Intro Philosophy 10: Kant & Hegel

Kant Hegel comicLast time we ended with Hume and his very skeptical philosophy.  Hume argues that we have impressions and ideas, and because all of our ideas come from our impressions, our ideas are assumptions rather than the deductive certainties that Descartes and the rationalists were after.  The famous example Hume uses is the billiard table, arguing that we have an idea or assumption of a cause when ball A hits ball B, but this is conceived in the mind, not perceived in the world.

HumeThis skepticism is quite welcome to some, but the Rationalists were not happy with cause being an assumption in the head rather than a fact in the world.  One potential problem is that Hume does not tell us where our idea of cause comes from or how it is related to our other ideas.  How is it that human beings in ancient and modern times understand things in terms of cause and effect?  Hume argues that all assumptions spring from our impressions, our perceptions of the world, but he does not give us any way to understand the types of our ideas or how they are interrelated.

53c7f-kantforpipesmokingImmanuel Kant (1724-1804) read Hume and famously wrote that Hume woke him from his “dogmatic slumbers”.  Kant is one of the most important philosophers in the modern European cannon.  Continental German and French philosophers are very much influenced by Kant, as well as Hegel, who was responding to Kant.  Analytic American and British philosophers, such as the British and Americans, tend to lose interest in European thought after Kant, branching off as their own tradition and avoiding Hegel and those he inspired in Germany and France.  Kant was a major influence on Schopenhauer, who was a major influence on Nietzsche, both of whom we will cover next.  Schopenhauer was also a major influence on the early thought of Wittgenstein, who we will study in two weeks after finishing with Nietzsche and the Existentialists.

DescartesKant, as a Rationalist, believes very much in the aim of Descartes, arguing that the world does contain certainties and facts such as 2 + 3 = 5, but Descartes as we saw did not spend much time proving this.  Kant’s major work, A Critique of Pure Reason, tries to bridge this gap with an argument for true positive knowledge in the face of Hume’s skeptical challenge that all we know is merely assumption.

SAMSUNG DIGIMAX 420Kant argues that Hume is correct that we learn the world through the senses and this is how we acquire our ideas.  However, even though we do not experience the world directly but rather through our experience and ideas, we can construct true positive knowledge of the world and our ideas through reason which can reveal new certain truths by reasoning from our initial ideas, just as mathematics can derive additional propositions from beginning propositions. Remember that in the 1700s algebraic science had come to question many traditional truths and give new positive answers.  Kant studied and wrote in the time when Newton’s laws of physics had risen to fame.  Remember also that Descartes started with the certainty of awareness and thought and hoped to derive further certainties from this starting certainty.

Kant In-Itself memeKant argues that the world, the thing-in-itself (or in German, the Ding-an-Sich) as he calls it, we cannot know, but our ideas about it have a structure and order to them.  Kant believed that there are twelve categories of ideas and cause is one of these categories.  Substance is another.  The metaphor often used is our ideas are the eyeglasses through which we see the world.  If we start from these basic categories, we can learn additional certain truths about science and the world in the same way that if we start with 2 + 3 = 5 we can come to additional certain propositions of mathematics.  Kant calls this the synthetic a priori, a fancy term for what we can discover we know deductively and categorically prior to or regardless of our experience in the world.  ‘Synthetic’ means it is brought together and constructed.  ‘A priori’ means before or prior to any experience.

A Priori A Posteriori Kant

Yes We Kant MemeRemember that Hume argued no amount of experience would be able to give us anything other than assumptions.  However, if we refuse to believe, like the Empiricists Locke and Hume, that the mind is a blank slate, and we argue like Kant that there are innate basic categories, then we can know about how we will know things with certainty, even if everything in the world is uncertain.  Consider that we do not know if a comet will crash into the earth next Tuesday, bringing all of mathematics to a close, but regardless of what happens on Tuesday we know that 2 + 3 will be equal to 5, because this is how our minds frame quantities.

