'Tis still a dream, or else such stuff as madmen
Tongue, and brain not...

Cymbeline, Act Five, Scene 4, Lines 148-149, William Shakespeare (suggested by Schopenhauer as the motto of Hegel's philosophy)


Frau Edouard Devrient: "Do tell me, who is the stupid fellow sitting next to me?"

Felix Mendelssohn (behind his napkin): "The stupid fellow next to you is the philosopher Hegel."

Paul Johnson, The Birth of the Modern, HarperCollins, 1991, pp. 817-818.

G.W.F. Hegel (1770-1831)

God alone is the true agreement of concept [Begriff] and reality [Realität]; all finite [endlichen] things involve some untruth [Unwahrheit], they have a concept and an existence [Existenz] which are incommensurable [unangemessen]. For this reason they inevitably go to ruin [zugrunde gehen], that the incommensurability [Unangemessenheit] of their concept and their existence may be evident [manifestiert]. The animal, as an individual, has its concept in the species [Gattung]; and its death [Tod] sets the species free from individuality [Einzelnheit]. [§ 24, note 2]

What is living comes to death, for its very being is a contradiction [Widerspruch]; in itself it is the general [Allgemeine], the class [Gattung], yet its immediate [unmittelbar] existence is as an individual. In death the class shows its power [Macht] over the immediate individual. [§ 221, note]

G.W.F. Hegel, Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences, Vol. 1, translation by Humphrey Palmer, 1971; or The Logic of Hegel, translated from The Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences, by William Wallace, Oxford, 1873, 1972, pp.52 & 361.


[A]ll worth which the human being possesses -- all spiritual reality, he possesses only through the State.

G.W.F. Hegel, The Philosophy of History, Collier & Son, New York, 1902, p.87.


The state in and by itself is the ethical whole, the actualization of freedom; and it is an absolute end of reason that freedom should be actual. The state is mind on earth and consciously realizing itself there. In nature, on the other hand, mind actualizes itself only as its own other, as mind asleep. Only when it is present in consciousness, when it knows itself as a really existent object, is it the state. In considering freedom, the starting-point must be not individuality, the single self-consciousness, but only the essence of self-consciousness; for whether man knows it or not, this essence is externally realized as a self-subsistent power in which single individuals are only moments. The march of God in the world, that is what the state is. The basis of the state is the power of reason actualizing itself as will. In considering the Idea of the state, we must not have our eyes on particular states or on particular institutions. Instead we must consider the Idea, this actual God, by itself.

G.W.F. Hegel, Hegel's Philosophy of Right, Translated with Notes by T.M. Knox, Oxford, 1952, 1971, p.279, color added


It was reserved for our own age to see metaphysicians of the greatest eminence turning their speculations to the exaltation of their own countries and to the depreciation of other countries, fortifying the will to power of their compatriots with all the power of abstractive genius. Fichte and Hegel made the triumph of the German world the supreme and necessary end of the development of Being.... It will be the eternal shame of the German philosophers to have transformed the patrician virgin who honored the Gods [i.e. metaphysics] into a harpy engaged in shrieking the glory of her children.

Julian Benda (1867-1956), La Trahison des Clercs, 1927, The Treason of the Intellectuals, 1928, translated by Richard Aldington, 2007, Transaction Publishers, pp.77-78 -- note the timely publication of Heidegger's own Germanizing metaphysic in Being and Time in 1928


It happens that there is a philosopher called Friedrich Hegel, whom, I must confess, I specifically detest; and I am happy to share that profound feeling with a far greater man, [Carl] Gauss.

Jacob Bronowski (1908-1974), "Knowledge or Certainty," The Ascent of Man, British Broadcasting Corporation, 1973, Ambrose Video Publishing, 2007


The destructive work of totalitarian machinery, whether or not this word is used, is usually supported by a special kind of primitive social philosophy. It proclaims not only that the common good of 'society' has priority over the interests of individuals, but that the very existence of individuals as persons is reducible to the existence of the social 'whole'; in other words, personal existence is, in a strange sense, unreal. This is a convenient foundation for any ideology of slavery.

Leszek Kołakowski (1927-2009), Is God Happy? Selected Essays, Basic Books, 2013 p.57, color added


I'm thinking of writing a children's story about a leaf on a tree who arrogantly insists he's a self-made, independent leaf. Then one day a fierce wind blows him off his branch and to the ground below. As his life slowly ebbs away, he looks up at the magnificent old tree that had been his home and realizes that he had never been on his own. His entire life he had been part of something bigger and more beautiful than anything he could have imagined [the State?]. In a blinding flash, he awakens from the delusion of self. Then an arrogant, self-centered kid rakes him up and bags him.

Chuck Lorre, "The Big Bang Theory," Production Vanity Card #431, 21 November 2013, color added (the Modern Hegelian in action)


I sat in a library in Konstanz trying to make sense of Hegel by reading him very slowly in German, with a pencil in my hand. It was hard going, and I never really got the hang of it. I sneaked a look at what the German student in the next carrel was reading. It was Hegel too -- but in English translation! Well, I thought to myself with relief, if even native speakers use the English translation as a guide to Hegel's thought...

David Bellos, Is That a Fish in Your Ear? Translation and the Meaning of Everything, Farrar, Starus and Giroux, 2011, p.212


ELIZABETH BENNET:  'There is something very pompous in his stile [sic]... -- Can he be a sensible man, sir?'

MR. BENNET:  'No, my dear; I think not.'

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, 1813, Penguin Classics, 1972, 1986, p.108

Few philosophers have had a more baleful influence on modern philosophy and politics than Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. In The Open Society and Its Enemies, Volume II, Hegel and Marx [Princeton, 1971], Karl Popper considers the depths of nonsense that issued from Hegel's pen:

Hegel achieved the most miraculous things. A master logician, it was child's play for his powerful dialectical methods to draw real physical rabbits out of purely metaphysical silk-hats. Thus, starting from Plato's Timaeus and its number-mysticism, Hegel succeeded in 'proving' by purely philosophical methods (114 years after Newton's Principia) that the planets must move according to Kepler's laws. He even accomplished the deduction of the actual position of the planets, thereby proving that no planet could be situated between Mars and Jupiter (unfortunately, it had escaped his notice that such a planet [Ceres] had been discovered a few months earlier [Hegel was trying to refute "Bode's Law", a simple mathematical progression which implied that such a planet might exist]). Similarly, he proved that magnetizing iron means increasing its weight, that Newton's theories of inertia and of gravity contradict each other (of course, he could not foresee that Einstein would show the identity of inert and gravitating mass), and many other things of this kind. That such a surprisingly powerful philosophical method was taken seriously can be only partially explained by the backwardness of German natural science in those days. For the truth is, I think, that it was not at first taken really seriously by serious men (such as Schopenhauer, or J.F. Fries), not at any rate by those scientists who, like Democritus,' would rather find a single causal law than be the king of Persia'... [p. 27]

In order to discourage the reader beforehand from taking Hegel's bombastic and mystifying cant too seriously, I shall quote some of the amazing details which he discovered about sound, and especially about the relations between sound and heat. I have tried hard to translate this gibberish from Hegel's Philosophy of Nature as faithfully as possible; he writes: '§ 302. Sound is the change in the specific condition of segregation of the material parts, and in the negation of this condition; -- merely an abstract or an ideal ideality, as it were, of that specification. But this change, accordingly, is itself immediately the negation of the material specific subsistence; which is, therefore, real ideality of specific gravity and cohesion, i.e. -- heat. The heating up of sounding bodies, just as beaten or rubbed ones, is the appearance of heat, originating conceptually together with sound.' There are some who still believe in Hegel's sincerity, or who still doubt whether his secret might not be profundity, fullness of thought, rather than emptiness. I should like them to read carefully the last sentence -- the only intelligible one -- of this quotation, because in this sentence, Hegel gives himself away. For clearly it means nothing but: 'The heating up of sounding bodies...is heat...together with sound.' [p. 28]

While most would admit (with a few dissenters) that Hegel's "philosophy of nature" is not his strong suit, the passages Popper refers to and quotes are significant for three things: (1) This is how Hegel thought and wrote -- it is his "method"; (2) he thought and wrote similarly about everything and did not let his grotesque ignorance of science stand in the way of applying such a "method" to the methods and objects of science; and (3) a very similar "method" and a comparable militant ignorance are now characteristic of much academic writing in the humanities, social "sciences," and education [note].

Indeed, not only are deconstruction and "post-modernism" satisfied with their own superiority over ordinary science, as was Hegel, but they are positively hostile, with an often activist political agenda, to every characteristic of science that attends upon truth, evidence, and even logic. A fashionable view is that all such characteristics of science and mathematics are merely expressions of white, male, "Eurocentric" oppression and power and could easily be replaced by other modes of thinking and truth once non-white, non-male, and non-"Eurocentric" viewpoints are empowered through the right political action (e.g. forbidding the teaching and testing of science and mathematics in the traditional way, as "racist," "sexist," "classist," etc.). Although Hegel saw himself as standing for reason and logic, his actual practice, of free association and conceptual confusion masquerading as "dialectic" (truly fine examples of what Kant had called "dialectical illusion"), which saw logical contradictions, not as evidence of falsehood, but as steps in the production of higher and more comprehensive contradictions, i.e. Truth, paved the way for the frank adoption of overt hostility to logic and rationality.

Leonard Nelson's extensive critique of Hegel in Progress and Regress in Philosophy [Volume II, Basil Blackwell, 1971, pp.75-100, translated by Humphrey Palmer; Fortschritte und Rückschritte der Philosophie, Felix Meiner Verlag, 1962, pp.444-445, edited by Julius Kraft] features many examples like Popper's of Hegel's "method," such as the following:

Logicist metaphysics [e.g. as in Leibniz] was refuted by Kant by his distinction between analytic and synthetic judgments and his discovery that mathematics, the very science whose possibility and fruitfulness had tempted men into the adventures of logicist metaphysics, consists in fact of synthetic judgments. It is therefore no accident that this discovery of Kant's, so decisive for the whole fate and future of philosophy, was rejected by Hegel.

The 'axioms of mathematics', he expressly declares, 'are simply propositions of logic', which in their turn 'are to be derived from universal and self-determining thought, which can in consequence be treated as their proof' (Enyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences, Vol. I, § 188, note).

Let us linger a little over this assertion to assess its meaning and importance. Let us consider the example which Hegel himself gives of such a proof, and on which he bases his own view as opposed to that of Kant. This example concerns the axiom, which Kant also discussed [Critique of Pure Reason, edition B p.16], that a straight line is the shortest path connecting two points.

'That this definition', says Hegel characteristically, 'is analytic can easily be seen from the fact that a straight line reduces to simplicity of direction, and simplicity, considered with regard to quantity, determines it as least in quantity, i.e. in this case as the shortest path' (Encyclopaedia, Vol. II, § 256).

The obvious fallacy in this proof has been neatly described by the mathematician Schloemilch (in Philosophical Aphorisms of a Mathematician).

Firstly, Hegel has forgotten, in his proof, what he was really trying to prove. For the axiom asserted is not concerned, as the proof is, with the relation between straight and curved lines in general, but only with the relation between possible paths joining two points. No mention is made of this limitation in Hegel's proof. He would therefore prove too much; viz. the proposition, which in its generality is false, that any straight path is shorter than any curved one.

