Academic journal article Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy

Being and Implication: On Hegel and the Greeks

Academic journal article Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy

Being and Implication: On Hegel and the Greeks

Article excerpt

el de to on kai to hen tauton kai mia phusis to akolouthein allelois hosper arche kai aition ... If being and unity are the same and are one thing in the sense that they are implied in one another as principle and cause are ...

--Aristotle, Metaphysics, 1003b22-24

A new concept of being, a neuer Seinsbegrif, that 'complies with the meaning of the absolute concept of being' (HPS 141/203) (1)--this is what Heidegger thinks Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit develops. But if this concept is new, it is because it is old, as old as Western metaphysics. And Hegel is merely unfolding the essential motifs of the Greeks, bringing the question 'ti to on' to completion. The science of the phenomenology of spirit is therefore, 'nothing other than the fundamental-ontology of absolute ontology, or onto-logy in general' (HPS 141/204). (2)

So what is this new concept of being? It is the concept itself, der Begrif. But the concept for Hegel is not simply an abstract idea or category, nor an immediate intuition of simple natures, nor is it merely a subjective thought or function of consciousness--for it is just as much concrete and objective, substance and subject--the concept is the absolute idea of absolute spirit. Being is absolute spirit, and the absolute idea is its concept. But if being is the concept, then absolute spirit is the absolute idea. And the phenomenology of spirit is the development of being as the concept; it is the comprehended or conceptual history, begriffene Geschichte, of absolute spirit as it comes to absolute knowledge of itself as absolute idea, 'spirit that knows itself as spirit' (PS [paragraph] 808/GW IX 531). (3) Then if the concept is Hegel's new concept of being, history is the concept of the concept, Begriff des Begriffes (SL 582/GW XII 11). (4) As Heidegger insists: if spirit's knowledge is historical history, the concept of being is temporal, and 'the problematic of "being and time" already exists in Hegel' (HPS 144/208). (5)

But what then is the temporality of being, of the historical concept, of the absolute idea of absolute knowledge? For Heidegger, it is that 'being is the essence of time; being, namely, qua infinity' (HPS 145/209). (6) Time is finite; being is infinite--for 'time is one appearance of the simple essence of being qua infinity' (HPS 145/209). Beings appear in time, as temporal, in the 'shape of space' (PS [paragraph] 169), thanks to the infinity of being, thanks to the concept of infinite history.

Heidegger's thesis in response to the problematic of being and time however, is the exact opposite of Hegel's: being is not the essence of time--rather, 'time is the original essence of being' (HPS 146/211). But is being the essence of time for Hegel? Or is it rather that history is the essence of being? Does the Phenomenology not demonstrate that the essence of being is historical spirit? What then happens to time? And to being? Or if Hegel's concept of being is, as Heidegger insists, 'as old as Western philosophy' (HPS 141/204), (7) as old as the Greeks, must we not look to them in order to think the original meaning of being, and of time?


Regardless, Hegel's new concept of being, the concept of the concept, is history. And this is the essence of time. But what is the concept of history? It is neither just one event after another, 'free contingent happening; the empirical fact of change or substantial development, nor the externalization of a self, the kenosis of subjectivity in space and time; rather it is the becoming of being. For the history of the concept of being is the unity, the Einheit, of its being and its negation, itself and its other, nothing. (8) And the historical concept of being--itself a contradictio in adjecto--the goal of the phenomenology of absolute spirit's absolute knowledge, is the history of the absolute idea, of the becoming of spirit.

Time as historical then, is the truth of the Phenomenology--for here the unfolding of the concept of being is a reciprocally necessary movement, the progressive development of absolute spirit. …

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