Kant paintingSchopenhauer and Wittgenstein in his early period both agreed with this conception.  We can know the categorical frame of our lens through which we view the world, even if the world remains always unknown and chaotic beyond the frame of our understanding.  We can know how grammar, logic and mathematics must work even if we can not guarantee that anything said or calculated is certain next Tuesday.  However, this leaves us with a problem: Where do the categories come from, and how are they interrelated?

HegelGeorg Hegel (1770-1831) was as upset with Kant as Kant was upset with Hume.  Like Kant thought of Hume, and Hume thought of Descartes, Hegel did not think that Kant gave much of an explanation or exploration of our ideas.  It is one thing to say we have an idea of cause as a category for our experiences, but it is another to explain how cause functions, both in itself and together with the other ideas that we have.  Hegel thought that Kant declares that we have twelve categories, including causation and substance, but Kant did not show why we have this category or how it fits together with the other eleven categories.

Billiard Balls PoolAlso, just as Kant was critical of Hume for putting the facts of the world out of reach by declaring everything to be an assumption, Hegel was critical of Kant for putting the world beyond our ideas as the “thing-in-itself”.  Do we experience our ideas as separate from the world in this way, like a pair of eyeglasses, or are our ideas experienced in and as the world itself?  If cause is a lens through which we view the world, then the world itself remains something unknown and my certain knowledge of causation is still quite useless for practical knowledge of the world.  Why should we know nothing of our experience of the world, but be certain of our experience of the mind?

liberty french revolutionHegel has two major ideas that became very influential for later thinkers.  The first is historical explanation or explanation by process.  As a boy, Hegel, like many European youth, enthusiastically watched the French Revolution unfold, with promises of a new age of reason and enlightenment.  Hegel argues that things are not simply what they are at once, but evolve through stages to become what they are, and the process by which they evolve show us how the things essentially work.  Things are not simply what they are in themselves but are what they are in a situation with other things in which they become what they are (very similar to the Buddhist concept of co-dependent arising).

MarxDarwinFreud

After Hegel came Marx, Darwin, Freud, Weber and Feuerbach, major thinkers who overturned old theories of static order with new theories of process to explain the workings of the mind and society. Consider that Newton thought God made the earth at the very beginning in an instant, while scientists today that there was a process by which our planet, the solar system and the galaxy formed.  Consider the controversy about evolution and Darwin.

Plato BustHegel’s second major idea, the mechanism or motion of evolution over time, is dialectic.  Dialectic is a Greek term for arguing back and forth, for and against a position, to come to greater understanding.  Plato believed dialectic was the superior method of acquiring knowledge, and his dialogue-based plays show Socrates arguing against others and himself in this way.  Hegel argues that all things are made of oppositions or contradictions (contra-diction means “arguing against”, like arguing both sides, the pros and cons, of a particular thing).  This is not only similar to Laozi’s wheel (made of both solid and empty together), but Newton’s idea that for every force there is an equal but opposite force.

Dialectic of Hegel Thesis Antithesis SynthesisHegel’s dialectic works in a three stage pattern of positive, negative and synthesis.  Hegel often presents our ideas (which live in the world as politics and our shared expectations) as starting out positive, flipping and becoming negative, and then reaching a resolution of positive and negative as a joined whole.  Remember Laozi’s wheel leads us through this three stage process (solid at first, then empty, then both), as does the famous Zen quote that first a rock is a rock, then a rock isn’t a rock (it is in the mind, as a concept) and then a rock is a rock (real rock and concept together as the rock).

Napoleon on HorsebackWe can also consider dialectic as the social process of culture and counterculture.  After watching the French Revolution lead to Robespierre’s Reign of Terror, which then led to Napoleon, who brought the ideas of the French Revolution together with the authority of a monarch to create a new development in culture, Hegel argues that by looking at things as evolving over time in a situation, not immediate and isolated, and looking at things as two sided and in opposition to themselves and others, rather than categorical and without tension, we can come to understand how things actually are, which is a union (while an opposition) of how they are in the mind and how they are in the world.  We get our terms left-wing and right-wing from the French Revolution, as liberals and conservatives sat on opposite sides of the congress hall before the revolution fell into warring factions that were only settled with the arrival of Napoleon, an event which Hegel considers one of the most important in history.

