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German Thought


Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences



see Hegel Interpretation 1

Hegel's Undiscovered Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis Dialectics: What Only Marx and Tillich Understood by Leonard F. Wheat (Prometheus Books)

Hegel's Undiscovered Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis Dialectics is an original and thoroughly researched interpretation of Hegel's contribution to philosophy. For over 50 years, Hegel interpreters have rejected the former belief that Hegel used thesis-antithesis-synthesis dialectics. This analysis of Hegel's philosophy shows that the modern interpretation is false. According to Leonard F. Wheat, retired economist, in Hegel's Undiscovered Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis Dialectics, there are in fact 38 well-concealed dialectics in Hegel's two most important works – twenty-eight in Phenomenology of Spirit and ten in The Philosophy of History. The book also develops a number of other major new insights

Hegel's chief dialectical format consists of a two-concept thesis, a two-concept antithesis, and a two-concept synthesis that borrows one concept from the thesis and one from the antithesis.          

·        All dialectics are analogically based on the Christian separation-and-return myth: the dialectic separates from and returns to a thesis concept.

·        Hegel's enigmatic Spirit is a four-faceted, deliberately fictitious, nonsupernatural entity that exists only as an atheistic redefinition of ‘God.’

·        Spirit's ‘divine life’ begins not with consciousness but with unconsciousness, in the prehuman state of nature – before Spirit acquires its human mind.

·        Hegel's concept of freedom is not a sociopolitical concept but release from bondage to religious superstition (belief in a supernatural God).

·        In Hegel's widely misinterpreted master-and-slave parable, the master is God, the slave is man, and the slave's gaining his freedom is man's becoming an atheist.

·        The standard non-Hegelian base-superstructure interpretation of Marx's dialectics is false. Marx's basic dialectic is actually this: thesis = communal ownership + poverty, antithesis = private ownership + wealth, synthesis = communal ownership + wealth.

Wheat in Hegel's Undiscovered Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis Dialectics also shows that Marx and Tillich, who subtly used Hegelian dialectics in their own works, are the only authors who have understood Hegelian dialectics.

In the preface to his most famous work, Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel says that thesis-antithesis-synthesis dialectics (Fichte's ‘triadic form’) will be his new ‘Science.’ But because he artfully conceals his dialectics in discussions of surface topics, nobody has ever found a genuine dialectic in Hegel's thought. It is now widely denied that such dialectics exist, yet they exist by the dozens.

An example is Hegel's overarching macro-dialectic from Phenomenology: (1) thesis: unconscious + unity, (2) antithesis: conscious + separation; (3) synthesis: conscious + unity – a literal synthesis or combining of parts (the best parts of the thesis and the antithesis). This dialectic reveals that Spirit's ‘divine life’ begins not with consciousness, as claimed by every other interpreter, but with unconsciousness – in the prehuman state of nature, before the arrival of man, the seat of Spirit's collective Mind (its only mind), Spirit's consciousness. Spirit achieves self-realization – and ‘freedom’ – when its Mind (Hegel's, in this instance) recognizes that it (Spirit) is all reality, the divine (‘God’), and that no supernatural God exists. Every ‘object’ perceived by every human mind is not really something ‘other.’ The objects are really itself (the perceiver, or ‘subject’); both are Spirit – an ‘inner’ concept, not a metaphysical entity. So every ‘subject’ is ‘God’: man is God, a figurative God.

Hegel begins a long series of micro-dialectics with his famous but universally misunderstood master and slave parable. It is really a disguised dialectic: (1) potential + freedom, (2) actual + bondage, (3) actual + freedom – again taking one concept from the thesis and one from the antithesis. Here the potentially free person who becomes an actual slave symbolizes man; the master who enslaves is God; and the slave achieves actual freedom when he becomes the master: man becomes God. Hegel's' concept of freedom, it becomes clear, is not what everyone else has assumed – a sociopolitical concept concerning the rights of persons versus the rights of the state. Freedom is escaping from bondage to God and to religious superstition by becoming an atheist.

Hegel uses the same dialectical format in The Philosophy of History. Its ten dialectics include this overarching history dialectic: (1) one ruler + one territory, (2) many rulers + many territories, (3) one ruler + many territories – Hegel's Prussian empire.

According to Wheat in Hegel's Undiscovered Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis Dialectics, because Hegel's philosophy can't be understood without understanding his dialectics, no interpreter has understood Hegel – until now.

Thoroughly researched and rigorous in detail and reasoning, Hegel's Undiscovered Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis Dialectics is a radically original reinterpretation of Hegel's philosophy. This reinterpretation challenges and refutes every previous interpretation of Hegel’s – and Marx’s – philosophy, and it will be of great interest to Hegel scholars and students of philosophy.


Hegel's Epistemology: A Philosophical Introduction to the Phenomenology of Spirit by Kenneth R. Westphal (Hackett Publishing Company) I Hegel's Phenomenology is notoriously challenging, in form and struc­ture as well as in content. His apparent ambitions in the Phenomenology and his highly unusual presentation have often made it difficult to relate it to more familiar philosophical views and issues. Hegel demands much of his readers. At the beginning of a chapter or subsection, for example, Hegel states a philosophical view often to argue (by indirect proof or re­ductio ad absurdum) against that view, though sometimes only to argue against a defective account or justification of that view. Precisely what view he criticizes can at times be difficult to determine, often because he states some essential points of an historical philosopher's view without men­tioning whose view it is. Hegel unfortunately tends to refer to passages from the history of philosophy the way Medieval philosophers referred to Aristotle. They would write "the philosopher says ... ," expecting, and knowing they could expect. the reader to know exactly which passage from which work of Aristotle's was being quoted or paraphrased. Hegel, however, only rarely mentions his frequent paraphrasing or quotation—though his use of such references should not have misfired nearly so often as it has.

