Hegel's Phenomenology

Hegel's Phenomenology: The Dialectical Justification of Philosophy's First Principles

Ardis B. Collins
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 448
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  • Book Info
    Hegel's Phenomenology
    Book Description:

    Hegel's philosophy depends on the answer to a fundamental question: why assume that the abstract structures and necessities of pure thought reveal anything at all about the varied and mutable realm of real life experience? In her study of Hegel's Phenomenology, Ardis Collins examines the way Hegel interprets the Phenomenology of Spirit as an answer to this question and in the process invents a proof procedure that does not depend on unquestioned philosophical principles, cherished social norms, or established prejudices for or against certain ways of thinking or acting. Employing close readings and innovative analysis, this groundbreaking study challenges current interpretations of the Phenomenology. Collins demonstrates that the way Hegel interprets the role of the Phenomenology remains consistent throughout his career, that he claims for the demonstration developed in it the strict necessity of a proof, and that the beginning of philosophy cannot be justified without this proof. In the process, she sheds light on the way Hegel examines the structures and truth expectations of experience to show that the human spirit is involved in a shared project of culture and history that challenges us to become engaged in conscientious causes. Skilfully argued and persuasive, this study of Hegel's Phenomenology explores the concreteness of human experience and shows how Hegel finds in it evidence that the whole domain of human experience belongs to the logical spirit investigated by philosophy.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8802-8
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-x)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-xii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-xvi)
    • [PART ONE Introduction]
      (pp. 1-2)

      EVERY TIME A PHILOSOPHER USES the laws of logic to support or challenge a claim about the world of human experience, this philosopher assumes that the subject matter is or should be logical. Nature and the realities of life, however, seem to be very different from the stark, rigid rules of logic. Why should the abstract structures of thinking reveal anything at all about the varied and changeable world of natural happenings, or about human desires, feelings, aspirations, and life plans? What justifies the assumption that relations among concepts and propositions should reveal the true constitution of the real world...

    • 1 The project and Its Strategy
      (pp. 3-15)

      IN THE NOVEL Sophie’s World the philosopher repeatedly reminds Sophie to consider what a particular philosopher’s aim is, because this makes it easier to follow his line of thought. “By this I mean,” the philosopher says, “that we must try to grasp precisely what it is that each philosopher is especially concerned with finding out.”¹ Sophie’s philosopher, however, represents only one way in which philosophers study the history of philosophy. Philosophers take a different approach when they use contemporary questions and strategies to reveal what is significant in a philosophy that belongs to a different time and culture. The latter...

    • 2 Interpretation Paradigms
      (pp. 16-50)

      THIS CHAPTER LOOKS AT FOUR MODELS for interpreting the relation between the Phenomenology and the Logic. It discusses briefly one or more representatives of each approach, in order to show how each interpretation might be articulated and supported. It also discusses the way the different paradigms implicitly challenge each other or the way other scholars have raised significant questions about them.

      The most negative interpretation of the Phenomenology dismisses the whole project because it cannot accomplish the task that Hegel assigned to it. According to Dieter Wandschneider, Hegel in the Phenomenology sets out to refute a whole series of positions...

    • [PART TWO Introduction]
      (pp. 51-52)

      THE STUDY OF HEGEL’S INTRODUCTIONS covers Parts Two, Three, Four, and Five. This study focuses on two questions. First, how does Hegel himself define the task and method of the Phenomenology, and how does he interpret its relation to the philosophical system? Second, does the interpretation of the Phenomenology in Hegel’s later works remain consistent with the interpretation provided in the introductory essays of the Phenomenology itself? The study of the interpretation paradigms in Part One identifies certain issues that have provoked debate and disagreements among scholars who have published discussions relevant to these questions. The study of Hegel’s introductions...

    • 3 The Philosophy of Right
      (pp. 53-61)

      Hegel begins the Preface to the Philosophy of Right by insisting on the special character of philosophical knowing. The philosophy of right, he says, presupposes a kind of proof (Beweis) that is different from every other way of knowing (Erkenntnis) (PhR Preface IV/N: 10). Hegel elaborates on this claim by distinguishing a philosophy of right from three other ways of knowing what right is. Subjective conviction knows what is right by consulting the individual’s own independent feelings. According to this way of thinking, the individual must not be bound by what ‘everybody thinks,’ what the community believes, what the state...

    • 4 The Encyclopaedia: General Introduction
      (pp. 62-87)

      THE INTRODUCTORY ESSAYS OF THE Encyclopaedia, in the process of discussing the character of philosophical science, raise questions about how philosophy begins. They propose two different ways of addressing this question: the approach developed in the Phenomenology of Spirit, and the examination of three positions on objectivity, developed in the Encyclopaedia itself. We begin our study of the Encyclopaedia with the more general discussion developed in the Introduction and in the introductory sections of the part entitled “Preliminary Conception.” This more general discussion examines first the way the Encyclopaedia identifies philosophical science, acknowledges its relation to experience, and analyzes its...