Hegel Phenomenology of SpiritHegel LogicIn his first major work, The Phenomenology of Mind/Spirit (1806), Hegel gives us his social history of society and philosophy evolving by stages to the present day.  In his second major work, The Science of Logic (1816), Hegel gives us his psychology.  We will look at the overall structure and some key ideas of each, spending more time on the Logic which has become one of my favorites.

Karl MarxAmericans have avoided Hegel for a long time, because Hegel had a student named Karl Marx who took Hegel’s concept of dialectic and used it along with Hegel’s dialectical logic to become the founder and central theorist of Communism, writing the Communist Manifesto with Engels in 1848.  Communists like Hegel’s Logic very much, and so American and British universities did not teach much Hegel and when they do they often teach the Phenomenology but not the Logic.  This is unfortunate, because while Hegel’s ideas about history in the Phenomenology are quite antiquated today.

jean PiagetI have great hope that there is more to be discovered by looking at the Logic in the light of the discoveries of modern psychology, especially the work of Piaget, the child psychologist.  Piaget argued that there are four stages of development that children go through such that they acquire adult minds.  Unlike Kant, who argued that we have an innate category of substance we are born with, Piaget argued that infants early on develop object permanence, the understanding that objects are separate, durable things that do not cease existing when they are out of sight.  Like Hegel, Piaget tried to show how the way we construct meaning and reality evolve over time in the mind of the child, each stage building on and extending from the last.

34a2d-07apiagetstages2Also important for Hegel, Piaget did experiments that show that children develop a concept of perspective, becoming aware that they and others see a part of reality and that what they themselves see is not what everyone sees.  Around the ages of 3 and 4, children begin to understand that when someone is outside of the room where the child is, that person does not see what the child is able to see.  Before this age, the child thinks that everyone is aware of what they perceive.  Just as Hume argued that causation is an idea that we acquire through experience, Piaget showed that children acquire the idea that they and others have perspectives, which must be conceived as it cannot be directly perceived.

THE PHENOMENOLOGY

Hegel Phenomenology of SpiritI disagree with Hegel’s history because it is quite simplistic and Eurocentric, but it is an excellent introduction to Hegel’s thought not only because it was his first major work, after which he wrote the Logic to clarify the inner process of the mind at work in this history, but it shows dialectic working in three stages to complete itself as a union of contradictory sides.

For Hegel, the first stage of history is the Orientals.  Hegel uses this term as it was used until recently, before the 1960s, to refer to everyone who is not European.  In the 60s, 70s and 80s this term was still used by many to refer to East Asian people such as the Chinese.  As archeology in Hegel’s time had revealed the ancient glory of Mesopotamia, Egypt and India, Hegel puts this as the first and basic starting stage in human development.  It is good that this is the non-European start, but unfortunate that all further development is European (first Greek, then German) and the development is a course of Europe becoming different from others (again, this is overly simplistic and quite racist and Eurocentric, but funny enough this is still largely the view preached on campuses today).

heraclitus bustThe Orientals understand objectivity and the state, two powerful positives.  The Orientals are the start of society and science, but they do not question their society or science.  They see the real as real, but do not understand that the real is also mental and can be questioned.  In some cases, such as Buddhism in India, Hegel believes that they realized skepticism but did not develop it further, turning the world into a simple void or nothing.  Thus the Orientals get simple one-sided Being or Non-Being, but do not put these two together to see the unity of the opposition.  It is the Greeks, and specifically Heraclitus, who Hegel argues make this next leap and become the second stage of history.  Sadly, Hegel is not aware of the similarity Heraclitus shares with the Jain, Buddhist and Daoist thinkers in India and China that we have covered in the first half of this class.

