Monday, February 28, 2011

Phenomenology of Spirit, Preface, paragraph 5

The true shape in which truth exists can only be the scientific system of truth. To cooperate in bringing philosophy closer to the form of science – that goal wherein philosophy can lay aside its name of “love of knowledge” to be actual knowledge – that is what I have set before me. The inner necessity that knowledge [Wissen] should be science [Wissenschaft] lies in its nature, and the only satisfactory explanation of this is the exposition of philosophy itself. The outer necessity, however, so far as this is apprehended in a universal way, and apart from the contingency of the personal element and individual causes, is the same as the inner, namely, the form in which the times understand the aspects of existence. To show that now is the time to raise philosophy to science would, therefore, be the only true justification of the attempts which have this goal, in that they would be demonstrating the necessity of this, nay more, at the same time they would be carrying it out.

Phenomenology of Spirit, Preface, paragraph 4

The onset of culture [Bildung] and of the labor to emerge from the immediacy of substantial life has always to be made by acquiring knowledge of universal principles and points of view, by striving, in the first instance, to labor to acquire any notion of the matter at all, no less to give reasons for supporting it or refuting it, to conceive the concrete and rich fullness in terms of determinations, and to know how to furnish a coherent, orderly account of it and a responsible judgment upon it. To begin with, however, this onset of culture must leave room for the earnestness of fulfilled life, which ushers in the practical experience of the matter; and when, added to that, the earnestness of the concept penetrates to its depths, such knowledge and judgment will hold their ground in conversation.

Phenomenology of Spirit, Preface, paragraph 3

The demand for such explanations, as also the attempts to satisfy this demand, very easily pass for what is essential. How could the inmost truth of a philosophical work be better expressed than in its purposes and results; and in what way could these be more definitely known than through their disparity with what is produced during the same period in the same sphere? If, however, such procedure is to pass for more than the beginning of knowledge, if it is to pass for actually knowing, then we must, in point of fact, look on it as a device for avoiding the matter, an attempt to combine the appearance of seriousness and concern about the matter with an actual neglect of it. For the matter is not exhausted in its purpose, but in its pursuance; nor is the result the actual entirety, but the result together with the process of arriving at the result. The goal for itself [für sich] is a lifeless universal, just as the tendency is a mere drive yet lacking its reality; and the naked result is the corpse which has left its tendency behind. Similarly, the disparity is rather the boundary of the matter; it is where the matter ceases, or that which the matter is not. To trouble oneself in this fashion with the purpose and results, and again with the disparities and judgments of the one or the other, is therefore an easier task than perhaps it seems. For instead of laying hold of the matter, such a procedure is above and beyond the matter. Instead of dwelling within it and becoming absorbed by it, knowledge of that sort is always grasping at something else, and rather remains with itself than abides with the matter and devotes itself to the matter. The easiest thing of all is to adjudge what has content and solidity; it is more difficult to grasp such; and most difficult of all is to bring about that which unites the two, the exposition of it.

Phenomenology of Spirit, Preface, paragraph 2

In the same way too, by determining the relation which a philosophical work is considered to have to other aspirations on the same subject, a foreign interest is introduced, and that which is at stake in the recognition of the truth is obscured. As opinion regarding the opposition of true and false becomes fixed, agreement or contradiction with a given philosophical system comes to be expected, and only the one or the other is wont to be seen in any explanation of the matter. It does not conceive the diversity of philosophical systems as the progressive evolution of truth but rather as contradiction. The bud disappears when the blossom breaks through, and we might say that the former is refuted by the latter; in the same way when the fruit comes, the blossom may be explained to be a false form of the plant’s existence, for the fruit appears as its true nature in place of the blossom. These stages are not merely differentiated; they supplant one another as being incompatible with one another. But their fluid nature makes them at the same time moments of an organic unity, where they not only do not contradict one another, but where the one is as necessary as the other; and this equal necessity first makes up the life of the whole. But opposition to a philosophical system partly is not wont to be conceived in this way, and partly is it so that the conceptualizing consciousness does not commonly know how to free itself or keep itself free from its one-sidedness, so as to recognize mutually necessary moments in that which seems to be in conflict and inherently antagonistic.

Phenomenology of Spirit, Preface, paragraph 1

In the case of a philosophical work it seems not only superfluous, but, in the nature of the case, even inappropriate and misleading to begin, as writers usually do in a preface, by explaining the end the author had in mind, the circumstances which gave rise to the work, and the relation in which the writer takes it to stand to other treatises on the same subject, written by his predecessors or his contemporaries. For whatever it might be suitable to state about philosophy in a preface – say, an historical sketch of the main drift and point of view, the general content and results, a string of desultory assertions and assurances about the true – this cannot be accepted as the form and manner in which to expound philosophical truth. Moreover, because philosophy is essentially at home in the element of generality [Allgemeinheit], which contains the particular, it more than other sciences gives the appearance that all that matters is the end or final result, so much so that the end result expresses its complete essence, against which the process of arriving at that final result is non-essential. But with a science such as anatomy – something like the knowledge of the parts of the body viewed in terms of their lifeless existence – we are quite sure that with a general knowledge we do not yet possess the thing itself, the actual content of the science, but rather need to concern ourselves with particulars as well. What’s more, in the case of such a collection of bits of knowledge, which has no real right to the name of science, any talk about purpose and suchlike generalities is not commonly very different from the historical and concept-less way in which the content itself – those nerves, muscles, and the like -- is spoken of. In philosophy, on the other hand, it would at once be felt to be incongruous were use to be made of such a method, one which philosophy itself shows to be incapable of grasping the truth.

Phenomenology of Spirit, Preface, preliminary remarks

Preliminary remarks: First up is the preface to the Phenomenology. As basis for the translation I am using the Baillie version. As a stand-alone translation, it is highly inadequate. As the basis for a new translation, it serves the purpose admirably. As always, the proof will be in the pudding. If these translations make Hegel intelligible and readable to the English-language reader, well, I think that will be cause for a high-five.

One other note: I follow the paragraph-ination of the original German, for simplicity's sake, and also to make it easier to look up the original for purposes of comparison.

A contemporary translation by the Hegel scholar Terry Pinkard is available online as an alternative or corrective or whatever.