    • 5 The Encyclopaedia: Three Positions on Objectivity
      (pp. 88-118)

      THE ENCYCLOPAEDIA TAKES US INTO the philosophical standpoint by examining three positions on objectivity: naïve metaphysics, empiricism and critical philosophy, immediate knowing. As we have seen, Hegel acknowledges the limitations of this “historical” approach, calling it more troublesome than the approach developed in the Phenomenology. A closer look at the Encyclopaedia alternative, however, exposes more serious problems than its historical status. Hegel brings his own presuppositions to the examination of each position. He tells us what each contributes to true cognition and how it fails; and his own position functions as the criterion that determines these judgments. By examining the...

    • 6 The Challenge of Empirical Consciousness
      (pp. 121-134)

      THE SECOND PREFACE OF THE Logic and its Introduction begin as the Philosophy of Right and the Encyclopaedia begin, with a discussion of the relation between thought and experience. The Logic’s Second Preface does not use the term Erfahrung. But it refers to sensations, intuitions, representations, what is “inward,” which corresponds to what the Encyclopaedia identifies as experience. The Logic also mentions expressions generally known (Allbekanntes) in the culture, just as the Philosophy of Right refers to culture-based knowledge of various kinds; and what is given in the culture belongs to the experience of social life and the representations in...

    • 7 The Justification of Logic
      (pp. 135-156)

      IN THE ENCYCLOPAEDIA, Hegel says that the Phenomenology of Spirit proves the necessity of the philosophical standpoint (Enz §25A). In the introductory texts of the Science of Logic, he develops a fuller and more careful account of this claim. Moreover, he repeats this discussion three different times: in the first section of the Introduction entitled “General Concept of Logic”; in the second section of the Introduction entitled “General Division of the Logic”; and in the essay entitled “With What Must the Beginning of Science Be Made.” All three texts identify the subject matter of phenomenology as a form of cognition...

    • 8 The Phenomenology of Spirit: Preface
      (pp. 159-172)

      THE PREFACE TO the Phenomenology reviews the cultural conditions of Hegel’s own time; and it raises questions about the task and method of the Phenomenology in terms of these conditions. This approach introduces the issue of historical conditionedness. Is the Phenomenology a culture-specific project? Does its strategy for addressing the knowledge question have legitimacy only for Hegel’s own time and culture?

      According to Hegel, the spirit of his own age differs significantly from the spirit of an earlier time. The older culture confidently assumed that it was one with essential truth; it looked for this truth not in the present...

    • 9 The Phenomenology of Spirit: Introduction
      (pp. 173-200)

      IN THE INTRODUCTION TO the Phenomenology, Hegel examines yet again the opposition between experience and “science.” This account, however, defines the issues in terms of the epistemological questions raised by early modern philosophy. It asks whether we must examine critically the capacities and limitations of our knowing powers before engaging in a significant knowledge project aimed at substantive truth claims. In the process of addressing this question, Hegel redefines the critical project and provides his most explicit analysis of dialectical procedure. Most important of all, he changes the focus of epistemology’s reality question. Epistemology asks whether human knowledge can know...

    • 10 The Consistency of Hegel’s Position
      (pp. 203-213)

      THIS CHAPTER REVIEWS THE EVIDENCE provided in the introductory essays to show that the Hegel of the later works and the Hegel of the Phenomenology maintained the same position on the issues addressed in my study of these texts.

      All three of Hegel’s later works – Philosophy of Right, Encyclopaedia, and Science of Logic – claim that philosophical thought thinks the necessities of thought itself and develops these without depending on what is given in or established by experience in its various forms. All three explicitly distinguish philosophical principles from what is established or given in an accepted way of thinking, whether...

    • 11 Interpretation Paradigms Revisited
      (pp. 214-240)

      IN THIS CHAPTER, I WILL EXPLAIN how the interpretation I have developed from the study of Hegel’s introductions fits or challenges the interpretations described in chapter 2 of Part One.¹

      Dieter Wandschneider dismisses the Phenomenology because it cannot accomplish the task that Hegel assigned to it. The Phenomenology cannot demonstrate the truth of logic because it uses logical principles, especially the principle of contradiction, to set aside the claims of experiential cognition. Wandschneider substitutes an alternative way of justifying the starting point of Hegel’s philosophy. He shows that any attempt to deny the laws of logic or to deny their...

    • 12 Consciousness and the Transition to Self-consciousness
      (pp. 243-280)

      THIS CHAPTER FOCUSES on the way the transition from consciousness to self-consciousness determines the necessary connection between consciousness focused on the independent content of an object and consciousness that knows itself as the truth of the object. Because this part of Hegel’s phenomenological project has received a lot of attention, and because it has been used to ground the Kantian interpretation of this project, my explanation of its various moves must work with the details of Hegel’s text. In order to keep the discussion clear and manageable, I will interpret the dialectical moves of the “Consciousness” section without engaging the...

    • 13 Self-consciousness and the Transition to Idealism
      (pp. 281-310)

      IN THIS CHAPTER, we will look at the way Hegel’s phenomenological examination of self-consciousness makes a case for the beginning presuppositions of reason. Hegel articulates these presuppositions in his account of idealism. I shall offer here an interpretation of self-consciousness governed by the demands of Hegel’s proof procedure. This approach shows how the Phenomenology again expands and redefines the reality claims of cognition.