Further, the proof requires a major premiss [sic], which in its turn is taken for granted as an axiom, that what is qualitatively simple must also be quantitatively simple. This proposition, however, is undoubtedly synthetic. It is also, and just as certainly, false; this too can be seen from the fact that it would prove too much. For if, as Schloemilch suggests, we replace the word 'line' by the word 'jacket', 'straight' by 'white', and 'curved' by 'motley-coloured', we obtain the surprising result that a white jacket is always shorter than a motley-coloured one. This is how Hegel dismisses one of the fundamental discoveries of Kant's Critique of Reason.

While various philosophers still don't like the idea that the axioms of mathematics are synthetic, their approach has been rather more sophisticated, let alone more coherent, than Hegel's. The arguments based on Gottlob Frege's theory of analyticity have recently been refuted by Jerrold Katz.

To see the fundamental mechanics of Hegel's method, what he calls letting "the thought-forms follow the impulse of their own organic life" [Hegel's Logic, William Wallace, op. cit., §24, p. 51], another example is in order. The very first inference in the whole Dialectical system is from the concept of Being to that of Nothing, as we see here:

§87] But this mere Being, as it is mere abstraction, is therefore the absolutely negative; which, in a similarly immediate aspect, is just Nothing.

(1) Hence was derived the second definition of the Absolute; the Absolute is Nought. In fact this definition is implied in saying that the thing-in-itself is the indeterminate, utterly without form and so without content, -- or in saying that God is only the supreme Being and nothing more; for this is really declaring Him to be the same negativity as above. The Nothing which the Buddhists make the universal principle, as well as the final aim and goal of everything, is the same abstraction. [ibid. p.161]

Here the argument is that, because the concept of Being is very abstract and so without much content (a privation), it is rather like the concept of Not Being, also without much content, which means that it implies Not Being, so that things of which Being is predicated, like the Absolute, must also be predicated with Not Being. This is like an argument that because fire engines are red, and red is rather like pink, therefore fire engines are pink.

How any sane, let alone sensible, person could take such an argument seriously is astonishing. "Nothing" is similar in content to "Being" just because it is the negation of Being, just as the Null Set (Λ) is the negation, the complement, of the Universal Set. This implies nothing. The idea that the negation of a concept applies equally to that of which the concept can be predicated would simply erase the Law of Non-Contradiction. Something rather like that, indeed, is Hegel's "method"; but Aristotle already understood that anything of the sort would make asserting anything about anything meaningless. Thus, my assertion that Hegel is a dreadful philosopher may be contradicted by Hegelian apologists, but they cannot deny the equal truth of my assertion, or that their statement is implied, according to Hegel's principles, by mine. And their assertion that Hegel was a great philosopher implies mine that he was not. Hegelian apologists thus cannot claim anything without allowing that its denial is "implied" by their own claim. Hegel's "Logic" is entirely without logic.

This cited passage shows something else. As well noted by Schopenhauer, but ignored by recent Hegelians, Hegel's metaphysics is about God. This is not the God of Abraham and Isaac, or even Kant's God, but it is comparable to a theology like Spinoza's. At the same time, Hegel likes the idea that the Absolute as Nothing sounds like Buddhism. Unfortunately, Hegel, and even Schopenhauer, who was rather more sympathetic to Buddhism, have made an elementary mistake in interpreting Buddhist doctrine, where "Emptiness" is not simply nothing -- it is neither existence nor non-existence nor both nor neither. This is an Antinomy, the Four-Fold Negation, which imposes a limitation on knowledge, the kind of thing the Hegel forcefully rejects, as itself conformable to the heritage of Kant, whose limitations on knowledge Hegel dismisses.

The finest summary of Hegel is therefore still Schopenhauer's judgment in The World as Will and Representation [E.F.J. Payne trans., Volume I, Dover, 1966]

The public had been forced to see [in Kant] that what is obscure is not always without meaning; what was senseless and without meaning at once took refuge in obscure exposition and language. Fichte was the first to grasp and make vigorous use of this privilege; Schelling at least equalled him in this, and a host of hungry scribblers without intellect or honesty soon surpassed them both. But the greatest effrontery in serving up sheer nonsense, in scrabbling together senseless and maddening webs of words, such as had previously been heard only in madhouses, finally appeared in Hegel. It became the instrument of the most ponderous and general mystification that has ever existed, with a result that will seem incredible to posterity, and be a lasting monument of German stupidity. [p. 429]

Das Publikum war genöthigt worden einzusehn, daß das Dunkle nicht immer sinnlos ist: sogleich flüchtete sich das Sinnlose hinter den dunklen Vortrag. Fichte war der Erste, der dies neue Privilegium ergriff und stark benutzte; Schelling that es ihm darin wenigstens gleich, und ein Heer hungeriger Skribenten ohne Geist und ohne Redlichkeit überbot bald Beide. Jedoch die größte Frechheit im Auftischen baaren Unsinns, im Zusammenschmieren sinnleerer, rasender Wortgeflechte, wie man sie bis dahin nur in Tollhäusern vernommen hatte, trat endlich im Hegel auf und wurde das Werkzeug der plumpesten allgemeinen Mystifikation, die je gewesen, mit einem Erfolg, welcher der Nachwelt fabelhaft erscheinen und ein Denkmal Deutscher Niaiserie bleiben wird. [Reclam, 1987, p. 596]

Robert Solomon, University of Texas Philosophy Department picnic, 1977
The monument
is no longer just to German Niaiserie (a French word, note). In the Seventies I seem to have personally witnessed a step in the current revival of Hegel when, for a whole deadly semester at the University of Texas, I attended a seminar on Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit given by Robert Solomon (1942-2007), who was evidently preparing his book, In the Spirit of Hegel, A Study of G.W.F. Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit [Oxford, 1983]. This was an important moment in the New Apologetic for Hegel, arisen since the 60's, and called by Solomon even "the current apotheosis of Hegel." It must be admitted, then, that behind all the stupefying verbiage and ignorant pontification, behind all the vast rent-seeking apparatus of "public education" that burrows a niche for obscurantism into the public purse, there actually is a systematic philosophical theory in Hegel, based on significant precedents in the history of philosophy, that appeals to contemporary philosophers. It is not clear, however, which is worse, the thought that the enthusiasts were deceived by the mere appearance of Hegel's profundity, that the enthusiasts feather their own nest in a self-contained hermetic bureaucracy, or that the enthusiasts actually embrace the kind of theory that Hegel ends up with out of honest conviction and agreement.

The kind of theory, indeed, is the foundation of modern statism and totalitarianism. As such, the fault with Hegel's Philosophy of Right as an apologetic for the Prussian State was not, as Professor Solomon said at one point, that he was corrupted by "tenure," but that Hegel's entire epistemological and metaphysical system was well suited for the political absolutism upon which Hegel and his sponsoring State happily agreed -- it was already there when the young Hegel saw "the Zeigeist on horseback," Napoleon, ride through Leipzig.

This all in fact follows easily from a fundamental ontological truth in Hegel:  Only Universals are Real. No idea has deeper roots in Western Philosophy. Plato's Forms in the World of Being were the "only true reality, compared, as it were, with shadows." Aristotle allowed that individual things were "primary substance," but they were actual only because of their universal form and only actual to the extent that form superseded matter, which was mere potential. Ultimate reality, then, was God, who was Pure Form and Pure Actuality. From this, the Neoplatonists inferred that God only knew Universals and that pure matter, the only basis of individuality, was the equivalent of Not Being (and, by the way, Evil) [note]. In Hegel, then, the Absolute Idea, like the Neoplatonic God, is absolutely everything in so far as it has any real existence. Signifying this, he turns around traditional terminology to say that the Universal is "concrete," while individual things are "abstract." The progress of both Reason and History (which are identical) is to go from abstract to concrete, from individual to Universal. In the epigraph above, we see Hegel asserting that living individuals die because their very existence is a contradiction. This extraordinary view, indeed, is original, but it is of a piece with his sense that individuals as such are irrational, unreal, and must be "overcome" by dialectical synthesis. Or, as Hegel says, by death the species is "set free from individuality" and "shows its power" over the individual.

Hegel was asked once to deduce a particular pencil from the Dialectic. He objected that such a request showed a misunderstanding of his doctrine. Quite right. Since an individual pencil has no rational existence, it would not be deducible from the Dialectic. An honest request, however, would be for the deduction of Pencilhood, the Universal of the pencil, from the Dialectic. Whether or not Hegel would agree, his doctrine would require an answer; but it is not hard to imagine him, after all, producing an explanation based on the "ideal ideality" of writing, or some such. At the same time, it is fair to ask why individuals appear to exist in Hegel at all. What is the positive ontological basis of individuality? In Aristotle, the answer would be easy:  individual existence is due to the matter which individuates the universal forms of things. In Hegel the answer is more obscure, but it is there. Since individuals involve a contradiction, they exist where contradictions exist, i.e. in among the workings of the Dialectic, which is a matter of contradictions. As contradictions are resolved in syntheses, individuals will disappear, until all contradictions are resolved in the Absolute, i.e. God. Some individuals, however, are more individual than others.

Thus, the mere common individual person is unreal compared to the State, which is Real and Rational. A dissenting individual is, as the Marxists would say, "objectively" irrational. An individual as individual becomes real only to the extent that it participates in the Universal. In those terms, the most real individual is the one that uniquely embodies a universal, as Napoleon did the Zeitgeist of his Age, as the King of Prussia did the Prussian State, or as Hegel himself did the philosophy of the Absolute Idea. This dismissal of the ontological claims of individuality is then of a piece with the dismissal of the moral claims of individuality:  as the "All the Real is Rational, and all that is Rational is Real," so is the universality of the state identical with good and right. This gives us a kind of judicial positivism sharply different from Kant, where the source of moral authority is in autonomous individual reason (a recipe for "irrationality" for Hegel), and external reality cannot measure up to the demand for Good Will in the Moral Law, or even from Plato, where the Forms are, after all, detached from the World of Becoming, which cannot approach their perfection. The privileged claims of conscience, then, or the idea that worldly governments are inherently imperfect and corruptible, would be for Hegel meaningless. Indeed, in his own day Hegel could complain about the merely "formal" freedom of British institutions (like Marx complaining about mere "bourgeois" freedom), in comparison to real freedom under the King of Prussia.

Apologists such as Solomon like the idea of leaving Hegel's metaphysics entirely out of the mix and reinterpreting works like the Phenomenology as anti-metaphysical and descriptive in the sense of Edmund Husserl's later "phenomenological" method, which suspends metaphysical judgment (although Hegel says, "Logic therefore coincides with Metaphysics"). To Solomon, this makes Hegel "humanistic" and "far more in tune with the spirit of the logical positivists and the more modern pragmatism of W.V.O. Quine" (ibid., p. 9). However, this doesn't help, since it leaves all the moral heteronomy and judicial positivism of Hegel's method and epistemology in place. Recent "pragmatists," like Richard Rorty (who comes in for honorable mention by Solomon), have renounced the natural rights principles that stand in the way of the fashionable statism and "communitarianism" that they advocate. Solomon affects some neutrality in this debate but then does rather ominously say, "We assume as our dogma the priority of the individual" (p. 35, boldface added) -- no such negative term is allowed for Hegel's emphasis on the collective. In this vein, Solomon's anti-metaphysical interpretation makes no significant difference in the evil moral and political tendencies of Hegel's system. Instead, the New Apologetic for Hegel can happily join the authoritarian political movements that are the ideologically descendants of Hegel. In fact, Hegel himself merely provided the metaphysics that was commensurable and sufficient to the rest of his thought. The "anti-metaphysical" interpretation of Hegel is a red herring. Solomon himself comes in for more attention in these pages for an apologia and whitewash on Nietzsche.

