Week 6: Hegel – Concept of Philosophy




  1. By der Begriff, or ‘the concept’, Hegel here means that philosophy is not just a specific form of culture, but rather a form of culture in which that culture explicitly understands itself (i.e. becomes conscious of itself). The notion of ‘spirit’ in this respect correlates to what Hegel calls ‘objective spirit’ elsewhere and refers to referring to something like ‘culture’. Any society is characterized by a specific culture, and Hegel sometimes refers to the historical sequence of cultures as ‘world-spirit’ (see below).


  1. ‘But their initial subject-matter’: i.e. the subject of the sciences (as opposed to philosophy).


  1. ‘Absolute Idea’ (no capitalization necessary in fact). Hegel elsewhere states that reality as a whole – insofar as it can become an object of knowledge – is the expression of an absolute principle. Hegel generally calls such a principle der Begriff(‘the concept’), but sometimes he refers to it by the term Vernunft(reason). In any case, the absolute principle refers to the capacity of plants, animals, human beings, and societies to determine themselves, that is, to sublate the opposition between their essence/principle and the form in which they actually appear. In the case of human beings and societies, the absolute principle appears as freedom and rationality. The notion ‘concept’ always refers to the unity of oppositions. This ‘concept’, then, can be recognized in all the aspects of natural and historical reality. According to Hegel, the various forms of spirit/culture (to wit, art, religion and philosophy) are various ways in which the absolute principle is explicitly represented or understood. Thus, religions such as Christianity conceive the whole of reality as the result of divine creation. From this perspective, the opposition between nature and spirit has been abolished. In the forms of culture in which the ‘concept’ is explicitly understood, there is, furthermore, no distinction between that which understands and the content that is being understood. Hegel refers to the unity between that which understands and is understood by the notion of ‘absolute idea.’ He understands philosophy as a form of culture that acquires the highest possible insight into the absolute principle of thought. Within philosophy, then, the ‘absolute idea’ can be realized in the most perfect way.


  1. ‘Pictorial thinking’ > (German) ‘Vorstellen’ and ‘Vorstellung’ > ‘representation’.


Reading Questions


  1. (38-39). According to Hegel, there is no causal relation between the political history (of a certain people) and the type of philosophy that occurs within that specific historical period. But he also asserts that philosophy often only starts to develop within a specific society when it is declining (as regards the political level). But doesn’t that suggest that Hegel admits to a causal relation between politics and philosophy after all?


Hegel does seem to suggest a causal relation between politics and philosophy but it is worth having in mind Hegel’s notion of der Begriff (the concept, which implies that philosophy is a form of culture where culture can become conscious of itself)… he suggests that it is one people that a specific philosophy raises its head… but then also states, ‘the relation of political history to philosophy is therefore not that of being a cause of philosophy’. Nevertheless, it is hard not to see in his tripartite conception of geist (spirit) not a religious flavour and of course at first we are used to seeing politics and religion as separate however religions are some of the most political institutions that operates next to the government as main influences over the lives of a population. He also clearly describes a specific philosophy and a subsequent character… in Hegel’s wording, ‘permeates every other aspect of the people’s life’.



  1. (41-42). What are the similarities and differences between Hegel’s account of our categories and knowledge, and Kant’s?


Similarities exist between these two great Germans in that they both suggest ultimate principles to be presupposed, that science is systematic with more general principles and laws. They differ that in Hegel the source of these can be found in experience whereas Kant was more critical of this saying that experience itself is a product of the categories delineated in the Critique of Pure Reason. Another difference is the way in which Hegel turns the forms of thought (ideas, and principles) into a common element of the culture and people. In Kant there is more of a focus on the individual subject’s capacity to know evident by the use of the enlightenment dictum sapere aude! sometimes translated as ‘dare to know’, or use ‘your understanding.’ In Hegel there is a marked difference in that these categories seem to be more external, active, and social. From the professor’s own tongue, ‘We possess these ideas, make them our ultimate determinates, run to them as our guiding threads in life, but we do not know them; we do not make them the object and interest of our consideration.’


  1. (42). What is Hegel’s view of metaphysics in this passage?


In this passage before mentioning metaphysics he describes being as a wholly abstract category. Then continues lumping all our ideas and knowledge into metaphysics as a governing body; a kind of net that gathers all the material which humans are engaging with. But, according to Hegel such a net we are not conscious of, it is buried beneath layers of everyday stuff, ‘comprising our known interests and the objects that are before our minds, while the universal threads of the net remain out of sight and are not explicitly made the subject of our reflection.’ So, can we say that for Hegel metaphysics is a form of epistemology that is as a default hidden? Also, I read Hegel’s distrust of immediacy and familiarity here in this quotation.


  1. (53). What is Hegel’s critique of the view that religion (deliberately) expresses truth in a veiled manner?


For Hegel to view religions as intentionally concealing the truth behind a veil would be an indifferent position to adopt as before he references this Hegel describes religion as often been misused because it is in the grip of an external connection. Hegel removes the potential for religion to be intentionally capricious and instead suggests that it is, ‘what holds firm against finite ends and their complications and constitutes itself a sublime region above them. This region of the spirit is rather the sanctuary of truth itself,’ and his confirms his support of religion as it in a proven historical sense has always shown truth to be revealed first in images. Then describing how the ground for the higher element of thinking had not yet been worked out, and this is not characteristic of religions to have this element as the ground for its doctrines.


  1. (132). ‘So the essential thing is, first, to know what the principles of the philosophical systems have been and, second, to realize that each principle must be recognized as necessary’. Based on this quote, how would you characterize the difference between Fichte and Hegel?


I would characterize the difference between Fichte and Hegel as being one in which the way ‘negation’ functions. For Fichte this is represented by the non-I which forces the I to self-posit and creates an absolute-I, but for Hegel there is a unique double negation as the spirit moves through history in a third stage of this necessary movement (the second negation -Skepticism) opposes a prior opposition that of the universal (principles of Stoicism) and the singular/particular (principles of Epicureanism). This then creates an amalgamation which is a principle of a later deeper/higher philosophy. With Hegel this is a continuous process and for Fichte I believe that the Doctrine of Science… was viewed as a predestination for philosophy to evolve into – Fichte is often credited with the creation of the notion of: thesis-antithesis-synthesis. But, in Hegelianism the double negation is unique in that it retains what has been negated in a new form.

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