Three examples illustrate these points nicely. Russell famously com­plains that Hegel fails to distinguish "the 'is' of identity" from "the 'is' of predication."' However, Russell didn't recognize that Hegel conflated them only as an assumed first premise of a reductio ad absurdum argu­ment to show that identity is distinct from predication!' A second exam­ple comes from the critical German edition of Hegel's works, which has performed an enormous service in tracking down a plethora of possible and definite references or allusions that Hegel makes to other philoso­phers. However, Hegel's second chapter, "Perception," defied those ef­forts: the critical apparatus contains only eight references for it, all of them merely cross-references within Hegel's text (GW 9:495). In fact, "Per­ception" is all about Hume's epistemology in the Treatise of Human Na­ture, specifically, in "Of Scepticism with regard to the senses" (I.iv §2).3

A third example is especially important for the present discussion: in the middle of the Introduction to the Phenomenology, Hegel paraphrases exactly the Dilemma of the Criterion from Sextus Empiricus' Outlines of Pyrrhonism.4 Roderick Chisholm (1973, 1) called this Dilemma "one of the most important and one of the most difficult of all the problems of philosophy." It has received only scant attention from analytic episte­mologists, and far less from Hegel scholars. Yet the Dilemma of the Cri­terion is the central methodological issue of the Phenomenology of Spirit, to which Hegel provides by far the most sophisticated and successful re­sponse I have found anywhere.

Thus one reason why it is so fitting to introduce Hegel's Phenomenol­ogy of Spirit in view of his epistemology is that epistemology is central to the Phenomenology, it is central to philosophy, and it is central to much philosophical education. Introducing Hegel's Phenomenology via his epistemology is also timely because philosophers are once again occu­pied with issues that occupied Hegel: conflicts between realism and historicist relativism. Generally, realism is conjoined with individualist theories of knowledge, while historicist relativism is associated with so­cial or nonindividualist theories of knowledge. One key aim of Hegel's Phenomenology is to show that a properly constructed social and histor­ical theory of human knowledge requires realism about the objects of our knowledge. By the same token, one reason Hegel's epistemology has gone unrecognized is that philosophers have too often supposed that com­bining realism with a social and historical epistemology is impossible. "Realism," as used here, is the view that things (of whatever sort) exist and have characteristics unto themselves (e.g., our bodies and the rest of the natural world), regardless of what we think, say, or believe about them. "Epistemological realism," then, specifies further that we can know at least something about such things.6

To say that Hegel's Phenomenology is centrally epistemological immediately poses another problem: it certainly doesn't read like episte­mology in any familiar sense. Hegel's Phenomenology has a complex ex­pository structure. On the one hand, Hegel distinguishes among three points of view: his own as author and narrator, our point of view as read­ers and "observers," and the point of view of observed "forms of con­sciousness." Various "forms of consciousness" (defined and discussed in Chapters 2 and 5) are brought forth to illustrate various philosophical views or theses. Hegel purports that, in his examination, each uncovers problems with its own key ideas through some form of self-critical expe­rience. This expository structure lends Hegel's Phenomenology a unique literary cast that, together with the difficulties of identifying within it standard philosophical issues, has suggested to some that his book is pri­marily literary rather than philosophical. This is an understandable misimpression. Hegel's Phenomenology does have a unique literary structure, though Hegel developed it for philosophical reasons and pur­poses. These are discussed in Chapters 2 through 4.

Basic issues that inform Hegel's phenomenological method are intro­duced in Chapter 2. The expository structure of the Phenomenology is further developed in Chapter 3, which shows why key features of Hegel's phenomenological method are modeled on Sophoclean tragedy, most clearly illustrated by Creon's role in Antigone. These points are brought together in Chapter 4, which considers the role of philosophical reflec­tion in Hegel's phenomenological method. These three chapters jointly provide the basis for considering the basic features of Hegel's solution to the Dilemma of the Criterion in Chapter 5.

Chapter 6 summarizes some of the main features of Hegel's episte­mology. Chapter 7 explores some significant thematic connections be­tween his views and contemporary epistemological problems. With these materials in hand, Hegel's views are considered in relation to twentieth-century empiricism (Chapter 8), Dretske's information theory (Chapter 9), and the continuing debate between realists and historicist relativists (Chapter 10).

One central, recurring theme of this book is the nature and role of re­flection in judgment and rational justification. This theme is introduced in Chapter 1, which reviews some basic features of Hegel's "phenome­nological" method and his reasons for adopting it. The theme of reflec­tive judgment is raised again at the end of Chapter 2 and developed in Chapter 3, which examines what Hegel very likely learned about it from Sophocles' Antigone. Chapter 4 develops this theme further, by high­lighting the kind of reflective judgment Hegel seeks to facilitate for and encourage in his readers. The nature and role of reflective judgment in philosophical assessment is expanded in Chapter 5, by linking it to Hegel's analysis of the self-critical structure of self-conscious human awareness. Chapter 5 explicates reflective assessment in terms of "ma­ture judgment" and indicates the role of mature judgment in Hegel's fallibilist account of epistemic justification and his pragmatic account of rationality. In summarizing Hegel's central epistemological arguments in the Phenomenology, Chapter 6 indicates how and where Hegel introduces mature judgment as a topic of the Phenomenology. Chapters 7 through 10 then invite the reader to consider the nature and role of mature judg­ment in philosophical assessment by exercising such judgment while reconsidering some central philosophical issues and apparent dilem­mas, discussed in these chapters, that have profoundly guided philo­sophical thought from the Enlightenment to the present day. These include basic assumptions that steered philosophers toward empiricism and individualism in twentieth-century epistemology, or that generated serious misunderstandings that have precluded either recognition or se­rious philosophical consideration of Hegel's epistemology.

Three specific issues among these are that Hegel anticipated by 150 years the recent rejections in epistemology of concept-empiricism (see §§12, 13.5, 21, 22) and of individualism (§§32ff.). More importantly, Hegel showed how rejecting these positions does not require rejecting epistemological realism about the objects of empirical knowledge. Hegel achieved this insight, in part, by rejecting "internalism" about mental con­tent (§§5, 13.6), semantic meaning (§19), and justification (§§10.2, 10.5, 12.2, 18, 28).

The recent wave of anti-Cartesianism in epistemology and philosophy of mind has much to learn from Hegel. Benefiting from Hegel's insights and analyses, however, requires understanding just what were his aims, methods, and arguments in epistemology. These, however, have eluded most commentators, whether critical or sympathetic. So I begin with Hegel's expository and philosophical methods (§§1-11).

