Hegel and the absolute truth

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It is a concrete object, but not grasped as a concrete simple , but grasped in relation to what is judged of it in the predicate. And to the extent that judgments can be considered components of syllogisms, we might appreciate how syllogisms might have become contentful in a process that has culminated in the concrete syllogism of necessity. In the Phenomenology it turned out that the capacity for a subject to entertain objects of consciousness such as perceptual ones was that such a subject was capable of self-consciousness.

It then turned out that to be capable of self-consciousness the subject had to exist in a world with other embodied subjects whose intentions it could recognize. Formally considered we might think of this syllogism as the logical schematization of the most developed form of recognition in which thinkers acknowledge others as free thinkers.

What we see here is a reprise of the conception of logos as an objective process running through the world as had been conceived by the ancient Stoics and neo-Platonists. But it is now embedded not simply in the world as such—in nature —but in objectivized spirit , in human communities of thinkers. We are now returned to the domain of objectivity that had characterized Books 1 and 2 of the Science of Logic , but we might expect such a return from subjectivity to have effected a change in objectivity as earlier understood.

To cross straight into a consideration of the objectivity of the human world of action and thought—spirit—would be to break the developmental pattern of the logic because thought about such a complex form of objective existence will presuppose thought about simpler forms. And so the starting point for the consideration of objectivity will again be that of the simple object as something immediately grasped by thought. But this object can now be developed with that elaborate conceptual apparatus that has emerged in the preceding section.

This adequate concept is the Idea , which, after tracking through considerations of the living individual and theoretical and practical cognition, emerges as the Absolute Idea. The first part of the Encyclopaedia is essentially a condensed version of his earlier Science of Logic , considered above. Was not Hegel simply trying to pre-empt the work of empirical scientists by somehow attempting to anticipate the very contents of their discoveries from logical considerations alone?

Krug is mentioned explicitly in a footnote at this point. In these sciences the empirical element is the sole confirmation of the hypothesis, so that everything has to be explained. In keeping with the more general idea that that philosophy attempts to discern or recognize concepts in representations Vorstellungen or empirical appearances, philosophy of nature investigates the conceptual structures that are manifest in the products of the scientific work that is done on the basis of those appearances.

Traces of conceptual determination will certainly survive in the most particularized product, although they will not exhaust its nature. Clearly, philosophy of nature is not in competition with the empirical natural sciences; it takes as its subject matter the results of those sciences in order to discover within them the particular ways in which the necessary categorial structures deduced in the logic are expressed. In terms of topics treated, the Philosophy of Nature largely coincides with those treated in the third book of the Science of Logic when the logical processes and relations in question have returned to objectivity after the excursion into the subjectivity of formal logic at the outset of Book 3.

In Mechanism Hegel had reconstructed a movement in thought from a primitive cosmology in which all objects are conceived in relation to a central object the sun that exemplifies objecthood per se , to a system of objects within which any such self-sufficient center has been eliminated. In this Newtonian world, that which gives order to the whole now has the ideality of law, but this is itself thought of as external to the system of objects. In the Newtonian laws of mechanics, however, the unity of matter is still only formal , and in Section Two, Physics, the determinateness of form is now considered as immanent within such corporeal matter.

Matter has individuality to the extent that it is determined within itself by having being-for-self developed within it. It is through this determination that matter breaks away from gravity and manifests itself as implicitly self-determining. While Mechanics clearly reflects the more space-filling conception of matter dominant in British thought, Physics is consistent with the more dynamic continental European conception of matter originating in Leibniz with his idea of living forces.

Within this framework, Hegel attempts to organize a vast array of areas of contemporary physical investigation including meteorology, theories of sound and heat, light and electricity up to and including chemical processes which stand on the threshold of Organic Physics, dealt with in Section Three. From such a conception, the first body to be considered is that of the earth itself , along with its history. Chapter Two moves to a consideration of the plant and Chapter Three, the animal organism.

From the point of view of the actual content of scientific theories and approaches that Hegel summarizes and locates within his system, his Philosophy of Nature is clearly a product of his time. Nevertheless, many of the underlying philosophical issues dealt with are still now far from settled. Within subjective spirit, we may anticipate that the first division, Anthropology, will follow on from topics with which Philosophy of Nature ends—the animal organism—and so it does.

If soul and body are absolutely opposed to one another as is maintained by the abstractive intellectual consciousness,. The community was, however, recognized by ancient metaphysics as an undeniable fact. The Seele of Anthropology should therefore not be confused with the modern subjective conception of mind, as exemplified by Descartes and other early modern philosophers. Aristotle had conceived of the soul as the form of the body, not as a substance separate from that of the body, and had attributed lesser souls to animals and even plants.

