Hegel’s Method of Doing Philosophy Historically:
A Reply

James Lawler and Vladimir Shtinov

It is possible to separate two matters joined initially in Dr. Schmitz's paper. One is the very general issue of "why philosophy must have a history," and if it must, what it means "to do philosophy historically." [1] The other matter concerns the problem of how "to approach the study of the history of philosophy philosophically." [2] Whereas the first is a general question regarding the nature of philosophical practice as a whole, the second appears, on the surface at least, to be a partial issue, an issue for those philosophers who happen to have a special interest in the history of philosophy.

One can show, as Dr. Schmitz has done in connection with Hegel, that it is possible, and at least plausible, to understand the history of philosophy in a philosophical manner. We can do this by viewing that history as a quest for truth made by reasonable men, building on one another's accomplishments, correcting their predecessors' mistakes, defining more precisely the limits within which previous ideas have validity, improving in this way on the truth of the ancestors on whose shoulders we stand and with whom we form a kind of community of truth seekers.

But once having risen to a certain level of accomplishment, we may think we can push away the ladder—to change our metaphor slightly—that brought us up to the sunny heights of philosophical mastery. When Wittgenstein applied this metaphor not just to past philosophy but to his own preceding arguments, [3] he might have said more accurately that we—certain nonhistorically minded philosophers at least—pull out our

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stakes as we climb. According to such a perspective, philosophy may indeed have a history, and one that can be studied philosophically, but this is far from implying that it is necessary or philosophically obligatory to pay any attention to that history, or "to do philosophy historically."

It is often argued that awareness of the origin or genesis of the philosophical ideas and methods we use today does not guarantee or establish their truth, and philosophical truth, as Hegel himself tirelessly repeated, is independent of time and space. To trace the history of this truth may be an interesting and gratifying occupation. We may even be able to accomplish this exercise by explicitly invoking very little of contemporary theory and by using only the arguments of our ancestors, repeating the course of the history of thought until we arrive at our own standpoint. But all this can be done differently, it seems, less circuitously, by nonhistorical reasoning.

The charge of "historicism" has been so vehemently laid against Hegel [4] that it is sometimes easy to overlook the fact, brought out early in Dr. Schmitz's paper, that Hegel considered the historical existence of philosophy to be something of a scandal. Reason is eternal—Hegel repeated this axiom of his own philosophical heritage. But Hegel did not draw from this belief that "truth is truth," the conclusion that, given the diversity of philosophical positions, one philosophy must be true and the rest false. Certainly he did not support the skeptical conclusion of popular educated opinion in his time that none of them can be true, that philosophy consists in historically relative "opinions." Hegel's own solution to the contradiction between the unity of truth and the diversity of philosophical positions was to reject the notion that truth is an all-or-nothing affair, and to advance the idea of a developing historical progression of "relative truths."

Nevertheless, despite this acknowledgment of its historical character, Hegel regarded philosophy in the highest sense to be a matter of philosophical Logic—i.e., the study of what might today be called the logic of our basic or most general concepts. Such Logic not only does not depend on historical evidence, but it also even consists, Hegel writes. in the "exposition of God as he is in his eternal essence before the creation of nature and a finite mind." [5] As Dr. Schmitz has mentioned, such idealistic exaggeration has not prevented thinkers of various philosophical trends from seeking, in the spirit of Hegel himself, the rational kernel in Hegel's own theory without "the baggage of the System." [6]

Our question therefore takes the form of asking whether for Hegel himself a historical approach is something basically intrinsic to


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philosophical activity in this proper "logical" understanding. Granted that Thales can indeed be said to be a philosopher in more than a nominal sense. This is so not primarily because Thales' philosophy contains significant truths by today's standards—the approach to the history of philosophy taken by so-called "rational reconstruction"—or because Thales' philosophy is "intelligible" in the light of contemporary beliefs, the approach of "historical reconstruction." [7] Thales is significant because his ideas can be situated at the start of some minimal grade of rationality that leads eventually, and not necessarily by the straightest path, to the emergence of contemporary standards of rationality. Even so, why need we, in doing philosophy today, turn back to the primitive ideas of Thales?

