Hegel and the Transformation of Philosophical Critique

By William F. Bristow | Go to book overview

5
Hegel's Self–transformational Criticism

Finally we arrive at Hegel's characterization of his own method of criticism in the Introduction to the Phenomenology. Hegel's objection to Kantian critique, discussed in Part I, together with his belated recognition of the need for Kan– tian criticism documented in the previous chapter, constitute the formative philosophical pressures that shape the method of the Phenomenology of Spirit. Hegel claims that the method of Kantian critique, the prior self–reflection to determine the authoritative norms of reason, implicitly presupposes subject– ivism. Now he finds that this critical inquiry, this prior self–reflective inquiry in which the possibility of metaphysics is at stake, is necessary. With this acknowledgment, the question becomes: how is the inquiry possible? How is it possible to determine in a prior self–reflection the authoritative norms of reason without presupposing subjectivism, without presupposing that the object must conform to the subject rather than the subject to the object and, hence, the impossibility of metaphysical knowledge, the possibility of which one set out impartially to investigate in the first place? I will show that the distinctive feature of Hegel's method, the feature by virtue of which Hegel means to avoid presupposing subjectivism even while addressing the modern epistemological demand arising from the modern subject's self–certainty, is that the method manages to put the reflecting subject at stake in the inquiry, together with its relation to the object. Unlike Kantian critique, which fixes the self–standing subject in opposition to the original object of inquiry, Hegelian critique is self–transformational. The critical procedure is a process through which the reflecting subject becomes what it is, and in so doing, reconciles itself with the initially opposed other.

With his return to the standpoint of Kantian critique, Hegel's objection against Kant's critical philosophy must be formulated differently. Whereas Hegel in the early Jena writings rejects the apparent epistemological crisis to which Kant's criticism responds as itself based on dogmatic assumptions, through his return to the standpoint of Kantian critique, he enters into

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