jaspersThe Greeks now rise above the Orientals and grasp the opposite of Being as Non-Being, the opposite of the state in the individual, and the opposite of objectivity as subjectivity.  While Hegel believes that the Greeks are the ones who did this, it is more correct to understand the relationship with the earlier empires as more complex and also that the Greeks were only one civilization of many that made leaps forward like this.  Jaspers called the age of the Greeks, the Indians and the Chinese, the three places we studied in the ancient world in depth, the Axial Age.  Just as the Orientals understood the positive, the Greeks understand the negative, the temporary and perspective.  In a way, Hegel gives the Greeks credit for subjectivity, which Piaget shows all of us acquire as young children.  Hegel sees this as Heraclitus bringing Being and Non-Being together as Becoming, and sees Plato merging Heraclitus with Parmenides as a further development.  However, this is not the last stage because the Greeks still put Being off in another world, either as Heraclitus’ flux of fire or Plato’s static ideal forms.

martin lutherIt is the Germans, and specifically Hegel himself, who see the true unity of objectivity and subjectivity, of state and individual, of necessity and freedom, of science and discovery, to complete the history of thought in three stages.  Unfortunately, Hegel covers Islam in a single page, giving them little credit as he did the Indians.  Hegel does not consider China worth mentioning.  Hegel believes that history is almost at its completion in his time with his own philosophy and the politics of the German parliamentary state which balances collective objectivity with individual subjectivity, balancing the laws of Orientals with the rights and liberties of Europeans.  Hegel also believes that religion evolves exactly as philosophy and politics does, and that German Lutheran Christianity is the final form of religion that unites the individual directly with God (living objectivity) because each man is the priest of his household.

THE MASTER SLAVE DIALECTIC

The Master/Slave dialectic, one of the first major concepts in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Mind, is the continuous process of overturning that occurs at every transformation and revolution from one stage to the next.  It works on the level of idea, individual and social movement.

layer cakeIn the beginning, the individual subject goes out into the world and discovers that there are other beings like it out there with their own wants and views.  For Piaget, this would be the young child’s discovery of perspective.  If the child wants cake, it seems wrong and stupid for others to want cake, as this is the opposite of what the child wants, for themselves to have the cake and not others.  The subjectivity of the subject is challenged by the subjectivity of the others.

throneThe subject wants to kill or negate these others, to get rid of them and the challenge they pose, but then develops the idea that if others are conquered, not killed, then the subject not only gets what it wants, but also recognition from the other that it is the one who gets what it wants.  Rather than kill others over cake, it can make others recognize it as dominant, the one who not only gets the cake but can make others make it future cakes.  The subject wants to make them recognize that its subjectivity is objectivity, such that it is not challenged by the existence of the subjectivity of others.  Consider that an immature and unwise person will categorically deny anything others say that conflicts with what they believe.  If they become smarter, not wise, but one step smarter, they take everything that the other says and adapt it to support what they believe, rather than admit that they may be wrong in any way.

haitian revolution slave revoltAt first, this seems to be good for the master and bad for the slave, but soon the tables turn.  The master subject does not need to develop or adapt, as they can make the slave adapt and work for them.  The slave continues to develop while the master deteriorates and grows lazy.  The master does not need to recognize the slave’s perspective, as the slave is made to conform to the master’s perspective.  The slave, however, must recognize the master’s perspective while having their own perspective.  The slave is conscious of self and other, their other being the master, and thus becomes self-conscious, conscious of perspective in a way that the master need never do.  The slave comes to realize that he can do things for himself and for another.  This continues until the slave is able to overpower the master, becoming the next, more developed master.  In the end, Hegel believed that things would evolve into the modern European nation-state, where everyone has equal rights and status.  Marx, student of Hegel, argued that a communist revolution would eventually overthrow capitalism in the same way that the French Revolution overthrew the king and nobility.

