Method and speculation in Hegel's Phenomenology 9780391023369

Essays presented at the fifth biennial meeting of the Hegel Society of America, hosted by the Pennsylvania State Univers

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Method and speculation in Hegel's Phenomenology

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Method and Speculation •


Hegel's Phenomenology


©Copyright 1982 by Humanities Press Inc. First published in 1982 in the United States of America by Humanities Press Inc., and in England by Harvester Press Ltd. These are the papers delivered at the 1978 meeting of The Hegel Society at The Pennsylvania State University.

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING IN PUBLICATION DATA Main entry under title: Method and speculation in Hegel's Phenomenology. Essays presented at the fifth biennial meeting of the Hegel Society of America, hosted by The Pennsylvania State University, October 12-14, 1978. 1. Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich, 1770-1831. Phanomenologie des Geistes-Congresses. 2. Consciousness-Congresses. 3. Truth-Congresses. 4. Methodology-Congresses. 5. Self (Philosophy}-Congresses. I. Westphal, Merold. II. Hegel Society of America. B2929.M4 193 81-6238 ISBN 0-391-02336-5 AACR2 Harvester Press Ltd. England ISBN 0710803184

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any other form or any means, electronic, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the permission in writing from the publisher. Manufactured in the United States of America

The Hegel Society of America wishes to thank Villanova University for its generous financial support which has made the publication of this volume possible.


Editor's Preface


Hegel's Redefinition of the Critical Project Ardis B. Collins, Loyola University of Chicago


Pragmatic Presuppositions and the Dialectics of Hegel's Phenomenology Joseph C. Flay, The Pennsylvania State University Phenomenology and Systematic Philosophy Kenley Dove, State University of New York at Purchase Comment: H. S. Harris, Glendon College, York University

15 27 . 41

The Golgotha of Absolute Spirit Stephen Crites, Wesleyan University


Force and Understanding: the Unity of the Object of Consciousness Martin J. De Nys, Mount Saint Mary's College


Selfhood and the Battle: the Second Beginning of the Phenomenology Peter Preuss, University of Lethbridge


Language and Recognition John Burbidge, Trent University


The Constitution of the Self in Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit and in Kierkegaard's Sickness unto Death Robert L. Perkins, University of South Alabama Comment: James L. Marsh, St. Louis University

95 109

Marxist Interpretations of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit Errol Harris, Northwestern University (Emeritus)



Editor's Preface

The essays collected in this volume were presented at the fifth biennial meeting of the Hegel Society of America, hosted by the Pennsylvania State University, October 12-14, 1978. This tenth anniversary meeting of the society found it growing and full of enthusiasm. The stated theme of the conference was Hegel's first major publication, The Phenomenology of Spirit. With a bit of overlap, the papers fall into roughly three groups. The first five deal with Hegel's method and the place of a book shaped by that method in the larger Hegelian project The papers by Ardis Collins and Joseph Flay focus on the first aspect of this theme, the method itself, while those of Kenley Dove and Stephen Crites, along with H. S. Harris' comments serve to locate the Phenomenology in the larger context of Hegelian speculation. The next three essays deal with specific portions of the text. Martin De Nys addresses the concluding portion of Chapter Three on Consciousness, while Peter Preuss and John Burbidge offer interpretations of the immediately following description of Self-Consciousness as the struggle for recognition. Preuss' paper can fruitfully be read with those of Collins and Flay, for he has a good deal to say about Hegel's method. Burbidge's paper builds bridges to discussions about the nature of language which are found in Hegel's other mature writings. The final three papers involve the inevitable Hegel and ... topics. Quite fittingly Kierkegaard and Marx are involved. Robert Perkins compares the Phenomenology and Sickness Unto Death with respect to the self. James Marsh adds a stimulating comment to this paper. Finally, Errol Harris makes the Marx connection by discussing the interpretations of Lukacs, Adorno, and Kojeve. This last paper represents something of an innovation, I believe, in the life of the Hegel Society of America. It had the form of a presidential address, since Errol Harris was then serving as the society's president. As Program Chairman for the 1978 meeting I express the hope that the society will make a presidential address a regular part of its biennial meetings. I would also like to express my personal thanks to Errol Harris for the enthusiasm, support, and


leadership he has given to HSA both as its president and at other times as well. We are all much indebted to him. There are others to whom I wish to express personal thanks. Those who assisted me in the selection of papers to be included in the program gave wise counsel for which I am most grateful. You were anonymous then and must remain so, but you know who you are. There are others who can be named, however. Joseph Kockelmans of the Penn State Philosophy Department was local arrangements chairman. To him and to all those who supported him our heartiest thanks. Your hospitality could not have been more gracious or efficient. Finally, I would like to express appreciation to two guests from abroad for their presence with us: Darrel Christensen, whose Wofford Symposium was the birthplace ofHSA, and A. V. Miller, whose translations have contributed so much to Hegel scholarship. MEROLD WESTPHAL


GUIDE TO FOOTNOTES A typical reference to the Phenomenology will be: PhG, x/y x = pagination in the Hoffmeister edition (Hamburg, 1952). y = pagination in the Miller translation (Oxford, 1977). A typical reference to the Science of Logic will be: WL, x/y x = pagination and volume number in the Lasson edition (Hamburg, 1934). y = pagination in the Miller translation (New York, 1969). References to the Encyclopedia and the Philosophy of Right will begin with Enz. and PR respectively, followed by the paragraph numbers which are to be found in all editions.




