The Hegel web site and it’s mailing lists exists for the discussion of all aspects of the philosophy of G.W.F. Hegel.
Its primary goal is to help students of philosophy (both outside and within academic studies) understand Hegel’s method of thought.
It is also intended to support the project of relating Hegel’s philosophy with modern advancements in science and philosophy. Its secondary goal therefore is to bring about a comparative analysis of Hegelian thought and (post-)modern philosophy and science.
About the usefulness of Hegelian Philosophy
The right to existence of a school in philosophical thought is ultimately derived from life itself. Hegelian philosophy must explain its right of existence, which proves that it is in the defensive. From the perspective of our (post-)modern era Hegel’s philosophy looks like a final outburst of metaphysical, rationalist thought. The proper mood of philosophy for our time is more likely to be something like “hermeneutics” or deconstructionism”.
We are not convinced however, that post-modern philosophy is up to the task. We still find value in Hegel’s program of philosophy. Hegel wanted a scientific form of philosophy in which our own culture and history could be fully understood and expressed.
It’s all about understanding
To express the reality of our culture and history in harmony with the way we understand ourselves as cultural and historical beings, Hegel accepted the great principle of Greek antiquity: Know Thyself, as an adequate though yet undeveloped expression of the goal of philosophy. To know history and culture, to understand the development of philosophy and theology is equal to understanding oneself.
The superiority of this method of thinking shows itself in its ability to encompass other forms of philosophical method (see also 2).
We do not take this superiority for granted however. Besides, there are many elements in Hegel’s method still to be cleared up and perhaps even in need of correction by developments in 20th century philosophy. So in principle we still need to show that other forms of philosophical method are contained in Hegel’s dialectical method. That will be part of our task here (See also 4-8).
2.0. Approach to Hegel
2.1. Hegel’s system aims to sublate (see http://www.hegel.net/general/dict/sublation.htm) all other systems in it, so to include within itself all that is rational and good within other sciences, philosophies, religions and so on. (This is a consequences of Hegel’s insight that the unlimited, infinite and eternal must include the limited, finite and non-eternal in order to avoid being limited by the finite).
2.2. Hegel’s logic gives us the means to achieve this sublation, as it allows us to focus our view on a theory’s preconditions themselves, so we can explore them and cross their boundaries.
2.3. Hegel radically avoids all one-sideness and dualism. Consequently this implies the importance of avoiding the “dualistic trap” in all applied dualism e.g. materialism vs. idealism etc. Any such dualism can and should be solved along the principle 2.1. with the help of 2.2.
The task we set today is to understand Hegel and on that basis come to an understanding of our post-Hegelian culture and history. We should strive to incorporate new material into Hegel’s system. This may also involve ideas wherein Hegel may have erred or didn’t have access to enough information. With the spread and expansion of Hegel’s system and thinking, we believe we respond to a need of our time. Post-modern thought has run its course and new paradigms are being sought to understand the complex nature of a world-culture that transcends nationalities and the bariers between scientific disciplines.
Hegelian philosophy will be our foundation for the following:
interdisciplinary work, including work in the humanities, insofar as Hegel’s system provides a rational foundation for a complete System of science or presents basic principles for an aproach in science that can be termed “holistic” and not limited to partial visions of truth.
a new dialogue where prevailing and fixed theories, doctrines and dogmatic worldviews can be confronted with different cultures, religions, sciences, politics and unorthodox or heretical ideas.
This allows a real dialogue between cultures and religions in the time of globalisation and the modern “clash of civilizations”. Hegel’s system offers not only philosophies of logic, science, art and culture that can be improved upon, it also offers a complete framework for a dialogue. It also offers a means to overcome boundaries and to enter in a mutually meaningful dialogue, instead of a one-sided, downward monologue.
