PHIL 420: HEGEL
PHIL 420: Hegel
The General Catalog Description
Prepares students for advanced work on the philosophical thought of Hegel.
PHIL 420: Hegel
This seminar focuses on two main aspects of Hegel’s philosophy:
1. his entire practical philosophy, as it is unfolded in his book on the “Philosophy of Right”: Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts (1820), translated by H.B. Nisbet as Elements of Right (ed. Allen Wood), Cambridge University Press, 1991. Please do not use another translation. (“Right” (Recht) stands here for the entire moral, legal, social, economic, and political philosophy);
2. Hegel’s conception of philosophy and its method, as unfolded in the two volumes of his “Logic” (Logik), which describes not only his logic and epistemology, but also his ontology or general metaphysics. In the first part of his Encyclopedia of the philosophical sciences, Hegel gives a summary of this “logic.” We will use the translation of this part by T.F. Geraets, W.A. Suchting, and H.S. Harris: The Encyclopedia Logic, Indianapolis, Hacket, 1991.
In our seminar we will study how Hegel, in his “Philosophy of Right,” (1) tries to write a synthesis of the entire Western tradition of practical philosophy from Plato and Aristotle, through Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau and Kant, to Hegel; and (2) how his demonstrations are dominated by the categories and structures of his “logic.” For guidance in this exploration we will use the explanations contained in my Modern Freedom. Hegel’s Legal, Moral and Political Philosophy, Boston, Kluwer/Springer, 2001.
PHIL 420: Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit
Every time a philosopher uses the laws of logic to support or challenge a claim about the world of human experience, this philosopher assumes that the subject-matter is or should be logical. Yet nature and the realities of life seem to be very different from the stark, rigid rules of logic. Why should we assume that the abstract structures of thinking reveal anything at all about nature or about human desires, feelings, aspirations, or life plans? Hegel recognizes that such questions must be asked. He takes on the task of questioning, examining, and justifying the assumption that the realities of nature and human life are fundamentally logical. He also questions the truth claims of experience, since experience is compromised by the contingency of given facts, the relativity of customary attitudes, the arbitrariness of an individual's subjective convictions. Hegel questions everything, demands proof of everything. He even questions the rules of proof itself. As a result, he must invent a whole new way of making a case, because he cannot take for granted the presuppositions that usually operate in proof procedures. In the Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel formulates this radical questioning and meets the challenge posed by such questioning. This course studies the way the Phenomenology introduces a new kind of proof procedure, the way it uses this procedure to critically examine different forms of experiential knowledge, and the way this critique justifies the first principles of philosophy.
The course begins with work on Hegel’s proof procedure focusing on the way a self-critical dynamic belongs to the internal structure of each experience form, the way a determinate negation emerges from this internal self-critique, and the way this produces as a result a retreat into a ground. This part of the course also examines the presupposition status of the Phenomenology’s beginning principles. After developing some familiarity with Hegel's proof strategy, the course focuses on the way Hegel examines and develops the first two fundamental forms of experience: object dominated consciousness, and subject dominated self-consciousness. The famous master-servant dynamic belongs to the development of self-consciousness. In the examination of these experiences, Hegel shows how the self-critical dynamic of consciousness and self-consciousness determines and justifies the claims of reason.
The Phenomenology’s strategy for developing a critique of experience carries it through a vast array of different experience frameworks beyond the move into the presuppositions of reason: empirical science; practical reason; the society of ancient Greece, the Roman Empire, Medieval Feudalism, the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, the culture of morality and conscientiousness; religions of various kinds, ending with absolute knowing and the transition into the beginning of philosophy in the Logic. It is not possible to do justice to all this in a one-semester course. After the move into reason, the course studies selections from the rest of the work. Different principles govern the selections in different semesters. For example, sometimes the selections focus on moral and social issues, sometimes on religious concerns, sometimes on the technicalities of epistemology. The primary philosophical interests of the students enrolled are taken into account in the determination of these selections.