Monday, May 2, 2011

Hegel: The Phenomenology of Spirit

Read the whole preface
text available at:
Journals due on May 8.

Guidance questions
1. What's the commonness and difference between Hegel and Kant regarding scientific knowledge?
2. How do you understand the statement: "subject is pure and simple negativity" (Φ 18)?


  1. In The Phenomenology of Spirit I appreciate his “non-preface” explaining not how to examine his work, but the reason people study philosophy and search for truth in text and in life. Hegel states “The beginning of mental cultivation will, however, very soon make way for the earnestness of actual life in all its fullness, which leads to a living experience of the subject-matter itself’.I have inclination for this statement because I did not truly understand why I was studying philosophy. However, now I see that once we find the real truth in a treatises, and live that particular philosophy out in our daily lives it can be a truly satisfying life.

    Hegel’s The Phenomenology of the Spirit is a critique on Kant. However, some of Hegel’s concepts are similar to Kant. Both of the philosophers have similar goals to give a description of reality and consider philosophy to be a science. One of the similarities in the two different texts is the mind will descend into contradictions when thinking about reality in terms of space and time for Kant and the spirit for Hegel. Hegel perceived that truth needed to be proved through hierarchy categories and systematic development. Also, I believe Kant and Hegel use the idea of intuition as a sort of knowledge that is not perceived but understood. Not only that, but is something that develops through experience and through the innate in all of us. The 2 philosophers also believe that reality is just perception.However, The Phenomenology is a critique of Kant and has many differences including Hegel’s belief that the subconscious mind mourns it loss of the concrete life, is evil (would that make it the ego), and looks to philosophy to explain itself and solidify the good in life. He explains that the quest for truth in life and philosophy is not to bring insight to life, but educate one about life. It is not about the subject and the predicate as Kant uses as examples but the enthusiasm for a divine life. So Kant believes it is about the content and Hegel believes it is about the drive.

  2. A subject, in the sense of “pure and simple negativity”, is something which perpetually shifts from one position to another opposing position. The shift creates an other subject which is in opposition to the the former and negates the two. Without the action of the first, the second cannot come into fruition, and the polarizing nature of the subjects dictate the basis of the existence of the two, which is to create that negation. Therefore neither subject is capable of acting independently of each other when they emerge. The preceding process is the manner in which reality is played out consistently played out, and this negation is necessary for the discovery of truth.

  3. I thoroughly enjoyed this reading, but of course, that doesn’t mean I understood all of it. I liked how Hegel broke down each subject he discussed and especially about the conscious – meaning, perception and understanding, respectively.
    I feel as though Hegel analysis and conclusions made much more sense than Kant. And I believe Hegel’s approach in this work was the most modern we’ve seen so far. Hegel sees that there is some instability in knowledge. With Kant however, he believes we are grouped into one form of reality and all the other “instabilities” or things he couldn’t really find a truth or a reason for… he called it X, and that was in its own little world outside of our reality. I liked how Hegel put the unknowns and the ‘things in themselves’ or X, all in one group or reality with our own.
    I did not understand his idea of the ultimate or absolute knowledge as he called it, but I somewhat understood what Hegel was coming from with his section of the ‘Self-consciousness’. I liked how he pointed out that ‘Self-consciousness is thus the awareness of another’s awareness of oneself” and the story he added with the lord and his servant was interesting, which means I did not really like it all that much. First, I was not sure if it was the lord who was self-conscious or the servant. I’m guessing it was the servant because he is the one who has something to lose. I do not understand why the servant was self conscious of his lord’s feelings about him, and he was doing the best to show his lord that he was a being instead of an object…Hegel was during the late 18th century, early 19th… and servants were just servants. I suppose I just do not understand the point of the anecdote of the servant proving something to his master. It, to me, sounds unconceivable.