The reader is recommended this test. When Hegelian apologists forcefully deny that Hegel denigrates individualism or requires a totalitarian state, one need merely ask whether the apologists themselves, when push comes to shove, denigrate individualism and natural rights and promote the authority of the state over individuals. After loud disclaimers that the totalitarian interpretation of Hegel is a mistake, a misunderstanding, or a dark conspiracy of corporations, the apologists usually turn out to be the kind of statists and collectivists who only see individuals as members of groups, subject to unlimited political authority. With the many apologists who even turn out to be Marxists, their denials are cases either of monumental self-deception or of simple dishonesty. The Big Lie. The Left is attracted to Hegel simply because, indeed, he is their spiritual progenitor.

Although Solomon is honest and candid that, "My intention is quite literally to re-do Hegel" (p. 1), in the heat of the moment he sometimes forgets just what he is about. Thus, he says:

...Søren Kierkegaard, the first existentialist, was simply mistaken when he viewed Hegel as the ultimate collectivist and rationalist who had taken the risk and passion out of our existence and replaced them with his "system." [p.28]

Kierkegaard, however, is not going to have been aware of Solomon's "re-do" of Hegel but was reacting to the entire "system" as Hegel formulated, published, and advocated it through the rest of his life. Solomon does not even seem interested in what the whole system added up to -- just that it was a betrayal of the promise shown by (some of) the Phenomenology. But a moment's inattention or enthusiasm by Solomon can become an entire hermeneutic, as I recently discovered, where the "system" doesn't even exist and the credulous can assert that Hegel was never a statist, rationalist, or metaphysician -- from people who, to be sure, may be neither rationalists nor metaphysicians, but who, with some certainly, will turn out to be statists and collectivists -- such as Solomon himself, with his telling characterization of the "dogma" [!] of "the priority of the individual."

The modernization and "humanization" of Hegel is effected by a kind of decapitation of Hegel's system -- the removal, not just of the metaphysics, but of "absolute" knowledge, the goal and end of the whole system. Thus, Solomon says [p.16], what Hegel offers as "absolute" knowledge is, "a fraud, or at most, just another stage on the journey," i.e. not an end, not an absolute, at all. This decapitation, however, uncovers some bases that Hegel himself had covered, and allows a fundamental incoherence into the system. Solomon says, "The Phenomenology is a grand treatise in cosmic humanism; humanity is everything, in the guise of Geist, or 'Spirit'..." [p.7], "he sees God (insofar as we should use that word at all) as nothing more than human spirit writ large, or what Hegel calls Geist" [p.6], and "There is no 'reality' beyond human experience, and no set reality within human experience -- à la Kant -- which our concepts and judgments must conform to" [p.9]. The idea that human consciousness, however, is all of reality can be rebuked as the most extreme anthropocentrism, or in more recent heresiology, "speciesism." Either Geist is actually everything, in which case it transcends mere humanity (as Hegel holds), or the emphasis on its limitation to humanity implies that there is something else, i.e. the reintroduction of the detested Kantian thing-in-itself, beyond human knowledge. Solomon appears to decide simply to not worry about this choice. He does worry, however, about a microcosmic version of it:  it is not just that Hegel generalized human consciousness to all the universe, but he generalizes his German/European consciousness to all of humanity. Solomon, who is indifferent to the general anthropocentrism, blanches at Euro-centrism:

Thus what can too easily be viewed as the banality of "humanism" becomes in Hegel a voracious arrogance, which Claude Lévi-Strauss (criticizing neo-Hegelian Jean-Paul Sartre) calls "transcendental humanism," and which I have elsewhere called "the transcendental pretense." This is the view that all of "humanity" can be understood in our own image and in our terms. Hegel's dialectic will "stop at nothing" -- or rather, it will not stop until it has encompassed everything. In the Phenomenology, at least, the transcendental pretense is more than balanced by Hegel's appreciation of differences. But in "the Absolute" and in what is often made out of Hegel, the entire cosmos is made over into a function of the Spirit of German philosophy. That is not a "higher synthesis," as the jargon goes; it is European cultural imperialism and a historical rationale for murder. [p.27]

Now we suddenly get a connection between Hegel and genocide, which sounds like one of the worst charges of the anti-Hegelians, not of a principal participant, like Solomon, in the "apotheosis" of Hegel. But how can Solomon save Hegel from this charge? If the dialectic is unable to encompass all of humanity, let alone all of the cosmos, then there is indeed, again, something beyond human knowledge -- and the dreaded Kantian limitations on knowledge return. Calling the problem of the overgeneralization of our perspective "transcendental humanism" even has a Kantian ring to it -- like "transcendental realism," "transcendental humanism" subsitutes the pretense of "reality" for what is only anthropocentric or ethnocentric, i.e. appearances/phenomena. But if Hegel's dialectic is really so "voracious" as to end up "encompassing everything," it is hard to see how Solomon can stop the process without the sort of arbitrary end to the dialectic that Solomon actually rejects when Hegel himself brings an end to the process with "absolute" knowledge. Thus, Solomon wants to blame European imperialism and genocide on "the Absolute" and on "what is often made out of Hegel," but the problem looks like a inherent methodological one, where the dialectic "will stop at nothing," and which is even worsened with the rejection of a termination at "the Absolute."

Solomon eagerly embraces ("a much more radical Hegel," p.15) that which Popper regarded as the essence of Hegel's error:  "historicism" -- a relativization of knowlege and morality to a historical period and situation. Solomon clearly regards this as more "progressive," but even without Hegel's metaphysics and Absolute knowledge, it embodies all the evils of Hegel's heteronomy and judicial positivism. This is because there is no objective or transcendent standard for right and wrong which could provide the individual with a ground of objection or resistance independent of actual authority. The actual authority itself is valorized just by existing. There is no difference, in Humean terms, between "is" and "ought." The protesting or rebellious individual would only be justifed for Hegel by success, in which case he can be fit, retrospectively, into Hegel's dialectic. The protester or rebel who fails is necessarily (the Marxists would say "objectively") "irrational." While Hegel's own preferred (absolute) historical reality was Prussia, modern Hegelians, whether following Marx or not, tend to come down on the side of the authority of the welfare state in social democracies. This abridges older freedoms of voluntary association and private property, which can be dismissed, as by both Hegel and Marx, as "formal" and insufficient. Hegel's statism and Prussianism then live again as the means of instituting involuntary servitude and state ownership, all in the name of "progressive" politics.

The state-worship of Hegel's Philosophy of Right, then, was no passing political pay-back or temporary enthusiasm. It was fully consistent with the fundamentals of Hegel's system (even the re-done Hegel). I don't think that the New Apologists for Hegel appreciate this, or the manner in which Hegel's answer was a serious contribution to the Problem of Universals in the history of philosophy -- Solomon had derisively dismissed a book about Hegel (An Introduction to Hegel, G.R.G. Mure, Oxford, 1940, 1970), which I had thought was quite revealing, that explained him against the background of Aristotle. One would think that treating Hegel in relation to Aristotle would only dignify and enlarge him as a major figure in the history of philosophy; but it would also serve to highlight just the issues of universality and individuality where the implications of Hegel's theory are the most terrifying.

Popper compiles for us a number of characteristic statements:

'The Universal is to be found in the State', Hegel writes. 'The State is the Divine Idea as it exists on earth... We must therefore worship the State as the manifestation of the Divine on earth, and consider that, if it is difficult to comprehend Nature, it is infinitely harder to grasp the Essence of the State... The State is the march of God through the world... The state must be comprehended as an organism... To the complete State belongs, essentially, consciousness, and thought. The State knows what it wills... The State is real; and .. true reality is necessary. What is real is eternally necessary... The State .. exists for is own sake... The State is the actually existing, realized moral life.' [op. cit. p. 31]

It is not hard to imagine the solace that this gave, along with the doctrine that a Monarch embodies and personifies the State, to the advocates of Emperor Worship in Japan, where, after all, the Meiji constitution was modeled after that of Prussia. This and other applications of Hegel's ideas in the Twentieth Century, in Japan, Germany, and for all the Marxist stepchildren of Hegel's statism, have had consequences of slaughter and tyranny appalling beyond belief. It is one of the answers to Kurt Vonnegut's plaintiff question, why people in our time have often been treated like garbage: If individuals as individuals don't really exist, what's the problem?

It also explains the continuing appeal of Hegel. The political Left, which all but dominates the academy, literature, journalism, the social "sciences," and education, although famous for the defense of the individual, the eccentric, and the "abnormal," in fact despises individual-ism, which means any desire of the individual to be free of the Power of the State, especially for an individual to control his own property, wealth, business, or children (often stated in the form of "children's rights," but which really makes children wards of the state). Even much personal liberty, as what can and cannot be said to coworkers in the workplace, or whether a private establishment can allow smoking or not, is now seen as public business and is fiercely subjected to the majesty and sanctions of the law. The Left is also tempted by extreme legal doctrines about "hate speech," by which politically "incorrect" statements become crimes. In short, the post-modern Left, armed with Marxist principles consistent with Hegel's judicial positivism, still despises Capitalism, the free market, and the freedoms of contract, association, conscience, and speech.

Thus, Hegel continues to be popular because he continues to play the same political role, although we may say that for him it really is and was sincere rather than merely mercenary (as suspected by Popper). And it is consistent, as Popper discovered in one Hegel apologist, J.H. Sterling, "the first British apostle of Hegelianism," who said:

'...while in constitutional England, Preference-holders and Debenture-holders are ruined by the prevailing commercial immorality, the ordinary owners of Stock in Prussian Railways can depend on a safe average of 8.33 per cent. This, surely, is saying something for Hegel at last!' [ibid. p. 34]

"Commercial immorality" indeed. This is the recognizable universe of our own time where the rich, capital, markets, and profit are still all attacked in the fashionable press, academia, and art by people educated in Marxist Sixties radicalism but completely ignorant or uncomprehending of the most elementary principles of free market economics. The full force of Hegel's statism, whether today it is called "communitarianism," the "politics of meaning," or something else, thus descends on property. And when any kind of private action becomes a matter of money, employment, children, weapons, or political activity (in someone's definition), then the state continues on in, police (Polizei, which may be Hegel's own neologism, by the way), prosecutors, prisons, and all. As it happens, even American police still traditionally sport the black and white colors of the Kingdom of Prussia on their vehicles. Hegel, indeed, would be proud.

What Hegel is probably the most famous for, and what has exercised the greatest technical influence, is his Dialectic. While the Greek term meant logical argumentation or examination, the Idealist usage comes from Kant, for whom "dialectic" meant the speculative employment of Reason on transcendent objects, for which no positive result could be obtained. Thus, Kant talked about the "dialectical illusion" produced in systems of speculative metaphysics.

Speculative metaphysics is just what Hegel and the other Idealists wanted to engage in. Since Kant had thought that speculative Reason would often produce Antinomies, where the arguments were just as good for a "thesis" and a contradictory "antithesis," the notion was already current before Hegel, in Fichte, that the antinomies could perhaps be overcome through a "synthesis" (another Kantian term) that would somehow transcend the contradiction. Hegel stated the logic of this very starkly, that the thesis was an affirmation ("in itself"), the antithesis was the denial ("for itself"), and the synthesis the denial of the denial ("in and for itself").