I: The Problem Hegel opens the Phenomenology of Mind by challenging the presuppositions ofKantian critique. According to Hegel, this kind of critique stems from a certain apprehensiveness about knowledge: if the various kinds of knowledge are not equally reliable, we might choose the wrong one and end up misled. And if our inquiries take knowledge beyond its limits, we might get answers that do not refer to anything real, whereby we would take error as though it were truth. Hence, it seems that knowledge cannot be used to know what the truth is until we come to an understanding about what knowledge is. Kantian critique is based on the premise that knowledge can lead us to error instead of truth. The purpose of critique is to show us how to avoid this misdirection. But if knowledge cannot be trusted until critique proves it trustworthy, what is the status of critical knowledge itself? Critique cannot appeal to definitions of knowledge, truth, subject or object without assuming that these definitions are true; it cannot appeal to criteria for determining the truth, untruth, validity, or limits of knowledge without placing its trust in them as the standards by which knowledge is rightfully measured. Thus, critique separates its own critical apparatus from the knowledge it examines, whereby it leaves a portion of knowledge unexamined. Critique reveals the truth, untruth, validity or limits of knowledge as these are determined by the critic's definitions and criteria, and leaves unexamined why these should be trusted when the trustworthiness of knowledge is in question. 1 Jurgen Habermas, in his book Knowledge and Human Interests, claims that Hegel's attack on Kantian critique makes it necessary to redefine the whole critical project. If critique begins by distrusting knowledge, it cannot 1



have presuppositions, in as much as presuppositions are suspect along with the rest of knowledge. This being the case, there is no point to mounting any critique that begins in radical doubt and at the same time assumes the legitimacy of its own criteria and definitions. Habermas outlines three possible alternatives to this kind of critique. 2 The first alternative is radical critique. Nothing is exempt in a critique of this kind, not even the critical apparatus itself. Definitions of knowledge and of the knowing subject, concepts of truth, criteria for determining the validity and limits of knowledge-all these must be critically evaluated. None can be assumed without question. 3 The difficulty with this kind of critique is that the critic never has the knowledge he needs to determine the truth or limits of the knowledge he is examining. How can he know whether or to what extent knowledge is true ifhe cannot appeal to standards or criteria by which truth is measured?4 The second alternative is a critique that examines knowledge-not all at once-but a portion at a time. Certain criteria and definitions are indeed presupposed; and these are used to determine the truth and limits of some area of knowledge. The knowledge defined andjustified by this limited critique can be used to examine other kinds of knowledge. The critique continues in this way until everything, including what was presupposed at the beginning of the series, has been subjected to criticism. This kind of critique recognizes the need for separating critical knowledge from the knowledge under suspicion so that the critic can have something by which to judge the knowledge he is examining. It also recognizes that critical knowledge itself must be critically justified. The difficulty with this kind of circular project is that its starting point is arbitrary. The first, at least, ofthe limited critiques must appeal to criteria and definitions which have not been critically justified. These establish the principles on which other critiques are founded. Hence, any justification ofthe original presuppositions must appeal to criteria which are themselves founded on these presuppositions. S The third alternative is the one espoused by Habermas himself. According to Habermas, what Hegel's attack on critical philosophy really proves is that critical knowledge is not a judgment, but a reflection. It rids us of false consciousness not by measuring knowledge against a standard, but by bringing to consciousness aspects of knowledge which our definitions have left out of account. Critique is nothing more than knowledge which has become selfconscious; it shows what the structure of knowledge in fact is. 6 The difficulty with this kind of critique is that there are in fact different knowledge structures, and some of them are opposed to each other. Habermas claims that knowledge is in fact dominated by subjective interests-the interest in technical control, the interest in preserving and expanding a tradition, the interest in autonomy and responsibility-and the concern for objectivity is a false consciousness



that fails to recognize its own subordination to these interests. 7 But the empirical sciences also exist; and for them objectivity is the dominant interest, subjective concerns the false consciousness. The problem here is that each party can claim to be what knowledge in fact is; each kind of knowledge exists and the knowledge opposing it recognizes its existence. Of course, each dismisses the other as false consciousness, but it does so by using its own standards or concerns to interpret and evaluate the other, not by simply reflecting on what knowledge in fact is. Hence, the problem of unexamined critical criteria haunts Habermas' position as much as it does the other alternatives. One interpretive framework is as good as another, after all, unless one can prove itself against the other. 8 These three models for post-Kantian critique, together with the difficulties which they raise, provide a helpful device for understanding Hegel' sPhenomenology of Mind. In this work, Hegel proposes a redefinition of the critical project. This redefinition is based on the same concerns and principles which define the three alternatives described by Habermas. Our purpose is to explain Hegel's approach to these concerns and to judge his success in taking care of them.

II: The Self-Critical Structure of Knowledge Hegel's most explicit concern is with the problems of radical critique. Critique is radical when it makes no assumptions about what knowledge is or what it should be. But critique is critical insofar as it makes a judgment about the truth of knowledge and the relative worth of its various forms. Can such a judgment be made if the critic has no standards or criteria by which to measure the knowledge he is examining? Hegel says that it can, but only because knowledge presents itself as self-critical. 9 Hegel gives us three clues for understanding his description of knowledge as self-critical. First, any such analysis is abstract; second, what is described is the way knowledge in fact appears; third, consciousness shows this structure because it is consciousness of an object. 10 Hegel's claim, therefore, is that knowledge, precisely because it is a relation between knowing and something known, shows itself to be self-critical. Nothing more is needed to make manifest its self-critical structure. How, then, does this structure appear? According to Hegel, consciousness relates itself to something from which it also distinguishes itself. Consciousness recognizes the object as something known, something "for" consciousness. It also recognizes the object as something" outside" or independent of the knowledge relation. This distinction between the known as something related to knowledge and the known as something in itself outside knowledge fal\s within consciousness itself. 11 But