  4. I didn't enjoyed this story as much as i thought i would. What's the commonness and difference between Hegel and Kant regarding scientific knowledge? Kant's Theory of Knowledge was to unify Rationalism and Empiricism that is, to show how (scientific) knowledge is possible, and how both reason and experience contribute to that knowledge. He also To refute the skepticism of Hume who claimed that experience (and reason for the matter) is extremely limited in what kind of knowledge it can provide.Hegel was every hard to understand seem to talk a lot about god and space and time.What they had in comment is that same idea, what was different is they want about in different ways. subject is pure and simple negativity" I guess what he was trying to say is that is if one thinks negatived them it is.

  5. From my limited wikipedia readings on the Lacanian idea of the double bind I can see an obvious origin in the Hegelian idea of subject and the pure and negative opposition. Lacan stated that we have an enjoyment capacity that is limited so we consistently push through to something greater than pleasure which inevitably leads to pain in pleasure. That is my life in a nutshell. Wanting something and feeling tremendous guilt for wanting. I use to think this feeling was a product of my Catholic upbringing but now I'm convinced it is hard wired into our social programming. The reason for this hard wiring befuddles me and only underlines the general contradictions we find in modern life. Hegel to me and perhaps to no one else was pulling back the lid on the inevitable contradictions we find in our lives. Did I totally miss the point on this subject? I mean the idea of self- restoring sameness could be the title of almost everyone's theoretical autobiography.

  6. Hegel and Kant have a thing in common, that they both highly value scientific knolwdge. Both of them try to define it and explain it in their own ways, which differ. Kant was mostly focused on giving scientific knowledge a disection explaining it in the basis of Rationalism and Empiricism. Hegel, on the other hand explains true knowledge as " A self having knowledge purely of itself in the absolute antithesis of itself, this pure ether as such, is the very soil where science flourishes, is knowledge in universal form."

    I believe that in the statement: "subject is pure and simple negativity" (Φ 18) Hegel wants to express that because the subject is a living being the ways it presents itself vary on a regular basis, having opposites and everchanging. Therefore, the pure and simple negativity evolves from the fact that there is nothing for certain when the subject of study or analisis is a true subjects (living).

  7. I think its weird that he wants to acquire a method for universal truth, because if truth is true, it doesnt need a scientific method in my opinion. See, usually scientists use the scientific method to prove something but it doesn't necessarily validate it, what makes a theory is thousands of experiments carried out with the same result, and even theories are not exactly truth. Truth is not as complicated as people want to make it out to be. I think, its common sense, and simple, and for that reason, doesn't need a "method" to it. I think reasoning is the only thing that we can use to acquire truths, whether these truths are of good or bad, they are still truths and the truth is yet a pursuit of something greater than abstractions which cant be systemized into our understanding of them. That's why we have religion to fill up the moral gap, but even then, its not enough. systemized or "organized" religion is not enough to make people believe certain things, which it seeks to explain.

    The contraction I find is that if truth is a matter of intuitive reasoning at a higher level of understanding, than it shouldn't be "systemized" or simplified to the extent of our observation and thus detract from our sense of intuition.

    I agree with Hegel that truths can be based intuitively by our feelings. We can even lie to ourselves at times about them merely to make other people happy. For example, if there is someone you want but "cant have" because there are too many people involved who could get hurt, you tell your friends "I don't want him or her like that..." just to make them like you again and not cause complications among you. Even as you say a lie convincingly you'll realize over time you do it to protect others from the truth, in which you are being ironically wise. Because if such a thing as love can tear a group of people apart it is best to just maintain the proper bonds of friendship than to risk losing them. For the sake of being loved by the many you can turn your face from truth, but you can only see this with time.

    I think truth is variable, because people wear masks. They speak "truths" to try to convince others with the knowledge that they don't mean what they say and every thing that they say is marked by other factors such as fear.

    Self-truths and the universal truths are different becuase if one was to act by universal means the world wouldn't be so messed up. We'd all be honest bloaks who everyone hates. The truth does hurt and even the most honest people have to mask it to accept the bad in the world and believe that not everything exists in pure form. In that sense, we are all alloys of good and bad, not knowing whether our actions will have a good effect or not.