Concomitantly, in this section Hegel describes spirit as sunk in nature, and treats consciousness as largely limited to what now might be described as sentient or phenomenal consciousness alone—the feeling soul. Consciousness in the sense of the modern subject—object opposition only makes its appearance in the following second section, Phenomenology of Spirit, which, reprising key moments from the earlier book of that name, raises a problem for how we are to understand the relation of phenomenology and systematic philosophy: is it a path to it or part of it?

Given that the recognitive approach to self-consciousness presupposes that potential self-consciousnesses are in fact embodied and located in the world, we would expect the mind as treated in Psychology to be no less embodied as the way in which it is conceived in Anthropology.

What in fact distinguishes the mind of Psychology from that of Anthropology is its rational capacities, considered in terms that would now be described as normative rather than simply naturalistic, and this for Hegel clearly signals a difference in the way in which an actual psychological subject relates to his or her own body. The type of abstractive thinking found in Psychology does not, of course, as in mythical images of metempsychosis—a favorite trope of Platonists—involve the mind leaving the body. This would count for Hegel as a piece of mythical picture thinking—a Vorstellung.

Rather, it involves a certain capacity of the psychological subject to suspend unreflected-upon endorsement of the claims made on behalf of his or her body, for example, to subject the evidence given by the senses to rational scrutiny. In this sense, we are witnessing within another mode, the type of progression seen in the movement in Phenomenology from shapes of consciousness to shapes of spirit. The internal Phenomenology of Spirit seems to play an important role in setting up this transition from Psychology to Objective Spirit Williams , but it might also be seen as crucial in relating the more cognitive dimensions of Psychology back to the theme of embodiment prominent in Anthropology Nuzzo a.

Thus any naturalistic analysis is ultimately surpassed by a social and historical one, which itself cannot be understood as anti -naturalistic. The philosophy of subjective spirit passes over into that of objective spirit, which concerns the objective patterns of social interaction and the cultural institutions within which spirit is objectified. The Philosophy of Right as it is more commonly called can be read as a political philosophy that stands independently of the system Tunick , despite the fact that Hegel intended it to be read against the background of the developing conceptual determinations of the Logic.

The text proper starts from the conception of a singular willing subject grasped from the point of view of its individual self-consciousness as the bearer of abstract right. While this conception of the individual willing subject possessing some kind of fundamental rights was in fact the starting point of many modern political philosophies such as that of Locke, for example the fact that Hegel commences here does not testify to any ontological assumption that the consciously willing and right-bearing individual is the basic atom from which all society can be understood as constructed—an idea at the heart of standard social contract theories.

Just as the categories of the Logic develop in a way meant to demonstrate that what had at the start been conceived as simple is in fact only made determinate in virtue of its being a functional part of some larger structure or process, here too it is meant to be shown that any simple willing and right-bearing subject only gains its determinacy in virtue of a place it finds for itself in a larger social, and ultimately historical, structure or process. Thus, even a contractual exchange the minimal social interaction for contract theorists is not to be thought simply as an occurrence consequent upon the existence of two beings with natural animal wants and some natural calculative rationality, as in Hobbes, say; rather, the system of interaction within which individual exchanges take place the economy will be treated holistically as a culturally-shaped form of social life within which the actual wants of individuals as well as their reasoning powers are given determinate forms.

Hegel is well aware of the distinctive modernity of this form of social-life. Here too it becomes apparent that Hegel, taking up themes from the Phenomenology, follows Fichte in treating property in terms of a recognitive analysis of the nature of such a right. Such an interactive constitution of the common will means that for Hegel that the identity among wills is achieved because of not in spite of co-existing differences between the particular wills of the subjects involved: while contracting individuals both will the same exchange, at a more concrete level, they do so with different ends in mind.

Each wants something different from the exchange. This dependence shows how anthropological determinations do not simply disappear with the development of more psychological ones—they are preserved as well as negated as in the pattern of what is aufgehoben.


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It also shows the mutual dependence of the determinations of the singularity of the atomistic subjects of civil society and their particularity as members parts of holistically conceived families. These two opposite but interlocking principles of social existence provide the basic structures in terms of which the component parts of the modern state are articulated and understood. As both contribute particular characteristics to the subjects involved in them, part of the problem for the rational state will be to ensure that each of these two principles mediates the other, each thereby mitigating the one-sidedness of the other.

