Hegel’s Preface – Part I

A preface on why not to write a preface

Philosophy moves in universality for Hegel, so there is no need for a preface. It moves in a complete system, so we cannot generalize via the means of a preface. There is however, a need to understand particulars. The irony here, is that Hegel writes that you cannot write a preface in philosophy by writing a preface. You need to apply yourself, you cannot sum up philosophy in a statement, paragraph, preface, etc. It is complicated and we need to be thorough if we wish to pursue philosophy.

Before we move on, here are a list of terms:

Historical

Refers to a kind of temporal narrative, where things are weaved through contigent phenomenon in different times and places.

Generalities

That which is most basic or reductive. It is not all encompassing. You might throw around terms, reference here and there, but there is no meat or substance to what you are saying.

Universality

The all-encompassing, the realm of philosophy for Hegel.

Particular

Comes under the universal and provides us with intelligibility. There is a dialectic between the universal and particulars. Think of it as the parts that make the machine.

Science

Science should be taken to mean its original Latin term, which refers to ‘Knowledge’. Philosophy for Hegel is the science of the sciences. A kind of meta knowledge which brings all the sciences together. It should not be confused with the natural sciences.

If we claim to know the universal, but pay no attention to particulars, then we are stuck in generality. Take a wikipedia article on Deconstructionism, Hegel, Delueze, Quantum Mechanics, etc. It will not give you all the ins and outs of the subject, though it may give you the general gist of it. We need to unpack things in all their complexity. For Hegel, a philosopher cannot simplify notions and ideas as we risk doing them a disservice. We need to examine everything. Hence, it is useless to write a preface.

It is misguided, to claim just because something is wrong we should not read it. It could reveal obscure truths, reveal pieces of information which aren’t covered in textbooks. Most importantly, we come to know why we have ended up at this particular point of time through looking at the process of science’s development. If we narrow philosophy to ‘This is right, this is wrong’ we not only get stuck, but we are often wrong in our beliefs of such and such. Philosophy, should not be thought of as an end in itself, rather it is always for something else. There is a constant developmental process occurring in philosophy. For Hegel, philosophical doctrines should not be reduced to a binary of being true or false. Instead, we should see them as a part of a developmental process for something else. People often fetish the end, the result, the aim of the matter. Yet this is not the entirety of the work. For Hegel, they are evading the thing in itself. We should not reduce what a philosopher says to mere propositions, instead it would be better to look at the philosophers drive or mind. Over simplifying their thought, putting them into neat and tidy categories will not explain the full complexity of a philosopher’s thought. Comprehending something is wrapping yourself in the topic, not just putting the thinker into a neat little box.

The aim of Philosophy

Hegel criticizes get-rich-quick philosophy, which is done through the means of generalization. Many people of his day talk of an intuitive form of knowledge, which Hegel is cautious about. Would such a knowledge take away from the historical and empirical, or would it be synthesized with the current knowledge available? Should people pay attention to the material, ordinary and sensible world, or should they pay attention to the divine, the metaphysical or the transcendental. Hegel argues we need both the transcendental (i.e. the conditions of possibility) and experience. Philosophy should explain everything! It cannot do simply one or two things, as this would not be doing lived experience any justice! The philosopher should seek to become a polymath i.e. a person who has knowledge in a wide range of subjects.

Why intuition is stupid

Hegel is critical of philosophy of intuition. That you feel, think, judge something to be the case by appealing to some unexplainable and mystical force. Such people, cannot claim they have more expertise than those who use science, methodology, determining systems, etc. Such people do not have depth. They only have a superficial understanding of things (though even this is questionable). If there’s no system holding knowledge together and showing how things relate, it becomes meaningless. We need to properly articulate things.

The new world is not a fully developed world, it is either ‘immediacy’ or ‘notion’. Some terms will need to be explained before we continue. By notion, Hegel refers to both the beggining point of something and the development of something (Don’t worry about this now, it will be explained later on). Immediacy meanwhile, refers to a lack which pushes us into interacting with objects in the world (again, this will be explained later on).

The risks of knowledge

People are used to what they have experienced. Knowledge risks in becoming an internal affair, where we take no heed of external sources or if knowledge does become external, the sources of that knowledge come only from a few particulars. We need to question ourselves and our sources in regards to knowledge. Science is open and can be understood by everyone (in theory). Science is meant to study the whole. If we are doing science, we cannot study one thing and not the other. We need to be thorough with what we are doing.

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