Please note two caveats, one substantive and one methodological. In fo­cusing this book on Hegel's epistemology in the Phenomenology I do not claim that epistemology is his sole concern in the Phenomenology, which also includes rich discussions of moral philosophy and Occidental cul­tural history (including its Oriental roots). Hegel's concern with Kultur­Kritik does lend his book many important narrative aspects. These have been analyzed especially well by Henry Harris (1997) in Hegel's Ladder 8 These crucial strands of Hegel's Phenomenology ultimately do bear on his epistemology. However, these topics are vast and intricate and can only be touched on in this brief conspectus (mainly in Chapters 9 and 10).

Because this book provides a philosophical overview of some central aspects of Hegel's epistemology, many important points can only be dis­cussed in their barest essentials. I have not shied away from stating the issues and Hegel's stand on them directly. I am keenly aware of the con­trast between this approach and the requirements of a full-scale exposi­tion and defense of a philosophical position. I have endeavored to meet those requirements elsewhere, and in parts of the following. Chapters 2 and 5 through 7 are summary in character; the remainder are not. Chap­ters 3 and 4, on Hegel's method, are entirely new. In Chapters 9 and 10 I consider some important social aspects of Hegel's epistemology much more closely than I have previously.

A full-dress treatment of any significant philosophical issue makes for demanding reading. Understandably, philosophers want and deserve some advance assurance that such reading rewards the effort. This ex­pectation is especially urgent in areas where philosophical rewards are least expected. Notoriously, this is the common view of Hegel's philoso­phy. I hope that the present introduction, synoptic (even sketchy) as it of­ten is, may help students and nonspecialists to see that studying Hegel is deeply rewarding philosophically, even or especially when it is most philosophically challenging. I hope it may also help Hegel scholars see that Hegel's Phenomenology is deeply philosophically rewarding in ways they had not anticipated. Finally, I hope the following may suggest some fruitful ways in which the "Continental" and "Analytic" traditions of phi­losophy can engage, illuminate, and benefit each other.

Before delving into these rich issues, I might suggest one central thought guiding the vigorous mix of contemporary, historical, analytic, and continental philosophy that is advocated (and I hope also exhibited) in this book: such multiperspectivalism aims to increase our acuity in un­derstanding and assessing philosophical views and thus to mitigate, so far as we are able, a grave professional liability. This liability has been put very well by James Griffin:

One might succeed in making every argument that one actually deployed wa­tertight. But one does not usually go seriously wrong in philosophy over the details of one's argument. One goes seriously wrong in the biggest things, in the things one does not even think of, in one's whole orientation. At the very best, one's orientation will allow one a glimpse of an important truth or two, but it will also certainly be responsible for one's overlooking a dozen others. In philosophy generally . . . we are at present, and always shall be, groping in the dark simply to get a sense of some of the large contours of our subject. One's only reasonable hope is that, by groping, one will find some­thing, and that others will take a look.

In a notoriously fractious field, we can all benefit by this kind of inquir­ing modesty, which whets the appetite for philosophy far more than do faction and favoritism.

Hegel was the first philosopher to do what has become commonplace among analytic Kant scholars, namely, to reject Kant's transcendental idealism while retaining and emphasizing his "transcendental" analysis of the necessary a priori conditions for unified self-conscious experience. Because Hegel disagreed fundamentally with Kant's transcendental ide­alism, he also rejected Kant's transcendental idealist account of our ba­sic cognitive capacities. To replace these, Hegel explicated a much more elaborate set of social and historical conditions necessary for individual cognitive judgment, a set that incorporated many of Kant's most impor­tant theses (while revising or even dispensing with Kant's accounts of them). The complexities of these issues, the difficulties confronting our careful, honest, and constructive reflection on our own cognitive ca­pacities, and especially the problem of reaching agreement about which among a myriad of claims about our basic cognitive capacities are in fact true led Hegel to expand Kant's notion of transcendental reflection and to incorporate it into his phenomenological dialectic. How did he do this? How did he get the idea that this could be done?

2.5 In Hegel's Phenomenology, the central figures are forms of con­sciousness, which we—Hegel's readers—are to "observe" and carefully consider during our critical self-examination. Hegel's phenomenological method centrally involves these seven features:

  1. It exhibits and uses internal self-criticism in a narratively con­structed figure or character;

  2. Through this self-criticism the character him- or herself uncovers the central critical problems with his or her favored views;

  3. These central critical problems are discovered through his or her own use and development in practice of his or her key principles and claims;

  4. These results purportedly suffice to refute those principles and claims;

  5. These results are exhibited for an observing audience in all their graphic and telling detail;

  6. These results purportedly suffice to justify introducing a more sophisticated successor view;

  7. This successor view purports to incorporate the insights and rem­edy the oversights of the refuted view.

I believe that there are no philosophical models for this central complex of features of Hegel's phenomenological method. Might Hegel's method draw from a model outside philosophy? Does the dramatic structure of the Phenomenology suggest perhaps a literary model? Westphal believes so, for reasons explored in the dramatic structure of Sophocles’ Antigone.

Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit: New Critical Essays edited by Alfred Denker, Michael Vater (Humanity Books)  Hegel's first major philosophical work is one of philosophy's true masterpieces. Despite its notorious difficulty, it is one of the most influential philosophical works ever written. The Phenomenology is not only the first presentation of Hegel's system; it is also an account of the historical develop­ment of Geist (spirit or mind) from Greek tragedy to the triumph of philosophy as science in Hegel's own time.

Hegel's Phenomenology has had a sustained and central place in the American study of the philosopher. These essays show that there are still many fresh insights available in considering Hegel’s first mature philosophic work. This reviewer would hope that the somewhat neglected Logic would also begin to attact extensive commentary as it refines the logice and paradoxes of self-consciousness and represents a fuller systematic presentation of Hegel’s later work in a way the  Phenomenology does not.

This volume of essays, however, offers an interpretation of the spirit of Hegel's Phenomenology as well as a con­cise reading of the main text. It also discusses the historical and philosophical background of Hegel's main work and takes note of its reception. Since the essays were written by philosophers from different countries—both established Hegel scholars and promising young researchers—this volume presents the reader with an international overview of recent Hegel research.

