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Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit If you d like to listen to this review, I recorded a podcast version, which you can find here Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel is easily the most controversial of the canonical philosophers Alternately revered and reviled, worshiped or scorned, he is a thinker whose conclusions are almost universally rejected and yet whose influence is impossible to escape Like Herodotus, he is either considered to be the Father of History or If you d like to listen to this review, I recorded a podcast version, which you can find here Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel is easily the most controversial of the canonical philosophers Alternately revered and reviled, worshiped or scorned, he is a thinker whose conclusions are almost universally rejected and yet whose influence is impossible to escape Like Herodotus, he is either considered to be the Father of History or the Father of Lies Depending on who you ask, Hegel is the capstone of the grand Western attempt to explain the world through reason, or the commencement of a misguided stream of metaphysical nonsense which has only grown since.A great deal of this controversy is caused by Hegel s famous obscurity, which is proverbial His writing is a great inky cloud of abstractions, a bewildering mixture of the pedantic and the mystic, a mass of vague mysteries uttered in technical jargon This obscurity has made Hegel an academic field unto himself There is hardly anything you can say about Hegel s ideas that cannot be contested, which leads to the odd situation we see demonstrated in most reviews of his works, wherein people opine positively and negatively without venturing to summarize what Hegel is actually saying Some people seem to read Hegel with the attitude of a pious Christian hearing a sermon in another language, and believe and revere without understanding while others conclude that Hegel s language plays the part of a screen in a magician s act, concealing cheap tricks under a mysterious veil.For my part, either dismissing or admiring Hegel without making a serious attempt to understand him is unsatisfactory The proper attitude toward any canonical thinker is respect tinged with skepticism respect for influence and originality, skepticism towards conclusions That being said, most people, when confronted with Hegel s style, will either incline towards the deifying or the despising stance My inclination is certainly towards the latter He is immensely frustrating to read, not to mention aggravating to review, since I can hardly venture to say anything about Hegel without risking the accusation of having fundamentally misunderstood him Well, so be it The Phenomenology of Spirit was Hegel s first published book, and it is widely considered his masterpiece It is a history of consciousness Hegel attempts to trace all of the steps that consciousness must go through Consciousness, Self Consciousness, Reason, Spirit, and Religion before it can arrive at the point of fully adequate knowledge Absolute Knowledge Nobody had ever attempted anything similar, and even today this project seems ludicrously ambitious Not only is the subject original, but Hegel also puts forward a new method of philosophy, the dialectical method In other words, he is trying to do something no one had ever thought of doing before, using a way of thinking no one had thought of using before.The Phenomenology begins with its justly famous Preface, which was written after the rest of the book was completed This Preface alone is an important work, and is sometimes printed separately Since it is easily the most lucid and eloquent section of the book, I would recommend it to those with even a passing interest in philosophy This is where Hegel outlines his dialectical method.The dialectical method is a new type of logic, meant to replace deductive reasoning Ever since Aristotle, philosophers have mainly relied on deductive arguments The most famous example is the syllogism All men are mortal, Socrates is a man, etc Deduction received renewed emphasis with Descartes, who thought that mathematics which is deductive is the most certain form of knowledge, and that philosophy should emulate this certainty.The problem with syllogisms and proofs, Hegel thought, is that they divorce content from form Deductive frameworks are formulaic different propositions all pigs are animals, all apples are fruit can be slotted into the framework indifferently, and still produce an internally consistent argument Even empirically false propositions can be used all apples are pineapples , and the argument may still be logically correct, while failing to align with reality In other words, the organization of argument is something independent of the order of the world In the generation before Hegel, Kant took this even further, arguing that our perception and our logic fundamentally shape the world as it appears to us, meaning that pure reason can never tell us anything about reality in itself.Hegel found this unsatisfactory In the words of Frederick Copleston, he was a firm believer in the equivalence of content and form Every notion takes a form in experience and every formula for knowledge whether syllogistic, mathematical, or Kantian alters the content by imposing upon it a foreign form All attempts to separate content from form, or vice versa, therefore do an injustice to the material the two are inseparable Traditional logic has one further weakness It conceives of the truth as a static proposition, an unchanging conclusion derived from unchanging premises But this fails to do justice to the nature of knowledge Our search to know the truth evolves through a historical process, adopting and discarding different modes of thought in its restless search to grasp reality Unlike in a deductive process, where incorrect premises will lead to incorrect conclusions, we often begin with an incorrect idea and then, through trial and error, eventually adopt the correct one.Deductive reasoning not only mischaracterizes the historical growth of knowledge, but it also is unable to deal with the changing nature of reality itself The world we know is constantly evolving, shifting, coming to being and passing away No static formula or analysis Newton s equations or Kant s metaphysics, for example could possibly describe reality adequately To put this another way, traditional logic is mechanistic it conceives reality as a giant machine with moving, interlocking parts, and knowledge as being a sort of blue print or diagram of the machine Hegel prefers the organic metaphor To use Hegel s own example, imagine that we are trying to describe an oak tree Traditional logic might take the mature tree, divide it into anatomical sections that correspond with those of other trees, and end with a description in general terms of a static tree Hegel s method, by contrast, would begin with the acorn, and observe the different stages it passes