how does consciousness, simply by being conscious of an object, show the object to be independent of consciousness? The claim that the object is "outside" and independent of the knowledge relation tempts us to think of it as something external existing apart from knowledge and its conditions. But if the object is indeed independent, and exists utterly apart from knowledge, then critique cannot even begin. Consciousness cannot get outside itself and compare the object-for-consciousness to some "in itself' outside consciousness, as Hegel explicitly says.12 This is the dead end Hegel says he avoids by showing that the distinction between the object as it is for consciousness and the object as it is independent of consciousness falls within consciousness itself. It seems more plausible, therefore, to define the independence of the object by the dependence of consciousness. Consciousness, taken in the abstract form 'consciousness-of-an-object', is simply being aware of something, and awareness is nothing without its direction or "movement toward" what it is aware of. Consciousness, therefore, must have something definite to be conscious of. It cannot complete its own movement or direction, it cannot be anything at all, unless it is conscious of some character or definiteness which the object is. Thus, consciousness depends on the definiteness of the object (what the object is) for direction and definition. If the object's independence is the correlate of this, then the object has its own definition, which it does not derive from its relation to consciousness and which gives consciousness something to know. Since consciousness itself is indefinite without the object, the object must have definiteness in itself and cannot get it from its relation to consciousness. Thus, Hegel's position can be limited to the claim that there is in knowledge some definiteness which consciousness is conscious of, and that consciousness cannot derive this definiteness from itself. Here no claims about how the known comes to have this definiteness-no inferences about a separate source of definiteness standing "behind" the object-for-consciousness, and no distance between what is and what appears-are either required or justified. The abstract relation between knowing and being known establishes only that the known must have some character which gives knowing something to know. Awareness cannot rest in the indefinite; it cannot know what it is. If, therefore, consciousness finds itself unable to pin the object down, unable to rest in some defmite character which the object is, then the object-for-consciousness appears as an untruth; the way the object appears does not reveal what the object is. Thus, consciousness, as consciousness of an object, sets up a truth standard for itself and measures itself against it. It tests the object-for-consciousness by its own need for something definite to knoW. 13 Can we infer from this analysis that Hegel has opted for objectivity against subjectivity? Ifthe object-in-itself is the truth standard which knowledge imposes on itself, is not the truth of knowledge measured by an object which is



independent of subjective conditions? In order to answer this question, we must distinguish two ways of understanding the self-critical structure of knowledge. First, the structure can be understood as a specific form of knowledge. This kind of knowledge claims that consciousness of an object, taken without any further determination or specifications, is the true form of knowledge. Hegel calls this kind of knowledge sense certainty, and the dominant character of sense certainty is immediacy. Sense certainty does not know its object through inference, interpretation, explanation or reflection. It is directly and immediately aware of it. Sense certainty is pure, empty 'being aware', without any further determination. The object of sense certainty is what is, i.e. what stands here and now before consciousness. It is This, 'this here', to which awareness points. It is the object understood purely and simply as what consciousness is aware of, without any further determination. Sense certainty takes the This to be something with a character or definiteness of its own, an object-in-itself. This definiteness is what it tries to express or point to when it tries to 'say', or at least intuit, what the Here and Now is. The object-in-itselffor sense certainty is pure in-itselfness without any further determination. The object is simply itself; it is determined by no relations, not even by its relation to consciousness or to any other Here and Now; it is pure immediacy. Thus, sense certainty is the self-critical structure of knowledge taken in all its "bare-bones" simplicity. Knowing is pure, empty 'being aware'; the known is purely and simply what awareness is aware of; and the object-in-itselfis pure in-itselfness or immediacy, pure unrelatedness to an other. 14 Taken in this form, the self-critical structure of knowledge is certainly a form of objectivity, indeed the purest form. The truth is all on the side of the object. Consciousness adds nothing and leaves nothing out It does not compare or contrast, it does not classify, organize, explain or interpret, it does not manipulate or fashion its object It knows the truth by surrendering completely to what it is conscious of.15 But Hegel does not claim that this form of knowledge is absolutely true, or even that it is absolutely objective. The first chapter of the Phenomenology shows how sense certainty proves itself untrue. 16 And Hegel reminds us that in sense certainty, as much as in any other form of knowledge, consciousness and its object determine each other. Sense certainty itself defines the truth as pure immediacy or unrelatedness and hence as pure objectivity.17 This is what sense certainty requires in its object Hence, it sees or interprets what stands before it in these terms. Objectivity is as much a matter of the subject's way of looking at things as are the more personal concerns. The question is, does the self-critical structure of knowledge require that we look at things the way sense certainly does? No. The self-critical structure of knowledge requires that consciousness be a movement or direction toward an object-in-itself. But immediacy or unreli\tedness is not the only way of being an object-in-itself. There are two ways in which the object can maintain its self-