The contributors include Christoph Asmuth, Klaus Brinkmann, Paul Cobben, Alfred Denker, Richard Findler, Jeffrey Kinlaw, Angelica Nuzzo, Tom Rockmore, Dale Snow, Michael Vater, Ludovicus de Vos, Robert Williams, and Holger Zaborowski.

Excerpt: Thanks largely to the work of Jean Hyppolite and his famous seminar, peopled by a whole generation of young thinkers who would come to dominate the century's thought in France , Hegel's presence to twentieth-century and subsequent philosophy rests on readings of the 1805–1807 Phenomenology of Spirit.' Read in the light of Marx's Paris Manuscripts and with an eye to constructivist theories in epistemology, philosophy of mind, and social and political philosophy, the dynamic core of Hegelian thinking—its logic of reversing perspectives, awareness of history, and pervasive social analysis—has saturated French philosophy. The same cannot be said for the English-speaking and German traditions, which generally reacted to Hegelian thought more than they assimilated it, and which, when friendly to Hegel, tend to be focused more on the time-less conceptual splendor of the Encyclopedia's system than on the Phenomenology's novel twists and turns of living spirit in its educa­tional-historical travels to maturity.

This volume presents new essays by diverse scholars—American, Belgian, Dutch, Italian, German, some of them established, some of them young—who lack a common approach to this text or to Hegelian philosophy as such, but who see in the Phenomenology, nonetheless, either one of the most important historical foundations for contempo­rary thinking or a `guide star' for the task ahead. Some of the essays are exegetical, but many are focused on systematic problems in theory of knowledge, social philosophy, and philosophy of religion. Among the more textually based and historically focused papers, some authors con­centrate on Hegel's philosophical milieu, others on the categories and logic of famous chapters of the Phenomenology. Though they can be studied in many ways and contexts, as is the purpose of this introduc­tion to suggest, the volume groups them according to a rough approx­imation of the chapters of the Phenomenology that they take as inspira­tion or text. Since Hegel ends with the crossroads (or Golgotha) of the figures of scientific cognition and Western history, and with the gushing forth from infinitude of the host of distinctive shapes of spirit the book has explored as fixed forms of appearance of spirit, it is appro­priate that Holger Zaborowski's (chapter 1) treatment of Hegel's early philosophy of history be placed first. His careful historical documenta­tion of twentieth-century reaction to that strand of thinking in Hegel will serve also as a review of the contemporary reception of Hegel thought as a whole.


None of the authors collected here discusses the `old problems' that have bedeviled Hegel scholarship: the double subtitle of the book, its ambiguous position vis-à-vis `the system', its different but overlapping book plans.' They take the text as it is, eschew offering a global inter­pretation of its significance, and attempt to read anew. The reception of an old text into a new context of thought is, as Hans-Georg Gadamer reminded us, the delicate (and fallible) attempt to get at the questions it conceived and answered through the questions that we put to it. There is no guarantee of convergence. Tom Rockmore's (chapter 13) treatment of spirit and epistemology reminds us of this. Though one can locate Hegel quite accurately as reacting to the apri­orism of Kant's transcendental turn or as transforming a secularized version of Christianity's `Holy Spirit', a vivid grasp of Hegel's spiri­tual-constructivist theory of cognition depends on our appreciation of foundationalist and antifoundationalist debates today. The Cartesian and Kantian approaches of designating a fundamental certainty, an Archimedean point capable of supporting the vast structure of all our sciences, have historically failed; our scientists speak the language of a loose social-constructivist attitude: their questions, their answers, their whole research programs are functions of the research community, the limitations of its intelligence, and the intellectual morality of its prac­titioners. The epistemological subject is the real person, argues Rock-more, whose intelligence and morality are both functions of the human community. Human knowledge is social and historical; all of its claims to ultimacy, accuracy, or `absoluteness' have to be translated into the framework of "spirit's social history" to make sense at all.

Holger Zaborowski (chapter 1) makes the same point, starting from the opposite direction. His major concern is with Hegel's ideas about history prior to authoring the Phenomenology, with the static Platonic omnipresence of Schelling's thought in 1801 giving way to the more historicist and dynamic ideas of 1807, where the absolute itself is viewed as undergoing historical process in order to arrive at the complexity and integration of its own being. Zaborowski notes that Hegel never does get free of Platonism; if history has a point, it does not seem able to `get a point' just by the accretion of the empir­ical achievements of finite subjects. Yet there is no one subject or thing that `does history' other than these finite subjects. Zaborowski's point is mirrored in the dialectical structure of the Phe­nomenology, where consciousness occupies a double standpoint, the standpoint of natural consciousness—which always believes it is directly in an objective situation with its knowing and acting—and the absolute standpoint, in which all its cognition, beliefs, and styles of action have been socially tested and come with the warrant of his­torical tradition. Natural consciousness does not exist as such in post-infancy, walking and talking instantiations, nor does absolute consciousness exist as such in particular locales and persons. But existing persons (and institutions) are imbued with absoluteness insofar as they live in the `end time' of history's perennial flowering. Hegel's book is a typological narrative—a Bildungsroman, a vision-quest, an intellectual odyssey—for readers who live `at home' or at quest's end, but without full appreciation of their having been carried along by the journey of civilization and of living a life informed by its telos.



The ever-unfolding flow of thought one finds in Hegel's texts never ceases to amaze and appall its reader; it is disconcerting enough (as one intuits, usually on uncomfortable occasions) that one's own thought is fluid and never definitive without discovering that thought, in its essential nature, is never finished. Christoph Asmuth (chapter 12) focuses on this genetic or developmental character to differentiate Hegel's philosophy from the static eidetic formalism of Schelling's identity-philosophy. Hegel does this himself in the Phe­nomenology's preface, where, in ways both polemical and program­matic, he pictures a genuine philosophy developing its subject matter through progressive differentiation just the way the conscious living subject develops her cognition and action through organic, tempo-rally differentiated development. Schelling's philosophical technique, as demonstrated in the Presentation of My System of 1801, had been to employ an `algebra of difference' to reduce qualitative difference to quantitative differences, then to compress all these quantified structures into `identity' through the repetition of a single platform of appearance which dictates that what is must appear in all ontolog­ical modes simultaneously, once as identity, again as difference, and finally as totality (Kant's categories of quantity). Through the methodical feint of having philosophical content expound itself as the clarification of appearances as they arise, Hegel is able to provide a dynamic, not a static, connection between the figures he treats in the Phenomenology and to imbue the whole movement with the concep­tual correlate of live subjectivity. That "substance becomes subject" is both the program and the method of Hegel's work. It is, of course, subject to the same sort of critique to which he subjected Schelling's encyclopedic formalism; it can be viewed as a "bloodless march of categories," or in the case of the Phenomenology, a procession of spec­tral shapes with no bearing on human life, cognitive or practical.