through in its growth to maturity and the terms of the description, instead of being taken from general anatomic descriptions of trees, would emerge of necessity from the observation of the growing tree itself The final description would include every stage of the tree, and would be written in terms specific to the tree.This is only an example Hegel does not intend for his method to be used by biologists What the philosopher observes is, rather, Mind or Spirit Here we run into a famous ambiguity, because the German word Geist cannot be comfortably translated as either mind or spirit The edition I used translates the title as the Phenomenology of Mind, whereas later translations have called it The Phenomenology of Spirit This ambiguity is not trivial The nature of mind how it comes to know itself and the world, how it is related to the material world is a traditional inquiry in philosophy, whereas spirit is something quasi religious or mystical in flavor For my part, I agree with Peter Singer in thinking that we ought to try to use mind, since it leaves Hegel s meaningopen, while using spirit pre judges Hegel s intent.Hegel is an absolute idealist All reality is mental or spiritual , and the history of mind consists in its gradual realization of this momentous fact that mind is reality As the famous formula goes, the rational is the real and the real is the rational Hegel s project in the Phenomenology is to trace the process, using his dialectic method, in which mind passes from ignorance of its true nature to the realization that it comprises the fabric of everything it knows How does this history unfold Many have described the dialectic process as consisting of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis The problem with this characterization is that Hegel never used those terms and as we ve seen he disliked logical formulas Nevertheless, the description does manage to give a taste of Hegel s procedure Mind, he thought, evolved through stages, which he calls moments At each of these moments, mind takes a specific form, in which it attempts to grapple with its reality However, when mind has an erroneous conception of itself or its reality which is just mind itself in another guise , it reaches an impasse, where it seems to encounter a contradiction This contradiction is overcome via a synthesis, where the old conception and its contradiction are accommodated in a wider conception, which will in turn reach its own impasse, and so on until the final stage is reached This sounds momentous and mysterious and it is , but let me try to illustrate it with a metaphor.Imagine a cell awoke one day in the human body At first, the cell is only aware of itself as a living thing, and therefore considers itself to be the extent of the world But then the cell notices that it is limited by its environment It is surrounded by other cells, which restrict its movement and even compete for resources The cell then learns to define itself negatively, as against its environment Not only that, but the cell engages in a conflict with its neighbors, fighting for resources and trying to assert its independence and superiority But this fight is futile Every time the cell attempts to restrict resources to its neighbors, it simultaneously impedes the flow of blood to itself Eventually, after much pointless struggle, the cell realizes that it is a part of a larger structure say, a nerve and that it is one particular example of a universal type In other words, the cell recognizes its neighbors as itself and itself as its neighbors This process then repeats, from nerves to muscles to organs, until the final unity of the human body is understood to consists as one complete whole, an organism which lives and grows, but which nevertheless consists of distinct, co dependent elements Once again, Hegel s model is organic rather than mechanic.Just so, the mind awakes in the world and slowly learns to recognize the world as itself, and itself as one cell in the world The complete unity, the world s body, so to speak, is the Absolute Mind.Hegel begins his odyssey of knowledge in the traditional Cartesian starting point, with sense certainty We are first aware of sensations hot, light, rough, sour and these are immediately present to us, seemingly truth in its naked form However, when mind tries to articulate this truth, something curious happens Mind finds that it can only speak in universals, which fail to capture the particularity and the immediacy of its sensations Mind tries to overcome this by using terms like This or Here or Now But even these will not do, since what is here one moment is there the next, and what is this one moment is that the next In other words, the truth of sense certainty continually slips away when you try to articulate it.The mind then begins to analyze its sensations into perceptions instead of raw data, we get definite objects in time and space However, we reach other curious philosophical puzzles here Why do all the qualities of salt its size, weight, flavor, color cohere in one location, persist through time, and reappear regularly What unites these same qualities in this consistent way Is it some metaphysical substance that the qualities inhere in Or is the unity of these qualities just a product of the perceiving mind At this point, it is perhaps understandable why Hegel thought that mind comprises all reality From a Cartesian perspective as an ego analyzing its own subjective experience this is true everything analyzed is mental And, as Kant argued, the world s organization in experience may well be due to the mind s action upon the world as perceived Thus true knowledge would indeed require an understanding of how our mind shapes the experience But Hegel s premiss that the real is rational and the rational is real becomes muchdifficult to accept once we move into the world of intersubjective reality, when individual minds acknowledge other minds as real and existing in the same universe For my part, I find it convenient to put the question of the natural world to one side Hegel had no notion of change in nature his picture of the world had no Big Bang, and no biological evolution, and in any case he did not like Newtonian physics he thinks, quite dumbly, that the Law of Attraction is the general form of all laws, and that it doesn t explain anything about nature and he was not terribly interested in natural science Hegel was farpreoccupied with the social world and it is in this sphere that his ideas seemsensible.In human society, the real is the rational and the rational is the real, in the sense that our beliefs shape our actions, and our actions shape our environments, and our environments in turn shape our beliefs, in a constantly evolving dialogue the dialectic The structure of society is thus intimately related to the structure of belief at any given time and place Let me explain thatfully.Hegel makes quite an interesting observation about beliefs Well, he doesn t actually say this, but it s implied in his approach Certain