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Towards Hegel

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Joe Saunders

on 20 October 2013

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Transcript of Towards Hegel

Towards Hegel
Kant's Copernican Revolution
"Thus far it has been assumed that all our cognition must conform to objects ... Let us, therefore, try to find out by experiment whether we shall not make better progress in the problems of metaphysics if we assume that objects must conform to our cognition." (B xvi)

Transcendental? Not transcendent. Instead, it concerns what is necessary for the very possibility of experience as such.

Idealism? The objects of our experience are (in some sense dependent on us).

Transcendental Idealism thus allows us to overcome scepticism, dogmatism and mysticism.

It also creates room for ...
"... the concept of freedom ... constitutes the keystone of the whole structure of a system of pure reason". (V: 3-4)

"The concept of freedom is the stumbling block for all empiricists, but also the key to the most sublime practical principles for critical moralists ..." (V: 7-8)
with Kant

This Course
12 weeks
1 - Towards Hegel
2 - The Phenomenology
3 - Consciousness
4 - Self-consciousness
5 - Reason in Nature
6 - The Self and Reason
8 - Ethics
9 - Morality
10 - Culture
11 - Religion
12 - Philosophy after Hegel
Some Logistics
Pre-released exam
Office hours

Next week
Course Texts
Fichte, Schelling and Hegel as fundamentally post-Kantian philosophers

Engaging with similar problems, and have similar priorities

BUT all of them see problems in Kant's system, and all are attempting to overcome these problems in different ways
Kant and German Idealism
Scepticism and
Jacobi's critique of Kant: 'without that presupposition [of a link between things-in-themselves and appearances] I could not enter the system, but with it I could not stay within it' (1994, 336)

Kant's claims about things-in-themselves are contradictory, and either side of the contradiction causes problems

1. We do know something about things-in-themselves (i.e. that they effect sensibility) - collapses the things-in-themselves/appearances distinction

2. We can't know anything about things in themselves (central claim of Transcendental Idealism) - Leaves Kant open to scepticism

Jacobi's solution - the leap of faith

GI Solution - deny that there are things-in-themselves that mind is
unable to access
Freedom, Nature, and the Supersensible
Kant's failure to solve the problem of the relationship between freedom and nature

Kant's solution - these things are incompatible in the world of experience, so we must assume that they are compatible beyond experience in the supersensible
Freedom, Nature, and the Supersensible
Because Kant can't make any claims about reality beyond experiences, he can't say that freedom and nature actually ARE compatible, or explain how this is the case - on his account we just have to assume that they are.

Kant has the resources to solve the problem (appeal to unity) but is unable to use them because his distinction between things-in-themselves and appearances prevents any claims about the supersensible.

Solution - reject the dualism of things-in-themselves and appearances (reject the thing-in-itself)
What's Wrong With Kant
The distinction between things-in-themselves and appearances.
GI: the way the world appears is the way that the world is

His dualisms. (c.f. his failure to bridge the gap between freedom and nature)
GI: the purpose of philosophy is to overcome dualisms

Options for overcoming dualism:
1. Choose one side over the other
2. Collapse the distinction entirely
3. Unite the terms in a third which shows that they're not opposed
What's Right With Kant
The importance of activity

The importance of freedom and autonomy

Desire to align philosophy with science

Emphasis on the importance of Transcendental philosophy and subjective experience

Commitment to system in philosophy
Schelling's Critique of Fichte
Fichte fails to overcome Kant's dualisms - nature and consciousness/subject and object are still fundamentally opposed

Fichte's system is too one-sided, and so fails to be properly systematic

Fichte fails in what he set out to do - doesn't manage to secure an adequate conception of freedom

Schelling and Spinoza
Spinoza's system:
- Materialist monism; all that exists is substance/God/Nature
- Entails necessitarianism and strong causal determinism - everything follows necessarily from God's necessary nature

Schelling's relationship to Spinoza:
- Nature as all there is
- Finds Spinoza's determinism/necessitarianism problematic - no room for human freedom
- Spinoza as Fichte in reverse
- Wants to combine/find a middle ground between Spinoza and Fichte
Problems with Fichte's
Account of Nature
Turns nature into a 'dead object'

For Schelling, this conception of nature:

- conflicts with natural science - nature contains activity that Fichte's conception can't account for

