By Jacco Verburgt
These two publications are quite different in the range of topics covered. The first one concerns an extensive edited volume, based on the proceedings of an international conference held in Weimar 2012 and dedicated to the bicentenary of the first part of Hegel’s Science of Logic or the so-called Greater Logic (1812), containing contributions by both established and upcoming Hegel scholars. There are contributions by Hans Friedrich Fulda, Rolf-Peter Horstmann, Stephen Houlgate, Michael Wolff, Robert Pippin, Tommaso Pierini, Günter Kruck, Friedrike Schick, Claudia Wirsing, Folko Zander, Ralf Beuthan, Anton Friedrich Koch, Christian Martin, Elena Ficara, Angelica Nuzzo, Kai-Uwe Hoffmann, Brady Bowman, Weimin Shi, Christian Spahn, Pirmin Stekeler-Weithofer, Holger Hagen, Jean-François Kervegan, Klaus Vieweg, Michael Quante, and Angelika Kreß. Apart from a preface by the editors, a short cultural-historical introduction on Goethe and Hegel in Weimar by Vieweg, and Fulda’s article on Hegel’s conception of freedom, which seems to compensate for the absence of a thematic introduction to the volume, these contributions are grouped into the following sections:
First, there is a section entitled ‘Anfang und Methode der Logik’ (with contributions by Horstmann, Houlgate, Wolff, and Pippin); second, there are three sections on ‘Sujets der Logik’, namely regarding the ‘Seinslogik’ (contributions by Pierini, Kruck, and Schick), the ‘Wesenslogik’ (contributions by Wirsing, Zander, and Beuthan), and the ‘Begriffslogik’ (two chapters by Koch and Martin); and finally, there are four sections on ‘Aspekte der Logik’, namely ‘Logik, Metaphysik und Transzendentalphilosophie’ (with contributions by Ficara, Nuzzo, and Hoffmann), ‘Logik, Epistemologie und Sprachphilosophie’ (contributions by Bowman, Shi, Spahn, and Stekeler-Weithofer), ‘Logik und Philosophie des subjektiven und objektiven Geistes’ (Hagen, Kervegan, and Vieweg), and ‘Grundgedanken der Logik in neuen Kontexten’ (two chapters by Quante and Kreß). Thus, the volume offers a comprehensive overview of current Hegel research, especially of course on his Logic. It also includes a list of abbreviations, information on the authors, as well as an index of names, which is all obviously very useful.
By contrast, the second publication included in this review, by Folko Zander, who also contributes to the Meiner volume, concerns the trade version of a Ph.D. dissertation (Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena 2009), which offers a commentary on Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit (1807) focusing on the famous section on Lordship and Bondage (‘Selbständigkeit und Unselbständigkeit des Selbstbewusstseins; Herrschaft und Knechtschaft’) as part of the chapter on self-consciousness (‘Selbstbewusstsein’; ‘Die Wahrheit der Gewissheit seiner selbst’). Apart from an introduction and a conclusion, the commentary consists of three main parts, entitled ‘Die Erfahrung des Bewusstseins’, ‘Der Übergang zum Selbstbewusstsein’, and ‘Die Erfahrung des Selbstbewusstseins’—a tripartite structure that, according to the author, derives from Hegel’s methodical understanding (Methodenverständnis, p. 24) in the self-consciousness chapter of the Phenomenology. Thus, it constitutes a thoroughgoing commentary with a thematic and systematic approach, without in any way neglecting historical questions, as the bibliography also indicates. A (separate) list of abbreviations and an index—of names and subjects—would have been helpful though.
Despite these differences in topic and scope, however, both publications share and reflect—in various respects—the general concern that there are still quite a few important misunderstandings or misconceptions surrounding, or at least research desiderata concerning, Hegel’s methodology. For instance, according to the back cover blurb of Zander’s commentary, many present-day scholars seem to consider the doctrine of Lordship and Bondage to be the core of Hegel’s social philosophy (Sozialphilosophie), whereas Zander aims to show—and rightly so, I think—that these readings often do not take Hegel’s scientific method seriously enough. That is to say, if taken fully seriously, Hegel’s actual proof intention (“eigentliche Beweisabsicht”) will become clearer, according to Zander, namely to show that knowledge cannot be thought of otherwise than as self-determination (“Wissen lässt sich nicht anders denn als Selbstbestimmung denken”).
In the remainder of this review, I shall not recapitulate, let alone discuss in any detail, all the individual contributions of the Meiner volume, nor the different chapters or sections of Zander’s commentary. Instead, I want to dwell briefly upon some general issues regarding both Hegel’s philosophical and scientific methodology; these concern mostly well-known issues, or sets of related issues, but sometimes they are put in a somewhat different or surprising light by an author, more particularly, by four of the authors listed above; and I have allowed myself the freedom of quoting them in German more than once.
