27 September 2007

Hegel's Idealism

I just finished reading Robert Stern's "Hegel's Idealism" (PDF). Very nice piece.

It's a response to an article of Karl Ameriks's from a while back. In it, he asked if there was any good reason to call Hegel an "idealist" -- Ameriks was skeptical. He does a fine job of showing that Hegel was not a "mentalist", or Berkeleyian, or anything of that sort, and ends up just saying that Hegel was using "idealism" to basically mean "systematic philosophy." Which is not how anyone would understand the term today. So Ameriks said that we should drop the "idealist" moniker when talking about Hegel. Despite the fact that Hegel emphatically embraced the term: "Every genuine philosophy is an idealism".

Stern responds by giving an excellent exposition of some of the main parts of Hegel's system, including Hegel's use of "idealism". Stern's paper is one of the best broad treatments of Hegel's thought I've ever read; I'll have to bump Stern's stuff up a bit in the stack. Already read his bit on the British Idealists too, "The Curious Case of the Concrete Universal"; I'm still not inclined to read any of the British Idealists (beyond Josiah Royce; I've liked what little of his I've read -- I suppose he's not British anyways), but the article does a nice job handling one of the ways in which Hegel handles the "universal". (I sometimes wonder how different 20th-century Anglo-American philosophy would've been if Russell & Moore hadn't been learned about the German Idealists through a bunch of British Idealists....)

Stern's paper inspired me to write up some Hegelian Meditations, so to speak. I figured I'd through it behind a "jump", since it's a bit long. And rambling. And entirely about Hegel. And it ends up discussing theology. You have been warned. Read at your own risk.

Click on Yuki to see the post.


(she's reading the Phenomenology of Spirit, incidentally. You can make out most of the title on the DVD version; haruhi.tv's SOS-Dan webpage listed "G.W.F. Hegeru's [Phenomenology of Spirit]" as one of Yuki's favorite books, along with some other books which are clearly visible during the series, so I went back and did some freeze-framing. It paid off: When Yuki refuses to leave the library in episode ten ("Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya IV"), she's reading Hegel. Made my day when I saw that.)

Before he gets to Ameriks, Stern offers some criticisms of Robert Pippin's version of Hegel, whom Pippin presents as a fundamentally Kantian thinker. Pippin presents Kant's "Copernican Revolution" as reframing traditional metaphysical pursuits by replacing inquiry into "how things are" with inquiry into "how things must be taken to be by any 'I'" -- how things must be thought to be. The objective validity of the categories, their necessary and licit use in application to all possible experience, is argued for by showing that this is a necesary precondition of self-consciousness; I can only be self-aware if I regard myself as existing in a world of enduring substances of various sorts engaged in causal relations according to sundry natural laws. Hegel is said to have agreed with Kant in this basic reorientation of metaphysics; Hegel's categories, too, are said to be validated by appeal to the requirements of self-conscious thought. The rejection of a phenomena-noumena dualism in Hegel's account of what is necessary for self-consciousness leads him to speak of this basically Kantian project in terms of "thought's self-determination" (since thought is not (as in Kant) "bound" by a ding an sich) but the form of Hegel's thought remains Kantian in structure: Start from self-consciousness and see what else you must have thought. Pippin notes that Hegel seems to be not terribly clear that this is how he's arguing, and also that he doesn't merely limit his claims to "what must be thought to be" but speaks of "what must be" full-stop. Pippin claims that both of these are "slips", and do not tell us anything of Hegel's true views.

Pippin seems to underestimate what Hegel's lack of a noumena-phenomena distinction leads to. For Kant, what had to be the case if self-conscious thought was to be possible was that various broad facts had to be the case for all phenomena -- there are spatio-temporal substances engaged in causal relations in recognizable ways, etc. Noumena were not held liable to any such constraints, as they were not (and could not be) subject to the categories. Hegel sees no need to hang on to the ding an sich, and so he doesn't have any need to distinguish phenomena from noumena. So where Kant's requirements for self-conscious thought could end up with the form "If self-conscious thought is to be possible, then things must be so for phenomena", Hegel's end up as "If self-conscious thought is to be possible, then things must be so." Thus Hegel speaks of how things must be, full-stop; for self-conscious thought is possible. Hegel does not end up limiting the demand to be subject to his categories to what is imposed by an 'I' on matter given ab extra, but has the demand applying generally: all must be subject to the categories if it is to be at all. The 'I' as a category thus plays no privileged role for Hegel; it is one category among many. There is no pressure to "ground" the other categories in the 'I' anymore than in any other category; they all flow from one another equally, the whole system of the Logic being presupposed if any of the categories is to have a use. Thus Hegel can begin his Logic with Being for purely aesthetic reasons, and has no need to start with self-consciousness, or with any category in particular; "The only genuinely necessary presupposition can be said to be the decision to consider thought at all, which can be taken to be arbitrary." (This is not to say that Hegel's system is "presuppositionless" in a sense in which it is sometimes made out to be; one sometimes is given the image of the entire Logic being convincing even to the most dedicated skeptic -- the standpoint of "Absolute Knowledge" is supposedly reachable even if one denies having all prior knowledge. Hegel's point is rather that any point of thought may serve as a starting-place; a mind which can think at all can come to see the validity of Hegel's system of categories, his Logic.)