Thus, individuals who encounter each other in the external relations of the market place and who have their subjectivity shaped by such relations also belong to families where they are subject to opposed influences. As the estates of civil society group their members according to their common interests, and as the deputies elected from the estates to the legislative bodies give voice to those interests within the deliberative processes of legislation, the outcome of this process might give expression to the general interest.

To declare that for Hegel the monarch plays only a symbolic role here is to miss the fundamentally idealist complexion of his political philosophy. The expression of the general will in legislation cannot be thought of as an outcome of some quasi-mechanical process: it must be willed.

If legislation is to express the general will, citizens must recognize it as expressing their wills; and this means, recognising it as willed. Thus while Hegel is critical of standard social contract theories, his own conception of the state is still clearly a complicated transformation of those of Rousseau and Kant. From within the type of consciousness generated within civil society, in which individuals are grasped as bearers of rights abstracted from the particular concrete relationships to which they belong, Smithean optimism may seem justified.

But this simply attests to the one-sidedness of this type of abstract thought, and the need for it to be mediated by the type of consciousness based in the family in which individuals are grasped in terms of the way they belong to the social body. In fact, the unfettered operation of the market produces a class caught in a spiral of poverty. Hegel, however, did not draw this conclusion. Rather, the economy was to be contained within an over-arching institutional framework of the state, and its social effects offset by welfarist intervention. The final 20 paragraphs of the Philosophy of Right and the final 5 paragraphs of objective spirit section of the Encyclopaedia are devoted to world history die Weltgeschichte , and they also coincide with the point of transition from objective to absolute spirit.

We have already seen the relevance of historical issues for Hegel in the context of the Phenomenology of Spirit , such that a series of different forms of objective spirit can be grasped in terms of the degree to which they enable the development of a universalizable self-consciousness capable of rationality and freedom. Just the same dialectic that we have first seen operative among shapes of consciousness in the Phenomenology and among categories or thought-determinations in the Logic can be observed here.

An historical community acts on the principle that informs its social life, the experience and memory of this action and the consequences it brings—a memory encoded in the stories that circulate in the community—results in this principle becoming available for the self-consciousness of the community, thus breaking the immediacy of its operation. This loss of immediacy brings about the decline of that community but gives rise to the principle of a new community:.

PWH: It is a dialectic, however, which only passes through some communities. The actual world is full of contingencies from which empirical historians will have already abstracted in constructing their narratives, for example, when writing from particular national perspectives. Hegel clearly thinks that there is a way of cognitively relating to history in a way that goes beyond the standpoint of consciousness and the understanding—the standpoint of what we now think of as informing scientific history. From the perspective of consciousness history is something that stands over against me qua something known, but from the standpoint of self -consciousness I grasp this history as the history of that which contributes to me , qua rational and free being.

Assembled and published in the years immediately following his death, these were the works through which Hegel was to become known as perhaps the most significant synoptic theorist of these cultural phenomena. Rather than to attempt to capture the richness of his thought here in a few paragraphs, which would be bound to be futile, I will simply try to allude to how this material is meant to draw upon the conceptual resources noted so far.

Hegel was writing in a time of intense development of ideas about the arts. Kant had treated aesthetic experience largely in relation to the experience of the beauty of nature, but for Hegel aesthetics becomes primarily about art. The reason for this is simple: art is an objective medium in which a community collectively reflects upon itself, and the art of historical peoples is to be understood in as the attempt to bring before the consciousnesses of its members the totality of what is. The peculiarity of art lie in the sensuousness of the medium in which its content is objectified. Again, the romantic or modern here will be characterized by the depth of a form of individual subjective consciousness that is largely missing in antiquity.

But those in Greek antiquity, where psychological determinations were closer to anthropological ones, had lived with a comfortable felt unity between spirit and body and between the individual and society. A characteristic of the Greeks was their Heimatlichkeit —their collective feeling of being at home in the world as they were each at home in their bodies. Modern subjectivity is thereby purchased as the expense of a sense of abstraction and alienation from the actual world and from the self—a consequence of the way the modern subject has become related to his or her body in a different way.

The symbolic art of pantheistic religions of the East used natural elements to symbolize the gods of their cultures: Zoroastrianism had taken light, for example, to symbolize the divine Aes I: , and animal worship was found in the Egyptians Aes I: A new form of art will be needed to resolve these contradictions, and this is provided by romantic art.

But the material for this form will not come from within art itself. While Greek art can be understood as simultaneously belonging to aesthetic and religious realms, romantic art results from a fission within the symbolic realm of what in the Phenomenology Hegel had treated as a single category, Art-Religion. The transition from classical art to romantic art represents both a liberation of art from religion and of religion from art and the sensuous. Thus Christianity, whose rituals centered around the myth of God becoming man in the person of Jesus, had avoided the type of reliance on the beautiful productions of art in the way that characterized Greek religions.