Angelica Nuzzo (chapter 10) supplies an answer to this charge: there is nothing neutral about the organization, drive, and direction of the accumulating narrative of the Phenomenology, for it is about cogni­tion, our core or fundamental life technique, and its path is fashioned by thought's energetic investment in the `matter at hand', whatever the stage of its development. There is not a mere tabular or information-aggregating character to Hegel's `system', then, because it has a life of its own, reflected in its concrete deployment, situational struggle, and recollective advance into new contents. In the Phenomenology's final chapter on Absolute Knowing, this autotelic drive comes into its own, drops the pretense of being at all involved with the other in its cogni­tive or active stances, and becomes `absolute', ab-solved of all outside relation and reference. This absolute cognition, argues Nuzzo, is Hegel's reply to Kant's arguments against the possibility of transexpe­riential metaphysics. Though, under Kant's stipulations, no object can ever be advanced to the status of idea, i.e., to being the totality of con­ditions for X or `the unconditioned', cognition as communally-histor­ically refined over the course of (Western) civilization can—at least as a body of methodologies suited to various contexts—be elevated into that position. And from that position, if any, the conceptual elaboration of the contents of thought can begin (as science of logic).

Many of the writers in this volume are sensitive to the relation-ship between Schelling and Hegel in the years between their initial collaboration on the Critical Journal and the publication of the Phe­nomenology. Dale Snow (chapter 3) looks to the essay on scientific cognition that Hegel penned after completing the book and which he placed in front of it as a preface. Closely examining the history of the Phenomenology's writing, she examines the three memorable gibes that Hegel addresses to his adversaries: that he or they employ a

`monochromatic formalism' (an abstractive procedure applied to all contents) for philosophical method, that he or they produce nullities as results ("to palm off as the Absolute the dark night in which, as the saying goes, all cows are black"), and that he or they produce an unreflective philosophy ("knowledge shot from a pistol"). Reviewing scholarly opinions as to the identity of Hegel's targets here, Snow argues that Schelling could not be the `monochromatic formalist' nor the `dark absolute theorist'. Schelling, however, with his mysterious, or at least ill-explained, `intellectual intuition' is the likely target of the "shot from a pistol" gibe.'

Michael Vater (chapter 5) searches for traces of Schelling, and Hegel's reaction to him, in the body of Phenomenology itself. The final chapter on Absolute Knowing acknowledges that Schelling's identity-philosophy serves as the threshold for scientific philosophy. Since he not only followed Fichte in seeing spirit or self-conscious I-hood as the philosophical principle, but saw its triple form—as the logical exclusion of difference, the collapse of identity into the pure exter­nality of space and nature, and the self-return of spirit as spirit in self­consciousness—Schelling essentially grasped the truth. In the earlier chapter on Understanding, however, Schelling is implicitly criticized for a linear and abstractive form of thinking which doubles the empir­ical world with a realm of laws, inverts their ontological significance, and lets the qualitative richness of phenomena slip through the net of theory. In Observing Reason, Hegel targets Schelling's Naturphiloso­phie in a more obvious way, arguing that static categories of dubious significance (e.g., sensibility, irritability, reproduction) cannot trans-late biological phenomena into the language of the concept. Only with the advance from linear thinking to the self-contradictory and self-referential infinity of self-consciousness can the conceptual signif­icance of life appear and nature as a whole enter into the content of philosophy. Hegel's implication is clear for those that can read it: if the philosopher who sets out to capture nature for philosophy a priori is incapable of sensibly treating biology, what hope would there be for an account of consciousness or spirit from the manufacturer of such crypto-empirical redundancies? Vater sees a connection between these criticisms, the preface's critique of formal, negative, and immediateanalyses and the "substance must become subject" program of the final chapter and the preface. Only if the implicitly self-referential or `infi­nite' character of spirit's activity is recognized (on both the knowing and the known poles of the object of philosophical analysis) will the bundle of subjective and objective spirit doing the philosophizing rec­ognize itself in the content it reconstructs.



What one critic hopefully sees as a "ladder to the Absolute" may strike another reader as just the contorted paths of a maze—which may or may not have a big bull in the center, if there is a center. Indeed, there are turning points or `transitions' in Hegel's narrative, but whether one gets `up', `over', or `beyond' the subject matter of any of the Phe­nomenology's discussions or simply farther in, deeper, and more lost may be the subject of conjecture. Hence, it is a favorite strategy of commentators to suggest thematic strands, conceptual nodes of a noticeable sort that may function as reminders when encountered in slightly transformed contexts—something like pre-Wagnerian leitmo­tifs. Asmuth suggests that development or genesis is one of threads through the labyrinth, Zaborowski that history as teleological unfolding serves such a function, Vater that self-referentiality or quasi-Heisenbergian involvement of the observer in the observed does the trick. None of these authors suggests that there is any hurdy-gurdy repetition of the same involved in the Phenomenology; they do suggest, however, that there are certain episodes in story that illuminate what is going on both in the whole and in the rest of the parts.