Hegel's Logic begins with Being, since it seems like a nice vague, general notion, and Hegel wants to be sure to avoid any appearance of a "weighty" set of presuppositions in his logic. "Being" as such is seen to have no use in thought; if one tries to think solely of "Being", eschewing all other notions, one is put in the same place one would be if one was thinking of "Nothing" alone -- thinking of what isn't "Being". Both "Being" and "Nothing" have a use because they can both be used -- they are used to track shifts in "Becoming", in that which comes into being and receeds into nothingness. But shifts in "Becoming" as such cannot be tracked solely by means of "Being" and "Nothing", since the two are so far distinguished only in that they are different from one another; there must be variety in becomings if they are to be distinguished from one another, and thus their shiftings marked. Thus "Becoming" leads to "Determinate Being" -- that "Being" has a use in thinking thus requires that there are many beings which are distinguishable one from another. "Being" finds its usefulness in noting the presence of some qualities in certain beings; "Nothing" finds its usefulness in noting the absence of such qualities in other beings. This is (in compressed form) the manner in which Hegel develops his system of categories: the new categories prevent the earlier ones from proving useless for thinking with, and are themselves useful because of the use they make of the earlier categories. Hegel's system of categories eventually grows to include notions like "Objectivity", "Judgement", "Cause"; that these categories are licitly employed is shown by their being inextricably bound up with earlier categories. When a category would be used contrary to the role it plays in the logical system of categories, as when the category of mechanical causation is applied to the world as such rather than some particular determinate object, it can thus be seen to be misused: and this is what Hegel holds to be the way in which classical metaphysics operated. Take a concept like "cause", use it in ways it's not fit to be used, end up being deeply confused by the results. (In this case, using "mechanical causation" outside a context in which one is keeping track of various shifts in external relations between objects by means of recognizing measurable regularities in their interactions. Such is the case with the cosmological argument for the existence of God; one ends up with an "unmoved mover" because "every event must have a cause" is thought to hold outside of objects in recpirocal relations with one another, and so it is made to appear that the physical world as a whole must need a cause, too -- a transcendent one, so as to end the regress.)

Hegel's anti-Cartesianism comes from the fact that his system introduces categories like "representation" such that representations are treated as the way in which a subject comes in contact with the world, not "private" mental objects. Hegel's logic handles topics like "the world" and "reality" only insofar as they are useful for thinking, but this is not to restrict his claims any. "That we must think of things thus" just is to have to think of them in the terms we generally use to think of things: as holding of the world, reality, Being, etc -- which is to think of them in terms of the world, reality, Being, etc. If we must think of things thus, then things are thus for us, and so we hold: Things are thus. This is Hegel's "identity of thought and being": the ways in which we must think of things are the way things are.

This "identity of thought and being" is the rhetorically toned-down version of Hegel's claim that his Logic gives us "God Himself as He is in His Eternity, before the creation of a world and of a finite mind" -- what is "in eternity" is just the connections between the abstract categories. And since the categories can only be used for thought by a finite mind, a mind which is thinking in time and is in relations with various objects and with other minds, Hegel is able to speak of his "God as He is in His Eternity" as "becoming man" while remaining God (for the essence of man is to think, and to think is to employ the system of the categories, which are what is "eternal"), thus in finite thought "the eternal" is present in time. But a thought in a finite mind need not itself be finite; when (as in understanding a free action as free) we approach "Absolute Knowledge", the knowledge of the Idea as Idea, God Himself could have no deeper understanding: in Absolute Knowledge we think the thoughts of the Divine Mind. Thus once the standpoint of Absolute Knowledge is reached, God becomes self-conscious in a finite mind; a finite mind thinks eternal thoughts. This is Hegel's odd version of the ontological argument, which is explicitly trinitarian in nature: The God revealed by "the identity of thought and being" is a God who includes finitude as a moment in the Divine Life, a moment which is overcome by the raising of finitude into eternity-in-finitude -- the "true infinite" which is at home with itself in its other.