The shift from classical to romantic art, then, represents a broader shift between a culture whose final authority was an aesthetic one and a culture in which this authority was handed over to religion, and thus represents a shift in the authoritativeness of different cognitive forms. While officially declaring that philosophy and religion had the same content —God—Hegel claimed that the conceptual form of philosophy dealt with this concept in a more developed way than that which was achievable in the imagistic representational form of religion.

The limitations of Greek at-homeness in the world had to do with the inability of Greek life and thought to sustain that dimension of human existence that is reflected in the category of singularity of the subject. The fate of Socrates had thus represented the ultimate incompatibility with the Greek form of life itself of the type of individual, reflective individual who could reflectively bring any belief into question and take a stand against convention.

Similar incompatibilities could be seen reflected in Greek tragedies such as Antigone. With the decline of the Greek world and the rise of the Roman one, movements such as Stoicism and Christianity would come to give expression to an individual point of view, but under the social conditions of Rome or the Middle Ages such a subjective point of view could only be an alienated one attracted to what, in contrast to Greek concreteness, would be seen as abstractions. Prior to the modern world there would be no real place in either everyday life or in philosophical culture for any non -alienated versions of the reflective or subjective position that had first emerged with Socrates—no form of life in which this individual dimension of human subjectivity could be at home.

But Christianity marked a type of advance over Stoicism in that its doctrines of the nature of a good life had a this worldly exemplar.

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In this sense Christianity marked a definite advance over the more intuitively based religious cults to which Hegel had been attracted in his youth, but it would only be in the modern world that the content of the core ideas of Christianity could be given proper expression. These need to become conceptualized, and this happens under modern Protestantism, and this, for Hegel, requires a type of demythologization of the religious content handed down from the past. Christ must somehow come to stand as an example of the human kind in general, which is the ultimate bearer of the status of being the son of God.

Once more, it is the purported singularity of the category son of God that must be brought back into relation to the universality of the human genus. The understanding of what Hegel means by the concept religion in turn becomes tied to understanding what he means by philosophy. The mere six paragraphs devoted to this science in the Encyclopaedia and dealing almost exclusively with the relation of philosophy to religion were to be expanded into the massive posthumously published three volumes on the philosophical history of philosophy based on various sources including student transcripts for his lecture series given in Berlin.

Tennemann, who presupposed a type of Kantian framework. There is an important caveat to add here, however. Philosophy is often identified with the capacity for abstract thought, and this is not confined to Europe and its history. Rather, it is typical of eastern cultures like those of India and China. As we have seen in the context of art , Hegel identifies Greek culture with a type of at-homeness in the world—what we might think of as the opposite of a tendency to abstraction and its typical attraction to the transcendent or other-worldly.

Greek philosophy, and so philosophy itself , starts with Thales and Ionian natural philosophy. In short, Socrates had added a subjective dimension to the otherwise natural moral lives of Athenian citizens, in that he had challenged them to find the principles not of worldly things but of their own actions , and challenged them to find these within the resources of their own individual consciousnesses.

In him we see pre-eminently the inwardness of consciousness that in an anthropological way existed in the first instance in him and became later on a usual thing. LHP I: Plato and, especially Aristotle, represent the pinnacle of ancient philosophy, but this philosophy, no matter how great, represents its time , that is, the time of the Greek form of spirit, raised to the level of thought.

Neither Plato nor Aristotle can break free in thought from the contradiction between the conception of autonomous subjectivity represented by Socrates and the essential collectivity of Greek culture. Classical Greek philosophy will succumb in the same way that the Greek polis succumbs to its own internal contradictions, and what will eventually replace it will be a type of philosophizing constrained within the doctrinal constraints of the new religion, Christianity.

But Christianity, as we have seen, gives representation to a solution to the problem of subjectivity encountered in the form of Socrates. Philosophy proper only thrives under conditions of at-homeness in the world and such conditions obtained in neither the Roman nor medieval world. Hegel then sees both periods of philosophy as effectively marking time, and it is only in the modern world that once more develops. What modern philosophy will reflect is the universalization of the type of subjectivity we have seen represented by Socrates in the Greek polis and Jesus in the Christian religious community.

In the —6 lectures, from there Hegel traces the path of modern philosophy through three phases: a first period of metaphysics comprising Descartes, Spinoza and Malebranche; a second treating Locke, Leibniz and others; and the recent philosophies of Kant, Fichte, Jacobi and Schelling.

