Science and Philosophy in Karl Marx's Idealism: The Hegelian Legacy

By Borbone, Giacomo | Analysis and Metaphysics, January 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

Science and Philosophy in Karl Marx's Idealism: The Hegelian Legacy


Borbone, Giacomo, Analysis and Metaphysics


What is rational is real; and what is real is rational."

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Introduction

The great period of German Idealism culminated, as it is well known, with G. W. F. Hegel's philosophy; without forgetting the other two outstanding representatives of this philosophical period, that is to say Johann Gottlieb Fichte and Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling. The importance of German Idealism consisted, principally, in the overcoming of Kantian perspective, that was entrenched in the classical dyad phenomena-noumena.1 Immanuel Kant's contribution to philosophy and to the theory of knowledge was, undoubtedly, extremely important; at the end of the day, Hegel himself stated that "since Kant shows that thought has synthetic judgments a priori which are not derived from perception, he shows that thought is so to speak concrete in itself. The idea which is present here is a great one."2 Nonetheless, Kant, especially in his Critique of Pure Reason3 and through the distinction between phenomena and noumena, diagnosed the limits (that he used to consider in'- surmountable) of the knowledge provided by intellect. Phenomena are things as they appear to the subject and they are the only knowable reality; instead, noumena are things in itself that, nonetheless, are conceivable but not knowable. Kantian perspective seemed to result into a kind of agnosticism or skepticism limited only to phenomenal reality. This kind of limitation of knowledge, this dualism or scission between object and subject (conceived as mutual impervious), was by Hegel considered as intolerable. In this respect, dialectics was an instrument that Hegel used in order to scatter the entire Kantian construction,4 while the philosopher of Königsberg, at the opposite, used to consider dialectics as the "logic of illusion" of reason. Hegel thought that dialectics was the right method able to reach the absolute knowledge and to call a halt to Kantian dualism.

In fact, according to Hegelian speculation, the absolute knowledge is none other than the end of the process of manifestation of Spirit,5 where subject and object achieve a substantial unity and not immediately, but rather in a mediate manner (that's to say in a dialectical way):

The True is the whole. But the whole is nothing other than essence consummating itself through its development. Of the Absolute it must be said that it is essentially a result, that only in the end is it what it truly is; and that precisely in this consists its nature, viz. to be actual subject, the spontaneous becoming itself.6

According to Hegel, in fact, logic is characterized by three aspects: the abstract or intellectual one, the dialectical or negatively rational one and, finally, the speculative or positively rational one. However, Hegel specify that

These three sides do not constitute three parts of Logic, but are moments of everything logically real; i.e., of every concept or of everything true in general. All of them together can be put under the first moment, that of the understanding, and in this way they can be kept separate from each other, but then they are not considered in their truth. Like the division itself, the remarks made here concerning the determinations of the logical are only descriptive anticipations at this point.7

These three sides, as Angelica Nuzzo pointed out, "do not belong to logic alone, for their validity is much more general. Nor should they be considered in a succession, for they coexist in all real formations and are distinct only logically; their status is specifically that of "moments" of a dynamic process."8 Hegel, in clear antithesis with Kantian intellectualism, states that intellect considers things in its fixity, abstractness, disregarding that way their real determinations; that's why Hegel, in the paragraph 81 of his Encyclopedia, added that the third side of logic, that is to say the speculative or positively rational moment, "is the self-sublation of these finite determinations on their own part, and their passing into their opposites. …

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