The first issue, or series of problems, concerns what one might call Hegel’s presentation of the philosophical method. In the introduction to his commentary, Folko Zander points out that there is no complete presentation (only a Vorverständigung) of the method in the Phenomenology, not even at the end of the book, as one might expect given Hegel’s view that a philosophical method worthy of the name can only prove or justify itself afterwards as fully appropriate, i.e., no longer being external or foreign to the object or subject matter at hand. The reason for this, Zander affirms, is that the Phenomenology functions as an introduction or introductory work to the true science, the science of Logic, so that it is only at the end of the Science of Logic, especially in the final chapter on ‘The Absolute Idea’, that there are indeed explicit reflections on the method. Zander writes:
Eine vollständige Darstellung der Methode kann nur […] am Ende des Werkes [i.e., the Phenomenology of Spirit] erfolgen, wenn der Logik der Sache erschöpfend nachgegangen worden ist, so dass die Methode vollständig sichtbar ist. Sie findet sich allerdings deswegen nicht am Ende der PhG [i.e., the Phenomenology of Spirit], weil dieses Werk ja als Einleitung in die eigentliche Wissenschaft dienen soll, der Wissenschaft, die sich mit dem Denken beschäftigt (oder, um genauer zu sein, in der sich das Denken mit dem Denken beschäftigt). […] Am Ende der Wissenschaft der Logik, im Kapitel über „Die absolute Idee“, finden sich dann auch tatsächlich Reflexionen über die Methode. Sonach war Hegel offenbar der Ansicht, dass die gerechtfertigte Wissenschaft an ihr Ende gekommen ist. (p. 18–19)
In the same paragraph, however, Zander stresses that one should not underestimate the importance of the Phenomenology. If it would fail to fulfil its introductory function, namely clearing and entering the way to (the meth-odos) the scientific standpoint, the science of Logic would loose its legitimation as the one true science (“als einzig wahre Wissenschaft”, p. 18) from the outset. In his conclusion, Zander asserts in the same vein that one should not overemphasise the introductory character of the Phenomenology, for instance by suggesting that the text is caught in a mere “circle” (p. 222n.191) because it already presupposed or anticipated the logical validity of its categories. (Quite the contrary, or so Zander claims: “Die Kategorien, die in der PhG entwickelt werden, werden nicht vorgreifend verwendet, sie sind voll in Geltung, da es ebendieselben spekulativen Kategorien der Wissenschaft der Logik sind, nur hier erscheinenden Gestalten inhärierend”; ibidem). Instead, Zander’s final suggestion seems to be that the relation between Logic and Phenomenology can be understood as sufficiently similar (“ähnlich genug”, p. 223) or analogous (“analog”, p.226) to the relation between self-consciousness and consciousness, as discussed in his commentary, thus implying that the Phenomenology (“das erscheinende Wissen”) is to a certain extent retained in the Logic (“das reine Denken”), namely retained in the sense of being “aufgehoben” (esp. pp. 226–7), just as consciousness is retained, overcome and revitalised, in the genesis of self-consciousness (cf. pp. 223–7).
Clearly, there is an ongoing debate on the issue of the precise nature of the relation between the Phenomenology and the Logic, not least because there are different possible perspectives on this relation—that is, across Hegel’s various writings. In his very interesting article, entitled ‘Der Anfang vor dem Anfang. Zum Verhältnis der Logik zur Phänomenologie des Geistes’, Rolf-Peter Horstmann discusses two main perspectives, namely (1) the perspective of the Phenomenology and (2) the perspective of the Logic (involving not only the Greater Logic, of course, but the Encyclopaedic or so-called Lesser Logic too); in addition, at the end of his article, he also mentions (3) the perspective of the Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences in Basic Outline (1817) as the overall presentation of the system.
