A Philosophy of the History of Philosophy

  • Allegra de Laurentiis


Philosophic concepts are incomprehensible unless the history of their formation is included in the investigation of their meaning. This thesis can be generalized to include the whole of the philosophical enterprise: rational philosophizing is only possible on the basis of a rational reconstruction of the history of philosophy.


Modern World Philosophic Theory Philosophic Thinking Philosophic Principle Concrete Concept 
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  1. 1.
    The intricate editorial history of the lectures and introductions is told in E. Moldenhauer and K. M. Michel eds, G.W.F. Hegel. Werke in zwanzig Baenden (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1969–79), vol. 20, pp. 520 ff. This work is cited in the following as W followed by volume and page or section [§] number.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    I borrow the expression ‘theory of the history of philosophy’ from K. Duesing, Hegel und die Geschichte der Philosophie. Ontologie und Dialektik in Antike und Neuzeit (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1983), p. 7.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    ‘Die Geschichte der Philosophie muss selbst philosophisch seyn’ (GW 18, 39). The textual basis for the analysis that follows is the critical edition: W. Jaeschke ed., G.W.F. Hegel. Vorlesungsmanuskripte II (1816–1831), Gesammelte Werke vol. 18 (Hamburg: Meiner, 1995). This edition is cited throughout as GW followed by volume and page number.Google Scholar
  4. The translations are my own but I consult throughout the 1892–6 edition by E.S. Haldane and F.H. Simson, Hegel’s Lectures on the History of Philosophy (New York: The Humanities Press, 1974).Google Scholar
  5. as well as the translation of the Heidelberg and Berlin introductions by T.M. Knox and A.V. Miller, G.W.F. Hegel. Introduction to the Lectures on the History of Philosophy (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985).Google Scholar
  6. 4.
    ‘Dass das, was der Geist seinem Begriffe nach oder an sich ist, auch im Dasein und fuer sich sei (somit Person, des Eigentums faehig sei, Sittlichkeit, Religion habe)—diese Idee ist selbst sein Begriff (als causa sui, d.i. als freie Ursache, ist er solches, cuius natura non potest concipi nisi existens; Spinoza, Ethik I, Def. I). In eben diesem Begriffe … liegt die Moeglichkeit des Gegensatzes zwischen dem, was er nur an sich und nicht auch fuer sich ist… und hierin die Moeglichkeit der Entaeusserung der Persoenlichkeit.’ In the following, all references to the 1821 Philosophy of Right (Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts oder Naturrecht und Staatswissenschaft im Grundrisse) are to W 7 followed by section number and ‘Remark’ or ‘Addition.’ The translations are mine but I consult throughout T.M. Knox ed. and trans., Hegel’s Philosophy of Right (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1952).Google Scholar
  7. A.W. Wood ed., H. B. Nisbet trans., Hegel. Elements of the Philosophy of Right (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991).Google Scholar
  8. 7.
    Aristotle, De Anima 430 a 5. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations of this work are from the translation by R.D. Hicks, De Anima (New York: Prometheus Books, 1991). In this instance, in order to respect the internal consistency of this passage, I modify Hicks’ translation of autos de noetos (‘the mind itself’) with ‘thought itself.’ On the other hand, Hicks’ translation of theoretike with ‘speculative’ is fully justified in this context: first, because both words are equally rooted in the language of optics; second, because the particular point that Aristotle is making is that the ultimate subject matter of the treatise is self-reflective thought.Google Scholar
  9. 18.
    All references to the Encyclopaedia of Philosophical Sciences are to the 1830 edition (cited as E followed by section [§] number). With few exceptions noted explicitly, I make use of the following translation of the Encyclopaedia Logic (‘Lesser Logic’): T.F. Geraets, W.A. Suchting, H.S. Harris, eds and trans, G.W.F. Hegel. The Encyclopaedia Logic (with the Zusaetze) (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1991). I note expressly my occasional disagreements with this translation, based on the German text in GW 20 and, for the Additions, W 8.Google Scholar
  10. 23.
    Nonstandard analytic philosophy of logic shares many of Hegel’s views on the meaningfulness and viability of contradictions. See for example the numerous outstanding contributions of G. Priest on this subject, such as his In Contradiction: a Study of the Transconsistent (Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhof, 1987); the two historical introductions to Paraconsistent Logic. Essays on the Inconsistent (edited with R. Routley and J. Norman, Muenchen: Philosophia Verlag, 1989); and ‘What’s so bad about contradictions?’ The Journal of Philosophy, 95 no. 8 (1998) 410–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 28.
    Two excellent and concise discussions of Hegel’s uses of Unterschied and Differenz in the Logic are in Geraets/Suchting/Harris, The Encyclopaedia Logic, pp. xxiii–xxiv, and M. Inwood, A Hegel Dictionary (Oxford: Blackwell, 1998), pp. 131–3.Google Scholar
  12. 38.
    For an overview of the role of Hegel’s Erinnerung in thought’s general economy, both in logical and psychological perspective, see the recent contribution by A. Nuzzo, ‘Thinking and Recollecting. Logic and Psychology in Hegel’s Philosophy,’ forthcoming in G. Gigliotti (ed.), La memoria (Napoli: Bibliopolis/Vrin, 2005).Google Scholar
  13. 45.
    On this traditional use of ‘history’ in English, French and German philosophy see D. Perinetti, ‘Philosophical Reflection on History’, in K. Haakonssen (ed.), The Cambridge History of Eighteenth-Century Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).Google Scholar
  14. 47.
    Such an a-historical or even anti-historical approach seems to me to be embodied in J.R. Searle’s The Mystery of Consciousness (New York: New York Review of Books, 1997). The subject matter is here introduced with remarks about the ‘mistakes and errors’ of ‘our religious and philosophical tradition,’ errors that are said to ‘plague’ contemporary mind theory. The latter, we are told, would be better off without the ‘obsolete categories’(p. xii) of the said tradition. Of course Searle’s own thesis—’consciousness is a natural, biological phenomenon. It is as much part of our biological life as digestion, growth, or photosynthesis’ (p. xiii)—is at least as traditional as the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century theories of J.O. de la Mettrie, P.-J. Cabanis, C. Vogt or E. Du Bois-Reymond. This peculiar lack of interest in predecessors of one’s own perspective appears also in.Google Scholar
  15. D. Dennett’s approach to what he calls ‘the mind (or brain)’ in The Intentional Stance (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1997, p. 123).Google Scholar
  16. 50.
    K. Duesing, Hegel und die Geschichte der Philosophie. Ontologie und Dialektik in Antike und Neuzeit (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1983.)Google Scholar

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