G. W. F. Hegel: The Philosophical System

G. W. F. Hegel: The Philosophical System

G. W. F. Hegel: The Philosophical System

G. W. F. Hegel: The Philosophical System


Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, perhaps the most influential of all German philosophers, made one of the last great attempts to develop philosophy as an all-embracing scientific system. This system places Hegel among the "classical" philosophers -- Aristotle, Aquinas, Spinoza -- who also attempted to build grand conceptual edifices.

In this study, available for the first time in paperback, Howard P. Kainz emphasizes the uniqueness of Hegel's system by focusing on his methodology, terminology, metaphorical and paradoxical language, and his special contributions to metaphysics, the philosophy of nature, philosophical anthropology, and other areas.

Kainz focuses on Hegel's system as a whole and its seminal ideas, making generous use of representative texts. He gives special attention to the interrelationship between dialectical methodology and paradoxical propositions; the prevalence of metaphor in the philosophy of nature; and the close interrelationship between Christian doctrine and Hegelian speculation.,A rich array of diagrams and tables further elucidates Kainz's analyses.

An ideal text for the student of philosophy coming to Hegel for the first time, G. W. F. Hegel provides the reader with useful insights into Hegel's work and illuminates Hegel's enduring significance in the late twentieth century.


Imagine the situation of someone who is familiar with the history of philosophy but is now for the first time confronting Hegel's system-- let's say, the condensed version of the later system in the Encyclopedia of Philosophical Sciences. He or she browses through the pages and notices the arrangement of topics: being, quantity, essence, space, time, chemistry, consciousness, the state, history, art, religion, philosophy, etc.-- all concatenated, each apparently in a deductive relationship to what precedes it.

First, one wonders what category or genre to put this work into. Aristotle's great attempt to encompass all extant fields of knowledge in a scientific framework comes to mind, and perhaps Spinoza's attempt to construct a system based on orderly inferences in ordine geometrico, and possibly other attempts at building grand systems.

But then one wonders whether such systems are grand or just grandiose. If they are grand, then we may admire the ambition and dedication of talented people in the past who tried to encompass all existing knowledge in a philosophical system that would mirror the system of the world--although of course we need to add that such an enterprise would be impossible for even the greatest genius in our own day, when an ongoing "knowledge explosion" is splintering knowledge into thousands of specializations and subspecializations. On the other hand, if a system like this is merely grandiose, then we may react with astonishment at the hubris--and the cheek--of anyone, even the most gifted, who would aspire to such a peak of knowledge. We might see such a creation as an inflated balloon, and we might be tempted to puncture a few holes in it, thus serving the cause of humanity, which has been ill- served by idle, ivory-tower philosophical speculation.

In the case of Hegel's system, the choice between these two evaluations is not easy. Hegel offers so much that is valuable and immensely insightful that even his enemies and critics--Kierkegaard, Marx, Sartre, and others--have ended up borrowing from him. But anyone who studies Hegel also comes across hairsplitting sophistries, non sequiturs, bad science, chauvinism, and prejudices. If "throwing out the baby with the . . .

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