Hegels Critique of Metaphysics

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Support for the revised metaphysical interpretation. Why the revised metaphysical interpretation is right. Hegel as a Heraclitean. I endorse the revised metaphysical interpretation, which, in my view presents the most accurate, although also most nuanced, reading of absolute idealism. The second set of differences regards their methodology, in particular the fact that Hegel applies the Kantian critical design, but, unlike Kant, not within the Cartesian framework of inquiry understood as a causal progression of deductive proofs Holmes, Hegel instead undertakes an immanent critique of concepts through a dialectical process.

These disparities between the systems of transcendental and absolute idealism lead my inquiries to partial paradoxes and incompatibilities which further complicate the argument. Hegel, Kant and metaphysics I begin with an assessment of the Hegelian system as a critical metaphysics, i. Thus, my argument is in line with the revised metaphysical interpretation. Through this lens I critically evaluate the former two readings of Hegel - the traditional metaphysical and the non-metaphysical one, respectively - both of which, I purport, offer misconceived interpretations of the relationship between the Hegelian system and the Kantian critique of metaphysics.

One only has access to the appearances of things as delivered subjectively through sensory perception, i. Therefore, no metaphysics i.

Hegel’s Critique of Kant and Pre-Kantian Metaphysics

Consequently, all philosophy after Kant is bound to be understood in a reductionist sense - as a critique of knowledge. The traditional metaphysical interpretation answers negatively to this, purporting that Hegelian philosophy is a dogmatic metaphysical speculation in the pre-Kantian sense. Contrastingly, the non-metaphysical reading defends Hegel on the grounds of him being essentially a misunderstood post-Kantian philosopher, who is not a metaphysician at all. Below I claim that both of these assessments are flawed.

I will now summarise the main points of my argument against each of the readings from the standpoint of the revised metaphysical interpretation.

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Then I will explain why this interpretation provides the best horizon for my conclusions, since its argument is more balanced and faithful to what Hegel himself meant his philosophy to be. Argument summary In the first section I explain and then critique the traditional metaphysical interretation.


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I object to this reading on various grounds. Moreover, Hegel stresses ibid. By being such, the Hegelian being-becoming could not possibly serve as a blueprint for a classical theological model of the divine.

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From this it follows that wherever Hegel asserts the theological aspirations of his own philosophy, one ought to be critically aware of the naturalist idiosyncrasies of his theism as distinct from the transcendent claims of traditional monotheist dogma. In the second section I move on to the non-metaphysical interpretation and explain why its account is also flawed.

In my argument against this polarised reading, I demonstrate how the idiosyncratic metaphysical features that are definitive of the Hegelian system would need to be ignored in order to hold this non-metaphysical view. Thus, the non-metaphysical interpretation is also flawed as it applies Kantian standards where they are not contradictory to, but incompatible with the Hegelian system.

Here Hegel further differs from Kant, however, in that the sense-perceived reality is the true reality, because no other reality exists Beizer, 8. Hegelian categories of thought, as Pippin argues, are not categories of reality, but merely ways in which the subject perceives the world. Again, the same neglectful treatment of the principle of subject-object identity is evident in this flawed perspective.

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It precisely is the main difference between Kant and Hegel that for Hegel categories of thought are also categories of reality, i. The difficulty of the matter is that Hegel ascribes ontological status to thought, while Kant does not. I argue, therefore, that the key to solving this is an insight into how each of the thinkers defines reason ibid.

Hegel and the Ethics of Brandom’s Metaphysics

This would have to mean that, in the non-metaphysical view, Hegel does not claim to describe reality as it is in itself, but either as mere appearances of things, or as mental categories of thought. Such a thoroughgoing non-metaphysical reading is therefore textually inconsistent and thus flawed. The main point of the argument which I make in the third section, however, becomes evident when the common flaw of the former two interpretations is identified. Such paradoxical ambiguities are indicative of the intuition that we are reaching the extremes of the human capacity for abstract reasoning while banging our head against a wall of linguistic impotence.

The conclusive point here is that, for Hegel, creative meaning-making of contingent human experience has superior value to the formal certainty of abstract quantitative knowledge professed by Kant, because it directly applies to lived life. Argument A. Critique of the metaphysical interpretation The metaphysical reading of Hegel emerged in circles of early analytical philosophers at the end of the nineteenth century Redding, According to this reading, absolute idealism is an explicitly metaphysical attempt to investigate the foundational principles of reality by reason alone.

This approach was seen as a regression to a pre-critical philosophy such as Lockean Empiricism or Cartesian Rationalism. Taylor ibid. The unity being that of the cosmic Spirit progressing through history. This conception of spirit monism Redding, is seen as speculative and dubious.