contained identity and still be involved in relations. It can relate itself to the other negatively, i.e. it can establish its independence by setting itself off from what is other than itself.18 Or it can relate to the other positively so that the other is simply a reflection of itself. In the second case, the object-in-itself is the whole which relates the various objects to each other and thus defines them as members of one self-same totality. When consciousness knows such an object, it can move among the different elements and their relations without ever going outside the object to which it is directed, because it sees all these as manifestations of the same whole. 19 According to sense certainty, perception, and understanding, the in-itself is an object which is what it is whether or not it is related to consciousness. The point of contention for these objective forms of knowing is whether the object is independent of its relations to other objects. 2o For self-consciousness, reason, and spirit, however, the independence of the in-itself is the freedom of the self in its relation to objects. This is not to say that the self can be separated from its relation to objects. If knowing is just the awareness of something, then there must always be some other to which it is related and of which it is aware. Consciousness must always be related to something which stands before consciousness. But this other can be known in terms of the conscious self, so that what knowing is aware of in the object-for-consciousness is its own freedom and self-identity. Self-consciousness, for example, knows its own independence of and dominance over nature; reason knows the world's coordination to the self; spirit knows its own. communal identity. In these forms of knowing, the relation of knowing to objects is really a relation to itself. 21 Thus, Hegel recognizes, just as clearly as Habermas does, that there are in fact kinds of knowledge which define objects by their relations to the subject. This does not disprove that knowledge finds its truth in an object-in-itself. It only shows that in some forms of knowledge, the object-in-itself is the subject. Moreover, this subject is truly subjective. It is not a self defined by a content that is simply given. Rather, it is a self whose relation to objects refers back to itself. The object-in-itself, therefore, is a general concept which can take on different forms. It can be understood not only as the truth standard for sense certainty, which is the structure of knowledge in its most abstract form, but also as a rudimentary structure implicit in every kind of relation between knowing and being known. Hegel shows us various knowledge forms in the Phenomenology, and each one takes the truth to be some version of the object-in-itself. Because every kind of consciousness requires direction toward something it is conscious of, every kind of consciousness defines itself in relation to an object with an identity for consciousness to know. The self-critical structure of knowledge makes it possible for critique to be radical without ceasing to be evaluative. Hegel, like Habermas, recognizes



that critique is nothing more than knowledge which has become self-conscious. According to Hegel, however, knowledge shows itself to be self-critical; it sets up a truth standard for itself and measures itself against it. Thus, the critic does not have to employ critical criteria derived from his own presupposed definition of the knowledge structure. His task rather is to leave all these aside and to allow knowledge to define and examine itself. The critic's position is purely reflective. In this position, he articulates the self-evaluation implicit in the knowledge he is examining and thus knows how it succeeds or fails to meet its own standard.

III: The Critical Method This kind of critical reflection, however, leaves us with another problem. Hegelian critique is not a critique of knowledge in general; it is rather a series of reflections on the different forms of knowledge and the self-critique entailed in each. It is a set of critiques like the second kind described by Habermas. However, for Hegel, each limited critique is self-contained; it appeals to its own internal standards, not to some other sort of knowledge already established or presupposed. In Hegelian criticism, therefore, the various forms of knowledge might seem to be cut off from each other. One kind of knowledge takes the truth to be an object independent of subjective conditions. If such knowledge proves itself untrue, it proves only its failure to bring into consciousness an object independent of SUbjective conditions. It does not prove that objectivity is the wrong way to define truth. Another kind of knowledge takes the truth to be the free self. If such knowledge proves itself true, it proves only that objects reflect the desires, ideals, or purposes of subjects or persons. It does not prove that subjectivity is the right way to define truth. But the various forms of knowledge oppose each other. For objective knowledge, subjectivity is untrue. For subjective knowledge, objectivity is untrue. Perception, for example, takes such properties as temperature, taste, sound, and texture to be untrue if they are derived from the object's relation to the perceiving subject. 22 For selfconsciousness, however, the persistent independence of objects is untrue and must be overcome by an action which forms them in relation to the self. 23 Thus, Hegelian critique seems to pose the same problems as the critique espoused by Habermas, though it is broader in scope and makes room for objectivity as well as subjectivity. But how can the Hegelian critique judge which of the various and often contrary truth standards should prevail? Hegel addresses these difficulties by introducing the concept of determinate negation. In order to understand what this means, it is necessary to clarify exactly what happens when Hegelian critique has a negative result According to Hegel, knowledge is true if the object-for-consciousness reveals the object-



in-itself, or, to put it another way, if what the object is, is known. Knowledge proves itself untrue, therefore, by showing that the object-for-consciousness does not reveal the object-in-itself. Ordinarily, we would consider this a negative judgment limited to the object-for-consciousness. The negation seems to have no bearing on what the object is, only on the failure of consciousness to know it. In Hegelian critique, however, the case is different. The object-initself is not some truth which stands behind the object-for-consciousness and which mayor may not be accessible to knowledge. The object-in-itself is what consciousness takes the truth to be. 24 Consciousness has a certain concept of what the truth is. It sees what stands before it as a manifestation of this truth. 25 Thus, consciousness defines or interprets what stands before consciousness in terms of the object-in-itself. The result of this interpretation is the object-forconsciousness. The object-for-consciousness is the way the object-in-itself appears when consciousness sees what stands before it in terms of this objectin-itself. If, therefore, the object-for-consciousness does not conform to the definition which consciousness gives it, then the definition fails. An interpretation that does not fit what it interprets shows itself to be inadequate. 26 Thus, when Hegelian critique has a negative result, not only does the objectfor-consciousness fail to conform to the object-in-itself, but the object-in-itself fails to fit what stands before consciousness. 27 This negation, however, is determinante; it is defmed and limited by what it negates. 28 If sense certainty proves itself untrue, it proves only that the truth is not what sense certainty takes it to be. It does not prove the untruth of other kinds of knowledge which define truth in a different way. Moreover, determinate negation tells us something. If truth is the object-in-itself, then untruth is the failure of the object of knowledge to be an object-in-itself. Thus, Hegel says: Hence, it comes to be for consciousness that what was previously for it the in-itself is not in-itself, or that it was in-itself only for consciousness. 29