Ordinarily in logic, a double negation would be equivalent to no negation, i.e. the affirmation. By denying this, Hegel was, unfortunately, denying the principle of the excluded middle, which means that no proper logician has ever cared much for his system. The formalism of Kant, and the Procrustean Bed of his architectonic, achieve a kind of mad apotheosis with Hegel's theory, where all the complexity of the world is apparently formally generated by multiplication of negations. Since this is ridiculous, either there is meaning that is not captured by the formalism of the Dialectic, which means that nothing is unambiguously derived by Hegel's "Logic," or negation itself becomes a mere metaphor for opposition or conflict, the way it is typically later used by Marxists (one of whose favorite phrases is about the "contradictions of capitalism").

The Dialectic begins, indeed, with Hegel's Logic, whose first step is the only one that has ever made any sense to me. The most general metaphysical concept is just Being. Fair enough. The denial of this is Not-Being. OK. The denial of the denial is then Becoming. Indeed, Becoming might be thought of as the denial of both Being and Not-Being, since it is not quite nothing but is not yet what it is going-to-be. Parmenides, however, had already denied that becoming could bridge the gap between true Being and Not-Being. Things that come-to-be require a preexisting and durable substratum, so that they are not literally nothing before they reach the state that they are becoming. But this sinks the Dialectic already, since there are clearly other concepts besides negation (like substance) required to get from Being and Not-Being to Becoming.

The general plan of the Dialectic is based on a grand division of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. The Logic itself is the thesis. Since the Logic consists of concepts, which are purely mental and internal, the denial and antithesis of this is Nature, which is purely non-mental and external. I have already noted the level of nonsense achieved in Hegel's Philosophy of Nature, where it is abundantly clear that he had no particular interest in or understanding of the real science of his day. While Germany was already entering a golden age of mathematics (with Gauss, Riemann, etc.), and by the turn of the century would excel in physics (Planck, Einstein, etc.), German philosophy (and later Anglo-American) would remain burdened and mystified with the ignorance and arrogance of Hegel's treatment, wholly foreign in spirit and substance from scientific method, or even the essentials of logic.

The pinnacle of Hegel's thought then comes in the great synthesis of Logic and Nature:  Spirit. Hegel's first and still most popular book, The Phenomenology of Spirit (1807), already dealt with this part of the Dialectic. Misunderstandings about "Spirit" are evident in some translations of the word itself. Geist is sometimes rendered "Mind," but this gives the wrong impression. Spirit, as the synthesis of Logic and Nature, has overcome the duality of mental and physical, internal and external. The Ideas that constitute Spirit, then, are not mental, or merely mental, objects. If anything, they are like what happened to Plato's Forms (the original Ideas) in Neoplatonism, where they transcend the reality of the objects that exemplify them, but are not really "separated" from them, as Plato thought but Aristotle denied.

The Idea that is the most characteristic of these qualities of Spirit, as well as Hegel's greatest contribution to the hellish history of the 20th Century, is that of the State. The State, clearly, is not a physical object or part of nature. On the other hand, the common sense view that the State is just some belief in people's heads is rejected by Hegel. As an Idea, the State exists externally as well as internally, independent of mere "abstract" individuals, and easily exerts real physical force, as when its armies march, its police kick in doors, or its judges put people in jail or execute them. I have already given the state-worshiping quotes gleaned from Hegel by Popper. Now it should be clear why the State boasts such a lofty status, not just as a Universal more real than the individual, but as one of the ultimate products of the Dialectic.

The ultimate product of the Dialectic, however, the end of Spirit, is the Absolute Idea, which would appear to be the synthesis of absolutely everything, giving its name to Hegel's system, "Absolute Idealism." Since Hegel was the first to understand this, and since individuals have significance only in so far as they exemplify or embody some Idea, this makes Hegel the supreme individual of all history.

The Hegelian Sublime and Revolutionary Slaughter of Slavoj Žižek

Reading about the sublime, I came across a treatment by an actual Hegelian. This was Slavoj Žižek ["The Sublime Object of Ideology," 1989, The Sublime, Documents of Contemporary Art, edited by Simon Morley, Whitechapel Gallery & The MIT Press, 2010, pp.56-63]. Žižek (b.1949) is identified as a "psychoanalytic philosopher, sociologist, and cultural critic" -- which seems like a moderately unusual combination. He has positions at the Insitute for Sociology and Philosophy at University of Ljubljana in Slovenia, is a Global Distinguished Professor of German at New York University, and is "international director" of the Birkeck Institute for the Humanities of the University of London. Nevertheless, despite these weighty and prestigious positions, some critical distance from Hegel, and a reputation as a dissident both in the days of Titoism and with respect to the modern academy, Žižek is a person of appalling, repellent, and even horrifying moral and political views.

In his treatment of the sublime, Žižek was writing before the beakup of Yugoslavia, and I wondered to what extent his Hegelianism was a function of the Marxism that may have been required among Yugoslav philosophers. Ideology in Yugoslavia was a bit looser than in the Soviet Block, but Žižek's Hegelianism seems to have been sincere and enthusiastic, with the sense some Marxists have that the Soviet version was not "real" Marxism. We used to get some of that in Yugoslavia, where we even find the strange psychologist Wilhelm Reich (1897-1957) coopted into Marxism (cf. the curious movie, Mysteries of the Organism, 1971). Žižek as a Marxist and also a "psychoanalytic philosopher" reminds us of the Marxist Frankfurt School, where we find combinations of Marx with Freud, if not Marx and Reich. Meanwhile, Slovenia, adjacent to Austria in both geography and history, was really out of the way of the terror, war, and crimes that otherwise attended the breakup of much of Yugoslavia.

But Žižek's problems with Titoism seem to be that it was not violent and murderous enough. Like some other Communists we have seen, Žižek traced the failures of Communist regimes to their shortfall in Terror. Since the murders and massacres of Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot are paradigmatic of Red Terror, they earn Žižek's admiration, with the qualification that obviously they didn't go far enough. Since Pol Pot apparently killed a third, perhaps even a half, of the entire population of Cambodia, this is a high standard indeed. Thus,

Slavoj Žižek... praised [!] the Cambodian regime "for attempting a total break with the past." He wrote: "The Khmer Rouge were in a way, not radical enough: while they took the abstract negation of the past to its limit, they did not invent any new form of collectivity." He nonetheless believed that "revolutionary violence should be celebrated as 'redemptive' and even 'divine.'" [Paul Hollander, From Benito Hussolini to Hugo Chavez, Intellectuals and a Century of Political Hero Worship, Cambridge, 2016, p.203; the embedded quotes here are from John Gray, "The Violent Visions of Slavoj Žižek," New York Review of Books, July 12, 2012, p.23]

Thus, when the scale of massacre, even genocide, inflicted by the Khmer Rouge came to international attention, and most previous enthusiasts fell into some kind of humbled silence, Žižek could only reflect that they were "not radical enough." And lest we think that he has somehow forgotten about the bloodshed and is only worried about a "new form of collectivity," we have his reflections on Mao:

In turn, the Cultural Revolution impressed Žižek because it "did contain elements of an enacted utopia" and was "the last truly great revolutionary explosion of the twentieth century." The violence it entailed was greatly preferable and morally superior to the violence of capitalist systems: "What were the violent and destructive outbursts of a Red Guardist caught in the Cultural Revolution compared to the true Cultural Revolution, the permanent dissolution of all life-forms which capitalist reproduction dictates?" [ibid., p. 29; embedded quotes from Slavoj Žižek, Violence, 2008]

A mob of Red Guards humilating, beating, or murdering people, and vandalizing or destroying the cultural heritage of China, of course, compares nicely with mobs of anarchists and communists in Berkeley, but it is not clear what it is that Capitalist "reproduction" does that is as brutal, destructive, and nihilhistic. Stalin never hesitated to destroy the "feudal past" in terms of lives or property; so we might wonder just what "life-forms" Žižek is concerned to preserve.

Paul Hollander gives us a general view:

Slavoj Žižek, self-styled revolutionary, social critic, and celebrity philosopher of our times, provides a singular example of the refusal of some intellectuals to modify their political beliefs in light of changing historical circumstances and evidence. Žižek insisted that "the misfortunes of the fate of revolutionary terror confront us with the need -- not to reject terror in toto, but -- to reinvent it." In the same book he averred that "the problem here is not terror as such -- our task today is precisely to reinvent emancipatory terror." Žižek did not explain what he meant by this new Orwellian concept, but presumably it was purifying terror, the terror of good intentions. He also wrote:

in every authentic revolutionary explosion there is an element of "pure" violence, i.e. an authentic political revolution cannot be measured by the standard... to what extent life got better for the majority afterward -- it is a goal-in-itself, an act which changes the very standards of what "good life" is, and a different (higher, eventually) standard of living is a by-product of a revolutionary process, not its goal... one should directly admit revolutionary violence as a liberating end-in-itself....

Žižek's pronouncements exemplify an unusually extreme and irrational attitude toward political violence, inspired by what seem to be deep seculiar-religious convictions. His determination to "remain faithful to the legacy of the radical left" led him to propose that "the terrorist past has to be accepted as ours." His peculiar views (often expressed in jargon-ridden, convoluted prose) did not interfere with his becoming a major intellectual-academic celebrity of the Western world....

The Stalinist terror of the 1930s was a humanist terror... far from being the greatest catastrophe that could have befallen Russia, Stalinism effectively saved what we understand as the humanity of man.

[ibid., pp.27-29; Zizik quoted from In Defense of Lost Causes, 2008, and Marxism and the Call of the Future, 2005]

So to Žižek the "humanity of man" is the murder of fellow human beings as "liberating" violence for its own sake. It might have some material benefits, eventually, but at the moment I might kill you just for the rush. Nor did he forget that revolutionary Terror was originated by that great benefactor of humanity, Robespierre:

Žižek praises the "humanist terror" of Robespierre... not because it was in any way kind to its victims but because it expressed the enthusiasm, the "utopian explosions of human imagination" of its perpetrators... Robespierre "redeemed the virtual content of terror from its actualization." In this way, for Žižek, thought cancels reality." [ibid., pp.291-292, Hollander quoting Roger Scruton, ironically Žižek's fellow Hegelian, Fools, Frauds and Firebrands, 2015]

The "utopian explosions of human imagination" in the world of Slavoj Žižek seem to involve a lot of dead bodies. This is the philosophy of a sociopath, or even a psychopath. Certainly it involves Žižek living at a comfortable distance, with his three cushy, international academic positions, from the kinds of events he admires. Presumably he doesn't start murdering students in his classrooms just to demonstrate revolutionary enthusiasm and imagination. So perhaps we can say he doesn't have the courage of his convictions, and his failure to murder people and participate in his own Terror discredits his bona fides as a genuine "self-styled revolutionary."

Žižek's discussion of the sublime in Hegel does not get into the exaltations of murder. It sounds like more conventional philosophy in the Hegelian mode. His reputation may rest more on this than on fantasies of terror and massacre.

