to cancel (or negate) and to preserve at the same time (PhG §113; SL-M 107; SL-dG 81–2; cf. EL the Addition to §95). 

This process of opposition between immigrants (or migrants) and hosting population standing over against each other, as it is, is actually a contradictory process. Whereas Plato’s “opposing sides” were people (Socrates and his interlocutors), in Hegel’s work “opposing sides” are different definitions of consciousness and of the object that consciousness is aware of or claims to know.

I believe that an integration problem is actually a form of dialectics, related to the definition of consciousness. The opposing sides are not people, but different stages of people’s consciousness. Therefore, a migrant, an immigrant, a refugee, do actually represent different stages of hosting population’s consciousness, rather than actual people in “itself”.  

Hegel provides the most extensive, general account of his dialectical method has three sides or moments (EL §79).

The first moment—the moment of the understanding—is the moment of fixity, in which concepts or forms have a seemingly stable definition or determination (EL §80).

The second moment—the “dialectical” (EL §§79, 81) or “negatively rational” (EL §79) moment—is the moment of instability. In this moment, a one-sidedness or restrictedness (EL Remark to §81) in the determination from the moment of understanding comes to the fore, and the determination that was fixed in the first moment passes into its opposite (EL §81).

Hegel describes this process as a process of “self-sublation” (EL §81). The moment of understanding sublates itself because of its own character or nature—its one-sidedness or restrictedness—destabilizes its definition and leads it to pass into its opposite. The dialectical moment thus involves a process of self-sublation, or a process in which the determination from the moment of understanding sublates itself, or both cancels and preserves itself, as it pushes on to or passes into its opposite.

The third moment—the “speculative” or “positively rational” (EL §§79, 82) moment—grasps the unity of the opposition between the first two determinations, or is the positive result of the dissolution or transition of those determinations (EL §82 and Remark to §82). Here, Hegel rejects the traditional, reductio ad absurdum argument, which says that when the premises of an argument lead to a contradiction, then the premises must be discarded altogether, leaving nothing. “is just the skepticism which only ever sees pure nothingness in its result and abstracts from the fact that this nothingness is specifically the nothingness of that from which it results” (PhG §79)

As he also puts it, “the result is conceived as it is in truth, namely, as a determinate negation [bestimmte Negation]; a new form has thereby immediately arisen” (PhG §79). Or, as he says, “[b]because of the result, the negation, is a determinate negation [bestimmte Negation], it has a content” (SL-dG 33; cf. SL-M 54).

The simple idea of xenophobic attitude is self-contradictory. People’s consciousness tries to deny what is already contained in consciousness. Many people are prisoner of the first dialectic moment, the moment of fixity, where concepts have seemingly stable definitions. ” I am part of the hosting population, you are the hosted immigrant”.

Those people keep on denying what is actually undeniable. That new populations are becoming part of their own reality, that is, their own consciousness. This attitude is nowadays much more widely spread among the so-called petty bourgeoisie or middle class, than being just a declared xenophobic movements’ legacy. The experience in many Nordic countries of Europe has shown as “hosting” was equivalent to “economic support” and the outcome has been the constant expansion of ethnic communities, culturally detached from the hosting community.

The concept of Danish, for example, as a Being-for-itself, would be defined by gathering up individual “somethings” that are the same as one another (as Danish). Each individual Danish can be what it is (as a Danish) only in relation to another “other” that is the same “something” that it is (i.e. a Danish). That is the one-sidedness or restrictedness that leads each “something” to pass into its “other” or opposite. The “somethings” are thus both “something-others”.

Moreover, their defining processes lead to an endless process of passing back and forth into one another: one “something” can be what it is (as a Danish) only in relation to another “something” that is the same as it is, which, in turn, can be what it is (a Danish) only in relation to the other “something” that is the same as it is, and so on, back and forth, endlessly.

The concept of Danish, as a Being-for-itself, stops that endless, passing-over process by embracing or including the individual something-others (others Danish) in its content. It grasps or captures their character or quality as Danish. But the “something-others” must do their work of picking out and separating those individual items (the Danes) before the concept of Danish—as the Being-for-itself—can gather them up for its own definition. Now, those individual items (the Danes) are other than 50 years ago and, as a consequence, the concept of Danish is other than it was before. 

Society is changing and populations are changing as well. Individual’s consciousness must contain other’s consciousness in itself, and its own way to relate itself to others has the consequence to change consciousness’s content. To pretend of being the same Self as it was before the migration, it is like to relate our self to fewer people every time, and to narrow down our consciousness horizon, living in a contradiction of standing over and against the other, and denying it at the same time. 


Sarah Spencer, 2003, The Challenges of Integration for the EU. Migration Policy Institute

BLAU Peter, M. A Theory of Social Integration, 1960, The American Journal of Sociology, Volume LXV, n. 6.

Hegel, G.F.,[PhG], Phenomenology of Spirit [Phänomenologie des Geistes], translated by A.V. Miller, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977.

Hegel, [EL] The Encyclopedia Logic: Part 1 of the Encyclopaedia of Philosophical Sciences [Enzyklopädie der philosophischen Wissenschaften I], translated by T.F. Geraets, W.A. Suchting, and H.S. Harris, Indianapolis: Hackett, 1991.

Maybee, Julie E., “Hegel’s Dialectics”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2016 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <>.

Zahavi D., 2008, Subjectivity and Selfhood, MIT edit. 

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