An object is something in itself if its identity or definition terminates in itself. An object fails to be in-itself if it is defined by its relation to something other than itself. When Hegelian critique has a negative result, the following things occur: knowing moves toward a certain kind of object which it takes to be an object-in-itself; consciousness interprets what stands before it in terms of this object-in-itself; this interpretation makes the object-in-itself appear in what stands before consciousness, albeit as a relation to something else, not as an independent identity. This negative result tells us that what consciousness took to be something in itself is not something in itself, but something in relation. In order to see this more clearly, let us follow the Hegelian analysis through one of the critiques presented in the Phenomenology. The example is taken



from the section on practical reason. Reason in general takes the truth to be the coordination of self and world. According to reason, the self and the world are distinct reflections of the same order, and this order itself is self-referring, selfcontained, self-defined. It is an object-in-itself.30 In the example we are considering, reason takes the truth to be a given coordination between the individual character of the self and the world in which one lives. The world is one's own element, one's own place. As such it attracts interest and calls for involvement The self in tum is a specific set of talents, powers, and concerns appropriate to the world one inhabits. As such the individual is directed toward the world as the place where these can be realized. Thus, the world is a relation to the self and the selfis a relation to the world. This interrelationship is a call to action. The world is ordered to the selfs interests and calls the self to a pursuit of those interests. The selfs concerns are with the world and demand realization therein. But action, for this kind of practical reason, has no reforming purpose. The agent takes self and world as they are. Assuming that they have a given ordering to each other, the individual simply lives out this order. Action is done for its own sake. Action makes explicit the coordination between the self and the world which is already implicitly established. 3\ Let us see, then, how the world appears when the rational agent takes this view of it. Following his own individual interests, the agent produces a work. But this work appears as one work among many. The circumstances which surround his action are filled with the actions of other agents. These actions are related to their interests, not his, and they oppose his work because it expresses his interests, not theirs. Moreover, his work becomes part of the general environment related to the actions of these other agents. But this kind of rational agent is not a reformer. He takes things as they are and accepts them as his own. Therefore, the disappearance of his work into the general environment, even the rejection of his work by other parts of the environment, become for him a part of his own world and an expression of his own individuality. The opposition to his work is something he has provoked. The work which does not live up to his intentions is nevertheless something he has done. The work someone else accomplishes is something he has intended, or something in which he takes an interest, or something he allows to happen, or something which happens because he is lucky or deserving. Thus, the individual self interprets everything as an expression of himself. Action involves interest, purpose, doing something, a work produced, and the circumstances or reality in which actions take place. The agent concerned with himself alone takes the definitive part of the action, the "heart of the matter", to be that aspect which refers back to himself. 32 This interpretation is challenged, however, by other agents, who react to the self s involvement in the world. If, for example, the individual carries out some project of his own, he shows himself to be concerned with the world in which he



brings his project to realization. Other individuals interpret this as a concern for getting a thing done, no matter who accomplishes it. If the project is the "heart of the matter", then what is important is to complete the project. They point out, therefore, that the matter he has in hand has already been accomplished by them; or, if it has not, they rush in to help him with it. But he persists in taking the matter to be his own affair, and they complain of being deceived. Ifhe will not allow them to get involved with his project, then what is essential for him is not the work itself; what is essential is that he produce it. But he does not keep to his own projects; he meddles with theirs-by showing interest, by expressing approval or disapproval, by giving assistance-and they complain again of his dishonesty. If he involves himself with the projects of others, then what is essential for him is not what he himself produces, but the whole field of action; and this is as much theirs as it is his.33 Thus, the action which relates the world to the concerns of the individual self also makes his concerns existent in the world which others inhabit and thus makes his project their concern; the interest which he takes in someone else's project makes the project his affair and also involves him in the project's relation to someone else's concern. Individual self-interest cannot identify the world with itself, and thus make its own truth appear, without identifying itself with the concerns of others, which makes it appear as a relation to what is other than itself. Individual self-interest shows itself to be not an object-in-itself, and in this way negates its own truth claim. This untruth, however, is of a particular kind, and it requires a particular kind of truth. Exclusive individual self-interest shows itself not to be an independent identity. But its not being an independent identity appears as a relation to the concerns of others. What this untruth requires, therefore, is a truth which both negates what individual self-interest shows itself not to be, and preserves what it shows itself to be. What kind of knowledge affirms such a truth? A certain kind of moral knowledge-the kind in which the individual accepts immediately, without question, the authoritativeness of established moral rules, and assumes that he knows immediately, without question or reasoning, what conforms to these rules. There is, for this kind of moral knowledge, a given coordination between the self and his world, just as there is for exclusive individual self-interest. But this coordiantion has the form of a rule which is generally accepted or recognized. The self is a universal self; his principles are the same as those espoused by the other individuals in his world. By giving his individual intentions the form of the rule, he negates their special interest character and relates himself to others without departing from what he himself is. "/ say this because everyone ought to speak the truth. / do this because everyone ought to love one's neighbor." Because each individual recognizes the rule as his own, he recognizes himself in a world which is governed by the rule and in other individuals who act according to it. Thus, the moral rule is a self-contained, self-referring unity, an object-in-itself.34



The moral rule, for this point of view, is any principle of action which is generally accepted or recognized. It is nothing more than the holding together of the individual's self-concern with the concerns of others. Thus, the morality of established rules simply affirms as true the negation of which individual selfinterest convicts itself. It affirms that individual self-interest is not selfcontained and self-referring, that it is not an object-in-itself, that it is a relation to the concerns of others. It claims that the given coordination between the self and his world is a given coordination between his concerns and those of the other individuals in his world. The morality of established rules is the determinate negation of exclusive individual self-interest. Determinate negation is the link between one form of knowledge and another. Each form judges itself according to its own truth standard and hence is self-contained. Nevertheless, two forms of knowledge can be compared if their self-definition makes them relevant to each other. And this is the case when one affirms the other's self-negation. One point of view can justify another by proving itself untrue in such a way that its untruth calls for the kind of truth standard which defines the other.