Hegel's ontological argument is clearly unsuitable for any sort of foundationalist purpose in religion; the human subject figures in Hegel's description of the trinitarian Life as merely an abstract bit of finitude. But religion involves subjective feelings, personal relationships, an individual's moral status, historical symbols, rituals, etc. This is not a failing on Hegel's part, but a positive feature: Hegel regards cultus as an ineliminable aspect of religion, and the heart of religion is picture-thinking -- the contemplation of symbols, to use terminology more in line with contemporary theology. The particular cultus one participates in, the particular symbols one comes to think religiously with, is a contingent matter. Whichever it is, it will be, qua religion, self-standing: there is no need for philosophy to "underwrite" religion. Nor could philosophy do the job if it wanted to; insofar as it involves comprehending the Absolute, Hegel says, philosophy takes its content from religion, and not vice-versa; philosophy comprehends the myriad features of life as a unified whole, and so life must already be a unified whole for thought to become philosophy. Hegel says that this comes, in part, only with religion; the subjective feeling brought about in the mythic religions played the part in Ancient Greece, and Hegel holds that (Protestant) Christianity plays the part in the modern world. Where religion worked with picture-thoughts, vorstellungen, philosophy thinks the self-development of the Concept, the Idea. Hegel's notion of "God" is frequently labeled "heretical" or "unorthodox" or flat-out claimed to be atheistic (or pantheistic); I don't think any such claim has merit. On the level of picture-thinking, of religion, Hegel was a Lutheran. He was reported to be not terribly devout, but he was a Lutheran confessionally; a lack of personal devotion simply fit with his personality. (His wife was pious to the point of enthusiasm.) He rebuts the charge of atheism (or pantheism) brilliantly in subsection 573 of the encyclopedia, where he is (purportedly) defending philosophy as such from the charge of "pantheism, or the All-One doctrine". As far as the matter of orthodoxy goes, Hegel's God is explicitly Triune and Incarnational; his picture of salvation is a matter of a subject coming to know itself as having always implicitly been God's actual presence in the world (and then coming to do God's actual work in the world) by means of recognition of a (singular) God-man. In a broad sense, Hegel's notion of religion, and so of God, is obviously Christian. And any more specific charge of heresy will be made in terms which are simply answerable by repeating Lutheran confessional language; there is nothing in Hegel's thought which would say one way or the other how many "natures" Christ should be said to have, and so he cannot be guilty of having been lead by philosophy into monophysitism; in general, the guiding notion behind orthodox Christology is that Christ is "wholly human and wholly divine", and this is entirely consistent with what Hegel's "revealed religion" claims for its God-man. The only perhaps-credible charge I have seen levied against Hegel's orthodoxy as a Christian philosopher is that Hegel does not allow "sufficient transcendence" for God; if any sense can be made of this charge, then there will certainly be problems for Hegel. Not because it will show he is unorthodox (though it would), but because it would show the entire System to be riddled with problems -- the notion that there is a transcendent "Beyond Thought" is just what Hegel has set out to dispel as a confusion in many places; if it is not a confusion, but a patent fact, Hegel's System is derelict.

In his treatment of religion, Hegel holds to his general method in philosophy: ""Philosophical thinking proceeds analytically in that it simply takes up its object, the Idea, and lets it go its own way, while it simply watches the movement and development of it, so to speak. To this extent philosophizing is something wholly passive. But philosophical thinking is equally synthetic as well, and it proves to be the activity of the Concept itself. But this requires the effort to beware of our own inventions and particular opinions which are forever wanting to push themselves forward." (ss238, Addition)

9 comments:

Duck said...

The thing about a long, rambling post is that it can provoke a long, disjointed set of comments and questions. Don't feel you have to respond to all of these.

"Pippin claims that both of these are "slips", and do not tell us anything of Hegel's true views."

I find it amazing that anyone could think that that Hegel "doesn't merely limit his claims to "what must be thought to be" but speaks of "what must be" full-stop," was a slip. Either there's nothing wrong with it at all, or it's more than a "slip." I haven't read Pippin's book though. Do you have a favorite Hegel interpreter, or a least favorite? What (little) I've read of Houlgate and Stern I like.

"Noumena [in Kant] were not held liable to any such constraints, as they were not (and could not be) subject to the categories. Hegel sees no need to hang on to the Ding an sich, and so he doesn't have any need to distinguish phenomena from noumena."

Well, okay, but on some readings Kant doesn't "hang on to" them either. In fact (on these readings) he distinguishes noumena just in order to dismiss them.

"the new categories prevent the earlier ones from proving useless for thinking with, and are themselves useful because of the use they make of the earlier categories. "

Does he address the typical realist/skeptical worry that "useful" can't entail "real"?

"Take a concept like "cause", use it in ways it's not fit to be used, end up being deeply confused by the results."

Put like that, it sounds perfectly Wittgensteinian, doesn't it? Especially when the bad ways are Cartesian/"metaphysical".