Basically, Horstmann emphasises, unlike or at least more forcefully than Zander, that there is no direct link between, on the one hand, the project and aim of the Phenomenology, namely showing the way to reach the standpoint of science or the system of science, and, on the other, the standpoint of logic (as part of this system). Horstmann says:
Zusammenfassend lässt sich […] sagen, dass Hegel von keinen der beiden Standpunkte [perspectives 1 and 2 mentioned above] aus gesehen Anlass gehabt hat, das Verhältniss von Phänomenologie und Logik als besonders problematisch anzusehen […] schon und vor allem deshalb nicht, weil er offensichtlich Phänomenologie und Logik gar nicht direkt auf einander beziehen, sondern einen direkten Bezug nur zwischen Phänomenologie und dem System der Wissenschaft herstellen wollte. Dass die Logik dessen ersten Teil darstellt, macht sie nicht zum einleitungs- und hinführungswürdigen Gegenstand—es ist vielmehr ›die Wissenschaft‹, die der Einleitung oder Hinführung bedarf. (pp. 56–7)
Two of Horstmann’s further comments are particularly instructive here. On the one hand, he signals that Hegel’s notorious statement in the Science of Logic that, in the Phenomenology, he offered “an example of this [the searched for true scientific] method in application to a more concrete object, [namely] to consciousness” (GW 10:24) does not exclude that this ‘example of the method’ still fulfils its function in terms of justifying, not the specific standpoint of logic, but precisely the standpoint of science in general—an observation which also seems to be in accordance with an equally notorious statement from the Introduction to the Phenomenology, namely that the “way to science is already science” (GW 9:80). On the other hand, however, Horstmann adds that there are reasons why Hegel, after the publication of (the second volume of) the Science of Logic (that is, after 1816), seems to have abandoned the Phenomenology project altogether. These reasons relate to Hegel’s conception of the Encyclopaedia as an overall presentation of the philosophical system, since this presentation operates on the assumption of having fully adopted the scientific standpoint and, therefore, leaves no more room for integrating the Phenomenology as what Horstmann calls an independent approach (“eine eigenständige Betrachtung”, p. 57). Obviously, much more could be said here, especially about the exact manner in which central themes from the Phenomenology reappear in Hegel’s conception of the system after 1816, as Horstmann points out. One thing seems to be clear though: these themes reappear, if at all, from within the methodical framework of this (later) conception of the encyclopaedic system (including, of course, its different versions from 1827 and 1830).
A third issue concerns the notion of ‘dialectic’ (Dialektik), which is still quite widely viewed as the proper or privileged term to label Hegel’s philosophical method. However, in Hegel’s original writings, there is nowhere an explicit mention of ‘dialectical method’ or dialectics as method, according to Michael Wolff at the beginning of his outstanding article (p. 71, also footnotes 1 and 2), entitled ‘Hegels Dialektik—eine Methode? Zu Hegels Ansichten von der Form einer philosophischen Wissenschaft’. Instead of using the term ‘dialectic’ or ‘dialectics’, Hegel employs other terminologies, notably in his Logic, to refer to the proper method belonging to philosophy as speculative science, such as ‘true method of the philosophical science’, ‘speculative method’ or ‘absolute method’, or simply, and mostly, ‘scientific method’.
There is of course a relation between ‘dialectics’ and ‘method’, even a rather close one, as Wolff tries to show, but it would be mistaken and misleading to fully identify, or conflate, the two. In his reading, therefore, Hegel describes “die Methode der Logik als (Wissen von der) Form der Bewegung ihres Inhalts”, whereas he delineates “die Dialektik als den Grund dieser Bewegung” (p. 74). Or in other words, the true method of philosophical science concerns “das (gewußte) Wie […] der Entwicklung des logischen Inhalts” (pp. 74 and 76), perhaps most notably presented and explicated in the aforementioned final chapter of the Science of Logic. By contrast, Wolff argues, the notion of dialectics denotes an element or rather a principle of self-development (Selbstenwicklung), self-movement (Selbstbewegung) or self-organisation (Selbstorganisation), which determines or codetermines the progress of speculative science (pp. 74, 86 et passim). That is to say, the method of speculative science rests on, or dwells in, an “elementary” (grundlegend) though “not sufficient” (nicht hinreichend) principle (p. 82 and also p. 83), which Hegel calls “the dialectical”, meaning one of the three sides or moments of “the logical” (cf. e.g. his following assertion: “Das Logische hat der Form nach drei Seiten: α) die abstrakte oder verständige, β) die dialektische oder negativ-vernünftige, γ) die spekulative oder positiv-vernünftige”; GW 20:118 and 13:24). To be sure, Hegel does not consider “the dialectical” to be one side or moment of the philosophical method (cf. p. 76). Quite the contrary, the philosophical method is a “method, which lives in the dialectical” (“die im Dialektischen lebt”, GW 11:27 and 21:41), to quote a phrase Wolff highlights in his article (esp. pp. 73 and 86).
Much more could of course be said about all this, but one crucial point should not be overlooked here, namely, that it would be thoroughly mistaken and misleading to analyse or interpret Hegel’s method in terms of the standard, current and prevailing, conception of method, according to which a method is “something […] that must already be known and accepted before a justified use is made of it” (p. 86; see also pp. 83–4), as Wolff rightfully remarks.
