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Re: [hegel] Re: Primer on the meaning of Phenomenal Knowledge, The Notion, and notions

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  • Beat Greuter
    Dear Alan, ... Of course, for Hegel there are intentional acts of individuals which find expression in the world. However, the changes and following
    Message 1 of 93 , Dec 11, 2009
      Dear Alan,

      You write:

      > Hi Beat,
      > You have focused on my maximum point of uncertainty: how to relate Hegel's
      > thinking to the world. This is important because I think the challenge for
      > Hegel is not so much is his account true, but is it relevant. That is, an
      > understandable reaction to Hegel's peculiar way of expressing himself
      > is to
      > ask what this has to do with the world as we know it. I agree that the
      > world
      > we live in is an expression of our thought. But I think the issue with
      > Marx
      > is does this mean that philosophical thought finds expression in the world
      > as a result of the intentional acts of individuals or does it mean that
      > philosophical thought does its work recollectively, noticing new
      > constellations that are already in place awaiting the insight that
      > will mark
      > this. In paragraph 11 of the Preface to the Phenomenology Hegel talks
      > about
      > how spirit does its work slowly and unnoticed and then "The gradual
      > crumbling that left unaltered the face of the whole is cut short by a
      > sunburst which, in one flash, illuminates the feature of the new world."
      > This flash is the insight that is able to see what is there to see but
      > which
      > has as of yet gone unnoticed.

      Of course, for Hegel there are intentional acts of individuals which
      find expression in the world. However, the changes and following
      actualization of the renewed whole is the result of the actions and
      thought of many and can neither be predicted nor be enforced without
      many side effects not anticipated. Otherwise, where would be our
      freedom? The cunning of reason is the expression for acting in
      uncertainty and of the certainty that there is no ulterior rational entity.

      > Of course, this leaves it to us to understand this work of spirit in
      > actuality that seems to happen without our knowing anything about it until
      > the 'one flash'. I am reading Amos Funkenstein' "Theology and the
      > Scientific
      > Imagination" in which he mentions the conceptual shifts that occurred
      > in the
      > seventeenth century world view. He remarks that he can see where these
      > came
      > about but does not pretend to be able to explain how this happened. As I
      > read your remarks, the lack of a causal explanation of the world fits in
      > with this view. So I guess it all comes down to how one is to understand
      > your phrase: "the world cannot resist our thought." Hegel's view that the
      > actual is rational would speak to this. The world as we would like it
      > to be
      > - the world fitting in with our interests - is something that does not
      > seem
      > to interest Hegel all that much. But the world as the expression of a
      > rationality in the Hegelian sense - the non-intentional rationality of
      > what
      > is - is something we can recollect.
      > At least, that is how it seems to me.
      > Regards, Alan

      It is not the lack of causal explanations. There are many. But it is the
      inadequacy of this category for handling most human and social
      phenomena. They are not a problem of explanation but of comprehension.

      You seem to make an improper opposition between the rationality in
      itself and the rationality for itself or between objective and
      subjective spirit. Both are related to each other. Without this relation
      with its two moments there would be no rationality at all. There is no
      subjective spirit without objective facts which also exercises
      constraint (see for instance Emile Durkheim). But there is also no
      objective spirit without subjective spirit actualizing it. The fragile
      balance between the two was Hegel's main concern in his political
      thinking after the revolution of Enlightenment with its rational claim
      of general individual rights.

      For Hegel there is no rationality - intentional or non-intentional - of
      what merely is. The rationality lies in the concept which is the concept
      of freedom. For him history is the actualization of this concept. So,
      the rational presupposition of freedom is as important as the
      declaration of freedom as a claim of thought, of rationality.