Like here:

"Hegel's anti-Cartesianism comes from the fact that his system introduces categories like "representation" such that representations are treated as the way in which a subject comes in contact with the world, not "private" mental objects."

Sounds good – that is, in the Hegelian context, in which "subject" and "object" have already been shown to presuppose each other conceptually.

"If we must think of things thus, then things are thus for us, and so we hold: Things are thus."

I say this (i.e., on my own behalf) all the time. So I'm glad to hear that:

"This is Hegel's "identity of thought and being": the ways in which we must think of things are the way things are."

If this be "idealism," then, matey, idealism be correct. (Still, I try not to use that term.)

"his picture of salvation is a matter of a subject coming to know itself as having always implicitly been God's actual presence in the world (and then coming to do God's actual work in the world) by means of recognition of a (singular) God-man."

You can't do that by philosophy alone, right? (What sort of "recognition" are we talking about here?)

"The only perhaps-credible charge I have seen levied against Hegel's orthodoxy as a Christian philosopher is that Hegel does not allow "sufficient transcendence" for God; if any sense can be made of this charge, then there will certainly be problems for Hegel. Not because it will show he is unorthodox (though it would), but because it would show the entire System to be riddled with problems -- the notion that there is a transcendent "Beyond Thought" is just what Hegel has set out to dispel as a confusion in many places; if it is not a confusion, but a patent fact, Hegel's System is derelict."

Well, sure, but how could such a thing be a "patent fact"??

Daniel said...

I responded to most of them. I knew what I was getting into with my long, rambling post. (Well, either this or nobody would read it. I'd actually expected the latter. This way is fine, too.) Incidentally, you weren't nearly as long and disjointed as I feared you might be; this was downright pleasant to respond to compared to the recent threat at Kotsko's place.

On favorite Hegel-commentators: I tend to want my commentators to make reading the primary sources easier, so I gravitate towards guys who stick (relatively) close to the text in question. Justus Harnack's little book on the Logic was a good read; I've liked all of Kenneth Westphal's stuff. Quentin Lauer's book on the Phenomenology is the best thing on that book I've found, though I've generally preferred the Encyclopedia volumes (and the Greater Logic) to the Phenomneology. I liked every article in the "Cambridge Companion to Hegel", and "The Hegel Myths and Legends" still gets my recommendation. Really, the secondary literature on Hegel has impressed me in general; I haven't run across much that's really bad in the way of Hegel-scholarship.

On least-favorite Hegel commentators: Alexander Kojeve's "Lectures on the Phenomenology of Spirit" is so far out there that Kojeve doesn't seem to really be talking about Hegel at all. He has his own Marxist-Heideggerian schtick going on. As far as "big name" secondary works go, Kojeve's the only one I think is seriously off-base. (Though Kojeve's mildly interesting in his own right.) Folk like Pippin have their own concerns, but I still usually feel like I understand Hegel better after reading their work than I did before; I think Kojeve actively interfered with my attempts to understand "Lordship and Bondage" et al.

On Kant and Noumea: I don't think that Kant "dismisses" noumena in his full system. Things in themselves play an ineliminable role in his practical philosophy, for instance. What is free is the noumenal self. (That is to say: there is a practical need to postulate the existence of a noumenal soul, which is thought of as the locus of the free will. It's the "freedom" postulate in the trio of "Freedom, God, and Immortality".) Of course, you can read Kant against himself and end up with a version of "transcendental idealism" which doesn't demand the existence of "noumena in a positive sense", but then I don't know why it'd be worth hanging on to the "transcendental idealist" title at all if that's the route you take, and I think such a route precludes you from earnestly saying you're presenting Kant's doctrines. In Kant's version of transcendental idealism, noumena are said to definitely exist: the matter of intuition must be given ab extra, and the forms of the understanding merely impose themselves on it. (That the matter given in intuition cannot be "in itself" as it is intuited to be is supposed to be proved by the arguments of the Transcendental Aesthetic. I don't think the main arguments in the Aesthetic work, but I don't think Kant ever noticed this. Possibly because Kant and the Leibnizians were in agreement on this point; the arguments in the Aesthetic are basically the same as those in the Inaugural Dissertation from the pre-Critical era.)

"Does he address the typical realist/skeptical worry that "useful" can't entail "real"?" Hegel actually tends to criticize the opposite confusion, that just because something is useful (or esteemable, or pious, or sentimental), this makes it "rational" despite all the protestations that might be brought against it. I get the impression that this sort of "popular philosophy" was a real problem in Hegel's day, while the sort of skeptical-realist mess which is everywhere nowadays really wasn't an issue in Germany at the time.