Hegel's Introduction to the lectures on The History of Philosophy gives some credence to the view that philosophy can do without history. Philosophy, in some sense, must already be presupposed to the study of its own history—otherwise, how could we recognize whether what we are studying is a philosophical doctrine? Even if the "Idea" with which we begin to study the history of philosophy is a "reduction" of the Idea of the Logic, as Dr. Schmitz suggests, does this not support the belief that if we want the full truth, we should turn to the Logic itself and not bother with its watered-down approximations?

Yet in his Introduction Hegel speaks of a twofold premise to the history of philosophy—not just the premise of preexisting philosophy, but the premise of "the subject-matter of its history." [8] Likewise, Hegel speaks of two methods of finding philosophical truth, an historical method and a logical method. Rather than separate the two, Hegel sees them to be necessarily connected: "This [double method] is the only worthy way of studying philosophy." But then he adds, characteristically, "Logic is the true way because it works through the concept of the thing." [9]

Because of the particular subject matter and objectives of his History of Philosophy, Hegel is naturally more concerned with the question why the history of philosophy should be understood philosophically than he is with the question why philosophy itself should be understood and practiced historically.

If we look at Hegel's actual philosophical arguments as developed in other works, Hegel's understanding of the connection of the logical and the historical methods stands out more sharply, perhaps, than in his explicit discussion of the history of philosophy.

In his Preface to the Phenomenology of Spirit Hegel explains his conception of the nature of philosophy primarily through a criticism of his predecessor, presumably Schelling, whom he doesn't mention by name.


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Schelling—or a philosophical trend of which Schelling was the foremost representative—sharply criticizes the Enlightenment conception of scientific knowledge as a collection of special investigations, as a body of particular information or truths. Authentic science must be one, unified, a whole, Schelling asserts in reply. Hegel does not disagree with this general statement, but with the way in which it is set against the opposing view as though it were the pure light of truth dispelling ignorance and stupidity. In Schelling's abstract understanding of truth, the opposing view is false, his is true—and that is all there is to it.

This conception of the nature of science was linked with a larger romantic, mystical or intuitivist movement of those days that involved. Hegel writes, "The strenuous, almost over-zealous and frenzied effort to tear men away from their preoccupation with the sensuous, from their ordinary private affairs, and to direct their gaze to the stars; as if they had forgotten all about the divine, and were ready like worms to content themselves with dirt and water." [10]

In reply to this unhistorical approach to the criticism of a historical opponent, Hegel charges that such a negative attitude toward the particularism, sensualism, and materialism of Enlightenment thought has failed to appreciate fully the standpoint that it is opposing. [11] We can remedy this failure by recalling the fact that medieval other-worldliness forms the background to modern empiricism and Enlightenment this-worldliness. The cult of feeling, the rejection of "formalistic" knowledge, as well as the Schellingian one-sided insistence on the unity of science all imply contempt for what in fact constituted an enormous advance for the human spirit—the development of the capacity to find intelligibility and interest in the world we see before us. If we remind ourselves of what went before the early modern scientific outlook and try to understand how this outlook advanced beyond what preceded it, we will not dismiss it so thoughtlessly. [12]

Now, however, Hegel says, it appears that the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction. [13] But in its quest for something more than the piecemeal accumulation of particular bodies of information, this trend (exemplified by Schelling's pronouncement that in the Absolute all is one) presents the need to make an advance as though it were already an accomplished fact. Its intrinsic abstractness reflects its failure to understand the fundamental contributions of the empirical sciences and the empiricist-materialistic point of view in philosophy. [14]

Indeed Schelling presents as an accomplished result what is only the starting point of the task of philosophical thought: not to engage


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in empty talk about the unity of science, as though such talk was that unity itself, but to realize in fact a great work of unification of the natural and social sciences.

The particularism of empiricist science that was so unceremoniously set aside by Schelling gets revenge for this mistreatment by reemerging within his work. It is not possible to write an interesting book in which one simply repeats one's insight into the Absolute. So Schelling fills up pages by going over previous scientific knowledge, demonstrating at each turn that some particular fact or concept is not the absolute truth. Such dipping of particular truths in the Absolute may make diverting reading for a general audience that picks up information in this way—especially if the examples are carefully chosen—but this does not constitute any real advance over what has been achieved.

If science must be unified, there must first be something to unify. The "speculative" task of unifying the diverse fields of knowledge is only possible thanks to the work that has preceded it. Moreover, as Hegel writes elsewhere, given the nature of the preceding medieval outlook, Newton had reason indeed to say, "Physics, beware of metaphysics." [15] Scientific knowledge could not have begun with the Schellingian demand for unified knowledge, even properly understood. Progress in philosophy, Hegel argues against irrationalism, depends on and reflects (even while surpassing and culminating) progress in the empirical sciences.