4.0. How to Read Hegel together: a communal discipline
Every scientific effort needs a foundation in a social community. We need to work together. The problems that face us in constituting this community thorugh the internet, where people remain relatively anonymous to each other, time is limited, and misunderstanding are as commoin as the flu, seem insuperable. Yet, if we can live up to a few rules, we might just manage it. Our attempt to understand Hegel as he wanted to be understood, is at least worth our joint effort.
The following contains some of the possible elements of a communal discipline in commenting and discussing Hegel’s thought. It is an attempt to formulate the necessary preconditions of a joint labor.
4.1. German scholars today use philology (linguistics) to approach Hegel’s works. They also research Hegel’s biographical and historical situation in life. They also are concerned with the interpretation of his work (e.g. Meiner Verlag, Hamburg and Fromann-Holzboog, Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt).
We should collect, read and examine: (i) Hegel’s writings; (ii) writings of the Hegelians after him; and (iii) the secondary literature written about these. One on-going, incremental result of this should be a commented list of works and persons worth studying most, in order to ensure a scientific standard, to avoid “re-inventing the wheel” and to build on the best results of the past. Another result should be an identification of existing differences, problems and gaps, to address them so that we can contribute to progress in Hegel studies.
4.2. Careful studies of Hegel’s texts and lectures (especially of the late Hegel of the Nuremberg, Heidelberg and Berlin periods) will be the basic staple of activity.
We will carefully look at these original texts, word by word, sentence by sentence. Any doubt should be referred to the German original text. If a text seems too lengthy, complicated or otherwise difficult to understand, we will clarify the logical and grammatical structure of each sentence and its proper pronunciation.
Adriaan Peperzak demonstrates how to show logical relations between parts of Hegel’s sentences in his work, “Hegels praktische Philosophie”.
Hegel.Net contributors Martin Grimmsmann and Lutz Hansen have shown how to make Hegel’s text clearer by correct pronunciation in their Hegel audio tapes as well as by the appropriate colouring of words and line breaks in their excellent (but mainly German) on-line presence at http://Hegel-System.de (now part of hegel.net).
We know from the study of sacred texts like the Bible and other applications of hermeneutical science, that it may be insufficient to merely read the original text because differences arise regarding how to understand that text correctly. (Hegel wrote about this in the Foreword of his Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion.)
Therefore, some basic guidelines on how to read Hegel’s text might be appropriate:
4.2.1. When we study Hegel, we will not judge him merely externally, on the basis of whether or not he meets our personal expectations and judgements.
In a rational approach, whenever we discuss a philosophical text, our own judgements should be at least as much in dispute as those of the philosopher.
More, we will first begin by giving Hegel the benefit of the doubt, and so we first make efforts to ensure that we have not misunderstood.
4.2.2. We have no wish to simply take Hegel’s word for anything at all, but we seek always to understand Hegel’s words, why he said something, what he really said, and what his implicit and explicit arguments were.
We believe this is the best way to know the truth and limitation of Hegel’s system. We seek to reconsider our current evaluations regarding why Hegel said something, to ensure we have more than just part, or a less important part, of the whole picture.
4.2.3. In order to understand Hegel’s arguments, we need to take into consideration four aspects:
arguments Hegel gives in the text
arguments given by Hegel in similar texts
a discussion of Hegel’s topic in the science and philosophy of his time and in the history before Hegel
the role a given topic has in Hegel’s system, to account for topics in similar roles in other places of the system.
To provide a satisfying interpretation we aim to address the unity of these four aspects.
Where different arguments are given, we will try to show their relation.
4.2.4. In order to achieve (4.2.3.d), participants must familiarize themselves not only with a partial aspect of Hegel’s system, but obtain at least an overview of the whole system (e.g. at minimum the ‘Encyclopedia’) and seek to study all relevant parts of the system, from the ‘Science of Logic’; to the lectures on history, fine arts, religion and philosophy.
4.2.5. We wish to phrase our findings in words that are easy to understand, and to track any problems we find as either our errors in understanding Hegel’s text or as problems to address by applying 4.1 and 4.2 above.
This will help ensure that all such problems are cumulatively recorded to better support future students.
