The Many Faces of Philosophy: Reflections from Plato to Arendt

By Amélie Oksenberg Rorty | Go to book overview

23
The New Science of Philosophy

GEORG WILHELM FRIEDRICH HEGEL

G.W.F. Hegel (1770–1831) studied theology and classics at the Universityof Tü-
bingen. His first university post was at Jena, where he met Fichte, Schelling, and
the Schlegels. His academic trajectory carried him to Heidelberg in 1816 and to
Berlin in 1818. Having first focused on current issues in moral theory and the
philosophy of religion, Hegel turned to a critical development of Kantian phi-
losophy. At Jena, he began—and quickly finished—his vast, ambitious Phenom-
enology of Spirit
(which, as popular legend has it, was completed when Na-
poleon's troops invaded Jena on October 12, 1807). The Phenomenology presents
a rational reconstruction of stages in the development of consciousness, starting
from sense awareness, through perception and understanding, to the social
world and fully articulated self-consciousness. This "movement" charts isomor-
phic phases in the maturation of individual psychology, the development of
social relations, and the growth of self-consciousness in world history. Hegel
attempted to break down—to unite, to show the interdependence—of an array
of familiar philosophical oppositions: duty and inclination, objectivityand sub-
jectivity, action and reaction, form and matter, mind and body, freedom and
determinism, the individual and the state, the particular and the universal, mo-
ralityand science, language and reality, truth and fiction, imagination and reason,
invention and discovery, empiricism and idealism, experience and the experi-
enced, casual and logical relations. Each of these philosophic terms represents
a partial perspective on Reality, which is, when properly understood, realized
to be a unified, systematically interconnected system. Hegel thought of Abso-
lute Spirit as the pervasive, immanent spirit that actively unfolds itself in a
process that moves dialectically toward greater articulation and determinacy,
revealing the rational interconnectedness of all the "parts" or "aspects" of
Reality.

There are strong echoes of Spinoza in Hegel's thought, and echoes of Hegel
in Wordsworth. While Marx claimed to have "stood Hegel on his head," he
incorporated many Hegelian premises and argumentative strategies. The Frank-
furt School of neo-Marxists and—through the influence of Kojève—French phe-
nomenologists bear the imprint of Hegel's influence. In the United States, Dewey
and other communitarians domesticated and democratized Hegel's politically
conservative views.


What Is Philosophy?

Philosophy misses an advantage enjoyed by the other sciences. It cannot like them rest the existence of its objects on the natural admissions of consciousness, nor can it assume that its method of cognition, either for starting or for contin-

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