Thus in a few pages, which are expanded more systematically elsewhere in his work, [16] Hegel lays out a sketch of the history of philosophy whose understanding he regarded as intrinsic to the task of contemporary philosophical theory. Beginning with the position of Schelling and others with a similar tendency, Hegel criticizes their negativistic criticism of Enlightenment and scientific empiricism. To clarify his criticism he argues that the modern scientific outlook in turn arose in an analogous rejection of medieval other-worldly thought. The history of philosophy presents itself here as a series of negations in which a position is established through the rejection of its predecessor. No philosophy exists in a vacuum. Each arises in combat with its historical predecessor, and Hegel's own philosophy is no exception. But what is usually misunderstood in this negative treatment of the previous philosophy is the positive character of the relationship, the underlying dependence of the later approach on the one it negates.

A truly self-conscious philosophy ought to recognize this dependence on the historical succession of philosophical systems or tendencies. Recognition of historical dependence on one's predecessor is not merely


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a matter of courtesy or of informational utility, but also a matter of truth itself. By failing to acknowledge properly its dependence on empiricist pluralism, Schelling's idealist monism is doomed to repeat the real limitations of the theory it scorns. Its inner theoretical structure unwittingly reflects its origins in the negation of empiricism. Thus Schelling, Hegel says, simply alternates between uplifting declamations on the unity of the Absolute and diverting pieces of information drawn from the annals of past "particularistic" science. Schelling's original contribution consists only in bathing the particular bit of knowledge in the light of the Absolute, but the result of so much light in which nothing in particular is clear is a mystical "night in which, as the saying goes, all cows are black." [17]

Granted that the contemporary outlook ought to acknowledge its debt to its immediate predecessors, can the same be said of the negative relation of early modern philosophy to its past? Is not the early modern rejection of medievalism more justifiable? In the course of his argument with Schelling Hegel contrasts the ancient and the modern standpoints in philosophy—in order to make clear the specific nature of modern thought. Ancient philosophy had as its material "the natural consciousness," i.e., forms of consciousness that are bound up with "an immediate, sensuous mode of apprehension," and from this starting point for the first time in human history made ideas in their purity (understood objectively, however, not as ideas) a distinct object of thought. This is the real beginning of philosophy. Ancient thought was the period of the formation of theoretical, reflective general concepts—the movement of thought from the concrete world of practical life and imagination to the abstract, reflective conceptions of thought considered for their own sake. Medieval thought dwells for a time in this other-world of ideas created by the ancients, until the emptiness of this mode of consciousness creates the theoretical basis for a return to the world of experience—a thoughtful return, however, quite different from the original thoughtless preoccupation with life of prephilosophical, "natural consciousness." [18]

Thus, Hegel briefly sketches the entire history of philosophy as a presupposition to what has been supposed to be the presuppositionless truth of contemporary philosophy—which he describes as proceeding directly to its target "like a shot from a pistol." [19] The historical links in this succession of philosophies take the form of a series of negations. A chain of negations, and negations of negations, stretches back indeed to Thales, to the origin of philosophy. Hegel's philosophical return to the history of philosophy is not regarded by him as a special "branch"


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of philosophy, which can be set apart from the pursuit of philosophical truth itself. It is intrinsic to doing philosophy itself. Hegel cannot explain what he is trying to do without distinguishing his own conception of philosophy from that of Schelling. But Schelling's philosophy is tied up with its own negation of empiricism and mechanistic materialism. The early modern scientific outlook arose, in turn, against the background of scholastic speculation, resting on the philosophical products that ancient philosophy wrested from "natural consciousness." [20] Such are the "tensions" that Hegel finds concealed within those concepts of his predecessor or philosophical opponent that the latter takes to be unproblematic and intuitively self-evident.

If Hegel's philosophical practice exemplifies a conception of the intrinsic or necessary dependence of philosophy on its history, Hegel also provides an argument to support this conception, an argument that proceeds "internally" from the implicitly contradictory features of would-be nonhistorical philosophical practice.