mentalities, even if they can be internally consistent for an individual, reveal contradictions when the individual tries to act out these beliefs In other words, mentalities reveal their contradictions in action and not in argument The world created by a mentality may not correspond with the world it wants to create and this in turn leads to a change in mentality, which in turn creates a different social structure, which again might not correspond with the world it is aiming for, and so on until full correspondence is achieved Some examples will clarify this.The classic Hegelian example is the master and the slave The master tries to reduce the slave to the level of an object, to negate the slave s perspective entirely And yet, the master s identity as master is tied to the slave having a perspective to negate thus the slave must not be entirely objectified, but must retain some semblance of perspective in order for the situation to exist at all Meanwhile, the slave is supposed to be a nullity with no perspective, a being entirely directed by the master But the slave transforms the world with his work, and by this transformation asserts his own perspective This notion of the slave having his work alienated from him was highly influential, especially on Marx Hegel then analyzes Stoicism The Stoic believes that the good resides entirely in his own mental world, while the exterior world is entirely devoid of value And yet the Stoic recognizes that he has duties in this exterior world, and thus this world has some moral claim on him Mind reacts to this contradiction by moving to total Skepticism, believing that the world is unreal and entirely devoid of value, recognizing no duties at all And yet this is a purely negative attitude, a constant denial of something that is persistently there, and this constant mode of denial collapses when the Skeptic goes about acting within this supposedly unreal world Mind then decides that the world is unreal and devoid of value, including mind itself as parts of the world, but that value exists in a transcendent sphere This leads us to medieval Christianity and the self alienated soul, and so on.I hope you see by now what I mean by a conception not being able to be acted out without a contradiction Hegel thought that mind progressed from one stage to another until finally the world was adequate to the concept and vice versa indeed, at this point the world and the concept would be one, and the real would be rational and the rational real Thought, action, and world would be woven into one harmonious whole, a seamless fabric of reason.I am here analyzing Hegel in a distinctly sociological light, which is easily possible in many sections of the text However, I think this interpretation would be difficult to justify in other sections, where Hegel seems to be making the metaphysical claim that all reality not just the social world is mental and structured by reason Perhaps one could make the argument on Kantian grounds that our mental apparatus, as it evolves through time, shapes the world we experience in progressively different ways But this would seem to require a lottraditional epistemology than I see here in the text.In a nutshell, this is what I understand Hegel to be saying And I have been taking pains to present his ideas as far as I understand them in as positive and coherent a light as I can So what are we to make of all this A swarm of criticisms begin to buzz The text itself is disorganized and uneven Hegel spends a great deal of time on seemingly minor subjects, and rushes through major developments He famously includes a long, tedious section on phrenology the idea that the shape of the skull reveals a person s personality , while devoting only a few, very obscure pages to the final section, Absolute Knowledge, which is the entire goal of the development This latter fact is partially explained by the book s history Hegel made a bad deal with his publisher, and had to rush the final sections.As for prose, the style of this book is so opaque that it could not have been an accident Hegel leaves many important terms hazily defined, and never justifies his assumptions nor clarifies his conclusions Obscurity is beneficial to thinkers in that they can deflect criticism by accusing critics of misunderstanding and the ambiguity of the text means that it can be variously interpreted depending on the needs of the occasion I think Hegel did something selfish and intellectually irresponsible by writing this way, and even now we still hear the booming thunder of his unintelligible voice echoed in many modern intellectuals Insofar as I understand Hegel s argument, I cannot accept it Although Hegel presents dialectic as a method of reasoning, I failed to be convinced of the necessary progression from one moment to the next Far from a series of progressive developments, the pattern of the text seemed, rather, to be due entirely to Hegel s whim.Where Hegel is most valuable, I think, is in his emphasis on history, especially on intellectual history This is something entirely lacking in his predecessors He is also valuable for his way of seeing mind, action, and society as interconnected and for his observation that beliefs and mentalities are embodied in social relations.In sum, I am left with the somewhat lame conclusion that Hegel s canonical status is well deserved, but so is his controversial reputation He is infuriating, exasperating, and has left a dubious legacy But his originality is undeniable, his influence is pervasive, and his legacy, good or bad, will always be with us This should really be getting both a 1 and a 5. GO FUCK YOURSELF, HEGEL. THE TRIBULATIONS OF A PROTO POST HEGELIAN PAGAN HEGEL BASHERFor the purposes of this undertaking, my accomplice DJ Ian and I I and I faked our way through reading DC Hegel in English and German English translation courtesy of Terry Pinkard with the aid of diverse comic strips, annotations, opinionators and unreliable narrators ProfessorIf you don t read Phenomenology of Spirit in German, you will never understand Hegel, let alone Zizek DJ Ian THE TRIBULATIONS OF A PROTO POST HEGELIAN PAGAN HEGEL BASHERFor the purposes of this undertaking, my accomplice DJ Ian and I I and I faked our way through reading DC Hegel in English and German English translation courtesy of Terry Pinkard with the aid of diverse comic strips, annotations, opinionators and unreliable narrators ProfessorIf you don t read Phenomenology of Spirit in German, you will never understand Hegel, let alone Zizek DJ IanBut I don t read GermanOK, I will get myself a big fucking dictionaryThen I will get back to reading Zizek as soon as possible All of my reading schedule is dedicated to reading Zizek for the next three years The Professor I trust you re going to read Zizek in Slovenian GRATUITOUS ADVICE AVAILABLE FOR THE FREEBertrand RussellThe worse your logic, theinteresting the consequences to which it gives rise Slavoj ZizekOne is thus tempted to say, Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted