Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Phenomenology of Spirit, Preface, paragraph 72

For the rest, at a time when the generality of spirit has become so greatly strengthened, and particularity has become, as it ought to, that much more indifferent, when, too, that generality of spirit holds onto its entire extent and cultivated wealth, and requires that the share in the total work of spirit that falls to the activity of any particular individual can only be very small, therefore must the individual, as in fact the nature of science entails, all the more forget himself, and in fact become and do what he can – but less must be demanded of him, just as he can expect less from himself and ought to demand less for himself.

Phenomenology of Spirit, Preface, paragraph 71

Since I have placed that in which science exists in the self-movement of the concept, the consideration that the representations of our time as cited above together with other aspects not treated regarding the nature and shape of truth deviate from this and in fact are opposed to it, it would seem that an attempt to portray the system of knowledge in that determination does not bode well for a favorable admission. In the meantime, I may call to mind that while, e.g., the supreme merit of Plato’s philosophy has sometimes been held to consist in his scientifically worthless myths, there have also been times, which have even been spoken of as times of fanatical enthusiasm, when the Aristotelian philosophy has been esteemed for its speculative depth, and when the Parmenides of Plato – perhaps the greatest literary product of ancient dialectic – has been taken to be the true revelation and positive expression of the divine life; and even with the great obscurity of that which ecstasy generated, this misunderstood ecstasy in fact was held to be none other than the true concept. Furthermore, that which is superior in the philosophy of our time puts its value in scientific character; and that, when others take a different view, it is only through its scientific character that such is asserted. Thus, then, I may hope too that this attempt to vindicate the concept for science and to portray science in this, its peculiar element, will be able to make a way for itself by the inherent truth of the matter. We ought to be convinced that the true has the nature of forcing its way through when its time has come, and that it only appears when this has come, and for this reason it does not appear prematurely nor does it find an unprepared public; furthermore, that the individual thinker requires this effect in order to test himself against it and to experience as universal the conviction which at first only pertained to particularity. In this connection, however, it is very often necessary to distinguish the public from those who take upon themselves to be its representatives and spokesmen. The public takes up an attitude in many respects quite different from the latter, indeed, even opposed to them. Whereas the public good-naturedly rather takes the blame upon itself when a philosophical work does not appeal to it, these latter, on the contrary, secure in their authority [Kompetenz], put all the blame on the authors. The effect of the work on the public is more quiet than the activity of these dead when they bury their dead [a reference to Luke 9:60]. While the general insight at the present time is generally more cultivated, its curiosity more alert, and its judgment more swiftly pronounced, so that the feet of those who will carry you out are already at the door [a reference to Acts 5:9], at the same time there is often to be distinguished from this the more gradual effect which rectifies both the attention compelled by imposing assurances and the dismissive criticism; and, after a bit, for one part provides a contemporary audience, while for another, no posterity follows.

Phenomenology of Spirit, Preface, paragraph 70

When a man asks for a royal road to science, no more convenient way can be mentioned to him than to rely upon common sense and – incidentally, to keep up with the times and with philosophy – to read reviews of philosophical works, and perhaps even go to the length of reading the prefaces and first paragraphs of the works themselves; for the latter give the general principles on which everything turns, while the reviews, together with a memorandum for posterity, provide the judgment which, being a judgment, is above and beyond that which is judged. This common way a man can take in his dressing-gown. But elation in the eternal, the sacred, the infinite, moves along in high-priestly robes – a road, rather, that already itself is the immediate being in the center, the genius of deep original ideas and higher flashes of inspiration. Nevertheless, as those depths do not yet reveal the well-spring of the essence, neither are these rockets the Empyrean. True thoughts and scientific insight can only be won by the labor of the concept. Only this can produce universality of knowledge, which is neither the general indeterminacy and inadequacy of common understanding, but the cultivated and plain [vollständige] cognition; neither the uncommon generality of the scheme of reason corrupted by the indolence and self-conceit of genius, but the truth which has expanded into its indigenous form, which is capable of being the property of all self-conscious reason.