So, no, Hegel doesn't address the typical realist/skeptical worry about how "useful" doesn't entail "real"; really, he doesn't put things in quite the way I've put them. He tends to speak not of categories being "useful" or "useless" but of being "rational" or "falling into contradiction"; what I have called "useless" Hegel calls "a conflict of Reason with itself". Which makes the realist/skeptical worry rather less likely to crop up; nobody is much worried that our thought might be "merely how we find it rational to think". For the odd folk who do think our reason might be merely our reason (as opposed to other possible "reasons"), Hegel does offer direct criticisms; this is what is at issue in a lot of the places where Hegel is attacking "pietistic" theology.

If the realist-skeptical protest were to be put as the worry that this category which we are taking to be rational might not really be rational, but just is what we happen to be using at the moment, then Hegel can simply ask for another place to start thinking from; "Being" was a more or less arbitrary place to start the Logic, after all. Or if the worry is that this way to resolve a contradiction among the categories might not the right one, there is no reason Hegel should not be open to suggestions for other routes to resolve things. But there would actually need to be other routes offered, not merely the abstract worry that such might be possible. Hegel's logic is supposed to be the study of thinking, not of "something (we know not what) which would be in many ways similar to thinking, though it isn't what we know as thinking".

Hegel makes this sort of point over and over again in the Logic (he claims it's contra Kant): If we suppose that thought falls short of reality, then this "reality" is already "something subjectively thought"; thought can be thought to fall short of reality only if thought is thought to not fall short of reality, as "reality" is already something which is thought.

On "idealism": Yeah, "idealism" as a term seems to shed more darkness than light on what the philosophical position in question is on about. As far as Hegel-terminology goes, it's a minor complaint; Hegel calling himself an "idealist" doesn't cause nearly the trouble that his "necessity" talk does, and Hegel's use of "identical" has practically nothing to do with the use in "a thing is identical with itself"; Hegel can say that a thing is identical with its opposite, since a thing's opposite can only be thought of if one can think of the first thing. I suspect this is part of what got Russell so upset; Hegel's use of classically logical terminology is strikingly idiosyncratic at times, and he never really gives much of a reason for this. (I'm inclined to blame Fichte for the weird talk of "identity" as meaning "coexistence with something". "I=I as the principle of philosophy" and all that strangeness.)

On Hegel sounding Wittgensteinian: This is what tends to happen when you set your face against metaphysics. You end up sounding like other people who are critical of metaphysics.

It's a pity the positivists made such a point of being the anti-metaphysicians. At least most of the egregious philosophizing which goes on nowadays has the courtesy to call itself "metaphysics", so the old slogans haven't totally lost their vitality.

"You can't do that by philosophy alone, right? (What sort of "recognition" are we talking about here?)" Hegel doesn't think that modern philosophy in general would've been possible without Christianity, and "philosophy alone" isn't anything Hegel ever has truck with. Philosophy is "its own age comprehended in thought"; only a peculiar sort of society can give rise to philosophy, and one needs culture to be able to think.

So, no: Hegel doesn't think that "philosophy alone" can play the part of religion (let alone save anyone); religion plays the part of religion. Hegel doesn't think his own Lutheran church is in need of theological reform, though he does express some worries about its moral state; Hegel doesn't like the irreligiousness he sees cropping up in some of the more radical movements of the day. Which is a perfectly good thing for a Lutheran to be concerned with.

In particular, "recognition of a singular God-man" requires a singular God-man be presented to one; Hegel clearly has Jesus in mind, here. He's explicit that the "singular" God-man must be presented as an historical individual. The mere abstract concept of "a singular God-man" won't do the job, since this could be (at best) the idea that the two categories might be joined in some individual. All the good that thought would do is to counsel a worried sinner that perhaps man might be reconciled to God. This which would be a counsel of despair, not the proclamation of an euangelion. The recognition that there has been at least one actual case of a man reconciled to God suffices to show that man and God as such are not opposed, and so neither is the sinner in question qua human opposed to God, but merely qua sinner. And so the "forgiveness of sins" which is part of becoming a member of the religious community is seen to also be the reconciliation of the sinner and God; Hegel puns on "the Spirit present in the worshiping community", and it is a perfectly good pneumatological way to pun.

I'm not sure how well that cleared things up; I haven't the foggiest idea what sort of theological background you have, so I don't know how to tailor my presentation. (I recall some compilation of Tillich & Pals being included in one of your library posts, but I remember it struck me as odd that you'd pick up the book. If you've ever mentioned religion elsewhere, I've missed it.)