In this same Preface to the Phenomenology of Spirit Hegel criticizes in detail nonhistorically oriented forms of philosophy, in particular that form of philosophical method that he calls "argumentative" philosophy ("das Rasonnieren"). Hegel begins the Preface in a characteristically reflective way with the problem of beginnings in philosophy—with the problem of the nature of prefaces. Is it valid to set forth our goals or conclusions, our main concepts, in an anticipatory way in the beginning, and also show how our position is different from others? This is how prefaces are ordinarily written and is a characteristic feature of "argumentative" philosophy.

In such ordinary prefaces, certain contrasting theses or positions are outlined. The various possible theses are presented as more or less directly intelligible or self-evident to intellectual inspection. The author says which one he/she is going to defend and which criticize. The main body of the work consists in the arguments pro and con. The conclusion finally reaffirms what was said in the beginning, with the addition that in the conclusion something that was originally only asserted is supposed to have been proven.

In the conclusion, unlike the preface that outlines the various possible positions, the concept one has defended stands triumphantly alone on the field of philosophical battle. The opposing views do not even have the solidity of corpses. Having been shown to be false, they have vanished into philosophical air. This final result, the solitary concept that is the author's position, is proclaimed to be the truth—until, at least, an opponent


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again arises with fresh arguments.

Suppose that after reading the preface someone decides to skip the intermediate chapters so as to get to the final result. After all, why should one spend much time on positions that, in the end, turn out to be false? The false is nonexistent, a ghost—it really isn't there. Would not such a reader find it a disappointment to discover, as the final result of a weighty volume, the bare conclusion that, for example, "the will is free"?

This conclusion, of course, contains nothing more than what was in the preface. It is a reiteration of the concept that the author, after duly clarifying what he means by "will," "freedom," "necessity," etc., originally announced would be defended. One who does not want to waste time on shadows should therefore really only read prefaces. We know in the beginning what the end will hold.

Naturally, the problem with reading the final chapter in isolation, no less than with reading only prefaces, is that the heart of the philosophical activity comes in the middle, in the arguments, in the refutations, in the battle against the opposing ideas. This is the real philosophical substance of the work. Yet, from a strictly formal point of view, in the "argumentative" manner of philosophizing, all of this philosophical activity has disappeared from sight when the result has been proclaimed.

We might say that argumentative philosophy has the un-Hegelian form of theis-antithesis-thesis. The contradiction implicit in this form of philosophical method consists in the fact that although everything depends on the existence of the antithesis, this dependence is not expressed on a conceptual level. The sentiment of truth, won in combat with error. remains just that—a purely internal sentiment. It does not take conceptual form.

Implicitly, the intervening activity and opposition that constitute the philosophical argument are resumed in the final result, in the feeling we have of its truth; yet this is not explicitly present. Here we have the deficiency of this form of philosophy, its incapacity to represent formally, in terms of concepts, the development that brought it from the beginning to the end. This development is not presented as a conceptual development.

Hegel therefore maintains that the main thing in a philosophical work is not the conclusion, but "the result together with the process through which it came about." [21] The philosophical "ladder" should not be thrown away. The inner development of a philosophical argument implicitly contains movement, change, development of thought. Hence, in a broad


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sense of the term, it is intrinsically "historical." This implicit character of philosophical thought requires a more adequate form of philosophical reasoning, one that makes the historical-developmental character of philosophy conceptually explicit. That means that in the course of the argument the concepts with which we begin should be seen as changing, as developing, as a result of the opposition that motivates the philosophical argument.

Hegel therefore gives arguments based on the inner structure of philosophical thought, its intrinsically antithetical or negative character, for introducing historical method into the core of logical argumentation.

In the spirit of one of the trends of Hegelian interpretation mentioned at the end of Dr. Schmitz's paper, we should like to stress the fact that negation should not be forgotten in considering other Hegelian notions. In his presentation of main elements of Hegel's conception of the history of philosophy, Dr. Schmitz passes briefly over the theory of dialectical negation to dwell more at length on the notions of "Idea," "Spirit," and "development."