Hegel The point however is to change him Anonymous GoodReader view spoilerWho the fock wants to read all that bollshit, you stupid conthide spoiler THE INTERPLAY OF UNDERSTANDING AND CRITICISMIt is not the worst reader who provides the book with disrespectful notes in the margin Theodor W AdornoA PREFACE TO A CRITIQUE OF THE PHENOMENOLOGY The Resurrection of HegelHegel has enjoyed a resurgence of interest and popularity at various times over the last 80 years.Much of the philosophy that appeals to me personally couldn t have been achieved except on the shoulders of this giant.Some of this later philosophy endorses aspects of Hegel, some rebels against it, some adapts it.Reading this work was part of an exercise in understanding why What insights did he have, and why do they appeal Did his philosophy achieve any unique truth or version of the truth or approach to the truth For me, ultimately, Hegel is just as much a point of departure as a point of arrival or destination.When They Begin the BeguineYou have to wonder whether, in many cases, the appeal and embrace of Hegel s philosophy derives from his use of language, just as much as the concepts.To this end, I ve tried to approach reading Hegel from both a philosophical and a literary point of view.Like the name and lyrics of the song,Begin the Beguine , part of the appeal of Hegel s work for me is that it s so beguiling Let s pause for some Ella, to show you what I mean the Negation of the NovationFrom a literary point of view, Hegel is a terrible writer whose work does its best to defy any attempt to distil it down to some great sentences and phrases and or some great ideas The extent to which these ideas are Hegel s ideas or unique to him or just a response to or tweaking of the ideas of others before him is for historians of philosophy to judge.Hegel s work itself doesn t expressly acknowledge or cite the sources of the arguments to which he is responding It s assumed that we are familiar with them.It s like an enthusiastic undergraduate term paper completed under pressure of a self imposed deadline the imminent battle of Jena and conquest of Prussia By the time pen meets paper, the 36 year old Hegel embraces them as the foundation of his ideas, but neglects to expressly acknowledge his inspiration and sources Ultimately, like the embrace of his acolytes, his work and its system is a triumph of assertion.As a result, a comprehension of Hegel is just as needing and deserving of annotation and secondary material as Joyce and Pynchon.Towards the Negation of the OvationAt an individual sentence level, Hegel is not always difficult, just mostly He seems to throw multiple sentences at the reader, without necessarily communicating or effectively helping readers understand the sequence of his arguments When it comes to Hegel s sentences, the difficulty results from the untamed collective, not the disciplined individual.Still, within the rush or barrage of sentences, some sentences and phrases inevitably stand out The quality of these sentences, or their pregnancy, occasionally, with a meaning that is hard to divine, are the source of much of his appeal Indeed, it helps Hegel s case that they are so difficult to divine Like God, it is not for us to fully comprehend his ways or his words We are just supposed to trust them both They appeal to our credulity and need to believe.Towards the Negation of the NegationMany of Hegel s sentences and catch phrases sound good, even if at first you don t really know what they mean.The one phrase or catchphrase that most appeals to me personally isthe Negation of the Negation.Engels said that the Negation of the Negation isA very simple process, which is taking place everywhere and every day, which any child can understand as soon as it is stripped of the veil of mystery in which it was enveloped by the old idealist philosophy I ve tried to set out my understanding of it in My Writings here IAN VS DC COMIC HEGEL A MASH UP OF PERSPECTIVES ON GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT Let s PretendTo understand and appreciate Hegel, it helps if you pretend that you re God.God Makes Sense, If You Can Believe It1 And so God took a part of his mind and his soul,2 And where there was nothing, he made Man.3 And he gave part of his mind and soul to Man.4 And, lo and behold, Man did verily exist.5 Still, though God had lost a part, he was still whole.6 And while Man had gained a part, he too was whole.7 And God and Man together made a whole.8 And where there should have been two wholes, there was only one.9 Man ascended to his feet, and looked around.10 But there was no thing for him to see.11 So God made other Life for Man.12 And Man had Objects to look at and eat and desire.13 Each Object contained a little part of God.14 And when Man looked at an Object, he saw a part of God.15 And that part of God was also a part of Man.16 So when Man looked at an Object, he also saw himself.17 Thus it was that Man was at one with the Object.18 And Man was at one with God.19 And verily Man understood this.20 And so it was that Man made sense.21 Out of what God had given him.In Which God, Enraged, Goes Forth, Consumes and Returns A Jena Fragment in Hegel s Own Words1 God, become Nature, has spread himself out in the splendor and the mute periodicity of his formations,2 Becomes aware of the expansion, of lost punctuality and is engaged by it.3 The fury is the forming, the gathering together into the empty point.4 Finding himself as such, his essence pours out into the restlessness and inquietude of infinity,5 Where there is no present,6 But a wild sallying forth beyond a boundary always reinstated as fast as it is transcended.7 This rage, in that it is a going forth, is the destruction of Nature.8 The going beyond the formations of Nature is in effect likewise an absolute falling back into the self, a focal return.9 In doing this, God, in his rage, consumes his formations.10 Your whole extended kingdom must pass through this middle point, this focality 11 And by this your limbs are crushed and your flesh mashed into liquidity HEY WHAT S THE BIG IDEA Safeguarding the SystemHegel purports to construct a system of philosophy that is both comprehensive and self contained.Hegel and his adherents guard it preciously Forgive me, if I refer to Hegel and his adherents interchangeably As a result, it s difficult to criticise the System, without evoking responses that you haven t really read or understood Hegel or that you have inaccurately paraphrased him.To be honest, I think any reader has to proceed regardless, if you re going to make the effort to read Hegel at all An Invitation to HereticsEven if you sympathise with Hegel, like any dogmatist, he invites or attracts heresy No purpose is served by agreeing or disagreeing with every tenet of his philosophy willy nilly There s no point in setting out to be an acolyte or an apostate Readers should feel free to dismantle the System and save what they can After all, this is what the Young, Left Hegelians did in the