Egyptian_-_Thoth_in_the_Form_of_a_Baboon_with_Udjat_Eye_-_Walters_48475This is Hegel’s explanation for why the “Orientals” started civilization but then failed to do real subjective philosophy, the Greeks followed but failed to complete subjectivity by fully merging it with objectivity, and the Germans bridge the gap, merging subjectivity and objectivity as two sides of the same thing. Notice that this suggests that the Greeks were slaves of the Orientals, and the Germans were slaves of the Greeks!  This is not often pointed out, but it is implied by Hegel and confirmed by historians.  The Greeks acquired the culture of the Mesopotamians and Egyptians while serving them as mercenaries and servants.  While Hegel is quite Eurocentric, he is right to this extent.

fanonThe Master/Slave dialectic had a great influence on many thinkers, especially progressive left-leaning political thinkers such as Hegel’s student Marx.  Feminist Hegelians, like Simone de Beauvoir, uses it for women in ‘The Second Sex’, Franz Fanon uses it for black people in ‘Black Skin, White Masks’, as does the Black Panther, activist and professor Angela Davis, who went to Germany to study Hegel before going to jail for providing two shotguns to Black Panther party members in Oakland during the 60s.

angela-davis

HEGEL’S LOGIC

Hegel LogicAfter writing the Phenomenology, Hegel came to realize that he had not described the inner workings of the dialectical process of history to his liking.  Hegel believed that world history consisted of the evolution of ideas, so he leaves history behind and turns to the workings of the mind.  To show the inner psychology at work in every stage of historical development, he wrote his Logic which like the Phenomenology unfolds in three stages as positive, negative and synthesis, but instead of “Orientals”, Greeks and Germans, the three stages of the Logic are Being, Essence, and Concept.

Yin Yang SidewaysSimilar to many Neo-Platonists we studied recently, Hegel argued that thought has to gather everything up such that all categories become modes or branches of the same thing.  It does this with understanding which holds things steady and reason which opposes understanding in moving things around and seeking a united whole.  Understanding wants to keep ideas as they are and separate from each other, while reason wants to change ideas and unite them all together as a whole.

hegel upsidedownThe mind craves unity, objectivity as the all-view, which pulls it in two directions.  First, it wants to hold on to the unities of the understanding and keep them away from being re-reasoned.  However, reason wants to dissolve everything and return it all to the Absolute, or the undivided One.  Thus, human thought works back and forth in stages, with understanding in tension with reason, belief in tension with doubt, dogmatism in tension with skepticism, and culture in tension with counterculture.  It would thus be correct to say that, the way Hegel describes it, dogmatists and conservatives prefer to understand rather than reason, while skeptics and progressives would rather re-reason than understand, with both sides understanding and reasoning.  In a sense, the mind is caught between agoraphobia and claustrophobia, seeking the security of closure while also seeking the freedom of open space.

Tree with BranchesAt each stage, the Understanding comes to change its shape and provide the ground for the back and forth positions of reason which share the same understanding(s).  Philosophies, political positions and scientific theories reason against each other even as they share the common understandings of the time and place.  Thus, Hegel says there really is only one philosophy which is ‘thought’ itself, and philosophies are views, perspectives within the one dialectical course of things which is thought as a whole.  Hegel equates this with the mind of God, and believes that the European Enlightenment of his day is the final unfolding of God on Earth through the process of history.

adam and eve gardenWhy is thinking opposed to itself?  Where did this come from?  Hegel writes that we need to start with the ‘legend’ of the Fall of Man, of Adam falling out of the Garden of Eden.  Hegel says the inner meaning is what is important (a similar reading to Deists of his time in Europe, who see the bible as true psychologically but not literal).  When Adam, or consciousness, falls into the world out of unity with all, it falls into oppositions and tensions, polarities that present one side and hide the other.  Today, we can describe the fall from unity either in physics as the Big Bang or in psychology as the infant mind learning to discern itself and others in the world as subjective perspectives, as Piaget showed through his experiments with children.

Acid PoisonHegel calls judgment “the one-sided acid“.  Categories are thus gathered, assumed, by the Understanding.  (God)(IS), (I)(Am), (this)(is) are the dualistic anchor points of Descartes.  However, these are inadequate.  First, they are one sided, and so dogmatic and stuck.  They are divided from each other and the All, so reason is not satisfied and tries to figure out how all of these separate categories are one in reality, or the big One and All.  Second, they are almost entirely empty of content.  Hegel is critical of Kant’s categories and the gap he leaves between mind and world, and sees himself as reasoning beyond Kant to overcome the gap.

