Hegel and Self-Completing Skepticism

  • Philip Walsh
Part of the Renewing Philosophy book series (REP)


In the Encyclopaedia Logic, Hegel states that

Philosophy includes the skeptical principle as a subordinate function of its own, in the shape of Dialectic. In contradistinction to mere skepticism, however, philosophy does not remain content with the purely negative result of Dialectic. The skeptic mistakes the true value of his result, when he supposes it to be no more than a negation pure and simple. For the negative which emerges as a result of dialectics is, because a result, at the same time the positive: it contains what it results from, absorbed into itself, and made part of its own nature. Thus conceived, however, the dialectical stage has the features characterizing the third grade of logical truth, the speculative form, or form of positive reason.1


Critical Theory Ordinary Experience Objective Side Intellectual Intuition Transcendental Unity 
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  1. 1.
    G.W.F. Hegel, Logic, trans. William Wallace (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975), p. 119.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See Gillian Rose, Hegel Contra Sociology (London: Athlone Press, 1981) pp. 149–54Google Scholar
  3. and Werner Marx, Hegel’s Phenomenology: Its Point and Purpose — A Commentary on the Preface and Introduction (New York: Harper & Row, 1975), p. 51.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    The categorical imperative never states what one should do in any specific set of circumstances. It merely provides a doctrinal rule through abstracting from all the content of those circumstances. The meaning of the categorical imperative is also closely related to the problems of archē and telōs, since it is supposed to “declare an action to be of itself necessary without reference to any purpose, without any other end.” (Immanuel Kant, Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, trans. by J.W Ellington, in Kant’s Ethical Philosophy (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1983), p. 25.) Hegel’s critique of Kant’s ethics is similar to his critique of his epistemology; that content always seeps into form, and that neither reason nor the will, as Kant understands them, is purely formal, but continually subject to uncognized qualifications.Google Scholar
  5. 12.
    G.W.F. Hegel, Faith and Knowledge, trans. by W. Cerf and H.S. Harris (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1977), p. 69.Google Scholar
  6. 18.
    G.W.F. Hegel, Science of Logic, trans. by A.V. Miller (New York: Humanities Press, 1993) p. 77.Google Scholar
  7. 23.
    On the combination of circumstances that forced Hegel to change the title of the work see Robert Pippin, “You Can’t Get There from Here: Transition Problems in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit,” in F. Beiser (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Hegel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp. 52–3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 24.
    Walter Kaufmann, “Hegel’s Conception of Phenomenology,” in Phenomenology and Philosophical Understanding, ed. by Eva Pivcevic (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975), p. 67. Cf. Pippin, “You Can’t Get There from Here: Transition Problems in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit,” pp. 53–6.Google Scholar
  9. 25.
    See Walter Kaufmann, Hegel: A Re-Interpretation (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1965).Google Scholar
  10. 29.
    This interpretation appears in Quentin Lauer, An Interpretation of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit (Fordham, NY: Fordham University Press, 1982) pp. 38–9.Google Scholar
  11. A similar version appears in Stephen Houlgate, Freedom, Truth and History (London: Routledge, 1991), pp. 67–9, although here Houlgate presents the issue in terms of the reader’s relationship to the Science of Logic. Google Scholar
  12. See also J. Loewenburg, Hegel’s Phenomenology: Dialogues on the Life of the Mind (New York: Open Court, 1965), p. 15. The common element of all these readings is that the initial standpoint of the ‘we’ is taken as unproblematic. From what I have already said with reference to Hegel’s critique of Fichte, it should be clear that Hegel could hardly have understood this standpoint as unproblematic in itself. These interpretations also ignore the problem of taking natural consciousness as given, as simply something ‘we’ take up or merely observe in our capacity as ‘phenomenologists’. Even where some gloss is given to this problem, for example, in Loewenhoek, where he states that the impartiality of the phenomenological standpoint depends on us first “yielding to the stand-point of the shape of consciousness in question” (p. 15), the problem is not encountered dialectically, that is, by engaging with the claims that a ‘shape of natural consciousness’ might raise against ‘us’.Google Scholar
  13. 32.
    Martin Heidegger, Hegel’s Concept of Experience, trans. by K.R. Dove (New York: Harper and Row, 1970), pp. 66–7.Google Scholar
  14. 45.
    Jacques Derrida, Positions, trans. by A. Bass (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1981), p. 43.Google Scholar

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© Philip Walsh 2005

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  • Philip Walsh

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