Dr. Schmitz defines the unifying "Idea" of Hegel's history of philosophy as a "minimal and quite general expectation" that consists in viewing the diversity of philosophies as constituting a unity of "rational discourse." [22] In one analysis of Stoicism, however, Hegel writes of the Stoic ideal of "reasonableness" as a view that may be "uplifting" but because it is without any definite content its lofty goals "soon become tedious." [23] On the notion of Spirit, Hegel makes an analogous appraisal of the Stoic community of reasonable persons, which he calls the "soulless community." [24]

The suggestion that the main idea of Hegel's history of philosophy is a minimal standard of rational discourse overlooks Hegel's hostility to establishing initial "positive" principles that are supposed to hold true for the entire work. One must begin with something, and perhaps Stoical "reasonableness" will do. Hegel himself regards this to be a fitting introduction to distinctive philosophical consciousness in his Phenomenology. But such beginnings must be negated, left behind, refuted, because of their own abstractness and shallowness (an abstractness that is nevertheless inevitable in any starting point). [25]

Here Hegel cautions against a one-sided interpretation of the notion that the unity of philosophy consists in "rational discourse," for which the differences, the oppositions between philosophers are not significant. On the contrary, it is precisely in these differences—above all, in different conceptions of Reason itself—that the real development of the


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Philosophical Idea consists. In this development it is necessary to find room for the "unreasonable" as well, such as Faust's fatigue with "the shadowy existence of science, laws and principles" and his resolve instead to take "hold of life much as a ripe fruit is plucked." [26] Reason must become practical as well as theoretical, and a purely theoretical view of it, modeled strictly on the existence of the "community of scientific research," [27] is a one-sided view of the Hegelian Idea, which provokes its antithesis in Faustian reactions. The true "living" community or Spirit, which historical philosophies express, is not the particular community of philosophers, but the broader community of society as a whole, an economic, social, political, and cultural totality.

For Hegel, philosophers do not belong to their own special philosophical community. The historical Aristotle, Aquinas, and Spinoza could not sit together in a philosophical colloquium and exchange ideas, however much we can see the dependence of later philosophies on the earlier ones. But such dependence and "sublation" of previous philosophy require negation of aspects that the historical predecessor would not want to give up, aspects reflecting the historically specific character of the "unsublated" position. Historical philosophers belong above all to their own times, to their own historical worlds, whose essential spirit, Hegel thought, was expressed in their concepts. It is in connection with this idea of Spirit as a definite historical world that an answer can be given to the question that forms the title of Dr. Schmitz's paper: Why does philosophy have a history?

The answer proposed by Dr. Schmitz consists in pointing out (1) that thinking takes place in individuals who exist in time and space, (2) that philosophy originates in a transcendence of sensuous immediacy and therefore initially partakes of this to some extent; and (3) that beginnings are inevitably abstract. All this may be quite true, but if it is also true that the philosopher participates in Reason and goes beyond sensuous representations, why does the philosopher not go the whole distance? Why did Thales himself not recognize that what was essential was not the notion that everything is water, but that it is important to view reality as a whole? Then, why could he not continue to develop the entire unfolding of the logical Idea?

Earlier we pointed out the dependence of philosophy on the development of the empirical sciences—clearly a task beyond the capacity of a single individual. We now have an additional reason for the historical existence of philosophy. If philosophy is the expression of a concrete historical period, then we cannot expect more (or much more) from


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philosophy than its own time has to offer. The beginning of philosophy has an "abstract specific nature," Hegel writes, "but this specific nature is also historical, i.e., it is a concrete formation of people whose principle has this specific nature, whose principle thus constitutes the consciousness of freedom." [28] It is not an accident that philosophy began with the Greeks, but precisely for this reason Greek philosophy is fundamentally different from that of the modern world. "The necessities of life must have been supplied, the agony of desire must have vanished; the purely finite interests of men must have been worked off, and their minds must have advanced so far as to take an interest in universal matters." [29] Such a condition was, in the nature of things, only possible at a certain stage of human development, and then, for a minority of the people. Hegel writes: "real freedom in Greece is infected by a restriction, because, as we know, slavery still existed there; civil life in free Greek states could not subsist without slaves. Thus freedom was conditioned and restricted, and this is its difference from Germanic freedom. Aristotle could not therefore understand the essential basis of modern thought, that "man as man is free." [30]

If philosophy were the activity of disconnected, unhistorical minds, joining one another on the basis of a special intellectual activity, taking place in a distinctive ideal realm, then it is not possible to say why one individual mind, at any time, could not in principle complete the entire course of Reason—assuming that this course is something that could meaningfully be said to have an end. But if philosophy is an expression of the essential characteristics of a people in history, then to suppose that a single individual could achieve the essential elements of rationality is to suppose that humanity could liberate itself from "the necessities of life" within the lifetime of a single individual.