Kant painting(68) “Kant, it is well known, did not put himself to much trouble in discovering the categories.”

“Kant, as we must add, never got beyond the negative result that the thing-in-itself is unknowable, and never penetrated to the discovery of what the antinomies really and positively mean.  That true and positive meaning of the antinomies is this: that every actual thing involves a coexistence of opposed elements.  Consequently to know, or, in other words, to comprehend an object is equivalent to being conscious of it as a concrete unity of opposed determinations.  The old metaphysic, as we have already seen, when it studied the objects of which it sought a metaphysical knowledge, went to work by applying categories abstractly and to the exclusion of their opposites.”

(118) “However reluctant Understanding may be to admit the action of Dialectic, we must not suppose that the recognition of its existence is peculiarly confined to the philosopher.  It would be truer to say that Dialectic gives expression to a law which is felt in all other grades of consciousness, and in general experience.  Everything that surrounds us may be viewed as an instance of Dialectic.”

Mikhail BakhtinHegel writes that the feeling of being alive is to feel contradiction within oneself, at rest in itself but at the same time moving itself beyond itself.  It both wants to stay and go at once, and does.  Similarly, the Soviet literary critic Mikhail Bakhtin (1895 – 1975) said that when we think we are in dialogue with ourselves, are opposed to ourselves on opposite sides.  We can not only be self-conscious of ourselves as having a perspective, but we put this perspective into dialogue with other perspectives opposed to it in order to develop and adapt our perspective.  Evolutionary psychologists have theorized that our complex and developed human brains evolved mainly for being social with other human beings, as well as tool use.  Just as Laozi asked a depressed man who came to him for advice alone, “Why have you brought this large crowd with you?”, we have the perspectives of others, particularly those we are opposed to, in our heads, using them wisely or foolishly to adapt to social situations.

BEING, NOTHING AND BECOMING

Heraclitus sad paintingIn the Phenomenology, Hegel argues that Heraclitus realized the unity of Being and Non-Being as ceaseless Becoming, as the flux of the cosmic fire.  Hegel says that some say no one is capable of understanding contradiction, but Hegel points to Heraclitus and argues that to come to the next level in your understanding your reason has to see both sides and unite them in the cement of the understanding, which is what Heraclitus did for the Greeks such that they could rise beyond the “Orientals” to the next level of understanding subjectivity.  Hegel says that if we imagine any transformation or change or motion, we are understanding being and nonbeing as one like Heraclitus.  It is merely recognizing it that is the hard part.  Hegel says that this is the hurdle that prevents the common person from being a philosopher, and the reason that the great thinkers and revolutions in thought are rare.  In fact, often it takes decades after the thinker’s death for their ideas to become accepted, further proof that the great thinker must unite the old with the opposite direction of the new and this is the barrier between the new idea and the common understanding of the people.

Hume GreyOnce thought realizes becoming as the unity of the being of things and their non-being (their temporary being in time and their not being other things), thought still does not have enough to understand each and every thing or how they fit into the All as one.  Thought tries to understand the individual beings of the world and the world itself as constant becoming, like Heraclitus, but this does not show us how things are interrelated.  This is exactly how Kant was frustrated with Hume, because everything being an assumption does not tell us what things are specifically.

Hegel am Katheder / Litho v.KuglerThought must explore two opposite directions to try to find the meaning of individual things.  First, it tries to understand things by their qualities (such as green, square, closed), but this moves away from the things themselves towards abstract ideas.  Second, thought tries to understand things by their quantities, with each thing being a one itself and being a quantity of many parts and being in a group of many members.  Unfortunately, this leaves each being as merely a thing, and tells us nothing about the specific differences between types of things.  Notice that quality and quantity are the two opposite sides to our abstractions of things, the two ways we isolate and abstract, through thought, the parts and ways of things.  Consider that your hand is not explainable simply by its shape, or color, or texture, any more than its being one hand with five fingers, though all of this together tells me much about my hand.  To understand your hand, you have to see it in context, in the world used with other things, as well as understand the qualities and quantities of the hand.