On a "patent fact": In this context, I think it would suffice to show that Christianity can't make do without some sort of transcendent "Beyond Thought"; that talk of God, heaven, etc. requires postulating such things as higher than the highest of the highest. I could imagine an Ecumenical Council declaring something of the sort (though in fact they've said the opposite, that reason is a divine gift and that God has given Himself to be known as He is in Himself; it was not by accident that God was called Logos). Of course, this wouldn't show that there is a transcendent "Beyond Thought"; my "patent fact" language was poorly-chosen. Though from a confessionally Christian standpoint, it'd amount to the same thing. Which would be a problem for Hegel, since he's adamant about teaching a Christian philosophy.

Duck said...

"the recent threat at Kotsko's place"? Wow, sounds ugly.

I get Kenneth Westphal mixed up with Merold Westphal; but I'm pretty sure I have the former's book on the Phen. I also have both anthologies you mention, and I've even read about half of each of them. The Stewart one is indeed good; I understand he has a book of his own on Kierkegaard as a Hegelian.

I have heard your complaint about Kojève before (i.e. from others); and I can well understand how Marxists might indeed get the L'n'B part all screwy because of their own deceptively similar-sounding concerns. I think you'll like the McDowell article.

About Kant: what you say is the natural thing to say. (I didn't know that about the Inaugural Dissertation.) One would indeed have to "read Kant against himself" to say what I would like to say. But I think we kind of have to do that anyway, unless you want to accept his whole system, hook, line, and sinker. We'll have to come back to this.

Of course Kant (of all people) doesn't say that "our" reason might only be our reason (he better not!); but he does say that our sensibility might only be our sensibility. And that gets him into similar trouble. (McDowell is good on this.)

""Being" was a more or less arbitrary place to start the Logic, after all."

This was news to me. I think I get it, though, sort of. If all those categories presuppose each other I suppose that you could start anywhere. I'm not sure how it would go though. I think Houlgate argues that you have to start with sheer indeterminate being.

"But there would actually need to be other routes offered, not merely the abstract worry that such might be possible."

Well, that's what you always have to say to the skeptic. Isn't "Glauben und Wissen" about skepticism?

"It's a pity the positivists made such a point of being the anti-metaphysicians. At least most of the egregious philosophizing which goes on nowadays has the courtesy to call itself "metaphysics", so the old slogans haven't totally lost their vitality."

Yes, but some of it recoils into empiricism and/or naturalism; so now you have the spectacle of scientific realists swearing up and down that they "have no metaphysical presuppositions," and even getting livid at the very idea. At the same time, I think that you can't put "metaphysical" questions to rest without, in another sense, "doing metaphysics" (e.g. addressing, as Hegel does, the traditional dualism of subject and object). See my recent post on McDowell and Davidson.

Thanks for the theology lesson (I indeed have little background there). I do find it interesting though, as in that context especially you can't just wave your hands at Platonism as having been overcome (by, say, the new science), but instead have some real work to do.

Daniel said...

Freudian slip: Recent

(The latest Holbo vs. Kotsko Zizek thread! Wooooo...! This one lead to me spending $10 and to Kotsko once again complain about how hard reading German is turning out to be. Progress?)

Merold and Kenneth Westphal are not related, as far as I know. I actually had Merold Westphal confused with
William Desmond, which is where I first saw the objection I mentioned at the end of this post.

I had Stewart's book ("Kierkegaard's Relation to Hegel Reconsidered") on ILL for a while, but didn't have time to read more than the introduction. The thrust of it seemed to be that Kierkegaard had more specific targets than Hegel in almost all cases; criticisms of "Hegel" are secretly criticisms of Professor X. I read a review of the book (from some Kierkegaard journal or other I found via Google) which pointed out that this isn't really a very surprising result, though Stewart did an impressive amount of work to pin down just who Kierkegaard was attacking specifically in each of N cases (the book is long).

The only Kierkegaard work I've read in full is "Fear and Trembling", and if it's supposed to be a criticism of Hegel I'm stumped as to how the argument works. And in any case I don't know what Johannes de Silentio is doing with Abraham, considering what Paul does with Abraham (not to mention the Epistle to the Hebrews, where it's flat-out said that Abraham offered Isaac while reasoning that God could bring him back to life if he died). If the threat is just "Either Hegel is wrong (and large chunks of the New Testament need amending), or Abraham is not the father of faith" then I'm not seeing how this is particularly forceful. If "father of faith" is some Kierkegaardian-Johannian novelty (rather than Paul's phrase), then I don't know why Hegel would have a problem with it not applying to Abraham.

I mean to get around to the Philosophical Fragments (and its tag-along) at some point; I suspect I'll like them better. I've already read the "Something about Lessing" section (for an existentialism seminar, if memory serves), and thought it was great. I am pretty sure I should like Kierkegaard more than I do; a lot of the guys I like like him.