Klaus Brinkmann (chapter 9) looks to the moral phenomena described and transfigured in the Phenomenology for such a thread. Nor is it a strange place to look, since the transcendental-historical mix of methods Hegel employs shuffles the phenomena of cognitive and social-moral life so thoroughly that the reader is barely able to see, looking backward in our cultural history, the motivation for an Aristotle or a Kant to want to make as decisive a cut between theoretical and practical reason as they did. By sorting out the suite of moral phenomena that Hegel analyzes in the Phenomenology, one at least gets a picture of the whole as evolving from simple to more complex situations, from the privative condition of the isolated eco­nomic agent and the beauties of private conscience to the more social and institutionally mediated patterns of behavior found in the modern community and state. Brinkmann focuses on the moment of forgiveness, the dissolution of the (world-estranged) attitude of con-science, transgression, and judgment—all regrettably `personal' lenses for evaluating action—into richer social contexts. Forgiveness is ambiguous as a figure of experienced consciousness and as a moment of spirit's life: whereas the Philosophy of Right makes it the door to Sittlichkeit, the people's life as regulated by their inherited and (somewhat) politically malleable institutions, the Phenomenology connects it to religion and to the figurative and social reconfiguration of actual social life that this domain of spirit provides, a reconfigura­tion that is at once a heightening of social integration and a projec­tion of that deepened self-grasp of spirit onto an imaginary world.

Ludovicus de Vos and Paul Cobben make somewhat of the same move in the logical order, finding a few patterns of conceptual elabo­ration, infinity and relationship respectively, that can be taken as keys for interpreting the whole. De Vos (chapter 6) works with great pre­cision on a small patch of text, the transition between the chapters on Understanding and Self-Consciousness, showing that it essentially involved the category of infinity. On the purely epistemological side, understanding is a technique of editing sequences of phenomena to get at their meaning; it culminates in the phenomenon of life, where thing and intelligence converge as organism or self-regulating life. When life passes over into self-consciousness, however, it seems to iso­late itself and become a domain unto itself. The transition demon­strates the social nature of consciousness, however, for in being referred back to itself, self-consciousness is doubled and made essen­tially social, at first in a negative way (displayed in the Lordship and Bondage chapter), but at last in a way that is positive, secured by inter-personal recognition. Real self-consciousness as the mutual recogni­tion of plural self-consciousnesses is the definition of spirit. Cobben (chapter 7) works out a reading of the first two sections of the Phe­nomenology (Consciousness and Self-Consciousness) in reference to the Logic of the Encyclopedia. Hegel is working from the model Kant provided in his table of categories of how description or under-standing proceeds: In the categories of Quantity we have the treat­ment of all things according to the external relations of space and time; Hegel's chapter on Sense-Certainty, with its evaporation of the content of `here' and `now' into universal intersubstitutability shows that thought cannot remain here, for there is nothing to think. The chapter on Perception recapitulates Kant's categories of quality; the interchange of qualitative and quantitative characteristic in the treat­ment of Proportion and Measure of the Encyclopedia displays this same logic. Finally, in the antagonist economic relations of modern life symbolized by the Lordship and Bondage chapter of the section on Self-Consciousness, we find a mirror of the intersubstitution of oppo­sites strategy that is the salient feature of Essence as treated in the Encyclopedia. Cobben's general point is that there is a universal cate­gorial feature at work here, of which all or most of the Phenome­nology's transitions are instances: connection of opposites, reversal between opposites, antinomy (as Hegel designated it in the Difference Essay), or infinity (as used in the Jena Logic of 1804). The reason that things will not stay still in Hegel is that doubleness and movement, not the singularity of thinghood, is the nature of reality. Perhaps all observations involve quantum mechanic paradoxes! Cobben suggests that his discussion provides a clue to solving the mind-body problem.



We have already mentioned in other contexts some of the writers who draw explicit philosophical lessons from Hegel's first masterwork. Without explicit textual exegesis, Rockmore looks to the introduc­tion's lesson on epistemology—Hegel's meditations on the mis­leading nature of the Cartesian-Kantian project of securing a completely defensible foundation for knowledge before one has begun to know—and finds it a satisfactory introduction to contemporary efforts in constructivist epistemology. Only if one were a card-carrying solipsist, wholly in the grip of classical skepticism, would one need an unassailable truth as a foundation for either systematic sci­ence or to secure the execution of life projects. The social nature of knowledge, the way it is embedded in the community of human sub­jects as one of their fundamental life techniques, makes it possible practically to distinguish true cognition from false and to secure war-rant for beliefs, though one would be hard pressed to translate this process of the social checking of beliefs into an executable program for a single thinker. Hegel was aware that one indeed `thinks for one-self', but at the limit, as an odd case, just as one certainly `talks to oneself', but again (hopefully) at the limit and as an odd case, talking with others being the standard procedure. One cannot do the inter­estingly human things—morality, politics, art, religion, or philos­ophy—in an unsocial way, though perhaps a culture of division and estrangement persuades the isolated voice of its prophetic singularity.

Robert R. Williams (chapter 2) explicitly addresses Hegel's contri­butions to our contemporary awareness of the interpersonal nature of human existence in his chapter on recognition. He finds that Hegel develops the theme episodically in the Phenomenology, first and fore-most in the transition from consciousness to self-consciousness, where the process of desire and its consummation is projected onto a situa­tion of plural centers of consciousness. In the prototypical social situ­ation depicted in Lordship and Bondage, the process of achieving sat­isfaction is spread out both temporally and socially, mediated by the conflict of aims and strategies of opposed parties that coalesces into the uneasy peace of economic collaboration. It is from this cauldron of barely simmering turmoil that self-consciousness, self-identity, self-othering, and apprehension of the other arise. Only in return to self from the situation of risk of self and loss does a person assume self-consciousness, that is, only when the potential for social dissonance leads to mutual recognition and one's abstract freedom is exchanged for `communicative freedom' in the (modern) social and political order. It is within this context, argues Williams, that the autonomy of the single agent, predicated on self-overcoming, can emerge. Hegel plays out the drama of the production of responsible or self-authorized freedom in various historical segments of the chapter on Spirit, con­trasting the ancient world with its subordination of the individual to the ethical substance of the family with the modern world's transfor­mation of morality (judging as one's peers judge) into conscience. The individual is, as spirit if not as an item of psychology, a social product: she steps forth and acts not as a gesture of pure freedom, but as trans­gression against the established order. The oddity of her own action is perceived as evil, and a second-level recognition must be accomplished in which accuser and accused shed themselves of those particular roles in forgiveness. Recognition and the structures it founds never rise to a harmonious universality; there is a slumbering readiness for antago­nism in the very possibility of free action.