      Beat Greuter

      > From: hegel@yahoogroups.com <mailto:hegel%40yahoogroups.com>
      > [mailto:hegel@yahoogroups.com <mailto:hegel%40yahoogroups.com>] On
      > Behalf Of Beat
      > Greuter
      > Sent: Wednesday, December 09, 2009 3:49 PM
      > To: hegel@yahoogroups.com <mailto:hegel%40yahoogroups.com>
      > Subject: Re: [hegel] Re: Primer on the meaning of Phenomenal
      > Knowledge, The
      > Notion, and notions
      > Dear Alan,
      > You write:
      > >
      > >
      > > Hi Beat,
      > >
      > > I think this notion that reality is conceptual "all the way down" as
      > John
      > > McDowell puts it originates with the thought of Wilfred Sellars who
      > > was the
      > > mentor for most of the analytical philosophers who have taken an
      > > interest in
      > > Hegel. This lends itself quite nicely to what has been called the
      > > 'nonmetaphysical' reading of Hegel which sees his philosophy as
      > > primarily an
      > > exercise in conceptual clarification. The problem I have with this
      > reading
      > > is that these thinkers then want to take these clarified concepts as
      > norms
      > > or correctives to be applied to our worldly knowledge. I see Pippin and
      > > Winfield as taking this tack even though in many respects their views
      > > differ
      > > from one another. I tend to think that Hegel was of the camp that
      > > wanted to
      > > leave the world pretty much as it is. In this respect, I think Marx's
      > > frustration about philosophers (wanting to understand rather than
      > > change the
      > > world) is on the mark even if I would side with the philosophers. But of
      > > course I may be wrong about this view of Hegel and the world.
      > >
      > I do not think that the analytical philosophers having found Hegel
      > interesting for their own unsolved problems have in general a
      > 'nonmetaphysical' reading of Hegel (if they have a reading at all). Of
      > course, it depends what 'metaphysical' does mean for you. For Hegel
      > metaphysics after Kant is a critical epistemology which Kant started
      > with but could not implement it because of his dualistic intellectual
      > edifice and his unknowable thing in itself. Analytical philosophy itself
      > has passed through this path again (Russell, Wiener Kreis, Wittgenstein,
      > Austin, Armstrong, Strawson, Goodman, Davidson, McDowell). Looking at
      > this path with a metaphysical eye we can observe that first the fact was
      > outside in the world independent of thought (Russell, Wiener Kreis).
      > After this fact and thought became identical (Strawson). On the third
      > level fact and thought are kept separated by thought as the being in
      > itself and the being for itself: the thinking on our experiences
      > (McDowell). In Hegel's Logic you can follow the same (dialectical) path:
      > being - essence - concept. It is the path of our thinking. This path is
      > deeply metaphysical in the sense of a critical sight on our world
      > relationship, on our being which is never merely separated from our
      > thinking otherwise we could not think and act at all.
      > Having this in mind I am surprised that for you "Hegel was of the camp
      > that wanted to leave the world pretty much as it is". For Hegel the
      > world cannot resist our thought because thought made it. However, for
      > him there is no causal explanation of the world as a whole with which we
      > could justify our action for change. With such causal explanation we
      > absolutize both, the being and thinking, without considering their
      > mutual relationship in the development of the concept. Considering this
      > does not mean an uncritical accordance with the given but a critical
      > comprenhension which neither presupposes a critical position beyond the
      > world nor an uncritical one within it.
      > Regards,
      > Beat Greuter

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Alan Ponikvar
      Hi John, I have been meaning to take a look at Adorno. These quotes are interesting. I also think that indifference is important for Hegel. It characterizes
      Message 93 of 93 , Dec 18, 2009
        Hi John,

        I have been meaning to take a look at Adorno. These quotes are interesting.
        I also think that 'indifference' is important for Hegel. It characterizes
        the opposition of consciousness where Hegel says right from the start that
        for consciousness being is whether it is known or not. But I also suspect
        that indifference characterizes what I view to be the inner difference of
        the absolute. But to show this would require too much for now. My only
        hesitation about what Adorno expresses here is his casual use of
        multiplicity. I believe it is important to be aware of when Hegel is really
        speaking of a multiplicity and when he is speaking of a duality as he is
        with being and nothing. In fact, I believe that Hegel sees as one of his
        systematic tasks to reduce his own multiplicities to dualities. So, for
        instance, at the end of the Phenomenology we have to comprehend not merely
        how the array of shapes culminate in absolute knowing but need to do so in
        light of the opposition between the consciousness and self-consciousness of

        Regards, Alan

        From: hegel@yahoogroups.com [mailto:hegel@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of john
        Sent: Friday, December 18, 2009 10:22 AM
        To: hegel@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: [hegel] Re: The reduction is unavoidable