Plato HeadThought now tries to understand things in terms of essences, and these essences in terms of their qualities and quantities.  Remember that Hegel in his Phenomenology saw Plato as the union of Heraclitus and Parmenides, that Plato thought things have ideal essences in the stars that cause them to be what they are, and that Platonism was the major school of thought in middle-age Europe to which Hegel acknowledges he owes many insights.  Because thought could not understand things in their qualities and quantities, it tries to understand things by putting them in groups and then understanding the qualities and quantities of these groups.  It puts these as essences outside the world as Plato put them up in the stars, in another more modern way “in” things and their groups as their “nature”.  The problem with this stage is that this still puts things as isolated and does not understand them in a situation as mutually interdependent.  It seeks the meaning of the thing in the group where it could not find it in the individual, but this still isolates things even as it puts them in groups.  Hegel is very aware that modern science is often in this mode, isolating things and finding new truths about their exclusive natures.  For Hegel, Plato’s forms, Descartes’ dualism and Kant’s categories are good but they are not complete, not the final idea that grasps them all as a whole, because they do not understand how things cannot be separate from each other if we want our knowledge to be like the world, in which everything fits together.

Jung Painting TreeJust as qualities are non-beings within beings, essences are also non-beings within beings, but a core is sought beyond and opposed to outer qualities or bunches of quantities.  Thought has turned on itself yet preserved itself, trying to understand the real as merely the idea.  It would be like saying that the hand is really the ideal hand, rather than a hand in the real world which we idealize.  Thought is struggling to grasp the unity of the mind and the world, of our ideas of things and the real things themselves.  Remember Kant left a complete gap between the fully certain categories of the mind and the unknown world-in-itself.  Just as beings were opposed to themselves and others, Hegel says that essences, if they remain many and are not gathered into a trunk of the All still have contradictions in themselves and against each-other and so they are opposed to unity.

Hegel you can run but you Kant hideWhat, then, moves us beyond Kant’s categories and isolated essences?  The process of dialectic, which grasps the unity of sameness and difference, of one and many, and of necessity and freedom, as it did with Being and Non-Being before at the first stage.  The idea and the thing are realized as one in the Concept, which includes the thought and thing.  When we see that the world is in our minds and in itself together as one, that things are our ideas about them and themselves for us as one that is also many, this is for Hegel Actuality, the final stage.  It is grasped by the mind, but in extension is the view of the real world and all that it is or could be.

Fractal ImageInteresting for Fractal Geometry, Chaos Theory, Quantum Theory and more modern developments of mathematics and science, Hegel writes that seeing the unity of necessity and freedom is the final hurdle.  To see that no part of reality is absolutely necessary, but no part is absolutely free, and the two hang together as opposites like light and darkness, this is the final stage that lets us see things as they are.  This would be the final and total grasp of the wheel as solid and empty, or the rock as thing and perception/assumption.  Now, Hegel believes, reason goes forth as true science and simply Nature itself, with a ground to continue to investigate and understand things with all the branching of the Idea by which we could ever understand them to be.  All becomes a single Idea, that is one with the world.

Marx Portrait beardUnlike Hegel and right wing Hegelians, who believed that the system had been achieved, left Hegelians (most famously Marx) believe that evolution is constant and unending for the system, not just the knowledge it acquires and that we are constantly taking positions that are one-sided that need to be complemented by the opposite perspective.  Many of the latest European thinkers have been powerfully affected by this leftist Hegelian view.

6 thoughts on “Intro Philosophy 10: Kant & Hegel

  1. Pingback: Is Hegel and Peirce Triadic a Multifractal? | Antenarrative BLOG - David M. Boje, Ph.D.

    1. ericgerlach79 Post author

      Schopenhauer was teaching and writing at the same time as Hegel, and Hegel died in the early 1830s, so Hegel did not have a chance to consider Schopenhauer’s impact. As for his ideas, Hegel would be opposed to Schopenhauer’s thought much as he was to the ideas of Schleiermacher, the protestant theologian, as Hegel believes the route to All is through reason and logic, not through emotion or will.

      Reply

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