A final series of issues relates to Hans Friedrich Fulda’s quite extraordinary and inspiring article, entitled ‘Der eine Begriff als das Freie und die Manifestationen der Freiheit des Geistes’. At first glance, or seen out of context, this title may sound rather surprising, especially perhaps the first part of it. What, indeed, does the logical notion of Begriff (itself already extremely difficult to grasp and also to translate into English) have to do with freedom, commonly viewed as something essentially practical or largely a matter of practical reason in the Kantian sense? And even when one is familiar with the importance of the concept of freedom in Hegel’s Logic, including the dictum “Der Begriff ist das Freie” (e.g. Encyclopaedia, §160), what does this concept mean or imply exactly? What, for instance, does it imply methodically?—Obviously, it is impossible to discuss Fulda’s account of Hegel’s logical and foundational conception of freedom in any detail here. Instead, I simply want to draw some attention to one key formulation. It reads as follows: “Der rein logische Begriff ist schon als einer, der sich zu sich selbst befreit hat, exemplarisch das Freie” (p. 19). With this concise formulation Fulda seems to capture at least two valuable and perhaps not immediately obvious insights into Hegel’s methodology.
The first one involves an insight into what one might call the ‘history of philosophy context’. Fulda aims to show that Hegel’s logical conception of freedom is a highly original, complex and layered one, not to be identified with a purely practical consciousness or self-consciousness in the Kantian or Fichtean sense, nor with the various concepts or conceptual oppositions (such as necessity versus freedom) of traditional metaphysics. Rather, Hegel’s alternative conception constitutes, already in this context, an attempt to liberate itself, by way of an immanent critique or refutation, from all of these views by correcting, subordinating, grounding and preserving them in terms of a higher and ultimate perspective, which is the perspective of Logic, especially that of the so-called Begriffslogik. Consider the following quote:
In dieser die ›Logik‹ als erste und letzte Wissenschaft thematisierenden Perspektive ist der eine, rein logische Begriff schon insofern das Freie, als er von der Dominanz sowie universellen Grundlegungsfunktion der Bestimmungen sowohl vormaliger Metaphysik und ihrer Erkenntnisvoraussetzungen als auch spezifischer Erkenntnisvoraussetzungen der Transzendentalphilosophie befreit ist […]. (p. 17)
The second insight seems to go one step further. It involves an insight into the nature of what one might call the subject of this process of liberation. Ultimately, according Fulda, one has to admit that this subject cannot be, say, some moral (self-)consciousness of an ‘I’, but must be the Begriff itself, so that “der eine, reine Begriff selber befreie sich zu sich selbst” (p. 19). In other words, the liberation process not merely concerns a liberation from the philosophical tradition, certainly not in the sense of eliminating it, but rather a liberation with respect to itself, a thoroughly mediated self-liberation or self-releasing (cf. p. 22 et passim; and GW 12:253), in which the tradition is assessed in a novel manner, that is, corrected, subordinated, grounded, and preserved. In addition, it is important to underline that this whole process involves, at every level, some form of cognition or knowledge (Erkennen), that is, self-knowledge, both philosophical and scientific self-knowledge; and this process is of course intrinsically methodical, it is itself the method, that is, the way to bring forth freedom. Fulda quotes the following phrase from the final pages of the Encyclopaedia: “Science appears as a subjective cognizing (Erkennen), whose goal is freedom and which is itself the way to bring forth this same [freedom]” (Encyclopaedia, §576; GW 20:570; trans. mine). In this sense, one might add, the dictum “Der Begriff ist das Freie” from the very beginning of the Encyclopaedia’s ‘Lehre vom Begriff’ (§160, see above) not only implies a process of liberating self-knowledge, but as such reflects, in nuce, the nature of Hegel’s logical-scientific methodology.
Let me close by stressing that both the Meiner volume and Zander’s commentary contain many impulses to further research and are highly recommended, especially for scholars with a systematic interest in Hegel’s philosophy, if by ‘systematic interest’ is in no way meant the exclusion or neglect of the historical, or abstractly opposing the systematic to the historical, or ideologically playing them off against each other, as is too often the case in present-day academic philosophy.
© Jacco Verburgt, 2016.
Jacco Verburgt specialises in, and publishes on, Kant and German Idealism, Neo-Kantianism, phenomenology as well as medieval philosophy (esp. Aquinas), and more recently Wagner’s theoretical writings. He obtained his MA in Philosophy from the University of Leuven, Belgium and his Ph.D. in Philosophy & Classical Theology from the University of Amsterdam, on a comparative study of Kant, Heidegger and Karl Barth on radical evil. He was Assistant Professor of the History of Philosophy at the Department of Philosophy of the VU University Amsterdam from 2006 until 2012 and has taught at various other universities in the Netherlands before and since, lastly at the Department of Humanities of the Amsterdam University College.