wake of his death.Detection or Invention One problem with Hegel is that he pretends that his System is a detection of what is present in nature, that it is the result of discovery, not the product of invention on his part.As a result, it purports to be factual and real If you disagree with it, then supposedly you are flying in the face of reality.This rhetorical strategy is disingenuous Of course, he created his System, no matter how much of it is based on or modified from the work of earlier philosophers Of course, we have the right to submit it to scrutiny, to attempt to prove it right or wrong.If Hegel pretends that he deduced his philosophy from first principles, then he is not being truthful If he pretends that he discovered a method in the workings of nature and history, but reckons that he does not apply that method or any method in his own philosophy, then he is playing with semantics.An Aversion to CritiqueHegel is just trying to make his subjective pronouncements critique proof or un critiquable A reasonable enough goal, if it is confined to enhancing the robustness of his own pronouncements, but you can t deny readers the right to attempt a critique That is one way guaranteed to alienate an audience, to split a following and push potential advocates away Which is what happened, inevitably, after his death.What I mean by this is that I don t accept that Hegel arrived at all aspects of his philosophy after a process of deduction Not that I m saying anybody could have achieved this On Having Faith in the SystemI don t disagree with Hegel s attack on Empiricism, for example However, to the extent that he asserts that Consciousness is part of Spirit, a God, then I don t accept that he has necessarily proven the existence of God or that the Spirit of God plays a role in the process of individual human thought or reason Thus, it seems that Hegel s System, which I assume is supposed to be rational, is built on an act of faith in the belief of God.I accept that social, rather than spiritual or religious, factors play such a role For example, I accept that we differentiate between objects, partly if not wholly based on our capacity for language Language is a social construct I don t necessarily accept that it is intrinsically spiritual I also don t want to embrace any ideas that approximate to some hyped up politico cultural concept of Volk or the People.I suspect that Hegel started his philosophical deliberations with a religious based preconception, in particular, a belief in a monotheistic God, and that he integrated it into his philosophy.On Questioning the SystemTo the extent that Hegel s System is a hierarchy that works its way up to the pinnacle of God, there are a number of questions that I, an Atheist, feel should be asked Does the entire System fall, if you don t believe in God Alternatively, is his System modular and severable, so that you can salvage parts that appeal to you If the latter, which parts And to what extent are those parts solely attributable to Hegel Are they equally components of other philosophies, whether pre Hegelian or post Hegelian To some extent, my way of approaching and questioning Hegel might owe a lot to the approach of those Left Hegelians who happened to be Atheist In the absence of a belief in God, it must also take into account the approach ofmaterialist philosophies like those of Feuerbach, Marx and Engels and subsequent Marxists Spirit Made FleshOf course, an atheist has to accept the possibility that Hegel might be right in believing that there is a Christian God in his case, Lutheran , and that everything else potentially follows.If it turns out that monotheism is right, then Hegel s philosophy seems to come close to a belief that all of Nature derives from God and that humanity, in particular, is Spirit made Flesh Presumably, Nature is also Spirit made material.Working backwards or upwards from Flesh, the ultimate destination must therefore be Spirit even if Flesh is preserved.I ll leave open for the moment whether Spirit might actually be anythan Energy Hegel certainly regards it as the repository of Absolute Knowledge Thus, it seems that, for him, it must be conscious and intelligent It also appears to transcend each individual, even though it embraces every individual It is a composite or unity of differences or opposites.Fear of ContradictionFor me, what seems to sit at the heart of Hegel s philosophy is contradiction This is the contradiction between different objects, whether consciousnesses or not.For each of us, for each Subject, every other consciousness or thing is an Object, one that contradicts us Just as I am me, I am not you, and I am not it, that object.In my mind, this is simply a recognition of difference Practically and socially, I don t see these observations as the foundation of opposition, conflict or contradiction.I don t know whether this is a matter of translation However, I witness a lot of conflict and antagonism between Subject and Object in Hegel I haven t yet worked out why difference is not enough.In other words, why isn t it enough that perception and language allow us to differentiate between things, consciousnesses, Subjects and Objects Why isn t it enough that language is a social system of signs that enable us to identify, think about and discuss difference.Why is it somehow implicit that this Object exists at the expense of this Subject or Object Why is everything set against everything else in perpetual contradiction Are two strawberry plants in a garden really opposed to each other Do they battle each other for nutrients Is their ostensible rivalry really such a big issue in their life Are two rocks sitting at the bottom of a stream any different Consciousness and Self ConsciousnessIt s possible that some or all of the contradiction happens within the consciousness or mind.Consciousness detects the outside world of nature, grasps it and drags it into the mind The Subject consumes or ingests the Object, where it begins to relate to or play with it It s almost as if the mind is an enormous database of images and responses that are preserved intact They are ingested, but not digested or integrated into something new and different It s possible that the dialectic doesn t posit a synthesis because within the database both thesis and antithesis continue to exist Subject to illness, loss of memory and death, nothing in the mind ceases to exist.Self consciousness is the awareness that this process is occurring However, Hegel also regards self consciousness as desire itself.The Hegelian Paradox From the Inquisitorial to the InquisitionalThe ultimate Hegelian Paradox is that the Philosophy is based on contradiction, yet the Philosopher and his acolytes will brook no argument.The System is founded on the adversarial, yet disagreement is heresy even if the Philosophy by its very nature seems to invite or attract heresy.Similarly, it is reluctant to accept that a rational philosophical process or method is being utilised It is enough to look, seek and ask questions