Edited by Michael N. Forster and Kristin Gjesdal

However, as we shall see, this is clearly a result of a flawed understanding of the Hegelian absolute. Hegel is evidently not a metaphysician in the sense meant by the traditional metaphysical commentators since his reason is immanent in the empirical world, not occupying some noumenal realm outside of it. The common denominator of all three doctrines is their presumed substance dualism initiated by Parmenides. Hegel in Beizer, 11 recognises, that both Descartes also in Russon, and Kant also in Bristow, encounter an unsurpassable problem with their dualistic doctrines - neither of them could explain how two heterogeneous substances, body-mind and understanding-sensibility, respectively, can interact with each other.

New Work on Hegel (III): Hegel and Derrida

This force, however, cannot possibly be ontologically prior to the world since the universe is the chronologically determined condition of its existence by its development towards ever greater rationality and freedom. This, however, calls for a radical reconstitution and redefinition of some of the most fundamentally metaphysical concepts fixed in the post-Platonic philosophical consciousness. This appears to make Hegel vulnerable to charges about his apparent subscription to some kind of pre-ontological absolute principles-entities which have determined the structure of the world before it came to its physical being.

Nevertheless, this flawed judgement comes from ignoring at least two facts. By his critique of Kantian dualistic reasoning, Hegel commits to both radical and even, one may argue, sacreligious from the traditional theological point of view act of identifying the sacred with the profane. If Geist is to be interpreted as a God, then this God is not a divine sanction of the Judeo-Christian dogma. Rather, it is an entity which is neither superior to the world nor transcending it in any way. The pious Kant was still not daring enough to incorporate the light of the absolute into the contingent realm of phenomena whereas Hegel by applying it to temporality is seeking to overcome the problems caused by the dichotomous logic behind the heterogeneity of the thing-in-itself and phenomenon, mind and body, the physical and the psychic, the sacred and the profane.

Critique of the non-metaphysical interpretation This heretical dimension to Hegelian philosophy, i. This new reading focuses on the secular significance of Hegel as a direct continuator of Kant, although at cost of ignoring the metaphysical claims of the Hegelian system. According to this interpretation, even if Hegelian ideas are expressed in metaphysical terms, their objectives are implicitly non-metaphysical Redding, ; Pinkard In other words, even if Hegel appears to be claiming to know the principles upon which the nature of the world rests, what he is really doing is trying to find a way out of metaphysics while largely remaining stuck in its anachronistic vocabulary Redding, Although Hegel uses theological terminology, which may indicate metaphysical character of the inquiry, his ideas about the divine or absolute are secularised as an expression of ultimate concern of humanity, in comparison with those of Kant, who still believes God to be a transcendental entity outside nature.

Essentially, the proponents of this reading believe that the Hegelian system was compliant with the anti-metaphysical claims made by Kant and that what Hegel meant was something else from what Kant had critiqued ibid. As Longuenesse , in Pinkard, states, "Hegel attributes solely to reflection a unity that Kant attributes to divine intelligence. Nevertheless, for Hegel it is unacceptable to treat the domains of sense and of reason separately.

This, arguably, undermines the locus of the Kantian critique, which is structured upon this distinction. Despite the differences between the two thinkers, however, the proponents of the non-metaphysical interpretation first and foremost emphasise the kinship between Kant and Hegel. This is a pivotal point of our argument, because the way Hegel interprets sense-certainty defines the objective for his entire system.

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The particular and the universal are to be considered a unity, despite their illusory appearance as two separate objects. Since, however, both are essential in a single unity, what we now have is unconditioned absolute universality, and consciousness here for the first time truly enters the realm of the Understanding.


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Hegel, The process leads from unconditional abstraction towards ever more concrete concept of the universal. As the contingent features get cancelled out in the process, the universal which the particulars ontologically contain as their essence becomes ever clearer conceptualised in the consciousness of the perceiving subject. The most concrete stage of a concept is considered to be a culture Holmes, Hegel ibid.

By being such, Hegel would argue, they provide no epistemic ground upon which they could be used for forming truth-assessable claims about knowledge.


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This implicates that one is supposed to interpret Hegelian conception of thought in the Kantian sense, which is simply not textually consistent with what Hegel means Beizer, Stern 3 rightly objects to this by saying that inquiring about the world and inquiring about the thinking about the world are two separate kinds of inquiry. What for Kant are merely categories of thought, for Hegel are also categories of reality Holmes, This is because, as it has been demonstrated above, rationality for Hegel is what exists in the strongest possible ontological sense Houlgate, When Hegel employs reason to play a role in his inquiry into the principles of what is real he does not mean to prove some sets of hypothetical propositions as Kant does.

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