Žižek's article on the sublime begins with a discussion accusing Hegel of anti-Semitism. I have addressed this elsewhere, in relation to the anti-Semitism of Jakob Fries, which not only was clearly more eggregious than that of Hegel, but has tended to overshadow and obscure the features of Hegel's thought that could also be construed as anti-Semitic -- besides completely erasing independent interest in Friesian philosophy, which perhaps was the point. However, that is not my concern here. Žižek passes from this prelude into a reasonably faithful discussion of Kant's analysis of the sublime in the Critique of Judgment. Kant's theory is that in the aesthetic category of the sublime, we possess of feeling that refers to features of the transcendent, including the "Ideas of Reason," like God, freeom, and immortality, that otherwise cannot be directly represented by theoretical reason -- and without, of course, representing any direct contact with the transcendent, as would be the case with the feeling of numinosity in Rudolf Otto. I think that Žižek is faithful enough in presenting this that we can help get the picture by quoting him directly:

The Sublime is therefore the paradox of an object which, in the very field of representation, provides a view, in a negative way, of the dimension of what is unrepresentable. It is a unique point in Kant's system, a point at which the fissure, the gap between phenomenon and Thing-in-itself, is abolished in a negative way, because in it the phenomenon's very inability to represent the Thing adequately is inscribed in the phenomenon itself or, as Kant puts it, 'even if the Ideas of reason can be in no way adequately represented [in the senuous-phenomenal world], they can be revived and evoked in the mind by means of the very inadequacy which can be presented in a sensuous way'. [p.58, brackets in original text]

Fair enough. Thus, as I have discussed in the essay on the sublime, Kant treats the sublime only as a derivative of the Moral Law and the unconditioned reality of the Ideas of Reason, into which the Moral Law leads us as the "Postulates of Practical Reason." That the sublime could be a certain sense of Nature and phenomenal reality alone is rejected. The feeling of the sublime is neither intrinsic to Nature nor a genuine representation of the transcendent, but something hanging in between, which is characteristic of Kant's aesthetic subjectivism. It is a phenomenon of our betwixt-and-between status, as natural beings among phenomena but as free and immortal beings among things-in-themselves.

If Žižek is a proper Hegelian, then things-in-themselves and the transcendent don't really exist. All is phenomena. So the rest of Žižek's essay lays this out, with some of its consequences, as a great triumph of Hegel's thought, "more Kantian than Kant himself." Of course, it isn't, and we might recollect what is thereby lost. Without unconditioned realities (except the Absolute Idea itself), there is no transcendent or independent God (a major heresy in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), no real freedom, as this is ordinarily meant (being free of natural causes, while nothing is free of the Dialectic in Hegel), and certainly no immortality, as a soul free of Hegelian phenomenal conditions cannot exist (contrary to traditional belief in Judaism and a major heresy in Christianity and Islam). Thus, Hegel cannot possibly be a traditional or orthodox Christian. At the same time, the loss of things-in-themselves as the source of the Moral Law, through autonomous Reason, grounds the heteronomous judicial positivism of Hegel, that the State is "objectively" Rational, which is also traditionally regarded as contrary to Christian views of conscience.

So there is nothing "more Kantian than Kant" in Hegel, and the consequences are (religiously) considerable and (morally) appalling. But let's see how Žižek does this:

But here again, this Hegelian approach can give way to misunderstanding if we read it as an assertion that -- in opposition to Kant, who tries to reach the Thing through the very breakdown of the field of phenomena, by driving the logic of representation to its utmost -- in dialectical speculation, we must grasp the Thing 'in itself', from itself, as it is in its pure Beyond, without even a negative reference or relationship to the field of representation. This is not Hegel's positon: the dialectics would effectively entail a regression into the traditional metaphysics aiming at an immediate approach to the Thing. Hegel's position is in fact 'more Kantian then Kant himself' -- it adds nothing to the Kantian notion of the Sublime; it merely takes it more literally than Kant himself. [p.59]

Before going further, we should note that if the Absolute Idea is indeed the whole of reality, against which there are no things-in-themselves, then it is precisely the "Thing" and Hegel has indeed very strictly speaking returned to "traditional metaphysics," i.e. a speculative theory that encompasses all of reality. Kant, of course, makes no effort to reach the "Thing," and makes no claim about it, where our only real connection is through the Moral Law, while the feeling of the Sublime is just a kind of (subjective) echo.

Hegel, of course, retains the basic dialectical moment of the Sublime, the notion that the Idea is reached through purely negative presentation -- that the very inadequacy of the phenomenality to the Thing is the only appropriate way to present it. The real problem lies elsewhere; Kant still presupposes that the Thing-in-itself exists as something positively given beyond the field of representation, of phenomenality; the breakdown of phenomenality, the experience of phenomena, is for him only an 'external reflection', only a way of indicating, within the domain of phenomenality, this transcendent dimension of the Thing which persists in itself beyond phenomenality. [pp.59-60]

Kant, of course, sees the thing-in-itself as "positively given" only through the Moral Law, which makes an unconditioned command that cannot be accommodated in phenomenal reality. Thus the "Idea," if this means the Kantian Ideas as postulates of practical reason, is not reached through a purely "negative presentation," but through the postive clue of the Moral Law, which motivates our beliefs in God, freedom, and immortality. In terms of the Sublime, this is presumably what Žižek is writing about, what is positively given is a feeling that does not involve reaching the "Idea" at all, as Žižek seems to be aware with the "external reflection" remark. If the realities we are addressing are of the unconditioned sort, as is the case with the Ideas, then it is not surprising that it is confined "within the domain of phenomenality," where all is conditioned. With his Hegelian bag of tricks, however, Žižek can get around this.

Hegel's position is, in contrast, that there is nothing beyond phenomenality, beyond the field of representation. The experience of radical negativity, of the radical inadequacy of all phenomena to the Idea, the experience of the radical fissure between the two -- this experience is already Idea itself as pure, radical negativity. Where Kant thinks that he is still dealing only with a negative presentation of the Thing, we are already in the midst of the Thing-in-itself -- for this Thing-in-itself is nothing but this radical negativity. In other words -- in a somewhat overused Hgelian speculative twist -- the negative experience of the Thing must change into the experience of the Thing-in-itself as radical negativity. The experience of the Sublime thus remains the same: all we have to do is to substract its transcendent presupposition -- the presupposition that this experience indicates, in a negative way, some transcendent Thing-in-itself persisting in its positivity beyond it. In short, we must limit ourselves to what is strictly immanent to this experience, to pure negativity, to the negative self-relationship of the representation. [p.60]

All the "negativity" here, however, is an artifact of Hegel's thought, not Kant's. There is nothing about the Moral Law or even the feeling of the sublime that is negative in itself. All the "negativity" is a reflex of Hegelian Dialectic, and as such Žižek leaves out, not only the positive moral and metaphsyical meanings to be associated with things-in-themselves, but what is always the next step in the Hegelian Dialectic, that is, where the negative negates itself, and we have the positive result of the "synthesis." With this business of the Sublime, what would that be? Well, with "nothing beyond phenomenality," and when "we must limit ourselves to what is strictly immanent to this experience," the result will be "the march of God through the world," that is, the State. Aesthetics, indeed, or even religion, is not the end of the Hegelian Dialectic.

The rest of Žižek's treatment simply plays out some consequences of his move. Not so much the political ones (although we get "the State is Monarch," which was welcomed and embraced by Meiji Japan). And I don't think I need to pay much attention there. We do get some striking statements, such as "...the Sublime, means at the same time the nullity, the nonexistence of the transcendent Thing-in-itself as a positive entity" [ibid.]. This just restates the previous point. Simiarly, we get, "We overcome phenomenality not by reaching beyond it, but by the experience of how there is nothing beyond it -- how its beyond is precisely this Nothing of absolute negativity, of the utmost inadequacy of the appearance to its notion" [ibid.]. Again, this may be the culmination of aesthetics, but it cannot be the end of the Dialectic. The "nothing beyond it" might be contrasted with the passage from Job quoted by Edmund Burke. After Job's hair stands on end, he hears a "hushed voice" [Job 4:16]. In Jewish and Christian belief, that voice, the voice of God, is definitely from Beyond, something neither Kant nor Hegel, let alone Slavoj Žižek, would seem very comfortable with.

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G.W.F. Hegel (1770-1831), Note 1;
Hegel's Method at its Origin

Since Hegel's philosophy of nature comes late in his career, we might think that his reasoning made more sense when he was younger. However, the earliest examples of his work already display the characteristics of Popper's quotation. Thus, we might think that the first three chapters of the Phänomenologie des Geistes (1807), which say they are about sense certainty, perception, and understanding, and which are the foundation and inception of his entire philosophy, might stand as more serious work. But they do not. There is precious little about sense certainty, perception, or understanding, as we might expect them to be, in these chapters. But Hegel's "method" is very much on display.

This "method" consists neither of argument, as this is traditionally understood, nor the description of physical processes, as these might be conceived in physics, chemistry, or even psychology. That is because what Hegel discribes is a "dialectical" procedure in which his thoughts come alive and do things. It is as though "logic" itself was a kind of physical event, in which each concept parthenogenetically begets its own evolutionarily advanced offspring. Darwin needn't have bothered; Hegel was way ahead of him. It is a sort of animism or vitalism attributed to what are really just Hegel's random, incoherent, and bizarre mental processes. They generate the "dialectic," as what Hegel thought of as "logic," but which involves things like concepts contradicting themselves, which previous logicians have failed to discern except in ideas that refute themselves in falsifying themselves. But this march of logical paradoxes is that of which Hegel's entire philosophy consists, and later Hegelians, like F.H. Bradley (1846-1924), kept calling "Logic" something that systematically violates the Principle of Non-Contradiction.

The Phänomenologie des Geistes is the book that seems to attract the most attention from Hegel apologists, like Robert Solomon, whom I will examine in some detail in the main text above. But if the value of the Phänomenologie can be estimated from the quality of the first three chapters, which are supposed to be about the most elementary matters, and which get the whole project going, then we have little to expect of value from the rest of the book. Indeed, the major evils of Hegelianism are already on display here, especially the elimination of the particular and individual in favor of the universals, which ultimately produce the conception, and later the appalling practice, of the totalitarian state -- as, again, I will examine above in the main text.

Other characteristics of the first three chapters can with benefit be identified as tropes of Hegel's entire corpus. Thus, Hegel often follows bewildering negations of negations with what he apparently thinks is an entirely new concept, sprung from the Dialectic like Athena from the brow of Zeus. In these chapters, we see concepts like "force," "law," and "infinity" presented as though they somehow follow from, and are produced by, the Dialectic, justified by Hegel's previous discussion. Actually, they never have anything to do with the previous discussion, and they are not the result of any argument or genuine reasoning whatsoever. But this is Hegel's "answer" to the problematic in British Empiricism and then in Kant about the origin of certain concepts. As such an answer, it is an utter failure, and the concepts may as well have been introduced after a musical interlude than after the verbiage that Hegel provides.

But Hegel's discussion is innocent of anything from the previous history of philosophy; and his chapter on "Understanding," which includes the concepts of "force" and "law," and includes references to physical theories like Newtonian mechanics, and the features of electricity discovered by Franklin (about which he is no better informed than what Popper discovered in examining his philosophy of nature), nevertheless says nothing about causality, whose foundational role in science was of acute concern to Hume, Kant, and later philosophers -- where Kant saw it as central to his own theory of "Understanding" (in the "Analytic of Concepts"). Hume and Kant go to considerable trouble to deal with the origin and meaning of causality, with their treatments drawing decades of comment since; but we would never know that from reading Hegel here -- he doesn't even mention it.