On the topic of revisionary Kierkegaardianism: Ronald Green's "Kierkegaard and Kant: The Hidden Debt" was a great read. The titular "hidden debt" involves the fact that Kierkegaard very rarely mentions Kant by name, despite being very familiar with him; Kierkegaard would've read pretty much the entire Kantian corpus for his theology degree; his teachers were all Kantians of some stripe; Kierkegaard practically quotes Kant's arguments verbatim when he discusses the traditional arguments for the existence of God, and in many other places says things suspiciously similar to what Kant had said before him. Yet Kant's name only occurs a few places in Kierkegaard's corpus, most of them unpublished journal entries. Green's answer for why Kant's name comes up so rarely is totally nuts (and he admits as much): He thinks "Socrates" was a code-name for "Kant" in a lot of Kierkegaard's writings. To avoid associating Kant with his Idealist confrères in the minds of his readers, Kierkegaard changed his name when talking about him. Green actually makes a decent case for this. Fun book. No idea if I actually believe it, but it's not like Kierkegaard was hesitant about using fake names.

I am sure Kant will be returned to plenty often.

I'm pretty sure Hegel claims that the only "strictly necessary" presupposition in logic is "the decision to study thinking at all, which can be taken to be arbitrary". If some content-heavy sort of thought is begun with, by the end it'll no longer look like a "weighty" presupposition, as it will turn out that thought as such is autonomous. So the presupposition wasn't really a "presupposition"; it was just a point for launching off from. Whatever thought is begun with, it'll turn out that all of the categories are required to make sense of what thought is doing there; any insufficient inventory of categories will leave some of the categories coming into conflict with each other. (To poke at Houlgate's wording there -- how can you start with "pure, indeterminate being"? The get that far, you'd have to have some determinate being you're opposing it to, and some "impure" being as well, otherwise you can't be sure you aren't beginning with "impure, determinate being" instead!) (Trying to verify that I'm remembering Hegel right, here, by rereading the introduction to the Science of Logic. I might post something on it later, depending on what I find.)

I still need to read "Glauben und Wissen" in full; the introduction was good stuff, and early Hegel is generally a smoother writer than his older self ("The Spirit of Christianity and its Fate" was actually pleasant to read; usually the best I hope for from Hegel is occasional good jokes or nice phrasing). I have it in photocopy form somewhere around here; misplaced the folder when I moved in to my apartment.

I liked the recent McDowell-Davidson-Truth post; I have nothing to add to it. You are of course correct that there are problems with trying to claim "not metaphysics" as a rallying cry. I suspect that my background may be influencing me here; when theologians want to "oppose metaphysics" they generally have in mind metaphysics of the classical sort, particularly ontology. Being opposed to spending time with "arguments for the existence of God, the soul, and immortality" is quite a different matter from not wanting to talk about truth & meaning, let alone wanting to call a halt to anything that's insufficiently like physics.

Studying philosophy while taking theology courses was certainly an interesting way to approach the subject. It's not like theologians have ever stopped reading philosophy, anyway, so I got to write plenty of papers on Kant for class assignments. Luckily I had some terrific, thoughtful professors to discuss things with, to compensate for how utterly terrible our philosophy department was. (To clarify, the school is small enough that the "philosophy department" was one guy. A second was added my senior year, since one of the theology profs got a second PhD studying the existentialists. The first prof got his PhD with a dissertation asking "What constitutes a person?" -- his answer was a specific part of the brain. When we got to Hobbes in his "Modern Philosophy" class, the only topic related to "political philosophy" he was willing to discuss was whether the social groups gorillas form count as a "society" for purposes of philosophizing about society. Hegel, it was claimed, didn't know what a "contradiction" was; "(A&~A)->anything, ergo Hegel is wrong, and you should not waste time reading him." (Seriously! He recommended not reading Hegel for this reason. He even wrote the little logical symbols on the chalkboard, to show how much progress philosophy has made. The entire lecture was like that; when he was tired of saying we shouldn't read Hegel, he dismissed class 30 minutes early.) Long story short: We didn't get along very well.)

Daniel said...

Weird. The formatting on that link was fine when I previewed it.

The first line should say "recent thread", with "thread" being hyperlinked.

I apparently have more of an unconscious opposition to saying "recent thread" than I thought!

Duck said...

People who are into Kierkegaard for the same reasons that I am seem to agree that the tag-along to the Fragments is the key book. I've read the first 150 pages (out of 600) and I liked it a lot. So I got the Fragments too, and I can't make head or tail of it. I'd always heard SK makes a big deal out of knocking Hegel, but what I read of the Postscript sounds perfectly congenial to me, even with my Hegel hat on. So it's entirely plausible that SK's barbs at Hegel are indeed directed (not at Hegel himself, but) at local "Hegelians." I'll add the Green book to the list – thanks for the tip.