IV: The Starting Point If, however, critique establishes the truth of one framework by relating it to the self-negation of another, then the justification of the other becomes part of the truth. For example, if we see the world in terms of exclusive self-interest, we can, through determinate negation, give reasons for seeing it in terms of established moral rules. But why see the world in terms of exclusive selfinterest? If this remains an arbitrary assumption, then the position established by its self-negation is, in the end, also arbitrary. Hegelian critique is a series of limited critiques in which the self-negation of one knowledge form calls for and justifies the affirmation made by another knowledge form. This raises the problem of the starting point. What justification can be given for the form of knowledge with which critique begins? Hegel begins the Phenomenology with sense certainty. Sense certainty examines itself; it makes its own truth standard appear as a self-negation and thus justifies perception which affirms this self-negation. Hegel begins his critique, therefore, with the following hypothesis: if we assume that knowledge is what sense certainty claims it is, then we can justify by determinate negation perception and all the things which follow. The only thing left to question is why assume sense certainty's point of view. Sense certainty, as we have seen, is the structure of knowledge taken in all its "bare bones" simplicity. It is consciousness of an object taken without any further determinations or specifications. To ask why we should assume that knowledge is what sense certainty claims it is, is to ask why we should assume that knowledge is



consciousness of an object. This much at least must be assumed in order to be concerned with knowledge at all. Hegel begins his critique with the presupposition that knowledge cannot appear without appearing as the awareness of something, and he argues for everything else on the basis of determinate negation.


1. 2.

3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12.

13. 14. 15. 16. 17.




PhG, 63-66, 71/46-48, 53. Jiirgen Habennas, Knowledge and Human Interests, trans. J. J. Shapiro, (Boston: Beacon, 1968) Chapter One, pp. 7-9, 12-17,23-24. Ibid., pp. 19-21. PhG, 70/52. Habennas, Knowledge and Human Interests, pp. 7-9. Ibid., Appendix V-VII. Ibid. Cf. PhG, 65-66, 71/48-49, 53. PhG, 70/52. PhG, 70-71/52-53. "Allein gerade darin, dass es iiberhaupt von einem Gegenstande weiss, ... " (72/54) PhG, 70-73/52-55. "Der Gegenstand scheint zwar fUr dasselbe nur so zu sein, wie es ihn weiss; es scheint gieichsam nicht dahinter kommen zu konnen, wie er, nichtfor dasselbe, sondem wie er an sich ist, und also auch sein Wissen nicht an ihmpriifen zu kannen. Allein gerade darin, dass es iiberhaupt von einem Gegenstande weiss, ist schon der Unterschied vorhanden, dass ihm etwas das Ansich, ein anderes Moment aber das Wissen oder das Sein des Gegenstandesfor das Bewusstsein ist." (PhG,72/54) PhG,72-73/54-55. PhG, 79-81, 84-85/58-60, 62-63. PhG,79-81/58-59. PhG, 81-86/59-64. PhG, 80-81/59. "Der Gegenstand ist also zu betrachten, ob er in der Tat, in der sinnlichen Gewissheit selbst, als solches Wesen ist, fUr welches er von ihr ausgegeben wird; ob dieser sein BegrifT, Wesen zu sein, dem entspricht, wie er in ihr vorhanden ist" (81/59) Cf. 8990/67. Thus, the object of perception has properties which distinguish it from other objects. What it is-white, tart, cubical-sets up a contrast relation with other things and thus identifies the thing as itself and not the others. (PhG, 90-92167-70) The object of understanding, for example, is a law which governs various appearances and thus makes different events manifestations of one and the same necessity. (PhG, 10910/85-86) PhG, 79-81, 89-92, 102-03/58-59,67-69,79-80.



27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36. 37.


PhG, 133-35, 175-76, 255-60, 313-15/104-05, 137-38,211-15, 263-65. Compare 71/53 to 133-34/104. PhG,95/72. PhG,146-47/115-16. PhG, 67-68, 69, 70-71, 71-72/49-50, 51, 52-53, 53-54. "Denn das Bewusstsein ist einerseits Bewusstsein des Gegenstandes, anderseits Bewusstsein seiner selbst: Bewusstsein des sen, was ihm das Wahre ist, und Bewusstsein seines Wissens davon. Indem beidefor dasselbe sind, ist es selbst ihre Vergleiehung; es wirdfor dasselbe, ob sein Wissen von dem Gegenstande diesem entsprieht oder niehl" (PhG, 72/54) "An dem also, was das Bewusstsein innerhatb seiner fiir dasAnsich oder das Wahn erkliirt, haben wir den Massstab, den es selbst aufstellt, sein Wissen daran zu messen". (71/53) This seems to be the most plausible way of interpreting the following: "Nennen wir das Wissen denBegriff. das Wesen oder das Wahre aber das Seiende oderden Gegenstand, so besteht die Priifung darin, zuzusehen, ob der BegrifT dem Gegenstande entsprieht. N ennen wir aber das Wesen oder das Ansich des Gegenstandes den Begriffund verstehen dagegen unter dem Gegenstande ibn als GegensUlnd, niimlieh wie er fUr ein andenst ist, so besteht die Priifung darin, dass wir zusehen, ob der Gegenstand sein,em BegrifT entspriehl Man sieht wohl, dass beides dasselbe ist; ... " (PhG, 71/530) PhG,72-73/54-55. PhG, 68-69, 74/50-51, 56. "Es wird hiemit dem Bewusstsein, dass dasjenige, was ibm vorber dasAnsich war, nicht an sieh ist, oderdass es nurforesan sich war." (PhG, 72, translation mine. Cf. Millerp. 54) PhG, 175-76/139-40. PhG, 284-86, 287-891236-38,239-41. PhG,290-971242-48. PhG,297-301/248-52. PhG, 301-03/252-54. PhG,73-74/55-56. Cf. PhG, 86-87, 89,100-02/64-65,67,77-79. PhG, 73, 74/55, 56.