But there is a reason for this. Hegel's work explicitly does not draw on history or his predecessors. The whole idea is that the Dialectic springs directly ex nihilo and produces all relevant concepts from its own resources -- as we will see Leonard Nelson quoting Hegel's reference to "universal and self-determining thought." Thus, things like "force" and "law" and even gravity must tumble out of the process of the Dialectic, without reference to experience, experiment, or anything else. We would never know that physics is an empirical science by reading Hegel. He can produce all of it from the Dialectic, as he had already done with his bizarre critique of Bode's Law, proving, as he thought, that there could not be a planet between Mars and Jupiter (as there are now, of course, hundreds of Minor Planets).

This sort of thing is evident from the first page of the first chapter of the Phänomenologie. Hegel says:

The knowledge, which is at the start or immediately our object, can be nothing else than just that which is immediate knowledge, knowledge of the immediate, of what is. We have, in dealing with it, to proceed, too, in an immediate way, to accept what is given, not altering anything in it as it is presented before us, and keeping mere apprehension (Auffassen) free from conceptual comprehension (Begreifen). [G.W.F. Hegel, The Phenomenology of Mind, translated with an introduction and notes by J.B. Baillie, 1910, 1931, Harper Torchbooks, 1967, p.150]

However, on the same page, Hegel quickly violates his own stipulation of addressing immediate knowledge "free from conceptual comprehension." He does this by introducing the "Ego" (Ich) as what corresponds to immediate knowledge in consciousness -- something that he clearly finds a lot more interesting than perception. Not only does this introduce a concept that is not part of a sensible manifold, but it skips over the investigation in Hume that produced the observation that entities like "self," "ego," or "soul" cannot be identified as any part of sensation, sensory experience, or perception. Nor was this even new with Hume, since two thousand years earlier Buddhist philosophy had denied that there was any "self" or "ego," either in perception, or in any verifiable form of knowledge, as the following passage belittles "mind, intellect" and "consciousness" in comparison to the physical body:

But it were better, O priests, if the ignorant, unconverted man regarded the body which is composed of the four elements as an Ego, rather than the mind. And why do I say so? Because it is evident, O priests, that this body which is composed of the four elements lasts one year, lasts two years, lasts three years, lasts four years, lasts five years, lasts ten years, lasts twenty years, lasts thirty years, lasts forty years, lasts fifty years, lasts a hundred years, and even more. But that, O priests, which is called mind, intellect, consciousness, keeps up an incessant round by day and by night of perishing as one thing and springing up as another. [Buddhism in Translation, by Henry Clarke Warren, "The Mind Less Permanent than the Body," translated from the Samyutta-Nikâya (xii.62), Atheneum, New York, 1982, p.151]

Thus, Hegel has pulled his "Ego" out of the Blue, uncritically, and used it to discuss sensation or sense certainty, which in their own terms, and certainly in terms of the traditional discussions of them, are completely ignored. What Hegel wants is this conclusion:

The Universal is therefore in point of fact the truth of sense-certainty, the true content of sense-experience. [op.cit., p.152]

This is all Hegel needs from his first chapter; and, as noted, it is a key step in Hegel's system, and a sign and portent of where he is headed for the duration. There has actually been no examination of sensation or perception, and nothing about the tradition in philosophy concerning the certainty of perception, or even the existence of immediate knowledge, at least since Descartes, but even earlier, with the Greek Skeptics. Hegel seems to assume the existence of perceptual immediate knowledge, without ever relying on it for any kind of actual knowledge, except the abstract and empty "truth of sense-certainty."

What follows are revealing quotes from the first three chapters of Hegel's Phänomenologie, examined each in turn. We can see in several of them the whole future of Hegel's philosophy; but none concern themselves with the ostensible subject of the chapters, which was sense certainty, perception, and understanding. And by the end of it, we are already taken up into the "Infinite," whose description might be used to illustrate Kant's entire theory of "dialectical illusion."

Sensible singleness thus disappears in the dialectic process of immediate certainty, and becomes universality, but merely sensuous universality. The stage of "meaning" has vanished, and perceiving takes the object as it inherently is in itself, or, put generally, as a universal. [p.176]

Again, what we might expect as an examination of the nature of certainty in sense perception, or the nature of perception, has evaporated into the universality which Hegel regards as the only true reality. Here we are already in the second chapter, on perception, so this quote is a bit of retrospective, although the features of perception, mainly as involving a manifold of qualia or attributes, also evaporates into universality, with no attention to what Hume or Kant might have considered perception to be.

Another feature of this quote is Hegel's dismissal of "meaning," which he seems to do with some regularly, without meanwhile doing any examination of what meaning is. We can imagine the motivation for this, which is that, since meaning is distinct from the words that signify it, Hegel does not want to address such a distinction. If the Dialectic is ever to be distinguished from the words that embody it, it is a difference that is given short shrift by Hegel. Modern disputes about meaning, which may have begun with Frege and then become intense with the Positivists and in linguistics, correspond to nothing in Hegel.

This "healthy common sense," which takes itself to be the solid substantial type of conscious life, is, in its process of perception, merely the sport of these abstractions; it is always poorest where it means to be richest. In that it is tossed about by these unreal entities, bandied from one to the other, and by its sophistry endreavours to affirm and hold fast alternatively now one, then the exact opposite, it sets itself against the truth, and imagines philosophy has merely to do with "things of the intellect" (Gedandendinge), merely manipulates "ideas". As a matter of fact, philosophy does have to do with them, too, and knows them to be the pure essential entities, the absolute powers and ultimate elements... just as sense-certainty is unaware that its essence is the empty abstraction of pure being. [p.177, color added]

The "abstractions" that Hegel dismisses here he has listed as "singleness" and "universality," "essence" and the "non-essential," and "necessity" [p.176]. Since he seems to be referring to the "healthy common sense" of the British Empiricists, where we get "Common Sense" Scottish philosophy, it is apparently his own idea of what those philosophers talked about, since it leaves out most of what their philosophy actually was about, and certainly doesn't give any examples. It is ironic to find Hegel dismissing all of sensation and sentiment, the concern of the Empiricists, and saying that this is "always poorest" in comparison to the opaque and perplexing abstractions with which Hegel always concerns himself. And he seems to have missed the fact that philosophers like Berkeley and Hume denied that there were "abstract ideas" at all, where they always thought of "ideas" as sensible objects. But Hegel freely uses "abstract" and "concrete," often switching their reference (i.e. that individual existence is "abstract," while the Absolute Idea is "concrete"), without discussion of what they mean.

But the telling assertion in this passage, whether it is really about the British Empiricists or not, is that "ideas" are "the pure essential entities, the absolute powers and ultimate elements," a statement that involves metaphysical claims that we hardly see motivated at this point in Hegel's philosophy -- if ever. We also get a personification of "sense-certainty," which is evidently "unaware" of its own essence as "the empty abstraction of pure being," something any Empiricist would have found bewildering and absurd. But the personification of such a thing is, as I have noted, characteristic of the animism that drives Hegel's Dialectic.

That the universal is per se in undivided unity with this plurality means, however, that these elements are each where the other is; they mutually permeate one another -- without touching one another, because conversely, the manifold diversity is equally independent. Along with that, too, goes the fact that they are absolutely pervious and porous, or are cancelled and superseded. To be thus superseded, again, or the reduction of this diversity to bare and simple self-existence, is nothing else than the medium itself, and this is the independence of the different elements. In other words, the elements set up as independent pass directly over into their unity, and their unity directly into its explicit diversity, and the latter back once again into the reduction to unity. This process is what is called Force. [pp.182-183]

What we are apparently supposed to see here is something like a Kantian "transcendental deduction" of the concept of "force." However, nothing Hegel has said has anything to do with force, whether how this is conceived in physics or anywhere else -- and Hegel does fail to make any distinction between Newtonian force (F=ma) and some sort of other, metaphysical thing that he may mean. But this is characteristic of Hegel's thought, that concepts found in science are genuinely, and independently, to be derived from the Dialectic, without any discussion of what they even mean in science. And we will see later that he really does mean us to understand "force" as what is meant by it in physics.

Essential to this derivation is the personificaiton of the "elements" that Hegel is talking about, whatever they are, which then are able to "pass directly over" into unity, and then back to "explicit diversity," and back again "into the reduction to unity." This is a "process" characteristic of the conflation of logical derivation and physical events that is inherent in the Dialectic, for which the external physical world really doesn't exist and "logic" is the multiplication of logically self-contradictary paradoxes, animated by the Dialectic.

We also never really find out what the "medium" here is supposed to be.

In point of fact, however, force is the unconditioned universal, which is in itself just what it is for something else, or which holds difference within itself -- for difference is nothing else than existence-for-an-other. [p.183, color added]

"Unconditioned universal" is about the most explanation we ever get of what a force is, even though such a concept has nothing to do with any intelligible meaning of what a "force" might be. And, meanwhile, we could think that "existence-for-an-other" would involve some relation, reference, or interaction to or with another; but "difference" simply means that things are different, which is true of absolutely everything in some way or another. It doesn't help give any content to the meaning of "force."

Thus the process, which formerly took the shape of the self-negation of contradictory conceptions, here assumes objective form, and is a movement of force, that result of which is to bring out the "unconditioned universal" as something which is not objective -- which is the inner (unperceived) being of things. [pp.184-185]

If conceptions contradict each other, then there is a negation; but "self-negation" is not what one would call this. So Hegel is thinking of one thing, and indeed that is the "unconditioned universal," the "force," which we have seen, whatever it is. And this one thing this has flipped in some way, from being objective to being "not objective" and at the same time the "inner (unperceived) being of things." Sounds like that would still be "objective," if it is the genuine inner being of things. How Hegel's "force" constitutes the inner being of things remains to be seen -- if it ever is. But again in this passage, we get the animism of Hegel's Dialectic, where the "unconditioned universal" has changed its character through its own vital self-evolution. Perhaps next it will order room-service.

The notion of force rather maintains itself as the essence in its very actuality: force when actual exists wholly and only in its expression; and this, at the same time, is nothing else than a process of cancelling itself. This actual force, when represented as detached from its expression and existing by itself, is force driven back into itself; but this feature is itself, in point of fact, as appears from the foregoing, merely a moment in the expression of force. The true nature of force thus remains merely the thought or idea of force; the moments in its realization, its substantial independence and its process, rush, without let or hindrance, together into one single undivided unity, a unity which is not force withdrawn into itself (for this is merely one of those moments), but is its notion qua notion. The realization of force is, then, at the same time dissipation or loss of reality; it has thereby become something quite different, viz. this universality, which understanding knows from the start or immediately to be its essential nature, and which shows itself, too, to be the essence of it in what is supposed to be its reality, in the actual substances. [p.189]

As the narrator says at one point in Robert Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, this passage is something whose semantic content is low to negative. Hegel is talking about "force," and "force" is doing things like "cancelling itself," "driven back into itself," as part of the "expression of force." But, not to worry, "the true nature of force thus remains merely the thought or idea of force," which, after some kind of rush or motion, ends up as the "notion qua notion." The "force" realizes itself but then "at the same time" is dissipated and lost.