4.2.6. Since several different interpretations of Hegel’s philosophy do exist, even among the best Hegel scholars, we seek to avoid the idea that one interpretation is totally exclusive of the others.
We seek, like Hegel, to find the grains of truth and the limitations in all interpretations, so to incorporate what is rational in them and sublate pluralism.
5.0. Encyclopedic Knowledge
Insofar as Hegel’s system is the system of sciences, the system of Knowledge, we better understand the world by studying Hegel’s philosophy. However, as a corollary, we will also better understand Hegel’s philosophy (and avoid dogmatism) when we study the world.
We seek Encyclopedic understanding of the world and aim for the content of all major sciences in a General Study, including: mathematics, astronomy, physics, chemistry, earth sciences (geology, meteorology), biology (evolution theory, ecology), anthropology, ethnology, psychology, law, ethics, population science, sociology, economics, political science, foreign affairs, world history, philosophy of art (architecture, sculpture, music, painting, literature), comparative religion, theology and the history of philosophy.
Besides the basic concepts and content of these sciences, we seek to understand all possible connections of these sciences to each other, as well as the deepest meanings of their axioms, methods and concepts.
To do this we must also have in our library:
- the best scientists discussing the foundations of their sciences
- Fruitful, unorthodox scientists and criticisms of prevailing theories, “facts” that do not fit well into these theories (to uncover blind spots and limitations)
- The history of a science, its rise and development of concepts and theories, the need for its existence, competing theories, older explanations, older variations of the theory and why and how it was perfected.
We might also compile lists of relevant books and authors on these subjects as well as list of problems and holes here.
6.0. Program for the Study of Hegel
The various sections of Hegel’s system to focus upon for study and improvement may be outlined as follows:
6.1. Within Hegelians writings:
- when we gain a better understanding of it
- when Hegel has a better argument in one place than in another
- when an implicit idea in Hegel’s exposition can be made explicit
- when we find a problem and can solve it
- when a Hegelian after Hegel has a better solution or addresses such a problem
6.2. In or Before Hegel’s times:
Philosophies, religions, arts, sciences and so on, or parts of them that Hegel may not have fully sublated, perhaps because of lack of knowledge (e.g. Hegel has not dealt with all artists, philosophers, religions, for example, a recent Hegel Congress indicated Hegel did not handle Buddhism adequately)
6.3. In Hegel’s School:
What was incorporated or corrected in the writings of Hegelians at Hegel’s time and after Hegel?
6.4. After Hegel, independent of Hegel’s School:
All relevant development after Hegel’s death should be incorporated into his system.
Wherever Hegel’s system becomes accepted as an important system of science, these topics will belong not only to Hegel but also to the perception of the scientists involved, and many more questions will arise by applying Hegel’s system to all parts of all sciences.
Also, by opening Hegel’s system to the world, and opening the world of science to Hegel’s theories, current questions like the creation of the Cosmos, the end of the Cosmos, or a unifying theory of the Cosmos and many other theories might also take into account Hegel’s new approach to logic.
6.5. To approach specific areas of Hegel’s system some examples are offered below. (Several more questions, presented more systematically, are asked in Vittorio Hoesle’s German book, ‘Hegels System’. The following questions are preliminary, to establish a starting point):
The logic as given by Hegel is new and exceptionally rich in ideas. Some areas of possible improvement might be:
- The history of philosophical logic until Hegel may have areas that he overlooked
- Philosophical logic after Hegel may have areas Hegel would approve (e.g. the many developments of formal logic)
- Changes in other parts of Hegel’s system might require changes to his Logic
- Modern mathematics
6.5.2. Natural Science
- The history of science until Hegel may have areas that he overlooked
- Natural Science after Hegel (e.g. Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, Unified Theory, Ecology, Theory of natural changes like Cosmogenesis, Evolution of Geography, Evolution of Life, and more) must be treated dialectically and worked into Hegel’s system.
