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Real Words

Real Words: Language and System in Hegel

  • Book Info
    Real Words
    Book Description:

    Real Wordspresents an original way of understanding one of the most important philosophers in the Western tradition.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8474-4
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xi-2)

    This book comprises a series of essays. I do not use the term ‘essay’ lightly. It refers to a certain non-fictional literary form, one that should be compact, coherent, self-sufficient, and evocative. The essays here assembled under one cover are meant to have this monadic quality. They are self-contained, free-standing pieces with individual perspectives that open onto something unique: the question of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and language. The units of this book are therefore not to be taken as chapters, in the ordinary sense. They are not meant to form the premises of an argument leading to a conclusion....

  5. 1 The Objective Discourse of Science
    (pp. 3-17)

    The question of language goes right to the core of Hegel’s notion of systematic science, of truth that actually takes place in the embrace between thought and being. If a language of science is one meant to convey objective truth, then Hegel’s singular take on Science must imply a special grasp of both its language and objectivity. What sort of discourse can claim to express objective truth within an idea of science that sees itself as the systematic articulation of existing knowledge? To answer this question we must guard against importing epistemological and linguistic notions foreign to the Hegelian idea...

  6. 2 The Ontological Grasp of Judgment
    (pp. 18-28)

    All good Hegelians know that the true relation the philosopher discovers between identity and difference must not be expressed as a disjunctive statement, forcing a Kierkegaardian decision between the two terms. Neither is their relation a static one. Although what Hegel calls speculative thought can be represented and understood through such handy mantras as ‘the identity of identity and difference,’ the real relationship between identity and difference is one of movement, specifically, the epic movement of the concept. Indeed, the Hegelian concept recounts the journey from an initial position of immediate, inchoate identity, through the unsettling, conflicted experience of difference,...

  7. 3 Why Hegel Didn’t Join the ‘Kant-Klub’: Reason and Speculative Discourse
    (pp. 29-39)

    In 1790, at the TübingenStift,a reading group was formed to study and discuss Kant’s works. The best minds of the college took part in the group, including Hegel’s friends Schelling and Hölderlin, but Hegel himself did not join in.¹

    Commentators who refer to this lack of participation in the ‘Kant-Klub’ generally see it as confirming something they already know: at this time, Hegel was not very interested in Kantian philosophy, because the theoretical content of Kant’s threeCritiques, and particularly the first, did not correspond to Hegel’s own interests, which were principally politico-religious or pedagogical, as attested to...

  8. 4 The Fiery Crucible, Yorick’s Skull, and Leprosy in the Sky: The Language of Nature (With a Concluding Unscientific Postscriptum)
    (pp. 40-57)

    The strange images in the title of this essay are Hegel’s own. They occur in three different contexts where each is used to portray, or represent, truth that can and must also be expressed in the systematic, speculative discourse of Science.¹ I believe that these textual references, taken together, help us understand, in a new way, one of the most persistently troubling aspects of Hegel’s philosophy: the systematic relationship between thought and nature.² Rather than attempting to contribute to this debate by referring primarily or indeed exclusively to the conceptual articulations of theEncyclopedia Logicand theGreater Logic, reinterpreting...

  9. 5 Presenting the Past: Hegel’s Epistemological Historiography
    (pp. 58-70)

    The idea that Hegel does a priori speculative history has been largely put to rest, at least for those who care about the philosopher enough to have read him carefully or visited significant scholarship on the question of his philosophy of history.¹ It should now be clear that Hegel’s philosophy of history is the history of consciousness and that forms of consciousness are tied to the spirit of the times and places in which they occur and can be witnessed. It should also be clear that Hegel respects the specificity of each epoch. True to the phenomenological method he describes...

  10. 6 The State University: The University of Berlin and Its Founding Contradictions
    (pp. 71-84)

    The creation of the University of Berlin, in 1810, was the result of interaction between the state and philosophy, two human expressions whose relationship, at least since Socrates’ death and Aristotle’s exile, has tended to be problematical. That university, which became an important model for North American institutions of higher learning, was from the outset a state university; it was designed and run by the state, as opposed to what had previously been the rule: institutions dependent on the church or princes.¹ The bind, of course, is that this idea of a modern university, defined by its independence from ecclesiastical...

  11. 7 Music and Monosyllables: The Language of Pleasure and Necessity
    (pp. 85-95)

    In thePhenomenology of Spirit, in the less-discussed Reason section, there is a short subchapter called ‘Pleasure and Necessity.’ In ‘Reason,’ consciousness, on its journey of self-discovery, arrives at a stage where it seeks to find itself not just in one other individual but in the world, in ‘all reality.’¹ After first attempting to recognize itself immediately in nature, by observing it theoretically, consciousness now seeks this self-recognition in otherness through different levels of practical (moral) engagement in the world.

    This passage from theoretical to moral reasoning retraces the logic of what Hegel calls subjective idealism, as found in both...

  12. 8 Hegel’s Critique of Solger: The Problem of Scientific Communication
    (pp. 96-103)

    In 1828, Hegel published two long, consecutive articles in theAnnals of Scientific Criticismin Berlin,¹ a review of the recently published, posthumous writings and correspondence of Karl Wilhelm Ferdinand Solger, ‘theoretician of romantic irony.’² To the question of why Hegel dedicated such a lengthy text (the articles occupy seventy pages in the Suhrkamp edition of the complete works) to this philosopher, who was never important in his lifetime and is largely forgotten today,² a purely historical answer might be supplied. The articles may be seen as a posthumous gift of gratitude that Hegel made to his late colleague at...

  13. 9 On Schleiermacher and Postmodernity
    (pp. 104-116)

    The contretemps between Hegel and Schleiermacher at the University of Berlin is well known.¹ The nature of their struggle for influence, the latter’s refusal to admit the former into the Berlin Academy, and Hegel’s reciprocal distancing of Schleiermacher from his criticalAnnalshave been well documented and explored. In fact, Hegel’s antipathy towards Schleiermacher stems from the latter’s early association with Friedrich Schlegel, whom Schleiermacher had defended in his ‘anonymous’ letter in support of the ‘scandalous’ novelLucindein 1800. Schlegel’s novel, which seemed an apology for free love, the ambivalence of male and female sexual roles, and a blending...

  14. Last Words
    (pp. 117-120)

    Within the system that Hegel calls Science, language is the objective middle term between thought and being. This means that the words that make up scientific discourse are the real embodiment of thought as it takes possession and inhabits linguistic signs, forming a richer, more spiritual reality than what is immediately present. The empty sign, the ‘name,’ as Hegel calls it, is meaningless until it is given determined content, just as a name is insignificant until it is attributed to someone we know. In fact, the empty sign has no more inherent significance than do pebbles in a stream, and...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 121-158)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 159-170)
  17. Index
    (pp. 171-175)