Richard Findler (chapter 11) addresses this theme in his chapter contrasting `sin' or ontological guilt in Hegel and Nietzsche. Hegel assigns sin or ontological guilt to that region of spirit where spirit takes individual form, in an existent spirit which attempts to assume divine form despite its taint of particularity. Revealed religion represents this moment as spirit's self-reconciliation. Hegel claims that evil is not sep­arate from spirit (God), but only a moment of spirit's life and process. Overcoming the perpetual possibility of self-centeredness—or the dividedness from oneself that is natural existence—is a possibility that essentially belongs to spirit. Reconciling sin with goodness, for Hegel, simply involves self-reconciliation. Findler contrasts Nietzsche's genealogy of the "entrenched illness" of bad conscience (from the second essay in Genealogy of Morals) to Hegel's process strategy for sublating both good and evil. Looking to the origins of our ways of thought, Nietzsche finds bad conscience to be the product of the human entry into the social situation, where active willing and dis­charge of energy met reactive forces of restriction (necessary to main­tain the social, i.e., restricted human domicile). In Nietzsche's account, the domestication and redirection of active force becomes the vehicle that internalizes pain and punishment. Its thematic focus is the ancestor/gods, to whom one is perpetually indebted for one's exis­tence, and for whom the appropriate payment is extended self-punishment. Christianity moralizes this whole syndrome and paints over the whole of existence with a varnish of guilt. Nietzsche's solution to the problem of evil, then, is to urge one to feel guilty about feeling guilt and to simply reverse the process, countering repression with instinc­tual `liberation'. Findler finds that this program for the retrieval of the `natural' is antithetical to Hegel's hope for spiritual self-reconciliation. Though neither thinker believes there is any independent reality to evil, Nietzsche is closer to resolving the problem than is Hegel, for Hegel's analysis of evil in the economy of spirit makes it permanent in that economy, while Nietzsche straightforwardly diagnoses the phe­nomenon as disease and proposes a therapeutic regimen.

Alfred Denker (chapter 4) contrasts the way that two of the major figures of twentieth-century phenomenology, Martin Heidegger and Eugen Fink, appropriate Hegel's Phenomenology. Each offers a self-consciously edited version of Hegel, Heidegger preferring the system­atic, scientific, and quasi-substantial sense of `the absolute' and `absolute philosophy' that Hegel promised in titling the book System of Science: The First Part, while Fink looks to the processive, always-underway, and quasi-experiential sense of `the acting and observing subject' that Hegel introduces as both the method and the content of the study, figured by Hegel in the book's other title: Science of the Experience of Consciousness. Fink's study privileges the text of Hegel's Introduction, with its focus on the situation of present knowing and its deferral of the skeptic moment to abstract reflection—seemingly an endorsement of the program of phenomenological observation and description. Heidegger focuses instead on the opening chapter on Sense-Certainty and the way that thought and its contents never are fully coordinated so that there is a successful episode of sensation; interpretation intervenes instead, and with the thought-contributed moment always coming to the fore in perception, the bare particular that is both the past intention and the missing `meaning' of the situa­tion in sensation perpetually escapes. The significance, for Heidegger, of this opening episode is not that thinking must move on to another concrete situation or strategy; it is that it has always already moved on. Thinking is `absolute', suggests Denker, in that it is essentially ab­solving, dis-solving, resistant to and perhaps destructive of presence.

Dale Snow concludes her meditations on Hegel's programmatic preface on scientific cognition with deep hesitations about the lucidity, much less the practicality, of Hegel's circular or self-validating dialec­tical method. What can it mean that philosophy's subject-matter, in being advanced to `substance', becomes `subject' or self-moving? Contrary to Hegel's suggestion that scientific cognition is in some sense always already complete, she suggests that it might be essentially incomplete, inconclusive, or at the very least, perpetually underway. Jeffrey Kinlaw (chapter 8) in his study on skepticism and the unhappy consciousness looks to the question of the nature of rationality and finds that, lacking a Platonic essence of rationality or an external absolute as support, the only convincing answer is social and histor­ical: rationality is a practice, a social-historical tradition in which the autonomy and self-sufficiency of the lone arbiter of truth and falsity finds itself placed, and in which it curiously finds its authority both undercut and sustained. In Hegel's analysis of `unhappy conscious­ness', self-assured consciousness takes itself as the sole judge of truth and its own sole valid authority. It finds, however, that it cannot be what it sets out to be. Yet it cannot cede its authority claims to any-thing other than self-consciousness; if it comes to doubt its own rationality and to surrender its extravagant claims, it can only do so to its `other', to another self-consciousness which will both absolve it from its precarious situation of doubt and re-authorize it as the arbiter. The self-conscious rational being, therefore, must resolve to freely commit itself to an external authority—if it can commend itself to any-thing external—but it must demand the price that its intrinsic authority over its thought and action be supported. Kinlaw argues that this `external authority' cannot be a mere 'other'—or else the primi­tive antagonisms of socioeconomic `cooperation' seen in the master-slave relationship will break forth again. The only suitable epistemic other is a community sustained by rational traditions. A self-conscious individual can both contribute to the historical flow of such ration­ality—as the scientific researcher does in her mature and apparently independent professional life—while at the same time being shaped and educated by it—not merely as a neophyte undergoing scientific `training', but as a working member of a research community that collectively establishes its research direction by, among other things, feed-back loops of self-assessment coupled with external evaluation. For Hegel, human self-consciousness escapes the arbitrariness and contin­gency of its existence and the arrogance of its claims to authority only by freely committing itself to the flow of rational authority through the social-historical institutions in which it finds itself If it does not throw itself into the doubling and reduplication of the social milieu, it will find itself claiming ultimate epistemic authority at the same time that it acknowledges its own contingency and fallibility.

ALFRED DENKER is director of the Centre Philosophique Les Trois Hiboux, Pont de Cirou , France , and the author of A Historical Dictionary of Heidegger's Philosophy. Michael G. Vater is associate professor of philosophy at Marquette University and the editor and translator of F. W. J. Schelling's Bruno, or the Natural and Divine Principle of Things.