The answers are there waiting for us to find them Truth and understanding will result from the only method that is necessary, an inquisitorial process If you ask God , you will be answered by God, if not reason.Still, the normal outcome of an inquisitorial process is a decision In Hegel s Philosophy, it is not a human decision, but a divine revelation Once revealed, it can t be questioned It can only be respected, observed and enforced.Hence, as is the case with all heretics, the sectarian non believer attracts the attention of the Inquisition.Hence, Hegel embraces both the Inquisitorial and the Inquisitional, having constructed both a System and an Institution.It s up to us to determine whether to take a vow to Hegel or whether simply to do good.The choice is ours to Begin the BeguineAnd we suddenly know What heaven we re in,When they begin the beguine SOUNDTRACK Tindersticks Let s Pretend Let s not make it into a big thingLet s not get lost in thisI know it is, I know we couldI guess we surely would Let s pretend it s notIt doesn t mean a thingLet s not blow it out of all senseAs though it meant so much It s always thought about for weeksNot every time your lips meet mine, I think of herBut when her hands reach out, I think of you Tindersticks Let s Pretend Live Fitzgerald Begin The Beguine The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, GentlemanThe fair Beguine, said the corporal, continued rubbing with her whole hand under my knee till I fear d her zeal would weary her I would do a thousand times , said she, for the love of Christ In saying which she pass d her hand across the flannel, to the part above my knee, which I had equally complained of, and rubb d it also.I perceived, then, I was beginning to be in love In the absence of Corporal Trim s Beguine, here is the undoing of Uncle Toby DETAILED REVIEW AND CRITIQUEPart I The Dialectic and the Negation of the Negationhttps www.goodreads.com story show Part II Consciousness and Self Consciousnesshttps www.goodreads.com story show Part III Master and Slavehttps www.goodreads.com story show 12 28 2016 this books has been weighing heavy on me for a long time This past week I ended up forcing my way through the last 300 pages with, I fear,haste than wisdom I m anxious to be done with Hegel for the sake of moving on to Marx.Do I have much insight No, not really Rumors of the book s barbaric syntax and inhospitable decor turn out to be 100% justified I normally get a lot of pleasure from reading philosophy, but can t say I found much here Of course personal enjoyment is 12 28 2016 this books has been weighing heavy on me for a long time This past week I ended up forcing my way through the last 300 pages with, I fear,haste than wisdom I m anxious to be done with Hegel for the sake of moving on to Marx.Do I have much insight No, not really Rumors of the book s barbaric syntax and inhospitable decor turn out to be 100% justified I normally get a lot of pleasure from reading philosophy, but can t say I found much here Of course personal enjoyment is a pretty useless criterion when trying to evaluate a book like this.I think I m able to see in what way Hegel represented an advance in philosophy Consider Descartes with, first, his conception of the subject as an isolated, thinking consciousness and, second, his dualism of substance Kant would later reproduce both tendencies in hissophisticated and elaborate form.From this we get the scandalous problem of solipsism as well as the strange aporias of mind and matter, the noumenal and the phenomenal.Hegel did not exactly solve these problems they are, sort of by definition, insoluble , but he may have pointed to a way out for philosophy He did this by bringing in the crucial categories of mediation and totality He helps us to conceive a matter that is already pregnant with mind and vice versa , as well as a thinking subject that is not isolated but collective.Now, as far as I can tell, he does not really complete this project The Phenomenology is still far, far too abstract Which is why it s not enough to simply interpret the book it needs to actually be applied , to history and to our collective life as human beings This is where Marx comes in Although it s also probably true that Hegel can serve as an important corrective to the later tendency of Marx and Engels to try and erect a deterministic science of history a philosophical engagement with concepts is always important to prevent the calcifications of scientism And while I strongly, strongly recommend Kojeve s classic book on the subject Introduction to the Reading of Hegel Lectures on the Phenomenology of Spirit , I can t accept Hegel s teleology of history Humanity reconciled to itself through the ruins and monuments of its own alienation don t fucking count on it When Spirit is at first conceived of as substance in the element of pure thought, it is immediately simple and self identical, eternal essence, which does not, however, have this abstract meaning of essence, but the meaning of absolute spirit Only Spirit is not a meaning is not what is inner, but what is actual pp 464 65, paragraph 769This passage may be aimed at Spinoza In Spinoza s metaphysics, God the eternal substance can be graspsed through pure thought, eternal reason, an inner representation by the thinker By contrast, with Hegel Spirit is actual, which I take to mean empirical and historical Moreover, reason itself is historical, and the philosopher must come to know his or her own place in history No longer shall they withdraw from the world into a realm of pure reason rather thinking must happen in and through the world and its history.However, there does seem to be a massive irony here Hegel may break down barriers by indicating a space through which history can enter philosophy And yet his own philosophy, or at least this fucking book , is virtually without content, totally denuded of the world It s really quite ghastly, to be honest I got entangled in my own data, and my conclusion directly contradicts the original idea from which I start Starting from unlimited freedom, I conclude with unlimited despotism the social theorist in Dostoevsky s DemonsWhile he s always rather stingy about naming names, Hegel seems to be accusing Kant of something similar in the section Absolute Freedom and Terror pp 355 64 The point being that the terror of the French Revolution was the natural culmination or real world application of Kant s philosophy of pure practical reason.For Kant, freedom is entirely unworldly The will is noumenal, the world phenomenal The result is a very harsh dualism The individual conscience is absolute in its demands By contrast, Hegel understands the importance of mediation Freedom is embodied in institutions and social bonds In this respect he clearly appears to be an advance over his predecessor A pure conscience is not going to save the world For that, some form of collective identity is necessary However, it seems as though Hegel s understanding of the collective is often such as to simply