      Self-consciousness begins as desire. We have seen how the objective life system is the determinate negation of understanding’s object; life expands this object to include the tranquil universal necessarily connected to the divisive, inverted world universal. Desire...

    • [PART SEVEN Introduction]
      (pp. 311-316)

      PART SEVEN FUNCTIONS AS A LINK between the first form of reason and the last form of spirit. The strategy for the interpretation of consciousness, self-consciousness, and the transition into reason examines every move of the demonstration that eventually defines and justifies the beginning presuppositions of reason. In Part Eight, I will resume this strategy, at least for the most important moves in the demonstration that completes the task of the Phenomenology. Part Seven, however, covers a large part of Hegel’s text, in which Hegel examines areas of experience governed by radically different cognitive norms, and in the process moves...

    • 14 Reason, the Irrational, and the Retreat into a Ground
      (pp. 317-350)

      REASON MAKING ITSELF actual begins as observation. This form of reason takes for granted that objects standing immediately before consciousness are rational, although it does not have in mind any well-formed concept of what reason is. It instinctively seeks in the object a universal of some sort that identifies what the object truly is, and it assumes that some such unifying, explanatory principle is there to be found. Hence, the observational sciences do not stand back and let the object present itself as it may. Rather they manipulate objects, run experiments, judge what evidence is relevant and what evidence is...

    • 15 Spirit, Nature, and the Retreat into a Ground
      (pp. 351-382)

      SPIRIT CONCEIVES THE RATIONAL as a social whole whose communal self-consciousness, articulated in customs and laws, defines what a people or nation takes the truth to be. The self-conscious life of the whole diversifies itself in particular social roles, and organizes natural contingencies into a rationally organized social system. The irrational element introduced in reason as observation and developed in practical reason persists in the examination of spirit, but it takes three different forms: first, as naturally determined contingencies compromising the coherence of the social whole; second, as the given immediacy, the de facto existence, of the self-conscious individual; and...

    • [PART EIGHT Introduction]
      (pp. 383-386)

      HEGEL HAS TOLD US in various texts that scientific procedure advances through determinate negations. These negations demonstrate the necessity of expanding a concept to include its necessary connection to its opposite. This result proves the necessity of reconceiving the opposites in terms of a common principle that determines both their necessary difference and their integration in the same differentiation dynamic. The common principle is the ground. The move into the ground is a retreat. It begins with what depends on the ground, and proves from what belongs to the derivative truth itself the dependence of this truth on the ground....

    • 16 The Retreat into Absolute Knowing
      (pp. 387-404)

      THIS CHAPTER FOCUSES ON the dialectical strategy that governs the movement from the determinate negation of conscientiousness to the representations of revealed religion, and from the determinate negation of revealed religion to absolute knowing. The explanation of this movement pays special attention to the role of the irrationality issue in the way the Phenomenology finally reaches a truth criterion that completes the critical examination of experience.

      Hegel says explicitly that the way revealed religion represents God meets the requirements implicit in the determinate negation of conscientiousness (PhG 361–2/M ¶671; 419–20/M ¶786). In order to interpret the dialectical function...

    • 17 The Infinity Dynamics of Absolute Knowing
      (pp. 405-421)

      HEGEL ANTICIPATES THE COMPLETION of the phenomenological project in his account of understanding, when he introduces a new concept as the result of the understanding dialectic. Understanding, Hegel says, justifies the concept of infinity, which will eventually emerge as the truth of consciousness (PhG 101–2/M ¶164). In the results of the understanding dialectic, however, consciousness does not yet recognize that the concept of infinity identifies the true essence of consciousness itself. Although the determinate negation of understanding justifies a shift into a form of self-consciousness, self-consciousness in this form does not yet know itself as “consciousness in general.” As...

    • 18 The Transition from Phenomenology to Philosophical Science
      (pp. 422-439)

      THE MOVE INTO ABSOLUTE KNOWING brings the Phenomenology to an end with an ambiguity. The Phenomenology completes its task by moving backwards to where it began and forward to something else. Absolute knowing returns the examination of experience to its starting point in sense certainty. Absolute knowing also sets aside the presuppositions of phenomenal consciousness and produces the concept that governs philosophical science, which is a different kind of knowing (PhG 429–30/M ¶802; 432–3/M ¶806). Setting aside the presuppositions of phenomenal consciousness requires a demonstration that overcomes the otherness between thought and being, consciousness and its object. In...

    • 19 The Absolute Knowing Debate
      (pp. 440-462)

      IN A RECENT SET OF ARTICLES, six scholars have engaged in a debate focused on the interpretation of absolute knowing as the end of the Phenomenology and the beginning of the Logic. The debate began as a disagreement between Stephen Houlgate and Joseph Flay, and then expanded to include Simon Lumsden, Robert Williams, John Burbidge, and Rob Devos. The participants in this debate have each focused on a different part of Hegel’s complicated discussion, and as a result have given priority to different factors in Hegel’s analysis of absolute knowing. By examining briefly the contribution of each participant, and by...

  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 463-476)
  14. Index
    (pp. 477-488)