- How much of Hegel’s system of Natural Science must be re-written?
- Did Hegel make “translation errors” as he sought examples for his logical structure in the limited science of his day?
- Are there better examples in modern sciences to give Hegel more fitting samples?
6.5.3. Subjective Spirit
- Human Psychology after Hegel exploded into many dynamic directions. How can they be treated dialectically and worked into Hegel’s system?
- How, especially, can ideas of Psychoanalysis, like the Unconscious, be treated?
- How are topics in parapsychology to be treated in Hegel’s system?
6.5.4. Objective Spirit
We should address all aspects of the international legal system, including:
- Changes of the principles of law
- Changes in attitude to morals
- Changes in the experience of the family, society and state
- The impact of modern economics
- The impact of Marx’ critique of capitalism and Hegel
- The impact of the modern welfare state
- Modern democracy. (Since Hegel, monarchies have less power than democracies, and democracies today are very different from democracies in Hegel’s day.)
- Changes in international relations, treaties and law
- History of the last 200 years, understood dialectically.
6.5.5. Fine Art
We should address all aspects of international Fine Art, including:
- New forms of Art, e.g. Film, Cinema and Television
- The development of modern Art of the last 200 years
- The development of Art Philosophy in the last 200 years
- Music: much work is needed to incorporate even Classical works dialectically
- Is Hotho’s compilation of Hegel’s Aesthetic adequate? Is there an alternative?
We should address all aspects of international Religion, including:
- Religions Hegel did not deal with
- Religions Hegel dealt with poorly due to a lack of data in the early 1800’s
- A dialogue with other cultures with other religions
- Contributions to make to world theology
- New theologies of the last 200 years
- The possibility of finding what is rational in irrational religion
- The modern problem of Islam and its international impact
- Philosophers of the past Hegel did not deal with (e.g. Cusanus) or dealt with very little (like Leibniz)
- Modern philosophy after Hegel
In summary, our ideal is to develop interdisciplinary studies along the lines outlined above, and so help create a foundation for a new idea of the University with a new organization and a new flourishing of current science, philosophy and the arts.
Where we cannot excel in a particular science for the time being, we should be willing to turn to experts in any given field (e.g. nuclear science) who are less familiar with Hegel’s project, and who are open-minded about Hegel and are willing to share their insights in our forum and so contribute to our task of updating Hegel.
We may hope to be of some service to scholars who engage us in this work, perhaps helping to edit as required. In any case, we must never live in an ivory tower as many philosophers do; we must incorporate present knowledge from specialists in all scholarly fields for Hegel’s ‘Encyclopedia’.
To better apply Hegel’s spirit, self reference and dialectic to our own attitudes and methods, we encourage our participants to develop a good sense of humour, including the ability to laugh at oneself, in case we encounter an error in our own thinking. Self-criticism is vital, but it should not be a humourless endeavour. This will help us to take incremental steps in our trek up Hegel’s ladder.
It may not be enough to attune the form and content of one’s own views with what Hegel says, as this might lead to such dogmatism as in an ordinary fan e-list. Rather, when we follow Hegel closely and understand him, we expect to improve our own attitudes towards open thinking and discourse, to seek our own limitations, to be aware of our own beliefs and applied categories, and to be able to step back to find creative solutions to any given dualistic dogma. This goal makes us different from ordinary fan e-lists and ensures we are far from narrow-minded dogmatism as we grow in our knowledge of Hegel’s system.
We should avoid becoming dogmatic or narrow-minded. Hegel himself often emphasized the value of an open mind, an atmosphere of open inquiry (for example in his comments on the urbane atmosphere of Athens in his discussion of Socrates in the ‘Lectures on the History of Philosophy,’ or his discussion of world coastal cultures in the Forward to his ‘Lectures on the Philosophy of History’).
We need to remain open to risk new ideas and to give attention to new upsurges of the spirit, because all truths were once new and different ideas.
We need helping hands. If you have questions or are interested in participating, please contact us.
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