rehabilitate the existing order Here is where it may be necessary to turn to Marx in order to theorize a collective subject that is at once emerging, critical, revolutionary The attack on phrenology on the one hand, this just seems amusing, since after all no one takes that seriously any, but then I think Hegel s point is much broader Phrenology may be an especially absurd example, but its fundamental error is the same as any positivist would be science of psychology, in assuming that consciousness is a thing that can be neutrally observed.consciousness no longer aims to find itself immediately, but to produce itself by its own activity It is itself the End at which its action aims, whereas in its role of observer it was concerned only with things pp 209, bottom of paragraph 344Insofar as consciousness acquires a nature, insofar as it aspires to the status of a thing, this is due to its own activity qua consciousness, rather than some determinate objective reality.Mediation, mediation, mediation This is the key to it all Never forget, The truth of the of the master s consciousness is the servile consciousness of the slave page 117, paragraph 193, paraphrasing somewhat Thus it is only sense certainty as a whole which stands firm within itself as immediacy pp 62 Compare Merleau Ponty It is possible to doubt any particular thing in the world can be doubted but not the world as a whole The dialectic is already present in the most simple act of perception And what it the dialectic Mediation or the work of the negative maybe, the self exceedingness of consciousness knowledge Sense data, claimed as the most concrete basis of knowledge, is really the most abstract as it posits an artificial experience as real.Chapter III of Consciousness, Force and the Understanding, this is a bitopaque to me Hegel seems to turn from the empirical model of sensation perception to Newton s nomological physics The Unification of all laws in universal attraction expresses no other content than just the mere Notion of law itself, which is posited in that law in the form of being pp 91 Here too Hegel seeks to show that consciousness can not be kept out Subjectivity keeps transgressing on objective being I actually read almost all of this I would like a cookie. G.W.F Hegel s Phenomenology of Spirit is one of the densest, most profound, and influential works in Western philosophy It is also, at points, one of the most incomprehensible books I have ever read About half way through this nearly 600 page book, I thought to myself, There is no way that I am going to be able to finish reading this I did finish it, however, and it was well worth while Phenomenology of Spirit is notoriously difficult for a number of reasons This book was, first of all wr G.W.F Hegel s Phenomenology of Spirit is one of the densest, most profound, and influential works in Western philosophy It is also, at points, one of the most incomprehensible books I have ever read About half way through this nearly 600 page book, I thought to myself, There is no way that I am going to be able to finish reading this I did finish it, however, and it was well worth while Phenomenology of Spirit is notoriously difficult for a number of reasons This book was, first of all written in a rush and delivered to the publisher without revision Second, it is written in a continental style that pays little attention to clarity of argument In order to tolerate Hegel s writing, I found that I had to become comfortable with following the rhythms of his thinking rather than worrying too much about formal argumentative structure However, one of the most major reasons why this book is difficult to understand is because it deals with very difficult philosophical issues Difficult ideas sometimes just require difficult language.The book is an attempt to think through the unfolding of the history of world consciousness from beginning to end Hegel uses the German word Geist in order to designate the substance of the universe Geist is an ambiguous term that has been translated into English as both mind and spirit The idea is that the universe is a conscious, living substance that unfolds and grows the way that an organism grows In the Preface which, by the way, offers the most clear and concise summary of the ideas in the book , Hegel likens the universe to a plant that sprouts forth and progressively overcomes its early manifestations in order finally to produce a flower, which is the plant s ultimate goal and purpose The flower of Geist is what Hegel terms the absolute idea This is the point at which Geist comes to fully understand itself The universe is like a mind that has become self alienated, according to Hegel, and the history of thought represents the universe s attempt to return to self consciousness Over the course of the book, Hegel traces out the convolutions that Geist manifests as it reflects upon itself and struggles to come to terms with its own essence Perhaps the most famous and influential section of the book describes the master slave dialectic This is one of the early junctures in the unfolding to Geist It occurs when a mind reflecting upon itself comes to value the sort of recognition and identity that it achieves through self reflection As a result, this mind seeks out other minds in order to see itself reflected in the consciousness of others However, in so doing, this mind inaugurates a life and death struggle When two consciousnesses come into contact with one another, they struggle for domination and control, according to Hegel One mind becomes the master and the other becomes the slave The irony is that in mastering another mind, the master reduces it to a kind of property that is less than human, and so no longer capable of furnishing the sort of recognition that the master desires The slave, on the other hand, in becoming enslaved, is forced to work and to creatively alter the world It, thus, incorporates part of the master mentality into its essence and becomes transformed into somethingthan just a slave it becomes a worker.This example illustrates an ongoing dialectical process that governs the unfolding of all reality, according to Hegel This process is one in which opposite forces come into conflict, but instead of simply contradicting one another, they instead become synthesized into somethingthan the sum of their parts Over the course of the book, Hegel multiplies examples from the history of consciousness, showing the various ways the world s struggles have contributed to the forward movement of history History, it turns out, is an ongoing synthesis of various conflicts, all of which are inevitably leading to the full self consciousness of Geist Once Geist has come to understand itself, history as conflict comes to an end in the freedom of self understanding.Hegel worked out the details of his dialectical logic in other books, but the Phenomenology of Spirit is where he first showed how this logic plays itself out in the unfolding of the world s history The influence of Hegel s vision has been