Phenomenology of Spirit, Preface, paragraph 69

When, by contrast, natural philosophizing flows through the calmer beds of common sense, the best it can do is yield a rhetoric of trivial truths. When it is called on this paltriness, it assures us, in reply, that meaning and fulfillment lie in its heart, and that others must have this too, since with such phrases as the innocence of heart and the purity of conscience and so on it supposes it has expressed finalities to which no one can take exception and about which nothing further can be required. But the point was just that the best must not lag behind in inwardness, but be brought out of these mineshafts into the light of day. It could quite well from the start have spared itself the trouble of bringing forward ultimate and final truths of that sort; they were long since to be found, say, in the catechism, in popular proverbs, and the like. It is an easy matter to grasp such truths in their indeterminacy or lopsidedness, and in many cases to point out precisely the opposite in the awareness of them itself. When it struggles to extricate itself from the confusion inflicted upon it, it tumbles into new episodes and perhaps comes to the outburst that the matter is settled and anything else is mere sophistry – a catchphrase used by common sense against cultivated reason, similar to the phrase “reverie,” by which those ignorant of philosophy sum up its character once for all. Since the man of common sense appeals to his feeling, to an oracle within his breast, he is done with anyone who does not agree. He has just to explain that he has no more to say to anyone who does not find and feel the same as himself. In other words, he tramples the root of humanity underfoot. For the nature of humanity is to impel men to agree with one another, and its existence is brought about only in the commonality of consciousness. The anti-human, the animalistic, consists in abiding in feeling, and in being able to communicate only by way of feeling.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Phenomenology of Spirit, Preface, paragraph 68

As regards philosophy proper, we find put forward without any hesitation, as an entirely sufficient equivalent for the long course of mental cultivation – for the movement, as rich as it is profound, by which the human spirit attains to knowledge – direct divine revelation and healthy common sense, which has concerned itself and been formed neither by other knowledge nor by actual philosophizing, as a complete equivalent and as good a surrogate as chicory is purported to be for coffee. It gives no joy to note that the ignorance and the formless as well as tasteless crudity which is incapable of holding onto an abstract proposition, much less a concatenation of such propositions, confidently assures itself that it is intellectual freedom and toleration, and even genius. This last used once upon a time, as everyone knows, to be all the vogue in the case of poetry, as it is now in philosophy. Instead of poetry, however, when this form of inspiration did have some sense, it now generates trivial prose, or, going beyond that, raving harangues. So also nowadays with natural philosophizing, which considers itself too good for the concept, and by the lack thereof believes it has a contemplative and poetical thinking – such philosophizing trades in arbitrary combinations of a disorganized power of imagination, figments that are neither fish nor fowl, neither poetry nor philosophy.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Phenomenology of Spirit, Preface, paragraph 67

Just as obstructionist as argumentative comportment is the non-argumentative illusion built upon finished truths, to which the possessor believes it is unnecessary to return, but lays them at the foundation and believes he can both express them, and judge and dispute through them. In this regard, it is especially needful to make once again a serious business of philosophy. With regard to all the sciences, arts, skills, and handicrafts, the conviction holds that in order to possess them, a considerable amount of trouble must be spent in learning and practicing. As regards philosophy, on the contrary, an assumption seems still prevalent that, though every one with eyes and fingers is not on that account in a position to make shoes if he only has leather and a last, yet everybody understands how to philosophize straight away, and pass judgment on philosophy, simply because he possesses the criterion for doing so in his natural reason – as if he did not in the same way likewise possess the standard for shoemaking in his own foot. It seems as if the possession of philosophy lay precisely in the lack of knowledge and study, as if philosophy left off where the latter began. It is commonly held to be a formal, content-empty knowledge, and there is a general failure to perceive that, in the case of any knowledge and science, what is taken for truth in terms of content can only deserve the name of “truth” when philosophy has had a hand in its production; that, let the other sciences try as they might to get along by argumentation without philosophy, without it they are incapable of having life, spirit, truth in themselves.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Phenomenology of Spirit, Preface, paragraph 66

On this point it may be remembered that the dialectical process likewise has propositions as its parts or elements; the difficulty indicated seems therefore to recur continually, and seems to be a difficulty inherent in the nature of the case. This is similar to what happens in the ordinary process of proving anything, that the grounds it makes use of need themselves to be based on other grounds again, and so on ad infinitum. This manner of furnishing grounds and conditions, however, concerns that type of proof which is distinct from the dialectical movement and hence pertains to external cognition. As to this movement, its element is the pure concept; this furnishes a content which is through and through subject-in-itself [Subjekt an ihm selbst]. There is to be found, therefore, no sort of content standing in a relation to an underlying subject from which it gets its meaning as predicate; immediately, the proposition is only an empty form. Apart from the sensorially apprehended or imagined self, it is primarily the name qua name which denotes the pure subject, the empty conceptless unit. For this reason it might, for example, be expedient to avoid the name “God”, because this word is not immediately likewise concept but the actual name, the fixed repose of the subject underlying it; while on the other hand, e.g., being, or the one, the detail, the subject, and such like, themselves also indicate immediate concepts. Furthermore, if speculative truths are stated about that subject, even then their content is devoid of the immanent concept, because it is only available as resting subject, and because of this circumstance they easily take on the character of mere edification. From this side, too, the obstacle arising from the habit of putting the speculative predicate in the form of a proposition, instead of taking it as concept and essence, is capable of being made greater or less, by the fault of philosophical discourse. Philosophical exposition, faithful to its insight into the nature of speculative truth, must retain the dialectical form, and take nothing on board but that which is conceived, and is the concept.