The main question of Hegel' s Phenomenology of 1807 is whether or not the claims to knowledge made by philosophy (in the form of German Idealism) can be warranted in the face of counter claims made by ordinary knowledge rooted in the natural attitude or in contrast to those made by other philosophical systems. The dialectic is at the heart of Hegel's answer to this question; yet after many attempts to clarify this dialectic it still resists the kind of clarity needed to make a clear assessment of Hegel's claims. In this paper I attempt to explicate the dialectic of the Phenomenology by recourse to the contemporary analysis of "pragmatic presuppositions"; my aim is to articulate the dialectic not in the exact terms with which Hegel himself understood it, but in a way that lends greater clarity without distorting his intentions. I hope to accomplish thereby not only an exegetical end, but, in view of the notice given to "pragmatic presupposition" in current Anglo-American thought, I hope to show some relevance for the study of Hegel among philosophers who have heretofore rather dismissed him out of hand. In the first Section I discuss Hegel's own characterization ofthePhenomenology in the 1807 Preface to that work. In Section II I sketch an account of pragmatic presuppositions, and show how the logical form of presuppositions can function to make the method and content of the Phenomenology more intelligible.





Hegel's main project is to demonstrate warranty for his claim that philosophy (as it has developed historically into his own thought) expresses the highest and most complete truth about reality. The problem with such a demonstration is that neither the mere asseveration of this claim nor any polemical or external demonstration of its warranty constitutes the real establishment of this warranty. Hegel notes that such asseveration or demonstration leaves philosophical assertion merely on a par with the claims of common sense, the demonstrations of non-philosophical science, and the assurances of romantics and alternate philosophical positions. 1 F aced with the task of avoiding apetitio principii, Hegel proposes to actually demonstrate the "appearance" of scientific philosophical knowledge through an examination of other claims to knowledge as they appear. 2 Thus, Hegel's project was not simply a matter of refuting other claims; his intention was to furnish a "ladder" for all who were willing to climb from the naive position of natural consciousness to the position of "the absolute standpoint" 3 The positive connotations of the image of the ladder suggest that what is involved here is not a straightforward dispute with natural consciousness or with other philosophical and scientific positions, but rather the view that these can be related to philosophy through a series of transformations and transitions. This is clarified in the Preface. Science on its part requires that self-consciousness should have raised itself into this [standpoint) in order to be able to live ... with science and in science. Conversely, the individual has the right to demand that science should at least provide him with the ladder to this standpoint, should show him this standpoint within himself. His right is based upon his absolute independence, which he is conscious of possessing in every phase of his knowledge; for in each phase of knowledge, whether recognized by science or not, ... the individual is the absolute form, i.e. he is the immediate certainty of himself and, if this expression be preferred, he is therefore unconditioned being.'

There follows at this point a brief discussion of the differences between science and natural consciousness, after which Hegel continues: Let science be in its own self what it may, relatively to immediate selfconsciousness it presents itself as an inverted posture; or, because this self-consciousness has the principle of its actual existence in the certainty of itself, science appears to it not to be actual, since selfconsciousness exists on its own account outside of science. Science must therefore unite this element of self-certainty with itself, or rather show that and how this element of self-certainty belongs to it [i.e., to science).'



Two demands have been made here. The first is that the Phenomenology must demonstrate to natural consciousness that the absolute standpoint is itself already within the structure of natural consciousness, albeit as unrecognized and unthematized. The second demand is that the Phenomenology demonstrate that and how the natural self-certainty of natural consciousness is present in the absolute standpoint of philosophy. This means, among other things, that Hegel begins by rejecting neither the claims of natural consciousness nor those of philosophy, nor even by calling them into question. His task is to show the warranty for the two opposed standpoints of natural consciousness and philosophy, to show a unity existing between apparently disparate forms of experience, each of which takes the other to be "inverted", "perverse", verkehrte. This unity is to be expressed as a virtual presence of the absolute standpoint within natural consciousness, and as an actual presence of natural and immediate self-certainty within the absolute standpoint. Hence, there is to be no refutation of positions, but rather a program for the demonstration of the internal unity of two seemingly opposed modes of knowledge and experience. 6 If we now take this double project as a clue to the structure of the Phenomenology, and if we assume for the moment that the project is accomplishable, then, following the main divisions of the work, the demonstration would show that self-consciousness is virtually present in consciousness, reason in self-consciousness, objective spirit in reason, and absolute spirit in objective spirit. On the other hand, the natural and immediate certainty of consciousness would be shown to belong to self-consciousness and subsequently to reason, objective spirit, and absolute spirit. If we apply this to the various sub-sections of the Phenomenology, the same would be shown for sense-certainty, perception, understanding, desire, etc., until absolute knowing is shown to be virtually present in sense-certainty and the certainty of the latter actualized in absolute knowing. So long as the process were unbroken this would mean that the categories of the Logic and of the other philosophical sciences which follow it are virtually present in even the most naive and unreflective attitude toward reality, and that they actualize the certainty that belongs to the latter. The great problem is to show how this is demonstrated. A t this point in our discussion the dialectic must be invoked in order to show, precisely, how this is done. For Hegel the relationship between form and content, thinking and being, does not permit us authentically to decide whether or not dialectic is a method, nor precisely how it" exists" in the world (in being itself); all such considerations presuppose a separation anathema to Hegel. This dialectic of spirit-one cannot call it simply a dialectic of subjectobject-is forceful to those who read the Phenomenology with care; and yet it is difficult to seize upon and say precisely what it is. Almost every commentary and philosophical exchange with Hegel contains, implicitly or explicitly, some description of the dialectic. Some commentators have even tried to formalize it in a syntactical form of logic. The latter attempts miss the point, I think, that