The Ancients and the Moderns: Rethinking Modernity by Stanley Rosen (St. Augustine Press, Inc.)  In the preface to the second edition of the Science of Logic, Hegel refers to "the peculiar restlessness and dispersion of our modern consciousness." 1 In the context, this is a pejorative expression, but a moment's reflection tells us that it has a positive corollary. Restlessness is the superficial manifestation of what Hegel elsewhere calls "the seriousness, the suffering, the patience and work of the negative." And again, activity or making (das Tun) is itself nothing other than negativity. To return to the Science of Logic, "the ground of Becoming, the restlessness of self‑movement, lies in the negative."

For Hegel, of course, restlessness and negativity, although they never disappear, are finally the active dimension, the engine driving the comprehensive and circular concept of the whole. In Hegel's peculiar synthesis of ancients and moderns, the Platonic Ideas or Aristotelian forms unite with the Kantian concept on the one hand and the absolute ego of Fichte and Schelling on the other to provide the wise man in one way, and the ordinary citizen in another, with "satisfaction."

In the late twentieth century, the Hegelian legacy remains only as a distorted and fragmentary memory within Marxism. And Marxism itself has been further "dispersed" by the "peculiar restlessness" of the modern consciousness. Our contemporary sense of our own existence has been indelibly stamped by Lockean uneasiness and the Nietzschean will to power. Modern restlessness today takes on the shifting forms of neuraesthenic aestheticism, an aestheticism of mathematical techne and textual playfulness. It is as though the seriousness of Heidegger's endorsement of Being as a "playing child" (Heraclitus' pais paizon), having passed through the unbearable tension of "authenticity" and "resoluteness," is today dissipated into frivolity.

The great difficulty of residing in the modern epoch has thus paradoxically culminated in the triviality that nothing could be easier. We have all become hermeneuts and deconstructors simultaneously, that is to say, interpreters of a text that dissolves before our very gaze. In the contemporary idiom, reading has been transformed into writing. The rejection of domination is accordingly also the exercise of the ultimate domination or rewriting of history, an activity hitherto reserved for tyrants.

None of this is intended to suggest that history wears its meaning on its sleeve; nor am 1 blind to the positive aspects of the contemporary reconsideration of the western tradition. What I wish to defend is the thesis that it is difficult to be a modern. I would therefore reject the facile assertion, popular in some quarters, of a quarrel between antiquity and modernity as an opposition between austere nobility on the one hand and sophistry on the other.

In the first place, the opposition between the noble and the base, or between philosophy and sophistry, already defines the structure of antiquity. From this standpoint, there is no difference between antiquity and modernity. Second and more fundamentally, the path into the quarrel between the ancients and the moderns takes us into the question of whether philosophy is possible at all, or whether it is not simply noble sophistry. If philosophy is techne, either mathematical or hermeneutical, then it is merely a species of poetry. The doctrine of truth‑conditions, or the definition of meaning in terms of the laws of logic, is as much poetry as the doctrine of the abolition of truth-­conditions, in an age of "alternative" and "deviant" logics.

We should have learned from Hegel that the names antiquity and modernity stand for the two constitutive dimensions of our conceptual mastery of human existence. To call the first positive and the second negative is by no means to give the palm to antiquity. But Hegel's reference to the seriousness, suffering, patience, and work of negativity are by implication an acknowledgment of the weight he gives to antiquity. The "first negation" (or negation of the positive moment) draws on that weight for its own substance. The "second negation" (or negation of the negation) is neither a simple cancellation nor a simple return to the initial affirmation. In Hegel's language,

the substance of the first negation becomes the subject of the second negation. This means, not that antiquity is replaced by modernity, but that modernity is the self‑consciousness of antiquity.

We do not need to be Hegelians in order to draw the moral from this Hegelian lesson. In the postanthropological, postmetaphysical, postmodernist epoch, there is no more substance or subject, hence no self‑consciousness, and neither antiquity nor modernity. Accordingly, there is no more postmodernism, since post‑ draws its sense from what precedes it, namely, modernity, which is in turn defined by reference to antiquity.

A genuine attention to the quarrel between the ancients and the moderns is therefore as much an immersion in antiquity as it is in modernity. My next point requires careful qualification if it is not to be misunderstood. The immersion to which I refer cannot be philological or scholarly, if by these terms is meant the return to an objective understanding of the meaning of the texts of ancient and modern philosophers.

There is a fundamental paradox of hermeneutics which may be stated as follows: an objective understanding of a text is a subjective understanding, but a subjective understanding cannot be objective. This does not leave us at the mercy of relativism; a subjective understanding, to continue with the previous formulation, must defend itself against its rivals. It is not by chance that Plato frequently uses the metaphors of war, hunting, and athletic contests to describe philosophical investigation. There is, in other words, a crucial difference between mere playfulness and playing to win.

The polemical use of pure reason, to borrow a phrase from Kant, is something quite different from recourse to this or that ideology of objectivity. Philosophy is not mathematics; the technical accuracy of a philosophical interpretation depends in the penultimate analysis upon grasping the author's intentions, but ultimately, upon the philosophical reappropriation of these intentions. The fact that one man's philosophy is another man's sophistry has no bearing on the intrinsic situation. It belongs instead to the sociological, or better, political domain of persuasion.

There is no such thing as philosophical persuasion, if by this is meant persuasion by the exchange of "objective" or logically valid arguments. One can always find a technical justification for the repudiation of someone else's technical toys. Arguments, if they are not to remain at the professorial level of the seminar room, must rise to the level of the restlessness and patience of the human spirit, that is, to the level of the labor of negativity. But what rises cannot be mere rhetoric or "hot air." We need to master the technical details of a philosophical text, but this turns upon our perception that all details of a philosophical text are technical, including the rhetorical structure and the polemical intention. It turns upon a deeper conception of the techne of philosophical activity as the unity of theory and practice, that is to say, as an activity that sees with the assistance of its artifacts, but which devises those artifacts in accord with what it sees.

The essays contained in this volume are offered as a contribution to the unending task of restoring the seriousness and difficulty to the obligation of being a resident of modernity. It may be true that Zeus is a playing child; unfortunately, we are ourselves neither gods nor children. I am the last person to speak out against playfulness; let me also be the first to observe that the words of this preface are not free of the danger of pomposity. One must however be prepared to run the risk of pomposity in order to return to philosophy something of the pomp and circumstance without which modernity is mere vulgarity. These essays are accordingly prolegomena to modernity.


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