Let's come back to the Logic later. Let me go reread Houlgate (the first part of The Opening of Hegel's Logic); the Logic itself I have not read, as I find it too intimidating. Plus I only got into Hegel recently, thanks to McDowell, so I haven't had time to do more than dip my toe in via secondary literature, plus the first part of the Phenomenology.

"Whatever thought is begun with, it'll turn out that all of the categories are required to make sense of what thought is doing there; any insufficient inventory of categories will leave some of the categories coming into conflict with each other."

That sounds right to me; but Houlgate had some reason for starting with Being.

Your philosophy prof sounds like a real piece of work. In The Hegel Myths and Legends when they argue against the idea that Hegel stupidly rejected the law of contradiction, I couldn't believe that anyone could possibly think that he had. But there you go.

Daniel said...

I reread the Preface to the Science of Logic yesterday (online, so if there are any Additions I skipped them). It's an absolute pleasure to read. The introduction is good so far, too. Don't let the size intimidate you; I find everything else Hegel ever wrote easier to read than the PhG.

When it comes to the greater part of the greater Logic, I've only read the ending bits in full. I managed to slog through all of the various sorts of judgements (Universal, Particular, Singular, Disjunctive, Infinite...), since somewhere or other I saw it suggested that they were relevant to McDowell's project. There were certainly bits that seemed congenial. Hegel's picture of judgement was basically that of subjectively endorsing a purported development of the Concept as genuinely being a moment of the Concept, with all the various sorts of judgements being different manners in which the Concept can develop itself (this individual is a moment of this universal, this universal includes that universal, these two universals have nothing to do with each other, etc.). This has some clear affinities with McDowell's picture of the relationship between experience and judgement. (I should probably pick up that Geach book he always footnotes -- "Mental Acts" or something.) It also helped to clarify the whole "Everything is a syllogism" thing.

Russell claimed that the only logic Hegel knew was Aristotle's term logic, and this was what "everything is a syllogism" means: Every sentence is (secretly!) an Aristotelian syllogism. Brandom actually takes time to defend Hegel from this charge in one of his lectures (again, I think it was "Kantian Lessons"), which tells me that my small school isn't the only place that the stupid legend still has currency. It's one of the more minor charges Russell made, actually. Russell claimed Fichte's only significance was as a proto-Nazi.

(Seriously! "History of Western Philosophy", at the end of the Kant chapter. Russell says that Fichte held that all was the Ego, and since Fichte was German, all was thus German. "The Vocation of Man" was supposed to be like a transcendental version of Mein Kampf, I suppose. This would make Hegel's enthusiasm for Fichte as opposed to Kant take on a rather different light.)

Russell was where my philosophy prof got most of his Hegel information, I gathered; he was a big Russel fan in general. (His student, that Austrian fellow, was a footnote to Russell early on, and eventually went off the deep end.)

In his philosophy of science course we used Jakob Bronowki's The Ascent of Man" as a textbook, and in it Bronowski repeats the story that Hegel claimed to prove a priori that there can only be seven planets. I sent a corrective e-mail to the prof after that class period, and he responded dismissively because I had cited an internet source, and anyway he didn't think what I cited showed that Bronowski was wrong. (He also requested I not e-mail him about Hegel ever again.)

I'd linked to a listserv discussion that noted that Hegel's "there can only be seven planets" claim was a joke. The material's the same as in the Stewart book, if you want the details. (The short version: Hegel appeals to the authority of Plato's Timaeus to "prove his point". And also makes up a number at random to get the math to work out right. And he's claiming to agree with guys whom he never sees eye-to-eye with anywhere else. Survey says: This is not how Hegel behaves when he is serious.)

("Ascent of Man" was actually a reasonable choice for the course; it was team-taught with the chair of the physics department, who's a real swell guy, and the PBS Special book was an easy read to supplement the lectures on the history of the natural sciences. But Bronowski has clearly never looked at Hegel, or at any of the other Romantics, yet he saw fit to dismiss them all in a single paragraph, on the strength of the Hegel anecdote.)

I am still reading the Introduction to the Science of Logic, brushing up on how things start. The section after it, "With what to begin?", may or may not be relevant to the question; I haven't decided whether or not to read it.

Duck said...

I took a gander at the Kotsko threat, uh, I mean, thread. Holy concatenation of 1) ampersand; 2) number sign; 3) percent sign; 4) dollar sign. It'd be a while before I could contribute to such a discussion, though I did perk up at the Davidson plug; plus I liked Holbo's Wire reference.

Daniel said...

As I slowly work through For they know now what they do, I am beginning to suspect that "threat" was more true than not.

Zizek actually has discussed Davidson more than once. One of these days those bits will actually come up in a Zizek thread. That will be a very good day indeed.

I'm still trying to figure out what "The Matrix" has to do with "Fear and Trembling".