God knows what this is supposed to mean. Hegel does not tell us what he is talking about, but we can imagine that this is the Dialectic unfolding as the "universal and self-determining thought." We do get that it "shows itself" in "the actual substances," but Hegel, of course, has not discussed substances or told us what he means by them. In a world where "ideas" are "the pure essential entities, the absolute powers and ultimate elements," we might expect them to be the substances, but there is no telling.

This is in Hegel's chapter about "understanding," and he does add here that "understanding knows" these things, but then this reifies, personifies, and vitalized "understanding," leaving us to wonder what is doing this "understanding." It could be God, the Cosmic Overmind, Hegel, or perhaps the animated nature of the Dialectic itself. In any case, a sensible philosopher would not say that "understanding knows," without a context where we know was sort of thing is doing the understanding and the knowing. The most chartiable reading is that when I achieve the level of thought that is to be called "understanding," then this is what I will know:  notion qua notion. But Hegel's whole philosophy is actually that this process exists independently of the individual me.

...it is force, in the form in which, in its true being, force exists merely as object for understanding. The first would be force withdrawn into itself, i.e., force as substance; the second, however, is the inner being of things qua inner, which is one and same with the notion qua notion. [p.189]

Of course, if "force" is an object of understanding, we might like to understand it, for which Hegel is not much help here. But we are told that "force withdrawn into itself" becomes "force as substance," which would be more than a bit of surprise to Issac Newton. If force is mass times acceleration, then material substance is that to which force is applied, or that which, in relative motion, can apply a force. Whatever Hegel is saying here, it is nothing to do with that. But we do learn that the "inner being of things" is one and the same with the "notion qua notion," whatever that is supposed to mean.

Of course, earlier we learned that "the stage of 'meaning' has vanished," so perhaps all of this is, strictly speaking, "meaning-less."

This true being of things has here the characteristic that it does not exist immediately for consciousness; rather, consciousness takes up a mediated relation to the inner; in the form of understanding it looks through the intervening play of forces into the real and true background of things. The middle term combining the two extremes, understanding and the inner of things, is the explicitly evolved being of force, which is now and henceforth a vanishing process for understanding itself. Hence it is called Appearance (Erscheinung); for being which is per se straightway non-being we call a show, a semblance (Schein). It is, however, not merely a show, but appearance, a totality of seeming (Schein). This totality as totality or universal is what makes up the inner world, the play of forces in the sense of its relfection into itself. There consciousness has before itself in objective form the things of perception as they truly are, i.e. as moments turning, without half or separate subsistence, directly into their opposite, the "one" changing immediately into the universal, the essential becoming at once something unessential, and vice versa. This play of forces is consequently the development of the negative; but its true nature is the positive element, viz. the universal, the implicit object, the object existing per se. [p.190, color added]

Here Hegel introduces the concept of "Appearance" in the way he introduces other concepts, i.e. out of nowhere, with no evident relation to the surrounding discussion. "Force" has something to do with it, but all we can glean about it is that "force" represents the animism that Hegel attributes to the Dialectic -- the Dialectic that here is the "totality as totality or universal," where "in objective form the things of perception" turn "directly into their opposite." The "one" becomes "the universal," the "essential" the "inessential," and the whole "development of the negative" in which things contradict themselves, but always end up as "the universal." We might imagine that this involves changes over time, but then in physics we do not get a lot of things turning "directly into their opposite," so Hegel seems to be thinking of Presocrates who described the world as an alternative of opposites. Whatever the Presocrates tought was responsible for this, Hegel certainly sees the living Dialectic as responsible -- without any examples to pin down what he is talking about.

The translator of the Phenomenology, J. B. Baillie, prefaces chapter three with an introduction about how the chapter includes Hegel's critique of Kant. But Hegel never mentions Kant, and the only references to anything like Kantian philosophy are indirect and rely on Hegel's formulation of whatever he is talking about, without any attempt to explain a Kantian theory in its own terms. Thus, in the passage just considered, where we get the introduction of the concept of "Appearance," we may remember that this is a term in Kant, but then Hegel, who provides no real explanation for even his own use of the term, provides no background on what Kant meant by it, or how he used it.

The Hegelian, however, may derive from this passage, as Baillie does, the notion that Appearance and "the inner of things" are, out of all the negations, the same thing. Baillie produces an argument that Kantian "phenomena" and "noumena" are really the same because "Appearance" can only be the appearce of "noumena" [p.179]. Of course, this is a charitable reading of Hegel, who hardly seems to be saying this in any open way; and, at the same time, Kant would hardly disagree with the point.

Appearances are appearances of things, which otherwise have features, as things-in-themselves, that are hidden from appearance. This is true even in physics. Hegel would not have known the future, but perception alone did not reveal matter as it was later discovered to consist of atoms, molecules, sub-atomic particles, fields, four forces of nature, and all the other paraphernalia of modern physics and chemistry. What we could have demanded from Hegel, however, was the production of all these concepts directly form the Dialectic, whether they existed in 19th century science or not.

With Baillie, he seems unaware that the term "noumenon," although occurring in the Critique of Pure Reason, is a relic of Kant's Inaugural Dissertation, where its meaning, as the way things can be known apart from experience, is explicitly rejected in the Critique. Hegelians who misconstrue and misrepresent Kant is a phenomenon I have noted elsewhere.

The following couple of quotes can also be construed as part of the critique of Kant.

Within this inner truth, this absolute universal which has got rid of the opposition between universal and particular, and become the object of understanding, is a supersensible world which henceforth opens up as the true world, lying beyond the sensuous world which is the world of appearance. Away remote from the changing vanishing present (Diesseits) lies the permanent beyond (Jenseits): an immanent inherent reality (ein Ansich), which is the first and therefore imperfect manifestation of Reason, i.e. it is merely the pure element where the truth finds its abode and its essential being. [p.191]

Here we get the introduction of the idea of "Reason," which is supposedly embodied in the Dialectic, and by which Hegel might claim to be a Rationalist. However, a "Reason" that does not observe the Law of Non-Contradition is not Reason, but the purest sophistry. We might remember Aristotle's argument for this principle, and its version in modern logic, which is that, if a contradiction is true, then anything can be true. The Sophist relies on this, since he wants to be able to say anything.

What Hegel does, is to introduce his theory, which he might have made in a reasonable way, and claim that it is generated and justified by the "Dialectic," which is a higher form of logic and reason from that with which we are otherwise familiar, producing results that otherwise could not be obtained. It is a kind of trick that will be repeated, when the Logical Positivists claimed that their solutions to philosophical problems could be achieved by logic alone, when in fact there were multiple uncritical premises, like Verificationism, that had nothing to do with logic itself.

And here with Hegel, as we may be accustomed to by now, "Reason" is introduced without any explanation that would relate it to what anyone else might understand by "reason" in traditional language, whether of ordinary or philosophical discourse. Instead, "Reason" is introduced as a metaphysical entity, where the "inner truth" of an "absolute universal," whatever that is, somehow abolishes the "opposition between universal and particular" -- with the effect, of course, of merely abolishing the individual, who is to be erased by any means.

"Reason" is in the "supersensible" world, with whose nature we suppose Hegel must be intimately acquainted, but which nevertheless is "an immanent inherent reality." Of course, the "supersensible" reality is not something like what Plato or Christianity would expect. This turns out to be the same thing as "Appearance," which itself manfests "Reason" in the form historical realities like Napoleon, Hegel, and the Prussian State -- "The march of God in the world," as Hegel would say later. But this is the sort of passage, of speculative metaphysics disguised as "logic," that would leave Kant pulling his hair out, that his whole life's work was for nothing.

The inner world is so far for consciousness a bare and simple beyond, because consciousness does not as yet find itself in it. It is empty, for it is merely the nothingness of appearance, and positively the naked universal. This type of inwardness suits those who say that the inner being of things cannot be known. [pp.191-192]

One might wonder how appearance, which is the manifold and beauty of experience in the world amounts to "nothingness." But Hegel has never shown much interest in the world of experience, which Aristotle began with a comment on the delight brought to us by our senses:

All men naturally desire knowledge. An indication of this is our love [ἀγάπησις, "affection"; see here for ἀγάπη] for the senses; for apart from their use we esteem [ἀγαπῶνται, "are fond of, praise, desire"] them for the own sake, and most of all the sense of sight. [The Metaphysics, Book I.i.1, translated by Hugh Tredennick, Books I-IX, Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press, 1933-2003, p.3, glosses added; compare with Confucius at the beginning of the Analects]

Instead, Hegel has gone directly to the "naked universal," which is bizarrely given the character of "positively," when it is entirely an empty privation. But now we get a reference that is certainly to Kant, that he is someone who thinks "that the inner being of things cannot be known."

There are two sides to this. One is that Hegel provides a content to the "bare and simple beyond," when, in the next section of the Phänomenologie, consciousness will "find itself in it." Thus, the world beyond "Appearance" becomes for Hegel the place of "Reason" and "Spirit," Geist, itself. But there is no real dualism. The "Spirit" in the "beyond" turns out to be the very mundane political realities of this world. Hegel is intimately acquainted with all this because, after a fashion, he is it. The universe of Hegel's mind is itself the product, and an ultimate product, of the Dialectic, in which "the opposition between universal and particular" is abolished, so that the individual being, Georg Hegel, embodies the absolute universality of the Absolute Idea and the Absolute Spirit.

The other side to the question of the "inner being of things" is the falsehood of simply saying that Kant holds that this "cannot be known." Kant thought that our clue to the transcendent was the Moral Law. And our place in this, for each of us, is far more modest than the way Hegel sees himself. In each of us, the imperfections of our nature, the "Crooked Timber of Humanity," prevents us from achieving moral perfection. Thus we have an unavoidable dualism in the world, where phenomena are absolutely subject to the laws of nature, from which they cannot deviate, while the moral reality of our life is that, although morality makes an absolute demand on us, we can ignore it. The rationality of Nature is not optional; but the rationality of the Moral Law can be. That is the difference between determinism and freedom.

And here is the most profound practical difference between Kant and Hegel. To Hegel, the rationality of the actual is the same as the rationality of value. "Free" is what you are in the State, not what you are in yourself. If you deny the State, then you are "objectively" irrational.

What is found in this flux of thoroughgoing change is merely difference as universal difference, or difference into which the various opposites have been resolved. This difference as universal, consequently, is what constitutes the ultimate simple element in that play of forces, and is the resultant truth of that process. It is the Law of Force. [pp.194-195, color added]

Here again we find Hegel producing a concept, "Law," that he seems to think follows from the discussion just provided. Instead, we get no explanation of what a law is, except that metaphysically it is the "ultimate simple element in that play of forces" -- remembering that we never did really learn what a "Force" was. If "change is merely difference as universal difference," this doesn't even tell us what change is. So let's think about it. "Change" might be that things are different from one point in time to another. Was that so hard? Physical laws enable us to understand that change because, with a variable of time, we see that the rules, the equations, of physics produce different results when the variables, like time, become different. A law in general, whether physical, legal, or moral, similarly involves a rule into which certain variables are inserted. If a killing takes place with malice and forethought, it is capital murder. We don't get anything like this from Hegel, certainly not in the present text.

