Understanding Hegel's Mature Critique of Kant

Understanding Hegel's Mature Critique of Kant

Understanding Hegel's Mature Critique of Kant

Understanding Hegel's Mature Critique of Kant

Synopsis

Hegel's critique of Kant was a turning point in the history of philosophy: for the first time, the concrete, situated, and in certain senses naturalistic style pioneered by Hegel confronted the thin, universalistic, and argumentatively purified style of philosophy that had found its most rigorous expression in Kant. The controversy has hardly died away: it virtually haunts contemporary philosophy from epistemology to ethical theory. Yet if this book is right, the full import of Hegel's critique of Kant has not been understood. Working from Hegel's mature texts (after 1807) and reading them in light of an overall interpretation of Hegel's project as a linguistic, definitional system, the book offers major reinterpretations of Hegel's views: The Kantian thing-in-itself is not denied but relocated as a temporal aspect of our experience. Hegel's linguistic idealism is understood in terms of his realistic view of sensation. Instead of claiming that Kant's categorical imperative is too empty to provide concrete moral guidance, Hegel praises its emptiness as the foundation for a diverse society.

Excerpt

Two centuries of strenuous effort at understanding the nature of Hegel’s philosophical project have generated two main families of views—one, indeed, for each century. Both are predicated on views of Hegel’s relationship to Kant’s critical project, but their stances on this are opposed: the older view sees Hegel as revoking Kant’s critique of metaphysics, while the younger one, closer to mine, sees him as continuing it. My next tasks, then, are to sketch these two general understandings of Hegel, to show why they are defective, and to indicate with what they might be replaced. a general account of that replacement will occupy the rest of the chapter, with the specific payoffs concerning Hegel’s critique of Kant reserved for the rest of the book.

That Hegel’s “philosophical vision” differs from Kant’s is obvious enough; even to a nonphilosophical eye, a page of Hegel does not look at all like a page of Kant, nor of anyone else, for that matter. What is not obvious, to say the least, is just what Hegel’s way of doing philosophy amounts to. That it represents some kind of comprehensive philosophical system is clear just from the tables of contents of his major works; but what more can we say?

I will call this the “nature of philosophy problem” in Hegel. I have treated it at length elsewhere (cw) and will confine myself here to an updated sketch of the overall argument. My most general presupposition is that any proposed solution to the nature of philosophy problem in Hegel runs into trouble if it is (a) at variance with Hegel’s own statements; (b) impeaches the overall unity of his thought; (c) employs problematic reading strategies; and/or (d) violates what I will call the “plausibility constraint.”

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.