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Of course the perspective from which this narrative has been written is the absent final stage within this sequence—that represented by Hegel himself. Hegel concludes the lectures with the claim that he has. Our standpoint is the cognition of spirit, the knowledge of the idea as spirit, as absolute spirit, which as absolute opposes itself to another spirit, to the finite spirit. I am grateful to the section editor Allen Wood for very helpful suggestions and corrections in relation to an earlier draft of this entry. Life, Work, and Influence 2.

Philosophy of Nature 3. The point is expanded upon further when it is said that it is an error on the part of the philosophy of nature to attempt to face up to all phenomena; this is done in the finite sciences, where everything has to be reduced to general conceptions hypotheses.

Elements of the Philosophy of Right The Philosophy of Right as it is more commonly called can be read as a political philosophy that stands independently of the system Tunick , despite the fact that Hegel intended it to be read against the background of the developing conceptual determinations of the Logic. Philosophy of History The final 20 paragraphs of the Philosophy of Right and the final 5 paragraphs of objective spirit section of the Encyclopaedia are devoted to world history die Weltgeschichte , and they also coincide with the point of transition from objective to absolute spirit.

This loss of immediacy brings about the decline of that community but gives rise to the principle of a new community: in rendering itself objective and making this its being an object of thought, [spirit] on the one hand destroys the determinate form of its being, and on the other hand gains a comprehension of the universal element which it involves, and thereby gives a new form to its inherent principle … [which] has risen into another, and in fact a higher principle. PWH: 81 This dialectic linking concrete communities into a developmental narrative which shows the path of liberation for the spiritual substance, the deed by which the absolute final aim of the world is realized in it, and the merely implicit mind achieves consciousness and self-consciousness.

Hegel concludes the lectures with the claim that he has tried to exhibit their this series of spiritual configurations necessary procession out of one another, so that each philosophy necessarily presupposes the one preceding it.

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Bibliography German Works Gesammelte Werke. Hamburg: Felix Meiner Verlag, —. Edited by Pierre Garniron and Walter Jaeschke. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, Knox, Chicago: Chicago University Press, Harris and W. Miller, Oxford: Oxford University Press, Geraets, W. Suchting, and H. Harris, Indianapolis: Hackett, Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences in Basic Outline.


Dahlstrom, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Miller, with Revisions and Commentary by M. J Inwood, Oxford: Clarendon Press, Williams, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Translation of G. Wood, translated by H. Nisbet, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, First published Volume 1: Manuscripts of the Introduction and the Lectures of —3 , edited and translated by Robert F.

Brown and Peter C. Hodgson with the assistance of William G. Geuss, Oxford: Oxford University Press, Knox, Oxford: Oxford University Press, Hodgson, translated by R. Brown, P. Hodgson, and J. M Stewart with the assistance of H. Harris, Oxford: Oxford University Press, —8. Haldane and F. Simson, with introduction by F. Beiser, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, Berlin: Duncker und Humblot, — Brown, translated by R. Brown and J. Stewart with the assistance of H.

Harris, Oxford: Oxford University Press, —9.

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Political Writings , ed. Laurence Dickey and H. Nisbet, trans. Hegel: Key Concepts , Abingdon: Routledge. Beiser, Frederick C. Inwood, Michael. Stern, Robert ed. Hegel: Critical Assessments , 4 volumes, London: Routledge. Harris, H. Livingston, London: Merlin Press. Moggach, Douglas ed. Forster, Michael N. Nichols, Jr. McDowell, John. Pippin, Robert R. See also dogmatism , relativism and scepticism. Abstract and Concrete are philosophical concepts concerned with the development of conceptual knowledge. For Hegel and for Marx, the contrast between abstract and concrete does NOT mean the contrast between an idea and reality.

A concept, such as a number or a definition, is very abstract because it indicates just one of millions of the aspects that a concrete thing has, or a brand new idea which has not yet accrued nuances and associations. Concepts are the more concrete the more connections they have. To make it more concrete is to show the many aspects of it; showing the historical circumstances of its rise and development, the state of the world it developed in, etc.

The most fundamental expression of right, according to Hegel, is the giving of particularity to right in the form of a thing , i. Index of the Letter A Encyclopedia of Marxism. Absolute and Relative Surplus Value Absolute surplus value is the surplus value generated by increasing the length of the Working day , thus increasing the surplus labour time.

Absolute Truth A terms always used in a derogatory context, as there can be no Absolute truth capable of finite expression.

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