The unification of all laws, express both kinds of laws [i.e. motion in the heavans and on the earth]. The unification of all laws in universal attraction expresses no further content than just the bare concept of the law itself, a concept which is therein set down as existing. Universal attraction says merely that everything has a constant distinction for anything else. [p.198, color added]

Lest we think that Hegel understands physics well and has simply made profound metaphysical meta-comments about things like "force," presupposing the actual meaning in physics, we now arrive at the heart of Newtonian mechanics with gravity. Hegel's handle for this is that gravity is taken to apply to motion in the heavens as well as on the earth. Since Aristotle, the tendency was to see the motions of the planets as obeying laws very different from the motion of other things on the earth. But now Hegel's comment is that the unification of these laws "expresses no further content than just the bare concept of the law itself."

We might consider examining Newton's equation for gravity in light of this comment. Newton's equation looks like a lot more than "the bare concept of law itself." As it is. Also, we can imagine that many philosophers previously have thought "the bare concept of law itself," often thinking about it in relation to law or ethics, without being able to write an equation as Newton did, or develop the mathematics of calculus that made it possible to apply the equation.

But German philosophy has fallen far. Leibniz could have done the math; but there is no hint that Hegel has any conception either of the mathematics or the nature of physics involved with Newton's equation. Thus, the actual proof of the equation is that it works for both planetary motion and terrestrial motion. The Moon "falls" around the Earth, in exactly the same way that a cannonball or apple describe trajectories on Earth. But with Hegel, we get the idea that observation and experiment are unnecessary.

"Universal attraction says merely that everything has a constant distinction for anything else," whatever that means; but the conceptual leap made by Newton can be misconstrued by Hegel, who drops all empirical content out of the matter, along with the imagination that is necessary for novel scientific theories. All we end up with, as elsewhere, is "universal and self-determining thought," and "the bare concept of law itself" is generated directly by Hegel's Dialectic. Case closed.

In contrast, then, with determinate laws stands universal attraction, or the bare conception of law... But the pure conception of law transcends not merely the law, which, being itself a determinate law, stands contrasted with other determinate laws, but also transcends law as such. The determinateness, of which we spoke, is itself strictly a mere vanishing moment which can no longer come forward here as an esssential entity (Wesenheit), for it is only the law which is the truth here: but the conception of law is turned against the law itself. [p.197, color added]

In case we missed the point, we get it again. "Universal attraction" means Newton's equation, which is itself actually a "determinate law," contra Hegel, as much as anything else in physics. In fact, no "bare conception of law" is going to correspond to anything in science. Kant did not make this kind of mistake; and even in his ethics, which errs in trying to construe something like the Moral Law as no more than the form of lawfulness (which verges on Hegel's claim), nevertheless requires that this be applied to a "maxim" that embodies the circumstances of actual actions. Nor does he pretend that physics operates from no more than "the bare conception of law," although it does operate in terms of the Principle of Causality, which Hegel doesn't mention. Instead of continuing in this manner, to compromise the formalism of mere "law," as Kant did, Hegel reverses course and returns to something that "transcends law as such."

Continuing with that thought, Hegel decides that the "determinateness" of "determinate laws," which would include everything in phyiscs or ethics, is "itself strictly a vanishing moment" that is not even going to end up as "an essential entity." The law, meaning the empty form of a law, is alone "the truth here." But then we are warned that the "conception of law is turned against the law itself," which must mean that we are going to see some sort of Dialectical reversal or contradiction -- taking back, in effect, everything he has just said. But we never do get a proper appreciation, let alone a perspicacious discussion, of Newtonian physics.

Electricity qua simple force is indifferent to its law -- to be in the form of positive and negative; and if we call the former its notion and the latter its being, then its notion is indifferent to its being... [p.198]

Having covered himself with no glory for physics, Hegel decides he should say something about electricity. Since nobody really knew what electricity was -- a stream of electrons -- Hegel is not likely to say anything sensible about it. And he doesn't. As it happens, electric charge is not a "simple force," and it is certainly not "indifferent to its law." If there are laws of nature, they are not going to be about things that are "indifferent" to them.

Whatever Hegel thinks that positive or negative charge mean -- and he apparently has heard that a current through water will break it down into oxygen and hydrogen, which migrate to their respective electrodes -- they have nothing to do with calling "the former its notion and the latter its being." To say that one is "indifferent" to the other is bizarre when opposite charges attract. So, whatever Hegel means by "notion" or "being," his assignment of them to electrical charges is arbitrary and meaningless. Yet to Hegel, this assignment is the result of "logic," "dialectic," and, indeed, "Reason" itself. This should clue us in about Hegel's entire philosophy, as Popper has done with the passage he quotes above.

If it is represented as simple essence or as force, motion is no doubt gravity. [p.200]

Thank you, Professor Hegel. This may be the most meaningless statement I have considered here. Whatever we think about motion, and whether we conceive it as "simple essence or as force," when, of course, as such it isn't a force, although a moving mass has the momentum to apply a force, this tells us absolutely nothing about gravity. Yet Hegel presents this as some sort of inference or analysis. Gravity can induce motion, although, standing on the surface of the Earth, we are usually happier if it doesn't. My guess is that Hegel simply doesn't know what he is talking about, which is something we might end up saying about most of his book.

In other words, force has exactly the same constitution as law; both are thus declared to be in no way distinct. [p.201]

More nonsense. Since force in physics is F=ma, this is not "exactly the same constitution as law," where we might wonder what that is supposed to mean anyway. And the Newtonian law of force, F=ma, is definitely something different and distinct from law as such, if that is what Hegel is talking about (where we may not be able to tell).

By means of this principle, the first supersensible world, the changeless kingdom of laws, the immediate ectype and copy of the world of perception, has turned around into its opposite. The law was in general, like its differences, self-identical; now, however, it is established that each side is, on the contrary, the opposite of itself. The self-identical repels itself from itself, and the self-discordant sets up the selfsame...

This second supersensible world is in this way the inverted world (verkehrte Welt)... [p.203, color added]

I'm not sure what can be said about this passage. The "self-identical" is not going to be something that "repels itself from itself," and laws would not work if they were the opposites of themselves. But we do see the characteristic Hegelian personification and animism of abstractions here, which seems to be operating on Hegel's "supersensible world" as the changeless place of Platonic Forms, as the laws of nature, or of anything else. Since Hegel and the Dialectic operate with negations, the self-contradicting laws, which are thus "self-discordant," produce an entirely different "supersensible" world that is "inverted," i.e. the opposite of the first. Plato would probably find that puzzling. If we want to contradict laws, forces, or whatever Hegel is talking about, all we need are our own minds, not the cosmic Dialectic of Reason. What this is supposed to get us we (presumably) see in the next quote.

Thus the supersensible world, which is the inverted world, has at the same time reached out beyond the other world and has in itself that other; it is to itself conscious of being inverted (für sich verkehrte), i.e. it is the inverted form of itself; it is that world itself and its opposite in a single unity. Only thus is it distinction as internal distinction, or distinction per se; in other words, only thus is it in the form of Infinity. [p.207]

It is nice to see that the supersensible worlds are so active and conscious. A good workout. But contradictory, "inverted," worlds that become one, and so negate themselves, which somehow makes "distinction" into "internal distinction," or "distinction per se," turns out to be Hegel's sort of transcendental deduction of the concept of "Infinity," which, of course, has nothing to do with the discussion or derivation just offered.

So we see two characteristics of Hegel's thought here. One, the animism and personification of abstractions, and second, the leap to a new concept, presented as a derivation, or something generated by the Dialectic, when it is really just an arbitrary and incoherent stipulation. But, as a third characteristic, we also get this as an occasion and an excuse for a kind of metaphysical blastoff, which comes next.

This bare and simple infinity, or the absolute notion, may be called the ultimate nature of life, the soul of the world, the universal life-blood, which courses everywhere, and whose flow is neither disturbed nor checked by any obstruction that arises, as well as that into which all distinctions are dissolved; pulsating with itself, but ever motionless, shaken to its depths, but still at rest. [p.208, color added]

Now Hegel tells us how he really feels, even though the assertions here have nothing to do with the contents of the three chapters just completed. Previous, and subsequent, philosophers have been cautiously modest about infinity. It's too big for us to conceive. Not so Georg Hegel. He is perfectly comfortable with infinity, not to mention the unconditioned realities already mentioned, which Kant had always said would involve features that we cannot understand, like the infinite and unconditioned nature of God -- about which theologians like Thomas Aquinas were equally careful. And Hegel is not just comfortable, he is perfectly, carelessly acquainted with what infinity is like. We might see him just skipping and dancing off into the "supersensible."

We should savor the statements here. Infinity is "the ultimate nature of life," which would be surprising news to any biologist. Maybe Darwin should have considered that. Where the infinite is "the soul of the world, the universal life-blood, which courses everywhere," this is a lot to know about reality, certainly at this point in Hegel's system. We might have expected that sort of thing to come later, when Hegel gets to the "Absolute," the "Absolute Idea," the "Absolute Spirit," etc. But he just can't wait. It was obviously pounding to get out, "pulsating with itself," and he lets it out.

Having seen here how meaningless the Dialectic is as logic or reason, we should not be surprised at Hegel's outburst. He doesn't need the gibberish and paradoxes of the Dialectic. He knows what he wants already, and there is a metaphysical system there, a reactionary, dogmatic, and appalling one, that Hegel simply needs to hang on some kind of "justification." Hence the Dialectic.

But we might be reminded of something more serious. Baruch Spinoza was the "God intoxicated man," something that atheistic Spinoza enthusiasts would rather forget. Formally, Spinoza's God would be not that different from what Hegel says about the "bare and simple infinity" here. And, boy, if we want intoxication, here it is. Hegel may need a sobriety test. I not sure I even remember Spinoza himself quite so carried away. But Spinoza, indeed, is a much more sober and honest thinker, respected by Schopenhauer as much as by Hegel. But obviously for different reasons. We must respect Spinoza for his ordine geometrico demonstrata, whose logical rigor, and whose display of understanding of an axiomatic system, is entirely abandoned by Hegel. For which we cannot respect him.

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G.W.F. Hegel (1770-1831), Note 2

While the unreality of individuals has deep roots in the history of Western philosophy, there is another way of getting to Hegel's view more immediately. That is to start with Kant's phenomenalism.

The phenomenal world is empirically real to Kant, but phenomena are nevertheless appearances, these only exist in consciousness, and consciousness only exists because of the individual existence of conscious beings. The only thing that accounts for substantial and separable individuality in Kant, therefore, are things-in-themselves.

Hegel rejects things-in-themselves. With their disappearence, something must be done about the existence of consciousness, and Hegel's move is to have it exist independently and inter-subjectively in its own right. Consciousness transcends individual consciousness; it becomes "meta-consciousness," which is essentially what was the case in Neoplatonism. Traditionally this sort of doctrine has been known as "idealism," with Hegel's variety distinguished as "absolute idealism" to differentiate it from the "subjective idealism" of individual souls in someone like Berkeley. While Kant's views are sometimes associated with Berkeley, I have never heard of anyone ever making such a connection for Hegel.

The comfort of this view to modern trendy anti-individualism, whose dark purposes are moral and political more than metaphysical, is considerable. It is now common for people to say that individuality as such was "socially constructed" by people like Descartes, Hobbes, and Locke, for their own evil purposes of racism, sexism, capitalism, etc. The "natural," or at least previous, state of things, then, was communal, public, collective, and external. Since collectivism and the heteronomy of external authority are what the politically correct crowd wants, as did Hegel, their purposes and his again coincide in the ontological abolition of Kantian individual consciousness.

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