whatever else the dialectic is, it is a logic of discovery, not of proof in the sense applicable to formal syntactical logics; thus no formal syntactics will capture the essence of dialectic. On the other hand, these attempts to formalize arise from an authentic concern to capture that essence in a way more formally rigorous than is possible by means of a natural language description of what occurs in the content-process of Hegel's system; for these descriptions can at best give a rough anatomical description of the dialectical process. While such descriptions can give a clue to dialectical dynamics, and thus furnish a lack found in syntactical formalization, they depend, for the success and intelligibility of the formulation, on a prior understanding of the way the chief element, negation, works in dialectics. So the question which must be answered first is why negation operates as it does in Hegelian dialectics-what causes contradiction to occur, and how it causes dialectics to unfold. Why do negativity and contradiction have the effect on thought and reality that they have? I think that an answer to these questions is possible if we apply to the problem the logic of pragmatic presuppositions. This non-syntactical logic of the properties of presupposition has the advantage of dealing with a dynamic relation between two levels of experience which turn out to be, respectively, the level of thematization on which natural consciousness operates (i.e. everyday concerns, non-selfreflective experience) and the level of thematization of the "we" in the Phenomenology (i.e. presuppositions putatively constitutive of the intelligibility and certainty underlying the experience that results from the the matizations of the natural attitude). And, as we shall see, the logic of presuppositions also has the property of being simultaneously descriptive and prescriptive, thus transcending the problematic relationship and division between normative and non-normative knowledge and experience. My thesis is that the dialectic of the Phenomenology "works" because the appearance of contradictions (including truth-value gaps, and other forms of unintelligibility and inappropriateness), which do not appear in experience as thematized in the natural attitude, signals that a particular noetic and ontological pragmatic presupposition-setputatively underlying knowledge and experience is in fact not the actual noetic and ontological presupposition-set required for that knowledge and experience. For the remainder of this paper I shall clarify and defend this thesis.


By 'pragmatic presupposition' or 'pragmatic presupposition-set' I understand roughly what Robert Stalnaker has suggested in a series of important papers.'



A speaker presupposes that P at a given moment in a conversation just in case he is disposed toact, in his linguistic behavior, as if he takes the truth of P for granted, and as if he assumes that his audience recognizes that he Is doing so.,

For the purposes of this paper I will not restrict myself to the relatively narrow linguistic context in which Stalnaker considers presuppositions. But we can begin to understand what is at stake here if we linger for a moment over this more narrow context in order to clarify what pragmatic presupposition entails. The most important thing to be realized is that presupposition is quite different from assumption and that it does not possess the logical form of entailment. If we take some set of statements, S, and claim that that set has a set of presuppositions P, then we are not really claiming either that S entails P or that it is entailed by P. Rather, ifP is the presupposition-set for the set of statements S, then to affirm S necessitates the truth of P, and to deny S necessitates also the truth of P. Conversely, if P is held as a presupposition-set, then either S is true or not-S is true; and if P is not held as a presupposition, then neither S is true nor not-S is true. The usual entailment rule does not obtain. A simple example will show what is at stake here. Let us say that two people are arguing whether or not all of John's children are intelligent. Now whether we are arguing that all the children are intelligent or that they are not, in order to entertain meaningfully either of these theses, we must necessarily presuppose that John has children. The conversants must share the pragmatic presupposition-set that has as one of its elements' John has children', regardless of whether they argue for the affirmative or for the negative concerning the intelligence of the children. Furthermore, John's children can be neither intelligent nor unintelligent if they do not in fact exist; so the presupposition-set is in force when we discuss our thoughts about their intelligence or make claims about their actually being intelligent or not. A presupposition or presupposition-set, then, determines that there is a certain kind of intelligibility and valid warranty-claim (Le., in this case a claim of "true" or "false") to certain statements. By simple extension, mutatis mutandis, there are just such presuppositions which underlie articulations of all sorts-commands, promises, questions, requests, etc.-in short, all possible speech acts. All "make sense" or are appropriate depending upon the presupposition-set in force at the time. By further extension, and with appropriate adjustments, the same can be said for experience itself and even for action. The presupposition-set, of course, normally remains implicit in the speech, activity, or experience of the individuals who are thematizing the objects or events on which they are focusing. And this implicitness will be important for an understanding of dialectics. Yet the set of presuppositions in force at any given moment actually defines the parameters of possible states of



affairs which latter are thematized by those concerned. What Stalnaker has shown in respect to certain locutions (and, I think, by extension this is applicable to experience and action in general) is that given the presuppositionset in force, the possible states of affairs can be defined as "just those in which all the presuppositions are true"; and given the possible states of affairs, then the set of presuppositions can be defined as "just those which are true in that set of possible worlds."9 Thus, to take the previously discussed example, given the presuppositionset containing the presupposition that John has children, we' have possible states of affairs in which, among other things, it is possible for there to be children identifiable as John's who might be either intelligent or not. Given the absence of the presupposition, the possible states of affairs could not intelligibly contain entities with such properties. To generalize, if the required presupposition-set is in force relative to a specific situation, then it is impossible for truth-value gaps, contradictions, gaps in meaning and other forms of unintelligibility and inappropriateness to arise; if such forms of unintelligibility and inappropriateness do arise, then this signals the failure, in some way or other, of the presupposition-set in force. We can say, then, that a statement S or an action A or an experience E has a presupposition requirementP if and only ifS or A orE would be inappropriate in the absence of presupposition (set) P. Thus, it is not possible for inappr