Dr. Schmitz pictures Hegel's view of the history of philosophy as an "irenic," unitary process, in which the differences between philosophies ultimately drop out, in which behind the negative there appears the positive, the "moment" that can be incorporated into the final system, or at least into the peacemaking ideals of hermeneutical consciousness.

We, on the other hand, have stressed the negativity, the differences, the "martial" conception of the history of philosophy. In the final Hegelian systematic conception, we must acknowledge, the negative tends to give way to the positive, and the historical yields to the logical. Is this not to underestimate the differences that permeate the history of philosophy and contemporary philosophical practices, differences, negations, which for Hegel formed as fundamental a moment as that of reintegration? Each


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side may tolerantly, and in an enlightened post-Hegelian mode, try to grasp the "positive" in the side it opposes. But the other side never—not so far, at any rate—accepts this opposing view of its essence and is unwilling to allow its cherished ideas to be negated, however pacifically, and relegated to the ash can of prephilosophical, subjective, or contingent opinions."

In conclusion, we can confidently predict that after this presentation philosophy will continue to be an arena of conflicting ideas. At bottom, such conflict may have as its ultimate source differences in definite historical forms of social life, in the underlying "spirit of a people" that philosophies express. There is progress, however, if we understand that such conflict is not one between light and darkness, between self-evident reasonableness and stupidity, between what is eternally essential and what is historically contingent. It is an essential opposition that is the basis of new ideas, of intellectual and indeed larger historical progress.

NOTES

1. Kenneth Schmitz, "Why Philosophy Must Have a History: Hegel's Proposal," in Doing Philosophy Historically, ed. Peter H. Hare (Buffalo, N.Y., Prometheus Books, 1988), p. 251. [—> main text]

2. Schmitz, ibid. [—> main text]

3. The radically consistent character of Wittgenstein's formulation of the point of view described here consists in its application not just to previous philosophies, but to his own as well: "My propositions serve as elucidations in the following way: anyone who understands me eventually recognizes them as nonsensical, when he has used them—as steps—to climb up beyond them. (He must, so to speak, throw away the ladder after he has climbed up it.)" In Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1961), p. 74 [#6.54]. [—> main text]

4. Philosophy, especially perhaps philosophy of science, has become increasingly "historist" or "sociologist"—to use terminology that Karl Popper used to criticize Hegel and Marx. "Historism," which when applied to morality Popper called "historicism," is the theory that "all knowledge and truth is 'relative' in the sense of being determined by history." K. Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies, vol. 2 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1971), p. 214. [—> main text]

5. Hegel's Science of Logic, trans. A. V. Miller (New York: Humanities Press. 1969), p. 50. [—> main text]

6. Schmitz, "Hegel's Proposal," p. 259-60. It was Marx, of course, who attempted to "discover the rational kernel within the mystical shell" of Hegel's idealism. Karl Marx, Capital, vol. 1 (New York: International Publishers, 1967). p. 20. [—> main text]


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7. Cf. Richard Rorty, "The Historiography of Philosophy," in Philosophy in History: Essays in the Historiography of Philosophy, ed. Richard Rorty, J. B. Schneewind, and Quentin Skinner (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984). In this article Hegel is classified as belonging to a separate type of history of philosophy, "geistesgeschichte" (history of spirit), that results in "canon formation," or the definition of just what of the past shall be regarded as properly philosophical. [—> main text]

8. Introduction to the Lectures on the History of Philosophy, trans. T. M. Knox and A. V. Miller (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985), p. 22. (Referred to subsequently as "Knox.") [—> main text]

9. Ibid., p. 22; the insert is a clarification of the translator. [—> main text]

10. G. W. F. Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, trans. A. V. Miller (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979), p. 5. [—> main text]

11. "Formerly," Hegel writes, men "had a heaven adorned with a vast wealth of thoughts and imagery. The meaning of all that is, hung on the thread of light by which it was linked to that heaven. Instead of dwelling in this world's presence, men looked beyond it, following this thread to an other-worldly presence, so to speak." Ibid. [—> main text]

12. To get from medieval other-worldliness to the modern empiricist outlook, Hegel writes, "[t]he eye of the Spirit has to be forcibly turned and held fast to the things of this world; and it has taken a long time before the lucidity which only heavenly things used to have could penetrate the dullness and confusion in which the sense of worldly things was enveloped, and to make attention to the here and now as such, attention to what has been called 'experience,' an interesting and valid enterprise." Ibid. [—> main text]

13. "Now we seem to need just the opposite: sense is so fast rooted in earthly things that it requires just as much force to raise it" as must have once have been required to bring it down to earth. Ibid. [—> main text]

14. Hegel describes this contentment with abstractness as a characteristic of the times: "[t]he Spirit shows itself as so impoverished that, like a wanderer in the desert craving for a mere mouthful of water, it seems to crave for its refreshment only the bare feeling of the divine in general. By the little which now satisfies Spirit, we can measure the extent of its loss." Ibid.