        --- In hegel@yahoogroups.com <mailto:hegel%40yahoogroups.com> , "Alan
        Ponikvar" <ponikvaraj@...> wrote:
        > Hi John,
        > I think it is always useful in reading Hegel to imagine a narrative that
        > will make sense of what is happening. But to say things end rather badly
        > really depends on one's point of view. An advocate for quantity would be
        > overjoyed to learn of the demise of quality. But that as we know would be
        > hasty response given what is to come next.
        > I tend to think that the reduction or suspension of the distinction
        > the indeterminate and determinate is not a distinction that can be reduced
        > to a case of a qualitative contrast between negatively opposed items. I
        > think what we get instead is the thought of becoming inverting and being
        > reconceived as determinate being. That is, rather than there being a
        > contrastive difference there is what I would view to be an indifferent
        > difference as indicated by the abrupt inversion. On my view, this
        > indifferent difference relates to the inner difference of the absolute -
        > something that is not an explicit theme here.
        > So here is how I relate this to the beginning of the Logic:
        > 1. First there is being which comes on the scene as a dumb presence or
        > as a product of abstraction.
        > 2. The emergence of nothing introduces an item that comes on the scene
        > by means of an inversion from a predicate to a subject term. Nothing is
        > itself a product of abstraction.
        > 3. There is a contrastive relationship between being and nothing that
        > engages thought in a movement.
        > 4. This movement as experienced by thought is brought to a halt with
        > the 'reflective' insight into becoming that means to comprehend this
        > movement taken as a whole.
        > 5. This insight draws a distinction between the movement as experienced
        > by thought and the stable insight itself. This involves the difference
        > between focusing on each moment in turn and focusing on the movement taken
        > in its totality.
        > 6. Thus the movement and the insight are about the same activity of
        > thought only seen from two distinct points of view - one as experienced,
        > other as apprehended through insight.
        > 7. It is this difference that is indifferent. It is this difference
        > that is not addressed or that remains unresolved and in play. This is the
        > inner difference of the infinite absolute as expressed in the domain of
        > finitude.
        > 8. This difference between thought in motion and at rest becomes as it
        > were a pivot point. Becoming is that point in that it recollects the
        > movement of becoming and brings it to a halt as a single thought and then
        > this effect of the single thought's bringing movement to a halt is
        > This bringing thought to a halt - this effect of this first insight - is
        > posited as determinate being.
        > 9. This inner difference of the absolute then relates to the intrinsic
        > difference of thought between its content and its activity or what I like
        > think of as the difference between the word and deed of thought as
        > So as you can see I am still fixated on this nub of thought at the
        > beginning.
        > Regards, Alan

        Dear Alan,

        Perhaps you'll be interested in what Adorno has to say about the
        being-nothing-becoming transition. He writes:

        "In Hegel's Logic, when he deals with Becoming, the synthesis of the first
        triad, he waits until Being and Nothingness have been equated as wholly
        empty and indefinite before he pays attention to the difference indicated by
        the fact that the two concepts' literal linguistic meanings are absolutely

        "He accentuates his early doctrine that nothing but the nonidentical can
        meaningfully--i.e., more than tautologically--predicate identity at all: it
        is not until their synthesis identifies them with each other that the
        moments will be nonidentical.

        "This is where the claim of their identity obtains that restlessness, that
        inward shudder, which Hegel calls Becoming...

        "Only in the accomplished synthesis, in the union of contradictory moments,
        will their difference be manifested. Without the step that Being is the same
        as Nothingness, each of them would--to use one of Hegel's favorite terms--be
        'indifferent' to the other; only when they are to be the same do they become

        "There is no question that Hegel, as opposed to Kant, restricted the
        priority of the synthesis: to Kant, multiplicity [That Being and Nothingness
        are different] and unity [That Being and Nothingness are the same] were
        already categories side by side; Hegel, following the model of late Platonic
        dialogues, recognized them as two moments of which neither is without the

        "Just the same, like Kant and the entire philosophical tradition including
        Plato, Hegel is a partisan of unity. An abstract denial of unity would not
        befit thinking either. The illusion of taking direct hold of the Many would
        be a mimetic regression, as much a recoil into mythology, into the horror of
        the diffuse, as the thinking of the One, the imitation of blind nature by
        repressing it, ends at the opposite pole in mythical dominion...

        The tendency of synthesizing acts is reversible by reflection upon what they
        do to the Many. Unity alone transcends unity. It is unity that grants the
        right to live to affinity, which was pushed back by the advancing unity and
        yet hibernated in it, secularized to the point of unrecognizability.

        "As Plato knew only to well, the syntheses of the subject are indirect
        conceptual imitations of what that synthesis seeks on its own."

        [Negative Dialectics, pages 157f]

        Well, that quote went on too long. You can skip the last four 'paragraphs'
        if you like.

        I like how he calls Becoming "that inward shudder". The "shudder" is, by the
        way, something of a technical term in Adorno's Aesthetics.

        And I like how he refers to "indifference" as "one of Hegel's favorite
        terms"--a somewhat amusing aside which is quite characteristic of Adorno's
        lectures but rare in his books.

        Of course the being-nothing-becoming transition is fairly unique. What
        Adorno says about it might be somewhat applicable to most of the other
        transitions in the Being section as well--but not in the Essence and Notion


        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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