- means that Fichte's system is unable to account for the origins of consciousness
Schelling and Romanticism
Romantic ideas in Schelling:
- Emphasis on the importance of nature
- Nature as active and dynamic, and not fully rational
- The importance of aesthetic experience
- Emphasis on the role of emotion and intuition for knowledge of nature
Schelling's Philosophy of Nature
- 'Naturphilosophie' - the only thing that exists is nature.
- Conception of nature as containing both subjective and objective elements
- Freedom and self-consciousness as naturally arising properties
- Reason is contained in nature, not just in the subject, but nature also contains irrational elements
Aesthetic Experience and Intellectual Intuition in Schelling
- Because nature contains both rational and irrational elements, reason alone can't grasp nature as a whole
- Intellectual intuition: a mode of knowledge that doesn't involve reason but is closer to a feeling
- Can be aided by aesthetic experiences of nature and of works of genius
From Subjective Idealism to Absolute Idealism
Subjective idealism: reality is grounded in the subject; the world is a product of the rational activity of mind; mind is able to gain knowledge of the world
because it constructs the world (in some sense)

Absolute idealism: the world itself is rationally structured; mind is able to know the world because is part of the world - the structures of mind reflect the rational structure of the world

Subjective idealism: Kant, Fichte (Berkeley etc)
Absolute idealism: Schelling, Hegel
Why Hegel?
"... one way that I would like to conceive this work is as a prolegomenon to a reading of the Phenomenology ..." (McDowell 1994: ix)
Philosophically Rewarding
"none other than the Kantian system"
A fundamental principle?
Unity of theoretical and practical reason?
Empiricism and Rationalism
The Question
"... how can that man be called quite free at the same point of time and in regard to the same action in which an in regard to which he is nevertheless subject to an unavoidable natural necessity?" (V: 95-6)
"The situation here is the same as was that of Copernicus when he first thought of explaining the motions of celestial bodies. Having found it difficult to make progress there when he assumed that the entire host of stars revolved around the spectator, he tried to find out by experiment whether he might not be more successful if he had the spectator revolve and the stars remain at rest." (B xvi)
Categorical vs. Hypothetical Imperatives

In securing the possibility of freedom, Kant has also secured the possibility of a categorical imperative.
The problems with Kant ...

German Idealism: Fichte, Schelling, and then Hegel.
"It is a wretched subterfuge to seek to evade this by saying that the kind of of determining grounds of his causality in natural law agrees with a comparative concept of freedom (according to which that is sometimes called a free effect, the determining natural ground of which lies within the acting being, ...

Some still let themselves be put off by this subterfuge and so think they have solved, with a little quibbling about words, that difficult problem on the solution of which millennia have worked in vain and which can therefore hardly be found so completely on the surface.

... it would at bottom be nothing better than the freedom of a turnspit, which, when once it is wound up, also accomplishes movements of itself. " (V: 96-8)
How does my thought
about the world relate
to the world?






The Enlightenment












Marx and Engels






Deleuze and


American Pragmatism:
Peirce, Dewey

British Idealism:
Bradley, Bosanquet
McTaggart, Green


McDowell, Brandom
The self?
It's not clear what or where the I is, in Kant.
The I
"... the nature of the intellect consists precisely in this immediate unity of being and seeing ... observing and being are inseparably united" (1797/8: 435-6)

Meister Eckhart’s dictum: “For were I a king, but knew it not myself, then I were no king” (Forster 201: 181n4) "
The not-I, and I=I?
Kant's Solution
Transcendental idealism makes nature and freedom possible.

Causality is something that applies to the world of appearances.

Moreover, it is something WE bring to this world.

It is entirely possible that things-in-themselves are not causally determined. Moreover, not only is this possible, ...
Freedom is Necessary

1) As rational agents, we must act under the idea of freedom (cf. VIII: 13; IV: 447-8).

2) The moral law reveals it to us; roughly, ought implies can (cf. v: 29-30; VI: 26n67).
The Problem
"... how can that man be called free at the same point of time and in regard to the same action in which and in regard to which he is nevertheless subject to an unavoidable natural necessity?" (V: 95-6)
The I does ALL the work

We have a fundamental principle.
Plato and Aristotle
"Thoughts without content are empty, intuitions without concepts are blind." (A 51/B 75)
In some sense, dependent upon us.
A=A, I=I

The I and the not-I?
(1797/8: 420)
Full transcript