Later, in the Preface to the Science of Logic, Hegel is more flattering: "it seems that the period of fermentation with which a new creative idea begins is past. In its first manifestation, such an idea usually displays a fanatical hostility toward the entrenched systematization of the older principle; usually too, it is fearful of losing itself in the ramifications of the particular and again it shuns the labor required for a scientific elaboration of the new principle and in its need for such, it grasps to begin with at an empty formalism. The challenge to elaborate and systematize the material now becomes all the more pressing. There is a period in the culture of an epoch as in the culture of the individual, when the primary concern is the acquisition and assertion of the principle in its undeveloped intensity. But the higher demand is that it should become


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systematized knowledge." Op. cit., p. 27. [—> main text]

15. Cf. The Logic of Hegel, trans. William Wallace (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1968), p. 183 [#98]. [—> main text]

16. Cf. the historical introduction to Hegel's "Encyclopedia Logic," ed. Wallace ibid., pp. 1-142. [—> main text]

17. Phenomenology of Spirit, p. 9. [—> main text]

18. Phenomenology of Spirit, p. 19. A "common sense philosophy," a philosophy that like that of Aristotle more or less deliberately investigates the categories embedded in common thought is in this sense quite different from common sense itself, which lacks such reflectiveness. [—> main text]

19. Science of Logic, p. 67. [—> main text]

20. That such natural consciousness too has a history, one that culminates through negations and negations of negations in philosophy, is the subject matter of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit. [—> main text]

21. Phenomenology of Spirit, p. 2. [—> main text]

22. Schmitz, "Hegel's Proposal," p. 256. [—> main text]

23. "To the question," What is good and true [Stoicism] again gave for answer the contentless thought: the True and the Good shall consist in reasonableness. But this self-identity of thought is again only the pure form in which nothing is determined. The True and the Good, wisdom and virtue, the general terms beyond which Stoicism cannot get, are therefore in a general way no doubt uplifting, but since they cannot in fact produce any expansion of the content. they soon become tedious." Phenomenology of Spirit, p. 122. [—> main text]

24. "The universal being thus split up into a mere multiplicity of individuals. this lifeless Spirit is an equality, in which all count the same, i.e., as persons. Ibid., p. 290. [—> main text]

25. Thus Hegel writes that "The aim by itself is a lifeless universal . . ." (Ibid., p. 2) and "a so-called basic proposition or principle of philosophy, if true, is also false, just because it is only a principle. It is, therefore, easy to refute it. The refutation consists in pointing out its defect; and it is defective because it is only the universal or principle, is only the beginning.... The refutation would, therefore, properly consist in the further development of the principle, and in thus remedying the defectiveness." Ibid., p. 13. [—> main text]

26. Phenomenology of Spirit, p. 218. [—> main text]

27. Schmitz, "Hegel's Proposal," p. 254. Dr. Schmitz briefly notes, pp. 255-56, the practical and social dimensions of Hegelian thought but does not try to connect this with his concept of the history of philosophy as a community of reasonable thinkers. [—> main text]

28. Knox, Introduction to Lectures, p. 166. [—> main text]

29. Knox refers to Aristotle, Metaphysics 982b22, ibid., p. 110. [—> main text]

30. Knox, ibid., p. 173. [—> main text]


SOURCE: Lawler, James; Shtinov, Vladimir. "Hegel's Method of Doing Philosophy Historically: A Reply", in: Doing Philosophy Historically, edited by Peter H. Hare (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1988), pp. 267-280.

©1988, 2003 James Lawler. All rights reserved.
Published by The Autodidact Project with permission of James Lawler.


On James Lawler’s View of Matter and Spirit
Review by Ralph Dumain

Philosophy of History of Philosophy & Historiography of Philosophy


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Uploaded 31 January 2003

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