Hegel’s Preface – Part IV

Education through the ages

The consciousness of ancient philosophy differs from the modern age. It has a different form of natural consciousness i.e. it has a diffrent way of viewing the world based on it’s enviromental and historical context, e.g. mobile phones, the internet, the printing press, mercantilism, feudalism, city states, etc. This natrual consciousness develops over time. Plato for example, moved things from the sensuous to the transcendental with his notion of the form of the good. Plato argued there was another place, which we cannot reach and is the source of all truth. It is interesting to note how this idea was incorporated into Christianity. Meanwhile, the conscious of Hegel’s era takes Kantian ideas for granted and risks making them axiomatic. Because of this, we need to think and question such assumptions. We do not necessarily need to forget everything, but merely question these things.

Scientific Method

The scientific method which Hegel proposes is not our current scientific method. There needs to be a questioning of pure essences in order for them to become self-moving i.e. develop. In science, biology, sociology, art, etc., we need to come to recognize they are all connected and not seperate of each other. All events in history are issues of knowledge, in which we come to know ourselves through exploring our own interests.

We need to be careful in thinking the axiomatic is immediate. There is an ongoing process in regards to returning into itself. Spirit becomes an object to yourself through mediation. Similarly, I become an object to myself through looking at film, photos, myself in the mirror, etc. For Hegel, ‘the negative is the self’, that is, the constant mediation of notion.

Why bother with the false?

Why should we bother learning everything from scratch when we have textbooks and guides which do all the hard work? Why shouldn’t we go to the end and have a complete and ready-made knowledge? Because such knowledge is empty, we do not know the reasons behind why this is the case and not any other, we just understand the basic principles and concepts. By looking at history and the different shapes of consciousness which took place, we can come to understand the reasons of why things are and how they evolved to be what they are today. In this sense, even though such knowledge is false it is none the less useful. It helps the subject assimilate the thing, by finding the reasons for it being the case, regardless if it is true or false.


Dogmatism refers to beginning from unquestioned assumptions i.e what is immediately known or a fixed result. Philosophical positivism teaches us not the question fixed assumptions. For this reason, it is not truly philosophical.

Historical truths

Historical truths are particular, contingent or arbitrary. They are not universal, in that we cannot say the cause of the fall of the Roman Empire is the same as the fall of the British Empire. What happened, in regards to human action in the past, was self-conscious. What we are doing when we look back into the past, is thinking about what happened.

Critique of Mathematics

Hegel worried about mathematics being used as a universal discipline which could explain everything. In Hegel’s day, mathematics was being applied to everything. Though it had a useful explanatory power, Hegel worried it would substitute other forms of knowledge and would be inadequate in analysing things in themselves. It should be viewed as a type of thinking, discipline or tool. Hegel worried that we were however, fetishizing it by thinking that people who studied maths were experts who were all knowing (kind of like economists or scientists today). He also worried that by leaving knowledge to these experts, it would produce a laziness and co-dependency on others who may not actually know what they are talking about in certain situations.


The direction in which education starts a man will determine his future lifePlato

We may think we are using necessities in mathematical thinking. But how can we be sure that we aren’t just framing it in this way? For example, if I say ‘Use 8+5 to make 10’, we would think that it can’t necessarily make ten. Yet if I start at ‘-3’ then use ‘8+5′ I get ’10’. The necessity of things may be based on presumptions which are often mistake. Maybe we’re setting things up this way to get certain results. Just look at how easily graphs can be manipulated to get certain results. Mathematics similarly, only deals in the realm of magnitude (quantity). It fails to grasp the concept (quality). Though it may be able to arrange different qualities in a sequence or order, it does not grasp the quality in itself.

Philosophy and the actual

There will always be a loss of equilibrium in history, which causes movement. When we ask what is essential, we look at what is the case in all particulars. The problem with this is that we are not focusing on something which is actual but ideal. To combat this, we could try to make the ideal actual. For Hegel, we have two modes of possibility: we can either look for an eternal stasis or an eternal becoming. To give an example, we could claim that every time the clock strikes twelves, we can claim it is the same tick as all those which have come before it, or we can claim it is a different moment in a multitude of moments. The actual then, is the eternal. While the non-actual is the evanescent. Death for Hegel, is the non-actual as it is not eternal.