enormous, stretching from his own lifetime to ours Karl Marx applied the Hegelian dialectic to his analysis of class conflict existentialist thinkers adopted much of Hegel s terminology in order to describe the unfolding of lived, human existence psychoanalytic thinkers incorporated Hegel s views on conflict into their understanding of human consciousness and political thinkers have applied Hegel s ideas to the relationships between nations and ideologies.Though it was a slog to get through, in completing this book I feel as if I have read something incredibly substantial, important and profound The world looks different after seeing it through Hegel s perspective Perhaps one of the most revolutionary works of philosophy ever presented, The Phenomenology of Spirit is Hegel swork that is in numerous ways extraordinary It begins with a Preface, created after the rest of the manuscript was completed, that explains the core of his method and what sets it apart from any preceding philosophy The Introduction, written before the rest of the work, summarizes and completes Kant s ideas on skepticism by rendering it moot and encouraging idealism and self realization The body of the work is divided into six sections of varying length, entitled Consciousness, Self Consciousness, Reason, Spirit, Religion, and Absolute Knowledge A myriad of topics are discussed, and explained in such a harmoniously complex way that the method has been termed Hegelian dialectic Ultimately, the work as a whole is a remarkable study of the mind s growth from its direct awareness to scientific philosophy, proving to be a difficult yet highly influential and enduring work Writing a Review of Hegel s Phenomenology is a fool s errandHere s a famous passage you should always hold in mind when you get to thinking that Hegel s all dry humourless spiritless dry as bone abstraction Miller s page 210 the same conjunction of the high and the low which, in the living being, Nature naively expresses when it combines the organ of its highest fulfilment, the organ of generation, with the organ of urination Organs des Pissens The infinite judgement, q Writing a Review of Hegel s Phenomenology is a fool s errandHere s a famous passage you should always hold in mind when you get to thinking that Hegel s all dry humourless spiritless dry as bone abstraction Miller s page 210 the same conjunction of the high and the low which, in the living being, Nature naively expresses when it combines the organ of its highest fulfilment, the organ of generation, with the organ of urination Organs des Pissens The infinite judgement, qua infinite, would be the fulfilment of life that comprehends itself the consciousness of the infinite judgement that remains at the level of picture thinking behaves as urination als Pissen I.e., Pissen , not Urinieren, the old dusty school Latin Harris commenting, Academic dog Latin belongs to the old world of spiritual authority In the daylight of the present even philosophic science must speak the language of the people Then his endnote which is not a footnote , I was amused to discover that the N.E.D I don t know what this is calls Findlay s super professorial use of micturition, for urination, erroneous His substitution of orgasm for Hegel s generation is philosophically erroneous also, but it led Alan White to the insightful comment that the I I of primitive Self Consciousness is a philosophical orgasm I think Joyce would ve much enjoyed this little passage..Writing a Review of Hegel s Phenomenology is a fool s errand As the contemporary reviewers probably indicate So, here s a fun quip You all know the thing about how Johnson refuted Berkeley After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley s ingenious sophistry to prove the nonexistence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it I refute it thus Add to this Hegel s refutations of Physiognomy and Phrenology thusly page 193 in Miller Lichtenberg also says this If anyone said, You certainly act like an honest man, but I see from your face that you are forcing yourself to do so and are a rogue at heart without a doubt, every honest fellow to the end of time, when thus addressed, will retort with a box on the ear This retort is to the point, because it refutes the primary assumption of such a science of mere subjective opinion, viz that the reality of a man is his face, etc The true being of a man is rather his deed in this the individual is actual, and it is the deed that does away with both aspects of what is merely meant to be Etc And the refutation of phrenology gets evenviolent Viz Miller s page 205 When, therefore, a man is told You your inner being are this kind of person because your skull bone is constituted in such and such a way, this means nothing else than, I regard a bone as your reality To reply to such a judgement with a box on the ear, as in the case of a similar judgement in physiognomy mentioned above, at first takes away from the soft parts their importance and position, and proves only that these are no true in itself, are not the reality of Spirit the retort here would, strictly speaking, have to go the length of beating in the skull of anyone making such a judgement, in order to demonstrate in a manner just as palpable as his wisdom, that for a man, a bone is nothing in itself, much less his true reality Etc So, the lesson is, should someone tell you that The Phenomenology is about some disembodied spirit, you oughta, well please though, don t behave too violently towards them Terry Pinkard has newly translated the Phenomenology and is apparently looking for a publisher Meanwhile he s provided his translation HERE, including a bilingual download option, for public use Thank you, Professor My friend Ching In who made me join Goodreads said that I should honestly list my books, which is why this one is on my shelf I normally don t talk about it in public for fear that people will think I m a snot But I really loved this book I ve never identified so much with a writer before, and also, even though this book is essentially impossible to read, my friend Georg really is a super genius The thing that fascinated me most about this book is how much Hegel wanted to believe that everyt My friend Ching In who made me join Goodreads said that I should honestly list my books, which is why this one is on my shelf I normally don t talk about it in public for fear that people will think I m a snot But I really loved this book I ve never identified so much with a writer before, and also, even though this book is essentially impossible to read, my friend Georg really is a super genius The thing that fascinated me most about this book is how much Hegel wanted to believe that everything happened for a reason He wanted so desperately to believe that, that he invented this immense, intricate and slightly loopy system of thought with it s own freaking language I mean, even if you hate the book, you have to admire that kind of commitment


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